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Thursday, 22 November 1973

Senator LITTLE (Victoria) -The Democratic Labor Party will support this Bill. In giving the Party's approval might I say how pleased we are to see that this Bill provides financial assistance to the States, local governing bodies and voluntary organisations. The Bill is an attempt to repair the damages caused to people with these afflictions within the community. It is obviously not a program which can be carried out in a highly centralised manner. It is something that should spread right throughout the whole of the community and should get down to even the levels of voluntary organisations. I wish to refer to only one of the questions involved, that of alcoholism. Voluntary organisations probably have done more to be effective in this particular field than have any governmentsponsored organisations. Indeed in my experience as a trade union official, being interested in a large body of members, I came into contact with persons involved in this problem. There are always some people who suffer from the unfortunate circumstances of alcoholism. One rapidly gains an appreciation that probably the most successful people operating in this field are the sponsors behind Alcoholics Anonymous. They seem to give a hand and to hold out a hope to people that not even the medical profession can provide.

I am pleased to see a provision in this Bill which will enable voluntary organisations to receive the assistance that is necessary to keep them in operation. It would be a dreadful thing right throughout the world today if an organisation such as Alcoholics Anonymous was not able to function in the manner in which it does. It has adopted simple methods. It does not have a scientific or medical background but deals more in the psychological field where it seems to be successful when all else has failed. Alcoholism is only one of a number of activities to which mankind has had a great intolerance. In more primitive times this attitude existed with regard to medical illnesses. In those times people suffering from some illnesses were sometimes chained to a log in a village so that they could be kept under supervision and kept from mingling with or allowing their illness to affect the community around them.

Until quite recently alcoholism was thought to be a personal weakness that an individual should have the capacity to control. I think it is generally recognised today by informed people that alcoholism is something to which anybody may be subject, depending on their own personality or perhaps their metabolism. Today we know that alcoholism is an individual thing and it certainly is an illness. Some people have an intolerance to alcohol while others do not. Some have the capacity to resist while others do not. While this poison can become an obsession to some people in the community, the great majority of people can take it in their stride.

This Bill makes provision for these things, and for that reason the Australian Democratic Labor Party supports it. I have received many letters from people who are afflicted with another problem- that of homosexuality. These people have expressed their belief that they have been unjustly treated by our laws in the past. Some want to legalise this practice. Responsible people- or irresponsible people, however one looks at it- have suggested that we should alter our marriage laws so that these people can marry. I have not had sufficient scientific training to know whether such people are suffering from a mental illness or a mental disability. They are certainly not alcoholics, but it could be they are as sick as are alcoholics and that we do not appreciate precisely what the illness is. I think that this is one field in which a solution could be found if we provided funds for research and assistance. I believe that it would be better to do this than to try to introduce into humanity a violation of a natural law that exists not only for homo sapiens but for the whole of the animal world where the necessity for the species to replace itself to ensure its continuity puts homosexuality outside the accepted social practices within a community. This is the normal state of affairs among human beings as it is among species of the animal kingdom. Many people give prominence to this matter. They say that homosexual relationships should be legalised, that they should be accepted and that they are completely normal and desirable and that they would improve the happiness and the future of mankind. While I sympathise with the problems of the people concerned perhaps it would be wiser if we approached this question along the lines that we handle mental disabilities or alcoholism and try to put aside money for more research. Perhaps we should try to find out precisely what we can about the problem of homosexuality so that we can help these people as we are helping by this legislation people who are prone to alcoholism or drug dependence. I believe that this Bill is a good Bill. I believe that the purposes behind it are excellent and the Party to which I belong supports it.

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