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Thursday, 26 June 2014
Page: 4064

Budget


Senator JACINTA COLLINS (Victoria) (14:45): Mr President, may I take this chance to wish you well. My question is to the Assistant Minister for Health, Senator Nash. I refer the minister to her announcement yesterday of $9.2 million for the National Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Action Plan. I also refer to the $20.2 million commitment to this plan by the previous government. Why has the government cut $11 million from these critical programs?


Senator NASH (New South WalesDeputy Leader of The Nationals in the Senate and Assistant Minister for Health) (14:45): I will reiterate what I said yesterday: this government is absolutely committed to doing everything it can to address this very, very serious issue. Let's focus on the facts: those opposite did announce a $20 million action plan on 5 August, the first day of the caretaker period last year. However, two days later on 7 August the then Minister for Finance and Deregulation, Senator Wong, signed off on the PEFO, which shows only $9.2 million was in fact allocated to the FASD Action Plan. It clearly says in black and white that it was on 7 August.

Senator Jacinta Collins: If only you learned how to read the finance papers.

Senator NASH: I will take that interjection. Perhaps the senator might like to go and have a look. That is fact. There was $9.2 million allocated in PEFO on 7 August by the previous government for the FASD plan.




Senator JACINTA COLLINS (Victoria) (14:47): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Quite aside from any confidence in the minister's explanation on finance papers, let me ask her this: which elements of the National Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Action Plan will be removed as a result of the Abbott government's funding cut?


Senator NASH (New South WalesDeputy Leader of The Nationals in the Senate and Assistant Minister for Health) (14:47): While the senator might not like the answer, I would direct her to PEFO to actually see that the figure is $9.2 million, which would indicate to anyone who listened to my contribution in the chamber here yesterday that the $9.2 million from this government would be, on any reading, exactly the same figure. It is not indicating any cut at all. I very clearly indicated and outlined to the chamber yesterday exactly what government funding would be committed to ensuring that we address the very serious issue of FASD.


Senator JACINTA COLLINS (Victoria) (14:48): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. The minister has failed to answer my specific question in the last supplementary question—

The PRESIDENT: Order! Ask the question.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: so I will ask it again. Which elements of the plan will not be proceeded with by virtue of your fiddle?




Senator NASH (New South WalesDeputy Leader of The Nationals in the Senate and Assistant Minister for Health) (14:48): It is, as we have canvassed in this place at previous times, a problem when your question is written without listening to the answers that ministers are giving. I very clearly said that the figure was exactly the same, so there is no cut. On the PEFO figures, there is $9.2 million indicated—

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order, on both sides! Senator Nash is entitled to be heard in silence.

Senator NASH: Clearly, the figure of $9.2 million is the same in the PEFO entry of 7 August and the funding I committed yesterday. There is no cut. I have to say that it is extremely disappointing that the opposition is playing politics with an issue like this that is so important. This government is committed to addressing it.