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Thursday, 2 April 1987
Page: 1973

Mr GORMAN —Is the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs aware of recent allegations by the National Party Senate candidate for the Northern Territory suggesting that the Minister is inadequately advised in respect of the threat of acquired immune deficiency syndrome posed to the Aboriginal community? Can the Minister inform the House whether he believes that statement is accurate? What steps, if any, has he taken to advise Aboriginal people of the threat of AIDS?

Mr HOLDING —I thank the honourable gentleman for his question. Yes, I have had my attention drawn to the statement by the National Party Senate candidate for the Northern Territory. I am also aware of editorial comment that that statement may have been made as an exercise in headline grabbing. I am aware of the fact that the statement has been significantly condemned by Aboriginal people in and around Alice Springs.

On the general issue of AIDS, however, I am prepared to give the National Party candidate the benefit of the doubt. If he believes that he has information for me which may be relevant I would be only too pleased to receive it because I do not believe AIDS, which is an enormous health hazard not merely to Aboriginal people but to all people in this community, ought to be a matter for political point scoring.

In terms of the work that has been done in my own portfolio in respect of this, a committee has been established and has been working for some considerable time. I am pleased to be able to inform the House that in this area there is very close co-operation between State health authorities, particularly in the Northern Territory, South Australia and Western Australia, and Aboriginal medical services. For some time some of those services have been conducting very extensive information services on both the nature and the cause of AIDS and have been advising Aboriginal communities as to methods by which they can deal with that.

I think it is true and fair to say that in some areas, not all, Aboriginal people are probably better informed on some of these aspects than members of the broader community. We have an ongoing committee and, on a party basis, if any member of the House wants to be informed I think briefings are appropriate.

Given the nature of the problem, I would suggest that it should not be an exercise in which we are concerned to make political points. It ought to be an exercise in which there is a large measure of agreement and frankness about how we are dealing with a very serious health problem.