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Tuesday, 11 December 1973
Page: 2631

Senator BISHOP (South Australia) (Minister for Repatriation) - I shall be as brief as I can in reply to Senator Dame Nancy Buttfield. The honourable senator was good enough to tell me, at some stage last week, that she intended to raise this case, I think for the purpose of highlighting some of the recommendations of the Senate Standing Committee on Health and Welfare. At this stage I do not intend to debate or make any contribution on the general report of the Committee. The Government will study the report. At present the Repatriation Department is studying the report. As the honourable senator knows, we expect that early in the new year we will receive a report from Mr Justice Toose. That report will have to be studied closely because there has been a most comprehensive inquiry. Also, as Senator Dame Nancy Buttfield knows, Mr Justice Toose examined systems overseas. I also have regard to the fact that Senator Brown, who was the Chairman of the Committee, sought leave to continue his remarks. He is presently away sick. I think the Chairman should be allowed to make his contribution, and other honourable senators too.

In relation to the particular case which the honourable senator raised, I do not think it would do much good for me even to give the statement from the Department in reply to her representations. She intervened in the case. The Department has made a number of comments to me. Some of those comments were critical of Senator Dame Nancy Buttfield. But I am quite sure that her intention in the representations on behalf of the person concerned and in her later inquiries was to further the best interests of the patient. I know that at the present time the Department is well aware of the need to look after the person. I have an undertaking that he is being well looked after and that, if necessary, he will be put into the rehabilitation unit. I think that the general aspects of the matter are best left until the reports to which I have referred are considered. I will be happy to give Senator Dame Nancy Buttfield, if necessary, the information the Department has submitted to me in relation to her inquiries about this particular person. I do not think it would do much good our swapping arguments about whether the person has been properly treated. I think it is fair to say, as everybody recognises, that the repatatriation system in Australia is a good system.

Senator Dame Nancy Buttfield - It could be improved.

Senator BISHOP -Well, I am quite sure that people are cared for. In fact, some of the complaints are that they are cared for perhaps too well. But the person concerned is being cared for. If the honourable senator would like at any stage to nominate some special treatment or consideration he should get, I will be only too happy to process her suggestion.

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