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Wednesday, 4 August 1954

Mr CREMEAN (HODDLE, VICTORIA) - "Will the Minister for Health inform the House whether the Government has discontinued its payment of ls. 2d. a day for the maintenance of each patient in mental hospitals in Victoria? If it has done so, does it propose to substitute some more humanitarian method of dealing with this matter than that which formerly operated? If so, what will be the amount of the payment? Will the Government consider supplying a wife with a reasonable special grant during the time her husband is a patient in a mental hospital instead of, as is at present the case, forcing her to apply for a widow's pension?

Sir EARLE PAGE - Some four years ago I pointed out to the Parliament, and the country, the stupidity of the arrangement that had been made by the previous Labour Government with regard to mental diseases. I suggested to the then State Labour governments that they should cancel that particular agreement and confer with me about a proper agreement. They refused to do that, and finally, last June, that agreement was dissolved by effluxion of time. Six or seven months ago I suggested through the Prime Minister to the State Premiers that we were anxious to have a complete examination of this whole matter, so that we could make certain that the position would be dealt with in accordance with the facts. I suggested that Dr. Stoller, who had had wide psychological and psychiatric experience throughout the Commonwealth, should be appointed to conduct that examination. The suggestion met with approval, and that gentleman was so appointed. He was carrying out the work for which he was appointed until about two months ago, when the Premier of Victoria suggested that he be permitted to attend a very important psychiatric conference in America. As I myself considered that his visit would be of some value, I agreed that he should go. However, my agreement was on one condition - that the States would not blame me for any delay that resulted through my acquiescence in this request.

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