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Thursday, 7 May 1970

Mr WENTWORTH - The question raised by the honourable member is serious and complex. One of the difficulties is that manifestation of this disease very often is separated by years from the time of original infection and therefore it is not easy to link cause and effect. In the Northern Territory we have carried out special surveys and an organisation has been set up within the Department administered by my colleague the Minister for the Interior, and with the co-operation of my colleague the Minister for Health, to cope with this problem. I am fairly satisfied that in the Northern Territory everything that can be done is being done. One of the difficulties in the past has been the problem of getting sufferers in areas where the manifestation of the disease is evident to report to the authorities. In the past - but not at present - there has been a tendency for these people to go bush, to hide themselves in order to avoid being sent to the leprosarium for cure. [7 May 1970]

I am happy to say that this attitude of mind no longer is prevalent in the Northern Territory.

In Western Australia and Queensland the State departments, in conjunction with the Commonwealth Department of Health, are paying special attention to this matter. I have asked my officers to do what they can to co-ordinate and help this campaign. I believe that in both States the rate of new infections is very much less. I have had statistics before me to show that this is so and I will be happy to discuss them with the honourable member if he wishes. The rate of new infections is, I think, much less than it was but always there is this difficulty of the time lag, sometimes of years, between infection and manifestation of the disease and therefore it is not always easy to be dogmatic about these statistics.

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