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Wednesday, 11 September 1985
Page: 449

Senator McKIERNAN —My question is directed to the Minister for Veterans' Affairs. In the economic statement of 14 May an announcement was made that Veterans' Affairs beneficiaries would be able to consult directly with optometrists rather than being referred through a local medical officer. Has the Minister been pleased with the reaction to the announcement from the optometrists' profession?

Senator GIETZELT —It is true that in the economic statement of 14 May the Government decided to permit the type of beneficiary covered by the Department of Veterans' Affairs to have direct access to optometrists rather than through the old system involving first a visit to a local medical officer and then reference to an optometrist, particulary in respect of the provision of spectacles. That decision was taken as a result of representations made to the Government by the Australian Optometrical Association, which pointed out that members of the general community were able to avail themselves of that service and that there was no necessity, except in cases of eye disease, for persons to be first referred by a doctor to an optometrist. Since that time-that is, from 1 July-just under 900 veterans have availed themselves of the new service. That means that the Government's projected savings in respect of about $100,000 probably will be achieved if the present usage of the service is maintained. It gives the entitled beneficiaries a freedom of choice. They can go to a local medical officer if they so desire, or they can go direct to an optometrist. There would then be substantial savings from the point of view of the Government.