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Wednesday, 9 October 1985
Page: 894

Senator COATES —Has the Minister representing the Minister for Health seen reports stating that the Tasmanian Minister for Health, Mr Cleary, admitted that he could be accused of being slow? Mr Cleary was referring to the Tasmanian Government's failure to allocate the $720,000 provided by the Federal Government as long ago as last April after the national drug summit. Can the Minister explain how the money is meant to be allocated and how Tasmanian drug education and counselling programs have suffered as a result of Mr Cleary's incompetence?

Senator GRIMES —Yes, I have seen the reports to which Senator Coates refers. It is surprising that our Tasmanian colleague Mr Cleary has admitted that he could have been accused of being slow. Indeed he could. This matter was first brought up in April of this year at the drug summit chaired by the Prime Minister. A committee of officials of the Ministerial Committee on Drug Strategy met in August to allocate amongst the States the additional $60m which the Federal Government had generously agreed to make available over the next three years for education, treatment, rehabilitation and research programs as part of the national campaign against drug abuse. The $8m per annum which has been allocated for a national project is funded solely by the Commonwealth, and the remaining $12m per annum is available to the States and Territories on a matching dollar for dollar basis.

Following the officials meeting of 14 August, Mr Cleary and Dr Blewett jointly announced the 1985-86 allocation of $720,000 to Tasmania as part of the national campaign against drug abuse.

Senator Walters —Tell us a little about the-

Senator GRIMES —I am telling the honourable senator specifically what was announced on 14 August. Perhaps we will come to the rest later. Half of that money was to be contributed by the Commonwealth and half by Tasmania. Dr Blewett very quickly made the Commonwealth's intentions clear. It is now up to the Tasmanian government, as Senator Coates said, to indicate its requirements and, in particular, to let us know the specific programs to which it wishes to allocate the funds. We have received a general shopping list from Tasmania, but we do not have any detailed advice as to its priorities. It was this advice that Mr Cleary admitted was pretty slow in coming from Tasmania.

We are concerned that bureaucratic in-fighting, either at the State or Federal level or between those at State and Federal level, does not interfere with the fight against drug abuse. This was the whole point of the Prime Minister's initiative. It was for that reason that we got cracking so quickly on getting Commonwealth-State agreement. At the end of next week, the Ministerial Committee on Drug Strategy, comprising State and Federal Ministers, will meet to review the progress made since the drug summit. We wait with interest to hear what Mr Cleary will have to say.

Dr Blewett has telexed all the Ministers, requesting that they agree that that part of the meeting in which the Ministers report on their progress be held in a full public session open to the media. I will be interested to know whether Mr Cleary is willing to co-operate in this regard. We believe it is vital that the States and the Commonwealth put forward their progress in front of the public and the media so that judgments can be made on how each jurisdiction is operated.

I know that there is great disappointment in Tasmania that because of the tardiness of Mr Cleary and his colleagues not much has been done. As Senator Coates said, counselling systems which could have been set up and could be well and truly operating have not been set up. I believe that if at the meeting at the end of next week there is a willingness among the States, in particular Tasmania, to be open about what they have done in this area, there will be a stimulus for them to achieve much more, and in Tasmania much more needs to be achieved.