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Wednesday, 9 October 1985
Page: 901

Senator CHILDS —Will the Minister representing the Minister for Health indicate the present level of Federal funds allocated to each State for the control, prevention, research into and treatment of acquired immune deficiency syndrome? Further, does the Minister for Health receive information concerning the proportions of funding allocated to AIDS in New South Wales under the headings: Prevention, control, research and treatment? What are those proportions?

Senator GRIMES —In the 1985-86 Budget the Commonwealth provided $8.6m in funding for AIDS, compared with $5.35m in 1984-85. Of that money, $4.3m is allocated to the States, which will match it on a dollar for dollar basis. I can give Senator Childs a breakdown of that allocation. Approximately $0.95m is for education programs; $0.75m for counselling and contact tracing; $0.8m for laboratory screening; $0.8m for diagnostic and treatment programs, which does not include the hospitals; about $0.22m for community care and domiciliary services; $0.6m for support services such as social work; and $0.13m for assistance to reduce secondary health problems. Therefore, in 1985-86 the combined Australian effort will be more than double the amount provided by the Commonwealth, because in some States, such as New South Wales, extra money has been provided by the State Government and in another case $1m was donated anonymously.

Thanks to the good co-operative efforts of the Commonwealth and the States Australia is now recognised internationally for the excellence of the preventive measures that have been taken. We were the first country in the world to have blood testing kits to safeguard the integrity of blood banks and other measures that we have taken have been praised by, for instance, the head of the AIDS task force at the Centre for Disease Control in Atlanta, Dr James Curran. He came here and was impressed particularly by the co-operation between the Commonwealth and the States in dealing with high risk groups in this area, most notably the gay community.

There is no vaccine available as yet for AIDS, but it is imperative for that reason that we keep up that good level of co-operation, keep the program going the way it is. It is important also to maintain the level-headed approach whereby AIDS is treated very much as the public health problem it is, not as some visitation from on high or punishment to the community for its evil ways, which I notice a couple of members of the House of Assembly in Canberra would like us to believe.

The Commonwealth Department of Health has established an AIDS unit which maintains close contact with the States, including New South Wales, on all matters dealing with AIDS, including the distribution of AIDS funding. The unit also serves as the secretariat to the National Advisory Committee on AIDS, chaired by Ita Buttrose, which has made an invaluable contribution to the public health effort in this area.

Under the federal system, in the final analysis it is the responsibility of the States to deal with this problem and to allocate the funds sensibly. In the event, the Federal Minister for Health, Dr Blewett monitors closely developments in relation to AIDS. I can assure the Senate and Parliament generally that the Federal Government will maintain increased AIDS funding in co-operation with the States as long as it is necessary, to ensure that information and prevention are continued at the level they have been to all members of the Australian community. It is vital to realise that AIDS is of concern not only to the high risk groups but to the whole community. I think that the community in this country can be proud of the way governments in general and the community itself have handled, and I believe will continue to handle, a very difficult problem.