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Thursday, 14 November 1985
Page: 2137

Senator PETER BAUME(11.24) —I wish to raise two matters under the estimates for the Department of Health. The first relates to the National Acoustic Laboratories. I apologise to the Minister for Community Services (Senator Grimes) for this but the estimates for the Department of Health were examined at the same time as the estimates for another department were examined by a different committee of which I was a member and I could not be in both places at once. I ask the Minister whether I can provide him with some detailed questions about the costings of the NAL's operation. I have three questions. I ask whether it would be possible to pass them on to the NAL and have the information provided. There is some concern that the amounts provided in the Budget Papers-I think $13.1m was said to be the cost-represent an incomplete costing. I remind the Minister that his Government has seen fit to move to program budgeting for some departments in an attempt to reveal rather more accurate and comprehensive costings for certain programs. It is desirable that we obtain this information in order to understand the NAL operations. So I ask the Minister to provide answers to the three questions, which I do not have to hand now.

The only other matter I wish to raise under the estimates for the Department of Health concerns a question that I asked during the Minister's absence. It was taken on notice by Senator Ryan but to date I have had no answer to it. It concerns the exclusion of the Australian Institute of Health from eligibility to apply for research grants into the acquired immune deficiency syndrome. I refer the Minister to a document entitled `Information for Applicants: The Commonwealth AIDS Research Grants Scheme'. The document was issued in July 1985. Under the heading `Eligibility', the document says:

Researchers in tertiary education or research institutions, including the research schools of the Australian National University, Commonwealth or State agencies, excluding the Australian Institute of Health . . .

it goes on to indicate certain other people-

may apply for grants.

The real question is: Why has it been determined that this research institute should be excluded from even being eligible to apply for funds under the AIDS research scheme? The problem we face with AIDS is a very serious and real one and surely we should be seeking to have the highest quality applicants from whatever source. Yet it has been seen fit to exclude, specifically and by name, the Australian Institute of Health from a capacity to apply for grants under this program. I ask a question of Senator Ryan. I know that the question was passed on to Dr Blewett by Senator Ryan's office but no answer has yet been provided. I am at a loss to understand why that should be. I ask whether the Minister can advise me on that matter. I will see whether I have those NAL questions to hand.