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Wednesday, 4 December 1985
Page: 2897

Senator MACKLIN —Is the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs aware that out of the funds appropriated for the national Aboriginal trachoma program in the last three years-$1m each year-only half has in fact been spent? Further, is the Minister aware that 60 per cent of that half a million dollars has gone on administrative costs and not on treatment for the 4,500 Aboriginal people who are going blind from trachoma? Given the fact that the funds have been appropriated, that trachoma reports have argued for community based programs and that communities in high trachoma areas have already sought funds, I ask the Minister to explain why nothing will be done in this matter until March next year.

Senator RYAN —I have some information on the administration of the trachoma program and its expenditure. The report on trachoma and eye health has been received and Mr Holding is having the report distributed widely to enable interested organisations the opportunity to comment on the report and to assist him in implementing the most effective on-going program to improve this area of Aboriginal health. During 1984-85, $524,611 was expended by the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and a further $41,553 was expended by the Commonwealth Department of Health on the trachoma program. To date an amount of $200,600 has been allocated to State trachoma committees during 1985-86. These committees will continue to operate until Mr Holding is in a position to implement the most effective on-going program to combat trachoma.

Senator MACKLIN —Mr Deputy President, I ask a supplementary question. I asked the Minister whether-the figures she gave confirm this-only half the amount of money allocated for this program currently is being spent. After all, the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs had the trachoma report on 28 August this year. That means that although we have had the report for six months nothing will happen until next year. I ask: Will in fact that $1m appropriated, not only this year but last year, be spent?

Senator RYAN —I will have to refer the request for specific information to the Minister. However, I am sure that Mr Holding is at least as anxious as Senator Macklin is to see that program effectively administered. I am sure he has been giving the matter his close attention. However, I will see whether I can get more detailed information on the program implementation for Senator Macklin.