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Friday, 9 June 1989
Page: 3763

Senator MACKLIN(10.13) -I have an amendment that we might go on to consider. We can come back to this matter later.

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN —The Committee will now consider Senator Macklin's amendment, having already deferred debate on the amendments moved by Senator Stone.

Senator MACKLIN —I am sorry-I have not moved my amendment as I was raising a separate issue in committee with regard to the section on the disability allowance. I now move:

Page 5, paragraph 14 (b), after proposed subparagraph 78 (1) (a) (xciv), add the following new subparagraph:

`` `(xcv) the Nursing Mothers' Association of Australia;'.''.

My amendment was previously circulated in regard to the Taxation Laws Amendment Bill (No. 2), but I have now moved it to this Bill because the Government has sought to amend that section with regard to two other items in this legislation. The Government is seeking to include two funds in the list of charities: first, the public fund for the Armenian earthquake victims, which will run only from the time the earthquake occurred until 1 July this year; and secondly, the Australian-Ireland Fund. The fact that my father is Irish leads me to support that provision. My amendment also seeks to include another organisation, the Nursing Mothers Association of Australia. As honourable senators would probably be aware, particularly the women in the chamber, this is the second largest women's organisation in this country.

Senator Crichton-Browne —What is the largest, the CWA?

Senator MACKLIN —Yes, the Country Women's Association. The Nursing Mothers Association now has more than 1,600 trained breastfeeding counsellors and I am informed that there are about 800 trainee counsellors currently undertaking training. There are nearly 600 groups around the country, and last year nearly a quarter of a million women were counselled on breastfeeding. That may not seem an important item to the Government, but when we look at the structure of our society, we find that when many women have their first and subsequent children, they have very little support. Previously the social structure was such that sisters, aunts or even mothers may have been available, but now there is very little support during what is a very difficult time for young mothers.

The Nursing Mothers Association provides not only information with regard to breast feeding but also that social support that is necessary. Indeed counsellors-I know this from personal experience as my wife has operated as a counsellor for some considerable time-have to deal not only with inquiries with regard to breastfeeding but often with much more difficult situations as well, particularly when a child may have been crying for 10 or 15 hours and the mother is at breaking point. Those are the types of social situations where child abuse can often occur. I think this is exacerbated by the isolation that mothers can feel within our community.

I now specifically direct my attention to the breastfeeding activities of the Association. The Government has been very supportive of the Association, at least in words, but its actions have been very detrimental to it. The working party that the Government established to implement the World Health Organisation's International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes, which reported in March 1985, said:

this organisation-

that is, the Nursing Mothers Association of Australia-

has had a major influence in reversing the trend of the 1960s and early 1970s away from breastfeeding.

This also may not seem to be terribly important to the Government, but the economic ramifications might be interesting to Senator Walsh. I have done some calculations of the number of counselling calls that have been undertaken by the Nursing Mothers Association. If the 1,500 voluntary counsellors, who do not cost the community a penny, were not there to give those counselling calls, and if only one in 10 of those women sought counselling from a doctor rather than the Nursing Mothers Association, the cost to Medicare would be $800,000. I am sure that neither of the two funds that the Government has included in the legislation can make that claim; in fact, they can claim only to cost money. But by including the Nursing Mothers Association, the Government would help to support an organisation which, if it were not there and only one in 10 of its clients went to doctors, would effectively mean a cost of $800,000 to the community.

More importantly, I think the whole notion of preventative medicine in Australia is extremely important. I do not intend to go through a long list-although I could if honourable senators wished me to do so-of the beneficial effects of breastfeeding. I am referring to a compilation of the information in all the latest medical journals from around the world which have shown, unequivocally, three major benefits. The first is improved health and reduced morbidity in breastfeeding infants. If that is not a major gain to the community, nothing else is. Secondly, there is reduced likelihood of numerous diseases and disorders in young children and of a later onset of those diseases and disorders. Thirdly, there are positive effects on mothers' reproductive systems with a lessening risk of later disorders. It seems to me that there is an overwhelming case for the promotion of breastfeeding. Indeed, the Government accepts that.

We are dealing with a voluntary organisation of women-an organisation which does not cost the taxpayer a penny because its last grant was withdrawn. That organisation is determined to continue its efforts in this regard, to expand and to continue its good work. What it is asking is that it merely be included as a charity so that its fundraising activities will be able to attract the same type of support that the Australian-Irish Association and the victims of the Armenian earthquake will receive as a result of this legislation.

The Association has been active for quite some time and I am surprised that it has not been included in the legislation. Requests have been made over a number of years for that to occur but no action has been taken. The Association should not have to wait any longer. The Government has withdrawn the last $70,000 which was being used for training women to give counselling. As I have said, over the years that has effected massive savings for Medicare. The least we can do is say to the association that we will treat it at least as seriously as the Australian-Irish Association and some of the other organisations that currently receive this advantage-for example, the Australian Administrative Staff College, the Royal Australasian College of Physicians, the Australiana Fund, the Herbert Evatt Memorial Foundation Fund, the Victorian Arts Centre Trust, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Fund, the Connellan Airways Trust, the national parks and the Work Skill Australia Foundation Inc. If it is worthwhile continuing to activate this part of the legislation-and the Government has seen that as being worthwhile-it is worthwhile activating it with regard to the Nursing Mothers Association. I hope that the amendment will have the support of all honourable senators, displaying from this chamber at least, and hopefully the Government, that we are very much appreciative of the enormous work being done by the second largest women's organisation in this country.