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Thursday, 22 May 1980
Page: 3213

Dr Everingham asked the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 6 March 1 980:

(   1 ) Will he ask the National Health and Medical Research Council to recommend to Governments that a warning be included on labels of alcoholic foods and drinks to the effect (a) that average intake for average adults of 100 grams of alcohol a day may harm health and may be habit forming, (a) that during pregnancy over 20 grams a day may cause birth defects, (c) that quick intake of 300 to 600 grams may cause death, and stating (a) what proportion of the contents contain those quantities of alcohol and (e) what proportion is likely to produce illegal blood levels for vehicle drivers.

(2)   Will the Government set an example to the States by requiring such a warning on all relevant labels (a) printed in the Australian Capital Territory after 1 July 1 980, (b) affixed in the ACT after 1 January 1981 and (c) entering the ACT after 1 January 1982.

(3)   Will the Government require a similar warning on all advertising in the ACT including the broadcast advertising of alcoholic beverages.

(4)   Has his Department instituted an alcoholism diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation program for employees; if not, why not.

(5)   Can he say whether any other Department has instituted such a program.

(6)   Can he also say whether the United States of America Armed Forces spend $35m annually on control of alcohol abuse evident in some 30 per cent of personnel with a recovery rate around 75 per cent; if so, what are the comparable figures for Australia.

Mr MacKellar - The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(1)   The National Health and Medical Research Council (N.H. & M.R.C.) is currently considering certain proposals for the labelling of alcoholic drinks with the alcohol content. I will request Council to consider the five proposals made by the honourable member.

(2)   and (3) The recommendations of the N.H. & M.R.C. will be sent to States and Territories as soon as Council's considerations have been completed. At that stage it will be possible to decide what action will be taken.

(4)   and (S) Within the context of its response to the Report from the Senate Standing Committee on Social Welfare entitled 'Drug Problems in Australia- an Intoxicated Society?', as announced in a Ministerial Statement in the Senate on 19 March 1980 (Senate Hansard, 19 March 1980, pages 79S and following), the Government has adopted a specific policy on alcohol and alcohol abuse which wil employ preventive and curative measures to combat the harmful effects which alcohol abuse has on personal health and community well-being. In particular, I refer to the Government's response to Recommendation 9 of the Senate Committee's Report.

The Director-General of Health, as the occupational health authority in respect of Commonwealth employees, issued a statement on Commonwealth Occupational Health Policy on Alcohol and Drug Dependence in November 1978. This statement supplemented Guidelines for Handling Problems of Alcohol Misuse in the Australian Public Service, also issued in November 1978, by the Public Service Board. These Guidelines are intended to assist departments and authorities to develop policies and procedures in the identification and sympathetic and effective handling of staff affected by alcohol misuse.

A further guidelines paper on alcohol and drug misuse is being prepared by the Joint Council of the Australian Public Service. A number of alcohol intervention programs have been developed in various areas of Qantas, Telecom and the Offices of the Navy and Air Force.

(6)   No, but I am aware of evidence given before a United State Congressional Committee on 27 July 1978 by the Deputy Secretary of Defence in which it was stated that $US34m was being spent on drug abuse prevention and treatment in the Armed Forces. It should be noted, however, that this amount was not being spent on control of alcohol abuse alone. Current figures are not available.

Expenditures on the control of alcohol abuse in the Australian Defence Forces are not identifiable as a specific item. There are no detailed statistics on the incidence of alcoholism detected by Medical Officers in any of the Services.

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