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Wednesday, 14 November 1973
Page: 3287

Mr COATES (DENISON, TASMANIA) - Can the Minister for Health inform the House whether any previous Australian Government has ever made grants to the States similar to or on such a scale as those announced during the past few weeks to cater for the community's health needs with regard to comprehensive health centres and centres for mental health, alcoholism and drug dependency? In view of the Opposition's call for a cutback in Government spending, is this an area in which the people of Australia would be happy for cuts to be made?

Dr EVERINGHAM (CAPRICORNIA, QUEENSLAND) (Minister for Health) - There has been no previous plan to fund community health services from federal moneys. This was part of the Australian Labor Party's platform for some years. We are implementing the plan. It has received universal acclaim from the States, the Ministers and the departments concerned. Unfortunately, the States have been under increasing pressure to provide sufficient hospital beds, and they have been so preoccupied with trying to keep up the supply of crisis medical facilities that they have not had the courage, shall we say, to divert or they have not been willing to take the risk of diverting some of those funds into the preventive, rehabilitative and educational sides of medicine which this new program will implement. They are now welcoming this opportunity. I am sure that it will give them breathing space in their hospital bed building programs and that it will decrease the demand for hospital beds. It will help to keep people out of hospital and have them treated earlier, more effectively and with less disruption to their work and family ties. Wim regard to the second part of the honourable member's question, no suggestion has come to me from the Opposition or from any of the States as to ways in which the expenditure by my Department could be cut down to help inflation. I think that any reduction in this type of spending would only aggravate inflation, because it would cause more disruption of the work force due to illness.

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