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Tuesday, 8 November 1977
Page: 3028

Mr BEAZLEY (FREMANTLE, WESTERN AUSTRALIA) - I ask the Minister for Health a question concerning the Commonwealth's national campaign against trachoma and eye disease as applied in Queensland. Has the Government of Queensland threatened at any time to deny government hospital services to this campaign or to suspend such services? Would any political action by any employee be allowed by the Commonwealth to impede a vital health program for whites, as it apparently has allowed a program for Aborigines to be impeded? Is it because blacks in Queensland -

Mr SPEAKER - Order! The honourable gentleman is now arguing his question. I ask him to put the question directly.

Mr BEAZLEY - If Queensland , government hospitals and their nurses' services are refused by the the Government of Queensland, even only temporarily, has consideration been given to the Commonwealth sponsored team using private hospitals in Queensland and nurses and other medical personnel from private hospitals so that the scheme can continue without interruption ? Were the employees objected to Aborigines employed as interpreters, and was one a master of five Aboriginal languages?

Mr HUNT - The answer to the first question, which is the key question, is: Not to my knowledge. I am not aware of any threat by the Queensland Government to withhold any of its facilities. The central issue is whether the Royal College of Ophthalmologists, which is conducting the program, wishes to become involved or embroiled in the political climate over the next three or four weeks. As I said earlier, discussions are still going on with the College to see whether an alternative method can be found to ensure that the screening goes on. The rest of the program is going on. The surgery and the other follow-up requirements are being met by the Queensland authorities. There is no problem whatsoever in that area.

There is some difficulty with the two field officers who presently are assisting Professor Hollows. I do not know their names. I do not know whether they are full blood Aborigines or half blood Aborigines, but they are regarded by some Queensland people as being political activists in north Queensland.

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