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Tuesday, 11 April 1972
Page: 907

Senator DAVIDSON (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - I direct a question to the Minister for Health. It refers to the report from the Senate Standing Committee on Health and Welfare on mentally and physically handicapped persons in Australia. Has his attention been drawn to the references in the national newsletter of the Australian Association of the Mentally Retarded which claim that there is a lack of interest in this report? Can he give me any information on the Government's response to the recommendations which were contained in this report? Will he advise the Senate on steps being taken to meet the urgent needs of handicapped persons and their families?

Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSON - My attention has been drawn to an article in the November issue of the national newsletter of the Australian Association of the Mentally Retarded which refers to the apparent lack of interest of all political parties in this matter. That is not true. In fact, if I may interpose on a personal note, Senator Fitzgerald who sits opposite will remember as I do when we were both back benchers many years ago going to the then Prime Minister of Australia and at a personal level putting our views on why help should be given at a time-

Senator Fitzgerald - Very little has been done since.

Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSON - Things have been done. There is a Commonwealth Parliament which gives special aid in certain circumstances. I can assure Senator Davidson that there is no lack of interest in this report on the part of the Government. In fact, certain provision has been made for those concerned. I answered a similar question earlier. An interdepartmental committee has been set up at my request to consider the report and its recommendations. The report of the Senate Standing Committee is a very good one. I recall that on the interdepartmental committee are representatives of the Department of Health - the chairman comes from that Department - the Department of Social Services, the Department of Education and Science, the Department of Labour and National Service, the Repatriation Department and the Treasury. So it is quite a job to consider the report which, as I have said, is a very valuable one. The Senate Standing Committee's report exposes some areas where in its view further governmental assistance would be appropriate. All honourable senators can be assured that these matters are receiving and will continue to receive serious consideration.

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