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Thursday, 13 April 1972
Page: 1077

Senator Douglas McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES)

The PRESIDENT - Senator Douglas McClelland, the Leader of the Government in the Senate has informed me that he now has information relating to the question you previously asked. I call upon you, if you so desire, to ask your question again.

Senator Douglas McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I formally ask the Minister for Health the question I directed to him previously about the effectiveness of the subsidised medical service investigation at Wollongong.

Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSON - Thank you, Mr President. In response to the question asked by Senator Douglas McClelland I wish to say that it has been recognised that difficulties are being experienced in making eligible persons aware of the assistance available to them and in inducing them to participate in the subsidised health benefits plan. My Department has taken action to meet these problems. For example - Senator Douglas McClelland referred to this matter in part - it has introduced a simplified application form for the low income families. The Department is also examining ways of making eligible people aware of the plan and the manner in which assistance may be obtained.

The Department of Social Services has just completed a 4-week campaign of intensive publicity in the Wollongong-Port Kembla area, which is the area to which Senator Douglas McClelland referred. The campaign included newspaper, radio and television advertising, together with the good will and assistance of particular persons likely to have direct contact with potential beneficiaries. Such persons included social workers, employers, doctors, chemists, health fund officials, hospital administrators and members of migrant bodies. The purpose of the campaign is to guage the effects of intensive publicity on the level of participation in the subsidised health benefits plan in a particular area with a view to the introduction of similar measures in other parts of Australia. The results of the campaign are being analysed at present by the Department. It is therefore a little too early to give a picture of the results. Within the next few months a special insert pointing out the benefits available under the plan is to be forwarded with one batch of child endowment cheques.

My Department, mindful of the problems migrants are having in understanding the subsidised health benefits plan, is currently arranging the production of explanatory pamphlets in 10 different languages. Discussions are also continuing with the Department of Immigration in an endeavour to facilitate migrant participation. In addition the Department is considering, in conjunction with the Australian Council of

Social Services, specific ways in which both bodies might co-operate in further publicising the plan, particularly the dissemination of information through social workers.

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