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Thursday, 15 November 1973
Page: 1832

Senator WEBSTER -Will the Acting Minister for Primary Industry take a plea from me to the Labor Government that it immediately seek to reintroduce the free school milk plan that has been withdrawn at its direction? Will the Minister study the contents of advice given by Mr Geoffrey Loftus Hills, who is a former head of the dairy research division of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation and who yesterday hit out in a very rugged fashion at the Australian Government's decision to discontinue the supply of free milk to school children? Will the Minister note that this gentleman says that school milk is essential to ensure good nutrition for the young and points out that because the of increase in the number of mothers going to work and the growing tendency to let children eat whatever they like, children need milk as a supplement? Also, will the Minister direct the attention of the Government to a statement in a British scientific journal in relation to the same matter? That journal states that the decision to withdraw free school milk is an outrageous sacrifice of straightforward fact and, more importantly, children's health and looks like a simple but vicious principle of penny pinching. I plead with the Government to see a reason for reintroducing free milk for school children.

Senator CAVANAGH - In the first part of his question the honourable senator asked whether I would take up a plea. I do not know where the plea comes from or with whom I should take it up. This matter of free milk for school children was given deep consideration by the Cabinet following the presentation of the Coombs task force report which questioned the advisability of this practice. Of course, people disagree about the value of milk for school children, and there were reports which questioned strongly whether the milk was being drunk by the school children, particularly those who needed it. It was decided to continue the provision of this milk in areas where it was thought that the need existed because of underprivileged or undernourished children. So it is not a matter of putting up a case that milk is of benefit to the children. It is thought that in today's affluent society children follow suitable dietary habits at home and that therefore it is not necessary to supply milk to school children. If this is not the case in any area, finance will be made available for the supply of free milk. I certainly do not intend to suggest that the decision was made because the Minister had not read the reports of some authorities to which Senator Webster has given some consideration. I assure the honourable senator that the views of all authorities have been taken into consideration.

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