Territory Stories

Debates Day 3 - Thursday 31 May 2001



Debates Day 3 - Thursday 31 May 2001

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Parliamentary Record 28


Debates for 8th Assembly 1997 - 2001; ParliamentNT; Parliamentary Record; 8th Assembly 1997 - 2001




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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory

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Attribution International 4.0 (CC BY 4.0)

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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory



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DEBATES - Thursday 31 May 2001 hear from the minister that we only invest $200 000 per annum in terms of those child care subsidies. There is certainly room for improvement in terms of reducing those waiting lists for not a great deal of additional money at the bottom line. This has very real impacts on people. I have spoken to many of the defence community, people who live in Defence Housing Authority homes in my electorate. One of the major issues is that for women who are looking to get into the workforce when they transfer up here, they are stifled for a number of months - six to 12 months - in terms of getting their children into child care places and that does put pressure on the family budget. It impacts on the much cherished lifestyle that we all talk about so much. There is room for increased funding in that area to make a significant effect at not a great deal of cost to the bottom line. To sum up, I will be following through in detail these areas in appropriations and also in the many other areas of health expenditure which I havent time to touch on today. I dont believe that the funding increases announced in this budget, even when the final outcomes for the department are presented, will go close to meeting the real health needs of Territorians across many areas. The increase barely keeps pace with inflation and there is very little left for increased services across the primary, acute and non-govemment sector. On these numbers there also appears to be little scope to provide our vital 1500 nursing staff in the Northern Territory with anything like a competitive wage increase to keep nurses here in the Territory. Ms CARTER (Port Darwin): Mr Deputy Speaker, I am pleased to speak tonight in support of the Treasurers budget for the year 2001-02. I consider this to be a responsible budget. Many commentators, of course, were expecting it to be a grand spending election budget, and they did not get it. Instead, this budget has been designed for growth. We are a young community here in the Territory and we need to invest for the future. We all do that when we borrow money from the bank to pay for our home, or for an investment for the future. Generally, we dont worry so much about the amount but we do worry whether or not we can afford to pay it back. That is, of course, what the bank is also worrying about. This is the sort of budget that we have here, a budget which is responsible, it is reasonable, we are able to meet our debt commitments and at the same time, develop the Territory for the future. If money is borrowed to put into projects which earn money, be they a home, a port, a railway or a road to a methanol plant, then that to me is a good investment and worth carrying a debt for. I would like to comment now on an apparently small section of the budget. This is the decision to increase the subsidy on syringes so that people with diabetes can receive them free of charge. I have had a number of constituents approach me expressing their perception that it was wrong that so-called drug addicts received free syringes while people who had diabetes, at no fault of their own, had to pay. To investigate these complaints, I met with both the NT AIDS Council and Diabetes Australia NT. They are commonly known as DANT. Having been a Health Promotion Officer in my pre-MLA days, I am very supportive of the concept of harm minimisation and I have no problem with the program providing free syringes to people who use IV drugs. I applaud the program being run by the NT AIDS Council Their needle and syringe program operates from a house here in the CBD and I have never had a complaint about its operation. When I met with Mr Chris Day, who is the Executive Director of the NT AIDS Council, and Father Des Chairman, who is on the board, I was advised that the Darwin needle exchange program gave out 500 000 syringes last year. Very few of these have been found on the streets and about 100 were found at Lameroo Beach last year. So considering the number of syringes that have been given out by the program, very few are found inappropriately disposed of. I believe it is a great program. The program aims to control the spread of HIV and other IV transmitted diseases such as hepatitis C. It is believed about 70% of IV drug users in the Darwin area have hepatitis C. I am pleased to advise that the rate of HIV in Darwin has been static for some time, with about 50 people having HIV. Unfortunately, the rate of hep C is growing. This is a tragedy for the people with this condition as many will suffer liver disease as they age. I applaud the work of the NT AIDS Council, which is supported by Territory Health Services, in their effort to contain the spread of a debilitating, life threatening, expensive disease. Equally important, it is great that we are now able to assist people who have diabetes by providing free syringes and other equipment free of charge. I met with Ms Anne Kemp, who is the Executive Director from Diabetes Australia NT, who highlighted the cost her clients face when procuring syringes and that some have to reuse syringes which are actually designed to be disposable after one use. They have been reusing them in an effort to save money. Diabetes is a complex disease, which affects individuals in different ways. Its incidence is growing as our diet and lifestyle changes. I am sure most of us know people with diabetes. Some 7800