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The problem for the Commonwealth is that they give a provider number under Medicare to everyone qualified to apply. This is where the real “control point” lies. Rather than take responsibility for their own actions, they choose to jeopardise initiatives such as the Canberra Clinical School by threatening the number of students that can take up places. I have not let this rest, and currently departmental officials are working with their interstate counterparts, particularly those in New South Wales, to ensure that the Canberra Clinical School remains viable. This Government is committed to the excellent benefits that have resulted from the development of the Clinical School and that will result in the future. These benefits range from excellence in clinical practice to innovation in the delivery of medical services throughout the community and in conjunction with research institutions like the John Curtin School of Medical Research.

The issue of euthanasia - an issue of interest to this Assembly - was raised. Ministers accepted an offer for a regular report on euthanasia to be provided on progress following the passage of the Northern Territory legislation and agreed that they should share information on issues and legislation that may be tabled in various jurisdictions. The issue of adolescents with severe behavioural problems was raised. There was spirited discussion on options for the management of adolescents with severe behavioural problems. All States and Territories reported difficulties in appropriately responding to these young people’s needs in a non-custodial way. I tabled a paper, “ACT Information on Programs for Adolescents with Severe Behavioural Problems”. This issue was referred to the Protection and Care of Children Subcommittee, requesting preparation of a paper on best practice non-custodial options to be available for consideration by the Ministers in April 1996.

Mr Speaker, I now turn to the outcomes of the Ministerial Council on Drug Strategy meeting. The major issues of debate were about access to nicotine patches for people on health care cards and, at that late stage, the anticipated report by the National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health (NCEPH) on the proposed heroin trial. The Commonwealth Government refused to reconsider its decision on the non-subsidy of nicotine patches. However, it expressed interest in funding research associated with an ACT pilot for providing subsidised nicotine patches to health care card holders. On the issue of the heroin pilot report, Ministers generally agreed to await the report's release and its analysis by the National Drug Strategy Committee working group on this matter prior to comment. I note that some have succeeded and some have not. I note that with few exceptions - and I suppose that it is a few exceptions - this has now occurred.

Finally, Mr Speaker, I would like to say that all participants at the conference were very impressed, as I was, with the genuine spirit of cooperation that was evident. As one observer commented, it was characterised by furious agreement rather than unproductive bickering about money which is so often part of this meeting. I think everybody at the conference realised that health is a very large issue and one with no simple solutions but one that we must work together on. This was not because there was little of substance or conjecture on the agenda but rather because all parties were determined to look at the current framework through which services are delivered and see how that can be improved from the point of view of the clients and our patients.

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