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Senate Estimates: Community Affairs Committee

Estimates & Committees
Lee Rhiannon 17 Oct 2012

Community Affairs Committee

Estimates hearings 17 October 2012

  • Senator RHIANNON
  • Ms Halton

 Full transcript available here

Senator RHIANNON: Ms Halton, does the federal government currently provide funding to any organisation that opposes a woman's right to terminate an unplanned pregnancy?

Ms Halton : Not that I am aware of under this program. Can you give us more detail? Have you got a question that goes to a particular organisation?

Senator RHIANNON: Could you take it on notice so that we can confirm it. I am asking the question so that I can get the detail. You say you are not aware of it, so it sounds as though there may be—

Ms Halton : We fund pregnancy support, family planning, the call line et cetera. None of these, that I am aware of, does not support a woman's right to choose.

Senator RHIANNON: Are you aware that there are some agencies that present that they are supplying information to women who are pregnant but actually discourage women from choosing to have an abortion for an unplanned pregnancy?

Ms Halton : Is this related to what we fund, or is it a general question?

Senator RHIANNON: My question was: are you aware whether there are some groups doing that? I would like to know whether those groups are receiving funding.

Ms Halton : I do not think this has moved on from the last time we talked about this.

Senator RHIANNON: time has elapsed—that is why I am asking the question.

Ms Halton : Nothing has changed, from our perspective, since that time.

Senator RHIANNON: Does the federal government support the states directing healthcare funding to organisations that do not agree with a woman's right to choose to terminate an unintended pregnancy?

Ms Halton : Again, your question is not clear. Do we support the states in providing generalised funding in respect of health services? Yes, we do. Do we give them specific funding which is meant to be targeted to organisations that do not support a woman's right to choose? No, we do not.

Senator RHIANNON: Do you provide specific information to the states that the funding that you provide to them should not go to organisations that do not agree with a woman's right to terminate an unwanted pregnancy?

Ms Halton : No, we do not. We give them general funding but we do not give them funding which is specifically directed to organisations that do not support a woman's right to choose. We give them specific funding for health generally. Most of that, as you would be aware, goes into state hospitals. As to what they do in terms of health funding for other organisations, it is important to understand that we do not give them a sack of green dollars that we can then track through and we do not monitor every organisation to which the states provide funding.

Senator RHIANNON: So we can take it from that that it could end up that organisations that do not agree with a woman's right to terminate an unintended pregnancy are being funded by state governments? That could be an outcome?

Ms Halton : I think it is a big stretch to say that our money could go there. Any money that a state has, as with any jurisdiction, can be spent in whatever way it chooses. We do not provide moneys other than to be provided for health purposes, we do not provide moneys for any particular requirements, unless it is under the NPAs—and senators are well aware of the conditions that we put on NPAs.

Senator RHIANNON: The federal government is currently finalising the National Primary Healthcare Strategic Framework—

Ms Halton : Which is not actually under this program, Senator, but keep going.

Senator RHIANNON: In a recent discussion paper there was no mention of the role of NGOs in providing healthcare in the community. I think we would agree it has always been acknowledged that NGOs have an important role to play in preventive health services, particularly to marginalised populations. Are you supportive of the continuing role of NGOs as part of the primary healthcare system and will the framework reflect your support?

Ms Halton : The framework is in respect of our relationship with the states and territories. There is a another framework in respect of primary healthcare; that was published some time ago. I think you will find it is all encompassing in terms of everyone playing their part in respect of primary care. The particular strategy to which you refer, on which a discussion paper was put out recently, is specifically about the relationship between the Commonwealth and the states.

Senator RHIANNON: Commercial and for-profit organisations are by their very nature driven by the need to generate outcome. Do you support these organisations receiving government funding to deliver services to marginalised and socially disadvantaged communities?

Ms Halton : Is that a question of financing, or is it a question of philosophy?

Senator RHIANNON: I asked you a question: do you support these organisations?

Ms Halton : Are you asking us whether we philosophically support, whether we approve of or whether we provide financial support?

Senator RHIANNON: Considering what your job is, it is about financial support. Do you support commercial and for-profit organisations receiving government funding to deliver services to marginalised and socially disadvantaged communities?

Ms Halton : If you consider that general practice is by and large a for-profit enterprise then yes, we do provide funding to private enterprise to provide services to marginalised populations.

Senator FIERRAVANTI-WELLS: If we cut out for-profits we will not have any doctors in Australia, will we?

Senator RHIANNON: Chair, that is not what I explored in the question. It was obviously about marginalised and socially disadvantaged communities.

CHAIR: Senator Rhiannon, I think you need to be clearer with the question in terms of the process. I was confused by the question.

Senator RHIANNON: Under new Commonwealth funding I see that there is funding for medical services that many would expect would include services to terminate pregnancies. I understand that the policy requires health departments generally to provide access in this way. What items are you going to fund? What data is being collected to ensure that these services are provided?

Ms Halton : Sorry, but I really do not understand your question—and I do not think Senator Moore understands it either.

Senator RHIANNON: Under the new Commonwealth funding there is funding for a range of medical services that many expect will include abortion services. In the majority of states—I think it is all states apart from South Australia—women cannot access abortions in public hospitals. Are there any plans for this to change and what role will the department play in that?

Ms Halton : That is a question for the state governments.

Senator RHIANNON: Considering the importance of women's health in terms of pregnancy and the impact that unwanted pregnancies can have on women's health, wouldn't your department give consideration to driving progressive change in this area?

Ms Halton : No. We do not get involved in what state governments deliver by way of health services.


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