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Catholic Health welcomes Labor's dental care for poor

Catholic Health Australia has welcomed the ALP's commitment to establish a public dental program for low income and disadvantaged people.

Federal opposition leader Mark Latham announced at last week's Federal Labor Conference that all concession card holders would receive free dental check-ups and subsidised treatment through a $300 million scheme.

Describing dental health care as "crucial", CHA CEO Francis Sullivan said dental care has been a "glaring omission in public services since 1996".

"Evidence demonstrates that when dental care becomes expensive too many people are forced to forego what otherwise would be a necessary service," he said.

Mr Sullivan argued said the Federal Government has "abrogated its responsibility in dental care despite the growing waiting lists and the obvious disadvantage experienced by low income, poor and elderly Australians".

The Labor leader said the Australian dental care program would clear the backlog of 500,000 people currently waiting up to five years to have their teeth fixed and substantially cut waiting times.

The scheme would cost $300 million over four years - providing up to 1.3 million extra procedures - and $120 million a year thereafter.

Meanwhile independent Catholic lobbyist PolMin last night expressed disappointment in the ALP's proposed asylum seeker policy.

After vigorous debate within the party on Friday, members voted for a unified stand to support the retention of the mandatory detention of asylum seekers should it win government at this year's expected Federal Election.

PolMin - the Australian Political Ministry Network Ltd - argued that Pope John XXII's encyclical Pacem in Terris asserts the "personal right of any person to enter a country in order to claim asylum from that country".

"The retention of [current] policy clearly suggests that the ALP's new policy on asylum seekers is smoke and mirrors because asylum seekers will not be able to enter Australia to claim asylum."

PolMin last night called on Catholic MPs to work with it for the restoration of the right of any person to enter a country to claim asylum thereby upholding Catholic social teaching.

Dental Program Welcomed (Catholic Health Australia 30/1/04)
ALP's asylum seeker policy ignores Catholic social teaching (Australian Political Ministry Network Ltd 1/2/04)

Free dental check-ups under Labor (AAP 30/1/04)
Aged care spokesman welcomes ALP dental plan (ABC The World Today 30/1/04)
Opportunity for All: Keynote Speech To The ALP National Conference
Latham to MPs: get in line on refugee policy (Sydney Morning Herald 31/1/04)
Lawrence treads fine line on refugees (ABC 7:30 Report)
Pacem in Terris

2 Feb 2004