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Thursday, 16 May 1957

Mr HASLUCK - I have not seen the statement to which the honorable member refers. In order to answer his question in full, I should require more time than I think the House would be prepared to give me now. But I should like to make two or three brief comments, first, on the general problem of health in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea, and, secondly, on the measures taken to deal with that problem. The basic problem is that we have 1,750.000 people living in a country which is still, by and large, in a very primitive condition, and many parts of which are very difficult of access. But, within the limits permitted by the primitive condition of the people and the difficulty of access to all parts of the country, I consider that the territorial administration is, year by year, doing increasingly useful and praiseworthy work in caring for the health of the people. That work begins both in providing the basic services for primitive people and in undertaking basic training of primitive people in hygiene, and, at the same time, providing hospitals, clinics, and the other establishments that are needed for the treatment of disease that is already active. I think that, at the present time, about £2,000,000 a year out of the Territory's budget is being applied to health problems. At the same time, we are developing, by a considerable programme, the basic establishments such as base hospitals, district hospitals, and village hospitals, and, year by year, we see additions to that basic organization.

We are also building up, year by year, the number of European medical men, nurses, and medical assistants who are devoted to this work, and we have also undertaken, to an increasing extent, the training of the indigenous people themselves as both medical assistants and native medical practitioners. The numbers of both European and indigenous people who are now engaged in the tasks of health administration, and the amount of money being applied to those tasks, show a very great increase over the past few years. In addition, we have undertaken to obtain specialist aid from the resources of Australian medical science in order to supplement what is done by the medical services in the Territory itself and, from time to time, specialist teams devoted to a particular subject go to the Territory from Australia. I can assure the honorable member that there is absolutely no foundation in any statement that may have been made that the natives are dying in large numbers as a result of inattention. The health of the people of the Territory is certainly very much better than it was, and I think that, having regard to the difficulties, the labours of the Territory medical services are among the more praiseworthy and more successful of the activities being undertaken by the Australian Government.

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