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Wednesday, 13 May 1942

Senator CAMERON (Victoria) (Minister for Aircraft Production) . - Senator A. J. McLachlan and Senator Spicer, in the course of their speeches, both raised the important issue whether the Commonwealth or the State authority should prevail in matters of this description, and both argued in favour of the State authority. 1 disagree with that view. The Commonwealth authority represents a far greater number of electors than does any State authority, and, because I believe that the majority should prevail, I consider that the Commonwealth Parliament, and the Commonwealth authority, should be supreme. It would be ridiculous to agree to minority control in a matter like this. To apply that policy would involve a reversal of the political procedure of this country.

Senator Keane - Those honorable senators want the tail to wag the dog.

Senator CAMERON - Exactly, and T cannot agree with such a proposal. I believe, like the great majority of the people of Australia, that we are grossly over-governed. For this reason, the Commonwealth Parliament should make a stand on matters of vital concern to the people, and not allow State politicians to predominate. Senator A. J. McLachlan would have us believe that the Health Act of Victoria, and the administration of it, are above question. I cannot accept the honorable senator's specious pleading on that point. If any proof were required that the Victorian Health Act and its administration were defective, it was provided during the depression years, when almost every medical practitioner who had charge of children's hospitals, clinics or welfare organizations, declared that thousands of children in Victoria were suffering from malnutrition. The Dunstan Government of Victoria has not done much to remedy that state of affairs. I certainly cannot accept Senator A. J. McLachlan's submission that the Health Act of Victoria is a sufficient safeguard of public health. Dr. Dale on many occasions, during the depression years and since, has pointed out deficiencies in the act. Dr. Williamson, who is now in the Australian Imperial Force, said at a farewell social that was tendered to him some little time ago -

I came here from England a rank conservative, but after my experiences in children's hospitals I leave this country as revolutionary in my ideas as any socialist or any political party. I have seen hundreds of little children in hospital suffering from the effects of malnutrition.

For this reason, I say that the Dunstan Government has not done what it should have done to improve public health.

Senator Allan MacDonald - Then why is the Victorian Labour party supporting the Dunstan Government?

Senator CAMERON - The Labour party is in a minority in the State Parliament. The Argyle Government was even worse than the Dunstan Government, and consequently when the Labour party found that Mr. Dunstan was prepared to form a government,, and provide a little more sustenance for the unemployed and improve certain sections of the Workers Compensation Act, it decided to support him. The Dunstan Government has effected some improvements in social legislation, but it has certainly not gone as far as it might have gone. Acts are based on the economic interests to be served, and the object of placing a ban on Werribee beef was to keep up the price of beef to the detriment of the people, and to establish private monopoly control of the meat industry in Victoria. Senator Gibson said that the prices of meat had fallen in 1935, when the ban was imposed. Of course ; all prices had dropped at that period. The fear was that, if Werribee beef were allowed to go into the market, the prices would fall even lower. As the Leader of the Senate has said, that action was taken to capitalize the fear of the people, and the position of those who had much to gain by the imposition of the ban. I do not approach this matter as an authority in the same category as Dr. Dale and other experts on health matters, but I approach it as a meat-eater. In reply to Senator Gibson, I assure him that I should not have the slightest objection to eating meat from the Werribee farm, provided I could select a good cut and provided it was reasonably well cooked. I should prefer Werribee beef to American canned beef. It was discovered that certain American meat was canned under most revolting conditions, but that it had been cooked so thoroughly that it had become practically innocuous. Cattle fed on pastures other than the Werribee farm pastures eat practically the same kind of grass as the Werribee farm cattle. All grass grows on decomposed matter.

Senator Gibson - At Werribee the land is covered with untreated sewage.

Senator CAMERON - There may be a difference in degree, but the chemical constituents which promote the growth of grass are common to all grass-land. Those persons who eat only fruit and vegetables take food more directly drawn from the soil than do meat-eaters.

We are asked by Senator Gibson to believe that the graziers are beyond suspicion, and that they have no objection to sheep being fed on the Werribee farm, their objection being confined to cattle. If certain graziers were the ultra altruists that the honorable senator would have us believe them to be, and if they had at heart the health of the people to the degree suggested by him, there would be no need for the government inspection of beef, because they would see to it that diseased meat never found its way into human consumption. But, because of their desire to dispose of diseased meat as quickly as possible and at the highest possible price, it becomes necessary to make a careful inspection of meat, in order to protect the health of the public. Much profit arises from the sale of diseased meat; obviously it is more profitable to sell it than to destroy it and receive nothing for it. Owing to the conditions under which meat was formerly sold for human consumption, it became necessary to see that the meat is prepared for market under the strictest possible inspection. No meat is now permitted to be sold unless it has been passed by government inspectors as fit for human consumption. That fact shows that certain graziers are influenced by ulterior motives, and desire to get into consumption as much diseased meat as possible. If such graziers and those who manufacture the various foods required by the people were influenced only by altruistic motives, they would accept the responsibility of seeing that all food was true to name. With the scientific knowledge at their disposal there should be far less preventible sickness throughout Australia than there is to-day; but those gentlemen are not inspired by such motives.

Sitting suspended from 12 midnight to 12.30 a.m. (Thursday).

Thursday14, May 1942.

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