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Thursday, 2 August 1906
Page: 2245

Mr THOMAS (Barrier) .- I move -

1.   That, in the opinion of this House, in the interest of the health of the community of Australia, it is desirable that all patent or proprietary medicines, all infantile and artificial foods, all medical and surgical appliances which purport to cure or alleviate any disease to which the human frame is subject, should be critically examined on entry into the Commonwealth -

(a)   To ascertain their contents and composition.

(b)   To ascertain their value from a curative stand-point,

(c)   To ascertain their value as a food.

(d)   To ascertain their value as remedial agents.

2.   That it is further desirable that the exact pharmaceutical composition or construction should he set out clearly on the label or package, of each bottle, tin, box, or parcel, and a clear definition be given of the ailment they profess to cure or alleviate.

3.   That in the event of the description on the bottle, tin, box, package, or parcel being false or misleading to the purchaser, then all such articles shall be refused admission into the Commonwealth, and all such as have been landed and not cleared shall be forfeited and destroyed.

I do not think it is necessary for me to speak at any considerable length upon the present occasion, because I believe that public opinion is unanimous that some action should be taken upon the lines indicated in this motion. Although the vested interests of the proprietors of patent medicines are considerable, I think that the people have come to the conclusion that a great deal of fraud is perpetrated in connexion with the sale of such medicaments, and that much misery is produced by their consumption. I believe that honorable members are extremely anxious that everything possible shall be done to maintain the health of the community. I recognise that we cannot cover the whole of the ground in this connexion, because the Commonwealth cannot prevent the sale of any article which is manufactured locally. In other words, we can deal only with imports. I understand that during the past few months the Victorian Parliament has placed upon the Statute-book a law calling upon all persons engaged in the vending of patent medicinal lotions to advertise their contents.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The second paragraph of the honorable member's motion is complied with to the full nowadays.

Mr THOMAS - Is it complied with, so far as imports are concerned?

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Yes. Upon a box of " bile beans " or Beecham's pills the virtues of those articles are clearly set out.

Mr THOMAS - But their contents are not declared, and that is what we wish to ascertain. If we pass a resolution affirming that everything imported in the way of patent medicines, drugs, &c, shall have its composition publicly notified, we shall bring about such a state of things that within a very short time every one of the States Governments will practically follow in the footsteps of Victoria. Outside of this State, I understand that there are other countries which have enacted similar legislation. For instance, in Germany and Japan persons wishing to vend patent medicines must openly declare their contents. If these medicaments were harmless their sale would not be of such importance. But from the evidence that we have read from time to time, we are forced to the conclusion that the consumption of many of them is very injurious to the general public.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable member does not suggest that they are all harmful ?

Mr THOMAS - I do not go so far as that. I say that some are exceedingly harmful. In this connexion I propose to read a few extracts from letters which have been forwarded to the Government by Mr. Beale. I think that we are indebted to that gentleman - who, I understand, is a citizen of Sydney - and who, during his recent trip to England, exhibited a great deal of interest in this matter, and collated some very valuable information. In answer to a communication which he sent to a very prominent physician at Home, he received the following letter : -

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