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Tuesday, 29 November 1938

Mr HOLT (Pawkner) . - I wish to take the opportunity presented by the discussion of the Estimates for the Health Department to congratulate the Government on a decision which I feel will give greater satisfaction throughout the Commonwealth than practically any other it has reached in recent months, that is, to promote a national fitness campaign and to set up the necessary machinery for that purpose. I merely express the hope to-night that the Government will press on with the necessary administrative steps to put this scheme into operation. It can rest assured that there is a tremendous amount of public support for a campaign of this character at the present time; the support which is reaching the Minister for Health (Senator Poll) from all quarters of the Commonwealth should be sufficient assurance in that regard. In taking such a step it will merely be following the good example set by the Parliament of Great Britain when, in 1937, it passed the Physical Training and Recreation Act and provided a sum of £2,000,000 to be spread over a period of three years to get the scheme thoroughly under way. In addition the Government promised that thenceforward it would provide for the continuance of the scheme a sum of £150,000 annually. Since then we have seen New Zealand, in November, 1937, put into operation a Physical Training and Welfare Act, the activities arising from which were featured by both political parties in the recent election campaign in that dominion. Faced with so much evidence of activity in this direction, not only in European countries but also in Great Britain, the United States of America, and the sister dominion of New Zealand, the Commonwealth Government may well feel that it is merely falling into line with a post-war development which has brought wonderfully good results in its train. I therefore express thevery sincere hope that it will not permit this project to languish in the months immediately ahead, but will see that by the beginning of next year, at any rate, the machinery is established and that there is someprospect of getting positive results at anearly date. Some financial provision will be necessary to initiate the scheme, but not on a large scale. If this scheme is handled, as have similar schemes in other countries, the Commonwealth will act merely as an administrative link between the various States. Although it should give a national lead in this matter and sponsor the scheme, the great bulk of activity in connexion withthe carrying out of a fitness campaign of this sort must devolve first from the

Commonwealth to the States, and thence to .the municipalities as the necessary local units. A great deal of interest and support has already been expressed in my State by municipal authorities in regard to the campaign, indicating that they are quite eager to give the fullest possible support to the scheme. If the scheme be launched with central administration from the Commonwealth Government, with State bodies set up by the State governments, and from them devolution to the municipal authorities, we shall find it comparatively easy to harness the enthusiasm of the people. Each municipality will be able to create a national fitness centre of its own, around which can revolve so many of those healthful activities which will do much to promote the general standard of health. The amount of money involved "would be relatively small having regard to the savings which could be effected by an all-round improvement towards optimum health standards - not only direct savings in respect of invalid pensions and claims which might be made for example, on the National Health and Pensions Insurance fund, but also indirect gains in the form of the assistance which better health standards would give to our defence measures. Taking all these factors into consideration the Government may well consider that any money expended in this regard will be money very well expended. Any improvement of the health standards which we can make is desirable, because even in this young and healthy country, not less than 30 per cent, of our volunteers for military service during the Great "War had to be rejected on the ground of medical unfitness. Faced with that fact, and with the spectacle of the growing number of invalid pensioners in the Commonwealth, we may well consider that the best economy can be effected in the Commonwealth by an expenditure concentrated on improving the all-round health standard of the community. I repeat that the Government, having given some hope to those who have advocated for so many years the promotion of a fitness campaign along the lines since recommended by its own National Health and Medical Research Council, should follow up its spoken word with positive action, by expeditiously inaugurating the projected campaign.

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