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Friday, 6 March 1942
Page: 295

Mr PERKINS (Eden) (Monaro) . - Although I realize that the time of the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) is fully taken up with the responsible wartime duties which devolve upon him. 1. direct his attention to a proposal that was made, I understand, about twelve months ago, for the mental hospital at Goulburn to be taken over by the Defence authorities for the purposes of a military hospital. I believe that some opposition was raised to the proposal by the people of Goulburn, who pointed out that it would be possible to build a hospital in that city at a moderate cost and within a reasonable period. A couple of months ago, however, the Government decided to take over the mental asylum, and convert it into a military hospital. This would mean the removal from Goulburn of a considerable number of harmless persons who have come to look upon the institution as a home, lt would be barbarously cruel to drag the inmates away from the institution at short notice. A number of persons from different parts of New South Wales have taken up residence in or near Goulburn in order to be near relatives who are inmates of this institution, and I hope that the Government will be able to obtain the necessary hospital accommodation without having to take over the mental asylum. I blame previous governments more than the present Ministry for having allowed many months to elapse without providing the hospital accommodation required for military purposes. Although large hospitals have been erected in Sydney, it is now considered that those institutions are exposed to enemy attack, and the Government is searching for hospitals in country districts. I point out that a considerable staff, including nurses and clerks, are employed at the Goulburn mental hospital and that business people in. Goulburn would suffer loss if the institution were, removed to another part of the State. At Cooma there is a large unused asylum which could be converted into a hospital capable of accommodating some hundred.-, of patients. It is a stone structure, but apparently the departmental officials have not considered its possibilities. I spoke to the Minister for the Army to-day regarding the Goulburn asylum, and b« told me that he understood that a compromise had been reached regarding the matter. The citizens of Goulburn, from the mayor down, having become alarmed at the proposal of the Government, decided that a deputation should be formed to wait upon the Minister but I know that the important war matters awaiting his attention make it impossible for him to investigate personally problems such as that of providing hospital accommodation. He must act on the advice of officers in whom he has faith, but he should not have too much faith in them. I could instance another proposal for the provision of a hospital which, as the result of protests, was abandoned. I hope that the mental hospital at Goulburn will not be acquired for military purposes, because New South Wales is in need to-day of institutions of this kind. Before a final decision is reached in the matter I .ask the Minister to exhaust every possible means of making other provision, so that the inmates of the institution at Goulburn will not be disturbed.

My attention has been directed to the fact that in Sydney to-day, an air raid alarm was sounded. As the result, considerable confusion was aroused in the city. I have not ascertained the official explanation as to why the alarm was given, but I have been informed that some women reported that they had seen strange aircraft over the town. Perhaps it was only a trial alarm for the purpose of making the people air-raid conscious, but if that be so I ask the Minister for Home Security (Mr. Lazzarini) to discontinue the practice. What will happen is that, if hostile aircraft happen to appear and the sirens sound, people will think that it is only another trial, and disregard the warning. By now, people have been well educated in air raid warnings. They know that when the alarm goes, they must seek cover without delay. Any false alarms will tend to make people casual.

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