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Wednesday, 25 March 1942

Mr McEWEN (Indi) .- I associate myself with the remarks by various honorable members on this side of the chamber in opposition to the lifting of the ban upon the marketing of cattle from the Werribee Sewerage Farm. To me, it is extraordinary that after the Government of Victoria had elicited, by a thorough, scientific investigation that it was desirable to impose a ban upon the consumption by humans of beef from the farm, the Commonwealth Government should take advantage of its war-time authority to override the State, so as to place upon the market the flesh of these carriers of a vile parasite of the human intestine. No valid reason has been given to the public to justify this extraordinary action. The Minister for Commerce (Mr. Scully) stated, for the first time to my knowledge, that there was an acute shortage of beef in Australia. I was not aware of that, and I have not heard the Minister previously advance it as a reason for lifting the ban. As the honorable member for Darwin (Sir George Bell) indicated, the best test of the shortage of any commodity which is sold by auction is the price; and the price of beef at present doesnot indicate an acute shortage.

Mr Scully - The price of beef is higher than it has been for twenty years.

Mr McEWEN - I know perfectly well that it is not. If this very objectionable action is to be taken, it must be justified not only by statistics to prove the existence of a shortage of beef, but also by evidence, not from veterinary officers, who can at best give only a useful opinion upon the condition of the health of the animals, but from doctors who can express an opinion of the effects of the consumption of the beef upon the health of the public. In support of the lifting of the ban, the Minister quoted the opinion of a panel of distinguished medical men. Apparently, he based his authority upon a letter published in the press.

Mr Holloway - Copies were sent to honorable members before the letter was published in the press.

Mr McEWEN - The customary practice is for a Minister officially to call for a report from the medical authorities.

Mr Scully - The Government obtained reports from Dr. Cumpston and Mr. R. N. Wardle.

Mr McEWEN - In the cross fire that took place while the Minister was speaking, I did not hear him quote the report of Dr. Cumpston. Accordingly, I withdraw certain of my earlier remarks. But the fact remains that the vile tape worm disease exists in humans in Australia. The worms in the human intestine grow to many yards in length, and the disease can exist only as the result of passing through a life cycle which involves beef cattle.

Mr Scully - Pigs are the greatest carriers.

Mr McEWEN - To the best of my knowledge, it has been disclosed that this disease exists upon only one farm.

Mr Anthony - What length does a tape worm attain?

Mr McEWEN - Tape worms in sheep attain a length of 15 yards; I think that those in the human intestine may grow to a similar length. It is a dreadful disease to contemplate. Whilst the Minister is in the best position to know whether there is a shortage of beef in Australia, it has not been disclosed that the position is acute and I cannot believe that the shortage would be substantially relieved by releasing cattle from one farm. For that reason, I enter my protest against the proposal to lift the ban upon the marketing of Werribee cattle and I trust the Government will reconsider its proposal.

I come nowto the announced policy of the Government to close certain branches of the private trading banks. From the town of Katamatite in my electorate,I have received a petition of protest against this decision. I have also received protests by way of correspondence from the small town of Strathmerton. These communications were the first indication which I received that the Government was putting this policy into effect. The small town of Katamatite possesses only one bank, a branch, of the Bank of Australasia. Depositors have been notified, and I have obtained confirmation of this from advertisements in to-day's Melbourne newspapers, that the branches of the Bank of Australasia at Katamatite and Strathmerton will be closed in the near future. The nearest banking centre' to Katamatite is Cobram, 12 or 13 miles distant, whilst the nearest centre to Strathmerton is quite a few miles away. I am not convinced that the slight saving of man-power which will be effected by the closing of those two small branches will compensate for the great inconvenience which will be experienced by scores of depositors. Because of petrol rationing, they will be forced to travel by horse and jinker a distance of 25 miles in order to conduct their banking business.

Mr Conelan - Have not the private trading banks agreed to close certain branches in country towns?

Mr McEWEN - I understand that the banks have agreed to co-operate with the Government in the matter. I ask the Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman) to be good enough to indicate, first, whether the closing of isolated branches is in accordance with the policy of the Government, and secondly, whether he will examine specific cases where hardship is occasioned to country dwellers.

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