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Wednesday, 3 June 1942

Mr MORGAN (Reid) .This clause gives the Director-General of Health, or a medical officer appointed by him, authority to approve of the text of all medical advertising matter. The work involved in giving effect to this provision would be enormous as, in many cases, up to 20 per cent, of the time of a station is sold for the purpose of advertising patent medicines or goods which fall within that category. I understand that for some time the commercial broadcasting stations have adopted a standard of broadcasting practice which has eliminated extravagant claims by some manufacturers of patent medicines. This selfregulation has gone a long way towards remedying complaints. In evidence before the joint committee the DirectorGeneral of Health stated that adherence by the commercial stations to these standards of broadcasting practice would overcome most of his objections. Included in the patent medicines advertised are many standard proprietary lines marketed by reputable firms, and it appears to be quite unnecessary to create a new branch of the Department of Health to waste time in a daily censorship of patent medicine advertisements. The involved procedure contemplated by the clause, and the long delays that would occur in obtaining decisions, would dislocate the broadcasting industry. The joint committee in its findings, and the commercial stations in their evidence, were alike unanimously of the opinion that it was desirable to prevent the advertising over the air of "quack" medicines for which extravagant claims were made. A much more simple procedure, which would meet the situation, would have at least two advantages over the proposals made in the bill, for, first, it would leave the administration of these provisions of the act in the hands of the Postmaster-General, which would be in conformity with other provisions; and, secondly, it would prevent discriminatory action being taken by the health authorities in respect of some possibly worthy patent medicines before the Minister could satisfy himself that censorship was in the public interest. If the clause were passed as drafted the Director-General of Health would, to some degree, usurp the functions of the Minister, and the whole procedure would clutter up business. No doubt the health authorities would be conservative in their decisions, and it might happen that efficacious remedies would be denied publicity. It could also happen that new remedies which had not been perhaps fully proved, would be prevented from receiving a fair trial. A conservative outlook by the health authorities in this matter could be understood. Naturally, the Department of Health would not accept responsibility for advertising remedies the value of which had not been proved beyond question. The DirectorGeneral would, in fact, become a dictator in this matter. Many remedies containing ingredients of proved value might be denied advertisement under the procedure laid down in the bill. Obviously the trial and error method is necessary in relation to medicines and we should not deal too stringently with this matter. I move -

That sub-clauses (4.). (5.), (6.) and (7.) be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following sub-clause - " (4.) The Minister may, upon the recommendation of the DirectorGeneral of Health prohibit any advertisement relating to any medicine or class of medicine."

Such a provision would meet all the needs of the case and make unnecessary the placing of dictatorial powers in the hand* of the Director-General of Health. Moreover, it would give the Minister an opportunity to satisfy himself, by evidence for and against, whether specified remedies should be advertised over the air.

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