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Thursday, 8 August 1946

Sir FREDERICK STEWART (Parramatta) (1:14 AM) . - This is a small bill in contents, but not in its effect on the people whose interests it is designed to serve. It will provoke very little controversy, because concern for the sick and the needy is not the monopoly of any section of this House. It has been introduced, as the Minister in charge of it (Mr. Holloway) has explained, not as a new proposal, but to overcome a lack of constitutionality in the Tuberculosis Act of 1945. I am one of those who can never understand why the framers of the Constitution left the matter of public health to the States to administer, but I am glad that the Government is not prepared to shelter behind the Constitution insofar as the purge of tuberculosis is concerned. I speak for the Opposition when I express the hope that this isnot the maximum that Commonwealth governments, of whatever political complexion, shall be prepared to do in order to overcome the white plague. When Minister for Health, I was assured by my professional advisers that, given reasonable financial aid and the right to discipline and segregate those affected by the disease, it would almost be possible to eradicate it in Australia within a generation, but that one of the principal difficulties in the way of exercising such discipline and segregation of those affected was the economic situation of the victims and their dependants. The principal act and this complementary legislation are designed to overcome the economic difficulty. I am glad that the Government has taken this step. It is fitting that it should take it, because, since federation, about 100,000; deaths have occurred from tuberculosis in Australia. In a country needing population and seeking immigrants it is fitting that the Commonwealth Government should take an active interest in preserving native lives, because our own people are the best that we can have. I am pleased, too, that the bill proposes to exclude financial assistance to the victims of the disease from income for the purpose of determining eligibility for invalid and old-age pensions. Without that provision, this legislation would be an empty gesture. I welcome the bill and hope that it will have a speedy passage.

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