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Wednesday, 27 March 1957


Mr FOX (Henty) .- A few days ago, the honorable member for Farrer (Mr. Fairbairn) mentioned that this debate on the Address-in-Reply to His Excellency the Governor-General's Speech gave honorable members an opportunity to speak on almost any subject. I want to avail myself of that latitude to-night and state that I regret the absence of any reference in that Speech to civil defence.

I was one of the fortunate 25 members of this House who attended the Civil Defence School at Macedon some weeks ago and at this juncture I should like to compliment the Government on having set up that school. There is probably some doubt in the minds of a lot of people as to what we mean exactly by civil defence, and I think it a good idea to try to get some firm idea of the definition of this subject. I believe that it can be defined as the protection of the home front by civilians acting under civil authority to minimize casualties and war damage and to preserve the maximum civil support for the war effort. It rests upon the principle of self-protection by the individual, extended to include self-protection on the part of groups and communities, manned largely by volunteers.

I returned full of enthusiasm for the school, for the instructors, and for the indoctrination course that we undertook. When I spoke of the school in my electorate, one of the first questions I was asked was " Would it not be better for the Commonwealth Government to allocate the money spent on civil defence to educating people against war? I could not agree more with that sentiment but I believe in being a realist and looking facts in the face. To me any war which may occur in the near future is not likely to be commenced by Australia, but this country may well be subjected to nuclear or guided missile attack. The civil defence course included films of the damage done to Hiroshima and Nagasaki by the atom bomb, and when one realizes that hydrogen bombs to-day have 500 times the power of that nominal bomb, and that bombs 2,000 times the size of that nominal bomb have been made, the concept is frightening. There are three schools of thought as to what we should do about civil defence. The first school says, " It cannot happen here. Australia is not important enough; therefore we will not do anything about civil defence ". The second school states, " If it does happen here and we suffer a guided missile or hydrogen bomb attack, there will be few people and supplies left, so why spend time and money on civil defence ". The third school realizes the possibility of this attack and believes in educating the people to take the necessary steps to minimize the damage to both lives and property. I am a member of that third school. I believe that any criticism which may be levelled at this Government for having spent money on civil defence would be very small compared with the criticism which could be levelled at it if, in the event of a nuclear attack, the people of Australia had no training whatsoever in the precautions necessary to minimize damage and loss of life. Then we would be really deserving of the harshest criticism.

If a man takes out a fire insurance policy on his home, surely he cannot be accused of being an arsonist or an incendiarist. If he insures the contents of his home against burglary, surely that cannot be construed as an inducement to crime. If a sporting body or charitable institution takes out a cover against rain during some function it is holding, surely nobody is silly enough to say that it is praying for rain and wants the function washed out. It is merely guarding itself against that eventuality. There are people who have accused this Government of warmongering simply because it has set up a civil defence institution. The suggestion is laughable and fantastic.

I said initially that I praised the Government for having set up this school; but I do not want it to feel that it can rest upon that. Many more schools should be set up in Australia as quickly as possible. This year this Government allocated £133,000 to civil defence. In case anybody thinks that is a good effort, let us compare it with what is being done overseas. The United States of America in 1955 allocated over £20,000,000 for civil defence. The United Kingdom allocated £10,000,000. The Government of the United States of America regards civil defence so seriously that it has given the administrator of civil defence cabinet rank. It first instituted civil defence precautions in 1951 and in that year every State and territory of the United States hai' civil defence legislation. In the first year, there were 2,000,000 volunteer workers and exercises involving 42,000,000 people were conducted. One year later, in 1952, the volunteer force had doubled to more than 4.000.000 workers.

A press statement issued by this Government on 12th March this year drew attention to the fact that membership of rifle clubs in Australia had now reached 43,822 and that there were 1,026 rifle clubs operating. The report mentioned that the Commonwealth had allocated more than £45,000 for prize money and work on ranges. In addition it had given nearly £27,000 for administrative costs and travelling expenses. This is a very commendable effort. I do not criticize that in any way. 1 know what a fine job the rifle clubs arc doing. I know that in times of war they form the basis of our volunteer defence corps. During the war years I was a member of a rifle club attached to a Royal Australian Air Force unit. Let us consider again the £72,000 that has been allocated to less than 44,000 members of rifle clubs. The rest of our population of 9,500,000 received £133,000 for their training in civil defence. In that light the Government's allocation for civil defence is just a little silly.

One of the lecturers at the civil defence school was Major-General Kingsley Norris, who made a statement that caused me to think deeply. He said that, given the money and the power, he could eradicate tuberculosis from Australia in the course of ten years. I thought that surely no government would withhold money or power if tuberculosis could be eradicated in ten years. There is no need for me to extol the abilities of Major-General Kingsley Norris. He needs no introduction. He has a magnificent war record and his record in peacetime is no less impressive. For years he was Director-General of Medical Services, so I feel he speaks with authority on these matters. I made it my business to find out just what was the set-up in relation to tuberculosis, and I found that the Commonwealth Government was doing a particularly good job. It is doing all it can do, and ali it is being asked to do by the. medical profession.

If there is any criticism to be levelled at any government over the matter of power, it should be levelled at one or two of the State governments. I am not criticizing Major-General Kingsley Norris, because undoubtedly power is required somewhere. I found that the Commonwealth Government in respect of its territories, and the State governments have the power, among other things, to institute compulsory X-rays, and that all the States except Victoria and Queensland, have availed themselves of that power. To do full credit to Victoria i should say that it has done a magnificent job, through voluntary X-rays, but when one examines the statistics of tuberculosis in Australia, one sees that there is no excuse whatsoever for the failure of these two State governments to come into line and exercise their power. For instance, in New South Wales, which has a compulsory X- ray examination scheme, 753,000 X-rays were taken in 1956. This represents 9u per cent, of those eligible to be X-rayed within the area covered by the mobile units, and all persons over the age of fourteen years are eligible. In Victoria, which is on a voluntary basis. 377,000 X-rays were taken in 1956. This represents, in the metropolitan area, only 17.8 per cent, of those eligible to be X-rayed in that area, and, in the country, 43 per cent. In Tasmania, 119,000 persons were X-rayed. That represented 85 per cent, of the coverage in that area.

In addition to the number of persons X-rayed in the other three States, I have the figures for the unsuspected cases of tuberculosis which were located. Queensland has by far the worst record in the fight against tuberculosis. In 1956, only 23,000 people were X-rayed in that State. No mass X-rays were conducted in the metropolitan area of Brisbane, and the areas covered in the country represented only 50 per cent, of the people eligible. Only one mobile unit is in use in Queensland at the present time, but that is more than sufficient for the number of X-rays that are being taken. I have been assured by the Department of Health that, as soon as the Queensland Government is prepared to put itself on the same basis as other State governments, mobile units are available for it. Of the 23,000 persons X-rayed in Queensland, 32 active cases were located. In South Australia, where it is compulsory, 72,000 persons were X-rayed. That represented 95 per cent, of the coverage in those areas, and 74 active cases were discovered'. In Western Australia, where it is also compulsory, 113,000 X-rays were taken, which covered 80 per cent, of the area, and 101 active cases were discovered.

If those figures are analysed, it will be found that in Queensland, South Australia and' Western Australia 208,000 persons were X-rayed in 1956, and 207 previously unsuspected cases of tuberculosis were located. That is about one person in each 1.000 of population. The population of Australia is between 9,500,000 and 10.000,000 and approximately 7,000,000 persons are eligible to be X-rayed. Last year, fewer than 1.500,000 were X-rayed. That docs not mean that the remaining 5,500,000 persons have not been X-rayed. Some of them may have been X-rayed in previous years. But it does leave the horrible possibility that there may be 5,000 cases of unsuspected tuberculosis in this country at the present time. The position could well be worse, because statistics show that in the areas in which persons offer themselves voluntarily for X-ray, the incidence of unsuspected cases is 1.08 for each 1,000, but in the areas in which it is compulsory the incidence more than doubles and becomes 2.17 persons with previously undiscovered tuberculosis for each 1,000. That result rather shows that, if a person suspects he may be suffering from tuberculosis, he deliberately avoids an X-ray. In my opinion, that more than justifies both Victoria and Queensland exercising the power that they have. It is rather strange that they do not, because they already exercise other powers in regard to compulsory notification of tuberculosis and suspected cases have to undergo appropriate treatment. But that is not good enough. If there are 5,000 unsuspected cases which could be infecting previously healthy persons, those States should get on with the job without any delay.

The Commonwealth is doing its best to eradicate tuberculosis at the point of entry of immigrants. In addition to undergoing a medical screening before they leave their own country, the immigrants are compelled to have another X-ray within four weeks of arrival in this country. That helps to locate any cases that previously slipped through the screening procedure. If we control tuberculosis amongst immigrants and if the States exercise the powers that they have, I feel that Major-General Kingsley Norris's boast that tuberculosis could be eliminated from Australia within ten years could be realized. There is no doubt that the campaign which has been conducted for a number of years has been successful. The figures show that before 1949 there were 24.83 deaths from tuberculosis for each 100,000 thousand of population. In 1950, the figure had dropped to 20.48; in 1951 to 18.27; in 1952 to 14.94 and in 1953 to 11.05. The last year for which we have complete figures is 1954. In that year there were only 9.98 deaths for each 100,000 of population. No complete figures are available for 1955-56, but for Western Australia in 1956 the death rate was down to 6.2 for each 100,000. That is a very effective start.

Honorable members opposite may be under the misapprehension that this Government is not doing all that it could to fight tuberculosis; if so, they will find these figures interesting. In the last years of the Chifley Government's term of office, that is from 1946-47 to 1949-50, the amount which that government allocated for combating tuberculosis was £465,195 or an average of £116,000 a year. In the first six years of the Menzies Government's term of office, it allocated not less than £28,000,000, or almost £5,000,000 a year. To be exact, the figure is £4,700,000 a year. I do not need to say any more; those figures speak for themselves.

Another matter raised by MajorGeneral Kingsley Norris when dealing with the subject of first aid gave me considerable thought. It was that the voluntary workers of the St. John Ambulance Brigade purchased their own uniforms and bought quite a number of medical supplies out of their own pockets. I made it my business to call on the St. John ambulance organization in Melbourne. I feel that the majority of people are not aware of the work done by this body. I shall refer to its work in my own city, Melbourne; I can speak only of that.

For every Anzac Day March, the brigade provides 400 voluntary helpers. Every Saturday, for football matches throughout the metropolitan area, there are 500 St. John Ambulance men. For the grand final which attracted 116,000 spectators, there were between 80 and 100 St. John Ambulance men. During the recent Moomba Carnival, 500 to 600 men were provided and they attended to between 400 and 500 cases. During the Olympic Games, 2,500 cases passed through the casualty station at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. They were suffering mainly from collapse and fainting. The St. John Ambulance Brigade provided 17,000 man-hours, and that is a magnificent record for any organization.

For those honorable members who do not know, and that includes the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr. Curtin), I mention that the St. John organization consists of two distinct parts. There is the St. John Ambulance Association which teaches first-aid and kindred subjects, and then there is the St. John Ambulance Brigade which provides first-aid service to the public. The classes held by the St. John Ambulance Association are conducted mainly in the evenings because both the lecturers and persons attending the lectures are employed in their private occupations during the day. This association does not receive any financial support from any government. If desired, its activities could be expanded to train personnel of a civil defence organization, and also for national disasters such as floods, bushfires, earthquakes, and so on. The St. John Ambulance Brigade is comprised of men and women who have been trained by members of the St. John Ambulance Association. There are units in every State, and their work is done in an entirely honorary capacity. The brigade possesses no regular source of income for its maintenance, but, as with the association in each State, units of the brigade are available for service in an emergency and could provide an essential part of a civil defence organization.

This very fine voluntary group of helpers covers every venue where crowds are gathered. They are available for every hour of the day. They estimate that 1.5 persons in every 1,000 require attention. The St. John Ambulance Brigade receives no financial assistance from any government, although I believe that in Victoria, at present, members are reimbursed for their fares when travelling to and from duty, provided they travel on public transport. Apart from the St. John Ambulance Brigade, there is no organized body to deal with fainting or collapse. I do not want to do or say anything that will detract from the voluntary or philanthropise work done by this body, but I suggest that the Government, when preparing its budget in August, give sympathetic and favorable consideration to my appeal for funds for this fine organization which is doing such wonderful work and which can play such a very big part in civil defence. At the present time, the organization does not even own its own buildings; it has to hire them. They have started a fund for the purchase of buildings, and if they do receive some assistance they can make very good use of it. They can also publicize the work and so obtain more volunteers.

In the few minutes that I have left at my disposal I should like to mention one matter that may be of interest to the Constitution Review Committee that is sitting at the present time. I wonder how many people in Australia, indeed how many members of this House, realize that there is no such thing as an Australian doctor. We have Victorian doctors, South Australian doctors and New South Wales doctors, but there is no such thing as an Australian doctor. The registrations are made in each State. The position could arise, in a border town like Coolangatta or Tweed Heads, in which a doctor might be treating a patient living across the border, and if that patient died the doctor would not be able to sign a death certificate unless he happened to be registered in both States. The Commonwealth Government should be interested in this matter. It provides a lot of money for services, such as the pensioner medical service and those provided under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Act, but it has no say in stipulating the qualifications of the men who administer those services. Surely every doctor born and qualified in this country should have the right to practise anywhere in the country. His registration should entitle him to practise anywhere in Australia.

I have read and heard quite a lot of criticism of State authorities who deny registration to alien doctors, but I wonder if the critics realize that this works both ways, and that if any of our doctors go overseas they might not be allowed to practise. They could not practise, for instance, in France, Italy or Germany, because we have no reciprocal agreement with those countries. Our doctors would be able to practise in the United Kingdom, because there is a reciprocal agreement between the various Australian States and the United Kingdom. Unfortunately, there does not appear to be any world standard of medical qualifications. Each country makes its own standard, and the standards appear to vary from place to place, and even between different universities in the same country. I read in one publication that it was possible some years ago for a man who had sat for an examination at Sydney University, which had particularly high standards, and failed, to go to Edinburgh, obtain his degree and come back here and practise, because there was a reciprocal agreement in operation. I suggest that the Constitution Review Committee might consider this problem before it completes its deliberations.

Debate (on motion by Mr. Clarey) adjourned.







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