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Wednesday, 20 April 1966

Dr FORBES (Barker) (Minister for Health) .- I move-

That the Bill be now read a second time .

The purpose of this Bill to amend the Quarantine Act is to provide measures of quarantine under which new arrivals in Australia, who cannot satisfy the quarantine officer that they are not suffering from active pulmonary tuberculosis, may be required to undergo medical examination. This measure, and the administrative machinery that will accompany it, will further strengthen the arrangements that were developed by the Menzies Government in co-operation with the State Governments to reduce the incidence of tuberculosis in Australia.

The joint Commonwealth and States tuberculosis campaign is commonly regarded as having been very successful and I would be surprised if any member in this chamber disagrees with this view. The very effective liaison that exists between the Commonwealth and the States in conducting the campaign, coupled with the willing cooperation of the man in the street, has produced a situation in which tuberculosis in this country, although still serious, is ceasing to be a major health risk. Indeed it is precisely because the incidence of tuberculosis in Australia has been significantly reduced that, to make the campaign even more effective, it has been necessary to give increased attention to sources of infection from other countries.

Under existing immigration procedures, all migrants coming to Australia under Government assisted passage schemes and all non-British migrants travelling as full fare passengers are already required, before embarkation, to show by undergoing X-ray examination that they are not suffering from pulmonary tuberculosis. Up to the present, however, full fare passengers of British nationality have not been required to have a chest X-ray or medical examination. These new arrivals to this country could be suffering from tuberculosis and constitute a potential source of tuberculosis infection to the Australian people.

Arrangements are being made, therefore, for all British subjects, with some exceptions which I shall mention later, wishing to remain in Australia permanently or for longer than twelve months, to have chest X-ray examinations and obtain certificates indicating they are not suffering from active pulmonary tuberculosis before embarkation. No matter how efficient such arrangements are, some persons, intentionally or otherwise, will not have had a chest X-ray before arriving in Australia, and it is proposed to seek the power, by this Bill, to require persons, who cannot produce evidence that they are not suffering from active pulmonary tuberculosis, to undergo medical examination following their arrival in Australia. It is also proposed to require these persons, if found to be suffering from tuberculosis, to undergo quarantine. They can then be treated for the disease. It is not intended to apply these arrangements to specific classes of people who will be exempted under the regulations to the Quarantine Act. These classes include such persons as arrivals from New Zealand, where an acceptable antituberculosis scheme exists, short-term visitors, children under 12 years of age, who are not normally submitted to X-ray examinations, and members of the armed forces of the Crown entering on duty.

The purpose behind this Bill is in keeping with the public health and quarantine principles that have been developed in Australia, aimed at keeping Australia one of the healthiest countries in the world. By the end of this financial year, more than $200 million will have been spent by the Commonwealth since . 1949 in the attack on tuberculosis. This is in addition to expenditure by the State Governments. 1 for one regard this expenditure, along with other expenditure directed at improving the health of the nation, as being well worth while. The amendment to the Quarantine Act will assist us to get greater value for the money that has been spent by making the national tuberculosis campaign more effective. I commend the Bill to the House.

Debate (on motion by Mr. Webb) adjourned.

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