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Friday, 26 July 1912

Senator FINDLEY (Victorian) (Honorary Minister) . - A good deal of publicity has been given to the case of the

Irishmanin the columns of the metropolitan press in Victoria. One of the articles that I read on the subject in the columns of a certain newspaper made it appear that the blame rested altogether with the Commonwealth Department. As a matter of fact, however, no blame was attachable to the Commonwealth. We were asked to act by the Government of Victoria. The State Government could, if they had so desired, have isolated the passengers on the Irishman, but they preferred that the Commonwealth should act on their behalf, and put the passengers in the quarantine grounds. That is where they were taken. Immediately after the arrival of the Irishman off Williamstown our medical officer boarded her, and having ascertained that measles was on board, at once got into touch with the State medical officer, Dr. Burnett Ham. The vessel arrived on the Sunday. Dr. Burnett Ham was communicated with immediately. The vessel did not reach the Melbourne wharf until the Monday morning.

Senator Clemons - Had Dr. Ham power under any State Act to isolate any case of measles on board the ship?

Senator FINDLEY - I think so.

Senator Clemons - It is extraordinary if he had.

Senator FINDLEY - I believe that the State authorities have power to isolate persons suffering from measles.

Senator Clemons - Does the Minister know that to be a fact?

Senator FINDLEY - I know it to be an absolute fact. The State authorities can isolate any persons suffering from measles or diphtheria.

Senator Clemons - There is an enormous difference between measles and diphtheria.

Senator FINDLEY - They have this power if they choose to exercise it. I am rather surprised at that question being put to me. Here was a serious case of a number of passengers on board a vessel suffering from measles, a disease that is most infectious. What would have happened if those persons had been allowed to land in Melbourne? Does any one suppose that the municipal or State authorities would not have been forced to do something to protect the health of the citizens by preventing the spread of the disease? This was a very serious outbreak, and if the State authorities had not had power to prevent the persons suffering from leaving the ship the lives of thousands might have been endangered. I desire to make it clear that the Commonwealth did all it possibly could in connexion with the Irishman case, and that our action in sending the passengers to the Commonwealth quarantine ground was taken at the instigation of the Government of Victoria.

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