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Wednesday, 16 September 1936

Senator ARKINS (New South Wales) . - Unfortunately, the time has arrived when the people of Australia should be given instruction in the use of gas masks. It is not sufficient merely to issue masks to civilians; the people need to be instructed in their proper use. It is too late to give that training when a state of hysteria exists. I realize that the Government has done something in this direction, in cooperation with that splendid organization known as the St. John Ambulance Association; but it should do more. Recently, I attended a public meeting convened to impress on the civil population the wisdom of learning the use of gas masks, and I was amazed at. the lack of interest taken by the public. In the absence of the mayor of thu town, I acted as chairman of the meeting, and was astonished to learn that all the expenses in connexion with it had been undertaken by a number of public spirited members of the St. John Ambulance Association. I hope that the time will never come when the people of this country will have to wear ga3 masks because of an enemy attack; but it is well to be prepared. I have rot bren approached bv any officer nf the St. John Ambulance Association wir.ii [he view to seeking government as.«i. la::te for that organization; but I suggest ;hat some assistance be given to it, and also that definite instruction be given in the use of gas masks, if necessary, to the children in our schools.

Senator Duncan-Hughes - Training in tlie use of gas masks should be given as in the case of life-belt drill at sea.

Senator ARKINS - I ask the Government, to give this important matter its most serious consideration.

Barter Sir GEORGE PEARCE (West ern Austraia - Minister for External Affairs) [5.35]. - I assure the honorable seu £ tor that this matter has not been overlooked. On the contrary, it was taken up with the State governments at the recent Premiers conference at Ade aide and an agreement was arrived at as to the organisation, because it is obvious that State services, such as the fire brigade, the police force and the ambulance, would have to be used in cases of emergency. Therefore, it is necessary to secure the co-operation of the States and bodies formed under State laws. That has been done, and the Commonwealth and the States are in full agreement as to the plan and the manner in which it is to be carried out. The responsibility for organization will devolve upon the State governments. The Commonwealth Government will provide training equipment, such as antigas respirators, gas substitutes, hand books and instructional manuals, at a cost of approximately £2,500, and assistance will also be rendered by the Defence Department by providing a course of gas training and furnishing information and technical advice to the State authorities on the organization of protective measures. Preparation for the rapid distribution of the necessary equipment in the event of an emergency is also being taken up by the Defence Department.

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