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Wednesday, 2 July 1941

Senator ARTHUR (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Many of them did not get good food before they went to camp. They should have had it before.

Senator LECKIE - Many of those I know had plenty of good food before they went into camp, though it may not have been as nourishing as the food supplied in the camps. As I feel sure that every honorable senator will support this measure I need not continue on those lines.

The national fitness movement, as a truly national and Commonwealth movement, was begun in 1939 by the present Minister for the Interior (Senator Foll), who appointed a council of persons selected because of their association with sports movements in the States. A conference of State Ministers of Education which met in Sydney endorsed the movement, and the representative Commonwealth council met in January, 1939. The movement developed and spread, and ultimately the Government decided in July, 1939, to provide a total sum of £100,000 to be expended over five years for the promotion of a national fitness campaign. The annua] allocation of that money was as follows: - £1,000 to each of the State Governments for organizing purposes, and the following amounts to the universities: - Sydney, £2,000; Melbourne, £2,000; Brisbane, £1,500; Adelaide, £1,500; Perth, £1,500; Hobart, £1,000. The balance was left in the hands of the Commonwealth Minister for Health. It is now proposed to increase the grant to each of the States by £500 for the specific purpose of training leaders. State Governments were invited to form State Councils. The New South Wales Government had already a State Council in existence. The other Governments followed its example and State Councils were appointed on the following dates: Victoria, the 10th February, 1939; Queensland, the 12th August, 1939; Western Australia, the 14th March, 1939 (approximately) ; South Australia, the 20th October, 1939; and Tasmania (approximately), August, 1939.

Senator Armstrong - These are all honorary bodies?

Senator LECKIE - Yes.

The Commonwealth money was allocated for two main purposes - (a) organizing expenses; (6) subsidies to universities for the establishment of diploma courses.

Honorable senators will notice that paragraph (o) of sub-clause 5 of the bill has been amended by the insertion of the word " schools " before the word " universities ". That has been done in order to widen the scope of the scheme. All States have appointed organizers and all of the universities have accepted the conditions. In Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia, diploma or certificate courses have been established. In Western Australia and Tasmania it was decided to provide scholarships for selected persons to attend courses at other universities. The movement has been very enthusiastically taken up in every State. It has found expression in police boys' clubs, the formation of municipal centres, country permanent camps and summer schools for the training of group leaders, combined activities with such bodies as Young Men's Christian Association, &c, and the formation of a youth hostel association.

The enthusiasm with which this movement was adopted encouraged the Commonwealth Council for National Fitness, at its last meeting in November, 1940, to express itself in these terms -

While the success achieved in each State ha* been noteworthy, it has recently become very apparent that the national importance and value of this movement has not been adequately recognized or expressed.

The Council expresses its strongly held opinion that there is an imperative and immediate need to use the vitality of this national fitness movement as one means for securing a high ideal of national service. Central stimulus is necessary. Commonwealth direction and encouragement is desired and expected, and Commonwealth assistance must be given if the enthusiasm now available is not to reach its maximum and then fade away to nothing.

Some satisfactory organization by which the Commonwealth gives evidence of its intention to foster this active enthusiasm is necessary if this movement is to be recognized as an integral part of whatever form of organized national service is adopted. That it is a rigorous movement, arid that it can be capitalized as a vehicle for carrying national efficiency and national unity to a high plane, should 'be recognized.

The council also expressed strongly its view that a central focal point was essential for all purposes of co-operative action. The constitution of the council was changed subsequent to the third session : instead of. being directly nominated by the Minister the council is now composed of the Commonwealth Minister for Health, the Minister for Labour and National Service, the Director-General of Health, and one nominee from each of the- State councils. The newly constituted council met on the 9th and the 10th May, 1940, and in November, 1940, held a very valuable joint session with the National Health and Medical Research Council.

This bill contemplates the maintenance and development of this national movement adapted to the needs and local enthusiasms in each State, in association with related activities, and in close cooperation with the National Health and Medical Research Council. I have before mc notes relating to similar acts adopted in the United Kingdom and in New Zealand in 1939, and to a bill which recently camo before the Congress of the United States of America. In those countries the movement has been enthusiastically advanced along parallel lines. The fund in the bill now before the Senate will consist at first of the £20,000 per annum allocated under the original grant, and any moneys later appropriated by Parliament or gifts specially made for this purpose. In the United Kingdom, the grant approved under the relevant act amounted to £1,468,000 in 1939. On a population basis, the Australian equivalent would be about £200,000 per annum - ten times the present amount. I may be asked why it is necessary to introduce this bill while in fact the Commonwealth has for two years subscribed £20,000 per annum for the purposes mentioned. The universities and others interested in the scheme desire that it be given permanence so that they may plan ahead. It is desired that lecturers and teachers should have security of tenure of office. In order to achieve that object the Government has decided to ask Parliament to place this measure on the statute-book.

Senator Keane - What check is imposed on the expenditure of this money!

Senator LECKIE - The Commonwealth Council will check all expenditure, as also will the State Councils. I point out to the honorable senator that this money is being granted on certain specified terms, to each university, for the training of leaders and also for the expenses of the main council. The expenditure from the fund will also be audited by the Auditor-General. I commend the bill to the favorable consideration of honorable senators.

Debate (on motion by Senator Collings) adjourned.

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