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Thursday, 3 July 1941

Senator COLLINGS (QueenslandLeader of the Opposition) . - At the outset, I say definitely that, we on this side of the chamber approve this bill and intend to support it. There are, however, some things in connexion with it which ought, to be said, and I shall proceed to say them. First, it is well that honorable senators should have a proper conception of the power and functions of the department which deals with the matters covered by this and cognate legislation. I confess that until recently I was not aware of the widespread ramifications of the Common weal th Department of Health. If these debates do nothing else than give to us a clearer conception of the various institutions connected with our work here they certainly serve a good purpose. The Department of Health is entrusted with the administration of any subsidies paid by the Commonwealth for the assistance of efforts by State governments or public authorities for the eradication, prevention or control of disease; the administration of the Nuffield Trust for crippled children; the Australian Institute of Anatomy at Canberra; the collection of sanitary data; the investigation of factors affecting health in industry; the Commonwealth serum laboratories and the commercial distribution of the products manufactured therein; the conduct of campaigns for the prevention of disease in which more than one State is interested; the discharge of refuse into the sea; the education of the public in matters of health; international hygiene iu matters affecting the Commonwealth : the investigation of the causes of disease and death, and the establishment and control of laboratories for this purpose; medical examinations of seamen and inspection of vessels under the Navigation Act and Seamen's Compensation Act; medical examinations under the Invalid ii nd Old-age Pensions and Commonwealth Public Service Acts ; medical research and National Health and Medical Research Council; methods of prevention of disease; public health administration in the Australian Capital Territory; public health and medical services in the Northern Territory; quarantine, including quarantine of animals and plants; and the School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, Sydney. The acts administered by gne Minister for Health are : the Australian Institute of Anatomy Agreement Acts 1924-1933; the Beaches, Fishing Grounds and Sca Routes Protection Act 1932 (section 3) ; the Medical Research Endowment Act 1937; the Quarantine Act 1908-1924; and the Therapeutic Substances Act 1937-1938. The allied Deportment of Social Services is responsible for invalid and old-age pensions, maternity allowances and national health and pensions insurance. The acts administered by that department are the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act 1908- 1937; the Maternity Act 1912-1937; the National Health and Pensions Insurance Acts 1938, 1939 ; the National Health and Pensions Insurance (Employees' Contributions) Act 1938; and the National Health and Pensions Insurance (Employers' Contributions) Act 1938. The trust funds administered by the Department of Health are the Medical Research Endowment Trust Fund; the National Health Campaign Trust Fund (Preschool Child Centres) ; the King George

V.   and Queen Mary Jubilee Trust Fund (Maternal and Infant Welfare) ; the Lord Nuffield Crippled Persons Trust Fund ; and the Serum Laboratories Trust Fund administered by the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories, Melbourne, and the Sub-Treasury, Melbourne. I mention these items, which I have extracted from the Commonwealth Gazette, because I believe that the activities of these departments are not generally understood by honorable senators. They certainly were not understood by me, and I am glad that the preparation for these few remarks gave me an opportunity to improve my knowledge concerning them. In order to inform my mind more fully in regard to the general principles involved in the bill, I have also read the journal Health, published by the Commonwealth Department of Health. This journal is issued monthly and if honorable senators were inclined to look at it I feel sure that they would feel amply repaid for the time they devoted to its study. There is no doubt that that department is doing very fine work.

I come now to a consideration of the bill itself. I say at once that I am strongly opposed to the Government handing over any of the activities of this department, particularly activities which will be operative under this bill, to any outside body, unless adequate steps are taken to see that the Commonwealth's power over them is retained. I want to be quite sure that no part of the power of a Commonwealth department, or the funds to bc provided under this bill, are delegated to any organization in respect of which there is not a complete measure of government control. By that I do not mean that, if such a body is composed of several representatives, the Government representatives should /be in the majority, but that power should be delegated in such a way as to retain a full measure of government control. In his secondreading speech, the Minister for Aircraft Production (Senator Leckie) said last night that control would be exercised by the Auditor-General in the supervision of the accounts. I am not speaking of that kind of control. I know perfectly well what the Auditor-General does. When I speak of control, I mean control of the functions and funds of the organization to which .power is delegated or to which money provided under this bill is granted. In Queensland, powers have been delegated by the department which will have control of this measure to bodies the members of which were entirely incompetent to do the wort entrusted to them. I wish it to be understood by honorable senators that I have no ulterior motives when I say that in many cases members of those organizations have no other qualification than their desire to climb the social ladder. I have no doubt that that is also true of a number of similar organisations in other States of the Commonwealth, I do not object to that, provided that the activities of these bodies are confined to the successful prosecution of the task entrusted to them. I object to handing over any powers to religious interests. It is entirely wrong to utilize public money for the subsidizing of the activities of any religious body, not because these people may not be sympathetic or have nefarious designs, but because once we begin to subsidize a particular institution, it becomes impossible to hold the balance fairly between the different denominations.

I am unable to understand the reason for making practically one-half the grant of £20,000 to universities. I am the last to say one word against our universities. I regard them as valuable institutions, performing a very useful function in the education of our people; but I want to know why Commonwealth money is to go to universities in order to enable them to engage in activities which can never reach those people who will never be able to send their children to the universities. I realize, of course, that in our universities there are hundreds of students who come from the ranks of the working classes, but they still have to be financed by their parents, and it therefore must be assumed that their parents are in a better position financially than are other people. Generally speaking, however, universities are mostly availed of by students who are anxious to enter the learned professions. "Wealthy people can afford to pay for national fitness facilities out of their own pockets.

Senator Leckie - That is very . doubtful.

Senator COLLINGS - I am opposed to patronage in any circumstances, and I do not like the idea that the wealthy classes should be specially pandered to rather than the masses. I believe that none of this money to be provided under this measure should be made available to any university unless it is already actually undertaking work of this kind. If that were done, a good deal of my objection to the granting of money to universities for the purposes set out in this bill would disappear. At the University of Queensland special training is being given to a staff of physical training instructors. The Queensland University Senate was able during 1940 to see its way to establish both certificate and diploma courses in physical education in that State, as from the commencement of the academic year 1941. Those courses are now in operation, the enrolments for the current year being twelve for the certificate course - four men and eight women - and twenty for the diploma course - ten men and ten women. The subjects of both courses include hygiene, first aid, appropriate elementary anatomy ' and physiology, callisthenics, theory, and organization of games, gymnastics, swimming and life saving, boxing and fencing for men. and dancing for women. The diploma course includes also psychology, voice culture and speech training, and elementary chemistry and physics. There is nothing in this bill to provide that the universities shall provide courses of that kind if they get the money.

In all these matters we should be careful to distinguish between cause and effect. I am so continually making this remark on various subjects that I fear sometimes that I may become wearisome. I believe that every piece of legislation having for its object the improvement of social services that has been brought before us has always failed to distinguish between causes and effects. Social welfare work in this country or in any other country can never be successful unless both causes and effects are tackled. Unless equal attention be given to causes, as the years pass and the order of society under which we live develops to greater intensity, the effects will become more and more prevalent. It would be much wiser to erect an unclimbable fence at the top of a cliff to prevent accidents than to provide an ambulance at the bottom to deal with the effects. This is an economic question. I have read with a great deal of interest the investigations of the National Nutrition Council, a body of men and women who, in the best spirit, do something which in this age of plenty is absolutely astounding, if not worse. They bend all their energies to discover how little a man, woman and child can live on, how cheaply we can live, and how little leisure and little recreation we need. Just imagine such a task in this age of plenty when Nature is bounteous on every hand, and modern machinery has increased the productivity of man a thousandfold! Having found the minimum of the decencies of life upon which people can exist, this benign Government makes £20,000 available for a national fitness campaign. We in Australia are very backward in this matter. The Minister in charge of the bill will probably say that is the very reason why this measure has been brought down. But I emphasize that in order to tackle this problem as it must be tackled the Government must start at the right end and with vision, and provide adequate finance. This proposal is not new. Germany, probably, has done more to make its people physically fit than any other country. We know, unfortunately, the evil use to which it has put the results of such education. Russia, Sweden and Denmark also have done wonderful things in improving the physical fitness of their peoples. Even Great Britain, which some people are unfair and unwise enough to say is a decadent nation, spends on physical fitness, on a population basis, ten times as much as we propose to provide under this measure. Great Britain devotes that huge expenditure to that purpose in spite of its many other pressing social problems, such as slums. All honorable senators have heard of the international sports gatherings, known as the Olympic Games, at which every kind of physical sport is provided for. All of the countries I have mentioned, and many others, provide swimming pools and play ing fields on a large scale in the interests of the health of their peoples. I was hopeful that in the definition clause of this measure I should find a definition of physical fitness. However, that clause defines only terms used in the measure. I want to ask one question. Has this scheme been designed solely to provide sufficient physically fit men and women for war, or for life? There is only one solution, to this problem of national unfitness. We must proceed to fit ourselves for life, not for war.I should be glad to see in the measure some stipulation that none of the activities which will be encouraged will be of a military character,but will be purely of a physical character, designed to develop and ensure the physical and mental health of our people.

Senator Leckie - The honorable senator can take it for granted that that is the purpose of the bill.

Senator COLLINGS - In that connexion I was very delighted to read the following remarks which were made recently by the Minister for Health (Sir Frederick Stewart) : -

We are expending a tremendous amount of money and thought in ensuring the fitness of our mechanical elements of defence, but I am old-fashioned enough to believe that, however efficient our mechanical aids may be, unless we also have a fit personnel in Australia, they will not avail us very much. This is an age of machines and mechanized warfare, but behind the machines, in the shops, or on the battlefield, there must be fit men and women to man the machines, and, above all, provision to ensure the continued fitness of the children and young folk to whom we will hand on the heritage for which we are now fighting. Whilst we are now preoccupied with national fitness in order to survive, we must not forget the ultimate goal of fitness in order to enjoy life.

The Minister for Health began by saying that he was old-fashioned enough to believe what I have just read. To that statement I reply "Hear! Hear!"; and assure the honorable gentleman, and honorable senators generally, that I, too, am old-fashioned enough to believe that while we are now concerned with national fitness in order to survive, we must not forget the ultimate goal of physical fitness for the enjoyment of life. I am very glad that the measure has been introduced. It will not be opposed by honorable members on this side. However, I say to the Government that, just as we cannot solve post-war problems if we wait until the war ends, we cannot improve physical fitness of our manpower for war if we delay undertaking the work until war is upon us. But, that is what is being done now. Or, is it possible, perhaps, that we are already getting ready for the next war? I hope not. This measure is belated.

Senator Leckie - This scheme was inaugurated in 1938, that is, before the war.

Senator COLLINGS - It was inaugurated before the war, but not before every one knew that war was imminent. I repeat that unless we tackle post-war problems now we shall not be able to cope with them when the war is over. All creation has known for years that many of our people are living in slums, and that they and their children are undernourished. The list of administrative organizations which I have just read out indicates that the problem is being tackled in some sort of fashion. But for a long time we have known that our birthrate has been declining, and that wo are becoming a nation of old men, whilst a section of our people are becoming increasingly unfit physically. Yet, all the persuasive eloquence of honorable senators on this side over those many years has been exercised in vain in our attempts to awaken the Government to its responsibilities in this matter.

I repeat that the Opposition welcomes the measure. We regret that the Government did not awaken to its responsibilities long ago, and that even now it is not prepared to undertake the expenditure necessary to do this job properly. Anticipating the reply of the Minister in charge of the bill, I say that it will be useless to tell us that sufficient, money cannot be found for this work. If the Government is really prepared to do it, we can find millions in order to ensure a high physical standard among our people as we are now forced to do for war. Unfortunately, the struggle in which we are now engaged has been forced upon us; it was not of our seeking. But we have accepted the challenge, and we must see the struggle through, because it is a fight for survival, and the pre servation of the ideals in which we believe. However, the provision of so small a sum as £20,000 a year for five years for this purpose is ridiculous. I see no reason why a sum of £100,000 could not be provided for this purpose for this year, and greater sums in subsequent years. The Government should set up its own machinery to handle this scheme rather than hand' over any of its powers, administrative or financial, to State authorities. It should establish a special department to undertake this work, the results of which will be not only of value to Australia but also a beacon light to other nations. I hope that the bill will hp. passed.

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