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Thursday, 3 July 1941

Senator BROWN (Queensland) . - It is not necessary to speak at great length on this motion, because every member of the Senate must agree that organization of the kind proposed by the Government is required. It is regrettable that we did not launch a campaign to bring about physical fitness in the community many years ago. I 3peak with feeling on this matter, because I have had years of experience among the workers in the land that gave me birth. When I was in the Old Country, which is now fighting for its existence, millions of workers suffered severely because no attention was directed to the subject of physical fitness; indeed, such were the conditions of the working class that it was practically impossible for men and women to become mentally and physically fit. I remember taking an active part in the municipal and political campaigns of that period. I mixed with the submerged tenth, and with those on the lowest rung of the economic ladder. I can remember calling at the homes of men and women and meeting them in the evenings on their return from work. On seeing the food they ate, I often wondered how it was possible for them to exist. In one home, in which there were eight children, jam tins were used instead of cups, and the only food, the family had was dried bread. This was supplemented with weak tea. I do not believe that any Australian can appreciate the fearful conditions under which many of those people lived. Members of the Labour movement in England at that time worked hard on bodies such as municipal councils in an effort to see that families of the workers were properly fed. In Bradford, to mention one instance, I remember the benefit derived by the children when they were provided with food and milk. The physical and mental development that followed as a result of improvement of their food supply was indeed, remarkable.

It is a blot on the history of Great Britain that many millions have suffered through under-feeding and disgraceful housing conditions. As a result of the lack of the ordinary amenities of life, many men and women are undersized, and it is not surprising that their physical and mental development is not equal to that of the workers in Australia. If we are to develop a race of men and women who will be sound in mind and body, they must first be properly fed. It must be said of Germany, despite the degradation to which it has sunk, that in the old days of Bismarck and the Kaiser, the military authorities insisted, that the workers should be fed, clothed and housed properly. As a result of this attention the workers reached a higher standard, physically and mentally, than many of those in Great Britain. Deplorable conditions in industrial areas have come under our notice, even in Australia. A nian whom F have known for 30 years was out of work, and his wife and children, through lack of food, contracted sores on their bodies which did not disappear until a. doctor made provision for them to be properly fed with milk and vegetables. Six months after they had recovered from the sores, the improved diet was discontinued, with the result that the disability was again experienced. The doctor said that there were hundreds of workers in the industrial districts of Sydney who were suffering similarly. I agree with honorable senators that in this physical fitness campaign, the first essential is to see that all boys and girls are properly fed.

I was glad to hear the Minister for Aircraft Production (Senator Leckie) say that those behind the machines in workshops and on the battlefields must be healthy men, and that we must ensure the continued physical fitness of our young people. He said that we must not forget our ultimate goal - fitness to enjoy life. Of course, people cannot enjoy life unless they are fit and well fed. If they are well developed mentally and physically they can get the best out of life, which is the ideal of the great Labour and Socialist movements throughout the world.

It was stated by the Minister, in referring to the national fitness campaign, that this movement has found expression in such directions as the formation of police boys' clubs, municipal physical fitness centres, permanent country camps, summer schools for the training of group leaders, and a Youth Hostel Association. These varied movements are better than a single movement such as the Ballila in Italy. I urn pleased that they are widespread, because 1 should hate to see regimentation of the people. In countries such as Italy and Germany, we have witnessed the development of a mass mind, and the crushing of individual initiative. In. Australia, initiative is well developed, but in Italy, the children of working men and. women are given toy guns and are formed into organizations of little soldiers. In this way, the children are regimented and their initiative is suppressed. In Australia the danger of regimentation is avoided. We do not want to be like Fascist Italy or Nazi Germany where the mind of the youth of the country is destroyed in order to build up a. strong military machine. Physical exercise has a beneficial influence on the mind. I sometimes think that when we sit here hour after hour there is a. tendency for our minds to become so muddled that we cannot deal properly with the legislation that comes before us. Carrel in his work Man, the Unknown tells us that -

Certain exercises appear to stimulate thought. For this raison perhaps, Aristotle and his disciples were in the habit of walking while discussing the fundamental problems of philosophy and science.

Had the Senate been a peripatetic chamber the Minister for the Interior (Senator Foll) and 'Senator Crawford, instead of glaring at each other yesterday and giving an exhibition of that innate antagonism that dwells in all men, could have gone for a. walk, in which event the debate might have been lifted to a higher plane. When men are crowded into confined areas they are inclined to say things that they would not say in a healthier atmosphere. If in the summer months some of our proceedings were conducted in God's sunshine the unfortunate happenings of yesterday could not have taken place. I hope that the two honorable senators who figured so prominently in yesterday's proceedings have got over their mental indisposition and will soon shake hands and be friends. It is regrettable that men who have belonged to the same political party for a number of years should descend to attack each other in public.

Senator Cameron - Yesterday's exhibition showed that they were physically fit.

Senator BROWN - It is splendid to see an exhibition of militancy in corpulent and grey-headed senators, because it shows that the race is not decadent, and that the fighting spirit still exists, but a more appropriate place for such an exhibition would be on the battlefields of Syria. Perhaps it would be a good thing to send word to the new commander of our forces in the Middle East that in this Senate there ure men in whom the fighting spirit is strongly developed.

Senator Leckie - The Leader of the Opposition should be included in the list.

Senator BROWN -- I admire the fighting qualities of my leader. I prefer to see those qualities expressed as he expresses them rather than in as it were disembowelling some other human being. I believe that within the next few years great changes will come over the world. The fighting spirit, which is now exemplified in the heroic deeds of our men on the field of battle, will be sublimated, and instead of men sticking bayonets into the bowels of their fellow-men they will direct their activities towards improving the lot of mankind generally; instead of destroying our cities with bombs let loose from mechanical birds, men will set about building the city beautiful. I disagree with those who say that wars will never cease. I firmly believe that the destruction of human life and materials in this war will be so terrible that mankind will be forced to learn the lesson that their strength should be used for the betterment of all mankind rather than in the destruction of their fellows. I commend, to honorable senators who desire to understand human beings and the human body Carrel's Man. the Unknown.

On page 53 of that book the following appears : -

One cannot understand the living being by studying a dead body, for the tissues of a corpse have been deprived of their circulating blood and of their functions. In reality, an organ separated from its nutritive medium no longer exists.

That is true. The world contains numbers of specialists who concentrate on different parts of the body; but in order to be successful as a specialist a man must understand the functions of each part of the body. Some of the most ignorant men in the world are specialists. They are ignorant because they have spent a lifetime in studying one phase of a big subject, whether it be one part of a body, one section of humanity, or one page in the Book of Time. There is a growing realization that we must have regard to things as a whole. In considering so important a matter as national fitness, we must have regard, not merely to the expenditure of, say, £20,000 a year for the training in our universities of a few teachers who, in turu, will train our children. One of the most hateful things associated with my schooldays was the inarching which we had to do each day. I do not believe in that sort of thing. Just as Carrel looks on the human body as a whole, so we must regard, the economic body as a whole. We must do our duty to the boys and girls who are brought into the world by seeing that they have the food, clothing and shelter necessary to lay the foundations of physical fitness. This bill provides something in that direction, and to the degree that it does so it is acceptable to the Opposition; but we hope that the Government will go further and deal with this matter in a bigger way, by providing not only for the physical fitness of the people, but also for the development of their minds so that they will be, in fact, images of the living God.

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