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Thursday, 3 July 1941

Senator COURTICE (Queensland) . - I am pleaded to support the bill; it reveals a recognition by the Government of the importance to the nation of the physical fitness of its people. I am not convinced, however, that the measure before us will do a great deal to meet the wishes of the people. It provides chiefly for physical training education at, schools and universities. Although I approve the bill, and congratulate theMinister for Aircraft Production (Senator Leckie) on having the honour to introduce it, I feel that the education should begin much earlier than is proposed. We must commence with antenatal treatment, and continue with natal treatment, post-natal treatment, public clinics, dental service and all that is necessary to ensure a generally strong physique among the people of this country. It is not satisfactory to me to know that £20,000 is to be expended annually for five years in the manner indicated in this bill. I believe that this measure is the beginning of legislation which will have a beneficial effect on the health of the community. The question of health and of hospital service is associated with this measure. A great deal more education of mothers in the proper way to feed their children is necessary. It is the duty of the nation to see that its children have the food, clothing and shelter necessary for their proper development. The nation should also undertake the responsibility of instructing mothers in matters affecting diet. The Queensland Government has instituted a splendid hospital system. I was associated with one hospital in that State for several years, and it grieved me greatly to see children who, because of the straitened financial circumstances of their parents, were obviously in need of medical and dental treatment. This National Parliament should endeavour to enlighten the people in these matters, particularly in respect of the value of proper diet. I am pleased that I have lived to see a bill of this kind introduced, but I am not satisfied, that the Government has got to the root of the matter. It should begin at the beginning. I am not convinced that the proper place to start is at our schools and universities. I ann more concerned with those who dwell in the dark corners of our cities, and with children who have no proper playgrounds where they can develop happy and healthy bodies. The press of Australia should co-operate with the Government in a big educational campaign setting out the value of proper food and care of the body. If the Commonwealth Government were to tackle this problem seriously, and seek the co-operation of the States, a great deal more could he done. I admit that the policy of the Government will be reflected in a more healthy people, but I repeat that we must begin earlier, deal with- every child from the day that it is born. In cooperation with the States, a sound health policy should be evolved, so that every child in the community, regardless of the financial position of its parents, may be ensured of proper care. I congratulate the Minister upon the introduction of this measure, and I express the hope that its scope will soon be enlarged so that every man, woman and child in the community may be sure of proper medical attention whenever Lt is needed. That is not the position to-day. In Queensland we have perhaps a better hospital system than exists in any other State. The Queensland Government accepts responsibility to a very great degree for the health of every man, woman and child in the community. Adequate arrangements have been made to see that proper medical, dental and hospital care is provided.' In the inauguration of this national fitness scheme the Commonwealth should co-operate with those States which are already doing excellent work in this regard. The Commonwealth should encourage the States in every way to provide uniform health services throughout the length and breadth of Australia - confined not only to children and adults, but also to young babies. Every attempt should be made to improve pre-natal services. If that were done, the improvement of the physical and mental standard of the community would quickly follow. One of the greatest needs of the less fortunate members of the community to-day is an improved free hospital and dental service. I remember only too well when a working man had to be almost on his last legs before he could gain admission to a hospital. If he were unable to pay for treatment, his chart was marked " pauper ". I am pleased to have lived to see an alteration of the views of those governing the people of Australia in regard to these matters. Nevertheless, I believe that we could go very much further in providing medical and health services. To neglect the health and welfare of the people of this country is to incur an inevitable national loss.

A great deal of ignorance prevails to-day in regard to diet. Every honorable senator has been appalled at the number of young men rejected for military service on the ground of ill health. The reason for the large number of rejections can be attributed more to the fact that the parents of these young men were ignorant of food values than that they were unable to procure good wholesome food for them. It is the duty of this National Parliament to co-operate with the States in the education of the people in dietetics as a means to prevent disease. It is proposed' by this bill to make grants to State universities and schools for the training of physical culture instructors. I believe that money expended in that direction will not touch the fringe of the problem. I am satisfied more with the speech of the Minister than with the bill itself. I believe that the Minister is imbued with the right ideas on this subject and I am hopeful that, as experience is gained in the operation of this legislation, the Government will realize the imperative necessity for the enlargement of the States' schemes for pre-natal care. It is gratifying to know that we have reached the stage to-day when all parties realize the need for a campaign of the kind envisaged in this bill, and are aware of their responsibilities to see that every person in the community is able to secure the necessaries of life. If the Government keeps these objectives constantly before it we can look forward confidently to a great improvement of the conditions of the people generally. I support the bill and trust that it is but the forerunner of another measure designed to make provision' for improving the health standards of pre-school children.

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