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Thursday, 3 July 1941

Senator COOPER (Queensland) . - I welcome the bill. It is evidence of the Government's realization of its duty to ensure that the next generation shall have a far greater chance of becoming mentally and physically fit than was enjoyed by the generation on which we are now obliged to depend largely for our soldiers. The Government has started this work on the right lines. Perhaps it might be better if national fitness, and all activities associated with it, were controlled directly by the National Parliament. However, during recent years, the Commonwealth and the State Governments have inaugurated their own systems of health administration, each of which includes a degree of physical education along with the provision of hospital and dental treatment, and clinics for the care of infants. It is noteworthy, however, that no co-ordinated basis has yet, been evolved for the supervision of ibis most important work throughout the Commonwealth as a. whole. I believe that, we should achieve far greater results if national fitness were the direct responsibility of the national Parliament. I emphasize that the value of such a campaign would be greatly increased if it. provided for the welfare of the antenatal child, because a strong, robust baby has far greater opportunities than a puny child to develop into a healthy adult. The former has everything in its favour right from its birth.

Campaigns of physical fitness are not new to Australia. The great majority of Australians are naturally physicalfitness minded. I was interested to hear Senator Brown's remarks concerning the difficulties of developing physical fitness in the Old Country when he was a boy. However, in this country, with its glorious sunshine and long, sweeping ocean benches, it is not surprising that the Australian shows a. natural inclination for sport and, consequently, in the majority of cases, grows into healthy manhood and womanhood without experiencing the need for any special education or assistance from a governmental institution. Nevertheless, the assistance which such a body can render in this direction will no doubt effect an improvement in the of our community as n whole. We cannot emphasize too often that a healthy body creates a healthy mind, and that a mentally healthy community is to be preferred to n purely physically healthy community. This measure represents only a beginning in this work, but it should give a pronounced impetus to national fitness education in this country. 1 say without hesitation that the more we can do to induce our youth, without distinction of class, to engage in sport or in any activity which will improve their physique, the more we shall do to break down sectional barriers which have been the cause of so much distress, and, indeed, uprisings in many countries of the world. The encouragement which this activity will give to our youth to meet and mix in games, sport and physical culture, will inculcate among our younger generation a better feeling and understanding than exists between them at present. I sincerely hope that thi? scheme is only the beginning of an undertaking which will prove to be of the greatest assistance in bringing every section of our community together in the atmosphere of healthy recreation and sport. I support the measure.

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