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Tuesday, 21 March 1972
Page: 700

Senator POYSER (VICTORIA) - My question is directed to the Minister for Health. Was an English woman quarantined for 14 days in Melbourne recently because she had not been inoculated against smallpox before leaving England to visit a sick relative in Australia? What were the circumstances in which this woman was permitted to travel from England to Australia without the required inoculation and without correct advice as to her eligibility to enter Australia?


The circumstances were that a Mrs Patricia May Brazil, aged 28 years, and her son Matthew Edward, aged 2 years, were quarantined in Melbourne on 7th March 1972 by Qantas Airways Limited when they arrived at Tullamarine by Qantas flight 742. Mrs Brazil was not vaccinated against smallpox because vaccination was considered inadvisable in her case as she was approximately 2 months pregnant. Her son was vaccinated. The background, which 1 understand the honourable senator asked for, was that in the United Kingdom Mrs Brazil made a booking for travel by air to Australia for her son and herself through the Chiltern Travel Agency in Buckinghamshire. She was /told by the agency that vaccination was required, but the doctor whom she consulted considered that vaccination against smallpox could cause complications in her case. He gave her a certificate to this effect. Apparently she accepted that certificate.

Herticket and medical certificate were checked at London airport by British Overseas Airways Corporation on behalf of Qantas. The medical certificate was accepted. She was not told by BOAC that she would be detained in quarantine if she arrived in Australia without a valid certificate of vaccination. It is interesting to note that until she arrived in Australia Qantas was not aware that she was not vaccinated. Qantas was not informed that she was travelling without a proper certificate. Section 59 of the Quarantine Act 1908-1969 provides that the master, owner, and agent, of any aircraft from which any person is removed to perform quarantine, shall severally be responsible for all quarantine expenses incurred. Therefore, Qantas is liable for the costs involved in the detention of Mrs Brazil at the quarantine station at Portsea in Victoria. It is proper to recall that since 1961 there have been 9 outbreaks of smallpox in the United Kingdom, resulting in 145 reported cases. The last outbreak occurred in February 1968. It is against that background that our quarantine requirements are, very properly, rigid. They have to be. We cannot afford to vary those requirements for entry of persons from the United Kingdom. It was distressing to me, when I heard about it, as it would be to the honourable senator who referred to it, that this should happen.

Senator TURNBULL (TASMANIA) - We let them in from the United States.

Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSON - The situation in the United States is not the same. In the United States there has been a change of attitude in relation to the implications of smallpox. The fact is that it is at the point at which a person boards an aircraft that medical certificates with details of inoculations should be checked. That is why the responsibility remains with Qantas to meet the expenses involved in the quarantine. But that does not help a person who is quarantined. Through the Department of Customs and Excise and other proper agencies we remind all people who are engaged in the travel industry that it is important that these details be examined.

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