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Tuesday, 9 May 1961

Mr NELSON - It is only because the Commonwealth does not make the fund? available.

Mr Crean - The Territory must be a long way back if it is behind South Australia.

Mr NELSON - That is so. South Australia is probably the most backward State in its per capita education expenditure. I do not think it is to the credit of the Commonwealth that it allows such a state of affairs to exist. The same type of protest has been made by the parents of the Alice Springs school and I know that the same situation exists throughout the Northern Territory.

On previous occasions, the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. O'Connor) and I have referred to the action of the Government in proceeding with the construction of a high school at Darwin without airconditioning and without the provision of an assembly hall which was strongly recommended by the Public Works Committee when it made its investigation into the desirability of the construction of this building. The committee was strongly of opinion that students in the area suffered disability as a result of having to work in unsatisfactory conditions in the prevailing tropical heat, and it urged that the expenditure required for the installation of air-conditioning and the provision of an assembly hall be authorized. However, the Government is proceeding to construct the school without air-conditioning and without an assembly hall, in complete disregard of the advice of its own departments and many distinguished medical men who have reported on the need for air-conditioning in tropical areas to achieve the maximum results from students.

I shall quote some passages from the publication " Environmental Problems in Tropical Australia ", by R. K. Macpherson, who made a survey at the request of the Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron). He sets out some of the problems associated with working in tropical conditions. At page 67 he states -

It is very strange, since the chief source of inefficiency in the tropics is the high environment temperature, that a direct attack is not made on this prime cause. It is taught in medicine, that in attempting to cure a patient of his ills, one first removes the cause and then combats the effects. In our prescription for the cure of tropical ills, it seems that we have so far concentrated our efforts on controlling the effects and neglected to remove the cause . . .

It is considered that the practice of airconditioning living and working spaces would, by reducing environmental stress, definitely increase the output of effective work, and improve the health and morale of those living in tropical areas . . .

It is recommended that consideration be given to priority in proceeding with the introduction of the air-conditioning. First on the list would be hospitals - indeed air-conditioning has already been introduced in hospitals in many centres. Very properly, operating theatres and X-ray rooms have first received attention, but airconditioning should now be extended to recovery wards, wards for the seriously ill, labour wards and nurseries.

Leaving aside for the moment the requirements of schools, I should like to comment on the reference to the need for airconconditioning hospital wards. This amenity is not provided in hospitals in the Northern Territory. I know that some sections of hospitals, such as X-ray rooms and operating theatres, have air-conditioning, but in the wards it does not exist. Recently I visited the Alice Springs hospital at 8 p.m., when the temperature inside the wards was 92 degrees. I do not know how anybody expects a patient to endure a long illness under those conditions which must retard recovery. It is in the interests of the health of patients that air-conditioning be installed without delay in hospitals in the Northern Territory, as well as in schools. Later, in the same publication, the author states that air-conditioning could assist in education. Knowing the problems and conditions affecting schooling in the Northern Territory, I heartily endorse those remarks. I have seen crowded schoolrooms in various parts of the Territory. Children, overheated from exercise and play, enter the crowded rooms and suffer terrific discomfort in the course of their studies. It is impossible for any child to do his best under such conditions. The Public Works Committee appreciated the position when it stressed the need for air-conditioning of new schools, with particular reference to the proposed new Darwin High School which it was then considering.

It is time that the Government took heed of the experts it appointed to investigate, these problems and provided funds for these purposes. After all is said and done, this provision is no more than is being made at present for schools in the Australian Capital Territory, where climatic conditions do not affect the work of students to the same degree. I think the total amount involved in air-conditioning every school in the Northern Territory would be less than £250,000. It certainly would be no more than that. That is a very small price to pay for the comfort of children, the peace of mind of parents, and the general efficiency of all concerned.

In the few moments that remain at my disposal, I again direct the attention of the House to the fact that the Northern Territory, after some twelve months, still lacks a Supreme Court judge. We have certainly had the temporary appointment of a gentleman who has done much to clean up the accumulated criminal work but has been unable to touch any case on the civil list. It is time that the Government made a special effort to fill the position in order to remove the hardships, expense, worry and inconvenience, of litigants in civil jurisdiction.

I direct the attention of the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) - he knows the position well enough - to the fact that the Legislative Council has again passed two bills which have been disallowed. One concerns discretionary power for magistrates in relation to the supply of liquor to aborigines and the other concerns lotteries and gaming. In the face of the passage of those bills by an overwhelming majority of councillors, does the Minister intend on this occasion to disallow or to allow the bills, even if only in amended form? It is tine that the Government took heed of the wishes of the elected members of the council. The Government may have some doubts about the wisdom of the legislation, but it should give the council the means of giving effect to legislation that it wants.

Another matter upon which I wish to touch is the request for incorporation in the coming Budget of provision for the appli cation of a zone allowance basis to age and social service pensions paid in the Northern Territory. This matter has cropped up from time to time. In our income tax legislation we recognize that taxpayers in certain areas of Australia suffer hardships and disabilities. I ask that recognition be given to the fact that pensioners in those areas suffer similar disabilities. Although pension rates are uniform throughout Australia, the cost of living in the south has no application to the north, where costs are high. Pensioners in the north have to contend with hardships that do not exist in the south. I ask the Government to take note of this factor with a view to having the principle of zone allowances applied to pensions in the coming Budget.

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