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Friday, 26 July 1912

Senator DE LARGIE (Western Australia) . - When this debate was adjourned last evening, we were considering the question of quarantine from a public health stand-point. I was pointing out that quarantine is one of those obligations imposed on every civilized country which wants to be as free as it is possible for science to make it from diseases, especially those which may be brought by shipping or other means of communication from other countries. Quite a number of considerations must be examined before we can decide upon a system of quarantine. Because we find that, although quarantine is a science with which geography and climate have a great deal to do, a quarantine law suitable to one country may be quite unnecessary and unsuitable to another country. The reason is that the people of some countries appear to be immune from certain diseases, such as cholera and plague, which may be great scourges in other lands. The diseases which I have enumerated are extremely dangerous ones to us, but in Eastern Asia they are not considered to be of much importance. Indeed, little or no precautions are taken to prevent them from entering eastern ports. That seems rather strange, but it is a notorious fact to those who have looked into the quarantine laws of the countries to which I allude. In the United Kingdom, on the other hand, we find that diseases such as measles, scarlet fever, and so on are considered comparatively harmless, and are not quarantinable. They are not considered to be sufficiently serious to be so treated. Consequently no precaution is taken to prevent their introduction by means of shipping from abroad. But there are other countries where those diseases are quarantinable. In Fiji, measles and scarlet fever are considered very serious, because they have been a great scourge to the Fijians. All those variations have to be taken into account in establishing our quarantine laws. We have to suit the circumstances of the country in which we live; and to consider the dangers arising from countries doing business with Australia, especially those of our nearest neighbours. Remembering these things, we must say that the Government are to be lauded for having sent their chief medical officer round the world to find out the very latest information regarding quarantine research and scientific management, so that all improvements may be adapted to the requirements of Australia. Dr. Norris has returned, and I understand that the present measure is the outcome of his investigations. I have no doubt that it will be speedily transferred to the statutebook. It is no news to us that improvements are required. We recognise the importance of quarantine, not only in regard to human diseases, but also as to stock and plants. Great precautions, for instance, have been taken to prevent the spread of disease in the fruit industry. In eastern Australia, codlin moth is such a common pest that some of the States apparently look upon it as almost ineradicable. In Western Australia, codlin moth is practically unknown. The people there have taken strong precautions to prevent diseased fruit being imported. At the present time Australia is free from small-pox and plague, although we have been visited by both diseases. There are few countries that are so free from them as Australia is. Considering the enormous area of Australia, the great extent of our coastline, and the large number of ports in comparison with our population, it is inevitable that the cost of quarantine stations and of keeping them properly equipped with the lastest fumigating apparatus-

Senator Givens - What is the use of fumigating apparatus if itis not used?

Senator DE LARGIE - The answer to that question is so obvious that I need not put it into words.

Senator Givens - If those who are isolated have to tip the attendants to get the apparatus used, what is the valueor it?

Senator DE LARGIE - Evidently, Senator Givens' complaint is that, having been recently quarantined, he was not fumigated or dipped into some disinfecting liquid to take all taint away from him. If he still feels that he has a grudge against the quarantine officers, I should like Dr. Norris' attention to be called to him, in order that the process which he has escaped may be administered but, seeing that the honorable senator has been in this chamber a considerable time since the incident occurred, and no danger has consequently ensued, we may all regard ourselves as safe in coming in contact with him. We have to regard this matter as a practical problem. Senator St. Ledger, referring to the dilapidated condition of some of the quarantine stations in Queensland, spoke as though that were quite a novel state of things, of which we had never heard before.

Senator Guthrie - The stations were allowed to get into disrepair by the State Governments before the Commonwealth took them over.

Senator DE LARGIE - There is no doubt about that. The State Governments, knowing that quarantine was one of the functions of the Federal Government, allowed the buildings to get into disrepair.

Senator Millen - That is all very well.

Senator DE LARGIE - There is no doubt about it.

Senator Millen - The honorable senator ought to have conferred with Senator Findley before he gave those answers to-day.

Senator DE LARGIE - The answers were quite correct, but it is notorious that for several years before the Commonwealth took over quarantine the service was starved by the State Governments. No new works were undertaken, and even the maintenance of the stations was neglected. No money was spent upon them. These facts were well known to the Fusion Government. Their attention was drawn to them. But what did they do to put the stations into good repair?

Senator Findley - Absolutely nothing ; and when this Government does something they cavil at the expenditure.

Senator DE LARGIE - The Minister's reply is quite correct, that the Fusion Government did absolutely nothing. In face of these facts, we need not pretend any extraordinary surprise when we find that the quarantine stations are not as well equipped as they ought to be. Now that Dr. Norris has returned, having acquired a great deal of experience of what is being done in other countries, this state of affairs is going to be altered. A large expenditure of money may reasonably be expected to bring the quarantine stations up to date. I hope that we shall have the assistance of the Opposition in bringing about these improvements. I trust, also, that there will be no occasion in future to be reminded that our quarantine stations are out of date. There should be no carping criticism when money is required to meet absolute necessities in the interests of public health, which has to be safeguarded in every proper manner. There is one feature that has not been touched upon, and I should like to say a brief word about it. We might give a little more attention to local outbreaks of disease than has been done in the past. As one who travels backwards and forwards to Western Australia fairly often, I am aware that many people come to this country who are in a pitiable condition, being consumptives. Whilst I am sure that no one lacks pity for any human being in that condition, still we have first of all to remember that self-preservation is the first' law of nature to a community as well as to an individual. It behoves us to be very careful that we do not allow Australia - the fine climate of which is known all over the world - to become a dumping-ground for people with deadly disease in their system. A good many consumptives come to Australia. Naturally so, remembering what our climate is. Precautions ought to be taken with respect to their being allowed into this country. Another thing to which I should like to call attention is that the cabins in which these people travel ought to be properly fumigated before healthy people are allowed to use them. Persons who travel much in sleeping-berths in trains or in cabins on board ship run a considerable risk. One never knows who has been in possession of a berth before. One does not know by whom the bedclothes have been used. I am sure that it will pay us to insist that precautions shall be taken in these respects. It is only proper that some reference should be made to this matter during a second-reading debate. But the Minister's attention was devoted so much to strict quarantine questions that they escaped his notice. I am fully satisfied that the measure before us will advance our means of preventing the introduction of disease from outside centres, and, that being so, I intend to support it.

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