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Wednesday, 19 April 1972
Page: 1215

Senator TURNBULL (TASMANIA) - J would like to ask the Minister for Health a question concerning children at risk in poisoning cases, is he aware that children between the age of 1 and 5 years are those most at risk from accidental poisoning? Is he aware that in 1970 in this age group 3,578 cases of poisoning were reported out of a total of 8,191? I am sure that the Minister is aware that I have for 4 years tried to get his Department to do something about this In regard to safety containers. Honourable senators will remember that I circulated these containers among senators to see whether they could open them and about one-third of them could not. I have asked the Minister 2 questions already. I also ask him whether he has read his Department's journal. If so, has he seen that after 4 years enlightenment has struck his Department which now says that safety containers in themselves are not sufficient, nor is any one yet designed thoroughly satisfactorily but they certainly play a part in helping to protect young children? When the hell is the Minister's Department going to protect these young children? This is the question I ask the Minister.

Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSON - I would say a number of things to Senator Turnbull. First of all I inform him that I have read the journal. As 1 understand it the journal would have been distributed because of a requirement issued by me that this course be followed. Secondly, I would agree with the honourable senator, as I think we all agree, that children in the age group which he mentioned go through a very critical period in which they are at risk in regard to drugs. Children in this age group tend to get into cupboards at home and other places where they should not be. In their own homes they have access to drugs which are deleterious or dangerous to them. There should be also a very proper parental control of those things which are dangerous to children. The next point I make is that Senator Turnbull has been a Minister for Health in a sovereign State government. I am sure that he knows - perhaps he has forgotten - that under this whole structure of controls there is, and has to be, a degree of co-operation and relationship between the States and the Commonwealth. He oversimplifies the whole matter in his question. I think that when he comes to reflect upon it he will realise that I am just as concerned as he is about the question that he raises. I suggest, with great respect, that he oversimplifies the solution. Despite his oversimplification he and the Senate can be assured that the Commonwealth is continuing to examine this matter in the light of it being a very real problem. I think that we are on common ground on that score in relation to this issue.

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