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Wednesday, 29 June 1921

Senator BOLTON (Victoria) .- There is one matter connected with this Department which was brought under my notice some time ago, when I embraced the opportunity of placing it before the Minister. It relates to the Royal Australian Naval College. Whilst the Minister acknowledged that the statements then made were correct, he said that the reason for the complaints was that no funds were available. I have seen the honorable gentleman in reference to this matter, and he has no objection to .my bringing it before the Committee. Some time ago I had the privilege of visiting the Naval College, and the impression which it made upon me was that it is the finest educational institution in Australia.. -Its administration is excellent in every respect. As honorable senators are aware, its students are required to undergo a very severe physical test, and it may be assumed, therefore, that they represent the finest physical type of youth to be found in the Commonwealth. Yet several of the parents of these .students approached me not long since and stated that they could not, understand why it was that the boys during vacations exhibited every symptom of imperfect health. A few of the parents had had their lads medically examined, and in two cases I was- informed that the doctors' opinion was that their illness was largely due to poorness of blood, which probably could be traced to the dietary scale provided at the College. Upon inquiry I ascertained that it had been the' custom for the College to receive weekly supplies of vegetables from Sydney. These vegetables towards the end of the week were naturally very stale and altogether undesirable as articles of food. I learned, also, that it was very difficult to procure fresh meat, as the College is situated 25' miles from the nearest railway station. The supply of freshmilk, too, had to be carried daily a distance of from 12 to 14 miles. It is evident, therefore, that the illness of these lads was. due to the deficient dietprovided at the College. Upon communicating with the authorities there I was: told that the students are continually suffering from boils. It is true that quite. recently a bi-weekly supply of vegetables has been provided. But the whole position is summed up in the final reply given by the Minister in regard to the supplies of fresh meat, milk, and vegetables. He said that "The necessary funds and staff for this purpose were not available, and, as the present supplies are considered adequate and satisfactory, no change is considered necessary." It seems to me to be a foolish policy to prejudice the success of this institution by endeavouring to effect such a small economy. It would be a good thing if the College produced its own vegetables, meat, and milk. There are 300 acres attached to the institution, and an expenditure of a few hundred pounds would remove the only defect which I can find in it.

SenatorE. D. Millen. - Would the honorable senator be good enough to again quote the sentence which he read in regard to the supply of provisions?

Senator BOLTON - It is contained in a report from the captain in command of the institution, which readsVegetables supplied. - From the 3rd February of this year, there has been a local bi-weekly supply, and it is reported that the vegetables have been from that date fresh and good. Prior to this year the supply of vegetables was obtained periodically from Sydney. It is reported that boils have been prevalent amongst all persons at the College. Endeavours have been made to remove these complaints, and for the last two terms boys suffering from boils have been provided with- meals in a special mess formed for them in the hospital, where more green vegetables and fruit are supplied than can be provided in the general mess. The medical officer of the College reports that boils seem to be less frequent now than formerly, and attributes this improvement to the fact that fresh meat has been supplied from a local source during the current year. A. liberal supply of lime juice is also supplied to the cadets during the summer months, with the object of minimizing this complaint as far as possible.

Suggestion that vegetables begrown by staff, and also that cows be kept for supply of fresh milk. - The necessary fundsand staff for this purpose are not available, and, asthe present supplies are adequate and satisfactory, no change is considered necessary.

The fact that the College has been conducted for some years under these conditions seems to point to the desirableness' of making it self-contained.

Senator Earle - It ought to pay to do to.

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