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Wednesday, 16 September 1936

Senator COLLINGS (Queensland) . - The local press has contained some disquieting statements recently regarding health conditions in portions of the Federal Capital Territory. I refer to reports of the existence of the disease known as scabies, and also of those unwelcome visitors called bugs - a term which I use as applying, not to every insect as in the United States of America, but to the common household vermin. It is little short of disgraceful that such conditions should exist in this Territory. They are due to the failure of the Government to give effect to frequent representations made to it to get rid of those most unsatisfactory dwellings at Molonglo and Causeway, to which I have drawn attention in this chamber on many occasions. From such environments disease and vermin are inseparable. I understand that the local health authorities have made some inquiries into these complaints, and also that, as usual, attempts are being made to smooth things over by saying that the fault lies with individuals whose habits are unclean, rather than with the homes of the people. The word " homes " is a misnomer when applied to such dwelling.Unhygienic conditions such as exist at Molonglo encourage lack of personal cleanliness and associated evils. I hope that without waiting for any further investigation, the health authorities will let it be known that persons suffering from scabies and other diseases caused by unhygienic conditions will be treated free of cost at the hospital if they will submit themselves for treatment. It is the duty of the Government to instruct the authorities to clean things up at once and not wait until Canberra is given further undesirable publicity of this kind. I have a personal responsibility in this matter, as a member of the Parliament which controls this Territory, and I shall not be satisfied until every one of these miserable shacks to which I have referred has been demolished. Pending the abolition of the tenements themselves, the Government should at least assist the unfortunate victims of its ineptitude by instructing the hospital authorities that any person in the Territory suffering from scabies shall be treated at the expense of the nation, and compensated for loss of wages, if any, while being so treated, that the tenements shall immediately be fumigated, and, if necessary, new clothes substituted for the infected apparel of sufferers. I speak with some feeling on this matter. After four and a half years of complaining, nothing whatever has been done; every year I have been put off with the same sophistries. For my part, I am now reaching bursting point in regard to this matter. The latest revelations make me ashamed of the fact that I have anything to do with the Government of this territory.

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