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Thursday, 3 July 1941

Senator LECKIE (Victoria) (Minister for Aircraft Production) - - in reply - At the outset I should like to disabuse the minds of honorable senators on one point. In this bill there is no mention of money.

Senator Cameron - But there was in the Minister's second-reading speech.

Senator LECKIE - I said that two years ago the Government had decided to make available £20,000 a year for five years, but no specific amount is mentioned in this bill. It refers only to the creation of a fund into which the money shall be placed. If the Government wants to more money into that fund, it can do so because no limitation is imposed by this measure. As I have said, already that £20,000 ha3 been increased to £22,500. Having listened to speeches by honorable senators, I do not know whether I have been patted on the back or hit on the head. There seems to have been a misunderstanding of the purpose of this bill. Obviously what several honorable senators had in mind was a regimentation of the young people of Australia doing physical jerks. That is entirely wrong. This is an educational bill to provide the proper knowledge, not to individuals of the community, but to those who will instruct individuals. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) objected to the money being made available to institutions such as universities and suggested that it would be expended in teaching university students and school pupils various physical exercises. That is a wrong conception. The money is to enable the universities to set up faculties and lectureships of physical fitness, similar to, say, medical schools. Those faculties will train selected instructors who will make a study and a career of various aspects of physical training including diet and so on. Senator Cameron quoted from the report of the fifth session of the Australian Council of National Fitness. The recommendation which he quoted read -

(e)   Increased health grant for wider tuberculosis examination service, dental service, Royal Life Saving Societies, milk distribution, school meals.

Apparently the honorable senator forgot to look at the beginning of the resolution, the opening words of which state : -

Resolution 4.

The council considers that the following aspects of the development of national fitness are important and should be further encouraged and assisted by State Governments -

Senator Cameron - I was dealing only with the subject-matter of the resolution, and not with that which the State governments should or should not do.

Senator LECKIE - The honorable senator was blaming the Commonwealth Government for not doing something in that direction.

Senator Cameron - I suggest that it could do something.

Senator LECKIE - I agree with other honorable senators, particularly with Senator Cooper, who made a thoughtful speech, that the health of a people cannot be built up merely by doing exercises. There are wider aspects such as pre-natal, post-natal, and maternal care, and many others, but there are in existence now special bodies which deal with such matters.I do not want honorable senators to think that, although there is no specific mention of them in this bill, that they are being neglected. As a matter of fact, the Commonwealth Council for National Fitness passed the following resolution last year : -

In respect of ante-natal, post-natal, maternal care, infant welfare and pre-school activities, it is known that much is being done through existing State and voluntary organizations. As the state of national fitness depends so fundamentally upon the success of this work, it is important that the State and voluntary machinery should be encouraged and extended us much as is possible. While this council might, in association with the National Health and Medical Research Council, make a survey of the situation with the object of defining the directions in which improvements might be made, it is not considered that the Commonwealth should, as part of the activities of the council, provide any financial subsidy.

The object of this bill is to provide the subsidiary bodies with properly educated and trained instructors. A man who does not know his job and is ignorant of uptodate methods can do more harm than good. For instance, there is one treatment for a fully developed person, and a whole range of other treatment for pupils in various stages of development and in various degrees of health. This bill aims at educating and training instructors so that they can go out and guide the people of Australia on the right lines. The Leader of the Opposition objected to giving money to bodies over which the Commonwealth Government has no control. Obviously, it would be impossible to have a representative of the Commonwealth Government on all bodies that may participate in this grant. I ask honorable senators to consider what that would mean. There are dozens of these organizations all over Australia, and it would be impossible for the Commonwealth Government to be directly represented on each one of them.

Senator Collings - There would not be as many as are dealt with by the Pensions Department, and that is controlled by the Government.

Senator LECKIE - Our Pensions Department is responsible for a good deal more money than is involved under this legislation. Honorable senators need not fear that the object of this bill is to make people fit for fighting purposes. Its object is to give health and happiness to every man, woman and child in Australia. That can be done only if their physical training is guided along the right lines.

Senator Collings - It cannot be done by handing over the administrative work to people whoso only object is to climb the social ladder.

Senator LECKIE - That remark is unworthy of the honorable senator. It is hardly fair to suggest that the citizens controlling various health organizations throughout the country are actuated only by a desire to increase their social status. I do not think that the Leader of the Opposition would be prepared to brand the majority of such people as ambitious citizens who are using the frailties of mankind for self glorification. I do not wish the impression to be created that this legislation deals only with the actual physical side of education. There are many other aspects directly related to physical training. The prevalence of malnutrition has been stressed by several speakers, but, malnutrition results not only from scarcity of food but in 70 per cent, of cases from a faulty selection of foods. That can be corrected only by education. It will be part of the functions of the physical training instructors, to guide the people in the choice of foods.

I thank honorable senators generally for the sympathetic consideration which they have given to the measure, and I trust that it will receive a speedy passage.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.

In committee:

Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.

Clause 3 (Commonwealth Council for National Fitness).

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