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Thursday, 25 July 1912

Senator FINDLEY (Victoria) (Honorary Minister) . - I move -

That this Bill be now read a second time.

I can safely say that, no matter what differences may exist between honorable senators in respect of subjects debated here from time to time, the question of quarantine can be discussed entirely apart from party considerations. There is a general desire on the part of honorable senators on both sides for a thoroughly comprehensive Quarantine Act, as clear and definite as it is possible to make it. Every well-wisher of Australia, which is essentially a clean country, so far as infectious and contagious diseases are concerned, must desire for the Commonwealth a system of quarantine as good as, if not better than, any similar system in any other part of the world. Senator Chataway may smile, but that is my wish, and I trust, also, the wish and hope of every true Australian. In order that we might be made acquainted with the quarantine systems in force in other parts of the world, a few months ago the Department of Trade and Customs, which administers quarantine, commissioned Dr. Norris, the Director of Quarantine, to visit different parts of the world. Before he set out, Dr. Norris was commissioned by the Minister of Trade and Customs to inquire into and report upon the most advanced methods of quarantine against the introduction of contagious or infectious disease from oversea, with a view to economy and public expenditure on quarantine equipment, so far as such economy would not be inconsistent with efficient administration and the proper protection of Australia from the diseases with which quarantine is concerned. During the time he was abroad, Dr. Norris availed himself of opportunities to inspect the quarantine systems of the United States, Canada, England, Germany, France, Egypt, Aden, Colombo, Singapore, Japan, Honolulu, and Manila. Almost immediately upon his return he set to work on the preparation of a report, which is in print. I am not aware whether it has yet been circulated, but I have here an advance copy. It is an extremely interesting report, and it describes clearly the systems of quarantine adopted in other parts of the world, comparing the advantages of one system with another. The result of Dr. Norris' investigations goes to show that the most uptodate methods of quarantine are those adopted in the United States of America. He says -

The quarantine organization for the prevention of the introduction into the United States and its dependencies of disease from oversea, and its spread from State to State must, in my opinion, be admitted to be the best conceived and most complete in the world. It exemplifies the most logical application of the principles of quarantine. The organization comprises not only a system of inspection and examination at all ports of entry, the provision of a number of large well-equipped quarantine stations on all sea-boards, but also includes a system of sanitary supervision by specially qualified medical officers at foreign infected ports of all vessels leaving for the United States and its dependencies. In other words the quarantine organization, as the first line of sanitary defence, is pushed out from the coast line of the United States so as to touch all those oversea ports in foreign countries where quarantinable disease is prevalent, and the conditions are such as to favour the introduction of disease into the United States. Thus during my tour I found specially qualified medical officers of the United States Public Health Service stationed at Marseilles, Genoa, Naples, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Nagasaki, Kobe, and Yokohama, and I am informed that there are officers at Calcutta, Amoy, Libau (Russia), Mexico, Cuba, and numerous Central and South American ports.

He says further -

As an example of the operation of these sanitary outposts, the work at Naples and at Hong Kong may be instanced.

Cholera having during the past two years become widespread in Southern Italy, two medical officers and the necessary lay sanitary officers have been attached to the local American Consulate at Naples. All vessels about to leave for United States are inspected, and, if found in any way insanitary or unclean, are cleansed and disinfected. All steerage passengers about to leave by such vessels must reach Naples at least five days before the date of sailing, and are detained in barracks or on isolation ships fitted for the purpose. The passengers are inspected daily, and any suspicious cases are examined bacteriologicallly. At the request of the shipping companies, the passengers are also examined from the stand-point of the Immigration Restriction Acts. Passengers other than those in the steerage must satisfy the Quarantine Officer as to where they have been during the five days prior to shipment, or, if circumstances warrant, may be detained under observation for that period.

The luggage of the passengers is also disinfected, and articles (especially food products) likely to convey cholera, are not allowed to be taken on board.

At Hong Kong, another port at which a Federal Quarantine Officer is attached to the Consulate, all steerage passengers are bathed, and their effects steam sterilized under bis supervision before shipment. Small-pox being prevalent, the passengers are required to be vaccinated before admission to the United States or its dependencies.

These are the precautions taken by the American authorities in different parts of the world, in order to prevent, as far as possible, the introduction into the United States of infectious or contagious disease. Even after these preliminary precautions have been taken, very rigid examinations are made before the people are allowed to land in the United States. Dr. Norris goes on to say -

On arrival at any port of entry in the United States or its dependencies a medical inspection on lines similar to those now practised in all Australian ports is carried out.

I do not intend to quote at great length from this report j but there is something which will be of interest to Australians in what Dr. Norris has to say with respect to Japan. As the result of his visit to Japan, he passes a rather high compliment on that country, so far as quarantine is concerned. He says -

As exemplifying the confidence of the Japanese medical authorities in quarantine, mention may also be made of the measures organized by the Quarantine Service in connexion with the Japan- China war, and the more recent Japan-Russia war. It was proved in the former war that, by the establishment of military quarantine stations at convenient posts through which troops had to pass on their way back to Japan, and by their inspection - and, where necessary, their detention and isolation, and the disinfection of person and effects - the spread of disease by returning troops was practically prevented.

The cost of the Quarantine Service during the Japan-China war (1894-5) was over ^110,000, and 30,000 troops were handled.

At the inception of the Japan-Russia war arrangements were made on a larger scale in anticipation of the greater demands which were expected to be made on the service.

Three large quarantine stations were organized at Ninoshima, Dairi, and Wadanomisaki. Each station was complete and self-contained.

He continues -

The total number of beds in the three stations was nearly 7,000, of which 4,500 were for detention purposes, and 2,400 for the sick. As the entire army was vaccinated and re-vaccinated, there was no need to make special provision against small-pox. The number of troops which passed through the stations was 1,250,000, or more than five times as many as that during the previous war. The cost of the year's operations (1904-5) was ^190,000. No figures are available as to the capital cost, which must have been very great, even allowing for the relatively cheap cost of construction in Japan.

The stations and buildings are traversed throughout by light railways, and it was only by this means that it was possible to handle so many persons and their effects.

I have been fortunate enough to obtain full particulars of the special steam formalin system of disinfection which was employed so extensively in 1905, and propose to adopt it as being effective, and at the same time relatively inexpensive. The system is already installed on a small scale at Portsea, but its success in Japan amply warrants its extension on a large scale at al] stations in the Commonwealth.

Having made these brief references to this rather voluminous report of the Director of Quarantine, I have a. few words to say with respect to the Bill itself. Honorable senators are aware that, up to 1908, quarantine in Australia was controlled by the State Governments under varying systems. In 1908, the Commonwealth Parliament, in the exercise of its powers, passed the Quarantine Act, which its framers no doubt thought would be sufficiently elastic to enable the Department intrusted with its administration to carry it out in a way satisfactory to the majority of the people. Our experience, and the knowledge gained by the Director of Quarantine, have shown that the present Act is not all that could be desired. I hope it will be made a workable measure by the passing of this Bill. The powers provided for will certainly be marie more clear and definite. A number of amendments of the existing Act are proposed in this Bill, but I am safe in saying that nearly all are non-contentious. One or two may appear at first sight to be somewhat far-reaching ; but I ask honorable senators who will give their attention to the measure to remember, when considering such provisions, to take into consideration also section 14 of the principal Act.

Senator Millen - The honorable senator might suggest what those far-reaching amendments are.

Senator FINDLEY - One which may be considered so, and to which attention is called in one of to-day's newspapers, provides that in future, unless ship-owners can satisfy the Minister that every possible precaution has been taken by the owners or masters against the introduction of contagious or infectious diseases into Australia by ships or passengers when the ships and passengers are quarantined, the expenses incidental to quarantine are to be borne by the shipping company. At first sight this may appear to be a far-reaching provision, but it need not be enforced if it is shown that a shipping company or the master of a ship has taken every precaution to prevent the introduction of disease. I have been asked whether we have any precedent for compelling shipping companies to pay these expenses. Yes, we have. Prior to the Commonwealth taking over quarantine all expenses incidental to it were, as I am informed, borne, not by the States, but by the shipping companies.

Senator Millen - Who bears the expenses under the present Commonwealth law ?

Senator FINDLEY - In our opinion the Commonwealth bears more than its fair share of the expenses incidental to quarantine. The Commonwealth has a fairly large staff of qualified medical men and officers j it has, in various States, substantial buildings which need to be kept in a proper state of repair; and when persons are quarantined there are expenses, such as nursing and the ordinary necessaries of life, which have to be provided.

Senator Millen - Those expenses are not borne by the Commonwealth to-day.

Senator FINDLEY - We wish to remove any doubt about the matter. Time after time the Commonwealth has had to bear expenses which, in our opinion, it was not entitled to bear.

Senator Millen - When the honorable senator speaks of shipping companies having to bear the whole cost of quarantine, surely he does not mean the expenses to which he has just referred?

Senator FINDLEY - Certainly, I do.

Senator Millen - Does the Minister mean to say that a ship has to bear the whole cost of the Commonwealth staffs and of building maintenance?

Senator FINDLEY - No, not the cost of our staffs, but the expenses connected with nursing, and so on. '

Senator Millen - That is paid by the shipping companies to-day.

Senator FINDLEY - I do not know that it is. At all events, the shipping companies are complaining because this Bill contains a provision under which the expenses will have to be borne by them.

Senator Millen - Ask the members of this Senate who were quarantined, who paid the expenses.

Senator Chataway - Over and over again, when people are quarantined, the shipping companies go to them for the money.

Senator FINDLEY - If that be so, there is not much contentious matter in the Bill. If the shipping companies are satisfied with the provision that unless they take reasonable and proper precautions against the introduction of infectious and contagious diseases they must bear all the expenses incidental to quarantine, there is nothing in the objections which they are raising.

Senator Millen - The whole point is as to what the Government mean by " the expenses." At present the shipping companies are liable for the maintenance of quarantined passengers. The Minister says that the Government propose to put additional expenses on them. I want to know what the additions are.

Senator FINDLEY - When it is necessary to engage nurses, and so forth, the Commonwealth ought not to be called upon to pay for them. These incidental expenses will have to be borne by the shipping companies unless they can satisfy the Minister that every possible precaution was taken against the introduction of disease. Most of the amendments in the law, proposed in this Bill, are of minor importance. An amendment has been suggested in regard to the first port of entrance. To-day the first port of entrance means a port open to all vessels. It is proposed to amend that provision so as to allow the first port of entrance to be open to some vessels, and, perhaps, closed to others. That is to say, at the present time vessels coming from clean ports cannot enter small ports without first calling at larger ports and getting a clearance. Under this Bill provision will be made for such vessels coming from clean ports to go into smaller ports, and get the necessary clearance there. Provision is also made for animals and plants to be kept under observation on being introduced into Australia without necessarily being quarantined as they "are to-day. At present imported animals are quarantined for a certain period. It is proposed to give power to the Director of Quarantine, if he is satisfied that the animals imported are free from disease, to allow them to go off the ship and be, in a measure, isolated - say, in a stable, or other suitable premises - at the expense of the owner.

Senator Chataway - Is that going to give an official the right to decide about the introduction of dogs without requiring a certain period of quarantine?

Senator FINDLEY - Yes.

Senator Chataway - Then we shall have hydrophobia in the country before we know where we are.

Senator FINDLEY - I do not think so. Complaints have been made by the owners of dogs and horses about being obliged to suffer great inconvenience and expense, because of our quarantine laws.

Senator Millen - All quarantine is inconvenient to somebody.

Senator FINDLEY - This Bill will permit horses and dogs, if they are free from disease, to be taken from the ship and kept on the owner's premises under quarantine supervision, the expense being borne by the owner. The same arrangement applies to plants. Power is given to permit plants, which are absolutely free from any kind of disease, to be kept under observation without being quarantined as they are to-day. There is another provision giving power to take statements on oath. It has been found that when persons make statements verbally to the quarantine officers they do not always exercise the same caution as they do when called upon to make their statements on oath. A large number of the amendments proposed in the Bill are comparatively trifling, though they will tend to strengthen the principal Act, and, at the same time, to make it more elastic. Other amendments make clearer the powers given to the Department to administer quarantine. The amendments upon which I have touched are, in my opinion, the principal ones, but when we get into Committee I shall endeavour to give as fairly and fully as possible any information which honorable senators may desire.

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