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Thursday, 25 July 1912

Senator MILLEN (New South Wales) . - I hope that the Honorary Minister will not misunderstand me in the few words I wish to say regarding his speech. I must express a feeling of disappointment that he did not tell us a little more as to the contents of the Bill when he addressed himself to its provisions. I admit at once that I have not had an opportunity of looking through it. I rarely do look through a Bill until the Minister has explained its provisions. I looked to him to explain the purpose and effect of the various amendments. But he dismissed a number of the proposals with a general statement that they are non-contentious, and designed to improve the administration. That may be one way of dealing with a measure, but it surely would have assisted honorable senators in dealing with this Bill if the Minister had indicated the purpose of its provisions. He has. not seen fit to do that.

Senator Findley - I told the honorable senator that, in my opinion, nearly all the amendments proposed are non-contentious, and any information that may be required will be given in Committee.

Senator MILLEN - The Minister must see that that does not help the matter.

Senator Findley - It is the usual practice to give details in Committee.

Senator MILLEN - It is the usual practice for a Minister, in moving the second reading of a Bill, to explain, not detail, but the general purpose of the proposals it contains. We have not had that advantage, as the honorable senator has recognised by his interjection. I am not in a much better position to discuss the Bill now than I was before I heard the honorable senator's speech. I pass from the Bill to two matters introduced by Senator Givens. I have no doubt they have received Ministerial attention, but they demand an instant Ministerial pronouncement of some kind. The first was the disclosure of the position of the quarantine station in which, unhappily for himself, Senator Givens was incarcerated for a period. No one will doubt the honorable senator's statement, and the facts he placed before the Senate justify me in stating that the station is a discredit, not merely to Australia, but to the Department administering our quarantine laws. Senator Givens did not speak from hearsay, but gave us his personal experience.

Senator Givens - Every word I said can be borne out by my colleagues.

Senator MILLEN - We need not go beyond the honorable senator's statement. It is clear that he did no more than state the plain facts of. the case as they presented themselves to him by actual experience. They reveal a condition of affairs discreditable to Australia, and to those who are charged with the administration of our quarantine law. I refer to this, in the hope that what has been shown, to be wrong will be promptly put right. I have no doubt that that was the object that Senator Givens had in view in bringing the matter under notice. The other matter to which we are indebted to Senator Givens was his statement as to the condition of affairs at Thursday Island, lt calls for some explanation from some one. We have the statement that, as it appears to a layman, the worst possible position has been selected for the quarantine station at Thursday Island. On the facts as related by Senator Givens, he has made out a case which requires an official answer. The honorable senator has assured us that a more suitable site might be selected for the establishment of a quarantine station on islands at a convenient distance from Thursday Island.

Senator Givens - There are many such islands close to Thursday Island.

Senator MILLEN - The s:te selected for the station on Thursday Island is undesirable, because its geographical position precludes it from the advantage of a favorable wind, and insures the. disadvantage of an unfavorable wind. Immediately at hand there are islands which the Government might have selected for the establishment of a quarantine station under favorable conditions. Though a few thousand pounds may have been spent on the site selected, it' would appear that it would be better that the whole work should be revised, and the station established at a more suitable place, and one more fitted for the purposes for which this Bill is designed.

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