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Friday, 26 July 1912

Senator FINDLEY (Victoria) (Honorary Minister) - - The criticism which has been offered with respect to the amending Bill now before us has not been of a kind to which- one can take exception. Senator Givens was loud in his complaint that during the period when he was quarantined in Sydney he was not able to take a bath, and was not as comfortable as he would have liked to be. I think, however, speaking in all seriousness, that no member of the community, no matter how perfect the arrangements might be, would enjoy being placed in quarantine for three weeks or a month. It is necessarily a sort of imprisonment, and every one likes his liberty.

Senator Millen - Also his bath.

Senator FINDLEY - In regard to bathing facilities, the Department admits that the quarantine station and grounds in Sydney are in a bad way. They are in a bad way, not through any fault of this Government, but because they were allowed to get into a defective state of repair by the Government of New South Wales.

Senator Millen - How long have the Federal authorities had control of them ?

Senator FINDLEY - They were taken over about three years ago.

Senator Millen - It takes three years to put in a bath ?

Senator FINDLEY - No, it does not; this Government is doing what the previous Government never attempted to do - to make every possible convenience and provide every possible comfort for those people who have to be quarantined in Sydney or elsewhere in the Commonwealth.

Senator Guthrie - There was a strong agitation in New South Wales to shift the quarantine station from its present position.

Senator FINDLEY - Recommendations came along from the Director of Quarantine with respect to the site of the Sydney Station, and his proposition met with certain opposition. Several sites which have been suggested have been opposed 'by various members of the Senate.

Senator de Largie - I think the present site is a very good one.

Senator FINDLEY - I am not in a position to say whether it is the best position or not, but I have absolute confidence in the gentleman who is now Director of Quarantine, feeling sure that he is so enthusiastic in his work, and so desirous of doing his best in the interests of the community, that he would not recommend any site which he did not feel sure was absolutely the best one. Whilst admitting that the quarantine stations and grounds in several parts of the Commonwealth are not as they might be, we have taken steps to establish a more perfect system. We wish to have a better one than is in existence in any other part of the world. Accordingly, the Government directed Dr. Norris to take a trip abroad. Senator Givens said that the trip extended over twelve months. As a matter of fact, it extended over a period of six months. That ought to be stated in justice to Dr. Norris. During that time, as Senator de Largie has reminded us, he was going at express speed. He was not abroad for pleasure, but under instructions from the Minister of Trade and Customs, and in the interests of the citizens of Australia. It is only by means of such business trips that we can hope to improve upon our methods. I do not know what the trip cost, but I am sure it was not an expensive one, and I am quite confident that the money was well spent. On last year's Estimates provision was made for considerable improvements in regard to quarantine stations, but we recognised that we should be able to spend money to better advantage after the trip to which I have made reference. Now that Dr. Norris has returned, as money is available, these works will be proceeded with as expeditiously as possible.

Senator Millen - Senator Givens managed to be quarantined a little too soon.

Senator FINDLEY - I do not think that the honorable senator was quite so unhappy or uncomfortable as he would have us believe. Since the Commonwealth took over quarantine, the cost has been less than it was when it was controlled by the State Governments, although it is generally admitted by the State Governments, shipowners, and all concerned, that the Quaran-tine Act of 1908, which this Bill seeks to amend, is less irksome and gives greater satisfaction than any of the State Acts which were in operation prior to the taking over of quarantine by the Commonwealth. I do not know that there is anything else in the debate to which I need refer, with the exception, perhaps, of the remarks made by Senator de Largie on the introduction of. consumptives. That matter is dealt with, not under the Quarantine Act, but under the Immigration Restriction Act. I believe that every possible precaution is taken by the Department administering the Immigration Restriction Act to see that persons suffering seriously from consumption are not allowed to land in Australia. Honorable senators will agree that it would be a very extreme course to adopt to say that a person in the incipient stage of consumption, Or one having a possible or good chance of recovery in such a climate as that of Australia, should be prevented from landing in the Commonwealth. But if there is evidence that a person is in an advanced stage of consumption, and his presence in the community would be inimical to the health and life of Australian citizens, he is not allowed to land. On the question of the fumigation of cabins, provision is made in this amending Bill, not merely for the fumigation of cabins which may have been occupied by consumptives, but for the thorough fumigation of all vessels on which there has been communicable disease. I hope that when we get into Committee we shall make speedy progress with this Bill.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.

In Committee:

Clauses1 to 5 agreed to.

Clause 6 (Amendment of section 13 of Principal Act).

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