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Wednesday, 26 June 1946

Mr BOWDEN (Gippsland) .- > I- was interested to hear the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) state1 that he entered this debate with reluctance. My only regret is that he was not a little more reluctant, because he has endeavoured to justify what I consider one of the vilest blots that ever besmirched the fair name of Australia. The honor-' able gentleman did not mention the name of the Australian officer who, he said, is no longer with us; but he did say that, this officer met his death at the hands of the very people whom the honorable member is supporting. . ,

Mr Pollard - Does the honorable member deny the accuracy of what I have said?

Mr BOWDEN - The honorable member for Ballarat has not said anything.

He has made an insinuation. But the fact is- -'this is something apart from what I intended to talk about - that this gentleman met his death at the hands of the people the honorable gentleman is supporting. Another matter is that the Dutch transformed the palatial ship Oranje into a hospital ship, presented it to the Australian Government for the duration of the war, manned it and paid the whole cost of running it. There had never been a gesture like that between nations in history. It was one of the finest things that one nation could do for another. That beautiful ship ran for years between the Middle East and. Australia and then between the islands and Australia carrying back the sick and wounded Australians, all of them friends of ours, who probably would have died had it not been for the magnificent gesture of the Dutch nation. Yet this Government is condoning the blackest treachery ever practised against an ally. Apart from its generosity over Oranje, the Dutch sailed their warships and merchant vessels side by side with ours. The Dutch mercantile marine helped to bring back our soldiers from the battlefields, and we were glad to get thom back. Now the Government is condoning an offence, not by a duly elected government, but by a few irresponsibles who have never been elected and are never likely to be elected to this Parliament. The Government's fault in this matter is that it has condoned an egregious offence against an ally that morally cannot be condoned. The sooner' the Government wakes up to its responsi- .bilities in this matter the better for all concerned.

My main purpose in rising is to refer to some phases of the re-establishment programme, which, in 'spite of all explanations, assurances and excuses, is progressing very much more slowly than can he reasonably expected in a country that emerged from the war practically unscathed. Our potential for production is unimpaired,- and the demand for production is greater than ever before' in history. The delay is due to many factors. The first is the red-tape administration of unimaginative theorists who are slaves to the Tetter of the He-establishment and Employment Act and the reflations' made thereunder, and a lack of initiative to deal with re-establishment as waiintended by this Parliament. Things art' happening in relation to re-establishment that were never mentioned when the bill was being debated and were never intended: Many honorable gentlemen on both sides of this House are dissatisfied with what is happening as the result of the interpretation placed upon the reestablishment legislation by those who are charged with its administration.

The second barrier to rapid progress is the high scale of taxation. It stultifies initiative, kills ambition and induces a sense of frustration, and, indeed, depression among the more energetic section.of the community. The ever-growing reluctance to work in this country, which cannot be denied by anybody, can bc attributed largely to this, what I term, very unscientific method of exacting taxes. There is a possibility if the incentive were present, to double production in Australia. That would double our national income. The Government should encourage that most desirable objective by some drastic revision of taxes. That would not cause any loss of revenue, because tax remission would be "recouped from the doubled production that would result in the sense that the Government would collect from two units instead of one.

I join with other honorable members in expressing the dissatisfaction felt, by many prospective soldier settlers at the apparently hopeless prospect, of their ever being settled on the land. The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman)- can derive whatever comfort he can out of the alleged statements of the Federal President of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen's Imperial League ' of Australia, but if Mr. Millhouse did make the statements attributed to him, namely, that -the programme of land settlement is. much further advanced after World War- II. than after World War I. during a similar, period, he is not only out of touch with the branches of his organization in rural districts but also hopelessly out of touch with reality, because during World War I. returned soldiers were reaping harvests off. their properties before the. war ended. .Yet. . the Minister, who must know that, sheltered behind the alleged statement of some one in one of the States.

Mr Lazzarini - The honorable member will admit that conditions now are a bit different from what they were then.

Mr BOWDEN - The conditions are no different, as far as buying land arid settling men on it are concerned.

Mr Lazzarini - No.

Mr BOWDEN - I concede that this is a wider scheme of re-establishment than we had after the war of 1914-1918", but my remarks now are directed to the settlement of ex-servicemen on the land. One mistake was made in the last scheme, and it is continually harped upon by honorable gentlemen opposite, who attribute the failure of the scheme to the high prices paid for land, whereas the failure was caused by a slump of prices, not the high prices paid. If it had not been for red tape rigidly applied the men originally settled on the land then would have had their properties paid for about the time the war of 1914-1918 ended.

Mr Lazzarini - Land which had previously been hawked around the' country at £2 an acre was sold to ex-servicemen foi: £6 or £7 an acre.

Mr BOWDEN - I admit that; but this Government is not under the obligation to do that, too.

Mr Lazzarini - And will not.

Mr BOWDEN - That does not excuse the Government for failing to buy land at all.. I have received many pro- tests from ex-servicemen in my electorate, which I have sent on to the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction. He knows perfectly well that there is general dissatisfaction over the land settlement scheme. Yet, when the dissatisfaction is referred to in this House, he hides behind something Mr. Millhouse had to say instead of facing his own responsibilities. The Minister's attitude to single-unit farms is tantamount in sporting parlance to having an eachwaybet. He is agreeable to allow these properties to be purchased, but he is not agreeable to allow them to be purchased for an individual ex-serviceman. That is entirely negative. In other words, he is pretending that he allows the purchase of single-unit farms, but he denies the right of the persons who apply for them to be settled on them. So he might as well do nothing.

Mr Lazzarini - The land must go into the ballot.

Mr BOWDEN - To say that that would confer an advantage on one settler over another is not correct. The desire for individual farms is inspired for the purpose of settling ex-servicemen in their own district where they are well known. They know also the peculiarities' of the land, and, whenever necessary, their families can come to their assistance. Those settlers have a greater prospect of success than any ex-servicemen settled under the general scheme. It would not be an exaggeration to say that the percentage of failures among ex-servicemen settled under such a system after World War I. was lower than the number of failures under the general scheme. Yet the Minister will not allow those men to proceed ! There would be no inquiry for single-unit farms if it were npt for the desire of people in a particular district to live near their relatives in the district, where they can receive assistance. As the Government of Victoria has appointed a commission to. manage the affairs of exservicemen on the land, the Commonwealth Government may reasonably leave it to that authority to determine who shall be granted these farms and who shall not. To appoint a commission to manage the business and inform it that it. shall not have certain powers is to stultify its activities. Under such conditions, years will pass before exservicemen will be settled on the land. I urge the Minister to consider that' aspect. A request for a single-unit farm is made only in order to keep men in the district in which they are known. The successful contestant of a ballot may have experience only of wheat-growing, and the farm that he is granted may be situated in a dairying district. That is a danger to which the Government should not expose ex-servicemen.

I support the plea of the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull) that ex-prisoners of war are entitled to the subsistence allowance of 3s. a. day. It is perfectly true that servicemen who were not catered for directly by the Army were given subsistence of 3s. a day. They qualified for the allowance if they lived at home, and every man who went on leave from a military unit was given an advance of 3s. a day for that period.

Mr Burke - For the period of his leave in excess of three days.

Mr BOWDEN - That is correct. As the prisoners of war to whom the honorable member for Wimmera referred were in captivity for three and a half years, they should qualify for the payment. By granting this request, the Government will only be doing justice to these men. Officers who were prisoners of war received their field allowance. I realize that a field allowance and subsistence are not identical, because officers also received subsistence when they were on leave. However, the principle is the same. . If, as prisoners of war, officers were entitled to a field allowance of 3s. a day, the private soldier is entitled to subsistence. This is not a political issue. The honorable member for Wimmera has given the Government an opportunity to do justice to former prisoners of war, and its prompt adoption of his proposal will redound to its credit. The honorable gentleman is" only trying to obtain justice for the men who suffered in order to preserve Australia from enslavement.

Thursday, 27 June 1946

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time, and passed its remaining stages without amendment or debate.

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