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Wednesday, 3 May 1961

Mr TURNBULL (Mallee) (1:14 AM) .I take this opportunity of answering the questions that have been asked by the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley). He referred to Alfred Deakin as advocating the establishment of Mildura.

Alfred Deakin, of course, was a great statesman, but Mildura was founded by the Chaffey brothers. The honorable member said that only things such as irrigation schemes will bring about decentralization of population.

Mr Beazley - I said that they are the only Government actions that will bring about decentralization. There are other, natural, things that decentralize population.

Mr TURNBULL - All right, they are the only Government actions that will decentralize population. I made that point this afternoon and I believe it. The question is: How are you going to get a government to introduce an irrigation scheme or other amenities? You can only get a government to do that if you have a strong political representation in the area. There is not the slightest doubt about that.

The honorable member for Fremantle mentioned Mildura. I have pointed out before that if there were stronger political representation in north-west Victoria the rail, freight to the seaboard would be adjusted so that factories would be attracted to Mildura. If country areas had more votes in the State and Federal Parliaments there would be decentralization of population. That is the point I am trying to make all the time, but of course it does not seem to sink in with the honorable member for Fremantle. I answered his questions on the same subject this afternoon. The honorable member for Fremantle pointed out that in South Australia country electorates are of a certain size and population, and city electorates are much smaller. He said the same applies to Western Australia. I am not denying that. What I am suggesting has not been put into operation. I am suggesting that the 20 per cent, margin is the only weapon we can use to bring- about a decentralized population. You cannot get decentralization in a country unless you decentralize political representation. That is the point which I wish to make, but in spite of everything I have said it is not understood.

A certain honorable member here represents a rural area. I shall not mention his name, for obvious reasons. Being a member of the Labour Party in New South Wales, and being concerned about his position, he says, "If my electors do not agree with what I say I will be prepared to go out of public life ". Apparently he thinks his electors might not agree with him on this subject. I know that some of them will not. If I were in the same position as he is I would be trying to put things right at this stage, but I am not in the same position. I represent an electorate that is bounded on the north by the Murray River' and on the west by the South Australian border. It is in a corner of the State of Victoria. When a member has an electorate in a corner it will not make much difference to him politically whether the population of it is increased or decreased. I am not suggesting for one moment that I will always win, but it would be the same even if my electorate contained many thousands fewer or many thousands more. I am not one of those who goes about saying he will always win. Any man can be beaten in politics. However, it does not matter whether my electorate is larger or smaller, it will not make much difference. If I am going to be beaten I will be beaten anyway. I am not just talking in a self-interested manner; I am talking about this matter as it affects the whole Australian population.

The honorable member for Fremantle said that the population has increased rapidly. He gave an instance in Western Australia of how school enrolments increased by a small number in one period and in another period increased by many thousands. That, of course, is the reason why I am advocating my proposition. It is because so many people are shifting to the metropolitan areas. Surely the Labour Party must understand that this drift to the city must be arrested in some way or other. People in densely populated cities are vulnerable to atomic bomb attacks, and the country has not been given the chance to progress as it should.

I have made a suggestion to encourage decentralization. Have honorable members of the Opposition made any suggestion how to decentralize the population? Of course they have not.

Mr Curtin -. - Unlock the land.

Mr TURNBULL - The fact is that if amenities are not supplied in the country the population will not be attracted there.

The CHAIRMAN: Order! I think the honorable member for Mallee has been getting a little away from the clause under discussion. He is concentrating on the problem of decentralization. I will allow him to mention that by way of illustration, but I do not think he should devote his speech to decentralization.

Mr TURNBULL - I quite agree with your ruling, Sir, in every possible way. We cannot really bring decentralization into these matters all the time. At any rate, I do not need to say much more. I have satisfactorily answered the questions asked by the honorable member for Fremantle. He mentioned that our population is growing because of the large number of people coming from overseas and the natural increase. That is the reason I put forward this idea. If our population were not increasing rapidly, I would never think of putting forward such a suggestion. But of course, the whole position is that the Australian Labour Party is tied to the city, and I represent a country area. That is where we differ.

Mr Beazley - Why did you oppose each country public works scheme, like the Snowy Mountains project?

Mr TURNBULL - I can answer the honorable member. He asks why I opposed the commencement of the Snowy Mountains project. I tell the honorable member that it is on record in " Hansard " that in this Parliament I urged the Government to get moving with the Snowy Mountains scheme. But that has nothing to do with this amendment. It is a very clever question asked by the honorable member for Fremantle to try to draw me off my theme. He knows he is getting the thin end of the stick in this argument. He knows I have answered all the questions he has asked. I know that the Minister will not accept the amendment. Let us hope that some day those who frame the electorates after a census will use the elasticity that they have in regard to numbers to better purpose than previously.

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