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Tuesday, 4 May 1920

Mr ANSTEY (Bourke) .- An old friend of mine once reminded me that on one occasion Wellington agreed that there was wisdom in retreat. I think the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) had betterretreat, for the simple reason that on this occasion he is going to be defeated. Great as is my objection to the Government, and anxiety to displace them, I am certainly not going to follow the honorable member for Grampians on this occasion, because he seeks to put a limitation upon the operation of the amendment so that, even if it were carried, it would be valueless.

Mr McWilliams - It is no good now, anyhow.

Mr ANSTEY - No; and nothing matters except that we shall have a number of conversations across the chamber.

Mr Corser - And waste a good deal of time.

Mr ANSTEY - Of course! That is what we are here for. Our business is to talk. The work is not done here, but elsewhere. If the original proposal had any good in it at all, it would have been wrong to limit its operation to any part of the country, or any part of Australia. In order to buttress his position, the honorable member for Grampians makes an allegation that the policy of Governments in the past has had the effect of dragging population away from country districts, and he contends that the position will be restored by , the encouragement of these co-operative enterprises in country districts only. But, so far as Victoria is concerned, his argument is of no value. The trend of population in Victoria towards the cities is due; in part, to the decay of the mining industry.

Mr Stewart - Another is that you work forty hours in the city, while we work eighty hours in the country districts.

Mr ANSTEY - That is to the advantage of the cities.

Mr Jowett - If the honorable member will pardon me, I will remind him that his statement does not explain the drift of population in South Australia. It is not due in that State to the decay of the mining industry.

Mr ANSTEY - I shall always pardon the honorable member for Grampians. But I said that the decay of the mining industry was one reason for the drift of population to the metropolitan area. The decay of mining in this State has left desolate large areas of land which arenot fit for agricultural operations.

Mr Prowse - Ballarat, since the decline of mining, is bigger than ever.

Mr ANSTEY - And that disposes of. the argument used by the honorable member for Grampians. It does not disprove what I said. Small as the Country party is, it seems to be divided on great questions. In any case, apart from Ballarat and its population, we have not merely to deal with such places, and say that the country is dead, and that the cities are drawing away thousands of men. It is a question of the country being developed on a larger scale, and machinery being employed for agricultural purposes. In the Wimmera and Western districts, for instance, there is a smaller population to-day than there was thirty or forty years ago.

Mr Prowse - Is that why the wheatgrowing area has been reduced by 4,000,000 acresin four years?

Mr ANSTEY - Wheat-growing has not increased because in many districts the land has been transformed into pastoral properties.

Mr Prowse - Why?

Mr ANSTEY - Merely because those who had been engaged in farming pursuits have found sheep raising more profitable than the settlement of men.

Mr Blundell - Yes, and a lot easier.

Mr ANSTEY - Yes. It is one of the factors that have to be considered, and I do not wish to occupy time by referring to other States, but to confine my remarks to Victoria, where, in the Western District, those on the land have given up farming to engage in sheep raising. The Wimmera district is also an illustration, and the statistics of the municipalities show there has been a gradual decline in the population, and that where ten or twelve farms existed, only one now remains. Through a process of absorption, adjoining properties have been acquired, and larger areas have been worked with the aid of machinery to enable wheatgrowing to be undertaken more successfully. In the district represented by the Postmaster-General (Mr. Wise) the small holdings of forty years ago were being worked as pastoral propositions, but they are now coming back into small holdings under the Closer Settlement Act. Why do manufacturers congregate in cities where men are packed together when they can go out into country districts where, in many instances, they find the workmen disorganized, receiving lower wages, and working longer hours? Is it not all- a question of water supply and motive power, the transportation of coal, and the handling of their products? These are factors which all manufacturers consider in connexion with country districts. One farmer buys out another until he has a larger area under control, when he employs machinery to do the work, and the men who were employed on farms drift towards the city and make machinery used by the man working the larger holding. The population drifts from one place to another, and it is the economic result of the conditions under which we live. The honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) has moved an amendment, and I agree with the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Mcwilliams) that there is very little in it. What does the amendment as originally submitted or as amended by the honorable member for Grampians really mean? If the statement of the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lister) is true, the Minister will have the power, if he so desires, to be hostile. The amendment of the honorable member for Grampians places too much power in the Minister's hands. For instance, it may be said that an industry to be established in Toorak or St.

Kilda is likely to be profitable, although it may be unreasonable to advance, say, £10,000 of public money in a country district. It is giving the Minister power to say whether a particular industry should or should not be established in a country district. If there were a dozen men willing to subscribe pound for pound, and a business could be successfully carried on in Melbourne, and not in the country, the Minister would be prevented from giving approval. I certainly cannot support the amendment of the honorable member for Grampians, and I think he will be well advised to withdraw it, and allow the original proposition to stand.

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