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Tuesday, 4 May 1920

Dr EARLE PAGE (COWPER, NEW SOUTH WALES) .- I have listened with interest to the dissertation of the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) regarding the congregation in big centres, and the only thing that is wrong with the statement of the honorable member is that it is not quite true. He has given reasons why manufactures and population congregate in the cities, but what are the facts? Why do our principal cities increase in size? I know that the circumstances credited to Melbourne by the honorable member do not apply to Sydney. Why has Sydney increased in size? During the whole period of responsible government in New South Wales up till 1913, five-sixths of the money borrowed in that State, with the exclusion of that spent on railway work, was spent in and around Sydney for local purposes, which should have been undertaken by a Greater Sydney. Manufacturers congregate there because it is not made profitable to haul coal to the country where the raw material is, and because differential railway rates are imposed on' a railway system designed to kill secondary industries in the country. I do not know what has happened in Victoria, but that is the experience of New South Wales, and great cities have grown up in consequence of the disproportionate amount of public money that has been spent. We have been told that in England, France, Germany, and the United States of America, in the interests of the nations as a whole, manufactories are being decentralized, and this is being done largely because electric power is now able to be cheaply transmitted to outside centres. As the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) said when introducing the. Tariff, there is no reason why manufacturers here should congregate in the large cities, where workmen have to grow up with dirt and coaldust in their lungs, and, in consequence, rear children who are physically unfit. There is no reason, under modern conditions, why industries should not be established where the raw products exist so that men could live in decent homes and in comfortable surroundings. If men are allowed to work in country districts with attractive surroundings, we shall be able to rear men possessing the best characteristics of our Australian soldiers, and, in the next war, we shall not have men such as those who came from crowded centres like Shoreditch - men whose chest you could span with two fingers, though their spirit was indomitable. Our desire is to benefit not merely our returned soldiers by 'assisting them to conduct secondary industries with co-operative effort, but to benefit also the neighbourhoods in which those industries will be established by bringing to them the comforts which now attract our population to the cities. At the present time there is hardly a country town in New South "Wales that possesses modern conveniences. Towns likeInverell, Lismore, and Grafton, which are surrounded by prosperous districts having a production almost equalling that of Victoria, have hardly increased in size in twenty-five years, because no secondary industries are established there. I hope that the Committee will take advantage of this opportunity to make a practical step towards decentralization. We have decentralization leagues everywhere. A Victorian league was ' reported as meeting in Melbourne only on Saturday last, and there is now ari opportunity to give effect to decentralization. The establishment of . secondary industries in country towns will be practical decentralization. .It will improve the lot of every farmer within 10 miles of them, by increasing his local market, by making cheap power available, and by enabling him to live under better conditions.- There is bound to be an' aggregation of holdings resulting in big estates where produce cannot find a local sale, or easy .access to distant markets, but where, as on the T.weed, facili- ties for transport are increased, or a local market is given, land will be cut up into small holdings, because men find that they can make a living on such holdings. I trust that honorable members will not be swayed by local prejudice and parochial feeling, but will take this opportunity of giving a national direction to the industrial life of this Commonwealth.

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