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Friday, 2 December 1938

Mr BLAIN (Northern Territory) . - I have tried hard to keep out of the ring in regard to wheat. I rise to oppose this amendment as I think any one who claims to have even a superficial knowledge of planned reconstruction must oppose it, although I do not oppose assistance to farmers. Now isthe time when this Parliament should be " put on the spot " in regard to the settlement of uneconomic lands. It should tell the States quite definitely that it is their responsibility to look after those who are engaged in the production of wheat in marginal areas. The point is that the States feel that they have a perfect right to approach the Commonwealth Government for money to assist necessitous farmers operating on uneconomic lands, even though they were placed on those lands by the States, because the Commonwealth has stolen from the States a large field of taxation, much larger than was ever contemplated by the framers of the Constitution. As the result of this invasion of the taxing field, the States have no option but to approach theCommonwealth for relief. This is a matter, however, that cannot be divorced from politics. The Commonwealth Government may now spend its money under the ruling of the majority, yet it may not supervise the processes by which wheat-growers will be removed from uneconomic areas. Why should the central government be expected to hand money over to the States without having a very definite say as to how that money should be expended and an assurance given that more suitable areas will be developed? This question should be settled now once and for all. That becomes all the more necessary because we have large areas of land suitable for the cultivation of a diversification of crops, not a great deal of which is being fully developed. It has been stated recently in a report presented to the Meat Board by Mr. Coleman that onefifth of the lamb-producing land in Australia is situated in Western Australia, most of it being as yet undeveloped. The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Scholfield) made the ridiculous statement yesterday, and was supported by the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Nock), that where wheat is grown sheep cannot be raised.

Mr NOCK (RIVERINA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I did not say that.

Mr SCHOLFIELD (WANNON, VICTORIA) - On a point of order, Mr. Chairman, I take exception to the inaccuracy of the statement attributed to me.

The CHAIRMAN - If the honorable member wishes to make a personal explanation he may do so. I remind him, however, that he will have an opportunity to reply when the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) concludes his speech.

Mr BLAIN - I hope that the honorable member for Wannon will be able to explain that statement. It is imperative that wheat-farmers engaged in marginal areas should be repatriated to areas nearer to the coast in the safe rainfall belt. I am amazed that the Commonwealth has been so unmindful of its duty as not to insist that the States should tackle this problem in a proper way. I can only assume that the reason it has neglected to do so is because it continues to filch from the States money which rightfully belongs to them. This matter should no longer be dealt with on the chopping-block of politics. I wish to buttress my arguments by citing what has been done in the United States of America. Everybody remembers the afternoon of the 6th January, 1936, when theConstitution of the United

States of America was blown to fragments just as was section 92 of the Commonwealth Constitution only recently. This would never have happened had a national planning authority been set up to advise the Governments of the United States of America and Australia on the formulation of a scheme of planned national economy. The following article dealing with an analogous question appeared in the News Letter of the American Society of Planning Officials, published in January, 1936: -

In trying tofit the pieces together again into some method of grappling with the farm problem, Congress is suffering from a superfluity of proposals, coming from all sides.

That was after the Supreme Court of the United States of America had issued its famous decree -

All this is serving to recall to some legislative minds that the "National Planning Board " idea may not bo so bad after all. At least it would provide one central agency where Congress could go for a well-rounded programme; or rather for advice on methods of achieving a well-rounded programme.

The failure of this Government to plan on sound principles is a reflection on the capacity of governments to be positive, and as I have said on other occasions, the people can " smell possum ". The article continues -

Mean while, land planning rather than direct production control seems to be the way out. Opinion both in Congress and in departmental circles is shifting to this method. Crops would be controlled just the same but under a different label, land that it was decided necessary to take out of production would be leased by the Government. The leasing would be for forestation or for the prevention of soil erosion, or what have you. Payment would be made direct from the Treasury. Most of the processing taxes would be continued, but would be provided for by separate legislation so that judicial minds could not say that the taxes were linked to the payment plan. It is expected that State and local planning boards would be called upon for extensive cooperation if this method is adopted.

Is it not time that we, as a. Commonwealth Parliament, set our minds to that work, and engaged in land planning so that no one will be farming uneconomic lands except at his own risk? We should repossess such lands under the leasehold system, and allow them to go back to pasture, or be used to combat erosion. The honorable members for "West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) andFawkner (Mr. Holt) made the best speeches I have heard on this subject, and it is certainly time that we got down to the job, and evolved a really national plan for dealing with it.

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