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Thursday, 28 May 1942

Mr LANGTRY (Riverina) .- I congratulate the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) and the Government upon the statement published in this morning's press to the effect that a body is to be constituted immediately to give consideration to post-war reconstruction. I am particularly glad to know that attention is to be given to water conservation. In my opinion, the settlement of Australia has been achieved by backtofront methods. Men have been sent out into virgin country before provision has been made for either transport or water facilities. One consequence has been that many of the men have not made a success of their holdings, and another has been that primary producers have frequently had to apply to the Government for bounties on production and for other assistance. Even as recently as the years following the last war, land settlement problems were approached in the wrong way, and many soldier land settlers found that the conditions were such as to make success impossible. Even some men with a lifelong experience of primary production were unable to make a success of their holdings. One reason for this was that the holdings were overcapitalized. Land was purchased at prices far beyond its productive value. After all, land is worth only what it will produce. Governments in every State of Australia appointed individuals to buy land and to supervise soldier land settlement schemes who were totally unqualified to do the work. I hope that the post-war planning authority which the Government is proposing to establish will avoid similar mistakes. If that authority proposes to do anything in connexion with land settlement, it should ensure that water conservation and transport facilities are available before soldiers are settled on the land. Hitherto, the procedure seems to have been to send the men out into undeveloped areas, and, after they have struggled for years on holdings far removed from centres of population and markets, to provide for them some transport facilities. If the men were lucky they might, years afterwards, be given a water supply. Many soldier settlers are even now living on properties which have an indifferent transport service and no 'water supply at all which is the life blood of man, beast and vegetation. This leads me to suggest that the Government should take every possible care to ensure that only men with the requisite knowledge shall be appointed to the post-war planning authority. Recently, I read two fine articles on post-war planning by Dr. Bradfield and Mr. Ion Idriess. They deal with the great possibilities in the interior of Australia under proper schemes of water conservation. Men of their calibre should be chosen to do the kind of preliminary work that the Government has in mind. It is absolutely essential that experienced and competent men shall be placed in charge of projects which will be fraught with great consequences for good or ill to the nation. Any scheme devised should be such as will ensure that men settled on the land will be enabled to make provision for their declining years, A most serious position will result if the matter be neglected, because little scope will be offered to these men for employment in the large centres of population. The personnel of the committee should be the best obtainable. I compliment the Prime Minister upon having the foresight to plan ahead, and trust that the result will be something of which the Government will have every reason to be proud. If irrigation be planned there will be no occasion for the compulsory conservation of fodder, because feed for stock will be grown wherever it is needed.

I have much pleasure in supporting the remarks of the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard). If proof can be furnished of men having been taken from positions that cannot be filled by others, the matter should receive the immediate consideration of the appropriate Minister.

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