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Tuesday, 29 September 1942

Mr MARWICK (Swan) .- One cannot read the figures in the ninth report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission without being alarmed at the falling off of production that has occurred in the lesser States, particularly Tasmania and Western Australia, as the result of a drift of population to other States where war industries are clamouring for man-power. A table contained in the report gives the following interesting comparisons of net values of rural production per capita in Western Australia : -


Comparative figures for the mining industry are £19 17s. 5d. and £21 17s. I have no doubt that next year the figures for the mining industry also will show a serious decline. The commission should make a different approach to this subject. Western Australia includes onethird of the whole area of the continent, but it has only one-seventeenth of the population. Obviously, that handful of people cannot be expected to continue indefinitely to struggle with such a huge area. Substantial help will have to be granted to them. The huge haulage problems and the big construction works that will be necessary to develop Western Australia are beyond the capacity of the present population. The isolation of many Western Australians makes it almost impossible for them to get their products to a satisfactory market. We should not wait for the post-war reconstruction period before we face this problem. I consider that a proportion of the grant should be devoted to developmental projects. The State Government should not be limited to using the money to balance its budget. Many outback towns in Western Australia are falling into ruin, and there is a decided exodus of population to the capital city. Enlistments, which also have greatly depleted the populations of local centres, have been half as large again, proportionately, in Western Australia as in the other States. It will be vital to our continued existence as a nation to induce people to return from the capita! cities to agricultural districts after the war. We all cannot live on the seaboard. Yet we know that the amenities of life are much greater in the cities than in the country. A. big effort will have to be made to increase the attractions of country life.

Mr Collins - Has the honorable gentleman read Goldsmith's Deserted Village?

Mr MARWICK - I am too much concerned about numerous deserted villages in Western Australia to think much about Goldsmith's Deserted Village. 1 urge the Government to consider my suggestions. Provision should be made without further delay for special grants to be made to Western Australia in order to assist the State Government to deal with the problem of rural settlement. This aspect of the subject should be investigated by the Commonwealth Grants Commission at an early date.

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