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Wednesday, 19 June 1946

Mr ARCHIE CAMERON - I invite the Minister to go there. He will find a warm welcome awaiting him.

Mr Dedman - I have been.

Mr ARCHIE CAMERON - I know. lt is a political courtesy that is observed between a government and an opposition that when a Minister is discussing something concerning the electorate of another honorable member he lets that honorable member know about it; but the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction went to South Australia last year and attended a meeting across the border from my electorate, the object of which was to discuss the Loxton, irrigation scheme, and the first I knew of it: was what I read in the press afterwards. That is shabby treatment of an honorable member of this House.

Mr Dedman - I did not arrange the meeting. I went there by invitation.

Mr ARCHIE CAMERON - Seeing that affairs in my electorate were being discussed with people living outside it, I think the Minister should have seen that. I had the chance of being there.

Mr Dedman - I had no control over the invitations to the conference.

Mr ARCHIE CAMERON - It .waa not for the people of "Wakefield to invite me. The Minister went there for a specific purpose. I say to him, man to man, that that Loxton irrigation scheme to which he would not agree that night was subsequently . agreed to. I was in Loxton last week, and I assure the honorable gentleman that a warm and enthusiastic welcome awaits him there from 100 per cent, of the people. The irrigation scheme is going ahead, not because of anything the Minister did, but in spite of every obstacle that he put in its way. He can argue that out with the Premier of South Australia.

It is said that after the 1914-18 war mistakes were made in soldier settlement schemes. On that we all agree. It is also a well-known saying that the man who never made a mistake never made anything. The policy .. adopted by the present Government is designed to enable the Labour party to claim a quarter of a century hence that, at any rate, on soldier settlement, ' it never made & mistake, because at the present rate of progress the Government will never settle any ex-servicemen on the land.

What is the position in South Australia? The State Government purchased lands on trust before this Parliament considered the Re-establishment and Employment Bill more than a year ago, and, according to the latest information which I received from a Minister with whom I travelled in my electorate a few days ago, some -of those Und: have not yet been approved by the Commonwealth Government for soldier settlement. The Government of South Australia is in a different position from that of the Governments of New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland. In common with the governments of Western Australia and Tasmania. it is acting as an agent for the Commonwealth. When we .study soldier settlement from the stand-point of the soldier, the first line of barricades which we discover is constituted by the qualifications that he must possess before he may- go on the land. I invite honorable members to examine the agreement which the Parliament validated by legislation last year, and some of the pamphlets, issued by the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, which I saw for the first time to-day through the courtesy of the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony). After having read those pamphlets, any one would he justified in believing that no man who enlisted in the Navy, Army or Air Force had any previous experience on the land. One would think that every serviceman enlisted from the metropolitan area, and all that he knew about farming was what he had seen at. motion picture theatres on Saturday nights. But any number of those men were engaged in rural pursuits before they joined the services. They do not require education by the Government in agricultural and pastoral matters.

Many of them would be quite, willing to return to the farms on which they had lived before their enlistment, but the policy of this Government is that no man shall purchase the land on which he was reared. In other words, no transactions shall be conducted which will permit a man) who does not possess enough finance to ' settle his own son, to sell his land through the soldiersettlement authority to his son on his discharge from .the services. When the Parliament was considering theagreement last year, I said that that principle was wrong. I now repeat that it is wrong in. every way. The Minister must have some knowledge of rural' conditions in the United Kingdom. It is one of the proudest, things in the history of British agriculture that the land has remained in the possession of one family generation after generation. But the policy of this Government is todeclare that people shall not remain in possession of the land generation aftergeneration if that can be achieved only through the good graces of the soldiersettlement authorities. The policy of theGovernment is that the vendor of the land - in this case the father or some, relative - must put his land into the pool, and' the son or some relative must take hischances in the ballot. That is wrong.

Mr Dedman - That is exactly what the Government, declares.'

Mr ARCHIE CAMERON - It is one of the wickedest' propositions which has ever been put forward in the history of this Parliament. A man will be denied; the right to carry on the property in which he has a personal and sentimental interest. He will be forced to go on to someother property, perhaps in a district in. which he would not like to live so much, as the one in 'which he was born and reared. I can cite examples, although possibly it will not interest theGovernment, of men who have already become, tired of waiting for an opportunity to take up .land. Last January, in my electorate, a meeting was held of repatriation committees and the chairmen, of district councils. A senior officer of the Commonwealth attended, and informed' the gathering, which, after all, consistedof men of some responsibility and integrity, who possessed some knowledge of land conditions, that it would be at least two years, and probably five years, beforethe Commonwealth would be prepared togo ahead seriously with land settlement" in South Australia.

The next matter to which I desire to refer is the purchase of land for the settlement of ex-servicemen. Obviously, the Government is committed to the group settlement system. In my opinion, that is one of the worst features about the administration. If these ex-servicemen are, as the Minister presumes they are, persons who have had no previous experience on the land, and whose only knowledge of agriculture when they are put on the land will be that which has been imparted to them by some government school, it will be in their own interests that they should not be congregated in one group settlement scheme. It will be far better, in' the interests of the ex-serviceman, that he should settle among experienced men who will be only too happy to impart their knowledge to him. In the Naracoorte district of South Australia, certain landholders wrote to me through a well-known barrister and solicitor, and I forwarded the letter to the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley). They offered to give to the Commonwealth land for soldier settlement, on condition that the transaction should be exempt from gift duty. The decision of the Treasurer was that those citizens should give the land, and, in addition, pay gift duty. That decision was reinforced later in the case of a landholder in the Narracoorte district, who desired to settle his son on a part of his own property. This correspondence is on the Treasurer's file, and I can give the name of the gentle-' man concerned. He wanted to transfer to his son, who had been discharged from the services, 800 acres of his estate, but the Treasurer ruled, that he must pay gift duty on the transfer. Shylock and others of that ilk could have learnt a few things from the Chifley Government on these matters.

I come now to the clearing and fencing of the land. As one who went through the mill of soldier settlement after World War I., I .am sure that if I had to undergo that experience again at this stage, I should prefer to take up land which was unimproved and uncleared, and do the clearing and fencing and erect the buildings. I am firmly of the opinion that I could do that work more efficiently and cheaply than any government department, Commonwealth or State, could do it for me. Honorable members opposite, who have a knowledge of agriculture, will agree with my view. Some might argue that for the clearing and preparation of the land, settlers now have big tractors, and disc and shearer ploughs. Those implements have been tried in my electorate, but government enterprise, in that kind of work, will never be as economical as is private enterprise. The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McLeod) knows that. If a settler is erecting his own buildings and fences and is undertaking his own water conservation, he will do the work more efficiently than a government department will do it for him. The underlying purpose of this Government's policy for the settlement of ex-servicemen on the land is not so much to settle soldiers on the land as to force every ex-serviceman to become an unwilling worshipper of one of its greatest fetishes, namely, that a man shall never become a property owner. Every one of those blocks will be leasehold. In the implementation of the Government's housing policy, the Minister had to execute one of his customary speedy somersaults. He is becoming very proficient in that feat. One of the underlying principles of the Government's policy is that there shall not be any private ownership of anything. The Labour party believes that any man who aspires to own anything must ipso facto have something wrong with him, and any man who has acquired 'anything must have got it by wrong means. The sooner that spirit .is eradicated in the Labour party, the better it will be for the Commonwealth of Australia, particularly if it should so happen' that at the next election honorable gentlemen opposite are not removed from the Treasury bench.

The final point which I make on soldier settlement is that in the interests of the servicemen themselves, the Commonwealth of Australia and the world as a whole, the sooner those men begin to produce food, the better it will be for every one. I am one of those who do not believe that, under present conditions, the production of any commodity, least of all wheat, should be restricted. Only yesterday, I received from a colleague of the Minister a letter from which I was astounded to learn, although a man should not, be astonished at anything these days, that the Government has placed an embargo upon the export of oats. Probably the oats are being kept here to feed some of the Scotsmen to whom the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Martens) referred last year.

Mr SPEAKER -The honorable member's remarks on oats are irrelevant.

Mr ARCHIE CAMERON - My remarks are related to the subject under discussion because the sooner we increase production, and the sooner . we settle ' ex-servicemen on the land, the easier it will be for them to take advantage of the prices which are ruling today and which are likely to rule for the next few years. What will happen after that, we do not know. I have a firm and abiding faith in the peasantry of Europe _ and in their capacity to recover fairly quickly their lost ground once the opportunity is afforded them to do so. Everything points to the necessity for a great speeding up by the Government of land settlement of ex-servicemen. But instead of this acceleration, we witness such a condition of affairs that if a snail and a tortoise were to enter into competition with this Government, they would be accused and fined for speeding on the highway.

To-morrow, I shall place on the noticepaper a question asking the Minister how many soldiers have been settled on the land in each of the six States. I shall desire particularly to know how many have been settled in the territories of the Commonwealth where there are no State governments to impede progress. Further, I shall desire to know how many nien who have land of their own have received advances up to £1,000 as provided in the act. To date I have heard of only one such instance in my electorate. Frankly, I shall tell exservicemen, who are able to carry oh' without Commonwealth assistance, not to get tangled up with the advance of £1,000, because it will take them so long tq get the money, and the advance will have so many strings to it that it will be of doubtful value to them. The time has arrived when this House should consider the proposal put forward by the honorable member for Rich mond this afternoon. I trust that, before long, more than a departmental interest will be taken by the Parliament of the Commonwealth in the settlement, of ex-servicemen on the land.

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