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Thursday, 2 June 1949

Mr CONELAN - Who do they represent?

Mr RANKIN - That is perfectly obvious. Bovril Australian Estates Limited, for instance, awns Victoria River Downs, which coveres 12,000 square miles. The cattle raised on that property are a disgrace. They aremore like staghounds with horns than anything I have ever seen in the shape of cattle. Vestey's Limited is not quite so bad. It occupies thousands of square miles of land on which it is not raising as many cattle as ran be raised on relatively small properties of 150,000 or 200,000 square miles. Rosewood station and Banka Banka station are two examples of properties on which cattle are being reared in large numbers which are equal to any that can be raised in the western district of Vic toria, the northern rivers district of New South Wales and the highlands above the River Murray. On the big holdings that I have mentioned, the cattle are mainly " scrubbers ". On some stations there are almost as many bulls as cows. The companies have not sunk bores for water, although there is plenty of water under the surface, and one may often see a cow in bad condition travelling out from the natural waters suckling a calf about twelve months old and as big as itself as well as a calf only about a week old. There can be only one end to such conditions. When I visited one of the stations in 1938, I commented to the owner that I thought that he would lose a large number of cattle that year. He replied sorrowfully, "Yes, I think about 6,000 of them will die ". That was his attitude, and I am sure that a large number of the animals did die. But, strange to relate, the Government has not grasped its opportunities to alter those conditions, and reduce the size of some of the holdings. Any ex-servicemen who are familiar with the conditions in that part of the Commonwealth, are eager to settle on holdings of between 150 and 200 square miles, but they have not had an opportunity to do so.

Mr Williams - The present holders have leases for long periods.

Mr RANKIN - Yes, some of the leases are for 45 years, but many of them, involving tens of thousands of square miles, have been renewed while this Government has been in office.

Mr McLeod - What amount of capital does a man require if he intends to settle on a small area?

Mr RANKIN - Some of the pastoralists in the north express the opinion that a settler on a small area requires a capital of between £15,000 and £20,000 in order -to make a successful start. I do not know the reasons that 'they give for holding that view, but I doubt the accuracy of their estimates. Some of the successful settlers in thenorth began with substantially less capital than £15,000 or £20,000, and they carried on under worse conditions than those that prevail to-day. Although transport facilities in that part of the Commonwealthare still bad, they are a considerable improvement on the original conditions. I do not believe that a young man who is prepared to work, requires such a large capital as £15,000 or £20,000. The real obstacle is that the present settlers do not want any opposition or competition. They do not desire other people to take over the land and make a success of their ventures. In the same way, in the early days of Australian settlement, the squatter did not want the settler, because he knew thai if one settler could farm successfully, a veritable flock of new settlers would come into the district. Indeed, a squatter used to call the settlers " cockies " because a few came ahead of a large flock whenever there was a living to be made. A similar outlook causes the present settlers in the north to take a pessimistic view of a small settler's prospects of success. When I was in Darwin some days ago, I was told that a new settler on a small holding must have considerable capital. In my opinion, that view is absolute rot. I do not believe that a young man who is keen to work, requires such a large sum of money before he can make a success of his venture. I emphasize the necessity for increasing the population in the north in the interests of national defence. No one will defend his country so strongly as the man who has his home and land in it, and hopes to leave his family there in comparative wealth, or, at least, with social security.

Honorable members opposite frequently claim that the people of Australia are extremely sorry that they voted against the rents and prices referendum. Personally, I do not know of any one who regrets the defeat of the referendum other than a few who derived some advantages when the Commonwealth controlled rents and prices. Those persons include those who were employed in administering prices control, and others who, in their business, worked on a cost-plus basis. The majority of the people are extremely glad to have shaken one tick off their backs. It is sad to relate that the Government found soft jobs for the persons previously employed in administering prices control. The Government transferred them to other departments, instead of allowing them to be absorbed in productive work and to become of some value to the community. They became as it were, an additional lot of fleas on another dog. The defeat of the referendum aroused the Government to extreme anger, because it loves power, and delights in being able to order people around. Thoroughly disgruntled, the Government looked around to see how it could square its account with the people and the Opposition. It speedily found a way to do so, by withdrawing the subsidies that it had been paying on foodstuffs and other commodities. In addition, the Government refused to assist the States to administer prices control by providing them with experienced staff.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER - Order ! The honorable member's time has expired.

Motion (by Mr. McEwen) put -

That the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) be granted an extension of time.

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