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Tuesday, 10 November 1953

Mr STEWART (Lang) .- To-day, the Second Session of the Twentieth Parliament was opened by HisExcellency the Governor-General, Field Marshal Sir William Joseph Slim. This is the first Parliament that he has opened since coining to Australia, and this is thefirst occasion on which the Commonwealth Parliament has been opened by one holding the distinguished rank of Field Marshal. To-night, I am making my maiden speech in this chamber. I deem it a great honour to be able to do so on such an historical and momentous occasion. I should like to state, on behalf of my colleagues and myself, that we areentirely in accord with the sentiments- expressed by. the Governor-General in the opening words, of his address, when he said -

Tlie devotion of Australians to. thoi Throneis beith deep and warm. It has been shown 1/\ word and deed iii hoth peace and war. It is not the special prerogative- of any political' party, or of any creed, or of any section of theAustralian people.

Mr. DanMulcahy,, who formerly represented the. electorate of Lang, has passed, on. To-night, I stand in. his place as the choice of the people of Lang. I salute the memory of a staunch and able Labour man' and parliamentarian. But the fight to preserve the conditions won for the' people by the Labour party must go on unabated. Consequently, I have been elected1 to take, his place in the Federal Parliament. I am deeply sensible of the honour that has- been bestowed' on me by the electorate of Lang and1 the. Australian Labour party, and; t pledge myself: to serve them, and Australia, faithfully and well and' with all the energy and hbility that- 1' possess;

Australia- is a great nation with a great destiny: Moreover, we have enormous resources. Those resources should be used, not only to better conditions here in- Australia, but also to help the peoples of the world who are not as well placed as' we ourselves are. Australia hasalways contained- comparatively few people1 but' vast' open spaces. It is only natural to- assume that' the surplus' population of Great Britain and the refugees' and' displaced persons from Germany and other- European countries^ look with long;ing' towards our land. Those- needy people should be given an opportunity to emigrate to Australia, but, and here: we have to be particularly careful: because we' do not want to lower our own standards, it is essential for the Government to ensure that our- immigration. policy is efficiently planned and carried out.. Because, of the failure of the present Government, to maintain, full' employment, arrest inflation and engender confidence among the couple Australia's intake of immigrants has been drastically reduced. Australia,, with a properly, directed immigration policy, could accommodate many more immigrants.

It has become apparent during the: last, decade that, our rural- industries need revitalizing, and' it is- the duty of the Gor \-urnmenLto ensure, that o.ux future, immigrants shall be. men. and. women, who are willing and capable, of working in. the rural: industries. But fir,st,; those. Austtralians who are anxious to settle, should be. given- their own grants, of land.. There ar.e. many such. Australians,, and in order to< appreciate' that fact, one has, only to note. the. number, of. ex-servicemen who desire to. be settled- on the land under- the war. service land settlement, scheme. Of course, any system' which. places; Aus*tralians and immigrants on. the land merely as. wage-earners is. doomed, to failure. Therefore, a system involving the .settlement of working proprietors must be introduced,, and land that is undeveloped or that, is not being fully utilized by its present. owners should, be. resumed and. developed by tlie. Australian Government and distributed, fir." to Australians who wish, to- settle on the. land,, and then to immigrants with far. ruing experience.. That is a. matter, for co-operation, between the State governments and the. Australian Government. The. development of. new. landsfor new settlement must, take: place concurrently with the resumption of large areas that are lying idle. because. the present ow.ners have- not sufficient. interest in. the; welfare of Australia or in the welfare of, the starving peoples,in other partsof the world to ensure that. their land: is being scientifically- utilized to its: full capacity.

I do not' want" any one to interpret my remarks as meaning that I' consider that the' development - of our secondary industries is unimportant. I' appreciate the need for- the- encouragement of those, industries, but' our economy has' always been- bound- up- with our primary industries, and it is' time that we. realized: that to allow those industries- to' take' second place- is- to. invite disaster. Before leaving immigration- and- rural development. I must' say that I- consider that it' is' time that- tlie: Government took' some- action t'n prevent the continued acquisition of land by landholders who already possess far greater' holdings than they can possibly, utilize.1

Housing, is another matter, that' is not receiving, from the Government the attention that it deserves. All our plans for. the development of Australia will be of 'no avail unless our population is adequately, boused. That any government, should, limit the money that the States* require for housing projects is absolutely shameful ; especially- when there is* no good* reason for doing so. In time of war, financial considerations become secondary to physical problems, and there is no limit to the amount of money which can be found for destruction. However.,, in time of" peace when; moneyis needed for construction, the LiberalAustralian Country-party coalition maintains that it is not available. This Government claims that it- desires every Australian to own his own home,, but it? policies of" credit restrictions, risinginterest rates and withholding of.' necessary funds from States; Have prevented, many homes from being built. The "War. Service- Homes Division organizations in 1 all States are receiving far more applications for' assistance than they can handle, but the Government makes no attempt to alleviate that position. Tn fact, it glories in the knowledge that applications are plentiful; and' mat there is a. long wait hcf fore assistance call be granted to those men- and women who fought to protect our land. The correct'- and only solution, to the problem; of obtaining sufficient houses, is to make money available until all our people: are. adequately housed1..

World War IT. proved beyond doubt that the lack of unification of our rail' gauges' is a severe national! handicap; but still nothing- bas! been done to remedy that position. The construction of a uniform gauge1 line linking the capital cities- isan important' developmental work and deserves' urgent consideration, not only because it- would engender- more efficient and' speedy carriage of passengers and a-m-tds' between the1 States, but alsobecause it would be of great help in time of war: and the world' situation to-day should make us all. consider the possibility of war. The-expenditure of about ' £200.000.000 on defence in. the present -financial year: and also in the last financial yean, indicates t"-k)'t the- Government envisages such a. contingency, but unless- we have an overall defence plan we; might as well do nothing, nf The- importance of the- construc tion, of. such a line, and it subsidiaries, cannot be stressed, too much. If Asia- is overrun by- communism^ as is likely if Communist China is. given, recognition and. Formosa falls-, into the hands of. the Communists, an attack on Australia would be. the final step hi the glan of: communism to dominate; the; Pacific. If. that should happen, Ave shall need to- fight, to. preserve, our democratic way. of life-.. Those of us who hav.

Practically all the- advantages that Aus tva Hams enjoy to-day were won through the efforts of the Labour movements both industrial and" political, in the face of opposition from- the reactionary parties. Were' it not for the- efforts of the- Labour movements, Australia would' not to-day enjoy compulsory free- education, pensions, unemployment benefits, the services of the Commonwealth Bank', the 4:0-hour week, and conciliation and arbitration - to mention: only a few advantagesIndeed, it is true to say that all improvements of living standards' are the result of action by the Labour movement1. Those which were not introduced by L'abour. were only scripted' by an tiLabour governments- when it became apparent that the will1 of the people could no longer be ignored. It is- disastrous, therefore, to allow the reins- of government to remain in the hands of" the reactionary parties for .any length of time, because over- the years those parties have shown that, if the small' section of the people whose interest's: they have at heart- is: satisfied1, they have no desire to see the conditions- of the whole of. the community improve.

I could say much, about the treatment by the present Government of age. invalid, widow and war pensioners under the budget recently introduced. Suffice it to say that I desire to add my protest at the paltry increases that were granted1.

I suggest to the Government that if introduce marriage loans of, say, £500-. which could be applied, for by newly married couples for use in the purchase of land for building purposes or as part deposit on a home. These loans could be repaid over a number of years or written off at the rate of £100 for every child born to the couple. Such a system would assist in overcoming the housing problem and would be an incentive to our young people to raise families and populate our nation. Probably members of the Government will raise their eyebrows at such a suggestion and assert that the initial cost of the scheme would be too much for the country to bear. But I suggest that, before they condemn the scheme, they consider the amount, estimated at over £1,000 for each immigrant, that has been expended in assisting immigrants to come to Australia. After all, Australians deserve some incentive and assistance in developing and populating their native land. The people of Australia look to the Government for example, and it would be unfortunate if they were disillusioned by the action of a member of Parliament or a. government official who appeared to be more concerned about his own welfare and advancement than about dispensing social justice to all sections of the community. The time has come for all honorable members, as the elected representatives of the people, to examine their consciences to ascertain whether their actions are governed by a. concern for the improvement of conditions in Australia or by the monetary or political advancement of themselves or their friends. Honorable members are here to govern Australia to the best of their ability and at all times they should make decisions which are in the interests of all the people and not only those of a particular section.

I have stressed the need for the continuation of a maximum immigration policy together with the development of our rural industries, because neither can be maintained unless it is part and parcel of an overall plan. Our main cities are becoming too large and unwieldy. If Australia is to play its part in keeping peace in the world, it must be prepared to assist less fortunate people to find a place under the sun. One way in which it can be done is for Australia to bring them here as immigrants and allow them to take their place on the land. The consequent increase in the production of wheat, wool, meat, butter and other primary produce would find a ready market in other parts of the world. Increased housing projects throughout Australia and the expansion of policies that' enable individuals to obtain money to purchase or build their own homes would be a step along the pathway to a more contented and happy community and would give those people a greater interest in the country of which they own a part.

A unified Commonwealth railway system becomes more important every day from both an economic and a defence point of view, and I suggest that that problem be tackled immediately. Other points I have mentioned were the introduction of a plan for marriage loans and the need for morality in public life, both of which should be examined carefully.

I am proud to be an elected representative of the Australian Labour party, because I think that it is the party which is interested in the welfare of the people and the development of the nation. Labour says, " Have faith in our Australia, for together we can build a greater nation, a better society ".

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