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Thursday, 10 November 1921

Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) - I agree with the Minister that a comprehensive scheme is essential. There must be co-operation between, the Federal and State Governments, and the sooner that is brought about the better. I do not think it right to adversely criticise the splendid ideal of Sir Joseph Carruthers. I happen to be a. member of the New Settlers League, which' is doing good work in welcoming settlers to Australia, and also endeavouring ; to formulate some scheme in. support of Sir Joseph Carruthers' proposals to encourage those of our own race to come to this country. I maintain that the present Federal Government since the war lost, a golden opportunity in not having a scheme of, immigration and land settlement ready, and in not advertising the certainty of success to those who will try their lot in Australia. We know that hundreds of thousands of ex-service men have emigrated from the Old Country to foreign lands, and we have lost that stream of most desirable settlers whom we should have encouraged and welcomed with open arms. I was very glad to see from the press that a steamer arrived in Melbourne only to-day with 1,200 Britishers, and I welcome them heartily. I am glad, to say that the New Settlers League is doing very good work, and it should be encouraged by all who believe in our Empire. I do not see how we can continue to hold Australia unless we take immediate . steps to vastly increase our papulation. I agree that it i3 of no use to bring people here to stand about in the already overcrowded cities of Melbourne and Sydney. A comprehensive scheme of land settlement and developmental work is essential. Provided that the money can be obtained at a reasonable rate, it does not matter how much we spend on reproductive works, especially in the conservation and distribution of water. By the locking of our great rivers we can throw open to settlement numerous valleys which will carry large numbers of settlers. I think that fruit-growing is overdone, but there are other forms of production in which settlers in the valleys of the Murray and Mumimbidgee might be engaged, and those valleys could accommodate a greater population than we have at present in the whole of' Australia.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Is the honorable senator pessimistic- when he says that fruit-growing is. overdone ? I think he is not.. I think he is a practical man, as I claim to- be, in pointing out the. difficulties in the way.

Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) - That is right. We should be careful about what we do. It is of na use to say that we can grow more fruit, but there are many other products which new settlers might produce with great advantage to the country and for which there is a market in the northern hemisphere.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Senator Duncan says that there is room foa: a thousand Milduras.

Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) - Yes, but the new settlers need not necessarily grow fruit. Mildura, is one of the finest object lessons in closer settlement to be seen in any part of the world. It is a town of unexampled prosperity and happiness. I may remind honorable senators that the annual increase of population of some of the countries bordering the. Pacific and occupied by coloured races is more than the total population of Australia at the present time. This discussion was started, I think, by a suggestion from Senator Foll that Australia should be better advertised than it is. There is no doubt that that is so. It has been my sad experience, in visiting other parts of the world, to find that there were quite a number of persons who did not knew where Australia was, and that was because we have not spent sufficient or spent it wisely, in advertising the Commonwealth and its vast resources. I support the suggestion that ex-Imperial service men should be allotted land on the same terms and conditions as are granted to ex-Australian soldiers, because in "Victoria, at present, there is a surplus of suitable land. Only the other day the Closer Settlement Board threw open for allotment, sixty blocks on the Mount Bute estate), and fifty blocks on the Mount "Violet estate, making 110 blocks in all, only twenty of which, were taken up.

Senator Duncan - Was it a question of price?

Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) - No; the price was right. In Victoria, at least", the demand by ex-soldiers has been more than satisfied, and efforts should, therefore, be made to allot land to ex-imperial , service men on conditions similar, to those offered to our own men. The other day some land was offered at Pura Pura, in- the Western District, and a number, of returned soldiers travelled by train with the intention of inspecting it. A. drag was supplied to convey them to the spot; but when they alighted at the railway station a gale of wind was blowing, and the men asked the stationmaster if it always blew like it was blowing that day? The official informed them that it was a very windy place, and the men returned without even inspecting the land. It would appear that they were out merely for a " joy ride." Land is available for grazing and wheat-growing; but areas suitable for dairying are not easily procurable, because the dairying industry is very prosperous at present. As the demand for land in Victoria has been largely met, I cannot see any reason why ex-Imperial service men should not be allowed to secure blocks under the conditions I have mentioned.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - The Victorian Government estimates that there are still 2,000 returned soldiers awaiting land.

Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) - I do not believe that. It may be difficult to obtain certain kinds of land, particularly that suitable for dairying purposes, because the dairying industry is in a very prosperous state, and blocks which can be utilized for that purpose have been over-applied for.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - If an exsoldier requires a dairy farm, we cannot force him on to a block that is suitable only for wheat-growing.

Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) - I know that. The ex-Imperial service men have fought for the Empire just as our own men have, and they should be considered and allowed to settle here under favorable conditions. This question has been discussed by the New Settlers' League, and the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) dealt with the matter in an able manner last night. Every honorable senator realizes the grave danger of holding such a rich land, possessing great possibilities, and which is sparsely populated. The Mother Country has protected us for 150 years. Britons discovered _ Australia, and Great Britain has peopled and financed it. Until recent years, we have been depending- on Britain; but now we are led to believe that the Mother Country can no longer assist us, because she has been bled white, in consequence of the terrible war, and cannot now maintain a supreme fleet. It is only right, therefore, that we should do all we possibly can to encourage the people of our own race to settle in this great country, because if we do not do that we cannot hope to hold it, and we will be judged by others as being unworthy of such an inheritance.

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