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Tuesday, 6 December 1927

Senator FOLL (Queensland) .- The State which I have the honour to assist in representing has for many years been dealing with the settlement of returned soldiers. I remember when the scheme was introduced in the Senate by the late Senator E. D. Millen. On that occasion I asked in what way the Government proposed to control expenditure, and Senator E. D. Millen said that all that the Federal Government would do would be to loan the money to the State governments, which would be responsible for its expenditure. That has been a disastrouspolicy from the point of view of the Commonwealth.

Senator Ogden - Even SenatorFindley would not suggest that there should be no oversight by the Commonwealth.

Senator FOLL - So far as soldier land settlement is concerned, the Commonwealth had practically no oversight of the money. That matter was almost solely in the control of the States. The Commonwealth was concerned only with the raising of the money. The State Governments' approved of the schemes and accepted the responsibility for carrying them out. Millions of pounds advanced to them by the Commonwealth have not been repaid, and never will be repaid. The States have approached the Commonwealth with requests to wipe off their indebtedness. I could show Senator Ogden areas in Queensland which were purchased for soldier settlement on which not one soldier remains to-day. The reason for that state of affairs is that the land was unsuitable for the purpose to which it was devoted, that it was allotted in areas which were too small, and, in a few cases, that the soldiers themselves were not suitable settlers. Reference has been made to the settlement at Beerburrum, one of the most costly schemes undertaken in Queensland. That settlement was only a few miles from Brisbane, and had the land been suitable for settlement it would have been taken up years previously. It was unsuitable for settlement; yet it was selected by the State with the result that the soldiers who were placed on it lost all that they invested. To-day only two or three settlers remain there.

Senator Reid - People would not take it up at 2s. 6d. an acre.

Senator FOLL - The land was totally unsuitable for settlement. We do no: want a repetition of that state of affairs. The same thing occurred in connexion with the Coominya settlement in Queensland; the areas allotted to settlers were too small. The State authorities refused to listen to the advice of people who had lived in the district for years, and also to the representations made by localgoverning authorities, who pointed out that settlement there would be a failure. That scheme also broke down, and the soldiers were forced to leave their farms. Houses which were erected for them at considerable cost were sold for a few pounds. An almost similar result followed the attempt at land settlement at Stanthorpe. The expenditure of £50,000, or even £100,000; in making investigations which would avoid a repetition of those experiences, would be money well spent. The experience of Queensland was common to all the States. Queensland is crying out for settlers, but they should not be placed on land which is unsuitable for the pur pose. There are vast areas of land in Queensland eminently suitable for closer settlement. Nothing that we can do to ensure the success of new settlers who come here from the Old Country, should be left undone. Much of the success of land settlement in Canada has been due to the fact that ample areas have been made available to settlers on generous terms. The Government of Queensland has already submitted a number of schemes to the Development and Migration Commission. Before the commission can be in a position to express an opinion as to the possibility of the Dawson Valley scheme, the Upper Burnett scheme, and others, it will have to undertake a considerable amount of investigation.

Senator Verran - No member of the commission has any practical farming knowledge.

Senator FOLL - The commission can call to its aid the best expert advice available in Australia.

Senator Verran -We are paying the members of the commission high salaries to be educated.

Senator FOLL - The Government of Queensland has freely sought the assistance of the commission in connexion with the development of that State. I trust that the carping criticism which is continually being hurled against it will cease until it has had a chance to put into active operation some of the schemes at present being developed.

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