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Tuesday, 6 December 1927

Senator FINDLEY (Victoria) . - I should not have risen had it not been for the closing remarks of Senator Foll, who apparently objects to any but favorable criticism of the Development and Migration Commission. My criticism is directed not against the members of the commission, but against the appointment of the commission as such. The more I consider the work done by the commission, and its proposals for the future, the stronger is my denunciation of it. The Leader of the Government said that if I had not read the commission's first report, he had done so. The right honorable gentleman's memory cannot be so retentive as formerly, or he would have remembered that on the first reading of the Appropriation Bill I referred at some length to the commission's first report. We are told that the most friendly relations exist between the commission and the various State Governments. I do not doubt that that is 60, or that the schemes submitted by those Governments have been carefully considered by the commission. No State Government would submit a scheme to the commission without having first had it thoroughly examined and approved by its own experts. So far as I am aware, not one member of the commission has any special qualification so far as land settlement is concerned. Yet it is empowered to reject schemes recommended by experts.

Senator Cox - Surely the honorable senator does not suggest that Mr. Fleming does not know anything about land.

Senator FINDLEY - I suggest that in the several departments there are men much better qualified to express . an opinion regarding land settlement than are the members of the Development and Migration Commission. It is true, as stated by the Leader of the Government, that there have been many failures in connexion with land settlement in different parts of Australia. I remind him that success is built upon failures. There were failures before this commission come into existence. Had the Red Cliffs Settlement, in Victoria, been referred to the commission, I have no doubt that it would have been recommended, because at that time the prospects of the fruit industry were very promising. Land settlement in some of the fruit-growing areas has not been a success, chiefly because the low prices received for the fruit have made the enterprise of the settlers unprofitable. The fall in the prices of dried fruits affected not only new settlements, but also well-established settlements throughout Australia. The Development and Migration Commission has not justified its appointment. I have no fault to find with the training of domestics, the provision of, nurses for outback districts, or to sick persons being cared for. But I do find fault with the appointment of a commission, which,' on the admission of the Minister, has approved of schemes which have been submitted because they have been supported by experts. The Governments of nearly all the States are confronted with financial difficulty. States which have schemes which they think should be proceeded with, but are handicapped by financial stringency, naturally wish to obtain a share of the £34,000,000 to be made available. under the agreement entered into between the Commonwealth Government and the Imperial authorities. The proposed increase in the expenditure of the commission is so enormous that the committee should not allow it to pass without comment, particularly as the work so far accomplished is infinitesimal. Much of that done has been ' quite unnecessary, and in some cases totally unwarranted. Some of the work the commission is doing is overlapping the activities of organizations or bodies already in existence. As I have already said, much of the time of the members of the commission is taken up in travelling all over Australia, and . investigating matters of minor moment. If the commission wants to justify its appointment, it ought to concentrate on one or two schemes, and demonstrate its fitness for carrying out the imp jr taut work it is supposed to undertake. Up to the present it has not done that, and has, I contend, wasted time and the taxpayers' money in respect to some of its inquiries, and particularly on its journeys *o different parts of the Commonwealth. Senator Ogden directed attention to what the commission has done in Tasmania^ We know that the average Tasmanian always has a complaint to make, and is constantly asking some person, authority, or government other than its own Government to carry the burdens and responsibilities which apparently the Government or people, of that State are not prepared to shoulder. Honorable senators should closely examine the position in Tasmania, and ask themselves if any concrete propositions have been submitted by the commission which would benefit that State. Some of the matters mentioned in its first report caused me considerable surprise. If any of the criticisms levelled against its activities have the effect of causing it to concentrate upon hig schemes, such criticisms will have been more than justified. I shall await with interest the result of its activities in the future.

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