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Tuesday, 22 June 1937

Senator JAMES McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - As Senator Hardy said this afternoon, we have been waiting 25 years for the Labour party to act.

Senator Collings - His statement was ridiculous. Labour was in office for only five years. In the other twenty years national governments were in power.

Senator JAMES McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Five years would have been long enough in which to formulate a scheme. As an example of the difficulties associated with national insurance, I may mention that South Australia has paid out of revenue £3,000,000 for sustenance and unemployment relief in the last five years. It is only natural to conclude that the recipients, when told that they will have to contribute towards national insurance, will point out that in the past they had not had to do so. National insurance has been in existence in Great Britain for a number of years, and from 1924 until now, because of unemployment, the British Government has had to supplement the fund by £700,000,000. It will be seen, therefore, that a scheme of the kind envisaged is not going to have the magic effect which some people expect. I am, however, in favour of its institution.

Senator Collings - But the honorable senator commits himself to nothing.

Senator JAMES McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - I shall commit myself to nothing until I see a scheme which I believe is workable ; I shall then grip it with both hands. When I hear people, in this chamber and elsewhere, as I have heard them in the last few days, declaring that Australia is lagging behind in social services and doing nothing for its aged and invalid people, I am moved to remind them that no country in the world has done so much for its people in this regard as has Australia. The more one thinks and ponders over what has been done, the more one is amazed. For instance; there is hardly a child born for which the Government does not pay a bonus of £5 so that it may be immediately clothed. So soon as the child toddles it has the benefit of free kindergartens. When it is fit to go to school it receives free education, and if the parents cannot afford to buy school books for it, the Government does so. Free education carries with it a number of bursaries, whereby a child with marked intelligence can go on into the realms of higher education provided at the universities. Then as soon as the child goes to work it has protection against exploitation. The Arbitration Court fixes hours, wages, and other conditions of unemployment. These social services continue throughout a man's life. If a man cannot find here a woman to become his wife, then the immigration laws will help him to import one. Yet it is alleged that this country is backward in providing social services. Additional benefits conferred upon the population are also to be found in the laws of the States. The South Australian Government has built one thousand homes which are let at nominal rentals. If a man takes ill he is covered by insurance and he can have free hospital accommodation. If he has no job, he is provided with rations, and, when he reaches the age of 65, he receives the old-age pension or goes to a State institution. There are also police and transport services and subsidized public libraries. We are already doing more for our people than is any other nation on God's earth, but I am still prepared to help to enact a scheme of national insurance.

Senator Marwicksaid that he was pleased to note that the States and the

Commonwealth had reached a satisfactory agreement 'for the control of aviation. I too am pleased, indeed, that the governments have reached this agreement, but recently there has been some controversy among the people regarding this matter and at the recent referendum they spoke very definitely.

Senator Collings - Very ignorantly.

Senator JAMES McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - In my opinion, so long as clause 92 of the Constitution carries the interpretation given to it by the Privy Council, no agreement between the States and the Commonwealth regarding trade and commerce will be watertight. I believe that so soon as someone wants to upset any such agreement there will be successful litigation. The referendum taught us at least one lesson. I understand that the. Government has under consideration:, some method of simplifying the ballotpaper for Senate elections. It is a reflection on the intelligence of the people that" in the last referendum the informal votesnumbered 250,000. The people must educate themselves; all we can do is to make the voting paper simpler. It is amazing that after years of free education which cost millions of pounds, a quarter of a million persons in this country cannot mark a ballot paper " 1 " and " 2 ".

Senator ALLAN MACDONALD (WESTERN AUSTRALIA) - The honorable senator should not judge by the last referendum. The will to do was lacking in many people.

Senator JAMES McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - I counter that by asking how many votes would have been informal if persons had not stood at the doors of the polling booths distributing " How to Vote " cards?

Senator ALLAN MACDONALD (WESTERN AUSTRALIA) - At that referendum exactly the same number. The will to do was not there.

Senator JAMES McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - I think that even if it had been there, but for the instructions given to voters as to the way in which to mark ballot-papers, the number of informal votes would have been' even greater.

I welcome the proposal to re-constitute the Interstate Commission. In my opinion, this step has been too long delayed. Wo have expended considerable sums on royal f.ommissions and I venture the opinion that the Interstate Commission could do more expeditiously and with better results to this country the tasks for which those were set up.

I support the project for the extraction of oil from shale, and I congratulate the Government on the arrangements it has made with a private company for the exploitation of the Newnes deposits. With the last speaker, I also ask that the Government will give due consideration to the hydrogenation and low carbonization processes for the extraction of oil from coal. I hope that if any company comes forward with proposals for the operation of either of these processes the Government will be just as liberal in treating with them as it has been in respect of the Newnes company. We talk a lot about defence/ but without oil much of our preparations for defence will be useless.

In order to investigate thoroughly the menace of soil erosion we have established in South Australia a laboratory at the cost of something like £20,000. Senator Brown read an extract from an article by Mr. Ion Idriess in reference to Australia's waste lands in south-western Queensland, north-western New South Wales, the south-eastern portion of the Northern Territory, and in South Australia. I am strongly of the opinion that at least for the time being these barren spaces should be ignored. If we are to have a searching inquiry into soil erosion, let us make our experiments where some measure of success can be achieved ; that is in country where there is at least some rainfall. The portions of country alluded to by Mr. Idriess have an annual rainfall of only 4 inches. It is impossible to plant any grasses known to us that will grow in such dry areas. There is only one thing that will rehabilitate that country - and we have had a good deal of it in other parts this year - and that is rain sent by Almighty Providence. It is wonderful how the country will recuperate after rain. Without rain it cannot be handled. Our greatest enemy in this respect is the rabbit, which is not content merely with eating the surface growth, but delves down to the very roots of the grass. Our first aim should be to get rid of this menace. I commend the efforts the Government is making, but advise the people not to look for big results from barren country where the annual rainfall is only 4 inches. I ask the Government to concentrate its efforts on land further south which enjoys a more adequate rainfall. That is in the agricultural areas where we have been experiencing drift and erosion. We might as well attempt to dam the MurrayRiver with our hands as try to convert the desert wastes from drifting sand into pastures, although, at the present time, because of the advent of substantial rains, country that twelve months ago was a desert denuded of vegetation is now covered with grass and the Sturt pea, converting the country into a vast flower garden.

I commend the Governor-General's Speech to the people, and at the same time ask them, before any thought of changing this Government for some unknown quantity enters their mind, ' to look at its past record. We can always better judge people by what they have done than by what they say they are going to do.

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