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Tuesday, 29 June 1937

Senator COOPER - The re-stocking of pastoral holdings presents the greatest difficulty with which graziers have to contend. The abundant growth of grass which is now going to waste will soon become a menace to other settlers. "When the hot winds commence in November and December, the risk of fire will be great, and should an outbreak occur thousands of acres of good grass will be destroyed. Owing to the limited means of these settlers, the provision of necessary firebreaks is impracticable. This matter has been brought under the notice of the Queensland Government, which is sympathetic, and, as Commonwealth Ministers will be conferring with State Ministers at a meeting of the Loan Council in J July, perhaps arrangements can be made for Ministers to meet representatives of the financial institutions and graziers. If that were done, I believe that finance could be provided to assist the re-stocking of this country, which has been so severely affected by drought during the last ten years. I understand that £12,000,000 of loan money has been voted by the Commonwealth Parliament for farmers' debt adjustment, but that, owing to the States requiring for public works a certain proportion of the loan money available, the amount that could be immediately applied to debt adjustment has been reduced. I understand that the States have used only £1,817,000 of the £12,000,000, and that Queensland has had only £125,000. Victoria, which, up to the present has utilized only £562,000, has granted some relief to graziers. Surely an arrangement could be made with the Queensland Government and representatives of the financial institutions for funds to re-stock these holdings. At the conclusion of a large and important public meeting, I received the following letter dated the 23rd June: -

As a concrete example of the paralysing effect, the under-stocking of the north-west has upon industry generally, it was disclosed during the meeting that the- average total sheep holding of the Richmond Petty Session district (which excludes Hughenden, Winton and Julia Creek), over six years from 1930, to 1935, were over 1,012,000 sheep. Following the abnormal stock losses in 1935, to 1936, returns disclose the total holding as 489,000 sheep - a drop of 523,000 sheep or 61 per cent, of the average.

Another portion of the letter read -

The frightful effect upon industry and employment generally, quite apart from the capital losses suffered by graziers, may be gauged from the fact that the drop of 523,000 sheep below the average might well represent 11,500 bales of wool or £253,000 of lost income for the year. With the State enrolment for this* district at approximately 950 adults, the money loss represents approximately a decline of £2(16 per adult for the year.

That does not take into account the increase that would have followed if onehalf of the number lost were ewes. I have brought this matter under the notice of the Government in the hope that it will confer with the Queensland Government to see if assistance in the form I have suggested cannot be given to these settlers who, through no fault of their own, are in such straitened circumstances. Our annual loss from drought is so serious that we would be justified in appointing a Minister to deal wholly and solely with this matter. I sincerely hope that the Leader of the Senate will bring the matters which I have raised before the Cabinet, and that something tangible will result from its consideration of this problem.

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