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Tuesday, 27 October 1964

Senator O'BYRNE (Tasmania) .- The Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Anderson) has said that what I said previously was substantially correct. The report of the State committee on war service land settlement that investigated King Island and other areas-

Senator Anderson - I am sorry. I may have misled the honorable senator. This report did not refer to the whole of Tasmania. It referred to King Island only.

Senator O'BYRNE - I think that there have been submissions concerning other areas. I am not certain whether or not they have been incorporated in the report. The committee had power to investigate other war service settlement areas. I was under the impression that those submissions had been incorporated in the report. However, if they have not been, I shall raise the matter now.

The Minister said that consideration was being given to this matter at the officer level, that no finality had been reached, and that there would be a considerable amount of consultation. I appeal to him to prevail on the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) to give the most expeditious consideration that is possible to this matter with a view to alleviating the circumstances in which war service settlers find themselves at the moment. I have already pointed out that these people are getting on in years. From the point of view of their health and of the atmosphere within the family and community groups the position of the settlers is most unsatisfactory. There is no doubt that the majority of the farmers are of the very best type. They are prepared to buck in and do a good job. They take pride in the fact that they have been able to produce certain results, such as improving their stock and ensuring that their fences are in good condition. But instead of being able to take pride in their achievements, the burden of the long drawn out process of finalising the financial arrangements is continually on their shoulders. The officers who administer the Department of Primary Industry are usually men who work from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in their offices. The farmers work from daylight to dark, seven days a week.

There is one other matter that I wish to raise. It refers to a group of eight dairy farmers at Preolenna, which is another war service land settlement in Tasmania. These men have been granted leases and are doing fairly well except for one particular matter, which relates to the commitments that they are required to meet for stock, equipment and so on. They were advised that certain concessions in the repayment of commitments would be made available to them. The officers of the Department had more or less given them to understand when they were granted their leases that the first year's commitments would be waived; that in the second year they would be required to pay 33 per cent, of their commitments; that in the next year they would have to pay 66 per cent, and that in the final year they would have to pay their full commitments. With that concession in mind, all of these men budgeted to meet 33 per cent, of their commitments this year. But official notification came that, after the commitments were waived for the first year, they would be required to pay 50 per cent, of their commitments in the second year, and that in the next year, the final year, they would have to pay their full commitment. There has been a conflict between the information that was given to settlers by the departmental officers, and the official view as a result of which their annual budgets are upset.

When I mentioned the need for a .type of tribunal I had in mind the investigation of matters such as this on behalf of individual farmers, so that the problems could be sorted out. Recommendations could be made on a State level for administrative purposes and on a Federal level for the purpose of meeting the costs of such a policy. As I said when 1 spoke previously, J believe that the farmers are individualists. Their problems vary. They cannot be solved by a rubber stamp method, nor can they be solved by taking the view that there are a group of men here and a group of men there and they all should go through the same drill.

The farmers are pursuing their own methods of farming. They have learned how to improvise and how to find short cuts to achieve the same objective. That is one of the great things about farming that should be maintained and respected. You cannot have a copybook for each farmer to follow. Therefore, I believe that it is necessary and highly desirable that an independent tribunal should be available to individual farmers when problems arise. Solution of the problems cannot be found by rote, with the same treatment being meted out at the various levels of the Public Service. The case for the settlers has been presented often and in many ways. Yet uncertainty and frustration persist.

I hope that the Minister will put to the Minister for Primary Industry the case that Senator Lillico and I have presented. I hope that the Minister will grasp the nettle and try to clear up this matter so that these men will reach the condition that they believe they should reach within a reasonable time after taking up the farms. Ry doing so, the Minister would render a tremendous service not only to the men concerned but also to the industry. Eventually the production of stock and the various other productive activities of the farmers would increase. Is there any message of hope that finality on these matters is likely to be reached at an early date?

Senator Sir WILLIAMSPOONER (New South Wales) [4.41]. - I refer to Division No. 383 - Administration of the Commerce (Trade Descriptions) Act. I assume that the section of the Department which is responsible for this work also has administrative control of the meat export trade. I should like to refresh the memory of honorable senators on the history of our meat trade with the United States of America. Following a very great expansion of this trade, a question mark was placed over our meat works and abattoirs. Were they of sufficiently high standard to meet the requirements of the American authorities? To preserve this very valuable trade, both the Commonwealth Government and private companies incurred substantial expense. Despite this, the possibility of the trade being reduced again arose. However, our minds were set at rest by the signing of agreements which it was thought would protect the level of trade. Then those agreements were varied.

Will the Minister state whether the cost in which we were involved is reflected in the estimates we are now discussing? The appropriation under this division is about £180,000 more than the expenditure last year. The schedule on page 187 of the Appropriation Bill indicates that the number of veterinary officers has been increased from 14 to 73. This item accounts for an increased expenditure of about £196,000. A further £10,000 was incurred in the employment of 12 additional meat inspectors and a further £30,000 in the engagement of private veterinarians. Those three items alone account for an additional £236,000. If I construe the position correctly, the whole of this increased expenditure is related to fulfilling America's requirements so as to ensure a continuance of our meat export trade. Will the Minister comment on that aspect?

I suppose it is unfair to ask him the total private expenditure, as distinct from governmental expenditure, incurred in fulfilling these requirements. I suggest that it would amount to some millions of pounds. More importantly, are these progressive amounts? Will it be necessary for the establishment of the Department to be increased in later years, or do these estimates cover all the cost that is involved? I know that very great difficulty was experienced in obtaining the professional staff to do the necessary work. Have the Department's staff requirements been ascertained? I assume that a charge is made for the staff's services. If so, what does the Government obtain in increased revenue? If possible, I should like to get some picture, however imperfect it may be, of the cost of fulfilling these export requirements in terms of capital expenditure by the community as a whole and in terms of additional governmental expenditure, offset by increased governmental revenue.

I express no view on the merits of the requirements laid down by the United States. However, our system of administration has been altered to a substantial extent and it appears to me that there is an obligation on the purchaser - there would be in commercial circles - to maintain the level of transactions which the vendor had in view when incurring such heavy expenditure.

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