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Wednesday, 19 June 1946

Mr POLLARD (Ballarat) .- The case presented by the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) is based on completely wrong assumptions. He has assumed that because a young man from a rural area enlisted at the age of eighteen years he is ineligible for assistance under the joint Commonwealth and State land settlement scheme. I admit that anomalies may be revealed in 'the administration of the joint scheme, but I remind the honorable member that many of these anomalies and many difficulties will arise from time to time because of differing .interpretations by the various authorities representing the Commonwealth and the States which will have to administer the scheme. The honorable gentleman has said that exservicemen will not be permitted to purchase single-unit farms. If his vision had been broad enough and his knowledge extensive enough he would have known that the Parliament of Victoria, . in the session just completed, inserted a provision in a bill to the effect that no farm owner could sell his farm to any would-be purchaser in Victoria unless a certificate had been obtained that the property was not suitable for ex-soldier settlement. The insertion of such a provision in the Victorian legislation made it obvious that the State authorities contemplated that single-unit farms would be made available to exservicemen.

Mr Bernard Corser - That is a State law.

Mr POLLARD - Of course, because the control of land settlement and land acquisition resides very largely with State governments. The defeat of the recent referendum clinched that position. Under existing circumstances the administration of land settlement is almost entirely a State matter. I know that a strong agitation is afoot to-day with the object of urging the Commonwealth Government to sponsor the settlement of exservicemen on single-unit farms under certain conditions. But the honorable member for Richmond has admitted that our experience in that connexion after the last war was not a good one. He must realize also that nearly 28 years have elapsed since the cessation of hostilities in. World War I. During that period many farms throughout Australia have become highly developed. Families have been in occupation of some farms for more than one hundred years, and many farms have been occupied by the same families for 20 or 30 years. Notwithstanding that for a time a Country party government oppressed primary producers and provided only low prices for farm products, many properties which were undeveloped at the beginning of that period have become highly developed.

The young men who have returned from war service and who desire to settle on the land have strongly developed creative instincts. I believe that the men who left the farms of their parents and also many young rural workers who, during the last six years, have been engaged in destructive activities, now desire to do some constructive work. They will wish to occupy new blocks which have been provided with reasonable amenities and have been fenced and provided with dams or other means of water conservation. They will have the laudable desire to create, during, say, the next. 25 years, a well improved farm on which to rear their, happy families. The average .young man of Australia wishes to be creative. He does not desire to take over the banana farm of the honorable member for Richmond or the well developed subterranean clover pastures on the farm of the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron). He wishes to secure an area which he himself may develop and in which he can take pride. He desires to exhibit his skill in primary production, that lie can say at the expiration of, say, 20 or 25 years " This is what I have done by virtue of my own skill and my own physical and mental labours ". We must remember that highly developed single-unit farms are not scarce. The honorable member for Richmond has admitted that this is so. Such farms carry a high capital value, and we must bear in mind that if ex-servicemen take over such farms the Commonwealth Government will have to carry the burden of the difference between the values of such properties and the values of less developed areas. For that reason I suggest that the honorable member for Richmond has not faced the realities of the situation.

Mr McEwen - He has done 'the House a service.

Mr POLLARD - After the last war, the honorable member for Indi obtained the benefit of soldier settlement conditions, even though he had not " smelt powder ", and he has since been very busily engaged in the purchase of other properties, some of which, I have no doubt, he will be only too willing to unload on soldier settlers as single-unit farms. 1 concede the right of the -honorable gentleman to practise land aggregation. Nevertheless, the Commonwealth Parliament and the Parliaments of the States are equally entitled to ensure that he and those who think as he does shall not be permitted to encourage men to believe that the ideal soldier settlement is in single-unit farms, when probably they desire to obtain better country from which, during the remainder of their lifetime, they will be able to obtain something for their labours. The honorable member for Richmond probably expresses the views of the squatters in New South Wales. During the last twelve months, the Governments of New South Wales and Victoria have been actively engaged in the purchase of large estates. Along the Murrumbidgee River, the Government of New South Wales has resumed a large estate, the property of Sir Keith Murdoch. Many other large estates also have been resumed along the Murrumbid gee. The Government of Victoria,- through the Soldier Settlement Commission, has resumed land in the western district of that State, and has assumed control of 60,000 acres in the Murray. Valley. This has provoked a squeal by the large squatter. Yet the honorable member for Richmond claims that land for soldier settlement is not available. He wishes to divert attention from the ' purchase of large estates, on which ex-servicemen could engage in developmental work and make an adequate income, to the purchase of single-unit farms. I agree that, in some instances, and under very stringent conditions, the purchase of single-unit farms should be allowed. I believe that there is ample provision, which could be extended if necessary, that would enable the young man who has never been a propertyowner or a share farmer and has not taken any part in actual land management,' to become qualified to take up either single-unit farms or big areas. I have always believed, and said, that men who have never farmed, provided they have sufficient intelligence and the requisite physique, as well as the capacity to apply whatever knowledge they possess, should have the right to' participate in soldier settlement schemes if the State is satisfied that they are likely to make a success of the venture. It is all very well to argue that a rural worker who can pitch sheaves to the top of a stack for 48 or 56 hours a week is qualified to take up land. I claim that a man who, before the war, had been engaged in other occupations or was too young to have embarked on a career, provided he is sufficiently developed physically and mentally, would probably obtain better results from farming than one who had merely pitched sheaves for an employer and had not the necessary capacity for the management of a farm. The case presented by the honorable member for Richmond is pure political propaganda, of which little notice need be taken. As these schemes develop, and co-operation between the Commonwealth and the States increases, the anomalies which undoubtedly will occur in the early stages will be ironed out to the satisfaction of the soldier settlers and the people of the Commonwealth.

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