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Wednesday, 19 June 1946

Mr McEWEN (Indi) .-I realize that, having spoken previously on thismatter, my remarks must now be confined to the amendment. I point out, however, that it has been on the notice paper for almost a year. That fact precludes, honorable members who spoke earlier from dealing with circumstances that have arisenduring the last year but were covered in the general substance of the original statement of the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr.

Redman).. if appeal to the Govern.ment to .give Parliament a 'fresh opportunity to discuss Oil a. broader plane this matter which .is of such tremendous consequence to so many young Australians. 'One of t?he points m'ade by the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) related to the provision for single-unit farms. The Minister interjected that there was nothing in 'the Commonwealth legislation which pre>ven"ted Settling servicemen on singleunit fawns. The fact remains, however, it hat tobe policies -of the State Govern.ments which .aire acting as -principals in the settlement of servicemen are such as to preclude settlement oil single-unit farms. iff, as the 'Government has so often claimed, every aspect of repatriation is a Commonwealth responsibility, the Govern,ment should not be content to acquiesce in a policy which -renders impossible a course of action deemed to be desirable. I strongly urge upon the Government the desirability of providing for the settlement of servicemen on singleunit farms. Most of the settlers will undoubtedly be the sons of farmers who went, from their fathers' farms to the war, a-nd who, upon their return, choose farming as a way of .life. The Government should recognize that the chances of a serviceman being successful are tremendously enhanced if he is -allowed to settle down beside his father or his brothers, or perhaps near his wife's relatives. A. farmer uses a wide range of equipment, but some of it he needs for only a few weeks in the year.. The young farmer who is settled close to his father can share with him the use of a reaper and binder, a 'tractor a-nd other farm machinery.. I deprecate the present tendency to regard no scheme for land settlement as satisfactory unless it -can be described -as a part of -a big plan involving the acquisition of many thousands of acres, and the settlement of many hundreds -of farmers on areas which- can be ruled off neatly in draught-board pattern's. Such schemes look very Well, on- paper., but they involve removing the settlers geographically from their parents and relatives whose help and advice would be invaluable to them.. Many of us have had proof -of this at 'first hand. We know that those mein who after the last war, we're able to settle- down near their parents and friends and receive the benefit of their 'advice in the purchase of stockthe loan of - machinery, and financial Management - which is a-n essential part of farming- were, in general, much, -more successfu'l than those who went on to the big Subdivisions. The only way in which servicemen calx be settled near their friends and relatives- is -through a system of single-unit 'farms.

Australia is underdeveloped agriculturally. Many present holdings are bigger tha;n a Irving aTea, and can be sub.divided. Scientific developments 'are making it possible to increase production by .the introduction of better farming methods, pasture improvement, the 'application' o'f more suitable fertilizers and by improving the -quality of stock. It may be said that practically the entire agricultural area of Australia is ripe for subdivision. There ' are many thousands of farms to-day, each of which supports' Only one family from which one son or more Went to the war. Those farms lend themselves to sub-division so that a son could settle on what Was formerly a part of his father's farm, and thus be in a position to share With his father the use of farm, implements, and benefit from paternal assistance and advice. The Government ought to step in and say that the policy of settling servicemen on singleunit farms- should be put into effect.

Mr Dedman - The honorable member knows that the Commonwealth has no power under the Constitution to do that.

Mr Rankin - The Commonwealth has the power of the purse.

Mr McEwen -What the Minister says is true. I know that the Commonwealth has mot the power under the Constitution, and I may have been guilty of an exaggeration when I said that the Government ought to step "in ; but I also know that what the honora.ble member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) said is true - the Commonwealth bars the power of the purse.

Mr Dedman -The honorable member means that we should -bribe the States?

Mr McEwen -No. I mean that the Commonwealth 'should make "it financially possible for the S'ta'tes to' inaugurate a policy of single-unit farms. The Commonwealth has made it financially attractive to three of the States to become mere agents for it in the matter of soldier settlement, and in those three States the Commonwealth has full power to apply' what policy it chooses.

Many reasons could be advanced why soldier settlement has been delayed. Allegations could be made of culpability and negligence, but I do not propose to go into those matters now. I want to see servicemen settled .on the land. If it were possible by waving a wand to acquire and sub-divide vast estates, and if the servicemen were ready to go on to them immediately, it would still he impossible to provide them with houses, fencing wire and other materials necessary to establish themselves as farmers. That objection, however, does not apply in the case of sons wishing to establish themselves on a part of their father's land, or on land nearby. Indeed, the present difficulty in the way of providing houses and farm improvement is an additional reason why the Government should turn its attention, even at this late stage, to the introduction of a scheme for settling servicemen on single-unit farms. I have nothing to say against the acquisition of big estates. So far as I am concerned, the Government can acquire every big estate in Australia which is suitable for sub-division. If a man who has fought for this country wishes to make his Hying by owning and farming a bit of it he ought to be allowed to do so. If that involves taking land from somebody who holds more than a living area I am a 11 for doing it. '

The honorable member for Richmond also referred to the eligibility of young servicemen to become farmers. The' various pamphlets from which he quoted seem to make it clear that young men who had no farming experience before they went to the war will be ineligible to receive assistance under the Government's, scheme. As the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) said, the right to benefit under the settlement scheme should not be limited to those fortunate enough to be the sons of farmers, or unfortunate enough to have been merely farm . labourers. Surely thousands of men with no previous ex- perience of farming have in them what is required to become successful farmers. In no other field of repatriation except, perhaps, in regard to university courses, is it required that a serviceman shall have had previous experience in the calling to which he aspires. For instance, if a man wishes to be trained as a carpenter or a bootmaker or a bricklayer it is not stipulated that he should have had previous experience in the trade of his choice. Why, then, should such a condition be laid down in the case of prospective farmers ? I am sure that there is a strong sentiment in this Parliament and outside of it in favour of allowing any nian to benefit under the land settlement scheme who can satisfy the appropriate tribunal that he is likely to become a successful farmer.

I agree that the amount of £1,000, which it is proposed shall be the maximum that servicemen already settled on the land may borrow under the scheme is altogether inadequate. What is the purpose of this £1,000 advance? It is to aid a man who may be, say, a share dairyman. One has only to look -at the daily newspapers to see that the ordinary price' for dairy cattle to-day is £25. Then there are other items which he needs. For instance, he would have to pay. between £500 and £600 for a tractor. The same position exists in any branch of farming. To-day, for instance, it is impossible to buy a young breeding ewe for £2. How far, then, does this £1,000 go in establishing a'man on a rented farm or on a share farm or to assist an .exserviceman to purchase adequate' plant to enable him to operate a farm under contract? It is much too little. If the Government is sincerely desirous of settling ex-servicemen on the land it should increase the amount. I have read in the press recently a. statement which indicates that the Government intends to raise the amount to £3,000. I trust that before this debate is concluded the Minister will be able to confirm that statement. A further matter that should be considered .is that this question of soldier land settlement is very intimately concerned with wider matters of policy, because many' of our ex-servicemen will become producers of dried and canned fruits, sugar, rice and other commodities upon the export of which there are certain limitations.

Mr SPEAKER - Order ! The honorable member must confine his remarks to the amendment.

Mr McEWEN - I desire to do no more than to direct the Government's attention to that fact, and to say that soldier settlement cannot proceed until these problems associated with our overseas trade have been grappled with and resolved. I emphasize the need for a definite policy of single-unit farms, and [ trust that the Minister will tell us what the Government proposes to do to make it possible for an ex-serviceman to establish himself on the land in the Northern Territory, an area in respect of which not one word has been said during this debate.

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