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Wednesday, 10 October 1956

Mr TURNBULL (Mallee) .- Tefore I come to the matters on which I desire to speak, I shall touch on one or two «f the salient points made by the honorable member for Scullin (Mr. Peters). He said, very rightly, that war service land settlement has cost an enormous amount of money. I know that is to be deplored, but however much soldier settlement costs, when valuations of soldier settlement holdings are made, the men who have been put on the land must secure it at a productive value. It is not their fault that it has cost the Government a lot of money. Valuations are being made at the present time in a place that I represent, Robinvale, in Victoria, where we have a great new vine fruit settlement. Many of the settlers realize that the prices that are indicated are far too high for them to be able to make a good living.

Although these blocks have cost a lot of money, as the honorable member for Scullin has rightly pointed out, let us advocate in this Parliament, whenever we get the opportunity, that the valuations for the returned soldiers be kept as low as possible. If that is done, these men who have served this country will go on the land with a chance of making a good living and at the same time will be in a position to produce those goods that we now need so urgently - more urgently, perhaps, than ever before.

The other point I want to make may not be quite so pleasant to the honorable member for Scullin. He has pointed out that fewer people are on the land to-day than was the case some years ago. I have no reason whatever to doubt his figures, but I believe there is an explanation for the position. The explanation is that we have modern machinery now. We have machinery which enables two men to harvest hundreds of bushels of wheat whereas previously many men were required to do the job. Hitherto, bags had to be sewn, and other jobs had to be done by hand' which gave employment to a number of men. To-day, we have bulk handling of wheat, and few employees are required. That is the full answer to the honorablemember for Scullin.

When I came into this Parliament first in 1946, just after the war, when Labour was in power, most of my correspondence was from people wanting tractors, harvesters and all the modern equipment. With the new machinery, two or three times the amount of work can be done with half the number of men. That is all the better for this great continent of Australia because, as everybody knows, we have a labour' shortage. The more labour we can save by using machinery, up to a point - and I admit with Labour supporters that it must be up to a point - the better for this, country.

The honorable member for Scullin alsostated that vast areas of land are not being used in this country.

Mr Peters - Not being used to their fall productive capacity.

Mr TURNBULL - I accept the correction. I want to be right when I use the words of the honorable member for Scullin. His suggestion is quite right in relation tosome places. He said that any one travelling to Canberra through Albury can see vast areas of paddocks without much stock on them. Much the same thing can be seen in my electorate, but there is such a thing as rotation of cropping. The best method is to sow a crop of wheat in one year, miss two years and then sow another crop. If a crop is sown every year on the same land, the returns will rapidly diminish. With the high price of sheep to-day, it does not pay a man to buy sheep and put them on the land, in certain circumstances, although it is an aid to the rotational system. That is the answer to the honorable member for Scullin. There are areas of land that could be brought into greater productivity, but a lot of the paddocks that the city dweller looks at and thinks are not used because he cannot see any stock or crops, are not really neglected. There are reasons, for these things, and this is the place for us to give those reasons when a speech is made, such as that made by the honorable member for Scullin, which is not wholly wrong but is only partly correct.

I want to thank the Federal Government for providing £300,000 for the dried vine fruit growers of Victoria, not as a loan, but as a grant. This Government gave it to them through the Victorian Government. For two years I have been pointing out in this chamber that the dried fruits industry needed all the assistance we could give it. In the dry seasons some years ago, the industry had good drying periods; but over the last four or five years, just when the harvest was ready, down came the rain. That was all right for wheat but it was no good for dried fruits. When the rain came, the crop was absolutely ruined. The grant of £300,000, and the price paid overseas for dried fruits, have given the industry new life. Although this year's crop is very poor, I hope brighter times are ahead for the dried fruits industry.

Before I say something that does not favour the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson), I want to state that I was very delighted, after my advocacy, that he was able to reinstate a news service from stations 3WV and 3WL in western Victoria. It will be remembered that I. mentioned this matter in the House on a previous occasion. I said that on Monday morning we had an all-sports broadcast, and that we had no news service at all from Saturday night until Monday night. That has now been changed, and we have a six-minute western Victorian regional news service on Monday mornings from 3WV and 3WL, followed by four minutes of South Australian news. It was thought at one time that there would not be enough news to fill in the time, but that has not proved to be the case. The time is well filled, and the news is quite interesting. When we tune in to this news broadcast we get all the week-end news, and every one knows that it is. during the week-end that interesting news items are gathered. I can assure honorable members that my constituents and others fully appreciate it. 1 should like now to make some remarks about flood relief. I represent a district that includes 248 miles of Murray River frontage, and the people in my electorate have suffered severely. I had the privilege of submitting to the House, as its first business in this sessional period, a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, the disastrous effect of the flooding of the Murray River and its tributaries. In the short time at my disposal I could not traverse the matter in full detail, nor can I do so now. I have been in the affected area again recently. I went to Swan Hill last Saturday, and one of the results of the flood devastation that was particularly noticeable was the state of the roads. They are just deplorable. The floods have undermined the bitumen and the foundations, and have swept the road material away in many places. Much of the road foundations have been completely destroyed, and it will cost many thousands of pounds to put the roads back into their former condition. I have tried previously to persuade the Government to change the formula that is used for the distribution of receipts from petrol tax. If the whole of the money raised by petrol tax were distributed to the States. Western Australia and Queensland would receive far more than they could use. Every one knows that that is a fact. I suggest that the Government, which is retaining about 5d. of the tax collected on each gallon of petrol, should distribute some of that money, in the form of flood relief, to enable the roads that have been devastated by floods to be repaired. This is a fair proposition, because the tax has been collected from people who transport goods over the roads, and transport vehicles must be enabled to travel again over good roads in these districts if we are to market the products that grow there so prolifically, and if, as the honorable member for Scullin (Mr. Peters) hopes, we are to encourage more people to settle on the land in the future.

The Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) knows very well that when I said that 1 might speak of a matter that is less pleasing to him I referred to the post office at Robinvale, in Victoria. Robinvale is a very progressive soldier settlement area, where the settlers produce, mainly, dried vine fruits. The post office in this town is an old tin shed. It was illustrated in the Melbourne " Argus " some nine or ten months ago. The population of the town some little time ago was only 200 or 300, but now it has grown to about 3,000, and we still have the old tin shed for a post office. I am not complaining too bitterly about this matter, because for some years I have been advocating that a new post office should be built at Robinvale, and the PostmasterGeneral has assured me that provision has been made for it in the Estimates. But it was also provided for in the Estimates last year. I am not sure whether it was in the Estimates for the year before that. However, it is included in the Estimates for this year, and I hope that a start will be made on it. Honorable members can imagine the conditions in a tin shed in northern Victoria in summer, not only for the employees of the department but also for the vastly increased population of the town and district, who have to use this public utility. 1 ask the Postmaster-General to endeavour to expedite this work as much as possible, so that the people of Robinvale may be provided with a post office building worthy of the town.

We have heard many honorable members speaking about railways and some speaking about the port at Portland, and I wish to say a few words on this subject in the short time that remains at my disposal. We have had general discussions on railways, and I believe, therefore, that I am entitled to -speak on this matter. I have advocated on many occasions the construction of a railway from Hay to Ouyen. This is not only my idea; it has been advocated by people in northern Victoria and other places for 25 years or more. A railway line from Hay to Ouyen would provide a rail link from Adelaide to Sydney, obviating the necessity to send goods via Melbourne. This, incidentally, may be a reason why we have not been successful in obtaining this rail link, because the city octopus prefers to have the goods sent through Melbourne, and then through Bacchus Marsh and up a steep grade, where all the loads have to be reduced. If a line were constructed between Hay and Ouyen, and another from Patchewollock to Ouyen, we would have a link with the port at Portland. The honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Erwin) has said that it is time we had a port at Portland, and also one at Eden. J can tell him that the one at Portland is almost an accomplished fact. The work has been going on for some years, and before many more years have passed there will be a first-class deep-water port at Portland. I am most interested in this matter, because I believe that we should send goods from the Mallee district to Portland, and receive goods at that place from overseas and from other parts of Australia. They should then be transported into the north-western part of Victoria without going through Melbourne at all.

An amount of money has been provided in these Estimates for the reception of immigrants, f believe that a lot of immigrants who have been nominated for rural work never get to the country at all. They come to Melbourne and are then sent to the reception depots, and are offered good wages for jobs in the city. Their friends persuade them to stay in Melbourne, and their nominators may never see them. Those immigrants should disembark at places like Portland, from which they can be sent straight to their destinations in the country. They should not be exposed to the cit> lights immediately on their arrival in the country. Many of these immigrants have worked on intensive culture farms, which are little better than market gardens, and which are usually located adjacent to cities. They have been able to go to the cities every weekend, and in some cases every night. If we take them hundreds of miles from a city they will want to get back to it. In orde to start them off on the right track, I suggest that reception depots should be located al places like Portland. The immigrants can then be sent to their jobs in the country, and they will be more likely to stay there.

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