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Thursday, 10 November 1921

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Repatriation) . - Listening to the earlier remarks of Senator Gardiner, I thought the Government had, perhaps, been really remiss; but before the honorable senator had sat down. I was furnished with reason to doubt whether I had not formed a. hasty judgment. This change of opinion was due to Senator Gardiner's candid admission that, whether the Government did anything or nothing, it was his job to demonstrate, or, at any rate, to assert, that they were in the wrong. I take his remarks to be sincere and genuine, and I compliment the honorable senator upon this rather sudden outburst of unusual frankness. I suggest, however, that he possess his soul for a little longer in patience. The Government have not been as idle, as remiss, as he thinks. As> for his comments concerning the " secrecy " of the Government, I can only say that that word was put to most unhappy and inappropriate use. Because a statement is not made concerning some specific matter the implication must not be accepted that secrecy is being observed thereon. The fact may be that there is nothing to tell. Are Ministers to be expected to announce each day, in the case of the Government doing nothing concerning a certain matter, that there is " nothing doing " 1 It is time enough to talk of secrecy when the Government have committed some act, and have withheld the communication of it to the country. There can be no secrecy when there is nothing to tell.

Senator Gardiner - Then the Minister will not inform honorable senators who is to be High Commissioner?

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - If I did make any such announcement at this stage, I might be drawing upon my imagination. If I had not known Senator Gardiner foi" many years as a humourist - conscious or unconscious - I would have been staggered upon hearing him advocate the closing of Australia. House. In direct conflict with the proposal for its abolition, there are the observations of Senator Foll - indorsed, apparently, by honorable senators generally - that there should be more publicity, and not less, in- the interests of Australia. in England. There is ample scope to reinvigorate and reform all:airs, at Australia House; but, certainly, there is no warrant for its abolition, and I doubt whether Senator Gardiner would accept the responsibility of casting a vote in support of such a proposal.

Senator Gardiner - In view of the need for economy, I would vote for everything and anything that could be done without.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Can Australia afford to do without publicity, either in England or elsewhere, abroad ? The trouble with Australia is not that she is being advertised too much. I know of no country where there is. such an unfortunate tendency on the part of its inhabitants to criticise its institutions. During my recent visit to Europe, I met Amercans who would reel out yards of figures to emphasize how great a country was theirs. When one got to know them more familiarly one would learn that they might have some doubts concerning certain of their public men and institutions; but, always to the stranger, these people from the United States of America took good care to convey the impression that everything was right with "God's own country." How can one be surprised that people overseas hold doubtful views concerning Australia in the light of the comments of Australia's own. sons resident abroad ? My most painful experience was to find that Australians living in London were Australia's sharpest critics.

SenatorFoll. - Were they criticising Australia or its Administrations?

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Both, and with equal freedom. But, in denouncing the Governments of the Commonwealth, they were depicting Australia as an undesirable place to live in. What is required of Australia House is its reorganization and not its abolition. Senator Wilson raised the question of what had been done there to bring about alterations in certain features which he regarded as undesirable. A great deal has been done. Upon setting out on my mission to England I was asked by the Government to examine the whole situation in order to learn what improvements could be effected. I came to the conclusion, after the first cursoryglance into Australia House, that it would be idle to devise reforms and then return to Australia leaving to some one else the responsibility of carrying them out. The only man who can undertake effective reform in. Australia House is the official who is given charge and responsibility, the man whose duty and obligation it is to see to the performance of necessary alterations and improvements. It was. that view which I placed before the Government upon my return, and one. of the earliest duties- assigned to Mr. Shepherd was that he should undertake a close investigation of the staff at Australia House, in order to learn how its work might be made more effective and valuable to the Commonwealth. The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), upon his recent return, made a public statement which, in its essence, was parallel to that of Senator Wilson. The Prime Minister stated that he was surprised and disappointed to find at Australia House a large number of' officials who had lost touch with Australia and its affairs. Steps are now being taken to see that the staff shall- be equipped to speak with the living voice1 of Australia; that is to say, with personal knowledge and experience- of conditions existing here in these times. That objective, however, cannot be brought about in a day. The changes and transfers must cover a somewhat lengthy period. At any rate, the whole position has to be recognised and appreciated by the Government.

With respect to immigration, I trust that Senator Wilson will not take exception to what I am. about to say, but it is a commonplace nowadays for one to assert that Australia needs immigrants but that they must be of the right type. Quite so! The trouble is not in getting men of the right type. The difficulty is at this end, in malting preparation for new citizens of the right type. There is no need to bother about securing them. If Australia were to hold up her hand in London she could gather, within fortyeight hours, more men of the right kind than she could ship out here and adequately provide for.

Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) - And jolly good men, too.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Yes. But there must be some prior organization, developed and active, to receive and absorb immigrants upon reaching our shores. It is of no use to dump them down, either in our cities or in the bush, and tell them to go ahead and make a living. Preparation, and the right kind of preparation, must be made beforehand. The principal form of such preparation is by way of land settlement; but that is a matter which is fraught with difficulties. We look to land settlement for the absorption of the great majority of newcomers. But Australia is struggling to-day to- provide land for her comparatively few soldier settlers; these latter number, in all, about 30,000 men.

Tremendous effort has been spent in adequately providing for the latter, and, because of the urgency of the task, it has. been carried out in somewhat more costly fashion than would have been the -case had more time been available. Further, with respect to land settlement, the whole undertaking is rendered more difficult because of divided authority between States and Commonwealth. That division constitutes a severe stumbling block. There are the States, with the land and with the land jurisdiction; and there is the Commonwealth, in control of immigration. The Federal Government have endeavoured - not without some measure of success- to agree upon a basis, with the States, for the inauguration of a system which appears1 to me to be the only safe and sound one, and by means of which it is hoped to maintain a. vigorous immigration policy. That is in the direction of developmental works associated with land settlement, thus placing ourselves in a position to honestly invite men to coane and settle on Australia's soil. I would shrink from going on a platform in England to-day and asking men to journey to Australia., without capital, and without expectation or promise of being provided with land on which to establish homes and make a living for themselves and their families. There are many difficulties, with which honorable members are familiar, in settling people on the land. It is a difficult thing for men without money to get holdings in Australia.

Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) - It 'is a difficult thing in any country.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I want to be practical. I am appealed to by the slogan, " A million farms for a million farmers." I would .be much more appealed to by a slogan, " Two million farms for two million farmers."

Senator Gardiner - If the Commonwealth Government put Sir Joseph Carruthers in charge of an immigration scheme, and gave him a free hand, he would settle the thing very quickly.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - If the honorable member believes that statement I must respect his opinion, but I prefer my own. Senator Guthrie has suggested that it is a difficult thing in any country to settle people on the land. I agree that it is. In my judgment, after having studied the matter, the difficulties in the initial stages of settlement are greater in Australia than in other countries. The advantages after the first stile has been overcome are infinitely greater here. The difficulties in the initial stages are greater in Australia, for instance, than in Canada. Much less money will set a man on his feet there than here, although, after the first two or three years, the balance is all in favour of Australia. But it is of no use shutting our eyes to the fact that there are difficulties associated with land settlement in Australia. Those difficulties spell money.

Senator Wilson - The difficulties are 60 per cent, worse to-day than they were six years ago.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - There is .no difficulty with the men who come here with capital. They can acquire holdings. I take it that when we talk of immigrants we are not so much thinking of that limited class, but of the larger class who are looking for financial assistance from the Government. Take the example of the settlement of our soldiers. I cannot speak definitely, but I venture to say that the cost has not been less than £2,000 per man, taking the value of the' land into account. How many settlers are we going to bring out on those terms ? Sir Joseph Carruthers has said, " A million farms for a million farmers, at a cost of £30,000,000." That .amount of money would not pay their passages at the present moment.

Senator Foll - Sir Joseph Carruthers' statement does not mean that it would be necessary to pay £30,000,000 down, when the men go on the land.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - It might not be paid at once, but it would have to be paid.

Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) - Does the Minister say that Sir Joseph Carruthers stated that 1,000,000 farmers could be settled on the land for £30,000,000?

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I must decline to say what Sir Joseph Carruthers said in detail, but the slogan on his banner is, " One million farms for one million farmers for £30,000,000." He himself must explain how he can get such wonderful results for such a comparatively small sum of money. To attempt to bring a million, or even half a million, farmers out here in any short space of time would spell disaster. A lot of preliminary work has to be done.

The day has gone by when we can bring a man to Australia and throw him into the bush with an axe and a shovel. Modern conditions are necessary for him to succeed. He must have a modern plant and a modern outfit.

Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) - The high Protective Tariff has made a modern plant very difficult to purchase.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Does not the honorable gentleman think that the subject of immigration is sufficiently complicated without introducing the Tariff?

SenatorFoll. - Is it not better to spend a lot of money on immigration, and get something for it, than a little for no result? It appears to me that a niggardly amount' is being spent at the present time, and that no return is being obtained.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - It is quite incorrect to say that Australia is getting no return for the money that is being spent on immigration. A considerable number of nominated immigrants are being assisted to come out here. They are nominated by their friends, who undertake to look after them when they arrive. An appreciable number of these immigrants are coming to Australia, but nothing like the broad stream that we want. There is much to commend this system, because the immigrants come to personal friends, who take the responsibility of placing them in the industrial world. I merely indicate the view of the Government in the matter, that it is impossible successfully to bring people out to Australia unless some preparatory work is done before they arrive.

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