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Wednesday, 19 June 1946

Mr DEDMAN (Corio) (Minister for Post-war Reconstruction and Minster in charge of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research) . - in reply - I have heard more untruths, missstatements and distortions during the course of the debate to-day than I have, heard for a long time. I do not propose to waste, my time in dealing with most of them. I shall content myself with putting the facts before the House and, in doing so, I shall, touch briefly on a few of the most glaring of the misleading and distorted statements made by honorable members opposite. There are two methods of assisting ex-servicemen to establish themselves on the land. First, there is the method of making a loan under certain conditions, and, secondly, there is the method of acquiring individual farms or of resuming large estates, subdividing them into farms and apportioning them to ex-servicemen. The second method has to my knowledge been adopted in three countries, and three only, namely, New Zealand, Canada and Australia. And from the information available to me very, few farms have yet been made available under that scheme in any of the three countries. The reason is perfectly obvious. To acquire large estates, to subdivide them, fence them and erect houses on them, takes quite a long time.. In this kind of assistance to soldiers, however, let it be understood that Australia is as far ahead as any of the other countries that have adopted that method of soldier land settlement.

Mr Anthony - Does the 'Minister say that they, too, -have done nothing? Mr. DEDMAN. - The honorable member is again indulging in distortion. If I were permitted to do so I would use much stronger language to describe his interjection. After the last war land was acquired for the purpose of settling ex- servi.cen.ien. Again it can be said - -and this statement is backed by the opinion of Mr. Eric Millhouse which I quoted earlier to-day - that land settlement of this kind has gone ahead far more quickly under the Labour Government after the* war just concluded than did land settlement, under governments of a different political complexion following the end of the 1914-1S war.

Mr Anthony - That statement is incorrect.

Mr DEDMAN - That is Mr. Millhouse's statement. If I am not believed, perhaps he will be.

Mr Anthony - It is not correct.

Mr DEDMAN - I am in a. very fortunate position in dealing with these matters, because only last week at Canberra I discussed with a body of returned soldiers specially deputed by the federal committee of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen's Imperial League of Australia on land settlement many of the matters debated here to-day, and, with1 the exception of one point, which I shall mention later, they were perfectly satisfied. Those men came from every State. They included Mr. George Holland from Victoria, and, at least, he cannot be charged with being a supporter of the Australian Labour Party. Yet he and the others went away perfectlysatisfied that, with the exception of the one aspect that I intend to deal with later, the Commonwealth Government is dealing as expeditiously with soldier settlement as is possible. I have no doubt that it was because' of that discussion that Mr. Millhouse was able to make the statement that was published in the Adelaide Advertiser.

The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) has raised the matter of eligibility. It is perfectly true that the terms of eligibility laid down in the regulations are pretty strict, hut the plain fact is that, even under those terms, applicants for settlement on the land in Australia are far greater than we shall be able to settle. The net result of widening the scope of eligibility would be that 'we should have far more applicants for settlement than we now have. If honorable members opposite look at the numbers, they will agree, I think, that it will be quite impossible within the next ten or fifteen years to settle on the land all those who have applied for settlement. So .what is the good of widening the scope of eligibility? 1 think it will be admitted by honorable gentlemen opposite that those entitled under the regulations' to apply for land settlement are those most likely to succeed as soldier settlers and are most likely to contribute to the wealth of this country by increased production in the primary field.

Mr Anthony - Does the Minister mean that we cannot settle 2S,000 on the land in twenty years?

Mr DEDMAN - The honorable member is giving his own figure.

Mr Anthony - That is the Minister's figure.

Mr DEDMAN - I have not yet mentioned a. figure. The honorable member is once again making a lying statement.

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