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Wednesday, 19 June 1946

Mr SPEAKER (Hon J S Rosevear (DALLEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) -As objection has been taken, the figures may not be , incorporated in Hansard.

Mr DEDMAN - In what figures is the honorable member for New England particularly interested ?

Mr Abbott - In the area approved as suitable.

Mr DEDMAN - That information is as follows: New South "Wales western land leases, 829,799 acres; New South Wales, 302,167 acres; and New South Wales group settlement - that is what is termed a " promotion scheme " under the New South Wales act - S30 acres. This is the only promotion scheme which has been submitted by New South Wales and it has been approved by the Commonwealth Government. A promotion scheme is one in which a small number of ex-servicemen, in this instance, three, combine and decide to buy an estate. The price must he suitable, and must be agreed to by the Commonwealth and State authorities. Areas approved as suitable in other States are as follows: Victoria, 63,940 acres; Queensland, 414,991 acres,' South Australia, 64,189 acres; Western Australia, 90,072 acres; Tasmania, 134,516 acres. The total area approved as suitable throughout the whole Commonwealth is 1,400,477 acres. Having read the figures required by the honorable member for New England, I now ask the permission of the House to incorporate the complete table in Hansard.

Mr Archie Cameron - I object.

Mr DEDMAN - The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), is not prepared to allow this valuable information to be incorporated in Ilansard; but I shall make available to any honorable member who is interested a copy of the table.

On the Estimates for the financial year 1945-46 the Department of Postwar Reconstruction provided an amount of £3,000,000 for war service land settlement. Of that sum nearly £2,000,000 has already been expended.

Mr McEwen - How many exservicemen have been settled on the land?

Mr DEDMAN - As I explained, there are two methods by which exservicemen may be assisted to settle on the land. I have explained the difficulties regarding one type of scheme, namely, the acquisition of estates, their subdivision, and making them available as individual farms. I shall now deal with the other method.

Mr McEwen - How many exservicemen have been settled on land?

Mr DEDMAN - Only a very small number.

Mr McEwen - But how many?

Mr DEDMAN - I cannot give the honorable member an accurate figure, but I have already informed him that in both New Zealand and Canada the numbers of ex-servicemen that have been settled is also very small. So far as my information goes, in neither New Zealand or Canada has any one been settled on theland as the result of this type of land settlement policy.

Mr McEwen - We have similar information about the position in Australia.

Mr DEDMAN - I think that a few have been settled, but -I am quite prepared to admit that they are very few. However, this is not the only method of assisting ex-servicemen to settle on the land. Provision is made for advancing loans to them. Honorable members opposite contended that the amount of the loan should he greater than the Government is providing. The honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) suggested a maximum of £3,000. The Government is at present considering the matter, but I point out that the amount of the loan, £1,000, was contained in the Reestablishment and Employment Act, and while that legislation was being considered in this chamber, honorable members opposite did not criticize that provision. And well might that be, because when an antiLabour government was in office after World War I., the maximum, that exservicemen could extract from it by way of a loan was an amount of £250. This' Government has provided an amount of £1,000, which if four times greater than the loan that the anti-Labour Government was prepared to advance.

Mr Anthony - That is a misstatement. The amount was £625.

Mr DEDMAN - This matter is now receiving consideration.

Mr Anthony - The Minister has made a. deliberate misstatement.

Mr SPEAKER - Order ! If the honorable member for Richmond interjects again, I will name him.

Mr Anthony - I rise to order. The Minister said that the maximum amount that the anti-Labour government provided by way of loan for ex-servicemen after World War I. .was £250, whereas it was £625.

Mr SPEAKER - That is not a point of order. My advice to the honorable gentleman now is that he subside.

Mr DEDMAN - It is very simple for honorable members opposite, or for any one else, to advocate that the loan to ex-servicemen should be greater than the amount proposed, but we must remember that a certain relationship must be preserved between the amount which the Government is prepared to lend to an ex-serviceman who settles on the land, and the amount which it is prepared to advance to an ex-serviceman who engages in another occupation. It is quite obvious that a disparity of any magnitude cannot be allowed in advances as between different classes of returned men. There must be some relationship between the amount to be advanced to a man who desires to open a grocery business and a man who desires to take up land. That is one of the matters which the Government will have to consider when it is reviewing the total amount of advance that is to be made available to ex-servicemen for rehabilitation purposes. The one point on which the representatives of the returned soldiers organizations who met me in Canberra last week for discussions on land settlement disagreed with me was as to the amount, of money to be advanced. Whilst it is true that land settlement under the acquisition scheme has not proceeded as speedily as we would have liked, the other scheme of assisting returned men has gone ahead. As the honorable member for Barker refused me permission a little earlier to incorporate certain figures in Hansard and obliged me to read them L suppose I shall have to read another set of figures. The table is as follows : - '


The reason why fewer applications have been approved in Victoria- is that the Country party Government which was in power in that State until the end of last year failed to take any steps to establish an authority to deal with the matter. Nevertheless an amount, of nearly £.1,000,000 has been approved for expenditure on rural loans.

Mr Archie Cameron --Is the small number of applicants from Tasmania due to the fact that a Labour Government is in power there?

Mr DEDMAN - From now on, I shall take no notice of interjections by the honorable member for Barker. I have dealt with two aspects of ex-sold lei land settlement. The honorable member for. Indi (Mr. McEwen) referred to 'condition.1; in the Northern Territory. I have examined this subject in collaboration with the Minister for the Interior (Mr.- Johnson), and it is apparent to us that because of the policy applied by previous government'; of granting long-term leases in the Northern Territory practically no land suitable for the settlement of exservicemen is available there. However, as these long-term leases expire, the position will be reviewed to ascertain whether suitable land has thereby become avails able.

Mr McEwen - I do not know whetherthe Minister is speaking without his book, but the fact is that nearly 25 per 'cent.- of the leases there are due for resumption, as the Minister for the Interior should know.

Mr DEDMAN - I shall not take any more notice of the interjections of the honorable member for Indi than I intend to take of those of the honorable member for Barker. The honorable gentleman is only in this House as the result of a political accident and he may shortly . cease to be a member of it by another such accident. The Commonwealth Government is doing its utmost to settle ex-servicemen on the land. Even the honorable member for Indi admitted that difficulties were bound to occur in regard to the acquisition of land for subdivision into suitable areas for farms for exservicemen. In spite of all the difficulties, the Government is going ahead with its plans to settle ex-servicemen on the land as speedily as possible, and our progress is as rapid as that of any other country in the world. Honorable members opposite cannot have it both ways. Like honorable gentlemen on this side of the chamber, I have no doubt that they take pride in the fact that no other country in the world made a more supreme war effort than did Australia, to cite the testimony of General MacArthur. If we had not concentrated all the resources of this country on the war effort right to the end of the war,we could have done more preparatory work in connexion with the settlement of ex-servicemen on the land, but we were not prepared to withdraw engineers, surveyors and other skilled personnel from the services in order to do such preparatory work on a grand scale. The Government makes no apology for that. Since fighting ceased, everything that could be done to expedite land settlement of exservicemen has been done by the Commonwealth Government and, in spite of certain difficulties, I believe that the State Governments also have made very good progress in that connexion. I cannot do better than read the following paragraph from the report of the Rural Reconstruction Commission, which refers to the danger of dealing too hastily with these matters, and thus has relation to some honorable gentlemen opposite: -

One of the greatest problems governments will have to face in implementing any rural scheme for re-establishment of ex-members of the services will be the pressure of ill-informed public opinion influenced by public statements. Such statements too often emanate from the job-seeker, the land-seller seeking a profit, the badly-informed self-styled patriot, or local interests thinking selfishly in terms of the number of men settled and the amount of money spent in the district, instead of in terms of the number of men who can be successfully settled in the district. It is not patriotism, nor is it political wisdom, to urge governments to embark upon projects which cannot stand the test of expert analysis, and can only result in hardship and disillusionment for the individual, as well as an immense waste of public money, and a setback to agricultural progress in Australia. Governments and their administrations must approach the task with a' firm resolve to resist this type of pressure, and are entitled to look to soldiers' organizations and . the press for support in doing so.

The statement that I read earlier shows that the Government has the support of ex-servicemen's organizations in this regard. The Government is determined that, as far as the Commonwealth is concerned, the interests of ex-servicemen will remain the first consideration of the administrators of our land settlement schemes. We shall refuse to be stampeded into ill-advised plans and projects which have been advanced by honorable gentlemen opposite.

Question put -

That the words proposed to be left out (Mr. Anthony's amendment) stand part of the question.

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