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Wednesday, 26 June 1946

Mr SMITH (Wakefield) .- I propose to make some observations regarding the coal situation. Although I do not set myself up as an authority upon this very black question there are one or two matters relating to the coal position in South Australia which I believe should be brought before honorable members. I have noticed that the Premier of South Australia has claimed that the 'industries of his State have been able to keep going because supplies could be augmented by the output of the Leigh Creek mine. I give him full credit, but if he were fair to Himself, and the people, he would give to the State Labour Opposition credit for its assistance in the development of that field and the Commonwealth Government credit for having contributed about £150,000 towards the cost. But for the support of the Labour party in South Australia, there 'would have been no development of the Leigh Creek coal-field, because the Legislative Council was unsympathetic and would otherwise have thrown the bill out. That should be known by members of this Parliament and the people generally. Other so-called socialistic measures put through the South Australian legislature, such as the act relating to the control of the supply of electric lighting, would not be law to-day but for the Labour party. I give the Premier full credit for having forced those measures through the State Parliament, but he should be honest and tell the people that he could not have done so without the help of the Opposition. It is a pity, too, that the Adelaide Advertiser does not give the Labour party due credit. As far as useless and unnecessary lighting is concerned, I think South Australia could reduce the use of electricity more than it has done. Neon signs, which remain in full blaze, ought not to be allowed while the position is desperate. Every one was delighted to be able to celebrate Victory Day, but I see no reason why the authorities kept the electric illuminations on for a week after the day had been celebrated. That wasted more coal. 1 congratulate the Rural Reconstruc-- tion Commission on its seventh report, headed "Rural Amenities". The commission went to great pains to hear evidence and make its decisions, which have a vital bearing not only on primary production but also on how the amenities of those engaged in primary production can be immeasurably improved. This report goes further than other reports on rural problems; in that it recommends that country life be made more attractive. That is necessary if we are to use this wonderful country to the best advantage. As I have said many times and as the reports bear out, the bulk of our population is concentrated in the city areas. It will not be otherwise unless country life is made more attractive. The commission clearly shows how it can be. I agree with the recommendations because, for one thing, any one who has made even a casual examination of the dwellings in which the country people have to live will agree with the commission that those dwellings must be brought into conformity with city standards. I quote from the report, page 17 -

State rural credit authorities should be asked to co-operate by adopting as principles of loan policy -

I.   The maintenance of satisfactory standards of housing on properties on which loans are secured; and

2.   where necessary, the extension of existing loans to enable existing houses to be replaced or improved to the requisite standard.

Where farm-owners desirous of bringing the farm dwellings up to the requisite standard are unable to obtain the necessary accommodation because of existing mortgages and the reluctance of their mortgagees to extend accommodation, they should be encouraged to seek accommodation, and, if necessary, financial reconstruction from the State rural credit authorities.

I have always contended that the Commonwealth Bank should take over the mortgages of primary producers, particularly settlers. It could then advance them sufficient money to make the needed alterations. As the commission states, in quite a number of cases the extra expenditure would not be more than £300 or £400. The owners should be allowed to transfer the mortgages to the Commonwealth. Bank at the lowest possible interest rate, not more, I should say, than 3 per cent. Then the expenditure of £300 or £400 on the improvement of a primary producer's dwelling would add only about £10 or £15 to his annual commitments. The expenditure would be well worth while, because the- settlers would be contented, and contentment would mean that production would increase. The commission also recommends on page 17 -

Mass production of efficient refrigerators, to be available to farm dwellers at a reasonable cost, should be considered by the appropriate authorities. If such utilities were available the incidence of gastric troubles, especially among children during the summer months, would be reduced.

That contention is right, for I know that in the northern part of South Australia, where the climate is tropical, refrigeration has been the means, not only of improving children's health, but also of preserving food, which is of great importance owing to the world shortage of food. For that reason alone refrigeration is needed, but equally important it helps to make life more enjoyable. I was pleased to be told by the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Johnson) that he hoped that refrigeration soon would be available for men working on the north-south line. If anybody needs that amenity the men outback certainly do.

Another matter of importance on which the commission has made recommenda tions is water conservation, which, as I think all honorable members will agree, is essential to development. Since I have been the representative of Wakefield in this Parliament I have spoken on the subject of water conservation in and out of season, so I was pleased to read the commission's recommendations thereon. There are many rivers in Australia, possibly small, the water of which could be stored and made use of if weirs, similar to that built on the Molonglo River at Canberra, which serves also as a bridge, replaced bridges of the old type, whose only purpose is to provide a crossing. Between Adelaide and the Northern Territory there are many rivers that flow, I admit, only spasmodically, but millions of tons of water could be conserved by such weirs. Without water there cannot be production.

Another matter of great concern to the people in the outlying districts is the provision of telephonic communication. On that matter the commission has made a recommendation with which I thoroughly agree, because I know the difficulties that the peopleoutback have to contend with through not having telephone facilities. The use of the pedal wireless in the sparsely settled parts of Australia was established as an ancilliary of the flying doctor service inaugurated by the Bight Reverend John Flynn. The flying doctor service has conferred great benefit on the settlers. Irrespective of whether a man is white, black, brown or brindle, or whether he has means or whether he is impoverished, the flying doctor service is always at his disposal whenhe requires it. From my own knowledge, people who did not have the wherewithal received the same excellent attention as did those who could afford to pay for it. I refer again to the recommendations in the report -

That the Postmaster-General be asked to review the system of payment for installing telephone lines to now country subscribers so as to reduce the first cost of a new installation and make it possible for more farmers to afford the benefits of the telephone service.

That consideration he given to a scheme whereby an intending farm subscriber can lodge with the appropriate authority a capital sum to cover the whole or part of the cost of a new line, such sum being given taxation concession and also giving the applicant a right to preferential consideration for an installation when materials are again available for such work.

The latest method of wireless telephone communication should be developed as quickly as possible. The PostmasterGeneral's Department makes a profit of several million pounds a year, and a portion of that money should be used to finance the extension of this service to the people of the out-back. At present, the profits made by the Postmaster-' General's Department are paid into Consolidated Revenue. I cannot emphasize too strongly that if we are to develop and populate this country successfully, the people of the out-back must be granted the same facilities and amenities as are enjoyed by those who live in the more densely populated areas.

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