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Wednesday, 10 September 1958

Mr JEFF BATE (Macarthur) .- The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) gave one the impression that he and a small number of his colleagues are the only people who care for those who are unfortunate enough not to have good homes. He chided us with not taking sufficient care to see that everybody has a home. The only way to judge whether we have done enough is to look at what has been done by other governments. We have been hampered by the fact that there is not an unlimited supply of building materials or of capable builders. The honorable member for Cunningham (Mr. Kearney) said that the New South Wales Government had built 47,000 houses. When that Government came into power ten years ago, it promised to build 90,000 houses in three years. The cry " 90,000 houses in three years " rang in everybody's ears, but we find that that Government has built 47.000 houses instead of 90,000, and that it has built them in ten years instead of three.

What did the members of the New South Wales Labour Government - the friends of the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) - do last year? They received £8,000,000 from the Commonwealth Government under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. With that £8,000,000 they built fewer houses than South Australia built with the £2,500,000 it received from the Commonwealth. South Australia matched the Commonwealth grant on a £l-for-£l basis. It added £2,500,000 to what it received from the Commonwealth and with that money it built more houses than the Cahill Labour

Government built with its £8,000,000. The Cahill Government did not add one penny to the money it received from this Government.

Mr Daly - That is not right.

Mr JEFF BATE - All that the honorable gentleman can do is to interject, " That is not right ". Honorable members opposite ought to be ashamed to raise the issue of housing in this chamber when they are doing nothing worth while in respect of housing. The New South Wales Government accepted £8,000,000 from the Commonwealth, did not add a penny to that amount and built fewer houses than South Australia built with £2,500,000. That is a situation of which honorable members ought to be ashamed. They ought not to raise the matter here, seeing that they have fallen down on the job. They are more interested in the wretched fights inside their party. They cannot build anything; all that they can do is destroy, and in order to cover up their weaknesses they try to criticize our side. I repeat that with £8,000,000 the Cahill Government built fewer houses than South Australia built with £2,500,000. One could go on repeating that, because it shows where Labour stands on this matter. The honorable member for Yarra, in an emotional way, produced a number of cases, but what has his party done to remedy the position? The Labour Government of New South Wales obtained £8,000,000 from the Commonwealth for housing under the formula that has been agreed upon by all the States, but it did not do its job. Just think that over.

There is something a little more wholesome than the Labour party's record in housing about which I should like to speak. In the Estimates before the chamber is a really exciting item in which you, Sir, as the honorable member for Gippsland, ought to be most interested. It relates to one of the activities of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, which has designed a new apparatus - if I may be pardoned for using that word, for lack of a better one. It is a cabinet in which it is hoped to breed magnificent Australian plants. We should not go on trying to grow plants in Australia which were brought here by our forebears from a country whose climate is entirely different from the climate of Australia. The corn which grows in the old country in the summer grows in this country in the winter. During winter the old country is under snow, whereas our winter is warm, or, if it is cold, it is only for a matter of a few days. The Australian Labour party has declared itself to be a nationalist party which devotes and dedicates itself to the welfare of Australia. It ought to be sympathetic towards an organization such as the C.S.I.R.O. which, under this Government, is evolving a cabinet capable of breeding quickly plants which we need in Australia.

The area which you represent, Mr. Temporary Chairman, is blessed with temperate, rainy weather akin to that of the Old Country, but that is not the case everywhere in Australia. Clovers and grasses indigenous to Europe have done best in this country, though they arrived here only by chance. They grow especially well in the Victorian countryside, and on the" Victorian coast, but not in the vast, sun-drenched areas of inland Australia. They do not thrive in the gibber deserts which are so much in need of vegetative cover. We have not always been able to cover the naked earth which we found in so many parts of Australia when we first came here.

Now, the Government has provided the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization with a phytotron - not a boxer but a machine, developed only a few years ago in California, which consists of a series of cabinets in which the temperature can be controlled. It is possible to produce day temperatures or night temperatures, darkness or bright sunlight, and a given humidity and evaporation rate It is possible to create perpetual spring, summer, autumn or winter, with the variations found in any region of Australia. This cannot fail to speed up the breeding of plants. When we think of the genius of Farrer in producing our great Australian wheats, we realize what he could have done if he had had a machine such as the phytoti on at his disposal. He could have produced even finer wheat than we have now - wheat with a better baking quality and a high yield.

To-day, we look for legumes that will grow not only in the smiling countryside of the Gippsland but also in the vast naked deserts of the interior. We need clover, both annual and perennial, creeping lucerne and so on. I refer to those grasses because of their importance to Australia. This continent has had an unfortunate weather history. lt had 5,000 years of extremely wet weather and then 5,000 years of extremely dry weather. This apparently leached all the nitrogen out of the soil, and nitrogen can be restored cheaply by the use of legumes and clovers only. We need legumes which will restore nitrogen to the soil of northwest New South Wales, western Queensland and the Territory and place new layers of soil on the naked gibber deserts. If we are civilized and really enterprising we shall not have the deserts encroaching on us but will, instead, encroach upon the deserts. By the use of the phytotron thousands of acres of new country can be brought into production, and farmers who are at present battling on so-called marginal areas can be helped to obtain a good living.

Our researches should not be restricted to grasses. On the east coast of Australia the fruit fly has almost put our orchards and kitchen gardens out of commission. In Adelaide one is always able to obtain fruit in plenty, but on the east coast of New South Wales it is almost impossible to grow fruit successively. The plant breeder must come in and help here too. I invite honorable members to think of the 7,500 different species of wild flowers found in Western Australia alone; to consider our mallees and our beautiful flowering gums. The plant breeders can use their skills to produce flowering shrubs and trees finer than can be seen anywhere in the world. The carnation and the chrysanthemum - in common with many other favourite flowers - were produced by plant breeders in other countries and subsequently brought to Australia. The phytotron will make it possible to achieve in a few years what has taken centuries elsewhere. Australia will soon begin to have plants of its own and will not have to depend upon plants brought here by chance.

I remind honorable members that subterranean clover, which covers so much of Australia and is worth even more to us than is myxomatosis, came here in the straw of a packing case - perhaps originating in the Mediterranean area. Twenty years passed before the farmers could convince the agricultural scientists and departments of its worth. Now, the scientist will be able to give us the plants that we need. If I may use a time-honoured phrase, I congratulate and thank the Government for producing a phytotron - something of which the C.S.I.R.O. has hitherto only dreamed. It will give us so many of the things that we need to make this a wonderful country.

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