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Thursday, 18 September 1958


Mr FORBES - I accept the correction, but deplore the motives of the honorable member for Hindmarsh in making it.


Mr CLYDE CAMERON (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - As the honorable member has driven so many of his fellow members out of the chamber, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I think we should bring them back again. I direct your attention to the state of the House. [Quorum formed.]


Mr FORBES - As I was saying, recently, in this House, I asked the Minister if he would agree to continue the war service land settlement scheme insofar as it applied to South Australia beyond June, 1959. Subsequently, in a written reply, the Minister indicated to me that the Government was not prepared to do that. That did not mean, of course, that all war service land settlement activity would cease in June, 1959, in South Australia, but only that no further propositions would be considered after that date.


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER - Order! The honorable member for East Sydney will apologize for making an offensive noise in the chamber.


Mr Ward - I only-


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER - Order! The honorable member will apologize or I shall name him.


Mr Ward - I apologize.


Mr FORBES - My reason for asking this question of the Minister was the special! circumstances which exist in South Australia compared with the other States in relation to the amount of land available. In South Australia, the availability of suitable land for war service land settlement, or for any other purpose connected with agriculture for that matter, is limited, mainly by the fact that only a very small proportion of the large land area of South Australia is in an assured rainfall zone. If the war service land settlement scheme is discontinued after June of next year, many people will not receive farms under thescheme. Probably 200 people who are classified for war service land settlement purposes would be available to go on the land to-morrow if farms were available for them. If there were no more land available for this purpose, I would agree, reluctantly, that the scheme should be wound up after all applications lodged up till June of next year had been satisfied. But I do not believe that no more land is available. Driblets of land have been becoming available over the last few years from the most surprising and unanticipated quarters. These driblets have enabled farms - admittedly not many - to be provided for exservicemen. I emphasize that the availability of this land was unanticipated and unexpected. Surely if the unanticipated can come about in 1958, it might do so in 1959, in 1960, in 1961 and in future years. In other words, small areas of suitable land will continue to become available, and if the scheme were continued, more ex-servicemen could be settled on farms. Of course, a time will come when the eligible people are too old to take advantage of the scheme. I do not suggest that the scheme should be continued beyond that point. Certainly, that point has not yet been reached, and I do not think it will be reached next year, in the year after, nor for many years to come. I think that we should be prepared to continue the scheme for as long as the South Australian Government is prepared to put up propositions for consideration.

Even if only 30 or 40 persons were settled in the next five years, surely the continuation of the scheme would be worth while. Why not continue it? If the South Australian Government were able tomorrow to find land on which to settle all the people on the waiting list, the Commonwealth Government should cheerfully pay for it. Why not continue for a further period that readiness to pay? The sum of money involved would be no greater over the longer period than if it were all paid next year.

The purpose of the war service land settlement scheme, as I understand it, is to settle eligible ex-servicemen. That is our responsibility, so far as it is possible to carry it out. We should, I believe, continue to accept that responsibility so long as it is within our power to do so. So long as there is a possibility that land will become available, we have it in our power to exercise that responsibility, and we owe it to the ex-servicemen to do so.

I have been told that one of the reasons for wanting to wind up the scheme in June of next year is that the governments of Victoria, New South Wales and other participating States desire it to be wound up and that, for the sake of tidiness, it should be wound up. To me, a more important aspect than tidiness in a matter such as this is the question of whether we have fulfilled our obligations to date, and whether there is an opportunity for us to continue the scheme. Whatever the governments of New South Wales, Victoria, or the other States may desire in this respect, the fact remains that the South Australian Government does not want the scheme wound up next year. The South Australian Government is responsible for finding the land, for administering the scheme in South Australia, and for putting up propositions to the Commonwealth. If that government, as the responsible authority, thinks ' that land might become available in the future, I feel that the Commonwealth Government should accept its opinion. It is much more important that some of the remaining eligible exservicemen should be given an opportunity to settle on the land than that we should end the scheme for the sake of tidiness. I ask the Minister to reconsider his decision to wind up the scheme in June, 1959.







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