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Thursday, 18 September 1958

Mr WHITLAM (Werriwa) .- Mr. Speaker,I should like the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon), in closing this debate, to shed a little more light on the number of applicants who are still waiting to be settled on the land.

Mr McMahon - I have already done that in answer to a question asked by the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell). If the honorable member for Werriwa listened to the answers given to questions, or read the answers to questions on notice, he would have the information that he requires. He can get it from the honorable member for Melbourne.

Mr WHITLAM - But the Minister was unable to give me such an answer before when I asked a simpler question.

Mr McMahon - If the honorable member had asked it on notice, he would have got the information that he wanted.

Mr WHITLAM - The Minister will have an opportunity to address the House later. I hope that he will not get testy when he gives the information that we want. In order that the Minister may be prepared to give an answer on this matter, I refer him to the answer which he gave me on 19th August - it -appears at pages 522 and 523 of " Hansard " - when I asked this same question before. I realize that it is not easy for him to say how many applicants are still waiting to be settled. I see considerable force in his reply that he depends for his information on figures given by the five participating States. Nevertheless, it is surely important to get some idea of how many are still to be settled because that is the only way we can learn when soldier settlement will be completed and when our responsibility will have been fulfilled.

It ought to be trite, but few people seem to remember, or to make reference to the fact, that the Commonwealth is interested in land settlement of ex-servicemen as part of its defence power. That is the power under which it prepares for the defence of the country, carries out the defence of the country and rehabilitates those who have participated in the country's defence. We would not be concerned with war service land settlement, war service homes or repatriation if it were not for the fact that defence is the Commonwealth's obligation. Consequently, the settlement on the land of ex-servicemen - the only form of land settlement, of breaking up estates or intensified use of our land, in which we can participate - is achieved under the defence power.

Those whom we are proposing to settle were demobilized, in general, thirteen or fourteen years ago. We have the responsibility of settling them, and it is important to know to what extent we are discharging that responsibility. It is difficult to get satisfactory figures as to how many persons have, in fact, been settled even in recent years.

You will remember, Mr. Speaker, that on 15th September, 1955, the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes), who was then Minister in charge of this matter, enunciated a plan under which it was hoped that the settlement of soldiers would be completed in three years; yet we find that it has not been completed. The Minister of that day did not give any precise estimates, but he recited this passage, and I suppose that he was referring to New South Wales -

In one State it has been estimated that approximately 1,200 genuine applicants, who have made the land their main occupation since the end of the war, are still waiting for blocks. It is hoped that that State will be able to allocate 400 new blocks each year for the next three years.

If the honorable member was referring to New South Wales - and he did not say exactly - there is no doubt that that objective has not been achieved. If he was referring to any other State, still less has it been achieved. I shall refer the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon) to two groups of figures, and I should be glad if he would reconcile them for me. First, I refer to the number of persons who had been settled under this scheme in the various States at the time the three years' period commenced; that is, at the beginning of July, 1955. Here I quote the figures in the " Commonwealth Year-Book " for 1956. One can find the figures for the ensuing year - that is up to the end of June, 1956- in " Hansard " of 9th October, 1956, when the present Minister gave an answer to the honorable member for Scullin (Mr. Peters). He repeated the figures in his own speech two days later, as reported at page 1377 of "Hansard". One can find the figures for the year to the end of June, 1957, in the Department of the Interior's publication, " Facts and Figures No. 54 ". I do not know where one could find the figures up to the end of June, 1958 - the concluding period of the three years. One can find them up to the end of December last in the report by Mr. Colquhoun, Director of War Service Land Settlement, to the National Executive of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen's Imperial League of Australia, which appears in the executive's annual report for the year ended 31st December, 1957, to be presented at the league's congress on 27th October next.

Let me cite the case of New South Wales. At the beginning of the three years and in the following periods the figures were -


In the answer that the Minister gave me on this matter on 19th August last, he told me the holdings allotted in New South Wales in each of the last financial years were -


You will notice, Mr. Speaker, that the figures do not tally. I now give the respective figures for Victoria from the sources that I first cited -


According to the Minister's reply to me on 19th August, the figures for Victoria relating to holdings allotted were -


The same disparity occurs in the case of all five States which participated. I have not mentioned Queensland. I would be interested to know how many actually have been settled and how many holdings actually have been allotted. I have given the Minister chapter and verse for all the government publications and reports concerned. As for the number of ex-servicemen still to be settled, when this matter was before the House last year, my deputy leader, the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) asked the Minister, by interjection, how many still had to be settled. In answer to his question, the Minister sent a letter giving estimates. I will not give the figures for the individual States. The Minister will be assisted if I remind him that the letter he sent to the honorable member for Melbourne was dated 10th October, 1957. The number that he estimated in that letter still to be settled was less than 4,000 in the five States. If there are fewer than 4,000 still to be settled it will still take many more years than the one for which we are making an appropriation to settle those persons on the land, because in the last year or so we have certainly settled them at only a fraction of that number.

Before I sit down, there are two other matters to which I wish to refer - war service land settlement in Queensland and in the Northern Territory. I refer to the Queensland position purely as a matter of argument because this is the first year I can remember this annual bill coming forward when honorable members from Queensland on the Government side have not accused the Queensland Government of falling down on its responsibilities concerning soldier settlement. They have not participated in the debate this year because there has been a Country party-Liberal government in Queensland for the past thirteen or fourteen months. It is led by a member of the Country party. He is a returned soldier from the first war and, I believe, a thoroughly honest, decent man. The Queensland Government has, I understand, taken no steps whatever in the field.

Mr Adermann - It approached the Commonwealth Government to come into the scheme, but permission was declined because the scheme is on the way out.

Mr WHITLAM - I am glad to hear the honorable member's interjection that the reason for there being no war service land settlement in Queensland is not the responsibility of the Queensland Government, but of this Government.

Mr McMahon - You have not bothered to ask for the facts. You are now jumping to conclusions, and you do not know what you are talking about, as usual.

Mr WHITLAM - You are losing your block.

Mr McMahon - No, I am as cool as I can be.

Mr WHITLAM - The Minister said that I have not asked for information. I did ask for information, and he gave none.

Mr McMahon - About Queensland?

Mr WHITLAM - If the Minister will look at " Hansard " of 19th August, at page 522, he will see where I sought the facts, and I was given no facts about the Queensland position. Sir, let me repeat the question, and you might calm the Minister down, if you can, in the process. I asked the honorable, but choleric gentleman -

1.   How many holdings were allotted, and what expenditure was incurred by the Commonwealth and the State, under the war service land settlement scheme in each State in each of the last three financial years?

2.   How many applicants are still awaiting holdings in each State?

He gave me no information about Queensland's position.

Mr McMahon - Now you are crawling out of it on a different basis.

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