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Thursday, 18 September 1958


Order! I think the Minister would do better to remain silent.

Mr WHITLAM - I was referring to the fact that for the first time for many years when we have been considering this matter, no Government member from Queensland has participated in the debate. I pointed out - the honorable gentleman was seeking advice from his advisers while I did so - that the reason was that those Queensland members could not blame the Labour party for the fact that Queensland did not participate in soldier settlement last financial year and is not participating this financial year. I pointed out that for the whole of last financial year there was an Australian Country party-Liberal party government in Queensland, led by an Australian Country party member, a returned soldier of the First World War, who, I believe, is a property owner and has country interests. I pointed out that this year, too, no appropriation is being made by this Government for Queensland. Is it now quite clear that the old complaint no longer holds water? If this Government really wants soldiers to be settled in Queensland, soldiers could be settled in Queensland directly, in the same way as the Government settles them directly in South Australia, Western Australia, and Tasmania, or it could come to the same agreement with the Queensland Government as it has reached with the New South Wales and Victorian Governments for those governments to carry out the scheme.

The honorable member for Fisher (Mr. Adermann) interjected, stating that it was not the fault of the Queensland Government which had made an approach but of the Commonwealth Government which said that the scheme was petering out and therefore it was too late to come into it. It is quite plain that, whoever is to blame, it is not the Labour party, because the whole of last financial year has gone without anything being done, and the Queensland Government and the Federal Government are alike conservative in complexion and they get on fairly well together. In this financial year, similarly, the Queensland and the Federal Governments are of the same complexion. The responsibility is a Liberal-Country party one, or a Country party-Liberal one.

The old anti-Labour argument will not wash. There is no excuse now, if these governments want to settle soldiers in Queensland. It is in many ways the richest agricultural State in Australia and the part of this country which needs most development. If we are to justify holding such vast tracts in the northern part of this continent, particularly in the tropics, we should spend money on Queensland settlement and on developing the land. We can do it in respect of soldiers, but we are failing to do it.

Mr McMahon - What would you know about it?

Mr WHITLAM - I would know very little more than the Minister. I will concede that. I now turn to the Northern Territory. The honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) asked the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) what was to happen about land settlement in the Northern Territory. That is not a State matter. It is a Commonwealth matter, as it was in the First World War, after it, in the Second World War, and after it, and we have done nothing about it. The honorable member for the Northern Territory, in a question asked without notice on 13th August, said that some months previously he had asked the Minister for Territories whether he would extend the provisions of the scheme to ex-servicemen in the Northern Territory. The honorable member went on -

Tn his reply, the Minister stated that he would ask the Minister in charge of war service land settlement whether he would extend the scheme, now in operation in all parts of Australia, to the Northern Territory so as to allow land settlement benefits to be given to ex-servicemen in that Territory. I now ask the Minister whether he hat had a favorable reply to the representations that he made.

The Minister for Territories replied -

I am grateful to the honorable member for reminding me of this matter. I will pursue it and let him have an answer.

The honorable member for the Northern Territory is not in the chamber at the moment, and I do not know whether he has received an answer, but it is significant that the Minister in charge of war service land settlement (Mr. McMahon), who has been listening intently for the last few minutes, and not interjecting for at least two of them, has not referred to the question of soldier settlement in the Northern Territory, that great tropical area where, if anywhere, soldiers are entitled to be settled, because that Territory is entirely a Commonwealth responsibility.

Mr Luchetti - And had the highest enlistment record.

Mr WHITLAM - Indeed, and it is represented by a returned soldier in this House. Ever since the last war, returned soldiers have represented the Northern Territory. If the Minister who is listening so intently at the table had given an answer to the Minister for Territories in regard to this proposal, I am sure that he would have interjected ere this.

Mr McMahon - It is outside my jurisdiction.

Mr WHITLAM - The Minister for Territories did not say that He said that he would ask the Minister in charge of the scheme about the matter which the honorable member for the Northern Territory had raised with the Minister for Territories some months before. I do not know whether the delay was the fault of the Minister for Territories or of the Minister at the table, but in either case there has been a delay now of some months. The Government cannot plead State responsibility in regard to that area. It cannot say that we have not the finance or the responsibility. There are returned soldiers there whom we are obliged to rehabilitate. We have that large Territory which we should settle if we are to justify our holding it.

Let me recapitulate the points on which I should like the Minister to give a little more information. First, why is it that a year ago he gave the honorable member for Melbourne an estimate of the numbers of those still to be settled, and last month, in answer to my question upon notice he would give no estimate at all? Secondly, how does he reconcile the numbers of those already settled, which he gave in his answer to me, with the figures which appear in Commonwealth publications and which were given by Mr. Colquhoun, the director of the scheme, to the returned servicemen's league? Thirdly, why is it that in the last year the Government made no provision for a resumption of soldier settlement in Queensland, and why does it make no such proposal this year? Fourthly, why is it that no proposal is yet made by this Government, after nine years in office, for soldier settlement in the Northern Territory? Lastly - this is the real crux of the matter - how long will it be before the Federal Government can estimate when the exservicemen, whom it has promised to rehabilitate and whom it has the constitutional power to rehabilitate, will in fact be rehabilitated in this fashion, which they desire, and which the country requires?

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.

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