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Thursday, 25 September 1958

Mr WILSON (Sturt) .- This afternoon, honorable members have heard two most extraordinary speeches from the Opposition. The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti) referred to paragraph 34 of the Commonwealth Grants Commission's report, which reads -

In recent years, South Australia has made considerable progress particularly in industrial development, although there have also been significant gains in primary industries and great improvements in agricultural practice.

The honorable member for Macquarie said that because South Australia had made such tremendous progress under the Playford Government, it should be deprived of the £5,000,000 which the Commonwealth Grants Commission has recommended should be paid to South Australia this year.

The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron), who followed the honorable member for Macquarie in this debate, challenged the statement of his colleague. He suggested that it was quite wrong to say that South Australia had made significant gains in primary industries. In his usual way, he painted a very dismal picture of conditions in South Australia. As usual, he has no confidence in his own State. He suggested that workers in South Australia were worse off than workers in other parts of the Commonwealth. If that be so, why is it that workers are coming from every State in the Commonwealth to South Australia? Why is it that South Australia has the lowest rate of unemployment in the Commonwealth? During the last few years, not only has South Australia provided secure and stable employment for its own workers, but it has also absorbed a considerable number of people who have come from the Labour States of Western Australia and New South Wales.

If honorable members will look at the table on page 16 of the report they will find that the rate of population increase in South Australia is greater than in any other State. In other words, South Australia is absorbing more people into industry than any other State. It will also be seen that the net gain from immigration is greater in South Australia than in any other State. Those being the facts, how can the honorable member for Hindmarsh say that workers in South Australia are worse off than workers in any other State? Obviously, workers go to South Australia because conditions are better there, and because employment is more secure and the cost of living is lower. It is correct that the basic wage in South Australia is lower than in other States. That is because the cost of living is lower in South Australia. But the real wage of the worker is substantially greater in South Australia than it is elsewhere.

The honorable member for Hindmarsh, in his pessimistic speech, said that South Australia was not making significant gains in primary industries. He challenged the finding of the Commonwealth Grants Commission that significant gains have been made in South Australia in primary industries. Is he blind to the great development that is going on in the south-east of South Australia, in the Coonalpyn Downs, and through the Adelaide hills, where thousands of acres, which formerly could not carry live-stock, now carry two and three sheep to the acre? Does he shut his eyes to the great advances that have been made as a. result of the use of clovers and trace elements, turning wasteland into highly productive land? The honorable member says that South Australia is not making great strides in primary industries because the number of people employed is no greater now than it was some years ago. That is because the farmers are ever so much more efficient to-day than formerly. They are now able to produce more. Because of the great improvement of their pastures and of water conservation they have been able to build up a profitable rural economy. They can now carry far more stock per acre than was formerly the case.

South Australia has made tremendous progress in primary industries, and that is one reason why the grant to South Australia is becoming lower each year. In spite of South Australia's natural deficiencies - lack of coal, lack of high mountains and lack of rivers, other than the river Murray - it has progressed faster than any other State. As South Australia's income per capita increases its dependence on the Commonwealth decreases. But it is ludicrous for the honorable member for Macquarie to say that because South Australia is fast ceasing to be a dependent State and will eventually stand on its own feet, it should be deprived of this grant. It is just foolish for the honorable member for Hindmarsh to decry South Australia, to run down our farmers, and to suggest that they are not efficient or doing as much as the commission has said they have done in making significant gains in primary industry.

The honorable member referred to decentralization. He repeated the completely erroneous statement that his colleagues in the State have been making for some time, namely, that South Australia is not decentralizing industry. On the contrary, more decentralization is proceeding in South Australia than in any other State. One of the great reasons for the terrific progress in South Australia has been its decentralization programme. Let us look at Whyalla, which is a city established in a desert. A few years ago at Whyalla there was nothing but saltbush and bluebush. There was not a house or a road, and there was hardly any stock; it was desert country. Today we have there one of the most thriving and prosperous centres in Australia, with the resources of Iron Knob providing the wherewithal for the greatest of all secondary industries in Australia, the steel industry.

Let us look at Leigh Creek. As I said, South Australia is deficient in high quality coal, but instead of crying about it our Premier decided to develop the natural resources, although they are undoubtedly inferior. So we have established at Leigh Creek a thriving town which is producing coal for electric power. From the most inferior of all materials South Australia provides the cheapest electrical power in Australia. That is because we have decentralized industry, and because our people have had the courage to go into the country and build thriving cities and towns in what was previously desert waste.

Let us look at the south-eastern town of Millicent. There to-day we have a prosperous cellulose industry, established in waste country, and using land which formerly carried only bush. That country has now been transformed by beautiful pine forests, which produce the cellulose and fibre for one of the biggest industries in Australia.

From our pyrites, we produce superphosphate. The manufacture of sulphuric acid has made South Australia completely independent of imported sulphur. There has been great development in South Australia in the primary industry field, yet the honorable member for Hindmarsh comes along and tells us, first, that we have made no progress in primary production, and secondly, that we have done nothing about decentralization! The honorable member shows that he does not know his own State or understand the optimism of the people there. Ninety per cent, of the people in Australia are proud of- their own States, and of their development, and they do not like to hear one of their representatives running down his own State as the honorable member has done.

The honorable member then came to the question of housing. He omitted to say that South Australia is building, for the money expended, the best houses anywhere in Australia. It is building a tremendous number of houses, and more per head of population than is any other State. They are permanent houses, not wooden structures that will be eaten out by white ants. Our houses are all of cement, stone, or brick. I do not think the people of South Australia, including the electors of Hindmarsh, will welcome the speech of the honorable member, who has run down his own State.

Every member who reads the report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission must realize that the reason why South Australia is receiving a smaller grant this year than it received before, while Labour States are receiving bigger grants, lies in the progress that South Australia has made. The Playford Government has given a tremendous lead in this decentralization and development, but it does not claim the whole credit. The men and women, the trade unionists, and the farmers have, in the right atmosphere, put their shoulders to the wheel and created towns and cities out of deserts. They have turned waste lands into thriving grazing and farming properties. We are going on with this development, in spite of the honorable member for Hindmarsh.

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