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Wednesday, 13 September 1972
Page: 1361

Mr CORBETT (Maranoa) - Tonight I want to refer to an article in the 'Sunday Mail' of 10th September 1972 written by Jack Lunn. It is headed 'Many Small Towns are Ailing'. It refers to an analysis of post-war population trends by Mr Brian Marsden, a Queensland University lecturer in urban geography. I think that the word 'urban' should be noted. Mr Marsden has done a great disservice to country towns and, like so many university lecturers, shows a deplorable lack of knowledge of the conditions which have caused the problems facing country towns. These problems can and will be overcome. The first major difficulty has been an unprecedented run of drought years with only spasmodic relief. On the law of averages, western Queensland must be due for a return to normal seasonal conditions. The second problem has been low world prices for some primary products, particularly wool and mutton. Due largely to Government action, the price of wool has recovered substantially, and lamb and mutton prices now give a reasonable return to the producers

Against this background, all that is needed for a recovery of the towns in wool growing areas hi particular is a return to normal seasonal conditions plus adequate long term finance. This latter requirement will be dealt with as a result of the undertaking given in the Government's recent Budget. What is needed now in country towns and districts is some understanding and appreciation of the value of the production that comes from these areas and which will continue in the future to contribute in a very substantial way to Australia's general prosperity. Australians resent seeing anyone kicked when they are down, and in effect that is what this article does to our country towns. I do not think that honourable members could imagine anything more depressing for residents of country towns than to read in the article the following words;

Cruel as it may seem, I favour abandoning the outback pastoral centres to their fate, at least for the next 20 years.

I think that that is a very grave disservice to those people who have managed to keep those towns which service the great pastoral industry going. I am not the only one who takes issue on the need to maintain these towns. The statement in the 'SundayMail' of last Sunday comes at a time when these towns need encouragement and assistance more than they needed it at any other time.

We find this sort of discouragement in other areas too. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam), when visiting Dirranbandi, a western town in my electorate, in March gave residents of that town and consequently similar towns no reason to expect that a Labor government had any answer to their problems. The people there were bitterly disappointed because he had nothing to offer and because he showed a lamentable lack of understanding of the difficulties confronting them and the wool industry on which such towns are based. At Dirranbandi he said:

There is no short term or no certain approach to the future of wool. There are not enough markets to take all Australian wool. Most advanced countries are now finding synthetics most adaptable to their needs.

That statement was made in March. It indicates how wide of the mark he was and how close to the mark the Government's policy was, with the Australian Wool Commission buying in the wool and stabilising the industry. I believe that that statement is not out of character for the Leader of the Opposition. It is not out of line with his general thinking. He showed the same lack of sympathy and lack of understanding of country people as long ago as August 1965 when, in a newspaper article headed 'Concentrate on Better Cities', he stated:

Too much attention is being paid to the wishes and needs of rural areas, and too little to the needs of the cities.

Cities and civilisation go hand in hand. By derivation civilised men are those who live in the cities. Pagans are those who live in the country.

That was what the Leader of the Opposition said. It is obvious that people in country towns and rural districts can expect no sympathy from a Labor government.

If people like Mr Marsden, who wrote the article in the 'Sunday-Mail', want to abandon country towns, they have a narrow, biased and uninformed attitude to the people who live in these towns and the districts surrounding them. That statement is not just my opinion. I am very pleased to be able to quote from another metropolitan newspaper. In an editorial on the same subject the Sydney 'Sun' on 17th August said:

This is a nation that owes its existence to what its rural industries earned overseas.

Industries still vital to Australia.

The farmers haven't had much of a break. Not even with the weather.

They don't want charity. Just understanding and the time to pay.

It is not the complete quotation, but the complete quotation would be just as favourable to that point of view. The reason why I speak tonight is to defend these country towns and the people who live in them and the people who live in the districts surrounding them. They have had a gruelling time. They have endeavoured to maintain this section of Australian production. They have not had all the advantages that people living in cities and provincial towns have had. I believe that they have now reached the stage where they could be on the way back. What they need is a run of reasonable seasonal conditions and adequate long term finance.

Mr Marsden,many university academics and other people should recognise the debt that they owe to residents of country towns and rural areas, as was so fairly and effectively acknowledged in the editorial in the Sydney 'Sun' of 17th August. If Australians are not prepared to utilise the great national advantages of the Australian inland, despite the present difficulties, then they are not worthy successors of the people who pioneered this great country and the outback areas of it. I am firmly convinced that western Queensland generally will recover from the difficult conditions that have been suffered over recent years and that in the next few years we will once again see prosperous western towns and districts playing their full part in the progress and development of Australia.

I refute completely the prophecy of gloom of Mr Marsden. I do so because I believe that the drift in population that has occurred has come about as a result of the unusual, exceptional conditions 1 have mentioned. When these conditions are corrected, as they have been corrected as far as the price of wool, mutton and lamb is concerned, we will see a return, with a reasonable, average seasonal condition in those areas. There are lots of interjections. As an indication of how wise the members of the Opposition are, I point out that one of them asked by way of interjection why the Country Party cannot see about producing rain. That gives an idea of how wise the people on the other side of the chamber are. However, the nonsense that they talk now is quite usual.

Mr Duthie - Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I would like to point out that the interjection came from the Liberal Party, not from this side of the House.

Mr SPEAKER - That is not a point of order.

Mr- CORBETT-I disagree with the honourable member for Wilmot. I heard that interjection come from my right. The person who made it is now acknowledging that fact by nodding. So there was no mistake as far as I am concerned. My time is nearly up. AH I want to say in conclusion is that I trust the 'Sunday Mail', which has given large headlines to the rubbishing of towns in Queensland, will give equal prominence to the defence of these towns that I have put up tonight.

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