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Tuesday, 19 September 1972
Page: 1565

Mr GILES (Angas) - Once again we have the Loan (War Service Land Settlement) Bill before the House. It is not quite an annual event, if my memory serves me correctly, but it has cropped up in many years. Further big sums at this stage are being poured into areas of deficiency in the war service land settlement scheme. One hopes as every year goes by that the necessity for this action will no longer exist but nearly every year we find there is a need for the appropriation of a sum of money for the purposes spelt out in the second reading speech of the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair). 1 do not know how much longer the experts behind the concept of planned settlement imagine that this sort of funding will be necessary. I suppose in saying that it is as well to hark back to the fact that repayments are made, I think, to Consolidated Revenue rather than to any fund for the financing of headworks, blocks or the settlers.

In this case we all tend to talk about the areas we know the best. I am more interested naturally in the $4. 156m allocated to South Australia. In his second reading speech the Minister for Primary Industry numbered off some of the problems of the area and some of the ways in which the funds will be used. I intend to do as the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) did and refer firstly to Kangaroo Island which, although not within my electorate, was certainly an area which I represented for 5i years in the South Australian Parliament. Although I had no direct responsibility as an elected member of the Lower House in those days, it was an area in which interest was taken by those who came from the high rainfall areas in South Australia, as I did. I remember the early struggles of the settlers. It is now 13 years since I first represented Kangaroo Island. I was reminded by a word used in the Minister's second reading speech of the physical limitations of the country at that time. Some of the clearing methods adopted were haywire to say the least and left many of the settlers on Kangaroo Island with paddocks which to this day, I would not mind betting, are not cuttable for the purposes of making meadow hay or silage. Majestic ploughs went into that country and into very wet areas in the rush to clear and develop. They scarred the countryside in a way that would never have occurred under a normal development programme such as the one which my own development block in the south-east of South Australia formed part. To anyone who knew anything about the matter, it was a very second rate method of land clearing which was adopted on Kangaroo Island. So the settlers there had not only this problem to deal with but also the problems mentioned by the Minister, problems such as maintaining flock numbers as a result of losses caused by dystocia - I will come back to that in a moment - transport and marketing difficulties and, to please the honourable member for Hawker (Mr Jacobi) who I can see is fraught with excitement over the whole thing, the problem of union difficulties on the island. The unions can if they wish take advantage of the problems I have mentioned.

But let us get back to the first problem, the biological problem. I am now going back 15 years to the time when dystocia suddenly hit that particular area of South Australia for the first time. At that time dystocia was purely a disease of the early maturing clover regions of Western Australia. The Minister has listed the names of the clovers all of which, I think, originated in Western Australia, and which have the capacity to produce high oestrogen contents which have been responsible for such devastating effects on the sheep population. The principal clover which caused dystocia problems in those days was Dwalganup. It is a subterranean clover. Since then other clovers have become more suspect. Dystocia produced grave difficulties for the settlers. It caused milk production in wethers, and this did not help one bit. It caused a high mortality rate in lambs. What the Minister did not mention in his second reading speech and what was even more devastating was the fact that it caused great infertility in the ewe flocks. In these circumstances, allied with the problems of transport, inaccessibility and poor land clearing methods adopted earlier, dystocia has created a great problem for the war service land settlers in that area.

AH I can do, when I look at the great benefits to be given to this area under this legislation, is to express my wonderment that suddenly this amount of finance is to be made available. In his second reading speech the Minister said that the proposed programme would enable the continuance and enlargement of scientific investigations into these matters, would provide for partial rental remissions and would allow credit for fodder conservation. I shall refer to fodder conservation presently. The programme will deal with the recasting of settlers' accounts in appropriate cases and will make provision to enable creditworthy settlers to pay off stock mortgages. Some of these provisions are part of the normal rural reconstruction measures that the Government has introduced and carried out from time to time.

When I look at this tremendous breakthrough for the settlers of Kangaroo Island I think of 2 people who consistently over a 15-year period battled hard for those war service settlers. The first man cannot stand in this House and stick up for himself. He is the Minister for Immigration (Dr Forbes) whose persistence in these matters is, I think, well acknowledged. The second person is a man who is retiring from politics. He is the State member for Alexandra, which includes Kangaroo Island, Mr David Brookman who was at one time the South Australian Minister of Agriculture. These 2 men have always been tremendous champions of the cause of the settlers in those areas, including a time when I was indirectly representing Kangaroo Island for 5i years in the South Australian Legislative Council. I think also of the determination to wreak some changes and to introduce some constructive thinking on this . matter of the then Minister of Lands in South Australia, Mr Quirke, MP. If I remember correctly he started his political life in the Australian Labor Party. It did not take him long to see the light. Thereafter he spent most of his life as an Independent but he completed his wonderful metamorphosis by becoming the Minister of Lands in the Playford Government before eventually he retired honourably from the unequal struggle. These 3 men are some of the people who made an impact in these areas. However, none of their efforts will have made as much impact as the tremendously worthwhile contribution to those settlers envisaged in the Bill we are now debating, but which is probably due to their efforts.

If I have any complaint about the legislation it is where it states that some of the funds being made available are to be used as credit for fodder conservation. I am not clear what this means. If it means a return to the English system of subsidising anyone who builds a hay shed or if it means finding funds for people to buy conservation materials I think it is an appallingly bad idea which should not be continued. If it is designed to help in parlous circumstances - for instance, in drought conditions - and to give financial help in respect of fodder conservation it may have some merit on a short term basis. My argument here is the same as my argument against the ultimate development of the brigalow country.

If ever an area was plagued by Federal financial help where such help should never have gone it was the brigalow country. I know of one firstclass South Australian family which had some experience in clearing land, even in Queensland. That family would have taken over vast sections of the brigalow country if it had been given any private encouragement. 1 would bet my last dollar that that area would be a damn sight more forward as a rural enterprise had that happened than it is now after having been spoiled by all the Federal help that has been poured into it. However, that is another matter. I am simply being consistent in saying that there are areas where Federal Government assistance should not go. I am sure that fodder conservation, depending what is meant by it in this legislation - no doubt this will be explained to me - is one of those areas where people carry out the necessary procedures far better than does a government. If loans were granted at 3£ per cent to war service land settlers for fodder conservation equipment then that would be entirely excellent and I would go along with it.

In the time remaining to me I must refer to those areas with which I am more directly concerned, namely, the Riverland areas. For a. period of 2 to 3 years now 1 have been most concerned about appeals for a review of valuations of soldier settler blocks in that area. Last year at this time I castigated the Minister by saying that although many appeals had been heard, as far as I could ascertain no action had resulted. As late as July of this year the same situation appertained. I do not have with me at present the details concerning how many appeals were heard but within the last 2 weeks I have heard - this is rumour only - that 3 settlers will have the valuations of their blocks altered as a result of appeals. Quite obviously one of the settlers who is to receive some recompense is entitled to it. He had planted, under this scheme, areas of citrus in frost pockets where they could not hope to continue to produce quality oranges in even 4 years out of 5. Obviously from that circumstance must evolve some alteration to a valuation. This farm contains 2 or 3 acres of soft fruits as well as citrus and these plantings of soft fruits have carried that man, not his major areas of citrus which should have been playing their part in determining his future. In this case there should be a review of valuation. I believe a similar sort of situation applies in 3 of these blocks. However I have heard only indirectly and not officially that there will be some alteration to their valuations. Evidently in no case has the valuation of a farm been lowered other than in those instances I have mentioned.

I think back to the speech I made at this time last year - I do not think it was the year before - when I said that with an association in my electorate permission had been obtained from the Minister for exservicemen to have the right to take on the debts of surrendered leases and so amalgamate areas. For a long while the reserve prices prior to the surrendered leases being put to auction were unduly high and no ex-serviceman could properly take over this commitment. Unfortunately from their point of view, farms have been recently put up for sale where the reserve price has been, say, $10,000 and where $14,000 has been paid at the auction through outside civilians coming into the auction field. I think that people such as myself should know the answers and should be told by the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) precisely what has happened as a result of those appeals.

I will not refer to several of the matters on which I wished to speak this afternoon. I will content myself with once again trying to impress this thought on the Minister: One of the 2 principles behind rural reconstruction - nobody in this House would say that he is against this principle - is to amalgamate non-economic areas to try to make future farmers viable, subject to certain qualifications about the standing of the farmer and his financial position. Nobody would argue about that. But in this case, too often blocks are surrendered by ex-servicemen who, in some cases have reached the age of 60 and above - sometimes health forces them to surrender their blocks - and who frequently have no good will and no assets remaining against their debt. When these leases are surrendered it is totally inconsistent for the Government to continue to refuse to proportion those blocks and to build up to viable areas remaining blocks around them. This business of insisting upon the resale of surrendered blocks at auction is not consistent with the good principles that the Government adopts in other areas of rural reconstruction.

Once again I make a plea for the exservicemen who have properly been awarded war service land settlement blocks. As the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) said a while ago, each new land settlement scheme continues to subdivide land so that individual areas become too small and are not viable. For goodness sake, when we have the chance to secure these blocks through the leases being surrendered in some of these areas, let us do the intelligent thing and make the blocks viable. We should sub-divide the blocks and add to the areas of the better farmers so that they can be put in a viable position. My complaint is that they are not subdivided and aggregated to other areas. They are left as whole farms for takeover in their totality at a reserve price by exservicemen. The facetious remarks being made by honourable members opposite can go to blazes; I am trying to finish my speech. I am not amused by the humour of members of the Australian Labor Party in relation to matters that are soul destroying to ex-servicemen. I hope that I may con tinue uninterrupted. I want to see that these farmers have some protection in the future and that the principles that are adopted be those adopted by the Government in the case of rural reconstruction in relation to aggregation of areas.

I hope I have made my point clearly. I will not support the amendment. I do not have much time to deal with .it, but I do not support at this stage any further closer settlement schemes while the marketing condition of so many primary industries is as it is today. I am not one who agrees with the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Grassby) that we have a limited supply of dairy products; in fact; the opposite is the case. We now have a surplus arising in every area of that industry and in every area of the canned fruit industry, the dried fruit industry and in many other industries. I do not believe that until we find more consumer and export demand there is a case for closer settlement. I therefore do not like the word 'future' in the Opposition's amendment and I convey the fact that I will not support it.

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