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Thursday, 10 October 1912

Senator SHANNON (South Australia) . - There are two questions to which I feel it is my bounden duty to refer. The first is the statement of Senator Stewart, that for a block of land of 7,000 acres, in Queensland, there were sixty-seven applicants, which, he said, conclusively proved that a land famine exists there. The honorable senator did not tell us the value of the land - probably he does not know, nor does he care, what is its value. But I would point out that the value of the land is a very important factor.

Senator Stewart - It was grazing land.

Senator SHANNON - I do not care whether it was grazing or agricultural land. If it was worth more than the Crown had put upon it there would naturally be more applicants for it. If the honorable senator were to advertise sovereigns for 15s., how many applicants would he have?

Senator Stewart - There would not be a soul to buy them.

Senator SHANNON - Probably the honorable senator is correct. People would not trust him, I suppose. In South Australia there have been as many as 200 applicants for a single block. So long as a man puts up the deposit that is necessary in the case of the most valuable block for which he applies, he is at liberty to apply for every block that is available. So that the honorable senator's argument does not prove anything. I also desire to refer to a statement which was made by the Minister of Defence. If his argument was intended to apply only to that one piece of land which was purchased by the South Australian Government, there might be something in it. But the value of the country in which I knew him first has risen from 15s. per acre, a year or two ago, to £6 or £7 per acre, because its productive capacity has increased under improved methods of culti vation. It was the Yongala Estate which he had in his mind. It was purchased by the South Australian Government for something like £3 per acre, and it is a fact that the adjoining estate has been sold during the past few months at £6 or £7 per acre. But it is not the circumstance that people have been settled on that land which has raised its value. Its enhanced value is the result of its increased productive capacity.

Senator Long - How could its producing value be ascertained until people were put upon it?

Senator SHANNON - They were there before. I sold land in that neighbourhood a few years ago for 15s. per acre. The enhanced price is due to the adoption of an entirely different system of cultivation. It is directly traceable to the use of the combined seed and fertilizer drill in the cultivation of crops, and to the adoption of bare fallow. It is not due to the fact that the Labour party occupy the Treasury benches. When the Minister of Defence quoted figures with a view to showing that the area under our principal crops had increased largely since the advent of the Labour party to power, he was asked by the Leader of the Opposition to state the increase which occurred during the year 1911-12 as compared with 1910-n. He stated that that increase amounted to 500,000 acres, but when the Leader of the Opposition pinned him down he saidit was 300,000 acres, and eventually he confessed that it was only 211,000 acres. If that is the way in which the Government want to hoodwink the Senate, I am very sorry. I had .a much better opinion of the Minister of Defence. I thought that if he had to quote any figures he would quotethem correctly, and not try to mislead the Senate.

Senator Pearce - The honorable senator knows very well that I quoted the totals on the spur of the moment. Senator Millen asked me the difference, and I gave the result of a rapid" mental calculation ; but, immediately afterwards, I corrected theerror I made. Does the honorable senator dispute that I gave the correct totals?

Senator SHANNON - I do not think that the Minister came down to the correct totals.

Senator Pearce - The honorable senator has permission to see the Hansard, proof of mv speech to-morrow, and I invite him to compare my figures with the figures 1 was quoting.

Senator SHANNON - It is one of those things of which I do not quite approve. It is a sort of straw which shows which way the wind is blowing. I am satisfied with having corrected any wrong impression which might have been formed from the Minister's statement.

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