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Wednesday, 6 October 1971
Page: 1994

Mr GRASSBY (Riverina) - In the first instance I echo the sentiments which have been expressed tonight by the honourable member for Holt (Mr Reid). I say very sincerely that he spoke from conscience. He did not speak as a member of any particular political group. He spoke as a member of the Commonwealth Parliament, from conscience. I believe that there is a responsibility on our nation to give a lead in our region of the world in regard to this refugee problem. I hope that the honourable member's plea which was made in a responsible and genuine way will find an echo in all parts of the Parliament. Certainly I support it entirely and in a completely. non-Party spirit at this late hour tonight. After all, it is 10 minutes after midnight. Perhaps it might be said that we should all be home in bed. But let me make it quite clear that there are many people in the countryside who are in trouble. 1 do not object to standing a little bit longer or staying up a little bit later to say some of the things that I believe in. If honourable members do not want to be here and do not want to participate then let them stay home, resign and not participate.

Mr Turnbull - We did not say that.

Mr GRASSBY - If the honourable member wants to follow me he may do so by all means. What I have said was quite sincere. I did not know that the honourable member was going to raise this matter tonight. I recognise his sincerity and dedication and I have given up some of the reference and some of the time I was going to devote to the problems in the countryside to support him on this issue. I have said that and I mean it quite sincerely. I hope that all honourable members will join with the honourable member for Holt in seeing that something more meaningful is done. After all, Mr Deputy Speaker, it is in our region and we should not be looking to Scandinavia to give us a lead in our region of the world. I am sorry; I should have said Mr Speaker'. I will say this: Mr Speaker is always in the chair for the adjournment debate, which gives it its due recognition. 1 accept this and I applaud him for it.

In the last few days, in fact since Thursday, there has been in our country one of the finest demonstrations of national sentiment I know of - I realise that my knowledge may be limited - in 20 years. This arose out of perhaps a quite accidental development. The matter was raised by the honourable member for Capricornia (Dr Everingham) when he expressed concern that a considerable area of our country was to be sold, leased or given away in effect to outside people for perhaps 20c an acre. He said that this was not a very good thing to do. He did not say this in relation to just one area; he said that the whole of Australia's resources, our country and the things that are part of our nation should be under our control. He put that forward in a very genuine way. Since that time the concept that Australians should control the destiny and the natural resources of their own nation - I will not say that it has caught fire because I believe that in the hearts of most of our countrymen there has been a feeling that we should retain some semblance of independence - has created a tremendous response across the nation, indicating the desire of ordinary Australians and their children to have a continuing stake in their own country. That is not an unreasonable request, one might say. Against the back? ground of the alienation of our own resources it is perhaps a most significant one in 1971.

Mr Armitage - Is this the Simpson Desert?

Mr GRASSBY - My honourable friend asked whether this relates to the Simpson Desert. The Simpson Desert might have been the initial query but the Simpson Desert is not the story of this particular concern. In Western Australia we have seen 12 million acres alienated to overseas control in a very short space of time. We have seen 60 per cent of the Top End of the Northern Territory alienated in a very short space of time. We have seen the same situation in Cape York. In my electorate of Riverina we have seen the alienation of basic resources. So there is a big concern among the ordinary men and women and the children of our community to see that we retain some control over our own resources. I thought that the national Parliament would be interested to know just how deep and widespread that interest is. In the very short time that this matter has come under notice in this way there has been an extraordinary response which can be testified to not only by myself but also by the honourable member for Capricornia. May I say also that the Minister for the Interior (Mr Hunt) has indicated already that he has had from 600 Australians expressions of their opinion about what should happen to the assets of our country. These are 600 ordinary people who have been in touch with the Minister for the Interior. In my own case, 1 am able to place on record expressions from nearly 400 people who have come forward with donations of cash. I have had considerable assistance in this matter because, although the facilities for members of this distinguished assembly are scarcely adequate, my good room colleague, the honourable member foi Robertson (Mr Cohen), has helped me to wade through the large amount of correspondence on the subject. I pay tribute to him for his spontaneous assistance.

Let me tell honourable members something about these letters. The first one to which I refer offered $1,000, spontaneously, for no reason of profit - mark that, Mr Speaker; no profit - but just so that we may preserve some of our heritage. In terms of overall commitments there is $10,000 in cash and pledges. There has been a tremendous response. As my friend the honourable member for Robertson says, is it not interesting to consider who has responded? I want this Parliament, the supreme forum of the nation, to know that a distinguished Anglican chaplain wrote:

From my impoverished lot, here is my humble contribution for 4 acres of the nation.

I am touched by this offer. Obviously I shall not name him, but if honourable members are interested in seeing the correspondence I shall make it available. Another letter was from a migrant who wrote: 1 pledge $1,000. I only want to be part of an effort to preserve Australia for our own people and the sons and daughters that will follow us.

Another letter is from a school youngster who wrote:

I would buy five acres and my brother four. We are only 11 and 8, but our father and mother, I am sure, would do better.

I have never known a greater example of national sentiment than has been shown in the last few days. I say this not because this correspondence comes from the Australian Labor Party, the Liberal Party or even the Country Party; it comes from my constituents and those of other honourable members here. It is a genuine upsurge of national sentiment which impresses me and -which has convinced me of one thing that the nation is not yet dead; it still lives. I hope that we will be able to give some answer to this feeling that there should be a stake for all of us in our own country for all the years to come. Long after midnight on this night I want to place this on record in the House of Representatives.

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