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Wednesday, 11 October 1972
Page: 1450

Senator O'BYRNE (Tasmania) - I agree with Senator Wilkinson that the terms of this Bill show a great scarcity of explanatory matter and information. Clause 4 reads:

Moneys borrowed under this Act shall be issued and applied only for the expenses of borrowing and for the purpose of financial assistance to the States of South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania in accordance with sub-section (1.) of section 2 of the States Grants (War Service Land Settlement) Act 1952-1953.

I should like the Minister for Air (Senator Drake-Brockman) to give me more details of the expenditure of the $744,000 allocated to Tasmania. In his second reading speech the Minister referred to the unique situation on Kangaroo Island. It appears to me that it is a situation which has resulted from some sort of bungling. The people who were associated with the choice of this land for war service land settlement purposes, who worked in developing the pastures and in recommending the types of top dressing, the various fertilisers and the like to be used have succeeded only in developing a combination of circumstances which have broken the hearts and the financial standing of those who took up these blocks. These men who have grown old on their farms have no alternative employment to which to go. By this legislation quite a considerable sum of money, $2,5m, is being directed towards the purpose of assisting these people to meet their problems.

Evidently this clover disease is worse on Kangaroo Island than perhaps in most other areas of Australia. The Minister has said that it results in a low survival rate amongst lambs and causes up to a 10 per cent mortality amongst wethers. It appears that the ex-servicemen who are engaged in farming on Kangaroo Island are bearing a burden which results from some bungling along the line. This combination of clovers is responsible to quite a degree for the situation in which these farmers find themselves today. Mention has been made of some research being done on the problem and that action has been taken to increase research activities financed from State resources and supplemented by money from the Commonwealth extension service grants, lt is beyond my comprehension that some other method has not been found to utilise these clovers. Perhaps these farmers might diversify into cattle or be provided with additional areas permitting them to carry equivalent income-bearing stock in order to make their properties viable propositions so that they may persevere with their undertakings at this stage in their life.

Many of these men who fought in the Second World War were 25 years of age or older when they obtained their farms. I know that some were much older than 25. The Second World War ended 27 years ago. These men are now well in their midfifties. Yet this burden is now on their shoulders, lt must be heartbreaking for them. It does not appear that what is being done about the problem is positive enough. All we are drawing attention to is that research is being done, but because of the high mortality rate amongst lambs and wethers the objective of these exservicemen, the production of lamb and mutton, is being negatived as the result of some blunder in the selection and recommendation of the clovers to be introduced on these war service land settlement, farms.

I ask also whether the money that is being allocated to Tasmania will meet in any way the problem that exists on King Island and Flinders Island which are similar to Kangaroo Island. The people on these islands face a problem completely outside their control. I refer to freight costs. I have spent a good deal of time on King Island and Flinders Island. They are both most pleasant places to visit. The islands are fertile and otherwise very desirable but the isolation which the people on these islands experience and the high freight rates imposed on them through shipping services mean that their economic situation at the moment is practically unbearable. That is why I supported the amendment that the Opposition moved at the second reading stage of this Bill.

We are not really coming to grips with this problem. There are some deep rooted in-built difficulties which are wrong in relation to the human problems involved in the war service land settlement scheme. Among these settlers are a number of poor bank accounts and many broken spirits. At this stage of their lives, these people cannot obtain jobs elsewhere. They must remain on their farms where they are saddled with many in-built disadvantages including, in my view, the wrong selection of the type of stock that they should run and the prevalance of this clover disease because of incorrect selection of clovers or whatever the background reason may be. On the other hand many of these settlers, especially the Tasmanians, have never felt that they own their farms.

As I said on a previous occasion today when dealing with the allocation of Commonwealth funds, we are not coming to grips with the fundamental financial illnesses that exist today; nor are we coming to grips with the morale problems suffered by these ex-servicemen. Each year when we discuss war service land settlement, we find that the responsible Minister is quite sympathetic in expressing his views about the battle that these people are having. But the situation does not seem to improve from year to year. When we visit these soldier settlement blocks today we should find that after 25 years of operation these men are relatively prosperous, established and secure. Instead we find that they are surrounded by an aura of uncertainty and poverty.

I suppose that it is the prerogative of farmers every now and again to whinge about their conditions in order to let off pressure. The whinges of these farmers are too deeply ingrained to be covered up by an annual allocation designed to overcome their immediate problems. I really feel that we are only skimming the surface of the problem and that a much deeper investigation should be carried out to try to establish these people for the remainder of their lives in a viable and, as far as possible, a relatively lucrative occupation that will give them what was proposed for them in the first place. This scheme should supply them with a means of income and should make worth while for them the application of their talents to the land because of their love for it. I can say only that although we cannot refuse the passage of this legislation we do think that a broader approach should be made to this whole problem. It does seem that we are skimming over a problem with which we must come to grips eventually.

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