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Wednesday, 23 March 1927

Senator J B HAYES (Tasmania) . - I cordially agree with the concluding remarks of the Minister (Senator Pearce), who, in introducing the bill, said that no measure could be more acceptable to the settlers in the outlying districts than one to assist them in combating the rabbit and other pests. It will also be of great benefit in the more settled parts of the Commonwealth, because, so far as I can see, the rabbit has not a single redeeming feature. I know of no other pest that has caused such tremendous losses to producers. When I was informed that the Government intended to introduce this bill, in order to assist in minimizing the pest, I was very pleased; but I regret the Government has not been more liberal and provided for the netting to. be supplied as it was under the first measure passed. In the short time at my disposal I have not been able to see how much money is to be advanced.

Senator Pearce - A sum of £3,000,000 is to be paid, at the rate of £500,000 a year for six years.

Senator J B HAYES - I understand that £100,000 was voted this afternoon for wire and wire netting under a loan bill, and I was under the impression that that was the total amount involved. Under the original act providing for the supply of wire and wire netting, advances, which were freely accepted, were made to settlers at 5 per cent, over a period of twenty years, which extinguished the debt. The present proposal, I- believe, is to lend the States money at 4 per cent, for this purpose; but I do not know if they are responsible for its repayment.

Senator Pearce - The States have to recover the money from the settlers.

Senator J B HAYES - Suppose the States lend the money in good faith and are not repaid?

Senator Pearce - There is provision for an allowance to cover losses. The States can charge £1 per mile.

Senator J B HAYES - And also 1 per cent, more than they are charged by the Commonwealth ?

Senator Pearce - Yes.

Senator J B HAYES - That will not nearly cover the losses. As the States will get this money from the Commonwealth at 4 per cent., which is only 11/4 per cent, less than the rate at which they can borrow over the counter, I am afraid the terms are not sufficiently liberal to induce them to take advantage of the offer. I understand that some of the

States, for instance Tasmania, will not accept the liability. The Minister has not made that clear.

Senator Pearce - In clause 6 of the agreement, which is the schedule to the bill, the States are liable for the repayment of the money.

Senator J B HAYES - I understood the Minister to say the States could keep the money to build up a fund and re-lend it.

Senator Pearce - Only the money obtained from the excess of 1 per cent interest charged by them.

Senator J B HAYES - As the 1 per cent, will not be sufficient to recoup the States ' for the losses they will incur, I do not think they will readily accept the offer. However, I commend the Government for introducing the bill. I live in a district where rabbits have done untold harm, and I know there are hundreds of other districts similarly situated. As there are many settlers whose financial position will not enable them to take advantage of this offer, I should likethe measure to be more liberal, so that every State Government would take advantage of it. I was wondering whether the Government could by regulation or by some other means advance the money to the States, which I know would do their best to secure its return, without requiring them to accept the responsibility. I do not know whether a mortgage must be taken over a man's property.

Senator Pearce - Not under this bill.

Senator McLachlan - The States take a chance.

Senator J B HAYES - The Commonwealth Government should be prepared to take a chance. Frequently the man who needs assistance most is the one who is least able to give security. Men with capital will not take advantage of this legislation. I assure the Government that settlers are looking for this assistance, but I am afraid- that the ' State Governments will not be prepared to accept the responsibility of guaranteeing the return of the money.

Senator Pearce - Three of the States have already availed themselves of the Commonwealth's offer, and have, in fact, sent out wire in advance.

Senator J B HAYES - The first scheme was accepted by all the States, and I should like to see the same acceptance of this scheme. Probably those States which have accepted this scheme already have liberal legislation of their ownin a similar direction. I doubt whether the settlers in Tasmania will benefit by this legislation.

Senator Ogden - What does the honorable senator propose?

Senator J B HAYES - The State Governments should be asked to use every care toadvance the wire only to those settlersfrom whom they can reasonably expect a return. Having done that, they should be absolved from all losses. One per cent, will not cover the losses in any credit business.

Senator Pearce - The States themselves have asked for 1 per cent.

Senator J B HAYES - That may be sufficient in some States; but, apparently, three States do not think so.

Senator McLachlan - South Australia has her own scheme, which has been in operation for many years.

Senator J B HAYES - When the first legislation authorizing advances for wire netting was passed by this Parliament, no security was required. The Federal Government was prepared to accept the assurance of the States that in. the distribution of the wire netting reasonable care would be 'taken to prevent loss. That legislation prevented a great deal of damage from being done by rabbits.

Senator Pearce - This legislation is more liberal than the old act.

Senator J B HAYES - It is not. The first act provided either that there should be no repayment of the principal, or that no interest should be charged.

Senator Pearce - Under the old act the Commonwealth dealt with the settler direct, but under this legislation the money will be handed to the States, who, in turn, will deal with the settlers. That provision has been inserted at the request of the States.

Senator J B HAYES - If Tasmania has asked for this legislation, I have no more to say; but I feel certain that it will not accomplish what the Government expects. I recognize that the Senate would not agree to an amendment even were I to move one. I shall, therefore, content myself by saying that I hope the

Government will be liberal in its interpretation of the act.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.

In committee:

Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.

Clause 3 (Definition).

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