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Thursday, 14 June 1906
Page: 206


Mr HUGHES (West Sydney) .- I move -

That this House is of the opinion that, as the introduction of the microbes proposed ,by Dr. Danysz for the destruction of rabbits in the State of New South Wales may prove inimical to human and other animal life of Australia, it should not be permitted except for laboratory experiments.

This matter has been the subject of considerable discussion in the press of Australia - particularly of New South Wales and Victoria - and is of very great interest to the people of the Common wealth. It may be premised that the experiments which Dr. Danysz has been brought out from France to conduct are being carried out under the aegis of the Stock and Pastures Protection Board of New South Wales, and not under Government control. It was originally the intention of the State Government to conduct these experiments, but inquiry proved that they were likely to be rather costly, and the idea was abandoned. The Stock and Pastures Protection Board, which works under the Stock and Pastures Protection Act of New South Wales, then took up the matter, obtained private subscriptions amounting to a considerable sum, and' made such arrangements with Dr. Danysz as resulted in his coming to New South Wales, and entering upon his work. I do not wish it to be supposed that I have any disrespect for Dr. Danysz. or that I cast the slightest reflection upon his scientific status. He belongs to the Pasteur Institute of France, which is known throughout the civilized world. He is, however, not acting for that body, but entirely on his own account. He has been paid a considerable sum to discover a disease that will prove fatal to the rabbit, and at the same time, harmless to other animals, and to human beings. I believe the Pasteur Institute conducted some experi ments in the Argentine Republic and in California with the object of exterminating some pests there. These experiments were not, however, successful ; whether they were wholly unsucessful, I am unable to say.


Mr Henry Willis - Why did the honable member refer to them if he knows nothing about them?


Mr HUGHES - I know that the experiments were not successful. Practically the diseases used in the Argentine and California were more or less identical with chicken cholera, and, I understand from information supplied by Mr. Giddings, the editor of Faulding's Chemical Journal, set up a disease closely resembling swine fever. The rabbit pest is an extremely serious thing for New South Wales. I do not know of anything more serious. The losses caused by the ravages committed by the rabbits can hardly be measured by any sum of money that one could set down. The rabbits do not confine their attention to the rich squatter, but inflict injury on all sorts: and conditions of men. I know that many of the poorer selectors have suffered very much indeed.


Mr Wilks - The rabbits are Socialists.


Mr HUGHES - Perhaps so. Both the selectors and the squatters have suffered very severely, and are still suffering. The means adopted in New South Wales to cope with the pest include the use of wire netting which is prescribed by law, poison which is applied at the option of the pastoralists, and trapping. The use of wire netting has been attended with some success, and, in certain classes of country is, if thoroughly carried out, ali that is necessary. But, unfortunately, the lessees and owners of the land have not applied it with the degree of thoroughness that is demanded, nor have they resorted to the subdivision of paddocks that is essential to complete success. Poisoning is being carried on at the present time to a very considerable extent, and' with results that are satisfactory enough, but which, at the same time, have their drawbacks. For instance, stock is suffering from the effects of eating, poisoned rabbits. I believe that the crows and other ' birds have been destroyed in thousands, and are now1 swearing off rabbits and resorting to a vegetable diet. Trapping, carried on for some time, has lately received an impetus which has placed the industry on a footing altogether different from that which it has hitherto occupied, and one which deserves the most serious consideration from an economic stand-point. On this I shall say a few words later on. It is now proposed to deal with the rabbit pest by the introduction of a virus which will be fatal to the rabbits, but harmless to other forms of animal life. It was proposed that these experiments should be conducted on Broughton Island - an island which is situated to the north of Newcastle, and separated from the mainland by a few miles - in one place, I believe, by only about a mile and a half. The Council of Advice, which has made the arrangement with Dr. Danysz, has erected suitable buildings, and conveyed animals of all sorts there, including a very large number of rabbits, so that everything was in a fit state of preparation for this scientist to commence operations when he landed, a few days ago. Up to last week the Government of New South Wales, apparently, had no intention of doing other than to permit him to carry on experiments upon the island. But a volume of public opinion was aroused in that State - for reasons which I shall presently set forth - which led the Government to realize that it was inadvisable for them to allow this course to be followed. It was shown that the public health might suffer, and that stock was likely to be infected, and a considerable and profitable industry destroyed as the result of these experiments. Now the Act under which noxious microbes may be introduced into New South Wales is known as the Noxious Microbes Act, and I understand that the Government of that State permitted the preparations on Broughton Island under the impression that sections 8 and 9 of that Statute were applicable, although it is very obvious, upon a perusal of its provisions, that section 11 alone governs the introduction of microbes for the purpose of destroying rabbits. Under that section it is not competent for the Minister of Lands, who is charged with the administration of that Act, to permit the introduction of any noxious microbes for the purpose of destroying rabbits or other wild animals, except certain conditions are complied wit,h. Briefly, these are, that experiments, must be made which prove to the satisfaction of the Minister that the microbes are not harmful to human or animal life. The Minister may then issue a proclamation sanctioning their introduction, but he must lay on the table of both Houses of the New South Wales Parliament a notification to that effect thirty days prior to the proclamation taking effect. After the lapse of that time, if Parliament is silent, or acquiesces in the notification, the proclamation may take effect, and such further experiments or inoculation may take place as may be deemed fit. The present position in New South Wales is that the experiments are to be conducted - so the Minister of Lands, Mr. Ashton, says - in a laboratory. I should) just like to say that it is essential, in the interests and welfare of the whole Commonwealth, that these experiments should be conducted in a laboratory, under such rigid conditions as the latest scientific knowledge has shown to be necessary, and under the control of such men as, by training and knowledge, are fitted to safeguard property and health. This is not a question which concerns New South Wales alone. It is very obvious that a disease which may prove fatal to rabbits and to stock in that State is very liable to cross the borders into Victoria and the adjoining States. Therefore, the question is no longer one which it is merely within the province of New South Wales to decide, or one which concerns that State alone. On the contrary, it concerns the whole of Australia. It has been pointed out that the proposed experiments which Dr. Danysz seems to enter upon with a very light heart, and without, apparently, having, considered exactly what effects may flow from them, are fraught with the verygreatest danger. Upon Thursday last Dr. Danysz, in an interview which was published in a Sydney newspaper, said) -

Microbes to scientists to-day were like what trees were to a botanist. They had them all classified. It was an ill-founded fear that in introducing disease amongst rabbits it might spread to stock.

That is very good so far as it goes. But Dr. Frank Tidswell, the microbacteriologist of the New South Wales Health Department, states that it is not a fact that these microbes have been classified. He assumes that they belong to one family, are not easily, if at all, distinguishable, and may introduce diseases which have different symptoms, although the bacteria are practically identical. It has been pointed out, too, that diseases of this sort, passing through various hosts, mav alter their form, their virulence, and their very nature, and that, consequently, a disease which in the rabbit mav assume a certain form, may in a sheep or a human being assume an entirely different form. Professor Anderson Stuart, a man of worldwide reputation, Dean of the Medical Faculty, and Professor of Physiology- at the Sydney University, and formerly president of the New South Wales Board of Health, and chairman of the Prince Alfred Hospital, in a recent interview is reported to have said -

This is not a matter for New South Wales to act in alone, for if the experiments should result in a spread of disease, no frontier will exist in which to confine such disease.

Speaking of the possible results of the proposed experiments - and I would like honorable members to pay particular attention to this - he says -

They will find no organism that will exterminate the rabbits. All they can hope for is something that will be a superior kind of poison - superior in the sense of being a living organism that will be passed on from individual to individual, till, like every other organism of the sort, it loses its virulence.

He gives an instance which is within the knowledge of honorable members who represent New South Wales and some of the other States, mentioning the effect of plague upon rats. He says -

What can be more fatal to rats than plague? But plague does not exterminate the rats, neither will any organism exterminate rabbits. And whatever happens on Broughton Island there will still have to be experiments made in the interior of the continent.

These are the words of a man who is at the very top of his profession in Australia. His statement stands against anything that Dr. Danysz can say to the contrary. Professor Andersen Stuart is a gentleman who - as I have said - has occupied an official position in New South Wales. Moreover, he has the advantage of an intimate knowledge of the peculiarities of the Australian climate, which is so different from that of other countries that it is at least probable that any organism which might perhaps have one effect in Europe and America would have an entirely different effect here. On this point he says -

This means that if they succeed in exterminating or greatly reducing the rabbits on Broughton Island, their methods may fail entirely when applied in the interior of the continent; but, on the other hand, if they fail at Broughton Island, upon the whole, they are more likely to fail in the interior. This is somewhat difficult to express, but putting it in other words, a negative result on the island is more likely to be associated with a negative result in the interior, than a positive result on the island is to be associated with a positive result on the mainland.

Here, then, it is proposed to engage in experiments, the result of which must be - according to the statements of scientific men - at least, extremely doubtful. These experiments may extend, so I understand, over some two years. The contract with Dr. Danysz is for two years, and may be renewed. It is not hoped that anything can be decided before that time. After that period has elapsed larger experiments must be made in those districts of New South Wales in which the rabbit is a real pest. Upon the New South Wales coast at the present time it is not a .pest. 1 Mr. Conroy. - It is fast becoming one.


Mr HUGHES - I knew that the honorable ;:nd learned member would say that. At the present time, however, we are not dealing with what may happen. As a matter of fact, upon the New South Wales coast the rabbit is not a pest at the present time.


Mr Wilson - To what part of the coast is the honorable and learned member referring ?


Mr HUGHES - I am speaking of the New South Wales coast.


Mr Wilson - Upon the coast of Victoria the rabbit is a very serious pest.


Mr HUGHES - So much the worse for Victoria. However, that is quite immaterial to my argument. My point is that those who are conducting these experiments are men whose whole interests are centred in the central and western districts of New South Wales. It is there that the pastoral industry is chiefly carried on. There the rabbits commit the greatest ravages, and it is there that the sparse population renders the spread of rabbits possible to any great extent. If the population of the Continent were anything like as dense as is that of England the rabbits would not be a pest at all. Where there are manypeople it is not usual to find many rabbits. They are a source of real benefit to the people, if they are allowed to trap them for the purposes of food. I understand that it is now proposed by the Government of New South Wales that the experiments of Dr. Danysz shall be conducted in a laboratory. It is to be noticed, however, that the Government of the State alone have the power of determining this matter, unless the Commonwealth Government chooses to take action to prevent them doing such things as will allow Dr. Danysz and those associated with him to conduct the experiments on Broughton Island. I wish specially to point out that we have a verv imperfect knowledge of bacteriology, and of what microbes are capable of accomplishing. The knowledge of to-day is the antiquated lumber of to-morrow. That which was yesterday accepted without question is to-day set on one side. I wish further to point out that hitherto inoculation has been used chiefly for the purpose of rendering certain organisms immune from specific diseases. In this instance, however, it is proposed not to render any animal immune from disease, but to impregnate one species with a virus which will destroy it. It is almost the universal result of inoculating one animal with a disease that the virus, when introduced in another organism, causes different results and sometimes exhibits different forms and characteristics.


Mr Conroy - Speak of it as a polymorphous organism.

Air. HUGHES.- Take, for instance, the attenuated virus from which we get the diphtheria anti-toxin. I do not profess, like the honorable and learned member for Werriwa, to be a bacteriologist.


Mr Conroy - I am not a bacteriologist, and I object to a Parliament which is not composed of bacteriologists laying down the law to scientific men.


Mr HUGHES - I am merely taking the liberty and the opportunity to set before honorable members the statements of a matured and reputable scientist like Professor Anderson Stuart against those of the Council of Advice of the Pastoralists' Protection Board of New South Wales.


Mr Maloney - And Dr. Cherry of Victoria.


Mr HUGHES - And other medical gentlemen, if honorable members please, whose knowledge of bacteriology is about as interesting and as valuable as would be the opinion of the honorable and learned member for Werriwa on an obscure point in ecclesiastical law. I was saying that heretofore it has not been the practice to use microbes for the purpose of curing disease or rendering an organism immune from attack. We do not know what will follow from these proposed experiments, but what we do know is that the probabilities are, first, that no culture can be produced that will exterminate rabbits. We have Professor Anderson Stuart's statement for that, and Dr. Danysz's admission, and the admission of all sorts of men, and I think it is not the hope of any section of the community, not even of the pastoralists, that anything will exterminate rabbits. All that can be expected is that their numbers may be diminished. On the one hand we have the chance of a partial diminution in the number of rabbits, and on the other we have the certainty that a disease will be introduced which mav affect the health of the community and the health of other organisms, such as sheep or cattle. The President of the Linneari Society of New South Wales, speaking lately on this project of destroying rabbits bv disease, said that -

Taking past experience .as a guide, it does seem desirable to be belter assured than we are that the disease in question will confine itself to the rabbit. We have a parallel case in the plague baccilus, as affecting man and the rat in common, the latter being, like the rabbit, a rodent. The disease only kills those individuals which are susceptible, leaving others sufficiently resistant to recover or to escape infection altogether.

I wish to point out that, so far as we know, there never has been a baccilus


Mr Conroy - Will the honorable and learned gentleman use the term " bacteria," which will embrace all forms of microorganisms.


Mr HUGHES - f will use the word microbe." which I understand is a generic term. There never has been a microbe which has exterminated any spe cies. The plague in the Middle Ages swept over Europe, and people who were not immune, as the result of previous attacks, were killed in considerable numbers ; but I do not suppose that it will be contended1 that more than 50 per cent, of the people subjected to that visitationwere destroyed. In the Fijian Islands some forty or fifty years ago an epidemic of measles broke out amongst the people who had never had measles, and who were consequently susceptible to the disease, and some 40,000 of them were swept away. This was the effect of a disease which amongst ourselves, who are practically immune from its attacks, is considered a small matter.


Mr Henry Willis - Under similar conditions of exposure many of our people would have died.


Mr HUGHES - It does not matter. The disease swept, off a great number of the Fijians, but it did not exterminate the whole of the Fijian nation.


Mr Henry Willis - All were nol exposed in the same way.


Mr HUGHES - The point I am making is that no microbe we know of in any disease, whether it be consumption, cancer, if cancer be caused by a microbe, plague, or any other disease, has ever exterminated a whole species. I point out that during the recent recurrence of plague in Sydney the rats, though affected to a very large extent, recovered, and so far as I know there is no appreciable diminution in their numbers. The number of rats now brought to the destructors is as great as ever, and I do not think that the ravages of the plague have appreciably diminished their number, and at all events it has not affected them to the extent of extermination. It is proposed then 'to introduce ' this disease, and there is no prospect of the extermination of the rabbit. A considerable period of time must elapse before it is possible to discover anything which will seriously iessen their numbers, and in the meantime there is the economic side of the question to be considered, and that I now come to. The extent of the rabbit trade at the present time is extraordinary. I am given to understand that the number of persons employed in New South Wales in connexion with it is not less than 10,000. That is the number directly employed, and includes those engaged in trapping, in connexion with cold storage, the following of the carts, and so on. I believe that some 4,000,000 of rabbits are handled every week in the Commonwealth, and this represents the payment of wages amounting to about .£33,000. I understand that £,1, 716,000 represents the value of the trade of this industry for the last year ; that the industry is growing every day ; that the prices obtained for skins is very high; and that there is no more sign of a reduction in their price than there is of a reduction in the price of wool.


Mr Wilson - The honorable and learned gentleman is advocating the protection of the rabbit.


Mr HUGHES - I do nothing of the sort any more than- I advocate the destruction of the honorable member's constituents, who are threatened equally with the sheep in his electorate with this microbe, and the putting of rabbits in their place, although if that were done it might, or might not, be fatal to the honorable member's representation of the electorate. What I do say is that here we have a definite fact, namely, that the industry employs 10,000 persons in New South Wales, and some j 5,000 or more in the Commonwealth. 'The employment of 15,000 persons is a very big thing. I ask honorable members to remember that the wages paid in the industry are not starvation wages. They are very good wages. I should like to ask every honorable member whether, if * it were proposed that an industry should be started in. the Commonwealth that would give employment to, say, 20,000 people, every legitimate effort would not be used to start it?


Mr Liddell - At the expense of another industry?


Mr HUGHES - Every industry is started at the expense of some other industry. When a railway is run, it is at the expense of the industry of the carriers previously engaged' in doing the trade to be done by the railway. But it is very easy to show that that objection does not apply here. If the Danysz experiment had for its purpose the absolute destruction of this industry, and the destruction of the pest, as the price of' the destruction of the industry, that would be a good argument. But when there is only the problematic destruction of the pest, and the certain destruction of the industry, I say that puts the matter in a different light. If I am asked whether I would prefer to have rabbits or sheep, I would say that I would prefer sheep. If, by waving my hand, I could wipe out all the rabbits in Australia, I would do so because sheep would be more profitable. But I say that to enter into an experiment which, in its nature and conclusion is uncertain, but which will assuredly destroy an industry which gives employment to from 15,000 to 20,000 people, and pays ;£33i000 Per week in wages, is a very serious thing, and we should hesitate before we assent to it. Supposing ' we had an industry which did employ that number of persons, and it was proposed to destroy it, what would, be said? We can remember that when the Tariff debate was in progress, and it was proposed to destroy an industry employing from- twenty to thirty people, there was a tremendous outcry against such a proposal. At that time it was my privilege to sit with the honorable gentlemen opposite, who alone have the truth in them, as they always have when Ave sit together, and we heard the statement made, " Here we have an industry employing 1,000 or 1,500 people, and the whole community should be taxed to prevent it being destroyed." Here we have an industry that employs 20..000 people, and it is proposed to destroy it on the off-chance, not of exterminating the rabbits, but of materially diminishing their numbers. I say that to do that would be a crime - an economic and social crime, a crime against the community. What is the particular trouble which now concerns all Governments in the Commonwealth ? Is it not the question of finding work for the unemployed? In New South Wales to-day the unemployed question. is> largely, though not completely solved owing to the existence of this rabbit industry. Lately I had an opportunity of seeing at first hand the extent to which this industry has gone.I have been through various towns in the country districts of New South Wales, where, had it not been for the rabbit industry, there would be verv great distress. I venture to say that in those places an unemployed man is, comparatively speaking, a rarity.


Mr Liddell - Men cannot be got for work on the farms ; they are all rabbiting.


Mr HUGHES - AH I can say is that the immediate effect of the industry is to absorb a very large number of persons who would probably otherwise be unemployed. I was told by, perhaps, the largest storekeeper in the city of Bathurst, which is by no means in the centre of th« rabbit-infested district, that 500 persons are directly employed in the rabbit industry in and around the town, and that but for that fact things would be in a very bad way there, because of a partial drought from which the locality has suffered. Rabbit trapping is in full swing round towns like Dubbo, Wellington, Mudgee, Parkes, and Forbes, the trappers making £e, £3, £4l and often more' a week. They are earning that money in destroying a pest for the destruction of which the pastoralists declare themselves prepared to spend a large sum of money in mere experiments, extending over a lengthy period of years. The rabbits are now being destroyed at the rate of 4,000,000 a week, and in rabbit trapping we have a certain and sure means, not of extermination., but of keeping down the pest, which gives employment to a large and increasing number of persons.


Mr Conroy - But how many men has the rabbit pest put out of work?


Mr HUGHES - Those engaged in the rabbit-trapping industry would be a burden on the community if thev were not so employed, and yet it is calmly proposed to destroy that industry. Because it would be the easiest thing in the world to show that, by reason of the present proposal, the industry is trembling on the verge of absolute destruction. It must be admitted' that, before the proposed experiments can be of any value, they must be conducted in the open air. The most careful laboratory experiments will not determine the effects of inoculation upon rabbits living in the open, air, because the difference between the two sets of conditions would be as great as that between the condition of a patient lying on, his back in a room maintained at a certain temperature, and hia condition when on his feet and in the open. Even if it be demonstrated by laboratory experiments that the proposed inoculation can be made safely, we shall not know what would happen if inoculation took place in the open air.


Mr Conroy - That is why .it is proposed to make such careful experiments.


Mr HUGHES - It is obviously better to have laboratory experiments upon scientific principles than to have no experiments at all. Although they mav not demonstrate anything of industrial value, they will not work any particular harm to the community if certain safeguards are taken.


Mr Conroy - Is the honorable member aware that, if experiments had not been made upon animals, an anti-diphtheric serum would not have been discovered? -Mr. HUGHES.- That is an altogether different matter. If any one wished to disseminate a disease in Australia, he could not do it more effectively than by infecting rabbits with it, because they are to be found everywhere that there is grass or crops to eat.


Mr Conroy - What about the pleuro experiments? They were made by the class of men who now wish to experiment in the direction of rabbit destruction, and found a remedy for that disease.


Mr HUGHES - What about cancer, or cacocthesloquendi? It is certain that experiments conducted within the four walls of a laboratory can prove only that, under the conditions under which they are carried out, certain results will follow. But before any knowledge of value can be obtained as to the result of action of the kind proposed, experiments must be made in the open air, and once rabbits living in the open air are inoculated, disease may be disseminated widespread, while, from that very moment, the destruction of our export rabbit trade will commence. If it be thought that any one in England would buy rabbits when it had become notorious that they were being .destroyed by a disease of a wasting character similar to influenza, he altogether misapprehends the credulity of the English public.


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Even if the rabbits were destroyed by a safe method, the rabbit export trade would also be destroyed.


Mr HUGHES - If only 2 par cent, of the rabbits in Australia are destroyed by the proposed disease, none of the remaining 98 per cent, will be saleable in any of the markets of the world. If there were a chance that one rabbit in every joo was infected with disease, would the honorable member eat rabbits? He, no doubt, has read of the Chicago meat scandals, and probably ois reason convinces him that, in nine cases out of ten, it is perfectly safe to eat American meats ; but I guarantee that be does not take any chances, and I am quite ready to buy as much potted American meat as he will eat.


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am ready to buy and eat what meat I require.


Mr HUGHES - The American Beef Trust says that these scandals have meant a loss of ^35.000,000 to Americs. and the practical destruction of their trade, while, on the other hand, the Queensland Meat Export Company and other Australian meat works are reaping a golden harvest because of the exposure of the terrible methods of the Chicago packers. Similarly, directly it is known that Australian rabbits are being destroyed by a disease, no one will buy them. There are persons on the Continent of Europe who breed rabbits for the market - Ostend rabbits they are called. Will it not be to their interest to spread the news that Australian rabbits are being infected with disease, in order to destroy the Australian rabbit export trade ? Would it not be easy to destroy the Australian butter export trade if it could be shown that the Australian dairies are infected1 with a disease which can be communicated to the consumers of Australian butter?


Mr McWilliams - Millions of rabbits are now poisoned everyyear.


Mr HUGHES - Would it not affect the Tasmania n apple trade if it could be said that diseased apples are being sent from Tasmania to England? The greatest precautions are now being taken to keep apples infected with comparatively harmless parasites from coming into this market. Not only the rabbit export trade, but the whole of our meat export trade, may affected if it becomes known that Australian rabbits are being killed by the communication to them of an infectious disease.


Mr Liddell - The New Zealand trade will be affected too.

Air. HUGHES. - The honorable member for Oxley sent Home a statement to the effect that the Immigration Restriction Act excludes, and was intended to exclude, white British subjects. That was published in the press, and the statement accepted by every person in the United Kingdom, and in other parts of the civilized world. Similarly, gentlemen who call themselves Australian citizens, have made other statements about the intentions of that Act, and of other Acts, and of the intentions of the Labour Party, and of other parties, which, having been accepted, have had the effect, so we are told, of seriously damaging our credit on the English money market. The circulation of contemptible and cowardly slanders of that sort has had the effect of depreciating our securities, so we are told, and of thus injuring Australia. Is it not then obvious that the circulation of the statement that; Australian rabbits are being killed by the com munication to them of an infectious disease would ruin our rabbit industry, and affect our export trade in chilled and frozen mutton? If cablegrams were inserted in the Home press to-morrow to the effect that our rabbits have been infected with a communicable disease, that sheep have taken the disease, and that some of the carcasses sent Home are infected with it, would not that seriously injure, if it did not entirely kill, both our rabbit export and our meat export trade? Furthermore, if the proposed disease proves effective, the skins of. the rabbits which die from it will be useless, because rabbit skins, to be of commercial value, must be the skins of good healthy rabbits. The skin of a rabbit' which dies in a very short time from phosphorous poisoning is not injured; but it will take some days, and perhaps a fortnight or three weeks, for rabbits to die from the proposed disease, and, in that time, they will lose condition, so that their skins will become lustreless, dull, and thin, and altogether useless.


Mr Wilson - The same thing happens when rabbits become subject to chronic phosphorous poisoning. They fall away, and the skin becomes useless,


Mr Watson - How long does that take?


Mr Wilson - Sometimes three weeks.


Mr HUGHES - If the honorable member swallowed as much phosphorous as is contained in the ordinary pellets of pollard sprinkled along the rabbit tracks of New South Wales, he would suffer, not from chronic phosphorous poisoning, but from a poisoning which would cause him in a very short space of time to lose all interest in human affairs. The rabbits in New South Wales do not suffer from chronic phosphorous poisoning ; they have not time. I believe that in New South Wales and Victoria the hat industry is taking, and will take, all the rabbit skins that can be procured. I do not think any rational freetrader will object to that.


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Apparently, the honorable member thinks that the rabbits are a grand asset to Australia.


Mr HUGHES - The honorable member is very humorous.


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I do not pretend to be humorous.


Mr HUGHES - I wish to point out that there are very many unfortunate people in Sydney and elsewhere who would never be able to obtain flesh food if it were not for the fact that rabbits are being sold at low prices. If the honorable member for Parramatta proposes to feed the unemployed of Sydney with rabbits that have died of the disease with which they are to be inoculated; he will soon be able to settle the unemployed question in much the same way that Dean Swift proposed to deal with another matter.


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Why does not the honorable and learned member talk sense?


Mr HUGHES - I recognise that this is not a matter for humorous treatment but for earnest consideration. The evidence given by the squatters before the Western Lands Commission was to the effect that rabbits could' be kept down bv the use of netting, by trapping, and toy poisoning.


Mr Cameron - That is absolutely absurd.


Mr HUGHES - There is proof that it can be done, and it ought to be done. The rabbits are now being destroyed by trappers, who are earning good wages, and in my opinion the pest can be kept down sufficiently by the present methods. At any rate, on the one hand, we have a certain remedy, which finds employment, for a large number of men, whereas, on the other hand, we are offered an uncertain and dangerous remedy which, if it were successful, would destroy an industry that at present provides employment for 20,000 persons.


Mr Cameron - At whose expense?


Mr HUGHES - I should' not think that it was at the expense of the squatters of Tasmania.


Mr Cameron - It is at their expense - in conjunction with others.


Mr HUGHES - That toeing so, the whole thing is settled. I venture to saythat there are more rabbits on one run in New South Wales than in the whole of Tasmania.


Mr Cameron - That is no reason why the squatters of Tasmania should not endeavour to destroy the rabbits upon their properties.


Mr HUGHES - I think it is altogether improper to suggest that the rabbit industry is kept up by contributions from the squatters of Tasmania. The interjections which have been made show conclusively where the shoe pinches. The squatter wants the rabbits killed - he wants to get rid of the pest. Is he paying too high a price for the destruction^ of rabbits ? If he is, why does he not lower his price, or devise some other means ? If he is not paying too high a price, what is he complaining about ? The squatters of New South Wales say that it d'oes not matter what they pay - no price would be too high to pay for getting rid of the rabbits. Therefore, thev surely cannot complain of the price they are now paving. The whole point is, however, that the squatters of New South Wales, and doubtless of Tasmania, fine? that men are not available for employment by them at 5s. or 10s. per week when they oan make, say, £2 per week at trapping rabbits. Certainly that is an annoying circumstance. When I was travelling through New South Wales lately, I found that employers experienced difficulty in securing labour at 10s. per week, and had' to give more. Of course, that is a serious matter; but I do not think that such a consideration weighswith the honorable and learned member for Werriwa, or the honorable member for Parramatta.


Mr Conroy - I regard it as a good thing that the rabbits have proved of some value.


Mr HUGHES - I do not think that the consideration to which I have referred actuates the honorable member for Wilmot. He would rather pay a decent price to the trappers if they could remove the pest.


Mr Cameron - That is the point.


Mr HUGHES - He would prefer to doas I have described, rather than to enter upon a dubious experiment such as that now contemplated. From the stand-point of the honorable member, the whole question is, " Can the trappers remove the pest ?'r I say that the rabbits are now being got rid6 of at the rate of 4,000,000 per week.


Mr Wilson - And they are breeding at the rate of 5,000,000 per week.


Mr HUGHES - If the honorable member is an authority on rabbit breeding, I arnnot.


Mr Wilson - The rabbits cost me more in one week than they have cost the honorable and learned member during the whole of his life.


Mr HUGHES - I have no knowledge that rabbits are increasing at the rate of 5,000,000 per week. Whence did the honorable member derive his information?


Mr Wilson - My own common sense is sufficient.


Mr HUGHES - I believe that if men. are given a sufficient incentive, they will destroy the rabbits, or, at any rate, keep down the pest to a convenient level.


Mr Wilson - Why have they not doneso during the last thirty years?


Mr Kelly - Because they could not be expected to destroy their own industry.


Mr HUGHES - I merely wish to emphasize my argument that the proposed remedy is an uncertain one; that its application will have the effect of throwing out of employment some' 15.000 or 20.000 men; that it will destroy the export trade in rabbits, and the export trade in skins also, because the skins will be practically valueless if the disease proves effective; that it may seriously affect the export of meat, and imperil the health of the stock of the country, and probably also the health of the people. Under these circumstances, the Federal Government ought to use every power at their., command to confine the experiments to the laboratory. In my opinion, it will be found, after exhaustive experiments, that no safe method of outside experimentation can be ventured upon. The Federal Government should be represented ' in connexion with the experiments by a competent scientific man. If the New South Wales Government are not willing, at the conclusion of the experiments, or during their course, to take such steps as are considered necessary for the safety of the health of human beings, and the reputation of Australia, the Federal Government should exercise such power as is conferred upon it by the Constitution. Whether the Constitution confers sufficient power it is for the Attorney-General and the Government to say. Under sub-section 1 of section 51, power is given to regulate all matters connected with trade and commerce, but I shall not venture to sa.y that such powers enable the Government to deal with this matter, even though it certainly affects trade and commerce. Under sub-section ix.. the Government is empowered to take control of quarantine matters.


Sir William Lyne - I have given notice of a Bill, with that end in view, to-day.


Mr HUGHES - If the Government' can bring such a measure into operation before the experiments pass beyond the laboratory stage, and beyond scientific control, they will be in a position to exercise the powers conferred under sub-section ix. Failing everything else, thev may avail themselves of the powers which they are permitted to exercise under sub-section XXVII It must not be forgotten that Dr. Danysz is an immigrant, and that he has introduced, or is about to introduce, certain undesirable things, and that possibly the powers conferred under the section ! have mentioned might be exercised. However, it is not for us to do more than call upon the Government to exercise every power at their command in dealing with this matter. In conclusion, I would say that the matter is one that, viewed from the health standpoint, or from the economic stand-point, is of very great importance. I admit that it is very important to the pastoralists of Australia that the rabbit pest should be dealt with, but it is also important to the whole of Australia to prevent the introduction of diseases that will imperil any considerable industry. It would, in my opinion, be a mistake to attempt to achieve an end by uncertain and dubious means whilst an effective, although, perhaps, not a complete remedy, lies at hand. I would suggest to those honorable members who may not see eye to eye with me, that the whole question depends upon one thing only. If it could be shown that the virus would exterminate the rabbits there would be an end to the question, because this country is too deeply committed to the wool and meat industry to allow anything to stand in its way. lt has, however, been stated both by Dr. Danysz and Professor Anderson Stuart that the extermination of the rabbits is not to be hoped for, and that that, so far as science is concerned, is not possible. Under these circumstances, T contend! that we should discourage the introduction of an uncertain remedy which would destroy an industry that, after all, is making the best of a bad job, and throw out of employment 15,000 or 20,000 men, precipitating upon the market a large number of unemployed at a time when we are unable to deal with those we have.







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