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Thursday, 14 June 1906
Page: 229

Mr SPENCE (Darling) .- If it were necessary to adduce any argument in support of the motion now before the House, it is to be found in the prevalence of rabbits throughout Australia. Thev were first introduced bv a squatter, and had some one in the Parliaments of that daytaken action to have their introduction prohibited, his name would be blessed by the pastoralists of to-day. Lack of precaution allowed the rabbit, the sparrow, and other pests to be introduced into Australia. I was under the impression that the proposal would command the unanimous approval of honorable members. Of course, I am well aware that at one time even the squatters themselves did not realize the harm that would ultimately be worked by the rabbit pest. I well remember one land-holder at Geelong, who would not allow anybody to trap or shoot rabbits upon his run. He regarded them as perfectly harmless little creatures, but very soon he became convinced of his error, and was glad that any one should destroy them. In Australia the rabbit is a verv different animal from what it is in the old-world, and Dr. Danysz, as a scientist, mav discover that the microbe which he has cultivated to destroy it mav behave very differently here, owing to the different climatic conditions which obtain, from the way in which it behaves in Europe. It may even refuse to meddle with the rabbits at all, and may attack some other form of animal life. Consequently, it is our duty to see that exhaustive experiments are conducted before it is let loose. Whilst the rabbit has become a serious pest in many parts of Australia, throughout a great portion of the Commonwealth the remedy required is plain enough. That remedy is closer settlement. But in the western part of New South Wales there is admittedly a large area which, under present conditions, is not suitable for that form of settlement. There the wire-netting of runs is impossible, because, owing to the constant drifting of sand, . the netting would be buried within the course of a few years. But, although the pastoralists themselves have sunk a large sum of money to induce Dr. Danysz to come to Australia, it would be madness on our part if we allowed him to conduct his experiments except under proper supervision. In the first instance, of course, those experiments should be confined to the laboratory. The rabbit in captivity in Australia is a very different creature - especially in regard to propagation - from the rabbit enjoying its freedom, and, therefore, it is essential that experiments should also be conducted in the open. Even if the result of the tests applied in the laboratory proves that the disease which Dr. Danysz wishes to introduce is communicable to rabbits and not to other animals, it should not then be allowed to be propagated, except under the closest supervision. For this purpose some island should be chosen which is more remote from the coast of New. South Wales than is Broughton Island, and the experiments undertaken there should be conducted by the same scientists. Even then, unless it could be established that the disease would have the effect of keeping down the rabbits to a greater extent than they are being kept down at present, we should prohibit its spread. I think that the most stringent conditions should be laid down by the Government. I do not believe that any scientist will declare that rabbits can be entirely eradicated by means of disease. That being so. we have to choose between carrying on the wool industry with the added cost ofkeeping down the pest, and the destruction of industries dependent on rabbit destruction by a disease which may contain an element of danger that is at present not recognised. We cannot be too careful in this matter. There is an almost unanimous opinion in New South Wales that Broughton Island is too close to the coast of that State to permit of the proposed experiments being safely carried out there. Those who have seen the Australian eaglehawk know that it is not much trouble for it to carry a rabbit. I have seen that bird carrying an opossum, which is much heavier than a rabbit, and I, therefore, maintain that he could easily carry a rabbit from Broughton Island to the mainland. I think it is right that the Government should, in the public interest, invoke the assistance of Dr. Tidswell to watch the experiments carried out by Dr. Danysz. I do not think that we are justified in leaving the matter to the pastoralists themselves, whose one object is to destroy the pest. I should further like to ask those gentlemen who have planked down£1 0,000 to induce Dr. Danysz to undertake these experiments why they are so tardy in contributing even £1,000 to assist the operations of a constituent of mine - Mr. Rodier, Tambua Station - who for a number of years has been successfully employing a simple and scientific means of combating the rabbits. He challenges anybody to visit his run, and to see for themselves the results of his method. Whilst other places are swarming with rabbits, his holding is practically free of them.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - What means does he adopt to get rid of them ?

Mr SPENCE - It is simplicity itself. He catches all the males he can outside his holding, and throws them over into his run, and he kills all the females which he traps upon his own land. He claims that this method of keeping down the pest has been successful for a number of years. Why do not the pastoralists assist Mr. Rodier? They declare that they know better than he does. Yet scientific men support the underlying principle by which he has been guided. Some of the money which the pastoralists have contributed to enable Dr. Danysz to carry out his experiments might very well be utilized in the direction I have indicated. Mr. Rodier's run is near Cobar, in New South Wales.

Mr Wilson - It would be very difficult to apply his experiment to the western lands of New South Wales.

Mr SPENCE - His run is in the western district.

Mr Wilson - Pie has only tried his method upon a small wire-netted area.

Mr SPENCE - He holds a very large area - one which would absorb three or four Victorian runs. Whilst I have every confidence in Dr. Danysz, I claim that we are not doing our duty if we neglect to safeguard the public interest in the way that is proposed in the motion. I am certainly surprised that any honorable member should oppose it, seeing that it aims at making the projected experiments effective. It may not be generally known that in New South Wales an industry has recently been established for the manufacture from rabbits of a sort of bovril. and that this article is now being exported.

Mr Wilson - Bovril would be a false trade description.

Mr SPENCE - It is manufactured in New South Wales. The industry has been in existence there for about twelve months. It has got beyond the experimental stage, and could be profitably carried on in the western district of that State.

Mr Wilson - The honorable member is giving the show away verv badly.

Mr SPENCE - I do not say that the article in question is described as " bovril." It is called by another name. It is the essence of rabbit, and a market has been found for it in the old world. With the expansion of that industry, in conjunction with trapping, it is possible that the rabbit pest may be kept down. As the honorable and learned member for Werriwa has pointed out, in his own district the rabbits have increased because the land-holders did not use wire netting. In closely-settled districts we need not worry about the rabbits. Their skins are also used in some of our large industries. Mr. Anderson, of Sydney, is prepared to take all the rabbit skins that he can secure. A big trade is being established in that connexion, and if a higher dutv were imposed upon hats, probably it would attain still larger proportions. That the rabbits are being kept down upon the pastoral runs to-day at a less cost to the grazier than was formerly the case, is admitted bv all parties. Hence we must see to it that no disease is introduced which is not calculated to eradicate the rabbit pest. If it is not likely to do that I, for one, shall be opposed to its introduction. I therefore support the view that we should keep the matter under the control of the Government and Parliament so far as it is in our power to control it. We can reasonably appeal to the States Governments to adopt the same attitude, because of the danger involved and (the effect upon industries which might be productive of as much good as would the introduction of the disease, assuming that it be shown by experiment to be successful in achieving the object in view.

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