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Thursday, 14 June 1906

Mr LONSDALE (New England) . - This is a very important matter. The honorable member for Canobolas stated that the signatories of the petitions presented by him were not opposed to the experiments being carried on, but merely desired that they should be conducted under proper supervision. If the petitions were like the resolution he read to the House, they must have been directly opposed to the experiment under any conditions.

Mr Brown - I said that the persons who were protesting were not opposed to any reasonable experiment, but they wished to be safeguarded against the introduction of diseases which might prove a worse curse than the rabbits.

Mr LONSDALE - The honorable member gave us to understand that the petitioners were not opposed to the experiments, but desired that they should be carried on under supervision, whereas the resolution he read was entirely opposed to any kind of experiment. The difference is very important. I believe that the introduction of a certain virus among the rabbits may result in their destruction within limited areas, but I do not think it passible to disseminate amongst them a .disease which will sweep through the country like a fire, and destroy every rabbit in it. I do not see any objection to the experiments being carried out under proper supervision. The New South Wales Government are to be commended for having enlisted the services of the very highest local authority-

Sir William Lyne - The Federal Government did that.

Mr LONSDALE - Then the credit belongs to them. The New South Wales Government asked the other State Governments whether they had any objection to the experiments being entered upon, and' so far as I am aware, no exception was taken to the proposal. If the experiments are conducted under proper supervision, there can be very little danger. If Broughton Island is to be selected as the locality for testing the virus, the experimentalists should be permitted to go beyond the four walls of their laboratory, and subject the virus to a practical test where the rabbits have made their burrows. The discussion upon the motion has turned principally upon the question as to which of two industries is entitled to the more consideration. The rabbit trapping industry has been spoken of as being of considerable importance, but as the rabbits are extending they are endangering two of the staple industries of the Commonwealth. Therefore it becomes a question whether we should foster the rabbit industry at the expense of the others, or whether we should show greater consideration for two of our greatest wealth-producing industries than for one which has no special value from a national stand-point. The rabbits have reached the district which I represent, and many small land-holders find it very difficult to comply with the requirements of the Stock Boards. They have been called upon to destroy all cover for rabbits, not only upon their own properties, but upon the adjoining roads. They have appealed to the Law Courts, but have been told that there is no means of escape, that the law requires that they should destroy everything that forms a cover for rabbits, whether upon their own property or upon the roads alongside.

Mr Wilson - 'Surely that is a fair thing.

Mr LONSDALE - It may be fair enough, but I am pointing out how costly it is to deal with the pest. If it were possible to introduce a disease that would destroy all the rabbits at one fell swoop, and at the same time prove harmless to human or other animal life, it would be a grand thing. I do not think that it is possible to bring about any such result, but we should not stand in the way of any experiments that mav be directed' to that end. We have been told that rabbits have 'been preserved as game, and have proved very valuable in some of the older countries. That is because of the denser populations there, and if we could increase our population, as the Prime Minister has some dreamy notion of doing, the rabbits might be turned to considerable advantage here. I have no sympathy with those who seem to think: that because men are reduced to trapping rabbits they are criminals. There are many criminals living in higher circles, but they are clever enough to cover up their illdeeds.

Debate (on motion by Mr. Maloney) adjourned.

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