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Thursday, 2 August 1906
Page: 2282

Mr KENNEDY (Moira) . - I have listened with very great interest to the remarks of the honorable member for North Sydney, and I must confess that I cannot agree with his conclusions. I incline to the opinion that under a judicious system of bounties it is possible to achieve a great deal. The honorable member appeared to lay great emphasis upon his opinion that much more benefit would be derived from the establishment of a Federal Bureau of Agriculture than can be achieved under this Bill. I do not for a moment wish to detract from the enormous advantages which would accrue to the Australian producer from a better knowledge of scientific methods of production, but I would remind him of what happened when the present leader of the Opposition met the States Premiers in Conference at Hobart. Upon that occasion, although he had the enthusiastic assistance of the honorable member for Gippsland, he found it impossible tor the Commonwealth to get the States into line, so far as the establishment of a Federal Bureau of Agriculture was concerned. In every instance they were opposed to it. When we recollect that the agricultural departments of the various States are spending approximately £250,000 per annum in educational institutions and experimental stations, all that we can reasonably hope to accomplish by putting them under a unified control is to secure the dissemination of the information which thev collect throughout the length and breadth of the Commonwealth. Although in Victoria we have some splendid agricultural establishments which are controlled bv as good men as can be found in the world, the results of their work are not known to the public. This is not the first occasion upon which I have had to deprecate the methods which are adopted in governing our agricultural institutions in this State. I have not a personal knowledge of the conditions which obtain in the other States, but I do know what is being done here. We have some of the ablest men whose services it is possible to obtain, and vet, strange to say, some of their best work is not known outside the college boundaries. Our Council of Agricultural Education - although they have had about 100,000 acres vested in them bv the State - would not publish the results obtained bv their own experts.


Mr KENNEDY - They had practically no publication until the last few years - until the Agricultural Department took the matter up. Even to-day the harmony which should exist between the Department of Agriculture and the Council of Agricultural Education, does not exist. Although I have lived for many years within an easy afternoon's drive of one of the best agricultural colleges in Australia, if

I wish to ascertain what is being done there I am obliged either to visit the institution or to write for the desired information. Concerning the deductions of the honorable member for North Sydney, I would point out that it is useless to urge that the necessities of the situation would be met by the establishment of a Federal Department of Agriculture. I look for no help in that direction for many years. In the first place, there appears to be a difficulty in getting the State Premiers into line upon a proposal of that sort. They fear an encroachment upon their State functions, and I admit freely that it is the function of the State to do everything that is possible to educate their own people in the agricultural arts and sciences. Every one of the States is doing something in that direction, but each does not know what the other is doing. To my mind, it is possible - without encroaching upon the sphere of the States in the slightest degree, and without creating another Department - for the Federal Government to collate all the available information, and make it available to the public. For instance, if I required to know what is being done in the agricultural colleges of Queensland it would be idle for me to inquire at the Victorian Agricultural Department, and I venture to say that the same conditions would- apply in Queensland to any inquirer concerning the methods adopted in Victoria. I hold that those who are prepared to embark in the new industries in connexion with which, it is proposed to pay a bounty, will be materially assisted by' the aid thus offered. At any rate, I believe that it is well worth our while to incur a little risk in that connexion. I have heard it stated that bounties do not always benefit those whom they are intended to benefit. For instance, that objection has been urged to the butter and the vine bonuses, which were paid in Victoria. That fact, however, is no proof that the bounty system is a bad one. Take the position in regard to the bonus granted for the establishment of the butter industry in Victoria. It has been said that the only persons who received it were the exporters. Those who make that statement forget that the regulations provided that only those who exported butter should receive the bonus. It was given specifically on the export of butter, and varied according to the price realized for that butter in the markets of the world. The maker of butter so exported could not procure the bonus on a mere certificate to the effect that he had manufactured it. I have proven- by personal experience that, generally speaking, those engaged in the production of butter at the time in question received the full benefit of the system. Let me quote a concrete case. I was engaged in producing butter during the currency of the bonus, and sold to 2 proprietary company. My neighbour, who was producing a larger quantity, and could ship on his own account to Great Britain, adopted that course. I had an opportunity' of investigating the sale papers, and found that in every instance where I sold to the proprietary company. I obtained as good a price as did my neighbour who shipped direct to London, and obtained the bonus. That is a proof that the man who produced the butter secured the benefit of the bonus.

Mr Reid - If the bonus had been paid direct to the producer instead of to the exporter, would not the position have been improved ?

Mr KENNEDY - No. At the time, Victoria was producing butter in excess of her own requirements, and the surplus was not of a standard that would enable it to hold its own in the markets of the world. Consequently, the bonus was given as an incentive to improve the standard.

Mr Reid - To improve the quality, not necessarily to improve the quantity.

Mr KENNEDY - To do both. On butter sold in the markets of the old worlds at from 7d. to 9d. a bonus of one penny per lb. was paid ; on that sold at from 9d. to 10d. a bonus of 1 1/2d. was paid ; on that which realized from 10d. to is. a bonus of 2d. per lb. was paid ; and on that above is., 3d. per lb. That was a direct incentive to the dairymen to improve the quality of their output. Although the regulations did not, and could not, provide that the bonus should be paid directly to the producer, it cannot be gainsaid that in an indirect way it went to him. It has been argued that provision should be made in the Bill for the payment of these bounties to those actually producing from the soil. That contention will not hold good. It is not necessary or essential that thereshould be inserted in this Bill a provision making it imperative that the bounty shall be paid direct to those who produce from the soil - that the man who produces, say, a ton of flax shall receive the bounty direct - provided that it is paid on the production of the fibre for manufacturing twine or cordage. Let us turn once more to the experience of Victoria. In 1890, regulations were framed providing for the payment of a bonus at the rate of £2 per acre for the cultivation of vines and fruit trees, and even for the planting of forest trees. I have heard it said that men actually planted vines and fruit trees for the sake of securing the bonus, assuming that there would be a profit on the transaction. That was an absurd view of the position, since the bonus of £2 per acre was only payable in instalments1 extending over three years. As a matter of fact, many of those who planted orchards and vineyards found that the ordinary rental value of the land when used for grazing purposes was in excess of the bonus. The mistake was in failing to make provision for dealing with the produce of the vines and fruit trees when thev came into bearing. In the northern districts, where advantage was taken ot this bonus, many men, who had no knowledge of the manufacture of wine, and had to rely solely upon the guidance of the experts of the State Department of Agriculture, brought their vineyards to such a degree of perfection that they secured splendid yields, but had no market for their grapes. The small growers did not think it judicious to incur the expenditure necessary in setting up a wire-making plant.

Mr Deakin - And many had no knowledge of the work.

Mr KENNEDY - None whatever. The position was the same with regard to the orchardists. They had the fruit, but had no market for it. The small growers had not the knowledge, or the means, to enable them to manufacture wine from the grapes, and what was necessary was the establishment of wineries, where they could sell their crop, and a standard wine could be produced. The orchardists found in many cases that they had a splendid yield of fruit from selected trees, but they were not in a position to pulp or can that fruit, and there were no factories where that work could be carried out. The result was that the money paid in the shape of the bonus was wasted. Some men maintained their plantations for five or six years, and then realized that thev could do better bydevoting their land once more to grazing purposes. In these circumstances, it must be recognised that it is not essential to pro vide that a bounty shall be payable to the man who actually raises any of these products. We should take care to provide, however, that means shall be adopted by which the growers will be able to follow up their products - either by co-operation or otherwise - until they reach a manufactured state. So far, we have not given much attention to the minor products that may be considered to be a source of wealth. We have not far to seek for the reason. In the early days the land was devoted to pastoral purposes, and the man who. thought of going on the soil desired to obtain a run. From that we went by easy stages to wheat field areas, and, except in isolated cases, we have not yet got away from the system of having large wheat-fields and dairyherds. As- a producing community we give little attention to intense culture. The tendency to-day, however, is to develop cultivation on small holdings, and those who have been looking on recognise that an evolution is taking place. Take, for instance, the cultivation of flax, which is to form the subject of a bounty. In Great Britain and Ireland to-day farmers practically pull the plant by hand. That is an expensive process, and could not be adopted here. After pulling the flax they put it up in sheaves, and, in order that the fibre may be extracted from the woody pulp, they ret, steep, and dry it before it goes to the breakers, and then to the scutchers. We have revolutionized that proceSs in Australia, and have proved that flax can be successfully grown by ordinary farmers. This! is one of the advantages derived from the association of experts with the Department of Agriculture. It has been found' that a farmer can cut his flax with a reaper and binder, and sheave it just as- wheat would be sheaved. The latest scientific achievement is such that, instead of the process of retting, steeping, and drying occupying weeks, the flax can be placed in the breaking machine within twenty-four hours of its cutting. Thi.-i proves that we are keeping pace with the times. A few enterprising men, finding that old-world conditions could not be observed here if they were to make a success of the industry, persevered under the direction of the experts, and, applying their intelligence to the undertaking, secured satisfactory results. Strange to say - and I think it is the result of environment - the average farmer or dairyman here is slow to take up anything new 'in the way of production; but a gradual transition from large to small holdings is going on, and those taking up the latter are prepared to- enter upon the cultivation of products practically new to Australia, when it can be shown that they can be successfully grown. According to the information disclosed in the papers, very tempting results can be obtained from other products. But these statements require careful analysis. In regard to some of the productions mentioned, as, for instance, the production of canned fish', r have no knowledge, and have had no opportunity to read up the subject. But there are industries which I am confident could be made a source of great wealth to Australia, if a little assistance were given by the Commonwealth, not only financially, but also educationally, to induce people to embark in them. We know that many of those whose avocations keep them within the densely populated areas, are sending their children to the agricultural colleges, and, when opportunity offers to obtain land under reasonable conditions, are assisting their lads to settle in the country. These youths have enormous advantages, if their position is compared with that of the men who, thirty or forty years ago, were combating the difficulties of agricultural and pastoral settlement. But we should not lose any opportunity to assist them, and to further the movement to which I refer. If an opportunity offers to co-operate with the States, by all means let us take advantage of it. It is not necessary to wait until we can establish an expensive Department of Agriculture, before doing something in the way of collecting information regarding the experiments of enthusiasts, and making it available in the different centres of population. That work might be done by some of the officials who are already in our employment. It is the duty of the Commonwealth, as well as of the States Governments, to do all that can be done to increase production. Although the man who is settled on the land has to put up with some disadvantages, my opinion is that, on the whole, he is much better off than are the dwellers in cities, while those who are producing wealth from the soil are performing work which is of enormous value to the community. Australia, however, has enormous areas which are practically unsettled, and the so-called settled areas do not produce half as much as they should. On the seaboard of Victoria, there are districts in which 100 acres should support a family, but where for miles there are nothing but sheep, although there are men unemployed, and in want of land.. In southern New South Wales and the northern parts of Victoria, it is a joy to live, and the sunshine will keep one alive, and none of the hardships have to be faced which are met with in other parts of the world where the climate is trying^ A neighbour of mine, a few years ago, went to Canada. He had been reared on the Murray, in New South Wales, and had an intimate knowledge of the conditions under which agricultural and pastoral pursuits were carried on there. But after a visit to Canada, during which he was not content to hurry through the country in an express train, or a. fast coach, but spent two harvests there, he thought that it was the paradise of the farmer. Now, however, he is back in- Australia again, and has put it on record that he would sooner follow a team on the worst road in New South Wales than be a farmer in Canada. The Canadian climate makes the life of a farmer in that country much harder than it is here, while he estimates that a man who wished to cultivate 500 acres of wheat there would have to embark twice as much money in stock and plant as would be necessary to carry out the same operation in the northern parts of Victoria or the southern parts of New South Wales. I do not think that we can employ our population more profitably and to greater advantage, from a health point of view, than in settling them upon the soil. The concentration of population in large centres is due, to some extent, to the increased manufacture of mechanical contrivances to ' aid the. agriculturist, and will be reduced only as our land is subdivided into a greater number of holdings. I have a knowledge of farming extending back twenty-five or twenty-seven years, and I say, without fear of successful contradiction, that, with the mechanical contrivances, now possessed by the agriculturist, one man can to-day grow more wheat than ten men could then. Some of the labour which has been displaced is, no doubt, used in manufacturing the mechanical contrivances of which I speak, but there must be a further subdivision of land, and more intense culture, if we are to give employment on the soil to all who should be there.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - How is the honorable member going to bring that about?

Mr Webster - By the imposition of a progressive land tax.

Mr Kelly - This is a Bill for the payment of bounties.

Mr KENNEDY - My justification for supporting it is that it' will assist to diversify and widen the field of employment and production. There are districts in Victoria and in New South Wales, and, no doubt, in the other States, where the climate is a moist one, and where land which should be worth from £30 to £40 per acre is not producing a return making its capital value equal to £5 or£6 an acre. A great deal more could be done in the direction of intense culture. Many years ago I travelled down the Murray, over what was practically desert country, when one was fortunate if he met a boundary rider between station and station during the day's travel; but, now that Mildura has been established, from 10,000 to 12,000 acres of that country is supporting a population of about 4,000 people in a state of comparative comfort. Many mistakes have been made at Mildura, and much money squandered there, not for want of intelligence or ability, but for want of knowledge of the local conditions. The results achieved, however, justify the expense. Before the application of water to that land, and the use of mechanical contrivances for its cultivation, it would not maintain 4,000 rabbits.

Mr Kelly - Does the honorable member suggest that the Bill provides for the establishment of irrigation works ?

Mr KENNEDY - No. I am pointing out that, in many places where now four or five acres of land support only a bullock, giving a return to the owner of, perhaps, £2 per annum, the return would be something like £40 per annum if a crop like flax were grown. Part of that sum would be spent upon, labour where practically no labour is now employed. Then, although we have not many great rivers, we have a considerable area of land close to watercourses which is well adapted for the growing of rice, and it is the opinion of experts that, by the application of water to it, rice could be grown in great quantities.

Mr Hughes - How far south can rice be grown ?

Mr KENNEDY - I am not prepared to say ; but we have the opinion of a specialist that it could be grown to perfection on the Murray, north-west of Echuca, if proper soil were selected and water applied. The Bill will have my hearty support. I do not say that I shall vote for all its proposals, because upon the probable effect of some of them I am not' yet in a position to give an opinion.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Which pays better, the growing of wheat or the growing of rice ?

Mr KENNEDY - I have not grown. rice, but the information is that the returnsper acre from rice are greater than those: from wheat, though, of course, the cost of production is more, since rice cannot begrown unless water is applied to the land. You would have to know exactly the cost of the application of the water to the soil. What I desire to say is that there is alwaysa tendency when we want a specialist to get some one of whom we know nothing, and whose experience has been gained under conditions entirely different from our own.. No one knows better than the Prime Minister what enormous losses have been incurred by enterprising men who have comehere in the possession of knowledge of great value as applied to other conditions, but who, when they have attempted to adapt themselves to our circumstances, have miserably failed. That was the result at Mildura. If we had looked the world over we could not have selected men who werebetter equipped with knowledge, intelligence, and ability than the Messrs. Chaffey Brothers, who embarked upon the Milduraenterprise. Australians owe a great deal tothese men. Notwithstandinganything that may be said to the contrary, Mildura stands as a monument to their enterprise and ability, and, althoughthey lost their time and money, Australia is to-day reaping the reward of their energy. Those men amongst us who become enthusiasts,and who carry on their work under local conditions are best qualified to give us advice. We have in Victoria men whose reputationwill, in the future, become world-wide. Wedo not. however, seem to appreciate them. Very few men, even among those engaged3 in the pastoral industry are aware that it was an Australian who discovered a cure for fluke. Then, again, some time ago, webrought from the other side of the world a gentleman of high reputation from thePasteur Institute to instruct us as to thebest way of dealing with anthrax. What was the result? An Australian pastoralist. and chemist produced a vaccine which entirely superseded that of the French specialist, and which is now being used to-day as an absolute preventive of anthrax. Whilst the Government are offering thesebounties to encourage production,they should take advantage of any opportunities -that may present themselves for disseminating amongst those who are most in need of it the information that is now being obtained by scientists and experts who are experimenting in the various States. They have some splendid men in New South Wales, most of whom, I am pleased to say, came from "Victoria, and we have in Victoria many men who are equally good, if nor better. Unfortunately, however, the . results of their work are not made known to those who are most in need of information. I believe that good work is being done in Queensland also. We have heard sl great deal abou the cultivation and development of different kinds of wheats. Experiments were being conducted at the Agricultural College at Dookie for eight or ten years without the agriculturists knowing anything of the important results that were being arrived at. It is possible for the Federal Government, without creating an expensive Department, to collect the information which the State agricultural authorities do not think it worth their while to disseminate, and to make it available to -our agriculturists. I think that, without in any way encroaching upon the functions of the States, we can enter upon fields of labour in which we can perform much useful work.

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