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Friday, 3 August 1906

Mr LONSDALE (New England) . - If we go on as we are now proceeding this will be known as the placard session. Flags and banners are being displayed for election purposes, and, in connexion with the measure now before us, an attempt is being made to blind the farmer to the effects of other legislation passed by us which has had a detrimental effect upon his industry. I wonder what benefit the proposed bounties will confer upon the great producing interests of this country ? We were told by the Minister in a " highfalutin " way that the measure would tend to attract people from the cities, and settle them on the land where they would have an opportunity to make a living, ' and to even grow rich. Just imagine a man going out into the country, and starting a plantation of rubber trees which would have to grow for nine years" before they would yield any return. Just fancy taking an unfortunate member of the unemployed out of the city streets, and dumping him down upon a rubber plantation. He would have to sit in the midst of his trees for eight or nine years before he would handle a penny as the result of his labours. I understand that a rubber tree when tapped produces about 1 lb. of rubber per annum, and that the highest value of 1 lb. of rubber is 6s. . 6d. Therefore, a planter would have to wait for nine years for a tree that would produce 6s. 6d. per annum. What a magnificent prospect this would open up to men who are unable to do any good for themselves in the city. Some of the provisions of the measure are most amusing. Take, for instance, the case of peanuts. It is proposed to encourage the production of peanuts. Why, peanuts were grown in Australia when I was a boy. I used to row with my father across the Hunter River, and dig up peanuts by the bushel. No bounty is required for the establishment of the peanut industry. The measure seems to me to reduce legislation to a farce. It is proposed to give a bounty for the production of coffee. That is another commodity that we are producing here. Recently, when I was in Queens land, I visited a plantation, and saw the proprietor, who told me that he was able to do all the work required in looking after the coffee plants, except during the picking season. I asked him whether he could produce coffee by means of white labour, and he told me that he could do so if he were paid 5s. per lb. for the berries.

Mr Bamford - Let me tell the honorable member that planners have never yet employed black labour in coffee growing in Queensland.

Mr LONSDALE - Although I do not live in Queensland, like the honorable member, I can inform him that this gentleman to whom I have referred does employ black labour. He told me that he used black Australian labour, that is, aboriginal labour. Surely the honorable member would allow the native blacks to work upon the Queensland plantations?

Mr Bamford - Decidedly. The honorable member is now on a different footing altogether.

Mr LONSDALE - I am speaking of black labour. The coffee planter told me that he gave the aboriginals tobacco and clothing, and, during the time that they were engaged in picking the berries, paid them wages. He represented that it was absolutely impossible to pay the wages demanded by white labourers. The work of picking the coffee berries can be very well performed by children, and the cost of gathering the crop would be altogether too heavy if adult white labour had to be employed at 6s. or 7s. per day. Our consumption of coffee is not very great, and I should like to know what we should do if we produced coffee more than sufficient to supply the home market? How could we expect the product of our bounty-fed industry to successfully compete in the markets of the world ? Then, again, it' is proposed to offer a bounty for the production of condensed milk. For years past there have been condensed milk factories in New South Wales, and, I believe, ' also in Victoria. It appears to me that in nearly every case it is proposed to give a bounty in respect of an industry which is already established, and that the Ministry desire to confer an advantage upon some one who is looking to them for assistance. Thedifficulty in connexion with the condensed milk industry has not been to establish factories, but to turn out a high-class article. I could have understood the action of the Minister if he had decided to employ experts, fully acquainted with the successful methods adopted in other parts of the world, to advise those, engaged in the industry here. I know of one factory where they produce good milk, as a rule; but. now and again, a bad lot of milk is placed on the market. Every effort has been made to discover the reason, but without avail. If the Minister would bring out an expert, who could point out where mistakes were made, and overcome come of the difficulties now experienced, he would confer benefit upon the community. With regard to the proposed bonus for the production of rice, I understand that some Japanese have recently gone to the Goulburn Valley with a view to cultivating rice. It would almost appear that the Government desire to give a bounty for rice to be grown by coloured labour. If rice is a product that we can with advantage grow in this country, there should be no necessity to offer any bounty. The New South Wales dairy expert, whose report is quoted in the papers laid on the table by the Minister, points out that some stimulus is required to be given to the condensed milk industry. He knows better than that, because he points out -

But the greatest reason why more condensed milk is not made in Australia is lack of knowledge with regard to the fine points of manufacture. Many thousands of pounds have been lost in experimental work, and one enthusiast lost as much as ^30,000 in endeavouring to make a satisfactory milk. It is much more difficult to make condensed milk here than in the colder climate of Europe. There are two reasons for this, the main one being that fermentation proceeds so rapidly in this warm climate that the milk is really unfit for condensing by the time it reaches the factorv. if it receives only the ordinary treatment which ihe farmer usually gives his milk to be used for butter-making. The knowledge possessed by the average farmer here regarding the changes :bat take place in milk is not on the whole equal to that possessed by dairy farmers in the elder countries of the world.

How will the payment of a bounty affect that industry ? Then this dairy expert says that the industry requires some stimulus. He tells us that the cost of the milk which is contained in a lb. tin is id., that the value of the tin itself is Jd., and that the total cost per lb. tin is He further in forms us that these tins are retailed at 7d. I take it, therefore, that they could be purchased wholesale for 4d. per lb. If that does not allow a sufficient margin of profit to induce private enterprise to embark upon the preserved milk industry, I do not know what will. Then we have the magnificent fish industry. This morning, we have heard a good deal in reference to barracouta. I think I know the difference between a garfish and a shark, but that is about all. I do not know what a barracouta is - I have never seen one. But so far as the tinned fish industry is concerned, I hold that we shall not be able to compete with the salmon and other fish which are imported. Any bounty which we may grant for that purpose is not likely to make the industry a success. What is the value of the fishing industry in other countries? In Canada, the product is worth between ^5,000,000 and ;£6, 000,000, and there are 93,000 persons engaged in the industry. I claim that if an industry be natural to a country, it will develop itself, Here is an industry, the Canadian product of which is worth -£51 per head of those engaged in it, and we are asked to grant a bounty of £d. per lb. to assist in its development here. Does anybody imagine for a moment that such a scheme will be successful? In Newfoundland, the value of the produce is about ^2. 000.000 annually. The United States fisheries are worth ^10,000,000, and employ about 212,000 people - an average return of ^47 per head. In Italy, the value of the annual product of the industry is estimated at ^700,000, and the industry employs about 100,000 fishermen - an average return of £7 per head. I have no doubt that if I had time to study the paper which has been circulated by the Government in connexion with this Bill, I should be convinced that the Minister did not inquire thoroughly into this matter before submitting his proposals. If he attempted to assist the agricultural industry by proposing to impart instruction to those who are engaged in its various branches, at the expense of the State, 1 should be prepared to support him. Such a course would certainly bestow some advantage upon the producers. The honorable member for Herbert has stated that the other night certain members of the Opposition wished to grant a bounty to promote the study of the science of astronomy. I do not know whether he meant that we wished to weigh the stars, and to pay so much per lb. upon them. When he is compelled to advance arguments of that sort in support of the Bill, his position must be extremely desperate. Then we are asked to grant a bounty to encourage the production o{f olive oil when, as a matter of fact, it is already 'being produced in South Australia.

I understand that the olive oil produced there is very good. Only the other day, I saw that the Premier of that State had made some disparaging remarks in reference to olive oil, and that when Sir Samuel Davenport called his attention to the fact, and forwarded him some samples of the locally manufactured article, he stated that he had spoken of an article which was produced when he was a boy.

Sir Langdon Bonython - Mr. Price was referring to imported olive oil.

Mr LONSDALE - At any rate, he admitted that the 'local article was a good one. That being so, where is the necessity to grant a bounty to foster its production? The idea is an absolutely erroneous one. To my mind, there is a good deal of comedy in this Bill. Underlying it is the idea of putting before those who are engaged in farming pursuits this placard - " See how we are endeavouring to help you." Under the Bill the Government will be robbing the potato grower and every other man in the community to bolster up industries which can be established naturally. They will be taking from the wheat growers a contribution to Sir Samuel Davenport, and to the coffee plantations of Queensland. If there be anybody in Australia who is in need of assistance from the State, I claim that it is the man who frequently loses his crop of wheat. Surely he is deserving of some consideration, seeing that he is compelled to toil a'll through the seasons - whether they be hot and dry or cold and wet - and at the end .of the harvest may find himself without any return whatever. In conclusion, I claim that we have no right whatever to levy tribute upon one section of the community for the purpose of benefiting another. .

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