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Friday, 24 August 1906

Mr McCOLL (Echuca) .- Some valuable points have been raised by the honorable member for Grey, but I think that they may be more appropriately discussed when another clause is under consideration. I would draw attention to the scanty information put before honorable members in regard to this important measure. Under it, we propose the first step taken by this Parliament for the direct assistance of agriculture. It is an important step, involving a large expenditure, and we should be careful how we proceed. In introducing the measure the Minister of Trade and Customs seemed to be in a state of mental confusion. He was unable to give specific answers to various questions that were put to him ; but said that everything would be put right by-and-by. Before passing the Bill, however, we ought to know by what Department it will be administered, and whether those controlling it will be, from the outset, in touch with the growers and producers. Is that to be the position, or is the authority to be exercised only when the product is supplied in its manufactured state, and the bounty is being claimed? We wish to know who are to be the inspectors, and whether there is to be an attempt to educate the farmers, whom we seek to encourage to .grow these new products. We should take care that the primary producer is fairly treated, and that he shall receive his fair proportion of these bounties. The Bill is simply a skeleton measure - the body of it, so to speak, will be provided by regulations. Before we agree to this large expenditure, we should have some indication of what those regulations are likely to be. I have not risen with any desire to oppose the Bill. Although I should like to see it amended in several respects, I am in accord with the principle that encouragement should be given to the raising of new products ; but think that we should have full information as to the way in which this encouragement is to be given. Is the Commonwealth to act alone, or in conjunction with the States? Are the farmers to be educated in, the cultivation of these new products, 01 is a goasyouplease policy to be pursued ? I sympathize with the Minister now in charge of the Bill, since he has, doubtless, been called upon at short notice to take it up; but I am sure that the Committee and the country will be very grateful for any information he may give as to the intentions of the Government regarding the points I have named.

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