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Wednesday, 29 August 1906

Sir JOHN QUICK (Bendigo) .- Sometimes the honorable member for New England makes useful and valuable suggestions, but, unfortunately, the violence of his language sometimes prevents honorable members from giving to them that fair consideration to which they are ten titled. I thoroughly approve of the principle underlying the measure, and I do not think that there is any justification for the imputations of unworthy motives which the honorable member for New England has so freely hurled at Ministers and their supporters. Whilst approving of the system of granting bounties in certain cases, I think that a measure such as this should have been preceded by careful inquiry and investigation as to the products in respect to which bounties are to be offered. Whilst it would appear from the memorandum submitted to the House that some Departmental inquiries have been made by able officers, their investigations do not appear te have not been sufficiently complete and comprehensive. I believe, further, that a Bill such as this should be associated with proper safeguards in the direction of supervision an'd administration. As it stands, the measure contains no provision of that kind. Two sessions ago this House unanimously passed a resolution in favour of the organization at an early date of a Depart ment of National Agriculture. In submitting that resolution, I mentioned specifically that such a. Department would be useful in formulating schemes such as that contained in the Bill, and in conducting the necessary investigations, and supervising the granting of bounties. Yet we have placed before us a scheme involving the expenditure of £500,000 without any provision for safeguards such as might reasonably and naturally be expected. Such a Department as I have indicated might very well have been established as a condition precedent to the introduction of the present scheme, or it might have been associated with the proposal in some form or other. I sincerely hope, therefore, that before the Minister brings this important measure into operation he will carefully consider the question of organizing the nucleus, however moderate, modest, and inexpensive it may be, of a Department of National Agriculture. How could such a measure as this, which deals with a large number of industrial and technical matters, be administered bv the Minister or the ComptrollerGeneral of Customs, without the assistance and guidance of experts in the shape of agriculturists, chemists, and other scientific advisers? I presume that the large amount of money which is to be devoted to the payment of bounties is not to be scattered here., there, and everywhere without observing ordinary precautions. T am not very familiar with many of the items in the schedule, but I know a little about one of the products referred to, namely, olive oil. As a matter of fact, the production of olive oil has been most successfully carried on for many years in one of the States, and a very fine industry has been established. Whilst the Tariff Commission were sitting in Adelaide we had evidence of this fact from a witness representing Sir Samuel Davenport, who is the pioneer of olive culture in Australia, and who has placed the' industry upon a sound and scientific basis. For this he deserves the greatest credit. I am not in a position to say whether he obtained a bonus, but, bonus or no bonus, he has undoubtedly been most successful.

Mr Poynton - No bonus was granted in South Australia.

Sir JOHN QUICK - I am very glad to hear it. I believe that at present there are many olive plantations at Mildura - I do not know whether there are any at Renmark - and that large quantities of olive oil have been turned out there and in other parts of Victoria. I am informed, however, that the production of olive oil in Victoria has hitherto not been a payable industry, and that a large number of persons who went to the trouble and expense of planting olive trees have since uprooted them.

Mr Mcwilliams - Some persons were doing that at Mildura when we were up there.

Sir- JOHNQUICK. - Some years ago I bought some olive truncheons from Sir Samuel Davenport, and succeeded in growing them at Bendigo. The trees fruited splendidly, and there was abundance of material from which to manufacture oil, but no market was available, and I uprooted my trees. Other persons did the same, and possibly, in common with myself, made a mistake. - My point, however, is that we could naturally look to ' a Department presided over by experts to give reliable advice as to whether it would be justifiable to spend money in growing olives, cotton, or sunflowers, or other such products. If an Agricultural Department, or bureau, were equipped with the proper means of obtaining information, and circulating it, and advising those who were disposed to enter upon such enterprises, we could support a scheme such as that now before us with some safety and confidence. What is required is not merely money, but systematized knowledge and information, and proper means of placing it at the disposal of the men on the soil.

Mr Cameron - There- is an Agricultural Department in Victoria, from which farmers could obtain the necessary information.

Sir JOHN QUICK - Yes" but that Department is not offering bounties such as those now proposed. I hold that the Government should not rest content with offering bounties for tha production of the articles enumerated in the schedule, but that they should make it a condition precedent to the granting of those bounties that the industries must be initiated under circumstances which are likely to result in success. In other words, people should not be lured on to plant trees merely in the expectation that they will be able to participate in a bounty, and without any hope that they will be able to carry on operations when the bounty has been withdrawn. A Department such as I have mentioned would be able to afford valuable assistance in that direction, and would be in a position to warn people against the insensate folly of embarking upon an industry in which they could not continue after the bounty had ceased. Some years ago the Victorian Government offered large bonuses to encourage the establishment of vineyards. Their action imparted an artificial stimulus to the vineplanting industry. The result was that a large number of people planted valueless, nondescript vines for the purpose of earning the bounty, and when it ceased to operate the vines had to be uprooted. That bounty was a delusion and a snare to many who embarked in the industry, because it was not associated with the dissemination of the necessary knowledge for their guidance. The scheme proposed in this Bill will be equally futile unless it is associated with some method for imparting proper instruction to those who are likely to be induced to commence operations under it. I beg the Minister not to bring the Bill into force until he has proper experts at his command who are capable of affording that information. He himself cannot be expected to prevent people from committing mistakes. Whatever is done must be done in accordance with a wellconsidered scheme. There is certainly some force in the remarks of the honorable member for New England concerning the advisability or otherwise of allowing those who have already established plantations to participate in the bonus. The point which he has raised is worth considering. Something is to be said in favour of assisting those who have already established olive plantations, as well as of affording help to new adventurers and investors. But certainly the individuals who incur the trouble and expense of planting new trees, and who have to deal with the uncertainties and difficulties incidental to a new enterprise should not be forgotten. Thev should be specially provided for, and it would be a mockery to them, if, in the hope that they would share in this bounty, they were induced to plant trees, which, according to the testimony of Sir Samuel Davenport, require to be seven, eight, or nine years old before they will yield a gallon of olive oil, and it was found at the end of that period that there was no bonus available for them, because it had been appropriated by those who had already established plantations. These are matters which should be thoroughly threshed out and properly dealt with before the Bill is passed, or else some undertaking should be given that they will be dealt with in a comprehensive manner before it is brought into operation.

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