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Wednesday, 29 August 1906

Mr LIDDELL (Hunter) .- I was very pleased to hear the remarks of the honorable and learned member for Bendigo upon this Bill. He has given utterance to exactly the ideas which had occurred to me, though he has expressed them in a very much better way than I could have done. I agree with the statement that this Bill shows signs of hasty preparation, and I am perfectly satisfied that the Minister who is in charge of it possesses very little information relating to. the conditions attaching to the industries the establishment of which he desires to encourage. I cannot understand why the Bill has been brought forward at the present' juncture. It affords another example of the hasty legislation in which this Parliament has indulged, and which has brought the country into such bad repute outside our shores.

Mr Storrer - That is a matter of opinion.

Mr LIDDELL - It is my own opinion, and that of thousands of persons outside of this House.

Mr Kennedy - That is the cry of the "stinking fish" party again.

Mr LIDDELL - If an honorable member sees what he conceives to be a wrong, surely it is his duty to point it out. I repeat that the Bill bears evidence of hasty preparation, and that it should not have been brought forward at this late stage of the session. I should like to ask the Minister of Trade and Customs if he is aware of the time that is required to enable the gutta percha tree to attain maturity. I venture to say that if he were to plant one to-day he would not live long enough to see it reach maturity. In this connexion I hold in my hand a verv able report upon the Federated Malay States and Java, which has been prepared by Senator Staniforth Smith. Speaking of the gutta percha tree he says -

The yield per tree is not nearly so large as in the case of rubber, and it is a particularly slow-growing tree, no gutta percha being obtained until it is twenty-five years old, and sometimes fifty. For private enterprise gutta percha growing is out of the question, but a Government plantation is advisable.

Evidently the Government have in their eye some particularly objectionable form of socialistic legislation. Later on Senator Staniforth Smith, in speaking of various, fibres - and fibres are specified in the schedule of this Bill - says -

There is an immense number of fibrous plants that grow well in the tropics, many of them yielding most valuable fibres; but the amount of labour required to extract this and prepare it for the market makes the cultivation generally unprofitable.

So that honorable members are asked to> grant a bounty upon the products of cheap labour ; and if there is one thing more than another which we do not want, it is the introduction of habour of that description. In speaking of sisal hemp, Senator Staniforth Smith says -

Sisal hemp does not grow well near theequator, as it requires a dry climate. It grows, best 20 degrees from the equator, or just inside the tropics. This is an industry that might becultivated with success in certain parts of Australia. At Rigo, in Papua, there is a smallplantation of sisal hemp. While it may behoped that this will result in success, the probabilities are against it, as, in the opinion of the most competent experts, the climate is altogether unsuitable. Dr. Treub, Director of Agriculturein Java; Mr. Ridley, Director of the Singapore Botanical Gardens, and Mr. Carruthers, Director of Agriculture for the Malay States, were all of opinion that the climate of Papua is unfitted for its culture. This is probably another illustration of the necessity of expert knowledge in starting new industries.

I have quoted those passages with a view to showing how they bear out the contention of the honorable and learned member for Bendigo that if we are to embark upon legislation of this sort we should establish some kind of organization for the purpose of instructing growers in the methods of cultivating the products upon which we propose to pay a bounty. Ire the absence of such a Department we cannot hope for success. Yet without any preparation of that kind, the Government ask us to sanction the expenditure of £500,000. Other matters into which a Department of the character suggested' might inquire are the conditions of the soil, climate, and rainfall. The report of Senator Staniforth Smith confirms the statements of the honorable and learned' member for Bendigo, and I merely desire to emphasize them. - Mr. BROWN (Canobolas) [3.56].Inmany respects the speech delivered by the honorable and learned member for Bendigowas a valuable contribution to the debate, especially with regard to the need whichexists for establishing a Federal Department of Agrculture to deal with matters; of this character. I also am strongly impressed with the necessity for establishing a Department of that description, quite apart from the question of the proposed payment of bounties. I believe that such a Department need not trench upon the very useful work which is being done by the States Agricultural Departments. On the contrary, I think that its existence would simplify their work, and prevent its duplication. I agree with the honorable and learned member for Bendigo that the distribution of money by way of bounties should be undertaken only under the advice and supervision of expert authorities. We ought to be very careful not to spend any money by way of bounty in developing an industry which has no hope of success. Before any bounty is allotted to an industry, it should be demonstrated that it . possesses sufficient possibilities of success to make it worth our while to try the experiment. Otherwise there is a* danger that the money will be wasted, and that a number of wellintentioned people will be induced to embark their money in industries in which they would have been prevented from doing so by the exercise of a little foresight. Therefore. I hope that the question of the establishment of a Federal Department of Agriculture will receive very serious attention. I do not mean to suggest that it should be established as a prelude to the granting of bounties. I quite recognise that this Department may authorize the payment of bounties upon a number of commodities upon which the bounty could not be claimed until after the industries had been in existence for some years. But I do think that this important work should not be undertaken in the absence of supervision such as has been suggested by the honorable and learned member for Bendigo. I ask the Government to seriously consider the position which he has put before them. I do not take up the attitude of some of mv free-trade friends that we should regard the policy of encouraging the establishment of industries by means of bounties as an interference with private enterprise. I cannot shut my eyes to the fact that quite a number of very desirable industries may be assisted in that way.

Mr Johnson - Is not that what is claimed for protective duties?

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