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Wednesday, 29 August 1906

Mr SPENCE (Darling) . - I am surprised at the sudden change of front on the part of some honorable members. During the second-reading debate no opposition was raised to the Bill.

Mr Johnson - I opposed it.

Mr SPENCE - No opposition of any consequence was raised to the Bill. We now have a proposition on the part of those who pose as the friends of the primary producer that it shall be shelved. Their attitude is certainly inconsistent. It is said that a Select Committee should be appointed to inquire into these proposals. I fail to see that such a body could obtain any more information than is already in the possession of the Minister, who will, I am sure, be prepared, when the schedule is under consideration, to give full details as to the present position of the industries; proposed to be encouraged. The honorable and learned member for Bendigo appeared to think that the establishment of a Federal

Bureau of Agriculture should be antecedent to the passing of this Bill. I do not believe, however, that he would desire to retard its passing. I am heartily in favour of the establishment of a Federal Bureau of Agriculture, but I do not know why we should delay the passing of this Bill until such a department has been created. Are we to say, as was urged, in effect, by the honorable member for Cowper, that those who propose to earn these bounties shall not be permitted to make a start unless a Department of Agriculture approves of the locality, or localities, in which they propose to commence operations? The suggestion made by the honorable member is only one remove from a proposal that the Commonwealth should itself undertake the production of some of these articles. We have in New South Wales a splendid Agricultural College, with 5,000 acres of land under its control, whilst there are scattered over the State fourteen experimental farms, capable of thoroughly testing the producing qualities of the soil. Victoria has also several experimental farms, and a very large Agricultural College, with 4,000 or 5,000 acres of ground surrounding it. Western Australia has, I think, six experimental farms, as well as an Agricultural College, and sixty-five agricultural halls, which are subsidized by the Government, and in which lectures are given from time to time by experts appointed to assist the farmers in acquiring a thorough knowledge of their industry. In Queensland there is an Agricultural College, and something like ten experimental farms and fourteen sub-stations, whilst South Australia has an Agricultural Bureau, with over 100 branches. All these institutions publish from time to time official reports. The New South Wales Agricultural Gazette - a very valuable publication - gives information relating to various primary industries, and similar publications are issued in .most of the States. # The States Departments of Agriculture also go so far as to select good seed and plants for the farmers. Is it the desire of honorable members that the work of these institutions shall be duplicated?

Mr Poynton - There is no proposal to hand over to those Departments the supervision of the industries named in the Bill.

Sir William Lyne - I shall tell the Committee later on what I propose to do in that direction.

Mr SPENCE - I am surprised that those who appeared at the outset to favour 5ยป: j the Bill are now raising obstacles to its passing. I understand that the work of a Federal Bureau of Agriculture would be altogether different from that carried out by the States Departments of Agriculture. Its province would be, amongst other things, to collect from the States Departments information which it would distribute from one central office. It is certainly unnecessary that such a Department should be established before these bounties are granted. The States have made very creditable provision for the needs of the farmers. As a matter of fact, no one entering any other industry is so fully supplied with information to assist him as is the man who* is about to settle on the land. Any one proposing to embark upon one of these new industries could readily obtain from the States. Departments all the information necessary for his guidance. The States Departments of Agriculture can Supp v details as to analyses of soils, and the districts best fitted for the raising of certain products. The honorable member for New England insinuated that this Bill was only a political placard. We might with equal reason say that electioneering tactics are at the bottom of the opposition to the Bill, and that it is the desire of the Opposition to reduce the volume of good work done by the present Government. I could understand straight-out opposition to the Bill, but I cannot understand a proposal to shelve it.

Mr Lonsdale - Does the honorable member believe in the granting of bounties to existing industries?

Mr SPENCE - I do not think that any one does. No such proposal is contained in the Bill.

Mr Lonsdale - Some of the industries mentioned in the schedule are already established.

Mr SPENCE - -Any one who occasionally glances at the agricultural statistics of the Commonwealth knows that some of the industries mentioned in the schedule are not yet established in Australia. I am not quite clear as to the position of the olive oil industry, but I was under the impression that it was fairly well established in South Australia a few years ago. I should not oppose the payment of a bounty to those who have done pioneering- work in any industry that is not yet properly established. When the Minister was absent last week we had a constant . demand for more information in regard to this Bill; but now that the Minister is present some honorable members have changed their cry.

Mr Johnson - If the honorable member had not been absent during part of the afternoon he would have heard a demand for information from his own side of the House. .

Mr SPENCE - Having regard to the way in which it was received when first introduced, I am surprised that so much opposition should now be shown to the Bill. If it were shown that the cotton industry was already firmly established in Australia we should have to strike out the bounty proposed to be given to encourage it, but we know that although cotton can be grown in Australia the industry is not yet established. We are told that it has already been demonstrated that all the products mentioned in the schedule can be grown in Australia. It would be foolish to offer bounties for the raising of crops if we did not know that they could be grown here. I believe that Australia can produce almost anything that is grown elsewhere. As to the administration of the Bill, we know that expert assistance is already obtainable, and that the experts in the States Departments of Agriculture could make all the tests necessary under it. Experts attached to the agricultural colleges of the States are always ready to afford information. They are enthusiasts, and would be quite willing, if allowed by the States' authorities, as I think they would be, to cooperate with the Federal Government, and thus save the money of the taxpayers. Because, we must, of course, avoid duplication. One of the objects of bounties is to prevent too big a burden from falling on any one S'tate. There are some productions which could best be undertaken in some States, and others in other States, and the proposed distribution would, no doubt, establish industries in those places where the conditions are best suited for their establishment. I do not think that the bounties will be sufficiently large to induce persons to enter upon production merely for the sake of obtaining money from the Government. Persons seeking to take advantage of the provisions of the Bill will be wise enough to look ahead and see what the future prospects of an industry will be. By encouraging production, the Bill will lead to closer settlement than we have now, and to the more thorough use of land which is now not being employed to the best advantage.

I hope, therefore, that the opposition which has been shown to the measure will be withdrawn. I have no fault to find with honorable members for asking for information, because it is not desirable to give bounties to industries which are already prosperous concerns; but I do not think that anything of the kind is intended, and I hope that, having obtained the information they think desirable in regard to the details of the measure, honorable members will allow it to pass.

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