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Friday, 23 July 1920


Dr EARLE PAGE (COWPER, NEW SOUTH WALES) ". - I drew attention last night to the various methods that had been called into operation in the United States of America and Canada - the two great Federations which are similar to this country in their extent, in the time of their development, and in their problems - in order to co-ordinate Federal and State activities. I should like to outline the methods adopted in those countries to insure that there should be no duplication, overlapping, or friction between the State and Federal Governments, either in administration or in the work itself. When the original Commission of Conservation was appointed in Canada, these- were the lines that were followed : -

In determining the lines upon which action should be taken, it was recognised that there was grave danger that the authorities of the Provinces might look with jealousy upon any Commission created by Federal legislation, and the provisions of the Act were expressly framed in such a way as to preclude the possibility of any ground for such a feeling, the representation being, in fact, such as to secure, as far as possible, the most effective representation of the views of each Province. The Commission is, in fact, probably the most truly national in its composition of any body that has ever been constituted in Canada.

I commend to our Government the lines adopted by the Canadian governmental activities, as shown iri the first annual report of the Commission: -

Where the scope is almost infinite, the effort should be to choose that which is immediately practical and useful. And, first of all, it appears clear to us that provision should be marie for making a comprehensive and accurate inventory of our natural resources, bo far as our available information extends. The beginning of all proper investigations is the ascertainment of facts, and there is no country that 1 know of where it is more urgently necessary in the public interest that the naturi),] resources should be tabulated and inventoried than it is in Canada. When the Commission was appointed by the Canadian Government to go to Washington last winter, we set on foot a preliminary movement to tabulate information. The results of that work are now among our records. It is, wo may say, of the most fragmentary description.

That was what the Canadian Government found regarding State activities, such as we have had, which had been in operation for many years -

It was surprising to find how difficult it was to get anything like accurate informationStatistical information of the class which our census officers prepare is abundant and accurate, but it does not assume to deal with the question of natural resources. At the present moment there are but few publications of any Government in Canada which give accurate and comprehensive information upon these subjects.

The utility of such an inventory hardly needs discussion. Both for the purposes of development and of conservation it is the first essential to have an accurate and complete statement of the facts, readily available, accessible to all, and couched in language that the average reader can understand.

Those were the lines on which the Canadian Government carried out this project, and now, ten years afterwards, they have, I suppose, one of the most complete, far-reaching, and comprehensive tabulations of the natural resources of their territory to be found in the world. The lines on which they have developed are worth imitating in Australia to-day.


Mr Richard Foster - How are their Provinces represented ?


Dr EARLE PAGE (COWPER, NEW SOUTH WALES) - They have representation practically on the lines of the advisory councils, which I gather were provided for in the previous measure proposed to this Parliament. I understand from this morning's press that the Government intend to reintroduce provision for those advisory councils in this Bill.


Mr Jowett - Then the Provinces have representation and some share of power ?


Dr EARLE PAGE (COWPER, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Both in Canada and the United States of America the Federal Government, in many instances, subsidizes the State or provincial activi ties. In the case of agriculture, for instance, it does not overlap. It appoints its men in certain departments of work, but it does not " butt " into those which the State or Province already fills. In those cases, it simply subsidizes and increases the possibilities for good of the officers already in existence. It does not interfere with their control in any degree.


Mr Jowett - From what you have said, evidently the Provinces, have some right of representation and some share of power.


Dr EARLE PAGE (COWPER, NEW SOUTH WALES) - There has never been any conflict there, because there has been a continual desire to work in cooperation. The governmental activities are linked up properly, thus resulting in, co-ordination and not in duplication. The Federal activities simply fit into whatever vacant places there are in the existing mechanism. For instance, the Commission went into the question of mineral development. It found that practically the whole of the mining development of Canada had taken place in the central and inhabited _ territories, but that wherever prospecting had been done in uninhabited parts, indications had been found of the presence of valuable minerals, and in some cases great wealth had been uncovered. The Commission was satisfied, and has proved in the last ten years, that continual prospecting and mapping out of the areas has been of great value in indicating the most likely places to search for valuable deposits. Large bodies of ore were at the same time found to be useless because they could be worked only by certain special processes. The Government, in their physical laboratories, on a proper and comprehensive scale, investigated, for example, the question of the electric smelting of certain ores. They were able to handle successfully ores containing sulphur which had previously been absolutely useless, and to produce from certain of such iron ores some of the finest steel in the world. As the honorable member for New England (Mr. Hay) says, something similar has taken place in Australia. Through the application of a process discovered at the Technological Museum, at Sydney, the whole system of the extraction of zinc, lend, and copper has been absolutely revolutionized in the last ten or fifteen years. That alone is an instance of the enormous importance of creating such an institute as is now proposed, and of applying science more extensively than is done at present. It was found in Canada, also, that many industries, such as zinc production, were entirely at the mercy of foreign smelters and refiners, and that enormous waste was taking place because in the ore sent abroad there were certain residues for which practically no value was given. The Canadian authorities set to work on a practical and scientific scale to investigate processes which would enable those ores to be treated, and the resulting wealth retained, in their own country. That is one direction in which great development has taken place since the efforts of the various Provinces were coordinated in Canada.

But in public health, especially, there has been the biggest advance, by reason of the establishment of a body on the lines that we now propose to follow. It is recognised everywhere nowadays that the physical strength of a people is the source from which all efforts derive their value. ' The extreme and scrupulous regard for the lives and health of the population may be taken as the best criterion of real civilization and refinement to which a country has attained. Any one who thinks at all can appreciate the fact that the care of public health must essentially be a Federal, and not a State, matter. I venture to say that if, during the last influenza epidemic, the proposals of the Federal Quarantine authorities had been carried out in their entirety, we might have been saved, to a very large extent, the invasion of the whole of our country districts by influenza, and possibly we might have been saved the invasion of several of the States. Then there is the question of water supply, the pollution of streams, and so on. Many streams are Inter-State in their catchment, but at present cannot be nut under uniform control, simply by reason of the fact that the Federal authority is not given sufficient Dower. There has been .established in Melbourne already, in connexion with the Institute, a very valuable laboratory, in which sera for curative and prophylactic purposes have been manufactured, for use. not only in cases of human sickness - such as diphtheria or tuberculosis - but also in certain animal diseases. The value of that undertaking was never thoroughly appreciated until the war had practically isolated us from other countries. If that provision had not been in existence at that time, we might have easily had a much bigger loss of human life in this country, simply because we were dependent entirely upon outside sources. We can scarcely expect, in a continent of the size of Australia, sparsely populated as it is, private people to undertake the preparation of these vaccines and sera on a commercial scale. In any case, if they are undertaken by private enterprise, there is always the possibility that we shall bp unable to control them sufficiently in the interests of public health. The greatest value which can be gained by the establishment of the Institute will be found, as it has proved in Canada, in the matter of the proper tabulation and indexing of the water resources of the Continent. Australia is continually referred to aa being drought-ridden. But in the eastern half of Australia, from the Gulf of Carpentaria right down to Adelaide, and taking a distance inland of from 300 to 400 miles from the eastern seaboard, the area compares very favorably in the matter of rainfall with any other similar average area of the continents of the world. Indeed, taking a survey of the continents generally, it will be found that the waste country within Australia is in no sense disproportionate. The greatest industrial development in recent years has come about by the utilization of water for the generation of electric power. From the River Barron, in the north, to the Murray in the south, and along the whole of the eastern coast as well as on the western slopes of the Dividing Range, there are afforded innumerable opportunities for practical scientific- investigation, development, and exploitation of water power. This is a matter which should be very thoroughly investigated. The whole subject of the utilization of our streams should be placed on such a basis as to permit exploitation either by the Government or from outside sources. Linked up with this subject of water resources there is the great question of irrigation and conservation. In this respect a strange criticism of Australia's position is to be found in the final report of the Dominions Royal Commission, which was issued in 1917 after the Commission had traversed and taken evidence all over the Empire. In this publication, following upon references to the possibilities in Canada, New Zealand and elsewhere, it will be found that there are only about five lines devoted to Australia under the heading of water power. These cover the whole subject of our country's possibilities of development by simply remarking, in effect, that no evidence was forthcoming. This referred to the year 1915, and no evidence could be placed before the Commission simply because there had been no national inventory taken of our resources.- In Victoria, however, I understand that some attempt has been made to obtain information along these lines.


Mr Richard Foster - And a little has been done also in South Australia.


Dr EARLE PAGE (COWPER, NEW SOUTH WALES) - In New South Wales, I believe, some small effort has been made during the past five years; but not more than £10,000, at the outside, has been involved in research upon so important a national feature. The British Prime Minister (Mr. Lloyd George) referred with apprehension the other day, in a public speech, to the fact that the industrial supremacy of England was being seriously threatened by the fact that coal as the source of industrial power was being superseded in various countries by the application of water power. He added that by such means Sweden was becoming a serious menace to Britain's industrial leadership.

The proposed Institute can prove of enormous value, also in relation to agriculture, which industry depends so very closely upon the maintenance of the fertility of the soil. Prosperity cannot endure unless means are taken to insure close and anxious watchfulness upon our soil. "We know full well that some of the great lands of the Old "World, which once flourished and carried populations of millions, have become deserts, their inhabitants numbering but a few hundreds of thousands. Egypt was once the granary of the world, but its soil became impoverished ; and only now, by the conservation of water and the control of that water, has some of its agricultural glory been revived. A country which depends almost entirely upon agriculture and is closely populated can ho- gin to grow hopelessly impoverished inside of 200 years unless extreme care is taken to conserve its soil. There must be a proper rotation of crops, for example, and selection of seed. It is easier to conserve the fertility of the soil than to restore it. The proposed Institute should co-ordinate all the effort at present being undertaken throughout Australia with respect to agriculture. It should concentrate all the activity and research which have proceeded in dealing with the question of live-stock. It should take regard of such experiments, for instance, as have been made by the honorable member for New England (Mr. Hay) in the direction of herd-testing. The provision of manures and public instruction as to rotation of crop? should be matters transcending our State borders. In the United States of America there are not only the State Departments of Agriculture, which do their work very well. For example, some of the smaller States - less in area than Victoria - have from ten to twenty agricultural colleges. But, in addition, the Federal Government have one huge Department which deals exclusively with the improvement of agriculture and with agricultural conditions generally. This Department does not act in any way upon a merely State basis. It has three main head-quarters, namely, at Washington, Chicago, and San Francisco; and there are thirty or more local centres distributed throughout the States. Not only does this Department provide instruction and see to such matters as securing weather reports, but it endeavours both to increase production and to enhance the returns of the primary producer by securing for him favorable market conditions. It has established an office of markets and rural organization which possesses the largest and best trained staff of experts to be found concentrated upon this one subject in any part of the world. It investigates all the larger and more difficult problems confronting the farmer to-day. In the matter of marketing the people of Australia experienced during the war strong evidence of the fact that national activity can insure better opportunities and prices than along the lines either of State organization or private enterprise. As well as' interesting itself in that phase, the organization in America has inaugurated a system of providing market reports to cover the whole of the States. Thus, a farmer knows before he ships his produce, where he is likely to secure the best return ; and he can gain some idea of his profits then, instead of having to -Wait for a return from his commission agent. A Grain Standards Act has been passed in the United States of America, with the idea of insuring uniform grading, so as to enable the farmer to obtain a far better price for his produce and at the same time diminish the shipment of inferior grain. Thus the standard of the whole of the products of the country is scientifically and commercially increased. A proposition has been put forward for the establishment of bonded warehouses also, which will handle the farmers' produce in a co-operative fashion, and make him to a large extent independent of the market. He will be able to bring his produce to these warehouses and receive scrip, which can be negotiated to enable him to carry on. Thus, a practical effort is made to regulate the flush of a heavy season. Farmers in Australia know only too well that a good season is often less profitable than a comparatively poor one. In a good season the farmer is apt to get a low price for his abundant harvest, whereas in a poor year he can be fairly well assured of receiving an excellent return for whatever crop he reaps. In addition, in the United States of America, efforts have been made to inculcate sound ideas regarding the financing of farmers. It has been sought to emphasize the fact that the financing of the rural community should be placed on a slightly differentscale and basis compared with other industries, for the main reason that the elements themselves are never absolutely stable.

In regard to another important source of activity great efforts have been made in the United States of America, namely, to improve and perfect the meat supply. By means of scientific research and experiment, wisely co-ordinated throughout the country, the authorities have _ been able very largely to eliminate the tick.

Although it is impossible for an Institute such as is proposed in the measure before the House to at once launch out on such a scale and undertake such a great scope of activities as I have indicated in speaking of the United States of America, yet its foundation will permit its gradual working up to some such force in the country; that is to say, if it is founded on lines such as have been suggested by scientists in Australia, and, indeed, by the whole of the practical experience of the world. It is to have only a small beginning,, but it is to be hoped that it will steadily grow and act as a co-ordinating mechanism in relation to present institutions, not despising any .activity of value being carried on at this moment. If it should develop as is hoped for it, the Institute must prove one of the most beneficent influences in Australian public life. There are not in Australia at present sufficient or adequate Departments to deal with out national problems. I will_ quote from the report of the Dominions Royal Commission, where it refers, in two or three specific instances, to what should be done in Australia. Dealing with the question of forestry, for instance, the report states---

There is no Federal Forestry Department in the Commonwealth, and though each State has instituted some conservation methods of its own, we are not satisfied that enough has been done. We are glad to observe, however, that there is a movement towards co-operation between the Forest Departments of the various States. Thus an Inter-State Conference of Forestry was held at Adelaide in May, 1916, and it is proposed to hold similar conferences annually in future. At the 1016 conference a scheme was approved to provide for the uniform training of a competent staff for the forestry services, and a resolution was passed advocating the exchange of officers between the different States.

Much, however, remains to be done. The total " number of persons employed , in the Forestry Departments of the various Australian States in 1914 was only 595, and the total expenditure of the year 1914-15 was only £158,000. . Tasmania, which possesses some of the finest forest areas in the Commonwealth, spent only £1,200 on forestry in that year.

Then, in the matter of our fisheries, the report points out that a similar condition of affairs exists. It emphasizes that national co-ordination and co-operation would enable the Australian fishing industry to be placed on a far bettor basis, and so do away with the importation of almost £1,000,000 worth of fish every year. There are about 2,000 varieties of edible fish around the Australian coast, and yet each year we import huge consignments. The Commission states -

The success of the action achieved during the war suggests that it is expedient that the various Governments of the Empire should take steps, as soon as conditions permit, to secure the development and utilization of their natural wealth on a well-considered scheme, directed towards a definite and recognised object. In our opinion, it is vital that the Empire should, so far as possible, be placed in a position which would enable it to resist any pressure which a foreign power, or group of powers, could exercise in time of peace or during war, in virtue of a control of raw materials and commodities essential for the safety and well-being of the Empire, and it is towards the attainment of this object that co-ordinated effort should be directed.

The result of afull survey should divide the necessary materials of trade and commerce into three main categories: -

(1)   The materials of which the world's requirements are mainly or wholly produced within the Empire.

(2)   Materials of which the Empire's requirements are approximately equalled by Empire production.

(3)   Materials of which the world's requirements, and with them those of the Empire, are now mainly produced and controlled outside the Empire.

In the case of minerals, a properly coordinated mineral survey of the Empire appears to us to be an urgent necessity. We recognise the value of the work hitherto performed by the Imperial Institute in collecting and disseminating the results of mineral and geological surveys in various parts of the Empire, and in some cases of actively directing them. We have also seen the joint recommendations recently made by the' Iron and Steel Institute, the Institute of Metals, the Institute of Mining Engineers, and the Institute of Mining and Metallurgy, for the systematic collection and co-ordination of information bearing on the use of minerals and their production, and the investigation of all questions and problems relating to the utilization of the mineral and metallurgy resources of the Empire. Without indorsing their suggestion for the formation of a single Imperial Department of Minerals and Metals - a proposal which appears to us to offer constitutional and administrative difficulties at present - we are in sympathy with the general tenor of the proposals, and consider it urgent that systematic work in the direction indicated should be undertaken by the proposed Imperial Development Board, working in conjunction and co-operation with the existing scientific and research Departments and Institutions of the various Governments of the Empire.

Whenever thisproblem is dealt with, the Commission insists that in every Dominion there should be an institution charged with the tabulation and coordination of local resources, so that they may be readily accessible, not only to the community, but to the whole of the British Empire.







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