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Thursday, 24 November 1927


Mr MANNING (Macquarie) . - Early this year, after my return from England, I criticized rather severely our methods of marketing certain of our primary products there. I am glad to say now - and perhaps to take a little credit for it - that the exportation of our lowest grade of butter has been prohibited. I am also glad to be able to inform the Minister For Markets and Migration that from private sources I have been informed that the Australian apple crop has been marketed in London in better condition this year than formerly.


Mr Seabrook - It was a smaller crop.


Mr MANNING - That is so; but it is gratifying that it, has been marketed in better condition. I do not suggest that my informant stated that our apples were marketed in such good order and condition as those of other countries, but considerable improvement has been effected. Certain dormant regulations regarding the exportation of apples were enforced this year for the first time. I trust that in the future where practicable an effort will be made to examine our apples on the orchard instead of' just as they are about to be shipped.

A good deal was said during the budget debate on the necessity of balancing our imports and exports. If we are to do that, we must unquestionably extend our primary production. We cannot expect profitably to export our secondary products. I am not one of those who consider that freetrade is the panacea for all the ills that afflict our farmers. I well remember the statement made by Abraham Lincoln that no country can ever grow entirely great on primary production alone. I realize the value of our secondary industries. But the only way to correct our adverse trade balance is to increase our primary production. In my opinion the Department of Markets and Migration is one of the most important that we have, but I am very anxious to see a Commonwealth Department of Agriculture established, chiefly to co-ordinate the work of the State departments. I do not suggest that, another huge federal department should be set up, but I know from practical experience that the co-ordination of the work of the State agricultural departments is essential in the interests of the nation.

A number of honorable members had the privilege yesterday of attending the official opening of the Australian School of Forestry, and of hearing the notable speeches which were delivered by His Excellency the Governor-General (Lord Stonehaven), and. the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce). It was pleasing for us also to realize that there had been a marked measure of co-operation between the Commonwealth and State Governments in the establishment of the school. It cannot be denied that- it is essential, in order to ensure the better marketing of many of our primary products in the future that we should grow more softwoods in Australia. Our hardwoods are not suitable for these purposes, and in any case are far too valuable to be used in that way. The profligacy with which we used them in the years gone by was little short of criminal. I remember some few years ago conversing with a State official who is one of the most expert foresters in Australia. He told me that we were not planting half enough softwoods, and that the bulk of our plantings were being made in New South Wales, which, climatically and otherwise, was not nearly so suitable as Tasmania for the growth of these timbers. The sooner we can grow softwoods for the purpose of assisting our primary producers properly to market their goods, the better it will be for the nation. Even the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Seabrook) will admit that softwood is necessary for butter boxes. I am glad that the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten, hasnot increased the duty on Oregon pine, which is so necessary for the manufacture of our fruit shooks. Had he done so,I am convinced that he would not have prevented the importation of this timber, for our orchardists are so convinced that it is necessary for the proper packing of the fruit that they would pay a higher price to obtain it. An increase in the duty would not have made our orchardists use hardwood cases ; it would have merely increaseed our revenue through the customs. It will be gratifying to many associations which have written to the Minister on this point that he has not increased the existing duty.


Mr Seabrook - The honorable Minister should visit a few fruit districts.


Mr MANNING - I have been engaged in primary production all my life, but I have been glad indeed, of late years, that my interests are chiefly in wheat and wool, for the fruit-growers have undoubtedly been passing through a difficult time. During the past few months I have been obliged to send an average of two or three letters a week to the Minister for Trade and Customs, on the subject of timber duties. I have been approachedby varioussawmillers, and urged to do my utmost to obtain an increase in the existing timber duties, but I have said to them,' "I am willing to go as far as I can to assist you, but if you desire me to urge the Government to increase the duty on softwoods used for marketing our primary products, I cannot do it." I have since had letters from mew with large capital invested in the timber industry to the effect that they would be quite satisfied if the Minister would increase the duty on timbers other than those required for fruit shooks, &c. Unfortunately some of the State Governments have claimed such excessive royalties for timber that they have neutralized to a large extent the benefits of our protective tariff.

It is gratifying that the Minister for Trade and Customs has not overlooked the claim of the tomato-growers for protection.


Mr PRATTEN (MARTIN, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I was asked to define the tomato as a fruit and not a vegetable, and that has been done.


Mr MANNING - According to the tariff schedule tabled yesterday, imported tomato pulp is now to be subject to a heavier duty than formerly. Honorable members may be surprised to know that in the Bathurst, Hawkesbury and Nepean districts, there are large associations of tomato-growers. The Bathurst association alone has a membership of 120, and the minimum area that any one grower must have is one acre of tomatoes. There is no agricultural industry in Australia that gives so much employment per acre as does tomato-growing. I also congratulate the Minister upon affording increased protection to the dairying industry in connexion with the price of butter. I think that there should be an agricultural branch attached to the Department of Trade and Customs. I know that the different States are carrying on very valuable work, but their efforts should be co-ordinated. I am particularly interested in the wheat industry, and in no part of the world has greater progress been made in the evolution of new types of wheat than in Australia. The introduction of the Farrar varieties of wheat increased the average yield per acre by at least five bushels. We have been told that wheat-growing is a precarious occupation ;. but the fact remains that of the soldier settlers in New South Wales, taken as a class, only the wheat-growers were able to successfully carry on when the whole of their capital was borrowed and carried interest. Some time ago I obtained from the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) samples of varieties of wheat which he had been growing in Victoria, and which had proved very satisfactory in that State. I tried the varieties out, and obtained splendid yields from one, but the Department of Agriculture in New South Wales had never heard' of these wheats until I presented the department with a bag of each variety. The Bena variety of wheat, one of the best new wheats produced of late in New South Wales, was not known in Victoria until the honorable member for Wimmera secured a sample from me. These instances illustrate how valuable such a co-ordinating department as I have suggested would be. Excellent work is being done by the agricultural departments of the various States in encouraging the improvement of pastures. We frequently hear extolled the virtues of the man who makes two blades of grass grow where one grew before, but recently I have known instances in which pasture improvement has caused four blades to grow where one grew previously. Last week I saw on the property of Mr. Prell, about 20 miles from Goulburn, a paddock of grass a foot high, and quite green. This paddock was feeding three sheep to the acre. On the other side of the fence, where the pasture had not been improved by the introduction of new grasses and the use of super, the grass was quite browned by the summer sun, and was only three inches in length, and was feeding only a sheep to the acre. I suggest that the Minister take this matter into consideration, and make representations to the Cabinet, that the work of his department should be extended so as to embrace an agricultural co-ordinating department.

We have the Estimates of the Minister for Works and Railways before us, and I wish to endorse what was said by the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley), about the necessity for running a transcontinental train from Sydney through Broken Hill and Terowie to Perth. I would prefer to see a uniform gauge right through. At present there are two gauges on this route, between Sydney and Port Augusta, the line to Broken Hill from Sydney being 4 ft. 8-^ in., while the line going through South Australia is 3 ft. 6 in. A transcontinental train run on the existing lines would shorten the journey from Sydney to Perth by 366 miles. This would effect a. great saving in travelling time, and with the building of a further short length of railway connecting either Hillston or Cargellico with the Sydney to Broken Hill line, we would have direct connexion with the Federed Capital from South and Western Australia. I trust that this matter will be given earnest consideration, and that an effort will be made to have this service provided.







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