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Tuesday, 21 May 1957


Mr ANDERSON (Hume) .- The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) took to task my worthy colleague, the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull), who is a very knowledgeable man on rural affairs. He said that because the honorable member for Mallee is a professional auctioneer he could have no knowledge of rural conditions. Nothing could be further from the truth, because an auctioneer has to have an intimate knowledge of the stock that he handles, and also a good knowledge of land, because he also engages in dealings in land. An auctioneer is also gifted with a powerful voice, which he can make heard. The honorable member for Lalor hails from a State where not one member of the Labour party represents a rural constituency in the State Parliament. That is because the Labour party has entirely lost the confidence of the rural producer.

The part of this bill which interests me is not so much the scientific side of research, although nobody will quarrel with that, because it is of the utmost importance. Indeed, it is only now that industry generally is waking up to the fact that money for research is essential if all our industries are to continue to exist in a competitive world. The side of the measure I am interested in is the more practical side - that which has reference to the improvement of our pastures and methods of dealing with the great problems that arise in primary production. In previous times it was common to clear the land, wait for the natural pastures to germinate, and then put stock on the land. Improvements were made by decreasing the size of paddocks and by animal husbandry. There were no problems of disease. The decrease in the size of paddocks, and the improvement of pasturage, accompanied by the grazing of a larger number of sheep to the acre, were followed by the problem of disease. . The C.S.I. R.O. is doing very great work in combating the diseases of live-stock, particularly sheep. That is the scientific approach. What I want to stress to-day is the great need for animal husbandry, because the practice of animal husbandry must be adopted by farmers in face of varying conditions.

It is quite easy for industries other than rural industries to adapt themselves to changing conditions, because their affairs are subject to reasonable control by man. But nature is in control of the affairs of the man on the land, and he has to adapt his programmes and policies in relation to the facts of nature. One thing that strikes me, as a practical sheep-farmer, is that, generally speaking, sheep do better on short pastures. If a farmer improves his pastures properly he is faced with an enormous growth of pasture over all his property. The problem is to maintain the kind of pasture most suitable for sheep. The growth is systematic over the whole property. The farmer can close up two or three paddocks for hay-making but he is still faced with the problem of the whole area.

When I came first to Australia I was struck by the fact that the value of farms was estimated on their carrying capacity. Land which could carry one sheep to the acre might be quoted at £8 an acre. I looked at the rainfall records of the district in which I was interested, and found that in one year the rainfall had been 30 inches, in another 25 inches, and in another 12 inches. How do you assess one sheep to the acre under these conditions? You cannot do it because, when the rainfall is good, the land will carry two or three sheep to the acre. I mention that only as an illustration of the problem of maintaining pastures properly.

A great deal of research could profitably be made into animal husbandry. The scientific side of that has been handled very well, but I am thinking of the practical side. Can any agronomist with any certainty tell a man who wants to go on the land that in a certain district the best type of pasture is such and such, and that a certain way of handling it is the best way? I know of no district in New South Wales where any agronomist can do that. All they can say is that the practice that farmers in the district have followed is such and such, and that it has had good results.

In addition to the rainfall problem, there is the problem of rotation of stock in the paddocks. A trained man can arrive at the solution much quicker than the ordinary farmer can. The trained man often gives the theory and the farmer will apply, in practice, what he tells him, in an endeavour to make the best of his problem.

Another problem arises from the fact that not sufficient research has been made into the storage of fodder. The last five or six years have been periods of excellent rainfall. The result has been an abundant growth of pastures, particularly in the pasture-improved areas. The natural and sensible thing to do is to create an insurance against drought, but this depends largely on the way that fodder is stored. One problem is how to make hay when rainfall is continuous at the haymaking season. That has been the problem in my district over the last seven years. In only one year - last year - was the weather suitable for haymaking. I should like to see research undertaken to improve the cultivation of pasture crops for silage. I should like also to see research into the production of machinery that will dry hay, such as is used in Europe. Inclement weather often occurs at a time when the pastures are exactly right for haymaking, when the grass and clovers are just right for preservation. If it were possible to have a machine that would artificially dry the grass after it had been cut and was passing through the machine, it would be possible even at such times to harvest and preserve first-class fodder. The average farmer cannot afford to pay for research work of that kind, and I commend it to the Government as a subject for investigation.

The proposed representation on the Wool Research Committee seems to me to be very fair. I notice that the Labour party intends to move an amendment to add two members to represent the trade unions. I cannot understand the motive for such a proposal. The bill deals with the production and scientific control of wool, and I fail to see where labour comes into it. I have a great deal of respect for those men who work in the pastoral industry, but I say that the suggestion of the Labour party could be compared with a request by the fruit pickers for representation on the Australian Apple and Pear Board. Would there be any sense in their being represented on that body? It would be just as logical to have representation of the consumers of apples and pears or to appoint a member of the Housewives

Association to the board. If a committee or board is too big, it will defeat its own ends. I think that the decision of the Government on the membership of this committee, both as to the number and personnel, is very wise indeed. It is necessary, nowadays, to increase our efforts to maintain the position of Australian wool in the world's markets, and the plan envisaged by this bill has not been presented too soon. I am certain that it will receive very strong support from the wool-growing industry.







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