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Wednesday, 5 October 1910
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Senator SAYERS (Queensland) . - It cannot be said that I am' opposing the vote for the trawler now for the first time, because I have opposed it every year I have been here. I have listened to the explanation of the Minister of Defence, but the honorable senator did not tell the Committee that the Victorian Government spent a good many thousands of pounds on a trawler, and had to admit that their experiment was a failure. I have read the reports presented by those in charge of the Endeavour. Dealing with the visit made to Tasmanian waters, we were told that flathead could be caught in Oyster Bay, and that three rock cod had been caught on one line, a thing that any lad could do. The information generally supplied as the result of the trawler's visits to Tasmanian waters has been known for years to the men engaged in practical fishing in those waters. I may inform the Minister of Defence that they are not men who confine their fishing operations to harbors. They go out to sea for a great deal of their fish, and they tell me that the trawler is a "frost." It may be a very nice toy for some individuals, but that is all that it is.

Senator Long - -What information have they as to the capacity of the trawler?

Senator SAYERS - The men to whom I refer have had a lifelong experience of fishing on the Tasmanian coast. They have seen the Endeavour at work, and they saw the Victorian Government's trawler at work. They were in the habit at one time of going out with sailing hookers to fish. They would be away from port for a month at a time, and they caught fish on the Tasmanian coast, and brought it to Melbourne for sale. Their knowledge of the fishing on the Tasmanian coast is much greater than that- of Senator Long, or my own.

Senator Long - Their knowledge may be undoubted, whilst their opportunities of judging the work of the trawler may be limited.

Senator SAYERS - The fact is that a trawler is of very little use on the greater part of the coast of Australia, because the bottom is composed of coral or rock. This destroys the nets, and a trawler would have to be continually going into port to repair her nets. The fishermen of Tasmania were aware of all the information supplied in the reports from the trawler long before she went to Tasmanian waters. The New South Wales Government, as well as the Victorian Government, have tried trawling, and after the expenditure of many thousands of pounds have been unable to make a success of it. Now we are told by the Minister of Defence that, although the operations of the Endeavour may not have been of much value to the fishing industry of Australia, she is useful as a survey boat. With all respect for those who man the Endeavour, I think they are not competent for the survey of the waters of our coast. Men who have been engaged in the North Sea fishing trade are not necessarily qualified for marine surveying. I maintain that the money spent on the Endeavour is wasted. We are invited to believe that the fishermen of Australia are prejudiced in the views they express as to the work of the trawler. Some of these men are from fifty to sixty years of age, and have spent almost the whole of their lives in the fishing industry. I admit that they. have done no trawling, but that is because of their knowledge of the condition of the bottom in the waters in which they usually fish. They know that trawling would be quite impracticable where the fish are found in anything like payable quantities. It is of no use to look for fish on a sandy bottom, where there is no food for them. Schnapper, for instance, are. never caught away from a rocky bottom.

Senator Guthrie - Schnapper are caught in great numbers in seaweed.

Senator SAYERS - I have done as much schnapper fishing as most people, and I have never known them to be caught away from a reef. When I was a member of the Queensland Parliament I used to go schnapper fishing in a Government steamer. We had a Government official on board, and I remember that we tried the whole of the coast of New South Wales from the Tweed Heads almost down to Newcastle. We tried the coast to the north also, but we never found any schnapper in Queensland waters away from a reef. A trawler would be of no earthly use for fishing over such ground. It is possible that with a trawler big shoals of barracouta might be caught, but no one would eat that fish. At any rate, most people in Tasmania will not eat it because the fish are full of worms. We have been told by the Minister of Defence that some one is thinking about establishing a canning industry at Moreton Bay. I can tell the honorable senator that people have been canning fish there for many years. The fish principally canned is the mullet, which goes up the Brisbane River at certain times of the year in myriads. Canned mullet is very good if the fish is properly canned. Senator Chataway, in company with myself, was informed two years ago by the people engaged in the industry in Moreton Bay that they could not afford to can fish at the price at which they had to sell the article to the public. I should like to ask what return we have had for the money spent in the construction and upkeep of the trawler? On the basis of the vote asked for in this Bill it takes £6,000 a year to keep the vessel going. What is there to show for that expenditure? Some scientific gentlemen may believe that we have something to show for it, but in the opinion of the general public there has been nothing to show for it so far. Are we to continue this expenditure because the officers of the Department are unwilling to admit that they made a mistake in the first place in recommending the construction and use of a trawler? They will never make such an admission until Parliament tires of voting money from which we get no return. I want to see the trawler go out and catch fish in marketable quantities.

Senator Guthrie - That is not her work.

Senator SAYERS - I say that it is. We might offer the use of the trawler to those who have charge of her now for six months without any charge to defray interest on what she cost to build, and let them show by practical work that they are able to make a success of trawling. Let them show that they can make their salaries and wages at the business.

Senator McGregor - They could Jo that catching prawns in Queensland waters.

Senator SAYERS - It is all very well to make silly interjections, but when we are being asked to vote public money the Vice-President of the Executive Council should treat the matter more seriously. If those in charge of the trawler can de monstrate that trawling in Australian waters1 may be carried out successfully on the terms I have suggested, I shall, be prepared to withdraw my objection to the vote.

Senator Findley - If we applied that principle to every experiment none would be successful.

Senator SAYERS - The Minister overlooks the fact that .this is not the first experiment of this kind that has been tried in Australia. Two of our State Governments spent thousands of pounds on similar experiments, and have had to admit that they were failures. I suppose' the Commonwealth Government expect to succeed without taking any notice of the experience of the State Governments in this matter.

Senator Pearce - We have profited by their failure in the kind of boat we have built for the purpose.

Senator SAYERS - The Government will be unable to convince the public that they have profited by the experience of the State Governments in trawling. The reports from our trawler are just like the reports which were received from the State trawlers. There is always something going to happen " in the sweet by-and-by."

Senator Lynch - How many "duffer" shafts have been sunk at Charters Towers ?

Senator SAYERS - A great number, and there have been a great number of prospectuses published in connexion with mines in Western Australia, as well as in Queensland, which contained just as much buncombe as is contained in the reports we have had from the trawler. Will any honorable senator tell me that any company would he formed in England to catch' fish in Australian waters on the strength of the reports that have been presented by those in charge of the Endeavour? Let the manager of the trawler demonstrate that trawling can be carried on in Australian waters as a commercial success, and then people will be prepared to put money into the business. They have proved nothing so far that was not already well known. I do not blame those who are employed on the trawler if they can find a Parliament so simple as to vote sums of money every year to enable them to cruise around the coast in fine weather, because "the trawler cannot go out in wet and bad weather. We have been told that the trawler has performed valuable survey work.

Senator Keating - So she has.

Senator SAYERS - Here- is another exMinister who exclaims " So she has." In this Parliament we are. cursed with exMinisters, and it is time that we had a hanging match amongst, them. Because the honorable senator happened to be a member of the Government which decided to build the trawler, he thinks that he is bound to defend the work of that vessel.

Senator Pearce - Off Flinders Arm and Twofold Bay the vessel has located a trawling ground possessing a good bottom on which she may be filled with fish in two hours.

Senator SAYERS - With what sort of fish?

Senator Pearce - Good, marketable fish.

Senator SAYERS - Then why do not the Government get the vessel filled with fish ?

Senator Pearce - The trawler is not intended to compete with private individuals.

Senator SAYERS - My candid opinion is that the crew of the vessel could not fill it with fish in the way that the Minister has affirmed.

Senator Pearce - Does the honorable senator think that the Government ought lo embark upon the fishing industry?

Senator SAYERS - Why not? They have already decided to go in for horsebreeding and for the manufacture of cloth. If, by entering upon the fishing industry, they can benefit the country, I see no reason why they should not do so. From the information which is in my possession, I believe that the trawler has proved a failure. That impression is confirmed by the statements of men with life-long experience of fishing. I would ask honorable senators why the Victorian and New South Wales Governments abandoned trawling operations ?

Senator Barker - Because they could not find fish.

Senator SAYERS - Then does any honorable senator think that the Commonwealth is likely to prove more successful?

Senator Long - But the Commonwealth has sent the trawler to exploit Tasmanian waters.

Senator SAYERS - I dare say that the vessel might obtain good hauls of sharks and dogfish there. Certainly three parts of the fish caught in Tasmanian waters would be unmarketable. The money spent upon the trawler represents so much waste. I recognise that the Government have a majority behind them, and that the item will be passed, but, nevertheless, I feel it to be my duty to protest against it

Senator Keating - Does the honorable senator suggest that there are no edible fish obtainable in Tasmanian ' waters ?

Senator SAYERS - I do not." I know that trumpeter and black perch are to be found there.

Senator Keating - And rock cod.

Senator SAYERS - We do not get rock cod with a trawler.

Senator Keating - Where are rock cod caught ?

Senator SAYERS - In the kelp. So long as this vote: continues to appear upon the Estimates -I shall protest against it.

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