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Thursday, 25 August 1921

Senator PAYNE (Tasmania) .I think the ma jority of honorable senators will agree to the request which I intend to put forward in regard to the duty upon rabbit traps. We have just passed subitem a, which admits dog traps free from Great Britain, and at a 10 per cent. duty from foreign countries, whereas under sub-item b the rates of duty upon rabbit trap's are 20 per cent., 25 per cent., and 30 per cent. In the southern parts of Australia the greatest curse to the man on the land is the rabbit pest. Nothing is more vital to the prosperity of Australia than is the development of our lands to the highest extent of productivity ; but any one with experience of outlying settlements, when land which has been taken up in a virgin state is being cleared and cultivated, must recognise the awful struggle of the occupiers to keep out the rabbits from the virgin bush around them. I have seen extensive areas of devastated land which, before the rabbit pest became so evident, furnished sustenance for cattle and sheep, or produced crops. The farmer cannot protect himself against rabbits by wiring his holding unless he has a fair amount of capital at his disposal, and it has been found in Tasmania that the best means of dealing with the pest is to keep the rabbits in check by systematic trapping. The price of rabbit traps in Selbourne to-day is from 33s. to 36s. per dozen. It is so high that many people who formerly earned a livelihood by trapping are now precluded from following that occupation. Are we imposing a duty of 20 per cent. British, and 30 per cent, general, to prohibit the importation of these traps, or to keep the price at the 2>resent high figure ? It may be contended that this protection is necessary in order to support an industry in Australia ; "but it cannot be more than a small industry. What benefit is derived by the maintenance of a small industry engaged in the manufacture of rabbit traps in comparison with the good that would result from enabling trapping operations to be carried on more extensively than they are to-day by permitting these essential articles to come in free, or, at any rate, at a very low rate of duty ? We admit, free of duty, the traps that are necessary for the capture of wild dogs, which are a curse to the big squatting areas, but we penalize the holder of a small agricultural block by obliging him to pay a heavy duty upon the rabbit traps he needs. I move -

That the House of Representatives be requested to make the duty, sub-item (b), general, ad val., 10 per cent."

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