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Thursday, 25 August 1921

Senator PAYNE (Tasmania) .- I must reply to Senator Pearce, who has criticised what he regards as my conversion from, a Protectionist to a Free Trader. The honorable senator has made the very statement that I required in order to support me in my attitude on this item. He has truly said that rabbit traps are being manufactured in Australia, and very good traps they are; but their price is out o"f all proportion to their value. He has also said that the demand has been supplied, but his latest information is that the demand is falling off on account of the decreased market price for skins. That is perfectly correct, but no matter how much skins may fall in price, it remains essential that rabbits shall, as far as possible, be trapped and exterminated. How can we expect trappers to pay the present high prices for traps if skins have depreciated in value by half in the last year or two? The very fact that skins have fallen in price necessitates something being done to provide the trappers with traps at a reasonable price. In the north-western portion of Tasmania valuable areas of land are being taken possession of by rabbits simply because skins have fallen in value, and the trappers cannot afford to pay the present price for traps. I urge the Minister to look at this matter from a practical point of view, so that we may prevent the ruin, which has already begun, in many districts of southern Australia.

Senator Gardiner - How does Senator Payne answer the charge that Protection makes things dearer?

Senator PAYNE - I am not arguing this matter from a Protectionist's point of V.iew. except as a scientific Protectionist, who, by this requested amendmen!t, is endeavouring to give- the Protectionj that is absolutely essential in building 'up industries in Australia - to the development of our lands. I am out to protect the southern portion of Australia, especially against the rabbit pest, and the only way I can help at the present is to see that traps are obtainable as cheaply as possible.

Senator Gardiner - I should like to address myself to the question, but I think there ought to "be a quorum present. {Quorum formed.]

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