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Thursday, 26 November 1936

Senator MARWICK (Western Australia) . - Before proceeding to discuss the items of expenditure proposed in this bill I should like to congratulate Senator Sampson upon his able speech on the subject of defence.

Senator Arkins - The honorable senator should also compliment the Minister for Defence upon the valuable work he is performing.

Senator MARWICK - If the Minister would agree to some of the proposals which I have submitted' to his department, I should be more willing to do so. I do not propose to deal at length with the subject of defence, which has already been discussed fully by some honorable senators, but I trust that the Government will give favorable consideration to the request I have made that Lewis and Bren machine guns be made available to the members of rifle clubs. This request, which has been supported by Senator Foll, Senator Arkins and Senator Dein, is so reasonable that I cannot understand why it should be refused. For over twelve months, the members of rifle clubs have been asking for an opportunity to become acquainted with the handling of these guns, and quite a number of deputations have waited upon the Minister in support of the request. At present there are 49,000 members of rifle clubs throughout Australia, all of whom are potential defenders of this country, and despite the fact that a tremendous amount is being appropriated for defence purposes, the Minister for Defence has declined their request. I trust that the Minister will allow at least some of the men to receive instructions in the use of these guns, and in that way enable them to render a very useful service to Australia.

I should like , to know how the £51,000 which is being appropriated to meet the cost of the High Commissioner's office in London, is to be expended. The annual cost of an official residence for the High Commissioner is £1,950, which seems excessive.

Senator Hardy - Surely the honorable senator does not expect the High Commissioner to live in a hut.

Senator MARWICK - No ; but he receives £3,000 a year and also a living allowance. We expect the High Commissioner to uphold the dignity of the country which he represents, but the amount seems unnecessarily high.

Senator Duncan-Hughes - He does uphold the dignity of Australia.

Senator MARWICK - I believe that he does. In addition to the expenditure I have mentioned, provision is made for maintaining a staff of public servants at Australia House almost as large as that carrying out the work associated with this Parliament.

The Commissioner-General in the United States of America, costs the Commonwealth approximately £7,000 a year. Last week, when a National and Foreign Trade Convention was held in Chicago, regret was expressed that Australia was not represented. Australia, which must be interested in the problems discussed at that convention, should have been represented, and if it were not possible to send a delegate, the CommissionerGeneral in the United States of America should have attended.

Provision is also made for expenditure in connexion with fisheries, and I trust that when research work is undertaken, the possibilities of obtaining large quantities of edible fish in the waters along the north west coast of Western Australia will not be overlooked. Those waters are teeming with' fish, but I do not know whether fish obtained in semi-tropical waters are suitable for canning purposes.

Senator Cooper,who dealt very extensively with the position of graziers, quoted some interesting figures concerning the Australian wool industry. I fully realize that this country depends largely upon the proceeds of our wool exports, and that the old saying that "Australia is riding on the sheep's back " is as true to-day as it was when the expression was first used. Conditions in the pastoral areas of Western Australia are as bad, as in the pastoral areas of Queensland, if, indeed, they are not worse. Graziers have lost 50 per cent, of their stock and even if reasonable seasons returned it would take them five or six years before their holdings reached their normal carrying capacity. I hope that, if any assistance is given to this industry, the claims of the pastoralists in Western Australia will not be overlooked.

I congratulate the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research upon the excellent research work it is carrying out. The council should endeavour to check the rapid encroachment of salt upon valuable agricultural lands. Within the last two years, hundreds of thousands of acres of good agricultural land in Western Australia have been severely affected in this way. In Russia a grass, Agropyson elongatum, grows profusely on saline soils, and I have read in several journals that it also makes a reasonably good fodder plant. To my knowledge, several persons have individually written to various departments in Russia in an endeavour to obtain seeds or runners of it; hut up to date their requests have not been successful. I, therefore, ask the Government to make an effort to obtain specimens of the grass for purposes of experimentation in Australia.

Senator Arkins - How does the phenomenon of the salt in the soil arise?

Senator ALLAN MACDONALD (WESTERN AUSTRALIA) - By the destruction of the timber.

Senator MARWICK - That is so. On my property I have 500 acres of salt soil which will not grow a blade of vegetation of any description. At the commencement of the summer months the pure white salt rises to the surface of the soil.

Senator Arkins - Is the phenomenon of recent origin?

Senator MARWICK - The salt has been in evidence for twenty years. Owing to the presence of the salt the 3,500 farms scheme in Western Australia has had to be abandoned.

Senator ALLAN MACDONALD (WESTERN AUSTRALIA) - And the De Garis settlement too.

Senator MARWICK - Yes. The soil drift and erosion which have taken place in many parts of Australia must receive the earnest attention of the Government. Different plans should be introduced in an endeavour to combat it. Much of the erosion has been due solely to the fact that the settler has overstocked . his country, and drastic measures will have to be taken in the near future in order to arrest this drift. During the last couple of years I have seen serious evidences of it in South Australia.

In reply to Senator J. V. MacDonald, who stated that I represented vested interests, I assure the honorable senator that I am fresh from the fields of toil where I have worked hard all my life, and I am at least as qualified as he is to represent the working man. Perhaps the honorable senator has been in this chamber for so long that he has got out of touch with the workers, but I, as one of them, am conversant with their problems.

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