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Thursday, 3 December 1936

Senator A J McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) (Postmaster-General) . - I move -

That the bill be now read a second time.

This measure merely has the effect of extending for a period of one year the existing bounty legislation. In 1926, an act was passed to provide a bounty on certain tropical products produced in Papua and New Guinea and exported to the Commonwealth, the object being to encourage a diversification of agricultural production. Honorable senators will, I am sure, agree with me, when I say that it is economically unsound for the prosperity of the territories to depend upon one or two crops.

The products on which bounty is payable under existing legislation are cocoa beans, manila and coir fibre, sisal hemp fibre, sago, vanilla beans, kapok, unground spices, and bamboos and rattans. Unfortunately the results of the legislation have been extremelydisappointing. Of the total amount of £250,000 provided in 1926 for payment of bounty over the ten-year period, only £8,783 was claimed during the nine and a half years ended the 30th June last.

Many reasons have been advanced for the failure of planters in the territories to take advantage of the rather generous bounty provisions. It is proposed, during the extended period provided for in this bill, to set up a small committee of investigation to examine the position. The committee will operate under the direction of the Comptroller-General of

Customs, and will consist of an officer of the Customs Department, an agricultural expert of the territorial service, and a representative of each of the territorial administrations. A report and recommendation as to the form and nature of assistance most likely to encourage the production of subsidiary crops will be submitted to the Government. The Government is disappointed at the lack of success of the existing legislation, and feels that the proposed procedure offers the most promising means of arriving at some more satisfactory result. The extension of the period of the bounty legislation to cover the time necessary for the committee to carry out its investigations is proposed in order that those planters who have been encouraged by the bounty to invest capital and set up plantations may not suffer loss or hardship through the cessation of bounty payments. I commend the bill to the approval of honorable senators.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.

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