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Thursday, 20 November 1941

Senator A J McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) . - I understand that the effect of this amendment would be to reduce from. 10 per cent. to 5 per cent. the sales tax on certain material essential to the conduct of the fishing industry. Now that we have reached the stage when business men count for little in the community - I have neither anything to hope fornor anything to fear - I can speak with a freedom that in other circumstances I may not have enjoyed. For years this country has been labouring under a tremendous disadvantage. Round its shores are some of the best fishing grounds in the world, and to a great degree they are unexploited. Efforts have been made by every State in Australia to do something to develop a sea sense in our people. We have vast areas of most valuable fishing grounds in the waters around Australia. In 1927 the Commonwealth Government, took this matter up with some seriousness, in conjunction with the State governments, but the progress has been slow. We have expended large sums of money in attempting to develop this industry. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) told the Senate this afternoon how much money has been expended in. the importation of fish products from overseas. If we do not develop a. sen. sense among the people, some other nation will do it for us. Nobody recognizes the fact more than does the Opposition that the Government needs revenue; but, I appeal to the Government to accept the amendment of the

Leader of the Opposition unless a tremendous loss of revenue would be involved.

Experts in the catching, curing and canning of fish have been brought to Australia in order to give to us their advice, and a vessel specially constructed for fishing has been built at a cost of over £10,000 in an effort, to encourage the development of the industry. Although this amendment may appear to the Minister in charge of the bill to be a minor matter, I assure him that the principle involved is most important. Those engaged in the fishing industry are merely eking out an existence at present, and may be resorting to practices of which we do not, approve. Crayfish, whiting and tuna are presentin our waters in large quantities, and the harvest could easily be gathered if the industry were properly organized. One of the scientists who was brought to Australia from Canada is skilled in the purse-seine method of fishing. If the loss of sales tax, which acceptance of this amendment would involve,be only a few hundreds, or even a few thousands, of pounds, I suggest that that loss should be sustained in the interests of the development of the fishing industry, which is essential to the safety of the nation and to the welfare of the people of Australia. The public need fish meals, and, in Queensland, particularly, fish products are a necessary part of the diet of stock. So far asI can see now, I shall not ask for any other concession in. regard- to this measure. I think that I know what is in the minds of those who are in charge of the finances of the country. They probably expect that representations will be made to them on behalf of deserving cases here and there. I could make representations on behalf of scores of deserving cases, and could point to anomalies in this schedule which ought to berectified, but, in my opinion, none of them is of so great importance to the futureof this country as is the need to foster and develop the fishing industry. At various times in my home imported salmon has been placed before seven or eight people, and even then there has been sufficient left to provide a cold fish luncheon on the following day. For that fish I have paid, perhaps, 10s. or l1s.; but had I attempted to set before the same diners Australian tuna, or locally caught whiting, the cost would have been from 16s. to fi. The Leader of the Opposition has given to us some illuminating figures regarding Australia's importations of fish. I am not sure that those figures would influence me greatly but for the fact that I regard the fishing industry as of great importance to the safety of this country. It is a na'tural industry which can bc greatly developed, although in the past it appears to have been neglected by us. I urge the Minister to give way, and to accept the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition.

Senator SAMPSON(Tasmania) [4.7 J. - In my youth I had a good deal to do with fishing and fishermen. The per capita, consumption of fish in Australia compares unfavorably with that of most European countries, as well as many Asiatic countries. The fishing industry of Australia should be developed, and the consumption of fish encouraged, because Australians are high on the listof peoples subject to goitre. The reason is largely lack of iodine in their food. Fish contains iron, and is a. preventive of goitre. In Bass Strait there are many kinds of surface swimming fish, but the fishing industry there has not been developed to any considerable degree, although during recent years some fish has been canned under great difficulties. The development of this industry is a vital necessity to us as a nation. Quite apart from the value of fish as a food, is the importance of the fishing industry to the defence of Australia. The existence of a few hundred thousand fishermen around our coasts to-day would make a tremendous difference to the defences of this -country, and would provide a source from which men required by our Navy could be obtained. The proposal of the Government is not opposed in any factious spirit. The Opposition knows well that the Government must obtain revenue to meet its commitments. I recall a trip which I made to Canada in 3928 when certain aspects of sales tax legislation were investigated. Those of us who made that trip met members of about three dozen different boards of trade, which are the equivalent of our chambers of commerce. The members of every such board, as well as other individuals in the various towns that we visited in the nine provinces of Canada, cursed the sales tax vehemently. All were agreed that although it had been introduced as a. war measure the tax would never be abolished. We little dreamed then that within a year or two the sales tax would be introduced into Australia. When we were in the House of Commons at Ottawa, a member of the Government of Canada told us that the reason that sales tax would never be abolished was that it provided an easy means of obtaining revenue. I agree with him that revenue derived from this source is "easy money", and for that reason I predict that the sales tax has come to stay in Australia also. . No government will ever get rid of it, because it provides " easy money ". Nevertheless, the proposal of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) is worthy of consideration by the Government, and I ask the Minister in charge of the bill to weigh carefully the views that have been presented.

Senator J.B. HAYES (Tasmania) [4.12 J. - I join with other honorable senators in appealing to the Minister to accept the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay). The. fishing industry of Australia should be developed. There are thousands of tons of fish in the waters around our coast, yet fish is dear in the shops. Some time ago, I had occasion to visit the works -of the fishing industry on Flinders Island. The people there have spent thousands of pounds in establishing an industry to can tuna. I saw a few tons of beautiful fish brought in. When canned, tuna is of considerable value as food. Moreover, tuna is easily caught, although it is true that a special vessel is required. Unlike Senator Sampson, I do not know a great deal about fishing; but fishermen with whom I- have conversed have told me that strong vessels are needed for catching tuna, and that they have found difficulty in raising money to purchasethe necessary craft. I believe that they appealed to the Commonwealth Government for assistance.

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