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Thursday, 28 June 1906

Mr LIDDELL (Hunter) .-I have listened with considerable pleasure to the able speech of the honorable gentleman who represents the Minister of Defence here.

Mr Wilks - I think it was marked with political bias once or twice.

Mr LIDDELL - I would not say that it was a speech marked with political bias, but I would say that it was a speech of a specious character. No 'doubt he would like to see the Opposition much more pacific than it is. But for what purpose does an Opposition exist if it is not to watch very carefully the action of those who are in power, and, if necessary, to attain its ends by heckling them ? I am very pleased indeed that the honorable member for Richmond is here, because I am particularly anxious to draw his attention to one or two matters connected with my electorate. It appears that grievance day is looked upon somewhat in the light of a joke; but the grievances which I have to ventilate are of a very serious kind. In the short speech of the honorable member for Richmond we have heard a great deal about the necessity of raising an. army of citizen soldiers, who would be capable of defending Australia in time of war. I was glad to hear the Minister say that, in his opinion, these men should be taught to shoot. Since the Government have been in power what have they been doing to assist in that direction ? Almost ever since I entered the House I have been working with the object of obtaining shooting facilities in my electorate. I am glad to say that, after Herculean efforts on. my part, I have succeeded in getting, one town, and a most important town, too, supplied with the necessary facilities. But I would remind the Minister that in my electorate there is more than one important town - in fact, there are several. I wish to know what has become of a certain sum which I believe was set aside for the purpose of establishing a troop of light horse in the township of Dungog. The men we have to-day prepared to defend our shores are so loyal in character that it is almost impossible to get any information from them. If I ask any of them to give me information, I am met with the reply, " It is contrary to the regulations, and, although we know that very many grievances exist, we regret very much that, owing to the oath we have taken, we are unable to give you any information." Consequently, it was only with the greatest difficulty that I was able to ascertain what I wished to know. I will not say where I obtained my information, but on very good authority I have reason for believing that the officer commanding the forces recommended that a troop of light horse be raised in Dungog, and that a certain sum was set apart for that purpose. What has become of the money, and why has not the troop been raised ? The township, I may say, is situated on the Williams River,' about thirty miles from West Maitland. It is an ideal spot, picturesque in the extreme. It lies within a valley surrounded by hills, and has a thrifty, industrious population. It is surrounded by a number of dairy farms, in which are found the very class of men from whom we must expect to raise our. citizen forces. They have the horses, and, what is more, can ride them. They have the pluck which is necessary to make a good soldier, and also the spirit of sport which is a requisite for making a good fighting man. They were given, to understand that a troop of light house would be raised the"'re, and made every preparation tor enrolling. I know that an officer was sent up to report on the situation, and he found that close to the township there was an excellent stretch of country available for a rifle range, which there would be no difficulty in obtaining, because it was Crown land.

Silting suspended from 6.30 to 7-30 p.m.

Mr LIDDELL - Before dinner, I was speaking on the subject of rifle ranges, and was directing the attention of the Minister representing the Minister of Defence to the fact that there is every facility at Dungog, in my electorate, for the establishment of a troop of light horse, and for the formation of a satisfactory rifle range. The land suggested for a range is Crown property, and there would, consequently, be no difficulty in resuming it. There would be no danger from stray bullets, because the land for several miles beyond the place suggested for the butts is practically unoccupied. The area of the land is considerable, and on it a range of 1,000 yards might easily be provided' for. I have already said that the district is one from which very desirable recruits might be obtained. I ask the Minister to lay on the table, or to permit me to see, the report of the Officer Commanding in the district, so that I may be assured that the raising of a troop at Dungog was actually recommended. There is another town situated on the river in my electorate where a troop of light horse has been raised. 1 refer to Raymond Terrace. There are in the troop two very efficient officers, who served with credit in the war in South Africa, and there is commendable military enthusiasm being shown bv ' the residents of the district. I may add that this particular town is of great importance, from a strategic point of view. It is not very far from the port of Newcastle, and, in the event of an attempt bv a hostile force to seize our coal-fields, a body of residents of this district, possessed of some military training, would form a most efficient defensive force. Strange to say, there is no rifle range within any reasonable distance at which the corps raised at Raymond Terrace may practice rifle shooting. They must travel a distance of from 10 to '15 miles to reach the nearest rifle range.

Mr McDonald - Men have to go 20, 30, and 50 miles in North Queensland for practice on a rifle range.

Mr LIDDELL - Queensland is a country of magnificent distances; but I am speaking of a district in which, we have closer settlement, and consequently expect better facilities. The land for ai rifle range at this place could 'be secured without cost. A patriotic citizen - and I onlywish there were more of them - Mr. G. H. Pepper, has actually offered the necessary land as a free gift to the Government, and they will not accept it. The portion offered is a strip three-quarters of a mile wide, but because the land' which would be situated behind the site suggested for the butts happens to be private property, the Government are unwilling to go to the expense of its resumption. The land which would, require to be resumed comprises 16 acres, and its value, I am told, is something under j£i per acre. For want of a penn'orth of tar, which the £16 might be said to represent, the men forming the troop of light horse established at Raymond' Terrace are denied facilities for acquiring the necessary skill in rifle shooting. Again, in West Maitland, the chief town of my electorate, the rifle range has been closed for some time. Letter after letter has been sent to the Department, and the usual reply has been forwarded on the printed forms which' are so irritating to honorable members, to the effect that the communication has been received, and will be considered. Here there is another force of citizen soldiers who are deprived of facilities for the practice necessary to qualify them as rifle shots.

Mr Ewing - Why was the range closed ?

Mr LIDDELL - It was closed, I believe, for the purpose, originally, of making some slight alteration, but, owing to the abominable system of redtape existing in the Department, week after week and month after month has been allowed to pass by without anything being done, when if the proper officer gave the necessary authority the whole matter could be settled in three days. The Minister has stated his belief that men should be taught how to shoot. In fact, the honorable gentleman stakes the welfare of the country on the raising of a force of men who have been taught to shoot. He agrees with Lord Roberts and other experts that what we require is a citizen soldiery, com- prised of men who can shoot well ; yet in my electorate, which is comparatively but a small proportion of the Commonwealth, there are no less than three localities at which the facilities afforded for the practice of rifle shooting are not what they ought to be- I direct the attention of the Minister to the fact, and I hope he will see that these serious grievances are remedied. I pass from the Defence Department to the Postmaster-General's Department. I am sorry that the PostmasterGeneral is still absent. We heard the other day that he had arrived at Fremantle, but how much further he has travelled on his journey I do not know. I ask the Acting Postmaster-General if he will direct the attention of his officers to the need for a telephone at a place called Farleigh. Some three or four times in each week there are verv large sales of stock held at West Maitland, and in connexion with these sales it is necessary that enormous numbers of stock should be trucked from the trucking yards at Farleigh, which is a small railway station situated about three miles from the saleyards at West Maitland. The auctioneers who do business at these trucking yards, and there are a great many of them,' bitterly complain that they are unable to communicate with their headquarters over the telephone wires. The majority of them have private telephones in their offices at West Maitland, and their clerks and workmen, when engaged at Farleigh, are unable, to communicate with them except by telegraph. A communication by telegraph, I am told, has' to be sent not less than thirty miles to Singleton, and thirty miles back, before it reaches the auctioneer's office in West Maitland, which, as I have said, is only three miles from the trucking yards. The Acting Postmaster-General will remember that I have already brought this matter under his notice, and have represented that it is necessary only to run a line for a few yards from the trucking yards to connect with a line Tunning along the railway line in order to establish the communication desired. The Department, however, has declined to provide this facility at Farleigh. I ask the honorable gentleman now if he will bring his gigantic intellect to bear upon this very small matter, and see whether the concession asked for might not be made. There is another matter to which I should like to refer. It might be considered trivial, but it shows the amount of red-tape in the Department which gives rise to such serious delays as1 are complained of. If at any place a telephone silence cabinet is required, instead of giving the work to some local workmen, plans have to be drawn up, reports sent backwards and forwards, and eventually a huge structure arrives in the shape of a plate-glass telephone cabinet. It has repeatedly happened that, when these cabinets have arrived, they could not be taken through the doors of the local offices, and they have had, in consequence, to be returned to Sydney to be altered1, so that they would fit the small offices for which they were intended. I suggest to the Minister that these minor departmental wants might very easily be attended to locally. Passing from purely local matters, I desire to say something on the question of the grading of butter. I do so, not because I know much of the subject, as I am sorry to say that I have not made a study of butter, but because there is in my electorate a very large number of dairying companies and factories, the Hunter district being peculiarly suitable for the production of butter, and for the' conduct of the dairying industry generally. When I learn that the directors of no less than fifty factories in New South Wales, representing three-fourths of the whole of the factories in the State, have sent in a petition against the grading of butter, I feel that it is my duty to raise my voice in this House against the proposal. These factories represent an output of no less than 31,584,000 lbs. of butter per year. When the Commerce Bill was being discussed, we were given to understand that this system of grading would not be enforced.

Mr Lonsdale - The honorable member for Richmond said so.

Mr LIDDELL - It was most distinctly promised. If any evidence of the fact be necessary, one has only to turn to the pages of Hansard, ,to prove conclusively that we were entirely misled in this House by the Minister, when he assured us that no grading would be introduced under the Commerce Bill.

Mr Kennedy - Has grading been introduced ?

Mr Lonsdale - The Minister is preparing regulations for its introduction.

Mr LIDDELL - At page 11 80 of Hansard for last year, the Minister of Trade and Customs, speaking on the Commerce Bill, said -

We intend to grade in this way. The exporter will halve to mark his goods as what they are - that will grade them. 850 Supply [REPRESENTATIVES.] (Formal).

That was a very reasonable remark to make. There did not seem to be any harm in it. The honorable and learned member for Wannon interjected -

The Minister distinctly stated that the Government meant tograde. and to that, the Minister of Trade and Customs replied -

I did not. I said that goods would have to be branded.

What the honorable gentleman meant by that, I do not know. Further oh, at page 1 1 84, I find that the honorable member for Dalley made thisremark -

The Minister of Trade and Customs who has two colleagues in direct opposition to him on the subject, says that this Bill provides for grading.

To that the honorable gentleman replied -

I did not. The honorable member should not misinterpret what I said.

Could anything be plainer than that. At page 1 189, it will be found that the honorable gentleman further said -

The exportation of articles which are properly described will not be interfered with unless they are unfit for human consumption.

Why is it, then, that the dairying industry is the only industry that it is proposed to interfere with. At page 2412, I find that the honorable gentleman said -

Between now and then I hope to make arrangements with those who are likely to be affected, which will enable the Department to prepare trade descriptions which will not cause friction.

Could anything be more reasonable. But what is the result to-day ? This system of grading is going to be forced on us? Further, Sir William Lyne said -

Honorable members opposite may call it what they like. They have been trying to make out that the object of this Bill is to apply to goods, such terms as " Grade1," " Grade 2," " Grade 3," " Grade 4," and so on. But they know perfectly well that there is no intention to do anything of the kind at present.

My own opinion is that is is entirely unnecessary to grade butter. It has been found that butter may easily deteriorate on its passage to England, and, consequently, no matter what grade may be put upon it, that grade has no relative value in the old country. Any one familiar with the trade knows that buyers at Home place no reliance whatever on the grade, but choose the butter in the light of their experience, by taste and so forth. I should like to draw the attention of honorable members to an extract from the sworn evidence of Mr. J. W. Sinclair, late Superintendent of Ex ports for the State of Victoria in London, given before the Royal Commission on the butter industry. Mr. Sinclair said -

In London I found that there were divergent opinions in regard to the New Zealand butter system. One New Zealand importer told me that he had sometimes found their second quality was equal to the first, although it was classified as second. You can never tell what the butter is like until it gets to the other side, and it does not matter if it bears the first grade brand, if it is second quality it will fetch the second quality price. Buyers have their own opinion, and they pay no attention to the Government stamp; they look at the article itself. All these large houses have experts for the purchase of butter, the same as for tea.

That proves conclusively that buyers place no reliance whatever on the grading,. Mr. Robert Crowe, Government Dairy Expert, gave the following evidence before the same Commission : -

You agree with Mr. Taverner that this stamp is not regarded as of much value to the butter when it goes Home ? - No ; it simply shows that the butter was inspected.

A large trade, which is likely to increase to enormous proportions, is springing up with the South African Colonies. In fact, I think it might almost be said that one of the reasons why the war in South Africa was prosecuted with such vigor, and was assisted to such an extent by Australia, was because it was recognised that South Africa was a field for our commerce.

Mr Ronald - What nonsense !

Mr LIDDELL - It is all very well to characterize my remarksas nonsense ; but in these matters one has always to look far beyond ordinary sentiment. I know that the honorable member for Southern Melbourne, from his profession, is naturally inclined to be somewhat sentimental ; but, as I say, wemust look beyond sentiment. When we come to bed-rock, we always find an element of trade associated with any war. The history of England is proof of that statement, so much so, that we have the common saying that trade follows the flag. It is likely that the grading system would seriously interfere with our trade in South Africa; and I have here an extract which deals with an aspect of the question not before touchedupon. It is from a local newspaper, and reads as follows : -

According to regulations as published, butter must not be submitted for grading at a temperature under 40 degrees, and must be shipped within fourteen days after grading. This is a very serious regulation, and, if inforce, will cause enormous losses of business to South

Africa and other foreign ports, where we are in keen competition with Argentine, New Zealand, America, and European butter-producing countries. Orders are often received for large quantities of butter, to be shipped in pats or bulk, say, four, six, or eight weeks hence, sometimes several thousand cases, which it may require up to six or eight -weeks to complete, and certainly no firm or companies in Victoria could execute" such orders in the time stipulated under the proposed conditions, which actually leave little more than one week for packing, as it requires from four to five days to freeze and ship the butter. We desire to point out that the SouthAfrican trade is done entirely on a different basis to London trade, contracts being often entered into for terms of from six to twelve months, with instructions to pack the butter and place it in cool store, awaiting instructions to ship at periods and in quantities as required. At present butter is packed and placed in cool store until date of shipment, which has no detrimental effect on the butter, and has given -every . satisfaction to the foreign buyers. If the present system is interfered with, it will mean the loss of a very large South African trade, which amounts up to 2,500 tons per annum from Victoria alone.

I do not wonder that protests are being received against the grading of butter, because both the Argentine and New Zealand are keen competitors in this trade. There is one other matter on which I should like to touch, namely, the opium traffic. I call the attention of the Minister of Trade and Customs to the fact that in the report which was placed in our hands a couple of days ago, Dr. Roth, who is a civil servant of the Queensland Government, states that the aborigines are being supplied to-day with opium, in large quantities, which is having a very bad effect on the consumer. The smoking of opium, or .the drinking of water in which opium ash has been dissolved, is the cause of serious physical, mental, and moral degeneration; and, consequently, it is the duty of the Minister of Trade and Customs to prevent, if possible, the importation of opium in any form whatever - either solid or as ash. I believe that at present permits are actually being issued to Chinamen, who are thus enabled to import opium in as large a quantity as they desire.

Mr Wilson - Is that so? The Minister of Trade and 'Customs has just entered the Chamber, and may have something to say on that point.

Mr LIDDELL - I am: glad that the Minister has arrived ; and I am quite sure that he will take my remarks in good part, seeing that they are meant entirely for the benefit of unfortunate blackfellows.

Sir William Lyne - Are those the blackfellows in the back-blocks the honorable member talked about on a previous occasion ?

Mr LIDDELL - They are blackfellows who happen to live in the back-blocks. Dr. Roth distinctly states that permits have been granted to Chinamen to sell and supply opium to the Chinese in Queensland.

Mr Wilson - Surely not since the Act was passed?

Mr LIDDELL - Dr. Roth was asked-

Have any of these permits been issued since Federation ?

Mr Deakin - Since Federation, but not since the passing of the Act of which the honorable member for Corangamite speaks.

Mr LIDDELL - I do not think that permits have been issued since that Act was passed.

Mr Deakin - The permits have been cancelled.

Mr LIDDELL - Dr, Roth, in reply to the question, said : -

In 1898, 165 were issued; in 1899, 8; in 1900, 21; in 1901, 10; in 1902, 6; in 1903, 1 ; and in 1904, 1. I find that the permit issued last year was granted to the partner of a man to whom a licence was issued in 1898. These permits are illegal. I have called them illegal in my annual reports.

These permits ought to be cancelled, because they are totally illegal and contrary even to the State law in Queensland. By "the State law permits are issued to chemists, medical men, and drug manufacturers, but it is contrary to the law to issue them to Chinamen. I draw the attention of the Minister of Trade and Customs to this matter, with the object of having these licences annulled. This is not a question of revenue, because the only charge made is one of 2s. 6d'. for twelve forms, which are necessary to enable the licensees to make certain returns. From what I have seen of the present Minister's administra-. tion in the past I am perfectly satisfied that he has only to speak the word to have this traffic immediately stopped. Returning to postal matters, I may say that to-day I have received a letter from certain residents of a district in my electorate called Monkerai. Some months ago a petition was sent to the authorities asking that a receiving office might be established at this particular place, and on the 8th January a reply was received simply refusing the request. A second petition was forwarded, and was granted on the 5th June on certain conditions. The Department, it is stated, are willing to pay £9 per annum towards the cost of carrying the mails, and

X, a nominal allowance for the services of a receiving office-keeper, any additional expense to be paid by the residents. In their letter to-day the residents contend that such an arrangement is entirely out of the question. The letter contains the following : -

That arrangement is quite impracticable, as our population (principally of the mining class) fluctuates a great deal, and it would be very difficult to collect that amount. I would also bring under your notice that population is in.creasing, and several new quartz claims are being taken up and about being worked, and especially the Loch Lomond Gold Mining Company are erecting a complete crushing plant, with all the latest improvements, and will employ about 50 hands. The receiving of our correspondence is extremely spasmodic, as it all depends if any person has occasion to go down that way, and sometimes, if no one is going, we do not get our letters, perhaps, for two or three days. Under the circumstances, I, on behalf of the inhabitants here, earnestly request you to kindly lay the matter before the hon. Postmaster-General, and have the prayer of the petition granted.

I beg the Postmaster-General to give some attention to this last grievance which I have to bring under the notice of the House.

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