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Wednesday, 22 August 1906

Mr GROOM (Darling Downs) (Minister of Home Affairs) . - This item is really part and parcel of a scheme for the proper investigation of the fishing resources of Australia. It has been suggested that we should obtain a trawler, which shall be used purely for the purpose of ascertaining the wealth of the deep-sea fisheries along the whole of our coast-line.

Mr Kelly - Is the trawler to be used inside or outside territorial limits?

Mr GROOM - In some instances it will be used outside those limits. For example, if honorable members will look at the map, they will see that the boundaries of Queensland extend right up towards the coast of New Guinea. They cover a great expanse of water, which really is part of the high seas. I understand, however, ' that the honorable member, in speaking of the "territorial limits," has in mind the ordinary three-mile limit.

Mr Kelly - I use the term in the sense in which it is employed in the Constitution.

Mr GROOM - As used in the Constitution it is open to two or three meanings, but as ordinarily understood, " territorial limits " means a distance within three miles pf the shore. If, as the result of the operations of this trawler, it is found that large quantities of fish can be secured in our waters, the fishing industry may be established on sound lines.

Mr Kelly - What will be the size of this vessel ?

Mr GROOM - I cannot say offhand what its exact size will be, but the amount on the Estimates will be sufficient to provide for the construction of a trawler on the lines of those operating at present in other parts of the world. The principle involved is not a new one. It has been freely and successfully exercised by the Cape Colony Government. In 1897 a boat called the Pieter Faure - a modern type of steam trawler - was acquired by that Government at a cost of £7,000 or £8,000 to engage in deep-sea trawling operations along the South African coast.

Mr Johnson - The cost was £6,500.

Mr GROOM - The New South Wales Government expert states that the cost was between .£7,000 and £8,000. The Government biologist reports that, as the result of this experiment -

It was soon demonstrated that there was an abundance of fish, notwithstanding what was said to the contrary, and that there was an excellent trawling ground, rivalling with the North Sea in productiveness.

In 1899 the Government again took the work in hand, and in a short time the trawler produced a profit of over £300. Private enterprise was then left to develop the industry, with the result that, in 1.903, according to the report of the Government biologist, four steam trawlers, each considerably larger than the Pieter Faure, and over £30,000 in value in all, arrived from Europe to follow up the work initiated by the Cape Government.

Mr Johnson - These additional trawlers were provided by private enterprise?

Mr GROOM - That is so. The Government having proved that large supplies of fish existed, private enterprise was left to develop the industry. The report of the Government biologist also sets forth that-

Two other vessels fitted up with special refrigerating arrangements for South African trade have arrived during the course of the. year. Another large boat, 250 tons gross register, designed as a carrier and trawler, was valued at ^'7,500. Other trawlers are at work in addition to those mentioned and continue to do profitable business.

I;n a letter dated nth April, 1906, the Prime Minister of Cape Colony wrote to the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth as follows : -

The latest information from the trawling companies now established indicate that they are doing well, and are sending large quantities of fish to the inland towns.

It will thus be seen that the South African experiment was successful in revealing large sources of food supply that were previously unknown, and that, as the result of it, the inland towns of Cape Colony have abundance of fish.

Mr Kelly - What parts of the Australian coast will be dealt with?

Mr GROOM - That will depend on the advice of the Government expert. If "the honorable member will turn to the report issued by the Minister of Trade and Customs in connexion with the Bounties Bill, he will find that there are many pOintS along the Australian coast where investigations could probably be made with profitable results, but it is impossible for me to say where .operations will be commenced. The trawler will probably be sent in the first instance to such parts of the coast as the authorities deem to be the most promising and the most desirable to examine. The report issued by the Minister of Trade and Customs deals verv fully with the prospects of successfully developing the fishing industry. The quantity of fish annually imported into Australia is 13,000,000 lbs., valued at about £300,000. The local supply is spasmodic.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Half of our imports of fish consist of tinned salmon.

Mr GROOM - That is so.. It will be recognised, however, that we have in Australian waters large quantities of fish, and that our fisheries, as the result of a proper system of encouragement, may be opened up with advantage to the Commonwealth.

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