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Thursday, 29 May 1902

Narrabri, 19th May, 1902

Sir, -At the meeting of this board, held on the 15th inst., the following resolution was unanimously earned : -

That, in view of the universal drought, its unparalleled severity,and the threatened extinction of all sheep as well as large stock (or a great portion of them) in the States- of New South Wales and Queensland, this board strongly urges the State Parliament to recommend the temporary suspension of duties on grain and other fodder from outside the Commonwealth, with the object oE endeavouring to save the lives of the remnants of the stock still surviving in the States named.

I was instructed to ask you to arrange 'a deputation of interested Members of Parliament to the Premier, so that he could request the Federal Parliament to again consider the matter, it being the opinion of pastoralists generally that when the subject was discussed by federal members recently they were then not seized with the gravity of the pastoral outlook in New South Wales and Queeusland. As you are aware, many are hand-feeding their stock at enormous cost, but in many cases the high prices ruling for fodder must prevent a continuance unless the Federal Government come to the rescue, and assist in reducing the terrible expense by suspending the duties.

I understand that New Zealand has a larger amount of produce on hand at the present moment than for many years, and with the duty of £1 per ton taken off pastoralists would, no doubt, purchase largely, and probably save the Commonwealth an enormous sum of money by saving the lives of a large portion of its live stock. - Yours truly,

E.   Morath, Secretary.

A large meeting was held at the Hotel Australia in Sydney yesterday, and amongst those who attended were Mr. Crick, the Minister for Lands in New South Wales, who was in sympathy with the movement, and other well-known Members of Parliament, including Mr. J. H. Carruthers, and Mr. J. Ashton, who directed attention to the terrible state of the country owing to the drought. The following resolution was carried : -

That this meeting, in view of the unparalleled severity of the drought throughout the eastern States," and to prevent the complete annihilation of the pastoral industry, pray the Federal Minister of Customs to suspend the duties on fodder and grain used for feeding stock ; and that this meeting appoint a committee to wait immediately on the Federal Minister of Customs, and lay the resolution before him.

A further resolution was carried appointing a deputation to wait upon the Railways Commissioners, and ask them to still further reduce the rates for the carriage of grain for the hand-feeding of starving stock. Mr. Crick stated that he was thoroughly in accord with the resolutions ; but that it was a question -whether the Minister of Customs could exercise the necessary power. Of course, I know that there is a technical difficulty to which I shall presently refer. As the outcome of the meeting a number of gentlemen were appointed to wait upon the Minister for Customs, and convey the resolutions to him, and it was decided to ask Senator O'Connor, .the Vice-President of the Executive Council, to arrange for the deputation to meet the Minister. I do not wish to labour this question, because, although on the former occasion the Government did not thoroughly realize the unparalleled condition of affairs in South Wales and Queensland, I feel sure that they must now recognise the extraordinary position in which we are placed, and that they will, with that sympathy which they have for all citizens of the Commonwealth, endeavour to do what they can to assist our settlers. It may be argued that the Government have no power to remit duties, but I contend that as the duties were only imposed by Executive act, they have not the force of law, and will not have such force until the Customs Bill is passed by both Houses of Parliament. As these duties were passed by Executive act, they can be remitted by the same authority. Even if they could not, I hold that in the face of a great national calamity such as Australia now has to face, the Government ought to strain a point to save our flocks and herds, and the country generally from a great national disaster.

Mr Kingston - Has the honorable and learned member any figures giving the prices of fodder at the various ports ? They would be interesting, and I was trying to obtain them this morning.

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