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Friday, 8 August 1902

Mr CONROY (Werriwa) - I do not know why honorable members should have gone into a question of dietetics, and I should not have referred to the matter except for the statement of the honorable member for Moira, which, to my surprise, has been supported by the honorable member for Laanecoorie. To understand how fallacious the honorable member's arguments were, it was only necessary to notice the grunts of approval which came from the Minister for Trade and Customs, who expresses his approval of things only when they are not in accordance with fact. To show the absurdity of the honorable member's point, it is only necessary to consider the amount of nitrogenous matter in turnips' and the quantity required to sustain animal life. Honorable members know that according to the quantity of carbonaceous matter that is breathed out of a man and the quantity of nitrogen which is expelled from the body it is necessary to take in food to make up the deficiency. Take the case of a man. I find that, working on the lines of the honorable member's argument, to make up the same quantity of nitrogenous matter as is given off by the body, and to provide a supply of carbohydrates, it would be necessary for a man in, active work to eat about 24 lbs. of cabbage a day, or, perhaps, about 3 lbs. of oatmeal, or, say, sixteen bottles of Bass's beer ! But there is all the difference between keeping a man alive and feeding him up. A couple of ounces of hard-boiled eggs might tend to keep a man alive, but an Esquimaux will eat about 40 lbs. of animal food at one meal. The only reason why I mention this matter is to show the absurdity of the honorable member's argument when he quotes a paragraph from a book on food which he does not understand. He gave us information which, no doubt, was absolutely accurate as to the quantity of a certain class of feed required by an animal. But he overlooked the fact that perhaps the addition of 1 lb. of a different class of food would lower the quantity required from say, 14 lbs. to 4 lbs. The few remarks which I have made on this subject may encourage the Minister for Trade and Customs to look up a primer on the subject, and not to express approval of 'remarks made by one unacquainted with it. I should like to deal with some extraordinary remarks which have fallen from the honorable member for Gippsland and the honorable member for Moira. They asserted that a duty on these articles certainly raised the price ; but they admitted that the bulk of the farmers had not a full supply of produce. The honorable member for Moira confessed that that was the position, even in his own district, where rain has fallen. Clearly, therefore, the increased price is no advantage to the bulk of the farmers. It was said that the price was only increased by this duty in times of scarcity, and that a fortunate few would be able to make money out of the sufferings of others. Of course, a remark like that met with approval from the Ministerial side. We were not surprised, because we had heard a member of the Government saying - "What!- A drought a bad thing? Do I not forget that some of the farmers in tasmania and Victoria are making a very fine thing out of it." How comes it that when honorable members of the Opposition pointed out that the duty on agricultural machinery would cause a rise in prices, owing to the insufficient local production, these very honorable members said, in order to curry favour with the farmers whom they represent, that such was not the case. I would point out to those who are so selfish as to advocate the retention of these duties, that if we allow stock to die, as they will die for want of food, there will be no call for the farmers' produce next year, because there will not be stock to consume it.

Mr A Paterson - And no wages for the shearers.

Mr CONROY - That is so. Consequently the loss will be infinitely greater. Ten years ago there were 60,000,000 sheep in Australia. To-day it is believed that that number has been reduced to 30,000,000. I do' not imagine that honorable members will think I am over-stating the case when I say that, taking an all-round price of something like £200 per 1,000, there ought to have been a gross increase of nearly £6,000,000 in the annual value of sheep in New South Wales. That £6,000,000 would have afforded employment to thousands of men year after year at £100 a year, Still honorable members on the other side would lightly cast aside this request. They display a callousness that is absolutely astounding. I suppose we are all aware of the tales of vampires who used to suck the blood of their victims at night, and in that way exhaust them, and of ghouls who used to feed on the dead bodies. I do not know to which of these two classes the Ministry belong.

The CHAIRMAN - The honorable and learned member must not refer to honorable members in that way.

Mr CONROY - I should like to know why the Ministry are so disposed by means of these duties to increase the number of dead carcases throughout the country. If they had any of the characteristics of either of the classes to which I have referred, one could understand it. I shall record my vote in favour of the amendment.

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