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Thursday, 27 May 1915

Mr JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta) . - I wish to know whether a report has been made upon the investigations which are proceeding as to the best means of dealing with bitter pit. It must be four or five years since the inquiry was begun.

Mr.Tudor. - It was begun in August, 1911.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - Since that date the Commonwealth has been paying £1,000 a year for the investigation of this one disease. I wish to know how far the investigation is to be pursued.

Mr Tudor - The term upon which we agreed with the States is now up.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - Was there a four-year contract?

Mr Tudor - Yes.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - Then I apprehend that we shall soon have a definite statement on the subject. I do not object to the time that has been occupied. I should not mind spending £10,000 a year for ten years to arrive at a solution of the problem. One of the hindrances to the proper investigation of diseases of this kind is that the inquiries are not set about in the right way, nor conducted with sufficient competency, patience, and liberality. It is often thought that if investigators cannot show results at the end of a year or so, the expenditureon their investigations should cease. But to study the life-history of a disease, and to ascertain the best means of dealing with it, may take years of laboratory experiments, and we cannot hope for satisfactory results unless we are willing to pay the necessary cost, and are provided with the necessary patience. What Australia wants most of all is trained investigation applying itself to the study 'of diseases and pests. We do not pay enough for the work. Men possessing the scientific experience that is needed cancommand salaries of £2,000 or £3,000 a year in other parts ofthe world. Butif,by applying himself to the study of a disease for five or seven years, a scientific man found a way to prevent it, the gain to the country would be one hundred times the cost. We do not pay for first-rate ability, and we do not give the trained investigators that we possess sufficient time and opportunity. I should like to see established a scientific Federal Bureau of Agriculture.

Mr Page - Why did not the honorable member provide for one when he was Prime Minister?

Mr JOSEPH COOK - Let the honorable member ask the honorable member for Capricornia and his colleagues in another place why they turned down the proposal, and the reasons they gave for doing so.

Mr Page - The reasons they gave for turning it down were better than those the right honorable member gave for turning it up.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - I am glad to hear the confession that they turned it down. A 100-ton engine could not have dragged that admission from members of the Labour party when they were before the country; but now that they are comfortably ensconced in power again, the party Whip says that they turned down the proposal for a Federal Bureau of Agriculture, and had good reasons for doing so.

Mr Page - The right honorable member said that. It is he who turned it up.

Mr RODGERS (WANNON, VICTORIA) - They dragged it all round the rural electorates.

Mr Page - There was an election in Queensland last Saturday, and the Liberal party was dragged round then. Who was it spoke about the old ship swinging round to her moorings again ?

Mr JOSEPH COOK - As my honorable friend is big, I hope he will be merciful. Now that the Labour party has won in Queensland as well as in most of the other States, I hope that they will not throw the road over the hedge, but will let us all live. I was talking about bitter pit, and my honorable friend makes an interjection which is a bitter pill. I hope that if satisfactory results have not been obtained from the investigation that is proceeding, it will be continued until such results are achieved. I have not heard any specific for bitter pit announced.

Sir Robert Best - Has a progress report been made?

Mr Tudor - A report has been presented.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - Yes; and as is customary in these matters, we have a scientific gentleman in one of the Universities announcing that the disease should be treated in one way, and our authority recommending a contrary method. But, notwithstanding these differences of opinion, I believe that out of the conflict of scientific wit will come scientific wisdom. I plead for patience and perseverance in regard to the investigation of the pests which are the bane of our producers, and I trust that money will not be grudged for investigations tending to increase the productivity of our fields and pastures, and to give an impetus to the primary industries, which must be the basis of the enduring prosperity of any country. A little money spent with that object will abundantly justify itself, and if the case of only one of these diseases be sifted to the bottom and solved for the fruit-growers or farmers of Australia, it will repay a thousandfold the little money spent upon it, and the little time taken in bringing it to a completion.

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