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Tuesday, 18 September 1928

Mr BRUCE - On the 13th September, the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr.Forde) asked the following question, upon notice -

1.   What was the estimated acreage under prickly pear in (a) Queensland, (b) Now South Wales, (c) other States, in 1908, 1918, and 1928?

2.   What is the total annual expenditure on research work in connexion with prickly pear, and how much is provided by the Commonwealth and each of the States concerned?

I am now in a position to furnish the following reply: -

1.   The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research advises that " the acreage under pear " naturally depends on where the line is drawn between infested country, and country containing so few pear plants that for all practical purposes it may be considered noninfusted. Various authorities, in their estimates, have drawn this line in different places, and hence discrepancies occur in the figures for " acreage under pear ", that are put forward from time to time.

The following figures are representative: - 1908.- Queensland, 12,000,000; New South Wales, 2,000,000. 1918.- Queensland, 20,000,000; New South Wales, 2,200,000. 1928. - Queensland, 50,000,000; New South Wales, 8,500,000.

It is pointed out that the figures for 1928 are recent estimates, and probably include much more lightly infested areas than those of the previous years.

Other States. - No data available, but the total infestation is very light.

2.   The chief research work is being undertaken by the Commonwealth Prickly Pear Board. As from the beginning of the present financial year, the annualvote of the board will be £18,000 per annum, made up of contributions of £9,000 from the Commonwealth and £4,500 each from the States of Queensland and New South Wales. The results obtained by the board to date have been particularly encouraging. Several varieties of insects fatal to pear have been established in such large numbers that already the annual increase of the pear, estimated some years ago at 1,000,000 acres per annum, is claimed to have been stopped. So encouraging have been the results that, in order to intensify the operations of the board before local parasites or predators, unusual climatic conditions, outbreaks of disease, &c.,might combine to exercise a delaying or nullifying effect on the good work of the insects which have been already introduced, the contributing parties have just agreed to increase their contributions by 50 per cent. Up to the beginning of the present financial year, the annual vote of the board was £12.000 per annum.

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