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Thursday, 20 September 1928

Mr A GREEN (KALGOORLIE, WESTERN AUSTRALIA) .- I propose. to refer briefly to the High Commissioner's office, the conduct of which came under my observation when I was in London. The first impression of an Australian visitor to Australia House is that the atmosphere of it is not different from that of any other London building except the offices of the High Commissioners of other dominions. It certainly lacks an Australian atmosphere. At the inquiry counter of the migration office one meets clerks who have never visited Australia, and apparently have not read about it. I say nothing derogatory of Sir Granville Ryrie. Despite his love of inordinate military display, and his tendency to be what a former member of this House called " a gilt spurred rooster," he is, I believe, animated by true Australian sentiments. On that account, I approve of his appointment; but I met only three prominent Australian officials at Australia House, namely, Mr. Trumble, formerly of the Defence -Department; Mr. Caruccan; and a gentleman in the library, whose name I do not recollect. An Australian is first met by a so-called entertainments officer, whose principal duty appears to be to balance his monocle on the side of his face, and whose chief concern is to get the upper class Australians into English society. He exhibits a remarkable degree of discrimination. Unless one adopts the Cambridge accent, which is affected by one or two honorable members who sit in this chamber - ineffectively, in my opinion - one has no chance of getting into society. I could not help being struck by the deep distress in the voice of this gentleman during the course of a conversation that he was holding over the telephone, because a wretched Australian had attended a King's levee, or something of the sort, in full dress uniform, but had forgotten his sword. The whole assemblage was in a ferment because of the forgetfulness of a " heathen " from a distant place called Australia, which this gentleman has never seen. The sooner the office is staffed with Australians who are imbued with the Australian spirit the better. There is a different atmosphere in the office of the High Commissioner for Canada. There, the majority of the employees are Canadian born, and endeavour to instil into callers Canadian ideals. It is no wonder that, when the average unsophisticated Australian encounters this entertainments officer, he or she feels unworthy to enter and take part in the high life of society, and gravitates to the library, is given common sense advice by the excellent official there, and while waiting for the ship to return spends the time in reading Australian newspapers.

I wish to learn the directions in which the sum of £26,790, which appears in the estimates for the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, is to be spent. I am aware, of course, that investigations have been, made in regard to entomology in Australia. Those officers to whom is delegated the duty of investigating scientific subjects are worthy men, and possess high attainments. I should like the Prime Minister to explain the position in regard to the entomological inquiries into the buffalo fly pest, which has taken such a heavy toll of the cattle in the Kimberley district and the Northern Territory. Mr. Murnane, who is a very capable officer, went .up there, but although he made a lengthy inquiry he was unable to discover a parasite which would destroy the buffalo fly. "We have been told that the Kimberley horse disease was caused by the horses eating what is known as white wood, and that a remedy for it has been discovered. But old timers who have been in the district for 30 or 40 years and - immodestly, from the point of view of the department - claim to possess some knowledge of the country, say that horses on the Moola Bulla station, which has white wood growing all over it, are immune from the disease, and that white wood is a special diet with them. These matters ought to be explained by the Prime Minister, who apparently is the only gentleman in this Parliament who possesses a knowledge of the subject.

The right honorable gentleman attempted to justify the appointment of the Development and Migration Commission by saying that wonderful results had accrued, and that large sums had been saved, in consequence of its inquiry into the gold-mining industry. I have the greatest respect for the attainments of the chairman of the commission, Mr. Gepp; but I point out that this is the age of specialists, and no man, no matter how talented he may be, can pretend to have a general all-round knowledge of a large number of subjects. Mr. Gepp's knowledge of other matters may be profound, but of gold-mining he knows absolutely nothing. It cannot be expected, therefore, that he can make a final pronouncement touching the reasons for the decline of gold-mining in this country, and the methods that should be adopted to rehabilitate it. As might have been expected in the circumstances, his summing up of the position has proved most disappointing to those who are acquainted with the industry. A report was called for on the 28th August, 1926, and was furnished to the Government on the 31st May last. Those who are interested in the gold-mining industry expected to be supplied with a Valuable recommendation. But only two or three proposals have been advanced, and by no stretch of the imagination can they be expected to assist the industry. In any event, the Government must first show a willingness to give effect to them. One of the most promising gold developments in Australia has taken place in the Willuna country, which is practically in the centre of Western Australia. A syndicate has been formed, with capital from not only Australia but also London and South Africa. The South Africans are very shrewd men in mining matters. The sum of £200,000 was spent on a pilot plant, not to deal with the ore, but to demonstrate what scheme is necessary to work the immense bodies of ore that arc known to be present. After a trial extending over a period of two years, these men are satisfied that the ore can be worked pofitably. It is now proposed to spend hundreds of thousands of pounds upon machinery, and plans are being prepared of the plant that will be necessary. If the Government will adopt the first recommendation of the Development and Migration Commission, it can assist this proposition. These men have written repeatedly to both Mr. Gepp and the Prime Minister, asking that the Government should forego the duty on the machinery if it has to be imported, or bear the additional cost if it can be manufactured in Australia. Such a proposal does not clash with our protectionist policy. If the Australian manufacturer can manufacture the machinery required for the development of this great goldmining proposition, of which there is no parallel in Australia, he will be given the work, so long as the Commonwealth Government is prepared to pay the difference between the cost of the Australian and the imported article. The commission has made that recommendation in regard to new ' gold-mining machinery that may be required anywhere in Australia. I sincerely hope that the Government will announce its readiness to give effect to this recommendation, and that the machinery will be made in Australia by Australian workmenl I wrote to the Prime Minister recently on the subject, and I hope that before I leave Canberra my efforts will be crowned with success. Of the eleven recommendations of the commission, this is the only one worth while. There is some reference to special assistance being given from the £36,000 left over from the precious metals prospecting fund. We well remember the passage of that act. The then Minister for Home and Territories (Mr. Marr), doubtless filled with enthusiasm and energy, thought that it would assist the gold-mining industry.

Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.

Mr A GREEN (KALGOORLIE, WESTERN AUSTRALIA) - Earlier in my speech I was dealing with the arrangements made at the High Commissioner's office in London for the reception of Australian visitors. The High Commissioner himself is an Australian of a fine type, and imbued with the spirit of Australian nationalism; but unfortunately his office is staffed with persons other than Australians. Most of the officers know nothing of this country, and Australian visitors making inquiries there can obtain no reliable information. It is our duty as Australian patriots to appoint Australians to the High Commissioner's office. At present only three Australians, including the High Commissioner, are in that office. The entertainments officer is an absolute scream. He wears a monocle. He was transferred by the late Prime Minister to Australia for a brief period, but he took the earliest opportunity to return to London to mingle with the bright lights of society. This gentleman interests himself in entertaining only those persons who, he considers, are of the upper strata, and by that I mean the social climber. He speaks with an accent reminiscent of Cambridge, which is seldom used in Australia except by one or two members of this chamber. The average Australian visitor is repulsed by this gentleman's haughty manner. The High Commissioner's office is in a splendid position, and it should be staffed with Australians. The Canadian and New* Zealand offices are staffed with officers who were born in those countries, and they therefore are able to give authentic information to visitors.

I wish now to refer to entomological investigations, for which an amount of £26,790 is set down. The item does not appear in any previous year.

Mr Bruce - It is a new item.

Mr A GREEN (KALGOORLIE, WESTERN AUSTRALIA) - I should like to know from the Prime Minister what Mr. Murnane's duties were when he visited the northern part of Western Australia. He is an excellent officer, but I have never been able to find out the result of his inquiries. I know that his investigation switched from the Buffalo fly pest to the Kimberly horse disease. He told the old-timers there that the Kimberly horse disease was caused through the horses in that district feeding on white wood, a plant which abounds in that part of Australia. It is well known that white wood grows in abundance on the Moola Bulla station in the interior. The horses feed freely on it, in fact, it is" their. staff of life. Yet the Kimberly horse disease is unknown on that station. I understand that parasites were brought out from Great Britain to prey on the Buffalo fly. When they arrived at Melbourne they were found to be of the wrong species, and prompt measures were taken to destroy them. I wish to know whether an effective means has been discovered of countering the Buffalo fly pest.

The Prime Minister, in an endeavour to justify the appointment of the Development and Migration Commission, stated that its report on the gold-mining industry contained some very valuable information. I would remind him that this investigation began on the August, 1926, and the report was in the hands of the Government on the 31st May last. Nothing has since been done to give effect to any of the recommendations of the commission. The Prime Minister said that its report showed that the goldmining industry did not require financial assistance ; that the industry must fend for itself by the mines amalgamating and dispensing with the duplication of staffs and . plant. Honorable members will agree that Mr. Gepp, the chairman of the commission, is a man of considerable knowledge ; but I submit that this is an age of specialization, and no man can be expected to be an expert in a dozen different classes of work. The people interested in gold-mining are very disappointed with the report. When the Prime Minister suggested that no financial assistance was required, I presume that he had at the back of his mind the agitation which has been going on for some time for a bounty on gold. That was not mentioned in the report? I have heard the right honorable gentleman say that it would be uneconomic to assist the gold-mining industry by granting a bounty on production. That could be applied to every industry in Australia in connexion with which a bounty is paid. It could be applied to the doradillo grape industry. Most industries in Australia are assisted either by a bounty or by a protective tariff. I suppose that the -Japanese are as shrewd as any other people in the world. To stabilize the currency of Japan, that great empire decided to produce her own gold. Small quantities of gold had been found there, but the ore was of poor grade, and unpayable, so for years that country has given a bounty of 25 per cent, on the production of gold. The report of the Development and Migration Commission suggests -only one real reform, and that is in regard to the remission of duties on mining machinery. It is suggested that if the machinery cannot be manufactured in Australia it should be imported free of duty, and that if it can be manufactured in Australia the difference between the cost here and abroad should be met by the Commonwealth Government. The Wiluna goldmine is the most promising show in Western Australia. The company has already expended £200,000 on a plant to be used in ascertaining whether the ore is payable, and it is on the eve of expending £800,000 on other equipment. According to a bulletin of recent date, the company also proposes to install a plant to treat 40,000 tons of ore a month. There are millions of tons of ore exposed in one portion of the mine. This company has prepared a list of its machinery requirements, and has written asking for information. I trust that the Prime Minister will, in this case, agree to a remission of duty.

Mr.A. Green.

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