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Thursday, 21 June 1906


Senator MILLEN (New South Wales) . - Senator O'Keefe has expressed some regret that circumstances have induced him to make an addition to the motion. To my mind it represented an utter absurdity in its original form. It proposed practically to allow the introduction of microbes for laboratory experiments.


Senator O'Keefe - B - Because they were already here.


Senator MILLEN - Although they were in a sense here they were impounded, and the tubes need not have been opened. After the lapse of a few weeks the microbes would have died.


Senator O'Keefe - I - If Dr. Danysz had not been already here the motion would have passed in its original form in the other House, I think.


Senator MILLEN - I am dealing with the motion as it is and the motion which was submitted to the other House, and which was to the effect that the microbes should only be allowed in for the purpose of laboratory experiments. What is the good or object of an experiment ? What is the good of allowing an experiment if, before you know what it will show, you declare that you will allow nothing more tobe done? What is the purpose of an experiment but to enable you to see whether you can do something more by-and-by ? You test a thing to see whether it is good, bad, or indifferent. The motion, in effect, said, "We will allow the experiments to be made, but we tell you before you see the result, no matter what it is, we will not allow our precious rabbits to be touched." I think that, with the addition, the motion is one which can reasonably be considered. My only objection to the amended motion is that it leaves to Parliament the decision in the matter. I do not think that it is a competent body to decide a question which, after all, is a scientific one.


Senator Pearce - I presume that it will decide upon the evidence submitted.


Senator MILLEN - I am inclined to think that, if Parliament were asked to decide to-day, instead of being guided by the statements of scientists, it would decide ab solutely upon the clamour which is being made by a' little handful of men who are getting a living out of this industry.


Senator O'Keefe - A - A big handful.


Senator MILLEN - The honorable senator says that from 1:5.000 to 20,000 persons are employed in the industry. I shall accept his figures, although I do not think that they are correct. Last year the total export from Australia was about £583,000, which, if 20,000- men are employed, gives ,£25 to each member of the great army which my honorable friend, alleges is employed in the rabbit industry.


Senator O'Keefe - W - What about the. internal trade?


Senator MILLEN - What the internal trade is worth neither I nor any other man can state, therefore every one must make his own estimate. But if I ad'd to that sum £100,000, it will be seen that the remuneration paid to this army only represents mere bread and butter for them. But, as a matter of fact, there are nothing like 20,000 persons employed in. the industry. The real position of affairs is that in certain favorable centres - and in New South Wales one can count them almost on the fingers of his two hands - industries have sprung up, and as a result the rabbit industry has created certain interests: In these places there are not merely rabbiters, but townspeople, who profit bv the distribution of their money. That is the whole secret of the agitation against the introduction of these microbes. There never was a whimper against their introduction when it was first mentioned, because the rabbit industry had not been started. The movement for the introduction of Dr. Danysz's microbes had made considerable progress. Meetings were held in Sydney. Senator O'Keefe said that the people of Australia, did .not know of them until quite recently, but surely thev must have been cognizant of what was taking place:


Senator O'Keefe - S - Sydney is not Australia.


Senator MILLEN - I am not saying that it is. but I assert that there was not a country newspaper in New South Wales - and, so far as I know, in the other States - which did not make the public familiar with the fact that this proposal was afoot.


Senator O'Keefe - T - The honorable senator is entirely wrong in making that assumption, so far as the other States are concerned. .


Senator MILLEN - I do not know the condition of benightedness into which Tasmania may have fallen. I only know that in New South Wales there was not a single newspaper which did not make reference to this matter. The negotiations have been in progress for two years, and that fact has been commonly known for, at any rate, twenty months. What protest was there when, not on Broughton Island, five miles from the mainland, but on Rodd Island, in Sydney Harbor, experiments with microbes were carried out a few years ago? There was no protest entered because there was no rabbit industry in existence. There were no interests of a few people to be considered.


Senator O'Keefe - W - Were the experiments successful ?


Senator MILLEN - Certainly not. , I am not dealing now with, that question, and I have not affirmed that Dr. Danysz's experiments will be successful. I am pointing out that the whole of this agitation arose, not from fears on the ground of health, but from the selfish anxiety of those who, as the honorable senator admits, are getting a parasitical living out of the rabbit industry. If the agitation .had been founded on the possibility of injury to health, surely health was much more endangered when experiments were being conducted on a little island in Sydney Harbor than they would be if conducted on Broughton Island, five miles from the mainland. It is a curious thing that it is only now that this agitation has arisen. I am not going to say that I particularly blame a large number of persons who had the wisdom to disguise their real object in "Hie matter by making this appeal on the ground of .public health. I want to quote to the Senate the opinions of authorities to justify the statement that there is no danger to the public health in what is proposed by the Government of New South Wales. Senator O'Keefe has referred to scientific authorities who differ from Dr. Danysz im the matter, but he quoted no one who affirmed that there was any danger to the public health in the experiments sought to be carried out. The first gentleman whom he mentioned. Dr. Tidswell, said in the report which was presented to Sir William Lyne - and Dr. Tidswell was not only an officer of the New South Wales Government, he was an officer who was called in to advise the Federal Department - that there is no possible danger to the pub lic health in what is proposed. The speech of the honorable senator - and I have no fault to find with it - proceeded on exactly the same basis of error as appears in so many of the statements which have been published in the press, and have been made from the platform, in regard to this matter. First of ail, what is proposed? What is it that we have to guard against? One would assume from what is said that there was a proposal to let loose a certain disease amongst the people. What has been proposed by the pastoralists, what is contemplated by Dr. Danysz, and what has been permitted by the State Government? As a matter 'of fact, all that has been proposed is that an eminent scientist shall be allowed to carry out certain laboratory experiments on Broughton Island. Nothing more than that ! It is true that it is contemplated, if the experiments prove successful - if it can be shown that there is no possible risk, not merely to human life, but to the fauna of Australia - that the experiments shall be carried further. But does the honorable senator tell me - does he wish to affirm - that if it can be shown beyond doubt from these experiments that this disease will exterminate the rabbits without injuring any one or anything else, the experiments should still be confined to the laboratory? Surely he will not go so far as that ! If he does it justifies the statement which I have made, that the question really is whether this wretched little rabbit industry, worth half a million pounds, shall be conserved at the expense of the great agricultural and pastoral interests of this country.


Senator O'Keefe - S - Surely the honorable senator does not mean that the rabbits are going to kill the pastoral industry ?


Senator MILLEN - The honorable senator himself called the rabbit industry a parasite. If it is a parasite, what is it living on? It is living on the pastoral industry.


Senator O'Keefe - T - The honorable senator is trying to make out that it is a question of one industry being stamped out by another.


Senator MILLEN - I say without hesitation that there would not be a pelt exported from Australia if the trapper of the rabbit paid for the grass which it consumes. It is quite certain] that the rabbit industry, if unchecked, cannot last under present conditions for any length of time, because if we are to have this as an established industry of the country, you are not going to have one man paying for the grass, and paying for the conservation of the water, and some one else walking off with the product, in the shape of the rabbit, and paying nothing by way of agistment - nothing for the grass which it eats.


Senator O'Keefe - G - Give us .some figures showing the amount of loss involved by rabbits.


Senator MILLEN - Does the honorable senator say that there is no loss?


Senator O'Keefe - T - The honorable senator talks as though other industries were being wiped out altogether bv the rabbits.


Senator MILLEN - And I repeat the statement. The question is simply this : that the rabbit and the sheep cannot run side by side, and this country has to make up its mind whether it will have the rabbit or the sheep.


Senator O'Keefe - T - They are running side by side now.


Senator MILLEN - They are not.


Senator Higgs - Let the honorable senator ask Senator Fraser how he keeps down the rabbits. These people should fence in their properties.


Senator MILLEN - Does Senator Higgs mean to say that any one could afford to put up rabbit-proof fences over a vast area in a country with a. rainfall of on]\ three or four inches? It is a 1,1 very well to say " Fence in the estates and the rabbits will be kept out." But you cannot adopt that policy in the parts of New South Wales where the rabbits are doing the greatest mischief. You cannot deal with country of that kind as you would deal with country that is fit for closer settlement. It is country that is not merely totally unfit for closer settlement, but it would be an absolute cruelty to people to endeavour to settle them there.


Senator Higgs - How much country of that kind is there in New South Wales?


Senator MILLEN - There are 80.000.000 acres in the western portion of New South Wales, from six to eight million acres of which have been abandoned recently


Senator Higgs - How much hav? the holders of that land got out of the Government bv means of subsidies ?


Senator MILLEN - If the Government has had to grant subsidies, it simply proves mv contention as to the absolute poorness of the country.


Senator Higgs - I mean subsidies in the way of remissions and reductions of rents.


Senator MILLEN - Surely it is an utter misuse of terms to speak of a subsidy when your tenant comes along and says, " I have become absolutely bankrupt on this property; I cannot live upon it"; and when the landlord turns round and says, !! I recognise that I have been rackrenting you in the past, the property is no: worth what you have been paying for it ; I want you to continue to hold the land ; do not go, and I will charge you a lower rent."' Ls that a subsidy ? The State was mighty glad to do it. Thousands of pounds have been Jost in the western portion of New South Wales, and scores of those who have invested their fortunes there have been ruinedI can give numbers of instances to the honorable senator ; and if he thinks that there is a good investment to ba had by taking, up some of these lands, he is welcome to try it. I can tell him of properties upon which two or three artesian bores have been sunk, wool sheds built, and rabbit-proof fences erected1, and vet they have had to be abandoned. I will give an instance. I know of one case in which £80,000 has been spent in improvements, and yet the property has been sold for £4,000. What are \OU going to do with country like that? Are you going to use it for closet settlement? How are you going to get rid of the rabbits ? The moment we begin discussing this important question, honorable senators opposite say, " Oh ! closer settlement-!" But if they are under the delusion that such country as that is suitable for small holdings. I am not.


Senator Higgs - I thought the honorable senator believed in private enterprise ; \ et he is asking that the Government shall cai ry on these experiments.


Senator MILLEN - I am not asking for anything of the kind. I want the State to get out of the way. It is private enterprise that desires to carry on the experiments. All that I would say to the State is that which a certain classical philosopher said many centuries ago, " Get out of the sunlight." And that is all that private enterprise asks. But I do say that it is a monstrous thing in this particular case, that the State should1 not only not assist those who are fighting for their lives against this rabbit plague, but should absolutely be urged to prevent private enterprise [tom endeavouring to find a remedy which it hopes will be effective.


Senator O'Keefe - D - Do I understand that the honorable senator is in favour of these experiments being conducted indiscriminately ?


Senator MILLEN - I am not, andI have never said so. No one objectsto proper precautions being taken. My objection is that while every proper precaution isbeing taken,my honorable friend opposite and his friends would stop the experiments if they could from being carried on outside the laboratory, even if they proved successful. No matter whether the experiments justified further work or not, they would not allow them.


Senator Henderson - We have never said that.


Senator MILLEN - Senator O'Keefe'smotion in its original form said, in effect, " We will only allow the microbest o be used in the laboratory."


Senator O'Keefe - D - Does not the honorable senator think that it would be wiser to confine the experiments to the laboratory until the result is known?


Senator MILLEN - The motiondoes not say so.


Senator O'Keefe - T - The inference was clear enough.


Senator MILLEN - I cannot appreciate the intricacies of my honorable friend's mind. I can only judge from what his motion says; and I take it to mean the absolute prohibition of the use of the microbes outside the laboratory.


Senator O'Keefe - T - The honorable senator knows very well that it is not so.


Senator MILLEN - My honorable friends opposite know perfectly well that if they could stop the experiments in the interest of the rabbit industry they would do so. No one - neither Mr. Carruthers nor those associated with the movement and responsible for it. nor Dr. Danysz, nor any one else - ever proposed to do more than carry on laboratory experiments under proper safeguards. Yet. while that has been the proposal from the first, there has been this tremendous howl about it. If it were proposed to carry on the experiments in the open, I could understand the protests, but they havebeen made against the laboratory experiments, or there is no meaning in them at all. Of course, I can quite see that when honorable senators are brought face to face in public discussion with the facts of the case, they are bound to modify their motion. Now I want just briefly to show what has been said by the leading scientific men of Australia about this matter. Senator O'Keefe said that several scientists had expressed averse opinions. He did not quote a single one.


Senator Henderson - He quoted three.


Senator MILLEN - He did notquote three in support of the contention that these experiments should not be carried out.


Senator O'Keefe - I - I quoted Dr. Anderson Stuart and Dr. Tidswell.


Senator MILLEN - He never quoted Dr. Tidswell as to whether these experiments should be carried out or not. When he ceased quoting from Dr. Tidswell I asked him if he had finished quoting, and he said, " No, I will quote further later on." But he wisely forgot to do so. Honorable senators know, possibly as well as I do, that the Premier of New South, Wales has not only announced the intentions of the Government, but has drawn attention to the law on the subject of microbes to show that there is no risk to the public, and that nothing can happen outside the laboratory until the experiments fully justify further operations. Mr. Carruthers has further specially announced that these experiments are to be carried on under the supervision of scientists appointed by the Government. Not satisfied with appointing his own scientists:, he has invited the other Governments of Australia to send over scientists appointed by them to watch the experiments. This action on his part indicates that he was regardful of the interests of the other States. But what did the other States officers, do? As showing that the various States Governments are satisfied with the steps taken by Mr. Carruthers, not one of them has elected to send an officer over to New South Wales. Dr. Norris. the Chairman of the Board of Health of this State - and I invite the attention of honorable senators to this statement, as showing that there is no risk to the public health, and, as against the quotations which Senator O'Keefe read, and which had no bearing upon the point at all - said at a meeting of the Board of Health in Melbourne -

Since the last meeting the public had been placed in possession of information which would allay any fear or panic that existed in the matter.

I can give furtherquotations from his statement if it is necessary ; there is a great deal more to show that the experiments can be safely carried out. Dr. Ashburton Thompson, who occupies a similar position in New South Wales, was written to quite recently by the President of the Western District Council of the Farmers and Settlers' Board, the head -quarters of which are at Dubbo. The President, Mr. Wurfel, wrote to know whether there was likely to be any danger to the public health from the introduction of these microbes. The reply of Dr. Ashburton Thompson was as follows : -

In response to your inquiry ofthe 2ndmst, whether there is ground for apprehending any danger to public health from the experiments in rabbit extermination about to be commenced by Dr. Danysz, . I have the honour to inform you that, in my opinion, there is no such ground. The reasons are as follow : -

(a)   It has long since been arranged that no experiment shall be madein the open until it has been ascertainedin the laboratory that the microbe to be employed is incapable of endangering the public health.

(b)   Because the microbes which must be employed are, as a class, harmless to man.

(c)   Because every kind of microbe likely to prove useful already exists in this country, in all probability the object of investiga tion being not so much to discover a microbe which will kill rabbits (many kinds being already known and here present) as to learn in what way its virulence can be kept up, and the best way of practically applying it.

To which I would add that all such diseases among animals lend to die out, and although they do from time to time kill all of a number collected together in particular places, as, for instance, individualpoultry farms, or individual large collections of guinea pigs they don't spread and maintain their virulence over the country or over any considerable extent of surface area. The virus, when it has been selected, will have to be purposely carried by man from place to place, with great precautions necessary to keep it virulent.


Senator Higgs - Who is going to carry it over the 80,000.000 acres of land to which the honorable senator has referred?


Senator MILLEN - It would be easier to carry than is phosphorized pollard. I have quoted the views of Dr. Norris, Chairman of the Board of Health of Victoria, and also those of the officer holding a corresponding position in New South Wales. I have already referred to the fact that Dr. Tidswell, in a reportprepared for the Federal Government at the instance of the Minister of Trade and Customs, has given an assurance that there is no possibility of danger to public health arising out of the carrying out of the pro posed experiments. Honorable senators may be disposed to discount the authority to whom I am about to refer, but I think he knows as much, or a good deal more, about the matter than we do, and is not likely to have lightly staked his reputation by giving a public assurance unless he felt sure of his facts. I refer to Dr. Danysz himself. In a letter recently published in the press, Dr. Danysz has pointed out that there is absolutely no necessity for grave fear of any danger arising or of the disease spreading broadcast throughout the State. He shows that at the Pasteur Institute, Paris, the most deadly diseases knownare experimented with daily, and students receive instructions there without dire results. Moreover, he tells us that -

The bacillus of chicken cholera has been introduced into California, and is now in constant use there for the purpose of decreasing the number of squirrels which for years constituted a serious menace to those on the land. The disease has had the effect of killing off thousands, and yet has not spread to other wild animals, nor have birds been infected in any way. Dr. Danysz cites other instances, and refers generally to his proposed experiments.

The doctor is not a man who would be prepared to lose his reputation easily. We may assume that he, like all other scientific men, is careful to pick his steps, and that he is indeed far more careful than those who are criticising his proposal would be. I cannot conceive it possible, nor do I think that any one who gives the matter a moment's consideration will do so, that Dr. Danysz, or any one in his position, would attempt to take any step unless he was absolutely certain that it could be taken with absolute safety.


Senator Pearce - The honorable senator will remember that Dr. Koch announced his cure for consumption before he was certain of his facts.


Senator MILLEN - Dr. Danysz does not affirm that he is going to be successful, nor do I. It would be mere recklessness on the part of a layman to predict anything of the kind. When Senator O'Keefe was speaking I suggested to him the inadvisableness of resorting to prophecy. He prophesied, however, that once it was whispered in England or in European countries where our rabbits are sold, that we were trifling with microbes, our export trade in rabbits would fall off. It may be assumed that when we use the microbes in the open - if we ever do - the export trade in rabbits will fall off, but not until then is any danger likely to accrue. The very object of taking the microbes into the open would be to stop the export trade in rabbits. No rabbits would be allowed to be exported once the microbes were used in the open.


Senator Pearce - We do not wish to lose our export trade, and at the same time to fail to get rid of the rabbits.


Senator MILLEN - The need of anticipating such a contingency has been realized. The Government of New South Wales, recognising that alarmists might get to work in the old country, communicated with Mr. Coghlan, and directed him to be on the look-out for statements in reference to this question appearing in the public journals, and to contradict any that were incorrect. Mr. Coghlan has reported that he' invited the representatives of the leading newspapers devoted to the game trade in England to investigate the matter, and that they sent to the Pasteur Institute in Paris a representative, who reported that he was quite satisfied! from the assurances given him, that there was absolutely no cause for alarm. If there is one broad way of ascertaining how a trade views any question of importance relating to it, it is furnished by the journals devoted to that trade. And here we have Mr. Coghlan's assurance. The action taken by Mr. Carruthers shows that he is not acting recklessly in this matter, and the reply he has received from Mr. Coghlan - which appears in an official document - is a sufficient answer to the cry that has been raised. It shows that the trade at Home is not going to be alarmed! unless some cause for alarm arises. When the microbes are being used in the open there will be no cause for alarm about the export trade in rabbits, because there will be no1 such trade. I venture to say that the Federal, as well as the State authorities, would stop the trade the moment the microbes were used in the open.


Senator O'Keefe - T - The honorable senator admits that it would be regrettable if the trade were injured until it was known that the experiment would be effective.


Senator MILLEN - I admit nothing. If I had mv way I would shut down the rabbit industry to-morrow. If those who are living on the industry are going to make it a vested interest, the people who own land will put a stop to it by refusing to allow rabbit trapping on their properties. That is a possibility of which we must not lose sight. At present the industry, as Senator

O'Keefe has said, is a parasite living upon the pastoral industry. Pastoralists and farmers, large and small, are at their wits' end to know how to combat the rabbit pest. While they have no objection to rabbits being trapped, and carried away, we mayrest assured that if those who are earning a livelihood by taking away the grasseaters are going to build up a vested industry, and oppose the efforts of pastoralists to secure a remedy, the latter will find that the only cure is to stop the industry. That is really what is happening to-day. In certain districts land-owners are declining to allow trappers to go on their property, feeling that by building up this industry they are preparing a rod for their own backs. It is rather curious to note that on the evidence of gentlemen who, we may presume, are impartial and competent judges, trapping is iri no sense helping to lessen the evil. We have had in New South Wales, I am sorry to S:1\ several prosecutions of trappers. Mamtrappers have been earning money from the trade .in rabbits, and they have also been subsidized by the landowners to carry on their trapping. We have had in New South Wales several prosecutions of men who. whilst receiving the subsidy from station-owners, and securing a profit bv the sale of the pelfs, have been releasing the younger rabbits found in the pit traps. That is one way in which the development of the industry of rabbit trapping is helping to perpetuate the pest. When I was drawn off the track bv an interjection, I was about to quote from ,a report by an inspector of the Pastures Protection Board at Gundagai, one of the towns which has been making itself heard in connexion with this matter. The rabbit trade has been developed there, and naturally local tradesmen and those dependent on them are warm in their support of this great national industry. The inspector, after going through his district, appears to have reported to his Board, and to have had another tale to tell. He SavE -

Trapping as a means of destruction was proving a blank. Upon holdings where there was extensive trapping, and which were within a stone's throw of two freezing works, there were more rabbits than in any other parts

If we have to rely solely upon trapping as a means of destroying the rabbits, the outlook for those who hone to keep Australia for legitimate farming is certainly not hopeful. I have yet to learn of any holdings - apart from very small ones, close to railway lines, and possessing facilities for easy transit - that have been by this means kept clear of the pest for any period. Reference has been made to the value of the rabbit industry. The export trade in carcases and skins last year was valued at £583,000, but even if the figures were doubled, to what would they amount? I wish to emphasize the point that the rabbit industry is living to-day under conditions that are unlikely to continue. It is impossible to believe that men are going to pay rents to the Crown year after year - as a large number of occupiers of Crown lands in New South Wales are doing - on the supposition that the grass is to be turned into wool and mutton, and the cash product put into their own pockets when their grass is being eaten by rabbits, and the profits derived from their sale pocketed by others. The whole system must break down. If the lands of Australia are to be preserved for .grazing rabbits, in order that certain individuals mav turn those rabbits into money, we shall have to re-adjust our land system ; the Crown will have to be prepared to reduce its rentals on the understanding that the rabbits are to have free grass. I ask honorable senators to consider what this reduction of rentals would mean to New South Wales if we were to allow for the grass eaten by the rabbits there? Some one must pay for the grass so consumed. It is preposterous to imagine that one man is going to pay for the grass, while some one else walks off with the value of that grass in the shape of the rabbit that has fed upon it. What is the industry prepared to pay? A Mr. Benn, who has been making money bv freezing rabbits, recently gave certain figures showing his turnover. I think he said that it amounted to something like £60,000 a year. What is he going to pay towards the rentals of the Crown tenants of New South Wales? Who has to pav the rent? The man who secures the product of the land in the shape of rabbits, or the man who is trying to fight the pest? These are problems which we ought to consider. When those interested in the rabbit trade come forward with a proposition to pay for the grass, which the rabbits eat. thev will be entitled to say that it is an industry. At present, like the rabbit itself, it is a plague. It is surely unnecessary to go into figures to illustrate the absurdity of comparing a little tinpot industry of that kind with the .great agricultural and pastoral industries of Australia. We have no means of determining the extent to which rabbits depreciate the carrying capacity of the country, but we have a means of forming an estimate which for practical purposes should be some guide. New South Wales has to-day somewhere about 40,000,000 sheep.


Senator Fraser - More than that.


Senator MILLEN - She may have, allowing for the lambing. I forget what were the returns for December last.


Senator Gray - There are 42,000,000 sheep in New South Wales.


Senator MILLEN - But for the phenomenal seasons she has enjoyed New South Wales would be heavily' taxed in carrying that number of sheep. She has had a phenomenal season, .in common with other large portions of Australia - such a season, I suppose, as we have not had for many years. In spite of that, New South Wales to-day is fairly stocked with 40,000,000 sheep. But not long ago New South Wales was carrying over 60,000,000 sheep. However, I should tremble for the position of that State if it were carrying that number to-day, because, in spite of the phenomenal season, we should find the land overstocked. I do not say that the difference in the number of sheep is to be put down entirely to the rabbits, because much may be due to the long series of droughts which have to some extent depreciated the carrying capacity of the country.


Senator Turley - Was not New South Wales greatly overstocked with 60,000,000 sheep ?


Senator MILLEN - If New South' Wales were put into the position it occupied in the early nineties, and the rabbits were removed, the State would, with the present improvements, carry 60,000,000 sheep. Improvements have been going on steadily, and the multiplication of artesian bores alone has very materially improved the carrying capacity of the country.


Senator Turley - The droughts were grass droughts, and not water droughts.


Senator MILLEN - We have overcome the water difficulty. A drought which lasts as long as the last one did is bound to become a grass drought.


Senator Turley - That was not so much' a water drought.


Senator MILLEN - We have met the water difficulty, but a large portion of New

South Wales is now occupied at a period when it could not have been occupied ten years' ago at a similar period, if the conditions were the same.


Senator Turley - New South Wales was overstocked with 60,000,000 sheep.


Senator MILLEN - New South Wales was overstocked in the then condition of improvements, but I do not think it would be overstocked to-day, in view of the greater improvements, but for the rabbits. I admit at once that that is an estimate, but much has been done since the early nineties in the way of ring-barking - a most potent factor in increasing carrying capacity - and in the multiplication of artesian supplies. But for the presence of the rabbits, New South Wales could carry with comfort the same number of sheep that was carried with some distress in the early nineties. I am not going to assume that all the decrease is due to the rabbits, nor can I estimate how many rabbits eat the same quantity of food that is required by a sheep.


Senator Fraser - Fifteen rabbits.


Senator MILLEN - While fifteen rabbits may only consume the grass which, one sheep does, I venture to say that they foul more country than a sheep.


Senator Fraser - The rabbits make country impossible for sheep.


Senator MILLEN - I cannot affirm to what extent the rabbits are destroying the carrying capacity of the country, but I say that the amount represented by the depreciation caused by them is far greater than that represented by the returns from the rabbit industry. Further. I say that the amount represented by that .industry is not as much, if any greater than the amount expended in the efforts to destroy the rabbits. While a few individuals and a few towns, with freezing works here and there, mav be making some profit out of the industry, from a national point of view that industry is a national loss both ways. It is a loss in reducing the income which comes in the ordinary way from the pastoral industry, and it is a loss inasmuch as the amount which it represents does not more than compensate for the expenditure in keening the rabbits down to a workable minimum. The industry is not one we are entitled to consider. The Question remains whether some means can be discovered bv which a check can be discovered of a. more economical character than those at present at our disposal. It. is only with that object in view that the experiments have been decided upon/. I have said that to the motion, as amended, the only objection I see is in the fact that it makes Parliament the judge of what is a matter for the decision of scientific men. I should have been quite satisfied with the amended motion if it had simply said that, until assurances had been obtained from scientific experts, the Parliaments of the States and of the Commonwealth would watch the matter. I am afraid that, in spite of what the experts may say, this wretched little industry may once more manage to raise such a clamour as to make people believe it to be of much more importance than is really the case, and to that extent may influence the judgment of Parliament. It may interest honorable senators, who seem to be so fearful just now about the introduction of diseases - I admit we ought to be cautious - to know what is being done in other directions. I suppose that one of the greatest troubles we ever had in the fruit-growing industry is the codlin moth. Senator Playford knows something of this matter, because he once gave us a graphic description of the moth, which he affirmed was "running wild " in Western Australia.


Senator Playford - So it was.


Senator Guthrie - Senator Playford had never been there.


Senator MILLEN - That did not prevent Senator Playford talking of the Question with a great deal of confidence. The codlin moth was a serious pest, which caused great loss; but to-day the grub of that moth is being exported, in box afterbox, from New Zealand to California.


Senator Playford - There is plenty of codlin moth in California.


Senator MILLEN - Yes ; but I desireto show what California is doing in a scientific way ; and the information I havereads almost like a romance. Tn order to fight the codlin moth in California, the scientists there are raising a species of lady-bird


Senator Playford - No : the lady-bird will not stop the codlin moth. The lady-bird is a parasite to the red scale, and not to +he codlin moth.


Senator MILLEN - T shall deal withthe red scale later on. The journal fromwhich I am quoting. and which contains an official report, gives the Latin name- for a species of lady-bird. the parasite, which they are seeking to develop for the- purpose of destroying the codlin moth. The people of California experience some difficulty for a portion of the year in obtaining the food necessary in order to develop the parasite, which in turn is to prey on the mature codlin moth ; and, therefore, in view of the varying seasons, it is sought to obtain from New Zealand the grub of the codlin moth which is used to feed the parasite, the latter in turn being used to destroy the mature moth. Suppose the fruit-growers in California had got on their hind legs and howled about the introduction of the codlin moth from New Zealand !


Senator Givens - The cases are not parallel.


Senator MILLEN - No cases are parallel when we do not want them to be. I say that the cases are parallel, inasmuch as in each we have a disease, the introduction of which is known to entail very considerable loss. Scientific men in California experimented, as we propose to do here, until they found the possibility of a remedy, and they have carried matters so far that, not content with raising the parasite in favorable seasons there, they take advantage of the varying seasons and import the codlin moth in order to feed the parasite.


Senator Givens - The fact remains that they are not importing a new disease into California.


Senator Playford - The codlin moth was prevalent in California before it was known as a pest in New Zealand.


Senator MILLEN - I am not at all certain that the codlin moth is not one of the gifts that California owes to Australia.


Senator Playford - I found the codlin moth in California in 1883, and it certainly was not then in South Australia. We in South Australia got the codlin moth from Tasmania.


Senator MILLEN - A similar procedure to that in California is now going on in Western Australia in regard to the red scale. The Agricultural Department in that State is, according to the Western Australian Agricultural Journal, importing a small fly which preys on the red scale.


Senator Pearce - It is a lady-bird


Senator MILLEN - According to the Western Australian Agricultural Journal it is not the lady-bird.


Senator Pearce - A large number of lady-birds are being used for that purpose in Western Australia.


Senator MILLEN - But not for the red scale, I understand.


Senator Pearce - A parasite for the fruit fly is also being used.


Senator MILLEN - I am speaking particularly of the red scale. I am not -well up in this subject, but I would point out that mining, agriculture, and grazing all require the aid of- science to-day. Mining and farming particularly are becoming matters of chemistry. To say, in relation to a matter so important as the future of the pastoral and agricultural industries, that we shall refuse the aid of science appears to me to be going back to the dark ages. All that is asked is that experiments shall be carried on under conditions which every scientific man declares to be safe - to carry on those experiments in the laboratory, and then, if it can be shown that they cam be extended without danger to the public health or to the fauna of Australia, to so extend them.


Senator O'Keefe - I - If this outcry had not been made, was it not intended to carry out the experiments on the island ?


Senator MILLEN - Not outside the laboratory - that was never intended. The honorable senator appears to have got a contrary idea, as many other people have, owing to the clamour which has been raised, and to a great deal of irresponsible writing in the public press, and not to have taken the trouble to look into the matter for himself. All that was intended was that at first the experiments should be carried out in the laboratory. Microbes known to be fatal to rabbits, and which have been collected! from rabbits, are in the laboratories in Sydney to-day. Dr. Tidswell himself, not long since, in investigating an epidemic in the Wyalong district, succeeded in isolating the microbe, which to-day is alive in Sydney, and, so far as I know, well. That may be the very microbe which. Dr. Danysz proposes to use in Australia. If we prevent Dr. Danysz from opening the tubes he brought with him, it will be only a matter of a few months before he can develop other microbes to the same virulence from those already in Australia. If we were to block Dr. Danysz absolutely, and order his tubes to be thrown over the South Head, it would only delay him for two or three months.


Senator Givens - He would have to be content with the microbes already here.


Senator MILLEN - The microbes Dr. Danysz brought with him are exactly the same as those already in the country, except that the virulence of the former has been more developed. Dr. Danysz would merely have to start work from the commencement, and develop from the local microbe. In view of the assurance given by the State Government, and by Drs. Asburton Thompson, Norris, and Tidswell, and in view of the attitude of the Federal Government, there is no necessity for this motion. I had hoped that Senator O'Keefe, in view of what has transpired in the last few days, would consider the propriety of withdrawing the motion, but the honorable senator has not done so. Although I regard the motion as much less obnoxious than as originally drawn, it still is, in my opinion, unnecessary, liable to be misconstrued, and likely to become mischievous under certain circumstances, and, therefore, it has my opposition.

Sitting suspended from6.30 to 7.45 p.m.







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