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Tuesday, 4 September 1906


Senator TURLEY (Queensland) . - We have always been informed that, under the provisions of the Constitution, the Commonwealth cannot undertake any industrial enterprise. This vote is submitted with the idea of exploration, and we are to assume that the men engaged in the fishing industry in Australia for years do not know where or how to catch fish, the best appliances to use, and the nets re- 1 quired to give them the biggest return for the labour they put into the industry. We are told that this proposal will operate in much the same way as a bonus. We are informed that the trawler will explore a portion of the coast, and thus induce people to put money into the industry, and will, in that way, confer a great benefit on the Commonwealth. A bonus is a different thing. The Bounties Bill which' we shall be asked to consider by-and-by provides for the grant of a bounty to those persons who may be able to get a sufficient quantity of fish. I am inclined to vote against the item, because, in my opinion, the question has not been thoroughly considered. I do not believe that it is in consequence of a report from any part of Australia that the item appears on these Estimates. The experience of certain States is quite opposed to any such' attempt being made. Years ago, for instance, New South Wales spent a good many thousand pounds in this direction, but the experiment was an absolute failure. I do not suppose that it yielded a return of is. to the State.


Senator Staniforth Smith - When was that?


Senator TURLEY - Some years ago thousands of pounds were voted by the New South Wales Parliament to enable Mr. Frank F arnell, who was regarded as an expert, to prepare the way for developing a large industry in the waters of that State. I do not remember whether the vote amounted to £8,000 or £10,000, but it was passed to enable Mr. Farnell to conduct an experiment, not in seine or drift net fishing, but in trawling, and it was a miserable failure. Queensland has had a similar experience. A few years ago a number of enthusiasts, who believed that it was possible to create a large fishing industry in Moreton Bay and the adjacent waters, formed a company, and collected a sum of money ; nets were made, and the Government were asked for assistance.


Senator de Largie - Was the experiment to be made bv ordinary net fishing or by trawling?


Senator TURLEY - It was to be carried out by trawling. To the promoters the Government said, " If you want to try the experiment we will lend you a Government steamer. " Accordingly, the promoters had the loan of a Government steamer, and had the services of the men who possessed the best knowledge of that portion of the Queensland coast. The trawl beam got stuck on a rock, and pulled the vessel up. It had to be taken back, and the trawl turned over before it could be released. They made several attempts. On one or two occasions -they had their net torn to pieces, and the return to the company and the Government was absolutely nothing. According to a speech made by a member of the other House, Tasmania has had a similar experience of trawling.


Senator Keating - Of steam trawling?


Senator TURLEY - Whether the trawling is done by steamer or by sailing vessel, what is the difference? As a matter of fact it is only within the last few years that steamers! have been used for that purpose. In my time the hundreds of boats which used to trawl off the English coast were sailing vessels.


Senator de Largie - It is about a quarter of a century since steam trawling was started on the west coast of Scotland.


Senator TURLEY - That may be; but prior to that time the only use which was made of steam vessels was to collect the fish which the smacks had caught, and take them into market. Is it not reasonable to believe that the fishermen on the Australian coast have tested the grounds, and know the best methods of fishing to adopt ? Is it not reasonable to think that they know the habits of the varieties of fish which they are most likely to get? It is stated that a large quantity of fish go up the east coast of Australia every year. If we had fifty trawlers on the ground we should not catch one of these fish, because the largest proportion of them are mullet, which, of course, could not be caught with a net of that description. At the present time mullet are caught with the seine, and that is the only net I know of by which a man is able to catch such 'fish in a large quantity. So far as I can gather, that is the largest sort of migratory fish on the coast of Australia. The Government has supplied no information to the Committee, except that the Government of Cape Colony had bought a trawler, and carried out some experimental work. Senator Playford' did not even state whether the Government had received any reports from persons who have been engaged in the fishing industry, and who are able to indicate that what we want is some assistance to develop the industry. He told us that in Canada the fishing industry yielded so many pounds of fish per head. I do not suppose he could tell us that one-half per cent, of the catch was obtained by trawling. The success achieved is nearly all due to the great cod fish industry, which has been carried on there for, I dare say, 150 years. Not one solitary fish of that description is caught by means of a trawler. If the honorable senator has ever been in that part of the world, he knows very well that the cod fishing is carried on from boats by line; and not by net, off the coast of Newfoundland, Labrador, and other places. If he went to the Mediterranean, which he quoted, would he find any trawling done? I do not believe that he would find a trawler in that ocean. When he was speaking of the fishing industry there he was really referring to the little fish which are caught in very small mesh nets. I know of no places where trawling has been so successful as it has been round the coast of England and Scotland in the different channels Those are the only places where, so far, it has been a success. The Government, I' repeat, have come down without any information, except that Cape Colony has made an experiment in this direction. If they think it necessary ti make this proposal, and the persons who are engaged in the fishing industry are able to supply them with any information on the subject, it ought to be given to the Senate, especially in view of the ghastly failure of the experiments carried out at large expense in Queensland and New South Wales. Ministers must knowvery well that such experiments have taken place, and have not induced outside persons to put money into the business. The fishing industry is not carried on by trawlers in Victoria, nor, so far as I know, anywhere else in the Commonwealth.


Senator Pearce - There are trawlers on the New Zealand coast.


Senator TURLEY - When I was in New Zealand some years ago there was no trawling carried on.


Senator Playford - There is now, in consequence of the Government having expended public money in finding out whether it could' be done successfully or not.


Senator TURLEY - Does the Minister say that in New Zealand the Government undertook trawling?


Senator Playford - Yes; the Government hired a steamer for the purpose, and sent it round the coast.


Senator TURLEY - I have never heard before that that was done.


Senator Keating - The New Zealand Government started the experiment in 1900.


Senator TURLEY - In all probability the Government of New Zealand were able to furnish some information to the Parliament when they submitted their proposal to send out a trawler.


Senator Playford - We have not information, and we want a trawler in order to get it.


Senator TURLEY - Probably the Government have not yet taken the trouble to ask the fishermen of Australia for information. I 'intend to call for a division on the item.







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