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Tuesday, 4 September 1906

Senator HENDERSON (Western Australia) . - When this item was mentioned by the Minister of Defence in introducing this Bill, I felt that the Government were taking a step in the right direction. I have no fault whatever to find with the information presented to us by the Minister in support of the proposal to establish, if possible, a trawling business on the coast. That information may be regarded as being as complete as it was possible to make it. In the first place, the Minister told us of similar enterprises in South Africa, Canada, and England; and I think he told us that almost all Governments in the civilized world had, at one time or other, taken some such step.

Senator Turley - When did the English Government do such a thing?

Senator HENDERSON - A long time before I was a boy. I am now simply repeating the information which was given by the Minister to the Committee ; and more could not be looked for, because, as Senator de Largie has pointed out, it is utterly impossible to get anything like reliable statements from the fishermen on the Australian coast. The disabilities under which those engaged in the fishing industry suffer are such as to render their information almost useless in connexion with a proposal of the kind before us. Under the circumstances, I think the Government have taken a very wise course. The Minister of Defence gave us to understand that the cost of fish in Australia at the present time is something like 66 per cent. higher than in any part of the United Kingdom.

Senator Best - In Australia?

Senator HENDERSON - In Australia.

Senator Best - That is not so, if one may judge from the prices charged in restaurants.

Senator HENDERSON - I am judging only from the information presented to us by the Minister of Defence, who told us thatin Australia we pay three times the price that is paid in the United Kingdom for fish. In any case, we know there are many occasionson which we have a very limited supply of fish, in spite of the fact that we have an immense coast line.

Senator de Largie - The price of fish in the old country has come down very considerably since steam trawling came into vogue.

Senator HENDERSON - There is no doubt about that; in my own experience, herrings have been sold twelve for1d.

Senator Findley - What size?

Senator HENDERSON - About a quarter of a pound in weight. Where I disagree with the Government is in their having decided to hand the industry over to private enterprise after they have purchased the trawler and prospected the coast line. Immediately the fact is established that trawling is possible and profitable, the Government propose to leave future developments to private enterprise. If the Government feel disposed to be socialistic, why should they not honestly admit the fact?

Senator Pulsford - Hear, hear.

Senator HENDERSON - Quite so. If would be just as well for the Government to honestly admit that they believe Socialism is a growing and a right principle, and that the people generally ought to share whatever benefits may result from the establishment of this industry. Why should the Government declare that they are socialistic until the possibilities and probabilities of, the industry have been ascertained, and then say that they are anti-socialistic? I do not agree with that 'attitude on the part pf the; Government, and would much prefer, if we do undertake this trawling business, to go ahead with it. I shall support the item, because I believe that once the industry is proved to be payable the same power that initiated it will be able to continue it - that once the business becomes prosperous it will take a great deal to persuade the people to permit the Government to hand it over to private enterprise. I know that in days gone by many industries have been coddled into success by the Government, and then given oven to private enterprise, which exploits both men and material. I hope that in the trawling business we shall have no such result, but that the industry will be conducted for the benefit of the general taxpayer. As I say I support the item in the belief that once the industry becomes a success the people of Australia will have too much good sense to allow the Government te relinquish it to private enterprise.

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