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Tuesday, 4 September 1906

Senator STANIFORTH SMITH (Western Austalia) . - Senator Henderson prefaced his remarks by pointing out that the people of Australia have no reliable information with regard to the possibilities of trawling. The people of Australia have had some experience in, trawling operations, but no information as to that experience has been placed before the Committee. Senator Turley told us that the" Queensland Government made efforts to ascertain whether there were proper trawling grounds off the coast of that State, and that the experiment was a failure.

Senator Turley - An absolute failure.

Senator STANIFORTH SMITH - And I think the honorable senator also told us that a similar result followed trawling operations off the coast of New South Wales. We know that in Victoria efforts have been made to ascertain whether there are suitable trawling ground and the right kind of fish for trawling operations. So far as I know, al! these experiments, have been an absolute failure. Speaking subject to correction, I think the Victorian Government sent out the Lady Loch on a trawling expedition.

Senator Mulcahy - Experiments have been conducted under private enterprise.

Senator STANIFORTH SMITH - I am now speaking of the experiments conducted by the Government of Victoria. Great hopes were held out that profitable fishing grounds would be discovered, and that the result would be the establishment of curing factories, and the foundation of a prosperous industry. However, failure met those efforts, but whether that was due to the nature of the fishing grounds we cannot, of course, say. We know that unless the bottom of the sea is perfectly smooth, it is impossible to trawl, and it may happen, that the right kind of fish are not present. The Rip, a. former pilot vessel of Port Philip, was also used in experiments of the kind by thi: Victorian Government; but no trawling ground was discovered.

Senator Stewart - How long were the experiments continued ?

Senator STANIFORTH SMITH - I have no information. When it is proposed to spend £8,000 in this direction the Government should place before *us all the facts relating to previous efforts. We aire really being asked to vote this £8,000 blindfold, and, apparently, without the Government themselves being aware that previous, efforts of the kind have been a failure. I understand that the Rip was sent to Western Australia in 1904, but that the experiment there also was a failure.

Senator de Largie - What evidence is there that that experiment was a failure?

Senator STANIFORTHSMITH.I am so informed ; I do not know of my own personal knowledge. I believe that every State in Australia has engaged in trawling operations, with the exception of South Australia. When we are asked to vote a large sum of money for such a purpose we are at least entitled to know what efforts in a similar direction have previously been made, what the results of those efforts have been, and if unsuccessful, the reasons for their want of success. We have had no such information given us in the present instance. We are not told where the trawler is to be worked, or whether it is intended that it should work right round the coast of Australia.

Senator Keating - The honorable senator does not suppose that the Government propose to keep the trawler in Bass Straits all the time.

Senator STANIFORTH SMITH - I do not care to say so, but I aim somewhat suspicious of Bass Straits and Kangaroo

Island. It is the experience of Western Australia that that State has not in a single instance derived benefit from any subsidy voted by this Parliament. I should like to know where the Government propose to trawl. It will be of no use to carry out such an experiment in one place, and we know that it would take years to properly explore the waters of Australia's 8,000 miles of coast line. The Government should certainly tell the Committee on what portion of our littoral they intend to commence trawling operations.

Senator Playford - Judging by the local spirit the honorable senator has suggested he would object if we said that we intended to commence at Sydney, and work round to the west.

Senator STANIFORTH SMITH - I have so far never objected to any subsidy proposed, and yet no subsidy we have voted has been of any advantage to Western Australia.

Senator Best - I think there is something of the kind on the business-paper.

Senator Pearce - And the honorable senator will wipe it off if he gets the chance.

Senator STANIFORTH SMITH - I referred to subsidies already passed. The Eastern States are deriving the benefit of the £400,000 a year spent on the Australian Squadron, and when we asked that the vessels should go round to Albany to become acquainted with the advantages of that strategic base the request was treated with derision. The squadron remains at Sydney during the greater part of the year, but during the Melbourne Cup week the vessels come to Melbourne, and in the fashionable season they go to Hobart. I believe that great wealth is to be derived from our waters, but I am not satisfied that we should endeavour to exploit it by trawling. If the Government could give any reason for believing that this proposal will be a success we could vote the money asked for with some assurance that it would not be absolutely wasted. If this vessel is purchased, and it is shortly afterwards decided not to continue the hobby, what is to become of the trawler ? Have the Government some idea of maintaining the trawler as a yacht for the use of members of the Federal Parliament in imitation of the practice adopted in New South Wales and Victoria? Why should we purchase a vessel df this kind at such a cost when wemight charter such a vessel for a year or two at very small expense? It seems to me that other methods might be adopted for exploiting the wealth of our seas. When at Thursday Island, I found that a small silver fish about three inches in length is to be found in myriads swarming around the piles of the pier there, and Mr. Saville-Kent, the expert, has stated that these fish are the true sardine. If that be so, there should be no reason why a very valuable industry in the canning of sardines should not be established at Thursday Island. The Government might put money on the Estimates to encourage the establishment of such industries. It might be better to encourage industries connected with fishing in that way than to tie the Commonwealth down to the purchase of a vessel for trawling at a cost of £8,000, when it is known that trawling operations conducted by the States have so far proved to be unsuccessful. I find that the sum of £9,000 is proposed to be devoted under the Bounties Bill to the encouragement of the fish canning industry. Possibly this is a supplementary proposal. I point out that the provision proposed to be made under the Bounties Bill might be sufficient to induce private enterprise to start trawling to secure a fish supply that would enable the parties concerned to get the £9,000 proposed to be given for the canning of fish. If that be so, it is possible that we might secure the same result with the one expenditure. An important consideration is the kind of fish that can profitably be canned. It seems to me that, with the exception of salmon, herrings, sardines, lobsters-

Senator Turley - Mullet.

Senator STANIFORTH SMITH - I do not think that mullet are largely sold.

Senator Turley - It is a splendid fish canned.

Senator STANIFORTH SMITH - I do not think there are many fish in Australian waters that will become marketable products if canned. The popular taste is such that certainly many of our fish would be quite unsaleable if canned. In the Canadian rivers salmon swarm in such enormous numbers that thev are caught by the ton, and it is very unlikely that we shall be able to establish an industry in the canning of fish in Australia that will be in a position to compete with the canning of salmon in Canada.

The same remark applies to herrings, and we know that there are very great industries established in other countries in the canning of lobsters and sardines. On the north-west coast of Western Australia, at a place called Beagle Bay, an immense number of green turtle - the true aldermanic turtle of commerce - are found, and it is possible that a valuable industry might be started there in preserving those turtle. On the northern coasts of Australia the green* turtle exists ins great numbers, and at times small sandy islands on the coast are covered with them,

Senator Mulcahy - They would not be caught with a trawler.

Senator STANIFORTH SMITH - No; I am showing that the 'Government might expend money for the exploitation of the wealth to be derived from the sea without entering upon trawling operations, which, so far. as the experiments of the States are concerned, have been proved to be unsuccessful. There is another important fish, which is a warm-blooded mammal, discovered on the coast of Queensland.' I refer to the dugong. Dugong oil is said to be one of the most valuable oils for medicinal and nourishing purposes that is produced from fish.

Senator Drake - Would the dugong fishing benefit under the Bounties Bill, seeing that the dugong is described as a mammal ?


Gould not say. I know that it is a warmblooded fish.

Senator Playford - They cure it and make bacon of it.

Senator Givens - And even Jews can eat dugong bacon.

Senator STANIFORTH SMITH - There should be great possibilities in that direction. The Government should have made full inquiries into these matters, and if thev had done so they might have been in a position to propose the expenditure of money to encourage the establishment of such fishing industries as I have referred to. I do not desire to oppose a vote especially submitted to develop an Australian industry. The attitude I have adopted has been wherever possible to assist investigation, but I think that it is possible that, if the Government had obtained information as to the results of trawling experiments bv the various States, they would not have submitted this vote. If we study the charts of the Australian coast we shall find that on many portions of the coast of

Australia the bottom of the sea is so uneven, and the formation is such, as to render it entirely unsuitable for trawling. Trawling cannot be carried on over a rocky bottom, because in such a place the nets would be torn to pieces. We know also that trawling can be carried on only over a perfectly smooth bottom, and we have no information as to the portions of the Australian coast at which trawling could be successfully carried on. While I do not say that I shall vote against, the item, I think that the Committee is entitled to ask the Government for some information on these heads. We should be informed of the experience of trawling by every State except, I believe, South Australia. We should also be told whether the Government propose to trawl in various waters round Australia, what kind of vessel they intend to purchase, and how long the investigation is to last. If the Government can give reasons which, would justify us in voting in favour of trawling operations being carried on, I shall be quite prepared to vote for the item.

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