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Tuesday, 4 September 1906

Senator TRENWITH (Victoria) . - It seems to me that the proposal is a very desirable one. I dissent from the attitude taken up by the last two speakers. Senator Drake pointed out that the proposal was incomplete - maimed,- I think he said - because of the inability to prospect within the three-miles limit, inasmuch as the States might object. When I interjected -that probably some of the States would be verv glad to permit the investigation to be made within their territory if the Commonwealth so desired, he looked upon my suggestion as objectionable, because he thought it would be unjust to other parts of the Commonwealth. But as each State has a considerable stretch of coast line, it is quite possible by mutual consent that an investigation might be made by a Commonwealth vessel of this kind, both within and without the three-miles limit round the entire coast. And if it led to the development of a vigorous fishing industry within Australian waters, it would be an immense advantage to the Australian people. Unfortunately, the Commonwealth is very limited in its power ..o attract persons to engage in industries, as it has no land. We all admit that it would be a great thing for the Commonwealth if its population were very much larger, and this appears to be a direction in which the Commonwealth has power to develop fields of industry which may attract and maintain population. I sympathize entirely with Senator Givens in his statement that if this be discovered to be a profitable business, it would be a good thing to have it prosecuted by the Commonwealth in its own interests. I do not agree that there is a constitutional bar to that. I believe it is quite competent for the Commonwealth to undertake fishing or other work in the way of commercial enterprise in its own interests. However, if there be a constitutional difficulty, that seems to be an insufficient reason for not doing what we can within the Constitution. I also agree with Senator Givens that the States have not pursued a wise policy in undertaking all the initial and unprofitable expense in connexion with mining, agriculture, and other industries, and leaving them when profit-making. But it is better to go that far than not to do anything in assisting to develop industries. ' This appears to me to be a step in a direction in which my honorable friend desires to go. I agree that it does not go the whole way, but it is a step which would facilitate matters, and which would have to be taken by the Commonwealth in carrying out' the complete undertaking, which both he and I desire. Those who think that the Commonwealth Government should do whatever it can to develop sources of employment, should certainly vote for the item. It .is objected that we are approaching the limit of our spending power, but I think that we are still a long way off the point of danger. It should be remembered that the Commonwealth is undertaking, and I think properly undertaking, many public works out of revenue, and it is because of that policy that we are as near as we are to the limit of our spending power. This trawling experiment is in the nature of a public work, which even some States might carry out with loan money, but which we propose to carry out with revenue. There will be some expenditure for maintenance, which may recur ; but the initial expenditure will not recur, and we shall have £8,000 to spare for some other useful work, I hope in the years that are to come. I strongly urge upon those who are members of a party which claims, and rightly claims, and always aims to secure the best possible means of profitable employment for those who toil to live, that this experiment, if successful, would open up another avenue of employment.

Senator Givens - Does 'not the honorable senator think that the most proper way is by means of a bounty and a duty ?

Senator TRENWITH - Both ways are good, and this proposal is in a degree in the nature of a bounty. I agree with the honorable senator that if we discover a profitable fishing; ground, it may be necessary to take steps to keep our market absolutely to ourselves, that is to initiate a protectionist Tariff. What I look forward to, first of all, is a better system of fish supply for Australians. It has been very properly pointed out that in the case of each State, the fish supply is not well organized. This expenditure may, probably will, .initiate an organization by the Commonwealth of the fisheries over which it Kas control, and if there is evolved a fishing industry, I should hope to see regulations^ - a law, if need be - providing that when fish are plentiful, they shall not be permitted to be turned into manure, to the detriment of those who would be glad to pay a reasonable price for them.

Senator Keating - We import 13,000,000 lbs. weight of fish per annum.

Senator Drake - Valued at £300,000.

Senator TRENWITH - I was not aware of the figures. For these reasons, I shall vote for the item.

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