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Friday, 28 September 1906

The PRESIDENT - It will not be necessary for the honorable senator to ask leave to amend his contingent notice, because he can move an amendment which is not contrary to the Standing Orders in any form he pleases. No notice is necessary.

Senator DOBSON - I move-

That all the words after the word "That" be left out, with a view to add the following words - " further proceedings on the Bounties Bill be postponed -

(1)   Until Ministers have consulted the Go vernment of each State, and ascertained if they will administer the Bill if it becomes law and lend the aid of their experts to carry out its objects ; and

(2)   To enable Ministers to obtain from the

Agricultural Departments of the said States a report upon the desirability or otherwise of granting any, and what, bounties for the production of products from the soil, and as to the probability of a permanent industry being established in any of such products."

I listened with some surprise to the Minister's arguments, because they were loose and general in their character. He did not advance any evidence to show thatthere is a reasonable probability of any one of the proposed bounties establishing a permanent industry. Really. I marvelled at the general terms in which the Minister spoke. Of what use is it for him to tell us what has been done in regard to sugar in other parts of the world, or to discuss the subject of bounties generally, unless he applies his statements to the Bill before the Senate and to Australian conditions? I move my amendment for five reasons. First, the Bill contains evidence that it has been prepared in a most hasty and' thoughtless manner, and needs further consideration. Secondly, there is nothing in the circulated napers to lead us to think that such products as cotton, rice, and cocoa can be produced in Australia, except with the aid of very cheap labour. Thirdly, there is no data to show that a permanenit industry would be the result of the granting of any one of the proposed bounties, Fourthly, the States have not been consulted about the Bill, either as regards the bounties which should be given, the amount of the bounties, or the question of administration. Fifthly, the States are absolutely opposed to what the Minister is doing.

Senator Playford - No.

Senator Trenwith - Does the honorable senator contend that we should necessarily consult the States?

Senator DOBSON - I intend to deal fully with that point. Every one who has read the report of the proceedings of the Premiers' Conference at Hobart twoyears ago knows that the States are opposed to the Bill. The Bill, as it was originally drawn, included a bounty upon the production of chicory. If any evidence were wanted to show that it was most hastily, slovenly, and thoughtlessly prepared, it was supplied by the inclusion of that item. Of course, it was struck out in the other House. I know a man in Tasmania who has been growing chicory for the last twenty1 years. Sometimes he grows a crop, and sometimes he does not, simply because there is very little market for the article. I believe that on ten acres of rich bottom land he could grow enough chicory to supply all the requirements of the States. Senator Playford will never persuade me that any expert or Minister who included in the Bill a bounty upon the production of chicory could have given much thought to the subject. Having regard to tha fact that the production of at least five of the articles enumerated in the schedule is confined almost entirely to tropical countries, would not Senator Trenwith, as a guardian of the taxpayers' money, like to be furnished with some evidence that we in Australia could compete with -the black labour of tropical countries in the production of coffee, cocoa, rice, and cotton? Is that not a most essential factor? How can statesmen talk about developing the agricultural resources of the Commonwealth unless they take into account the labour against which we have to compete? We all desire that our industries shall be developed with white labour, but if we have to pay our men twenty times more than labourers are paid elsewhere, how are we to compete? I can well understand that we import large quantities of the articles mentioned in the schedule to the Bill, and I quite agree that it would be a good thing for Australia if we could produce them ourselves. But that can only be done either by devising a. means by which our workmen can compete against black labour in other countries, or by having tremendous protective duties. We must acknowledge that the wages paid must have some relationship to the fund derived from the industry. If there are some undeveloped industries which would pay good wages, let us develop them for all we are worth, but if we find that owing to the cheap labour in other countries we cannot carry on those industries and pay a proper wage, it is evidently of no use to try to develop them.

Senator Trenwith - Cotton in America is produced by white labour now.

Senator DOBSON - Much of it is, but at the same time cotton is also produced in India, the Philippines, and Egpyt by means of the cheapest labour.

Senator Findley - We are growing tobacco in Australia, though it is produced largely by black labour in America.

Senator DOBSON - We want information to show us that we have any reasonable hope of competing against black labour in regard fo many of the articles mentioned in the schedule. The document that we have before us, crammed with useful information as it is, does not tell us enough. My next point is that we have no data to show that any of the industries mentioned in the schedule will be permanently established. It is, of course, quite easy for my honorable friend, the Minister, to prove that we import large quantities of various commodities, and to dilate upon the idea that it would be exceedingly profitable if we could produce them ourselves. But he has given us no information to establish the contention that the payment of bounties will permanently establish these industries. In the year 1866 the Queensland Government paid bounties for the production of cotton. In 1882 she paid more bounties. At the present moment the Agricultural Department of Queensland is giving all the advice it can to persons who are willing to produce cotton in the State. Some people have been growing cotton for years, and have obtained a very good price for it. Yet the industry cannot be said to be thriving, not because cotton cannot be grown in Queensland, but because, I presume, those who are getting a living by agriculture there find that thev can put their land to more profitable account. The payment of a bounty may cause more cotton to be 'grown, but many of those who enter the industry will, after growing it for a few years, drop out. The Minister ought to have shown us that cotton-crowing in Queensland can be made profitable in competition with the black labour of other countries, and that, having been established, it will be permanently maintained. Let me give an illustration of the war in which bounties were paid some years ago in Victoria. Many honorable senators will be aware that they were paid for the planting of vineyards. I quite agree that as a consequence acres of vines were planted, but when the bounty ceased, many of the vineyards fell into disuse, and after some time were grubbed up. At my lodgings, I happened on one occasion to sit next to a man who used to be connected with the wine industry in this State, and he told me that one of the results of the payment of the bounty was that many neighbours came to him for vine cuttings, which he distributed by the thousand. They were planted out, but when the bounty ceased the vineyards so started were not carried on.

Senator Trenwith - Everybody did not succeed, but the industry did, and it was greatly accelerated by the bounty.

Senator DOBSON - But the wine growing industry of Victoria was profitable and successful years before the bounty was given. The Minister's desire to promote the establishment of new industries is a laudable one, but it is his bounden duty to show that there is a reasonable hope of the industries becoming permanent. I am quite sure that Senator Trenwith does not want to see industries established which will fade away the moment the bounties cease. Then we ought to have a satisfactory assurance that the States will assist in the administration of the Bill when it is passed. Of course, we can quite understand that they will be agreeable to help to spend other people's money, but that carries the matter no further. I venture to say that the Minister's statement in this respect was not accurate. The States have not been consulted, and. I understand that the Minister of Trade and Customs asserts that it is not his duty to consult them. What he says is that he has no business to consult them until the Bill becomes law. Then, if they will not assist him, he is prepared to administer the Bill himself, and to employ experts. The Minister of Defence, however, has told us that the experts of the different States are to be utilized. The Senate has a right to complain that, while a Minister makes one statement in one branch of the Legislature, another Minister in the Senate makes a statement absolutely opposed to that of his colleague.

Senator Playford - I never said that the States had been consulted.

Senator DOBSON - The honorable sentor said that three of his colleagues had been formed into a Committee of the Cabinet, and had consulted the States.

Senator Playford - I never said anything of the sort.

Senator Trenwith - He said that they had made inquiries.

Senator DOBSON - From the States.

Senator Playford - I did not say from the States even.

Senator DOBSON - Do I understand that the States have not been consulted ?

Senator Playford - I really do not know.

Senator DOBSON - I have down in my notes the entry, " Inquiries from States have been made," and I am perfectly certain that Senator Playford, by has absolute words, led me to suppose that inquiries had been made of the States. I, however, know that inquiries have not been made in that direction, and that is the reason why I place my amendment on the notice-paper. I will pass on to my fifth reason - that the States are strongly against the proposal of the Government. There is no room for misunderstanding as to what took place at the Hobart Conference, because the report speaks for itself. Mr. McLean made a nice little speech from the protectionist stand-point, .and then Mr. Carruthers took up the running.

Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.

Senator DOBSON - The Minister of Defence is not present, and I should certainly like his attention to what I am about to say. [Quorum formed.]

Senator Givens - I beg, to draw attention to the fact that the lift is out of order, and that the bells are not ringing.

The PRESIDENT - All 1 can say is that I know the officers went round this morning and tested all the bells.

Senator DOBSON - I desired the Minister to be present, because he said he had read the report of the debates at the Hobart Conference of Premiers, and that he was of opinion that they had no bearing whatever on the Bill. If the Minister will listen tb what I am about to read, I think he will see that he was wrong, because the question of bonuses was referred to again and again at that Conference. An absolute conclusion in regard to them was come to, and it is astounding that this Bill should now be introduced. Mr. Carruthers, the Premier of New South Wales, said -

I look with very great concern at any time on proposals to enlarge 'Commonwealth functions. I do not think it was ever contemplated that the Commonwealth Government or Parliament should extend its operations by, for instance, the establishment of a Department of Agriculture. The various States, and of course I speak of my own State in particular, have taken great steps towards the enlargement of our cultivation, by introducing new plans and methods, and I think that Mr. McLean has shown consideration to matters upon which our opinions are united ; but when it comes to a question of the Commonwealth Government taking up the business, then I say " No." It must be first shown that the States are incompetent to do this work. The Commonwealth Government have plenty to do in other ways. We have in our State Department of Agriculture, and by administration and necessary legislation, done much to encourage our young men to go on the lands of the State. All the States, however, , find that the great difficulty in this connexion is to curtail expenditure, and not enlarge it.

Senator Playford - That has nothing to do with bonuses, but deals with a Commonwealth Department of Agriculture, which it is not proposed to establish.

Senator DOBSON - But the debate goes on to deal with the difficulties in keeping down expenditure, and at the same time

Supplying extended knowledge: It is now proposed to expend £500,000 without consulting any of the States Departments. Mr. Carruthers went on to talk about flax and other materials, and then, dealing with cotton, to say -

The cotton industry was established in New South Wales and Queensland; but for some reason it declined. It will, however, in my opinion, be again established in Queensland. If the Commonwealth Government interferes in these matters, it will only be in an artificial way. The story of the cotton industry in Queensland is good reading, and is a story which shows that the Commonwealth Government, by taking it up, would be proclaiming inability 011 the part of the State Government. In regard to New Guinea, Mr. . McLean's proposal seems a good one. My opinion is that New Guinea, for purposes of agricultural development, Sc., should be attached to the nearest State. If we ate to have Agricultural and Lands Departments run bv the Commonwealth, simply 011 account of New Guinea, the result will be a curse to us.

Senator Playford - We do not propose that.

Senator DOBSON - Mr. Morgan,the Premier of Queensland, said -

I am against the proposal.

Senator Playford - That meant the establishment of agricultural colleges, and so forth.

Senator DOBSON - It meant an Agricultural Department, with bonuses.

Senator Playford - Bonuses are not mentioned there.

Senator DOBSON - I shall come to the question 'of bonuses if the Minister will be patient. Mr. Morgan said -

It would mean the Federal Government entering upon work which I think can be better carried out by the States themselves.

Does the Minister imagine that the Federal Government could carry on a system of bonuses in three of four separate States better than can the Agricultural Colleges and Departments of those States ? Is it not shown by the memorandum read bv the Minister that, in the administration of this Bill, we shall have to depend on State experts and other officers? Did ever such an unbusiness-like proposal issue from a Government? Mr. Morgan went on -

Holding that view, I do not propose to address myself at any length to the subject. Mr. McLean has devoted himself to the question of encouraging immigration, but I would remind him that the Commonwealth has done nothing yet in regard to the appointment of a

High Commissioner.....

Cotton-growing has been referred to by Mr. McLean at some length. In the sixties Queenslandused to give a bonus. While the bonus lasted the industry flourished, but immediately the bonus ceased the industry ceased. We can grow cotton in Queensland, but I do not think even a bonus will tempt the farmers to again attempt it. If the Cotton-growers' Association of Great Britain will guarantee a minimum price of 1 1/2d. in the State, something might result, but I do not think there is any use of the Commonwealth addressing itself to the question unless the action taken is in the direction of securing a minimum price to the grower. I do not hope that we will be able to compete in the production of cotton with countries that have the advantage of coloured labour.

Then Mr. Jenkins spoke up -

The only thing is whether the 'Commonwealth could offer bonuses for the growth of cotton in the portions of country suitable^ If Queensland had to be kept alive by the sugar bonus, I do not see why we should not come in for cottongrowing in the Northern Territory.

Senator Playford - Hear, hear. He goes in for bonuses.

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