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Friday, 28 September 1906

Senator DOBSON - The quotation proceeds -

I think nothing would be gained by the Commonwealth taking over the general management of the Agricultural Departments. We have agricultural colleges, agricultural experts in various lines, and find it all we can do to find the revenue to keep the departments going. My opinion has been that bv general agreement between the States in the matter of export and prevention of diseases, as far as agricultural and horticultural departments are concerned, we can accomplish all without the establishment of a Federal department.

Senator Playford - That all has to do with a. Department of Agriculture, and has no connexion with bonuses.

Senator DOBSON - Mr. Bent-suggested that it would be wise on the part of Commonwealth Ministers to withdraw the subject, as it did not appear to be the intention of the Conference to agree to the proposal in the shape of a motion. He felt as strongly as Mr. Carruthers on the point.

Then the Prime Minister" said -

If the Conference passed resolutions, it would not alter the position of the Commonwealth, but it might influence Ministers very much if they found there were a number of objections. The fullest importance would be attached to the suggestions of the Stales in matters affecting the Commonwealth.

Mr. Bentpresumed that? no matter what the Conference did, the Commonwealth would undertake their powers. Some members were anxious for a bonus, and it was well known what position would be taken in the Commonwealth Parliament. He would be no party to permit Mr. Isaacs to have power in the Commonwealth Parliament to give bonuses.

That is "on the spot," for what it is worth.

Senator Playford - For what it is worth. That is only the opinion of one man.

Senator DOBSON - Mr. Bentwent on -

He gathered from the President that the Commonwealth would consider, as far as they thought fit, anything said by the State Ministers, and that anything they said would have very little effect. Regarding flax, how many other pieces of land in the district referred to bv Mr. McLean would grow it? He had picked out the very spot where it would grow, and the others would be out in the cold.

Mr. Butlersaid

We spend in Australia a quarter of a million in connexion with our Agricultural Departments, and these departments are much more alive at the present time than they have been for years past. I think agriculture has taken a very big step forward during the last few years in Australia. The improvements have been very marked, and I am satisfied that it would only be duplicating work if the Federal Department of Agriculture were established. Is it not reasonable to suppose that the Agricultural Department in each State has a better knowledge of the existing local conditions and requirements, and is consequently in a position to conduct its operations more economically than a huge Federal department removed some distance from its centre of operations?

Senator Playford - This Bill has nothing to do with a "huge Federal Department."

Senator DOBSON - The arguments here-

Senator Playford - Are not germane to the subject.

Senator DOBSON - The arguments relate to the very substance of my amendment. I should have thought that the Minister would have written to the Agricultural Department of each State, in order to obtain evidence and suggestions as to whether bonuses would be helpful.

Senator Playford - What would be the good of asking the Agricultural Department of Victoria as to a bonus on some tropical production?

Senator DOBSON - I should say that the Agricultural Departments of the States would be able to obtain a great deal of information, or might be allowed time in which, to do so. That is another argument in favour of laying the Bill aside for the session - that nobody now has time to obtain the necessary information. Mr. Daglish, the Premier of Western Australia, said -

With regard to the main point at issue, I must express my concurrence in the views given utterance to by the members of this Conference. Tn our State we give a very great deal of attention to the work of the Agricultural Department, with, I believe, the greatest advantage lo the people of Western Australia. I do not know of any work in this direction that could be undertaken by the Federal Government. At all events, until a stronger case is put forward than that which has been presented, I must oppose the establishment of a Federal Department of Agriculture.

Mr. Evans,the Premier of Tasmania, said

My Government are distinctly opposed to the creation of any new Federal department. We think that the Federal Government have sufficient departments under their control, and when their administration has been perfected, then would be the time to consider the establishment of additional departments.

The Prime Minister, after having listened for some hours to those statements, said -

The Commonwealth consider it most important that the' resources of Australia should be developed. The Commonwealth Government have in view this and other subjects as measures to form the subject of a policy to be laid before the next session of the Federal Parliament. The right of the State Premiers is keenly realized -

Does the Minister recognise that right? they should be consulted in the sense in which responsible men intrusted with responsible duties should consult other men intrusted with similar duties.

Senator Drake - I think there ought to be a larger attendance to listen to this debate. [Quorum formed."]

Senator DOBSON - I particularly want the Minister of Defence to listen to what the Prime Minister said, as follows: -

We were verv anxious before introducing measures to the Federal Parliament. to have the advantage of this Conference. Not a word which has been sa':d by any speaker will be overlooked.

Senator Playford - The Prime Minister did not propose to consult them any further. He has consulted them, and that is enough.

Senator DOBSON - See how unfair the Minister of Defence is. The Premiers were consulted about a Federal Department of Agriculture, and every one was opposed to the proposal, and two or three of them distinctly said they were opposed to bonuses. Here we have a Bill dealing with nothing but Bonuses and the expenditure of money, and requiring at its inception and in its administration the assistance of the States. Yet the Minister says that there is nothing in the statement made by the Prime Minister when he said " not a word which has been said by any speaker will be overlooked " ; and pointed out that the right of the States to be consulted was keenly realized. Then the Premier of New South Wales said -

I think the Federal Government should drop the matter. I will offer bitter opposition to any attempt made by the Federal Government to take over the power to establish a Federal Department of Agriculture. The States have not asked for assistance from the Federal Government in the matter at all. The Federal Government have plenty to do without interfering in State work. When the States have shown themselves unable to do the work it will be time for the Federal Government lo interfere. I am not in favour of bonuses to agricultural industries. I am not in favour of using the machine of government for other purposes than those for which it has been called into existence. It would be better to leave the States alone. They can manage the Department very satisfactorily. There would be rivalry if the Federal Government took the matter up ; and any rivalry means additional expense. The States could not interfere with the Federal Government ; and the Federal Government have plenty to do without taking up any State work. The States cannot promise any assistance so long as the Federal Ministry attempt to establish the Department. If the Queensland Department of Agriculture could be assisted, then the Commonwealth should help.

I do not know whether Senator Drake can tell me what that meant. Did the speaker mean that Queensland could not afford to extend the operations of the Department?

Senator Drake - Probably the assistance referred to bounties. The honorable senator seems to overlook the fact that the Federal Parliament has now the exclusive right to give bounties.

Senator DOBSON - I find that Mr. Bent said -

As far as I am concerned, I do not agree with the views expressed by Mr. McLean. I do not wish to see the Federal Government create fresh departments. Before expressing a final opinion I would like to be guided by the result of our discussion on the Braddon clause. I would rather a straight motion be put embracing every subject. Whatever power you at present have vested in you, you must exercise it, and in my experience I should point out that bonuses are not always successful in attaining the object for which they are granted. I think that the Commonwealth Parliament have a lot of work to do, and I am sure I would like to see them do it well. I hope that if further engagements are undertaken by the Commonwealth Parliament, they will be proceeded with on as economical lines as those which obtain in the States. I would recommend that the item be withdrawn.

Then, and I direct Senator Playford's attention specially to this, the Prime Minister said -

Do you not think that we should frame a paragraph defining the views of the 'Conference ; namely, that the general opinion of States Premiers and Ministers was against the proposal ? I see there is a very strong opinion held by the States Premiers on this question, especially with regard to bonuses.

Mr. Carruthersthen said

There is no doubt you have powers with regard to the distribution of bonuses, but I trust you will never be called upon to exercise them fully. Such a system of extending assistance leads to bribery of the worst description. In our own House we have had experience with the iron bonus. I am most strongly opposed to the proposal, and you will find that if it is accepted you will have the worst form of lobby ism. If you give us a bonus that will help us, Queensland will have to pay, and if you give Queensland a bonus, New South Wales will have to contribute. We are quite prepared to submit to the sugar bonus, but I am not in favour of extending the bonus system beyond that which already exists. We will develop our own resources, and be guided by the experience in the past as to what is the best course to take. What will assist the trade of our State is a cheaper transport to outside markets. In Japan we have a splendid market, but the trade is blocked on account of the high rate of freight. There are other ways in which our trade could be extended. Our Commercial Agent has established markets in the East, and is doing far better work in developing our trade than would be the case if bonuses were granted. We are doing this work ourselves with the aid of the Federal Government. We want the Federal Government to stay their hand, and to assist us to do the work which we as States are more qualified to do.

I am aware that the granting of bonuses is now vested in the Federal Parliament. But my argument is that which was used by the speakers at the Conference, namely, that in all these matters the States have a special right to be consulted and considered. I have no evidence before me that the States have been considered or consulted in respect to any item in the schedule to this Bill. The system of bonuses is not new to us. From the State of Victoria, the country of protection, where the people seem to prefer an artificial life to a healthy, natural one, we have many lessons to learn from the giving of bonuses. I have here a return of bonuses given by the State, and I find that they amounted in all to £233,000. I quote some of them -

To growers of grapes and general vegetable products, , £55,000. To factories for fruit canning, fruit drying, dairying, raisin and currant" making, vegetable oil making, preparing for the manufacture of flax, hemp, silk, and other products, £37,000. For dairy produce and fruits of best quality exported to foreign markets, £'79,000. For importation' of new varieties of seeds and plants,£3,000. For establishing a system of technical education by the employment of experts to supply instruction in connexion with the introduction of new vegetable products, and the improvement of existing agricultural methods, , £43,000. For the introduction of new machinery and appliances to perfect the treatment of new agricultural products, and to improve present agricultural methods, and for prizes for new inventions in general agricultural appliances, £'4,000. For publishing agricultural reports, including illustrations in connexion with the educational work of the experts, and of the distribution of the bonuses generally, , £11,000. Bonuses for encouragement of planting and cultivating forest trees of an economic character, £1,000.

Much of the money provided for these bonuses has been absolutely wasted. In some instances the bonus has failed to establish any permanent industry, and in other instances it has not been availed of. In making his report on the subject, the State officer, Mr. D. Martin, Secretary of Agriculture, says -

Products under the heading of general vegetable products, but which are novel products, have not received the attention I desire. This may be accounted for from the fact that they are not well understood, but there is reason to believe that before long more attention will be given thereto. I refer more particularly to flax and hemp. This colony is in every way suitable for the growth of the raw material ; in fact, in some parts of the colony samples have been produced which in quality and quantity could not be excelled. The want of suitable machinery for treating the material has so far retarded the "industry, but the manufacture of simple and cheap appliances is now receiving the attention of some of the implement makers.

He says, further - £4,850 has been paid as bonuses for exported canned fruits. The shipments were made by two companies only ; and as these have ceased exporting, it is feared a successful trade in our canned fruits will not be established for some time.

That is a second instance in which the bonus offered was useless - £3,000 for importation of new variety of seeds and plants. The expenditure has been £267.

This seems to have been a failure also -

Grant of £43,000 for technical education - £18,566 has been paid from this sub-division, consisting of payments to experts in dairying, vine culture, wine making, fruit growing, flower farming, &c. Their services have been fully made use of by those interested in the several industries, and the advantages of their advice and instruction, with the benefits derived therefrom, have been acknowledged in the most flattering terms from all parts of the colony.

I have read that to show that the giving of expert advice and instruction to our producers is a better and a sounder way of establishing industries than is any system of bounties -

If the advice of experts be taken, so that the settlers may be guided in the choice of articles for production, many new industries might be started, which would assist in the prosperity of the country.

Again, falling back on the great advantage of expert advice. He goes on to say -

Grant of£4,000 for introduction of new machinery, and for prizes for new inventions. Of this sum £1,002 has been appropriated for pattern implements. To this amount the sum of £'50 has to be added, being the amount awarded for prize- for a polato digger. The prize was manufactured in the colony, and competed against imported machines.

Grant of ; £1,ooo for planting forest trees. Originally the sum granted for this purpose was £15,000, but so far only seven applications for planting thirty-four acres have been received. This is disappointing, seeing that trees are supplied gratis by the Forest Department, and all that the land owners are required to do is to plant the trees, and attend to their cultivation.

This bears out the statements made by Mr. Bent and Mr. Carruthers, and I believe that, in half the cases in which bonuses have been offered, they have practically proved a failure. I have here an extract from an old Victorian Government Gazette, showing that the Government offered bounties for almost everything one could name. The list is so long that I shall not trouble honorable senators by reading it. I have another extract, from which it appears that the regulations concerning bounties had to be revised. It was necessary to set to work and alter the terms on which the bounties were to be paid. In the circumstances, the Minister must realize the importance of the subject with which this Bill deals, and I ask him whether he thinks that it is possible to put it into proper shape within the next week. It is absolutely hopeless to expect to do so. I direct attention to the fact that we have taken over, and are now administering, the Government of Papua, and that we have also taken control of Norfolk Island. Have the Government ever considered whether it is w-ise that we should try by experiments to develop the production of india-rubber, coffee, cocoa, rice, and cotton in the northern parts of Australia, in view of what it is necessary we should do in Papua? A very grave responsibility rests upon this Parliament to show that we have some statesmen amongst us who are able to apply the experience of the past to the development of' the rich, tropical territory of Papua. If the various articles referred to in the schedule to this Bill can be more easily and better produced in Papua, it must be idle for us to try to stimulate their production in Australia, where our small population has plenty to do, when we have 500,000 natives of Papua, who, as Senator Smith has often told us, ought to be set to work for themselves. He has explained that roads should be constructed in Papua and plantations formed, if a forward policy in Papua is to be adopted. This is a matter which is worthy Of the grave consideration of the Senate, even though the Government may not have considered it. Senator Smith has a good deal to say about the rubber industry in the report which he has published. Here we are asked to vote a bounty upon the production of india-rubber and gutta percha.. So far as I can ascertain, it is quite hopeless to expect that in Australia we should be able to establish a permanent industry - in any event, it would be attended with very great risk - whereas in Papua, I understand, the industry could be established on a sound basis without incurring any risk, by the expenditure of a little money. If we appropriated a portion of the money which we are asked to vote in this Bill to the development of the rubber and cocoa industries in Papua it would result in far greater benefit.

Senator Guthrie - Why not also in the Northern Territory ?

Senator DOBSON - I do not object to the establishment of industries all over the place, but we all can have our favorites. Certainly we cannot give bounties upon the production of products in the Northern Territory, and North Queensland, and not in Papua. With the limited amount at our disposal - although the Ministers do not seem to think that it is limited - I am trying to do the best I can. We are asked to vote bounties to the amount of ^'500,000, and I contend that more than one-half or two-thirds of that sum could be spent to much better advantage. I gather that the rubber tree takes from nine to fifteen years to mature, and yields no gutta percha until it is twenty-five years old. According to some experts, the growing of gutta percha is out of the question, but the growth of coffee is advisable. Like Senator Smith, I want to see coffee plantations established in Papua, because I think that the results would be better. In my opinion some items ought to be struck out of the schedule, inasmuch as they relate to industries which have already been established. For instance, we find that the olive oil industry is ten years qld. The Minister of Defence, if he went to the Agricultural Show here recently, must have seen the several exhibits of olive oil. The industry was established, so far as I know, without the aid of a bounty. I have read, and I presume that the statement is correct, that it was so established in South Australia. It is a simple matter to produce olive oil. In a suitable climate any one can grow olive trees, and the machinery for making the oil costs only a small sum. With a limited revenue and an enormous expenditure on defence and other things staring us in the face, why should we give a bounty upon the production of such a simple product as olive oil ? In South Australia the late Sir Samuel Davenport and one or two other growers, established the industry. At Mildura the growers are rooting up their olive trees. In some parts of South Australia the growers are doing the same, not because the industry is not suitable to the place, but because they can put their land to better use.

Senator Guthrie - In what part of South Australia are olive trees being rooted up ? They are being planted everywhere.

Senator Millen - Why does the honorable senator want to give a bounty if the industry is being extended without a bounty ? '

Senator Guthrie - I want to encourage the industry still further. The Adelaide Corporation are the largest growers of olives.

Senator DOBSON - I do not think that either Senator Playford or Senator Guthrie can deny that the olive oil industry is already established.

Senator Guthrie - Can the honorable senator mention one place where olive trees are being rooted up ?

Senator DOBSON - In Hansard I read a statement to that effect, though I forget by whom it was made. At all events, at Mildura olive trees are .being rooted up. We all have our favorites.' It might be said, for instance, that my favorite is the capitalist, and that Senator Guthrie's is the worker. In a way, both ought to be our favorites : but the question has arisen, how is the bounty to be distributed? If Senator Playford reads the report of what took place in the other House, he will find that some, honorable members desire that no portion of it shall go to the few wealthy men who established the industry in South Australia. They want to encourage the planting of olive trees and to increase the number of plantations, but to confine the bounty to the products of new plantations. That is all very well - in fact, I think I prefer that plan - but would it be fair to apply the bounty in such a way that those who had experimented and established the industryshould get no benefit therefrom ? The consideration of that very difficult question might well engage our attention for hours, but what time is there to debate it? It would be wrong to ignore the claims of the men who have risked their money and succeeded in establishing the industry. Moreover, what is the use of giving a bounty to an industry which is well established ?

Senator Guthrie - There is any amount of room for extension.

Senator DOBSON - Is there not room for extension in the case of every industry ? Does my honorable friend mean to say that that is a reason for granting a bounty ? We might as well give a bounty upon the production of grass as upon the production of olive oil. With regard to cotton- growing ; I asked Senator "Playford the other day whether any communication had been made to the British Cotton-Growing Company of Great Britain with regard to growing cotton' in the north part of Australia, and he said, " No." But when I went on to ask whether the Government would communicate with the company and ascertain whether it could not introduce capital into Australia, if we gave the land on fair terms, so as to encourage cotton-growing by private enterprise, he said, " Yes." I take it. therefore, that the Prime Minister will communicate with the company. I think that if we gave them the land on fair terms, a very great deal might be done to induce the company to come here and start the industry. Unless I am mistaken, it has already been started. According to' my information, people are growing cotton now, and the question is first, whether it can be grown at a profit, and even if it can, whether the land could not be more profitably used in growing something else. All these points ought to have been dealt with in the paper which has been circulated. What is the use of our being told that man could make a profit of £3 or £4 per acre on growing cotton, when possibly he might get £10, or £15, or £20 an acre out of another crop? What is the use of telling me that in Tasmania we might have a bounty upon the. production of hemp or flax, if Tasmania will grow hemp or flax - and I do not know whether it will or not. If by growing potatoes I can make £15 or £20 an acre every year, or in some years £4° an acre, am I likely to grow hemp or flax ? In that State I can point to hundreds of acres of land which produce 10 tons_of potatoes per acre, bringing .£5 or £6 per ton in a good season. Of course, that is a very outside price. The average crop on the north-west coast is 6 or 7 tons per acre. Sometimes the price is as low as 30s. pei ton, but latterly the growers have got splendid prices. We may be quite sure that no man there will ask, " Can I get £3 per acre by growing cotton ? " He will ask, " What crop will produce most per acre ? " and no matter what the bountymay be, he will grow the product which brings in the greater profit. According to what I can glean from the Agricultural Department of Victoria, the regulations are even more important than the Act The latter simply sets forth the amount of the bounty, but the regulations deal with all the details. When I learned that in another place Sir William Lyne had said that the regulations under the Bill had been drafted, I asked Senator Playford to lay them before the Senate next week, so that they might be considered, as I hope he will yet be able to do. In Victoria it seemed a verv simple thing to vote £100,000 for bounties upon the production of butter. But £25,000 went into the pockets of the producers, and ^75,000 to commission agents, shipping agents, merchants, and ship-owners. Ought not that to be an object-lesson, and a warning, to us? The Bill ought to be considered in conjunction with th* regulations. If we are to be practically compelled to take over the Northern Territory, which has an annual deficit of about ,£80,000, what are we to do? We cannot afford to spend £500,000 upon bounties, and then provide £500,000 for Papua and the Northern Territory. Having regard to the interests of Papua, the Northern Territory and the Commonwealth generally, what is the best thing to be done?

Senator Playford - The Northern Territory is as much part of the Commonwealth as is South Australia proper.

Senator DOBSON - The agricultural industry in the Northern Territory is not yet sufficiently developed to take advantage of the bounties. When it begins, to develop there, I think it will need assistance. I only want all these points to be considered. Cannot this sum of ,£500,000 be spent in a more profitable way ? Is it not more urgently required in half-a-dozen different directions? There are so many problems in the air, so many projects which have to be carried out, so many bundles of carrots which Ministers have to dangle before the electors, that it rests with them, I think, to sit down quietly and consider first what money they can afford, and, secondly, how they are going to spend it. I am glad to see that in connexion with the Defence Department that sensible plan is to be adopted. The Prime Minister has said, "We shall have to determine what we can afford, and then see how we are going to spend it." All I ask Senator Playford is whether the Commonwealth can afford to provide £500,000 for bounties. There are two ways of doing what we all desire to do - that is to increase our industries and to promote the development of soil products - one is the direct way, and the other the indirect way. The direct way is by giving bounties, for instance, on exports - a bad thing, I think - and also by imposing high protective duties. In many cases that might lead to the establishment of an industry. In other cases, it might bring into being an artificial industry which would die immediately the bounty was removed. The other is the indirect way, and that is by means of edu cation, and the spread of knowledge. Each State has made considerable strides in establishing Agricultural Departments, and agricultural colleges, and doing its best to impart technical instruction and other useful information. The paper from which I have quoted says that by giving expert knowledge and spreading it abroad many industries can be established. The olive oil industry, for instance, was established in South Australia not with the aid of a bonus, but because the soil and climate were suitable. If we only supply the producers with proper instruction and information, industries can be started in the Commonwealth. New South Wales has agricultural colleges with about 5,000 acres of land, and fourteen experimental farms. Victoria has agricultural colleges, and eight experimental farms. Western Australia has an agricultural college and six experimental farms. Queensland has an agricultural college, with ten experimental farms, and fourteen sub-stations. South Australia has an agricultural bureau with one hundred branches. Tasmania has an Agricultural Council, to which one or two experts are attached. It will be seen that the States maintain a fine machinery for the purpose of giving an indirect stimulus to the cultivation of soil products. Of the two methods the indirect is the better; and I warn my honorable friend, the Minister of Defence, that if the Government is to go On submitting proposals for spending money in the reckless way in which it has done during the last two months, the result must inevitably l~e disaster to the Commonwealth. I recognise that it is desirable to develop the tropical regions of Australia, .and I am not opposed to vote for bounties if a good case is made out for them. The article which I pick out from the schedule as being important is cotton. I quite recognise that it would be of the greatest benefit to Australia if we could develop a large and permanent industry in cotton.growing. But I have .shown that as far back as i860, and again in 1882, the Queensland Government granted bounties fbr cotton growing, apparently without success. I am inclined to think, therefore, that the industry will not be permanently established by this means. If I thought it would be I should vote for the bounty. There is nothing in my fiscal creed which would prevent me from doing everything possible in that direction. But I am not inclined to support a vote of £500,000 to be distributed in bounties for the production of the articles mentioned in this Bill. If the Minister will permit the measure to be postponed, and will make inquiries from the Agricultural Departments of the States to ascertain whether it is likely that permanent industries can be established, he will do good work. But if he tries to force the Bill through with undue haste, and on insufficient information, trusting to the States to administer it, without asking whether they will be prepared to undertake that task, he will be doing bad work.

Senator Millen - I beg to second the amendment.

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