Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Full Day's HansardDownload Full Day's Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Monday, 1 October 1906

Senator S TAN I F ORTH SMITH (Western Australia) . - I am thoroughly in accord with the principle of giving bounties for the encouragement of Australian industries that are likely to become profitable; but I think it is a pity that a proposal involving a radical departure from the policy hitherto pursued by the Commonwealth should be brought up for discussion at this late stage of the session. We should devote at least a week to the consideration of a measure of this kind, and yet we are asked, within the period mentioned, to rush through half-a-dozenBills of the first importance. Most of the bonuses that have been offered for the encouragement of industry in Australia have been attended with failure; but the reputation of the system has been saved by one or two conspicuous successes, which have been due to judicious management and efficient supervision under expert advice. The present scheme appears to have been hastily conceived and ill-digested. The information furnished to honorable members with regard to the industries which it is proposed to encourage is insufficient, and we are being asked to embark upon a most important venture, involving the expenditure ofL500,000, under conditions which will not permit of our giving to the question the consideration to which it is entitled. In the first instance, the Government proposed to offer a bonus for the encouragement of the production of chicory, but after they had gained a very small amount of knowledge upon the subject they hastily withdrew the item. Numerous other alterations have been made in the schedule, and no reliable information has been afforded to us with regard to the industries which it is proposed to encourage. The course now being adopted is, apparently, upon allfours with that which has been followed in regard to other matters. For example, instead of at the outset laying down the lines of general policy upon which we should proceed in regard to our defences, we have been continually chopping and changing about, with the result that the present condition of affairs is far from satisfactory. I am afraid that some of the industries in respect of which it is proposed to grant bonuses cannot be developed here with any prospect of success. We should have the very best expert advice upon a subject of this kind, so that we might be in a position to arrive at a sound judgment regarding the industries which should be selected for encouragement by bonuses. The facts contained in the memorandum submitted to us are of the most meagre character, and the statements are, in some cases, hardly correct. The document has been drawn up by two or three gentlemen who, although they are, no doubt, able men, cannot be regarded as experts. Consequently, the information they have been able to impart is not such as we should have placed before us when we are discussing a matter of such vital importance. If we grant bonuses for the encouragement of industries which, after they are once fairly established, cannot stand without the aid of subsidies, or the as sistance of prohibitive protective duties, we shall waste the public money. Why the Government should have adopted this method, I am unable to say. We have in Australia sources from which could be obtained the fullest information on this subject. We have Departments of Agriculture, technical experts, curators of experimental farms, and heads of agricultural colleges, who are specialists in economical plant development - men who have spent a life-time in the study of economic plants that are suitable for countries like ours, and who have experimented with hundreds of cultures, which would probably be profitable if industries were established with regard to them. But, apparently, these men have not been consulted. What the Government should have done was to convene a conference of agricultural experts from every State. We should have had represented the directors of agriculture, the heads of agricultural colleges, the curators of experimental farms, the vegetable pathologists and entomologists, besides other experts, whose duty it is to devote the whole of their time and their expert knowledge to the development of plant industries of an economic nature. These men could have formulated a schedule of industries which were worthy of development by the granting of bounties. Until something of that kind is done we should take no steps committing the Commonwealth to the expenditure of ^500,000 in specified directions, which in many instances will. I. believe, lead to disaster. It is admitted that the experimental farms and Departments of Agriculture in Australia have done excellent work. Yet the Commonwealth Government, apparently taking not the slightest notice of them, is blindly proposing to subsidize industries without considering whether they are likely to be successful. The directors of these institutions could have given us the fullest information as to whether Australian conditions favoured the cultivaion of certan plants. Some of them have expermented by hybridization and other methods to produce economic plants suitable for Australian cultivation, as has been the case with cotton, as cultivated in Queensland by Dr. Thomatis. The first criticism on the Bill which I have to offer is that it is proposed to grant bounties to too many industries; and in the second place, that the bounty, in many cases, is not half sufficient for the purpose in view. It would be infinitely better to adopt three or four plant cultures from which we had an assurance that great Australian industries might be built up, like the butter industry of Victoria and New

South Wales. The Government should have selected two or three plant industries that it believed would be of enormous value if fostered in Australia, and' should have devoted a larger bounty to them, so that there might be an opportunity of bringing experiments to a successful issue

Senator Fraser - Bounties for the iron industry would do a lot of good.

Senator STANIFORTHSMITH.No doubt they would. There is a danger that special kinds of economic plants will be cultivated for the sake of securing part of the bounty, and for that purpose only ; so that, directly the bounty ceases, the industries will die. We should guard ourselves against wasting money on industries some of which have hardly a chance of success in Australia under present conditions. It is proposed in the schedule of the Bill to grant bounties to twenty-three different industries. The list is absolutely unlimited, because the Bill provides that bounties may be granted to any other industries that may be prescribed. The Minister has power to grant bounties to any industry in Australia, so long as the total amount does not exceed .£75,000 per annum for ten years. It is even proposed to grant bounties to some industries that are already established, and are, to a certain extent, flourishing. Take, for instance, the olive oil industry of South Australia. Other industries are mentioned in the schedule that are not likely to be developed bv reason of bounties being granted, or that would only be developed so long as the bounties continued to be paid. In Victoria, practically the only successful bounties have been those granted for the export of butter. The signal success of the bounties in that instance has redeemed Victoria for all the failures - and they are many - that she has had. This State has granted bounties for the production of raspberry pulp, vines, and tobacco, and has afforded substantial financial assistance towards the production of sugar from beet. But these industries were not established, either because the efforts made were on wrong lines, or through lack of technical knowledge. It was actually proposed in a previous Bill to grant a bounty on spelter, under which the Broken Hill Company - perhaps the richest company in Australia - would have pocketed the whole amount without increasing its output in any way whatever.

Senator Clemons - If the Broken Hill Company can produce spelter it does not require a bounty.

Suggest corrections