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Monday, 1 October 1906

Senator STANIFORTH SMITH (WESTERN AUSTRALIA) - Of course not, because it is already making a handsome profit from it. These things are proposed Without sufficient expert and technical knowledge. The fact that the proposals have been altered from time to time is sufficient evidence that the criticism offered in Parliament has shown the Government the futility of some" of its proposals. In reference to the butter bounties in Victoria, the State Government offered straight out ,£250,000. In that case, however, it was dealing with- an industry natural to the soil, which merely wanted encouragement ; an3 the Government was justified in offering _a large sum for the purpose. But we are offering sums like ten, fifteen, or twenty thousands pounds, and the result will be of no benefit" whatever. Let us turn to the schedule. The first item is cocoa. It is proposed to grant a bounty of id. per lb. on the dried beans, and the bounty to be granted to the industry altogether is to be £18,000. Now, cocoa, the product of the cacao plant, only grows to the fullest advantage between the fifth and twelfth degrees of latitude, north and south of "the equator. If honorable senators look at the map of Australia thev shall find that even Port Darwin is more than twelve degrees from the equator. Yet it is proposed to grant a bounty for the establishment of an industry which, on account of the very geographical position of Australia, is not best suited to our conditions. While cocoa can be and is grown upon the sea level, it cannot be made commercially successful unless it is produced at an altitude from 1,500 to 2,000 feet above sea level. Where in Australia can we find a place between the 15th parallel of south latitude and the equator which contains rich alluvial soil, which is well watered, and well drained, and which attains an altitude of from T.500 to 2,000 feet above sea level? Yet upon this industry it is proposed to spend £18,000. In order to supplement the information which I obtained from agricultural experts in Java and the Federated Malay States, J have looked up the Encyclopedia Britannica, the articles of which - as honorable senators are aware - are all contributed bv eminent authorities. The publication! affirms that' the cacao plant flourishes best within the 15th parallels of north and south latitude. That statement confirms my previous declaration that it will only grow well almost under the equator. Its natural habitat is Central America, Southern Mexico, and the West Indies. It is an extraordinary thing that outside of those countries it has rarely been successfully cultivated.

Senator Col Neild - Does it not grow well in Kandy ?

Senator STANIFORTH SMITH -So far as I am aware, it has not proved a commercial success in any countries other than those I have mentioned. It has noi been a success in the Federated Malay States or in the Straits Settlements, and it cannot be called a success in Java. The cacao tree is a delicate one, which must be grown under shade. It must be planted close to certain shade trees in order that it may be sheltered during the hottest part of the day. As honorable senators are aware, when a tree is practically shut out from the sunlight, insect pests become extremely troublesome. There is scarcely a tropical product which is so. afflicted by these pests as is the cacao tree. I maintain that the production of cocoa is not an industry which is suitable for Australia. The plant might possibly be grown in New Guinea. Australia, however, is unsuited to its' cultivation, by reason of its geographical situation. Yet it is proposed to spend a considerable sum to establish an industry which, in all probability, will not prove a commercial success. I admit that it is quite possible to grow cocoa, but in discussing this matter we must view it from the stand-point of whether the industry can be made a commercial success, and whether the production of cocoa can be so increased as to develop an export trade.

Senator Playford - The honorable senator's statement is not borne out by the report of Mr. Howard Newport, the agricultural expert of Queensland. He says that there are plenty of localities in that State which are suitable for its culture.

Senator STANIFORTH SMITH - Is the Minister referring to the curator of the gardens at Cairns?

Senator Playford - Yes.

Senator STANIFORTH SMITH - I would point out that cocoa has never been cultivated commercially in Queensland. It is quite possible to grow the cacao tree and cocoa beans, but I venture to say that when an attempt is made to produce beans on a commercial scale it will prove unsuccessful. For instance, we are growing sisal hemp in New Guinea at the present time, but the highest expert advice is that the conditions there are totally unsuited to its production. I have obtained this information from men like Dr. Treub, one of the greatest authorities upon tropical agriculture in the world, and from Mr. Ridley, of the Straits Settlements, who has spent the greater portion of his life in the development of tropical agriculture. I cannot understand why the Government propose to spend £4,000 annual ly for eight years upon the production of coffee. In my opinion, the £32,000 involved in the proposal will be absolutely wasted. At the present time coffee is practically a drug in the market. It scarcely pays to grow it in Java and the Federated Malay States, where the best plantation labour - that is, Tamil labour - can be procured for 6d. a day. The reason is that the enormous production of coffee in Brazil has rendered its cultivation elsewhere almost unprofitable.

Senator Pearce - And in Brazil, the Government prevent new plantations from being established.

Senator STANIFORTH SMITH - At one time the cultivation of coffee was the most profitable industry carried on in the Malay States. To-day, however, thousands of acres of magnificent coffee trees are passing out of cultivation, simply because it does not pay to pick the berries. In Java there are 65,000 acres of coffee under cultivation. There, however, it is largely grown by forced labour, under a system which was initiated by General Van den Bosch in 1832. The natives living in the Preanger regencies are each forced by the Government to cultivate fifty trees, to pick the berries, and to hand them over to the Government. For these beans they receive 21/4d. per lb. Obviously, the cultivation of coffee under such circumstances can never be dreamed of in Australia. The coffee production of the world amounts to 2,160,000,000 lbs., of which Brazil supplies 1,534,000,000. or practically 75 per cent. In the report which has been circulated amongst honorable senators, it is stated that the average price which it is hoped the growers will receive is9d. per lb. I am inclined to think that the price which would be realized would be nearer 4d. or 5d. per lb. The two chief kinds of coffee are the Arabian and Liberian. The former would not grow successfully at a less elevation than 1,500 feet above sea level. It is a more delicate plant than is the Liberian, and is very susceptible to disease. Only twelve or fourteen years ago the coffee crops in Java were practically swept away by disease. The growers of Ceylon started to plant tea instead. Liberian coffee can be grown on the sea level, and it is a strong, healthy bush, which, however, produces an inferior class of coffee. It can be grown without any artificial shelter - that is, without any shade to protect it from the sun's rays - but, I believe that, when grown under these circumstances, the quality is again reduced. The Commonwealth Government propose to offer a bounty of1d. per lb., without making any conditions whatever as to the quality of the article produced. It would seem that the simple object is to have a certain quantity grown ; and the man who proposes to plant Liberian coffee on the sea level, or in any other suitable locality would not bother about shade trees, but would produce the cheapest kind of coffee, in view of the fact that the bonus is a fixed amount. The offer of the Government is an absolute inducement to grow the cheapest kind of coffee, in order to obtain the bonus, which amounts to 25 per cent.

Senator Dobson - This is a nice way to bring in a Bounties Bill - without inquiry !

Senator STANIFORTH SMITH - I do not wish to dwell further on the question of coffee. I may, however, quote Dr. Willis, Director of Agriculture in Ceylon, and admittedly a most able man, who was asked by the Government of the Federated Malay States to go there last year, or the year before, and report on the industries of the States. On page 56 of his report, paragraph 243, Dr Willis, speaking of coffee in the Malay States, says -

Though now depressed, this was formerly the chief agricultural industry of the country, as far as estate agriculture and export trade were concerned.

Over production in Brazil, with consequent low prices, which affected the Liberian coffee grown in the Peninsular even more than the Arabian coffee of other countries, have rendered coffee cultivation almost unremunerative. A few well-managed estates in good soil in the coastal districts can still make coffee pay its way, but practically all the older and the native coffee plantations are now represented by lalang wastes - that is the native grass - while the younger ones, and most of the European plantations, are planted up with Para rubber, or at times with cocoanuts.

Of course, when the trees become of sufficient size, they kill off the coffee plants which growl between -

It seems a pity to see such magnificent coffee bushes as may be found on many estates in the Klang district choked out by rubber, but of course it is inevitable under the circumstances.

With testimony like that before us, is it wise to spend money in the way proposed on a production like coffee? It would appear that, on account of the prices, there has been a cessation of a wellestablished industry in countries which, from every point of view, are eminently suited for the cultivation of that commodity. As to cotton, honorable senators from Queensland are more competent to speak than myself. I have, however, seen cotton grown in the German possessions of the Pacific, and in the experimental gardens of the Straits Settlements and Java. In no case have I seen cotton culture a success. It does not follow, however, that the culture of cotton would not be a success in Australia. So far as soil and climate are concerned, I believe that Australia is admirably suited for cotton cultivation. Cotton does not grow well in a very damp climate nor in very rich soil. If the soil be rich, the cotton bush develops wood instead of bolls of cotton, and, so far as geographical position is concerned, I think that Australia is admirably suited for this industry. There is an indigenous cotton in the Northern Territory, and that fact is indicative of the suitability of this country for the industry. But we have to consider other factors besides those of soil and rainfall - we have to consider the question of labour. It is significant that this is the third attempt to create the cotton industry in Australia. At the time of the American Civil War, the cotton industry assumed very large proportions in Queensland. From 1862 to 1871, some 8,000,000 lbs. - that is, 3,600 tons - of Queensland cotton lint were sold up to1s. 11d. per lb., though, of course, the prices were extraordinary at that time. At the time of the greatest expansion of this industry, there were 14,000 acres under cultivation in Queensland ; but it may be said that the enterprise was stimulated by the fact that the Queensland Government gave a large bonus for every bale of cotton exported.

Senator Best - Does the honorable senator know what the bonus was ?

Senator STANIFORTH SMITH - I forget the exact amount, but I know that it was very large. However, the industry practically became extinct. Twenty years later, it was resuscitated, when the Queensland Government gave a large bonus on the first factory, then established at Ipswich. From 1890 to 1897, the cotton industry had a second life; but it again became practically extinct. Ten years later, we findthe Commonwealth Government proposing to resuscitate it on a very much cruder plan, and at a less expenditure, than before. I think that for five years the Commonwealth Government propose to grant £4,500or £22,500 altogether.

Senator Mulcahy - Is the honorable senator relying on the old schedule? There is an amended schedule.

Senator STANIFORTHSMITH.There have been so many alterations that I may be wrong. I see now that the Government offer £6,000 instead of £4,500.

Senator Clemons - That is the result of a blunder in sending up the Bill in the form it reached us.

Senator STANIFORTHSMITH.I now see that the Government propose to spend £30,000, as against £22,500, the figure first mentioned.

Senator Mulcahy - Not necessarily ; that is the maximum in any one year. The whole amount is £75,000.

Senator STANIFORTHSMITH.Under the. circumstances, I do not think that we can look forward to a permanent recrudescenoe of cotton culture in Australia. Undoubtedly, we have had Sea Island cotton - which I believe originally came from Peru - and a new variety, or hybrid cotton, called carovanica, produced by Dr. Thomatis, at Cairns, and sold by him at11d. per , 1b. It is not so much a question of the planting or the growing of the cotton - the whole trouble is in the picking and preparation, which require an enormous amount of labour. Mr. John Bottomley, in his article on cotton-growing in the Northern Territory, says -

We came to the conclusion that cotton could be successfully cultivated by the farmers in small and easily-worked areas (from 5 to 10- acres) as an adjunct to other crops, but that it could not be successfully grown in large plantations.

If the farmer is going to plant 5 or 10 acres of cotton as a subsidiary crop, I should say, from my little experience, that he and his family will have a very busy time in the picking. There is 1,000 lbs. weight in every acre, and that means an enormous number of cotton bolls. The farmer and his family would be fairly busily employed in the cotton-picking season in managing the crop of i or 2 acres

Senator Dobson - What is the picking season in the Northern Territory ?

Senator STANIFORTHSMITH.I do not know exactly. I come now to the proposed bonus for fibres - flax, Ramie, sisal hemp, hemp, New Zealand flax, pandanus, and such other fibres as are prescribed. It is evidently the intention to grant a bonus for the production of fibre of any kind. Why cotton was not included amongst the fibres I do not know, because it is also a vegetable fibre. Rhea or Ramie fibre is, probably the finest vegetable fibre produced in the world. It is remarkably strong and of magnificent lustre and smoothness.

Senator Best - Is that what silk is made of sometimes?

Senator STANIFORTH SMITH - An imitation silk is made from it. It will produce three crops a year, but an acre does not return more than 250 lbs. of fibre for each crop.

Senator Mulcahy - What climate is suitable for it?

Senator STANIFORTH SMITH - I think that the northern portion of Australia is suitable so far as locality is concerned. The difficulty in connexion with the Ramie fibre is really the cost of the extraction of the fibre from the plant. It grows to a height of 4 feet or 5 feet, and then the branches are cut down and the fibre is produced from the stems, which are stripped of leaves and branches. It is necessary to split the stems to remove an outside bark to get at the inside fibrous bast which produce the fibre of commerce. The work is simply enormous in proportion to the result. In the Malay States people knowing the quality and value of the fibre established several plantations and invested a considerable amount of money in the cultivation of the plant. They found that it grew well, and the quality was excellent, but even with the cheap labour which could be employed there, the enormous amount of work necessary to extract the fibre from the plant rendered the whole enterprise an absolute failure, and those who invested in it got scarcely a penny of return from their expenditure. The extraction of the fibre from the plant requires an infinite amount of patience and trouble, and the real question to be considered is whether it is possible for us to be successful in producing Ramie fibre when other countries have not been successful. This fibre is so expensive that it comes into competition practically only with silk. It requires a hot atmosphere, moist ground, and a shaded situation.

Senator Dobson - Does the honorable senator say that Queensland is, not suitable for the production of this fibre?

Senator STANIFORTH SMITH - I say that the northern parts of Australia are suitable for the growth of the Ramie plant, but the enormous amount of work involved in the extraction of the fibre renders it absolutely impossible, in my opinion, to make a commercial success of it. All that I have to say with regard to the production of fibres is subject to the qualification that if machinery can be invented for the easy and expeditious extraction of the fibre from the leaves and stems of these various fibrous plants, there is, no reason why all the fibres mentioned in the schedule should not be produced in Australia with great success. . Unless such machinery is invented, I think that the cultivation of Ramie fibre and possibly sisal hemp will not be a success in Australia owing to the enormous relative cost of the extraction of these fibres. I believe that in Mexico a machine has been invented called the " Ras.pado," meaning the " rasper," which has been found to be useful for- the extraction of fibre. In some cases serong acids and certain alkaloids are used for . the extraction of fibre, but these injuriously affect the quality of the fibre itself, and fibres are usually extracted by hand processes. For instance, the sheath leaves of the manilla hemp, the botanical name for which is musa textilis, having been cut off the plant, are put under a hand machine something like a tobacco chopper, and drawn backwards and forwards till the pulp is scraped out, and there is nothing but the fibre left. The amount of work is enormous and out of all proportion to the value of the fibre if we are to pay high wages for its production. The sisal hemp plant does not begin to yield for four or five years, and the leaves aTe generallycut just as the plants begin to send up a flower stem. It grows best between the 16th and 21st parallels of latitude, and I know of no more suitable place for its cultivation than that portion of Queensland between Cairns and Mackay, which practically fulfills all the conditions necessary for the successful cultivation of the plant. It is one of the most promising of the vegetable fibres for production in Australia The cost of extraction of the fibre is the whole problem. It is not a question of cost of cultivation or of suitability of soil or climate. The whole difficulty is the cost of the extraction of the fibre from the leaves of the agave. The next fibre referred to is New Zealand flax, which, I think, is known as New Zealand hemp. I believe that the production of this fibre is an industry which is eminently Entitled to assistance in the form of a bonus. Undoubtedly we have soil and climate suitable for the plant. It has been a success in New Zealand, where it is indigenous, and there is no reason why it should riot be successfully grown in Australia. It has proved a commercial success in New Zealand, and is a commercial plant for the cultivation of which we might verywell grant a bonus to induce Australian farmers to take it up. It grows best on volcanic soil, or well-drained marshes, and it will grow well on clayey soil also if it is well drained.

Senator Guthrie - It requires a big rainfall.

Senator STANIFORTHSMITH.That is so. I believe that in the southern portions of Australia New Zealand hemp would have every chance of being successful, and the proposal to grant a bonus for its production is justified.

Senator Dobson - If it were successful would it pay farmers better than the crops thev at present produce?

Senator STANIFORTH SMITH - It would be a subsidiary industry. The farmers might grow an acre or two of New Zealand hemp, as farmers do in New Zealand, and could cultivate it in spare time. The industry has been undoubtedly advantageous to farmers in New Zealand, and the same conditions should, I think, apply in Australia.

Senator Dobson - It would be a subsidiary product of the farm.

Senator STANIFORTH SMITH - Yes. The farmers would not need to devote the whole of their time to flax culture. They could grow other crops at the same time, and I think we should do what we can to develop mixed farming in Australia. I come now to deal with the proposal to give a bonus for the fibre of the pandanus. or screw pine. This pine grows well all over New Guinea, and in North Queensland, in the Federated Malay States, and the Malay Peninsula. I would ask the Minister whether it is proposed to grant the bonus for the fibre obtained . from the leaves of the pandanus. or from the serial roots of the plant. In Mauritius the leaves are used for the production of very rough fibre, which is used for making substitutes for gunny bags, and for tying up bundles of produce. So far as I know, that is the only commercial uses to which pandanus. fibre has so far been put. I suppose that the Government intend to grant a bonus for the production of fibre from the aerial roots of the pandanus tree. The trunk of the pandanus tree springs from a pyramid of serial roots, 10 or 15 feet from _ the ground. These roots undoubtedly contain fibre which is estimated to be worth from £20 to £25 a ton, but so far as I know there has never been any commercial industry established in the fibre produced from the aerial roots of the pandanus tree. It seems to me somewhat extraordinary to propose a bonus for a fibre when we do not know how much it will cost to produce it, and whether it has any commercial market when it is produced. In the reports submitted by the Government this fibre is said to be equal to or superior to New Zealand flax. I have a sample of pandanus fibre, extracted from the serial roots of the tree, which I shall be glad to show honorable senators. It is not a strong fibre, and I doubt very much whether it is equal to New Zealand flax. I think that before proposing to grant a bounty on pandanus fibre, the Government should have conducted experiments to determine its commercial value. They should have caused a considerable quantity of pandanus roots to be collected, and the fibre extracted from them should have been handed over to well-known purchasers of such goods, with a view of determining whether it has any commercial value. It is ridiculous to think of our having plantations of pandanus, since it grows wild throughout New Guinea and Northern Queensland. The question is whether a plant indigenous to certain parts of the Commonwealth territory can be turned to profitable account, and in order that ' that may be determined we need not grant a bounty, but merely conduct experiments.

Senator Guthrie - Would pandanus fibre be suitable for making binder twine ?

Senator STANIFORTH SMITH - I do not think that it is strong enough. Th!e bundle of pandanus fibre in my hand came from New Guinea, and on examining it honorable senators will find, that it is not nearly as strong as is flax. A bounty on the production of pandanus fibre may or may not lead to the establishment of an industry, and I repeat that we should first of all determine whether the commodity has a commercial value. We have not sufficient information to enable us to determine whether we are seeking to stimulate by the Bill the production of the best of all economic plants that can be grown in Australia. We cannot say that the list covered by the schedule is the best that could be selected. I have already pointed out that we should endeavour to promote the cultivation of New Zealand flax by means of a bounty. Coming to the next item in the schedule, I think it is a mistake to include a number of oil-producing plants in the one item, and to say that we will give a bounty for the oil extracted from any one of them. We know that in South Australia the production of olive oil has proved a commercial success. In that State there are from 80,000 to 90,000 olive trees growing at the present time, and something like 12,000 gallons of olive oil worth retail from 10s. to 12s. per gallon is annually produced there. As the industry has already been established in South Australia, the bounty will go largely into the pockets of the proprietors of existing plantations. If, however, a bounty would lead to the extension of the culture of the 'olive tree in Australia, I should not object to its being granted. There is nothing more ridiculous in the whole schedule than the item relating to the Granting of a bounty for the production of rice. It is admitted that no other food product requires a, greater amount of labour for a given result. Rice requires not irrigated, but flooded, land. The rice-grower must first secure a piece of land practically as level as a billiard table. He must then build a bank around it, and keep it continually under shallow water.

Senator Fraser - In small plots.

Senator STANIFORTH SMITH - Rice must necessarily be grown in small plots, unless one is able to secure a large area of absolutely level country. The crop must remain in water from the time that it is planted until it begins to ripen. Irrigation in Australia is a costly process, but the cost of obtaining absolutely level land, building an embankment around it, and keeping it constantly under water, would be infinitely greater. In other countries where rice is grown, the natives stir up the mud within the embankment until it has almost the consistency of cream, and the plants, which are grown in nurseries, are then planted out by hand. Another point to be remembered is that a reaping machine or harvester could not be used to reap the crop. The areas would be too small, and the land would be too boggy to allow of their use, and I doubt if horses could be used in ploughing such boggy country. In Java, the Federated Malay States, and India, the water buffalo is used for this work. Dr. Willis, the Director of Agriculture in Ceylon, in dealing with the Federated Malay States, reports : -

There are few crops which are more trouble to grow, and which bring in less return, than rice, as grown by the Malays. . . He himself would prefer, if he must cultivate, to grow " dry grains" on ladang clearings, which yield greater returns, and cost far less in labour.

Senator Playford - He is referring to hill crops.

Senator STANIFORTHSMITH.Either hill or various other roots crops. In the Krian district, in the north-west of the Federated Malay States, the Government planted with rice an area of practically 100 square mile's, and spent about £160,000 in an effort to encourage rice production there. In the centre ' of the peninsula there is a range of hills, and near the sea coast the ground is almost level. It is only one or two feet above the level of the sea, and is excellently suited for rice culture, since the streams coming down from the hills can be diverted over the embanked lands. And yet, although Tamil labour could be obtained at a cost of only 6d. per day, the effort of the Government to produce rice in that quarter proved a failure. The Chinese have now devoted a large portion of the land to the production of sugar, although neither irrigated land nor that which is constantly under water is necessary for the growth of sugar-cane. In Australia we desire as much as possible to husband our water, but honorable senators will recognise that an enormous quantity of water would be required for rice cultivation. In the hotter parts of Australia, where rice could be grown, the evaporation is from 60 to 80 inches per annum, and the soakage there must also be enormous. The price of rice is so low that it would be ridiculous for any one to incur the great expenditure necessary to prepare the land for its cultivation here. Rice is grown in further India, Rangoon, China, Java, and other places. In Java most of the ground used for its production was first prepared 1,500 years ago, and almost ever since then rice crops have been raised upon it. Rice is the staple food of the Javanese, who export their surplus. Dr. Willis, from whose report I quoted a minute or two ago, goes on to say that -

Rice, even with the best land and the best yield in the Malay States, is not a very profitable crop. In the Krian district in the season 1903-4, the average crop, as we have seen, was 412 gantangs per acre, selling at $33 - a Malay dollar is worth 2s. 4d. -

This is a very small return, compared to that given by cocoanuts, tapioca, rubber,or sugar. It cannot, therefore, be expected that people will take up rice cultivation for commercial purposes, so long as they can find more profitable and less laborious cultivations in which to en-

I shall not elaborate the subject. I think that I have shown that there is no other plant industry from which, in proportion to the labour and trouble, so extremely small a return is obtained. It is also proposed to give a bounty upon the production of rubber. That is a proposal which, I think, is quite justified. The rubber tree has wonderful vitality, especcially the Hevea Braziliensis, which is grown on the Amazon. It will grow anywhere in the tropics.Put in order to be grown to the best advantage, it requires, first of all, a heavy and evenly distributed rainfall. It will not grow well where monsoonal winds mean alternating dry and wet seasons. It requires a rich, friable, welldrained soil. All these conditions are obtainable in Australia. As nearly one-half of the northern part of Australia is in the tropics, rubber growing is an industry which, I think, we can well afford to encourage. It is now proposed, for a period of ten years, to give an annual bounty of £14,000 upon the production of rubber. Within the last few days the Government have announced their intention to raise the item of £9,000 in the. schedule to the higher amount. But it is not stated how the bounty is to be paid. It takes at least five years before the trees are fit to tap, that is before any profit is obtained from their cultivation. I would urge the Government to give a bounty of so much per acre on the planted trees for the first five years, upon the condition that the trees shall be planted in a way approved by the authorities, and shall be kept clean and free from insects and other pests while the bounty is payable. All over the world a man hesitates to incur a large expenditure upon the cultivation of a plant which he knows will not give him a magnificent return until it begins to bear. I am not exaggerating when I say that, at the present time, it is equal to 300 per cent. per annum. For five or seven years, however, it is all outgoing, and that is what prevents many persons from going in for rubber culture. It means an enormous expenditure for five or seven years without any return. Suppose that, under proper supervision, a man put in 100 acres under rubber cultivation, and that he was given an annual bounty of 4s. per acre for a period of five years while the trees were developing, then the money would be applied in the best possible manner. As soon as the trees began to bear, he would not want a bounty, because his profits would be immense. We should give a bounty, not upon the prepared product, but upon the cultivation of a most valuable tree. It possesses wonderful vitality, and will live for sixty or seventy years. In all it is proposed to spend in the ten years £140,000 upon the production of rubber. If for a bounty of £1 or £2 per acre we could get men to cultivate 140,000 or 70,000 acres, they would secure a return of about£3 per acre per annum for a period of fifty or sixty years, provided that the present price of rubber was maintained. It is an industry which, once established, is practical ly permanent. I would strongly recommend the Government togrant a bonus in the way I have suggested.

Senator Dobson - Does the honorable senator mean a profitof £3 per acre per annum ?

Senator STANIFORTH SMITH - That would be a low estimate.

Senator Dobson - Does the honorable senator call that a profitable occupation for a man to engage in?

Senator STANIFORTH SMITH - If a man had a rubber plantation of 1,000 acres, and he got a profit of £3 per acre - in some cases in the Federated Malay

States it 'amounts to £6 per acre-7-it would mean a profit of ,£3,000 a year.

Senator Dobson - I would sooner grow apples.

Senator STANIFORTH SMITH - With the cultivation of rubber many products can be well grown as catch crops. In the Federated Malay States coffee is practically going out of culture, except as a catch crop between rubber and cocoanut trees, because Liberian coffee starts to bear in the course of two or three years, and a return can be secured without great expenditure. Various fibres can be profitably grown as catch crops between rubber trees. Oil producing plants, such as the ground-nut, are grown as the natural corollary to rubber planting, because an. annual return is thus obtained while the rubber trees are developing. It is also proposed to give a bounty upon the production of kapok, which is a. very inferior sort of cotton tree. I do not know of any country in which it is grown purely as a plantation industry. In German New Guinea I have seen the tree used as live posts for fencing on account of its white-ant resisting quality. It will grow to a considerable height in a year or two. Perhaps it is one of the most quickly growing trees known. The trees are planted at a certain distance from each other, and a barbed wire is run along these living posts for fencing. In certain parts .of the Dutch Possessions in the East Indies the trees are used as telegraph poles, and kapok fibre production is a subsidiary industry. Java exports a considerable quantity of the fibre to Australia for the purpose of stuffing mattresses, and possibly, for other manufactures.

Senator Trenwith - It is very largely used now for bedding. It has practically displaced feathers.

Senator Playford - Our experts _ say that it is a very valuable tree to cultivate here.

Senator Trenwith - If it is whiteant resisting it would be a valuable tree in the northern States.

Senator STANIFORTH SMITH - I do not know whether any one has ever laid down a plantation of kapok trees. In German New Guinea people pick the bolls of cotton - and very inferior stuff it is - and it is used principally. I think, for bedding. There is one other complaint that I have to make. There seems to have been no attempt made by the Government to induce the cultivation of economic plants that grow best in arid or semiarid regions. A large portion of Australia is arid or semi-arid, and the Government would do magnificent work if they could induce the cultivation of certain plants which grow best in places, with a very light rainfall, such as the dry and sandy portions of Australia. Not one of the enumerated plants, except a kind of rubber which I shall mention, will grow in any place unless there is a good rainfall. The Government ought to encourage the cultivation of certain economic plants which would grow best in places practically unused on account of their aridity.. I know of only one kind of rubber which will grow in a dry, sandy place. That is the rubber known as Ceara, the botanical name of which is Manilcot glaziovia. It grows best in dry sandy places, and comes third in the list of rubbers, so far as value is concerned. The first in value is, of course, the Para rubber, and the second is what is known as the Rambong. The Ceara rubber cannot be grown very well in New Guinea and Java, because a dry sandy soil is necessary for its growth. A large portion of Australia would be eminently suitable for its cultivation, and if the Government specially desire to fill up the waste places in Australia by establishing valuable industries, thev cannot do better than offer a bounty for the cultivation of Ceara rubber.

Senator Dobson - I suppose that some rainfall is necessary to insure the growth of the tree?

Senator STANIFORTHSMITH.Yes, some rainfall is undoubtedly necessary; but the tree requires to be grown in dry sandy localities. There is another industry which I think might very well be encouraged, and that is the cultivation of the date palm. The date palm is grown in the northern parts of Africa and Arabia, where it provides the staple article of food, and also in Asia Minor and Persia. It flourishes between the Equator and the 30th or 40th degree of North latitude, and the greater part of Australia is embraced within the similar zone to the south of the Equator.

Senator Playford - The honorable senator must recollect that the Arabs say that the date palm' must have its roots in water or its head in fire.

Senator STANIFORTH SMITH - Yes, I am quite aware of that ; but I am dealing now with the geographical limits within which the date can be cultivated. D.ate palms have been largely planted upon the northern shores of the Mediterranean, but do not fruit there, because the climate is not sufficiently hot. The leaves of the palm tree are there used for ceremonial and decorative purposes. We have large tracts of country where the climatic and other conditions are absolutely similar to those which prevail in Asia Minor, Arabia, and Persia, where the date palm is largely cultivated. I think that we should do well to experiment with the cultivation of the date palm, and, if possible, encourage the production of dates in Australia. As Senator Playford has stated, the palms can be cultivated only where there is a hot dry climate and moist soil. In Melbourne, the date palm will grow but not bear, because the climate is not sufficiently hot.

Senator Playford - We have cultivated date palms at Hergott Springs, but only where there is plenty of water at the bores.

Senator STANIFORTHSMITH..There are plenty of places along creek beds, and in the neighbourhood of springs, where date palms would grow admirably, and if the Government offered^ a bounty for the encouragement of the industry, I am sure that successful results would be brought about. The dates which we buy in the shops are a travesty of the real fruit. Fifty per cent, of the so-called fruit is sugar, 8 per cent, is albumen, and 12 per cent, is gummy matter, and we get only 32 per cent, of the real fruit. Therefore, the article which we buy, and place upon our tables, is but a poor imitation of the luscious fruit grown in Arabia and the other countries which I have mentioned. We annually import 1.300 tons of dates into the Commonwealth, and surely it would be worth our while to cultivate a tree which would grow admirably in Australia, particularly in the arid portion of the Continent, provided that moist ground can be found in which the trees can strike their roots.

Senator Trenwith - How many years elapse before the tree comes into bearing?

Senator STANIFORTH SMITH - From five to ten years.

Senator Playford - It will not bear in less than ten years.

Senator STANIFORTH SMITH - I have seen "date palms of less than that age with unripe -fruit on them.

Senator Playford - The quantity of dates yielded in the first years of bearing are not worth considering.

Senator STANIFORTH SMITH - I think that the best of the proposals of the Government are those relating to the cultivation of fibres, such as sisal hemp and New Zealand flax. With regard to oils, the cultivation of ground nuts could perhaps be carried on successfully. The olive oil industry has already been conducted with profit. I thoroughly approve of the proposal to promote the cultivation of rubber, and I trust that the Government will specially consider the question of encouraging the growth of the Ceara rubber. I think that it is worth our while to consider whether we should not offer a bounty for the production of beet sugar, which can be grown in the more temperate regions of the continent. Beet sugar might be cultivated with every prospect of success, not so much perhaps in Gippsland as in the rich volcanic soil of the Warrnambool district. I believe that if the beet sugar industry had been followed up in the Warrnambool district it would have proved a success - provided, of course, reasonably cheap labour could have been procured. I am very doubtful whether we could produce tinned fish in successful competition with the herrings and salmon which are imported. Herrings can be purchased, exclusive of the duty, for 3d. per tin, and I do not think that we could produce fish of equal quality at such a price as that. I know that we have any quantity of fish in our waters, and possibly it might be possible to give a fillip to distinctive industries, which could not be very well pursued in other countries. The northern shores of Australia abound with the green turtle that is so much appreciated by aldermen and others.

Senator Clemons - Was it a green turtle that De Rougemont is said to have ridden ?

Senator STANIFORTH SMITH - Yes. These turtles swarm along the bays and sandy islands of the northern coast of Australia, and yet no attempt has been made to establish what I believe would be a valuable industry. I feel perfectly sure that these turtles could be rendered into soup which could be canned and profitably exported to other parts of the world. - '

Senator Drake - We have utilized the turtles and beche-de-mer in Queensland.

Senator STANIFORTH SMITH - So far as beche-de-mer is concerned, the prices obtained for the article are quite sufficient to insure the collection of the slugs without any special bonus. We should do better to encourage the establishment of turtle soup canneries than to promote the preservation of fish, which would enter into competition with the products of the northern world. Mr. Savill Kent is stated to have declared that the small fish which swarm round the piers of Thursday Island and elsewhere are the true sardine of commerce, and if that be so, attention might be turned to them with profitable results. The object of the Government seems to have been to encourage the establishment of industries which would be subjected to the greatest amount of competition, and which would have the smallest prospects of success. I do not believe that we could ever can fish to compete against herring and" salmon^ but I do think that Ave could create a valuable turtle industry, and possibly, if we have the true sardine, a successful industry in that direction. As to a bounty on milk, I say at once that if we can assist the great dairying industry that has done so much for the Commonwealth, we ought by every means to do so. But to my mind the question whether we can produce powdered, sweetened, and condensed milk is one for experts to determine. If it pays the farmer better to condense or powder his milk than to have the cream extracted for buttermaking and use the skim milk for his calves and pigs, we should be well advised to grant a substantial bounty in the hope of bringing about that result. But the question for experts to decide is whether we can produce condensed milk successfully in our climate. At present the industry is principally carried on in cold climates like those of Scandinavia and Switzerland.; though I believe the industry is also conducted to some extent in Great Britain. Is our climate suitable?

Senator Drake - We can produce artificial cold now.

Senator STANIFORTH SMITH - Of course it is possible, within limits, to produce an artificial climate. In the report before us it is stated that a hot climate results in quicker fermentation, so that at the time when the farmer gets his milk to the factory it has reached a condition which renders it unsuitable for condensation. If that be so, there is a difficulty which it will require expert knowledge to overcome. If the question be decided in the affirmative we shall be well advised in spending a con siderable sum of money to bring about such a result.

Senator Drake - I should think that if we can make butter we can make condensed milk.

Senator STANIFORTHSMITH.Experts differ. Some tell us that, owing to the more rapid fermentation which takes place in a warm climate, the milk will not keep unless certain preservatives are put into it which are injurious to health. I must apologize for taking up so much time in dealing with these matters; but I have had some personal knowledge of all the industries that I have mentioned. I have seen the plants to which I have referred growing and under treatment. Therefore, though apologizing for the time which I have occupied, I think I can claim to have given information which should be of use to the Senate. I agree with part of Senator Dobson's proposal, though I do not think that the bounties paid by the Federal Government should be subject to control by the' States. I do not agree that the Bill should not become operative

Until Ministers have consulted the Government 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.

That may or may not be advisable. But I certainly agree with the second portion of the honorable senator's amendment, that the Bill should be postponed - 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.

That is exactly what I have been endeavouring to point out - that the proposal to grant bounties to an unlimited number of industries without ascertaining whether they are suitable for Australia is a mistake. We should single out such industries as are most suitable, and devote a large proportion of the Government money to grant assistance to them. The selection of those industries requires, of course, the greatest care and attention, and the most expert knowledge. I venture to say that these proposals have not received such attention. Therefore. I think that the Government would be well advised if thev did not seek to pass the Bill now. If passed, it would commit the Commonwealth to an expenditure of £500,000. We should be bound to pay the money, provided any sort of product mentioned in the schedule was produced, irrespective of quality. We ought first to have a conference of the chief agricultural experts of Australia, who should carefully consider all the products mentioned, and should report upon those that are likely to become' national industries. They should not be confined to a particular part of Australia. Two or three industries picked out from the list would be ample. We should then be able to develop them with the fullest assurance that, with proper assistance, they would be successful. We should thus add to the prosperity of the country. But I am absolutely certain from what I have seen of some of the industries mentioned in the schedule, that, .if adopted, it would only result in a loss of the money voted, that no industries would be created, and that, at best, a few would ^simply linger on until the bounty was exhausted. Then there would be a howl for its continuance, or for increased protection out of all proportion to the value of the industry. Even in respect of cotton - the growth of which has been commenced on two previous occasions - as soon as the bounty ceased, there would be a howl for its continuance, or for a duty of something like 100 per cent, on an article of clothing which is most used by the poorer classes of the community. All of these matters require the fullest consideration, and more expert knowledge than it is possible for us to obtain at the end of a session. Such important proposals should not be passed without full consideration. The same remark applies to other important Bills which, unfortunately, have only been received in the last days of the session, but it. applies particularly to this measure. Therefore, I hope that it will not be passed.

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