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Monday, 1 October 1906

Senator FRASER (Victoria) . - I am sorry that we are called upon to consider this Bill at such a late stage of the session, because it is one which demands a very great deal of thought and research. Whilst I am strongly in favour of encouraging the establishment of new industries by the payment of bounties in cases where there is a reasonable prospect of success, I must confess that of my own knowledge I am satisfied that many of the articles enumerated in the schedule to this measure cannot be successfully produced here. A few years ago I spent a. summer in Ceylon, and I know from the knowledge which 1/ then acquired that the production of rice entails the employment of an enormous amount of cheap labour.

Senator Guthrie - So .does the production of wheat.

Senator FRASER - That is not so. With the improved machinery now in use, wheat is produced at a very infinitesimal cost so far as labour is concerned, and Senator Guthrie ought to know it. It represents only a few shillings per acre now that the harvester is in use.

Senator Guthrie - That amount merely covers the cost of reaping it.

Senator FRASER - The ploughing is clone by six-furrow ploughs, and the seed is sown by means of seed drills. It is ridiculous for Senator Guthrie to make an interjection of that character. But the labour that is employed in the production of rice is the cheapest that can be obtained in the world. Personally, I do not think that any money should be spent in encouraging the production of rice, or cocoa, or coffee. In respect of cotton, however. I know that cotton of the verv highest quality has been produced in Queensland. A few years ago a bonus was payable upon it.

Senator Staniforth Smith - There was a bonus paid during the American Civil War, and from 1896 to 1897.

Senator FRASER - But I fear that cotton cannot be profitably produced in Australia by means of white labour.

Senator Staniforth Smith - In Queensland at one period there were 14.000 acres under cotton.

Senator FRASER - I am aware of that. I have often visited the plantations. I know that a very high class cotton waa grown in Queensland, but I am doubtful whether it can be commercially successful if produced by Australian labour. Regarding flax, I am positive that it can be successfully grown in many parts of the Commonwealth. Its cultivation does not involve very much labour, and it is a very useful commodity. Concerning the proposal to grant a bounty upon preserved fish, I know that hundreds and hundreds of tons of fish caught in the bays of the Commonwealth during the year are returned to the sea, because there is no market for them. The fishermen of Queenscliff and Gippsland may perhaps obtain ten tons of fish to-day, and may say, " It will be useless to forward more than five tons to Melbourne." Consequently they return the balance to the sea.

Senator Henderson - That is a substantial reason for canning.

Senator FRASER - It is a reason for the introduction of a system of canning. I was a shareholder in a company in Tasmania which embarked upon the industry of preserving fish a few years ago.

Senator Mulcahy - It was a failure.

Senator FRASER - I do not know why it was a failure, but I do know that a very large quantity of good fish is obtained in the bays, harbors, and rivers of Australia, which ought to be tinned instead of being destroyed. I do not see any reason why the industry should not be made a great success.

Senator Best - I fear that the fish monopoly is responsible for fish being returned to the sea.

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