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Monday, 1 October 1906

Senator FRASER (VICTORIA) - I know all about that. I spend my summers amongst the fishermen, and I know a great deal of them. It was upon my recommendation that the Queenscliff fishermen, a few years ago, established a co-operative company. Formerly they were accustomed to send their fish to Melbourne and to have it sold by an agent, with the result that they were unable to make a living. I said to them, ' Why do you not form a co-operative company, and have one of your own men in Melbourne to dispose of your fish?" They were quick to act upon the suggestion, and I believe that the shares of the company, originally10s., are now quoted at 20s. to 30s. each. But the truth is that the poorer classes of the community cannot afford to purchase fish because of the exorbitant prices at which they are retailed in shops, the occupants of which are required to pay high rents. If the fishermen of Queenscliff, Gippsland, Warrnambool, Belfast, and Tasmania, could tin their fish where they are caught, I believe that a very great industry would be built up.

Senator Staniforth Smith - Miscellaneous fish cannot be tinned.

Senator FRASER - I grant that barracouta cannot be tinned.

Senator Mulcahy - Senator Smith means that two kinds of fish cannot be put in the same tin.

Senator FRASER - Of course not. At certain seasons of the year hundreds of tons of fish can be caught along the Australian coast. At other periods there is a dearth in the supply. The fish come to the shores of Australia in shoals. They do not remain here all the year round. Their habits resemble those of the wild duck, which visit certain districts in flocks at particular seasons of the year. In respect of condensed milk, I say that we should not have any occasion to import milk from any part of the world. There is no country upon earth which produces more milk in proportion to its population than does Australia. Every working man can have his own cow, assuming that he lives a little distance from the city. In Queensland the milk industry is making very great headway. Messrs. McConnell and Sons started a preserved milk factory there four or five years ago, and are making a great success of it. I know nothing concerning the manufacture of oils, but certainly if the olive oil industry is already a success, it does not require any encouragement at the hands of the State. As to rice, I am certain that no bounty ought to be offered for this, because it is one of the cheapest commodities. It is grown with the cheapest labour in the world and an enormous amount of that labour is employed. Rice can be grown on plots no larger than the table in this Chamber. In Ceylon, Honolulu, and other hot countries, through which I have travelled rice crops are cultivated on little square patches on every hill, on little level spaces made for the purpose.. The items I have mentioned will not be a success ; yet, because of the other items, such as rubber. I think this Bill ought to pass its second reading, and be taken into Committee.

Senator Col. NEILD(New South Wales) [6.12]. - I cannot but think that this Bill has a very large element of sham about it. I am sorry to have to say that, but I find it impossible to otherwise regard the measure. On Norfolk Island to-day there is absolutely rotting some seven tons of first class coffee, which cannot be landed in the Commonwealth, except at such a duty as to render the trade unprofitable to those concerned. Yet it is proposed to take over Norfolk Island at such time as may prove convenient. It would have been much better to devote the time at our disposal to passing a measure which would have given to the colonists of Norfolk Island the relief they ask for; there have been deputations from the coffeegrowers of the island, asking that they shall be permitted to land their coffee in Australia. Again, it is proposed to give a bonus on the growing of rubber. Rubber grows naturally in New Guinea, and yet its products cannot be landed . here except under Customs duties. What is the good of our taking over the Administration of New Guinea if all we can do is to appoint a Royal Commission ? It is proposed to expend a large sum of money in encouraging the cultivation of rubber on the mainland, while the rubber, which naturally grows in New Guinea, is allowed to run to waste. I venture to think that, under the circumstances, I am not out of order in describing this Bill as a sham, in some respects at least. In the sugar industry, under a bonus, the number of acres in cultivation is materially decreasing. In New South Wales at least, the ground previously devoted to growing sugar cane under a bonus, is being devoted to the production of butterwithout a bonus. This shows plainly that it is not a bonus which makes an industry succeed, but the suitability of the industry to the local conditions. Some years ago, when bonuses were hanging in the air, I visited Victoria, and heard of a bonus of some £5.000 for the production of so many yards of tweed. If I was correctly informed at the time, a certain number of persons put their heads together, ran up a kind of corrugated iron shanty and, having obtained the £5,000, sold their establishment as old iron.

Senator Mulcahy - When was that?

Senator Col NEILD - That was in 1887.

Senator Mulcahy - They made excellent tweed in Victoria in the early seventies.

Senator Col NEILD - But if I am correctly informed, the firm which obtained the benefit of the bonus in 1887 are not existing to-day. I know that there are the best of Australian tweeds made in Victoria to-day.

Senator Mulcahy - Such tweeds were made in the early seventies.

Senator Col NEILD - Without a bonus.

Senator Fraser - There was protection.

Senator Col NEILD - That is so; but Senator Mulcahy altogether misses the point, which is that a factory was specially put up in order to collar the bonus, and that then the whole enterprise collapsed so far as Victoria was concerned.

Senator Fraser - I do not remember that.

Senator Col NEILD - I am speaking from information given to me at Ballarat.

Senator Dobson - I think the bonus at that time was offered for the production of so manyyards of tweed.

Senator Col NEILD - Yes, I think that was so.

Senator Playford - Tweeds were made in Victoria half a century before that.

Senator Col NEILD - The honorable senator must be very dense if he does not see that the story does not affect the production of tweed in any shape or form, but simply shows that successful effort may be made to collar the bonus where there is really no permanence in the particular factory.

Senator Fraser - The statement of the facts made to the honorable senator must have been very loosely worded.

Senator Col NEILD - The honorable senator will see that there could not be a stipulation as to permanence, because as soon as the bonus is paid over, those concerned in the industry may do as they please.

Senator Guthrie - The plant necessary for such work must have cost three times £5,000.

Senator Col NEILD - The plant, of course, could easily have been removed somewhere else. The sugar industry in New South Wales has been assisted by a bonus for the first time under Federation. A few coloured labourers were employed in the industry, but from the later sixties up to the present time it has been carried on almost exclusively by white labour, and until Federation without the assistance of a bonus. We now find that in the New South Wales sugar districts cane is being displaced by cows, and enormous areas of land that have been cleared of dense tropical or semi-tropical scrub are being devoted to the depasturing of dairy herds, and the production of butter.

Senator Fraser - Because that is more profitable.

Senator Col NEILD - It is more profitable. I may inform honorable senators that from the 1st January to the present time a butter factory established at Byron Bay has been paying an average of no less than £30,000 per month to farmers of the district for cream delivered at the factory. There are other factories almost in the immediate vicinity, and along the same railway line. A factory has been established at a place with a very long name, and popularly known as "Bimby," which has sprung up with the rapidity of a mining township. When I was in the district a few years ago there was no such township, but now there is one as large as an ordinary mining township, and wholly dependent on the butter industry.

Senator Fraser - It took New South Wales ten years to learn all that. We have been exporting butter for. the last eight or ten years from Victoria.

Senator Col NEILD - New South Wales has been exporting butter for quite as long a period. I am not sayang a word to the detriment of Victoria. I have not mentioned the delectable country. I have not said anything to suggest that one State is doing more than another. I am showing merely that in the little part of Australia from which I come a business conducted under a bounty is being replaced by a business which is carried on without a bounty. There is another factory at Lismore, and, in fact, at every important centre of the district so ably represented by the Vice-President of the Executive Council. You may follow the Richmond River from the township of Ballina, at the Heads, where there is another butter factory, and a factory for Hutton's brand of pineapple hams. You may follow the Richmond River from Ballina up to Coraki, where there is another factory, and you will find the river boats plying across the stream, which is about half-a-mile wide, picking up cans of cream at various places to take up to the factory at Coraki, or down to the factory at Ballina. Further up the river there is another factory at Casino, and throughout the district the chance to which I refer is going on. Sugarcane is giving place to cows where lands are favorably situated, though the cane still holds its own in some cases on flats and along the banks of the Tweed River, on hill-sides that are so steep that when the cane is cut and tied in bundles it is given a kick, and rolls down to the water's edge. The question at issue is one of bounties to a large number of industries specified in the schedule, for some of which there is no justification. What do we want of a bounty for condensed milk, when the industry is being carried on in Australia to-day, has been in existence for years, and without any bounty?

Senator Fraser - There is an import duty on the article.

Senator Col NEILD - But we are dealing with a proposal to give a bounty as well as the duty, although the industry is in a flourishing condition.

Senator de Largie - We have no less than thirty-nine brands of Australian condensed milk on the market.

Senator Col NEILD - So far as the proposed bounty for the fish industry is concerned, it seems rather deplorable, in view of the great wealth of the sea all along our coast, that it should be necessary to offer a considerable bounty for the curing of fish. I remember, at least twentyfive years ago, partaking of some tinned fish from Fremantle. I think it had the label of a Perth firm on it, and I know that it was uncommonly good fish. Although fish was being cured in the manner indicated all those years ago, from lack of enterprise or encouragement, I do not know which, Australia does not appear to have made much advance in the tinning of fish. The question arises in my mind whether the giving of a bounty will overcome a difficulty which, unfortunately, exists in relation to a great many colonial products, by insuring sufficient public encouragement to make the industry a success. It is possible that, under the bounty system, some of these articles might be turned out a little more cheaply than at present, and that might lead to their being regarded with more favour by the public.

Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.45 p.m.

Senator Col NEILD - I recognise that I should be wanting in decorum if I occupied much time in opposing a measure that so many honorable senators have evinced a tendency to support. I could scarcely resume my seat, however, without a word of complaint that this important Bill, and others of even greater importance, should be submitted to us at a time when it is practically impossible for us to bestow upon them that consideration which we ought, as a deliberative assembly, to devote to them. A few months ago the Senate had to adjourn for three weeks, because we had no work to do. In that respect it was held up to public derision as a useless Chamber, but in the last hours of the Parliament it is asked to deal with the measure now before us, and many others, with an urgency for which there can be no excuse. It is not within the range of constitutional rule that any Chamber should be asked to legislate without opportunities for at least reasonable deliberation. I am not suggesting that opportunity should be offered for lengthy speeches, but I have learned since we adjourned for dinner that it is considered that an honorable senator is obstructing business when he makes a twenty minutes' speech on a measure by which it is proposed to allocate hundreds of thousands of pounds of the people's money in bringing into existence little undertakings that may succeed in winning the bounties offered, but may not be sufficiently successful to maintain a career of usefulness.

Senator Stewart - Every one of our industries' has been assisted .to obtain vigour.

Senator Col NEILD - I take quite the contrary view.

Senator Stewart - Even sheep-breeding has been so assisted.

Senator Col NEILD - It is hardly necessary to reply to these valuable additions to the debate, .made by way of interjection by an honorable senator who immediately leaves the Chamber. Not one of the nourishing industries of Australia todayhas been coddled by a bounty, although in some instances they may have had the advantage of protective duties. I will admit that the sugar industry, for instance, has enjoyed such an advantage - if it be an advantage - as flows from the imposition of a Customs duty. I venture to say, however, that the Customs duties that have existed, or the. bounties that may have been paid in some of the States, have not contributed materially to the advancement of the butter industry, which is one of the 6,ear industries of Australia, prospective of much further extension, and must be for man>- years one of the most successful of which Australia can boast. The dairying industry, unlike a successf ul mining operation, settles a vast number of people on the soil, and provides a living, not for individuals, but for entire families. The households to be found in districts in. which the butter industry flourishes represent an aspect of family life to which the mining industry, with the exception, perhaps, of coal mining, is a stranger. The gold-miner, and the searcher after, metals generally, does not have the same opportunities for -the happy settlement of his family on the soil in the vicinity of his labours that are afforded 'to those engaged in the agricultural, and particularly in the dairying industry.

Senator DAWSON (QUEENSLAND) - The metallic miner never settles on the soil ; he is always prospecting and preparing the way for other people to settle.

Senator Col NEILD - That is so; but my honorable friend bv his interjection only indorses the proposition I have already submitted.

Senator DAWSON (QUEENSLAND) - Only emphasizes the honorable senator's mistake. .

Senator Col NEILD - I made no mistake. If the honorable senator thinks I committed one, I cannot help it. I cannot supply him with that keen sense of apprehension that I desire him to possess. The agricultural, dairying, and fruitgrowing industries afford better opportunities for the permanent settlement of the people on the soil than does gold or silver mining. In the case of agricultural, dairying, or orchard industries, the more the soil is cultivated - provided the work is carried out upon scientific lines - the more profitable the land becomes. The opposite is the case in relation to the mining industry. I do not wish to decry that industry, but I would point out that in the one case a man is improving the land all the time, whilst in the other he is reducing its value. The more one takes from a mine, the less valuable it is.

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