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Monday, 1 October 1906

The PRESIDENT - May I ask what item the honorable senator is discussing?

Senator Col NEILD - I am seeking to point out that the great dairying industry of Australia exists to-day without the adventitious advantage of bounties.

Senator Best - That is certainly not correct so far as the industry in Victoria is concerned.

Senator Col NEILD - I can carry on a conversation with one honorable senator, but not with three or four. A large sum is set down for the curing of fish, but that industry has been established in Western Australia for many years, and in New South Wales, too, many tons of fish have been successfully cured without even the encouragementas the ugly clap-trap phrase goes - of Customs duties. Now that we have a fairly stiff series of protective duties, it is proposed to give bounties, in addition, to induce persons to embark in various industries. The Bill, I understand, is to be altered materially by the substitution of a new schedule for that now contained in it, and pea-nuts is to be an important item in it. Then £14,000 is to be set aside for the encouragement of " miscellaneous " industries. That will afford excuse for expenditure in respect to any industry, no matter how unsuitable or paltry - even the breeding of polar bears or the propagating of tomatoes. It is playing with Parliament to put such a proposition before us. The Ministry should specify the productions for the encouragement of which they desire to grant bounties; but the largest item in the annual vote of £75,600 is £14,000 for miscellaneous industries.

Senator Guthrie - Including rubber and kapok.

Senator Col NEILD - No sum is set down for the encouragement of rubber and kapok. The amount is to be prescribed by regulation.

Senator Best - Parliament can refuse to sanction the regulations.

Senator Col NEILD - It would be a simpler plan to leave out the item. Kapok is the product of a particular part of the world and nowhere else, and it is silly to think- that we can successfully transfer the kapok industry from the Malay Archipelago to Australia. Rubber, too, is practically a natural product in New Guinea, a territory which is connected with the Commonwealth in some form, though, seeing that the officials there, whose salaries we vote, have been held not to be responsible to this Government in regard to certain recent occurrences, it is difficult to say what the nature of the connexion is. If £10,000 will be. sufficient to encourage the production of cotton and coffee, £14,000 cannot be required for the production of rubber and kapok. What little game is it proposed to carry on without the knowledge of Parliament in respect to this item? Clearly there is something more in it than meets the eye, unless a lump sum has been put down merely to make up the £75,000 a year. Is it not paltering with Parliament, and with the decorum which should attach to legislative proceedings, to ask a miserable £3,000 for a bounty for the encouragement of a great industry like rice growing, and to demand £14,000 to enable cheap bedding to be made here? The Minister of Defence can defend many things, but I do not think he can defend this proposal. Probably he will tell us, as he .told us the other day in regard to another matter, " I am Mowed if I know what it means." There is something to be said for the proposal to encourage coffee growing, though there is already a very successful plantation at Kuranda, in Queensland, about which, no doubt, Senator Givens could give us a good deal of information. I very much question the wisdom of the proposed bounty for cotton, however, because we have excluded all coloured labour from our shores, and I do not think that, in the parts of the country where cotton can be successfully cultivated there is a sufficiency of child labour - that is what it really means - to make the enterprise a success. Take the next item of fibres. It is a perfect farce to talk about giving a bounty upon the production of New Zealand flax. It grows in every Chinaman's garden. It will grow like a weed if it is given a chance. Therefore, it is not necessary to offer a bounty to encourage its production. What powdered milk exactly consists of I do not know.

Senator Best - It might become a splendid industry.

Senator Col NEILD - That is all right. I am not acquainted with the article. It is difficult enough to find decent milk in a liquid state, let alone powdered. I do not think that there is any justification for offering so large a sum as is proposed to encourage the production of oils. It seems to me that, when we will not allow cotton seed to come in without paying a duty, the Bill represents very largely an attempt to grease the fatted "sow, because not only has it been the will of Parliament to offer heavy protective duties, but now that those duties have notoriously failed to produce the promised effects, we are asked to find some other weight for the consumer's back in the form of bounties. If the imposition of the duties had succeeded in creating profitable industries, as we were promised it would do, we should not have been asked, to pass this Bill. It is a proof of the failure of the attempt of a few years ago to bring industries into existence by financial coddling. As the coddling has failed in one instance, it is to be duplicated in order that industries which cannot be established under heavy protective duties may also be fostered by means of bounties. Under the circumstance, as I understand, that there is a majority in favour of the second reading of the Bill, I shall say no more.

Senator Dobson - I intend to call for a division on my amendment.

Senator Col NEILD - I shall vote for the amendment, not because I am not willing to give any reasonable support to an industry which it is thought can be established, but because I take exception to the singling out of certain industries for special coddling,, after it has been shown that they cannot" be brought into existence under the adventitious aid of heavy Customs duties. If ever there was a Bill brought into a Parliament that proved the absolute failure of Customs duties to induce enterprise it is this Bill.

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