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Monday, 1 October 1906

Senator DOBSON (Tasmania) .- The Minister cannot expect us to pass this Bill without discussion, and I must saythat I regard this item as a mere throwing away of money. I do not think that the Minister is doing it intentionally, but he is, in my opinion, making an absolutely wrong use of the statement of the expert, Mr. Newport. I do not believe that the evidence of that gentleman was ever given with any regard whatever to a bounty on cocoa. His evidence is simply that of an expert in Queensland, and I presume it has been taken from the Agricultural Gazette, or some similar publication. The Minister will not, I think, assert that the statements of Mr. Newport are in any way an expression of opinion on the question whether a bounty should be granted on the production of cocoa. In one part of his statement, Mr. Newport says that along the rivers in Queensland there is suitable land for growing cocoa, but in another part he says that cocoa requires to be grown at an altitude of 2,000 feet. Now, there are no rivers in Queensland at an altitude of 2,000 feet.

Senator Givens - Oh, yes.

Senator DOBSON - It seems to me that there is a contradiction in Mr. Newport's statement. I do not believe that that gentleman has ever been asked, or has ever considered, whether it would be wise for the Commonwealth to grant a bonus on the production of cocoa. If Mr. Newport had been asked the question, does the Minister think that he would agree that the paltry bounty of £1,000, now proposed to be increased to £2,000, would be sufficient, especially when it is considered that the cacao tree does not bear until the ninth year ?

Senator Playford - The bounty, as it stands in the Bill, is £1,000 per annum, or £9,000 altogether.

Senator DOBSON - The Minister appears to me to have utterly shirked the question of quality, which I take to be everything where cocoa is concerned. I was quite in earnest when I suggested that the Government ought to cable to Mr. Cadbury, or some other of the British manufacturers, because I think they would scorn the idea of buying a ton of Queensland cocoa. Experts would tell us that, for some reason which I do not know, Queensland is not a suitable place for its cultivation; and I do not believe that those who would obtain the bounty would be able to sell their cocoa. At any rate, the Commonwealth cannot afford to pay away £500,000 in this way ; and, of all the items, this is the one which can be omitted with most advantage. The Minister may try to "bullock" this Bill through, but all I can say is that we cannot afford the expenditure. I should be perfectly willing to grant a bounty for one good tropical industry in Queensland, but I hardly think it is fair or right that four tropical industries should all be assisted in the same State. I do not desire any bonus for Tasmania, nor do I desire to speak in any parochial spirit. But I do not think that four items should be passed all for one State, when none of the other States will have a chance of competing, and when, in any case, we cannot afford the money.

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