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Thursday, 14 June 1906
Page: 227

Mr FRAZER (Kalgoorlie) .- The honorable member for Wilmot has suggested that the motion has been moved as an electioneering dodge, but, as one of those who intend! to vote for it in an amended form, I wish to say. that there is not a scintilla of truth in that suggestion. What we have to consider is, not whether certain pastoralists will gain by the 'destruction of the rabbit pest, but whether the introduction of a certain microbe will endanger the health of the people of the Commonwealth, and the stock belonging to them. I intend, therefore, to move an amendment. I have been interested- in the statements made by Dr. Danysz, and those primarily responsible for his presence amongst us, and, while I am not in a position to express a scientific opinion as to whether the microbe which he has brought will serve the purpose intended, and kill rabbits without injuring other animals-

Mr Wilson - No one can say that yet.

Mr FRAZER - Quite so; but Parliament should take up the position that there shall be no introduction of disease among rabbits until a competent tribunal is assured that it will not affect other animal" life. The object of the motion is to prevent the Commonwealth Government from issuing a proclamation sanctioning the introduction of a disease before this Parliament has declared itself satisfied that that disease can be introduced without injury to the community. One reason why we should be very careful in dealing with this matter is that Dr. Danysz has stated that the effect of inoculating rabbits with the proposed disease will be to set up in them an acute form df influenza, which will kill them within a period varying from a few days to three weeks, during which time there will be a discharge from their nostrils, which will taint the pasture upon which they are feeding, and, in this way, be conveyed to other rabbits. From the point of view of an ordinary layman, it is impossible to imagine a more disgusting method of distributing disease than that proposed. I do not say that other means are available, but certainly the method proposed appears to me to be accompanied with the maximum of risk that the disease will be communicated to other forms of animal life.

Mr Conroy - That is not for the honorable member to discuss, because he is not an expert.

Mr FRAZER - I am discussing it, but whether or not my opinion is of any value is another matter. I do not pretend to be a scientist, but I might point out that even those whose opinions are entitled to weight are not satisfied that the microbe proposed to be introduced into the rabbits will not attack other animals. Another aspect of this question has been touched upon by the honorable and learned' member for West Sydney, and has been rather lightly dealt with by honorable members: opposite, namely, the importance of the rabbit industry to Australia. I do not for one moment claim that the rabbit is a desirable addition to the animal life df the Commonwealth, but, according to reliable figures. 20,000 people are earning their living by destroying rabbits, and a large number of persons would have no flesh food at all were it not that they can procure rabbits cheaply. If we were assured by a scientific committee that the introduction of a certain microbe would result in ridding us of the rabbit pest, a strong inducement would be offered to us to adopt that means of destruction. But when we know for a certainty that the introduction of the microbe would ruin an industry, whereas Ave cannot feel assured that it would rid us of the pest, or even part of the pest, we should certainly look for more information before committing ourselves

Mr Conroy - How could' the industry be destroyed if the rabbits were not killed ?

Mr FRAZER - The honorable member for West Sydney quoted the case of the (Chicago meat packers, which is at present occupying the attention of the whole world, as an indication of the injury that could be wrought by disclosures such as have recently been made. It is stated by those most directly interested that they will probably lose about £30,000,000 worth of trade. I notice that some British soldiers have refused to eat the products of the Chicago meat packers.

Mr Conroy - A great deal of the information that has been published is absolutely untrue.

Mr FRAZER - If mv honorable and learned friend takes that view, he must admit that there is so much more force in mv contention that if disease were introduced amongst the rabbits as proposed, the rabbit industry- would be ruined at once and for all time.

Mr Conroy - What about the arsenic and strychnine that are now being used ?

Mr FRAZER - The poisoning of rabbits is being carried on in areas other than those in which rabbits are being procured for human consumption.

Mr Kennedy - Rabbits are being picked up on the phosphorus poison trails and conveyed to Melbourne, but are being rejected by the Government expert.

Mr FRAZER - The dangers to which the community are now exposed owing to the poisoning of rabbits is a mere nothing compared Avith those which it would have to face if disease were introduced among them. The honorable member for Wilmot stated that for twenty years he had been looking for some effective means of getting rid of the rabbits. I had a good deal of experience in Victoria and New

South Wales prior to my going to Western Australia, and I believe that the rabbit difficulty in Australia would be overcome if the large partially unused areas in the western districts of New South Wales and the magnificent lands in Victoria and Tasmania that are now being used merely for running sheep were brought under closer settlement.

Mr Conroy - I quoted the cases of five farms, not one of which has an area of more than 600 acres.

Mr FRAZER - Yes, but the honorable and learned member spoiled his illustration by stating that the men who have rented the land were not in a position to erect wire netting fences, and that their landlords would not do it. If those farmers had been placed upon land under a Closer Settlement Act, they would have taken all the necessary precautions to keep the rabbits off their holdings. I am perfectly sure that there is no difficulty in keeping down the rabbit pest upon small farms, and that the remedy lies in the direction I have suggested. The amendment that I intend to propose will meet the objections that have been raised bv some honorable members opposite, and will, I think, prevent any action from being taken to disseminate disease among the rabbits until satisfactory evidence has been afforded that such a step can be taken with safety. I move -

That the following words be added to the motion : - " until such time as Parliament, or the Government, if Parliament is not in session, is satisfied, by the investigation of a duly appointed scientific committee approved by the Parliament, that outside experiments will be harmless."

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