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Thursday, 14 June 1906
Page: 237

Mr LIDDELL (Hunter) .- It has been suggested to me that the opinion of a member who has had a medical training may possibly carry some weight in a discussion of this character. But I think that the House is not concerned with the scientific aspect of this question at all. We are concerned, however, with its economic aspect. We have to consider that in Australia there is a veritable plague of rabbits. Alongside that plague it is urged by some that we have a valuable industry. Personally, I fail to see how we can. possibly weigh one thing against the other.

Mr Kennedy - We have an industry which is kept going at a ruinous cost.

Mr LIDDELL - For once I agree with the honorable member. I d'o not think that we -should regard the rabbit as other than a plague, and if we can discover any means which will relieve us of that plague, we should certainly embrace it. It has been suggested that by the introduction of this disease it is possible that we shall find a remedy ready to our hand's. I admit that to introduce into the country a disease of which we know absolutely nothing is a very serious matter. At the same time, if that disease will rid us of the rabbit pest, I think that we should at least encourage those who are endeavouring1 to introduce it. The gentleman who has come to Australia from Paris is not a charlatan or a quack. He is a man who, after years of careful study, has made a reputation for himself. We must recollect that in the action which he now proposes to take that reputation is at stake.

Mr Wilson - And that of the Pasteur Institute as well.

Mr LIDDELL - We have not the authority to say that Dr. Danysz actually represents the Pasteur Institute, although I believe that he is a student of that institute.

Mr Wilson - He is more than a student.

Mr LIDDELL - -We may rest assured that if he comes from the Pasteur Institute he is a man of indisputable honour. He proposes to make, after all, what is only an experiment. He does not claim that he can eradicate the rabbit pest. His object is to ascertain if certain experiments which have been successful elsewhere, will be equally successful in Australia. He comes to us and lavs his plans before the 'Government of the country. He does not volunteer the nature of the culture that he proposes to introduce, but he gives us to understand that it is a culture in some way connected with certain diseases with which the scientific world is fairly familiar. I am perfectly satisfied, from what I know of scientific investigations, that Dr. Danysz will carry out his experiments in such a way that the interests of this country will be entirely safeguarded. It will be quite sufficient, I think, if the Government place officials of* their own to watch over his experiments. Surely, if a man has a case of extreme sickness in his family, although he may have an opinion of his own in regard to it, and in regard to the treatment that should' be adopted, he will procure the services- assuming that he is wise - of an accredited physician and place it entirely in his hands. In the same way I contend that we should place our case in the hands of the scientists who are here. If Dr. Tidswell undertakes to supervise the experiments conducted by Dr. Danysz, we may be perfectly satisfied' that no injury can possibly arise. But I object to this Parliament placing certain bounds upon the action of those gentlemen. I object to the House declaring that they shall conduct their experiments only within the walls of a laboratory, because it is impossible, under such circumstances, to carry them out satisfactorily. Further, I cannot agree with the amendment submitted by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie, who desires to secure - before the experiments are terminated - the appointment of a committee of scientific experts for the purpose of reporting whether there is any chance of the disease being communicated to other animals or to human beings.

Mr Wilson - What is the honorable member's objection to that proposal ?

Mr LIDDELL - It would simply mean hanging the matter up for ever, because no scientific committee will ever decide whether the disease is communicable or not. Personally I do not think that any good is likely to result from these experiments. Under the conditions which obtain in Australia, it is almost impossible that any disease which we can introduce will eventually exterminate the rabbits, for the simple reason that diseases have a tendency to die out. The virus gradually becomes attenuated", and the disease dies out of its own accord. But that is no reason why these experiments 'should' not be made. If Broughton. Island is within one mile and ahalf of the New South Wales coast, it seems to me that some more remote spot should be selected upon which the experiments should be undertaken.

Mr Conroy - In France all the great experiments in the laboratory are conducted) within a mile of great cities.

Mr LIDDELL - But we have suffered so much from the introduction pf what were apparently harmless animals that we must be very cautious in any action that we maytake. I entirely agree with the remarks of the honorable member for North Sydney, and I think that we might safely leave this matter in the hands of the scientific gentlemen to whom I have referred. . We might very well ask them to report upon the experiments, and at a later stage, if it is necessary to do so, we can take further action.

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