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Wednesday, 29 August 1906

Mr LONSDALE (New England) . - I understood from the Minister who was in charge of the Bill last Friday that the amendment was to be withdrawn, and that it was intended to adopt the suggestion of the honorable member for North Sydnev, and provide that a maximum sum of £75,000 might be spent in any one year.

Sir William Lyne - I have a further amendment to propose. The amendment now before the Committee is only a part of my proposal.

Mr LONSDALE - I am entirely opposed to placing . £500,000 at the disposal of the Minister for expenditure as he may please. I should place the least possible amount within his control, and I should like him to be watched very carefully whilst he spent even that small sum. I am astonished at the importance which Ministers appear to attach to this measure. The Prime Minister was recently airing his eloquence in the country, and endeavouring to persuade the electors that the Bill would have the effect of making all of them rich - that it would confer wonderful advantages upon the primary producers. He represented that it was intended for the benefit of settlers in the country, and that the residents of the towns would not derive any advantage from it. He stated that the Bill would save our primary industries from ruin, but I wish to know how the country is to be prevented from plunging headlong to destruction by the production of pea-nuts. The Prime Minister, when he visits country centres, is accustomed to make the most remarkable statements. His hearers frequently become entranced by his eloquence, and are thus likely to pay some attention to his utterances. The Treasurer indulges in poetry, and the Prime Minister in music. When the latter talks to thje farmers they evidently taike in all that he says. I may tell them, however, that the Prime Minister is simply taking them in.

Sir William Lyne - He is merely following the example of the honorable member.

Mr LONSDALE - No. I am accustomed to say exactly what I mean. There is. no poetry about my utterances. I wish that the Minister of Trade and Customs would explain how much of the £500,000 proposed to be expend.ed by way of bounties he intends to allocate to the encouragement of the growth of rubber trees? That is one of the industries which is to save the primary producer from ruin. From the printed document which has been placed in the hands of honorable members, I learn that the rubber tree would take from nine to fifteen years to reach maturity. When a man has sat under that tree for a period of nine years watching it grow, he will be able to get from it a pound of rubber, which is worth 6s. 6d.

Mr Watson - Who told the honorable member that yarn? The Queensland Government tell quite a different tale.

Mr LONSDALE - I am pointing out what the Minister himself has said.

Sir William Lyne - I did not say anything of the kind.

Mr LONSDALE - But the Minister has caused the statement which I have made to be put into a printed document, which has been circulated amongst honorable members. If the honorable gentleman has issued wrong information, as he frequently does, I am not responsible for that.

Sir William Lyne - There is a statement to that effect in a certain document.

Mr LONSDALE - The Minister issued that document, and is, therefore, responsible for the statement.

Sir William Lyne - I am not.

Mr LONSDALE - That is an extraordinary position for the honorable gentleman to take up. I say that if the information be incorrect it is the fault of the Minister himself. I do not believe in the payment of bounties, and I will not be a party to voting £500,000 to encourage the cultivation of peanuts, of rubber trees, and of" olives. The 'honorable member for Grey has pointed out that the manufacturers of olive oil are already making a large profit out of that industry. He has shown that 1 cwt. of olives will produce about 2 gallons of oil, which can be sold for 16s., whereas the cost of picking the olives amounts to only 2s. 6d. I claim that if we are going to sanction the payment of any bounty whatever, we ought to see that it is granted to those who are engaged in our agricultural industries. I hope that the Minister will indicate how it is proposed to distribute the money which is to be expended in the payment of these bounties. To my mind, the measure is the greatest farce that has ever been placed before this Parliament. The Minister knew so little about the facts of the position that he actually included in the Bill a proposal to grant a bounty to encourage the growth of chicory. That proposal is still embodied in the measure. I should like the Prime Minister to explain how he can justify his statement to the farming community that the Bill will immensely benefit them. He is accustomed to talking to country electors in musical tones and rounded periods, and as a result he frequently misleads them. I maintain that there is nothing practical in this measure, and I should like him to show in what way it will benefit our primary producers. The statements of the honorable and learned gentleman in regard to the attitude of members of the Opposition towards the primary producers are not borne out by facts. If the measure be passed, it will be no use whatever to the primary producers, but will simply levy a contribution upon them for the purpose of assisting industries which are already in existence.

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