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Wednesday, 29 August 1906

Sir WILLIAM LYNE (Hume) (Minister of Trade and Customs) . - I do not know whether it would be possible to make any explanation that would satisfy some honorable members opposite.

Mr Wilks - But an honorable member sitting behind the Government is now asking for information.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - Yes; but several honorable members of the Opposition have submitted questions that it would be impossible for any Minister to answer. The honorable member for Echuca wanted to know if I had approached the States Governments with a view to ascertain whether they would assist in carrying out the work that would have to be per formed under this measure. He also asked whether I had arranged for the administration of the Act by officers of the Customs Department or by persons outside, and so on. I do not, in the ordinary way, appeal to the States for assistance or cooperation until I am prepared to take some action ; and it will be time enough to take the step suggested, if I think it desirable to do so, when the Bill has been passed.

Mr McColl - The Minister wishes the money to . be voted before he has ascertained whether or not the States will give him the necessary assistance.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - If the States do not co-operate with us, we shall manage to administer the Act without their assistance. We shall employ properly qualified persons to perform all the work that is required. My desire all along has been to work harmoniously with the States, and I shall enlist their assistance as far as possible. Some honorable members appear to think that we should establish a Federal Department of Agriculture before making any provision for the payment of bounties. I thoroughly agree with the honorable member for Moira that we should incur great expense if we created a Federal Department of Agriculture specially for the purpose of enabling, us to carry out the provisions of the Bill. Moreover, I think that it would be unpardonable for us to duplicate the good work now being performed by the States Departments of Agriculture, under which model farms and instruction depots are being conducted. In time perhaps the States may agree to allow their Departments of Agriculture to be superseded by a Federal Agricultural Bureau, which could make available to the producers of the Commonwealth the information gained at the various experimental stations and model farms. I shall give honorable members as much information as I possibly can with regard to the manner in which it is proposed to administer the Bill. We shall frame regulations prescribing the area which must be cropped in any one year, and the minimum quantity that shall be produced from such area. We shall also specify the proportion of the bonus to be paid to the producer of the raw material and the manufacturer of the merchantable article respectively. In some cases, the bonus may be paid wholly to the producer, whereas in other cases, in which the product will be of no value until it is converted, into a marketable article, it may be necessary to distribute the bonus between the producer and the manufacturer. I am only putting this forward as a possibility. In some instances, the producer may convert his raw product into a marketable article, and thus become entitled to the whole of the bonus payable in respect of his production. We shall prescribe the quantity of the merchantable article to be produced from a given quantity of raw material. We shall require due notice to be given of the intention of any person to claim the bounty, and stipulate that the notice shall give full particulars as to the area, locality, site of the factory, works, &c. Inspection will be provided for from time to time, and provision will be made for carrying out certain conditions in regard to factories and other works. In cases where certain manufacturing operations may be necessary in order to produce a marketable commodity, we shall probably prescribe that the grower shall receive his proportion of th'e bounty upon the delivery of the raw product at the factory.

Mr McColl - That is not provided for in the Bill.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - No; that is to be dealt with by regulation.

Mr McColl - Provision should be made in the Bill.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - It is impossible to provide for all such matters of detail in a Bill. Regulations will be made relating to the inspection of factories or works for the treatment of products upon which bounties are payable. With regard to the administration, every effort will be made to avoid increased expenditure. If we had to create a new Department, and to appoint additional officers, we should have to incur considerable expenditure. But, as far as 'possible, the services of the Customs officers, cane inspectors, revenue inspectors, and officers employed in connexion with the supervision of vignerons and distillation will be availed of. The States Governments will be asked to render assistance in much the same way as in connexion with the Commerce Act. It is anticipated that this assistance will be cheerfully given, and that the services of officers connected with the Agricultural Departments, and of factory inspectors, will be placed at our disposal. In connexion with the Commerce Act, I have asked the States to allow their officers, who may technically become Federal officers, to see that, the regulations are carried out.

I have received a reply from the New South Wales Government, but I have not received any answer from the other States Governments, although I am aware that a reply from the Tasmanian authorities is in transit, because I received a telegram to that effect this afternoon.

Mr Wilks - How long is it since the Minister communicated with the States Governments ?

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - It is some three or four weeks. The New South Wales Government are willing to undertake the whole of the management if we so desire it. However, I do not intend to entirely abandon control of" the matter, but I do propose to meet the wishes of the New South Wales Government as far as it is possible to do so. In the same way, I desire to meet the other States Governments if they are prepared to agree with the proposals which I have submitted. The only question reserved for consideration has reference to the proportion of the salaries of State officers who are performing Commonwealth work which the Federal Government should pay.

Mr Cameron - Does the Minister propose to divide a certain proportion of the bounties payable under the Bill amongst the different States ?

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - I do r.of propose that all the bounties shall be disbursed in one State.

Mr Cameron - Take the case of preserved milk as an illustration. That article is produced in the various States. Would the Minister divide the amount of the bounty payable upon it upon a -per capita basis?

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - If the production of an article is suitable to several States, and persons enter upon the enterprise, a regulation will be framed to prevent the whole of the bounty payable in respect of that article from being distributed amongst the producers of one State. I wish to effect as reasonable a distribution as possible amongst the various States.

Mr Cameron - Should not the bounties be divided between commodities produced in tropical regions and those which can be produced only in temperate zones ?

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - That will be done.

Mr Cameron - In Tasmania, the bounty will be practically limited to preserved milk.

Mr Ewing - Some of the fibres specified in the schedule can be grown in Tasmania.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - Exactly. The factory inspectors, who are in touch with the producing community in the States, will be in a position to render efficient service. Where necessary, we shall ask permission to utilize the services of the police to collect information. It is anticipated that by this means full compliance with the regulations and conditions will be secured. Every care will be taken to insure that the articles to be produced are such as will command a good selling price in the open market, and that no means shall be adopted to produce any article merely for the purpose of securing the bounty, and subsequently of abandoning the industry. I do not know that there is any other point to which honorable members may desire me to refer. The departmental officers and I myself have had considerable experience in. the framing of regulations under the Commerce Act and the Trades Mark Act - experience which will be of value in drafting suitable regulations under this Bill.

Mr Kelly - How long will it take to produce a crop of cotton?

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - I should much prefer to give that information when we are considering the separate items enumerated in the schedule. By following that course, I can best conserve the time of the Committee.

Mr Kelly - But if we eliminate several items, we shall then be devoting the full amount of the bounty to encourage the production of the remaining articles.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - The Bill can always be recommitted. I tell honorable members that if many items were excised from the schedule, I should be quite prepared to insert in the clause an amount proportionate to the remaining items instead of the full £500,000. At the same time, it would be much more convenient to deal with the separate items, when the schedule is under consideration.

Sir John Quick - Does the Minister propose to make any distinction between the products of existing plantations and those of new plantations?

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - That is a question which requires serious consideration. For instance, a good deal has been said in reference to the payment of a bounty upon the production of olive oil. I know that in some places that industry cannot be made to pay. To my mind, that is a good reason why we should do something to assist those engaged in it to make it remunerative, so that they will not destroy the plantations which are already in existence. In the case of olives, if new plantations were laid out some time must necessarily elapse before the trees would come into full bearing. I am inclined to think that we should be acting wisely if we offered a larger inducement to those persons who lay out new plantations than we offer to those who have already established plantations. I speak more particularly of the case of Mildura.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The Minister will need to be very careful how he differentiates.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - I quite admit that. When I was at Mildura recently, the olive growers were threatening to uproot the whole of their olive trees. A company which bought the olives for the purpose of producing oil had commenced operations, but it declared that the industry did not pay. I should like to prevent that sort of thing. No doubt there was some justification for its complaint in that there were fruits such as raisins, currants, &c, the production of which paid very well, and, perhaps, that was one reason why the company did not invest as much in the olive oil industry as it otherwise would have done. It is proposed to appropriate £11,000 annually for the payment of bounties to the fishing industry. In addition, a sum of £8,000 has been placed upon the Estimates for the purchase and equipment of a trawler to exploit the fishing grounds along the coast of Australia. The object is to prove that a profitable industry can be developed. The question will then arise as to whether there should be a bounty paid upon the production of tinned fish, or whether the Government - for a time at any rate - should not embark upon that enterprise with a view to developing the fishing industry of Australia. I do not know whether honorable members are aware of the fact that at certain seasons of the year the pilchard, which is really a herring, passes along the eastern coast of Australia in shoals which are just as numerous as those to be found in the North of the British Islands.

Mr Wilks - When the rivers are flowing, they keep three or four miles off our coast.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - But, as a rule, they enter our bays and harbors. They come in myriads, and if the attention of our people can be directed to it, I am satisfied that as profitable an industry can be established in this connexion as exists in any . part of the world. The intention of the Government in providing and equipping a trawler, and proposing to assist the preserved fish industry, is to develop the fishing industry of Australia, and to let people know whether they can trawl with some prospect of success.

Mr Glynn - They do not trawl for herrings.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - But they catch them with trawling seines. The Treasurer has suggested that it might be possible to charter - and, if necessary, to alter - sufficient ships to undertake this work, and thus to avoid the expense involved in the purchase of a trawler.

Mr Kelly - But trawling requires a specially constructed vessel.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - We have already received a communication from a man in New Zealand who possesses several trawlers-


Sir WILLIAM LYNE - We shall not be importing one if we obtain it in Australasia. Another matter which has been debated at some length has reference to the cultivation of the rubber tree, and to the years that must elapse before newly-planted trees can attain maturity. But I would point out to honorable members that for some time the bounty proposed in this Bill is likely to be devoted to inducing persons to utilize the existing rubber trees. Those who. have not visited the North of Queensland can scarcely realize that forests of rubber trees exist there. I have seen them.

Mr Kelly - Is there not a danger of those forests being destroyed by being too frequently tapped?

Sir WILLIAM LYNE -If that be the case the matter would have to be regulated. I cannot say that I understand the method of tapping, or that I know how much rubber should be taken away.

Mr Kelly - The Commonwealth has no control over the forests of the States.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - But we might obtain control from the States. We could refuse to pay the bounty if any great destruction of the trees was going on.

Mr Kelly - The Minister will see that there is the chance of the Bill being destructive in its effect.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - There is a verylimited chance. I have given honorable members all the information that I possess upon the points which have been raised, and I hope the remaining provisions of the Bill will speedily be agreed to.

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