1st Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I desire to know when the return showing the cost of federal printing, which wasordered about three months ago, will be presented to the House ? I should like to know the cause of this extraordinary delay ?
– We have received returns from most of the States, but the information from South Australia was in such a form as to be useless, and we have again applied for it in a different shape. This has not yet been received, but I hope that the return will be completed at an early date. I shall probably be able to inform the honorable member definitely on Tuesday.
– I desire to ask the Minister representing the Minister for Defence whether, when he is making inquiries into the deplorable state of affairs which is reported to have existed on the troopship Drayton Grange, he will extend his investigation into the conditions which prevailed upon the troopship, which arrived here previously. I am advised that very similar conditions existed on board that vessel, although, fortunately, they were not attended with the same fatal results as in the case of the Drayton Grange.
– I am perfectly willing to make inquiries as desired. I may inform honorable members that I have received information by telephone this morning that the statements made with reference to the Drayton Orange are altogether exaggerated. ‘ The report of the investigating officers will be in my hands within an hour.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable and learned member’s questions are as follow : -
In Committee (Consideration of Senate’s requested amendments resumed from 7th August, vide page 14982):
Division IV. - Agricultural Products and Groceries.
Item 21,Fruits and vegetables, viz. . . . Fruits and vegetables, n.e.i., 2s. percental.
Request. - That fruits and vegetables, n.e.i., be added to the special exemptions.
Motion (by Sir George Turner) again proposed -
That theamendment requested be not made.
Upon which Mr. Sydney Smith had moved -
That the motion be amended by the addition of the following words : - “ Except as to vegetables, n.e.i.”
– When we first entered upon the discussion of the Tariff it was decided that we should not be bound by any rules which would prevent the sense of the committee from being ascertained, but that, consistent with the expeditious transaction of business, the fullest opportunity should be given to vary any amendments that might be proposed. Many honorable members who are not willing that vegetables should be admitted free might favour a reduction of the duty, and I suggest that honorable members should be at liberty, if the amendment is defeated, to propose a further amendment to the effect that the duty upon vegetables shall be reduced to1s. per cental.
– There is no objection to giving the fullest opportunity to ascertain the sense of the committee, but I submit that if honorable members negative the amendment they will thereby express their opinion against any distinction being made between fruits and vegetables. However, I do not press that point.
– The position is that the Treasurer has submitted a motion upon which the honorable member for Macquarie has moved an amendment. That amendment is now before the committee, and if it be negatived it will be quite competent for any honorable member to move to insert words in place of those rejected.
– I did not anticipate that the debate upon the advisability of removing the duties upon fodder would take place upon this item, but seeing that it has occurred, honorable members can save time by confining it to this item, and not repeating it when the request of the Senate in regard to hay and chaff is under consideration. More than one appeal has been made to the Ministry to relax these duties, which must tend unnecessarily to increase existing distress. But we are going far beyond that question here. We are asking not merely for a temporary relaxation of the duties, but for their permanent removal, so that when the present unfortunate circumstances recur - as recur they must - we shall not add to natural troubles by refusing to take steps which would afford some relief. Last night the Treasurer stated that the declared policy of the Government was revenue without destruction. I venture to say that the policy embodied in these duties is destruction without revenue. The right honorable gentleman does not expect to. derive a single penny from the duty upon vegetables, but by his action he is undoubtedly assisting in the destruction of the flocks and herds of the two great States of Australia. With what answer has the appeal made on behalf of those States been met ? When the circumstances were laid before the committee one honorable member replied with the classic word “ flapdoodle,” and proceeded to argue that those parts of Australia which are now afflicted with drought, suffered from a worse visitation in 1897. That is a most extraordinary method of reasoning. It is like saying to a man who has had his leg amputated - “ You have no reason to complain, seeing that you had your other leg amputated in 1897.” I should have thought that that circumstance made the position infinitely worse instead of better. The honorable member for Moira vouched for the accuracy of his statements regarding the cost of fodder in 1897. But the fact that a drought occurred in that year - although it really began in many districts long before that date - does not mitigate the present evils. The honorable member stated that as the owners of stock in 1897 had to pay high prices for fodder, there was no reason why they should not pay similar prices during the present drought. The honorable memberfor Macquarie however quoted figures relating to the price of fodder in 1897 which quite contradict those given by the honorable member. I wish to quote the figures given by a gentleman in the Victorian Statistician’s department, who sets down the price of fodder in. Victoria at the townships near the farms - and it must be borne in mind that in many instances those farms are nearer to the back portions of
New South Wales than they are to Melbourne - as follows: - Oats, 1896-7, 2s. 2£d. per bushel; 1897-8/ ls. 7£d. per bushel. Similarly the price of hay in 1896-7 was £2 ‘l6s. 8d. per ton, whilst in 1.897-8 it was £2 12s. 6d. As the premises of the honorable member for Moira were incorrect, it necessarily follows that, his arguments based on them were entirely fallacious. Another honorable member, after listening to the appeal for the remission of these duties, says, in effect, to the pastoralist - “Oh, .yOU do not understand your own affairs. I tell you that the abolition of these duties will do you no good. Accept my assurance. See with satisfaction your flocks and herds disappear ; acknowledge that I understand this matter better than you do yourselves, and that your requests, if assented to, would confer no benefit upon you whatever.” I venture to place my confidence in those who know and suffer. I -am quite satisfied that they understand whether or not the removal of the duties would be advantageous to them. Contrast the reception of this appeal with that accorded to other requests made during the Tariff discussion. It was represented that some industries would suffer irreparable damage if the committee adopted a certain course of action. Very often the particular industries affected employed only a few men, women, or boys. I -do not say that, therefore, the appeal should not have been made, but how much -.stronger comes an appeal when the greatest industries of Australia are endangered, and when, do what we may, enormous loss must be suffered, not only by those engaged in those industries, but by almost the entire community. What will be the result if the -breeding stock of the States chiefly affected are allowed unnecessarily to perish ? Resides the direct injury to the owners, every such loss will add to the scarcity of work in the future, and the period of that scarcity will be prolonged by further loss if we refuse to remit the duties upon the fodder which might have kept such stock alive. The -people of Australia generally are affected by the continuance of high prices which must necessarily result from a reduction in the flocks and herds of the country. If we can preserve some of that stock, however little, as the base of future increase, we shall to that extent be hastening the time when prices will return to their normal level. For these reasons the importance of this matter extends far beyond the pastoral industry and touches the interests of every consumer in Australia. What do those engaged in this industry ask 1 They do not ask for protection or for any bonus upon the export of their products. They met all the difficulties with which they were faced - and these were great and many - until they established this industry which has conferred so much benefit upon the entire continent. What is asked for is the removal of artificial hindrances, and not the gift of artificial assistance. Is that too much to ask ? The assistance can be given without any injury to those fortunate producers who have not suffered as have those exposed to the drought. At a previous stage of the Tariff discussion it was pointed out that this duty would operate only in times of scarcity, when, instead of increasing the difficulties, relief ought to be afforded. I am sorry to say that that forecast has come to pass ; and it will come true- on every occasion of scarcity. W e know that droughts will recur, and we ought to decide this question, not merely in view of present conditions, but also in view of future conditions. The objection may be raised that to afford the relief suggested will do injury to other producers who are generally more fortunate as to seasons ; but I venture to say that that fear is absolutely fallacious. In times of plenty the duties will not assist those producers, because shippers from abroad cannot face, an over-stocked market. At such times local producers will not be interfered with even if no duties are imposed. I am now alluding only to the cheaper classes of fodder in connexion with which the freight in itself affords great protection.
– Is the honorable member including maize in his remarks ?
– We are not now dealing with maize, but with vegetables, and incidentally with hay and chaff.
– New Zealand is the only country producers have to fear.
– There need be no fear of New Zealand in times of plenty. Who will pay freight in order to export to a country where there is over-production 1 There might be some reason for the policy proposed . if it were desired to make the production of cheap fodders equal to requirements in times of drought. But growers will never willingly produce quantities equal to requirements when there is serious drought in other portion.? of Australia. We do not wish to encourage them to do so, because that would only lead to heavy losses in good seasons. The demands caused by drought are exceptional, and usually there is not a sufficiency of supplies; but we can surely give the opportunity by not imposing these duties - which, it must be remembered, are of no benefit in times of’ plenty - to save sheep. cattle, and dairy herds. The removal of a duty of 25 per cent.,’ and on some lines of fodder 2s. per cental, is equivalent to 100 per cent., and would at least enable 25 per cent, more of stock to be saved ; and the abolition of a duty of 100 per cent, would, of course, mean a much greater saving. In times of drought those who are fortunate enough to have fodder would make handsome profits.
– The middleman, but not the farmer.
-If the farmer had not parted with his stock, he would make a profit. We know that usually it is the middleman who benefits, but for present purposes we may assume that the profit would be made by the farmer. In times of plenty the farmer would not benefit from the duty owing to the great internal competition, and in times of drought he would under any circumstances get a profit, though perhaps not so much as he would if there were a duty. In any case, however, while others were being ruined the farmer would prosper. The freight on this class of produce amounts to 25 per cent, to 50 per cent., and that is as much protection as has been asked for in connexion with some of the largest industries in Victoria, and ought. to be sufficient. This, of course, is a final appeal on this question. We have appealed frequently to Pharaoh - I think the Minister for Trade and Customs well represents that long-gone gentleman. The Minister hardens his . heart and, I suppose, will continue to do so ; but it is only right for those who represent suffering States to place the facts before the Government and the committee. I anticipate, of course, that we shall not be able to soften the Minister, and all I hope is that the Senate will stand its ground in connexion with these duties. If the Senate does so it will do more for the best interests of Australia than can the Ministry by their refusal to dispense with the imposts.
– While I do not always agree with the views of the honorable member for North Sydney, I can say that there are few Members of this Parliament for whose judgment I have more respect. To whatever views the honorable member may give expression, we all give him credit for being thoroughly sincere. But the honorable member was hardly fair to the honorable member for Moira: When the latter gentleman pointed out last night that the pastoralists had passed through a severe drought in 1897, he did not suggest for one moment that that fact made them better qualified to endure the present losses. The honorable member for Moira made it . very plain, I think, that the experience gained during the previous drought should have taught a lesson, by means qf which much of the unfortunate suffering being experienced at the present time might have been averted.
– How was that possible? There has been no rain in parts since 1897.
– Instances were given in which pastoralists had actually grown fodder of the kind, but instead of storing it, they preferred to sell it.
– Those were iso lated instances.
– The honorable member for Moira pointed out that the pastoralists were now buying back this fodder for double the price at which they themselves sold it. No eloquence is necessary to show the consequences of the drought. The facts come home to each of us, and every rightthinking person must sympathize deeply with the unfortunate people who are immediately concerned. The consequences of the pastoralists’ losses fall upon the whole of the community : and we, as a Federal Parliament, should deal with this question in the way that will be best in the interests of the sufferers and the people of the Commonwealth. It is not fair or right to use this unfortunate drought as the basis of an appeal to the sympathies of the people, in order to bring about by indirect means what cannot be obtained on its merits. It is not the relief of the pastoralist, through the abolition of the duty, that is sought by the amendment ; the object is to obtain a little modicum of free-trade which could not otherwise be hoped for.
– In this we have a glaring instance in the necessity for freetrade.
– Farmers, on the faith of the fiscal policy in several of the States, went to great expense in sowing crops and making provision for bad seasons ; and the amendment will deprive those men of the benefits of their forethought. And who will gain by the abolition of the duties? Not only the pastoralists but the whole of the large consumers in the cities of the Commonwealth, who can well afford to pay reasonable prices to the farmer. It is the people of the cities who will getnine-tenths or, at any rate, five-sixths of the benefit, because they consume more largely than do the few pastoralists. My sympathy with the pastoralists cannot be doubted. I have been connected with the industry all my life, and I have not only a large number of friends, but some near relatives, who are at present suffering from the drought. My business as a stock and station agent depends upon the pastoral industry, but at the same time I cannot shut my eyes to the farming interests, which are entitled to just as much consideration.
– Some of the dairy farmers are suffering more than any one else from the drought, and are paying £2 a day for feed.
– That may be so, but I contend that the method proposed is not a proper one by which to give relief. It is riot necessary to cheapen fodder in all the large cities of the Commonwealth in Order to give relief to the pastoralists. Relief can be given very much better through the different State Governments, to whom the whole of the revenue from these duties is handed. There is nothing easier than to give relief to those persons who really require it by granting them a refund of the duties paid. None of us wishes to shut out the importation of feed for those whose stock are dying. We should like to see them getting relief from any direction whence they can procure it. If they get a remission of the duty they pay they have nothing to complain of.
– Is that the way the honorable member reads the Constitution?
– I have spoken to some of the best constitutional lawyers in the Commonwealth on this subject. None of them was prepared to express an opinion in the absence of a decision by the High Court, but they certainly did not deny that what I have suggested could be done in some way.
Sir William McMillan. But what about the spirit of the Constitution?
– Does my honorable friend think that the spirit of the Constitution would prevent any State from making a direct gift to any class that was suffering either from being burnt out or from drought? The relief need not be in the form of directly repaying duties, but a State could give compensation to the value of the duties paid. Will my honorable friend say that any State Government would be debarred from importing shipments of fodder and distributing it to the pastoralists who are suffering? If the Constitution ties the hands of the people of the Commonwealth to such an extent that a State Government cannot give relief, it is an unfortunate instrument. Honorable members might as well say that the Constitution would prevent us from giving relief to thesufferers from the Mount Kembla accident as tell me that any State Government by reason of the Constitution, could not, if it chose, import shipments of fodder from any part of the world, and make a free gift of it.
– They could not if there were a High Court in existence.
– I venture to say that no High Court in the world would, in our present circumstances - unless they put a meaning upon the words of the Constitution that are not upon the face of it - prevent a State Government from importing fodder, paying the duty, and distributing that fodder amongst the persons who are suffering from the effects of the drought.
– Why should a State Government do so when we can ask the Commonwealth to refrain from plundering the people ?
– Why should the Commonwealth rob the people of the fair and honest fruits of their enterprise and industry, because my honorable friend, being a bigoted free-trader himself, wants to gain by indirect means what he feels that he cannot gain on the merits of the question? We know that all these pathetic appeals on behalf of the pastoralists, from persons who have no interest in common with them are only talk to the galleries.
If the view of honorable members opposite be correct, and if my views are fallacious, I am speaking against the interests of the people with whom the whole of my business relations exist.
– -The honorable member need not make unfair statements ; that is not usual with him.
– I should be very sorry to’ do so ; but will my honorable friend tell me seriously that his main object in this movement is not to gain a little modicum of free-trade %
– lt is not; the object is to relieve the difficulties of the pastoralists.
– My honorable friend is not as clear sighted as I gave him credit for being. Usually under such circumstances he would be able to see that the simplest way of doing what he requires would be through the Governments of the various States.
– We are not providing for the present time only, but for the future as well.
– That is a proof of what I say. I maintain - and I know it for a fact, because I have seen the effects of such a policy in Victoria - that if these duties are abolished a large number of people will, be prevented from making provision against drought, because, instead of being self-reliant and depending upon their own resources, they will be induced to depend upon foreign supplies for the relief of their necessities. That is a weak and childish policy to pursue. I should be sorry to see Australia, which has perhaps agricultural resources as large as those of any country under the sun, stop ploughing the land and producing, and depend upon the industry of more enterprising and energetic people in other parts of the world to supply its wants, and come to its relief in the hour cf need. My honorable friend the member for North Sydney, in his very plausible and able way - he puts his case so well that, if persons were not thoroughly conversant with the subject, they would be liable to be misled - pointed out that protection could not benefit the farmer, because in times of scarcity his resources are not equal to the demands of the continent.
– I was speaking of cheap fodder.
– It is quite true that in times of plenty a duty will not benefit the farmer, because he produces more than the Commonwealth can consume. When we produce in excess of our requirements we export. That is what we have endeavoured to impress upon honorable members opposite, and what they have refused to understand. We have tried to show them that when we produce more than we can consume, a duty is not a tax or a burden in any shape or form, because internal competition regulates the price. My honorable friend by own argument admitted ‘ that this morning. He forgot that he was giving away his previous contention. He admitted that when the farmers produce sufficient to supply the whole of our own requirements and leave a surplus for export the duty cannot injure the public.
– I have always said that when we over-produce prices are regulated by foreign markets.
– Then why talk about a tax on the consumer 1 I fail to see that there is any tax upon the consumer.
– It is ‘ a tax until the country gets to the exporting standard.
– It is so in regard to any commodity. Victoria at the present time, in many lines of production - such as boots and shoes - has overtaken the local demand, and is exporting. Yet my honorable friend persists in saying that a duty which is dormant upon the statute-book is a tax upon the people who use the commodities affected. What such a duty as this does is to secure the home market for our own farmers. It assures the farmers that if they have sufficient enterprise and energy to sow their lands and cultivate products they will at any rate have a market to the extent of our own requirements. But if they have to face the competition of the outside world, they will not have that assurance. Before duties were imposed in the interests of the agriculturists in Victoria, we had to import nearly everything the farmer produces. We possessed an excellent soil and climate, admirably suited for the production of agricultural commodities, but the farmers would not grow them, because they did not care to compete with the outside producer. They were afraid that perhaps there would be a glut of products in some adjacent place, which would pull down prices below the rate at which it would pay to produce them. But within a few years after the imposition of duties in the interests of the farmers we were producing largely in excess of our requirements. Then the price of wheat and other commodities came down in consequence of the internal competition.
– Is the honorable member in order in going into a general dissertation upon the benefits of protection ?
– It was understood that we were to have a. general discussion upon this item.
Mr.J oseph Cook. - I object to that. I want to facilitate the progress of business, and protest against any general debate. The item before the Chair is fruits and vegetables, and I contend that thehonorable member is not in order in discussing the whole question of agricultural products.
– On the point of order, I wish to say that I was told before I rose that the whole question of the fodder duties was to be decided on the vote to be next taken. The object of the amendment, as I understand it, is to reduce this duty, and that is to be taken to apply to the next item affecting fodder. As the amendment involves the abolition of customs duties, surely I am in order in pointing out what would be the effect of their abolition?
– Some reference was made to an arrangement, but that arrangement could not be carried out without the consent of the Chair. It is true that I said the general question relating to fodder could be debated upon this item, and that if it took place now it would probably limit the debate in regard to the duty on hay and chaff.
– The honorable member spoke on those lines.
– I did not. I merely referred to that class of fodder of which vegetables such as mangolds and turnips form part. I do not object to the line adopted by the honorable member, for I still think that the present debate will materially reduce the discussion upon the duties on hay and chaff.
– Ireferred last night to the question of the fodder duties generally, and pointed out that the item was inseparable from that relating to hay and chaff, because we were contending that the use of certain vegetables, would be of assistance to the farmers, and possibly render it unnecessary for them to pay high prices for other fodder. Although I do not agree with the honorable member’s views, I think he is in order, and that he should be allowed the latitude extended to me.
– I do not object to the settlement of the duties on fodder, or any other item, at this stage. My point is that the honorable member has no right to go into the wholehistory of protection. The honorable member for Gippsland referred to what occurred in Victoria 30 or 40 years ago, prior to the imposition of protective duties, and I contend that he was entirely out of order in doing so.
– An honest understanding was mentioned last night and again this morning, and the honorable member for Gippsland is in no way trespassing beyond the limits previously allowed. I trust that we shall obtain a ruling which will enable the question generally to be discussed.
– I understood that we were to be allowed to discuss the general question of the fodder duties on this item, but not that a debate should be allowed on the merits of protection or free-trade. Judging from the number of papers and books which some honorable members have brought into the Chamber, I am afraid that if that latitude is to be allowed, the discussion will last all day.
– It has been my desire at all times not to interpret the standing orders so strictly as to make them irksome to honorable members, and when honorable members generally evinced a desire that the discussion on this item should be allowed to travel over requests Nos. 14 and 15, I allowed it to proceed on those lines. The same arguments must be used in regard to this and the next two items, and, so far as I am aware, the honorable member for Gippsland has not gone beyond the question to which they relate. I should certainly have called him to order if he had done so.
– Shortly before the committee rose last night I paired and left the Chamber, under the impression that a vote would be taken before the adjournment. I had no time to look at the newspaper this morning, and I came here believing that the question had been settled. It was only upon entering the Chamber that I learned of the understanding to which reference has been made, and but for that arrangement I should have confined my remarks strictly to the item before the Chair. The arguments applied to vegetables used as fodder will apply to the next two items, and I think the arrangement is an excellent one to save time. I referred to the experience of farmers in Victoria some years ago only to show honorable members that, in the light of our past experience, we were justified in assuming that if the duty were abolished the farmers would not grow sufficient fodder to make provision for future dry seasons. Perhaps in five years out of six the farmer derives no actual benefit from protection, because we produce sufficient for our own consumption. It is in years of drought, when our own production is slightly below our requirements, and when he has to compete to some extent against outside competitors, that he obtains a benefit from it. My honorable friends opposite do not object to protection, provided that it does not increase by one penny the price of the article taxed, ‘ and as long as it will induce the farmer to grow sufficient to keep produce cheap to the consuming public. But the very moment the farmer is likely to obtain any benefit by reason of higher prices,’ they advocate the abolition of the duty and unrestricted competition on the part of the outside world. Nothing could be more unfair or unjust than to enter into a deliberate compact with the producers of the Commonwealth to put an Act on the statute-book securing the local market to them up to a certain limit specified in that Act, and then to abolish the duties the moment they are likely to obtain any benefit.
– To what Act does the honorable member refer 1
– To the existing State Acts protecting the productions of the farmers in the protected States. Those Acts have been confirmed by this branch of the Legislature of the Commonwealth, and on the faith of them our farmers have been cultivating their lands. The cry for the remission of these duties does not come from most of the States iu which the farmers have been protected.
– For the very good reason that they have not experienced a drought.
– My honorable friend knows that in all the States there are some areas which even in years of drought are exempt from the severity of the visitation. During any dry season that we have experienced, the farmers in New South Wales could have produced sufficient for local requirements if they had had received sufficient encouragement. But, like the Victorian farmers prior to the imposition of protective duties here, they did not feel justified in entering upon the work. They knew that in years of plenty prices would naturally be low, and if they thought that in the years of drought and scarcity they would obtain no better returns for their small supplies, they would not be so foolish as to enter upon these undertakings. What is demanded can be done, and done much more effectively, through the States Governments, and we contend they are the proper authorities to deal with this matter. Therefore I hope that honorable members, before casting a vote against the farmers, will consider the injustice of depriving them of the slightly increased prices obtainable at the present time for their produce. Those prices are not very excessive in the various centres of population, although no doubt they are materially increased, owing to the cost of carriage and other charges, by the time that the produce reaches the unfortunate pastoralists in the interior. We have known prices to be infinitely higher. I have seen £1 a bushel paid for wheat.
– The honorable member has known wheat to be imported when it . was not available here.
– The honorable member for North Sydney wishes to see it imported once more. I do not. I do not know of an industry which is so eminently suited to our conditions as is the production of wheat.
– Are not present rates, which are double the normal prices of produce, sufficient to leave a profit?
– They are substantially higher, but nothing like double.
– The honorable member says that these duties will reduce prices.
– I say that perhaps in five years out of six they will reduce them.
– Therefore they cannot be a good thing for the farmers.
– If my honorable friend could sell a commodity at a small profit, a moderate price would pay him provided that he was assured of a market.
– How can the farmer be assured of a market when the honorable member says that internal competition brings down his prices 1
– He is prepared to compete with local competitors who produce under circumstances precisely similar to those which surround him. I shall now state what he is not prepared to do. Supposing that we had a year of drought, in ‘which the yield was, perhaps, 50 per cent, less than usual, and that New Zealand, the Argentine, or California, with an exceptionally good season, had considerably above a normal yield, their surplus would be sold at whatever price could be got. That is the competition which the farmer is not prepared to meet.
– The honorable member says let them starve here, rather than that they should take that surplus ?
– I am not one of those who contend that universal protection is necessarily good. There are conditions in which free-trade is preferable to protection, and conditions in which protection is preferable to free-trade. There are industries which are not so suited to our conditions as to justify a policy of protection, while there are other industries which are well suited to our conditions of life, to our soil, and to our climate, and which, I think,’ it is worth while to protect, if protection secures a permanent and uniform reduction in price, except in Abnormal seasons. This is an industry which we all admit to be admirably suited to our conditions, and I submit that for the sake of getting an ample supply in five seasons out of six, it is worth while to pay a little more for the product during the sixth season, in order to secure to the consuming public the benefit of uniformly moderate prices. While I am sure it is the earnest desire of every honorable member, no matter on which side he sits, to afford relief in the best possible way to people who are suffering from drought, I hold that to reduce the cost of fodder to the large consumers in the various cities of the Commonwealth, at the expense of the farmer who was induced on the faith of an Act of Parliament to cultivate his land, is not a fair or just way to give that relief. The fair way is to give the relief directly to the people who are suffering from the effects of the drought. I hope that honorable members will give due consideration to the two points I have submitted. I contend that the interests of both the farmers and the pastoralists can be served by giving relief to the pastoralists directly, but without giving relief to large consumers in the various cities and large centres of population throughout the Commonwealth.
– This question presents itself to my mind in two aspects. I desire to be strictly impartial both to the unfortunate squatter and the small settler who grows turnips, and I take as my guide those perfect lines of Burns, which might at times be taken almost as a scriptural text -
M:111’s inhumanity to man
Makes countless thousands mourn.
From the appeals I have heard made in the Chamber, I can well believe that the difficulties of the large pastoralists have not been overstated. I can quite understand that there is a class of pastoralists who, having been in fairly good circumstances, have now to stare ruin in the face. I know no set of circumstances which would produce dark despair more quickly to a man who has known all the comforts of life, than to be, at a moment’s notice, faced with the position of having to give up his old home, with all its pleasant associations. There is, I should fancy, another class of pastoralists who will be able to weather the storm, however severe it may be. A pastoralist of this class will have to put his shoulder to the wheel again, as many of us have had to do, and by strenuous exertions he may in time recover from his difficulties. There is, I should imagine, still another class of pastoralists who spend thousands of pounds weekly in keeping their stock alive. As a result of the drought a pastoralist of this class may find his banker’s balance reduced and his fixed deposits or Government debentures standing at a lower ebb than in previous years. His son may have a smaller inheritance than he had previously, and his daughter may enjoy a smaller dower than her betrothed might reasonably have expected her to get. But the actual comforts surrounding that pastoralist’s life are not materially lessened. The comforts of his table are the same. The supply of delicious wines for his guests in all probability is not considerably reduced. In contradistinction to the pastoralists I have spoken of, I wish to speak of the small farmers in some of the States. In Tasmania I have seen these men go into the forest lands, having very few comforts, getting no enjoyments, rising before sunlight and bedding their horses at night by the light of a lantern day after day in extreme weather. After the forest land is brought somewhat under cultivation the first effort of a man of this class is to produce a turnip crop amidst his stumps. I have known the rabbits in a few nights to devour one-half of that which had taken months to produce. When the crop is ready for the market, the grower has to pay his neighbour 5s. a day to help him to pull and top his turnips. It costs 5s. to provide the bags for a ton of the turnips. At the most moderate rate it will cost 2s. 6d. a ton to get the crop to market. Year after year I have seen poor struggling farmers take their turnips to Devonport for export, and sell them at £1 per ton. The net price to the settler is not more than 10s. a ton. In some instances I have been called upon to help a settler through his difficulties. When the price has been exceedingly low, and no buyers have been forthcoming at Devonport, the farmer has been persuaded to send his consignment through an agent to Sydney, and I have seen the account sales showing him to be in debt, thus losing the whole production of a year. These are the normal conditions of the poor settler in the backwoods, and I speak with authority, as I know him most familiarly. During the present season the price of turnips rose to £2 per ton in Devonport, and I have known them to realize £4 per ton. These high prices have induced the settlers to rush their produce into the market, but in very many instances the middleman has reaped most of the benefit. The abnormal rise in the price of turnips has not been brought about by the special demand for food for stock, because the turnips have been needed for human consumption. Vegetables have become so scarce, owing to the drought in New South Wales and Queensland, that urgent cables have been sent to Tasmania asking that turnips might be forwarded, however high the price might be. However great the difficulties and trials of the pastoralists may be, they are no greater than those with which the ordinary small farmers have to contend year after year. It is bad farming for the grower of root crops to sell his produce, and those who are in fair circumstances would never dream of doing such a thing. Therefore, under ordinary conditions, only small farmers sell their turnips and mangolds. Under the present abnormal conditions, however, many well-to-do farmers, who generally use their mangolds and turnips for feeding their stock, have been selling them at the rate of £2 per ton, the buyer having to take them out of the ground and top them. I think that, under all the. circumstances, an opportunity is presented to give way, to some extent, to the wishes of the Senate, and that we should be evincing a compromising spirit if we reduced the duty to ls. per cental. This would give a fair amount of protection to our own producers, and would at the same time afford some relief to pastoralists who are now hand-feeding their stock. I sold the best Algerian oaten hay just before I left Tasmania on the last occasion at £3 per ton, and thousands of tons are to be obtained there at about that price. The conditions under which the hay is sold is that the farmer shall find wood and water for the buyer who sends his chaffcutting plant on to the farm. Eight shillings per ton would be required to defray the cost of the chaff cutting, and the bags required for a ton of chaff would cost 5s. Then the cost of carting the chaff to the port of shipment- would have to be defrayed, and the freight from Tasmania to Sydney would be 15s. per ton. Therefore it should be possible to land Tasmanian chaff in Sydney in first hands at £4 17s. 6d., or at the most, £5 per ton. An average crop of oaten hay would yield 1^- tons per acre. In Tasmania some of the farms are cultivated according to the most approved principles. The farmers, who pay a rent of say 10s. or l’2s. 6d. per acre fallow their land, and, therefore, do not obtain more than one crop of hay in two years. Then they have to pay for artificial manures, for putting in and harvesting the crop, and a number of other incidental expenses which would amount to, probably, £1 10s. per acre, making a total, with the rent, of £2 10s. per acre. If the farmer obtained £3, per ton for his hay, his gross return at the rate of li tons per acre would be £4 10s., and, therefore, his profit would not amount to more than £2 per acre. Those who know the conditions under which farmers have to carry on their operations, will admit that £2 per acre represents a very moderate profit. The profits derived by those engaged in commercial occupations are very much larger. Farming under present conditions is, no doubt, a delightful occupation, but it will bear no comparison with commercial life as a profitable undertaking. I think that we should deal with the requests made by the Senate in a friendly spirit, and endeavour to arrive at some reasonable compromise, and that we might very well consent to a reduction of this duty without depriving our farmers of fair protection.
– I very much regret that the duties upon hay and chaff have been discussed in connexion with the request of the Senate that fruit and vegetables should be placed upon the free list, because the effect is to confuse the issue. Hay and chaff are produced abundantly within the Commonwealth, whereas turnips and mangolds and other vegetable products of a similar character are produced here in such small quantities that they need hardly enter into our calculations. In regard to commodities produced abundantly within the Commonwealth, my sympathies are to a very great extent with honorable members who are supporting the Government, because when the States entered into the federal compact it was understood’ that a certain amount of consideration would be given to our agriculturists. It would be entirely against the spirit of the federal compact if we were to allow New Zealand to introduce her commodities into our markets with ease at all times, but the products which that colony can supply at low rates do not affect the constitutional question. The stocks available in New Zealand and the States of the Commonwealth where root crops are grown would not be commensurate with the demand. The honorable member for Gippsland suggested that the State Government of New South Wales might overcome the difficulty by remitting the duties, but that suggestion does not appeal to my mind, because it would really ‘be offering an inducement to the States to act contrary to the spirit of the Constitution, and to do that, which in a private individual would be regarded as a moral, if not a criminal, evasion of the law. I do not think that the honorable member for Moira did himself justice last night. Probably he was provoked a little by the spirit of the discussion, because he must know that the New South Wales pastoralists have not come “squealing” to this Parliament for assistance. Only within the past week I visited a property in that State, for which I act as attorney, and upon which there are 100,000 starving sheep. Although, if rain does not fall within the next three weeks, probably 50,000 of them will perish, I have never been asked by any pastoralist to press this matter in the slightest degree. I know the difficulty of feeding such a large number of sheep. If to-morrow I could land £3,000 worth of fodder at market rates upon that property, which is situated upon the Murrumbidgee, I would do so.
– It is not because the supply is not available that tlie honorable member cannot do so.
– It is because the railways cannot carry it. The Acting Prime Minister has been kind enough to place in my possession the actual figures which he has received from the Statistician’s office, and these show that in Victoria we have 3,000,000 surplus bushels of wheat, 2,165,000. bushels of oats, and 320,000 tons of hay. I have checked these figures, and I believe that they are accurate. I repeat that the fodder is available, but the railways cannot carry it. Only the other day at Albury, I saw quite an acre of ground covered with trucks, the contents of which had to be transferred to other trucks owing to the break of gauge. The New South Wales Railway Commissioners have done all they can in regard to this matter. They, are willing to carry this produce for any distance at 2s. per ton. Probably the honorable member for Moira was deceived in consequence of having visited New South Wales in some particularly good year’. Five or seven years ago that State enjoyed excellent seasons, and the result of the visits which I then paid to it induced me to believe that in Victoria the value of the land had been altogether over-estimated. In one agricultural district in New South Wales a friend of mine requested me to send him up some farming hands. I undertook to do so, and despatched him a working manager and a thoroughly .good ploughman. He cleared about 2,000 or 3,000 acres. That was seven years ago, and during the whole of that period he has not taken off the ground in the way of crops as much as he has put into it. How can the honorable member for* Moira say that fodder can- be grown under conditions of that kind ?
– -I did not say so.
– I understood the honorable member to say that it was entirely the fault of the pastoralists themselves that, in good seasons, they did not provide against bad years.
– Outside the timber belt the land in New South Wales is not fit for agriculture, and I have always said so.
– From the way in which the honorable member spoke last night I thought that Victoria might well be accused of being a cabbage garden, because he dealt entirely with small areas.
– I was dealing with half the area of New South Wales.
– I am speaking of country not very far west of Narrandera.
– I was dealing with country 100 miles from where I live. Only two years ago I saw 2 tons to the acre taken off Toganmain.
-But one cannot suddenly enter into big operations of that character. I find fault with the honorable member for having accused the pastoralists of coming “ squealing “ to this House for assistance when it is not the case. Of course, there is no doubt that the dairy farmers do not grow sufficient fodder, even in good seasons. I well remember reading an article by an American writer who addressed himself to this subject. He said, “ We often hear farmers calling out for a better class of dairy cow ; but if the cow could speak she would probably ask for a better class of dairy farmer.” Admitting all that, however, we are faced with an abnormal condition as regards dairy farms. It is all very well to say that because the dairy farmers neglect to adopt a certain course, and because the Constitution says so and so, we can do nothing for them. Nero fiddled while Rome burned. We say the State Government should do this, and the Federal Government should not do that, and nothing is being done. I hold that no matter of mere sentiment should be allowed to stand in the way of admitting root products such as mangolds, turnips,&c., from New Zealand free of duty. There is plenty of hay and chaff inVictoria which could be exported to New South Wales if the railways could carry it.
– Victoria is still exporting hay and chaff beyond the Commonwealth. A thousand bales have been sent away during the past six weeks.
– I desire honorable members to take a reasonable view of this matter, and to admit fodder which cannot be raised in Australia, but which can be plentifully supplied by New Zealand, free.
Sir WILLIAM McMILLAN (Wentworth). - I think that this subject has been most ably and exhaustively debated by both sides of the Chamber, and I merely rise now so that I shall not give a silent vote, We are not discussing this question from the point ofview of the refusal ofthe Government to grant a remission of the fodder duties. As was pointed out by the honorable member for North Sydney, we are debating it from the stand-point of the future. In regard to the remarks of the honorable member for Gippsland, I am sure that riper reflection will induce him to change his opinion, and to recognise that it would be very dangerous for us to declare that whenever any State desired to interfere with Commonwealth legislation, it could do so by refunding duties imposedby this Parliament. The whole principle upon which uniformity of trade throughout Australia is based is one of equality. We are told that the States have a legal right, but no matter what legal right there may be, I do not think that any State ought to break the spirit of the Constitution. Most of the speeches from the other side have been of a very provincial character ; and the extreme weakness of the honorable member for Gippsland’s case is shown when he asks why the Government of New South Wales do not refund the duty, or, if necessary, directly import fodder for the starving flocks and herds.
– I only gave that as an illustration.
SirWILLIAM McMILLAN. - But surely that would have the same effect as a remission of the duty.
– I pointed out that in the one case the pastoralists who are suffering from the drought would get the whole of the benefit, and in the other case the large cities of the Commonwealth would reap the advantage.
– Thatdoes not affect the position of the honorable member, which is that even in times of drought the farmer who watches his opportunity ought to have the advantage of the market. But if the State steps in as much injury is done to the farmer as by a remission of the duties.
– The State would not step in, for instance, in Melbourne.
– I do not intend to say anything further on that point. We are new to many great constitutional questions, which must be debated very keenly, and which may in some instances come before the High Court, and in the future, possibly, cause strained relations amongst the States. We ought to be careful before we commit ourselves as to what is a fair course to be adopted by any State on the broad basis of federation. The honorable member for Gippsland says that the desire is to take advantage of the drought, in order to get a modicum of free-trade - that the sole object is to break down the entrenchments on the other side. But for a moment we might broaden our view of the whole situation. It is granted, I think, that when we impose a duty, we do so for the general benefit of one large class of the population. At the present moment, not only the squatters, but the dairy farmers and agricultural settlers throughout the length and breadth of Australia are calling out for relief. But is it not a fact that, notwithstanding the interests of the little district represented by the honorable member for Moira, and notwithstanding the interests of Tasmania, it is proposed to impose a duty against the interests of the great majority of the people, whom, under the guise of the Tariff, we are supposed to assist. Of course, I am now referring only to the two articles, turnips and mangolds. I believe that the great body of agriculturists of Australia, combined with the pastoralists and others interested in stock, are entirely against a duty which will shut out New Zealand turnips and mangolds. If that be the case, the question is being regarded from the wrong point of view. The honorable member for Gippsland talks about the necessity of farmers growing produce for winter, and I believe that in this connexion there is a great weakness in our farming community. But even in the dairying districts there are large numbers of farms which, with the grazing land, have very little fit for proper cultivation, the latter costing from £20 to £40 per acre.
– It is very poor dairying land that is not agricultural land.
– It is nevertheless a fact that a great deal of the dairying land is fit only for grazing. I do not mean to say that an effort should not be made to cultivate, but when we consider that much of the land used by agriculturists and dairy farmers is second class, and only fit for grazing, it is ridiculous to talk about raising these particular commodities in the far interior Here we have a body of citizens whom, presumably, we are trying to protect, but who do not want protection.
– Most of the dairying land is of the very best.
– It is difficult to dissent at times from the honorable member for Gippsland, who is so strong and impressive as to make me almost doubt my reason. In this country we desire the farmer to supply milk not merely during five, six, or seven months of the year, but, as in the older countries, all the year round. But we cannot, with an autocratic wave of the hand, tell the former that he must also cultivate other commodities. As a matter of fact, farmers do cultivate oats and other products. This time of scarcity is no mere incident, but will recur again and again in two of the largest States ; and at the very time the farmer is being urged to make sheds for cattle and increase his supply of milk during the winter, he is being deprived of the means of doing so.
– And we are attempting to take the duty off his products.
– I do not pretend to be an expert, although I have learned a little lately. But there is a difference between the stuff grown for fodder and that grown for the market.
– What is the distinction?
– I know that in isolated portions of Australia this produce is raised for feed, but the great mass of the people, whose interests we ought to conserve, simply grow fodder for consumption on their own farms.
– Every item raised for home consumption has a market value.
– This product will not stand any duty ; and here we have an instance of the cruel cunning - I can use no other expression- by which the duty has been raised practically to the point of prohibition. I am interested in some of the. items, my attention, as a matter of business, having been drawn to the importations from abroad during the last five or six months. This drought’ is not an ordinary visitation, but one of the most fearful ever experienced in Australia ; and when to the price of the commodity in Australia is added the freight and other charges, we get just to the point at which it is too risky to import, and this or any duty on a low-priced product becomes absolutely prohibitive. I agree with the honorable member for Grampians that we should differentiate between this and other fodders. The present duty, as I have said, deals with only two articles, turnips and mangolds, which are the lowest kinds of fodder. We are considering fodder of a succulent character, which is necessary along with the preserved fodder. In times of drought such as the present, the only fodder we can grow is hay and other dry stuff, and the turnips and mangolds, which cannot now be supplied in Australia, are absolutely necessary in order to keep the stock in perfect health.
– Did the honorable member ever calculate the cost of feeding stock on imported turnips?
– I do not know that I have, but I know the cost of feeding stock, because I have been paying £100 a month on that score. I am not dealing with this question in view of the present drought. The condition of drought has become largely chronic, and will recur in two of the largest States, which contain probably a majority of the population of Australia. At the present time the population of New South Wales is 1,350,000, and that of Queensland something over 500,000 ; and the conditions, climatic and otherwise, of these States are much on allfours with those of Western Australia. When we add the population of Western Australia to that of the two eastern States, we have represented more than half of the whole people of Australia.
– There is sufficient agricultural land to supply the whole of Australia.
– I am endeavouring to take abroad view of the position. The populations which are increasing in the greatest ratio are those of New South Wales and Queensland, and in a very few years these will be the preponderating States. We are framing, not a provincial Tariff, but a national Tariff for a Commonwealth with a coast-line of 8,000 miles.
– The honorable member is forgetting that Queensland was a protected State.
– Surely honorable members can broaden their view beyond isolated areas, where turnips are grown under favorable circumstances. What we have now to consider is two-thirds or four-fifths of the whole of Australia. I am not pleading on account of the present drought, or merely on account of New South Wales, but I do say that the richest and most populous part of Australia to-day is the part to which we can refer as a ground for this concession. One thing about the Tasmanian farmer, and others of the class to which he belongs, is that they can always make a living, but when you come to deal with the pastoralist you have to face conditions in which men may be wiped out altogether. That is the condition of thousands of men in Australia at the present time, and they are engaged in industries which form the backbone of our material wealth. When party feeling ran high in this Chamber it might have been reasonable for representatives of the farmers to fight hard to gain a majority, but in view of the circumstances in Australia as a whole, I contend that we should rise above mere provincialism, and be glad to take advantage of the opportunity which the Senate has afforded us to give way a little.
– I do not propose to enlarge upon the question before the Chair, except to correct some statements that have been attributed to me, but which I never made. It has been alleged by the honorable member for Darling that I posed as a New South Walespastoralist. I spoke of the pastoralists of New South Wales, but I did not pose as being one of them now.
– The honorable member posed as an authority.
– I said that I had had some experience and interests in New South Wales, but I told the committee distinctly that that was some ten years ago. My figures have been challenged with regard to the price of produce, and I intend to quote the prices for the respective years I shall refer to. The chief articles of fodder are hay and chaff. I said last night that I did not refer to the value of root crops in 1897 and 1902, but I did refer specifically, as will be found on reference toHansard, to the value of hay and oats. I find that the value of chaff in Melbourne, on the railway or wharf, is quoted at £3 15s. to £4. In 1897 I find, from the very same authority, that hay and chaff were quoted at from £5 to £5 10s. I have taken the month of May in each year. I might also remind the committee that the drought in 1897 practically broke in July, and we should have a recurrence of the very same conditions as then occurred, if we had a large rainfall. There would at once be a drop in the price of the different kinds of fodder. As to the great relief that is going to accrue to New South Wales from the remission of these duties, and as to the sources of supply, I will take the relative values ruling in the Australasian States from which we are likely to get fodder. I find that hay is quoted in the New Zealand Times’ market reports at £4 10s. per ton. I find exactly the same price ruling in Melbourne this week. I might state, however, that during the past week there has been a rise of from 5s. to 7s. 6d. per ton. Oats are practically on a parity of value in New Zealand and Victoria, as quoted in the New Zealand Times of 24th July. The price is from 2s.11d. to 3s.1d. for feed oats, and from 3s. 3d. to 3s. 5d. for seed. This shows that the duties are not injurious, inasmuch as in regard to oats, chaff, and hay we have a lower level of values ruling in Melbourne than rules in New Zealand. I also find that a considerable quantity of food produce is at present being exported to South Africa. I quite agree with the honorable member for Tasmania, Mr. Hartnoll, in his statement that turnips, imported from New Zealand and Tasmania, are not used for the feeding of stock, but for human consumption. I was told by the honorable member for Parramatta last night, that I had lectured the committee from the infinite fund of knowledge which I possessed with regard to stock. I am going to plunge a little further in that direction, and refer to the prices that are admitted as ruling for turnips at present. It is admitted that they are being landed in Sydney for £3 per ton ; that is 3s. per cwt. Will any one who is acquainted with the use of turnips as fodder for stock, tell me what is the quantity of turnips that a sheep must consume in a week to keep it in its normal condition ? With fresh turnips mixed with a modicum of dry feed you must give a sheep, from 8 to 12 stone in weight, at least 1 cwt. a week to keep it in its normal condition.
– It is a question of keeping sheep alive, not in their normal condition.
– Let honorable members turn to the best authorities. I refer them to the experience of the experimental farms in America, where this line of investigation has been carried on to the highest possible limit. It will be found, on the authority of such writers as Armsby and Fream, that you must have a certain amount of dry feed mixed with 1 cwt. of turnips per week, to keep a sheep alive and in its normal condition.
– That is all nonsense. I have no hesitation in saying so, and I speak from experience.
– I am telling the committee what the authorities say. I have deliberately stated that this is not my own information. The authority I have quoted can be produced here, and I hope that those who challenge the statement will do me the courtesy of apologizing for their contradiction, when they learn that I am quoting from Fream’s Complete Grazier, at page 957, where he says that “an 8-stone sheep will eat 1 cwt. of turnips per week, with dried feed in addition.”
– The honorable member is deliberately misleading the committee in speaking about the normal condition of a sheep.
– I specifically referred to keeping sheep in a normal condition.
– No; the honorable member did not.
– Will the honorable member deny the authority I have quoted ?
– The authority is all right. It is the use the honorable member is making of it that I complain of.
– From the New Zealand Times market reports from Wellington, I find that Swede turnips were quoted on the 24th July at 40s. per ton. It was admitted last night that the cost of freight, transit, and putting turnips on the market in Sydney would come to £1 per ton. Therefore, £3 per ton is the value of imported New Zealand turnips in Sydney at present. That is a fair statement of the position.
Mr.J oseph Cook. - Will the honorable member read the whole statement of the authority as to the amount of turnips required to keep a sheep.
– I have given the gist of it from Fream’s Complete Grazier. The authority from which I quoted the ruling prices for hay and chaff in 1897 and 1902 respectively was the Argus of the 24th May, 1897, and May, 1902. In order to protect one’s utterances in this committee, I find that it is absolutely necessary to specifically mention authorities which cannot be refuted. My experience is that there is a tendency on the part of some honorable members not to criticise what one has said, but to attribute to him words that he has not used. When I referred to the values of different kinds of products required at the present time for feeding stock, I distinctly stated that I was speaking not from my own personal experience, but that I was quoting an authority on the subject. I even gave the page from which I quoted. I repeat that, according to that authority, 1 cwt. of turnips per week, with dried feed in addition, is necessary in order to keep an 8-stone sheep in a normal condition. The extract which I gave was flatly contradicted by the honorable member for Parramatta, who said that Fream did not say so.
– I did not say that.
– The paragraph from which I quoted is as follows -
In calculating the quantity of stock which a crop may carry, the weight of the crop must be considered. If there is an average of20 tons per acre, including swedes, kohl-rabi and mangolds, it may be taken that an8-stone sheep will eat 1cwt. per week, with dry food in addition. A 12-stone sheep, under the same conditions, would require1½cwt. ; and an old sheep, if allowed as much as it could eat, with a short allowance of dry food, would probably consume between 2 and 3 cwt. per week.
I took what from my pointof view was the mostdisadvantageous position, forI cited the case of a sheep eating the least quantity. The cost of New Zealand turnips, exclusive of duty, in Melbourne or Sydney, is 3s. per cwt., and - discounting by 50 per cent. the quantity of turnips said by this authority to be necessary - if it were possible to sustain an8-stone sheep on 56 lbs. of turnips per week, the cost to the stock-owner would be1s. 6d. per week, exclusive of the cost of transit from Sydney into the interior, and of giving this feed to the stock. The cost of feeding a sheep for eight weeks at that rate would thus represent the actual value of a store sheep to-day.
– Is not that being done in many cases ?
– I do not know of a single instance.
– There are scores of herds which have eaten their value twice over.
– It is possible that graziers have fed their stocks at that cost : but is it likely that keen business men would feed them with turnips when they could keep them in an equally good, if not better, condition on fodder which is more readily obtainable, and can be purchased at one-fifth the cost? I have said already - and I think the statement has been confirmed - that where sheep have plenty of paddock room and easy access to water it is possible to keep them on½ lb. of wheat per day, provided that they have not got down too low. Let us fix the allowance at 1 lb. per day.
– It is impossible to feed them only on wheat.
– I beg respectfully to differ from the honorable member. I have fed them in that way. I can name a number of stock-owners, including some of the biggest graziers, who have also done so during the present year. I know that Mr. Horsfall, of Momalong, has adopted this practice. There are conditions under which sheep will not thrive when fed only on wheat, but over the greater portion of the lime and salt country of New South Wales they will live for a considerable time and maintain a fair condition of health when fed in that way, provided that they have easy access to water. Taking the maximum price of wheat ruling in any of the ports to-day at 4s. 6d. per bushel, and doubling the allowance by fixing it at 1lb. per day, the result is that a stockowner can maintain his sheep on wheat at a cost of8d. per week, instead of having to pay1s. 6d. per week for feeding them on turnips. The same thing applies to the use of oats, hay, or chaff. My own opinion is that a mixed ration is the best food for stock under such conditions, but we know that it is impossible to obtain it. Turning to authorities as to the food qualities of different products, what do we find ? I do not pretend to know anything of chemistry ; but I am aware that protein is the chief factor in determining the value of any of these food products. According to Henry Armsby, Ph.D., director of the Pennsylvania State College Agricultural Experimental Station, whose opinions are confirmed by tests which have been carried out upon a scientific basis, turnips do not contain one-fifth of the quantity of protein to be found in any of the other products which we are using to sustain sheep, cattle, or horses. They contain a very large quantity of water, but only one per cent. of protein. I should not have ventured to detain the committee by dealing with these matters, but for the fact that my authorities were absolutely challenged.
– The honorable member did not quote his authority. He quoted only a part of it. It was that to whichI took exception.
– I said at the time that I was giving an extract.
– The honorable member said nothing about normal conditions, and I objected to his omissions.
– The honorable member for Tasmania, Mr. Cameron, inquired by way of interjection, in what condition the ration to which I was referring would maintain sheep, and I said that I was referring to the keeping of stock in a normal condition.
– That was after what I had said.
– The honorable member left the Chamber saying that he would not believe the authority. It is all very well for him to quibble when he is in a corner.
– The honorable member is saying what is absolutely incorrect. He is quietly undoing all that he did before.
– Armsby shows in a comparative table the relative values of the different products used for stock feeding purposes, and it is evident from that table that, in proportion to their weight, turnips are one of the poorest products used for that purpose. They are considerably inferior to mangolds, and, weight for weight, are not of one-fifth the value of oats, wheat or barley. Of course, as stated by the honorable member for Grampians, it may be that there are cases in which it would not do to feed stock only on wheat. There is an authority on thesubject - a book written by W. Seller and H. Stephens, of Edinburgh, The Bearing and Feeding Live Stock. These authorities all confirm the position . I have taken up, that, having regard to their relative values, one ton of turnips would not be equivalent to 5 cwt. of hay or grain when deposited on the pastoral holdings in the western country where artificial feeding is necessary.
– In England stock are fed on turnips and mangolds.
– Then, why all this outcry about the duty ? The acting leader of the Opposition said we were dealing with a class of produce which could not be grown to any great extent in Australia.
– Inever said so. I said that in a large part of Australia, the persons whose interests we are trying to conserve could not grow fodder.
– The country in the northern part of Victoria and the western part of New South Wales and Queensland is not at all adapted to agriculture. But it cannot be questioned that practically more than a third of the area of New South Wales is well adapted to agriculture. It has been said that I have spoken without knowledge of the general conditions of the dry districts in New South Wales. I put in four years within a few miles of Booligal, which is described as synonymous with a very hot place, and I spent twelve years altogether in the State, so that I know well the general conditions prevailing from Twofold Bay to Bourke. And as regards southern Riverina, I am carrying on farming operations on the other side of the river.
– Has a third of the area of New South Wales been well adapted to agriculture during the past two years?
– Some of the best agricultural areas in New South Wales, as in Victoria, are held out of agricultural use, and devoted entirely to stock-raising purposes. Some of the best agricultural lands to be found in Australia are so held in New South Wales. It is perfectly true, as the honorable member for Grampians says, that on the Murrumbidgee Plains wheatgrowing was not a success during the past harvest.
– Nor for six or seven years.
– The honorable member will not deny that in the previous year 2 or 3 tons of hay to the acre could be successfully grown, and that even grass hay to the extent of 1 ton to the acre could be cut on the Murrumbidgee Plains?
– One year in seven.
– It is true that during the last seven years the rainfall in the interior of Australia has been a diminishing quantity, but, notwithstanding adverse conditions, the average rainfall in Riverina last year was considerably above that of Victoria, and consequently the average hay yield in Riverina was considerably above that in Victoria. Yet we find to-day that stock are starving in Riverina. It was simply through the improvidence of the people that provision was not made for these abnormal conditions. . Ask any pastoralist in New South Wales, in Victoria, or in Queensland if there is a possibility of keeping stock alive with turnips, and what will the reply be? No one in the blouse is better acquainted with the conditions of pastoral industry in New South Wales and Victoria than is the honorable member for Grampians. What opinion does he express? He says that with the supplies available here it is impossible for him to get fodder landed at the place where stock are starving at a price he is prepared to pay. New Zealand values for oats and hay chaff are actually on a par with Melbourne values, yet the honorable member distinctly says that through the inability of the railway staffs to meet the abnormal demand for haulage, he cannot, and will hot, enter into a contract for the delivery of this foodstuff.
– What about dairymen and carriers ?
– Unfortunately I am engaged in dairying pursuits. In the district in which I live dairymen who a year ago were receiving for their produce from £20 to £40 per month, are paying from £10 to £30 a month to keep their dairy herd alive. I told the House last night that some dairy farmers who sold the produce of last harvest for £2 a ton are getting it back at £5 a ton. It was from want of forethought that it was sold.
– It may have been done from want of money !
– It was not a question of actual necessity with any of the men whom I have in my mind’s eye, though there may have been some exceptional cases. Let us realize more clearly the varying conditions with which we are confronted from year to year in these States. In Victoria, for a cycle of years, we sold beef down to 9s. a cwt., and we sold fat mutton in Melbourne and Sydney for1d. per lb. Unless we realize the true causes of these troubles, we shall not discover a perfect remedy. Weshould preserve our market to our own people, induce pastoralists and others to grow hay, grain, and root crops for the maintenance of their stock under normal conditions, and educate them up to the necessity of conserving that class of fodder for abnormal conditions. It has been said that I have a sovereign contempt for the disasters of the pastoralists. That statement is only made by those who do not know that I depend on pastoral and agricultural pursuits for my livelihood. If any one should have a true sense of the necessities of the situation I think I should. We have not enjoyed a very fair season by any means. In my district there are farmers who practically reaped no harvestlast year. Where the average yield had been 15 bushels they got only 6 or 7 bushels, and some of the crop was not worth harvesting. We have not had sufficient rainfall since last August to grow a bit of grass. The district has not lost any stock from want of feed. Last night I said that Australia lost a larger percentage of stock in a previous year than she is losing in this year. I repeat that statement.
– The honorable member said it was through the fault of the pastoralists, because they had not grown any fodder. Can it be grown in the western division of NewSouth Wales?
– No, and I gave a specific illustration on the Murrumbidgee. Australian agriculturists should go in for a system of mixed farming, and conserve some of their surplus for times of necessity.
– Had the honorable member to sell his sheep this year from want of feed?
– The honorable member did not make any provision.
– I have not lost any stock yet. I am looking for the true remedy, in order that we may not have a recurrence of present conditions. I am not playing to the gallery. I find that the quantity of hay and chaff exported from the Commonwealth to South Africa during the last 12 months amounts to 93,000 tons, and that shipments are still going on, although to a limited extent.
– The imports amounted to only 62 tons.
– That affords evidence that we have a sufficient quantity of fodder, at a parity of values, to feed a considerable number of stock that are not being hand-fed at present.
– Why does the honorable member want to retain the duty ?
– Why does the honorable member wish to have it taken off:? Honorable members who support the remission of the duties are simply advocating a fad. I am pleased that my statements have been challenged, because I recognise that they are fair subjects for criticism, and all I ask is that I shall be criticised upon the statements I make, and not upon the impressions of honorable members as to the nature of my utterances.I have quoted my authority, and I have proved that what 1 stated was taken verbatim from the text of that authority.
Mr. JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta).We are obliged to the honorable member for yet another lecture, and we are indebted to honorable members on the Government side of the chamber, for having once again pointed out the cause of the whole trouble in Australia, and how the remedy can be immediately applied. We have been told once again that protective duties will force the pastoralists and agriculturists all over the country to raise their own fodder crops. This is all very interesting, no doubt, but it is sickening to be told over and over again that which we already know.. The pastoralists and- agriculturists who are suffering from the drought do not want to be told their duty, but they need some help. They know that they have -made mistakes, and they are as well aware as the honorable member for Moira of the causes of their present unfortunate condition. Therefore, what is the use of the honorable member wasting time in telling them facts which have been brought home to them by the most bitter experience 1 The pastoralists and agriculturists are asking us to tide them over a difficulty, and tell us at the same time that they will see whether they cannot alter their methods when more normal seasons come round. What is the use of giving to men who are almost in a death grip the relative values of turnips and wheat for feeding sheep? All that would be very well in the lecture-room, and would be most interesting to discuss there, but it is not in point when stock arc starving, and their owners are in need of help, which this Parliament can and should afford at the earliest possible moment. I did not challenge the authority quoted by the honorable member for Moira, but I asked that he should quote fully. The honorable member gave us the full quotation, only when I insisted that he should do so. He told us in the most airy and general way that a sheep would require 1 cwt. of turnips per week, in addition to other kinds of food, and it was only when I interjected the question, “For what purpose?” that he said, “To keep it in normal condition.” The honorable member suppressed that important portion of the quotation, and that made all the difference. We are not asking that sheep should be kept in “ normal condition,” nor are we asking that they should be given all the food they want, which, according to the authority quoted by the honorable member, would amount to 3 cwt. of turnips per week. We ask for the food necessary to keep the sheep alive, not rolling in plenty. We are not now speaking of normal conditions, but of a time of drought, when the great problem is to keep sheep, not rolling fat, but alive.
– “Rolling fat” is not a normal condition.
– I am obliged to the honorable member for his profound information. . The analytical quality of his mind is surpassing. -But this is not the place for him to air his theories. The honorable member for Moira told us that if a sheep were given all it wanted it would require 3 cwt. of turnips per week. No one disputes that; but it has nothing whatever to do with the matter we are now discussing. Moreover, no one has suggested that we should feed sheep on turnips’ instead of wheat, and therefore the honorable member’s comparison as to relative values of turnips and wheat as food for sheep is entirely beside the mark. We say that the squatters and dairymen want turnips to mix with dry food for their sheep and ‘ cattle, and no one suggested that pastoralists would feed their sheep entirely on turnips even if they could get them without the payment of the duty. We are speaking in the interests of the farmers, as well as are the honorable member for Moira and the honorable member for Gippsland. The farmers require cheap fodder, and cannot procure it, and they wish to have the duties remitted. If we believed in the theory of the honorable member for Gippsland that the higher the duty the cheaper fodder would become, we should ask that the duties might be piled on, because the owners of stock require both turnips and wheat at cheap rates, and they will use both in the way that seems best to them. From the remarks of the honorable member for Moira it would appear that every one who holds a view opposite to himself is an arrant fool ; that the pastoralists and agriculturists are arrant fools, and that they are asking for what would not suit them if they could obtain it. The honorable member for Laanecoorie also said last night that the stock-owners were arrant fools, and had no sense.
– I said nothing of the kind. I said. they were not fools.
– The honorable member said they were not fools, but that they had no sense. That is a very nice distinction to draw. We may tell the farmers what they should do to grow fodder at some time when the skies are more kindly, and when the rains have fallen and refreshed the earth. In the meantime they cannot grow crops whilst the ground is baked and parched, as it has been in some cases for years. The Agricultural department of New South Wales, with which I was connected for twelve months, has been engaged for the last nine years in making experiments upon a farm in the midst of the drought-stricken country. Year after year they have carried on the struggle in the hope that better conditions would prevail, but they have now given it up, because they cannot get their crops through the ground, and cannot make the farm pay.
– No one but the New South Wales Agricultural department would attempt to grow wheat under those conditions.
– The honorable member brings us back to the old position, that every one is a fool but himself. One of the best agriculturists in New South Wales had the management of that farm, but after seven or eight years’ experience lie failed to accomplish any good result, and the farm has been abandoned. What folly it is for the honorable member for Moira to tell the farmers and pastoralists that they should overcome climatic conditions, and grow their own fodder ! If the honorable member were to show them how they could do it, they would give him a great deal more money than he could earn by following his present occupation. He is the man whom they have been seeking for years. If he can grow fodder in the far west he is the most wonderful individual in the world, because nobody else can do it. It has been attempted, and the attempt has failed because of the climatic conditions which exist. That is the most effective answer which can be given to the honorable member. His methods would have been adopted in the great areas which are suffering most severely from drought had that course been possible. I had intended to deal with some remarks of the honorable member for Gippsland, but I am disposed to let him off, because his impressive style al ways disarms me. I hope that he will not again challenge me to debate with him, because I tell him candidly that I would not undertake the contract, as I know that his impressive manner would gain the sympathy of the audience. One remark, however, was made by the honorable member for the Grampians, concerning which I desire to say a few words. He stated that under our federal conditions we ought not to be too eager to admit produce from New Zealand free. I wish to ask whether he imagines when we desire to obtain New Zealand produce that we do so with the object of - obliging New Zealand sellers 1 I always understood that we do so from a desire to benefit ourselves.
– I drew a distinction between that which we produce abundantly, and that which we cannot produce.
– Our whole reason for wishing to buy New Zealand produce is that we believe we can obtain it upon advantageous terms. We desire a remission of the duties upon fodder so th:it our own people who cannot raise it for themselves may have a chance of securing it. The honorable member talked about the Riverina district. But I. would point out that we are not concerned with the Riverina farmers - they can shift for themselves. We are concerned, however, with a great portion of New South Wales where it has been proved, year after year, that it is absolutely impossible to produce this fodder. In time of drought, therefore, it must be imported either from other parts of the Commonwealth or from places beyond it. Just now it can be secured more advantageously from outside the Commonwealth. That is why we think that, in time of special stress like the present, these duties should be removed.
– The fact that the honorable member for Moira concentrated his attention upon turnips has given rather an unfair turn to this debate. It was understood that the committee were to discuss the duties upon fodder, and not the question of how long a sheep can live upon turnips. As I pointed out previously, if turnips were imported from New Zealand they might possibly be utilized for stock purposes by the dairy farmers in our coastal districts, thus relieving, to some extent, the demand which exists for other classes of fodder in the interior. According to the Pastoralists’ Review it has been found in Argentina that thistles form an excellent fodder for stock, and the editor, in a brief footnote to a letter upon this subject, says -
We have recently heard of 25,000 acres in Riverina which, through the summer of 1894-5, carried 50,000 sheep and 700 head of cattle on thistles alone.
To be consistent, the honorable member for Moira should therefore propose the imposition of a duty upon thistles, because they might be imported from Argentina as a fodder. He has endeavoured to convince the committee that if we levy a duty upon fodder, it will make it cheaper.
– I did not -refer to that aspect, of the question.
– Probably after the lapse of a week or two we shall find out what the honorable member does mean. Last night he blamed the pastoralists for neglecting to grow their own fodder, but finding that the committee would not accept him as an authority upon the feeding of stock, he “introduced other authorities. In this connexion I wish to quote from Mr. S. Fairbairn, who, in an interesting letter to the Queenslander, says -
We are continually reading in the papers recommendations to cut and store the natural grasses in good seasons to make fodder provision for bad seasons, arid the impression in the public mind is that the grazing tenants in Queensland are improvident in not having done so. All the sheep men know the utter absurdity of doing anything of the sort, and therefore I think it worth while to write and point out that absurdity. I am dealing with the inside county, where the drought prevails mostly, and where the grasses make the best bush hay.
After entering into details regarding what is requisite, he thus summarises the result of his investigations -
It would be impossible to cut and stack it at £.1 a ton, and it would cost another £1 a ton to distribute it, so that by the time you had cut, stacked, and fed the sheep with it, it would have cost £.1 a sheep.
That is the statement of a thoroughly practical man in contradistinction to the theoretical advice given by outside people who know nothing whatever about the subject. The same writer goes on to show that a vast army of draught horses, waggons, and hay cutting machines would he required to cut the grass and stack it even for 100,000 sheep, because it would mean cutting 15,000 acres. Quoting again from the Pastoralists’ Review, for 16th June of the present year, I find the following records of actual experiences of pastoralists having the control of large estates, chiefly in Riverina -
On one place 17,000 lambing ewes were fed on 1 lb. of chaff, ^ lb. of oats, and they saved 70 per cent, of lambs. Weaners were allowed lb. of chaff, and J lb. of oats.
On another place wethers are being fed on 4 lb. of oats, and they get a little picking in the paddocks as well.
Another system of feeding for ewes is % lb. of bran and £ lb. of chaff, and this has given excellent results, so good that one of the most experienced managers tells us that it may be considered the best, and better than any of the above.
Cost, average 8d. per week, and some even up to ls., according to distance from railway. Cattle are getting 6 lbs. of hay a day, which just keeps them alive, but this only when feeding starts, when they are in good condition.
– I said that the cost averaged 8d. per week.
– But the honorable member did not tell us that some sheep cost ls. per week. Moreover, he knows that most pastoral country is situated a considerable distance from the railway, and that, therefore, the cost of cartage is no small matter. Regarding the use of maize, the same publication states - -
The quantity allowed for sheep is from J lb. upwards daily, according to what can be afforded, and condition of the sheep..
Other pastoralists have found the pricklypear an excellent fodder for stock, and one individual advocates the use of the bottletree cut into chips. Therefore, the honorable member for Moira should move for the imposition of a duty upon bottle trees. I understood him to say that sufficient fodder could be grown in the agricultural districts of New South Wales to supply the needs of the pastoralists in bad times.
– That is so.
– That means that certain individuals who live by growing wheat, oats, hay, &c., are expected to produce a sufficient quantity in a good season to be able to supply the pastoralists in times of drought. They are to keep this fodder stored and to wait for droughts to occur before realizing upon it. That is an absolutely ridiculous position for any one who professes to be a farmer to take up. Both in New South Wales and Victoria there are pastoralists who hold land which is fit for agriculture. These could grow upon their agricultural areas fodder that would serve as a “ stand-by,” but to suggest that the farming community should grow and store fodder for other people is ridiculous. The farmer cannot afford to grow surplus fodder for the purpose of storing it, and then wail until the pastoralist is prepared to purchase it. He must live.
– The pastoralist could purchase the fodder when it is cheap, and keep a reasonable supply on hand.
– The honorable member for Gippsland has now come to the rescue. He claims that the pastoralist ought to pay to those companies which already have him by the throat, a heavy interest upon something which he does not want, and possibly may never want. The farmer is expected to grow and store what he does not want, and the pastoralist is expected to purchase and keep what he does not require.
– And in addition the stock must be fed on mouldy fodder.
– Of course. The honorable member for Moira, the great authority to whom the farmers of Victoria look for guidance, has had to feed his own stock.
– Where are the supplies coming from at the present time 1
– I am pointing out how foolish it is to blame the pastoralists for not growing fodder which they cannot grow, and to chide the farmers for not keeping fodder in stock. Both pastoralists and farmers are struggling to make a living, and they have to find a market where they can. It has been made clear that in some cases farmers, who were obliged to sell to speculators, have bought back at 4s. what they sold at 2s. 2d., the bags of wheat not having even been taken away from the railway stations. Our farmers are in the unfortunate position of not being able to hold their grain for a decent rise in the market, and it is absolute nonsense to expect them to store fodder in order to meet abnormal conditions. It goes without saying that we ought to grow all the fodder necessary for Australia, but if the supply has to be conServed, different methods will have to be adopted. We might have to resort to the old Egyptian system of storage, and we might find that the honorable member for Moira is a Joseph in disguise. If such a step should be necessary, the information which has been elicited recently will prove of great value. But whether or not the fodder can be grown here is beside the question. There is the fact that additional fodder may be obtained with injury to none and benefit to many ; and, from that point of view, we are perfectly justified in reducing the duties. I agree that in times of trouble the State might send away ships for supplies ; but the inference that might be drawn from the speeches of honorable members opposite is that they would prefer to see stock, and even people, die rather than interfere with the sacred principle of protection. I am sure, however, that that is not the real sentiment of protectionist members ; and I would remind them that to send ships away as suggested, would prove a much greater interference with their principles than the mere removal, of a duty. I want to convince the honorable member for Moira as to the very limited area there is in New South Wales where both wool and fodder can be grown, and to that end I shall read a few extracts from sworn testimony given before the Royal commission appointed to inquire into the position of the Crown tenants, particularly in the western division of New South Wales. This testimony shews that people have tried to grow fodder in those districts and have failed. I have given the committee the benefit of the opinions of practical men in regard te native grasses in New South Wales, and here I may say that there have been occasions in the Cobar district when a man on horseback could not be seen owing to the height of the grass. Those who have seen good seasons of that character may be excused when they suggest that the native grassshould be cut and stored for hay, but they speak in ignorance of the history of the district, the rainfall, and other circumstances. There are very few occasions on which such prolific crops are grown, as compared with the many occasions when fodder is required. At the experimental farm in my electorate there is a most efficient and experienced head in the person of Mr. Peacock, who has made a wide and close study of agriculture. Mr. Peacock, in speaking of land bordering on the country where Victorian people have lost a lot of money in attempting to grow supplies of fodder and wool at the same time, said -
The experience at Coolabah has been that the seasons are so unreliable that it would be foll)’ for farmers to come west to earn a living by agriculture. Rainfall cannot be depended on. The heaviest rains occur in January, February, and March, but during the last three years even those rains have failed, and the proportion of bad seasons to good ones would be so great that the farmers would be ruined. The wheat area does not extend as far west as the Coolabah Experimental Farm ; but on the farm they can do good work hy acclimatising the valient : and the mature seed growing there would be serviceable for the drier districts of the State, because it would do much better after having been produced on the arid country. Wheat cannot be successfully grown west of Nevertire.
Mr. T. W. Conolly, district surveyor of Rourke, for four years, said -
There is no land fit for agriculture in the western division without irrigation.
Mr. D. W. F. Hatten, inspector of stock for the Bourke Sheep District, said -
In the Bourke sheep district the land is not suitable for agriculture without irrigation. Irrigation has been successful in some places.
We all know that there is no water there, and that irrigation is impossible. Mr. W. Wilson, of Mullingawarrina station on the Bogan, said -
At Mullingawarrina he had only one crop in fourteen years. He hud had three middling ones. He had tried buck barley, oats, and wheat for three years, but the crop had turned out a failure.
Mr. G. Frew, of Central Block C. Station, in the Cobar district, said -
There is no land in the Cobar district suitable for agriculture, the rainfall being too small. He had experimented in growing hay, and lie found’ there would not be a fair crop once in five years.
Mr. P. J. Kelly, of Booroomugga Station, «in the Cobar district, said -
Ho commenced growing wheat for hay eight years ago. The last few years he had increased “the area under cultivation to 100 acres. He got -one good crop in 1394-, and two middling crops at other times. He had had five failures, when lie -did not reap anything. In his eight years’ experience he had not paid interest on the cost.
Mr. W. Hogarth, inspector of stations for “Goldsbrough, Mort, and Co., in New South Wales, said -
I consider that there is none of the West Darling fit for agriculture unless irrigated ; and where water has to- be raised by pumps it will cost 25s. to raise every 20s. -worth grown.
Mr. F. W. Bacon, of Dumble station, near Goodooga, said -
He. had grown a light crop of wheaten hay, and had absolutely no crop for three years out of eleven.
Mr. Bacon enjoyed a rainfall of some 19 inches, as compared with a fall of 8 or 9 inches in the districts previously referred to in these extracts. Mr. H. Davy, homestead lessee in the Balranald district, said -
There is no portion of the western part of the central, and none of the western division suitable for agriculture.
Mr. W. Maynard, homestead lessee between Mosgeil and Ivanhoe, said -
There are only small patches suitable for agriculture in the Mosgeil district. He cultivated a small paddock for ten years, but only got one crop.
Mr. W. G. Ferris, a homestead lessee .in the Walgett district, said -
There are no areas suitable for agriculture in the western division.
Mr. J. S. Gordon, manager of Brewon station in the central division, and Wilkie Plains in the western division, said -
Although the soil is suitable, the uncertain and insufficient rainfall, especially during the winter and spring seasons, render it unfit for agriculture.
Mr. S. J. Greenaway, secretary to the Farmers’ and Settlers’ Association, Thalaba branch, said -
With heavy rain an odd crop might be grown in the western division once in 1.0 years.
Mr. G. Riddoch, managing partner of Weinteriga station, in the Wilcannia district, said -
Cultivation is impossible unless the country is irrigated. In eighteen years he had only three crops worth cutting.
I have given extracts which cover a very wide area of country, and the universal testimony is that fodder cannot be grown there. Men have tried over long periods of years, and have failed ; and it is of no use telling the public through Hansard and the press that the pastoralists are to blame for the present shortage of fodder. It is quite evident that under ordinary conditions we cannot expect to draw all supplies from Australia. If there had to be a sufficient supply to meet circumstances such as at present prevail, it would be exceedingly bad for the farmers who cannot afford to store their produce, and our proper course is to make such arrangements as will permit of supplies being brought from elsewhere. The State Government of New South Wales can do, and have done, a great deal, and I deprecate misleading statements which must be made in ignorance of the actual conditions. It has been asserted that this movement for the remission of the duties arose in Georgestreet, or, to speak- more correctly, in a thoroughfare nearer Darling Harbor ; but, as a matter of fact, the pastoralists of Narrabri, which is a considerable distance from George-street, held a meeting at which a remission of the duties was urged. The facts of the case ought to be put honestly and fairly before the public ; this period of trouble is no time for party moves. Our protectionist friends do not seem to realize what the present price of meat means to the poorer classes of the community. Wethers are sold at £2 10s. 6d. per head in Melbourne, and in Sydney ewes are 25s. and wethers 42s. Last week only 3,000 head of stock were offered at the Homebush sales, the pastoralists being compelled, in spite of the extreme prices, to preserve their sheep for stocking. Even with good seasons it must be three years before the present deficiencies can be made up. In the face of this absolute scarcity the people are using largely rabbits, and, altogether, the position could not be more serious. Many of the stock-owners will probably be ruined, and the general public are affected not only by the loss of wealth on the production of the wool, but also by the loss of employment. I could give figures in this connexion, but the debate has already been very prolonged, though perhaps not more so than the situation demands. At the present time there is no sign of the break-up of the drought, and whatever the Federal Government are able to do to alleviate the situation ought to be done. As to the fiscal cry, there are fads on both sides ; but no fad ought to be allowed to prevent help being given to the suffering. All fads should be set aside when humanity calls, even on behalf of the poor dumb animals. Honorable members cannot realize the gravity of the situation, or they would not drag in the old miserable cries, and discuss the probable effect of a remission of the duties in the distant future on the prospects of some Victorian farmers. The honorable member for Moira referred to the fact that the people in New South Wales did not go in for wheat growing. But apparently he does not know that some of the greatest increases in land settlement in that State took place before there was any duty in operation. The protectionists associate everything with a duty. They seem to think that the world would cease going round, and the sun would no longer shine, if there were no protective duties. One becomes sick of hearing such statements. The fact is that New South Wales is rapidly overtaking her own consumption. Owing to the demand for land in the agricultural districts, and the pressure put upon the Government to throw land open for selection, fresh areas have been opened up, and every time fresh land is thrown open there is a rush for it. AVe shall soon have a big supply of wheat and fodder of all kinds, and, normally, we shall have a considerable surplus after meeting local requirements, if we have decent seasons. But at present, in several of the farming districts of New South Wales, there is no crop whatever. The people of Victoria do not realize what the present drought is like, but in New South Wales the situation is a very serious one to every one concerned. This Parliament should do everything it can to bring about a relief.
– I rise mainly . to refer to the statement of the honorable member for Parramatta with regard to the quotations of the honorable member for Moira. I have listened to both his speeches, and have had an op portune to refer to the books from which that honorable member quoted, and I beg to state, for the information of the committee and the country, that the statements he made were strictly in accordance with the authorities he cited. There was no suppression on bis part of any word or sentence which would have had the slightest effect on any argument he was using. Let me tell honorable members from the other States that the honorable member for Moira has had a long, varied,’ and honorable connexion with the industy about which he has been speaking. During the time I was associated with him in the State Parliament of Victoria he was always regarded as being a strictly honorable man, thoroughly well acquainted with farming subjects. I feel that it is incumbent upon me, having had a considerable knowledge of the honorable member, to correct some of the statements concerning him. Reference has been made to some remarks of mine regarding the dairymen of New South Wales. We have been told that the alteration in’ the Tariff desired to be made by honorable members opposite would have the effect of assisting the dairymen who are suffering from the effects of the drought, and from a shortage of fodder. Now the dairymen of New South Wales have their finished product protected to the extent of 3d. per lb.
– They never asked for it.
– They have the benefit of it at any rate, though the honorable member and his political friends would have deprived them of that benefit.
– It is sham protection.
– Is the honorable member aware that when a shipment of New Zealand butter arrived in Sydney some three mouths ago the price of butter was reduced that very day by 3d. per lb.?
Mr. Thomson__ Was not that good for the consumer?
– I am answering the charge of the honorable member for Lang that this is “sham protection.” Can he deny the fact that the price of butter was reduced by 3d. per lb. on the very day that shipment of New Zealand butter was available in Sydney ? If it had not been for the duty there would have been a reduction of 6d. in the price of butter. Can it be denied that the existence of a duty has prevented a further fall in price of 3d. per lb. This is a fact that came under my own observation. The duty in this instance has been of distinct assistance to the dairymen of New South Wales. Without it they would have been thrown open to the unrestricted competition of the world. Butter from the Argentine and New Zealand would have Hooded the New South Wales and the Commonwealth markets. It is on account of their fiscal opinions that honorable members opposite desire to see this duty struck away, and the hollowness of their pretence that they are taking this action only because of the distress among the dairymen of New South Wales, is shown by the fact that only a little while ago they were prepared to take away from the dairymen the very small modicum of protection they are now enjoying.
– I do not know why honorable members should have gone into a question of dietetics, and I should not have referred to the matter except for the statement of the honorable member for Moira, which, to my surprise, has been supported by the honorable member for Laanecoorie. To understand how fallacious the honorable member’s arguments were, it was only necessary to notice the grunts of approval which came from the Minister for Trade and Customs, who expresses his approval of things only when they are not in accordance with fact. To show the absurdity of the honorable member’s point, it is only necessary to consider the amount of nitrogenous matter in turnips’ and the quantity required to sustain animal life. Honorable members know that according to the quantity of carbonaceous matter that is breathed out of a man and the quantity of nitrogen which is expelled from the body it is necessary to take in food to make up the deficiency. Take the case of a man. I find that, working on the lines of the honorable member’s argument, to make up the same quantity of nitrogenous matter as is given off by the body, and to provide a supply of carbohydrates, it would be necessary for a man in, active work to eat about 24 lbs. of cabbage a day, or, perhaps, about 3 lbs. of oatmeal, or, say, sixteen bottles of Bass’s beer ! But there is all the difference between keeping a man alive and feeding him up. A couple of ounces of hard-boiled eggs might tend to keep a man alive, but an Esquimaux will eat about 40 lbs. of animal food at one meal. The only reason why I mention this matter is to show the absurdity of the honorable member’s argument when he quotes a paragraph from a book on food which he does not understand. He gave us information which, no doubt, was absolutely accurate as to the quantity of a certain class of feed required by an animal. But he overlooked the fact that perhaps the addition of 1 lb. of a different class of food would lower the quantity required from say, 14 lbs. to 4 lbs. The few remarks which I have made on this subject may encourage the Minister for Trade and Customs to look up a primer on the subject, and not to express approval of ‘remarks made by one unacquainted with it. I should like to deal with some extraordinary remarks which have fallen from the honorable member for Gippsland and the honorable member for Moira. They asserted that a duty on these articles certainly raised the price ; but they admitted that the bulk of the farmers had not a full supply of produce. The honorable member for Moira confessed that that was the position, even in his own district, where rain has fallen. Clearly, therefore, the increased price is no advantage to the bulk of the farmers. It was said that the price was only increased by this duty in times of scarcity, and that a fortunate few would be able to make money out of the sufferings of others. Of course, a remark like that met with approval from the Ministerial side. We were not surprised, because we had heard a member of the Government saying - “What!- A drought a bad thing? Do I not forget that some of the farmers in tasmania and Victoria are making a very fine thing out of it.” How comes it that when honorable members of the Opposition pointed out that the duty on agricultural machinery would cause a rise in prices, owing to the insufficient local production, these very honorable members said, in order to curry favour with the farmers whom they represent, that such was not the case. I would point out to those who are so selfish as to advocate the retention of these duties, that if we allow stock to die, as they will die for want of food, there will be no call for the farmers’ produce next year, because there will not be stock to consume it.
– And no wages for the shearers.
– That is so. Consequently the loss will be infinitely greater. Ten years ago there were 60,000,000 sheep in Australia. To-day it is believed that that number has been reduced to 30,000,000. I do’ not imagine that honorable members will think I am over-stating the case when I say that, taking an all-round price of something like £200 per 1,000, there ought to have been a gross increase of nearly £6,000,000 in the annual value of sheep in New South Wales. That £6,000,000 would have afforded employment to thousands of men year after year at £100 a year, Still honorable members on the other side would lightly cast aside this request. They display a callousness that is absolutely astounding. I suppose we are all aware of the tales of vampires who used to suck the blood of their victims at night, and in that way exhaust them, and of ghouls who used to feed on the dead bodies. I do not know to which of these two classes the Ministry belong.
– The honorable and learned member must not refer to honorable members in that way.
– I should like to know why the Ministry are so disposed by means of these duties to increase the number of dead carcases throughout the country. If they had any of the characteristics of either of the classes to which I have referred, one could understand it. I shall record my vote in favour of the amendment.
– For a few moments I should like to direct the attention of the committee to what I consider to be first principles. We have heard the phrase referred to once or twice, but we appear to be wandering far away into the by-paths and divisions of this great question. [Committee counted.^ When the agitation set in for the suspension of the fodder duties in the interests of owners of starving stock, I was not one of those who supported it. It seemed to me that, from the point of view of the proper exercise of the functions of administration, we could not ask Ministers to suspend certain duties set down in the Tariff. I considered that after the Legislature had agreed upon a Tariff we could not under any circumstances ask for the suspension of that Tariff in the interests of any one or more of the States, because such an action would be subversive of all trading regulations, and would upset the plans of all commercial men. I pointed out on the introduction of the Tariff that agitations would set in for the repeal of these duties in times of famine and scarcity, and for that reason I was strongly opposed to their imposition. I urged, with other honorable members, that duties relating to items such as vegetables and fruit would not be operative whilst we had good seasons, and that the Government’s estimate of revenue to be derived from them was remarkably small. I urged, however, that they were likely to yield considerable sums at a time when the people could ill-afford to pay them, and when, in fact, it would mean ruin to a vast class if they were called upon to bear them. Neither from the protectionist nor the free-trade point of view can we defend duties upon the particular items we are considering. In a normal year we want no protection to assist the production of wheat crops, vegetables, or fruits. On the other hand, this continent is subject to periodical famines ; and during those times the duties must act oppressively and disastrously. It was for that reason that I contended from the first that we ought not to have imposed the duties. I hold that it would be wrong to suspend any duties during a time of panic or political excitement. We could not, I think, fall back on the sliding scale which was adopted in the English corn laws. We ought to approach the reconsideration of this question with some regard to what we have witnessed since the Bill was sent to the Senate. Last night I was rather struck with the speech made by the honorable member for Lang, who very eloquently and feelingly set forth the position in Queensland and New South Wales. Certain honorable members on the other side have striven to discount the picture of affairs which he submitted. But so far as I have been able to gauge the truth of his statements,. I think that he in no way exaggerated the terrible times which have been experienced in some parts of Australia. It is of no use for the honorable member for Moira to tell us that it is the result of a system of bad farming or want of precautions. We do not see a sudden national disaster come out of any individual want of forethought ; it is experienced all round. Australians as ,a race cannot be accused of being deficient in commonsense or wanting in forethought. ‘ In his striving after what he called a practical remedy the honorable member for Moira ‘ has not been able to submit any remedy which would be half so efficacious as would the removal of the duties. The only remedy which we could submit would be a Bill to secure an inch of rainfall per week throughout the Commonwealth. We on this side are doing the best we can to mitigate the terrible results of the drought throughout Australia, and although the honorable member referred to the varying values of turnips and hay as feed for sheep, it has been shown by practical men, notably the honorable member for Darling, that the effect of the removal of the duties would be to supply the wants of people nearer the cities, and so enable feed to find its way to the far west. The country immediately round Sydney has been so deficient of feed that there was none to spare for the west, and if by the introduction of turnips we could lessen the demand on the part of these people near the coast, we should increase the quantity of feed available for men further west, and in the interior. It is not the pastoralists alone who have been demanding the admission of this fodder, although the meetings in Sydney were attended by some of the greatest pastoralists in New South Wales, and they were unanimous in what they wanted. In a country which is subject to periodical famines a duty of this kind should not be imposed. When some honorable members talked about the famine of 1897 and the famine of 1902, 1 interjected that in some parts of Australia the famine of 1897 is not over yet. There is much reason for considering that the famine of 1897 is the .famine of 1902, for in certain parts of Australia it has lasted right through. This question concerns’ commercial men right through the community. In New South Wales there are places to which the mercantile and trading community have not thought fit to send a representative for the past five or six years. There is not a commercial house in Sydney which has the slightest desire to send a traveller to sell goods in Bourke and elsewhere, because it is known that they cannot be paid for. The producers have no money ; the storekeepers have gone insolvent one after another, and there is no desire to do business in the towns. Every individual in the Commonwealth is affected by the drought. The only assistance we can give the pastoralists at the present time is by taking off duties which can operate only when famine is in our midst. The discussion has centred on turnips, but the item includes all forms of vegetables and fruits. Norfolk Island is being cruelly crushed out of existence by the operation of the fruit duties. The only articles it produces, to any extent, are fruits and vegetables, which in the past have been exported to New Zealand. Its fruits and vegetables are now left to rot on the ground, because they cannot be sent to Sydney on account of this impost of 2s. per cental. The other day Lord Carrington presided at a meeting in the Mansion House, London, to raise funds for establishing a line of steam communication, between Norfolk Island and Australia. If his lordship would interest himself in bringing about an alteration in the relations of Norfolk Island with the Commonwealth, he would do more good than can be done by establishing a line of steam communication with the mainland. If we are not careful we shall find the islanders agitating for the island to be placed under the control of the Government of New Zealand. What is the use of these duties on fruits and vegetables? When we have a sufficient crop the duties do not .operate, and that is the normal condition. When the crop is deficient we must have a supply. The very farmers in whose interests the duties were imposed are, many of them - if I exclude the honorable member for Moira - the strongest advocates for repealing them, or at any rate for suspending them. Certain honorable members have discounted, or feigned to disbelieve the statements which have been made regarding the effects of the drought in New South Wales and Queensland, and the honorable member for Moira said it .was open at any time for the pastoralists to plant turnips. I am interested in agriculture only in the smallest possible way, and within 13 miles of Sydney I have had to hand-feed a dry cow for four months, and a crop of turnips I planted never came up. The experience of persons further away must have been more disastrous than mine. A man may sow the seed, but he cannot insure getting a crop in a season when the rainfall is 40 per cent. less than the average for many years past. I hope that the committee will see fit to give this small concession to those who are suffering so much throughout the length and breadth of the Commonwealth.
– The district I represent is very seriously affected by the drought, and its interests are vitally at stake. There are no items in the Tariff which appeal more directly at the present time to New South Welshmen than do the fodder duties. I should like to have a reasonable opportunity to submit some information which may lead honorable members who are not acquainted with drought conditions, such as are experienced in the western division of our State, to look with a little more sympathy on our proposals than they appear, with their present information, disposed to do. I should.be very thankful, as we are within a few minutes of the hour of adjournment, if the Government could see its way to let the settlement of this question stand over until next Tuesday. The reason why I ask for an adjournment is that a presentment of the conditions has been made by Government supporters, which, to my mind, is contrary to those which obtain in New South. Wales. An adjournment would enable the people of that State to become acquainted with the statements of those honorable members, and to place their case before the committee on Tuesday. I trust that the Government, recognising the very great interests which are at stake, will agree to an adjournment. I could not treat the question in anything like a reasonable way when the hour of adjournment is about to strike.
– A request was mode that we should adjourn about twenty minutes to eleven last evening, and it was then understood by every one that we should probably conclude the debate upon this question within a couple of hours. The discussion has, however, lasted all day, and I now ask honorable members to come to a vote. I can only appeal to honorable members who have already spoken upon this request to abstain from addressing the committee when the next requestcomes under discussion. We cannot object to listen then to honorable members who. have not spoken upon this question, but I hope that they will curtail their speeches as much as possible.
– On that understanding I am willing to defer any remarks I may have to make until Tuesday.
– If the Government accede to the request of the Senate in regard to the duty upon vegetables, we shall not incur any appreciable loss of revenue, because nearly the whole of the receipts under the head of fruits and vegetables are derived from fruit. If we refuse to meet the views of the Senate it may appear that we are determined to force a quarrel upon the other House, and there would be no justification for adopting any such attitude. Ministers have made liberal concessions to manufacturers by exempting from duty articles which constitute their raw materials, and it might reasonably be claimed that turnips and mangolds are among the raw materials of those engaged in the grazing industry. I do not think honorable members realize the terrible condition of affairs which prevails in the northern States owing to the drought. In Rockhampton alone there are . 800 empty houses, and wo can well imagine the wail that would arise if there were 24,000 empty houses in M bourne. We should act fairly to the country, and show a spirit of compromise towards the Senate, by acceding to their request in regard to vegetables.
Question - That the words “ except as to vegetables n.e.i.” be added - put. The committee divided.
Majority . . 4
Question so resolved in the negative.
Amendment (by Mr. Sydney Smith) agreed to -
That the motion be amended by theaddition of the following words, “ but that the duty on vegetables be fixed at1s. per cental.”
Motion, as amended, agreed to.
Resolved (on motion by Mr. Deakin) -
That the House at its rising adjourn until Tues day next.
House adjourned at 4. 15 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 8 August 1902, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1902/19020808_reps_1_11/>.