2nd Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I wish to know from the Minister of Trade and Customs if his attention has been drawn to the following statement made by the Curator of the Botanic Gardens, Adelaide, and published in this morning’s Age: -
This legislation is uselessand unnecessary, and whoever framed the regulation either knows nothing about the matter, or else has some reason of his own for doing so. The effect of it will be to place the importation of seeds in the hands of a seedsmen’s trust or combine, while smaller importers and individual amateurs will be absolutely prohibited from getting their seeds from abroad.
I wish to ask the honorable gentleman whether, in view of this statement of the evil effect of the regulations under the Commerce Act, he will see that they are amended.
– The paragraph in question has not been brought under my notice, but I have read it, and have consulted the Comptroller-General of Customs in regard to it. He says that there is nothing in the statement.
– I wish to know why the Government proposes to give part of its time this morning to the consideration of a motion moved by a private member, which the Minister of Trade and Customs said yesterday he hoped would not pass in its present form. Is it because the Labour Party has brought pressure to bear upon the Government since the Minister’s speech yesterday, or because the Government has no business with which to proceed? If the latter, why has Parliament been called together, when the Government has no business ready for its consideration?
– I might well protest against frivolous and almost impertinent questions, but as there may be a serious meaning behind some of the honorable member’s remarks, my reply is that no member of the Labour Party has spoken to me on the subject. Although the Government, represented by the Minister of Trade and Customs, does not approve of the motion as framed, an amendment has been submitted which, with an amendment, will be acceptable to us. We have plenty of business ready, but consider the question at issue one of importance, which should be disposed of as early as possible. There is not an intimate, but there is a clear, relation between the proposals that the Commonwealth should watch closely the introduction of microbes by Dr. Danysz, for fear of consequences, and the proposal that we should watch very closely the introduction by trusts of unfair practices, and what may follow them.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been drawn to the South Australian case of Robinson v. Hall, which leaves the Customs Department without a remedy, except under certain circumstances ? The Attorney-General and the honorable and learned member for Angas both pointed out when the Distillation Bill was before the House that we were passing legislation which was ultra vires, and now that it has been pronounced to be so, I ask if the Prime Minister has any proposal to make?
– The honorable and learned member is aware that the Court to whose decision he refers is not the final tribunal before which the question can come. I have observed the report which he holds in his hand and although I have not had time to read the judgment, shall ask the Attorney-General to consider its bearing on our legislation.
– I wish to know from the Minister representing the Minister of Defence if a portion of the partially-paid Forces was asked to form a guard of honour on the occasion of the recent visit of the Governor-General to Newcastle, and if the Department has since refused to pay those who attended for the time which they lost ?
– I know nothing of the incident, but shall endeavour to give the honorable member some information on Tuesday next.
. -I desire to move the adjournment of the House, to discuss a definite matter of urgent public importance, viz., “The anomalous position in which the State of Victoria is placed throughthe recent enumeration of the electors, and the consequent redistribution of the electorates thereon.”
Five honorable members having risen in their places,
– Had it not been for the hurried manner in which the new schemes of distribution were dealt with on Wednesday night, it would be unnecessary for me to take the step which I am now taking, because the whole subject would have been thrashed out during the discussion of those schemes ; but we were not given time to get together the figures and information necessary to prepare us to take that course. I could not understand then why it is that, while the Victorian quota is something like 3,000 more than the New South Wales quota, Victoria is to lose a representative, and New South Wales is to gain one. In referring to the matter oh Wednesday night, I was a little inaccurate in speaking of theNew South Wales quota as 24.000. I had been told that the New South Wales quota is 24,000 and a little over, but I have since ascertained that it is actually 24,936, or practically 25,000, while the Victorian quota is 28,019.
– Is the honorable member in order in discussing a matter which was dealt with by the House only two days ago?
– The honorable member would not be in order in reopening a discussion, except on a motion to rescind a vote which had been given ; but, while I cannot say how his speech will develop, the notice of motion which he handed to me, and the remarks which he has so far uttered, are in order. Standing order 269 says -
No member shall reflect upon any vote of the House, except for the purpose of moving that such vote be rescinded.
If the honorable member were to reflect upon a vote of the House, he would be out of order; but, so far, he is in order.
– I have no intention of reflecting upon a vote of the House, or of touching upon what was done the other night. My object is to show that the anomalous position to which I wish to refer has been created by the Constitution, and I bring, the matter forward as a matter of urgency because an alteration of the Constitution would be necessary to get ridof the anomaly, and such an alteration could not take place until it had been agreed to’ by an absolute majority of the two Houses, and had been before the public for at least two months. Although Victoria is losing a representative, and New South Wales is gaining one, the average number of electors represented by a Victorian member will be 28,000, while that represented by a New South ‘Wales member will be only 25.000, the number of electors in New South Wales being 673,282, and in Victoria 616.426, or only 56,856 fewer. On those figures, New South Wales is justly entitled! to only two representatives more than should be given to Victoria, but under the arrangement provided for in the Constitution she will have five more representatives. The method of determining the quota is provided in section 24 of the Constitution in the following words : -
When I first read that provision, it did not occur to me that it might create an anomaly such as I have just referred to; but, perhaps, some of the members of the Convention can tell us why the word “people” was used instead of the word “ electors.” In the light of what has occurred, the arrangement seems as erratic as that of some of the Southern States of America, when, in granting the franchise to negroes, they gave every five negroes three votes. To determine the quota by the number of the inhabitants of the Commonwealth, instead of by the number of electors, is really to, destroy adult suffrage, because such a method takes into account all the minors in the Commonwealth, from the last registered baby up to the young man or young woman of nearly twenty-one years of age. If the representation were based upon the number of electors, even’ State would have the same quota.
– Victoria has neglected to keep her cradles filled - that is the trouble.
– I do not know about that. A number of young Victorians have left their native State to assist in the development of New South Wales, where they can get cheaper land. It seems to me that an injustice is being done to Victoria at present, and that similar injustice may be done by some other State in the future. I do not see why the minors in the population should be included in tha calculations made with a view of arriving at the quota. The only ‘ way of remedying, what I conceive to be a “defect in the Constitution, is by inserting the words “ adult population “ instead of the word “ people.” I know that it would be hopeless for a private honorable member to bring forward a proposal of this kind, but the Government would have no difficulty in taking the steps necessary to bring about the desired change. It has been argued that the reason why the number of electors in New South Wales is relatively small in comparison with the number in Victoria, is that trouble is experienced in enrolling, the electors. As no difficulty has been experienced in ascertaining that tha population of New South Wales now numbers 1.500.000 instead of 1 .400,000, in 1904, I do not see the force of the contention. If the total population can be estimated, there should be no difficulty in ascertaining the number of persons qualified to vote. This matter should be dealt with a’t the present time, because, if steps are not taken to alter the Constitution prior to the next general election, it will be impossible to ‘take action in that direction until after the next Parliament, has come to an end. The decennial census will be taken in 19.10, and we shall then be able to arrive at an accurate estimate of the population of the various States. If, however, the Constitution is not altered beforehand, we shall be in the same position then as we are now. I do not for a moment suggest that the framers of the Constitution thought that the adoption of population as the basis of representation would have resulted in injustice to Victoria, or that to their minds such a discre- paney was likely to arise between the quotas adopted for different States. Still, as matters have worked out, a distinct injustice has been done. I do not SUpPOse that the representatives of New South Wales would contend that it was just that thev should represent an average of only 25.000 electors, as against the 28.000 electors represented bv each of the Victorian members, or that on an electoral basis. Victoria should have five representatives less instead of two less. I know that an alteration in the Constitution is not to be lightly proposed, and if this were a mere matter of opinion, I should hesitate to press it upon the attention of the Government. I have dealt, however, with questions of fact, and have pointed Out clearly that under the present method of arriving at the quota, certain anomalies arise which should be removed at the earliest oppor-amity. I believe that within eighteen months of the adoption of the American Constitution, ten alterations were made, and that only six additional amendments - those effected after the civil ‘war - have been made since. Therefore, I hope that the Government will not hesitate to remedy an act of injustice to Victoria, merely because it may be necessary to amend the Constitution.
– Until a few minutes before the House met, I was not aware that the honorable member intended to bring this matter forward. When the honorable member springs upon the Government a serious constitutional question, involving as it does the very foundation cf popular representation, he can scarcely expect them to express an opinion offhand.
– I do not ask for an opinion at this stage, but merely desire that the matter shall receive consideration.
– Every proposed amendment of the Constitution demands serious consideration. I would remind the honorable member that in the several Federations which have preceded ours in the annals of history, population, and not electoral population, has invariably been adopted as the foundation of representation. In the United States Constitution it is provided that representation shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective populations, and in Canada it has been laid down in certain rules framed by the Pai-liament that there shall be assigned to each of the provinces representation in proportion to the population, as ascertained by the census. _ In Switzerland also, the National Council is composed of representatives of the people chosen in the ratio of one member to each 20,000 persons of the total population. So that in all these Federations population is the basis of representation, and on the spur of the moment, I do not feel inclined to recommend a deviation from that fundamental principle. I find that, according to the last enumeration, the population of New South Wales was 1.483.393, whereas the population of Victoria was t, 214.058. It was upon the basis of these figures that the representation was allotted to the respective States. The electoral population of New South Wales, upon the same date that the general enumeration was made, was 673,282, whilst the electoral population of Victoria was 616,426. It would appear, on the face of it. that the electoral population of Victoria was proportionately greater than that of New South Wales but there are various reasons to account for that. The electoral population is very different from the general population.
– Why mix up the two?
-I am saving that we should notmix up the two. Ifthe electoral population were substituted for the general population, we should not have the same fixed and certain sources of information that we have row for arriving at the basis of representation.
– In the larger States 8 per cent, of personsabove the voting age do not appear on the roll, whereas the rolls in Victoria are deficient in this respect to the extent of only3 per cent.
– Yes. I have not with me the returns of the adult population of Victoria and New South Wales, but, speaking from recollection the percentage of adults in New South Wales is as high, or very nearly so. as in Victoria. I cannot see my way at present to suggest that the Constitution should be altered. The honorable member has. no doubt achieved his object in call ing attention to the matter, which naturally invites criticism.
– I would go a little further if I could.
– The honorable member has sprung an important matter upon the Government, and I should not feel justified at this stage in recommending any departure from the fundamental basis of the Constitution.
.- I think that the honorable member for Grampians has done good service in directing attention to this matter. The Minister is altogether too conservative. Like most lawyers, he feels that he must have a precedent. He has quoted from the various Federal Constitutions, and has shown that in adopting our present basis of representation we have followed the precedent laid down by other Federations. I do not think that any special weight is to be attached to that fact. We should not be content to adhere religiously to the lines laid down in the older Constitutions. If we can find some thing better we should adopt it. When we were considering the redistribution of seats recently, I was very much struck with the fact that, whereas some of the divisions in New South Wales contained only 21,000 electors, the minimum number in a Victorian division was 25,000. That appears to me to be an anomaly, and I see no reason why Victoria should be placed at such a disadvantage. It is really the voting population that counts in all matters relating to parliamentary representation and the making of the laws. I feel that the suggestion of the honorable member for Grampians is a good one, and that the Government should consider the matter more carefully, with a view to ascertaining if it is not possible to correct the anomaly to which reference has been made. Victoria is suffering an injustice at the present time.
– The Victorian representatives do not think so. At any rate, I do not see many of them present.
– That consideration does not affect the merits of the question at all. The Victorian representatives are within the precincts of the building, andt heir presence can be obtained whenever it is necessary. They are just as constant in their attendance here as are the representatives of any other State. They endeavour to discharge their duties faithfully, and I cannot listen in silence to any reflection upon them. The honorable member for Grampians has rendered a service to the Commonwealth in drawing attention to this matter, because the position of Victoria to-day may be that of any other State in the future. I notice that honorable members in their public addresses have called attention to the fact that certain amendments are required in the Constitution. It stands to reason that anomalies must exist in the charter of Government. Anomalies have been found in the Tariff, and it is only reasonable to assume that they also exist in the Constitution. A Commission has been appointed to correct anomalies in the Tariff, and I am of opinion that a standing Committee ought to be chosen to direct attention to any which may be found in the Constitution.I trust that the Prime Minister will give this matter his serious consideration, with a view to seeing if some means cannot be devised to remedy the injustice under which the State of Victoria at present l abours.
.- There is no doubt that the matter which, has been brought forward by the honorable member for Grampians is one which demands careful consideration at the hands of this House. It has frequently appeared to me that the present method of determining the electoral representation of particular States in this House is a very peculiar one. The argument that has been advanced by the honorable member for Grampians applies with a great deal of force to Western Australia.
– And to Queensland loo.
– It applies in a smaller degree to Queensland.
– To the disadvantage of Victoria.
– It applies to States like Queensland and Western Australia, where the adult population is much larger, proportionately, than it is in the older settled States.
– It does not apply to Western Australia at the present time.
– I have not the figures before me just now.
– Western Australia has the minimum number.
– That may be so. It has been laid down that the representation of a State shall be based upon its total population, but when an election comes along it is only the adults who determine the particular shade of the politics- of that State. I agree with the honorable member for Grampians that the fairest method of arriving at the representation to which any State is entitled would be to base that representation upon its adult population.
– Upon the number of its effective voters.
– Exactly. In the case of a young State such as Western Australia, and to a less degree Queensland, we should arrive at a fairer approximation to the political views of the people if we adopted that system. Where the adult population, in the case of a young State, is so much higher than it is in the older settled States, it must manifestly react against the interests of the former.
– It reacts more against Victoria in the present instance.
– Yes; but I am discussing this as a matter of principle. I am showing how the present method of determining the representation of a State may affect Western Australia, or any other State in which the adult population received any .sudden increase, such as conceivably might take place owing to the development of gold mines or tin mines. Honorable members would do well to accept the suggestion of the honorable member for Grampians, and to consider carefully whether, in spite of the precedent afforded us by other countries, we cannot improve upon the present system in this particular matter, and thus set an example which may subsequently be followed by them.
– I would like to point out that the whole of the difference between the number of electors represented by a Victorian representative in this House and a New South Wales representative, is not accounted for by the provisions of the Constitution. I had occasion to look into this matter some time ago, and - speaking from memory - I found that the number of adults registered as electors proportionately decreased in the larger States, where the population was of a more scattered and nomadic character. A considerable portion of the difference to which I have referred is due to the fact that the registration of electors is less effective in the larger States, where the population is scattered, than it is in the smaller ones, where population is more concentrated.
– How does the honorable member arrive at that conclusion?
– It is not necessary for me to enter into a discussion of the system at present in vogue. The statistics are gathered1 by the Statisticians of the various States from year to year. They arrive at an annual estimate of the population based upon the census. Speaking from memory, I found that,, in the case of Victoria and Tasmania, all but 3 per cent, of the adult population was accounted for upon the electoral rolls. But in New South Wales 8 per cent, of the adult elec- < tors - and a larger proportion in Queensland and Western Australia - was unaccounted for upon the rolls of those States. It appears, therefore, that a very considerable proportion of the difference to which attention has been drawn by the honorable member for Grampians is not due to the provisions of the Constitution, but rather to the greater difficulty which is experienced in enrolling the names of electors in the larger States, where population: is more scattered.
– I desire to say one or two words in reference to this matter. Honorable members will probably recollect that I brought this question before the House when the Representation Bill was under consideration. I felt then, as I do now, that it is sincerely to be regretted that we should employ a different system of calculation in regard to two matters’ which should really be in accord with each other. Upon the occasion to which I refer, I drew attention to the disparity that will exist if we proceed upon the lines which are contemplated. Under the present system each representative in Victoria represents 3,000 electors more than each representative of New South Wales. That is a disparity which in my opinion, ought not to exist. Certainly, it should not be created if it is not already the law. I regret that it has been thought necessary to do that which has already been done, but under existing conditions I fail to see how we could have prevented it. The Act has been passed, and we have to abide by the decision of the last Parliament. I feel soStrongly upon the matter that I would urge the Government to take into consideration the question of remedying an admitted evil by securing an amendment of the Constitution. This could be done very simply, because the matter is not a contentious one, but one which would appeal to the fair-mindedness of the whole of the electors of Australia. The position of Victoria to-day may be that of any other State to-morrow, and therefore I hope the Government will take some steps to bring about an amendment of the Constitution in this connexion.
.- The question which has been raised by the honorable . member for Grampians involves an amendment of the Constitution. It has been brought forward rather hurriedly, and honorable members generally have not been afforded an opportunity to look up the reasons which actuated the f ramers of the Constitution in adopting this particular provision. I presume, however, that the whole question was regarded by members of the Federal Convention from various standpoints, and that there were good substantial reasons for the adoption of the present basis of representation. At the same time. I think that the Government might very well look carefully into the matter. The Minister might look into the matter, but I think that the solution of the diffi- culty rests with the States themselves. Victoria is suffering in the way complained of because the Victorian people have not devoted themselves to finding suitable outlets for the employment of the young people growing up in the State. The question of the birth-rate has some bearing also on the matter, but for several years past Victoria has been losing a number of her young men and women, who have drifted away to the other States and to other parts of the world, because sufficiently attractive opportunities for their employment in the State have not been provided. The same difficulty is being experienced now to some extent in New South Wales, where, because of the restriction of reasonable opportunities for settlement the young men and women of the State are going elsewhere. The experience of Victoria at the present time will be that of New South Wales in time to come. The solution of the difficulty is not, inmy opinion to be found in an alteration of the Constitution. If the States wish to increase their population in order to secure increased representation in the Federal Parliament they must adopt legislation which will encourage their people to remain with them.
Question resolved in the negative.
asked the Acting Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable and learned member’s questions are as follow : -
The Deputy Postmasters-General of the several States have furnished the following information : -
Debate resumed from 14th June (vide page 243), on motion by Mr. Hughes -
That this House is of the opinion that, as the introduction of the microbes proposed by Dr.
Danysz for the destruction of rabbits in the State of New South Wales may prove inimical to human and other animal life of Australia, it should not be -permitted except for laboratory experiments.
Upon which Mr. Frazer had moved bv way of amendment -
That the following words be added to the motion : - i! until such time as Parliament or the Government, if Parliament is not in session, is satisfied by the investigations of a duly appointed scientific committee approved by the Parliament, that outside experiments will be harmless.”
– I did not intend to speak on this question, but, representing a district which is probably affected by the rabbit pest to a greater extent than is any other district in New South Wales, I. think, after what I have heard from other honorable members, that it might be judicious on my part to make a few observations. There can be no doubt of the serious nature of the proposal now being made for the introduction of a disease for the purpose of destroying rabbits, nor can there be any doubt as to the extent of the ravages caused by the rabbit pest in the different States.
– I think that when an important question, such as this, is being discussed, there should be a quorum of honorable members present. - [Quorum formed.]
– It is a remarkable feature of Australian history that nearly every pest that at present troubles the man on the land was introduced at one time or another bv .some faddist who had no conception of the disaster likely to follow its introduction. The prickly pear, which has become almost as great an evil as the rabbit nest, was introduced in the first in- - stance bv a certain person with the object, of adorning the garden in front of his house, and so jealous was the care with which he guarded it that when one of his children was discovered removing a leaf from the plant the child was severely punished. When, one realizes that to-day many thousands of acres- in New South Wales alone have been rendered absolutely useless Y>- the spread of this terrible pest it is clear that the man who introduced it could have had no idea of what the consequences of its introduction would be.
– There are other pests which could be mentioned.
– Yes ; we have the rabbit, the sparrow, the starling, the fox, the prickly pear, and a number of other noxious weeds, introduced bv men who might reasonably be described as the un conscious enemies of the future prosperity of Australia. Whilst we may be thoroughly alive to the extent of the injury done to Australia, and to New South Wales in particular, bv the spread of the rabbit pest, we must study minutely what is likely to be the effect of the disease now sought to be introduced for its extermination. While we consider the injury done to the pastoral industry bv the existence of rabbits, we must not fail to consider the injury which may be done by the .introduction of a disease for their destruction, which may be communicable to other forms of animal life. Although it has .not been unusual for me to meet many men in mv electorate seeking work, it was a pleasant experience on my last visit, extending over many weeks, to find not more than ten men who were really in search of employment. The reason for that was that men who could not find other employment in the electorate found wellpaid occupation in the destruction of rabbits. There are not less than 1,000 men in my electorate earning a very good living in this way. We have to consider whether’ the remedy proposed to ‘be introduced to cope with the rabbit pest is going to be effective. So far we have no guarantee that it will achieve the object for which it is being introduced, and there are very grave doubts whether the good which is likely to follow from its introduction will warrant us in incurring the risks attendant upon it. We must be very cautious indeed in permitting the introduction of a. disease of this kind, which may be communicable to human beings. I ask honorable members to consider the results which have followed the practice of destroying rabbits by poison. We are to-day poisoning the feathered tribes of the bush by thousands.
– Surely the honorable member does not propose to do away with the poisoning of rabbits.
– We must consider the comparative benefits and disadvantages of the adoption of any particular course. I am not sure that by poisoning we are doing a great deal of good in the way of rabbit destruction.
– I can assure the honorable member, from practical experience, that we are.
– I can understand that poisoning may be effective in the case of small holdings, securely fenced with wire netting, but it is not nearly so effective on large holdings.
– Will the honorable member read Mr. Lascelles’ evidence on the question ?
– I have evidence of my own. I am talking of what I know, and it is not clear that poisoning is decreasing the numbers of rabbits in an appreciable degree. There can be no doubt, however, that it is destroying the bird life of the bush, and by the destruction of the feathered tribes we are removing the natural enemies of the larvae of various pests which are an evil to the man on the land. That is an aspect of this question which requires serious consideration. I think that nothing can be more depressing than to travel for many miles through the bush without hearing the welcome call of the various Australian birds. To my mind, nothing can be more melancholy than a birdless bush. The honorable member who interjected a moment or two ago will admit that the decimation of the feathered tribes will remove the natural enemies of pests which are less controllable than the rabbit pest. In my recent travels I found that, in those districts where the birds have been destroyed, if the herbage begins to spring after a shower of rain, a plague of caterpillars and grasshoppers descends upon it, and eats bare the whole face of the country. Not only is the bird life of the bush being destroyed by the phosphorous poisoning which is now laid for rabbits, but animals sometimes eat the baits, and are killed by them. In one of my trips I met a man who was making a good living by rearing pigs, who told me that in the course of two weeks he lost 100 valuable pigs through phosphorous poisoning.
– They must have been straying on another man’s land.
– In New South Wales a land-holder often leases the stock route or reserve adjoining his property, and turns his animals on to it. but if the fences of a neighbour are not in good order, these animals occasionally stray on to the neighbour’s ground. We should move cautiously in regard to this proposal to introduce a plague which may be much more injurious than the pest which it is desired to destroy. As was remarked yesterday, any person who, when it was unwisely proposed to introduce the rabbit or any of the other pests which now threaten the welfare of our industries, had urged the strictest supervision, would now be hailed as a public benefactor, and in the light of our experience no one can be blamed for trying to protect the country from further possible injury of a like kind. Diseases such as Dr. Danysz is experimenting with may affect, not only the lower animal life, but even human life, and if human life were affected I should not. like to be one who in this Parliament had advocated the introduction of the disease. I admit that ruin is now threatening the staple industry of New South Wales, and that the rabbit pest is changing the whole aspect of land settlement there. Formerly the man who rented land from the Crown fed his sheep on the herbage which it produced, and got a return for his enterprise by selling their wool and mutton. But to-day the herbage which should feed sheep goes to feed rabbits, and pastoralists who, at one time, would have brought any rabbiter before the Court who took one of their sheep, are now, in many instances, providing these men with rations, and even with wire netting for their yards, and allowing the station hands to assist in the drives. Indeed, the present position is altogether regrettable ; but it would be far worse if, in trying to give relief to those who are suffering, we introduced a disease which would bring only trouble and misery in its train. My travels convince me that the only remedy for the rabbit pest is closer settlement. Nothing else will remove the rabbits, and restore the produce of the land to the man who rents it. The other remedy is wire netting, which is very expensive and troublesome, and, in many cases, can be undertaken only where there is closer settlement, though I have known men who have wire netted who have been repaid one thousand-fold for their trouble.
– Is it possible to wire-net the lands in the western division of New South Wales ? I understand that the whole country shifts.
– The companies which manipulate the properties in the western division of New South Wales are in a position to wire-net against the rabbits. The method of poisoning, so much in vogue, is an extremely expensive, one. I have been upon runs on which fifteen poison carts, employing twenty men, are in use, each poison cart costing £2 a week, having regard to the cost of wages, materials, and the value of the horses and vehicles.
– Are not the rabbits in the western division of New South Wales practically valueless?
– The price of rabbit skins to-day is so high that it has become profitable to kill the rabbits there for their skins, which fetch nearly 2d. each in the back blocks, or1s. 2d. per lb. in Sydney.
– That is the winter skin.
– The winter skin of a full-grown rabbit. We are now in the winter months. I do not think that the rabbit can be entirely eradicated, nor would his eradication be necessary if we could control the pest. Besides, there are to-day thousands of persons who would hardly be able to obtain flesh to eat if it were not for the price at which they can procure rabbits. At one time a butcher would consider it a degradation to hang a rabbit in his shop, but to-day there are butchers who practically deal entirely in rabbits, and rabbitflesh is becoming one of the foods of the poorer classes. If we introduce the disease which Dr. Danysz has brought with him, we may not only injure our own people directly, but will assuredly destroy the rabbit export industry, which has now assumed such large dimensions. We should not run the risk of repeating the experience of the Chicago meat packers, by permitting the impression to get abroad that our preserved rabbits are unsuitable for human consumption.If disease were introduced among the rabbits, we should certainly destroy an important industry, whilst it is very questionable whether we should get rid of the pest. I am glad that honorable members seem to take the view that the greatest care should be observed, and that it is proposed that before any disease is disseminated, the whole matter shall be dealt with by this Parliament, which is directly responsible to the people. During my travels through New South Wales I obtained conclusive evidence that closer settlement is the true remedy for the evil with which it is sought to cope by the introduction of disease. Three or four years ago I visited the Wellington district, upon the occasion of the opening of a new flour mill. I then had an opportunity of meeting a large number of farmers who were perplexed by the question. “ What are wet going to do with the rabbits?” The rodents then threatened to ruin them. A few weeks ago two young men went up to Wellington in the hope that they would be able to enjoy some sport in the shape of rabbit shooting. After spending nine days vainly looking for rabbits, they had to leave for another district where rabbits were more plentiful. The farmers of Wellington have, by means of wire-netting their holdings, brought the rabbits under control, and now scarcely a rodent can be found in country which, two or three years ago, was overrun by the pest. I can mention another case which has occurred in Victoria. The Woodlands Estate, near Ararat, which is a very large holding, is infested with rabbits. A number of small farmers, whose holdings adjoin this large property, were obliged, owing to bad times, to mortgage their farms, and were in distress until they sent their sons on to the Woodlands Estate to trap rabbits. With the money which these young men have earned the farmers have been able to clear off the mortgages and place themselves once more upon a sound financial footing. Thus, the rabbits, have, in some cases, proved of the greatest advantage to the poorer class of settlers. In my opinion, there is no effective remedy for the rabbit pest other than closer settlement. This will not bring ruin in its train, but will prove of immense benefit to a large section of our population.
– What does the honorable member mean by closer settlement in the district which he represents ?
– If the honorable member does not understand, I do not feel called upon to explain to him. This is not a matter for humorous treatment, but one which should receive our most serious consideration. As I have said, closer settlement is the true remedy, and the only way in which we shall be able to bring about closer settlement is by imposing a progressive land tax. There is no use. in discussing abstract propositions. It would be idle for me to say that closer settlement was the true remedy for the rabbit difficulty unless I indicated the way in which that remedy was to be applied. We shall have to place small settlers upon those large areas in which the pest has got beyond control and we cannot expect to bring this result about unless we adopt a progressive land tax. Such a measure would result in more benefit to the country than would be conferred upon it if we were to go on talking about Dr. Danysz and his proposed cure until the end of theyear. We should go to work in a practical way, and strike at the root of the evil. We should adopt a method of exterminating the rabbits that would be not only effectual, but free from objectionable features, and it seems to me that the subdivision of the large estates into small holdings which can Le kept under effective control offers the true solution of the difficulty.
Mr. kelly (Wentworth) [jj. 55].- The honorable member for Gwydir has made a characteristic proposition. He says that the only way in which we can help the settlers, who are now in danger of having their land taken away from them by the rabbits, is by ourselves taking possession of what little share they still have left to them. He says, in effect, “ The rabbit »s nationalizing the land, and why should not the State do so by a graduated land tax”? The honorable member’s proposal is so startling that it is hardly worth serious consideration. He dealt with the subject exhaustively, but in a manner scarcely warranted bv the terms of the motion, which is intended to prevent the dissemination of microbes among the rabbits under any conditions whatever ; for the honorable member for Gwydir endeavoured to show that disease should not be spread amongst the rabbits until we were satisfied that such action would not be prejudicial to the people of Australia. There were some curious contradictions in his arguments. In the first place, he preferred sheep to rabbits. I understood the honorable member to say that sheep-farming was a staple industry of New South Wales ; in fact, the greatest of all the staple industries, of that State. He did not want to do any injury to that industry, but at the same time urged that the rabbits should not be destroyed, because the trapping of them afforded employment to a large number of men. I think that that is the most absurd reason that could le advanced in a discussion of this kind. In order to be logical, the honorable member should advocate the dissemination of Bathurst burr and Scotch tthistles, because the more those pests are spread the more employment will he afforded in their eradication. I think that that argument effectively disposes of the Question of employment. The honorable and learned member for West Sydney has told us that we have no justification for believing that these microbes, if introduced, will absolutely exterminate the rabbits. I am. free to confess that J share his opinion. At the same time. I recognise that the more means we employ to keep the rabbits under control, the better it will be for Australia. So far as the central and coastal divisions of New South Wales are concerned, the cure for the rabbit pest is to be found in closer settlement, and in the wire-netting of holdings. The honorable member for Gwydir assured us that that cure could be applied all over Australia. I beg to differ from him. So far as the western district of New South Wales is concerned, my information is that it is not efficacious there.
– Has the honorable member ever been there?
– My information is partly derived from a gentleman for whom the honorable member for Gwydir entertains a very great regard. Within the past couple of years a new condition has arisen in the western district of New South Wales. There the binding of the soil has been absolutely destroyed, and the rabbits are preventing the grass from growing again. The soil in the western division of New South Wales practically moves about in dry seasons, so that in a very short period the wire-netting of a fence is completely buried.
– The honorable member for Darling made the same statement last night.
– So far as these unsettled portions of Australia are concerned, wirenetting is absolutely ineffective as a means of preventing the spread of rabbits. Consequently, we must introduce as many methods of dealing with the pest as we possibly can. The fact seems to have been entirely overlooked bv honorable members opposite that the New South Wales authorities are taking extreme care to thoroughly test the method proposed to be adopted by Dr. Danysz before allowing the microbes to be generally used. The Minister of Lands in New South Wales, Mr. Ashton, who never speaks without weighing his words, is reported in the Daily Telegraph of 4th June last, to have said -
One of the conditions of the experiment was that it should be under the strictest supervision of lending Australian scientists, in the interests of public health, and both the Federal Government and the various States had been asked to nominate experts to co-operate with the Government bacteriologist, Dr. Tidswell, who was our first authority on such matters, in order to insure, beyond the possibility of doubt, that there would be no risk whatever to the public health. Dr. Tidswell left Sydney to-day to confer with Dr. Danysz and th: Federal Government as to the character of experiments. Dr. Danysz, in a letter to the Government eighteen months ago, said it was a question whether any microbe would be satisfactory for the purpose of freeing the country from the rabbit pest.
The question as to whether it would be prejudicial to public health, or innocuous to other forms of animal life in Australia, is dependent to some extent upon local climatic conditions, but that the Government or any Minister in his senses ever dreamt of allowing experiments in such a. serious matter to be conducted outside the four walls of the laboratory was absolutely preposterous. Dr. Tidswell had said that under no circumstances could the health authorities allow the disease to be transferred outside the laboratory, until it had been irrefutably demonstrated in the laboratory that the microbe was innocuous to human and other forms of life. The Government was not composed of absolute lunatics, to take any risk in such a serious matter, and 1 think a lot of the emotional agitation that has been exhibited in certain quarters is due entirely to a misapprehension as to the intentions of the Government. In 1888 similar experiments were made, and as a result25,000 was offered by the Government for the discovery of a microbe that would destroy rabbits. There was no particular uproar then as now, although in the first case the trial was made on Kodd Island, within Sydney Harbor, amid thick population, instead of on solitary Broughton Island. If no alarm was felt then about the prejudicial effect to the public health by microbe culture, why this uproar now? Wild statements had been made at a public meeting at Gundagai, that the Government had made a grave error in not consulting theBoard of Health. Why, it was a condition precedent to the engagement of Dr. Danysz that any experiments with a rabbit microbe must be under the supervision of the best bacteriologist in the State, and there never was the remotest intention even then of allowing any microbe loose unless clearly proved to be innocuous to other forms of animal life. There is also the Noxious Microbes Act, which provides that where the Minister is satisfied by inquiry or experiment that a microbe would be destructive to any particular pest, he may issue a licence, after notification in the Gasette, which must lie for 30 days before both Houses of Parliament for ratification.In the event of objection being raised in Parliament, permission to introduce the disease could not be given. This apprehension about the Government’s attitude in the Danysz matter was entirely premature, as shown by the fact that Parliament must give consent before a microbe can be introduced. Parliament can be I rusted to do the right thing, and see the public health completely safeguarded.
That is the opinion of a responsible Minister in New South, Wales, and I. think that the Parliament of that State is quiteas capable of looking after the health of its people as is the Commonwealth Parliament.
– But this Parliamenth as to consider the health, of the Commonwealth as a whole, and not merely that of a Stale.
– That statement is absolutely correct, and the New South Wales Government is acting from that point of view. But why is it necessary for us to discuss a motion of this character?
– If we once relinquish the power that is vested in us we cannot regain it.
– Some honorable members appear to regard the State of New South Wales in the same light as they would regard a criminal. That is not the function of the Commonwealth Parliament. It is because of the interference of the Commonwealth in all sorts of matters which do not concern it, that the Federal authority is so unpopular throughout Australia to-day. Instead of co-operating with the State of New South Wales, this House is taking steps which savour of a gratuitous insult to its responsible officers. Mr. Ashton further said -
They could rely upon the Government taking no risk likely to endanger public health, also that in reading the State Act he thought that Dr. Danysz’s experiment could not be carried out except in an enclosed area.
I should like to remind the honorable member for Canobolas that the Minister of Trade and Customs has already stated that his action was intended to insure that the proposed experiments in the first place shall be confined within the walls of a laboratory. But we are told, upon the authority of the Minister of Lands in New SouthWales, that the experiments will be conducted within a laboratory, and the Minister himself has been asked to co-operate with the State in supervising those experiments. Where, then, is the necessity for all this parade and fuss? The fact is that the employment of a large number of persons who are engaged in rabbit trapping is threatened, should this microbe prove destructive to the pest. My honorable friends in the Labour corner, who are always alive to political opportunities, wish to pose as protectors of this class.
– As protestors of the public health.
– I have just read voluminous quotations from Mr. Ashton to show-
– We have our responsibility as well as has Mr. Ashton.
– What concerns the honorable member for Gwydir more than does the public health of the State is the votes of the rabbit catchers.
– I do not think that they have any votes.
– They will have votes before the next election.
– There are no rabbits in my electorate.
– There are none in my own, but there are some Socialists. I
– How is the effectiveness of the microbe brought to Australia by Dr. Danysz to be demonstrated in practice ?
– The honorable member probably knows that all sorts of animal life has been placed upon Broughton Island, where the proposed experiments are to be conducted.
– The climatic conditions which prevail at Broughton Island are not anything like those which obtain in the interior of New South Wales, where the rabbits are to be found.
– I think that we may safely trust the intelligence of the scientific gentlemen who have been deputed to deal with this matter. We all bow to the knowledge of the bush possessed by the honorable member, but he ought to bow to the superior knowledge of scientific experts.
– But scientists, like doctors, often differ.
– All that the Minister of Lands in New South Wales asks the Commonwealth to do is to co-operate with the State Government in insuring that the proposed experiments are properly safeguarded. I desire to see every possible precaution taken for; the conduct of these experiments.
– That is all that is necessary.
– Exactly. If this motion be altered to meet that position-
– The mover has agreed to an amendment in that direction.
– Then I think that the proposal should pass unopposed.
.- A great many matters have been discussed, but many others still remain to be discussed in dealing with this question. There is no doubt that the subject is one of grave importance to the Commonwealth, and its consideration should be approached with very great seriousness. One of the principal dangers confronting Australia at the present time is the spread of the rabbit pest.
– We are able to say that it can be kept under in the settled districts in New South Wales, but further wrest there is no doubt that the pest is spreading. of bacteriology. The Royal Commission to which I have referred came to the following conclusions: -
That responsibility for the destruction of rabbits,, whether on freehold or leasehold land, must rest on the landholder. That with respect *o unoccupied Crown lands the State must accept similar responsibility.
This introduces a matter of very great importance, and that is the neglect on the part of the States to deal with the spread of rabbits on Crown lands. Most of the land retained by the Crown in the various States is inferior in quality. It is let occasional lv at a very low rental, and the lessees gain so very little in return from the grazing of it that they cannot afford to go to any great expense in the extermination of rabbits. In many cases when landholders have cleared their lands from rabbits they have been almost immediately reinfested from the neighbouring Crown lands. There is. therefore, a duty resting upon the States Governments to deal with the rabbit pest on the areas in their possession, and they should, at least, see that those areas are netted off from the lands occupied by selectors and the smaller land-holders whose properties adjoin them.
M.r. Webster. - What would that cost?
– The honorable member has ,put a very pertinent question, because there can be no doubt that the cost of dealing with rabbits on Crown lands in the various States would be very great. Still, every one must admit that grave responsibility rests upon the States Governments in this matter. The Royal Commission came to the following conclusions : -
That the rabbit pest has made the continuance of the system of annual leases of Crown lands impossible.
That no finality in rabbit destruction will be obtained without making the erection of rabbitproof fences compulsory.
The representatives of South Australia on the Commission pointed out that the compulsory erection of rabbit-proof netting would be sufficient almost to secure the extermination of the leaseholders of Crown land in South Australia. I think that all honorable members are agreed that wire netting in small areas is a most effective means of dealing with the pest. The Commission further says -
That there are very large areas of land so poor that the erection of rabbit-proof fences around individual holdings might cause financial failure. That the Department administering the Rabbit Destruction Acts should be empowered to permit the fencing of such poor holdings in groups. That in dealing with land of very poor carrying capacity, the State should show special consideration to the lessees in respect of tenure.
– That was done in New South Wales.
– I am aware that the New South Wales Government gave effect to that recommendation. The Commission report further -
That in all infested country, but especially in such poor districts, simultaneous operations for the destruction of rabbits should be made compulsory.
That netting fences 3 feet high, with a mesh of i§ inches forms a practically efficient barrier against the incursion of rabbits.
I must say that practical experience has shown me that netting of this description is not altogether effective. I have spent a very great deal of money in the destruction of rabbits on a place I have, and when I started the erection of wire netting I used netting of if inch mesh, but I have found that it is not sufficient for the purpose. The mesh should not be larger than inch.
– Or inch.
– That would be still more effective, because it would be impossible for a rabbit to get through a mesh of that size, but I have found that a. mesh of 1 1/2 inches is very effective if the wire netting is good. I have noticed that recently there has been some talk of the Governments of Victoria and of New South Wales adopting some means whereby landowners would be able to obtain wire netting under more advantageous conditions than it can be obtained! at the present time. There is a wire-netting factory established in New South Wales, and such a factory was established for a time in Victoria. I should like to see the industry encouraged so that Ave might manufacture our own wire netting in these States.
– And be saved from the operations of the ring.
– There is no doubt that so.xe manipulation of the wire-netting rings in other parts of the world have made it impossible for us to obtain wire netting at a reasonable price. That, if possible, should be prevented, because the use of wire netting is one of the most efficient methods of dealing with the rabbit pest. I should like to direct the special attention of honorable members to this statement made bv the Royal Commission to which I have referred -
That the system of compulsory trapping with professional trappers and State bonuses is radically bad.
Later on, in their report, the Commission refer to the subject of compulsory trapping, and they say -
Rabbiting parties settle down in thicklyinfested country, and speedily kill multitudes of rabbits ; as soon as the numbers are greatly thinned, a longer stay is unremunerative. No attempt at extermination is made.
That is the point at which rabbit trapping fails.
The party moves on to another place favorable for its operation, leaving the remaining rabbits to multiply ready for its next visit. Large sums are paid to such parties fer capita. The station hands are demoralized. The State Treasury is depleted of hundreds of thousands of pounds, and with what result? The rabbits are as numerous as ever ; the operations of the trappers simply drive them more and more widely over the country.
It is well known to those who have any experience in the matter that rabbits frightened by the squeals of those that are trapped move on in front of the trapper, and in this way they are spread over the country. The Commission further say -
No good whatever is done’ except to the rabbiters themselves, who fatten on a pernicious system. The Commission expresses its satisfaction that the Rabbit Department of New South Wales has resolutely turned its back upon this wasteful policy, .lt must not be inferred that the Commission objects to traps and trapping parties fer se. Trapping is without “doubt a useful method, but should be carried out by station hands, and with a view to the extermination of rabbits, not to profitable employment.
That is a point on which I should like to lay great stress. The members of the Commission went very carefully into a consideration of the various diseases suggested for the destruction of rabbits, including the disease known as sarcoptes cuniculi, or rabbit scab, which was supposed to be wonderfully efficacious in the destruction of rabbits in South Australia; the bladder.worm disease used in New Zealand, and the so-called Tintinallogy disease, which was known in New South Wales. All these were investigated, but perhaps the most important experiment was that made with chicken cholera by one of Pasteur’s assistants, who visited New South Wales at the time for the purpose.
– Where did the Commission sit?
– The Commission sat in Sydney.
– Was it a New South Wales Commission ?
– It was appointed by the New South Wales Government, but perhaps it would be as well if I mentioned the eminent men who comprised the Commission. The members of the Commission were - Henry Normand MacLaurin, Esq., M.D., William Camac Wilkinson, Esq., M.D., M.P., and Edward Quinn, Esq., representing New South Wales; Harry Brookes Allen, Esq., M.D.. Edward Harewood Lascelles, Esq., and Alfred Navlor Pearson, Esq., F.R., Met. Soc, F.C.S.,A.I.C, representing Victoria; Alfred Dillon Bell, Esq., representing New Zealand; Edward Charles Stirling, Esq., M.D., and Alexander Stuart Patterson, Esq., M.D.. representing South Australia; Joseph Bancroft, Esq., M.D., representing Queensland; and Thos. Alfred Tabart, Esq., representing Tasmania. It was thought advisable also to appoint as a member of the Commission Henry Tryon, Esq., of Brisbane-. The Commission divided itself into special scientific Committees, by whom the whole of the questions involved in its investigation were thoroughly threshed our, an experimenting station being established at Rodd Island, in Sydney Harbor, where special steps were taken to prevent chicken cholera, or other infectious disease, spreading through the land, to the injury of human beings or domestic animals. The Commissioners were unable to find any evidence to warrant the belief that any known disease could be so employed as to exterminate rabbits. Thev said that Probably many diseases would be found useful auxiliaries in reducing the rabbit plague to manageable proportions, and recommended that1 further inquiry by competent observers into epidemic and parasitic diseases of rabbits should be encouraged, though, in their opinion, even when much fuller information is obtained, it will still be necessary to continue the methods now adopted for reducing the pest, subject to such improvements as may, from time to time, be discovered. It is well known that the Pasteur Institute did the greater part of the experimenting on that occasion, in its desire to secure the reward of £25,000 offered bv the Government of New South Wales, by proclamation, on the 31st August, T887, to any person or persons who should make known and demonstrate- at his or their expense any method or process not previously known in the Colony, for the effectual extermination of rabbits ; of course, subject to conditions. The Pasteur Institute failed to secure the reward, and no remedy has since been found, the experiments now proposed being supported by private enterprise. Some eighteen months or two years ago, when the matter was first mooted, I was asked to express my opinion on the proposal, and I was then, as I am now, somewhat sceptical as to the possibility of an epidemic disease being discovered which would completely exterminate rabbits. I feel, however, that whatever disease is experimented with, must be handled with the greatest care. As other honorable members have said, it is the paramount duty of the Government and of Parliament to consider, first of all, the health of the people, and especially of the poorer classes. Persons of means are always able to obtain medical advice, and to study their health when purchasing food stuffs;, but poor people are often unable to get the best advice, and do not know what are. or cannot purchase, wholesome foods. Therefore, the State must assist them bv requiring that all food products sold shall be wholesome and fir for human consumption.
– This is rank Socialism.
– It is not Socialism. I did not expect such an interjection from the honorable member, because I regarded him as so full v informed of the aims and desires of Socialists, as to be capable of recognising the difference between Socialism per se and State aid and control.
– Is it not all socialistic?
– No. Socialism is State ownership; what I propose is State control. Many honorable members who call themselves Socialists are not true Socialists, but are putting forward a. Socialism of their own.
– The question is the proposed introduction of certain microbes to destroy rabbits, and, therefore. I cannot now allow a. discussion of the meaning of Socialism.
– I apologise for having been drawn aside by the interjection of the honorable member for Perth, to which I should not have paid attention had it not been that I could not, for the sake of mv personal comfort, allow to pass unnoticed the suggestion that I am a Socialist, because I feel that it would be a political degradation for me to class myself with the Socialists.
– In this matter, at any rate, the honorable member is a good Labour Socialist.
– I am trying to deal with the question in accordance with the dictates of common sense. I wish to see the people of Australia safe-guarded, and I hope that the recommendations of the Commission to which I have referred will not be lost upon us. The Government should take every precaution to see that all experiments with germs are carefully watched, and that no disease is spread through the community until its nature has been fully demonstrated in the laboratory to experts appointed by the Commonwealth Government, or by that Government acting with the Governments of New South Wales and the other States. Because this is not a question affecting the State of New South Wales only. It affects the whole of Australia. Only imaginary lines divide New South Wales from the other States, and of them the rabbit takes no notice.
– I wish there had been rabbits in the country when I was out in the West.
– It will not be a good thing, for Western Australia, a few years hence, if the rabbit establishes itself there, because, wherever the rabbit gets a hold, the primary industries of the country are ruined.
– Rabbits make a pretty good food.
– An excellent food : but, if they were got rid of, mutton and beef would become much cheaper. Unfortunately, not only is the flesh pf the rabbit an excellent food, but every other portion of it is of value. As the honorable member for Darling pointed out yesterday, a preparation similar to bovril is made. from its flesh; while the fur makes excellent hats, and the pelt can be turned into gelatine. Unfortunately, however, the rabbits have so multiplied as to become a fearful pest. The Commission to which I have referred says that suggestions for the destruction of rabbits by disease were received from 115 correspondents. Of these suggestions, 26 caine from New South Wales, 8 from Victoria, 3 from South Australia, 3 from Queensland, 6 from New Zealand, 2 from Tasmania, 1 from Fiji, 15 from England, 4 from Scotland. 1 from Ireland, 12 from France, 3 from Belgium, 2 from Germany, 2 from Switzerland, 2 from Spain, 1 from Italy, 1 from Austria, 1 from Roumania, 17 from the United States, 1 from Canada, 1 from India, 1 from Netherlands India, and 2 from South Africa, showing how world-wide is the interest in this subject.
– Is the reward still being offered ?
– No. The money which is being expended in connexion with Dr. Danysz’s visit is being provided by the Pastoralists’ Association of New South Wales. The nature of this microbe is not exactly known. As the Minister of Trade and Customs pointed out, it is described as a pasteurella, a class of bacteria which’ have only been differentiated within the last few years. There are different forms of the microbe, and the particular form which Dr. Danysz maintains that he has isolated, and which he claims will prove effective in, the destruction of rabbits, is one which does not affect other rodents. Dr. Danysz in his original letter, which I have read, shows that he i.s fully alive to the difficulties of the task before him, and the danger attached to the dissemination of disease.
– Would he not be naturally prejudiced in favour of his own proposal ?
– Probably he would, and that is why I say that we should take every precaution to safeguard human life and domestic animals.
– In other words, the honorable member agrees with me ?
– No, I do not agree with the honorable member at all points. I am in agreement to some extent with honorable members on the other side, but I may say at once that I do not approve of the suggestion of the honorable member for Gwydir that the true remedy is to be arrived at bv means of the imposition of a confiscatory land tax. That is one of the most outrageous proposals I have ever heard of. If we could administer to the rabbits a little dose of progressive land tax they would probably die of very shame. I would prefer to see Dr. Danysz’s microbes let loose upon this Continent rather than that .1 confiscatory land tax should be imposed. Such a. measure would prove harmful to all the producing interests of Australia. In the first place, the experiments should be conducted in a laboratory under -the control of such men, as Dr. Tidswell and Dr. Cherry, and perhaps other experts appointed bv the other States Governments.
That course was adopted in connexion with the previous Commission. Only a few weeks would be required to determine whether any danger of contagion with domestic animals or human beings was to be apprehended. The laboratory tests woul’d be complete. For instance, rabbits would be infected with the disease, and would be put in cages with other animals, and perhaps some birds, to ascertain whether there was any danger of the spread of the disease to other animals.
– Could we not put a pastoralist into the cage?
– Perhaps we might do that, and also select a member of the Australian Workers’ Union for a similar purpose. I should like to point out to the honorable member for Darling that the men whose interests he so strongly advocates are suffering to perhaps a greater extent than any others owing to the ravages of the rabbits.
– They are making a good living by trapping them.
– I cannot understand why the honorable member should say that. He must know very well that if we had no rabbit pest we should be able to graze a considerably larger number of sheep, and thus afford much more employment for shearers and others. I shall endeavour pre.sently to show the difference between the value of the products of the rabbit industry and the extent to which we are prevented from increasing other products owing to the ravages of the rabbits. As I have pointed out, the experiments should be first conducted in the laboratory. If they prove successful, the method adopted on a previous occasion should be followed. The rabbits should be taken to an island, or some other isolated spot, and the microbe should be subjected’ to a thorough test under such conditions as prevailed on Rodd Island some fifteen years ago. I should like to quote from the report with regard to the former experiments, to indicate the nature of the precautions taken at Rodd Island. The report says -
A description of the station is given in section VII I. of the detailed report, so that here it need only be said l/hat the island is surrounded by a broad belt of water; that the general enclosure, in which animals are kept measures nearly a quarter of an acre, with stalls and pens, an aviary, artificial burrows, &c, the whole enclosure, with every outlet from it, being protected by fly-proof gauze, the drainage being conducted into disinfecting tanks, and a furnace being provided in which dead carcases and all infected matters may be burnt. A well-equipped laboratory is provided, with quarters for the experts and servants. All these works were completed in less than two months, and thus, at a comparatively small cost, provision was made for the experiments to be performed under the direction of the Commission.
There we have a description of what was actually done in connexion with a similar experiment, and’ there is no reason why we should not follow the same course on this occasion. The report goes on to say -
And when its work is ended, a permanent bacteriological station will remain, in which, from time to time, the communicable diseases of animals can be studied with facility.
Shortly after the experiments were completed, a large section of the buildings was destroyed by lire. If we desire to keep pace with the onward march of events, we should establish a permanent laboratory on a scale sufficiently large to enable us to deal with matters affecting our commercial interests and the health of the people. The suggested test upon the island would give sufficient assurance that the microbe was not dangerous to human life, or to domestic animals, and the third stage of the experiment might then be safely entered upon. On the former occasion, an area of 500 acres on the mainland was securely enclosed with wire netting, and used for experimental purposes. It would be necessary to select a badly infested tract of country, and allow the disease to do its work under natural conditions. Domestic animals should be placed in the enclosure, and workmen should be permitted to carry out such duties as they would be called upon to perform under every-day conditions. If, after a reasonable time, the experiments proved successful, we might rest assured that there was no danger to be apprehended. Still, as a further precaution, it would be well to permit of the use of the contaminating influence in respect to rabbits only within wire-netted areas. Then, if, after a time, it were found that the microbe would not attack domestic animals or human beings, it might be allowed to pass into general use, particularly in areas in which it is now difficult to cope with the evil. We have in every State large scrubby areas, such as are to be found in the Portland. Cape Otway, and Westernport districts, and also in the hilly country in the north-west of Victoria. The Chief Inspector under the Vermin Destruction Act in Victoria states that the greatest difficulty is experienced in destroying the rabbits in these areas. It is there that the foxes do so much towards keeping down the pest. Although the foxes have proved to be a great nuisance in many places, the Chief Inspector maintains that they are responsible for the destruction of 60,000,000 rabbits annually. The honorable member for Gwydir has referred to the pests which have been introduced amongst us. Honorable members can scarcely conceive of the number of pests with which we are surrounded. Upon one occasion when I was the Demonstrator of Bacteriology at the London Hospital, I selected two gelatine plates, and exposed them for ten seconds in two separate rooms at the entrance to the Hospital. I then carefully covered them, and conveyed them straight away to the incubator. Three days afterwards, I found upon one of the plates 150 separate colonies of germs, and upon the other plate 57 colonies - that showed the difference between the two rooms in which the plates were respectively exposed. After separating these colonies of germs and placing them in tubes, I found that in the . 150 colonies on the one plate 37 different kinds of germs were represented.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2 p.m.
– When the sitting was suspended, I was giving some particulars of an experiment which I undertook in London some years ago, with a view to showing the manner in which we are surrounde d by unseen germs. But if we were to be constantly worrying about these invisible foes, life would become almost unbearable. The honorable member for Gwydir has asked me to give him some information as to the nature of the germs that were revealed in the plate which I exposed. I have forgotten the names of most of them, and there were some which could’ not be classified at that time, but I know that I did isolate the germs of diptheria. Honorable members must know that there are myriads of germs floating about in the atmosphere. But Providence has provided us with a method of resisting their evil influences. Honorable members will recollect that someyears ago Professor Metschnikoff. of Paris, made some very interesting experiments upon this subject. He propounded a theory that the large white blood corpuscle, which he called the phagocyte, has the power of absorbing germs, and of thus entirely destroying them. It is by means of what is known as phagocytosis, that we are rendered immune from many diseases to which we are otherwise liable. About the time that I made the experiment to which I have referred, within the walls of the London Hospital, a friend of mine exposed a similar plate at the corner of Oxford-street and Tottenham Court-road. By an exposure of ten seconds he obtained no less than twenty-three colonies of germs. These facts show that it is very easy to arouse the public to an apprehension of dangers which are more imaginary than real. Upon the present occasion there has been a good deal of fear created in the minds of the people by the agitation which has taken place. I am not .going to say that that agitation has not done a certain amount of good, because it is our duty, as representatives of the people, to safeguard the public health as far as possible. It is for that reason that I am disposed to support the motion with the amendment which has been accepted by the honorable and learned member for West Sydney. It has been said - and there is no doubt a great deal of truth in it - that much of the agitation against the introduction of the microbe brought to Australia by Dr. Danysz, has been aroused by the exporters of the products which are derived from rabbits. I do not say for one moment that these people are not acting rightly in endeavouring to safeguard their own interests. I think that they are. I believe that the rabbit trappers, too, have a perfect right to look after their interests. Indeed, it is for all parties to take an interest in every form of commercial advancement in Australia. Throughout the Commonwealth rabbits are regarded as vermin, and if, whilst destroying them, we can convert them into a valuable commercial product, there is no reason why we should not do so. At the same time, we should recollect that the rabbit-trapping industry is carried on at an enormous cost to our staple industries. Whilst- the rabbittrapping industry provides a certain amount of employment, that employment is not to be compared with what would he provided by these other industries if the rabbit pest were eradicated. At this stage I desire to quote a few words from a letter which was addressed bv the late Dr. Pasteur to the Chief Inspector of Stock in New South Wales in 1888. The letter is in French, but, broadly translated, it reads -
The public of Australia, anr! the Government of Australia must not allow dust to be thrown in their eves by persons ignorant or interested.
I think that honorable members will agree with me when I say that Professor Pasteur was one of the most eminent and practical bacteriologists that the world has ever known. Up till the time that his life closed he had accomplished a very great deal for humanity, and it is interesting to us to know that he wrote the warning which I have quoted. I would also point out that the municipal association of Victoria recently waited upon the Premier with a request that experiments with Dr. Danysz’s microbe should be permitted only under stringent conditions, to be approved of by a committee of scientists representing the States of Australia. Their request is set forth in ‘the Age of 22nd February last, and reads -
That the Executive Committee of the Municipal Association of Victoria, whilst recognising the importance of fully investigating any suggestion which appears to offer a means of more successfully combating the rabbit pest, is strongly of opinion, in view of the possibility of danger to other forms of animal life, that experiments to ascertain the practicability and efficiency of the method proposed by the Pasteur Institute, of eradicating rabbits b)’ the introduction of the virus of some epidemic disease, should only be permitted under stringent conditions, to be approved by a committee of scientists, representative of each of the States of Australia.
That is the position which we are taking up at the present moment, and I maintain that it is a sound one. On nth January last an article appeared in the Age, which lays certain facts before, the public that are well worthy of consideration. The article first discusses the question of the practicability of dealing with the rabbit pest bv means of a disease. It argues that this work should not be undertaken lightly, but that every care should be exercised to safeguard the health of the people. It continues -
We have no wish to deny that the rabbit pest is a serious one. The pest is increasing of late in consequence of the abundance of feed. Tt is calculated that some 8,000,000 rabbits are frozen in their pelts and exported yearly. In addition to this, 12,000,000 skins are snipped abroad, and £12,000 worth of rabbit fur is used up every year in the manufacture of hats. The rabbit trade is said to be worth from ^250,000 to ^300,000 a year. We do not say that it is worth preserving at the cost of the sheep and cattle whose food it destroys. But it is not by any means certain that the rabbit is incapable of suppression on sane lines, and bv decent means. Whole stretches of country which used to bc overrun are now so bare of the rabbit that the farmer cannot get one for his pot. The trouble arises where settlers are adjacent to large areas of Crown lands and forests, or near to the water shed reserves, where it is almost impossible to exterminate rabbits. In such places settlers lose heart, because as fast as they clear their lands of the pest, there are irruptions from the Government territories. But that should not be without a remedy. We spend in Victoria some £16,000 a year in rabbit extermination. Could nol much more be done with the money if the Crown were to securely fence off all its forests wilh wire netting, and help the settlers, whom it has wronged, to do the same.
Still another article appears in the same journal of 26th May, and I imagine that the information which it contains was derived from one of the best authorities in Australia upon the question of how to deal with the rabbit pest. That article shows the cost at which the rabbit industry is maintained . It states that the value of the industry to the State of Victoria is ^350,000 per annum, and asks very pertinently, “ What price are we paying for this return”?
– The writer has underestimated its value.
– That amount is an estimate of the value of the industry in Victoria only. The article continues - lt is now conceded that as a means of extermination trapping for the market has little or nothing to commend it. Lands trapped over one season are as thickly infested the next, and instead of working himself out of employment, the trapper finds that there is more work to be done with each succeeding year. It is occasionally asserted that he takes good care to maintain the supply; that he sets free all young and half-grown rabbits that are not marketable, and that he is tender-hearted enough to regard the miseries of the “bunnies” enclosed by wirenetting. Considering that he depends upon the spread of rabbits for his livelihood, recourse to these tactics would, perhaps, be only human. Hut, even supposing that each trapper is a disinterested philanthropist and patriot, it is now pretty well certain that his operations most frequently tend to promote the evil he is supposed to cure.
With that I entirely agree, and at enormous cost to myself, I have had considerable experience in dealing with rabbits. Trapping is absolutely valueless as a means of eradicating this pest. The writer of this article proceeds -
The Victorian Vermin Destruction Department and many land owners are convinced that rabbit destruction unci the rabbit trade cannot go together. In New South Wales it is asserted that while the rabbit trade is worth no more than £600,000 a year, the rabbit as a pest reduces the carrying capacity of the land by about 40 per cent., and accounts for an annual loss to the primary industries amounting to about ;£ 1 3,000,000.
I should like honorable members to compare these two sets of figures.
– How is the ^13,000,000 arrived at ?
– By estimating the number of rabbits and assuming that eight rabbits will “eat as much grass as will one sheep.
– That is not correct.
– I am prepared to place the opinion of Mr. Frank Allen, Chief Vermin Inspector in Victoria, against that of the honorable member for Gwydir on this subject. Mr. Allen has made a study of the question ever since rabbits became a pest in Victoria, and understands the question thoroughly. He estimates that eight rabbits consume as much grass as one sheep.
– That is so.
– I am sure that the honorable member for Moira, who is a practical farmer, and knows what rabbits will do, and the honorable member for Grampians, will bear out that estimate.
– If that were an accurate estimate, there would not bs a sheep left in New South Wales.
– The honorable member for Herbert has asked me how the figures I have quoted have been arrived at. The writer of the article assumes that eight rabbits will consume as much grass as one sheep, and that eight sheep or sixty-four rabbits consume as much as one bullock. It is therefore easy to make the calculations which are here set forth on that basis. The article continues -
In round figures, the number of rabbits killed in Victoria every year does not fall far short of 140,000,000. As already observed, the export trade accounts for 20,000,000 - a number that might, easily be increased’, for there is a large percentage of rejects. It is estimated that the work of destruction - digging out, fumigation of burrows, &c. - accounts for 60,000,000, and Mr. Allen, head of the Vermin Destruction department, reckons that another 60,000,000 are killed by foxes.
– Who brought all these rabbits here?
– If the honorable member had been present this morning, he would have heard the statement made that they were introduced by persons who thought thev would be of value to the State, and did not know that they would become a pest.
– The same mistake might be made by the introduction of microbes.
– That is so, and that is why we are asking that their introduction should be safeguarded. The article further states -
This last calculation will doubtless give rise to a little wonder. The number of foxes killed annually is set down at 100,000. On 50,000 of them the Government and the municipalities pay a bonus of 2s. 6d. a head. There are said to be at least 200,000 foxes still at large, and that, as they are to a great extent shut out from the lambs and the poultry yards, they are forced to live on rabbits.
The next question asked, and it is a pertinent question, is this -
What number of sheep could be raised on the lands despoiled by this vermin if the pest were annihilated ? A proportion of the rabbits doubtless feed upon the worst of the unalienated Crown land - dense bush country and rugged heights, unsuitable for sheep - but comparatively few, for the best country is always the most thickly infested. Of the 25,000,000 at least 20,000,000 exist on lands, mostly freehold or leasehold, - that are eminently suited for sheep farming. Eight rabbits require as much grass for their support as one sheep, so that, according to a rough calculation, if the rabbits were exterminated, 2,500,000 sheep could be raised in their stead.
– Cook.- - In Victoria alone? Mr. WILSON.- Yes.
There are now about 12,000,000 sheep in the Stale, and consequently the carrying capacity of the land is reduced by at least 20 per cent.
I have shown that the carrying capacity of the land has been reduced by 40 par cent, in New South Wales, and in the report of the Royal Commission to which I have referred, it is shown that tha reason for that is that the rabbits have eaten out the salt bush and other edible shrubs, which were found in the infested country in that State, but which are not found to any very great extent in Victoria. The writer proceeds -
In New South Wales, as already observed, the estimated reduction is 40 per cent. Assuming that the wool and sheep industry is now worth £5,000,000 - in jy.04 it was worth £4.073, 7S0 - the rabbits cost the country in this way alone fully £1,000,000.
That is what it costs Victoria.
– Is that for a year?
– Yes, that is the cost for each year.
The amount of loss they occasion to the cultivator, dairy farmer, and horticulturist is relatively large. In addition to this, over £750,000 is annually spent - chiefly bv landholders - in the work of destruction. The affairs of the State in account wilh the rabbit may be approximately set forth thus -
I should like honorable members to pay particular attention to these figures, because they show the enormous destruction which .is wrought by rabbits, and the tremendous effect which their depredations must have upon the interests of the working men of the community.
That is an enormous loss, and these figures show that we are now dealing with one of the most important questions which have to be considered in Australia. I have shown the enormous annual monetary loss, but there is another loss which must also be considered. The rabbit is an animal that destroys the land on which it lives, and is thus depreciating our chief national asset, the land. On the other hand, it is well known that the depasturing of sheep and cattle on land improves its value. The breaking up and working of land in the process of agriculture also improves it, but the improvement of the land by these means cannot go hand in hand with the existence of rabbits. We have to set the money earned by those engaged in the export of rabbits against a loss amounting in Victoria to over _£r, 000.000 a year, which has to be borne by every individual in the State.
– Even- one regrets that fact.
– I am sure that the honorable member does, but the facts in connexion with this matter must be borne in mind. We must do all that is possible to safeguard the health of the people, but I think that we should permit these experiments to be carried out as I have suggested, first of all in a laboratory, then in an enclosure or an isolated island, later in an enclosure on the mainland, and then in wire-netted areas of greater extent. If that course is adopted, I think we shall have sufficiently safeguarded the interests of the people. What we desire to do, and what we must do, is to rid Australia of the rabbit. The microbes’ proposed to be introduced by Dr. Danysz will not do everything. I do not say that thev will do anything, but they mav do something, and if thev will render assistance to this great work of the extermination of rabbits we shall have done something for Australia in introducing them. We must continue the work of rabbit destruction, because the pest is at present a grave national danger to Australia. Having seen other parts of the world, I can speak from personal knowledge when I say that Australia is one of the finest countries on the face of God’s earth. It is a part of our work to preserve it for the people who are already here, and to introduce as many as possible of a good stamp of the Anglo-Saxon race. In this respect the question has some bearing on the question of immigration, and we shall be adopting a means to that end by improving the carrying capacity of the lands of Australia, not only for sheep, but for human beings.
Mr. JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta) [2. 27 J. - I regret very much the tone of some of the speeches made during the debate on this very important matter. I particularly deprecate the introduction of politics into a discussion on the question of the destruction of a pest. Nothing could more degrade the consideration of a question like this than to give the discussion, upon it a political tinge. I believe that the honorable member for Gwydir this morning advocated the imposition of a land tax as> a remedy for the rabbit pest. By so doing the honorable member reminds me of the action of his leader in going about the country advocating a land tax, and. telling the people that it is anything but what it really is. The honorable gentleman has told the people that it spells immigration, the land for the people and the people for the land j that it means defence - that, in fact, it means anything but what it really does mean.
– Why should the honorable member introduce politics?
– I am replying to a political argument which was used this morning. I regret that honorable members should so degrade the discussion of a question of this kind as to introduce their party politics in dealing with it.
– As to recommend a practical remedy.
– Of course, the practical remedy being the honorable member’s land tax, for which he and his party are out with all sail set in connexion with the next elections. I say that the honorable member had no right to drag the consideration of such matters into a debate upon a question of this kind. N
– I think that the honorable member for Parramatta was not present when the honorable member for Gwy dir made his speech, and he may therefore not be aware that what the honorable member’ stated was that, in his opinion, one of the best means of dealing with the rabbit pest was closer settlement, which he held that a land tax would bring about. The honorable member in no sense debated the question of a land tax, and I cannot permit that question, to be debated now.
– That is just the reference that I made. The honorable member is not the only Labour politician who seems to be on the same track. Here is what a Labour member of the New South Wales Parliament said the other day, when speaking on the subject -
Personally he absolutely disapproved of the introduction of disease to exterminate the rabbit pest. It was a. pest that could be held in check by the land-holders. There was never a greater blessing than the rabbit, for the poorer classes, in the country, and there were thousands of men in excellent positions, secure from want, and all owing to the rabbit. Immediately the scientist commenced his experiments, a blow would be struck at the rabbit industry. He could assure them that Parliament would not meet twenty-four hours before he gave expression to his views on the introduction of a disease - introduced as it was by the big pastoralists, and crippling the poorer classes.
– Who said that ?
- Mr. Gardiner, speaking at Perth.
– He is a wise man.
– Does the honorable member agree with those opinions?
– Not necessarily.
- Mr. Gardiner is a very good fellow, and I regret that he has spoken in that way about the greatest pest with which Australia has been cursed.
– Who introduced the rabbits?
– Who introduced original sin ? There is as much sense in asking the one question as in asking the other at the present moment. The rabbit pest is here, and we must do the best we can to combat it. I wish now to say a word or two from the New South Wales stand-point. I have looked’ over Mr. Giddings’ report, and I find that the honorable and learned member for West Sydney followed! it in almost every detail, departing from a relation of the statements contained in it only in quietly leaving out anything that did not favour his position. He told us what Professor Anderson Stuart has said regarding some aspects of this matter, and tried to lead the House to believe that the professor is totally opposed to the proposed experiments, whereas nothing can be further from the truth. It is true that Professor Anderson- Stuart has suggested safeguards under which the experiments may be carried out, but he is lending his aid in every possible way to make them a success, while he has himself, after consultation with Dr. Koch, in Germany, made suggestions for the eradication of the pest. Professor Anderson Stuart is no enemy to the adoption of a remedy of a scientific character which may be safely used for the destruction of the rabbits. Mr. Giddings has v.ot made a fair report of the state of the case, so far as New South Wales is affected. He says that the experiments are to be carried out by an irresponsible French bacteriologist, who is answerable only to ‘an unofficial body. That is the concluding phrase of his report, and I am- therefore not surprised at the abrupt steps taken by the Minister at the last moment, after receiving it.
– Mr. Giddings is a. newspaper man pure and simple - not a doctor.
– Then am I to understand that the Government is taking advice on a scientific matter from a newspaper reporter, and that the scientists of Australia are being put aside because of his report?
– Did not the honorable member hear the Minister say yesterday that he is following Dr. Tidswell’s advice?
– Yes ; and I was very glad to hear him say so. I shall be satisfied if he will follow Dr. Tidswell’s advice all through, because I believe the doctor to be an independent and honest man. and one of the best-informed in Australia in connexion with these matters. The Minister could not follow better advice.
– Then why does the honorable member say that he is following, the advice of a newspaper man ?
– Because the Minister said that he took certain action on receipt of Mr. Giddings’ report.
– No. I have not read that report. I spoke all through of Dr. Tidswell’s report.
– Has the Minister laid on the table a report which he has not read?
– I know the substance of it. but I have not read it.
-One wonders how we are being governed when a Minister lays on the table a report bearing on the question of most importance to Australia, and confesses that he has not read it.
– I laid the report upon the table because some member of the Opposition asked me to do so.
– Am I to understand that the Government attaches no importance to this report?
– I have seen it, but I have not read it, because I have made up my mind to act right through on Dr. Tidswell’s 3-dvi.ee
– Then I have no more to say about the report, except that the speech of the honorable and learned member for West Sydney was a rehash of it. As it was laid upon the table by a responsible Minister, it was natural to suppose that the Government had paid attention to it.
– Does the honorable member think that I have read all the evidence of the Tariff Commission which I have laid on the table?
– I am sure that the Minister has read very little on the Tariff question ; that makes him so cocksure about his Tariff proposals. If he had read more on the subject, his actions might perhaps not be so abrupt. We have heard a great deal about the relation of the rabbit pest to the settlement of the unemployed question, and no one rejoices more than I do, because, incidentally, the destruction of rabbits gives employment to persons who might otherwise be in want of it ; but that surely is not a reason for refraining from taking all proper means to eradicate the pest. I have listened with the greatest surprise to the statement that the pest is a good thing for Australia, because of the employment which it gives.
– Who said that?
– I have just read part of a speech in which the statement was made that the pest is really one of the greatest blessings that Australia enjoys, and that was also the undercurrent of the speech of the honorable and learned member for West Sydney, although adroitly concealed. The matter is viewed through very strange spectacles when it can be argued that the existence of the pest is not an evil which it is necessary to remove by all safe means. The rabbit pest is costing Australia to-day as much as would give every man who is engaged in rabbitting a fortune, and it would be more profitable for us to pay a fortune to these men from the public Treasury, if we could thereby abolish the pest, than to allow the’ evil to remain for the sake of the employment which it gives. The New South Wales Secretary of Lands stated the other day that the country has lost from £8,000,000 to £10,000,000 through the pest. Those figures were supplied to him as the result of an elaborate computation made by his officers, and I venture to say that the loss of Australia has been at least £20,000,000. Do honorable members realize that New South Wales has paid from £600,000 to £700,000 in the way of bonuses for the destruction of rabbits, and that the rent from her Crown lands in the Western Division has been reduced from about ,£250,000 a year to £60,000 or £70,000 a year? T think that the rabbits are costing the country £1.000 a year for every man engaged in the rabbitting industry who, but for it, would 1>3 unemployed. One deals with the question in a manner which is economically absurd if the fact that the rabbit industry gives employment to a certain number who are urgently in want of it is viewed out of its proper relation to the existence of the pest, and as though this incidental employment made the pest: a blessing to Australia. It is wrong. Soo, to assume that only the big pastoralists are interested in the destruction of rabbits, because probably at least one small land-holder is suffering from their ravages for every man to whom the destruction of rabbits gives employment;.
– It is a national question.
– Exactly. They say that an ounce of fact is worth a ton of theory. Well, I met the other day a man with whom I at one time used to work. He took- up 33 acres of hungry ground, such as I should not like to settle upon, and has since been making a living from it, but nothing over. He told me, however, that the rabbits have now entirely eaten him out, that he has had to borrow money to fence in five acres of his land, and that he hopes in time to fence in the whole of it. That incident shows that it is not only the pastoralists who are suffering from the ravages of the rabbits, and that it is not enough to say that if the big runs were divided up all would be well. The small men are suffering equally with the big men. Moreover, the agriculturalists as well as the pastoralists are suffering, because the rabbits will eat wheat and other growing crops when there is no grass, and do as much damage to the farmers as to the sheep-breeders. Some honorable members have sought to make it appear that this matter is being taken up by the pastoralists of New South Wales, and that the State Government are taking no action in the matter. The plain fact, however, is that Mr. Ashton, the Minister of Lands, is the trustee of the fund from which the expenses are being defrayed. Moreover, nothing has been done without first consulting the New South Wales Government, which placed Broughton Island at the disposal of the experimentalists. Further than that, the buildings on the island were erected with the approval of the health authorities of the Slate. Therefore, the Government of New South Wales has been thoroughly identified with the movement from the beginning, and it is not fair to say, as Mr. Giddings’ report would make it appear, that the whole thing has been instigated by the pastoralists. Action has not been taken by an irresponsible ‘body, but by one acting with the full approval of the Government and of the Health Department of that State. A laboratory for experimental purposes has been built upon Broughton Island, and dogs, sheep, cattle, horses, goats, pigs, and fowls have been placed on the island ready for Dr. Danysz. All that the Stock and Pastures Board now ask is that Dr. Danysz shall be allowed to conduct his experiments under every proper safeguard that may be proposed. Judging from the discussion that has taken place, one would imagine that Dr. Danysz was going to scatter his microbes broadcast in the same way that a man would sow a field with barley. Nothing could be further, from his intentions, or from those of the originators of the movement. It is made clear in all the communications that have passed that Dr. Danysz will have to satisfy the health authorities in Sydney and the Government in New South Wales with regard to the safety of his experiments, and I cannot understand why the Minister of Trade and Customs, with a knowledge of all these facts, should wait to ascertain the will of Parliament before allowing the microbes to be opened up. As a Parliament, we are not competent to express any opinion upon the matter. We have only three or four scientific men amongst us, and they are in accord with the opinion of scientific authorities outside,- that it will be perfectly safe to allow Dr. Danysz to proceed with his experiments under competent supervision. Why should the Minister have been so timid as to wait for the opinion of a number of men who are not experts-? He has shown lamentable indecision and weakness. The Government have had scientific authorities to guide them, and yet they have abstained from action until the members of this House could express an opinion as to whether or not it would1 be safe to experiment with the microbes as proposed. Personally, I do not know whether it will be safe, but I believe so. My belief is based upon the statements of those who have made a life study of such questions, and I suppose that other honorable members stand in much the same position. May I remind honorable members that this is not the first experiment of the kind that has been made in Australia. In 1.887 or 1888, the Government of New South Wales offered a bonus of ,?25,000 for a successful method of eradicating the rabbits, and in the hope of securing that prize, a gentleman came out from the Pasteur Institute, and set up a laboratory within a stone’s throw of Sydney. He made all his experiments with perfect Safety, notwithstanding that they failed. Now, it is proposed to take further precautions. The spot selected for the experiments is Broughton Island, which is some distance away from the city of Sydney, and a mile or two from the New South Wales mainland. Every possible precaution is being taken, and scientific experts in the employment of the New South Wales Government have been placed in charge of the experiments. Yet the Minister, knowing all this, and after having taken the advice of the very expert who is in charge of the experiment, has come down to the House and asked members for their opinion. I do not know what would happen if this Parliament should get a scare and determine that on no account should the microbes be opened up. We could not prevent the experiments from being made in New South Wales. The Minister of Trade and Customs admits that if the microbes were handed over to the New South Wales officials, he would be powerless to do anything. Moreover, it has been pointed out that these pasteurellas are already to be found in large numbers in Australia. I understand that Dr. Danysz has selected one of these, and has made it virulent. I presume that he could do much the same thing in Australia. If he did so, the Government would have no authority over him.
– He. must have the true originating microbe before he could do that.
– Yes ; but the microbe could be cultivated here as well as in France. I am reminded of some remarks which were recently made by the leader of the Victorian Labour Party when he headed a deputation to the Minister of Trade and Customs. In passing. I should like to say that it is remarkable that the active political agitation that is being carried on in connexion with this question is confined almost solely to the Labour Party. Mr. Prendergast delivered himself in the following learned fashion : -
He thought Dr. Danysz should have made his experiments in France before coming here.
What are the facts? Dr. Danysz has made his experiments in France, and has come here merely to ascertain if the microbes will survive in a different environment. It -would be impossible for Dr. Danysz to carry out Mr. Prendergast’s suggestion in France, because there are no rabbits there. The rabbits have been exterminated by some disease, and in the interests of sport some people in France have offered a large reward for the production of some microbe which will kill the microbe that has killed the rabbits. Yet we have the sapient leader of the Victorian Labour Party suggesting that Dr. Danysz should do what he has already done. Mr. Prendergast is too late in the day, and I am afraid that it is too late for any of us who are novices to offer suggestions in this difficult field of investigation. The only question for us to consider is, “ Can the experiments be made under conditions of safety ?” That is a matter that laymen cannot determine. But we can accept the guarantees of scientific men. and circumscribe the area, and in that way secure absolute safety in the experimental stages. So far as expert evidence goes, it is all in favour of observing the strictest precautions. That was the idea of Dr. Danysz before he came to Australia. Mr. Carruthers, the Premier of “New South Wales, says that -
The only microbes known to Dr. Danysz at time of writing to be fatal to rabbits are those which are spontaneously generated amongst rabbits themselves.
Dr. Danysz says that
He wishes it to be expressly understood that he fully recognises the necessity of affording assurances that his vims can be used without danger to animals other than rabbits. He had not contemplated other than laboratory work until that point had been demonstrated.
Where is the necessity for the motion submitted bv the scientific and learned member for West Sydney ? He has submitted a motion affirming that this experiment should not be conducted except under conditions such as Dr. Danysz has already suggested. Surely he has engaged in a work of supererogation, and there would be no justification for any motion of the kind, unless Dr. Danysz proposed to do something altogether opposed to the best scientific advice available to us. I hope that by the time this discussion is concluded, the Minister of Trade and Customs will be better informed, from a scientific stand-point, upon this great and absorbing question. All the experiments have been placed by the State Government under the control of Dr. Tidswell, so that the Minister of Trade and Customs, when he states that he is acting upon the advice of Dr. Tidswell, _is taking the advice of the New South Wales Government official.
– T am taking the advice of their officer, but for this purpose he is our officer.
- Dr. Tidswell had been appointed to take control of the experiments before his advice was sought bv the Minister of Trade and Customs.
– We have made him our officer for the time being, and we have got hold of the microbes, too.
– Some of the Minister’s statements about impounding the microbes indicate a degree of stubbornness that is quite characteristic of him.
– I have shown my determination.
– The Minister is very bold and determined when he has a whole Parliament at his back - when he thinks that his. course is perfectly safe.
– I really thought that I was going to get some assistance from the honorable member, and that he would indulge in; some nice platitudes in reference to this matter.
– The Minister talks about platitudes, but he is merely duplicating action which has already been taken bv one of the States.
– The honorable member will not give me any credit at all.
– Why should I give the Minister credit for worrying himself over nothing? If he had done some thing which was contrary to the opinion of the New South Wales Government, or to that of Dr. Tidswell, I could understand him taking this further action, but he is exercising no additional precaution. A mere duplicate is not an additional precaution. All that he has done had already been done by New South Wales.
– Why was it done?
– It was done in the interests of the safety of these experiments.
– Why was it not done before ?
– Had not the honorable and1 learned member better proceed with his letter-writing instead of stopping to make an inane interjection ? I repeat that the Minister of Trade and Customs has merely taken action similar to that which had already been taken in New South Wales.
– It was not taken there.
– It was.
– The statement of the Premier sets out -
The personal supervision and checking of all experiments conducted by Dr. Danysz has been intrusted to Dr. Tidswell, micro-bacteriologist, whose scientific capacity is of the highest.
– When was that statement made?
– Before the Minister of Trade and Customs took any action whatever.
– It was made after I took action.
– The Minister is quite wrong. The statement in question was published ir. the Stock and Station Journal of New South Wales a fortnight ago. I fear that the honorable and learned member for West Sydney has fallen somewhat into his Arbitration Court style, if we are to judge by his speech yesterday, and his interjections to-da v. Of all the laboured arguments to which I ever listened commend me to his speech of yesterday. Here, again, is what Dr. Tidswell said before the Minister took action -
I have to advise that in the hands of competent persons these laboratory observations could be conducted without the slightest danger either to man or animals, other than those experimented upon.
The Minister of Trade and Customs had all this scientific opinion available. When he took over Dr. Tidswell he was perfectly aware that that officer had already been put in charge of the supervision of Dr. Danysz’s experiments by the New South Wales Government. He also knew that Dr. Tidswell had reported that 1 LOS experiments could be with perfect safety conducted. He was further seized of the fact that Dr. Danysz had publicly staled that he had no intention to conduct other than laboratory experiments. Consequently the Minister is merely doing again bv means of Federal action what has already been done by the Government of New South Wales. I believe that every precaution should be taken in connexion with the proposed experiments. We cannot be too careful how we let loose microbes in Australia. But my point is that nobody has proposed to let these microbes loose. Yesterday the honorable and learned member for West Sydney drew a picture of a man throwing about microbes, which were to burst up the rabbit export trade, just as a farmer would throw about seed. But the fact is that if we could exterminate the rabbit pest, it would not be a very terrible calamity if the rabbit export trade were killed. As has been shown bv statistics to-day, for every eight rabbits that we got rid of we should be able to feed a sheep. Yet the honorable and learned member pleaded most piteously for the rabbit export trade, and for the frozen meat trade.
– And - for the hat trade, too.
– The honorable member has not heard what was said by honorable members upon his own side of the House.
– I merely heard what the honorable and learned member himself said, and what particularly struck me, was his reference to the hat factory. I trust that whatever the Minister mav do, he will do quickly, so that the people of New South Wales, who have incurred a heavy expenditure in bringing Dr. Danysz to Australia, may know exactly what their fate is to be. They are entitled to know that at the earliest possible moment. If Hie Minister intends to prohibit the opening of the tubes containing the microbes, he should tell these people so immediately. If, on the contrary, he proposes to allow experiments to be conducted under proper supervision, I say that all necessary precautions have already been taken. The sooner he allows the pastoralists to learn what their fate is to be-, the sooner they will know what course they should take. I sincerely hope that this Parliament will not get into a panic over the matter, but that it will trust the scientific experts of Australia, who, with one voice, proclaim that the projected experiments can be undertaken with absolute safety.
– All of them say that nothing will exterminate the rabbits.
– What has that to do with the matter? Thev all declare that it is perfectly safe for these experiments to be conducted in a laboratory. Nothing, has been proposed beyond that.
– Why were the preparations made at Broughton Island?
– I understand that the proposal was to conduct experiments in a laboratory first and foremost. According to Dr. Tidswell-
Dr. Danysz wishes it to be expressly understood that he fully recognises the necessity of affording assurances that his microbes can be used without danger to animals other than rabbits. He had not contemplated other than laboratory work until that point had been demonstrated.
– In his own laboratory.
– Whose laboratory ?
– Dr. Tidswell’s.
– The Minister of Lands in New South Wales, Mr. Ashton, says-
– Never mind what Mr. Ashton says. The question is what we intend to do.
– I venture to say that Mr. Ashton’s opinion upon this matter is worth a great deal more than is that of the Minister of Trade and Customs. Anybody who knows Mr. Ashton will readily concede that. Here is the Minister installed in his office ready to waive aside the best opinion in Australia in favor of a movement which evidently has some political significance.
– We were getting on smoothly until the honorable member returned to create trouble.
– It is to be regretted that the Minister should treat the Minister of Lands in New South Wales in this offhand and peremptory fashion.
– I have done nothing of the kind.
– The Minister declared just now that it did not matter what Mr. Ashton said, and that the question was what we intended to do. I say that what Mr. Ashton says matters a great deal, because he has given more hours to the study of this problem than the Minister of Trade and Customs has given seconds.
– The honorable member’s life is devoted to trying to create trouble and dissension.
– All I ask the Minister to do is to tell the people of Australia his intentions in regard to this matter. If he would deign to do so instead of talking in such a high-handed fashion, it would be much better. At the present time they are in a state of doubt. If Dr. Danysz is to take his cans back to Paris unopened he should be told so at once, and the Government of New South Wales should be apprized of the Minister’s decision immediately.
– I do not think it is desirable that I should occupy the time of the Housein an attempt to emphasize the magnitude of the evil of the rabbit pest. Any person who has acknowledge of the rural conditions obtaining throughout Australia must be aware that the ravages of the rabbit constitute the most serious evil that has ever threatened our pastoral and agricultural industries. Consequently the value of any effective remedy cannot very well be over-estimated. As a layman, it would be impossible for me to express any opinion regarding the efficacy of Dr. Danysz’s proposed remedy, and it would be equally impossible for me to gauge the risks that are. involved in the conduct of his projected experiments. I listened carefully to the speech delivered by the Minister of Trade and Customs yesterday, and it appeared to me that, having had the advantage of expert opinion, he was fairly impressed with the magnitude of the evil, with the value of any effective remedy, and with the necessity for thoroughly safeguarding the experiments to be undertaken. That being so, it seems to me that, whilst the motion, with the amendment proposed, is fairly in accordance with my own opinion as to what should be done, I think that for this House to pass a motion on the subject would be, to some extent, to tie the hands of the Minister, and to reduce rather than to increase his responsibility. Therefore, whilst I agree that the views which have been expressed have been well worth the time occupied by the debate, I think it would be very much better if the motion were withdrawn, and the whole responsibility were left in the hands of the Government.
– It is not my intention to prolong the debate to any great length, but I should like to say that I think the honorable member for Gippsland has about sized up the position. Personally, I have the very greatest dread of any further plague being turned loose amongst the flocks and herds of Australia until not only its efficacy as a rabbit destroyer has been thoroughly proved’, but it has also been proved up to the hilt that there is no risk that we shall be introducing a plague which may be much more injurious than the rabbit pest. The greatest caution should be exercised by those in authority to prevent the introduction of any disease which may possibly spread broadcast throughout Australia. No one questions the fact that the rabbit is a pest, but the rabbit pest is not a disease, and it might be infinitely more injurious to the flocks and herds of Australia to turn loose amongst them what is certainly a. disease. We know that the result of tests carried out in the old country are not always borne out by similar tests in these new lands. Some things that are shown to be perfectly harmless in the old world have proved to be pests and plagues when introduced into Australia. I am unable to follow the contention that the whole of the rabbit industry may be destroyed if the proposed disease is introduced. We know that millions of rabbits are poisoned every year in Australia, and the rabbit plague still continues.
– But this is a disease which may not kill straight out.
– I have been informed that phosphorous poison does not prove so suddenly fatal as some persons imagine, and, indeed, it is quite probable that rabbits that have taken the poisoned baits have been caught in the traps. I repeat that the greatest caution should be exercised to prevent the introduction of a possibly virulent disease. We know that cattle will eat the skins of rabbits, and some of them have a liking, for the bones of dead animals. We are not sure that it will be impossible for the plague which it is proposed to introduce to be transmitted from the dead carcase of a rabbit to some living animal. If that be possible, we may be introducing to Australia a plague, the effects of which will be one hundredfold worse than the rabbit pest. I should like to see the motion withdrawn, because the Minister of Trade and Customs and the State Government of New South Wales appear to have got fairly into line on this question. They are practically agreed that nothing should be done in the way of disseminating an awful plague until it is proved beyond doubt that its effects will be confined to rabbits. I think, with the honorable member for Gippsland, that the matter is one that should be left in the hands of the Minister. It is one in connexion with which the Minister should accept full responsibility, and, holding that view, I shall vote against the motion; if it is pressed to a division.
– I wish to ask the honorable member for Kalgoorlie whether he will accept an amendment of (he amendment which he has moved. I desire to strike out the words “ by the investigations of a duly appointed scientific committee approved by the Parliament.” In common with other honorable members, I am anxious that we should arrive at a decision upon the motion this afternoon. I realize the importance of the question, not only to those living in the back portions of Australia, but also to those living in the towns.
– Would it not be better that the Government should take the responsibility rather than that Parliament should do so?
– I am quite prepared to accept my share of the responsibility rather than throw the whole of the responsibility upon the Government. I move -
That the amendment be amended by leaving out the words by the investigations of a duly appointed scientific committee approved by the Parliament.”
– I am prepared to accept that amendment.
.- The amendment proposed by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie, as proposed to be amended by the honorable member for Yarra. will suit me very well, and I have no objection to its incorporation in my motion. The end I had in. view has been well served by the public declaration of the opinions of honorable members on both sides, and which, I am happy to say, have, almost in every instance, been such as I hold myself, coloured in some cases, no doubt, by the spectacles through which some honorable members have unfortunately looked at the question.
Amendment, as amended, agreed to.
Question, as amended, resolved in the affirmative.
That this House is of the opinion that, as the introduction of the microbes proposed by Dr. Danysz for the destruction of rabbits in the State of New South Wales may prove inimical to human and other animal life of Australia, it should not be permitted except for laboratory experiments until such time as Parliament or the Government, if Parliament is not in session, is satisfied that outside experiments will be harmless.
Motion (by Sir John Forrest) agreed to-
That leave be given to bring in a Hill for an Act to amend the Audit Act1901.
Motion (by Mr. Groom) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act relating to foreign companies carrying on the business of life assurance in Australia.
Motion (by Sir William Lyne), agreed to-
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act relating to lighthouses, lightships, beacons, and buoys.
Mr. SPEAKER reported the receipt of a message from His Excellency the GovernorGeneral, recommending that an appropriation be made from the consolidated revenue for the purposes of this Bill.
Motion (by Mr. Deakin) proposed -
That the message be taken into consideration forthwith.
– It iscompetentfor the House to consider the message forthwith if it pleases, or to determine that it should be considered at a later date.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Deakin) agreed to -
That the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, Mr. Mauger, do take the chair as Chairman for this day of sitting only.
In Committee :
Motion (by Mr. Groom) proposed -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue and moneys be made for the purpose of a Bill for an Act to authorize the survey of a route for a railway to connect Kalgoorlie, in the State of Western Australia, with Port Augusta, in the Stale of South Australia.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Groom) proposed -
That the report be adopted, and that Mr. Groom and Sir John Forrest do prepare and bring in a Bill.
.- I do not know why the time of the House should be wasted further on the consideration of this Bill.
– The honorable member has already voted for it.
– The right honorable gentleman knows as well as I do that his statement is incorrect. I voted for the second reading, but not for the third reading, of the Bill, because certain conditions which I desired to see provided for were not inserted in it. I thought that Western Australia and South Australia, the two States which would be mainly benefited by the construction of the proposed line, should give us some guarantee of a return.
– Why not wait until the Bill is brought in? Further information may be given then.
– Does the honorable member wish to prevent the giving of information to the House?
– Although the matter has been before us on several occasions, no additional information has been given to us. We have been told over and over again that all that we are asked to sanction is a survey of the route ; but the Treasurer, speaking in Adelaide in December last, is reported to have said -
He was quite satisfied that the proposal for the construction of the line would be received just as well as that for the survey. Otherwise it would be improper for honorable members to have voted as they had for an expenditure of £20,000, as that would then have been so much waste money.
Therefore, in the view of the Treasurer, we are being asked to sanction, not merely a survey, but a proposal for an expenditure upon railway construction which will run into millions of pounds. When in London recently, he took credit to himself for the fact that the Parliament has declared itself against Commonwealth borrowing, but he now asks us to agree to a proposal which, if sanctioned, he contends will bind us to an expenditure of several millions of pounds, and that amount of money cannot be obtained for the purpose without borrowing.
– The honorable member’s leader is in favour of the project.
– I. like the right honorable gentleman, differ from my leader on some questions, and I think that we ought to object to this proposal at every stage. We should ask the States of Western Australia and South Australia to give us some guarantee of their bona fides; but if they are not prepared to do so, I think that Parliament should say that it will not further consider this matter. I hope that other honorable members will adopt a similar attitude in regard to the Bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
MINISTERS laid upon the. table the following papers : -
Report of the Royal Commission on the Tobacco Industry - proceedings, minutes of evidence, and appendices.
Report of the Royal Commission on Navigation - appendices and minutes of evidence.
Papers respecting proposed Federal Capital Sites in the Yass and Lake George districts.
Ordered to be printed.
Death of Mr. Seddon : Federal Capital Site : Deportation of Kanakas : Military Commandant in Victoria : Chairman of Committees : Commerce Act Regulations : Importation of Seeds : Grading and Branding of Butter.
– In moving -
That the House do now adjourn,
I desire to read a cablegram just received by the Governor-General from the ActingPremier of New Zealand, through the Governor of that Colon) -
From His Excellency the Governor of New Zealand to His Excellency the GovernorGeneral.
Am desired by my Government to inform you that your Excellency’s message has been communicated to them and people of New Zealand. On their behalf 1 have to thank your lordship, people of Australia, Parliament and Ministers of the Commonwealth, for their generous and sympathetic appreciation of the work and character of our late Prime Minister. His death whilst engaged in projects for further benefit and welfare of Australasia is peculiarly sad, but it is consoling to reflect that he died as he had lived, in the service of the people who loved and trusted him. As he himself said, he would rather wear than rust out. Sorrow that has been manifested throughout Empire is tribute to his striking personality and to his Imperial ideas, which have made his name wherever the British language is spoken. Sympathy of our nearest neighbours, the people of great Australian Commonwealth, is intensely appreciated by all New Zealanders, ‘ and is only another proof of good feeling and warm regard which the people on both sides of Tasman Sea have for one another.
– I wish to know from the Prime Minister whether lie will move, this session, a motion similar to that moved by him last session, fixing a day when the House will take into consideration the method of electing a Chairman of Committees, so that there may be no possibility of a difficulty arising such as was suggested by you, Mr. Speaker, yesterday, when notices of motion were given on the subject. Possibly Wednesday next would be the most suitable day to .fix, because there are generally more members present on a Wednesday than on any other day of the week, and it is desirable that there should be a full attendance. I wish also to draw the attention of the Minister of Trade and Customs to the matter raised by the honorable and learned member for Werriwa this morning. The Minister states that the Comptroller-General of Customs has said that there is nothing in the complaint of the Curator of the Adelaide Botanical Gardens about the regulations under the Commerce Act governing the importation of seeds, but, as the Curator has had a very long experience, and perhaps a wider one than that possessed by any other person in Australia,, of the conditions governing the importation of seeds, and, as a Government official, would not be desirous of raising a scare unnecessarily, I am prepared to think that there is something in what he says, and to take his view of the case rather than that of the Comptroller-General of Customs. It is well known that often many varieties of seeds are imported in one parcel, some of the seeds being done up in packages weighing perhaps only a few grains. To require every such package to bear a label vouching for the purity of the seeds, and accuratelystating where and when they were grown, under penalty of absolute prohibition for a wrong statement, may undoubtedly mean, as the Curator has pointed out, that the importation of seeds will eventually fall entirely into the hands of a combine of seedsmen, and the amateur and small seedsmen will be prevented from importing direct. It is, of course, important that seeds should be true to name, fertile, and, as far as possible, accurately described. But it is one thing to impose a penalty for a false description, and another thing to prohibit importation because almost impossible conditions have not been complied with. I hope that the Minister will look into this matter very closely, and not be satisfied with the statement of the ComptrollerGeneral of Customs that there is nothing in the complaint. It seems to me that there is a great deal in it. It is exceedingly difficult, in the case of some seeds, to ascertain where and when they were produced, and in many cases the information is not needed by anybody. We do not desire unnecessary restrictions upon importation. No gardener, however reputable the seed merchant abroad with whom he deals, would think of commencing any large operations with imported seeds until they had been tested locally. It would be a great mistake to take action that would almost certainly lead to its getting; into a few hands. We should encourage the importation of seed from all parts of the world, rather than discourage it by imposing unnecessary restrictions. It is one thing to impose a strict penalty for false description, and another- thing to prohibit importations, unless certain alleged impossible conditions are complied with.
– I should like to know whether the Prime Minister will consider the advisability of affording honorable members facilities to make an inspection of the new sites for the Federal Capital that have been suggested by the New South Wales Government? It seems to me that, in the event of any reconsideration of the question, the possible area of selection will be narrowed down in a. considerable degree. The New South Wales Government have had surveys made with a view to determining certain water supply possibilities, and have obtained general information with regard to the area available in the Yass-Lake George district. In view of the trouble which they, have taken to afford information to members of this Parliament, and assist them to arrive at a decision, it would be as well to offer honorable members every opportunity for inspection. I would remind the House that some honorable members have not had an opportunity to inspect any of the sites.
– We have already passed an Act dealing with the matter.
– The honorable member is perfectly aware of my attitude in that connexion,’ and I have not altered the opinion I then held.
– But have we not already settled where the Capital is to be?
– There is a considerable body of feeling in favour of making some effort to select a site that will more generally suit all parties, and I think that this is a very proper attitude to assume in a matter of such great importance. In any case, it would be reasonable to afford such honorable members as can get away an opportunity to inspect the area to which any possible alteration seems to be confined.
– Yesterday, I questioned the Prime Minister with regard to a speech reported to have been made by the Premier of Queensland to the effect that the Federal Government would be compelled to bear the expense of deporting, the kanakas imported by Queensland for the special advantage of that State in connexion with the sugar-growing industry. The Minister was good enough to say that he could not give an answer until he had had some further communication with the High Commissioner for the Pacific, and the British Resident in the New Hebrides. The time is approaching for the deportation of the kanakas now in Queensland, and I would suggest that: the correspondence which has passed up to the present time should be laid before the House, so that we may know exactly how the matter stands. I do not think that the people of Australia will view with any degree of favour the prospect of the Commonwealth Government defraying any portion of the expense of maintaining the kanakas whilst they are awaiting deportation, or any proportion of the cost of repatriating them. I understand that the Queensland Government had a fund for this purpose, but that the money has been spent by them in other directions.
– The money has not been spent; but owing to the cessation of recruiting, the deportation costs £1 per head more than was originally provided.
– I was given to understand that it had. At any rate, the Premier of Queensland has stated that he will not maintain the islanders whilst they are awaiting deportation, and that the Federal Government will have to bear that cost and the expense of deportation.
– So they ought.
– I do not think so, and I shall resist to the utmost of my power any proposal of that kind.
– And I shall help the honorable member.
– I think that the States which derive no benefit from the sugar bonus, but which on the other hand contribute very heavily towards it, have done enough for Queensland without being robbed and exploited in the manner suggested. The Prime Minister has stated that he is also waiting for the report of the Sugar Commission in Queensland. I do not know how that report will bear on the question, but I do not think that we should make our decision in this matter dependant upon the report of a State Commission.
– I indorse the remarks of the honorable member for Bland and I trust thatwe are now approaching a final settlement of the Capital Site question. A few days ago the honorable member for Parramatta asked the Prime Minister to place upon the table the correspondence which had Passed between the Premier of New South Wales and himself. We have been awaiting the production of that correspondence in order that we might deal with it. The new site proposed will, I believe prove to be a better one than that already selected, but I trust that if the matter is re-opened we shall not have another round of picnics with a view to enabling members to make a fresh inspection of the country. I hope that the proposed inspection will be final and that before the session ends we shall settle the question by the selection of a’ site that will be acceptable alike to New South Wales and to the Commonwealth.
– Then it must he either at Tumut or on the Upper Murray.
.- I hope that the suggestion of the honorable member for Bland will not be entertained, because both Houses of this Parliament have already definitely decided where the Federal Capital shall be.
Honorable Members. - No, no.
– In my opinion it would be undignified for this Parliament ‘o entertain the idea of permitting honorable members to go running around New South Wales to look for another site. The wishes of the “win, tie, or wrangle” party in this House should not be acceded to.
– What about the transcontinental railway ?
– If the transcontinental railway cannot stand on its merits, the proposal for its construction should be thrown out of the House. We do not want information to be offered to us for all time, and after having arrived at a selection we should not allow New South Wales to place us in a false position. According to my interpretation of the Constitution, we have a perfect right to decide where the Federal Capital shall be, and we should not permit the people of New South Wales, through their Parliament, to dictate to us in the matter.
– Would not the honorable member allow them to have some say ?
– I would allow them to have the say to which they are entitled under the Constitution, and no more. I would not allow them to dictate to this Parliament as to the particular quarter of New South Wales in which the Federal Capital should be placed. I object to the suggestion of the honorable member for Bland, because the Federal Capital Site question has been already settled, and should not be re-opened.
– I fully indorse the remarks of the honorable member for Bland.
– Would not the honorable member include Tumut and the Upper Murray among the sites to be inspected ?
– I should like to do the Minister a good turn, but unfortunately his action has afforded some justification for the remarks of the honorable member for Kalgoorlie with regard to the “ win, tie, or wrangle” party. He, in conjunction with the Postmaster-General, certainly qualified himself for that designation. I hope that every opportunity will be afforded to honorable members to inspect that portion of New South Wales territory which has re cently been set aside by the New South Wales Government, and reported on at considerable expense. The matter to which I wish special lv to direct attention is one which relates to the Department of the Minister of Trade and Customs. When the Commerce Act was before us, certainstatements were made by the Minister,, which led the butter producers of the Commonwealth to believe that their industry would not be interfered with. During the recess a Minister convened a conference in New South Wales, to which representatives of the butter industry in all the States were invited. The result of that conference was anything but satisfactory.
– On the contrary, it was absolutely satisfactory, and I am now acting upon its report.
– I contend that it was unsatisfactory. Yesterday the Minister received a large and influential deputation, which was introduced by the honorable member for Moira, and, as far as one can judge from the reports published in the newspapers, the Minister is now .inclined to retreat from his former position.
– No, I am not.
– All that I desire .is that the Minister should make a definite statement as to his intentions. The official in New South Wales whom he left to occupy the chair at the conference in Sydney when he hurried away to the Hume electorate, in consequence of a little speech made by the leader of the Opposition-
– That is not fair, because that had nothing to do with my movements.
– The official referred to made a definite statement, but now the Minister appears inclined to recede from the position laid down by his officer. I want to know definitely what are the intentions of the Minister. Does he intend to insist upon compulsory grading and branding in connexion with alii butter exported from Australia, or has he receded from that position? He said yesterday that he had not made up his mind.
– That was on one particular point only, not on the question of grading.
– I should’ like to have definite information on the point regarding which the Minister had not made up his mind.
– The honorable member will get it when I issue the regulations.
Mir. FULLER. - It may be necessary to take some action before the regulations are issued.
– Do not make any threats.
– I am not making any threat; but regarding the contradictory -statements which have been made as to this matter, I should like to have from the Minister now a definite statement as to whether he proposes to insist on compulsory grading in relation to the export of our butter, or whether he does not.
– Yes. The honorable member- has a definite answer now.
.- I wish the representatives of New South Wales would make up their minds as to how many Capital Sites they want inspected, where they are situated, and which one they favour most. When they have decided amongst themselves the rest of us would like to go and inspect the favoured place.
– Will the honorable member take the verdict of the majority of the New South Wales members?
– lt is very ingenious of the honorable member for Wentworth to make that suggestion. If the New South Wales members had their way they would “ boss the show “ altogether. We are here as a kind. of break to that, especially when they tr to arrange amongst themselves as to what shall be done by the Commonwealth. I also wish to direct the attention of the Minister representing the Minister of Defence to a statement made some time ago by the Military Commandant of Victoria. During last session the Premier of Victoria gave n “tea fight” or a “bun struggle “ down the Bay. The Military Commandant for this State was invited to attend. Whether he had too much champagne, or whether he was suffering from real pain, I do not know, but he made a remarkable statement on that occasion, to which attention was directed at the time. He said that he was a State officer first and a Commonwealth officer afterwards. The Minister at the time promised that an investigation would be made into the Commandant’s utterance. I should like to know whether an inquiry has been held, and, if so, whether the Minister will lav a report concerning it upon the table. I mav as well say now that I intend, for my own part, when the Estimates are under consideration, to try to compel -this gentleman to go to the State Government for his salary, in order that he may learn whose servant he is. If we do not get loyalty from officers in high places, I fail to see how we can expect it from the men in the ranks.
– I wish to say a word or two as to the request made to the Minister of Home Affairs in reference to the Capital Site question. I think that the request was a wise and reasonable one, especially in view of the statement laid before Parliament prior to the conclusion of last session, indicating the whole of the facts of the case with regard to the compact arrived at by the Premiers’ Conference. That information and that compact changed the whole position, and induced many honorable members to reconsider the decision arrived at with reference to the site. I recognise in the compact arrived at by the Premiers’ Conference, an understanding that is sacred as far as I am concerned, as a representative of the people. It was arrived at by gentlemen holding high positions, and should be binding on every man in this House. Feeling that that is the position, I think that the honorable member for Bland has put in his request at an opportune time. In accordance with the compact to which I refer, the choice of the Capital Site is, in my opinion, limited to an area within 200 miles, and outside 100 miles, of Sydney. _ Now that the selection is limited to that radius, we should at least endeavour to inspect any site that has not hitherto been suggested or inspected in order that we may arrive at the very best possible decision. This is not a question of changing one’s opinion. It is a case of giving an opinion upon new premises, upon -new information - information that, I say fearlessly, was not in the possession of honorable members until the dose of last session. The question is one about which, I suppose, we have heard more from the members of the Opposition, and the press that supports them, than we have heard of any other matter that has been prominent in politics in recent years. Now we are anxious to come to a decision that will be creditable alike to this House and to Australia. We ought to come to that decision with the greatest possible expedition. But we find that some honorable members ,are not, apparently, anxious to arrive at a decision at all. I hope that the Prime Minister and his colleagues will see the wisdom of enabling us to inspect the fresh site which has been suggested as an alternative to sites that are now found to be not available to us, so that we may be able to select the best position within the radius mentioned in the compact. If that be done, I feel confident that we shall be able to arrive at a successful conclusion before the session closes.
.- I welcome the suggestion of my honorable friend and leader, the member for Bland, and disagree altogether with those honorable members who represent other States than New South Wales. I have not to alter my opinion with regard to this question in any respect. I voted for Lyndhurst from the first. I think that Dalgety is an unsuitable place for the Capital. I read in the press the other day that an unfortunate man had been frozen to death in the neighbourhood. I do not wish for my honorable friends in this Parliament any such fate as that. I do not think that Dalgety is a suitable place in any way. The climate ]< bad. The New South Wales Parliament represents the New South Wales people, and one of the reasons why New South Wales accepted the Federal Constitution was that it provided that the Capital should be within a reasonable distance of Sydney.
Mr. KELLY (Wentworth) [4..1.1j.- [ should not have risen but for the remarks of the honorable member for Gwydir, which have placed honorable members upon this side of the House in a very false position, and that without any warrant. He said that, although we had all along been advocating a just settlement of the claims of New South Wales in regard to the Capital Site, now that the opportunity presented itself of arriving at some such arrangement, we were hanging, back. I wish to say that the Opposition representatives of New South Wales to a man are anxious to see this matter settled in the way it is proposed, and we are very glad indeed to find that, even at this late hour, the honorable member for Gwydir has discovered evidence, of which every one has been cognisant for years past, which, has enabled him to change his views upon it.
– I had hoped that the matter of the Federal Capital had been settled finally, so far as this Parliament was concerned. In regard to the suggestion of the honorable member for Bland, that honorable members might be afforded an opportunity to inspect cer tain sites, I understand that the site which finds most favour in New South Wales is known as Macalooma. In the vicinity of that site, I understand, it is proposed to construct a dam at a place known as Barren Jack. Illustrations have recently appeared in various New South Wales newspapers, showing the appearance which the site will present when the dam is completed. I do hope that the Prime Minister will not listen to any proposal that we should visit that site until ti ve dam in question has been constructed, so that we may be able to see the place under the conditions which will exist after the water supply has been provided.
– I am rather surprised that any honorable member should desire to go back upon an arrangement which was carried by a majority of this House, without bringing forward his proposal in a constitutional way. The only way in which the decision, of this Parliament in regard to the selection of the Federal Capital site can be nullified is by repealing the Seat of Government Act. The honorable member for Gwydir has said that years ago a compact was entered into that the Federal Capital should be not less than 300 miles from Sydney, and not more than 200 miles. I am aware that there was a compact that the Seat of Government should not be less than too miles from the New South Wales capital.
– I base mv statement that it must be not more than 200 miles distant from Sydney upon the representations of the leader of the Opposition.
– This Parliament has already chosen a site for the Seat of Government, and it is the duty of the minority upon any question to give way. Had I been included in the minority when Dalgety was selected, I should! never afterwards have raised my voice in opposition to it. But I voted with the majority on that occasion, and I still regard Dalgety as the most eligible site. In my opinion, we shall never reach finality if we aTe continually backing, and filling in the way that is suggested. I do trust that the Ministry will not provide money to enable honorable members to engage in any more picnics, under the pretence of visiting fresh sites. Let us adhere to the selection which we have made. If it is not acceptable to New South Wales, let us continue to sit here until its Parliament chooses to come round to our way of thinking.
– In reply to the remarks of the honorable member for Boothby.I shall have pleasure in giving notice on Tuesday next of a motion similar to that which I submitted last year for the selection of a Chairman of Committees. I shall give notice on Tuesday, and move the motion on Wednesday, if that meets the convenience of honorable members.
– What is the motion?
– It reads-
The honorable member for Coolgardie has called attention to certain correspondence relating to the deportation of kanakas, so far as it has proceeded with the Government of Queensland. That correspondence is in rather an imperfect state at present, but 1 have no objection tohaving it upon the table.I have been anticipating the arrival of a letter from the Premier of Queensland in reply to inquiries which I have made, and am now making, and this will close that part of the correspondence. The investigations by the Commission, which is sitting in Queensland, are of interest to us, because they are directed, inter alia, to a determination of the number of kanakas who have a claim - whether legal or other wise- to remain in the country. When that information is forthcoming we shall, by deduction, be enabled to determine the number of kanakas who will require to be repatriated after this year, and that will assist us in arriving at an estimate of the cost of deporting them. We also desire to ascertain the amount of the fund which exists in Queensland for that purpose. When we learn that, and not till then, we shall be able to consider the responsibilities of the Queensland Government.
– Why should the cost of the repatriation of the kanakas concern us, seeing that we are not called upon to pay it?
– It concerns us to this extent - that it is conceiv able that if the control of the kanakas had rested entirely with the Parliament of Queensland it might have fixed a slightly longer period for their deportation. It might have extended the operation of the law for six or twelve months. But our Act fixes a definite date for their deportation.
– In Queensland there is no lawfor compulsory deportation.
– No; but the State law provides for regular deportations. The present period is fixed by us, and tothat extent we have a related responsibility with the Government of Queensland. It is impossible for us to say whether that amounts to a responsibility of a financial character until we know the facts, which are not yet in our possession. The honorable member for Maranoa has referred to some statements which were made by the Commandant of the Military Forces in Victoria. These have escaped my memory, but I will call the attention of the Minister of Defence to the remarks of the honorable member. The honorable member for Bland has suggested that opportunities might be afforded members of this Parliament to visit some of the new sites suggested for the Seat of Government, the reports upon which were laid before the House this afternoon. The plans of those sites have yet to follow. I merely wish to point out that this Parliament has already made its choice of a particular site. That circumstance, of course, does not preclude us from rescinding our decision, and so arriving at another. If any fresh site were chosen, the Scat of Government Act would require to be repealed. But an invitation is implied in the communication from the Premier of New South Wales, in forwarding these reports and plans. It might be viewed as pointing to an invitation to honorable members to visit the sites. Its acceptance would rest with them and certainly it would not be the duty of the Government, or of honorable members who are still satisfied with Dalgety, to throw obstacles in the way of the acquirement of further information by any who chooseto visit new sites. I hope that when we do reach the final consideration of this matter we shall be able to say that we have extended every courtesy and consideration to the wishes of the Government and representatives of New South Wales. We can lose nothing by that. No honorable member is obliged to alter his opinion, and if such an invitation arrives, I hope the House will view it favourably. The honorable member for Herbert suggested that the invitation should not be accepted as regards one of the sites until the great reservoir lake is constructed; but I am afraid that will be long after the House has finally decided upon the site of -the Federal Capital, and probably entered into possession of it..
– What : about tthe seed regulations?
– I understand that the interpretation put upon Hie filiations byMr. Holtze is different from mat adopted bv the Comptroller oF Customs. While Mr. Holtze may be or.e of the best authorities in Australia iin regard tto seeds, I prefer to rely on the Comptroller-General of Customs, who has. not only had a verv long experience <>f his Department, but has legal training unci sound judgment tei assist him in the interpretation of the actual meaning of these regulations. I si’.” no reason to question Dr. Wollaston’s opinion.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned al 4.2,5 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 15 June 1906, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1906/19060615_reps_2_31/>.