10th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir littleton Groom) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– Having regard to the completion of the first quarter of ‘a century of the existence of the Commonwealth and the Federal Parliament, will the Government give favorable consideration to the question of officially commemorating in some suitable manner the closing of so important an epoch in the history of Australia?
– The honorable member’s suggestion will receive full consideration.
Mr.FENTON.- Has the Minister for Trade and Customs taken action in accordance with the serious protests made by Australian manufacturers against the importation of large quantities of glucose from cheap-labour countries?
– This matter will receive the early attention of the Tariff Board.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether the claims of firms at Newcastle against the s.s. Wotan, which was captured at Newcastle at the beginning of the war, have yet been finalized?
– These claims were originally submitted through the Clearing House, but the Mixed Arbitral Tribunal ruled that they did not come within the scope of the Clearing House scheme. Consideration is now being given to the question of the payment of these and similar claims by the Commonwealth Government as an act of grace. Steps have been taken to expedite the inquiries proceeding in the matter, and it is hoped that finality will be reached at an early date.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– Tariff proposals are included in matters of Government policy, and the suggestions of the honorable member will have the earnest and sincere attention of the Government.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Markets and Migration, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions arc as follow : -
asked the Minister for Works and Railways, upon notice -
– The. answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Representation of Cheese Makers
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Markets and Migration, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
State. The act does not provide for a separate representative on the board of the cheese manufacturers of Queensland.
Production of Telegrams
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The telegrams were supplied by the Postmaster-General’s Department in accordance with and under the authority conferred by the Post and Telegraph Regulations.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
What action is the Government taking with regard to helping the development of the cotton growingindustry in Queensland, and when will the inquiries by Tariff Board promised in the Governor-General’s Speech take place?
– The Government has decided to have an exhaustive inquiry immediately by the Tariff Board into the cotton growing industry with a view to ascertaining the best means of developing the industry and encouraging the establishment of industries utilizing Australian cotton products. The Board has arranged to hold the inquiries in Brisbane at an early date.
asked the Minister for Works and Railways, upon notice -
– The answers to . the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– Yes. The vessels are completed, and will very shortly be in commission.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Markets and Migration, upon notice -
Whether the Minister will take speedy action through the Bureau of Science and Industry to have a research grant provided to enable immediate comprehensive tests to be made of theRutter process of manufacturing dairy produce without the use of boric acid, in view of the decision announced by the British Government that, after let January, 1928, no importations will be permitted of dairy produce containing that preservative, and also in view of the unsatisfactory results attending the storage of butter made without boric acid preservative?
– This matter is now engaging the attention of the Institute of Science and Industry.
– Replying to a question, without notice, addressed to me yesterday by the honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson), I promised to make an early statement as to the action intended to be taken by the Government in regard to the appointment of a Royal Commission to inquire into the affairs of Norfolk Island. I am now in a position to inform the House that the arrangements which have been in train have been completed, and that the desired investigation will be undertaken at the earliest possible moment. For this purpose it has been decided to appoint Mr. Francis Whysall, formerly Deputy Postmaster-General of New South Wales, a Royal Commissioner, and to invest him with the necessary powers and authority to conduct the inquiry. Mr. Whysall has been chosen for the task because of his long administrative experience, in the course of which he established a high reputation for ability and impartiality. Briefly, the terms of the reference to the Royal Commissioner will be to inquire into and report upon the system of administration in, and in connexion with, the Territory of Norfolk Island, and to investigate any complaints by residents of the territory in regard to local conditions, with a view to suggesting such remedial measures as may appear to him to be desirable.
– Yesterday, the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Mackay) asked me a question respecting the use of New South Wales stone in connexion with certain Queensland buildings being erected by the Commonwealth. I find that tenders have been called for the new telephone exchange at Brisbane, which will be part of a large block of buildings involving considerable expenditure. It was therefore necessary that the initial building for the telephone exchange, which will contain the architectural features which govern the design of the whole block, should be carried out with . the greatest economy. In a specification, Bowral (New South Wales) trachyte is mentioned, as, because of easier working, &c, it is approximately 33 per cent. more economical than Queensland granite. If the honorable member for Lilley so desires, alternative tenders for Queensland granite can be invited. Only a veneer of stone on the first story is being used, and the amount involved in this particular building will not be large.
The following papers were presented : -
River Murray Waters Act - River Murray Commission - Report for year 1924-5. .
Ordered to be printed.
Commonwealth Bank Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1926, No. 4.
War Service Homes Act - Arrangement between the War Service Homes Commissioner and the Commissioners of the State Savings Bank of Victoria.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Pratten) proposed -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to provide for the ‘ payment of bounty on the manufacture of power alcohol.
Mr.FENTON (Maribyrnong) [11.17]. - I was not satisfied last night with the statement of the Minister that the solemn promise made by him to the House as constituted in 1925 did not hold good in the present House. When a certain stage of the bill had been reached in the last Parliament, he said that the Government would postpone further consideration of it until the Public Accounts Com- . mittee had reported on the production of power alcohol from cassava. Last night he hurriedly brought the bill forward again, and proceeded with the secondreading stage. I am taking the opportunity of voicing my protest at the earliest possible moment. I fail to see that there is any necessity for rushing this bill through.
– Without divulging information that belongs to the Public Accounts Committee, I can say that it is absolutely essential that honorable members should be in possession of the report of the committee before they deal with the bill. Every member of the Public Accounts Committee, every member of Parliament, and every sensible elector is in favour of doing everything practicable to encourage an industry that will provide power alcohol, or any other substitute for petrol, in this country.
.- I wish to emphasize the remarks of the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton). When the bill was before Parliament last year, the Minister seemed anxious that it should be passed, but honorable members were in favour of submitting the subject for inquiry by the Public Accounts Committee.
– No !
– The Minister promised that he would delay the bill until the’ committee’s report had been presented. The committee has taken professional and scientific evidence which would be of great assistance to honorable members in considering the bill. This evidence is necessary because the growing of cassava has never been undertaken commercially in Australia. It is entirely a new industry, and before we attempt to bolster it up we should satisfy ourselves that it has at least a chance of success. Let me give honorable members a little taste of the evidence submitted to the committee. The Department of Agriculture in Queensland stated that cassava had not been commercially grown, and that nothing was known of it, but that arrowroot, which closely approximated to cassava, had .been grown, and that the average yield was 12 tons to the acre, and the cost delivered at the mill £2 a ton. For cassava the department estimated a yield of 8 tons to the acre, at a cost of £2 a ton at the mill. Mr. Monier Williams, an expert in the production of power alcohol from cassava, has said that “ the average yield is 9 tons per acre.” As the Queensland Department of Agriculture said that cassava could not be delivered to the mill under £2 a ton, honorable members will be able to estimate some of the factors associated with the development of this industry. Mr. Monier Williams further said, “ Cassava possesses a disadvantage common to many root crops of. requiring considerable manual labour for cultivation and harvesting. The tubers are long and spreading, and can only be ploughed out with difficulty.” These are facts that honorable members should know. The committee has taken technical evidence on a subject that it was authorized to inquire into, and honorable members should have that evidence before them before they pass the bill. I shall oppose the bill until the committee’s report has been presented to the House. The Government may raise the. technical point that the committee was a committee of the previous Parliament, but every member of it is still a member of the House. The bill now before us was printed for the last Parliament. If I read clause 4 correctly, it provides for the payment of the bounty for six years, not five years, as stated by the. Minister.
Knowing something of the evidence taken by the committee, I say that it is most important that every honorable member should have the committee’s report before him when considering the bill.
.- I do not wish to obstruct the passage of this bill, but I intend to reaffirm what I said when it was introduced last year. I consider that the Government made a grave blunder in attempting to rush such an important measure through before full inquiries had been made. The power alcohol industry is of such great importance to Australia that a committee of experts should have been appointed to take evidence on the subject, particularly in the northern state of Queensland. Part of the surplus sugar crop in that state could be used for the manufacture of power alcohol. No evidence whatever was taken in Queensland by any board of experts. We were assured by the Minister that the Government had made investigations, but I have ascertained, after making careful inquiries, .that the only investigations were made by the Tariff Board, which has never been in Queensland in connexion with the matter. In fact, the only two . witnesses examined by that body were Mr. Board, the representative of the International Sugar and Alcohol Company Limited, of London - the company which will receive the bounty - and Mr. Herbert Powell, a director of Power Alcohol, Sydney. No investigation was made as to whether the problem of over-production in the sugar industry could be solved by using products of the industry for the manufacture of power alcohol. This wealthy English company, with a capital of £40,000,000, got the ear of the Minister, and secured the Government’s promise to the payment of a bounty of 4d. per gallon on power alcohol produced from cassava, a crop that has never been grown in Queensland. I hope that we shall be able to develop the cassava industry in Queensland; but why tinker with such a big national question? The sugar industry is in a parlous condition as the result of over-production. Forty per cent, of the sugar crop has to be sold at a loss, and the sugar-growers to-day are in financial difficulties. There is a chance of solving the over-production problem if the Commonwealth Government will deal with the production of power alcohol in a broad, national way, and pay a bounty not only on power alcohol produced from cassava, but also on that produced from molasses, inferior syrups, and sugar cane. I have ‘ spoken on this bill not for the purpose of opposing a measure that has for its object the establishment of a new industry in Queensland, but with a view to extending its provisions to embrace the sugar industry. “When I spoke on the same measure six months ago my desire was to enlarge the scope of the bill, and to make it more useful to Queensland and Australia generally. The Minister promised that the bill would not be re-introduced until the report of the Public Accounts Committee had been tabled. On the 21st August last the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman) said in this chamber -
However, if the Minister will agree to postpone the later stages of the bill until the Public Accounts Committee has presented its report, I shall vote against the motion for the appointment of a select committee.
– I shall be prepared to agree to that when this motion has been disposed of.
– Then I presume that if the motion is defeated or withdrawn the Minister will postpone the committee stage so that honorable members may have an opportunity to consider the Public Accounts Committee’s report, and suggest possible amendments.
Thereupon the honorable member for Reid voted against the appointment of a select committee. I recognize that the best body to consider this matter would be a committee of experts, but the Minister gave us his assurance that the Public Accounts Committee would investigate it. I know that members of the Public Accounts Committee have taken a keen interest in it, and have heard a large amount of evidence upon it. I have not seen a report from the committee, although the Minister promised that it would be available for our consideration. Surely there is no need to do these things in the dark. The bill should be widened in its scope, and its benefits should be extended to the sugar industry. If that be done, it would be possible eventually to obtain in Australia one-third of. all our requirements of motor spirit, for which we now pay to other countries £8,000,000 a year.
Mr. De Bavay, a recognized expert in the manufacture of power alcohol, gave important evidence before the Public Accounts Committee in September of last year. Although the official report of the evidence is not before us, the Industrial Australian and Mining Standard published on 3rd September, 1925, the following digest of his statements: -
It would be profitable to manufacture power alcohol from molasses, costing £1 a ton. But to secure molasses at this price it would be necessary to establish a distillery at- each min, and small distilleries were expensive to work. He submitted calculations to show that the growing of cassava wilh white labour under Australian conditions would be a hopeless proposition at economic prices for the spirit. Power alcohol would be the fuel of the future for motor cars and aeroplanes. - Authorities in America were of opinion that there would be a shortage of petrol before five years. The Standard Oil Trust was controlling the largest distillery in the world for the manufacture of alcohol from Cuban molasses. Witness supplied technical details of various schemes of utilizing the over-production of sugar in Queensland for production of power alcohol, and he did not know of ‘ a better avenue of starting, the industry. Something, he urged, should be done to prevent the heavy losses that were staring the Queensland sugar planters in the face. If the Commonwealth Government did not help, many sugar farmers would have to leave the north of Queensland, and settlement by white people would receive a setback.
If, continued Mr. de Bavay, the Government would grant to the sugar-growers the same bonus of 4d. a gallon of power alcohol, as was proposed for growers of cassava, the sugargrowers would be able to go on working their farms at a reasonable profit, producing some 30,000,000 gallons of power alcohol per annum, and ensuring the people of Australia against the disastrous consequences of a shortage of petrol. The Government should do for power alcohol what it had done for sugar - make the country independent of importations. Some £8,000,000 -was sent out of the country every year. What could be done with this enormous sum if invested every year in Australian industry? He urged that the Government should pay this bonus on power alcohol made from any substance. A sufficient tax should be placed on imported petrol to pay for this bonus, and a law enacted to make the blending of petrol and alcohol compulsory, according to quantity of alcohol produced. This would facilitate and cheapen the distribution of the power alcohol, and do away with the addition of denaturants, costing at present some 2-)d. If blending alcohol and petrol were obligatory, doing away with, the cost of denaturation, the bonus of id. could be reduced to 2d. a gallon. A penny duty on imported petrol above the present duty would fully recoup the Federal Government for the 2d. .bonus on power alcohol.
Those statements by Mr. De Bavay, the gentleman who was engaged by the Federal Government to establish the power alcohol factory on the banks of the Brisbane River, are most important. The industry Mr. De Bavay established is now being managed by his son, and is a very successful enterprise. Twenty thousand gallons of power alcohol are produced annually, and used instead of imported petrol in the motor cars of the Defence and PostmasterGeneral’s Departments throughout Australia. The Government is making a serious blunder in trying to compel honorable members to agree to the passage of this bill before a thorough investigation of the whole subject has been made by an expert committee, or at least before the evidence obtained by the Public Accounts Committee has been made available. So far the subject has only been considered by the Tariff Board, which is composed of gentlemen who are not experts in the production of power alcohol. The board did not consult gentlemen like Mr. Seymour-Howe, general manager of the Mulgrave Central Sugar Mill, technical adviser to the Northern Power Alcohol Committee, and an expert chemist, and others whom I could mention, although they are anxious to have the opportunity of giving evidence on the matter.. They are not at all opposed to the establishment of a new industry in Queensland, nor am I. But why should we give a proprietary company twelve months’ or two years’ start on the sugar-growers of Queensland in establishing this industry? This is a great national question, and the Government is only tinkering with it. The payment of a bounty of £5,000 annually in the circumstances set out in the bill can only result in the production of 300,000 gallons of power alcohol, whereas our requirements of liquid fuel are 82,000,000 per annum. The sugar- industry in Queensland has a surplus production of 1,200,000 tons annually. That could be used to manufacture 24,000,000 gallons of power alcohol. The only speedy way to meet the over-production of sugar in Queensland is to use the surplus to manufacture power alcohol. By adequate protection we could also build up other industries, and thus absorb a larger population to consume our sugar. If arrangements were made to do this many hundreds of sugar growers who bought their land at a high price, and are struggling to. pay off the balance they owe on it, would be wonderfully helped. We should not be asked to rush a measure like this through simply because the Government has no other business to put before us. If the bill is passed in its present form the interests of thousands of producers will be jeopardized. The views that I am expressing are held by the people of Queensland generally, as well as by myself. Many prominent men in the sugar-growing districts of Queensland have urged me to oppose this proposal. Mr. E. Hunter, of Innisfail, for instance, in a letter to me, dated 15th July last, said -
In my opinion the bill should be withdrawn and a thorough investigation made into the whole subject. These English companies with millions of capital are not coming here to help our farmers. It is the thin end of the wedge; they want a monopoly of our molasses.1
Mr. W. J. McLennan, of Sarina, wrote to me to the effect that the measure was totally opposed to the best interests of the sugar-growers. On the 27th July last Mr. Seymour-Howe telegraphed to me as follows : -
Bill should be postponed pending further valuable information, otherwise grave injustice sugar industry. Certainly alcohol from any vegetable source such as sugar-cane containing molasses should be entitled bonus assist to permanently establish such an important key industry. Consider no concession or monopoly should be granted exclusively any person or corporation.
Another gentleman, well-known to the honorable member for Herbert (Dr. Nott) - I refer to Mr. W. C. Griffen, president of the Northern United Canegrowers Association - telegraphed to me as follows: -
Cairns Cane-growers Association urges upon Government to . postpone further reading of Power Alcohol Bill.
When the’ Minister was asked on the 26th June last to refer the bill to a committee of experts, he said that it was necessary to pass it immediately. Over six months has elapsed since then. The bounty was to have been paid as from the 1st January of this year, but Mr. Board has not yet produced any power alcohol. As a matter of fact, a Queensland Government agricultural expert has just returned from Java with the cassava plants, and these are now being planted in the vicinity of the Plane Creek sugar mill. I have been all through the neighbouring districts, which are portion of my electorate, and I know the view of the sugargrowers there. A brochure on the manufacture of power alcohol has been issued by the Northern Power Alcohol Committee, the members of which are Messrs. A. J. Draper, chairman, who is also chairman of directors, Mulgrave Sugar Mill Limited, and vice-president of the Australian Sugar Producers’ Association j W. D. Davies, the vice-president of the Australian Sugar Producers’ Association; S. H. Warner, chairman of directors, Babinda Central Sugar Mill Limited; C. Hudson, the secretary of the Innisfail Cane-growers’ Association; and W. F. Seymour-Howe, the general manager of the Mulgrave Central Sugar Mill, and technical adviser to the committee. In that publication, which is dated the 14th June, .1925, Mr. Seymour-Howe stated -
Mr. Board, of the International Sugar and Alcohol Company, made it quite clear that the whole of the molasses produced in Queensland would be quite insufficient to permit of their producing power alcohol to the extent necessary to supply Australia’s needs, which was their objective; and further stated his company would not be prepared to enter upon the undertaking without having a right to ultimately secure the whole of the Queensland molasses. His facts and figures, upon which they based their decision to become identified with the initial experiment in the Mackay district, are directly associated with the proposition of entirely absorbing the whole of the molasses.
I do not wish to see the sugar producers of Queensland handed over to the tender mercies of the International Sugar and Alcohol Company of London. The company is a branch of Distillers Limited, which controls £40,000,000 of capital, and it should not get preferential treatment over the sugar-growers’ co-operative mills. The company will get in early, and, if possible, obtain entire control of all the molasses produced by the industry. If it is given a start of two years on any sugar-growers’ co-operative company, there is no doubt that its directors will secure contracts for the supply of all the molasses that the sugar-growers produce, and that will render it impossible for the growers to utilize molasses and other byproducts of the sugar industry for the manufacture of power alcohol as a means of solving the over-production problem..
– I cannot understand why some honorable members are delaying the passage of this bill. One could, perhaps, appreciate the attitude that the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) has adopted if there were any likelihood of the International Sugar and Alcohol Company securing a monopoly of the power’-alcohol industry. It is ridiculous, however, to think that that is possible. Approximately, 10,000,000 gallons of molasses are produced annually in Australia, of which 4,000,000 gallons are sold to distilleries, and 6,000,000 run to waste. According to the Official Year-Booh, molasses is produced in the following districts in Queensland : -
From these figures it will be quite clear to honorable members that there is ample room in Queensland for quite a number of companies to produce power alcohol from molasses. It would be impossible for the International Sugar’ and Alcohol Company to utilize even one-third of the molasses now available, for the simple reason that it would be too expensive to transport it to their factory. Necessarily, the company will have to depend for its raw material chiefly on cassava and other root crops. It must be quite clear, also, that is is impossible for the Minister to carry out the promise he made last year to hold this matter over until the report of the Public Accounts Committee on power alcohol is available. The Committee prepared its report, but did not present it. It cannot be presented now, for the Committee is no longer in existence, lt would be too much to expect the new Public Accounts Committee, which will shortly be appointed, to adopt a report of the last Committee without itself inquiring into the matter afresh. There must be considerable and unavoidable delay if the bill is to be referred to a select committee for report or shelved until the Public Accounts Committee reports upon power alcohol production. I urge honorable members not to delay this proposal any longer. There is plenty of room in Australia for similar companies to establish themselves. This company has undertaken to spend £50,000 here on what is really an experiment. It has undertaken to do so purely on the strength of the reports on the production of power alcohol issued by the Institute of Science and Industry. May I, in passing, express my appreciation of the work of the institute in this connexion ? The Queensland Government is backing this scheme to the extent of £25,000. I have no doubt that the Minister will gladly approve of the payment of a bounty to any other company which will undertake the production in Australia of power alcohol from other material.
– He cannot do so under the provisions of this measure, for it would increase the appropriation.
– The bounty provided for in this measure is payable for five years. If the Minister is convinced that power alcohol may be produced profitably from other raw material, I have no doubt that he will ask Parliament to approve of the payment of a bounty, by an amendment of the act, to any company that will undertake the work. I ask honorable members to regard this as the first of a series of similar measures. This company is really risking its money cn an experiment, and we ought to encourage it.
.- I very much’ regret the circumstances under which this measure has been introduced. I must also admit to a certain amount of surprise at the course that has been adopted. This bill was fully debated in the last Parliament. For the information of new members, I may say that last year I personally raised considerable objection to the proposal of the Government, and because of the very important questions involved I moved that the bill be referred to a select committee. My objections were based on both technical and economic grounds. I pointed out to the House that alcohol could be produced only from materials which were either actual or potential foodstuffs for men or beasts, that the pursuit of such a scheme as this to its ultimate conclusion must mean the raising of the price of foodstuffs in this country, and that the bill was far from being a small and innocent measure involving only a payment of £5,000 per annum. I showed that it was admittedly the first stage in a proposal that would not be a success unless it led to the introduction of a complete scheme which was calculated to meet the whole of the liquid fuel requirements of this country. I pointed out that such a scheme would need a subsidy, not of £5,000 per annum, but of nearly one and a half millions per annum, and would also mean the hypothecation of nearly 2,000,000 tons of our foodstuffs. I discussed the matter very fully, and pointed out that a lot of the evidence given in support of the bill was unreliable or out of date, that much more information was required, and that many sources of expert knowledge had not been tapped. I also informed the House of what had been done in other countries, notably in Great Britain, where several inquiries into the practicability of producing power alcohol under certain conditions had ended in failure, and reports had been submitted to the effect that such schemes could not be established without serious economic disturbances in the food markets of the world. I do not propose to mention in detail all the sources of information that- 1 quoted last year in my second-reading speech and when moving a motion for the appointment of a select committee. That information is available in Mansard. My motion for the appointment of a select committee was negatived by this House on the distinct understanding given by the Minister that the bill would not be proceeded with until the report of the Public Accounts Committee on the production of power alcohol had been received by Parliament. Because of that promise many honorable members opposed my motion who would otherwise have been induced to agree to the appointment of a select committee.
– What has become of the report ?
– I am coming to that. The Minister yesterday said that he did not feel bound by that promise, because it was given to another Parliament. I confess that I do hot quite know where such a statement would lead us. Are we -to understand that any undertaking given by the Minister in the last Parliament is no longer valid, and must be again renewed in this Parliament to have any force ? I feel convinced that the Minister will not persist in such an attitude, and that he answered hastily, without really meaning what he said, when taxed with this matter last night. The Minister has said that no information has come to hand to justify a further delay of the bill, but I wish to point out that some of the matters which I mentioned in my speech last year and which I said had not received attention, have now, apparently, according to the brief statement made by the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse), been considered worthy of special attention by the Public Accounts Committee. I stressed, notably, the uneconomical conditions of the production of power alcohol from the cassava crop, and the difficulty of growing it. These matters bad not previously been dealt with in any of the reports submitted to the House or to the Minister, but they have now apparently been investigated by the Public Accounts Committee. I have had no indication of the nature of its report. The Minister said that he understood that it was not unfavorable to the bill. I wish to see the report myself, and to know what decision the Committee came to on the matters to which I have referred. I believe that the bill is utterly fallacious, both on technical and economic grounds, and that the interests of this country would severely suffer by its passage. I have tried, in a legitimate and straightforward manner, to give reasons for my objections to the bill, and if the House is against me I am prepared to abide by the result. The report of the Public Accounts Committee, although promised last September, has not yet been submitted. It could be submitted to this House by the new committee when appointed, not as its own report, but as that of the previous committee ; and if the House were satisfied with it, well and good. There is no reason why the new committee should not give the matter further consideration. In view of the many valid objections to the bill, the Minister should not ask us to accept it without producing one tittle of evidence or authority for the statements that he has made. He is not treating the House quite fairly. The bill is highly technical, and we should be very cautious in handling it. I am quite sure that the Minister wants to do only what is right and fair. I am not speaking offensively when I say that I am afraid that he has by no means a full grasp of the technicalities of the bill. In fact, from his statement last night it would appear as if he considered that alcohol, petrol, benzol, and acetone were equivalent, and that they could be made the same by simply putting the word “ power “ before them. That idea is utterly wrong. We are dealing with a technical and chemical industry which must be established on a proper economic basis. The reports of the Institute of Science and Industry and other authorities which have been quoted are capable of very extensive criticism. The Minister said yesterday that since the introduction of this bill the price of petrol has materially fallen. He tried to suggest that this was probably caused by the introduction of the bill.
– Did he say that?
– He implied it.
– He is quite wrong.
– If the Minister is, by introducing this bill, attempting to attack the great oil interests of America, his action can only be likened to an attempt to open a burglar-proof safe with a tin opener. The introduction of this bill will not have the slightest effect on the decisions of the American oil interests. We are told that it is necessary for us to prevent the money expended on liquid fuel from going out of this country, and I ask honorable members to pause for a moment to consider the fallacy of such a suggestion. What really is paid in return for imported oil is not actual money, but part of our wool and other products, and if we stop payment for our wool, how can our own markets benefit? This attack on the American oil interests is foolish and shortsighted, being based on an utterly uneconomic foundation. I shall not speak again on this subject unless the report of the Public Accounts Committee is submitted to the House. I sincerely hope that the Minister will agree to fulfil the promise that he gave to this House last year.
.- I rise not to oppose, but to welcomethe bill. I congratulate the Minister on his introductory speech, and on the fact that he took a national view of the subject with which it deals. The measure is above all party politics, and should be viewed from its national aspect. I emphatically state that I do not oppose the payment of a bounty on power alcohol produced from cassava. The scheme is as yet in an experimental stage, and from my experience - I have during the last few weeks seen cassava growing at Sarina - I believe that we need not anticipate any great evils or hardships as. the result of the introduction of a new crop into Australia. At the same time, while I look forward with, pleasurable anticipation to seeing cassava grown alongside sugar cane, I deplore the fact that the bill is not comprehensive enough. It does not meet our requirements so far as the encouragement of the production of power alcohol in Queensland is concerned. From information and statistics at hand we know that the world’s supplies of petrol are rapidly nearing exhaustion. No new oil fields, apart from individual wells, have been discovered within recent years. It is believed that perhaps in China or Siberia there may be undiscovered flows, but present indications point to a rapidly exhaustion of supplies. It behoves us, therefore, to make ourselves economically independent of outside supplies of liquid fuel. We can do so by fostering the production of power alcohol on a national basis. Although neither in Queensland nor in any of the other states have we yet succeeded in discovering petroliferous strata by boring or other means, we have in Queensland a potential field for the production of power alcohol which, I believe, is great beyond our conception. Unfortunately, Queensland is now faced with an economic problem of great magnitude because of an over-production of sugar. In the United States of America, and in other countries, this problem has, to a great extent, been solved by using the surplus high -grade syrups for the production of power spirit. In Cuba the Standard Oil Trust has established an enormous distillery to deal with high-grade syrups, and also with the naked juice of the sugar cane. I feel certain that had evidence been taken from the Northern Power Alcohol Committee, which is now on its way to place the latest facts before the Minister, the bill would have been amended to make the bounty applicable to power alcohol won from the sugar industry. In the United States of
America last year 168,000,000 gallons of power alcohol were taken into industrial use. As far back as 1903, 648,000 gallons were used in Germany, as can be seen from an excellent brochure published by that world authority, Mr. Mcintosh. The production of power alcohol is no new industry - it is at least 21 years of age - and there is not the . slightest reason why this commodity should not be as economically and effectively produced in Australia as in other parts of the world.
– Is the Queensland company, of which the honorable member has spoken, now producing alcohol from sugar ?
– It is not a company, but a committee, consisting of Messrs. Draper, Seymour-Howe, and Hunter. Mr. SeymourHowe is a technical expert with considerable experience, who has prepared figures dealing with the production of power alcohol from over 500,000 tons of sugar cane, milled in the Cairns district. It is a pity that due consideration has not been given to the views of those individuals who have made the production of power alcohol almost a life-study and are undoubtedly acquainted with the technical details of the industry. Because of the overproduction of sugar in Queensland2 the growers there have been compelled this year to export 180,000 tons of sugar, for which they received £9 10s. f» ton, plus- a bounty which, awing to the reciprocal scheme entered into between the Governments of the Commonwealth and the United Kingdom, meant a preference of £A 2s. 7d. a ton. The consequent loss on that exportation is causing embarrassment throughout the whole of the industry. It is not only the millers who suffer, because they pay a price which is based on the cost of production. I had hoped that this bill would enable the sugar-growers of Queensland to make use of their surplus products. Were it to apply to power alcohol manufactured from the by-products of sugar, not only would it bring about the well-being and prosperity of those engaged in this industry in the north, but it would lead to further highly desirable expansions. No other industry pan so develop the north as the sugar industry; therefore, it should not be allowed to languish. Unless the production on a national basis of power alcohol from sugar cane is encouraged, the sugar industry in Australia will never expand as it should. There are many other considerations which should be taken into account. Power alcohol has almost doubled the calorific value of ordinary petrol. Moreover, it has not the same damaging effect on internal combustion engines. The developments which are taking place in these engines, and the provision of better roads, are causing the steam-engine to be displaced in the same way that it displaced the horse. Australia’s petrol supplies now cost her £8,000,000 a year, and we can look forward to greatly increased expenditure in the near future. Ten or twelve years ago the importation into Australia of petrol amounted to only 29,000 gallons per annum; it is now almost impossible to forecast, with any degree of accuracy, what the consumption will be in the future. While I welcome this bill because it may assist Australian industries, I regret that it is not more comprehensive, and that the Government has not had regard to the production of power alcohol from the by-products of sugar.
.- Honorable members who were in the last Parliament will remember that we had a fairly long discussion on this bill when it was at the committee stage, and they will bear me out when I say that the amendment which was then moved by the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann) would undoubtedly have been carried had it not been for the definite promise of the Minister to which reference has already been made. On that occasion the Opposition acted generously, because it had an opportunity to defeat the Government; but its members did not avail themselves of that opportunity because they were of opinion that the intention of the bill was right. I believe that Parliament was unanimous in its desire to establish an industry to produce power alcohol, but the majority of members, having regard to their responsibility, felt that they ought not to proceed further with a highly technical measure unless expert evidence was made available to them. We have not all had the opportunity to give this matter the consideration which has been given to it by the honorable members for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) and Herbert (Dr.Nott). As men responsible for the expenditure of public money we are expected to examine carefully all evidence available, and we have the right to demand that that evidence shall be placed before us. A committee appointed by Parliament has investigated this matter, and during the course of its investigations has examined a number of witnesses and obtained a considerable amount of evidence. When the Minister was asked why that evidence was not placed before Parliament, he replied that the Tariff Board had made a recommendation on the subject. As the Tariff Board is composed of men who were highly esteemed by the members of the last Parliament, the Minister’s reply carried weight with them. Were it not that the Minister, at my request, showed me the Tariff Board’s report, I believe that my opposition would have ended at that stage; but there was considerable amazement when I made it known that the only witnesses whom the Tariff Board had examined were the representatives of two companies interested in the payment of the bounty. At that time I was the only member outside the Ministry who had seen the Tariff Board’s report. The motion of the honorable member for Perth that a select committee should be appointed to consider the whole question would undoubtedly have been carried were it not for the promise definitely given by the Minister that the matter would be postponed, and that the report of the Public Accounts Committee would be made available to honorable members.
– How would the honorable member get over the difficulty caused by the fact that that committee does not now exist ?
– The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster) is not so innocent as he looks. The mere fact that the. old committee no longer exists is merely a technical objection. The evidence collected by the committee is available.
– I admit that; but how are we to get it?
– That evidence could easily be obtained by asking the Government to have it printed and placed before us.
– The report has not yet been finalized.
– I am not concerned about the committee’s report; it is but the opinion of the members of the committee.
– But the committee does not now exist.
– I am concerned only with the evidence given before the committee.
– If a new committee is appointed, the information should readily be made available.
Mr.SCULLIN.- The chairman of the old committee is a member of this Parliament, and the Government should ask him to be good enough to make available to honorable members the whole of the evidence.Surely that is a reasonable request.
– It might be a valuable legacy from the defunct committee.
– I believe that it would be. One aspect of this question to which I should like attention given is the extension of the bounty to power alcohol manufactured from the prickly pear. Can we not do something to turn the greatest curse of the north of Australia into a valuable asset? Evidence was given before the Public Accounts Committee which indicated that power alcohol could he obtained on a commercial basis from the prickly pear. That evidence should be placed before us. Rather than vote for the payment of a bounty on a product which necessitates the growing of a new crop, I should prefer to pay it on a product the manufacture of which assists to destroy a pest by converting it into an asset.
– Why not pay a bounty on both ?
Mr.SCULLIN. - I have no objection to that; but honorable members opposite argue that we should take one at a time. Why has the Government not introduced a bill which will apply to power alcohol produced from any material ? Why should the bounty be confined to power alcohol producedfrom cassava? I ask particularly why power alcohol manufactured from the by-products of sugar should not participate in the bounty ?
– I am loath to interrupt the honorable member. During this debate I have allowed considerable latitude, but I would remind honorable members that the motion before the Committee does not refer to either cassava or molasses. It is simply a motion for an appropriation of money for the purpose of paying a bounty for the manufacture of power alcohol.
Mr.SCULLIN. - If I were to enter upon a detailed discussion of the relative merits of cassava and molasses, I believe that I should be out of order, but I submit that in demanding fuller information I am entitled to touch, by way of illustration, upon different aspects of this question. I have no intention of going into the details of the subject, because I do not know sufficient about it to do so, and I have never attempted to discuss a subject with which I have not made myself somewhat familiar. I am in the same position as the majority of honorable members in seeking information on this subject, because I refuse to vote any sum of public money blindly. In view of the fact that we withdrew our support of the amendment moved by the honorable member forPerth in the last Parliament, on the distinct promise given by the Minister that further information would be in our hands before we should he asked to vote for the measure, it is surely not unreasonable now to ask that all information on the subject which is available should be supplied. The answer given by the Minister to-day is a very bad beginning in a new Parliament fresh from the electors, to whom the Government made a number of promises. The Minister today repudiates a promise he made in the last Parliament, on the ground that that promise was made to a different Parliament. But we still have the same Minister, the same question, the same bill - actually the same print of it - and the country is being asked to find the same amount of money. To say that information considered essential by the last Parliament, and promised to it, will not be given to us now because the promise to supply it was given to the last Parliament, and not to the present, is unworthy of the Minister for Trade and Customs. The only witnesses called by the Tariff Board were Mr. Board, a representative of the International Power Alcohol Company, and Mr. Herbert Power, a director of the Power Alcohol Company. I was under the impression when the honorable member for Herbert (Dr. Nott) was speaking that some company formed in the north was coming to Melbourne to place evidence on this subject before the House, but I now understand that this evidence is to be supplied by a committee, and not by a company. A committee was appointed in the north to collect evidence on this subject and place it before the Minister, who, in turn, it might be supposed, would place it before Parliament. That is an additional reason for the postponement of the consideration of this measure.
– The Queensland Department of Agriculture knows nothing about it.
– Evidence has been collected at considerable expense to the country by the Public Accounts Committee. That evidence should be before us. Amongst the witnesses examined by the Public Accounts Commitee was Mr. De Bavay, who holds a high place in the esteem of the people of this country.. Honorable members on this side are accused of doing everything possible to obstruct business, but, had that been their motive in connexion with this bill, they would last year have carried the amendment submitted by the honorable member for Perth. To suggest that the request for delay is made with the object of defeating the bill is unworthy, because honor- able members on this side are prepared to give their whole-hearted support to proposals for the development of any industry in Australia, and particularly any new industry. Before the measure is proceeded with further, we should have the information which we need, and which is to-day obtainable. ‘
.- Honorable members opposite have overlooked the fact that it is not intended under this bill to give any company a monopoly in the production of power alcohol. “ A powerful British company is prepared to come to Australia and invest a certain sum of money in trying to see if it can make a success of the production of power alcohol in Australia. On the evidence it possesses, it is prepared to put £50,000 into the business at once. If it succeeds, it may invest £1,000,000 in it. If, having made the investigation it has considered necessary, this company is prepared to invest its money in experimenting in the production of power alcohol in Australia, surely this Parliament should be prepared to assist it by granting it a bounty of £25,000, to be paid only if it succeeds. To assist the settlement of this great continent under the White Australia policy, we are anxious that power alcohol should be produced in Queensland, and in Australia generally, particularly in view of the fact that the Government proposes to vote a very large sum of money for the extension and development of main roads. We should not delay a proposal which may be of great assistance in bringing about the production of power alcohol in this country. The bill does not give a monopoly to any company. There is nothing to prevent companies from! coming to this House for a similar or even a bigger bounty upon power alcohol produced fro(m the surplus products of the sugar industry or from prickly pear. .This proposal has now been held up for many months, and it should not be further delayed. The Queensland Government has shown its confidence in this matter by making a loan of £25,000 to one distillery to assist a firm which believes that it can make a success of the production of power alcohol in this country. Who will lose if the company’s operations are not successful?
– We shall lose £25,000.
– No. If the company does not make a success of the industry little will be paid in comparison with the money put into the venture.
– I see nothing in the bill to show that the industry must be a success before the bounty is paid.
– The honorable member should know that men will not put money into a concern like this in order to lose it. The men concerned in this company have enormous funds at their command,, they understand this matter better than does any honorable member of this House, and they are not going to throw their money away. They believe that they can make a success of the production of power .alcohol in Australia. They believe that they are entitled to some consideration from the Government because the cost of growing cassava will be greater in Australia than it is in black-labour countries. Here the labour conditions are such that the company is entitled to look for a bounty upon production, to put it upon an equal footing with those engaged in obtaining power alcohol from products grown in other countries by coloured labour. I am one who has been much concerned about the advance of the prickly pear in Queensland. It is stated that some 800,000 acres of additional country is invaded by the pest every year. In Australia to-day a company isbeing formed to make arrangements for the treatment of prickly pear for the production of power alcohol. The sugar industry of Queensland is now faced with a. surplus production, and consideration is being given to the formation of companies for the purpose of manufacturing power alcohol from surplus sugar production, and securing a bounty from the Commonwealth Government.
– They cannot get it under this bill.
– I know that perfectly well. But why prevent the operations of enterprising men in Great Britain who are willing to make a start with this industry in Australia until other proposals are considered? The passage of this bill will not in any way interfere with the formation of other companies who may look for concessions from the Government. This bill is a step in the. right direction, and will not give the company to which I have referred preference over any one else. Other companies producing power alcohol in other ways will have the right to come to this Parliament and ask for a bounty.
– Whilst we should not oppose in any way any effort put forward to solve the problem of the production of. power alcohol in Australia, we should take a more comprehensive view of the matter than is proposed in this bill. We should not confine ourselves to one particular class of production. I know persons who are interested in the production of power alcohol from prickly pear. They have assured me that they have been absolutely successful in the experiments they have made. They can produce 14 gallons of power alcohol from each ton of prickly pear, and can supply the product at1s. per gallon. Why should these people not be invited to come under this measure? If any assistance of this kind is to he given by the Government these people should be encouraged to undertake the production of power alcohol from prickly pear, because that would be of benefit to Australia in more ways than one. It would rid us of a pest that is gradually extending over a great area in Australia, and so permit of the land being brought into use again, and it would give us a supply of power alcohol which is much needed in Australia. It is only tinkering with the question to confine our attention to power alcohol obtained from one particular product.
– We cannot pay 2d. per pound for growing prickly pear.
– We do not need to do so. If we can get the power alcohol we require without paying 2d. per pound on the product from which it is obtained, why should we not do so? We can get the prickly pear for nothing. The Government of Queensland is anxious that it should be used in order that the land may be cleared of a pest.
– Could the prickly pear be harvested for nothing?
– I understand that only very simple machinery is required for harvesting the prickly pear. The mere possibility of producing power alcohol at is. per gallon should be an inducement to this Parliament to stay its hand in regard to this bill. Why should this bounty be confined to power alcohol produced from one source?
– This will not interfere with the production of alcohol from other sources.
– To some extent it must do so. I am prepared to vote for any proposal to assist those who are seeking to commercialize prickly pear by the production of alcohol from it.
– When this proposal was before the last Parliament, I saw no necessity for delaying its consideration pending the receipt of a report from the Public Accounts Committee. I am of the same opinion to-day. The Commonwealth is fully protected by this bill. If we were considering a proposal that the Commonwealth should invest money in a factory to carry out experiments or become a partner in experiments, I could understand the objections of honorable members and their demand for a full preliminary inquiry. But men with capital are prepared to establish a new industry in Australia, and Parliament is merely asked to authorize the payment of a bounty to them if they produce an article of good and merchantable quality. Self-constituted experts in this Committee say that the company cannot do that, and that the cost of producing and harvesting cassava will be so great as to preclude the possibility of a commercial success. Is it likely that British capitalists would be prepared to invest their money in this undertaking if they were not reasonably sure that it would be profitable? The country is not to be committed to the payment of an unlimited amount; the bounty is not to exceed a total of £25,000, or £5,000 in any one year. We should encourage people to come here to establish new industries, and if that encouragement is limited to the payment of a bounty upon actual production, nothing but good to the country can result. In regard to molasses, I understand that the production of alcohol from that material is beyond the experimental stage. The fact is established that molasses will yield alcohol upon a commercial’ basis, and if the Commonwealth is to subsidize that industry . as it subsidizes most Queensland industries, it should do so by means of a separate bill. Reference has been made to the prickly pear. When this bill was before the House last session, I gave notice of an amendment to bring power alcohol produced from prickly pear within the scope of the bounty, and I intend to revive that proposal to-day. The scope of .the bill, as indicated by the title, is quite wide enough to permit of the inclusion of such an amendment.
– If the honorable member’s amendment is carried, the amount of the bounty will have to be increased.
-. - We have not power to increase the amount, but the £25,000 ought to be sufficient to encourage all people who are interested to proceed with their experiments. The bounty may have the effect of demonstrating that the prickly pear, which today is one of Australia’s greatest menaces, may be converted into »an asset by the winning of a profit from the process of eradicating it. I am in possession of the latest reports by Dr. Sinclair, Mr. Hamelin, and others. Whilst they are too technical to be followed in details by a layman, they clearly show that experiments, so far, have been entirely satisfactory. The Minister for Trade and Cus toms said last night that the experiments have not gone beyond the laboratory stage, but even if a laboratory success has been achieved, something substantial has been, done, and further research should be encouraged by this Parliament. I was amused to hear the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann) accepting seriously a statement by the Minister that possibly this proposed bounty had already caused a reduction in the price of petrol. Any honorable member who gives credence to that statement is sadly lacking in a sense of humour; indeed, the statement itself was a poor tribute to the Minister’s business acumen. The incident demonstrated the danger of jolting ‘in this company. There is every possibility that within a limited time there will be a shortage of liquid fuel, and we should do everything within our power to encourage scientific research in regard to it. The Minister drew attention last night to the enormous value of our imports of petrol, and I shall use all the influence I possess to induce this Parliament to do everything possible to promote the production of power alcohol from cassava, prickly pear, or any other material, to establish a new industry which will increase the employment of our people. I shall move in committee to extend the bounty to power alcohol produced from prickly pear.
– That will involve an increase in the amount of the bounty, and as we cannot, increase the appropriation we cannot amend the bill.
-We can amend the bill, although we cannot increase the amount; and if only £25,000 is available it will be a case of “ First come, first served.” We should be prepared to pay the bounty upon power alcohol produced from any source except molasses. The bill is useful in its present form, and if it is amended as I suggest it will become more useful.
– Some honorable members have suggested that by delaying the passage of this bill we may discourage one of the wealthiest companies in Great Britain from establishing an industry in Australia. We may depend upon it that .that great distilling company has in view sources of alcohol other than, cassava. It is well known that the company intends to establish distilleries in cane-growing areas close to the existing sugar-mills, and we may be sure that it will undertake the production of alcohol from molasses as well as from cassava.
– But it will not get a bounty on alcohol produced from molasses.
– That may be, but honorable members are arguing as if the company intended to invest £50,000 in an industry for the production of alcohol from cassava only. The company has its eyes on molasses as well as cassava. We are all anxious to assist the establishment of new industries, the provision of more employment for our people, and the cultivation of new crops. But the Minister would be wise to pauseere he proceeds with this bill. Presently, Parliament will appoint a new Public Accounts Committee, and I understand that the representation of the three political parties will be the same as in the last Parliament. The Committee will proceed with its investigations of this problem, and I see no reason why, if it were appointed next week, it should not table its report within a fortnight thereafter. Surely that delay would not discourage any British company. If there is one man in Australia who understands the sugar industry and its byproducts it is Mr. De Bavay. He gave valuable evidence before the Public Accounts Committee, and I should like his views to be in the possession of honorable members. If the House proceeds with this bill now, many honorable members will open their eyes with surprise when they read the report of the Public Accounts Committee later. I believe that honorable members will be better qualified to vote upon this bill if they defer its further consideration until they have that report before them.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported, and, by leave, adopted.
Debate resumed from 14th January (vide page 76), on motion by Mr. Pratten -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- As I had a good deal to say at an earlier stage of the proceedings, I do not intend to occupy honorable members long at this juncture, but I wish to make it quite clear, as I did seven months ago, when the bill was introduced, that I am not opposed to the principle embodied in it. I do not object to paying a bounty on the manufacture of power alcohol in Queensland, but I contended then, and I now do, that the bill is too restrictive, and should be greatly liberalized. The bounty should not be restricted to the production of power alcohol from cassava. If the bounty is paid only on power alcohol produced from cassava, that will not solve Australia’s fuel problem, which will become very serious in a few more years. Experts admit that within five or six years there will he a world-shortage of motor spirit. If Australia were engaged in a war with another country, and were unable to obtain imported motor spirit, her situation would be perilous. With the growing number of motor cars brought into use every year, the demand for motor spirit must increase rapidly.
– Therefore we ought not to run any risks by holding up this bill.
– The honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) says that if this bill is passed everything will be well, but he should remember that it provides for a bounty on only 300,000 gallons of power alcohol per annum, whereas our requirements of liquid fuel are 82,000,000 gallons. By utilizing 1,200,000 tons of surplus sugar cane, we could manufacture; according to the Institute of Science and Industry, 24,000,000 gallons of power alcohol, or a little less than one-third of our requirements. That is why I want the bounty extended to power alcohol manufactured from the by-products of the sugar industry. Money would thus be kept in Australia, and the problem of over-production in the sugar industry would be largely solved. That is why I say that the Government has been short-sighted in this policy. Instead of tinkering in a small way with this problem, a big operation is necessary. The Government should deal with it as a great Australian question, and not merely to satisfy Mr. Board or a few other people who have an experiment to make in the manufacture of power alcohol from cassava. We know that Mr. Board, of the International Sugar and Alcohol Company, stated, according to Mr. Seymour-Howe, that his company would not be prepared to enter upon the undertaking without having the right, ultimately, to secure all the Queensland molasses. A big private company, which is an off-shoot of Distillers Ltd., with a capital of £40,000,000, should not have a two years’ start of the Northern Power Alcohol Committee, which is making preliminary investigations with a view to establishing distilleries at important centres in Queensland, so as to utilize inferior sugars, molasses, and sugar cane for the manufacture of power alcohol, the profits from which will go to the growers of the cane. The power alcohol industry in the north, proposed by the Power Alcohol Committee, will be controlled co-operatively by those who produce the cane. The Minister has said that if any other proposals are made they will receive consideration, but it is very difficult to move a government, and the growers will not get the same sympathetic consideration as Mr. Board did. All I ask is that the sugar growers of Queensland be given the bounty at the same time as it is given to the private company. Mr. Board is a very capable man, I have no doubt. He represents a big company, and if he is granted this bounty, and it is not extended to power alcohol produced from molasses or other by-products of the sugar industry, he will be able to buy molasses for a nominal sum. Thousands of tons of molasses which cannot profitably be used for any other purpose are now poured on the soil for manure. More efficiency is necessary in the sugar industry; we must utilize all the by-products. We produce approximately a surplus of 180,000 tons of sugar cane a year. It is, therefore, necessary to evolve a scheme for using that surplus in Australia, instead of sending sugar abroad at the proclaimed price of £9 10s. a ton, which represents a serious loss to the growers. Here is an opportunity for the Government to deal with the question in a statesmanlike way. I regret that .the Minister-, just before the close of the last Parliament, told me that I was responsible for holding up a great Queensland industry. Apparently he objected to my stating my views and fighting on behalf of the sugar growers of Queensland. The Government at that time had 46 supporters out of 75 members in this House, and could have passed any legislation it desired. Fur ther investigation was advocated not only by honorable members on this side, but also by supporters of the Government. This is not a party question, and the Government should tackle it in a big national way. I hope that the views of honorable members on this side will be noted by the Minister, who will, even at this late hour, make a definite announcement. The payment of bounties is no new proposal. There have been many instances in the past in which industries have been encouraged by bounties. I regard the bounty as the correct method, in the initial stages of an industry, of providing encouragement for it. Australia is a young country, which ought to carry many millions of additional people, who cannot, however, be absorbed in our industries unless new avenues of employment are opened. The establishment of new industries creates employment and builds up the local market for the primary producers. The following bounties have at different times been paid by the Government: -
True Australians should not refuse to vote for the payment of a bounty of £5,000 per annum for five years to establish what may become a great industry. The only objection I have to the bill is that it does not go far enough. Further, we should have before us the report of the Public Accounts Committee, which will contain the evidence of such experts as Mr. De Bavay and others who have made a special study of this question. I contend; too, that the committee should have visited the sugar areas of Queensland and taken evidence from Mr. Seymour-Howe, an expert chemist, and other men who, having studied this question seriously, see in the establishment of this industry something that will solve the problem of over-production in the sugar industry. To give honorable members an idea of the rate at which the consumption of motor spirit is increasing in Australia, I submit to them the following figures:-
At that rate of increase, we may be importing ten years hence 200,000,000 gallons of motor spirit at a cost of £14,500,000. Assuming the retail price to be then what it is to-day - approximately 2s. a gallon - the cost to the consumers will be £20,000,000. The Minister claims that the payment of a bounty of £5,000 for the production of 300,000 gallons of power alcohol a year will establish this industry, but the amount of the bounty is not enough. It is much too restricted in its application. The Government would be well advised to pay a bounty as large as £400,000 a year for a few years to establish a great industry and retain in this country £15,000,000 to £20,000,000 a year that would otherwise be paid to other countries. Australia has no hope of becoming great and of disposing of all the sugar, butter, and other commodities it can produce unless it builds up its secondary industries. The Minister, in introducing the bill, said that the company that would benefit would be the International Sugar and Alcohol Company, of London, which is a branch of Distillers Limited. I have no objection to wealthy companies establishing industries in Australia. We ought to welcome them; but our first consideration should be for those who are to-day growing the crops from which power alcohol could be manufactured. Power alcohol can be more profitably manufactured from the by-products of the sugar industry than from any crops that are now being grown experimentally. I urged seven months ago that the payment of the bounty should be extended to power alcohol produced from molasses, inferior syrups, sugar, and other by-products of the sugar industry. Clause . 5 of the bill provides for a bounty of 4d. a gallon. The Minister assured us that 2d. would go to the distillery to enable it to pay an additional price to the growers,1d. would he the cost of denaturing the alcohol, and1d. would be kept in hand by the company for payment to the farmers in the event of the price received by them being below the cost of production.
– And for other contingencies.
-I am satisfied, from my inquiries in the sugar industry, that the growers will not be able to produce cassava at the price that will be paid to them. Mr. Board said that without the bounty he could not pay more than 19s. 6d. a ton. The Queensland Agricultural Department carried out some investigations regarding the cost of production, and estimated that cassava would cost £1 7s. 2d. per ton to produce. One ton of cassava will give 39 gallons of power alcohol. A bounty of 2d. would bring the price to the grower from 19s. 6d. to £1 6s., which would still be below the cost of production. It goes without saying that farmers will not grow cassava for less than the cost of production.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
Mr.FORDE. - If the Minister would provide, at least, 3d. per gallon bounty for the growers, they would obtain 9s. 9d. in addition to the 19s. 6d. per ton which the company is prepared to pay for the cassava. This would increase their total return to £1 9s. 3d. per ton. I urge the Minister to give consideration to this proposal, for, unless the sugar-growers can be induced to grow cassava, Mr. Board’s whole scheme will fail, for it depends entirely upon the production of cassava in Queensland at a price that will pay the growers, and enable the manufacturer to produce the power alcohol at a profit. I recently travelled through the sugargrowing districts of Queensland, particularly about Flaggy Bock, West Hill, and other places near the Plane Creek Mills. The growers then informed me that, in their opinion, £1 9s. 3d. would be much nearer than £1 7s. 2d. to the cost per ton of producing cassava. Unfortunately, the officers of agricultural departments sometimes lack that practical experience which would enable them to arrive at a fairly accurate estimate of the cost of producing various crops. We have had no practical experience of growing cassava in Australia. No one is able to say definitely what the cost will be. All that will come in the future. One thing that is certain is that the sugar growers consider that neither £1 6s., the amount that they may expect from the company, including the bounty, nor £1 7s. 2d., the estimate of the Queensland Department of Agriculture, is sufficient to cover the actual cost of production. Clause 6 of the bill reads -
No bounty shall be authorized to be paid under this act on any power alcohol unless it has been manufactured from the following products grown in Australia: -
Cassava, sweet potatoes, arrowroot, or such other cultivated starch-bearing plants as the Minister approves.
I consider that the measure ought to be more comprehensive. The Minister should be authorized to pay bounty on power alcohol produced from syrups, molasses,, inferior sugar cane, prickly pear, and other vegetable products. Clause 10 provides that -
The Minister may withhold the whole or any part of the bounty unless he is satisfied that a reasonable price was paid for the materials used in the manufacture of. the power alcohol in respect of which bounty is claimed, and that the price includes an amount which is the equivalent of not less than one-half of the bounty payable.
The Minister should be empowered to withhold the bounty unless he is satisfied that the growers have received for their cassava a price based on the actual cost of production. I feel sure that that sentiment will be echoed by the members of the Country party. If the farmers are to be paid less than a living wage for producing cassava, the industry will be of no value <to Queensland. We ought to insist that the price paid shall be based on the cost of production. Sub-clause 3 of clause 13 provides that -
Every person who claims the bounty payable under this act shall, in making his claim, certify to the Minister the conditions of employment and the rates of wages paid to any labour employed by him, other than the labour of .members of his family.
Provision should also be made, in my opinion, for the payment’ of a living wage to the members of a grower’s own family. For too long the sugar-growers and primary producers in Queensland have been unable to remunerate the members of their families. Most honorable members stand for the payment of a fair living wage to all workers. Surely we cannot any longer tolerate a continuance of the system by which the children - even the grownup sons - of the primary producers are sweated? I draw the attention of the
Minister to the following statement, made on the 14th June, 1925, by Mr. SeymourHowe, who is the recognized power alcohol expert in North Queensland: -
As Queensland’s large output of molasses is the very nucleus of the power alcohol industry, it is quite patent that any private corporation having prior claims for this commodity will prevent the producers from reaping the full benefits from same that the present economic situation of the sugar industry most urgently demands. It is quite feasible that the world’s increasing surplus of sugar, together with the permanent establishment of the beet sugar industry in the British . Isles, will at a not very far distant period, prevent this outlet for the over-production in Australia. lt can be easily seen from those remarks that the representatives of the sugar industry in North Queensland fear that the International Sugar and Alcohol Company will obtain a monopoly. The Minister cannot deny that the company will, * at the very least, gain a decided advantage on every other company that may subsequently begin similar operations in Queensland. To give it two years’ start on any co-operative companies that the farmers themselves may form is to ensure that it will entirely capture the industry and exploit the Australian demand for power alcohol. It is of the utmost importance that the problem of over-production in the Queensland sugar industry should be solved, and that should be the Minister’s first consideration.
– The honorable member must see that this company can do nothing without the co-operation of the sugar interests.
– Yes ; but that cooperation will not solve the over-production problem. At present the surplus of molasses is so great that thousands of tons are poured down the drains. If this company comes along .and offers to buy molasses for a nominal sum, it may easily obtain complete control of the supply. The sugar-growers contend that they ought to be given the same advantage as it- is ‘ proposed to give to this company, and that they ought to be given a bounty of 4d. per gallon on the power alcohol that is ‘ manufactured from their products. It has been pointed out that if a similar bounty were payable on power alcohol manufactured from surplus sugar cane the growers could obtain £2 per ton for it. On this point Mr. SeymourHowe says -
I consider I am safe in stating on figures arrived at on present-day costs, that even with a high surplus of 1,600,000 tons of cane, and the pooled molasses, sufficient profit would accrue which would permit of a price of £2 per ton on surplus cane.
At present the sugar-growers can only get from 12s. 6d. to £1 per ton for their surplus cane. If arrangements could be made by which they could sell it for £2 per ton, it would be of tremendous advantage to them. The Minister has said that if any other company, co-operative or otherwise, submitted a scheme to the Government for the production of power alcohol it would receive the fullest consideration. On the face of it, that sounds very reasonable. I am quite ready to admit that the International . Sugar and Alcohol Company proposes to engage in what may be called an experiment, but it cannot be denied that it will make- every effort to develop its enterprise. It will establish branches in parts of the State where it can. This will enable it to gain control of the supply of molasses. I presume that the profits that the company make will go to its shareholders in the Old Country. I am making an appeal to the Government to give the Queensland sugar-growers consideration at least equal to that given to this proprietary company.
– The honorable member will recollect that I stated that this was practically an Australian company.
– I know how these things are done; The company may be nominally Australian, but the Minister told us that Distillers Company Limited, London, with its capital of £40,000,000, was behind it. I do not desire it to be inferred that I am antagonistic to big companies coming to Australia to develop new industries; I welcome new capital here. I am, however, opposed to preferential treatment being extended to this company to the disadvantage of the co-operative sugar-mills in Queensland, which, with the provision of a similar bounty, would undoubtedly establish their own distilleries. Although it must appeal to everybody that the company will be engaged in an experiment for some time, it will undoubtedly do its utmost to capture the market. A great deal of propaganda will be necessary to achieve this. In my opinion, the Government will need to introduce legislation with the object of compelling the retailers of motor spirit to sell a certain proportion of power alcohol. This was done in France, with undoubted success. The big oil corporations of America will use every influence they possess to damage the power alcohol industry in Australia, and I think that nothing short of definite legislation will successfully combat their efforts. I am fully cognisant of the fact that the International Sugar and Alcohol Company will have many difficulties to encounter. It is of no use, however, for the Minister to suggest that other companies will get any of the bounty provided for in this measure. Only a sufficient sum is being voted to pay a bounty on 300,000 gallons of power alcohol, and this company will claim the whole of that amount, lt will undoubtedly take steps to establish mills in different parts of Queensland, and its ramifications will become so extensive that it may be hopeless for any other company to begin similar operations. That is what the sugar-growers in Queensland fear. Mr. Seymour-Howe is very strong on the point that provision should be made for the use of inferior sugar-cane for making power alcohol. He believes that a bounty of 4d. per gallon on power alcohol produced from surplus cane would enable the growers to get £2 a ton for their cane instead of 12s. 6d. or £1 as at present. One cannot help being impressed with the opinion of Mr. De Bavay, a recognized expert, which was published in the Australian Mining Standard of 3rd September, 1925, as follows: -
If the Government would grant to the sugargrowers the same bonus of id. per gallon on power alcohol as was proposed for growers of cassava, the sugar-growers would be able to go on working the farms at a reasonable cost, producing some 30,000,000 gallons of power alcohol per annum, and insuring the people of Australia against the disastrous consequences of a shortage of petrol.
That is the opinion, not of a person living in Queensland and interested in the sugar industry, but of a person living in Melbourne, and recognized as one of the greatest chemists in Australia. In view of that statement, why does not the Government take this matter up in a broad and statesmanlike way, and not tinker with a big national question. Honorable members representing southern constituencies may not realize the importance of the sugar industry to Australia. The over-production of sugar is certainly a bad thing for this country generally. Numerous factories in the south turn out thousands of pounds’ worth of goods which find a ready market in the sugar districts of Queensland. There is £16,000,000 invested in the industry. It employs 25,000 people, and last year was worth £10,000,000. . Many of the growers are threatened with ruin because of overproduction. Practically 40 per cent. of the sugar produced was sold at £9 10s. a ton. The Australian price of sugar is based on the cost of production, and for the last ten years sugar has been sold to the people of Australia at a price much cheaper than that at which it can he bought by people in other parts of the world. I am asking for consideration to be given, not only to the sugar interests of Queensland, but also to the struggling settlers who are helping to develop Australia. Of the 4,604 sugar-growers in Queensland, 3,394 grew less than 500 tons of cane each last year, 712 grew between 500 tons and 1,000 tons each, and only 498 grew more than 1,000 tons each. As the profit on production is only about 10s. a ton, 4,106, or 89 per cent., of these growers earned only about £250 each. It is quite wrong for the people in the southern portion of Australia to refuse to support a proposal to assist the Queensland sugar industry, which, is, indeed, the bulwark of our White Australia policy.
– The Commonwealth has already considerably helped the sugar industry.
– The only help that it has received has been protection against sugar grown in black-labour countries. Surely any one advocating the White Australia policy would stand for such a measure of protection being given to a national industry as would enable it to employ thousands of our own workmen. It is well known that, on the sugar-cane plantations of Java and Fiji, labour is paid1s. a day. Surely no Australian wants to give preference to black-grown sugar. The Government should seize this unique opportunity to make a great name for itself by granting a bounty of 4d. a gallon on all power alcohol manufactured, not only from cassava, but also from the by-products of the sugar, in dustry and from prickly pear. The Government has rushed into this matter without making a full investigation or consulting experts. Evidence was certainly taken, but only from the representatives of the companies which were to benefit under the scheme. The growers who had their own proposal to deal with the over-production of sugar had no opportunity of putting their views before the Government. No bounty should have been decided upon until Mr. De Bavay had given evidence, and Mr. Seymour-Howe had come from Queensland to put his request before the Prime Minister. I do not, for one moment, wish honorable members to think that I oppose the bill. It is a step in the right direction, although it does not go far enough. The proposal simply tinkers with a big problem. I regret that the Government is only experimenting with the industry when it should be dealing with it in a broad and comprehensive way. I sincerely hope that, at this eleventh hour, the Government will obtain the report of the Public Accounts Committee and place it before the House. A board of experts should be appointed’ to investigate thoroughly the manufacture of power alcohol in Australia, to visit the Queensland sugar districts, and to take evidence from the Northern Power Alcohol Committee, and others, who have made a life study of this subject. Only in that way will the necessary steps be taken to enable Australia to manufacture power alcohol in a big way, and to meet her ever-increasing requirements in liquid fuel.
.- I followed with interest the remarks of the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde). One of his remarks should be instructive to his colleagues in the Queensland Parliament House. He said that of 4,606 sugar-growers in Queensland 4,106, or 89 per cent., earned last year only £250 each. Under existing conditions in Queensland these growers are compelled to pay their workmen a much higher sum than that.
– Do you suggest reducing the men’s wages?
– No; but I think that the primary producers should at least receive a living wage. Clause 6 of the bill specifies the materials from which the power alcohol on which bounty will be paid may be produced - cassava, sweet potatoes, arrowroot or such other cultivated starch-bearing plants as the Minister approves. Chemically and botanically sugar cane comes under that category. It is quite an established fact that we cannot obtain power alcohol from any chemical substance that is not starchbearing.
– Starch and sugar cane!
– Sugar cane is a carbohydrate, which is the chemical equivalent. I welcome the bill as it stands, taking exception only to its limitations. The honorable member for Capricornia has stressed some objections which I know to be well founded, and which he, in the interests of his constituents, was bound to place before honorable members. I look at the measure from the same viewpoint. The question is to me of the utmost importance because the prosperity and well-being of the sugar industry of Queensland is largely at stake. It is now within the power of honorable members to grant conditions of manufacture which swill enable the sugar-growers of the north to deal with the serious problem of over-production. It has been proved by experiment that power alcohol can be manufactured commercially from sugar, prickly pear, sawdust, and soft coals. Numerous other chemical products can also be economically treated. In Philadelphia power alcohol obtained from sugar and sawdust, easily competes with gasolene sold at 15 cents a gallon. Naturally the industrial and economic conditions prevailing there cannot be compared with those here, and we cannot hope to produce power alcohol from sugar cane at that price. Given favorable treatment, and an adequate bounty, sufficient capital would be subscribed in northern Queensland to deal with the surplus crop by using it to manufacture power alcohol, but people- before subscribing their money wish to make sure that they are investing in a stable industry. I am prepared to support the bill, because it is an effort to foster another industry. It will assist in settling the northern portions of this continent, and we are certainly ih need of population to defend Australia against attack. The bill, unfortunately, does not go far enough. Information has been supplied by honorable members proving conclusively that the oil supplies of the world are rapidly hearing exhaustion. The oil gushers of Texas and other parts of America were at one time thought to be inexhaustible, but already .many of them are nearing exhaustion. We are now dependent upon outside supplies for our oil, and we can readily realize the position which might arise in this country if we were embroiled in another war. Our outside supplies of liquid fuel would immediately be cut off. We are largely dependent upon internal combustion engines for our industries and locomotion, and it is almost impossible to conceive the state of chaos that might come about in the event of war. We should, for national and strategic reasons, fully- develop our liquid fuel resources. In our surplus production of sugar cane we have the necessary factors contributing to an almost unlimited supply of power alcohol. In the north of Queensland, contiguous to the sugar areas, there are millions of acres of first-class land which could at any moment be put under cultivation. There are also hundreds of thousands of acres of second class land on which second class cane could be grown. This land is not suitable for growing milling cane, but it is adapted to the growing of cane from which power alcohol could be produced. One honorable member this morning said that he did not pretend to be au fait with what was in the mind of the Minister, but that he believed that proper representations to the Minister by the people interested in the sugar industry would result in a similar concession to them to that now granted to the producers of power alcohol from cassava. If the Minister would give an assurance to that effect I am certain that it would meet with the unanimous approval of the sugar-growers of Queensland. The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Manning) in discussing this matter facetiously remarked that nearly all of the industries of Queensland were asking for. a bounty. That may be so, but I point out that most of the industries in connexion with which bounties are paid are key industries of national importance. If we have hitched our wagon to a star by advocating the maintenance of a White Australia, we must be prepared to pay a little for it.
– Does the honorable member say that in advocating a White Australia we are hitching our wagon to a star 2
– Yes; but we lose nothing by it. Without wishing to further delay the House or to reiterate the arguments already advanced, I express the hope that -the bill will become law. lc it is considered inadvisable to amend’ it in the direction of providing for a bounty on power alcohol manufactured from thebyproducts of sugar-cane, I hope that some other means will be devised to deal equitably with the sugar growers. Regarding the possibility of producing on an economic basis power alcohol from sugar juice there is a great deal of misconception. When Mr. Seymour-Howe ‘ announced that his experience had shown that power alcohol could be produced from . sugar, one of the chemists employed by the Queensland Government made the. bald statement that it was an economic impossibility. The Minister for Agriculture supported that view, and that led to much of the misunderstanding which has arisen. Subsequently, Mr. de Bavay, a technical expert from Melbourne, visited
Queensland, and as a result of his inquiries there he declared emphatically that power alcohol could be produced from sugar. His opinion confirmed the evidence which had been collected by the Northern Power Alcohol Committee - evidence to which the Government would be wise to pay attention. It should be possible to furnish the Institute of Science and Industry with a sum of money sufficient to settle this question definitely. The matter should be thoroughly investigated; a sum of £5,000 would be insufficient for the purpose. I should even go so far as to recommend the establishment of an experimental laboratory if such were considered necessary. Despite its limited application I hope that the bill will pass, because such legislation would benefit materially certain districts in the north, and would probably be the means of establishing a national industry which would flourish even beyond the wildest dreams of its most ardent supporters.
.- Unlike the previous speaker, I am not certain that it would be in the best interests of Australia for this measure to become law. Before we place legislation of this nature on the statute-book, more information should be placed before us. The Minister said that the amount involved is not great - £5,000 a year for six years - but I feel sure that once the measure becomes law a very much larger sum will be required each year, whereas the beneficial effect of such legislation is very doubtful. In conversation with some of the members on the Public Accounts Committee, who have been inquiring about the production of power alcohol, I have been informed that of the various experts who have appeared before the board not one has been satisfied that it is a practical proposition. I admit that the committee has not yet finalized its inquiries, and that other opinions may yet be expressed . Personally, in a matter of this nature, I prefer the opinion of outside experts to <hose of experts inside. No doubt the honorable member for Herbert is desirous of building up the industries of his state; therefore, he speaks strongly in favour of the extension of the bounty to power alcohol manufactured from the byproducts of sugar. If we are to build up a national industry in this direction the persons who take the risk should reap the benefit. According to the honorable members for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) and Herbert (Dr. Nott) the annual income of many of the sugar-growers of Queensland is less than that of the men who cut their cane. As time goes on it is possible that the cane-cutter will get still more, and the sugar-grower less.
– The honorable member must remember that the cane-cutters work Q only three or four months of the year, and that their average earnings are not great.
– Surely they can find something else to do during the remainder of the year. When we consider the high price we are called upon ‘to pay for sugar in Australia, something must be wrong when the unfortunate grower is unable to win a decent competence. Recently I wau handed a copy of a Cairns newspaper which contained a number of advertisements of unimproved land for sale. For some of it as much as £150 an acre was asked. Evidently some one is doing well out of the sugar industry; unfortunately, if the honorable member for Capricornia is to be relied upon, it is not the grower. According to the bill, departmental officers are to fix the price to be paid for the materials used in the manufacture of power alcohol, and they will insist that the distiller shall pay to the grower of the cassava from which the spirit is produced a price equivalent to 2d. a gallon over its value in order to insure that the grower receives his half of the bounty. How is that to be done? In practice the grower will be entirely at the mercy of the distiller. Clause 10 reads -
The Minister may withhold the whole or any part of the bounty unless he is satisfied that a reasonable price was paid for the materials used in the manufacture of the power alcohol in respect of which bounty is claimed, and that the price includes an amount which is the equivalent of not less than one-half of the bounty payable.
How is that to be determined ? Who will say what is a fair price for the cassava root?
– We do the same thing in other directions now.
– I know that the departmental officers are very clever. Lately I have been studying some of the statistics in connexion with the jammaking industry. Enormous sums of money have been paid by the Government to those engaged in that industry for “muck” similar to that supplied to the Australian ImperialForce. Statistics show that the canners made enormous profits, whereas little was done for the growers of the fruit. I should prefer that the whole of the bounty should be paid to the distiller, or to the grower, and that the grower should have the right to withhold his produce to obtain the best price possible. It is preposterous that the department should fix the price. Where is this kind of thing to end ? I want to see the department administering the law, and not carrying on the industries of this country. The Minister omitted to make anyreference to the possibility of a tax on petrol imported into Australia. I am a great believer in good roads, and agree that those who use them should pay for them. The imposition of a petrol tax is a matter worthy of our serious consideration, although I do not promise to support such a proposal if introduced. Tractors on farms are now becoming very popular, and the cost of their use must not be increased. The companies interested in the production of power alcohol in Australia have, I understand, already ordered the necessary machinery. What is the reason for the great desire on the part of the Government to give them a special grant out of the public funds to assist them in establishing their works ? If they are satisfied to come here under existing conditions, we should welcome them, but I have a great objection to drawing on the public treasury to assist every one who wants to establish an industry in Australia. The apple-grower and the wheat-grower receive no bounty, yet their products have to compete with the products of other countries in the world’s markets,Moreover, all their requirements are steadily increasing in price. Although more money is received for our wool than for our wheat, it is the wheat-grower chiefly who creates the market for our secondary industries, and provides employment. The. people of the Mallee and other parts of Australia in which the yield of wheat has not been very good have not rushed desperately to the Government to ask for a bounty on wheat exported, but if this kind of legislation continues, the wheat-growers may, in the near future, look for assistance in this direction. It is absurd to imagine that the introduction of this bill has tended to reduce the cost of petrol in Australia.
Mr.Foster. - Who said that it had?
– That was not actually said, but the Minister suggested that it was probable. I do not know what quantity of power alcohol these people expect to manufacture annually, but the bounty proposed by the bill wouldcover only 400,000 gallons. I suggest a further reason for delay in the settlement of this matter. I do not know anything personally of the subject, but I have been told that, by a new process, 14 gallons of admirable spirit can be obtained from a ton of prickly pear. I think my advice on the subject is as reliable as that given to the Minister, who says that it cannot be done.
– I say that it is in the laboratory stage.
– Yes, and it is suggested that the production of power alcohol from cassava is beyond the laboratory stage, which means that it is commercially practicable. I suggest that the members of the last Public Accounts Committee, on which both Houses were represented, should be appointed a joint select committee to inquire into this subject, and should be asked to send in a report with-‘ in a week or a fortnight, so that the Minister might go ahead with this measure if it is of such great urgency that it should be passed. It will be some time before a new public accounts1 committee is appointed, but the members of the old committee, if appointed as a joint select committee, could be asked to report upon this matter within a. week or a fortnight, and with the information thus- supplied we should be in a position to say whether it is advisable or not to pass this measure. I do not approve of the bill, but if the majority of honorable members are in favour of it, they might consider whether they could not, with advantage, make it apply to alcohol from other materials than those referred to in the measure.
– Cannot honorable members opposite settle the matter amongst themselves ? They have the numbers.
– There is no question of party in dealing with a bill of this kind. The honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates), perhaps takes no particular interest in this business, but the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) has shown that he takes a great deal of interest in it. I hope that the Minister will permit the delay of the measure until we have information from the new accounts committee, or, as I have suggested, from a joint select committee consisting of the members of the old accounts committee, upon which we may be better able to judge how the bill should be dealt with at the committee stage.
– It will be recognized that the interest in this most important beginning of further national development has been reflected in the debate which has taken place. We have had a fairly general expression of opinion from members of all parties unanimously in favour of the development of the power alcohol industry in Australia, but honorable members have differed as to methods and as to the efforts proposed. I should like, first of all, to allude to the maiden speech in this chamber of the honorable member for Herbert (Dr. Nott). Every honorable member who heard that speech was, I am sure, struck by the broad and liberal views the honorable member for Herbert expressed, and his earnest desire to advance the interests of the Commonwealth irrespective of geographical divisions. In the course of the debate many criticisms have been passed upon the methods proposed by the Government for the development of one section only of the great power alcohol industry. The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) has, by innuendo, and I think also in almost direct terms, suggested ‘that if this bill is passed it will give a monopoly in the manufacture of alcohol from molasses in Queensland.
– I say make the bounty general now, otherwise this company will be given a great advantage as against the sugar-growers.
– That is altogether a misapprehension. Although for many years we have had talk of the manufacture of power alcohol in Australia, this is the first concrete, definite, and reasonable business proposition which the Government has received. Last June I introduced a similar bill in this chamber and received many telegrams from persons interested in the sugar industry of Queensland, as did other honorable members. But from that day to this no business-like or concrete proposition has been submitted to the Government for the further development of the power alcohol industry in Queensland. There is nothing to-day and there has been nothing for years past to prevent any committtee of canegrowers with any aggregation of capital from starting the manufacture in northern Queensland of power alcohol from the molasses that is going to waste there.
– Until recently the sugar industry could not meet Australia’s requirements for sugar, but now it produces a surplus.
– For many years many millions of gallons of molasses have been running to waste in Queensland whether the industry produced 200,000 or 500,000 tons of sugar per annum. To my knowledge there has been nothing within the last six or seven years to prevent people interested in the sugar, industry from getting to work for the production of power alcohol, and ceasing their talk on the subject. Let us analyse the proposal to make power alcohol from sugar cane and see where we shall be led. I am not saying that I am not sympathetic towards every proposition put forward, but honorable members will realize that my duty as the Minister dealing with such propositions, and as a custodian of the public revenue, is to make sure that we get practical and business-like propositions and not visionary ones. Let us consider the proposal to make power alcohol from sugar cane. I presume it is generally admitted that from the cassava plant, which of all commercial starch-bearing plants, chemists are agreed produces most alcohol, it is possible to manufacture’ 40 gallons of power alcohol per ton. I believe it has been proved up to the hilt that it is possible to get only from 18 to 20 gallons of power alcohol from a ton of sugar cane. For the purpose of comparison I take £1 7s. 6d. as the cost of producing a ton of cassava which will make 40 gallons of power alcohol. This gives the approximate basic cost of power alcohol for raw material as 81/2d. per gallon.
– If I wished to float a mine, I should like to get the Minister to write it up.
– Honorable members will realize that I am trying to give the House the information in my possession. I shall touch upon other points later on. It is generally admitted that a ton of sugar-cane will make from 18 to 20 gallons of power alcohol. If the growers want to get 30s. per ton for their sugar-cane, and contend that that is the lowest cost of production, then the cost of power alcohol made from sugar-cane at 30s. per ton will be for raw material 1s. 6d. per gallon as compared with 81/2d. per gallon for raw material, if the power alcohol is made from cassava. Stating the matter in the reverse way, if the basic material cost should not be more than 81/2d. per gallon of power alcohol produced, the sugar-cane would need to be sold at 13s. per ton. I do not think that any honorable member connected with the sugar industry will contend that sugar-cane can be produced at that price, and give a reasonable return to the grower.
– No; but unfortunately it is being sold at that price now, because there is over-production.
– I ask the honorable member, who seems to know a good deal about these things, will the sugar-growers be satisfied to sell their cane for the production of power alcohol at 13s. per ton ?
– No; and it is estimated by Mr. Seymour-Howe that the industry will be able to pay them £2 per ton.
– I do not know how the matter appears to Mr. SeymourHowe, or to any one else, but it is admitted that 40 gallons of power alcohol can be produced from a ton of cassava. One ton of sugar-cane will produce only 18 to 20 gallons of alcohol. Either the sugar cane-growers must sell their cane at 13s. or 14s. per ton in order that it may compete successfully with cassava as a raw material for the production of power alcohol, or the difference between 13s. per ton and 30s. must be made up to them by the payment of bounty. This would necessitate increasing the proposed bounty from 4d. to1s. per gallon. Reference has been made to the Tariff Board. I remind honorable members that two or three gentlemen gave evidence in favour of this scheme for the production of power alcohol from cassava, and others were invited by advertisement in the press to come forward in opposition to it. I know that some people intended to do so, but did not. The board’s inquiry was held in public, and evidence was taken on oath. All persons interested must have been fully aware of it, and the investigation was wholly in accordance with law, precedent, and business practice. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann) urged, as an objection to this bounty, that the manufacture of power alcohol from the sources mentioned in the bill will inevitably raise the cost of food.
– If the honorable member is replying to the discussion in. committee this morning he is not in order.
– I am explaining the general principles of the bill, reviewing generally the arguments that have been advanced against it, and endeavouring to give the House fresh information. The Fuel Research Board in London is very much interested in the manufacture of power alcohol within the Empire. The petrol supplies of the Empire are very unsatisfactory, and scientists of the highest standing have given their approval to the basis of the scheme laid down in this bill. The honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) and the honorable members for Macquarie (Mr. Manning) and for Lilley (Mr. Mackay) showed a clear understanding of the relevant facts of the scheme. If it is not a commercial success the Government will pay nothing. The company’s proposal is backed by a capital of £25,000, provided by the Plane Creek Sugar Company, and guaranteed by the Queensland Government, and a Similar amount is to be invested by the British Distillers Company. These are business people who presumably know what they are doing. They have shown their faith by investing their capital. We know very well that even if the whole of the molasses available in Queensland were converted into power alcohol the production would be equal to only about one-tenth of the total requirements of the Commonwealth. The Plane Creek Power Alcohol Company was registered in Brisbane in December last, a distillery is in process of erection, machinery is en .route to Australia, and it is hoped that power alcohol will be produced within a few months. The partners in this company are the Plane Creek Central Milling Company, the Australian Estates and Mortgage Company Limited, the Distillers Company Limited, and the International Sugar and Alcohol Company Limited. The capital is equally divided between the Australian and British companies. There will be three Australian directors, and only two British directors, and Mr. Alexander Innes, chairman of the Plane Creek Sugar Mill, will be permanent chairman of the Alcohol Company. By agreement the management will be in the hands of the directors of the Plane Creek Sugar Mill, who will have the right to call upon the British companies for all technical advice they require, and for the use of such of their patents, rights, or processes for the production of power alcohol as may be applicable to Australia. Honorable members know, as well as I do, that the mere co-operation of the greatest aggregation of distillers in the world with their practical, technical, and all-embracing knowledge of the distillation of power alcohol, and the fact that they have invested their money in this venture, constitute almost a guarantee that it will be a success from the commencement. With regard to cassava, approximately, 140 farmers have already planted experimental areas in the districts supplying the Sarina Sugar Mill. Last year the Queensland
Government sent an agriculturist to Java to study cassava growing. That is a most appropriate place for its study, because, last year, 6,500,000 tons of cassava was produced there. The planting in Queensland has been carried out under Government supervision, and I understand that the State Government spent, at least, £2,000 in sending the expert to Java, and bringing back the plants. Only the speciallyselected tubers which the Government imported from Java have been planted, and, in spite of the fact that they were two months old at the time, and that the planting was done at an unfavorable season of the year, the growth has been good, and the prospects of a reasonable return from the first year’s cultivation are distinctly encouraging. Although I described this proposal as modest, I say, deliberately, that any further practical proposals will be very carefully considered by the Government, regardless of whence they emanate, or the source of supply to which they relate. But before the Government will submit to the House any definite scheme for assisting other ventures it must receive, and thoroughly examine, concrete proposals. Much has been said of prickly pear. I do not know of any developments that would be to the greater advantage of Australia than a scheme which would turn to profitable account a pest that is over-running so many millions of acres of land in northern New South Wales and Queensland, but the proposal to produce alcohol from this source has not yet advanced to a commercial stage. I have in my possession confidential papers relating to Dr. Sinclair’s investigations. They tend to confirm the statement I made in the House this morning, that the production of power alcohol from prickly pear is not yet beyond the laboratory stage, and until it is placed on a commercial basis no proposition can be considered by the Government. The people interested, however, have asked the Government to assist them by lending the services of a responsible chemist to help them with their further investigations. The Government proposes to do that, because it realizes the magnitude of this proposal, and the desirability and urgency of testing it thoroughly. I turn now to the objections which have been voiced by some honorable members who have spoken, concerning the position of the Accounts
Committee in connexion with these power alcohol projects. I introduced this bill in June of last year, and I then made a definite promise that its further stages would be postponed until the report of the Public Accounts Committee had been received. I made that promise in the last Parliament, which has gone to the limbo of the past. We have to-day to deal with things as they are. I invite the enthusiastic co-operation of all honorable members to help in solving the many difficult problems with which we are faced. Seeing that we have now reached the stage at which I made my previous promise, I am prepared to say, on behalf of the Government, that the consideration of the bill will be postponed if the Public Accounts Committee will, within two or three weeks, submit a report on this very important question. If that report is not received within that time, I will place upon the table of the House the notes of the evidence given before the last Public Accounts Committee, so that honorable members may be in possession of all the information it is in my power to obtain for them. I would again place the simple issues before honorable members: This is not a bill for giving a bounty on the production of power alcohol from molasses. No bounty is asked for on molasses. It is a bill to encourage the production of cassava, for, without a crop supplementary to molasses, we cannot hope to manufacture any reasonable proportion of Australia’s power alcohol requirements.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and committed pro forma.
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until
Wednesday at 3 p.m.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act relating to the encouragement of prospecting for precious metals.
Resolution reported and, by leave, adopted .
That Mr. Bruce and Dr. Earle Page do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented and, by leave, read a first time.
Message recommending appropriation reported .
In committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) proposed -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act relating to the encouragement of prospecting for petroleum oil.
.- I should like the Prime Minister to give me some information. Will any part of this appropriation be used for the purpose of encouraging prospecting for oil in the mandated territory of New Guinea ? Also, what will be the amount of the appropriation ?
– The Bill will not provide for the encouragement of prospecting for oil in the mandated territory. It will deal only with State and Federal territory in the Commonwealth. The amount of the appropriation will be £60,000.
.- The mandated territory is virtually a part of the Commonwealth. A peculiar situation, which putsthat territory in a different category from Australia or Papua, has arisen there. In Australia Dr. Wade has, after due investigation, made a report to the Government, and we also have a report by him regarding Papua. I understand, also, that the Government is financing an oil company to explore for oil in Papua. In the mandated territory nothing has been done to explore for oil, except the sending of an expedition, which touched only the coast, and a short distance inland. The exploration work which that expedition did was possibly very good, but it covered only a relatively small part of the possible oil-bearing area of NewGuinea. My complaint at the present moment is that the mandated territory of New Guinea, which is really a part of the Commonwealth, and where there is more likelihood of finding oil than anywhere else in the Commonwealth, is not included in this proposal. Apparently the Government will leave it to interested persons to prospect for oil there. More consideration might be given to the claims of the Australian companies that are exploring for oil there. They should reap some of the benefit of the subsidy. I approve of the cancellation some time ago of the offer of a reward of £50,000 for the discovery of oil in commercial quantities, for if any one finds oil in commercial quantities he will not mind spending the £50,000 reward to celebrate his good fortune. Assistance should be given in the initial stages of prospecting. It would seem that everything that is for the good of the mandated territory is spragged. I recognize that international difficulties might arise if; oil were found in the mandated territory. Oil appears to be responsble to-day for 60 percent. of the international misunderstandings that arise. Under the mandate of the League of Nations we are not allowed to fortify the territory, and if we should find oil in large quantities there the discovery might avail us nothing if another country attempted to take it from us. Leaving all that on one side, however, I hope that even at this late hour the Government will reconsider its decision and permit prospectors in the mandated territory, as well as those on the mainland, to share in this subsidy. After all, only an artificial boundary separates Papua f rom the mandated territory.
– I understand perfectly the views expressed by the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green), and. I agree with him that probably New Guinea is the most important oilprospecting area under the control of the Commonwealth. But this bill has not been designed to cover any great effort in oil exploration. The amount involved is only £60,000. It is really the outcome of the visit to Australia of Dr. Wade, whose report wasat least sufficiently encouraging to justify the Government in making the amount available. We have,as the honorable member remarked, spent considerable sums of money in oil exploration in the mandated territory, and I regret that the results have not been more satisfactory. Possibly we shall have to spend still more there, but I do not think that the matter can be dealt with adequately in this measure, which is merely the fulfilment of. the forecast in the Treasurer’s budget speech of last year. I ask the. honorable member not to oppose the motion, for it is always open for him to make representation to the Government on the bigger question of its policy with regard to oil exploration in the mandated territory.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported and, by leave, adopted.
That Mr. Bruce and Dr. Earle Page do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented and, by leave, read a first time.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
Address-in-Reply - Tariff Administration.
.- I move-
That the House do now adjourn.
I take this opportunity of remedying an omission from my speech in the AddressinReply debate yesterday. One of my main purposes in participating in that discussion was to offer my congratulations to both the mover (Mr. Gullett) and the seconder (Mr. Abbott) of the motion for the adoption of the AddressinReply. Although it is somewhat late, I congratulate both those honorable gentlemen on their efforts, in what must always be a trying ordeal. They acquitted themselves with great credit. It augurs well for the future of this Parliament that it is able to obtain recruits of such a high calibre.
– I direct the attention of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten) to a great injustice that has been done to a number of firms in Australia through the delay in the’ delivery of their imported goods on account of the British seamen’s strike. It happened that quite a number of ships that were in Australian waters before the introduction of the last tariff, were unable to discharge their cargo on account of the strike. In consequence of this delay the goods became dutiable, and although the department has been approached with a request that, in the circumstances, the duties on them should not be collected, its attitude has been most unsatisfactory. It must appeal to honorable members as unfair that increased duties should be imposed upon these goods, for they were in Australian waters before the increases were announced. T should like the Minister for Trade and Customs to explain to the House the policy of his department in cases such as this. I consider that the firms concerned have been most unfairly burdened.
– There is a legal difficulty in the way of doing what the honorable member desires. During the last Parliament I had, on several occasions, to explain the practice of the department in answering . similar questions. The legal position is that it is obligatory on the Minister to collect the duty current on the date of importation and the date of entry. That position can only be altered by parliamentary action at some future date.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bouse adjourned at 3.54 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 15 January 1926, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1926/19260115_reps_10_112/>.