10th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. SirLittleton Groom) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I have to announce that I have this day received the return of the writ I issued on the 25th of J anuary last for the election of a member to serve for the electoral division of EdenMonaro, in the State of New South Wales, in the place of the Hon. Sir Austin Chapman, deceased. By the endorsement on the writ, it appears that John Arthur Perkinshas been elected in pursuance of the said writ.
– (By leave.) - I move -
ThatGovernment business shall take precedenceover general business to-morrow.
I submit the motion because we are now very near Easter, and there is a certain amount of business which most be dealt with before the House adjourns, unless honorable members are to be brought back immediately after Easter. The Government hopes to be able to so arrange thebusiness of the House as to give honorable members a period for the Easter recess which will enable the representatives of distant States to return to their homes in those States.
– The motion will apply only to the one day?
– Yes; to to-morrow only. I think that honorable members generally will agree that it is desirable that this course should be followed.
– I presume that if this motion is carried it will postpone the discussion which otherwise would take place to-morrow on motions in the name of the honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson) and the honorable member for Melbourne(Dr. Maloney).
– It will cut me out too.
– I do not wish to delay the business of the House in any way, but the motion in the name of the honorable mem ber for New England has reference to new States.
– The Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) had something to do with new States at one time.
– The honorable gentleman had a good deal to do with the question, as a matter of fact. I have a very vivid recollection of a visit paid by the Treasurer to Rockhampton during a Federal election campaign, and a deputation being arranged to meet him there.
– I ask the honorable member not to discuss the merits of the motion to which he has referred.
– I intend to do so. The following is the motion in the name of the honorable member for New England
– I move-
That the question be now put.
Question - That the question be now put - put. The House divided.
Majority . . . . 13
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question - That the motion be agreed to - put. The House divided.
Majority … … 16
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Admission of Germany - International Labour Conference - Australia’s Responsibility
– Is it the intention of the right honorable the Prime Minister to make a statement, before the House rises for the Easter recess, and, if possible, allow time for the discussion of the situation that has developed at Geneva, particularly in relation to the proposed entrance of Germany to the League of Nations ? Will he, at the same time, indicateclearly to honorable members the attitude that is being assumed by the British and Dominion representatives or commissioners, with regard to the proposed enlargement of the Council of the League ?
– I shall certainly make a statement upon the matter, possibly to-morrow or on Friday. I would have done so to-day had a satisfactory settlement been reached of the somewhat difficult and delicate problem that has arisen at Geneva. It is desirable that I should make clear to the House the exact circumstances that have led to the present situation, as well as the attitude which- the Australian Government, through its representatives at Geneva, has assumed; but I cannot say anything at the present moment. I was extremely sorry to learn of the receipt in Australia of a press cablegram which, if true, would indicate that Brazil, which is one of the non-permanent members of the Council of the League, has exercised the power that is possessed by every member of the Council to prevent a unanimous recommendation for the admission to the Council of a new permanent member.
– Do the official records confirm that cablegram ?
– I am glad to say that they do not; no official confirmation of it has been received by the Government.
– Would such action by Brazil prevent Germany’s admission to the Council?
– Yes. Under the provisions of the Covenant of the League a new permanent seat on the Council cannot be granted to any nation unless the - Council unanimously recommends it to the Assembly. It is suggested that Brazil has exercised her right to prevent unanimity from being reached. Without unanimity Germany cannot be admitted as a permanent member of the Council. That would be very serious. The admission of Germany to the League is one of the conditions upon which the Locarno treaties came into operation. There is nothing to prevent Germany’s admission to the League, but the Powers are under an obligation to see that she obtains also a permanent seat on the Council. It is not desirable that I should, at this stage, outline what has taken place at Geneva in regard to the claims of Spain, Brazil, and Poland. The matter has progressed so far that a final decision must be reached very’ soon. There will then be nothing to prevent me from making a full statement, because it will not then be possible to say anything which might prevent a satisfactory settlement. I hope that I shall be in a position to make a statement either to-morrow or on Friday.
– Will the right honorable gentleman give the House an opportunity to discuss the matter?
– I do not think that that will be necessary.
– Is it a fact that Mr. James MacDougall was the only person nominated by the employers’ organizations as their representative at the International Labour Conference at Geneva ? If so, why were different conditions laid down respecting the nominations for a representative of the employees?
– It is not a fact that Mr. James MacDougall was the only person nominated as the representative of the employers. I believe that the names of five or six gentlemen were submitted. The Government has not yet decided who the employers’ representative shall be. There has been no distinction between the treatment of the employers and the employees.
– ‘Has the attention of the Prime Minister been drawn to the statement made in another place regarding Australia’s position, as a member of the League of Nations, in the event of hostilities occurring as the result of the present proceedings at Geneva? In view of the question of the right honorable member for Balaclava, (Mr. Watt), will the Prime Minister intimate to the House exactly where Australia stands 1
– I have not seen the statement referred to .’by the honorable member. I presume that he wishes me to define Australia’s obligations under the Covenant of the League of Nations. To deal with that matter would take considerable time, but I shall take the opportunity of discussing it in its many bearings and aspects when a suitable occasion presents itself. I do not think that the honorable member need fear that hostilities will arise out of the present proceedings at Geneva.
– According to cable messages published in the local press, the representative of Australia attending the meetings of the Council of the League of Nations now being held at Geneva is acting under definite instructions in supporting Germany’s application for membership of the League, and in opposing any further enlargement of the Council beyond the provision of a permanent seat for that power. Will the Prime Minister inform us what instructions have been issued to him?
– The Government has quite definitely indicated its attitude in regard to the admission of Germany to the Council of the League. The views of the British Government and the Commonwealth Government have been formulated on two underlying principles. The first of these is that nothing should be done at Geneva that wouldin any sense undermine the Locarno Pact ; and the second is that nothing should interfere with the admission of Germany into the League. The proceedings of the Council are almost finalized; and, in the circumstances, I feel that it will be undesirable for me at this stage to say any more on the subject now.
– Does not the Treaty of Versailles require that the appointment of the representative of organized Labour to the International Labour Conference should be made by the Government in agreement with the trades uuion movement of Australia? If so, why is it necessary that more than one nomination should be made?
– The Treaty of Versailles provides that the workers’ representatives shall be chosen by the Government, in agreement with the representatives of organized Labour throughout the country. There is no provision in the treaty giving the right to any section to nominate its representative, though that is what is being attempted ; or so it would appear from what has been published in the press. We should do everything possible to prevent difficulties from arising; but those making the appointments must be given a certain latitude, so as to ensure that the persons attending the conference do not merely represent only a section or class. The representative of the employers and the representative of the employees may primarily represent the sections which they have been chosen to represent, but they should also represent Australia as a whole. I urge honorable members opposite to use their influence to convince those who appear to hold a different view that there is an obligation on the Government, which represents the whole of the people, to see that the person chosen as their representative is prepared to act in the interests of Australia as a whole. Is it suggested that in a great movement such as the Labour movement three persons cannot be found who could be nomi nated to represent the employees at Geneva ?
– In view of the fact that the official organ of the Chamber of Manufactures inNew South Wales has stated definitely that Mr. MacDougall has been selected as the representative of the employers and has left for England to attend the conference, I ask whether that gentleman has been appointed by the Government as the employers’ representative at Geneva?
– I cannot state at the moment how many persons have been nominated by the employers.
– The journal of the Chamber of Manufactures says that only one nomination was submitted.
– That is wrong. The honorable gentleman may. if he pleases, see the communication from the employers in which the names of several persons, four, five,or six - I cannot at the moment say exactly how many -are submitted. The nominations have not yet been considered by Cabinet.
– Has the Minister for Trade and Customs yet received from the Tariff Board a report relating to the duties on motor cycles? If so, will he lay it upon the table of the House? I understand that the board completed its inquiry about a fortnight ago, and, as the matter is an urgent one, it is desirable that no time be lost in considering the report.
– To the best of my recollection that report has not yet been received.
Water Famine: Commonwealth Assistance
– Is the Prime. Minister aware that the production of lead, zinc and silver at Broken Hill has completely ceased owing to a shortage of water : that the stoppage has already thrown out of employment 4,000 men at Broken Hill, and that 1,000 or more will be thrown out of employment at Port Pirie very shortly? In view of the seriousness of the position, and the necessity of again producing lead for export, will the right honorable gentleman make available the assistance of the Commonwealth as early as possible in supplying water from the River Darling?
– I was not aware that production had completely ceased at Broken Hill; my impression was that there had merely been a diminution of the production. According to the information in my possession, the solution of the difficulty is believed to be the carriage of water to Broken Hill by rail. The railway over which it would be carried is under the control of the Government of New South Wales, and I understand that that Government is dealing with the matter. It has been suggested, however, that the Commonwealth should place at the disposal of the State certain engines that are at present idle at Port Augusta. If representations are made to the Commonwealth on the subject, the position will be carefully examined; but I think it is the opinion of the New South Wales Government that it can more readily deal with the matter with its own rolling-stock and engines.
– -Will the Prime Minister take advantage of the presence in Australia of Sir Bertram Mackennal to secure from him a report upon the design of the Commonwealth coat of arms, with a view to suggesting more suitable and artistic arms than are at present in use on our coinage, notes, official publications, and documents, stationery, &c.
– The honorable member’s suggestion will receive the fullest consideration.
– In view of the action of the Prime Minister in depriving the House of an opportunity to discuss the motion dealing with the creation of new States, and the making of necessary amendments to the Constitution, that stands on the notice-paper in the name of the honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson), will the right honorable gentleman indicate when he proposes to fulfil the promise that he made at Dandenong to have a special constitutional session, and to invite the States to attend a conference to consider the financial relations of the Commonwealth and the States?
– I have not deprived honorable members of the opportunity to discuss the motion to which the honorable member has referred. The urgency of Government business was the sole reason for giving it precedence of private members’ business to-morrow. Nothing will prevent the discussion of the motion in the very near future; the length of time that will elapse before it can be discussed will depend upon the length of the adjournment that honorable members desire at Easter. It is impossible to say when the Government will be able to afford an opportunity to discuss constitutional questions, which, I agree, are of very great importance; but we shall have to endeavour to bring about a financial conference with the States at a date that will allow of the preparation by the Treasurers of the Commonwealth, and the States of budgets and financial statements at the usual time. Consequently, such a conference must be held in the relatively immediate future. A constitutional session will probably be held at a later date.
– Does not the Prime Minister think that it would be fitting for the proposed Constitutional conference to be held at Canberra?
– I do; and the indications point to its being held there.
Publication of Correspondence
– In view of the statement made in the local House of Commons by the Prime Minister of Canada that the British Government offered no objection to the publication of the correspondence between it and the dominions relating to the holding of an Imperial Conference, will the Prime Minister make available to honorable members such communications as have passed between it and the British Government on the matter?
– There has been very little correspondence in connexion with the Imperial Conference. I shall look into the matter ; but at present I can see no reason why the communications should not be made public. The question arose in the Canadian House of Commons following a request for the publication of all communications with regard to the Locarno Pact. On that point the Canadian Prime Minister said that the publication of those communications would be inadvisable, on account of the reference to other nations.
– In view of the fact that some honorable members must make their arrangements sometime ahead, can the Prime Minister inform the House of the probable length of the Easter recess ?
– I cannot do so at the moment. . A good deal will depend upon the’ progress made with the business by Friday week. Certain matters, including the tariff, must be concluded without unnecessary delay; and if consideration of them is not completed before Easter, it will be necessary to call honorable members together much earlier after Easter than would otherwise be the case.
– Seeing that the South Australian Government has agreed to reduce by 50 per cent, the charges for railing live stock from the drought stricken areas in the north of South Australia to other parts of the State for agistment, will the Prime Minister consider making a similar concession in regard to stock that may need to be carried over the Commonwealth Railways for the same purpose ? This is an urgent matter and a prompt decision may prevent pastoralists from shooting hundreds of head of cattle.
– I appreciate the urgency of the matter, and will have it looked into at once.
– In view of the fact that the Select Committee on Electoral Matters will hold its first meeting tomorrow morning, will the Prime Minister make an early announcement of the names of the two members required to complete the committee’s personnel 1
– At the moment I cannot say what the position is, but I shall do my best to make an early announcement on the matter.
– Seeing that much of our Australian timber is threatened with destruction, through the ravages of the borer, will the Government cause an investigation to be made with the object of eliminating the pest?
– The question should have been directed to the Minister for Health (Sir Neville Howse). I shall consult him on the matter and let the honorable member have an answer.
-Is the PostmasterGeneral aware that in the event of the proprietors of news agency and stationery businesses selling out, the Postal Department refuses the transfer ofcommissioncarrying licences to sell postage stamps that are connected with them, and invites the new owners in the businesses concerned to submit applications for licences without commission I Does he . consider it reasonable to expect business . people to assist the department to meet the convenience of the public by selling - stamps without recompense for their, services ?
– Each case is dealt with on its merits. The department takes the. stand that persons have no right to dispose of commission-carrying licences for the sale of postage stamps. That -is the reason why it refuses to transfer them.<
Mr. BOWDEN. Notwithstanding the fact that one of the few concessions that Australia received in the reciprocal trade’ treaty with Canada was the right to export butter to that Dominion, the Canadian Government is imposing a: dumping duty on all butter that we send there. Can the Minister for Trade and Customs tell us why 1 I should also like; to know whether or not this decision will have any effect upon the reciprocal trade’ agreement ?
– That matter is being investigated by the Department of Markets and Migration, and when the inquiry is completed I shall be able to answer the honorable member’s question.
– Last week. I complained that some of the paper used for our memorandum forms was made in Norway. Since then I have received a letter, from which I make the following extract: -
In the Tariff now before the House the duty on writing paper has been taken off. It was a very small one, only 5 per cent., 10 per cent, and 15 per cent.; but with a certain, amount of Government preference we’ were enabled, to secure the Commonwealth and State Government contracts, and made about 1,000 tons per annum. Under the amended tariff being introduced, the first Government that turned down the Australianpaper was the Commonwealth, and we believe that had the duty, although small, still been in force, our tender would have been accepted.
Will the Prime Minister make inquiries to ascertain who is responsible for this House being supplied with Norwegian instead of Australian paper?
-I shall have inquiries made into the matter. But may I suggest that honorable members put questions of this kind on the Notice Paper ? When such inquiries are made without notice, the departmental staffs have to scan the Hansard report very carefully to ascertain that no point has been omitted in making a reply.
asked the Minister for Works and Railways, upon notice -
– In the agreement ratified by the three Parliaments it is provided -
Arrangements have not been finalized for the carrying out of the work, and, until they are completed, the information desired by the honorable member cannot be given.
Life Assurance Premiums
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Defence Department (prior to discharge from the Australian Imperial Force). This does not establish that the disability was due to or aggravated by war service. A review of their military and medical histories discloses (in the opinion of the Repatriation medical officers) that the insanity is not war-caused. These patients were permitted to remain with the Repatriation patients so long as the accommodation was not required for cases whose disability arose out of service. They were recently removed by the Inspector -General of the Insane, who is responsible for them.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
With regard to a notice dated 1st March, 1926, addressed from Naval Drillroom, Port Melbourne, and signed “R. Fulton, Lieutenant”, to a local resident commencing: - “ 1. You have been selected for naval universal training.
You are to report without fail at the Naval Drillroom, Bay-street, Port Melbourne, at 9 a.m. on 16.3.26 for medical examination as to your fitness for the above” - will the Minister state what is the position with regard to naval universal training as distinct from compulsory military service, and on what grounds notices of the kind above referred to are sent out?
– Part XII. of the Defence Act provides for the liability of certain classes of persons to be trained in the Citizen Forces, and that liability extends to the Citizen Naval Forces as well as to the Citizen Military Forces. Section 143 (2) provides for those required for training in the Naval Forces to be first allotted to those forces. Section 144 of the act requires the attendance at the prescribed times and places for inspection and medical examination of those so liable. Selections for naval training are made from those residing in areas convenient for the purpose.
Electric Lifts at Parliament House.
– On the 11th March, the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman) asked the Minister representing the Minister for Home and Territories -
The following are the answers to those questions : -
– On the 29th January, the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) asked the following question: -
In this morning’s newspapers is published a cablegram that Italy has been forgiven half its war debts to Great Britain. Will the Treasurer make available to the House any information in his possession regarding this matter?
I am now able to furnish the following information : -
The negotiations for the settlement of the Italian war debt to Great Britain concerned a total of. £610,840,000, including accrued interest. Against this, Italy had a claim for £22,200,000 in respect of gold deposited in England as part security for the debt. According to the agreement signed on 27th January, 1926, Italy is to liquidate her debt in the following payments: - £2,000,000 in the current financial year; £4,000,000 in each of twoyears - 1926-7 to 1927-8; £4,250,000 in each of four years - 1928-9 to 1931-2; £4,500,000 per annum thereafter for 55 years- 1932-3 to 1986-7; £2,250,000 in 1987-8 in final payment.
The gross amount to be paid by Italy is thus £276,750,000 including interest. From this is to be deducted the above-mentioned £22,200,000 of gold, which Great Britain agrees to release in instalments spread over the period of the agreement, commencing in 1928. The effect of this concession is that Italy’s net yearly remittance to Great Britain will be £4,000,000 after the current fiscal year, and to reduce the net total of payments to be made to £254,550,000.
– Last week, the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates), and the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin), asked for information concerning an occurrence at the Seacliff Military Camp, in South Australia, on 4th March. I am now in a position to inform the honorable members that I have obtained reports, which indicate that the midday meal on that day, for two companies of the 43rd Battalion, as issued from the cook-house, was insufficient. The Orderly Officers of the Companies complained to the Messing Officer, and additional cooked rations of the same materials were immediately secured from the cook-house. The time that elapsed from the complaint being made to the issue of the additional food appears to ‘have been five minutes or so, certainly not more than ten. During this period, some 150 men proceeded to march out of the mess tents. They were ordered to return, and did so. On the arrival of the second issue, objection was made by some of the trainees that the mess orderlies’ food had been taken; and, on an assurance being given that this was not so, and that there was plenty for the mess orderlies, they then complained that the meat was undercooked. It was, however, inspected by the Commanding Officer, the Adjutant, and the Medical Officer of the 43rd Battalion, as well as by the Brigade Major of the 3rd Infantry Brigade, who all state that the meat was good; if anything, was overdone. Some 300 men were involved in the initial short issue, and subsequent further issue. Of these, some 180 accepted the further issue. The remaining 121 declined to touch their food, broke camp, and took train to Adelaide. On the arrival at Adelaide, some pf them proceeded to the office of the Evening News newspaper. After obtaining a meal in Adelaide, the men remained there until the evening, and then returned to camp. On the following day, they were dealt with by their Commanding Officer for absence without leave, and each fined £1, and automatically lost a day’s pay for absence on 4th March. Instructions designed to detect shortages in issue were not observed in certain particulars, and it is therefore impossible now to ascertain whether the correct weight of meat was delivered to the unit or not, although the correct weight was sent out from the Army Service Corps. Action has been taken against those responsible for this neglect, although, as already stated, the shortage complained of by the trainees was immediately made good. The several reports I have obtained all indicate that the complaints concerning the second issue were frivolous and unjustified, and that there is nothing to exculpate the men from their very grave offence of breaking camp. I might add that the supplies of meat for the 4th March were issued by the Australian Army Service Corps to the 43rd, and other Battalions, from 8 p.m. on the previous night. It was examined by a board consisting of a medical officer, a veterinary officer, and the field officer of the day, and found to be of good quality and condition.
The following papers were presented : -
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired at Balaklava, South Australia - For Postal purposes.
Railways Act - By-law No. 38.
Treaty of Peace (Germany) Act - Regulations Amended- Statutory Rules 1926, No. 24.
In committee (Consideration resumed from 12th March, vide page 1617) :
Clause 2 - (Definition).
.- The Spirits Act provides two standards, one for mineralized spirit and the other for alcohol fuel. The difference between the two is only in the methods of denaturing the original alcohol. But as this bill deals with the production of alcohol fuel, I cannot understand why the standard for mineralized spirits has been adopted instead of the other standard set out in the Spirits Act.
.- I understand that in connexion with the production of power alcohol for industrial purposes in France and Germany, there is some relaxation of the Customs regulations relating to denaturants.The cost per gallon of denaturing may not be great, but it amounts to a considerable sum on a big output. I. do not believe in the revenue being cheated, and in facilitating the use of power alcohol for potablepurposes, but I ask the Minister to give an undertaking that his department will allow reasonable latitude to the manufacturers, and not handicap the industry by undue interference.
.- The Public Accounts Committee received evidence that the Comptroller-General of Customs had given an assurance to the company that it would not be harassed by insistence upon the full requirements of the Spirits Act in regard to denaturants. If that is so, my contention that there is no need to set up a different standard from that which is already fixed by the Spirits Act is strengthened. I suggest to the Minister that he might postpone the clause and introduce a new definition which would be consistent with the Spirits Act.
.- I have just received information from Messrs. Clarke, Padley and Company, that by the use in Germany of a new invention - Eisenbahm- Verkehrsmittel Aktien.gesellchaft, Berlin - known as the E.V.A. Mayback motor railcar, 100 passengers can be carried at a fuel cost of less than £d. per mile. It consumes crude oil, which can be purchased in large quantities at 4d. per gallon. If there is a chance of competition by this invention we may have to consider the payment of an increased bounty to the power alcohol industry. I have no desire to delay the passage of the bill, but I ask the Minister to postpone the clause so that further information may be obtained regarding this new factor in cheap transport.
.- I support the request of the honorable member for Maribyrnong. When the manufacture of power alcohol was being experimented with in the acetate of lime factory at Brisbane, the greatest difficulty was experienced in complying with the demands of the Customs Department in regard to denaturing. Mr. Wilkinson, the Government analyst, insisted upon adhering to the standards set up by the Customs Department. If the department caused so much difficulty to a factory that was controlled by another department under the same government, I can conceive that its interference may be a considerable handicap to a private manufacturer. If the manufacture of power alcohol by private enterprise is to be encouraged the Customs Department will require to adopt a more sympathetic attitude………
– I am agreeable to the postponement of the clause, with a view to endeavouring to meet the views of honorable members. The Government desires to simplify the manufacture of power alcohol. Of course, honorable members realize that the spirit must be denatured or methylated, so as to be rendered unfit for human consumption; but the less the expense and trouble to which the manufacturers are put the greater will be the prospect of success.
Clause 3 -
Tl ere shall be payable out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund, which is hereby appropriated accordingly, the bounty specified ia this act.
.- When this bill was previously before Parliament I opposed the granting of this bounty. When urging the House to pass this bill on Friday. the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten) said that by pass- ing the measure Parliament would be keeping faith. By interjection, I asked him what he meant, and his reply wai very vague and unsatisfactory. There is an uneasy feeling on the part of some honorable members that the Minister has committed the Government to the payment of this bounty, and that he desires Parliament to confirm his action. If that is so, I protest against the Govern r ment being definitely committed to a course of action before Parliament is con: suited, and I suggest that any such undertaking by the Minister is not bind- ing upon honorable members, This committee must decide whether or not a bounty shall be granted, and honorable members should not be told that they will be breaking faith if they do not agree to this proposal. This bill is of great importance, and if the company has been promised financial assistance without Parliament having been consulted, a very important question arises as to the responsibility of honorable members. Last year the House was told that the company was already purchasing in England machinery for the commencement of the industry, acting apparently on some undertaking from the Government. No undertaking, explicit or implied, should be given by the Government to pay a bounty to any private enterprise until the subject had been dis.cussed . in Parliament. Since, the bill was last before this House, the Public Accounts Committee has reported upon the various proposals for the production of power alcohol. I congratulate the committee upon its admirable report. It has covered the ground completely, and has not been carried away by any airy schemes which, although scientifically attractive, are commercially impracticable. Having had a great deal of experience with various technical . processes, I know (hat the crucial matter in any enterprise of this character is not the technical but the commercial possibility, which involves the cost of production and distribution. Laboratory tests and calculations of the yield from certain material are not always confirmed when production is attempted on a commercial scale. Laboratory tests are not conclusive; the operations in the field and the cost of production are the determining factors. The Accounts Committee has shown a business instinct for practical considerations. It has taken a broad view of the question, and, on the whole, the report completely justifies my attitude to the bill on previous occasions. It is true that the committee did not, as a select- committee would have done, report on the pros and cons of the bill, but in its report it has dealt inferentially with this proposal. It is’ noteworthy that the committee made no recommendation that a bounty should be paid for the production of power alcohol. It has reported that this or that proposition is not a commercial proposition without Government assistance, but it has not recommended that such assistance should be given. On the other hand the Committee has come to the perfectly wise and sane decision that it would be better for the Government to subsidize research work in order to throw further light upon some of the problems involved in the industry. I suggest that the practical way to subsidize research is not to subsidize a company. The Minister has tried to make the House believe that the proposal before honorable members is a big research enterprise, and that Parliament, by granting a bounty, will be doing ho more than encouraging further investigation. But there is another side to the matter.’ When a subsidy is paid to a company to establish a factory and plant, and undertake the production of a large quantity of material, an industry is established which will thereafter have a claim upon the Government. If the first experiments do not succeed, we shall have established a company, and shall have encouraged it to come back to the Government for further assistance. In other words, we are by this measure building up vested interests without proper consideration, which may afterwards fasten on our back like the Old Man of the Sea. The proper way to proceed is to subsidize research activities through the Institute of Science and Industry, if honorable members please, or through some of the State departments already established, having local experience and knowledge, and competent to carry out the scientific work required. The broader the area of research the better, because it is possible to take advantage of competition in scientific research as well as in any other direction. In spite of all that may be said to the contrary, this proposal is but a huge experiment, and I speak advisedly, and with a sense of responsibility, when I say that it is an experiment which will not succeed. The Government is proposing to subsidize a company which may become more or less permanently dependent on Government assistance.
– The Government accepts no responsibility until something has been produced.
– -That does not settle this question. If we encourage this company to erect building and plant, and incur responsibilities by the inducement of the bounty, we may be sure that if its first experiments are not successful, it will claim further assistance. On the subject of the encouragement of research, there are two paragraphs of the Public Accounts Committee’s report which are worth quoting. The committee says -
In October, 1020, the Institute of Science and Industry convened a conference of persons specially interested in the production and use of motor fuel, and manufacturers of motor bodies accessories, internal combustion engines, &c. This conference endorsed the recommendations of the .institute as contained in bulletin No. 20, and urged the Commonwealth Government to give effect to them.
Those recommendations were along the line of research and investigation. The next paragraph in the committee’s report isof particular importance. It reads -
The conference decided also to establish a fund for the purpose of investigating the production of motor fuels in Australia, and suggested that contributions to the fund be made on a £1 for £1 basis up to a limit of £5,000 each by the Commonwealth Government, and the users and trade interests concerned. The executive council of the institute endorsed the proposal, and recommended the Commonwealth Government to grant up to £5,000 for this purpose. The recommendation was not, however, approved by the Government.
Here is a case in which private interests concerned were willing to co-operate with the Commonwealth Government and to put up an equal amount of money out of their own pockets to provide a fund of £10,000 to carry out research work, in which,of course, the private interests concerned would have a say. What more desirable arrangement could possibly have been proposed, and yet the Commonwealth . Government turned down that proposal. Instead of entering into a cooperative scheme of investigation, to the cost of which the Government would contribute £5,000 only, it has put before us a scheme to subsidize one private company to the extent of £25,000. This whole proposal isunreasonable and unbusinesslike. I consider that the activities of the Government in the matter should be confined to subsidizing research on the lines suggested. Take the question of what is to be done with the prickly pear. I do not wish to throw the slightest doubt upon the scientific work done by Dr. Sinclair. I do not question that he has produced alcohol from prickly pear. I have no means of checking his statement, but I do not for a moment suggest that it is wrong. What I say, however, is that the technical production of alcohol from prickly pear in a laboratory is only the commencement of the problem. The real difficulty in dealing with the prickly pear is, as. every one knows, the cutting and handling of it.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Bayley).I think the honorable member is going beyond the scope of clause 3 in entering upon a detailed discussion of the subject of the bill.
– I intended only to point out that here is a case for investigation and research not on the technical side. I do not question the work of Dr. Sinclair on the technical side, but there is room for much investigation into the practical working costs of cutting andhandling prickly pear. I do not propose to traverse the whole of the report presented by the Public Accounts Committee.I am very much afraid that there isa majority of honorable members against me in this matter, and I have no wish to aggravate; them by pressingmy opposition to the bill too far. But before it is passed, I feel it is necessary to again record my views upon it after the presentation of the Public Accounts Committee’s report. Everything in that report points to three main conclusions. First of all, molasses is the most practical source of power alcohol in Australia at present. I want to point out that it is also demonstrated that its use does not require a subsidy or bounty.
– Where isthat demonstrated?
– According to the evidence given to the Public AccountsCommittee, molasses provides a source of power alcohol on a really commercial basis, and its use does not require bounty or subsidy. My own view is that this bill should be put aside altogether, and the company invited to use this waste material in the form of molasses to, make power alcohol. I know that this would meet only a proportion of . the requirements of the country, but it wouldprovide a reserve in time of need, andfrom the experience gained in this way wemight see reason to extend our operations further.
– Where does the honorable member find that a bounty is asked for the production of power alcohol from molasses ?
– I know that it has been suggested that molasses should be included in this bill. The second point that arises out of the committee’s report is that natural growths in tropical countries
– May I suggest that it would be more appropriate for the honorable member to discuss the question on clause 6 rather than on the clause now before the committee, as it specifies the materials which may be employed in the production of power alcohol.
– I was in some little difficulty as to the course to pursue because] the Minister, in speaking to thefirst clause, said that opportunitywouldbe given - to discuss the whole measure. I did not wish to inflict my remarks upon honorable members more than once, but I shall now reserve further remarks on the bill for other clauses.
.- I have in my hand a copy of the Public Accounts Committee’s report, but having listened to the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann), I think we must be looking at two different documents. I see that on page 10 of their report the Public Accounts Committee says -
If some stimulus or inducement were offered - for the manufacture of alcohol, it appears that there is a favorable opportunity for the establishment of a new and important industry in the Commonwealth.
I take it that that is a direct indication that the Public Accounts Committee does recommend that some stimulus or inducement in the shape of a bounty should be given for the production of alcohol from cassava at least.
– The committee does not say that it is on a commercial basis.
– I shall deal with that in -a moment. Again, at page 11 of the report, I find that the third recommendation of the Committee reads -
That a bonus of 3d. a gallon be granted on power alcohol, in order to encourage its manufacture and to develop the primary industries on which a supply of the necessary raw material depends.
I do not pretend to see any other meaning in that but a recommendation of a bounty.
– The honorable member is not quoting from the report of the Public Accounts Committee, but from a quotation contained in it.
– I see my mistake, but the committee has included this recommendation’ in its report. In. the paragraph following that which the honorable member quoted from page 11 of the report, the Public Accounts Committee says -
It was stated, however, that there would appear to be little difficulty in establishing the power-alcohol industry in Australia by using molasses as the raw material, but as the quantity of spirit which could be produced under existing conditions would not meet one twentyfifth of Australia’s demands, it was necessary to direct attention to other sources of raw material, such as the cultivation of certain starch-bearing crops which offer possibilities in the production of alcohol. But as suitable raw materials are either not yet cultivated at all in Australia’, or are cultivated on only a comparatively small scale, and as the margin of profit available when using such material for the distillation of power alcohol, will initially at any rate be small, it would -probably be necessary to afford certain facilities and inducements to attract the requisite capital and enterprise. Nevertheless, motor fuel derived from molasses has been manufactured and used in Australia.
For a considerable time past molasses has been the source of power alcohol. The honorable member for Perth stated that laboratory experiments are often discounted when an attempt is made at their practical application. But no one would for a moment suggest that the production of power alcohol from the distillation of fermentation of starch-bearing products has not gone beyond the laboratory stage. Power alcohol was manufactured in Germany 21 years ago, and to-day in the United States of America, 648,000,000 gallons a year are being produced. The honorable member for Perth .will admit that the extraction of spirits from starchbearing products has long passed the laboratory stage, and has reached the stage of practical application in almost every civilized community in the world. I venture to suggest that one might almost test the advanced state of the civilization of a country by the amount of industrial alcohol it produces. I have here an extract which perhaps escaped the notice of the honorable member for Perth, taken from this morning’s Argus. The following telegram appears under the headings, “ Power alcohol - Queensland Distilleries “ : -
Cairns, Queensland, Tuesday. - The Babinda and Mulgrave sugar mill suppliers have authorized the two companies to join with the International Sugar and Alcohol Company and the Distilleries Company Limited, for the erection of a power alcohol distillery at Gordonvale at an estimated cost of approximately £70,000, half of which will be found by tho companies, and half locally. As a result of negotiations with representatives of British distillery companies and the chairman of the Plane Creek sugar mill,- it has been decided to form the Australian National Power Alcohol Company, with a nominal capital of £1,000,000, and proceed immediately with the erection of two distilleries, one in the Plane Creek district, Mackay, and another in Cairns. A third, it is hoped, may be erected next year in the Burdekin district.
– Then why do they want a subsidy ?
– It is anticipated that power alcohol can be produced from molasses. That is a seasonal product, which so far has not been obtainable in quantities sufficient to keep a distillery’ employed continuously. Because ‘of the suitability of the climatic conditions, it was decided to supplement the supply of molasses with cassava, which grows luxuriantly in the Mackay district. Those who introduced it first ascertained from other countries that their venture would be economically possible. Honorable members should not be swayed by the short extracts which the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann) read from the report of the Public Accounts Committee. The Government is to be congratulated on the introduction of the measure. Its action has already stimulated the enterprise, and has led to the introduction of new capital.
.- I am not at all satisfied with the amount that the Government proposes to appropriate, but I shall not oppose the bill, be- cause it goes a little way towards carrying out in Queensland what is really an experiment. If the Government had given effect to the recommendation of the Institute of Science and Industry in July, 1920, to have investigational work carried out, a very informative report upon this national matter would by now have been available. It has miserably failed to tackle the matter properly. The sum of £5,000 per annum over a period of five years is infinitesimal.
– That is the amount for which the State Labour Government of Queensland asked.
– The honorable member is in error if he thinks that the Queensland Government does not desire to go further than this bill proposes to go.
– I did not make that suggestion. What I said was that the Government is granting the amount which was asked for.
– This amount was recommended by the Tariff Board, not by the Queensland Government. At the request of the Plane Creek Mill, that Government guaranteed a sum of £25,000 for the erection of a distillery. The following is a quotation from the report of the Tariff Board:-
After very careful consideration of all the evidence available, including the results of the expert examination made by the Institute of Science and Industry into the question of the production of po wor alcohol in Australia, the board has no hesitation in recommending that a bounty at the rate of 4d. per gallon.be paid on all power alcohol produced in Australia - from, cultivated crops, including molasses, the t product of sugar cane, ‘and ‘ that such bounty extend over a period of five years, commencing on the 1st January, 1926, subject to the understanding that the amount of the bounty to be paid to the applicant company shall not exceed £25,000 over a period of five years. A further condition cf payment of bounty is that the Minister for Trade and Customs shall be satisfied that a reasonable price was paid for the material used in . the manufacture of 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 penny of the bounty payable.
– On a point of order, I suggest that clauses 6 and 7 offer opportunities for the honorable member to bring up the questions that he is now raising, and which are outside the scope of clause 3.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Bayley).I have been following the speech of the honorable member for . Capricornia. Ho has used a quotation from the report if the Tariff Board merely as an illustration “ to support his contention that the proposed appropriation should be larger than it is. He has not been dealing in detail with the production of power alcohol.
– The Government would be justified in paying a bounty of £250,000 a year for four years in order to establish a great national industry that would supply half of Australia’s requirements of- motor fuel. Last year £5,700,000 was spent in Australia in the purchase of 82,000,000 gallons of motor spirit. Queensland has all the raw products for the manufacture of power alcohol on a large scale. The Government did not have the matter sufficiently investigated. Had it done so, I believe that the amount of the appropriation would have been very much larger than is provided for in the bill. A visit to Queensland would have convinced the Tariff Board of the necessity for a larger appropriation. It took evidence in Sydney from Mr. Board, the Australian representative of the International Alcohol _and Sugar Company, of London, which is anxious to secure the bounty for itself, and from Mr. Herbert’ Powell, a director of Power Alcohol Limited, of Sydney. Before making a recommendation, the board should have, consulted Queensland experts in the sugar industry. One of those is Mr. Seymour Howe, manager of the Mulgrave Mill, and another is Mr. de Bavay, a recognized authority in Australia on power alcohol. The evidence which - those gentlemen could have given would have shown the board that, in Queensland, hundreds of thousands of tons of molasses suitable for the manufacture of power alcohol go to waste every year, and that, by their utilization, the over-production problem would be partially solved, This could bo made a valuable by-product of the sugar industry, which it could assist if it were utilized profitably, instead of bolstering up a wealthy company like Distillers Limited, which has a capital of something like £40,000,000. I speak in the interests of the sugar-growers who produce molasses. I do not want them to be exploited by the International Sugar and Alcohol. Company, by having their product purchased for a mere song. If they were given a bounty, the molasses could be treated in their own co-operative distilleries, and the profits which were earned would assist the sugar industry. Under the Shale Oil Bounty Act, the sum of, £148,000 willbespent before the end of Augustof this year. Bounties have been given to the. iron and steel, and dried fruits industries, to the extent of hun- dreds of thousands of pounds. This is a very important industry, and it should have been thoroughly investigated when investigation was recommended by the Institute of Science and Industry in 1920, and the oil fuel interests were prepared to advance £5,000, if the Commonwealth Government would advance a similar amount for research work. That research would have enabled a comprehensive scheme to be formulated, and the establishment of the power alcohol industry in a big way would have followed. Industries like the sugar industry would then have been tided over periods of depression.
.- One has some difficulty in advancing reasons for and against the clause, because one is precluded from discussing many details. The honorable member for Herbert (Dr. Nott), made a quotation from an article in a Melbourne newspaper of to-day’s date. If the statements which he read prove anything, they prove that there is no necessity for the proposed bounty. The capital already involved, or proposed to be involved, is enormous, and there is a widespread desire on the part of different corporations to co-operate in the production of power alcohol. The principal company concerned has a capital of millions of pounds, yet it is asking the Government to make available a paltry £5,000 a year!
– The idea is to make profitable the growing of cassava.
– The granting of a subsidy does not make an industry profitable. If it did, banana-growing could be made profitable in the Arctic Ocean. It is not a business proposition to endeavour to establish an industry by giving artificialassistance by way of a subsidy. The quotation that was read by the honorable member for Herbert disclosed the fact that already a large number of persons think that this is a commercial proposition, and are willing to risk their capital in the production of power alcohol.
– The honorable member must understand that the proposed bounty relates to molasses.
– The honorable member for Herbert said that cassava growing had to be encouraged because molasses was only a seasonal crop, and that the bill would have that effect. Capital has already been invested to produce power alcohol from molasses, and tho people interested do not desire a bounty to help them ; but because they wish cassava to be grown in order to improve their business, we are being asked to provide them with a bounty. If they had only molasses to treat in their distilleries, they would have an off season, but, notwithstanding that, they have begun business. Now that they are proposing the. growth of a new crop that would provide them with a raw material in the off season for molasses, and so enable them to keep their distilleries in operation all the time, a bounty ig. to be paid them. If cassava becomes a successful crop, the overhead expenses of the company will be reduced, and their prospects improved. It “is ridiculous, therefore, that we should have this topsy-turvy proposition before us. I intend to vote against the clause, for it is most unreasonable. I hope that the Minister will make the position of the Government quite clear. Is it committed to the payment of this bounty ? In my opinion, the payment of the bounty will not necessarily improve the industry, or encourage research to develop it; nor will it enable the business to be conducted on more scientific lines. I can see no factor in the case which entitles the Government to provide a bounty in this way.
Mr. PRATTEN (Martin- Minister for
Trade and Customs) [4. 47]. - The position is that this is a Government measure, submitted to honorable members for their approval. If the bill is passed, it will become law. The fact that the Government has introduced it is prima facie evidence that it wishes it to be passed. If the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann) would read the pamphlets issued by the Institute of Science and Industry, he would learn that our best prospect of producing power alcohol on a profitable basis from vegetable growth of a starchycharacter is by the use of cassava, and the purpose of the bill is to encourage cassavagrowing in Queensland in commercial quantities. If cassava is so produced, the interests engaged in the production of power alcohol there will have a subsidiary raw material to use in the off season for molasses, and so will be able to use their distilleries to the fullest capacity.
– Does the bill provide for the payment of a bounty for power alcohol produced from molasses ?
– It does not; for the reason that that has not been requested or considered. The company is quite prepared to produce power alcohol from molasses without a bounty, but it desires that a bounty shall be paid on power alcohol produced from cassava in order that the growth of cassava may be encouraged.
– It shocks me to be informed that because the sugar-growers in Queensland, who are engaged in a great industry which carries our tropical north on its shoulders, and have made possible the development of that country, contending against serious prejudice and difficulty through many years, have had the manliness to refuse to come, cap in hand, to the Government for largesse, they are to be denied a bounty for producing power alcohol from molasses; while strangers, who want to grow cassava - a product that many of us have scarcely heard of - are being granted all the bounty that they want. The Minister has told us that this bill has been introduced because it is a Government measure; and that if it is passed it will become law. That is like saying that if a man is eviscerated he will have a void where once he had a pain. I shall be most reluctant to exclude the sugar in dustry from the benefits of this bill.. I do not agree with all the arguments submitted by the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann). He looks at the matter from one stand-point and I from another.; but the measure appears to be just as unsatisfactory from his point of view as it is from mine. I am in favour of the payment of a bounty for the production of power alcohol from molasses, and I cannot understand, for the life of me, why provision has not been made for that. Possibly the reason will appear during our discussion of the remaining clauses.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 4 agreed to.
Clause 5 -
The rate of bounty payable under this act shall be Fourpence per gallon.
– I do not object to the proposal topay a bounty on power alcohol producedfrom cassava, but I object to different ratesof bounty being paid on liquid fuel produced in different States. The report of the Public Accounts Committee on our oil prospects gives prominence to the shale deposits in New South Wales and Tasmania, from which fuel oil is already being produced ; but the amountof bounty paid on the fuel oil producedfrom these sources is less than that proposed tobe paid for power alcohol produced from cassava. In my opinion such a differentiation is not only unfair, but also unconstitutional. I hope that the Minister will give me an assurance that the amount of bounty payable on the fuel oil produced from shale will be increased to 4d. per gallon. If he does not do so, I intend to move that a new clause be inserted with the object of achieving that object. It seems to me that the source from which liquid fuel is produced in Australia should be a matter of indifference to us, so long as it is produced. At anyrate the Government should be prepared to treat all States alike. Cassava is a crop of which we know very little in Australia. A proposal will be made at a later stage in the bill to provide a bounty for the production of power alcohol from the prickly pear. I shall probably be told that shale can be obtained more cheaply than either cassava or prickly pear, but the reverse is the fact. Irrespective of that altogether, I hold that the bounties payable in the various States for producing liquid fuel should be on the same scale.
I wish to point out to honorable members that the bounty payable on the production of crude oil from shale is 3ld. per gallon, and that that is much more advantageous to Tasmania than would be a bounty of 4d. per gallon upon refined petrol produced from shale.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 6 -
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.
The amount appropriated for the purposes of the bill should be increased to provide, as suggested by the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), that the bounty shall be payable on power alcohol produced from molasses, as well as on that produced from cassava, sweet potatoes, arrowroot, or other cultivated starch-bearing plants approved by the Minister, including prickly pear. If the Government would agree to amend the clause to provide for that, it would enable the Queensland sugar-growers to solve the problem of over-production. The assistance which the industry has received from the Commonwealth and State Governments has enabled it to expand to such an extent that it is now able to produce far more sugar than Australia requires. The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) when Prime Minister always equitably dealt with the Queensland sugar industry. To-day there is an over-production of sugar of 180,000 tans per annum. The production is about 500,000 tons, and the Australian consumption is about 320,000 tons. The board appointed by the Commonwealth Government to fix the price of sugar based on the cost’ of production decided on £27 a ton. The Sugar Board appointed under the Queensland act of parliament deducts £1 from that £27 a ton, and places it into a fund to meet the loss incurred on the export of the surplus sugar. The sugar-growers, therefore, receive a maximum of £26 a ton. In view of the over-production of 180,000 tons per annum, it was necessary for the Queensland Sugar Board to pay the growers on the basis of £26 a ton for 60 per- cent, of production, and of £9 10s. a ton for the remaining 40 per cent, of production. That considerably reduced the average price paid to the sugar-grower, and to-day he is in a very bad way. Last year a great number of the sugar-growers averaged only £2 10s. per week income for the whole year, owing to over-production. The sugar industry, therefore, is not in a flourishing condition. It is the duty of the Commonwealth Government to extend the bounty to power alcohol manufactured from molasses so as to enable the co-operative mills engaged in the sugar industry to establish their own distilleries for the manufacture of power alcohol for use in Australia. If legislation were then passed compelling the retailers of motor spirit to mix with it a certain percentage of power alcohol, the whole of our output would be absorbed, and this would give a beneficial impetus to the Queensland sugar industry. Recently, at Mackay, a conference was held respecting the sugar industry and the manufacture of power alcohol. At that conference Mr. A. J. Draper, who I understand is the chairman of the Northern Power Alcohol Committee, moved the following resolution: -
That, in the opinion of this, the first conference of sugar-growers in Queensland, under the auspices of the Queensland Producers Association, representations should be immediately made to the Federal Government as follow : -
That sufficient protection by way of bounty should be granted to encourage the manufacture of power alcohol from vegetable matter within the Commonwealth, with a view to its ultimate permanent establishment to supply Australian requirements for liquid fuel.
To pass the necessary legislation making provision for the blending of the Australian product with imported mineral fuel until .the economic balance is established to render this no longer necessary.
That this conference appreciates and endorses the efforts of the Northern Power Alcohol Committee in its desire to find a solution for the serious loss accruing through the large over-production of sugar-cane, and (a) approves of the association of surplus sugarcane, with the waste molasses for the manufacture of power alcohol with the existing sugarcane milling plant; (b)~ that the endorsement of the brochure prepared by the Northern Power Alcohol Committee by such an eminent practical chemist as Mr. de Bavay, the Australian authority on distillation, is sufficient justification for this conference to approach both the Federal and State Governments, with all confidence, and ask their full-hearted co-operation on this great national question, which . is of such vital importance to the future commercial and industrial life of Australia.
– When was that conference held?
– On the 18th January of this year.
– Does the honorable member know that there have been two conferences on the same subject held since then ?
– I am making my speech in my own way, and the honorable member, if he thinks fit, may later throw further light on the subject. It is wrong to say that the Queensland sugar-growers do not want a bounty on power alcohol manufactured from molasses. The growers who produce sugar cane should profit by the utilization of its by-products, and should therefore receive first consideration from this Government. Under this bill, we propose to give the International Sugar and Alcohol Company a bounty of £25,000 on all power alcohol manufactured by itsdistilleries in Australia. Mr. Board, the representative of that company, is a very astute gentleman. He knows that in Queensland there is a limited market for power alcohol, and, given twelve months or two years’ start on the local growers, he will have entered into contracts for the sale of all power alcohol that can be absorbed in Australia. I doubt whether the sugargrowers can come in two years after the present company has started operations and successfully get the market. Because of the limited quantity of molasses produced every year, Mr. Board, in two years’ time, will have captured the market. He will offer for molasses a nominal sum which the growers will have to accept, the only alternative being to pour the molasses into the fields. Since the sugar conference was held in January there has been a change of opinion. Mr. Draper and others have realized that it is better to compromise with Mr. Board than to obtain nothing at all. It is evident that they realize that no distillery established by the sugar-growers will be able to capture the market in two years’ time.
– What market!
– The market for power alcohol.
– The market is the whole of Australia.
– Yes, but the demand will be limited owing to prejudice and the influence of the oil combine. The com pany will have to rely for its raw material chiefly on the molasses that is now being thrown away. I am doubtful whether cassava will ever be grown in great quantities. The report of the Public Accounts Committee shows that the cost of producing cassava is £2 a ton. That committee states that it is difficult to get any figures bearing on the subject, but considers that cassava would be quite as expensive as arrowroot to produce. The Queensland Department of Agriculture estimated the cost of production of cassava at £1 7s. 2d. a ton.
– Has cassava ever been produced commercially in Queensland?
– No. Cassava has for many years been produced commercially in Java and other places, but in Queensland it has never been grown commercially. Twenty years ago some was grown in the vicinity of Mackay. To-day in that district cassava is planted on about 300 acres. It takes from eight to twelve months for cassava to be ready for cutting and it will cost quite as much as arrowroot to produce. Arrowroot costs £2 a ton to produce, and Mr. Board will be able to pay to the growers of cassava only 19s. 6d. a ton for their product. The company’s distillery is being erected in the vicinity of Plane Creek mill.
– White people cannot live under those conditions.
– That is so. The bill provides for a bounty of 4d. a gallon, which means 2d. a gallon to the grower. As 39 gallons of power alcohol can be manufactured from a ton of cassava, the bounty will be 6s. 8d., and this added to 19s. 6d. paid by the company, provides a sum of £1 6s. 2d. a ton to be paid to the growers. I have discussed this matter with sugar-growers in the Camilla and Flaggy Rock districts. A good number of them send their sugar cane to the Plane Creek mill, and they say that they will not be able to produce cassava at. any price under £2 a ton.
– They will not be able to do it at that figure.
– That is so. On page 14 of the report of the Public Accounts Committee on this subject is an interesting article written byG. W. Monier- Williams, dealing with the production and utilization of power alcohol. In it he states -
Cassava possesses the 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. Usually it is necessary to pull them up by hand or dig them out. They quickly decay after harvesting, and cannot be stored for subsequent distillation unless thoroughly dried. In 1913, dried cassava roots exported to France from French colonies were valued at about ?5 to ?6 a ton. This would correspond to approximately ?1 10s. to ?1 16s. per ton for the fresh roots. At this figure the raw material for one gallon of 95 per cent, alcohol would cost about ls., corresponding with maize at ?4 6s. a ton,
That authority points out that cassava is a most expensive crop to grow; consequently I am not at all optimistic that this venture will be successful. I am sure that the basis for the manufacture of power alcohol will be molasses. If a bounty of 4d. a gallon on power alcohol produced from molasses had been given, and if this proposition had not been restricted to ?25,000, the growers would have been able to start their own distilleries and to obtain profits from them. This, to a large extent, would have solved the problem of the over-production of sugar. Resolution No. 4, moved by Mr. Draper at the Sugar-growers’ Conference held at Mackay on the 18th January of this year, reads as follows : -
That in order to afford the maximum measure of relief to the sugar industry, it is imperative that its by-products, i.e.-, molasses, &c, be utilized to the fullest advantage to buttress the industry itself, as a whole, by the creation of another key industry directly associated with sugar, and which would further stimulate agricultural development of Australia’s tropical coastal belt, which is so essential for the success of the great White Australia policy.
It is, therefore, clear that in the sugar districts of Queensland there was distinct hostility to the action of the Government in introducing this bill in its present form. I received numerous messages on the subject, not all of which were from my own electorate. Mr. E. Hunter, of Innisfail, wrote to me on the 15th. July, 1925-
In my humble 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 edge of the wedge. They want a monopoly of our molasses. .
Mr. W. J. McLennan, sugar.grower, of Sarina, wrote that the proposal was not in the interests of the industry, as the company would get from the molasses profits which should go to the growers to help them . through the period of overproduction. On the 27th July last Mr. Seymour Howe, manager of the Mulgrave Sugar Mill, North Queensland, telegraphed to me -
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.
– Why does the honorable member “ stone wall “ the bill?
– I am not “stonewalling,” but I desire to avail myself of this opportunity to point out that the Government, instead of proposing this trifling bounty, should have carried out the investigation recommended by the Bureau of Science and. Industry in 1920. If it had induced Parliament to appropriate ?5,000 for that purpose at that time, a comprehensive and detailed report by a board of experts would have been before us, and the Government would have been obliged to ask for a substantial appropriation for the payment of a bounty upon the production of power alcohol, from not only cassava, but molasses also.
– The honorable member delayed the passage of this bill on a previous occasion.
– That statement is ridiculous. When this bill was introduced in July last I supported it, but expressed regret that the Government had not extended the bounty to power alcohol manufactured from molasses as asked for by the Queensland sugar-growers. I pointed out the danger of giving this bounty to the International Sugar and Alcohol Company, an off-shoot of Distillers Limited. London, the big whisky combine, which has a capital of ?40,000,000, thus enabling them to get a start on the growers .and reap” profits out of the industry. This company is not establishing itself in Australia in order to help the growers in Queensland to overcome the difficulties of over-production; its purpose is to exploit the growers, as far as it is allowed. Because I drew attention to these facts honorable members opposite said, during the election campaign, that I opposed the establishment in Queensland of a big national industry. As a matter of fact, the machinery for Mr. Board’s company is only due to arrive in Australia, and seven or eight months must elapse before the cassava, planted in the Mackay district, will be ready for cutting. Therefore, the statement that my advice to the Government in July last delayed the establishment of a great industry in Queensland is not true. The Government had 46 members as against Labour’s 29. Mr. Seymour Howe said, at Gordon Vale, on 14th July, 1925-
Mr. Board, of the International Sugar and Alcohol Company, made it quite clear that tha 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 experience in the Mackay district, are directly associated with the proposition of entirely absorbing the whole of the molasses.
The company’s object is not to help the sugar-growers to get all the profits from the by-products of their industry and place it on a better footing ; its aim is to make profits out of the growers’ produce.
– If the molasses is “ not utilized now, will not this new venture be in the interest of the sugar industry?
– Certainly, a great quantity of molasses goes to waste now.
– Then why quarrel with the International Sugar and Alcohol Company ?
– I want the bounty to be extended .to enable the growers to establish their own distilleries. The company will offer a nominal price for the molasses. If profits can ‘be made by the production of power alcohol from molasses, why not extend the bounty to that product, and so enable the sugar-growers to establish distilleries and secure the profits for them- selves ? I do not believe in allowing a speculative proprietary company to come in and fleece the growers. Mr. Board will be able to dictate terms to the producers of the sugar cane. At the present time, there is no market for molasses, but if this bounty is extended to power alcohol, manufactured from molasses, the growers will be encouraged to establish their own. distilleries. They realize that if MrBoard’s company gets a two years’ start, it will capture the Australian market. For some years there is bound to be a great prejudice against power alcohol in. Australia, and that feeling will be fostered by the pro’paganda. of the great oil corporations. In consequence, the market for power alcohol will be limited for a number of years, and this measure will give to one big company two years in which to establish itself. Reading between the lines, I can see that the Queensland sugar-growers realize that it is better to co-operate with Mr. Board’s company than to be excluded entirely from the benefits, of the new enterprise. But instead of the profits going to this wealthy English company, I would prefer the whole of them to be reaped by the growers through their co-operative mills and distilleries.
– Will there be no room for the co-operative distilleries?
– No, because for years the market for power alcohol will be limited unless the Government will follow the example of France, and introduce legislation compelling the retailers to mix power alcohol with motor spirit.
– That was done merely for . the sake of economy during the war.
– It was absolutely necessary, otherwise the power alcohol would not have been sold at all. I predict that the cost of production will increase considerably the price of power alcohol in Australia, and the retailers will be threatened by the oil corporations that supplies of motor spirit will be withheld if they sell power alcohol. If the cooperative distillers have to take only what is left of the market after Mr. Board’s company has obtained two years’ start, and has secured contracts with the biggest consumers, they may expect only losses1 instead of the profits which should accrue to them.
– I have previously said that half of the capital of the International Sugar and Alcohol Company has been subscribed in Australia.
– I am certain that the Australian capital does not come from the Queensland sugar-growers.
– Half of it does.
– It may come from other persons who are interested in the industry. The great majority of sugargrowers have no monetary interest in it at all. I desire the grower who supplies the cane to the mills to get all the profits from the new industry, instead of being again exploited, as he was when the Colonial Sugar Refining Company controlled the industry. In proof that this question is a live one, I quote the following letter received by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr: Charlton) a few days ago, from the Maryborough District Council of the United Cane Growers’ Association : -
Maryborough District Council United Cane-growers Association.
The Maryborough District Council United Cane-growers Association, representing just on 1,000 cane-growers supplying cane to Maryborough, Mr Bauple, and Isis Central Sugar Mills very strongly recommend to the Federal Government the adoption of the following resolutions at the earliest possible moment: -
Power Alcohol Industry.
Yours respectfully, (Signed) L. Mergard,
I ask honorable members not to regard the action of the Northern Power Alcohol Committee in joining with Mr. Board for the purpose of assisting him to establish a distillery in the north as an indication that the sugar industry generally approves of the action of the Government in confining the bounty to power alcohol manufactured from cassava. The growers believe that it should be extended to the product of molasses also, so that the 40 per cent. surplus production of sugar may be utilized. According to Mr. Seymour Howe, if the bounty were extended to molasses, £2 a ton could be paid for sugar cane for the manufacture of power alcohol . Under present conditions, the sugargrowers get an average return of from 12s. 6d. to £1 a ton for the surplus sugar-cane. Mr. Howe is a recognized authority on this question in Queensland. He has consulted with Mr. De Bavay, who is mentioned by the Public Accounts Committee in its report on page 14 in the following terms: -
Mr. A. J. F. De Bavay, consulting chemist, whose scientific research and processes are a feature of Australia’s industrial development, informed the committee that he considered the utilization of molasses provided the best means whereby the power alcohol industry could be established in Australia. He had studied the problem for many years, and had recentlydiscussed the economic practicability ofcertain schemes put forward by representatives of the sugar -growers in the Cairns districtknown as the Northern Power AlcoholCommittee, whereby it was proposed to so treat the Queensland sugar crop that a greater quantity of molasses would be available and be used in the production of alcohol in order to lessen the loss on the surplus sugar exported. The committee was informed at a later stage of its inquiry that although the sugar producers proposed to further utilize molasses for the production of alcohol, the project concerning the exportable surplus was being held in abeyance.
I have myself discussed this matter with Mr. De Bavay. He still considers that Mr. Seymour Howe’s scheme is a very good one. From this I take it that Mr. Seymour Howe, who is manager of the Mulgrave mill in Northern Queensland, must be a very disappointed man because of the decision of the Governmentnot to make this measure sufficiently comprehensive to cover a bounty on power alcohol manufactured from molasses. The amount of the appropriation proposed in this bill is insufficient to enable that to be done. The Minister should have asked for a larger appropriation. A bounty of £5,000 per annum would cover a production of only 300,000 gallons per annum. The Queensland requirements alone of motor spirit amount to 8,000,000 gallons. When ono considers the wonderful increase in the importations of motor spirit from 34,000,000 gallons, valued at £3,100,000, in 1921-2 ; 67,000,000 gallons, valued at £4,200,000, in 1923-4, to 82,000,000 gallons, valued at £5,700,000, in 1924-5, one may reasonably assume that in ten years’ time our requirements will reach 200,000,000 gallons, valued at £14,500,000, and retailed probably at £20,000,000. The Queensland sugargrowers are not at all satisfied that cassava can be grown profitably. They say, “ We have been producing sugar- cane for the last 50 years, and understand its production. There is now an overproduction of sugar, and why should not the bounty on power alcohol be extended to alcohol manufactured from molasses so that we may be enabled to establish cooperative distilleries and secure all the profits for those engaged in the sugar industry.” Too many of the primary producers of Australia are exploited by people who jump in and secure the profits from by-products of their industries. In common with the members of the party to which I belong, I stand for cooperation. Instead of assisting great proprietary companies to exploit the sugar-growers of Queensland or any other Australian primary ^producers, the Government should have proposed, to extend the bounty to power alcohol manufactured from molasses. It should have convened a conference representative of the best brains amongst the sugargrowers of Queensland, the Institute of Science and Industry, one Federal minister and one from Queensland, and representatives of the sugar associations of Queensland to discuss the whole question before proposing to pay a bounty te Mr. Board, of the International Alcohol and Sugar Company. That was not done, and Mr. Board came along and secured the ear of the Minister. The honorable gentleman said that, under this bill, no monopoly will be given to any one ; but he must recognize that practically a monopoly will be given to the gentleman who is permitted two years’ start of the sugar-growers of Queensland in thu manufacture of power alcohol. He will be able to dictate his own terms to the sugar-growers. At the present time, there is no market for molasses. Most of it is used as manure. This company will be able to sign up long contracts with the sugar-growers for the sale of molasses. Assuming that the Minister is right when he says that the company will get only half the profits made from the manufacture of power alcohol from cassava and from molasses, for which it will pay a merely nominal sum, I say that that is half too much, because all the profits should be divided amongst those” engaged in the sugar industry. They should go to the men who, in many cases, felled the scrub, and prepared their farms in the face of great difficulties. They have been so efficient in the production of sugar that to-day our sugar production exceeds the consumption in Australia, and the surplus must be exported to the world’s markets, where it is in competition with sugar produced in Java and Fiji, and other places where labour is paid ls. a day. The Government having failed in its duty, the representatives of the sugargrowers realize that it is better that they should secure an interest in this business by joining in with Mr. Board, than that they should receive no consideration at all. The Government proposes to permit Mr. Board to establish his distilleries, and to pay him a bounty on the production of power alcohol. It is useless to suggest that the bounty will not be confined to him, and that other distilleries will receive a share of it, because the amount proposed to be devoted to the purpose of this bill is infinitesimal when compared with the bounties - amounting to hundreds of thousands of pounds - paid in respect of other manufactures. The sugar-growers know that if the International Alcohol and Sugar Company gets a footing in Queensland, and they do not now insist upon acquiring a share in its management, they will get very little consideration from such a combine. They realize that the best they can hope to get now is a share in the profits of this company. I say that that is not enough, and that proper encouragement should have been given to the Queensland sugar industry, to start ita own distilleries.
– The honorable member thinks that, with a bigger bounty, there will be larger profits.
– I am contending that the bounty should not be restricted to power alcohol manufactured from cassava, but should be extended to that manufactured from molasses. Instead of the sugar-growers getting some of the profits, they should get the whole of them. I ask honorable members not to accept as evidence that the sugar-growers are satisfied with this proposal the fact that certain of their representatives have decided to establish a company to work in conjunction with Mr. Board and the International Alcohol and. Sugar Company.
– Is the honorable member aware that the Queensland Government has approved of this action?
– I am not responsible for any government. It is quite wrong to say that the Queensland Government approves of the action of the Commonwealth Government in restricting the bounty to £25,000 per annum and to cassava.
– Is the honorable member speaking for the Queensland Government?
– Some time ago I received a telegram from Mr. Forgan Smith, Queensland Minister for Agriculture, and member for Mackay in the Queensland Legislative Assembly, telling me that he considered that bounty should be paid not only on alcohol manufactured from cassava, but also on alcohol manufactured from molasses, and then much greater benefit would accrue to the Queensland sugar industry.
– Was he speaking for himself or for the Queensland Government?
– I cannot say, but he spoke as a responsible Minister of the Crown. I admit that the Queensland Government, whilst it recognizes that this bill does not go far enough, is not going to take any action to prevent the establishment of distilleries in Queensland. That is why I do not vote against the measure. The Commonwealth Government has absolutely failed to grapple with this question in a big national way. What is proposed is to enable the big whisky combine of England to establish a subsidiary company in Queensland to secure profits from the sugar industry which should go to the Queensland sugargrowers.
– Does the honorable member believe that people will bring capital into Australia if they are not assured of profits?
– I do not object to the introduction of foreign capital for the establishment of secondary industries, but preference should be given to our primary producers to establish co- operative industries in order to keep all the profits for themselves. The Government proposal in this bill is to .confine the payment of the bounty to Mr. Board and the International Alcohol and Sugar Company, and to set aside the interests of those who do the real work in the sugar industry, whose interests, in my opinion, should be first considered. When representatives of the sugargrowersrealize that the Minister emphatically stated that the bounty would not be extended to alcohol produced from molasses, they saw that it would be better that they should get some share of the profits rather than none at all. I take it that that is why, at this stage, the Northern Power Alcohol Committee has entered into an arrangement with Mr. Board to establish certain distilleries in North Queensland in the future. This, is all in the futureMr. Board is to make a visit to Cairnsin March to talk the matter over with the Northern Power Alcohol Committee. My objection is that the Government does not make this a more comprehensive measure and increase the amount of the appropriation to £250,000 a year. This measure does not give the necessary encouragement to Queensland sugar-growers to establish their own distilleries, and secure all the profits from the manufacture of power alcohol for themselves, and! thus solve the problem of the overproduction of sugar.
.- The Government introduced this bill some six months ago, and it is due to the efforts of the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde), in co-operation with the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann), that its consideration has been delayed until now.
– The honorable member knows that the Government had the numbers, and could have passed the bill if it so desired.
– I suggest that the Government was extremely generous to the honorable member in consenting to the postponement of the consideration of the measure.
– - The Queensland sugargrowers wanted its consideration postponed.
– The honorable member has had a lot to say about the sugargrowers of North Queensland, and the interest they are taking in this matter. I regard it as significant that up to the present I, at least, have* not received a single comm’unication from any sugargrower in Queensland asking for any additions to be made to the provisions of the bill. Knowing the interest I have taken in the sugar industry in the past, I am certain that if they wanted any additions to the bill, they would have communicated with me quite as readily as with the honorable member for Capricornia. It is further significant that the honorable members for Perth and Capricornia attack the bill from different angles. The honorable member for Capricornia says that the appropriation proposed is notnearly sufficient, and should be £250,000 per annum. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann), on the other hand, says that the amount stipulated is so trifling as to be unworthy of consideration. -It is unfortunate that those two honorable members should have cooperated to delay the passage of the bill. There is no necessity for the Government to entrust any particular body with the carrying, out of further research work. Tha Institute of Science and Industry investigated the matter thoroughly, and its decision, was considered so favorably by the Public Accounts Committee that that committee included it in its own report. This is what the Institute of Science and Industry said: -
Climatic conditions in this country are, however, favorable for the growth of plants containing sugars and starch from which alcohol can be manufactured. Alcohol is in every way suitable for use as a liquid fuel, and possesses certain advantages over petrol.
Those advantages were enumerated. The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) argued that the market would be so limited, and such advantage of it would be taken by the only company that is at present interested in it, that nothing would be left for the sugar-growers.
– Because of the prejudice that will exist for some time against power alcohol.
– That prejudice is being largely overcome. A quantity of power alcohol is. being manufactured at the Acetate of Lime Factory, in Brisbane, and distributed to various government departments. Eighteen months ago I was assured that a motor car in which I rode in Brisbane was driven by power alcohol which had been manufactured at the Acetate of Lime Factory, and the result was extremely satisfactory.
– The American corporalions will use their influence to prevent power alcohol from being effectively marketed.
– If the statements made in a morning newspaper to-day are true, two companies in Queensland have combined and will command a capital of £1,000,000. They will be able to look after their own interests.
– The whole of the profits should go to the growers, not to wealthy companies.
– The Institute of Science and Industry included in its report a list of a dozen or eighteen articles, including sugar molasses, from every ton of which at least 65 imperial gallons of power alcohol can be obtained, compared with 39 imperial gallons from a ton of cassava. Wheat will produce 83 gallons, barley 70 gallons, maize 85 gallons, and sorghum - grain - 87 gallons. Each of those products can be grown as easily as cassava, and they are very much richer in their alcohol content. They are, however, more valuable for food purposes than for the production of power alcohol. The honorable member for Capricornia is afraid that the company which he named will take possession of the whole of the available molasses. He must be aware that molasses are not produced in one particular spot only. It is estimated that the total -production in the various sugar districts of Queensland is 10,000,000 gallons - Brisbane, 375,000 gallons; Bundaberg, 2,525,000 gallons; Mackay, 1,880,000 gallons; Bowen, 1,300,000 gallons; Townsville, 750,000 gallons; and Cairns, 2,500,000 gallons. The impossibility of one company handling the whole of the production must be evident. Cartage for a considerable distance would not be a payable proposition. There will thus be room for many companies to operate. It is clearly pointed out in the report of the Public Accounts Committee that a company cannot expect to make a sucesss of its operations unless it has other crops upon which to work. I appeal for expedition in the passage of the measure. I am as sympathetic as the honorable member for Capricornia towards the sugar -growers, and I shall welcome the day when the Government can make a larger sum available. As there are persons who are prepared to put a large sum into the industry, let us give this a trial and see whether success will attend their efforts. The Queensland
Government has shown its sympathy by backing the venture to the extent of £25,000. It could justifiably have asked that the local people be consulted, or some other crop dealt with. The fact that it did not is an evidence that it is prepared to accept the measure as it stands.
.- Whenever this measure has been before us, I have urged that it be passed without waiting for the report of the Public Accounts Committee. The fact is frequently lost sight of that the bounty is to be paid only for a completed and satisfactory article. We would have been well advised had we passed the bill when it first came before us. We cannot hope to induce outside capitalists to establish new industries in Australia unless they are allowed to make a profit. The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) deprecated this action of the Government, because he believed that it would benefit a particular company, which he named. That company ia not named in the bill, and it will not have the sole right to participate in the bounty.
– The Minister explained that he introduced the bill because Mr. Board waited upon him and asked for it.
– That was a very good reason for the introduction of the measure. If a gentleman offered to introduce into Australia capital for the establishment of a new industry, under certain circumstances, from what I know of the Minister he would welcome him. No one will invest capital unless he is allowed to make a profit on his enterprise.
– The total sum is very small.
– It is as small for that man as for any other. There is nothing in the bill which will prevent other companies from participating in the bounty. Every inducement should be given to capitalists to establish new industries and thus provide additional employment.
– Mr. Board’s machinery has not yet arrived.
– If he is awaiting the passage of this bill, it will not arrive until that stage has been reached.
– The Minister said that the Government had promised him the bounty.
– That may be so. I take it that the Minister promised to in troduce this bill, and to use the whole of the influence of the Government to have it passed.
– There are 52 Government members, but only 23 members of the Opposition.
– Some Government members are not supporting the measure. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann), for one, cannot be regarded as its loyal supporter. The scope of the clause should be widened to enable experiments to be carried on with articles other than those which are specified. With that object, I propose to move an amendment to include prickly pear. If we can establish an industry to manufacture power alcohol from prickly pear, and the amount of the bounty is found to be too small, the Government can with justification increase it. Prickly pear is a greater menace to Australia than any of its other pests. It has a considerable hold of Queensland and a large part of New South Wales.
– Is it worse than the rabbit pest?
– Yes, and very much more difficult to cope with. If we’ can establish an industry which will turn that very grave liability into an asset, we shall do an immense amount of good. Every encouragement should be given to action along those lines. I believe that honorable members would unanimously support an additional subsidy if it wero shown that this curse could be turned into a blessing. I move -
That after the word “ grown,” line 4, the words “ or growing “ be inserted.
If I did not move that amendment, I should be met with the objection that the products from which the power alcohol was produced were such as had to be specially grown to enable the growers to participate in the bounty. The Minister has told us that the making of power alcohol in commercial quantities and at a reasonable price from prickly pear has not yet passed from the laboratory stage; but I urge the wisdom of amending the clause so that as soon as the laboratory tests are considered to be satisfactory, a start may be made with the work on a commercial basis. Dr. Sinclair’s report states that power alcohol could be produced from the prickly pear at1s. 3d. per gallon. If that is so, it would be a serious competitor against power alcohol made from the products specified in the clause, and it is quite likely that no bounty would be needed to encourage its production; but it may happen that the cost of production will be practically the same as the cost of production from cassava and other crops, in which case a bounty would be necessary. I hesitate to express an opinion on the proposal of the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) that molasses should be included among the products Bet out in the clause, although I think it quite likely that our surplus sugar cane could be more profitably used for the production of power alcohol than for the production of sugar that must be sold at world’s parity rates. I am anxious to see this bill passed as soon as possible, and I suggest to the honorable member that it would be of little use for him to have molasses included in the products specified without very greatly increasing the amount of the appropriation.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Bayley).Before honorable members enter upon a discussion of the relative merits of the various plants from which power alcohol may be produced, I should like them to deal with the specific amendment before them.
.- 1 do not think that a bounty ought to be paid for the production of power alcohol from cassava
– That is dealing with the general question, and not with the amendment.
.- The words “ or growing “ would be necessary if the second amendment suggested by the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Manning) were adopted; but I wish to inform the committee that, for reasons which I will give later, I cannot accept his proposal. ‘
– The word “grown” postulates a grower.
– I should say that “ grown “ includes growing.
.- I suggest that the clause should be made to read in this way -
No bounty shall be authorized to be paid under this act on any power alcohol unless it has been manufactured from cassava, sweet potatoes, prickly pear, arrowroot, or other products that are grown in Australia.
– I do not think that “ grown “ would exclude the prickly pear, but it might.
– Apart altogether from the wording of the clause, I wish to give my support to the proposal of the honorable member for Macquarie that prickly pear should be brought within the provisions, of the bill. If the amount that the Minister has proposed for appropriation were not so small I should like to include a number of other products. We could test the proposal to include prickly pear, and have the clause redrafted afterwards if necessary. I am also in accord with the suggestion of the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) that the sugar-growers of Queensland, and anywhere in Australia that the industry may become established, shall be assisted by providing a bounty for power alcohol produced from molasses.
– A good deal has been said about the advisableness of widening the scope of the bill to provide for the payment of bounties on other products than those specified. When the measure was before us last year, I -was inclined to the view that it should be widened, but more mature consideration has led me to the belief that the Government’s proposal to limit the payment of the bounty is wise. Molasses is, of course, the ideal raw material for the manufacture of power alcohol; and thousands of gallons of it are being run to waste in Queensland each year - sufficient, in fact, to manufacture about 8,000,000 gallons of power alcohol. But a certain proportion of the molasses is run to waste in isolated districts, and it would not be profitable to attempt to use that. That will be the more readily appreciated when I point out that for every £1 per ton that is paid in freight for molasses, 4d. per gallon would need to be added to the price of the power alcohol that was produced from it. There will, however, be molasses available in centres in which it can be readily distilled sufficient to produce about 5,000,000 gallons of power alcohol. The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde), and also the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), have said that molasses should be included in the clause, but one very good reason why it should not is that the sugar-growers themselves have made no such request. The right honorable member for North Sydney himself, had this matter arisen under his regime, would have regarded the fact that the bounty was not asked for as prima facie evidence that it was not required. It has to be remembered that molasses is to-day being run to waste. Surely it would be better for the growers to obtain some return for the molasses rather than nothing at all.
– Give the growers a bounty and let them have the full results of their labours.
– The honorable member has said a good deal about giving the growers the full results of their labours. He spoke of the company that is coming here as if it were an octopus ready to take from the sugar-growers something which rightly belonged to them. We must remember that this company will give to the sugar-growers the benefit of the latest technical knowledge of distillation, which has advanced to an extraordinary degree within recent years. The honorable member spoke about cooperation. He believed in co-operation. Evidently his interpretation of that word is that the sugar cane growers must obtain all the profits connected with the turning of their molasses into power alcohol. We should look upon co-operation in its broader and true sense. A company of distillers is coming here to assist us, not only with capital, but also with expert technical knowledge. Even though the company itself may benefit to some extent, it will surely confer benefits on those who provide the raw material. We have, therefore, true co-operation, in the provision on the one hand of technical knowledge, and on the other hand of raw material. There is every reason to believe that power alcohol can be produced on a commercial basis from molasses. By a commercial basis, I mean a basis that does not require propping up by means of a bounty. The proposal to erect the distillery close to the sugar mill will make it unnecessary to have two steam-raising plants. One plant will suffice for both the distillery and the sugar mill, because the sugar mill will be operating for half the year and molasses will be converted into alcohol in the off-season. This will provide for continuity of employment to workers whose usual employment is seasonable. I am informed that there is no difficulty whatever in storing molasses for the requisite time. The amount of fuel alcohol that is expected to be obtained from molasses in Queensland will be about sufficient to provide half of Queensland’s needs. It has been said that power alcohol cannot compete commercially with petrol because it is not so well suited to the present day motor engines. That is quite true, but with the addition of a certain amount of ether and Colonial Oil Refining motor spirit a mixture is obtained that compares’ favorably with petrol. While the importers of petrol sell their product in the capital cities a;t a flat rate, the price is very much increased in country centres. The distillation company will therefore have a big advantage in supplying motor spirit to the outback districts adjacent to the distilling plant. There is a very strong argument in favour of letting the production of power alcohol from molasses stand on its own. For one thing, a bounty has not been asked for. The growers are content to endeavour to manufacture it solely on a commercial basis, and, therefore, to begin with, it should rest on that basis. After the distilleries have increased in number, sufficient to make use of all the molasses which to-day is running to waste, is the industry to go no further? It is at that stage that the growing of cassava will really be given prominence. It would be too late to wait for several years until the whole of the molasses had been used, and then to wonder what should be done to provide further raw material. It is therefore’ a wise step on the part of those interested and of the Commonwealth Government to make experiments now in the growing of cassava. Having had some little experience in the growing of potatoes, I have grave doubts that cassava for power alcohol purposes will ever be commercially grown under Australian conditions. That, however, can only be determined by experimenting in the . growing of cassava for a period of years. A conclusion based on the experience of one crop would be of no practical use. The provision in the bill for a bounty for five years is a reasonable attempt to encourage the growing of cassava, and to find out definitely whether it can be grown under Australian labour conditions on a commercial scale. It was mentioned by the honorable . member for Capricornia that cassava is a root crop with tubers from 18 inches to 4 feet long, difficult to plough up, and must be pulled out by hand or dug out. One does not need a vivid imagination ‘to realize that under Australian labour conditions cassava will be an expensive crop to harvest. Without an artificial stimulus 1 have grave doubts whether it can be successfully grown to be utilized only for poweralcohol purposes. The Government is absolutely justified in endeavouring to ascertain whether cassava can be commercially grown. The permanency of this bounty is another question. I doubt very much whether benefit will be derived from something which can be produced only by the permanent payment of a bounty. It is altogether a different proposition, however, to provide a bounty for a limited term to encourage an industry in its early stages. The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr.. Forde) said something about producing alcohol from surplus sugarcane. He must know that the proposals put forward by the Northern Power Alcohol Committee, although not altogether abandoned, are at least in abeyance, and that the committee is now standing right behind the Government’s proposal to deal with waste molasses and the growing of cassava.
– The committee would refer to deal with the whole matter, but
Mr. Board has the advantage and is erecting his plant.
– It is extremely doubtful whether the committee could effectively and efficiently deal with the whole matter without the assistance, advice, and technical knowledge of this company, which perhaps constitutes the last word in the science of distillation. The honorable member must realize that this company is conferring some benefit on Australia by coming here, not only with its capital, but with its knowledge. It will assist other new companies. The honorable member for Herbert (Dr. Nott) quoted a paragraph in this morning’s Argus, portion of which reads -
The Babinda and Mulgrave sugar mill suppliers have authorised the two companies to join with the International Sugar and Alcohol Company and the Distilleries Company Limited for the erection of a power alcohol distillery at Gordonvale at an estimated cost of ap- proximately £70,000, half of which will be found by the companies and half locally.
That paragraph shows that the sugar cane-growers are really behind this proposal, and that for the time being at any rate, the projects of the sugar canegrowers themselves have been abandoned. The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Manning) suggested that power alcohol manufactured from prickly pear should receive the benefit of this bounty. While experiments in this direction havo advanced probably past the laboratory stage, they have not yet reached the stage of usefulness.
– Until that stage was reached no bounty would be paid.
– That is perfectly true. A better purpose would be served by leaving the bill as it is, and if, later, the prickly pear proposition proves beneficial, an amending measure could be passed including prickly pear and increasing the bounty. If the clause were to include prickly pear, the bounty would be too small altogether, because there is an enormous field for exploitation if the experiments that are now being conducted with this plant prove successful.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.
– I quote the following extract from the report of the Public Accounts Committee: -
Concerning the experiments being conducted by Dr. W. M. Sinclair to utilize prickly pear for the production of power alcohol, it can be said that the process has advanced beyond the laboratory stage, though much has yet to be accomplished before it becomes a commercial proposition. In Australia, an area of about 60,000,000 acres is covered with pear, and it is now increasing at the rate of 1,000,000 acres per annum. Of this area, over 10,000,000 acres are said to carry dense pear averaging at least 100 tons to the acre. Assuming, therefore, that the witness’s claim to produce 14 gallons of alcohol to the ton of pear is substantiated, 896,000 gallons of alcohol would be obtained from each square mile of country carrying 100 tons to the acre, or 14,000.000,000 gallons from the densely covered area alone.
In other words, the quantity of alcohol lying dormant in the densely infested prickly-pear country is equal to Australia’s requirements of petrol for 140 years at the present rate of consumption. The report continues -
There is little doubt, therefore, that should success attend these efforts, the whole question of the production of power alcohol will be revolutionized. The persons interested in the process have already spent £15,000 in experimental and research work, and now claim to be ready to undertake work in the field provided they can obtain the necessary financial assistance, which they put down at £20,000 - £10,000 for. plant and £10,000 for contingencies - such assistance to be regarded as a loan only.
The claims of this process ave certainly at variance with the usually accepted theories as to the alcohol yield from prickly pear, hut the successful utilization of what is at present one of Australia’s greatest pests would be of immeasurable value to the country, and the committee is of opinion that this process warrants expert investigation by the Government. Such an investigation would be welcomed by the patentee to prove his bona fides, and he has intimated his willingness to give the Government such control as is considered necessary for the purpose. It is therefore recommended that a qualified person, unbiased by preconceived ideas as to the possibilities of prickly pear for alcohol production, should be appointed to fully investigate the process, and subject it to a technical and critical examination, with a view to determining the extent to which the project should ‘be helped if the claims are substantiated.
That investigation should be made, and Parliament would then’ be in a position to determine to what extent such proposals should be encouraged. The suggestion has been made that as soon as the bounty appears likely to be utilized for alcohol obtained from prickly pear, the amount of the appropriation will have to be increased. That could be done by passing an amending bill to include prickly pear, and increase the appropriation if the results of the investigation justified such “an extension of the bounty. I agree with the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Manning) regarding the desirability of converting into a blessing a plant that is now a curse, but I do not concur in the method he suggests. As power alcohol’ can be produced from molasses on a commercial basis, no bounty is needed in respect of it. Moreover, a bounty has not been asked for in respect of alcohol produced from that source, except by the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde). I hope, therefore, that the bill will pass in its present form. The prospects of growing starch-bearing crops at prices .which will enable them to be utilized for the production of alcohol are not sufficiently bright to make it likely that this appropriation will be exhausted.
.- In order to obtain from the committee a vote on a clear-cut issue, I ask leave to withdraw my amendment, with a view to moving another amendment for the insertion of the words “ or prickly pear.” If that amendment is agreed to the clause can be recommitted, if necessary, for the purpose of consequential amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
.- I move -
That the following words be added at the end of the clause: - or “(b) prickly pear.”
The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) and many other honorable members have argued that the production of power alcohol from prickly pear has not yet reached the stage when a bounty can be paid. That fact does not affect the proposal at all. If power alcohol is not produced in accordance with the provisions of this bill no bounty will be paid.
– And if it is produced why should a bounty be paid ? If the industry has such splendid possibilities as some people declare, why do they not proceed to establish it without a bounty t
– If power alcohol can be produced from prickly pear in the quantities declared by Dr. Sinclair it will not be necessary for Parliament to increase the appropriation; but the fact of .a bounty being payable will be an inducement to people to attempt to establish the industry. The Commonwealth will not be involved in any expenditure unless the enterprise is successful. But the bounty will be a form of encouragement, and possibly science may discover a method by which we can turn to profit the greatest vegetable pest in Australia to-day.
– Inasmuch as the amendment would alter the destination of the vote, I cannot accept it. A former Speaker gave a similar decision in this Parliament many years ago. No amendment would be in order which would enable the payment of a bounty in respect of any commodity not already mentioned in the bill.
– With all respect, sir, I cannot accept your ruling, and in order that the matter may be decided by the committee, I move -
That this committee dissents from the Chairman’s ruling, as it is of opinion that the amendment ruled out of order is rightly within the scope of the bill, which does not contain any prefatory definition clause, specifically limiting the scope of the bill to the payment of a bounty on power alcohol manufactured from the products enumerated in clause 6. The rights of the committee to amend clause 6 are, therefore, not curtailed’ by the scope of the bill.
Your ruling, sir, if concurred in, would unduly limit the rights of this committee. When the proposal for the introduction of the original bill came before the House on the 26th June, 1925, it was resolved - .,
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.
Neither the resolution nor the bill itself limited the products from which power alcohol might be made. There is no prefatory definition clause or schedule to this bill, and clause 6 merely specifies certain products from which power alcohol may be manufactured. The ruling given by the former Speaker was upon a bill which contained a schedule limiting the scope of the measure. There is no such limitation in this bill, the title of which is “A bill for an act to provide for the payment of bounty on the manufacture of power alcohol.”
– Unless honorable members are very careful, they will ‘be deprived of some of their privileges. The honorable member for Macquarie^ (Mr. Manning) has pointed out that the bill provides for the payment of a bounty “ on the manufacture of power alcohol.” There is not, in the title or the definition, any limitation of the materials from which alcohol must be produced in order to get the benefit of the bounty. I submit, therefore, that the committee is within its rights in making any amendment to clause 6 which is not inconsistent with the general purpose of the bill, which is “to provide for the payment of bounty on the manufacture of power alcohol.”
– While I should be most reluctant to vote for the motion moved by the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr, Manning), I agree that there is nothing in the bill which justifies the exclusion of prickly pear. The clause contains the words, “ or such other cultivated starch-bearing plants as the Minister approves.” It would be perfectly in order for an honorable member to move for the deletion of the words “ cultivated starch-bearing,” which would make the clause read, “ Cassava, sweet potatoes, arrowroot, or such other plants as the Minister approves.” If such an amendment were carried it would be competent for the Minister to approve of a bounty in respect of power alcohol produced from prickly pear. The only reason which could be advanced against that being done would be the presence in the clause of the word “ grown.” It might be held that prickly pear was not a plant grown by human agency. But it would be perfectly in order to move for the deletion of the word “ grown “ also. With those words omitted, the clause would still harmonize with the spirit of the bill. I suggest that the better way to test the feeling of the committee would be for the honorable member for Macquarie to withdraw his motion and-
– The right honorable member is not in order in submitting an amendment. The question before the committee is that the ruling of the Chairman be dissented from.
– I was merely making a suggestion; I was not submitting an amendment. If Mr. Speaker does not uphold your ruling, Mr. Chairman, we shall be confronted with the same position as that with which we are now faced; we should then have to decide whether it was expedient to extend the bounty to the prickly pear or not. I am suggesting a way to overcome the difficulty.
– You, Mr. Chairman, have ruled that the amendment of the honorable member for Macquarie is out of order because it alters the destination of the proposed bounty. Clause 8, which reads -
No ‘bounty shall be paid to any person other than the manufacturer of the power alcohol, nor unless the manufacturer furnishes proof to the satisfaction of the Minister that the power alcohol in respect of which bounty is claimed is of good and merchantable quality, and that the requirements of this Act and the Regulations have been complied with. makes it clear that the bounty shall be payable in respect of power alcohol manufactured on a commercial basis from any source. If the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Manning) would accept the suggestion of the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), his object would be achieved, and the committee would be relieved from an uncomfortable position.
– I ask leave to withdraw my motion.
– If the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Manning) withdraws his motion, will the Chairman’s ruling stand?
-The withdrawal of the amendment could have no other meaning.
Amendment, by. leave, withdrawn.
.- I move -
That the words “ cultivated starch-bearing “ be left out.
The clausewould then read -
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 plants as the Minister approves.
– What is the reason for the amendment ?
– Thereason is obvious. I have accepted the suggestion of the right honorable member for North Sydney in order to make the bounty payable in respect of power alcohol manufactured from any plant approved by the Minister.
– Before the amendment is put, I remind the committee that when the Minister was speaking on this bill he specifically said, in reply to a question,that it was not his intention to include power alcohol made from prickly pear.
– The amendment now moved by the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Manning) is not so difficult as was his previous amendment. My department, representing the Government, has done a good deal towards endeavouring to expedite the production in Australia of power alcohol, and to utilize the prickly pear to that end. I remind the committee that brochure No. 20, issued by the Institute of Science and Industry in 1921, contains a considerable amount of information regarding investigations made by the institute into the manufacture of power alcohol from the prickly pear. On page 26 of that brochure it is stated that at that time the manufacture of power alcohol from the prickly pear was not a commercial proposition. Investigations made by the Tariff Board prior to the introduction of this bill had the same result. One small company only was then experimenting. It promised to supply the department with some information of a practical nature within three months, but it has not yet done so. There was a further re port from Mr: Hamlet, an analytical) chemist who at one time was Government Analytical Chemist for New South. Wales, upon the only present proposal, to make power-alcohol from prickly pear,in which it was stated that the investigations; had not progressed beyond the laboratory stage.
– That report did not say that power alcohol could not be produced from the prickly pear.
– The question is not whether power alcohol can be manufactured from the prickly pear, but whether it can be produced commercially. A few week’s ago Dr. Sinclair came to Melbourne with his secretary, and asked the Government to place at his disposal facilities for making experiments in connexion with the production of power alcohol from the prickly pear. I gladly placed the Government laboratory at his disposal. Experiments were made in the presence of members of the Public Accounts Committee, the Government Analyst, and myself. Later, I received a report from Mr. Wilkinson, which, however, was not conclusive. As the result of that report, Dr. Sinclair has requested that an officer be sent to Sydney to view experiments made by the company in its own laboratory. That I have promised to do. Clause 8 provides that no bounty shall be paid unless the requirements of the act, and the regulations have been complied with. What are those requirements? Clause 9 reads - 9. (1) Every claimant for bounty under this act shall supply with his claim a certificate showing -
the quantity of that materia! purchased from, and the price paid therefor to, each supplier.
Clause 10 provides that the Minister may withhold the whole or any part of the bounty unless he is satisfied that a reasonable price has been paid for the materials used in the manufacture of the power alcohol inrespect of which bounty is claimed. That price must include an amount equivalent to. not less than half ofthe bounty paid. Honorable members will see at once that this bill is intended for the purpose of developing the growing of further materials for the production of power alcohol. They must see that a price equivalent to 2d. per gallon of alcohol produced could not be paid to the growers of prickly pear. They must know that the production of power alcohol from prickly pear is of such paramount importance to the Commonwealth that any proposition put up to the Government to bring this about would have instant attention. Clearly, any proposition of the kind must deal with the question of acquiring the land from which the prickly pear is cleared, and other questions quite apart from the provisions of this bill. The measure is designed, not to deal with .prickly pear, but with the starch-bearing products it refers to. It would be a responsibility of the Government to liberally assist any scheme for the eradication of prickly pear by utilizing it for the production of power alcohol.. In Queensland the Prickly Pear Board of Advice has taken no action whatever to produce power alcohol from the plant. I am giving this committee the whole of the information at my disposal. It seems to toe that honorable members will not desire to emasculate the bill, or divert it from its original purpose for these reasons. The Government cannot accept any amendment which will include prickly pear as one of the plants from which power alcohol entitled to the proposed bounty may be made.
,- The bill could not be more emasculated than it is at present. It is a ridiculous bill, founded upon absolute ignorance of the circumstances connected with the commercial production of power alcohol. I have spoken strongly against the bill because it is one of the most ridiculous propositions ever submitted in this House. I have already said that the technical production of power alcohol from prickly pear has really nothing whatever to do with the commercial aspect of this matter. The real question is whether prickly pear can be cut, harvested and handled so as to produce power alcohol from it on a commercial basis. I say that it cannot be handled commercially. The production of alcohol will in no way promote the destruction of prickly pear.
– It is only a question of money. It can be done if enough money is spent upon it.
– Why is it not done!
– Because it is too costly.
– I know that it is. I repeat that the fact that, alcohol can be produced from prickly pear does not alter the commercial aspect of the matter. It may be said that from a certain quantity of prickly pear a certain amount of alcohol can be produced at a certain price, and that price is to be set against the cost of the destruction of the prickly pear. That is not so. The price of the alcohol has to be set against the cost of its production, and the cost of destroying the prickly pear has still to be met. That is common sense. It would be foolish of the Government to lend itself to such an amendment as has been moved by the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Manning).
– That is very strong language.
– I am aware that it is, but I am talking of what I know. The bill should be abandoned. All sorts of efforts are being made to destroy the prickly pear, and the Government should assist by other methods than the payment of bounty upon alcohol produced from it.
.- I greatly regret that the passage of the bill through committee is being delayed. I also regreat that the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Manning) should have moved his amendment. He may have been induced to do so by the action of the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) in suggesting that the bill should provide for the payment of bounty on power alcohol produced from molasses. In dealing with the matter the honorable member referred to several meetings of the Northern Power Alcohol Committee held as far back as the 18th January. He failed to refer to meetings subsequent to that date. It seems to me that the honorable member has lost touch with the movement, and has also lost touch with what the Labour party in Queensland is doing in connexion with this matter.
– I have not lost .touch with the sugar-growers of Queensland.
– I am in a position to quote from the official report, issued on the 5th of February of this year by the Power Alcohol Committee. On the 18th of January, the meeting to which the honorable member for Capricornia referred was held. Subsequent to that the Power Alcohol Committee met on the 26th, of January to discuss the matter with Mr. McCormack, Premier of Queensland. About the same time Mr. Forgan Smith, Queensland Minister for Agriculture, was in touch with the committee. It held several meetings extending over several hours, and, as the result of much debate, a memorandum was drawn up and submitted to a meeting at which Mr. Board, the representative of the Distillers Company, Mr. Pritchard, and others were present. I should like to quote some of the conclusions set out in that memorandum. It says -
Then there is this conclusion, which is most pertinent to the present position -
The International Sugar and Alcohol Company is the company which the honorable member for Capricornia dramatically describes as an octopus that is coming here to paralyze the Queensland sugar industry.
– I said nothing of the kind. What I said was that the profits it would get ought to go to the sugargrowers.
– The memorandum continues -
That was decided on as late as the 28th of January. On the following morning, although it was a public holiday, an appointment was arranged with Mr. McCormack, the Queensland Premier, who met a deputation at 11 a.m. The report of the matter from which I quote says -
The Premier gave evidence of having thoughtfully considered the Northern Power Alcohol Committee’s proposal. He stressed the great difficulty which confrontedthe scheme in distributing the product and finding a market for it, and, furthermore, the powerful opposition generally to be expected: from those already interested in the trade. This interview left an impression on the committee that most sympathetic treatment could be expected from the State Government provided something of a concrete nature was placed before them; but the committee was reminded that the question of legislative assistance rested entirely with the Federal Government. . . The Premier thought it would be advantageous for the Northern Power Alcohol Committee to give careful consideration to the advisability of co-operating in some form or other with the distilling companies with which Mr. Board was connected, in view of their world-wide “ experience and undoubted resources being so invaluable in connexion with the marketing and distribution.
– I ask the honorable member not to read the whole of the report, but only such portions of it as are pertinent to the clause under discussion.
– I accept the direction of the Chair, but I did not wish to leave out any of the references to the Premier of Queensland or those which showed that the Northern Power Alcohol Committee had abandoned its previous proposal for a bounty on alcohol produced from molasses. I supported that when the bill was last under consideration, and it also received the whole-hearted support of the Queensland Premier. When the quotations I have made are taken into consideration, together with the information published in the Argus and the Sun News Pictorial of this morning, it will be seen that there has been an amalgamation, and that a new name has been given to the Distillers Company and Plane Creek Power Alcohol Company, and it is now called the Australian Sugar and Power Alcohol Company, and has a nominal capital of £1,000,000. The Government of Queensland has guaranteed £25,000 of that amount. Surely the Queensland Government knows that the money is being transferred to the newlyformed company. The people concerned in the production of power alcohol from molasses are not asking for a bounty, and we have no evidence that the production of power alcohol from prickly pear has advanced beyond the stage of a laboratory experiment. The question could be dealt with in the- way suggested by the honorable the Minister. On a subsequent occasion, it could be submitted to the House, and the inducements necessary to bring a desirable scheme to fruition could then be decided upon. One might as well include rice, bamboo, sago, tapioca, and other starch-bearing plants in this class as accept the amendment. I hope that the bill will pass through the committee without the pruning knife being used upon it. It offers inducements for which the people in the north of Queensland are asking. I should like to see the bounty paid on alcohol produced from .sugar, syrup, and molasses, but the persons concerned do not wish to stake the reputation of the industry by asking for Federal assistance until they have proved beyond doubt that the production of power alcohol from those articles is more than an experiment.
– Molasses and prickly pear are not specifically included in the amendment. Prickly pear was definitely excluded when the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Manning) withdrew his amendment. After the speech of the honorable the Minister, it seems clear that, even if the amendment is carried, prickly pear will be entirely excluded. There is no specific mention of molasses or prickly -pear in the clause or the new amendment, and the effect of the amendment regarding prickly pear will depend entirely upon the discretion of the Minister.
– I rise to a point of order. The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Manning) has been misled in this matter. His amendment is practically useless, for it will not achieve the end he has in view. It may be due to my ignorance of parliamentary pro cedure, or to some other cause, but it seems to me, Mr. Chairman, that your objection to the inclusion of the words “prickly pear” applies with equal force to the amendment now before the Chair. The amendment will extend the scope of the appropriation by giving a wider discretionary authority to the Minister.
– It will give unlimited scope to the Minister.
– In the interests of the privileges of the committee, I seek your ruling on this matter. You objected to the inclusion of the words “prickly pear,” which would have extended the scope of the clause only slightly, but an amendment to give unlimited scope to the Minister, and thereby, if it is given effect, likely to affect the destination of the appropriation, has your tacit acceptance. How can the attitude of the Chair to the two amendments be reconciled ? I hope the position will be clarified, and that you will give your reasons for accepting ‘the amendment. The Minister does not approve of the amendment, and from that stand -point the matter calls for a ruling from the Chair.
The CHAIRMAN’ (Mr. Bayley).When the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Manning) moved his amendment, I ruled it out of order on the ground that it would alter the destination of the appropriation. I remind the honorable member that a message from the Governor-General, recommending an appropriation of £5,000, was brought down to the House. The House passed a resolution, which was submitted to the committee. Certain members of the Ministry were instructed to bring in a bill in accordance with the terms of the resolution. That bill is. now before the committee. Clause 6 deals specifically with crops in respect of which the bounty may bc paid. When the honorable member for Macquarie moved his amendment, I ruled it out of order because it would alter the destination of the appropriation. The amendment now before the Chair for the deletion of certain words does not necessarily either increase, or alter the destination of, the appropriation. The first amendment was specific and definite; the second is quite indefinite. I therefore did not feel that it was competent for the Chair to rule, it out of order.’ : Mr. Charlton. - With respect, Mr. Chairman, I cannot accept your ruling. The acceptance of the amendment would not increase the expenditure under the bill. I submit that the committee may make any. amendment of the bill if the effect of it is not to increase the amount of the appropriation. Apparently the Minister may approve of the bounty being paid on alcohol produced from any cultivated starch-bearing plant if the total expenditure does not exceed the amount mentioned in the Governor-General’s message. It. has generally been conceded that the committee may make any amendment that does not exceed the limits imposed in the Governor-General’s message.
– It is not permissible to alter the purpose of the bill.
– The amendment will not do that. Your decision will limit the powers of the committee, and it is not advisable to pass it without a protest, for otherwise it may be accepted as a precedent.
– There are two limitations to be considered. The first is that the total . amount of the appropriation may not be exceeded, and the second, which must not be overlooked, is that the destination of the expenditure may not be altered. If money is appropriated for a specific purpose it must e expended for that purpose only. When the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Manning) moved his first amendment I ruled it out of order on two grounds. The first ground was that it would alter the destination of the appropriation, and I stated that I would not. accept an amendment that would enable the bounty to be paid on any item not specifically mentioned in clause 6. The only way in which an alteration can be made in the clause is by bringing down a further message from the GovernorGeneral. The amount was appropriated for a specific purpose, and cannot be expended for any other purpose. Under the Standing Orders there is nothing to prevent a further message from the Governor-General being brought down. Therefore, although I at ‘first contemplated ruling the second amendment out of order, I hesitated and did not do so.
– I regret very much that I should have to comment adversely on your ruling. You have said that there are two factors in this question; first, the alteration of the appropriation, and1, secondly, the alteration’ of the destination of the appropriation. The destination of the appropriation is concerned with- the production of power alcohol, not the cultivation of cassava. Therefore, I submit that the amendment will not alter the destination of the appropriation, and that any amendment concerned with the payment of the bounty for the production of power alcohol from any crop is in order. On that point, I regret, sir, that I cannot agree with your ruling.
– Unfortunately, the ruling cannot be questioned, because the amendment was withdrawn.
– That being so, I shall not debate the matter further. It is, however, important to point out that within the limits of the question - the methods of production of power alcohol - it should be possible for the committee to discuss production from any crop.
– The GovernorGeneral’s message was for the specific purpose of providing a sum of money for the production of power alcohol from certain products which the bill mentions; not, as the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann) has stated, for the payment of a bounty on the production of power alcohol.
.- By the amendment, it appears to me that we are making a bad bill very much worse. Certain arguments may be urged in favour of the amendment of the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Manning), but, as the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson), who is also the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, has pointed out, a bounty on power alcohol made from molasses is not sought. Before any such bounty is paid this House should be consulted. If the amendment is agreed to, the Minister will have the power to grant a bounty on the production of power alcohol from, molasses. The honorable member for Gippsland read the recommendation of the Public Accounts Committee, which was made after the fullest inquiry into the matter, and it should receive the earnest consideration of honorable members. The committee strongly recommended that the. Government should institute an exhaustive investigation in impartial quarters to ascertain whether power alcohol can be produced from prickly pear. It also stated that a bounty was not the best way of rendering assistance, but that, on the contrary, a loan was favoured.I am not sanguine of the success of power alcohol production from cassava. I believe that it would be a failure. With the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann), I think it is a pity that the Government has meddled with this matter. The cassava plant is grown by black labour, in tropical countries, under the most trying conditions. The estimated cost of production, about 19s. a ton, could not be realized.
– How does the honorable member know that?
– Beet is produced in Victoria, but it cannot be delivered to the mill at a cost less than £2 a ton ; yet it oan be gathered more easily than cassava. Mr. Monier- Williams, who is an authority on the matter, has advised that the cassava root runs through the ground and cannot be ploughed out except with difficulty. When it has been gathered it has to be cleaned of the dirt that adheres to it. Our knowledge of Australian conditions should convince us that the cost of production would be at least £2 a ton. At that rate the price of petrol in Australia which is the highest in the world would be increased. The bill has not my sympathy.
– I rise to a point of order. The Governor-General’s message merely limits the amount of the bounty. The committee would be acting quite within its rights in deciding the nature of tho other provisions in the bill. I therefore move -
That the ruling of the Chairman be dissented from, and that the matter be submitted to Mr. Speaker for his decision.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Bayley).The honorablemember for East Sydney is not in order in moving that my ruling be dissented from and that the matter be submitted to Mr. Speaker for his decision ; but he would be in order if he, in writing, were to move that my ruling be dissented from.
– I shall do that.
– Is the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West) in order in now raising this matter, seeing that the amendment upon which your ruling was given has been withdrawn from the consideration of the committee?
– The honorable member for East Sydney is dissenting from what was not. a ruling, but an opinion, that I gave regarding the second amendment that was moved by the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Manning) .
– With great respect, I suggest to the Chair and the committee that it is irregular to canvass a Chairman’s ruling except upon a definite substantive motion. You, sir, have permitted grave irregularity and considerable relaxation of rules, enabling honorable members on both sides of the chamber to consider your opinion, or ruling, whichever you care to term it. If the committee, or individual members of it, desire to dissent from the Chairman’s ruling, they have the perfectly clear course which is laid down in the Standing Orders and the practice of Parliament - that is, to take the action which you suggested to the honorable member for East Sydney, by giving notice of dissent in writing, and allowing the committee to decide the matter. Unless that is donewe should get on with the business that is before the committee, and not further consider the Chairman’s opinion or ruling.
– The honorable member for East Sydney has moved that my ruling be dissented from. In reply I state that Ihave not given any ruling in regard to the matter that he has raised.
.- I propose to vote against the amendment, and to oppose the whole bill. It reminds me somewhat of a measure that was brought down recently to enable a small sum to be distributed among the various States for the assistance of gold -mining. I am satisfied that that will be a waste of money. It would be far better if the Government were to build up the Institute of Science and Industry to enable it to carry out research work in the primary and secondary industries. The sum of £5,000 a year will be of very little value in the building up of this big industry in Queensland. It is more than likely that in a short period the Government will come down with the request that the assistance to that industrybe increased.
The Government should make a special effort to build up the Institute of Science and Industry.
– It is also doing that.
– For how long has it been doing it? “What is the good of the Minister voicing such absurdities?
– It placed £1,000 on the Estimates for that purpose, and the work is proceeding.
– The Institute has been in existence for eight or ten years. It has done the best it could with the limited funds which have been made available, but it has not had a sufficient amount to enable it to do good work. If the production of power alcohol from prickly pear could be made a commercial proposition, it would serve the two-fold purpose of providing us with a motor fuel and ridding us of the greatest pest that we have ever had. The Government, through the Institute of Science and Industry, should assist those who are endeavouring to solve the problem that is presented by the prickly pear. Such assistance might enable them to put forward a definite scheme for the production of power alcohol from the pear. When the bill was discussed in the House six months ago, it was specially referred to the Public Accounts Committee for investigation and report. That committee took evidence, and reported in the following terms : -
Reviewing the evidence heard concerning the possibilities of various starch-bearing crops, the committee considers that there is room for doubt as to whether such crops can be grown at a price which will permit of their being utilized for the production of alcohol on a commercial basis. Cassava, however, appears to be the most favorable of these crops, provided it can be successfully cultivated at reasonable cost in the tropical parts of the State. Owing to the fact that the cultivation of this crop has not been hitherto attempted on a commercial scale in Australia, no evidence is yet available on which accurate costs of production, its yield per acre or the alcohol contents of Australian-grown cassava can be based. The experiments with cassava now being conducted in Queensland will no doubt give useful information which will form a valuable guide for the future.
As certain commercial gentlemen in Queensland are prepared to find large sums of money in establishing the poweralcohol industry, a bounty of £5,000 a year for five years, such as the Government proposes to expend in this instance, is merely a waste of money. It cannot do any good, and we shall find that the cultivation of cassava or other starch-bearing crops for the production of power alcohol will be so expensive that Parliament, will be asked to provide further sums of money in order to carry on the work or to impose higher duties on liquid fuel imported into this country, which may be particularly injurious to primary production in Australia. I am opposed to the amendment and also to the bill.
– I cannot understand the attitude adopted by the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann), the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse), and the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), who appear to oppose every measure submitted for the establishment or encouragement of new industries, particularly the secondary industries in Australia.
– That is. not a fact.
– It is the truth. I have no recollection of any measure being introduced in this chamber for the payment of a bounty to assist a struggling secondary industry in its initial stages which has not been bitterly opposed by certain honorable members on the corner benches, and particularly those honorable members from Western Australia whose names I have mentioned. When I first became a member of this chamber I was struck by the anti-Australian attitude of those honorable members, and one’s, first impression on hearing them speak, would be that one was in a foreign Parliament. If the power-alcohol industry 13 established in Queensland, as it undoubtedly will be, it will be of advantage not only to Queensland but also to the whole of Australia.
– That does not follow.
– It does. I regret that the Government has not gone further. It has been too niggardly in its proposals. In support of that contention I quote the opinion expressed by Mr. de Bavay, who, when this bill was introduced in June of last year, is reported in the Melbourne Herald of 27th June to have said -
With petrol at its present price, power alcohol cannot be made in Australia from any. material whatsoever without a substantial bounty. Fourpence is not enough. Sixpence would be. required for the first two years. If the bounty will only operate for five years, and not exceed £5.01)0 in any one year, then I say deliberately that the proposed bounty is of no use to anybody.
– He agrees with the views expressed by Western Australian members.
– No. The honorable member for Forrest and other Western Australian members are opposed to the payment of any bounty at all, whereas Mr. de Bavay says that the amount should be higher. He expresses the opinion that the Government would be justified in spending up to £400,000 a year for a period of two or three years in order, to place the power-alcohol industry on a firm footing.
– Does the honorable member approve of that?
– I believe the Government would be justified in spending at least £250,000 a year for the next two years, and in paying a bounty ou power alcohol produced from any crop in order to establish the power-alcohol industry in a large way, instead of importing 82,000,000 gallons of liquid fuel from other countries at a cost of £7,000,000 per year. Mr. de Bavay. who is one of the greatest scientists in Australia, and who visited North Queensland recently, and conferred with the members of the Northern Power Alcohol Committee, is still of the opinion that the Government should have tackled this question in a more comprehensive way, and extended the payment of a bounty to power alcohol produced from molasses. He holds that there would then be no hardship in connexion with the overproduction problem of the sugar industry. When this measure was first introduced, Mr. de Bavay said -
It is estimated that Queensland’s surplus sugar would produce 35,000,000 gallons of power alcohol- -half Australia’s present requirements. If the Federal Government will help, that can become fact, substantially insuring the country against the calamity of a petrol shortage.
The Government has seen fit to restrict the payment of the bounty to power alcohol manufactured from cassava and certain other plants specified in the bill. 1 am in sympathy with the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Manning), who considers that a bounty should be paid on power alcohol manufactured from prickly pear, but the total amount of the bounty to be paid under this bill is so small that it cannot be extended to power alcohol produced from other plants such as prickly pear. As Mr. de Bavay said six months ago, and as I have frequently stated, the whole proposal is a farce, and is not likely to be of any substantial benefit to any one unless it is greatly liberalized at a subsequent date. It is merely a window-dressing scheme, and submitted with the intention of making the people of Queensland believe that the Government is anxious to establish a great power-alcohol industry. The Minister (Mr. Pratten) is very optimistic concerning the production of cassava, but I have heard certain honorable members who are farmers, including the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse), say that cassava cannot be produced under £2 per ton.
– The honorable member also said that.
– Yes, and I repeat it. Whilst the Government believes that 4d. per gallon is sufficient, I believe, from the inquiries I have made, the reports I have read, and the statements by Mr. de Bavay, that the bounty is insufficient, and will not result in cassava being extensively grown. Consequently, the Government will have to grant a bounty on power alcohol manufactured from molasses, and thus enable the Queensland people to establish industries subsidiary to the sugar industry, which, I trust, will return all the profits to sugar-growers. Such industries should be controlled by the sugar-growers as an adjunct to their co-operative mills, and thus enable them to obtain the profits derived from the treatment of their by-products. The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Manning) suggested that if his amendment were carried, the prickly pear would be eradicated, but I am not so optimistic as to think that that would be the case. In Queensland 29,000,000 acres are now under prickly pear. In New South Wales an area of about 3,000,000 or 4.000,000 acres is also under this pest, and, although efforts have been made by the Federal Government, in conjunction with the Government of New South Wales and the Government of Queensland, to have the prickly pear eradicated, up to the present the problem has only been tinkered with. The sum of £4,000 has been contributed by the Commonwealth, and £2,000 each by New South Wales and Queensland, making a total of £8,000, but that has been found to be altogether inadequate. Persons -were sent to America to obtain a supply of the cochineal insect and certain caterpillars which are the natural enemies of the prickly pear, and which, in America, keep it in check. They brought these insects out, and they are now being distributed with good effect. The prickly pear, having been introduced into Australia without any of its natural enemies, has flourished in Queensland, and in certain parts of New South Wales, to such an extent that it has got quite out of hand, and is to-day covering millions of acres of good country. If I thought that by carrying the amendment of the honorable member for Macquarie the prickly pear in Queensland and New South Wales could be eradicated. I should gladly support the proposal. The honorable member’s amendment may please certain persons in his constituency, but it is not a business-like one. The eradication of prickly pear and its utilization for the manufacture of power alcohol is a big question. It is regrettable that the Government has not considered this question in the way it should, because, if it had carried out the recommendations of the Institute of Science and Industry in 1920 a thorough investigation would have been made. The Public Accounts Committee has made a very interesting comment in regard to the prickly pear, certain portions of which have been quoted. Dr. W. M. Sinclair pointed out that millions of gallons of power alcohol could be produced from prickly pear, and the Accounts Committee in commenting on that claim said -
The claims of this process are certainly at variance with the usually accepted theories as to the alcohol yield from prickly pear, hut the successful utilization of what is at present one of Australia’s greatest pests would be of immeasurable value to tho country, and the committee is of opinion that this process warrants expert investigation by the Government. Such an investigation would be welcomed by the patentee to prove his bona fides, and he has intimated his willingness to give the Government such control as is considered necessary for the purpose. It is therefore recommended that a qualified person, unbiased by preconceived ideas as to the .possibilities of prickly pear for alcohol production; should be appointed to fully investigate the process, and subject it to a technical and critical examination, with a view to determining the extent to which the project should be helped if the claims are substantiated.
The committee further said that the proposal had advanced beyond the laboratory stage, but that much had yet to be accomplished before it could become a commercial proposition. I should like to know if the Minister can enlighten us as to what representations have been made by those interested in the production of power alcohol from prickly pear. The Minister knows that the annual expenditure of- such a small sum as £5,000 over a period of five years for the manufacture of power alcohol in Queensland is insufficient, and that the bounty should be greatly liberalised and extended to power alcohol produced from prickly pear and other . plants. I would have moved an amendment to include molasses, but, knowing the inadequacy of the total appropriation, I contented myself by suggesting to the Minister that a com- prehensive scheme should be brought before Parliament providing for the payment of a bounty on power alcohol produced from any crop. Mr. De Bavay and other qualified men have said that cassava cannot be grown at the price likely to be offered. The Government is only tinkering with a great national question. There is an opportunity for the Minister to recommend that a thorough investigation be made immediately con- cerning the manufacture of power alcohol from prickly pear, and also as to the possibility of solving the question of over-production in the sugar industry. A further bill could then be brought down next session. By providing a bounty for power alcohol manufactured from sugar cane, inferior sugar, syrup and molasses, the Government would be helping the sugar-growers to solve the problem of over-production, which is weighing heavily on them at present. It is ridiculous to suggest, as the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Manning) does, that the inclusion of prickly pear in this clause would result in the eradication of the pest. The bounty provided in the bill will cover a bounty on only 300,000 gallons of power alcohol per annum; whereas Queensland alone, according to a report by the Institute of Science and Industry, could produce from her surplus sugar cane and molasses 24,000,000 gallons a year. The follo)wing is an ‘extract from that report : -
There is little doubt that molasses is the most promising raw material for alcohol occur- ring in Queensland at the present time. On the other hand, Queensland now has a surplus cane production of 1,200,000 tons of cane, equivalent to, say, 24,000,000 gallons of alcohol, or more than one quarter of Australia’s requirements of liquid fuel.
That statement was quoted in a brochure entitled The Proposed Power Alcohol Industry, issued by the Northern Power Alcohol Committee of Queensland. It is futile to think that the adoption of the amendment moved by the honorable member for Macquarie would do anything to cope with the prickly pear pest. I urge the Government, even now, to regard this matter as urgent, and bring down a comprehensive scheme for the payment of a bounty on power alcohol produced from molasses, inferior sugar dane, syrups, prickly pear, and every other product that is useful for its manufacture. In view of the fact that there is likely to be a serious world shortage of liquid fuel, we should do everything possible to make ourselves independent of supplies from other countries. If the Government would handle this matter in a broad statesmanlike way, it would be responsible for the establishment in Australia of a new and wonderfully useful secondary industry.
.- As I understand that the Chairman’s ruling does not preclude a general discussion of the methods of producing power alcohol, I propose to discuss the use of the prickly pear in that connexion. So far, the prickly pear has only yielded power alcohol in laboratory experiments conducted by Dr. Sinclair. Nothing has been done to show that it could be used for that purpose on a commercial basis. I do not question the results that Dr. Sinclair has obtained - I have no means of questioning ‘ them - nor do I for a moment suggest that he would mislead honorable members: but I say, without fear of truthful contradiction, that the tests that have been made so far, are probably the least important factor in determining the value of prickly pear for the production of power alcohol Bound up with the use of the pear as a raw material for this or any other purpose, is the whole question of cutting, handling and crushing it. I venture, with diffidence, to say that I have studied the prickly pear as much as, if not more than, any honorable member of the committee, for I was a. member of the first committee of the Institute of Science and Industry which investigated the matter. Before we can use the pear in any manufacturing process, we must solve the problem of economically cutting and handling it; and, so far, no workable plan for doing this has been devised. It is far more than a question of laboratory experiments; so what is the use of considering subsidiary processes for the production of power alcohol from it? It has been said that the revenue derived from the sale of alcohol made from the prickly pear may be set against the cost of destroying the pear;’but that is a fallacious idea. The revenue from that source must be set against the cost of manufacturing the alcohol. The one cancels the other. The whole proposal is futile.
– What has this bill to do with the prickly pear, anyhow.
– An amendment was proposed to provide that the prickly pear should be included in the specific growths mentioned in clause 6, and the Chairman has ruled that the matter may be discussed
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Bayley).For the information of the committee, may I say that the ruling I gave was that the amendment moved by the honorable (member for Macquarie (Mr. Manning) was out of order in the form he submitted it; but that does not debar the committee from discussing the advisableness of bringing the prickly pear within the provisions of this clause.’ I pointed out that there was nothing to prevent a fresh message being brought down from the GovernorGeneral which would cover the provision of a bounty for the production of power alcohol from the prickly pear.
– I observed, at the boginning of my remarks, sir, that your ruling ‘ did not preclude honorable members from discussing the question of producing power alcohol from prickly pear; and that is my reply to the interjection of the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell). As io the general question of producing power alcohol from cassava, sweet potato, arrowroot, or other cultivated starch-bearing plants, I only wish to say that while it is perfectly true that in tropical climates, under favorable conditions, where- there is excessive growth, cheap labour, and other favorable economic factors, it might be profitable to use natural growths for the production of power alcohol to use for that purpose, deliberately cultivated crops, like cassava, under the conditions which prevail in Australia, is not commercially sound. That is clearly shown in the report of the Public Accounts Committee, which has been quoted frequently during this debate. What is the definition of “ commercial production” or “production on sound lines “ ? I interpret the phrases to mean “production which pays.” It cannot be said that an industry which needs a bounty to make it profitable is commercially sound; it does not pay the community; it only pays the persons directly interested in it. Over and over again in its report the Public Accounts Committee draws attention to the fact that the production of power alcohol from these crops would not be commercially sound. An industry cannot be said to be sound when it is bolstered up by a subsidy.
– The wool-tops industry was established in Australia with the help of a bounty; and it is sound to-day.
– In spite of the conditions in the wool-top industry in Australia. I say that it is not commercially sound. It is of no use for us to use terms like this and avoid their real significance. Everything goes to show that cassava cannot be grown on a commercially sound basis in Australia. Although I have congratulated the Public Accounts Committee on the fine report that it has submitted ou thi3 subject, I must say that it did not consider one point which, in my opinion, should have received its earnest attention. I submit that the “payment of a bounty on power alcohol produced from food products, potential food products, or products grown on land which could be used for the production of foodstuffs, is not only commercially unsound,, but politically immoral. I will go further, and say that, in view of the fact that, broadly speaking, half the world is starving today, the Government is acting absolutely immorally in providing a bounty for the production of power alcohol from the products of land which should be used to produce foodstuffs. It is all very well for the farmers to talk. Every one knows that they want to get the highest price possible for their products.
– This is a wonderful calamity howl!
– The honorable member may, if he wishes, regard my remarks as a calamity howl. It is nevertheless true that millions of people ‘ in the world are half starving, and I repeat that it is politically and economically immoral for the Government of this country to disregard their wants. I do not care what gibes are thrown across the chamber at me in connexion with this matter. It is politically immoral to legislate for the production of power alcohol from material which otherwise would be utilized for the production of food for millions of the human race. This is what I have urged from first to last in the debate on this bill. I am aware, of course, that the opinion of the committee will be against me, but I do not care for that, because I know that scientifically, technically, and morally, my position is right. It is absurd for the Government to legislate for the payment of a subsidy to a wealthy company with millions of capital for the production of power alcohol from material which would otherwise provide food for starving millions of the human race.
– Would the honorable member feed them on prickly pear?
– The interjection of the honorable member for Herbert (Dr. Nott) will not disturb me for a moment. As a medical man, he should be ashamed of it. He should take a wider view of his duties as a member of this legislature than fo support a measure like this for the payment of a bounty on the production of power alcohol from material which should be used for the sustenance of human beings. Honorable members may laugh at me; the loud laugh often bespeaks the vacant mind. On this subject I know more than other honorable members, because I speak from a long experience in a certain branch of the Public Service. The Government, I know, will carry the bill through committee, notwithstanding that it is founded on ignorance of the important issues involved, founded on ignorance of the technical questions involved, and contrary to a report of the Institute of Science and Industry and the report of the Public Accounts Committee, which was specially instructed to consider this question.
– Is the honorable member “stone-walling” the bill?
– I do not care what views the honorable member takes of my attitude. I am prepared to “stone-wall” any bill which I think is opposed to the best interests of the community. I have endeavoured to place at the disposal of the Government any special knowledge which I possess on this subject. If I did leas I should be recreant to my trust as a member of this Parliament. If the committee chooses to disregard what I have said, then the responsibility is not mine.
– Hear, hear!
– I do not care if the honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) jeers at me. I say with all deference that on this subject I know more than other honorable members. In my opinion the bill is economically unsound and morally wrong. I have given my reasons against it over and over again. The Public Accounts Committee states, in effect, that the bounty will be equivalent to a subsidy to one rich company to which, apparently, the Minister has committed himself.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 7 to 16 agreed to.
Postponed clause 2 -
In this act, unless the contrary intention ap pears, “ power alcohol “ means spirit which complies with the standard for the time being prescribed under the Spirits Act 1906-1923 for mineralized spirits.
– I promised earlier in the debate that I would give the committee some information with regard to this clause. The act of 1906 provides in section 14, sub-section 28, that spirits for power purposes must come under the heading of mineralized spirits. The schedule sets out the standard for this type of spirits, but the act empowers the Minister to make regulations, which have been altered and liberalized from time to time. Honorable members will, no doubt, have noticed in the tariff schedule now before the House that a reduction is proposed in the duty on methyl alcohol not now produced in Australia, so as to make the methylation of alcohol cheaper even than it is now. I give honorable members an assurance that I will endeavour, consistent with the protection of the revenue on alcohol, to make the regulations as simple as possible.
– I should have been satisfied with the explanation if the Minister had stated that the regulations would provide that the standard should be in accordance with the provisions of the Spirits Act 1906-1923 as from time to time amended. The present standard is unduly severe.
– For the methylation?
– Yes. Apparently the Minister has recognized that by providing in this measure that the standard shall be that for mineralized spirits instead of for power alcohol.
– It must, under the act, come under that standard.
– The bill states that the standard for power alcohol shall agree with the standard for mineralized spirit. Is the Minister of the opinion that the present standard for power alcohol is unduly severe?
– Sub-section 2b of section 14 of the act deals with the standard for mineralized spirits for lighting, heating, and power purposes. Spirits for power purposes must come under that heading. Another portion of the act provides that the standards for industrial spirit and mineralized spirit shall, until altered by regulation, be as set out iri the schedule. The regulations, as I have already stated, have been altered several times since 1906 so far as concerns power alcohol, which must come under the heading of mineralized spirits. The department, however, has power to make regulations, and I may add that a standard has already been practically agreed to of a 1 per cent, addition of methyl alcohol. This will satisfy the department.
.- I am sorry to appear pertinacious in connexion with this matter. It would appear that the Minister (Mr. Pratten) does not know his own regulations. I say this deliberately. Under the Spirits Act there is a schedule of standards which has been altered twice. The Minister ought to know this. The present regulations prescribe two standards which are set out on page 16 of the report of the Public Accounts Committee. There is one standard for mineralized spirit, and another for power alcohol. Why has the Minister in this bill adopted the standard for mineralized spirits instead of the standard for alcohol fuel?
– Because in the act mineralized spirits are described as spirits for lighting, heating, and power purposes.
– But the act states that, subject to regulations, the schedule shall set out the standards. Subsequent regulations have set out those standards, and the Minister should know what they are. It matters not what the act says, but what the regulations say to-day. The regulations at present in force provide a standard for mineralized spirits and a standard for alcohol fuel. Both standards set out a certain method of methylation or denaturation. . Why not adopt the standard for alcohol fuel? I suggested to the Minister in the earlier stages of this debate that possibly he might consider that the standard for denaturation was unduly complicated, and that, if so, he should defer the consideration of this clause until he could bring in a definition that would make it easy to methylate this spirit. He said that he would do so. It seems to me that something is wrong when the department, in dealing with alcohol fuel and regulations governing it, disregards its own standard for that fuel, and prescribes the standard for mineralized spirits. Surely what I am saying is clear. I do not want to embarrass the Minister. I have pointed out to him the conditions under the regulations of his department. It seems to me to be utterly unreasonable that when dealing with a bill relating to alcohol fuel, we should prescribe something that is not according to the standard prescribed for that fuel.
– The honorable member has entirely misunderstood the position. I wish to make it clear to the committee that, provided that the revenue is protected, the conditions respecting alcohol fuel, so far as methylation, or destroying its fitness for human consumption, are concerned, will probably be made even simpler than they are under the regulations, because we are considering to-day merely the addition of 1 per cent, of wood naphtha and nothing else. In my administration of the department, I want the honorable member to understand, I shall put up with no red-tape in this connexion. All I think that the committee requires me to do is to see that the revenue is protected, and that those concerned in the manufacture of power alcohol are given the greatest facilities to denature it and make it unfit for human consumption.
Clause agreed to.
Preamble and title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill, by leave, read a third time.
Joint Committee of INQUIRY
Motion (by Mr. Bruce), hy leave, agreed to -
That with reference to the resolution agreed to ‘by this House on the 25th ultimo, the following members be appointed to serve on the Joint Select Committee to inquire into and report upon certain matters connected with the electoral law : - Mr. Bowden, Mr. Manning, Mr. Edward Riley, and Mr. Thompson (mover of the original resolution).
That two members be the quorum of members of the House of Representatives present to constitute a sitting of such committee.
That this House agrees to the time and place proposed by the Senate for the first meeting of the committee.
That the foregoing resolutions be communicated to the Senate by message.
Donation from His Majesty the King.
– I desire to inform the House that the following cablegram has been received by His Excellency the GovernorGeneral : -
The King, who read with much concern the accounts of the damage done by the bush fires in Australia, is glad to hear that a fund is being raised in aid of those who lost their homes. I am to . ask your Excellency to inform the organizers qf the fund that His Majesty wishes to give a donation of £100, which will be paid to you by Coutts and Co. through Bank of Australasia.
I have been, in communication with His Excellency the Governor-General, and have asked him to forward the following reply : -
I shall be glad if you will bring under His Majesty’s notice, on behalf of the Government and people of Australia, our deep appreciation of Iiia practical sympathy in connexion with the recent disastrous bush fires. The amount forwarded is being placed at the disposal of the organizers of the fund as requested. The nation’s burden of sorrow has been considerably lightened by the knowledge that we have the sympathy of our sovereign and of all his loyal subjects throughout the Empire.
Bush Firbs Relief Fund - Tariff : British Motor Cycles - Power Alcohol Bounty Bill : Relevancy of Amendment
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- Will the Prime Minister state what action the Government has taken to give relief to thos© who have suffered in consequence of the recent bush fires ?
Mr. MANN (Perth) 110.93. - I wish to refer to a matter of more than usual urgency, which I mentioned when the House met this afternoon, namely, the report of the Tariff Board concerning the duties on motor cycles. Before the war the British manufacturers of motor cycles practically controlled the motor cycle market in Australia ; but during the war, owing to restrictions in Great Britain, the American manufacturers obtained a great advantage, and far outstripped their competitors. Since then, however, the British manufacturers, by constructing a type of light machine particularly adapted to Australian conditions, have again outstripped their American rivals. The American manufacturers have recently copied the British light machines, and are manufacturing them in. their factories. In consequence, the British manufacturers have made special application to the Tariff Board for an increase in the British preference on certain articles, including motor cycles. The British manufacturers have applied to the Tariff Board for an increased measure of preference, and the board, having considered the matter, is, .so far as I oan ascertain, apparently sympathetic. The hearing of evidence on the subject was concluded about a fortnight ago. As the American manufacturers are threatening British trade in the Australian market, a decision is urgently necessary. _ Probably no further opportunity to discuss the duties will be afforded after the conclusion of the debate on the tariff schedule, and I therefore ask the Minister to obtain the report from the board immediately, and to give it prompt consideration, so that, if possible, we may discuss it during the further consideration of the tariff. If the report of the board is favorable to the request of the British manufacturers, I desire to move for an increase of preference, unless, of course, the Minister will move in that direction on behalf of the Government.
.- During the debate on the Power Alcohol Bounty Bill to-day a question arose as to the right of the committee to amend a bill based upon a recommendation by the Governor-General for the appropriation of money. My understanding of the procedure is that the committee has a right to make any amendment so long as the amount of the appropriation is not increased. Unfortunately, the amendment and the motion to dissent from the Chairman’s ruling were withdrawn, anil the question remains undecided.
– The honorable member may not, on the motion for adjournment, raise a point of order in regard to a matter dealt with earlier in committee.
– I am seeking information merely for my future guidance.
– 1 cannot deal with the honorable member’s point of order at this stage.
– In regard to the matter mentioned by the Leader of the Opposition, soon after the recent disastrous bush fires, I intimated to the Victorian Government that the Commonwealth Government would be prepared ‘to render any assistance that was required. So far, the Government has received no request from the State Government for financial assistance, but it has been assisting in every way possible in the provision of tents, blankets,’ and other equipment available from the Defence Department. To-day the honorable member for Grey (Mr. Lacey) asked a question about the carriage of cattle and fodder in the drought-stricken areas of South Australia. I have had an opportunity of looking into the matter, and I find that yesterday the following recommendationwas submitted by the Commonwealth Commissioner of Railways to the Minister for Works and Railways : -
In view of the conditions prevailing in South Australia it is recommended that fodder required for starving stock when carried to Gordon and stations north thereof, and live stock conveyed from one point to another for agistment, be carried over theOodnadatta railway at one-half of the ordinary rates as applying on that railway.
The Minister approved of the recommendation, and I sent a telegram to the Premier of South Australia accordingly. I think that meets the request made by the honorable member for Grey this afternoon.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.17 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 17 March 1926, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1926/19260317_reps_10_112/>.