The rabbit pest was discussed at the conference of the Institute of Stock Inspectors in Sydney on Tuesday, and it was agreed that the present machinery of control should be overhauled.
Mr. F. F. Forster (Goulburn) moved that, because the rabbit pest was becoming more dangerous to stock owners, the time was opportune for a survey to be made of the existing machinery of control.
Mr. Forster said that he did not wish to advocate the abolition of P.P. Boards. It was a matter for the Minister. His experience was that rabbits did not breed on Crown lands. They were poor lands often, and the rabbit was a good judge of country. The rabbits generally bred on neglected improved country.
Mr. J. G. Johnson, (Albury), seconding the motion, claimed that prosecutions were ineffective. Fines and revenue did not kill the rabbit. He believed in a policy of bringing offenders before the board.
The president, Mr. C. J. Woollett (Lismore) suggested that when it could be shown that the boards were breaking down "on their job," as many were doing, the department, with its wide experience, should be asked to intervene. Many farmers were alarmed at the progress made by the rabbit on the North Coast. Prosecutions were often recommended, but seldom proceeded with.
Mr. F. T. Yeoman (Narandera) said that the Government was doing much to deal with the pest. It had taken definite steps to eradicate the pest, on vacant Crown land.
"The present Minister for Land, has been most generous in his treatment of settlers," said Mr. G . J. O'Neill (Condobolin). "We have spent £80,000 on rabbit proof netting." Mr. O'Neill added that the rabbit problem was one for national action. Local boards were inadequate. There was no active control in the western district. He had seen hundreds of rabbits swimming across a river. The Lachlan was no barrier.
Mr. Yeoman declared that the inspectors should not be asked to accept the responsibility for the eradication of the pest. It was one man's work with a car to do it.
"Rabbits cannot travel without cover," said Mr. C. O. Furness (Bathurst). "If there are culverts, etc., we will have rabbits. I know of an instance where settlers encouraged rabbits for sport, and now they are fighting to save their farms from ruin. A uniform system of control is necessary. People on the North Coast said the country was too damp for rabbits. It is pitiful today to see how rich properties have been ravaged. Buyers are reluctant to purchase in certain parts of the North Coast because of the rabbit invasion."
The motion was agreed to.
Another resolution was carried, inviting the Government to take a more active interest in the problem.
The conference also carried a motion favoring the imposition of heavier fines in sheep stealing cases.
Mr. F. T. Yeoman, moving the motion, said that from time to time offenders had been caught, but the fines imposed reduced the proceedings to a farce. Heavier fines would be a deterrent. He quoted a case where a drover was fined £10 for stealing a sheep, but the fine was reduced to £1. "This fine would not pay for the petrol I used in catching him," Mr. Yeoman said. "If the penalty was made £10, it would be a deterrent. A £1 fine is a joke. The courts should go the limit."
Mr. G. J. O'Neill pointed out that most sheep stealing was done by motor lorries travelling at night.
Mr. A. R. M'Niven (Holbrook) said that sheep stealing eases had become so rampant in the Upper Murray district that a defence association had been formed, and a reward of £100 offered for the detection of offenders.
Dr. I. Clunies Ross, parasitologist to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, in a lecture on "The Fight Against Disease," said that, notwithstanding the extension of new diseases, there was no need for pessimism. The last decade had seen some spectacular scientific successes. Tuberculosis in cattle was being gradually eradicated, district by district.
He visualised the time when tubercle-free areas would be proclaimed for the first time in the history of the State. Perhaps as striking as any other change which was taking place over the great sheep raising areas of the tablelands and slopes was the gradual improvement of poor natural pastures by artificial methods with the realisation that they had potentialities for production far beyond anything conceived in the past. The pastoral industry was destined to see a great increase, not only in its sheep population, but in the human population which it maintained.
The conference agreed to a motion suggesting an amendment to the Pastures Protection Bill to provide that in any prosecution under the Act it should not be necessary to bring proof of the notification, dedication, etc., of any travelling stock rserve, evidence of such reserve being placed under the control of a board to be accepted as proof, of its notification, etc.