Thursday, 29th September 1927

29th September, 1927


My dear Prime Minister,

This morning’s ‘Times’ was predominantly Australian, the main feature of the chief news page being the report on the Budget and the new preference proposals in regard to British motors. [1] There was an excellent leading article on the Commonwealth at Canberra. [2] You will, of course, be receiving these from other sources but I enclose the cuttings in case you should miss them in the ordinary way.


The Agricultural Economic Committee of the Empire Marketing Board, of which I am Chairman, has just completed a report for the Imperial Agricultural Research Conference which is, I think, a fairly useful document and which will be printed immediately. [3] I shall, of course, send you copies.

My main purpose, however, in raising this subject in today’s letter is to draw your attention to two extremely interesting articles on the U.S.A. Government agricultural policy. The first is an article by Mr. Jardine [4], the Secretary of Agriculture, which was published in the Farm Journal of Philadelphia, and the second is a special article by Mr. Charles R. Crisp, of the United States Congress, which appeared in the ‘Manchester Guardian Commercial’ at the end of August. [5] Both these articles are worth very careful study because they both stress, in the dearest possible way, the importance of stabilisation of prices and also of large scale organization by the farmers and the possibility of Government support for such organization provided it is sufficiently inclusive. I am sending copies of these two articles to Mr. Paterson. [6]

I feel that either you or Mr. Paterson may feel it desirable to give very considerable publicity to the article by Mr. Jardine, as the views expressed by this member of an intensely Conservative, in fact big business Cabinet in America, are views which strongly support the general line of policy which your Government has adopted. The possibility of Imperial Stabilization Corporations on the lines proposed by Mr. Jardine in his article may well prove worth a close scrutiny. I shall sound opinion here on the subject and write again to you at a later date.


In my last letter I reported that Julius [7] was extremely anxious that he and I should go to Geneva to discuss scientific development problems with Sir George Pearce [8] and also with Major Walter Elliot. [9] We utilised the past week-end for this purpose, leaving London on Friday, seeing Sir George Pearce and Major Elliot separately on Saturday evening and jointly on Monday morning and returning from Geneva on Monday evening.

The subjects discussed included the Tropical Agricultural Research Station, Veterinary Research, Dairy Research, the general problem of irrigation and the possibilities of cooperation between the Commonwealth Council for Scientific & Industrial Research and the Empire Marketing Board in regard to irrigation research, Fish Research and preservation, and the general subject of British recognition of the efforts being made in Australia to apply science to industry and particularly to agriculture.

There can be no doubt that the impression created by these talks both on Sir George Pearce and on Major Elliot were excellent.

Elliot expressed to Sir George the very great appreciation that he felt and that the Scientific Authorities in Great Britain were beginning to feel at the way in which the Commonwealth Government was not only financially supporting scientific research but also of the way in which the Prime Minister and Sir George Pearce were taking so active a personal interest in research problems.

Elliot said that in his experience this was as welcome as it was unusual but that he felt sure that it was not only sound statesmanship but also good politics.

You will be a little amused perhaps to know that, before this interview, I stressed to Elliot his tendency of following attractive dialectical by-paths with the result that during this talk he was entirely practical and businesslike and I should imagine created a very favorable personal impression on Sir George Pearce.

There can be no doubt that if Elliot is to take any very prominent part in British politics, he will need to avoid the attractive by- paths into which the possession of a remarkably clever tongue leads him.


In my last letter I wrote in the spirit of qualified optimism about the prospects of marketing dried fruits in this country. The situation here has not changed, in fact there are very definite signs that the years of work that have been put in to educate the British public as to the desirability of supporting the Australian dried fruit industry are beginning to bear really valuable fruit.

Unfortunately we have just received advices of the very serious frost damage that has occurred throughout the Murray Valley.

Reports talk about 90% damage which, of course, must be grossly exaggerated but even so, there can be little doubt that serious damage has been done. This is intensely regrettable not only from my own personal point of view, although I suppose I shall suffer considerably, nor indeed only from the point of view of the production of the industry. It will be extremely unfortunate if just as the industry is finding its feet in Great Britain we are faced next year with such a shortage in export as to preclude the possibility of continuity of supply. Unfortunately nothing can be done and we can only hope that the dormant buds on the vines will shoot and produce a crop which will allow some margin for export.

Yours sincerely, F. L. MCDOUGALL

_1 H. E. Pratten, Minister for Trade and Customs, was reported as expressing a hope that the new duties would divert trade from the United States to Britain.

2 The article concluded that the success of Australia’s quest for ‘men, money and markets’ depended on a strong central government.

3 Agricultural Economics in the Empire. Report of a Committee Appointed by the Empire Marketing Board, E.M.B. 1, October 1927 4 William M. Jardine.

5 ‘Farm Relief Legislation. Protection of an Essential Industry’, Manchester Guardian Commercial 25 August.

6 Thomas Paterson, Minister for Markets and Migration in the Bruce-Page Government.

7 George Julius, Chairman of the Commonwealth Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. 8 Senator and Vice-President of the Executive Council; leader of the Australian delegation to the League of Nations Assembly 1927.

9 Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Scotland; Chairman of the Research Grants Committee of the Empire Marketing Board.