Thursday, 9th August 1928

9th August, 1928


My dear Prime Minister,

Another mail has arrived and I still have no communication from you about the economic activities of the League of Nations.

Sir Edward Hilton Young [1], who will act for the British Delegation on economic matters, has asked me to see him during the last few days of August just before he goes to Geneva, in order to discuss the questions that may arise and Sir Arthur Salter, the head of the Economic Organization, has written to let me know that, in his opinion, an important discussion is likely to occur and has suggested that it might be very useful if I could be over there for just the days on which this discussion is likely to take place. I am not in the least anxious to go to Geneva during the Assembly but shall discuss the point with Senator McLachlan [2] before he departs.


You will remember the Empire Marketing Board report on the Conservation of Grass which was prepared by A. N. Duckham. [3]

At my suggestion, the Empire Marketing Board had a conference on this subject last Friday, which was preceded by a lunch. Walter Elliot, [4] was in the Chair and we had present Sir Arthur Duckharn [5], Dr. Orr [6], 6, Professor T. B. Wood [7] and Dr.

Woodman [8] from Cambridge, Professor Stapledon [9] from Aberystwyth, and three young men-A. N. Duckham, the author of the memorandum, H. C. Trumble [10] (son of Hugh Trumble, the cricketer) from the Waite Institute, who is a most promising youth, and my own assistant A. S. Fitzpatrick.

I am enclosing a note on the discussion that occurred. I think Arthur Duckham’s suggestion is extremely interesting. In brief what he suggests is that one should attempt to apply the idea of the combined harvester to fodder crops. The combined harvester cuts the cars, threshes the wheat and packs it in one operation.

Duckham promises to design a machine which will cut grass, suck it up into a drying apparatus, dry it and deliver it in bags in one operation. The bag dried grass could then easily be briquetted into a grass cake which the Cambridge Authorities have definitely proved can be kept for two or three years. If Arthur Duckham’s proposal is successful, it seems to me to have tremendous possibilities in the Australian Irrigation areas and perhaps in dairying districts where the great seasonal flush of grass is so largely wasted.

I shall, of course, keep the D. & M. Commission and the C.S.I.R.

fully informed on the subject but I thought that you would be interested to have your attention drawn to this possible development.


At Gepp’s [11] request my office-and especially my assistant Fitzpatrick-has been keeping very closely in touch with Fishery questions. Yesterday I met at lunch a Commander Lawford, who owns a fleet of trawlers operating from Milford Haven. Lawford is a particularly good type of ex-naval man-I should imagine about 45 years old. He has conceived the idea of transferring his entire fleet to Australian waters with the object of operating from Melbourne. He wants to discover to what extent he could be assisted. The two forms of assistance that he regards as absolutely essential are, firstly, there should be no duty imposed upon his trawling fleet on entering Australia and, secondly, that the families of his crews should receive assisted passages to enable them to settle in Australia. In addition to these two essential forms of assistance, Lawford feels that some further aid will be necessary either from private capital or from Government.

He thinks that for at least two years a fleet operating from Melbourne would make losses. He believes that, by a regular daily delivery of fresh fish at Melbourne, a demand could be built up which would become profitable in time.

Lawford estimates that if he took his fleet of 14 vessels, he would need to transfer 200 men who, together with dependents, would make a total of about 700. He impressed upon me the sterling quality of the men and their value to Australia as citizens and as men who have developed, in the very highest degree, the sea sense.

Last night I spoke to Senator McLachlan and Sir William Glasgow [12] about this matter and they were both keenly interested. I have also cabled to Gepp and am sending him full particulars by this mail.


I saw Sir William Glasgow last night and he immediately asked me to write him a short speech for delivery at Ottawa on the work of the Empire Marketing Board, as he had been told that the work of the E.M.B. would be one of the subjects for discussion at the meetings of the Empire Delegations. I shall, of course, do this. I then suggested to Sir William that it might be a good thing if he got the Australian Delegation together for half an hour in order that I might answer any questions that they might care to ask on the work of the Imperial Economic Committee and the Empire Marketing Board.

Sir William thought this was a good idea and is going to see whether it can be arranged. I feel sure that you will approve.


The London School of Economics recently approached me and asked whether I would undertake to read a thesis prepared by a young man named Skene-Smith on ‘Australian Experiments in Economic Control’.

Skene-Smith spent a year in Australia in 1925 and has written this thesis for his Ph.D. I have now read the document and have found it very interesting. I made a good number of suggestions for its improvement. The book is likely to be published in the near future and will, I think, attract a very considerable attention both here and in Australia. In the form as sent to me, the writer showed a certain bias in favor of what most people would regard as Labour Party ideas. I have, however, suggested to Skene-Smith that he should re-consider a number of passages in order to remove the idea of political bias.

I am considerably impressed with Skene-Smith’s powers of observation and with his capacity for stating a case. The book should do something towards creating that favorable atmosphere towards Australian economic development that is so essential here.

There has been little occurring here of any special interest. This morning’s ‘Times’ publishes an account of the Ceremony of the British Legion at the Menin Gate and an Address by the Archbishop of York which I am enclosing because I feel that you would like to read it.

Yours sincerely, F. L. MCDOUGALL

_1 Conservative M.P.; Editor-in-Chief of the Financial News.

2 A. J. McLachlan, South Australian Senator; Honorary Minister;

leader of the Australian delegation to the League of Nations General Assembly 1928.

3 A. N. Duckham, Grass and Fodder Crop Conservation in Transportable Form, E.M.B. 8, 1928. See note 10 to Letter 157.

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

5 Chemical engineer prominent in the coal industry; leader of the British Economic Mission to Australia 1928.

6 J. B. Orr, Director of the Rowett Institute for Research in Animal Nutrition, Aberdeen.

7 Drapers Professor of Agriculture, University of Cambridge.

8 H. E. Woodman, of the School of Agriculture, University of Cambridge.

9 R. G. Stapledon, Professor of Agricultural Botany, University College of Wales; Director of the Welsh Plant Breeding Station.

10 See Letter 171 11 H. W. Gepp, Chairman of the Commonwealth Development and Migration Commission.

12 Senator; Minister for Home and Territories 1926-27; Minister for Defence 1927-29; leader of the Australian delegation of the Empire Parliamentary Association which toured Canada in August and September 1928.