129

12th October, 1927

PERSONAL & CONFIDENTIAL

My dear Prime Minister,

IMPERIAL AGRICULTURAL RESEARCH CONFERENCE

On Friday, October 7th, the Plenary Session of the Imperial Agricultural Research Conference was discussing periodical Conferences and as soon as it had been decided that it was desirable to hold an Imperial Agricultural Research Conference at quinquennial intervals, Mr. Julius [1] communicated your invitation to hold the next conference in Australia to the meeting. Dr. Grisdale [2], the Minister of Agriculture for Canada, immediately supported the proposal, as also did the representatives of New Zealand.

Your invitation was extremely warmly received and the Conference carried a unanimous resolution in favour of holding the next meeting in Australia. Bledisloe [3], from the chair, announced that he intended to cable you, on behalf of the Conference, an acceptance of the invitation and a cable was also sent from Julius.

Later in the same meeting, Julius took an opportunity of moving a resolution expressing, on behalf of the Conference, the appreciation felt for the action of the British Government in setting up the Empire Marketing Board and congratulating the Empire Marketing Board on the way in which they had decided to assist agricultural research throughout the Empire. This resolution was warmly supported and I was very glad that Australia, having up to the present derived the largest direct benefit from the Empire Marketing Board and being, through your action in 1923 in some ways responsible for the creation of that body, should have been the Dominion from whom the initiative came for such a recognition.

Julius, Dr. Richardson [4] and myself are all fairly confident that the Conference is doing useful work and that we shall obtain the type of resolutions that we think we need for the most effective action for the encouragement of agricultural research throughout the Empire and for the establishment of the most convenient forms of interchange of information, so far as Australia is concerned.

During this week Committees of the Conferences have been sitting both on administrative and on technical questions and the Australian Delegation has been very heavily engaged in Committee work.

AGRICULTURAL ECONOMICS

I enclose a copy of the report prepared by my Committee for the Empire Marketing Board on this subject. [5] The report is quite preliminary and is merely intended to indicate the scope of agricultural economics. As, however, there has been no previous attempt to define this scope, at any rate from an Empire point of view, I hope that you will find the report interesting. I think that the action that the Conference is likely to take on this important subject of Agricultural Economics is to recommend the establishment at the Agricultural Institute at Oxford of an Imperial Information Centre on such subjects as survey methods and agricultural costings and to recommend the Empire Marketing Board should maintain a Standing Committee on Agricultural Economics especially to deal with the marketing aspects of this subject.

TARIFF BOARD REPORT

In my letter of the 6th October [6], I referred to a sentence in the 'Times' cable summarising the Tariff Board's report and stated that I was going to get out information on the difference in the standard of living between Australia and Great Britain. I am now able to forward this information which I feel sure you will find interesting.

Estimation of real wages in Australia and Great Britain and the comparison of the results obtained are almost inevitably inexact and would require a greater capacity for statistical work than I can claim and also a much larger amount of time than I have been able to give it. Nevertheless, the figures appear to show definitely that, although Australian real wages arc still substantially higher than those obtaining in British industry, yet the gap between Australian real wages and British real wages is lessening. I feel that this is a sufficiently interesting result for me to suggest that you should ask Mr. Wickens [7] to go fully into the figures because if they are sound, then the obvious conclusion is that the vicious circle in Australia, which is forcing up both wages and the cost of production, is a matter which demands the serious attention of those charged with the administration of the Australian tariff. [8]

Yours sincerely, F. L. MCDOUGALL

1 George Julius, Chairman of the Commonwealth Council for Scientific and Industrial Research.

2 J. H. Grisdale, Deputy Minister of Agriculture.

3 Lord Bledisloe, Parliamentary Secretary at the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries.

4 A. E. V. Richardson, Professor of Agriculture and Director of the Waite Agricultural Research Institute, University of Adelaide;

member of the Executive of the Commonwealth Council for Scientific and Industrial Research.

5 See note 3 to Letter 127.

6 Letter 128.

7 C. H. Wickens, Commonwealth Actuary and Statistician.

8 Bruce replied, in a letter dated 12 December, that he had asked Wickens for a report on this matter. The letter is on file AA:M111, 1927.