10th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. J.Newlands) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– Has the Leader of the Senate any further information to supply with regard to the arrangements that have been made for the payment to “Western Australia of a disabilities grant pending the passage of the States Grant Bill?
– None other than that which I gave on the Appropriation Bill last night, to the effect that, as has been announced, the States Grant Bill has been deferred to a later period of this session, which will be held in the early part of the next calendar year. The Government of Western Australia has the assurance of this Government that it proposes to go on with that measure. That decision has already been communicated to the Premier of Western Australia.
Saleof Expropriated Properties: Newspaper Allegations
– I ask the Leader of the Senate whether the attention of the Cabinet has been directed to an article which appears in a newspaper, headed “New Guinea - German’s Startling Boast.” “ Has Federal Minister in Each Pocket! “ stating that a German who is resident in Rabaul is openly boasting that he has a Federal Minister in each of his pockets, and that he has been employed by Australians to tender on their behalf for expropriated properties; the astounding feature being that in many cases he has been able to judge the upset price to a penny?
– I have not seen the statement to which the honorable senator refers, and I certainly do not believe it. I am quite sure that none of my colleagues are under the influence suggested.
Yesterday Senator Needham asked the following question: -
What were the total amounts of salaries paid to those officers who are members of the -
Council for Defence,
Munitions Supply Board, for the years 1924-25 and 1925-26?
The answer to the honorable senator’s question is as follows. -
First Naval Member. - Salary paid as First Naval Member. (See Naval Board.)
Second Naval Member - Salary paid as Second Naval Member. (See Naval Board.)
Commodore Commanding Australian Squadron. - Salary paid as Commodore Commanding Australian Squadron, 1924-25, £3,188; 1925-26. £3,124. .
Inspector-General of the Australian Military Forces.- Salary paid as Inspector-General and Chief of the General Staff. (See Military Board.)
First Military Member of the Military Board. - Salary paid as Inspector-General and Chief of the General Staff. (See Military Board.)
First Air Member. - Salary paid as Chief of the Air Staff. . (See Air Council.)
Controller-General of Munitions Supply. - Salary paid as Controller-General of Munitions Supply. (See Munitions Supply Board.)
The following are also members of the Council of Defence, but receive no remuneration as such: -
The Prime Minister - President.
The Treasurer - Member.
The Minister for Defence - Member.
Lieutenant-General Sir John Monash, G.C.M.G., K.C.B., V.D.- Member.
Major-General Sir C. B. B. White. K.C.M.C., K.C.V.O., C.B., D.S.O.- Member.
First Naval Member. - Salary paid as First Naval Member. (See Naval Board.)
First Military Member. - Salary paid as InspectorGeneral and Chief of the General Staff. (See Military Board.)
First Air Member. - Salary paid as Chief of Air Staff- 1924-25, £1,090; 1925-26, £1,236.
Second Air Member. - Salary paid as head of Personnel Branch, Royal Australian Air Force -1924-25, £868; 1925-26, £868.
Controller of Civil Aviation. - Salary paid as Controller of Civil Aviation - 1924-25, £925; 1925-26, £975.
The Minister for Defence is President of the Air Council.
– A few days ago I asked the Minister representing the Minister for Markets and Migration a question relative to the representations for assistance which had been made by the apple growers of the Commonwealth. He replied that he would make a statement before this portion of the session was concluded. Can henow make that statement? If not, when will it be made?
– The reply was furnished by the Minister for Markets and Migration. I have not received any further information, but I shall make inquiries and endeavour to obtain a reply for the honorable senator before the adjournment of the Senate to-day.
Length of Ser vice andremuneration.
– I ask you, Mr. President, whether you will furnish me with a statement setting out the number of employees in the service of the Senate, the date on which each entered that service, the length of service, the amount of salary at its commencement, the dates and amounts of increases that have been granted, and the total amount of such increases ?
– I shall go into the matter and if there is no objection to the furnishing of the information desired by the honorable senator I will supply it.
[11.6]. - (By leave).Idesire to inform the Senate that the following gentlemen have been appointed to the North Australia Commission: - Mr. James Horsburgh, assistant general manager, Mount Morgan Gold Mining Company Limited, chairman; Mr. William Robert Easton, chairman of the. Northern Territory Land Board ; and Mr. George Alexander Hobler, Chief Engineer of Railways, Commonwealth Railways.
– When will the commission enter upon the duties with which it is to be entrusted? Has provision so far been made for suitably accommodating it? If so, in what part of Australia is that accommodation being provided ?
– The commission will commence its operations at an early date. Provision will be made for its accommodation.
Motion (by Senator Pearce) agreed to-
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till a day and hour to be fixed by the President, which time of meeting shall be notified to each honorable senator by telegram or letter.
Motion (by Senator Pearce) (by leave) agreed to -
That leave of absencebe granted to every member of the Senate from the determination of the sitting this day to the day on which the Senate next meets.
Evasion of Payment by Manipulation of Invoices.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The Treasurer has supplied the following reply: - 1 and 2. The Commissioner of Taxation is taking all necessary action in cases where he thinks that excessive prices have been debited in trading accounts in respect of goods imported into Australia. Section 28 of the Income Tax Assessment Act 1922-25 gives the Commissioner power to assess such income tax as he thinks proper in cases where it appears a business of the nature referred to produces either no taxable income or less than the ordinary taxable income which might be expected to arise from that business. An appeal to the High Court has been made against the action of the Commissioner under this section in the case of the British Imperial Oil Company.
Sale of Leases
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained, and will be communicated to the honorable senator as soon as possible.
Bill received from House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended, and bill (on motion by Senator Pearce) read a first time.
.- I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
In this measure it is proposed to grant bounties to the extent of £900,000 for five years on seed cotton and cotton yarn produced in Australia, of which amount £600,000 will be expended in respect of seed cotton and £300,000 in respect of manufactured cotton yarn. Half of the raw material used in the manufacture of the cotton yarn must be of Australian production. The bounty is proposed principally with the object of stimulating cotton growing as a basis for the establishment of secondary industries in Australia. It is interesting to study the history of this industry. Cotton was grown rather extensively in Australia many years ago. During the American Civil War no less than 14,000 acres of land were under cotton cultivation in Queensland, but after the termination of that war, when the United States of America re-entered the field of cotton production, there was a slump in prices, and cotton growing as an industry ceased in Australia. Efforts were made some little time ago to resuscitate the industry. It was found necessary at the outset to provide means for -
The Governments of the cotton-growing States accordingly instituted a system of guaranteed prices, under which, at the commencement . of each season, they guaranteed to pay to the grower a fixed price for his seed cotton, that price varying with the quality of the cotton produced, and the grading being done by Government graders. The British Australian Cotton Association Limited - the B.A.C.A. - came into existence a few years ago, installed ginneries, and created an organization for marketing. Sof’ar the transactions have invariably resulted in a loss, and the guaranteed price has, in actual practice, been equivalent to a bounty. The guarantee system expired on the 30th June last. Dissatisfaction with Government control was expressed by various agricultural bodies in Queensland, and those bodies, supported by the British Australian Cotton Association Limited, made representations to the Commonwealth Government urging -
In regard to the payment of a bounty, a deputation, on the 20th May, 1925, representative of the various cotton-growing and ginning interests, waited on the Prime Minister and requested the payment of a bounty of l½d. a lb., for ten years. The following is a brief survey of the results of the trading transactions of the Queensland Government under the guarantee system, compiled from information which has been furnished in the annual reports of the Queensland AuditorGeneral : -
The estimated loss of £110,000 for the season will probably prove to be fairly accurate.
– (Have the losses been proportionately greater in the last year or two?
– If the honorable senator looks at the first table of figures that I gave he will see that the loss has varied. The greatest was in 1920-21, when it was over 2d. per lb., and the smallest was in 1922-23, when it was 8523d. per lb. Last year the estimated loss was 1.5788d. per lb.
– Is there any evidence that the industry will ever be self-supporting?
– Yes; I shall try to show that as I proceed. The estimated loss to the Commonwealth on the guaranteed price for the last financial year is £55,000, and this, added to the Queensland’s Government’s contribution of half the loss, gives the total of £110,000. The average loss on the guaranteed price is a fraction over1½d. per lb. The guaranteed price fixed by the Queensland Government for the first three seasons - 1919-20, 1920-21, and 1921-22- was 5½d. per lb. For the 1922-23 and 1923-24 seasons the cotton was graded according to quality, the price ranging from 2d. to 5½d.per lb. of seed cotton. Ninety-seven per cent. of the 1922-23 crop brought the top price, 5½d., whilst, in 1923-24, 93 per cent. of the total crop realized the second top price, 5d. For the 1924-25 season a uniform guaranteed price was adopted throughout Australia. This ranged according to grade from 2½d. to 5¼d. per lb. For 1925-26 classification by colour, cleanliness, and general quality, and also length of staple, is being introduced. Previously it was not deemed advisable to classify by staple, owing to the lack of graders sufficiently trained for stapling purposes, and the fact that seed capable of producing long-staple cotton was not available. Three lengths of staple have now been introduced -1 inch and under, 1 inch to l1/8 inches, and 11/8 inches and over. Cotton is sold at its lint cotton value, for which there exist universal world standards. The Tariff Board recommended that, subject to certain conditions, for a period of ten years a bounty be paid on all seed cotton other than that graded into grades “ D “ or “XXX,” the rate of bounty for the first six years to be 2d. per lb., and for the seventh, eighth, ninth, and tenth years to be l¾d., l½d., l¼d., and1d. per lb. respectively. I direct attention to the fact that when the Tariff Board made that recommendation it had not linked the payment of a bounty on seed cotton with the payment of a bounty on cotton yarn, with specific conditions covering the use of Australian-grown cotton. But the Government has now associated cotton growing with the development of cotton manufacture.
I now come to the rate of bounty to be paid. The present average price for American middling cotton lint on the world’s market is approximately 9.99d. per lb. for spot, and as it. takes about 3 lb. of seed cotton to make 1 lb. of cotton lint, it will be seen that the world’s average parity price for middling seed cotton is approximately 3.33d. per lb. On this basis, the payment of 2d. per lb., as recommended by the Tariff Board, would represent approximately 60 per cent. of the present world’s parity. Furthermore, with increasing forced production, the payment of a bounty of 2d. per lb. would involve an expenditure of probably from £1,000,000 to £1,500,000 for the six-year period. Even with cotton production stationary at 16,000,000 lb. of seed cotton per annum, the bounty expenditure at l½d. per lb. will be approximately £500,000. The Tariff Board’sreport, to which I particularly invite the attention of Senator J. B. Hayes, states -
It is quite obvious that cotton-growing on a large scale with hired labour is notan economical proposition, and that profitable cottongrowing must be confined, so far as Australia is concerned, to the farmer who is growing other staple primary products, and plants cotton as a side line on areas of from 10 to 2!) acres, which he can handle up to the picking stage with’ the assistance of his family and the lower-paid employees engaged on the other work on the farm.
– Has that been the custom up to the present time in Queensland ?
– It was not at first, but within the last two years that practice has increased, and it is now almost the general custom. Of that the concluding portion of the Tariff Board’s report gives confirmation : -
This view is supported by the fact that, at present, although 40,000 acres are under cotton in Queensland, the average acreage per farmer U approximately 5 acres.
That is the position to-day. The present Commonwealth production of about 16,000,000 lb. of seed cotton per annum is only .0012 of the world’s present crop. In the Australian- Cotton- Grower, Farmer, and Dairyman, published in Brisbane, of the 30th J une last, appears a contribution by Mr. J. D. Young, who has written many useful articles on this industry. Ho states -
The granting of a bounty on seed cotton production by the Federal Government to replace the State guarantee that has been in operation tor the past six years marks a definite step forward in the establishment of the cotton industry in this country, and is a recognition of the principle that the whole industry can only )>’- developed as a national one by protecting and fostering both the growing and manufacturing sec. tiona of the trade. It is now clearly apparent to all cotton -growers here that under our high standard of living, and consequently high cost of production, we cannot grow cotton to sell op. the overseas market in competition with cotton-growing countries possessing an abundance of cheap black labour. . . . Cottongrowing can, however, become one of this country’s most important primary industries if the new material produced is manufactured in the country, thus making the whole industry selfcontained and national in its aspect, and creating a home market for the cotton -grower. The safe thing for a country like Australia to do is to foster the cotton-manufacturing industry in conjunction with the growing of the crop, and to “consume in Australian mills the cotton produced here.
Then he goes on to show why that is an important factor -
The cotton-grower is vitally interested in establishing a local market for his cotton - it affects him in this way: The freight on cotton lint to Liverpool is Id. per lb.-
He means freight and all charges - so that a textile mill here, other things being equal, has the advantage of the double freight, the raw material going to England and the manufactured goods coming to Australia.
Colonel Evans was sent to Australia by the British Empire Cotton Corporation for the express purpose of supplying information to Governments here, and providing expert advice, on the growing of cotton. I had many conversations with him, because I was the member of the Government administering the Commonwealth guarantees. His summing up of the position regarding the cotton industry in Australia was this: - Whilst it is a fact that we are in competition with cheap ‘ coloured-labour countries in this project, experience has shown that Australia is remarkably adapted for producing a longstaple high-grade cotton, and, as in other cases, the best place in the cotton market is at the top. In the production of highgrade long-staple cotton there is not the same competition that there is in the lower-grade and short-staple article. The aim of Colonel Evans while he was here was to educate the growers in Queensland to produce a high-grade longstaple cotton. Much testing of differentvarieties took place, and it was found as the result of experience that by using Durango seed Queensland growers were able to- produce this high-quality cotton, which brought 2d. per lb., lint price, over American middling in the world’s markets. The higher grades brought even more than that, and the prices are such that, if we can produce for the bulk of our crop, cotton of that class, there is a prospect of being able to compete successfully in the world’s markets under Australian labour conditions. But, unfortunately, only a certain percentage of a crop consists of high-grade cotton; a considerable proportion of it is low-grade short-staple cotton. There is a market for this, however, for the manufacture of cotton yarn, and if we encouraged that manufacture in Australia, and consumed locally the lower-grade short-staple product, we could sell the high-grade longstaple cotton profitably in the markets of the world. That could be done without excessive protection, because the cotton manufacturer would otherwise have to import from overseas low-grade and shortstaple cotton. By producing it in. Australia, the freight on that cotton would be saved, and that would represent a substantial protection to the locally-grown article. The total Australian crop, estimated at 9,500,000 lb. of seed cotton, is equivalent to 3,150,000 lb. of cotton lint. Last year, 1924-25, the production was practically 17,000,000 lb., equal to about 5,600,000 lb. of cotton lint. At present there are established in the Commonwealth various spinning mills, capable of utilizing 1,500,000 lb. of cotton lint annually, or about half of this year’s estimated seed cotton production. That is a most interesting feature of the industry. As will have been seen from the figures submitted, the resuscitation of the cotton-growing industry in Queensland has resulted in a steady increase in production. Commencing with the year 1920-21, when the production amounted to nearly 1,000,000 lb., the figures have increased as follows: -
The industry, aided by the Government to the extent of 1.619d. per lb., increased nearly 400 per cent, in four years in competition with the world. That is important when considering the amount of the bounty. With a guaranteed price a little over what is now proposed in the way of a bounty, and without any assistance at all to the cotton yarn industry, the production in Australia increased, in four years, from nearly 1,000,000 lb. per annum to nearly 17,000,000 lb. per annum; The assistance that the growers have already received from the States and the Commonwealth has averaged 1.619d. per lb. The proposals now submitted will be more advantageous to them. The Government has come to the conclusion that the basis of any economic proposals to develop the cotton-growing industry must be the production of raw material for manufacturing development here, rather than that it should be regarded as an export industry which would have to compete with the very cheap labour engaged in cotton growing in other parts of the world.
The question of a bounty ou cotton yarn also was investigated by the Tariff Board, which has furnished two reports. The board recommended the payment, under certain conditions, of a flat-rate bounty of 6d. per lb., on cotton yarn spun in Australia, if 50 per cent, of locally-grown cotton were used. The Government, having very exhaustively considered the matter, does not agree to a flat-rate bounty of 6d. per lb., for the reason that a flatrate bounty fails to take into consideration that the cost of manufacturing cotton yarn of differing counts or degrees of fineness shows very wide variation. For instance, it is possible in a given time to
Spin about 30 times as much weight of yarn of No. 1 count as of No. 30 count. That being so, if a flat rate were adopted, the amount of bounty would be about 30 times as much on the coarser yarns as it would be on the finer yarns, although the amount of labour expended would vary almost in the same ratio up to this point.
– The Tariff Board seems to have overlooked that point.
– If cotton textiles of all descriptions were woven from cotton yarn of a uniform size or thickness, a flat rate would be applicable; but in actual weaving practice, counts ranging from No. 1 up to at least 100, and varying from the string-like lower counts in coarse yarns to the very finest and thinnest counts utilized in the very best quality and finest cotton goods and textiles, are. used. In the trade the fineness of cotton yarn is indicated by counts, commencing with No. 1, which measures 840 yards to the 1 lb. of finished yarn. An additional length of 840 yards of yarn of consequently diminished thickness is added for every further count; so that 1 lb. of No. 5 count would have a length of 840 yards multiplied by five, or 4,200 yards; No. 10 would be double the length of No. 5, and consequently, of only half the thickness; No. 20 would give nearly 10 miles to the 1 lb. ; No. 30 would give a length of 30 times 840 yards, and so’ on. In low counts, or coarse yarns, that yield is higher per lb. of “ cotton spun, or the waste is lower, than in the fine counts, in which the waste is high. The finer the yarn produced, the heavier the waste of cotton. The finest yarns are spun from Sea Island and . Egyptian cotton; medium counts from Brazilian, Peruvian, and South African cotton ; and the coarse counts from Indian cotton. Compared with these, Australian cotton, which averages from lj to li inches in staple, should produce a medium count. The wages cost per lb. is proportionately small for the coarser counts. One employee might turn out about 33 lbs. per week on each spindle he attends; but for the finer yarn the output of the same spindle, from this very large quantity, might be only 1 lb. or % lb. a week. The wages cost per lb. would, of course, vary correspondingly. Thus, it will be seen that the cost of raw material, as well as the manufacturing costs, increases according to the fineness of the count of cotton yarn. A flat rate, which fails to discriminate between the varying grades of cotton yarn, cannot effectively and economically develop the industry. In fact, a flat rate would be ridiculous, for it would encourage manufacturers to confine their attention to the coarser counts, and discourage any attempt to spin the finer ones. Even the applicants themselves have admitted the defects of the board’s proposal. The question is mainly one of quality, and this is a phase of the matter which, apparently, was not considered by the Tariff Board. Investigation has shown clearly that the cost of producing cotton yarn increases with the fineness of the count, and, after very careful and detailed consideration, it is on that basis that the Government proposes that the bounty shall be granted.
The value of the importations into the Commonwealth of cotton and manufactures of cottonaverages more than £13,000,000 per annum, whilst the importations of cotton yarns, mercerized and “ n.e.i. “ have increased from £310,738 in 1921-22 to £495,010 in 1925-26. The comparative import figures for cotton yarns are -
It is proposed to continue the bounty on yarn for five years, or until the deferred duty operates, in order to give stability to the industry. The establishment and equipment of factories will take at least twelve months. The graduated bounty proposed on yarn approximates the deferred duties of 20 per cent., 25 per cent., and 35 per cent., passed by this Parliament. A duty of 5 per cent. on foreign yarn is already in operation; that also should, to some extent, ease foreign competition. To spin the cotton grown by 6,000 mixed farmers would provide fulltime employment for 2,000 spinners. The bounty paid on seed cotton will probably be 40 per cent. of its value, whilst the bounty paid on yarn, probably 5d. per lb. on the average, will be about 22½ per cnt. of the value of the finished product.
I submit this bill with confidence. It may be argued that the Government proposes to bounty-feed an industry which cannot live; but having given several years’ study to this industry, during which I have acquired some knowledge of it, and having met men who are expert in its various phases - we have some experts in Austrialia to-day; entomologists who are studying the diseases of the cotton plant, plant breeders who are investigating the most suitable plant for our climate, as well as men who have brought the industry to a successful issue in other countries, among whom is Colonel Evans - I am satisfied that it can be successfully established in Australia. These authorities are convinced that, given scientific assistance in the direction of the breeding of plants, the treatment of the insect pests that affect the plants, and production generally, there is every hope of this industry being successfully established in the Commonwealth. In considering this bill, honorable senators should not lose sight of the important part which cotton plays in the manufacture of munitions, and, consequently, might play in the defence of Australia. To have the cotton industry established in the Commonwealth would be a very valuable asset in the event of war.
SenatorFoll. - What is proposed in connexion with ratoon cotton?
– That will be determined by regulation and by the growers themselves.
– Does this bill apply only to Australia, or to its territories as well?
– It does not apply to the territories, with the exception of the Northern Territory. In the other territories under the control of the Commonwealth cheap coloured labour is available. The Senate may be interested to know that the cotton industry has been successfully established in Papua, and is being established in New Guinea.
– What return per acre do the farmers get from their cotton?
– The best evidence of their success is that they are increasing the area under production.
– Cotton growing is not their main industry?
– No; but associated with dairying it is a valuable side line.
– Does Australia comprise much land suitable for cottongrowing ?
– Colonel Evans says that Australia possesses millions of acres of land suitable for the growing of cotton. Cotton is a drought-resisting plant, and the verdict of Colonel Evans is that both the climate and the land of the Northern Territory are suitable for its production. Already several farmers are growing it there, and are doing very well. They are extending the area under cultivation.
– The crop is not harvested by machinery.
– No; it is all hand picked. I understand that experiments are now being made in the United States of America to produce a mechanical cotton picker, but at present the work is all done by hand. The boll from which the cotton is produced does not ripen evenly, and for that reason it must be hand picked. The cotton industry is, therefore, suitable for men with families who can assist in the picking. The Government feels justified in granting this assistance to an industry which will tend to the development of the northern portions of Australia by a white population.
– The speed with which legislation is being dealt with makes it difficult for honorable senators , to give full consideration to the measures which come before them.. 1 have not had time to study the bill carefully, but I understand that its object is to provide a bounty on cotton seed and cotton yarn produced in Australia. The way in which the Government is adopting planks from the Labour party’s platform at which it used to scoff reminds me of the line from Goldsmith - Andfools, who came to scoff, remained to pray.
Almost every day the Government introduces a bill to nationalize some industry, using the country’s revenue to buttress private enterprise. Should the Government remain in office, it will, before long, have appropriated much of the Labour party’s platform.
– All its sound planks.
– The honorable senator has ridiculed the. Labour party’s platform, but he frequently supports proposals in accordance with it. I congratulate the Government on its educational advance.For a period of five years it proposes to grant bounties on seed cotton and cotton yarn, to the extent of £120,000 and £60,000 per annum respectively. In the case of seed cotton the bounty will be l½d. per lb. for the higher grades, and¾ d. per lb. for the lower grades. During the last election campaign, the Leader of the Opposition in another place (Mr. Charlton) stated that if the Labour party were returned to power, legislation would be introduced to provide a bounty of 2d. per lb. on seed cotton. The Prime Minister also intimated that he would introduce legislation, but did not indicate what the amount of the bounty would be. This measure provides for a bounty of lid. per lb. The Tariff Board, in its report of the 6th July, 1925, made the following recommendations : -
Seventh year -1¾d. per lb.
Eighth year -1½d. per lb.
Ninth year -1¼d. per lb.
Tenth year -1d. per lb.
I would have preferred this measure to be on the lines of the Tariff Board’s report and recommendations, rather than as proposed.
– Would the honorable senator pay the same bounty for lowgrade as for high-grade cotton ?
– The Governhas not accepted all the recommendations of the Tariff Board. I understand that the proposal contained in the bill is in conformity with a request made on behalf of the growers in May, 1925. Since then, the Tariff Board has made an inquiry into the proposal, and its recommendations are based on the evidence taken from growers. At that time American middling cotton was realizing 13d. per lb. on the Liverpool market, which governs the world’s parity. Now, according to a statement made by the Minister for Trade and Customs, the price of American middling is only lOd. per lb. The bounty of 2d. per lb. recommended by the Tariff Board, and the promise made by the Leader of my party during the last election campaign, would be equal to the guaranteed average price of 44 d. per lb. paid by the Commonwealth and the Queensland Governments last year. In the circumstances, I think the Ministry should have accepted the recommendation of -the Tariff Board.
– Does the price fluctuate very much in the Liverpool market?
– Tes. In 1925 the price for middling was 13d. per lb., and now it is lOd. No doubt there have been considerable fluctuations between those margins. The development of the cotton-growing industry in Australia should lead to the expansion of our secondary industries, and help to make Australia a self-contained nation. The bill is an experiment. I hope that the project will be successful.
– It will be a costly experiment if it fails.
– That is true; but Australia is a young and virile nation, and, I have no doubt, will be able to withstand the loss, if a loss should occur. At all events, the experiment is worth while; but I hope that no attempt will be made to exploit child labour.
– Our industrial legisla-. tion should prevent any . attempt to do that.
– I understand that there are very good prospects of the industry being developed in the Northern Territory. When I visited the Territory many years ago with a party of members of this Parliament, I saw cotton growing on many areas not far distant from Darwin. As the climatic conditions are favorable, it should be possible for Australia to become a great cotton-producing country. I hope that the payment of this bounty will have the effect, of estab lishing the industry on a satisfactory basis.
– The bill opens up a very interesting subject for discussion, especially in view of the fact that during the last few years the people of Australia have realized how important it is that we should endeavour to develop the textile industry by means of raw products grown in this country. I listened to the right honorable the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) when introducing the bill, and I endorse much of what he said concerning the industry. Whilst in Queensland recently I visited a number of cotton ginneries and localities where cotton was growing, and from what I saw I believe that we can look for a satisfactory development of the textile industry in Australia in association with this new agricultural industry of cotton growing. It is important, however, to bear in mind that the project will be doomed to failure if an attempt is made to grow cotton on large areas. It will be impossible to carry on the industry if, owing to the aggregation of cotton-0 growing areas, Australian rates of wages have to be paid, and Australian labour conditions observed. The cultivation of the plant must be limited to small areas, otherwise the industry will collapse like a pack of cards. It is essentially a small man’s industry.
– It will , be economically impossible to develop it in Australia in any other way.
– Exactly. That fact should be borne in mind. The latest report of the Director of Agriculture in Queensland, published in January, 1924, shows that the areas under cultivation were - 5 acres, 2,275; 5 acres to 10 acres, 1,522; 10 acres to 20 acres, 996; 20 acres to 50 acres, 567 ; over 50 acres, 84. From my own personal knowledge of the industry, and from conversations with people who know more about it than I do, I am satisfied that, if it is to be developed successfully, it must be limited to areas of from 10 to 20 acres. It must be regarded as a side line, to be carried on by the small farmer with the aid of his family. I think . there is Utile danger of child labour being exploited in connexion with it, as feared by Senator Needham.
– There will be the risk of the education of the children being neglected.
– Education is compulsory in Australia up to the age of fourteen years.
-Does the honorable senator think there is any probability of an attempt to carry on the industry in a big way?
– I am afraid there will be.
SenatorMcLachlan. - But how will it be possible to make it pay?
– Some people will attempt to establish an industry at any cost, provided they can make the people pay for it. This is evident from observations we have heard in this Chamber and elsewhere concerning the industry, Sir Hugh Denison, to whom I wrote on this subject some time ago, agreed with my view that cotton growing should be regarded as a purely domestic industry, and kept to small areas. I have already referred to the possibility of a secondary industry of very great importance being established in association with this new primary industry. Some time ago, Messrs. Crompton Wood and Harold Parker, together with an Egyptian cotton expert visited Australia, as representatives of the British Cotton Association, to inquire into the possibility of growing cotton on a commercial scale in this country. I am sure they went away with the impression that it could be developed as a commercial proposition in the Commonwealth. At that time the price of cotton in the world’s market was very high, but to-day it is much less. When the delegation to which I have referred was in Melbourne, I specially came from Tasmania to interview its members concerning the cotton textile manufacturing industry, and they assured me that they were satisfied that cotton could be commercially grown in Australia at the prices which were then ruling. We have now come to the point when the industry” has to be subsidized, because the world’s prices have fallen. It is appalling to realize the ignorance which prevails in Great Britain concerning the conditions generally in Australia. An ex-governor of Victoria (Earl Stradbroke) paid a visit to the works of Horrocks, Crewdson and Company, a British firm of cotton textile manufacturers, and was extremely interested in the enormous plant which he saw being so successfully operated. At a luncheon which followed the inspection Earl Stradbroke said that cotton growing in Australia was assured, but cotton textile manufacturing or cotton spinning was an open question. In reply to that statement the managing director of Horrocks, Crewdson and Company said that he was satisfied that the cotton could be commercially grown in Australia, but cotton spinning and textile manufacturing was impossible, because the hot, arid climatic conditions were such that the cotton would break in the process . of spinning. When that statement appeared I suggested to the Premier of Tasmania that a cable be dispatched to the AgentGeneral in London informing him that there was at least one State in the Commonwealth where not only were the climatic conditions satisfactory, but everything necessary was available for the cotton textile industry to be successfully carried on. When I informed the delegation what Tasmania had to offer I was informed that certain climatic conditions were not absolutely essential, because means were now provided for the production of artificial humidity but that, although not essential, they were highly desirable. I mention this matter to show that the Commonwealth authorities, and also the State Government concerned, should apprise the commercial men of England of what we have to offer, so that British capital may be invested and Australia given an opportunity to extend her secondary industries. In looking through the bill I find that clause 10 provides the conditions of employment, and also the wages to be paid in the industry.
– That is very essential.
– It is. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Needham) referred in particular to that provision. I do not think that it will apply to the production of cotton, but only to the manufacture of cotton yarn. For a long time I have taken a great interest in the establishment of the cottongrowing industry in Australia, and I trust :hat the aid now proposed will not only he the means of establishing a primary- industry, which we trust will be successfully maintained, but will also result in the establishment of further secondary industries.
As it seems to he the established policy to pay bounties I may, perhaps, be pardoned if I say that there are other languishing industries in Australia which are as important as the cotton industry.
– There is, for instance, the gold mining industry.
– Yes, but I am thinking more particularly of the applegrowing industry. We are now being asked to support a necessary proposal to assist a new industry, but we should remember that those engaged in other industries have also found it difficult to carry on. It is true that we cannot profitably export our raw cotton because of the falling off in the world’s prices, but that is also the position in which the annie growers are placed. For the last four or five years .the industry has been in a parlous condition, and, during the last season, although the prospects seemed all that could be desired, the export trade has been so disastrous that many of the growers will not receive any return. An appeal was made to the Minister for Markets and Migration for some assistance to those engaged in the industry, but up to the present there has been ho response. I am willing to give reasonable assistance to establish new industries, and to maintain existing industries. The apple-growing industry is one of the most important in Australia, because it employs a large number of persons who use the products of other industries, and if its operations are unsuccessful, other industries will be affected. If it is the accepted policy of Australia to grant bounties to all industries needing assistance, every industry should be treated alike. I trust the Minister will bring under the notice of the Minister for Markets and Migration the facts which I have placed before the Senate this morning.
– I realize that if at this late stage of the sittings I took the action I should like to take to secure an increased bounty for the growers, it would perhaps have the effect of wrecking the bill. That is the last thing I wish to do, because, although the. proposed bounty of ltd per lb. to the growers is certainly inadequate, without it they would not be able to carry on at all. I regret that the payment of a bounty of 2d. per lb., as recommended by the Tariff Board, has not been favorably considered by the Government. The board made out an exceedingly good case for the higher rate, although it made a serious blunder in failing to take into account the effect on the industry that the payment of a flat rate bounty on cotton yarn would have. That, fortunately, has been rectified by Cabinet. Unfortunately, in the transition stage between the change over from the guaranteed price system to that of the payment of a bounty, the growers find themselves face to face with a considerable falling off in the price of cotton in the world’s market, so that side by side with the reduced price we have decreased assistance from the Government. Figures dealing with this phase of the question have been quoted from the Tariff Board’s report, but I think that by means of a few generalizations I shall be able to convey to honorable senators a clearer appreciation of the position. The guaranteed price was 5d. and 54<1. per lb., and, as compared with that, the bounty of 1 1/2 d. per lb. really means only 4d. per lb. to the grower. In conjunction with the decreased price we have a reduction in the financial assistance to be given by the Government. The functioning of the bounty on cotton yarn is also relied upon to assist the grower; but from one to three years may elapse before its full benefit is felt by them. That being so, the grower is up against a tough proposition, and will have difficulty in making ends meet.
– What percentage of the locally-grown cotton is used locally?
– Eighty per cent.
– Most of it has been exported in the past.
– Eighty per cent, of the cotton used by Bond’s is Australiangrown.
– The provision of £120,000 a year will not by any means be drawn upon. The heaviest production we have had in any one year is 17,000,000 lb., and 1 have it on very good authority that for the present season, owing to the unfortunate drought .conditions, it will not be more than 6,000,000 lb.
– How much cotton has to be produced before the bounty can be claimed ?
– Provision is made for the payment of the bounty on ‘ 19,200,000 lb. a year, which in three years means a total of 57,600,000 lb. Assuming that for this year we have a production of 10,000,000 lb.- which I consider is a very liberal estimate - that we produce 15,000,000 lb. in the second year, and 20,000,000 lb. in the third year, we should have a ‘.total of only 45,000,000 lb. I am quite sure that that will not be exceeded, although provision is made for a production of 57,600,000 lb. That being so, there is no reason why the Government should not have agreed to grant a bounty of 2d. per lb. for three years and then revert to 1 1/2 d. per lb. for the remaining two years.
– Then the honorable senator does not consider that the bounty will encourage production?
– I do.”
– That being so, the honorable senator should allow for an increase.
– I am allowing for a 50 per cent, increase in the next three years. Senator Pearce has pointed out that the increase has in the past ranged up to as high as 400 per cent. I hope that that will not be absent in the future. I do not anticipate as great an increase, however, because the industry is getting on a more stable basis. The speculative cottonfarmer is gradually going out, “because he has burnt his fingers. I agree with other honorable senators that the man in a big way is not likely to make a great deal of profit. Bond and Co., of Sydney, planted 1,000 acres at Archer, on the Gladstone-Rockhampton line, and a further 800. acres at Marlborough, on the Rockhampton-Mackay line. Although I have no actual knowledge of the result, I believe that those plantings were not profitable. It may be possible, by introducing greater efficiency, to make larger areas profitable. Large areas are not planted in the United States of America, and the costs in that country are not lower that they are in Australia.
– What about the cost of picking the cotton?
– Cottonpicking labour is not cheaper in the “United States of America than it is in Queensland, although it may be carried on more expertly. I understand that a picker in that country is paid 15s. a day. That is a very fair wage. I believe, with the Minister, that we shall have to rely upon the operations of small farmers with families for the major portion of the output. In the remarks which I addressed to the motion for the second reading of the Development and Migration Bill, I expressed the opinion that no other industry offered greater opportunities than this for settling migrants on the land. It is essentially a proposition for a man in a small way, or one with a family, and we could’ not have better settlers than those who have families. I do not anticipate any trouble such as Senator Needham apprehends, in the direction of the employment of child labour, because in Queensland, as in other parts of Australia, we have, beneficent legislation which provides that children must attend school until they reach the ace of fourteen years. I know a family of girls in the Dawson Valley whose ages range from fifteen to nineteen or twenty years, and their wages during the cotton-picking season average from 15s. to £1 a day. They first pick the cotton on their own farm, and then do the same “work on adjoining farms. That represents a splendid addition to the income of the settler. I realize that, at this late stage of the sittings, we must accept the bounty that has been offered. If I succeeded in inducing the Senate to request the House of Representatives to increase the rate to 2d. per lb., the bill might be withdrawn, and in the meantime no assistance would be given to the growers. If we accept the gift that the gods send us, and find that l£d. per lb. is not sufficient to enable the farmer to carry on, we can legitimately ask at a later date for an increase to 2d. per lb. I hope that, in the light of the experience which time will undoubtedly supply, the Government will recognize the wisdom of granting the extra½d. per lb. Subject to a certain measure of protest, I support the bill.
– I am in favour of the Government’s proposals. The Minister’s introductory remarks convince me that cotton can be profitably grown in various portions of the Commonwealth. The right honorable gentleman pointed out that it is being grown in the Northern Territory, and can be produced there in large quantities.
– They want coloured labour there.
– That is not so. Cotton, with a long staple, is being grown in Western Australia, but not to any extent. I am not sufficiently expert to state whether the length of the staple is affected by climatic conditions or the soil. I recently visited the factory of Bond and Company, in Sydney, and was shown by the manager what was being done with cotton. I believe him to be an expert in that line of business. He informed me that the Queensland cotton is equal, if not superior, to that obtained from any other part of the world. Eighty per cent. of the cotton that is used in his establishment is grown in Australia. That firm has invested a great deal of money in the establishment of mills to deal with this product, and it is prepared to have other mills erected in the different States. We should, therefore, give it every encouragement. I have a little knowledge of the textile industry, and I am satisfied that in the future cotton will be mixed with Australian wool for both ladies’ and gentlemen’s wearing apparel, and to a very large extent that product will replace artificial silk. We should, therefore, endeavour to encourage those who are prepared to engage in the industry. The cotton goods that are turned out in Australia are in colour, pattern, weight, and every other respect superior to any that are imported. The Government is acting rightly in granting a bounty to encourage the industry to increase its output, but I am sorry that it not to be given over a more extended period. In a few years we shall probably be able to produce all that we require in that direction, and it will not be necessary to procure any of our supplies from abroad. If the growth of cotton can be undertaken simultaneously with other farming operations, it should prove highly profitable. One honorable senator said that the cotton plant is not immune from the effects of drought; but, on the other hand, the Minister said that it was a drought-resisting plant.
– It is not.
– The Minister is quite right. Once the plant is properly started, it is really drought resisting, but it requires a rainfall at the time that it is planted.
– It is claimed to be a godsend in dry and arid parts. If that is so, we should cultivate it in various portions of Australia. The bill has my whole-hearted support. Anything that can be produced in Australia at a fair price will be given every encouragement by me.
– In supporting this bill we are merely following what has become an established practice in relation to industry in the Commonwealth. Few, if any, of the products of our industries, particularly secondary industries, can be profitably exported. The irresistible conclusion is that these industries cannot be carried on without some form of government assistance. We should take stock of many of our industries to ascertain the state into which they are getting. Cotton growing is largely a speculative industry, because it has not yet been definitely proved that it can be carried on at a profit. Senator Thompson complained that the bounty which the Government proposes to give is not equal to that which was recommended by the Tariff Board. He said that he refrained from attempting to have it increased because the session was so near its close that such action might result in the laying aside of the bill. But he expressed the hope that twelve months hence the Government would see its way clear to increase the bounty now offered. Care should be taken that we do not encourage the growers to produce cotton to such an extent that it will be impossible for them to find a profitable market in Australia, or they may find themselves in a position similar to that of the sugar growers.
SenatorCrawford- And the apple growers.
– I shall refer to them in a moment. I favour encouraging the production of sugar in Australia in sufficient quantities to satisfy the needs of the country, but sugar is exported from Australia in large quantities, at prices which show a loss on the cost of production. Although I favour assistance to infant industries by means of bounties, there should be a reasonable prospect of commercial production eventually, and ability to compete in the world’s markets in the event of surplus production.
SenatorCrawford. - It is difficult to produce the exact quantity required for local consumption. Sometimes there are prolific crops, and there are also lean years.
– Instead of the bounties being reduced, they are invariably increased. An honorable senator from Queensland has already expressed the hope that the bounty of l½d. per lb. on cotton will be increased to 2d. per lb. I am obliged to the’ Minister (Senator Crawford) for reminding me of the needs of the apple industry. Although it has experienced profitable years in the past, the return received by the growers this year was frorn 20 to 25 per cent. belowthe production cost, which is approximately 12s. a bushel. The average price received for 2,000,000 cases was between 8s 6d. and 9s. All that the growers ask is that the difference between the price realized and the cost of production should be made up to them for one year. I was assured, in reply to a question that I asked On this subject, ‘‘that the request of the growers would be considered; but, although the representations were made by the fruitgrowers throughout the Commonwealth, the Government has not indicated its intentions in the matter. I support the bill, because it is consistent - with the policy of the Government regarding other industries. I hope that, during the recess, Ministers will give favorable consideration to the claims of other industries. I am convinced that we have not heard the last of the bounty on cotton.
Judging by the experience of the past, we shall be asked again at a later date to consider the claims of this industry.
– I sincerely hope that the Minister’s expectations regarding the cotton industry will be realized. There is always difficulty in launching infant industries, but, in all probability a bounty in the initial stages will enable the cottongrowers to establish themselves on a commercial basis, so that they will not require permanent assistance from the Government. Eventually, however, our industries must be independent- of bounties. In many instances, a bounty is preferable to a duty. The latter is paid only by the persons who purchase the goods on which the duty is levied, but all the taxpayers contribute- to the funds from which bounties are provided. If the industry proves advantageous to the country, the community receives the benefit, and, in the event of loss, the whole of the people should be prepared to share it. The following table indicates the increase in cotton production in Queensland : -
The present total annual value of the production is about £300,000. Those figures will give some indication of the manner in which the cotton industry has developed in Queensland. The granting of this bounty will probably enable it to become one of the greatest industries in this country. For the two years ended the 30th June, 1924, Australia exported cotton to the value of approximately £500,000. Presumably it was exported at a profit, so that there is some hope for the future of the industry. During the same period Australia imported manufactured cotton goods to the value of £33,000,000. That should not have been. While we may not be able to export manufactured cotton goods and compete in the markets of the world with the goods of countries where cheap coloured labour is employed, we should at least manufacture our own cotton requirements. I hope that in the near future this industry will have so developed that thousands of persons will be employed in it. The cotton crop of the United States of America fluctuates considerably. In 1914, 15,000,000 bales of cotton were produced in that country; in 1921, the crop was only 7,953,641 lb. I do not think that the fluctuations in Australia will be anything like that. While it is said that dry seasons affect the cotton crop, I understand that a dry spell at certain periods of the growth of the plant has very little effect on it. The Government has acted wisely in introducing legislation to provide for bounties, not only to the cottongrowers, but also to the manufacturers of cotton yarn. For the firm of Bond’s Limited, which has a large establishment in Sydney, I have a great admiration, because of the manner in which it treats its employees. In that respect, it sets a good example to other employers in this country. The company has discovered what many of us have known for a long time, namely, that better results are obtained from employees when they are treated with consideration. Some time ago, I visited that firm’s establishment in Sydney, and saw there numbers of machines which were idle because there was not enough work for them to do. The result of this legislation should be to set those machines in motion, and to provide further employment. The firm manufactures cotton . yarn into towelling and other articles, and I am informed that, as the result of an increased output, the price of towelling has been reduced. I trust that the Australian people will be patriotic enough to purchase Australian-made goods, and thus assist to make Australia a country of which they may justly be proud.
– I was impressed with the clear and concise manner in which the Leader of the Government (Senator Pearce) explained this measure. It was evident to all honorable senators that the Minister was convinced as to the ultimate effect of this bounty. The object of the bill is to encourage the establishment of a new industry in the northern portions of Australia, and, incidentally, to settle additional people on the land. I offer no objection to that, but I point out that it is equally essential to Australia’s future prosperity that the men already on the land should be kept there, as that new settlement should be encouraged. All the arguments that have been advanced in favour of a bounty on cotton could, with equal force, be advanced in favour of the industries already existing in southern Australia, but which, so far, have received no assistance. Many apple-growers in Tasmania are relinquishing their holdings because, as a result of bad seasons, they are unable to make them pay. I hope that before the session closes an announcement will be made that the Government intends to assist them. Senator Hoare said that he had visited a cotton-spinning mill in Sydney, where he saw lying idle machinery which he hoped would be set in motion as a result of this bounty. I could show the honorable senator, in every part of Tasmania, machinery which is lying idle because of competition from cheap-labour countries. Without additional protection, the timber industry of Tasmania is unable to hold its own in the world’s markets. Some of the timber which comes here is produced under conditions which would not be tolerated in Australia, and the freight, to Australia from the country of origin is less than that from Tasmania to the Australian mainland. I understand that another inquiry is to be made into the Tasmanian timber industry. It is to be hoped that, as a result, some relief will be granted to those engaged in it. So far, no tangible assistance has been given to them.Recently, I met in conference a number of potato-growers from Victoria and Tasmania. Something should also be done to assist them. When Parliament adjourns, Queensland members will be able to go back to their constituents and tell them what Parliament has done to assist Queensland industries;but what will honorable senators representing Tasmania have to report to their constituents ?
– A grant has been made to Tasmania.
– I do not desire to refer to that grant now. As a result of the report of the royal commission that inquired into the disabilities of Tasmania, the Government wisely and generously legislated to make that State a grant of £378,000. ‘ I hope, however, that that grant will not be contingent on the success of another Government proposal, concerning which there is a great difference of opinion. If the Government can find some thousands of pounds to assist the cotton -growers of Queensland, it should also be able to do something to assist the apple-growers of Tasmania, who this year have received nothing for their labour. I am getting tired of voting to. assist other industries when the timber and fruitgrowing industries of Tasmania, concerning which the same arguments in support of assistance can be advanced, are denied help. Are we not all Australians, and most of us Federalists? Surely federation does not mean that the weakest go to the wall ! Are the saw-millers and fruit-growers of Tasmania to receive nothing for their year’s labour? I ask honorable senators, especially those on the other side of the chamber, how thuy would like to work for a year and receive no return ? The Government is acting wisely in encouraging new industries; but it is just as essential that the industries already established should be en- abled to continue. I shall not oppose the bill, but I am strongly of the opinion that Tasmanian industries are not receiving proper consideration.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
The following paper was presented : -
Commonwealth Railways Act - By-law No. 39.
– In moving -
That the Senate do now adjourn,
I desire to express to honorable senators my appreciation, as the Leader of the Government in the Senate, of the consideration they have shown in enabling us to pass without delay the several measures introduced towards the close of the session.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 1.5 p.m. until a date to be fixed.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 13 August 1926, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1926/19260813_senate_10_114/>.