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Thursday, 20 May 1920

Mr CORSER (WIDE BAY, QUEENSLAND) - There is only one place where it is done by niggers, elsewhere only white men are employed; and my contention is that this industry can be profitably carried on by white labour. It is stated in the report, on good authority, that a man can easily pick by hand from. 200 lbs. to 300 lbs. per day, showing a very good return for the worker ; indeed, it is stated that many of those employed have picked as much as 500 lbs. in a day, showing that this is not a black man's industry, but one for white men. Further, just as women and children engage in fruit-picking in Tasmania, they can engage in cotton-seed picking.

Mr Considine - We do not desire to have that class of labour introduced into this country.

Mr CORSER - We do not; but I am showing that the work can be done by women and children.

Mr Riley - I should say that the picking of 500 lbs. a day is an extreme performance.

Mr CORSER - My authority is the Bureau report, which I ask honorable members to read, and judge for themselves. In some parts of the United States, the cotton picking extends from ninety days up to six months, so that it affords pretty constant employment ; then the cotton is not all picked off the cotton bush in one picking, but very often extends to three and, in some cases up to five pickings, the cotton not flowering and ripening all at once.

I had some experience of this industry in Queensland at the time of the Civil War in America, when we were called upon to help making good the world's shortage, and when companies, in what is now my own electorate, produced cotton very profitably. When the Civil War was over, the price of labour went down very much indeed, and coloured labour was called upon for the greater part of the work. That is not so to-day, and as circumstances have so altered, I feel that we should do everything possible to establish this industry on a white-labour basis.

Mr Wienholt - Do you not think that the producers would presently ask for a big duty ?

Mr CORSER - I do not. If the Government were to extend the bonus from three years to six in order to encourage planting, I think that would prove all that is necessary. Honorable members can realize what an advantage it would be to us to produce a sufficient quantity of cotton, even for our own requirements.

Mr Riley - Do you think that Queensland is suitable for cottongrowing?

Mr CORSER - Yes ; and also many other parts of the Commonwealth. I saw it grown profitably in Queensland when prices were not so low as they subsequently became after the Civil War. I desire particularly to call attention to the fact that, although this Bureau of Science and Industry was designed to co-operate with similar institutions in the different States, that co-operation is not carried on in a business way. At the present time, I have a letter in my possession which shows that when a person engaged by the Queensland Bureau wrote to the Bureau in Melbourne asking for certain information, the reply was that he had better apply to his own Bureau. As the Queensland Bureau had employed this gentleman to obtain the information, the reply, I think, was a most peculiar one, showing that there is something wrong, although the information in the April number is valuable, and I hope that the Government and the Bureau of Science and Industry will get into touch with the Queensland Bureau and the bureaux of other States, with a view to the establishment of the cotton-growing industry. A large number of people in Queensland are taking the matter up, and, with very little encouragement, they would grow cotton successfully, and create a wonderful asset for the Commonwealth.

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