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Friday, 3 August 1906

Mr KNOX (Kooyong) .- I shall support the motion for the second reading of the Bill, but I shall reserve to myself the right to ask the Minister to reconsider some of the items that appear in the schedule, and the incidence of the proposed bounties. We have in the dairying industry in Victoria an example of the successful application of the bounty system, and there is no doubt that bounties properly applied are very beneficial in their influence. I have another case in my mind, however, namely, that of the Victorian prospecting vote, and it appears to me that it is proposed to apply the bounties under the Bill in much the same way that that vote is distributed. If the whole or half of the amount now devoted to prospecting in Victoria were spent in one definite direction, beneficial results might ensue, but, under existing circumstances, the money is frittered away in carrying on a number of small and independent operations. I venture to think that the Bill has in it a very great deal of the same element. For instance, the whole of the amount proposed to be devoted to the bounties might be advantageously applied to conducting a systematic experiment in connexion with the cultivation of cotton in areas suitable for its growth. The importations of cotton into Great Britain are valued' at £^55,000,000 per annum, and the production of cotton would undoubtedly become one of out most important industries if it could be successfully carried on here. We have indisputable evidence that excellent cotton can be produced in countries situated between 40 degrees north and 35 degrees south of the Equator. Dr. Thomatis, the well-known Queensland expert, has been most succssful in experimenting with cotton, and has shown that with proper attention cotton can be grown in that State with enormous profit. I feel, therefore, that we should be perfectly justified in supporting the Minister if he brought down a businesslike scheme for the encouragement of the growth of cotton within the Commonwealth. The sum of ,£4,000 proposed to be devoted to bounties for the encouragement of cotton growing would be entirely inadequate. The Minister may not be aware that the British Association of Cotton Spinners, in Lancashire, are prepared to send experts to any part of the British Possessions for the purpose of giving information with regard to the production of cotton. I suggest that he should place himself in communication with that body. They have spent a considerable amount of money in Egypt, and have been successful in promoting the growth of cotton in that country. If the Minister had had any serious intention to encourage the production of cotton in Australia, he should have been prepared to devote a very much larger sum to the accomplishment of that object. We should arrange for the systematic cultivation of cotton under white labour conditions, in order to ascertain whether the industry can be successfully carried on here. So far as I can learn, cheap labour is required in other countries to carry on the work of picking the cotton and dressing it with due regard to economy. It has been stated, however,' that machinery is being introduced with successful results in the southern States of America. I hope that that is true. Whilst I should be only too glad to see the cotton growing industry established here, I would not be a party to any attempt to palter with it. A cotton mill was in operation at Ipswich, in Queensland, some little time ago, but it was closed down because of the failure of the growers to maintain a sumcent supply. I do not think that the industry would be helped on to any appre- ciable extent by the payment of a bonus of £4,000 per annum to the growers. We should endeavour to guard against making a mistake similar to that which has been committed in connexion with the Victorian prospecting vote. Although some portion of the money is usefully applied, the results obtained are entirely out of keeping with the large expenditure incurred. The vote is mainly of benefit to members of Parliament, who are able to obtain small grants for expenditure within their electorates. I should like to know how the bounties are to be allotted, and who will control the expenditure. We shall certainly require the assistance of experts to advise us in regard to the operations that are to be carried on under the Bill. As the honorable member for Gippsland pointed out, we are apparently starting at the wrong end. We ought to employ a number of experts capable of giving advice and assistance to those who desire to embark in the various industries that it is proposed to encourage. I shall support the second reading of the Bill, but I earnestly urge the Minister to consider the question of providing proper machinery for carrying it into effect. The principle of the Bill is all right, but I am afraid that unless the Minister proceeds on lines different from those which he has apparently laid down, the measure will fail to achieve its object.

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