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Friday, 9 October 1931


Mr FORDE (Capricornia) (Minister for Trade and Customs) . - I move -

That thu bill be now read a second time.

The sole purpose of this measure is to alter one word in the definition of " flax " in the original act; that is, to substitute the word " scutched " for the word "combed." The present definition reads - " Flax " means the cleaned combed fibre of the flax plant prepared by retting or by mechanical or other processes.

As proposed to be amended, it will read - " Flax " means the cleaned scutched fibre of the flax plant,&c.

It hus been found that, as the definition now stands, bounty cannot be paid on flax fibre as actually produced in the Australian flax mills. This fibre is merely scutched, and not combed, combing being a process that is carried out in all flaxproducing countries by spinning factories after these factories have purchased scutched fibre from the flax mills.

At the time that the Flax and Linseed Bounties Act was introduced, the department was under the impression that the Australian flax mills produced a combed fibre. This, however, has been found not to be the case. In the meantime, a considerable amount of fibre has been produced under the act, and the legal advice of the Attorney-General's Department is to the effect that the act should be amended as proposed, so as to enable the bounty, earned properly and in good faith by the mills, to be paid to thorn.

To make the position quite clear, I may say that the fibre is produced by the flax mill from the stalk of the flax plant, which in appearance is much the same as wheat or oats. The mill produces a scutched fibre, on which it was the intention of the Government and Parliament to pay the bounty. As one of the conditions of the bounty, the act prescribes that the mill must pay to the growers of flax plants such prices as the Minister for Trade and Customs considers reasonable. I have just nominated reasonable prices for flax plants for the coming season, commencing in January, 1932.

Hope and twine makers, spinners, and factories who or which may manufacture other flax' products, purchase scutched fibre, which is used by them either in scutched form or after combing, according to the purpose of the purchaser. "No good purpose would be served by compelling the mills themselves to perform the additional process of combing, so as to comply with the act. That would merely increase the market value of the product, as it would then be a more finished and valuable product. As the act provides that bounty shall be paid at ad valorem rates, calculated on the Australian market value of the fibre, the only result of compelling the mills to adopt the additional process of combing would be to increase the actual amounts of bounty payable by the Government. Moreover, this innovation in the established practice of the trade would take away the process of combing from the twine, rope and spinning factories, and doubtless cause justifiable resentment. The bill is noncontentious, and I hope that it will be passed without delay.







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