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Tuesday, 2 April 1957
Page: 406

Mr RIORDAN (Kennedy) .- It was not my intention to take part in this debate, but I have been inspired by the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight) and the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Pearce) to say that, as the representative of a Queensland electorate, I support this measure. As the honorable member for Lilley has said, it is a machinery bill to guarantee a certain price to cottongrowers. The honorable member for Lilley said that the cotton industry was abandoned by the Chifley Government. That is not true. As the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) pointed out when he spoke on behalf of the Opposition, what happened was that, in 1949, the Tariff Board, which had been investigating a request made to it by the industry, recommended that no action be taken by the Government, because it was felt that, even if the request were acceded to, that would not give a fillip to the industry. That recommendation of the Tariff Board was accepted by the Chifley Government. As far as I know, the members of the board were not Labour men. The

Tariff Board was set up by an anti-Labour government, not by the Chifley Government or the Curtin Government. It is a government instrumentality, established for the purpose of giving advice to governments. The government of that day accepted is recommendation. 1 believe that the principal reason why the board made the recommendation was that labour was short and fertilizers were not available at that time, during the period of the war. Consequently, the cotton-growers had concentrated upon other activities, such as dairying, because of the higher returns. The prices of dairy products and other products were attractive ,and the growers were able to carry on. Owing to the labour shortage, in particular, they did not bother about the growing of cotton. In the period from 1931 to 1940, about 5,500,000 lb. of seed cotton was grown, but in the period from 1946 to 1948 production fell to about one-half of that rate, due to the fact that the prices of other commodities, such as beef and dairy produce, which were also produced by cotton-growers, were such as to encourage the growers to engage in those activities. In recent times, however, the position has been reversed. There has been a butter slump, for instance. Therefore, I think it is up to this Government to give some assistance to the people who are engaged in growing cotton.

There is every reason why people should be encouraged to engage in cotton production. If I remember rightly, our imports of cotton fibre in recent years have been worth about £8,000,000. That is one reason why I am so interested in the expansion of this industry, even though some of the expansion may be in New South Wales. If that happens, it will be all - to the good. Another reason why I am eager for the Government to continue to provide for a guaranteed price for cotton is that we can foresee that, in the not very far distant future, concentrated efforts will be made to extend irrigation and conserve the waters that now race away to the sea. Even in the United States of America, partial irrigation of cotton-growing districts has taken place. I believe that the undertaking of water conservation projects, together with an assurance of a guaranteed price for cotton, will enable the people who live in districts where cotton can be produced to speed the development of those districts. In that connexion, mention was made this afternoon of Moree, in New South Wales. For those reasons, if for no others, every encouragement, including a guaranteed price, should be given to people to go into the cotton-growing industry.

The honorable member for Capricornia has suggested that the Commonwealth Bank should make money available to cottongrowers so that they will be able to purchase equipment to mechanize the industry. One of the factors that has given a fillip to the production of cotton in this country is that, to some extent - I say " to some extent " advisedly - the difficulty of harvesting the product has been overcome by the use of mechanical pickers. They cost money. There are other ways in which cotton production could be mechanized, and funds should be made available to growers, particularly newcomers to the industry, to enable them to purchase the tractors and other equipment with which they could get greater production. Why should they have to pay exorbitant rates of interest to hire-purchase companies, when this Government, through the rural credits section of the Commonwealth Bank, could make money available to people who wished to embark on the growing of cotton, or who were already growing cotton, to procure machinery and irrigation plants? The money ought to be made available through the rural credits section of the Commonwealth Bank.

I support the bill with a great deal of pleasure because it represents an attempt to do something for a very deserving industry -the cotton-growing industry of Queensland.

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