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Tuesday, 2 April 1957

Mr BRIMBLECOMBE (Maranoa) . - As the representative of an electorate in which cotton-growing is making rapid progress, I have much pleasure in supporting the bill. I believe that, given sufficient encouragement, this is an industry that will make great strides forward in Queensland.

We have heard a lot said to-day about where cotton-growing is taking place in Queensland. In recent years, most of the cotton produced there has been grown on the eastern side of the ranges, particularly in the wetter area. However, as a result of research and mechanization, we have found that it is possible to grow some of the best grades of cotton in what are known as the drier areas. In my electorate, there is what is called box country, where some of the best cotton in the world is grown. Years ago, a ginnery was established at Dalby, at the eastern end of the electorate, but in those days, as the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) recognizes, the cotton-growers made the mistake of using for their purposes some of the richest country in Australia. Instead of growing cotton in that soil, in which cotton grows as high as trees, but has no bolls, they should have used some of the soil, so rich is it, to enrich the earth in other places, where fertilizers had to be used. However, that country has now been taken up for other purposes and cotton-growing has been pushed further out, into what we call the box-type country, with a 25-in. annual rainfall, where a finer, better and cleaner type of cotton is being grown. 1 do not know much about the cottongrowing industry - I grew cotton many years ago for a short time, but 1 got only 5d. per lb. for it, so I have not grown it since - but people who do know something about it forecast that in the Dawson electorate and the Capricornia electorate cotton-growing will soon be, so to speak, small potatoes. It will be pushed out even further. As a result of research and mechanization, we have found that cotton can be produced in the drier areas of the State, and I believe that that is where the bulk of our cottongrowing will take place in the future. The honorable member for Lalor referred to a Tariff Board report in which the board recommended that no assistance be given to the industry. He referred to certain passages of the report in which it was suggested that cotton could be used only as a rotational crop with Rhodes grass and things such as that. In the area about which I am speaking, that is not the case.

The growers appreciate this move by the Government to make earlier interim payments. If people are to be encouraged to invest money in this industry, they must have a guaranteed price for a long term. In my opinion, five years is hardly long enough. Most of these properties are equipped with tractors and the other machinery necessary for the preparation of the seed-bed, but they are not equipped with the machinery required for the cultivation of the crop. It is for that reason that so much cotton of the type shown to the House by the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight) this afternoon is produced. If we had a system similar to that in operation in America, it would be possible to harvest a cleaner crop, especially in the areas I represent. I repeat that if this industry is to be encouraged, if people are to be encouraged to invest in it, there must be a long-term arrangement in connexion with the guaranteed price. If that is done, I am convinced the industry will develop rapidly.

I, too, believe that it will be necessary to make finance available for the purchase of cotton-picking machinery. The socialist system of collective ownership of machinery under which when one farm has been harvested the machinery moves to another, will not be successful in the areas to which I have referred. It cannot be successful in this industry because it is essential that the cotton be picked immediately it is ready, if the product is to be of good quality. If a farmer is required to wait until the machinery has finished its work on some other farm, his crop may be ruined if, during the period of waiting, rain should fall. If that should happen, the crop would undoubtedly be destroyed. For that reason, collective ownership of machinery has proved unsuccessful in the grain-growing industry and will be unsuccessful in the cotton-growing industry. If finance is to be made available, it is essential that a start be made at the bottom, as it were.

I repeat that whilst the farmers are equipped for the preparation of seed-beds, they need machinery for the proper cultivation and harvesting of the crop. I have mentioned this before in connexion with not only the cotton-growing but also other primary industries. Many young people who are willing and anxious to take advantage of mechanization and adopt modern techniques in agriculture have been unable to do so because they have lacked finance. It is useless to manufacture all this modern machinery if the people engaged in the industry have not the money to purchase it. This applies just as much in the cottongrowing industry as it does in tobaccogrowing or any other primary industry. We must ensure that proper facilities are provided to encourage people who are willing to do so to engage in the industry. If we are not prepared to do that, then we can forget all about cotton-growing. In conclusion, I appeal to the Minister to give serious consideration to that aspect. If he will give some encouragement in that direction, we can be sure that the industry will look after itself.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time, and committed pro forma; progress reported.

Message recommending appropriation reported.

La committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral's message):

Motion (by Mr. McMahon) agreed to -

That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to amend the Cotton Bounty Act 1951- 1955.

Resolution reported and adopted.

In committee: Consideration resumed.

Clauses 1 to 3 - by leave - taken together and agreed to.

Clause 4 (Rate of bounty).

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