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Friday, 13 August 1926

Senator NEEDHAM (Western Australia) . - The speed with which legislation is being dealt with makes it difficult for honorable senators , to give full consideration to the measures which come before them.. 1 have not had time to study the bill carefully, but I understand that its object is to provide a bounty on cotton seed and cotton yarn produced in Australia. The way in which the Government is adopting planks from the Labour party's platform at which it used to scoff reminds me of the line from Goldsmith - Andfools, who came to scoff, remained to pray.

Almost every day the Government introduces a bill to nationalize some industry, using the country's revenue to buttress private enterprise. Should the Government remain in office, it will, before long, have appropriated much of the Labour party's platform.

Senator H Hays - All its sound planks.

Senator NEEDHAM - The honorable senator has ridiculed the. Labour party's platform, but he frequently supports proposals in accordance with it. I congratulate the Government on its educational advance.For a period of five years it proposes to grant bounties on seed cotton and cotton yarn, to the extent of £120,000 and £60,000 per annum respectively. In the case of seed cotton the bounty will be l½d. per lb. for the higher grades, and¾ d. per lb. for the lower grades. During the last election campaign, the Leader of the Opposition in another place (Mr. Charlton) stated that if the Labour party were returned to power, legislation would be introduced to provide a bounty of 2d. per lb. on seed cotton. The Prime Minister also intimated that he would introduce legislation, but did not indicate what the amount of the bounty would be. This measure provides for a bounty of lid. per lb. The Tariff Board, in its report of the 6th July, 1925, made the following recommendations : -

(1)   That a bounty be granted in respect of seed cotton-growing in Australia.

(2)   That the bounty be for a period of ten years from the date of coming into operation of the Bounty Act.

(3)   That during the first six years the bounty be at the rate of 2d. per lb. on all seed cotton other than such seed as would, under the present system of grading,as carried out by the Australian ginneries for the purpose of payment for seed, be graded into " D " or " XXX ".

(4)   That during the last four years the bounty be on a gradually diminishing scale, and that the rates for the respective years be as under: -

Seventh year -1¾d. per lb.

Eighth year -1½d. per lb.

Ninth year -1¼d. per lb.

Tenth year -1d. per lb.

I would have preferred this measure to be on the lines of the Tariff Board's report and recommendations, rather than as proposed.

Senator H Hays - Would the honorable senator pay the same bounty for lowgrade as for high-grade cotton ?

Senator NEEDHAM - The Governhas not accepted all the recommendations of the Tariff Board. I understand that the proposal contained in the bill is in conformity with a request made on behalf of the growers in May, 1925. Since then, the Tariff Board has made an inquiry into the proposal, and its recommendations are based on the evidence taken from growers. At that time American middling cotton was realizing 13d. per lb. on the Liverpool market, which governs the world's parity. Now, according to a statement made by the Minister for Trade and Customs, the price of American middling is only lOd. per lb. The bounty of 2d. per lb. recommended by the Tariff Board, and the promise made by the Leader of my party during the last election campaign, would be equal to the guaranteed average price of 44 d. per lb. paid by the Commonwealth and the Queensland Governments last year. In the circumstances, I think the Ministry should have accepted the recommendation of -the Tariff Board.

Senator McLachlan - Does the price fluctuate very much in the Liverpool market?

Senator NEEDHAM - Tes. In 1925 the price for middling was 13d. per lb., and now it is lOd. No doubt there have been considerable fluctuations between those margins. The development of the cotton-growing industry in Australia should lead to the expansion of our secondary industries, and help to make Australia a self-contained nation. The bill is an experiment. I hope that the project will be successful.

Senator McLachlan - It will be a costly experiment if it fails.

Senator NEEDHAM - That is true; but Australia is a young and virile nation, and, I have no doubt, will be able to withstand the loss, if a loss should occur. At all events, the experiment is worth while; but I hope that no attempt will be made to exploit child labour.

Senator Foll - Our industrial legisla-. tion should prevent any . attempt to do that.

Senator NEEDHAM - I understand that there are very good prospects of the industry being developed in the Northern Territory. When I visited the Territory many years ago with a party of members of this Parliament, I saw cotton growing on many areas not far distant from Darwin. As the climatic conditions are favorable, it should be possible for Australia to become a great cotton-producing country. I hope that the payment of this bounty will have the effect, of estab lishing the industry on a satisfactory basis.

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