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Friday, 13 August 1926

Senator PAYNE (Tasmania) . - The bill opens up a very interesting subject for discussion, especially in view of the fact that during the last few years the people of Australia have realized how important it is that we should endeavour to develop the textile industry by means of raw products grown in this country. I listened to the right honorable the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) when introducing the bill, and I endorse much of what he said concerning the industry. Whilst in Queensland recently I visited a number of cotton ginneries and localities where cotton was growing, and from what I saw I believe that we can look for a satisfactory development of the textile industry in Australia in association with this new agricultural industry of cotton growing. It is important, however, to bear in mind that the project will be doomed to failure if an attempt is made to grow cotton on large areas. It will be impossible to carry on the industry if, owing to the aggregation of cotton-0 growing areas, Australian rates of wages have to be paid, and Australian labour conditions observed. The cultivation of the plant must be limited to small areas, otherwise the industry will collapse like a pack of cards. It is essentially a small man's industry.

Senator McLachlan - It will , be economically impossible to develop it in Australia in any other way.

Senator PAYNE - Exactly. That fact should be borne in mind. The latest report of the Director of Agriculture in Queensland, published in January, 1924, shows that the areas under cultivation were - 5 acres, 2,275; 5 acres to 10 acres, 1,522; 10 acres to 20 acres, 996; 20 acres to 50 acres, 567 ; over 50 acres, 84. From my own personal knowledge of the industry, and from conversations with people who know more about it than I do, I am satisfied that, if it is to be developed successfully, it must be limited to areas of from 10 to 20 acres. It must be regarded as a side line, to be carried on by the small farmer with the aid of his family. I think . there is Utile danger of child labour being exploited in connexion with it, as feared by Senator Needham.

Senator Needham - There will be the risk of the education of the children being neglected.

Senator Thompson - Education is compulsory in Australia up to the age of fourteen years.

Senator McLachlan -Does the honorable senator think there is any probability of an attempt to carry on the industry in a big way?

Senator PAYNE - I am afraid there will be.

SenatorMcLachlan. - But how will it be possible to make it pay?

Senator PAYNE - Some people will attempt to establish an industry at any cost, provided they can make the people pay for it. This is evident from observations we have heard in this Chamber and elsewhere concerning the industry, Sir Hugh Denison, to whom I wrote on this subject some time ago, agreed with my view that cotton growing should be regarded as a purely domestic industry, and kept to small areas. I have already referred to the possibility of a secondary industry of very great importance being established in association with this new primary industry. Some time ago, Messrs. Crompton Wood and Harold Parker, together with an Egyptian cotton expert visited Australia, as representatives of the British Cotton Association, to inquire into the possibility of growing cotton on a commercial scale in this country. I am sure they went away with the impression that it could be developed as a commercial proposition in the Commonwealth. At that time the price of cotton in the world's market was very high, but to-day it is much less. When the delegation to which I have referred was in Melbourne, I specially came from Tasmania to interview its members concerning the cotton textile manufacturing industry, and they assured me that they were satisfied that cotton could be commercially grown in Australia at the prices which were then ruling. We have now come to the point when the industry" has to be subsidized, because the world's prices have fallen. It is appalling to realize the ignorance which prevails in Great Britain concerning the conditions generally in Australia. An ex-governor of Victoria (Earl Stradbroke) paid a visit to the works of Horrocks, Crewdson and Company, a British firm of cotton textile manufacturers, and was extremely interested in the enormous plant which he saw being so successfully operated. At a luncheon which followed the inspection Earl Stradbroke said that cotton growing in Australia was assured, but cotton textile manufacturing or cotton spinning was an open question. In reply to that statement the managing director of Horrocks, Crewdson and Company said that he was satisfied that the cotton could be commercially grown in Australia, but cotton spinning and textile manufacturing was impossible, because the hot, arid climatic conditions were such that the cotton would break in the process . of spinning. When that statement appeared I suggested to the Premier of Tasmania that a cable be dispatched to the AgentGeneral in London informing him that there was at least one State in the Commonwealth where not only were the climatic conditions satisfactory, but everything necessary was available for the cotton textile industry to be successfully carried on. When I informed the delegation what Tasmania had to offer I was informed that certain climatic conditions were not absolutely essential, because means were now provided for the production of artificial humidity but that, although not essential, they were highly desirable. I mention this matter to show that the Commonwealth authorities, and also the State Government concerned, should apprise the commercial men of England of what we have to offer, so that British capital may be invested and Australia given an opportunity to extend her secondary industries. In looking through the bill I find that clause 10 provides the conditions of employment, and also the wages to be paid in the industry.

Senator Thompson - That is very essential.

Senator PAYNE - It is. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Needham) referred in particular to that provision. I do not think that it will apply to the production of cotton, but only to the manufacture of cotton yarn. For a long time I have taken a great interest in the establishment of the cottongrowing industry in Australia, and I trust :hat the aid now proposed will not only he the means of establishing a primary- industry, which we trust will be successfully maintained, but will also result in the establishment of further secondary industries.

As it seems to he the established policy to pay bounties I may, perhaps, be pardoned if I say that there are other languishing industries in Australia which are as important as the cotton industry.

Senator Graham - There is, for instance, the gold mining industry.

Senator PAYNE - Yes, but I am thinking more particularly of the applegrowing industry. We are now being asked to support a necessary proposal to assist a new industry, but we should remember that those engaged in other industries have also found it difficult to carry on. It is true that we cannot profitably export our raw cotton because of the falling off in the world's prices, but that is also the position in which the annie growers are placed. For the last four or five years .the industry has been in a parlous condition, and, during the last season, although the prospects seemed all that could be desired, the export trade has been so disastrous that many of the growers will not receive any return. An appeal was made to the Minister for Markets and Migration for some assistance to those engaged in the industry, but up to the present there has been ho response. I am willing to give reasonable assistance to establish new industries, and to maintain existing industries. The apple-growing industry is one of the most important in Australia, because it employs a large number of persons who use the products of other industries, and if its operations are unsuccessful, other industries will be affected. If it is the accepted policy of Australia to grant bounties to all industries needing assistance, every industry should be treated alike. I trust the Minister will bring under the notice of the Minister for Markets and Migration the facts which I have placed before the Senate this morning.

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