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Thursday, 8 March 1928

Senator FOLL (Queensland) .- I shall not speak at length at this stage; but before the bill gets into committee I desire to refer to one or two matters affecting Queensland in' particular. The costs of production in Australia have risen to such an extent that it is practically impossible for some industries to dispose of their products. It was recently my privilege to visit the Lustre Silk Hosiery Factory in Sydney, an establishment which manufactures high class silk and artificial silk hosiery. When that factory was established the price of imported hosiery was very much higher than it is to-day. As a direct result of its competition the price dropped considerably. I was pained to see, during my visit to the factory, that a large proportion of the extensive machinery, which had been installed, was lying idle. Production costs had increased so greatly that the company found it impossible to compete with imported hosiery. Another factor which has militated against the industry has been the unfavorable position with regard to exchange, which has given an advantage to countries which are competitors in the hosiery industry.

Senator Payne - Did not the honorable senator say that the establishment of the Australian factory had reduced the price of hosiery?

Senator FOLL - Yes; but more recently increased production costs and the unfavorable position in relation to exchange has had an adverse effect upon the company.

Senator Payne - The exchange has not altered since the company commenced operations.

Senator FOLL - Legislation passed by State Labour Governments has so increased production costs that the company to which I have referred and other Australian companies manufacturing similar articles now ask for additional protection. The difficulty is that if their request is granted, further industrial legislation will probably be passed by the State Governments which will nullify the advantage of the increased duties. Queensland does not benefit from the tariff a 3 do some of the other States, for the reason that legislation passed by Labour Governments in Queensland during the last eleven or twelve years has prevented the investing of money in secondary industries in that State. The solution of the difficulty appears to be the development of a greater home market. That can only be accomplished by an increase of population. As an example of what can be done by good organization and the manufacture of articles of good quality, where there is a good home market, I desire to point out that recently the price of Australian-made motor tires has been considerably reduced.

Senator Findleysaid that unless we went in for extensive developmental schemes it would be impossible to absorb more immigrants, because Australia was already producing more than she could consume or export. He referred particularly to the sugar industry. The problem of the over-production of sugar would readily be solved if there was greater cooperation between the Commonwealth and British Governments. Sugar entering Great Britain pays a duty of £11 13s. 4d. a ton. It is true that preference is granted to sugar grown in the dominions ; nevertheless the duty is still very high, with the result that the price of sugar in England is about the same as it is in Australia. As a result of this season's crushing there will be thousands of tons of sugar more than Australia can consume. This over-production will have to be exported at considerable loss. The producers will have to bear the loss proportionately. If the British Government removed the duty on sugar grown in the Empire, Australia could yet rid of the whole of its surplus product, the whole of the rich idle" sugar lands of North Queensland could be thrown open for cultivation, our sugar yield would be increased enormously, provision could be made for absorbing thousands of British immigrants, and all our difficulties in regard to sugar production would be removed.

Senator Elliott - Is 'the British duty on sugar imposed for revenue purposes?

Senator FOLL - It is,- I believe, a purely revenue producing duty.

Senator Crawford - It is imposed partly to encourage the production of beet sugar in Great Britain. The British Government;- pays a bounty on beet sugar produced in Great Britain.

Senator FOLL - I-j admit that the British duty on sugar serves a double purpose, but even if the people of Great Britain succeed in developing the beet sugar industry to any considerable extent I do not think they anticipate ever being in a position to supply their own requirements. The duty on sugar is very large for the purpose of obtaining revenue.

Senator Elliott - It would be difficult to replace the revenue lost by removing the duty.

Senator FOLL - Great Britain and Australia are now co-operating with a view to the absorption of British migrants here. Great Britain cannot provide employment for the whole of her people and is now paying away millions of pounds annually in unemployment doles. The removal of the duty on sugar would serve a double purpose. It would enable thousands of British immigrants to be settled in North Queensland on one of the most fertile spots, in Australia, thus assisting in developing,' ' the migration scheme and would relieve Great Britain to some extent of the necessity for paying doles to unemployed. The amount that would be saved in this way should compensate for any loss"' cif revenue due to the removal of the duty on sugar grown in the Empire.

Figures have been carefully compiled relating . to sugar production in the Empire. It is hoped that in the not far distant future a conference of those vitally interested, in growing sugar in the dominions will be -held with a view to asking Great Britain to give preference to British grown sugar. .Germany and other countries interested in the production of beet sugar and other countries growing sugar have formed a combination for the purpose of improving their sugar price and this will mean that the cost of this sugar will be greater to the United Kingdom. Great Britain has a unique opportunity to do something practical in the way of building up a sugar industry within the Empire; not in Australia alone, but also in other parts of the dominions.

Senator Thompson - The combination the honorable senator refers to is reducing production and that is in the interests of Australia.

Senator FOLL - Yes; they are also faced with over-production. But ours is a mere bagatelle compared with the total quantity of sugar consumed in the British Empire, and when we realize the large quantity of foreign grown sugar that enters . Great Britain, there does not seem to be any reason why the duty now imposed on our sugar should not be very considerably reduced if not removed altogether.

Mr GREENE (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Great Britain already gives a preference to dominiongrown sugar.

Senator FOLL - That is so, but the concession is not sufficient to allow us to get our sugar into the British market at the price we should like to get for it. I should like to see all Empire-grown sugar admitted into Great Britain free of duty. The loss of customs revenue would be more than offset by the additional development that would take place throughout the Empire, and by the fact that the dominions could absorb so many hundreds of thousands of those British workers who are now unemployed.

Queensland has practically- a monopoly of the pine forests of Australia, but, unfortunately, owing to the neglect of the Queensland Forestry Department in not pursuing a policy of reafforestation and conservation, the saw-millers of Queensland cannot secure sufficient local softwoods for their mills. A few weeks ago an advertisement appeared in the Queensland Government . Gazette, intimating that certain areas were to be thrown open for timber cutting; but I suppose the total quantity of timber that would thus be made available, would not keep the local mills occupied for more than three days, and the chances were at the time that no further areas would be made available for another month. If the big sawmills in Brisbane had 1:6 rely on the local forests to keep them going, they would have to close down altogether, or work for only a few days a month. At the request of a friend of mine, who is a big saw-miller in Brisbane, I had a look at one of his mills, where he employs a large number of hands. His mills keep going all the year round, but the greater portion of the logs which are being sawn there are

Oregon. If it were not for the fact that this gentleman was importing these big logs of Oregon, the majority of the men in his mill would be thrown out of work. This also applies to many sawmills in Australia. The logs that could be secured from the local forests would not last any time.

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