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Tuesday, 5 May 1936

Senator COLLINGS (Queensland) . - For subtle ingenuity, the speech made by Senator Payne was one of the finest pieces of special pleading that I have heard.

Senator Payne - Somebody has to plead for the persons whom the honorable senator is elected to represent.

Senator COLLINGS - The honorable senator's belated interest in the cost of the workers' wearing apparel nearly moved me to tears. He quoted figures, for which he gave uo authority, with a freedom amounting almost to recklessness. Some gentleman who " knew the business " had supplied him with certain statistics.

Senator Payne - They were my own figures.

Senator COLLINGS - The honorable senator very adroitly did not give us the name of his informant. He said that he had. obtained them from some gentleman who " knew the business ". No honorable senators are more vitally interested in the welfare of the cotton industry than are the members of the Opposition, all of whom represent the State of Queensland. The cotton duties are of vital importance to that State and Senator Payne need have no illusions as to how the Opposition will vote on his proposal to postpone the item. We strongly object to its postponement for the purpose that he has indicated. If there be one primary industry in which room for expansion exists, it is the cotton industry in Australia, which, really means the cotton industry in Queensland; that is where the crop is produced and where cotton will be grown to an increasing extent, provided that the present demand is materially increased. The way to achieve that objective is not to adopt the courseadvocated by Senator Payne. Because we are aware that we can obtain no increase of protection for this industry from the Government, we certainly shall not join with Senator Payne to demand a reduction of the duty.

The country that is best versed in the intricacies of cotton production is the United States of America, with which, as we have been recently reminded, Australia has an adverse trade balance. Although the debate on this tariff has proceeded only a short distance, I have already drawn attention to numerous opportunities of rectifying that unsatisfactory position. By developing the growing of cotton, and the secondary industry of spinning and weaving, including the manufacture of materials to which Senator Payne referred, we can supply our own requirements, and thus contribute largely towards reducing that adverse balance. I draw the attention of the committee to an article in the American Mercury entitled " The South Faces Disaster ", alluding, of course, to the cotton producing areas of America. The prediction is made that very soon Australia will become the world's greatest producer of cotton. I am sure that everybody will be delighted with that good news, with the possible single exception of Senator Payne, who represents Tasmania where no cotton is grown. This is what the writer says -

Domination by the United States of the world's cotton market is a thing of the past. Soon, dangerously soon for the southern States - the centre of gravity of the world's annual cotton supply will have shifted to the Antipodes.

In 1858 the United States was producing 95 per cent, of the world's cotton. At the beginning of the world war in1914 the cottonimporting nations were consuming approximately 72 per cent. of the American crop. The tremendous demand for cotton during the warsent prices soaring, which in turn stimulated the output in Asia, Africa and South America. During the postwar decade, foreign production outpaced the American, while the total world consumption reached a new high level. The determined struggle of the 40 cotton-producing countries outside 6f the United States to break that country's monopoly is nearer its objective during the 1924-25 season, when for the first time the total acreage sown by those nations exceeded that of the United States by nearly 1,000,000 acres. Since 1858 the American contribution to the world's cotton output declined from95 to 55 per cent.

Since 1931 production outside America has increased by nearly 4,500,000 bales, while American production has decreased by nearly 5.000,000 bales.

Germany, which normally purchases between 800,000 and . 1,000,000 bales bought only 370.000 from the United States last year, whilst its imports from Brazil have soared from 12,000 lb. in 1933 to99,022,440 lb. last year. Great Britain, 'France, Japan, Italy, Poland and Czechoslovakia - the largest importing nations - have reduced their purchases from the United States, and expanded them elsewhere. Brazil has trebled production within five years. China has doubled its volume in the same time. Russia has gone from 1,843,000 bales in 1925 to 2,300,000 bales last year. Every cotton-growing country in the world, except the United States, is exerting intense efforts to increase production.

Yet Senator Payne advises us to adopt a course which will curtail Australia's ability to produce cotton -

Foreign producers have long known that if a successful picking machine were developed they would be able to break the back of the American stranglehold on world cotton. The advent of the cotton-picker now will serve to accelerate the growth of South American and Australian cotton culture to an unheard-of degree.

The big battle for the cotton markets of the world is about to begin. According to its official Year-Book, Australia possesses 375,(580,000 acres of potential cotton land. This represents 25 per cent. more than the average acreage of the American cotton belt. Australia has ample rainfall for cotton, fortunately little or none during the picking season. The cost of transportation to Liverpool is only slightly higher than from American ports. The Australian crop ripens some six months later than the American crop, so that it arrives on the English market when supplies from America are more or less depleted.

Because of the shortage of cheap farm labour in Australia, the cost of picking cotton represents from 50 to 60 per cent. of the total cost of production - in the United States picking costs only 20 to 25 per cent. of the total Amechanical picker which would pick for1d. per lb. would revolutionize the industry in

Australia, whereas in the United States it would be a complete failure, because the negroes there receive only one-half to threequarters of a cent per lb.

I suppose Senator Payne knows that experiments are being carried out with mechanical cotton-pickers -

Professor Saunders discussing the problem before a conference of growers at Dallas, Texas, United States, last year declared - " If greater mechanization of cotton production conies in the future, Australia offers a better opportunity for keen competition with the United States than any other region. Australia is the only area where the human resources for using complicated power and picking machinery will compete with those of the United States. All other areas have peasant or peon types of cotton-farmers whose illiteracy is rarely under 70 per cent.Not so with the Australian farmers - they are even better users of the combined harvester than American farmers. Australia has the human resources, climate and soil for profitable cotton production. We are now giving her the golden opportunity to prove the merits of her cotton resources."

An almost immediate revolution in cotton produced is at hand; the mechanical picker, when introduced in Australia, will destroy the American small producer, wipe out the southern tenant farmer, cut production costs from 50 to 80 per cent., and throw millions of the south's most helpless population out of the only employment which they understand.

I ask the committee not to agree to the postponement of this item. We should stick to the business in hand, and continue the discussion until we have disposed of all the items in the schedule. Senator Payne's amendment is antiAustralian, and if carried, would do much damage to our primary and secondary industries.

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