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Tuesday, 5 May 1936

Senator J V MACDONALD (QUEENSLAND) . - I believe that Senator Payne has suggested the postponement of this item with the best intentions. Between 1861 and 1865 some persons attempted the production of tobacco in Australia, but owing to the severe competition from the United States ' of America, where it is produced . by coloured labour, the project was abandoned. Many years ago, attempts were also made in some of the States, where the land was considered to be suitable to produce cotton profitably, but, in the absence of protective duties or a bounty, and the difficulty of competing against the product of coloured labour, very little progress was made. About fifteen years ago, areas in Queensland and in parts of New South Wales were utilized for the production of cotton; but, in the absence of adequate protection, the industry languished. At present the, Dawson River Valley and the Clyde Valley are the only two important , centres ' where this crop is being produced successfully. 'When I visited these districts in 1929, there was not any marked indication of prosperity. Many of the settlers, who were living in tin sheds or primitive wooden buildings, found it difficult to grow cotton profitably, unless they also engaged in dairying or maize-growing. According to the latest report of the Registrar-General of Agriculture in Queensland, the value of the cotton produced in that State in 1925 was £379,331, but in 1927 the value had decreased to £144,570. In several . of the subsequent years it was valued at from £150,000 to £200,000;but in 1934, the last year for which figures are available, it had increased to £397,263, including a bounty of £84,024, or an increase of about £18,000, when compared with 1925. Many of those engaged in cotton-growing conduct subsidiary industries, including dairying, which often becomes the principal undertaking. In 1934 the number of farmers growing cotton was 2,679, but many were con ducting other industries on a small scale. But for cotton-growing, the land in the Dawson River Valley and the Clyde

Valley would revert to grazing. The rainfall, which is of particular importance in growing cotton, is satisfactory, and the land can, therefore, be regarded as the most suitable in Australia for the purpose. We have also to consider whether this industry is of national importance.

Senator DUNCAN-HUGHES (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) -hughes. - Is it a natural industry ?

Senator J V MACDONALD (QUEENSLAND) - In that part of Queensland it is a natural industry.

Senator Duncan-Hughes - The industry declined until the Government assisted it?

Senator J V MACDONALD (QUEENSLAND) - Yes. It was first established on a small scale between 1861 and 1865.

Senator Duncan-Hughes - 'Can it be regarded as a natural industry?

Senator J V MACDONALD (QUEENSLAND) - Yes, cotton can be grown profitably in Australia. The sugar industry is also a natural industry. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) could also have mentioned that the -production of cotton is of importance for defence purposes. Nor can the preservation of the White Australia ideal be disregarded. The growing of cotton is an industry suitable to a tropical climate; it also keeps a number of persons on small holdings. If the industry were to become extinct, those parts of 'Queensland now producing cotton would revert to a few sheep stations with an occasional scattered homestead. I emphasize that the population of Northern Australia depends to a large extent upon the continuance of the cotton industry. If it were not for so much opposition, we might also consider as a national duty the growing of tea and coffee and scores of other commodities in those parts.

Senator J B Hays - Are many persons engaged exclusively in the growing of cotton?

Senator Foll - A tremendous number; their holdings are not suitable for producing any other commodity.

Senator J V MACDONALD (QUEENSLAND) - Apart from those actually engaged in the growing of cotton, Queenslanders, in common with persons in the southern States, are keen to see that they do not pay unduly for the support they accord to any Aus tralian industry. As proof that the cotton industry is not making profits at the expense of the Test of Australia, I point out that a year or so ago the plight of the growers themselves became so parlous that they invited the Government to appoint a commission to inquire into their position. Quite a number of them were disheartened and were leaving the land. The commission investigated their plight, and reports published in conservative papers, as distinct from somewhat prejudiced reports which appeared in the farmers' newspapers, stated that many of them were living in the humblest circumstances. Appeals were made for assistance to lighten their burden. Many claimed that they could not make a success of their occupation unless the acreage of their holdings was doubled. The Queensland Government, which participated in the migration and development scheme fifteen years ago, undertook to render some assistance; the present Minister directing negotiations for Trade Treaties (Sir Henry Gullett) was one of the officers who reported upon the possibilities of these lands for closer settlement, and the State of Queensland expended very large amounts on these undertakings. In view of this, it is vitally concerned about the continuance of cotton-growing. The evidence taken by the commission, together with the fact that the price of cotton has not increased during a number of years, demonstrates that the industry is not fattening upon the remainder of Australia, including southern Queensland and tlie wool-growing areas.

The manufacture of the coarser grades of cotton has been accepted by the Federal Parliament and the Australian public as a very necessary industry. We cannot yet hope to compete with the finer cottons spun in. Lancashire, and we are not so prejudiced as to think that we should have a monopoly of the cotton trade. There must be a. two-way system of trade; anybody but an extremist will admit that we must trade with our neighbours - a fact of which we are at present receiving rude reminders. I emphasize that the cotton industry must bc encouraged as the settlement of the tropical north and the defence of Australia are bound up with its existence. We can- not overlook that the time may arise when Australia's communications with the United Kingdom and Europe will be severed, perhaps even for a year or two, making it necessary that we should be able to supply our own requirements. We need not administer a severe kick to Lancashire's cotton trade or Birmingham's metal trade by excluding their goods in toto. Nevertheless, we should be more than mere primary producers; oar manufacturing industries should be efficient and fully equipped. I am sure that Senator Payne will agree with mo that, a policy of protection will assist in the achievement of this ideal. The Australian working classes do not become annoyed if, in the national interest, they are obliged to pay an extra ls. for a garment. They are Australian in sentiment, and if they have to give in one direction they get it back in another. There should be fair dealing between one industry and another in the Commonwealth. I hope that Senator Payne will not think that the Opposition has been discomforted by his remarks in connexion with our duty to the persons whom we have been elected to represent.

The CHAIRMAN (Senator Sampson - The honorable senator's time has expired.

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