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Tuesday, 19 May 1936

Senator ARKINS (New SouthWales) . - I was surprised at the attitude that Senator Payne has seen fit to take up in regard to this matter. The cotton industry, although in its infancy in this country, is one of the great primary industries of the world. The Cotton Board first came into existence in 1927, in which year there were 2,080 growers, the acreage under cotton was 20,100, the seed cotton grown amounted to 7,000,060 lb., and the quantity of lint produced was 2,311,000 lb., which made up into 4,824 bales. . In 1935, the industry had expanded until there were 3,223 growers, the acreage was 61,000, and the quantity of seed cotton produced was 2,766,000 lb.

Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 pm.

Senator ARKINS - From 1927 to 1935 the number of cotton-growers increased by 1,143 and the area under cotton by 41,000 acres. At present about 65,000 acres in Queensland are under cotton, and the actual quantity of seed cotton produced has trebled. I appeal to Senator Payne to realize that the cotton industry is only in its infancy, and that of the 188,000,000 yards of cotton materials used annually in Australia only 4,000,000 yards, or 3 per cent. of the total, are used in making the goods covered by his request. As Senator Payne has always advocated the encouragement of primary production, for the sake of a paltry 3 per cent. he should not do anything to injure the cotton-growing industry. In other countries cotton production is regarded as of great importance, and I believe that every Australian is willing to make some sacrifice in an endeavour to place the industry in this country on a sound commercial basis. At present, about 65,000 acres of land in Queensland are under cotton and on this area 3,500 cottonpickers are employed. Many growers are engaged in mixed farming, and others are devoting their energies solely to the production of cotton. Under present conditions cotton production gives intermittent and seasonal employment to 3,500 cotton-growers and pickers. ' Employment is also provided in cotton ginneries, oil mills for 200 persons and in shipping and thinning work is found for an additional 200. Employment is also provided for a large number in spinning and weaving in the knitting mills. In Queensland, the industry, which owns its own cotton ginneries and an oil mill, is conducted on a co-operative basis, and the cotton seed, apart from a small quantity retained for planting purposes, is crushed in the mill. The by-products are cotton seed oil, linters, cotton seed meal and cotton seed cubes used for feeding sheep. Although this industry was established only eight years ago, or more accurately the year when the Cotton Board came into being, it has developed to such an extent that its products are valued at £500,000 annually. There has been remarkable development in the production of cotton in some of the minor Sotith American Republics, and in Japan and China. By developing the cotton industry we are increasing our national wealth,' and from a defence viewpoint, making our position more secure. The Tariff Board, in its report of the 25th July, 1934, stated-

The importance of the cotton-growing industry from the standpoint of national defence, which was stressed in the hoard's previous report might here be reiterated. As previously pointed out, cotton is a most important, in fact, an indispensable commodity in a time of national emergency, seeing that, not only does it play a vital part in the manufacture of munitions, but it is also essential to so many phases of defence equipment.

I direct the attention of Senator Payne to the following -

Having in view the place which cotton holds in the domestic, industrial, economic and national life of the country, the board has no hesitation in expressing the view that the development and successful establishment of the cotton-growing industry in Australia, is not only desirable, but is vitally essential to to welfare of the Commonwealth.

In view of that statement, is the honorable senator willing to throw the cotton industry to the commercial wolves?

Senator Payne - Who are the commercial wolves?

Senator ARKINS - The honorable senator is seeking a reduction of the duties proposed, which he knows are not so high as those recommended by the Tariff Board, and in that way endeavouring to retard an Australian industry which the board saYs is vitally essential to the welfare of the Commonwealth. This important primary industry, which has developed to a remarkable extent in the last eight years, and employs such a large number of persons, should receive the support of every honorable senator. I appeal to Senator Payne and Senator Sampson to reconsider the position, and to remember that the Tariff Board has said the industry is vitally essential to the welfare and defence of the Commonwealth. We know that many of our primary industries experienced considerable difficulties in the initial stages of their development. I understand that the annual cost to the community of maintaining the very important sugar and butter industries amounts to £5,000,000 and £6,000,000 respectively.

Senator JAMES McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Does the honorable senator suggest that we should spend £7,000,000 on establishing the cotton industry ?

Senator ARKINS - The expenditure of such a large sum is unnecessary and not even suggested, but in view of its importance and of the quantity of the cotton goods being produced in Australian factories, every opportunity should be afforded to enable the industry to continue. In the interests of the Commonwealth generally, I trust that Senator Payne will withdraw his request.

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