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Tuesday, 19 May 1936

Senator J V MACDONALD (QUEENSLAND) . - Senator Payne, having expressed his own opinion, and the views of those pecuniarily interested in these duties, should withdraw his request. Cotton is produced in Queensland, but the cotton mills are established in Sydney and Melbourne. The cotton industry is of national importance to Australia. The cotton industry has been accepted for several years and, as the Minister has pointed out, its existence has become a matter of Government policy. If we were to take away the protection that we have given it - the manufacturers are afraid that we may do so - we should open the field to other countries, and the employees in the Australian industry would be thrown on to an already overcrowded labour market. Take the instance of Britain itself! Many British cotton manufactures are made from cotton grown in other parts of the world, under coloured-labour conditions, which enables them to compete with Australian goods, even with the protection of the Australian industry at its present level. Australian cotton is grown under whitelabour conditions, which is, of course, a handicap to the manufacturers. We members of the Australian Labour party, and of the Australian nation, admit that, and we also admit that some sacrifices have to be made. But Senator Payne, if he thought for a moment, and took into consideration the difference between the costs of white-grown and blackgrown cotton, would know that the adoption of his policy would result in the closing down of every cotton factory in this country. If the honorable senator's attitude were spread over the whole of the secondary industries of this country and were given effect to, Australia would be merely an agricultural and pastoral country, depending for its population on agricultural and pastoral industries. The British cotton manufacturers are already favoured with a preferential tariff, and there is danger that, if coarse cotton materials were allowed into this country on the basis suggested by Senator Payne, the country would be flooded with imports from Japan, where the conditions of production are so different. At the public inquiry by the Tariff Board the cost of production was considered, and it was shown that the local industry could not compete owing to the low rate of wages paid overseas, particularly in Japan, where the wages for females is only 7d. a day plus keep as against 35s. 3d. a week plus 15 per cent. for piecework in Australia. I have worn dungarees myself, and I know the conditions under which they are worn. They are worn by working men, it is true, but in my experience the worker is willing to make a sacrifice here and there, if a grand national policy of giving as much employment to our own people as is possible is followed. Although Senator Payne has been criticized before on account of his apparent preference for Japanese goods, I do not think that he really intends to provide a loophole for the Japanese.

Senator Payne - The honorable senator may think what he likes, but I have never suggested such a thing.

Senator J V MACDONALD (QUEENSLAND) - It has been said by competent authorities that if we continue importing goods which we can make ourselves, the countries from which we import them will want more and more, and one day we may have to defend ourselves against them. That has been said about more than one country, apart from Japan.

If price were to be made the god of national policy, which is the main argument advanced by Senator Payne, this country would be reduced to a coolie level because we should have to compete against other countries under conditions which would not be in the interests of this country. We should become a coolie nation in spirit as well as in fact. I do not think Senator Payne wants to drive the Australian, workers down to the level of workers in India, Japan and China, but that is the logical conclusion to be reached from his request.

Senator JamesMcLachlan, in referring to the Queensland aspect of the cotton industry, said that when anything grown in Queensland was threatened the same cry was raised that if the land were not used for the purpose for which it was being used it would go out of cultivation. That has been said with truth about the sugar lands. The land on which sugar is now grown could be used for very little else if the sugar industry were smashed. It is very hot coastal land, and it could not he used, for instance, for the production of wheat. Perhaps that is just as well, because if the sugar industry were abolished and the land which it is at present occupying were turned to wheatgrowing, Queensland would become a serious competitor with New South "Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia in the wheat markets of the world. The Commonwealth would thus face an even more difficult task in meeting the wheat position than faces it to-day. In respect of the cotton,- however, the case is different. I know very little about the land in South Australia whence the honorable senator comes, but I do know a great deal about Queensland. I have been all over it on many occasions, and I have written a good deal about it. Before the production of cotton was entered upon on a large scale in Queensland, the land which it occupies was utilized for grazing. It is only secondclass grazing country, being not so good as that in Western Queensland or in the south-eastern coastal belt, but it is fairly good land, and before the introduction of cotton-growing it was carrying a fair number of cattle. If cotton-growing were to cease the land could be used again for grazing areas on which cattle would be raised on large holdings which maintain very few people. From the view-point of closer settlement which is essential to the defence of Australia, the maintenance of the cotton industry is necessary. It is my belief, and I consider that it is the belief of all- thinking Australians, that the more people there are on the land the better it will be for this country. Goldsmith pointed with very great force in his fine poem The Deserted Village to the need for settlement. What he said concerning " the .deserted village " could be extended to a deserted countryside. When cotton-growers are concentrated in great numbers more land is being brought under closer settlement. That is a good thing for the country, and it should meet with the approval of every advocate of primary producing interests in this chamber. The necessity for the development of the cotton industry has been realized by every Commonwealth Government in the last ten years. Each has made it a matter of national concern.

The growing of cotton could not flourish without the existence in Australia of factories to spin the raw material into cloth. If the Australian cotton- growers were forced to ship their products under world parity conditions to other parts of the world they could not compete with countries which are producing the product under coloured-labour conditions.

Senator Guthrie - They would have no hope of doing so.

Senator J V MACDONALD (QUEENSLAND) - As the honorable senator says, it would be a hopeless prospect. The honorable senator is an authority on wool. The wool industry is fortunate in that it is the one industry which has not been generally in competition with colouredlabour products. In no tropical country, where the workers toil for bare sustenance, does the production of wool flourish. Australian cotton, however, does have to compete with cotton grown under cheap-labour conditions. We, in Queensland, do not wish to wipe the British manufacturers out of existence on the Australian market, but we do wish to have a substantial industry. There are not many areas in Queensland where cotton can he grown. The cotton plant is a sensitive plant, and it requires not only a certain amount of rainfall but also rainfall at certain periods. Suitable soil is also essential". If these conditions do not exist, the cotton plant cannot flourish. Accordingly, there is no need to fear a destroying of the existing two-way trade between this country and Great Britain. We do not ignore the fact that Britain takes a certain amount of our products. For the present, at least, we are satisfied with the industry as it is to-day, and with the number of cotton mills in existence.

Replying to criticism, Senator Payne said that the duties he proposes to remove cost the Australian workers £200,000 a year. Other estimates better based than iiia put the figure at about £60,000 a year. We, on this side of the chamber, speak with authority on behalf of the workers, and I venture the opinion that no worker is opposed to the Government's proposals for the protection of the cotton industry. I think Senator Payne also said that the industry encouraged by these duties was small, and he scouted the idea that from the point of view of the manufacturers it was worth saving. The point is that millions of yards of cloth produced from Australian-grown cotton are being made in Australia at present, and proof that the duties as proposed by the Government are necessary is provided by the fact that nearly 1,000,000 yards of cotton goods are in stock at the present time, and this quantity needs to be cleared.. The employees in the cotton industry are in full-time employment depending, of course, on the endorsement of the Government's proposed duties. But both ends of the industry, the growers and the manufacturers, would be stifled by the carrying of Senator Payne's request, and the result would be disastrous. There i3 material in the subject of cottongrowing for many speeches, but I do not think that Senator Payne and other honorable senators who have grown a little to think with him, including Senator James McLachlan, take a broad national view of this matter. We often say what a wonderful country we have, but other people outside are inclined to say that we are not making the fullest use of if, that we are not developing it, and do not deserve to have it, and that the hundreds of millions of other countries should have access to this fair Australia of ours to do the job that we will not do ourselves. The cotton industry is one of the industries which are doing the job. We are growing something that this country can produce, and thereby bringing about closer settlement. The acceptance of Senator Payne's request would be tantamount to destroying this industry. If the Australian cotton industry had to meet open competition it could not be maintained. If Senator- Payne will not be persuaded to withdraw his request, I appeal to him to take his few supporters outside the chamber, and have a hearttoheart talk with them, thus achieving the result that his would be the only voice raised in support of his request.

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN (Senator J B Hayes - The honorable senator has exhausted his time.

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