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Tuesday, 19 May 1936

Senator DEIN (New South Wales) .The question that I first ask myself is, whether this particular industry is worth preserving. In order to answer it, I have considered whether in past years the Government has assisted it. I find that for a number of years encouragement has been given to it by the payment of a very considerable bounty to . the cotton-growers. This convinces me that, from the viewpoint of the Government, at least, the industry is worth while, and should be preserved. I take it that, when the Government decided to grant a bounty, it was actuated by two motives, the first being that it desired the settlement of extensive areas in the northern portion of Australia, which are eminently suited to cottongrowing, but do not lend themselves to other forms of production. In this respect, cotton-growing is in the same category as the production of sugar. Having grown the cotton, the question that arises is, what shall be done with it? As it cannot he exported for purposes of manufacture, the manufactured article must be produced in Australia. At the present time, there are 61,000 acres under cotton cultivation. If Senator Payne wishes to strike a blow at the industry, and I contend that ho does, he should show the use to which those 61,000 acres could be otherwise put, and, also, in what avenues the 3,22-S persons who are engaged in cottongrowing could be absorbed. People must be encouraged to settle in the north of Australia. As the development of this industry provides one means whereby the empty spaces of that portion of the continent may be filled, the Government should give to the industry whatever assistance lies within its power. Senator Payne mis-stated the case, when he said that the workers are asked to bear the whole of the burden of this tariff protection. I point out that the cost of clothing is taken into account by industrial tribunals in the fixing of the basic wage. It is reasonable to assume, therefore, that, if the imposition of a duty makes necessary articles of clothing more expensive, the extra cost is borne, not entirely by the basic-wage earner, but by the community generally. The honorable senator also conveyed the impression that the manufacturing side of the industry, is not worth persevering with, on the ground that it has not been properly established. I understand that only about 3 per cent, of local requirements are manufactured in Australia. Thus, a very big field has still to be exploited. Comparing the report of the Tariff Board with the form in which the matter is set out in the schedule, I find it difficult to understand the true significance of the provision in regard to the 6-oz. material. If I am competent to pass judgment upon the material which is made in Australia, it is considerably above 6 oz. in weight, probably ranging from 7 oz. to 9 oz., and this weight is necessary for heavy and hard wear. I am somewhat afraid that if the 6-oz. weight is accepted, overseas manufacturers will attempt to market a cloth slightly below that weight at a reduced price. The weight should be so fixed that the purchaser would realize immediately whether or not it was of the right quality. The weight 6 oz. would cause considerable confusion, and place an added burden on the purchaser. It should be reduced, in order that the simplest mind could determine its wearing qualities. The Government, having decided that the industry is worthy of preserving, let us assist it. To assist the grower alone would be inadequate; we must also assist those who are prepared to make a commercial use of his product.

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