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Tuesday, 19 May 1936

Senator GUTHRIE (Victoria) . - Senator Payne, as usual, has prepared his case very well, but some not quite fair comments have been passed upon his efforts, which at least have the merit of genuineness. I cannot, however, vote for his request. The policy of the Government has wisely been to encourage cotton-growing, particularly in Queens land, where there is a large area suitable for still another primary industry that lends itself to closer settlement. If there is one thing that Australia needs more than another, it is closer settlement and a larger population. Over 3,000 growers are engaged in the production of cotton, and last year 7,000,000 lb. was produced, of an average value of about 4d. per lb. for seed cotton. Any primary industry which encourages closer settlement, provided the attempt is not farcical - and this is not - has my support. The cotton industry may become of considerable value to Australia. The foundation has been laid for its development along those lines. As one honorable senator has already said, in addition to being a primary product which promotes closer settlement, it would be an essential commodity should Australia be attacked, and, at a critical period, be unable to obtain supplies for the manufacture of explosives. For defence purposes,' therefore, as well as from a manufacturing view-point, the growth of our requirements is definitely advisable. I understand that the weights and duties suggested by the Government will not damage the Mother Country. A vast- quantity of cotton goods is imported into Australia from Great Britain free of duty.

I wish to disabuse the mind of Senator J. V. MacDonald of the idea that the wool industry in Australia excels, and is able to meet the competition of the world, partly because it has not to compete with the production of countries that employ black labour. I admit that the cotton industry is in that category, because all the cotton grown outside of Australia is produced by black labour. I would point out, however, that the principal competitor of Australia in connexion with fine merino wools is South Africa, which employs cheap, black labour almost exclusively in its production, while other great competitors, the States of South America - Argentina, Uraguay, Paraguay, Chili, and Peru - pay less than one-half of the rates of wages paid in Australia. The industry excels in Australia because it is sufficient unto itself, and also because the Almighty has given to us a country that i3 particularly suitable for its development. '

Senator Paynehas asserted that the secondary branch of the cotton industry is of no particular account. I believe that he is labouring under a wrong impression. I know of one firm in Melbourne which employs just on 1,000 hands, very largely in the manufacture of the very articles from which the honorable senator would withdraw a certain measure of tariff protection. Although it is mainly concerned in the production of woollen goods, the cotton side of its activities has made great strides. I do not pretend to be an expert appraiser of the value of cotton goods, but I consider that the materials of which I have seen samples are most satisfactory, and suited to the uses of our people. Australia needs secondary as well' as primary industries to increase employment and enlarge its population. A considerable amount has already been invested in this industry, and good progress is being made by it. My policy has always been to give first preference to Australian primary and secondary industries. For the reason that I believe this to be a good primary industry with promising prospects, and one that is likely to develop into a good secondary industry, I wish to preserve it. We should adopt a broad national outlook, and agree to its receiving the support which the Government has already accorded and now proposes to continue.

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