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Wednesday, 24 September 1941

Senator BROWN (Queensland) . - I assure the Government-

Senator McBride - Any more Queenslanders?

Senator BROWN - I assure the Minister for Munitions (Senator McBride) that if there were any more Queenslanders in this chamber, they would be just as enthusiastic as we are in support of any measure which will give justice to Queensland producers, who are rendering a great national service. Although it has been admitted that those who arc engaged in the production of cotton are rendering a service to the nation, the whole story of the cotton industry has been one of government expediency, vacillation and the intense antagonism of vested interests. It is only because of the enthusiasm of a number of men, and of the Labour movement generally, in fostering this industry that cotton-growing has been able to survive in this country. I donot believe in complimenting the Government too much upon this measure, because, actually, the cotton-growers are not being given anything. The Minister for Aircraft Production (Senator Leckie), who is in charge of the bill, has admitted because of the present price of cotton that practically no bounty will be paid at all .

Senator Leckie - Would the honorable senator like the Government to withdraw the bill?

Senator BROWN - -That is a stupid question. We do not want the bill withdrawn. However, I say quite plainly that the amount which is being guaranteed by this measure is the amount that was asked for by the Cotton Board. We should like the bounty to be at a higher rate. As I have said, cottongrowing is au essential industry in Australia, and steps should have been taken years ago to place it on a sound commercial basis. It is true that a considerable amount of money has been expended on the industry. I understand that 1,100,000 has been expended by way of bounty, and also that approximately 400,000 lias been expended to reimburse growers in certain directions. ' Had that money been expended scientifically with a view to establishing the cotton industry on an economic basis growers would not now be asking for a bounty. I direct the attention of honorable senators to what is happening in other countries and what should bc done here in connexion with cotton-growing. Senator Courtice mentioned irrigation. That, of course, is essential. Had that £1,500,000 been expended in Queensland on the development of irrigation systems in the cotton-growing areas, we should now be able to produce sufficient cotton an acre to compare favorably with other countries, and the growers would be receiving an adequate return. To my mind, that shows . the difference between the methods employed under the democratic system in which we all believe - admittedly, ours is not the best form of democracy - and those adopted in enemy countries. I have no desire to see our industries regimented as they are in Germany, but surely we can learn something from the Germans. When a new industry is established in Germany, steps are taken to see that it is built on a solid foundation. They do not play about with it. They would not let cotton-growers produce so much in one year, and then reduce tillage by 50, 60 or 70 per cent. in. the next year. They would not put farmers on cottongrowing areas in one year and drive them off in the next.

Senator McBride - In Germany the people do what they are told.

Senator BROWN - I do not suggest for n moment that German methods should be adopted here. I am merely trying to show the Government the difference between the methods used here and elsewhere in building up industries. We are a democratic nation; we believe in democracy, and in democratic methods. Surely without industrial regimentation we oan learn from, our competitors and place thic highly essential industry on a sound foundation. The whole history of cottongrowing in Australia, reeks with various forms of antagonisms against the growers, and with vacillation and expediency on the part of successive governments. In 1929-31 the Scullin government materially assisted the cotton industry, hut as soon as the succeeding government assumed office - !. think ir was the late Sir Henry Gullett who was the Minister responsible - the difficulties of the cotton-growers were accentuated, and many of them had to go off their holdings.

Some interesting figures supplied to me this morning by Mr. Townsend, who bus done splendid work for this industry, show that the average yield of raw cotton an acre under irrigation in other cottonproducing countries are as follows: - Egypt. 531 lb.; Peru, 483 lb.; Russia, 350 lb.; and the United States of America, dry farming and irrigation. 267 lb. In Australia, where production is mostly done by dry farming, the average production is 120 lb. an acre, which is considerably below the world average of .1.91 lb. I do not wish my statement to bc regarded as derogatory to the cotton-farmers. I" am showing that in this country it is essential that we should adopt the best methods possible in order to improve our yield of raw cotton. In the past, governments have failed utterly and completely to provide assistance in the way that it should have been provided by the development of production by irrigation. Only in that way can yield he increased and an adequate return made to the growers. The Government of Queensland has expended about £650,000 in the last five years to assist the industry and is carrying on certain activities which undoubtedly tend to increase the 'average yield of cotton to the acre. The Commonwealth Government has declined to assist the growers in the past because of an alleged shortage of money, and the industry has been permitted to lag behind, but I point out that there was no shortage of unemployed persons. To-day there is talk of a new order, and I hope that in future money will be made available as readily for the assistance of this industry as for war purposes. Industries of this kind should be dealt with, not from the point of view of political expediency, but having regard to the economic needs of Australia, so that employment may be found and the drift of population from the country to the cities and towns arrested. I understand that the price guaranteed to the producers, until the end of the war and for one season afterwards, is1s. 3d. per lb., and for this small measure of assistance members of the Opposition arc thankful.

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