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Tuesday, 6 April 1965


Senator BENN - Yes. Of course, Queensland has been growing cotton for many years. In 1870 there were 14,674 acres devoted to cotton production. Subsequently, cotton was not the main crop and farmers did not rely solely upon it for their incomes. It was found that the cotton growing areas in Queensland were quite suitable for dairying purposes. It was not very long before the cotton growers commenced dairying and cotton growing became a side-line. In some cases it became a very profitable side-line, but in other cases it was not so profitable because cotton grows well only in a hot climate where there is a good rainfall. There was not always a good rainfall in the areas where cotton was grown in Queensland. There was no irrigation, and there is very little of it today to help cotton growing.

In Australia in the year 1962-63 - which is the latest year for which I could obtain reliable information - 37,689 acres were devoted to cotton growing, of which 35,300 acres were in Queensland. The main cotton growing area in Queensland is in the Callide Valley, which is adjacent to the Dawson Valley. Mention has been made in the Senate of a town called Moura in the Dawson Valley. A proposal has been advanced to construct a new railway line from Moura to Gladstone so that coal may be exported to Japan.

The bounty has helped fairly considerably the cotton growing industry in Queensland, which is the State that I represent in the Senate. In the year 1962-63, 15,762,000 lb. of unginned cotton was produced in the Commonwealth, of which 13,000,000 lb. was grown in Queensland. It is interesting to look at the business side of cotton growing, that is, the payment of the bounty and how it operates. I do not think I can do better in this regard than quote from the report of the AuditorGeneral, because the bounty is administered by the Department of Customs and Excise. The payments are made to the managers of the cotton ginneries, I suppose in order to expedite payment. The Auditor-General stated -

Under the Cotton Bounty Act 1951-1958 bounty was payable in respect of seed cotton harvested in Australia on or after 1st January 1951, delivered to a ginnery on or before 31st December 1963, and processed at a ginnery into raw cotton for sale for use in Australia.

Payments during 1963-64 amounted to £266,554 (£287,077 in 1962-63).

The Cotton Bounty Act 1951-1958 was repealed by the Raw Cotton Bounty Act 1963 which provides for a bounty to be payable in respect of raw colton of prescribed grades, processed at a registered ginnery from seed cotton harvested in Australia and delivered to the ginnery on or after 1st January 1964.

The provisions of the Act extend to 31st December 1968 and require that the raw cotton be sold by the producer for use in Australia.

The bounty is payable to the processor for distribution to the growers. The rate of bounty payable under the Act is 16id. per pound for middling white raw cotton of a staple length of one inch, and for other raw cotton at rates as specified by the Minister by notice published in the " Gazette ".

The amount available for payment of bounty on raw cotton sold in any year in which bounty is payable is limited to £2,000,000. The Act defines a "year" as commencing 1st January and ending on the following 3 J st December.

Bounty paid under the Raw Cotton Bounty Act during 1963-64 amounted to £206,893.

The total of bounties paid (under the two Acts) during the year was £473,447, representing an increase of £186,370 over the previous year.

The Australian Labour Party does not offer any opposition to the amendments proposed in the Bill. It considers it necessary for the amendments to be passed.

Senator SCOTT(Western Australia) pleased to hear that the Australian Labour Party does not intend to oppose it. It is more or less a machinery measure to bring up to date the alterations that were proposed in 1963. In that year a bill was introduced which changed the system of paying the bounty from one of payment on seed cotton at a flat rate of 14d. per pound to the payment on raw cotton - which is the cotton that is produced after the seed cotton goes through the ginnery - at a rate of 16id. per pound. However, it did not give the producers time to process the cotton at the ginnery and deliver it to the manufacturers so that they could receive payment before 30th December, for which the Bill provided. So, the Government, on the recommendation of the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann), has decided to prolong the period of the operation of the bounty. The bounty year will be extended from 31st December to 28th February, on which date the growing year will end. The Bill will also prolong the period of five years during which the bounty operates. This period would have ended on 31st December 1968, but it is to be extended to 28th February 1969. Cotton growers will be able to obtain their final proceeds before the Act expires.

As Senator Benn has said, cotton growing in Queensland has been going on for many years. The industry has had its ups and downs, mostly downs. I noticed that someone, when speaking on the 1963 Bill, mentioned that the average production in Queensland, under conditions of nonirrigation, was about 125 lb. to 150 lb. of seed cotton per acre. In 1951, the Government decided to promote the growing of cotton throughout Australia by paying a bounty of 9id. per lb. on seed cotton. This amount was increased in 1953 to 14d. per lb. on seed cotton. That measure was renewed without increase until 1963 when an alteration was made. The Government, desirous of en-couraging the efficient production of cotton, decided to call on the Bureau of Agricultural Economics and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation to make a survey of cotton growing throughout Australia in order to find out just what potential there was for meeting the cotton requirement of Australia in the near future. It was mentioned in that year that the production of raw cotton at that time was between 3± and 4i million lb.

Approximately 45 million lb. of raw cotton was used in Australia. It is interesting to note that the value of imports of raw cotton in 1963-64 was approximately £3.5 million. If cotton piece goods and linen are included in that category, the total amount is approximately £30 million. That was for a period of seven months. So, Australia is required to draw on its overseas reserves for between £45 million and £50 million a year for its imports of cotton. We can see from those figures that there is great scope for the growing of cotton in Australia provided it can be grown economically.

With that objective in view, the Government went to its advisers, the Bureau of Agricultural Economics and the C.S.I.R.O., and asked them to make a report on the potential of cotton growing in Australia. In, a very significant report, those organisations stated that cotton growing in the future would be based, in the first place, largely on irrigated areas and, secondly, on having ginneries constructed near the areas on which the cotton would be grown. The report added that there would be problems of transport and that the development of the industry would depend upon the amount of research that could be carried out to help the industry. The report mentioned that the areas offering the best potential included the Namoi-Gwydir districts of New South Wales, the Dawson Valley in Queensland, and the Ord River in Western Australia. The organisation went on to say that, with cotton grown experimentally under irrigation, yields could be obtained amounting to approximately 2,000 lb. per acre. This yield per acre, I believe, had been achieved on the research station on the Ord River prior to 1963.

It is interesting to note that, last year, five farmers growing cotton at the Ord River project had a total average for every acre - some plantings were a total loss - approaching 1,400 lb. of seed cotton. This was the first year of cotton growing on a commercial basis by individual farmers who had the allocated areas.


Senator Ormonde - Are there Americans up there?







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