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Tuesday, 19 May 1936

Senator FOLL - For the simple reason that the market could not absorb the output if the whole of the plant were used for manufacturing cotton tweeds only. From Senator Payne's remarks one would imagine that we were just about to impose these duties, whereas they have been in operation for some time, and were originally imposed, as the Minister has explained, to foster the cotton-growing and cotton spinning industries. If this request is adopted and these duties are removed, we might as well put " paid " to the account of those industries. Furthermore, I point out that if we lost this trade it would not go to Great Britain; the importations would come from Japan, because this is a market of the type which is being secured by Japanese weavers. Thus, this trade, which is now giving employment to Australian operatives and Australian cotton-growers, would go to Japanese operatives. I am informedthat, since these duties were imposed on goods of this particular class, one firm in Melbourne alone has spent over £250,000 on machinery and plant for the purpose of manufacturing them.

Senator A J McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Approximately £300,000 has been spent.

Senator FOLL - Yes, that is allowing also for plant and machinery necessary for the spinning of yarns for the manufacture of these goods. I repeat that these duties have been in operation for a considerable time, and, as the Minister pointed out, were originally imposed as the result of one . of the most thorough and careful examinations yet conducted into any industry. The Tariff Board made certain recommendations, and, after endeavouring to see in what way it could hold the scales evenly between the manufacturers and the importers concerned, the Government itself decided that here was a particular line that could be manufactured in Australia. As the result of the imposition of these duties, Australian manufacturers were encouraged to enter this field; and I suggest that if this committee, by a snatch vote, based on misleading statements made by Senator Payne, carries this amendment, we shall be breaking faith with these manufacturers. As a representative of Queensland, in which State the industry is established, I point out that cottongrowing has developed promisingly, and will become a still greater primary industry if further encouraged. At present it employs the following numbers: Cottongrowers, 3,500; cotton-pickers,' intermittent and seasonal, 3,500; cotton-ginnery and oil mill, general seasonal, 200; cotton chipping, thinning, &c, intermittent short periods, 300 ; spinning, weaving and knitting mills, 3,700, or a total of 11,200 employees. The industry can very well be extended to other parts of Australia. As I have already said, much of the existing cotton area is suitable only for cotton growing, and, if the industry is jeopardised, this land will simply revert to grazing paddocks, and the men now employed will be thrown out of work. When the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) was speaking on this matter the other day, he referred to a statement by a leading American authority on cotton on the prospects of expanding the industry in Australia. If authorities in other countries recognize the suitability of our conditions for this industry, surely we should not do anything to retard its growth. It is both a primary and a secondary industry. To-day, our cotton mills are turning out excellent cloth; both in Sydney and Melbourne the mills have bought spinning machinery of the very latest type overseas, and their goods compare favorably with goods that can be imported from any other country, whilst, in many, instances the Australian article is of a higher quality. Not only as a representative of Queensland, where many people are directly interested in this industry, but also as one who is anxious to see Australian industry as a whole developed, I urge the committee not to bo led away by the arguments advanced by Senator Payne.

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