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Friday, 26 June 1903


Mr WILKINSON (MORETON, QUEENSLAND) - I class the cotton industry with the other industries which I. have named because of its possible magnitude. Wool brings a higher price in the markets of the world than does cotton, while the superiority of Australian wool enables it to command higher prices than are obtained for wool from other countries, so that the wool-growing industry needs no protection here. I am convinced from the evidence which has been put before me that Queensland can produce a cotton which will take a place in the cotton world similar to that which is held by Australian wool in the wool world. I have here a sample of a new variety sent to me from Cairns, which I should like those interested in the matter to examine. Those who do so will agree with the opinion of experts in such manufacturing centres as Manchester, Liverpool, London, and Italy that nothing hitherto submitted to them is nearly equal to it for quality, fibre, and fineness. The gentleman who produced it has been experimenting for a considerable time, and he calls this new variety the Caravonica cotton. Instead of growing on bushes, as we were accustomed to see cotton growing in the sixties, this cotton grows upon trees which are described to me as almost as large as fair-sized orange trees. The grower in question has received an order from the Associated Spinners' Institute in Italy for 6,000 bales. He is not able to supply that quantity yet, because the area that he has under cultivation is too small, but he writes to say that he has 10 acres of this particular kind of cotton under cultivation, and 50 more planted, and that he has made arrangements to lease ]00 acres to a number of families. All the labour engaged in the industry is white. He does not employ Asiatics or other coloured aliens. That in itself should commend the motion to those who believe in a white Australia. An honest endeavour is being made to promote an industry which will provide occupation for those of our own race in parts of the Commonwealth which the enemies of a white Australia have said it is not possible to people with white men. I should like to quote the opinions of a few authorities with regard to the particular kind of cotton to which I have referred. Dr. Thomatis says -

This variety has been declared by the best experts at .Liverpool, Manchester, Oldham, London, Havre, Genoa, Turin, &o.., as the best known in the whole world, and valued the highest of all. The Liverpool Daily Post had a most flatteringarticle, also other leading journals. . . . The Italian Associated Cotton Spinners declared it really excellent in every respect, and better than the best of American cottons, and they, gave me. an order for 0,000 bales at the highest price.

One of the greatest scientific experts in the Empire, Dr. Morris, who was at one time-, curator of the Kew Gardens, in London,, and who is now the Imperial High Commissioner for Agriculture in the West Indies,- has been cultivating certain new varieties of cotton, but he has not achieved such great success as Dr. Thomatis. 'The cotton raised by the latter gentleman has been subjected to competition with the varieties produced by Dr. Morris, and it has been adjudged of superior staple.


Mr Kirwan - Then why is it necessary to offer a bonus ?


Mr WILKINSON - The bonus is needed to give the industry a start, inasmuch asunder the Tariff we have left very little protection for the growers of cotton or themanufacturers of cotton goods.


Mr Kirwan - But cotton-growing hasbeen started without a bonus, and is being: successfully carried on.


Mr WILKINSON - Many of those whoadvocated low duties under the Tariff said they would prefer to give bonuses for the encouragement of industry, and I submit that we now have an opportunity of. stimulating an industry which, in a few years, will rank in importance with our largest enterprises. A Royal Commission has been appointed to report upon the Bill which was introduced last session to providea bonus for the encouragement of the manufacture of iron from our native ores. Weknow that a great many cf the industries of Great Britain owe their very existence tothe production of iron in the old country and, further, we are aware that some of themost important industrial centres in GreatBritain and other countries owe their prosperity to the manufacture of cotton goods. If,/ therefore, we can afford to offer a fair bonus for the production of iron, I think that we might very well see our way to give the more modest one for which I ask to encourage the growth and manufacture of cotton. I am quite aware that the House has not yet agreed to grant a bonus for the manufacture of iron, but a good deal of favorable consideration has been given to the proposal even by those honorable members who do not believe in a protectionist policy. The object I have in view is to stimulate for a little while an industry which is capable of assuming very large dimensions, and causing the settlement of tens of thousands of people, upon some of the lands of the Commonwealth which are at present unoccupied. One of the results of the cotton-growing rage in Queensland in the sixties and seventies was that people rushed on to the land, and many failures followed, but some of the best settlers we now have were induced to enter into agricultural pursuits by the hope that they would be able to make a success of cotton-growing, and though they have had to turn their attention to other pursuits, the reward offered for the growth of cotton has not been altogether misspent, because it has undoubtedly very largely .promoted the settlement of our agricultural lands. One of our greatest objects should be to make Australia selfsustaining and self-contained. Whatever we can produce we should produce, not only in its raw state, but in the manufactured form required to meet the needs of our people. As far back as 1871 South Sea Island cotton produced in Queensland competed at the Paris Exhibition with similar products grown in other parts of the world, and was awarded a gold medal. Therefore, the adaptability of Queensland for the growth of cotton other than the special variety which I have mentioned has been proved beyond all doubt. Owing to a series of unfortunate events, however, the industry gradually dwindled away after the exportations had reached the volume of 2,750,000 lbs. of cotton in 1876. The failure of the industry was largely due to the destruction caused by a pest called the boll-worm. It may be objected that, as the industry did not respond to the encouragement formerly given, we shall simply be repeating an experiment which is foredoomed to failure ; but the boll-worm which destroyed thousands of acres of cotton just as the crop was maturing can now be coped with, because science has come to the rescue. More than that, whatever cotton was grown here in the old days had to be sent away in sailing ships, which occupied from 1 20 to 130 days in making the voyage to Europe. Railways had not been extended very far then, and the cotton had to be brought to the wharfs in slowmoving bullock drays, or by means of horse teams, so that the farmers could not afford to wait for their returns until their crops were placed upon the market. This threw them into the hands of brokers, who bought the cotton in the unginned condition, and, after extracting the seeds, claimed the bonus which was offered for ginned cotton. Then a series of wet seasons, just when the cotton had to be picked, militated against success. Notwithstanding all these adverse conditions, the industry was carried on with profitable results for many years. The American war- caused the price of cotton to reach a very high point, and the Queensland industry therefore was very considerably helped on its way. At the close of the American war, however, prices again fell, and then the boll-worm caused trouble. These circumstances, together with the other influences which I have mentioned, and the discovery of gold in Queensland, which diverted a large amount of labour from agricultural pursuits, tended to interfere with the continuance of the industry. Later on another effort was made, and a cotton manufacturing company was started at Ipswich. A fairly complete and comprehensive plant was laid down, and it is now standing idle. A bonus of £5,000 was given by the Queensland Government for the manufacture of the first £5,000 worth of calico.


Sir William McMillan - To whom' did the money belong ?


Mr WILKINSON - The money granted by way of bonus belonged to the people, and I cannot conceive of any important industry being established without conferring benefit upon the whole community. I should not advocate the granting of the bonus for the sake of the growers only ; but because I believe that the Commonwealth as a whole would benefit from the establishment of an important industry. It is the people's money which pays for the maintenance of the defence and police forces.


Sir William McMillan - But that money is spent for the benefit of all the people, and not for a section.


Mr WILKINSON - Exactly ; and my argument is that an industry like that of cotton-growing, which is capable of expansion to enormous proportions, is one which would confer benefit upon the whole of our people.


Mr Kirwan - Did the £5,000 bonus offered in Queensland do any good ?


Mr WILKINSON - The factory was closed up.


Mr McDonald - Shortly after the bonus was paid.


Mr WILKINSON - Yes. I do not wish to go into the details of a private concern of that kind, because opinions differ upon many matters connected with it. My own impression, however, is that the company was badly managed in the beginning, and that it had not sufficient capital to carry on business upon anything like the scale necessary to success. Too much of the floating capital that was available in the beginning was put into bricks and mortar, instead of being used to pay the farmers who delivered cotton at the mills. It was found necessary to give the farmers orders on storekeepers instead of paying them the ready money which they most required. The consequence was that at first the farmers grew more cotton than the factory could consume, and later more than the company could pay for, and some of their product had to be exported to Japan. This did not prove profitable,, and the farmers eventually refused to grow any more cotton for the mills, and the company had in the end to import cotton from abroad to keep the mill going.


Mr Kirwan - But did the people benefit from the granting of the bonus of £5,000 ?


Mr WILKINSON - The benefit was not apparent in this particular instance, but it does not follow that because that venture failed there is nothing inherently good inthe industry itself. As I have already stated, it took America nearly 100 years to build up the cotton industry. On one occasion a small steamer was seized in Liverpool on some pretext, because the Customs authorities believed that the whole of the United States could not have produced as much cotton as was represented by the cargo said to have been brought from that country. Almost every newspaper which deals with industrial matters contains information to the effect that the manufacturer's of Great Britain are . greatly concerned as to the future cotton supply. I noticed in one of the magazines that the imports of cotton into Great Britain from the 1st January to the 7th May of this year amounted to 1,887,000 bales. Russia is trying to supply her own demands, Italy obtains cotton from Egypt, America, and other countries, and France and Germany also require that staple. Why should not the people of Queensland endeavour to take a share in meeting these requirements 1


Sir Malcolm McEacharn - Cotton can be grown in other parts of the Commonwealth besides Queensland.


Mr WILKINSON - Certainly. Perhaps I sometimes use the name of Queensland when I really intend to speak of the Commonwealth as a whole. It seems to me that we ave favorably situated so far as the cotton supply is concerned, because we are within such easy reach of the densely populated countries of the east. The clothing of people in these Eastern countries, I gather, consists more of cotton articles than of woollen. The people are very numerous, and would probably become large customers for cotton grown in Queensland. In the endeavours which have been made to foster the industry in the northern portion of the Commonwealth, none of the subsidiary products of cotton were utilized. Thousands of tons of valuable cotton seed were absolutely thrown away, whereas today the seed forms one of the most important products of the industry. I have in my hand a paragraph extracted from an article which appears in a trade journal upon the manufacture of cotton-seed oil. It reads as follows : -

According to the census of cotton-seed oil mills in the United States last yeal-, there were fiftysix. The amount of seed used is about 400,000 tons yearly. After being dusted and stripped of lint, the seed goes to a revolving cylinder set with knives, -which cut it very fine. Then the hulls are separated from the meal, and the latter is pressed between rollers and packed in woollen bags which are placed between horsehair mats and subjected to a hydraulic pressure of about 200 tons. The expressed oil is either barrelled in the crude state, or pumped to a refining room, where it is treated with caustic soda, obtaining 82 per cent, of fine oil. The first product derived from this process is the lint, which amounts to about 5 per cent, of a crop ; that is, the country "gin " takes 95 per cent, of the crop, and the seed retains 5 per cent., which the mills secure. The cotton is very white and clean, but very short, and the best of it sells at 8 cents per lb. It is used to make cotton " batting." The crop of the oil mills amounted to 5,000 bales last year. Second, the hulls constitute about one-half of the seed. They are used for fuel to run the mill, and thus the mills do not need to, buy any coal. The ashes make a valuable fertilizer, and they are also "leached" for the purpose of obtaining lye, to make soap. Third, the oil amounts to about .15,000,000 gallons in the United States; and ab6ut 10.000,000 gallons are yearly exported to Europe, where it is used to adulterate olive oil. Three gallons of cotton-seed oil and one gallon of olive oil make four gallons of the average (so-called) olive oil, and the cotton oil can hardly be detected. Fourth, the oil-cake is of a rich yellow colour, and is used principally to feed stock, for which use it is ground, and fed like corn meal. It is shipped in sacks, each weighing 200 lbs. Fifth, the deposit left, when the oil is refined, is used to make soap, and also for making dyes.

There are a number of subsidiary products connected with the manufacture of cotton, not one of which was used when the previous attempts were made to grow cotton in Queensland. These by-products would have made the industry successful, but ewing to lack of knowledge they were allowed to go to waste, either on the fields or in the ginning establishments. In the hope that this Parliament will afford some slight encouragement to the industry, the gentleman who has written to me from Cairns is already making arrangements for the purchase of machinery, by means of which he will be able to utilize these subsidiary products. There can be no question as to the demand which exists for cotton grown within the Commonwealth. Its superiority has been admitted. In support of that statement, I should like to quote the opinion of Mr. Thomas Bazley, a member of the House of Commons, who is one of the largest cotton spinners in Manchester. That gentleman said -

He had used Queensland Sea Island cotton, and it was the best that had ever been imported into England. He had paid 2s. 3d. per lb. for that cotton, when bulk of cotton was selling for Bid. It was so fine that no looms in England or France would spin it, so it was sent to India, and it produced a fabric so fine in texture that it was regarded as a curiosity, and was exhibited alongside the Victorian gold nugget at the Paris Exhibition.

I would remind honorable members that last session I tabled a similar motion upon this subject, but it was not reached, and as a result some of the evidence which I have collected may appear to be somewhat out of date. But that it is equally applicable to-day, is evidenced by a paragraph which appears in the Age of this morning having reference to the anxiety expressed in Great Britain with regard to the cotton supply. The present is a most opportune time for us to embark upon the industry if we wish to take advantage of a market which seems to be begging for the very article that we are so well fitted to produce. The Liverpool Journal of Commerce, of 27th December, 1901, in an article headed "Our Cotton Supply - Possibilities in Queensland,"says -

The fidelity with which the operations on the cotton market follow the fluctuations of opinion anent the American crop with the present flat State of quotations awaiting developments, shows how dependent we are for our Supply upon our Transatlantic neighbours. Any shortage in the American crop reflects itself with the worst effect upon Liverpool, and in turn upon the great army of operatives in Lancashire in general. Viewing the great increase in the number of spindles during the last few 3'ears, we will see that it will become a more and more serious problem to obtain a reliable supply equal to the increasing demand. To this end we might turn our attention to our colonies in search of a suitable locale for a new and permanent source of supply.

The writer goes on to recall the fact that -

At the time of the cotton famine during the American war 35 countries rushed in hot haste into the cultivation of cotton, not as a legitimate enterprise, but as a wild speculation. Of these, the greater number quickly failed, and abandoned the effort. Some few established a lucrative and lasting commerce in inferior types. But the finest varieties, the Georgia Uplands and the Sea lsland cotton, which alone could supply the place of the American product, were more difficult of culture. Queensland succeeded in producing them to perfection.

The history pf our own cotton-growing is then briefly sketched, showing that, in spite of many drawbacks, the export in 1868 had reached 6,032 bales ; but under the combined influence of the stoppage of the Government bonus and the ravages of the boll-worm the yield was reduced in 1870 to 1,884 bales. Prices fell from their abnormal inflation owing to the renewal of the American supply, and with the outbreak of the Gympie gold-field the cultivation practically died out. The article continues -

Now that capital is flowing- into the State, and business is being established on a sounder basis, would be the suitable juncture to enter into a most profitable investment. The soil and climate which produced results so excellent in times past are still there. But drawbacks which operated adversely are no longer existent. Land is obtainable on favorable terms, and the plant is easily and cheaply grown. The bollworm, the only insect enemy of the plant, is no longer to be dreaded. Experiment has demonstrated that its depredations may be entirely prevented by the dissemination of Paris green.

I am indebted to the honorable and learned member for Darling Downs for having brought under my notice a few weeks ago the fact that, as far back as the early fifties, Dr. Lang, one of the greatest Australian statesmen, declared that the cotton industry could be carried on by white labour. The article continues -

The old process of hand-spinning, which was laborious, nay, almost impossible, is superseded by invention and steam-power, and new improvements have disposed of the difficulty of ginning. Cotton picking can be best done by women and children, and it has none of the injurious effects upon health of work in the cane-fields.


Mr A Paterson - What about the ginning?


Mr WILKINSON - The new form of gin makes that occupation very different from what it was when the honorable member for Capricornia and myself had something to do with this industry. I am quite aware that the honorable member brings a practical knowledge to bear upon this matter. So do I. With the new gin, instead of the cotton flying about in the blow-room, and the dust getting down the throats and into the lungs of the operatives, it now comes out in the form of a wad. The article proceeds -

Families could be settled on the land either as labourers or on a co-operative principle, growing the cotton themselves, and supplying it at a price to a central gin-owner. The cotton produced is of the finest quality, and the by-products are of exceptional value in Queensland. The seed, reserving a certain proportion for replanting (though best results are obtained from a change of seed), produce an oil of good standard, for which there is a ready market. The residue, compressed into oil-cake, would form a valuable asset as a cattle or pig feed. The stalks are utilized in the manufacture of a kind of coarse gunny-bag, and, in the event of the establishment of an industry in olive oil, would be of value for containing the marc. The proposition is one well worth consideration. Not only does it offer large profits on small outlay, but, if undertaken on anything like a large scale with attendant success, it would render our market, and one of our staple industries, less dependent upon America, and less subject to the extremes of depression and undue inflation. The needs of the market aref ully appreciated by foreign countries, and Russia is continually putting larger areas under cotton in her Asiatic possessions. Even so, the product is akin to the Indian cottons, and, even by skilful hybridizing, cannot be made to take the place of the Sea Island cotton, with its unrivalled strength, length, and beauty of staple. Germany, too, is seeking amongst her foreign colonies suitable districts for cottongrowing. We have the land and climate within our reach, and shall be remiss if we neglect to take advantage of it.

If any excuse were needed for asking the House to considerthis subject, itis to be found in the opportune time at which the motion is submitted. There is a market awaiting the industry, and within the borders of the Commonwealth we have many people who can scarcely be said to be remuneratively employed, and who are a tax on the rest of the community. The cry of the unemployed is urgent in all our large cities ; and one object to which we could most wisely direct attention is that of bringing idle lands and idle hands together, in order to produce that which will benefit not only the people immediately engaged, but the whole of the Commonwealth.







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