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Thursday, 19 December 1912

Senator SAYERS (Queensland) .- I am pleased that this Bill has been brought forward, because I believe that it will do a certain amount of good. The Minister, in his speech, referred to coffee and rice. I have had several communications from one of the largest coffee-growers in Queensland. The last communication I had from that gentleman Avas in reply to a wire which I sent him stating that the Government intended to continue the bounties on those products. In previous letters which I had from him he stated that it was impossible to re-establish the coffee industry on a bounty of id. a pound, and in this wire lie states -

Penny bonus slight assistance to coffee-growers, but amount too small to re-start the industry.

This gentleman has been growing coffee for a number of years, and has been, to a certain . extent, successful. Some of the coffee grown-by him Avas used in Parliament House years ago, and I belie\,e that it is really good. He is anxious that the industry should be re-started; but he says that, although the bounty of one penny will be of slight assistance to those who now have plantations, it will be no good to those who have to start from bed-rock. I shall hand the telegram to the Minister. It is signed by a Mr. Street, than whom I do not think there is a better judge as to what should be done. I do not suppose that it is possible for a private member to get an increase in the bounty now, but I desire tobring the matter under the notice of the Minister. Senator Findley spoke about machinesbeing used in garnering rice. I interjected that machines might be used on what is called upland rice country, but in places where the rice is grown in swamps, and where those employed are up to their thighs in mud, it would be impossible for a machine to be worked. The honorable senator stated that an American expert now in Victoria had seen machines working in the rice plantations on prairie country in Kansas, in the United States of America. I quite agree that in prairie country, which- is irrigated by wells, machines could be worked, but we know that the best class of rice is grown in the swampy country, where it would be impossible to use a machine, and in that part of Queensland where ricegrowing has been engaged in a machine would not act. I am sorry to see that the question of growing cotton has not been given some consideration by this Parliament. Several attempts to establish the cotton industry have been made by the State Government of Queensland, and very good cotton was grown in and around Ipswich. The mill and all the necessary machinery are still there, and they not only grew cotton, but they produced calicoes and other articles from it. I believe that if a fair subsidy were given the industry could be established, and that would result in a great deal of good to the Commonwealth. The bonus has not been sufficiently large to make the industry a financial success, but I hope that steps will be taken to properly establish an industry which is now languishing for the want of some assistance. Our people have grown cotton, and they have manufactured it into fabrics to the extent of thousands of yards. Why should not the Government assist this important industry, which is of a thoroughly Australian character, and upon which the people of Queensland have spent many thousands of pounds?

Senator Lynch - What is the amount of the bonus?

Senator SAYERS - Ten per cent.

Senator Lynch - That is not a bad percentage.

Senator SAYERS - The point is that it is not sufficient, mainly owing to the high cost of labour. All that I ask is that the Government should adopt the same course in regard to the cotton industry that Senator Millen has suggested in respect of the wool top industry. They should send an officer to the cotton-growing districts to make a full investigation, and ascertain whether, by granting an additional 5 per cent, bonus, the industry would be assisted to such an extent as to give reasonable hope of ultimate success. If it were shown that there was no hope, or that the planters were making high profits, I would ask for nothing further. But I urge that those who have been induced by the present bonus to engage in the industry are entitled to further assistance if it can be shown that it is needed, and that the prospects are hopeful. A great many men went into cotton planting in the full belief that the bonus would prove sufficient; but I am in formed that, unless the bonus is increased, they will be ruined. We know that in the initial stages of any industry many mistakes are made, but as time goes on these are rectified, and the industry is placed upon a better footing and becomes less in need of outside assistance. With regard to coffee, I would ask the Government to make a thorough investigation. If we are to establish coffee-growing as a natural industry, instead of leaving it in the hands of one or two men, who have been able to tide over the initial difficulties, it will be necessary to increase the bonus for two years, and I hope that something will be done next session, otherwise a large number of persons will be absolutely ruined.

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