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Thursday, 19 December 1912

Senator VARDON (South Australia) .- I have not the least objection to the principle of paying bonuses for the encouragement of industries. On the other hand, I prefer it to any other system. If an industry can be placed on a sound footing by means of a bounty or bonus, it is desirable to grant assistance in that form rather than in any other, because we can keep a full account of what we are doing as we go along. But I hold that at the outset we should know what are the prospects of success, and should have reasonable grounds for believing that if a bounty is granted for a certain number of years the industry will become selfsupporting.If we grant bounties without being first assured on this point, we shall probably waste large sums of money. It is necessary that we should have some information in regard to the wool top industry. According to what I have heard, and have read in the newspapers, the circumstances surrounding the payment of this bounty verge on a public scandal. The Minister read extracts from a pamphlet, in which it was stated that 700 employes were engaged in this industry. But in an article published in the Sydney Morning Herald on the 261th October last, it was stated that the actual number of employes was from 250 to 300. These are widely divergent statements. It is desirable, also, that we should know whether or not the firms drawing the bonus - the greatest proportion of the payments have been made to one firm - are able to get along without this assistance. If we are paying from 50 per cent, to 75 per cent, of the wages bills of these firms, we are making a big call on the resources of the Commonwealth in order to establish an industry. Messrs. W. F. Hughes Limited, one of the firms engaged in this industry, recently issued a prospectus in connexion with the flotation of another company with a capital of £[2 50,000. The prospectus contains the following statement -

The machinery employed in all departments is most up-to-date, and throughout the important item of saving labour has been carefully studied.

As an instance, the wool is fed to the mammoth scouring machines 120 feet in length by one lad, and it is scoured and dried without further labour, save for an onlooker to watch the working of the machines.

Then there is another paragraph which reads as follows -

The immunity from labour troubles in this industry is in marked contrast to the conditions obtaining in most other industries in Australia, while in the combing mills the work is carried out almost entirely by girls, to whom its light, clean nature appeals.

According to their own showing, the company will not pay very much for labour ; but, on the other hand, it is claimed in the prospectus that the profits will amount to £50,000 per annum, and that dividends at a high rate on the money invested may be anticipated. A good many strong things have been said about this company, and the business it does, and we ought to make a full investigation. I should like to know whether the whole of the money available for the payment of the bounty has been expended.

Senator Findley - No, we have about £4,000 in hand.

Senator VARDON - I would suggest that the Minister should allow this matter to stand over until next session. In the meantime, a searching inquiry should be made and full information obtained. If the companies are doing good work, and are worth supporting, they ought not to have the slightest hesitation in opening their books and giving the fullest information with regard to their earnings and the wages paid. If the average wage paid is £104 per annum, there must be a considerable number of low-paid employes. Before we continue the bounty we ought to be informed as to the actual conditions. I do not feel inclined to vote for any further bounty on the strength of the information now before us.

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