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Thursday, 19 December 1912

Senator CHATAWAY (Queensland) . - When the original Bill was before us I strongly objected to our earmarking a large sum of money that in all probability would not be earned and paid away. Under the Bill it is proposed to go further, regardless of whether the industries to be assisted can offer any prospect of substantial success within a few years. The original Act provides for varying periods for the payment of the bounty, as follows: - Cotton ginned, 8 years; New Zealand flax, 10 years ; flax and hemp, 5 years ; jute, 5 years ; sisal hemp, 10 years ; cotton seed, 8 years; linseed, 5 years; rice, 5 years; rubber, 15 years; coffee, 8 years; tobacco leaf, 5 years ; preserved fish, 5 years; dates, 15 years; dried fruits, 5 years; and combed wool or tops, exported, 3 years. I do not see why we should now adopt a uniform term of ten years, as is proposed. It seems to me that the Bill, if passed in its present form, would leave the way open for the payment of bounties for the support of small industries which would show 'j no sign of expansion. The period of ten years fixed for the bounty in the case of flax-'growing, jute and linseed - practically annual crops - seems to me to be out of all proportion. It is continuing the bounties for a term longer than the duration of two Parliaments.

Senator Findley - No. The majority of the bounties expired on the 30th June of this year, and clause 4 means a period of ten years from 1907, not from this year.

Senator CHATAWAY - If that is so, the Minister should have made that explanation when I mentioned the matter at the beginning of my remarks.

Senator Findley - The Bill itself tells you that.

Senator CHATAWAY - The bounty on wool tops has been discussed at some length. I think that the Government would have been wiser if they had proposed a decreasing bounty, if it is to be continued for only two years. The bounty is to be altered to id. per lb. for the first 1.000,000 lbs. made by any one manufacturer, and fd. per lb. for each pound in excess of that quantity made by any one manufacturer.

Senator Findley - Originally it was 1½d. per lb.

Senator CHATAWAY - If the Government had made the bounties id. and fd. per lb. in the first year, and fd. and |d. per lb. in the second year, probably the proposal would not have been quite so objectionable as is the present proposal. I think that while the Government have been very kind towards the wool-top industry, which I understand is paying uncommonly well, and pays very high salaries to its leading officials, they have certainly treated rather shabbily many industries which are doing their level best to get on their feet, and do not involve any very considerable sum. Unfortunately, I have not been able to get a copy of an annual return, and therefore I am obliged to rely upon my memory. There is a tendency for the coffee industry to go back. If we are going to extend the help of bounties to such a big concern as wool-top making, which is drawing assistance from the Treasury to the extent of thousands of pounds a year, I think it would have been wise, especially in view of legislation likely to be passed in connexion with the sugar industry, if the Government had offered something more in the way of bounties to establish the coffee-growing business. In some places where coffee is grown, the bounty is not being claimed, for the simple reason that its receipt would not make it worth while for the growers to pick the berries with white labour, and so they continue to employ coloured labour. If the proposed sugar legislation is carried out, a certain number of coloured men will, of a surety, be driven away from the sugar-fields, and possibly the sugar factories. If my honorable friends do not wish them to pass into other States, probably the best thing which the men can do is to drift into those centres where tropical products, such as coffee, are grown, and take their chance of getting employment there.

Senator McGregor - They can go to Fiji.

Senator CHATAWAY - Of course they can, if the Minister will pay their passages. The bounty on cigar leaf is to be extended for five years. Despite the bad seasons which have prevailed, a considerable amount of cigar leaf is produced in the Bowen district, in Queensland, and, according to the last State agricultural report, there is every probability of a very considerable increase in the cultivation of the leaf. I now come to the bounty on preserved fish. Although it is an industry which ought to be conducted on a very big scale in Australia - seeing how dear the ordinary fresh fish is, and how easy it is to make up preserved fish in dishes so that the difference between the two sorts can hardly be discerned - the bounty is put down at½d. per pound. I admit that there is practically very little increase in the production of preserved fish. The industry is useful in many ways - useful because it employs persons alongside the water, which is one of the things we want to encourage - and because it is a food industry.

As I prophesied, and I am sorry to say that my prophesy is correct, the bounty on rice has had practically no effect. I think that in Queensland an area of only 4½ acres is under rice. I do not say that the area under cultivation will not be increased. I am only giving an illustration of the way in which we pledged ourselves, and practically locked up a considerable sum for a number of years, when it was hopeless to expect any satisfactory result. I do not know whether the Government intend to extend this bounty to the Territories of the Commonwealth. That point should be considered, because I am strongly of opinion that, in certain portions of the Northern Territory, rice could be cultivated on the recent American principle, and made a profitable crop. I should like to know whether the bounty is to apply to the Northern Territory and Papua ? Probably it would not operate in Papua because there it is nearly certain that coloured labour would be employed. I had not the advantage of hearing the Minister's opening speech, but, judging from the Queensland returns, no progress is being made in rice cultivation. While we are helping in a large way the wool-top industry, it would be a very good thing indeed if the Government could see their way to increase some of the bounties to which I have referred. Up to the last financial year, on combed wool tops, no less than £30,679 was paid by way of bounty, while on coffee the bounty came to £528 ; on tobacco, to £565; on linseed, to £6; on cotton-seed, to £44 ; on sisal hemp, to £189 ; on flax hemp, to £849; and on gin cotton, to £304. Section 4 of the Act provides that the bounties shall not be payable except under given conditions. It reads as follows -

The bounties under this Act shall be payable in respect of goods which -

(a)   are, in the opinion of the Minister, of a merchantable quality, or, in the case of food-stuffs, are of the prescribed quality, and

(b)   have been grown or produced in not less than the prescribed quantity and subject to the prescribed conditions, and

(c)   have been grown or produced by white labour only.

The section needs to be altered, because there is no definition of what the term "merchantable quality" means. When we pay so large a sum as£30,000 in connexion with wool tops, we should have a report on which we can rely to show the quality of the wool tops.

Senator Findley - They are merchantable.

Senator CHATAWAY - Yes ; and so are old clothes.

Senator Findley - Because they compete against Bradford and other tops, and fetch a higher price.

Senator CHATAWAY - I understand that Australian wool tops are competing successfully against English wool tops in the Japanese market, but we have yet to learn what the variety is. The main point I wish to make is that, the last year on which it is proposed to pay bounties is the year ending the 30th June 1922, and that, instead of ear-marking .£339,000, as from 1908, we are asked now to ear-mark no less than .£359,000; but we are not asked to increase the bounty on any one of these articles.

Senator McGregor - You can see that the annual payment on most of them has been increasing.

Senator CHATAWAY - From what amount is £6 an increase - from ,£4, or £2, or .£1 ?

Senator McGregor - Nothing.

Senator CHATAWAY - Very likely, because before the Act was passed we did not pay any bounties. Who is going to get this additional sum of .£20,000 ? The other industries have not made any considerable demand on the Treasury. It looks as if the Government assume that another £20,000 is to be given to the manufacturers of wool tops. I should like the Minister to say whether these bounties will apply in the Northern Territory, and to what extent.

Senator McGregor - Yes, because the preamble of the original Bill says, "Australia and the Territories in Australia."

Senator CHATAWAY - lt says "the Commonwealth of Australia."

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