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Thursday, 19 December 1912

Senator ST LEDGER (Queensland) . - It is about time that we considered where we are in regard to bounties. In Sydney, a long investigation by a newspaper has been going on, and it seems that something is being done with regard to the production of wool tops, and the bounties thereon, which is absolutely hostile to the interests of Australia, because it is playing into the hands of the Japanese manufacturers. Unfortunately, at the end of the session no individual senator, possibly not even the Vice-President of the Executive Council, can go into this question. We are asked to burden the taxpayers with £30,000 or £40,000 extra to support this policy. If it is going to help an Australian industry, let us consider it. The more the wool-top bounty is investigated the more strongly it is asserted that the whole benefit of the bounty is going to a single company.

Senator Findley - No, to two companies.

Senator ST LEDGER - We authorized the payment of these bounties at the beginning, not for the benefit of one or two companies, but for the assistance and development of the industries of Australia, and those engaged therein. This is another instance of how easy it is to go in for this kind of thing, and how difficult it is to tell what will come of it. State assistance in this direction always leads to the same result. It is about time that those who talk of bounties, Protection, or prohibition, should know what is the result of the adoption of these forms of assistance to industry.

Senator McGregor - The butter bounty created the butter industry in some of the States.

Senator ST LEDGER - We knew nothing about butter bounties in Queensland, and I do not believe that any of the States knew of them in the sense in which we are now using the word "bounty." -I have here a return showing what we have paid in bounties, and I am entitled to ask what we are getting for the money thus expended. I do not say that the present Government are entirely responsible in this matter. I like to be an exponent of the square deal. I frankly admit that a Sugar Bounties Bill was introduced by a Government ' which I supported. Still, I am entitled to ask, What returns are we getting from these bounties? Under an Act which we have passed, we have paid to the Commonwealth Oil Corporation altogether ,£3,367 in bounties. What return have we got for that expenditure? If the Government can indicate a single successful experiment under this system, I. may be inclined to assent to this Bill. We are asked to give further assistance to the wool-top making industry. That is one of the reasons for which this Bill is being introduced. I have searched reports in vain to discover whether the industries already supported by bounties are increasing. That is the object we had in view in paying these bounties. I can get no information on the subject from the Government or from official returns. I have referred to what has been paid in this way for the production of shale oil in the past.

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