Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Full Day's HansardDownload Full Day's Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Thursday, 19 December 1912

Senator SHANNON (South Australia) . - It is laudable for a new country like Australia to offer bounties to encourage the establishment of new industries, on the distinct understanding that, after a certain time, those industries are likely to be selfsupporting. But I am certainly not in favour of continuing bounties indefinitely. Unless it can be shown that a bountysupported industry is likely to become selfsupporting, it would be better for the Commonwealth to take it over and work it. Here we have a company, one branch of which is manufacturing wool tops, for which the Commonwealth pays a bounty. The bounty does not expire until 1913. We are asked to extend the term for two years. If the company wishes the bounty to be extended, it ought to furnish the Minister with absolutely full information in order that he may supply it to Parliament. I do not want to know what the company are making out of other branches of their business, but, as one of the custodians of the public purse, I do want to know what they are doing in the matter of wool tops. I think that the Minister should postpone this proposal until we get the information required.

Senator ALBERT GOULD (NEW SOUTH WALES) -Colonel Sir ALBERTGOULD (New South Wales) [8.18].- This afternoon, Senator Findley gave us certain information with regard to the question under discussion. But that information by no means constituted a full reply to the altergations which have been made. It appears to me that we are not even yet in a proper position to vote for the bounty on wool tops. There will be ample time to deal with this question next session, and during the interval there will be an opportunity for the Government to make inquiries on the points that have been raised. If, either through the carelessness of the people who are asking for the bounty, or the indifference of the Ministry as to the particulars that ought to be laid before Parliament, we are placed in a false position, the Government ought to take steps to get us out of it. If they do not furnish us with this information, they are neglecting their Ministerial duty and their duty to their constituents. The prospectus of the company which has been quoted, painted its prospects in the most roseate colours. The report submitted to Parliament when the bounty was originally proposed, also represented the prospects in glowing terms. It was said that inquiries had been made, and that there was no question that the industry would be sell-supporting in five years. Yet we find, from figures given by Senator Millen, that it is costing the Commonwealth nearly 30s. a week for every person employed in the industry.

Senator Findley - Does the honorable senator think that that is a fair way of putting the matter?

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - I do, in view of the figures given by Senator Millen, who explained to us how he made his calculation. The Minister himself admits that the bounty amounts to £[48 a year for every employe, which is nearly £1 per week. A good deal of the work is done, by female 'abour. So that, if honorable senators agree to this bounty, it will mean that they are prepared to pay to the people engaged in the industry £1 per week each.

Senator Givens - It is better to pay £1 a week to the people who are doing something useful than that they should be kept idle.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - I could find plenty of people in this country who would be willing to find work for unemployed persons if Parliament would give them £1 a week for every person employed. The Opposition simply want the Government to make full inquiries.

Senator Rae - Has the honorable senator any idea as to what the machinery of the company costs?

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD .- The Minister told us that it had cost £14,000. The company has a nominal capital of £250,000. Its prospectus showed how flourishing the industry would be. It was, in fact, to be a tip-top industry. The profit of the company was estimated to be £50,000 per annum, of which ,£46,000 was to be derived from wool tops. The company estimated that it would be able to produce 2,400,000 pounds of tops per annum. The statements made in the prospectus are worthy of the fullest investigation. When the company was formed, 150,000 shares were issued, of which 110,000 were applied for. Who retained the 110,000 shares? Were they sold and paid for in cash, or did they represent the business of the vendors at the time, plus the good-will? This matter could very well stand over until the Min ister is in a position to give Parliament the information that is required. We are told that orders have to be given twelve months ahead, but Parliament will meet nearly eighteen months before the bonus already provided has expired. I hope it will be borne in mind that while we are giving a bonus on wool tops that are exported, we are not giving a bonus to our own people, who not only manufacture tops, but also convert them into woollen materials. We are offering a bonus in order that men outside the Commonwealth may have the advantage of the public money raised from the taxpayers of this country, and be in a position to produce an article at a much cheaper rate than that at which they could produce it if they had to pay full value for those wool tops when they come into their hands. Honorable senators opposite do not realize that this sort of thing ought to begin at home - that if you have money to give away you ought to give it to those who are in this country, and who are bringing our products to the highest state of perfection. One honorable senator suggested that we should give a bonus on the export of woollen cloth. I should be very loath to give my vote in favour of that, because those companies in this country that are producing woollen cloth have lots of work, and, although they may not be paying extravagantly high dividends, they are, at any rate, paying fair average dividends. It is for the people of the country to assist our manufactures as far as they can by using the goods produced in the country, instead of using those produced elsewhere, if they can get our home goods at a reasonable price. It was pointed out by one honorable senator that a large sum of money would be required to finance these proposals, but I am told that under the schedule of the present Bounties Act there was voted £339,000, and that under this Bill another ,£20,000 is provided for; making, in all, £359,000. Of that .£339,000, all that has been expended is £166,000. There is, therefore, £173,000 in hand, to which has to be added the £20,000 provided for under this Bill ; making, in all, ,£193,000 to meet extended bonuses aggregating ,£235,000. It is believed that this will suffice, and at the rate at which the £339,000 is being expended, the estimate is probably a safe one. I was asked by an honorable senator who had intended speaking to make that statement. It may be gratifying to a certain extent to know that there is ,£173,000 in hand, but it shows that these bounties have not had the effect of establishing industries to the extent anticipated. The Government ought to very carefully consider this question of bounties, and when they ask honorable members to assent to the expenditure of money for the purpose of encouraging the production of any particular article, they should be in a position to satisfy us that the industry only requires a little assistance in its early stages, in order to get upon its feet, and to eventually become a permanent and profitable industry. If the Government can show that to be the case in connexion with these particular bounties, I am quite willing to support the granting of them, but I protest against public money being used for the purpose of bolstering up an industry that can only stand while it is drawing money out of the pockets of the people. If the Government can show that, after being assisted for five, ten, or fifteen years, an industry can stand upon its feet, and be carried on without eternally leaning on the Government, I do not object to giving it assistance, but, otherwise, I do object to assisting it.

Suggest corrections