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Wednesday, 30 July 1930

Senator CRAWFORD (Queensland) . - Honorable senators know that I am a fairly consistent protectionist. I certainly feel that I should be open to a charge of gross inconsistency if, after supporting the bill that provided for a bounty on the production of cotton and the manufacture of cotton yarn, I were to oppose similar proposals for the encouragement of the flax industry in another State. I have, so far, avoided the charge of being a geographical protec tionist. It would be of decided advantage to the country if honorable senators took a broad Australian view of the measures submitted for their consideration. It is essential that we should develop, not only certain favoured localities, but, so far as is possible, the whoh area for which we are responsible.

From what I can gather, the climatic and other conditions of Tasmania are suitable for the production of flax. Possibly a similar remark may be applied to some of our other States. If that, is so, there is no reason why, in a very little time, the flax industry should not develop into substantial proportions in Australia. We know that it has done so in other countries which have conditions somewhat comparable to our own.

Senator Sir George Pearce - The flax industry received a bounty for ten years. Why did it not then develop satisfactorily ?

Senator CRAWFORD - No doubt a good deal was learnt during that period which will be very helpful in establishing the industry successfully on this occasion. I have not looked up the figures lately, but from memory I believe that the production of linseed in the Argentine amounts to 500,000 tons per annum. I do not know what methods that country employs to harvest the plant and to thresh the linseed, but I know that in this country we have developed improved harvesting machinery to deal not only with wheat but with rice. We can harvest our rice much more cheaply and efficiently than can any other country in the world. I have sufficient faith in the mechanics and engineers associated with the development of our agricultural implements to believe that if there are any difficulties connected with the harvesting of flax or linseed they will quickly evolve a machine that will effectively serve the purpose.

What we need in these times is a little more faith in our own country and our primary producers. Undoubtedly, our economic circumstances are temporarily embarrassing. How long they will continue so depends largely upon ourselves. They can be removed in one or two ways. We must endeavour to increase our exports and decrease our imports. The only way that we can do the latter is by producing more in Australia for home consumption. We must either do thai or deny ourselves many things that we now regard as necessary for our comfort. Here is an opportunity for the Senate to assist in passing a measure that will help to increase production for home consumption. At present there are very few commodities that we can produce for export at a price that yields any profit. We do not knowwhen the existing markets' of the world will be closed against us. If Russia bocomes again a great exporting country for wheat and other commodities, ami develops its dairying industry, as authorities say it may, the overseas market for our wheat and butter will be, if not entirely closed against us, at least seriously restricted. We can make up for the loss of that trade only by producing for our home consumption. I know that there will be a further demand upon the public revenue to assist to establish the flax industry, but the amount involved is not very large and even if there was a possibility of failure, the argument against the expenditure would not be justified. Although it is claimed that flax can be grown successfully in other Slates of the Commonwealth, Tasmania seems particularly adapted to the industry, and affords an excellent opportunity to put this proposal to the test. We all have kindly feelings for Tasmania, but few of us believe that it suffers any great disabilities under federation. Personally, I think that the Commonwealth provides a splendid market for Tasmania's products. Still, Tasmania is a small State without the secondary industries enjoyed by some of the larger States, particularly New South Wales and Victoria, and I do not see that it is possible for it to establish very many secondary industries. Such industries must inevitably be established in our large centres of population. The manufacturers of Melbourne have n market of 1,000,000 people within a few miles of their factories, and a similar remark applies to Sydney. Any proposal that is likely to be of advantage to industry in a small State such as Tasmania should receive our most sympathetic consideration, especially when there seems a chance of the industry being successful.

But the advantage will not be entirely with Tasmania, because whatever Tasmania makes out of the flax industry will, to a large extent, be spent in the other States in the purchase of necessary commodities. For the reasons that I have given I shall vote for the second reading, and do all I can to get the measure passed through committee.

Senator Sir JOHNNEWLANDS (South Australia) [5.36]. - As I have listened to the debate and heard that various parts of Australia are suitable for the growing of flax, I have wondered why this crop has not been almost as extensively grown in Australia as are wheat and potatoes. I am reminded that it is nearly time that a bill was introduced to provide for a bounty for the production of good potatoes instead of the bad ones that we are now getting. A bounty on flax seems to be somewhat incongruous in times such as these through which wc are passing. In all the large capital cities meetings of taxpayers are being held to protest against the budget proposals of the Government, and to suggest ways of saving the taxpayers' money. If there is one body of men more than another which appears to need educating as to the burden already being borne by the taxpayers, it is that section of the Senate whicli urges that money should bc provided to grant bounties to various industries. 1 hope that honorable senators will view this proposal from the stand-point of the general taxpayer, and deal with it in a common-sense way. Senator Cooper said that the improved machinery which was now available would enable flax to h<" produced more cheaply than in the past. The flax industry in Australia was granted a bounty for ten years, and yet it failed, notwithstanding that during the war period high prices were paid for flax. It would appear that there is something wrong with, the flax industry, for the acreage under flax has diminished even in Ireland where flax has been grown for centuries. It may be that both Tasmania, and Ireland ure suffering the same disabilities. Wc have acted foolishly in the past in supporting legislation providing for the payment of bounties to certain industries. I am opposed to this bounty, but J believe that any bill presented to Parliament should be carefully considered. That can be done only by allowing it to reach the committee stage. I, therefore, do not propose to vote against the second reading, but I shall oppose the third reading, because I am determined to do what I can to prevent the indiscriminate granting of bounties.

Senator Herbert Hays - Do not start with this one.

Senator Sir JOHN NEWLANDS - This bill is designed to assist the flaxgrowing industry of Tasmania.

Senator Hoare - Flax is also grown in South Australia in the Mount Gambier district.

Senator Sir JOHN NEWLANDS - I doubt if any flax is grown in South Australia. In any case, this bounty will not make much difference to South Australia. Some years ago a member of this Parliament proposed to grow sugar beet at Mount Gambier, and in consequence there was a stir among Queensland members. Perhaps flax will be as successful at Mount Gambier as sugar beet has been! I shall support the second reading, but I shall not further assist to place this measure on the Statute-book,

Senator REID(Queensland) [5.45'J.- The speeches which have been delivered on this measure have all told the same old- tale of the wonderful results which will accrue from the granting of another bounty. Since I have been a member of the Senate I have supported every proposal for a bounty that has come before us, believing that it would accomplish some, good purpose. But the financial position of the Commonwealth was much more satisfactory then than it is to-day. Throughout Australia largely-attended meetings of taxpayers have voiced their protests against the further taxation outlined in the Government's budget proposals. In view of public opinion in this matter, I marvel how any honorable senator can vote for another bounty. Honorable senators have a good deal to say about the necessity for economy; but they really mean that we should economize at the other fellow's expense. Some honorable senators from South Australia oppose this bill ; yet South Australia has its wine bounty.

Senator Sir John Newlands - The wine industry pays for it.

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