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Wednesday, 29 August 1906

Mr LEE (Cowper) . - During the last few weeks I have had the pleasure of visiting Queensland, and, whilst in Brisbane, I was very much interested in the magnificent display of cotton at the National Society's Exhibition. The display was a splendid one, and the exhibit of cotton, which was a feature of the exhibition, was examined by a great many visitors. I was informed that the cotton industry could not succeed in Queensland if high wages had to be paid to those employed in it, but that it would be successful if the children of the farmers were allowed to pick cotton, . just as the children of our dairymen, in many cases, have to milk cows. That being so, I fail to see why the cotton industry, any more than the dairying industry, should be assisted by means of a bounty. We should not try to bolster up industries, in this way. We shall be perfectly justified in opposing the Bill until the Minister has placed before the Committee more satisfactory information in support of it. Two years ago, on the. motion of the honorable and learned member for Bendigo, the House unanimously affirmed the expediency of establishing a Commonwealth agricultural bureau ; but nothing has been done in the matter. Now the Minister 'has sprung this Bounties Bill upon us, without being able to give us the information necessary for an intelligent consideration of its provisions. It is proposed to grant a bounty for the encouragement of the olive oil industry, but, to my knowledge, that industry was in a most flourishing condition ten years ago.

Sir William Lyne - It is not flourishing now, and at Mildura persons are digging up their olive trees.

Mr Fuller - Because it pays them better to grow raisins.

Mr LEE - Yes, and growers always try to use their soil to the best advantage. If olives pay better than raisins, growers will keep on planting olive trees. Ten years ago the warehouse which I represented in Newcastle handled hundreds of gallons of South Australian olive oil which was equal to the best Italian olive oil. and competed there in a free-trade market with all other oils. Why then should it be necessary to cive a. bounty for the encouragement of the olive oil industry? If the honorable member for Grey were able to move that the Bill be referred to a Select Committee, I should support the motion, because we certainly want some more information about the state and prospects of the various industries to which it is proposed to give assistance. I have no desire to kill the Bill, because it contains proposals which I am ready to support : but we are entitled to receive from the Minister more information in regard to it. I shall not oppose the granting of a bounty for the encouragement of industries which we have not here now, and for which we have a suitable climate, and soil. It would, however, be absurd to pay such bounties as would encourage persons to grow coffee in Tasmania, for example.

Mr Page - Does the honorable member believe in the bounty system ?

Mr LEE - I do not object to the gran) ing of bounties to bring about the starting of new industries.

Mr Page - The sugar industry was not started by means of a bounty.

Mr LEE - The growers of sugar pay their own bounty, since it is provided out of the Excise. I have no objection to the giving of assistance for the starting of industries for the production of fibre of various kinds, and shall support similar proposals which I consider justifiable; but I am altogether opposed to going further until we have obtained, either by means of a Select Committee, or through an agricultural bureau, the information which is absolutely necessary to enable us to deal wisely with the whole question.

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