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Wednesday, 29 August 1906

Mr WILKINSON (Moreton) .- I shall support the Bill, and I hope that before it reaches its final stage its provisions will have been so safeguarded that the evils which have resulted from the granting of bounties in some of the States will not follow the bringing of its provisions into effect. I take a broader view of the measure than do those who look upon it merely as one for the encouragement of production of certain, kinds. One of the big problems facing the Commonwealth is how best to people our territory,, and especially those lands which are most open to attack by the populous nations of Eastern Asia. It has been objected that the Bill is directed largely to the encouragement of tropical productions, but, while I admit that that is. so, I contend that it is to the advantage of the Commonwealth, because we cannot hope to be always secure from the aggression of nations which are continually seeking outlets for their surplus population, if we leave our waste lands at their mercy. It is, however, one thing to throw land open for settlement, and another to help those who try to settle upon it. Acts have been passed for settling people on the ° land which have resulted in settling many under it, and it is not always the pioneers, who have borne the heat and burden of the day, who have reaped the profits of their industry. One of the merits of the Bill is that it will make it more likely that the pioneers of new industries, will get the reward of their enterprise, instead of having to sell out to others for perhaps less than they had expended in bringing their land into cultivation. The honorable member for Dalley referred to the complaint of the Queensland Treasurer that, notwithstanding the advantages his State has gained from the sugar bounties, it has suffered more than any of the other States since the institution of Federation. I interjected at the time that he. was speaking merely as Treasurer. There is another point of view. Although the Queensland Treasury has. lost something over £2,000,000 by the establishment of Federation, the people of Queensland have largely benefited. For instance, so far as the sugar industry is concerned, not only have they benefited in the manner to which reference has already been made, but they have benefited also by having their market extended. I have already pointed out that, had Queensland remained out of the Federation, her sugar would have been treated by it exactly as. the sugar of Fiji and of Java would have been treated. Had the remaining States federated, Queensland standing out, she would have been fiscally a foreign State, and her sugar and other products would have been admitted into the Federation only on the terms under which the products of other countries would have been admitted, whether dutiable or free. But, having joined the Federation, she has obtained free access to the markets of Australia, and is able to supply a population of nearly 4,250,000, instead of a population of only 500,000. The Queensland Treasurer's complaint might be answered' in many other ways ; but as we are not now discussing the financial position of the States, I shall not proceed further in this direction. The honorable member for Wilmot says that the prices of our primary products are on the down grade. If so, that is a reason for fostering new productions. If the markets of the world are being glutted with, our exports, we should try to diversify them, and not depend wholly on one or two lines. The honorable member for Cowper says that growers will always put their labour and capital into such crops as will return the greatest profits, and no doubt that is so; but even he will admit that the olive can be grown in many places where the vine cannot be profitably cultivated.

Mr Mcwilliams - Olives are already grown extensively.

Mr WILKINSON - I have seen olives growing, though I do not know much about the industry. I am, however, acquainted with some of the other industries mentioned in the schedule. The Minister has put before us a statement showing what a large amount of money is annually expended to purchase commodities which might very well be produced locally, if their production* were encouraged by means of bounties. If that were brought about, we should reap the double advantage of keeping our money in circulation amongst our own people, and of settling our waste lands, and providing protection in time of need. I may take credit for having already moved in the direction of securing encouragement for the cotton industry. That has been designated a Queensland industry; but cotton can be produced in every State of the Commonwealth except Tasmania. I have seen samples grown in Echuca, and to-day I saw a very good sample which was .grown at Coolamon, in New South Wales, while the plant is almost indigenous in the Northern Territory, and will grow in other parts of South Australia, and there is in Western Australia as large an area as in Queensland where it will grow to perfection.

Mr Johnson - Can rice be produced in Australia ?

Mr WILKINSON - Yes'; and for some time past small quantities have been grown in the neighbourhood of Cairns.

Mr Mcwilliams - Then why should a bounty be given for its production?

Mr WILKINSON - No doubt many of the industries mentioned in the schedule will be established without the aid of a bounty, but before they can become of any importance they will, if not encouraged, fall into the hands of Japanese and Chinamen. One of the arguments in favour of the Bill is that, by encouraging tropical production, it will bring about the settlement of waste lands, which are now a source of danger to us, and, like expenditure for the encouragement of immigration, by settling people on them, will not only give us a larger population to bear the burdens of taxation and to repay our loans, ' but will increase the number of those who, in time of need, will be ready to defend their homes and the country.

Mr Mcwilliams - But what about those persons in other States who start industries without assistance?

Mr WILKINSON - They will not be excluded, from the benefit of the bounty. I think that if any one deserves to be rewarded, it is the man who has been struggling along and making experiments with results profitable to those who follow him. Such a man should not be excluded from the benefits conferred by a Bill of this kind. Although Dr. Thomatis, of Cairns, who has spent a great deal of money in cultivating and advertising his cotton, has placed his small plantation on a satisfactory footing, he should derive the benefit of the bounty to the same extent as the settler who for the first time embarks in the industry. I do not think that we shall ever have in Australia large cotton plantations such as used to be a special feature in -the Southern States of America. I should not like to see similar conditions brought about here, because the planters would have to employ a class of labour that we have no desire to encourage.

Mr McLean - If the industry is to succeed, it will have to be carried on by farmers with small families which can perform all the work on the plantation.

Mr WILKINSON - That is my idea. If cotton is to be grown under the' conditions that we desire, the small farmers will have to cultivate small areas, and rely upon their families for all the labour required in harvesting their crops. I hope that by multiplying the number of small farms we shall bring about an aggregate production - not only in Queensland, but in all other States, with the single exception of Tasmania - which will add very considerably to the wealth of the Commonwealth. Reverting to the statement that this measure is intended mainly to confer benefit upon Queensland, I should like to refer to the fact that flax can be produced in Tasmania to greater advantage than in any other State.

Mr Mcwilliams - It is being produced there now.

Mr Storrer - In small quantities.

Mr WILKINSON - It will be found by reference to the import returns, that in 1904 the flax and hemp imported into the Commonwealth were valued at £145,000, whilst last year the imports of those commodities were valued at £128,000. Besides this, in 1904, we imported linseed oil to the value of £108,000, and in 1905, to the value of £80,235. Surely there should be sufficient inducement for the extension of flax cultivation in Tasmania.

Mr Mcwilliams - Exactly, without a bounty.

Mr WILKINSON - I dare say that in the natural order of things flax will be produced in localities which are adapted to its cultivation, but, whereas under natural conditions it may be fifty or 100 years before the industry reaches appreciable proportions, we may by stimulating it bv bounties, bring about highly satisfactory results within a very short space of time.

Mr Mcwilliams - Flax is being grown now.

Mr WILKINSON - Yes, but the progress is very slow, and by means of bounties we may within ten or twenty years bring about a development equal to that which would take place under natural conditions in fifty or 100 years. I do not pretend that the industries which it is sought to encourage will not be established without the aid of bounties, but my point is that if they are left to themselves their development is likely to be very slow. I do not think that it is any argument against the Bill to say that certain commodities which are included in the schedule are now being produced in the Commonwealth ; nor is any weight to be attached to the fact that bounties have previously been offered. I agree with the honorable and learned member for Bendigo that any bounty system should be surrounded bv proper safeguards, and that the bounties should be distributed under proper supervision in order that the grower, whom it is sought to benefit, shall receive the fullest possible advantage. In ' some cases where bounties have been granted, those who have been exploiting the industry'rather than the growers of the product, have derived the advantage. In Queensland, in the sixties, the Government offered a bounty for the growth of cotton, but instead of the money passing into the hands of the growers, it was appropriated by those who bought the cotton in the rough state, and cleaned it for export. The cotton buyers were, no doubt, able, owing to the bounty, to give the growers a slightly higher price than otherwise would hnve been the case, but the latter received only an infinitesimal share of the bountv.

Mr Mcwilliams - What happened when the bounty period expired?

Mr WILKINSON - The American Civil War was in progress when the cotton growing industry was started in Queensland. At that time a cotton famine had been caused owing to the ravages of the war in the Southern States of America, and Queensland cotton brought a very high price.

Mr Johnson - Did not something similar occur in connexion with the production of worsted in Victoria? As soon as the bounty was exhausted, no' more was heard ot the worsted. ' ,

Mr WILKINSON - I' know nothing whatever about that. I have made it a point to confine my remarks to matters with which I am acquainted.

Mr Mcwilliams - Did the Queensland cotton growers continue their operations after the bounty period had expired?

Mr WILKINSON - Yes ; they did in later years. As I have already explained, the conditions at the time of which I have spoken, were altogether unfavorable to the cotton growing industry. Similar conditions do not exist now. I have explained why the cotton industry failed, and why we may expect to achieve a greater degree of success under existing conditions. The total amount that is being asked for to encourage the growth of cotton is £22,500. Not more than £4,500 is to be distributed in any one year. When we consider the immense possibilities of the industry in a country like ours, I think that the amount proposed to be spent is trifling. I have here a copy .of a letter from Mr. John E. Newton, the Chairman of the Council of the British Cotton Growers' Association, containing his report upon various samples submitted to him. If the honorable member for Franklin will mark what he says, he will understand why the cotton industry failed iri the sixties. Mr. Newton says -

British Cotton Growing Association. Report on cotton samples from Queensland, 28th July, 1905.

Sample, unnumbered. Very white, bright and perfect preparation ; short in staple and rough, but suitable for mixture with wool. Probably worth to-day 6d. per lb.

No. 5. Brown in colour, probably grown from Egyptian seed. Shorter in staple than Upper Egyptian. Very clean and free from waste. Worth about 5fd.

Sample No. 2. Good staple, full i£ long, fairly silky, equal to good middling Texas or Orleans. Value about 6£d. This is a most useful style of cotton.

Sample No. 3. 'About good middling in grade. Rather coarse in fibre, and about 1 in. in length. Worth about price of fully middling Uplands. Value about 6£d. to 6£d.

Sample No. 4. Owing to mixture of seed, both long and short staple mixed in planting or picking ; impossible to value it. The small black seed, which apparently is from Sea Island cotten, gives best results.

Sample No. 5. Brown in colour, probablygrown from Egyptian seed. Shorter in staple than Upper Egyptian. Very clean and free from waste. Worth about 5fd.

Sample No. 1. Very imperfect in preparation, which renders it most difficult of sale, and therefore most difficult to place reliable value upon. Very irregular in length, probably grown from mixed or Peeler seed. Worth about efi..

Value of Mid. Upland cotton to-day, 28th July, 1905, 1 in. staple, 6d. per lb.

Value of Mid. Texas or Orleans, i£ in. staple, 6*d.

I have explained before that no care was exercised bv the planters in selecting their seed. The seed was taken from the heap as it was thrown out from the gins, and beyond that which was used for sowing purposes, it was not turned to any account. Thousands of tons were swept away down the rivers by the flood waters. The variety and the length of the staple, its variability as to fineness or coarseness, and curl, and in, every other respect, rendered the cotton almost unmarketable. It brought the lowest possible prices, because it was suitable for the manufacture of only the most inferior goods> If we were to send our wool home under similar conditions, we should receive very poor prices for it.

Mr Johnson - -What the honorable member has quoted is an argument against the payment of bounties.

Mr WILKINSON - No. It is proposed to pay the bounties at the rate of 10 per cent, upon the market value. That will encourage the production of high quality cotton. As a matter of fact, an endeavour is now being made in Queensland to grow special classes of cotton in the localities best adapted to their cultivation. The experts of the Agricultural Department are advising the farmers as to the particular: kind of seed which they should sow upon their plantations, and the result is that a very much better class of cotton is being sent to the old country. Some of our cotton has realized as much as is. 2d', to is. 3d. per lb. Dr. Thomatis, of Cairns, recently sent home some cotton which was so fine in staple that the brokers in England did not care to touch it. He forwarded the commodity to Italy and France, where it was eagerly bought, and now the Italian brokers are sending, out for far more than he can supply. I should like to see a bounty offered for the production of cotton, because many persons are now inclined to look back and ask the same question that has been put by the honorable member for Franklin, namely, why did the industry fail in days gone Sv. They do not take all the surrounding circumstances into consideration, and are thus deterred from embarking upon the enterprise. Besides the drawbacks to which I have referred, the cost of transit and the insurance in the old days involved much heavier charges than at present. The cotton had to be sent home by sailing vessels, which used to occupy from 80 to 120 days on the voyage, whereas the product can now be forwarded to the home market within six or seven weeks. Then, again, the insurance rates were very much higher than at present, because of the danger of spontaneous combustion, and of the fact that more than one ship was burnt through carrying damp cotton. The facilities for land carriage have also been greatly improved. There are other pertinent reasons which might be advanced as to why the industry did not .succeed there. But of course persons who are unaware of the conditions which operated in those days naturally feel reluctant to embark upon the industry. I believe, however, that under the conditions which are embodied in this Bill many would be induced to enter upon it. Everybody will admit that it is an industry which is capable of very great expansion. By virtue of our geographical position we possess advantages for the disposal of cotton which are possessed by no other countries in the world. For instance, 1 find that during the first half-year of 1904 the importations of cotton into Japan alone amounted to 151.693,259 lbs. Of that quantity 76,000,000 lbs. was imported from India, nearly 16,000,000 lbs. from the United States of America, 51,000,000 lbs. from China, 3,000,000 lbs. from Egypt, and about 3,500,000 lbs. from other countries. The Japanese product itself totalled only 226,000 lbs. In that one country, which is populated by a cotton- wearing race, we have a large market for the Australian commodity. We could find an additional market in India, and we have the 400.000,000 people of China, as well as those, of the Malay Peninsula and 'the Eastern Archipelago at our door. In moving the second reading of this Bill, the Minister quoted the quantity of raw cotton imported into the Commonwealth, but neglected to state the vast sum which we send out of the country for the purpose of paying for cotton manufactured goods.

In addition to providing a bonus for the cultivation of cotton, I should like the Government to offer a small bounty to encourage the manufacture of that commodity into articles of wearing apparel. We might thus secure the establishment of the primary and secondary industry side by side. However, I have no desire to labour that aspect of the question. I have collected much information upon this subject, apart from my own personal knowledge of it - and I claim to possess some little knowledge, having been engaged .in the industry during my youth.


Mr WILKINSON - In Queensland. I have been asked by some honorable members whether, if the industry were encouraged, it would be likely to prove remunerative. In reply, I can only quote returns which have been supplied to me since the recent revival in the growth of this staple in Queensland - that is, within the past two or three years. Mr. Daniel Jones, of the Agricultural' Department of that State, who was asked what it would cost to grow cotton at Charleville, which is some 500 miles west of Brisbane, estimated the total outlay required at £3 16s. 2d. per acre. This estimate included two ploughings, two harrowings, drilling, and sowing, three scufflings, thinning and hoeing, carriage te Brisbane, seed, and the cost of picking .1,000 lbs. of cotton. When he made that estimate the price of cotton was from 5|d. to 7 1/2d. per lb., but his calculations were based upon a cost of 5 Jd. ner lb. . at which figure the commodity would yield a gross return of £7 5s. lod. per 1,000 lbs., or a net profit of £3 9s. 8d. per acre. In my own district, not far from Ipswich', some farmers have realized as much as from £11 to £13 per acre for the cultivation of cotton. Of course, it was grown in small plots, and every possible care was exercised.

Mr Mcwilliams - It ought not to require the aid of a bounty if it will yield that return.

Mr WILKINSON - If persons could be induced to enter upon the industry it would succeed, but the proposed bounty is to be granted for the purpose of encouraging them to embark upon it. Australia is not the only country in the world which offers bounties for the establishment of its industries. Every other nation which has developed its industries has granted bounties not only upon its primary- productions, but also upon its manufactured products. If the Minister had followed this particular staple from the field to the factory, and had offered a small bounty for its manufacture, he would not have departed from the spirit of this measure. In the case of fish, we are asked to follow them from the markets to the canning factories. In the same way, we intend to follow olives from the fields into the crushing mills and refineries. Therefore, it would not have been at all inconsistent with the objects of the Bill if the Minister had acted in the way that I suggest. I have already stated that, in my opinion, the China oil industry would not succeed in any part of Australia with the labour that we have at our command, seeing that the oil is produced in the New Hebrides, where there is an abundance of kanaka labour available, and in India, where coolies are employed in its production. It has been said that the employment of machinery would overcome the difficulty, but I would point out that a machine which would gather the nut, from which the oil is extracted, would also harvest little lumps of earth, which are instinctively rejected by the human hand. We do not wish to degrade the labour conditions of Australia to the level of those which obtain in India and the New Hebrides. In the case of castor oil, however, the position is a very different one. The castor oil plant grows as a weed in every part of Queensland, and in numerous portions of New South Wales. I have seen it flourishing even in rubbish heaps. It will grow in almost any part of the Commonwealth. It is a crop which is easily harvested, and there is not very much hard labour involved in the operation. In the past the difficulty experienced has been the lack of a crusher. But an enterprising firm in Victoria - I refer to Messrs. Kitchen and Sons- in anticipation of the expansion of the cotton industry in Queensland, have not only sent their cotton gin there, but have arranged for the installation of a plant to crush the seed into oil, and to make oil cake as well. This machine will not only make use of the by-products of the cotton plant, but of other crops. Some years ago an attempt was made by coolies in Queensland to grow the castor oil plant, and in this they were very successful. They could produce almost any quantity of seed of first-class quality, but their difficulty was to get it pressed into oil. At a later stage, another individual commenced the production of castor oil in a very small way. The article which he produced was very superior to the castor oil of commerce, inasmuch as it was almost entirely free of the nauseous smell which is usually associated with it. It was sold by chemists astasteless castor oil.

Mr Johnson - That should have insured its popularity.

Mr WILKINSON - But the demand for castor oil for medicinal purposes is very limited. To become of any great commercial value it would require to be used as a lubricating oil. There is no better lubricant obtainable - and I speak as an enginedriver. I am anxious that this Bill shall pass, and I do not think that the charge that it has been introduced for electioneering purposes has been substantiated. To my mind, it simply represents another step in the policy which the Government have professed for years past. I refer to the encouragement, not only of secondary, but of primary, industries/ the settlement of the people on the land, and the encouragement of immigration. I believe that Australia has great potentialities, and that any crop grown elsewhere can be raised in some part of the Commonwealth. All that we need to do is to encourage these industries in their infancy. I believe that all those mentioned in the schedule will, if given reasonable assistance, become great national assets, and that one of them, at all events, will be more valuable even than is the wool industry of Australia.

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