1st Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– Can the Minister for Trade and Customs inform the House what amount of money has been expended by the Government of Victoria in trying to establish the beet-sugar industry in this State?
– I have a return from the accountant to the Treasury, which contains the following information : -
– I understand that some Italian immigrants, who probably started from their homes before the Act which prohibits men from coming here under contract could have been known to them, have recently arrived here. As. their case seems a hard and difficult one, I wish to ask the Prime Minister if, under the circumstances, some executive action could be taken to lessen the harshness of the operation of the Act.
– It must not be forgotten that the Government have not interposed obstacles in the way of persons who booked their passages or otherwise altered their positions before the 7 th August last- the day upon which the second reading of the Immigration Restriction Act was moved - coming here. The passing of the measure - the assent to which was given on the 23rd of December - was, in itself, notice to the world of the new conditions. Iam aware that there may be cases of hardship, notwithstanding that those facts, which were in themselves strong notice; not only to persons living at a distance who proposed to come here, but particularly to the shipping companies, with whom it rests whether people shall reach our shores at all. I am quite prepared to take into consideration the representation which the honorable member has made, but I shall nevertheless be very much impressed with the fact that the introduction of certain classes ofimmigrants largely depends upon the. shipping companies, and I told a deputation from the principal shipping companies which waited upon me before the measure became law that the companies had already had sufficient notice. There are, however, cases in which it may be possible to observesome leniency towards white immigrants in consideration of the circumstances under which they shipped.’ Those cases must be dealt with with discrimination, and upon their particular merits. I cannot make any promise as to any particular set of persons or number of men ; all I can do is to endeavour to administer the law in the spirit of justice, so that no hardship shall be imposed upon individuals, apart from those who surrender themselves to be imported under contract.
The Clerk laid upon the table the following paper : -
Audit Act.- Regulations relating topublic moneys.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
In view of the statement mode by the right honorable the Prime Minister on 21st August, 1901, re the issue of a Commonwealth stamp, when the Government propose issuing the said stamp ?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
The bookkeeping clauses are the difficulty. The Postmaster-Generalhas not been able to see his way to the adoption of a uniform stamp without seriously interfering with revenue of smaller States. On consideration it has been found that the difference is greater than was at first apparent. dutyon jewellery:
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
– I desire to ask the Minister for Trade and Customs the following questions, upon notice : -
I have been informed that those who do not get “tea-money” are themselves at fault; but hundreds of hours of overtime have been worked, for which no pay has been given.
– The answer to the honorablemember’s questions is as follows : -
Officers arc working overtime to meet the present abnormal pressure of business, which it is hoped soon will cease. Tea-money has in all cases been allowed. If the merits of the case cannot bo met by extended leave the payment of overtime will ‘be considered ; but overtime generally is not favoured.
I am sure that the honorable member will agree that officers can fairly be asked to work a little longer during a temporary pressure of work.
– This temporary pressure has now lasted six months.
– Honorable members can relieve it by passing the Tariff.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether be will, in addition to supplying the return moved for on Fridaylast by the honorable member for Yarra, alsocause similar particulars to be furnished with respect to the clerical division of the Commonwealth service?
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon, notice -
– A reply has not yet been received from the department, but I shall endeavour to getthe information for the honorable member as soon as possible.
Consideration resumed f rom 7th February (vide page 9869).
Item 135. Sugar - per cwt. of manufactured sugar, 3s., untilthe 1st January, 1907, less from the 1st July, 1902, a rebate to the grower of 4s. per ton on all sugar-cane delivered at factory for manufacture therein, and in the production of which sugar-cane white labour only has been employed. The rebate is calculated on cane giving 10 per cent. of sugar, and is to be increased or reduced proportionately, according to any variation from this standard.
– In pursuance of the understanding which was arrived at on Friday morning last, I move -
That after the words “grower of” the words ‘ sugar-cane only “ be inserted.
– I see no necessity for the amendment. The item, as it stands, is quite definite enough.
– As I understand the position it is this : It is intended to give a rebate of £2 a ton upon cane sugar grown wholly by white labour, and we propose similarly to allow a rebate on beet sugar, because we do not wish the growers of beet” to be handicapped within the Commonwealth by being compelled to pay the same rate of excise as will be exacted from the growers of sugar-cane who employ black labour. We believe that beet sugar will be produced by white labour, and we desire to apply special consideration to it. On the other hand it is suggested by honorable members opposite that no rebate should be given upon beet sugar, and that it should pay the same rate of excise as must be paid upon cane sugar grown by black labour. We do not think that is fair, and we ask the committee to support our view.
– I propose to amend the amendment by inserting the words “and beet “ after the word “cane.”
– If the amendment is negatived, the honorable member will not be precluded from introducing words which will make the rebate apply specifically to beet sugar as well as to cane sugar, and if we are defeated upon the amendment now before the committee we shall raise no objection to such an amendment.
– I propose to deal with this matter in my own way. Whilst I have raised no objection to the amendment of the honorable member, I fail to see the reason why it has been interpolated at this stage, because it could have been moved later on just as well. In proceeding as the honorable member has done, the question of beet sugar is merely understood, but it does not appear on the surface of the amendment. I think it is very much better that it should appear in that way, because then we shall know exactly what we are doing ; otherwise it is quite possible that honorable members might not be fully seized of the scope of the discussion. I move -
That the amendment be amended by the insertion of the words “and beet” after the word “cane.”
The more one studies this sugar question and the problems connected with it, the more difficult does the whole position appear. It is more difficult to know what to do as regards the industry itself, and it is still more difficult to know what to do as regards the interests of the Commonwealth at large. I am entirely at one with the representatives of Queensland who desire the abolition of kanakas as quickly as possible. At the same time there is a doubt in my mind, after reading the literature on the subject, as to whether in the extreme north the industry will be carried on with the same facility as it has been. That, of course, remains to be proved ; it remains to be seen whether the bonus that will be given by the committee for encouraging the use of white labour in the north is going to be effective so far as regards the supply. There is no’ doubt that the committee is entirely at one that we should use sugar grown by white men. For the use of the Commonwealth we require 180,000 tons a year, and with the growth of population, which is sure to take place year by year, that demand will very rapidly increase. We are not growing enough sugar now for our own requirements. In Queensland we grow 130,000 tons a year, and in New South Wales some 15,000 tons. Roughly speaking the supply is 40,000 tons short of the normal requirements of the Commonwealth. That, of course, is a serious question which we have to face. Under the dislocated conditions of the cane-sugar industry, it is very problematical whether the Queensland supply, which is now short of our requirements, will be kept up in the immediate future.
– In New South Wales the yield is about 23,000 tons.
– We cannot take any one year as a criterion. The growth of the plant varies from year to year. Early frosts may kill the plant, and we may have the yield for New South Wales and Queensland fluctuating to the extent of 20,000, 30,000, or 40,000 tons in a season. But 145,000 tons is, I think, the normal yield of the two States. Not only have we to face the question of the probable shortage of the supply, but we have also to face this other very important question - that the sugar business in Australia is largely in the hands of one monopolistic company.
– No ; of the growers.
– It is very largely in the hands of one monopolistic company, and whatever duty we may impose - say £6 per ton - it is protected to that extent. I am not acquainted with any one connected with the company, but I know the position it holds with regard to the industry, and I know to a certain extent the arbitrary and domineering way in which it controls commerce in this particular article. It does almost entirely as it pleases, and if we are not very careful, any bonus we may give will not go to the growers, but will probably be mopped up by the company. In Australia the growth of sugar is very small compared with the growth of the other agricultural products : it is only a little over 2 per cent. Then there is another aspect in which we have to look at the question, and that is that sugar is the basis of a great number of our industries - jam-making, fruit preserving, canned milk. I suppose there is no article so generally used by mankind as sugar. We have to look at the matter not only from the growers’ point of view, but also from the consumers’ point of view. If our fruit-growers have to pay an increased price for sugar it will come very hard on them. There is no comparison between the fruit industry and the sugar industry. The production of cane is only £619,000, while the production of fruit is nearly £2,000,000. Therefore, we have to look to- the interests of these people and to see that sugar is available to them at a reasonable rate. While I intend to vote for the rebate, I also intend to vote that it shall be given to the users of sugar in manufactures. I had intended that it should be given only on exported manufactures, but, on considering the matter more fully, I think that those people who are building up a great industry here on which so many persons are dependent, are fully entitled to a rebate on all their manufactures.
– The honorable member should give a rebate to those who eat the articles.
– Where shall we get the money for that ?
– We shall discuss that point later on. I am only mentioning it incidentally now.
– The honorable member is touching them on the raw.
– Honorable members who interject are not always concerned for the revenue. I put the question of the prosperity of the producers before the mere question of revenue. If we do not extend this concession to the growers of beet sugar, then we are not doing the right thing. I can see no reasonable excuse for not treating the two products alike. If we were confining the rebate simply to North Queensland - I could quite understand honorable members desiring to limit it to the Mackay and Cairns districts, where black labour is used. But when it is being given to all growers of cane sugar throughout the Commonwealth, then we are bound in justice and honesty to give it to those who grow sugar from beet.
– What quantity is grown from beet ?
– We shall see about that directly. We desire to encourage the growth of sugar, and the people who use it are not particular whether it is grown from cane or beet. What they want is to be able to get their sugar at a reasonable rate. As regards the two industries and their value to the - Commonwealth, there is no comparison between the cane-sugar industry and the beet industry. The latter is infinitely of more importance in every respect to the future of this country than is the former. In the first place, beet-sugar is a product that will assist and develop agriculture more than will any other product that can be named. It enriches the soil, whereas cane impoverishes it. Where beet has been grown, one can grow almost any other product, but where cane has been grown, one can grow very little. We need in this country, above anything else, not only diversity in manufactures, but also diversity in products of the soil. Our honorable friends on the other side, who have been talking so long about the primary industries and their desire to help them all they possibly can, will now have an opportunity of doing one of the best services to those industries that they could possibly have, by encouraging the growth of beetsugar. With the exception of perhaps very cold places, it is a commodity which can be grown almost over the whole Commonwealth. It provides a market for the farmer almost at the door. It means a very large increase in the employment of agricultural labour, because from the time the seed is sown, up to the reaping of the harvest, labour is employed constantly. It is probably the best handmaid we could have to agriculture. With its refuse it provides a supply of fodder for cattle. It also provides very largely a means of manuring the ground. It means a great improvement in dairying. It is one of the most important features in connexion with the dairying industry, with which it will work hand in hand. And, properly treated, it will yield just as much sugar as the cane. In America the growth of beet-sugar has increased enormously during the last twenty or 25 years. Of course we shall be told that the experiment has been tried in Victoria, and that it has failed. In America it was tried first in 1830, and then in 183S. Several spasmodic attempts were made to establish the industry, but they did not succeed until 1869. It is not an easy industry to establish, especially in a country such as ours, where people will not give to the tillage of land that close and continual labour and industry that is applied in other countries. That, of course, will remedy itself in time. They must learn to apply the labour required for the growth of other products beyond that of mere grain. 28k
Beet is different from grain. Wherever grain is grown it impoverishes the land, but ‘ where beet is grown it improves the land. In America large estates which had been rendered almost worthless by the close cropping of sheep, and the continual growth of wheat, have been restored to abundant fertility by the production of beet, and the making of sugar.
– In rotation with what other crop does it improve the soil 1
– By itself it will improve the soil. America’s experience has been very productive of lessons that we might learn. There they had great difficulties at first, but for the last twenty or twenty -five years the growth of beet-sugar has been a very great success. It is now running canesugar very closely indeed. I can quite understand that my honorable friends from the north may think that in encouraging the growth of beet-sugar we are raising a rival to the cane-sugar industry, but we have to consider the good of the Commonwealth as a whole, and while we may be raising a rival, at the same time we are raising a rival that will employ more labour, and do a great deal more good than if we allow the cane-sugar industry to stand by itself. Would it be a fair thing to allow those who may be inclined to take in hand the growth of beet which is produced by white labour to go for the next five years without the bonus, whilst they knew that the growers of cane sugar in other parts of the Commonwealth were receiving this advantage, in order that they might be able to carry on their industry without the aid of black labour ? From whatever point of view we look at the subject, I think we are bound to give this rebate to encourage the growth of sugar from beet, and to give the industry the same chance as is given to those who produce sugar from cane. If we look at it from the point of view of the general good of the Commonwealth, we encourage an industry that will be manifold - indeed, almost illimitable - in its advantages. From the point of view of the consumers and the producers we are bound in honour to give this rebate. If it is given to any portion of the sugar industry, we are bound, I hold, to give it to the beet growers as well as to the producers of sugar from cane.
Sir WILLIAM MCMILLAN (Wentworth). - We have all been delighted with the very interesting speech of the honorable member for Echuca, with a great deal of which many of us may agree. Honorable members know that the question of giving an advantage to the Queensland sugar growers, forms part and parcel of the legislation of this Parliament, in connexion with the kanakas. In the debates that took place upon that subject, reasons were given for the contention that in some parts of Queensland it was absolutely necessary to give every possible inducement to the encouragement of the employment of white labour. It was agreed that south of a certain line, white labour could very well be employed without any detriment to the health of the labourer, but above a certain line going north, it was a moot point - which I venture to think has scarcely been decided yet - whether white labour is possible or not. The rebate which is given by the Government is not given upon any principle whatever. It is purely a matter of politicalexpediency. I do not use those words in censure of the Government, but purely to designate what the real nature of the transaction was.
– There were special circumstances in the case.
– We had to deal with the special circumstances, as the Minister says. Under those special circumstances, it might, perhaps, have been better policy to confine the rebate to a certain part of Queensland, north of the line below which we know white labour can be employed. But I quite recognise the difficulty of differentiating in that manner, especially as we have to deal not merely with the southern portion of Queensland, but also with the northern portion of New South Wales. Still, there would be nothing absolutely out of principle in doing that in the special circumstances of the case. But why is it proposed to give this rebate ? What is at the bottom of the whole question? It is not a matter of a commodity ; it is essentially a matter of climatic conditions. We give a rebate not because the article happens to be sugar-cane or beet, or anything else, but because the caneis a product which is grown essentially in tropical and sub-tropical climates, where it is difficult without some inducement to prevail upon people to employ white labour; and because we have in the drastic legislation which I have mentioned agreed, within a certain number of years, to make black labour impossible. That is the whole question. Is there anything climatic connected with the production of beet sugar ? Is there any difference between the production of beet and the production of potatoes? We know well enough that beet sugar is produced in Germany. Indeed, it is produced in many of the countries of Europe. It is not a tropical product ; and if we introduce this alien element into the giving of the rebate we absolutely destroy the whole raison d’etre of the policy we are proposing to initiate. That policy will be reduced to an absurdity, and, furthermore, it will contravene one of the principles of our Constitution, which compels us to deal with equal fairness with all the products of Australia. In proposing this rebate at all, we are, to some extent, contravening the Constitution. But there is no Constitution, any more than there are rules of Parliament or laws, which should be our master and not our creature. Therefore, although what is proposed to be done may, to some extent, seem to run counter to the spirit of the Constitution, yet under the peculiarly exceptional conditions of Queensland, especially the tropical part of it, we desire to add to the other arrangements we have made, by giving a rebate to the planters who cease employing black labour. As a necessary corollary we have to include other sub-tropical parts, such as the north of New South Wales, where cane sugar is also grown. But why should we extend those conditions to beet sugar ? Is there any sense in doingso? Is there any sense in it, if we look at it purely from the climatic aspect 1 From that point of view there is no reason why we should not give a bonus to every other product in Australia. I repeat that we have, to some extent, broken the compact of absolute equality throughout Australia ; we have broken that compact intentionally, and for reasons of high policy. But we do not want to go further than is necessary in the breaking of it. This beet sugar has in its favour an import duty of £10 a ton, as against £6 per ton for cane sugar.
– The honorable member must not forget the bounty feeding of beet sugar by European countries.
– This difference clearly shows that we have not forgotten the conditions of beet sugar production. I venture to say, and I challenge honorable members opposite to deny it - although, of course, I have no absolute proof of the statement - that when the Government proposed this magnanimous way of dealing with the northern planters they never thought of doing the same for the beet sugar-growers. There is no sense in doing so. We have gone far enough in differentiating. Furthermore, we were told by many honorable members, when some of us pleaded for a little extension of time on behalf of the planters of Queensland, that everything that was essential was given, and that the proposals of the Government in connexion with the exclusion of kanakas were sufficiently magnanimous for all purposes. We accepted that, as it evidently was the view of the majority of the House. But now we are to be told, after going still further, in order to give a chance to the planters - in order to induce them more quickly to get rid of the black element in their labour - that a product which happens to produce the same results and is concerned with the same commodity - sugar - but which can be grown in any part of Australia, and has nothing climatic in connexion with its production, as cane sugar has, should be treated in the same way as cane sugar, and that we should throw away the revenue of the country for the sake of that commodity. I do not suppose for a moment that a large quantity of beet sugar would be grown here, but we are dealing with principles. We have no more right to give a rebate, or what is practically a bonus, upon that particular product, than we have to give it on potatoes, or anything else that is grown in Australia. Therefore I hope that the committee will pause. I dare say that there is a sort of general feeling that what is now proposed is only fair. I suppose the feeling that dominates some honorable members is that if we give the rebate to the growers of cane for sugar, we should give it to. the growers of beet for sugar. But I can assure honorable members that that is to a large extent a confusion of ideas. There is no analogy between the two cases. If we do this as a matter of high State policy for the canegrower in the tropics, we are not doing anything harsh against the grower of beet who produces his commodity in the more temperate climates of the Commonwealth. Let any honorable member who thinks it is unfair to differentiate between the cane-grower and the beet-grower put that idea from his mind. The fact is that we are simply straining a point in order, in this great national crisis in a certain part of Australia, to lighten the load of the growers of cane sugar, but at the same time we shouldstop where it is absolutely necessary, and should go no further.
– It seems to me that if there is any confusion of ideas in respect to this matter, it rests with the acting leader of the Opposition. He speaks of this proposal as being a bonus to the growers of beet sugar. But as a matter of fact it is the removal of a disability under which otherwise the growers of beet sugar would suffer. I do not pretend that it is likely that the degree of protection and encouragement that is suggested, even in this proposal, will lead to the production of a great quantity of beet sugar in Australia. ‘ The conditions under which the beet sugarindustry is carried on in Europe tend to destroy the creation of an industry in this commodity in Australia. But this proposal is, I think, eminently fair, inasmuch as it proposes to place every one producing sugar on an equal footing. For the honorable member for Wentworth to attempt to compare the present suggestion with a proposal to offer a bonus for potatoes shows that he has not considered the matter; because there is no excise upon potatoes, and there is no proposal to put the potato-growers under a disability. The honorable member for Wentworth would place the sugar produced from beet at Tenterfleld. New South Wales, under an excise of £3 per ton, whilst in the case of cane sugar produced not 100 miles away he would give the grower the benefit of paying an excise of only £1 per ton upon his product. That does not seem tome to be on the lines of high policy or any kind of policy equivalent to equity and justice. I am satisfied that the New South Welshman who is growing cane sugar will receive a considerable advantage under the proposals of the Government. I am sorry that in order to solve the question arising in Queensland, without undue hardship to the persons concerned, it is necessary to propose customs and excise duties such as are proposed in this Tariff. Personally, if it were not for the black labour problem, and the desirability of making its settlement as easy as possible for those who have hitherto employed black labour under State legislation, I would not consent to a customs duty of £6 per ton being placed on sugar, nor, for that matter, would I consent to an excise duty of £3 per ton. Sugar is an article which enters so largely into the every day life of the people” that it is only under the most exceptional circumstances we are justified in making it so dear as these proposals involve. The whole circumstances are exceptional, and these Tariff proposals are, I think, a part of the understanding tacitly agreed to when the Pacific Island Labourers Bill was under consideration. Nevertheless I understood all along that whatever degree of encouragement was given to the white grower of cane-sugar would be extended to the white grower of beet-sugar.
– The honorable member did not tell us that when the Pacific Island Labourers Bill was before us.
– Surely the honorable member understood that. If he did not it is remarkable that he did not make some allusion to the iniquity of the Tariffproposals of the Government. If he calmly contemplated that men on land suitable for the growth of beet-sugar should invest their money in plant and labour to carry on the industry, and then be compelled to be at a disadvantage of £2 per ton in the markets of Australia as against the grower of canesugar, I have not a high opinion of his sense of justice. I contend that if we have land so suitable for the growth of beet-sugar that it .can compete upon anything like fair terms with cane-sugar grown within the Commonwealth, those prepared to go into the industry should have a chance of doing so. We do not know what alterations may take place ia the next year or two in the methods adopted for the manufacture of sugar from beet. We are making conditions which will -obtain for years to come under this Tariff, and we should be prepared to meet all probable contingencies. I trust the committee will see the justice of putting all upon the same footing. The honorable member for Wentworth referred to the fact that beet-sugar carries a higher customs duty than does the cane-sugar, and bo spoke an though that made a difference in the price of beet and cane-sugar within the boundaries of the Commonwealth. Of course it makes no difference at all. Personally I am inclined to think that the customs duty on beet sugar is too high, but it makes no difference once both sugars are competing within the boundaries of the Commonwealth. If it were admitted into the Commonwealth at as low a rate of duty as canesugar, the price of sugar all around might be a little ‘ lower than it will be under the proposals of the Government.
– How much beet sugar is grown now 1
– I do not know that any beet is grown within the Commonwealth now for the purpose of manufacturing sugar. I do not put it forward that there is any likelihood under the present circumstances that much beet will be grown for the manufacture of sugar. I simply take up the position that the beet-sugar growers, if the industry is started in the Commonwealth, will have to compete with the cane-sugar growers in the same market, and they should not be placed at a disadvantage, roughly speaking, of £2 per ton. I do not say it is likely that a beetsugar industry will be created. I am inclined to the contrary opinion, but we should not give one grower of sugar an advantage over another, and I trust the first suggestion of the honorable member for Echuca will be adopted. The honorable member’s suggestion to make a rebate on sugar duties to the manufacturers is a different question, and one upon which I am not inclined to agree with him. But I trust the committee will see the justice of adopting his suggestion to remove the £2 a ton disability which the present proposal imposes upon the beet-sugar industry.
Mr. HENRY WILLIS (Robertson).The statements made by the honorable member for Bland must commend themselves to honorable members generally. Here is a contemplated industry that has not yet been established. The views of agriculturists throughout Victoria upon the subject were canvassed some time ago, and they asked for an increase of the import duty on sugar. That is conceded in this Tariff, and if the industry is established they will have all the)’ desire. But the industry has not been established in any one of the States. Assuming that the industry were established, why should not those concerned in it be put upon the same footing as those engaged in the cane-sugar industry in Queensland? The proposal of the honorable member for Echuca seems to me to be a reasonable one, and I think he is to be commended for bringing it forward. The adoption of his proposal can do no possible harm, though I am afraid it will do no good, because the beet- sugar industry has not yet been established. I hope the proposal will be adopted, because its adoption will show a desire on the part of the committee to foster an industry which many agriculturists say can be established here, and which they are desirous of establishing.
– Would we have agreed to a rebate if it had not been for the special condition of abolishing black labour?
– I think not; but as we are giving a rebate we should serve all alike. If I remember correctly, the distinction made in the Victorian Tariff was greater than under this Tariff.
– Beet-sugar was £12 per ton.
– In spite of that greater protection, no beet-sugar industry has been established, and as the proposal of the honorable member for Echuca can do no possible harm, I hope it will not be opposed.
– I cannot agree with the last two speakers. So far from carrying out what were the proposals of the Ministry, the suggestion of the honorable member for Echuca is to depart from the very principle on which we gave the concession to the growers of canesugar. It was recognised that throughout the world cane-sugar is grown, almost without exception, by black labour, and that in depriving the northern planters of black labour we were entering upon an experiment which might prove successful, but which might, on the other hand, prove to be ruinous to the industry. Parliament was therefore called upon to make some special concession, and even those whose principles are against such a tremendous difference between the excise and the import duties, yielded their principles in recognising the special and exceptional circumstances of the cane - sugar growing industry in the north of Queensland. We are now asked to go further than that, and to extend a concession, given for particular reasons to one description of sugar, to all sugar, whether it is usually produced by white labour or not.
– We would not have consented to the excise if it had not been for the black labour question.
– Then the honorable member would have reduced the import duty?
– That would have amounted to the same thing as regards the difference between thetwo. The honorable member for Bland might possibly not have agreed to the exciseif it had not been for the black labour question, but he certainly would then have demanded a reduction of the import duty. We have agreed to an exceptional margin between the two duties, for the specific reason that we were inflicting what must for a time at any rate be a blow to the cane-sugar industry of Queensland, and the exceptional treatment was given to lighten the blow.
– Yes, but we are giving that exceptional treatment for all time.
– It is not actually for all time, because Parliament can alter it. I admit that we are making a sort of moral agreement by the way we are dealing with the question in the Tariff, and many of us on this side sought to avoid that. It has been maintained in the past, as regards the competition between beet-sugar grown by white labour and cane-sugar grown by black, that, even with the protection given in Queensland, the beet-sugar from the continent was likely to injuriously affect the cane-sugar growing industry in Queensland. There have been attempts made to secure an increased duty upon this bounty-fed sugar, in addition to theprotection given by the Queensland duty upon sugar, previous to federation?
– That was ineffective, owing to over-production.
– I know it was ; but even in Queensland they were for years demanding that drastic treatment should be meted out to this bounty-fed sugar. We have to consider the fact that wherever beet-sugar grown by white labour has come into competition with cane-sugar it has been able at any rate to hold its own. Now we are asked to give a considerable preference to beetsugar, under the suggestion of the honorable member for Echuca. As regards outside competition, we are asked to give locally grown beet-sugar a protection of £10 a ton, as against continental beet-sugar, and we are asked to give a protection of only £6 per ton to the locally grown cane-sugar.
– The protection against continental beet-sugar will affect the locally grown cane-sugar equally with the locally grown beet-sugar.
– Of course it will, but we are asked to give this protection of £10 a ton to the white beet-sugar grower, as against a protection of only £6 per ton to the white cane-sugar grower. What may be the effect of that 1 May we not be giving an advantage to Queensland with one hand, and taking it away with the other ? May we not be encouraging a competition within our own borders of beet-sugar against cane-sugar t
– We are encouraging canesugar growers in New South Wales now practically to the extent of £5 per ton.
– But in giving this advantage to locally grown beet-sugar, we may be creating a competition with Queensland cane-sugar, and we know that in other places it has been shown that where the conditions are equal, beet - sugar grown by white labour can successfully compete with cane - sugar grown by black labour. There is that prospect in front of us, and, seeing that the beetsugar industry has not been established yet, I think we should not try to establish it on lines which are special lines given to the growers of cane-sugar for a particular reason - that whereas cane-sugar is grown in other parts of the world by black labour, we are practically compelling growers in Queensland to grow it with white labour. We give the special consideration to them for that reason, and that being so, I see no reason why we should extend a similar consideration to beet-sugar, which is grown by white labour wherever it is grown. Under these circumstances, I support the objection of the honorable member for Wentworth. I agree that if the conditions were equal, and beet-sugar had been grown by black labour in Australia, it would then be perfectly legitimate to say that the growers of beet and cane sugar should be treated alike. But the conditions are very different. What beet has been grown in Australia has been grown by white labour. It can be grown in the temperate zone, where white labour may be employed. Therefore, the special condition which is given to sugar cane growers, because we compel white labour to be substituted for black, does not apply to beet, and I shall not support the same differentiation.
– I had not the advantage of hearing the speech delivered hy the acting leader of the Opposition, but I confess that I am charmed to hear that he gave expression to what, from his political stand-point, are revolutionary views. I understood that the honorable member is one of those who advocate always the throwing of industrial puppies into the water and leaving them to sink or swim. Now it appears that my honorable friend wants Parliament to go out of its way to give an advantage of £2 per ton to the cane sugar-growers of his own State and those of Queensland as against the beet sugargrowers of any other part of the Commonwealth.
– It is evident that the honorable member did not hear my argument.
– That was the substance of it.
– The honorable member has heard it from a perverted source.
– It appears to me that this is the position so far as the sugargrowers of New South Wales are concerned : They have been growing cane sugar by means of white labour, and they now desire to obtain the advantage proposed to be given to those who have been compelled to substitute white for cheap black labour. They desire to be placed on the same footing as the cane-growers of Queensland, who up to the present time have been growing sugar by means of black labour, but they do not desire to extend the privilege to the growers of any other State. Is that contention consistent with my honorable friend’s professions of free-trade? With regard to the argument raised by the honorable member for North Sydney, that sugar beet is always grown and can be grown successfully by means of white labour, I agree that the beet-sugar industry is essentially one for white labour. But the beet-sugar industry depends as much on labour conditions as does the cane or any other sugar industry. Beet sugar requires a great deal more labour in its production than does cane sugar, and I fail to see how any one with any sense of justice can consistently advocate that those engaged in the sugar-beet industry should be handicapped to the extent of £2 per ton in comparison with the producer of cane sugar. When we consider the relative advantages of the two industries to the countries in which they are established, we find that there is no comparison. I admit that the cane-sugar industry is a valuable and excellent one, which the Commonwealth should do everything in reason to encourage, but any one who has studied the history of the two industries will not contend for one moment that sugar-cane growing does as much good to the country in which it is established as does the beet-sugar industry. Cane is produced in very much the same way as maize. It does not require the high degree of culture that sugar beet demands. In order that it may be produced with success it is necessary for ‘the sugar beet that the land should be worked into a fine tilth, and kept just as clean as an onion bed. That involves the employment of an enormous quantity of labour. A great deal of labour is required for the work of weeding and thinning out.
– And therefore beet sugar cannot compete with cane-sugar.
– Yet it is said that itought to carry an additional handicap.
– In any case it should not be placed in a worse position than the cane-sugar industry. I do not know whether it can compete with cane sugar on the same terms, but it employs a very great deal more labour, and unlike the cane-sugar industry, it assists a great many other industries. The by-products of the beet are most valuable. The exhausted slices constitute one of the best kinds of food for stock that can be produced. A Royal commission sat in Scotland for several years, and after taking evidence as to the best possible kind of food for dairy stock, reported in favour of the sugar beet plant. The commissionreported that it was better than any other kind of food upon which they had experimented. It is a most valuable adjunct to the dairying and fattening industry, and therefore it does far more good to the country in which it is established than cane-sugar can possibly do.
– Why was it not a success in Victoria?
– Because the company which entered upon the manufacture of beet sugar here did not obtain enough of the raw material to make it pay. I am not prepared to say that beet-sugar can compete on even terms with that produced from cane, but we should at least place it on an equal footing with cane-sugar. It appears to me that there are only two positions which we. can support logically. Either we areto give this advantage as a bonus to those who have been growing cane with black labour in the past, or we are to extend it to those who produce sugar in the future from cane or any other plant. If cane-sugar grown in New South Wales, which has never employed black labour in this industry, is to receive the benefit of £2 per ton, then the beet-sugar industry, if it should become established here, or in any other part of the Commonwealth, should be placed on the same footing.
– Is it not entirely a matter of climate?
– No. Beet-sugar can be produced in almost any climate. The best tests of sugar-beet that I have yet seen were obtained from beet grown at Tenterfield, near the borders of New South Wales and Queensland. Sugar-beet grown there was analysed by the Government Analyst at Sydney, and gave a yield of 22 per cent.
– Yet the industry was a failure there.
– No attempt was made to establish the industry there. The people sowed only trial plots, and waited to see whether the industry established in Victoria would be a success. No doubt the climate and soil of New South Wales are admirably suited for the production of beet, and the same remark will apply to a great deal of territory in Queensland.
– The tablelands of New South Wales are best adapted for the cultivation of beet.
– Beet requires very rich land. Good soil is obtainable on tablelands as well as in the valleys and low country.
– The climate at Tenterfield is during a portion of the year very much like that of an English winter?
– I do not know anything about the climate there, but I am aware that the experiments made in the cultivation of beet at Tenterfield were most satisfactory. My honorable friend must admit that the cane-growers of New South Wales, who have never employed black labour, should not be placed in an exceptional position as compared with the sugar-beet growers in New South Wales, or in any other State. At the present time there is no one interested in the beet-sugar industry here except, perhaps, the Government of Victoria. The Government of this State have a thoroughly up-to-date beetsugar plant equipped with all the latest improvements, and probably equal to any of its size in any part of the world. It can treat from 400 to 420 tons per day. If we handicap that industry by £2 per ton as compared with the cane-sugar, the plant owned by the Government of Victoria will become confiscated, or valueless, practically, because it would be utterly impossible to establish the industry under such a disadvantage.
– What is the plant doing now?
– It has been idle for the last two or three years.
– Then how could it be confiscated ?
– There is no reason why the Government should not be able to sell it under the existing conditions. When I was at the head of a Government in Victoria, I was in treaty with a proposed company for the sale of the plant, and it is quite possible that under the present conditions the Government will be able to sell it at its fair value for use either in this or some other State. If we go out of our way to impose an additional excise duty of £2 per ton on beet-sugar as compared with cane-sugar, we shall render it impossible for the industry to be established within the Commonwealth, and in that way the plant will become valueless. It would be impossible for the Government to sell the plant. That would not be just. Look at it as we may, it is not just to give to New South Wales, which has never employed black labour in the sugar-cane fields–
– Yes, she has.
– Did the Government agree to the importation of the labour?
– The blacks are there.
– The Queensland Government assisted the establishment of the cane-sugar industry in that State by means of black labour, and if we are not going to give this advantage to the growers of any product other than cane, from which sugar is obtained, we should confine any benefit we give to the cane grown by those who have been producing it by means of black labour and not give it to any future growers of cane with white labour. To do so would be most unjust. If we adopt this system as a national policy, as I think we should, we should extend it all round, whether the sugar is produced from cane, beet, sorghum, sugar-maple, or any other plant from which sugar is obtained, provided that the sugar is of the best and can be supplied on the same conditions, and for the same price as other sugar.I should like honorable members to consider this matter.
I have not the remotest interest in the sugar-beet industry. I was one of those who tried to establish it here. Whatever money I put into the venture is lost, and I do not regret it. The experiment was worthy of a trial, and I was prepared to go into it. I have not the slightest interest in the industry now, because the company of which I was a member transferred the plant and factory, and everything belonging to it, to the Government as mortgagees, and I have no intention of entering upon the industry in future. I speak in a thoroughly disinterested way. I believe the proposal is fair all round - for the Commonwealth as a whole.
– It is very true, as the honorable member for Wentworth has said, that probably the Government when introducing the proposals with reference to excise, had not in mind particularly the sugar-beet industry. Of course, the sugar-cane industry was in existence, whereas the beet-sugar industry was not ; and no doubt our attention was more particularly directed to the former. But I can assure the honorable member that we never dreamt for a moment of dealing differently with the two industries - favoring one at the expense of another ; and when the honorable member comes to consider the matter he will see it is utterly impossible that a proposition of that sort can be accepted by the committee. If we have protection against the foreigner, well and good ; but what is proposed is that there should be protection of one industry against another - the sugar-cane industry as against the sugar-beet industry.
– There is no sugarbeet industry.
– Not at present, but no doubt the suitability of our soil and climate has been proved, and it cannot be very long, I think, before the beet-sugar industry will be established. We hear from honorable members who know most about beet sugar that it employs at least quite as many hands as does the sugar-cane industry.
– A great many more.
– And givesa larger amount of general employment.
– To what extent is a duty of £10 practically prohibitive?
– I cannot tell at this moment.
– The Minister cannot tell without consulting the Colonial Sugar Company.
– I know something about the figures of that company, but I am sure honorable members do not expect that I can cany all of them in my head. It is one thing to provide for protection against foreign sugar, whether cane or beet, and another and very different thing to suggest that we should utilize these provisions for the purpose of giving protection to the cane-grower as against the beet-grower. Such a proposition is utterly impracticable. What do we find ? The cane industry has, at least, been established, while attempts in connexion with the beet industry have been failures. The honorable member for Parramatta doubts the possibility of the beet industry being successfully established here.
-I did notsaythatatall.
– If we read by the light of past experience, we see that the difficulties which the cane-growers have overcome, have not been overcome by beetgrowers ; and, under the circumstances, is it tolerable to provide that one industry shall be subject to a disadvantage from which the other is free ?
– The cane industry is subject to a disadvantage from which the other is free.
– Not at all; but I shall follow the subject a little further. The proposed legislation is not intended to be confined to the northern part of Queensland, but applies to the whole of Australia. It applies to those districts in New South Wales where sugar-cane is at present grown without coloured labour - where no necessity has been found for such labour - and yet those cane growers, who make no alteration in procedure as regards employment, are to have the full benefit of the rebate.
– That only shows the folly of the rebate.
– The highest excise is £3 per ton, £1 chiefly for revenue purposes, and £2 as a sort of toll for the employment of black labour, which we do not wish to encourage. When beet growers do not employ any black labour, can it be reasonably contended that they shall pay the toll which is exacted from those who do employ that class of labour? It seems to me simply preposterous to make a proposal of that sort. I carry the argument a little further. In New South Wales there is no necessity to employ coloured labour in connexion with cane sugargrowing, or any other industry, and the soil and climate of that State are as favorable to beet-growing as are the soil and climate in any other part of Australia. If my friends on the other side attain their object, the position would be that the cane-grower of New South Wales will pay an excise of £1 per ton, while in the very next field the beetgrower, who is employing the same description of labour, will be subject to an excise of £3. To state the effect is to show the utter absurdity of the proposal. It is suggested that the sugar-beet industry cannot be established here, and in regard to that there may be room for differences of opinion. I am inclined to think, and hope, that the industry will be established ; but, arguing from present conditions, we find that the cane industry has been more easily established, and that it exists and flourishes, whereas the beet industry does not. How can we, when there is no question of black labour, insist on subjecting the industry, which may arise, and we hope will arise, to a disadvantage as compared with its competitor? Such a contention is neither fair nor reasonable, and the more we look into the matter, the more we come to the conclusion that the proposal cannot be defended from any point of view.
Mr. JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta).The argument of the Minister for Trade and Customs would be , quite right if there were two industries competing side by side, as he supposes. Honorable members on the other side assume in their arguments that there is a very extensive beet-sugar industry in Australia. As a matter of fact, there is no beet industry, and the question is whether we are going to take steps to establish an industry such as may, at some future time, give us all the trouble and humbug that the cane sugar production is giving us to-day.
– Does the honorable member propose to extend this advantage to future cane-growers?
– Did the honorable gentleman see how I voted the other night ? If so, he would not have asked the question.
– The honorable member votes in such an erratic fashion that one cannot quite follow him.
– The honorable member is voting all the time to encourage future cane growers with a high duty. I am not, and do not intend to. I hope the position is now clear to the honorable member. The difference between the two industries is that the beet industry is not now in existence, whereas the cane sugar industry is, and is giving us all this trouble, discussion, and anxiety, as well as compelling the country to pay huge sums in order to extricate it from its present difficulty. The honorable member for Gippsland told us that beet sugar can never compete with cane sugar, and he gave his reason for that statement. The honorable member says that the beet industry requires better land and better tilth, and consequently much more labour must be employed. For these reasons, so far as tropical Australia is concerned - and, indeed, so far as the continent, as a whole, is concerned - beet sugar can never hope to successfully compete with cane-sugar.
– Beet competes with cane in America.
– I do not know anything about America; I am talking about Australia. If the honorable member says that beet sugar is competing with cane sugar in America, I take his word ; but I ask, at what price is that being done ? What duties and what bounties are there in America ?
– Bounties have been superseded for five years.
– And what are the duties remaining ?
– The same as on the cane sugar.
– And I suppose these duties are prohibitive ?
– Yes, they are prohibitive.
– Exactly. Here is an industry which, on the statements of honorable members on the other side, cannot live except it has black labour, or there is an alternative prohibitive duty. Is this an industry which we should rushout of ourway to try to bring into existence at the beginning of the Commonwealth? At whose expense is it proposed we should establish an industry, which honorable members on the other side show is not native to our soil, or native from the standpoint of our civilization and our labour conditions? These honorable members, in every argument they use, explain that this industry must have prohibitive duties or it cannot thrive, as other industries thrive throughout the length and breadth of the continent. They show that the sugar industry of Australia is altogether special, and more or less exotic. These are the facts with which they set out to consider the question, and in the light of all these admissions, we are asked to go out of our way to specially treat the cane sugar of Queensland, and at the same time, promote the establishment of another industry which will be even worse from a commercial standpoint. I, as representing people who use sugar largely - people who are engaged in fruitgrowing - am not prepared to promote the establishment of an industry which shows that it cannot possibly live except in so far as it relies for assistance on the other industries of the continent. The honorable member for Gippsland talked about justice. Where is the justice in the proposal of the Government, as applied to the sugar industry of Australia, apart from the question of black or white labour ? The honorable member for Gippsland says that it would not be just to give this rebate in connexion with cane sugar and not give it in connexion with the beet sugar. But there is no beet sugar industry, and we do not desire to cultivate the latter until it can be shown that, after its cultivation has begun, it will be able to exist by its own inherent qualities. I object altogether to the statement that beet -sugar growing is good for the farmer, or that it employs more labour. The industry can do these two things only at the cost of some of the other people in the State, who have to keep it going by huge prohibitive duties. When honorable members tell me that an industry employs a lot of labour, the question is - at what cost ? Is it remunerative labour, the employment of which is good for the State ? Or is it the employment of labour which could be more remuneratively utilized in some other occupation? These are questions which, in a just view of the matter, ought to be asked by honorable members. But it seems to be the fashion on the other side only to ask the question - Does the industry employ labour ? Can the article be produced or grown here ? When these questions have been answered, honorable members opposite think that the whole matter is settled, without any reference to cost, or to the relations which the particular industry will bear to other industrial occupations on the continent. I object to the establishment of the beet sugar industry at the cost of those who use sugar. There was another industry referred to by the honorable member for Echuca, namely, that of fruit-growing. I presume honorable members have had a statement put into their hands by the fruit-growers of Victoria as to the relative value of their industry, and that of sugar-growing. The fruit-growers, it appears, have a greater area under cultivation, and their crop is worth very much more than is the total crop of sugar. The fruit-growers employ more hands and no coloured labour ; and yet it is proposed that these men who have been struggling for many years, shall put their hands in their pockets and pay for the obliteration of black labour in another part of the continent.Honorable members sometimes argue as though there were a huge fund at the disposal of the Treasurer, out of which to make these adjustments from time to time throughout the Commonwealth. The money that we give to the growers of sugar-cane we take from those who are engaged in fruit-growing and in fruitpreserving, and from those who use sugar as an article of food. When honorable members talk of justice, it is time that some one asks for justice for those who use sugar as well as for those who produce it. I do not think that the cane-sugar and the beetsugar industries can be compared, because one is an industry which is now in existence while the other is not ; and I have yet to learn that, in order to help the Victorian Government, which has somewhere a plant which is now useless, but which, under certain circumstances, might be used, we should penalize the sugar users of the continent. Let the Victorian Government put their plant into a museum as an evidence of their utter folly in trying to bring into existence an industry which cannot maintain itself against outside competition. Do not let them come whining to this Parliament, asking that the sugar users of the Commonwealth may be penalized in order to bring their now useless plant into use. I am surprised that the matter should have been mentioned by an honorable member who is noted for his hard-headedness. All that has been said upon the subject this afternoon goes to show that the beetsugar industry should not be encouraged by the granting to it of special bounties. Honorable members say that beet cannot be grown except where the soil is rich, and that a great amount of labour must be employed in its cultivation and in the gathering of the product. That being so, the beet-sugar industry cannot compete with the cane-sugar industry. Sugar-cane is grown in the tropical parts of Australia, where it is more or less a native product, and if our cane-sugar cannot compete against that grown in other parts of the world, except with the aid of high protective duties or cheap imported labour, can the beetsugar be expected to do so 1 Let us make the best we can of the cane-sugar difficulty in Queensland. This Parliament has declared that sugar-cane must henceforth be grown with white labour, and has determined to give the producers within the Commonwealth an advantage over outside producers. Further than that, during the next five years those who employ white labour only will obtain a rebate of £2 a ton upon their sugar. No doubt the bulk of that money will go into the pockets of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. It seems to me that the New South Wales growers are somewhat at a disadvantage compared with the growers in tropical Queensland, where, the climate being hotter, the yield of sugar is probably greater ; but, nevertheless, it was found that sugar could be grown profitably in New South Wales with white labour, paid at the rate of 7s. a day, under a duty of £3 a ton. Why then should we go out of our way to impose a duty of £10 a ton for the benefit of the beet-sugar industry, which we are told cannot compete upon even terms with the cane-sugar industry? Is it not time that we gave some consideration to those who use sugar as an article of food, or as the raw material of the products which they manufacture? The value of the return from fruit-growing land is estimated at £11 ls. 5d. per acre, whilst the value of the return from sugar-cane is only £4 7s. 7d. per acre. The total value of the sugar-cane grown in 1899 was £619,000, while the value of the sugar refined in 1900 was £1,188,693, while the total value of the fruit crop in 1899 was £1,783,400. The fruit-growers, however, are not asking for special consideration, but they may justly ask for a remission of the high duties upon sugar. I shall do nothing knowingly to assist in the building-up of an industry like the beet industry, until it can be shown that it is likely to be able to compete with the cane-sugar industry. According to the testimony which we have had this afternoon, however, from rabid advocates of the establishment of the beet industry in Victoria, beet-sugar cannot be produced as cheaply as cane,-sugar.
– The bigger returns should compensate for the additional labour employed. There is a larger return from the by-products in the case of the beet industry. If it were not for the by-products, the industry would have no chance of competing with the cane-sugar industry, but it may possibly compete with it because of the value of the by-products.
– As we have got into such an economic mess in regard to the cane-sugar industry, we should be careful not to get into a similar mess in regard to the beet - sugar industry. I believe that our people can do something which will pay them better, and will be more profitable to the Commonwealth than engaging in industries which cannot live unless they are completely fenced round against outside competition.
– The honorable member for Parramatta in bis concluding remarks involved himself in the same old- tangle as his party generally gets mixed in. He tells us that he is not going to support a proposal to assist the beet industry with special bounties or other aids. But the proposal now before the Chair is, not to give special consideration to the beet industry, but to prevent that industry from being unfairly handicapped. The honorable member also forgets that in dealing with the Tariff the committee have given special consideration to the fruit growers by securing their home market to them, and in New South Wales, when they had freetrade, they always extended special consideration -to their fruit-growers. In this case, however, the position of the fruitgrowers and the fruit-preservers does not arise, because it can be dealt with separately by allowing a rebate for the encouragement of the manufacture of jams and jellies from the produce of our own orchards. The honorable member for Parramatta laid great stress upon the fact that in New South Wales sugar-cane had been successfully grown under a duty of £3 a ton ; but the honorable and learned member for Werriwa the other night pointed out that as soon as we supply our own requirements a duty becomes inoperative. But although the honorable member for1 Parramatta tells us that with a duty of £3 a ton the sugar industry in New South Wales was a success, what do the figures of the statistician prove? They show that production has diminished in New South Wales since the duty was reduced to £3 a ton.
– Because the cane growers have gone in for dairy farming.
– They have not gone in for dairy farming to any extent upon land previously used for sugar growing, though dairying has increased very materially in the sugar-growing districts. In New South Wales, in 1864, there were 22 acres under sugar cane; in 1871, 4,394 acres; in 1881, 12,167 acres; in 1891, 22,262 acres; and in 1899, 22,517 acres; so that after the duty on sugar was reduced, the increase in the acreage was less than 300 acres. The figures as to the annual yield of sugar are still more instructive. In 1895, the yield of sugar in New South Wales was 22,213 tons; in 1S96, 28,557 tons; in 1897, 27,653 tons; in 1898, 29,110 tons; and in 1,899, 15,352 tons. Is that an increase in yield, with the reduced duty in New South Wales 1 On the other side,* taking Queensland, where they had the same duty in force all the time, what do we find for the same period ?
– Does the duty make the cane yield less ?
-It was made unprofitable to the growers, and they went out of the industry. In Queensland, where the duty was regularly about £6 odd per ton, the acreage under cane in 1881 was 28,026 acres, in 1891 50,948 acres, in 1899 110,657 acres, showing a gradual increase in area. Taking the same cycle as I took in the case of New South Wales - 1895 to 1899- in 1895 the yield was 86,255 tons, in 1896 100,774 tons, in 1897 97,916 tons, in 189S 163,734 tons, and in 1899 123,289 tons, showing a gradual increase in the yield, though in the latter year it diminished owing to the percentage of sugar in the cane or something of that sort being reduced.
– Why did not the honorable member say that before in connexion with New South Wales ? He skipped that.
– No. I quoted both the acreage and the yield, and the acreage in New South Wales shows no increase.
– No ; the honorable member said that the diminished yield was owing to the duty.
– I said that there was no increase in the acreage, and that the progress had not continued, apparently, because of the reduction of the duty.
– The honorable member said that the yield had been reduced since the duty had been put on.
– I said that it was not an increasing quantity, and that is proved both by the acreage and by the yield. The production of beet is not peculiar to one locality in Australia. Assuming that the enterprise is entered upon, beet may be grown, and grown profitably according to the sugar percentage in the beets in pretty well all our coastal districts. It is a matter of climatic conditions. Soil, of course, is essential ; but there must be certain climatic conditions to insure its growth. Coghlan says : -
Such high yields as these have forced the conclusion that these colonies are fitted by nature to become the home of the sugar beet. Indeed, in New South Wales, analysis made by the chemist to the Colonial Sugar Refining Company of roots grown in the New England district, where experiments were conducted, disclosed yields ranging from 15.66 to 24.75 per cent. of sugar. There is little fear, therefore, that with proper care and attention, the cultivation of the beet will not produce good results.
All those who give any consideration to the future will, I think, leave nothing undone that will leave fair opportunities for the development of all these industries. For a a year or two we may have to pay a little more for our sugar, but we must look to the future. If, taking the same authority as a guide, the total production of sugar in Australia in 1899 was 138,000 tons, we are approximating to our total requirements, only 30,000 to 40,000 tons having had to be imported. Looking to the future, we have every reason to hope that within a very short space of time we shall raise the whole of the sugar required by Australian consumers within our confines. Surely the committee should give the growers some inducement to go on increasing its production. It is much better for Australia as a whole to produce within its confines all the sugar it uses than to import it from abroad. This cry of importing is all right when we cannot produce the article in Australia. But I am amongst those who contend that when we can produce anything for our requirements it is our duty to give every possible assistance to its production within our confines. And where it is not going to cost a very great amount, though I have heard some extraordinary statements made in that regard, I think we should do it. For reasons which it is not necessary for me to state now, the committee agreed to differentiate between beet sugar and cane sugar, making a difference of £4 per ton in the duty.
– It has not agreed to the import duty vet.
– We have practically agreed to the amount of the import duty. I can hardly conceive of the committee going back on the import duty after it has dealt with the excise duty.
– The import duty was not dealt with.
– If we give away the whole of the excise we must reduce the import duty.
– It has been an assumption in the mind of every honorable member that the import duty has been practically agreed to, though, of course, it has not been dealt with officially. It has been referred to by the honorable members for Bland and Wentworth, and, I think, Robertson. We have assumed a difference of £4 per ton between the import duty on beetsugar and that on cane-sugar, and the proposition now is to make a difference between cane-sugar grown by white labour, and cane-sugar grown by black labour. Why should we penalize specially sugar manufactured from beet?
– How can we penalize that which does not exist ?
– Where there is the possibility of production there is the possibility of existence. We know beyond a shadow of doubt that we can grow beet in Australia, and that brings me to a point with which I wish to deal. In those countries where beet has been grown, it has been established beyond a shadow of doubt that its production is to the benefit of the State or the nation. Take the European countries which have subsidized the growth and export of beet-sugar. How is it that they have ruined the growers of cane-sugar in some of the British possessions ? We know that not long ago the British Government were considering the condition of the sugar-growers in British possessions, and their being brought into competition with the growers of bounty-fed sugar.
– Does the honorable member know what the people of Europe pay- £4,000,000 1
– That is an unsupported statement.
– Germany gets far more in the way of excise than she pays in the way of bounty.
– After a very considerable experience of the bounties those nations are still paying them. If the results were not satisfactory to them they would not be doing s’o. But turning to the United States, I find that in an article dealing with the growth of beet sugar in Oregon, and with the conditions appertaining to a few particular factories, the Agricultural department reports in this way
It is estimated that if this season’s expectations be fulfilled more than 1,000,000 tons of homegrown sugar will be consumed in the United States, or three times the figures of 189(5-97, the increase being almost entirely due to the expansion of sugar-beet production.
In three years the production of sugar-beet has increased threefold.
– Has it assistance in the United States 1
– It has special assistance in the shape of bonuses.
– No bonuses.
– I am not prepared to say what they have at the present time, but they had bonuses at the outset. What has been a great factor in agricultural development in the United States is the splendid assistance given by experiments in different directions, not only by the State Legislature, but also by the Federal Legislature.
– Robbing Peter to pay Paul.
– Seeing that it is an immense factor in the wealth production of the State, I do not see where the robbing comes in. But in the proposition before the committee there is not a request for any special consideration. It is merely a request not to place a special handicap on one class of sugar production, and seeing that it is a source of considerable wealth production to the growers, wherever it has been engaged in, and where the conditions were favorable, it shall have my hearty .support. Of course it is attempted to mix up that question with other issues- such for instance as to how it will affect those engaged in the manufacture of garden produce, but that is a question which ve can dispose of at a later stage. I tun prepared to go the . whole way with those who have a special knowledge of the conditions prevailing in Queensland, and give them what assistance they have asked. I I do not think that the Government in their proposals have been lenient with the sugar growers in Queensland. Up to 1907, when they will not be able to utilize black labour, will be the most critical period for sugar growers in that State. I shall give them all the support in my power. I am prepared to be guided to a very considerable extent by the opinions of their representatives. I trust that the committee will accept the amendment of the honorable member for Echuca.
– I cannot help thinking that we have travelled far indeed from the considerations that were before the Chamber when we were dealing with the kanaka question. At that time I paid considerable attention to all the speeches, and I think it would bea matter of extreme difficulty to find any reference to a rebate on sugar grown in, say Victoria, or in those districts in New South Wales where at no time black labour had been employed. We had undoubtedly before us the question as to how we could best relieve the planters in Queensland who were employing kanakas, from the inconvenience and the expense which they would inevitably have to face in the change from black labour to white labour. . But while I recognise that fact, and while I admit as a matter of principle that we ought not to concede anything to the growers of beet sugar, still for the sake of expediency, and in order to get on a little faster than we are doing, I am willing to vote for the proposition before the committee. And in doing so I feel sure that I am not giving away any proportion of the revenue to the growers of beet, for the simple reason that I believe that not a ton of beet sugar is likely to be produced in competition with cane sugar grown in Queensland. In Victoria, a great effort was made some years ago to make the beet sugar industry a live one. The attention of its statesmen was concentrated on the industry. One of the leading 1 newspapers fought hard ; and money was
– One argument that has been used in support of the amendment is that there is a possibility of the resuscitation of the beet-sugar industry. The last speaker intimated that he would support it on the ground of that possibility, and also gave as a reason that he was quite sure that it was merely a formal act on his part to vote for it, because no beet-sugar would ever be produced either in Victoria or elsewhere in the Commonwealth. While approving of the honorable member’s determination on the ground stated, I am going to vote in the opposite direction on principle. Beet-sugar production might become in the immediate future a menace to the successful production of cane-sugar by white labour. We know very well that if Germany or France had what the Commonwealth of Australia possesses, immense areas of splendid rich tropical country, with amagnificent rainfall of from 30 inches to 30 feet per annum, they would not grow asingle ton of beet. Those who are intimate with the history of the development of the beet industry on the continent of Europe know very well that it was established for the specific purpose of relieving the farmers, who have been an enormously increasing portion of the population during the past 30 or 50 years. Something had to be done for
Victoria, and the utilization of the splendid plant and material erected here, from a Commonwealth point of view, and not from a Victorian State point of view. I cannot admit that from a national point of view we should desire to encourage the utilization of this plant in Victoria, under the belief that those who use it may possibly make a success of the industryinfive or six years, if they are given the advantage which is asked for under the Tariff.
– Is not the production of cane-sugar equal to the supply of all Australia?
– PATERSON. - Very nearly. But if the revival of the production of beet-sugar in Victoria be successful after five or six years, what will happen ? At once away goes the bonus which is to be given to Queensland, and up goes the claim of Victoria to a continuity of the bonus for the production of beet-sugar. We must look ahead, and that is a fair diagnosis of what are the circumstances today, and the prospects for to-morrow. If beet-root production in Victoria had been a success, and not an industrial failure as it has been, and if the industry were in existence, producing a reasonable quantity of sugar, employing a proportionate quantity of labour and capital, and paying interest on the advances which had been made by the State Government, there would be some ground for granting the concession ; but at present there is not the strength of a cobweb upon which to hang the clai m that is made. It is said that New South Wales does not employ any coloured labour. I fancy from the best information I have obtained - apart from personal knowledge - that a considerable portion of the New South Wales northern river growers employ free coloured labour that has come from Queensland or elsewhere.
– When the kanaka is employed on the Tweed he wants his 7s. a day.
– PATERSON.I know that the kanakas employed there receive good wages - receive, indeed, as much as the white men; and they are very thrifty hard-working men, who do not squander their money needlessly either to the injury of their health, or otherwise, but put it in the Savings Bank to provide for a rainy day. Lastly, I would point out that the honorable memberf or Gippsland omitted to tell the committee that the principal condition which was agreed to by honorable members, in respect of the excise to be levied upon cane-sugar production, was founded upon a bargain, as it has been called, that the sugar planters and growers in Queensland should have the advantage of the £2 per ton rebate as a sort of recompense, in order to enable them to abandon, perforce, the employment of the kanaka. The honorable member for Gippsland should have told us that the labour conditions in Victoria, if beet-sugar culture were commenced here to-morrow, would be the same as they were before.
-Victoria does not ask for consideration ; she asks not to be placed in a worse position than the other States.
– PATERSON. - She wants to be in a better position than that of the sugar-planters of Queensland now. Victoria is not, and never has been, in the position that Queensland is. Queensland has been attacked victoriously by those who have determined that black labour should cease, and the £2 a ton rebate was given as a solatium. Victoria has no right to raise the question at all. Queensland gets the solatium for an attack made upon her most successful industry - an industry that has been carried on for years under State laws, which the people there were led to believe would not be interfered with by the Commonwealth Government. That solatium was given for the express purpose of enabling those whose capital has been invested in the industry to tide over the period to the end of 1906. Queensland gets the rebate to enable her to maintain her position and her solvency. To enable her to overcome the disadvantages of the changed conditions forced upon her, she is to get this solatium for fiveyears. Victoria comes now and asks for the same concession upon no grounds whatever, because no beet-sugar industry exists.
– And there are no disadvantageous climatic conditions.
– PATERSON. - There are no disadvantageous climatic conditions, and no black labour is to be abolished. There is little or no capital invested at all, or, at all events, what has been invested has been lost for ever.
– And the Victorian State Government subsidized it by nearly £100,000.
– I was not aware of that. I know that there are many Victorian banks, financial companies, and private individuals who have hundreds of thousands of pounds invested in the sugar industry in Queensland, and they will regard with anything but a favorable eye any attempt made to resuscitate the beet-sugar industry in Victoria, if it is to be done at the expense of the Commonwealth, or at the expense of a subsidy by the Victorian State Parliament.
Sir WILLIAM McMILLAN (Wentworth). - This, of course, is a debatable question ; but, though I have listened carefully to what has been said, I have seen no reason to alter the position I took up. There is one very strong argument against the proposal. We have put an absolutely prohibitive duty upon the importation of beetsugar - £10 a ton - and even if we were to give away the whole of the excise of £3 a ton, and reduce the import duty to £7 per ton, it would still be a prohibitive duty. In the face of that fact, and of the fact that there are no disadvantageous climatic conditions against the establishment of the beet-sugar industry in Victoria, we are asked to treat people who may undertake that industry in exactly the same way as people carrying on the cane-sugar industry in the tropical parts of Queensland, and for whom the whole scheme has been devised.
– Surely the honorable member does not mean to say that the high duty was imposed in the interests of the beet-sugar industry?
– If it were not as I say, there would be no excuse for this scheme. We can only look upon it as a component part of the legislation dealing with the kanaka system. It is that and nothing more ; and the idea of dragging in a product like beet-sugar, which does not exist at all at the present time, and the growth of which could be conducted under ordinary climatic conditions, and putting it upon a level with the cane-sugar industry in Queensland, is against common sense and reason. If this is going to be done it might be a reason why honorable members should reconsider their position with regard to the rebate scheme altogether. This concession to beet-sugar was not one of the Government proposals. It was never intended by the Government, and it is dragged in now in a senseless and useless way in regard to an industry which does not exist, and which we know ought not to exist, because the peculiarity of this beetsugar industry is that it is an entirely artificial industry. It has never been put upon a sound footing, except by a system of robbery of the great mass of thepeople. At the present time Europe pays £4,000,000, chiefly out of the hard earnings of her working people, for the delightful position of being able to export a lotof beet-sugartootherparts of the world. If these bounties and this artificial assistance were taken away from the beet-sugar industry in Europe, it would go to pieces. Whether we are free-traders or protectionists, none of us will approve of the artificial establishment of an industry which requires enormous, even prohibitive, duties, or on the other hand extravagant bonuses to keep it alive from year to year. I therefore say that this beet-sugar industry should not come into this question at all. If it comes to a matter of being self-supporting, we know that at the present time we make almost as much sugar from cane in New South Wales and Queensland as will supply the whole of Australia. Are we going to bring into competition another product? Look at the futility of it ! We must face the fact that this artificial assistance ceases at the end of five years, during which time it will be impossible to establish the industry, or underneath it all there must be a determination that after five years this assistance shall be continued or even increased. The suggestion is absurd. On the one hand we refuse to continue the system of excise’ and rebate beyond five years, and on the other hand we give a concession to an industry which is not now established, which could not be established at all under ordinary conditions, and just at the moment when it would be established by this measure of assistance, we take away all the support from it. Viewed in the light of common sense, it is clear that the Government proposal is part and parcel of the treatment of the kanaka question, and it is intended to alleviate, to some extent, the effects of the rather harsh measures which, as a matter of high State policy, we have had to take in view of the interests of the whole of Australia.
– My honorable friend has worked himself up into a state of excitement for the purpose of imposing upon the committee. He commenced by stating that having put a specially high duty upon imported beet-sugar, there was no necessity for giving it any further consideration. The honorable member knows that that special duty was put upon beetsugar to protect the cane-sugar, and not in the interests of a local beet-sugar industry which does not exist. The honorable member has waltzed very carefully round the question. Does he propose to extend this concession to cane-sugar grown in New South Wales by white labour ?
– I said that we had to do so.
– How can the honorable gentleman, consistently with his principles as a free-trader, advocate putting a special impost of £2 per ton on- beet-sugar which he,does not propose to put upon his own cane-sugar ? Is that in accordance with the principles of free-trade?
– Certainly not; I admitted it.
– No special consideration is asked in the interests of beet sugar. AH that we ask is that there shall be no special disability imposed upon it. We only ask that it shall be placed in the same category as cane-sugar. It is not proposed that it shall be given any special bonus, but that it shall pay the same rate of excise duty to the State that cane-sugar has to pay.
– It cannot pay anything ; it does not exist.
– If it does not exist, the proposal can do no harm. All that we ask is that there shall be no special barrier placed in the way of the establishment of the industry. If it can be established on its merits, we should not go out of our way to prevent it being established. My honorable friends talk of the enormous injury to the people of Germany by reason of the bounties paid upon the export of beet-sugar. I think the German nation can be allowed to take care of itself. The honorable member for Wentworth is a student of history, and does he not know that it is he who is in a hopeless minority, and that his views are shared only by the isolated few? Does the honorable gentleman think the few free-traders of New South Wales are to sway the judgment of the teeming millions of the old world 1 My honorable friend ought to know that the antiquated policy to which he is clinging has been discarded by all the enlightened nations of the earth, with only one notable exception. I have not looked at the returns from Germany for the last two or three years, but the last time I did look them up I found that the amount of the bounty paid upon the export of beet-sugar was only a few hundred thousand pounds, whilst the amount received in excise duty was considerably over £4,000,000. These returns are a few years old, but I doubt very much if the position has been reversed. Germany makes a considerable income out of the beet-sugar industry.
– Does the honorable member approve of that policy - of the excise duty imposed there ?
– I do not know whether my honorable friend is familiar with the policy of Germany and France. Those continental nations are protectionist nations, and they put a high protective duty upon beet-sugar in favour of the local industry, and make it up by a considerable excise duty for revenue. It is found that this is a very useful industry j and employs a large proportion of the peasantry of these continental countries, and to encourage that employment, the nation pays a bounty on the surplus produced, and exports it to other countries.
– And the people pay 3d. per lb. for sugar, which is sold in London at 1½d. per lb.
– The bounty is paid upon the beet-sugar produced.
– My honorable friend will admit that the cost of living is 50 per cent, greater in England than in Germany,’ for the very good reason that England has to get the necessaries of life from the protectionist countries of the world, and has to pay the cost of importation, insurance, and all other charges incidental to their import.
– And the people pay less for the goods than the people of those countries pay.
– In regard to this question we only ask that the growers of beet-sugar shall be placed in the same position as the growers of cane-sugar, and that if any company desires to undertake the industry it shall be free to enter into it on the same terms as a company investing in the cane-sugar industry. If they produce as good an article, and can compete in the same market with the growers of canesugar, they should be allowed to do so, and they should not be compelled to pay £2 per ton more excise than the growers of canesugar will have to pay.
– I hope the debate will not take this interesting turn for long; I hope it will not resolve itself into a general argument on free-trade and protection. What is involved, as I understand it, is whether the bonus proposed to be given to the growers of cane sugar by white labour in Queensland- a rebate of £2 per ton of the excise duty - is also to be given to those who may grow beet-sugar in Victoria, or in any other State, by white labour. Although the proposal exhibits a good deal of the peculiar unselfishness of Victoria in all matters concerning that State particularly, it shows that honorable members representing Victoria are determined to exact the last concession they can get out of the Tariff in every way. Though I represent a sugar-growing district, I do not see how I can consistently do otherwise than vote for the proposal. I think it is producing discord in the general understanding, but I must consistently vote for it. Even if I feared it I would still vote for it ; but I do not fear it. I do not for a moment believe that any growers of beet sugar in Victoria can compete with our white cane sugar growers in Queensland if they are given proper opportunities. I do not think the high import duty upon beet sugar makes any difference at all. The bonus paid upon beet sugar on the continent makes the customs duty of £10 per ton proposed here about equal to the customs duty of £6 per ton imposed upon imported cane sugar. To be consistent, the Government were, I think, bound to propose such duties as would bring about an equality in that respect, unless we are to go upon the free-trade principle of importing everything as cheaply as we can.
– What has the beet sugar to do with the kanaka?
– I agree with what has been said in that respect by the honorable gentleman who is at present leading the Opposition, but the whole thing was a compromise at the general election. The honorable gentleman is voting for a revenue Tariff, and the Government are voting for a revenue Tariff, with a protective incidence. Seeing that the cane-sugar industry has been established in two of the States at least, some protection should be given to thoseengaged in it, and especially in view of the special circumstances recited in connexion with coloured labour in Queensland. There are, however, many reasons why we should follow a consistent course, even if to do so were to our disadvantage. The district I represent is largely a sugargrowing district, and despite the statements of people who think differently, I think that sugar will continue to be produced there to a great extent by white labour. I am prepared to meet competition with beet sugar grown in Victoria, but I make this request of members representing Victoria : that if we consistently vote for this proposal, they will admit that the white sugar-growers in Queensland, struggling against climatic and other disadvantageous conditions, are entitled to almost the full rebate proposed by the Government with respect tosugar produced by white labour. That is quite fair.
– It is a case of “ put your money down.”
– I do not say that.
– A proposal like that should be made only in the lobbies.
– I am pleased to hear honorable members who are free-traders making these interjections, and I shall remind them of something which may be of interest. The honorable member for Parramatta was a member of a Government in New South Wales which considered that a duty of £3 per ton on sugar was a perfectly fair protection to afford the sugar growers in the northern parts of New South Wales as against the kanaka-grown sugar, of Queensland.
– That is a mere assertion.
– Does the honorable member say that it is untrue ?
– I do not say anything.
– Of course, it is true.
– I simply wish to put the matter fairly before the committee. I do not want to make points against the honorable member.
– The honorable member cannot prove his statement as to that duty.
– The proposal of the Government is that sugar grown here by white labour shall be protected against that grown by black labour to the extent of only £2 per ton. The honorable member for Parramatta complains because I urge that the same amount of protection should be afforded to sugar grown by white labour as that which a free-trade Government, of which he was a member, gaveto the sugargrowers in New South Wales against the kanaka-grown sugar of Queensland, namely, an operative duty of £3 per ton. An excise duty of £3 per ton has to be paid on sugar produced from kanaka-grown cane, while the man who produces sugar from cane grown by white labour has to pay an excise duty of £1 per ton, so that he is allowed only a differential duty of £2 a ton. That is not sufficient. I say that if they are consistent, those who supported the State Government of New South Wales, to which I have referred, ought to give sugar produced by white labour an advantage of £3 per ton. Is that a bargain with the honorable members for Victoria ?
– That was not stated before.
– If it is a fact, does it matter whether it has been stated before or not?
– We are not bound by the decision of the Government of New South Wales.
– I should not have mentioned it but for the jeers of honorable members of the Opposition, who suggested that I was endeavoring to make a compact with honorable members representing Victoria.
– The honorable member has not stated what is a fact in regard to the dutv in New South Wales.
– If it is thought that an impost of £3 per ton was a fair protection to afford the sugar-growers of New South Wales against the kanaka-grown cane sugar of Queensland, surely an advantage of £3 per ton is not too much for us to ask now on behalf of sugar grown by whit labour? We ask the committee to give 5s. instead of 4s. a ton on 10- per cent. cane. If the Government yield to that request we shall be pleased, and, on the arguments I have adduced, I think it would be fair, as well as beneficial to Australia, for them to do so. If that proposal is not agreed to, I can assure the committee that the white sugar-cane growers of Queensland will, not sit down and ask for Government aid. .They are not built that way. They will set to work and do their utmost. If they fail, they will fail in a glorious battle.
– It is contended that this rebate should be expended to beet-sugar, because a proposal has been been made to allow it to cane growers in parts of the Commonwealth in which white labour is being employed in the industry at the present time. That is the only argument which has been advanced with any force. But does it not show the hollowness of the whole scheme ? Does it not show, that to extend the rebate to beetsugar would be practically a breach of faith with the people of Queensland, or with the planters, from whom we have taken cheap black labour ? It was bad enough to place the growers of New South Wales, who have hitherto conducted operations by means of white labour, on the same footing as those of Queensland, where they are being compelled to introduce white labour in substitution for black. It is proposed now to go further, and to introduce an entirely new element. If it were not for the fact that we have compelled the sugar planters of Queensland to substitute white for black labour, would there be any proposition for a rebate ? We are asked to give a rebate on beet sugar in order that a new industry may be established. But what concession will the sugar-cane growers of Queensland receive if the beet-sugar industry is placed on an equal footing ? None whatever. The more I think of this most recent proposal, the more strongly am I convinced that it would be a distinct breach of faith with the sugar-cane growers of Queensland, whom, we are agreed, should receive a bonus or rebate.
– We ought to have all the representatives of Queensland with us.
– I admire the magnanimous spirit exhibited by the honorable member for Wide Bay in his desire for consistency; but I think that he exhibited a little of his feeling as to the selfishness of Victoria in asking for this concession when it was absolutely wrung from the Government as a condition of the passing of the Pacific Island Labourers Bill. There was no suggestion that the rebate should be extended to beet sugar until some of the Government’s followers got to work. It is not a Government proposal.
– I did not approach the Government in .the matter.
– Does any one think that the advantage’ of £2 per ton proposed to be given to the Queensland sugar-cane growers, as compensation for the loss sustained by them in substituting white for black labour, will be anything like a fair equivalent ?
– It is not enough.
– Yet we are asked to vote for a proposition which would put a new industry in competition with the canesugar of Queensland, upon exactly the same footing. The demand will not bear scrutiny.
Mr. JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta).I should not have risen to address myself to this matter, but for the statement made by the honorable member for Wide Bay, that I was a member of a Government in New South Wales which considered that a duty of £3 per ton on sugar was a fair one, and therefore kept it on. When questioned on the subject, the honorable member challenged me to deny or to affirm the accuracy of his statement. This is a very old dodge. It is easy to make statements, and then to challenge the person affected to deny them. I did not fall into the trap. May I tell the honorable member now that the duty of £3 per ton to which he has referred was kept on by the Government of which I was a member, not because it was a protective duty, but because we could not afford to take it off at the time. The state of our revenue would not permit us to do so.
– Did not some of the supporters of that Government threaten to go on the other side if the Government removed it?
– Some of them threatened to go on the other side because we refused to take it off ; the honorable member for Dalley was one.
– Hear, hear.
– As free-traders why did not the Government to which the honorable member refers make the excise and the import duty alike if they desired to obtain revenue ?
– Our original proposition was not that an excise duty on sugar should be imposed, but that the duty should be removed. However, we could not control five or six bad seasons in succession. ,
– Nor five or six supporters of that Government ?
– That assertion has no foundation in fact. These statements are all so much balderdash.
– The honorable member said just now that he did not recollect.
– The honorable member does not know anything about the matter. He knows just as much about it as does the honorable member for Wide Bay, who made the statement that we imposed the duty for protective purposes.
– It is history that the Government refused to discontinue the sugar duties because their supporters threatened to desert them if they did so.
– Am I to be subjected to all these interruptions, Mr. Chairman ? If I were to interject half as much you would be down on me.
– Order ! The honorable member hasno right to cast a reflection on the Chair.
– I stated what was a fact. You know, Mr. Chairman, that it is not right for the Minister to go on like this.
– The honorable member is not in order. He is not upholding the dignity of the Chamber as he should do, by protecting the Chair. I called the honorable member to order, and I can do no more.
– I want the Chair to protect me, and I have a right to that protection.
– The Government of which the honorable member was a member continued the protective duty on sugar in order to keep in office.
– Order !
– The honorable member knows that that statement is absolutely incorrect; that so far from taking the popular course we took an unpopular course in continuing the duty. We kept it on because we could not afford to lose any revenue. When the honorable member for Wide Bay stands up and boldly and impudently seeks to enter into a compact with other honorable members–
– The honorable member must withdraw that statement.
– I withdraw. The honorable member for Wide Bay has asked honorable members from Victoria to support the full rebate which honorable members from Queensland hope to obtain in return for his support of their demand for a rebate on beet-sugar.
– He never said anything of the sort.
– The honorable member knows that such a proposal should be made only in the lobbies. It should not take place in open daylight.
Mr. FISHER (Wide Bay).- By way of explanation, may I be permitted to say that apparently from what the honorable member for Parramatta has uttered, he is under a misapprehension as to what I intended to convey. If he believes honestly that I proposed to enter into a compact with Victorians, he is certainly under a misapprehension. I had no such idea in my mind’ when I spoke, and I trust that he will accept my explanation.
– The honorable member was holding out the olive branch to the other side.
– If the honorable member for Dalley thinks that I was seeking in any way to enter into a compact with honorable members from Victoria, he is very much mistaken. I have never entered into a compact with any party, and do not intend to do so.
– I would not have spoken on this question but for the remarks made by the honorable member for Parramatta. I am glad that the honorable member for Wide Bay has made an explanatory statement-
– It was unnecessary.
– It should not be necessary, because it is not creditable to the Chamber that aspersions such as those made by the honorable member for Parramatta should be cast upon honorable members. They reflect far more discredit upon those who make them than they do upon those who were so unjustly charged with having entered into such a compact. At the time that the proposal to grant a loan to those engaged in the industry was before the Victorian Parliament, I opposed it very strongly ; but it was a very different proposal from that placed before the committee by the honorable member for Echuca. There is no special concession asked for by the primary producer on this occasion. It has been shown that beet can be grown here of a quality equal to that grown in any part of the world, and those who grow it or intend to grow it, do not ask to be placed at an advantage as compared with those who grow cane-sugar ; all they ask is that they shall have the same treatment as the canegrower. Sugar-beet producers do exist here, and others may if they receive any encouragement from this Parliament ; and all the arguments which have been poured forth in an attempt to prove that a special concession is asked for, are absolutely without point. All that is desired, as has been pointed out by the honorable member for Gippsland, is fair treatment; and the question of an import duty of £10 a ton on beetsugar does not touch the subject of discussion. The honorable member for Gippsland is perfectly right when he says that that duty was imposed by the Government with a view to protecting the producers of sugar, whether from cane or beet ; and no honorable member will contend for a moment that a duty of £10 on beet-sugar will advance the interests of the beet-sugar growers any more than those of the cane-growers, seeing that the finished article is practically the same, and is sold at virtually the same price.
– Then why was this duty imposed ‘f
– In order to assist the producers of sugar, whether beet or cane production.
– The honorable member has done away with his own argument.
– I maintain the position I adopted, namely, that the duty was imposed by the Government, and will be assented to by this committee, with a view to protecting the producers of all kinds of sugar, and it is unfair to say that because the Government place a duty of £10 on beet-sugar they are doing so in order to specially protect and assist those who manufacture that sugar.
Mr. THOMSON (North Sydney).- I would point out that honorable members on the Government side, by the arguments they have been using, might prolong the debate, if the Opposition chose to follow them j because we have had the whole question of free-trade and protection discussed together with other matters in connexion with the proposed rebate of 6s. I do not wish to imply that the honorable member for Wide Bay has entered into any compact with Victorians. There was no implication of that sort ; but the way in which the honorable member put his case looked like offering a compact, although I am sure the honorable member did not even mean that much.
– If I gave the honorable member that impression, it was done inadvertently.
– I should like to point out a view which does not seem to have been made clear, namely, that this rebate of £2 a ton to the beet-grower is an advantage of £2 to that grower. If neither the canegrower nor the beet-grower is restricted in his operations, both are on the same footing exactly; and that was the position before the Pacific Island Labourers Bill was introduced. Both growers were absolutely unrestricted as to the labourthey employed. But a restriction was placed on the grower of cane, and the Government valued the restriction at not less than £2 a ton, while the honorable member for Wide Bay estimates it at £3. When the Government allow £2 a ton to the cane-grower, they are not giving him any concession as against the beet-grower, but are only putting him in the same position as if he used black labour ; but by giving this £2 to the beet-grower the Government give the latter an advantage to that extent, because he has not been interfered with or restricted in any way with regard to the labour he employs.
– The beet-grower will not get the rebate if he uses black labour.
– The beet-grower does not need to use black labour. When both growers were unrestricted, one used white labour and the other used black labour.
– Neither does the beet-grower want a tropical climate.
– That is so. Both were on level terms ; but one is now restricted and damaged, according to the Government’s own statement, to the extent of £2 a ton. But the Government say - “Give the beetgrower a rebate of £2 per ton, although we do not restrict him or damage him,” therefore, to that extent he has the advantage of the cane-grower. I mention this point because it does not seem to have gone home to honorable members.
Mr. HENRY WILLIS (Robertson).The committee have harked back to the discussion we had on this question in November last. Certain honorable members on this side contended that black labour is absolutely necessary in growing sugar in Northern Queensland, and they are sticking to their guns to-day when they say there shall be a concession in favour of sugar grown by enforced white labour ; because, they urge, it is a country where black labour only should be employed.
When that discussion took place I and others held that south of Mackay white labour could grow sugar, and for that reason I voted for the exclusion of black labour from that part of the State. The Government contended that sugar can be grown by white labour down as far as New South Wales, but as they had to offer some inducement to people to employ white labour in the extreme north, they decided to give a rebate of £2 in the excise. The Government still hold that white labour can be employed there, and it is pretty freely conceded that such labour can produce sugar in the region I have indicated. If the same system is not applied to both classes of growers, the beet-grower will have a protection of £3 per ton while the grower of canesugar in North Queensland will have a protection of £5 per ton, each using white labour. It seems a perfectly fair thing to say that if, they compete on equal lines in
– It cannot be grown as easily as with black labour, nor can other things be grown as easily in New South Wales as when there was convict labour. But the right is denied of using inferior and kanaka labour ; and if the sugar can be grown by white labour, there ought to be no advantage given over those parts of Australia where beet-sugar is grown - there should be no advantage given to one part over another. . To give the Queensland growers protection to the amount of £5, and the beet-growers protection to the amount of £3, seems to me absolutely unfair ; and shall adhere to the vote I gave on the previous occasion, assuming that the Government accept the proposal of the honorable member for Echuca.
Question - That the amendment be intended by the insertion of the words “ and beet “ after the word “ cane “ - put. The committee divided.
Majority … … 27
Question so resolved in theaffirmative.
Amendment of the amendment agreed to.
Amendment, as amended, agreed to.
Amendment (by Mr. Kingston) agreed to.
That after the words’ just inserted the words “ The rebate in the case of sugar-cane to be “ be inserted.
– I move-
That the figure “4” be omitted with a view to insert the figure “5.”
The proposed rebate of 4s. a ton upon sugarcane grown solely with white labour, and containing 10 per cent. of sugar, is equivalent to a rebate of £2 a ton upon the sugar itself, and as the excise upon sugar is to be £3 a ton, the grower who employs white labour will still have to pay an excise duty of £1 a ton. I think, however, that it is the wish of the majority of honorable members that every encouragement should be given to the production of sugar solely by white labour. The only justification I can find for the Government withholding a larger rebate from those who employ white labour in growing sugar is that their present proposal will besufficient to meet the extra expense to which they will be put. I think, however, that a rebate of 5s. a ton on cane, equal to £2 10s. a ton upon sugar, would be a much fairer proposal, and one which I hope the committee will agree to.
– Will the honorable member’s proposal apply to beet-sugar ?
– I should have been very pleased if the beet question had not been raised ; but to be consistent with the vote which I have just given I must vote for the giving of this larger rebate to all sugar growers who employ white labour. Nearly all the growers in my district and inother districts who have communicated with me on the subject, or with whom I have had personal conversations, have expressed themselves anxious, not to make an unfair profit out of the* proposed rebate, but to demonstrate to the world that they can grow sugar exclusively with white labour; and, if without injury to other industries of the Commonwealth we can make the task easier for them, we should endeavour to do so. For the first year, at any rate, New South Wales growers will benefit by this arrangement more than the Queensland growers will benefit. I do not anticipate that outside of New South Wales more than 20,000 tons of sugar will be produced with white labour during the first year of the operation of the Tariff, and, therefore, the proposal that I now make would lead to a loss of revenue in Queenland of only £10,000 in that year; but I do not wish to conceal the fact that in my opinion in each succeeding year the production of sugar grown with white labour will increase, and, therefore, the loss of revenue will increase, though I do not think that it will seriously affect the Commonwealth resources. I need not repeat what I have already said about the action of New South Wales politicians in continuing a duty of £3 a ton upon sugar to protect their growers from the competition of growers in Queensland and elsewhere who employed black labour.
– But under the honorable member’s proposal the growers who employ white labour will have a protection of £5 10s. against the world.
– That duty will be operative only while our production of sugar is considerably less than the requirements of the Commonwealth.
– But the honorable member does not expect the Commonwealth to export sugar if only white labour is employed in the cane-fields ?
– I am inclined to think that the employment of white labour will be so successful that in the course of a few years our production will overtake the Australian demand. “When that time arrives, the customs duties will cease to operate.
– No, they will cease to operate only when we begin to export.
– A very few tons in excess of Australian requirements would make a difference in the market value. But I do not wish to elaborate the argument. I am sorry to hear that the Government are against us. In the very first communication I had with the Government I stated that in my opinion the whole of the excise duty should go to the white grower, and I believe that if the electors of Australia were polled, that would be their view. But if we do not succeed, I believe that those for whom we speak will not sit down to bewail the action of this Parliament, but will set to work and do their best under the circumstances. That is no reason, however, why we should make their task harder than is necessary. I ask the committee to give full consideration to the matter, and if possible to allow a rebate of 5s. per ton in the interests of Queensland growers particularly, and, in my opinion, in the interests of Australia generally.
– I have not the slightest intention of contributing to the debate on the amendment at any great length.. The question of using white labour for sugar production has been debated adnauseam, and I respectfully suggest that we should get to a vote as early as practicable. Being in sympathy with the proposal for an additional payment, I had intended to propose that the rebate be6s. per ton ; but from conversations I have had with other representatives of Queensland, I concur in the proposal of the honorable member for Wide Bay. To debate the matter at any length would be fatuity. We must all be very tired of discussing the different aspects of this question. I believe that every honorable member has pretty well made up his mind on the subject, and, therefore, there is no need for many speeches. I should like to see the business transacted promptly.
– With due deference to the honorable and learned member for Brisbane, I think there are a few words yet to be said in favour of the amendment. I am willing to admit that the Queensland sugar industry is in a transition state. It requires all the consideration which can be extended to it by the committee, and I hope that it will be given in the direction indicated by the honorable member for Wide Bay. I am somewhat sorry that he did not adopt his. first suggestion, and propose that the rebate should be 6s. a ton.
– It had no chance of being accepted.
– Possibly not, judging from the expressions of opinion from both sides of the Chamber; but at the same time the honorable member might have tested the feeling of the committee. Honorable members on the other side seem to be imbued with the idea that two-thirds of this rebate is goingto the white sugar-growers in North Queensland. That is a very great fallacy. Of the 4s. which the Government propose to give, not more than a fraction, I suppose, will go to the growers. According to an interview which I read in the Argus this morning, the Treasurer estimates that about 20,000 tons will be grown during the coming season by white labour. Suppose that 30,000 tons are grown by white labour, a rebate of 4s. a ton would mean £60,000 only. The Minister for Trade and Customs has already affirmed the principle that after this month there will be no possibility of its being increased to any great extent. He has said that those desiring to grow cane by white labour only must register this month, and that if they do not they will not be entitled to claim a rebate.
– That is not quite so - if they start fresh.
– For this year ?
– That was the impression conveyed to me by the Minister, and I am pleased to hear that he does not adhere to that opinion. I feel positively certain that in no case will the amount exceed £100,000. Honorable members on the other side will be delighted to know that the balance of £310,000 will all go to the revenue, and that the white sugar-grower will get only a very small proportion of it.
Speaking on this, question the other day the honorable member for South Sydney said that Australia is makin? a great sacrifice. I am willing to admit that Australia is making a sacrifice in favour of the white sugar-grower but if not the industry, at any rate the cause, is worthy of that sacrifice. History shows that there are no people who have associated themselves with a servile class, as has been done in Queensland, but have had at some time or other to make a sacrifice of that nature. It is money well spent, and I am sure that the people of North Queensland will feel that Australia is doing, at any rate, justice to the industry and to the cause of a white Australia. The leader of the Opposition said recently that Queensland came into the Federation without any stipulations ; I hold that that is so. It was unfortunate, and perhaps it was a shortsighted policy on the part of the Queensland Ministry, that we were not represented at the final sitting of the Convention, where any stipulations might have been made. At any rate, looking at the question from the other side, possibly the other federating States might have asked for some stipulations, on the ground that Queensland was bringing into the Federation a servile element which would not be conducive te the prosperity and welfare of the Commonwealth. I quite agree with the honorable and learned member for Brisbane that this question has been pretty well thrashed out. I hope the committee will remember that only a very small portion of this amount which is being collected as excise can be enjoyed by the cane-growers of North Queensland. It was for their benefit originally that the rebate was put on, and I am sorry that they will not benefit to any great extent. But there is another point to be considered. This excise duty has been collected since the 9 th October last, and there is not a shilling of it repayable as rebate to any of the sugar - growers before the 1st July. For a period of nine months the whole of the excise will go into the revenue. Honorable members have asserted that this rebate will last for five years. It will operate for only four years and a half, that is, from the 1st” July, 1902, to the 1st January, 1907. I hope that t he committee will grant the extra rebate of ls. I think, on second consideration, the Minister for Trade and Customs will support us in our views. wv. Bamford.
– I should be very delighted if I could, but we regret that we cannot meet the honorable member for Wide Bay as he desires. At the same time we wish to congratulate him on the stand which it is evident that he and his fellowQueenslanders intend to take in reference to the attempt to firmly maintain the sugar industry, and to give the scheme a trial. We believe that the concession -we propose, and the basis on which our legislation proceeded, is a fair and reasonable one. It is a concession of two-thirds of the whole excise duty, and the honorable member is now asking for 80 per cent., a difference of 14 per cent. We think it would be infinitely preferable to adhere to the principles on which we previously dealt with the matter, to stick to the figures we have hitherto proposed. Hereafter we may come to different conclusions, in the light of fresh events. We are sanguine that the inducements we now propose to the establishment of the white sugar industry in Australia are sufficient. And under these circumstances we cannot agree to extend them. Experience, however, may show other results. I am inclined to think that experience will show that we proposed all that was desirable. Further, it must be recollected that after the period which is here referred to the excise ceases, and the full advantage of its abolition is reaped by those interested in the industry.
– I intend to oppose the proposed addition to the rebate which the Government are offering. At the same time I never could see the policy of offering this rebate of 4s. The Government are giving it, I suppose, to try to expedite the use of white labour. But after the howl we have had from the Queensland planters as to the impossibility of carrying on except with coloured labour, do the Government for a moment think that the planters are going to dispense at once with all coloured labour, or that they are not going to take advantage of the declining proportions under the Pacific Island Labourers Act 1 If under this bait of £2 a ton the. planters at once take to white labour, all I can say is that the allegation made by many of them that they could not carry on with white labour in Queensland was all fustian. I cannot see what result will be achieved by making the proposed addition except to sacrifice revenue. If it amounts to anything it will be simply giving, where there is no necessity for it, an additional compensation to those who anticipate the period of 1907, and the use of white labour only. I do not see the necessity for making the addition. The Government really seem to have gone to work with regard to this rebate in an extraordinary fashion. If they thought this condition was likely to lead to white labour being employed, would it not be better to knock the excise off at once and not wait till 1907.? “Would it not be better to give the concession right off? That would amount to something : but a rebate of £2 a ton is not likely to induce a single planter not to take advantage of the declining proportions of black labour which he may employ until 1907.
Mr. FISHER (Wide Bay).- We find that the Government are against us, and I, therefore, make this suggestion : I trust that if the committee carry the vote against me, the Government will institute a liberal administration of the provision with regard to the refund in the interests of the growers.
– What does the honorable member mean by a liberal administration ?
– It has been indicated that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company has considerable power in connexion with sugar production, both in respect to the cultivation of land itself and the control over many growers. What I for one desire is that the Government should provide the analysts who will analyse the cane and ascertain the amount of sugar contained therein. This will insure the payment of the rebate to the growers. The expense would not amount to a large sum, and if these officers are appointed by the Government and are under Commonwealth control, they will be entirely free from influence on the part of the Sugar Refining Company or any other concern.
– The reason for putting the rebate on the cane itself is that the money shall go to the growers.
– I hope that the acting leader of the Opposition is with me in regard to the proposal. The inspectors and analysts would see that the payment of the money was really made to the growers, and that in this way the will of Parliament was efficiently carried out. I for one should hesitate to pass any legislation of this character were I in doubt that the money of the tax-payers of Australia would go to the people to whom the committee desires it to go. For these reasons I hope that the Government will not be what is called “ penny saving “ in this matter, but will be careful to see that the people whom honorable members desire to receive the money will get it, and that no one else gets it. I also want to draw the attention of the honorable and learned member for South Australia, Mr. Glynn, to some considerations with regard tb his statements in connexion with rebate. Does he not know that the protection to the sugar industry afforded by this Tariff is less than the protection throughout Australia before federation ?
– It certainly will not be so in 1907.
– It will be found that the protection was over £4 per ton before federation.
– I think the honorable member is wrong.
– The duty was in New South Wales, 4s. a cwt. ; in Victoria, 6s. per cwt. ; in Queensland, 6s. Sd. per cwt. ; in South Australia, 3s. per cwt. ; and in Tasmania, 6s. per. cwt.
– Western Australia admitted sugar free; the honorable member must reckon that in.
– The duties before federation, came to over .£25 per ton for the six States. I therefore maintain my statement that the average throughout Australia was more than £4 per ton.
– In four of the States previously, the duties were revenue duties, because there was no production.
– I admit the statement of the honorable and learned member, but I think he is too fair-minded seriously to contend that it would be a fair thing to do away with these duties on sugar, considering the vast interests involved in Queensland.
– I think that the honorable member for Wide Bay in explaining what he would like to do in the matter of securing liberal administration, was taking a line that tended more in the direction of securing what he is working for, than would the proposal which is now before the committee ; although the term “liberal administration,” in this connexion is not fully expressive of what the honorable member has in his mind. If the administration does not carry out the intention of the committee so that the money reaches the pockets of the growers, the Government will not be doing what the committee intended. It is almost a pitythat the provision in question was made a part of the Tariff. It would have been far better to put the excise at £3 a ton, and then introduce a separate enactment to deal with the rebate to growers of sugar employing white labour. Up to the present I have not heard or seen any very definite and conclusive statement on the part of the Government, as to how the payment of the rebate is to be carried out. The committee has been in a quandary all through to secure what is certainly in its mind - that this rebate should reach the growers of sugar-cane who are employing white labour. A considerable amount of doubt exists as to how it will turn out, and as to whether the rebate will reach companies like the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, and other organizations of the kind, instead of reaching the grower. I hold that if we have, not what the honorable member for Wide Bay calls liberal administration, but what I prefer to call a rigid and just administration, so that the money reaches the real growers of the sugar, we shall accomplish more than by increasing the rebate. Personally, I should prefer to have no excise at all - and no import duty for the matter of that ; but as has been said before, we agreed in considering a very vital question, that of kanaka labour, that we would vote for a protective duty on sugar, and would also grant for a certain time a rebate on the excise duty to those who would grow sugar-cane by means of white labour. We did that in order to soften the blow which it was considered would be struck at Queensland by the abolition of black labour. So that I am prepared to stick to my guns, and vote for duties and rebate in the interest of the Queensland growers, although I say again that it means a considerable sacrifice on the part of Australia generally. Considerable as the sacrifice is, Australia is prepared to make it, and this committee will be united in wishing to carry it out. But I do not think it is right to introduce a proposal to alter this arrangement, and increase the rate. I am also in doubt as to how this rebate is to be arranged so that it will really reach the grower. If the honorable member for Wide Bay and those who are acting with him would take steps to induce the Government to bring.in some legislation or to take some action which would insure the rebate reaching the growers they will do more good than by increasing the amount.
– The Minister for Trade and Customs said a few minutes ago that the Government had dealt liberally with the planters in this connexion, but that if it were found that some more generous treatment were required they would give consideration to it later on. The time when the planters are likely to feel the change most is when it is first being initiated. Many of them are now complaining that the rebate has already been wilthheld too long. It is not necessary for me to say that I favour the proposal of the honorable member for Wide Bay, and shall give it my support. Vested interests have been created in Queensland under certain conditions, and the Commonwealth in the interests of the people are about to disturb those conditions. It is only right that in doing so the utmost consideration that can be given shall be extended to those who have expended their money and their energy in building up the sugar industry. A good deal has been said about the sacrifice the Commonwealth is making. I do not for a moment depreciate that sacrifice ; but, at the same time, we must remember the sacrifices other people had to make in consequence of their not having dealt with similar problems in their earlier stages. We should remember the millions of treasure and the thousands of lives that America had to sacrifice in dealing with the coloured labour problem. We ought to think lightly of the sacrifices we are called upon to make in the beginning to free Australia from the possibility of the dangers that America had to face in the early sixties. With the last speaker I think that the committee should have been made acquainted with the arrangements which the Government propose to make for the payment of the rebate. There has been a good deal of anxiety in Queensland to find out how the arrangements for carrying out this system are to be conducted. The excise is being collected, but the rebate will not be payable until July, and, in the meantime, those who are to obtain the rebate have to accommodate themselves to the altered circumstances. Some of them are loyally trying to do so. I hold in my hand letters on this subject from some of my own constituents. My electorate comprises part of the Queensland sugar districts. These electors are full of complaint upon the subject, and say that there is a condition of unrest and uneasiness as to how the business is to be conducted. They do not know what to do to qualify themselves to receive the bonus. With the honorable member for Wide Bay, I believe that whatever decision the committee may come to upon this proposal, the planters of Queensland will do their best to accommodate themselves to the altered circumstances. But I also agree with him that we should make the transition as easy for them as possible. I admit that there should be some excise duty imposed, even if it were to cover only the cost of inspection and administration under this part of the Bill, but I think that 10s. per ton, which will be left if the amendment of the honorable member for Wide Bay is adopted, will be ample to cover those expenses. I hope that, notwithstanding the Government have declared against the amendment, the committee will carry it.
– I wish to express my entire sympathy with the honorable member for Wide Bay on the question of the administration of these proposals. At the same time, I express my doubt whether conditions can be enforced by any Government that will bring about the results the honorable member looks for. The companies who have such power in this industry can practically fix the price they will pay for cane.
– If we get a majority in Queensland we shall establish a State refinery.
– I was going to suggest that the only solution of the difficulty will be the establishment of a State refinery or the nationalisation of the industry, because I believe that these large companies will be able to regulate the price of cane, and as the price paid for cane is lowered, so will the price paid for labour be lowered. I cannot agree with the honorable member’s proposal to increase the rebate, as I have pledged myself to the Government proposals which goes quite as far as I can go.
– I desire to endorse all that has been said as to the desirability of the Government making some special provision to secure that this bonus to be given for the cultivation of sugar by white labour shall only go not to the planter but to the workmen engaged in the industry.
– That is a still more difficult matter.
– I realise the difficulty as fullyasdoes the righthonorable gentleman, but I have risen to put in a word for the unfortunate men who will have to work on the plantations, knowing that in particular districts in Queensland, and other honorable members can bear me out in what I say, 7s. 6d. a week has been offered for white men to work on the plantations, 12s. a week being quite a common wage to offer. I hope that in carrying out these proposals, while getting rid of the kanaka at the earliest possible moment, as we all desire to do, the Government will see that those who have to work in the cane-fields are not brought down to the level of the kanakas. A good dual has been said about the monopoly of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, and I agree with the honorable member for Wide Bay that at perhaps no distant date we shall have a State sugar refinery in Queensland. I believe that is the only solution of the difficulty. We must not overlook the fact that the world’s production of cane-sugar is very small, and that we are really giving the planters a protective duty to the extent of £10 a ton, because theonly competition we need expect is that of beetsugar, and not of cane-sugar grown outside the Commonwealth.
– There is a great deal of cane-sugar imported from Mauritius.
– I admit that it is imported to some extent, but the honorable member knows that the only competition we have any need to fear at the present time is from imported beet, and not from imported cane-sugar.
– Only onaccountof thebonus.
– I admit that the bonus is the real cause of it. I believe that the Continental nations are very stupid in paying four millions of their people’s money to put cheap sugar upon the London market, and to capture the other outside markets. That, in my opinion, was a very stupid thing to do, but honorable members must not forget that we are now proposing to do exactly the same thing here with reference to beet-sugar. I desire to point out that we are really giving the sugar-planters a protective duty of £10 per ton, and I hope they will reciprocate the generous treatment being extended to them by this House by fair treatment of those who have to work in the fields to produce the sugar-cane. I fear with other honorable members that there is likely to be some difficulty in securing that, but I am prepared to accept the assurance of the Government that everything will be done on their part to frame regulations which will prevent the Colonial Sugar Refining Company from intercepting the amount of the rebate, and putting it into their pockets, instead of allowing it to go to the planters, and possibly from them on to the workers.
– I have a very great deal of sympathy with the honorable member who has moved this amendment, and also with some of the speakers who intend to vote with him on this occasion. I feel that they have themselves to blame to a very great extent for having made this discussion necessary by votingto prevent the planters having proper labour, and the only labour with which I believe they will be able to continue to grow sugar cane. Still I will vote with them, seeing that they have turned round, and because I feel that Queensland has been very hardly dealt with in this matter.
– The honorable member for Wide Bay has said that careful and liberal administration is necessary in this connexion. The Government have always recognised that one of the difficult problems they have to face is how to secure to the grower the benefit of this rebate, because it is undoubtedly the intention of Parliament that the grower should have the benefit , of it, and that it should not pass into the hands of the manufacturers and refiners. We have given much care to the consideration of the matter, and have devised something which we think will meet the case. We have decided that the rebate is to be paid to the grower, and also that it is to be paid on the delivery of the cane or beet for manufacture, so that there would not be much time for it to get into the hands of the manufacturer. Our idea is that on the delivery of the cane or beet the sugar contents should be ascertained, and the grower should receive a rebate note, which will be as good as cash for customs purposes. I believe that will effectually do what is required. We recognise that there may be a struggle between the manufacturer and the grower, and that, if we are not careful, what we intend for the benefit of the grower may be diverted into other hands. ‘We therefore ask that, whatever Government may have charge of the matter, the House will deal liberally with them by giving them large powers to carry out the proposal. Of course with that they will have the increased responsibility of carrying out the intention of Parliament to give this rebate for the benefit of the grower and the grower only. To meet the various devices which we may expect to have to meet for the purpose of defeating the intention of Parliament we ask to be armed with very large authority in this respect. I am disposed to think that the committee, recognising the difficulty, will do what is necessary to enable the Government of the day to effectually deal with the matter.
Question - That the figure “ 4 “ proposed to be omitted, stand part of the item - put. The committee divided.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Amendments (by Mr. Kingston) agreed to-
That the words “ at a factory “ be omitted.
That the word “therein” be omitted.
Mr. FISHER (Wide Bay).- In order that the matter may be perfectly clean, I move -
That the words “after 28th February, 1902” beinserted after the word “employed.”
Amendment agreed to.
Mr. FISHER (Wide Bay).- It is provided in the item that the rebate shall be calculated on cane “giving” 10 per cent. of sugar. As it is desirable that the money should be paid to the grower as early as possible, I think that the word “ containing “ should be substituted for the word “ giving.” No doubt the Commonwealth analysts will discover the exact quantity of sugar in the cane.
– Perhaps the Minister will inform the committee how he proposes to deal with the farmers in this matter. Can he make clear what the arrangements and procedure will be ?
– The Government attach the greatest importance to securing this rebate to the grower. The idea is that the sugar-giving contents of cane or beet shall be capable of ascertainment on delivery, that the grower shall be entitled to a rebate accordingly, and that he shall be paid, practically, by rebate certificates, which will be as good as cash.
– Paid by the Government officers.
– The honorable member for Wide Bay interjects “ Paid by Government officers.” Does the Minister concur in that statement?
– We agree that it is our duty to see that the grower obtains that to which he is entitled, namely, this rebate. Our idea is the ascertainment of the sugar contents of the cane, and the handing over of rebate notes accordingly. The notes will be as good as cash.
– I am sure that the committee are in favour of Commonwealth officers dealing with this matter.
– That is so.
– It was not made quite clear.
Mr. GLYNN (South Australia). - I desire to know whether my interpretation of the clause as now amended is correct? It provides that if white labour is employed after February, 1902, rebate is to be granted.
– Is it not possible that sugar in the manufacture of which black labour has been employed may obtain this rebate ?
– Black labour may be employed up to the 28th February, 1902.
– According to my construction of this item, it would be possible after that date to obtain a rebate on sugar grown by black labour.
– That is so, because they cease the employment of black labour from that date.
– But assuming that sugarcane, in the growth of which black labour has been employed, was delivered after February, 1902, why should the Government allow a rebate ? On what policy would the Government allow it ? I do not know whether if would be possible for cane which has been grown with black labour to be delivered after the 28th February, because I am in ignorance of the season ; but if it were the Government might under the item as it stands allow rebate on the sugar obtained from it.
– There is no rebate until 1st July, 1902.
– But, according to the provision as it stands, the Government would allow the rebate if delivery took place at any time after 28th February, so long as white labour only was employed.
– No rebate would be allowed, because the policy of the Government is to charge an all round excise without rebate until 1st July, 1902.
– The provision does not read that way at present.
– What we say to a grower is, “If you do not employ black labour after the 28th February, we will not count the employment of black labour before that date against you in considering the question of rebate.”
– So that the Government might allow rebate in respect of cane grown by black labour last season?
– As I have said, no rebate will be allowed until July, 1902. That will be really in respect of the new. season’s sugar, although there may be some question as to whetherthe date should not be altered to 1st June.
– The cane may have been in for twelve months before.
– If black labour has been employed after 1st March there is no rebate; but employment of black labour previous to that date does not disentitle to the rebate.
– Why should it not?
– Because we are pre pared to deal liberally with the growers.
– The policy of the Government does not call for that.
– We cannot, so far as the existing season is concerned, until the 1st July, 1902, make any payments in the way of rebate. It is difficult to differentiate in regard to conditions, and ascertain whether black labour has been employed. We solve the question as liberally as we can, and say-“ Go on ; there is the rebate after this time, and so long as you get rid of the black labour before the 1st March, you will be equally entitled to it ; we shall not cast against you what you have done in the transition stage.”
– The amendment which has just been accepted appears to extend the time by one month. It was previously fixed at the end of last month, and now it is the end of this month. If that be so, it ought to be made clear to the public.
– That is so.
– Will the excise be collected on the raw sugar or the refined sugar ?
– On the raw sugar. I now move -
That the following words be added to the item : - “ A similar rebate to be allowed in respect of sugar beet, the rebate to be allowed at the rateof £2 per ton on the sugar-giving contents of the beet.”
I recognise, as I am sure does the committee, the difficulty of making any precise division, and we are proposing what we believe will meet the case. Should we find it necessary ‘ to subsequently consult the committee again as regards the verbiage, we shall not hesitate to do so.
Mr. FISHER (Wide Bay).- If the excise be collected on the raw sugar, will that not give a distinct advantage to the sugar refining company, the refined sugar being so much more valuable than the raw ?
– Will that not be worse for the sugar refining company ? A ton of unrefined sugar does not give a ton of refined sugar, and we charge on the raw sugar.
– But the company might not afford a chance of ascertaining the quantity of raw sugar, and only show the sugar which has been refined, and great difficulty would be found in sending officers to watch the raw sugar in process of manufacture. One large mill might take the juice and produce the refined sugar.
– Isitall put through in one process ?
– Such a thing is quite possible, and it is done with beet. Uptodate mills will, no doubt, take such a course, and it would be to the disadvantage of the ordinary mills if excise were collected on the raw sugar in one instance and the refined sugar in the other. Marketable sugar is produced at £16 or £17 a ton, and such would be deemed raw sugar. If excise of £3 a ton were charged on that sugar, the percentage would be different when it was charged on sugar worth £18 a ton. This is not a big point, but I think it requires looking into.
Mr. McDONALD (Kennedy).- The point raised by the honorable member for Wide Bay, is, in my opinion, most important. We are trying to give facilities to farmers to produce sugar-cane by means of white labour, and to that end are attempting to afford them certain advantages. The Queensland Government have lent money to a number of farmers who have cooperated to erect mills for the production of raw sugar, which the Colonial Sugar Company buys and refines. The great difficulty in the past, before the present duty was imposed, was that, while raw sugar was worth £8 10s. or £9 10s. a ton, refined sugar was worth £14 or £15. The margin of profit on the raw sugar runs from, say, 10s. to £1 per ton, while on the sugar turned out by the company the profit is £3 to £4 per ton ; and yet, according to the Minister, the producers of the raw sugar are to pay excise to the amount of £1 or £3, and thus have their profits very largely reduced, or taken away altogether, seeing that they do not get the benefit of a protective duty.
– We must give the rebate and charge the excise on the same basis.
– The Government are not proposing that.
– That is what we want to do.
– I understand that the basis of all the calculations is not the amount of raw sugar, but the amount of refined sugar produced.
– What does the honorable member mean when he says that the producers of the raw sugar will have to pay the excise ?
– I understand that the producers of the raw sugar will have to pay the excise. The sugar refiners make what is known as the best white sugar, while the raw sugar is brown, with a certain amount of molasses in it. The latter is produced by a number of farmers who haveco-operated because they cannot go to the enormous expense of £100,000 to £300,000 for magnificent up-to-date plant.
– The raw sugar. I understand, includes all the molasses.
– Not at all. It is a market- able sugar.
– Some of the raw sugar is marketable. The Treasurer may know the brown sugar which is served out on stations.
– Soft, whitey-brown stuff?
– That is the raw sugar.
– After the molasses is taken out ?
– I thought the refiner took out the golden syrup ?
– The raw sugar has the golden syrup in it.
– Has it all the molasses out of it ?
– A portion of the molasses.
– And that portion becomes golden syrup ?
– No, not altogether ; and that is where the difficulty will be found. I am talking of the raw sugar which the company buys to refine.
– And when they refine it, what they get out of it is the golden syrup ?
– Yes, but it is not proposed to charge the excise on the refined sugar ; it is the person who produces the raw sugar who will have to pay the excise.
– The honorable member wants the excise charged on the refined sugar?
– How are we to ascertain how much refined sugar the cane will produce, because we must pay on the same basis as we collect ?
– It is generally considered that 8 tons of. cane will produce one ton of refined sugar.
– It varies very much, but it has been put at 10 per cent.
– It varies according to the density of the cane, and the Government have put it at 10 per cent., but the proportion I have stated is the general average.
– I think not.
– I am not particular to a ton, and will say 9 tons of cane will produce one ton of refined sugar.
– That is it.
– I advise the Minister, before he decides definitely as to how the excise is to be charged, to make further inquiries as to whether it would not be better to collect the excise on the refined sugar. This is a most important matter, because the Colonial Sugar Refining Company may be allowed to go free, while the excise is levied on the producer of the raw sugar, who is the very man we want to protect.
– What percentage does the raw sugar lose in refining ?
– I cannot say exactly ; but it would be well to make full inquiries into this matter.
– We have made full inquiries, but we shall be happy to supplement them.
– If the Government wish to be accurate and just to all parties, it would be better to fix a standard. In Europe 88 degrees of purity is the standard for raw sugar, and 99 degrees the standard for refined sugar. If the percentage were lower, some deduction could be made, and, if higher, some addition.
– In order to pay the rebate on the cane and to enable the excise to be collected on the same basis, could analyses be obtained ?
– Not to be very accurate, because some canes give more molasses than others.
– That is the trouble I see.
– I suppose that what applies to beet-sugar in this connexion will apply in a sense to cane-sugar. If an analysis of the juice of beet-root shows the presence of 14 or 15 per cent. of sugar, it is generally found that, included in that, is 2 or 3 per cent. more or less of foreign substances, which prevent the crystallization of more than about 10 per cent. of the sugar, and then, of course, there is a further loss in the process of refining. The honorable member forWide Bay suggests that the rebate should be paid upon the analysis. If that were done, an allowance would have to be made for the quantity of molasses and other waste. To be accurate, I think the excise should be fixed, and the rebate given, upon sugar that would polarize at88 degrees, making an increase or diminution according to the variations from that standard of purity. If we deal with the sugar, there is no difficulty, but if we deal with the cane there will be difficulty, because it will be necessary to ascertain the average weight by which to fix the standard. Eighty-eight degrees of polarization is the standard of raw sugar in the European markets.
Mr. MACDONALD-PATERSON (Brisbane). - One of the speakers to-night has argued that the excise duty will have to be paid by the grower of the sugar - that the excise duty must be paid the moment the sugar leaves the mill, and before it is sold.
– That is what I object to.
– The honorable member would be quite right in objecting to it if it were so; but I am certain that the purchaser of raw sugar, like the purchaser of tobacco, whisky, beer, or wine, will buy in bond, and that excise will not be paid until the sugar has to be taken out of bond. The producer will not pay the excise unless he has agreed beforehand with the purchaser to do so. In practice it is the refiner or the speculator who will pay the excise.
Mr. G. B. EDWARDS (South Sydney). - The question which has been raised is of much more importance than ‘the committee seem to think. Under three of the State Tariffs, all sugar, except loaf sugar, was treated as raw sugar, and paid duty accordingly. That definition of refined sugar, however, was notoriously incorrect. All sugar, except the pure juice of the cane, is more or less refined, and the question that must be determined is what is the degree of refinement. In England, I believe, the duty is paid upon the saccharine contents of the sugar, and varies according to the degree of polarization. I think it would be wise for the Government to adopt the suggestion of the honorable member for Kennedy, and postpone this matter until they can consult with experts as to what is the proper wording for the conditions which we are now considering. How we are to get over the difficulty of the amount of rebate which the Government should pay to the growers I do not know. The first thing that we should do is to establish what the duty on sugar shall be, and define the standard of strength. Then the rebate must be paid upon the same lines, according to the contents of the cane.
Mr. EWING (Richmond). - I think it must be clear to honorable members that we are to some extent wasting our time; because it seems impossible for this committee to define the term “manufactured sugar.” The Minister, perhaps, will inform us if it is possible to formulate a definition by regulation? The operations of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company are very large. At its refineries in Sydney, Melbourne, Auckland, Adelaide, and Brisbane, it refines most of the sugar that is used within the Commonwealth. All the sugar that is refined in New South Wales is refined by them. As a result, the value of the by-products, the loss of weight, and the cost of refining, are, in a sense, trade secrets.
– Dr. Maxwell gave us a fair margin in his report.
– I do not think honorable members have sufficient information before them. Therefore we have no basis upon which to found a definition. I am inclined to think that if we trust the Minister to have a definition formulated, it will be satisfactory to honorable members.
– The difficulty is this : We want to provide for the payment of excise and the giving of rebate upon the same scale, but we wish the rebate to be given on the cane before it has undergone any process by which its sugar-giving contents may be discovered. In order to secure the benefit of the rebate to the grower, it is highly desirable that upon the delivery of the cane, he shall obtain his rebate note,and that thereupon his interest in it shall cease
At the same time, for the safety of the revenue, we must provide that the rebate shall not be in excess of the scale upon which the excise is fixed.
– A standard could be fixed approximately by getting returns from two or three mills as to what they pay according to analysis, and what is the waste in manufacture.
– Theymixthe different sorts of cane. I think we are thoroughly agreed as to what we want - to give the growers the full benefit of what they are entitled to, and at the same time to reserve to the Government the right to get what they are entitled to. I think if we put in a provision of this sort it will meet the case -
All rebates to be allowed at the time of delivery of the cane or beet on the ascertainment in the manner prescribed of the sugar-giving contents.
We have had a lot of expert advice, and will look into the matter further, and, if necessary, bring it bef ore the committee again. I take it that it is possible to ascertain when certain cane is submitted what are its sugar giving contents.
– What it will give when manufactured.
– It is always bought on that basis.
– Yes. I do not wish to provide in so many words how I am going to do it on account of the difficulties which are patent to honorable members at this very moment. I wish to have the power of dealing with the matter as it arises. I do not think we can put a hard-and-fast rule in the Act. A matter of this sort ought to be subject to parliamentary control and supervision, and if we take the power to deal with it by regulation we shall do all that is right, and I shall be very glad if honorable members will let us have that power. We tax on the sugar it gives and we ought to allow on the sugar it gives. We ought to get the necessary information as quickly as possible, so as to let the grower have his rebate and go away happy.
– I am afraid that it is only pushing the difficulty further back.
– I am taking the fullest power to deal with any difficulty.
– I do not see that the Minister’s proposal differs to any appreciable extent from what is proposed here. Although the Minister says he is going to charge an excise duty of £2 on the raw sugar the rebate is to be given, not on the raw sugar, but on the refined sugar, because it says - “Ten per cent. of sugar.” When a ton of sugar has been got out of 10 tons of cane, it is refined sugar, not raw sugar.
– But does the honorable member hold that under the name of sugar he could not collect the duty on raw sugar ?
– I am pointing out the effect of the proposal. The Queensland members and the committee generally, I think, are under the impression that there is a difference of £1 per ton between the excise and the rebate, but if raw sugar yields only 86 per cent. of refined sugar, then there would be a reduction of the difference by 10s. per ton, that is to say, the duty would be £3 10s. on the raw sugar as compared with a rebate of £2 a ton on the refined sugar.
– We want to make the calculation on the same basis, either one or the other.
– It is of no useto ignore the strength of sugar, because if you charge on raw sugar you reduce the margin between the rebate and the excise.
– Not if you take the sugar-producing power of raw sugar.
– No; but the Ministry has not provided for that.
– The intention is that both must be on the same basis.
– There is no provision for that, and the Minister for Trade and Customs said that he was going to charge the £3 per ton on raw sugar.
– He said also that he would allow the rebate on the same basis.
– But the basis is provided for, and it isnot the same basis. I agree with the honorable member for Gippsland that you have to take into account the sugar strengths, and you cannot even say that you will charge on only the refined sugar, as some of it ought to go into consumption in its raw state.
– Wecharge on whatever goes into consumption.
– The full sugar duty?
– Before it leaves the factory we charge the excise.
– If youcharge £3 a ton on the raw sugar and it runs 86 or 87 per cent., and you only rebate on the sugar as if it were refined sugar–
– Oh, no.
– That is what is proposed here. The rebate is calculated on cane giving 10 per cent. of sugar, and is not that refined sugar ?
– It is 10 per cent. of refined sugar that is meant. What is sugar? Is not this the test - sugar without any foreign ingredients in it ?
– Sugar that is refined has no foreign ingredients in it.
– The rebate is calculated on the cane giving 10 per cent. of sugar, and is to be increased or reduced proportionately, according to any variation from this standard. In Queensland, as a rule, ten tons of cane will give a ton of refined sugar. This duty evidently is meant to apply to refined sugar. I think it would be much better to decide what is payable by the strength of the sugar.
Mr. McDONALD (Kennedy). - To emphasize what I said, I propose to read an extract from the report of Dr. Maxwell -
The price of raw sugars, of 88 per cent. net titre, f.o.b. at Queensland ports, for the season commencing 1st July, was £8 per ton, with a bonus which is estimated to have added £1 19s. per ton, thus making a total of £9 19s. per ton.
Dr. Maxwell goes on to quote the prices of best white sugars in bond at Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, and Adelaide, for the year ending June, 1901, according to the Colonial Sugar Refining Company’s transactions. The price in Brisbane was £16 ; in Sydney, £16 5s.; in Melbourne, £17 ; and in Adelaide, £16 5s.; while the price of raw sugar in Queensland for these various ports was £9 19s. There is a difference of £6 in the price of sugar not only in Queensland, but throughout the States. In the production of raw sugar which runs to 88 per cent., they say that the margin of profit is only about 8s. or 10s. per ton. From the time the raw sugar is produced up to the time it is refined they had a margin of profit of about £4 per ton.
– You do not get quite as muchrefined sugar as you do raw.
– They say that allowing for loss and all other charges in refining, there is a net profit of about £4. The real difficulty in Queensland has been that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company
– What is the cost of refining ?
– We do not know the ins and outs of the working of these establishments, but it is generally admitted by all those who have anything to do with the industry, that the profit from the purchase of the raw sugar;, until it is refined, ranges from £2 10s. to £4.
– There is an enormous amount for the depreciation of machinery and all that.
– I admit all that. Here is the very difficulty cropping up which we originally tried to guard against - that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company are going to get off scot free. If they buy the sugar in bond, they will buy it less the amount of duty they will have to pay. I do not think that any company will be foolish enough, while they can force people to sellraw sugar to them at £8 or £9 per ton, to give £10 or £11 per ton for it. This extra amount of excise duty that the producers of raw sugar will have to pay will come out of their pockets, and hence it will come off those who produce the cane, and so the very thing we are trying to avoid will happen if we charge the duty on the raw sugar.
– Will not the same thing happen if we charge the duty on the refined sugar ? Will they not carry it back just in the same way? Will it really make any difference?
– If the company has to pay the excise duty it is quite possible that they will try and shift the duty on to the producers of the raw sugar, and that the latter will try and push it on to those who produce the cane, who in turn will push it on to the workmen.
– What does the honorable member suggest?
– It would be far better under the circumstances to charge the duty on the refined sugar, because it is the company that really gets the benefit of the sugar industry.
– Then does the honorable member say that the eight er ten tons of cane will give a ton of refine d sugar ?
– The honorable member wants to make the refiner pay the duty.
– The sugar refining people are those who make the money, and I want them to pay the excise.
Mr. BAMFORD (Herbert). - I see difficulties in the method suggested by the Minister for Trade and Customs, because when the areas are small, perhaps 30 or 40 different cane growers will bring their cane into the mill at the same time. There is no possibility of judging of the density of each man’s cane separately.
– Does not the mill do that before buying the cane ? Otherwise how do they know what they have to pay ?
– When the cane is grown upon small areas they cannot do it.
– Then how do they arrive at what they have to pay ?
– They pay per ton. In most of the cane-growing areas each mill has a cane inspector, whose duty it is to go round and see when the cane is fit for cutting.
– Does he not test the density ?
– No, that is tested in the mill afterwards.
– Is there not a certificate given to the grower, showing the density of his cane?
– The weight of the cane but not for the density. I was going to suggest that we should assume that ten tons of cane will make a ton of refined sugar, and pay the rebate on that; but I recognise that in one sense that plan would be against the interests of the industry because it would lead to slovenly cultivation. The man who carefully cultivated his land would get no more than the careless man. I should prefer to follow the suggestion of the honorable member for Kennedy, and advocate the collecting of the excise upon the refined sugar. Thatwould be very much easier for the Government because there would be fewer places at which to collect it.
– How could they collect it?
– They would collect it at the refinery. That would be simpler than collecting the excise at any particular mill and would also protect the manufacturer ; because there is no doubt about it that themanufacturer is now entirely at the mercy of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company.
– A lot of sugar is disposed of that is not refined.
– I do not see any other way of doing it than that suggested.
Mr. McDONALD (Kennedy).- Perhaps it would be wise, under present circumstances, to pass the item, and then the Government can make the necessary inquiries about the matter.
– We have made a lot of inquiries, but do not seem to get “ any forrader.”
– If we passed the item now it might be recommitted at a laterstage. There seems to be a great difficulty, and we do not appear to get f ur- ther forward by discussing it now; because there is no one in the Chamber who has any expert knowledge.
– The Government havemade a number of inquiries, and have given the committee the benefit of them. I am disposed, however, to think that we shall be able to arrange it better if we pass the item now, and look into the matter further. If wecan give the committee more information on the subject we shall be glad to do so ; and if afterwards we cannot satisfy the committee, we shall be pleased to give an opportunity for the reconsiderationof thesubject. - We know what we want to do, but there are difficulties in working the matter out. We think they can be overcome. I would ask the committee nowto let the item pass in the form in which I want it, with the understanding to which I have alluded.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment (by Mr. Kingston) agreed to-
That the following words be added : - “ All rebates to be allowed at the time of delivery of the came of beet, on the ascertainment in themanner prescribed of the sugar-giving contents.”
– I wish to move that a rebate of so much per cwt. be allowed on all sugar used in the different processes of manufacture. The rate I would suggest would be 3s. per cwt.
– The honorable member is. thinking of customs, but this item pertains to excise.
Item, as amended, agreed to.
Item 136 - Tobacco, viz. : -
Manufactured, per lb.,1s:
Cigars, per lb. ,1s. 6d.
Cigarettes, including the weight of the outer portion of each cigarette, per lb., 2s. .
Snuff, per lb., 2s.
– I do not intend just now to suggest any particular alteration in this item, but I should like to urge that in dealing with tobacco manufactured, cigars, cigarettes, etc., we are dealing with one of the great revenueproducing items of the Tariff. It is not a matter of free-trade and protection. No matter how we arrange these things, up to a certain point there is bound to be considerable protection for the local article. What we have todo is to decide what is a reasonable protection, looking at it from the protectionist point of view, and then what is a reasonable revenue to derive. In other words we ought to be very careful not to rob the revenue for the sake of the protection. I think most honorable members will agree with me in that view of the item. We must recollect in dealing with the Tariff as a whole that many of the items of an essentially protective character which we have passed are such that, as the years go on, it may be more and more difficult for the Treasurer to know exactly what revenue he will receive from them. An uncertain revenue is one of the worst features of the financial situation. We must also recognise that the continual interference with the Tariff after it is once of a reasonable character - which; of course, we do not believe this Tariff to be - is one of the greatest injuries which can be done to business. Therefore what I want to point out at the beginning of this discussion is, that in the interests of revenue we ought to get as much out of the excise on this purely revenue-producing item as it is possible to get, considering at the same time other conditions. I am satisfied that these excise duties should be increased. The Minister for Trade and Customs says to me across the table that we practically agreed to these items when we were discussing the customs and import duties on tobacco. I believe there were some divisions on the subject, and I do not know that they went altogether in favour of the Opposition contention. I do not think any definite agreement was arrived at, nor, as far as I recollect, was there any compact between the two sides. I have never looked upon this as a question between free-traders and protectionists, and I feel that the excise, as it stands here, is not on a sufficiently high scale in the interests of the revenue. But I do not want, at this stage, as other honorable members may wish to address themselves to the subject, to commit myself to any definite proposal.
– I am afraid my honorable friend does not recollect what occurred when this discussion took place. We discussed this matter with regard to tobacco for several days, and there was a distinct feeling in the committee, with which I concurred, that the margin of difference of ls. per lb., which we were proposing, was too great. I recollect saying that I had not been able to satisfy myself that the manufacturers were entitled to that. We agreed then that the margin should be 9d. There was considerable difference of opinion, and grave doubt in my own mind, as to the wisest plan by which to fix the difference - whether it should be by increasing the amount of the excise, by putting something extra upon the leaf, by dividing it between the two, or by reducing the duty of 3s. 6d., which had been proposed, to 3s. 3d. Ultimately it was decided that the import duty should be reduced to 3s. 3d., leaving the duty upon the manufactured leaf imported at ls. 6d., and the excise at ls., thus making the difference of 9d., which it was the feeling of the committee was sufficient. We practically adopted the margin which had been in operation in New South Wales, and I do hope we are not now going to re-open that question, as I am certain the committee came to that decision after fully considering the matter.
Mr. BATCHELOR (South Australia).The Treasurer has just stated that there was an arrangement made, or an agreement come to, for the time at any rate, that the margin should be 9d.; but he will probably recollect that in speaking upon the subject I and other honorable members said that that would be quite insufficient.
– That was with regard to twist.
– Yes, particularly with regard to twist. I asked the right honorable gentleman to look into the question, and see whether he could not agree to differentiate between strand and plug or flat tobacco.
– That is so.
– In accordance with the notice I have given, I move -
That after the words “ Manufactured, per lb. ls.,” the following words be inserted: - “ Manufactured strand, per lb. ls-, and on and after 12th February, 1902, per Jb: 9d.” “ Strand “ tobacco is the term used in the trade to describe what is generally known as twist tobacco. It was pointed out in previous discussions that the margin then fixed would be a severe blow to the tobacco-twisting industry, and might have the effect of abolishing it altogether. It has not had quite that result so far, but it has had the effect of producing a reduction of wages. The action of the committee in cutting down the margin to 9d. per lb. has had the effect in South Australia of bringing about a reduction of wages equal in the average to about 5s. per week per man.
– They do it on piece-work V What do they get per lb. 1
– They are paid by piece-work, and, roughly, the average isabout 3½d. per lb.
– It is 4d. in Victoria.
– I am speaking of South Australia, where there has been a reduction. The rate of pay there used to be 4d. per lb. all round. The pay now varies according to the number of plugs that go to a pound. In the’ case of the lighter tobacco the wages paid are at the rate of 4d. per lb., and, in the case of other tobaccos, at the rate of 3^-d. and 3d. per lb., the average being 3Jd. per lb., as against 4d. per lb. previously paid. The margin in South Australia was previously ls: 1½d. per lb., and the reduction of the margin to 9d. per lb. has had the effect of reducing the wages from 4d. to 3Jd. per lb., and that applied to the average output of a workman amounts to about 5s. per week. As Ministers know, the men engaged in the industry have not been working full time, and a reduction of wages to the extent of 5s. per week is, under the circumstances, considerable. I desire to draw the attention of the committee to the distinction between strand tobacco and other kinds of tobacco, because, unless the distinction is clear, it would be impracticable to ask the Government to make any difference.
– Is not “ twist “ a better word to use 1 The officers of the department recognise it as “twist” tobacco.
– “ Strand “ tobacco is the word used in the trade, and as it is technically known as “ strand “ tobacco, we might as well keep to that term. The process of preparing the leaf is the same in the case of “ strand “ tobacco “ and “ flat “ tobacco, but in the case of “ strand “ tobacco, the leaf having” been prepared is rolled by hand. I have here a number of specimens illustrating the manufacture. Honorable members will see here a number of leaves prepared ready for rolling. I have here also a piece of half-rolled tobacco, and a plug of “ twist “ tobacco as it leaves the tobacco twister’s hands. After it leaves the tobacco twister’s hands in this form, it is pressed, and flattened into the form in which it is sold. I have produced these specimens to prove my contention that it is very easy to ascertain the difference between flat tobacco and strand tobacco. I have here a specimen of flat cake tobacco. As I have said, the leaf is prepared in the same way as for strand tobacco, but it is then placed in the receiver of what is practically a pressing machine. It is drawn into the machine, and pressed, and then comes out in long flat cakes, when it is cut into the squares or long cakes with which honorable members are familiar. In this form it is wrapped round with a long leaf by the tobacco twisters, and that is the only handling it receives. I desire to draw the attention of the committee particularly to the fact that in the case of strand tobacco labour has to be employed to a considerable extent in rolling or twisting the leaves, because no machine has yet been invented that will do the work of the tobacco twisters. I am not in this matter making a fight against machinery ; it would be idle to do anything of the kind, but, as I say, no machine has yet been invented which will do the work of the twister, and so a considerable number of men are employed in the manufacture of the strand tobacco. The plug or flat tobacco is produced almost entirely by machines, which are fed, in some cases, by adult males, but which can be, and are sometimes,, worked by girls. The abolition of the manufacture of strand tobacco would, therefore, mean the displacement of the skilled labour of tobacco twisters by the labour of a few girls chiefly. I have no desire to exaggerate the case, and I therefore admit that in the case of the higher-priced tobacco the quality of the leaf used for both strand and flat tobacco is the same. Tobacco leaf is bought according to its colour, aroma, and length. Short leaves that will not roll up well are called “ fillers,” and that is a cheaper tobacco by from 2d. to 6d. per lb. than the leaf required for making strand tobacco. Honorable members can compare the sample of leaf which I have here for the manufacture of strand tobacco, and which consists, as they will see, of a number of long leaves of about equal length, with the specimen I have here of “filler” leaves, which are very much shorter. The fact that in making strand or twist tobacco it is necessary not only to employ leaf of good quality, but to use long leaves, and also that more labour is involved in its manufacture as compared with flat or plug tobacco, makes it impossible for twist to compete with flat tobacco with the small margin of profit that exists at present. That is why I ask for a difference in the treatment of the two kinds. Another point to be remembered is that strand tobacco presents fewer opportunities for adulteration than does plug tobacco. It is impossible to use the short ends in its manufacture, but, on the other hand, all the short ends can be crushed together in plug tobacco. Some two or three years ago I obtained out of a plug of imported tobacco nearly the whole of a stocking, which had been crushed up in it by machinery. There are some flat plugs, which are also made by hand. In appearance it is exactly like a machinemade cake. No one but an expert could tell the difference, and even an expert could do so only by cutting open the plug and separating the grain. The quantity of plug tobacco of this kind made by hand is not very material. It would not be fair to ask the committee to differentiate between hand -made plug and machine-made plug tobacco, because the difference between the two is so fine that an expert alone can determine it. On the other hand anyone can tell the difference between strand and plug tobacco, and there is a distinct demand for the two. In South Australia and Western Australia the greater demand is for stand tobacco, but in some of the other
States that is not the case. I put it to the Government that one of the strong points in favour of this differentiation is that it is very easy to distinguish bet-ween the two classes. It is possible for anyone to distinguish between a piece of twist tobacco and a cake of plug tobacco. The former can be separated readily and the different rolls can be seen at a, glance. That applies to both large and small twists, but no amount of twisting would make an opening in a plug of flat tobacco. It is simply pressed into a solid block, and there is no special run of the leaf in it. If the differentiation in treatment for which I ask is allowed it will prevent the annihilation of the twist tobacco-making industry, while the men engaged in the work will receive an advantage.
– How many employes ?
– Practically all the male tobacco workers are employed in making twist tobacco. Plug tobacco requires very little labour. Therefore, the manufacturers do not favour this proposal very strongly. Indeed, I do not know that any of them favour it.
– Some of them think that the system would not work very easily.
– From what I can hear the majority of them hold quite the opposite view.
– I put it to a manufacturer who did not care for this proposal, whether there was anything in the contention, placed before me by another manufacturer, that difficulties with the excise officers would constantly arise in regard to distinguishing between twist and plug tobacco. He replied that it was impossible to imagine any difficulty that could arise. He did not agree with the proposal because he preferred to employ as few men as possible. He thought that the fewer men he employed the better it would be for his business.
– There would be less likelihood of strikes-
– Yes. He said the few girls and unskilled labourers required would be less likely to demand higher wages than would skilled workmen belonging to an organization. Therefore the manufacturer would not view with disfavour the knocking out of strand tobacco.
– How many men are employed in the manufacture of this tobacco 1
– In South Australia alone the industry employs about 300 men.
– Is it solely because strand tobacco is made by hand that the honorable member asks for this concession t
– Certainly not. I could not ask for it on that ground, because it is useless to kick against the employment of machinery. I have explained already that I ask for this concession on other grounds. There is always a certain demand for twist tobacco, but owing to the greater expense involved in its manufacture, as compared with plug tobacco, the margin of 9d. which we allow will knock it out. The manufacturers will secure greater profit from the making of plug tobacco.
– How many men will be thrown out of employment if the concession for which the honorable member asks is not conceded 1
– I am not prepared to say.
– About 500.
– The question is, how many men will drag on a miserable existence 1
– The whole of the tobacco twisters in. South Australia have been compelled already to submit to a reduction in consequence of the Government proposal. On the other hand, if my proposition be acceded to, they will be placed on their former wage level.
– What do they earn a week 1
– They are paid by the piece and earn from £1 15s. to £2, and, in some cases, £2 5s. per week. What is it that the honorable member wishes to get at 1
– I want to know what would be the loss to the revenue ?
– I have not worked that out. The fact of the matter is, that if twist tobacco is knocked out altogether we shall have fewer men employed in the manufacture of tabacco
– Cannot the price of twist tobacco be raised 1
– It has always been higher than the price of plug tobacco, but it cannot compete with plug tobacco on the basis proposed. This is not a case in which we are asking for something for the benefit of one or two manufacturers. The manufacturers are satisfied that matters should be allowed to remain as they are, although, no doubt, they would like a bigger difference all round.
– The honorable member thinks they will continue to manufacture twist tobacco in any event ; but that unless the concession he asks for is granted, they will cut down wages ?
– They have done so already.
– They will manufacture at the old rate of wages, if they obtain the difference for which I ask.
– I should think so. In that case they would be getting an advantage above that which they enjoyed before.
– The honorable member is wrong. They had ls. 1½d. before.
– But had they no difference between plug and twist tobacco ?
– No. There was a difference of ls. 1½d.
– Both on twist and plug?
– Yes ; and as there was a greater local demand for twist as against plug, the manufacturers had to meet the demand. Under the present circumstances the manufacturers cannot pay the same rate of wages, and continue making twist ; indeed, one manufacturer has assured me that he is not going to make any tobacco if the present excise is continued.
– Then manufacturers’ generally, in South Australia cannot compete with/manufacturers in other States ?
– Undoubtedly in some cases smaller factories will not be able to compete with factories elsewhere with very large outputs, the protection which the former now have not being as great as was the case previously. They can, however, go on making the strand tobacco if the difference I ask for is granted, and that will mean the preservation of ‘the industry. In the other case, the tobacco-making industry in Australia, if it be confined to the one line of plug work, will hardly be worth protecting to the extent proposed. In order to protect the workmen’s wages, this difference should be granted, especially as already some considerable damage has been done by the reduction of the import duty from 3s. 6d. to 3s. 3d. .
– The honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Batchelor, has placed his case on behalf of the workers in this particular industry very strongly. As I understand him, the manufacturers care very little what the rate is ; but the honorable member has raised a very important point. Are we to differentiate between the manufacture of the various kinds of tobacco ? The honorable member has made out a fairly strong case in regard to twist tobacco; but my trouble is that, if we once admit the principle of differentiating, it is difficult to know where it will end. It will also raise the question of the employment of machinery in the manufacture of tobacco, and it would be hard to say that we; would make a difference in the rate of excise because an article is made in the one case by hand and in another by machinery. The honorable member- himself sees the difficulty of such a position. So far as cigarettes are concerned, I should be only too glad, if it were possible, to make such a differentiation, because I believe it would be perfectly just. But I am afraid we could not take up the position that, because these articles are made by machinery, therefore there should be a difference in the excise.
– I intend to move in that direction in the case of cigarettes.
– That is a case in which my sympathies unquestionably go with the honorable member, because I believe that the amount of protection enjoyed by machine-made cigarettes is altogether too large. At the same time, are we to declare, that, because certain articles can be made by the best classes of machinery, we shall differentiate in favour of articles made by hand ? This twist-making industry appears to be limited almost exclusively to South Australia.
– And to Western Australia and Victoria.
– There are 54 hands employed in Victoria, but, though I have no expert knowledge or experience, I am told that there is very little demand for this particular class of tobacco, and that the industry is gradually dying out, no new persons entering it as employes, and no apprentices being taken. The honorable member mentioned that the leaf used is to a great extent colonial leaf, and we are all anxious to increase the production of leaf as far as possible. But if colonial leaf is largely used, the honorable member will realize that a somewhat better protection is given than is enjoyed by those who use imported leaf. I shall be glad to assist in every way I can those employed in the industry, and relieve them of any fear of their work being taken away altogether. But I have had so much experience of manufacturers saying that they will have to shut their factories and discharge all their men that I am beginning to get a little suspicious of such arguments. The men themselves, no doubt, believe that that will be the result, but I have great doubts whether there will be any attempt to close factories. The honorable member has pointed out that wages have < been somewhat reduced, and we all regret that such should be the case.
– Not necessarily.
– In South Australia it is the case.
– Wages may have been reduced in South Australia, but I hope the reduction is only temporary.
– No ; it is final.
– I hope that it has only been made pending the final decision of this particular matter.
– No ; and the reduction will be found to extend to Victoria.
– It is the same old story that I have heard before.
– Put a clause in protecting the men.
– I am afraid we cannot put in a clause protecting the men ; they will have to follow the example of Victoria, and take such steps as will protect themselves. I feel pretty sure that the result of the Government proposal will not be to close up the factories where this particular class of tobacco is produced.
– No, but it will throw these men out of employment.
– I do not think that these men will lose employment.
– It will abolish thetwistmaking industry.
– As to the revenue aspect of the question, if the manufacture of this twist tobacco ceases, practically the same amount of some other class :of tobacco will be consumed. I confess my sympathies would be with the men, if I had any fear there was going to be any permanent reduction in wages, or that they were going to lose their positions ; but since the matter was mentioned some weeks ago, my colleague and myself have given it careful consideration, and we are faced with the great difficulty that if we once affirm the principle of differentiating, we do not know where it will end, not only in this but other manufactures.
– A precedent has just been established by differentiating in the case of sugar.
– That is a different thing altogether. That is differentiating between production by white labour and production by black labour; and we were affirming a great principle. We are not now dealing as between man and man, but as between man and machinery. Under all the circumstances, much as I should like to meet the wishes of the honorable member, I am afraid there are so many difficulties in the way that the Government cannot consent to his proposal.
– I regret the Government are not able to accept the proposal of the honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Batchelor. This is not a case of desiring to stop the wheels of progress. It is well known, not only in relation to twist and plug, but also as regard cigars and cigarettes, that in consequence of their not being pressed so tightly the first time, there is a better chance of the leaf curing; and I am informed that twist tobacco is the best for smoking. The only differentiation asked for is equal to the amount which goes to the workers in wages, and I believe it is quite true that the manufacturers are not asking for this difference, because there is no fear of machinery asking for better conditions or going on strike.
– There cannot be 3d. per lb. difference ?
– How is it arrived at?
– I believe that the wages cost of twisting the tobacco, apart’ from curling, peaking, and other .charges, is 4d.per lb., whereas the wages cost of the same leaf manufactured by machinery, and ready to be placed in the boxes, is only about 1d. per lb., which goes to the girls who wrap up the tobacco.
– The cost is about onefifth of the labour in the former case.
– I realize that if the proposal is not accepted by the Government there is no hope of it being passed by the committee. I was prepared to make a proposal, not only in regard to tobacco, but also in regard to cigarettes. The amount of protection enjoyed by machine-made cigarettes is enormous, and I am prepared to raise the excise so that we may not play into the hands of one or two large companies.
– The Government would have placed a higher rate of excise on cigarettes, but that would have meant throwing the hand-workers out of employment.
– I see that in New Zealand there is a differentiation.
– That is the only one place where I know of such a differentiation.
– I do not see why we cannot have it here. If there is any possibility of reconsidering this matter at a later stage, in view of further evidence, I hope the Government will take the opportunity.
Mr. BATCHELOR (South Australia).I hope the Treasurer will do me the justice of not basing his objection to what I propose on the ground that I ask him to differentiate between machine work and hand work. I never put such a case, though that is partially incidental to the position. What I ask the Treasurer to do is to prevent, as much in the interests of consumers as of the workers, the annihilation of the strand tobacco industry. I am afraid that if the Government will not support the amendment I have no chance of carrying it ; but if, as they have always contended, the beginning and the end of their protectionist principles is to provide work and insure the manufacture of articles of a good quality, they should support it. I do not contendthat plug tobacco is not good tobacco, but the process of its manufacture lends itself to adulteration, whereas twist tobacco, since it is manipulated by hand, cannot easily be adulterated.
Sir WILLIAM McMILLAN (Wentworth). - I listened with a certain amount of sympathy to the honorable member’s remarks. He tells us that because a certain kind of tobacco is supposed to be better made and purer than other kinds we should differentiate in its favour.
– If we differentiate in connexion with the excise duty we should differentiate in connexion with the import duty, too.
– Yes ; but I trust that the Government will not allow any differentiation at all. If we adopted the principle enunciated by the honorable member, we should have to review half of the work we have already done. Furthermore, there is no proof that the industry will be destroyed if we do not carry the amendment.
Mr. THOMSON (North Sydney).- I do not think that the honorable member has shown any reason for a differentiation. ‘ If the excise duty is lowered because of the superior quality of the tobacco, a difference should also be made in the import duty.
– We differentiated in the beer excise, but not in the import duty on beer.
– In the past, in all the States, the duty upon twist tobacco has been the same as the duty upon plug tobacco, and the manufacturers have been recouped the extra cost of making twist tobacco by the higher selling price.
– But a great quantity will be imported because the duty is lower.
– The difference between the import and the excise duties is as large as it was in one of the States where they are able to manufacture tobacco successfully. One of the effects of federation will be that if a sot of factories in one State cannot compete with a set of factories in another State they must close. If there has been the reduction of wages which the honorable member for South Australia speaks of, it does not seem to be justified by the action of this Chamber, and I think that it must be regarded as an attempt to influence our decisions.
– I am exceedingly sorry that the Government cannot accept the amendment. The men who are employed in this industry are paid on the average exceedingly low wages, in comparison with the profits which are made by the manufacturers, and I am sorry that we cannot compel the manufacturers to pay better wages. We can, however, do what will injure no one, and will not affect the revenue to any extent, while it will greatly improve the condition of 400 or 500 men who are largely family men and good citizens. The honorable member for South Australia has assured us that the manufacturer to whom he alluded would prefer not to make this tobacco, because he could do better by making other tobacco. I think that the proposal now before the committee will, therefore, put these men out of employment.
– They will cease to be employed whether we agree to the amendment or not. In South Australia they were in a bad state with an advantage of l1/2d. more than the honorable member’s proposal will give them.
– I am sorry to hear the honorable and learned member say so. I am afraid that many of our decisions in regard to the Tariff will have a similar effect.
– The demand for twist tobacco is dying out.
– I have been told that they are making more twist tobacco in Victoria to-day than has been made for years past.
– I am not pleading for the manufacturer, but for the men. I am sorry that nothing is to be done to help them.
Mr. POYNTON (South Australia).- I regret that the amendment has not received more sympathy from the Government. I understand that their position has been that any differentiation in the excise and import duties should be in the direction of encouraging labour. The other day a distinction was made between two kinds of beer, upon the ground that one was more costly to make, and was better when made, than the other.
– We did not say that.
– It is an undoubted fact that more labour is employed in connexion with the manufacture of twist, than in connexion with the manufacture of plug tobacco, and that twist tobacco is superior to plug tobacco, because it is not so much adulterated. To make twist tobacco, it is necessary to use the best leaf. The amendment is proposed by a supporter of the Government who advocates a distinction between import duty and excise duty for one reason only, not for the sake of revenue, but for the purpose of encouraging labour within the States; and although it affords a chance to give employment to six times as much labour, yet the only sympathy and support he gets from the Ministry is - “We appreciate your efforts; we think you have made out an admirable case, but we cannot help you.”
Mr. HENRY WILLIS (Robertson).- I listened with very great interest to the explanation of the honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Batchelor. If it were possible to make out a case for twist tobacco he would have done so, but he utterly failed at the outset, when he made the admission through the honorable member for Yarra that the men are paid 4d. a lb. at piece work, and turn out about 100 lbs. weight of this tobacco per week. He says further that they are suffering a reduction equal to 10 per cent. of their wages ; and he asks the committee to allow the manufacturers 75 per cent. rebate in this excise. And then we hear from the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, once more, who says he does not speak in the interests of the manufacturer, but in the interests of the poor working man. The whole thing is a fraud. The revenue cannot afford to suffer to the extent proposed by the honorable member for South Australia, and I hope the committee will not entertain his proposal.
– I am not a pipe smoker, although I should like to be, and therefore I cannot speak practically on the subject. But as I have sat here one or two thoughts have occurred to me, which I think have a general bearing on this sort of question. The figures which have been submitted, illustrate very clearly to me how utterly helpless thecommittee is when it comes to deal with a question which depends to any extent on local statistics. The honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Batchelor, has been telling the committee in his ad misericordiam appeal, that 200 men or more are likely to be prejudiced if Parliament refuses to consent to some differential treatment of “twist” tobacco. I am told, on authority quite as good as that which he has produced, that in the Commonwealth, not more than 40 or 50 men are specially employed in making twist tobacco.
– More than that number in Victoria.
– The honorable member is not an authority on the use of either spirituous liquors, smoking, or any other of the virtues which so many men possess.
– The number of men given to me as employed in making twist tobacco in Victoria is 54.
– I am told on very good authority that 40 or 50 is the full number of men exclusively devoted to this work, but that there are a large number of men who do this work at times, and other work at other times. It all proves the unreliability of such information. A number of honorable members seem to look on Parliament as a sort of charitable institution - which is to be used for the purpose of imposing duties because certain classes happen to benefit by one course or the other which it may adopt. My view of Parliament - it may be a wrong one, and a very cold-blooded one - is that we have nothing to do with individuals at all.
– What are we here for ?
– We are “here to look after the community as a whole. The motion means that the customs or excise duty which is to be imposed with regard to at least 2,000,000 people is to be affected one way or the other by the consideration for some 200 men who happen to follow an occupation which, it is generally admitted, is becoming obsolete. We all heard of twist tobacco when we were children, and it is quite clear, I think, that the desire for it is altogether declining. If the making of twist tobacco is an occupation which is gradually dying out, we are simply putting this commodity on the same footing as exists between the steam-engine and the old-fashioned coach, between the sewing machine and hand-sewn garments. It means that we are appealed to to differentiate from the general principle which we are laying down, because a certain number of men are going to suffer by the effect it may have upon them. I submit that we ought not to listen to such a suggestion. It may be very unfortunate for the men, but it must be clear to every sensible observer that if 200 men are qualified to make this very superfine tobacco they must a fortiori be qualified to make inferior tobaccos. And it cannot be supposed for a moment that the men will be completely thrown out of employment because they have a proficiency in some’ more skilful method of manufacturing this article than have some of their fellow workmen. If the honorable member were prepared to state that- the numbers were much larger, and that these men are so incapable of doing anything ‘ else that it means that they must become the “pattering feet “ we heard of at Maitland, he might make out a case, and then it might be a question for the Treasurer whether he should not deal with them in another way. But there is no evidence before the committee that these men cannot follow the occupation of making up tobacco of other qualities. I submit that the appeal made to us is one which we should, on broad principles, refuse to entertain, because, as the honorable member for North Sydney has pointed out, if a differential treatment were adopted in regard to twist tobacco, it would lead us into all sorts of other discriminating considerations with regard to other qualities of tobacco. I shall heartily support the Government . in their refusal to entertain the application which has been made to them.
Mr. G. B. EDWARDS (South Sydney).It is quite a mistake to impose a differential duty on any of these manufactured commodities. If we did it in the case of tobacco, we should have to do it in the case of many other articles, in the manufacture of which more expensive labour is employed. One assumption runs all through this argument, and it is that twist tobacco is better than plug tobacco. Any honorable member who is a smoker must know- that the three or four best brands of American tobacco known to him are plug tobaccos. There is no need for making any difference between twist tobacco and plug tobacco, because, although the honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Poynton, says that plug tobacco is stuffed up with stalks and fillings, the same thing can be done with twist tobacco. It can be put inside the leaf and twisted in with it. The only difference between the two tobaccos is just a fancy difference in having it twisted. I feel certain that if we were to make this difference of 3d. per lb. in favour of twist tobacco, within eighteen months from its imposition there would be no such thing as plug tobacco in the land. The difference in duty would be quite sufficient .to compel every manufacturer in Australia to make up nothing but twist tobacco. It is no part of the policy of this Parliament to enforce the payment of more expensive labour in the preparation of any commodity. If tobacco fit for consumption can be made in plug form, as it is, what policy is it which would dictate a differential duty to enforce the making of all tobacco in twist form 1 It would pay the
Commonwealth to pension off the tobaccotwisters, rather than make a ridiculous difference between oneform of the commodity and another. Why should we not have a differential duty in the case of anything else which is put up? Because there may be more expensive labour employed on one kind of commodity than on another, are we to impose a differential duty ? You might as well say that there should be a difference in duty between beet-sugar and canesugar. There is no reason for making any difference in the duty merely because it is more costly to prepare the article in one form than another.
Question - That the words - “Manufactured strand per lb.1s., and on and after 12th February, 1902, per lb. 9d.” proposed to be inserted be so inserted - put. The committee divided.
Majority … … 10
Question so resolved in the negative.
Sir WILLIAM McMILLAN (Wentworth). - I want to refresh my memory, as so many statements have been made as to what was promised, and we have heard so much in respect of compacts. I think the Treasurer will agree with me that no compact was made with regard to cigars and cigarettes.
Mr. TUDOR (Yarra).- There is no item in the Tariff which evoked a keener debate or that was discussed at greater length than this item of cigars, and, as the Treasurer states, there was practically an agreement amongst honorable members that the excise should bear the relation to the customs duties that is now proposed by the Government. Under the old rate although Victoria, with a 4s. 3d. margin, manufactured about two out of every five cigars consumed, the State of New South Wales, with the margin that there prevailed, only manufactured about one forty-fifth part of the cigars consumed. We have provided in this Tariff that when Queensland planters employ white labour in the manufacture of their sugar they shall receive special treatment. On looking up the statistics I find that New South Wales imported about 14,000,000 cigars in 1890 from black-labour countries. She imported over 11,000,000 cigars from the Philippines. Honorable members opposite are asking on the one hand that we shall do away with black labour in the Commonwealth, and on the other that we shall take in the products of black labour in other places. That, to my mind, is quite illogical.
Sir WILLIAM McMILLAN (Wentworth). - What honorable members forget is that we are now dealing with the one only engine of taxation at our disposal - customs and excise. We are not dealing with customs and excise as they have previously been dealt with in the States, some of which had a large land revenue and direct taxation to fall back upon. This is the only source of revenue the Commonwealth has, and we are deliberately throwing away a most legitimate source of revenue in these excise duties which must increase as years go by.It must be remembered also that we are here dealing with a luxury. It is perfect madness to deal with the Tariff in this way, and I am surprised at the Treasurer, who ought to know better, adopting such a course. To test the matter I move -
That after the words “cigars per lb.1s. 6d.” the following words be inserted: - “And on and after 12th February, 1902, 2s. 6d.”
Sir MALCOLM McEACHARN (Melbourne). - I desire to ask the right honorable gentlemen in charge of the Tariff whether they will agree to a reductionto 9d. in the case of hand-made cigarettes?
That after the words “cigarettes . . . per lb. 2s.” the following words be inserted : - “And on and after 12th February, 1902, handmade cigarettes per lb.,1s. 3d.”
My reason for proposing the amendment is that hand-made cigarettes are much more expensive to make than machine-made cigarettes. I believe the Government see some difficulty in deciding whether cigarettes have been made by machine or by hand, but as they will be made under Government supervision there should be no difficulty in providing by regulation that those which are hand-made should be so marked. I point out that in one factory alone in Viccoria there are 300 persons employed in making cigarettes by hand, and the wages paid by one firm here amounts to £10,000 a year. That is a matter which deserves consideration by the committee. The details of the matter have practically been discussed in connexion with the amendment moved upon the excise upon twist tobacco, and I shall therefore not weary the committee by a long speech in support of it.
– It is a remarkable circumstance that the difference between the excise and customs duties in the case of tobacco and cigarettes should be so great. The difference in the case of tobacco is 9d in favour, of the locallymanufactured article, and the difference in the case of cigarettes amounts to 3s in favour of the locally-manufactured article.
– The cigarette makers have to use imported tobacco, while the tobacco manufacturers may use locally grown leaf or mix it with imported leaf, and that makes a considerable difference.
– That may partly account for the difference to which my attention has been drawn. It seems to me, however, that some proposition in the direction suggested by the honorable member for Melbourne ought to be favorably considered. I am informed on the authority of a circular distributed by the hand-made cigarette manufacturers that the difference in the cost of production between hand-made cigarettes and machine-made cigarettes amounts to1s. 3d. per lb. That would sustain the contention that machine-made cigarettes should bear a heavier excise duty.
– It only shows that sooner or later machine-made cigarettes will altogether displace hand-made cigarettes.
– I submit that it would have been better if the honorable member for Melbourne had moved that the excise duty upon machine-made cigarettes be increased rather than that the excise on hand-made be reduced. The right honorable the Treasurer suggested that there were some difficulties in the way of differentiating between hand-made and machine-made cigarettes, but I find that there is a precedent in favour of such a differentiation. In the New Zealand Tariff there is an excise duty of 2s. 6d. per lb. imposed upon cigarettes made by machinery, while handmade cigarettes carry an excise duty of only1s. per lb. There the principle of differentiation is recognised and given effect to, and there should be no objection to the recognition of the same principle in this country. The foundation of the distinction made is that hand-made cigarettes bear an additional cost of1s.. 3d. per lb. for production. Why should an article which costs an increased price of1s. 3d. per lb. to produce be taxed at the same rate as an article involving a lower cost of production?
Mr. BRUCE SMITH (Parkes).- If anybody doubted whether humour had departed entirely from our parliamentary proceedings he might well be instructed by listening to this debate. I never heard such arguments proceeding from the mouths of rational men. The honorable member for Bendigo must be talking with his tongue in his cheek when he advocates such a proposal. Because an old-fashioned method of manufacturing a particular article is still carried on by some antedeluvian manufacturers, Parliament is to deliberately encourage them by giving them something equivalent to the difference in the cost of production. It means that if one manufacturer chooses to adopt modern machinery to turn out an article for the public welfare at a much less cost than that at which it has hitherto been turned out by obsolete machinery, the owner of the obsolete machinery may ask Parliament to differentiate between the article made by the obsolete machinery and that made by the modern machinery. There is no difference in this case, because here the machine is the human hand in the one case, and a piece of mechanism on the other. I have too much respect for the mental powers of the honorable member for Melbourne to believe that he makes this proposal seriously, and I cannot believe that the honorable and learned member for Bendigo is serious in supporting it. To give a better illustration of what this proposal means I take the case of ready-made cotton goods which are imported Very largely into New South Wales, though not so largely into Victoria. We know that, to this day certain people prefer hand-made cotton goods and we might just as well be. asked to differentiate between manufactured cotton goods made up by a sewing machine and the same class of goods made by hand.
– How does the honorable and learned member get his clothes made? I am sure he takes care to stick to the old-fashioned way.
– As a free-trader, provided that things are equal in their general results, I go where I get them cheapest.
I am sure that the honorable member is not serious.
– I am perfectly serious.
– The honorable member for Yarra put before us an argument which, I understand, is adopted to some extent by the honorable member for Melbourne, namely, that it is undesirable to smoke imported cigars, because they are made by the hands of black people, and, consequently, render those who smoke them liable to disease.
– I did not adopt that argument.
– The argument applies against this amendment. Instead of encouraging the employment of clean machinery in the manufacture of cigarettes, we are asked to give a preference to handmade cigarettes, produced by workmen and workwomen who are not as careful in regard to the cleanliness and purity of their hands as one could be in using machinery for the manufacture of cigarettes. If there is anything to be said in support of the argument that the handling of cigars and cigarettes which have to be used in the mouth ought to be avoided as much as possible, we should lean towards the machinemade article in preference to the hand-made one. I shall not spend any more time in discussing this matter, because I do not think it requires to be argued. It condemns itself as soon as stated.
Mr. GLYNN (South Australia).- I wish to ascertain, Mr. Chairman, whether the proposition of the honorable member for Melbourne precedes the item of 2s. as to excise, or whether I shall have an opportunity afterwards of moving to increase the excise.
– An increase all round?
– An increase of the excise on cigarettes. The Treasurer is sceptical about the question of cigarettes, and is doubtful whether it is necessary from the protectionist point of view to give a preference of 3s.There is an excise of 2s. on cigarettes, a dutyof1s. 6d. on the unmanufactured leaf, and an import duty of 6s. 6d. Protection to the extent of 3s. is afforded. The figures given by the Treasurer show that in New South Wales the difference was 2s. 6d. During the debate on the import duty it was shown clearly that the manufacture of cigarettes here produced enormous profits which were divided among a few people; that the American Tobacco Trust owned about 60 per cent. of the shares in the American tobacco companies of Adelaide, Sydney and Melbourne.
– And the proportion of tobacco manufactured here is increasing rapidly now.
– If the honorable and learned member for South Australia will permit me, I propose to put the amendment moved by the honorable member for Melbourne in this form -
That the words “except hand-made” be inserted after the word “ cigarettes.”
That can be disposed of, and then the question mentioned by the honorable and learned member can be put.
– I am astonished that the honorable member for Melbourne should have made such a proposition as that now before us. It is the ultimate point of the theory which is advocated on the Government side. There are many more ways of effecting the wish of the honorable member than by imposing a differential duty. For instance, if he wants to favour hand workers as against machinery employes, let him smash up the machines.
– Would not the law deal with me if I did so?
– I think it would interfere with the honorable member if he smashed up some one else’s machines. I would advise him, however, to apply the same reasoning to the industries in which he is so much interested all over the Commonwealth. Let him smash his own machines on the same principle. If the honorable and learned member for Bendigo. desires to create opportunities for hand labour, let him advise the mine-owners to do away with all their mining plant, and raise the material from the mines by means of windlass, a rope and a bucket. That would give employment for much more labour than would the use of machinery, as at present. Let him apply this principle all round. If the honorable member wants to continue his logic further, let him advocate the abolition of locomotives and the trundling of the traffic of the country in old - fashioned wheelbarrows. . That would give employment to infinitely more labour than does the present system. After all, this is only an illustration of the. way in which the protectionist theory cuts right in the teeth of all our modern progress. The end and aim of protectionists seems to be to create labour. The whole trend of modern progress is to lighten labour ; to supply our wants and wishes with the least possible labour. Here is a good oldfashioned proposal, however, that cuts right into the teeth of the law of civilization and progress, and would take us back again to the old days when there were no machines ; when men had to rely solely on their muscles to supply their wants. I am surprised that the honorable member, as a large employer of labour, does not see the absurdity of his proposal. I could understand some honorable members, who employ no labour, and who are not interested in this scheme, making a mistake of the kind, but the honorable member for Melbourne ought to know better. I cannot imagine what there is at the bottom of his proposal ; I do not know whether any of the people affected live in his electorate, and whether he is making this proposition ou t of a full and sympathetic heart, but, at any rate, he is making a most illogical suggestion. At the beginning of the twentieth century we ought not to entertain seriously a proposition to penalize a machine that is employed in supplying the every-day wants of our citizens. The honorable member is going back to the dark ages. He is going back also to the condition of things which obtains now in some of the glorious protectionist countries, notably China, where I believe very little machinery is used, and where that little is of the most inadequate kind. They are backward in all forms and arts of civilisation, but there is plenty of labour there. The honorable member makes a similar proposition seriously to-day, and I congratulate him upon putting forward what is at any rate a logical proposal from a protectionist stand-point. If he wants to create opportunities for labour he cannot do better than he is doing ; but every day that we live we seek to invoke the aid of machinery to lighten the tasks which labour has hitherto had to perform. I hope these proposals will not be received seriously by the committee, because by so doing we should write down this new Parliament - which is supposed to representa step forward in the forms of human government - as a Parliament besmirched, shall I say, with ideas out of which we are supposed to have grown hundreds of years ago.
Question- That the words “ except handmade,” proposed to be inserted, be so inserted - put. The committee divided.
Majority … … 10
Question so resolved in the negative.
Mr. GLYNN (South Australia).- When I was interrupted by you, Mr. Chairman, I had almost completed my speech. I believe that cigarettes are manufactured largely here by three companies, in which the American Tobacco Company owns about 60 per cent. of the shares. In Sydney the company made pretty good profits with a difference of 2s. 6d., when the difference in Victoria was 3s. 6d. On the former difference, I understand the company were able to make a profit of even 100 per cent. on the paid-up capital, and 50 or 60 per cent. on the nominal capital.
That after the words “Cigarettes . . . per lb. 2s.” the following words he inserted - “ and on and after 12th February, 1902, ils.”
Sir JOHN QUICK (Bendigo).-^! have done my best to protect the interests of the hand-made cigarette makers, and having failed, I shall certainly support an increase in the excise. I believe that the result of the Tariff as it stands will be the extinction of the hand-made cigarette industry, and that the manufacture of these articles will become a thing -of the past. . The difference between the customs duty and the excise is too much. In the year 1900 there were 258,196 .lbs. of cigarettes made in “Victoria, and that, with a difference of 3s., represents £38,729 in favour of the manufacturers, the whole of these cigarettes being consumed in Australia. The inevitable result of the Government proposal, will be to wipe out the hand-made cigarette makers.
– The information which has been afforded from different parts of the Chamber ought to have its effect on the Treasurer ; and one of the most ardent supporters of the Government, in the person of the honorable and learned member for Bendigo, supports an increase in the excise. If the amendment be not agreed to it will mean a loss of revenue, and an increase in the overgrown profits of a very large company, to the extent of £25,000 per annum. The revenue is coming in beyond expectation, but this is an item to which we should look for returns in order to remit imposts on the necessaries of life. In
New South Wales in 1900 there were 350,000 lbs. of cigarettes manufactured, and the import duty amounted to £21,000, while the revenue from the locally-made cigarettes, inclusive” of the tax on leaf, was £61,800, or a total of £83,800. In Victoria in the Same year, 240,000 lbs. of material was made up, and the income from imports was £5,600, while the revenue from the ‘ locally-made article, inclusive of the tax on the leaf, was £30,000, or a total of £35,600. By increasing the excise by ls., as moved, the Treasurer will have at his command a large revenue easily obtained, and be able to remove some of the imposts on necessaries.
Sir WILLIAM McMILLAN (Wentworth). - I only desire to say a word, in reiteration to a certain extent, in order to prove the very serious position the Treasurer will have to face in the future. Many of the articles on which we have excise, or on which . we may have excise, will be increasing year by year, while the imported articles will be decreasing year by year. If we are to have an elastic revenue we must, be very careful not to starve it on particular items, the production of which may be increasing, by putting higher duties on those which are decreasing.
– By that time I shall have to increase the excise.
– In 1900 there were imported 251,000 lbs. of cigarettes, but we manufactured 623,000 lbs. I believe that these figures are short of the reality, and that probably 800,000 lbs. of cigarettes were manufactured in Australia. Here we have a rapidly diminishing quantity of imports, and a rapidly increasing quantity of colonial manufacture. We are simply throwing away revenue, and the Treasurer ought, ‘as a matter of finance, to accept the proposal of the honorable and learned member for South Australia, Mr. Glynn, because, I take it, the Treasurer is making a- Tariff not for one year, but for several years.
Mr. TUDOR (Yarra)__ In the case of cigarettes which are made by machinery, and which employ very little labour, we have given a large amount of protection, by means of a small excise. If the committee had decided to differentiate, I should have been prepared to vote for a high rate of excise: for machine-made, cigarettes ; and
I believe that on the question which was last before the committee many honorable members, had they been here during the debate, would have voted in accordance with the views I hold. If the hand-made cigarette industry is extinguished, then I shall be prepared to go with the Government or any honorable member, in increasing the excise on machine-made cigarettes, and I believe such a proposal would be received by the committee with practical unanimity.
– There would then be a difference of 2s. at least.
– Even that amount I would not give, merely for the sake of the company which practically controls the market. I shall be prepared to increase the excise still further if the hand-made cigarette industry is wiped out, but I cannot consent’ to kill that branch of the trade by increasing the excise right away.
-I intend to vote for an increase in the excise, because I am thoroughly satisfied that the smoking of cigarettes is detrimental to the intelligence of Australians, who, 1 notice, now are beginning to look sickly ,pale, and intellectually destitute. If we could have hand labour, I should give this industry any amount of protection, but as protection now would only increase gigantic monopolies, I shall vote for the amendment.
Mr. G. B. EDWARDS (South Sydney). - I venture to think that an excise of 3s. per lb. is not enough. Terrific profits are made in this particular industry, and to have the excise so low is simply giving away revenue, while we refuse the remission of taxation on the necessaries of life. Cigarettes are a luxury which some contend is positive damnation to our young people, and yet an excise is proposed, which simply means immense profits to one or two manufacturing companies. ‘ I am’ very much inclined to move that the excise be 4s.
– It is ofno use; such an amendment would not be carried.
Amendment agreed to.
Item, as amended, agreed to.
– To-morrow we propose to go on with Division VIa. If any occasion arises for postponing that division, we shall go on with Division VII., but we shall not deal with the kerosene-duties.
– What about the timber duties ? There is a great deal of timber now in bond.
– Are we not. going to consider the proposed duties upon tea, rice, and other articles after we have dealt with Division VIa,?
– All I can say is that we shall not deal with them to-morrow. Progress reported.
House adjourned at 11.4 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 11 February 1902, viewed 7 November 2016, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1902/19020211_reps_1_8/>.