3rd Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chairat 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. EDWARDS presented a petition from certain arrowroot growers and manufacturers, and certain corn-flour manufacturers, in the Albert district, Queensland, praying the House to take into favorable consideration, when revising the Tariff, their request for an increased duty on arrowroot and corn flour.
Petition received and read.
Mr. MAUGER laid upon the table the following papers : -
Papers relating to the Establishment of the Central Meteorological Bureau inMelbourne.
Return showing the names of all persons temporarily employed in the Public Service during the year 1906-7, their periods of employment, and the remuneration paid to them.
– In view of the large withdrawals from bond which are now taking place, I wish to know from the Treasurer if he cart inform the House of the approximate date on which the Tariff proposals will be brought forward?
– If I were to answer that question, it would cause more withdrawals. Some of those who are now withdrawing are “barking up the wrong tree,” their action being altogether a speculative one. I cannot give any indication as to when I intend to bring forward the new Tariff ; I do not think that ray colleagues know when it will be brought forward.
.- I desire to make a personal explanation. In a leading article in this morning’s issue of the Age newspaper appear these words, in reference to myself -
In some of his recent utterances he has ridiculed the need of Tariff reform as aid to any Australian industries.
That statement is absolutely incorrect. The words attributed to me are foreign to my political thought, contradicting my whole political life, and I have never used them: I hope that this great organ of public usefulness will take an early opportunity to admit its mistake. In Western Australia I supported protection to local productions and industries for many years, in opposition to tens of thousands of persons who, coming from Victoria and the other States, were in many cases protectionists, but changed their views, and became freetraders, when they found the changed conditions existing on the gold-fields. If I were to leave this statement unchallenged, it might convey a wrong impression to the people in the other States of the Commonwealth as to my way of thinking on fiscal matters. The statement is absolutely without foundation, and is not based upon any utterance, recent or otherwise, of mine.
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether he will communicate with the Governments of the States, and inquire whether, if the Commonwealth Government should decide to run a Federal line of mail boats, they will give the fleet the first call in the matter of State importations, as Queensland does to-day to the Orient Steam-ship Navigation Company and New Zealand does to the company that it subsidizes for mail purposes?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows -
In view of tenders having been invited for a mail service, it is not considered desirable to take the action suggested.
asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -
Is it contrary to the Commonwealth Constitution for a State to subsidize vessels in order to encourage the carrying of that State’s products to ports outside the Commonwealth?
– The question is not, I think, of a kind which is usually answered by Ministers. It is a question of my personal opinion on a matter of constitutional law, and not as to any official knowledge or official intentions which it is desired to have communicated to the House. Under the circumstances, therefore, I think it would be opposed to well-established parliamentary practice to offer my personal views on the question submitted by the honorable member. I would refer the honorable member to May’s Parliamentary Practice, 10th edition, page 237 ; and to Bourinot’s Parliamentary Procedure, 3rd edition, page 435, where it is said, “ Nor are questions usually put onmatters which are at the time the subject of proceedings in the Courts or which involve a question of law.” I refer him also to an answer by Mr. Attorney-General Isaacs, Parliamentary Debates, Vol. xxv., page 469.
asked the Min ister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
Whether, in view of distance, and the time required by many electors to communicate with divisional returning officer, he will amend the regulations governing the issue of postal votes so as to provide that postal votes may also be obtained on application to electoral registrars?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
The difficulties referred to have been recognised, and the remedying of the same is under the consideration of this Department.
It is hoped that a clause will be inserted in the Amending Bill making provision to meet the case.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The following answer has been supplied to me : - 1 and 2. Only one case has been found in Victoria where a messenger had been employed inadvertently to relieve a letter-carrier, but, in some instances, both in Victoria and throughout the Commonwealth, messengers deliver a few letters and other articles at places where the employment of letter-carriers for this purpose would not be warranted, and, as far as possible, this duty is confined to senior messengers, who are thus trained for promotion to letter-carriers.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 30th July, vide page 11 29):
First schedule(vide page 1062) :
Palm fruit, 15 years, 15 per cent. on market value, £3,000.
.- The sum involved in this proposal aggregates £45,000 ; but so far as I can see, the prospect of palm growing to supply material for the manufacture of oil becoming an industry of value to Australia is very remote, and does not justify the proposed encouragement. I therefore move -
Thatthe item be left out.
– I hope that the honorable member will not press his amendment. Palm oil is another of those commodities which can be produced with advantage in the northern parts of Australia, and in a scheme of bounties of this description, our desire is to encourage as much as possible the cultivation of products which will tend to the closer settlement of the northern portions of our continent with a white population. It has been pointed out by the honorable member for Parramatta, amongst others, that if we are justified in authorizing the payment of a bounty upon any products, it is upon those products that will tend to the development of the Northern Territory.
– What are the prospects of the palm fruit?
– They seem to be good. If the honorable member will look at the report of the State agricultural experts, he will see that palm oil is a valuable commodity. The palm itself will flourish in the Northern Territory, as well as in Queensland and the northern parts of Western Australia. It would be valuable, not only in our own markets, but for export purposes.
– Could we possibly compete for export purposes with the palm oil which is manufactured in black-labour countries ?
– I think so, because the oil palm does not require very much cultivation.
– Is such a heavy bounty as is proposed required?
– I ask honorable members to retain the bounty proposed. If the oil is not produced in sufficient quantity, the money will be available for other purposes, or else it will not be expended.
– What is the quantity of palm oil imported into the Commonwealth annually ?
– I do not think I can suppy that information. The returns have not been separately kept.
Mr.mcwilliams. - It is very small.
– At the same time there is a possibility of our producing palm oil for export purposes. We must also recollect that this commodity is used in our soapmaking establishments, an industry in which we hope to witness a considerable expansion in the near future.
– It is not to be compared with copra.
– But it is. a valuable commodity in. itself. If the industry is not carried on to the extent that we anticipate the money voted for the bounty will not be expended.
– Palm oil is principally used in the manufacture of margarine as a substitute for butter.
– It is also used extensively in the manufacture of soap. I am satisfied that the bounty will confer a great benefit upon the northern parts of Australia.
– We do not want any sham butter manufactured here.
– Certainly not. I believe that the Butter Bill which was recently introduced into the Imperial Parliament is intended to prevent the adulteration of that article.
– We do not want to manufacture palm oil with which to adulterate products abroad.
– The fact that an article may be used for improper purposes is not a sufficient reason (why we should abstain from encouraging its production.
– Other oils are infinitely superior for soap-manufacturing purposes.
– I ask honorable members to retain the item on account of the prospective value of the bounty to the northern portions of Australia.
– I have listened very attentively to the Attorney -General in the hope that I might hear some justification for the retention of this item. But he has said practically nothing. He has merely expressed the hope that the Committee will agree to it upon the off-chance that the money so voted may be expended upon the encouragement of other commodities. Personally, I hope that the item will be eliminated in the interests of the Bill itself. Any honorable member who wishes well to an earnest effort to establish our tropical industries, whether for the purpose of peopling the far north or for the sake of the industries themselves, will promptly assist in deleting from the schedule all such items as this. We know absolutely nothing about palm oil. Even the State agricultural experts tell us nothing about it. The experts whom we have called in to guide us in these matters do not even know what is the price of the article. I will undertake to say that if a stranger were to enter this Chamber with- out knowing the antecedents of this measure, and listen to the reasons advanced by honorable members for voting away the taxpayers’ money in this wholesale fashion, he would think that we were madmen. No reason has been adduced for the retention of the item, either by the Attorney-General or the experts. They merely express the pious hope that we shall afford palm oil the encouragement proposed for fifteen years.
– We are asked to sanction the payment of a bounty of £3,000 annually for fifteen years - a total of £45,000.
– I suppose the Government argue that the amount is not large, and ‘that it is not our money. “Why,” they ask, “should we not throw a little of it away ?” Hundreds of thousands of pounds have been thrown away by this Parliament. Why not get rid of a little more? That seems to be the argument which is applied to many of these proposals. I trust that the Committee will eliminate the item under consideration.
.- I ask the Attorney -General to agree to postpone the consideration of this item till after the Tariff has been disposed of. Upon looking at the existing Tariff, I find that palm oil is already protected to an enormous extent. From the report of the State agricultural experts, I learn that the value of Lagos oil, which is, I understand, the best palm oil, at Marseilles, is 2s. per gallon. Under the existing Tariff a duty of1s. 4d. per gallon is levied upon that commodity, so that it is already protected to the extent of 66 per cent. If a protective duty of 66 per cent. will not start the industry in Australia, how can the paltry expenditure of £3,000 per annum be expected to establish it?
– Paltry expenditure?
– I admit that it is too large an amount to waste, but it is, nevertheless, too little to successfully start an industry.
– It will not be wastedif it is not expended.
– If it is expended at all it will be in the manufacture of margarine. In these days, when we pay so much attention to pure foods, why should we offer a bounty for the production of an article which will afterwards be used in the manufacture of margarine? I find that the State agricultural experts advise that a bounty of 15 per cent. be granted to encourage the production of palm oil for a period of ten years. But the Government proposal is that the bounty shall be operative for fifteen years.
– In the earlier part of the report by the experts there, is a general recommendation that the bounty should operate for fifteen years.
– There is a side-note “ Bonus” upon page 21 of their report-
– There is a paragraph following that.
– I have noticed that paragraph. But 1 would ask the honorable member what is the meaning of the following sentence -
It is, therefore, recommended that a bonus of 15 per cent. be given for ten years upon the production of fruit for palm oil.
– That was the old recommendation.
– Does the honorable member suggest that there are two sentences of the report which are entirely contradictory of each other?
– Then what is the use of this Committee acting upon a report the recommendations of which are so opposed to each other?
– One is in the nature of a recommendation, and the other is merely advisory.
– I have already quoted the “ recommendation “ of the experts 1 It seems to me that we have about reached the summit of Gilbertian humour if we accept a report of this character in all seriousness. We might well save £3,000 annually of the taxpayers’moneyby omitting the item.
.- I take it that the chief object of the Government, in submitting this Bill, is to encourage the establishment of industries which will have a reasonable chance of proving profitable undertakings in the future. I learn from the report of the State experts that the oil palm requires five or six years to mature, and that -
It is readily cultivated in the tropics of. the Commonwealth, and, like the cocoanut palm, prefers coastal regions. The returns per acre are difficult to ascertain, as also the value of the oil, with any degree of authority. It is quoted, however, as producing 180 to 200 lbs., of oil per acre, worth about £25 per ton.
I would point out that, upon that basis, from £2 10s. to £3 per acre would represent the maximum return to be derived from this commodity. Let honorable members reflect upon the inducement that it is proposed to offer to men to undertake the work of planting. They would have to wait five or six years to get a return of £3 per acre. Surely there are plenty of more profitable productions to which we can direct our attention. If we are going to sanction the payment of bounties, let us confine them to industries which have a reasonable prospect of success. We can secure a larger return than £3 per acre from scores of commodities. If the Government have no better proposal than this to put forward-
– They propose to grant a bounty for the production of peanuts next.
– If it were possible to obtain a worse return from the production of peanuts the outlook would be a sorry one. In my opinion, the proposal which we discussed yesterday was preferable to this one. Certainly we should derive better returns from the breeding of Angora goats than we should from the production of palm oil. I merely wish to draw the Attorney-General’s attention to the character of the industry which it is proposed to establish.
.- Upon this item I take up the attitude which I indicated in my second-reading speech upon the Bill. Speaking as one who wishes well to the principle to which the measure is intended to give effect, I say that it would be entirely in the interests of the Bill itself to eliminate not only this item, but several others specified in the schedule, and to devote the money which it is proposed to expend upon them to the encouragement of industries whichhave a reasonable chance of succeeding. We ought to offer a bounty only upon commodities the production of which will eventually have some chance of attaining the dimensions of a great industry. I need scarcely point out that the land, the cultivation of which the bounty upon palm oil is intended to stimulate, could be far more profitably put under a crop of some other kind. In my opinion, it would be better to eliminate this item, and to utilize in developing the cotton industry the money proposed to be expended in respect of it.
.- I do not think that the Ministry should complain if honorable members refuse to support this bounty, since the information submitted with regard to it is exceedingly scanty. The report of the experts does not indicate whether there isa reasonable pros pect of a profitable industry being established as the result of the bounty. Assuming that the high prices now ruling continue, the return will be only £3 per acre, and an industry that will yield so poor a return is an insignificant one.
– Those who planted these palms would have to wait five years before securing any return.
– That is so. It is improbable that anything like an expenditure of £3,000 per annum for a period of fifteen years is necessary in connexion with such an industry. If there were any possibility of a profitable industry being established as the result of the passing of the item, I should be prepared to support it, but we have no satisfactory information to guide us. A bounty for the encouragement of wattle-growing would be a more reasonable proposal. If wattle seed be scattered broadcast, and the areas so treated fenced off from sheep, at the end of five years an annual return far greater than could be obtained from this industry is secured. . The prospects of success in this case are too remote to justify the passing of the item.
– I wish to emphasize the point that this item has an important bearing upon the producing interests of Australia. Palm oil, if produced in Australia, would be exported, but under the Pure Foods Act recently passed by the Imperial Parliament it could not be used as heretofore in the production of margarine, and consequently theprices obtainable would be seriously reduced. In these circumstances the oil would be shipped to the Continent, where it would be used in the manufacture of margarine to poison the poorest classes of the community.
– It would also compete with our own exports of butter.
– That is so. I hope that the item will be rejected.
Amendment agreed to; item negatived.
Peanuts, 5 years, 15 per cent. on market value, £5,000.
.- I hope that the Minister will allow this item to share the fate of that relating to palm fruit. I am inclined to think that its inclusion in the schedule was due to a desire on the part of the Minister of Defence that peanuts should be used as bullets in connexion with the future defence of Australia. All the evidence we. have as to the growth of peanuts shows that the industry is of very little value, arid that their cultivation is somewhat of a nuisance. Peanuts were grown some years ago in New South Wales.
– They are still grown in Queensland.
– I believe that they are. Peanuts, which are crushed and used in the production of China oil, are produced largely in China, where the labour is cheap, and there is no. justification for the proposal that we should expend £5,000 per annum for a period of five years to establish such an. industry in the Commonwealth. China oil is used to only a limited extent in Australia, and in the circumstances I move -
That the item be left out.
– This item should be struck out for precisely the same reason that led honorable members to reject the proposed bounty on olives, namely, that the industry is already established. The report of the experts shows that a considerable area in Australia is now being devoted to the cultivation of peanuts, and that being so the industry must be well established. According to the report - and my own personal knowledge confirms the statement - peanuts are readily cultivated, and -
In the Northern Territory one acre of ground produced 26 cwt. of peanuts. Valuing the crop at £20 a ton - which is not a high average - this return shows a cash value of £26 per acre.
An industry that yields such a magnificent return should require no assistance at the hands of the State. As a matter of fact, peanuts can be grown almost anywhere. Their cultivation is easy, and the process of harvesting is very simple. I hope, therefore, that we shall not waste any more time in discussing this item.
– I appeal to the Committee not to reject this item. China oil which is produced from peanuts is largely used in the Commonwealth, the imports for 1906 totalling no less than 144,196 gallons. Australia is admirably suited to the production of peanuts.
– Is not a return of £26 per acre a very handsome one?
– It is.
– Peanuts are being grown at the present time in Australia.
– But not for industrial purposes.
– They would be if their cultivation were payable.
– As the honorable member pointed out in his valuable contribution to the debate on the motion for the second reading of the Bill, these bounties are intended in some cases to tide new industries over their experimental stages. The intention is that peanuts shall be grown for the manufacture of China oil ; but at present they are not devoted to that purpose in Australia.
– Why not?
– Because there has been on the part of our producers a want of knowledge of the industry, and a want of appreciation of the market for China oil within our own Continent. Many industries are not flourishing simply because the people of Australia as a whole do not recognise their value.
Mr.McWilliams. - Because our producers find other crops more payable.
– They may be growing that which for the time being is more profitable, but there are many industries to which they might turn with advantage.
– That is why we need a Federal Bureau of Agriculture.
– The honorable member is quite right. The States Departments of Agriculture have been endeavouring to show the people the value of many new industries, and our desire is to let it be known all over Australia that the cultivation of peanuts is a profitable undertaking, and that the by-product is exceedingly valuableas fodder.
– What does the report say on that point?
– We have in the report of the experts, the statement that -
In addition to its value as a source of oil, the peanut is probably the cost concentrated vegetable food in existence.
I hope, therefore, that honorable members will recognise that the industry is worthy of encouragement. A country which depends so largely upon its live stock ought certainly to endeavour to encourage the’ growth of foods for stock. I am sure that if honorable members study this report they will arrive at the conclusion that the production of peanuts will be of great advantage to the northern parts of Australia, and that they will agree to the item.
.- The time of the Committee should not be occupied in debating such a trivial question as this. The remarks made by the AttorneyGeneral in support of the retention of the item remind me of the story of a great American humorist who, yielding to a request that he should conduct an agricultural newspaper, published as one of the chief items in his first issue the statement that those whoplanted pumpkins should be careful not to put more than one in each hole, and also advised that when gathering turnips care should be taken not to shake the trees. It seems to me that we are being called upon to submit to a lot of advice which comes within this category. I would ask honorable members not to agree to the granting of a bounty for the encouragement of such a trivial industry as the production of peanuts.
.- According to the report of the experts, the value of the importations of China oil into Australia, in 1906, was £19,513 The bounty payable in respect of peanuts would amount in five years to £25,000, or more than the total value of the China oil consumed in the Commonwealth in one year. In these circumstances, I do not think that we should hesitate to reject this item.
.- I would ask the Attorney-General to give way to the request of honorable members, and to take a stand on the next item, “ Sunflower seed.”
Amendment agreed to; item negatived.
Sunflower seed, 5 years, 16 per cent. on market value,£2,000.
.- The same arguments which have been applied to palm oil apply to this item, and I therefore beg to move -
That the item be left out.
In the present state of our finances we have no money to waste in this way. Sunflowers have been grown for many years, and I believe that on one occasion in Victoria their production was encouraged by a bounty, with the net result of showing that sunflowers for seed are not worth growing. They are, I believe, good to feed chickens on, but even chickens will not always eat them, though my experience is that other birds are swift to pick the seeds before the latter can be put to any use. The Ministry would seem to have been very hard up for products on which to give bounties when they included some of these items.
– On these items I really thought that I could have relied on the support of protectionist members, though, at the same time, I admit that these are matters on which honorable members have a right to express their individual opinions, looking at the matter from a business standpoint. My own opinion is that many of these items ought to be retained; but I realize that the sense of the Committee is against me, and I shall not therefore press this item to a division.
.- I cannot understand the action of the AttorneyGeneral in retreating immediately he gets a knock or two, considering that he regards these as a series of great national industries. I had not the advantage of hearing the Attorney -General whenhe moved the second reading of the Bill, and I cannot truthfully say that I read a. report of his speech in Hansard. I am. sure, however, that the honorable and. learned member, in introducing these items, which represent over, half a million sterling, pointed out that by adopting them we should establish in Australia, specially in its tropical and sub-tropical parts, a series of great national industries. But, one after another, he is surrendering the items to an. opposition which seems to strike him with astonishment. He asked, in effect, “ Where are the protectionists of Australia”? Here are magnificent industries which, it is said, can be planted by the expenditure of a few thousands a year, and which would give employment to thousands and hundreds of thousands of settlers in the Northern Territory, where we. particularly desire to organize for the purposes of defence. What does the surrender by the Attorney-General mean? The only virile element of the Cabinet has left it. When we had the late Treasurer in office we had a gentleman who could put up a fight when occasion required ; but now that he has resigned we find, on the very next day, that in spite of extraordinary provocation, there is not the least suspicion of complaint in the vertebrate organization of the Government. In the report of the experts relating to this item, we find it stated -
Sunflower oil is obtained from the seed of the annual Helianthus annus and another species of the same family. Mr. David Jones, of the Queensland Agricultural Department, in the course of an interview at Roma, reported in the Western Star, of 20th February,1907, spoke favorably of two plots of sunflower which he saw at Bell and Pickauflunie (five acres and twelve acres respectively), and said that the oilproducing seed, when more experience is to hand regarding cultivation and harvesting the crop, will, in all probability, be another valuable addition to the products of the district.
Sunflowers may be grown in all climates suitable for maize, and with greater success on comparatively poor ‘soil. . . . It is a crop very well adapted to the conditions of pioneer settlement in forest country. A clearing, however small, may be at once utilized .for growing sunflowers.
Let us look at the problems which face a man who is cutting down forests. Here in the sunflower is promised an immediate return - he can almost immediately convert the forest into growths of these flowers ; and I think that such a man ought to have such an inducement as the ‘Bill offers. The report goes on -
Another advantage is that in out of the way places the crop does not suffer when nearly ripe from the depredations of sparrows and other birds, which constitutes one of the chief factors of loss in the old settled districts.
It is the giant Russian sunflower that is more specially recommended. The cost of cultivation, harvesting, threshing and marketing is £1 7s. per ton, and the average yield per acre is 50 bushels, producing 40 to 50 per cent, of oil. The price per ton is, £14, and the. gross return per acre £14, leaving a net return per acre of £12 13s. Is that not a magnificent return?” The sunflower does not require twenty years to mature, but can be grown easily, and yields an enormous and almost immediate return, with a profit of £12 13s. per ton. There is an element of great disappointment in this proposal. There are people now engaged in cultivating the sunflower; at any rate, in various gardens I have seen beautiful plots of the flowers. In my opinion, there is danger here, because I understand that the sunflowers have to be sent to a factory before the bounty can be earned. What will the grower of the sunflower do if he raises his crop and there is no factory to which to send it?
– What chance has the man in a forest clearing of supplying a factory ?
– People might clear all the forests of Australia and plant sunflowers ; but what would be the good if there were no factories? I hope that the leader of the Labour Party will come to the rescue of the Government. Is the honorable member going to allow this sort of thing to go on? He is generally the chief insurance of the Government; and is he going to allow Ministers to be trampled on in this way ? Is he going to allow this great in dustry .of the sunflower to be trampled upon by a number of gentlemen who have forgotten their protectionist creed, and by a Minister who has not the pluck to stand up for a flower which might shed beauty over the whole surface of .the Australian desert, and make even the transcontinental railway an assured success. Why should we allow this spineless conduct on the part of the Ministry ? I shall insist on a division.
.- When speaking oh the second reading I prophesied that when we reached the schedule, industries which had friends would be defended while industries which had no friends would be allowed to “ go by the board “ ; and apparently the latter is to be the fate of many of the items. When the leader of the Opposition expressed the hope that the Attorney-General would make a stand on this item, that, of course, was an invitation to him not to make a stand ; and although the honorable gentlemancalled upon, his protectionist friends rr> assist him, he is now prepared to abandon the item. Of course, I am glad that by the action, of the Attorney-General a sum of £10,000 will be saved; but Iam surprised that such an aesthetic young, gentleman as he is, and so much resembling, as he does, Bunthorne, of Patience celebrity, should have deserted the sunflower. It is remarkable that the Government should endeavour to whip up their protectionist supporters on an item of this character. Only the colour of the sunflower might furnish a reason for my voting for the item, but even that colour is not sufficiently attractive to earn my support. There is not a single industry represented in the schedule which could be advocated very strongly on the public platform ; and I am glad that the Ministry are awakening to some sense of responsibility, and are prepared to surrender this ‘and other items. At the same time, I am sorry for the protectionistsupporters of the Government who have had such a whipping from the AttorneyGeneral in connexion with the sunflower.
.- Protectionist members -are placed in somewhat of a difficulty by the presence of two or three of what I cannot but call ludicrous items in the schedule. On the other hand, there are one or two items which protectionists would desire to see passed ; but if the Ministry do not abandon the sunflower gracefully and quickly, I am afraid it may be thought that the whole of the items are “ going by the board.” For instance, the item of wool tops is a most valuable one, and I hope that it will not be swept away. I fancy some aesthetic member of the Ministry must have inserted this item, which is well-known to be the emblem of the aesthetic cult. I feel sure that attention has only to be called to the item to cause the Attorney-General to withdraw it.
Amendment agreed to; item negatived.
Rice, uncleaned, 5 years, 20s. per ton,£1,000.
– I move -
That the item be left out.
This is a ridiculous item. The cultivation of rice is a black man’s industry, and even the experts’ reports offer no great encouragement to its production. The report states-
The best varieties of rice are grown in swamps or level irrigated ground, and the initial stages of its cultivation are carried out while the land is entirely under water.
Where are we to find white men particularly anxious to work for half their lifetime up to their waists in water? The report also states -
Rice is also grown largely in the swamps of the southern United States.
In Australia we are not much troubled with swampy country, and where swamps exist they are limited in area, and so situated as not to offer much attraction to white settlement. The report is not encouraging. It continues -
Coming nearer home, in the Northern Territory, near Port Darwin, Messrs. Kloppenburg and Erickson, with the help of aboriginals, some 25 years ago, harvested 8 tons of uncleaned rice - swamp variety - from 5 acres of land, which represents a gross return of about £20 per acre. This may be regarded as a very satisfactory yield.
Even when the cultivation of rice was undertaken in the Northern Territory the assistance of black labour was required.
– Aboriginal labour.
– That is coloured labour.
– The aboriginals, the original owners of the whole continent, are surely entitled to consideration.
– I do not deny it, but I understand that the object of these bounties is the encouragement of industries which will give employment to white labour. The need of providing work for white persons has been specially emphasized, and that point has been relied on more than any other to secure support for these bounty proposals. The last paragraph of the report states that it is open to doubt if the industry can be successfully exploited under Australian conditions - that is to say, under white labour conditions. If that be so, why waste money in the way proposed? If we must give bounties, let us give them for the encouragement of industries which have a chance of succeeding under Australian conditions, with the employment of white labour.
– I was pleased to learn, when the right honorable member for East Sydney was in Queensland, that he was an advocate of the bounty system. While canvassing that State for protectionist support, and announcing his readiness to lead in Australian politics, he said that he was in favour of bounties. Therefore, I rely upon his support in connexion with this item, because I know that when he makes a promise he tries to fulfil it. A careful study of the report shows that rice can be grown successfully in Queensland and in the Northern Territory.
– And on the Murray River flats in New South Wales.
– Yes, and in Victoria, too. Two kinds of rice have been grown. For mountain rice, irrigation is notneeded.
– Mountain rice is inferior, swamp rice being of better quality.
– The area suitable for the growing of rice is very extensive. Special reference is made in the report to the land available in the Queensland coastal districts, not only in the Southern district, at Pimpama, but also in the Northern district, near Cairns. The industry can be carried on by white labour, and will yield a profit. It is therefore worthy of encouragement, and I ask the Committee to negative the amendment.
.- I shall support the item. The aggregate amount proposed to be spent is not very large.
– It is not enough.
– It is proposed that for a period of five years a bounty of £1,000 a year shall be given, making the aggregate sum payable for the production of rice £5,000, a very modest proposal when this amount is contrasted with the sums offered for the production of palm fruit, £45,000 ; of peanuts, £25,000; and of sunflower seed, £10,000.
– Last year rice to the value of £248,000 was imported.
– We must not forget that there is a protective import duty of 3s. 4d. a cental, or about £5 a ton, which should offer great encouragement to local production.
– That duty returns a large amount of revenue.
– If we could establish the rice industry in Australia, we could doubtless make up in some other way any loss in revenue caused by the falling off in importation. Considering what an important article of food and commerce rice is, I think that we should agree to the proposed bounty.
– There is no doubt about the importance of the rice industry. I am not prepared to make a suggestion in regard to the rate of bounty per ton, as I do not know much about the industry, but it would be wise to give consideration to the suggestion of the right honorable member for East Sydney, and not only increase the aggregate amount payable, but spread the expenditure over a longer period. It seems to me that more than five years should be allowed for the establishment of this industry, and that a greater sum should be given for its encouragement. Of course, we must remember, as the right honorable member admitted, that it already is protected by a duty, and while that fact might wellbe allowed to govern the rate of bounty per ton, it should not affect the total grant, or the period during which the bounty would be payable.
– It is difficult to know the grounds upon which a bounty of this kind is proposed. According to the experts whose opinions we have been asked to consider of value, it is open to doubt if rice can be successfully exploited under Australian conditions.
– That is an ideal condition for a bounty.
– We are asked to give a bounty for the encouragement of what all the world over is a black man’s industry.
– White men assist in the cultivation of rice in Carolina.
– According to the report which has been placed before us -
Rice is also grown largely in the swamps of Southern United States - Carolina in particular - and is partially worked with white labour. A good quantity of rice is also produced by white labour in Northern Italy.
The States of America in which rice is grown are: - North and South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas, all within the black belt. The rice produced in Texas is grown in districts wholly within that portion of the country which is largely settled by negroes. Anybody who will take the trouble to study the question will find that the production of rice in the United States is almost exclusively confined to black labour. It is true that a certain quantity is cultivated there by the small farmers, but where its production has attained the dimensions of an industry it is almost entirely a black labour industry. Further, this commodity is grown there under the most unhealthy conditions. It is cultivated under similar conditions in Manchuria. The upland rice in Manchuria is grown by the cheapest labour in the world. The State agricultural experts have themselves condemned the proposal to grant a bounty to encourage the production of rice. At the present time a duty of 3s. 4d. per cental is levied upon that commodity, and will any honorable member seriously contend that the conditions surrounding Australian labour to-day are such as to induce the people of the Commonwealth to embark upon the production of rice as a national industry ? Of course there may be isolated cases in which it may be profitably grown. But what is the return which may be expected from its cultivation? I find that the average yield per acre from the whole of the rice-growing country of the United States is 20 dols., . or approximately £4. I am quoting from the Year-Book of the United States Bureau of Agriculture.
– That does not prove that rice cannot be grown successfully by white labour. It merely demonstrates that where cheap labour is available it is produced by means of that labour.
– I have given the honorable member the average yield per acre for the whole of the rice-growing country of the United States. That yield indicates what we might hope to obtain in Australia. The swamp country of Louisiana is eminently adapted to the production of rice. It is regarded as the best rice-producing tract in the world. There the average yield per acre is only 20 dols.
– Is that the gross or the net return?
– It is the gross return.
– A lot of our Australian land is cultivated for a much smaller return than that.
– Will the honorable member venture to say that the conditions governing the production of rice are the same as those surrounding the production of wheat? We know that where we have to employ labour to any extent we cannot produce wheat for anything like that return. Wheat can be profitably grown for such a return only in large open plains and with the aid of the most up-to-date machinery. Taking the yields obtained from rice in the United States, I say that there is not the slightest chance of the industry becoming successful under Australian conditions.
– Would it not be possible to harvest the crop by machinery, and thus to reduce the cost of cultivation ?
– That has been tried in America for many years, but where swamp rice is grown it would be necessary to use a steamer.
– The upland rice yields a fair price.
– That is an exceedingly inferior article.
– It is inferior, but not “ exceedingly “ inferior.
– There are two varieties of rice cultivated. The first requires intense irrigation, and the other variety, which will grow upon the upland country, does not require such intense irrigation.
– In India the upland country is irrigated.
– I am not talking of the upland country, but of the upland variety of rice - the variety which can be grown without the intense irrigation which must be applied to the swampy rice. We are asked to grant a bounty to encourage the production of this commodity,’ notwithstanding that the State agricultural experts, in. their report, say that it is open to doubt whether it can be successfully exploited under Australian conditions.
– That is why the payment of a bounty is necessary.
– The bounty is necessary in the opinion of the honorable member to establish an industry which cannot be successfullyexploited without it. It is the same old story of the bounty system over again. If we retain this item I claim that we shall be simply throwing away money in an attempt to establish an industry which is doomed to failure. I shall vote against the proposal.
– The honorable member for Franklin has said that the rice industry is entirely a black man’s industry. I should like to ask him if the cultivation ofmaize, in India and other countries, is not, on the same showing, entirely a black man’s industry.. Similarly, the market-gardening industry in this country is supposed to be a Chinaman’s industry. But we know very well that a white man can produce vegetables profitably without resortto the methods which are adopted by the Chinese. As a matter of fact, anybody who has seen what are called the “paddy, fields “ of Ceylon must have noticed the primitive methods of irrigation employed there - methods upon which the white man can improve. Ceylon is undoubtedly a rice country. The honorable member for Franklin has said that in America this commodity will yield a return of only £4 per acre, and he affirmed that while it might pay to produce wheat for that price, it would not pay to grow rice. I fail to see why it would not’. To my mind, there is no reason why the production of rice should not be encouraged in Australia. We have heard a good deal recently in connexion with the starch trade and the importation of rice. To encourage the manufacture of starch, after providing for the payment of a decent wage to the employes, we should certainly foster the production of the raw material. Much has been said about an inferior quality of rice, but I would point out that such rice might very well be used in the starch trade. It seems to me that all industries which a progressive people desire to encourage are alleged to have some drawback associated with them by those who are opposed to their establishment. If a commodity is produced by black labour under certain conditions they refuse to believe that it can be successfully produced by white labour, as was the case in the sugar industry. But, just as sugar has been produced by white labour in Australia, so will rice be similarly produced. I intend to support the item, because I believe that the industry can be made a profitable one, even if it returns only £4 per acre.
.- The honorable . member for Franklin has emphasized certain facts which no doubt will induce honorable members to vote against this item. I do not intend to repeat the arguments which he has advanced. It is admitted that it would be only the poorest class of labour which would be employed in the production of rice. It has been said by some of the supporters of the Government proposal that its adoption would lead to the employment of the aborigines. That in itself is an admission that the industry would not be carried on under standard conditions. With regard to the production of rice, I would point out that that commodity is consumed by all classes. It is, perhaps, the most healthy article of diet that we can obtain. If I thought that the operation of the bounty proposed would result in the production of a better quality of rice, or in a cheaper article, I would be inclined to support it. But nobody can seriously contend that the sum of £1,000 annually - which will cover an output of only 1,000 tons of rice - is likely to stimulate the production of that commodity. What is a thousand tons compared with the total consumption of rice in Australia? It is infinitesimal. I ask the Attorney-General whether the sum of £1,000 is not a scanty allowance in this case? Both the leader of the Opposition and the leader of the Labour Party have admitted that it is. That being the case, it will be only five years before those who have been induced by the promise of a bounty to embark upon the industry will be pleading for an extension of the term during which it shall operate. Then, others who have engaged in other enterprises will also come forward and urge Parliament to grant them a similar extension. That is an evil which we have to guard against. Consequently, I ask whether the operation of the bounty is positively to be limited to five years. The AttorneyGeneral was very cute in appealing to the leader of the Opposition to support the item. He spoke of that honorable gentleman’s work in Queensland. There is no doubt that the right honorable member for East Sydney accomplished good work there. Only one representative of that State occupied a seat upon this side of the Chamber during the last Parliament, whereas four of its representatives now sit in opposition to the Government. I can understand that the rice industry, if established in Australia, would particularly benefit Queensland.
– Not altogether.
– I recognise that the honorable member is a broadminded man, and that as such he is prepared to support this item. I wonder whether he would support a bountyto encourage the iron industry, which would relate almost wholly to the electorate of Dal ley.
– I would support the honorable member.
– We find that every honorable member, whether he is a free-trader or a protectionist, is prepared to fight for that which is of advantage to his own electorate or to the State of which he is a representative. Industries that have no friends in the House can secure no encouragement. Every representative of Queensland is prepared to support a bounty on rice, and it is evident that whoever was responsible for the framing of this Bill considered the production of sunflower seed of more importance than rice cultivation, since he proposed a much larger bounty in respect of the first-named item.
– We can grow sunflowers, but not rice.
– I know nothing about that, but I would remind honorable members that the importations of rice into Australia constitute a considerable source of revenue. I do not think that any commodity of general consumption should be heavily taxed.
– One of the advantages ofa bounty is that, unlike a protective duty, it does not increase the price of the article to which it is applied.
– That has yet to be proved.
– Thereis already a duty on rice.
– That is so.
– It was imposed for revenue purposes.
– It is one of the highest in the Tariff.
– I am sure that the honorable member, who is a protectionist, would be quite satisfied if all the duties imposed were proportionately high.
– The duty on rice is much less than was originally proposed.
– I am aware of that, and I dare say that when the new Tariff resolutions are submitted, we shall find the Government asking for much higher duties than they hope to secure. The duty on rice is a little more than the people should be called upon to bear. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports made a good point when he referred to the question of labour. The evidence given before Mr.
Justice Hood in regard to the wages paid in the starch industry - an industry which is associated with rice production - does not give us much encouragement to support such a proposal as this. The amount proposed to be paid by way of bounty on the production of rice could be devoted with greater advantage to the up-building of the iron industry, and I trust that this item will be rejected.
.- In reply to the honorable member for Dalley, who has just stated that every representative of Queensland will support this item, I desire to say that, although I am a representative of that State, and rice has been grown in my electorate, I do not see my way to support this bounty. Like the honorable member for Bland and the leader of the Opposition, I think that the amount proposed to be appropriated for this purpose is so paltry as to be unworthy of consideration. It is. ridiculous to suggest that so small a bounty would encourage the production of thousands of tons of rice. The honorable member for Lang has referred to the statement in the report that 8 tons of uncleaned rice were produced in the Northern Territory some years ago. Although I have not the statistics at hand, I am able to say that prior to Federation we produced a fairly large quantity of. rice in Queensland. Shortly before the establishment- of the Commonwealth, however, the production of rice there fell away considerably. This was due, not to the Federal Tariff, but to other causes.
Colonel Foxton. - What were those causes ?
– I believe that it was found in the first place that it was not a profitable crop, and that some of the land that had been devoted to its cultivation could be used to greater advantage in the production of other crops. Although some rice was grown in swampy land, some, I believe, was produced on hill country, and at a place called Strathford, 5 miles from Cairns, a mill for the hulling and cleaning of rice was established. The rice treated there met with a good reception on the market, and realized satisfactory prices, but, nevertheless, as I have stated, its production fell away considerably.
– Was any of it grown by Europeans?
– Not to my knowledge, and I do not think that this bounty would induce Europeans to take up its cultivation. The proposal is so paltry that I do not think it would induce any one to devote to rice cultivation land that is capable of growing more profitable products. There is not a very large area of swamp land available in’ the semi-tropical regions.
– There is plenty in the Northern Territory.
– There may be, but even assuming that rice can be profitably grown there, I do not think this bounty would lead to the establishment of the industry in the Northern Territory.
– It is not large enough.
– That is so. I do not know who was responsible for the amount of the proposed bounty.
– It was recommended by the experts.
– Surely the Ministry would not be guided solely by the experts in determining the amount of a bounty.
– Not altogether.
– At all events, the amount proposed to be set apart for this purpose is so paltry that I cannot support the item. If the Government were prepared to propose that at least £20,000 should be devoted to the encouragement of the industry, I should be inclined to consider such a proposition, but I shall vote against that now before us.
– The proposal to encourage the local production of rice is a good one, but the Minister should be prepared to agree to at least £5,000 per annum being devoted to this object for a period of ten years. It is absurd to suggest that a bounty of £1,000 per annum for five years is sufficient. The proposals in regard to bounties on the production of palm fruit, sunflower seed, and other materials used for the production of oil, were ridiculous, and when the Minister said that he expected the protectionists in the Opposition corner to support him in his efforts to establish these industries, he seemed to lose sight of the fact that our primary duty is to protect the public purse. In moving that the Bill be read a second time, the AttorneyGeneral practically said that we should have to agree to the Bill as it stood, or reject it.
– When the honorable and learned gentleman was speaking, I pointed out to him that that was practically the effect of one of his statements.
– I said that I wished to carry the Bill.
– The Government could not have given any consideration to this proposal. The establishment of the industry is a matter of national concern, for rice cultivation in Australia should in time become as important as is the production of wheat. From the remarks made by the honorable member for Franklin, who appeared to pose as an expert-
– The remarks of the honorable member led me to believe that, like members of the Conference of experts, he was an expert only in theory. I have had the pleasure of coming in contact with two or three gentlemen who are thoroughly familiar with rice cultivation, and I have also seen rice growing in northern Italy, as well as in America. Whilst I do not pretend to be an expert, I know something of what I am talking, and have no hesitation in saying that the industry is one that, under existing conditions, and carried on by white labour, would yield returns twice as large as those obtained from the cultivation of wheat. We find that in Queensland they have had yields of rice equal to 60 bushels per acre, and that two crops instead of one can be obtained every year. That being so, honorable members ought to recognise that the industry is worthy of special consideration. We should not lose sight of the fact that it would give employment to a large number of persons. The proposals made by the Government in regard to a bounty on peanuts, &c, and several other items in the schedule are a disgrace to Ministers, and should not have been introduced. We are here not to waste public money, but to protect the taxpayers, and it cannot be denied that some of the items in this schedule would involve an absolute waste of public money. While the Government might well give special attention to the growth of fibrous plants, bounties on the production of oils are unnecessary, for in nearly every case the oils mentioned in this schedule are simply by-products, and protective duties already apply to them. If we cannot grow the fibre we cannot produce the oil. and if we cannot give a bounty sufficient to encourage the production of rice on a commercial scale we should not give any at all. Experts have told me that one of the most important considerations in connexion with rice cultivation is the temperature of the soil in which it is produced. The temperature of the soil in Riverina, Victoria, on the Murray, and Queensland has been declared by experts to be suited for the cultivation of rice, and they have even gone so far as to urge me, with others, to support the establishment of rice farms on the Murray, the Darling, or the Murrumbidgee, where the conditions are admirably suited to rice production. I should like to know whether the Minister can see his way to amend this item by proposing that the bounty shall be increased from £1,000 to £5,000 per annum, and spread over ten, instead of five, years? We need an increased population, but we cannot hope to secure it by granting such a small bounty as that now under consideration. The amount proposed to be set apart for this purpose would be swallowed up in administrative expenses, and nothing would be left for those engaging in the industry. I would ask the Minister to consider my suggestion and submit such a proposal as would be calculated to lead to the establishment of a great industry. The imports of rice into Australia are valued at something like £250,000 per annum, and the industry is therefore worthy of our special attention. It is evident that this matter has never been considered by the Government from a commercial point of view. We are supposed as commercial men to see that public money is wisely expended, and not frittered away as it would be under this proposal. I ask the AttorneyGeneral to reconsider the item, and to give the Committee an assurance that he will prolong the period and increase the bounty. This is an industry worthy of the support of this Parliament and of the people, because it can be established with white labour, as in America and in Northern Italy, and will prove of great benefit to the country generally.
– In my opinion this item ought not to be supported, because it does not conform to either of the two requirements which are essential before the State expends money in the way proposed. It does not appear that rice is more profitable than any other crop; on the other hand, there are many crops now grown in Australia which are much more profitable, such as wheat barley, and oats. All these latter are produced under normal conditions without a bounty or aid of any kind, and are fast becoming, if they are not already, the staple products or the country. We cannot start a new industry like that of ricegrowing under a bounty without deflecting capital from other industries already established. There may be industries, which, in their early stages, present enormous initial difficulties; but there does not appear any reason to believe that when the difficulties were overcome in the case of rice, any advantage would be gained. There is a great deal to be said in support of the argument that this is an industry which, though not always, is, generally speaking, carried on by black labour; and this is a fact which it is of no use our blinking. A bounty on the production of that kind of wheat which can be grown with a jo-inch or a 12-inch rainfall would be infinitely more beneficial to the country than a bounty on the production of rice. There is no doubt that it is most desirable to encourage the growth of a species of wheat which would partially defy drought, and wholly defy smut and rust. Rice does not appear to offer any particular advantage to the grower ; and while I do not deny that it can be grown in fairly temperate climates, yet, if any argument may be adduced in its favour, it must be that it would tend to utilize the waste lands in the northern and north-western parts of Australia. I shall vote against the item, because it represents, in my opinion, an industry’ not particularly desirable in this country. It would be much more profitable to send our wheat to China and Japan and receive rice in return, than to grow rice in Australia. There is reason to believe that the Chinese and Japanese may be induced to become wheat eaters instead of rice eaters ; and, to an extent, our wheat is making headway in their markets.
Colonel FOXTON (Brisbane) [4.20].- There is one patent fact which differentiates this item from those which the Committee, in their wisdom, have seen, fit to eliminate from the schedule. In the items which have been deleted, the amounts involved were trifling, and might easily be called paltry from an Australian point of view. It was shown in regard to those items that even when the whole of the Australian consumption had been overtaken, only comparatively small industries would be encouraged and brought into existence. In the case of rice, however, we have to face the fact that the product, to the value of nearly £[250,000, is annually imported into Australia; so that there is a huge margin of production which the most sanguine of us, probably, would scarcely expect to be overtaken in the next generation. I do, not agree with the honorable and learned member for West Sydney in the comparison he has drawn between the production of wheat and the production of rice. The Commonwealth, in its wisdom, has properly decided that the northern portions of this great country shall, if possible, be peopled by white men. On my recent visit to the Northern Territory I became aware of the fact that, although there are enormous areas which, from my point of view, are waste, barren lands, and the poorest description of pastoral country one could imagine, there are along the flats of the Adelaide River and other rivers, which flow north and north-west, large swamps extending back from one to five miles, which could only be utilized, apart from an enormous expenditure on draining and irrigation, in the production of rice. It is said that those black soil swamps are eminently suited for the cultivation of rice. The swamps are inundated to a considerable extent every year, and the rivers on which they abut are, for the most part, in the upper reaches’ of fresh water very suitable for the purposes of irrigation. It is extremely desirable that we should do a.11 we can to induce white settlement in those parts of Australia; and for the reasons I have indicated I shall support the item. Reference has been made to the fact that rice was grown in Queensland ; but the cultivation was carried on under peculiar circumstances. At that time a duty of £9 per ton was imposed on rice, not for the purpose of protecting the industry, but for the purpose of causing the Chinese population on the Palmer gold-field, who at that time numbered something like 20,000, and who contributed very little towards the revenue, to pay their fair proportion of taxation. This was deemed the simplest way to reach them in this connexion, seeing that they were the largest rice consumers in the community. The duty, however, had the effect of largely encouraging the production of rice in the northern coastal districts, but, so far as my knowledge goes, the rice there cultivated was invariably in the hands of the Chinese. It is worth a trial to ascertain whether the river flats in the Northern Territory - which, so far as I could see, were the only agricultural lands in the coastal districts - can be utilized by white men for the cultivation of rice? I join the honorable member for Grampians in the regret that the bounty is not considerably in excess of the sum named, because if the industry is to be a success, it is1 worthy of much greater encouragement.
– I shall not occupy much time, because I take it for granted that honorable members have made up their minds how they intend to vote. This item of rice is not to be compared with the items of sunflower, peanut, palm, olive, and linseed oil, which have been deleted from the schedule. It is very difficult to understand why the Government, if they are . in earnest in their desire to establish the rice industry on a sound footing, should recommend or propose such a small amount as £5,000, or £1,000 per annum. As the honorable member for Grampians said, the bounty ought to be something like £50,000, because this is an industry which nearly every honorable member will admit is possible of being established on a prosperous basis. Last year the rice imported into Australia was worth £250,000 ; and we all know that rice is used as food by every man, woman and child in the community, lt has been said that this is a black man’s industry, and that may be so; but the same might have been said of the sugar industry until recently. There is no doubt that the rice industry could be established throughout the Commonwealth - not only in Queensland, but in all the States. The honorable member for Grampians has told us that rice can be grown on the Murray and the Mumimbidgee, and doubtless there are many parts of Australia in which, with slight encouragement, it could be cultivated successfully. Another advantage of this industry is that there are two crops annually. The report of the experts states that the period before there is any return is six months at the outside, and, in favorable districts, five months ; and this in itself would be a great inducement to those inclined to engage in the industry. I shall be only too pleased to support the item, but I urge that the amount is not sufficiently large to achieve the object in view.
– I view this as an ideal item in the schedule, because it presents those conditions which make it one of the most justifiable of the proposals before us. In the first place, the value of the imported rice approximates to £250,000 per annum, and, in the second place, this is a new industry which has not been exploited, and of which we may have reasonable anticipations that, if encouraged, it will be entered into with profit to the Commonwealth. The item of rice possesses possibilities which suggest themselves to my mind, and which are likely to commend this bounty to the whole of the Commonwealth. It has been pointed out that the experts have contradicted themselves to some extent by expressing a doubt as to whether the growing of rice is an industry which can lie successfully exploited under Australian conditions. Before committing themselves to a recommendation, they should have tried to satisfy themselves on this point. Their report is unsatisfactory for another reason. The success of the rice industry in Australia must depend largely on the extent to which machinery can be brought into use in connexion with its cultivation and harvesting, and the experts suggest that both varieties of rice may be harvested by the stripper as wheat and oats are harvested. They should have ascertained conclusively whether such harvesting is possible. If strippers could be used, there is very little doubt that the industry would prove a profitable one.
– How could they come to a definite conclusion ?
– By ascertaining what has been done in other parts of the world where strippers may have been tried. The report says that rice can be grown not only in Queensland, but in the other States.
The temperate southern climate, as well as the torrid northern, have been equally favorable to the production of heavy rice crops. In the South, a rainfall of 40 inches, and in the North, of 100 inches and more, have also produced no appreciable effect upon the yield.
It is contemplated that in the immediate future a system of locking will be carried out in connexion with the Murray and Murrumbidgee Rivers. If this work is undertaken, the irrigation of large areas adjoining those rivers will be possible, just as it is now possible in the Goulburn River district of Victoria. As the climate and the soil are both suitable, if we can apply water lo the land at a comparatively cheap rate, the growing of rice will probably be entered upon largely, and will prove profitable to producers and to the community.
– The use of the Murray, water for this purpose is a long way off. It will not happen in our generation.
– In the Goulburn Valley irrigation is possible now. It has been urged that the amount set down for the proposed bounty is too small to allow of the accomplishment of satisfactory results. I agree with that view. We have been told that, in dealing with the schedule, we cannot increase it ; but we must recollect that we have a strong Government in power, and if the Committee is in favour of making a larger grant - say .£5,000 a year instead of £[1,000 - no doubt Ministers will provide means for carrying its views into effect.
– I have listened carefully to the debate, and have been appalled by the ignorance of many honorable members on both sides of the Chamber in _ regard to the cultivation of rice. It is lamentable that proposals should be based upon a report like that before us, which contains so little information. I really wonder if the Minister is in earnest in regard to these proposals. The leader of the Opposition, who is known as the arch-priest of free-trade in Australia, has said that he will support the item, his only reason for doing so apparently being that in Queensland he promised certain protectionists that he would support the giving of bounties. I cannot follow him in this matter, because I do not believe at all in the bounty system, and I think that the proposed bounty would altogether fail. According to the report -
The best varieties of rice are grown in swamps or level irrigated ground, and the initial stages of its cultivation are carried out while the land is entirely under water.
As a matter of fact, rice is indigenous to Australia, but for its profitable cultivation there is needed, not only a good strong alluvial soil, but also a regular rainfall.
Colonel Foxton. - Both conditions are obtainable in the Northern Territory.
– I know that there is a rainy season in India, Japan, and Carolina ; but I have not heard of any part of Australia which possesses a regular rainfall.
– The honorable member says that he is appalled at the ignorance of others, but he himself is now displaying his own ignorance. There are parts of Australia which have a regular rainfall.
– I do not know of any place where there is a rainfall so regular that periodical inundations of rice-fields would be possible. Furthermore, rice is now produced almost solely in countries where labour is cheap. In Japan, the husbandman is ground down by his overlord, who takes every penny that he can pay, and even in Carolina black labour is employed, so that I think that Australia cannot compete with other parts of the world in the production of rice, because, though we may have the soil, we have neither the regular rainfall nor the cheap labour which are needed. I have seen rice growing in China in little terraces ascending the hills, which are irrigated very cheaply ; but in Australia any system of irrigation must be very expensive. It is to be remembered that rice is used, not only as an article of food, but also for tha manufacture of alcohol and starch, for which it must be available at a very cheap rate to make the process profitable. Even the experts admit that it is open to doubt if the rice industry can be successfully exploited under Australian conditions, and I think that I have shown that it is ridiculous to expect success. I hope, therefore, that the Committee, with the exception of the leader of the Opposition and the Minister, will vote against the proposal.
– I should like to be in a position to support this proposal, because rice is such an important article of commerce, being used not only as a food, but for the manufacture of starch and other productions which employ a considerable amount of labour. But no words can adequately express the foolishness of setting apart only .£5,000 for the encouragement of rice growing. If the industry is to be fostered, we must offer a sum from which we may expect good results. Some rice is being grown at the present time; but to offer £[5,000, to be given during a period of five years, to encourage more people to embark on the industry is, in view of the magnitude of our territory, simply ludicrous. I should like to know whether we cannot increase the amount set down by adding to it some part of the £[122,000 which we have saved by our amendments in the schedule. If so, I shall be glad to vote for the bounty, but if we cannot, I must vote against it, because I consider the granting of so small a sum as .£5,000 merely farcical. In view of the importance of this matter, I think we should have an authoritative opinion from the Minister, or from you, Mr. Chairman, as to whether any part of the sum saved by our amendments in the schedule can be devoted to increasing the bounty for the production of rice.
– The honorable member for Kooyong will recollect that he specially asked for the postponement of clause 2, upon the ground that some of the items specified in the schedule would probably be eliminated and that some of the amounts which it was proposed to appropriate for specific purposes might be reduced. I promised to recommit that clause if any reduction were made in the amounts proposed in the schedule. Now the honorable member proposes, not that the amount which it is sought to appropriate for this particular item should be reduced, but that the sums saved by eliminating other items should be appropriated for quite another purpose.
– I did not refer to any items which have been eliminated.
– The honorable member said that certain items had been excised as the result of which some £120,000 had been saved. He then asked whether it was not possible to devote, say, £45,000 which the Government proposed should be expended upon the production of palm oil, to the development of the rice industry.
– That is the position.
– Only the Chairman can give an authoritative ruling upon that point. My own view is that when an Appropriation Bill has been approved, embodying specific appropriations, we cannot devote those appropriations to another purpose. At the same time, I feel sure that the honorable member for Kooyong will not vote against this item merely because he regards the sum as insufficient to encourage the rice industry. I would point out that under the Bill the Government have power by regulation to vary the amounts appropriated in connexion with the different items, either by increasing or decreasing them. In pleading specially for one or two commodities - when it was urged that they could not be grown in the Commonwealth - I said, *’ Let the item stand, because if the money as not required for this specific purpose there are other items in the schedule, and by means of regulations which have to be laid upon the table of the House, we can increase the amounts appropriated.” Increases can be made in that way.
– That cannot apply to those items which have been eliminated.
– I am merely stating my own opinion, subject to the ruling of the Chairman.
Colonel Foxton. - That would be a matter of administration.
– I speak subject to the ruling of the Chairman. Let me take the case of rice as .an example. If the proposal of the Government in that connexion be agreed to, it is quite possible that the £1,000 appropriated for the payment of the bounty will not be required during the first year of its operation. As a matter of fact, if ^£50,000 were appropriated, I do not think that £1,000 would be absorbed during the first year. In the second year, if only £500 were claimed, it would show that the industry was beginning to obtain a footing. But the Bill has been so framed that the amounts unexpended in any one year will be carried forward to the next year. Of course, we realize that some of our proposals are purely of an experimental character. When the scheme has been launched, if the experiments prove successful, the House will probably be afforded an opportunity to revise it. If it can then be shown that an industry has been started with _ fair prospects of success, but that it requires further assistance to establish it upon a permanent basis, I believe that Parliament will gladly grant that assistance. But I maintain” that the £5,000 which we propose to spend in an attempt to foster the production of. rice is sufficient to permit of experimental work being carried out, and to enable us to determine whether we shall be justified in granting further assistance to make the industry a success. I ask the honorable member for Kooyong not to attempt to make further reductions in this or any other item, because by so doing he will be limiting our power to vary the amounts specified in the schedule. When we have dealt with the schedule I will recommit clause 2 and ask the House to make a proportionate reduction in it so as to keep faith with honorable members in that respect.
.- The AttorneyGeneral, I take it, does not argue that my first proposal was in any way inconsistent with my present position? If he suggests that, I wish to show him that he is absolutely wrong.
– I do not suggest it.
– I stated previously that it would be necessary to recommit clause 2, because I know that a number of honorable members would be strongly opposed to some of these items. That prediction has been fulfilled. The Attorney-General has alluded to the power which is vested in the Executive to vary the amounts appropriated in the schedule of the Bill. I have already expressed the opinion that that is a most dangerous power. I think that this Committee ought to know definitely what amount is to be allocated to each of these items. If the whole of the money voted for any particular purpose be not absorbed during the first or second year that the Bill is operative, I have no objection to it being expended in the third or fourth year, so long as the total sum appropriated is not exceeded.
– That is fixed by the schedule.
– But I do not believe in the Executive having power to take money appropriated in connexion with one item and to disburse it in connexion with another. I repeat that the Committee should definitely know the obligations to which it is committed. The expenditure of £1,000 annually would, I believe, be regarded as a very trivial matter by any of the States. But it is folly for us to commit ourselves to any such expenditure in the hope that we shall assist in the establishment of a large national industry. I cannot avoid thinking that we are dealing with this matter in a retail, paltry, huxtering fashion. Let us endeavour to establish industries which will be worthy of support by the Commonwealth and which are likely to prove of benefit to the people as a whole. Do I understand, sir, that no amount appropriated in the schedule for a specific purpose can Be used for the purpose of increasing other sums which have been agreed to by this Committee ? We have already reduced the total expenditure proposed by the Government by £[122,000, and I understand that whatever may be the amount of the expenditure agreed to in the schedule that sum must not be exceeded. Is that so?
– I would point out to the honorable member that the items which have been excised from the schedule will entirely lapse. It is not in the power of the Government to appropriate the amounts proposed in respect of those items to any other item. Clause 2 of the Bill will require to be recommitted for the purpose of reducing the amount therein specified, and the second schedule must also be made to harmonize with the new conditions, seeing that certain items have been eliminated.
.- In my opinion this is one of the items most deserving of the support of honorable members. 1 complain, however, that the amount: which it is proposed to appropriate for the purpose of assisting the rice industry isaltogether inadequate. No sound arguments have been adduced in opposition to the bounty. The fact that the commodity is chiefly grown by black labour proves nothing, because we know that in India a very large quantity of wheat is grown by black labour. Yet in Australia we compete against that production with very satisfactory results. The honorable member for Hunter has stated that rice will not grow unless rain falls at regular intervals soon after it has been planted. If that be so, why is it that so much rice is cultivated upon the Nile, where very frequently rain does not fall for two or three years ? As a matter of fact, that rice is produced bymeans of irrigation, and I would point out that in South Australia there are huge areas of swampy land adjacent to the Murray - tens of thousands of acres - which should be eminently suited to the production of commodities of this kind. I have seen these swampy lands, and I believe that if we could only establish the rice industry in Australia, we should be conferring a great benefit upon our people. But when we come to consider that a sum of ,£5,000 has been proposed to foster the production of peanuts, it does seem that the amount which it is proposed to spend upon the encouragement cif rice production is ridiculously small. I should like to see that amount increased to .£[10,000 annually. An expenditure of £1,000 per annum is a very small bait with which to catch an industry which is worth £[250,000 annually.
.- I understand, Mr. Chairman, that since we have struck out several of the items in the schedule, clause 2, which provides for the total appropriation under this Bill, will be recommitted with a view to its amendment. I wish now to obtain your ruling in regard to the effect of paragraph a of clause 9, which provides that the GovernorGeneral may make regulations - for varying the amounts set out in the fourth column of the first schedule as the maximum amount of bounty payable in respect of any goods.
I would not give this or any other Government the power to vary the sums specified as the maximum to be paid under the schedule, and I wish to place on record my opinion that the amount in each case should be fixed. I am advised that, by clause 9, any of the amounts fixed under the schedule as the maximum to be paid in respect of an industry may be increased. . I wish to know whether that is correct. It should be impossible for the Government to vary any bounty except by way of a reduction. If the Minister responsible for the administration of this measure be empowered to increase the maximum, payable as bounty on any goods, we may have a very large bounty granted in respect of some of these items. The fact that the regulations under which this would be possible must be laid upon the table of the House affords some protection, but such a method of procedure is sometimes abused.
– The Committee have already passed paragraph a of clause 9, but I may say that my personal opinion is that the honorable member has been rightly advised that the Government will have power under that provision to vary the maximum amount set out in the fourth column of the schedule as the bounty payable in respect of any goods.
Amendment negatived ; item agreed to.
Rubber, 15 years, 10 per cent. on market value,£2,000. agreed to.
Coffee, raw, 8 years,1d. per lb., £1,500.
.- I do not like to allow this item to pass without entering my protest against it. The AttorneyGeneral has put before us a report by gentlemen whom he described as experts. When that report agrees with any of the proposals of the Government, he tells us that it is worthy of consideration; but when it does not, I presume that he asks us to ignore it. I find in the report of the experts the statement that -
The experience of the chief coffee producing countries of the world - and these are countries where an abundant supply of cheap labour is obtainable - does not afford much hope for the extensive and successful exploitation of the industry under Australian conditions.
In another part of the same report, we have the statement that -
It is an ominous fact that . . . the planters of Brazil have not only destroyed large quantities of coffee berry because of the low prices prevailing, but have also pulled up the bushes growing on large areas of coffee plantation, and are using the land for other purposes.
We know that coffee production in Ceylon has almost disappeared as an industry, and that those engaging in the industry in countries where the cheapest labour is available find it almost impossible to make a living. In South America, whence the bulk of coffee comes, a market cannot be found for all the berries at present being produced, and in the East Indies planters have had a similar experience. If the Commonwealth desires to undertake experiments in the production of coffee a start should be made in Papua, where the conditions essential to its successful cultivation prevail, and an abundance of cheap labour is obtainable. I am sure that the industry could not be conducted on the mainland under ordinary Australian labour conditions. I hope that the item will be rejected, and that honorable members will not consent to such proposals being carried on the voices. Such an appropriation as this would be absolutely useless.
.- In connexion with this, and nearly every other item with which we have dealt this afternoon, we have evidence that the Government have been seeking to attain too much. A fatal objection to the Bill is that, according to the report of the experts, many of the industries sought to be encouraged under it are not likely to be successfully established. That being so, we are simply asked to agree to a wasteful expenditure. The consumption; of coffee is declining, and the report of the experts by no means encourages us to support this item. The reason why the Government propose to appropriate only £5,000 for this purpose is apparently that the experts discovered that the prospects of success were so remote that it would be unreasonable to recommend a larger appropriation. I trust that this item, as well as others in the schedule, will not be allowed to pass without a division being taken.
– I hope that the Committee will agree to this item. It has long since been demonstrated that the finest coffee canbe produced by white labour in Norfolk Island, which, until recently, was under the administration of New South Wales. In Lord Howe Island, excellent coffee can also be produced by white labour. One of these islands is already under the control of the Commonwealth, while the other may possibly be transferred to us at no distant date, and the fact that coffee of excellent quality can be produced by white labour on both of them should be sufficient to induce honorable members to agree to this bounty.
.- It is all very well for the honorable member for Riverina to assert that coffee can be produced on Norfolk Island, but the fact remains that in Brazil and other countries where coffee is extensively cultivated the supply is more thani equal to the demand. The report of the experts shows that large quantities of coffee berries have been destroyed by the planters in Brazil because of the low prices prevailing, and that the yields there have been almost sufficient to supply the world’s demand. It would be of some interest to inquire into the history of coffee. I do not know whether Ministers appreciate the danger that might possibly attend the cultivation of coffee on a large scale in Australia. It is really a serious matter.
– For the doctors.
– The question is one of concern, not only to medical men, but to the public generally. In the dark days long antecedent to those of which we have authentic records, coffee was grown in Abyssinia, and its cultivation spread gradually to Arabia, where it was used by the Mohammedans in connexion with their religious exercises. The Mohammedans found that its effects enabled them to sustain their prolonged religious exercises without falling asleep; but even in those days the sectarian issue was raised, and some of the more orthodox of the Mohammedans objected very strongly to the drinking of coffee in connexion with religious devotions. Its use, however, became more and more popular. Coffee was brought to England in 1641, and we are told that in 1652 Pasqua Rosee, the Greek, servant of an English merchant, Mr. Edwards, prepared it so palatably that many friends visited his master on Sunday afternoons to partake of the beverage ; so much so that Rosee was at* last advised to establish a coffeehouse of his own. He did so, and coffeedrinking became’ so popular that many other coffee-houses were established in London. These coffee-houses were largely patronized by people who were opposed to the Government, and, so serious did the position become that Charles II., in 1652, issued a proclamation, in which it was stated that the houses were the resort of “ disaffected persons, who devised and spread abroad divers false, malicious, and scandalous reports to the defamation of His
Majesty’s Government, and to the disturbance of the peace and quiet of the nation.” This is a serious aspect of the question which deserves consideration by His Majesty’s Government of to-day. I suppose that in 1652 there was an Attorney-General just as there is to-day ; and legal opinion was obtained as to the legality of the step taken by the Crown, whereupon the following oracular deliverance was made -
The retailing of coffee might be in itself an innocent trade, but, as it was used to nourish sedition and spread lies and scandalize great mcn, it might also be a common nuisance.
Hence a heavy tax was placed on coffee, which, I believe, led to a considerable amount of smuggling. I draw the attention of the Government to these facts, so that they may be warned in time. It is stated in the report of the experts -
It is undeniable that coffee of good quality can be produced over large areas of the tropical and sub-tropical portions of the country.
I have it on good authority that coffee cam be produced only in localities which are within 15 degrees north and 15 degrees south of the equator ; and a glance at the map shows that only a small portion of Australia lies within that limit..
– If the honorable member owned all that portion of Australia, he would be a very wealthy man.
– If I grew coffee there, I am afraid I should be a very poor man. What is the use of our producing coffee in Australia when the world’s consumption is only 15,000,000 sacks, while Brazil alone produces 15,490,000 sacks?
– Why were the coffee plantations of Ceylon rooted up some 3’ears ago?
– In Brazil, coffee plants are being uprooted because there is practically no market for a large portion of the coffee produced, and coffee bushes are giving way to other forms of cultivation. In Ceylon, the coffee plants were, I believe, rooted up because of serious pests, which may be introduced into Australia unless we very quickly pass the Quarantine Bill. Efforts are being made to encourage retired Indian officials to settle in Australia with their wives and families ; and it is highly probable that some of the ladies may bring out as pets specimens of that rodent known as the golunda rat. This is an animal which plays great havoc with the coffee plants, living chiefly on the roots, but also climbing up and devouring the berry ; and I believe it was the presence of this pest which caused a good many of the plants to be rooted up. In Ceylon there is also a pest known as the coffee bug, and there are certain fungoid pests, together with the coffee leaf disease, and coffee rot. In the report of the experts it is distinctly stated that four years must elapse before the coffee plant becomes productive. As a matter of fact, the plant is actually productive in the second year, and in the third year there is a profitable crop. Furthermore, the cultivation of coffee requires a large amount of cheap labour, which is employed in the countries where the industry is profitably carried on. There is no such cheap labour in Australia, nor, I am glad to say, is it very likely that there will be for a very long time to come. The cheap labour is required because there is a lot of weeding and pruning in connexion with the cultivation ; unless the plant is constantly attended to, It cannot possibly be successfully grown. I doubt whether there are many localities in Australia where the industry could be undertaken with any hope of profit. Coffee is said to grow well in well-drained, loamy soil,’ at an elevation of about 2,000 feet, but there are very few such areas in Australia convenient to market. Most of the cultivated lands are in the coastal regions, because further back there is difficulty in reaching market. I hope honorable members realize that this is not an industry which ought to be encouraged at the present time with a bounty. In addition to the other reasons which I have given, I may point out that coffee is not so popular in England as it used to be.
.- This item is somewhat in the same category as the item of rice. The experts, who, I think, are responsible in a large measure for the item now submitted to us, tell us that the coffee plant does not reach the bearing state for four years. As the bounty extends for only eight years, there will be only four years in which it will operate. However, the honorable member for Hunter says that the coffee plant bears profitably in three years, and if that be so, the operation of the bounty is extended. Parliament owes some consideration to the coffee-growers, because of the manner in which their product was treated when the Tariff was before Parliament a few years ago. The duty under the Queensland Tariff was 4d. per lb., but that was reduced to 3d. by the Commonwealth Parliament under the uniform Tariff . In 1895 there was practically no coffee grown in Australia, beyond that produced by a few farmers for their own use. Five years later, in 1900, under a duty of 4d. per lb., in Queensland, some 200,000 lbs. was placed on the market, and it proved of such quality as to meet with the approval of all who used it. Then there came the uniform Tariff, which so affected the industry that in 1903 the production had fallen to 83,000 lbs. If the item be passed, it will mean that only a very small amount will be paid until the new crops are gathered, because I doubt very much whether at the present time 83,000 lbs. is produced, seeing that the production has been diminishing ever since the decrease in the duty. I should like to refer honorable members to a letter written to the Geraldton Sentinel by Mr. Leonard M. Cutten, of Bicton, Clump Point, in reference to the coffee industry. Mr. Cutten was the owner of the largest coffee plantation in Australia at the inception of Federation, and occupied that position, at any rate, for a year or two later. In the course of his letter, Mr. Cutten says - . . It was largely due to the representations I made to the senators, and through the press, that the present inadequate duty was retained. That it did not suffice to save the coffee industry from extinction was not my fault. Without entering into wearisome figures it should suffice when I state that the Bicton coffee plantation, at that time the largest in Queensland (vide report Agricultural Journal) is at present being used as a horse paddock. De Moleyn’s plantation (Cairns), the most complete, was, after ruining two proprietors, sold for one-fourth cost of machinery and sheds. These facts speak more strongly than words.
That was the result in the Cairns district ; and it is only from Mackay northward that coffee is grown.
– Coffee is also grown in the Maroochy district.
– That only strengthens my argument. Owing to the action of this Parliament in reducing the duty from 4d. to 3d. per lb., the industry has been almost completely extinguished. Notwithstanding what has been said by the honorable member for Hunter, this industry has always been carried on in Queensland exclusively by white labour, and it has proved a paying industry under that condition. The industry was prospering very well until the imposition of the lower duty. I hope that the item will be carried, although I think that the sum set down, like that set down for the encouragement of rice-growing, is inadequate, and the time allowed too limited for the revival of the industry, which flourished so greatly a few years ago.
Mr. BATCHELOR (Boothby) [532JFrom the remarks of the honorable member for Herbert, I think that the best way to encourage the production of raw coffee is to make the duty 4d. per lb., which he says was the Queensland rate. The only information we have in regard to the prospects of coffee-growing in Australia is that with which he has supplied us, and a report of agricultural experts which has been furnished to us, than which nothing could be more condemnatory of the proposal we are considering. It says -
While a very general feeling prevailed that coffee-planting was not likely - at any rate in the near future - to become an important Australian industry, Conference is of opinion that steps should be taken to encourage it.
The reasons given for that opinion are these -
It is undeniable that coffee of a good quality can be produced over large areas of the tropical and sub-tropical portions of the’ Continent. The returns, however, from the plantations, are not at all alluring, while the consumption of coffee by the people of the Commonwealth is on a very slender scale. The experience of the chief coffee producing countries of the world, and these are countries where an abundant supply of cheap labour is obtainable - does not afford much hope for the extensive and successful exploitation of the industry under Australian conditions.
In Brazil, for instance, sufficient coffee is produced to meet the requirements of the whole world. . . .
It is also an ominous fact that according to the Tropenpflanser - a recognised authority on all tropical matters - the planters of Brazil have not only destroyed large quantities of coffee berry because of the low prices prevailing, but have also pulled up the bushes growing on large areas of coffee plantations, and are using the land for other purposes.
The records available of Australian experience in coffee growing are by no means encouraging. In the year 1903 there were 318 acres under coffee in Queensland, the total yield being 83,632 lbs. Valuing this at gd. per lb. - which is allowed to be a fair average price - the return would not be more than £10 per acre. Considering the labour involved in clearing and preparing the land, in picking and cleaning for market, and bearing in mind the fact that the plantation does not become productive until it is four years old, this return appears totally inadequate.
Then, without adducing a particle of evidence to show that it is worth while trying to establish the coffee industry in Australia, the experts conclude with the statement that-
Coffee of a good type can be produced over large portions of northern Australia.
The question is not whether coffee can be produced, but whether the establishment of” the coffee industry is worth encouraging by means of a bounty. The experts do not. show that it is. They simply say -
Accordingly, a bonus of id. per lb. for eight years is recommended.
If there is anything to be said on the otherside, it should be put before us. On theinformation which has been supplied, I am. not prepared to tell my constituents that. I voted for this proposal.
– I am sorry that thehonorable member for Boothby, who, I know, keenly desires to encourage agricultural industries, has made the remarkswhich have fallen from him. The fact that the coffee industry has flourished in Brazil is not a reason why we should not try to< establish it here. Would he contend that because industries are prospering in, France, Germany, or England, we should take no steps to establish them here ? Thetes* to be applied to this proposal is contained in the question, “ Is there in Australia a market for coffee? “ Undoubtedly there is, our importations being valued at £58,000, and it is well known that we donot get genuine coffee, because adulterantsare largely used- It being granted that there is a market, we should ask ourselves, “ Can we grow coffee in Australia?” It is not to be denied’ that coffee can be grown successfully here. The reports show that it growswell in Queensland, from’ Cairns right down to Maroochy, near Brisbane. Speaking from’ memory, I believe that asample of coffee produced in the Brisbane district obtained a gold medal at one of the continental exhibitions. The industry is one which pays white men’s wages.
– Does it not provide employment chiefly for women and children?
– I see no objection to women and children assisting in farm work under healthy conditions. It is during the picking season that their services are required.
– It is a pity that in a place- like Australia women should be sent intothe fields to work.
– “A place like Australia” ! Is the implication that this wonderful land is not fit for white women to livein? Will the honorable member tell the wives of the farmers in his district that Australia is no place for them to live or work in?
– The Minister is not fair to the honorable member.
– I object to women having to work in the fields of Northern Queensland.
– Coffee has been grown under commercial conditions not far from Bi Brisbane, and the picking of berries is work that cannot injure women or children. There is in Australia a large market for coffee, and we have1 a big area of country on which it can be successfully cultivated under conditions which make the cultivation a white man’s industry.
– The returns obtained appear to be very low at the best.
– The industry is a profitable one. Mr. Howard Newport, the Queensland coffee expert, in the last report presented to his responsible Minister, says that it has been proved beyond doubt that coffee culture pays well, even as an auxiliary product. The industry is undoubtedly well suited to Australian conditions, and I hope that honorable members will vote for the item.
.- When I was previously addressing the Committee I forgot to refer to the report of the Queensland expert with which the AttorneyGeneral has so kindly presented us. The honorable and learned gentleman said just now - and his speech struck me as being a most feeble attempt to bolster up a preposterous claim - that the fact that the coffee industry was flourishing in Brazil was no reason why we should not seek to establish it in Australia. As I understood the remarks of the honorable member for Hunter, the point which he made was not that the industry was flourishing in Brazil, but that the demand of the whole world was already supplied, and that Brazil alone produced sufficient coffee to supply that demand. If there be no market for our produce, what is the use of endeavouring to bolster up this industry either by an expenditure of £1,000 or £12,000? The honorable member for Herbert has referred to the condition of the industry in Queens-‘ land. But I would point out that the report of the Queensland expert states -
This industry has been established here for some years, but does not give signs of expansion. This Department (Department of Agriculture and Stock, Queensland) for the past two years, to encourage the growers and to improve the quality placed on the market, has installed machinery and has cured, hulled, Stc, the raw material, and sold it on account of the owners.
The Government of that State have done all in their power to encourage the industry, but have been unable to impart to it any impetus whatever. The Queensland expert also states -
At the present the production of coffee in the world exceeds 1,000,000 tons, while the estimated consumption is set down at 915,000 tons.
That means that there are 85,000 tons of coffee produced more than there is any demand for - thus bearing out the contention of the honorable member for Hunter. Concerning the profitableness or otherwise of the industry, the report shows that it will not return more than £10 per acre. And the Queensland report shows -
The cost of production to the point when returns are obtainable is from £5 to £7 per acre, according to local conditions, exclusive of the preparation for market, such as pulping washing, hulling, winnowing, &c, which amounts to about one-third of id. per lb. on a crop, of about 1 lb. of clean coffee per tree, or from 4 cwt. to 12 cwt. per acre.
These figures prove that the cost of producing this commodity would eat up almost the whole of the return which we might reasonably expect from it. It seems to me that if even we vote the £1,500 per annum proposed by the Government, although we may find a few persons who will produce coffee for the sake of earning the bounty, there is no hope of establishing the industry in Australia upon anything like a paying basis.
– I intend to oppose this item, because, after studying the conditions under which coffee is grown, I have come to the conclusion that it is an industry in which women and children mainly are employed. In this country we do not wish to encourage industries which depend for their success upon the employment of women and children.
– What about the dairying industry ?
– I am not in favour of the employment of women and children in any industry if it can be avoided. I want to see our male adults employed. I should be very sorry indeed if I were reduced to the position of asking my wife or daughter to engage in any industry while I was able to earn a livelihood for them. Here we are asked to vote a sum of money, not to enable our male adults to secure a livelihood, but toencourage the employment of women and children. My vote will not be given to encourage a policy of that kind. Seeing that the honorable member for Herbert is so anxious that women and children should be employed in this industry, I would specially direct his attention to the report of the experts. They say that it is essentially a tropical industry. Would the honorable member like to see his wife and daughter engaged in an industry of this character under a tropical sun for eight hours a day ? If he would, I certainly would not. It is bad enough when men of strong constitutions are forced to engage in occupations which require them to be exposed all day to the vertical rays of a tropical sun. I am not in favour of public money being expended for any such purpose. The report of the State agricultural experts says -
It is undeniable that coffee of a good quality can be produced over large areas of the tropical and sub-tropical portions of the Continent. The returns, however, from the plantations are not at all alluring, while the consumption of coffee by the people of the Commonwealth is on a very slender scale.
If the consumption of coffee by our people is upon a slender scale, where is our home market for this commodity? What possibility have we of developing an export trade against the coffee which is produced by the cheap labour of the Brazilian plantations? The report proceeds -
The experience of the chief coffee producing countries of the world, and these are countries where an abundant supply of cheap labour is available, does not afford much hope for the extensive and successful exploitation of the industry under Australian conditions.
What has the Attorney-General to say in regard to that portion of the report? He quoted part of an appendix, but he was very careful not to quote any of the paragraphs contained in the actual report of the experts. There is nothing in their report to justify our belief that the industry can he profitably established in Australia, and certainly nothing to warrant us in offering a bounty for its encouragement. The report continues -
In Brazil, for instance, sufficient coffee is produced to meet the requirements of the whole world, the figures being as under : -
Year 1901-2, world’s consumption - 15,500,000 sacks.
Year 1901-2, Brazilian production - 15,496,000 sacks.
From these figures it is abundantly clear that Brazil already produces sufficient coffee to practically supply the requirements of the world. Under such circumstances, what is the use of attempting to establish the industry, even under tropical conditions? The women and children! who will be employed will have their backs and arms tanned to the colour of negroes. How can we hope to successfully compete against Brazilian production? Another portion of the report says -
The records available of Australian experience in coffee growing are by no means encouraging. In the year 1903 there were 318 acres under coffee in Queensland, the total yield being 83,632 lbs. Valuing this at 9d. per lb. - which is allowed to be a fair average price - the return would not be more than £10 per acre. Considering the labour involved in clearing and preparing the land, in picking and cleaning for market, and bearing in mind the fact that the plantation does not become productive until it is four years old, this return appears totally inadequate. With, all these disadvantages, the fact remains that coffee of a good type can be produced over large portions of northern Australia, and accordingly a bonus of id. per lb. for eight years is recommended.
How these experts can make such a recommendation in the face of their own damning report passes my comprehension. It can only be done under the erroneous, supposition that this Parliament has so much surplus funds at its command that it is anxious to avail itself of any excuse to expend public money without getting anyequivalent either in services rendered or any other advantage to the general community. I do not know whether the members of the Conference received any intimation regarding the desire of the Government in this matter, but certainly from the way in which their reports conflict with their recommendations, one is led to suspect that some such hint was given. Upon the face of the report, itself, this proposal stands selfcondemnedIn addition, other honorable members have shown how absolutely untenable the proposition is on other grounds, and therefore I move -
That the item be left out.
.- I have heard many speeches from the honorable member for Lang similar to that which he has just delivered. One of the arguments which he has advanced against the proposal of the Government is that coffee is grown in a tropical climate, and that the employment of women and children in coffee plantations, when the sun was directly overhead, would be attended with more danger than if the sun were at another angle, As a matter of fact, we all know that most clanger is to be apprehended when the sun is low down. But some excuse is bound to be urged by those who know nothing about this subject, but who are consumed by an ignorant prejudice- against the employment of white labour. in sub-tropical industries. They have a stupid, ignorant conceit that certain things cannot be done, simply because they are not done. What is the statement made by the honorable member for Lang? That Brazil produces sufficient coffee to meet the world’s consumption of that commodity. Could it not be said, with equal force, that the world’s supply of iron is produced outside Australia, and that we should not, therefore, expect the Commonwealth to produce it in competition with other countries? I could cite dozens of industries that are in exactly the same position.
– But this is a tropical production.
– It is neither a tropical nor a semi-tropical production.
– The report of the experts states that the best situation for its cultivation is in the tropics.
– The honorable member for Cook has just drawn my attention to the following paragraph in Mr. Howard Newport’s report -
In addition to the production in Queensland, mentioned above, in the Conference report, the Agricultural Department of New South Wales states that coffee has been cultivated in a small way for domestic purposes, and in two instances for commercial purposes. The north-eastern coastal districts of the State are well suited for the production of coffee.
There is no tropical country in New South Wales.
– Does the honorable member suggest that the Tweed River country is suitable for coffee-raising?
– Am I to set my opinion against that of the experts of the Department of Agriculture in: New South Wales - a State that is pre-eminent in all things - even in the conceit of its representatives?
– We can sometimes give the honorable member an easy first in that respect.
– I have some experience of coffee-raising in Australia, I have seen it in the southern part of Queensland, where a man who grows the berry produces the manufactured article in quantities sufficient to supply the demands of the district. The reason why coffee is not more largely grown in the temperate parts cf Australia is that the public have a prejudice against the local article.
– As compared with some other products, it is difficult to cultivate. It involves the employment of more labour than is necessary in connexion with some crops.
– I know of a district where 10 tons of coffee beans are at present stored. The whole of those beans were grown on a local plantation.
– The report of the experts shows that there: is no market for coffee in Australia.
– I have already pointed out that the reason for this is that the people, having acquired a taste for the imported article, are prejudiced against the local production.
– The report states that the consumption of coffee by the people of the Commonwealth is on a very slender scale.
– As compared with the total consumption of coffee in the world.
– There is nothing about that in the report.
– Such an argument might be employed against the encouragement of any new industry. The suggestion that the work of gathering coffee beans in a tropical’ or semi-tropical country is a dangerous one should be set aside.
– It is no more dangerous than is rose-picking.
– That is so. Compared with the work that has co be performed by young people in various factories, the gathering of coffee berries during the time ot the year when their collection takes place is mere child’s play. I trust that we shall approach the consideration of this item with unprejudiced minds. The industry in the Commonwealth can be expanded, but I do not know whether a bounty of id. per lb. will be sufficient to cause its expansion.
– A distribution of £1,500 per annum, spread over eight years, is ridiculous.
– I cannot say that it will be sufficient, but it will, at all events, afford some encouragement, and indicate that Parliament considers that coffee production is a desirable industry to establish in Australia.
– Every one admits that.
– No one will deny that the conditions prevailing in Australia are favorable to its cultivation.
– According to Mr. Howard Newport’s report the industry is already established in Queensland. The proposed bounty on olives was rejected on the ground that the industry was already flourishing.
– That is another point. At present I am endeavouring to reply to the argument advanced by the honorable member for Lang, that the industry could not be successfully established except by the employment of women and young children.
– The report says that the picking of berries would give employment to women and children.
– Would the honorable member refuse to allow women and children to undertake such work?
– Would it not be better for us to spend money in establishing a man’s industry ?
– I presume that if a woman wished to engage in a light industry of this kind the generous instincts of the honorable member would lead him to refuse her permission to do so.
– Are women excluded from the hop fields of Tasmania?
– Are not women allowed to pick hops in Tasmania?
– I would stop women from engaging in all labour of that kind.
– The honorable member would prevent them from maintaining their independence by engaging in some light industry.
– Does not the honorable member know that it is an economic fact that where women labour wages come down?
– Speaking generally that is the case in cities and large manufacturing centres, but I have yet to learn that in rural occupations, wages have been dragged down by the employment of women.
– In the old country, women work in the fields for1½d. per hour.
– I have also seen women in the old country earning as much as a man could do.
– The husband sitting on the fence smoking, his pipe, whilst the wife is working in the field !
– I saw nothing of that kind in my native land. Those who displayed a tendency to do anything of the kind would be quickly taught their duty. I am not here to say that women are incompetent to perform light outdoor work. I have seen women engage in such work with profit to themselves and to their country, and I hope that honorable members will not be led away by the statement of the honorable member for Lang. The honorable member for Hindmarsh has said that since the industry is already established in Queensland, we should not grant this bounty. If the industry is established, the argument is a good one.
– There is nothing in the report to show that it is an established industry.
– I would draw the honorable member’s attention to a paragraph in the report from Queensland, which sets forth that -
This industry has been established for some years, but does not give signs of expansion.
– That is true. I have seen small coffee plantations at various points between Cairns and Brisbane, and I repeat that their non-success has been due to the prejudice of the people against the local production, a prejudice due to the fact that a taste for the imported article has been acquired. In a small district to which I have already referred, a man is growing coffee, turning it into the manufactured article, and supplying two-thirds of the people in that district.
– Is the taste of that coffee different from that of the imported article ?
– It has a slightly different taste. It is impossible to produce coffee tasting exactly like the imported article.
– But a blend can be secured.
– The slightest difference in flavour is noticeable. Local manufacturers can produce something tasting very like the imported article, but cannot send out anything so near to it as to be able to capture the market. The fact that in the district to which I have referred two-thirds of the people are using locally-produced coffee is, however, an evidence that the product can be successfully raised in Australia, and I trust that it will receive the proposed slight modicum of assistance, in the shape of a bounty.
– I wish to reply to a statement made by the AttorneyGeneral as to the employment of women and children in out-door occupations. I certainly think it is very sad that we should be asked to legislate to encourage an industry which will lead to the out-door employment of the mothers of future Australians, and tothat of the children themselves. The question of whether those engaging in the gathering of coffee berries will have to work under the vertical rays of a tropical sun is immaterial ; the point is that a mother’s place is in her own home. Will any one say that her place is beside the plough in the field with her husband? It may be said that the work of picking berries is mere child’s play. It is nothing of the sort. No task that must be performed is play. Time spent in this way by children could be better devoted by them to-
– Cooking and sewing.
– In learning to cook.
– I wish they all knew how to do so.
– It would be better for Australia if all the wives knew how to cook. Fortunately, many of them do, but the time of our womenfolk would be much better spent in making themselves proficient in such occupations than in working in the fields. The other day I saw a number of lads who ought to have been playing in the cricket or football field, or, at all events, going to school, working at what was nothing more nor less than the hardest’ labour that could be devised for them. They were doing their eight hours a day at this.
– Was this in the honorable member’s constituency ?
– I donot know whether the honorable member was with me at the time, but I am sure that he would have felt sorry had he seen these little lads, with their growing limbs, using heavy hammers, and engaged in laborious work when they ought really to have been going to school.
– Where was that?
– I am not going to say any more than I have said. I cannot understand why the Attorney-General should express astonishment when I state that I do not believe in Australian women and children working in the fields.
.- Whence arises this new-born anxiety on the part of the honorable member for Hunter and others that women and children should not undertake horticultural and agricultural work? Those honorable members bitterly opposed the inclusion of horticultural and agricultural industries within the operation of the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill.
– So did the present Government.
– And the Labour Party agreed to the exemption.
– That is not so. As a matter of fact, the Labour Party have always upheld the view that, if possible, we ought to encourage the production of goods by men rather than by women and children, but that, if women and children have to be employed, they should, atleast, enjoy decent conditions. For honorable members who refused to extend to working women and children the only possible protection, to now object to their engaging in such occupations as that under discussion, is little short of hypocrisy - pure humbug. When I previously addressed myself to this item, I spoke on the authority of the evidence placed before us in the report of the Conference of experts; and on that evidence we are not justified in voting for this item. It has been contended that it is no argument against the establishment of this industry in Australia to say that there is over-production in Brazil. That, of course, is quite true ; but, according to the report, the experience of other countries is not encouraging, and, as to Australia, the report points to the impossibility of a payable industry being established here. I am anxious to support this item if a case can be made out for it, but no convincing case has as yet been placed before us, though the remarks ofthe honorable member for Herbert certainly showed some ground for an increase of the duty. All the work set forth in the conditions of the bounty has to be undertaken for a return, at the outside, of £10 an acre. In order to meet the fact that the industry does not now pay, it is proposed to grant a bounty of1d. per lb. for, practically, four years, seeing that it takes that time for the plant to come into bearing. The bounty might result, possibly, in more coffee being planted ; but eight years from now, when the bounty would cease, there is no doubt that the industry would sink to its present level.
There might be some prospect of the industry being permanently established if the duty were raised to the old rate of4d. per lb.
– That argument would apply to all the items.
– Not so directly as to this item. There is the probability that the other industries contemplated might go on if established, but the coffee industry has been attempted, and was successful so long as the duty remained at 4d. per lb. I can see no grounds for the bounty.
”. - I agree very largely with both what the honorable member for Boothby and what the honorable member for Hunter have said, and the good sense of the Committee should be against this item. The report of the Conference of experts is distinctly against the probable success of the industry in Australia; and the bounty would be a waste of public money. Twenty-five or thirty years ago Ceylon produced coffee, but the plantations were swept away by disease. Coffeegrowing had to give place to tea cultivation; and Ceylon is now one of the largest tea-producing countries in the world. Whatever may be the fact as to this being a black man’s industry, we do not desire to encourage any calling in which women and children are to be employed. However, I agree with the honorable member for Boothby that if women and children have to be employed in any industry, the conditions ought to be the best possible. It is evident to me that this item has not been carefully thought out by the Government. Certain conditions should have been imposed regarding planting, and so forth, because, otherwise, the planting would be carried on only for a few years in order to obtain the bounty. Iri Queensland, in 1903, there were 318 acres held under coffee cultivation, whereas in 1905 there were 167 acres; and, yet, in spite of the fair chance offered by the duty, the industry, instead of flourishing, has declined. This industry is similar to the rubber industry ; and I am sorry to know that the item in connexion with the latter has been adopted, because that is really a black man’s work. I hope the Government will reconsider many items in the schedule, and that they will not persist in the proposal before us. If the item is not withdrawn, I suppose the Committee must divide, and, if so, I shall vote against it. There ought to be an agricultural bureau capable of giving the best expert advice, in order that success may be achieved in the various industries.
– I ‘understand the purpose of the Bill is to grant bounties in order that it may be ascertained whether certain industries can be established on a paying basis in Australia. If I am right in that assumption, the coffee industry does not comply with the condition, because the report of the Conference of experts shows that coffee can be grown in this country. In 1903 there were 318 acres under coffee cultivation, yielding 83,630 lbs. per annum. Doubtless coffee can be grown in Australia, but, in the absence of a bounty, there is not sufficient encouragement, owing to the fact that Australian coffee, apparently, cannot compete with the cheap labour coffee of other countries. I am totally opposed to establishing any industry which depends on the labour of women and children.
– The coffee industry is not dependent upon women and children.
– I am going by the report.
– Why should industries not be started for women and children as well as for men?
– I want to see every woman employed at home. When we find employment for all our males at remunerative wages, the women will be able to marry and devote themselves to their families and their home duties.
– Why should women be confined to home duties?
– If women recognise their place in the world, they will see that it is to become the mothers of future generations. The position I have always taken up is that if women must do work that men are capable of doing they ought to be paid men’s wages.
– A woman may work in a laundry
– And women who work in laundries ought to be better paid than they are at the present time. Personally, I should not like to see a female relative of mine at work in a laundry. I desire to see industries established that will afford employment to so many men that women will not be dependent on laundry or similar work, and will, in any case, engage only in occupations in which they will be fairly remunerated.
– Does the honorable member believe in women going out to domestic service ?
– Yes ; but under entirely different conditions from those which prevail in domestic service to-day. I should be very sorry to see any daughter of mine engaged in domestic service where she would be compelled to work at all hours for inadequate remuneration. The production of coffee is a cheap-labour industry, which experience has shown to be confined practically to women and children at what is anything but a proper wage. What has been shown is that coffee may be grown under conditions of which I do not approve.
– Do not women and children pick grapes and olives in South Australia?
– If I had my way no child of school age would be so employed.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.45 p.m.
.- I hope that the Committee will not agree to the item. Like the honorable member for Boothby, I fail to see that we have been given any good reason for supporting this proposal. Indeed, if anything were needed to condemn it, it is furnished in the report of the Conference of experts. We should consider very carefully any proposal to encourage, at the expense of the taxpayer, industries in which chiefly women and children will find employment. The honorable member for Boothby accused the Opposition of showing a new-born anxiety for the welfare of the women and children of the Commonwealth; but surely that is better than anxiety to bring about their employment in tropical industries like coffee-growing? He was hardly just when he inferred from our action in preventing certain agricultural industries from being brought within the scope of the Arbitration Act that we had no sympathy with the women and children employed in them. Our action was taken for specific reasons, which were given at the time, and of which the House, in its wisdom, approved, and it was disingenuous for him to try to make political capital out of it. The Minister tried to lure the honorable member for Hunter into a trap.
– I would not do such a thing.
– I have always regarded the honorable and learned gentleman as innocence itself, if innocence can be imagined to be wrapped up in the form of a Minister of the Crown. But on this occasion he hardly treated my honorable friend fairly. There is a great difference between field labour in the temperate parts of Australia and field labour in the tropical and sub-tropical regions, where alone coffee can be successfully grown. The growing of coffee for commercial purposes has been tried, and has failed.
– The maxim is. “ If at first you don’t succeed, try again.”
– Yes; but we should try in a direction in which success is a reasonable expectation. Why should we grow coffee at a loss, when more than the world’s requirements is already produced in other tropical countries ? Surely there are better outlets for the energies of our people than an industry which, if successful, would lure women from their proper occupations into field labour in tropical Australia. The debate on this item furnishes a good argument for the establishment of a Commonwealth Agricultural Bureau. We have been informed that coffee failed in Ceylon because of the appearance of a disease which the growers were unable to check.
– They were careless.
– At any rate, they did not check it. We should take a lesson from Ceylon.
– When the establishment of a Commonwealth Agricultural Bureau was proposed by Mr. Justice Isaacs, the Opposition was hostile.
– It was the honorable and learned member for Bendigo who proposed the establishment of a Commonwealth Agricultural Bureau.
– My motion affirming the desirability of such action was carried unanimously.
– Then the honorable member for Herbert is at fault. The Opposition is desirous that a Commonwealth Agricultural Bureau should be established to advise and assist the primary producers of the Continent. I hope that the Minister, in view of the weighty reasons which have been adduced, will agree to the striking out of the item.
– I did not intend to prolong the debate, but I feel compelled to do so, because of the many erroneous statements which have been made concerning the possibilities of coffee-growing in Australia. Some honorable members have doubted whether the industry is established, others whether it can be established, and others whether it is worth establishing. The House decided, without a division, that the giving of bounties for the encouragement of certain forms of production is advisable. But certain honorable members contend that coffee-growing is not an industry which should be encouraged in this way. It has been stated that coffee has been grown successful ly only in the tropical parts of Queensland ; but, as a matter of fact, it has been grown very successfully in the electorate which I represent. No doubt many honorable members have had the pleasure of visiting the Clarence River district, and know its soil and climatic conditions. Its climate is as healthy as that of any part of New South Wales, and we can be proud of the manner in which the farmers there live, and bring up their children. But the most successful men on our northern rivers do not carry all their eggs in one basket. They do not think it well to grow maize, or sugar-cane, or make butter only, because mixed farming is found to pay better. Coffee is sometimes grown as an auxiliary to a staple crop, and, as an instance of what is being done, I propose to quote from an article entitled, “Coffee Growing on the Clarence,” which appears on page 283 of the March number of the New South Wales Agricultural Gazette for 1903. There is no higher agricultural authority in Australia than that publication.
– It is the best agricultural newspaper in the Commonwealth.
– The article is as follows : -
From accounts to hand, it would appear that coffee growing on the Clarence River has passed the experimental stage, and that the industry is on a fair road to commercial success. Mr. John Dale some eight or ten years ago secured certain rights from the Government to found an experimental station at Wolbin Island. There he planted out several acres of young trees, which are now in full bearing. Already he has harvested 30,000 lbs. of berries, and has still another 10,000 to gather. This means that each tree’s yield is from 50 lbs. to 60 lbs., or fifteen 1-lb. tins of the prepared article. Retailed at 1s. per tin, the revenue represents a handsome income, as the trees are planted in rows about 20 feet apart. At this rate, and providing that a market can be secured for the product, the industry, on the same basis of success, ought to give returns much more handsome than any of the sub-tropical crops raised on the north coast. The drawback to farmers used to returns ranging from monthly to yearly, is that there is no yield from the coffee trees till they are four years old, and then they are not in full bearing. Mr. Bale has for many years devoted much of his time to crop experimenting. He has demonstrated that many crops, other than those now raised, can be profitably cultivated on the fertile Clarence as commercial ventures. Besides raising the coffee in its raw state, he has also roasting appliances and modern grinding machines, and turns out the coffee in labelled tins ready for the market. In the latter end of 1896, Mr. Bale submitted samples of his locally-grown coffee to the Department of Agriculture. The samples were brought under the notice of Mr. C. Skelton, who had been engaged for seventeen years as a coffee planter in Ceylon. He was greatly impressed with the quality of the berries, and some months afterwards, under arrangement, visited the Clarence and other northern river districts,” with the object of reporting on. the suitability of the soil and conditions generally for extension of the industry which was proving so successful in the admirably adapted site selected by Mr. Bale. In the Agricultural Gazette for October, 1897, page 744, Mr. Skelton published his opinions concerning the capabilities of the districts mentioned. As many present readers of the Agricultural Gazette have, perhaps, not seen the report, some extracts from it are now reproduced : - “ In all three districts - Clarence, Richmond, and Tweed - I saw large tracts of land, cleared and uncleared, well suited for coffee culture; soil and climate are all that could be wished for. I saw growing in the different districts, strong, healthy, well-grown trees, in many instances laden with fruit. With the wonderful fertility of the soil, and the general suitability of those parts of the Colony for the purpose, it is surprising that the industry has not progressed beyond the experimental stage.”
I need not discuss the matter at any further length. The industry has merely reached an experimental stage, and honorable members naturally desire to know why it has not progressed further. There are a number of reasons for that. One of them is that considerable difficulty is invariably experienced’ in placing a new commodity upon the market. Initial obstacles in the shape of prejudice on the part of those engaged in the distributing trade, and of popular predilection for particular brands have tobe surmounted. While these difficulties are being overcome the man who has embarked upon the industry has probably expended all his capital, and consequently has to close down. Unfortunately there is a prejudice against new goods, and a strong prejudice against colonial goods. We must recollect that almost everybrand of coffee has a distinctive flavour. The same remark is applicable to tea, which I might well take to illustrate my contention. There was a time in New South Wales when its people used nothing but China teas. When an effort was made to place Indian and Ceylon teas upon the market it was unsuccessful for a considerable time. A good deal of money was expended before the attempt was successful, but to-day nearly all the tea used in Australia comes from Ceylon.
– In British India a bounty is paid upon the export of tea.
– I repeat that in placing new products upon the market prejudices have to be overcome, and the popular taste has to be educated. That is one of the reasons why Mr. Bale has not been so successful with his coffee plantation upon the Clarence River as he would wish to be. As one who has been handling and selling coffee for the past thirty years, I claim to know as much about this article as a good many people. The sample of coffee which I had from Mr. Bale’s plantation was as good as any I have ever used. Where an industry of this description can be started under favorable conditions, and by employing white labour, I say that it richly deserves a bounty.
– If the growers of coffee are making a profit out of it they do not require the aid of a bounty.
– I have already endeavoured to show that unless a man is possessed of a very large capital it is impossible for him to successfully overcome the prejudices of the market, and to compete against vested interests. I think that we should come to the rescue of the coffee industry. It has been said that it would employ only women and children. I was reared in a farming district, and I have never met a woman who was any the worse for assisting her husband in the open field under proper conditions of Labour. When women did more of that class of work they were quite as good as they are to-day.
– They would be better employed there than they would be in f factories.
– The women whom I have known to assist their husbands in the open fields certainly did not suffer either in their health or in their womanly characteristics. I am sure that the coffee industry can be carried on by white labour under conditions that need not excite a blush on the part of any honorable member. During the course of the debate upon this Bill we have heard a good deal regarding the desirableness of establishing a Federal Agricultural Bureau for the dissemination of knowledge amongst our producers. I do not think that practical farmers are prepared to accept as gospel, information which is derived from books. We have at Hawkesbury, in New South Wales, the finest agricultural college to be found in Australia. The gentleman in charge of it, Mr. Potts, is not a kid-gloved man. He was reared on a farm.
– New South Wales obtained him from Victoria.
– I am glad to know that we can receive some good things from Victoria. But it is obvious that New
South Wales must, have treated Mr. Potts better than did Victoria, otherwise he would not remain there. I repeat that farmers are not prepared to accept instruction at the hands of gentlemen who have merely the kudos belonging to an agricultural bureau. I admit that the Hawkesbury College has assisted the farmers of New South Wales very considerably. But such institutions can only inform the producers how a certain thing ought to be done. We now know how to cultivate the coffee-bush. But we want something more than that. Where is the justification for honorable members advising the Government to spend money in giving the farmers information upon subjects about which they know more than their would-be tutors? I hope that honorable members will not urge the establishment of a Federal Bureau of Agriculture, with the effect of duplicating the work which is already being done by the States. I ask them to favorably consider the proposal of the Government to grant a bounty upon the production of coffee, because I am satisfied that on the northern rivers of New South Wales there is a splendid opportunity for establishing the industry if it only receives the necessary stimulus.
– I intend to support the proposed bounty for the encouragement of the coffee industry in Queensland. At the same time I think that the representatives of that State and the supporters of the bounty have every reason to complain of the inadequate and imperfect information which has so far been placed before the Committee by the Government. Had they waited for the report of the Tariff Commission in reference to this and other matters I believe that a much stronger and more satisfactory case would have been made out. Certainly honorable members would not have been left in the dark to the extent that they have been, through the imperfect and incomplete manner in which the proposal has been presented. I ‘wish to point out that the coffee requirements of the Commonwealth at the present time amount to about 1,000 tons per annum. Of that quantity, in 1903. about 50 tons were produced in Queensland - a very small contribution towards the vast possibilities of the industry. At the present time there are only 342 acres under coffee cultivation in that State. The information which influences me in coming to a conclusion upon this subject is fully set out in the evidence given before the Tariff Commission at Brisbane by Mr. Scriven,
Under-Secretary for Agriculture and Stock, Queensland. He appeared before the Commission upon the 21st June, 1905, and acting under instructions from the State Government, recommended the adoption of some measures for the encouragement of this very important industry. In his evidence he said -
At the Agricultural Conference held at Cairns last month (May), the question of the effect of the Commonwealth Tariff upon the coffee industry was discussed. The three leading propositions for the development of the industry were -
An advance of1d. per lb. in the import duty, advocated by the representative from Buderim Mountain.
A bonus of1d. per lb. on the coffee produced, with the retention of the present duty of 3d. per lb. Proposed by the representative from Cairns.
An advance of 2d. per lb. in the import duty. Advocated by the representative from Mackay.
Cairns, Mackay, and Buderim Mountain are the three chief coffee centres in the State. All the coffee men at the Conference contended strongly that any lowering of the duty would be absolutely fatal to the industry, in view of the competition experienced with other countries, as instanced by the 6s. 8d. per day paid for labour in Queensland, against the 4d. per day paid in other coffee countries. After a full discussion upon the above three propositions, it was finally unanimously resolved that the Conference was of opinion that the coffee industry required a penny per pound further protection to cause its development. Although there was a falling off in the amount of coffee produced in 1903, as compared with 1902, this was caused by a frost at the end of the 1902 season, which played such havoc with the trees as to seriously reduce the 1903 returns. In spite of this decrease in yield, the area under coffee in 1903 shows an increase on the 1902 figures. Expert evidence quoted at the Conference showed that Queensland coffee is at present better in point of flavour, aroma, and liquoring quality than the average coffees of Central America, Brazil, &c, which are the kinds mostly imported into Australia, and equal to the finest coffees of the East Indies, Ceylon, and Java in everything except liquoring quality.
I need not occupy the time of honorable members in traversing the whole of the report. Personally, I am not in favour of increasing the import duty upon coffee. To my mind, an impost of 3d. per lb. is quite sufficient. If we are to give any assistance to the industry, I believe that it should be through the medium of a bounty.
– That is rather a peculiar statement for the Chairman of the Tariff Commission to make.
– In view of the present high duty of 3d. per lb. upon coffee, I think that it is preferable to offer a bounty to encourage the production of that article, especially as tea, which is at presentupon the free list, is a strong competitor with coffee, and has to a large extent assisted to diminish its consumption. Therefore, I regard the payment of the bounty as the most reasonable proposition, and I think that honorable members ought to give fair consideration to proposals of this kind, which have been placedbefore the Federal authorities in a business-like way, and which have been backed up by the Government and the Agricultural Department of Queensland, and by evidence which entitles them to favorable attention.
– I do not intend to support this item. At the present time the duty levied upon coffee is equal to about 50 per cent. of the Brazilian price of that article. The cultivation of coffee has been carried on in Australia for some years, and I fail to see what further claim for consideration the industry has upon us. A point worthy of special consideration is that coffee planters in Australia would have to compete with an enormous over-supply in the world’s markets. In October last I heard Mr. Staniforth Smith, who has, perhaps, a wider knowledge of the plantations in Java and the Malay States than has any member of the Federal Parliament, deliver a most interesting speech on this subject in the Senate. Mr. Smith visited the Straits Settlements and Java when qualifying for a position to which he was subsequently appointed - that of Ministerial head of the Department of Agriculture in Papua - and, as the result of his own practical observation, he said, on theoccasion in question -
I cannot understand why the Government propose to spend?4,000 annually for eight years upon the production of coffee. In my opinion the?32,000 involved in the proposal will be absolutely wasted. At the present time coffee is practically a drug in the market. It scarcely pays to grow it in Java and the Federated Malay States, where the best plantation labour - that is Tamil labour - can be procured for 6d. a day. The reason is that the enormous production of coffee in Brazil has rendered its cultivation elsewhere almost unprofitable.
Senator Pearce. And in Brazil, the Government prevent new plantations from being established.
The Government of Brazil some years ago issued a proclamation prohibiting the laying down of new coffee plantations, on the ground that the world’s market was already over-supplied. Mr. Staniforth Smith went on to say -
At one time the cultivation of coffee was the most profitable industry carried on in the Malay States. To-day, however -
This is the point to which I desire to draw special attention - thousands of acres of magnificent coffee trees are passing out of cultivation, . simply because it does not pay to pick the berries. In Java there are 65,000 acres of coffee under cultivation. There, however, it is largely grown by forced labour, under a system which was initiated by General Van denBosch in 1832. . The natives living in the Preanger regencies are each forced by the Government to cultivate fifty trees, to pick the berries, and to handthem over to the Government.
It is equivalent to the hut tax imposed on the natives in South Africa, and I think that a similar regulation is in operation in Fiji. I wish honorable members to recognise that we are attempting to establish a national industry in respect of a product which is already a drug in the world’s market. The Government of Brazil, where 75 per cent. of the world’s supply of coffee is grown, has issued a proclamation prohibiting the forming of new plantations, and in the’ Malay States, which are: in our immediate neighbourhood, thousands of acres of coffee plants are being uprooted. Mr. Staniforth Smith went on to say that -
For these beans they receive 2¼d. per lb. . . I am inclined to think that the price which would be realized would be nearer 4d. or 5d. per lb. The two chief kinds of coffee are the Arabian and Liberian.
He then proceeded to show chat, whilst the Arabian berry is an excellent one, the Liberian is very inferior, and that the Government were proposing to grant the same bounty in respect of both the valuable and the practically worthless commodity. Dr. Willis, Director of Agriculture in Ceylon, who visited the Malay States for the purpose of inquiring into this industry, reported that -
Although now depressed, this was formerly the chief agricultural industry of the country, as far as estate agriculture and export trade were concerned.
Over production in Brazil, with consequent low prices, which affected the Liberian coffee grown in the Peninsula even more than the Arabian coffee of other countries, have rendered coffee cultivation almost unremunerative.
With labour at 6d. per day, the industry in the Malay States is unremunerative. Dr. Willis’ report continues -
A few well managed estates in good soil in the coastal districts can still make coffee pay its way, but practically all the older and the native coffee plantations are now represented by lalang wastes, while the younger ones, and most of the European plantations, are planted up with Para rubber, or at times with cocoanuts. It seems a pity to see such magnificent coffee bushes as may be found on many estates in the Klang district choked out by rubber, but of course it is inevitable under the circumstances.
This report was quoted by Mr. Staniforth Smith, who had had practical experience.
– Did he have practical experience?
– He saw for himself that magnificent plantations, extending over thousands of acres, were being allowed to go to waste.
– Would the honorable member describe that’ as practical experience ?
– Mr. Smith knows more about the industry than the Government experts do.
– The Government of the Commonwealth considered him such an expert in these matters - and properly so - that they appointed him to a very important position in Papua. That appointment, I am sure, was made with the full approval of a considerable majority of the Parliament, and Mr. Smith is now engaged in developing these industries in Papua. He has taken there large quantities of the coffee berry, and is engaged in planting them.
– Although he said last year that it was absurd to think of growing coffee here.
– The point is that in Papua indented labour is available at a cost of£3 per annum per man. I think that Mr. Staniforth Smith has taken up a very proper position. Surely the honorable member for Cook does not desire to have established in Australia industries in which it is impossible to pay reasonable wages.
– The Opposition do not want to establish any industry in Australia.
– The honorable member is wrong. There are honorable members of the Opposition who have had to light hostile constituencies on this very question of white labour. The position taken up by Mr. Staniforth Smith is that the growth of these products in Australia would not be profitable, having regard to the rates of wages which the Federal Parliament, desire, and in some cases, require to be paid. Miners in Papua are indenting their black labour - I was going to say black slaves - and paying the magnificent sum of 10s. per month per man. From that amount fines are deducted from time to time, and, in passing, I may say that I hope that during this session that question will be thoroughly inquired into. Evidence given before the Commission which recently inquired into the administration of Papua shows that one of the chief reasons why the cultivation of coffee there is advocated is that native labour is obtainable at£3 per annum per man. If the desire is merely to create an industry that will be able to supply local requirements, this item is unworthy of consideration. If, on the other hand, we are to build up a great national industry, we must be prepared to face competition in the markets of the world. Is it possible for us to employ men at 6s. or 7s. per day in an industry of this kind, when in the Malay Archipelago the rates of pay are only 6d. per day ? How can we. hope to compete in such circumstances in the open markets of the world? These are facts which honorable members should inquire into for themselves. I am satisfied that no honorable member would be prepared to put any of his own money into a business in connexion with which such a report as that of the experts how before us was issued as a prospectus. I have as much interest in the agricultural industry of Australia as has any honorable member, but I do not believe that we shall be able to establish industries of this kind. I do not consider that this system of spoonfeeding is calculated to create great national industries.
– That is the honorable member’s real objection to this proposal. His other statements are mere padding.
– That is a mere assertion. I am sure the honorable member would not be prepared to put a shilling of his own into the industry. Very few of those who support this item are prepared to back up their opinion with their own dollars. I quite agree with the honorable member who immediately preceded me that, generally speaking, the farmer can be allowed to proceed as he thinks best. He knows what pays him best. Coffee-raising has been tried for many years in Queensland, and I am sure we are all pleased to hear that the coffee produced there is excellent. Do honorable members believe that if there was a reasonable prospect of a profitable industry being established there, people would not be ready to embark upon it when we have a protective duty equal to 50 per cent. to en courage them ? I claim that the Federal Parliament has already given substantial assistance to the industry. In Brazil the price of raw coffee is not more than 6d. per lb. I think that the price of the ordinary coffee of commerce is about 4¾d. per lb. There is a duty of 3d. per lb. on raw coffee beans, and of5d. per lb. on roasted or ground coffee. The great argument in favour of duties such as these is not that they give revenue, but that they assist the producer, and give him an advantage as against the imported article, until the industry becomes established, and commands at least the local market. We are told that Australia is admirably suited for the cultivation of coffee, and I believe that the coffee produced here is exceedingly good. That being the case, surely duties ranging from 50 per cent. to 65 per cent. ought to be sufficient inducement to people to engage in the industry. But if we impose high protective duties on an article, which, if not a necessary of life, is, at least, an ordinary article of diet, we have a right to expect that the industry will be able to win its way without the assistance of a bounty. Are we tocarry on a doublebarrelled system of first levying what is considered to be a sufficient duty, and then adding a bounty? In a few weeks hence, when the Tariff is before us, we may be asked to increase the duty. If a majority of honorable members are in favour of protection, let them impose what they regard as a fair and reasonable duty, so that we may know exactly where we stand.
– I think the honorable member is wrong in saying that the duties range from 50 to 65 per cent., seeing that the price is9d. per lb. wholesale.
– Surely the honorable member does not intend to take the price, plus the duty, and regard the total as the duty ?
– I am speaking of the invoice price of coffee landed in Australia.
– The price of coffee in Brazil is certainly not more than5d. per lb., and, as the freight is not excessive, I think I am quite safe in calculating the duty as I have done. No doubt Arabian coffee is sold at a higher price, but the Brazilian coffee represents 75 per cent. of the world’s production. Under all the circumstances, the industry ought to be able to exist without a bonus. Only some eight months ago, Mr. Staniforth Smith, then a member of the Senate, who had just re- turned from the Islands, stated in his place in Parliament that, from his own personal observation, he knew that thousands of acres of coffee plantations were going to decay, and that the cultivation of more profitable products was being undertaken, though the current rate of labour was 6d. per day. Under the circumstances, I see no hope of establishing a national industry able to compete in the markets of the world against the product of cheap labour.
.- I differ greatly from some honorable members who have spoken, in that I think we have a right to find employment for women exactly as we have for men. While I hold that the best place for women is the home, that is not the only place for them. A woman has as much right, if she chooses, to earn her living away from home, as a man has ; and I should not refuse to grant a bounty merely because it found employment for women. If it is possible to produce coffee in Australia, it would doubtless be a good thing for the country ; but I understand that, at the present time, there is a duty of 3d. per lb. I. do not know whether that duty was imposed for revenue or for protective purposes; but if merely for protective purposes, it would not appear to have done much good, ‘because the overwhelming bulk of the coffee we use is still imported. That fact shows either that it is impossible to grow coffee in Australia, or that the duty is not sufficiently high. I am prepared to vote for a bounty of id. per lb. on coffee, or to go further, and give a bounty of 6d. per lb., if the Government, when it introduces the Tariff, will remove the duty of 3d. per lb.
– The honorable member has no hope !
– At any rate, if I have health and strength, I can always hope to be here to vote. I am not in favour of any taxation which is merely revenue-producing through the Customs. If it is possible to produce coffee in Australia, it would be unfair to make the burden fall only on the people who drink coffee; all the people of Australia ought to pay equally towards the cost of establishing this industry. I take it that protectionists think that the duty will create a great national asset, find employment for the people by creating a great and mighty industry - and a lot of other things. _ If that be the end in view, then all Australia should contribute, and, with that view, I make the offer I have to the
Government. I listened with great pleasure and interest to the speech of the honorable and learned member for Bendigo. That gentleman, not as the honorable and learned member for Bendigo merely, but as the Chairman, of the Tariff Commission, made what is certainly a very strong statement, when he said that he is not in favour of any further duty on coffee. We may now take it for granted that, so far as coffee is concerned, the Chairman of the Tariff Commission has reported against any increase in the duty.
– Would the honorable member have me tongue-tied?
– The speech of the honorable and learned member is a strong argument for the contention that we ought tohave had the Tariff submitted before this; Bill was introduced.
– Did I not say that ?
– If so, the honorable-, and learned member said what was right.. I think it is very hard, not only for thehonorable and learned member, but for every other member of the Tariff Commission, to have to practically keep quiet whilst this Bounties Bill is being discussed, in case they may say anything which would’ reveal the contents of their report. Wemay take it for granted that if the highprotectionist Chairman of the Tariff Commission takes that stand, the freetrademembers will not be in favour of any increased duty. I do not say that that conclusion necessarily follows, but it is a fair and legitimate inference; and it seems tome that any one who deals in coffee ina wholesale way is in a position to concludethat the Tariff Commission will report against any increase in the duty. There isscarcely any one in the House better qualified to speak on Customs questions than theChairman. of the Tariff Commission.
– Why should his mouth beshut ?
– Why, indeed? But the honorable and learned member’s mouthmust, in honour, be shut until the Tariff issubmitted. That remark applies, not only to the honorable and learned member for Bendigo, but also to the honorable and’ learned member for Illawarra, and’ the honorable member for Perth, whom honorable members would be very glad’ to hear, especially on questions whichthey considered as members of theTariff Commission. The Committee is always glad to listen to men who have madecertain subjects their special study, and the- members of the Tariff Commission devoted nearly three years of hard and laborious work to ascertaining the effect of the Tariff upon our industries. But now that the Bounties Bill is before us, they are practically forced to be silent for fear of making public information in regard to suggested Tariff changes. I think that the Bill should not be further proceeded with until the Tariff has been introduced; but the responsibility for what is being done lies with the- Government.
– I shall vote for the proposed bounty on one condition, and that is that the Government will undertake to propose the removal of the duty of 3d. per lb. on imported coffee. Ministers have put the cart before the horse in bringing forward this Bill before they are ready to introduce their Tariff proposals. The coffee industry is certainly one which should receive attention. According to the report of the conference of agricultural experts, the cultivation of coffee gives a profit of £10 an acre, which, as those who know anything about agriculture are aware, is a good return. The man who grows vines does not make more than that. But the industry should be encouraged only on the terms referred to by the honorable member for Barrier, that is to say, in lieu of duty. The cultivation of coffee entails work similar to that entailed by the cultivation of tobacco. The tedious planting, transplanting, and weeding, which is necessary, is really Chinamen’s work. Men cannot be paid to do’ it. and therefore it will be necessary to employ women and children, such as in the cities are employed in factories, where their sweating conditions create sympathy in the hearts of honorable members. This is one of the few industries which might well be encouraged by means of a bounty ; but if a bounty is given there should not be a duty on imported coffee.
Mr. FULLER (Illawarra.) [8.50J.- The honorable and learned member for Bendigo unintentionally misled the Committee by the quotations which he made from the evidence given by the, Queensland UnderSec.retary for Agriculture and Stock when examined by the Tariff Commission in Brisbane in June, 1905. I feel sure that his quotations created in the minds of honorable members the opinion that the Under-Secretary -favoured the giving of a bounty for the production of coffee. That he did- not do so is shown by his answer to question 29711. Ex-Senator Higgs asked him -
Do you favour the view put forward by Mr. Warren that there should be a bonus? ‘
To which he replied -
No. I do not like bonuses at all.
The Under-Secretary was specially instructed to appear before the Commission as an authority on coffee-growing in Queensland, and is probably better acquainted with the subject than any other man in the Commonwealth.
– Did he suggest that any encouragement should be given to the industry ?
– He put before the Commission the proposals which had been advanced from three agricultural centres in Queensland, in each case favouring a duty, and in one case suggesting a bounty of id. per lb.
– The honorable member would not injure an industry because of one man’s evidence?
– I quoted the UnderSecretary’s evidence because the quotations of the honorable member for Bendigo made it appear that he favoured the giving of a bounty.
– I quoted the passage in the report in which the opinion is expressed that the industry needs further protection to the extent of id. per lb., and I said that I am not in favour of granting such protection, though I am willing to vote for a bounty.
– The honorable member for Barrier thereupon checked the honorable and learned member, because he was making public the views of the Tariff Commissioners. I shall not give away the position of the free-trade members of the Commission in regard to coffee. The honorable member for Cowper says that there are already so many State Departments of Agriculture that a Commonwealth Agricultural Bureau is not needed. I differ from him, because I firmly believe thai such an institution would greatly assist our primary producers. The Under-Secretary whose evidence I have quoted shows that the Queensland Government has already done a good deal for the coffee industry. In answer to a question by ex-Senator Higgs - question 29754 - he said -
The teaching of the Instructor in Tropical Agriculture has altered a good many things in connexion with coffee-growing in Queensland.
This is an answer to those who say that departmental experts merely sit in their offices, and are incapable of giving practical advice to the farmers. Good work has been done by the State Departments of Agriculture, and the Commonwealth would still further assist our primary producers if it gave them expert instruction and information. It would be better to do that than to grant bounties. A strong objection to the present proposal is that any coffee we might produce would have to compete with the product of cheap labour in other parts of the world. The experts who considered this proposal in conference have pointed out that in Brazil the coffee-plantations have been torn up. Similar evidence was tendered to the Tariff Commission by the agricultural expert of Queensland. When we consider that the industry is one which lends itself chiefly to the employment of women and children, surely it is evident that we ought not to go out of our way to establish it in our midst. It has been further pointed out by the State experts that the prospects of coffee cultivation in Queensland are not encouraging. It is perfectly true that some farmers who are engaged in the industry there have been fairly successful. A few are doing fairly well, more particularly those who are settled upon small holdings. But there is nothing in the report of the State experts to warrant me in supporting the Government proposal. In any circumstances, the amount which it is proposed to appropriate for the development of the industry is altogether inadequate, and a similar remark is applicable to most of the items contained in the schedule. I trust that the item will be eliminated.
.- Nobody can take exception to the reasoning of the honorable and learned member for Illawarra. He has been consistent in his opposition, both to the imposition of protective duties, and to the payment of bounties for the encouragement of new industries. He certainly dwelt more fairly upon the conditions which obtain in regard to coffee culture than did any other honorable member who has debated the question from that stand-point. While the coffee industry has been described as one in which women and children will be chiefly employed, it must not be forgotten that their employment will be limited to the picking of the coffee when it has matured.
– Is the honorable member “ stone- walling “ this proposal?
– I do not intend to discuss the general question of whether or not the employment of women and children in this industry should be encouraged. But if any logical objection can be urged to their employment in it, that objection may with equal force be applied to their employment in picking fruit.
– Is it the rule for women to pick fruit in Australia?
– In many instances, they are employed for that purpose.
– Not very many.
– I would not prevent women from being employed in the University, or from engaging in any occupation in which they can better their condition in life. There are instances upon record in which the Legislature has interfered to protect women - notably in connexion with their employment in coal mines - but attempts have also been made to prevent them from attaining to well-remunerated positions in life. The coffee industry at best must necessarily be of a subsidiary character, and consequently, honorable members need not worry themselves about the smallness of the bounty which it is proposed to devote to its development.
Question- That the item “ coffee “ proposed to be left out stand part of the schedule - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 18
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment negatived; item agreed to.
Tobacco leaf, high grade, of a quality to be prescribed, 5 years, 2d. per lb,£4,000.
.- From the division which has just taken place it is evident that we cannot place too much reliance upon the declaration made by certain honorable members that when the schedule of the Bill was under consideration, they would assist in excising several of the items, and confining the schedule to two or three special lines of production likely to become permanent. Therefore, it seems that in endeavouring to save the taxpayers’ money, we are simply beating the air. Nevertheless, it is the duty of honorable members on this side of the House to endeavour to safeguard the interests of the people, and to see that this money is not expended without justification or without an equivalent being obtained for it. None of the items already dealt with comply with either of these requirements. All involve an expenditure of public money amounting to an absolute gift, that will add only to the private gains of the individuals concerned in these various lines of production. Notwithstanding the discouraging results of the last division, I intend to persist in my efforts to secure the omission of some of these indefensible items, and perhaps one ofthe least justifiable in the schedule is that relating to tobacco. As honorable members are aware, we already have a heavy duty on imported tobacco leaf as well as on manufactured tobacco. We have an import duty of 3s. 3d. per lb. on the manufactured leaf entering Australia, with an Excise duty of1s. per lb., whilst on imported leaf entered to be locally manufactured into tobacco there is an import duty of1s. 6d. per lb. These should have had the effect - if any encouragement of the kind would be effective - of inducing the production of the highest grade tobacco leaf in Australia. But notwithstanding the inducements offered by these heavy duties, we find that the production of tobacco, instead of progressing, has receded. Whereas in 1888 there was a production of 7,868,112 lbs., in 1906 - after heavy protective duties had prevailed for eighteen years - the pro duction had fallen to 1,387,500 lbs., a decrease of 6,480,612 lbs. I do not know the reason for this falling off, but we have the significant fact that, notwithstanding the existence of heavy duties, the industry, instead of being encouraged, has been unable to thrive. There were fluctuations during two or three intervening years, but generally the tendency since 1888 has been a declining one. In view of these figures, and the fact that these heavy duties should have given a great impetus to local production, I fail to see why we should be asked now to still further bolster up this industry by means of a bounty. It is well known that Australian tobacco is a low-grade production. Notwithstanding the heavy duties we are unable to grow a leaf anything like equal to the imported Cuban leaf. If the duties were double their present rate, I am perfectly satisfied that the Cuban leaf would still have to be imported. I was speaking the other day to a leading manufacturer of cigars, who told me that if he could secure an Australian-grown leaf of proper quality he would naturally prefer, as a protectionist, to use it. He explained that, as a matter of fact, we could not grow the best class of tobacco in Australia.
– Was he referring to tobacco leaf for cigar-making?
– He was. I was being shown over his factory at the time, and he was explaining to me the various processes of manufacture. He informed me that the Australian public demanded the imported leaf. It is evident that the Australian production must be inferior, since Cuban tobacco realizes1s. 9d. per lb. in the open markets of the world, whereas the Australian-grown article is worth only from 4d. to 6d. per lb.
– Where does the honorable member get his authority for that statement?
– I would refer the honorable and learned gentleman to the first four paragraphs of the report of the Conference on tobacco.
– The honorable member is referring to the lower grade leaf?
– We cannot grow the higher grade leaf, at least so I am given to understand by men in the business.
– I shall show thehonorable member that we can.
– The honorable and learned gentleman will, perhaps, be able to correct me, but I am putting before the
Committee the information supplied to me by those particularly interested in the manufacture of tobacco. I do not pretend to be an authority, because I have long since given up indulging in the weed. At page 31 of the report of the experts we have the statement that -
Industrial conditions in the Commonwealth seem lo indicate the wisdom of encouraging the production of the various raw materials in their most valuable form. Some of the best qualities of leaf have a value as high as 5s. per lb., while over twenty years ago some Northern Territory tobacco sold by auction at Hamburg at the rate of 2s. 1 id. per lb. Against this we have the fact that the tobacco at present being produced in the Commonwealth has a merchantable value of only about 4d. to 6d. per lb.
In the absence of any explanation, honorable members will be puzzled to know why, if tobacco grown in the Northern Territory twenty years ago sold at 2s. nd. per lb. on the continental markets, no attempt has been made to persevere in the production. Surely it would pay’ far better to cultivate a leaf that would realize 2’s. nd. per lb. than to produce that for which only from 4d. to 6d. per lb. can be obtained. It seems, however, that for some unexplained reason the production of the higher grade tobacco was not proceeded with. This could not have been due to the need for a bounty, because the price obtained was much higher than that now ruling.
– Perhaps if that tobacco had been sold in Australia it would have brought only 4d. or 6d. per lb.
– I do not think so, having regard to the fact that it realized 2s. 1 id. per lb. in the open market. Notwithstanding that there is a duty of 3s. 3d. per lb. on manufactured tobacco entering the Commonwealth, the imports of manufactured tobacco for 1905 were of the value of ^175,000, whilst the imports of unmanufactured tobacco during the same year were of the value of ^203,000. I am perfectly sure that prejudice against the local article is not the explanation for these large importations. They must be due to the fact that the imported tobacco is of better quality, and a far more ‘marketable commodity with the Australian public than is the locally-grown tobacco. The report of the experts proceeds -
As tobacco can successfully be produced in all the States, there should be no justification for these large importations, which are made in the face of a heavy Customs impost.
The following fact is of interest : - In 1902 Cuba exported 29,800,000 lbs. of tobacco, worth 12^ million dollars, or an average of is. 9d. per lb. This is the kind of tobacco Australia wants to grow.
The Conference, therefore, recommends that a bonus of 2d. per lb. be given for the production of tobacco bringing 10d. per lb. and upwards.
Why is this grade of tobacco not produced at the present time? If we have the soil and climate necessary for the production of a high-grade tobacco, it is strange that after many years of State coddling by means of heavy Customs imposts, we do not produce such an article at the present time. The answer apparently is that it cannot be produced, and I do not believe that it could be produced if the bounty were made ten times larger. From what I can gather from scientific experts, it is the absence of certain natural properties in the soil of Australia that is the cause of the trouble; but for this we should have had the highest grade tobacco produced here long before now. I move -
That the words “ Tobacco leaf, high grade,’r be left out.
– I rise to a point of order. The proposition made by the honorable member for Lang is a direct negative; to negative the item would have the same effect as that desired by the honorable member. Do I understand, Mr. Chairman, that you accept such a motion ?
The ACTING CHAIRMAN (Mr.
Batchelor). - The course adopted right through the discussion of the schedule, and allowed by the Chairman, has been to accept motions in precisely the same form as that of the motion submitted by the honorable member for Lang; and I do not propose now to make any alteration.
– Is it intended that the precedent should be established to be applied for all time that an honorable member may move a direct negative?
The ACTING CHAIRMAN.- I am not concerned about a precedent for all time, but, so far as the discussion on this schedule is Concerned, I propose to accept the motion in the form proposed.
– I remind the honorable member for Robertson that I have moved the excision of the words in the first column.
– Does the Chairman give a ruling that this motion is in order ?
The ACTING CHAIRMAN.- Does the honorable member propose to dissent from the ruling? I have already decided that the motion is in order.
– I Have no intention to dissent from the ruling. I merely asked what the ruling was.
.- I ask the Committee to retain this item. The object of the Conference, in recommending the item, was to encourage the cultivation of higher grade tobaccos, and the report points out that in their opinion higher grade tobacco is that which bears a valuation of lod. and upwards per lb. in the market. Mr. Nevill, the Queensland tobacco expert, who gave evidence before a Royal Commission in Queensland, and is admittedly an authority on tobacco culture, gave practically the same definition, namely, that pipe tobacco which reached 9d. per lb., and cigar tobacco which reached 10d. per lb., should be considered higher grade tobaccos.
– Did he suggest a bonus?
– I am dealing now only with the definition of high grade tobacco.
– He made another proposition.
– I know what proposals he has made.
– Why not adhere to them?
– I am adhering to the recommendations of the Conference of experts, who, I think, are right in desiring to encourage the cultivation of higher grade tobaccos. I do not know what other recommendations Mr. Nevill made in regard to the higher grade tobaccos or cigar leaf, but I have the statement made by him that in Australia higher grade tobaccos can be produced. Mr. Nevill says - «
Cigar Leaf. - There is now a demand for a limited amount of cigar tobacco at satisfactory prices, and farmers in the coastal districts are inclined to go in for growing this character of tobacco, and some thirty or forty acres will probably be planted the coming year, divided between the Coomera and the Cardwell districts, with a small lot at Bowen. For the small experimental lots grown this year very satisfactory prices were obtained. The samples have elicited most favorable comments from the purchaser, with the opinion that an’ export demand can be created. Should this be so, the demand for these tobaccos will become a large one. I believe it is true that some of the samples show considerable merit, which will be greatly improved as the growers become more expert in the growing and handling. These tobaccos should prove very profitable, as in the country north of Bowen two crops per year can be grown, and should yield a ton to the acre - say, 12 cwt. for the first crop and S cwt. for the second one. At 7id. per lb. this would yield ^70 per acre.
This crop can thus be n.ade a very profitable one to small farmers with growing families, as children of either sex, from 12 to 16 years of age, can be employed to great advantage. I consider the outlook for the future of the tobacco industry in this State as most promising, and if farmers can be induced to take the necessary care both in cultivation and handling, we will gradually displace much of the imported article. Thorough cultivation is very necessary in this crop.
We have thus undoubted evidence that the higher grade tobaccos can be grown in Australia. And then Mr. Howard Newport, Queensland Instructor in Tropical Agriculture, is thus reported in the Queensland official records -
Tobacco. - The culture of tobacco is beginning to receive some, though spasmodic, attention. The seasons in the north have been favorable, and it has been shown beyond doubt that a good and valuable quality of cigar leaf can be grown. The experiments at the Kamerunga State Nursery would indicate that with due care the trouble that decimated the crops when an effort was made to grow tobacco some fifteen years agoblue mould - may be avoided, and that there are certain varieties of cigar-leaf tobaccos that would seem especially suited to this district.
I think that the honorable member for Lang, after hearing these extracts, will admit that the very highest quality of cigarleaf can be produced in Queensland. I know that tobacco is grown in parts of Victoria and parts of New South Wales ; what is the extent of the cultivation of the higher grades, I am not prepared to state.
– Can the Minister tell us what proportion the high-grade tobaccos now produced in Australia bear to the whole?
– The information I have is that there is not much of the higher grade tobaccos produced at present; and the experts of Queensland are endeavouring to induce the growers to take up the cultivation of the better classes, with the prospect, if they do so, of reaping considerable advantage. It is with a view of encouraging the cultivation of cigar leaf that the bounty is offered; it is not for tobacco generally, which may or may not be sufficiently protected by the existing duty ; that is another question.
– The extracts read by the Minister were not made available for honorable members.
– I am making them available now. Mr. Nevill is an exceedingly competent man, who is enthusiastic in his work; and he is an illustration of the advantage of employing scientific men to assist the cultivators.
– No doubt the Queensland Department of Agriculture is a very fine institution.
– It has done exceedingly good work, and the legislators concerned in its initiation have deserved well of the State; Queensland is particularly fortunate in her experts.
– I wish we could have such a Department for the Commonwealth.
– I hope the day is not far distant when we shall, though I think we shall never supersede the work which the States are doing. If the valuable information collected by the experts in Queensland or New South Wales could be spread abroad by means of a Federal bulletin, good educational work would be done; and I hope it may npt be long before we see such a result. In view of the fact that the Queensland Department of Agriculture is making these efforts, I ask the House to stand by this item, and to exercise those powers which are exclusively those of the Commonwealth in regard to the granting of bounties.
.- When the information before the Committee is analyzed, honorable members will not be so ready to take the step which the AttorneyGeneral asks them to take. In the first place, this is a proposal to encourage the cultivation of tobacco “ of a quality to be prescribed.” I am ready to accept the Ministerial assurance that the prescription of the Customs Department will mean something like 10¼d. per lb. for a highgrade tobacco.
– That is the intention.
– I am willing to accept that assurance, and to waste no more time
On that particular point. Now in the evidence before us from the Conference of experts we find that the production of tobacco in Australia in 1904 was nearly 1,500,000 lbs. ; that in 1905 it was over 2,000,000 lbs., while in 1906 it was again nearly 1,500,000 lbs. The average production of the last three years has been Something over 1,500,000 lbs. per annum, though the slight falling off in the last year may be owing to the seasons or some other cause of the kind. Bearing in view the production, and the fact that the proposed bounty is 2d. per lb., we find that no less than £12,500 per annum would be absorbed, while we propose to grant only £4,000 a year, or less than one-third required for the annual production, if all were of high grade. It is only for what the AttorneyGeneral is pleased to call high-grade tobacco that we are asked to provide a bounty; but when I asked the Minister what was the proportion of the high-grade tobacco to the whole production of Australia, he could not tell me. The figures I have put before honorable members clearly show that if even only one-third of the tobacco annually grown in Australia at the present time were of high quality, every penny we are now providing as a bounty to encourage new industries, would be paid to people who are already established and conducting their business without any anticipation of Government assistance. That is a point the Minister must answer before he asks the Committee to pass the item. I take it that this is really a bounty to the Tobacco Trust - neither more nor less. There is a duty of is. 6d. per lb. on al! tobacco entered to be manufactured in the Commonwealth, and the imports for 1905 of unmanufactured tobacco were, according to the report, of the value of ,£203,000. Is it not to be supposed that the Tobacco Trust will encourage the local production of leaf of the quality it requires, in order to avoid the payment of duty on imported leaf?
– Does the honorable member object to the Tobacco Trust ?
– Not so long as it conducts its business properly and without detriment to trade. That is not the point. I am not here to defend the Trust, but I know that of late years it has imported two high-salaried experts from America to teach our farmers to grow high-grade tobacco. Hitherto they have grown a heavyweight tobacco instead of the stalkless kind that is in demand.
– There has been too much saltpetre in the Australian tobacco.
– Yes. It has been grown
– The States have already organized Agricultural Departments.
– The State of Queensland has given to its farmers special instruction in the growing of tobacco.
– Tobacco is grown in New South Wales as well as in Queensland. Excellent leaf could be produced at Tumut, if the farmers there understood its cultivation. The ‘Committee should vote against the item, unless more information in support of the proposal is forthcoming. The report tells us nothing except that three times the ‘amount of the bounty could be mopped up by the present growers of tobacco.
.- It seems to me that the measure should be in charge of a Minister such as the Minister of Trade and Customs, who might be supposed to have the necessary technical knowledge and the close acquaintance with Customs rates which is required for the guidance of the Committee. The Bill, however, is in the hands of the Attorney-General, who seems to depend chiefly upon his ability as a special pleader to induce the Committee to accept the proposals of the Government. To my mind, he knows as little about tobacco-growing as I do, and, although a votary of “ My Lady Nicotine,” I am absolutely ignorant in regard to the cultivation of the plant. The honorable member for Wentworth has pointed out that an import duty of is. 6d. per lb. has not hitherto proved effective to encourage the local production of tobacco, and therefore it is not to be expected that a bounty of 2d. per lb. will do what is aimed at. During the elections the candidates belonging to a very important party announced themselves to be opposed to the establishment of monopolies, and prepared to nationalize those that already exist. But these bounties, if successful, will breed monopolies, which, according to the members of the Labour Party, must be put down by legislation. Thus they are assisting to create what they decry. But the Tobacco Trust is too powerful to need assistance from any Legislature. The growing of tobacco has been spoken of as a tropical industry ; but four of the proposals which were before the Committee this afternoon which were called tropical might now well be called “dropical,” because the Attorney-General was soon forced to drop them. Then in a bland, quiet, and courteous manner he deplored the fact that the protectionists were not coming to his assistance, with the result that ever since he has had a ‘most robust following, and has carried every item. It is useless to try to show the weakness of these proposals when the Government can whip up its supporters in this way. The AttorneyGeneral is not armed with any technical information to support his special pleading on behalf of this proposal. Hitherto in Australia tobacco has been grown on soil which is too rich for the production of good leaf, and the saltpetre in the leaf has made it unmarketable. I deplore the fact that the Bill has been introduced before the bringing down of the Tariff proposals. This action on the part of the Government has had the effect of disfranchising the constituents of those members of the Committee who aTe members of the Tariff Commission, because they are unable to speak on the proposals now before us, lest they should make public the conclusions arrived at by the Commission. Under the circumstances it would be the right thing to move, as a protest against the action of the Government, that progress be reported ; but as> Ministers have the numbers behind them, that course would be useless. The proposal before us, if agreed to, will result in the paying away, within a period of five years, of £20,000 of the taxpayers’ money. I would like to see that amount added to the amount which has already been saved upon other items. We should then have a total sum of ,£137,000 which might profitably be expended in granting a bounty to the iron and ship-building industries.
– I scarcely know whether or not I ought to vote for this item. I am anxious to encourage the tobacco industry, but I hardly think that that object will be achieved by the adoption of the Government proposal. If honorable members will look at the schedule they will see that the bounty is to be payable only upon leaf of high grade, and of a quality to be prescribed. According to the report of the experts, standard tobacco would be worth rod. per lb. I “do not wish to encourage persons to embark upon this enterprise, to incur a huge expenditure, and to produce a leaf which may be worth only 9d. per lb. I have seen splendid tobacco grown in South Australia and at Tumut. The very finest article has been produced in both places, but because the growers are not acquainted with the proper method of curing the leaf, possibly it might not come up to the prescribed standard. As a result, they would have wasted both their time and their capital.
Upon the other hand, if we fix too low a standard we shall simply be making a present of the bounty to the Tobacco Combine. If honorable members will turn to the report they will see -
Some of the best qualities of leaf have a value as high as 5s. per lb., while over twenty years ago some Northern Territory tobacco sold by auction at Hamburg at the rate of 2s.11d. per lb. Against this we have the fact that the tobacco at present being produced in the Commonwealth has a merchantable value of only about 4d. to 6d. per lb.
Surely some of the tobacco produced in the Commonwealth must have been worth more than from 4d. to 6d. per lb., but if we fix the standard at 9d. or10d. per lb., there is no hope of our growers reaping any benefit whatever from the proposed bounty. I understand that the idea underlying the proposal to restrict the payment of the bounty to high-grade tobacco, is the encouragement of the cigar trade in Australia, and I do recognise that outside the Combine there are many cigarmakers. At the same time, I want to be sure that we are going to afford the growers an opportunity to earn this bounty. Unless the Attorney-General can show that they will have that opportunity, if tobacco be grown in suitable localities, I shall vote against the Government proposal, and shall favour the imposition of a higher duty upon that commodity.
.- I was surprised to hear the honorable member for Lang, and some other honorable members, declare that our soil and climate are unsuitable for the production of tobacco. I. can show them, to-morrow if need be, tobacco grown in Victoria which is quite equal to the imported article.
– Can it be smoked?
– It can be smoked, and it has been declared by experts to be equal in quality to any imported tobacco. Further, it is not in the hands of the Combine.
– What is it realizing per lb. ?
– It is worth about 8d. per lb.
– Then it will not be able to claim the bounty.
– No. As the schedule is. drawn, the bounty will not benefit the tobacco-grower. The Government proposal, if adopted, may result in the production of about 1 cwt. of picked leaf of the quality necessary to earn the bounty, but that is all. In exactly the same way we frequently read in thenews- papers that a particular individual has obtained from 2s. to 3s. per lb. for lamb’s wool. But when we look at the list of sales we find that only one or two specially selected bales have realized those high prices. What we want to insure is the production of a tobacco leaf of good quality, which will command a ready sale. If the present duty of1s. 6d. per lb. upon that article is not high enough, let us increase it, but do not let us offer a bounty for its production. One honorable member has said that our soil is unsuitable for tobacco culture because of the saltpetre which it contains. I would point out that in Manilla it is impossible to grow tobacco upon land which does not contain saltpetre. That is the difference between Manilla and Havanna tobaccos. There is no saltpetre in Havanna soils and consequently a purer leaf can be obtained there for cigarmaking. But cigars can be produced in Manilla which are equal in quality to 75 per cent. of those imported from Havanna. I visited Manilla some two and a half years ago when the present Secretary for War in the United States was the Governor there. He assured me that the cigars produced in Manilla were better than 75 per cent. of those obtainable in America. The mere presence of saltpetre in the soil does not prevent tobacco of a good marketable value being produced. But if the bounty is to be of any use to growers, we shall require to fix the standard price at 8d. per lb. Some honorable members have said that if we fix the standard too low we shall be making a present of the bounty to the combine. I need scarcely point out that, hitherto the combine has chiefly devoted its attention to imported tobaccos. I claim that we can grow tobacco in Australia equal to any that is imported. It is fit for smoking purposes, although I do not think it is suitable for cigar making.
– Are not cigars made out of a different variety of leaf?
– Yes. The industry merely requires to be granted assistance. To my mind it would be better for us to increase the duty upon tobacco than to offer a bounty to stimulate its production.
– The Attorney-General has stated that there is an Agricultural Bureau in Queensland which imparts special information to the producers in regard to the planting of tobacco. May I remind him that in several of the States similar bureaux are in existence. Years ago it was the custom in
New South Wales to distribute tobacco seed for experimental planting, to all those who chose to apply for it. No difficulty whatever is experienced in producing this commodity in several States. One honorable member has stated that the presence of saltpetre in our soil is not the cause of the failure of the industry. Whilst I entertain the greatest respect for his opinion, I may mention that that was the reason assigned for the great check which the industry sustained in New South Wales. The saltpetre affects the curing process, and causes the leaf to become damp, with the result that it commences to sweat. Consequently its market value is reduced. Some years ago in Tarcutta and Tumut, immense quantities of tobacco were produced, but the industry experienced a severe check, because of the difficulty encountered in curing the leaf. Under the Government proposal the bounty will be payable only upon leaf which will command 10d. per lb. No grower can depend upon realizing that price for his product, even though he may grow the very best leaf. Up till the very last day of baling the tobacco, he cannot be sure that the leaf will not be sweated, and consequently depreciate in value. Under such circumstances, no bounty would reach him as the result of his enterprise. If we are to grant a bounty, let us take care that it shall be given for the growth of the leaf itself. If a crop does not realize more than 6d. per lb., it is the misfortune of the grower, who has to contend with many difficulties. I am not prepared to say that the tobacco plant is a purely tropical one. As a matter of fact, it is grown all over Australia, and I have seen experimental plots of it in some of the cities of the Commonwealth. The industry is a very profitable one, provided that the growers are able to cure the leaf successfully. Reference has been made to a proposal to bring to Australia experts in the curing of tobacco, who would be able to impart technical instruction to the growers, and if we could grant some encouragement in that direction, much good would be done. The difficulty that the saltpetre in the leaf may cause the tobacco to sweat, and so depreciate its value, is a very serious one, and I think that we should not make any stipulation as to the quality of leaf in respect of which the bounty shall be paid. If a man takes all the steps essential to the successful production of a high-grade leaf, he should not be denied the bounty merely be cause he has the misfortune, owing to circumstances over which he has no control, to produce an inferior article. Let us give the grower every encouragement, so that if at the finish he is unable, owing to no fault of his own, to produce an article of firstclass quality, he may be induced to make still greater efforts to achieve success. At the present time, the Combine determines what shall be the price paid for the local leaf, and it is said that in the past the members of this Combine have been largely responsible for the non-success of the industry.
.- I do not intend to support the proposal. The discussion which has taken place upon it must have shown the Minister that the question is a complicated one. and that in dealing with it, we are entitled to have the assistance of those who, as members of the Tariff Commission, have given much time and attention to it. Those who desire to have the fullest information before them feel that itis unfair that we should be called upon to deal with this item at a. time when the mouths of the honorable and learned member for Illawarra, the honorable and learned member for Bendigo, and the honorable member for Perth, are closed.
– I heard the honorable and learned member for Bendigo speaking just now on this very item.
– I think that speech showed that the honorable and learned member felt that to a large extent his mouth was closed. I would ask the Minister to agree, either to progress being reported, or to the postponement of this item.
– Certainly not.
– It is all very well for the honorable gentleman to reply “ Certainly not,” but he ought to remember that the item we are now debating: is one of great magnitude, and has an important bearing on the question of revenue. We have been led to believe that very strong recommendations have been made by both sections of the Tariff Commission.
– How can the honorable member say that the mouths of the members of theCommission are closed if they have told him that? .
– I did not say that they had told me anything of the kind. There is no justification for the honorable gentleman’s remark. I appeal to the Minister to allow this important item to be postponed.
– Until when?
– This, of all the items in the schedule, is one that we should not be called upon to consider until we have the financial proposals of the Government and the whole question of Tariff reform before us.
– This will not affect the Tariff. It is a distinct proposal.’
– That statement shows the honorable member’s lack of information on the point.
– I do not lack information.
– I do not like to be called Upon to vote on this question until I have before me the best information that it is possible to secure in regard to it. I therefore strongly appeal to the Minister to agree to the further consideration of the item being postponed.’
– I cannot consent to the proposal that the item should be postponed. It stands entirely upon its own merits, and is designed to encourage the production of a high-grade tobacco leaf of a quality to be prescribed. I propose to deal with one or two points that have been raised by the honorable and learned member for Balaclava, and the honorable member for Hindmarsh, as to the quality of the tobacco in respect of which the bounty is to be paid. Although the Conference of experts recommended that the bounty should be paid only on tobacco leaf realizing not less than a certain price, named in the report, the Government recognised that prices frequently fluctuate ; that they depend largely upon varying conditions, and may be affected by manipulations of the market. In these circumstances, we considered it advisable to simply provide that the bounty “should be paid on high-grade tobacco leaf of a quality to be prescribed. This will insure the production of a better class of tobacco leaf than is now being grown. The class of leaf that we wish to encourage is that which is at present bringing about 9d. or 10d per lb. It would be impossible, however, to provide- in the Bill that the bounty shall be paid only in respect of such tobacco as is now bringing 9d. or rod. per lb. As was pointed out bv the honorable and’ learned member for Balaclava, as the result of operations on the market, tobacco leaf now bringing 10d per lb. might later on realize only 8d.
– If we fixed the price to be secured by leaf on which the bounty should be payable, the selling price would be fixed at about id. per lb. under it.
– We have left the quality to be determined by regulations to be prescribed on advice received. I think that it was the honorable member for Wentworth who inquired what was the price to be prescribed, and I replied that the bounty would be given on the production of leaf of the kind recommended in the report.
– If the Government cannot fix the price in the schedule itself, how can thev control the administration of the Bill?
– We shall be able to secure a definition of what is a high-grade tobacco. It will be open to us to have the leaf tested.
– Then why not state . in the ‘Bill itself the quality of the leaf on which the bounty will be paid ?
– That will be fixed by the regulations. We do not wish to insert in the Bill a provision in the form suggested by the Conference.
– Would it be necessary to inspect the leaf on plantations all over the Commonwealth ?
– The leaf is worked up in factories, and it would not be difficult to have it inspected there. I ask honorable members to pass the item in its present form.
– I do not intend, at this period of the evening, to add anything to the interesting debate that we have had in reference to tobacco growing. A great deal of tobacco is produced in my electorate, and I am naturally interested in the subject, but I have paired with the honorable member for Riverina, -and, therefore, cannot take part in the division on the item. I am somewhat awkwardly placed in that respect. Eight hours, however, constitutes a fair day’s work, and, as the atmosphere of the Chamber is exceedingly bad, I trust that the Government will consent to an adjournment.
– I desire to accord my hearty support to the item before the Committee. It is a highly desirable form in which to give a bounty ; that is to say, to give it for the production of high-grade tobacco. The difficulties connected with the production of a fine quality of leaf ave infinitely greater than those which apply to the growing of the common or garden varieties, of which we have plenty in Australia. The production of high-class tobacco is largely a matter of experiment and suitability of soil. . Such experiments are exceedingly costly. I have in my possession certain figures, which are not at the moment available, but which I should like to bring before the Committee. I do not know whether the Minister will consent to an adjournment. If not, I will simply state that I trust the item will be passed in its present form, as being likely to encourage the production of a desirable quality of leaf.
.- I do not propose to address myself to the subject again, but I desire to urge the Minister to accept the magnanimous offer of the honorable member for Indi, and to consent to an adjournment.
– Let us pass this item, and I will agree to an adjournment.
– I wish to inquire whether the quality of the tobacco is to be determined in the paddock, while it is growing, or after it is cured? If it is to be determined after curing, it appears to me that those who have taken the trouble to grow first-class leaf run the risk of not obtaining the bounty, because, as a rule, failure to produce a high-class smoking tobacco occurs in the curing.
– The grower cures for himself.
– If the question of paying the bounty is to be determined while the plant is standing, it will simply be a matter of ascertaining the quality of the leaf. But the commercial value referred to in the report before us is determined after curing. I should like the Minister to make it clear what practice is to be pursued.
– We will take expert advice, and act upon it.
– I strongly urge the Minister to consent to an adjournment.
– We will adjourn after the present item has been disposed of.
– I do not think that it is fair for Ministers to refuse an adjournment. The Committee has done good work to-day, and honorable members are entitled to consideration. I should have liked to speak at some length with regard to tobacco cultivation, but, unfortunately, I have nearly always spoken late in the evening since I have been a member of this Parliament, and my electorate is so closely concerned with tobacco cultivation that I should like to have a better opportunity of expressing my views. There is not a man sitting in the Ministerial corner who does not advocate an eight-hours’ day. We have been sitting for eight hours, and have done a fair day’s work. The Acting Prime Minister will not, in view of my thirty years’ acquaintance with him, suspect that I am not prepared to act in accordance with his wishes.
– I shall move the adjournment immediatelythis item is dealt with.
.- I am quite prepared to assist the Government by remaining here as long as they deem it necessary ; but I am not prepared to vote for this item until I am shown that the proposed bounty will not get into the hands of the Combine. It has been stated on both sides of the House that under the terms of the bounty it will necessarily prove a present to the Combine, who are the only purchasers of tobacco, and can, therefore, fix the price as they choose in the absence of any competition. I will not vote public money to one of the wealthiest trusts in Australia, when the intention is that the assistance shall be given to the growers. It isdue to the Committee that we should be told how the Government propose to prevent the bounty taking the form of a present to the Combine.
– Under the Bill the bounty must be paid to the growers direct, and cannot be paid to any Combine or other manufacturers.
– The Combine can fix the price.
– No matter what the price may be, the bounty will be paid to the growers.
– And then the Combine will pay much less to the growers for the leaf.
– We know that prices are fixed by supply and demand.
– Where there is only one buyer ?
– There are a great many buyers; there are several factories in Queensland alone. So far as the Commonwealth has the power, the bounty will be paid direct to the growers exactly as is done in the sugar industry, in which we know there is a large monopoly.
– I am quite with honorable members in the Opposition corner in the opinion that this item requires much more considera- tion than it has received. There are no labour conditions attached to the bounty.
– Yes, the leaf must be grown at a standard rate of wage.
– That is only in regard to white labour.
– The leaf must be grown by white labour at a standard rate of wage.
– There is no standard rate of pay in regard to the cultivation of tobacco in the Commonwealth. I do not desire to encourage people to grow tobacco unless I am sure they will get the bounty, because it is an industry which requires a good deal of capital. I find that it is now determined not to fix a price, but the quality as the standard; and I desire to know what that quality is to be. Is the bounty to be paid only on leaf which is used for cigars of the better class, or is it to be on leaf such as is used by the Combine? If the latter be the case, the bounty will be a present to the Combine.
– In fixing the standard of quality we must take expert advice.
– I quite understand that; but is the Minister going to ask the expert to fix the standard at cigar leaf tobacco, or merely at the higher classes of tobacco ?
– The better classes of tobacco
– Which are all used by the Combine.
– The bounty is for the better classes of leaf.
– The price of which is determined solely by the Combine.
– Exactly. If the “better classes” of leaf spoken of by the Minister are to include the leaf used by the Combine, then the latter will get the bounty - a result of which no one can approve. When I look at the difficulty which workers in the tobacco trade have at the present time to obtain anything like a decent wage and steady employment, I object te; the Combine receiving .£20,000 for nothing in return. The growers will be entirely in the hands of the Combine, and that is what I wish to avoid. If the Minister can show me that he can fix the grade so that the leaf grown up to the standard required will be used principally by the manufacturers of cigars, many of whom are outside the Combine, I shall be willing to vote for the item. But if the bounty is to be given to the growers of leaf for the Combine, I shall vote against it.
.- It is amusing to hear some honorable members on the other side cheer when it is stated by any one in this corner that the proposed bounty will go to the Combine. I have not the slightest doubt that they know more about the Combine than does any one on this side. Hitherto they have always been ready to denounce any honorable member for stating that there was a combine.
– Can the honorable member give one specific instance?
– The honorable member himself.
– When the honorable member for Kalgoorlie moved a motion for the nationalization of the tobacco industry, members of the party to which the honorable member belongs, both here and in another place, stated time after time that no combine was in existence. But in their anxiety to-night to omit an item, they are willing to cheer any honorable member who states that the bounty will go to the Combine. I am as much against this Combine as I am against any other trust or monopoly. I am not anxious to put £20,000, or any -less sum, into the pockets of the Tobacco Combine; but if the Ministry can give me an assurance that they will so frame the regulations that the tobacco leaf will be graded, and that the bounty will be paid to the growers, and not to the Combine, I shall be prepared to vote for the item.
– I thought that in my speech I had made it clear to the honorable member for Hindmarsh that the high-grade leaf- will include specially the cigar leaf. I read from the report of Mr. Neville, showing the vast field that there is in Queensland for growing cigar leaf, and that certainly will be prescribed in the regulation. In reply to the honorable member for Yarra, I may say that the Bill provides that the bounty shall be paid to the growers, and the regulation will be so framed that it will be paid to them, just as the -sugar bounty is paid to the grower.
– The Combine will fix the price of the leaf.
– The honorable member is trying to raise a. false issue. I shall ask the Department to try to meet the objection of the honorable member for Yarra in framing the regulation.
.- I certainly am not satisfied with the proposal as it stands. A few years ago, I moved a motion in favour of the nationalization of the tobacco industry ; and, on looking over the data which I then gave to the House, I find that there is no reason to believe other than that in Australia there is almost a complete monopoly in regard to tobacco. I do not think that my honorable friends opposite will deny that statement. We have to face this position, that, no matter what bounty we may pay on the production of leaf here, it is very likely that the effort of Parliament to encourage the bringing of a substantial acreage under tobacco crop will be frustrated for the simple reason that there is only one buyer in the Commonwealth, and that that buyer is part of a combine which is world wide. There have been times when the production of tobacco was a very considerable industry in the Commonwealth, particularly in Victoria. In 1880, 1,941,296 lbs. of leaf were grown in Australia, but about sixteen years later, the production had fallen to 802,000 lbs. The reduction resulted from the. concentrated energies of those who were buying tobacco from Australian producers and the consequent reduction of the price which was ‘ offered for Australian leaf. The reason for that state of things was very exhaustively explained by me when I submitted my motion. The combination which is interested in the Combine in Australia has its’ interest in plantations in other parts of the world, chiefly in America, where they can produce tobacco leaf at a very much less cost than can be done in Australia, pay the border duties, and still place the article on our market at a lower cost than. that at which it could be produced here. If I thought that the granting of a bounty would encourage to any extent the production of tobacco leaf in Australia, I should be prepared to give this item very serious consideration. But because I believe that if we placed a percentage per lb. on the tobacco it would lead to the Combine offering a lower price, and leave the grower in the same position as he now occupies, I think - especially in view of the very limited data which the Minister has submitted - that it is advisable to give the item more serious consideration before we come to a decision. The Ministry have been very successful with- the items in the schedule. They have. not been met with any factious op position. In fact, no very serious opposition has been offered to any proposal when it has been shown that there was a reasonable prospect that the bounty would lead to the establishment of an industry which would be for the good of the Commonwealth. When, however, there is a consensus of opinion from all quarters of the Chamber that the proposed bounty will be a gift to a powerful financial institution in Australia, and that it will not be of any use to those for whom it is primarily designed, I think that the Attorney-General should not take too serious a view of the’ suggestion to delete the item at the present time. On the information which has been presented, I am prepared to vote in favour of its omission.
– I am not satisfied with the explanation given by the Minister, because while he has led us to understand that the highgrade leaf will be used in the manufacture of cigars, he has merely said that the cigar-leaf will be included, and consequently it will still be used in the manufacture of tobacco, and the bounty will go to the Combine. I believe that honorable members generally are of opinion that we should encourage the growing of high-class tobacco for cigar-making ; but we* should certainly state our object plainly, and so frame the provision that there will be no fear of the bounty going into the hands of the Combine. I am not ready to leave this to the Minister, and consequently I wish to move an amendment, striking out the words “of a quality to be prescribed” in order to substitute the words “ for use in the manufacture of cigars.”
– There is an amendment now before the Committee.
– The honorable member for Hindmarsh has pointed to a weak spot in this proposal, and the honorable member for Boothby has drawn attention to the same defect. The Minister in charge of the measure is endeavouring to persuade the Committee that we should delegate to him our legislative powers, by permitting him to make regulations governing this matter. But we have had experience of the result of such action. I recollect many successful attempts on the parr of the Acting Prime Minister to satisfy supporters that their wishes would be duly met in the framing of regulations.
We know the inconvenience which was occasioned to the industrial and commercial world by the regulations which we trusted the right honorable member for Adelaide and the honorable member for Hume, at different times, to frame under the Customs and Commerce Acts. We are told that the bounty .is to be given for the production of a certain class of tobacco, which, the Minister has repeatedly assured us, will be denned by regulation.
– The tobacco Combine will get the bounty.
– That is a danger which. I, as well as the honorable member, wish to avert. I should regard this proposal much more favorably if I were s,ire that the bounty would be paid to the growers themselves. The honorable member has, apparently, made a close study of the trust, and if, as he states, the tobacco trade is wholly in the hands of this organization, it will be able to take the whole benefit of the bounty.’ The Committee naturally asks that the class of tobacco for which the bounty is to be given shall be defined in the schedule. It is spoken of vaguely as “high-grade.” The Minister has told us that a regulation will prescribe what is meant by those words. But, notwithstanding his repeated assurances in regard to this and many other matters which have been before us during the debate, the impression on my mind is that he knows’ as little about this subject as I do, which is practically nothing at all. I’ ask honorable members whether they are prepared to hand over their legislative powers to the Minister, instead of insisting upon having a definition embodied in the schedule. Some intelligent amendment such as the honorable member for Hindmarsh wishes to move is required.
– Would the honorable and learned member vote for the item even if amended ?
– If it were amended in a way of which I could approve, I should do so. We should make <every effort to insure that the bounty will be paid to those for whom it is intended.
– Will the honorable and learned member draft an amendment?
– I am ready to collaborate with the honorable member for Hindmarsh to-morrow, or to-night if he wishes. We should not delegate our legislative powers to the Minister by allowing him and his officials to determine by regulation how this money is to be expended; we should insist on having a proper definition inserted in the schedule.
.- As I understand it is the desire of the honorable member for - Hindmarsh to move a prior amendment in this particular item, I ask leave to temporarily withdraw my amendment. Of course I reserve to myself the right to again submit it after the proposal of the honorable member for Hindmarsh has been disposed of.
– I must remind, the honorable member that the adoption of a prior amendment may have the effect of preventing hiro from subsequently, moving his own.
– Upon a point of order, I submit that after the Committee have been informed of the proposal of the honorable member for Hindmarsh, it will be competent for the honorable member for Lang to say that he has a prior amendment, and to again put forward his proposal.
– Under the circumstances, it will perhaps be wise for me to withdraw my amendment, and to allow it to take its chance.
– I would point out to the honorable member that even if the amendment of the honorable member for Hindmarsh be carried, he will be at liberty to vote against the item, if he still desires to eliminate it.
Amendment, bv leave, withdrawn.
Mr. HUTCHISON (Hindmarsh) [“.81 - In common with other honorable members, I desire to encourage the growth of a high-grade tobacco, and consequently I move -
That after the word “ leaf “ the words “ for the manufacture of cigars “ be inserted.
My proposal, if adopted, will have the effect of confining the bounty to a leaf which is suitable for the manufacture of cigars, and consequently the difficulty which was pointed out by the honorable and learned member for Parkes will disappear. I propose to’ still allow the leaf to be “ of a quality to be prescribed,” because I object to fixing a price for the article.
– Will the cigars be sold at ten! for a shilling?
– The honorable member could not have looked at the proposal. He must know that it is impossible to make cigars of a high-grade tobacco at a very low figure.
.- I desire to ask the honorable member for Hindmarsh whether it is not a fact that certain cigarette tobaccos are also of a high grade, and that enormous quantities of these tobaccos are annually imported by the Trust. I have seen some of these tobaccos, and it has been pointed out to me why they excel the local product. I think that the amendment scarcely meets the situation, inasmuch as it deals with only half the product.
– I would not allow cigarettes to be manufactured at all, if I had my way.
– But neither the honorable member’s nor my own predilections in the matter of what we shall smoke concern the issue. If he wishes to meet the situation, he will be content to include cigarettes in his amendment.
– Let us catch our trains.
– I am as loth as is any honorable member to discuss the question at such a late hour. But it is of immense importance, and I feel that we should be betraying our trust if we agreed to this proposalwithout consideration. Consequently, I urge Ministers, who are so anxious to get to bed, to consent to report progress.
Amendment agreed to.
.- I desire to move -
That the words “ five years, 2d. per lb., £4,000,” be left out.
– I would point out to the honorable member that he can effect his purpose by voting against the item.
.- Is it a fact that the same leaf will make cigarettes or cigars or ordinary tobacco?
– We will take expert advice.
– We are entitled to the information if the Minister has it at his command.
– The bounty in this case is for tobacco leaf, for the manufacture of cigars, high grade.
– I am sent into this Chamber to endeavour to do my duty to my constituents, and if I cannot get ordinary civility from the Minister I am not going to assist in the transaction of public business.
– The item defines exactly what the bounty is for.
– I quite understand that, but is it not a fact that the original tobacco leaf can be used either for cigars or cigarettes ?
– I cannot say to what extent it may be so used;
– If the Minister has not the information I cannot expect him to give it. I can only regret that we have to pass measures without Ministerial information tomake them properly comprehensible.
– There is the strongest of all reasons for not including cigarettes, as they are made only by the Combine, and nobody in Australia can get a machine to make them unless the Combine chooses.
Question - That the item . “ Tobacco “ as amended stand part of the schedule - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 6
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Item, as amended, agreed to.
– I desire to inform the House that His Excellency the GovernorGeneral has fixed the time and place for the presentation of the AddressinReply to his speech opening Parliament for to-morrow at 2 o’clock at Government House. I shall be glad if such honorable members, including the mover and seconder of the Address, as desire to do so will accompany me for that purpose. We shall meet in the Queen’s Hall just before a quarter to 2 o’clock.
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
I promised the honorable member for Newcastle, in answer to questions, to obtain information on two subjects. One was with reference to labourers coming into Australia of whom a number had gone to Newcastle. I asked to be informed whether they were coming in under contract.. The reply I have received is -
Almost all the immigrantsnow arriving are not under contract. Except in the case of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company’s. 341 men, only a very few isolated individuals are under contract. In these cases the terms of the agreement have been approved by the Minister. (Sgd.) Atlee Hunt.
The other question had reference also to immigration. Advertisements were produced one night last week as having been circulated by the Immigration League of Australia. 1 caused a letter to be sent to Dr. Arthur, addressed care of the Immigration League of Australia, Sydney. This is the reply -
The Immigration League of Australia.
Sydney,26th July, 1907.
The Secretary, Department of External Affairs,
I have to inform you that your letter of the 24th instant, No. 07/7114, was placed before a meeting of the Executive Committee of this league yesterday, and I am instructed to advise you as follows : - That this league is not aware of any sum of money being given to “ Dr. Arthur’s Immigration League, nor is the Committee cognizant of the existence of any such body. The Immigration League of Australia, whose offices arc in Sydney, have, however, received sums of money from the. Federal Government. The committee of this league are not in any way responsible for the advertisement referred to in your letter under reply, appearing in the newspapers of the United Kingdom or elsewhere. Further, the committee are unacquainted with Mr. JohnCraigs. In fairness to this league, I trust you will give publicity to this letter. - I have the honour to be, sir, your obedient servant, Herbert E. Easton, Hon. Secretary.
– Is that the league of which Dr. Arthur is president?
– I think it is.
– The letter from the Secretary of the Department of External Affairs was addressed to Dr. Arthur, and this is the reply received to it.
.- It is singular that the responsibility for the advertisements appearing in newspapers published in most of the coal-mining centres of England cannot be fixed. If my memory serves me rightly, some of these advertisements state that intending immigrants must be approved by the Agent-General of New South Wales, and that £6 will be given towards the passage money of each man selected. . We have an Immigration League seeking, by its own methods, to encourage immigration, yet no one appears to accept the responsibility for these advertisements. I trust that the vote passed for advertising Australiawill be used in a legitimate way, and will not he handed over to any irresponsible body for distribution.
.- Complaints have been made on several occasions as to misleading advertisements appearing in the English newspapers, and a number of attempts have been made to ascertain their’ origin. We ought to have some means of learning who is responsible for these misrepresentations. The Ministry might well take the matter in hand and invite the Agents-General to endeavour to discover who is inserting these advertisements. We shall then be able to properly apportion the blame, and know what steps to take to prevent the Commonwealth being misrepresented by advertisements published without the sanction of responsible bodies in Australia. The Acting Prime Minister might very well, in the interests of all parties, prosecute this inquiry, in order that we may ascertain who is responsible for advertisements ‘ not only misrepresenting Australia, but inviting coal miners and other labourers to come here to compete in an already overcrowded labour market. It would be most unsatisfactory to leave the matter at its present stage, and I hope that the Government will take steps to have the question definitely settled.
SirWILLIAM . LYNE (Hume - Treasurer) [11.29]. - Like the honorable member for Cook, I feel that we ought to know who is responsible for these advertisements. I have seen one or two which, to my mind, are highly improper; but I do not know yet whether I can take any further step in the matter.
– Does not the Minister want miners to come to Australia?
– All I can say is that I have seen in English newspapers one or two advertisements that ought never to have been published. I arn anxious to find out who is responsible for them, but I’ cannot make any definite promise to the honorable member for Cook as to what action will be taken. I shall, however, cause further inquiries to be made.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at ix.31 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 31 July 1907, viewed 6 July 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1907/19070731_reps_3_37/>.