3rd Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at . 3 p.m. and read prayers.
Mr. MAHON presented a petition from, certain retail confectioners in Western Australia, praying the House to give effect to the recommendation of the Tariff Commission suggesting a maximum duty of 2d. per lb. on confectionery.
Mr. GLYNN presented three petitionsfrom electors of South Australia, praying the House to reduce the duties on agricultural implements and raining machinery. Petitions received and read.
– As the Prime Minister is. aware, on Wednesday week the AustralianExhibition of . Women’s Work, at which all tht States’ will be represented, will beopened at the Exhibition Building, and I should like to know if he ‘an see his way. to allow honorable members an opportunity to attend the ceremony, by arranging, for the meeting of the House at an hour somewhat later than is customary?
– The Australian character of the Exhibition is most marked, and should be fittingly recognised. I am informed that, . in another place, a proposal to adjourn over the opening day has beenfavorably received ; but the utmost I cando, under our responsibilities, will betomove, on the -previous day, that the House at its rising adjourn until, say, 5 p.m. on Wednesday.
– As it is stated in the pressthat reports from . Papua have been received, I wish to know if the Prime Minister can inform the House how land settlement is proceeding there?
– I am happy to announce that applications for land havebeen numerous, those granted - speaking from memory - covering some 70,000 acres. I shall endeavour shortly to lav on thetable a brief statement of what has beendone!
– The following telegram appears in this morning’s Argus, dated “Brisbane, Monday” -
Delay in the receipt and despatch of interstate telegraphic business is, so far as Brisbane is /concerned, assuming a seriously chronic state. Almost every night last week, last night, and this evening again, business was subject to consider, able delay. Complaints are numerous, and it is held that the department should immediately take steps to remedy a state of affairs which is both irritating and costly to business firms, and the press alike.
Will the Postmaster-General take steps to remedy the state of affairs therein complained of, and to prevent future serious delays in the transmission of telegrams?
– I recognise the seriousness of the complaints, and shall have full inquiries made in respect of them. Anything that can be done to prevent delay will be done.
– Last year a sum was voted for the relief of indigent authors. I should like to know from the Prime Minister whether grants have recently been made from the fund so created, and to be informed in respect to other particulars concerning it?
– No grants have been made, the undertaking having been given that no money would be distributed until a proposition for its distribution had been laid before Parliament. Since last session a scheme has been drawn up by the Committee to which the question waa remitted, and I will lay it upon the table for the information of the House.
– I wish to ask the Prime Minister whether his attention has been drawn to a paragraph in this morning’s Argus under the heading of “ Dissatisfied immigrants, Queensland,” and referring to Spaniards? Perhaps I may be permitted to explain that a short time ago a reference was made to this matter in the press of Northern Queensland, and that it was then stated that the Spanish immigrants intended “ to appeal to their Consul for relief. I ask the honorable -and learned gentleman whether an appeal has been made to his knowledge, and, -if so, whether he has taken any action in connexion therewith?
– I have not had an opportunity of reading the paragraph, nor received such a statement from- anyother source. On the contrary, when visiting Cairns, I took the opportunity of speaking, wherever possible, to the recent arrivals, although all those I met were of British parentage and spoke English. These were all thoroughly satisfied with the conditions of the work which they were then carrying on. I heard of Spaniards, but had no opportunity to meet them.
– The honorable gentleman has heard no complaint from the Consul?
– I have heard nothing from the Consul. From this paragraph it appears that the dissatisfaction of the men is- with their work, although they have tried both cane-fields and railway work. If thev are dissatisfied with both classes of work- _
– They say that they are dissatisfied with the “ tucker ‘.’ ‘and the quarters.
– And with their sleeping accommodation.
– If the men were provided with the food and accommodation which I saw at a number of places, and were yet dissatisfied, they must have possessed much more comfortable lodgings in their own country than, so far as my knowledge of it goes, are generally available for men of their class.
– I beg to ask the Minister of Trade and. Customs if it is his intention to see ihat from the commencement of the Excise Tariff (Spirits) Act the extra Excise duty is collected from all distillers who do_ not come forward and show that they are paying fair rates of wages to their employe’s ?
– The Act came into force on the 12th inst, and a notification has been sent to the distillers. If there is an opportunity to collect revenue it will be collected.
– I desire to ask the Minister of Trade and Customs whether his Department has yet received the information which the Treasurer, as Acting Prime Minister, recently promised to obtain as to the rates of wages paid in the distilleries and the industries connected with distilling? I may mention that some instances of disparities were furnished then to his honorable colleague
– If the honorable member will give notice of a question, I shall be very glad to furnish him with the information to-morrow.
– I desire to ask the Minister of Trade and Customs whether he cannot declare what the policy of the Government is under Act No. 20 of 1906, which states that if certain things are not done by the distillers within twelve months the Government may submit to the House a motion to the effect that an extra Excise duty shall be imposed? A year having elapsed, I desire to know from the Minister what is the Government’s policy on the point?
– I can only give to the honorable and learned member the same answer that I gave to the honorable member for Boothby. I shall be very glad to make inquiries if he will give notice of a question. If. he will refer to the Act, he will see that practically it came into force on the 12th inst.
– It is the Government policy that we want to ascertain.
– If the honorable and learned member will submit a definite question, I shall be very glad to furnish him with an answer. I think that, in view of their very great importance., it would be much better if notice of these questions were given, so that honorable members might be assured of receiving correct answers.
– I want to clear up the point.
– I do not know whether the Minister of Trade and Customs quite understood my question. About a fortnight ago the Treasurer promised that certain information would be obtained, and I desired to know ‘whether it had been obtained, and not whether inquiries were going to be made.
– As I told the honorable member just now, I shall be very glad if he will give notice of a definite question, so that I can furnish him with a definite answer.
– What is the Government policy?
– I may tell the honorable member for Hindmarsh that inquiries have been made, . and that a notification’ has been sent out to each distiller. I shall be happy to furnish a copy of the notice to any honorable member. I am not in a position to say what replies have been received unless I am afforded an opportunity to obtain them from the Department.
– I beg to ask the Treasurer if he can inform the House what steps are being taken towards securing a site in the Strand for Commonwealth Offices?
– Sinqe the matter was dealt with by the House and the Senate, telegrams have been despatched making an offer, but up to the present time no reply has been received. We have decided that if we do purchase the site, the building shall be erected in such a way that we shall be able to offer to each. State a section of it without making any charge.
Mr. POYNTON (for Mr. Thomas
Brown) asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
How many officers in the 5th Class Clerical Division in the Postal. Department in New South Wales were recom mended for promotion to the 4th Class for the year 1906-7?
How many such recommended promotions were provided for in the Estimates for that year ?
How are these recommendations arrived at, and who are responsible for them?
Who reports on those recommendations, and what is the special information on which these reports are based, and how is it obtained ?
In cases, if any, where recommendations, were disallowed, what were the general reasons for such disallowance?
How many promotions from Class 5 toClass 4 have been recommended for theyear 1907-8?
How many such recommended promotions have been’ provided for in the Estimates for 1907-8?
– The Public Service Commissioner has furnished the following inf ormation-
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The information necessary to enable these questions to be answered is not yet complete. Answers will be furnished as early as possible.
asked the Postmaser - General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the FostmasterGeneral, upon notice-
-The Acting Deputy Postmaster-General, Melbourne, has furnished the following information -
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Whether definite instructions have been given to the importers of patent medicines to have placed on their boxes and labels a full description of the contents?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows -
Instructions could only be conveyed in the form of regulations. As the Crown Law Officers advise that regulations of a general nature could only be framed, a Bill has been prepared to amend the law so as to accomplish this object.
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Whether it is intended to alter the system of “ grade-marking “ butter by putting corresponding numbers on the goods and certificates to a system of “grade-marking” the boxes?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows -
No, but it may be mentioned that if specially desired by exporters, it is the practice to place the grade mark on the boxes.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
In view of the decision of the Committee of Ways and Means to reduce the General Tariff on’ wire netting to 10 per cent., and United Kingdom 5 per cent., and in view also of the Government’s own voluntary proposal to reduce their
Tariff of 30 per cent, (general), and 25 per cent. (United Kingdom), to 15 per cent, and 10 Der cent, respectively - Whether, under these exceptional circumstances, the Government will agree to refund the excess duty which has already been collected ?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows -
It has been frequently pointed out that the refund of duty dbes not lie within the discretion of the Government, who have no power in the matter. Should Parliament decide that refunds shall be made, they will be made accordingly, but if Parliament decides otherwise, no refund can be given.
In Committee of Ways and Means (Con sideration resumed from nth October, vide page 4645):
Division III., Sugar.
Item 28. Sugar, the produce of sugar-cane, per cwt., 6s.
.- It will be seen by honorable members that the proposed duty follows the old Tariff, and also the recommendation of both sections of the Tariff Commission.
– Without any evidence whatever.
– If that be so, I presume the Tariff Commission made the recommendation from their own knowledge, and realizing the full responsibility cast on them.
– The Committee did not inquire into the sugar . question, except incidentally.
– However” that may be, this duty occupies a peculiar position, inasmuch as the Excise is levied under Statute, and does not appear in the . schedule of duties. Under ordinary circumstances, therefore, the proposed duty might pass almost without comment ; but not only honorable members, but the press outside the two States of Queensland and New South Wales, have directed a great deal, of attention to the question, and have made complaints, which are altogether unjustifiable, ‘ in view of the advantages which have followed legislation in regard to the sugar industry. I may point out that the sugar industry is not confined . to Queensland and New South Wales.
– It is at the present time.
– Is the honorable member for Wide Bay inviting a general discussion on the sugar industry, because it will be difficult to stop the discussion if once started.
– The honorable member for Angas raised the point.
– I occupied onlyfive minutes; and if the honorable member follows my precedent we shall have dealt with the matter in an hour.
– If honorable membersdesire to pass the item without discussion I shall not pursue the subject further.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear.
– I simply desire to po’int out that nothing has been more successfulthan the legislation passed by this Parliament in relation to the sugar industry, although that legislation was passed in the face of an amount of petitioning and abusefrom Queensland unparalleled in parliamentary history. Even secession was spoken, of in Queensland ; and it was declared that our legislation would ruin the industry. . To-day, however, to the satisfaction of every one who had to do with the legislation, there are 2,500 more farmers in Queensland, and 260 more farmers in New South Wales, engaged in the industry, thanpreviously ; and the sugar produced is almost enough for our requirements.
– There are more “black” employers in New South Wales now thanthere were in 1902.
– If so, it is satisfactory to know that “black” employers receive no bounty.
– They pay£4 per tonExcise.
– And receive protection to the extent of£6 per ton.
– Let me say that if one coloured man is engaged on a plantation that is a “‘black” plantation, and receives no bounty. However, if honorable members desire to pass the itemas proposed, I shall waive my right to discuss the question, merely expressing my pleasure that the Committee should be so inclined.
.- It would be a vast mistake, in my opinion, to pass this item in the perfunctory manner suggested bythe honorable member for Wide Bay.
– I did not make the suggestion ; I merely fell in with the desire of honorable members.
– Probably the attitude taken by the honorable member was suggested by an interjection. At any rate, I consider that a very vital and important principle is at stake; and that there is now presented an opportunity, that will npt occur again for some time, to reconsider the policy which this Parliament adopted a few years ago in relation to this industry. By this tax we propose to place an annual burden of £1, 200,000 on the people, extracted from them by increasing the cost of a necessary article of food. In my view, we ought not do that without the fullest consideration. Some honorable members may think that, because of the legislation we have already passed, there would be some danger in disrupting the complicated settlement which was then arrived at ; but I consider that danger to be largely imaginary. At any rate, in my opinion, we ought to make an attempt to reconsider the position of the taxpayer in regard to the northern planters. In passing, I desire to pay a high compliment to the advocates of the planters both inside and outside this House, for the ability, resource and pertinacity displayed in their attack on the Australian taxpayer. I shall pass over for the time being their falsification of facts, their presentation of false issues, and their juggling with statistics. It may be remarked here that when argument failed to sustain the planter’s case, sentiment was appealed to and turned the scales in his favour. We accepted this burden through an- adroit suggestion that it was the price that should be paid for a White Australia. To preserve this continent for a white race is certainly worth a heavy financial sacrifice. If what we have paid thei planter - if what we are going to pay him during, the next five years - would rid . this country of the . coloured alien, I should be the last to make protest against the payment. In such case we should have had good value for our money. But all we have gained from our sacrifices for the planter is the disappearance, of a few thousand Pacific Islanders - of all coloured aliens the least menacing to the racial purity of Australia. They were confined practically to the tropical belt of a single State,” and did not, like the Chinese, Spread themselves over the country and become a source of permanent infection. This abolition of the kanaka traffic touched only the fringe of the coloured alien question. We had, in 1901 - I . have no later figures - some 54,440 coloured aliens, of whom only 9,000 odd were kanakas. So that, despite our legislation, after deporting every kanaka from Queensland, we still have 44,600 coloured aliens in Australia. Who can say, then, that the ‘enormous sacrifice which we have made, ostensibly for the White Australia ideal, is likely to accomplish its purpose?
– We have settled 2,500 farmers in Queensland, and 260 in northern New South Wales.
– The honorable member may refine until he is tired, but he cannot get away from the striking fact that the Australian taxpayer, has paid, and is paying, an enormous sum for the benefit of sugar planters who employ black labour.
– He is doing nothing of the kind.
– I will show the honorable member presently that our policy is not successful even in’ putting white men into the industry, because nearly one-fifth of the employes now in it are coloured aliens.
– That is absolutely impossible.
– The honorable member cannot successfully contradict me. I have the figures from official sources.
– Let the honorable member quote the figures and tell us where he gets them from.
– I will tell the honorable member my authority. I do not get up in this Chamber and talk at random. The number of persons employed in the sugar industry on the 31st December, 1906, was, in the fields 36,197, and in the factories 5,079, making a total of 41,276. The white employes numbered 33,700, and the coloured workers 7,576.
– The honorable member is quoting the figures of two years ago.
– I am quoting the official figures, made up to the 31st December, 1906.
– When the new kanaka legislation, had not come into operation. Since that time the employment of kanakas has practically stopped.
– The honorable member knows as well as I do that practically the whole of the kanakas should have been deported, at the. end of 1906.
-Oh, no; that is an ‘error.
– That . was the understanding when we voted the bounty.
– We have passed an amending Act ‘since then.
– We have passed no amending Bill that allows of the retention of the kanaka in any sustantial number. The fact remains that there were 7,576’ coloured employes engaged in the industry at the date named. What has happened since I do not know. I do not think the honorable member for Wide Bay knows either, because . there is no authoritative information - he can have none.’
– Yes, I have.
– I should like to hear it.
– There are 157,000 tons being produced by white labour this year, and 16.000 tons by coloured labour.
– I will come to the tonnage by-and-by. I am now dealing with the people employed. Although the production of sugar in New South Wales, both by black and white labour, has fallen off, the black labour employers increased in that State from 115 in 1902 to 169 in 1907. The percentage cultivated by black labour, as compared with the percentage cultivated by white labour, also showed an increase, in favour of black labour cultivation.
– That is in 1906.
– I have not seen anv figures for 1907. The honorable member may have some, but if so, he has not given them to the Committee. From these figures it is clear that the pretence under which this legislation was passed by Parliament and foisted upon the people. of Australia was a fraudulent pretence, and that it has been so proved by the results. It must not be forgotten the Pacific Islanders were brought to Queensland by the people of the State themselves in the interest of their industry.’ No other State obtained any advantage from their presence, and no other State ls directly benefited by their deportation. That being so, it would have been a fair thing for the people of Queensland to have paid the cost of returning the kanakas instead of shifting the expenditure on to the shoulders of the taxpayers of Australia. The cost of sending back these men has been -considerable.
– Did not the Queensland people contribute£5 per head ?
– I am afraid’ that it would be out of order to discuss in detail the Question of the ‘deportation of the kanakas. But the honorable member can -easily ascertain for himself the financial aspect of the matter. Apparently the fundsprovided by the planters for returning thekanakas were misappropriated by the State Government. The latter spent the money, and then unblushin’gly threw on the other States the cost of deportation. It isone of those unfortunate misunderstandings about money matters which sometimesland private individuals in gaol.
– The Commonwealth Government took on the job of sending them awav.
– They should have been sent away when their time expired apart from action by the Commonwealth Government.
– At any rate, the position so far is that under this legislation, introduced for the promotion of the white Australian policy, the grower of sugar by black labour has annexed the sum of £1,242,524.. That is the advantage which we have given the sugar-grower under our protective Tariff.
– How much per ton isthat?
– Three pounds per tonup to 21st December, 1905, and since then £2 per ton. The honorable member wilT not find me tripping in regard to this matter.
– I think that the honorable member will find that the Colonial’ Sugar Company, and not the planter, has got most of that money.
– I do not pretend to say to whom the money has gone. I am merely pointing out that the taxpayer has had to pay it, and it is not to my purpose to follow it further.
– The Colonial Sugar Refining Company has increased its price by 10s. a ton after buying out its only competitor.
– Very probably. That seems the usual thing. Get a monopoly and then bleed the public. But to return. Our legislation has given the black grower almost as much protection as the white grower obtains. The significance of the figures is not vitiated by the fact, which I cheerfully admit, that there has been a material increase in the quantity of sugar annually grown by white labour and also in the number of ‘ white labourers employed in the industry. When that has been admitted, everything that can be said in favour of the subsidv has been said. The most that we can claim for this tribute, which the whole of Australia- is paying to the sugar industry> is that it tends to encourage the substitution of white for coloured labour. But to allow the grower by black labour to obtain , £1,242,524 of the money of the taxpayers is a most extraordinary way of promoting the policy of a white Australia.
– How does the honorable member arrive at that amount ?
– By taking the difference between the Excise duty and the import duty up to the end of 1905 at £3 per ton, and at £2 per ton since then.
-Why not impose £6 per ton Excise on black-grown sugar, otherwise we are protecting a black-labour industry ?
– I shall give the honorable member an opportunity to vote in the direction which his’ remarks indicate, since I intend to move that the import duty be reduced to £4 per ton. That will place the Excise and the import duty on the same footing, and will deprive the grower of sugar by black labour of any protection.
– Would the honorable member abolish the. Excise?
– No. Abolition of the Excise would mean the reduction, if not the abolition of the bounty, unless we drained the public Treasury still further; and if we paid no bounty the white ‘ grower would have no advantage over the grower by black labour. We must retain the Excise, and grant the bounty to the grower of sugar by white labour until, either by State legislation or otherwise, the coloured element has been eliminated from the industry. At the first blush it may seem that a proposal of this kind is likely to be unfair to the growers by white labour; but I would ask honorable members to remember that they ante now talking of exporting sugar.
– And sugar is being exported.
– At a conference of sugar-growers held at Townsville in Februarv last, the chairman, evidently a very intelligent man. after referring to the Output of the Australian planter as being likelv to overtake the local consumption, said -
We are thus confronted with the novel experience in the history of sugar growing in Australia of being in the position of having a surplus to dispose of. Now. anv production in excess of the demand within the Commonwealth, can only be converted into money hy our competing in the world’s markets. In no’ country on the face of the earth, with the sole exception of Australia, is it attempted to grow sugar cane with other than coloured labour. In dealing with any surplus over the Australian demand, we are, therefore, at once brought into competition with those sugar countries which produce their sugar at a cheaper rate than we can do on account of the smaller cost of labour.
– Hear, hear. The honorable member wishes to handicap our growers in their fight against them.
– I am speaking now of the proposal to export sugar, and if Australian sugar is exported it must fight in the world’s market- against the black-grown sugar. Surely every one. recognises that that which we export must be sold at prices fixed by the unrestricted competition of the world.
– Did the gentleman in question say that all sugar was grown by black labour?
– That is virtually what he did say.
-Then he knows nothing about the matter.
– The chairman of the conference, a Mr. Pritchard, went on to point out the undisputed fact that -
Bonuses, or other artificial means of protection, cease to operate when once we are compelled to face the markets of the world. . . . Is the industry to be compelled to remain stationary through mistaken internal legislation? This, however, is a problem which demands of those who have created it a satisfactory solution, and to them I commend it, for their most serious and early attention.
Queensland planters, therefore, are meditating the exportation of sugar. The honorable member for Angas has in his possession, I understand, an invoice of Australian sugar sold in South Africa at £3 1 8s. per ton below the price at which Australian sugar is sold in the Commonwealth.
– Are the wholesale prices used in both cases for the purposes of the comparison ?
– I do not know.
– Do they get a rebate of the Excise when sugar is exported?
– Yes ; a drawback is allowed. That question arises in connexion with the exportation of preserved fruit and jam, a matter with” ‘ which I shall deal in a few moments. If the manufacturers of preserved fruits or jam use imported sugar thev obtain a drawback of 50 per cent, of the weight of the jam, and if the sugar be Australian grown, they receive a rebate of 30s. per ton. The fruit and sugar contents of most jams are equal ; so that Australian sugar used in preserving fruit that is exported secures what is equivalent to an export bounty of 50 per cent. The grower at the present time is practically granted a protection of per ton, but if his sugar goes abroad in the shape of preserved fruit or jam, he gets in addition what is equivalent to 30s. per ton of jam - that is £3 per ton of sugar - or a 25 per cent, export rebate on the sugar used in that jam.
– The honorable member means a bounty.
– Whatever it is called, it is paid by the people on that particular sugar exported in the form of jam.
– That is a silly statement.
– If it be silly, it is made on the authority of officials in whom the honorable member once placed great confidence.. I have in my possession a statement from the Customs Department showing that what I have said is perfectly correct.
– If we exported a million tons of sugar we should pay nothing for it.
– If we send away a ton of Australian sugar in jam ‘we give the jamexporter£3 rebate, although the identical sugar has already cost this community£5.
– It is collected in the form of Excise duty.
– The honorable member is so befogged that he does not understand the position. I ask him to restrain himself until I reach that aspect of the question where the Australian sugar is sent out as part of exported jam. Let me put a homely illustration to the honorable member : Let us. suppose it to be possible for a sugar planter to combine the manufacture of jam with his ordinary business. If he produces a ton of sugar, he pays an. Excise duty of £4 on it, and the Commonwealth Government immediately hands him back £3 as a bounty. He is therefore £1 out of pocket. But in the meantime he has had the advantage of an increase in the price of’ sugar - due to the difference between the Excise and import duties - and when he puts that sugar into the’ jam which he manufactures for export, he obtains £3 from the Treasury. To put the matter in another way, he receives £5 protection and bounty for producing the sugar as a sugar-grower and as a jam-maker on exporting the sugar in the form of jam.
– Does not the honorable member think that the grower is lucky to get pven that much out of the Commonwealth ?
– I think the growers are very lucky. I should like to be in their places.
Colonel Foxton. - I understand that that rebate is only allowed on imported sugar.
– I can give the honorable member an official contradiction of that statement. I have here a paper which I received from the Comptroller-General of Customs, who will be recognised as an authority.
Colonel Foxton. - It was the ComptrollerGeneral or his representative who informed me this morning in the presence of three witnesses that such . was the case.
– I will read the information supplied to me, and then the honorable member will be able to read any information that has been given to him. I am informed that -
When imported sugar is used, a draw-back’, of the import duty on sugar is allowed upon the exportation of Australian jam, but so that no allowance shall be made for sugar contents in excess of one-half of the total weight of the jam. This means that the whole duty is practically given back.
That is the position with regard to imported sugar -used in jam exported from Australia, but -
When excise sugar is used - by that the Comptroller-General of Customs means Australian sugar - a drawback is allowed up to 30s. per ton of the weight of the jam.
The full drawback is withheld, apparently, because the Department found itself unable to distinguish whether the sugar in the exported jam was grown here by white or black labour. According to the evidence of Mr. Peacock, a well-known jam manufacturer; ‘the. sugar contents of jam ‘ average about 50 per cent. Therefore, 30s..drawback per ton of jam means£3per ton of sugar; and it is the. practical equivalent of an export bounty on sugar.
– It is less than . the average of the Excise from black-grown and’: whitegrown sugar.
– I cannot followthe honorable member’s interjections Mycontention is that as the jammanufacturer obtains ‘a refund, of 36s. ‘per, tonof jam, the effect, is’ that,, so far as’.the exported jam- isconcerned, - we are’ giving.a, 25per “cent. export rebate’ on- the sugarcontents.
Colonel Foxton.- That is a rebate of £3a ton.
-The honorable member is right. I desire to draw the attention of. honorable members to a statement made by Mr. Peacock, and reported in the Argus, in May, 1905, in which he dealt with the dutv and the quantity of sugar in the various jams. He states that in the case of plum jam the sugar contents are equal to the fruit contents, and that the duty is 128 per cent, of the value of the fruit. He was speaking then of the £6 import . duty. In the case of peach jam, the sugar and fruit contents are equal, and the duty is 77 per cent, of the value of the fruit. In the case of apricot jam, the figures are the same as in that of peach jam. In quince jam, the sugar and fruit contents are equal, and the duty is equal to twice the value of the fruit. It is questionable whether the Australian taxpayer, when he submitted to taxing himself for the benefit of a White Australia policy, ever intended to establish an export bounty on sugar.
– For the benefit of outsiders.
– To give cheap sugar to outsiders, and to pay a higher price for his own sugar. I doubt whether that aspect of the matter was ever put before the people of Australia.
– It was not listened to, but I mentioned that very thing, quoting the French experience, in 1901.
– Then the . honorable member anticipated me considerably. At any rate, I do not think that the country has approved of that policy, and that is one of the reasons which . induces me to move for a reduction of this duty. A man who could unite the two businesses of sugar producing and jam exporting would have something better on than a gold mine. It would be by far the most profitable pursuit in the realm of present-day production or exchange. There is no doubt that the increase in the price of sugar has militated against the exportation of . jam. In 1902, the exportation of jam amounted in value to £97,942; in 1903, to , £100,081; in 3904, to £121,526; in 1905, there was a tremendous drop to £54,612; while in 1906, the exportation, still falling, reached only £45-369.
– A large amount of sugar is imported for jam making, and the manufacturers are paid a full rebate of the whole of the duty on the imported sugar which they use to make jam for export.
– I have already stated so, but miy point is that by coddling the sugar-growers we are . killing what would prove to be a good export industry.
– How can the honorable member prove that?
– I shall quote the statement of Mr. Peacock, who is an authority.
Colonel Foxton. - An interested one.
– Is not the honorable member interested in the sugar industry?
Colonel Foxton. - I have not been quoted as an authority.
– If the honorable member speaks here on the sugar question, I shall expect him to speak as an authority. Mr. Peacock states -
The price which growers get for the bulk of their fruit therefore depends upon the purchases of the manufacturers.
At a given price for jam the manufacturer can only afford a given price for his material. If one material - sugar - is artifically enhanced in price the other material - fruit - must be artifically depressed in price. Our fruit-growers lose a great part of what our sugar-growers or the revenue gain by the duty on sugar used in the jam factories.
At anv rate it is significant that as sugar revenue increased, the exportation of jams decreased. During the five years I have quoted, the value of the jams, fruits, jellies, &c, exported totalled £419,530. I do not know the wholesale price of a ton of jam, but, assuming it to be £16, there were 13,110 tons of sugar subject to a drawback of £3 per ton. Of course, I am speaking of the price at the factory.
– It is ton for ton.
– I do not offer this as more than a rough calculation, since the Treasury returns do not show the weight of the fruits and jam exported. The rebate upon the sugar in the exported material, in that case, would approximate £40,000. Of course, this sort of thing is practically limitless, because sugar is used in the wines and brandies which) we export, and in a very short period we shall be adding to our con’densed milk factories, and exporting that commodity. Everybody knows that the sugar contents of condensed milk are about 50 per cent. Therefore, when we come to export condensed milk to South -Africa and other countries, we shall be adding to the amount that we are now paying as export rebate on sugar contained in the jams which we send abroad’.
Before honorable members commit themselves to maintaining the import duty upon sugar at the present rate, I respectfully ask them to consider this aspect of the question.
– Did the figures which the honorable member quoted just now represent pounds weight or pounds sterling?
– The total value of the jams exported during the past five years, as recorded by the Customs Department, was £419,530. I have not the tonnage. I can only estimate that by assuming that the wholesale price of a ton of jam would be about £16. The honorable member for Wide Bay was formerly under the impression that the sugar-grower paid his own bounty.
– So he does.
– Surely the honorable member does not hold . that view now ? It was exploded long ago. Yet I admit that the honorable member is not singular in holding this mistaken view. Newspapers which assume to be authorities on such matters propagate the delusion most industriously”. Not long ago, a Melbourne evening newspaper published what was intended to be an informative article to dispel popular misconceptions on this point. Here is its conclusion -
Now, to get away from fine phrasing and financing, and consequent confusing of the public mind in respect to the facts, the matter stands thus : At present a man who grows sugar in Australia has to pay£3 a ton for the privilege of doing so. If, however, he use only white labour, he pavs £1 instead of £3 - the so-called “bounty” of £2 being simply the arfount that is’ not taken from him.
The writer forgot to mention that, though the grower paid for the “-privilege” of producing sugar, he obtained £6 from the community by wayof an increased price for his crop. Then . the Sydney Bulletin, quite as recently as the 3rd inst., disseminated the same fallacy.
-the Bulletin is the bible” of a good many persons.
-It is not my bible. In rebuking the Sydney Morning Herald for having stated that the maintenance of the sugar industry was costing the people of Australia hundreds of thousands of pounds annually, the Bulletin says : - “
Yet -the fact is that so far from the sugar business costing anything Australia collects an Excise duty from the sugar producer of£3 per ton.
Evidently the writer is not up to date, because the present Excise is £4 per ton - not £3 per ton.” He continues -
If, however, the sugar is “white” grown a rebate equal to 4s. per cwt. of 10 per cent, sugar-cane (£2 per ton of sugar) is paid.
Here, again, the writer is somewhat belated, because the bounty now paid to the sugar grower is £3 per ton, and not £2 per ton. He then publishes a table showing the rate of Excise and of bounty pay: able in respect of sugar produced By white labour, and also containing a column which is headed “ Special Taxation Paid by the Sugar Industry.” There is intrinsic evidence in this paragraph that the writer knew better, and that he had some object to serve in concealing the real facts. He must have known the effect of the import duty in giving the planter £19 to £20 for a ton of sugar when its normal value in any free market would be from £12 to £14. Of course, there is some warrant for confusion on the point. If the authors of this complicated scheme of import duty, Excise duty, and bounty, designed to mystify the public, they could not have devised anything more successful. Hardly anybody outside understands the operation of this scheme, and there is some reason to believe that it is not fully understood in Parliament. The first fact to be gripped is that the import duty raises the price of locallygrown sugar by £6 per ton. Out of that enhanced price for his crop, the grower pays the Treasury an Excise duty of £4 per ton. But if his crop is produced exclusively by white labour, the grower is paid by the Treasury a bounty of £3 per ton. The white grower, therefore, receives a net advantage of £5 per ton on his crop. The grower who uses black labour also pays the £4 Excise, but he receives no bounty. His net advantage is the difference between the Excise duty, which he pays to the Treasury, and the increased price for his crop due to the import duty, and this difference amounts to £2 per ton. These are the exact facts, stated in the plainest terms at my command. Fortunately, even in Queensland, an effort has been made to dissipate the sophistry surrounding this question, and to state the real truth. A journal, known as The Commonwealth, ‘ published by exSenator Drake, has. had the fairness to give this convincing exposition of the point at issue -
– That journal has since died.
– Dead or alive, it was a courageous thing to stand up for the truth when connivance in falsehood might have been profitable. Upon the 24th March, 1.906, this journal published the following -
The bounty is not “ a rebate of Excise duty.”. It is very important to remember this, as it is by means of juggling with this and other items that interested persons have made some mosc ridiculous fallacies to bear the appearance of truth. A rebate, according to the dictionary, is “ a deduction from a gross or normal amount or sum; a’ drawback; discount.” The payment to the growers of sugar by white labour never came within this definition, or could come within miles of it. It is quite true that when the Excise Tariff Bill was passed in 1902 the payment was, with doubtful propriety, referred to as rebate; but that error was amended by the Sugar Rebate Abolition Act of the next year, which swept all” mention of rebate from the previous Act.
The bounty is paid, not out of Excise nor from any special ear-marked fund, but out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund. This is also important because persistent efforts have been made to represent’ the payment as connected . in some way with the Excise duty. There is no connexion whatever : and, further, the Act itself provides that allpayments’ that have pre-, viously been made under the heading of rebate shall bc taken to. have been paid as bounties. The bountv is paid by the whole of the people of Australia upon a capitation basis. Whether they live in a -sugar-growing State or not, whether they consume sugar or not, or what quantity of* sugar they do consume, matters nothing. The whole cost of the bounty is charged to the States exactly in proportion to the num ber of people in the State at the last count.
– That is correct.
– Then why does the honorable member contend- that the bounty is paid out of the Excise?
– There would be no bountv payable if there were no Excise. The honorable member knows that.
– And if there were no bounty there need be no Excise. If something ‘which I desired to sell were artificially increased in price by £6, and I received, in addition, a bounty of £3, I should not feel it a hardship to return £4 out of my £9, since it would leave -me £5 to the good: I ask the honorable member for South- Sydnev what other commodity of the farmer bears an import duty of 50 per cent. ?
– It is only 30 per cent.
– We are giving . away £700.000 a year in import duties..
– The Treasurer says that “it is only 30 per cent. A somewhat similar -statement was made at a Conference which was held at Townsville. The Chairman of that gathering admitted that the net protection enjoyed by sugar-growers was £5 per ton, so that evidently he did not consider that the bounty was paid out Of the Excise. He added -
Now, the price of refined sugar to-day may be set down as, say,£20 a ton, and as £5 is the fourth of that sum. sugar grown by white labour, is thus protected to the extent of 25 per cent, ad valorem, which is no greater protection than that given to a large number of articles appearing in the Federal Tariff.
I hope honorable members observe the juggling to which he has resorted. He has added the import duty to the normal value of the sugar, and then given the percentage. The real or normal price of sugar is from £12 to £13-
– The honorable member cannot purchase sugar at that price.
– Because we have placed an import duty upon it. That is the reason.
– A fair average price for sugar would be from; £11 to £12 per ton.
– Mr. Peacock, speaking some time ago, said this -
In1900 the price of locally-grown sugar was £13 per ton in Queensland. There was an import duty on sugar there, but it was as inoperative as a dutv on wool would be.
The whole of the sugar produced in Queensland was thus sold at world’s prices, £13 per ton or less.
Now I resume what I wished to say. The real or normal price of sugar is from £12 to £13 per ton, and it is on this price that a person dealing honestly with the figures would calculate the percentage of protection giver, to the industry. Any one can see that a net protection of £5 per ton on sugar worth £12, works out at about 42 per cent. If we may judge the planters’ case by this brazen misuse of figures it must ‘be a verv weak one. If they produce next year 200,000 tons of sugar, the value of the crop will be about £2,400,000; £5 per ton net protection will add another £1,000,000 to the value of the crop, which represents, not 25 per cent., but about 42 per cent. This is the net protection; the actual protection against outside sugar is 50 per cent., represented by the import duty of £6 per ton.
– I think the honorable member is wrong.
– I am sure that I am not wrong.
– What do we pay for sugar now - about £19 per ton.
– Between £19 and £20 per ton, and £6 of that price is artificially created. Admittedly my amendment, if carried, as I hope it . will be, would reduce the protection to the grower of sugar by white labour by £2 . per ton. At present he has a net protection of £5 per ton, and what I propose would give him a net protection of about 25 per cent, ad valorem.
– A very fair percentage of protection.
– I think it is. The honorable member for Angas will probably produce the documents he has referring to the matter, but if Australian sugar can be sold in South Africa for £3 18s. per ton less than it is sold for. in Australia-
– The Colonial Sugar Company’s price in June was’ £11 5s. c.i.f. Durban.
– Was that for Australiangrown sugar or for Fijian sugar?
– I should have to appeal to fee honorable member for Angas to ascertain whether the price he quoted was for sugar grown in Australia or for sugar that was. merely refined in Australia.
– I stated the facts last Friday.
– I understood, at any rate, that the price quoted for South Africa was £3 18s. per ton less than the price at which sugar is sold in Australia.
– That was for’ Java sugar.
– And for cheap labour sugar.
– If the grower of sugar by white labour can stand a reduction of £3 1 8s. per ton in the price of the product when exported for foreign use, he can stand a reduction in the’ protective duty to £3 per ‘ton so as to lower the cost to the Australian consumer. The Minister willsurely see that an increase in the price of his product by 25 per cent., due to the protective duty, should amply compensate the grower of. sugar by white’ labour for the increased cost of his labour. I have a letter here under the honorable gentleman’s own hand dealing with the cost of labour in the industry in Queensland. It shows that the. planters have not given anything like increases in wages corresponding to the benefits we have given them. I put some questions to the honorable gentleman on the subject some time ago, and as he had not the information at hand he wrote to me on the subject.
– Whom is the honorable gentleman going to quote?
– The present Treasurer. I asked certain questions about the wagesbeing paid in Queensland in the sugar industry, and in reply I received a letter from the . honorable gentleman dated17th. October, 1906, giving the following table -
It will be seen that the object of the tableis to show the wages paid in the industry in 1901, and to what extent, if any. they have since been increased. For No. 1 district, Port Douglas, the wages paid in.- 1901 were 30s. a week and found, and there has been no increase in the wagespaid in that district since that date, although there has been an import duty of £6 per ton on sugar.
– Are the wagesquoted for field labour or for labour in themills?
– I do not know ; I suppose they are the average wages. In No. 1 district, as I have said, there has been’ no increase of wages since 1901. At Dungeness, Geraldton., and Cairns, the- wages were 22s. 6d. to 25s. per week and found, and there has been no increase in the wages for field . hands since 1901. In No. 2 district, Mackay and Bowen, the wages were 20s. to 25s. and found, and they were increased from 1904, gradually, from 2s. 6d. to 5s. per week. That is an immense increase, is it not? In No. 3 district, Bundaberg, the wages were 20s. and found ; they were increased in 1906 by 7s. 6d., with a slight increase during intervening years.
– That is absolutely incorrect.
– This is the official statement on the subject, and not mine.
– Then I am sorry for the official statement.
– Those who were looking for labour contracts offered only 22s. 6d. per week.
– In the Maryborough district, the wages paid in 1901 ranged from 15s. to 20s. per week and found, and were increased in 1906 by from 7s. 6d. to 10s.. per. week. In No. 4 district,’ the Brisbane district, the wages in 1901 were from- 15s. to 18s. per week and found, and were increased in 1904 by from 2s. to 5s. per week. In New South Wales, the wages in 1901 were 22s. 6d. and found to 30s. 6d. not found, and there has been no increase in the wages since that date.
– They have had the full benefit of the duty in New South Wales.
– They have had the full benefit of the import duty of £6per ton.
– No, of only £5 per ton.
– Every one knows that £6 per ton is the gross protection, and that £5 per ton is the net protection. I am not seeking to deny that at all.
– Then, of what use is it for the honorable member to say that in New South Wales they got the full benefit of the import duty ?
– Let us get on with the Tariff.
– The honorable gentleman cannot accuse me of delaying the Tariff. This is the first time I have spoken on the Tariff. I consider the proposal with respect to the sugar industry is an outrage on the people of Australia, and, whether it suits the Treasurer or not, I shall make my protest against it. I think I have shown that the sugar planters are not entitled to a higher im”port duty than £3 per ton, which would -add 25 per cent, to the value of their pro duct. They are not paying wages corresponding to the increase which our legislation has conferred on the value of their product, and our legislation has not been successful in excluding the whole of the coloured aliens employed in the industry. If the bounty be excluded, we have given the black grower advantages almost equal to those of the white grower. This will be seen from “the following table -
I think that I am proposing a most effectual means for driving the black man out of the industry, and if it should not be successful there is nothing to prevent the State Government taking action. In Western Australia, we do not allow Chinese into our gold mines, and there is no reason why the State Government of Queensland should not take action to regulate the labour employed in the sugar industry in that State.
– We allow Afghans ‘to go on to our gold-fields in Western Australia.
– We do not allow them to hold mining leases, or actually to engage in gold-mining. The Queensland Government can. ship off the coloured alien at any time from this industry, and if that were done, it would simplify the position for us at once. The Excise and bounty could then be abolished, and the import duty lowered to a figure which would give the planter a fair recompense for any increase in the substitution of white for coloured labour. But the present arrangement, besides giving the black employer a protective advantage that was never intended for him, makes confusion worse confounded. Indeed, if those who are responsible for the bounty, the Excise and the import duty, had desired to mystify the public, they could not have effected their purpose in a better way. There is no duty in the schedule which calls for keener discussion than this. It involves heavy taxation, and is, moreover, the most objectionable of all taxes - a duty on a wholesome and necessary article of food. It necessarily makes the commodity dearer to the public, and is not paid by the wealthy refineries but by the masses. There is no effective substitute for sugar in household diet, nor in many of the products into which the article enters. It is worth while to review the operation of this tax on Australian consumers. The probable consumption of sugar during the current year - 1907-8 - has been estimated at 207,138 tons, of which it is thought that 7,833 tons will be imported. Of the Australian production - ‘Which is put down at 199,305 tons - it is expected that 181,100 tons would be grown by white labour, and 18,205 tons by blacks labour. The figures which I am giving to the Committee have been compiled mainly from data supplied by the Treasury. It is worthy of note that the cost of sugar to the consumers of Australia will be increased by the import duty by £1,242,828, that being the amount of Customs taxation on sugar paid by the people. But of that sum only ,£300,918 will be retained by the Treasury. £543,300 will be paid to the growers in the shape of a bounty, while the net protection enjoyed by them will amount to £398,610.
– What does the honorable ‘member propose to do?
– To reduce the import duty by .£2 a ton.
– Only that?
– The reduction of the import duty will affect the black grower.
– It will knock him clean out.
– The bounty and theprotection still remaining will be ample to keep the white grower in existence.
– Is the honorablemember going to leave the Excise duty alone ?
– If the honorablemember’s proposal were carried, Fijian andJavan sugar would be let in.
– If the Excise were abolished, which means the disappearancepractically of the bounty, the black grower would have the same advantage as the white grower. The total amount which will be paid to the sugar growers this year is estimated at £941,910, or 75.8 per cent, of the total sugar revenue. Since our first sugar legislation was passed, the amount of the sugar revenue which has gone into the pocketsof private persons has been, in 1902-3, 33.7 per cent. ; in 1903-4, 39.4 per cent. ; in .1904-5, 57.3 per cent. ; in 1905-6, 6oper cent. ; and, in 1906-7, 78.4. Thisyear slightly more revenue w.ill remain in the Treasury than was kept back last year,, because now the whole crop pays Excise at the rate of .£4 per ton,’ whereas last yearpart of it paid Excise at the rate of .£3 per ton.
– But the proportion going to the growers is increasing.
– Yes. The following, table shows, for the annual periods between 1902 and 1:907, the quantities of sugar con,sumed in Australia, the taxation paid bv the people, the amounts retained by the Treasury, the total paid to sugar-growers, and’ the percentage of total sugar revenue paid” to the growers, and contains an estimate under those heads relating to the present year -
I venture to hope that honorable members will find this table somewhat illuminating. It is compiled from statistics contained in the Budget and other official papers. From it the transition of sugar taxes from the public treasury to the pockets of the planters can be followed year by year. The next table summarizes the position from the inception of this legislation to date, and shows the total public outlay on this industry up to the end of the present year -
Between 1902 and 1907 the net protection given to white growers, that is, excluding the bounty, was £1,414,912, and to black growers £1,242,524, a total of £2,657,436. The legislation which I have been discussing was enacted originally to bring about a White Australia, but, excluding the bounty, its net effect is seen to be that the black grower has received nearly as much as the white grower, so that it has proved a very original method of bringing about what we desire.
– But the bounty is the essence of the whole arrangement.
– No, it is not. If the honorable member believes that it is, he should vote for the reduction of the import duty.
– We cannot exclude the bounty.
– If the import duty is reduced by £2 a ton, the growers will still have 25 per cent, protection.
Colonel Foxton. - Against the cheapest labour in the world.
– With an Excise duty of £1 per ton, the protection will be less than 25 per cent.
– The net protection will still be £3 per ton to the white grower, which ought to satisfy him.
– It is absolutely unfair to include the cost of deporting the kanakas.
– From one point of view it may be so; but it is not unfair in thissense, that the money has been paid by the taxpayers. My purpose at present is to show the total cost of this experiment to the people of Australia.
– Of what is called the White Australia policy.
– Of what has been called,. but is not by any means, a White Australia policy. I thank the honorable member for his interjection.
– Suppose that we wanted to export a few Japanese pearlers front Broome.
– When Western Australiarequires an advantage of that kind, I hope that the honorable member will lend his sympathetic ear to us as readily as he is lending it to the Queensland planters.
– I certainly shall, for I do not want to keep them nere.
– So far as the pearlshell industry is concerned, it is provided that the men shall be deported at the cost of those who introduced them, and not at the cost of the taxpayers of Australia.
– What did Queensland do ?
– Why did not the Queensland planters deport the kanakas at their own cost?
– We were deporting them, and under a regular system.
– So irregular that the kanakas came in faster than they went out.
– I recognise that my proposal will receive no sympathy from the representatives of Queensland, and I suppose that it will not get much sympathy from the representastives of New South Wales.
– Or from any other fairminded men.
– The result will, I hope, disclose the existence of many men- who are unfair minded - from the honorable member’s point of view. I have some figures here that should arouse the representatives of the smaller States to the necessity of action to stop this tribute, which is becoming exceedingly onerous to their constituents. Take, for instance, South Australia. She has made an enormous sacrifice to keep the Northern Territory for the use of white people.
– She has not done it.
– In recent years South Australia has done a great deal in that direction,, and at a great sacrifice, too. I remind the representatives of that State that the sugar bounty has cost her people £1 26, 742. Their increased cost of sugar has amounted to £431,454, and their cost of repatriating the kanakas to £1,354, making a total of £559,550
– What will the survey of the railway to Western Australia cost?
– Like the honorable member for Swan, I shall take that fence when I come to it.. I would remind the honorable member for Bass, as one who fully understands the position of Tasmania, that the total cost of this policy to his State, which financially is rather badly off, has already been £254,113, while the total cost to Western Australia has been £362,609. The following is the table from which I have just quoted : -
I think I can fairly appeal to the representatives of the smaller States to assist me in mitigating the common burden by reducing the import duty from £6 to £4 a ton.
– Since Federation, the people of Tasmania have paid less for their sugar than they did before.
– That remark discloses another of the fallacies which the sugar-growers and their advocates are continually putting before the people in order to mislead them. When Tasmania paid an enhanced price for its sugar before Federation, . the people had the satisfaction of knowing that the whole of the revenue from the. duty went into the Treasury and relieved them fromtaxation in other directions.
Colonel Foxton. - Three-fourths of the Customs duty goes into the State Treasury now.
– It is true’ that threefourths of the Customs and Excise revenue is now handed back to- the State, but formerly the whole of the revenue from the Customs, duty was paid into the State Treasury. Now, however, 78.4 per cent, of the total taxation of the people . is passing into the pockets of private individuals. That is the difference, and an immense one it is. There are many other interesting aspects of this matter with] which i should like to deal, but I feel, that I have occupied the attention of- the Committee too long. Yet I may point out that in addition to the fact that the planters have not given adequate wages, there is a determined effort to introduce to the plantations city, lads whose ages range from fourteen to eighteen years, so that the wages in the cane-fields may be cut down.
– That is one of those statements which are made without any justification. I do not suggest that the honorable member has not a justification for making the statement, because he has been so informed.
– Does the “honorable member deny that this matter was discussed at the Townsville Conference last February, and that a motion was submitted ?
– I shall give the facts presently.
– What I say is a fact, and nothing that the honorable member can produce will affect it. In addition to getting cheap labour from Europe, the sugar-growers tried to smuggle into the plantations a number of boysto do the work which grown men ought to be employed in doing. I am astonished to find some of my honorable friends defending the planters as they have been doing. To show the feeling of the planters towards the workers, I may quote some of the choice epithets used at the Townsville Conference. A sugar-grower named Crawford said -
A large proportion of the men did not seem to care much whether the cane was left to rot on the ground so long as they got their meals and a few beers.
Then one L. C. Horton referred to the workers as “ beer swimmers and generally useless workers.” He said that “ they included the worst loafers and the skimming of the scum of the universe.”
Colonel Foxton. - They were a pretty seedy lot who came up from the south:
– Anyhow, individuals can always be found who talk like that.
Colonel Foxton. - The men were quite unsatisfactory.
– That language did not exhaust the resources of this gentleman’s vituperation; and it cannot be denied that he reflected the whole tone of the Conference - depreciation of the local working men.
– Not local men.
– Well, the men who went up there to work.
Colonel Foxton. - From the south.
– Well, they are the men who, though good enough to be taxed for the sake of the sugar industry, were not considered fit to work for the Queensland planters. This Mr. Horton went On to denounce the men as a “ nomadic, nondescript, makeshift crowd,” who were “ demanding exorbitant wages for getting in each other’s way in their hurried efforts to shirk their work.” After he had recovered his breath, he said the workers were “ dissolute loafers,” “ lovely specimens of rotters,” and “ free rations and beer seekers.”
– Who were these men ?
– Those who went up to Queensland to work for the sugar-growers. To these workers the terms quoted were applied by the planters. I suppose that in this House there is no more estimable or impartial man than the honorable member for Herbert; and yet this is what a Mr. Gibson, a member of the Conference, said in denying the honorable member’s statement that there was sufficient labour in the Australian market for this work -
The sooner Mr. Bamford and others “of . his sort are removed from Parliament the better it will be for the country.
At which there were loud cheers.
– Is that such a terrible thing to say ?
– It is not a personal attack on the honorable member for Herbert.
– But the language shows the tone of the Conference. In considering this subject, it is desirable to have a local view of the Queensland planter; and I shall quote a few sentences, written by the editor of the Brisbane Worker and published on the 30th March, 1907 -
The traffic in the kanaka was one of the vilest things of which history had record.
Sugar was literally grown in blood, and the cane-fields were manured with the bones of a murdered race.
Referring to the threat of the plantersto leave Queensland if they did not get cheap Labour, the article went on tosay -
If the Worker were Premier it would en-‘ courage them to clear. It would offer to helpthem move the furniture. We would be better without such incorrigible gluttons, who, feed them asyou may, have never enough.
That is very plain speaking - as true as it. is frank -
Already we have found them cheap labour,, bv. giving them a bonus to pay wages with. We have taxed ourselves, moreover,’ to insurethem a monopoly of the Australian market.
I ask the attention of honorable members; to this sentence -
We have fostered their industry until to-day it is the most profitable in the Commonwealth,, and the price of sugar lands has doubled and) trebled. Last year, with most df the cane harvested by White Australia labour, was a record’ for prosperity. And still they are not satisfied. Australian labour is not cheap enoughor servile enough for them. No word indeed is too hard to fling at it. The land rings with their insults and Tevilings. An ultimatum is now presented, “ Get us cheap immigrant labour quickly, at the cost of. the State, or out wego !” For our part,, we would let them go. The land will not go with them. The art of growing cane won’t go either. Thefertility of the soil is not an emigrant. Nature will stay with us. Go by all means. Only we know you won’t.
This is the local view of the planter andof the benefits conferred on him by legislation. Now, it strikes me that a good deal! of objection might be made to this differentiation in favour of these two. States, on the ground of constitutionality, seeing that sugar is -not grown elsewhere in AustraliaSection 99 of the Constitution is as follows -
The Commonwealth shall not, by any law or regulation of trade, commerce, or revenue, give preference to’ one State or any part thereof over another State or . any part thereof.
We know there is nothing in our Acts providing that this duty shall, be payable only on Queensland or New South Wales sugar ; but the fact remains that there is no sugar’ grown elsewhere; and, at any rate, this is, in fact, if not in spirit, a violation of theConstitution. I do not pretend for onemoment that all objection is to be based entirely on that ground. I have shown the’effect of our policy on the planter and on the consumer or taxpayer. But there is another aspect in regard to the Federal’ Treasury that I should like to mention. In reply to the honorable member for Capricornia just now, I said that hitherto, when the consumer had paid a high price for sugar, in consequence of an import duty, he had the satisfaction of knowing that his cash went into the national Treasury, and relieved him from taxation in other directions. Now, however, the position is that more than three-fourths of the increased price - close on £1,000,000 per annum - passes into . the pockets of private individuals. The other phase of the matter which I desire to emphasize is one in which the finances of the Commonwealth are vitally affected in another way. As everybody knows, under the Constitution, three-fourths of the Customs and Excise revenue must be returned to the States. We collect by way of Excise on 199,305 tons of sugar locally grown a duty of £4 per ton, of which £3 is returned to the planter who employs white, labour exclusively. The grower by black labour pays the same Excise, but nothing is returned to him by way of bounty. The position may be thus summarized. The receipts from Excise on white-grown sugar are £724,400, and on black-grown sugar £72,820, a total of £797,220. On the other side of. the ledger we find bounty to the white grower”, £543,390 ; refund of three-fourths of the Excise duty to the States, £597,915; or a total of £1,141,215, leaving a deficiency to be made good out of the Federal Treasury of£343.995-
– That is simply a shifting from the States to the Commonwealth.
– It is a shifting of a good deal of cash from the Commonwealth to the1 States. That is, we pay £343,995, which we have earned or received in some other way, to the States, to fully recoup them for the amount of Excise revenue to which they are entitled under the Constitution.
– It has made no difference up to ‘ date, on account of the Commonwealth returning to the States more than the three-fourths to which they were entitled.
– It makes a difference this year of £343.995 .
– We should have returned that amount to the States in any case.
– It may be so; but at the same time the position is as [ have stated it. There can be- no doubt about the facts.
– It. affects the Commonwealth revenue.
– The Excise duty is £4 per ton; the bounty to the white grower is £3 per ton - difference £1 per ton; refund to . States £3 per ton - deficiency £2 per ton. Honorable members will see that,1 as the Treasury receipts dwindle, the fund required to subsidize the planters gradually expands. That process can only be stopped when the production of sugar has overtaken the local consumption.
– The honorable member does not propose to touch that anomaly ?
– If we were to touch that anomaly it would create a greater anomaly. The honorable member, I understand, favours a reduction of the Excise.
– I say that the two are correlated, and it is impossible to attack the one without attacking the other.
– That is where. I differ from the honorable member. Let me repeat my argument for his benefit. If we reduce the import duty to £4 we bring it down to the level of the Excise; but still, after the white grower has received the bounty, he will enjoy a protection of 25 per cent. My point is that that protection is sufficient. It is quite impossible to reduce the Excise and maintain the bounty at the present rate without further depleting the Treasury -
– And that means further increasing the protection.
– To the black growerYes. He would gain bv being relieved of Excise payments.
– It would be freetrade.
– My proposal means free-trade as far as the black grower is concerned. Equalization of the import and Excise duties would confer on the black grower no benefit whatever.
– Black-grown sugar from outside will be very likely to come in and compete with our white-grown sugar.
– The honorable member must not lose sight of this fact - that “ black-grown “ sugar in Queensland means only partially black-grown sugar, because most of the work of the mills is done by white labour.
– Unfortunately most of the work done in the mills in the north of Queensland is done by black labour”.
– Whether that be so or not it is a fact that there are some 7,576 coloured people still engaged in the sugar industry.
– That was in 1906.
– The honorable member knows very well that those figures are made up to the end of 1906 - less than “a year ago. I also urge upon honorable members this consideration - -that we shall be paying out of the Treasury next year, or as soon as the white product reaches 200,000 tons, £400,000 per annum more than we receive in revenue. Our expenditure is already getting close up to the, one-fourth Customs and Excise revenue, which we are entitled under the “Constitution to spend. The more the Excise is increased the closer we shall get to the one-fourth to which we are constitutionally confined.
– An alteration of the Braddon section will alter all that.
– The Braddon section is not altered yet. I think that it is incumbent upon us, recognising how close we are getting to the exhaustion of the one-fourth to which we are entitled, to reconsider the duty on sugar, and not to be bound necessarily, as the honorable member for Wide Bay suggests,, by the Excise that, under present circumstances, will expire in 1912. I have no hesitation “in saying that Parliament ought to inquire carefully into this matter.
– The Excise, practically expires in 191 1.
– When the measures affecting the sugar industry were under consideration, I protested against the Parliament that dealt with them binding the hands of future Parliaments.
– We must remember that the honorable member has always been against this legislation. We have no complaint on that ground.
– I shall always be against anything that I consider to be unjust to any class of the community. In this case, I consider that the masses of Australia are being taxed inordinately for the benefit of a very small class, and that not necessarily the most valuable class in the community.
– There are 40,000 people interested in it.
– There, are, it is true, 40,000 people directly engaged in the industry. Perhaps there are 140,000 engaged in it, directly and indirectly. I should like to be concerned in an industry that had a guarantee from the Legislature of the Commonwealth of a Tariff advantage of 25 per cent. I understand that at present the estimated value of the lands devoted to sugar’ cultivation, of the sugar mills, and of all the machinery connected with the industry.is about £7,000,000.
– Sir Edmund Barton, in. 1901, gave the value as £8,000,000.
– I looked up the figureslast night, and found that Sir Edmund” Barton gave the figures as between; £6,000,000 and £7,000,000. I havetaken the outside valuation. At the present rate of import duty, Excise, and bounty, the industry is, on that valuation, guaranteed an equivalent of 14 per cent, on thevalue of its total annual output.
– Didnot the honorable member say that the cost of the industry, to the Commonwealth amounts to about? £1,200,000 per annum?
– That is in taxation. Thevalue of the crop, minus the duty, is about: £2,400,000 - 200,000 tons at £12 per ton. Then the taxation is half that amount - about £1,200,000.
– That is 50 per cent.
– What about the byproducts?
– I have not given much, attention to the point the honorable member mentions, but the figures show that theCommonwealth guarantee amounts to about 14 per cent.
– That is on the money invested in the industry.
– Yes. The valuation of ‘ £7,000,000 is, to my mind, excessive. There are. only 133,000 acres under crop in Queensland, and, assuming the land to beworth £30 per acre, we have a value of £3,990,000. An estimate of £3,000,000 in respect of the value of the mills, machinery, and plant would, in my opinion, be excessive; but accepting this valuation- of £7,000,000, we find that, by the legislation of the Federal Parliament, a profit’ of £1,000,000, or 14 per cent, on thecapital invested - if it be true that ‘ it’ amounts to £7,000,000 - is guaranteed. I’ am sure that the honorable member forFremantle, who is a keen commercial man, would like to have an interest in a businessin respect of which the Government guaranteed a profit of 14 per cent.
– Yes, or a profit of half “ that amount.”
– How does the honorable member know that the sum mentioned represents a profit?
– It must be a profit, since it is an increased price provided for by the legislation of the Commonwealth.
– To make good the loss that otherwise would accrue.
– I find that the planters, especially those who met at Townsville, emphasize the point that, in exporting sugar, they would have to compete with’ the black labour of other countries, and on that ground seek to justify the imposition of a high duty. But what is the position with regard to other industries? The Australian wheat-grower, I believe, has to -compete in the London market with wheat grown by black labour, or by white labour as poorly remunerated as is some of the black labour employed in the production of sugar. It seems to me, therefore, that the case for the planters in this respect is not so strong as they would have us believe. The competition of coloured labour applies to other Australian products which are sold in the markets of the world. What, for instance, is the position of the Australian miner who has to compete with the Chinese worker on the Rand?
– And we have Chinese miners in the Northern Territory.
– That is so. These facts might fairly be cited in opposition to the contention of the planters that thev are -entitled to special consideration because they have to compete with coloured labour.
Colonel Foxton. - What is the production of the miner?
– Copper, tin and other minerals.
– ls copper produced in South Africa?
– Gold, at all events, is produced there. Whilst I admit that gold always maintains its price, we cannot lose sight of the fact that the cost of extracting an ounce of gold in the Rand, where Chinese labour is employed, must be less than is the cost of winning an ounce of gold in Kalgoorlie or Coolgardie, where white labour is employed.
– There is no competition in the product.
– There is competition in the sense that the speculator on the Rand obtains a larger return in respect of equal capital. His gold is won by means of
Chinese labour, while the shareholder in the mines of Kalgoorlie pays fair wages to white men.
– It may mean that the speculator on the Rand can work a lowergrade proposition.
– It does mean that also ; yet gold is produced in Western Australia, owing to the high efficiency of the workers, at a cost which compares favourably with the outlay in the Transvaal. If it be necessary to apologize for having delayed the Committee unduly, the apology is found in the nature of this tax as an unwarranted impost on a universal and wholesome article of diet, levied in the interest of a small class, who have established no claim to exceptional treatment. I now move -
That the words “ and on and after 16th October, 1907, per cwt, 4s.,” be added.
.- Evidently it is the’ desire ‘f the Committee not to discuss this question at great length, but the honorable member for Coolgardie has just delivered himself . of a carefully prepared speech-
– Why should I not prepare a speech?
– I am not complaining; on the contrary, I am complimenting the honorable member on the fact, and I shall pay him the further compliment of saying that he has throughout been absolutely consistent in his opposition to the sugar duties.’ He has, from the first, protested and . voted against the proposition now before the Committee, and has dealt’ with it with characteristic vigour. I and others who believe in an absolutely White Australia - who believe that the policy should apply, not only to the sugar industry, but to others - held that some Australian body would have to fight for that contention, and we were prepared to do so.
– And the people have to pay.
– I shall deal later on with that point. At the outset, many people did not hesitate to say that sugar could be produced by white labour in Australia, and that the question was only one of economics. Others held that it was a physical impossibility, but the prediction that the people of our own race could produce in Australia all the sugar that we required has been absolutely fulfilled. The trouble now is that the application of the White Australia policy to sugar growing has been successful. The grumbling that we hear is on the ground that we are losing revenue, because white men are producing a commodity used by every man in Australia.
– If the industry is successful, will it be able to carry on after 1913, when the present protection is removed ?
– I am not here to say that we could or should attempt to carry it on without protection. The honorable member for Angas and the honorable member for Coolgardie are entitled to take up that position, but if that is the view of the majority, we should be straightforward, and tell the people plainly that we intend to remove the duty, and wipe out the industry. There is no other industry w’hich is so affected by the production of cheap labour as is that of sugar growing. The honorable member for Coolgardie says that white men engaged in cultivating wheat in Australia have to compete in the open markets of the world with the products of coloured labour, but he fails to make any allowance for the difference in the methods of cultivation adopted in the two industries. In the production of sugar cane manual labour, using more or less primitive tools, is absolutely necessary. So far there has . not been invented, a machine capable of harvesting a crop of sugar cane in the way that other crops are dealt with. .
– There is still a large proportion of black labour employed in the industry. .
– Then there will be a large amount of revenue from the Excise, and that should please those who complain of the present policy. Their only reason for complaining is that where white labour is employed in sugar growing only £1 per ton revenue is obtained. If black labour be largely employed the Commonwealth will reap an Excise of £4 per ton, and the opponents of a White Australia policy will be satisfied. But I should rather not see a penny obtained in that way.
– The question of revenue is not quite the trouble.
– It is the success of the policy, and the consequent loss1 of revenue, that is giving rise to complaint. Even last year it was said that the success of the policy of a White Australia was not assured. Now that it is its opponents have changed their ground, and say that we are going too far.
– The success of the policy was challenged, not last year, but: two years ago.
– I am not going to complain, nor have I ever done, regarding, the attitude taken up on this question by some honorable members. I and many others maintained at the outset that thecultivation of sugar by white labour wouldbe an assured success if . this policy were anything like a permanent one, and I held, and still hold, that the bounty should be paid as long as coloured labour is employed. If the Excise and the bounty wereabolished, what would be the result so far as some of the larger planters whostill use black labour are concerned?It would bring the white man again intodirect competition with the coloured labour over the fence, and it would be only a matter of time when all the surplus coloured labour in Australia would be-“ taken to North Queensland to producesugar.
– Is this bounty to go onfor ever?
– Is there any harm in it going on for ever?
– Are not those black men competing with white men elsewhere?’
– They are; and there isno reason why they should not get a fair opportunity of doing so, but we- desire to cultivate sugar with white labour in themost northern parts of Australia. There is no harm in an honorable member desiring that policy to succeed, because it is the ambition of the people of Australia to seethe northern part of Australia settled’. I appeal to the Committee purely on economicgrounds, but if one wanted an argument to buttress one’s position, I could appeal to honorable members on patriotic grounds, by stating that there is not any other example in the world of white men producing sugar in the tropics in competition with the rest of the. world. We are the onecountry in the world that has done it, but already we hear complaints and appeals toreduce the duty.
– It is. a great handicap to many other industries.
– What other industry ishandicapped ?
– Industries like themanufacture of confectionery, jams, and other articles, which depend upon a. supply of sugar.
– Their protection is quite as high as that of the. sugar industry. Glancing through the schedule, I notice that the wood, wicker; and cane-working industries are to be given 40 per cent, projection, yet here is an industry of the soil that asks no more, although it is in direct -competition with countries close at hand, which have at command the cheapest labour in the world. To the left of North Queensland is ‘Java, to its right are Fiji and the Hawaiian Islands. Those are the very best parts of the world for the production of sugar at the cheapest possible rates.
– If Queensland gets the large population which the honorable member says she will get, she will have to export sugar in competition with those very people.
– Would not that be the time to raise the question of how we are to assist the sugar-growers to export their product? If what the honorable member suggests is correct, it proves that the industry will be such a success that we shall have to seek the markets of the world. I have recently heard in this Chamber statements regarding the farseeing policy of the German Empire. If the Germans have a surplus production of sugar, under the cartel system, a bounty is paid for the export of the surplus.
– Does the honorable member suggest the adoption of that course here ?
– I am not suggesting anything. Once we see that we are producing here more sugar than we require, it will be for the Parliament of that day to -deal with the question, and I hope that the/ will deal with it in an intelligent “and straightforward manner.
– There will be a demand then for an increase in the bounty.
– If there is a demand, I hope that it will be dealt with by an intelligent Parliament. The people of Australia, when they know the facts, will undoubtedly send members to represent them in this Parliament to deal with that and every other question in a national and statesmanlike way. I am not going to anticipate a discussion on a question of the future.
– The honorable member will admit that it is a very complicated question at present.
– I admit that it is. Why was an Excise duty imposed? Why was a bounty given? All these things are interwoven. We held, I think properly, that it was not fair or just for any Parliament . to call upon a white man to maintain his wife and family on the same wage as was paid to a kanaka or other coloured man.
– The reason was the removal of the black labour that the planters had been dependent on.
– The honorable member for North Sydney is in error. Long before this Parliament was in existence, we maintained the position which I have just stated. Many white men sacrificed themselves and their families struggling against the competition of the coloured labour over the fence. I am glad that they did so, because they . established the fact that white men could do the work ; although they could not continue to do it against the competition of the coloured labour alongside them, because of the fact that this is largely a manual-labour industry.
– What is the percentage of expenditure on labour?
– It is very high compared with that in’other industries. . There is another factor which is not properlyunderstood by those honorable members who have not studied the production of cane as compared with other commodities. In a drought year, like that of 1902 or 1903, the failure of the cane crop is worse than the failure of an ordinary agricultural crop. In the latter case, where there is a short crop, there is almost invariably a high price, but if the crop of sugar cane is very small, there is no return at all, because it does notpay to start the mills to treat the cane. Sugar cane cannot be produced and sold like any other commodity. It is valueless unless there is a plant worth £50,000 in the immediate neighbourhood to crush the cane, and put it on the road to become sugar. It is a more complicated industry than any other ordinary one with which we could possibly deal. Unless there is a sufficient crop, the mill will not start, and the growers suffer a dead” loss. An import duty of £6 was imposed on cane sugar because Parliament thought that that was a fair protective duty for the industry. A duty of £10 was imposed on the bounty-fed beet sugar, because at that time there was an amount equal to £4 per ton paid in the shape of bounties for the export of beet sugar from other countries. With regard to the broad challenge thrown out by the honorable member for Coolgardie that only two States produce ‘sugar,
I may state that I heartily supported an amendment to pay the full amount of bounty on sugar produced from beet; or in any other way, in every State of the Commonwealth. That is on the statute-book, so that every State could share in the bounty if it so desired, as every State could produce beet sugar. Why this jealousy because New South Wales and Queensland produce cane sugar?
– I do not think the matter is looked at from a jealous standpoint.
– Then the objection must be from a revenue stand-point. Let the free-traders attack the duty,- and move to reduce it, if they regard it as too high. But if they reduce the duty, they will wipe out the industry. It means either the duty and the industry, or no duty and no industry. When a much smaller town industry is at stake, many representations are made regarding the great loss that would be caused if it were wiped out. This industry is not a town industry, and it is not even an ordinary district industry. It is an industry which is carried on largely along the north coast of Queensland, and which is helping to fortify a portion of Australia which we all desire to see fortified by members of our own race. On that ground alone it is worthy of consideration. The honorable member for Coolgardie made a strong point of the amount of money which the planters would be able to make if they grew sugar and at the same time carried on a jam manufactory for the purpose of exporting jam. It will be consoling tohim to learn that last year the total quantity of sugar exported in jams was 351 tons.
– That is nonsense.
– The honorable member is quite entitled to interject “ nonsense,” because, during the course of his speech. I made a similar observation upon two or three occasions.
– Was any refined sugar ex: ported. last year?
– Will the honorable member turn to page 157 of the Budget papers ?
– The quantity of jam exported in 1906 was 1,574,303 lbs., the sugar contents of which would be approximately 351 tons.
– Why nearly 700 tons of jam were exported from Hobart alone last year.
– So that honorable members may not misunderstand my position, I may say that I have divided the quantity of jam exported by two, in order to ascertain the quantity of sugar which it contained.
– Last year two firms in Hobart alone exported to places outside Australia 660 tons of jam.
– The honorable member for Wide Bay must be in error.
– I have no desire to supply inaccurate figures to the Committee. The sugar industry is not one which needs to be bolstered up by mis-statements or by incorrect statistics. The position which the industry occupies under existing conditions is a most . intricate one, and one which very few persons understand. To begin with, it is clear that there is an import duty of £6 per ton on sugar.
– How much refined sugar was exported last year?
– I cannot say off hand.
– Last year we exported 2,840 tons of sugar, which in South Africa was classed as refined.
– When we are dealing with this question, we should recollect that a certain quantity of sugar has been imported, some of which has been reexported.
– It has been imported for the purpose of refining?
– Not necessarily.
-The sugar which was re-exported came from Java, and was refined here.
– The honorable member is not quite correct. Some sugar has been imported into Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia, even during the current year. It is a singular fact that the sugar imported into these States is, in part, of the higher class which is subject to a duty of £10 per ton.
– Not usually. In South Australia, we used to collect £6 per ton upon sugar - that is the present rate upon cane sugar.
– As the honorable member is aware, imported sugar other than cane sugar, is subject to a duty of 10s. per cwt., or £10 per ton. The honorable member for Melbourne has just informed me that the figures which I gave the Committee in reference to the quantity of sugar exported in the form of jams last year are quite correct. I notice that the Treasurer is looking very gloomy as the result of the length of this discussion. I ami quite prepared to defend the sugar industry if it is necessary for me to do so. The honorable member for Coolgardie would do well to withdraw his proposal on the ground that the Excise upon sugar is fixed by Statute, and cannot, therefore, be altered upon the present occasion. His proposal can only exercise a disturbing influence upon the sugar industry. This Parliament will hesitate a long time before it seeks to wipe out that industry - an industry in which, not merely a few planters are interested, but perhaps some 3,000 sugar farmers, who are employing whitelabour in the northern part of Australia - for the sake of the paltry amount of revenue to which the honorable member has referred.
– I notice, frorm the return which the honorable member has handed to me, that the class of sugar imported into South Australia is not specified.
– Since the beginning df the present year, New South Wales has imported 31,795 cwts. . of cane sugar, and 215 cwts. of other sugar.
– What quantity has she exported?
-I cannot say. I merely desired to ascertain what quantity of sugar was being imported. I find that there is very little. It is satisfactory to know that we are producing locally nearly all the sugar that is consumed within the Commonwealth. I should like to know what honorable members would say if I rose and declared, “During the bad vears of 1902 and 1903, the Commonwealth collected £600,000 upon the importation of grain, chiefly wheat. Look at the loss of revenue that we are incurring. If we were to experience another drought, we . should get more revenue.” Would thev regard such an utterance as a statesmanlike one? Yet some honorable members, in dealing with the sugar industry are content to select the very lowest productive year, and to exclaim, “ If the industry occupied the lamentable position to-day that it occupied in 1902, look at the revenue that we should receive.” But I ask would such a state of things represent prosperity? I say that it would spell absolute disaster for Australia. It is very unfortunate that when, in1 902-3, Parliament first legislated on this subject, the production of sugar was exceedinglysmall. A few years previously, the Queensland production was almost as great as it is to-day, so that any comparison would not have provoked the criticism which we haveheard.
– The point is the revenue.
– I have said, before, and I say again, that, if the division of opinion is as to whether the sugar industry should or should not receive protection, the attack which has been” made on the present system is a legitimate one. But, if it has been made on the ground that Queensland is getting a special benefit from the bounty, I take exception to it. As the Excise paid by the producers is more than the bounty which th’ey receive, they get no real protection from either bounty or Excise. The honorable member for Coolgardie has argued that the contention that the grower pays the bounty through the Excise is fallacious.
– The duty covers the loss.
– If the question’ is faced fairly it will be seen that the duty, less the £1 paid by the white growers to be allowed to carry on their industry, gives them an actual net protection of £5 a ton. All attempts to prove that the country loses by the bounty are merely the throwing of dust in the eyes of the electors, and, I hope,, will not be continued. In the very last resort, the duty will determine the price of the article. The price of the local sugar must always keep below the cost of imported sugar, plus the duty, otherwise- it will not retain the home market. If the Excise is increased by £1, and the price of cane reduced by a sum equivalent to another£1, the growers will ultimately be deprived of the benefit which it is intended to give to them. They are no better off now that they are receiving a bounty of £3 than they were when receiving a bounty of £2. Parliament did not intend that they should be; its only intention was to bring about the carrying on of the industry entirely by white labour. That has been achieved, and it has been proved again and again that white labour can do the necessary work.
– If an export trade arises, shall we still have to pay the bounty ?
– I have said before, in answer to that question, that I hope that Parliament will deal with the case intelligently when it arises.
– We are getting to the limit.
– We have not yet reached it. The sugar industry should not be expected to expand rapidly, even with the protection which it has received, because there are many difficulties in the way of growing sugar in Australia. The best soil for sugar growing is to be found in islands in the tropical parts of the world. Moreover, it is impossible to use machinery in connexion with the cultivation of the cane, and when the -season is bad, instead of obtaining higher prices, the growers get nothing at all, because the mills cannot start to crush. In some years the growers may get nothing. Therefore honorable members should not be too sanguine. Even with the employment of coloured labour, Australia would have great difficulty in competing with some other countries in the production of sugar. 1 shall not compare the protiuction per acre in the Hawaiian Islands with that in Queensland, but there is a great difference. With regard to a drawback, it has been held by the producers in Queensland that it is a disadvantage not to allow drawback in connexion with sugar used in exported manufactures. I have always taken that view, and when Minister of Trade and Customs, did my best to allow the payment of the full amount of drawback.
– On imported sugar ?
– On both local and imported sugar. The Commonwealth should not tax its’ exports. If there is any justification for bounties, such as we have agreed to in the Bounties Bill, it is the encouragement of the exportation of Australian manufactures and produce. At the present time, manufacturers get a full drawback for the sugar in the articles which they export, but it is difficult to discriminate between imported and locally produced sugar. The rule was laid down that where the amount of sugar exported did not exceed the amount imported, there would be no real hurt to the revenue in allowing a full drawback. That rule has worked well, having caused, as the- ex-Treasurer knows, no serious inroads into our revenue. Something has been said about the exportation of manufactures of fruit. That industry is entitled to all the consideration it can get. But, even under the old Tariff, jam was protected to the extent of £14 a ton.
– The duty does no good. It could be taken off to-morrow.
– Mr. Jones does not say that. I asked him, and he told me that the honorable member was wrong. -.
– Then we had better vote to do away with that duty.
– If the present amendment is carried, honorable members can do so.
– If half the weight of a ton of jam is accounted for by the sugar in it, upon which the duty would come to only £3, and there is a protective duty of £14 on jam, I do not think it unreasonable to ask that the net protection given to the growers of sugar shall be £5 a ton. One good point about the Commonwealth, legislation regarding the bounty and the Excise has not been credited to the Parliament which passed it. Bv no other protective measure of which I know has it been possible for Parliament to provide that the actual producer of the raw material which is used in a protected manufacture shall be benefited. But in the case of the sugar duties, the protection actually benefits the growers, and money is handed to them by the Commonwealth officers.
– Do they not get less for their cane in consequence?
– Yes; but the honorable member knows that if the money had to pass through the hands of the manufacturei very little would reach the producers. How often have we heard the . honorable member for Melbourne and others complaining that, although Victoria enjoyed protection for years, her producers did not benefit by it. The Federal Parliament has in this instance been successful in arranging that some of the benefits of protection shall reach the growers. That seems to be objected to by the honorable member for Coolgardie.
– Does not the sugar grower get any advantage from the import duty?
– Yes, but it is not equal to the payment of the direct bounty to the small growers.
– When we increased the Excise by£1 per ton, was not the price of cane reduced?
– Yes, practically to the same extent, but the right honorable member has not been following my argument.
– The honorable member’s argument is a very good one. It is that in all cases under a system of protection the wrong man gets the benefit.
– Except in the case of sugar, the honorable member’s argument may be correct. We have discovered a method of protecting the actual producer of sugar, and the honorable member would do away with it.
– The honorable member’s argument is very strong against the Tariff as a whole.
– It was said that our legislation on the subject would not be successful, and that the sugar industry would be wiped out. But in this, as in all other matters where national interests are involved, no special conditions would induce me to follow a course which would be detrimental to those interests. I admit that we have received vilification enough for our efforts to establish the industry on a white labour basis, but I have nothing whatever to do with the wild, reckless, and sometimes unseemly statements made by planters who are hankering after coloured labour again. I have been advocating the employment of white labour in the sugar industry for twenty-two years, and have seen no reason to change my opinion that the industry can be carried on by that labour. The policy we have adopted has been proved to be successful, and I should very much regret it if this Parliament were to declare an intention to reduce the protection afforded to sugar-growers who have been so manfully tackling the production of sugar “by white ‘ labour, or do anything which would render their position uncertain. To dp” so would be to create a disastrous condition of affairsin the northern part of Australia, whilst it would do no good to the people resident in other parts of the Commonwealth.
– I shall not detain the Committee many minutes.
– Why does the honorable gentleman wish to “stone-wall” his own Tariff?
– The honorable member will find that I do not intend to “stone-wall” the Tariff. I hope to give a little information which may possibly shorten the debate. The only difficulty I see in regard to this matter ‘is that whilst the Government have to pay out of the Consolidated Revenue the whole of the bounty, they receive only onefourth of the Excise. That is a verv difficult position, but so far as I can see at present it must continue until the Braddon section ceases to operate. I am afraid it will be impossible to deal withthe matter satisfactorily before that. I did not expect the attack which has been made on the ‘ ‘ white ‘ ‘ sugar industry, because, as the honorable member for. Wide Bay has said, it was not believed that we could by our legislation alter the conditions previously existing in Queensland in connexion with the industry.
– The attack was then on ‘ black ‘ ‘ grown sugar.
– The attack was of a very serious character in manyrespects, and was certainly against planters-, employing black labour.
– What would the honorablegentleman say of a Chamber of Commerce in the heart of the sugar districts asking, that the duty on sugar should be taken off ?
– I should say that they were a congregation of asses.
– Exactly. I should be inclined to ask them why they desired the removal of a duty which protected the local industry. The experiment which has been attempted has been to a very large extent successful. In 1905, the number of persons engaged in the sugar industry was 28,614. Of these, 17,937 were white, and 10,677 coloured. In 1906 the total number of persons engaged in the industry was 36,197, and of these 28,203were white, and only 7,994 were coloured.
-It was said that the planters could not get white men to work in the industry.
– About one-fifth of those at present in the industry are niggers.
– I am giving information derived, I presume, from the inspectors who obtain the records of sugar produced in northern Queensland. I happened to be in charge of the Department of Trade and Customs when the instructions were issued for obtaining this information. The quantity of sugar produced in 1902 by white labour was 31,688 tons, and in 1906 1.49,442 tons. The quantity produced by black labour in 1902 was 67,107 tons, and in . 1906 56,1:34 tons. Honorable members will mark the enormous increase in the quantity of sugar produced by white labour.
– We also mark the slight decrease in the quantity produced by coloured labour.
– How many times has the Minister told us this tale before?
– I shall sit down if the Committee do not desire me to speak, but I wish to give, honorable members a little information.
– It is the same old tale.
– I wished to submit these figures that honorable members might know how very successful the production of sugar by white labour has been. We imported last year, I think, 18,000 or 19,000 tons, and received as revenue £131,000. That was the total import of sugar during last year. In regard to Excise and bounty, I had placed in my hand a few minutes ago what I presume to be the latest information, and I find that for 1906-7 the total Excise received in New South Wales was £211,625, and the total amount of bounty contributed by that State was £124,492. In Victoria the total Excise received was £138,982, and the bounty contributed £100,456. In Queensland the total Excise received was £83,889, and the bounty contributed £43,635. In South Australia the Excise received was £50,564, and the bounty contributed £31,299. In Western Australia the Excise received was £37,109, and the bounty contributed £21,344; and in Tasmania the total Excise received was £24,484, and the amount of bounty contributed . £14,690. I have quoted these figures to show that in all the States the repayments in the form of Excise have amounted to more than the bounty contributed. Though consumption takes place in each of the States, they are better off by receiving a larger return from Excise, and paying a comparatively small amount in the form of bounty.
– What has been the increase in the price of sugar in the meantime?
– I think that the increase in the price of sugar has been pretty general all over the world. I know that the price of sugar has been very much increased in Great Britain. I am not defending . a monopoly of any kind.
– How much revenue have we lost?
– My feeling is that as a result of the operations of the monopoly the price of sugar in Australia is higher than it ought to be. It is, I think, within about £1 or 25s. of the price of imported sugar.
– No; 10s.
– The difference was 15s. a short time ago, but I think it is over £1 now.
– If we reduce the duty we shall get cheaper sugar?
– If the duty is reduced we shall get black-grown sugar from Java and Fiji, and wipe out the labour conditions here which we have done so much to establish. That is the main thing that I fear. Whilst we keep up the duty against black-grown sugar from Fiji and Java we can manage, and I hope that we shall be able to bring down the price of sugar, as it is too high ; though I do not know exactly what means can be devised to attain that end. But we have done great good by the experiment which has taken place, as the figures I have just quoted show. I hope that honorable members will not take any retrogressive step at the present time.
Mr.Hutchison. - The honorable gentleman has proved that there is no need for black growers at all.
– I do not know that there is, and we have reduced the number very considerably. With regard to the sugar which is used in making jam, we allow a drawback of the duty paid on sugar - both Australian and imported. A doubt was expressed alittle time ago as to whether drawback was allowed on. the export of” both Australian and imported sugar. Previously only 30s. a ton was allowed in respect of Australian sugar on account of thelarge stocks which had paid the lower duty. It is suggested that it may be necessary to increase that amount, as that state of- things has passed awav. The total amount of the drawback has been about £3,000, which is a- mere bagatelle, and not worth talking about. I think I passed the regulation allowing the drawback on Australian as well as imported sugar.
– But not the same amount in each case?
– No. What was done, if I remember aright, was to fix an average, because we could not tell whether or not imported sugar had been used in the manufacture of the jams.
– Previously the rebate was only £5, and the honorable gentleman allowed the full amount.
– I allowed the full amount, but as regardsthe quantity of sugar’ which was exported in jams, we could- not distinguish, between imported and Australian sugars. The old system encouraged jam-makers to use imported sugar. That was altered,- and a general average struck so that we could get as nearly as possible at the difference between the two sorts.
– Will the new protection apply to the users of sugar?
– So far as manufacturers are concerned, it will.
– Is any increased protection to sugar being given?
– Then where is the bearing of the new protection?
– There is no increase in the duty.
– Will the consumer in this instance come under the new protection?
Mir. Glynn. - Will the Government regulate the prices ?
– The manufacturers will come under the new protection. I cannot say how far that may go. We have not been touching the consumer.
– Yes, in the case of the harvesters.
– Last year we regulated the. price of harvesters.
– Will the Government now regulate the price of sugar to the consumers ?
– I am not prepared to answer that question.
– I asked the Minister that question on Friday.
– Some time ago I explained! that under our scheme of new protection we intended to provide a Board of Excise, who would report on the price charged to the consumer, and give the Parliament an opportunity to act if the report disclosed that an excessive charge was being made.
– The honorable gentleman has not yet told us whether the new protection is to apply to industries which have not been affected by thenew Tariff. That is the question raised here.
-I cannot answer off-hand any question of that kind. Honorable members ply me with a great many questions. The honorable member will see the Bill, I hope very shortly, and I ask him to wait until it is circulated. I do not intend to be drawn into debating that question at any length. I rose to- give a few figures to show how the “ white” sugar industry has succeeded and expanded. I ask the Committee not to take any step which would1 check the successful production of white-grown sugar.
.- I do not intend to speak at much length, as the honorable member for Wide Bay has replied very effectively to the arguments which were brought forward in support of the amendment. But there are one or two points to which- I feel I ought to refer. The other day the honorable member for Angas made some reference to sugar which had been exported to South Africa, and which he said he had documents to prove had been sold, at £12 or £12 10s. per ton. The honorable member for North Sydney has,I understand, made inquiry as to that shipment. It is well known that last year Messrs. Poolman Brothers, of Sydney, were buying Java sugar in bond, refining it and exporting it. When the Colonial Sugar Refining Company bought out the firm they found an accumulation of this black-grown sugar in bond, which of course had to be taken over with the rest of the concern. It was not Australian-grown sugar which was sold in SouthAfrica at £12 or £12 10s. a ton, but black-grown Java sugar which had been imported to Sydney andrefined in bond there for export.
– Does the honorable member know that the Colonial Sugar. Refining Company bind down every buyer of sugar in South Australia not ‘to purchase imported sugar from any one else ?
– I did not know that. I know that in Queensland and in my electorate certain persons sell their sugar where they like. In that State there are mill’s which sell their own produce. But in any case I do not see that it is relevant to the question of maintaining this industry in the interests of the growers and of the people generally by means of this duty. I take it that this policy of giving a bounty upon the production of white-grown sugar and imposing Customs and Excise duties is entirely outside the fiscal question. The policy of a White Australia was entered upon with open eyes by the people’s representatives, and it was then fairly agreed that if white labour were to be insisted upon those interested in the industry should have the benefit of the Sugar Bounty Act and the last Tariff until 1912.
– The question to-day is not one of white-grown sugar, but one of black-grown sugar.
– All I can say is that if the amendment is agreed to the industry cannot be carried on.
– We were told that white labour could not be procured.
– There is great difficulty in obtaining white labour. The large estates are being broken up, and as many farmers have taken up small areas, it would be absolute repudiation to depart from the agreement then made. I do not think that the Australian . Parliament will depart from its policy, because, whatever our opinions may be, we do not believe in repudiation.
– What about the other items in the Tariff?
– I do not see what they have to do with the question now before us.
– What I mean is that many duties are being altered.
– Many duties have been raised ; nobodv is proposing to lower duties. Some reference has been made to an alleged desire on the part of the sugar-growers to depart from the present . policy of an Excise duty, and a bounty. I have here a letter from the Woongarra Cane-growers’ Association, at Bundaberg, which represents one of the biggest sugar districts in Queensland. The following is an extract from that letter-
A special meeting to consider this question was called here shortly after Sir John Forrest’s visit to Queensland. It was largely attended bv farmers from all parts of the district, and delegates from the Sugar Manufacturers’ Union were also present. The result of that meeting was the passage of a motion (carried with but one dissentient) affirming the inadvisableness at the present time of taking any steps in the direction of securing the abolition of the Excise and bounty. The farmers are still of that
Opinion, and would take it as a favour if vou would bear this in mind when the question again crops up.
The sugar-growers affirm, practically unanimously., that they do not desire to depart from the present arrangement, but that it shall continue until 1911 or 1912. The whole of those who are interested in the industry in Queensland and New South Wales feel that it would, to some extent, be repudiation, or bad faith, if any departure were made from the conditions of the White Australian policy. Then reference has been made to the increase in the price of sugar by reason of the present policy. I have here a few figures giving a comparison of prices in the various States during five years before Federation and five years following Federation. In the fiveyears before Federation, the duty on sugar in New South Wales was £3 per ton ; in Queensland, £5 ; in South Australia, £3; in Tasmania, £6 generally, and £9 6s. 8d. on crushed sugar or loaf ; in “Victoria, £6 on cane sugar and £12 on beet sugar; while in Western Australia sugar was free. In the five years following Federation, the average price of sugar in Victoria was 45s. per ton less than in the five previous years ; in Tasmania the price was 45s. less ; in South Australia, 37s. 6d.-more; in New South Wales, 37s. 6d. less; and in Queensland and Western Australia, £5 more. It is admitted that in certain of the States the people are called upon to pay more for their sugar, and there seems to bo an idea in some quarters that an attack on the present policy means an attack on the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. It is “true that this company has a monopoly, but it is not of the nature which some honorable members appear to suppose. When the honorable member for Swan, as Treasurer, visited Queensland, I had the honour of introducing to him a deputation of sugar-growers from Bundaberg. None of these men could be described as growers on a large scale, all of them, with one or. two exceptions, holding areas of perhaps forty to fifty acres. The honorable member for Swan asked some questions about the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, having an idea that it was an objectionable monopoly which ground down the growers.
– So it is.
– That is- what the honorable member says, who is not a grower. I sat in the room listening to the deputation, and what struck me was the unanimity with which the growers, who, as I say, were small men, regarded the company as a beneficent monopoly.
– That was the opinion expressed to me wherever I went.
– The growers were just as unanimous against the deportation of the Kanakas.
– That is not the question. The honorable member for Swan did not come to Queensland with any idea, of “ barracking “ for the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, because I remember that, in speaking to me before he received the deputation, he was rather inclined to . take an antagonistic view of its operations as a monopoly. The honorable gentleman has told us, by interjection, what he found the opinion of the growers to be / and I ‘think his words ought to carry some weight. I assure honorable members that if, by any action now, injury is done to the industry, . it will not be the Colonial Sugar Refining Company who will suffer, but every small grower and many others depending on the industry. The majority of those engaged are small men, holding areas up to 300 acres, and, as the big estates are broken up, the areas are getting smaller every day.
– And the price of land is becoming higher every day.
– I cannot refute what the honorable member says, because I have no figures with me ; but I have grave doubts as to the accuracy of the statement. I know there would be more difficulty in selling sugar land now than there was some years ago, owing to the feeling of uncertainty as to what may happen after 191 1 or 1912. If there is to be a reversal of the present policy, it means that the sugar industry will be wiped out.
– Does the honorable member mean to contend that the industry must have thie benefit of £6 per ton protection and £3 per ton bounty for all time?
– I do not say that, but I do say that there “must be substantial protection if sugar is to be grown by white labour, so as to compete with sugar produced in other countries bv means of black labour. The amount of bounty and Excise is a different matter altogether.
– They are to be continued in perpetuity.
– We shall have to decide what is a fair thing to do in 1912. But I contend that it would be unfair, and would . sa.vour of repudiation, to aiter the system entered upon six years ago, and which was to last until 19 12. It has been said, in the course of the discussion, that the sugar industry is stronger now than it was before the White Australia policy was -entered upon, or’ before Federation. I can hardly see how that contention can be upheld. I shall show, from figures which I have before me, that, at any rate in the tropical north - that is to sav iri the No. 4 sugar district - there is a decreased area under sugar cultivation at present. In the district of Port Douglas and Cairns, where the ‘question of tropical culture arises, there has been a decrease of 3,610 acres in the area under cultivation.
– In whatyear?
– As compared with?
– As compared with previous years. . I took those figures from the Queensland Budget Papers, which contain official returns of the acreage. At all events, it is clear that there has been a decrease.
– Was there any cane pest up there?
– I cannot say. There has always been grub, but they are coping with it now, better than they used to do, by means of improved methods. ‘
– I think that some land went out of cultivation on account of pests.
– I do not think that 3,610 acres would be abandoned in one district alone if pests were the only cause. I wish to put before the Committee some figures which I think it is desirable to have on record, so that it may not be said that honorable members, in dealing with a matter that vitally affects the sugar industry, do not know the real state of the case. I. trust that honorable members will consider the figures at their leisure. The area under sugar cultivation in Queensland in 1906 was 133,284 acres. In New South Wales the area was 18,103 acres.
– I think that 133,284 is the total.
– I have taken these figures from the Queensland returns.
– Will the honorable member look at the. Budget Papers’, page 11 ?
– If I am wrong as to the total, I shall be happy to correct the error. Only a few acres are affected in any case. The quantity of cane produced in 1906 was 1,728,780 tons. The quantity of sugar produced in Queensland was 184,377 tons. These figures do not include -the New South Wales production. The by-products of the sugar industry have been mentioned. The principal byproduct is molasses. The total quantity of molasses produced is not returned. A considerable quantity runs to waste. I hope that in the future - it may be in the near future - every drop will be used for some commercial purpose.
– Is not the failure to use all the molasses produced due to the fact that the company will not reduce the price to the consumer?
– I feel sure that they would be willing to sell it for any sum. A man can get as much as he likes if he will only pay the cost of taking it away. The quantity of molasses used, according to the return before me, was 8,373,581 gallons. The value of the sugar produced, if we take it at £12 per ton - which is rather too low - was £2,400,000 - not counting the duty. The number of growers actually producing cane in Queensland was 4,580, and in New South Wales 1,432. So that there was a total of 6,012 persons actually growing cane, and the number is increasing by reason of the fact that the large estates are being cut up. The average cost of producing one ton of raw sugar is £9 ; and it is rather an interesting fact that the amount expended on the production of the 1906 crop in Queensland was £1,659,393, exclusive of the money circulated by reason of the processes of refining sugar, shipping it, handling it, and so forth. That is money which goes into general circulation. Of course a large amount of money is spent in refining. I am sorry that I have not at hand some figures which were prepared a short time ago showing the amount of money which went into circulation in connexion with sugar refining, and in various other ways after the crop is grown. They were rather an “ eye-opener “ to me. Certainly an immense amount of money is spent on the big plantations and in the refineries in various directions. To begin with, they have to buy corn, and on a large plantation like Bingera, where there are about 300 horses, that is a big item. They also buy coal, bags, cases, tins, and so on. A large portion of that money is not spent in Queensland. It is circulated in the other States bv reason of the needs and requirements of the industry. I myself was vastly surprised when I learnt the amount of money that went into circulation on account of the refineries alone, quite apart from the £1,659,000 circulated through the growing of the crop and the production of the raw sugar. The honorable member for Coolgardie said that it was estimated that £7,000,000 was invested in the industry. That, I think, was a fairly correct estimate. In Queensland, in 1906, there were 2 refineries, 5 juice mills, and 50 sugar mills, employing 3,221 hands; whilst the capital value of machinery, premises, and land used in connexion with the industry was in the neighbourhood of £2,500,000. In building up the industry, the Government of Queensland have sunk a considerable sum. It now owes the State £514,987.
– Up to what date?
– I have obtained these figures from the Queensland Budget of 1906. In that year, the number of persons employed in the industry in Queensland alone was in the neighbourhood of 40,000 ;. whilst the total number directly and indirectly employed in connexion with it must have been nearly 50,000. The honorable member for Coolgardie also asserted that a determined attempt had been made to introduce boy labour into the industry. When he made that statement I promised, by way of interjection, that I would answer it, and give the actual facts. The canard arises from the fact that there is in Queensland what I regard as an exceedingly commendable movement to encourage boys from the cities to rro on the land.
– The people on the land did not bother about the boys until the kanakas had gone.
– No; the removal of the kanakas has had the desirable effect of breaking up many of the large estates. A small white family can grow sugar profitably where a man having to employ a great deal of labour cannot.
– The hdnorable member is on the wrong side of the House to talk about breaking up estates.
– Not at all. No one is more anxious than I and other honorable members on this side of the House are to see big estates subdivided.
– If the owners would subdivide them of their own accord.
– We would secure the breaking up of large estates by an honor able straightforward method, whilst honorable members of the Labour Party would resort to land taxation and what we . regard as an underhand and unwise process to secure their subdivision..
– But the Opposition do nothing; that is the trouble.
– And the Labour Party do not; they only falk about breaking up the estates.
– The honorable member for Parramatta, a few years ago, used to talk in the same strain, but he has changed his tune.
– When interrupted, I was pointing out that the canard as to the introduction of boy labour in the sugar industry of Queensland had its foundation in the efforts made to encourage boys in the cities to go into the country and follow outdoor pursuits. In the neighbourhood of Bundaberg, some holders of large plantations are subdividing their estates, and doing their utmost to encourage capable men to go upon them. In Brisbane, a certain association, working in conjunction with employers of labour in the country, had a number df boys sent into the country in the off season, so that they might gradually become inured to outdoor work. They were to receive a wage from the outset, and gradually obtain a full knowledge of outdoor employment, with a view to their eventually becoming occupiers of the land. That is the whole foundation for the charge which has been levelled against the industry in respect of boy labour. My own experience, and that of many others, is that a city lad is, at first, absolutely useless on a farm. He is not worth his tucker; in fact,’ he is likely to do far more damage than his labour is worth, and very often does’ so. An employer of labour in a rural industry would not ibe bothered with the average city lad, who is utterly unaccustomed to outdoor work, and knows absolutely nothing about it. The charge that the sugar planters are seeking to obtain the services of cheap boy labour has . no foundation in fact. It is a distorted statement used for special purposes. I do not believe in cheap labour, and do not hold a brief for employers of cheap labour. But it is unfair to attempt to injure the industry generally by a statement such as that with which I have just dealt. I am fighting for the sugar industry generally, and not merely for the employer.
– Is it true that a number of members of the Sugar Growers’ Association asked the right honorable member for Swan, who was then Acting Prime Minister, for permission to. use boy labour at low wages ?
– They wrote me on the same point when I was in office.
– There is at the present time a provision in the labour ordinances that a labourer shall be paid according to his capacity- that youths shall receive a certain remuneration and able-bodied . men such and such a rate of pay. If we are to have minimum wage regulations without such a provision we should do a cruel wrong to the young fellow who is not worth the full rate of wages as well as to the man who is past the prime of life, and cannot obtain employment at full rates. I put these facts before the Committee in the hope that fair consideration will be extended to the industry. I should not have spoken at such length unless I thought that my remarks would counteract, to some extent, the effect of “the entirely mistaken charges brought against the industry by some honorable members who have preceded me in this debate. I sincerely trust that in dealing with this item the Committee will remember that the point at issue is that there shall be no repudiation. The sugar-growers, to a great extent, consider that the . Commonwealth Parliament has entered into a contract with them not to disturb the existing arrangement before the end of 191 2.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.45 p.m.
.An understanding was arrived at a short time ago, apparently with the agreement of all sections of the House, with regard to sugar. The whole question came up for review at the time of the passing of the last Sugar Bounties Act, which extended the period during which bounties were to be payable and fixed a sliding scale, covering a period of, I think, five years, when they were to be extinguished.
– Was not that Bill rushed through the House?
– I have no recollection of any particular rush. I know that it involved a number of divisions, but I do not think any honorable member, objected strongly at the time to the general arrangement that was arrived at. It would be rather unfair to disturb that arrangement at this date. The honorable member for Coolgardie should know that the question of bounties and Excise is inseparably bound up with the degree of import duty that obtains.
– I thought that it was contended that the bounty was paid out of the Excise?
– That of course is quite another question.
– That is what the honorable member said some time ago.
– I said that the bounty was paid out of the Excise, and I say so now. The honorable member in attempting to prove otherwise was getting into the technical aspect and away from the essential features of the situation. Sugar differs from most products in Australia in that, alongside of the advantage of a protective duty, an Excise duty is imposed in order to enable a bounty to be paid to white growers. The bounty was in the first in- stance properly called a rebate, and. would 3aave continued to be called a rebate, as it is to-day in effect, but for constitutional -difficulties that were apprehended by the then law advisers of the Government. We were consequently advised to pass an amending Act to call the payment a bounty rather than a rebate. But it still remains a rebate. I admit that the higher price which is obtained for sugar is due to the import duty. Every one knows that, and it would be foolish to deny it. But the point I wish to make is that, on the strength of the arrangement which was come to, a vast number of people have entered into sugar growing, particularly in Queensland, and have undertaken obligations and invested their money in buying land. They did so in view of the arrangement which Parliament had sanctioned and which appeared to be acquiesced in by all parties. I can say with some degree of certainty that had that arrangement not been made, or had there then been any reduction of the duty on sugar, the prices given for land during the last year or so would not have been reached by a considerable amount. The price of land naturally depends on the price which can be obtained for the products of the land, and so the transactions in land that have occurred during the last few years have been carried through on the strength of Parliament continuing the understanding that was arrived at.
– Carried through almost entirely by the small men buying.
– Of course. The policy of the larger proprietors of late has been very wisely to dispose of their land to smaller men, who have a greater, chance, as most of us have argued, of successfully working it with white labour than have the owners of larger plantations. Any candid man must admit, however, that nearly the whole of the duty is collected from the people of Australia in extra prices for sugar. There are circumstances in which protective duties do not adversely affect prices. Where local production increases, and local competition takes place, prices in many protected industries are quite as low as those which rule outside, or which would rule if there was no duty at all. But that has not been the case so far with respect to sugar. One cause no doubt is that until last year the production did mot approach the Australian consumption of sugar, and the whole position is also materially affected by the fact that the indus try stands apart from most others in that there exists practically only one market for raw sugar, and only one purveyor - the Colonial Sugar Refining Company - of refined sugar to the public of Australia. The first effect of carrying the proposed reduction in the duty would be to handicap out of existence the white growers, because under the contracts with the Colonial Sugar Refining Company - and the other mills are governed by the same methods - the price of cane would diminish at once by 4s. oer ton, or at the rate of 2s. for each £1 reduction in the duty. That would mean’ that the white growers in nearly every instance would have to drop out of the industry. Those who would remain growing sugar would be the Chinese and Hindoos, who are in the industry now to a certain extent, but who are differentiated against under the Bounties Act, which Parliament carried some little time ago. I have little doubt that they would still bc able to carry on with a protection of. only £2 per ton. Of course, if they had no- protection, I doubt whether they could carry on even with coloured labour, although the coloured labour now obtainable might be sufficient to enable some of the coloured growers’ to continue operations. But the Colonial Sugar Refining Company would not be in one whit worse a position, because, instead of buying raw sugar from the central or” private mills in Queensland or New South Wales,- they would bring their raw sugar in from Fiji, refine it. here, and put it on the market. It is grown in Fiji by Hindoo contract labour, and the company would be in no worse position, so far as concerns (heir own property. I am informed1 - I do not know how true it is - that for years past the company have been assiduously writing down their Queensland- properties, until they stand at next to nothing in their books. Even if they did lose some- money on their Queensland properties, they would still have their reserves to fall back upon, and also the fact that Fiji can supply the greater part, if not the whole, of their requirements for refining purposes.
– They have investments in Fiji.
– They have very large investments, there. They grow cane on 24,000 acres of land in Fiji.
– They can also import raw sugar from Java and Mauritius.
– They could get raw sugar from any of those places and refine it just as used to be done in Melbourne before Federation and before the new law. The effect would be disastrous to the growth of sugar by white labour if we reduced the duty by £2 as suggested by the honorable member for Coolgardie. The real point at issue in the sugar industry has been overlooked in this debate. I refer to the fact that the monopoly of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company is to-day so emphatic - more even than it was a short time ago, because it is only recently that they bought out Poolman’s refinery - that they are able to charge at least twice as much for refining sugar as is charged in any other part of the world. If the figures quoted by the honorable member for Capricornia to-night are to be relied upon - I do not mean to suggest that the honorable member was wrong in what he said - the company’s price for refining sugar is three times as much as is charged anywhere else.
– I do not know whether, to that £9 a ton, you do not have to add the £4 Excise duty which has to be paid on that sugar.
– That might be so, and would account for a material part of the difference. In Germany the difference between the cost of raw and refined sugar averages £2 10s., and in the United States it averages £3 per ton.
– Is that the difference between the cost of refined and raw sugar produced from cane or from beet?
– In America it is the difference between the cost of refined and raw sugar (produced from both cane and beet, but in Germany it is the difference between the cost of refined and raw sugar the product of beet:
– Of course the processes might be verv different.
– I do not think that there is any material difference between the cost of refining raw sugar made from beet and refining raw sugar produced from cane.
– I think that the difference in England is less than £2 per ton.
– Possibly that is so. I recollect having obtained the information some time ago that in Germany the difference between the cost of refined and raw sugar averaged £2 10s. per ton, whilst in the United States - where the wages- paid in the refineries are at least as high as are those paid in Australia - it averaged £3 per ton. To my mind, this points to the fact that either the grower or the consumer is being improperly made to contri bute £3 per ton more than he should contribute to the Colonial Sugar Refining “Company.
– I think that the honorable member mightput down the cost here at £4 per ton, seeing that wages are so high.
– In the United States the wages paid are also very good. I do not think that the cost of refining sugar in Australia is very much higher than the cost of refining it in the United States. But the Colonial Sugar Refining Company apparently charges even more than £6 per ton, because the raw sugar is very frequently bought at the central mill for £12 per ton, and it is the exception for- us to purchase the refined article at less than £20 per ton. Sometimes its price is down to £19 per ton, but, generally speaking, it is £20per ton.
– Is the honorable member allowing for the Excise?
– The honorable member must bear in mind that £4 per ton Excise has to be added to the £9.
– I know that I worked the matter out very carefully, and that the difference between the cost of refined and raw sugar is never less than £6 per ton. Upon the figures of the honorable member for Capricornia, it would be even more than that, because there would be a difference of £7 per ton.
– Allowance must be made for the cost of refining and profits.
– At any rate, the difference between the price of raw and refined sugar is never less than £6 per ton, after making due allowance for the Excise.
– Even if £12 per ton is paid’to the mills.
– The Colonial Sugar Refining Company pays less than that without the Excise. But I am certain that the difference between the cost of raw and refined sugar is never less than £6 per ton on an average. It seems to me, however, that the only possible way to’ put the industry upon a decent footing, and to enable white growers to compete against the outside world with a moderate import duty, would be to nationalize the refinery. Of course, if Queensland would erect a national refinery, it would prove of very great benefit, not only to the people of that State, but also to those of the Commonwealth. In the absence of any opposition to the Colonial Sugar Refining Com- pany, both the growers and the consumers are at its mercy. Of course, it may be urged that if we reduce the import duty, sugar will be imported from the outside world. I admit that. To permit of ‘that being done under present conditions would be to sacrifice the industry so far as the employment of white men is concerne’d. I do not feel justified in taking that course. I should much prefer to see the works of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company taken over by. the Commonwealth, or, as an , alternative, I should like the Queensland Government to erect its own refinery to deal with the raw sugar. In view of the understanding which was arrived at some time ago, it would be altogether improper to alter the incidence of the duty at the present time. If the import duty were reduced by the amount suggested, namely, £2 per ton, an irresistible demand would at once be created to free the industry from the Excise conditions that now obtain. I do not see how it is possible to continue a barrier against the prosecution of this particular industry that we do not attempt to impose upon other industries receiving a similar degree of protection. For these reasons I trust that the amendment will not be carried.
.- While I am somewhat in sympathy with the representations of the honorable member for Coolgardie, I do not think that the Committee would be justified under present circumstances in declining to accept the proposal of the Government. I quite agree with the statement of the honorable member for South Sydney, that if any material change were made in the import duty, a demand would at once be created for a reduction in the Excise, and that, as a result, the conditions surrounding the industry would be entirely deranged. But the more one considers the question of the duty, the Excise, and the bounty, and their incidence from the point ‘of view of revenue, of protection, and of the consumer, the more it will become apparent that the whole subject is such a complicated one that, -sooner or later, it will demand new and special legislation. We know that past legislation had for its object the preservation of the White Australia ideal. The results achieved so far show that, in a measure, that legislation has been successful. But I venture to think that its success has not been proportionate to the amount which the Commonwealth has been called upon to expend in this connexion, because
I hold that the same object might have been attained in a different way. I shall support the Government in the belief that we ought not to -disturb the existing condition of things until we are prepared to reconsider the whole situation. There is ‘no doubt that on the termination of the operation of the Braddon section a reconsideration of the whole question will be forced upon us. . I hope, however, that we shall not have to wait until that time before something is done in the matter, and that if the present Government should remain in power, we shall in the next session of Parliament-
– It might be the honorable gentleman’s own Government.
– The honorable gentleman is quite right, and if it is he may rest assured that the country will have a commonsense Government, who will deal with these things in a manner which will not complicate the situation as - from the industrial, commercial, and financial stand-point - it is complicated now by the way in which the sugar industrv is dealt with. When discussing the Budget statement, I directed the attention of the Committee to the fact that had we dealt with the sugar industry on a business basis, and had we not the obligation to return three-fourths of the net Customs and Excise revenue to the. various States, and to pay the whole of the sugar bountv out of the Consolidated Revenue, we should have been in an entirely different financial position. I do not propose to ask the Committee to consider the tabulated statement I have prepared, but it will be within the recollection of honorable members that the Treasurer anticipated a surplus on the year’s transactions of £103,000. I have made out a statement in which it is shown that if the various charges were proportionately made and the Excise charged in its real, proportion to the bountv even on the . figures which the Treasurer laid before the Committee, we should have a surplus of £533,000, instead of £103,000. I feel, therefore, that the subject is deserving of serious consideration by the Government at the proper time. I venture to think that the present is not the proper time to deal with it, and that however complicated the position is, by attempting to deal with it now we should rather increase the complication. I do not feel myself justified, in the circumstances, in supporting the proposal submitted by the honorable member for Coolgardie, to whom every member of the Committee is indebted for having laid before honorable members a most instructive statement of the whole financial position.
– I had hoped that this item would have passed without any discussion, and I am rather sorry that the honorable member for Coolgardie should have made a speech which has brought so many honorable members to their feet. I have some excuse for taking part in the debate, because, as honorable members are aware, I represent the bulk of the sugar-growing country of Australia. As from 60 to 70 per cent, of the sugar produced in the Commonwealth is grown in my electorate, I may be pardoned for addressing myself to the question perhaps at greater length than I should otherwise have done. I wish to place my position fiscally clearly before the Committee. When T came to this Parliament first I received a letter from the free-trade party asking me to attend a caucus - I beg honorable members’ pardon - I had forgotten that honorable members opposite have no caucus. I was asked to . attend a meeting of the party, the presumption, I suppose, being that I was a free-trader. I did not attend the meeting, but shortly after it was held a gentleman belonging to the party, and who, in my opinion, was the only free-trader who has ever been in this House, but who is not a member of the Parliament at present, came to ask me what my fiscal views were. I said that I came here as a protectionist, and that I could not consistently advocate a duty on sugar, which I intended to do, and be a free-trader on every other item.
– The honorable member said that he was a “ fiscal atheist.”
-Yes, I said that in the sense that I do not believe fiscalism is the be-all and end-all of an economic policy. I wish to state my position here as I stated it, at the time to which I refer, to the then honorable member for Werriwa. I said to the honorable member, “ If you are willing to tear down the fiscal barriers in the case of everything except for statistical purposes I shall be with you all the time.” He would not . consent to that. I am prepared to make the same agreement with honorable members opposite now. I challenge them now to be free-traders with me. I do not want any of the spurious policy which is called freetrade over the border in New South
Wales. I am prepared to be a free-trader down to the sole of my boots if honorable members on the other side will also be true free-traders. I may be pardoned if I assume something, as was done just now by the honorable member for Kooyong, when he said that if such and such a thing had happened something else would have come about. Perhaps I may follow the same line of argument. I may tell the honorable member for Coolgardie that had we no Federation at all it cannot be doubted that there would now be a high duty on sugar in each of the States. Such a duty could! not have been avoided. In Western Australia the Government are proposing an income tax and a land tax, and I am surethat they would have preferred, had they been able, to tax everything possible through the Custom House.
– The honorable member refers to Western Australia?
– But the money would? have gone into the Treasury.
– I cannot follow the argument of some honorable members. As protectionists they object that certain dutiesdo not come into the Treasury, and asfreetraders where the duty does benefit the Treasury, they claim that the workersare suffering, and the public is called upon> to bear an unnecessary burden of taxation.. What course am I to adopt between them? I do not know upon what ground they stand. I have mentioned before in thisChamber that when the first Tariff was under discussion, and the sugar duties were before the Committee, no one but the honorable member for Werriwa suggested any reduction in the duty of 6s. per cwt., proposed by the Government. He moved that the duty be reduced to 5s. per cwt, but noone made any other proposition, and theproposal of the Government was carried on the voices. Seeing that no division wastaken on the item, I am justified in assuming that the duty then proposed met with the approval of honorable members generally. I wish to show what the result of the duty would be now if we imported all1 the sugar consumed in the Commonwealth. In- 1902-3 the revenue from the duty amounted to £502,931, the revenue fromthe Excise duty, which had just commenced to come in, amounted to- £277,517; and the bounty paid inthat year amounted to £60,827,a total of £841,275. The amount of duty collected last year was £122,298, the amount of Excise £546,653, and the amount of bounty paid £335,916, in all £1, 004,867. The difference between the two totals is . £163,592, which, as a matter of fact, is all that we are paying for our White Australia policy. In my opinion, the policy is worth it. The actual quantity on which duty was paid in 1906-7 was 20,383 tons, while 202,444 tons, upon which an Excise of £4 per ton was paid, were produced locally, the total consumption amounting to 222,827 tons. Had duty been paid on that quantity at the rate of £6 per ton, the total amount paid would have been £1,336,962, giving a very considerable balance to the credit of our White Australia policy. Australia is paying much less for its sugar now, notwithstanding the bounty, than it would have paid under the old conditions with a duty of £6 a ton. Even with the duty of £5, which was the rate proposed by the exmember for Werriwa, there would have still been a credit to the present system of £109,268.
– Is the’ Comimonwealth paying for its sugar with the bounty added?
– I have allowed for the bounty. Duty, Excise, and bounty, are all included.
– The honorable member is not taking into consideration the fact that the money is not all going into the Treasury.
– I admit the truth of the statement of the honorable member for Coolgardie that a lange amount of the money goes into ‘ private pockets. ‘Personally, too, I think that south of ‘the tropics the bounty should be lower than it is at the present moment. It mav be argued that, as the climate of the northern parts of New South Wales is similar to that of Mackay, which is situated 200 miles north of the tropic of Capricorn, the rate of bounty should be the same in the two districts. Figures were prepared by the Mackay Chamber of Commerce, and placed before honorable members when visiting Queensland two years ago, showing that the maximum average temperature was. for nine years, at Lismore, on the Richmond River. 8r.8, and at Mackay only 81.2, or . 6 less.
– Would “the honorable member regulate bounty by climate?
– The original idea undoubtedly was that where the climate was most trying the bounty should foe highest. Of course, other considerations, such as nearness to or distance from the labour market, and the facilities available for the sending away of sugar and the bringing of stores to the plantations,, were also taken into consideration, but most regard was had to temperature and climate.
– It should be mentioned that in Mackay it is hot for more months in the year than it is in Lismore.
– That is so. I think that north of Townsville, at any rate, the bounty should remain unchanged for a considerable period, but that south of the tropics it might reasonably be tapered off. The local production of sugar is now practically overtaking the local consumption.
– It must be remembered that last season was a very good one.
– Yes, and I am pleased to think that the present season promises to be almost, if not quite, as good. If the bounty was lower south of the tropic, land in Southern Queensland and Northern New South Wales now used for sugargrowing would be put under grass,’ and used for dairying, and sugar-growing would be confined to the tropical belt, the natural habitat of the cane, where sufficient, or nearly sufficient, for the requirements of’ the Commonwealth could be grown. There would then be no need to talk about making provision for exporting, and everything would be more satisfactory than it is under present conditions.
– Does not the juice improve in density as one goes north ?
– That depends greatly on the season. Last . year, owing to the wetness of the season, the rain commencing to fall very early, so that the cane grew continuously without a check, the density of the juice was very low. Very often, for climatic reasons, the density ot the cane in the division of Capricornia is higher than it is further north. I have here statistics relating to- the areas under cane, and similar information, with which I shall not weary the Committee; but I should like to draw attention to the increase in the number of persons engaged in the sugar industry. According to the Budget papers, in 1905 there were employed in Queensland 21,970, and in 1906, 30,076 persons, an increase of ‘ 27 per cent. The honorable member for Parramatta, some time ago, was very pessimistic on this subject.
– At that time the figures looked very bad.
– I admit that they did. The progress had not been what was hoped for.” But since then there has been an improvement, and the White Australia experiment has been most- successful, establishing the wisdom of the policy. I avail myself of this opportunity to congratulate the Government upon the ease and facility with which they have dealt with the very complex, if not dangerous, problem of deporting the kanakas.
– How many have been, sent back to the islands?
– I believe that about 4,000 kanakas have been deported.
– Out of 9,000?
– There were not so many kanakas engaged in the industry as was stated here. The number was greatly exaggerated. We were told by some honorable members that it was 7,000, by others, that it was 8,000, and by others, that, it was 10,000. About 4,000 have been deported, and there are about 1,500 remaining in the Commonwealth.
– Five thousand.
– How is- it that nearly as much sugar is grown by black labour now as ever was grown?
– The Budget papers will show the honorable member that his statement is not correct. In 1905, white labour produced 16.27 of the total crop of sugar; but in 1906 the percentage had increased to 47.5, showing a marvellous increase indeed. If the honorable member will refer to the Budget papers, he will see the quantity of sugar grown by black and white labour respectively, and learn that there has been a very considerable increase in the quantity produced by white labour. I desire to ‘refer to the report of the Conference, which has been quoted by the honorable member for Coolgardie, and in which Mr. W. Gibson, of Bingera, made a reference to myself which was not of a complimentary nature.
– Only in regard to the honorable member’s political opinions.
- Mr. Gibson does not believe in the Labour Party or Socialism, whereas I do. He took exception to my action in Melbourne regarding the unemployed. I asserted then, and maintain now, that there was no necessity for the planters to send to Europe an agent to engage labour for the North Queensland plantations, as there was plenty of labour available here. Some capital has been made out of the fact that the men did not go from Melbourne immediately. They were asked, I believe by letter, to attend at a certain place.’ A number did attend, and a great many did not. Why did not the latter go ? It had been made very clear to them that they were not wanted, that their attendance was only requested to satisfy the curiosity of the Minister and Mr. Whitehead, who was in charge of the Labour Bureau. The men were not promised work. They were not asked if they would accept work, nor were they told that there was any work for them to ‘do. As a matter of fact, the reverse was the case. At the instance of Mr. Waterfield, who had been employed as a ganger at the Mossman Mill, I asked the Mossman Mill, by wire, in March, if they required labour, and,lest any men should be- sent by steamer, they sent to me an urgent reply to this effect -
Have sufficient men for present requirements. Cutters not needed until May. Will advise von definitely later.
– They thought that the honorable member was going to send up to them 500 men.
– No. Out of 400 or 500 men who attended - and fine, strapping sturdy fellows they were, in fact, as good as one would find anywhere -Mr. Waterfield selected fifty. The second wire has not arrived yet.
– Probably they sent the wire to ascertain if the men. were available.
– They would not take . the men.
– Were the men available?
– Yes. Mr. Waterfield said he was authorized to select fifty men to go up, and practically he had engaged some men. After the cutting season he had come to Melbourne to see some friends, and he was authorized, so he told me, to transact this business on behalf of the Mossman Mill. There was no desire to employ the men at all, as there was nothing for them to do. The Prime Minister asked Mr. Kidston by wire what was to be done if men were required. The latter telegraphed that no men were required. He said that for three months continuously he had been asking the planters in the north what labour they required, but that they had told him that they did not require any labour as there was sufficient labour available locally to supply all requirements. After reading Mr. Kidston’s reply in the press, was it likely that the men would dream of going to the Labour Bureau to be overhauled, and to pass an examination?
– Was that the reason why they said thev would not go.
– What does the honorable member know about it?
– I know all about it.
– The honorable member does not know anything about it..
– The honorable member for Swan told me all about it.
– Does the honorable member know what transpired in Sydney at that time? The same thing happened there as happened in Melbourne. Mr. Horton, whose name has been mentioned in this debate, did not want 500 or 600 men, but 500 or 600 men came forward. When, however, the . Colonial Sugar Refining Company said, that they wanted a number of men to go to North Queensland, they had not the slightest difficulty in getting as many men as they required. Now, with regard to the cry that labour is scarce in North Queensland, what are the facts? According to a return which was recently laid upon the table of the Senate at the instance of Senator Turley, 1,308 permits for men to come out here under contract were sought; 500 permits were applied for by the Pioneer River Farmers’ Association, 500 by the Cane Farmers’ Association of North Queensland, and 50 by the Mossman Central Mill Company, making a total of 1,050. The Government of Queensland had been given a “ general approval “ for the bringing out of men. I have not been able to ascertain what this “ general approval “ meant ; but I assume the men were being brought under similar conditions to “ those laid down for the Mossman Central Company. Drysdale Brothers and Company and the Australian Estates Mortgage Company Limited asked for 220 mem; George Altoft, Macknade, for four men and a number of boys; E. Lyon, Macknade, for four men and a number of boys; H. E. Lacase, Macknade, for twelve men and four boys ; C. E. Lacase, Macknade, for twelve men and four boys; and C. ‘G. Sauzier. Macknade, for six men and four boys. All these five applications were ‘from the Herbert River district, and the permits were transferred to the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, who undertook to bring men out under certain conditions and arrangements made with the farmers. Mr. Hughes,’ an officer of the company, was sent to Europe, ostensibly to Great Britain, to select those men. I wrote to the Prime Minister, and said that if men were to be introduced under contract, it would, in my opinion, be preferable to get them in Great Britain ; and the reply ‘ of the Prime Minister” was to the effect that it certainly would be better if that could be done. I do not know for certain, but my own opinion is that Mr. Hughes did not go to England.
– He engaged a number of Englishmen’.
– I do not . think he did.
– Yes, he did.
– How many?
– I think about one-third of those engaged were Englishmen.
- Mr. Hughes travelled by the Mongolia, and, landing at Naples, went to Northern Italy, and could not get men there.
– Mr. Hughes went first to England. He travelled in the same vessel as I did.
– Did Mr Hughes not land at Naples?
– He went to England.
– Direct? .
– He saw Sir Horace Tozer, the Agent-General, who fold him he could not get men ; and Mr. Hughes never looked for. them. Anyhow, that is beside the question. It is a fact that in Italy he could not get men, because the Socialist newspaper there, which has a large circulation, had published a letter from its correspondent in Sydney in relation to the matter. Mr. Hughes then went to Austria, where he was equally unsuccessful ; but in Catalonia, Spain, he engaged a number of men. The total number of men that he desired to engage was 1,308, but he only got 341 ; and the rest of the ‘permits, at the request, or with the consent, of the company, were cancelled, as the followingparagraph from the return shows -
The Colonial Sugar Refining Company, in advising the arrival of the 341 immigrants, intimated that they do not intend to avail themselves of the balance of the permits granted in their favour. These have accordingly been cancelled.
In addition, 356 men came out under the auspices of the Queensland Government - -that is, under the “general approval” to which I have already referred. This makes a total of - 69.7 men, who were found sufficient for all demands ; indeed, as a matter of fact, even these men were not really required. The very people who said that 7,000 kanakas were* being deported, and that at least. 5,000 white men would be required to take their places, found the demand more than met with 697 white men. A number of the men who were brought out are, as indicated by a question asked earlier to-day, leaving their employment, dissatisfied with the way they have been treated. Some of them are in prison for breach of agreement ; but their statement is that they were brought out under false pretences - that the agreement they were shown in Spain was not the agreement they were asked to sign. Indeed, it is an open question whether an agreement made in another country is a legal instrument. The document from which I have quoted more than; justifies the statement I made in reference to the labour requirements in. the sugar districts. I said there were plenty of men there ; and I say the same now. We come now to the real kernel of this question. The farmers complain that they cannot get cheap enough labour, although they have ransacked the whole of the eastern hemisphere for it. They had the kanaka, and were not satisfied with him, just as. they have never been satisfied with Javanese, Manila men, Cingalese, Japanese, and Chinese. Every avenue of cheap labour has been exploited at one time or another ; and the planters have never been satisfied. At the” present time they are doing better than ever they did before, and still there is° dissatisfaction. They want cheap labour all the time; and there is some excuse for them. The company which possesses the monopoly is squeezing, not merely the planter, but also the farmer and the manufacturer ; and, in the process, is making a profit of £700,000 a year. I think I can show some evidence of - where this money goes. In June last the company advised its shareholders, through an advertisement in the Sydney Morning Herald, that 15,000 shares at ,£20 each were available for distribution amongst them in the ratio of one share for every twenty-two shares already held. Of the £20, £5 had to be debited to profit and loss account, making the net cost of the shares to the shareholder £15, which had to be paid not later than the 18th October, 1908 This means that the shareholders trot those, new shares absolutely for nothing, and were free to manipulate them as they liked in the meantime. Of course, everybody was in the market for those shares, and the value rose to £44 ros. each, whereas just prior to the watering they had been on the market at, I think, £42. The difference, therefore, between the ,£15 and the selling price of the shares was ,£29 10s. To-day, however, the shares are selling at £41 10s., according to the last sales reported in the Sydney Morning Herald, which shows a difference of £26 10s. This difference of £26 10s. on the 15,000 new shares means that the total present which the companygave to the shareholders was. £397,500. Where did that money come from? It came from those men who are being squeezed, and who, as the only relief, from the pressure, ask for cheap labour - ask for somebody to “carry the baby” and thus relieve them of the burden imposed upon them by the company for the benefit, of the shareholders.
– What is. the dividend, and what is carried to the reserve?
– The dividend is 10 per cent. Der annum, and, notwithstanding the watering, I am certain that that dividend will be maintained, and quite as much as heretofore will be carried to the reserve fund.
– They carried .£100,000 to the reserve fund last year.
– That is an amount just about equal to what they paid away in dividends.
– What is the honorable member going to do about it?
– I arn asking honorable members opposite what they’ are prepared to do. We want to nationalize this industry and relieve the consumers of sugar of the burdens that they have to bear.
– If the honorable member’s party want to nationalize the industry, why do they not do it? They have the power.
– Unfortunately; we have not the power. What would be the position if we said to the Government, “ We want you to nationalize the sugar industry at once, and if you do not we will withdraw our support from you” ?
– The Treasurer would do it at once.
– The Government would say, “ We “do not care a straw about what you want.” They would oppose any motion of that sort, and would get honorable members opposite to come to their aid to defeat us. The deputy leader of the
Opposition knows that the Government use the Labour Party to beat the Opposition and use the Opposition to beat the Labour Party ; and so they have a permanent job.
– The honorable member charges the Government with using, his party?
– I know that they use us and we get nothing for it. Honorable members opposite are continually taxing us with getting concessions from the Government, but what have they done for us ? If the new protection is administered in the future as it has been in the past, I say, “ Heaven help us ! “ We shall get no good out of it. Referring again to the profits of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, I point out that the cane cut last year amounted roughly to 2,000,000 tons. If 4s. per ton - which is a fair average price - had been paid for cutting that cane, the . amount which the Colonial Sugar Refining Company handed over to its shareholders would have just about paid for cutting. I do not wonder that the people are growling about it. The one effective remedy is nationalization. The only relief for the consumer and foi the farmer lies in the direction of nationalizing the industry. We could then give the farmer a better price for his cane, and the consumer much cheaper sugar.
– The national mill in Queensland pays the same rate as does the Colonial Sugar Refining Company.
– I am not here to criticise the action of the Queensland Government. They do what they consider to be best in their own interest. But I am here to affirm a principle which I think is undeniably sound, that the only remedy is for the people of the country to take the matter into their own hands by nationalization. The profits derived by the Company are largely paid into the pockets of persons who do not even live in the country at all, many being absentees. When I speak of nationalization in regard to the sugar industry I refer only to the refining and distributing. I do not take into consideration the question of manufacture or the growing of the cane. It is from refining and distributing that the profit is principally made. The cane-growers at present are, it is true, making a good tiling out of it, especially in North Queensland. They are better off now than they ever were previously, though they will not admit it. Their profits are much higher. In the annual report of the Mackay Chamber of
Commerce figures are given showing the production for twelve or thirteen years. These figures range from the years 1896-97 to 1906-7. In the Mackay district there is more grumbling about the effects of the . Labour Party’s policy than there is in any other part of Queensland. Yet the sugargrowers there are doing remarkably well. Notwithstanding their complaints about, the shortness of the labour supply and the difficulty of getting the cane off, these figures show, an increase from 16,515 tons in 1896-7 to 34,338 tons in 1906-7 - an increase of over 100 per cent. Yet these people are complaining that, the sugar industry is being ruined, and they have apparently convinced themselves that it is in a parlous state. The figures show conclusively that what they assert is, to say the least of it, incorrect.
– They are all right as long as they get the treatment they receive now.
– There are nearly 8,000 coloured persons employed in the sugar industry still.
– I know that there are many coloured employes, but those who employ coloured labour receive no bounty.
– They get the benefit of £2 per ton protection.
– I admit that. I wish to refer to the policy proposed by the honorable member for Coolgardie to reduce the protection by £2 per ton and to equalize it by an Excise duty of £4 per ton, thus removing the protection altogether. In what condition would our finances be if that policy were adopted? An honorable member, during the Budget debate, referred to the consolidation of the States debts, and’ outlined a scheme by which he said the Commonwealth could save interest to the amount of , £500,000 per annum. But what would be the result of our policy if we made such inroads upon the revenue as the honorable member for Coolgardie proposes ? Last year the net revenue derived from sugar was about £333,000. Suppose that the. Excise duty and the bounty expired at the same time, as they would do under the present Excise Act. ‘ What . would be the result? We should receive no revenue from sugar, a commodity which, in every country, is considered to be a fair subject for duty.
Mr.Page.- Does not the honorable member think that it is too dear in Australia ?
– I do, but that is not owing to the bounty or to the Excise. It is owing to the operations of the Colonial Sugar defining Company, which holds the whole business in the hollow of its hand, and squeezes the people just as it pleases. Even if there were no duty the people of Western Australia would probably be paying just as much for their sugar owing to the operations of the company as they are now doing.
-1 - Sugar in Western Australia is about 40 per cent, dearer now than it was prior to Federation.
– Just so, but the honorable member knows that that is not owing to the duty.
– Partially. It is to the extent of £5 ros. per ton.
– The honorable member must not forget that the Shipping Combine controls freights to Western Australia while tlie Colonial Sugar Refining Company controls the sale of the commodity itself, so that, ‘ between the two, the price - is raised. We shall have to decide before the close of the present Parliament what is to be our future policy in regard to the industry. As to the remarks made bv the honorable member for Franklin regarding the duty on jam, I am willing to place myself unreservedly in his hands. Under the old Tariff the duty was £14 per ton, or, taking the market price of jam at £20 per ton, 70 per cent. But under the present Tariff a duty of 2d. per lb., which is equivalent to 92 per cent, is being levied. It is the highest duty that is being collected, and is equal to £18 13s. 4d. per iron. The honorable member for Franklin -assured us that he did not want the duty on jam, and it is in that connexion that I -offer to place myself unreservedly in his hands. I shall vote for the abolition of the duty on jam if he asks me to do so,, whilst, on the other hand, I am prepared to vote for it, if it be his desire that I should. I do not think that the honorable member was sincere in his observations regarding the impost on that commodity. The honorable member for Coolgardie asserted that ho other product is so highly protected as is Australian sugar. As a matter of fact, cheese is subject to a protective duty of 60 per cent., whilst we have a 50 per cent, duty on butter. BAH rates are’ higher than that relating to the sugar. The duty on butter is, of course, inoperative; but New Zealand cheese is being brought in, and duty is being paid upon it. The only remedy for the present state of affairs in regard to the sugar indus try is nationalization. The sooner we nationalize the industry the better, and i trust that the deputy leader of the Opposition, when the time comes to take such a proposal into consideration, will assist us in giving effect to it. Last session I had on the business-paper a notice of motion relating to the nationalization of the industry, but time did not permit pf its being discussed. I did not think it wise to give notice of such a motion this session, because I recognised that most of our time would be occupied in dealing with the Tariff. Later on, however, I shall again put it before the House, and I hope that honorable members of the Opposition, who realize what must be the result of the whole of the profits of the industry being secured by a few people, some of whom do not even reside in Australia, will join with those who urge that the industry should be nationalized.
– I propose to reply to some of the observations made by the honorable member who has just resumed his seat, as well as by one or two others who preceded him. I would first of all correct the misapprehension under which the honorable member labours in regard to the action taken by Mr. Hughes, who represented the Colonial Sugar Refining Company in Europe, in connexion with his efforts to obtain labour there. The honorable member said that he did not, first of all, proceed to England with the object of obtaining British labourers for the cane-fields. That is a mis-statement. I am not here to defend Mr. Hughes, or to speak of the necessity of importing .such labour, but since I was a fellow passenger with Mr. Hughes I am able to say that he did go to England, and that he made every effort to obtain the necessary labour in that country. His efforts, however, were blocked bv an intimation from the British Emigration agent that emigrants would be warned against going out to work in the cane-fields of Queensland. Mr. Hughes then proceeded to the Continent, and after being more or less successful in his mission returned to England, where he.was able, assisted by the efforts Sir Horace Tozer was making for the Queensland Government, to engage about one-third of the labour which he required. I think that was about the proportion. The remarks made by the honorable member for South Sydney in opposition to the Colonial Sugar Refining Company come rather curiously from him, since he has done his best on many occasions to secure the imposition of duties providing for the successful establishment of profitable manufactures. Honorable members on this side of the House, in resisting such proposals for State support, have frequently pointed out that by imposing protective duties in order to establish industries we run the risk of enabling those who enter them to make undue profits, by giving them the right to tax the people. Whilst grumbling because an industry has been successfully established, the honorable member for South Sydney, and others, are always willing to support the imposition of increased duties where it is shown - and sometimes on a mere assertion - that the existing rates are insufficient to enable an industry to be successfully carried on. I have had some experience of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. I am not, and never have been, interested in it; my only experience of it has been as a sort of rival to it. I had to look after a sugar concern which was in competition with it, and which was beaten not because the Colonial Sugar Refining Cornrpany paid the growers too low a rate for the cane, but because that company’s competitors could not afford to conduct a profitable business, and pay as much for the cane as it did. We are now asked, because of the assumed profits of that company - and J admit that they, are good profits - to nationalize the industry.
– Not because of their profits, but because of the unfair price of sugar to the consumer.
-Has the honorable member ever heard of a proposal to nationalize an unsuccessful industry?
– No; but I have not heard of a proposal to nationalize an industry solely because of theprofits being made in it.
– A proposal to nationalize a profitable industry is a proposal to take something out of the pockets of those who have either earned it, or halve been enabled by legislation, such as the imposition of duties, to make it, in order to put it into the pockets of the general community.
– Not always.
– The Colonial Sugar Refining Company has been one of the best managed concerns in Australia. At one time it saved the industry. It was its wise policy - its employment of expert chemists and engineers, its readiness to instal in its mills the most modern machinery- which at the time of the sugar crisis saved the industry to Australia. If the industry is a sound one to-day, the credit for its existence is due to the company. Let us take a glance at some seminationalization undertakings on the part of the Queensland Government. The Government wisely, or unwisely, established, or backed up, central mills which up to the present have not been a remarkable success.
– Do they not owe the Government about half-a-million ?
– In 1906 they owed the Government £514,000.
– The whole of the money that the mills have cost could be obtained for them, if necessary.
– But the fact remains that those mills have not been very successful financially. Let us look at the result to the grower of the establishment and operation of the central mills as compared with the Colonial Sugar Refining Company’s’mill. During the years 1901 to 1906, the average price paid for cane by the central mills to the growers was, as recorded by the Auditor-General of Queensland, 15s. 2¾d. per ton, delivered at the weighbridge. During the same period, the average’ price paid to the grower by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company was 15s. 8¼d. per ton, delivered at the weighbridge. That is a difference of 5½d. per ton, which amounts in the total to £45,000 inore paid to the growers by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company than was paid by the central mills for the same quantity of material.
– Art not the growers also shareholders in _ the central mills? Is it not a co-operative affair, and do they not participate in the profits?
– The Queensland Government, so far as I understand the position - I have not looked it up - are the financial backers of the central mills, and it is presumed that the mills pay off a portion of their indebtedness at regular intervals.
– The cane-growers are shareholders.
– Some may be ; some are not. The results show that the mills have not been enabled tb carrv out regularly, at anv rate, their engagement with the Government. Consequently, it cannot be said that they have been very successful financially, while at the same time they have given less money to the growers for their cane than the Colonial Sugar Refining Company have.
– That is only partially true. In one district, a central mill pays over is. more per ton for the same cane.
– The figures I have quoted cover 2,225,779 tons of cane supplied’ to the central mills, and 1,975,135 tons supplied to the Colonial Sugar Refining Company’s mill from 1901 to 1906.
– The Colonial Sugar Refining Company’s mill is in the best position.
– It is in the best position, as the honorable member says, and another advantage to the grower, which is not taken into account in these figures, is that, because of the position of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company’s mill, it costs the grower less to cart his cane to the weighbridge. When we hear proposals for nationalization, it is necessary to look at such figures as these. I have no hesitation in saying that if the preservation of the Australian sugar industry had depended upon a nationalized refinery, the industry would not have existed to-day, unless prohibitive means had been taken to prevent the importation of sugar.
– They have pretty well prohibitive means now.
– Who assists Ministers to carry out that policy? I am not alluding to the honorable member for Grey, because he has often shown the opinions which he holds by taking up a stand in opposition to it.
– I think they all voted for this policy.
– They did not all vote for it, but they did not vote against it, because there was a special case. I shall allude presently to what my attitude is with regard to the case of the Queensland growers. But the honorable member for Grey knows that, with regard to other industries, votes can be obtained in this House to give duties which are absolutely unjustifiable, and under which those who benefit are simply having taxation farmed out to them, ‘ and can apply as much as they choose of it to the pockets of the people. They do that to ah altogether inexcusable extent. I understand -that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company pay for ‘ the sugar they purchase a price fixed on a sliding scale, according to the market value of the refined product, and that their purchases of colonial sugar during the past few years have cost from 12s. to 16s. per ton more than Java sugar, which was used exclusively by Mr. Poolman, who was a competitor of theirs. Consequently, they were actually paying more for the colonial raw sugar than they could get imported Java sugar for. That this is apparently so is evidenced by the fact that another refiner imported all his sugar from Java, refined it here, and competed with the company. Those facts have to be taken into consideration. The honorable member for South Sydney stated that the cost of refining charged in Australia by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company was two or three times as high as the amount charged for refining elsewhere, but the honorable member must remember that there is no protection for refining sugar in Australia at all. If those outside refiners can do the work so much cheaper they have the market here to enter into. What protection we do give is a protection to the growing of cane. There is no protection on the sugar, because the sugar refined here has to pay a duty equivalent to that paid by the imported refined sugar. The honorable member for South Sydney omitted from his calculations the fact that if it costs from £z to £3 a ton for refining sugar in countries where there is no Excise - and there is none in the countries which he named - there must be added to the cost of refining in Australia the £4 per ton Excise duty. The honorable member admitted that that’ factor had not been taken into account.
– That is taken off the product of the cane supplied.
– Not altogether, because the cane-grower gets 3s. 10d. per ton more for his cane than he obtained before our provisions were adopted.
– Having had experience, will the honorable member state what is the actual cost of refining?
– My experience was at a date when the later improvements had not been made in the process. Those .improvements were largely made by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, and reduced the cost very much. Improvements made in other parts of the world by refiners were adopted by that company. There was a great contest between beet and cane sugars, and that set inventors and chemists to work to reduce the cost of refining each kind as much as pos- sible. But, at the time when I had experience, I think £4 per ton would not cover the cost of refining. I do not, however, give that as a criterion of what obtains at present, because there have been very great improvements in the process.
– As we put on each £1 of Excise, the company reduced the price of cane delivered by 2s. per ton.
– The Colonial Sugar Refining Company admit that a portion of that- about one-third, or less - is received by them. They considered that necessary, at that time at any rate, for future eventualities in the trade. I have pointed out that there are central mills, which are Governmentbacked institutions. That is going as near to the nationalization of the industry as is possible without actually nationalizing it. I have also shown that those mills are giving less to the growers for their cane than are the reviled Colonial Sugar Refining Company.
– That arises from the fact that their mills are located in the. north, where higher rates are paid for cane.
– They have mills close to those of the Colonial Company.
– I shall be glad to be given an illustration of that statement.
– The figures are in my possession, and the honorable member may see them with pleasure. T quite admit that there is a good deal in the statements made by the honorable member for Coolgardie this afternoon. The financial aspect of the question is going to be a very important one in connexion with this industry. But it must be recollected that in the early history of this Parliament we agreed to certain conditions. We did so because black labour had been largelyemployed in the production of sugar in. Queensland, and because it was considered in the interests of a “ white Australia “ - which policy was deliberately adopted by the Parliament- that black labour should gradually be abolished. It was felt that it would be unfair to require Queensland to bear the whole . of the cost of solving this national problem, and therefore it was held to be just that we should provide the growers with such a bounty as would enable them to substitute white for coloured labour, and thereby free Australia from the employment of kanakas, whose presence was considered undesirable. But the question is, “ How far is that policy to go?”
– Why should we protect black-grown sugar to the extent of £2 per ton?
– That is a very potent question, I admit. If I had the power I should- have a different arrangement of the duties. But the fact remains that we entered upon this undertaking and continued to extend a general protection to sugar which, had existed even when it was all grown by black labour. We then said that we would grant a bounty to induce- the planters to substitute white for black labour, not in the interests of Queensland alone but of Australia. I stand to that position to-day. I think that Queensland has a right to expect us to see that policy to its conclusion - to continue it until, the- whole of the sugar consumed within the Commonwealth is grown by white labour.
– We have a right to see that it gets a thorough trial.
– If we find that that policy is not going to prove a. success, I do not feel bound: - nor does any other honorable member, I think - to continue, it, even if its, discontinuance means the abandonment of the industry. But Queensland has a right to expect us to see the experiment to its conclusion, and to start the industry fairly upon its career as a white labour industry. The honorable member for Coolgardie, however, has raised a point - perhaps a little prematurely - which will have to be faced. An Excise duty has been imposed upon sugar. Under the Excise Act it is provided that the Excise may be rebated upon goods exported. Ministers have never failed to allow this rebate upon goods exported so long as the fact could be established that Excise duty had been, paid upon those goods. This- system has been adopted in, connexion with the export of sugar. As we have been told to-night, Ministers allow rebate somewhat equivalent to the Excise upon sugar exported in the form of jam. If we. are- to follow that policy in the future, and if the production of Queensland sugar should at an early date seriously outrun the requirements of the Commonwealth, we shall have to face a big financial problem. In that case, it will be very wrong for us to be called upon to provide cheap sugar - because it can only be sold in the markets of the world if it is cheap - for the benefit of Queensland planters,’ and at the expense of all Australia.
– And for the benefit of New South Wales planters, too.
– Yes. I admit that there is a limited quantity of sugar produced in New South Wales. I should be quite willing to agree to the proposal of the honorable member for Herbert that there should be a differentiation of the bounty in different latitudes.
– The bounty will very soon disappear if we begin that system.
– We shall not be so foolish as to try it.
– In New South Wales, the sugar bounty is largely in the nature of a gift to the growers. But we cannot differentiate unless we do so in the other State producing it, or while we offer a greater advantage to the growing of beet in the southern States. Let us suppose that we have reached a stage when we are able to supply our own requirements in the matter of sugar, and also to export that commodity. _ Let us further suppose that production increases until we have a surplus for export of 500,000 tons annually. If we are going to pay a bounty upon that export, and there is little doubtwe shall be asked to do so, as well as upon the quantity produced for home consumption, we shall have to pay £1,500,000 annually to provide cheap sugar for other portions of the world.
– That is the German system.
– I am not prepared to support it. That is the position which we shall have to face, because this year it is anticipated that the production of sugar will be fully equal to our requirements, even if it is not in excess of them, and it may rapidly increase. I do not know whether the Minister has faced that situation yet. But if we are to remit the Excise duty upon exported sugar, and to continue the payment of the bountv which may be demanded, we shall be landed in a very serious financial position indeed. The one remedy suggested for all evils - even if they are deliberately created by ourselves - appears to be the nationalization of industries. In Queensland, we see that as the result of the nationalization of the mills, the latter do not pay as much to the growers for their cane as does the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. When honorable members begin to talk of nationalization all sorts of reasons are given for adopting that policy. One reason given in this case was that the shareholders of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company are largely absentees. Here is what the company says in a statement issued some time ago about their shareholders : They have 1,300 shareholders; 700 represent trustees, executors, single women, and wives jointly with husbands, 31 are employes of the company, while 1,430 members of the staff and wage-earners are interested in the Employes Provident Fund, which holds over 3,000 shares; 113 are professional men; 375 are traders and men actively engaged in business ; and 65 are so-called capitalists, holding altogether 23 per- cent, of the stock. Of these shareholders, 8 per cent, reside outside of Australia, nearly all being Australians who have gone to England to live. The percentage of such holdings to the total capital is constantly being reduced, as the Board have for a long time been unwilling that any stock in the company should be acquired by those living at the other side of the world while all its interests are here. This company has been a very successful commercial enterprise in Australia, and I say that, instead of attacking such companies unnecessarily and unduly, we ought to be proud that we can produce some such successful commercial concerns. As I have shown, the Colonial Sugar Refining Company pays the grower more for cane than do the Government Central Mills, and I am certain that if honorable members . inquired into the treatment and payment of the employes of the company, and the provident provision made for them-
– Does the honorable member not think that we should have some little regard for the interests of the consumers of sugar?
– Certainly; but I prefer to finish my sentence first. I was saying that I believe that if honorable members inquired into the provident provision made for the employe’s of the company, they would find no Government mill making similar provision. I certainly agree with the honorable member for Grey that we should consider the con- sumer. In the statement published by the company, to which I have already referred, I find that they say -
The margin of profit thus secured to us is, notwithstanding wild statements to the contrary, only a moderate one, and we are prepared, if it be necessary, to prove the truth of this statement.
A statement that the profit is only a moderate one is quite consistent with very large total profits, because the overturn of the company is enormous.
– But last year the Colonial Sugar Refining Company paid a dividend of 12½ per cent., and carried an equal sum towards their reserve.
– They paid 10 per cent.
– That would represent profits equal to 20 per cent.
– I can tell the honorable member that those who have been engaged in sugar refining during the last twenty-five years or more have had need of large reserves, because the calls upon the reserve funds of such companies have been something extraordinary. The quantitv of machinery which the Colonial Sugar Refining Company has thrown on the scrap-heap, to be replaced with new machinery to save expense in production, has made a large reserve fund a necessity. Honorable members are asking for, and voting for,, some tremendous duties for the establishment and protection of industries, and when other honorable members, in common with myself, oppose these high duties, we are assured that they are necessary for the successful establishment of industries. But after the duties have been imposed, and the industries have been successfully established, we find the honorable members who have urged the imposition of the duties demanding that the industries should be nationalized. ‘ To my mind such a course of action is inconsistent. I say that, we should . be careful not to impose duties which can be taken advantage of, and we should also be careful, when we are attacking an industry that has reached success, and has assisted Australia by its success, that our facts are accurate, and that, in proposing to nationalize such an industry, we are not proposing a course which will tend to the injury, not only of the industry, but also of the Commonwealth.
– I have always recognised that the sugar industry is one which, not only in Australia, but in all parts of the world, has exercised the minds Of public men and politicians. Here in Australia, as has been pointed out by the honorable member for North Sydney, our Federation started with a very distinct handicap in connexion with the sugar industry. The facts have been pointed out so clearly that it is not necessary for me to refer to them further than to say that there can be no question that, had it not been for the overwhelming desire of a very large majority of the Federal Parliament to remove the kanaka from’ the cane-fields of Queensland, the complicated system we have adopted would never have been introduced. However, it does seem strange to me, in view of the intense desire shown by so large a majority of members of this Parliament to abolish black labour in” the Queensland plantations, that we should actually provide a protective duty of £2 per ton to enable sugargrowers to continue the employment of black labour. That seems to me to be an absurd way in which to attempt to get rid of black labour, if . that be our main object.
– The honorable member should remember that free-trade New South Wales gave the sugar-growers a protection of£3 per ton.
– I am not now referring to the fiscal aspect of the question. I am trving to deal with the one object for which this complicated system of duty, Excise, and bounty was agreed to. I say without fear of contradiction that, had it not been for the importance attached to the White Australia question, our present complicated system of duty, Excise, and bounty would never have been introduced. If we set aside the White Australia aspect of the question, there is no more reason why sugar should pay an Excise duty than any other natural product of Australia, nor is there any more reason whv a bounty should be given on the production of sugar.
– Nor any reason why it should be given the benefit of a 50 per cent, import duty.
– If we say that the main object of our legislation in connexion with the production of sugar is to secure a White Australia - to banish black labour from the Queensland cane-fields - there is no consistency in giving sugargrowers the benefit of a protective duty of from £2 to £2 10s. per ton to encourage the growth of sugar with black labour. It does seem to me that, while we profess a desire to abolish black labour, we are at the same time saying to the growers of sugar, “ Keep your black labour, and we shall give you the benefit of a protective duty to enable you to do so.” It has been said that the Federal Parliament will very shortly have to face this question..
– Could we not make the Excise duty £6 per ton on all sugar produced by black labour?
-I think it would be a. better plan to adopt the proposal already made. I have been surprised at the attack made on the honorable member for Coolgardie for introducing this subject. I say that the thanks of the Committee are due to the honorable member for the trouble he has taken to place the case before honorable members as he has done. As one who has taken some little interest in this subject, every session when the question has been under consideration, I say that the facts and figures supplied by the honorable member will be of great use in assisting honorable members ‘generally to arrive at a fair and honest conclusion. I was saying that we have been told that the Federal Parliament will very” shortly have, to face this question, and I intended to add that this House has already faced the question. I would ask the honorable members for Wide Bay and Herbert to remember that we have already on the statute-book an Act providing for the way in which the sugar bounty shall cease. The Act says that in 1911 the bounty shall be reduced by two-thirds, and, after 191 2, shall absolutely cease. A great mistake was made when, we did not, in the interests of the sugar industry, provide a more gradual sliding scale for the reduction of the bounty. It would have been, better to allow if to be reduced from’ 15 per cent, to 20 per cent, in each succeeding year, to enable the growers to become accustomed to the change in circumstances. Parliament, however, rejected the proposal which some of us tried to carry, and provided the sliding scale of which I have spoken. In191 2 the planters of Queensland must face the position.
– There will then be a big agitation for a continuance of the bounty.
– No doubt, we do not wish to do anything which will jeopardize the great national industry of Queensland.
– The Excise disappears in the same- ratio as the bounty.
-I think that’ that is right. Although I represent a State which badly needs revenue, I do not desire that revenue shall be obtained from a natural production of the Commonwealth. I would like the whole of the sugar used in Australia to be locally grown, getting revenue from some, other source. I take up that position notwithstanding the fact that Tasmania has lost more revenue by the Commonwealth sugar legislation than has been lost, by any other State.
– Does not the honorable member think that we should get cheaper sugar ?
– Yes. In June last, the quotation to manufacturers- these are. Sydney prices - was £1811s. 8d. per ton.; and to merchants, £20 f.o.b. Sydney ; while, at the same time, sugar sent from Australia - though not Australian sugar - was being sold at Durban, according to the Colonial Sugar Refining Company’s price list, for £11 5s. per ton c.i.f., including the seller’s commission.
– Do rot those facts justify us in reconsidering this question?
– Yes. The Australian public is paying too much for its sugar. During the present year, the output of Australian sugar will practically meet the demand, so that there will be little or no importations.
– Is there not a. surplus now? What about that sold at Durban?
– That sugar came here, from Java, and was afterwards exported.
– Sugar is brought here to- be refined in bond.
– That sugar was exported to keep up the: local prices.
– It would be in the interests of the local sugar-growers if Parliament were to come to a fair and reasonable understanding with them. I do not think, that it will be possible ever to give a large population employment in connexion with the production of sugar, because the figures show that we have almost reached the limit.
– The limit of production?
– No; but the production now is almost equal to the demand.
– Does not the honorable member allow for an increase of population ?
– The . population is not increasing as fast as the sugar production.
– The increase in the consumption of sugar is about 8,000 tons per annum.
– And the increase in production very much more than that. Sugar can be landed in bond from Java or Fiji at Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth, or Hobart, for from £12 to . £13 per ton. Could Australian sugar, if exported, compete against other sugar sold at that . price? I do not think that Australia is prepared to give a bounty on the Belgian system. . In Belgium, local buyers pay about 4d. per lb. for sugar, while English buyers get Belgian sugar for 2d. per lb. I do not think that Australia is prepared to indorse a policy which has results like that.
– I cited Germany as an illustration of the great progress that has been made.
– I think that Germany rather furnishes an example which we should not follow. If we give a bounty upon the exportation of sugar, then we shall be asked to give a bounty upon the exportation of butter, wheat, and other articles, and the request can be made with equal force. I believe that when the sugar industry overtakes the local demand, it will have to work out its salvation exactly as any other industry has had to do.
– We might get preferential trade with New Zealand.
-That is one policy with which I thoroughly agree. I hope that in the very near future we- shall get preferential trade with a good many countries - not only with. New Zealand, but also with the mother country It must be remembered that sugar is the raw product of another industry. The Government have recognised that fact to a considerable extent by granting a rebate in respect of all preserves exported. That places the preserver at a disadvantage to some extent. Prior to Federation, a full rebate was allowed in respect of preserves exported from a State. For instance, in Tasmania, we collected a Customs duty of £5 a ton on all kinds of sugar, but in regard to all jams and preserves exported, we allowed a complete rebate which practically was equal to the amount of the import duty on the sugar. Last year, about 3,000 tons of sugar were used in Hobart alone in preserving; 720 tons of jam were exported from the Commonwealth, and on that quantity a rebate was allowed. But as regards the jams consumed within the Commonwealth - practically 3,000 tons - the preservers had to pay the duty, which meant that the fruit-growing industry alone was handicapped to the extent of £18,000.
– There was no duty payable on the sugar used in making those jams.
– The users of the sugar paid the Customs duty of £6 a ton.
– The preservers would not use imported sugar but Australian sugar.
– In my first speech on this subject, I pointed out to the House that, owing to the custom of allowing rebate in respect of foreign sugar only, we were practically compelling the preservers to use foreign sugar. The honorable gentleman took the matter into consideration, and a rebate is now allowed on Australian sugar in precisely the same way asit is allowed on foreign sugar, with the result that Australian sugar is used almost wholly in the factories. It would not do the slightest injury to the great sugarproducing industry, and it would remove a very serious grievance from the fruitgrowing industry, if a complete rebate were allowed in respect of all sugar used in the factories. It could be done very easily, I think. If 5t were done, it would remove from the fruit-grower an exceedingly heavy tax. Over and over again, I have pointed out that it is equivalent to from £18 to . £21 per acre per annum.
– What about the protectionwhich is given to their jams?
– I desire to tell honorable members again that if they will’ allow free sugar to the preservers, they can remove the duty on jams and preserves if they like.
– Would the honorablemember give a rebate in respect of the sugar used in making jam for a household?
– I am afraid that we could scarcely do that, because the preservers would have to make their jams inbond. If honorable members wish to encourage an industry they should b’e careful” that in doing so they do not inflict a very serious injury upon another industry. Fromconversations I have had with sugargrowers and with some of the representativesfrom the sugar-growing districts, I believe that they would be willing to accept that proposal if the Government could see a way to give effect to it. I am sure that the sugar-grower has no desire, when he asksfor his industry to be assisted, to inflict aninjury upon any one else.
– It is not a question or the sugar-grower but of the country.
-I want, to see the sugar industry assisted in every possible way.
– Does not the honorable member think that we are morally bound to continue the existing arrangement until 1912 ?
– Of course we are.
– I believe that if my proposal were adopted it would not seriously affect the sugar producer or the revenue] but it would’ beneficially affect hundreds of persons. During the last three or four years I have seen cattle turned into plantations because it did not pay the grower to pick the fruit.
– What difference has Federation made?
– Prior to Federation the preservers were allowed a complete rebate of the whole of the Customs duty paid on the sugar.
– More jam is taken from the preservers now by the States than used to be exported from Tasmania.
– Prior to Federation we used to send our fruit in pulp to Queensland, where it was manufactured into jam. I am speaking from the standpoint of the fruit-grower, not the manufacturer.
– That was done in order to escape the Customs duty.
– Considering thaiQueensland had the sugar and Tasmania the pulp it was a very wise policy for the former to import the pulp and to make it into jam.
– That was tried in New South Wales too, but it was stopped. .
– I wish to inform honorable members that owing to the difference in the price of sugar in South Africa and Australia - I do not know whether it has succeeded or not - there was a very substantial proposal made to form a company to export fruit in pulp to South Africa, and there to have it made into preserves, because sugar in that country is . £11 to £12 per ton, while in Australia it is . £18.
– How. long would the pulp be admitted free?
-I do not know,I do know, however, that when in Tasmania, five or six weeks ago, there was talk of a company - I cannot say whether it has since been formed - engineered by South Africans, with the idea of exporting fruit in pulp to South Africa, there to be manufactured into jam. This is an aspect of the case which honorable members ought to consider; and I hope that in our desire to give every encouragement to the sugar industry we shall take car’e not to do a positive injustice to another important industry.
.- The speech of the honorable member for Coolgardie was a most excellent contribution to the discussion, and, so far as I can see, the main facts as presented by him have not been successfully questioned. The other day I voted for a duty on wire-netting in the belief that we could help the farmer to a greater extent if, retaining thatduty, we removed imposts on certain necessaries of life. In the light of the evidence now before honorable members, I think that if I support the amendment of the honorable member for Coolgardie I shall be taking a step in the direction of removing a duty from the necessaries of life. It has been shown by . the honorable member for Herbert that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company is making an annual profit of £700,000; and, as the honorable member was speaking in favour of the continuance of the present duty, we may take it that he was advancing the argument most favorable to his contention. We have had it proved from all sides that the price of sugar is at present exorbitant, and that the wages paid in the industry are not fair wages. It has also been shown that there is a protection of £2 per ton in favour of black-grown sugar; and, in voting for the abolition of that protection I shall be-
– Introducing all black-grown sugar.
– Not at all. I shall be taking protection away from blackgrown sugar.
– And from whitegrown sugar too. Fiji is half-owned by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company.
– The Treasurer pointed out that the sugar industry will be brought under the new protection scheme, which is largely designed to safeguard the consumer against exorbitant prices.
– It is designed to first safeguard the wage earner.
– And secondly to safeguard the consumer. We are told that the Board, under that scheme, will inquire, and, if exorbitant prices are charged, Parliament will be recommended to reduce duties.
– I understand that the Board will confine its attention to industries which receive additional protection.
– That does not follow.
– I . understand that the new protection will apply to every item in the schedule.
– Every item in the schedule of the Bill.
– But we shall have an opportunity of putting every item in the Tariff in the schedule of the Bill, and I think honorable members will be prepared to do so. If the Board finds that exorbitant prices are being charged, it . will issue a report, on which Parliament may reduce duties.
– That, was denied the other night by the honorable member’s- leader.
– I doubt whether it was denied ; but, at any rate, the fact does not alter my understanding of the case. Without waiting for a report from any Board, we have ample evidence that an exorbitant price is being charged for sugar; and there is an opportunity to do now what we shall be able to do after the Board has been appointed.
– But both the Opposition and the Government are against the honorable member in that.
– I do not care : I am going to give a vote which I take to be in the interests of my constituents. Sugar is a necessary of life, and we ought not to permit the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, with its monopoly, to practically, reap all the benefit of the protection, and charge the consumer with the ordinary price of sugar, plus the duty. In my opinion, the Board under the new protection scheme could ascertain no more than we have ascertained to-night, and I think honorable members will be prepared to vote for. a reduction of the duty. I shall vote for the abolition of the protection of £2 per ton in favour of black-grown sugar, as a protest against the tactics of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, and because I think the consumer will thus be enabled to get one of the necessaries of life cheaper throughout the Continent.
.- If anyfurther argument were needed in favour of the amendment of the honorable member for Coolgardie, it is contained in a communication which I received on Saturday last from the sugar districts of Queensland. The letter is from the Chamber pf Commerce in Bowen, dated 1st October, 1907, and I dare say other honorable members from the northern State have received copies of the document. According to the heading of the letter, this Chamber of Commerce was established on the 21st February, 1888, so that it is a pretty old institution. The letter is as follows -
At a meeting of the above chamber, held on Thursday last, a resolution protesting against the proposed heavy Customs duties on settlers’ requisites and in its bearing on the working population, also objecting to the increase in the salaries of Federal members, was unanimously passed, and I was directed to inform you to that effect.
I regard sugar as one of the “ requisites “ of the settler in my constituency, and I shall carry out the desire of this Chamber of Commerce.
– Why did the Chamber of Commerce mix up the salaries question with this matter?
– I do not know, but in reply I should like to relate a little anecdote which the honorable member for Darwin, told on “the election platform. It concerned a nigger who was sent to a post-office in America by his master to fetch a telegram. The nigger could not understand how the telegraph worked, and asked the postmaster to explain it to him. The postmaster scratched his head, and thought how best he could illustrate the working of the telegraph. At last he said that it was like a dog with its head in one town and its tail in another. He said, “ You squeeze the dog’s tail, in the one town, and it barks in the other.” The application, of that story is this. The resolution to which I am referring was manufactured among a number of noodles - nothing more nor less - at a small place called Nerang. The resolution was sent all round the country. The dog’s tail was squeezed at Nerang, and these divisional boards throughout Queensland have barked. Of course, the document has been altered a little so as to give it the appearance of not being the production of one set of people. I agree with the Chamber of Commerce at Bowen that the duties on the necessaries of life should be reduced; and one of the necessaries of life to the people of my electorate is> sugar. I have received another of these communications from a place in the electorate of the honorable member for Capricornia. It is from the Gooburrum, or the ‘“Gone Bung,” Shire Council. I suppose the same communications have been sent to all. the Queensland members. Now, these, people are protectionists of the deepest dye so far as. concerns sugar, but they want the duties to be taken off other commodities. They are free-traders as to everything else. If there is one thing more than another that justifies the honorable member for Coolgardie in bringing forward his amendment, it is these circulars from Queensland. Let me refer honorable members to the report of the Cane-growers’ Conference held in Townsville in February of this year. Of course, the Conference howled for more protection and more Excise so far as sugar is concerned.
– They asked for a prohibitive duty on sugar.
– Yes. We have heard the honorable member for Brisbane on this subject from the point of view . of the “ States Frights “ party. He has been compli- mented by the Premier of Queensland on having asked for the abolition of the sugar Excise.
Colonel Foxton. - That is wrong.
– I listened to what the honorable member said, and that is what it came to.
Colonel Foxton. - The honorable member is quite wrong.
– When Mr. Kidston and the honorable member were in the State Parliament together they were at daggers drawn. Yet’ the Queensland Premier now throws over the honorable member for Oxley, who used to be regarded as the only member for Queensland, and makes the honorable member for Brisbane his channel of communication. I hold in my hand a report upon the Government Central Sugar Mills for 1907, presented to both Houses of Parliament in Queensland by command on the 27th August. I will, not weary the Committee by quoting from it at length, but I wish to show the difference between the state of things since the mill’s were taken in hand by the Controller of Central Mills and when they were run by the mill companies. From 1893 to December, 1903, the mill companies paid back to the Queensland Treasury, , £29,250 15s. 3d. From December, 1903, to June, 1907 - three years and a half - the Controller of Central Mills, Dr. Maxwell, paid back to the Treasury £134,852 18s. 5d.
– How much was borrowed ?
– I do not know. There is the’ fact, however, that under the management of the mill companies only £29,000 was paid back, whilst under the management of the Controller of Mills the amount paid back was , £134,000.
– That is no argument.
– No argument?’ This is the languishing industry which it was said, during the first session of the Federal Parliament, was going to be ruined. It was alleged that when the kanaka went the industry would fall. But these figures, show what a success it has been.
– The honorable member should not forget that during that ten years’ period, the central mills were only being established by the Government.
– Quite so, This is what Dr. Maxwell says -
During the period from December, 1903, to June, 1907, white labour has taken the place completely of coloured labour, which had previously been employed upon given kinds of work. Also, during this period the wages of white labour have been increased fully 20 . per cent, at the mills in which the Treasurer is in possession ; and the living conditions of the workmen have been wholly reorganized at a very considerable cost. On another hand, the prices paid for cane during this period have been higher than at any other time in the history of the mills under consideration. All these several considerations, however, must not be allowed to conceal the fact that what has been accomplished at the mills under the control during the period specified has been due in a very notable measure to the favorable seasons that have obtained. Even with a continuance of good, climatic conditions, it appears certain that the same high measure of success cannot continue, by reason of fiscal and economic changes that are now transpiring, and which are lessening and must continue to lessen the margin of gain. Should unfavorable climatic conditions recur, then nothing can prevent less favorable and’, in fact, serious financial results following. These considerations have emphasized the efforts made, on the one hand,, to get the mills put into a thoroughly efficient working, condition ; and, on another hand, to encourage the placing of more producing settlors upon the land in order to secure- an- increased supply of cane. The situation, present and prospective, requires the exercise of the most careful device and economy if a measure of the recent success is to be maintained. .
– Reading between the lines of all his reports, it seems to me that he has not much faith in the White Australia policy.
– He has never had much faith in it and he has been surprised by its success. I have no fear for the industry, and hope that no vote of mine will injure it. I regard it as one of the staple industries of Australia.
– The industry is a success, but I am inclined to doubt the success of the White Australia part of it.
– I believe in the policy of a White Australia, and am prepared to go as far as is any one in the effort to maintain it. It is on these grounds alone that I am prepared to vote for the import and the Excise duties on sugar.
– The proper course to pursue would be to give no protection whatever to sugar grown by black labour.
– The planters have embarked their capital in the industry, and I am not going to play the part of a wrecker.I believe in extending to them the same fair play as we would extend to those engaged in any other industry in the Commonwealth. I for one would not wreck them, even if they employed black labour. I should not have voted for the import and Excise duties on sugar had it not been for the representations made by the honorable member for Herbert, and the honorable member for Wide Bay, that they would mean the salvation of the districts which they represent. When the first Federal Tariff was under consideration, no one pleaded more forcibly than did those honorable members for these duties. I am satisfied that the industry has been successfully carried on since the Federal Government took over the control of the Customs and” Excise Department, and that it is going to prosper.
– The industry ten years ago was larger than it is to-day. More sugar was then produced.
– More sugar was not produced.
– There was a larger acreage under sugar cultivation, even if the production was not greater.
– Last year’s output was the. record for Australia.
– I do not doubt the honorable member’s statement. If we are to carry out in its entirety the policy of a White Australia, I fail to see why we should abolish this duty. Notwithstanding the circular from the Bowen Chamber of Commerce and that issued by the “Gone Bung” Shire Council in the electorate of Capricornia-
– The name of the Shire Council in question is “Gooburrum.” The honorable member is doing what the Council did. He is advocating a decreased duty on barbed wire and galvanized iron, and the continuance of the present duty on. sugar.
– Am I? I shall show that the honorable member, with his usual cocksuredness, has fallen in the soup. Let me read the following letter from the Chamber of Commerce, Bowen-
– I was referring to the circular from the Gooburrum Shire Council.
– The circular from the Bowen Chamber of- Commerce reads as follows -
At a meeting of the above chamber, held on Thursday last, a resolution protesting against the proposed heavy Customs duties on settlers’ requisites …. was unanimously passed.
Bowen is in the very heart of the northern’ sugar district, and the resolution passed by the local Chamber of Commerce was slightly different from that passed by the Gooburrum Shire Council. Had it adhered to the terms of the resolution passed by the Nerang Shire Council, it would have done well, because that municipality protested only against the imposition of the duties on wire-netting and galvanized iron. But the Bowen “ push “ tried to improve on that resolution, and we see bow they have fallen in. Would not the honorable member for Capricornia, when preparing to camp in the country, regard sugar as a requisite.
– I would remind him that the Bowen Chamber of Commerce urges that we should impose no duty on “settlers’ requisites,” so that it considers that no duty should be imposed on sugar.
– The honorable member knows very well what they meant to cover by the use of the words “ settlers’ requisites.”
– I must be guided by their written statement. In the resolution passed by them they object to the imposition of duty on “ settlers’ requisites,” and since sugar is a settler’s requisite, they have given the honorable member for Coolgardie some ground for moving that this duty be reduced.
Colonel FOXTON (Brisbane) [10.24]. - I understand that- the Committee desires to go to a division to-night, and I shall therefore refrain from occupying the attention of honorable members for more than a few minutes. I do not intend to follow the example of the honorable member for Maranoa, nor shall I traverse the statements and arguments which have been used during the debate.
– Some other honorable member will desire to follow the honorable member, and so we shall be prevented from taking a division.
Colonel FOXTON. - The honorable gentleman need not think for a moment that- 1 am going to stop for him. I have just as much right to speak as he has.
– I was informed that the honorable member spoke before dinner for some time.
Colonel FOXTON.- The honorable member’s information is inaccurate. I have not spoken before in this debate.
– I beg the honorable member’s pardon.
Colonel FOXTON. - The honorable member for Maranoa is perhaps the most happy illustration of his own story about the telegraph line, because it is quite apparent that his tail is being, pulled in Maranoa and that, he is barking in Melbourne. This is a very much larger subject than the mere question of whether we shall’ protect sugar or not. It is a question of whether we are going to keep tropical Australia populated with white people. A number of honorable members, especially those who sit in the ‘ Ministerial corner - while I do not know that they are more enthusiastic for a white Australia than anybody else, at any rate they make more noise about it - are constantly crying out that it is necessary that tropical Australia shall be peopled by white men. They usually refer to Queensland when speaking of tropical Australia, but I would remind them that two other States have huge territories in that part of the Continent. I am entirely with them that tropical Australia should be peopled by white men. I will go all lengths to bring that about. Australia should be prepared to pay a heavy price for the maintenance of a white Australia, and I for one am prepared to pay my share. But it can never be done unless constant and unending protection is maintained for tropical agricultural industries, which alone can flourish in the coastal districts of that huge territory, against the cheap coloured labour of other countries. A great question of national policy is involved, and not a mere question of protecting the growth of any particular product.
– Can the honorable member explain why we give a protection of £2 a ton on black-grown sugar?
Colonel FOXTON.- I heard one honorable member say that he was going to vote for the amendment because it would remove the protection which is now enjoyed by the man who produces what is commonly known as black-grown sugar, but he should remember that, by so doing he will be removing very nearly one-half of the protection which the grower of sugar with white labour is enjoying, and without which there will be no white-grown sugar at all in tropical Australia.
– It will be still leaving , him 25 per cent, protection.
Colonel FOXTON.- That is not sufficient to protect him or anybody else engaged in tropical agriculture, against tha cheap labour employed in similar industries in other countries.
– Was not Queensland sugar sold in Melbourne prior to Federation at the world’s price?
Colonel FOXTON.- I could not say. It is quite possible.
– There was a duty here.
Colonel FOXTON.- There was a £5 duty here and also in Tasmania. There was a duty of £3 in New South Wales, while Western Australia was the only Colony in the group in those days which imposed no duty upon sugar. It would not have been possible to grow sugar in Queensland prior to Federation if it had not been for the protective duty of’ £5 a ton. That is exactly the protection which the grower has at this moment under Federation, and if it had not been given then, sugar from Java, Mauritius, and Fiji would have been imported into Queensland itself. . If the protection which is now given is removed, sugar will cease to be produced in Northern Queensland, and it will not be possible to produce it in any other part of tropical Australia. Some other industry will have to be substituted for it, unless the dream of a White Australia is to vanish, leaving the coastal districts of northern Australia to return to a state of nature. That is not desired by this Parliament. If the duty is removed from sugar, and also from any other product substituted for it upon the collapsing of the sugar industry, there will be no production there at all.
– Will the industry never be able to walk without crutches ?
Colonel FOXTON.- It will never walk without protection. Tropical agricultural products are cultivated in other countries under such conditions that, without constant and unending protection, it will be impossible to- cultivate them profitably in tropical Australia while employing white labour only. The alternative is undoubtedly that these magnificently rich districts must go back to a state of wilderness.
– Will the Colonial’ Sugar Refining Company lose its business?
Colonel FOXTON. - Neither the Colonial Sugar Refining Company nor any other company will carry on business at a loss.
– The company are extending their plantations every year in Fiji.
Colonel FOXTON.- Because they have unrestricted black labour there. They will transfer the whole of their operations to those places where they will be permitted to employ black labour, and the product of that labour will find its market in Australia.
– Is the land upon which sugar is grown of a rich character?
Colonel FOXTON. - There is no richer land in the world.
– Then why does the industry require protection?
Colonel FOXTON.- Whatever industry may be substituted for that of sugar will require exactly the same measure of protection.
– But we are growing wheat upon poor land without the aid of any protection.
Colonel FOXTON. - Sugar is a commodity which, outside of Australia, is produced by the cheapest labour in the world. So surely as we remove the protective impost upon that commodity, so surely shall we have nothing but black-grown sugar consumed in Australia - sugar which will be chiefly produced in Fiji and Java. This is really a very much larger question than-the protection of one particular industry. If we stifle the sugar industry by removing the protective duty upon that article, we shall certainly have to face the .same problem in * connexion with any other industry which may be substituted for it. Some honorable members have advocated the abolition of the Excise duty. Let me point out what would be the result of that. If the Excise duty and the bounty were removed there would be no incentive whatever to employ white labour. On the contrary, the cheapest of black labour would be obtained, and I need scarcely point out in this connexion that there is an ample supply of Asiatic labour in Australia to suffice for a genera-, tion to come. We have something like 80,000 Asiatics in the Commonwealth. Large numbers of these would gradually gravitate to the north of Queensland, and the last phase of the sugar industry would be worse than the first, inasmuch as Northern Queensland would be overrun, and the sugar consumed in the Commonwealth would be produced by Asiatics, who would be very much more objectionable than were the kanakas. I trust that honorable members in considering this question will bear these facts in mind. I hope that the Committee will agree to the duty proposed by the Government, and that upon) all future occasions the broad aspect of this matter, will be regarded by the Parliament.
.- The honorable member for Brisbane has placed before the Committee a very cheerful prospect.
– It is just as well that the honorable member should realize it.
– I question whether the honorable member for Brisbane has stated the whole truth.- He has declared that the protection accorded to the sugar “industry - unlike that which is extended to other industries - cannot at any time lower the price of sugar. He affirms that the effect of protecting the industry will be to add the measure of that protection to the cost of this commodity. That has been the result up to the present time.
– The same remark applies to most industries.
– It certainly applies in a very striking way to the sugar industry. The honorable member cannot mention many instances in which the protection accorded to an industry, which has been established as long as the sugar industry, has been added to the cost of the article. But in the present instance there is not the slightest pretence that the protection extended to the industry can ultimately reduce the price of sugar. The duty is to- be a permanent burden upon the consumers - a permanent burden upon other industries which use sugar as their raw material. For the sake of maintaining the industry in Queensland and of providing an avenue for the employment of capital there, the industries in the southern States are to be penalized for all time.
Colonel Foxton.- Can the honorable member mention a protective industry to which that remark- does not apply?
– Yes. I might mention a great many instances. For example, as the result of the protection extended to the salt industry the price of salt is cheaper to-day that it was before a protective duty was imposed upon that article.
Colonel Foxton. - Do not the producers desire any more protection upon salt?
– I do not know whether they do or not. I am not concerned about that matter. The honorable member need not raise side issues. He asked me to name an industry in which -the effect of protection had been to reduce the price of the article to the consumer.
Colonel Foxton. - The question which I raised was whether those interested in the industry did not desire the protection accorded it to be continued indefinitely. .
Mr.BATCHELOR.- That was not the point which the honorable member made. His whole argument was that for all’ time the protection accorded to the sugar industry would be a burden upon Australia.
Colonel Foxton. - That was not my point.
– Then it is my point. There will come a time when this question will have to be faced. I do not agree with the honorable member that the country upon which sugar is grown in the north of Queensland cannot be utilized for any other purpose. It has the richest of soils. As a matter of fact, sugar can be grown only on the best country - chiefly upon volcanic soil - and I do not believe that it is impossible to -utilize this country to advantage. Even if the sugar industry had to be abandoned - and I am not prepared to admit that it must, because I believe that there is a great deal of leakage at present in the matter of the refining ofsugar which, if prevented, would enable the article to be produced at a less protection that £5 per ton - it is not by any means certain that this country cannot be utilized for dairying purposes.
Colonel Foxton. - Where is that?
– At Mackay, Bowen, Cairns, and the Lower Burdekin.
– So honorable members have informed me. I know nothing of it from personal knowledge.
Colonel Foxton. - It is not a fact.
– Whilst we shall have to face the position sooner or later, I am not now prepared to vote with the honorable member for Coolgardie, because I think that, until the period defined in the Excise Act has expired, it is better that existing conditions should be permitted to remain on the understanding that, after that period has elapsed, the whole matter must come up for revision.
– We shall have to revise it before that.
– I think that, nerhaps, the honorable member for Coolgardie, in submitting a proposal which would injure the grower of sugar by white labour, as well as the grower of sugar by black labour, has overlooked the fact that there is an alternative method by which we might remove the protection now given to blackgrown . sugar without affecting white-grown sugar at all, and that is by increasing the Excise duty to £6 in the case of sugar grown by black labour.
– If we did that we could not comply with the constitutional obligation to retain no more than one-fourth of the net Customs and Excise revenue.
– I admit, of course, that the adoption of such a method would have some effect on the revenue, but it would operate in a most drastic and. at the same time, justifiable manner to overcome the present difficulty of giving a bounty of £2 per ton on black-grown sugar. Whilst I am not at present prepared to support the honorable member for Coolgardie, I do not take up the position that we should continue to support the sugar industry at such a heavy cost indefinitely. As soon as a fitting opportunity arrives we should review the whole matter, and I shall not agree to continue the present support to the industry for a dav longer than is necessary. Of course, the object with which the existing protection was established was to remove coloured labour from the northern districts of the Commonwealth, and, if possible, replace it with white labour.
Colonel Foxton. - And to keep the industry going.
– And at the same time to keep the industry going. The experiment has, so far, been comparatively successf ul, but at a huge cost to the community generally, and we must remember that it is our duty here to legislate for Australia, . and not merely for. the benefit of a small portion of it.
.- The whole question of our right to control industries in order to prevent the exploitation of the public is involved in this matter. The mere fact that black labour is incidental to the sugar industry does not affect the principle involved. Continental labour, owing to its cheapness, is in this connexion just. as much a menace as is black labour. I take it that black labour is objected to only because of its cheapness. We do not desire to have black people in Australia, of course, but the White Australia policy covers that question. In dealing with this matter it. is cheap labour merely that we object to. The Colonial Sugar Refining Company has enjoyed a considerable amount of protection, which it has taken advantage of to exploit this community. We are faced with the questions : Are we going to. give effect to our professions to, save the public from exploitation? Are we going to justify or stultify ourselves? We are talking of the new protection, and aim at regulating just such impositions on the people as are practised by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. I think that we can rightly apply the only power we possess in this matter by reducing the duty.
– That might be rather a good thing for the Colonial Sugar Refining Company.
– We could say that as the protection, we have afforded is being abused, we will take it off, and that would bring these people to their senses. We have been told that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company would meet that’ by importing invert sugar from Mauritius, Java, and other places, and refining it in Australia.
Colonel Foxton. - All sugar.
– The honorable, member for Brisbane has stated that the sugar which the company would, bring here to refine would be worth £12 per ton. Adding, to that price the proposed reduced duty of £4 per ton, it would be worth £16 a ton landed in Australia.
Colonel Foxton. - I do not think I said refined sugar.
– If, as is generally admitted, the Colonial Sugar Refining Company are imposing upon the people, I say they could afford to sell their sugar for £16 per ton, and the only way in which we can force their hand is by reducing the protection they now enjoy.
– And they would take it out of the grower.
– I say that they would be bound to buy from the local grower as a matter of business.
– They would not.
– If they could not import invert sugar at less than £12 per ton, there is no reason why they should turn round on the -local grower because we ask them’ to do- a reasonable thing. It appears to me that it would suit the company better to have the sugar grown here, and I take it that sufficient inducement would be offered for the production of sugar locally. I do not think that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company would do anything to wipe out the local grower simply because we said they must no longer exploit the people, and threatened them with competition from the foreign growers of sugar. The honorable member for Brisbane stated that it would cost them £12 per ton . to bring sugar here.
Colonel Foxton. - That is the honorable member’s figure.
– I asked the honorable member what he thought Java sugar could be landed here for, and he said £12 per ton.
Colonel Foxton. - I beg the honorable member’s pardon. He asked me if Java sugar could not be landed here for £12 per ton, and I said I understood so.
– The honorable member indorsed my. statement. It seems to me that £12 per ton is a low enough figure to quote. Adding the protection of £4 per ton, that sugar would cost £16 per ton landed in. Australia, and I contend ‘ that, other things being equal, it would suit the Colonial Sugar Refining Company to encourage the local producer of sugar, and they could then sell at a lower price, and could manufacture sugar locally at a profit if the article could not be . landed at less than £16 per ton; always assuming that they are now making undue profits, and all the evidence we have goes to show that they are. Either the people must continue to pay an exorbitant price for sugar or we must make use of the only lever that is in our hands.
– The Colonial Sugar Refining Company would be glad if honorable members took off every penny of duty.
– What is it proposed to do by means of the new protection if it is not to reduce duties in certain circumstances? I do not know that we have any power to levy a fine upon these people for imposing upon the public. Perhaps the Bill which is still in the clouds would give us the necessary power.
– It is still in the clouds.
– I should like to know what its provisions are. We are given to understand that it will enable us to check the operations of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, or of those engaged in any protected industry where they are exploiting the people, by admitting the cheap products of other parts of the world into competition with theirs. It is immaterial whether they are the products of black or of white labour. If that is the lever to be provided, it should be used in this case as in any other. If sugar can be produced so much more easily and cheaply in Mauritius than in Australia, a difference of ?2 per ton in the protective duties would not deter the company from importing sugar raw.
– Why anticipate the new protection ?
– Because here we have a case for its application.
– The honorable member - has not proved it.
– I think that I have proved it. It has been shown that the- Colonial Sugar Refining Company has been taking advantage of the duty, and a clear case for the application of the new protection has been made out. Apparently a duty of ?4 per ton would not allow the cheap sugar of Java and Mauritius to flood this market, but it might have the effect of cheapening the local production without materially injuring the Commonwealth industry.
Mr. MAUGER laid upon the table the following paper-
Post and Telegraph Department. - Papers respecting the appointment of a DeputyPostmasterGeneral from some other State to act temporarily as Deputy Postmaster-General in Victoria.
The Clerk laid on the table
Telephone Line, West Maitland and Sydney - Return to an Order of the House dated 6th September,1907.
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
Business is proceeding so very slowly that I intend, within a few days, to propose that the House meet at 10.30 on every sitting day except Tuesday. That seems to be the only way in which we shall be able to get anything done. If the time thus provided proves insufficient, I shall propose that we sit on six days each week. Unless we make more progress than we have made to-night, the consideration of the Tariff will occupy two years;
– One or two all-night sittings would do more than meeting at 10.30 in the morning to secure expedition.
– If we are to have as much talk as there has been during the last two or three sittings, something will have to be done to get business through. The subject under discussion to-night has already been twice debated quite recently, and if every item is to be spoken upon at this length, irrespective of whether any change is proposed or not, we shall never make progress unless we sit for longer periods each day. I assure the House that I have no wish to prolong the sittings, but I am desirous . that the consideration of the Tariff shall be more speedy.
– If we meet at 10.30 in the morning, at what time shall we adjourn?
– At 11 or 12 at. night.
– Does the honorable member think that members will sit here for those hours ?
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at11.2 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 15 October 1907, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1907/19071015_reps_3_40/>.