4th Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. SPEAKER reported the receipt of a message from His Excellency the GovernorGeneral, recommending an appropriation of revenue for the purposes of this Bill.
– Has the Prime Minister any information to lay before honorable members respecting the occupancy by the Governor-General of Government House, Sydney?
– I think that I shall be able to lay the papers on the table during the present sitting; but as I have been asked to withhold one document, I am waiting for a reply to my request that I may be permitted to lay the whole file on the table.
Inspector or Education
– -In view of the statement in the press that it is proposed to appoint an Inspector of Education for the Northern Territory at a salary of ,£500 a year, will the Minister of External Affairs tell us how this gentleman will occupy his time? Will he devote it to the inspection of the one little school at Pine Creek, which is taught by a girl, and the other little school at Palmerston ?
– We intend to provide free education, both primary and secondary, in the Northern Territory, and the officer appointed will take charge of the secondary school, and act as inspector as well. .
– In reference to a motion on the Notice-paper in my name, I ask the Prime Minister whether, in view of its importance, he is prepared to give me an opportunity to have it discussed this session ?
– I have not read the notice referred to, . but no doubt all the notices of motion refer to matters of importance. If the matters were not of importance, notices would not be given respecting them. Facilities will be provided for the discussion before the close of the session of all the motions on the Noticepaper.
– In view of that reply, I withdraw the notice of motion.
– I withdraw the notice of motion set down in my name for the 19th September.
Minister and Sugar Journal - Discharge of Employes
– Has the Minister of Trade and Customs observed the attack made on him in the Sugar Journal, he being described as a “ political highwayman “ ? If so, what has he to say in’ reply to the statement ? Does he .know who runs the Sugar Journal!
– I read that publication to obtain information regarding the sugar industry, and am aware that it has spoken of me as a political highwayman, but I do not know that I have done anything to deserve the epithet, since those who conduct the Journal admit that the wages which have been fixed are fair and reasonable. I do not know who runs the publication, but it is alleged that the large sugar-millers have a considerable interest in it.
– A few days ago, I asked the honorable gentleman if he could ascertain from his officers whether the statement that 1,500 men had been dismissed from their employment in the sugar industry, as the result of the new regulation issued by him, was correct. Has he made that inquiry, and if so, what replies has he received ?
– A telegram was sent, and replies have been received from certain districts, but they are not yet complete. In the journal to which reference has been made, the farmers have been advised to put off all the men they can.
MINISTERS laid upon the table the following papers : -
Defence Act - Universal Training - Regulation Amended (Provisional) - Statutory Rules 1912, No. 174.
Lands Acquisition Act -
Land acquired under, at -
Bogan Gate, New South Wales - for Postal purposes.
Davenport, South Australia - For Commonwealth purposes.
Redbank, Queensland - For Defence purposes.
Property rented to W. H. McKenzie at Bordertown, South Australia.
Post and Telegraph Act -
Regulations Amended (Provisional) - Statutory Rules 1912, Nos. 130, 142, 147, 156-8.
Regulation Amended - Statutory Rules. 1912, No. 143.
Public Service Act - Regulation Amended - Statutory Rules 1912, No. 179.
Saddlery - Staff Sergeants - Militia Conference
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are - 1 and 2. (a) No tenders for saddle-trees have been invited since March, 1911. Contracts were then entered into with G. Brown and Sons, Brunswick, and Edwards and Co., Melbourne. (b) In July,1911, the tenders of the following were accepted for the supply of harness mounts : -
Robison Bros. & Co. Pty. Ltd., South Melbourne ;
Public tenders for further supplies of harness mounts were invited towards the close of last financial year, but as the total cost of requirements, based on the lowest prices tendered, would have been about 230 per cent. over and above what the mounts could be obtained for from England at War Office Vocabulary rates, and in view of the fact that the Department had suffered serious inconvenience through delay in obtaining supplies under previous local contracts, tenders for two items only were accepted, and an order was placed with the High Commissioner to obtain the remainder through the War Office authorities, who may supply from their own stock or may obtain them from their contractors.
Owing to one of the contractors whose tender was accepted in July, 1911, having fallen so far into arrears with deliveries as to threaten serious dislocation of the work at the harness factory, it was found necessary to arrange for the purchase of the undelivered supplies elsewhere, and orders were accordingly placed for same at the contractor’s risk with G. Brown and Sons, Brunswick, and Jas. Hill, Kensington.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
In view of the Crown Solicitor’s ruling that certain men ranked as Staff-Sergeants when takenover by the Commonwealth - who now appear on the precedence list of the Commonwealth Military Forces as Regimental Quartermaster-Sergeants, dating from 1890 - was such given to these men by order of the Governor-General, as stated in answer to question No. 6 (paragraphs 2 and 3) of 27th ultimo?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is -
No. Question 6 (paragraphs 2 and 3) of the 27th ultimo referred to commissioned officers. In the case of certain non-commissioned officers, prior to Federation, artificers in the various States were differently graded, although all performed similiar duties. On the advice of the Crown Solicitor the Minister recently approved of action being taken to regrade these noncommissioned officers on a uniform basis.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence,upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
Debate resumed from 12th September (vide page 3127). on motion by Mr. Tudor -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
.- Those who were members of the first Commonwealth Parliament will recollect the wail that went up when the abolition of kanaka labour in the sugar industry was proposed, and, subsequently, upon the deportation of the kanakas. The most grievous results were anticipated, some members on the Opposition side going so far as to say that grass would grow in the streets of Brisbane. Such a forecast of the result of the deportation of a few thousand coloured persons was, to say the least of it, extraordinary; but a similar cry is now being raised by the honorable member for Richmond in reference to the new regulations issued by the Minister of Trade and Customs. The honorable gentleman poses as an authority upon many subjects, though, if he does not know more about the others than he does about sugar-growing, his statements must be largely discounted.
– I said I knew nothing about sugar growing.
– When the honorable member comes to this chamber to discuss that question again, he should have furtherinformation from the “guide, philosopher, and friend “ who has coached him so far upon it. The honorable member spoke here of having himself seen ratoons planted. He is to be compared with the honorable member on this side of the House who on one occasion talked about the cultivation of sugar bushes. He is just upon the same plane, and about an equal authority on the subject.
– The honorable member might be fair. I corrected that, and showed the honorable member that I knew what I was talking about.
– The honorable member did nothing of the sort, because when I asked him if he had seen ratoons planted, he said, “ I have.”
– I have not seen what you call a “ratoon” planted, but I have seen a set of cane that I call a “ ratoon “ planted, and I said so.
– The regulations recently issued by the Minister of Trade and Customs have occasioned much concern on the other side, and also in my own electorate, which produces a great amount of sugar. In 1910, it produced something like 134,000 tons out of 210,000 tons, the total product of Australia in that year. I must say that, to some extent, I sympathize with the farmers who have to pay the increased rate of wages required by the regulations. At the same time, I should like to point out that, to my knowledge, several telegrams came here to the Minister, and telegrams came here to myself, to the effect that another disturbance was likely to occur in the sugar districts. We had one last year, which was termed a sugar strike, but was nothing of the sort, because the men did not lay down their tools, and did not cease work, which is one of the conditions that constitute a strike. They simply declined to go to work for the wages and on the terms and conditions offered, as they were perfectly justified in doing. On this occasion, the same trouble seemed about to arise. There were, in some of the districts, agreements made between the farmers and the workers. In some districts the farmers declined, as they have done on previous occasions, to meet the men and confer as to what the conditions generally should be. To that extent, the regulations recently framed can be attributed to the action of the farmers themselves. To that extent, the farmers are responsible for them, in that they would not meet the men in conference and agree to the terms upon which the season’s crop should be harvested. It may be said that there were only one or two places in which trouble had been occasioned, but, as we, know from last year’s experience, it is not merely the district in which the trouble arises that becomes affected. Every district, and possibly every industry and every trade in the State of Queensland may be affected, and the trouble might even have spread further, as happened last year, when it not only extended throughout Queensland, but affected Sydney, and would possibly have affected Melbourne in a short time had not some arrangement been come to. Therefore, even though in particular districts terms may have been arranged suitable to both the growers and the workers, yet it goes without saying that, if trouble had originated in any part of the sugar-growing districts, it would have extended and so involved Queensland, and possibly Australia, in a general strike. When a conflagration of that sort begins there is no telling where it may end. The Minister, therefore, was perfectly justified in issuing these regulations. I was quite in accord with them, and gave them my heartiest support. I have done so since in my telegrams, in reply to protests from the sugar districts, and do so still. It will be necessary to go back some time to show how it is that die farmers cannot - or say that they cannot - pay the wages asked of them. It is a long story, but somewhat interesting if we go back and ascertain the real cause. In the first place, I was on the spot, and know the circumstances connected with one of the central mills of Queensland which was involved in the trouble last year, and possibly would have been involved again this year had a strike been occasioned. In, I think, 1S96 or 1897, the Queensland Parliament authorized the erection of two central mills, one on the Lower Burdekin and one on the Proserpine. I think £65,000 was voted to be divided equally between the two. Mr. John Drysdale had sole control of the sugar district of the Lower Burdekin. At that time no sugar was grown in the Proserpine district, but there were three mills in operation on the Lower Burdekin - the Pioneer, Kalamia and Seaforth. The Pioneer and Kalamia were solely controlled by Mr. John Drysdale - Seaforth has been dismantled for some nine or ten years - and it was not to his interest to have a central mill erected in the district, because experience had shown that, whenever a central mill was erected, the price of cane was raised. Mr, Drysdale came to terms with the farmers in his immediate neighbourhood, agreeing to give them 10s. per ton for ten years for all the cane they would cultivate to keep his own mills going. It then became necessary to “divert to some other district the money allocated to the Lower Burdekin for a central mill. An inspector was sent to the Proserpine, and made a valuation of the land there under offer as a guarantee. The valuation would not cover the whole amount. He was sent a second time, and the valuation was raised. He went a third time, the valuation was raised again, and upon that third valuation the whole of the money was devoted to the Proserpine mill, thus saving Mr Drysdale from the competition which would have ensued had another mill been built in his district. I have here a list of the whole of the sugar lands which were offered as guarantees for the various central mills, but will deal only with the Proserpine, as I know it, and was on the spot myself at the time. The Proserpine lands were proclaimed for alienation at 8s. id. per acre. They were subsequently alienated at 6s. 6d. per acre. From then right up to the erection of the mill not a shilling had been spent on them. No land had been cleared, no ring-barking done, no fencing put up, and no houses erected, the country was virgin forest, and no railway or harbor was easily accessible; yet it was valued for security to the Government for the erection of the central mill at £5 os. 10d. per acre. The holder, who had been grazing cattle upon the land, immediately the mill was erected, sold it to the farmers at prices varying, I believe, from £5 to £6 per acre. This was the first handicap put upon those farmers. They were saddled with a ,£65,000 mill, capable of treating 100,000 tons of cane per annum, whereas they, a mere handful of people, were not able to produce, in the first season, more than, I think, 4,000 tons of cane, or equal to 450 tons of sugar. They have been struggling ever since to pay the interest due on the mill, and the redemption money. Consequently they have been handicapped. They have been unable to pay their way so far as the mill interest and redemption are concerned, to say nothing of paying high wages. That is one of the causes operating in that district, and in other districts too, against the farmer’s profits, and against the possibility of his paying, not high wages, but a living wage, to the men in his employ, because I do not say that the rate fixed by the Minister is a high one. The honorable member for Richmond and the honorable member for Darling Downs both admitted that the wages laid down by the Minister were not excessive or unreasonable, but were only fair. But they say, however, that the farmer cannot pay those wages, and 1 give this as one of the reasons why the farmer says lie is unable to pay them. Another and more potent reason is that the cream of the profits goes to the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. Honorable members of the Opposition who have addressed themselves to this question, and who have protested against the increase of wages in the sugar-growing districts, however, have made no reference whatever to that company. Apparently, it is to be held sacred. The worker, seemingly, is to provide the profits. The canegrower must squeeze the labour in order to get his profits, whilst the man or the company on top is to be left severely alone.
– The honorable member proposes to put the grower between an upper and a nether mill-stone.
– No; I say there should be no upper mill-stone; and surely the honorable member would not describe a wage of 36s. per week as constituting a nether mill-stone?
– Oh, yes, he would !
– Does he regard a wage of is. per hour as constituting a nether mill-stone? There is an upper mill-stone which ought not to exist, and which, if the people had any sense in this regard, would not exist. I propose to show how the Colonial Sugar Refining Company takes the whole of the profits, and I have here some interesting figures which I do not think have been quoted previously, and which I propose to put before the House so that honorable members generally may know why the sugar farmer gets so little for his cane that he complains that he is unable to pay a living wage. In the first place, let me quote a paragraph from the Sydney Morning Herald in reference to the jubilee of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company in 1905 -
To suitably commemorate the completion of the first half century of the company’s existence the directors recommended a jubilee bonus in the shape of an extra dividend of 2^ per cent.
This absorbed £54,960 of the net profits of £171,362. The ordinary dividend of 10 per cent, absorbed £109,000 ; £16,045 was placed to depreciation and replacement account, and .£84,932 carried forward.
The recent substantial rise in the sugar market so increased the profits of the company as to make the bonus possible.
Honorable members will thus see that, instead of the increase in the sugar market benefiting the grower, the Colonial Sugar Refining Company reaped the fullest advantage and distributed it amongst its shareholders in the shape of a dividend of z per cent. I think that it was in 1906 - although, as I am speaking from memory, I am not quite sure of the date - that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company made a new issue of 15,000 shares at their par value of £20 each. Of that amount, it was provided that £5 per share should be paid by those to whom the shares were allotted, whilst £15 was written off from the reserve fund to pay the balance. Theshares were allotted in the proportion of about one to every seven then held, any person holding twenty-two shares beingallotted three out of the new issue. Shareholders therefore got a present of ,£15 on the par value of each of the new issue ‘; but as the company’s shares at the time wereworth £42 in the open market, the gift actually amounted to £37 per share. That is one of the ways in which the profits weredisbursed. Instead of the increased profitsarising from higher markets going to theman who produced the cane, the whole of it went to the shareholders of the company. In June, 1908, the Colonial Sugar Refining Company again made a present to its shareholders, the gift on this occasion being of a far more valuable character. At a meeting held in July, 1908, the company passed thefollowing resolutions -
The proportion was about the same as in the previous case - this offer remaining open until 30th September next.
These 17,500 shares were given to the shareholders at their par value. Their actual market value at the time was, however, £47 per share ; so that the shareholders received an absolute gift of that amount. Here, again, is another reason why the producer does not obtain a satisfactory price for his cane. I have before me some tables showing the actual profits of the company as disclosed by its balancesheet ; but I must confess that, in some respects, its balance-sheets are very peculiar. In one balance-sheet you will find that there is shown a liability of, say, £60,000 in respect of the Employes Provident Fund, although there is no corresponding item in the assets account. Notwithstanding that the employes have provided that fund, and that the amount is acknowledged as a liability, there is not always a corresponding, reference to it in the assets account. In some cases such an item, is shown, and in others it is not. In that respect, the company’s published balance-sheets are very incomplete. But in some balance-sheets the liabilities are something over £3,000,000, whilst the assets are something over £4,000,000. It must be remembered that the company have for considerable periods paid dividends of 10 per cent, on the original capital of about £2,000,000, whilst they have, at the same time, built up their assets as against liabilities to over £1,000,000. I do not say that all this has come out of the Australian producer. Some of the profit has come from raw sugar, which the company imports from Java, Mauritius, and other places, and on refining which it makes a profit. We do not know the exact amount of the profit, but we can calculate pretty veil, because one of the company’s on’t officers on the Richmond River recently said that it amounted to £1 16s. per ton. If we say £2 per ton, we shall be well within the mark. It is not necessary for me to go fully into the affairs of the company. I think that I have shown that the company’s profits are such as to warrant them in paying a bigger price for their raw sugar. That they do not do so is one of the reasons why the millers are unable to pay a bigger price for cane, and the farmers to pay a living wage. The honorable member for Richmond said that this increase in the rate of wages will cost the farmers £400,000, or 6s. 6d. per ton. That is a general remark, which requires to be nailed down.
– I said that, at the rate of 6s. 6d. per ton, the increase represented a total cost of £450,000.
– I ask the honorable member to furnish us with details to show how the 6s. 6d. is made up. It is all very well for him to generalize in the manner that is so characteristic of him, but we ought to be told what the particulars are.
– I will give the absolute details in Committee.
– The honorable member for Herbert is only asking because he knows that the honorable member for Richmond has spoken, and cannot speak again during the debate.
– I had not time to give details.
– The honorable member did not know enough about the subject, and his “guide, philosopher, and friend” could not help him, knowing as little about sugar growing as the honorable member does. No doubt, he knows a considerable amount about dairying and banking. We may give way to him as to those matters.
– I would back him against the Minister of External Affairs to make Ordinances.
– Just now, he is “ up against ‘ ‘ an Ordinance of the Minister of Trade and Customs.
– No; I have not made an Ordinance, but a regulation under an Act of Parliament.
– At any rate, if the honorable member will furnish us with details, we shall be able to combat them.
– Can the honorable member tell us what it costs to produce a ton of cane now ?
– I can tell the House the highest price paid for a ton of cane.
– But can the honorable able member tell us what it costs the farmer to produce it?
– I cannot.
– I can, pretty nearly.
– I can get pretty close to the cost, but I cannot get it exactly. It would be impossible for any man to tell exactly the cost of production in various districts. For instance, where we have the Colonial Sugar Refining Company in operation, as is the case on the Herbert and Johnstone Rivers the price is very low. But where the Colonial Sugar Refining Company has to compete wilh a central mill, its price goes up very nearly to the price paid by the competitor. In one instance that I am acquainted with, the Hambledon mill, 8 miles from Cairns, pays about 13s. per ton for cane.
– From 13s. to 14s.
– But the Mulgrave mill, only 6 miles away, in the same locality, on the same soil, working under the same climatic and other conditions, is paying about 17 s, per ton for cane. The Hambledon mill belongs to the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, whilst the Mulgrave mill is a central mill ; that is to say, it is, to a certain extent, co-operative. But the price paid for cane does not give us any information as to the cost of producing that cane in various districts. On the Lower Burdekin, for instance, cane is nearly all irrigated, and will cost more to produce, owing to the cost of water, the expense of pumping and so forth, than in other places where the rainfall is heavier and more regular. The honorable member will find great difficulty in giving a general rate for the production of cane. He might average prices, but he cannot’ state positively what the cost is, except for particular localities. He may be conversant with the cost of production in his own locality, but that would not apply to other districts.
– I admit that I was speaking for my own locality.
– The Minister was, in my opinion, perfectly justified in increasing the rate of wages in face of a possible strike or industrial disturbance in the sugar districts. In the second place, I say that the wage now being paid is no more than a living wage. So far as concerns the contention of the honorable member for Richmond regarding the illegality of the Minister’s action, I frankly admit that, in my opinion, it was illegal. I said so on the platform at Mackay, which is the largest sugar-producing district in Australia, at the last election. I told the growers there that if they objected to the Minister’s action, they should appeal to the High Court, because I contend that these regulations issued by the Minister are on exactly the same plane as what was ruled to be unconstitutional by the High Court in the Harvester case. I have said so before, and I have said so since. Another point made by the honorable member was that the farmer pays the Excise. I have always combated that contention, because I think it is based upon a false position altogether.
– Who does pay the Excise, then ?
– The consumer pays it, undoubtedly. Does the honorable member know why, when the late Mr. Kingston was the Minister of Trade and Customs, the title of a Bill dealing with this matter was altered, the word “ rebate “ being struck out, and “bounty” substituted? That was done because it was recognised that this was not a rebate, but a bounty pure and simple. The consumer pays the tax on every occasion, whether it be an import duty or an Excise duty. If the Colonial Sugar Refining Company pays the Excise to the Customs, why is that £4 per ton passed on to the consumer? He does not get his sugar £4 per ton cheaper because the farmer pays the Excise. The company buy raw sugar for, say, £12 per ton, which is the highest price that has been paid for it. It adds on the cost of refining, say, £2 per ton ; adds £4 per ton for Excise, making a total of £18, which, with other charges, runs up the price to £19 or £19 10s. per ton. The balance is profit. I have previously quoted figures to show that since the bounty was imposed there has been an increase in the price of cane. The Excise originally was £3, and the bounty £2, and the price of cane immediately went up, and there was a similar result when the Excise was increased to £4 and the bounty to £3. Where is the evidence to show that the farmer pays the Excise? One would imagine that if the farmer pays the Excise the price of cane would come down. Cane is always estimated on a tenton basis ; that is to say, it is estimated, roughly, that ten tons of cane will make Ohe ton of sugar.
– In certain districts; in some places it is an eight-ton basis.
Mr. BAMFORD. That only makes my position the stronger. If we take a ten-ton basis and the Excise be £3 per ton on sugar, that will be 6s. per ton on cane, ; and, therefore, if the price of cane be 10s., and the farmer pays the Excise, that will reduce the price of his cane by 6s. per ton, or bring it down to 4s. from 10s. Instead, however, the price went up all over Queensland, and, as I say, there was a similar result when the Excise was increased to £4. This argument, which is unassailable, is supported by the official statistics, which the honorable member for Richmond may obtain from the Customs House. I now desire to show that the deportation of the kanaka and the increase in wages, instead of injuring the sugar districts, have substantially improved them. In the case of Mackay the legislation that we introduced has added very materially to the prosperity of the town. The municipality of Mackay has an area of eight square miles. On the 31st December, 1891, the population of Mackay was 3,597, the number of electors on the municipal roll was 581, the number of houses was 860, the total rates were £4,906 ns. 6d., and the value of the properties £204,244, while the total municipal liabilities were £24,563. Up to 1 90 1, the sugar growers had been able to secure labour wherever it was cheapest in the world, and Europe, Asia, and elsewhere were exploited to that end. Under the circumstances, if there be anything in the argument used by honorable members opposite at that time, Mackay should have experienced unexampled prosperity. We find, however, that on the 31st December, 1901, the population was 4,091, the number of electors was 665, the number of houses was 823, or a decrease of 37, the total rates were £4,543, 1 or a decrease of £400, while the value of the rateable .property was .£194,865, or a decrease of nearly £10,000, while the liabilities had increased to £32,468. On the 31st December, 1910, or seven years after our legislation had become effective, the population was 6,500, or an increase of 80 per cent. ; the number of electors had increased to 1,449, the number of houses had increased to 1,250, the rates had increased 10 £6>599, the value of the rateable property had increased to £213,033, and the liabilities had decreased to £13,792, or over 40 per cent., the total reduction being in the seven years, £18,676. That was the result of legislation which honorable members opposite told us would be disastrous in its effects. I have been looking up some of the reports in reference to the labour problem, and I desire to read an extract from the evidence given before the Royal Commission, which sat at Mackay on the 17th January last year. Dr. Gibson asked - question 1203 - Mr. McGown general manager, Farleigh Estate -
You think it is reasonable to anticipate you may have next crushing as good a crop as you had the late one, if not larger?
To this Mr. McGown replied -
I do not think it will be as large, but that will simply be due to the scarcity of labour last season. Cane that ought to have gone to the mill will have to be ploughed out; it has been neglected through want of labour.
Why was there a want of labour? Is it likely that in prosperous times, when men can earn from £2 10s. to £3 per week in Melbourne, Sydney, or Brisbane they will accept 22s. 6d. and keep for work in the cane-fields, which we have been told by honorable members opposite is not fit for white men? The cause of the scarcity of labour for the sugar-fields has ever been prosperity in the southern States, and the refusal of the sugar-growers to pay wages sufficient to attract men. I would ask the honorable member for Richmond whether if the wages were reduced instead of increased by the regulations he considers the growers would derive any benefit from the fact. The honorable member must know that they would not, because the price of cane would be reduced correspondingly, and the benefit . would again go to the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, lt is not correct to say that the millers cannot give a better price for cane. The reports of the central mills show that some of them are making very handsome profits. In 191 1, the Proserpine central mill made a profit of over £2,700, and the Gin Gin mill made a profit of £11,844. When we find central mills making such profits the argument that they cannot pay a better price for cane must go to the wall. Perhaps the honorable member for Richmond could explain why it is that the millers do not give a better price for cane?
– I wish I could. All 1 know is that the grower does not get it, and I wish he could get it.
– I say that as the grower does not pay the Excise he is not entitled, legally or morally, to the £1 difference between Excise and bounty. But all the same, I suggest that the Government should give the growers for this season only the advantage of an additional bounty of £1 per ton. I should make it retrospective for this season. That is to say, I should make it apply as from the 1st of July of the present year, which would cover the whole of the sugar season. I should not be willing that this concession should be made for any greater length of time than this season, because we all hope that, before the next sugar season is entered upon, the report and recommendations of the Sugar Commission will be available. During the last minutes of last session I asked the Minister of Trade and Customs whether he intended to minimize the possibility of a strike, or industrial trouble, in the sugar industry this season by submitting a new regulation regarding wages payable in the industry. The honorable gentleman said that he did not intend to do so, because the Government anticipated that the report of the Royal Commission would be presented before the season commenced, and their recommendations- would be acted upon whatever they might be. The report of the Commission is not yet to hand, and consequently we have no recommendations upon which the Government might act. I have already impressed upon the Minister of Trade and Customs, and also the Prime Minister, the advisableness of giving an additional 76 I by way of bounty for this season. The sugar crop this year is estimated at 115,000 tons. All that sugar will not be entitled to bounty, because some, though not a great deal, will be blackgrown sugar. There may possibly be 110,000 tons upon which bounty will have to be paid, and the concession I suggest would, therefore, represent an additional expenditure of £110,000. The honorable member for Richmond will admit that that would not go far to meet the £400,000 loss to the growers which he says is going to be occasioned by the proposed increase in wages.
– It would be better than nothing.
– I admit that, and I am willing, as 1 have said, that it should be given, but it would have very little effect in relieving the. growers from the dire position in which the honorable member says they will be placed. In his report for 1910 Dr. Maxwell says that the loss to the Treasury during the last seven years in connexion with the Excise was £423,000.
– Is that the average loss?
– No, that is the total loss for the seven years. . Dr. Maxwell attributes that to the fact that the bounty is paid on 88 per cent, sugar, whereas the Excise is collected on 94 per cent, sugar. I should like to revert for a moment to the attitude adopted by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. As showing the control they have over the industry and their desire to maintain it, I may say that, in 1905, Messrs. Poolman and Son, who have a refinery in Melbourne, contemplated the establishment of a refinery at Balmain, in Sydney. I quote the following from the Sydney Morning Herald on the subject -
Reports have been in circulation for some weeks past that a new sugar refinery was about to be established in Sydney for the treatment of imported sugars, chiefly from Java. Inquiries in the city yesterday indicate at any rate that the project has received serious consideration. It is stated that Messrs. Poolman and Son, of Melbourne, have secured land at Balmain, and intend erecting a refinery. Whether the firm will treat imported sugar only or also turn its attention to Australian-grown is not known. There are at present only three refineries in Australia, namely, the Colonial Sugar Refinery Co., the Millaquin and Yengarie Company, and Poolman and Son.
That proposal did not suit the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, who cannot brook competition at all. As a consequence we find that two years later, and three months after the establishment of the Balmain refinery, the Colonial Sugar Refining Company bought it. They thus removed that competitor from the field, and still retain control of the Australian market. I conclude by asking the Minister of Trade and Customs whether he will adopt the suggestion I have thrown out - to grant, for this season only, an additional bounty of £1 per ton, or a lesser sum of, say, 18s. or 19s. per ton, retaining the balance of the £1 to cover cost of collection. Though we all acknowledge that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company take the profits of the industry, and realize that no way has yet been suggested to make them disgorge any of the profits, the sugargrowers might be given the benefit of the concession I have suggested during the present season at any rate. It is anticipated that we shall import anything from 80,000 to 100,000 tons of sugar this year, and on that importation the Customs Department will collect revenue to the extent of about £500,000. In the circumstances, the Minister of Trade and Customs might see his way to graciously grant to the grower an additional £1 in the way of bounty. It would be a little help to them, though it will not cover the cost which, according to the honorable member for Richmond, will be imposed upon them by the new regulations as to wages. I ask the honorable member for Richmond if, when the Bill gets into Committee, he will give honorable members some particulars of the items making up the cost. The 6s. 6d. referred to by the honorable member, is so intangible, that one cannot combat the honorable member’s statement without details.
– I shall willingly do what the honorable member suggests.
.- I am not sure that the Minister of Trade and Customs was altogether wise in introducing this Bill dealing with the sugar question while the Sugar Commission is still sitting. It would probably have been better to delay the introduction of the measure for a few months or until the Commission have sent in their report. I assume that the question of wages and the relation of wages to bounty - which was the matter discussed in 1905, as I shall endeavour to show - are questions to be inquired into by the Commission. I say that, because, in 1905, we had a report from Dr. Maxwell, in which he said it was shown by Sir Edmund Barton, when speaking on the sugar question in 1901, that the relative costs of labour were - White labour,£1 10s.11d. per week; and black labour, 14s.1½d. per week; and in which he mentioned that the present schedule of the bonus was based on the cost of labour, and on other considerations existing when the legislation was enacted. Then Dr. Maxwell, who had been asked to advise the then Minister, Sir William Lyne I think, on the policy of the matter, goes on to say in his report -
With the progress of white production, white labour must continue to command a higher compensation in the form of wage, and of better domestic provision for workmen.
What Dr. Maxwell pointed out was that the bounty was intended to be, and should be, fixed so as to give compensation to the growers for being obliged to pay higher rates for white labour than they were obliged to pay for the use of the properly discarded black labour, and as the proportion of difference between the two was only 15s., I am afraid that the Minister is not right now in fixing a schedule of rates.
– I have not fixed it.
– At all events, in asking that a schedule shall be fixed on the current rates. It seems to me unfair, while a Royal Commission is sitting, to alter the standard rates, without making any difference in that part of the policy to which it is attached, according to the report of the very expert upon whom they have been chiefly relying for information in connexion with the state of the industry. I am not saying that the wages are too high or too low. About that matter I, personally, know nothing. My mind, as regards the condition of the growers, is a comparative blank. I think that the men ought to be paid a fair rate if the work is arduous. But 1 do say that it is a bad policy on the part of the Ministry to interfere with the proportion of the bounty to the wages by regulating the wages only ; and that, also, is done at a time when this problem is, it is supposed, being studied by a Commission, which, I only hope, will know where tofind all the data which ought to determine policy.
– Does that mean that you would advocate an increase in the bounty ?
– No; I am not advocating anything of the sort. 1 want light. I wish to say a few words about our bungling during the last ten or twelve years.
– Do you think that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company will let us get a report from the Commission this session ?
– I know nothing about that. All I know is that the Commission is sitting, and has been given extraordinary powers, too.
– It is not sitting.
– Technically, it is sitting.
– The company will not let the Commission sit.
– All that matter will blow over pretty soon, I think.
– They have obtained an injunction.
– I do not know whether the company was wise or unwise in taking that step. I am not going to say anything about that matter.
– I was looking to the honorable member to give us some light on the matter.
– I do not know all the considerations. I have an idea as to whether it was wise to take that step, but the validity of the Royal Commissions Act would have been challenged without the sitting of the Commission. It will sit sometime or other; I suppose that at some time or other it will come to an end with its labours, and, perhaps, at some time or other, though I do not know when it will be, we will get some advice on which we can act.
– During the whole of that time are the men to work for low wages?
– There are honorable members, like the honorable member for Richmond, who point out that the growers will have to pay high wages. You cannot settle the question partially without doing an injustice to somebody. For that reason I am referring to the suggestions in Dr. Maxwell’s report of 1905, in which he lays particular stress on one principle. I do not know whether he is right or wrong in saying that the bounty ought to be measured by the difference in the wages ; but he did lay down the principle on which we legislated, and that is that there must be a definite proportion between the amount of the bounty and the wages paid, which was determined in 1901 by Sir Edmund Barton to be a difference of from 14s. odd to 30s. odd.
– Suppose that the basis laid down then was too low ?
– It ought to be altered.
– That is what is being done.
– All I want is to get, as the appointment of a Commission suggests is necessary, is some light on the matter, not to have a one-sided settlement. There are aspects of this sugar question which we ignore, and which have been dwelt upon time after time since we first began to fiddle with the matter in 190X, when the Tariff was introduced. We were left by Queensland the legacy of a bad policy. I think that about ten years before we met, the Queensland Parliament had passed an Act to get rid of the kanakas, and the right of retention was to expire in 1902. Had Federation not taken place, the State Parliament would have had to face the conditions brought about by its own mistaken legislation; but it left us a legacy, and we had to deal with the matter. In 1902 we thought that we had dealt with it by imposing a Customs duty of £6 a ton on cane-produced sugar,, and of £10 a ton on beet sugar, and an Excise duty of £3 a ton, with a rebate of £2 in the case of white-grown sugar. Many of us opposed that proposal at the time. I took the view, to some extent expressed by the honorable member for Herbert, that the arrangement might mean the growth of a monopoly in connexion with the industry, and would mean a verylarge outlay by the consumers of Australia, without a compensating advantage. I do not agree with the figures quoted by the honorable member to-day. I have not seen the report to which he refers.
– It is the latest report.
– In 1902, when we had a smaller population, the total revenue from sugar was £790,000. This year the revenue from the Customs and Excise duties is estimated at £1,013,000, and the Treasurer expects to pay £543,000 for bounty, leaving a net return of £470,000. If we look back a year or two we shall find that we did not receive more than about £330,000 a year from this source. The amount altogether depends upon the crop, and this year the import duty will become an effective one to the Treasurer, because the crop is comparatively meagre. What he is losing - not what the public are losing - is £500,000 or £600,000 a year, if we take an average of the years.
– The Brisbane Telegraph pointed that out last Friday.
– That may be. I have already mentioned the fact in this chamber on several occasions, when there was a probability of advantage being taken of it, but the duties were nevertheless agreed upon, and the public has had to put up with the loss, ‘lt has been stated that the difference between what the price of sugar is, and what it ought to be, is £5 or £6. The late Mr. G. B. Edwards, who knew a great deal about the subject, and. was very fair in his statement of the position, said that the. -difference was something like £5 a ton. Supposing it to be only £3, on a consumption of 200,000 tons the consumers pay £600,000 more than they should pay. About 1896, Mr. Chamberlain thought he would revolutionize things, an idea which oftens finds favour with politicians, and asked for a conference with a view to putting an end to the European bounty system. After some unsuccessful solicitation, he secured the Brussels Conference of 1901, the upshot of which was the Sugar Convention of 1902, ratified byGreat Britain in September, 1903, and repudiated as from the 1st September, 1912. Mr. Chamberlain, in the interests of the cane product, objected to cheap sugar. For many years the West Indies, where methods were primitive, had been hardly pressed, owing to the competition of European beet sugar grown under a bounty system. The Brussels Conference determined that the bounty system should cease and an Act was passed by the Parliament of Great Britain prohibiting the import of bounty fed sugar, and imposing a tax on sugar of id. or id. per lb. Provision was also made for a surtax. As a result of this legislation, the price of sugar was increased, lt has been stated that in the first full year after the passing of the Act, its price went up 80 per cent., and had increased 160 per cent, in two years. One British confectionery firm paid about £10,000 more for its sugar within a period of two or tHree years than it would have paid under the old rates, and the confectionery, brewing, aerated water, and other industries in which sugar was an important ingredient of manufacture were pretty hard hit.
– Yet the production of the West Indian sugar still fell away.
– The benefit given to the West Indian growers was reckoned by an English Commission at £67,000 a year, but it was stated that every rise of a id. in the price of sugar made a levy of £15,000,000 on .the public of Great Britain. That shows that legislation which does not take account of all the facts is not always wise, and the policy of Mr. Chamberlain has been abandoned. If the sugar industry in Australia develops, we shall be in the same position that the sugar producing countries of Europe were in before the Convention of 1901. So long as those countries had to rely for their own consumption upon imported sugar largely, there was no trouble, but immediately their production met their consumption, there arose and became effective an agitation for bounties on export, which brought about the subsequent trouble in connexion with the industry. Bounties having been imposed, sugar became still cheaper than was justified by the economies in its production, and the meddling policy of the Parliament nf Great Britain was put into effect in 1903. The British Commission on the West Indian sugar industry contains a lot of information on this question which, as well as the statements of writers as to the disastrous effect of the legislation to which 1 have referred, and the Continental Agreement, I might well quote. Our sugar industry is in its beginnings, sugar being grown only in Queensland, and in northern New South Wales, but, according to a report issued in 1870, or 187 1, the Northern Territory is also a. country suitable for the production of sugar. Among the papers relating to the Territory which have been put before honorable members is one showing that the South Australian Parliament -was asked, but refused, to allow the introduction of coloured labour into the Territory. If the sugar industry develops fully in Australia, what export markets shall we have? Japan is becoming a competitor. I read some months ago a magazine article showing the great development of sugar refining in that country, though there some of the difficulties which confront us are to be met with. We cannot expect the countries of Europe, which are troubled with excessive production, as the effect of their bounties, to take our sugar. Where, then, is it to be sent? A demand will grow up for bounties on the export of sugar, and then there will be a repetition here of the experiences of Europe. I mention these matters to show that the sugar question is a much bigger one than the perusal of the Bill would make it appear to be. The 0 whole subject lias been discussed from time to time since the introduction of the Kingston-Turner Tariff in 1901. In 1903, Sir George Turner had to acknowledge that a mistake had been made in 1901, and a bounty was substituted for the rebate which had been previously allowed. The reason for the change was that the rebate had been debited to the State in which it was paid, and thus Queensland was debited with the bulk of the payment though New South Wales was debited with some of it. Under the bookkeeping system, each State was credited with the amount of duty collected upon its sugar consumption, and Queensland could only be credited with the difference between the rebate and the duty on its consumption. That State, however, was consuming locally produced sugar. Queensland, therefore, got only a small payment, but South Australia, having imported from abroad in one year about 16,000 tons out of a total consumption of about 17,000 tons, got credit for the full amount of the import duty collected on that consumption, so that she received about £96,000, as compared with - her then normal revenue of about £44,000, whilst Queensland got less than its true revenue. We attempted to cure this blunder by an Act passed in 1903, substituting a bonus, which is debited to the States per head of the population. Strange to say, however, about two years ago, the present Prime Minister expressed the opinion that we ought to return to the rebate system. This again shows a want of vision on the part of those who thought that they were finally settling this question. The right honorable member, upon his return from a Conference with the State Premiers, about the beginning of 1909, stated that he had tried to persuade them to go back to the rebate system. The reason he endeavoured to revive that policy was, he said, that whilst the Commonwealth had to pay something like £500,000 or £600,000 in respect of the bounty, it could only retain about £180,000 of the total sugar revenue collected, since under the Braddon blot it could retain only onefourth of the amount collected in respect of Excise and import duties. Nothing resulted from that proposal, and the whole history of our dealings with the sugar question shows that we have been blundering somewhat in connexion with it.
– How are we to stop this blundering ?
– I really do not know; so many interests have to be reconciled. Judging by his report, Dr. Maxwell apparently thought that the policy of the Commonwealth was that we should have eventually only an import duty. We started out with the idea that this was to be only a temporary policy, and that in 1907, having got rid of the kanakas, we were to have an import duty of £6 per ton, and no Excise duty. As a matter of fact, the Excise duty was to expire in that year. I remember moving unsuccessfully to strike out the limitation, and to continue the Excise. In his report for 1905, Dr. Maxwell pointed out that this principle might be extended until 1913 ; but we should then have to face the question anew. Dr. Maxwell seemed to think that the policy of the Commonwealth was to have eventually only an import duty, and the point of difference between honorable members on both sides may be as to what the rate of import duty ought to be. There may be a question as to whether we should have an import duty of £6 or £3 per ton, having regard to the tremendous loss of revenue that the Commonwealth must suffer from the continuance of the present duty. A duty of £6 per ton in normal years is absolutely prohibitive, so that if there is no Excise there will be very little revenue. The question is, therefore, whether we ought to have a duty of £6 per ton, or a more moderate duty, such as the average for the States before 1901, which was, I think, £3 per ton. This question will have to be inquired into by the House when, if ever, we have presented to us from some outside body a report worthy of consideration. I have no desire to do more than refresh the memories of honorable members regarding some of the features of this policy during the last nine or ten years. We have yet no light as to how the question is to be settled.
– Does not the honorable member think it is time that we considered the consumer?
– Yes; if he has to pay from £1,000,000 to £1,500,000 a year in connexion with sugar to the Treasurer, or those who get the benefit of our policy.
– The honorable member for Darling Downs says that we should consider only the grower.
– We must have some regard for the consumer. I mentioned £3 per ton as being the average duty for the States prior to Federation. That was an effective duty in the case of most of the States. In those days, whether sugar was imported into Victoria from Queensland or from Java the duty had to be paid, and the Treasurer of Victoria received, I think, a revenue of something like £200,000 a year from this source.
– Were there not differential rates in respect of raw and refined sugar?
– I forget ; but the estimate of the sugar revenue presented to the Convention showed that Victoria was receiving something like £200,000 a year from this source. What has become of that revenue? The representatives of this State, who sometimes talk rather loudly about increased duties, might look into that question. I wonder what the Treasurer . of Victoria would have to say if he had, during the operation’ of the “Braddon blot,” made an analysis of some of these problems. My desire in speaking to-day is to have more light thrown upon this question. The consumer is entitled to be enlightened. I do not say who is benefiting as the result of our policy - I do not say whether the Colonial Sugar Refining Company has or has not benefited by it. Opinions differ ; but I have heard officers of the company assert that it receives no protection.
– The -company’s balancesheets do not seem to indicate that it is being starved.
– In 1905 it was asserted that prior to 1900 the company made a profit of 10 per cent. ; but I saw in print a statement that it was making a much larger profit in 1905. About the middle of that year an, admirable letter, written by a Mr. Peacock, appeared in the Argus, in which the position of the manufacturers of confectionery and those engaged in the fruit and other industries was set out at length. Mr. Peacock pointed out the disastrous effect of the sugar duties upon the fruit industry. It has been asserted that there is in existence a confectionery combine; but it has not been shown that there is such a combine. The trouble in connexion with the industry arose from our sugar duties. Those engaged in the industry claim that, in consequence of the adjustment of the duties, they had to take action to secure the legitimate protection to which they were entitled. All these problems will have to be considered by whatever body is to advise this Parliament in connexion with the sugar question ; and it will not do to have a mere partial inquiry as to whether the grower or the renner gets so much. We need to have put before us something more than the mere Queensland or New SOUth Wales aspect of the case ; we have to consider the Australian aspect. Something has been said as to the constitutionality of this Bill. The Minister is perfectly entitled to pass it if, as a matter of policy, it will lead to good. We have to consider various points apart altogether from the question of whether the. Bill is valid as an attempt to regulate the wages of an indus- ‘ try, or whether, as the honorable member for Herbert seems to think, it falls within the decision of the High Court in the case of the King v. Barger, and is consequently unconstitutional. We have in the Constitution itself a provision giving us power to pass laws with respect to the people of any race, other than an aboriginal race, in any State, for whom it is deemed necessary to make special laws. I do not say that that provision gives us power to pass an Excise or a Bounty Act ; but it may be resorted to by those who have to argue for the constitutionality of this Bill, and perhaps with more force than some people think. In the Barger case, the High Court decided that the provisions of the Excise Tariff (Harvester) Act were bad, because they attempted to differentiate between State and State. In fixing the rule by which the certificate was given to the manufacturers you might, under the provisions of that Act, adopt in respect of one State a rule different from that which would be applicable to another; and the High Court decided that that was a differentiation prohibited by the Constitution. In addition, it was also remarked that, as a tax, it applied to the same commodity, but differentiated, nevertheless, according to the class or remuneration of labour used in the production of that commodity. That may bring the decision in that case pretty close to this measure. In the United States of America a differential tax was held to be valid in the Oleomargarine case. The Supreme Court of the United States of America decided that, although certain rates differed in respect of oleomargarine and butter, they applied to two different commodities, and that it was within the competence of Congress to pass a tax which, although differential in appearance, really fell on different commodities. In the Excise Harvester case, however, the differential Excise rates of £12 and £6 applied to the same commodity or machine. Any differentiation not based upon a difference in the class of the article, essence, or commodity itself, but based only upon a difference in the class of labour or rates of wages paid, would, I. think, be invalid according to the decision of the High Court. That brings us close to some of the clauses in. this Bill. At the same time there is a good deal to be said on both sides of the question, and he is a fool of a lawyer who would not say so before the case comes on, especially if he happens to have been in the Excise Harvester case, and has not looked up the arguments he used then to see how far it becomes necessary to preserve his reputation for consistency. I do not wish to deal with the Bill in detail, but I would compliment the draftsman upon the pertinacity with which he sticks to one principle in drafting. That is, “ Always get the most you can out of people; no matter what it is, always go for the man you are dealing with, either in penalties, or in the excessive character of your provisions.” For instance, the Minister wants to get a fair rate of wage paid - a very commendable aspiration. ; but, instead of being satisfied with the rates awarded by the President of the Arbitration Court, or the standard rates prescribed by a State industrial tribunal, or those mentioned in the Act to be fair and reasonable^ - that, I suppose, is according to hisown opinion - he sets out three different classes of wages as a base, and will not pay the bounty unless the grower complies with the best of them. Although the rates mav conform to those prescribed by the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court, that is not good enough for the Minister. They must comply with thestandard rates and conditions of employment prescribed by any Commonwealth or State industrial authority, and must, also, be not below the “ rates and conditions declared, as in the first sub-section of the section mentioned, to be fair and reasonable.” I do not believe the draftsmanmeant that.
– Does not the Bill say, “ or any of them “ ?
– Yes ; but it puts the matter in this way : “ If the Minister finds that the rates of wages and conditions of” employment, or any of them, are below the standard rates and conditions……” It does not say, “ If they comply with any of the standards set out.” We see now that the Minister did not mean that. Why, then, did the draftsman say it? That is the sort of thing which leads to litigation and trouble.
Mr.Tudor. - So long as we get a fair wage paid, it should be all right.
– I only want the intention of the Bill to be carried out by the drafting. Parliament may delegate to the Minister power to bring a duty into operation, and may, possibly, delegate power to suspend that duty; but it does not follow that it can make the Minister a Legislature in connexion with the matter. I do not know of any case in which it has been held that the Minister can subsequently fix any rate he likes, or impose a bigger amount upon some than upon others. This Bill enables the Minister to “ withhold the whole or any part of the bounty payable.” Does that mean bounty payable to a particular man, according to his production, or does it mean the whole aggregate vote of the year? The draftsman ought to be clear upon that matter, and it may depend upon the sense conveyed to the Court by these general terms whether the Act is valid or not. Although, as I say, we have the undoubted power to declare that the Minister may suspend a duty or fix the time for its coming into operation, I doubt if we can allow him to determine how much of the duty is to be paid under this or that circumstance, and to call to his aid in the matter the machinery of our Arbitration or other Courts. I merely throw out a hint to the Minister in this regard, because it is always the desire of the Opposition to see that measures, even though they may not be sound in policy, are perfectly expressed.
.- The honorable member for Richmond told the House the other evening that this bounty legislation was passed in the interests of a White Australia. The legislation passed in the interests of a White Australia was the Pacific Island Labourers Act of 1901, dealing with the introduction of kanakas, and the Immigration Restriction Act of 1 901, preventing the introduction of Hindoos, Chinese, Japanese, and other forms of coloured labour, which we knew very well that the capitalists of Australia were prepared to introduce, if we could judge by the actions of those elsewhere in sending Chinese into the Rand.
– But you can go back to an Inter-State Conference, held in 1855, which prescribed that Chinese should not come to Australia. That was the start of the White Australia policy.
– I know that an attempt was made in South Australia - I do not know whether the honorable member for Boothby was in the movement or not - to introduce Japanese into the Northern Territory. This was, I think, at the time when Mr. J. L. Parsons was in charge, and the proposal would have been consummated but for the action of Mr. Kingston and others. The Pacific Island Labourers Act and the Immigration Restriction Act were passed in the teeth of opposition from some honorable members opposite, although certainly not all of them, and against the views of a considerable section of people in Australia, and the whole of the Conservative daily press of the Commonwealth. That was the legislation which was passed in the interests of a White Australia. We, the minority in Queensland, were hopeful, when we voted for Federation, that the eastern and south-eastern States would help us to put a stop to the kanaka traffic in Queensland. It was impossible for the minority in our State to put a stop to it, because there were too many vested interests concerned. When Sir Edmund Barton, and the followers of the honorable member for Ballarat in Victoria, and members of their party in other places throughout Australia, came before the public as candidates in 1 90 1, they had in their platform a plank for a White Australia, even at the expense of wiping out the sugar industry if it could not be carried on without black labour. I think the view of the people in the eastern States was that, if black labour was necessary in order to carry on the sugar industry, the industry would have to go. Then there was, of course, considerable agitation on behalf of those interested in the industry for some method of protection which would enable them to carry it on. Legislation was passed, not in the interest of the White Australia policy, but of the sugar industry. The Excise Tariff Act of 1902 imposed an Excise of£3 per ton on sugar, with a rebate of £2 per ton to growers of cane using white labour; Excise and rebate to operate until the 1st January, 1907. As the honorable member for Angas said, this Act was found to operate inequitably, because the rebate, being paid from the Excise, the nonsugargrowing States received Excise on all Australian sugar consumed within their boundaries, without bearing any share of the rebate, which was paid by Queensland and New South Wales alone. To remedy this, the rebate was abolished, and the Sugar Bounty Act of 1903 was passed, providing for a bounty on sugar-cane produced by white labour, at the rate of 4s. per ton, calculated on cane giving 10 per cent, of sugar, the bounty to be paid from the Consolidated Revenue. All the States thus contributed, om a per capita basis, to the. bounty payments, and received Excise on sugar consumed by them. It will be observed that the operation of this legislation was to terminate at the commencement of 1907. A year or two before that time there arose an agitation amongst the sugargrowers, asking that this Excise and rebate legislation might be continued. I have before me resolutions passed by a conference of sugar-growers, at Townsville, employing white labour, in June, 1905. The conference consisted at 116 delegates, and the following resolutions were carried : -
That this Conference approves of the white Australia policy in relation to the sugar industry.
That this Conference considers it most desirable that the bonus be continued for a period of years after 1906, and that the Federal Government make a definite announcement of its intentions in this respect at an early date.
The resolutions may be seen in the Melbourne Argus of 22nd June, 1905. The bounty was called a bonus in those days; but the term “ bonus “ was afterwards struck out of the Act. I mention this to show that, however much the honorable member for Richmond may urge that this bounty is a sham, a delusion, and a fraud, the growers did not think so, and do not say so now. The agitation represented by the meeting at Bundaberg was successful; and in 1905 the Excise Tariff Act was passed, increasing the Excise to £4 per ton from the ist January, 1907, up to the end of 1910, and then decreasing by onethird for each of the years 1911 and 1912, after which it was to cease. At the same time, the bounty was increased to 6s. per ton of cane - on the average, slightly over £3 per ton of sugar - from ist January, 1907, to the end of 1910, then decreasing by one-third for 19 n and 191 2, and disappearing similarly to the Excise. On the approach of the time when the bounty and the Excise were to end, the sugar-growers commenced another agitation. They did not, at this time, like the honorable member for Richmond, consider that the bounty was a delusion, a sham, and a fraud. A conference of delegates of the Sugar Cane Growers Union of Australia was held in the Council Chambers, Bundaberg, on Thursday and Friday, the 18th and 19th February, 1909. Mr. J. Laurison, of Bundaberg, submitted the following motion: -
That, in the opinion of this Conference, the principle of the Excise and Rebate offers the best means of protecting the growers’ interests, though it is necessary that there should be an elaboration of the principle that will insure to the grower an equitable price for his cane, thus giving him a reasonable proportion of the protective duty imposed in favour of the manufactured article.
That motion was carried unanimously. There were present at the conference delegates from Bundaberg, Bauple, Pialaba Logan, Nerang, Mackay, Cairns, and Isis, representing all the principal sugar districts in Queensland, and also representatives from the Tweed and Richmond, in New South Wales. Particulars of the conference may be seen in the Bundaberg Daily News of j 8th and 19th February, 1909. I should like to call attention to what Dr. Maxwell has said on the question of whether the bounty is a sham, a fraud, and a delusion, as the honorable member for Richmond asserts. Dr. Maxwell says -
The payment of bounty has resulted in distributing large sums of actual money in the sugar-growing districts. The total amount paid up to 1908, inclusive, according to the figures furnished by the Department of Trade and Customs under date 20th December, 1909, was ^1,803, 594. The particular merit and value of the bounty payments have been that they were assured ; that they were paid almost immediately and direct by the ‘ Federal authorities, and that they represented a fixed and notable proportion of the value of the farmers’ cane over which the purchasing mills had not necessarily any control.
That passage is contained in Dr. Maxwell’s report to the then Minister of Trade and Customs, dated 6th. January, 1910, page 10. It will be observed that Dr. Maxwell states that the bounty represented a portion of the value over which the millers and manufacturers had very little, or no control. There was an attempt, of which, later on, I will produce evidence, on the part of the Colonial Sugar Refining: Company to get some of the bounty. They could only get a portion of it by reducing’ the amount paid to the grower for his. cane, and this was done in some instances. To show that even the millers did not think that the bounty was a sham, a fraud, and) a delusion, I may mention that in the Bundaberg district the millers actually put through their mills cane which was said to be frosted, and which they said was only worth 2s. a ton. Indeed, they paid as low as 2s. a ton for this cane, and put it through the mills, in order that the sugargrowers should get the bounty, thus bringing the price of the cane up to 6s. per ton. If there was anything fraudulent in connexion with the bounty, it was that fraud on the general public; because it is said that sugar-cane worth only 2s. a ton is not worth putting through the mills. I shall probably later on give an extract from the evidence of a farmer, who states that some cane which was declared to be frosted was, in his opinion, worth as much as us. 6d. per ton. That, indeed, constitutes a grievance on the part of some farmers, who have no means of ascertaining what is the real value of their cane. I come now to a very important, but misleading, statement of the honorable member for Richmond. Speaking on Thursday last, he said -
I find that, since the initiation of this policy, the Excise which has been charged against the sugar manufacturers, and by them passed on to the cane-growers, amounts to ^5,879,148; whilst the bounty which has been paid to the growers aggregates i£3>778>593- Deducting the latter sum from the former, we get ^2,100,555. I wish honorable members to reflect upon these figures, because they will then see that, as the result of the operation of the bounty and Excise system, the growers have actually paid into the Consolidated Revenue no less a sum than £3,100,55.* For the privilege of securing this precious bounty, they have actually paid that amount into the Consolidated Revenue. . . . That is the amount which has been paid by the growers. So far as they are concerned, the bounty, therefore, is a sham, a fraud, and a delusion. It was never intended to be anything else.
– An utterly absurd statement.
– A more striking example of base ingratitude on the part of any one representing a sugar district I never came across. It is the tale which is told by the .Colonial Sugar Refining Company through their chief representative, Mr. G. H. Pritchard, secretary to the Australian Sugar Producers Association, and the tale which was told the farmers of Queensland in 1909. I do not find any fault with Mr. Pritchard, who is a very energetic representative of the big refiners. That gentleman may claim to also represent some of the small growers ; at any rate, he represents the Australian Sugar Producers Association, which is established in the in terests of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company and the big millers. Mr. Pritchard is at present in Melbourne, no doubt looking after the interests of the companies. He accompanied the Sugar Commission to every town where evidence was sought, and is carrying out his duties in a very faithful manner.
– On whose behalf?
– On behalf of the big millers and refiners; arid while Mr. Pritchard may reasonably claim every credit for what he is doing, it is necessary that honorable members should know whom he represents. It is a pity that the sugargrowers have not sent some one down here on Mr. Pritchard ‘s track to represent them; for, although we in this House will do our best for the sugar-growers, it is very necessary that they should have a direct representative from amongst themselves.
– They are going to have one soon.
– The argument of the honorable member for Capricornia is “ too thin.”
– I shall show before I sit down that I am speaking with adequate knowledge. The honorable member for Richmond, when some honorable member on this side asked, “ Who pays the Excise?” replied in a very positive manner, “ If the honorable member does not know I will tell him.” The honorable member then went on to say that it is the sugar-grower who pays the Excise.
– So he does.
– The honorable member persists in his statement. I ask him, however, who ultimately pays the money that the jam manufacturer gives for his fruit, sugar, plant, machinery, and wages? The general public, who buy jams and jellies. Who pays ‘the boot manufacturer the money that he gives for his leather, plant, machinery, wages, and so forth?
– If the Excise were abolished to-morrow, the grower would willingly give up the bounty ; and that is proof that he pays the Excise?
– It is the general public who pays all the charges I have mentioned. It is the general public who ultimately pays the tailor the money he gives for his rent, his cloth, machinery, wages, and so on. And the general public ultimately pays the wages of the field labourers and cane-cutters, and the farmers, and millers and refiners for all the money laid out in stock and plant ; it is the public who pays the bounty through the Excise, and the huge profits that are received by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. One would think that an honorable member who represents a constituency like Richmond would come here with a little better knowledge of political economy.
– I suppose the honorable member knows that the cases he has quoted are not analogous?
– The general public pays as much as £28 per ton retail for sugar. On inquiries made from grocers, I find that the ordinary householder usually purchases a 6-lb. parcel of sugar. At one of the branches of Moran and Cato, I was supplied with a number of catalogues ; and from these 1 find that in 1906 No. iA sugar was 2s. 9d. per dozen, or 3d. per pound, and the same price prevailed in 1908 and 1909. In 191 1 the same quality of sugar was sold at 2s. 10½d. per dozen, “or 3d. per pound, and at the same price in 1912. It will be seen that the householder who buys 12 lbs. of sugar saves 1½d., but the average purchaser of a 6-lb. parcel pays 3d. per pound. At this rate, the general public of Australia is paying £28 per ton for sugar. I do not for one moment say that 3d. per pound is too much when the various wage earners employed in the field, the farmers, the millers, the refiners, and the distributors get a fair return for their labour. The point is, however, that the public pays a price sufficient to enable the sugar-growers to give the field labourers and other employes the wages which the Minister of Trade and Customs has decided must be paid before the bounty is given. I asked the Minister of Trade and Customs the other day to be good enough to let me know what amounts were paid in Excise and in bounty from 1902 to 1912, and the figures are as follow: -
That leaves, after paying the bounty, an amount of £2,295,782 to be paid into the Consolidated Revenue and distributed throughout the States. I further asked the
Minister whether his officers could give any estimate of the amount the public pays for its sugar, and I am informed that it is about £6,000,000 annually. This is based on an annual consumption of 225,000 tons, about 55,000 tons of which is used by the manufacturers of jams, jellies, and so forth. The public pays to the sugar producers of Australia £6,000,000 annually, less an average, say, of £200,000, which goes into the Consolidated Revenue ; and I submit that that £6,000,000, or thereabouts, entitles every person engaged in the industry to a full reward for their labour. The public are paying handsomely, despite the impudent assertion of the honorable member for Richmond that the bounty is a fraud and a sham and a delusion. If honorable members will read a letter by Mi. William Peacock, who holds an important position as one who is largely interested in a firm of Australian jam manufacturers, they will get an idea of what the people of Australia could obtain sugar for if we were to repeal the Customs duty of £6 per ton. He gives the following figures, showing the price of sugar at Hamburg, as compared with the prices charged by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company at Brisbane, Sydney, and Melbourne : -
The Colonial Sugar Refining Company can charge these latter prices for sugar because of our Customs duty of £6 per ton.
– And because of the duty of £10 per “ton on. beet sugar.
– That gives them an additional advantage. If we removed the duty of £6 per ton on cane sugar, we could import sugar from Hamburg at the prices given, plus about £1 per ton, cost of freight, insurance, and exchange.
– Does the honorable member mean to say that £1 per ton would cover freight and other charges?
– I shall be able to give the honorable member for Mernda my authority for the statement that freight, insurance, and other charges would amount to about £i per ton. Owing to the duty of £6 per ton, the Colonial Sugar Refining Company were enabled to charge manufacturers £18 10s. per ton, and grocers £20 10s. per ton, for sugar, and in June last, £19 13s. 6d., and £24 per ton. It may be asked how it is grocers have to pay such a high price, compared with manufacturers ; but the Colonial Sugar Refining Company have made this business of changing prices a refined art. They know that the grocers are not so formidable as are the manufacturers. A manufacturer, using 10,000 tons of sugar every year, may be a man who requires to be reckoned with. But even manufacturers who use such large quantities of sugar cannot see their way clear to import the article.
– They dare not do it.
– It may be as the honorable member says, that they dare not do it, because the Colonial Sugar Refining Company have a certain process of squeezing, by which they could finally bring the manufacturers into line. Consequently, the manufacturers, as well as the grocers, buy the company’s products, and allow the importing to be done by the company.
– Does the honorable member favour the abolition of the Customs duty?
– I am not in favour of the. abolition of the Customs duty. I indicated that when I said that I thought the public were not paying too much when- they have to pay 3d. per lb. for their sugar. I do not believe that we should subject the Australian sugar industry to the competition of capitalists and the coloured labour mentioned by the honorable member for Richmond when he quoted a number of countries in which the wages paid in the industry are anything from 3d. to 6d. per day. Before I favoured the increase of the duty from £6 to £9 per ton, as advocated by some representatives of sugar districts, I should require some explanation of the distribution of the £6,000,000 which the public have to pay every year for their sugar.
– It would be better to reduce the duty on beet sugar to £6 per ton.
– I have given figures showing how much the public pay for their sugar, and yet the honorable member for Richmond asks -
But who pays that Excise? Is it the consumer? Does the manufacturer after he has paid the Excise pass it on to the consumer?
The manufacturer deducts the amount of the Excise from the price he pays to the grower for his cane. I can prove that down to the ground.
The honorable member further told us that the manufacturers were prepared to pay from 2s. to 2s. 6d. per ton to the growers for every £1 paid in the way of bounty, under their agreements with the growers, and he said -
There is in black and white, on the face of these agreements, the most definite testimony that it is the growers who are paying the Excise upon the manufactured sugar.
I advise the honorable member to go to one of his constituents, Mr. W. N. Gillies, a delegate representing the Richmond River district at. the conference of cane-growers, held at Bundaberg in February, 1909.’ Referring to a statement made at the conference about the growers paying the bounty, Mr. Gillies said -
There was one weak argument that the grower paid the bounty. The consumer paid all taxes. If the bounty was being paid, and there was no protective duty on sugar, then they could truly say that they were paying the bounty out of their own money.
That extract is taken from the Bundaberg Daily News, of the 18th February, 1909.
– Mr. Gillies was talking about the bounty, and I was talking about the Excise - a slight difference.
– The honorable member spoke very positively, and I challenge him to go back to his own speech. He used the word “bounty.” He said that the growers were paying the bounty, and that the bounty was a sham, a fraud, and a delusion.
– No. I said that the growers were paying the Excise, and the bounty was a fraud, a sham, and a delusion.
– I am afraid that I am taking up too much time in dealing with the honorable member. Farmers are not the simpletons that he thinks, when he comes here to tell the story which the Colonial Sugar Refining Company would like to be told to this House.
– It does not matter a scrap to me what that company want.
– From the Cane Growers Record I shall quote a leading article, entitled “Robbing the Farmers.” Re- ferring to this very matter in December, 1909, it said -
One of the trump cards, in fact it may be said the right bower of the Manufacturers’ Association (the A.S.P.A.) in the little game they are at present engaged in, is the statement, to quote a recent speech of their chief officer, Mr. G. Pritchard, “ that a tax amounting to some two millions of money has been filched from the growers since the Excise Act came into operation.” …. When the sugar legislation was first enacted by the Federal authorities, there was neither canegrowers’ union nor A.S.P.A. in existence, but the law was not laid down without consulting some of those interested in the matter. Inter alia, that the question was asked, What protection would be necesary to ensure profitable cane-growing by white labour? and a reply came from no less a person than the Hon. Angus Gibson, chief proprietor in the Bingera Mill and Plantation in the Bundaberg District, who said that he could pay 30s. a week and employ white workers if an effective protection °f £5 Pei ton were secured to the industry. He was taken at his word, and -the industry received the £5 asked for, but the Government went further. They instituted the Excise and Bounty system as internal machinery to discriminate between white and black labour, and, at the same time, fixed the import duty (which is the real protection) at £6 per ton, thus providing a fund for the administration of the Act and for revenue purposes. This fund has ^yielded something like two millions to date which has been distributed among the various State Governments, and the manufacturers are now trying to make the .growers believe that the amount has come out of their pockets. Nothing could be more stupidly fallacious, and if the matter is looked squarely in the face, it can be seen at once that the consumers have found the whole of it. For instance, if, in the first case, there had been no Excise and Rebate, and the Government had contented themselves with a simple import duty of £5, the market value of refined sugar would have shown an all-round reduction of £1 per ton, the £2,000,000 made by the Government would never have been received, but’ the consumers would have saved £2,000,000 in the reduced price of sugar, and the position of the sugar-growers regarding the value of their output would have been the same all the time . . This should be readily grasped by any one of ordinary intelligence, and therefore we must be reasonable. It is impossible to be robbed of a thing we never had, and all this outcry about the £1 a ton which goes into the Federal Treasury is simply a plausible move on the part of one section of the industry, and has been got up for the express purpose of distracting attention from the undoubted robbery which is taking place elsewhere.
That is taken from a journal established by die cane-growers in the district of. Bundaberg. This article goes on to say where the robbery is taking place, and refers to the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. The honorable member for Richmond interjected that he never used the word “bounty” in this connexion, but I would refer him to Hansard, page 31 16.
– I suppose the honorable member knows that that is an uncorrected proof.
– That is all the more reason why it should be correct.
– I will read the passage.
– The honorable member knows that I gave him an uncorrected proof, so that he could go through it.
– This is the bound copy of the report.
– It is not corrected. I went away to South Australia, and the proof was not corrected.
– The honorable member said -
That is the amount which has been paid by the growers. So far as they are concerned, the bounty, therefore, is a sham, a fraud, and a delusion.
– Yes, I said that, and I say it now. That is perfectly true.
– The honorable member for Herbert dealt with the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, and mentioned the enormous profits which they have made. I shall not refer to the matter further than to say that the shares are paid up to £20; that the price quoted to-day per share is £39 10s. ; and that their last divident was one of 12J per cent., which, on a capital of £3,000,000, amounts to £375,000 per annum. What struck me during the speeches of the honorable mern.bers for Richmond and Darling Downs was that while they spoke on behalf of the growers, they never said a word about the people who are robbing the growers, not a word about the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. I have the same fault to find with the honorable member for Angas, who never said a word about the people who are robbing the growers.
– How could I make statements about the company unless I happened to be sure of the facts ?
– The honorable member, or any one, can see from the balance-sheets of the company the amount which they are making out of the business. ‘ Every one knows that the public are paying retail £28 a ton for sugar.
– I said in 1901 the duties did give the company power to do that, but whether they have done it to the full amount, I do not know.
– We have only to look at the balance-sheets.
– Have you reckoned how much per cent, the sugar’ duty is ?
– I am not quite sure; possibly 25 per cent.
– At the port of shipment it is nearly 50 per cent.
– While the public pays £28 a ton retail for sugar, the grower does not get, including the bounty, more than £10? Who gets the balance? Is it necessary that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, the distributors, and the millers shall get£18, and the growers only£10? We say that the growers ought to get more than that sum. The honorable member for Angas asked the Minister to wait until we get more light. Why, sir, the Colonial Sugar Refining Company are fighting the Royal Commission every inch of the way. It is nearly twelve months since the appointment was made.
– They said that they asked for the appointment of a Royal Commission. They welcomed the Commission, but they will not give a scrap of information.
– The Colonial Sugar Refining Company, and those who are associated with them, asked for the appointment of a Royal Commission when the Deakin-Cook Government were in power, and when they hoped to put forward only the evidence which would go to prove their case, and not the case of the growers. But the moment a Commission was appointed to represent the workers, the growers, the millers, the refiners, and the general public, the company started to fight the Commission, and have fought them ever since.
– It was a packed jury any way.
– That is a mere assertion.
– And a very silly one, too.
– It is a silly assertion, on a par with a number of assertions made by the honorable member. I do not suppose that there is in any Parliament in the world a man who has so much conceit as has the honorable member, and who speaks with so much positive assurance, and with, I venture to say, so little knowledge.
– He is sitting back chastened after that.
– I hope that he is. It is nearly time that he learned, but it is doubtful whether he is not too old to learn, whether his conceit is not so strong temperamentally and congenitally that he will not be able to improve. The Colonial Sugar Refining Company held a meeting last year, and Mr. H. E. Kater, M.L.C., referring to the Royal Commission, said that the company would have to state its case in detail, because, to use his own words, “ Parliaments now lost sight altogether of the liberties of the community.” That statement was made because of the action of this Parliament in asking for information in regard to the sugar industry. To my mind, there is no difference between the Colonial Sugar Refining Company and the Norman barons of the eleventh century. All Australia is the company’s kingdom, its head office in Sydney is its castle, and its castle walls are the£6 a ton duty. It is the great baron, and the millers are the lesser barons, who are allowed by it to live, on the condition that they will fight for its interests.
– Would the honorable member reduce the duty to£3 a ton ?
– No; I am in favour of the retention of the present duty until it is found that the public is paying too much for its sugar. I am not satisfied that the public is paying too much when sugar is 3d. per lb.
– Then the honorable member would not change the existing conditions?
– Yes, I would. The change will have to be made by the Commonwealth competing with the Colonial Sugar Refining Company by taking upon itself the manufacture of sugar.
– That is the only way the people can be made safe.
– It is the only way, though the people made themselves responsible for the present condition of things by declining to give us the powers for which we asked last year. We shall have to get the powers sought by the referenda before we can deal with this great question. The honorable member for Angas said that it was thought that the question had been settled in 1902, and again in 1905,and in 1909 ; but in regard to it, as well as a number of other questions for which a solution is being sought, we are in a period of evolution.
– I said that the question had not been settled yet.
– I am afraid it will not be settled for some time to come. It will not be settled until this Parliament receives more power than it has now ; indeed, not until we get all the powers asked for by the referenda. The honorable member for Richmond said that this legislation was passed in the interests of the White Australia policy, and that that policy had been a plank in the platform of all political parties for many years. That statement is on a par with his statement that the bounty is a sham, a fraud, and a delusion. Is the honorable member aware that, on the 12th April, 1905, the General Council of the Chambers of Commerce of the Commonwealth, held at Sydney, carried this resolution unanimously -
That the development of the tropical portion of Australia is essential to the .growth of the commerce of Australia and the prosperity of its people ; and inasmuch as such development cannot take place without the employment of coloured labour, it is advisable to amend the Federal legislation so as to permit of the establishment of a well regulated system of employing coloured labour.
– The honorable member would not fasten that on to us?
– I am going to fasten a portion of it on to some of the honorable members opposite. The honorable member probably knows the 23rd verse of the 13th chapter of Jeremiah, though he probably did not know where to find it -
Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots?
Is it likely that the Chambers of Commerce of Australia have altered their opinion on this subject within a few years? Coming to a later date, on the 24th October, 1907, the Women’s National League held its annual conference in Melbourne, and at that conference there were present representatives of the following bodies: -
The Women’s National League of Victoria.
The Women’s Branch of the People’s Reform League of New South Wales.
The Queensland Women’s Electoral League.
The South Australia Women’s Branch of the Australasian National League.
The Women’s Branch of the Mount Gambier Farmers and Producers Political Union.
The Progressive League of Tasmania.
The conference carried unanimously the resolution -
That while the Conference approved of the principle of a white Australia from the racial point of view, it considers that the importation of coloured labour is necessary for the development of the tropical territory.
That motion was supported by Mrs. Parkes, of New South Wales; Mrs. Hatton, of Toowoomba; Mrs. Mitchell, of Mackay ; Mrs. Leslie Corrie, of Brisbane ; Mrs. Senator Chataway, of Queensland; Mrs. Hawker, of Adelaide; and Mrs. J. H. Hope, of Geelong. Mrs. Hawker agreed - that the King’s Indian subjects should be admitted to the Northern Territory, the subject was one of importance to all Australia. The colour line should take in the greater portion of the Northern Territory, a great part of North Queensland, and part of the north of Western Australia.
Mrs. Jenkins, of New South Wales ; had long been in favour of a white Australia, but was not ashamed to say that she had changed her opinion.
Mrs. Senator Chataway said ;
It must be recognised they could never bring the kanaka back again. . . . The white men now employed were of bad character and unreliable.
Mrs. Molyneaux Parkes ; did not agree with the remark that there was no chance of the kanaka coming back. They should put in a Liberal Ministry favorable to the kanaka, and then the thing would be done.
We cannot dissociate some of the honorable members opposite from the Women’s National League, whose view it is that if a Liberal Government were put into office the kanaka would be brought back. The honorable member for Angas has asked why we do not wait. When a deputation attended on the Minister of Trade and Customs, in 1909, to request the abolition of the sugar bounty and Excise, the Minister asked how, were the request granted, the Commonwealth could obtain a guarantee that fair wages would be paid to the labourers in the sugar industry. In reply it was pointed out - the statement is to be found in the Australian Sugar Journal of 6th May, 1909, that -
Self interest alone would provide a guarantee; for, as the farmer knows that he must treat his horses well if he is to get good work out of them, so he will recognise that apart from all other considerations he must give his men fair play if he wants to retain them and get their best service.
Those are fine words, but “ fine words butter no parsnips.” As Dr. Maxwell has said, some honorable men would pay fair wages, but other men would not. I ask how long should we have to wait before Messrs. Young Bros., of Fairymead plantation, who had in the Melbourne Argus of 10th August an advertisement respecting the flotation of their business into a company, with a capital of (?250,000, would pay fair and reasonable wages ? The wage of 22s. 6d. per week, which the Minister ordered to be paid some time ago, was described by Mr. William Peacock, to whom I have already referred, as “ black man’s wages.” When before the Sugar Commission, he said : “I produce the departmental regulations demanding 25s. and found for field workers - surely a most disgraceful rate,” and later on he spoke of the wage of 22s. 6d. per week in the terms I have mentioned. When the Sugar Commission was taking evidence at Bundaberg, it examined, amongst other witnesses, Mr. Charles Ernest Young, of Fairymead plantation, to whom Mr. Justice Gordon put the following question -
At 22s. and 30s. per week, what hope do you think there is to get men from Victoria and South Australia where they can get 8s. per day of eight hours and much lighter work at fruitpicking and working in the orchards? The wretched wage of 22s. 6d. is not an inducement.
I ask honorable members to mark Mr. Young’s reply -
I object to the application of the term to the wage fixed by the Minister of the Crown which represents what he thinks fair.
The examination continued as follows -
His Honor. - … I say it is a wretched wage. For your purpose you call 22s. 6d. a wage, but what hope have you of attracting men at that wage?
Mr. Young. ; Fruit picking is over in a few weeks, and then men have long distances to travel, so they must pay higher wages to get them. Also, they desire to get a number of men in time to catch the fruit at the right period. Here the sugar season lasts for six months.
Mr. Young was then asked by the Chairman on what wage he thought a man with a wife and family could live, and the witness went into details to show that a married man could live comfortably on 31s. 6d. per week. These are the items he gave: - Rent, 3s. ; meat, 5s. 3d. ; bread, 3s. 6d. ; tea, 6d. ; sugar, is. 8d. ; flour, is ; oatmeal, 6d. ; rice or sago, 3d. ; milk, is. 4d. ; potatoes, is. 3d. ; onions, 3d. ; jam, 8d. ; syrup, 6d. ; butter Cli lbs.), is. ad. ; currants, 6d. ; condiments, 3d. ; soap, 5d. ; soda, id. ; starch and blue, 3d. ; kerosene, 6d. ; vegetables, 5d. ; cream of tartar, 3d. ; clothing, 4s. 8d. ; (4s. each allowed to man, wife, and children); lodge, is. 3d.; unallotted, is. 6d. We thus have a total of 3 is. 6d., not counting the 4s. each allowed to man, wife, and children, on which, according to Mr. Young, a man with a wife and family could live. Some of these gentlemen hold extraordinary views as to what married men and women in this rich country of ours are prepared to put up with. It is difficult to account for their notions, but it would appear that their very contact with black labour - the slave labour of the past - has demoralized them. There can be no doubt that slave labour has a demoralizing influence. Stewards on the mail steamers running between here and the Old Country will tell you that they find Australians very reasonable people, but they dread the coming on board of planters and plantation managers at Colombo, because they speak to them as if they were dogs. This is due to the fact that they are accustomed to bossing the unfortunate coolies. Without a doubt slavery demoralizes the whites as well as the blacks. Such views as those expressed by Mr. Charles Young - who seems to be a decent fellow - and others like him, regarding the wages that ought to be paid to white men and women in Australia, can be attributed by me only to the belief that their contact with the kanakas has demoralized them. It has certainly destroyed their sense of proportion. What do we find with regard to the gentlemen who hold these remarkable views regarding the rates of wages that ought to be paid. In August last, Messrs. Young Bros, proceeded to float their business into a company, with a capital of ?265,000, and issued a prospectus showing the profits that have been made out of their holding of 7,499 acres of freehold. This prospectus showed that the profits from 1901 to 1911 inclusive gave an annual average of ?25,071, whilst for the last six years, during which the white labour policy has been in force, there was an average annual profit of ?27,564. The value of the land is set down at ?140,000. I do not consider it right that Messrs. Young Brothers should be able to make ?27,000 or ?25,000 per annum, as set forth in this prospectus, by the payment of the low wage which they give. We have an opportunity to reform’ and alter the incidence of this payment by taking from the refiners and the millers portion of the money that they now pay into their own banking accounts, and transferring it to the growers in order to enable them to pay their workmen a fair rate of wage. I have a number of interesting facts, which I should like to put before the House, but in view of the time limit that has been imposed, I do not think I shall have an opportunity now to present them. I desire, in conclusion, to say that I sympathize with the grower, but feel that he must realize that the present Ministry is a Government representing mainly the wage-earners of Australia. While it is here to do justice to all, its main duty is to the wage-earners, and it cannot remain on the Treasury bench, and allow the men in this industry to be paid as low a wage as 22s. 6d. per week, when it has power to secure for them better conditions. It is in duty bound to pay attention to the awards made by Mr. Justice Higgins as President of the Conciliation and Arbitration Court, and I believe that the following award made by the Court a few days ago in regard to the fruit-growers of Mildura and Renmark has had something to do with its determination to take action -
The Government, no doubt, have paid some attention to that award. They could not remain quiet for all time perhaps, or, at all events, until the Sugar Refining Company chose to allow the Royal Commission to secure the evidence that it was entitled to obtain. The Government had a right to take action. Notwithstanding our magnificent legislative and administrative record, we have no positive guarantee that we shall be returned to the Treasury bench. At the ensuing election, we shall have to contend with all the various interests that we have been challenging. The Colonial Sugar Refining Company, and others, will be pouring out their thousands to defeat us, and it is possible therefore that we may not come back to office. In such circumstances, the wage earners in the sugargrowing districts might very well say to the Government and their supporters, “ When you had power to improve our conditions, why did you not do something?” But, as the result of the action taken by the Government, the growers will have to pay the wages prescribed in order to secure the bounty, and the people who have the power will thus be compelled to do something. As a matter of fact, we have the Premier of Queensland now proposing to bring. forward legislation to deal with this question.
– Order ! The time allotted to the honorable member has expired.
.- This question appears to crop up with almost monotonous regularity just before every general election. It is almost criminal for any one to try to make a party question out of one of our greatest Australian industries, and I wish we could rid our minds of all party bias in discussing the matter. I wish, also, that honorable members would not try to hit the Colonial Sugar Refining Company through the producer. I shall have something to say later with regard to the company, but I wish it to be distinctly understood that I have no brief for them. I believe in a fair deal all round, and I hold that where honour is due honour should be given. To crush out the unfortunate growers in order to hit at “ the huge monopoly “ into which the honorable member for Capricornia appears to be anxious to get his knife, is to take up a very unfair attitude. The Minister appears to be floundering terribly over the sugar question. We asked some time ago for a Commission. In fact, it has been asked for for the last three or four years. The previous member for Capricornia had, I think, a motion on the paper for the appointment of a Commission to inquire into the industry, and since the Labour party came into power we have been asking for an impartial Commission to investigate the matter. A Commission was somewhat grudgingly granted-
– After being contemptuously turned down.
– After the Fusion Government had bungled it for months.
– The present Government were not very anxious to rush into the breach, at any rate. When the Commission was granted, although we - the members from Queensland on this side of the House - did not look with favour on its personnel, we made no complaint. We said not a word regarding it in this House or outside, but were prepared to wait for its report. I contend that the Minister should have looked to the Commission for a report before taking action.
– It is a reflection on the Commission.
– It is decidedly a reflection on the Commission and on the House that the Minister should have taken action without first submitting to the House at least a progress report from the Commission. The evidence is available, and should have been placed at the disposal of honorable members before this debate came on. The Minister, however, thinks he knows what will suit the grower and the industry generally better than do those engaged in it. I am not going to pass any opinion upon what is a fair living wage, or whether the wages and conditions provided for by the regulations are reasonable. The Queensland Sheep-shearers and Sugar Workers Act provides that the workmen shall have certain accommodation, and in that respect they are fairly well catered for. If the Government impose conditions, they should go a little further, and make it possible for those engaged in the industry concerned to comply with them, and, at the same time, to make a living. If our growers are to compete with those engaged in the industry elsewhere in the world, they are entitled to such protection through the Customs as will enable them to pay the wages and conform to the conditions prescribed. In Fiji the duty is £2 6s. 8d. per ton, and the wages are id. per hour. In South Africa the duty is £5 10s. per ton, and the labour 2d. per hour. In Japan the duty is £3 15s. per ton, and labour id. per hour. In Australia the effective duty is £5 per ton, and the labour i2d. per hour. In the United States the duty is £9 per ton, and the labour 8d. per hour. In Spain the duty is £34 1 os. per ton, and the labour 3d. per hour. In the Argentine the duty is £35 pet ton, and labour 5d. per hour. The honorable member for Richmond quoted those figures, and, while he was speaking, the honorable member for East Sydney interjected that some alteration was wanted in those places. I hold that the sugar-growers of Australia require protection against sugar produced abroad by black labour at such ridiculous rates. It is only natural to suppose that the growers in those places, having a fairly heavy protective Tariff to guard them against outside competition, will charge high local prices and dump their surplus into Australia, to the detriment of our people. If we are to throw open our ports to sugar produced under such conditions, the Australian sugar industry must go down.
We have to face the situation as to whether the industry should be fostered or wiped out of existence altogether. With the introduction of this Bill, another measure should have been introduced to amend the Bounty Act, so that the bounty and the Excise might be levelled up together. Otherwise both the Bounty and the Excise Acts should have been wiped out of existence.
– Does the honorable member say so now?
– I do say so; and 1 think the majority of the growers are prepared to express themselves in the same direction.
– They should take some steps to inform this Parliament of their wishes.
– I think I could produce sufficient evidence from growers in various parts of Queensland to show that they are quite agreeable to the repeal of both the Bounty and the Excise Acts.
– So that they may pay less than £1 a week, I suppose?
– The £z a week cry is about worn out.
– Is it? A grower in Bundaberg told me that he considered £1 a week too high.
– There are exceptions to every rule.
– The cry may be worn out, but it may be resuscitated for general election purposes.
– The cry may suit al the present time, but I am sure no State Government would allow that sort of thing to go on.
– Would they not?
– We have our Wages Boards in almost all industries in the States.
– In any rural industry ?
– Perhaps not in any rural industry ; but I noticed that Mr. Swayne, one of the members of the Queensland Legislative Assembly, moved an amendment to the Industrial Peace Bill last week for the purpose of including the sugar workers. I do not know whether the amendment was carried.
– Their hands have been forced by the Federal Minister’s regulations.
– It is rather unkind to say that their hands have been forced by this regulation.
– I could say more than that if I had an opportunity.
– I am quite prepared to believe that the honorable member could say a number of nasty things. The industry will be wiped out, unless it is protected against the coloured-labour productions of our very near neighbours. I wish to give one case that has already been presented to the Minister by Colonel Rankin, a member of the Queensland ‘Legislative Assembly who represents a sugar district. I understand that he has also had some experience of growing cane. I am not sure that he is not personally engaged in the industry now. He gives three or four examples. I shall quote the first one -
Take case No. 1. - This is a faim of about 90 acres first-class land, well situated, which cost the present owner £3,000. During the four years 190S-09-10-11, all very good years, he took off 4,921 tons of cane, for which he received from the mill £2,963 9s., and £1,599 4s- 9^- in bounty, being a total of £4,562 13s. gd. for the four years. During the same period he paid in wages £2,619 5s- 4d- Horse feed, fertilizers, repairs, &c, £944 is. gd. Interest on capital value of faim at 6 pei cent., £720, giving a total of £4,283 7s. id., leaving a balance of £279 6s. 8d. foi the farmer’s four years’ work, or equal to £61 16s. 8d. per annum. If we were to allow the farmer £150 a year for his own services it would show a loss of £320 17s. 8d. on the foul years’ operation. The average cost of this man’s cane was 17s. 4§d. per ton, without allowing anything for his own labour and the addition of £1,309 12s. 8d. being 50 per cent, on the wages paid (£2,619 5s. 4d.) Would have shown a loss of £1,039 on actual working, and without including any pay for the, farmer.
I am prepared to believe that Colonel Rankin knows exactly what he is talking about. I now come to the position of the farmers of Hambledon. I must confess that I know very little about that part of the country, but the farmers were evidently under some agreement with the Colonial Sugar Refining Company to supply their mills, and have written to the company as follows: -
To the Manager,
C.S.R. Company Limited, Hambledon.
We the undersigned suppliers to Hambledon Mill regret to inform you that we are unable to carry out our agreements with the company so far as planting and cultivating the full amount of the areas which we have respectively contracted for.
The constant increase in the general costs of production and all round, over which we have no control, without any corresponding increase in the price we receive for our cane, had already brought the margin of profit to a bare minimum, and now the recent regulations imposed on us without notice by the Minister of Customs have still further added to our working expenses.
Moreover, we do not now feel secure with regard to the administration of the Bounty and Excise Acts in the future. If we plant our land this year, it seems quite probable, judging from the recent Customs regulations which were to some extent retrospective, that when we are on the eve of harvesting the crops from such planting next year, some new conditions, either in the form of regulations or an award, may suddenly be imposed on us, which would discount our previous expenditure, and upset all our calculations.
We do not want to give up the industry which is our livelihood, nor to leave the farms where we have made our homes, so we have’ decided that the best course for the present is to “ mark time,” and to limit our expenditure to the utmost by employing as little labour as possible.
We propose, therefore, to clean up our farms as best we can after the present crops are off, and after that to plant only such areas as the grower can manage with his own labour and that of his family, with the assistance in the case of the large farms of only one or perhaps two permanent employees.
Until we have some definite assurance, both of better prices for the cane we grow and of better security in our position from the Federal Government, we cannot see any other course open to us. It is, in fact, for many the only possible course. It will enable us at any rate to hold on to our farms for a time in the hope that conditions will be so improved in the near future, as to enable us to again plant up the areas we have contracted for, and to carry on our business as before.
We notify you of our intentions now so that you may be prepared for a short crop in 1913 and (unless the present outlook changes considerably) for a very considerable shortage in 1914.
The areas which will actually be planted under this limited scale of work cannot be estimated just at present, as most of us are departing from the plans we laid down for the working of our farms. Generally speaking, the paddock which would have been plowed out this yeal, and replanted, will now be ratooned instead. Paddocks in an advanced state of preparation for planting will probably be finished, more or less. In cases where preliminary work for planting had been undertaken this has mostly been abandoned.
We quite recognise on our side the necessity for the mill being fully supplied with cane, and we are aware that short crushings will be to our own immediate disadvantage, apart from the actual loss in wages and to the district generally, but so far as we are concerned we cannot help it, as we are practically forced to limit our production in the manner shown herein.
– The price was 6s. more per ton at the Co-operative Company’s mill only a few miles away.
– I am not prepared to take the honorable member’s statement as to that.
– It is absolutely correct ; the evidence was given to me in the Colonial Sugar Refining Company’s office.
– I may have something to say later on in regard to prices. As to the cost of producing a ton of sugar, I think we may take it as a fair average that labour means 15s. 5d., and plants and incidental expenses,1s. 8d., while interest on plant and land is 3s. 4d., or a total of 20s.5d. We are told that the price of sugar is now at its maximum ; but in the face of the figures I have quoted it will be seen at once that the position will become impossible for the grower if we add another 50 per cent. to the cost of labour.
– It was only 30 per cent. last Thursday, according to the honorable member for Richmond.
– I think the honorable member for Richmond said the increased cost amounted to 60 per cent.
– There seems some difference of opinion as to what the increased cost really is, but I have gone very carefully into the matter, and, according to my figures, it is about 51 per cent.
– And, therefore, the growers paid only 22s. a week.
– I have based my calculations on 25s. a week and keep, and this, under all the circumstances, means about 37s. per week. I am not offering any opinion as to the reasonableness or otherwise of this rate of payment, but merely endeavouring to show that, if the industry is to exist under the proposed conditions, it must have more protection. The honorable member for Richmond has rightly said that this is not a bounty in the true sense of the term. The original intention was to penalize the employer of coloured labour by imposing an Excise with the object of counterbalancing the import duty. Parliament in its wisdom decided on a White Australia policy, and even the most ardent Protectionist objected to protecting an industry carried on by Chinese, Japanese, and other coloured people. As I say, the original intention was to penalize the grower who employed coloured labour, and also the grower who was himself coloured. I understood the honorable member for Capricornia to say that the sugar-growers had to thank this Parliament for imposing protective duties on sugar ; but I may point out that in Queensland there was a duty of £5 per ton before Federation.
– The Queensland manufacturers had then to pay to get into the markets of the other States.
– I understand that there was in Victoria a duty of£6 per ton on sugar.
– On refined sugar; I think the duty was less on raw sugar.
– I am aware that Queensland sugar was before Federation subject to duty in the other States. But one of the inducements held out to Queensland and other large producing States to join the Federation was that when Federation was accomplished there would be Free Trade between the States. That was part of theFederal compact. In the circumstances it is a poor argument to contend that Queensland sugar-growers have benefited largely by the protective duty. The policy of Australia is Protection. It is, perhaps, a coincidence that our Queensland industries appear to have secured less protection than have the industries of the other States.
– The honorable member wants high protection on sugar, and low protection on confectionery.
– There is a duty of about£18 per ton on confectionery, and the Minister has the cheek to say that there is a high duty on sugar when it is only onethird of the duty on confectionery.
– There is a lot more work in confectionery. Confectionery is worth 2s. per lb., while sugar is worth only 3d. per lb.
– I do not know what work may beput into confectionery, but I suppose that sugar represents 80 or 90 per cent. of the raw material used in the manufacture of confectionery, and the cost of that sugar is about2½d. per lb. to the manufacturer of confectionery. I suppose the wholesale price of confectionery would average about 6d. per lb’. If there is more work put into the confectionery that is worth 2s. per lb., I should say that it is well paid for. It has been contended by the honorable members for Capricornia and Herbert that the public pay the sugar bounty and Excise. We say that if the public object to pay bounty and Excise, the growers are not very anxious about them, let them go. It would not alter the price to the consumer if both bounty and Excise were wiped out of existence. I have a word or two to say on the jam manufacturers’ side of the question. The honorable member for Capricornia quoted Mr. W. D. Peacock. I notice that Mr. F. W. Lord, manager for W. D. Peacock and
Company, gave evidence at Hobart before the Sugar Commission. He stated that the cost of sugar in a 2-lb. tin of jam is 1 7/8d., and the cost of fruit 1¼d. There is, therefore, very little difference between the cost of sugar in jam, though it is a manufactured article, and the cost of fruit, which is a raw material. In a dozen 2-lb. tins of jam, the wholesale price of which is 6s. 2d. per dozen, the fruit and sugar cost 3s. 1½d., leaving 3s. ojd. per dozen for the manufacturer to pay for labour, profit, and so on. Dealing with the question whether the manufacturers are victimized by that great octopus, the Colonial
Sugar Refining Company-
– Does the honorable member indorse that description of the company ?
– I do not, but it is found to be a good string to harp on. I am prepared to admit that the company have a monopoly of the sugar business to a very large extent. I should be one of the first to give my vote to prevent them or any other monopoly or combine inflicting any hardship on the public. But there are monopolies which do not inflict hardship on the public, and it has not yet been proved to me that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company has been a menace to our civilization, or has victimized its customers. I say this as one who has a born hatred for anything in the shape of monopoly, or anything which would interfere with my personal freedom. I think it is fair to give credit to whom credit is due. Mr. Lord, when asked by the Chairman of the Sugar Commission -
Do you think the price of the Australian refined sugar is too high? replied -
No, I do not think it is.
– But the manufacturers get sugar so many pounds per ton cheaper than the grocers.
– They get it a little cheaper. It is an exaggeration to say that they get is so many pounds per ton cheaper. Mr. Lord was further asked -
You have no complaint to make? and he gave this evidence in reply -
No, not any special complaints to make about the sugar. Witness said he did not know the difference between sugar not refined by the charcoal process and other sugars. He found that English sugar was more yellow than Colonial Refinery sugar. The reason for it he did not know. He was more engaged in the commercial side of the business.
Mr. Henry Jones, another jam manufacturer of some repute in Tasmania, gave this evidence -
The C.S.R. Company was the only one that could satisfactorily supply the wants of his firm. Other firms would supply as much sugar as they wanted, but would not give the same terms as the C.S.R. Company. That company sold sugar to manufacturers at a lower price than any other company would do it. It was a cash price, and the company said they did not make much profit out of manufacturers’ sugar. During 191 1 and 1912 his firm bought a few tons of Queensland mill sugars. The price paid to the C.S.R. Company in 1910 was £19 8s. id. delivered in the Hobart factory, and £19 7s. 6d. in 1911. All records prior to 1910 had been destroyed by fire.
– You don’t use imported sugar at all? - No. We have used imported -sugar, but delivery is the greatest trouble. We could save, by using it, say, 10s. a ton, but the inconvenience is too great. If we could get monthly deliveries we would not take this contract with the C.S.R. Company.
Having made that contract, do you understand it to mean that you cannot buy imported sugar ? - Certainly.
How long is it since you did buy imported sugar for jam making?– It was about the end of June when our contract expired, and we started in July with imported sugar for some months. We found it better, however, to go back to the C.S.R. Company.
How much did you save on it compared with what you bought from the company? - Something like £1 per ton.
That would be something? - Yes, but when you consider the loss in weight in Sydney, the delay, and other inconveniences, there -.was not any gain.
That wiped the advantage of the difference in price out? - Yes.
So that after having tried the imported article Mr. Jones came to the conclusion that it would pay him better to go back to the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. In his remarks the honorable member for Capricornia laid a great deal of stress upon the fact that that company refused to give evidence before the Sugar Commission. Indeed, he reminded me of an old saying that was prevalent when I was a youngster, and that is that a fowl can only think of one thing at a time. Right through the honorable member’s remarks it seemed to be “ this huge monopoly, the Colonial Sugar Refining Company.”
– And the general election.
– Yes. I have here a statement which was prepared by the Company.
– Is that the one which they advertised all over Australia?
– It is the statement which they asked to be allowed to put iri as evidence before the Royal Commission, and which they were not permitted to do. Assuming that the import duty is £6 a ton in each place, it shows the average net cost of sugar, duty paid, in London, Auckland, and Sydney, between 1907 and 1911. It reads as follows: -
– Did you give the figures for 1912 ?
– No. These are the average prices for the years mentioned.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.45 p.m.
– The Colonial Sugar Refining Company’s price for fine sugar to distributers is, in Brisbane, 5s. per ton less than the Sydney price; in Melbourne, 2s. 6d. per ton more than the Sydney price; in Adelaide, after allowing for bonus, 10s. a ton more than the Sydney price ; and in Fremantle, after allowing for bonus, 25s. a ton more than the Sydney price. The company’s charge to manufacturers is the same in Brisbane, Sydney, and Adelaide ; but in Fremantle, after making allowance for sacks, it is higher by 15s. a ton. Tasmanian manufacturers are supplied f.o.b. Sydney at prices less a freight allowance of 4S. per ton. With regard to the prices paid for cane, the company states -
As we pay a uniform price at all our mills for cane of a given sweetness or yield of sugar, the average of the prices paid at our six mills affords the best indication of those our suppliers receive ; and the cost of the cane at the weighbridge worked out on this basis is as follows : -
This is a comparison between what the Colonial Sugar Refining Company and the
Central Mills have paid for cane at the weighbridge during the ten years just referred to -
The fact that the company’s average price for cane has been about sd. a ton more than the average price paid by the Central Mills is an answer to the statement of the Minister of Trade and Customs that the company has paid 6s. a ton less than some of the other mills.
– It has done so.
– A case has been referred to in which 2s. a ton was paid for cane because it was frosted, and in some instances nothing at all has been given, the growers getting only the bounty on the cane, because the sugar contents were less than 5 per cent.
– In that case, they had no right to receive the bounty.
– That statement strengthens the contention of the honorable member for Richmond that the bounty is a farce. The honorable member for Capricornia, replying to the honorable member for Richmond, read from a report in the
Cane Growers Record of a conference of the Cane Growers Union held at Bundaberg, in February, 1909. He would have had us believe that the conference was an important gathering of growers from all the sugar-growing areas of Australia, and forgot to tell us that of the Record from which he quoted only a few copies were issued, and the union came to an end within a few months. Neither the Record nor the union now exists.
– The growers are too poor to keep the union alive.
– The Record was run in the interests of the Labour party, and therefore could not be expected to remain alive very long. I plead for more protection for the sugar industry, in which a great deal of capital has been invested. Protection has been recognised as the fiscal system of Australia, and if the great industries which mean so much to the Commonwealth are to be fostered, it must be at the expense of the people as a whole.
– Of course, the honorable member for Parkes supports that view.
– The honorable member for Parkes is fair-minded, and would agree that, if every other industry is protected, the sugar industry should not be without Protection.
– The honorable member for Parkes said that if he had the power he would abolish the import duty of £6 per ton to-morrow.
– The honorable member for Parkes is perfectly consistent. I believe that if he had his way he would wipe out all, save perhaps the revenue duties. His fiscal faith is well known.
– He was returned by a minority vote at the last election.
– Because the Labour party managed to put up a third candidate.
– At all events, he was returned, and possibly will be returned again. The people of Queensland individually, and apart altogether from the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, have a fair amount of capital invested in this industry. I do not think the Colonial Sugar Refining Company cares very much whether the industry is protected or not. If we had absolute Free Trade in regard to sugar, the company, I believe, would do even better than it does at present. It would shift its mills to Fiji, and bring in the raw sugar to be refined here, so that we should then be consuming the black-grown sugar of our near neighbours. The Queensland Government have also a very keen interest in this question, inasmuch as they have invested something like £500,000 in central mills, and have in view the establishment of three or four more, involving an additional expenditure of £300,000 or £400,000. Then, again, we are all interested in the matter from the point of view of defence. We have in Queensland country that is essentially adapted to sugar growing, and which we all desire to see settled. As a matter of fact it is not yet half settled. We have only touched the fringe of the sugar-growing country of Queensland. We have there vast areas which should come under sugar cultivation, and which will not come under anything else for many years if the sugar industry be killed. I have so much confidence in the
Parliament and the people of Australia as to believe that they will do nothing to kill the industry. If we are going to maintain it we must protect it against the outside competition with which we should be brought Into conflict if the present protection were reduced, and I take the view that the duty on sugar must be increased to at least £9 per ton.
.- This is primarily a machinery measure, designed to bring more thoroughly under the control of the Minister the conditions governing labour in the production of sugar upon which bounty is paid by the Commonwealth. The Bill itself is a very small one, but it is to be regretted that it has not been more reasonably drafted. The latter part of it will certainly require to be amended to enable us to achieve what I think every honorable member wishes to achieve,’ and that is that men in the sugar industry shall be paid the wages that the industry can afford, and which should be worthy of the Australian community.
We have heard very little in this debate of the machinery of the measure, and a great deal regarding general sugar questions not immediately pertinent to the Bill, but which Mr. Speaker has very properly recognised are interwoven with the question, and subjects for discussion at this period. The honorable member who has just resumed his seat spoke of the references of honorable members opposite to outside matters, such as the alleged octopus sugar company, and various observations of the same kind, as evidences of that intellectual singleness of purpose which invariably characterizes the homely farmyard hen when it is crossing a perilous road. I do not wish to twit my honorable friends opposite on the too ready recognition, which their speeches show, of the difficulties they see before them in connexion with the next general election. But the references that have been made to the Colonial Sugar Refining Company in relation to the duty and to other matters in connexion with the bounty and Excise, make it necessary that we should endeavour to do some clear thinking apart altogether from the perils that will certainly surround my honorable friends opposite in ‘a few months time.
– We are not a bit nervous.
– The honorable member says that he is not nervous. That is his only merit. The honorable member for Capricornia tried to make himself and his electors believe that the reason why the labourers employed by the sugar-growers were not receiving the wages which he in his beneficence wishes them to get - at some one else’s expense - is that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company is in some mysterious way reaping all the benefit of the present Commonwealth assistance to this industry.
– Undoubtedly it is.
– Then it seems to me that if this is a free Parliament, and my honorable friends opposite really think that that is the case, we have a very easy way of “ outing “ the sugar company so far as any Government assistance is concerned. Let us take off the duties. I have for a long time thought that if our object is to keep alive the white sugar growing industry of Queensland, it should be possible for us to do so in a way more economical than that now followed by us. I have long thought that we should be able to keep it alive by a direct bounty to the white sugargrowers, while at the same time we do away with the import duty, and the present humbug of the Excise and bounty. Let us wipe out these three schemes that disfigure the present round-about method of dealing with the question. Let us give direct to the white grower whatever bounty an expert Board may advise us is necessary to keep the industry alive, and let the public know exactly what they are paying. Do not let us have the present humbug in connexion with which every representative of Queensland and northern New South Wales tells us that the sugar industry does not want the bounty or Excise, but that for some reason or other it wants a still higher import duty.
– All the representatives of Queensland do not say that.
– My honorable friend has not yet spoken, and as he does not represent a sugar-growing constituency, I hope he will be free to help me to get this import duty very materially reduced, if not removed.
– Is the honorable member serious ?
– He is a Free Trader.
– This is not a question of Free Trade or Protection. It is simply a question of keeping alive the white sugar growing industry of Queensland. If we could do that by giving a bounty direct to the grower we should thus adopt a more honest means than is the one I shall presently criticise. We should also disarm the sort of criticism we have had throughout this debate on the part of honorable members opposite, to the effect that the duty is being used to bolster up an Australian monopoly against the Australian consumer, the grower, and the manufacturer alike.
Let us take the cost of the present system. The 1910-11 figures show the cost of the bounty as being £630,000, excluding the cost of administration, and the Excise at £794,000. These two amounts balance each other slightly, it will be noticed, to the disadvantage of the bounty, and that may be one of the reasons why honorable members from Queensland wish to see both the bounty and Excise removed. They total somewhere about £1,400,000 sterling. The duty itself costs the Australian public a great deal more than that. Taking the annual Australian consumption of sugar at 225,000 tons, in round figures, at an. import value, landed here, of, say, £21, which would give the Australian consumption at, approximately, £4,750,000 worth, the duty payable represents £1,350,000 on the landed value, and the total added value before it gets te the consumer is between £1,750,000 and £2,000,000 sterling. This money is all placed as a load on the backs of the Australian people, whatever State they reside in, and whether they are interested merely as consumers of sugar, or as growers of fruit, or manufacturers of jam or confectionery, or users of sugar in other ways. The present system, then, is actually costing us between £1,750,000 and £2,000,000 in added value due to the import duty, and, in bounties, £630,000, which comes back into the Consolidated Revenue, in the form of Excise, to about an equivalent amount., There are, roughly, some 20,000 people employed in this industry altogether, but its cost reaches such enormous proportions that one begins to wonder whether it would not pay better to keep those persons in idleness.
– I think we have heard that suggestion before.
– Apparently, the honorable member cannot bear hearing it again. He does not like to hear the bald facts, and I am talking of facts.
– The Budget-papers say that there are 27,000 persons employed.
– The Budget figures include, I think, a number of persons in the refinery industry, with whom I do not think we are primarily concerned at this juncture. We are talking of the other persons in the sugar industry.
Those already employed in the two principal industries which use sugar as their raw material number about 7,000. The jam industry employs about 3,500 persons, and the confectionery industry 3,375 persons. The fruit-growing industry is also vitally interested, because, after all, the price which the grower gets for his fruit, and the market there is for it, depend largely upon the number of competitors in the jam-making industry, and the export trade which that industry is enabled to do. Those thousands of people must be added to the thousands of manufacturing users of sugar, in order to get some relative idea of the importance of the industries dependent on sugar. The matter is not a very simple one, and cannot be dealt with off-hand. It is more properly a subject for a really expert and non-political inquiry - not the sort of packed inquiry that we have been having into the sugar question recently. lt should be a really scientific and honest inquiry, to tell us how much we ought to pay to keep alive the white-sugar industry, and how important relatively are the other industries requiring cheap sugar. A number of honorable members have been eager to rave against the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, and have tried to make their constituents believe, as did the honorable member for Herbert, that the company was the only party getting any satisfaction out of the duty. If they will only help us to take off the import duty, it is obvious that their main complaint against the company will disappear, and the company will have to stand on its own legs.
Those honorable members who have been talking about the Sugar Company so heatedly, and with such singleness of purpose, seem to have overlooked the fact that at the present time there is, undoubtedly, in a number of industries in Australia, a tendency to combination, requiring the earnest attention of this Parliament. Our interest in this Chamber is not required only with regard to one successful industry, as every one will admit the sugar refining industry to be. For instance, there is a combine in the jam trade. As the honorable member who preceded me has pointed out, the manufacturer of jam takes for the cost of manufacturing and profit about half what he pays to buy fruit and sugar. I think we can readily agree that the manufacture of jam is not a very intricate process, and that its cost ought not to constitute so large a propor tion. It is also undoubted that the manufacturers of jam have been prosperous of recent years ; so that the mere prosperity that is alleged against the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, and the tendency to monopolize, which, in the case of this company, is due to its own inherent strength, and not to its making unpublished contracts with other firms, exist also in the Jam-making Combine. My honorable friends, however, are strangely silent with regard to all those other matters. Their whole anxiety is to establish a state of unrest and suspicion with regard to the sugar industry particularly, and to focus attention upon it, in order to give them a better chance to carry their nationalization proposals at the next Federal referendum. If you look at the thing in the broad mass, and go into the whole question of trusts and combines generally, examining what it means to’ the trading and consuming public, and educating the public up to this great problem, it becomes obviously too big a thing to be handled by means of any tinpot nationalization proposal, and the public will not grant you the power. If, on the other hand, you seek by a process of defamation and dishonest inquiry to fabricate a false opinion with regard to one particular industry-
– I rise to order. Is the honorable member in order in attributing to this Parliament any action in connexion with a dishonest inquiry?
– I did not understand the honorable member to do so.. If he did, he was distinctly out of order, and must withdraw the statement.
– The honorable member’s methods are as inaccurate as the inquiries to which I was just directing attention. I did not mention this Parliament in connexion with any inquiry. The Board of Inquiry I had in my mind was not appointed by Parliament. Parliament had no opportunity of appointing it j it was appointed by the Crown.
– If the honorable member was referring to a Commission appointed by the Crown, he must understand that the Crown is equally responsible with Parliament, and he must not make a statement of that kind.
– I admit that in these days we have travelled, I do not know how many years, from the time of Hampden, when Parliament asserted the right to criticise any action of the Crown. I think I remember reading in my school books that one of the privileges for which Parliament fought so fiercely for many generations was that of freedom to criticise even the Crown whenever it was necessary to do so in the exercise of public duty.
When the honorable member interrupted me, I wa’i endeavouring to show how important it is that we should get an honest, straight-out, and unpacked inquiry into the complexities of this sugar question.
– Order ! The honorable member is now going beyond fair discussion. He must not do that.
– What have I said that was out of order?
– The honorable member knows that he was referring to the appointment of the Sugar Commission by the Crown. He was using language that he must know it is not proper to use concerning that Commission.
– I was merely urging - I think, really, that you could hardly have heard what I said - that-
– The honorable member said that it was a packed jury.
– I was urging the necessity for having an honest inquiry. Is it out of order to urge that?
– Order !
– Good heavens! Am I not allowed to ask for an honest inquiry into this sugar question?
– When the honorable member is doing that he is making an implication that the present inquiry is not likely to be an honest one. That is the only deduction to be drawn from the honorable member’s remarks.
– I will accept your ruling, sir, that it would be an impossibility for me to ask for such, things without reflecting in some way upon the existing body.
– Having got in his dirty work, the honorable member is satisfied.
– Order !
– What I said was that the honorable member having got in his dirty work is satisfied. I beg to withdraw the remark.
– The honorable member having buried the corpse of his interjection, thinks that he has done with it.
– But it still smells.
– The question is really one for a straight-out inquiry in the future. I do not think that it reflects much credit upon Parliament, or upon themselves, that honorable members should use a measure such as this to attack a particular interest in a particular industry whose case is at present sub judice before a Royal Commission appointed by this Government. Perhaps the honorable member for Capricornia regards that sort of thing as clean work; as perfectly legitimate; as on a par with the political ideals of his party, and the standard of political morality to which he subscribes ! I do not wish to defend any company, nor do I wish to say a word for any interest, that has been attacked in this underhand way. I only want to point out that the matter is far broader than these honorable members wish to believe it to be. It is a matter that vitally affects a number of growers, producers and manufacturers in other industries than the sugar industry itself ; and I wish to put it that if these honorable members were straightforward with their electors, they would lay the whole question before them, instead of trying to hoodwink them by suggestions about nationalization.
The solution of the sugar problem does not lie in nationalization. I have had some experience of commodities turned out by State factories in various parts of the world. If honorable members wish to see, for the sake of argument, samples of French Government tobacco, I may mention, in passing, that I have some in my box in the Opposition room. Honorable members may smoke it at their peril. We know in the very simplest form of enterprise, such as the mere collecting, handling and distribution of letters, what kind of satisfaction the Government can give to the community, and what dissatisfaction can reign amongst the Government’s own employes, in that simple service ! How, then, is it expected that the Government is going to run an industry like this great sugar industry, having to do not only with growers and millers, but with refiners, who have to carry out highly technical, scientific work? If you consider the successful manufacturing countries of the world to-day, you will find that, usually speaking, it requires the exercise of great scientific knowledge to produce any particular commodity economically. Scientists have to be employed and constantly engaged in laboratory work, and only by the accumulation of capital can these laboratories be kept constantly in being. Take, for the sake of illustration, the manufacture of indigo. Not so many years ago the growing of indigo gave employment to countless thousands in India and throughout the East. A great company in Germany, which employed scientists in its laboratories for a number of years, ultimately found the chemical secret of indigo ; and now the bulk of the indigo consumed in the world is not extracted from plants, but manufactured in German laboratories, and countless thousands throughout the East have lost their occupation. In the same way, I believe - I cannot speak from positive knowledge - the main reason for the success of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company lies in the fact that it yearly spends to advantage a large sum of money - I am informed some £20,000 or , £30,000 -in laboratory experiments, constantly directed to using all the forces of applied science to extract as much sugar as possible from any given quantity of cane, and putting to the best commercial use the by-products of the manufacture. These are things which cannot be overlooked. If I could be given any reasonable prospect of the Government carrying on so highly technical a process as one requiring all this constant scientific application, I should think that there would be just about as good a case for nationalization in the sugar industry as there is in regard to any industry, broadly speaking, that receives Government assistance; but-
– I do not think that anybody proposes to nationalize the growing part of the industry.
– Then the only thing proposed is the nationalization of the most technical part of the business? What will be the result? It we accept the lessons of the world, with a complete Government monopoly we shall get a worse article; the people will have no standard of comparison by which they will be able to know whether the quality is being maintained at an even, world’s level. As tobacco is in France, so we shall have sugar in Australia. The price, no doubt, will remain the same.
– Possibly, then, the price will remain the same, but, if all other sugar is kept out of Australia, as practically all other tobacco is kept out of France, the public will have no means of comparison, and the Government will be enabled to get more and more taxation surreptitiously out of the pockets of the public by yearly depreciating the quality of the sugar.
– Is it quite correct that all other tobaccoes are kept out of France?
– It is practically correct ; the only man in France who can afford to smoke other tobaccoes is the rich man.
– Shops are being opened in London now for the sale of French tobaccoes.
– I have some specimens of French tobaccoesin my box in the Opposition room, and I shall be happy to allow honorable members an opportunity to see them !
– Are they average samples?
– All the French tobaccoes are branded, and I have no doubt that the honorable member for Melbourne would recognise some of the packages. We have to realize that we cannot help the public much if we nationalize the sugar industry ; but, if we are honest, we must see that we could help the public a great deal more if we took off the duty and paid direct to the persons interested the money necessary to keep the industry alive. This would entail a fair sum of money being paid directly out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund ; but the public of Australia would know exactly what they were spending, which is more than they know at present.
I believe that the price of sugar in Australia is, approximately, the same as the price in the outside markets of the world, with the duty and freight added.
– Sugar is several pounds a ton dearer in Australia than in New Zealand.
– Exactly ; there is no duty in New Zealand - that is the whole point. The same company that supplies Australia is supplying New Zealand at something like £6 per ton less, so that the economic law applies in this matter. Why cannot we help the Australian public to rid themselves of the load of taxation, which the import duty imposes, of somewhere between £1,750,000 and £2,000,000 per annum? That is a large sum; and I do not think that the public, if they were asked to pay it in solid cash, would consent to do so. The money, however, is obtained in a roundabout fashion ; it is not merely a charge on the public in the ordinary way, but is a charge on consumers of sugar, and on particular industries using sugar for their raw material. Our great difficulty here is our distance from the great markets of the world, and this difficulty is peculiarly important to an industry like that of the growing of fruit. But the question of distance becomes eliminated, except from the subsidiary point of view of freight, if we send out the fruit from Australia to the markets of the world in the finished form of jam. I understand that the manufacture of a ton of jam requires, roughly, equal quantities of fruit and sugar. Jam manufacture is a business which, in my humble judgment, requires regulating quite as much as does the sugar business. There is a very successful and prosperous combine in the jam industry - a more profitable industry in proportion to the money invested than there is in the refining industry that is now the subject of attack. To jam manufacturers, growers of fruit - and the Australian public, which ought all to be interested in the extension of closer settlement in Australia - the question of the duty is of paramount and enormous importance. Unfortunately, the Bill, at the second stage at any rate, affords little opportunity to test the question. On the second reading of a Bill, the question of the abolition of the import duty, and of a complete alteration of the system, can only be tested by moving an amendment to the motion that the Bill be now read a second time. But what would my honorable friends opposite say if we took advantage of such opportunity as is provided ? They would say, “ Here is Kelly endeavouring to prevent the men who grow sugar in Queensland being paid a decent living wage.”
– Perhaps they think the honorable member capable of doing so.
– That is the difference between the honorable member and myself - they do not think him capable of anything. However, I do not wish to indulge in these pleasantries with my honorable friend; they do not annoy either of us, neither do they add anything to the value of a debate of this kind.
The public are as vitally interested in this question as are the growers in Queensland. This is no sectional Queensland matter - every Australian is vitally interested. Ft is a pity that those who are asked to bear the load of taxation that this industry imposes on Australian resources should be those who are already seriously handicapped by our distance from the great consuming markets of the world. It we wiped out the duty we should double the inducements to grow fruit and make jam. Another industry, .that of the mak ing of confectionery, employs a very large number of people, and is entitled to consideration.
– It is capable of great growth.
– It is capable of great development. A country which grows a raw material like sugar ought to aim at more than merely its home market. Australia does not afford a big enough home market.
– Australia supplies New Zealand.
– I think that New Zealand is largely supplied from Fiji and the other islands of the Pacific. We ought to aim at something more than merely supplying ourselves, in view of the fact that our home market is small, whereas the markets of the world open up enormous fields. Our best chance of being able to supply those markets is to see that any assistance we give to a great industry in Australia is not an absolute death-blow to other industries equally important.
The whole question calls for the most detailed investigation ; and I hope that when my honorable friends opposite have a moment or two for calm reflection, they will see that it cannot be solved by mere nationalization. By nationalization’ we should not get a more satisfactory service - in fact, we should get a very much less satisfactory service, seeing that the sugar industry ismore intricate, and requires more efficient management - than we now get from the Post Office. What man can say that the Post Office is giving the public the service we are entitled to to-day, or giving the employes the satisfaction which they claim, and should receive at the hands of their employers ?
– Would the honorable member hand the Post Office over to a* private company ? That is the logical conclusion of the honorable member’s statement.
– The honorable member’s statement is as absurd as it would be to say that, because too much sugar leads to diabetes, we should .prevent any one- from using any sugar at all. There are somethings which ought to be run by the Government - services which, for instance, lead in certain ways to the use of the publicroads.
– Anything which isnot ‘likely to be a big dividend-paying concern.
– I can imagine no business that would be a bigger dividendpaying concern than the Australian Post Office if it were properly conducted. In spite of its extraordinary methods of doing business, taking six letters to answer a simple inquiry, it is at present being run upon a basis of dividends. I have here some specimens of French tobacco-
– Order ! Is the honorable member going to connect this with the sugar industry?
– I proposed only to show the absurdity of endeavouring to nationalize so complex an industry as the refining of sugar.
– We are not trying to do that by this Bill.
– That may be so; but every speaker on the other side in discussing the Bill has said that the only way to deal with this matter is to nationalize the business of one particular company interested in the refining of sugar. I have detained the Souse longer than 1 intended when I rose to speak, and 1 should not have spoken on this machinery Bill at all were it not for the frenzied efforts of honorable members opposite to make use of it for a little electioneering display. I welcome their challenge as will every man who realizes how flimsy is the case of the man who, seeking to destroy a monopoly, proposes to do so by fastening upon the people for all time a monopoly less efficient, less economical, and more hard to bear in the shape of a Government monopoly in the way suggested by honorable members opposite. I should apologize for detaining honorable members so long on this machinery measure, but as they have all, in discussing it, addressed their electors from one point of view, they may be patient during my endeavour to give a brief answer to their contentions.
– Yes; it has been brief. I can assure my honorable friends opposite that if I proposed to satisfactorily grapple with the supreme foolishness of universal nationalization, there are so many examples of failure in every sphere of industry which might be referred to that I should require many chapters and extensions before I could carry out my task. I have merely touched upon the subject in reply to my honorable friends, but I trust I have said enough to show that the electioneering exigencies of honorable members opposite are not in line with the true interests of the Australian people.
– This is one of the small, but important, measures which come before the House from time to time, and need all the scrutiny we can give them, both from the point of view of the public as well as the point of view of our own Constitution and Parliament. A laugh went round on the other side just now when the honorable member for Wentworth said that this Bill smacked of the coming elections. But it seems to me that there can be no doubt of it. To test this, I ask but one question about the Bill, and it is - why has it been so late in putting in an appearance ? The Government have been in office for nearly two years and six months, yet it is only now that this little machinery Bill to regulate the wages paid to those engaged in growing sugar makes its appearance. Why have over two years been allowed to elapse without anything being done in this connexion ? It is as clear as daylight to me what is the trouble. Pressure has been brought to bear upon the Government by means of the Caucus, I should say by the vigilant member for Capricornia, and several others, who dare not go back to their electors without something being done to bring about a better condition of affairs so far as their supporters are concerned. In fact, the honorable member for Capricornia practicallyadmitted as much. That is the pressure behind the Government, and that is why, at the eleventh hour of this Parliament, we have before us this belated little stranger, which is to do so much for my honorable friends opposite, and the people they represent.
This question of the sugar industry seems to be constantly with us. It is with us early and late in this Parliament. We have been talking sugar now during the whole twelve years of its existence, and we seem to be not appreciably nearer a solution of this complex and troublesome question than when we first set out in our reforming zeal, twelve years ago. I am sorry that the whole question of the employment of white labour in the industry should have come up in connexion with the discussion of a measure of this kind. It was dragged in by, amongst others, the honorable member for Capricornia, whose speech from one end to the other was a political speech. I do not think that that was wise.
– Are not all speeches political speeches?
-] shall say, then, that it was a party political speech. I do not think it is altogether wise to bring party antagonisms into the consideration of what is a fair thing to be done by the workers of Australia. If my honorable friends are going to make this Parliament a superior Arbitration Court, then arbitration im- ‘ plies that we should look at the matter impartially, and decide impartially; and, therefore, it is the very last arena into which fierce party feeling and prejudice should be allowed to be imported.
– Ah ! That is good.
– The honorable member smiles.
– -That is not bad, coming from the strongest party man in the House, I believe.
– My honorable friend does not understand the matter at all, I am afraid, or he would not speak like that.
– I think that both of you are very innocent of party politics.
– I tell the Minister frankly that I am so innocent that 1 do not quite understand this Bill. After having read it a number of times, I do not know exactly where he stands in regard to this matter, or what he is after. He proposes here, as I understand, to give himself the right of appeal to the Federal Arbitration Court, or to any Judge of a Federal or State Court, or any other person whom he likes to set up.
– I have that now.
– Then, what is the Bill for?
– I have now the right to appeal after the work is done ; but I prefer to appeal before the work is started, so that the people shall know under what terms they are producing the stuff.
– The Minister is seeking no further power than he has at present ?
– Only to refer the matter before the work is done.
– But has not the Minister power now to refer the matter to any Court?
– Yes, after the work is done.
– I should like to see some measure introduced in this Chamber which would settle, once and for all, the relations existing between the various factors which make up our sugar industry. With all our efforts, it seems to me we have not got very much farther in that direction. If this Government had not superciliously turned down the Royal Commission which the last Government set up, this inquiry would have been completed long ago, and, very possibly, by this time a set of regulations would have been framed which would have solved this question and taken it out of the arena of party politics. But when they came into office more than two years ago, they announced, with a flourish of trumpets, that there was no longer any need for the Royal Commission. After fooling about with the question for anothe<r eighteen months, they came back to the idea of a Royal Commission to make a full and complete inquiry into the ramifications and relations of the whole industry. The inquiry has been delayed, owing to one cause and another, and the Government are afraid that, unless they pass this little Bill, they will have to tell the sugar workers of Queensland that they have not been able to do anything for them during the three years in which they have held office. Clearly, therefore, the Bill has the influence of the next elections saturating it from beginning to end. Why the Minister should introduce it for the purpose of making the inquiry a little earlier, or a little later, I do not pretend to understand. What difference will it make, for instance, whether he refers the matter to the Judge at the beginning of the operation, or assumes that these wagesare being paid, and determines his attitude to the bounty accordingly, after he finds that there is a reason for withholding or giving it? I do not see what he hopes to’ gain by the Bill. Is he only considering the grower in what he is doing ? He tellsus now that there is no additional machinery sought to be set up to give the men any more wages than they have been able toget by other means. According to his interjection just now, therefore, there is nothing additional for the workers of Queensland in this measure. It is the grower, themillowner, the refiner, and the manufacturer whom he is considering, and he wants them to know the ground on which they stand.
– If the honorable member understood the question, he would know that we cannot deal with the refiner at all.
– That admission is something gained. Then, what had these diatribes against the refiner to dowith this question? We have had nothing to-night from every speaker on the other side but a diatribe against the Colonial Sugar Refining Company ; but now the Minister says that he has nothing to do- with them. It seems to me that there has been a lot of breath wasted to-night in fierce denunciation of a company which the Minister says he has not the power to touch.
– That is our trouble, of course.
– It is the honorable member’s trouble, is it?
– They want to touch the company for something.
– The Minister says that they cannot. What was the meaning of the speech by the- honorable member for Capricornia, who went into the operations of the company almost from A to Z, telling us what capital they had, what dividends they paid, and how they were a sinister influence exercising baleful effects upon the whole of Australia ? What did it all mean?
– How did it strike the honorable member?
– I am only pointing out that the very interjection of my honorable friend is entirely irrelevant. The Minister says now that the speech had nothing to do with the Bill, that they cannot touch the company with its provisions. If that is so, where is the relief to either the grower or the labouring man going to come from?
I, think that an industry like this which costs the community so much money to maintain, which is sheltered by an import duty of £6 per ton, ought “to pay a decent wage. There is no mistake about my attitude in that regard. J hold that, if an industry which gets, so we were told by the Minister to-day, a protection of nearly 50 per cent.,’ cannot pay a decent wage, it is in a very poor way. Having said that, I still come back to this point - that the Minister and those behind him do not propose to get at the real trouble from their point of view; and, therefore, there is an additional argument furnished for the statement made from this side that this is neither more nor less than a bit of electioneering.
– Oh, no.
– What else is it? The Minister admits that, he is not taking any additional power.
– It is an attempt to do what we are able to do under the law.
– The Minister says that we are not able to do anything. I quite agree with my honorable friends that they do not know what they are going to do, but they are going to do it. They do not know what they want, but they are asking for it.
– You do not know what you are doing, but you are doing it all right.
– Yes, he knows what he is doing.
– I am offering a few remarks on this Bill at present, and I am perfectly well aware of what I am doing. I think it is my duty to point out that, right from the onset, this Government have sought to humbug with this sugar question. Here is another specimen of their handiwork - a Bill which they say can have no effect. They admit that they have no power to touch the most important factor in sugar production. Every man on the other side gets up to denounce the sugar company, and the Minister answers all the speeches that have been made by saying that they are irrelevant, because the Bill has nothing to do with the Colonial Sugar Refining Company.
A question which ought to be put when measures of a partisan and sectional character such as this challenge our consideration, is : Why should the sugar industry be treated differently from other industries? In Victoria a duty of 40 per cent, or 50 per cent, is said to be a revenue and not a protective duty, so that I hardly know how to describe the sugar duty, which, according to the Minister, is nearly 50 per cent., while others make it 30 per cent., and others again something between the two. Supposing it to be 40 per cent., why should the sugar industry be treated differently from the shoe-making, hat-making, clothing, or other industries protected by similar duties ? Why should we single out one industry and apply special conditions to it, leaving the others untouched? We are here to treat alike all the industrial sections of our community. We ought not to make invidious distinctions.
– We shall deal with the other industries later.
– The Labour party has not dealt with the sugar industry in two and a half years, so that it will be a long time before it has dealt with it and all the other industries, and has given the workers the new Protection that they talk so much about.
– Wait until the referendum has been carried.
– That will be a long time. It will be a long time before the people surrender to this Government an iota of the large powers which they now possess. Their experience makes them wary. The question which I have asked should be answered : Why must the sugar industry be treated differently from other industries enjoying even a larger measure of protection, and subject to more favorable conditions? The Minister, in effect, says to the sugar-grower, “ Unless you do what I deem to be right, the effective duty on your sugar shall be £2 instead of£5 a ton.” The Government may fairly impose conditions in regard to industries which are being fostered by bounties given by the Treasury, but the sugar bounty is not given by the Treasury. Before any bounty can be obtained, the Excise must be paid by the growers. 1 believe that the honorable member for Richmond is right in saying that it is they who pay the Excise. I cannot think that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company pays it. Like every other company, it must be managed on business principles. It is the grower and the worker on whom the burden of the Minister’s conditions falls. The sugar bounty is not a bounty in the ordinary sense of the word.
– It is a sham.
– It is, in the sense that the word is a misnomer. More money is paid into the Treasury by the industry than is paid out to the industry. If I pay a man £4 and receive back £3, I cannot regard myself as enjoying his bounty. True bounties are paid for the encouragement of the iron industry, and the growing of tropical products, but not for the production of sugar.
– The honorable member says that it is the producer, and not the consumer, who pays the Excise.
– I say that every £1 that is paid out in bounty has first been collected.
– From whom ?
– From the industry.
– Does the manufacturer of whisky pay the Excise, and not the consumer ?
– The consumer pays it all.
– And so does “ the other fellow.”
– No, the grower pays it.
– Then, does some one get it twice over?
– I do not say that. I am inclined to think that the consumer does pay at the bottom. My candid opinion is that he pays the whole lot.
– The honorable member is right.
– It is not a fact.
– I dare say that we are both right.
– One honorable member says “No,” and the other says “Yes,” and they are both right.
– We cannot both be right.
– Yes, we can. The Government have been trying for two and a half years to get at the bottom of this mystery, and they know absolutely nothing about the matter. That being so, before theybegin to interrogate others as to where the trouble lies, had they not better find out where they are? They have their Commissions, their inquiries, and also their experts on the Government benches who talk sugar day after day. Yet they do not know where the trouble is. The Royal Commission does not seem to be inquiring rapidly enough to suit them, and here they are, plunging about, and saying, in effect, “ We know nothing about the ramifications of this industry, but here goes for a bit more money for the man who is engaged in tilling the soil.” That is the plain English of the Bill. My desire is that the growers of sugar shall get all that is their legitimate due, and which they ought rightfully to have, out of the Protection that is being afforded to them by this Parliament. The consumer is paying the amount of the duty.
– He is paying the duty, but not the Excise.
– If he is paying the duty then shall we say that the Excise, whoever immediately pays it, comes out of what the consumer originally pays.
– No. After all, it is a matter of bookkeeping.
– Exactly. Before the grower pays it to the Treasury, the consumer has, by the duty, to pay the grower. I do not think there is any real conflict between us. The honorable member is speaking of one operation, and I am speaking of another. There can be no doubt that the duty of £5 per ton is paid by the consumer.
– Six pounds per ton is paid.
– Yes; £5 of which is effective so far as the grower is concerned. I beg pardon for using the word “grower.” I do not know how much the grower, the man who does the. work, the mill-owner, or the refiner gets. We have had a Royal Commission inquiring for months, and they are supposed to tell us all that is to be told about this business. ‘ They are to set this matter right, taking for their supreme objective the settlement of the question upon lines that will be equitable to all concerned. But I make the confession that I do not know what is right for each section of the community, and I say equally that the Minister himself knows nothing about it. The position is the same ir: regard to the Prime Minister, who hails from Queensland.
This Bill is largely a piece of makebelieve - largely a piece of electioneering. The Government, so far, have been unable to find a solution of this question, owing to the way they have bungled it from the onset, and because of their dilatoriness in failing to appoint a Commission eighteen months before they actually did so. They wasted the bulk of the time of this Parliament in leaving matters as they were, and then appointed a Commission which does not appear to be getting a very smooth passage. Tn sheer despair they now rush down with a proposal of this kind, saying, “ We must do something before we go back to the electors.” That is not the right way to treat this troublesome, delicate, difficult question. Above all .else, we ought to treat every section of our industrials in the same equitable manner. We ought not to impose on one section conditions that we do not impose upon every other section of the community. We should be anxious to deal out even-handed justice, and to impose the same disabilities or grant the same privileges, as the case may be, in respect of all.
Here we have another effort to bring about new Protection - to see that the worker gets a proper share of any duty that may be imposed from time to time. Altogether, it seems to me to be a very clumsy effort. I cannot gather from the Minister’s statement what the Bill is intended to do. Will it have any effect in connexion with any industry now working under a Board? Has not a local Board already the power to fix wages and conditions for this industry?
– There is no Wages Board in connexion with rural industries.
– I understand that a Wages Board is to be appointed in Queensland in connexion with the sugar industry.
– There is one which applies to factories.
– Is there none applying to the sugar industry ?
– Not in respect of field work.
– The necessary Bill is now before the Queensland Parliament.
– It seems to me that that Bill might very well have been hurried on if the industry is to be so regulated.
– It is very improbable that it will include the sugar workers.
– I understand that the Premier of Queensland has pledged himself to include them. I do not know why this Bill has been introduced at the present stage. Does the Minister of Trade and Customs want to get ahead of the Queensland Government, or has the question become so urgent in the Caucus that the Bill must materialize willy-nilly in this way ?
– The honorable member’s complaint against us a few moments ago was that we had been guilty of delay.
– The Government have been guilty of delay as well as bungling. That is what has thrown them into the sorry mess in which they now find themselves. So far as this Bill is concerned, it will be of great educative value to the public to know that whoever else it is to affect, the great sugar company cannot be touched by it in any degree. It is outside altogether, and, therefore, all these fulminations against the monopoly of sugar go by the board, as not being in point at all in connexion with a Bill of this kind.
I often marvel at the way this Parliament will address itself to some aspect of what we popularly and loosely call monopoly in this House. The Sugar Company is denounced from the housetops by all my friends opposite as being in the nature of a huge, overwhelming monopoly, paying immense dividends. The honorable member for Capricornia has made that statement again to-night. But there are other big businesses in Australia paying us large dividends, and we never hear a word about them. At the last annual meeting of the Sugar Company it was, I think, stated that the profit for the year was £250,000, and, strange to say, almost the next day one of the large breweries in Australia announced the same profit for the year. Not a word is said by my honorable friends about that monopoly. It is only this monopoly of sugar that seems to be vexing their souls. One meets these strange anomalies in their attitude from time to time, until no fellow can understand what prompts their actions generally. The company is being denounced all over Australia as a huge monopoly, an octopus that has seized upon the people, or as a set of individuals who fleece the working man ; and the evidence cited is that they make so many hundred thousand pounds a year in the shape of profits. There are a number of other companies that make practically the same profits every year, but about which we never hear a breath in this House, while the Sugar Company is singled out. If it is a monopoly, acting in restraint of trade, and detrimentally to the public, the sooner its wings are clipped the better; but we should know this upon authoritative evidence, and, its harmfulness to the community and to those engaged in the sugar industry should be proved. An effort to supply the proof is in process, but the Government will not wait until the matter can be inquired into in an expert way, and, may I hope, notwithstanding the partial composition of the Commission, in an impartial way. They will not wait even for their own Commission. This Bill is the clearest demonstration to the public of the way my honorable friends opposite bungle all their work, and all their legislation, particularly that which relates to the wages and conditions of those engaged in our industrial enterprises.
– I do not rise necessarily for the purpose of opposing the Bill, although I am distinctly of the opinion that the Minister of Trade and Customs has made out no case of urgency for its introduction. I admit that the growers of sugar in Queensland should have some idea in advance of what would be regarded by the Minister as a fair and reasonable rate of wage. In 1907, it became necessary for me, as a member of the Government of the day, to look closely into this question. The right honorable member for Swan and I, on behalf of the Government, attended the Premiers’ Conference at Brisbane, and we were requested bv our colleague, the then Minister of Trade and Customs, to investigate the question on the spot, and ascertain for his guid ance the ruling or standard rate of wages, so as to enable him to exercise his discretion in the terms of the Sugar Bounty Act. We did so. The object of our inquiry was not to fix the rate of wage, but to ascertain what the standard or ruling rare was. After hearing deputations from al) parties, making inquiries from all sides, and giving every one interested iri the industry an opportunity to make representations, we came to the conclusion that the ruling rate of wage was 22s. 6d. and found for the off season, and 25s. so far as the harvest was concerned. Those rates of wages were generally accepted all round as reasonably satisfactory. During the course of our inquiry we also investigated the suggestion for the abolition of both the bounty and Excise. It was felt by some that this course might possibly interfere at that stage with the White Australia policy, but, on the whole, the trend of feeling was in favour of simplifying matters by adopting it. I would contrast the investigation we made to ascertain the ruling rate of wages with the sudden manner in which the present Minister of Trade and Customs has swooped down upon the industry by the alteration of the rate of wages to such a large extent - without full inquiry, and certainly without affording the parties vitally interested an opportunity to be heard - that, in my opinion, is wrong, and a great mistake. I, for one, do not oppose the increase of the wages. I welcome it in connexion with this industry, as with other industries, but it is reasonable to suggest that we should first be satisfied that the industry, which we have all been anxious to maintain and encourage, is able to pay it. My honorable friend’s action has been grossly unfair to the industry, and his sudden promulgation of the new rate of wage has dealt it a heavy blow. That is a reason why he should hesitate. The honorable member for Richmond said that the increase in the rate of wage, taking into consideration the reduction in the hours of work, was 60 per cent. That statement’ was challenged by the Minister and others, but is absolutely correct. The wages at present are 25s. It is proposed by the new regulations to increase them’ to 36s. That is an increase of us., or 44 per cent. The hours have been reduced from fifty-eight to forty-eight. That is a reduction of ten hours, amounting, at the 25s. rate, to 4s. 4d., or 17 per cent. Thus the total increase of wages has been 61 per cent.
– Then the honorable member says the men were getting 25s. a week for fifty-eight hours’ work?
– Not in all cases. I believe that in some districts the men are getting more than in others, and that is just the difficulty. The sugar areas are divided into four districts. In some districts the rate of wages is higher than in others. It is proposed to make a uniform rate, according to the regulations of the Minister of Trade and Customs. But the point that I am making is that by one fell swoop wages in the industry are being increased by 61 per cent.
– In certain parts.
– In certain parts; but I am not complaining of the increase in wages. What I am complaining about is that my honorable friend is not at the same time complying with the reasonable request that some encouragement should be given to the industry to enable the growers to pay the increased rate of wage. I say at once that my right honorable friend the Prime Minister is justified in what he has suggested, namely, that the bounty and Excise should be abolished.
– That would hand the growers over, body and soul, to the Colonial Sugar Refining Company.
– The proposition emanates from the right honorable the Prime Minister, and if any one is to be blamed for it, the Minister of Trade and Customs ought to blame his chief.
– But he has not proposed to do that at once.
– If the proposition is good for a short time hence, it is good now.
– Mark, that the Prime Minister’s suggestion is conditional.
– I think very little of the condition. Black-grown sugar is, I believe, a vanishing quantity in Australia. It represents, at the present moment, about 4 per cent.
– I do not think that it amounts to 4 per cent.
– I think it is about that, or slightly over.
– Unrestricted, there would be a return to 25 per cent, in a few years.
– I do not think that the black-grown sugar could be increased as suggested, in view of the immigration policy, which is being administered by the Government themselves. Indeed, there is no means of increasing black’ labour because it is not available.
– There are still 60,000 coloured people.
– Not in Queensland.
– In Australia.
– In various parts of Australia, perhaps. I believe that the Queensland Government are fully prepared to comply with the condition that has been suggested by my right honorable friend ; and, if that be so, in justice to the growers andto the industry, there should not be dealt out to the industry the staggering blow that has been dealt’ by the regulation of the Minister of Trade and Customs. What I urge is that the Government should introduce the two propositions at the one time. If they choose to introduce the proposition which has for its object an increase of the wage, well and good. I do not complain. But I do complain that they do not do that justice to the industry which would follow from abolishing the Excise and the bounty. That seems to me, as the result of my investigations in 1907, to be the idea that is dominating Queensland. It would have the effect of simplifying the industry and giving a more direct encouragement to it. The original object of the imposition of this Excise was to penalize the employer of black labour. That must always be borne in mind. The encouragement of the industry was not the primary object ; that was, of course, accomplished by the Customs duty. To a large extent, the industry was already protected. In Victoria, although we did not grow sugar here, there was an import duty of £6 per ton. In Queensland, there was an import duty of £5. In New South Wales, there was an import duty of£5, subsequently reduced to £3 by Sir George Reid. In South Australia, there was an import duty of £3. If I remember rightly, sugar was free in Western Australia. Federation came about, and of course the idea and object then was to conserve the Australian market for the sugar-growers of the north. We have sought to give them every encouragement in that way. The design and object of this House, manifested in our legislation, was first of all, by the Excise and bounty, to establish the White Australia policy, and next, by the £6 import duty, to encourage the industry in every possible way. It has, I think, been proved by the honorable member for
Richmond, that the growers pay the Excise. I came to the same conclusion after giving some attention to the subject. I confess at once that I am not so completely au fail with the matter as I was a few’ years ago ; but, speaking broadly and generally, and as the result of my investigation, I think, with the honorable member for Richmond, that it is the grower who pays the Excise.
– Either the grower or the consumer has to pay.
– It is contended by some of my honorable friends opposite that the Excise is paid by the consumer. I do not agree with this contention. If I remember rightly, the process is this : The mill-owner collects the Excise from the grower. Then the mill-owner pays the money to the Government.
– Does the honorable member say that the mill-owner collects the Excise from the grower?
– How does he collect it?
– At present, the Excise is deducted from the price of cane.
– How is it that the price of cane has gone up every time the Excise has been increased?
– The practice is to reduce the price of cane to the grower by the amount of Excise. And what is more, the miller is prepared to enter into an undertaking, if the Excise and bounty are abolished, to guarantee to increase the price of cane to the grower by the1 amount of the Excise. lt is a misconception that the consumer pays the Excise. I remind honorable members of the fundamental fact that the price of sugar in Australia is fixed by the world’s price. If, for example, the price in the Mauritius or Java is £12 a ton, then to this there has to be added the import duty of £6, together with freight, insurance, trade profit, and the cost of distribution. These charges, I understand, are recognised to average about £2 per ton, so that we have the price of sugar fixed at £20 by the world’s market. Under the circumstances it is not practicable for the price to fluctuate within Australia itself; and the bounty and Excise do not in the remotest degree influence the price. If we abolish the bounty and Excise we do not affect the price to the consumer in any way.
– Nobody has urged that we do.
– I understand that the great argument of honorable members opposite is that the Excise is paid by; the consumer.
– So it is.
– That is a falla.cious idea, for the reasons I have mentioned. There need be no fear that the consumer will suffer by the abolition of the bounty and Excise.
– If they were abolished the Treasury would lose £1 per ton.
– That may be. The Treasury, I understand, would lose about £150,000, but it is proposed by the Minister to saddle the industry with an additional burden, of £500,000, which it is unable to bear. Therefore, I’ urge that, contemporaneously with this measure, there should be introduced another providing for the abolition of the bounty and Excise.
– How does the honorable member account for an increase in the Australian price when the outside price is not increased ?
– The Australian price cannot legitimately so increase, haying regard to the facts I have mentioned.
– Given that these factors are stationary, how does the honorable member account for the increase in the Australian price?
– There can only be an increase corresponding to the outside world’s price. The Excise was imposed for the purpose of penalizing the employer of black labour, and if, as is now suggested, the Excise is passed on to the consumer, it has lamentably failed, but, as a matter of fact, it has not failed in the object for which it was introduced, viz., the establishment of a White Australia. If, however, that same Excise has been passed on to, and paid by, the consumer, then it has been a hideous failure, at least to that extent. I would point out, moreover, that if it were a fact that the consumer pays the Excise there would be a difference in Australia between black-grown sugar and white-grown sugar amounting to £3 ; but we know, as a matter of fact, that that is not so. I, therefore, contend that all the circumstances go to prove that the Excise is paid by the grower himself, and not by the consumer. A serious feature is, as I have been informed on reliable authority, that this regulation has already made itself seriously felt, inasmuch as a large number of men have been dismissed.
– The growers were advised in the Sugar Journal to dismiss all the men they could.
– I am afraid that the Bill will result in re-creating large estates, instead of multiplying the number of small growers, and will thus bring about a substantial decrease in production. The Minister, in this Bill, asks us to make somewhat important changes; and I do not exactly follow the terms he uses. I see that he relies on the Excise Procedure Act of 1907 for some of his machinery ; but in the first portion of the Bill he refers to “ fair and reasonable “ wages, and, later on, speaks of the standard rate of wages and conditions. This seems to me inconsistent. Then the honorable gentleman proposes to resort to a Commonwealth tribunal which was established for a totally different purpose. It was established for the purpose of settling disputes as between the States, and now, although action has been promised by the State Parliament, he asks for authority to interfere with the industrial power of the State, and fix what wages shall be paid within the State. This Bill does not affect the whole of Australia, but, at most, two States.
– Is sugar not produced in Victoria ?
– Not at the present time, and certainly not cane sugar.
– This Bill deals with both cane sugar and beet sugar.
– As a matter of fact, there is no sugar produced in Victoria. My point is that this Commonwealth tribunal was established to settle disputes as between the States - that is to say, InterState disputes - but now the Minister proposes to utilize it for the purpose of fixing wages in an industry of a particular State. That is against the whole spirit of our arbitration machinery. I shall not oppose the Bill, because I feel that it is desirable that the sugar-growers should know what rate of wages the Minister would consider reasonable. Unless they know beforehand what will be regarded as a fair rate of wages, they may be innocently engaged in growing their crop while the wages paid by them may not be deemed satisfactory by the Minister. I do urge strongly upon the Minister that contemporaneously with the great alteration he is now making, he should at least provide some means to enable those engaged in the industry to pay the additional rates of wages, and should, therefore, abolish the bounty and Excise.
– Listening to the speech of the honorable member for Capricornia, I should have expected him to conclude by advocating the abolition, or at least the reduction, of the duty on sugar. The honorable member did not seem disposed to do that. But if the arguments of the honorable member, and others who have spoken on the other side, are based upon facts, the proper remedy for the growers of sugar would be the abolition of the duty. The argument from the other side is that the growers derive no benefit from the duty, that the people of Australia are paying £6,000,000 annually for their sugar because of the duty, and that the only persons who derive any benefit from it are the shareholders of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, who are making a tremendous lot of money out of the business. Assuming that argument to be founded on fact, I should have expected that honorable members submitting it would naturally urge the Government to abolish a duty which they declare is adding enormous profits to the gains of the Sugar Trust, and is ineffective for the purpose for which it was imposed. I do not believe in the duty on sugar, or duties on any staple commodity used by the people.
– The Liberal League, of which the honorable member for Ballarat is a prominent member, says that these duties must stop on.
– I do not know what the honorable member is referring to. He is probably speaking of a section of people in Victoria, of whom 1 know nothing personally.
– The honorable member’s leader is a prominent member of the League.
– 1 cannot help that. The Leader of the Opposition has his own fiscal opinions, which coincide with those of some honorable members on the other side. I know that the opinions of many of my honorable friends opposite are in conflict on the fiscal question. The Minister of Trade and Customs and the AttorneyGeneral, for instance, are at opposite poles on the fiscal question. So that when honorable members opposite talk to me about the opinions of my leader in this matter, I may retort that they should not throw stones, seeing that the fiscal glass houses in which they live are of the most brittle description. We agree to differ on the fiscal question. I am somewhat disappointed by the attitude of some honorable members opposite in regard to this question. If the position is that the people of Australia are paying £6,000,000 annually from which they derive no benefit, the sooner they are relieved of this enormous burden the better. I can assure honorable members opposite that I am willing to give them all the assistance I possibly can in that direction. But, apparently, the lifting of this enormous load off the people’s back is the last thing the Labour party are willing to do. I might remind the House that before Federation we were producing sugar by white labour in New South Wales, with a duty of only £3 per ton. There was no black labour employed in the Northern River districts of New South Wales in the production of sugar, and yet it was profitably grown with a duty of only half that imposed by the Commonwealth.
– Does the honorable member suggest that we should reduce the duty to £3 per ton ?
– Certainly. So far as I am concerned, I should prefer to see it abolished altogether. I would give people their sugar as cheaply as possible. I have not hesitated at any time to say that I would remove all the burdens which fall heaviest on the back of labour. I do not see why the poorest class of the community should be saddled with the heaviest burdens of taxation, and that is what happens when we tax clothing, foodstuffs, and the household necessities of the people. Ever since I have been a member of this House, and before I came here, I have advocated the reduction to the lowest point, and where possible the abolition, of all duties which press heavily on people who have nothing but the earnings of their ki. our on which to depend for their sustenance. I am aware that some honorable members on this side, as well as on the other side, do not hold these views. They apparently believe that a community cap grow rich by taxing itself, and the more it taxes itself the richer it will become. That is a. line of reasoning I have never been able to follow. I am unable to accept the conclusion of the honorable members for Richmond and Kooyong that the growers pay the Excise. It has been argued that that must be so because, we are informed, the millers are prepared to pay to the growers a sum equal to the amount of the Excise if it is abolished. That may be so, but where are the cane-millers going to get the money from? We know very well that the cost will be debited to the general industry, and that in this case, as in every other, it is the consumer who must ultimately foot the bill. Though it may appear on the surface that the growers are paying the Excise, as a matter of fact it is the consumer who is paying all the time. So far as the employment of coloured labour is concerned, we all know that bounty, duty and Excise have been decided upon in the interests of- keeping the industry white. Long before there was a sugar industry we had attempts made to keep Australia white for every industry. In Quick and Garran’s Commentaries on the Constitution reference is made, on page 624, to an immigration law which was passed in 1855 by the Legislative Council of Victoria, by which they attempted to restrict Chinese immigration; and a few years later - in 1861, I think it was - Sir Henry Parkes introduced similar legislation in New South Wales. So that this idea of a White Australia is not one which has simply been associated with the sugar industry, but one which has been in the minds of Australian statesmen for generations past, and for many years before a Labour party was ever even thought of. At any rate, so far as the sugar industry in Queensland is concerned, the original purpose of the bounty and the duty was to keep the industry white. I think that the percentage now of alien coloured labour in that industry is very small indeed - a trifle over 4 per cent. The kanaka labour has long since been deported. I remember well that when these charges were proposed the idea in the minds of members of this House was that the bounty would be a diminishing quantity, and would cease in the course of a few years. I believe it was the late member for Corinella, Colonel McCay, who proposed an amendment to the effect that the bounty should gradually diminish, first to two-thirds, and next to one-third, finally vanishing. But as soon as the time was approaching for the bounty to disappear, we found some of our Queensland friends getting up and pointing out that the industry would languish and die out unless the bounty were revived. But I am quite in agreement with those who say that the industry ought to pay the current rates of wages. I do not see why we should continue to saddle the people with the enormous cost of maintaining the industry if it is not going to do what we were told would be done if we were to take these large sums annually out of the pockets of the people. So far as I can see from the tenor of this Bill, the Minister wants to get power to appeal to certain tribunals for the purpose of ascertaining and determining what wages and conditions of employment are reasonable for labour employed in the production of white-grown sugar-cane and beet ; and in the event of growers not complying with the conditions laid down by such tribunals, he wants to reserve to himself the right to withhold the payment of the bounty. If, under the special conditions which surround the industry, and the large financial buttresses which it has received from the Treasury and at the hands of the public, it is not able to stand fair and reasonable conditions of wages and employment, then it is for us to consider whether it is worth preserving.. I do not think we should tax in perpetuity people who find the tax a very heavy burden on their shoulders to keep an industry going which, even with all this heavy financial propping by the Government, is not able to pay decent rates of wages. If it isnot capable of doing that with all the financial assistance it has got, I doubt very much whether this Bill is worth anything at all, or whether the industry is worth considering. If it be true, as stated, that the sugar-growers are not getting any benefit from the duty or the bounty, then I, for one, am perfectly willing to assist any honorable members on the other side in reducing or abolishing them.
– - Are you a “ wholehogger”?
– What is the use of it ? When we were asked by honorable members representing Queensland sugar districts to support these measures, the plea put forward was that if the people would only consent, through their representatives, to make these monetary sacrifices to get rid of black labour, and to establish the sugar industry on a white basis, then the industry could be so established and the standard rates of wages paid. In the whole of Australia there is no other industry which has ‘been so much trouble to the Federal Parliament, or such a heavy burden on the taxpayers of the country.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause1 (Short title and citation).
– I ask the Minister in charge of the Bill to consent to an adjournment now.
– It is a fair thing on Tuesday night.
-It should not take long to-morrow.
– I have no objection, if honorable members do not want to proceed further. The measure is urgent ; the principle of it has been discussed, and we might very well vote on it.
– It will not take long; leave it till to-morrow.
– With the promise that it will not take long, I consent to an adjournment.
– So far as I know, it will not take long; but I will not give an absolute promise.
House adjourned at 10.5 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 17 September 1912, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1912/19120917_reps_4_66/>.