4th Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
-Is the Prime Minister yet in a position to lay on the table all the correspondence relating to the occupancy of Government House, Sydney, by the GovernorGeneral ?
– Yesterday, I informed the House that there was one paper on the file which I wished to lay on the table, but that the Premier of New South Wales seemed to think that it ought not to be made public. I shall now lay on the table copies of all the papers that were yesterday laid on the table of the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales, keeping back that to which I have referred, about which I have communicated with the Premier of the State, but have received no reply.
MINISTERS laid upon the table the following papers : -
Electoral Act. - Further Report, with Map, by the three Commissioners appointed for the purpose of redistributing the State of Western Australia into Electoral Divisions.
Government House, Sydney. - Copy of correspondence between the Government of the Commonwealth and the Government of New South Wales respecting occupancy by the Governor-General.
Ordered to be printed.
– When may we expect from the Minister of Trade and Customs a comparative statement of the prices of produce at Home and in Australia for the six months for which he did not give us information when answering a previous question ?
– About two days after the question was asked, I laid on the table a statement giving the information available up to the present time. If there is any other information for which the honorable member wishes that I can get, I shall be pleased to lay it on the table of the House.
– I wish to know from the Minister representing the Minister of Defence if the latter has yet made up his mind as to whether all applicants, or onlythose whom the selection committee has chosen, shall be permitted to present themselves for examination for admission to the Naval College?
– I understand that the Minister does not propose to make any alteration in the regulations as they now exist.
– Does that mean that it is his intention that only those who are selected shall be permitted to present themselves for examination?
– I can scarcely tell the honorable member what the regulations mean without having them before me, so that I may give an opinion upon them. His question related generally to certain regulations respecting entry to the Naval College, the true purport of which, I believe, the honorable member understands. The reply of the Minister is that he does not propose to alter those regulations.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether, having heard the answer just given, he agrees with it, and whether he proposes to permit any selection board in this country to prohibit any citizen, or the son of any citizen, from presenting himself for examination for entrance to the Naval College ?
– I am not sufficiently acquainted with the regulations to express an opinion upon them, and, therefore, should like notice of the question. I am bound to stand by the regulations until they have been altered.
Compulsory Training of Cadets.
– I have received an intimation from the honorable member for North Sydney that he desires to move the adjournment of the House to discuss a definite matter of urgent public importance, viz., “ The unsatisfactory state of affairs in connexion with the compulsory training of our cadets.”
Five honorable members having risen in their places,
.- I make no apology for having taken this course, because it is the only one which enables an honorable member to bring forward matters of public importance; and that to which I wish to direct attention is of the greatest importance. All will admit that we have in Australia the right material for the making of an ideal army. There are not many nations whose youth would show so much keenness and intelligence in training themselves for the defence of their country as ours have shown. There are not many nations whose youth would be ready to drill at night in the light of a miserable lamp, a non-commissioned officer following at their heels with a lantern in order that the commanding officer might see whether they are or are not in step. But, in spite of their keenness and intelligence, our compulsory scheme of training is becoming more and more hopeless. I cannot imagine any body of legislators framing laws compelling boys to register and to attend drills without making compliance with these laws compulsory.
– I suppose that the honorable member knows that to-morrow is Grievance Day.
– The Prime Minister did not make any apology for taking from private members the time allowed for the discussion of their business. At the beginning, there were very few absentees from cadet drills ; and, had an example been made of those absentees, the present state of affairs would not exist. But there was a laxity displayed by the Department which, to say the least of it, was very culpable.’
– It was due to a want of courage.
– No doubt.. The Government was afraid of losing the votes of the parents of these youths, with the result that it has come to be generally understood that a cadet’s attendance at parade is practically voluntary. When the parents of one boy saw that another boy absented himself from parades and received no punishment, they naturally asked why their own boys should attend. Things went from bad to worse, until at last there were 20,000 defaulters. This disclosed a very serious state of affairs, as such a number of defaulters means that the scheme is breaking down. Instead of these first defaulters being punished, they were threatened by the Area Officer, for instance, that if they were not efficient for the year, it would be entered against them in their books, and they would have to complete another year’s service after the age of twenty-six. Imagine the effect of a threat of that kind upon a boy of fourteen. When I was fourteen, I looked upon the age of twenty-six as something in the far distant future.
– Are you making reference to a regulation or to a section in the Act?
– As a matter of fact, this was under the regulations. Under the Act, the boys who are defaulters are to be handed over to the custody of a military officer. This means that a boy is supposed to report himself to a military officer to carry out the drills that he has missed. In some training centres, three defaulters may turn up to do four hours’ drill. No instructor can drill three boys for four hours. The sergeant-major, who is the instructor, has his clerical work to do in his office, and the result is that he sets the boys to clean out the office, or to clean rifles, or something of that sort, to put in their four hours. This does not make for efficiency. In many training centres, there is perhaps only half a company of boys, and in that there might be only one defaulter. That boy has to undergo four hours’ drill. The non-commissioned officer is supposed to go to the training centre - and it might take him two days to get there - in order to drill one boy for four hours. The thing is absolutely preposterous.
– Would the honorable member suggest that the boy be birched?
– It is for the Department to get over the difficulties which they have brought upon themselves. So many wrong and ridiculous orders have been given that I propose to refer to one or two of them. The latest Military Order re prosecutions, promulgated on 3rd August last, is as follows -
Commandant, Military District.
Prosecution of Senior Cadets.
The summons should be served by a member of the Battalion or Area Staff, thereby affording such member a better opportunity of getting into touch with the Cadets on his strength as well as to save, in most cases, a sum equal to the cost of the summons, which is generally charged if an officer of the Court serves same.
This means that the unfortunate noncommissioned officer, who is the drill instructor in the area, is supposed to deliver the summonses himself. Let me point out what this means to him. I have taken one country area, and the summonses which were actually issued in it, as an example. With this as a basis, I propose to show the distance that the sergeant-major would have to walk to deliver them. The distance from a training centre is a limit of 5 miles, and we may take it that the boys who made default would most likely be those living furthest away. There were four training centres in this one country area, and if the sergeant-major had to serve the summonsesfrom those centres to the residences of the cadets who actually had summonses served on them, he would have had to travel from No. 1 centre, 13 miles ; from No. 2 centre,. 8 miles; from No. 3 centre, 18 miles ; and1 from No. 4 centre, 27 miles. That make* a total of 66 miles which he would havehad to walk ; and, at the same time, carryout the many duties he has to perform. Thenoncommissioned officers are overworked asit is, many of them now having to perform the work of two men each. Imagine one of them having to walk 66 miles to servethese summonses.
– That is an assumption on* your part.
– It is a fact. I havegiven the summonses actually served on boys, and I have also given the distances.
– You have not named thedistrict.
– I have taken a country area, and am not going to name it. I havetaken the distances from the homes of theboys that were actually summoned. If I do not choose to give the name of the area, I need not do so. The honorable memberwill want me to give the names of the boysnext. So far, the summonses have been’ served by mounted police; but the neworder which I have quoted puts the work; on the Instructional Staff.
– It is not a fact, then, that it has been done by the non-commissioned officers ?
– An order has been issued that it shall be done by them in the future. In the country districts, the summonses are served by a trooper ; but the unfortunate non-commissioned officer has not a horse, and therefore will have to walk in order to serve them.
– You ought to know better, Colonel ; I am sorry you do not.
– The Honorary Minister will have a chance of explaining. How would he serve the summonses? Besides having to walk from each training centre to the residences of the cadets, the sergeantmajor would have to take the train to reach the centres before he started walking.
– It is a pity he does not crawl !
– I should not say that these men are crawlers. They have plenty of work to do. He has to take to Shanks’ pony or Irish tandem. That is the only way in which he can serve the summonses. A very important order has been issued in connexion with musketry. It is absolutely incomprehensible to me that such an order should have “ emanated from the military authorities. I do not say that the Minister of Defence is personally to blame, though he is nominally responsible. He must, of course, rely upon his professional advisers, who are supposed to understand their business.
– Do they not?
– I think they do not. At all events, whoever was responsible for the promulgation of this order did not understand his business. The difficulty is to find out w”ho is responsible. I take this particular order out of a number which I consider to be wrong. It must be recollected that these cadets were served with rifles only in November last. There was a month’s interval from drill during the Christmas holidays. Of course, musketry is absolutely the most important part of a soldier’s training. Even amongst adults a great deal of time is needed for musketry training. Before a man can be called a trained soldier, and can be regarded as proficient in the use of the rifle - that is to say, in its use under all the conditions which may pertain in war - he has to go through a protracted course of training. First of all, the recruits’ course takes from six weeks to three months of continuous, training in the use of the rifle. After the recruit is to that extent qualified, he has to go through the trained soldiers’ course, which will take probably six months of continuous training. So much training is necessary before a soldier is permitted to engage in field practice. But, in connexion with these cadets, an order was issued which required them to engage in battalion competitions with the rifle before they were anything like proficient in its use. There is no getting away from the meaning of the order, which was distinct and definite, and was promulgated from Head-quarters, Sydney to the District Commandants, and from them to the Brigade Majors and Area Officers. In one paragraph, the order says -
All members of the Administrative and Instructional Staff will assist in these competitions.
That is to say, in the battalion competitions. Further on we find it ordered in connexion with competitions that -
The Committee concerned will arrange the match as far as possible in the form of a simple tactical exercise with ball cartridge.
Any one who understands anything about soldiering must see what that means. It means field practice with ball ammunition for these boys. The order continues -
The details of the exercise must not be made known to teams until the day of competition.
Ranges will not exceed 400 yards. Conditions will include an advance in skirmishing order and utilization of natural or provided cover; “ slow “ fire at a fixed service target ; snapshooting at disappearing targets and at moving figure; 320 rounds per team will be issued.
That is the order which was issued to the Brigade Majors and the Area Officers, to be by them carried out with boys who had had only a few hours’ training with the rifle. I have already pointed out that the rifles were only issued in November, and these competitions were supposed to take place in April. The boys had not gone through a course of musketry. Many of them hardly knew what a rifle was. They did not know what the trigger was for, or how to hold the weapon. If I had had a boy in the cadets, I should have absolutely refused to allow him to take part in any competition under such conditions.
– Would the honorable member rebel?
– I certainly would not allow a boy of mine to risk his life in this way ; because it would absolutely be a risk of life for boys who had had only a few hours! drill with the rifle to engage in field practice with ball cartridge. The thing is absolutely ridiculous, and any one who knows anything about military matters will recognise at once that it is so. I do not know what the results would have been if the order had been carried out. Probably, there would have been loss of life. But the order was absolutely ignored by the Brigade Majors and Area Officers engaged in carrying out the compulsory training system.
– To what order is the honorable member alluding?
– It is order 4.97, subclause (2), paragraph (b), issued in 1911.
– Whom would the honorable member sack, the men who issued the order or the officers who refused to obey it?
– I do not know who should be sacked, but something will have to be done, or the scheme of training will absolutely break down. Things are becoming more hopeless every day. What I have said is known to be absolutely correct by all military men, and especially by the instructors engaged in carrying ‘out the scheme. The reason why the order was not carried out is that the officers realized that it would mean disaster to attempt it. Imagine boys of fourteen years of age, who had had only a few hours’ experience of the rifle, engaging in field practice with ball cartridge ! The Department evidently did not realize that a mistake had been made; in spite of the fact that at a school held in July, in Victoria Barracks, Sydney, including all the Area Officers and all the Instructional Staff in New South Wales, a Conference was held, and a resolution passed dealing with this very question. The Minister took absolutely no cognisance ofthe resolution. To show that there was no recognition of any blunder having been perpetrated, I propose to quote from the report by the Minister of Defence on the progress of universal training for the year ended 30th June, 191 2. In paragraph 52 we have the statement -
For the first year the number of teams competing in the local battalion series has been somewhat disappointing -
As a matter of fact, only a few teams from schools and colleges, the members of which had been using the rifle for some years before this system came into force, actually competed. There were no teams from the areas. The officers dared not carry out the orders given. This state of affairs is subversive to all discipline. Is it not absurd that printed orders issued from headquarters should be absolutely ignored? Such, however, is the fact. To show that the Minister did not realize that any mistake had been made, and that he took no notice of the representations made by officers possessing expert and local knowledge, I am quoting this paragraph, which continues - but this can perhaps be accounted for by the fact that many of the officers and instructors considered that their companies had not attained a sufficient degree of efficiency to enable them to compete with any likelihood of success.
It is not suggested that any danger would have been involved in carrying out these exercises. The Minister misses the whole point. He says, further -
In future it is intended that area officers and members of the Instructional Staff should he given to understand that any of their companies failing to be represented in the local battalion competitions without sufficient reason being given will be considered as a lack of enthusiasm- on their part, and an -entry will be made accordingly in their official records.
The men are reprimanded for not carrying out the order - for failing to select teams to compete.
– There is no reprimand in the paragraph read by the honorable member. It is merely an intimation that the battalions must be up to a certain standard within a given time.
– The officers are told that if they do not send along teams in future an official entry will be made against their records. I should like now to refer to a question affecting the pay branch of the Department. Area Officers and members of the Instructional Staff are subjected to very great annoyance and inconvenience and, in many cases, to great loss, in connexion with this branch of the service. Let me explain the system adopted in financing areas. In connexion with each area there is what is known as a contingent fund, made up of ,£15 granted for each training centre in the area, and is. per head for every cadet within that area. Out of that contingent fund disbursements have to be made by the Area Officer for rent of office, storerooms, and drill halls, purchase of stamps and stationery, for the payment of markers where there is a local range, and for train faxes to convey lads to ranges when there is no local range available. Under the universal training regulations, each Area Officer is supposed to receive a sum of ^10 to meet disbursements, and when he has expended that amount, he is required to forward vouchers and receipts to the Department, which will then” make him a. further instalment. The unfortunate Area Officer, however, has to wait three months, in some cases, for his money. This first instalment of £10 is not given to him at the beginning of the financial year. Sometimes weeks, and even months, elapse before he obtains it, and by that time he has spent, perhaps, from ^10 to £20. He sends in his vouchers, and is then kept out of his money from seven weeks to three months. I know of instances where an Area Officer has been out of pocket for the time being to the extent of ^40 or ,£50. The money, of course, is eventually refunded, but owing to departmental red-tape this delay takes place, and great annoyance and inconvenience is caused. Some of the officers have private means, and can afford to wait for the money, but all cannot do so. This delay in making payment has the effect of causing increased rates to be charged for drill halls, store-rooms, and so forth. Tradespeople, for instance, who conduct a cash business do not care to wait three months for their money, and, as a result of the system, the Department has to incur additional expense. The matter requires very serious consideration. The Area Officers cannot afford to wait for their money, and members of the Instructional Staff are in an even worse position. The sergeant-majors, when travelling, have to provide for their own board and lodging, and have then to send in to the Department what is known as a “ route “ showing what they have expended, so that they may be reimbursed. They are supposed to get the money so expended returned to them-
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– Very well, sir, I am sorry that I have not been able to complete my speech.
.- The honorable member for North Sydney has justified his action in moving the adjournment of the House on the ground that the compulsory defence system is so lax that the lads neglect to drill, and that this neglect is due to the attitude of the authorities. It appears to me that the real object which the honorable member had in view in bringing forward this motion was to give publicity to some imaginary grievances on the part of the officers themselves relative to our military system. Having regard to the fact that the compulsory training system has just come into operation, we need to be very careful and guarded in our actions. There is at the present time a good deal of aversion to the system, and the present smouldering fire may easily be fanned into a flame. Once public dissatisfaction with the system is aroused, we may be sure that within a very short time the whole system will disappear. The people are masters of the situation, and they are not going to agree to any system that is not conducted on satisfactory lines. The question is whether the Government have been honestly endeavouring to carry out this system in a satisfactory manner.
– No; that question is not raised.
– It is raised. If the honorable member had been present, he would have heard it brought forward. The Government “ have endeavoured during the last few months to meet the position with which they are confronted, and the honorable member who submitted this motion complains very strongly that the failure of the Government to prosecute the cadets - that is the main point of his indictment - has led to laxity in the matter of drill. In my opinion, the Government did everything in their power to meet the position as it presented itself to them and to the public. No one could have initiated any prosecution before such a time had elapsed as would enable the Department to ascertain exactly what number had not complied with the statutory requirements. Taking into consideration the fact that the scheme is in its infancy, we should extend as much consideration as we can, realizing that a scheme’ of such magnitude cannot be put into operation in six months, and every one expected to comply. To my mind, the compliance with which the Act has been met is marvellous. Honorable members, in urging that the laxity is due to an absence of a more rigid observance of the Act, lose sight of the fact that there is another side to the question. We have to give some attention to the convenience of the lads and their parents in the fixing of the drills. I do not wish to say a word against the officers, but it must, not be forgotten that, very often, drills are fixed at times which are not suitable for those engaged in industrial callings, and the lads have to decide whether they will lose a day’s work or strictly comply with the Act. Very often, both parents and boys may come to the conclusion that it is not fair that a day’s work should be lost. In my own district, the absence of half-a-dozen wheelers practically lays a mine idle on a
Saturday. Under such circumstances, do honorable members contend that the officers should have power to strictly enforce the law ? If the House once takes up that position, we may say good-bye to compulsory training - its death-knell will be struck. The officers should make it their business to get into touch with the lads and their parents, and consider their convenience as much as possible by fixing the drills in such a way as to cause the minimum interference with employment. Unless this is done, we must expect more dissatisfaction. In my own district, I hear complaints every day, and some of these I have voiced here as occasion permits. In the mines there, the work is divided into two shifts, and the drills are fixed for the Saturday, generally when the boys have to go to work in the afternoon. It will be readily understood that a mine manager,’ in the absence of a number of wheelers, both under and over eighteen years of age, may practically have to lay the mine .idle, while some of the boys may lose as much as 9s. for the day. It is the duty of the “officers to ascertain the local conditions, and consider these in fixing the drills ; but, up to the present, that has not been done, and I see no justification for blaming the Government. It speaks much for the administration of the Act that it has been possible to bring it into operation with so little friction up to the present. The honorable member who preceded me contended that the sergeant-major should not be compelled to deliver summonses personally. I do not know whether the sergeant-major should be compelled to do so or not, but the system initiated by the officers, before central control was exercised, was very unsatisfactory, and, in New South Wales, cadets were dragged up before the Courts even after an order had been given by the Minister that there were to be no further prosecutions. The officers themselves are endeavouring to too rigidly apply the Act. I realize, of course, that there must be discipline, but .we ought to be very careful how we proceed. We cannot expect all at once to instil into the mind of the young, especially, the necessity of complying with every comma in the law ; this can only be done in course of time, when I have no doubt that with wise administration we shall get the people of Australia to cheerfully adopt the system. The lads who expressed strong objection to compulsory training are gradually disappearing ; but, if there be attempts made here to have the Act more rigidly administered, and motions moved with the object of taking the control from the Minister and giving it to the officers themselves, it will prove bad for the system. It appears to me that the complaints emanate from the military authorities, or some of them. Who is responsible for recommending the regulations ? lt must be the head of the Military Forces ; but if the system is to live, we shall have to be careful to endeavour to meet the convenience of those concerned. In the case of the Citizen Forces, there is not that necessity for rigid discipline that there is in the case of a standing army; and, while there must be discipline, we ought to display a little humanity. If we do so, it is probable that, in the space of a year or so, the system will become so popular that there will be no difficulty, and the rising youth of Australia will look forward to the opportunity and privilege of drilling for the purpose of becoming efficient to defend their country if necessary. If, however, we begin at the present juncture to find fault, and endeavour to make it appear that there is great laxity, we cannot have satisfactory results. As to the 20,000 defaulters, these were only for certain drills which the lads were unable to undergo j and that diminishes very considerably the significance that might be attached to that large number. Very few of the young fellows neglected to attend drills generally, but only certain drills ; and the question they had to decide was whether, in order to attend, they should neglect their occupation, and possibly throw hundreds of men out of employment. In a new system, we can make some allowance for the youth in such a position, who feels that it is preferable to go to work and keep the wheels of industry moving, believing that he is committing no great crime. Now, however, that it is known that all must comply, I believe that there will be no further trouble ; but the officers should understand that they should fix the drills at convenient times, so as to interfere as little as possible with the ordinary employment of the lads.
.- One would imagine, to listen to the honorable member for Hunter, that the honorable member who moved the adjournment of the House had urged on the Government the more rigid enforcement of the Defence Act. It is amazing to any one who heard the honorable member for North Sydney that any such deduction can be drawn from his speech. It would be still more amazing, if we did not know better the histrionic powers of some honorable members, to see the extraordinary earnestness with which the honorable member for Hunter sought to break down and repudiate a position which the honorable member for North Sydney never set up. As a matter of strict fact the honorable member set out to show that Departmental methods within the areas are faulty, and I think he proved his case. The honorable member for Hunter told us that we must have some discipline. What sort of discipline are we likely to have in future if the sergeantmajor is to personally serve summonses upon every person who should be served with a summons in the whole of the military area in which he is employed ? The whole system, under such conditions, will be farcical, and must break down.
– Does the honorable member think that the sergeant-major would have to walk all over his area to serve summonses ?
– He is not given a horse, or an allowance for a horse. Does the honorable member for Hunter believe that the sergeant-major should be required to carry out his duty for nothing?
– No, I do not.
– Sergeant-majors in all areas will not be able to avail themselves of tramways, nor will they have special carriages provided for them on the State railways. They must “pad it” if they are to serve the summonses, and if they are kept busy in this way what chance will they have to carry out the work of drilling recruits of the cadet system, for which they have been primarily appointed?
The honorable member for North Sydney drew attention to another matter which is of the greatest public importance. It is of more importance to the cadets themselves than to honorable members who may be seeking to secure support in connexion with matters of this kind at the next general election. The honorable member for North Sydney clearly showed that in the present stage of cadet musketry the proposals with regard to firing practice are not safe. It is not from any lack of a desire on the part of members of rifle clubs to co-operate in the training of cadets in musketry that this unfortunate state of affairs exists. Over a year ago the Department was approached by the rifle clubs of Australia, the members of which were all anxious to co-operate, and their co operation would be invaluable in the country districts for the training of the cadets,, many of whom are the sons of riflemen and’ marksmen of the different rifle clubs. Speaking from memory, I believe that their desire to co-operate with the Department was, in the first place, fostered by the Department, but as soon as the members of the clubs decided to carry out the work in the country districts their proposal was relegated to the pigeon-holes., and has since been lost sight of.
– Does the honorable member know when, it was relegated to the pigeon-holes ?
– A complaint in this regard was made to me about two months ago, and I understand that the difficulty has all occurred within the last eighteen months. This matter of the training of our cadets to shoot is one of very great importance, and it should be dealt with in a business-like way. We cannot frame ideal regulations for cadets who are marksmen, and expect them to be carried out by cadets who do not know how to handle a rifle. That is all the honorable member for North Syd-‘ ney contended, and he is deserving of the thanks of the House for bringing this matter under the notice of the Minister.
Another matter to which the honorable member referred was the extraordinary length of time it takes to provide Area Officers with the money necessary to meet their obligations within their areas. It must be within the knowledge of many honorable members that the statements of the honorable member for North Sydney in this connexion are absolutely accurate. In these days, when a number of the members of this House are constantly advocating extensions of Government enterprise, it is a curious reflection that we should find so many signs of the incompetence of Government methods to deal with the simplest business transaction. Here we have the simple matter of paying over money on the receipt of vouchers, and it cannot be done on the nail. What ordinary business firm could expect to carry on its business for a week under such procrastinating methods? What chance would we have to run a great industry, if, before we began the payment of accounts on receipt of vouchers, we allowed them to be three months overdue? Some of our honorable friends are now proposing that the State should do everything. They suggest the nationalization of most complicated’ industries; and really the matter opens a vista of opportunities for sarcasm which I do not propose to follow at* this moment Here we have the simplest operation which it is possible for a clerk to perform, the mere payment of money already in the till to some one entitled to it on the production of vouchers; and, although the vouchers are produced, the money is not forthcoming for three or four months, or until some sleepy Department has made up its mind to do what its duty required it to do months before. This practice of defaulting, on the part of the Defence Department, will, if persisted in, lead to the unpopularity of the cadet movement throughout the Commonwealth. It does not make the movement popular with tradesmen, or with those who are responsible for its efficiency in their respective areas, that the Government should not meet their obligations as they become due, and that Area Officers should be exposed to the badgering which the present system exposes them to, and possibly to loss which occasionally results from it. I think that the honorable member for North Sydney has performed a public duty in bringing these matters so prominently before the attention of the House and the Minister representing the Minister of Defence.
– If there are no other complaints to be made, I propose to offer a few remarks in reply to honorable members who have uttered what, according to them, are complaints against the administration of the Defence Department. I particularly regret the remarks of the honorable member for Wentworth, because they constitute a charge of incompetence against practically the whole of the officers of the Military Forces, and the administrative staff in particular. As a matter of fact, some of the remarks of the honorable member for North Sydney constitute an attack upon the ability and military knowledge of officers whose duty it is to advise the Minister of Defence in many particulars.
– Mere suggestions that good men sometimes make mistakes ; that is all that the honorable gentleman can make of it.
– If we are to credit the interjection of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, these officers are good men, but occasionally all good men make mistakes ; and we have arrived at one of those unhappy moments when these good men have made mistakes. In the circumstances, I might almost leave my reply at that, as the honorable member for North Sydney will understand that he has been complaining because some trifling mistakes have been made by some exceptionally good men. As, during the honorable member’s excellent military career, he no doubt made a mistake now and again, he might now see his way to withdraw his remarks, and agree that these trifling mistakes by exceptionally good men may be overlooked.
– I did not say that the mistakes were trifling.
– I am accepting the utterance of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, who, as an ex-Minister of Defence, is almost as well up in these matters as is the honorable member himself. Seeing that the honorable member for Parramatta had much to do with the passing of the Defence Act of 1909, and that he even put his signature to some of the regulations which are still in force, it is to be presumed that he knows almost as much about them as does the honorable member for’ North Sydney. Honorable members will, I am sure, recognise that there are such persons as barrack-room lawyers, just as there are fo’cas’le lawyers, and I suppose that there was never a junior officer either in the Military or Naval Forces who did not think that he knew more than his seniors. Similarly, there never was a citizen who, having passed through either arm of the defence service, and subsequently entered Parliament, did not consider that he knew more than did all the officers who had adopted the military or naval profession as their life’s calling.
– What about the Honorary Minister himself?
– I include myself. There may be times when I may think that I know more about these matters than do the senior officers who have devoted practically the whole of their lives to matters military. But during the period that - as the result of the good-will of my colleagues - I have represented the Minister of Defence in this Chamber, it will be conceded to my credit, I think, that as far as possible I have refrained from touching military matters. Prior to assuming my present position, my own military efforts were chiefly under active service conditions, and I am not ashamed of the fact. May I take it that the honorable member for North Sydney spoke for the Opposition when he complained of the administration of the Defence Department in matters military ?
– What a thing to suggest !
– I am pleased that the honorable member repudiates the suggestion.
– I neither repudiate nor agree to it.
– The support accorded to the proposal of the honorable member for North Sydney was so general that I assumed his complaint was practically an Opposition complaint. But if he spoke merely for himself, and if the utterance of the honorable member for Wentworth is to be regarded in a similar light, the position, of course, assumes an entirely different character.
– The honorable member for North Sydney spoke of what he knows.
– So far as his remarks in regard to Area Officers receiving payment for petty expenses are concerned, it has to be remembered that the compulsory training scheme is an entirely new one, that the Area Officers are new to their duties, and that many of them are so unfamiliar with administrative work as to occasionally make more than ordinary mistakes. I suppose the honorable member will be surprised to learn that some of them have yet scarcely a grip of how to make out a return of the expenses which they have incurred. If a claim be wrongly made out by one of them, it is scarcely to be supposed that the paying officers, regardless of the consequences, will immediately liquidate it. It must be recollected that we are dealing with public moneys. If the Department were a private institution, the person who was running it would be at liberty to do just as he chose. But public moneys have to be dealt with either in accordance with regulations which have received the indorsement of the Legislature or in .accordance with an’ Act of Parliament. However, every effort is being made to put the scheme into operation with the least possible friction, and to educate the different officers in the work which they have to perform, so that in the early future it may run with that smoothness which is essential to perfect success. I do not suggest that mistakes are not being made in many directions. I do not wish it to be understood that the Minister of Defence considers that the scheme is running perfectly, or that anomalies will not require to be removed, or that regulations, nay, even the Act itself, will not need to be amended as the result of more experience. But when we consider that during the last year or so a change has been made from the old system, which, in spite of the laudable enthusiasm of some 20,000 or 25,000 of our citizens who had enrolled themselves as volunteers, was quite inadequate for the defence of this country, to a system which is not only infinitely larger, but the principle of which is entirely new to Australian thought, I venture to suggest that it is being put into operation with comparatively little trouble and with little cause for complaint.
– Surely it can be made better by criticism.
– I am not objecting to criticism except so far as the honorable member for North Sydney failed to make himself acquainted with certain conditions with which he could have become familiar had he chosen to visit the Defence Department, or to ask for information in this House. I hope that honorable members do not regard my observations as indicative of any objection on the part of the Government to criticism. On the contrary, the Government court the fullest possible criticism, and will be glad indeed of every possible assistance in order to enable them to put this non-party scheme into practical effect for the welfare of our country. I do suggest, however, that more responsibility attaches to the criticism of a member of this Parliament than attaches to that of other citizens, and particularly does this remark apply to the criticism of the honorable member for North Sydney, who has had many years of excellent experience in connexion with military matters. I am sure he will recognise - as I facetiously remarked at the outset - that there are persons holding junior positions in the Defence Forces of this country who invariably believe that they know more than do their seniors, and it is just possible .that whilst we are passing through a period of transition in connexion with our defence scheme, criticisms such as those to which the hon.orable member gave utterance, if indulged in too publicly, may prove more harmful than helpful. I need scarcely add that it is criticism of a helpful character for which the Government will feel grateful. The honorable member referred to military order No. 497, which he said had been disregarded by the officers who had to put it into effect. He thus inferentially accused them of having been guilty of disobedience-
Had he so desired, the honorable member might have ascertained that this order was suspended prior to the period when he alleged it should have been in practical operation.. Consequently no case of disobedience can lie against particular officers.
– When was it suspended?
– Before the date on which it would have been put1 into operation, in accordance with the general conditions pertaining to field firing practice. The honorable member might have ascertained that fact for himself. Had he chosen to visit the Defence Department for half-an-hour, or to ask a question in this House, the whole thing might have been settled. In the circumstances there would have been no charge against officers for disobedience, nor would there have been criticism of a severe character of the officers who promulgated the order to which, according to the honorable member, effect could not be given. Notwithstanding his reference to boys of fourteen, and others, who had only a few hours’ knowledge of the rifle, careful perusal of the order would have shown him that the teams which were to compete were to be teams of picked lads who had not missed. drills, who had been passed as efficient, and who, in the opinion of the officers immediately responsible - not those at head-quarters - were competent to engage in the tests.
– They had to pick forty out of each area.
– One team out of each company, provided always that the lads were efficient.
– They have to be tried to determine their efficiency.
– Yes, but they are tried under circumstances and conditions which, as far as is humanly possible, prevent anything in the nature of an accident. Therefore, in my opinion, the honorable member’s criticism falls to the ground. The order was suspended, but even had it not been, the competition would have been between picked teams, and the officer against whom the honorable member made a charge in regrettable terms is not responsible. According to the honorable member, certain non-commissioned officers, in serving summonses for staying away from drill, must travel over 60 miles, and he spoke of them as “padding it” on foot, or words to that effect. The distance travelled is not important if sufficient time is given for the journey ; moreover, travelling expenses are paid, and where that is necessary, horses and buggies may be hired. The honorable member could have known that had he cared to make inquiry. His statement about “ padding the hoof “ and “ Irish tandems,” though calculated to tickle the ears of the unsuspecting electors, were not based on facts.
– Horse hire is not given to non-commissioned officers, but only to Area Officers.
– Does the honorable member consider it in keeping with the ordinary methods of the Department-
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– The Honorary Minister usually makes a very clever reply, which has nothing whatever to do with the facts. One can never pin him down to the facts under the consideration of the Chamber.
– He is too smart for you.
– Is it smart to evade the facts? Is that Labour ethics up to date? The honorable member lays it down that so long as you are smart enough that is sufficient. That is uptodate Labour ethics, to which I hope no other ‘honorable member will subscribe.
– The honorable member did not say any such thing.
– The Honorary Minister does not know when a correct statement is made. He is so accustomed to twist and torture a> simple thing himself
– Will the honorable member confine himself to the question? He is not doing so.
– I shall give an illustration in support of my statement. It has been said that non-commissioned officers walk 60 miles in the delivery of summonses. The astute Minister replies that travelling expenses are allowed. But the honorable member for North Sydney says they are not allowed to non-commissioned officers ; it is to the Area Officers that they are allowed ; so that the statement of the Minister is a total misrepresentation of the facts.
– As usual, the honorable member is incorrect.
– The Honorary Minister evidently tried to mislead the House in making that statement.
– Travelling allowances, where necessary, as the honorable member knows, are paid to those who deliver the summonses.
– The reply to that statement is that officers who do the travelling do not get the allowances. I hope that the Honorary Minister will tell these men that there is a lot of money owing to them by the Department which they may get on application. We have it on his authority that these men have for months been kept out of money to which they are entitled, and the sooner they send in their claims for it the better. That is the statement which the Honorary Minister has practically made to the House. One of the amusing things in the debate was the attitude of the honorable member for Hunter, whose speech practically amounted to this : “ You fellows on the Opposition side must not complain about the Department. You are all wrong when you criticise it. Leave it to me to sail into the Minister.” He deprecated all that the honorable member for North Sydney had said, seeing all sorts of sinister motives in his action, and then made an attack on the Department of a quite different kind, warning the Ministry what it must and what it must not do When the honorable member for North Sydney makes a suggestion, it is, according to the honorable member for Hunter, quite wrong. With him everything seems to depend on the side on which a member sits. The honorable member for Hunter must be reminded that he does not possess a monopoly of the right of criticism. He professes himself to be the opponent of monopolies, and while voluble in his complaints against the Government from day to day, I hope that he will not believe that he has a monopoly of the right to criticise, but will allow the honorable member for North Sydney to make a complaint now and again. That is only elementary fairness. He must not impute sinister motives to those on this side who bring facts before the Minister concerning the administration of a very important piece of legislation. The Honorary Minister has told us that a good deal of the trouble has arisen from the fact that many of the Area Officers scarcely know how to make out a return.
– I did not say any such thing.
– The Honorary Minister made use of that remark - that many of them scarcely knew how to make out a return.
– I did not. The honorable member is indulging in shocking misrepresentation.
– I would point out to the honorable member for Parramatta that it is the parliamentary rule that an honorable member must accept the word of another honorable member.
– I hope, sir, that you will call the Honorary Minister to order a little later when a similar incident occurs. It is his custom to sit there and say that no statement made from this side is correct. We shall see how the Hansard report reads. We are all unfortunate over here, because we all understood the Minister to say the same thing. If there is any difficulty in making out a simple return of that kind, it is a sorry commentary on the Area Officers. If after fifteen months’ occupancy of their position, they do not know how to make out a simple elementary return of expenses, it is a very striking reflection on them. I should like to ask the honorable member for Hunter if it is an unjustifiable complaint to make against the Government that these cadet officers after fifteen months have still no uniforms ? If the honorable member knows anything at all about the matter, he knows that nothing is more subversive of discipline and authority than that a man should not have the requisite uniform when dealing with lads who- have uniforms. One of the first things that should be done by the Department is to see that these officers are properly clothed when they are in positions of authority. It all comes back to this - and this is the moral I want to point - that the Government are not officering these areas in the way they ought to be officered. It is an old complaint of mine, and the results are being seen every day. The very man who should be the king-pin of the whole system is being treated in the way alleged. He has to foot it round delivering summonses to boys who do not go on parade. We are told he has to walk 60 miles in delivering batches of summonses. Is that what he is supposed to do ? He cannot train the army if he is doing that kind of thing. He is, or was intended to be, the man responsible for the efficiency of his area, but, of course, he is not so today, and the Government cannot hold him strictly responsible. It would not be right for them to do it while imposing these conditions upon him. They could not expect him to do it all in three days of his time, and pay him a sweating wage of £150 a year. That is the secret of all this trouble. These complaints will multiply as time goes on until a remedy is found for staffing the areas by men who can give the whole of their time to their work, and who will be paid adequately for the work they do, and the ability they place at the disposal of the Department.
– I wish to speak in reply.
– The honorable member has exhausted his time. He cannot speak again.
– I understood that I had a right of reply.
– The honorable member has no such right.
Question resolved in the negative.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from, 17th September, vide page 3173.)
Clause 1 -
This Act may be cited as the Sugar Bounty Act1912……
Mr. DEAKIN (Ballarat [3.55].- This short and relatively simple measure has reached a point at which we ought to deal with it in a simple and direct fashion. After listening to the statement made by the Minister in charge of it, and the debate since, it appears evident that the passing of the Bill at this time is not justified even by the Minister himself. As he looks rather surprised, let me refer him at once to the Hansard report of his speech, at page 31 13 of this session. There he mentions the Prime Minister’s suggestion that a reforming policy on a considerable scale would probably be best dealt with in the next session. Then, after an interjection, the Minister himself said, “I am prepared to consider it “ - meaning the policy involved in such a radical Bill - “ at any time, because my desire is that the workers shall be safeguarded in this industry, as well as in every other.”
The Minister himself, then professes himself prepared to deal decisively with this question ; but his Bill is not a proposal to deal with it effectively at the present time. It is merely a postponement, an extemporized means of dealing with it for a short time, until another and more searching measure is introduced, probably largely based on the findings of the Sugar Commission. In the circumstances, this Ministerial proposal is not only reduced to the slenderest proportions and intended to be ex tremely short-lived, but is open, as the debate has shown, to sundry very serious objections. In point of fact, the Bill is hard to defend, either as a practical measure, or on the ground of its legal validity. If it be challenged in the Courts, as rumour indicates, it will mean simply another considerable outlay of money and a long postponement. Why, then, does not the Minister take the action now which he foresees that he will, be called upon to take before long ? No doubt the receipt of the report of the Sugar Commission may qualify him better for coping with it more explicitly in some directions; but, at the same time, the proposition which appears to findmore favour with the Minister himself, and, probably, with his colleagues, would give this Bill another character - enabling both the bounty and Excise to disappear. This we cannot do in Committee. That would leave us simply with a Protectionist duty on the sugar industry. All questions relating to the sufficiency or excess of that impost would, of necessity,be exhaustively considered in connexion with the report of the Sugar Commission, now resuming its work.
By this means we should avoid the continuance of what honorable members representing the sugar districts evidently consider a serious practical injustice. Indeed, I think the figures, not challenged, quoted by the honorable member for Richmond, speak for themselves. They will come with a shock of surprise to the general public. These show that, since the initiation of this policy, the Excise levied by the Government amounts to . £5,879,000, while the bounty which has been paid, or as some say, returned to the growers amounts only to £3,778,000. Plainly then, the bounty and Excise system, which was intended to serve the double purpose of maintaining the sugar industry, and maintaining it by white labour only, has so far failed, that the growers of cane, who are practically employing white labour only, have been mulcted in the sum of over £2,000,000. Of course, it will be pointed out that there is an import duty of £6 per ton ; and that they pass it on by increasing the price of their product. Still, these figures, if they mean anything, imply that although we have achieved one of our objects, we have so far failed in the other branch of our endeavour. That is to say. we have succeeded in securing to white labour the employment given in this industry, and practically in extinguishing coloured labour ; but we have not assisted the growers who have been employing white labour to the extent that they deserve, nor have we developed the sugar industry to the anticipated proportions which would allow it in most seasons, if not in all, to supply the wants of Australia. To-day we have an opportunity of dealing with this problem in a simple, direct and practical fashion, by relieving the growers of the . undue burden of which they complain, contenting ourselves with the operation of the Customs duty of £fi per ton. Of course, we first rely upon the undertaking which has been given by the Premier of Queensland, that if this measure be put aside, he is prepared to introduce legislation into the Queensland Parliament securing adequate rates of payment to all white labour engaged in the industry, providing tribunals to which workmen could appeal as to wages and hours, and taking the further step of excluding coloured labour altogether from employment. If those three conditions are fulfilled, it would be hard to say what else we have to ask or could hope to receive. The Minister looks forward with considerable confidence to the operation of this Bill until next year. But why wait for next year, when the proposals which are to be submitted by the Queensland Government can be legalized this year, so that we can put a stop to this levy upon the growers of the very considerable difference between the bounty paid to them and the Excise which they are called upon to pay? That is the whole situation.
– That, I presume, will ba dealt with after the report of the Sugar Commission some months hence. I assume that the Commission will devote no small portion of their investigation to that very problem.
– Does the honorable member think that we shall ever get the report of the Commission?
– The Minister is inclined to be humorous.
– We understand that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company will not give evidence.
– We shall see. I do not conceive it to be possible that the resistance of the principals of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company is likely to be prolonged. If the request preferred on their behalf for an opportunity of allow ing Mr. Knox to read some long statement to which they attached immense importance before giving oral evidence had been conceded, as well it might, the disturbance which unfortunately occurred would have been avoided.
– Then the honorable member blames the Commission for what occurred ?
– It seems to me that, no matter whether the reading of the document lasted one day or seven, it could not have prejudiced the inquiry. I do not propose to censure any one. Of course, I am speaking after the event, and in the light of what we all know; but looking back upon what occurred, an error of judgment appears to me to have been committedno more and no less. Such errors must be expected occasionally. I regret that one should have been made in this case, because of the delay in the settlement of the question.
Personally, and without trespassing on subjects which are not before us, I believe that this Parliament will not cease the pursuit of knowledge in the sugar industry until it is completely satisfied, and has probed its operations to the bottom, and in every direction. Let no mistake be made. Concealment in this matter must be rendered impossible. This is a question into which the Government of this country is fully entitled to inquire, and to push an inquiry to its extreme. The sooner that task is completed the better for every one interested. It is undesirable to discuss a case which is sub judice, and therefore I make no comment affecting the merits. The members of the governing body of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company may be, for all I know, angelic personages absolutely above reproach. I know nothing for or against them, and assume nothing. But the honorable member for Capricornia is in error if he thinks that I would lift a finger to prevent a full investigation of the whole of the circumstances involved in this case.
– The honorable member bitterly opposed the Royal Commissions Bill.
– Yes, because the objects which it was professed that the Government desired to attain by means of that general measure could have been achieved without the introduction of the grossly offensive and unnecessary interferences with the liberty of the subject in which it abounded. If the provisions which we were prepared to support had fallen short of what was required, we would immediately have acknowledged our mistake, and agreed to extend them. But, as it was, the provisions were too hopelessly extravagant.
I do not desire to prolong this debate, but do ask the Minister of Trade and Customs whether it is not desirable that he should reconsider this question with his colleagues. I believe that there would be a unanimous response in this House if the Minister proposed to take advantage of the offer of the Queensland Government, so as to insure the maintenance of white labour and white labour conditions, and the creation of Arbitration tribunals to which all disputes relating to the sugar industry in Queensland could be promptly referred. The acceptance of that offer would meet the present situation much better than this proposal of the Minister’s, which has already been pronounced by pretty high authority to be unwarrantable and unconstitutional. It may possibly be challenged in the Courts, and, if challenged, may involve us in another legal tangle in which we have no desire to be engaged, however much it may profit the legal profession.
– They will challenge anything.
– They are entitled to challenge anything which they believe to be unconstitutional. That is the reason why I urge that the matter should be dealt with in a form of which the constitutionality would be unchallengeable. Here we have a means of settling disputes which are only expected to last a year or so. Oh the other hand, we have the means offered by the Queensland Government which should be permanent and unchallengeable at law. Their Act can be brought into operation at once, so that we may have the sugargrowers relieved, at least a year earlier than the Minister promises, of the Excise they are called upon to pay in excess of the bounty they receive.
– And in the meantime the workers will receive no benefit, and will have to continue to work for 22s. 6d. per week.
– On the contrary, the proposal of the Queensland Premier is to create Arbitration Courts, to which there is to be an appeal on those very questions of wages and hours for the workers. Before those Courts, these questions can be settled in the light of experience already acquired. It is claimed that experience shows that the present wages are insufficient ; and they certainly appear to be open to challenge. The promise is that the Courts will be established in the State where the industry is conducted, where all the circumstances are known, and investigated far more successfully on the spot than by tribunals afar. Hence, it seems that it would be a reasonable and a nationally profitable thing to put aside this measure in its present shape for the time, so as to allow both the Excise and bounty to go. On the State legislation, to which reference has been made, being passed by the Queensland Parliament, before our present session closes, surely the Minister would have every guarantee for the policy he desires to see introduced free from the risks, vexations, and possible legal costs involved in this proposal. New South Wales would follow suit. There is a good deal more to be said in regard to this matter, but I have no desire to detain honorable members. To bring the matter to a point, and in order that this suggestion may be discussed, I move -
That the word “Bounty” be left out.
.- I have just been looking through the debates on this subject which took place in the House in 1902 and 1903, and I find that the question of whether the bounty and the Excise should be retained was then discussed. I have always taken the stand that if we abolish the Excise and bounty we must take care that the public are not too much burdened by the rate of the import duty. I am therefore pleased that the honorable’ member for Ballarat has mentioned that the amendment which he has submitted is to be incidental to the consideration of what ought to be the import rate, in the light of the information supplied to us by the Commission. I do not wish to say that the present protection goes to the grower or the miller, because we are at present somewhat in the dark as to who gets the bulk of the money that the sugar consumers of Australia and the Treasurer are giving to some persons connected with the industry.
– The Deputy Leader of the Opposition says that the public pay the Excise.
– It depends upon how we apprehend the question. The public pay the import duty of £6 per ton, and if the Excise is less than that the public must pay it. They do not, however, pay the Excise in addition to the import duty.
Every one knows that the highest rate is the one that rules.
– If that is so, then it must be the duty of £10 per ton on beet sugar that rules.
– No. It must be an effective duty. The duty of .£10 per ton on beet sugar can have no operation, because no beet sugar is imported.
– If the duty were reduced we should have imports of beet sugar.
– The fact remains that we have no imports of beet sugar. The duty of j£io per ton must absolutely exclude its importation, “except at times of famine affecting the production of cane throughout the world, and we have not yet been faced with such a situation. We seem to be somewhat in the position of the man described by Locke in The Human Understanding, inasmuch as we are differing not so much about facts as regarding statements that we do not apprehend alike. The import duty of £,6 a ton is that’ which concerns the consumer, but the question of whether the producer or the miller, pays the Excise rate is a matter that concerns themselves. It does not concern the public very much, save that the people like that class which does the work to share the benefit of that which we give up. If there is a combine or a monopoly in a particular industry which results in very huge profits, it is much more satisfactory to us in our legislation, whatever may be our view regarding these duties, that the grower or the men connected with the primary production should get the benefit of that which we are surrendering. I suppose that the Royal Commission was appointed for some purpose, and the members of that Commission may understand the bearing of the figures ; but I am rather- puzzled by the conflicting statements made on both sides of the House.’ It was asserted in 1905 that one company was making 10 per cent, before 1 901, and that its profits “in 1905, under the operation of these duties, amounted to something like 70 per cent. I hope that the Commission will inquire into these matters, and I agree with the Leader of the Opposition that it should be the aim of both parties to see that the Commission is armed with whatever power is necessary to enable it to deal expeditiously with the questions that have been submitted to it. On the whole, it seems to be a rather precipitate act to challenge the validity of a measure which has yet scarcely had an opportunity to be put into operation, and the validity of which may not be questioned at all if the proceedings under it are temperately conducted. We know, of course, that there is always a chance of the validity of an Act which imposes a penalty being challenged, but one does not usually look for such difficulties until they arise in the ordinary course of administration. If we are going to abolish the Excise and the bounty, we ought, perhaps, to provide that they shall cease on and after such-and-such a date. That is usually the way in which we deal with an alteration in the Tariff. Meantime, why should not the Premier of Queensland bring in his Bill ?
– He promises to do so.
– They have been talking for some years of protecting the men engaged in the sugar industry in Queensland. About twelve months ago it was pointed out in the Conciliation- and Arbitration Court that, in some cases, there was absolutely no protection for the worker. It was said that on one side of a roadway in a town in North Queensland the wages of a particular class of operators were 7s. or 8s. per day ; while men doing the same kind of work on the other side of the road were receiving 10s. or ns. per day. One set’ of men was under a Wages Board, the other was not. I believe that an Act has been passed by the Queensland Parliament dealing with the establishment of Wages Boards in connexion with the sugar industry.
– Only for mill hands; not for those engaged in field operations.
– The Queensland Parliament is sitting. What is to prevent an Act being passed by it to provide for Wages Boards ?
– Such a Bill is before the Queensland Parliament now.
– As the result of an interview between the Premier of Queensland and the Prime Minister of “the Commonwealth.
– That renders possible what I would suggest. If we adopt the policy of ultimately abolishing the Excise and the bounty, and allowing an import duty to remain - that was the policy adopted by Sir George Turner, and it is referred to in Dr. Maxwell’s report - it will be possible for us to carry it out if the Queensland Government pass with expedition an Act providing for fair rates of wages in the industry. That, however, does not close the question. I am pleased, therefore, that the Leader of the Opposition has said that, when we get the full facts, we should take care to see that the,rate imposed is one that is justified by all the conditions, one condition being the fair position of the consumer. In fruit production, the price of sugar is a very important element. It was pointed out a few years ago that the duty of j£6 per ton meant something like 130 per cent, off the value of the plum crops. That is to say, the men who had to pay the dutypaid 128 or 130 per cent, less for the crop than they would otherwise have done. On some crops it represents something like 70 per cent., and so on; and no doubt it is a very large addition to the cost of production in manufactures, such as those carried on by confectioners and brewers. It has been stated that the addition is something like 40 per cent, in connexion with the sweetened milk industry, and, therefore, we ought to take these matters into consideration when we have the interests of the people at heart. Sugar has been regarded, I think, by the Labour party as one of the necessaries bf life on which import duties ought to rest rather lightly. That used to be part of the policy of the South Australian Labour party.
– If there were no sugar industry in Australia there would.be no duty on sugar.
– There are reasons for some duties.
– Why should there be a duty ?
– Is the Minister ‘ prepared to abolish the duty?
– If there were no sugar industry in Australia I should be prepared to abolish the duty.
– Of course - that is very considerate; the Minister would put a tax on a man who does not exist. There is nothing in abolishing a duty that is inoperative. A duty of £6 a ton is a very heavy pressure on the consumer. If it is proposed, within a reasonable time, to establish a Wages Board in Queensland, there is scope for the adoption of the policy recommended by the honorable member for Ballarat; but, in the general policy, there are considerations which we must not overlook. We have to consider, for instance, what is the external price of sugar. I do not know what the price is at present in the world’s market.
– About £14 a ton, I think.
– It is rather unsettled, because there was a dearth of sugar in the last two years or so, and that led to a request that Russia might be relieved from the obligation of the Sugar Convention and allowed to export some of its surplus. The conditions of 1901 will, I believe, be brought about again shortly, owing to the Sugar Convention having been abandoned by some of the principal countries ; and, if that is so, we should have cheap sugar again, as we had ten or twelve years ago. We ought to know what is the external price, and what it is likely to be for the next twelve months, and also what is the internal price, so that we can see to what extent our policy may be leading to a higher rate for local sugar than is justified by the world’s market. What the producers are paid is one of the matters to be considered. The question of who pays the Excise I shall leave to others ; all I know is that the Excise is ultimately paid by the consumer. Then there is the question of what is the difference in price between crude and refined sugar. It was stated five or six years ago that the difference was only 25s. in Europe, but that it was much more here.
– It is about £4 here, but I think the difference in Europe is 35s.
– A difference of £4 is somewhat significant, and I hope the Sugar Commission will tell us something about the matter. I should like the Minister, if he can, to help us to find out what is going on in Japan and some of the other eastern countries in sugar production. A good deal has been written on the subject, and I believe that Japan is developing her refineries very much. If so, I am confident, from what I have seen, that the export market will hot exist for us.
– There is no export market now.
– Not now, of course; we cannot even meet our local consumption. In an article in, I think, the Financial Re view, it was pointed out that there are labour difficulties in the sugar industry of Japan, but that, if some of these are got over, the sugar industry will develop largely. The position is that any hope of export to the East may be affected by the fact that the eastern countries are themselves manufacturing. I mention this because I stated yesterday that at present we are producing only a very small proportion of the total possibility of production in Australia. The Northern Territory might give many times over the Queensland production if we once start the industry there under any fostering we may give it,- “from the Tariff or otherwise. Then arises the difficult question of export; and I would like the Minister to assist us in finding out whether likely markets in the East exist.
– That is a good old Free Trade argument.
– How dees it bear on the fiscal question?
– The argument is that we shall have to compete with people in the outside world by-and-by.
– I am not touching that point at all. If, by an import duty, we offer an inducement to large production, surely I am entitled to information as to the possibility of placing the product ; or, otherwise, we shall be placed in the position of Europe, where full prices were paid in the producing country and the sugar sold elsewhere at a low price. Before the Convention, many industries in England were flourishing because they took advantage of the sacrifice of revenue and consequent lowness of price caused by the bounty given in exporting countries.
– When the Australian sugar production reaches the point of Australian consumption, why should the producer not take a holiday, instead of producing for people in other countries?
– The honorable member apparently agrees with me. When we talk about our great sugar industry, we cannot say that the limit has been reached that will satisfy us; and if we do develop the industry under a mistaken policy of excessive fostering, we ought to know where we can place the product. Independently of that, we ought also to know what is to be the rate of duty in order to cover the addition to the wages paid at present. It may be a £6, a £4, or a £3 duty.
– It might be £q.
– That is very improbable, but it might be. Knowing what the industry is, and the number of people engaged, it is very unlikely that even a £6 duty is required on our present consumption in order to enable fair rates of wages to be paid in Queensland. We do not desire to get from the import duty alone the money necessary to pay a fair rate of wages. Surely the wages are not to be made up altogether by the import duty. The difference between a fair rate of duty and the rate that is actually paid might be covered by a shrinkage in the profits to some extent. If we find that one branch of the industry is receiving undue profits, let us understand to what extent those profits are caused by our import duty ; and, if the producers do not surrender the proportion that is necessary to keep labour in a proper condition, it is our place to correspondingly reduce the import duty. I hope that on this point we shall be given some information. In Canada, they deal with some monopolies by reducing the duties. They deal with patents, for instance, in that way.
– I believe the Canadian Government have the power to suspend a duty without referring the matter to Parliament.
– They have. We hear a good deal of talk about combines and trusts, but I might remind honorable members opposite that it was part of the policy of the last Government, as is shown in a memorandum which was printed by the present Government, to introduce machinery which has since been adopted in Canada in order to investigate combines and trusts, without the necessity of the delay and expense of litigation. An Act has been passed by the Dominion Parliament of Canada, to which I may subsequently refer in a debate in this House, which is acknowledged to be working very effectively to control combines. What is required is done simply by a thorough investigation as a preliminary to any judicial proceeding. A body of experts is appointed for the purpose, and its powers of inquiry have been found to be ample.
– Does not the Canadian Constitution give the Canadian Government more power than we have under the Commonwealth Constitution?
– That does not touch the question. Where there is an Inter- State combination, we have ample powers under our Constitution. If our Act is not as wide as the Constitution enables it to be, we can amend it. We have not properly decided the full effect of our legislation on this subject. There is a test case before the Court on which a judgment may be delivered this week, but if that judgment should be adverse to the Crown, it will not follow that we have not the power to make our Act more effective. As a matter of fact, one part of the Act was amended in 1909. I think I secured the amendment myself, and the present Attorney-General declared in 1910 that it was perfectly effective. It was intended to put a stop to the system of rebates, and the present AttorneyGeneral admitted that the system was abandoned as soon as the amended Act came into operation. I hope, therefore, that honorable members will not think that because we may fall in our legislative progress, we cannot get up again, and, it may be, go on with greater strength, taking more care to discover how our Constitution may be applied. When the honorable member for Capricornia was referring yesterday to combines, and suggesting that he did not hear sufficient condemnation of them from this side, I was tempted to remind him that in 1902, some honorable members on this side predicted what would take place. I have a quotation here from a speech made at the time, butI do not wish to inflict it on the Committee.
– Let us have it.
– It shows that some of us at that time thought that the result of the policy then proposed would be to give the command of a great part of the local markets to some of the refining companies. I find that in February, 1902, I said -
The proposal to hand over upon the present estimate£500,000 annually - an amount which will probably have increased by 1907 to£700,000 - to one or two trusts is a perfectly monstrous one. I have not the slightest doubt that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company being cognisant of what is occurring here, in conjunction perhaps with another company -
I think there was another company operating then. will by that period practically control the whole sugar production of Australia, and will thus add ts their profits the loss occasioned to the Commonwealth by reason of the abolition of the Excise.
I further said -
The high duties of £6 and £10 will stop importation, and therefore the whole of the revenue, both import duty and Excise, will go to the producers - to a trust which will control production.
That is where local production is not equal to the local consumption. Whether there really is a trust or monopoly is a matter for investigation. I can assure honorable members opposite that I can speak for the whole party on this side when I say that we are quite as anxious as they are, when we really know the facts, to prevent any body of men obtaining too great profits as the result of any policy we place upon the statute-book. At all events, we are quite as anxious as are honorable members opposite to see that the producer and the labour employed in the production of sugar shall get a fair share of any sacrifice the Treasurer makes, as the result of any policy adopted by this Parliament.
.- There is a good deal in the statement of the honorable member for Angas that, on many points in connexion with the sugar industry we require more light. We do require to know to what extent the duty collected on sugar has swelled the profits of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company.
– That is just what they will not say.
– I think we shall be able to find that out in time. I should never be one to prevent the fullest inquiry to ascertain what we are perfectly entitled to know. If the people of Australia, in order to keep the sugar industry going, are prepared to impose a duty which has the effect of raising the price of, say, sugar to the consumer in Australia, they are entitled to know to what extent that duty swells the profits of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. If the Government are prepared to treat that company fairly, I think they will have no difficulty in finding out how much of their profits are accounted for in that way. Whilst I admit, with the honorable member for Angas, that there is a great deal in connexion with the industry on which we require more light, I do not think that should prevent this Parliament at once dealing with branches of the industry upon which we have the fullest light. I do not think we should hesitate to take whatever action is shown to be necessary in the interests of the producers and workers in the production of the raw material. Looking over the discussion on the second reading of this Bill, I was reminded of a precept which I learned very early in my life -
O, what a tangled web we weave,
When first we practise to deceive !
– Was that after the honorable member had finished speaking?
– No; it was when I heard honorable members for whose intelligence I have always entertained the very highest appreciation give utterance to sentiments which, in my opinion, showed that they had been totally unable to ascertain what the true effect’of the legislation which this Parliament has passed in connexion with the sugar industry really is. This has been owing to the fact that we have adopted the very round-about method of doing what we were unable to accomplish by a direct method. Had we imposed an Excise duty direct upon the growers of cane by coloured labour, we should have known exactly what we were doing.
– That is what I said in 1905.
– We were not in a position to do that, so we did what we had a perfect legal right to do. We imposed the Excise duty indirectly upon the manufacturer, and, through him, we penalized the grower who grew his cane with coloured labour, and that is what we did it for. We did it to penalize the cane-grower who employed black labour - to get rid of coloured labour - and if the Excise and bounty had not operated in that direction that class of labour would not have been dispensed with. Surely that must be patent to all. Yet honorable member after honorable member opposite has told us that the Excise is not paid by the grower, but by the consumer. How any sane man can make such a statement I am utterly unable to comprehend. There is the fact that we imposed the sugar Excise for the purpose of penalizing the cane-grower who employed black labour. That it did penalize him is perfectly evident, seeing that black labour has disappeared from the canefields.
– Does the honorable member say that the Excise has penalized the cane-grower who employed white labour ?
– To a certain extent it has, but not to the same extent. It penalized the white grower, owing to the peculiar way in which it was allocated, to the extent of £1 per ton instead of £4 per ton. I admit that for every ton of cane that is consumed in Australia the consumer pays £6 per ton more wholesale than he would be required to pay if there were no sugar grown in Australia, and if no duty were imposed upon it.
– Question !
– We are paying nearly £6per ton more than we would otherwise be called upon to pay for this commodity.
– The Age this morning states that not only does the consumer pay the £6 per ton more for sugar, but he also pays the £4 per ton Excise duty. Such a statement is absolute nonsense. Whilst the consumer does pay£6 per ton - or, to be strictly accurate, £5 10s. per ton - more for sugar than he would otherwise be called upon to pay, the operation of the Excise and bounty is merely a shuffle of the cards between the growers, the refiners, and the Government. It does not touch the consumer at ali. As proof of that, I say that if the bounty and Excise were abolished to-morrow, the price of sugar would not be changed to the extent of a single farthing to any consumer iri Australia. This Parliament imposed the Excise duty for the purpose of penalizing the cane-grower who employed black labour. That it achieved its purpose is abundantly evident. If the sugar Excise were paid by the consumer in the true sense of the word - in the way that the Excise, say, upon beer, is paid - and if the sugar bounty were really in the nature of a bounty, would the growers be such idiots as to ask the Commonwealth to dispense with both ?
– The brewers have asked us to dispense with the beer Excise.
– That is another matter. If the consumer really paid the Excise, and the grower really obtained the bounty, the latter would be getting in the open market £4 per ton more for his cane than he is getting to-day, apart from the bounty. In other words, he would be getting an additional £7 per ton. Yet he is anxious to dispense both with the bounty and the Excise. He does not want them. Their removal would not affect the price of sugar to the consumer to the extent of a solitary farthing.
– How would they affect the worker ?
– There are practically only two States in which sugar is grown in Australia, namely, Queensland and New South Wales, although I know thatthere is some talk of sugar being eventually grown in Victoria. In New South Wales, the industrial legislation permits of the workers combining to secure the establishment of a Wages Board, and of that Board determining what rate of wages shall be paid in the industry. Consequently, the workers there are fully protected. In Queensland, at the present time, there is before Parliament a Bill which, in a few days, will become law, and which will confer just the same protection upon the workers there. As regards the employment of black labour in the industry, Mr. Denham, the Premier of Queensland, proposes to go further than this Parliament has ever gone by prohibiting the growing of sugar by that class of labour. This Parliament has not power to do that.
– Oh, yes.
– At all events, it has never exercised the power.
– Who asked Mr. Denham to prohibit the growing of sugar by black labour?
– I believe that Mr. Denham arrived at that decision in consultation with the Prime Minister as the best possible solution of a very difficult problem.
– The Prime Minister suggested it.
– Then he will vote for this amendment. Speaking of the Prime Minister reminds me of the fact that in 1905, when this question was before the House, the right honorable member took up exactly the same attitude towards it as I am adopting to-day. He showed then, just as conclusively as I hope I have shown to-day, that the Excise and bounty are of no assistance whatever to the canegrower. The time is ripe for us to dispense with them for ever.
– What is to become of the 1,200 coloured men who are at present engaged in the industry?
– The honorable member for Fawkner asks what is to become of the coloured men now employed in the industry. My reply is, that I think that plenty of occupation could be found for them in other directions. During my second-reading speech, I stated that the increase in wages and the reduction in working hours insisted on by the Minister will increase the cost of growing cane by 6s. 6d. per ton, and the honorable gentleman, the Attorney-General, and several Ministerial supporters said that that was absurd. I wish, therefore, to give the Committee some figures which will prove that I under-estimated the increased cost. The Minister has increased the rate of wages from 22s. 6d. to 25s. and keep at 10s. a week, to 36s. and keep at 12s. a week.
– I should like to see the honorable member live on 10s. a week.
– I have lived on a good deal less.
– Not in Australia.
– Then the honorable member must have lived on bandicoot.
– I have lived on wallaby. However, that is not the point. It must be understood that I have never taken up the position, and do not now, that the rates fixed by the Minister are too high; what I have attempted to show is that the profits made by the growers are too small to enable them to pay those rates.
– Whose fault is that?
– I cannot say. It may be the fault of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, or of some one else, or even of this Parliament. The information on which I have made my calculation was not given to me by the gentlemanreferred to indirectly by the honorable member for Herbert, but by growers in my own electorate, who have been engaged from their boyhood in growing cane; intelligent men, who know what they are talking about, and have a better practical acquaintance with the industry than any member of the Committee. Working on the information which they have supplied, I have found that the increase in wages made by the Minister equals 37.5 per cent., and that the decrease in time worked is equivalent to an increase in wages of 17 per cent., or 54.5 per cent. altogether.
– The experience of the world is that a man can do as much in eight hours as in nine or ten.
– In some occupations, but not at this kind of work, which is not very heavy.
– Does the honorable member say that cane-cutting is not heavy work?
– It is not for canecutting that most of the money is paid. Under the new arrangement there must be a certain . amount of overtime, which’ I estimate as equivalent to an increase of wages to 5 per cent., making the total of the increases 59.5 per cent. The cost of producing cane, taking no account of interest on the capital invested in land, plant, and so on, has been proved to be, by averaging the expenditure of a number of years, from 15s. to 16s. per ton. Those figures have been given to me by several growers.. If the alteration made by the Minister be reckoned as equivalent to an increase of only 50 per cent, in wages, it means an increase of 7s. 6d. to 8s in the cost of producing a ton of cane, so that when I said that the increase was 6s. 6d. per ton I was below the mark. Even if a man can do as much work in eight hours as in nine or ten, there is still this increase in cost. Now, according to the growers, 75 per cent, of what they receive for their cane is paid away in wages. The honorable member for Darling Downs gave figures which had been arrived at by a grower who had kept careful accounts, who had only £112 a year as a return to cover interest on his investment, and all expenses except labour. Allowing that the cost of production is now 75 per cent, of the amount received, it will be seen that to add 50 per cent, to that cost makes it impossible to carry on the industry ; and is it to bo wondered at that from every sugar-growing district come telegrams to the effect that cane will not be planted this year?
– That is a tale that we have heard before.
– I know that it is true. Growers cannot continue to make a profit with sugar-cane, and are therefore going in for other kinds of production. It would be impossible for them to continue to grow cane without being faced with bankruptcy, and that, as honorable men, they do not desire. It is not wise for Parliament to destroy an industry which has been built up at such a great cost to the people of Australia, and therefore it is time to repeal the legislation regarding the bounty and Excise, because they have accomplished their object. The workers have nothing to fear. They are going to be fully provided for by Wages Boards. I feel confident that a Wages Board can deal with the industry on very much better lines than can any Ministerial order, because in Northern Queensland you get cane in about fourteen months, and get also a very much heavier crop than you do in the south, where it takes practically two years to get a crop of cane, and so the same conditions do not apply. I think the growers in Northern Queensland can afford to pay a higher rate of wages, and, as a matter of fact, I believe they are paying it, and the conditions under which the men have to labour there are very much more arduous than they are in the south. Let us give up the control of this industry through the Excise and bounty, and hand it over to the Wages Boards which have been promised, and under which the workers’ interests will be just as fully safeguarded, and the industry will flourish very much better than it can under any Ministerial order.
– In moving the second reading of the Bill I was careful to avoid any reference to the particular company that has been referred to by many honor-, able members since the discussion started. The honorable member for Angas said that we should have full information regarding the whole sugar industry, including the product of Australia to-day, the probable product of omer countries in the near future, and how it will affect the Australian industry ; but we are not dealing with the whole of the sugar question at present. The object of the Bill is to take the fixing of the rates and conditions out of the hands of the Minister. It is far better that they should be fixed by an Arbitration Court or Wages Board than be left in the hands of any Minister, but if the amendment of the honorable member for Ballarat is carried by the Opposition, they will practically be saying, “ Leave the matter in the hands of the Minister.”
– No; Mr. Denham’s tribunal.
– That legislation is not before us to-day.
– Is this foreigner, mutatis mutandis, mentioned in the Bill, the chap that is going to decide?
– The only Latin phrase that I use is the one used by the High Court when it said that another Act that we passed was ultra vires. I always say that ultra vires, so far as the workers are concerned, means “ out.” Apparently, that is what will happen to the sugar workers if this legislation goes out. They will have no particular claim, and will not have their interests looked after except by a Wages Board, which may be appointed if legislation is passed by the Queensland Parliament, and the determination of this ‘proposed Wages Board the Minister of the day would accept in any case under this Bill.
– If it is a Wages Board in one place and an Arbitration Court in another, it is unconstitutional, and the whole thing falls to the ground.
– It does not. The honorable member for Ballarat says, “ Knock out this Bill,” because if we knock out the word “ bounty,” we knock out the Bill. He therefore says, “ Take away from the Arbitration Court or a Wages Board the power to decide what shall be a fair rate, and leave the matter in the hands of the Minister. Allow the rates that have been set forth to stand.”
– The honorable member practically says, “ Let the 1910 Act, which provides that the Minister can withhold the bounty, stand.” In fact, it is the Minister’s bounden duty to withhold it unless fair rates of wages are paid, and fair conditions of employment observed in the industry. . I believe that every honorable member agrees that the men employed in the sugar industry are entitled to a fair deal. Personally, I do not think they have had it in the past. I said last Thursday that the Act of 19 10 was passed at my instance, and that in the light of experience we had found that it started at the wrong end.
– How do you know you can do better by this Bill?
– It is far better to try and fail than not to try at all. I said last Thursday that with all our industrial legislation we were gaining in experience. We know more to-day about the operation of these measures than we did two or three years ago. We fmd now that the Minister has the power, only after the work is done,- te withhold the bounty. As I said when introducing the Bill, I was told that T could have stopped the bounty from last year. Would it have been fair to withhold the bounty from growers who had carried out the whole of their arrangements, including working in the field, ploughing, planting, trashing, and cutting, believing they were on right lines? Would it be right, twelve months after the work had been done, for me to say, “ No, you did not observe proper conditions “ ? That was the reason why I issued an order stating that, pending a decision by the Arbitration Court, if such-and-such rates were observed, the bounty would not be withheld. I went further, and said that any amicable agreement arrived at between the employers and employes in any particular district would be considered fair and reasonable. The Cabinet, after consideration, decided that it would be better to allow the President of the Arbitration Court, or any Wages Board, or other industrial tribunal, to decide, before any of the work was done, what rates should be paid and what conditions observed. If the amendment is carried, the duty will still be imposed on the Minister of withholding the payment of bounty unless he believes that fair conditions have been observed. Some honorable members asked, “ Why did you not do this last year? Why did you allow the whole of last season’s operations to be transacted, and the workers to work for twelve months, without taking steps to do anything?” My reply was that we were expecting the Sugar Commission to arrive at a definite decision on this matter; but when it was seen that there was no hope of the Commission arriving at any decision, so far as the workers were concerned, and the workers themselves had complained to many honorable members regarding their conditions, something had to be done. I was asked to withhold the payment of the bounty to the Government of the State of Victoria, because they had not observed the conditions observed in certain other districts. The sum involved was about ,£160. I considered in that case, as in others, that it was better to notify them in advance what were fair rates of wages and conditions of employment, instead of allowing the whole of the work tobe done, and then coming down on them afterwards and stopping the full amount of the bounty. The complaint of Mr. McKay and other harvester manufacturers was that they had gone on doing their work for months, and did not know what were to be considered fair rates of wages, and that then the Judge laid down 7 s. a day as the rate for unskilled work, and a greater amount for other work. They complained that, had they known beforehand, they could have fixed the conditions in the factory accordingly ; but that they did not know, and that was why a number of them had the constitutionality of the Act tested. The honorable member for Richmond quoted a table from the Sugar Journal giving the rates of pay in the sugar industry throughout the world. He complained, on the one hand, that the rate of is. per hour fixed by me was unfair.
– I never said that.
– I have no desire to be unfair to the honorable member, but he said that the industry could not afford to pay it ; yet he quoted the table to show that in Australia, for European labour only, the rate of pay for field and harvesting work was from1s. to 2s. per hour. My rate was a minimum of1s. If this table be correct, some of the workers received for this particular class of work double the rates prescribed in my regulation.
– The Opposition will soon be accusing the Minister of making the rate too small !
– They will probably accuse me of being a sweater by-and-by ! The honorable member for Richmond states that the1s. per hour increased the cost of production by 60 per cent. That means, I presume, that the men are getting about7d. per hour now.
– About that.
– But this journal says that they are getting from1s. to 2s. Mill workers unskilled are getting1s., and skilled workers from15d. to24d. per hour. Any honorable member who knows anything about the sugar industry will admit that those rates which I have issued are not unreasonable, and that the industrycan continue to afford to pay what, according to this table, it is paying already.
– Do those rates include keep ?
– The table does not say.
– That makes a big difference.
– Let me show how unreliable the figures of this journal are. The only determination of a Wages Board in the sugar industry as far as Queensland is concerned is that of the Mackay Wages Board. I quote the facts from the Sugar Journal of 6th July, 1911, which took them from the Mackay Mercury. The highest rate here quoted works out at 2s. per hour. The first engineer in a mill receives 45s. and found, which is worth 12s. 6d. a week. He has to work sixty hours per week for that. The unskilled worker gets from 30s. per week and found, for sixty hours’ work.
– How many get 30s. ?
– The great bulk of the workers in the mills. The honorable member for Herbert represents the largest sugar producing district in Australia. It produces probably 60 or 70 per cent. of the whole quantity of Australian sugar. He knows the industry pretty well, and agrees with me that the minimum of 30s. applies to the great proportion of the mill workers. It is equal, with found, to 42s. for sixty hours’ work, which means about 8d. per hour, keep inclusive. This measure is intended to allow the Arbitration Court, or a person nominated by the Judge, or any industrial tribunal, to consider a question which honorable members opposite apparently do not desire to have considered.
– Oh, yes. We favour Mr. Denham’s proposal.
– But we have our own proposal. Why shelter ourselves behind any State Parliament? Why not do the work ourselves?
– The Minister has not power to do it.
– I believe that this Parliament has power to decide this question. If the High Court says we have not, it will be another matter. But the barristers consulted regarding the schedule issued by my Department said first of all that I had no power to fix the rates of wages; secondly, that I had not fixed the rates of wages ; and, thirdly, that there were no means by which the regulation could be legally upset. That is the opinion of Messrs. Mitchell and Stumm.
– No direct means of upsetting it, but they pointed out an indirect way of doing so.
– They practically said to the growers, “ Work your labour as you like, and let the Minister do what he will.” I wish they would act upon that advice. The persons whom I should like to see taking up that position would be some of the big growers, such as Young Brothers or Messrs. Gibson and Howe. It would notbe a bad thing to bring forward the wages rates upon which some of these people have claimed the bounty. I believe, with the honorable member for Angas, that the Minister cannot get rid of his responsibility. He has to see the wages are fair and reasonable. It has been said by honorable members opposite that the rates set forth will mean an increase of 60 per cent. in the cost of production. Before this action was taken, I took the trouble to ascertain exactly what rates were being paid for the coming season. The Collector of Customs in Queensland, Mr. Barkley, ascertained what the rates were, and I find rates set forth in the regulations. The that they practically approximate to the following table shows the details : -
The details in regard to No. 4 district - which is the smallest of the lot - are not so full as are those supplied in respect of the remaining districts. No. 4 district includes New South Wales and sugar areas in the neighbourhood of Brisbane, such as Nambour and Nerang, and the wages paid there are lower than are those paid in any other district. The average rates of wages prevailing in the remaining three districts, which are . producing probably 90 per cent, of the sugar of Australia, are something like the rates that were fixed in the recent order.
– Does No. 4 district produce only 10 per cent, of the total output of sugar?
– Roughly speaking, I do not think that it produces more than 10 per cent, or 15 per cent, of the total.
– I suppose that the sugar contents of the cane are less as we come down south?
– Yes. It is estimated that 8 tons of cane grown in No. 1 district will produce 1 ton of sugar, whereas 10 tons of cane grown in No. 4 district are required to produce the same quantity. That a., the estimate framed by the Department of Trade and Customs in connexion with the payment of the bounty. No one has said that the rates fixed are unfair or unreasonable. Indeed, I think that every honorable member would desire to see at least those rates of wages paid. ‘ lt is said by some that the industry cannot afford to pay them, but this Bill is being passed to enable the President of the Conciliation and Arbitration Court to decide before, and not after, the work is done what ought actually to be paid.
– Is it not the very purpose of the Commission to see what can be done?
– It is one of the purposes; but, unfortunately, one interest, to which I have not previously referred, is apparently determined that the Commission shall not complete its work. Are the old conditions to be allowed to continue while the Commission is sitting? Is it fair that whilst some employers are paying the higher rates that are set forth in the schedule which I have just read, and which has been prepared from information obtained from an absolutely reliable source, less scrupulous persons should be allowed to pay lower wages? The information which I have just put before the Committee was obtained from men who have nothing to gain by giving incorrect figures, and, as a matter of fact, it has never been challenged. All the papers have been seen by some honorable members of the Opposition. They were made available to honorable members, and have been placed from time to time on the Library table. I obtained them for the information of the honorable member for Darling Downs, and neither he nor any other honorable member has questioned the figures. Is it fair that some growers who are prepared to deal justly by their employes should pay the higher rates, while others who are less scrupulous get their employes to work for less?
– But the growers are not holding up the Commission.
– 1 have not said that they are.
– Why penalize a lot ‘of growers ?
– We are not doing so. Some of the growers are paying the higher rates.
– It is only natural that some should be able to do a little better than others?
– But should we say to the less scrupulous, “ Do as you please”? Is it not a fact that one of the objects of the whole of our industrial legislation is to protect the fair employer from the sweater ? Even when the appointment of Wages Boards in Victoria was opposed by the Employers Federation, some fair-minded employers asked for them, because they said that whilst they were prepared to pay reasonable wages they were dragged down to sweating rates by unscrupulous persons ‘ in their respective industries. It was to compel the unfair employers to pay fair wages that the rates were fixed. This Bill is to allow the whole question of wages to be decided at the outset by the President of the Conciliation and Arbitration Court or by a Wages Board. The proposal made by the Leader of the Opposition will not carry him one step forward. If the honorable member says that as a matter of principle the Opposition do not desire to refer the question to the Conciliation and Arbitration Court, well and good.
– Provision is made for the Conciliation and Arbitration Court to deal with the matter.
– But not until the work has been done. Surely that is not a fair position in which to place the grower. What would the honorable member for
Moreton say if, six months after a large shipment of butter had been made here, and sold in England, it was proposed that the Conciliation and Arbitration Court should be able to say to the dairymen who had produced that butter, “The men employed by you in producing it received only j£i a week and their keep. They should have received 36s. a week and their keep, and you must pay that amount”? Would not the honorable member say at once, “ If the dairymen had known that they would be required to pay those higher wages they would probably have run their industry on different lines”? I hold that in all fairness we should let the growers know what they have to pay before the work is actually done, instead of compelling the Minister to withhold the bounty if he finds that unfair conditions have beet imposed or unreasonable wages paid.
– The Minister is overlooking the fact that the Premier of Queensland has promised to bring forward a scheme for a Wages Board.
– As the honorable member for Capricornia has said that, if the regulations have had no other good effect, they have given the field workers an opportunity to obtain a Wages Board, an opportunity never before afforded.
– Let them have it.
– Yes; and we shall acknowledge any award it may make.
– On a proposition that is probably legally unsound?
– Unfortunately, the legality of the proposition is a question that we cannot decide. It is said that many workers have been dismissed in consequence of the rates of wages prescribed. I have here the Sugar Journal, in which there is an article headed, “ The latest attack of Tudorism.” setting forth a number of motions which the branches of the Cane Growers Association are asked to pass. One of these is as follows -
That the members of the Cane Growers
Association bind themselves, and hereby undertake, not to pay any higher wages than they did last year.
The growers are asked to bind themselves to that resolution. As to the dismissal of men, there is the following advice contained in a circular letter -
It should be remembered that the harvesting is mostly done by contract, and that the cost, as a rule, fully amounts to the wages now prescribed by the Minister. It would, therefore, be advisable, wherever possible, to get rid, at once, of all labour, such as chippers, &c, and the bounty could not, in such cases, be withheld.
This resolution asks the growers to so act as to compel the workers to appeal to the Minister ; and in another article, in which I am described as “a political highwayman “ -
– They called the Chief Justice of the High Court a worse name not long ago.
– These epithets do not worry me very much.
– Who is responsible for the Sugar Journal ?
– The Sugar Producers Association. The circular letter contains the following -
All the farmers are asked to do is to withhold payment of the new rates so as to avoid, by their own action, aiding the Minister to establish the new standard, which he is illegally endeavouring to enforce.
I take it that I am not illegally endeavouring to enforce anything ; all I say is that, until the case is decided, the bounty will not be withheld if these rates are paid, but that the bounty will be withheld if less than these rates are paid. I take it that no Minister of Trade and Customs, when once regulations of the kind have been issued, would refrain from doing his best to see that they were given effect to. I trust that honorable members will net oppose the Bill simply because it happens to be a Government measure, but that they will, on’ the other hand, admit, as I think they must, that it is to the interest of the grower to know exactly his position before the work begins, instead of waiting until it is completed and new rates are prescribed by the Arbitration Court, or any other tribunal.
– The discussions on this question are, in my opinion, fully justified, because, not even excepting bread, . is there a commodity in such common use as sugar. Other food stuffs may be used by certain sections of the community, but sugar is used in some shape or form by every person from the cradle to the grave. When the honorable member for Richmond yesterday said that the cost to the grower would be increased by 6s. 6d. per ton by the proposed increase in wages, I asked for some definite.and detailed information on the point.
– Probably the honorable member referred only to cane grown by coloured labour.
– He may have, but, at any rate, he did not say so. To-day the honorable member comes forward with a return prepared by some hypothetical person, who alleges that for a number of years in the Richmond electorate the average cost of the cane has been from 15s. to 16s. per ton. My reply is that, under those circumstances, this person has been growing cane for less than nothing, because the returns show that 16s. has never yet been paid, minus the bounty, in the Richmond district. Such people as this return speaks of must have been growing cane the whole time at a loss.
– But they got the bounty.
– The return, as the honorable member told us, covers a long period of years, and there was a time when there was no bounty. Were those growers then producingcane at 16s. a ton?
– Certainly not.
– The honorable member is quite right. They could not do so ; and it does not cost them that now.
– They ought to know,.
– Quite so; but I think the honorable member has been misinformed, to say the least of it. One cannot help referring once more to the question of who pays the Excise, after remarks of the honorable member for Kooyong, the honorable member for Richmond, and others. There is one argument that has not, as yet, been adduced. Cane is produced only in New South Wales and Queensland, and the past Treasurers of those States have been described as heavenborn financiers. In Queensland we had Mr. Robert Philp, followed by Mr. Kidston, who was a very able man at figures; and in New South Wales we had Sir John See, and afterwards Mr. Waddell, all men of high financial repute. As cane is produced in only those two States, and if, according to the argument of honorable members opposite, the grower pays the Excise, those two States had a claim to the whole of the Excise prior to the expiration of the Braddon section. It will be observed, however, that those States never put in any claim for the Excise, simply because it was known that such a claim rested on grounds so poor that it had no chance of recognition. There is not an honorable member opposite who would have voted money to satisfy any claim of the kindhad it been made. Sometimes when I am in the north, I say that the price to the consumer should be lower than it is. The price paid last year was£9 7s. 6d., plus a bonus, the amountof which we do not know. The highest price, I believe, was about £11, including the bonus.
– Some of the growers, I understand, got £2 14s.
– The average would notbe that, and I should say that the price was about£11 per ton for raw sugar, and the cost of refining may be taken at £2. When I assert that the price to the consumer should be lower, based on mere prices, I am immediately met with the statement, “Yes; but the Colonial Sugar Refining Company has to pay the Excise.” The Company pay the Excise as the sugar is taken out of bond ; but they add the £4, with the other charges, to the price of the sugar. Now I ask, if the cane-grower is debited with the amount of the Excise, why is it put on again to the consumer? Is it paid twice over ? We know that it is not. It is paid once by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, and they pass it on to the consumer.
– If the company did not pay it, they could afford to give more to the grower.
– That is not the question I am discussing now.
– It is all finally expressed in the price to the consumer.
– That is so. I would like honorable members to understand that I am not opposed to the abolition of the bounty and the Excise, provided the farmers express their willingness that they should be abolished. I was returned to this Parliament on that question more than upon any other. I advocated the bounty, and told the farmers that I was entirely in favour of it, and on that statement I secured the biggest majority I ever obtained. I have suggested in letters to various bodies that by some arrangement of their own they should get a vote of the sugar farmers for or against the bounty, so that Parliament might know exactly what they desire, and I should be guided by the result of that vote. If the farmers do not want it, I am prepared to say, “ Let it go.” Personally, I believe that it should be maintained. I believe the payment of the bounty was the best thing that could be done for the farmers. Yesterday I cited figures to show the benefit it had been in certain centres of my electorate. I have told the sugar farmers also that if it is once abolished they will never get it back again. If we do abolish the bounty I believe the day will not be fax distant when the sugar-growers will come to this Parliament asking that it should be reinstated.
– The honorable member thinks there should be a referendum of the farmers, and that we should act on the result of it?
– I think so.
– Is the honorable member prepared to apply the same rule to other producers in regard, for instance, to their acceptance of the rural workers’ log; and to legislate according as their referendum decides.
– Yes, I am quite willing to do so.
– What is parliamentary government coming to if a section of the people are to determine our action in any particular matter?
-As a matter of fact, a section of the people do determine our action. I think it was the honorable member for Richmond who said that we should have imposed the Excise duty on the black-grown sugar alone, and that would have simplified the matter from the beginning.
– I said that we could not do it.
– Under the Constitution we could not differentiate in that way, and consequently had not the power to do what was suggested. If one who is aware of the facts reads up the old debates on this question, he will find that the bounty was never intended as a reward for the man who grew sugar with white labour. When we said that the black labour should be removed, and that white labour should be substituted for it, the bounty was proposed to compensate the grower for the increased cost of production due to the employment of white labour.
– But we take more by Excise than we give by bounty.
– Does the honorable member think that if Excise and bounty were abolished it would make any difference in the price of sugar to the consumer?
– I said years ago that so far as the consumer is concerned it would make no difference whatever.
– Is it not a fact that bounty and Excise are political instruments provided for the purpose of getting rid of the black man?
– It is the import duty only which regulates the price to the consumer. As regards the wages of 35s. per week and keep, it is estimated that the keep represents 12s. per week. Where a number of men are employed upon a plantation, the cost of keep will not amount to half that sum. When the trouble in the industry occurred last year, I visited the strike camp at Bundaberg. It was a very fine camp, the men were well housed and well fed. I had a first-rate meal at the camp, consisting of the best of food very well cooked. The men had a committee of management, with a chairman who was known as the Captain of the camp. The chairman of the committee told me, and offered to show me his books in proof of his statement, that the cost of the camp, including food, housing, and everything, was 5s. 3d. per week per man.
– There must have been a considerable number in the camp.
– I do not say that where there were only three or four men to keep their keep will cost no more than about 6s. per man per week ; but where there are numbers congregated on large plantations, the cost of their keep will not be more than one-half the estimated amount of 12s. per man per week.
– What did the men get for 5s. 3d. per week?
– They were very well fed, indeed. I was handed a menu card when I was there, and I have it somewhere yet. There was on it roast beef, corned beef, and potatoes. For sweets we had prunes and rice, and we had also an unlimited supply of bread, butter and jam, with plenty of tea and condensed milk.
– Who paid for it?
– Honorable members are aware that the men appealed to other unions in the different Statesfor financial assistance, and received it. At some of the camps, for instance, at the Mackay camp, it was found necessary to draw upon this fund to feed the men who, for the sake of convenience we will say, were on strike. But at the Bundaberg camp I was told that they had never drawn upon the funds for a shilling, because the townspeople found the money required.
– The figure the honorable member has given represents only 3d. per meal.
– I do not say that it amounted to any more than that, and the chairman of the camp committee said he was willing to show me his books. The men were rather surprised themselves at the low cost at which they could be supplied. The Minister referred to the Australian Sugar Journal, and I should like to make a quotation from the same publication for the 3rd August, 191 1, a little more than a year ago.
Senator Findley, who is Acting Minister for External Affairs, has laid it down that if wages and conditions ruling in Australia are to be paid to white immigrants, and there is no strike in progress or contemplated, requests for permission to indent labour must be granted.
The editor goes on to comment upon that in this way -
While the Minister is engaged in deciding all these points, however, the season for which the labour is required, may, as in the case of the sugar growers’ recent applications, have passed by. Then the application is cancelled, as was done by several of the sugar-growing districts recently, and the State loses the advantage of suitable immigrants, whilst the industry surfers.
My object in reading that extract is to show that, notwithstanding what may be said, these men are employed for only a portion of the year. No one knows that better than men who have traversed the sugar district. Their work lasts as a rule from five to six months.
– That is the cane-cutting season.
– I am speaking of the general work. In the north of Queensland there are nearly three months during which it is quite impossible to get on the land on account of the wet season. The growers start planting, perhaps, in April, and if they happen to be very fortunate complete this operation in May. In July the crop has to be harvested. Quite 90 per cent. of the harvesting is done by piece-work, and this regulation will not affect that work at all. Indeed, it is highly probable that in order to get inside the regulation the whole of the work will in the near future be done by piece-work. At the present time harvesting is done by piece-work, and chipping, in some places, is undertaken by the lineal chain. Between the rows of cane the scarifier has to be used, and between the stools a hoe has to be employed for chipping.
– In such a case as that cited by the honorable member, will the grower experience any trouble in getting the bounty ?
– I should think not.
– The wages would have to be reasonable.
– If the worker does not earn the standard rate of wages, the grower will simply say that he did not work hard enough or he could have earned it.
– Is a contractor a wage earner ?
– That is a legal question which I am not competent to decide.
– Is the honorable member quite accurate in his statement that the standard rate of wages need notbe observed under these conditions? I ask the Minister of Trade and Customs whether that is correct?
– If the grower says that an average man by working a certain number of hours per day at so much per ton can earn the standard wages, how can it be proved that he cannot earn it?
– I do not think that the honorable member is right in his contention. Will the Minister say whether he is right?
– I think that heis wrong.
– I am sure that theMinister will not go outside the rule which obtains in any district in regard to harvesting which for years past has been done by piece-work. I shall not pursue this line of argument any further. But before concluding my remarks I should like to read a letter written by the secretary of the Sugar Workers Union of Australia, which appears in the Age of this morning. These workers are federated now, and are becoming a powerful body. The letter is as follows : -
Would you kindly grant me space to make public the methods adopted by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company to prevent the employés obtaining a Wages Board ?
I may, perhaps, be permitted to digress for a moment to say that I omitted to mention previously that the rate of wages which I quoted from the Sugar Journal applies only to the employés in sugar mills. So far no Wages Board has been established in Queensland to determine the wages of rural workers.
Last week they sent a petition around the works asking the employés to refuse a Wages Board, and those selected to take it around told those that they asked to sign it that it would be better for them if they signed it, and that the company would grant them an increase of 2s. a week at Christmas. I may state that to my mind the fact of telling them it would be better for them if they signed it contained a threat of dismissal in the event of a refusal. It is not surprising to me the attitude the company is taking to prevent the union obtaining a Wage Board for the industry, because I happen to know that inSydney about 1905 or 1906 the union there had listed a case in the State Arbitration Court in New South Wales, and when within a few weeks of the case coming on for hearing they sent some of the foremen to the members of the union that were in arrears, and, giving them the amount, telling them to go to the meeting and vote for the withdrawal of the case, which, I am sorry to say, they succeeded in doing. Now, if the Colonial Sugar Refining Company is so anxious to give its employés the fair conditions it says it is willing to do, how is it it has not thought of doing so until the employes have become organized, and made representations to the Government for relief through a Wages Board? The union, in the event of a refusal of a Wages Board, will approach the Federal Arbitration Court for an award, and will use every means to see that the company treats its employés better in the future than it has in the past. Thanking you for insertion of previous letter. - Yours, &c, G.
Strettell, Secretary Sugar Works Employes Union of Australia. 16th September.
The evidence which was recently given before a Royal Commission in Sydney showed that the way in which the Colonial Sugar Refining Company is working its employes in its factories is absolutely disgraceful. It was stated by those in authority that in some rooms of these establishments men and boys were working absolutely naked - a condition of affairs which is not creditable to us as a community. Sub-clause 2 of clause 2 of this Bill provides -
On the hearing and determination of the application, the President, Judge, person or persons, shall have all the powers which, under the Excise Procedure Act 1907, belong to the President of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration.
I would pointout that section 5 of the Excise Procedure Act of 1908 sets out that-
On the hearing of any application no party shall (except by consent of all the parties and by leave of the President) be represented by counsel or solicitor.
I ask the Minister whether he will permit a similar provision to be inserted: in this Bill so as to make it quite clear that without the consent of all the parties to a dispute counsel shall not be employed?
– I would not like this debate to close without making one or two observations upon this Bill, because the sugar question is one of very great moment, not only to the two States which are interested in the production of sugar, but to every part of the Commonwealth from the point of view of the consumer. I have endeavoured to closely follow the discussion, and to gather information from those honorable members who represent sugar-growing districts. It seems to me that the first and principal object of this Bill is to force the employes in the sugar industry into the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court. In his closing remarks, the honorable member for Capricornia reminded the Committee that his party specially represented the workers, and that if they miss the opportunity which presents itself under this Bill, when they again appear before the electors the employes in the industry will say to them, “ You were in power, and you had the opportunity to allow us access to the Arbitration Court, but you neglected to avail yourself of it.” I think that the honorable member will agree that this is a fair representation of his position.
– It is fair enough.
– Are we not to consider how much the sugar industry will stand? Judging by several of the speeches which have been delivered, it is doubtful whether, in some of the districts, an additional burden can be placed on the growers without destroying their profits altogether. The testing time for the industry has arrived. The honorable member for Ballarat proposes the entire abolition of Excise and bounty.
– Subject to our satisfaction with the Queensland legislation.
– If Queensland will provide a local tribunal to deal with the question of wages. What was the original purpose of the bounty ? It was to do away with black labour, and it has been so far successful that to-day only a small percentage of the labour employed in the cane-fields is coloured. The honorable member for Ballarat, in submitting his amendment, told the Committee that the Premier of Queensland would undertake to introduce a Bill prohibiting the employment of coloured labour in the cane-fields, and that provision would be made for a tribunal to deal with the question of wages.
– Local Boards to deal with the question on the spot.
– Yes. What more do honorable members opposite want ?
– What would be the position of New South Wales?
– Very little sugar is grown in New South Wales, and it is grown entirely by white labour.
– Proportionately, there is more black labour employed in New South Wales than in Queensland.
– In New South Wales they have stuck to black labour all the time.
– If the Government of Queensland will undertake to prohibit the employment of black labour in the cane-fields of the State, surely Labour members have sufficient confidence in the Labour Government in power in New South Wales to believe that it will apply the White Australia principle to its canefields also. On what ground do honorable members representing cane-fields resist the concession that is offered in the abolition of bounty and .Excise? The Excise amounts to £4 a ton, and of it £3 is repaid in bounty, making the collection for revenue purposes £1 a ton. If that amount of revenue be surrendered, it will be a distinct advantage to those engaged in sugargrowing. According to the newspapers, the Queensland growers are practically unanimous that the bounty and Excise should be abolished at the earliest opportunity. Black labour is practically a thing of the past, as the Prime Minister must admit.
– I do not admit it. In my opinion, if the law were relaxed, in three years 25 per cent, of the labour employed would be coloured.
– That statement is at variance with the statements of other Queensland representatives in this and previous debates. However, the matter is not one of speculation. There must be statistics showing what proportion of the labour in the cane-fields is coloured. The Queensland Government proposes to introduce legislation to put an end entirely and for ever to the employment of black labour in the cane-fields.
– But what about New South Wales?
– Practically no black labour is employed there.
– Even if black labour to any extent is employed in New South Wales, surely the Labour Government of that State may be trusted to go as far as the Liberal Government of Queensland in this matter. The statements of honorable members show to me that, at any price, and despite the interests of this big industry that has cost Australia so much, honorable members opposite will not abandon their power to drive those engaged in the industry to one particular Court, or, rather, before one particular man.
– As I ha.d not the pleasure of hearing his remarks, I do not know what the Leader of the Opposition had in his mind in moving the omission of the word “ bounty.”
– It is that when the Queensland Government has fulfilled its undertaking as to black labour, and a similar engagement has been made by New South Wales, both bounty and Excise shall be abolished.
– I can speak freely regarding my position in this matter. The honorable member was a member of the Government that first introduced the principle of an import duty, an Excise duty, and a bonus, which subsequently became a bounty.
– To exclude black labour.
– It was done, not to exclude black labour, but to differentiate between the two classes of labour. The standard of comfort of a white man keeping a wife and family does not enable him to compete with a coloured man who had no obligation whatever to civilization, and seldom had wife or family. The object was to enable the white man to compete with the black man in an industry where manual labour is employed to a larger extent than in any other industry that I know of. A white man with a hoe, and a coloured man with a- hoe, are nearly on an equality. It is only in the arena of machinery and technical skill that the white man has no need to trouble about black competition.
– It was also to exclude the black man gradually and surely ‘
– Another Act altogether dealt with the repatriation of the Polynesians. Over that a struggle ensued. Members on the Opposition side at that time, some of whom are still there - not many, I admit, as the years go by - inveighed against the proposal, saying that it would ruin the industry.
– Who did?
– The honorable member for Parkes was one, while the honorable member for Oxley spoke for five or six hours, and I, myself, pleaded that he should be allowed to speak as long as he wished in order to put the case. The Opposition filled newspapers and pages of Hansard with the wail that the industry could never be carried on with white labour. They published official reports to show that it was a physical impossibility for white labour to grow sugar successfully. It was not an economic question at all, but a question of physical impossibility, according to them. Ten years afterwards we hear from that side of the , House quite a different proposal - to do away with both the bounty and the Excise. I agree with that, and always have agreed with it. I have always held that the Excise and bounty were merely superstructures for the purpose of the transformation of the industry. Unlike the honorable member for Herbert, I did not tell the sugar-growers at the last election that I was against the repeal of the Excise and Bounty Acts, but I advised them not to agitate for their repeal, and had good reasons for so advising them. I believe that the small grower would never have got the same return for his cane, small as it is at the present time, were it not for the fact that there is a difference between a payment by the Government and a. payment by the buyer of his raw material. It put him in a more impregnable position to be receiving returns from two sources, because the small man always knew that he would get the bounty exactly in cash from the Government, and he could more easily calculate whether he was getting a fair deal from the man who purchased from him the raw material from which sugar was produced and ultimately sold. It is for that reason that I have always strongly advocated the existence of those two enactments until such time as there could be brought forward a proposal such as this, but of more farreaching consequences, to enable a Judge “of the High Court, sitting as a Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, to determine what is a fair remuneration for the worker to get, and the proportionate shares that should go to the actual white grower of the cane, and to the small miller, leaving it to be discovered what the refiner and seller should do with the commodity that they deal with. That is a policy which has been as much advocated by the honorable member for Ballarat as by myself or any one else here. It is a logical, clear, and distinct policy that can run through every industry if necessary. It is absolutely necessary ns regards the sugar industry. The sugargrower is as helpless as the sugar-worker under open competition. The sugar crop at the most valuable time is absolutely worthless unless the miller will take it and crush it for him. In the case of other agricultural commodities, in a time of scarcity the price increases, and a man gets a larger return for a smaller amount, but in the case of a failure or partial failure of the cane crop, possibly the mill will not start at all, and the grower receives no return. The growing of cane absorbs all the energy and time of the grower, and the loss of a crop is a veryserious thing to him.
– Some sugar-growers have described the whole thing as a gamble.
– It is. When all goes well the industry is a very good one, but when things are otherwise the result can be expressed very emphatically. Unfortunately, in the present year there will undoubtedly be a very small crop, and there are difficulties in consequence; but any one who says that there is not sufficient money in the sugar industry in all its branches to give a.” fair return to the labourer, the grower - that is, the owner of the holding - the sugar-miller, and the refiner, with a large margin to spare, has never looked into the industry. I cannot understand why we as a’ National Parliament should hesitate to send the whole matter to a competent Court which has been established by this Parliament, and get that Court, with its powers, to deal with the evidence, sift the question, and determine it finally. The honorable member for Ballarat speaks of dealing with the matter in little local districts.
– How long would it take the Court to deal with the whole of Queensland and New South Wales?
– I should expect it to deal with them, in three months.
– Not to the satisfaction of those concerned.
– We are not now dealing with the large Colonial Sugar Refining Company. We are dealing primarily with the sugar-growers.
– You must take every factor into consideration to arrive at what i? a fair thing for the grower.
– I do not think there s much difficulty. By the way, I challenged the quotation of the honorable member for Richmond with regard to coloured labour in New South Wales. Speaking from memory, I think it was about 5 per cent, in the year before last.
– I have just worked it out. Last year the proportion of blackgrown sugar produced was 6.3 per cent, in Queensland, and 1.8 per cent, in New South Wales.
– Has the honorable member worked out the figures for the year before last?
– I can easily do so.
– In that year the proportion in New South Wales was 5 per cent., according to my recollection. I have stated publicly for the last six or seven years that the superstructure of Excise and bounty should be wiped away as soon as we had a competent Court to deal with the question.
– Does the Prime” Minister imply that if we had local Courts in Queensland and New South Wales dealing with local disputes, that would prevent the workers going to the Arbitration Court on appeal ?
– I think it would.
– I think not.
– What does this mean? The honorable member would set up a Court which would allow an appeal to another Court. That would lead to difficulty and expense. It is far better to set up, in the first instance, a Court from which there would be no appeal, and whose “decisions would be final, definitely settling the matter “ in one act.”
– It would be a very long act.
– Surely that is a sensible thing to do. .1 ask honorable members not to get it into their minds that this Bill deals only with the wage of the workers.
– Wages and hours.
– In my opinion it does far more than that. It is in the interest of the small grower as well as of the worker. It gives him the protection of a Court in his desire to deal justly between the persons whom he employs and those to whom he sells his product. As soon as the growers fully comprehend that position, I venture to say that they will be agreeable, and exceedingly anxious, that the power should be given to this Parliament to enable it to establish a. Court to insure that justice will be done to all parties.. A question has been raised as to the effect of this amendment. It simply means nothing beyond creating a discussion. It is meaningless so far as this Bill is concerned. It does not attempt to improve the measure. It simply tests the question whether the method proposed should be abandoned or not.
– Whether the Bill should be passed now, or whether it should be held over until the Queensland Legislature has taken action.
– In my opinion, the honorable member is entirely in error. What is now proposed would not attain the object he desires. I believe it would fail to secure a settlement of this important question, because it would prevent a Court being established which would deal with several individual cases on the evidence, and would leave it to a Government, which is the least satisfactory method, to deal with matters of this kind. We believe that we should go to a Court to get a final and definite determination on the evidence. There are many other features of the sugar industry which I should like to discuss, but this is not the proper time. As soon as the grower can be assured of protection regarding the value of his product in selling it to the miller, and the miller can be guaranteed against the refiner, and we get that general power to deal with all these matters - a power which, I think, is necessary to the Commonwealth - I shall be heartily inclined to support the abolition of the bounty and Excise. My suggestion was carried to Queensland, and came back here in a letter from the Premier, Mr. Denham. I say that it is a practical proposal. Why? The State, in my opinion, has power to prescribe what kind of labour shall be employed in any particular area. That can be done by a State Act. I do not think that this Parliament has power to deal with such a question.
– Has the Prime Minister asked the Law Department a question on that point? I believe that an opinion has been given that we have power.
– My recollection is that the opinion was on the lines that we had not the power. I admit that, looking on the Constitution as a layman, I entertained the opinion that we. could discriminate between persons.
– As distinguished from States ?
– Yes. But I would not commit myself to the specific statement, the Crown Law officers may have given an opinion to the contrary. The language of the Constitution led me to believe that we had power to distinguish. In the earlier years of this Parliament, when the matter was being debated by the lawyers - and there were four or five distinguished lawyers in the Cabinet of which the honorable member for Ballarat was a member - the assumption was that we had not that power of distinction. But there is no doubt that the sovereign power of the States exists, and that they can do as they choose in the matter. I suggest to honorable members, as I have suggested to my electors, that this superstructure of Excise and bounty ought not to exist any longer than is sufficient to accomplish its object. Some honorable members say that the object is accomplished, and that practically white labour is now employed in producing nearly all cane. They therefore ask why we should continue the bounty and Excise. But do honorable members recollect that there is a difference of £3 per ton in favour of sugar-cane grown by white labour? Do they know that £3 is the difference in favour of the grower of the raw material of. the industry - the cane? It amounts to nearly half - or at least 40 per cent.- of the amount the grower receives for his cane. If we remove that barrier, and leave others free to employ coloured labour, we undo all our work of ten years. It would be stupidity and want of foresight to wipe out that work. That is an answer to the statement of those honorable members who say that we have accomplished our object in securing the employment of practically all white labour in- the industry. I say that we should be courting disaster if we did what is suggested. No other country in the world has developed a great tropical industry by white labour. What we have done is unique in the history of our race. It is a compliment to this Commonwealth of which it can be justly proud that we have accomplished it. Though I am not concerned to deny that the work has entailed considerable expense, nevertheless the advantage to Australia has been considerable. In the teeth of opposition, this National Parliament carried its white labour policy into effect. It has since worked successfully. I trust that the opposition to this measure will not be carried so far as to press the amendment to a division, because I am just as heartily in favour of the idea underlying it as the honorable member for Ballarat is. But, to use the title of a distinguished playwright, whose work was recently produced, “ The Time is not yet Ripe.” It is nearly so, and I trust that something further will be done in the matter in the near future.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.45 p.m.
– - The Prime Minister, in his speech, seemed to proceed upon the assumption that there was some objection on the part of the Opposition to the reference of this question to a competent industrial tribunal. I am not aware that any statement has been made by a member of the Opposition indicating such an objection. On the contrary, we are anxious that the question should be referred to a competent industrial tribunal- The present system, I admit, is unsatisfactory. It is desirable that the growers, before they proceed with their work, shall at least know what rates of wages will be recognised by the Minister; and all that is attempted by this amendment is to secure a definite expression of opinion that it is desirable that the bounty and Excise shall be at once abolished. If carried, the amendment would have the effect of indicating that the Committee was desirous that they should be abolished. Apart from that, we only ask by this amendment not that the present Bill shall be rejected, because there is no determined opposition to it from this side of the House, but that it shall be postponed until the Premier of Queensland has had an opportunity to carry out hispromise. There is no objection on our part to an increased wage. Honorable members on this side have indicated from time to time that they welcome the idea of an increased wage being paid in the industry. We do not object to the Bill as a Bill, or to the principle contained in it, nor do we object to an increased wage. But what we do say is that negotiations of a very satisfactory character have beengoing on between the Prime Minister and the Queensland Government. The PrimeMinister has definitely announced that heis in favour of the abolition of the bounty and Excise, and he has been ‘fortunate enough to obtain from Mr. Denham, the Premier of Queensland, a promise to introduce and pass legislation having for its object the prohibition of black labour in connexion with the industry.
– And also the payment of decent wages?
– Undoubtedly. In the first place, I am anxious that this important matter shall not be dealt with piecemeal. We have an opportunity for its practical settlement, not in a piecemeal, but in a comprehensive way. The PrimeMinister himself has said that Mr. Denham’s proposal is essentially practical, and one that completely meets the situation In all these circumstances, what dowe suggest? We suggest, by this amendment, merely the postponement of the consideration of the Bill until Mr. Denhams has had an opportunity to carry out his promise; that promise being to introduce legislation to prohibit black labour - to the employment of which we on this side are completely opposed - and to provide for the establishment of local Wages Boards in connexion with the industry. If Mr. Denham carries out his promise, as we have every reason to think that he will, the House will then be able to deal with this Bill as it thinks fit. That is a reasonable and practical way of dealing with the question. We are all anxious that it shall be dealt with in a comprehensive way, and we have now an opportunity for a settlement, on an essentially satisfactory basis. Are we making an unreasonable request when we ask that this Bill shall be, not withdrawn, but postponed, and ultimately passed if Mr. Denham neglects or refuses to give effect to the promise made by him.
– Would the honorable member be willing to make the Bill retrospective as from August last?
– So far as I can see at present, I do not think there would be any serious objection to that, in view of what has taken place. I should, however, prefer to judge the matter completely on the basis of Mr. Denham’s proposed legislation. If we do not get that legislation I think there is much that can be said in favour of the suggestion that this Bill, if it is ultimately passed, should be made retrospective in order that the workers might not be injuriously affected in the event of the Premier of Queensland failing to carry out his promise. In the circumstances the amendment is fair and reasonable. It has not been submitted to secure any party advantage, or for any party purpose, and I think it is unwise to misconstrue in any way the suggestion that has been made by the Opposition. I trust that the amendment will commend itself to the fair consideration of the Government. I am prepared to admit, as I said last night, that the present law is unsatisfactory. It gives the Minister of Trade and Customs a discretionary power to determine what is the ruling rate, and what is the standard rate of wages. It seems to indicate that the procedure on the part of the Minister should be to wait until he has received a claim for bounty, and then institute a judicial inquiry. But the growers have a right to know before they start their work what the Minister will regard as the standard or ruling rate of wages.
This Government and previous Governments have therefore indicated what they would regard as a ruling or standard rate of wages, so that the growers might proceed with confidence, knowing that when they had completed their work they would not be deprived of the bounty. All sides are agreed that the present law should be altered. I have a great deal of confidence in our local Wages Boards, believing them to be more expeditious and effective than other systems. I think that they tend to harmonize more and more the relations of employer and employé, and as we have the promise of the establishment of local Wages Boards in connexion with this industry we should keep the Premier of Queensland up to his promise.
– How can we keep him up to his promise?
– By holding this Bill over his head. I am speaking now, of course, from the stand-point of the other side. The Constitution has practically left to the States the duty of fixing rates of wages, and we ought not to depart from the spirit of the Constitution. From our experience in Victoria I have the fullest confidence in local Wages Boards, which have justified their extension throughout other States ; and I am quite satisfied that, if they be established in Queensland, as promised, they will be a distinct improvement on the present system, which leaves the rates of wages to the discretion of the Minister. I am prepared to go further, and say that, if Wages Boards are not established, it will be desirable to pass this measure. I should like to refer to the remarks made by the honorable member for Herbert. With other honorable members last night, I dealt with the suggestion that the Excise duty was paid by the consumer, and I gave various reasons which led me to think that that contention is fallacious. The honorable member for Herbert asked whether it is not the practice for the Colonial Sugar Refining Company to add the £4, representing the Excise, to the price of the sugar. That is the practice, but the point is that the same £4, which they add to the price of sugar before sending it out for sale, has been taken from the grower in the price of his cane. This establishes the fact that it is the cane-grower who pays the £4 Excise, and the Colonial Sugar Refining Company is merely the instrument for passing it on.
– Then it is paid twice over?
– Not at all ; it is taken by the company from the grower and paid to the Government. Further, if the Excise and bounty are abolished, the mill-owners have definitely agreed in writing, to increase the price of the cane by the amount of the Excise. It is quite clear that the Excise is not paid by the consumer, but by the grower ; and I again urge that the proposal to postpone this measure to enable the Premier of Queensland to carry out his promise should be accepted.
– I desire to place on record my fear that, if the Excise and bounty are abolished, the sugargrowers of Queensland and New South Wales will be in a worse position than they are at present. Honorable members opposite are of opinion that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company and the other millers will, in such an event, pay the growers the amount now represented by the Excise.
– I doubt it.
– It is said that the millowners will pay 8s. 8d. per ton more if the bounty and Excise are abolished. But what did the Colonial Sugar Refining Company and the other millers do in the pre- Federation days? Did they pay the cane-growers anything like the price now received, including the bounty? I have information from the Customs authorities to the effect that, prior to Federation, the cane-growers were paid from about 7s. 6d. to 15s. per ton, whereas they have since received from 13s. to 1 6s., with the 6s. bounty added, making the price of cane from 19s. to 22 s. per ton. My fear is that, as the Prime Minister said this afternoon, if we abolish the Excise and bounty, the industry will revert to coloured labour. We have been told that Mr. Denham proposes to introduce legislation ; but let him do so, and pass it, and obtain the Royal assent. I remember that, when an endeavour was made in the Queensland Legislative Assembly to prevent aliens taking part in the industry, the Bill then passed was refused the Royal assent for, I suppose, certain reasons advanced by the Imperial authorities ; and we have yet to learn that the Imperial authorities will consent to a measure such as is now proposed by the Queensland Government. The singular fact is that not a word was said by the Queensland Government as to remedial legislation, nor was there a word from my honorable friends opposite about an agreement to improve the rate of wages, until the Minister of Trade and Customs brought down this Bill. I believe that honorable members opposite, including the honorable member for Moreton, were on a deputation to the Government in May, 1908, the object of which was to protest against the Ministerial regulation or Ordinance providing that the growers should pay 30s. a week for casual labour.
– So far as I am concerned, that is not true.
– I accept the honorable member’s statement. I know, however, that Senator Chataway, Senator St. Ledger, and M?. Archer, who then represented Capricornia, waited on the Minister.
– And also Colonel Foxton and Mr. Pritchard.
– Those honorable members, with others, waited on the Minister of Trade and Customs, and protested against 30s. a week being mentioned as the rate of wages for casual labour, although it was the practice for some growers then to avail themselves of the rate of 22s. 6d. per week, and to engage labourers for two or three hours in the week, and then turn them adrift, with the paltry remuneration of something like 4 1/2 d. per hour.
– Is it suggested that in the same measure which prescribes the exclusion of coloured labour the rates payable to white men shall be set out?
– In reply to that, I have to say that I have not before me the details of the measure, but a statement has been made in the public press to the effect that Mr. Denham, the Premier of Queensland, will introduce such legislation as will prevent aliens being engaged in the sugar industry. How he is to enact such legislation I do not know. I know that we would not have the power, for example, to say that Chinese shall not be employed in the cabinet-making industry in Melbourne. I am. very doubtful whether any Government will be able, to pass any legislation providing that aliens at present in Australia shall not engage in any particular industry. If we abolish the bounty and Excise legislation of this Parliament we shall bring about a condition’ of affairs which is described in a report made to the Minister of Trade and Customs by Dr. Maxwell. He drew up this report on the condition of the sugar industry on the 6th January, 1910, and I find it is noted-
Submitted to Sir John Quick, who preferred the Committee to determine the printing of it.
It is a very singular thing that this report has never been printed. I ask members of the last Government to explain that.
– I had the report made, but it only came in just as we were going out of office.
– It is noted, as I have said. In this report Dr. Maxwell refers to a report made to the Queensland Government by the then Queensland Health Officer, Dr. Ham, as to the conditions of kanaka labour in the sugar industry, in which there is a special reference to the Fairymead plantation, owned by Messrs. Young Brothers. This plantation was conducted on such highly moral grounds that the owners ran their molasses into the river rather than permit rum to be made from it. But they treated their kanakas so infamously that the Philp Government at the time suppressed Dr. Ham’s report. Dr. Maxwell says in his report -
Concerning the treatment of coloured labour, recourse is had to conditions that existed during the operation of the Queensland “ Pacific Islanders Act.” In his report to Sir Edmund Barton in 1901. the writer says : - “ In general, that provision (Pacific Islanders Act) is most amply complied with; but that has not rendered impossible given cases of violation of the Act, and certain of those of a reputed flagrant character.” In explanation of this statement, the Royal Commission is advised to call for a report, which was made by Dr. Ham. in 1901, as Health Commissioner for Queensland. Dr. Ham’s report deals with the state of the Kanakas and their living conditions upon the estate of the Young Bros., at Fairymead, Queensland. Dr. Ham’s report was suppressed by the Queensland Government of the day. A private copy was furnished to the writer ; but as the State Government had suppressed the document, it could not be commented upon by officials excepting by general reference, such as was made by the writer in the report to Sir Edmund Barton, already referred to, which reference was made at that time in the expectation that the suppressed document would be called for. The attention of the Royal Commission is directed to the suppressed report in order that the writer may not have occasion to speak publicly of the document; and also that the Royal Commission, observing the reported outrageous treatment of the Kanakas by given persons prior to the advent of Federal legislation, may duly appreciate the possible recurrence of such conditions if the coloured alien again comes under the control of such persons without the protection of the Commonwealth.
The Colonial Sugar Refining Company, it is estimated, produces from 30 to 40 per cent, of the raw sugar manufactured in Queensland. Honorable members oppo site have spoken of agreements made by the growers with millers, in which it is stated that the millers are prepared to pass on to the growers the amount now represented by the Excise duty should that duty be removed. But the Colonial Sugar Refining Company has made no statement as to its intention to increase the price paid to cane-growers under its immediate jurisdiction and supplying cane to its mills. I remind the honorable member for Richmond that there has been a continual fight in his district between the sugar-cane farmers and the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, and that a number .of the farmers in that district have gone out of cane-growing altogether, and have turned their attention to dairying, because of the unsatisfactory methods of the company. The same thing applies from the Richmond River right away up to Cairns, where the Colonial Sugar Refining Company has large interests and a number of cane farmers under its control. I believe that if we were to abolish the bounty and Excise legislation the position of the sugar-growers would be no better than it was prior to Federation, and it would possibly be a great deal worse. They would not get a greater share than they are now getting of the ^6,000,000 which the public of Australia pay for their sugar. Honorable members can imagine for a moment what the position would be. We have the Colonial Sugar Refining Company and the millers united under an honorable understanding, so called, to charge certain prices for sugar, and to pay certain prices for cane.
– The State Government mills, too?
– Let me say that in Queensland, when a Government central mill was asked to purchase cane from a grower who was not satisfied with the price paid by the mill nearest to him, the Queensland Government refused to compete with the other mills, and referred the grower to the mill in his own particular zone.
– Was not that a very reasonable thing to do?
– The sugar farmers do not think so. They are in the unhappy position that they have only one market, and that is the particular mill in their particular zone. If the mill-owner considers the price asked for by the cane-grower too high he offers him a lower price.
– Would it not altogether upset the scheme for the four divisions unless that rule were observed ?
– One of the grievances of the cane-growers at the present day is that the combine has cut up the whole of the sugar districts into zones. They will permit Messrs. Gibson and Company, of the Bingera plantation, to take a part of the country, and the Windermere mill another part. The growers in each district must take their cane to a particular mill. The mill, therefore, has complete control over the cane-grower. The latter has his crop there, but he cannot do anything with it unless the miller buys it. What a deplorable state of things that is for the farmer.
– Is the position different in the four Government districts?
– If the Queensland Government had done the right thing, when, they found that the cane-grower in a private zone was not getting a fair price for his cane, they would have purchased it. Sugar-growing, I would point out, is entirely different from the growing of any other agricultural product. A man may take his vegetables or fruit, put them in the cart, and hawk them himself. If the worst comes to the worst he can sell his apples from house to house. But he cannot do that with his sugar-cane.
– He cannot do it with his apples, either.
– If the worst comes to the worst he can hawk them if he is near enough to a market..
– His apples must be sent to London.
– He certainly cannot send his cane to London. Consequently the grower of cane is at the mercy of the combine. At the present time the beneficent Government of Australia extends a protecting hand to the grower to the extent of granting him 6s. per ton upon his cane. If we abolish the bounty the grower will have no more redress than he has to-day. He will be under the control of the combine, provided that the electors of the Commonwealth do not vest the Government with sufficient power to enter into the business.
– The honorable member does not agree with the Prime Minister that the bounty should be abolished ?
– I will go with the Prime Minister to the extent of saying that if the growers in public meeting, assembled ask for the abolition of the bounty and the Excise, I do not see how I, as a representative of the people, can refuse to vote for such a proposal. I hold in my hand an account of .the sugar industry in New South Wales. It is headed, “The’ Colonial Sugar Refining Company’s new agreement,” “ A serious position.” The article deals with the state of affairs which obtained in the Richmond River district two or three years ago. The complaints of the farmers there are those of the growers at the present time. The farmers in the Richmond River district complain of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company’s refusal to pay them for their cane according to individual analysis. The grower properly says, “ I send in 20 tons of cane from high land, and I get no more for it than I do from cane which is grown upon low land.”
– The. honorable member knows that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company met the growers in connexion with that complaint.
– I know that they refused to pay for the cane according to analysis.
– They met the growers eventually by giving them the option of doing either one thing or the other.
– The growers want to be paid on the sugar contents of their cane, and the Colonial Sugar Refining Company will not agree to that proposal. At the time of which I speak the growers asked for an agreement with the company to extend beyond the year 1913. As a matter of fact, they desired it to extend till 1 91 6. The company refused to grant them this extended agreement. In my opinion the Colonial Sugar Refining Company and the millers are prepared to be very generous at the present time. They talk about paying the farmers 2s. 2d. per ton extra for their cane for every £i that the Excise is reduced. But I venture to say that they will not give the growers an agreement to that effect over a ten years’ term. They will give them an agreement for two or three years until the legislation they desire has been passed, and then the growers will be at their mercy. I wish to bring under the notice of honorable members some of the grievances under which the cane-growers labour - grievances which will not be remedied by the abolition of the bounty and the Excise. Mr. Beale, a farmer in the Isis district, speaking at a cane- growers’ conference which was held at Bundaberg in 1909, said -
When the bounty was increased some time ago the Colonial Sugar Refining Company made a corresponding decrease in their price for cane.
Mr. Mann, a delegate to that gathering, said -
It was aggravating for a farmer to receive 15s. a ton for one sample of cane and 7s. for another sample.
Mr. Beale said ;
The grower should have an opportunity of finding out the value of his cane before it went to the mill. He had had a sample taken and analyzed, andwas told it was worth11s. 6d., but when he cut his crop some of it realized only 6s. per ton.
Mr. Cooper said ;
In the Merang district the farmers believe in being paid for their cane by analysis.
Mr. Cattermull said ;
Some of the delegates were of opinion that cane should be paid for by weight, but that was not fair, because a man on a low piece of land might grow 40 tons to the acre, and on another piece, but higher up, only 16 tons was grown to the acre. The cane on the low land would not have the high analysis of that on the high land.
– Is the honorable member quoting from the Record?
– No, I am quoting from, the Bundaberg daily newspaper. I know that the honorable member made a slighting reference to the Cane-growers’ Record last evening. That journal was published by the growers of the Bundaberg district, who were not foolish enough to be misled by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company and the big millers. They could see through the wiles of these companies, and published that paper for the instruction of some of their members and of the general public. It was not a Labour newspaper.
– They did not keep it going.
– No doubt the honorable member thinks that is a matter for pride. But although the publication was discontinued the Australian Sugar Growers’ newspaper was not. It is a very flourishing journal to-day. It is, no doubt, subsidized by big interests.
– Will this Bill help the cane-grower?
– The growers’ position is pretty bad, it is true, but sometimes it is necessary for people to be placed in an awkward position before the public will take any interest in their case. If the cane-growers are compelled to pay a higher rate of wages before they can secure the bounty, honorable members opposite may possibly endeavour to compel the Colonial Sugar Refining Company and the big millers to give the growers a sufficient price for their cane to enable them to pay that rate. I know that this Bill will not help the growers to pay increased wages. We have endeavoured to help the growers. Last year we asked for power to legislate to assist the cane-growers, but the Leader of the Opposition, the Deputy Leader, and all their followers, although professing to desire power to legislate for the control of monopolies, went through Australia urging the people to vote “ No “ to the referenda questions, and thus the Commonwealth failed to acquire the power to help the sugar-growers. If next year the people are again induced to vote against the Labour party’s proposals, the sugar-growers must remain in the position in which they are to-day.
– What is in the honorable member’s mind?
– If the Commonwealth Parliament obtained the necessary power, it could comply with the request of the Cane Growers Association of Australia that reasonable prices shall be fixed for the payment for sugar-cane by the millers and refiners.
– Fixing prices !
– The cane-growers of Queensland and New South Wales desire that the Commonwealth shall fix the prices to be paid for cane. I know that this will be difficult. The British Parliament has not attempted for hundreds of years to fix prices, public opinion having turned against that course. But we shall have to revert to it again before we can relieve the community from some of the exactions of the big combines. The cane-growers in public meeting assembled in the Bundaberg district, unanimously determined that no redress could be obtained until this Parliament, or a tribunal appointed by it, had fixed the prices for cane. The meeting declared that this could be done, because the sugar contents of cane can be determined with the same exactitude as the butter contents of milk. That is what is in my mind. The Constitution does not at present allow us to do what they ask. Next year the people will be again appealed to for an extension of power. I hope that those who sympathize with the cane-growers will feel that they cannot urge the people not to grant this extension. I admit that some of the members of the Opposition are much interested in the primary producer, and I ask them to notice that as scon as the Colonial Sugar Refining Company got control of the Australian market it began to give up the growing of sugar-cane.
– I do not think that it grows any.
– At one time it grew a great deal of cane on its plantations; but its directors and manager are as smart as any business men in Australia, or elsewhere, and they saw that it would be a good thing to give up cane-growing.
– The time allowed to the honorable member under the standing order has expired.
– We have had an interesting discussion on this question, and the speech just delivered by the honorable member for Capricornia has made things much clearer than they were. I know now just where he stands regarding the sugar industry. Apparently he desires that the Bill shall be carried, so that the canegrowers may be compelled to pay their employes higher wages; and with some ingenuity he tried to make it appear that this will eventually put more money into their pockets. He argued that if the grower has to pay higher wages to his men, it will make him look about for some way of getting rid of the burden which the measure will impose on him. I hope that the grower will relish the argument. The proposal of the honorable member is to put an extra impost on the grower, so that he must kick, and thus better his condition.
The honorable member also said that power was needed by this Parliament to fix the prices to be paid to the grower for his cane. He admits that the system of fixing prices broke down centuries ago, when civilization was at a much simpler stage. Seeing that the system broke down then of its own sheer weight, how can it succeed under the infinitely complex conditions of modern times? Honorable members opposite are heading back to a point from which we have progressed slowly and laboriously during several centuries. He wishes us to return to conditions from which we have escaped only by continuous efforts, extending over a very long time. The experiment which he proposes cannot again be tried under the simple conditions of the Middle Ages. It is true that there is now more machinery at our command, and that we have greater experience, but, on the other hand, society is a much more complex thing than it was in the days of old. I do not think it is at all likely that we shall revert to the old position. Matters are now too complex to allow the application of a proposal such as that of the honorable member for determining the proportions of the value of a product that shall go to all the persons engaged in producing it.
One statement made by the Minister this afternoon comes strangely from the lips of those gentlemen who two or three years ago professed to be almost omnipotent. They set out with fair promises, with power to work their will through this Parliament, and to make good all the promises they had made to the great proletariat outside, and now we hear from the Minister that : “ We shall all be dead before we can get to know what the inner working of the sugar company is.”
– And even then we shall not know.
-Here is another of the pessimists. After thundering their anathemas at the last election against all these combines, and saying to the working nien of Australia : “ Put us into a position of power and we shall put an end to these monopolies; we shall discover how they are fleecing the public, and remedy the trouble” ; they now say, one after the other : “ Woe is me, I can do nothing, and we shall all be dead before we are able to tell what the sugar company is doing.” I have never before heard such a confession of failure. Absolute failure is confessed here freely and frankly by these stalwarts who came here to do what the former members could not do. Now they say : “ We in turn have been here nearly three years, and we shall be here thirty years before we can do anything at all in that direction.” It seems to me that if there is any fairness, justice, or equity in the mind of the great public outside, they will say to the Labour party : “ You have failed. You say you have failed. You have not made good. You have not done the job you said you could do, and we shall not trust you with any further expenditure of our money.”
I listened carefully to the Prime Minister this afternoon as he made his frank statement that he wants to abolish the bounty and Excise, but that the time is not just yet. We were told by the Prime
Minister that he had asked Mr. Denham to take certain steps, so that between them they might bring the bounty and Excise to an end. It appears from what has been said to-day that all that Mr. Denham has done has been done in response to an invitation from the Prime Minister. All that this amendment means, therefore, is that the sooner that end, declared to be desirable by the Prime Minister himself, on behalf of the Government and the Labour party, comes about, the better it will be for all. concerned. Another reason why it should come about was stated by the honorable member for Capricornia himself just now - that if the bounty and Excise be abolished an extra return, amounting to 8s. 8d. per ton of cane, will immediately be made to the grower.
– Not an extra 8s. 8d.
– I understood the honorable member for Capricornia to say that it would be 2s. 2d. per ton of cane for every £1 by which the Excise was decreased.
– The grower gets 6s. 6d. per ton now in bounty, arid he would get another 2s. 2d. if the Excise were abolished.
– The honorable member is right. I had forgotten that. Why should those who think the abolition should take place prevent the grower from getting that advantage at the earliest possible moment?
– I say that he would only get it for a year or two, and then the industry would revert to the old conditions.
– The Colonial Sugar Refining Company have not offered it.
– Yes, they have. I have their agreement.
– Amongst the multitude of counsellors one hardly knows where he is. One honorable member says that he has a copy of the agreement in black and white, and the Minister says that the company has not offered anything at all.
– The company have offered it, I think. Some of the millers have, at any rate.
– It means this if it means anything - that the Government will not under any circumstances allow the grower to get a bit out of what they are doing. Here is a chance for him to get something, and the Government say, “ No, the grower must wait.” In the meantime, they compel him to pay these extra rates to the workmen. Equity demands of us that while the worker is to get a full share - it is quite right that he should - we should also consider the man who they say is equally a victim with the worker. From that point of view, is it not right that he should get a little as well?
– To enable him to pay the wages.
– Does this Bill impose any extra rates? The honorable member speaks as if it did.
– No, the Bill itself does not, but the Minister imagines, I presume, that if the Bill passes, it will lead to extra rates being paid.
– The Minister has issued regulations increasing rates.
– I know.
– But that is not provided in this Bill.
– Is this Bill going to do nothing for the grower at all?
– It is directed to securing a fair rate of wage.
– Then the Bill is intended to be to the advantage of the man who does the work.
– It is intended to do a fair thing.
– A fair thingquite so; and I say that the grower is as much entitled to a fair thing as the man who is to get extra for his work. But he is to have less remaining in his pocket as a consequence of this measure. I suppose that that is a fair statement of the case. Or is the grower by some magical process to get more into his pocket the more he pays out? I suppose that for every penny the Minister proposes to give to the working man, the grower of the cane, who has to pay him, is going to have so much less in his pocket.
– What bunkum ! The honorable member knows that that is not right.
– Bunkum - that is “Webster unrevised.” I hope that my honorable friend will revise that dictionary of his, and cease saying such things.
– The honorable member should revise his speech. We are getting the same speech over again.
– The facts are as I have put them. Whatever extra the worker is to get out of this edict of the Minister has to come out of the grower’s pocket. Here we have a. proposal to compensate the grower also. The Leader of the Opposition urges that if this amendment be carried, and the bounty and Excise abolished, and if a local tribunal be set up to insure that the men receive fair rates of wages, both parties will benefit, instead of only one. So that the amendment aims at giving the man who has to cultivate what it is fair for him to get according to the decision of a competent Court, with whom the matter will rest, whilst at the same time it will insure that the man who has to pay the extra money will in turn get a little for himself as well, so long as the duties remain. Those, however, who oppose the amendment, as the Government are going to do, are simply saying in so many words : ‘ ‘ You growers must pay, but you shall get no benefit for yourselves.”
– Why does not the honorable member say that the Sugar Refining Company should pay? That is the proper way to talk.
– The honorable member has not been present this afternoon.
– I have heard the honorable member before, though.
– If the honorable member knows everything about the subject will he allow me to address a few words to those who do not profess to know everything? The more speeches I have heard from the Ministerial side the more I am convinced that the case is as I have put it, that whilst the Minister is proposing to make the grower pay more to the man who does the cultivating, he will not give any relief to the grower himself. The honorable member for Gwydir asks why the Sugar Company does not pay the grower more. The Sugar Company say that they will if the Excise and bounty be abolished. But the Government say that they shall not lae abolished. Therefore, the grower can get no more either from the refiners or anybody else. It is abundantly clear from what we have heard this afternoon that the grower is the man who is to foot the bill, and the Government resolutely decline, by opposing this amendment, to give him an atom of the relief which he otherwise would get. What the Minister is going to do both by this Bill and by his regulation, edict, decision, fiat, or whatever it may be termed, is unconstitutional. A better authority than any which the Government can command - - and that is said in no disrespectful way, because it is recognised that Mr. Mitchell is one of the leading barristers of the Commonwealth, in the very front rank of them all - says that the Government cannot do this thing. Yet the Minister will take this devious and doubtful way when there is a straight way to the same goal. In the interests of the working man himself, by whom my honorable friends are desirous of doing a fair thing, they should accept the suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition. It may turn out that this suggestion is the surest way to justice. Abolish the bounty and Excise, and-
– And give the worker nothing.
– That is what he is after.
– Does the Minister of Trade and Customs suggest, then, that when the Prime Minister made that suggestion to Mr. Denham, he was trying to fool the worker? Because it is that agreement that I am talking, about the whole time. Will that give the worker nothing ?
– The Prime Minister said, “ Next session.”
– Here is a Minister who’ says that an agreement submitted at the suggestion of his own Prime Minister will give the worker nothing. That is a fine comment’ on his own chief. The Prime Minister suggested this agreement with Mr. Denham. Now we are told from the Minister of Trade and Customs’ own lips that the worker will get nothing out of it. All that this amendment means is that that agreement should be carried out at the earliest possible moment. Mr. Denham has undertaken to do his part with all despatch.
– Let him do it.
– He has done it at the Prime Minister’s suggestion.
– He has not done it.
– I shall want to see the Royal assent to the Bill before I will believe that Ke will do it.
– Then it comes to this - that, notwithstanding that the Prime Minister is quite satisfied that a bond fide agreement has been made-
– He was easily satisfied if that is so.
– It is interesting to know that honorable members opposite are repudiating what their chief has done.
– That is only what the honorable member says.
– They think that Mr. Denham’s proposal is a foolish one - that he ought not to have made it, and that, as it has been made, it should not be honoured. Is that their attitude?
– No one has said that.
– That seems to be the attitude of honorable members opposite.
– That is the way in which the honorable member misinterprets our attitude. I say, let Mr. Denham pass his Act; and we will pass ours.
– He tells us that he will pass it with all despatch. That is part of the agreement, and the honorable member’s suggestion is - let him wriggle out of it as he may - that Mr. Denham may not pass the necessary legislation.
– The honorable member is wriggling out of the promise he made last night that this Bill would be passed today in a few moments.
– I hope that the honorable member will cease his insulting observations. He does not help us when we are trying to get to the bedrock of any matter. He would rather talk round about this question just as he does in regard to everything else.
– The honorable member promised last night that if we would adjourn at ah early hour he would let the Bill pass through in a few moments to-day.
– I did not.
– The honorable member said that it would be quickly passed.
– I said that, as far as I could see, it ought not to take us very long to deal with it. I shall argue this question no further. Honorable members opposite must take the responsibility for their own action. They will find in the sequel, so far as I can see, that they will be no nearer the solution of their difficulties. They are embarking on a measure of doubtful constitutionality. Indeed, there is no doubt of that in -the minds of those best able to judge. If that be so, the Government will simply lead the workers once more into some piece of tomfoolery, and then they will say, “ We would have done what was necessary in your interests but for the High Court.” The workers, if they are wise, should say to the Government, “ The trouble is due, not to the High Court, but to -your foolishness in not carrying through an agreement which would have given us positive relief of a definite char acter in the speediest possible time.” That is how I view’ trie situation, and if I were Leader of the Opposition I should not press this matter further: The responsibility is with the Government, and I submit that, in the end, it will be found that they are again embarking on a doubtful, devious course when there is a plain and straight course before them.
.- The Opposition may well be congratulated on the ability to waste time which they have displayed this session.
– Is that in order, Mr. Chairman?
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The honorable member will withdraw the remark.
– I intend it as a compliment. No doubt it is the duty of an Opposition, as far as possible, to hinder legislation, and I certainly think that in that respect the Opposition have succeeded remarkably well this session.
– Is that the honorable member’s idea of the duty of an Opposition ?
– The honorable member is putting it into active practice, particularly in connexion with this Bill. We have before us a simple measure, undoubtedly designed to afford relief to those most intimately connected with the sugar industry, and yet upon it the whole matter of the sugar industry is being discussed. We are dealing with all its perplexities and complexities.
– The honorable member’s own side opened that aspect of the question.
– The debate on the second reading of this Bill opened last Thursday, and there was an idea that the Bill would be easily disposed of last night. It was not. As soon as we met to-day, an honorable member of the Opposition moved the adjournment of the House to discuss another question, and here we are, with another day gone, still dealing with the Bill. I hope that the Prime Minister will take every means, short of using the “ gag,” to insure the speedier transaction of business this session. It is unfortunate that the honorable member for Parramatta did not acquaint himself with the facts of the case before addressing himself to this question. Had he done so, he could not possibly have said what he did.
– Oh ! Could he not?
– I think not. I give him that much credit.
– The honorable member does not know him.
– Until I do, I am prepared to think well of him. I urge the honorable member for Parramatta to ascertain the facts in regard to the suggestion made bythe Prime Minister to Mr. Barnes, the Treasurer of Queensland, who came to Melbourne to interview him in regard to the incidence of the regulation issued by the Minister of Trade and Customs.
– The interview affected the construction of the sugar mills, did it not?
– No. It was about the matter of wages.
- Mr. Barnes’ request concerned the construction of the central mills proposed to be erected by the Queensland Government only to the extent that the growers feared that under the new regulation fixing a higher rate of wages they might not be able to successfully grow cane. It was thought that they might not be disposed to produce such a quantity as would make the mills a success, and, that being so, the Queensland Government decided to find out the actual position before committing themselves to an expenditure of about£350,000. The Prime Minister offered the suggestion - which was quite consistent with his attitude all along the line - that, provided an absolute guarantee were given that coloured labour would be excluded from the sugar industry, the abolition of the Excise and bounty could easily follow, and the sugar industry could be placed on the same level as other protected industries. He added that if the Queensland Government introduced arid passed a Bill abolishing coloured labour in the sugar industry, he would influence his colleagues and his party to agree to pass next session a Bill for the abolition of the Excise and bounty. The honorable member for Parramatta has overlooked the fact that the promise given was that such a Bill would he introduced next session. It was with considerable pleasure that we learned that Mr. Denham had promptly written agreeing to the suggestion, adding also that his Government thought there was no need to wait until next session, but that an Excise and Bounty Repeal Bill might be introduced this session. I am prepared to say that if the Queensland Government will pass a Bill to abolish coloured labour,
I shall strongly urge the Government, before the Houserises this session, to propose the repeal of the Excise and bounty.
– That is all we ask.
– The honorable member agrees with the amendment, but will not vote for it.
– That is not exactly what the amendment signifies.
– Nothing else.
– The amendment signifies that for the time being the Minister shall hold the power to say what the rate of wages shall be, whereas the Bill proposes to transfer that power from the Minister to a judicial tribunal.
– There is no objection to that.
– The judicial tribunal could not come to a decision before next year.
– There is an easier remedy, because the Minister can, under the regulation and the Bill, accept the decision of any local industrial tribunal, and has promised to do so; and the Queensland Government propose to extend the scope of their Industrial Peace Bill so as to include the sugar industry.
– Hear, hear ! That is the amendment.
– It happens to be theBill. not the amendment.
– It will be seen, therefore, that there will be no necessity for the Minister to refer the matter to the Arbitration Court, and thus delay an award, when one can be secured earlier from the Industrial Courts of Queensland. But, again, I am prepared to say that any award under the local Industrial Courts will not be so satisfactory as leading to the settlement we all desire as an award of the Arbitration Court.
– Why should it not be equally satisfactory ?
– Why is it that the Wages Boards awards throughout the States are so much less acceptable to both workers and employers than are the decisions of the Arbitration Court?
– Indeed, they are not.
– That leads me to the fact that there has been consistent opposition on the part of employers to allowing appeals to Wages Boards, and no employing body has been more persistent in that opposition than the Colonial Sugar Refining Company.
– That is not the experience in Victoria.
– The company is objecting in Victoria to-day.
– I thank the honorable member for Kooyong for his interjection, which I can answer from a letter which appears in the Age of this morning, which has reference to the Colonial Sugar Refining Company in Victoria. The letter contains the following: -
Would you kindly grant me space to make public the methods adopted by the Colonial Sugar Refining Co. to prevent the employes obtaining a Wages Board. Last week they sent a petition around the works asking the employes to refuse a Wages Board, and those selected to take it around told those that they asked to sign it that it would be better for them if they signed it, and that the company would grant them an increase of 2s. a week at Christmas.
And so on. I understand the letter has already been read to honorable members If the honorable member for Kooyong would like to read the remainder or it I can let him see it; and I can tell him that there are some strange facts disclosed in connexion with New South Wales.
– It is the exception that proves the rule.
– It is not an exception. We have the further fact that in the early part of last year there was a strike in the sugar districts of Queensland. The sugar season starts usually in July, but as early as February the workers approached the employers and asked for a conference to discuss wages and conditions for the forthcoming season; and the strike that occurred was solely and entirely due to the employers’ absolute refusal to meet in conference, or to refer the question to any outside tribunal. The men were asking for a wage of 30s. a week and keep, equal to something like £2 2s. 6d. ; and, as I said in Cairns last year, I was amazed at the modesty of their demands. It utterly surprises me to fmd that white men are content to work for £2 2s. 6d. a week, especially in the tropical parts of Australia. The honorable member for Parramatta sought to cast some ridicule on the statement of the honorable member for Capricornia in reference to asking the grower to pay those wages without offering him any compensation. The question of bow the manufacturer or employer has to find the extra money to pay the wages is not under consideration; our first consideration must always be what is sufficient to enable the worker to lead a decent and comfortable life.
Mr- Joseph Cook. - I did not controvert that position in any way.
– The question is not so much whether the grower can afford to pay the wage, as whether or not the worker is entitled to a reasonable amount on which he can live in decent comfort. That the grower is able to recoup himself is just as evident, as is the fact that an employer in any other industry is able to recoup himself.
– The honorable member for Capricornia has just been trying to prove that the grower cannot.
– The honorable member for Parramatta tried to make out that because we were not able to help the grower, we should not help the worker.
– Nothing of the kind; that is an entire misstatement.
– The honorable member for Parramatta ridiculed the statement of the honorable member for Capricornia, and said that it was sought to consider the worker without giving any consideration to the grower. It is somewhat amusing to find honorable members opposite expressing unbounded concern for the grower. There is no one whom the members of the Labour party are more anxious to help than the sugar-grower, because we realize that he is heavily handicapped in his endeavour to treat his workers decently owing to the fact that he himself is not being treated decently by those above him. We are accustomed, in speaking of the sugar industry, to divide those interested in this industry into workers, growers, millers, refiners, and, finally, the public. But it would be much fairer to separate them into three classes, namely, the workers, the growers and the crushers; for it is very certain that the millers and refiners not only undertake to crush cane, but also, and very successfully, to crush the growers and the workers. I have intense sympathy for the sugar-grower of Queensland, who knows that the workmen are entitled to fair wages, but who has found out, not only that he cannot afford to pay those wages, but that the only difficulty is that a company, or a combination of companies, is securing all the “ sugar” and leaving them little to work on. Some of the small workers are handicapped by mort- gages, heavy interest charges and an increasing wages bill, and their only hope of redress is to join forces with the workers against the crushers. I hope the time is not far distant when they will join with the workers and give this Parliament the power to deal with the men above them, who are not giving them the share of the benefits of the industry to which they are justly entitled. Honorable members should not forget that the proposal now before us did not succeed, but was antecedent to, the suggestion made in regard to the abolition of the Excise and bounty in the sugar industry.Some honorable members have argued, as the Melbourne Age did this morning, that this Bill was brought down since the proposal was made for the abolition of the Excise and bounty, and the imposition of a Customs duty solely as a protection for the industry. I remind them that the Minister stated, in introducing the Bill last Thursday, that this proposal had already been under consideration. We know that we have been told by every deputation, and in every speech, that the sugar industry cannot afford to pay the wages suggested by the Minister of Trade and Customs. I wish honorable members to remember that whenever a suggestion has been made for an increase of wages and an improvement of the conditions of the workers in the industry the same opposition has been shown, and the same arguments used. I have here a copy of the official report of a deputation that waited on the Minister of Trade and Customs in May, 1908. On that deputation was Mr. D. H. Pritchard, secretary of the Australian Sugar Producers Association. Honorable members will have remarked the significant fact that this gentleman has been haunting the precincts of this House during the last week, and they must have noticed that the honorable members for Richmond and Moreton have found occasion to consult with him during the course of this debate.
– That is a deliberate misstatement.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order ! I ask the honorable member for Richmond to withdraw the remark that the honorable member for Brisbane made a deliberate misstatement.
– I withdraw it; and, on a point of order, I ask that the honorable member for Brisbane should withdraw his misstatement that I have been consulting during this debate with the secretary of the Australian Sugar Producers Association.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.If the honorable member considers the statement offensive, I ask the honorable member for Brisbane to withdraw it.
– Certainly ; I meant no offence. I wished only to state the facts.
– I rise to order. I claim that that statement is not a withdrawal.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.I ask the honorable member for Brisbane to withdraw the statement.
– I withdraw it.
– Has the honorable member for Brisbane had anything to say to this man?
– Yes, I have said “ Good day” to him several times. The deputation to the Minister of Trade and Customs, on 20th May, 1908, was composed of Mr. Pritchard, Senators Chataway, St. Ledger, and Sayers, and Messrs. Archer, Foxton, and Sinclair.
– The honorable member for Moreton denied that he was on the deputation.
– That is so. Only a few minutes ago the honorable member denied that he was on this deputation. The wages which were being paid at that time in the industry were 22s. 6d. per week, or 3s. 9d. a day, and the then Minister of Trade and Customs proposed that they should be increased to 30s. a week, or 5s. a day, and keep. One of the arguments urged by the deputation in opposition to the proposed new regulation was -
The new regulation of 30s. a week and found is more than the sugar industry can afford to pay for casual unskilled field labour, and is nearly double what is paid for similar labour in other agricultural industries in this country.
I cannot take up time now in going through all the arguments urged by the deputation in favour of retaining the lower scale of wages.
– Who spoke for the deputation ?
– The principal speakers were Mr. Pritchard, Mr. Archer, Senator Chataway, Colonel Foxton, and Senator Sayers.
– What is the honorable member quoting from?
– From the official report of the deputation, as published in the Daily Record of Rockhampton. There is another significant fact in connexion with this deputation. It has been argued thatthe present Minister of Trade and Customs has no power to make the regulations that he has issued. The same question was raised by the deputation to which I have referred, and, amongst other things, they said -
We protest against your action, because it was not intended by the Bounty Act of 1905 that the Minister should at will vary the rates payable in the sugar districts. We say there is no legal authority for him to do so.
That argument is repeated to-day. It was met by the then Minister of Trade and Customs, Mr. Austin Chapman, by reading to the deputation section 9 of the Sugar Bounty Act of 1905, as follows : -
Every grower of white-grown sugar who claims the bounty payable under this Act shall, in making such claim, certify .to the Minister the rate of wages paid to any labour employed by him, other than the labour of members of his family, If the Minister finds that such rate of wages is below the standard rate, paid in the district in which the sugar is grown, to similar white labour engaged in that industry, then the Minister may withhold the whole or any part of the bounty payable.
So that the arguments used then are being used again to-day. There is this further significant fact to be borne in mind that the people who then opposed the increased rate of wages suggested, and protested against the Minister varying the regulation regarding wages, or interfering in any degree with the sugar industry, were the same people who, a very few years before, were consistent opponents of white labour, and the friends of coloured labour in the industry. If I had the time, I could quote references to show that, time after time, the senators who were members of the deputation to which I have referred, and the men protesting against the regulation then proposed, were the champions of black labour in the Queensland sugar districts. Mr. Pritchard, who represents the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, and who has been consulted by members of the Opposition in regard to this Bill, was always the champion of that company, who, in its turn, has always been the champion of coloured labour in the industry. We have been told, over and over again, that the sugar industry could never afford to pay good wages. That” was put forward as a bogy when the White Australia policy was first introduced. It was then said that we should never be able to grow cane with white labour, and it is to the everlasting credit of the Labour party, that, in spite of all these protestations, prophecies of failure, and suggestions of doom and disaster, we have persevered with our White Australia policy, and we stand here to-day as the champions of a White Australia in opposition to those men who desire to have coloured labour again employed in the industry.
– Who does the honorable member mean by “ those men?”
– I mean honorable members opposite.
– Why, the Leader of the Opposition is the author of this business.
– What does the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition mean but that if the Excise and bounty be abolished the barriers which at present exclude the introduction of coloured labour will be lowered? It has been suggested that the sugar bounty was granted by this Parliament for the purpose of penalizing the cane-growers who employed black labour. Nothing of the kind. It was given to encourage the production of sugar by white labour. That it penalized the production of ‘sugar by black labour was merely an incident in its working. We shall have to continue this encouragement of white-grown sugar until every black man in the industry has disappeared. Then we shall be in a position to remove the barriers, but not till then. I rejoice that the Prime Minister has been so emphatic in his declaration that until the Queensland and the New South Wales Parliaments have passed Bills dealing with this matter we shall not remove even one restriction against the production of blackgrown sugar in Australia. If to-morrow the Queensland Parliament were to pass a Bill prohibiting the employment of coloured labour in the industry, we have to remember that there would still be a certain amount of sugar production in New South Wales. No doubt the Parliament of that State will pass a similar measure.
– But. the Bills which the New South Wales and Queensland Governments propose to introduce will have to pass the Legislative Councils of those States.
– And honorable members who know the composition of those Councils know that it is only because they realize that the people of Australia have made up their minds on this question that they will reluctantly pass them. Until those measures have become the law of the land-
– That is exactly what I said-
– The honorable member wishes us to stay our hands-
– I wish this Bill to be held over until Bills prohibiting the employment of black labour in the sugar industry have been passed by the Queensland and New South Wales Parliaments.
– And in the meantime the workers would have to take what they could get. Last year, at the instigation of outsiders, and owing to the pressure of public opinion, a conference was held in Queensland which settled the rates of wages to be paid in the sugar industry. But those rates were limited to last season, and every effort which has been made by the workers to secure a conference with a similar object in view this year - outside of districts in which Wages Boards have been established - has been met with an absolute refusal. I believe that if it had not been for the shortage in the crop this year, and for the fact that the season will be a brief one, there would probably have been a recurrence of the trouble which was experienced last year. We must reach finality in this matter. These disturbances are not for the good of the industry
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I challenge the honorable member who has just resumed his seat, and also the honorable member for Capricornia, to prove from any document that I have ever uttered a word in favour of the retention of a wage of 22s. 66. per week to the employes in the sugar industry. For the honorable member for Brisbane to read lo the Committee a statement from a news- . paper which enjoyed a very brief career, which published only three or four issues, and which was brought out for the express purpose of helping the Labour party, is not sufficient, proof. To do that is merely to distort the truth. I am rather surprised at the honorable member for Brisbane descending to such tactics.
– Does the honorable member deny that he was on the deputation ?
– The honorable member was loud in his remarks concerning the maintenance of the White Australia policy. But this Parliament has endeavoured for years to uphold that policy. The Government have attempted to exclude coloured ‘ labour from the sugar industry, and have been successful in reducing its employment to a ‘minimum. At the present time only about 4 per cent, of the sugar produced in Australia is being grown by black labour. The amendment which is now under consideration affords us an opportunity to absolutely wipe out this class of labour. Mr. Denham, the Premier of Queensland, has promised to introduce legislation which will insure the industry in that State being carried on under white labour conditions. He is prepared to compensate the growers who employ black labour, and thus effectually to uphold the White Australia policy. The Minister of Trade and Customs, I regret to say, has placed upon the amendment a construction which it was not intended to bear. If he says that he will not take a direction from this Committee upon a simple question, of course, we are unable to force his hand. But for a number of years it has been the practice to take a test vote upon important questions by moving for the omission of some word which might perhaps mean nothing at all. It was for this reason that the Leader of the Opposition proposed the deletion of the word “ bounty.” The question at issue is whether the President of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court or the Minister shall fix the wages and conditions which shall obtain in the sugar industry. Some doubt has been raised as to whether the cane-growers would secure any benefit from, the abolition of the Excise and the bounty. The honorable member for Capricornia doubts whether they would. The Minister of Trade and Customs has said that, so far, only one offer has been forthcoming to grant the cane-growers the resultant benefit if the Excise and bounty be dispensed with. I hold in my hand copies of telegrams which were sent to Mr. Swayne, the representative of one of the sugar districts in the Legislative Assembly of Queensland, who is also a canegrower himself.
– Is he an advocate of the employment of white labour?
– Yes. He is anxious to put the industry upon the best possible footing. The following wire is dated 13th September of the present year. It is addressed, “ Swayne, Parliament House, Brisbane “ -
The Plane Creek Company agrees 9s. 6d. per ton extra for cane if bounty and Excise are abolished. Kindly advise Premier.
– For how long?
– The telegram does not. say.
– But there are conditions attached to that offer.
– There may be. It has been said by the Minister that only one offer has been made.
– Only one offer has been sent to the Department. I do not know how many persons have sent telegrams to members of Parliament in Queensland or elsewhere. Whether they like me or not, I am the head of the Department of Trade and Customs.
– I take it that Mr. Innes is the secretary of the Plane Creek Company. There is another wire from Mackay, also addressed to Mr. Swayne, and dated 17 th September, 191 2 -
Following resolution was passed by Mackay manufacturers and letter was written Farmers Association 18th January, 1910, with reference to your letter 1st November last on subject of Excise and bounty we undertake to give the growers when purchasing cane the full advantage which will accrue from gradual reduction and ultimate extinction of Excise provided that cane grown by white labour that existing import duty of £6 per ton on cane sugar and£10 on beet sugar be maintained that cane be of standard prescribed by section 6 of Sugar Bounty Act 1905, and that no adverse legislation be passed this undertaking still holds good.
– What does the honorable member construe” full advantage” to mean in pounds, shillings, and pence?
– The total amount saved by the abolition of the Excise.
– You do not buy a horse in that way. You name pounds, shillings, and pence.
– There is no wriggling out of this offer.
– There is scope for whittling it away.
– I do not think that there is either the scope or the desire.
– Butter contracts are more definite.
– I believe in having sound agreements in black and white; but this is merely a telegram repeating a statement made in 1910, which, it says, still holds good. The honorable member will not trust any one. He quoted from a report furnished by Dr. Maxwell to the Commonwealth Government, which has not been printed. I learned for the first time tonight that the honorable member has confidence in and appreciation for Dr. Maxwell.
– One may quote a man’s opinion without having full confidence in him. It is said that the devil can quote scripture for his purpose.
– I am surprised thai Dr. Maxwell, who, until a few years ago, was employed by the Queensland Government, and would still be in that employ had he given satisfaction to the sugar industry, has divulged information which came to his knowledge while in the service of the Queensland Government.
– I think that he had left the service of the Queensland Government when the report was written. He was employed for six years at a salary of £3,000 a year.
– He was paid £100 by the honorable member for Kooyong when Minister of Customs to write a report for the last Government.
– I am surprised that in it Dr. Maxwell divulged information which he must have received as a confidential servant of the Queensland Government.
– I understand that the report was written as evidence to be given before the Sugar Commission which the last’ Government proposed to appoint, but did not.
– It had not the opportunity.
– The Minister has not done anything with the report. It has not even been printed.
– I laid it on the table a month or six weeks ago, but did not think it worth printing.
– Dr. Maxwell quotes Dr. Ham.
– Yes. He says that Dr. Ham’s report was suppressed by the Queensland Government.
– A police commissioner’s report regarding a strike was suppressed by a Queensland Government once.
– And the honorable member himself suppressed a few things regarding a strike. The honorable member for Capricornia should have given us either more or less information regarding the action of a central mill in refusing to take cane from other mills. He might have mentioned the name of the mill referred to, so that we could know the strength of his statement. I remember distinctly that some two or three years ago, when the Nambour people decided to pay off their liability to the Government, some of the suppliers to that mill asked the Mount Bauple mill to take their cane, and the Government agreed to do so. I approached the State Government on the matter myself, and also the then Minister of Trade arid Customs - Sir Robert Best - and asked him to prevent the cane going from the Nambour mill to Mount Bauple. The Government were then offering to pay the freight on the cane from the Nambour district to Mount Bauple, and were taking away from the people’s mill at Nambour the cane which they needed for the successful running of the mill.
– What is the Mount Bauple mill?
– A central mill, under the usual central mill conditions. So was the Nambour mill, until the Nambour people, who had a little more pluck than some of the others, decided to relieve the Government of the responsibility. They have been running it as a co-operative mill since. I quote this to show that at least in one instance there were two mills open to growers. I know that at Nerang the Government refused to take cane for some time, but they are taking it there now. The reason they gave for refusing on that occasion was that the mill was a small one, and they had not sufficient power to crush any more cane”. In fairness to the Queensland Government, the honorable member might have informed the Committee that, in order to have these mills established, the growers have to enter into contracts, and practically hypothecate their farms, to supply a certain quantity of cane. A sugar mill, if not kept going with cane, can not be carted away at short notice, but becomes so much scrap iron. In sugar centres, if the farmers want a mill, it is not only necessary, but it has been the practice in Queensland, for them to guarantee to supply it with cane. Most of the central mills (.are carried on very much on co-operative lines. The expenses are taken out of the proceeds of the cane, and the balance, less depreciation and redemption, is paid to the farmers. There are a few private mills, but that is the general rule, I think, so far as those mills are concerned. The suggestion that the people are being victimized by a monopoly, arid forced to sell their cane where it does not pay them to do it, is not a fair one to make.
– Does the honorable member deny that the zone system is in existence in Queensland?
– I do not deny it at all. )
– Does not that mean that a man has to sell to the miller in the zone?
– Not necessarily so. I do not know quite what the honorable member means by the zone system. What I meant by it was the districts that are declared: by the Government, on which the payment of bounty is based.
– That is not the thing at all. The honorable member ought to go to the Bundaberg district to see the zone system in operation.
– I presume there are a number of central mills in the Bundaberg district, and it is necessary to have a zone system so far as the mills are concerned. There is no doubt a benefited area declared before a mill is established, and those who have- farms in it hypothecate them to the Government before the mill is constructed. The time to object to a zone system is before you enter into your compact. After you have entered into it, it is fair to carry it out, and help your fellow farmers by growing cane, as each farmer agreed to do when the establishment of a mill in their midst was asked for. I therefore do not see any objection to the zone system, even as defined by the honorable member for Capricornia. I think the action of the Leader of the Opposition in moving to abolish the Excise and bounty will meet with the approval of the growers of Queensland at any rate, and I believe that the ultimate result, if the amendment were carried, would not be at all detrimental to the wage-earners in the sugar industry. After all, a number of the wage-earners are the small farmers themselves. Particularly in the Moreton district, where they go in for very small areas of cane, the farmers do practically the whole of the work themselves, and so, in my district, they will not be seriously affected. We are quite content to let the bounty and Excise go, if the Minister will agree to the proposal.
.- The honorable member for Capricornia apparently quite overlooked that I laid the utmost emphasis on the fact that the abolition of coloured labour was secured first, and in no sense affected by, or involved in, the proposal I was submitting. My first condition was that this Bill should not be rejected, but that, if the amendment was carried, it would be an indication to the Government of the desire of those who carried it that the Bill should not be proceeded with until an opportunity had been afforded to the Queensland ‘ Government, and to the New South Wales Government also, to decree the abolition of coloured labour in those States. That would have removed all difficulty. It freed us from the responsibility which the honorable member appeared to consider rested upon us, of providing in some other way for that abolition. It was not suggested that our sugar policy should be adopted until the question of coloured labour had been settled. The honorable member for Brisbane also misapprehended the question, and his references to black labour dangers are met by the same statement. There was no proposal to encourage or permit the restoration of black labour in any form.
– But you will not deny that your proposal makes it possible.
– It would have been absolutely impossible under the procedure we proposed. It was not intended that the new Act should be brought into operation until that possibility had been excluded. My attention has been called to almost the first speech that I had the honour to deliver in this House, which happened to involve this very question. That speech laid down, in respect to Australia as a whole, and especially for the sugar industry, a continuous reduction of the black labour already in the country, and the absolute exclusion of additions to its numbers. On that issue, therefore, honorable members scarcely need the assurance that they had misapprehended my whole proposal.
We are greatly indebted to the complete and frank statement of the Prime Minister. In fact, the greater portion of the motive power of the amendment was diverted by his speech. He frankly admitted that he looked forward to an early abolition of both the Excise and the bounty, which was the principal proposal I contended for. He stated his firm conviction that this would be brought about in a short time. He regards the passage of this measure as merely a temporary expedient, bridging over the interval until the time - possibly not more than a few months, certainly not later than the next session- when he proposes to make that abolition complete.
– This Bill opens the way to the Arbitration Court.
– That is open in the meantime. The Prime Minister’s statement, however, reduces the difference between us entirely to the manner in which, in the meantime, existing sugar interests’ should be dealt with.
The Prime Minister is strongly convinced that the best opportunity of establishing the conditions of employment on a sound foundation is by an appeal to the existing Commonwealth Arbitration Court. I do not agree, nor can I concur with, his opinion that its decision would be arrived at in three months. In the first place, I believe that much more than three months would be necessary to deal with all the issues affecting labour connected with the sugar industry under the new circumstances about to be introduced. In the next place, I cannot but believe that the proposal of the Queensland Government for the creation of Wages Boards, perhaps as Courts of first instance, offers a speedier and better solution of all local difficulties.
These issues undoubtedly derive a great portion of their complexity from the fact that, whatever the findings adopted, they will need to be applied in very different ways in. the very various parts of the vast State of Queensland. Few of us who have ever visited that State but have been immensely impressed, not only by its great extent, but by the contrasts between the conditions existing in different districts. To adopt a system applicable to the sugar industry as a whole, and yet capable of being adapted to many differing surrounding conditions, is a task which, it seems to me, will certainly not be performed within the time which the Prime Minister was sanguine enough to suggest. But the suggestion that local tribunals should deal with these practical issues, permitting an appeal to the Arbitration Court wherever appeal proves necessary, either to harmonize the different findings or to develop them, would attain the object we have in view in the earliest possible time, and with the least expense. It would also permit a reorganization of the industry throughout Queensland in the speediest possible way, and with the expectation that the solution effected would be more than temporary. It would, at all events, endure until the industry was thoroughly reorganized, or until its conditions were altered either by a higher Court or by legislative action. It will be seen, therefore, that the Prime Minister very nearly approached our desire. The particular points in which we still differ from him were not in regard to the main principle. His reference to the appeal to the Arbitration Court showed that the difference between us had become one of method. He urged our acceptance of the measure. Under these circumstances, I withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
– The debate has covered a considerable amount of ground relating to many phases of sugar production. The Bill itself is simply a proposal to empower the Minister of Trade and Customs to call to his aid, in determining what is a fair wage for those employed in the industry, the Arbitration Court. When that wage has been fixed, the Minister is further empowered to regulate the payment of bounty, so that it may be given to those in the industry who pay the wage determined upon as a fair one, and withhold it from those who do not comply with the determination. So far I am in sympathy with the proposal of the Minister, and am prepared to give it my support. But I recognise, as the honorable member for Parramatta does, that this method does not promise a complete solution of the whole trouble affecting the sugar industry. I do not, however, agree with.him as to the methods by which he proposes to meet the difficulty. Three sets of interests are mentioned as involved, namely, the interest of those engaged in earning wages, the interest of the growers, and the interest of the refiners. But, apart from those, there is the great interest of the consumers. Whilst we are very properly concerned about the wage-earners, the farmers, and the manufacturers, we should not lose sight of the interests of the great body of people who have to use this product. Sugar enters very largely into general consumption. There are very few for whom it is not one of the necessaries of life. This Parliament some years ago passed legislation imposing a Customs Tariff against outside competition to the extent of £6 per ton on all cane-grown sugar, and £12 per ton on beet sugar, which would otherwise be a serious competitor to cane sugar. That was done in order to bring the industry under White Australia conditions. We also imposed an Excise duty and countered that with a bounty to those engaged in the production of white-grown sugar. The result is that the industry is now practically conducted under white conditions; so much so, that only something like 15,000 or 20,000 tons out of a total production of 226,000 tons are being produced by coloured labour, whereas formerly the major part of the production was by means of black labour.
We must realize, however, that these increased charges are passed on to the consumer. Moreover, apparently the wageearner does not get the full benefit from the charge to which he is entitled. Apparently, the cane-grower is in a similar position. In fact, the farmer is in a very unenviable position. He is, so to speak, between the devil and the deep sea. On the one hand, he is met with a demand for increased wages ; and on the other he is pressing against the great sugar refining monopoly. How are we to remedy the difficulty? It seems to me that our regulations and our legislation in this regard can have but slight beneficial effect. We may by this Bill insure fair play for the labourer in the industry. There are in the sugar industry to-day men who assert that 22s. 6d. per week is more than they can afford to pay. They practically demand that, since black labour has been done away with, the industry shall be carried on by white men receiving, practically, black men’s pay. An industry that cannot pay a living wage ought not to be bolstered up or tolerated in this community.
– This industry can afford to pay a living wage if there is fair dealing.
– I believe that the honorable member is right. The sugar industry is natural to certain parts of Australia; and like any other industry natural to Australia, it can pay a living wage if reasonable opportunities are afforded it. I am not going to blame the farmers, in view of the conditions that beset them, because they feel that they are unable to pay higher wages, and view with considerable alarm legislation of this character. They, like the consumer and the worker, are the victims of a huge monopoly that has grown up here; and until we are able and determined to attack that monopoly and crush its monopolistic power, this problem will not be solved. Until that is done, we shall have in connexion with the primary part of the industry, conditions that will mean sweated wages for the workers, poor returns for the farmers, and exorbitant prices to the consumers.
The sugar industry in America has been largely monopolized on lines very similar to those operating here. Those who have read Professor Ripley’s learned book dealing with trusts and monopolies in America, will know that a monopoly begins by gradually obtaining control of the particular production in which it is interested. In the United States of America some of the monopolies practically control from 70 to 95 per cent, of the production in which they are operating- As they obtain control, they eliminate competition either by absorbing it or by crushing it out altogether. They . are then able to make their own terms, both with the primary producer and the consumer. As they begin to control the industry in which they are operating, the prices given for the raw product are put down to the very lowest point, and the prices charged for the manufactured article are raised to the highest. If there is an agitation - if action is taken by the Legislature to investigate the secret operations or the particular monopoly - the first step taken by the monopoly concerned is, according to this learned writer, to obtain the interest and support of the large newspapers. The result is that every effort made to investigate the secret operations of the monopoly is made the subject of adverse criticism by these newspapers, every person who dares to take a hostile stand towards it becomes the target of adverse criticism and misrepresentation. ‘ Even the very Judges of the Courts that are empowered to make such inquiries have their integrity questioned in the press, in the Legislature and on the public platform, if ‘ they honestly set about their work. They are represented as biased and partial, and everything that can be done to discredit them in the proper discharge of their duties is done in this sinister way. If it is found that a Judge can be used by these great trusts, then in the legislative halls, as well as in the press and on public platforms, that man is magnified as a very Solon come to judgment. When the Courts are appealed to, the very best legal talent available is secured by the monopoly affected Enormous expense is apparently incurred by it in maintaining the position it has secured, and at last all opposition is in this way worn down. The expense incurred is ultimately recouped by means of high charges imposed upon the consumers, and by reduced prices paid to the primary producers. That is the history, not of one, but of many trusts in America, and I am afraid that ‘ the infant, trusts that we are rearing in
Australia are following very closely upon American practices and precedents-
As to the sugar monopoly, the Commonwealth, unfortunately, ia not clothed with powers sufficient to enable it to deal effectively with it. We are endeavouring to use the powers we have of investigation and so forth, but we have seen how our attempts have been frustrated by an appeal to the technicalities of law, and by a refusal on the part of those in authority to give the necessary information. I am strongly convinced that the only way in which this and other monopolies can be dealt with is to clothe the- Commonwealth with sufficient’ power to nationalize the industry and conduct it, not in the interests of a few wealthmaking individuals, but for the benefit of the whole of the people. An attempt was made to secure this power last year; and it has been alleged, with what degree of truth I am not prepared to say, that the combine contributed large sums to the fighting fund of those who desired to defeat the referendum. Whatever the cause, the referendum appeal was defeated, and this gives the Colonial Sugar Refining Company the opportunity to carry on its operations and prevent this Parliament and Government from doing anything effective. While thisParliament should exercise all the powers it possesses under the Constitution in order to secure fair wages for the labourers, fair conditions for the farmers who own the land and till it, and reasonable consideration for other interests concerned, it ought not to limit its view merely to those persons, or to the secondary interests of the manufacturer, but bear in mind always the vital interests of the community as represented by the consumer. Until this is done we cannot have all-round justice. I regard this Bill, not as settling the problem, but as a contribution towards the alleviation of some of the harsher features represented by the sweated wages that otherwise would be paid, v
– What about wiping out the duty if it is of no advantage to the growers?
– I think it will be found that the growers are strong advocates of the duty, but it is not of that advantage to them that it might be if they had fairer treatment by this great monopoly. I have here a report prepared by Dr. Maxwell, who, as will be admitted by honorable members on all sides, is a competent and careful man with a knowledge of the sugar industry in Australia such as is possessed, perhaps, by no other person. This report, I understand, was prepared at the instance of the previous Government for the purpose of the investigation which it was proposed to institute into the operations of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company.
– Into the operations of the sugar industry.
– Such an investigation would not be complete unless it embraced the operations of the company. Dr. Maxwell makes a comparison of the prices of raw and refined sugars in Great Britain, New York, and in Australia, and quotes his authorities for his figures, which, I think, will be accepted as reasonably correct. The following is the extract from the report : -
The expression is uniformly in tons of 2,240 lbs.
These figures show one direction in which this company makes very heavy charges for the work it does. This cable shows an increase of £2 10s. 7d. on British, and £2 3s. 6d. on American margins between “ raws “ and “ refined “ prices, charged to the Australian people. I do not propose at this stage to go into the history of the company, and to show how it has piled up profits until it has been hard pressed to dispose of them in the way of dividends. This difficulty has been met by issuing new shares at a nominal figure, and limiting those shares to the present shareholders. In some cases free gifts of shares, which in the open market were selling at from£37 to £39 10s. each, have been made to existing shareholders. All these different methods have been adopted by this company to dispose of the large profits it has made from its operations and the monopoly it enjoys. In addition, it is well known that the company will dispose of its sugar in the outside market, competing with the conditions obtaining there at a very much lower rate than it demands for sugar in Australia. So that the company charges the general consumer in the Australian market, which has been protected for it, from£4 to £6 per ton more than it is prepared to sell its sugar for to consumers inother places. At the present time the New Zealand Government are investigating charges against the company of violating legislation against trusts in that Dominion. These charges are to the effect that an agreement had been entered into between the company and a certain combination of merchants under which the company sells to the merchants in the combination at a lower rate than to those who are not in the combine. Before the trouble in this industry can be removed, and even-handed justice done to allthe interests concerned, we must have some means of dealing with the operations of this great octopus, the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. Until we can do so every effort to secure fair treatment to the workers and farmers in the industry must fail.
I supported the granting of the sugar bounty on the understanding that the community would receive its recompense in the elimination of the black labour element, which so largely entered into the production of sugar, and in the fact that the white labour employed would receive fair play and good conditions, and that the farmers engaged in the industry would receive a fair return for their money and labour. If this industry is to continueto be carried on in tropical districts at a sweated wage of 22s. 6d. per week, which some growers claim is all that the industry can pay ; if the farmers paying these sweated wages are to receive only a small return for their cane; and if, at the same time, a rich company like the Colonial Sugar Refining Company is to monopolize the Australian market, and bleed the consumers white, that is a state of affairs which will never appeal to me. I believe that a remedy can be found by converting this monopoly into a ‘ national undertaking in the interests of the people. If that cannot be done I shall not rest content with the existing order of things, and if there be no other remedy suggested I shall be ready and willing to adopt the remedy of abolishing the bounty, the Excise, and the Customs duty, and let the industry stand the competition of an open market.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 2 and title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment ; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from 6th September (vide page 3003) on motion by Mr. King O’ Malley -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– I understand tbat an arrangement had been come to that no other business would be taken after the Sugar Bounty Bill had been dealt with.
– Order ! I find that the honorable member has already spoken to the motion.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Greene) adjourned.
House adjourned at 10.34 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 18 September 1912, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1912/19120918_reps_4_66/>.