5th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– The following statement has been published in the Western Suburbs Advocate, a Sydney newspaper: -
Nine naughty non-drilling cadets were proceeded against by Area Officer Kellick, of Balmain, for not attending drill. They pleaded guilty, and were fined £1, and remanded in the custody of Area Officer Kellick for fourteen days to render in person the service required of them. They were not given time to pay, and those that did nut do so went to gaol for fourteen days, withhard labour, before going to the barracks.
Will the Minister representing the Minister of Defence inquire as to the correctness of that statement, and, if it is true, ascertain whether the detention is not illegal, and see that it does not occur again ?
– I shall ask the Minister of Defence to cause inquiry to be made, and shall give the honorable member an answer later.
– Has the Honorary Minister any further information in reference to the Newcastle cadets, and the reception celebrations in Sydney in connexion with the arrival of the Australia?
-I approached the Minister of Defence yesterday in regard to the matter, and had some conversation with him. I shall obtain some definite written answer from my honorable colleague, and give it to the honorable member at the adjournment of the House tonight if that will suit him. There are some difficulties in the way which had better he dealt with by the Minister, rather than that I should make a rambling statement.
– Will the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs say whether there is a delay in the erection of the woollen mills at Geelong, and, if so, what is the reason for it?
– There has been a delay, unfortunately, in the works, owing to the contractfor the supply of girders and trusses not being due yet, and to the other work having been completed in the meantime. The contract was let by my predecessor. If the honorable member asks his question on notice, I can give him the exact dates.
– I desire to know from the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs whether he has taken into consideration the desirability of placing the Commonwealth Woollen Mills and other industrial concerns belonging to the Commonwealth on Commonwealth Territory at Jervis Bay or Canberra, instead of at Geelong?
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
– I ask the Prime Minister if he will state the exact position now existing between the Federal Government and the Government of New South Wales in connexion with the quarantine for small-pox operating over Sydney. Has the Federal Government in any way used its influence in favour of the compulsory vaccination of adults in New South Wales? What overtures have been made to the State Government regarding isolation and the disinfection of infected areas, so as to enable the Federal Government to lift the quarantine?
– The position is, briefly, what I stated yesterday. We are confining our efforts to the prevention of the spread of the disease to other States.
– That is doing nothing.
– Australia is behind the Prime Minister; it is a question of Sydney versus Australia.
– We have left to the Government of New South Wales the duty and obligation of grappling with the disease, and have imposed no condition, the only stipulation being that the State Government must satisfy us that there is no possibility of the disease spreading to the other States as a condition precedent to the raising of the quarantine.
– The Federal Government determined the area that should be quarantined.
– Of course, there had to be a line drawn somewhere. I received from the Premier of New South Wales some time ago a letter, to which I replied the other day, and as soon as I can get the correspondence here, I shall lay it on the table, so that honorable members may see exactly how matters stand. Our attitude, shortly, is this: If the New South Wales Government will proceed to isolation, and deal with the matter themselves, we shall be glad to lift the quarantine the moment that we are convinced that the steps they have taken are adequate for the purpose of protecting the other States of Australia.
– I have not intervened in this matter before, but I rise now to ask the Prime Minister if he has been legally advised that he had the power to quarantine an area within 15 miles radius of the General Post-office, Sydney. If that is so, what is to hinder the Government from quarantining a smaller area, or a number of smaller areas?
– The State Government has at its command all the resources for fighting the disease at close quarters, whereas we have not the requisite machinery. We therefore thought it a fair thing to allow the State Government to tackle the disease at close quarters, and to stamp it out, confining our attention to the preservation of the other States from the ravages of the disease. That seems to me the proper Federal line of action in this connexion.
– Then there is want of courage, not of power.
– May we understand that the Government have intimated to the New South Wales Government its willingness to raise the embargo if that Government will take the steps which the Prime Minister has just mentioned?
– Unfortunately, I have not Mr. Holman’s letter, but I shall lay it on the table as soon as I get it. In the meantime, let me read an extract from my letter to him.
– Answer the question.
– I am doing my best to answer it.
– The honorable gentleman has no courage.
– Order !
– The health of the people of Australia appears to be nothing to the Opposition.
– What I am doing requires a little courage. My constituency, as well as that of the honorable member for East Sydney, is within the quarantined area. I hope that I have tried to realize my duty to Australia, as well as to Sydney. I ask, Mr. Speaker, to be protected from these insults. I receive nothing but personal abuse whenever I rise to speak, and the right honorable member for Wide Bay is joining with those who are responsible for it.
– I have already called the House to order.
– Every day it unfortunately devolves on me to call attention to the disorderly practice of interjecting immediately after I have called the House to order. That has already occurred two or three times this afternoon. If it continues there will be no other alternative open to me, however distasteful it may be to me personally, than to put another standing order in force.
– Put a few of them out, and increase the majority.
– The honorable member for Melbourne Ports has interjected before I have had time to resume my seat. I hope that he will not do so again. This is the last time that I shall call attention to the matter to-day. If the offence is again committed I shall take another course.
– It is a pity that this important subject cannot be discussed without the display of so much heat. I said in my letter -
I learn, with pleasure, that your Government proposes to legislate upon the subject of vaccination, and are taking such powers as will, in your opinion, render Federal legislation superfluous. Had this action been taken at an earlier stage it is probable that the disease might have been by this time suppressed in Sydney. You ask for a revocation of the Federal Regulations. This would mean the removal of the only existing means to prevent the spread to otherStates, and, as my advisers here are strongly against such a course, the Government feel quite unable to accept the heavy responsibility of doing so. Immediately, however, your legislation is enacted, and the administration in operation, we will then be in a position to consult with the Quarantine Department as to the adequacy of the action taken by you, and to consider the revocation of the Federal Regulations.
That is our attitude.
– And so say all of us.
– I repeat that our only purpose all through has been to prevent the spread of this disease to other States while, at the same time, encouraging the State Government to grapple with it at close quarters by isolation and other means. We have not, however, sought to compel them to provide for . compulsory vaccination. We. have done nothing of the kind.
– But the Government are asking them to legislate.
– Does not the honorable member realize that the letter I have just read was in reply to a communication from the State Government telling me that they were going to legislate, and urging that, because they were going to legislate to provide for isolation and other means of stamping out this disease, the quarantine should be raised at once? My reply to that letter is that the moment they pass their legislation and show that they are grappling with the disease at close quarters, then, and only then, can we consider the advisableness of raising the quarantine.
– I should like to ask the Prime Minister whether it is a fact that the Federal Government have practically sought to induce the State Government of New South Wales to pass a compulsory vaccination law, so as to enable the Commonwealth to relieve New South Wales of the proclamation, and, secondly, whether the honorable gentleman declares that the State authorities have been neglectful of their duties ever since this outbreak, and that if they had been more careful the epidemic would have been stamped out long since ?
– As to the first part of the question, namely, whether we have induced the State Government to compulsorily vaccinate the people of Sydney, my answer is an emphatic “ No.” Coming to the second part of the question, I can only say that we take up the one ground that I have already indicated. I hope that my honorable friends opposite will not keep asking me these questions, because they have all been answered before. I have already explained to the honorable member that our duty so far has ceased when we have taken steps to prevent the spread of the disease to other States. We have left to the State all along the obligation of dealing with the disease within its own borders in its own way.
– To prevent misapprehension, I would ask the Prime Minister whether it is not a fact that since the issue of the proclamation, the Board of Health of New South Wales has removed patients and fumigated in the necessary way the premises in which they were found?
– I understand that they are doing their best to grapple with this matter. They themselves, however, evidently do not consider that they yet have sufficient power. Hence they tell us that it is proposed to pass a stronger Act.
– Providing for vaccination only.
– No. I can assure my honorable friend that that is not so. I understand that the State Government are proposing to provide for the vaccination of infants alone, and to take other powers to deal with patients in the manner suggested by the question put to me by the honorable member for East Sydney.
– They have already those powers.
– They say they have not.
– Does the Prime Minister contend that the State Government have not the power to segregate and isolate all patients and contacts in a small-pox epidemic, and also to deal with the sanitary conditions under which the cases are discovered ?
– All I can say in reply is that the State Government are asking for more power. Evidently the State Government believe that they have nob the power, but I cannot pretend to tell honorable members what their legal power is, because I do not know exactly. I only know that the State Government believe that they have not the power, and that, I understand, is the reason they have not acted before to-day.
– I have with me the correspondence promised in reference to quarantine matters, and lay it on the table.
Ordered to be printed.
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
– I rise to make a personal explanation, and in doing so it will be necessary for me to refer to two paragraphs appearing in the Age and Argus of to-day relative to the speech I delivered in this House yesterday on the motion for the second reading of the
Electoral Bill. The Argus report of my speech states that I said -
The second reading of the Bill would have his support, and in Committee some alterations might be effected.
In the Age report of our proceedings I am reported as follows -
He would support the second reading in the endeavour to secure amendments in Committee.
A different version appears in the leading article columns of the Age, which here selects words which it deems most suitable for its own purpose. The statement in the leading article is as follows: -
Mr. Dankel showed Ministers how this may be done. All he requires of them is that they should jettison from the Bill the whole of the postal voting provisions, which in their crass foolishness and abysmal ineptitude they had designed, and substitute therefor a set of new clauses which Mr. Dankel in his wisdom has invented. Let the Government merely do that, and Mr. Dankel would solemnly promise to vote for the second reading of the Bill, whatever the Caucus might do or say to prevent him.
That puts a very different complexion on the whole matter. I tried to make it plain - and the Hansard report of my speeches shows that I did so - that if the Ministry would accept the amendments I had foreshadowed I would vote for the second reading of the Bill. The Hansard report is as follows -
If Ministers accept the amendments which I have foreshadowed, I shall support the second reading, and I hope that in Committee we shall be able to effect alterations.
Mr. KELLY laid upon the table the following papers: -
Elections and Referendums 1913 - Memorandum by the Chief Electoral Officer re Enrolment, Absent Voting, Inspectors, Officials, &c.
Electoral Rolls - Memorandum by the Chief Electoral Officer to the Commonwealth Electoral Officers of the various States re objections by political organizations, &c.
Meteorological Bureau at Cairns - Memorandum re proposed establishment.
– In view of the fact that the duties on sugar, meat, and wool under the United States of America Tariff have been removed, and that there is a population of 100,000,000 in that country, will the Prime Minister agree to vote £100,000 instead of £20,000 . for the representation of Australia at the forthcoming Exposition, which will afford a splendid opportunity to advertise Australia’s industries and products?
– I shall require a little time to consider that question.
Electricians - Tasmanian Mail Service - Telephone Conduits : Discharge of Men
– In putting a question without notice to the Postmaster-General, I shall have to ask your indulgence, Mr. Speaker, whilst I make a short explanatory statement. In the A rt/vs to-day the following statement appears-
– The honorable member will not be in order in reading that statement.
– I can put the facts before the House without reading it. At the present time there is trouble in the General Post Office, Sydney, in connexion with the postal mechanics and electricians. Under an award made by Mr. Justice Higgins, the men have been granted an increase in salary, ‘but, go far as’ 1 can understand, there is evidently an attempt on the part of the Department so to reduce the status of the men that, instead of * obtaining an increase, they will really get a decrease of pay.
– Amounting to £6 a year.
– There will be a difference of £24 a year between the increase and the decrease. As late as yesterday, I received a message to the effect that the men would go out on strike to-day. I replied, “For God’s sake, do not do so. I will interview the Postmaster-General and see if something can be done.” Has the Postmaster-General instructed the Department in Sydney that the decision of the Court shall be observed - that the 8 ta/,u quo shall be maintained - until he has had an opportunity to investigate the case!
– Last evening, about half-past 9 o’clock, I received a telephone message from a gentleman whom I take to be the secretary of the union. I told that gentleman that I had no knowledge of the matter, but would inquire into it to-day. I advised the men that they had better continue at work until I had had an opportunity to deal with the question. Unfortunately for some of the men, the award acts against them, but it materially improves the position of others. It provides that junior mechanics, meaning those who have not passed a certain examination, are to receive a salary of £144 a year, whilst mechanics are to be paid £168. I sent over to Sydney to-day to get particulars, and I have received the following information -
Regarding the matter of the mechanics for New South Wales, I understand by telephone from Mr. Hesketh that 15b men are affected by the award, and that 138 of these suffer reduction.
One hundred and fifteen, who are now receiving gs. 6d. a day, are reduced to the position of junior mechanic, and will receive from 5s. 4d. to- gs. 2d. a day, according to their age, in terms of the Arbitration Court award. Those who are over the age of twenty-one years can receive a higher rate of pay by passing the requisite examination as fixed by the Arbitration Court, ample facilities for which have already been afforded, and will bc afforded in the future, to them.
Nine will be reduced from 4s. Sd. to 4s. 3d. a day.
Fourteen (the balance) have been engaged on work in the telegraph and telephone workshops. Five of these, who are engaged in the telegraph workshop, are being reduced from 119. to 10s. Sd. a day. The case of the other nine is being looked into as to whether they do not come under a section of the award which would entitle them to higher salary than that of junior mechanics.
As regards Melbourne, I have ascertained that too employed will suffer reduction ; 106 of these will be reduced from ^148 13s. 6d. per annum to £144 per annum, and three (the balance) from ^’148 to £132. One of the latter will get /fi 44 per annum during the current month.
P.S. - Twenty men in Sydney ceased duty this morning in consequence of the reduction in the rate of pay. They have again resumed.
I am trying to give all the information I can; and what I am reading now is just as new to me as it is to honorable members. This memorandum has been sent to all the States -
Circular 622. Re postal electricians’ award. Commissioner advises that in any case where permanent officer is receiving salary higher than provisions of award he may continue to be paid his present salary, but wages of temporary employes are to be adjusted to award rates. Please act accordingly, and state how many cases adversely affected your State.
So far as I understand, the award has been applied to temporary employes. I have no more information ; but what I have read clearly shows that the award, unfortunately for a section of the men, puts them in a worse position than they were in before. However, by passing the examination, those men may have their salaries increased to £168.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral inquire as to the reduction of the status of postal electricians to that of junior mechanics, with a corresponding decrease in wages; and willhe inquire also into the threat that if the men refuse to accept the smaller payment, their services will be dispensed with?
– That is a matter which I believe to be completely in the hands of the Public Service Commissioner.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral kindly inform the House as to the stage of the negotiations with the shipping companies in reference to providing an improved mail service to Tasmania ?
– The terms of the contract have been agreed on by the shipping companies, and one of the Honorary Ministers in another place will to-day give a full explanation of the position. I do not know whether honorable members, under the circumstances, will desire me to say anything further.
– In any contract that may be made will the PostmasterGeneral see that there is a provision for the calling of a boat once a week at Stanley? I should also like to know whether there will be a call three times weekly at Burnie, or only twice, as at present?
– I shall have the matter looked into for the information of the honorable member.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral explain why upwards of 100 men have been discharged in connexion with the telephone conduit work in Sydney and suburbs?
– I have received the following message from Sydney in regard to the matter : -
On the 5th August last there were 125 men engaged on conduit work in the metropolitan area in New South Wales. Since that date the services of99 have been dispensed with, because the works on which they have been engaged have been completed, leaving 26 men at present employed. Authority has now been received for further works to be carried out, and an additional 60 men will be put on at the earliest possible moment. In addition, there are 52 men employed on conduit works in the country districts.
– The honorable member for Yarra asked me some time ago if I would lay on thetable copies of a report of the Conference dealing with a uniform standard for foods and drugs. I now lay that report upon the table, and intimate that I shall send copies to every member of the House.
– In view of the unpleasant state of the northern end of the gardens surrounding Parliament House, to a portion of which no honorable member can get access because there are two fences dividing it from the main gardens, I would like to ask the Prime Minister whether he will take into consideration the opening up of that portion to the public and beautifying it. At present it is a disgrace to the city.
– I am afraid that our right to do that work has first to be considered. As the honorable member knows, this is State property, of which we are at present the happy and fortunate occupiers. However, I will have the matter inquired into to see what can be done.
– On the 10th September, I asked the Minister of Trade and Customs a question in relation to sugar, a subject we are to discuss to-day. Is the Minister prepared to answer my question, or as much as possible of it, so that we may be able to deal with the matter properly ?
– I have the information with me, but there are certain names mentioned which I do not think it is desirable to make public.
– In order that the information may be placed on record, I shall be pleased if the Minister will read it during the course of his speech, omitting the names, if necessary.
– I am prepared to give the whole of the information if desired.
Rolls - Objections - Reports and Correspondence
– I would like the Minister representing the Electoral Department, as a matter of urgency, to make inquiries this afternoon to ascertain whether it is true that objections have been lodged to nearly 300 names on the electoral roll for the small subdivision of Mascot, in the Cook electorate, and, if it be so, to state what routine will be followed in regard to dealing with these objections?
– I shall do so.
– I wish to know from the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs if, while he is making inquiries about the number of names that have been struck off the roll for the Cook Division, he will also make inquiries as to the number struck off the roll for the Darwin Division, particularly in Zeehan and Queenstown ?
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether he has any objection to laying on the table of the House copies of all reports and communications made by the Chief Electoral Officer in relation to the present state of the Electoral Act, the taking of the poll at the last election, and to other matters incidental thereto?
– There is no objection to laying on the table papers of a non-confidential nature with reference to the recent elections. Opportunity is now taken to lay upon the table of the House a copy of a memorandum by the Chief Electoral Officer, dated 11th August, 1913. It is understood that the right honorable member’s question does not refer to communications regarding amendments of the Act incorporated in the Electoral Bill now before the House, inasmuch as he has already stated that Ministers should not shelter themselves behind any electoral officials, or expose them to the fire of party politics.
– I desire to inform the Prime Minister that honorable members have received invitations to an at home on H.M.A.S Australia, on Tuesday afternoon next; also, I understand, quite a number of other functions are being arranged in connexion with the arrival of the warship. I would ask the honorable gentleman whether it is proposed to allow honorable members the opportunity of staying in Sydney over Tuesday?
– As at present advised, I am afraid we shall not be able to stay in Sydney too long.
– May I appeal to honorable members opposite to put any further questions they may wish to ask on the notice-paper ? We have now occupied three-quarters of an hour in the asking and answering of questions without notice.
– Am I to understand from the announcement of the Prime Minister that a promise made to me by the Honorary Minister something like a fortnight ago, that he would obtain certain information, is not to be kept, but that I shall have to put a question on the notice-paper.
– The question is an insult. There is no reply to it.
– I assure the Honorary Minister that the question was not intended as an insult. Some time ago he promised to obtain certain information for me, and I ask whether that promise is going to be kept.
– I am glad to hear that the honorable member does not intend the question as an insult, though he should recognise that to ask any one if he proposes to keep a promise that has been made is in its nature an insulting question, because every honorable man intends to keep his promises. I shall see that he gets an answer to-morrow.
Postal Mechanics - Perth Automatic Telephone Exchange
– I desire to put a further question to the Postmaster-General. He has stated that the grading of postal electricians is a matter which is in the hands of the Public Service Commissioner. I ask the honorable gentleman if the Commissioner can override a’ decision of the Arbitration Court, and if he is entitled to reduce the status of officials for the sake of cutting down their wages ?
– The Public Service Commissioner cannot alter the terms of an Arbitration Court award, and I do not think that he is attempting to do so.
Some time ago the honorable member for Kalgoorlie asked me what stage had been reached in the initiation of the automatic telephone system in Perth. I am now informed that the automatic switchboard and associated apparatus for Perth left the manufacturers’ works on 23rd
July last, and that delivery is now being made. The work of installation will be proceeded with immediately, and it is expected that the change over to automatic working will be made early next year.
– I ask the Minister of Trade and Customs whether he has taken steps to obtain the information regarding small-pox contacts for which I have respectfully asked, or whether, when he desired notice of the question, it was because he had neglected to do so?
– I told the honorable member that I had already done what he asked.
Treasurer, upon notice -
Wagga Municipal Council for loan?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
Report (No. 1) presented by Mr. Bamford, read by the Clerk, and adopted.
– I ask leave to make a short statement about to-morrow’s business.
– I understand that it is agreed that we meet to-morrow morning at half-past 10 o’clock, and have no sitting on Friday, and that private members’ business is then to take precedence until the luncheon hour. I suggest that you, Mr. Speaker, should resume the chair after the luncheon adjournment at 2 o’clock instead of at 2.15 p.m. That would give the Treasurer time to deliver his Budget speech before the despatch of trains to the other States.
– Do away with private members’ business, and meet at 2 o’clock.
– I propose that after luncheon the sitting should continue until the usual hour for the dinner adjournment, such members as desire to get away arranging for Pairs to facilitate their departure. The House will rise before the ordinary dinner adjournment.
– I agree with the suggestions of the Prime Minister as to tomorrow’s business. I presume that we can call a truce for that day. Probably there will be no sitting after the dinner adjournment.
– Before leaving the chair at the luncheon hour I shall, in accordance with the suggestion of the Prime Minister, ask the leave of the House to resume at 2 o’clock instead of at 2.15 p.m.
– I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
I suggest the desirability, on the score of convenience, of dealing with this Bill and the Sugar Bounty Bill together. If my recollection serves me right, there is precedent for that course.
– The honorable member suggests that the one discussion should cover both Bills.
– If Mr. Speaker will allow it.
– Is it the desire of the House that the course suggested shall be adopted?
– On the 25th of July of this year there was in existence a Customs duty of £6 a ton levied on all sugar imported into Australia, and an Excise duty of £4 on all sugar produced in Australia, while a bounty of £3 was paid on all sugar grown by white labour. The position is that bounty was granted subject to the payment of standard rates of wages, and the observance of certain conditions of employment which were laid down under the Bounty Act. Later on, an agitation arose, and there was, on the part of the growers, a generally expressed desire, although not a unanimous one, that the Excise and bounty should be repealed, and that the sugar industry should be conducted under the same conditions as are other industries in Australia. This Parliament decided to repeal the bounty and Excise under certain conditions, and the effect of those repealing Acts was that the sugar industry was left to the control of the States concerned. The procedure adopted in regard to the bounty was that it should be payable uponwhite grown cane delivered at the mills to be converted into sugar, while the Excise duty was collected upon the sugar as it went into consumption. That being so, the bounty was granted on cane which did not go into consumption until some later date - until it had been converted into raw, and, finally, into refined, sugar.
– It would be more correct to say that the Excise was paid before the sugar went out of bond.
– When it was entered for home consumption.
– Popularly speaking, the duty was paid when the sugar was taken out of bond, but the technical procedure under the Act was that, before the sugar was entered for home consumption, the duty had to be paid upon it. Last year, as I have said, this Parliament passed Acts authorizing the repeal of the Excise and bounty on a date to be fixed by proclamation, and those measures were assented to on 24th December last. The repeal took place by proclamation issued on 25th July, and came into operation on Saturday, 26th July last. The payment of the bounty and Excise ceased from that date. While the bounty had to be paid in respect of sugar-cane that had been delivered up to that time, the repeal naturally freed sugar from the payment of Excise. That is by no means an unusual occurrence; it takes place every time we repeal a duty, hundreds of pounds’ worth of goods being freed from the impost, and no effort being made to collect it. In this instance, however, seeing that the bounty had been paid out of the Consolidated Revenue upon the sugar so liberated, it was thought desirable that the Excise should be collected upon the sugar manufactured from the cane on which that bounty had been paid.
– What power is there to make a law retrospective ?
– The Privy Council decided in one of the first cases arising under our legislation that we had the power.
– Is it not important to state that the principal sugar refining company has intimated its willingness to pay up?
– That is certainly an important fact, but if the honorable member will allow me, I shall deal with the matter in my own way. The Bill that I am now introducing imposes a duty of Excise upon certain sugar, and deals with the collection of revenue upon the sugar manufactured from cane delivered this season prior to the repeal of the principal Act. Clause 2 imposes an Excise duty at the rate of 4s. per cwt. of manufactured sugar - the rate which existed under the principal Act - as from, and including, the 26th July, 1913, the date on which the repeal came into operation. The effect of this Bill will be, therefore, to reimpose the duty as from that date, first of all upon all sugar produced from cane delivered for manufacture after the 1st May, and before the 26th July, 1913. The first-named date is an arbitrary one. As a matter of fact, the cane crushing started later, but to secure absolute safety we have fixed upon this date so as to cover the full period during which it is possible for cane to be crushed. The quantity of refined sugar covered by paragraph a of clause 2 will be about 36,000 tons, and of that quantity nearly 4,000 tons will have been made after the 25th July. In other words, a certain quantity of cane which had been delivered
– There was cane in the mill-yards.
– Yes, and that has to be converted into sugar.
– Have we paid bounty on the quantity mentioned by the honorable member ?
– Yes. Paragraph b of clause 2 deals with other sugar under Customs control on 25th July, and embraces about 3,500 tons. It consists of last season’s cane sugar, amounting to 3,133 tons, raw and refined, and beet sugar which was manufactured about March of this year. The total quantity covered by these two paragraphs is therefore 39,500 tons, and upon that quantity this Excise is to be imposed. It is estimated that the duty will yield about £158,000. Of that sum £8,000 had been paid prior to 25th JulY. and, of course, will not be collected a second time. I draw special attention to the fact that the total of 39,500 tons is more than the quantity of sugar actually in bond. The quantity in bond is estimated at only 32,815 tons. All the cane not having been converted into raw sugar by the 25th July, a larger amount will be collected than would appear to be likely having regard only to the quantity of sugar in bond. It is well to explain that the figures I have given merely set forth the estimates made by the Customs authorities on the information at present available, and that they are liable to slight alterations upon further investigation. It becomes important to determine the actual quantity of sugar that will be dealt with under paragraphs a and b of clause 2. I have indicated, so far, only the estimates formed by the Department on the information at present available to it. In order that this duty may be collected, it becomes necessary to have some definite authority to determine the quantity. The Comptroller-General is, therefore, charged under this Bill with the duty of certifying in writing, by notice published in the Gazette, as soon as practicable after the passing of the measure, the quantities of cane sugar and beet sugar respectively on which duty is payable under clause 2. Clause 5 imposes a liability of a wider character, and the reason for this may be briefly stated. Obviously, since the repeal took place, some of this sugar has gone into consumption.
– In other words, it has gone out of bond.
– Yes, and gone into consumption.
– How can the honorable member say that it has gone into consumption ? All that he can say is that it has been taken out of bond.
– It has been taken out of bond since the repeal, and consequently no duty has been paid upon it. We, therefore, propose under this clause to make all cane and beet sugar manufactured in Australia, and entered for home consumption after the commencement of this Act, subject to the duty of Excise until the respective amounts mentioned by the Comptroller-General in his certificate have been entered for home consumption. Clause 7 provides that for the purposes of this Act, sugar shall be deemed to have continued to be’ excisable goods within the meaning of the Excise Act, notwithstanding the repeal of the preceding Acts. When this Bill is passed sugar becomes subject to Excise procedure again. It is provided that the Act shall continue in operation until amounts of duty have been collected equivalent to the amounts respectively certified by the Comptroller-General.
– What would be done in the case of a person who does not produce sugar, but who has taken sugar out of bond and paid no duty?
– There are not likely to be such persons.
– There are some persons in the list who do not produce sugar.
– We are guided by the actual facts in connexion with the administration of the Act. I have a list of the persons in whose names sugar stood at the time the repeal took place.
– Are they all sugar producers 1
– No; they are, in the main, manufacturers.
– Manufacturers, then?
– Yes; they are mostly manufacturers, and I shall give the names if honorable members so desire.
– I think it would be better.
– It is not a matter of secrecy at all.
– I do not wish to read the full list of names, but they will probably be inserted in Hansard.
– Are those people consenting parties? That is the whole point.
– There is a lack of frankness about the whole thing.
– There is no lack of frankness, and I am surprised at the right honorable gentleman making such a remark. I say again, as I said last night, that the duty in the past has been paid almost exclusively by the refiners, and the only reason the list has not been published is that there are people in it who never pay the duty at all.
– How is it they were holding sugar in bond on that date?
– Because the sugar was in process of delivery.
– It was in their own warehouses under bond?
– Yes. No one knows better than the honorable member for Yarra, or the ex-Treasurer, that the duty is paid by the refiners.
– Was the sugar held in Government bond or private bond ?
– It was held in bond.
– Sometimes it is in a ship.
– Yes; sometimes it is in transport. The really important point is that if the Excise had been repealed, the benefit would practically have gone to three refiners. All those interested have personally intimated to the Department that they have no desire to take advantage of the repeal, but will pay the duty as if the Act had continued.
– If the Act had been repealed on the 1st May, what would have happened ? Nothing.
– If the Act had been repealed on the 1st May, there would have been sugar left in bond, but to what amount I cannot exactly say.
– About 3,000 tons.
– There would have been several thousand tons.
– The figure given last night was 3,133 tons.
– That was on the 26th July, and there would have been more in bond in May, but we cannot exactly say how much. The effect would have been the recovery of a similar amount of duty. Speaking roughly, the duty would have been about £12,000 on last year’s crop, but more than that in May if the Act had then been repealed. We have never at any time kept in the Central Office a daily record of the amount in bond.
– Oh, yes, we have.
– I know there is a record kept by the Department right through, but the honorable member has not asked for a return showing the amounts at the different dates.
– They are published from week to week.
– If any honorable mem ber desires to know the amount on a specific date I can obtain it. However, it is not the amount, but the principle, that is under consideration; and if the repeal had taken place in May the same problem would have faced us. The real taxpayers would have been the same, namely, the refiners.
– The taxpayers are the consumers throughout the States.
– If I remember rightly, there are only three Excise taxpayers.
– That is so; about 0.lIu number.
– There are about twenty, I think.
– No, there are about three.
– If I took sugar out of bond, I should have to pay the duty.
– We are not dealing with problematical cases, but with facts ; and there are practically three taxpayers
Under the Act.
– Three nominal taxpayers.
– We are dealing with the actual facts - with those who have to pay.
– They are the consumers.
– I do not desire to engage in an economic discussion. I have outlined the Bill, and frankly stated the whole of the facts. The next Bill deals with the bounty. It proposes to grant a bounty of 2s. 2d. per ton in respect of white-grown cane delivered after the 1st May and before the 26th day of July, 1913.
– I presume the Minister will say that the bounty has already been paid.
– We have no legal authority to pay the additional bounty.
– None at all?
– We have a legal authority only to pay £3, and not £4; and that is why we are now asking for the requisite legal power. As to beet sugar, the bounty will be 2s. on beet delivered after the 1st January, and before the 26th day of July of this year. As a matter of fact, this 2s. 2d. is the average that was fixed when the late Government were in office, and it has been accepted by the Queensland Government.
– On what cane will the 2s. 2d. be paid?
– On the cane which was harvested and delivered this season between the beginning of the season and the date of the repeal. It was promised as from the beginning of the season. As I explained before, the repeal was with the intention of giving the grower the benefit of the full £4, and the repeal took place on the 25th July, From that date onwards growers are getting the benefit of the full effect of the repeal; and by this legislation we are giving those growers who delivered their cane and received only the £3 bounty up to the 25th July, the extra bounty, thus placing them on the same footing as the rest of the growers. The same applies to the growers of beet sugar, though the amount is smaller, working out at about £600.
– According to the statement, the amount of bounty paid this year on cane and beet sugar is £114,672 ; is that at the rate of 6s. a ton?
– Yes, at the regulation rates; and when the 2s. 2d. is imposed it will make an additional £35,730.
– The object of the Bill, I take it, is to pay this £35,730?
– And the object of the other Bill is to collect £158,000.
– To collect £158,000 of revenue. The whole of the bounty will be provided out of the revenue collected. There would be no additional burden on the revenue. The extra Excise will pay the whole of the bounty this year, and also the proposed additional bounty.
– Does this not make a difference of £35,730 to the revenue?
– Yes; but still we are collecting extra revenue to the amount of £158,000.
– The £35,730 represents the concession.
– That represents the concession. It was hoped at the time we passed the legislation that the repeal would have taken place before this season began, and that there would have been no necessity to introduce the Bounty Bill; but, unfortunately, that was not so, and we are now bringing in this legislation to put us in exactly the same position as if the Queensland Parliament had enacted their Statutes earlier, and the Excise and bounty had been repealed at the beginning of the present season. Those are the provisions of the Bill. I shall now deal with the steps that led up to the repeal of the Commonwealth Acts. On the 5th September, 1912, the Premier of Queensland wrote to the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth asking him to introduce Bills for the repeal of the Excise and bounty on sugar. The letter read as follows -
If you can give me your assurance on this point -
That is to say, on the point of abolition -
I shall undertake to introduce legislation prohibiting Asiatic aliens from engaging or working in the industry, and compensating such aliens as may be bond fide owners or leaseholders of land now under sugar-cane. The people of Australia desire the sugar industry to be a white-labour one, and I gladly give my support to any arrangement which will ensure the realization of that desire. It is also their wish that this industry should pay the white labourer the highest wage consistent with its prosperity, and the better to achieve that end, I shall so enlarge the Industrial Peace Bill as to bring sugar workers (both field and mill hands) under Industrial Boards. I think that will be the most effective means of protecting their interests.
That letter was acknowledged on the 3rd December, 1912, towards the close of the session in the State Parliament. The following telegram was sent by the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth to the Premier of Queensland -
Referring to subject of your letter of 5th September, 1912, I have now the honour to inform you that the Commonwealth Government will introduce Bills during the current session of Parliament to abolish the Sugar Excise and Bounty Acts, which shall be brought into operation by proclamation upon the States concerned passing an Act to
confer upon the Commonwealth Parliament power to legislate in respect of the employment of coloured labour, and regulation of wages and conditions of labour; or
abolish coloured labour in the industry, and establish tribunals for the regulations of rates of wages and conditions of labour; such legislation, whether by Commonwealth or State, to adopt the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Sugar Industry as to minimum rates of wages and conditions of labour.
– That telegram was sent on the day that the report of the Royal Commission was received.
– The Commission’s report was dated 2nd December.
– It was handed to me at 12 o’clock on 3rd December, and I sent a telegram in the afternoon.
– In reply to that telegram, the Premier of Queensland telegraphed as follows -
I am obliged to you for your message of 3rd inst., and am much gratified at your assurance that you will introduce Bills during the current session of Parliament to abolish the Sugar Excise and Sugar Bounty. Iprefer alternative (b), and see no insuperable difficulty in giving effect to your requirements. From press resume of Commission’s report I am hopeful that satisfactory solution of sugar problem will be arrived at.
The industrial conditions the Sugar Commission recommended were as follows -
– They made it 48s. for 48 hours. I made it1s. an hour.
– Is it not the same thing ?
– Not exactly.
– The schedule laid down in the Queensland Act amply fulfilled the conditions that were asked for. I have submitted it to the officers concerned, and their report is to that effect.
– We pay 12s. a day on our wheat, and get no bonus.
– The conditions laid down by the Federal Government were, first, that the Queensland Parliament should make the industry an industry to be carried on under white labour conditions, and, secondly, that there should be industrial tribunals in order to settle the wages conditions in connexion with the industry. The matter was dealt with in the Commonwealth Parliament towards the end of the session of 1912, but, in the meantime, the State Parliament had risen. It rose early in December.
– The State Parliament rose in a great hurry - a week earlier than they expected.
– I do not think it rose in a great hurry, but undoubtedly it was clear that the intention of the Commonwealth Parliament was directed’ at least six or seven weeks previously to the contingency of the State Parliament rising, and the necessity for dealing with the matter as early as possible.
– That was all prior to the receipt of the report of the Royal Commission.
– That is so. The two Acts repealing the Excise and bounty on sugar were assentedto on the 24th December, and remained on the statute-book, though the Queensland Parliament had risen. But the arrangement made between the Government of Queensland and the Commonwealth was that if the Queensland Parliament would pass certain legislation and lay down the conditions asked for by the Commonwealth Parliament, the repeal of the Excise and bounty would take place. That was clearly the agreement made. In the meantime, the general election was held and there were various speeches delivered in Queensland during the campaign on the question of sugar conditions. The growers felt that there was necessity for an increase in the bounty granted to them owing to the extra conditions of labour they claimed had been imposed on them. These conditions of labour were laid down by a minute of my predecessor, the honorable member for Yarra, dated 13th. August, 1912, and constituted a considerable advance upon the wages previously paid.
– On everything but harvesters.
– This minute brought about a very large increase in wages, and shortened the hours of labour to fortyeight. Formerly, the hours were fiftyeight to sixty per week. These were the former rates and conditions laid down -
During the off season for work other than actual harvesting, £1 2s. 6d. a week and found ; for harvesting, £1 5s. a week and found. In all cases where the employes are not found the weekly wages to be 10s. extra. No deduction to be made from weekly wages on account of wet weather. Hours of labour, from 58 to 60 per week.
The new standard provides £1 16s. a week, with keep, for adult employes, and £2 8s. per week without keep. It works out at the rate of1s. an hour.
– It is 9d. an hour with keep, and1s. an hour without keep.
– As this standard constituted a considerable increase in the cost of production, so far as the growers were concerned, an agitation arose. The growers complained that they were entitled to consideration, and urged that there should be a remission of the extra £1 Excise.
– It is only fair to say that they asked for it before the workers got the increase.
– I merely mention it to show that there was strong justification for their request ; and Parliament accepted the position, and decided that the Acts should be repealed, and that this extra £1 per ton should be granted.
– But you are not going to grant it now.
– I am talking about the £1 extra; that is the object of the Bill.
– You are not going back to the 13th August.
– The increased wage came into operation on the 13th August, but substantially it only affected this year’s crop, both cane and beet.
– And the amounts are being paid on this year’s crop?
– The proposal is to pay them on this year’s crop. I presume that is why the Ministry of the day fixed the repeal for this season ; because no legislation was introduced or proposed last session to equalize the bounty and Excise from that date. The Bill made provision only from the date that I have mentioned. Those were the conditions which were imposed, and which justified the giving of the bounty. The cane-growers were entitled to take up this attitude, “ Our cost of production has been increased by our being required to observe the conditions imposed by the regulations, and we are, therefore, entitled to consideration and relief.” That position was unanswerable.
– What did they suggest?
– The repeal of the bounty and of the Excise, which was agreed to by this Parliament. Both the Queensland Parliament and the Commonwealth Parliament closed their sessions in the month of December last. Then followed the Commonwealth electoral campaign, during which several speeches were delivered by the ex-Prime Minister, indicating what was present in his mind as to the intention of the Commonwealth legislation. The right honorable gentleman is reported in the Brisbane Batty Standard to have said at Maryborough, dealing with a letter from Mr. Denham: -
My reply to that was that we should on the 12th of the month introduce Bills to abolish the Excise and Bounty in terms of the undertaking previously arrived at, and which he (Mr. Denham) had duly accepted. The Bills were introduced and passed bv the Federal Parliament. When Mr. Denham carries out his agreement with me in the matter, proclamations will issue.
There was clearly an agreement. The right honorable gentleman said that as soon as the Queensland Parliament had complied with the conditions required by the Commonwealth Parliament, the proclamations repealing the Excise and bounty would issue. Speaking at Childers, he is reported as having said - lie had pledged himself in Parliament that the proclamation would be issued when Mr. Denham passed a legal statute according to his promise, and could not set that aside.
Then in a speech delivered in the Woongarra Fanners’ Hall, in the Bundaberg district, he said -
The Federal Government had carried out their part of the undertaking, and they were now ready to make their Act of abolition operative as soon as the Queensland Premier completed his part.
It is clear from those three utterances that the right honorable gentleman took up this position, that as soon as the Queensland Parliament had performed its part of the undertaking the proclamation would issue forthwith. Had the Queensland Parliament done its part in the month of May the proclamations would have had to issue then if the compact was to be kept. lt was contemplated that upon Queensland doing its part, the proclamations should issue immediately, no matter whether there was sugar in bond or not. The Commonwealth election resulted in a change of Administration. The Queensland Parliament met in June, and immediately passed legislation on the lines required by the Federal Parliament. It went further, and passed an Act securing to the growers, as far as that was possible by legislation, the extra 2s. 2d., which was being remitted by this Parliament in connexion with the remission of the Excise. The first condition laid down by the Federal Parliament was that the sugar industry should be conducted on a white labour basis. The Queensland Parliament has passed a law prohibiting the employment of certain forms of labour in the production of sugar, and for other incidental purposes. This Act gives effect to the white labour policy of the Commonwealth by means of the education test, which has been so effective under Commonwealth administration for the preservation of a white Australia.
– Does the honorable member know that the test has ever been applied in Queensland?
– I think that it has. At any rate, I am not aware that any member of the Opposition has drawn attention to any proved deficiency in the Queensland legislation in respect of the test. If honorable members opposite think the education test ineffective, why did they not, during last Parliament, when they had, a majority in both Houses of this Legislature, abolish or amend it? The use of that test by the Commonwealth has proved effective during the last thirteen years.
– When applied.
– It has always been applied. I do not charge the Labour party with laxity in this regard. I am sure that, when in office, honorable members opposite tried to do their duty in accordance with the law; -and it goes without saying that other Administrations have done their duty. I think we can frankly admit that the test has proved effective. It was adopted for certain reasons of policy, we being asked to pass legislation in such a form as would be as little offensive as possible to other nations. I am sure that the Queensland law will be administered in accordance with the intentions of this Parliament. The second condition was an industrial one. It was held that there should be an industrial tribunal to fix the wages of the men who had previously been affected by the bounty regulations. The Queensland Parliament last year passed the Industrial Peace Act, with the object of securing industrial peace, and in it provision was made for the constitution of boards to deal with the sugar industry. I do not know exactly when the boards will meet, but I do not think that it will be long before they do so, steps having already been taken. To bridge over any interval between the repealing of the regulations and the making of industrial awards, the Queensland Government introduced a measure making temporary provision concerning rates .51 wages and conditions of employment in the sugar industry until such matters had been dealt with by awards under the Industrial Peace Act. A schedule of wages of a standard equal to that set up by the Minister of Trade and Customs on the 13th August of last year was placed ‘n the measure, and it was enacted that that schedule should have the same effect for all purposes, and be construed as an award of the Industrial Peace Act, and should continue in full force and effect until such rates and conditions had been altered or superseded by an award made in accordance with the Act. That measure secured the labour conditions which were desired. But the Premier of the State went even further than he was called upon to go, and introduced a measure to provide for the prompt payment to sugarcane growers of certain additional amounts for their cane. That measure insisted that the manufacturers should pay, in addition to the amounts they had contracted to pay, sums which would be equivalent to the full £4 of Excise that was being repealed. For instance, in No. 1 district, 9s. 8d. was to be paid; in No. 2 district, 9s. 2d.; in No. 3 district, 8s. 8d.; and in No. 4 district, 8s. 2d., in respect of every ton of cane supplied. The intention was to secure to the growers the full benefit. Honorable members are aware that an agitation is now taking place in Queensland for the constitution, if possible, of cane boards to settle prices between the manufacturers and the growers. The Commonwealth Government was appealed to to repeal the Excise and Bounty Acts, in accordance with the promise made to Queensland, and immediately the three Acts to which I have referred were assented to, the repealing proclamations were issued. In issuing those proclamations, we carried out the obligations to which we were bound. The agreement was as clear as it could be. That is apparent from the speeches of the cx-Prime Minister.
– What is the justification for this further payment of £35,000? The cane in question was grown two years ago.
– No; the honorable member is in error. It relates to cane grown and cultivated under the higher labour conditions imposed in August-
– But sown before August.
– The cultivation continued from August until June. All the cultivation took place under the higher labour conditions imposed by the Tudor regulation. This Government, in issuing the proclamation repealing the bounty and Excise as soon as the Queensland Government had passed the legislation that they had undertaken to carry, took the only course open to them. Other alternatives have been suggested to us. It has been suggested, for instance, that we should have waited until later in the season before issuing the proclamation, and that we could then have introduced legislation which would have had the effect of protecting the revenue. The obligation clearly resting upon us, however, was that as soon as the Queensland Government had fulfilled their part of the contract, we should give the growers the benefit of our legislation. That obligation was discharged by us, and it gave rise to the situation with which honorable members are now asked to deal, since the legislation passed last year by the Labour Government made no provision to meet the inevitable contingency with which we are now called upon to deal. It was obvious that, no matter when the conditions were fulfilled, there was bound to be sugar in bond. If the proclamation had been issued in December or January, the quantities in bond would have been much larger; but thereafter they decreased. The Government of the day, no .matter what party was in power, would be bound to honour the arrangement made with the Queensland Government on behalf of the Commonwealth.
– That is not disputed.
– The agreement had to be honoured. Our legislation is intended to benefit the growers, and to enable the Commonwealth to collect the additional Excise, so that there shall be in the Treasury an amount equivalent to the bounty that has been paid. These Bills are carefully designed to carry out the purposes that we have in view. The parties concerned have indicated that they have no desire to take advantage of the repeal,, and as the growers are undoubtedly entitled to this relief, I hope that honorable members will expedite the passage of these measures, so that they may obtain it at the earliest possible date.
.- I first raised this question in the House seven weeks ago yesterday, and before I brought it forward there had been no public reference to it, and, so far as I am aware, nothing had been done in the matter, as the question had never been mentioned. After I had spoken, however, we were informed by Ministers that the mistake had been discovered, and that they were taking action with a view to remedying it. An attempt was made by the Minister of Trade and Customs to lay upon the shoulders of the previous Government the responsibility for the blunder.
– When the late Government repealed the Excise and bounty why did they not provide for this contingency ?
– There was no occasion to do so. As the honorable member for Capricornia has said, to have done what the honorable member suggests would have been to practically put in our legislation a statement to the effect that “ in the event of some incompetent person being called upon to administer this Act, we decide that so-and-so shall be done.” If the Government can arrange now, as they say they can, with about thirty persons and companies, to pay up this Excise, I fail to see why they should not have made the necessary provision in the first instance, before the Excise and Bounty Repeal Acts were proclaimed, and before the matter was brought forward by me. I do not know whether the parties concerned can now be compelled to pay the Excise. I should like to hear the honorable member for Parkes defending the Colonial Sugar Refining Company against such a claim.
– They are going to pay.
– If the company desired to resist the demand, I believe that it would have a good case in equity.
– Its action merely shows that it recognises that it has a moral, if not a legal, right to pay.
– It will take it out of the public.
– The honorable member said just now that there was no reference to this matter before he called attention to it. As a matter of fact, telegrams were sent out.
– On the very day that I raised the question, the Minister, in reply to my charge, said that before the House met that afternoon, telegrams were sent to the Colonial Sugar Refining Company and others.
– Notifying them that if we failed to make any private arrangement of a satisfactory character, we intended to legislate to meet the difficulty.
– We were not told that when I first brought forward this matter.
– The honorable member did not tell us he was going to bring it forward, and, therefore, we had not at hand all the necessary papers.
– I do not think I did wrong in failing to give the Government notice of my intention to bring it forward.
– I do not say that the honorable member did.
– Had the late Government made a mistake of this kind, resulting in a loss of revenue amounting to £158,000, would honorable members opposite have given us any notice of their intention to explode such a bomb under our feet? If such a mistake had been made by me when we were in office, and the present Assistant Minister of Home Affairs had obtained exclusive information regarding it, how he would have gloated over us, and have sprung the matter on us without any notice. As a matter of fact, I discovered this mistake on the part pf the present Government in consequence of a reply made by the Minister to a question put to him by the Leader of the Opposition. The title of the Bill is not right; it should be entitled “ A Bill for an Act to remedy a blunder by the present Government, and to collect the money which is due to the Commonwealth.”
– To provide for an omission on the part of the late Government.
– There was no omission on our part. It i3 all very well for honorable members opposite to make such a statement while all the leading newspapers of Australia are backing them up, but although those newspapers may pretend that this loss of revenue was the result of a mistake on. the part of the late Government, the Minister of Trade and Customs cannot persuade his party that the trouble did not arise from the blundering of the present Government, and that they ought not to have known what would be the effect of the issue of the proclamation. Every word that I uttered on the 19th August regarding the incapacity displayed by the present Government in relation to this matter is amply justified by the introduction of this legislation. I hope that they will be able to collect the amount of money to which the Minister has referred.
– Does not the honorable member think tint the Colonial Sugar Refining Company is very generous in offering to pay up all this money?
– No; it is just, not generous.
– If the company had reduced by £4 per ton the price of this 39,500 tons of sugar to the public, then it should not be called upon to pay this money.
– But surely the honorable member does not say that the company makes the consumer pay the duty?
– I have said on many occasions that sugar is the only Tariff item of which I know in respect of which advantage can be taken, by those controlling the industry, of the full amount of the duty. The sugar monopoly is so complete that if we could land sugar here at £14 per ton, plus the import duty, the company would charge about £19 10s. per ton for the local product, so as to put it about 10s. below the price of the imported article. The control of the industry is within the hands of so few individuals that they find it far easier to fix prices than it is in connexion with any other industry. In the Argus of 21st August last, Mr. Kater, M.L.C., chairman of directors of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, is reported to have made the following statement at a meeting of the company on the previous day - and the same statement appears, practically word for word, in the Age, the two morning papers published in Sydney, and the morning papers published in Brisbane -
You will have noticed in the papers a reference in the Federal Parliament to our company, in connexion with the repeal of the Excise duty on sugar, and I may as well take advantage of your presence here to tell you the facts. When we obtained a copy of the proclamation issued on this subject, it was evident to us that unless some further action was taken all the sugar produced this season before July 25th would be freed from duty, although the bounty was payable on the cane from which it was made, and the revenue would thus have to suffer. Accordingly we gave at once to the Customs all the particulars we possessed as to the quantity of sugar in which we were concerned that would be covered by the proclamation, and pointed out that whatever steps might be taken to protect the revenue, the growers who had made early deliveries of cane should receive the same advantage in respect thereto as those whose crops were cut after 25th July. These representations were made by us three weeks ago, and since then the Comptroller has on several occasions seen our Melbourne manager about the position. We have thus been made aware that the Government proposed to make such arrangements as would bring about the payment of the duty on the sugar which was freed bv the Act passed last December and the recent proclamation…..
This matter was also referred to in the Queensland Parliament on 15th July last - or ten days before the issue of the proclamation - by Mr. Gillies, the honorable member for Eacham, whilst the Sugar- growers’ Employes Bill was under discussion. He said -
Here was another point. He took it for granted that the whole of the 1913 crop that had been crushed and. manufactured so far was still in bond. Not one ounce of that sugar had paid Excise, nor would one ounce of that sugar pay Excise once the proclamation was issued ; and he wished to know whether the Government would insure to the grower the full benefit of that fact. All that sugar had been piled up in the sugar-rooms or in bond, and he presumed the refiners were patiently waiting for the issue of the proclamation.
Further on, he said -
He did not believe that one ounce of this year’s manufacture had gone into consumption, and no Excise was paid until the sugar went into consumption.
I raised this questionon the 19th August, and Mr. Gillies’ statement was made on 15th July last. I admit that I was not aware that Mr. Gillies had made such a statement, because I suppose not many of us read the Hansards of other States, but the present Government ought to have been aware of the exact position, and known that this amount was being piled up, and had they cared to take action before the issue of the proclamation, I think every honorable member will admit that, if the thirty companies and persons who were holding sugar on the date of the proclamation, and are all willing to pay to-day, they would have been willing to clear their sugar out of bond at the last hour prior to the issue of the proclamation, and there would have been no necessity for this legislation at all.
– It isnecessary now.
– I quite admit that it is absolutely necessary now, hut it is very strange that we did not hear anything about this question until I raised it here. It is quite possible that legislation would have gone on, but the Colonial Sugar Refining Company did not say a word until after the question had been raised here, although notice had been given, and what was likely to occur was discussed in another Parliament. On the 10th September - about three or four weeks after I raised the question here - I asked how much Australian sugar was held in bond in each State on the date of the proclamation of the repeal of the Sugar Excise Act? I asked, further, who were the persons holding or owning Australian sugar in bond? thirdly, whether the Excise duty had been paid on any of the sugar? and, fourthly, whether the Minister would lay on the table of the House any papers or reports of interviews relating to the repeal of the Sugar Excise Act which passed between the Commonwealth Government and the Queensland Government, and any other persons or companies? The Minister has kindly furnished me with the following draft of his reply -
I have gone through the papers carefully, and have seen only one telegram that was sent in relation to the payment of the duty on the 19th August, the day on which I raised the question of the loss of revenue, and there is a reply from the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, although I believe it is quite possible that similar telegrams were sent to the four or five other principal people concerned, although not to all. The Australian Sugar Journal, dealing with this question, said -
The criticisms of the Opposition, and the final decision of the Government appear alike to have been based upon the fear that by some means an undue profit might accrue to the refiners; and, indeed, it was boldly asserted by Mr. Tudor that many thousands of pounds had been lost to the revenue of the Commonwealth by the laches of the Government in issuing two proclamations - Excise and bounty repeal - on the same day. It has since been shown that nothing of the sort occurred so far as the Colonial Sugar Refining Company is concerned. But, provided steps had been taken to protect the rights of the raw sugar millers and the growers, there could have been no just grounds of complaint, even had ‘a few thousands of tons of refined sugar passed out of bond automatically on the issue of the proclamation. This is the ordinary course of events in connexion with any alteration in duty, the new law taking effect from the moment it is laid on the table of the House.
The Australian Sugar Producers Association, which runs this journal, is well known to be under the wing of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, and the journal is written in the interests of the company primarily, and, in fact, I believe, solely. The paper says that, although I stated that thousands of pounds had been lost, nothing of the sort had occurred so far as the Colonial Sugar Refining Company were concerned. I asked the Minister if any of them had paid up, and he said, “ No, not one.” Although the Colonial Sugar Refining Company held 25,000 tons of sugar on the date of the issue of the proclamation, they have been holding the £100,000, which they ought to have paid in duty, and not one penny of interest is being paid into the Treasury. I would ask the Treasurer if any interest has been paid or been charged for that amount which the company has been withholding since the 25th July, or about nine weeks, estimating the rate of interest at about 4 per cent.-
– Not for money at call like that. Say 3 per cent.
– The honorable member knows that the whole amount is only entered as required for consumption.
– Had notice been given to the company that the Government intended to bring new legislation into operation as soon as possible, and asked the company what they proposed to do with regard to the sugar on which they ought to pay, the company would have said, “ Make a proclamation as soon as you like; we will pay on the sugar we have in bond.” If they are willing to pay now, although they have not paid a single penny, does any honorable member mean to tell me that they would not have been glad to make terms with the Government, saying, “ Issue your proclamation on 25th July, at 4 o’clock, and we will have everything cleared out of our bonds at 3.30.” In that event the Government would have had the advantage of the use of the £100,000, and also the £58,000 which, according to the Minister, is due from various other people who hold from 1,200 tons down to three. Probably some of that sugar is not in consumption, and in all probability the Colonial Sugar Refining Company - I have nothing either good, bad, or indifferent to say about them, but I am taking them merely as an illustration - will be so glad to get shut of the whole business that they will be willing to pay up the amount. They are in absolutely the best position of any monopoly in Australia that I know of. Their own journal said that they had paid up, and stated further that even if the Commonwealth had lost the revenue on the few thousand tons of refined sugar, we had nothing to complain about. I personally think we have a good deal to complain about, as the company has not paid up, and there would have been no necessity to bring in this legislation had care been taken at the proper time.
– When should the money have been paid, in your view?
– Prior to the issue of the proclamation. Arrangements could have been made quite easily, with less trouble than the bringing in of this legislation.
– The whole trouble was that your own Bill was faulty.
– The honorable member was in the House at the time, and must take his share of the blame if there was any fault in the Bill. But I have never admitted, and do not admit now, that there was any fault in it. Honorable members on the other side, talking privately, admit that there was no fault in it, but they say, publicly, “ The late Government brought the Bill in; we have to excuse our own crowd somehow, and we will put the blame on the late Minister, because there is not a newspaper in Australia which will say a Kind word for him, or for the Ministry of which he was a member.”
– The honorable member will admit that he started out by making an attack in this matter himself.
– When ?
– The other day.
– And now you find fault when that is pointed out.
– There was a blunder; and does any one say that if the Labour Government were now in power the Colonial Sugar Refining Company would come forward and pay this money?
– Undoubtedly they would.
– The honorable member for Yarra ought to close his mouth as against the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, after the Royal Commission, and the complete vindication of the honour and integrity of the company.
– If, by any chance, the present Government were to go out of office before these Bills are passed, or if they had gone out of office before the promise had been made by the company - because I believe that that promise will probably be honoured
– The honorable member knows that, in their evidence before the Royal Commission, the representatives of the company said that they did not wish to take advantage of the repeal of the Excise and bounty.
– I admit that I had not seen that evidence.
– It is reported on page 1038 of the Minutes of Evidence.
– Who gave the evidence?
– I think the manager, Mr. Kater.
– It does not matter who made the statement.
– Other manufacturers gave a similar promise.
– We know, however, that the evidence of Mr. Knox was most unreliable. He refused to answer questions which he considered inconvenient, and when he was asked whether the company had not given £50,000 to fight the referenda of 1911, he said that there was no right to ask such a question. Mr. Knox, however, did not deny that the company had given a certain amount to fight that referenda. I did not know that the representatives of the company had said in their evidence that they were not prepared to take advantage of the repeal of the Acts. I understood that their promise did not refer to the matter now under discussion, but had to do with the basic price of sugar. I take it that what was meant was that if 12s. per ton were being paid for cane in a certain district, and the bounty was 6s., with an extra 2s. or 2s. 2d., they would take no advantage in that connexion. I do not think there was one word in the evidence as to not taking advantageof the repeal of the Act.
– The spirit of the promise was that they would not reap any financial benefit from our legislation.
– I think the Minister will agree with me that the witnesses were trying to make out that the company would not take any advantage of what had been done so far as the price of sugar was concerned. The Minister and the honorable member for Kooyong must be aware that cane, practically useless and valueless, has been sent to the mills for crushing, with the sole object of obtaining the bounty. For instance, cane badly frosted or destroyed by fire has been sent to the mills with that object; but that, of course, will not be possible now.
– The honorable member took no notice when I pointed that out ten years ago.
– That must have been in one of the honorable member’s tenhours’ speeches to which I did not listen. When I was at the head of the Customs Department I ascertained that this had been done; and I saw the evidence given before the Commission. The farmers will be that much worse off.
– That naturally arises from the repeal legislation.
– I grant that once we hand the matter over to the State, it will be in the power of the State to protect the growers as may be desired.
– The Commonwealth would not pay if the crop failed.
– Practically valueless crop has been sent to the mills, and has obtained the bounty from the Commonwealth. It is quite possible that, had the legislation remained as it was, it would have been amended in this respect, because the Commonwealth has no right to pay a bounty under such circumstances. The Minister has said that the legislation of 1912 was introduced so late that it was impossible for the Queensland Government to pass their necessary legislation, so that it could be put into operation during the off season. Had the proclamation been issued then, there would have been much less sugar to collect on; but an arrangement could have been made whereby the refiners could have paid the whole amount due to the Commonwealth. As the Minister pointed out last night, there were 3,133 tons of sugar of last season’s crop on which bounty was paid to the extent of £3 per ton; sothat we have paid something over £9,500, and received nothing in return. The legislation was introduced as soon as possible alter the Royal Commission had brought in their report. When the report was submitted, a communication was sent to Mr. Denham, presenting two alternatives - that he should be prepared to hand over to the Commonwealth Government the power to deal with coloured labour in the mills, and fix the industrial conditions, or that his own Government should fix the industrial conditions as laid down by the Royal Commission. Mr. Denham, in his reply, preferred the latter alternative; and the proclamation would have been issued immediately he passed his legislation, and the Commonwealth Government were satisfied that the proper conditions had been complied with.
– If the late Government had been satisfied in December as to the conditions, they would have issued the proclamation.
– Always providing that the revenue was safeguarded.
– There was nothing in the Bill to that effect.
– An arrangement could have been made to prevent any of the sugar going out of bond; and those concerned would have been glad to pay up immediately.
– Did the honorable member, as Minister, think of that?
– I say that some arrangement would have been made. The Minister has put words into my mouth which he will now admit were not justified.
– I am not aware that I did ; but, if so, I shall certainly withdraw them.
– What were the words ?
– The Minister said that I knew the circumstances, and allowed him to make the blunder without warning him.
– I never suggested that the honorable member should have given me any warning.
– The Minister, when addressing himself to this question, said that I knew all about the matter - that, as Minister, I should have known all about it.
– And now the honorable member says that he. did not know all about it.
– The Minister went on to say that if I had realized the position as I now do, why did I not put into the Excise Bill a clause for the retention of the Excise on the sugar for the period until it was repealed. There was no necessity to put any clause in.
– The honorable member has said that if he had been satisfied in December, he would have issued the proclamation.
– After safeguarding the revenue.
– Did the honorable member then realize the possibility, or think of safeguarding the revenue?
– After the revenue had been safeguarded the proclamation would have been issued. The Minister need not think, because he is one of those twopenny-ha’penny barristers, that he has, as it were, got me in the witness-box. He need not keep on repeating questions, because I shall only answer those I choose to answer. I have treated the Minister perfectly fairly, though there are many nasty things that I might have said in connexion with the matter. The honorable gentleman, however, has gone out of his way to make statements that I do not think are quite fair.
– If so, I desire to withdraw any statements of the kind.
– Of course, it does not matter now, because the statements have been reported in Hansard, and, doubtless, will be repeated by the press that supports the present Government. We know that the press is absolutely unreliable; but it is very fortunate for the Government that they have a press to condone any mistakes they may make, or to fasten them on the Labour party.
– We wish to get the money, do we not?
– Yes; and I must take some credit for being the first to point out the position in this House.
– If the Labour Government had been in power, we would have helped them to get the money.
– I believe the honorable member would have helped us. I am sure that honorable members opposite do not believe the press when it says that this blunder would not have been rectified by the Labour Government before the proclamation was issued. There is no doubt that an error has been made, and this Bill ought really to bo described as one to remedy the blunder of the present Minister in issuing a proclamation before he knew that it meant a differenceof £158,000 in the revenue.. This point will no doubt, be dealt with by the honorable member for Werriwa when he proceeds to show why the extra bounty should or should not be paid. The honorable member will point out that we shall pay away at least three-fourths of the £158,000 in the administration of the Act.
– We shall pay away the whole of it. The extra £1 is being made up this year.
– We shall pay away nearly all of it, so far as this year’s crop is concerned, as we collect the extra £1 only on that which was in bond from last year. I wish to know whether the Minister can say that the agreement arrived at regarding the conditions of employment and wages to be paid to the workers is being faithfully observed ? Has he any information on the point? I also wish to know whether the aliens that were employed in the industry have been sent out of it?
– The only information I have to the contrary is a telegram with respect to wages conditions. This was referred to Queensland, and since then I have seen an announcement from the State Treasurer that there was some misunderstanding, and that he was enforcing the provisions of the Act.
– I know - and probably the Minister knows - certainly, the honorable member for Kooyong will know better than the present Minister, because he was the Minister of Trade and Customs at the time - that while the old industrial conditions were in operation there were continual complaints from the men. The evidence taken before the Royal Commission shows that, in some cases, the men did not even get the 4½d. per hour laid down by the Chapman regulations.
– The only complaints made now are with reference to mill labour.
– The regulation I issued was denounced in Queensland; but I am rather proud that the Sugar Commission said I was the first Minister to decide that a living wage should be paid in the sugar industry, and that, where others had only dealt with 4½d. per hour and keep, I, at any rate, had lifted the rate to 9d. per hour and keep. An industry should pay a living wage; otherwise, in my opinion, it cannot justify its existence in Australia. Any industry should pay a living wage to persons engaged in it.
– Even in its initial stages ?
– No industry should sweatthe workmen engaged in it.
– As a rule, it is the owners who do the initial work. If any one is sweated, it is the owners. Apparently, the honorable member knows nothing about that.
– I know that honorable members opposite do not object to the wage of1s. an hour, without keep, that I fixed, particularly for an industry where there is such a lot of broken time.
– Some of us pay1s. 6d. an hour on wheat farms.
– At certain times only.
– The sugar industry is only a “ certain times “ industry.
– The workman in the sugar industry must get this rate in the off season and in the harvesting season.
– It costs Australia £1,500,000 every year.
– No matter what we are paying for the industry, the men engaged in it are entitled to receive a living wage, and we should see, as far as we can, that the agreement with the Queensland Government has been carried out. Legislation in this matter has been handed over by the Commonwealth Parliament to the Queensland Legislature - because 90 per cent. of the industry is confined to Queensland - on the condition that certain wages and conditions of labour shall be observed. I am anxious to know whether they are being observed; otherwise we should know what is being done in the matter. When the Commonwealth had control of the industry, our officers used to go from place to place to see that the workers got their fair share. If the farmer did not pay the1s. per hour the worker was supposed to get, his bounty, or portion of it, was held back until we were satisfied by inquiry as to whether the workers’ complaint, if correct, was met. Have the Queensland Government appointed officers to see whether the men are getting the wages set forth in the report of the Sugar Commission? As for the Bill before us, I am in accord with it, so long as we see that the conditions are being carried out by the Queensland Government. I raised the question the other day to ascertain whether we had secured the revenue of £158,000 which we shall get under this Bill, even though it is paid away again in a great many cases in bounty to farmers, and through the extra 2s. 2d. this year, because of the additional wages they will have to pay for cultivation of the crop to be harvested. I am with the Minister in hoping that this measure will pass into law as soon as possible, so that the Commonwealth can obtain this revenue from the companies and the holders of sugar on the day of the proclamation, which need not have been issued unless this arrangement had been made.
.- In the first place, I propose to read the Acts passed in the previous Parliament, and introduced by the previous Government, to show that there can be no dispute as to whether they really foresaw the difficulty that has arisen. These are the Acts -
Sugar Excise Repeal.
No. 25 of 1912.
An Act to Repeal the Excise Duty on Sugar. (Assented to, 24th December,1912.)
Be it enacted by the King’s Most Excellent Majesty, the Senate, and the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Australia, as follows : -
Repeal Act 1912.
This Act shall commence on a day to be fixed by proclamation. 3 The Excise Tariff 1905 (No. 24 of 1905), the Excise Tariff (Amendment)1906 (No. 15 of 1906), and the Excise (Sugar) Act 1910 (No. 17 of 1910), are hereby repealed.
Sugar Bounty Abolition.
No. 26 of1912.
An Act to Repeal the Sugar Bounty Act 1905-1912. (Assented to, 24th December, 1912.)
Be it enacted by the King’s Most Excellent
Majesty, the Senate, and the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Australia, as follows : -
Bounty Abolition Act1912.
There is not one word there making any provision for the difficulty that has arisen.
– What is the difficulty?
– The necessity for the present Bill. The proclamation is fixed in both Acts, and honorable members will see that there was nothing of the sort in the minds of Ministers or of honorable members.
– We discussed the whole thing, and it was not necessary to include it in the measures.
– I accept that explanation, but I think that honorable members could hardly have foreseen the difficulty that would arise when the proclamation came about.
– It was for the next year’s crop. Last year’s crop was a short one, which was bound to be marketed by the time the Acts came into operation.
– I think I heard the right honorable gentleman say that the Acts would be proclaimed on the 1st May, and, as he was in office at the time, clearly the blame was on his Administration.
– You fall in badly there, because the Queensland Government had not completed their agreement then.
– The Acts could not be proclaimed for that reason, I agree, but there was no provision made in case the Queensland Parliament did not pass their legislation.
– We could not proclaim the Acts until they did so; it was a condition of the proclamation.
– I am merely pointing out that there is no provision whatsoever in the Acts.
– You are out of your depth this time.
– There is nothing in the Acts to allow me, or any other citi- zen, to know that the matter was ever discussed.
– What is the meaning of the proclamation section?
– That the Ministry for the time being should have the power to repeal both Acts. It is equally clear, as they were put together in that way, that they were to be repealed at the same time. It was in 1903 that the Bounty and Excise Acts were brought in. They were subsequently amended in 1905, when provision was made for cutting down the bounty in 1911 from 3s. per cwt. to 2s. per cwt., and in 1912 from 2s. to1s. The meaning was that by this time the bounty would entirely disappear. In a similar wayprovision was also made for the abolition of the Excise, but when the Labour Government came into power in 1910 they introduced a measure which did away with the decrease of the bounty that was to be brought about in the following year, and also the decrease of the Excise. I need hardly say we are in a very extraordinary position with regard to sugar. It has cost the Commonwealth something like £10,000,000 to keep the industry going - if we can term anything that does not pay its way an industry. The Government propose to collect the Excise. I think provision should be made for collecting this, because, undoubtedly, the consumers have had to pay it, and the money should pass into the Treasury. One measure makes provision for that, but, on the other hand, provision is also made for the abolition of the whole of the Excise of 4s. per cwt., so that, by these two Acts combined, instead of continuing the Excise alone, and taking into consideration the Customs duty, we have allowed the Queensland sugargrower to collect something like £6 a ton for all the cane grown on his farm. On that grown this year it will be about £1,200,000, though it has been as high as £1,300,000, and this is what the country is asked to pay in order to keep the sugar industry going. When Tasmania asked for £500,000, distributed over ten years, practically £50,000 a year, complaints were raised; but here is a great State of the Commonwealth which cannot get along at all, which is apparently utterly useless and barren, and whose industry will die out unless it is allowed to collect £1,250,000 a year from the rest of the people of the Com monwealth. It would seem that the more rich land we have the worse off we are. We are told in one breath of all the rich land of the Commonwealth being in Queensland, and in the next breath we are told that it takes £1,250,000 to cultivate it with white labour.
– Do you wish to abolish the import duty?
– If it adds £6 to the cost to the consumer, I do not propose to give that to the grower.
– Do you think the Excise adds another £4 to the import duty?
– One would think the honorable member’s experience would have taught him that.
– Do you think it does?
– If the honorable member thinks I made some misstatement that would lead him to that belief, well and good. I shall correct myself at once, but he does not think that I, or any reasonably-minded man, would suppose the Excise duty would add to the outside cost of the article. At the present time one or two great companies are in the position of being able to collect practically the whole of this money from the public. Undoubtedly, they will collect it, because they will allow sugar to be bought in bond just as it is bought out of bond.
– Who will reap the advantage - the companies or the growers?
– They will share itbetween them. I take it that the companies will keep as much as they can. It would be foolish, from a business point of view, not to do so. My objection to this measure is, first, that it is retrospective, and it is not worth while to introduce such legislation, even for the sake of £150,000. Every citizen should know that under no circumstances, whether a mistake has been made or not, will Parliament go back on its legislation. Rebukes may. fall on Ministers who have made mistakes, or on their predecessors, or on officials, but Parliament should not pass retrospective legislation .
– If a mistake has been made, are we not justified in getting our money back?
– In my opinion, we are never justified in passing retrospective legislation, whatever the money consideration may be. Such legislation creates a precedent which may be acted on in a way that will do infinite harm, and destroy public confidence. The experience of a good many countries has shown that that opinion is sound, and it is an opinion held by many men who have studied all the cases in which retrospective legislation has been deemed necessary.
– Would the honorable member say the same thing of measures to correct errors in titles ?
– If all; through the assumption that the title is a good one has been acted upon, it may be made good, but if the title has been held to be bad, it does not follow that Parliament should correct it. Such retrospective legislation as is now proposed is almost invariably a mistake.
– Our legislation was passed to help the sugar industry, and to give it a substantial bounty.
– I should like a definition of “industry.” Every occupation in which men are working is not an industry. If we passed a law compelling the use of wooden ploughs, we should give employment in the making of such ploughs, but we should not thereby create an industry, and if the ploughing operations cost the community £3 an acre more, the more ploughing that was done the worse off the people would be. There are about 140,000 acres planted with sugarcane in Queensland, and cane is cut on about 100,000 acres. According to the Royal Commission of Inquiry appointed by the Labour party, whose report, I suppose, they accept, this costs the community over £1,000,000 a year. Manifestly, Queensland herself could not bear that expense. The wider the extent of her rich land the worse off she would be.
– Are there not other advantages, such as the populating of that part of the Commonwealth?
– The honorable member may think the expenditure necessary, to meet the competition of the black labour of other countries; but that competition is merely transferred from one set of shoulders to another - from the producer of sugar to the consumer. Two industries that should not be the objects of departmental aid, State or Commonwealth, are sugar-growing and tobaccogrowing. I have always looked upon the work necessary for the production of sugar and tobacco as appertaining more particularly to native races. The productions are tropical ones, and we should not force white men into tropical industries if it can be avoided. It could be avoided by allowing the sugar industry to go its own road. We could have said to the growers, ‘ You possess rich land ; make the best use you can of it.” In 1893 it was said that the Richmond River district would be depopulated if the duty on sugar were removed. But Sir George Reid, when in power, reduced it from £6 to £3 a ton, with the result that the people went in for other crops and industries, and an enormous development followed. Instead of those who own the rich land of the country assisting the unfortunates who have only poor land, we ask those who have poor land to assist those on the rich land.
– It was the De Laval separator that brought about the development on the Richmond.
– The dairying industry took the place of the sugar industry.
– Does the honorable member think that the same transformation is possible in the Queensland sugar districts ?
– Certainly, as far as Bundaberg. If I did not, I should have to admit that a large part of that country is unsuited for white occupation. Labour members say that it is a white man’s country; that any white man can work in the sugar-fields of Queensland. What excuse, then, is there for the proposal now before us to abolish the Excise ? During the past five years the Excise receipts have been, roughly, over £700,000 a year, and in 1910-11 reached £800,000 ; but that year the bounty paid amounted to £631,000, the Excise revenue being reduced accordingly. We can see what a burden the rich sugar lands of Queensland are on the Commonwealth. If a man holding some of the rich Warrnambool potato land were to say to this Parliament, “ My land is so rich that I cannot get along without a bounty of £7, £8, or £10 an acre,” he would be laughed at. But a similar statement by those who hold the rich sugar lands of Queensland is treated quite differently. It is surprising to find how the economic view is affected by political considerations.
– The bounty on butter exported was a bounty to those living on rich land.
– One foolishness does not excuse another. On the Hunter River and on the Belabula River, where I live, there is rich lucerne land which requires five men to keep 40 acres going. I have been regretting hitherto that I had so much poor land, and so little rich land. Apparently, I ought to say to this Parliament, “My land is so rich that I cannot geb along without a bounty of £7, £8, or £10 an acre”; and if Parliament treated me as the sugar-growers are being treated, I would get a bounty. I employ only white labour. Some of the land in the district will produce 30, 40, and 50 tons of green crops, and from 7 to 8 to 10 tons of lucerne a year. From 30 to 40 tons of sugar-cane can be got from the richer land; but the frosts destroy the cane, and the sugar content is only 2 or 3 per cent. If the sugar content were 10 per cent., making the cane much more valuable than it is, instead of getting uo assistance, Parliament would help me. I should be told, “Your land is so rich that we intend to subsidize you to the extent of £3 a ton.” That is, I would get 6s. to 7s. 6d. - a little more, or a little less, according to the sugar content of the juice- as a bounty for every ton of cane I produced. But, not being so well off as the Queensland sugar-growers, I cannot get anything.
– The honorable member has not made application.
– Evidently nob in a proper way. I have not made such gross misrepresentations as would persuade Parliament into giving me anything. We sometimes hear representatives of Queensland asserting that the sugar lands are the richest parts of Australia, while at other times they plead for a bounty amounting to £1,000,000 a year to help the farmers on those lands.
– I would remind the honorable member, who is a squatter, that there is a bounty on wool tops.
– And a scandalous bounty it is. But, in any event, does the giving of a bounty of £10,000 a year to one industry justify the payment of a bounty of £1,000,000 a year to another? What is the sugar industry doing for Australia in return for all this assistance? Those engaged in the pastoral? wheat, and dairying industries - in fact, the farmers of Australia generally - are paying this big tax.
– The butter industry in Victoria was started by means of a bonus.
– But not in New South Wales, and since the production of butter in New South Wales just now is a little more than is the production in Victoria, it would seem that the less we have of bounties the better. Is it not extraordinary to allege that a butter market, which was previously in existence in England, was created by the payment of a bonus on the production of butter in Victoria ? An inquiry in Victoria some time ago showed that npt one dairy farmer got a penny of the butter bonus, so that the honorable member’s argument is not a very sound one. The money to provide for these bounties can come only from the industries that are paying. When are honorable members going to realize that such payments cannot go on for ever ? During the last five years, we have received a little over £700,000 a year by way of Excise on sugar. We are now doing away with the whole of that revenue. The extra amount made up to the sugargrowers of Queensland by means of bounty, according to the honorable member for Franklin, runs up to £1,500,000 a year. We can safely put it down, after excepting the amount from the industry that goes into the Treasury, at £1,250,000 per annum. Ten years ago, the honorable member for Angas and I pointed out that this would be the result of the introduction of the system.
– How does the honorable member arrive at his estimate of £1,250,000?
– The present production of sugar in Australia is 226,000 tons.
– The production in 1911-12 was i87,761 tons, whilst in 1910- 11 it was 226,010 tons.
– Take the figures extending over a few years.
– In 1906-7, the production was 205,57-6 tons, and in 1907-8, 214,244 tons ; but, in 1909-10, it fell away to 147,403 tons.
– Last year, it was only about 130,000 tons.
– No; in round figures, it amounted to nearly 188,000 tons.
– The honorable member for Werriwa is referring to the financial year.
– The Sugar Commission set out that the assistance granted to the industry by the Commonwealth amounted to £1,000,000 per annum, and for the purposes- of my argument, I will accept those figures. How long are we to continue such a system ? Is this call on the rest of the people of Australia for £1,000,000 a year for the sugar industry to be made for another ten years? The bounty should not have been granted in the first place, but, having abolished it, the Government had a right to continue the Excise, since those engaged in the industry will even then be reaping an advantage to the extent of £2 per ton, or between £400,000 and £500,000 per annum. Some other part of the Commonwealth has to make good this payment out of the Treasury to those on the sugar lands. The small area of land in northern New South Wales devoted to sugar cultivation and sugar lands in Queensland would realize, even if their use for the cultivation of sugar were forbidden, up to £25 and £30 per acre. And yet we are told that we ought to give these lands a bonus of £5 or £6 an acre. Last year it cost us, roughly, over £10 per acre to keep the sugar industry going.
– Does the honorable member believe in the abolition of all Protective duties?
– I believe in the abolition of such a duty as that of £6 a ton on sugar.
– To what other purpose could this land be devoted ?
– In the Richmond River district it used to be said that the industry could not continue without help. It would have been infinitely better for the Commonwealth if we had not paid this bounty. A little while ago I met a man from the Clarence River, who told me that he had had a very bad time last year, floods having destroyed the whole of his crop, and when I remarked that he would be getting his bounty, so that he would be all right, he replied, “ The authorities would not give me any bounty this year, although last year I had such a magnificent crop that the bounty ran up to £6 an acre or more.” In other words, when he had a magnificent crop the Government paid him £6 per acre by way of bounty, whilst in the year during which he most needed assistance, it gave himnothing.
– The good year helped to tide him over the bad one.
– And the rest of the people had to pay. To save the political heads of the representatives of Queensland we should have allowed them to support the payment of a bounty, whilst the rest of us considered the consumers, and voted against it.
– No one seems to consider the consumers here.
– The honorable member is quite right. Enormous burdens are imposed upon the consumers. In this case we have had £1,000,000 a year diverted from the pockets of the people who earned it, into the pockets of those who did not earn it. We are paying more than the whole industry is worth. The total production of cane before it is cut and delivered is not worth £1,000,000 a year. Yet we have had honorable members opposite claiming that they made a good bargain with the Queensland Government by insisting on the workers in the industry receiving 8s. a day. That does not call for much rejoicing, because there is not a wheat farmer in Australia who, during harvesting operations, is not paying more. In my district, last year, we paid up to 15s. per day for stacking. In addition to the bounty previously offered to the sugar-growers, we have the Government coming forward now with the proposal that a further sum of £35,000 shall be paid to them. I should like to know what scintilla of excuse there is for this further bounty. It was not until 5th September, 1912, that the Premier of Queensland wrote to the Commonwealth Government in regard to the repeal of the Excise and bounty, whilst the repealing Acts were not passed until 21st December last. Why then give the growers a further bounty of £35,000? I am sure that the bulk of them never expected anything of the kind.
– They asked for it, and requested the ex-Prime Minister to bring the matter before Parliament.
– There was no promise that they would receive this extra bounty. The bulk of the cane was planted two years ago, prior to the coming into operation of the regulation for the payment of higher wages.
– That is not so in the case of Queensland.
– The operation of planting is but trifling compared with the working of the land.
– The right honorable member will permit me to correct him. The bulk of the work is done by machinery. If any honorable member can show me that a solitary grower was induced by the promise of this extra bounty to cultivate sugar-cane, then, although I do not agree with the principle, I shall offer no objection to it. A Parliament must carry out the promises made on its behalf. But we are asked, at a time when we can ill afford it, to give an additional £35,000 to men who will receive this year in bounties alone over £500,000, whilst last year they received £550,000.
– They will not get any bounty this year.
– The point that I wish to make is that they will not be called upon to pay any Excise this year, so that they will reap the full advantage of the import duty of £6 per ton.
– This additional £35,000 will go to those who harvested their cane before the repeal of the Excise.
– Not one man planted his cane because of a promise that he would get this money.
– Why discriminate between the two lots of people?
– This is a matter of gifts. These men have already been paid a very large sum, and now it is proposed to make them a further gift, which they ought to have had no expectation whatever of getting. No harm can be done to any one of those men.
– It was promised by the late Prime Minister.
– When ? Here is the Act. Does not the honorable member see that it was not promised by him, because the Act was not passed until 21st December last year ? I could understand some of the arguments in regard to future cane, but with regard to cane produced prior to that, I cannot understand our being asked to bring an Act into force to give away money like this.
– That is the trouble; the honorable member does not understand.
– I can understand the honorable member’s support of it very well. Without saying anything derogatory to any man, his support of it is probably political.
– I do not believe that sixpence of this £35,000 will go to my constituency, for the simple reason that no cane was harvested.
– Then the honorable member ought to be all the more ready to do the proper thing on this occasion, and not to vote the money elsewhere. The dairy and wheat farmers have to carry the burden. The money does not come out of the sky. Our farmers have to sell everything they produce in open competition on the other side of the world, but the manufacturer comes along and says, “ I cannot bear the competition I have to put up with, and you farmers will have to bear it with me.” The farmer, like a good, willing soul, takes the extra burden on himself, instead of pointing out that he has to bear competition in his own business in the world’s markets. No wonder he often asks himself what advantage he gets out of a Tariff of. this sort. His awakening has begun, and, I hope, will continue, because, unless we have a return to sane legislation on matters of this sort, we shall be discouraging our true producers by making them bear the burden of the unproductive industries.
– As a farmer, would you take the duty off cheese and butter?
– Considering that I sell both in the markets of the world, I believe I would be glad to get rid of such a bitter sham and humbug. My wool, hides, tallow, butter, wheat, and even rabbits, are sold in the markets of the world against the open competition of the world, and yet, when I want to buy anything, I am told that I have to bear, not only that competition, but the manufacturer’s competition as well. I am now told that because Queensland has half-a-dozen representatives who can swing the majority to one side or the other, the farmers of other States must bear this burden. They are to bear this further million a year, which your own Commission have admitted that we have to pay.
– And the Commission recommends £7 a ton import duty.
-Only one man.
– That is so. It is such an intelligent bit of work that one is staggered to find any one of them able to make a report at all.
– Would you abolish the duty on jams and fruit?
-Unquestionably. At the present time what has been done by the sugar industry has been to absolutely discourage the whole of the great fruitgrowing industry of Australia to a large extent. Although your fruit may be only 3s. a cwt., yet the sugar legislation makes you pay 6s. a cwt. in duty alone, which does not go to the Treasury.
– Nothing of the kind.
– I know that honorable members are going to try to fall back on the question of rebate, but the moment you admit that there is such a thing as a benefit to be gained by rebate, at that moment you admit that the consumers of Australia are paying £6 a ton, and immediately your whole case goes by the board. You see what a very small class you have to deal with. In other words, we have this proposition put forward, that if you encourage men to produce something which is worth £10 an acre, when produced it is worth only £5 an acre, but they can have a bonus of £5 an acre collected from other people. When you do that you are making it a wonderful industry.
– You can compete in the world’s market without paying a penny.
– This is not the case with sugar for local consumption.
– Does not the honorable member see then that he has made the admission that, so far as the consumers of Australia are concerned, the price of sugar is raised £6 a ton ?
– The manufacturers of jam are protected to the extent of £14 a ton, as against £6 a ton on sugar.
– I grant that, but the fruit-grower is not safeguarded if he has to bear a large part of this burden. This £1,000,000 a year can only come from other industries which are self-supporting, and cannot come from the industries that have to be helped. I feel ashamed to have to state simple economic facts of that sort so often to the House, but I do not find Parliament prepared to subsidize me when I make a loss. The year before last, when I sowed 1,000 acres of wheat, and lost it all because of the drought, Parliament did not subsidize me. I freely admit that it could not.
– If there were a number of farmers like you, and you applied to the New South Wales Government, they would supply you with seed wheat for nothing.
– From whom would they collect? They could not collect it from the sugar farmers. It could only be collected from men who had already got something. The Tariff already wrings some £16,000,000 a year from the poople, and when you add the extra cost of it the amount is over £20,000,000. I hear men in this House say, “ We give so much to the farmers.” It always reminds me of the burglar who robbed a man of £10, and gave him back a shilling.
When the man protested against it, the burglar said, “ You ought to be truly thankful, as I need not have given you back anything.” Of course, the leader of the Opposition, and other members from his State, will fight for £1,000,000 a year for Queensland, but other members ought to prevent this plundering of the other States, because, if this sort of thing is to continue, when shall we have an end of it ? The honorable member for Capricornia will have to vote for the Bill, whatever his economic convictions are. His political convictions must be on the side of robbing Peter to pay Paul in this case, because he represents Paul. I object to the robbing of Peter or Paul either.
– I object, to the suggestion of the honorable member that I am not favouring this Bill because of honest convictions.
– If that is all the honorable member objects to, I withdraw the statement willingly. I had paid him the compliment of thinking that he understood the question. I now find that he is voting without a knowledge of the subject.
– How is the honorable member going to vote?
– He is going to vote with the full knowledge of the subject. He will first vote for not giving the £35,000, and his next hope is that he can find sufficient in this House to vote for the continuance of the Excise, as we must either do that or reduce the duties, so that there may be a saving to the people of the Commonwealth. I know that what I have said in a House like this, which has made up its mind, will not be of any great practical value for the present, but I desire, at least, to place on record my opinion against this further grant of £35,000, which I distinctly consider ought not to be voted. I further desire to place on record how wrong it is to continue this tremendous protective duty on behalf of the sugar farmers.
– Are you going to divide the House on that?
– If the honorable member will support me, I shall be very glad indeed to do so, although I regret to say that, at the present time, I feel almost like one crying in the wilderness. Personally, I would sooner go out than vote except according to my honest convictions. I have been put out in the past for that reason, and, in all probability, I may be put out again, but I shall always do what I think right, and not only as my constituents think right. I have had the satisfaction of knowing that they have come back to my views, and scores of them have sufficient faith in me to believe that when I do athing, it will be justified by reason, and although the results may not be so apparent to-day, I am bound to be justified by the future.
.- No one who knows the honorable member will charge him with want of courage, although sometimes they may doubt his discretion. I said, by interjection to the Minister, that he was not as frank in dealing with this matter as I should have expected him to be. I recollect that when Sir George Turner was in the Ministry, and had to deal with this matter, he came down to the House, and said, “ We have to tell honorable members that we have made a blunder, and we are bringing down legislation to rectify it.” That was a straightforward and proper way of doing it. I wish to tell the honorable member for Werriwa and others that this matter was well considered before these Bills were brought in. Speaking from memory, last year’s crop in Australia was just a little over 130,000 tons, while the average consumption of recent years has been about 220,000 tons; therefore, in the ordinary course of events, long before the new cane had been brought to the mills, the whole produce of the year should have been out of bond and on the market. The agreement with the State Government was perfectly clear. It did not relate to the last year’s crop but applied to the new crop. During the elections it was freely stated in my electorate amongst the growers that the present Prime Minister had given his assurance, as a matter of policy, that he would proclaim the Act unconditionally - whether the Government of Queensland agreed to the conditions or not. Colonel Rankin met me at Childers with a deputation of sugar growers, and asked me to proclaim the Act before the Parliament of Queensland had made any agreement as to the conditions to be imposed ; and the deputation was very angry, and said I was unworthy to represent a sugar district when I refused the request, declin ing to take the word of Mr. Denham or any one else until the conditions had been complied with. The conditions had not been complied with when we resigned office, and the matter had to be left to our successors. When the Government met Parliament -early in July, the obligation placed upon them was to look after the affairs of the Commonwealth. They complained of the incompetency of the previous Government, and spent their time examining into what the Fisher Government had done or had not done. In the meantime, the new crop was being delivered at the mills, and in due time became sugar subject to Excise duty, and, as such, a bond material in the possession of the Government. Any dutiable article in bond is in every respect under the control of the Government; and yet, although the question has been asked again and again, we cannot ascertain how much sugar was in bond at the particular time. I have often asked the Minister of Trade and Customs for that information, and it would have been quite easy for him to obtain the necessary information from his officers, showing the quantity of sugar in bond at any or every particular period.
– The right honorable member means the whole season through, from December to July?
– From the beginning of theyear until now.
– Daily ?
– It is given in the press weekly.
– The right honorable member wished for a return ?
– The question is important enough to justify a return.
– If the honorable member had applied, a return would have been provided.
– I have asked for the information again and again. The trouble arose after the present Government came into office. At that time the new crop was coming into the mills rapidly every day, and it was not for more than a calendar month afterwards that the present Government issued the proclamation. I am sorry to say that no Minister has yet stated whether, before issuing the proclamation, any inquiry was made from the official heads to ascertain how much sugar was in bond, both of the old and new crop. So far as I know, there has been no straightforward statement on the point, although it is one of the first that should have received consideration from the Minister.
– I told the right honorable gentleman that a telegram was despatched on the night of the 25th July, giving the necessary instructions to the Collectors.
– That is not the point, and I have evidently failed to make myself clear. I think that the honorable member for Werriwa understands the point.
– I do, yes.
– Did the Minister of Trade and Customs advise the Prime Minister, before he issued the proclamation, as to the sugar in bond, both in relation to last year’s crop and the present crop ? That was, undoubtedly, a Cabinet matter, and very important. I remember that the Government came down with no policy, as is shown by the fact that, in order to form one, they required time to look into what the late Government had been doing; and there can be no doubt that they looked for defective legislation as well as defective administration. Further, the Government and their supporters had been going all over the country denouncing what we had done, and what we had not done; and the meanest thing of all was their saying that the blunder was caused because of our defective legislation. It would have been better had , provision been made to prevent any sugar on which the bounty had been paid from going out of bond after the proclamation; but, in one sense, the legislation was not defective at all. Owing to the short crop it was, seemingly, evident that there would be, and could be, no sugar m bond at the time of the proclamation. During the whole of the campaign, at Maryborough and elsewhere, I made the statement that the Government would carry out its agreement with the Queensland Government, and proclaim the Acts if the State Government carried out their part. Failing this, the late Government, had they remained in office, would have equalized the bounty and the Excise. They would have protected the growers absolutely, and secured to them everything they could get by legislation. It will be seen, therefore, that the late Government were in no way the cause of the * present trouble. The State Government were exceedingly dilatory in carrying out their part, it being late in the year before their Parliament met. The honorable member for Werriwa has referred to this as a highly protected industry, conducted on some of the best lands in the Commonwealth. The honorable member has only stated facts; and I am happy to say that it is also a fact that it is now a whitelabour industry. This industry could not live a year unless it was highly protected, and it is for Parliament to say whether it will continue to grant high Protection. It is not benefited by the bounty and Excise, which were instituted simply to differentiate between the growers employing white labour and the growers employing coloured labour. That legislation does not affect the selling price of sugar in Australia, nor does it affect the remuneration of the growers or others engaged. What does affect the industry is the £10 duty on sugar other than cane, and the £6 duty on purely cane sugar; and, in my opinion, a lesser duty than £6 would prevent the industry being a success. That is my firm conviction; indeed, I am doubtful whether the present protection is sufficient.
– Does the honorable member think that the smaller duty of £5 was insufficient?
– I think it was insufficient to give adequate remuneration to all concerned. At the same time, I believe that the amount taken out of the industry by the refiners is excessive when that is compared with the labour they put into it. That, however, is another matter.
– Does the report of the Royal Commission bear out that statement?
– Yes, no doubt.
– Does not the report say that a State refinery would probably prove more expensive than a private refinery ?
– I believe it does make such a suggestion; but that is really raising the question whether a company can do a thing better than the State, in the opinion of the Royal Commission. Anyhow, in my opinion, the refiners get a larger share than is necessary.
– It is for the honorable member for Wimmera to settle his fiscal difference with the honorable member for Werriwa .
– The honorable member for Werriwa admits that this is a whitelabour industry.
– I am afraid it is hardly so.
– Happily, the industry is within about 6 per cent, of a white industry now. Does the honorable member know of any country in the world where the sugar industry is carried on with white labour? Does he know of any tropical country in the world where sugar, unprotected, is produced by white labour ?
– Supposing that Queensland were not in the Federation, what would the State do then?
– In America, where sugar is produced by coloured labour, the protection is, I think, up to £9 a ton.
– That has been abolished under the new Tariff, though I do not know what the effect will be.
– Even when the duty has been abolished, there will still be the competition of cheap coloured labour against cheap coloured labour, I am sure there is no citizen in Australia, whatever his fiscal views may be, who would ask white men in Australia to compete with the commodity produced at our doors by the cheapest labour in the world.
– I have to sell my wheat against the cheap wheat of India.
– But the honorable member has the advantage of the best machinery in the world for harvesting his wheat. Unfortunately the mechanic has lent little aid towards the production of sugar. Beyond a few cultivation machines, singular to say, no machinery has been invented that enables us to deal with sugar better than it can be dealt with by manual labour, so that the skilled or white man has very little advantage over the unskilled or coloured man with equal manual strength and dexterity. For that reason the sugar industry is exceedingly peculiar.
– Is that not a reason why we should not encourage its cultivation at the expense of other white men here?
– No. I go further, and say that the sugar industry in Australia has given the world a lesson, something unknown in the previous history of the world, because 500 miles of tropical country has been developed by white labour in a way that it was never thought possible. The honorable member for Werriwa has referred to the northern rivers of New South Wales. Sir George Reid, when Premier of New South Wales, proposed to remove the duty upon sugar, but, u”nder pressure, he amended his Tariff to reduce the duty by a half, leaving it at £3. Does the honorable member for Werriwa know that the northern rivers he speaks of are over 1,000 miles south of where the great bulk of the sugar is produced - Cairns, for instance? It was declared in my early days in this country that white men could not work in the sugar-cane fields in the Mary River district, a little north of Brisbane. Ten or twelve years ago in this House we could find honorable members declaring the impossibility of white labour making a success of the sugar industry. Where are those honorable members now? They do not come forward and say so now. What party stood the brunt of the fight on that question? The father of the present Minister of Trade and Customs was one of a Royal Commission to which I must pay respect. They took evidence, going back to 1884 and 1885, and it was declared possible for white labour to work as far north as Mackay. A few years’ discussion enabled us later to say that the industry could be developed still further north, until now we know there is no part of Australia where sugar can be produced that white labour cannot successfully produce it. But we cannot produce sugar without protection from outside competition.
– You merely transfer the competition from the sugar grower to some one else.
– I admit that we can only keep the sugar industry in Australia at the expense of the people of Australia, and the Commonwealth Parliament alone, with the people behind it, can determine whether or not that shall be done.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.^.5 p.m.
– I was dealing with the development of the sugar industry on a white-labour basis, and the effect it has had in developing, for the first time in the history of the world, a tropical country by white labour. It has been a marvellous development, and has proceeded right against the mature judgment of a very large number of the people engaged in the industry.
– The argument was not on the score that white men could not do the work, but on the score that the industry could not afford to pay the wages.
– The honorable member is quite in error. When legislation dealing with the sugar question was first brought into the Commonwealth Parliament, in 1901, the growers at Mackay passed a resolution which said that it was not an economic question at all, but that it was a physical impossibility for white men to do the work.
– But at that time they were arguing on behalf of the kanaka labour.
– Even so, it does not weaken their, argument if they honestly believed that it was not a question of economics, that it did not matter - what protection was given, or what money we were prepared to pay, for the sugar produced, but that it was a physical impossibility to develop the sugar industry with white nien.
– Did they not say it was a commercial impossibility ?
– No, they said it was a physical impossibility to do it by white labour.
– Queensland could not have thought so, because Sir Samuel Griffith had stopped the importation of kanakas by legislation fifteen years previously.
- Sir Samuel Griffith abolished the recruiting of Polynesian labour because of the abuses which had crept in, to which I do not wish to refer now. That was in 1883 or 1884, and the importation of Polynesian labour was to terminate about 1892; but a financial crisis having intervened in the meantime, Sir Samuel Griffith departed from his political views and principles, and joined in a coalition - something like that which we saw in Federal politics not long since. He became somewhat demoralized, and early in 1891 issued to the electors of Queensland a manifesto, in which he declared he was going to amend his law for another period of ten years. But there is one party in Queensland which has never departed from its principles and beliefs that white labour could and would develop that part of Australia. That party was right; the others were wrong. Great as it may seem to the honorable member for Werriwa, the amount of protection given to the sugar industry is not nearly so much as that given to some of the secondary industries, where the competition is with white labour in practically the same standard of comfort. We have given larger protection to the pro duction of agricultural machinery, which is a monopoly.
– I do not agree with tV protection, but at the same time it is nob much larger than that given to sugar.
– Taking the freights into consideration, it is undoubtedly as much as is the protection given to sugar.
– Even on harvesters the duty is not as big as that on sugar.
– The honorable member has spoken of the difficulties of jam manufacturers, &c. He is wrong in saying that they have to buy Australian sugar at £6 a ton .more than they pay for sugar from outside, and that when they export their jam they are at that disadvantage.
– I did not say that. I know they get the rebate.
– When I was in charge of the Customs Department, in 1904, arrangements were made for manufacturers to use their sugars in bond. They could introduce their sugar from overseas and send it out at no disadvantage to themselves. They could purchase at the lowest price in the markets of the world, and return their jams to the markets of the world. Certainly, as regards jam, produced and sold in Australia, the honorable member’s argument would apply for the sugar used, and the same thing applies to every sweetmeat and all confectionery manufactured; but the duty on those articles is much higher than that on sugar. It is> not easy to argue with the honorable member for Werriwa on the question of whether there should be free exchange or not, because his mind is quite settled on that point.
– There is a duty of about 75 per cent, on sugar.
– It is nothing like that. The price of sugar outside is about £13 or £14 a ton.
– Its manufacturing price is £8 10s. a ton.
– It is much higher than that now. With one exception, I do not remember the price being as low as that which the honorable member has quoted. However, it is of no use my arguing with the honorable member, because he is going to make a case whether it is good, bad, or indifferent. There are larger issues than even that phase of the question. One of the most difficult questions we have had to deal with is the present situation, because of the attitude of both parties in the Commonwealth towards divorcing this industry from the National Parliament. Previously the growers, and those interested, were not anxious that the Commonwealth Government should have anything to do with the industrial side of the sugar question. They were quite prepared to have the National Parliament protect them from outside competition, but, in my opinion, the mass of them did not wish the National Parliament to deal with wages and conditions of labour. The National Parliament quite correctly intervened in that matter. As we were protecting the industry, if we protected it sufficiently, we should, as far as we were able, insure fair and reasonable conditions and wages to the employes in the industry equally with those in any other industry. The present position is this: The Commonwealth Parliament has taken action to protect its growers from outside competition.
– The competition will still exist; we have merely transferred it to other shoulders - to the consumer.
– That. is not relevant to the present argument. When all is said, there can be only mischief and danger resulting from having one Parliament to deal with the industrial side, and another with the protective and economic side of this subject. It is impossible that the sugar industry could live without high Protection on the sea-board. We must make up our minds for that, and must give security to those engaged in the industry, which involves a greater expenditure of capital, in proportion to the value of the production, than any other. The honorable member for Werriwa spoke lightly of the fine land that is devoted to cane-growing, and the good returns that are got from it, but, in my opinion, there is no more dangerous industry in the world than the sugar industry.
– Therefore, we should not persuade people to go into it.
– The man who grows wheat gets higher prices for his grain when crops are short, but the man who grows cane may get nothing when the crop is a small one, because it may not pay the mill to start, and, of course, he gets nothing when there is a total failure of the crop. The industry is an exceedingly “ chancy “ one, taking everything concerned. This is a national question, or it is nothing.
– The right honorable member is making it a State question. I desire to make it a national question by considering the interests of Australia as a whole.
– Let us consider who are the parties engaged and interested in the production of saleable sugar. There is the worker, the’ grower, the miller, the refiner, and the consumer. In my opinion, it is regrettable that this Parliament has not power to deal with the separate interests of those five classes. Had we that power, it would be a simple thing to deal effectively and efficiently with every dispute or complaint that might arise. I hope that the time is not far distant when we shall be able to establish a tribunal to fix a fair remuneration for the worker, a fair price for the grower and the miller, and a fair return for the refiner.
– Would the right honorable member guarantee a fair crop to enable that to be done?
– There could not be a more senseless remark. A majority of honorable members opposite are pledged to monopoly, and do not care two straws whether the grower gets a fair return or nob.
– Is not the sugar industry a monopoly ?
– Yes, at one end, but the men below are not protected.
– The right honorable member has just said that the grower cannot live without the miller.
– That is one of the difficulties of the industry, and the miller cannot do without the renner, nor the refiner without the public.
– All depends on the grower. Unless he gets a crop, there is no employment for the worker, nor for any one else.
– The honorable member might say that the grower depends on his workmen.
– But when controlling the industry we cannot control the natural conditions that give crops to the growers.
– No one on this side claims to be able to play the part of Providence, but we know the average returns over a number of years, and any tribunal that might be appointed would have knowledge of all the facts of the industry, and would come to determinations in the light of that knowledge, and on the evidence placed before it.
– The law of averages will not apply so far as the growers are concerned, because the profits are so small in a good season that they have nothing to save for a bad season.
– The honorable member for Hume is trying to make out a case for the grower, but the honorable member for Werriwa says that the grower and all others connected with the industry are rolling in wealth.
– No. I say that you have encouraged the growers to enter a black man’s industry. That has been the folly of this Parliament.
– I venture to say that the honorable member for Hume does not agree with the honorable member in that statement.
– The industry does not pay without a subsidy of from £7 to £10 an acre, and that subsidy must be a continuing one.
– The honorable member for Hume says that the industry does not pay the grower at all.
– I do not go so far as that.
– The honorable member says that the grower’s difficulties are so great that In all probability he has to be content with a bare subsistence. It was to protect the grower that our Commonwealth legislation was passed.
– In the initial stages, the grower is in a state of penury, and wants every shilling that he can get hold of.
– That is the case in nearly every industry. If we are going to develop the northern parts of Australia with the assistance of the sugar industry, we must protect that industry sufficiently to enable the growers to live on the results of reasonable effort, and they should be assured of a settled policy for a long term. The sugar industry requires an enormous amount of capital for its full development, and no one would go into it without being able to see a number of years ahead. It requires two or three years to get any return at all, and from £50,000 to £150,000 is needed for a mill, and, perhaps, £500,000 for a refinery.
– I do not want to touch it, because our capital can find openings in so many other directions.
– But we have touched it. The honorable member suggests that something else should be done with the land.I do not deny that, but it would be a wicked and destructive act of this Parliament to make it necessary. At least, £250,000 would be needed to defend effectively the north-east portion of
Australia. But 500 miles of country there have been settled and developed by the sugar industry, some of the country being more closely settled than the Gippsland districts. That settlement would not have taken place under other conditions. More of the children born in the north than of those born in the south live to maturity, and statistics give a better health return for the north than for the south. The ignorance about the north of Australia among those who do not travel is appalling. They will not believe the facts of the case. I have often stated the belief that the solution of the difficulty is for this Parliament to deal with both parts of the industry. I should have preferred, had it been agreeable to those engaged in the industry, to equalize the bounty and Excise instead of having legislationby two Parliaments; but that is past. I venture to say that the sugargrowers are just entering upon a new series of troubles, and I regret it. The refiners have notified the millers, and the millers the growers, of a proposed reduction in the payments for cane next season. The reason for that is a mystery to all of us who have a knowledge of the industry. Their protection has been increased by £1 per ton. From an economic point of view, they should certainly be able to pay in the future what they have paid in the past. The protective and other legislation passed has been primarily for the benefit of the grower, because, when you come to deal with the miller and the refiner, you reach an industry in which skilled labour is employed in nearly every other country. If it should transpire that the grower is going to be penalized, this Parliament will have again to intervene to protect the best of all citizens - those who produce that which leads to commerce and development. We shall never be able to produce in Australia more sugar than the people of. Australia can consume.
– Then we shall always be subject to this tax?
– Yes. It is for the people to make up their minds whether they are prepared to pay what is necessary to enable this industry to be carried on.
– Why call it an industry, if it does not support itself ?
– Whether it does or does not, it is an industry. An industry may pay indirectly, if not directly.
– The right honorable member would not call digging holes in the sand an industry?
– The honorable member believes in the White Australia policy?
– No doubt.
– And he must be prepared to pay for it.
– It is not a question of payment. The right honorable member has proved already that this is a white man’s country.
– I am afraid it would never do for the honorable member to have responsibility in this regard. The rest of Australia should be prepared to pay its proportion of the cost of developing the tropical parts of the Commonwealth. Unless it is it will be impossible for us to maintain our position against those who are opposed to the policy of a White Australia. They will say, “Why waste our substance on the tropical regions of Australia? Why not give over this industry to those who are accustomed to tropical pursuits?” Our reply is that the ultimate cost of doing that would be greater than that which we are now bearing, and it is for this reason, I believe, that the sugar industry has been effectively protected.
– Why not take this assistance, amounting to £1,000,000 a year, and pay it direct to the growers?
– When the honorable member referred to that matter this afternoon, I said he was making a mistake. The average annual production of sugar in Australia during the last ten years is only 167,000 tons, and in respect to that quantity, £1 per ton went into the revenue of the Commonwealth, leaving a difference of £3 per ton. Last year only 130,260 tons were produced.
– The right honorable member is wrong.
– Statistics are nothing to the honorable member.
– As the Leader of the Opposition has said, the production last year for the Commonwealth was 130,260 tons.
– The Minister has the official figures, so that the honorable member for Werriwa has not been careful in his quotation.
– I quoted fromKnibbs.
– The honorable member gave the returns for particular years, instead of taking the average. In my opinion, this industry will require substantial Protection on the sea-board as long as we wish to maintain it. If it is to be a white labour industry, it must be able to pay a reasonable wage to the workers engaged in it, and give to the grower a fair return on his capital and labour, as well as a fair return to the miller and refiner. This can be secured only from the people who purchase our sugar, and these purchasers, I think, will be limited to the people of Australia. The local production of sugar will increase only as the population increases. Leaders of both parties, therefore, should make up their minds to declare their views on this matter, and if they are in agreement on the main principles, the industry must develop. Another reason why the sugar industry needs Protection is that quite close to our shores - in Fiji, the Hawaiian Islands and Java - we have ideal conditions for the production of sugar. There is there an abundance of cheap labour to enable sugar to be produced, perhaps for less than it can be produced elsewhere; and, unless some mechanical appliance is invented which will enable the intelligence of the white man to more than cope with the hand labour of the coloured races of other lands, it will be impossible for this industry, without assistance, to develop beyond the requirements of the Commonwealth in the Commonwealth. I regret that the Minister of Trade and Customs, in introducing this Bill, did not frankly admit that his Government failed to make proper inquiries before issuing the proclamation repealing the bounty and Excise; that they did not do justice to their predecessors by admitting that it was impossible for the late Government to issue a proclamation before they left office, since the Queensland Parliament, up to that time, had not passed the promised legislation. I regret that the honorable gentleman did not admit that the new crop came into existence after the present Government came into office; and that if, upon inquiry, the present Government had found the disabilities which they ultimately discovered, Parliament could have been called together, and amending legislation have been passed which would have avoided any loss, either on the part of the growers or the Government. The Ministry, however, were, apparently, so busily engaged in touring the country vilifying their predecessors in office, and making charges of corruption against the electors of Australia, that they forgot their first duty to the State - that of protecting the interests of the whole of the people.
– The care and solicitude which the Federal Parliament has, from its inception, displayed in regard to the sugar industry, has been well justified by the results achieved. I agree with the Leader of the Opposition, who has just resumed his seat, that it will be necessary for the industry to continue to receive the artificial assistance of the Commonwealth if it is to maintain its existence. The assistance so far granted has been an exhibition of a wise and just policy. The industry has been well established, and its volume and importance warrant all the help we can afford to give it. We have been able to demonstrate that this great tropical industry can fee worked by white labour with the very best results. The encouragement of the sugar industry has meant the settlement of a large area which otherwise might not have been occupied. We must not deal with this question from the mere stand-point of pounds, shillings and pence. We have to realize that the settlement of the large tropical area involved is a great and important factor in the defence of Australia. From that stand-point alone, and apart from the industrial aspect, I venture to say thai, whatever sacrifice has been made from a. monetary stand-point lias been more than justified, and that it has been willingly rendered, not only by the State immediately concerned, but by Australia as a whole.
– Evidently the honorable member does not represent a country district. Probably lie does not represent any of the people. What right has he to say what taxation the people should pay?
– I represent a State in which a big percentage of taxation is paid by way of contribution to support the sugar industry-
– And where there is more plundering of the people than in any other State.
– Order !
– If the honorable member will learn to behave himself, I shall proceed. Victoria is prepared to contribute its share towards the settlement of the tropical areas of Australia, and, as shown by its representation here, it believes that this far-seeing policy is wise in the interests of Australia as a whole. There are at present some 5,500 registered growers of sugar in Queensland, so that, at the very least, something like 6,000 or 7,000 persons are directly engaged in the sugar-growing industry on the soil alone.
– The total is nearer 40,000 for the industry as a whole.
– I am glad to have that correction, which, of course, includes those directly and indirectly engaged in the industry. But, taking the minimum basis, we have something like 5,500 registered growers.
– No, 3,901.
– My honorable friend, as usual, is utterly astray in his figures.
– Here is the Queensland book from which I have taken them.
– I shall give the very latest official returns. The number of ‘ registered growers of sugar-cane and beet in .1913 is as follows: - Queensland, white labour, 5,268; black labour, 240. New South Wales, white labour, 819; black labour, 10. In Victoria, 150 white persons are employed in the production of sugar-beet, so that the registered growers represent upwards of 5,500 persons; that is, irrespective altogether of those who are employed in the mills and those who are employed in the refineries. And, as my right honorable friend has just interposed, it is estimated that something like 40,000 persons are engaged in the industry.
– Directly and indirectly.
– Yes; and this fact fully justifies the. help which has been consistently given by the Federal Parliament since tie beginning of Federation. Apart altogether from the employment aspect of the industry”, it has assisted Australia to become more and more self-contained. I repeat, that the development of Australia associated with this industry cannot be valued in pounds, shillings, and pence. I feel that the sacrifice which apparently might be urged from the monetary stand-point must not be taken too seriously, and further, that the volume and strength of the industry have justified that care and solicitude which has been consistently shown by the Federal Parliament. The honorable member for Wide Bay deplored the divorce of the economic and industrial side from the Commonwealth Parliament. I do not think there is room for very much regret in that connexion. The object-lesson of Queensland’s response to the suggestion of the Federal Government has verified the wisdom of the scheme of the Constitution. The Queensland Government, working in co-operation with the Commonwealth Government, have supplied all the industrial regulations that can be desired. My right honorable friend stipulated the character of the industrial aid that should be supplied, and every stipulation that he made from his own stand-point has been more than complied with.
– No; complaints are made every day.
– The honorable member declared, as one condition, that provision should be made for the employment of white labour only. That was complied with. Then my honorable friend stipulated, further, that Wages Boards should be established. This has also been complied with by the Queensland Government. Then my honorable friend contemplated the hiatus that might occur between the establishment of these Boards and the present time. As a matter of fact, the Queensland Government carefully complied with that stipulation by saying that the present regulations should remain in force, and have the effect of awards, until the Wages Boards were actually brought into operation. They even went further. In order to insure that the grower might get the benefit of the difference between the bounty and Excise that was to bo made, they stipulated in their legislation that the contract prices to the grower were to be increased by the addition of that difference between the bounty and the Excise, and so we have the Commonwealth carrying out its constitutional functions by providing for the imposition of an import duty, and, on the other hand, we have a proper and effective economic and industrial regulation by the State in terms of the Constitution itself. This is an object-lesson that has clearly . shown the wisdom of the scheme of the Constitution, and has carried it out to the letter. I venture to say it has complied with every wish of my right honorable friend, who had a say in the creation of these conditions.
– Does the honorable member think that, owing to these stipulations from the growers’ point of view, the industry is increasing or decreasing?
– In 1911 the white labour, employed in Queensland was 5,079, and the black labour 289. In 1913, the white labour in Queensland was increased to 5,268, and the black labour decreased to 240. There has, therefore, been a substantial increase in the registered growers. The number of sugarcane farmers who employed white labour in 1902 was 1,521, and the number who employed black labour was 975. Let us now come to 1912. The number of sugarcane farmers who employed white labour in 1912 was 5,295’, as against 1,521 in 1902, and those employing black labour numbered 266, as against 975 in 3902. This conclusively establishes the wisdom of the policy adopted by the Federal Parliament, and justifies the industry, hu*; I think we have to take a wider outlook as far as the industry is concerned. We have settled a large tropical area upon a white-labour basis.
– There was less production in the last two years than there was five or six years ago, so that the honorable member has evidently not studied the figures.
– I am not responsible for the figures I have quoted, which were supplied by the Statistician. If the honorable member for Werriwa is dissatisfied with them, his quarrel must be with that gentleman. Apart from the matters I have mentioned, very little exception can be taken to the speech of the right honorable member for Wide Bay, but he could not refrain from referring, on more than one occasion, to what he called the blunders of the present Government in this matter. He answered himself in that connexion. He went on to say, in the latter portion of his speech, that perhaps it would have been as well if they - the last Government; - had contemplated the contingencies which have happened, and provided for them in the repealing Acts. I think his words were that his own repealing Acts might have been improved upon. That, in itself, indicates that there was a defect in the legislation of the previous Government. I am not anxious to reproach my honorable friend for the mistake of his Government in that connexion, but what I do complain of is that they have lost no opportunity of attacking the present Government, and endeavouring to place on its shoulders the sole responsibility for what they allege to be a blunder. But the right honorable member’s admission that it would have been better for his own legislation to have been amended in this direction is the complete answer to those charges. The honorable member for Yarra, on about the 20th August, made a rather heated and vicious attack on the Government in connexion with this matter, charging them with the sole responsibility for the blunder. I asked him what would he have done if he had been in the position held by the present Minister of Trade and Customs, and his reply was that he would not have repealed the Excise duty until the duty was paid on all sugar then in bond. My honorable friend has had an opportunity of re-considering that matter in the meantime, and he does not venture to repeat that untenable proposition now. I pointed out to the honorable member that his answer was totally insufficient, as such an action on his part would not have been warranted, and that, with the full responsibility of office, he dare not have done it, because he would have been guilty of a breach of faith. To-night he admitted, as the ex-Prime Minister admitted, that it was the bounden duty of the Commonwealth Government, as soon as the Queensland Government had carried out its part, to proclaim the repealing Acts, and that, therefore, it was obliged immediately to repeal the Excise the moment that assent was given to the Queensland Act. by the State Governor. But apart from the breach of faith that would have been committed, it would have been penalizing the very people whom we seek to benefit; penalizing the growers who had been promised the benefit of 2s. 2d. a ton on their sugarcane. The growers were calling out for their immediate repeal, and every honorable member of this House would have called out for their immediate repeal, in terms of the arrangement between the Commonwealth and State Governments, but now my honorable friend, forgetting how he said formerly that he would have acted, amends his hand, and states that before he issued the proclamation he would have made some arrangement with the refiners. It is all very well for my honorable friend to say that, but arrangements of the kind would require the assent of the other party. In a later portion of his speech he said that that assent would not have been given to a Labour Government-
– I did not say that. What I said was that if we had repealed the Act without attempting to make an arrangement, we would not have got the Excise in the way the present Government are doing.
– I will put it that way if the honorable member likes. He has now come to the conclusion that there would have been a ready assent to his proposition for some arrangement for the immediate payment of £100,000 by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company.
– I am sure there would have been.
– Can the honorable member confidently say that, in the light of what has happened ? It is an utterly unwarranted assumption, and is no answer. Why should the company, the holder of some 25,000 tons, assent to an arrangement of the kind ? Their practice is to take out only such quantities of sugar as they immediately require, and there was no reason why they should immediately take out the lot, and plank down £100,000, but quite the contrary. They would have insisted on taking out such quantities as they weekly require, and, of course, getting the benefit of the retention of the money in their own coffers till the sugar was actually required for consumption. My honorable friend will, therefore, see that he could not have followed out his plan against the wishes of the company and the other Excise payers in the light and airy way he now speaks of. Then the honorable member reproached the Government with not having received this £100,000 some little time ago. As a matter of fact, little or no interest would accrue, because it would only start when the money was payable, and it would only be payable, as the sugar was entered for home consumption from time to time, according to the necessities of the company. Therefore, even the idea that the Government are suffering a loss of interest is not justified. But my honorable friend went on to reflect on the present friendly atti- tude of the company, which he sought to associate with the advent of the present Government, though he was assured by myself and others that, for some time past, the company have been prepared, so far as this season’s crop is concerned, to give the growers the fullest benefit of the concession. The Colonial Sugar Company’s agreement with growers contains in the schedule of scales of payment the prices to be paid for cane, and also three additional columns, thus -
A copy of this schedule appears in Mr. Knox’s evidence before the Sugar Commission, and may be seen on page 1038 of Minutes of Evidence. So my honorable friend had no justification for the reflection he made on the company.
– The honorable member is arguing a different point altogether.
– Not at all. My honorable friend spoke of this as though it were some new idea. There was an assurance from the Minister that, prior to this matter being brought upin the House on the 20th, an endeavour was made to bring about an arrangement with the company.
– It was the 19th when it was brought up, and that was the date of the telegram.
– The telegram was sent early in August. The presentGovernment had already been engaged in an endeavour to make an arrangement with the manufacturers in this connexion, and it was because of the impracticability of an arrangement that the present legislation was introduced’. This conclusively shows that my honorable friend’s suggestion that he would have made an arrangement before the repeal is utterly fallacious. He would have been no more successful than the present Government, and would have been driven to amending legislation of the kind before us. If there is any blunder, the ex-Minister is equally responsible with the present Minister - always assuming, I say, that there is any blunder at all.
– The ex-Minister never issued a proclamation.
– No; but if his original legislation had not been defective, amending legislation would not have been necessary. The Leader of the Opposition has himself admitted that it would have been better if some provision had been made in that legislation; but that was not done, and the ex-Prime Minister, had he remained in office, would have been obliged to do exactly what the present Minister is doing.
– Parliament was in session when the proclamation was issued.
– So far as that is concerned, it might have been desirable to introduce the legislation at an earlier date; but there was a very disturbed condition of affairs, owing to the censure motion that was pending, and it would have been rather difficult, if not anomalous, for the present Government to have interrupted that motion in order to introduce fresh legislation on their own responsibility.
– We would do anything to save £158,000.
– Not a shilling of that £158,000 is going to be lost.
– Do not believe that! Look at the names on the list!
– As to the names on the list, the honorable member need not be misled. I shall show how nothing can be lost, and how we may altogether disregard those names, which are those of raw-sugar holders only.
– No; there are merchants on the list.
– There are a few.
– There is one down for £600.
– I shall show that not one shilling can be lost. The majority of the names are those of raw-sugar holders only, and very small holders at that, and they do not enter sugar for consumption or pay the duty. They transfer the sugar to the refiner, who, when entering it for consumption, ultimately pays the Excise. Apart altogether from that, the scheme of the Bill is novel, and only extraordinary conditions would justify this form of legislation. There are practically only three Excise taxpayers. The quantities of this season’s crop of sugar are known; the quantities delivered to the mills between the 1st May and the 25th or 26th July are also known ; and, therefore, the product of refined sugar from that cane is readily ascertainable. But the extraordinary thing is that this sugar, for the most part, has gone into consumption. What the present Government seeks to do by its legislation can practically be done only with the assent of the other side, not regarding the matter from a strictly technical or legal stand-point, but rather from a moral stand -point. The quantity being known, those who are chargeable are not asked to pay the Excise on this particular sugar the product of the cane between those dates, but to pay the duty on the particular quantity, whatever it is, irrespective of the sugar itself.
– Does the honorable member say that there are only three taxpayers? I say there are more.
– If there were fifty it would make no difference; but I do say that, practically, there are only three.
– How is it that we are making the merchants pay ?
– We are not going to do that. It is not the actual holders of the sugar on the particular dates that are made to pay. The Comptroller of Customs knows the quantity of sugar produced from the cane on which the bounty has been paid between the dates mentioned, and there is a certain amount of sugar in bond. What the Bill says is that, so far as the sugar now in bond is concerned, every pound entered for consumption must pay duty up to the quantity as certified by the ComptrollerGeneral.
– I understand that.
– My honorable friend will see that it is not a question of individuals - there may be three or there may be twenty taxpayers.
– But we are not asking the individuals who benefit to pay.
– Practically we are. I set out by saying that the Government are not going to lose a shilling, and I think I have proved my statement. Practically no great hardship can take place, because, as pointed out, there are 25,000 tons in bond belonging to the Colonial Sugar Refining Company alone, and, in addition, there are other quantities belonging to the other two mills.
Speaking broadly and generally from my experience, which I take to be similar to that of the present and the ex-Minister of Trade and Customs, there are only three manufacturers who have been Excise taxpayers.
– And it is proposed to let them fight it out with the merchants.
– It is practically with their consent. . They can fight it out as they please amongst themselves, for the Government is protected. I admit that the legislation is novel, but at the same time I claim that the ex-Minister of Trade and Customs would have been obliged to do exactly the same. In further proof of this, I would add that he could not pay the 2s. 2d. per ton concession to the growers without the sanction of amending legislation. He has not suggested any practical scheme out of tie difficulty other than the one before us.
– He has not got into it, so why should he get out of it?
– I set out by saying that the Government would not lose a shilling. I repeat that by this process they will not lose a shilling, but they have made a concession of £35,000 odd so far as this season’s crop is concerned in pursuance of the arrangement mutually made between the parties whereby the growers should get the benefit of this 2s. 2d. extra per ton; this, in itself, as I have already pointed out, requires additional legislation. Therefore, admitting at once the novel character of the legislation, and that retrospective legislation in any circumstances is highly unjustifiable, yet, having regard to the agreement between the parties, we are, in this case, justified in passing this Bill, which reaches the object intended, namely, the granting of the benefit of the concession to the growers at the expense of the revenue to the extent of £35,000. That, of course, meant equalizing the bounty and Excise. So, from a technical legal standpoint there is no doubt as to the constitutionality of the measure before us, but from the moral stand-point, were it not that the taxpayers practically consent, I do not think we would be justified in passing this legislation. Nothing is to be gained by recriminations and reproaches.
– Not when you are wrong.
– If the present Government are wrong, the previous Government were originally wrong. This
Bill is necessary to rectify their mistake. I have proved it.
– To your own satisfaction.
– The honorable member is unjust. The ex-Prime Minister admitted it would have been preferable if his own legislation had made some provision.
– Let us get the revenue; that is all we are after.
– I agree. That is what we are after; and apart from recriminations and reproaches as to blunders, I think we may all mutually agree in our efforts to do two things - first of all, to protect the revenue, and secondly, to do justice to the growers who are promised this concession of 2s. 2d. per ton.
.- I am not opposed to either of the Bills the Minister has tabled. Quite the reverse, I think that if we can get the revenue by this or other legitimate means we are justified in seeking to collect it. I hope the Minister will get it. I would not give 10s. in the £1 for his chance of getting it, unless the Bill provides, as it does inferentially in some of its clauses, that the tax shall be. in futu.ro, instead of being of a retrospective nature. Clause 7, which provides -
For the purposes of this Act sugar shall be deemed to have continued to be excisable goods within the meaning of the Excise Act 1901 notwithstanding the repeal of the Acts referred to in section 2 of this Act. certainly makes the Bill of a retrospective nature, and I think in this regard the Minister has made a serious mistake, as we shall discover if it comes to a question of litigation. We have already had some litigation to secure £20,000, and it cost us more than £20,000 to get it.
– But since then the Privy Council has laid down the right of the Commonwealth to pass retrospective legislation.
– At the same time, that will not prevent the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, or any other company interested in this matter, from fighting the Commonwealth; and if we go to law to get this £158,000, possibly it will cost us as much as it is worth. I believe the Minister would be well advised to strike out clause 7. If we look at the preceding clause 5, we will see that it refers to sugar manufactured for home consumption after the commencement of this Act.” Does not that clearly show that the Excise is to be imposed in the future ? Sub clause 3 of clause 3 clearly defines that. If the Minister were to rely on that, and impose an Excise on sugar which shall be manufactured, then he can get his money without any difficulty, because his right could nol be contested in any Court of law; but to make the Excise of a retrospective character, as in clause 7, is a very serious mistake. These recriminatory passages are also a mistake. Our object should be to arrive at the best means of getting the money. I must say, as I have said before in another debate this session, that the member for Kooyong and the Minister of Trade and Customs are wrong in saying that the matter of making provision for this Excise was never considered. I give their statements the flattest contradiction. The ex-Prime Minister, Senator Givens and I discussed this very question in the Minister’s room before any action was taken in regard to the repeal legislation ; and though we did not have the opinion of the Crown Law officers, we came to the conclusion that it could be held in law that, prior to the proclamation, provision could be made for the collection of this Excise duty. We even went so far as to discuss the matter of the molasses left at the end of the crushing season, from which sugar could be made. Honorable members are not speaking by the card in saying that the matter was not given consideration. It was given the fullest consideration by the ex-Prime Minister.
– But no clause was drafted to meet the case.
– It was not considered necessary. It was thought the proclamation could be delayed until the conditions could be fulfilled, one of those conditions being that the Excise duty should be paid. I do not intend to debate this measure at any length, because we should pass it to obtain the money if possible ; but I wish to refer to something the Minister has said this afternoon. He has said that the 2s. 2d. extra per ton on cane should be paid because of the regulation issued by the ex-Minister of Trade and Customs on the 13th August, 1912, which not only raised wages, but also shortened the hours.
– It increased the cost of production.
– I quite agree with the Minister that this should be done, but I have appealed to him as I appealed to the ex-Minister of Trade and Customs, to pay that 2s. 2d. per ton on all cane harvested during the 1912 season. The present Minister has declined to take that into consideration, and the ex-Minister did the same.
– What reasons did you give to the ex -Minister?
– Any one who knows the sugar industry will agreewith me that the industry could pay these wages without difficulty were the profits of the industry passed on to the growers and manufacturers; but I maintain that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company have got all these profits. They certainly take the cream of the profits, so that nonepasses on to those who are entitled to them.
– I hope they will take the lot.
– The honorable member knows very little about this question except so far as it appeals to him as a Free Trader. He would abolish the import duty altogether if he had the opportunity - he has declared himself very often in that regard - but when he was taxed and challenged on the floor of the House he failed to respond.
– In what respect?
– When I challenged the honorable member about his Free Trade principles, and asked him to knock off the duties altogether, he was afraid of it as much as he is of small-pox. There are profits in this industry, but I maintained that those entitled to them could not get them until the referendum questions had been put to the people and carried. The position is exactly the same to-day, and as we cannot get at the Colonial Sugar Refining Company to secure the profits to which the growers and manufacturers are entitled, I claim that we should give to the growers the 2s. 2d. extra per ton to compensate them for the increased cost of production. We hoped that the report of the Royal Commission would be such as to justify the Government in taking some drastic action, but the report did not come up to our expectations in some respects, and we were naturally disappointed. The point I wish to make is that the Minister admits he has tabled his Bill for the purpose of giving 2s. 2d. a ton extra to the growers of cane harvested after the 1st May of this year - that is the cane taken into the mills between 1st May and 26th July of this year, on the grounds of the increased cost of production - but I maintain that the argument is equally applicable to the past season’s harvest, and that it is equally justifiable for the Minister to go back to the 13th August, 1912, because the same conditions applied then exactly.
– Will you vote against the proposition altogether?
– Certainly not. I support the Ministry on this occasion.
– Surely you should be glad to have a sovereign if you cannot get two!
– We have no hope of getting two, and I shall vote for the one on the principle of taking what we can get. The Minister should take that into consideration, and so amend the Bill in Committee as to make it apply to all cane harvested last season, subsequent to the 13th August, when the Tudor regulations were issued. If the one course is justifiable the arguments in favour of the other are unanswerable. I have asked the Minister on more than one occasion recently whether the conditions which were laid down by the FisherGovernment in respect to the repeal of the Excise and bounty legislation have been complied with. The legislation having been repealed, we have no power now to enforce compliance, but if the Queensland Premier desires to honorably fulfil his part of the contract, he will see that they are complied with. A little while ago, I gave the Minister correspondence, which I can assure him is absolutely reliable, to the effect that the conditions are not being complied with. One of the conditions was that white labour only should be employed, not merely in the fields, but also in the mills. The Commonwealth has had no control over the work conducted in the mills. When the first Bounty Bill was under discussion, pressure was brought to bear on the then Minister, the late Mr. Kingston, to apply conditions to the manufacture of the sugar, but he said that as the bounty was to be paid only for the production of the cane, we would have no control over anything that was done after the cane was delivered into the mill-yards. But, in the negotiations between the Fisher Government and the Government of Queensland, it was arranged that the mill conditions, as well as the field conditions, should be regulated. Furthermore, the rates of wages and the hours observed were to be those recommended by the Royal Commission. The Queensland Government is violating not merely the spirit, but also the letter of the conditions. I had a return laid on the table a little while ago showing the number of coloured aliens - Japanese, Malays, and others - working in the sugar mills, and I say that those persons are still being employed. So far as we know, the language test has never been applied to any one of them, and it is not likely to be applied. Let me read a telegram which I have received this week from Innisfail. It is dated 30th September, and is worded as follows : - .
General meeting Australian Workers Union held yesterday entered emphatic protest against reprehensible and discreditable breach of faith on part Premier, Queensland, in bringing about abolition Excise and bounty without conserving principle of white Australia or insuring adequate return to white workers and growers as stipulated by late Prime Minister Fisher.
That telegram is signed by the secretary of the union, a gentleman whom I know, and who may be relied on to state the facts exactly. The mill at Innisfail is the Goondi mill, owned by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, and, singularly enough, in no one case are the conditions being observed in the mills owned by that company. The letters and telegrams which I gave to the Minister were from the Herbert River, where the company has two mills - the Victoria mill and the Macnair mill.
– It has been stated in the public press that the Queensland Government is acting in the matter.
– Evidently the conditions were not being fulfilled only a day or two ago. Then, the Queensland Government has delayed the establishment of the Wages Boards that were promised.
– The standard rates continue in force until altered by Wages Boards.
– Neither wages, hours, nor conditions are such as were agreed upon between the late Prime Minister and the Premier of Queensland.
– The Statute sets out the hours to be observed.
– What is the use of that if it is not complied with ?
– The schedule can be enforced as an award under the Industrial Peace Act, pending the establishment of Wages Boards.
– I say that it is not being done; not one of the conditions is being complied with. The inference I drew from the remarks of the Minister in regard to the Excise was that the grower of cane pays the Excise.
– I did not make any reference to the question. I said that we collected the Excise from the refiners.
– Will the Minister say now whether, in his opinion, the grower does or does not pay the Excise, or whether the refiner pays it? Of course, the grower pays it. The mills have fulfilled the condition in regard to the 2s. 2d. They have paid the additional 2s. 2d. a ton, but they have lowered the base price. The base price for cane was regulated by the base price for sugar, which was fixed. When that base price exceeded a certain sum, for every £l by which that sum was exceeded, the miller was given 18s., but the base price of sugar having been lowered, the base price for cane has been lowered. Therefore the grower will not be in such a glorious position as the result of the repeal of the Excise and bounty legislation as he hoped to be. He is, presumably, in a worse position. During the Federal campaign I advised him to hang on to the bounty. That has always been my advice, but it has been ignored. The growers will be sorry that this legislation has been repealed. I again ask the Minister if he is justified in paying the additional 2s. 2d. a ton for cane harvested between 1st May and 26th July, if he is not equally justified in paying that amount for the 1912 season’s cane? Will he do that? The action of the Government in this respect is inconsistent. The matter is of great importance to the people of my electorate. I hope that the Government will treat them in a reasonable and fair way. But, as I am desirous that both these measures shall pass, and am willing to give the Minister all the assistance possible in connexion with them, I shall not occupy more time at present.
.- I sincerely hope that all the farmers in Queensland will read the speech of the honorable member for Herbert, because it will show them that they have more friends on this side of the House than on the Ministerial benches. We have been their friends right through the piece. Unfortunately, the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, which was the back-bone of an association called the Australian Sugar Producers Association, persuaded more than 50 per cent, of the cane-growers in Queensland to demand the repeal of the Excise and Bounty Acts, telling them that they would get a bigger price for their cane if those Acts were repealed. Consequently, as the honorable member for Herbert has pointed out, the cane-growers were not satisfied until they got the Acts repealed. This party agreed to the repeal of that legislation on certain conditions ; but the honorable member for Herbert has shown that those conditions have not been complied with, and has furnished evidence in proof of his statement. I shall, at a later stage, produce correspondence showing that the conditions laid down by the Leader of this party have not been carried out by the Queensland Government. We have now been in session for something like three mouths, and not a week has passed without evidence being forthcoming of the utter incapacity of the Government. Not one thing it attempts to do is done right. Even the Audit Bill- that simple measure-
– I refer to the Audit Bill only by way of illustration. It was brought down in an incomplete state, and, in short, the Government have not done one thing well. I mention this as a reason why the Bill now before us in its present form should not pass the secondreading stage. It may be a novel measure, but it is also a clumsy one. The Minister of Trade and Customs must have been busily engaged in trying to find out something that he could use against his predecessors, otherwise his legal training ought to have enabled him to produce a better measure than that now before us. But for that fact, I think he would have been able, also, to discharge his duties as a Minister without committing the awful blunder of which he was guilty in allowing the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, and the twenty-eight or thirty other firms or individuals who had sugar in bond, to escape payment of the Excise. The honorable member for Kooyong, who has held office as Minister of Trade and Customs, was at great pains, both to-night and on a previous occasion, to try to explain away the ridiculous mistake made by the present Minister, but he did not quite succeed. I sympathize with the Minister of Trade and Customs, for T know that he is very much worried over this matter. He has exhibited a great deal of discomfort whenever this matter has been brought before the House, the reason being that he knows that he has made a mistake. I arn sure he will admit, upon reflection, that this is a very clumsy piece of legislation. 1 wonder why it was introduced, suddenly, last night, and the second reading brought on to-day, before the people who are interested in it have had a chance of grasping its significance. The residents of those parts of Australia in which sugar is not produced will be very surprised when they read the terms of this Bill. The Minister has furnished a list of firms or individuals who had sugar in bond, totalling -32,387 tons, on 25th July last, the -date on which the proclamation was issued. This list comprises about thirty different firms or individuals. It is headed by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, which had 24,665 tons. Then come the Millaquin Sugar Company, Fairymead Sugar Company, Gibson and Howes, the Australian Estates and Mortgage Company, the Victorian Government, the Farleigh Estates Company, the Queensland Government, Drysdale Brothers and Company, the Mulgrave Central Mill Company, Mossman Central Mill Company, Cattle Creek Sugar Company, Marian Central Mill Company, Meadowlands Company, North Eton Central Sugar Company, Plane Creek Central Mill Company, Pleystowe Central Mill Company, Racecourse Central Sugar Company, Moreton Central Sugar Mill Company, Stegeliz Sugar Mill Company, Mourilyan Syndicate Limited, Buss Brothers, Broom and Company, Waterloo Limited, Isis Central Sugar Mill Company, Blissett and Hart, Kinnie, Randall, and Braddock, Burns, Philp and Company, W. H. Paxton and Company, and Burgess Brothers, with sugar ranging from 3,000 tons to 24,665 tons in bond on the date mentioned. All these firms wereallowed to take their sugar out of bond after 25th July without paying the Exciseduty. The Colonial Sugar Refining Company expresses its willingness to pay the Excise that ought to have been collected, but the other firms are not willing to do so, and this legislation is designed to compel them to pay. How does the Minister propose to force them ? In this Bill it is declared that, as soon as practicable after its passing, the ComptrollerGeneral shall certify in writing, by notice published in the Gazette, the quantities of cane and beet sugar respectively on which duty is payable under the Bill.
That is to say, the Comptroller-General will announce to the public, I presume, that there were 32,387 tons in bond on which Excise will have to be collected, but the Minister has not inserted in the Bill the names of the persons or companies which I have read, and has not provided that they shall pay this Excise, although that would be a sensible way of dealing with the matter. Instead of doing so, he has inserted a clause declaring that certain sugar shall be> deemed to be dutiable, that is to say -
All cane sugar manufactured in Australia which is entered for home consumption after the commencement of this Act, until cane sugar to the amount mentioned in the certificate of the Comptroller-General under section 4 of this Act lias been so entered, shall be deemed to be sugar subject to duty of Excise under this Act…..
If this Bill be carried, the Colonial Sugar Refining Company will carry out its promise, and pay the Excise, whilst a number of these other firms who had cane sugar in bond on the date in question will, probably, refuse to pay. They will not enter any cane sugar for home consumption, so that the people who are honest and willing to do their duty by the country will continue to pay Excise until duty has been paid on 32,387 tons. I am sure that the Attorney-General has not gone into this point with his colleague, the Minister of Trade and Customs, and the other lawyers of the Cabinet. Had they conferred, they must have seen that they were proposing to do a great injustice to certain people, while allowing others to escape. This is only another Instance of the incapacity of honorable members opposite, who, in strange circumstances, find themselves to be political bed-fellows for the time being.
– Another blunder?
– Yes; equalled only by the blunder which the Attorney-General committed when he set out to secure the revision of the rolls.
– Everything we do is either a blunder or a crime.
– Some of the honorable member’s acts are blunders, “ and some are crimes, although, perhaps, he does not think they are. I venture to say that this Bill is badly drawn, inasmuch as it contains no clause repealing the Sugar Excise and Bounty Repeal Acts. Those two Acts are still in existence, and I think that the Attorney-General, in a case before the High Court, would be able to prove that they were still law, aud that this measure, therefore, was inconsistent with them. He would probably apply for a nonsuit, or some such legal process, to get his client out of his trouble. I regret that the honorable member for Werriwa has such a poor opinion of honorable members of this House as he .displayed this evening. Whilst he was speaking, I was reminded of a visit that I once paid to a lunatic asylum. In conversation with one of the inmates, who said he was the Duke of Wellington, I asked, “ Who are those people over there?” and was told, “ Oh, you must not pay much attention to them, because they are all of unsound mind.” Listening to the honorable member to-night, some people might have imagined that he was the only man in the Chamber who was possessed of any intellect. He says that, because a man is a Protectionist, he is, in his opinion, of unsound mind.
– No; not unsound.
– The honorable member is the only man in this House who is prepared to defend the Free Trade of the old school.
– It is no old school.
– In the old days we had in this House a Free Trade school consisting of the honorable member for Werriwa, the honorable member for Parkes, the present Prime Minister, and the honorable member for Lang. t Wherever they saw a duty, they hit at it. The honorable member for Werriwa now stands almost alone in this House in his desire to abolish the duty on sugar. He thinks that because we have rich sugar lands in Queensland no duty is necessary to protect the industry.
– No, I should like to sea this Excise, amounting to £750, 000^ going into the revenue.
– The honorable member has no sugar-growers in his electorate, otherwise he would not propose such a tax. Sugar-cane is a greedy crop requiring very rich soil, and after about thirteen years is said to take all the good out of the land. The honorable member should not forget that Java, Fiji, and the West Indies have land just as good as our own for sugar-growing, and that they have also that which we have not - a cheap and servile labour. In Java, which is close to Australia, labourers will work in the sugar-fields for 3d. per day, whilst the Colonial Sugar Refining Company has at present in Fiji some 18,000 Hindoos working for 6s. a week on land just as good as the Queensland sugar areas. Is the honorable member going to subject the 30,000 people engaged in the sugar industry in Queensland to that competition?
– Why 30,000? The Queensland Intelligence Book, issued this year, gives the number as 3,900.
– If the honorable member had his way he would remove the import duties from sugar, jam, and other commodities in course of time.
– I have not said that.
– If the honorable member would abolish the duty on sugar, then, to be logical, he ought to vote for the abolition of the duty on butter, cheese, bacon, ham-
– Undoubtedly they are only sham duties.
– And other commodities. If the honorable member had his way Australia would be nothing but a vast sheep walk. There might be some farming carried on, but very little. I cannot waste time in trying to convince the honorable member, because I am sure that he is not to be convinced regarding the necessity of protecting, not only primary, but secondary industries. Iagree with the honorable member for Herbert that the sugar farmers of Queensland will be very sorry that the control of this industry passed from the Federal Parliament into the hands of the Queensland State Parliament. The Federal bounty legislation was passed to encourage our sugar farmers to employ white labour, and it had the effect of raising the price of cane for the farmers to something like £1, and, in somes cases, up to 24s. per ton, whereas prior to the granting of the bounty they had to accept as low a price as 7s. 6d. per ton for it. The Government ordered that the bounty should be paid direct to the farmer, because previously some of the money found its way into other hands. Thereafter the farmer got the bounty, varying in some cases from 6s. to 7s. 6d. a ton, according to the district he was in. That legislation has been repealed, and already within a few weeks, as the honorable member for Herbert has pointed out, the raw millers are endeavouring to lower the price that they pay to the grower for his cane, and the time will come, without a doubt, when the farmers will realize that the men on this side, who have been urging them not to repeal the Excise and bounty legislation, were their true friends, whereas, honorable members on the other side, by their policy, were only supporting that gigantic monopoly - the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. The honorable member for Herbert said that the conditions laid down by this party were not being carried out, namely, that the Queensland Government should see that the industry was carried out by white labour. I may quote here a letter from Mr. Moir - the Secretary of the Australian Workers Union, Queensland branch, dated from Chillagoe, in the far northern district -
I have to acknowledge receipt of your wire regarding the number of aliens employed in this (Cairns) district, also to confirm my wire in answer to same. Since forwarding the wire mentioned I have received additional particulars which may prove useful and interesting; they are as follows : -
Employed at Hambledon Mill, 24 Japanese, 8 Chows, 8 Cingalese, 8 Malays. At McLoughlin’s wood camp, firewood getting for the above mill, there are 10 Japanese. Lee Chin’s Green Hill farm, there are employed 16 Hindoos, 6 Chows, and 4 Malays. W. Cannon, of “ White Rock,” employs 3 Japanese or Malays loading cane on railway trucks. J. Campbell, Kamma, employs 4 Kanakas and 2 Malays clearing land for cane. Mulgrave Mill, 2 Cingalees are employed. In addition to those already mentioned there are aliens to the number of 180 employed in the district, 75 per cent. of which can be said to be employed in the industry.
What will happen, I think, in regard to this industry is this: There is no sugar legislation applying to New South Wales growers now, and the rich lands in the Richmond River district, which is given up to dairy farming because of the whitelabour provisions, will probably now be turned into sugar land again, and employ some of the 40,000 aliens who are at present in Australia. The people of Australia will probably object to an import duty of £6 to protect sugar that is grown by alien labour receiving the alien rate of wages, and the only hope that the sugar producers of Australia have to keep up the duty of £6 per ton, notwithstanding the competition from abroad, is to have the industry conducted in such a way that white people shall be employed at the standard rate of wages, with a minimum, as laid down by a Justice of the High Court, enabling a man to marry and bring up a family in reasonable comfort. I do not think this Bill ought to pass its second reading, because it is clumsily drawn, and does not contain, as it should, a provision repealing the two Acts which it proposes to override - the Acts proclaimed the other day, as passed at the end of last session. Perhaps in Committee, if the Minister of Trade and Customs agrees, we may insert the provision asked for by the honorable member for Herbert, and the provision to pay 2s. 2d. to’ the sugar farmers dating from the time of the proclamation of the regulations regarding the rate of wages. I am sure the honorable member for Richmond would support us in that. He argued at the time that it was only fair that the sugar-growers should get, by way of bounty, the full amount of the Excise collected. The 2s. 2d. per ton is the difference between the amount of bounty paid to the farmers, and the amount of Excise collected from the general public of Australia through the refiners. The honorable member for Darling Downs, who always poses here as the principal friend of the farmers, having so many of them in his own district, and who looks to the farmers to return the so-called Liberal or rightlycalled Tory party, availed himself of every opportunity to speak of the wrongs of the men engaged in the sugar industry in Queensland, and now that he is Minister in charge of the Bill, all he has to do is to ask the Treasurer to give him money to pay this amount. I am sure that he fan get from the Prime Minister a promise to put into the Bill a clause to pay the farmers the 2s. 2d. to which they are entitled. The Minister is very silent. He knows that he is in difficulties. He stands here now like a man who is not quite as genuine as he professes to be in his regard for the farmers. He is wondering what he will have to say when he gets back to his constituents, or when he passes up along the coast, where there are so many sugar-farmers. Seeing that he has had the power to give them the 2s. 2d. to which they were entitled when the rate of wages was raised, they will ask him what has become of his professions. When in Opposition he spoke by the hour of the rights of the farmers, and their interests, and showed why they should be paid the 2s. 2d. I am sure he will get plenty of support from this side of the House if he will only alter that clause in the Bill to date back to about 1st August, 1912, instead of 1st May this year.
– Who gets the bounty, the grower or the Colonial Sugar Refining Company ?
– The Colonial Sugar Refining Company is, no doubt, getting the r631- 2 cream of the industry, and I might, perhaps, draw attention to its position. The report I hold has been frequently quoted against our party. Honorable members opposite have made a great deal of capital out of the fact that the Sugar Commission said that probably it would cost the Commonwealth too much to nationalize the industry. They do not quote passages in this report which tell against the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, proving beyond question that it is a huge monopoly, and fixes the price of sugar in Australia to-day. The following paragraph appears in part 3 of the report, which deals with “ growers, miller and refiners “ : -
For practical purposes the price of refined sugar in Australia is fixed by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited. The absence of actual competition among refiners is evidenced by the fact that the rival refinery at Millaquin automatically follows the lead of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. Potential competition can have little significance within an area where the dominant company is already in the field and the market is to be led to invite new concerns to enter upon a war of competition. Collective bargaining is inoperative. What actually happens is that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company fixes the price subject to two main qualifications. The price must not be so high as to encourage large importations of refined sugar by other persons or companies. On the other hand, the price must be at least high enough to admit of refining profits, while paying for raw sugar a price sufficiently high to avoid squeezing producers of the raw material out of existence.
Although there is a lot of legal talent on the Ministerial side of the House, they cannot bring in a Bill like this in proper legal form.The Bill will be full of inconsistencies that will probably lead to litigation, and we shall have the High Court declaring it void, because it conflicts with some Act. In Committee, I shall endeavour to get an amendment made, although probably the Prime Minister, the honorable member for Richmond, the honorable member for Robertson, and other professed friends of the farmer, who are always talking about the primary producer, will object to refund the 2s. 2d. to which he is entitled. I might go through the long list of the farmer’s professed friends opposite who are looking to the man on the land to keep them in their positions as members. There is no doubt that my appeal will be in vain, as an appeal must always be when it is made for justice to that large and important section of the community represented by the farmer.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 -
This Act may be cited as the Excise Tariff 1913, and shall come into operation on a day to be fixed by proclamation.
.- It was my lot in this House ten years ago to object to the proposed bounty on sugar. If it had not been for some of the extraordinary statements made by the honorable member for Kooyong, I should not have risen. That honorable member gave as his sole reason for supporting this Bill the fact that there has been an enormous increase of the number of people engaged in the industry, and a very large extra production.I explained when he was speaking that he must have got hold of the wrong figures, but the honorable member persisted in proceeding, with a lack of knowledge very reprehensible indeed in an ex-Minister. One thing we have to look for from members of this House is the correct statement of facts, and it is highly undesirable that incorrect statements should go forth unchallenged. If the grounds declared by the honorable member are the only ones on which he supports this Bill, he ought to abandon that support immediately. The real figures will show how far he is mistaken. 1 have in my possession a book issued by the Queensland Government in July of this year, and from this it appears that the total production of cane in Queensland was 113,000 tons, which, with some 16,700 tonsin New South Wales, makes a total of about 130,000 tons.
– The honorable member is overlooking the fact that we are now dealing with the clause relating to the short title.
– I shall put myself in order by saying that we are discussing the title of a Bill to amend the Sugar Bounty Act.
– The honorable member is in error; we are discussing a Bill to impose a duty of Excise. The Bounty Bill will come up for consideration afterwards.
– I understand that the two Bills are being taken together. However. I merely point out that, during the last five years, an average of £713,000 has been collected in Excise on sugar.
– I rise to a point of order. The remarks of the honorable member do not refer to the short title of the Bill.
– The honorable member for Werriwa is out of order.
– Then I must dissent from your ruling, Mr. Chairman. When 1 am discussing the title of an Excise Bill, I am entitled to show whether the provisions come within the title, and what their effect will be; otherwise we may be giving a wrong title altogether.
– If the honorable member dissents from my ruling, there is a specific course to take.
– I shall put my objection in writing.
– The honorable member has handed the following to me -
That this Committee dissents from the ruling of the Chairman that, under the words of the first clause, it is incompetent to deal with any matters except the meaning of the word “excise.”
The honorable member’s dissent is not quite in accordance with the ruling I gave. My ruling was that the observations of the honorable member were not within the scope of the short-title clause of the Bill.
– The point of order taken by the honorable member for Capricornia was that we could only discuss the meaning of the word “Excise,” and it was on that point of order, Mr. Chairman, that you gave your decision. It is perfectly true that you may not have meant it.
– I mean that you may not have meant it in the sense in which I took it.
– I ruled generally that the honorable member’s observations were not within the scope of the clause we are now considering.
– It is to that ruling I object.
– I have already pointed out to the honorable member that his dissent is not in accordance with the terms of my ruling.
– Allowme to put it in this way - that whatever ruling the Chairman gives I dissent from.
– That dissent cannot be entertained.
– I shall put it in another form, and say that this Committee dissents from your refusal to allow me to discuss the meaning of the first clause, and I shall put my objection in writing.
– The honorable member for Werriwa now dissents in the following terms -
That this Committee dissents from the Chairman’s ruling that-
– Before you go any further, Mr. Chairman, I think I may put myself in order without proceeding with the objection.
– Do I understand that the honorable member desires to withdraw his dissent?
– I withdraw my dissent. This Bill is very objectionable, because clause 1 provides that the measure is to come into operation on a day to be fixed by proclamation. In other words, the control of the proclamation of the measure passes out of the hands of Parliament. One would have thought we would have learned experience from the blunder already made in respect to fixing by proclamation the time at which an Act should come into operation ; but here the error is to be repeated, and with all the evil effects that will follow from it. I maintain that we should fix some date, so as to keep the Comptroller-General up to the mark, and have matters expedited and concluded within the financial year. Seeing that the Bill merely covers the sugar from cane produced and delivered for manufacture between the 1st day of May and the 26th July of this year, and seeing that to-day is the 1st October, we can fix the proclamation for the middle of December. That will be quite late enough. I therefore move as an amendment
That after the word “ day,” the words “ not later than the fifteenth December, 1913,” be inserted.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 2 -
The following duty of Excise, viz. : - Per cwt. of manufactured sugar, Four shillings shall, as from and including the 26th day of July, 1913, be imposed on -
all sugar produced and cane delivered for manufacture after the 1st day of May and before the 26th day of July, One thousand nine hundred and thirteen ; and
all other sugar produced in Australia which was subject to the control of the Customs on the 25th day of July, One thousand nine and thirteen on which duty of Excise has not been paid under the Excise Tariff 1905, as amended by the Excise Tariff (Amendment) 1906 and by the Excise (Sugar) Act’ 1910.
.- By striking out the words “ and before the 26th day of July,” it will be possible to make this Bill cover the future production of sugar. No doubt the retention of the words will limit the Excise to the sugar produced from cane presented for manufacture between the 1st May and the 26th July, and subsequent sugar will not pay Excise. In other words, the revenue will suffer to the extent of £713,000 a year, the average on the basis of the last five years, and our future returns will show that we have lost that amount of revenue. I shall not be surprised if honorable members opposite talk of the fine revenue in their term of office, and how it was reduced during the period of office of their opponents. Of course, we can show the cutting-down of expenditure of over £500,000 a year; we can make some point in that direction; but, at the same time it is highly desirable to maintain the Excise duty on sugar. Men are now getting from 12s. to 14s. a ton for their cane without the bounty. The production sometimes runs to 60 tons per acre of sugar-cane, and many growers have been paid as much as 27s. a ton. They secure £60 an acre on this rich land, yet we are asked to further subsidize them by the abolition of the Excise duty. I wish to move an amendment to strike out the words “ and before the 26th day of July,” with the object of placing on record all those honorable members who are in favour of giving up three-quarters of a million per year, and so that they may explain to their constituents why they have handed over this sum to 3,900 sugarcane farmers. With unparalleled want of knowledge of the situation, this House is apparently handing over to a small section of the community an enormous sum of money. The honorable member for Kooyong supports this Bill because of the enormous increase in the production of cane, but with this enormous increase, the Excise duty we should be able to collect would mean a still bigger revenue. In 1906-7, the total production of sugar was 206,000 tons; in 1907-8, it was 214,000 tons, and last year it was only 129,000 tons. The quantity of cane produced can be estimated roughly by multiplying by ten. The honorable member for Kooyong, therefore, in arguing that the bounty should be continued, and the Excise abolished, because the industry was steadily growing, forgot that it is progressing backwards. We are told that this year the crop promises to be larger, but that seems to me a reason for retaining the Excise. We are really giving up over £700,000 a year, and 1 feel that I cannot justify that action to the Farmers and Settlers Association. I came here to relieve the farmers of the burden of taxation, and promised that I would, so far as I could, lighten their load. We are asked to forego revenue amounting to over £700,000 a year, not for the benefit of the farmers in the Western districts, who have the greatest troubles of all to face, but for the benefit of the owners of some of the richest land in the Commonwealth. It is said that the Ministers are fulfilling a promise in letting this money slip through their hands. But it must be remembered that the revenue that is lost in this way must be made up by the imposition of additional taxation on the rest of the community, and I am not prepared to vote for any further taxation on the people of Australia. The Labour party, who should be the first to support the reduction of taxation, is in favour of increasing it. However, I have made my protest. I know, that in future years what I have foretold will be clearly seen. Three or our large companies will unite, and their shareholders will benefit by the increase in dividends and the greater value of shares. It ha3 taken honorable members ten years to recognise the force of much that I said when I first came into Parliament, and what I am now foretelling will come to pas3 within the next five or six years. But as it is impossible to get the support of honorable members opposite, it is useless for me to set myself against the whole Committee. I have corrected the statements of the honorable member for Kooyong, because I will not allow members on this side of the Chamber to make wrong statements to the country. We can get quite enough of them without allowing them from Ministerial supporters, and from men who have held Ministerial rank. When wrong statements can be corrected, they should be corrected; we should not permit the making of political capital by the misrepresentation of facts. In the end it will be seen that a grave error has been committed. One or two big combines will probably go on building mills here and there, and this will afterwards be used as a reason for further continuing support to the industry. While honorable members opposite are ready to fight against landlords, they will not fight against manufacturing lords, but show the subserviency to the latter that used to be shown to the former. They bitterly attacked the landlords, striving to abolish them, though to single out any class for undue taxation is an evil thing to do. However, I am not concerned with that now. To test the feeling of the Committee, I move -
That the words “and before the 26th day of July “ be left out.
.- I do not suppose that the Minister intends to accept the amendment. I rise merely to point out that the statements of the honorable member for Werriwa are not correct. He says that over £700,000 of revenue is being given up, but he should know that that is not so, and it is not to the interests of the people that a false impression should be created. All that is being given up by the repeal of thoExcise is, at best, £1 a ton on the sugar produced by the employment of white labour. As regards that produced by coloured labour, £4 is given up. Therefore, the amount of revenue given up can be easily discovered by noting the number of tons of sugar produced in any particular year. If last year the amount of sugar produced was 130,000 tons, then £130,000 of revenue was given up. To talk of over £700,000 being given up because of the abolition of the Excise is absolute nonsense.
– This Bill gives up nothing.
– That is correct, in a sense. The intention of the agreement was to do what is now being done.
– Hear, hear!
– The intention of the last Parliament was to do that in an effective way, but it failed.
– The Treasurer of the Commonwealth must rejoice if there is a drought in the Queensland sugar districts, because then he gets so much more revenue.
– No one in Australia would rejoice oh account of the failure of a crop. It is true that the Treasurer would get £6 per ton for every ; ton of sugar by which the total product is decreased. That is one way of looking at it. But Australia benefit’s in other ways from the prosperity of its producers. If the whole quantity of sugar consumed in
Australia were produced here, no more revenue could be given up than £1 per ton by the abolition of the Excise and bounty. We have always dealt with the Excise and bounty together, because they are twin sisters.
– On a point of order, I desire to say that the Chairman of Committees laid down the rule that I could not discuss the Bounty Bill at this stage. As I could not discuss it, I do not suppose that the Leader of the Opposition will be in order in doing so.
– Mr. Speaker put the matter to the House, and the House agreed to discuss both these Bills together, because they stand or fall together. If the one be not carried, the other, I assume, will not be presented by -the Government. But the honorable member for Werriwa ought not to try to leave the impression on the minds of the people that this proposal gives up anything like threequarters of a million per annum. It does nothing of the kind. It does not give up more than £1 per ton on the amount of sugar produced in Australia.
.- The duty is 4s. per cwt. on manufactured sugar - roughly, from 6s. to 7s. 6d. per ton on all cane - a pretty big price, bigger than many of us get for our cane throughout. I was pointing out that if this Bill is carried, it makes a difference of nearly three-quarters of a million to the revenue of the country. The Leader of the Opposition reminds me that there is a Sugar Bounty Act, under the provisions of which there has been a payment from the revenue amounting to, roughly, half a million a year, leaving a difference of only about £200,000 actually lost to the revenue. I have pointed out that we were able to collect three-quarters of a million a year, and that we are giving up that revenue now. I find that the State of Victoria alone will lose, roughly, £230,000 a year. New South Wales will lose considerably more than that. Yet we are asked to believe that it makes no difference whatever. It makes all the difference to those States, because that revenue, so far as they are concerned, will not come in, whilst the tax will still be collected from them, not only to the extent of £3 per ton, as the honorable member says, but to the full extent of the £6. This Committee ought to be under no misapprehension with regard to the loss of over £700,000 a year to the revenue. The
States of New South Wales and Victoria especially will make large contributions towards the sugar lands of Queensland. There is no escape from the fact that over £713,000 a year has been collected in revenue. That £713,000 disappears in a flash. I am told that I am not to consider it, because we propose to abolish the amount of half-a-million a year which we were paying to these men who cultivate the land. But I am quite unable to see the point. The Bounty Act and. the Excise Act ought to stand entirely on different footings. If you allow men to collect £6, and under the Excise Act you only collect £4 from them, you are giving them an advantage of £2 per ton. Take one of the years when we had a product of 226,000 tons. In that year we paid £450,000. The bounty actually averaged £526,000 a year during the last five years. Can it be said that there is not a payment out there ? How any honorable member can explain this matter to his constituency, and defend the subsidizing of these sugar lands to the extent of £5 an acre, I do not know. I cannot defend it to mine. In my electorate men have sufficient sense to recognise that they would be glad even to earn 10s. an acre from their land, much less £5. When they are told that they must contribute from their poor lands to the support of the owners of these rich lands, is it any wonder that their gorge rises, and they exclaim, “ Away with Parliaments altogether”? The Leader of the Opposition endeavoured to make it appear that the industry does not cost Australia much. But I would remind him that the Sugar Commission reported that it cost the community more than £1,000,000 per annum to keep it going. The southern division of Queensland produces about two-fifths of the sugar output of that State, and the northern division the remaining three-fifths. The central portion produces little or nothing. The reason for this is that mills were not established there in the first instance. When the honorable member for Wide Bay said that people could not use these coastal lands at all unless they received this assistance, I was reminded that the Queensland Government, in a paper issued by the Intelligence Bureau, point out that the majority of the men engaged in sugar production do not depend upon the cultivation of sugar alone, but are engaged in dairying or fruit culture. We ought to continue the Excise, because we ought to recognise that otherwise we shall be handing the industry over to half-a-dozen sugar mills. The money ought to be collected, and the difference of £2 per ton which the mills would still get would be a very big thing indeed . Therefore, I think my amendment ought to be carried.
.- It would be a mistake to allow the statements of the honorable member to go uncontradicted. He ought to know that there is no other industry on the seaboard of Australia in regard to which a bounty and an Excise operate.
– We should be ruined if the system were to be continued.
– By the operation of the bounty and Excise the Commonwealth gained, and in no other protected industry does such a condition prevail. The only reason why superstructural legislation was enacted was to differentiate between cane produced by white labour and cane produced by coloured labour. If the honorable member had had his way, the sugar produced in both cases would have received the same treatment. As the principle of a White Australia means that no man shall be asked to give his labour for less than is sufficient to keep a wife and family in comfort in a civilized community, we had to discriminate between white and coloured labour. That was done in the first instance by Sir Edmund Barton, later by Mr. Kingston, and still later by Mr. Deakin. First, an Excise of £3 per ton was imposed in conjunction with a bounty of £2 per ton, and subsequently the Excise was increased to £4 per ton and the bounty to £3 per ton. That legislation transformed the industry from one in which coloured labour to the extent of 90 per cent, was employed to one in which white labour to the extent of 95 per cent, is employed. By doing away with both the Excise and the bounty we shall place the industry on the same basis as any other industry, and shall give up less than £1 per ton upon all the sugar that is being produced. The honorable member for Werriwa ought to acknowledge that–
– The two things do not stand with one another at all.
– Then the honorable member does not desire to give more protection to the sugar industry than £2 per ton on the sea-board.
– That is plenty.
– Why not say so? That is the real meaning of his amendment.
– He says that it is plenty.
– Yes; but the more straightforward way of effecting his purpose would be to provide in our Tariff that only £2 per ton protection should be given to this industry on our sea-board.
– But I have to deal with the Bill before the House.
– The honorable member ought not to do by a subterfuge what he could do directly.
– It is no subterfuge.
– The legislation we enacted was superstructural, and everybody connected with the industry knew it. It was enacted to differentiate between the two classes of labour employed in the industry. I believe it Avas the most successful legislation ever enacted in any country. It transformed the industry from a coloured-labour to a white-labour industry, and that without any penal legislation.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 3 (Payment of Duty).
– I think it is time the Minister gave us some information as to how he proposes to collect this duty. The honorable member for Capricornia read a list containing the names of about twenty firms who are interested in this matter, in so far as they had stocks of sugar in hand when the Sugar Excise Act was repealed. It is evidently impossible for the Minister to collect Excise on that sugar. I am quite aware that clause 5 provides that whatever sugar is entered for home consumption in future will pay the Excise until the quantity which was in stock on the 26th July is reached. But the firms which are entering sugar for home consumption now are not those which held stocks of sugar on the 26th July. Consequently, the Minister is going to ask persons to pay duty upon sugar which they have no right to pay, whilst allowing others to escape who ought to pay. In addition, I understand that the Excise officers have been withdrawn from the mills. Unless they are to be reintroduced, how can the Minister arrive at the home consumption ? The whole Bill, in this regard, seems to bristle with difficulties.
– In moving the second reading of the Bill I explained that the mere fact that certain persons held raw sugar in bond did not necessarily imply that they were the persons who had to pay duty upon ft. The duty is paid by the refiners when the goods are entered for home consumption. The impost falls practically upon the refiners. When this Bill becomes law, the Excise machinery will come into operation again, just as if it had never been discontinued. The refiners will then have to enter sugar for home consumption, and will have to pay the duty upon it.
– The explanation of the Minister is only satisfactory to a certain extent. I am glad to hoar that the Excise officers are to be re-instated.
– They will not be reinstated.
Mr.FINLAYSON.- The Minister has said that, they will.
– I said that the Excise machinery will come into operation again.
– That means the re-instatement of the Excise officers.
– But not necessarily the re-appointment of the same persons.
Mr.FINLAYSON.- It means that the Excise officers will be re-introduced into the mills. That, however, does not answer my first objection. The firms that held this sugar on 26th July last are responsible for the payment of the duty.
– Not necessarily; I have explained that matter.
– The honorable member’s explanation is not at all clear to me. The refineries must have sold the sugar; it was drawn out of bond.
– This relates to raw sugar.
– The list read out by the honorable member for Capricornia related to refined sugar held in bond, and, therefore, subject to duty. I am anxious to assist the Minister to settle this matter.
– The quantity of this season’s sugar in bond on the date mentioned was only 1,768 tons; the other was raw sugar.
.- I do not think that the Committee has been given any explanation as to the manner in which this money is to be collected. It appears that some private list has been read out-
– No; it was a list supplied in answer to a question put by me.
– Is it on the table of the House ?
– It would appear, from that list, that some twenty-five firms or individuals, instead of only three or four, are involved, and I should like to know whether they are within the control of the officers of the Excise Department ? We cannot get away from the fact that another £35,000 is to be paid out by way of bounty, so that it is highly desirable that every penny of this revenue should be collected. I do not believe in doing away with the Excise, and, therefore, if there is any doubt as to how this money is to be collected, I hope that it will be cleared up. Seeing that the honorable member for Yarra, the ex-Minister of Trade and Customs, is dissatisfied about this matter, it is evident to me that some amendment is required.
– Who reaps the benefit of the bounty - the refiners or the growers ?
– In a short time the refiners, or rather the manufacturers of the raw sugar, will reap it. In some cases the mills refuse to take cane grown on certain areas, with the result that a very much higher price is obtainable for land the cane from which will be purchased by the mills than for land immediately adjoining it, and the cane from which will not be taken by them.
– Too true.
– It is evident, therefore, that an artificial value is given to some of these lands in this way, and that this matter ought to be discussed by almost every honorable member, instead of being rushed through at this late hour. The honorable member for Wide Bay has opened up a new field for discussion by pointing out that, owing to the fact that some of the sugar companies will only accept cane grown on land sold or leased by themselves to the farmers, they get a direct benefit from the bounty. Unquestionably the bounty has enabled the big sugar companies to dispose of large quantities of their land; but if the Government are satisfied that this money will be properly collected, T shall not further dobs te this clause.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 4 agreed to.
Clause 5 -
All cane sugar manufactured in Australia which is entered for home consumption after the commencement of this Act, until cane sugar to the amount mentioned in the certificate of the Comptroller-General under section four of this Act has been so entered, shall be deemed to be sugar subject to duty of Excise under this Act; and all beet sugar manufactured in Australia which is entered for home consumption after the commencement of this Act, until beet sugar to the amount mentioned in the certificate of the Comptroller-General under section four of this Act Kas been so entered, shall be deemed to be sugar subject to duty of Excise under this Act.
.- -I shall give the Committee an opportunity to express an. opinion as to whether tha further difficulties shown by the Leader of the Opposition to exist should not hare some effect upon its decision,, and whether it is not fair to see that the Excise is collected in every case. I move -
That the words “ until cane sugar to the amount mentioned in the certificate of the ComptrollerGeneral under section four of this Act has been so entered,” be left out.
I know that I have no hope of carrying this amendment, the effect of which would be to provide that all cane sugar coming in, even after the date named in the Bill, would be subject to the Excise duty. We ought to continue the Excise charged in respect of the product of all lands to “which an artificial value has been given by this bounty, and from which these companies are deriving their profits. We should also provide that no sugar company or corporation connected with a sugar company should have the Excise duty remitted. If such a provision were made, lands which had been thrown out of cultivation by the action of these companies would again be put into use. If my amendment were agreed to, it would be necessary for me to move a further amendment, omitting from the clause the reference to beet sugar. Are we going to favour the sugar-beet growers of Victoria or the sugar-cane growers of Queensland ? If, as has been said, we are going to settle the tropical areas of the north by encouraging the sugar industry, we must pass a law to prevent beet-sugar growers competing with the cano growers. Unless we do so, the argument about building up a Defence Force in the north by encouraging the sugar-cane industry will also disappear. If honorable members are consistent, they will assist to prevent any growth of sugar-beet by the farmers of Victoria, or the introduction of sugar from any other part. That is a further reason why the Committee should support me. Clearly, it is an argument to show how fast the Bill is being put through without due discussion. Here we are with really nobody present to discuss this important question. Where is the honorable member for Kooyong, who poses as an authority on sugar? Does he not see if he is logical in his statements that he will have to pass a law to forbid the beetgrowers of Victoria from growing beet? I find that, although there were 10,000 tons of beet sugar grown here last year, it is expected that this season the quantity will be increased by at least 75 per cent. How the honorable member for Wide Bay’ and others are to sit down under that, I do not know, because their whole argument for a tropical industry will at once disappear. The honorable member for Herbert must view the prospect with the greatest dismay, and if next year he learns that 100,000 tons of beet-sugar have been grown in Victoria, I suppose he will come forward, if he is logical, with a proposal to put an end to the growing of beet-sugar, because it is coming into competition with the sugar grown in the tropical north, and with the settlement of the country for the purpose of defence.
– Are you “ stonewalling” ?
– I am merely speaking to the clause, and, no doubt, by-and-by, many honorable members will be sorry that they did not take part in this discussion. In the minds of some honorable members my conduct may assume that appearance, but I feel that too little time is allowed for the consideration of this important matter. Measures involving the expenditure of hundreds of thousands of pounds are to be rushed through in single sitting. We are to get the same* hasty slipshod legislation as we got in thepast. What I condemn on one side, I” condemn on the other side. If our Bills - are to be rushed through without getting - proper consideration, we shall suffer just- the same fate as the Labour party suffered at the last election. The Labourparty passed Bills in such a hurry that innumerable troubles arose from them. No» one could foretell the future, and eventually it brought down that party with its great majority. Our small majority will certainly vanish. I submit that we ought to have a full discussion of this matter. It is almost unfair that I should be called upon to take the major share of a discussion which should engage the attention of all. I do feel a certain amount of annoyance at the attitude of honorable members when I protest against the measure being rushed through, and point out the difficulties which must inevitably arise. The consideration of the Bill ought to be adjourned. I have entered my protest, and if I can get any honorable member to join with me, I shall be very glad to take a vote. The Committee ought not to allow a measure of this sort to slip through in this way, which must eventually be challenged when the people wake up. I believe that my anticipation will be proved up to the hilt, and probably in a few years the Labour party, who, apparently, are all in favour of an Excise duty, will have to take action in that direction. Naturally, this side cannot go against the Ministerial party.
– Order . The honorable member is not discussing the clause.
– I ask half-a-dozen honorable members to record a vote with me on my amendment in order to let it be seen that some members of the Committee did foresee what is certain to arise. I should not like it to go forth to the country that there was not an honorable member prepared to divide with me on a question of this great importance. I submit my proposal, and it is for the Committee to express its opinion one way or the other.
.- I shall now move to strike out the whole clause.
– Why did not you call for a division?
– I did. I shall have a division on the clause itself if the honorable member is prepared to support me.
– I cannot follow you in striking out the whole clause.
– The honorable member was not prepared to vote for my last amendment. If he is prepared to vote with me now, I shall call upon him to vote for the omission of this clause.
– That amendment cannot be received, because it is a direct negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 6 - (1.) When cane sugar to the amount mentioned in the certificate of the Comptroller-General under section 4 of this Act has been entered for home consumption, cane sugar shall thereafter not be subject to duty of Excise under this Act. . (2.) When beet sugar to the amount mentioned in the certificate of the Comptroller-General under section 4 of this Act has been entered for home consumption, beet sugar shall thereafter not be subject to duty of Excise under this Act…..
.-I move -
That the word “ not,” line 5, be struck out.
The clause will read if the amendment be carried : ‘ ‘ cane sugar shall thereafter be subject to a duty of Excise under this Act.” I propose to submit the same amendment in paragraph 2 of the clause. All the argument in favour of the amendment has already been advanced in discussing clause 5.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 7, and title, agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Motion (by Mr. GROOM) agreed to-
That this Bill be now reada second time.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 -
There shall be payable out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund, which is hereby appropriated accordingly, to every grower of whitegrown cane or beet within the Commonwealth, a bounty at the rate provided by this Act on all such cane or beet delivered for manufacture -
in respect of cane - after the first day of May and before the twenty-sixth day of July, One thousand nine hundred and thirteen, and
in respect of beet - after the first day of January and before the twentysixth day of July, One thousand nine hundred and thirteen.
.-I now move the amendment I suggested some time ago -
That in paragraph a the words “first day of May “ be omitted, with a view to insert in lieu thereof thewords “ thirteenth day of August, 1912.”
That will meet the difficulty to which I referred earlier in the evening.
– I am afraid that the amendment is out of order, inasmuch as it is beyond the scope of the GovernorGeneral’s message. I have no alternative, in the circumstances, but to rule that it cannot be received.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 3 agreed to.
That rates of bounty payable under this Act shall be-
in respect of cane - Two shillings and twopence per ton ;
in respect of beet - Two shillings per ton.
.- I see that I have no hope of carrying an amendment, but I point out that the effect of this will be to divide another £35,000 amongst the cane-growers in addition to the £323,000 they have already received this year. Not a single man who will get this money expected, or had a right to expect, when he put in the cane on which it will be paid, that he would receive a single penny piece of it. I, therefore, think it is highly inadvisable to vote the amount in this cheap, light, and easy way. It must be remembered that it will have to be made up by other citizens of the community. The Government are supposed to be a Liberal Government, and in this connexion they are liberal, indeed - with other people’s money. I contend that this is not the proper course to follow, and to give these people another £35,000 will be only to grease the fatted pig. The money will have to come out of the pockets of the farmers and settlers of the country. They are the people who sent a number of us here, and we are deliberately ignoring them in putting this further tax upon them. Scores of them believe that they are already sufficiently taxed, and they will take revenge for this further taxation on some one or other.
– Do not the sugargrowers belong to the Farmers and Settlers’ Association?
– If they do, they make a mighty good thing out of it. What help isbeing given to the farmers and dairymen of the community, or to any other class but those who are engaged in growing sugar, and who have already been subsidized to an extent good enough for them during the last ten years? At the last moment, we are being asked to pitchfork another £35,000 into their pockets. I record my protest against the proposal, and some of my honorable friends will, perhaps, later on agree that the protest is absolutely sound, and that this proposal should never have been brought forward. The clause will enable an additional £1 a ton to be given to those who are already receiving bounty to the extent of £3 perton. At the present time the growers are getting on every ton of cane from 6s. to 7s.6d., and it is proposed to hand over to them this further bounty. Last year I grew 400 tons of cane, but only got about 2 per cent. of sugar and no bounty; whereas, if I had got 10 per cent. of sugar, I would have got the benefit of this legislation. Where is this thing to end? Is it any wonder that we have the present great burden of taxation?
Clause agreed to.
Preamble and title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Motion (by Mr. Joseph Cook) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- Have the Government given any consideration to the establishment of a Meteorological Bureau in North Queensland?
.- The honorable member told me that he intended to ask this question, and I think the best way to answer it at this time of night is to place a copy of a memorandum from Mr. Hunt on the table of the House. I have also to inform honorable members that the Postmaster- General is placing facilities in the way of the Meteorological Department getting its data from ships when within our territorial waters. Up till the present this has been debarred by the postal regulations.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at11.30 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 1 October 1913, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1913/19131001_reps_5_71/>.