12th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. NormanMakin) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and offered prayers.
– I ask the AttorneyGeneral whether any inquiries have been instituted regarding the missing documents in connexion with the Jacob Johnson case ; if so, will he make a statement as to the progress of the inquiries ?
– I am not prepared to make a statement at present.
– Will the Minister for Markets and Transport say whether the Government has had in its possession for more than six months a report by the Director of Development in regard to the dairying industry; if the Government has such a report when will it be laid on the . table and made available to honorable members ?
– It has been made available.
Paymentof Fees - New Applications
– Will the PostmasterGeneral instruct that telephone subscribers, who are unable to pay the fees on the due date because they cannot withdraw money from the Government Savings Bank of New South Wales, shall not be penalized?
– I shall make inquiries, and if there are such cases they will be treated sympathetically.
– Are applications for new telephones in country districts still being considered favorably by the department, or has the granting of applications been discontinued?
– I am not aware that any applications have been refused, but I shall make inquiries, and let the honorable member know.
– Can the Prime Minister state the cost of replying to the questions upon notice asked by the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Keane) yesterday and to-day?
– No estimate of the cost has been made. The honorable member for Bendigo seems to have had spasms of curiosity on the last two days, but the fact that an honorable member asks a large number of questions on one or two days does not necessarily mean that he asks more in a year than other honorable members whose inquisitiveness is more regular. I take advantage of the question by the honorable member for Forrest, however, to repeat the statement I made some time ago that departments have been instructed to limit the answers to questions, which involve considerable research, occupying the time of officers unduly and necessitating the payment of overtime. The Government desires to furnish honorable members with all the information they need, but this service must be subject to reasonable limitations.
– Allow the inquiring member to pay for the overtime involved.
-Will the Prime Minister in the interests of economy, consider the advisability of appointing an officer to supply deficiencies in the knowledge of the honorable member for Bendigo?
– Much more waste of public money is caused by the continual calling for quorums than by legitimate requests for information.
– Will the Prime Minister endeavour to make available to honorable members as soon as possible documents and reports to be presented to the Loan Council and the Premiers’ Conference at the meetings in Melbourne this week-end? Doubtless some documents that are likely to be useful to honorable members will be distributed, and I suggest that they should be made available as promptly as possible.
– I shall inquire what can be done to meet the honorable member’s wishes.
– Isthe Minister for Markets and. Transport yet able to state when the proposed trade treaty between Australia and Canada will be submitted to the House.?
– The negotiations arc nearing completion, and I expect to be able to submit a draft treaty to Parliament at an early date.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
– Is not that information available in the Year-Book ?
– I think so.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
These amounts represent charges on revenue, but do not. include £5,000,000 worth of treasury-bills which will mature in London on the 30th June, 1931.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Markets, upon notice -
– The desired information is being obtained.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Will he bring under the notice of the goldproducing interests, viz.: - Prospectors, miners, syndicates, and mining companies, the necessity for registration as gold producers under the Gold Bounty Act 1930, and pointing out that without registration no bonus can be claimed 1
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
What was the total salaries and wages bill of the Commonwealth Government for the years 1924 to 1930, inclusive!;
– The information is being obtained, and’ will be furnished as soon as possible.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Mr.FORDE. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Awards - Strikes - Wage Reduction
asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -
– Inquiry is being made, and a reply will be furnished to the honorable member as early as possible.
– On the 20th May, 193.1, the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Keane) asked the following question, upon notice -
How many strikes have occurred in Australia in industries covered by Federal Arbitration Court awards during the past twelve months ?
I am now in a position to advise the honorable member that no record is kept in the Principal Registry of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration as to strikes other than those in respect of which some proceedings are taken before the court. During the past twelve months there has not been any application to the Arbitration Court in respect of a strike in any industry covered by an award of that court.
asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -
– No information is available in this department as to estimated total wage reduction or the new- employment occurring as the result of the 10 per cent wage reduction. I suggest that the question be addressed to the Minister for Home Affairs, who administers the Bureau of Census and Statistics.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
Will he inform the House as to the progress made in the campaign against infantile paralysis?
– Infantile paralysis is active in epidemic form in four States, in each of which local organizations have been formed, and have reached a high level of efficiency in dealing with the disease. The Commonwealth Department of Health is actively associated with the campaign in the production of serum, the preparation of an educational film, and the organization of co-operative measures between the different States. Last month I invited all the organizations interested to a conference at Canberra, at which all phases of the question were exhaustively discussed, and the campaign definitely advanced. It is proposed now to consider the problem of the prevention, so far as may be practicable, of disabling conditions or permanent paralysis.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
What customs revenue has been lost as a result of the tariff prohibitions and rationing of importations imposed by the present Government?
– It is impossible to say. A mere comparison of the revenue received on these items before and after the prohibitions and restrictions were imposed would be quite misleading in this connexion, as the degree to which the importations have been affected by the lessened purchasing power of the people and the rise in the rate of exchange cannot be calculated.
asked the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: - 1 and 2. A miner’s right issue in New South Wales has no force in the Territory for the Seat of Government. An ordinance making provision for the issue of miners’ rights has been made, and will be brought into force as soon as the regulations thereunder, which are now being considered, have been issued.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Was a communication received by him from Geneva, dated September, 1925, relating to. alcoholic liquors, in connexion with -
If so, what action has been or will be taken in regard to (c), and will be lay the papers upon the table?
– The matter is being looked into, and a reply will be furnished at the earliest possible date.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made, and a reply will be furnished to the honorable member as early as possible.
Issue of Military Stores
– On 21st May the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Keane) asked the following question, upon notice -
What military stores, clothing, &c., have been issued by the department for the relief of indigent people, showing the total number of each article?
I am now in a position to inform the honorable member that the following articles have been issued for the relief of those in necessitous circumstances: -
The following items of military stores have been issued on loan: -
– On the 19th November, 1930, the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Crouch) asked the following questions, upon notice -
I am now in a position to supply the following information : -
Mr. THEODORE (through Mr. Holloway). - On the 14th December, 1930, the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Crouch) asked the following questions, upon notice -
I am now in a position to supply the following information : -
– On the 2lst May, the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Keane) asked the following questions, upon notice -
I am now in a position to supply the following information : -
The figures show the expenditure at 30th June, 1930. They are inclusive of construction of lines, rolling-stock, workshops and machinery.
The interest is for the year ended 30th June, 1930.
The figures show the position since the opening of the Trans-Australian and Federal Territory railways, and since the acquisition of the Central Australian and the Northern Australian railways on the 1st January, 1911.
The figures for the Central Australian railway include losses incurred during the time the railway was worked for the Commonwealthby the State of South Australia from 1911 to 1925.
– On the 21st May, the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Price) asked the following questions, upon notice -
I am nowin a position to furnish the following information: -
Motion (by Mr. Scullin) agreed to -
That the House at its rising adjourn until Wednesday next, at 3 p.m.
.- by leave - I have been notified by the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs that His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom has decided to appoint a High Commissioner in Australia, and that until such time as a High Commissioner in Australia has been selected, Mr. E. T. Crutchley, who is at present the immigration representative for the United Kingdom, will act as the representative of His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom in the Commonwealth of Australia. Mr. Crutchley has arrived in Canberra, and. is assuming his new office to-day.
.- by leave - Honorable members will have heard with interest the announcement of the right honorable the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin). The appointment of a High Commissioner to represent the United Kingdom in Australia brings about a new system of communication between the Government of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth Government, and alters their constitutional relations. I am sure that all honorable members hope that the new arrangement will facilitate communication, and make the relations between the two countries even closer than they are, and that the new system willwork well. Many of us know Mr. Crutchley, who for the time being has been appointed to this office, and are aware of his qualifications and ability. I think that I am speaking on behalf of all honorable members when J say that wo wish that he may have a pleasant and successful term of office.
Honorable Members - Hear, hear!
Debate resumed from the 21st May (vide page 2234), on motion by Mr. Scullin -
That the papers be printed.
Upon which Mr. Gregory had moved by way of amendment -
That after the word “ printed “ the following words be added: - “and this House desires to affirm the principle that there should be no taxation of the people without the approval of the Parliament, and that no embargo on the importation of sugar nor any agreement entered into between the Government of the Commonwealth and the Government of Queensland and any other party shall, after the 31st day of August, 1931, have any force or effect until first approved by the Parliament of the Commonwealth.”
– I have no hesitation in describing the sugar agreement which the House is now discussing as the greatest political ramp ever put over any Australian Parliament. The embargo on the importation of sugar was first imposed during the war; it has been renewed from time to time; and it is now proposed, notwithstanding the changed conditions, to continue its operation further. The embargo during the years that it has existed has cost the people of this country no less than £5,550,000 a year, which would be sufficient to pay the annual interest on our overseas war debt. In addition, it has been responsible for reducing the annual consumption of jam in this country to the extent of 10,000,000 lbs. If the present policy is pursued of endeavouring to produce sugar-cane on land which is Unfitted for the purpose, we shall have to continue to use artificial, means to support the industry until some restriction has been placed upon the area under cultivation.
I do not think that there is a more striking instance of conspiracy between the growers on the one hand and the workers on the other at the expense of the general public than in this industry. The growers have a political pull in this Parliament, and the workers have their representatives here, as well as the Arbitration Court, to assist them. As a result of the activities of these agencies acting in co-operation, the people of this country are being unnecessarily penalized to the extent I have indicated.
– What about the refining companies ?
– I refer the honorable member for East Sydney to the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan), who yesterday was the champion of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company.
– What is the honorable member’s opinion?
– The Colonial Sugar Refining Company is very fortunate in having these new champions which it has so lately acquired on the Government side of the House. Their support of this company may be very useful in the. future when they are attacking similar commercial concerns as they have in the past.
– This is merely a continuation of the policy which the honorable member supported when Mr. Bruce was Prime Minister.
– I am not concerned only with the agreement now before the House; I do not wish to perpetuate wrongs which were done some years ago. As a comparatively new member of this House, I had very little to do with what occurred at the time of which the Minister speaks, and I am not responsible for what was done when I was not in this Parliament. This is not the only instance in which the public is being blackmailed into paying for the maintenance of industries conducted on an uneconomic basis. A similar policy has been adopted in connexion with the production of butter, dried fruits, rice, and various other commodities.
– Why should the honorable member attack the primary producers?
– I am not attacking that section; I am merely stating facts. If what I have to say hurts the feelings of the advocates of the primary producers, I . am noi responsible. If these illegitimate increases in the cost of commodities were prevented, and trade were permitted to flow in its natural channels, I venture to suggest that the cost of living could be reduced by at least 10s. in the £, and that would have a tremendous effect in reducing the cost of production. Some honorable members claim that if our economic and financial position is to be restored, the cost of production must be reduced; but their contentions are advanced only when the subject under discussion does not affect their electorate or any industry in which they are interested. In such cases, the cost of production, is immaterial, and the public is asked to pay twice as much as would otherwise be paid.
– Is the honorable member attacking the Leader of the Country party ?
– A few months ago the right honorable member forCowper addressed a public meeting at which he said he was going to unfurl the banner of freetrade, and carry a flaming torch through the country in support of reduced customs duties and a lower tariff. I have not seen that flaming torch, which apparently has been extinguished by sugar bags, though, no doubt, it will again burst into flame when the duties on wire netting and galvanized iron are under consideration. Prior to the war a purchaser of 1 lb. of tea could often obtain 1 lb. of sugar free of cost. Those were the days when the working men of this country, under non-Labour governments, had a chance. To-day there is no opportunity to obtain sugar for nothing, as the workers and others in any part of the Commonwealth have to pay 41/2d. per lb. for the sugar they require. Owing to the artificial conditions under which butter, dried fruits, rice, jam, sugar and other commodities are produced, and the method by which they are handled under pooling systems, the people of this country have, in many instances, to resort to inferior substitutes. If sugar were reduced to the price which obtained before the war, there would, in consequence of the many uses to which it is put, be a tremendous drop in the cost of living. We are told that the sugar industry as well as others must compete at world’s parity. Of course it should do so; but what earthly chance has sugar, or any other primary product, of competing at world’s parity when these fictitious and unfair methods are adopted to keep up its price? Why should the public of this country, particularly those on a fixed wage, be compelled to pay 2d. per lb. more for sugar than is paid in any other part of the world? Who is going to defend that? It is not a sound proposition and every honorable member of this House knows it. They know, too, that the system will have to be altered sometime, and the sooner we begin the better. It is amazing that a Labour Government should deliberately continue this arrangement. Were it not for the political in fluence that this great industry wields, the Government would not for one moment consider the renewal of the agreement.
It has been our custom to invite economic missions to visit this country at considerable expense, and then to take no notice of what they tell us. We proceed gaily on our way, ignoring the advice offered. Some two years ago the British Economic Mission, led by Sir Arthur Duckham, visited Australia to inquire into our affairs, and adviseus upon them. The following passage occurs in its report: -
We could not fail to be impressed, throughout our travels in Australia, with the fact of whichwe were continually reminded, that, notwithstanding the magnitude of the interest on her external debt and of her imports, for which payment can only be made in goods or ser vices or, temporarily, by fresh borrowing. Australia exports only an almost negligible quantity of the products of manufacture, unless we include therein minerals such as lead, silver and zinc; while, broadly speaking, the only primary products which she exports in important quantities, and which are not directly assisted by tariffs or bounties, though they may be assisted indirectly by government expenditure from taxation on roads, railways, water schemes and the like, are wool, hides and skins, meat and tallow, wheat and timber. Of these, wool and wheat are by far the most important, and it has often, though somewhat loosely, been said to us that the primary industries concerned with these products are the only industries in Australia, which stand on their own feet and sell their goods at the world’s price; or even, still more loosely, and with a change of metaphor, that all Australia is riding on the sheep’s back. Without committing ourselves to full acquiescence with these broad expressions of opinion, we may say that we have been strongly disposed to the view that the combined operation of the tariff and of the Arbitration Acts has raised costs to a level which has laid an excessive, and possibly even a dangerous load upon the unsheltered primary industries, which, having to sell in the world’s markets, cannot pass on the burden to other sections of the Australian community, and, consequently, as between the various States, upon those, notably Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania, which are poor in manufactures, and are principally concerned with primary production. These States, and Tasmania probably most of all, are further handicapped by the high costs of freight in interstate trade which result from the operation of the Navigation Acts along with the other causes which we have mentioned.
Those causes collectively have at least contributed in large measure to a state of things in which manufactured articles generally, and such commodities as sugar, cotton, dried and canned fruits,wine and butter are either not being exported at all orare only being made exportable by means of a subsidyin one form or another from the public. We have felt much force in the off-repeated complaint that successive increases in the tariff which affect prices and the cost of living, following upon, or being followed by, successive advances in the cost of labour as the result of decisions under the Arbitration Acts, have involved Australia in a vicious circle of ever ascending costs and prices, and that this condition of affairs is crippling Australia’s progress and her power of supporting increased population. There lies no task before the Australian people more urgent than that of in some way breaking the vicious circle and of bringing down costs of production, as is being done in the other industrial countries of the world, without lowering the standard of living of the workers as measured not by money but by real wages, which are the reward of labour in the form of goods and services.
– What did they know about it?
– If honorable members consider that statement on its merits they must agree that it is true. It is also evident that we are completely ignoring the warning which has been given to us, and are bent upon following devious financial by-ways which will lead us only into a labyrinth of difficulty. Sir Arthur Duckham also (jointed out that, owing to the elimination of competition, the efficiency of industry was being impaired. The Minister spent most of his time yesterday in trying to demonstrate that the sugar industry was being carried on efficiently, but he could not escape the fact that it costs twice as much to produce a ton of sugar in Queensland as it costs in Java, although in Queensland we have the advantage of up-to-date machinery and the superior intelligence of white men in charge of the industry.
– In Java labourers engaged in the sugar industry receive only 10d. a day.
– The boasted efficiency of the . white man, backed by modern machinery, ought to be able to compete against the mere brawn of ignorant coloured labourers, but is evidently unable to do so. In the publication. The Australian Tariff, the authors, Professors Brigden and . Copland, and Messrs. Dyason and. Wickens, write of the effect of the sugar embargo as follows: -
The embargo on sugar imports allows of any price being fixed in Australia at which the consumers will continue to purchase with out reducing demand,and that the Commonwealth Government will allow. The price fixed for Australia is £27 per ton of raw sugar, and this price is fixed at a sufficiently high rate to cover a loss on exports. In 1925-20 only 56 per cent, of the crop was consumed in Australia, and paid for at £27 per ton. The remaining 44 per cent, was sold abroad at £116s. per ton. The average price received was, therefore, £19 10s. per ton. The Australian consumer paid £7 10s. more than this in order to make up the loss on exports, and the subsidy to these exports amounted to £2,175,000. In 1926-27 exports were less, and the cost was reduced to £750,000, but it doubled this figure for 1927-28. For 1928-29 the exportable surplus has again increased, with prospects of still lower prices for it, so that the cost may easily exceed £2,000,000.
The report of the sugar investigation committee makes it clear to us just what the sugar industry is costing the people of Australia. In the minority report, the following paragraph occurs: -
We can, therefore, summarize the annual cost of the sugar industry to Australian consumers as follows: -
That gives some idea of the burden which this industry imposes upon the struggling working man with a family to support. The Government is not justified in re-imposing the embargo. The result of this abnormal protection is to induce persons to grow sugar on land which is not suitable for it, and all sorts of artificial restrictions have to be imposed to restrict the area placed under cane. It has been said that the industry is necessary to preserve a White Australia. That is not true. There may be some justification for theclaim in respect to the. northern part of Queensland, but there should be a line drawn across Australia at the southern limit of the tropical regions, and no special protection should be afforded to the sugar industry in areas south of that line. Surely no one can pre- tend that the cultivation of sugar in the Grafton district, and along the Tweed River, is necessary to the preservation of a White Australia. At Grafton, sugargrowing is carried on side by side with dairying on rich, highly-productive land, which could be turned to other profitable uses if not devoted to sugar. Only the excessive protection granted at the expense of the public makes it possible to grow sugar successfully in those areas.
I have very little confidence in the reports of the sugar investigation committee. The consumers have nothing to expect from either the minority or majority report. So far as they are concerned, it is a choice of being boiled or fried. The appointment of the committee was only a white-washing move to justify the Government in renewing the embargo. The evidence tendered to the committee was not given on oath.
– The committee was asked for.
– A royal commission was asked for.
– The committee was appointed in order to save expense.
– The committee was costly enough. As I have said, no evidence tendered to it was given on oath, and all but two of its members were persons either directly engaged in the sugar industry, or having interests in it. Despite that, we are asked to accept its report as impartial. The sugar embargo was first imposed as a war measure, along with a number of others. It was justified at the time of its imposition, but it is extraordinary that, more than a dozen years later, after all the other embargoes- have long been lifted, the sugar embargo should be renewed. Surely the Government must realize the changes that have taken place in the meantime. Does it not recognize that there has been a reduction in the cost of living,, and that the sugar industry should not be specially favored at a cost to the public of £5,500,000 a year? Are the sugar-growers and workers in the industry to be perpetually guaranteed their present high returns at the expense of the community? Is the public of Australia to be penalized for ever to the extent of over £5,000,000 a year in order to confer special benefits upon the sugar growers, and upon the aristocracy of labour engaged in the sugar industry? If members of the Labour party have to support that policy in the purlieus of Woolloomooloo, in the densely populated city of Footscray, or in any of our industrial areas, such as Lithgow, and many others, where the people are struggling to make a living, I do not envy them their job. It would afford me infinite pleasure to tell the electors of Bendigo, for example, the measure of sympathy which they get from the Labour party with respect to this particular commodity.
There, has been, a substantial decline in the national income, and a considerable fall in the wages paid in many industries. This agreement indicates that the sugar industry is to be entirely exempt. The reason is, of course, entirely political. These favored sons of industrial fortune - the employees and all others connected with the sugar industry - are to be set apart; they are not to be called upon to suffer any reduction in wages or income, and all at the cost of the general public. I advocate a tariff on sugar as on any other commodity. It has been urged in opposition to this proposal, that it would be difficult to regulate a tariff. Surely it is not beyond the wit of man to devise means for the regulation .of tariff protection on a sliding scale to meet the varying economic circumstances of the industry. This has been done in other countries, and I have not the least doubt that it could be done in Australia were there the inclination to do it. The effect of the Commonwealth sugar policy on the jam manufacturing and similar industries in the southern States is clearly indicated in the minority report, which states that the decline in the consumption of jam in recent years amounts to approximately 10,000,000 lb. per annum. The report also declares in somewhat loose terms, and the statement is repeated parrot-like by those honorable members who are supporting the agreement, that this decline in the consumption of jam is due to the use by the people of other substitutes. No one has, so far, indicated exactly what are the substitutes. If the assertion were true, the figures of the Customs Department, would reveal an increase in the importation of certain other commodities. I have asked’ several. honorable members to name these substitutes for jam, but up to the present, I have not been able to obtain an answer.
– Perhaps peanut butter and margarine are being eaten because people cannot afford to buy butter.
– Peanut butter is a luxury; it is much dearer than ordinary butter.
Mr. ARCHDALE PARKHILL.Then the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) is welcome to it. It is a fact, due largely, I believe, to the Commonwealth sugar policy, that the making of jam as a domestic industry has entirely disappeared. The housewife of to-day is not prepared to pay 4-Jd. per lb. for sugar for jam-making. Whereas in former years it used to be the pride of the housewife to have her larder filled with a wide range of home-made jams and jellies, to-day she entirely neglects this side of her home duties.
– The honorable member should speak for his own case.
– I am speaking for the housewives of the Commonwealth, and know that what I am saying is absolutely true. The majority report recommends the payment of £315,000 to the fruit processors in order to keep them quiet. I have no doubt that this recommendation will obtain some votes for the agreement. Those who support the interests of the various canneries will welcome another £115,000, which will really be in the nature of a gift to them. I am entirely opposed to the agreement, but the amendment moved by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) is not, in my opinion, very important.
Mr. ARCHDALE PARKHILL.Because, apparently, all honorable members are in favour of the principle contained in the amendment. Bearing in mind the honorable member’s well known views on tariff matters, I am surprised that he should spend so much time on what is very like a red herring drawn across the track to divert attention from the much more important principle involved, namely, the effect which this agreement will have upon Australian householders.
– What does the honorable member suggest I should have done?
– The honorable member for Swan might have proposed the straight-out rejection of the agreement.
– The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) has forgotten the terms of the original motion.
– Because of the honorable member’s well known record with regard to tariff matters he might have moved to reject the agreement.
– On a personal explanation, I wish to state that I have been grossly misrepresented by the honorable member for Warringah. If the honorable member had read the motion before the Chair he would have realized that I could not do what he has suggested I should have done.
, - I am somewhat disappointed with the report of the Sugar Inquiry Committee insofar as its recommendations affect the State of Tasmania. We were hoping that, when the sugar agreement was renewed, its terms would permit us to obtain sugar at a somewhat lower price than has been ruling for some years. It is, nevertheless, a fact that the terms of reference to the committee gave the widest scope for a complete investigation into the conditions of this industry. All interested persons were invited to appear before the committee to give evidence. This opportunity for an inquiry into the subject was not provided by previous administrations.
The people of Tasmania depend entirely for their supplies of sugar upon sea transport. If their interests are to be safeguarded in the future, it is essential that a depot should be established in Tasmania for the storage of adequate supplies. On many occasions, as the result of frequent disputes in the shipping industry during past years, Tasmanian citizens were unable to obtain adequate supplies of sugar. Under existing conditions any temporary disorganization of the steamship service between Tasmania and the mainland means danger of a shortage of sugar for the people and for several important industries in that State. For a certain period in each year the manufacturers of jam use between 70 tons and 80 tons of sugar per day, and the total requirements of the State amount to about 12,000 or 14,000 tons a year. The report of the Sugar Inquiry Committee recommends more favorable treatment being given to fruitgrowers. Previous agreements provided for the payment of up to £205,000 per annum in the form of a home consumption rebate of £6 5s. Id. per ton on refined sugar. The committee recommends an additional £110,000, and the appointment of a fruit industry sugar concession committee to safeguard the interests of fruitgrowers. Previous agreements made no provision for the price to be paid to the growers. This agreement, therefore, is a step in the right direction.
– What would be the effect of world’s sugar parity on the jam manufacturing industry?
- Mr. Peacock, the representative of the largest jam manufacturing company in Hobart, has stated that, if .his company could get sugar at world’s parity, it would not make a difference in the price of jam of more than id. per tin. Apparently the price of sugar has not been so important a factor in determining the price of jam as have been the handling charges and the profits made by the manufacturer. No one can deny that, for a number of years, the fruitgrowers have not been getting a fair deal from the processors.
If a depot were established in Hobart we should be in the same position, as regards sugar supplies, as are people in the mainland States. Although retail grocers in Tasmania have to pay Ss. 4d. per ton more for sugar than is charged to mainland retailers, they have to retail it to their customers at the same price as that ruling on the mainland. Why should they be penalized in this way? A depot at Hobart would overcome that difficulty. Tasmania is frequently without supplies of sugar on account of the loading on the mainland being delayed through wet weather and the suspension of shipping. That State suffers many disabilities because of its isolation from the mainland, and I trust that the Government will afford it at least some of the assistance for which we are asking. T regret that sugar will not he available at a lower price, but it is evident from the report of the committee that, in the interests of the industry, there ‘should be no alteration of the agreement.
– The honorable member’s fair and persistent representations demand the respect of the Government, and they mli be fully considered. [Quorum formed.]
– I rise to support the amendment of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), who has moved to omit from the motion, “ That the Papers be printed “, all the words after “ That “ and to add in their place the following words : - “ and this House desires to affirm the principle that there should be no taxation of the people without the approval of the Parliament, and that no embargo on the importation of sugar nor any agreement entered into between the Government of the Commonwealth and the Government of Queensland and any other party shall, after the thirty-first day of August, 1931, have any force or effect until first approved by the Parliament of the Commonwealth “.
The Government has, by executive act, entered into an agreement which” affects detrimentally every citizen of Australia, and involves a direct contribution by them of £12,500,000 to the sugar industry of Queensland. Oan this be said to be a deliberate Parliament when the Government, by executive net, commits the people to such an expenditure? Nobody escapes the cost of it. It is estimated that the value of the sugar produced in Australia is over £12,000,000. Surely an agreement involving that sum of money should be determined by the representatives of the people assembled in this Parliament. I oppose the agreement. Its ratification by the Government is one of the most scandalous acts that has ever been perpetrated by this Parliament or by any executive within it. It is recognized by all parties in this House that some sacrifice must be made by all sections of the community during this time of depression. Yet the sugar industry is to be regarded as sacrosanct! It is to make no contribution to the general sacrifice for the next three years at least. This Government appointed a committee to inquire into the sugar industry. I consider that it was a packed committee. The prosperity of the industry is evident because of the fact that the sugar interests were ableto send an advance agent into every city and town that the committee visited, with the objectof working up a feeling in favour of this great white elephant - the sugar industry. It reminds me of a circus, andanadvance agent being sent out to advertise the white elephant of the menagerie. The sugar interests are exceedingly indiscreet in claiming at this time of stress their pound of flesh. They arespoilingtheirownnestinasking for the full price of sugar regardless of the factthat the purchasing power of the people has been considerably reduced. This agreement, which has been signed by theGovernment, places upon 300,000 unemployed people the obligation to buy sugar at three times the price at which it canbe bought in other countries.
– The Bruce-Page Government was responsible for the original agreement.
– I was opposed to it, and I am opposed to this agreement, particularly in the present circumstances. In theWimmera district and in the various wheat-growing districts of Australia, families are living on crushed wheat, and although for the moment the Government is preventing them from losing their holdings, they must inevitably be driven off the land. The sugar industry is not worth one farthing to the people of Australia. Over 50 per cent of the workers engaged in cane-cutting are foreigners, battening on the general public. The primary producers are suffering acutely because of the low, values of wheat and wool. Yet they are called upon to. pay excessive prices for sugar so that this great white elephant may be kept in prosperity. The Government’s action is not Australian. It is not cricket. The sugar industry does, not bring one penny of revenue into this country, or pay one shilling of our national debt. If there were a duty on imports or an excise on the local article we might derive some revenue from the industry. The committee, in its report, showed that Belgium has, imposed a duty on sugar of £14 a ton, yet sugar is sold in that country at21/4d. alb. Belgium probably obtains considerable revenue in that way. The committee also stated that refined sugarcould be imported into. Australia at £10 0s. 3d. a ton, The price of sugar in this country to-day is £37 6s, 8d. a ton, or £27 6s. 5d, a ton more than the price at which it could be imported. If sugar were sold in Australia at the price obtaining in Belgium, even after the imposition of a duty of £14 a ton, we should save £6,300,000 per annum.
– Why not quote Italy?
– The sugar duty is one of the greatest sources of revenue to Italy. If theprice in Australia were decreased by 2d. a lb. there would be a saving of £5,600,000. If it were decreased by1d. per lb. we should save £2,800,000. If the price were decreased by1/2d. per lb. the saving would be £1,400,000. That great octopus - the Colonial Sugar Refining Company -will not alter the price of sugar despite the fact that starvation and unemployment are rife throughout the country. It will not share in the general sacrifices of the community. The position is, intolerable.
– Would the honorable member lift the embargo on sugar-?
– I would give to the industry a certain protection, because of the promise that’ was made when the kanakas were sent out of the country; but not to the extent of penalizing or- impoverishing the community. The people are compelled to bear a considerable burden to permit of the embellishment of this great octopus, and of the employment of a foreign population in the north-east of Queensland. I brush aside allthis sentiment about naturalization and the practice of other countries. There are employed in cane-cutting 1,389, foreigners and 422 naturalized foreigners. They represent 57.7 per cent of the people engaged in cane-cutting. Everybody knows that these foreigners save their wages in anticipation of their return, at some future date, to their home country, yet the unemployed,, the wheatgrowing families of this country, and others, have to. contribute to their maintenance. It is surely a disgrace that this Parliament is not premised to discuss the agreement before it is ratified. Certain honorable members have plausibly referred to the need to provide for the defence of the coast of Queensland. Let me tell them that were it not for the sugar industry we could, with the saving, double our national defence, and, the growing in the sugar areas of a product which could be exported at, a profit, would help the general prosperity. The sugar industry is not the only white elephant in Australia, There are several others. All the economic advice that the brains of Australia and our universities contribute to this country is opposed to the policy of the Government. Even the great Geneva Economic Conference, when it discussed the question of economies, was opposed to it. Yet we are continuing to feed this great white elephant. Just before leaving Perth I noticed that the stock of seventeencompanies had shown a depreciation to the extent of £59,000,000, yet this Government, by executive act, has bolstered up the stocks of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Honorable members behind the Government talk about capitalistic boosters. They are the “ boosters “ of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. It is unfortunate that the jam and fruit preserving industry has allowed itself to be bought by the offer of a dole. Yet the consumers of jam in this country will continue to pay exhorbitant prices for jam.
– That is a serious reflection on the fruit-growers of Australia.
– There are many fruitgrowers in my electorate who agree with me that the committee of inquiry was packed.
– That js absolutely untrue.
– The fruit-growers of the main fruit-growing States agreed to ask that a certain person be appointed to represent their interests on the committee, but their request was refused by the Government, which appointed a biased person to represent them.
Mr.FORDE. - That is not correct, and the honorable member knows it.
-The records are in the department. The Minister has made enough mis-statements already in con- nexion with Tariff Board reports.
– The honorable member forEchuca(Mr. Hill) will tell honorable members that the person appointed is a practical fruit-grower.
– It is sufficient that the request of the united fruit-growers was turned down.
– The Ministeris intoxicated with the exuberance of his own verbosity. Those who desire to bolster up this useless industry - useless because it will never pay1d. of interest, or assist to liquidateour national debt - tell us that the sugar contained in a pound of jam is worth only about one farthing. They even go so far as to estimate the value of sugar in a ju-jube, I do not know what is the value of the sugar in a 1-lb, tin of jam, or in a. ju-jube, but I do know that the sugar agreement costs the people of Australia about £5,600,000 per annum. 1 know also that the bulk of that cost is not borne by the wealthy section of the community. Children need sugar, and it should be made available to them at the lowest possible cost. Not onlyis that £5,600,000 a dead loss to us,’ but the existence of the agreement is also detrimental in other ways. Western Australia particularly is hampered in her trade with other countries because she is compelled to buy her sugar requirements from Queensland. We have offended our natural customersour neighbours, being unable to reciprocate in trade. We are trying to settle people on the land and to find markets for their produce; but the sugar embargo and other prohibitions have closed markets which otherwise would have been opento us, and, in addition, have increased the cost of our export shipping. Australia has adopted an insular policy; we expect other countries to buy from us without buying anything from them in return. By engaging in reciprocal trade with other countries we should find an outlet for our produce, and Australia, and Western Australia in particular, would make remarkable progress. If we bought our sugar and bananas from countries which can grow them easily, we could pay them back with things grown easily in this country. In that way Australia would not be impoverished. When we see how, Australia is drifting, we must admit that there is something wrong with the policy of the country. We hear a good deal about the wisdom of a “ gettogether movement,” but when an honorable member talks logic in this House be is subjected to inane interjections.
The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Forde) said that the price of sugar had not increased more than that of other commodities. I point out that other commodities have fallen in price, and must continue to do so. Why, therefore, should the price of sugar remain the same? Wage-earners have had their wages reduced, and they will probably have to suffer further reductions; but this agreement is to remain. Out of the penury of the workers, money must be found to pay fancy prices for sugar.
– Does the honorable member say that wages should be reduced still further?
– We shall all have to accept reductions, because we have not enough money to meet our requirements.
I do not know whether a resolution of this Parliament in opposition to the sugar agreement would mean that it would be altered. If it would not, it is farcical for us to discuss this question further. Unless the Government is prepared to alter the agreement, if so desired by this House, this discussion is merely a waste of time. If the carrying of the amendment moved by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) will result in a revision of the agreement, I shall vote for it enthusiastically in the interests of Australia. In the interests of parliamentary government, as against executive control, I urge the House to support the amendment.
– I represent electors who are consumers of sugar.
– And some of them makers of galvanized iron.
– I was a member of this Parliament when the sugar embargo was first imposed. It was imposed in order to give effect to the White Australia policy. Previously, large numbers of kanakas were brought to Australia and kept in compounds on the sugar fields in order to produce sugar cheaply. We are called upon now to consider not merely the saving of a few million pounds; but the saving of a continent. The people of the United States of America say that Australia has done well to adopt the White Australia policy. They almost fear in their country a civil war between the white and the colored races. If the sugar embargo keeps Australia white, it is worth while.
– Does the honorable member think that the sugar embargo is necessary to the preservation of a White Australia ?
– That was the intention of the embargo. I believe that there is a good deal of truth in the contention that the sugar industry in Australia has been captured by Italians.
– That is .so in only one district. Throughout the whole industry the proportion of Italians is only 10 per cent-
– Even if Italians form a large proportion of those engaged in the sugar industry, they belong to the white race, and are intelligent men and women, who make good pioneers. They cannot be accused of being lazy; on the contrary, they are hard workers. I remind honorable members opposite who complain of the percentage of Italians engaged in the industry that those Italians came here at the invitation of a Nationalist Government, and that the present Labour Government placed an embargo on their entry to Australia. The restrictions on the immigration of Italians should cause the sugar industry gradually to get almost entirely into the hands of Australians. I regret that the price of sugar is so high, and should be glad if means could be found for controlling it.
– The committee shows how the price can be kept down.
– The Labour party has tried to get a referendum passed to give the Federal Government power to deal with trusts, combines and monopolies, and to regulate prices. Had its efforts been successful, we should be able to regulate the price of sugar according to the cost of production. I have had no complaint from the consumers of sugar in my electorate that the price of sugar is too high. So long as the industry keeps men in employment, they are willing to pay a higher price for their sugar. If the embargo were removed, thousands of workers would be thrown on the labour market. I believe that Australia should be self-contained.
– Would the honorable member apply that principle to every country?
– Not every country can be self-contained. Scotland, for instance, cannot produce sugar or tea, although it produces whisky. Australia is fortunate in that it can produce almost all its requirements. We have a surplus production of wheat and some other commodities, the export of which should be encouraged.
– Australia -exports sugar at a loss.
– It is a common business practice to sell at a loss any surplus production over the requirements of the local market. The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) complained that Australia is producing too much sugar. I reply that Australia is also producing too much wheat. The honorable member said that the sugar embargo placed a burden on the taxpayers. I understand that he believes in a fixed price for wheat. Had the price of wheat been fixed at the rate advocated by him in this chamber some time ago, the difference between the market price of wheat and the guaranteed price would have been a charge on the taxpayers. If it is good to grant a bounty to the wheatgrowers, it is good to act similarly in the case of the sugar-growers.
– The wheat-growers have not received the guaranteed price, nor have they reaped the advantage of a sales tax on flour.
– Although I support the agreement, I think that we should take any action possible to reduce the price of sugar, and to control the foreign element in the industry. [Quorum formed.]
– I am afraid that the remarks of lorne honorable members regarding the sugar industry are dictated by State prejudices, lack of knowledge of the facts, and ignorance of the consequences of the consummation of their wishes. Our chief concern to-day is the assets of the Commonwealth”, and, of all those assets, our primary industries are now of the greatest value, particularly those which provide employment, production, and export. The motion before the House relates to the printing of a report containing evidence that is fuller than that in any report previously supplied regarding any industry in Australia. Those honorable members who have submitted or supported an amendment to the motion have omitted to state that the Government, in continuing the embargo, is merely following a practice that has been in operation in Australia for the last sixteen years. Recently +he Commonwealth Government, to satisfy these malcontents, who have been influenced by incorrect information, appointed a committee to inquire into, and report upon, the industry. The report submitted is most complete. There are, in fact, three reports, one of which has been signed unanimously by the members of the committee, who represent all the parties interested in the sugar industry. Therefore, their unanimous findings should be endorsed by the community generally. The committee consisted of a government officer, who is fully conversant with the whole of the details of the industry, a gentleman from North Queensland, who represented the sugar-growers, and representatives of the employers, the employees, the Australian consumers, and the Queensland Government.
In turning to the opposition that has been voiced against the agreement, one finds that some honorable members complain of the wages paid in the industry, but the conclusions of the members of the committee, so far .as the conditions of the workers in the industry are concerned, are unanimous. A number of honorable members criticized the industry because of the fact that the price of sugar lands was high, yet the committee, as a whole, defended the industry against the slur that the land values were exorbitant. No doubt it could be shown that high-priced land growing very valuable crops, and, possibly, stand-over crops has been sold at per acre. Opposition to the renewal of the agreement has been expressed on the ground, also, of alien penetration. I do not propose to deal with that phase of the opposition in the few moments that I have at my disposal to-day, because the unanimous finding of the committee is that the alien element in the industry is well under control. Therefore, the foolish statements of certain honorable members are not substantiated by facts.
The enemies of the industry are chiefly the representatives of Western Australia, who do not possess an Australian outlook. Even in the Constitution they have signed for a united Australia. The sugar industry has opponents also in certain gentlemen who have no interest in the country’s welfare, apart from small metropolitan financial interests. From their point of view they may be able to advance argument against the granting of assistance to this great industry, but we must first look at the matter from an Australian view-point. Two-fifths of this continent lies within the tropic of Capricorn, and the conditions of the people Living in the tropical parts of Australia cannot at all times be considered from the point of view of the residents of the southern States. This applies particularly to the sugar industry.
The growers have not been given a dole, or anything that will cause Australia to suffer, but merely conditions that will protect the growers and their products against the products of blacklabour countries. It is admitted that the latter countries are selling sugar to-day at less than the cost of production. The employees in the sugar-fields of Cuba and Java receive a dollar a day for their labour, and the women are paid only half that wage. Do honorable members wish to wipe out this industry, which gives employment to thousands of white people in Australia? It is claimed that ><= are paying too much tribute to a great, white octopus; but what about the black octopus to which the opponents of the Australian sugar industry would have us pay tribute if the embargo were removed ?
The industry provides employment in Queensland for 21,053 persons, under conditions approved by all the members of the committee that was selected to inquire into this matter, applying common sense rather than teeing influenced by mere platitudes. Employment is afforded for 6.823 field hands, 8,142 cane-cutters, <S,088 mill hands and 8;000 farmers and their families, -to say nothing of the men who are engaged in the transport branch of the industry. Yet we ar.e asked to allow Mack-grown sugar to come into Australia ! Australia’s activities and prices in the sugar industry, under whitelabour conditions, have never been challenged by white men in any country. If the sugar embargo were removed we should wipe out assets to the value of £50,000,000 that have been built up in the sugar districts in the form of roads, harbours, schools, he. Towns have grown up in consequence of the production of sugar, and this development has provided a considerable market for manufactured products from the southern States.
The real opposition to the industry comes from the representatives of Western Australia, who describe the embargo as a dole to the sugar-growers ; but Western Australia is living on a dole from the Commonwealth amounting to £330,000 a year, which Queensland helps to contribute. The sugar industry receives no dole. The minimum price at which it is possible to produce sugar with white labour is paid, and if Australia does not want this industry carried on under whitelabour conditions, the alternative is to import millions of pounds worth of sugar annually from countries where it is grown with black labour and send them gold in payment and lose all the employment that the industry now provides, as well as to sacrifice our export trade in sugar, which is worth £2,000,000 a year. If honorable members from Western Australia desired an embargo on foreign wool or wheat, it would, no doubt, be granted; yet efforts have not been made to increase the trade in those primary products by organization to the extent that it has been practised in the sugar industry. Did any honorable member from Western Australia object to the proposal to guarantee the farmers of Australia 4s. a bushel for their wheat? Although Queensland was npt directly concerned in that matter, Queeusland representatives supported the proposal and the farmers in that State are nov receiving that price for their wheat without .a Commonwealth guarantee. On the 10th December, 1929, the honorable member for Swan (Mr. .Gregory) was furnished with particulars regarding the amount that had been paid by the Commonwealth in bonuses, bounties, subsidies, .and other farms of .assistance to primary and secondary industries in each State .during the previous seven years
Those figures showed that South Australia had received £813,292 from the wine export bounty, and that Western Australia had benefited to the extent of £37,745 as a result of concessions under different bounty acts, in addition to having received by way of advances for wire and wire-netting the sum of £894,048. So it will be seen that Western Australia has enjoyed advantages apart from the dole of £337,000 per annum that she is being paid at the present time. Nor must it be forgotten that millions of pounds of the Commonwealth’s money to which Queensland contributed, were expended upon the construction of the east-west railway across the desert, with the object of assisting that State. No opposition was offered to. that expenditure, and no parochialism influenced the consideration of the proposal. I have not introduced parochialism into this debate. Matters such as this should be regarded from an Australian stand-point; but I am afraid that the representatives of’ Western Australia have not adopted that attitude. Are we to be deprived of the advantages which this industry confers upon Australia because of the opposition of those honorable members to conditions that every government which has examined the subject has agreed should exist? Every tribunal that has investigated the industry has agreed that an embargo should be imposed upon the importation of foreigngrown sugar. The principal opponents of the industry are to be found within an organization termed the Town, and Country Union of Australia. The honorable member forForrest (Mr. Prowse) has claimed that the consumers, as a whole throughout Australia are protestingagainst the agreement. I deny that that is so. The opposition is practically confined to certain interests in Western Australia, and the Town and Country Union. The views of the consumers as a whole find expression in the report, one of the signatories to which was Mrs. Morgan, who came from Western Australia.. They were concisely stated by Mrs.. Chapman, widow of the late Senator Chapman, when she said.: “I believe that the Australian housewife never, objects to paying an Australian price for Australian sugar “.
The question is asked, if the wages paid in the industry are not excessive where is this £5,000,000 going? I say that the difference in regard to wages and conditions between black-labour countries and Australia furnishes a complete answer.
In the past there has been opposition to the agreement by the fruit industry. The present agreement makes provision for that industry to receive the sum of £315,000 per annum. [Quorum formed.] Every industry in Australia in which sugar is a raw material has been given assistance in some form or other. There is a rebate of £4 5s. a ton on the sugar content of products that are exported to Great Britain, and of £5 a ton when they are exported to Canada. Consequently, those manufacturers are in a better position than their competitors in other parts of the world.
The statement has been made that the embargo has permitted the charging of prices that have penalized Australian industry and domestic consumers. Appendix 7 of the report of the committee sets out. the Melbourne retail prices of various commodities from 1911 to the end of December last. According to the latest figures available the retail price of sugar has advanced to a less extent than that of every household commodity with the exception of butter. Therefore, the worker in this industry has not enjoyed special advantages at the expense of the community as a whole, and the sugar-grower has not increased his price commensurately. with the increase that has occurred in the prices of other commodities. The report makes the following comment upon this aspect of the matter : -
These official results; appear to us to dispose of any suggestion that the sugar embargo has penalized the public. In this connexion, the sugar industry like many other industries, has had to meet increased production costs due to the national policy of wage fixation and protection., Despite these two restrictions the retail price of sugar has evidently been kept within reasonable limits from time to time.
The. honorable member, for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) has argued that the advantages in regard to the use of machinery which are enjoyed, by the industry in Australia should enable it to compete against the black hordes of Java. The majority report says in this connexion -
As to the third objection, viz.; that active competition with other sugar-producing countries is necessary in the interests of efficiency and reduced costs, it was established in evidence that the efficiency of the Australian sugar industry now ranks high compared with all other countries, and that such efficiency first began its substantial advance in 1921, i.e., six years after the now sixteen years’ old embargo commenced its course . . . Greatly improved efficiency has in fact developed without outside competition. This is largely due to the system of payment by results adopted by Queensland in 1015. The cane-grower is paid according to the sucrose content of his cane; and that has proved to be a powerful incentive to better cultivation and selection of the best varieties of cane. Cane-cutters are employed at piece-work rates. By these and other means, reduced costs have been brought about despite the embargo on foreign sugar.
The honorable member for Warringah also stated, by way of argument, that, because the price of butter is so high, the people have had to resort to the use of peanut butter. A comparison of the prices of the two products will show that the price of peanut butter is out of all proportion to that of ordinary dairy butter; and, as a matter of fact, the price of the latter has increased to a less extent than has that of any other commodity since 1911. Today butter is sold at less than the cost of production. The honorable member, therefore, has merely displayed that ignorance which characterizes his utterances when he is dealing with important matters, particularly those that affect the primary producing industries of this country. His view-point may be that of a city electorate which destitution has not yet visited, and whose people move in a prosperous atmosphere. But some of us have to get down to realities, and endeavour to alleviate the conditions of those engaged in our primary industries, who suffer hardship to promote industry, and who keep the inhabitants of the large cities in existence.
The terms of reference of the Sugar Inquiry Committee are extraordinarily comprehensive, and necessitated an investigation into every phase of the industry. The committee examined representatives of the various branches of the sugar industry, including manufac- turers, growers, and field employees. The value of the land used for sugar production, the effect of the price of sugar upon associated industries, over-production, the utilization of by-products, alien penetration, and other aspects of the matter were closely examined. Evidence was taken in every capital city of the Commonwealth, and every opportunity was given to and availed of by representative interests throughout the Commonwealth. Those who decry the Australian sugar industry with a view to substituting the blackgrown product were given every encouragement to state their case. No other industry has been subjected to such a severe examination. No other committee has submitted to Parliament evidence and conclusions of such an encyclopaedic nature. The report was ably and cleverly formulated by the members of the committee, who did their duty fearlessly and well. After mature consideration of the pros and cons, the committee effectively contradicts the allegations of those who are hostile to our sugar industry.
The case for the industry was not advanced by any great combine of interests, by cormorants seeking to victimize the people of Australia, but by the growers and their organizations, and the workers. They gave their evidence so frankly and freely that it carried weight with the unbiased members of the investigating body. The committee was not composed of the nominees of any one party, but included a nominee of the Commonwealth Government, of the Queensland Cane-growers Council, a representative of the employees in the industry, one of the Australian consumers of sugar, a representative of the Australian fruit-growers, and another of Australian manufacturers using sugar in their manufactures.
-Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Undoubtedly the sugar industry should be preserved to Australia. It has had a great deal to do with the prosperity of Queensland, and it ha3 helped to settle that part of the north which otherwise would be empty.. The’ research that has been incidental to the carrying on of the industry has been a credit to Australian chemists, and both production and distribution seem to be well carried on.
Queensland representatives on both aides of the House appear to have been welded together to defend the sugar industry, but apparently they are not prepared to live in the present and consider existing facts. The whole matter boils down to this: is the prevailing price for sugar fair and reasonable? I submit that the price is not reasonable. Every other industry is at present suffering from the depression. Why should the sugar industry be granted a new lease of life on war-time conditions, and be allowed to enjoy the inflated prices of the past? Honorable members will gather from page 32 of the minority report that a reduction of the wages of sugar employees occurred in August, 1930. An application has been lodged with the Arbitration Court for a further lowering of those wages. If reductions are being made in the earnings of those employed in the cane-fields, it should follow that a decrease should take place in the price of sugar to the public.
– When a reduction occurs in the wages of cane-cutters, the saving is pooled and the benefit passed on to the consumers.
– I have no great faith in pools, and prefer a straightout reduction. Competition has forced every other industry in Australia to reduce the price of its products. Whenever the Arbitration Court has decreed a reduction in the rates of wages obtaining in an industry a consequent decrease has occurred in the price of the commodities concerned. However, I shall not take up the time of the committee in elaborating such details. I have an important proposal which I urge the Minister to consider favorably. I suggest that a rebate of £3 should be allowed on the cost of sugar supplied to bakers, pastrycooks, and biscuit-makers for use in manufacturing goods for local consumption. Already a concession is given to confectionery manufacturers and to fruit canners. As pastrycooks and bakers use 75 per cent, of the dried fruits produced in Australia and use large quantities of flour, eggs and other primary products, it is but reasonable that this rebate should be given to them. It would provide a definite method of passing on to the consuming public a decrease in the cost of living. The tradesmen to whom
I refer consume some 27,000 tons of sugar annually, and the rebate that I advocate would reduce the great profits of the sugar-growers and manufacturers by only £81,000 per annum.
– Why should not housewives enjoy a reduction in the price of sugar?
– The adoption of my proposal would bring about a lowering of the price of foodstuffs. The rebate that I urge would counteract the effect of the sales tax that was recently placed upon meals, and certain products of bakeries.
– Can the honorable member give an assurance that a reduction in the cost of biscuits and the other items to which he refers would follow an acceptance of his proposal?
– Naturally, I personally am unable to do that, yet it is but logical that a reduction in price should follow. From 1910 to 1912 these industries enjoyed a rebate similar to that now proposed by me, which was instrumental in keeping down the cost of living. At a time like the present, when every penny saved means something to the thrifty housewife, and when Ave have some 300,000 unemployed, a proposal such as mine is worthy of acceptance by the Government.
When the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) was speaking, I asked him whether he had any information indicating that there had been a decline in the output of home-made jams, in recent years. Apparently the honorable member considered that the high price of sugar has not deterred housewives in this matter, but I assure him that in Victoria the output of home-made jams is infinitely smaller than in previous years. [Quorum formed.] There is a possibility of large interests seeking an injunction in Melbourne against the renewal of this agreement on the terms proposed. My suggestion on the other hand, which I shall later propose as an amendment will mean a slight lowering of sugar prices and effect a definite reduction in the cost of living.
Honorable members are aware that Australia has an over-production of sugar. Surely it is a natural corollary that the prices of the commodity should fall. Yet we have this Governmentcontemplating a renewal of the sugar agreement on the old terms and prices, and, in addition, proposing to insert an iniquitous clause, providing preference to unionists. I object to the insertion of any such provision in this or any other agreement made by the Government.. There should be no preference either for non-unionists or unionists. All industrial unions are now political bodies, and a. preference clause such as that, proposed should not becounternanced. I submit my proposal to the Minister for his favorable consideration.
Sitting suspended from 12. 45 to 2.15 p.m.. [Quorum formed.]
– I am wholeheartedly supporting the amendment of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), which reads as follows: -
That after the word “ printed “ the following words be added: - “ and this House desires to affirm the principle that there should be no taxation of the people without the approval of the Parliament, andthatno embargo on the importation of sugar nor any agreement entered into between the Government of the Commonwealth and the Government of Queensland and any other partyshall, after the thirty-first day of August, 1931, have any force or effect until first approved by the. Parliament of the Commonwealth “.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) made a careful analysis of this subject, and went into it in great detail in a most able and impartial manner. I do not propose to repeat the points that he made. The proposal of the Government is that the embargo shall be continued for five years, and that the price of sugar shall be fixed at41/2d. per lb. for three years. It is also proposed that a subsidy of £315,000 shall be paid to fruit processors. If the price of sugar is to be maintained at the present figure, and no such assistance were given to the fruit-growers in regard to the processing of their products, it would be impossible for them to maintain their operations. For a. long time these producers have been hardly able to make a living, and it is essential that some assistance shall be given to them.
But we have also to consider the effect of the embargo and the fixation of the price of sugar on the rest of the community. I am totally opposed to the continued bolstering up of this industry. I agree that it is an important industry, and I am strongly in favour of giving it as much protection as any other industry in Australia.; but to bolster it up and shelter it behind an embargo is, in nay opinion, quite wrong.
– Would the honorable member discontinue the embargo?
– If the embargo is to be continued at all, it should not be for a longer period than one year; and even then,, a considerable reduction should be made in the price of sugar. I do not think that the Government is: justified incontinuing the embargo for five years and maintaining the present price of sugar for three years, particularly in view of the fact that a great many of our primary producers in other industries are making only a bare living, while many others are operating at an actual loss. In these circumstances, I fail to see the justice of protecting the sugar industry by means of an embargo at the expense of the rest of the community.
– Does not the honorable member consider that the price of all our primary products, such as wool and wheat, should be standardized?
Mr.KILLEN. - Unfortunately,our wool and wheat-growers have to sell their products at world’s parity prices. I believe that prices should be standardized as far as possible; but that is a different subject.
– We have made a start with the standardization of prices inthe sugar industry.
– One of the great needs of this country is a reduction in the cost of production. The cost of production if reflected in the cost of living, and sugar is an important item in the cost of living. Every one in the community use sugar. But while the prices of other com modities are falling, the price of sugaris to be maintained. This, I submit, isnot fair. No one desires to do aninjustice to the great sugar industry, for we realize its importance to Australia I believe that it should be protected to the fullest extent, but not at the expense of all other sections of the community.
We have heard a great deal lately about the necessity for equality of sacrifice. That is, I believe, a right principle. But when the workers of Australia have been obligedtosubmit to a reduction of wages, when the unemployedhave no wages at all, and when the primary producers have to carry on their operations at a dead loss,or at avery small profit, it is not fair that the sugar-growers and those who are connected with the industry should nake no sacrifice. It has been said that if the sugar embargo were discontinued, and the price of sugar allowed to fall to a normal level, the sugar industry wouldbe annihilated. I donot believe that. Even if the price of sugar were reduced by1d. per lb., the industry could, Ja my opinion, be maintained at aprofit, though not at so great a profit as , at present. I have inspected the sugar-growing, lands of Queensland and have formed the opinion that they axe capahle of producing many other crops than sugar, although ithas been said that they are fit for no other purpose than sugar-growing. It has been said also that the maintenance of a “White Australia is dependent upon the maintenance of the sugar industry.
– Did the honorable member see the Queensland sugarcountry before it was put under sugar cultivation ?
– I saw some of the country in its natural state. I am quite satisfied that it is capable of producing crops of maize, bananas, oranges and vegetables; and that it could be used profitably for dairying,cattle-raising and so on. If the price of sugar were reduced by1d. per lb., the sugar industry could be carried on to a lesser extent than at present, and the settlers could engage in some other forms of production in addition to sugar. This might mean that the sugar industrywould be less profitable than at present, but it would still be profitable.
– It is unprofitable at present because of over-production.
– I respectfully disagree with the Minister. I do not believe that it is necessary to continue the sugar embargo and the present high price of sugar in order to keep the settlers on this land. If they were to continue producing sugar to a lesser extent than at present,and were to produce crops of the other commodities I have mentioned, or to go in for cattle-raising or dairying, they could still make a good living.
Mr.Forde. - Even the minority report of the Sugar Inquiry Committee recommended a reduction of only id. per lb. in the price of sugar, whereas the honorable member as recommending a reduction of £8 per ton.
– I am not in agreement with either ithe majorityor minority report. I donot think either of them goes far enough.
Mr.Forde. - The honorable member would wipe out the industry all together.
– Not at all I want to give it a fair deal.’ I think an inquiry should have been made by an unbiased body. I do not admit that the members of the Sugar Inquiry Committee were unbiased. If they had been, they would have recommended a considerably greater reduction in the price ofsugar.
– If the price of sugar were reduced by £9 per ton the average price would be brought down to about . £10 per ton, as against £30 per ton when the Go- vernment of which thehonorablemember was a supporter fixed the price some years ago.
– I do not suggest that the industry should be deprived of all protection. I believe that there should be a good high duty put on sugar, or, in other words, that we should apply the same protective principles to this, as to other primary and secondary industries which we protect. I do not think that the Government should have agreed to the continuation of the embargo for five years, and of the present price for three years, at a time when prices generally are falling. Our economic position doe? not warrant such action. It is entirely unreasonable to protect this industry at the expense of every other section of the community. I am not at all in agreement with the provision the Government is malting under the sugar agreement for preference to unionists. I have never been afraid to express the opinion that, with the exception of returned soldiers - the men who fought overseas in order to maintain our homes and liberties - no class in the community is entitled to preference. It seems to me amost extraordinary and indefensible action on the part of the Government to single out the sugar industry for special and favorable treatment at the expense of the rest of the community. I protest against it.
.- I was associated with the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) in the legislation passed in this Parliament to establish the sugar industry on a basis thatwould enable it to be carried on with white labour. Those who visited the north in the early days of federation, -and saw the pitiable conditions under which the industry was being carriedon with kanaka labour, . will agree with me that the price Australia paid for the abolition of a form of slavery was less than any other country has ever been obliged to pay. It took a civil war to enable the United States of America to do what Australia has done solely by legislation. The conditions laid down by the Commonwealth Parliament to enable the sugar industry to be carried on with white labour were suchthat the industry has prospered ever since. Quite apart from the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, although it deserves consideration for having pioneered the industry, is itnot worth while preserving an industry that employs so many thousands of people, and is in a position to export sugar? Do honorable members want to revert to the time when Australia had to import all its sugar from Java or elsewhere? We are always anxious to help the primary producers, whether they be growers of wheat or any other kind of produce, even wine; and no one regrets the parlous conditions of the wheat-growers to-day more than do honorable members of the Labour party; but would the destruction of the sugar industry help the other primary producers ?
– Why do not honorable members of the Labour party extend to the wheat industry the treatment given to the sugar industry?
– We shall do so.
– If that is so, why do they not agree to a sales tax on flour?
– Order! For the moment the House is not dealing with a proposal for a sales tax on flour.
– It is quite evident that while some honorable members may oppose one form of protection in the case of sugar-growers, they are quite willing to apply it to other primary producers. The foreign element which is said to be soprominent in the sugar industry was not. introduced by the Labour party. The people who brought these aliens to Australia are now using their presence as an. argument to defeat an agreement which is necessary to keep in existence the industry in which these foreigners are employed.
– It is only a bogy.
– I agree with the honorable member. I believe that the people of Australia are willing to pay the price which is necessary to keep in existence an industry of such magnitude as the sugar industry. If honorable members would visit the north and see the conditions under which the sugar-farmers carry on compared with wheat-farmers or other primary producers in Australia, it would give them food for thought. The development of sugar-growing in the north of Queensland has beyond all doubt contradicted the assertion of many socalled authorities that white people can- not work in a semi-tropical country. They can work in the Queensland sugar fields better than coloured men. Any reasonable form of agreement between the Commonwealth Government and the Queensland Government to maintain the sugar industry will have my support.
– Several statements have been made during this debate which I cannot allow to pass unchallenged. Sugar, probably more than any other commodity, has been, and still is, the subject of a great deal of general and political controversy not only in Australia, but in other countries also, and the main reason for it in Australia is the fact that sugar cane growing is confined to one State, and to the tropical portions of that State.
– Sugar cane is also grown in New South Wales.
– All that is grown in New South Wales could fit in one’s eye.
– I had intended to say that sugar cane growing is practically confined to one State, and to the tropical portion of that State. I am quite sure that if it were carried on in all the States there would not be to-day that tragically ill-informed public opinion throughout the Commonwealth which accounts for so much of the prejudice that is displayed towards the industry. No country has a greater consumption per capita of sugar than Australia. The people of the United States of America eat probably more sweets and sugar concoctions than we do, but they consume 10 lb. per head of sugar less than we do. Our consumption is 114 lb. of sugar per annum. Apparently this “ dreadful “ embargo about which we have heard so much, particularly from our friends in Western Australia, has not had much effect upon the consumption of sugar by the people of Australia. After all, the economic problems of the industry do not concern the average consumer of sugar to any great extent. He has had every opportunity to hear all the propaganda that has been published against the sugar agreement, and all about the governmental protection afforded to the industry. It has been pointed out to him that he should not be expected to pay 41/2d. per lb. for sugar, when the people of Great Britain and New Zealand are probably not paying more than 21/2d. per lb. He has also been led to conclude that by having to pay this added price he is being so unfairly dealt with that steps should be taken to remove this injustice. He has further been told about the very wealthy growers of sugar, and the wonderful conditions enjoyed by those who are working in the industry.
The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) - to whom I always listen with particular care - told the House that the people engaged in this industry were absolutely sheltered inasmuch as they had not been subjected to any reduction of wages. I am sure that the honorable member would not attempt to mislead the House, but if he had carefully read the minority report he would have found that in August and September, 1930, there were certain wage reductions in the sugar industry, and that when the report was being prepared there was a further application before the Industrial Court for a reduction. Only to-day in the Canberra Times I find the following : -
Brisbane, Thursday. - The Industrial Court to-day reduced the basic wage from £3 17s. to £3 14s. for adult males, and from £1 19s.6d. to £1 19s. for adult females.
Mr. Justice Webb said that the reduction was nothing more than a cost of living reduction such as would occur at any time following a reduction in the cost of living. It was not due to the depression.
– Will that reduce the price of sugar?
– It will affect those working in the industry,and whilst it cannot immediately reduce the cost of sugar it will be a contribution towards the trust account. When that account is sufficiently in credit an effective reduction, probably a half-penny per lb., will be made in the price of sugar.
– Does the reduction of wages apply to piece rates as well?
– The reductions of last year and that mentioned in the Canberra Times to-day apply, I believe, generally to those engaged in the industry.
– Following the reduction of wages, will the price of sugar be reduced ?
– The trust account will be credited with any surplus after the growers have been allowed the cost of production.
– The average citizen upholds the White Australia policy. Upon that subject we all are agreed, and there is no need for me to enlarge upon it. The people realize also that sugar cane is being cultivated by white labour in tropical parts of the continent. I cannot agree with the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Killen) that the country now devoted to the cultivation of cane could be used for dairying; I believe that the greater part of it would be most unsuitable for the dairying industry. Sugar cane, ‘however, is being successfully cultivated under white labour conditions, and settlement in tropical areas is extending. That cannot be said of any other primary industry, in the tropical areas of the Commonwealth. The people of Australia have been called upon to bear the expenditure of enormous sums of money in the Northern Territory, and nobody can seriously claim that the labour and money disbursed there have added to the population of the north or increased its production. The ordinary sugar consumer appreciates- also the fact that all our requirements of sugar can be produced in Australia and that the price he pays is fixed by Government authority. He knows also that more sugar has been produced than the local market can absorb, and that the surplus has been sold overseas at an average return during the last five years of £11 5s. a ton, including the benefit of the British preference; whereas the producers’ return for raw sugar sold in Australia has been £26 16s. Those facts have played a prominent part in the propaganda in opposition to the protection given to the sugar industry by this Government and its predecessors, and the consumer is led to conclude that people in other countries are getting cheap sugar at his expense. What are the facts?
Various honorable members have ably traced the history of the sugar industry from its genesis to the present time, and there is no need for me to repeat what has been said ; but there is one fact which cannot be gainsaid, namely, that the people of the Commonwealth, not of Queensland and New South Wales alone, deliberately adopted a policy to encourage the establishment of the sugar industry. That policy has succeeded to such an extent that to-day the production exceeds the local requirements; and the industry gives direct employment to over 7,000 growers and 22,999 employees in Queensland and New South Wales. It also contributes substantially to the prosperity of auxiliary industries, notably shipping. All the raw sugar consumed in the Commonwealth is conveyed to the refineries in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, and Western Australia in Australian ships officered and manned by Australians, and no less than £750,000 is paid annually in coastal freights on raw sugar. We must remember also that over £30,000,000 of capital “is invested in the industry’, and whole communities in North Queensland are entirely dependent upon it. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) said that he was not opposed to the protection of the sugar industry, but he is opposed to the embargo.
– He said that it is the biggest ramp ever put over.
– I am sure that he did not mean that. Exception has often been taken, to embargoes as a meansof’ protection. The justification for the embargo lies chiefly in the frequent and violent fluctuations in the. world’s price of sugar. The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), when Prime Minister, said -
Foreign conditions and violent fluctuations in the world’s market render it difficult, if not impossible, to protect the Australian sugar industry adequately by any customs duty.
In 1925 the then Prime Minister, Mr. Bruce, stated -
The experience of the last eighteen months had shown clearly that a tariff duty, while effective in regard to products which maintained a uniformly normal price, was not capable of scientific accuracy when applied to sugar, which fluctuated to an extent which rendered the duty at times abortive. A tariff which would give a reasonable return to the Australian producer when the world’s market price was low would result in unduly large profits when the price was high. On the other hand, if the duty was based on a high tariff, the sugar industry would be seriously injured, if not entirely destroyed, during the period when low prices prevailed.
From the time that the Commonwealth Government assumed control over the Queensland sugar industry in 1915, its whole policy has been one of expansion. During the early years of the Great War, there was a shortage of sugar in many countries, where high prices were paid, and supplies had to be rationed. During those years Australia was making a determined effort, to establish the sugar industry as a white man’s industry. I shall not weary honorable members by relating in detail the circumstances under which it first became established as a white man’s industry; but it was, as I have said, prior to the war that the industry was making, a desperate attempt to become established as a white man’s calling in a tropical land. Honorable members are aware that when the Commonwealth Government assumed control of the industry in 1915, it entered into an agreement with the Queensland Government to purchase the whole of the production, fixed the price of raw sugar, and also arranged for its refining and’ distribution at a fixed price. As our own production at that time was entirely inadequate, the Commonwealth imported large quantities at a high price. While consumers in overseas countries in which sugar was then being rationed were paying as much as ls. 6d. per lb., those in Australia were paying only 3 1/2 d. per lb. From 1915 onwards I do not think the price of sugar ever exceeded 6d. per lb.
– I should think it would not.
– And a portion of the proceeds were paid into Consolidated Revenue.
– Yes; but in other countries the consumers who were rationed were paying ls, 6d. per lb. In 1919 the Commonwealth was obliged to import 110,000 tons, and in 1920, 112,000 tons to meet our requirements, and a flat rate was charged for all sugar made available for local consumption. At that time production began to increase, and the total prohibition of importations was subsequently introduced. Although tariff protection was provided to the extent of £9 6s. 8d. a ton, it was never enforced. In 1920 the price of raw sugar increased from £21 to £30 6s. 8d., and by 1922 the production in Australia had increased to such an extent that only’ 5,000 tons had to be imported in that year, whereas, in 1920, 112,000 tons had to be imported to meet our requirements. In 1922-23 a small surplus of 576 tons of sugar was produced.
In connexion with the agreement now under consideration, I quote a paragraph from an article which appears in the Australian Sugar Journal of the 9th April of this year. Although some honorable members may say that the opinions expressed in that journal are Biased, I do not think that it can be said that the following paragraph expresses views that are in any way biased : -
We can confidently assert that no other Australian industry has ever been subjected to anything like so searching an examination
The examination was by the committee - and if it can be argued that the sugar industry occupies a unique position, from the nature of the protection afforded it, the reply is that this industry is not alone in the .enjoyment of an embargo, whilst, under the protectionist policy of the Government, many other industries arc working behind a tariff which practically amounts to the same thing. A consideration of the searching character of the inquiry renders it all the more gratifying that the sugar industry should have come so satisfactorily through the ordeal, and that the adoption of the embargo should have been so amply justified. We have said on former occasions that, unless the embargo can be shown to be in the interests of Australia aa a whole, its continuance cannot be entertained.
That, undoubtedly, is -the aspect from which the committee viewed the position, and why it endorsed its continuance. I also wish to quote from the evidence given ‘ by Professor J. 33. Brigden, a portion of which has already been quoted by the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis). The chairman of the committee, in presenting the case to Professor Brigden, said -
The point at issue seems to be whether it is of greater economic advantage to Australia to give the people sugar at a price that is a minimum, or to keep the price of sugar for home consumption at the same margin as at present .and export the 40 per cent, surplus. If die latter policy be the more economic one, the question arises: How far could a nation subsidize primary industries such as sugar, butter. &c., in order to be able to sell its surplus in those industries on the world’s market at world parity prices?
Professor Brigden’s reply is reported in this way -
Sugar was one of those things in which Australia, has been rather uneconomical. It imposed a cost on the community which i/ more prosperous times it could afford to pay: but ho doubted very much if sugar, in proportion to the service it rendered to Australia was the most costly to the country. His point of view was that sugar was only one of the protected commodities. It would be most inequitable to take action on sugar alone. A rough estimate of the excess cost of sugar to Australian consumers might be allocated as follows: - One-third to the cost of protection of other industries; one-third to the inherent costs in the industry itself, including the cost of the standard of living, and one-third to the loss on exports. The committee might consider very carefully, not only the economic conditions, but the repercussions of political and sentimental feelings. There were serious grievances in the. western State of Australia owing to the inequity of the. protectionist policy. In Queensland, sugar just about balanced the cost to Queensland of protection in the other States, and if anything serious were done to cause a loss to Queensland through the removal of the sugar protection, four” States out of the six might be arguing violently about the national policy and whether federation was worth while. There was more merit in protecting industries in outlying States than in spending part of our national wealth in large congested cities. Owing to the peculiar geographical and national importance, there were special reasons. for protecting sugar. To take away any substantial amount of the support now being given to sugar would have very serious repercussions on Queensland and on the rest of Australia. The benefits to be derived from cheaper sugar would not be felt in the same intensity as the cost. A radical change was sometimes worse than leaving things as they were. On purely economic grounds the change should be as gradual as possible-
I entirely agree with that assertion. If any change in. the present system is to be made, it should be gradual. A drastic cut in price for local consumption would shake the industry to its very foundations, and the removal of the embargo would subject it to the risk of being overwhelmed in the tide of world production. He continues - so that the shock will not come suddenly. In the present state of affairs it was imperative not to shock any industry. On various grounds he had the greatest sympathy with an industry which might have built up production on a bad basis through no fault of those in it. The whole sugar industry had been led on by a Commonwealth policy which was not its own affair entirely, and it would be most unfair to make that industry pay for the mistakes of the whole of Australia.
In replying further to the chairman of the committee, Professor Brigden said that-
He thought the cost of the embargo to the Commonwealth was balanced by what Queensland had to pay for protection in the other States. The cost of protection to the manufacturing industries was about £20,000.000 a year, of which Queensland’s share was roughly £5,500,000 out of the total cost of £36.000,000 for all protected commodities.
The chairman of the committee then asked, “ Does Queensland get as much out of protection as Victoria and New South Wales ?”, and Professor Brigden replied -
No, it is doubtful if we balance even with the protection given to the sugar industry.
– He expressed entirely different views before he became a Queensland public servant.
– That is a reflection upon Professor Brigden.
– The honorable member should study the evidence which he gave before the Royal Commission on the Commonwealth Constitution.
– I believe the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) quoted portion of it this morning. I trust that the House will approve of the agreement. As to the amendment, I agree with the views expressed by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) that any such embargoes should first be approved by Parliament. I appreciate the fact that we are called upon to discuss and decide in committee every duty, howsoeversmall, which is placed on commodities, yet in the case of anembargo we have no voice whatever. I agree with the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), and the object of his amendment, but surely the conditions to which he. objects do not apply to this particular agreement. I presume the agreement has already been sent to the Queensland Government, and, in any case, it is not, a new arrangement ; it will be merely the continuation of an agreement which has been in existence for many years.
– Let the Government bring down a bill ratifying the agreement so that Parliament may endorse its action.
– I sympathize with the honorable member, but I do not think that there is any need fo apply his principle to this agreement. Provision has been made in the new agreement for absolute preference to unionists, a provision which did not exist in the previous agreement, and to which I am strongly opposed. I have nothing against unionists; and have always maintained that by joining their various organizations the sound, sensible workers can help their country and the industries in which they are engaged. I cannot see, however, why it was necessary to insert a preference to unionists clause in this agreement, when we got along quite satisfactorily without it for so many years.
.- So much has been said on practically every phase of the sugar industry that there is not a great deal left that is new. It is necessary, however, that I should make my position plain. I propose to support the adoption of the majority report. As the report shows, the committee went thoroughly and exhaustively into every phase of the sugar industry. The report is fair, honest and straightforward, arid in view of the diversity of interests repre- sented on the committee, and the long and searching inquiry, embracing every section from the growers to the consumers, I am prepared to accept the decision of the majority. We must not overlook the claims of the general public, but in this case the committee has gone thoroughly into every phase of the matter, weighing the issues impartially and judging of cause and effect, and I am prepared to accept the unbiased opinion of the experts who had the facts before them. I do not forget that this is a primary industry, and while some profess to believe that the growers are getting more than a fair price, the majority section of the committee has declared that that is not so, and that the conditions prevailing in the industry are not so good as has been stated by those who oppose the findings of the committee. Many honorable members of this House support the principle of an Australian price for primary products. I have heard several honorable members denounce a local price for sugar, but the same honorable gentlemen have supported the principle of a local price for wheat. I have repeatedly voted for the institution of a local price for wheat within the Commonwealth. I believe in an Australian price for wheat, butter, dried fruits and every other primary commodity. The sugar industry is organized, and is entitled to the local price. I remember many years ago, when the wheat-growers approached the then Prime Minister, the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), and asked him for an Australian price for wheat and a compulsory pool, he met us with these questions: “Are you organized; whom do you represent; and what are the numbers in your organization ?” While we could say that we were to some extent organized, we were not, in the opinion of the right honorable member, a sufficiently close-knit body to be able to demand a local price for our products, and I think he was right. I believe in organization. At the present time the sugar men are organized, as are the dairymen, and other sections of primary producers. If the wheatgrowers were organized now, they would be getting more for their wheat than a net return of 2s. a bushel. Compare that with the return of 8s. a bushel which the farmers in Germany are receiving.
At the present time, sugar is being exported from Australia. In fact, the production of sugar has so increased, and the price of the exportable surplus is so low, that there has been a serious reduction of the average price received for Australian sugar. The industry is rapidly approaching the position already reached by the dried fruits, industry. For many years about 80 per cent, of the product of the dried fruits industry was consumed in Australia, while 20 per cent, was sent overseas. To-day, probably more than 80 per cent, is exported, and less than 20 per cent, consumed here.
– It is too expensive to be consumed here in large quantities.
– The cost of production is so high that the growers. are compelled to organize for the purpose of obtaining a local price for their product. Seeing that every other industry is protected, the growers of fruit for drying are justified in organizing and seeking a local price for their product. Probably not more than 55 per cent, of the sugar produced in Australia is consumed locally, while 45 per cent, is exported overseas. We have within the last few days been discussing the tariff, by means of which the Government seeks to give every secondary industry an opportunity of securing a local price for its product, and those industries are securing that higher local price. Very little of the product of our secondary industries is exported. Those industries have availed themselves of their privileges to the full, and under the protection of the tariff, sell their goods on a sheltered Australian market. The men engaged in growing sugar are mostly in a small way. According to the report of the Sugar Investigation Committee, the areas under cane vary from 43 acres to 109 acres. Generally the growers are men with large families, and the areas are worked on a family basis; not much outside labour being employed. When the families grow up, it is necessary to find an occupation for the sons, and, as happens in the wheat-growing districts, land adjacent to the original holding is bought for them, at considerably above the true market value. That has tended to inflate the values of the sugar land. I have had an opportunity of visiting a large part of Queensland, particularly the sugar-growing districts, and it has been impressed upon me that the land in its virgin state is covered with what is practically jungle. It is not just ordinary timber, and the cost of clearing is very high. The sugar lands are mostly situated along the coast, and are not fit for much besides growing sugar. At the present time, it is, in my opinion, being put to the best use.
I do not know very much about sugar, I admit, but I wish to emphasize the importance of the industry to those engaged in growing fruit for canning and jam-making. [Quorum formed.] I am pleased to see that the canning and canned fruits industry is to be afforded some relief under the Government’s proposal. This industry has suffered considerably for some years. From 1919 until the present year the difficulties of the growers have increased, and the fight for some measure of prosperity has yearly been more severe. The limit seems now to have been reached. Many growers are faced with absolute ruin, and the fruit industry is threatened with partial extinction. In 1919 the prices paid for canning fruits reached as high as £20 a ton for apricots, and £16 per ton for peaches. In that year sugar was available to canning factories and jam manufacturers at £27 5s. per ton, but for the years 1920 to 1923 the price for sugar was seriously increased, with the result that the fortunes of the fruit industry began to decline. To manufacturers of fruit products sugar in 1919 rose from £27 5s. to £46 ls. 6d. per ton, and receded slightly in October, 1922, to £39 18s. A year later sugar was reduced to £35 13s. 3d., and reached its present figure of £3611s. 8d. in 1925, but with a concession to the fruit-growing industry of £6 5s. per ton, During the same years, 1919 to, 1925, canning fruits receded in value. Apricots in 1919 realized £20 per ton. and in 1925, £10 per ton; peaches, 1919, £16 per ton; 1925, £10 per ton; pears, 1919, £14 per ton; 1925, £10 per ton. Jam fruits also were adversely affected as will be seen by these figures: - Apricots, 1919, £20 per ton ; 1925, £8 per ton; plums, 1919, £14 per ton ; 1925, £8 per ton ; peaches, 1919, £13 per ton ; 1925, £7. It was because of the serious position of the fruit industry that the Federal Government decided, in 1925, that a special concession of £6 5s. per ton of sugar used should be granted as a direct means of assisting the fruit-growers. Undoubtedly it was intended that this concession should be applied for that purpose.
The fruit-growers’ organizations claim that the full purpose of that concession has been defeated because of the manner in which it was handled. The fruit-grower has secured little, if any, benefit from the £6 5s. per ton off sugar. Other channels, either of manufacture or consumption, appear to have absorbed the huge sum involved, and left the fruit industry lamenting. Any policy which increases the cost of manufacturing fruit products must retard the fruit-growing section of the industry. It is claimed that the price charged for sugar used in fruit products for home consumption has been much in excess of a fair and reasonable basis for” many years.
Mr. S. P. Cornish, who gave evidence before the Sugar Inquiry Committee, said : -
We fully recognize the importance of the sugar industry from a national, defence and economic stand-point. In our desire to relieve our fruit industry of excessive sugar costs we have no desire to cripple the sugar industry, but we claim the interests of both industries run so nearly parallel as to demand a more equitable adjustment to our own industry if it is to continue as an active and extensive buyer of sugar in the future.
Take the sugar contents per dozen cans of fruits and jams in 1911, a normal prewar year, as against the year 1930. It will be noted that as against the same, or in most instances, a lower fruit cost, the industry is compelled to find as much as ls. per dozen, equal to 50 per cent, increase, on the sugar contents of jams, whilst a proportionate extra cost of sugar occurs with canned fruits. From the 1920-21 season onward the fruit-grower has led a hand-to-mouth mode of existence, not knowing until the fruit was ready for picking, whether the canners and jam manufacturers would process his product. These circumstances did influence the granting by the sugar industry of the concession of £6 5s. per ton of sugar. Compared to the position of affairs in 1925, when the concession was granted, the present plight of the fruit-growers of Australia is very much worse, whilst the prospects for the 1931 season seem the most depressing the industry has ever faced.
It has already been announced that the tonnage handled this year will not exceed 50 per cent, of that processed last season, and the price for the tonnage so processed will be considerably lower than growers have ever received. The fruit industry is somewhat akin to the sugar industry as an extensive employer of labour. The amount paid in wages represents over 50 per cent, of growers’ production costs, as was ascertained by the Development and Migration Commission report, and the “total wages paid by the fruit industry, including factory processing and handling, amount to £575,000 per annum. As to the importance of the fruit-growing industry generally, here ure a few facts to showthat it is worth some help from the sugar industry and from the country -
Expenditure to the amount of about £140,000,000 has been incurred in irrigation and closer settlement schemes, containing large fruit-growing areas.
The capital value of the fruit-growing industry is stated to be £50,000,000; the area 400,000 acres, and the value of the annual crop £14,000,000, whilst exports of all classes of fruit are valued at £7,000,000.
The industry employs 27,000 workers, including casuals, whilst in the canneries and jam factories a further 6,000 are employed. Thus it will be seen that 33,000 workers and their dependants are vitally concerned in the saving of the fruit-growing industry.
Apart altogether from wages paid by other fruit-growers, the canning and jamgrowers and their factories are paying out each year £575,000 in wages to employees.
The export value of canned fruits alone can be estimated at £650,000 per annumquite an item in providing funds overseas. This could be increased under favorable circumstances! It is estimated that there are about 640,000 acres of irrigable land in the Murray valley lying between the Hume dam and Echuca. The greater part of this land is suitable for fruit-growing of every description, but it is specially adapted to the growing of canning fruits. I do not mean to suggest that the area planted with soft fruits for canning can safely be increased to any extent just at the moment’; but it would be capable of expansion to an enormous extent if the production costs in both the orchard and factory could be brought down to a competitive basis with California, which is our most serious competitor in the British market.
The assistance which is to be given under this proposal will be of immense benefit to all classes of fruit-growers, as it should now be possible to process the bulk of those fruits which are specially grown for canning. In the past, and more particularly during the last season, because of the difficulty in getting the canners to take all canning fruit offering, much of this fruit found its way to the market, and came into competition with fresh fruit, thereby destroying prices of both classes of fruit. In addition, hundreds of tons of fruit fell from the trees. This industry probably provides more work per acre than any other industry in Australia.
– Surely the honorable member does not contend that an additional £1] 0,000 is likely to lift the canned fruits industry out of its difficulties?
– This assistance, together with the rebate of £205,000 to the growers and the processors, will be of great benefit to the industry.
– The honorable member is a super-optimist.
– I am -giving the opinion of those who are engaged in the industry : and, assuming that the industry does not suffer any further setback, this additional assistance will probably save it from disaster. All honorable members must know that retail prices in the capital cities have been so low that the returns on peaches, pears, and apricots do not pay for picking, casing, and freight to market, and if present prices and conditions continue, nothing but starvation will be the lot of thousands of orchardists and their employees.
This proposal, if adopted, will give a new lease of life to all those engaged in. the industry. Personally, I hope to see the industry extended in the near future. We should aim at continuity of supplies of Australian canned goods in the world’s markets. Australian canned fruit is undoubtedly equal, if not superior, to anything packed in any part of the world. It is the duty of the Governments, State and Federal, to see that the Murray waters - the conservation of which has cost this country many millions of pounds - are utilized to the best advantage. We are blessed with good irrigable country and a sufficiency of water, which can be easily gravitated, to provide for the employment of scores of thousands of men in the Goulburn and Murray Valleys; but, as I have said before, this can be done only when our production costs are a little lower. I appeal to the Government to remove every burden which besets this rural industry. We are thankful for this instalment of help, but with the removal of the burdens that are depressing the canning fruits industry a great future will be assured, not only to those who are at present engaged therein, but also to many thousands who will undoubtedly sooner or later take up the growing of canning fruits for our overseas trade. This is one avenue through which our growing population can find employment, provided, of course, that we can produce at a profit.
The fruit industry has a special claim for relief. It is one of the best customers the sugar industry has had, but can continue to be a big buyer only if the suggested help is actually embodied in the new agreement. The extra assistance of £110,000, as suggested on page 90 of the report, means all the difference in the world to the fruit industry. A fund of this extra amount would be of inestimable value for the next three to five years. It would, if properly handled by the committee proposed to administer it, literally save the canning and jam fruit-growers from absolute extinction. To-day, growers are getting only £5 per ton for their prime canning fruits, £4 per ton for jam apricots, and £3 per ton for jam plums. The report of the
Development and Migration Commission proved that an average price of £9 10s. per ton for canning fruits was needed to enable the grower to exist. How is any grower to survive another year if he gets £5 per ton for fruit which it cost him £9 10s. to grow ?
Tremendous benefit will be given to the fruit-growers also, if the suggestion in the majority report to establish a full fund of £315,000 per annum, the funds to be disbursed through a committee, on which fruitgrowers are strongly represented, is adopted. First it would mean that the fruit-grower could bargain for a reasonable price for his fruit as no canner or jam manufacturer can claim a rebate from the fund of £315,000 unless certain fair prices are paid for fresh fruit. Secondly, when a fixed price has to be paid for fruit there will be no incentive for manufacturers or canners to cut their sale prices of fruits and jams to below cost prices. Usually these cuts are taken in some way from the “ hide “ of the growers. When this can no longer be done, reckless cutting will cease, and some reasonable stability in selling prices will be achieved. This, in turn, will give the grocer confidence to buy and sell more fruits and jams, and leave manufacturers with a fair margin for their work. Thirdly, with a reasonable proportion of the fund of £315,000 ear-marked for the assistance, if necessary, of the export trade in canned fruits, the annual surplus over domestic requirements should be cleared without the former serious losses to exporters and growers. It will mean a great deal to have an annual fund upon which to draw after proper investigation. In this way up to one million cases might be exported annually overseas, and funds approximating £800,000 provided overseas. Fourthly, the committee to administer the fund Gould, and no doubt would, lay down a policy calculated to rectify the serious decline in the values of orchard produce and no one can deny that this is desperately needed. The grower must get more for his fruit or he will go out of existence altogether. This fund can be used to rehabilitate the grower. The manufacturer is able to look out for himself.
I am pleased that the fruit-growers are to receive some consideration under this proposal. It is a rather tardy recognition of the unfair position in which the canning and jam fruits industry has been labouring for years. The sum of £205,000, which has been rebated to this industry, has not been nearly sufficient, neither has the method of the rebates been quite satisfactory. The additional rebate of £110,000, bringing the total rebate to £315,000, means roughly a reduction of about lid. per lb. on the sugar used. This should enable the export of canned fruits to continue under fairly reasonable conditions. I trust, therefore, that the findings as contained in the majority report will be adopted by this House. I hope that the agreement will remain in force for some years. Of all our primary industries the sugar industry is. the most efficient, and best organized. It is only by organization that the fruit industry and other primary industries of Australia will thrive. I shall vote for the adoption of the report.
.- There are, of course, differences of opinion on this subject. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) has stated that the sugar agreement has been responsible for a loss of £7,000,000 to this country. The majority and the minority reports of the Sugar Inquiry Committee state that the average loss has been £5,000,000. Taking world’s parity at £10 a ton. for sugar the freight and other charges would bring the price in Australia to £13 14s. 6d. a ton. On that basis the average loss over a period of three years would be something like £2,750,000. Those who listened to the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill) must realize that the sugar industry is of great advantage to the fruitgrowing industry which employs a considerable number of men both in the production and preservation of fruit. There is room for considerable development in both the dried and canned fruits industries, and it is, therefore, necessary that we should produce our own sugar. In connexion with canned fruits, I have always urged that on the tin should be stamped the date on which the fruit was processed. Medical experts have shown that poisoning has sometimes resulted from inferior tinning. Modern invention has greatly improved the tinning process, so that the solder which one time was a great danger may be absolutely eliminated from the tins by machinery.
I Ava3 the only member of the House of Representatives who followed the kanakas when they were returned to their homes in the New Hebrides. That visit has some pleasant memories for me. After paying the fare of the friend whom I took with me as a companion, I offered to pay my own fare, but Burns, Philp and Company would not accept my money. I sai’d that, in that case, I would not accept a passage on their vessel. Mr. Lucas, an able man, who at that time represented the company, asked me why I would not accept the invitation extended to all members of Parliament to travel free on their vessels in certain circumstances. I told him that I desired to preserve my independence, because I might find it necessary to criticize the company for its treatment of the kanakas. I said that if I ate bread at the company’s table without paying for it, my lips would be sealed. He informed me that the company welcomed any criticism which I might be called upon to make. He explained that the Government had made a fair arrangement with the company, which would act squarely in return. He invited me to criticize the company to the full, and urged me to accept a free passage. I insisted on my refusal to accept a free passage, and just as firmly he refused to accept my money. But, as two sensible persons can always come to an amicable agreement, we ultimately arranged that, in return for a free passage, I should give my medical services as ship’s doctor while on board ship, and also at the various ports at which the vessel would call. On that basis I was shipped as ship’s doctor at ls. a month. I still have a medal, which I value greatly. It is only a shilling, but it is embedded in gold. It was presented to me on behalf of Burns, Philp and Company by Captain Voy of the SS. Tambo with the words, “Hard earned and hard held.” The other shilling, which was paid to me for my services, was expended in obtaining my discharge as an able bodied seaman. I went to the New Hebrides determined to criticize freely, even severely, if I had thought it necessary. As some members representing
New South Wales constituencies will know, I have criticized Burns, Philp and Company, for not providing hot baths on some of their vessels-
– The honorable member’s remarks hardly come within the scope of the sugar agreement.
– I was dealing with the way in which the kanakas, who were the mainstay of the Australian, sugar industry at that time, were taken back to their homes, and I thought that my remarks were apropos of the subject with which we are dealing. Honorable members probably know that the death rate among the kanakas, when in Queensland, was very heavy when compared with the average death rate in that State. The most dangerous period of human life is the early years, particularly the first twelve months and up to about the fifth year. The treatment of the kanakas is typical of the treatment which in al] generations has been meted out by slaveowners to their slaves. Every device was employed to get the kanakas on board the vessels in order to bring them to Australia, and when they attempted to escape, their captors sometimes did not hesitate to kill them. The death rate among the adult kanakas was 10 per cent.., compared with from 2 per cent, to 4 per cent, for the population of Queensland generally. I wish to say that Burns, Philp and Company carried out their agreement to the very letter. I found no reason to criticize the firm’s treatment of the kanakas. Just as freely as I recently criticized the firm through the press, I then, as I do now, praised the company for the splendid way in which it transported those kanakas back to their homes. The blot associated with kanaka labour in Queensland has been removed from Australia.
It is well that, honorable members should consider the position in the United States of America in connexion with the coloured question there. One of the most intelligent and learned Americans I have had the pleasure of meeting and calling friend, told me on his last visit here that, in his opinion, the United States of America would gladly pay the war debt of the world to be freed from its “ black “ ques tion. In the hope that the slaves, when freed, would leave their country, the people of the United States of America founded a republic in South Africa for them. But they did not go; and now the black population of the United States of America is increasing more rapidly than is the white population. The negro population of that country is now upwards of 12,000,000 persons. All thinkers and writers of note wonder what will happen in the future. Happily Australia is free from such fears. Even if it cost many millions of pounds to keep Australia white, the expense would be well worth while.
Were it not for the sugar industry of Queensland, large quantities of fruit grown in different parts of Australia would rot on the ground. It does not pay the fruit-growers to send the whole of their fruit to the Sydney and Melbourne markets, because of the difficulty of obtaining a fair price for it. The existence of the sugar industry in Australia makes the processing of fruit possible. It is not always possible to judge the value of an action by the expense involved, because, at times, the indirect benefits far exceed the direct losses. Any honorable member who has studied the system of finance enunciated by Major Douglas, knows that it is based on the principle of spending money, not so much with a view to obtaining direct benefits as to benefit the country indirectly. Millions of pounds have been spent by European countries in attracting tourists. On one occasion, a government was foolish enough to tax every tourist, but that experiment was not tried for more than a year. The tourist traffic from the United States of America alone is worth an enormous sum to the people of Europe. I ask leave to continue my remarks.
Motion (by Mr. Forde) put -
That the debate he now adjourned, and that the honorable member have leave to continue his speech when the debate is resumed.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Norman Makin.)
Majority .. ..30
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question - That the resumption of the debate be made an order of the day for the next sitting - proposed.
.- We on this side had no wish to prevent the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) from completing his speech on a later date; but, as certain honorable members had had no opportunity of speaking on the sugar agreement, we desired the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin), or the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Forde), to give an assurance that an hour or two would be devoted to the consideration of this subject next week, so that a vote may be taken upon it. I want the House to come to a decision upon the amendment that I have submitted. Parliament should declare whether it is satisfied with the present agreement.
– The honorable member may now deal only with the question of the adjournment of this debate until the next day of sitting.
– I merely desire an assurance from the Ministry that this matter will not be placed at the bottom of the notice-paper, which may prevent it from being further discussed. Will an opportunity be given next week to conclude the debate?
– I appeal to the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) to give the assurance asked for by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory). I think that it is rather a matter for regret that the division was taken. No member wished to prevent the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) from continuing his speech, but the division was called for so that we might raise the point now under discussion, as to the time to which the debate should be adjourned. The subject that we have been considering is of the utmost importance to the people of Australia, and, from whatever point of view it is regarded, it involves millions of pounds per annum. The matter has been debated for only two days, yet its importance is certainly as great as that of any tariff item. I suggest to the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) that it would be proper to give an assurance that the debate will be resumed at an early date, and certainly before anything is done in the way of signing the agreement. I believe that there are only a few members left who desire to speak.
– In view of the fact that the debate on this matter has been in progress for the last two days, and that there has been no disposition to call for a division, it would appear that there has been a deliberate intention not to have a division upon it.
– Order ! The question before the Chair is, whether the adjourned debate shall be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting.
– I am certainly in agreement with. that. As the agreement will probably be signed by that time, all that can happen is that an attempt may be made by honorable members who represent a distant part of Australia, and who do not possess a knowledge of the conditions under which this industry is carried on, to cancel what has been accomplished. I hope that the Prime Minister will not further delay the other business of the country by the continuance of the debate.
.- The honorable member for Wide Bay has spoken rather unfairly regarding those honorable members who voted against leave being given to the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) to continue his remarks. Every honorable member knows that the reason for our having done so was to give to those honorable members who had not already spoken an opportunity to do so. This matter is of considerable importance to my electorate, and to other electorates in Tasmania, yet I have not so far been enabled to express my views upon it. While the division was being taken it was not possible to learn what the Prime Minister was willing to do. I am inclined to think that he is disposed to accede to our request. He has said that this is the first occasion upon which Parliament has had an opportunity to discuss the sugar agreement. I appeal to him, therefore, to allow the debate to continue for so long as is necessary to meet the wishes of those who desire to express their views upon the matter.
.- I have listened to the whole of the debate upon the proposal of the Government to renew the sugar agreement, and it was not with any intention of preventing the honorable member for Melbourne from concluding his speech that I voted against his being given leave to continue his remarks. The matter is of such very great importance to the people of the State from which I come, that I wished to enter a protest against the agreement being continued. It appeared to me that if the debate were adjourned to-day, the motion would disappear from the notice-paper, and that we should be deprived of an opportunity to enter a protest against the proposal of the Government.
.- I have not had an opportunity to speak upon the sugar agreement, which is of supreme importance to the people that I represent. I cannot imagine the Prime Minister wishing to curtail the discussion. Several honorable members who, like myself, are keenly interested in the matter, have been excluded from the debate, largely because others have spoken for the full time allowed them under the Standing Orders. I voted against the motion that the honorable member for Melbourne be given leave to continue his remarks, because I realized that if it were carried it was likely that the debate would be shelved for an indefinite period, and that in the meantime the agreement would be signed, thus rendering futile any subsequent discussion upon it and any decision with respect to it that might be come to by this House. I make a very strong appeal to the Prime Minister to allow a brief period for the conclusion of the debate early next week. I claim to be entitled to some consideration in that direction.
– I point out that the debate on the sugar agreement was to have taken place on Thursday of the week before last, but was side-tracked by the notice of the Leader of the Opposition. (Mr. Lyons) of his intention to move a motion of censure on the Government - a motion that proved to be a dud. Then the opportunity to debate it was frustrated by the Opposition more than a week ago. Notwithstanding that fact, the Government allotted yesterday to the debate, the first intention being that only one day should be devoted to it. Subsequently, however, I agreed to its being extended over to-day. This is the first occasion on which an opportunity has been afforded to discuss the sugar agreement. Two or three honorable members approached the Minister in charge of the matter (Mr. Forde) and asked for an hour’s extension of time this afternoon so that they might make short .speeches. The Minister was prepared to agree to that, but he could not obtain an assurance from the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory)-
– He did not nsk me for an assurance.
– I did ; and the honorable member wanted an assurance - which I could not give him - that the matter would again be brought forward on Wednesday next.
– Frankly, the assurance which the Minister sought was that advantage would not be taken of the fact that some honorable members had caught their trains. The honorable member for Swan would give no such assurance unless we, on our part, gave the assurance that the debate would be continued next week.
– Or that a division would be taken upon the matter.
– We cannot allow the debate to drag on indefinitely. I shall meet the Premier of Queensland in Melbourne next week, and I want to be ready to sign the agreement. I have permitted the debate to take place this week, and have extended the time originally allotted to it. If the agreement is not signed next week an opportunity for further discussion upon it may be given; but I am not going to hold it up indefinitely, nor shall I, at this stage, commit myself to an assurance that further debate will take place upon it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 4.4 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 22 May 1931, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1931/19310522_reps_12_129/>.