4th Parliament · 1st Session
The President took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Senator FRASER presented a petition from fortyfive persons in the State of Victoria praying that provision may be made in the Land Tax Bill for a reduced scale of taxation to be applied to lands worked on the share system.
Petition received and read.
Senator VARDON presented a petition from nine taxpayers in the State of South Australia praying the Senate to reject the Land Tax Assessment Bill.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
It is evident from the welcome I received on rising that this measure has been long looked for by a very large section of the people of the Commonwealth. I know that for the last twenty-five years and more-
– The honorable senator might as well say fifty years.
– More than twenty-five years. Forty years at least.
– I know that for the last twenty-five years and more in South Australia an earnest expression of opinion has been continually given with respect to the land question. As an honorable senator has interjected, the question has not had an existence of only twentyfive years. It may be considered that for thousands of years the proper method of dealing’ with the lands of different countries has been under serious consideration. This measure has a two-fold object. Every honorable senator must realize that in order to carry on the Government of the Commonwealth, divided as it is into so many Departments, some of them requiring the expenditure of very large sums, it is necessary to tap almost every avenue for the purpose of making up the revenue required. As regards the Government and those who are supporting us, for at least some of the requirements of the Commonwealth, especially with respect to Defence and other matters, we believe that direct taxation is the proper source from which the greater portion of the revenue should come. Again, it will be recognised that principles are involved in the different methods of taxation. The first principle is the raising of revenue, and the second is the economic effect which the taxation may have on the community. In connexion with the fiscal policy of the Commonwealth we have a protective Tariff. That necessarily yields a very large sum; in fact the greater portion of our revenue. The Government and their supporters have no desire that that position should continue longer than is really necessary. The economic effect intended by Parliament when it imposed the duties which are raising revenue was that they should stimulate industries and build up a nation worthy of the name. If that economic principle of the policy takes effect, it will be found that the revenue from that source will decrease, and therefore it will become necessary to look to other sources to make up the deficiency.
– There is no sign of that yet. The Customs revenue is increasing.
– The honorable member knows, or ought to know, that if a protective policy is going to have any effect in a protective direction, that result must come some day or other, The fact that the revenue from Customs and Excise in Australia amounts to ?2 10s. per head per annum, and in a more highly protected country, namely, the United States of America, to less than 30s., shows that although it takes a considerable time for a protective policy to have that effect, it is bound to come. It is not when you find yourself without a penny in your pocket that you ought to begin to look for new sources of income. Therefore one of the objects of this measure is to raise revenue. It has been estimated on a very careful basis that it will raise at least ?1,000,000 per annum.
– “At least?”
– Yes. There are persons in Australia, including many of the petitioners whom the honorable senator so ably and so persistently represents here, who tell us that we will raise ?2,000,000 or ?3,000,000 under this system. Well, we hope that we will.
– All the better.
– It will be all the better for the Commonwealth.
– Oh, make it ^5,000,000 then.
– We are not attempting to make it anything. There is something else underlying the principles of taxation to which I have referred. We consider that the measure will raise at least a little over ,£1,000,000 per annum. A great many persons in the Commonwealth who are opposed to the Labour party are continually asking, ‘ How do you ‘ arrive at that estimate of the revenue? You must base it on something.” I can assure honorable senators that the statistics of the Commonwealth relating to lands - and I do not blame those who are responsible for the collection of that kind of information - are in such a condition that it is nearly time that some radical step was taken to bring about an improvement. You can get scarcely any reliable information in any of the States with respect to the subdivision of their lands, their tenures, or their values. To arrive at an estimate of the amount of taxation that can be really expected to be obtained, it was necessary to take some State which can afford us reliable data. Therefore, we have taken Victoria.
– The Government might also take New South Wales, because there is a land tax there.
– There is, but the facts are in such a muddled condition in New South Wales that I would defy the honorable senator to make anything out of them. In Victoria we have a more complete system of shire council valuation than obtains anywhere else in Australia.
– There are shire councils in New South Wales.
– But they only came into existence, as far as land values - assessment is concerned, within the last few years. Moreover, conditions there are in a state of flux. Senator Fraser ought to be very thankful that we can take Victoria as an example in formulating an estimate. As I have said, for purposes of calculation we have taken the Victorian estimate. We find that land values in the shire councils have been under-stated to the extent of from 7
– The same applies in Great Britain.
– The same applies wherever the taxpayer sees an opportunity of defrauding the Government. It is considered legitimate to “do” the Government wherever possible.
– If you create an artificial crime that tendency must always be expected.
– I shall explain hereafter how offences of that kind are dealt with by this measure. In calculating the probable amount of revenue for the whole of Australia, we have estimated what might be raised in Victoria j and we have found, by taking the shire council under-valuations at about 25 per cent., and limiting the calculation to estates held to a value of over £5,000, both as to country and city lands, that a revenue of £222,000 might be expected to be obtained in this State. We have taken Victoria as representing about one-fifth of the whole Commonwealth. That was the only method at the disposal of any one attempting to make an estimate in connexion with this question. Calculation on that basis gives a revenue of a little over ,£1,000,000 for the whole Commonwealth. I hope - indeed I anticipate - that we have been too liberal in connexion with the under-valuations of land for taxation and rating purposes in this and the other States. We believe that the undervaluations average nearer 50 than 25 per cent.
– Especially as to the large estates.
– Especially as far as concerns the large estates. The poor man who has two or three hundred acres is, as a rule, valued up to the uttermost farthing, but the wealthy land-owner with 501000 or 60,000 acres of the best land in the country is generally valued for taxation purposes at only about one-quarter of the true value of his estate.
– How many of such land-holders are there in Australia ?
– I will tell the honorable senator by-and-by.
– The statement is a gross exaggeration.
- Mr. President, in making this “gross exaggeration “ in my second-reading speech, I am giving the honorable senator an excellent opportunity of disproving my statement. If I were to say that estates were under-valued to the extent of only 5 or 10 per cent., Senator Fraser would immediately retort, “ Oh, .that is a mere nothing,” and would not take any notice of the statement. But when I put the under-valuation at what I really think it amounts to, he is afforded an opportunity to bring forward reliable testimony in contradiction of my assertion.
– Why did not the Government give some persons who desired to do so an opportunity of exposing their charges as to under-valuations ?
– They have that opportunity now.
– Will the Government give the opportunity now ?
– We are dealing with the second reading of a Land Tax Assessment Bill, and, of course, Senator St. Ledger will have an opportunity of presenting to the Senate any facts that he can collect.
– Any that he can scrape up.
– He can scrape them up from any source he pleases, and the Senate will be able to judge them at their true value. As far as concerns the amount of revenue to be derived from this taxation, I hope, in the interests of the Government and of the people of Australia, and for the good name of the Commonwealth all over the world, that instead of ,£1,000,000 we shall have ,£2,500,000 per annum. But I can hardly expect so large a revenue.
– The Government will get it.
– All the better if we do. As I have said, we have done our best to make an estimate with the information at our disposal. I wish now to refer to the economic value of taxation, and particularly of land taxation. As the Customs House may be made an instrument to stimulate the secondary industries of the country, so land taxation may be made an instrument to settle people upon the land, to prevent the aggregation of large estates, to increase the population, to afford greater facilities for employment, and to make Australia a nation enjoying a position in the world. to which she never could have attained by allowing things to drift as they have been drifting for the last fifty years. Senator St. Ledger has said that there are not many people in Australia owning over 50,000 acres of the best land.
– I asked how many there were.
– In the State of Victoria there are three estates over £150,000 in value, but in New South Wales there are 103.
– They may be city properties.
– Of estates over £20,000 in value there are thousands in all the States. Consequently there are great possibilities in connexion, not only with the revenue-producing aspect, but also with the economic aspect of this legislation. I have heard many people ask the question, “ Where is the necessity for any legislation that will have the effect of bringing about closer settlement in Australia? Is there not plenty of land available at the present time?” Senator Sayers, a few days ago, was kind enough to read certain extracts from a book to show that there was no necessity for land taxation. But did honorable senators notice the prices required for some of the lands that he mentioned? They ranged from ,£7 10s. up to nearly £100 per acre.
– Over £100.
– Over .£100 in some cases. There was nothing false in the book ; it merely contained evidence of the extent to which land monopoly has advanced in Australia, and particularly in Victoria. It contained evidence enough to inform the people of other parts of the world that if they want to settle in Australia, at all events in the settled districts, they must be prepared to pay £7, £10, £^5, £20. or £100 per acre for land.
– Or work on shares.
– Or work on shares. I should call that system winter farming. I know a little about it, and I dare say that my honorable friend, Senator W. “Russell, will be able to tell us something about it, because he has had experience in that kind of business. I wish to call attention to the fact that land monopoly also exists in other parts of the world. T have seen in older countries, where there is a settled population, hundreds of thousands of people leaving their native shores every year because of land monopoly - because they could not get on to the land of their own country.
– Can the honorable senator make that assertion good ?
– Senator St. Ledger ought to know that it is true.
– Mere “assertion is of no value. We should^ have proof of a statement like that.
– Does the honorable senator want to see people emigrating from Australia? Does he want to see the same conditions brought about here as prevail in England, Ireland, and Scotland? Ireland has lost 100 per cent. of her population within the last fifty years.
SenatorFraser. - Does the honorable senator wonder at that?
– Scotland also.
– Scotland can hold her own.
– I can tell the honorable senator something about Scotland. I could take him to localities where many years ago the Frasers and McGregors flourished. I could take him to the top of a certain hill commanding a view of a country wherefifty years ago at least ten thousand people could have been collected. But when I was there last, there was only one old man and one old woman in the whole area. All the others had gone - to Canada, to Australia, to the United States, and to other parts of the world. The land on which their mothers and fathers lived has been turned into shooting grounds for the pleasure of English visitors, who have made fortunes from brewing beer and manufacturing soap. That is the condition of affairs existing in Scotland. Senator Fraser is well aware that the hills and glens of that country are nearly deserted at the present time. He is aware that hundreds and thousands of people made a living in that country in the past, and that, owing to the lack of proper land legislation, there is nothing but desolation now. Human beings have been cleared off to make room for red deer and pheasants ; and the few who do live there dare not keep a dog or a cat for fear the animals should go around looking for a living on their own account. The same sort of thing obtains in Ireland at the present moment.
– In Ireland £14,000,000 have been spent in buying land for the people.
– It does not matter if you spend£114,000,000 in buying land. Unless there is legislation in operation that will prevent the future aggregation of estates the money might as well not be spent at all. It is merely a slight palliative. It may have a beneficial effect for a few years, but it can do no more. I am hoping that the wisdom of British statesmen, that inaugurated the land-purchase policy in Ireland, will ulti mately see the necessity of passing legislation to prevent aggregation in the future.
– There is no aggregation. It is the other way about.
– The honorable senator need not tell me that. I know more about the conditions in Ireland and Scotland than he does. If we go to England also we shall find that at the present time hundreds of thousands of people are leaving the country every year. Missionary associations and religious institutions are being established for the purpose of sending away the poor people of England, in order that they may be rescued from the starvation and misery that exist there. Have we not the statement of a late Prime Minister of England that twelve millions of the population of the country are continuously on the verge of starvation? This is in a country which possesses some of the finest land in the world, and a climate which, for the purposes of agriculture, is not surpassed anywhere.
– Yet they spend £40,000,000 a year in drink.
– It is mostly the big landlords who spend money on drink. I have seen something of that kind of thing. The poor Britisher has to be satisfied with his pot of beer.
– And small beer at that.
– And small beer a lot of it is.
– He would be better with a pot of milk.
– He would need land on which to graze a cow in order to get the milk. That is where the difficulty is. Instead of the country being occupied by a yeomanry, as it ought to be, it is used for sheep and bullocks, red deer, and other animals of that kind. The twelve millions who are on the verge of starvation have no opportunity to secure any of the land.
– The statement referred to has been contradicted over and over again, and it has even been denied that a Prime Minister of England made it.
– Any one can deny a statement. The truth has been contradicted and denied for the last 5,000 years. Some people make it their business to contradict everything that is true. So far as the Government is concerned, itis regarded as the duty of the Opposition to contradict everything they say, whether it is true or false, and the honorable senator is well qualified to take up either position. We have recognised the disastrous effects of land monopoly in the older countries, where about thirteen dukes own about 75 per cent, of the whole of the land, and, by letting it out on shares, or leasing it, screw the uttermost farthing from the poor industrial classes. Australia is a new country, but I am sorry to say that the same methods have been imported into this country, and their adoption is being followed by similar conditions.
– The eviction of tenants by rapacious landlords has, apparently, been illustrated only recently near Sydney.
– Is the honorable senator making a speech? I cannot always tell the difference between his speeches and his prayers. They are both so incongruous.
– Some persons do not pray at all.
– That is all right; no one ever accused the honorable senator of anything of that sort. The evils following from the adoption of these methods have gradually been increasing in Australia, until to-day we find that nearly 130,000,000 acres of the pick of the land has already been alienated, or is in process of alienation. I may be told that, as compared with the total area of 1,903,000,000 acres, that represents but’ a very small area, but honorable senators must bear in mind that there is nearly 800,000,000 acres held on lease, and the land alienated or in process of alienation and held on lease represents 49 per cent, of the whole. Nearly one-half of the lands of Australia is under the control of private persons, and a considerable proportion of the remainder is supposed to be of no very great value. I hope the time will come when even the worst land in Australia will be put to some profitable use. I wish, so far as some of the States are concerned, to show the false impression that has been created in the minds of the people of this country in connexion with the progress of land settlement during the last ten years. I had a table in my possession not long ago giving particulars of the land alienated in the various States, and the area under cultivation, but I have no intention now to enter into those details. I do not wish to occupy a very great deal of time in dealing with this question at this stage of the session, because there are other important measures before the Senate. T may say, however, that the table shows that, “ in spite of the area of lands purchased for settlement, and of Crown lands opened for settlement by immigrants from other countries, the proportion of land under cultivation is less to-day than it was ten years ago. Will honorable senators deny that? I make the statement emphatically, speaking from the table to which I refer, that in 1900 the proportion of land under cultivation to the area alienated was 8 per cent., and in 1909 it was reduced to 7^ per cent., although in the meantime the total area alienated had been increased by some 1-2,000,000 acres.
– That is easily explained. Dairying has superseded a great deal of cultivation.
– The dairyman who does not cultivate fodder crops is not worth having in this country.
– Many of them do not cultivate crops.
– Then they are unworthy occupiers of the lands of Australia. If the honorable senator’s statement be correct, I have only to say that the man who is engaged in dairying, and does not cultivate fodder crops, has too much land. If he is depending entirely on the natural grasses of the country, he has more land than he ought to have. A man occupying land in this country is not a good citizen of the Commonwealth if he does not make two blades of grass grow where one would grow naturally. The fact is that the area of land that has been thrown out of cultivation as a result of the progress of the dairying industry is infinitesimal.
– People do not go in for dairying in the dry parts of Australia.
– They are doing so now at Swan Hill and in the Riverina.
– It is only by growing hay by irrigation for fodder in the summer time that they can do so. There is nothing in the honorable senator’s statement that the progress of the dairying industry accounts for the reduction in the area of land under cultivation. In New South Wales, although the area of land alienated between 1900 and 1909 increased by 3,250.000 acres, the area under cultivation decreased by 130,000 acres. When the statement was made that the area under cultivation in New South Wales within a certain period had been reduced by 250,000- acres, members of the New South Wales Parliament would not believe it. Eachsaid that no reduction of the area under cultivation had taken place in his district.
But when the official agricultural returns were consulted, it was found that the area under cultivation had been reduced by 12,000 acres in one district, 9,000 acres in another, 6,000 acres in a third, and that there had been a reduction even in the Dubbo district, where it was thought that land settlement was going on apace. In Queensland, where we hear so much about the influx of immigrants, and the great progress of settlement during the last five years, although the area alienated has been increased by nearly 20,000,000 acres, there is only a little over 500,000 acres under cultivation. This is in spite of all the immigration, the repurchase of land for closer settlement, the sugar bounties, and everything else. With all this immigration and new settlement, the production from the land in that State has not been increasing.
– How can that be, when the exports are greater per head than in any other country in the world?
– I am speaking of the area under cultivation. The honorable senator forgets that a larger production may be secured by better cultivation and the adoption of better methods of farming. A few years ago in Queensland the people scarcely did anything with their land, except in the sugar districts. Now the Queensland farmers are learning something. I admit that the possibilities of Queensland are enormous, and it is legislation of this kind that will give the greatest impetus to the settlement of land in that and in every other State of the Common- wealth. In South Australia we have had immense areas of land opened up for settlement. On the west coast hundreds of thousands of acres have been brought under cultivation, and yet within the past nine years the area under cultivation has decreased. What does that mean? It means that so long as we permit of the aggregation of large estates, that aggregation will proceed at a faster rate than will settlement. We wish to prevent that. We desire to limit the occupation of land by any individual to a reasonable area, to make it impossible for him, or for any company, to acquire immense tracts of our best lands, and to farm them out either on lease, or on the share system, for the purpose of bleeding the people of Australia. After the land has been settled, we wish to prevent the possibility of it again being aggregated into large estates. That object can be achieved only by legislation of this description. I come now to some of the
States in which land tax legislation has been operative. In New South Wales, a land tax of a1d. in the£1, with an exemption of £240, has been in force for some time. For a time it worked very well, but the land-owners soon discovered that they fared much better if they undervalued their holdings, and the result - from a revenue stand-point - was therefore disappointing. If honorable senators will look at the Year-Book for New South Wales, they will find that a year or two ago, a revenue of between£300,000 and £400,000 was derived from this tax.
– It costs as much as that to collect the tax.
– The collection of the tax costs a good deal. But my point is that nearly double that amount should have been collected, if the lands had been honestly valued. There was a time in New South Wales when all outside country, instead of being administered by the local Government bodies, was administered by the Central Government. But Local Government legislation was enacted as the result of which every local body which chose to raise its revenue upon land values was permitted to do so. Where these bodies did that, the Government tax was not collected. The result was that the returns from the land tax in New South Wales last year amounted to only about £80,000.
– The Government handed the tax over to the shires by Statute.
– No. They handed over to the shires the power to collect the tax.
– That is the same thing.
– It is quite a different thing. In New South Wales, kind assessors, in certain instances, have appraised land at 60 per cent. below its real value for the collection of such rates.
– Human nature is the same everywhere.
– Human nature in New South Wales is the same, if not a little worse, than it is anywhere else. Having lost the power to collect any land tax, the Government of that State may find that they have entered into a rather bad bargain. But we must hope for the best. Australia is entering upon a new era. Another power is about to take a hand in land taxation, and we must await the result. The method of taxing land values which is proposed in this Bill is one that is more stringent, and which, I hope, will be more effective, than that which has been adopted by any of the States, or by New Zealand. Some time ago, I laid a paper on the table of the Senate setting forth the rates of land taxation in Australia and the Dominion, and I hope that honorable senators have studied it closely. I intend to have it brought up to date so far as this Bill is concerned, so that they may be in a position to see how things are done in the different States. The paper in question shows the land tax proposals which passed the Legislative Assembly of Victoria last year, but which were rejected by the Legislative Council. Of course, we all recognise that the Legislative Council in all the States is the great bulwark of the land-owners. For many years, a progressive land tax has been operative in New Zealand, and running side by side with it has been a flat rate. For a time this tax proved very effective. But, ultimately, the land-owners began to perceive that it was not such a drastic tax after all. It amounted to an all round impost of id. in the £r, with an exemption of .£500 on unimproved values, and a progressive tax rising by one-sixteenth of a id. in the £1 up to £40,000 worth, of land values. Upon estates valued at ,£40,000 the tax levied is 10s. per cent., and it continues to rise till upon estates valued at ,£200,000 it amounts to “z per cent. Honorable senators will readily recognise die difference between that legislation and the legislation which is proposed in this Bill. We propose to levy a tax of z per cent, upon estates valued at ,£80,000. In South Australia, a land tax has been operative since 1884. It was originally fixed at £d. in the £1. But in 1894, another step forward was taken, and upon estates of more than .£5,000 in value an additional Jd. in the £1 was imposed. In 1902, the tax was increased by £d. in the £1 upon estates of less than £5,000 in value, and also upon estates over that amount. But that rate was enacted for only one year. It then lapsed, but it was reenacted the following year, at the expiration of which it ceased to operate. So that at the present time the land tax in South Australia is Jd. in the ,£1 upon estates up to £5,000 in value, and id. in the £1 upon estates over that value. I wish to show how that tax operates, and the necessity which exists for enacting cer- tain provisions which are contained in this Bill.
– Are not the Government proposing to go far beyond that principle?
– I intend to show the necessity which exists for going far beyond it. The effect produced by the land tax and the progressive land tax in New Zealand was purely of a temporary character, and the authorities there are beginning to perceive that they will soon have to amend the legislation of the Dominion in that connexion, if they wish to prevent land monopoly. I intend to show that the land taxes levied in New South Wales. Victoria, and South Australia have not prevented the aggregation of large estates. Consequently, we must go a good deal further than does the legislation of those States if we wish to achieve the object which we have in view. At the commencement of legislation of this character, it will be necessary for every land-owner to value his own estate, because the Government have not the time at their disposal within which to appoint assessors to make the assessment. The quickest and the surest method of securing that assessment is to allow land-owners themselves to make it. When the Land Tax Bill was passed by the South Australian Parliament, in 1884, it contained a provision that the land-owners should value their own land! inclusive of improvements, and that they should also value separately their improvements. The difference between these two values gave the total amount upon which the land-owner was taxable. At the time the idea was very prevalent that if the land-owners undervalued their holdings the Government had power to acquire them. I believe that such a provision was originally contained in the Bill, but that it was eliminated. In 1884, the land values of South Australia, as valued by the owners themselves, amounted to ,£44,000,000. But these people - especially the largelandowners - soon discovered that if they appealed, even against their own valuations, and continued to appeal long enough, they would obtain a reduction inthe amounts upon which they were taxable. Consequently, these appeals werecontinued until in less than twentyfiveyears the land values of South Australia were assessed at only £27,000,000.
– Bad seasons, might account for that.
– Not at all. To-day the land values of that State, notwithstanding that it has enjoyed nine good seasons, and that railway improvements and development have taken place there, are assessed at only £28,000,000. That shows the necessity for such provisions in legislation of this description. I have gone carefully through the measure, and, so far as my experience in politics enables me to judge, it is one of the most complete pieces of machinery which could be invented. It provides for almost every conceivable contingency, and if the future should disclose loopholes of escape whereby dishonest men can take advantage of honest men, I hope, if this Government or this party are in power, that such steps will be taken as will close them, and so perfect our land taxation scheme. I do not intend now to go into the details of the measure, because they can be best dealt with in Committee. I have not the least doubt that my honorable friends on the Opposition benches will avail themselves of the opportunity to pick all the holes they can in our proposals, and if that be possible, endeavour to make the measure more perfect than it is. But as I do not believe that it is possible, I hope that all their amendments will be resisted. The Bill is divided into eight parts, dealing with different aspects of the scheme. Part I. is introductory, and comprises clauses 1 to 3 Clause 3 contains all the definitions respecting the measure. Part II., which comprises clauses 4 to 8 relates to administration, that is, the appointment of a Commissioner to administer the Act, and other matters relative to such appointment. Part III., which comprises clauses 9 to 13, deals with the land tax. Part IV., which embraces clauses 14 to 41, is devoted to returns, assessments, and liability. Clauses 14 and 15 refer to returns, clauses 16 to 23 to assessments, and clauses 24 to 41 to the liability of taxpayers. All these matters will come prominently before honorable senators in Committee. Part V., which consists of four clauses, refers to appeals. It gives the right of appeal to the High Court, or any other Court which may be appointed, if any person finds that his assessment is too high, or if any difficulty arises. Part VI. consists of one pretty comprehensive clause, dealing with the acquisition of land, where it is undervalued.
– Where do you derive the power to take over a man’s land?
– We derive the power from the Lands Acquisition Act, which was passed by this Parliament, probably when the honorable senator was not here, and which he has forgotten.
– I was here. That Act depends upon the Constitution.
– Part VII. relates to the collection and recovery of the tax, and Part VIII., which embraces clauses 59 to 72, deals with miscellaneous matters, and contains some important provisions in connexion with penalties and other questions of that description. Honorable senators will find that the measure contains almost every provision to prevent aggregation, to make it impossible for a person to evade taxation, and to deal fairly between the Commissioner and the taxpayer. A great deal has been done to smooth the way for institutions of various kinds. Honorable senators will, of course, have opportunities of discussing such questions.
Debate (on motion by Senator Fraser) adjourned.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
Honorable senators understood . yesterday that my remarks on the Sugar Bounty Bill were directed to both Bills dealing with the sugar industry, and therefore I do not propose to discuss this Bill further. Yesterday I stated that the two Bills could be referred to one Committee, but I find that no very great convenience would result from taking that course.
– And there would be some inconvenience.
– Exactly. What I propose now is that this Bill should be read a second time, and committedpro forma; that the other Bill should then be read a second time, and dealt with in Committee; and that afterwards this Bill should be considered in Committee.
– The arrangement suggested by the Minister seems to be one which will give us an opportunity to discuss the whole question from beginning to end. As the Sugar Bounty Bill will come on later in the day, I only wish to intimate now that
I intend to move an amendment therein. I am quite content to allow this Bill to go into Committee.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and committed pro formd.
SUGAR BOUNTY BILL (No. 2).
Debate resumed from 13th October (vide page 4499), on motion by Senator Pearce -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
– Although I have been connected with the sugar industry in one way or another for the last thirty years, the sugar question is such a huge one that I doubt whether it is possible, without wearying honorable senators, to deal with it very fully. The sugar industry extends along 1 . 000 miles of coast-land.
– With a very big gap.
– That makes it all the worse. In New South Wales the sugar industry is on the 29th parallel of south latitude, and the most extreme northern point of the industry is on the 19th parallel. That, if worked out, will be found to be a distance of 1,000 miles. Between those points there are differences of climate, and an argument which might apply aptly to New South Wales or to the extreme south of Queensland is inapplicable in such places as Port Douglas, the Johnstone River, and so forth. I still hold the views which I expressed a long time ago, when Senator de Largie was rather amused at hearing me say that some of the people connected with the sugar industry had stated that it could not be carried on with white labour. I have never taken thetrouble to put myself right on this point, if that is necessary. But I now propose to do so definitely and clearly.I intend to read a brief extract from a leading article in the Sugar Journal, which I conducted for about twelve years. It was written at the time when the whole coloured labour question was before this Parliament. Honorable senators who have taken an interest in the question will remember that Dr. Maxwell, from Hawaii - a man who, I believe, is recognised to be a thoroughly competent authority on this question - made a report to Mr., now Sir Edmund, Barton.
– He did very good work for Queensland, anyhow, in the shape of getting bounties for its people, and so on.
– I do not know, but I hope that my honorable friend will allow me to make my speech. I am not defending Dr. Maxwell, but if he needs defending or attacking, I can do both, if necessary.
SenatorLe Largie. - Do both.
-On some points 1 agree with Dr. Maxwell, and on others I do not He made a report which was the subject of a good deal , of comment in the Federal Parliament, and which largely underlay the policy adopted. What I wrote on the subject at that time appeared in a leading article in the Sugar Journal, of September, 1901 -
There is a class of sugar producers, and of their injudicious friends, who absolutely decline to be moderate in the matter of coloured labour. They talk of cheap and reliable labour, and decline absolutely to discuss the possibilityof ever or by any method conducting the sugar industry without the use of coloured labour. To these Dr. Maxwell’s report was a keen disappointment. They believed that it would reecho their sentiments, and loudly assert that the coloured man must remain or the industry will perish. To those, and they are the great majority of people informed on the subject, who, like ourselves, hold what may be called moderate views in this matter. Dr. Maxwell’s report is entirely satisfactory.
I make that quotation once and for all. 1 do not propose to refer again to what may have been my attitude in the past in connexion with coloured labour. I say that there is a definite expression of opinion indicating that I disagreed with a large number of people - people whose opinion I admit can be quoted - in regard to coloured labour. I ask honorable senators to accept that statement, and not again to sneer at me in regard to this matter.
– Is it not a fact that for years’ the Sugar Journal was the grea test barracker for black labour in Queensland ?
– No, it is not a fact.
– An absolute fact ; I can produce a dozen copies of the Journal.
– I do notsay that there were not letters written to that Journal in advocacy of the employment of coloured labour.
– And expressions of opinion by the newspaper itself.
– I say no; and what I have read is the best possible proof. On a previous occasion my honorable friend said that it was another journal, called the
Mackay Mercury, which was a great barracker for coloured labour. 1 asked him to produce it, and to show that that newspaper, during the time I was connected with it, had done any of the things that he accused me of doing.
– I do not go round with a file of a newspaper in my possession.
– The statement, of course, is an easy one to make. It took me a considerable time to obtain a file of this newspaper from Queensland.
– Where did the honorable senator get it from? I searched in the Mackay School of Arts for a file of the paper, and found that it had been removed.
– Is the honorable senator referring to the Sugar Journal now f
– No, to the Mackay Mercury
– My honorable friend can buy a complete file of the Sugar Journal from the beginning if he likes.
– He can get a barrow - ful of copies from Messrs. Gordon and Gotch.
– Turning now to the Bill, I hold’ the view first of all that you cannot lay down a hard-and-fast rule for the sugar industry, applicable from the Tweed Heads right up to Port Douglas. As far as concerns people north of Mackay, the wages paid there are higher than the wages that the Minister has ordered to be paid. I went up to Queensland last December, and met there a committee representative of a large section of the sugar growers from the northern area, and I am pleased to say that they were distinctly in favour of a Wages Board. 1 am glad that this Bill effects a great improvement in that direction. It gives power for Wages Boards when established to regulate wages locally, and, as I hope, according to the circumstances of particular districts. Away up in the Herbert’ and the far north, men employed for ordinary field labour have been engaged at wages as high as 35s. per week and board and lodging. In the extreme south of Queensland many of the farmers have complained that a wage of £1 a week and keep is too high. The managing director of one of the large mills in the north 1.0 whom I wrote on the question, said, “ As long as YOU do not make the wages £5 a week and keep I do not care what they are.” On the other hand, the men in the extreme south have been agitating for higher wages. But there are evidences that the prevailing view on this question is an improvement on that which has prevailed in the past. First of all under this Bill the employes may have their wages regulated by local Wages Boards; and if there are no Wages Boards or similar tribunals, the scale fixed by the Minister will apply. That provision puts the matter into the hands of the parties interested. The men can meet their employers and settle the thing over a table. To that extent the question of wages is by this Bill placed on a better footing than it was under the existing Act.
– Does the honorable senator say that the planters in the northhave invariably been paying more than the amounts directed by the Minister?
– I did not u settle word “invariably.” I do not doubt that, just as my honorable friend will not pay more rent for his house than he can help, so if there happens to be an excess of labour, and there is no Wages Board, a farmer will, I suppose, pay only the amount that he is compelled to pay to his men.
– Will the honorable senator say that the planters generally were, paying more than directed by the Minister ?
– My information is that at Mackay - to take that as an instance - the general rate is 25s. a week and keep for field labour.
– Then where was the necessity for the honorable senator to introduce a deputation to the Minister asking for a reduction in the wages rate?
– I do not know why my honorable friend should be so angry about this matter. I think he will admit that my statement is true, that generally speaking - I cannot, of course, speak for every individual case - everywhere north of the twenty-first parallel, that is north of Cape Capricorn, the wages paid for ordinary field labour are in excess of the wages ordered to be paid by the Minister. 1 arn not now talking of wages paid for harvest work, for which higher rates were paid than those laid down by the Minister.
– If that be true, wherewas the necessity, I ask again, for thehonorable senator to introduce a deputationto the Minister asking him to reduce the. scale ?
– I introduced a deputation to the Minister asking him to make inquiries before he gazetted the scale.
– And asking him to reduce the scale ; I can quote from the report of the deputation to that effect.
– I have a copy of it, and I can tell the honorable senator that when he starts quoting he will drop me like a hot potato. .He will begin to talk of what other members of the deputation said, and not of what I said. He did that on a previous occasion when he spoke on the subject. As a matter of fact, what I did ask the Minister to do was to make an investigation before he issued his scale ot wages - an investigation into the condition of things not only around Bundaberg, but along the whole coast-line. Because, as I have said before, the conditions in the north are radically different from those which prevail in the south. My main point now is that this Bil! effects an immense improvement, inasmuch as it gives an opportunity for the creation of Wages Boards or local tribunals to fix wages according to the circumstances of various localities. That is an advantage. One other point in connexion with the men employed, which is often carefully avoided - or, perhaps, I should rather say generally overlooked - by a great many people who discuss the matter, is that in Queensland we have what is called a Shearers and Sugar Workers’ Accommodation Act. As far as the accommodation of the workers is concerned - that is, as far as relates to housing, washing arrangements, and so forth - there is a staff of something like forty-two inspectors, whose business it is to see that the workers are provided with proper accommodation according to conditions laid down in the Act. It has been stated in certain quarters that the inspectors do not do their duty. I suppose that a statement of that kind could probably be made about one or two persons in any large staff of men. But I am satisfied that, generally speaking, these officers do make it their business to see that the accommodation arranged for the employes in the industry is as it ought to be. If they fail to do their duty, however, that has nothing to do with the Federal Parliament. The fault lies with the State Government in not enforcing its own law. But, as a matter of fact, if any one likes to take up the last copy of the Queensland Agricultural Department’s report - which came to hand about a week ago - he will find a statement, not only as to the number of inspectors employed, but also as to the number of inspections made; and most satisfactory reports are printed as to the way in which employers are even anticipating the visits of the inspectors, and doing everything they can to make the conditions most reasonable. So far as Wages Boards are concerned, this Bill provides for the establishment of a proper system; and as accommodation to the State Act supplies the necessary regulations under which the men must be properly housed and treated. In regard to the employes of the industry, therefore, I contend that when this Bill is passed it will thoroughly remove whatever faults there may have been in the past in connexion with wages.
Let me now turn to the position of the sugar industry as it affects the consumer. The consumer is supposed to have suffered very heavily under Federal legislation.
– So he has.
– My honorable friend comes from South Australia. I am prepared to show him that the price of sugar, in spite of the fact that a sort of sugar famine has prevailed, only went up quite a trifle during the first five years of Federation, as compared with the five years immediately preceding Federation.
– If the honorable senator had to ‘keep a family in South Australia he would know better.
– The people of Victoria and Tasmania during the first five years after Federation were getting their sugar for £2 5s. per ton cheaper than during the five years immediately preceding Federation. I will admit at once that Western Australia has some ground of complaint. The price of sugar in that State has gone up as compared with the price before Federation. But Western Australia, before the passing of the Federal Tariff, had Free Trade in sugar. The result has been that the price of sugar in that State - we will leave out the last few weeks during which there has been a constant fall - has been £5 per ton more than it was before. But this increase was not wholly in consequence of Federal legislation. If there had been no Federation at all, Western Australia would have had to pay more than she did before Federation, because of a rise in the world’s markets. As a matter of fact, the Queenslanders are paying £5 more for their sugar than they did before Federation.
– And the producer derives no advantage from the increase?
– I admit that the producer has the advantage of the Australian market.
Senate W. Russell. - The combine gets the advantage.
– The combine dees not affect the price of sugar in the world’s markets. Immediately after Federation the price of sugar all over the world was very low indeed. At that time the sugar-grower got the full advantage of the duty. Now, however, the producers are getting little or no advantage from the duty. I propose to prove that statement.
– Surely they are selling it at the same price as that at which imported sugar can be sold, duty paid?
– No ; nothing like it. I shall prove my statement. I should like, first of all, to say that when we make comparisons it is only fair that we should compare similar things and things of equal value. One must not compare a horse with a cow. It is similarly of no use to compare 88 per. cent, beet sugar with 99.6 per cent, cane sugar. I was very much amused to End that a member of the Federal Parliament, who may not be considered friendly to the Government, since he sits on the Opposition side, described 88 per cent, beet sugar as a sort of fluid. I say that if that is what he says, the honorable gentleman could never have seen that beet sugar in his life. I had intended to exhibit some 88 per cent, beet sugar; but I thought that might be going too far, and that it would not be worth while. Honorable senators who have been long enough in Australia will recall the time when what was called ration sugar was used on stations. That ration sugar was infinitely worse than 88 per cent, beet sugar, which has a certain quality. It is a greeny sort of sugar, with a small grain. The price of this wonderful “ fluid “ sugar was compared with the price of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company’s iA sugar. That is not a fair comparison. We might as well compare a horse with a cow. I went to some trouble to find out, if I could, what exactly were the prices in London and in Australia for a sugar that might be considered exactly equal in quality. There has been a drop of £2 per ton in the price since then ; but, at the time I made the calculation, I found that the price of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company’s iA sugar was £23 2s. 6d. per ton. Allowing for discount, which is a trade matter, the net price was £21; 19s. 4éd. Now, the net export price in London of Tait’s granulated sugar, which, according to analysis, is only about J per cent, inferior to the Colonial Sugar Refining Company’s iA sugar, was £18 15s. per ton. It would weary the Senate to give details of freight, landing charges, insurance, and exchange ; but they amounted in all to £1 18s. nd. per ton. The duty is £6 ; and these figures show that the cost of this sugar landed here duty paid would be £26 13s. nd., as against £21 19s. 4jd., the price charged for the Colonial Sugar Refining Company’s. 1 A sugar. it would, 1 hereford, cost the consumer £4 14s. 6d. more if he imported sugar of equal value with the Colonial Sugar Refining Company’s iA sugar, and’ paid £6 duty. It is admitted by Mr. Tudor - though whether it will be admitted by my honorable friends opposite I do not know - that Australian sugar contributes the difference between the bounty and Excise, namely, £x per ton, to the Commonwealth Treasury - that is, to the people of Australia. Therefore, the actual benefit of the £6 per ton duty to the Australian industry is £6, less £4 14s. 6kl. plus £1 ; or 5s. 5½d. per ton.
– How does the honorable senator get those figures ?
– The honorable senator might as well ask me where do I get the argument I am using. He will be able to study the figures later; and 1 venture to say he will not dispute their accuracy when he sees them in print. I put the matter in another way. The price of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company’s 1 A sugar is £21 19s. 4&d. The .price of Tait’s granulated imported sugar, less the £6 duty, is £20 13s. nd. The price of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company’s sugar above the landed cost of Tait’s granulated sugar, less duty, would, therefore, be £1 5s. 5jd. But, again, we have to remember that the Australian sugar industry pays an Excise duty of £4 per ton, and receives a bounty of £?> per ton. Assuming that no coloured labour is employed anywhere in the local production, the difference of £1 per ton must be taken from the excess price of the Australian sugar ; and the figures show that the Australian industry takes advantage of the £6 per ton duty to the extent, as I have shown by the previous figures, of only 5s. 5½d. per ton.
Now, I have to refer to a point which I do not think is recognised by many of my honorable friends. If the price of sugar were to fall to anything like what it was in 1902, the Australians engaged in the sugar industry would take the greatest possible advantage of the duty. When prices are high all over the world, the duty is not of very much importance to us ; but when the prices fall, as they are falling now, the duty becomes of very considerable importance. While at the present time it is true to .say that the sugar industry is deriving from the duty an advantage of only 5s. 5£d. per ton, I frankly admit that if the price of sugar all over the world were to fall by £3 or £4 per ton, we should be taking advantage of the duty to the extent of £3 ros. or £”3 15s. per ton.
– The Colonial Sugar Refining Company take .advantage of every rise in price. When the price was raised in Europe, they increased the price in Australia.
– Just so; but the honorable senator will find it impossible to escape the conclusions to be drawn from the figures I have_ given. They will appear in Hansard, and he is welcome to prove that they are wrong if he can.
– I say that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, in common with every other big company, take advantage of every circumstance.
– In common with every little company, and of every individual also.
– I will say that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company are wiser than the man in the fable. They never kill the goose that lays the golden eggs.
– They are killing the planters all the time.
– I shall be able to prove the opposite. Now I come to the. question of granulated beet sugar. Imported beet sugar, as honorable senators are no doubt aware, has a duty of £10 per ton against it. Exactly why that duty was imposed, unless it was with some idea that it would resurrect the beet sugar industry in Australia, I do not know. The price of granulated beet sugar which analyzes 96 per cent, f.o.b. at Hamburg is £16 per ton; freight and other charges, as in the other case, would amount to £1 18s. nd. per ton, making the price £17 18s. 1 id. landed in Australia without the duty. The price of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company’s iA sugar I have given already at £21 19s. 4&d., leaving a balance of £4 os. 5½d., as, apparently, the amount by which the Colonial Sugar Refining Company take advantage of the duty. But there is, again, the £1 difference between bounty and Excise to he deducted, which makes the value of the £10 duty “on beet sugar to our industry os. 5½d. So that in competition with beet sugar, we only take advantage of 33 per cent, of the duty.
We have to remember the fact that we are dealing with an industry which is assisting us to solve one of the most difficult problems we have to face, namely, the settlement of a portion of Australia where, owing to heat, rainfall, and other climatic conditions, wheat, maize, and other cereals cannot be grown. Over and over again we have tried to grow maize, as far south as the district of Mackay ; and while we have grown maize in that district in a season which would result in an absolute failure of the sugar crop, it cannot ordinarily be grown there with success.
– Maize is grown as far south as Victoria.
– I am aware of that. I am pointing out that along our coast-line in the north, where the rainfall is very heavy, maize cannot be grown successfully. I admit that it is grown on the Atherton plateau ; but, even there, there are difficulties which have not yet been successfully overcome.
Coming again to the question of the price paid by the consumer, I worked out another calculation comparing the prices of sugar in Australia and in England for the year ending 30th June, 1909, and the year ending 30th June, 1910. I find that in the first year mentioned the average price of our standard sugar, the Colonial Sugar Refining Company’s iA. was ^20 10s. liU. Less discount and duty, that would make the price in bond £”13 15s. lod. per ton. In the year ending 30th June last - and I again direct attention to the fact that the sugar famine is only just beginning to be alleviated - the average price for the whole year, less discount and duty, was £14 15s. 10d. That represents an average rise in the price for the whole year of £1 per ton. I should mention that out here discount is estimated at 5f per cent., and in London at 2 per cent. Any one who studies the Economist will find that that is so. The average price of Tail’s granulated sugar during the year ending
June. 1909.. in bond in London, was £14 8s. And during the year ending June. 1910, the average price was £16 15s. 1 id. per ton. Iu other words, the price went up in London by £2 7s- 11d. P61 ton, whi’st it only went up by £1 per ton during the same period in Australia. So far as the consumer is concerned, I venture to say that if honorable senators will compare like with like, and will go to the world’s markets to see what is happening, they will discover that, while the price remains high, the refineries in Australia, whether it be the Millaquin-Yengarie, or the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, do not charge anything more than the smallest possible margin over and above what the article could be imported for, if there were no duty at all.
I may be faced at once with the statement that my argument shows that we do not need the duty.
– I thought the honorable senator wanted a Commission to inquire into this matter?
– I want it still ; but I do not see what the interjection has to do with my statement.
– Then what is the use of this Bill?
– I do not know yet. I have never discovered what is its use. Perhaps the Minister will explain that by-and-by. I understand that the object is to tide the Government over until the referendum is taken next year. Honorable senators will find, from the Melbourne Argus, which, it will be admitted, is not very strong on Protection, that in 1902 the price of sugar was so low that, in a special comment-
– I read the Age.
-Will my honorable friend take a rest for a moment? The Melbourne Argus, in a special comment in its market report, stated that, unless the prices of Australian sugar were further lowered, the duty would not keep out foreign sugar.
– I would expect that statement to come from the Argus.
– Then possibly the honorable senator would not expect it from me. I repeat that that journal pointed out that an import duty of £6 per ton upon sugar was not sufficient to exclude foreign sugar if the prices of that commodity were low. At the present time the prices are so high that we could almost get along without any protective duty. But that is no argument why we should abolish such a duty, lt merely shows that, whilst prices were high all over, the world, the Colonial Sugar Refining Company did not take undue advantage of the protective duty. Naturally, when prices were low, they took as much advantage of them as was necessary to enable them to sell their commodity at a profit.
I have dealt with the relations which exist between the farmer and the labourer, and the refiners and the consumer, and I come now to the relations which exist between the refiner and the mill-owner. The refiner is supposed to be paying the mill-owner so little for his sugar that the latter is unable to pay the farmer a reasonable price for his cane. In this connexion I have gone back a period of nearly ten years to obtain statistics, and I wish to compare the figures of 1898-9 with those of 1909. I find that for the year ended June, 1899, the refiners paid £8 ns. od. per ton for their raw sugar. At that time the Ripple Creek Factory, which has since been closed, but which was then making a white sugar for the open market which was only slightly inferior to the ordinary iA sugar, was selling its commodity at £19 per ton. In 1909 MillaquinYengarie sugar was selling for £21 per ton, or an increase of £2 per ton. For the year ended 30th June last, I find that the refiners paid the sugar mills £12 2s. 5½d. per ton for their raw sugar. So that whilst sugar was £2 per ton higher to the consumer than it was previously, the Colonial Sugar Refining Company paid the mills £3 1 is. 4½d. per ton more than they did previously. In other words, unless the company are making money in some other direction, they have gone to the bad to the extent of £1 ns. 4jd. per ton. These figures disclose that they appear to be treating the mills fairly. Let me give an instance of this. The other day a gentleman named F. C. McNish proposed to establish a central refinery in Queensland, which various co-operative mills would use for refining their sugars. His proposal was discussed in the different sugar districts, and in one of the biggest of these the managing directors of the mills positively declined to contribute £25 each towards the preliminary expense of investigating it. As a matter of fact, the mills consider, on the whole, that they are being well treated, although there may be places in the extreme south of Queensland where the mill-owners tell the farmers that they cannot pay them more for their cane because they are receiving so little themselves from the refiners. It is a significant fact, however, that the greatest complaints in regard to the price of cane come from places which have nothing whatever to do with the Colonial Sugar Refining” Company. I learn from Hansard that that company has expressed its willingness for the fullest investigation to be conducted into its affairs by a Royal Commission. Without posing as an apologist for the company, I venture to say that, if it be only given fair play before such a tribunal, honorable senators who imagine that it is a sort of octopus will be agreeably astonished to find that the reverse is the case.
– Then, where does the money go which we are paying for sugar ?
– I cannot repeat the whole of my statement merely to suit my honorable friend. Take the figures relating to the prices which the refiners are paying the mills for their raw sugar. A modern sugar mill, which has a tramway system of its own, represents a capital cost of about £75,000. Of course, there are mills which cost considerably less. The cheapest mill of which I know - outside of “tin-pot” establishments - originally cost from £”20,000 to £”25,000, and since then an additional £20,000 has been expended upon it. Most of the mills are huge establishments, and during the years 1907, 1908, 1909, and 1 910, they were paid by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company £10 14s. 8d., £io 9s. id., £11 3s. sd., and £12 2s. 5½d. per ton, respectively, for their raw sugar. I do not know whether honorable senators are aware that the refiners pay the manufacturers of raw sugar upon the basis of a certain price. For example, if refined sugar be worth £19 10s. per ton, they pay them, say, £”9 7s. 6d. per ton for the raw sugar. If the price of refined sugar rises, the refiners pay the manufacturers 18s. a ton out of every £1 per ton of the increase. The result is that only refiners who handle their own raw sugar make any profit out of a rise in price. The refiner who does not handle his own sugar pays away the 2s. per ton which he would otherwise receive, in discounts, 8rc. As the refiners do not manufacture the bulk of the sugar, it is obvious that the farmers and the raw sugar mills get the benefit of any rise in the price of that commodity.
– The honorable senator is not now quoting from the Sugar Journal.
– I was. I had no idea that the honorable senator desired me to quote the whole article. If my honorable friend doubts my statement, I will make him a present of the Journal.
I would further point out that the bulk of the sugar produced in Queensland is manufactured by mills which are owned by the farmers themselves. Thirteen or fourteen large factories in that State are controlled by the farmers, just as the Byron Bay butter factory is controlled by them. When the sugar season is over, the directors, knowing how much money they ha’ve made, distribute a bonus amongst the farmers who have supplied these factories with cane. I admit that, in the case of factories which are owned by persons who wish to make a profit out of the mills, the farmer does not get so much. If I own a butter factory, and the farmers supply me with cream, I must endeavour to make a profit out of it. But where the farmers themselves own a factory, they distribute any profit which they may make amongst the suppliers to it. In the south of Queensland, in the Bundaberg district, there are a number of farmers who consider that they are being badly treated, and their cases are always being quoted. I pass over the Mackay district, because there is no growling there, although one or two farmers have been writing to the newspapers, pointing out that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company has been paying higher prices for cane than have other companies. On the Johnstone River the other day, when it was put to me as a reasonable argument that the farmer should receive something extra for his cane when the price of sugar went up, I suggested to my friend that that object could be most readily attained by a certain form of agreement. I then verbally outlined an agreement, whereupon he exclaimed, “ Why, that is the form of agreement which the Colonial Sugar Refining Company forwarded to us the other day, and which we rejected, because we did not understand it.” Thereupon, I said plainly to him, “ You have missed the bus, and now you are complaining because you have missed it.” I understand, however, that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company is about to renew Bie offer. The trouble in regard to paying thefarmer an extra price for his cane when the price of sugar is high, is the- same that is experienced in other avocations, in which men demand an additional advantage when the profits are big, but object to being subjected to disadvantage when there are no profits. Anyhow, that is a matter between the people themselves.
The industry has certainly gone back a little in connexion with the acreage, but, generally speaking, there are plenty more farmers who are willing to enter into it if they know what the future is likely to be. I wish to refer to one or two matters which were mentioned by Senator Pearce, who has been good enough to allow me to see a proof of his speech. He said -
We also have to remember that there is still in Queensland a very large floating coloured population, and it is not the desire of the Government that these people should again be attracted to the sugar iindustry.
That is perfectly true, and it is not the desire, either, of people in connexion with the industry. At Cairns, last June, they passed a resolution which is to be found in our Journals in connexion with a question I asked. They asked that the Government should invite Parliament to legislate straight-out that no coloured labour shall be employed in any shape or form in connexion with the industry.
– That is a remarkable change.
– That may be so, but they appear not to have changed in a moment, because they took some time for consideration. So far back as February, 1 9 10 - that is, long before the Federal elections took place, so that the, change cannot be ascribed to that event - Messrs. Ruthning and Jensen, solicitors to the Australian Sugar Producers’ Association, stated a case for. the opinion of counsel, and the opinion was obtained of Mr. Frank Gavan Duffy, who, I understand, is a barrister of very high standing in Victoria. I propose to read only a short extract from the case -
Can a law be enacted to entirely prohibit the employment of coloured labour in the sugar industry, and to prohibit the growth of sugar-cane and manufacture of sugar by coloured labour?
In his opinion, a copy of which I have here, Mr. Duffy says -
If by the word “ law “ in this question is meant a Statute of the Commonwealth Parliament, the answer to this question is “ Yes.” If a Statute of the Queensland Parliament is meant the answer is “ Yes.”
I shall not weary honorable senators by reading all the arguments with which Mr. Duffy backed up that statement, but if the
Minister wishes to see the opinion he is welcome to see it afterwards. In February, 1910 - that is before the elections were held, and before this Government came into power - a question was put by the Australian Sugar Producers’ Association, and it was replied to by Mr. Duffy on the 23rd March, which, I may remind my honorable friends, preceded the 13th April. The next half-yearly meeting of the Association was held in June, and at the very first moment they adopted a resolution which honorable senators can see by referring to our Journals. The Minister of Defence should not have said quite so much about a large 10ar.ng c coloured population in Queensland. Leaving out Thursday Island, he will find that the coloured population of Queensland is less than that of New South Wales. According to the last census there were 9,800 Chinamen in Queensland, 11,000 odd Chinamen in New South Wales, and 8.000 odd Chinamen in Victoria. Seeing that the kanakas who left on their own account, or who were deported by the Commonwealth, numbered 8,000 or 9,000, it is very doubtful whether the Minister’s statement is accurate. Why should Queensland be singled out more than any other State as a State having a big floating coloured population?
– I was referring to Queensland as the home of the sugar industry, and not particularly to that matter.
– I admit at once that a very big section of the farmers are afraid that the operation of Wages Boards in the sugar districts will have the effect of driving about 400 or 500 coloured men, who are employed in various ways, out of the sugar mills, and enabling them to go and take up land. On the last occasion when I met the representatives of the sugar industry up there, one point which they urged very strongly was that they must have some means to prevent those men from leaving the mills and going on the land, because, in their opinion, that would do them harm. But, more important still than that, they reckoned that the very moment any evidence was shown by a return that the proportion of coloured-grown sugar-cane had risen above 6 or 7 per cent, and approached 8 or 9 per cent., there was a very serious danger of the Commonwealth Parliament not realizing exactly what was the cause of it all, and insisting upon reducing the import duty.
It is, of course, on the import duty that we entirely rely. On the question of who pays the Excise, which Senator Pearce rather carefully avoided, 1 do not wish to speak at very great length. 1 want to refer him to what was said by Mr. Tudor, Mr. Fisher, and other persons. Their statements are reported in Hansard, and can easily be seen. I may even quote what is probably more to the point here, and that is what Senator Givens said on the subject. I had made a suggestion that the Government - the first Fisher Government, I think - should have an investigation made of various points in connexion with the sugar industry, and amongst other things Senator Givens said on page 2945 of Hansard, 1908 -
I would remind honorable senators that in a short time, under the present law, the sugar bounty will disappear. Of course, the Excise duty will also disappear. That, from my point of view, will be an exceedingly good thing, as I consider that it is the worst possible policy to impose an Excise duty upon an article of Austraiian production which is essential to the sustenance of the people. People like Senator Chataway have, I think, been designedly trying to lead the sugar-growers of Queensland to believe that when the bounty disappears they will be in a very bad state. It is not so. They will be in exactly the same position as they are in now.
Honorable senators will see that even Senator Givens-
– Why “even”?
– If I have any recollection at all the honorable senator flatly denied this quotation during the last election. He knows as well as can be that’ he made the statement. Of course, he is laughing up his sleeve now because he got through in spite of it.
– I shall tell the honorable senator all about it.
– Possibly my -honorable friend may be able to explain it. Perhaps he does not think that the farmers will be in a bad state if the Excise duty “is repealed. According to a letter, in the Brisbane Courier, from the secretary of the Australian Sugar Producers’ Association -
Mr. Tudor, when moving, on the 10th ultimo, the second reading of the Sugar Bounty Bill (No. 2) said : - “ The term 1 bounty ‘ is a misnomer. It is not a bounty in the sense in which we ordinarily understand the word. The position is that before any sugar-grower in Australia can receive a bounty he must have paid £4 per ton Excise. As I said in 1905, if any of us had to give £4 away and received only ^3 back, he would not consider that he was receiving a bounty of £3, but would rather think that he was losing £1 over the transaction.” Sir John Quick here interjected : ’ It is a rebate under the name of a bounty,” to which Mr. Tudor replied, “ That is so. The growers are -getting back *£3 out of the £t, which they pay in, provided that they comply with certain stipulations as to the employment of white labour and as to labour conditions.”
The report of Mr. Tudor’s speech can be found in Hansard, at page 1375- Seeing that Mr. Tudor is really the Minister in charge of this measure in Parliament it is not unreasonable to join his remarks with those which the Prime Minister has made on various occasions, and to assume, once for all, that the question of who pays the ‘ Excise does not amount to anything. As Senator Givens said, if you abolish the Excise and the bounty the position of the producer will be the same as it is now.
– So far as the protection is concerned.
– -Keep the protection going, and that is the sole thing. Indeed, I go further and say that, in the event of our making the Excise and the bounty equal - that is, assuming that we increase the bounty to the same amount as the Excise - the farmers who are growing sugar-cane will probably earn from 2s. 6d. to 3s. a ton more. As it is, there is no getting away from the fact that the Treasury is making, not only £4. a ton Excise out of all the sugar produced in Australia by coloured labour, but also £1 a ton out of ail the sugar produced here by white labour.
– Less the expense of administration.
– Less £6,000, I think. I was rather amused the other day to read in a newspaper the statement that a one-man deputation had waited upon the Minister of Trade and Customs. So that there shall be no suggestion that any discourtesy was intended, let me explain that Mr. Swayne, a member of the Queensland Parliament, came down to Melbourne with certain resolutions which had been passed by various bodies in Queensland to present them to the Minister of Trade and Customs. Just before he arrived I received from the Mulgrave Central Mill a telegram, asking me to join Mr. Swayne and represent that mill, and the farmers connected with it. After he arrived Mr. Swayne, on his own initiative, decided that he would go to the Victorian Government and ask that Mr. Easterby, who is looking after the beet sugar business, should join the deputation, and, consequently, it consisted of Mr. Easterby representing Victoria, myself representing the Mulgrave Central Mill, and Mr. Swayne representing a considerable number of bodies in various parts of Queensland. Then we had to cast round for some person to introduce the deputation, and we chose one gentleman. We might have chosen Senator St. Ledger, or Senator Sayers, or Senator Givens-
– No, Senator Givens is a white-labour man.
– So is Senator St. Ledger.
– What !
– So is Senator St. Ledger.
– Oh !
– Yes, all his life.
– Not all his life.
– There was no discourtesy intended in asking only one member of the Federal Parliament to introduce the deputation.
Senator Pearce, in the course of his speech, said -
The question of having an inquiry is under consideration at the present time, and I can inform honorable senators that if there is an inquiry the Government will take good care that one of the subjects of the inquiry will be the refining business.
I interjected that the last Government proposed the same thing, and Senator Pearce replied -
I believe that when this becomes known some of those who are now crying out for an inquiry will not be so keen about it.
I think it is a matter of great regret that Senator Pearce should have given the impression that when an investigation is held, those who conduct it will have made up their minds beforehand. I forget whether it is in Alice in Wonderland, or in some other humorous book, that we are told of a Court that decided that a man should be hanged, and that afterwards he should be tried to determine whether he was guilty. Senator Pearce gives the impression that he has made up his mind beforehand as to the refiners, and that the members of any Commission that might be appointed would be chosen for the very purpose of supporting his conclusion. To show that the last Government did not ignore the point of viewas it affects the refiners, I propose to read a statement of the matters which the Commission that they proposed to appoint was to inquire into. I understand that the proposition for the appointment of the Commission actually went before the Executive Council. On 3rd March the Argus published a statement, which I am informed was officially communicated, as to the scope of the Commission’s inquiry. The report stated -
The duties of the commission, as officially fixed, will be - To inquire and report on the present and prospective condition of the sugar industry in Australia as affected by existing legislation, and the necessity, if any, for further legislation, so as to insure its permanent establishment on the basis of white labour, an adequate return to the producers, and fair Tales of remuneration to the workers.
To inquire into and report on the question of payment of bounty by the Commonwealth ; the incidence of the present import duties on sugar and any modification or revision of the amount of bounty or Excise which would tend to insure the more successful development of the industry under white labour conditions ; and particularly inquire and report whether, in the . opinion of the Commission, the operations of the Sugar Bounty and Excise Acts have fulfilled or are fulfilling their purpose, and if so (a) whether such result promises to be permanent; (4) whether the expiration of the bounty and Excise would lead wholly or in part to a reversion to coloured labour ; (c) whether the continuance of the bounty and Excise, or of an Excise only, is necessary in the interests of the refiners, mill-owners, growers, and employes, or any of them, to continue the industry on a white labour basis; (d) whether the consumer in Australia has been specially burdened by the bounty and Excise legislation.
It will also be part of the duty of the Commission to inquire if the Act’s have failed, or partially failed, to develop the sugar industry by white labour; is such failure attributable to insufficient encouragement and protection ; diversion of the bounties to other than the canegrowers and their employes; the failure of the Administration to carry out the intentions of the Legislature ; or any other cause.
In regard to the permanency of the industry under white labour conditions, the report will say - What causes have led to the areas under cane being reduced since 1905 ; have agricultural methods been modified by white labour employment, and if so, beneficially or otherwise? To what extent has co-operation amongst growers enabled the latter to own the mills, and is cooperation increasing ; is there opportunity for expansion of co-operative efforts, and, if so, in what direction ; and by what means may they be encouraged? What are the possibilities of conditions of field labour being modified by the invention of mechanical appliances for the harvesting of the crops and other operations? Is the industry likely to be beneficially affected in such a manner as to secure a permanent and settled working population throughout the year in the sugar areas or in the adjacent highlands? And to what extent at present are the earnings of harvesters withdrawn from the sugar districts each year?
If the continuance of the bounty be recommended by the Commission, it will proceed to investigate questions of the cost of production and manufacture, the relation of cost and revenue to the invested capital, and the hours, pay, and other conditions of labour. It will consider whether wages boards would adequately replace the present Ministerial control of field wages, and will also examine the general administration of the bounty Acts.
Dealing with the cost of sugar to the consumer, the Commission will report as to the average cost to wholesale buyers during periods of years before and since Federation, and the cost of refining imported raw sugars.
Other matters to be considered will be the regulation and employment of labour (black or white), commercial protection to the grower and the maker of raw sugar, the efficiency of labour, the uses of by-products, and whether there is any improper control or monopoly likely to divert the bounty into channels for which it was not designed.
I remember that at the time I suggested a Commission should be appointed my honorable friend Senator Givens had the idea that what I wanted, too, was to make out a case for coloured labour.
– I had that idea then, and I have the same idea now.
– Apparently he entertained the belief that the main idea at the bottom of the application for a Commission was to abolish the sugar bounty and the sugar Excise so that the planters might be able to employ any labour they pleased when the Commonwealth lost all control over the labour conditions. But, as a matter of fact, my honorable friend himself advocated the abolition of the Excise.
– I did not advocate it at all. I will tell the Senate directly what I did.
– My honorable friend may explain away his own statements if he can. But what did he mean by the expression that -
People like Senator Chataway have been designedly trying to lead the sugar-growers of Queensland to believe that when the bounty disappeared they will be in a very bad state. It is not so. They will be in exactly the same position as they are in now.
If my honorable friend did not mean what appeared in Hansard, or if his statement had some other meaning than that which 1 have attributed to it, I shall only be too glad if he will explain it.
– My statement does not need any explaining. My meaning is there for any one who has the intelligence to discern it.
– That may be so, but I think my honorable friend ought to have made his meaning so plain that it would be discernible even to inferior intelligences like mine. When Senator Pearce stated that the Government would take good care “ that one of the subjects of an inquiry will be the refining business,” he was not breaking any new ground. The last Government proposed that the Commission to be appointed by it should deal with the refining business. I am not now discussing whether the members proposed to be appointed on that Commission were the best people for the purpose. As far as I understand it, the intention of the late Government was that there should be no politicians on the Commission; that they would not appoint any but men who were in public employment. The members were to be Mr. Justice Cohen, of New South Wales; Mr. W. E. Desplace, the manager of a mill and inspector of mills under the Queensland Government ; and Mr. G. H. Crompton, who for the last twelve years at least has been a member of the Audit Department of Queensland, and whose special business it is to go round auditing the accounts of the various sugar mills to which the Government have lent money. I venture to say that the scope of the inquiryproposed to be made by the late Government was wide and complete. I think that it will be impossible for the present Government, if they appoint a Commission, to widen the scope, though it has been suggested that they will do so. In the interests of- the country it would be very desirable that they should not appoint politicians who have made up their minds beforehand. That, however, is a matter for the Government.
Before I sit down I wish to say that though I am supporting the Bill, I am somewhat disappointed with it. At the same time, I recognise that it is an improvement upon the existing Act, and that is one advantage. I am still more disappointed with the speech in which Senator Pearce introduced the matter, or, rather, with one portion of that speech in which he said -
We are hoping that before very long the Commonwealth will be given full power to legislate in regard to the industrial condition of the people in all industries.
– In all States, too?
– In all States. When that time arrives, it may properly be argued that there is no reason why any particular industry should be picked out to receive a bounty, because we can make our protective Tariff on whatever lines we choose with the object of keeping out foreign competition. We can then proceed to stipulate the conditions which shall apply to the production of various article? in Australia. But until we have secured an amendment of the Constitution, we are, unfortunately, without that power. We have done something, however, in regard to the sugar industry, and I will give a few figures to show what has been effected by Commonwealth legislation.
Then the honorable senator read the figures which it is unnecessary for me to quote, and he went on -
But the Government take up the position that the sugar-growers of Queensland, New South Wales, and any other part of the Commonwealth, should be given a definite assurance of what their policy will be for the next few years. We think it only reasonable that before they embark further capital in the industry they should have some assurance of stability in the conditions which will apply to it. We say that, so far as the bounty, Excise, and Tariff are concerned, these Bills give that assurance.
– Does the honorable senator object to that ?
– What I say is that those words of Senator Pearce state perfectly plainly that if the referendum on the industrial legislation to be taken probably next March or April is in favour of the Government proposition, the whole sugar question may be reopened at any moment.
– Why not ?
– Now we have it from the Government Whip ! No assurance is given that the new arrangement is to continue for a few years. The concern of the Queensland sugar growers is that they shall know that the new arrangement is likely to last for a reasonable period. But the statement made on behalf of the Government is practically that the operation of this Bill is to continue only until the Government secure their object in relation to the control of industrial legislation.
– Until we get power to legislate in regard to labour conditions generally.
– And the Government are going to ask for that power in six months’ time. Consequently, there is no permanency in regard to this arrangement. To that extent the Bill is thoroughly unsatisfactory. I did hope to hear from the Minister that even if the Government carried the referendum they would undertake that this arrangement with the sugar growers should continue, at any rate, for a definite number of years. The farmer who puts in his cane with the anticipation that he will receive a bounty on the sugar produced does not put it in expecting a harvest in a few weeks. He expects to take three or four crops off his land. For that reason the Government ought to give some degree of permanency to the new arrangement. When the Bill was before another place there was no suggestion that the arrangement was not to be permanent. Now, however, we have one of the most important Ministers in the Cabinet telling us plainly that if the Commonwealth Government gets the extra power for which it is asking -
There is no reason why any particular industry should be picked out to receive a bounty.
– Queensland has received more than some of her representatives in this Parliament deserved to get for her.
– If the referendum is successfully carried next year in accordance with the proposals of the Government, it may probably be argued by their supporters that there is no reason why this particular industry should be picked out to receive a bounty, because they can do as they please with the Tariff. Consequently, there is no assurance of permanency, and what is given with the one hand is practically to be taken away with the other.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.30 p.m.
– - The subject we are now discussing is a very important one, and it is somewhat complicated. I do not know of any Commonwealth legislation in connexion with which there has been so much misconception and misunderstanding as there has been about our legislation affecting the sugar industry. It is the duty of those of us who claim to know something about it, and who are largely interested in it, because it is one of the principal industries of the State we represent, to remove a little of the misconception, and refute some of the misrepresentations concerning it, and in the brief speech I intend to make on the second reading of the Bill I hope to be able to do so. No legislation passed by this Parliament since the inception of Federation has done more than has our legislation affecting the sugar industry to settle the northern portion of Australia with a thriving and prosperous white population. The wine industry of Australia is the only other industry in connexion with which the policy of Protection adopted by the Commonwealth Parliament has been attended with anything like the same success. Both these industries go far towards supplying the whole of the requirements of Australia for their products. One of the chief justifications for a - Protectionist policy is the extent to which it enables a protected industry to supply the whole of the requirements of the people in the protected country. Applying this test to the protection afforded the sugar industry, I say that we have reason’ to be proud of the results achieved. We have transformed the industry from a coloured-labour industry to one carried on on a purely white basis, or so nearly so that we may hope in a very few years, if a wise policy is continued, to see coloured labour entirely abolished in the industry. That being so, I fail to see how any one can cavil at a proposal to continue the operation of legislation which has been proved to be so successful.
– Does the honorable senator want protection or the bounty ?
– What I want is protection, but I shall deal with the matter fully. It has frequently been thrown in the face of representatives of Queensland in this Parliament, even by Ministers, that Queensland reaps an enormous advantage as compared with every other State in the Commonwealth from the protection afforded to the sugar industry. That is a statement which I totally and emphatically deny. I shall be able to prove that the statement is entirely incorrect. I do not deny that the sugar industry of Queensland receives fair protection. I have no desire to minimize in any way the benefits conferred upon the industry by our protective legislation, but I insist that those engaged in the production of sugar in Queensland receive no greater advantage than is enjoyed by those engaged in various other protected industries carried on in other States of Australia’.
– The protection of which was not supported by a number of representatives of Queensland.
– I can say, in reply, that the legislation passed for the protection of the sugar industry was not supported by a number of the representatives of States other than Queensland. So that honours are easy on that score. I wish to show that there is a grave misconception as to the advantage which Queensland derives from the protection afforded the sugar industry. We are told that we get protection, and £500,000 a year in bounty. Even such a great newspaper as the Melbourne Age fell into that error. In a leading article which appeared in that paper quite recently, the statement was made that Queensland is receiving from the Commonwealth both protection and a bounty. She is not receiving anything of the sort. She is receiving protection from ihe Commonwealth for the sugar industry, and out of that protection the industry is providing its own bounty. The whole advantage to the sugar industry of Australia lies in the protective duty. There is under our Tariff an import duty on cane sugar °f £fi Per ton> an<i on beet sugar of ^10 per ton. We can eliminate the beet sugar altogether from our consideration of the question. The controlling fact is that there is an import duty of £6 per ton on cane sugar. Of that amount the man who grows cane solely by white labour gets a protection of £5 per ton. That is brought about in this way : There is an Excise duty of £4 per ton on sugar grown in Australia, and out of that Excise the man who grows sugar with white labour only is returned £3 per ton by way of bounty. Adding to the bounty of £3 per ton the difference of £2 between the import and Excise duties, it will be seen that the man who grows cane sugar in Australia with white labour only is given a protection of £5 per ton. Honorable senators will see that the Excise and bounty have nothing whatever to do with this question. They have been instituted merely as internal machinery adopted to enable the Commonwealth to exercise some control over the conditions of labour in the industry.
– That is exactly what I told the people of Queensland at the last election, and the honorable senator was against me.
– The honorable senator need not tell me what he told the people of Queensland at the last election, when I know that he went around the State ‘a few years ago as the paid organizer of the black labour party in that State.
– The honorable senator may make that assertion if he pleases.
– Will “ the honorable senator deny that he was a paid organizer of the black labour party in Queensland?
– If the honorable senator chooses to disgrace himself by saying so, he may do so.
– I am not disgracing myself in any way. I am merely stating a fact, and if the fact is disgraceful, so much the worse for Senator St. Ledger.
– Not at all ; but I am prepared to withdraw the word “ disgraceful “ if it is not considered parliamentary.
– The honorable senator need not trouble himself to withdraw it on my account, I say that honorable senators in discussing this question may disregard the bounty and Excise. They have nothing to do with any advantage given by this Parliament to the sugar industry. The whole of the advantage is given by the protective duty. The bounty was adopted in the first place to enable the Commonwealth to differentiate between sugar grown by white labour and sugar grown by coloured labour. I have said that it has been thrown in the face’ of Queensland representatives time after time, and even by members of the Commonwealth Government, that the State of Queensland in this regard receives special advantages, and I have mentioned the fact that the Age newspaper has fallen into the same error. It is said that we get, not only protection, but a bounty as well, and that the bounty amounts to £500,000 a year. I wish to point out that every other protected industry carried on in any of the States might be given a bounty on exactly the same terms without it costing the Commonwealth one farthing. On the contrary, the Commonwealth might derive a handsome increase in revenue from the adoption of a similar course with respect to other protected industries. I have taken the trouble to look up one or two of the protected industries of States other than Queensland. The people in Australia who first growled very much over the protection given to the sugar industry were the jam-makers. Now, let us see what are the facts concerning the jammaking industry. The facts are that, whereas, in round figures, sugar is given a protection of d. per lb., when ‘it is put into jam., the maker of the jam gets a protection of another 1½d. per lb. If. honorable senators will look at page 569 of the Commonwealth Year-Book, they will find there the statement that there is a protective duty on all jam coming from abroad into Australia of 2d. per lb. The duty is reduced to 1½d. per lb. on jam imported from Great Britain. In 1908 the jam and fruit preserving factories of Australia had a total output of the value of £1,190,000. The total quantity of jam produced was 74,1.33,000 lbs. On that output the jam manufacturers received a protection of 2d. per lb. In the manufacture of jam 1 lb. of sugar is required for every 1 lb. of fruit. It will be seen that every pound of sugar put into that quantity of jam produced had a protection of 2d. per lb., whereas every pound of sugar produced by the sugar industry had a protection of only £d. per lb. Yet the jam-makers were the first people to raise their voice in complaint against the protection afforded to the sugar industry. I say that they have been given generous and ample protection as compared with the protection given to those engaged in the sugar industry. I refer honorable senators now to page 406 of the Commonwealth Year-Book, where there are particulars given respecting another Austraiian product, wine. I find that the total production of wine in Australia for the year 1908-9 was 5,500,000 gallons. There is a protective duty of 6s. per gallon on wine, and on 5,500,000 gallons this represents no less than a protection of £1,650,000 per annum for the wine industry of Australia. If we adopted the same principle that has been adopted in connexion with the sugar industry, and imposed an Excise duty of 3s. per gallon, we could pay a bounty of 3s. per gallon, that is half the duty, amounting to no less than £825,000 per annum, without the Commonwealth being one farthing the poorer for it. Whilst we give our wine producers an advantage every year over the foreign producers of wine amounting to £1,650,000, no one has made a single complaint about it. I agree that it is in accordance with a proper policy. I wish to see the wine industry protected, but I point out that it is receiving a far greater advantage under the Commonwealth Tariff than is the sugar industry of Queensland. South Australia derives the greatest benefit from the duty on wine. I do not grudge the wine producers of that State the benefit they derive from the operation of our Tariff. I consider it is a good thing for Australia that they are able to produce the wine required by our people rather than that we should have to send abroad for it. I have heard a great many Tasmanians complaining of what they re’ferred to as the special advantages derived by Queensland from the protection of the sugar industry. There is a great deal of jam manufactured in Tasmania, and I have already referred to the splendid protection afforded to the jam industry. But there is another item on which there is a very high rate of protection, and of which Tasmania is the chief producer. I refer to hops.
– The honorable senator is giving the Senate the benefit of some very good information, and I think he should have a quorum of honorable senators to listen to him. [Quorum formed.]
– Hops enjoy a protection of 6d. per lb. ; and I find that the imports for the last year for which the figures are available amounted to 944.940 lbs. Thus, everybody who bought a lb. of imported hops had to pay 6d. upon it in order to encourage an industry in Tasmania. I have absolutely no grudge against any industry. It is a wise policy to encourage the growth of sufficient hops in Australia. But why the representatives of Tasmania should urge that Queensland is always deriving an advantage at the expense of the Commonwealth, when, as a matter of fact, their own State is deriving an even greater advantage, is difficult to understand.
– Poor Senator Dobson is gone.
– I am not endeavouring to belittle any honorable senator, or any State - I am merely pointing out the actual condition of affairs. I wish to rebut the base slander which has constantly been uttered that Queensland has derived special advantages from the Commonwealth. As a matter of fact, it has not received as high a measure of protection for its chief industry as the other States have received.
– It was never very generous to the other States.
– The Vice-President of the Executive Council has never known me to vote for anything but the highest duty to protect an industry in any State. Last year, the production of hops in the Commonwealth amounted to only 11, 2 41 cwts., and during the same period, we imported 944,940 lbs. of that commodity. Now the chief justification for affording protection to any industry is the hope that it will develop to such an extent that it will be able to supply the requirements of the whole of the citizens of the country. If it cannot do that after it has been protected a few years, it is scarcely worth protecting. Now, the only protected industries which have succeeded in doing this are the sugar industry in the northern portion of Queensland, and the wine industry in the southern portion of the Commonwealth. Nobody begrudges Tasmania the advantages which she derives in connexion with the hop-growing and jam in dustries. But why the representatives of that State should affirm that Queensland is getting something for which she is giving nothing in return, perhaps Senator Cameron will explain.
-Colonel Cameron. - Queensland is not giving us a quid fro quo.
– Tasmanian industries are protected to a greater extent than is the Queensland sugar industry. I would further point out that there is. another industry which, so far, has not justified its existence by supplying the needs of the Commonwealth, and which, nevertheless, receives a generous measure of protection. I refer to salt, which is one of the necessaries of life - even a greater necessary perhaps than is sugar. At the present time, we have an import duty of £1 per ton upon salt. To protect what State? Is it to protect Queensland or New South Wales ? No. The chief State which produces salt is South Australia, although western Victoria and Western Australia each produce a little. We have imposed a duty upon that article of no less than ,£i per ton.. I wish to point out that a protection of £5 per ton upon sugar amounts to only about 25 per cent, of the value of that article, whereas a duty of £I per ton upon salt is equivalent to 35 or 40 per cent, of its value. As a matter of fact, upon the value of raw salt, the protection amounts to 200 per cent. I find from the Yearbook of Australia, page 527, that South Australia annually produces 75,000 tons of salt, which is valued at only £37,500. Vet that commodity receives a protection of £1 per ton. In other words, it receives a protection which is equal to twice the value of the raw salt. Yet we hear South Australian representatives talking about the protection which Queensland gets upon sugar.
– The sugar industry is not a Queensland matter, but a national one.
– Exactly. In point of fact, the Commonwealth could have paid a bounty’ of 15s. per ton upon the salt produced in South Australia on the same principle as the sugar bounty is paid, without being a penny the worse off. There is still (another South Australian industry which receives an enormous advantage. I refer to the olive oil industry. Upon that article there is a protection of 2s. per gallon, which is equivalent to at least 50 per cent. I am very glad that that State produces the oil, and receives that measure of protection. But it is a far higher measure of protection than is that which is accorded to the sugar industry. So that why South Australia should be constantly crying out about the protection which is accorded to the Queensland sugar industry would require a Philadelphia lawyer to explain. The total production of wine in the Commonwealth is 5,500,000 gallons per annum. Of course, South Australia produces the larger share of that quantity, but in a very short time I believe the production of Western Australia will equal, if it does not exceed, the production of that State. Queensland representatives do not complain because of the protection which these industries receive. Why, then, all this outcry against the protecLion accorded to the sugar industry, which is the one industry that has justified its existence by supplying nearly, if not quite, the whole of the sugar requirements of the Commonwealth ? Now, let us pass from the primary to the manufactured products. We impose a specific duty of £12 per machine on the importation of stripper harvesters. That is equivalent to 30 per cent, upon their invoiced value. We endeavoured to impose an Excise duty upon these machines in order that we might control the conditions of labour, but, unfortunately, the High Court has declared that law to be ultra vires of the Constitution. That is only one instance, and I could quote innumerable others, on all of which we could pay a bounty similar to the sugar bounty without a penny of cost to the Commonwealth, Every industry which has a chance of surviving, and of supplying the needs of Australia, should be protected to the fullest possible extent. I hope that I have said enough to refute the old fallacy that Queensland is deriving a special concession from the Commonwealth. I admit that in regard to the sugar industry she has received fair treatment. She does not complain of her treatment. But she has received no fairer treatment than have the other States in regard to their protected industries. The Commonwealth, I repeat, is not paying the sugar bounty, as well as affording the industry the benefit of a protective Tariff. What happens is that a portion of the protection is pooled, and out of that pool the bounty is paid. The fact is that there is no industry in Australia which has been so successful under a protective Tariff as has the sugar industry. Within the short space of eight years we have converted it from an almost exclusively black labour industry into an almost purely white labour industry. Thousands of successful farmers are engaged in it to-day, where formerly there were only a few nabobs. Thirty thousand white men are now employed in the industry, where formerly only kanakas and Chinamen were employed. Further, we are producing a greater quantity of cane per acre, and the aggregate output has also increased. It has been estimated that in Queensland and New South Wales, during the year ended 31st December, 1909, 30,584 white men were engaged in the industry, in addition to 335 others who were growing sugar which was not exclusively produced by that class of labour. In other words, nearly 31,000 white men are employed in it instead of a horde of coloured labourers. Such a result is remarkable. It proves conclusively that those who contended that the industry could be carried on by white labour were absolutely right. After a trial extending over eight years, it has been demonstrated that the industry can be successfully conducted exclusively by white labour, and not even the most ardent champion of black labour would dare to advocate a return to the old conditions. The total quantity of sugar produced last year did not nearly approach the requirements of Australia. Ve had to import between 70,000 and 80,000 tons. But that circumstance was largely due to the fact that in some localities the crop was not so good as was anticipated on account of the prevalence of adverse conditions. But I venture to say that, in the near future, once we have settled legislation on the subject, once the people have confidence that the protection will be continued, we shall have a sufficient influx of enterprise into the industry to put enough land under cane, and to manufacture a sufficient quantity of sugar, to provide Australia with all the sugar which will be required for domestic and other purposes. The dissatisfaction which has existed in some quarters regarding our legislation was, I believe, fomented by interested persons. But I am glad to say that they have now realized the futility of their efforts to upset or discredit our legislation. I believe that they have now adopted the better part of complying fully with the spirit and the letter of the law, and, as time goes on, there will be no more of the friction which has been so deplorable in the past, and no more of the howl of blue ruin which we have heard here so frequently, but everything will work more in unison and harmony. But there is one thing which is essential if the sugar industry is to forge ahead as it should do. Not only should we supply the present requirements of sugar, but, as time goes on and the population increases, we should also be able to produce all the sugar required, even for 20,000,000 persons. The expansion of our population affords, I think, the surest guarantee to the people engaged in the industrythat, no matter how much sugar they may produce in the future, there will always be a market for it in Australia. I think that the Government are to be commended for bringing down this legislation. Formerly it was complained that the sugar industry had no stability ; that is, that there was no guarantee that the sugar legislation would last for a longer period than was named therein, and that, therefore, people were not justified in venturing to lay out the very large capital which was necessary in order to engage in the industry. Honorable senators ought to remember that there are a few difficulties to be encountered. In the first place, in order to build a modern sugar-mill, a capital of from £60,000 to £100,000 is required, and all that one can ever hope to do, even in a most successful season, is to have the mill occupied and working for six months in each year. During the remainder of the year it must necessarily remain idle. As a matter of fact, from four to six months is the’ longest period which any mill remains working. That is due to the circumstance that it is only in six months of the year that the cane can be cut. During the growing period it has hardly any sugar contents, and, consequently, it is useless to cut it then. Therefore, from £60,000 to £100,000 worth of machinery must be lying idle during onehalf of the year. That money has to be utilized in such a way, when you build a mill, that it will be able to provide a sufficient profit on the outlay from six months’ work. It was because of these disadvantages, because of the enormous outlay which was required, that there has not been that expansion of the sugar industry which we were entitled to expect. Our Acts have always had a definite period at which to end. The Acts which we are asked to supersede will cease to operate at the end of 1912. The people engaged in the sugar industry had not a sufficient guarantee thereunder to encourage them to lay out such a large sum as would be required for successfully spreading out the industry in new directions. As the mills already in Queensland were occupied to about their full capacity, it was not to be expected that large sums would be expended in building new mills, clearing fresh land, and putting in new crops unless there was some certainty that our legislation would be more than tentative. I am glad to see that the Government have recognised that position, and propose to place the sugar industry in Queensland on exactly the same basis as every other protected industry in Australia - that is, with no definite period of termination, and always relying on the protective policy of the people and the good faith of this Parliament. That is an ample guarantee to the sugar industry, as well as to every other industry in Australia. I feel perfectly satisfied that the people will adhere to the Protective policy which they have adopted. I believe that, as l!ie years go by, they will become seized with the national necessity of continuing the Protective policy, and making it more and more effective. In their protective national feeling and the policy which will necessarily follow will lay the security of the Queensland sugar industry, and every other protected industry in Australia. A great deal has been said about the cost of the sugar industry to the Commonwealth. Now it is the only industry in Australia producing a necessary of life which is contributing to the revenue. Last year it con- tributed between £140,000 and £150,000, because the Treasury has always got £1, less the cost of administration, on every ton. of sugar grown by white labour, and £4 on every ton of sugar produced by coloured labour. In my opinion, the Treasuryshould not get a single farthing from sugar, which is one of the chief necessaries of life. I have never been in favour of getting revenue from that source. When I first asked the people of Queensland to return me to this Parliament, I pointed out to them that if I had my way I should abolish every fraction of protection which was given to the sugar-cane produced by black labour, and give every farthing of the protection on the statute-book to the cane and sugar produced by white labour only.
– Evidently the honorable senator is relying strongly on Protection.
– I am relying on Protection, because that is the only thing which gives us the advantage. In most countries where they have adopted anything like a proper fiscal system, they have recognised that the necessaries of life should not be subject to taxation.
– A free breakfasttable is the object of Revenue-Tariffists and Free Traders.
– The RevenueTariffists would tax anything and everything.
– I have no time for the Revenue-Tariffist at all. There may be something to be said in favour of the Free Trader, but there is nothing to be said in favour of the Revenue-Tariffist.
– He believes in taxing those articles which go into general use.
– He believes that by imposing small duties which the people will unconsciously pay when purchasing goods, the country will be able to collect a large revenue on articles of everyday use. But it is a recognised principle of taxation that the necessaries of life should not be taxed.
– That is the cardinal doctrine of Free Trade.
– That is an entirely different thing from Revenue-Tariffism. Why should we in Australia expect to get a revenue of £150,000 or £200,000 a year from such a necessary of life as sugar? There is no reason why it should contribute to the revenue. We impose protective duties on salt, jam, olive oil, and a hundredandone other things in daily use, and they are raising revenue. If I had my way, I would not get a farthing of revenue from any one of those articles. The only use I have for a Tariff of that sort at all is to foster existing industries and to create new ones ; I have no use for it as a taxing machine to put money in the Treasury. I would abolish every farthing of revenue, and I regret very much that the Government has not seen its way to forego the revenue which they are raising from the sugar industry. The people engaged therein are entitled to every farthing of protection which this Parliament thinks is fair, and it thought that a protection of £6 a ton was fair when it enacted the Tariff. The men engaged in the sugar industry are entitled to every farthing of that protection. But, instead of that, the Treasury gets £1 on every ton of sugar grown by white labour and £4 on every ton of sugar grown by black labour. I hope the time will come when that will be abolished. And here let me say, notwithstanding Senator Chataway, that I agree with the Minister in pointing out that if we get an amendment of the Constitution giving us control over industrial conditions, and power to, if necessary, nationalize industries which may be oppressive or injurious to the public, there will be no need for the continuation of the bounty and Excise systems. We can wipe them out, and give to the sugar-growers that protection which we have already on the Tariff; and they will be better off then than they are at present.
– Both Senator Chataway and myself strongly recommended the growers in Queensland to come under the Wages Board. What more do you want?
– I should like to know how long we have had a Wages Board applied to the sugar industry in Queensland?
– I do not know. When it was there I recommended that the growers should come under it.
– Will the honorable senator say that a Wages Board is there now, and if it is not, how can the sugargrowers come under it?
– We advised them to come under the Wages Board when it was established.
– But it is not there yet. The honorable senator was a member of a deputation which “ barracked “ as strongly as they knew how for a wage of 3s. 9d. a day to casual labourers.
– No. I stopped the Minister when he wanted to make that misrepresentation. I shall give the history of that deputation.
– I have a report of the deputation here, and, possibly before I have finished, I may put on record a few extracts from it.
– There is nothing I am more satisfied with and proud about than that deputation.
– The honorable senator was a member of a deputation which went to the Minister to protest against a wage of 30s. per week to casual labourers engaged by the hour and paid by the hour.
– On thecontrary, a Melbourne newspaper reports me as saying that it was insufficient.
– I have here the official report of what took place, and I hope the honorable senator will not say that the official falsified it. However, that is beside the question. What we are considering now are the conditions of the sugar industry generally. I want to point out to the Senate that when we get such an amendment of the Constitution as will give this Parliament ample control over industrial conditions and industries which assume the form of oppressive monopolies, it will be able to dispense with die. bounty and Excise system, and to accomplish our object without its aid. Our aim in establishing that system was not to give an additional advantage to the sugar-growers, because it does not, but to give us control over the labour conditions in the industry, and to enable us to differentiate between sugar grown by white labour and sugar grown by coloured labour. If, by an amendment of the Constitution, we can get power to do that in a direct way, we can abolish the bounty and Excise system, and leave the sugar-grower better off than he is now, because then we should give him the full benefit of the £6 a ton. Whilst I am on this point, I might as well refer to a statement made by Senator Chataway a little while ago. He read from Hansard an extract from a speech of mine to show that I had advocated the abolition of the bounty and Excise system, and had said it would be a good thing for the sugar-grower. That is an extraordinary reading of my statement. What I said was that honorable senators would have to remember that if the sugar bounty went the Excise must go also; and I pointed out that that would be a good thing for the sugar industry, as the growers would then get £i per ton more protection than they have now. Thus, I alluded to the abolition of the Excise as a good thing ; and I say now that it would be an excellent thing. But in the same speech I pointed out - as I point out now - that, while from many points of view it might be wise to abolish such a cumbersome system for accomplishing our object as the bounty and Excise system, yet, while the conditions remain as they are, it is absolutely essential that we should keep that system going, in order to give the Commonwealth control over the labour conditions, and to insure to the growers, whom this Parliament designed primarily to protect, that they shall get at least a portion of the protection placed directly in their hands. That is exactly what I said at the time re ferred to, and what I repeat now. The statement requires neither explanation, excuse, nor apology, nor shall I make any.
– Could we not accomplish something better all round if the Commonwealth had power to take over the refining industry?
– That is one of the points which will occur for consideration when we have control over the industries of the Commonwealth, and have secured authority to nationalize monopolies. We shall then be able to deal with every condition affecting the sugar industry, including the conditions affecting the workers and the growers, and every man engaged in the various branches of it.
– Until then the honorable senator thinks the bounty is essential f
– It is essential. If we were to break off the system now, the Colonial Sugar Refining Company would rake up every Chinaman, it could find in Queensland to work its plantations. I know of a plantation belonging to the Colonial Sugar Refining Company that has none but Chinamen upon it. There is another estate known to me which, while it was under the domination of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, had nothing but Chinamen upon it. The company, as I have said, if the bounty were abolished, would rake Australia with the object of renting its lands to Chinese who would grow cane, because the Chinese are more subservient and much cheaper than white men. If we drop the bounty system, we shall have cane grown by coloured labour, instead of, as it is now, by white labour. While the growers have nothing to complain about, and while I admit that they have received complete protection from the Commonwealth Parliament, there is, nevertheless, a serious disadvantage under which they are placed, and of which, I hope, this Parliament will have power within a year or two to relieve them-that is to say, when we secure the necessary amendment of the Constitution. I allude to the fact that the grower, and pretty well every one else engaged in the sugar industry, is practically in the hands of one monopoly. I allude, of course, to the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. That company practically has control of the whole business of refining and distributing sugar in every part of Australia.
– Is the company exercising its monopoly, supposing that it has one, unfairly?
– I shall be able to prove that conclusively. That the company has a monopoly cannot be denied. There was a little opposition for a year or two, until the company bought out Poolman and Company, of Melbourne.
– Which of the two does the honorable senator think was the worse, if either was bad?
– There is but one company now, so that there is no question of better or worse. The Colonial Sugar Refining Company uses its monopoly, as I intend to prove, in a most arbitrary fashion. In addition to that, it is enabled, by reason of its monopoly, to exact for itself the lion’s share of the protection which this Parliament has afforded to the sugar industry. Moreover, in addition to its monopoly of refining and distributing, it grows a large quantity of the raw sugar produced in Australia. I shall begin by showing the difference in the prices paid to men growing sugar for the Colonial Sugar Refining Company and those paid to men growing sugar for themselves. I have before me a list of prices which were paid in the same district, in the one case by the Mulgrave Central Mill, which is a cooperative mill, run by the farmers and growers themselves, and in the other case by the Hambleton Mill, which is owned by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. Both mills are in the same district. Sometimes the cane grown for the two has only a dividing fence between the crops. Will honorable senators be astonished when I tell them that last year the Colonial Sugar Refining Company paid 14s. per ton for cane, without the bounty, whilst the Mulgrave Central Mill paid from 18s. to 21s, per ton?
– On the same dates?
– On the same dates. I am giving the average price for the whole season.
– For the same quality of cane?
– For the same quality of cane, grown on precisely the same kind of land, in precisely the same district. Moreover, the Mulgrave Central Mill paid an additional bonus of is. per ton for cane grown on the high lands, on which the return per acre is smaller, though the cane has a higher density; and it also paid is. 6d. extra per ton for cane [i653 of a particular kind. Thus the Mulgrave Central Mill paid 50 per cent, more for cane than did the Colonial Sugar Refining Company.
– In what season was. that ?
– Last year. I am,, fortunately, able to give the figures for a series of years, though last year afforded a shining example. Honorable senators mayask why the Colonial Sugar Refining Company could purchase cane for so much less.The answer is simply because more cane is; grown in the district than the Mulgrave Central Mill can crush. It cannot even crush the whole of the cane that is grown by its own shareholders. Therefore, the Colonial Sugar Refining Company has a monopoly with respect to all the cane that is grown by every one else in the whole district, and all the growers are at the mercy of the company, which can dictate its own terms. The unfortunate grower has to accept whatever the company chooses to pay. Is that a sufficient reply to Senator St. Ledger’s question as to whether the Colonial Sugar Refining Company uses its monopoly harshly and unfairly?
– I will give instances on the other side.
– I shall be glad to hear them. Going back as far as 1902, in. that year the Colonial Sugar Refining Company paid 15s. 9d. per ton for cane, whilst the Mulgrave Central Mill paid 16s. 6d. ; in 1903 the Hambleton Mill paid 15s. 10d. and the Mulgrave Mill 16s. 5d. ; in 1904 the Hambleton Mill paid 17s. 7fd., and the Mulgrave Mill 18s. 10d ; in 1905 the Hambleton Mill paid 14s. 1½d., and the Mulgrave Mill £1 os. 3d. ; in 1906 the Hambleton Mill paid 13s. 6d., and the Mulgrave Mill 15s. 2d. ; in 1907 the Hambleton Mill paid 12s. 10d., and the Mulgrave Mill 15s. 5d. ; in 1908 the Hambleton Mill paid 13s. 7£d., and the Mulgrave Mill 16s.
– The Mulgrave Central Mill is a co-operative mill, is it not?
– Yes ; and, as I have explained, the Hambleton Mill is owned by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. The Colonial Sugar Refining Company not only controls the price that it pays for the cane delivered to its own mills, but also controls the price of cane delivered to the Mulgrave Central Mill, by the fact that the price paid by the Mulgrave Central Mill is affected by the price obtained for raw sugar; and I say emphatically, and I without fear of contradiction, that if the Mul grave Central Mill got the price itought to get from the Colonial Sugar Refining Company for its raw sugar, instead of paying the growers from 18s. to£1 per ton for their cane, it could afford to pay them 25s. per ton. If a Commission of inquiry is appointed I venture to say that facts will be brought to light proving my statement up to the hilt. The mere fact that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company is the sole buyer of the. raw sugar produced enables it to dictate the price which the sugar farmersshall get for their cane, because the co-operative and private mill’s can only pay a price for cane in accordance with what they receive for their raw sugar. I should like, before leaving this part of the subject, to state that, owing to the monopoly which it possesses, the Colonial Sugar Refining Company is enabled to make enormous profits. Exactly what the profits are no one in Australia, apart from those behind the scenes in the company, is in a position to state.
– Is the company better or worse in that respect than any other great manufacturing firm?
– Does the company make all its profits out of sugar, or has it any other interests ?
– As far as I know, the company makes all its profits out of sugar. Moreover, as far as I know, it is by far the worst monopoly in Australia.
– Then there certainly ought to be an inquiry.
– Those who keep in touch with matters of importance in Australia are aware that during the past few years the company has twice watered its shares out of its accumulated profits. Two years ago it did that to no less an extent than £350,000. That is to say, it created £350,000 of new shares, making a present of them to its shareholders without cost, and adding that amount to its capitalization.
– I have known gold-mining companies to do far more than that.
– But gold-mining companies do not make their profits by squeezing all those who do business with them. The profits made by a gold-mining company are very much a matter of luck; but the profits made by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company are the result of squeezing the sugar-growers, the consumers, and every one else whom it is in a position to squeeze. This Parliament, which has taken the- sugar industry under its wing, should not allow that industry to be crushed by any private “monopoly whatever. Although the company watered its shares to no less an extent than £350,000, there is not the slightest doubt that we shall be told about the enormous amount of money that the shareholders have sunk in their industry. The apologists for the company will not tell us that, to a large extent, they have squeezed those millions out of. the people concerned in the sugar industry, and out of the consumers of Australia.
– Can the honorable senator mention the average holding of shares in the company ?
– I do not know what it is ; and it has nothing to do with the question, from my point of view.
– There is a number of small, as well as some very large; shareholders.
– That does not touch the question. If 500 small boys combine to murder a man, the result is as bad for the murdered man as if the murder was committed by one big hulking giant.
– What dividends are the company paying?
– A dividend of 10 per cent. every year, with a bonus occasionally. They have been paying enormous dividends. But no one can really tell what their profits are, because they are covered up by an undervaluation of property. After the last watering of capital, the company was capitalized to the extent of £2,850,000.On that enormous capitalization, largely consisting of water, as I have pointed out, they are expected to pay their shareholders. 10 per cent. dividends all the time. In order to do so, they must squeeze their profit out of the growers on the one hand and out of the consumers on the other. I say that it should be the duty of the Commonwealth Parliament in the case, not only of this industry, but of every other industry of national concern to Australia, and on which our future prosperity must largely depend, to step in and protect the industry and the people from the claws of a monopoly. It is no wonder that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company have been deriving enormous profits from their business. The difference between the price of raw and refined sugar in Australia is between £6 and £7 per ton, and is sometimes as high as £8 per ton. Whilst central mills and private mills- get from £10 to ,£-12 .per ton for raw sugar, the Colonial Sugar Refining Company gets from £18 to £21 per ton for refined .sugar. This leaves the refining company -a margin of from £6 to £& per ton to cover the cost of ‘refining and distribution. In the Old Country, the difference between the price of raw and refined .sugar is .about £2 per ton; and it is never more than .from £2 to £2 10s per -ton. Yet refiners in -the Old ‘Country make a handsome .profit from their .business. In the case of the operations of the private mills, we have to remember that the land has ito .be purchased in the first instance. It has to be cleared and planted ; the grower must take all risks of bad seasons, .grubs, and other pests, and fire; he has to cut the cane and cart it to the mill ; large capital must be sunk in the mill ; the cane has to be crushed and converted into raw sugar ; and while all this labour and expenditure has Ito be met by a price of from £10 10 £12 per -ton for the raw sugar, the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, for refining .the sugar and putting it upon the market, gets an additional £6 or £8 per ton. This is a species of legalized robbery which should not be tolerated in any civilized country.
– All the work referred to by the honorable senator has to be done in every country where sugar is grown by coloured labour.
– The honorable senator forgets that a large quantity of sugar is grown by white labour in other countries; though I admit that cane sugar grown elsewhere is grown by coloured labour. I have shown that from .£10 to £12 per ton :is all that the growers get for the whole of the labour and expense involved in the production of raw sugar, whilst the Colonial Sugar Refining Company get from £6 to £8 per ton for merely refining the sugar and putting it upon the market.
– The honorable senator is not allowing for the extra cost of labour in refining the sugar.
– The extra cost of labour is very little. The refining of sugar in Great Britain is carried on by white labour.
– Great ‘ Britain does not rule the prices for refining sugar.
– Senator Chataway quoted figures to show that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company do not charge excessive prices to the consumer ; and that, as a matter, nf fact, they do not take ad- vantage of the full protective duty. I say that I totally .disbelieve that statement.
– Senator Chataway did not quite say that. He guarded himself on that point.
– What did the honorable senator say?
– He said that when the price of sugar is low, the company take advantage of the duty, and that the higher the price of sugar the less the advantage they take of the duty
- Senator Chataway quoted figures to prove, as he said, that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company donot take advantage of the duty. 1 say that I totally disbelieve that statement, because I believe that those who are conducting the affairs of the company are keen business men, who do not allow the slightest commercial advantage to escape them. I believe that they get the last farthing out of the industry that it is possible for them to get ; and whether it is the consumer or producer who suffers is a matter of indifference to them.
– It is good policy to keep the goose; and Senator Chataway mentioned that.
– In this matter, it is not the Colonial Sugar Refining Company that is the goose that lays the golden eggs. The public of Australia represent the goose, and the company collars the golden eggs every time. Now, what are the facts with regard to price? Senator Chataway gave us a quotation for Tait’s special granulated sugar ; but I have nothing to do with any special article of that .kind. Honorable senators have only to look at the commercial intelligence column of the newspapers to discover the difference between the prices of local and imported sugar. During the lunch-hour, I looked at three or four newspapers in (he Library, and .1 found that raw sugar is selling in London at the present time at .£10 per ton. I find that 1st October granulated sugar is selling at £12 3s. 4d. per ton. If we assume that it would cost £2 per ton to bring that sugar to Australia, that would mean a cost °f £r4 3s- 4fl- If we add the duty of £6 per ton to that, it would bring the cost to £20 3s. 4d. What are the Colonial Sugar Refining Company charging for sugar ? They charge for their 1 A sugar £21 per ton. This shows that they are taking full advantage, as every one expected they would, and knows they do, of the protective Tariff of the Commonwealth.
– That is almost exactly what Senator Chataway said.
– No; it is not. I do not blame the Colonial Sugar Refining Company for taking advantage of our protective Tariff and selling their sugar at the highest price they can get for it. That is mere commercialism, and every one knows that commercial people everywhere take advantage of the market when they can.
– If the honorable senator and I were in the business, we should do the same.
– I grant that. We are neither saints nor philanthropists ; and I have no doubt that we should be willing to exercise our legal right to secure the highest price we could get for our product. But I say that here we are charged with looking after the interests and welfare of the people of Australia, and it is our duty to do our best to see that they are not unfairly treated or unduly fleeced. In this particular matter, I say that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, that great cormorant monopoly controlling the whole of the sugar industry of Australia, is deriving an undue advantage at the expense of the workmen and farmers engaged in growing the cane on the one hand, and of the consumers on the other hand. It is not the business of the Commonwealth Parliament to foster the interests of the huge cormorant monopoly, but of the big mass of the people who are placed at so great a disadvantage by the operations of the monopoly. ‘ The Commonwealth Parliament is practically helpless in the matter, because it is held that, under our constitutional’ limitations, we have not the power to deal with a monopoly of this kind. That is one of the reasons why the party to which I belong hope to get such an amendment of the Constitution as will enable them to effectively deal with monopolies in the interests of the people of Australia.
– If honorable senators get that power, I suppose the Colonial Sugar Refining Company is one of the first they will attack?
– I think that it ought to be. Before Senator St. Ledger entered the Senate, I succeeded in getting a motion passed unanimously by the Senate in favour of the nationalization of the industry of refining sugar.
– Unanimously ?
– Yes ; the motion was carried on the voices.
– That is “ nem. con.,” not “ unanimously.”
– I shall not split straws with the honorable senator. It is sufficient for me that there is to be found on the records of the Senate a motion in favour of the nationalization of this monopoly. I hope it will be done,, because, so far as I can see, it is the only means by which we can put the great sugar industry of Australia on such a broad, liberal, and sure foundation as to insure its prosperity for all time. ‘ There is no reason why the sugar industry should be confined to New South Wales and Queensland, as at present. I believe that an experiment is now being tried to ascertain whether it is not possible to revive the beet sugar industry in Australia. That experiment may be successful.
– Not while other things may be grown more profitably.
– I believe that other crops can be grown more profitably in Victoria. But, apart altogether from the production of beet sugar, there are still great possibilities of development for cane sugar production. There is an enormous area of country outside Queensland and New South Wales suitable for the growth of cane sugar. In the Northern Territory, there must be extensive tracts of country suitable for sugar-growing ; and I do not see why the industry should not be successfully carried on on the north-west coast of Western Australia. In my opinion, the industry will each year gravitate more and more to the tropical portions of Australia, because it is in the tropical region that the most favorable conditions exist for the profitable pursuit of the industry. In a cold climate, no matter how rich the soil, though the cane may grow well, the sugar contents are very low as compared with the sugar contents of cane grown in a warmer climate. In the Cairns district, for instance, a ton of sugar can be produced from 7 tons of cane, whilst in the southern portions of Queensland it often’ takes from jo to 15 tons of cane to produce 1 ton of sugar. This shows that the home of the sugar-cane is in the tropics; and it is in the tropical, regions that we must expect the development ot thu industry. It is one of the great industries on which we have to depend to settle our great tropical areas with people of our own race. That is one of the reasons why I urge that no effort should be spared by this Parliament to put the industry on such a sure foundation as to enable it to be successfully carried on for all time, and to induce people to engage in it with confidence. I do not intend to deal further with the general principles of the Bill. I may have something to say about the conditions of labour and wages in the industry; but I shall leave these matters to the Committee stage. I thank honorable senators for the attention they have given me ; and I hope that the facts I have been able to place before them will remove some of the misconceptions, and counteract some of the misrepresentations that have been made concerning this industry in the past.
Debate (on motion by Senator St. Ledger) adjourned.
Senate adjourned at 3.45 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 14 October 1910, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1910/19101014_senate_4_58/>.