4th Parliament · 3rd Session
The President took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Senator PEARCE (Western Australia-
Minister of Defence) [10.31]. - I desire to move, without notice, the suspension of the Standing Orders to enable me to move, this morning, the adoption of the schemes for the redistribution of the electoral divisions in Western Australia and Queensland. I presume that after I have made my speech in each case, the Senate will be prepared to allow the discussion to continue, but if any honorable senator should not desire the adoption of a scheme to be carried today, I shall offer no objection to an adjournment of the debate. With that ex planation, sir, I beg to move, without notice -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would permit of motions for the adoption of the fresh distributions of the electoral divisions of Queensland and Western Australia being moved without notice.
– This motion is, I understand, moved as a matter of urgency under standing order 443, and, therefore, there must be an absolute majority of the Senate in its favour.
– I wish to draw attention to the peculiar state of affairs which is developing in this chamber, and my remarks do not apply merely to this instance. It has become quite a regular practice that, in connexion with business of more than ordinary attractiveness or importance, we are asked to suspend the Standing Orders in order to proceed with its consideration forthwith. The Standing Orders are provided for a specific purpose, and that is to insure that the business shall be taken in an orderly manner, . so as to prevent anything in the nature of a surprise, and to enable the Senate to” discharge its proper duty of thoroughly considering, and, if necessary, discussing every proposal. I do appeal to honorable senators, including Ministers, that they ought to recognise the seriousness of the position into which we are drifting. If we are to make ourselves a useful branch of the Parliament, it will not be by perfunctorily sweeping aside the Standing Orders on the slightest provocation on every occasion, and without any demur, swallowing everything which is sent up. in this fashion. I ask the Senate to make it clear to the Government - I have no desire, and I am sure that no one on this side has a desire, to obstruct business - that this proceeding has become a little too chronic. At this comparatively early period of the session we are asked to take this course. In regard to the proposals to be submitted, I shall not object to the Minister introducing them to the Senate, but I candidly admit that I am not in the position at present to say whether or not the redistribution schemes ought to be carried through. Therefore, I shall ask, when the proper times comes, for an opportunity to continue the discussion next week.
– When I had the good fortune to sit in Opposition, I invariably opposed a proposal to suspend the Standing Orders, and I see no reason for going back upon what I considered then ought to be the established method of doing business. The Standing Orders are framed for the purpose of promoting discussion. It is not in the interests of good government that measures should be rushed through without the Senate having an opportunity of closely scrutinizing them. The Opposition certainly ought to insist upon having every opportunity of closely examining all measures. The Government, on the other hand, should be always willing to give Parliament the utmost latitude of discussion consistent with the proper carrying through of business.
– But the Minister of Defence has already announced that he will agree to an adjournment of the debate, if required.
– I could not hear what the Minister said. I do not know whether he spoke under his breath, or whether I am deaf.
– The Minister said that he is willing to allow an adjournment of the debate after he has submitted his motion.
– Why does he want a suspension of the Standing Orders?
– The honorable senator will be able to get the Hansard proofs of my speeches, and read them before Wednesday.
– Why does the Minister want a suspension of the Standing Orders ?
– In order to enable me to move the motions.
– If the honorable senator had spoken loudly enough so that I could have heard what he was saying he would have saved me a lot of trouble. The only thing I could hear was that he wanted to suspend the Standing Orders, and I. am opposed, on general principles, to hanging them up. If I were opposing a Government I should always be against a proposal of this kind, but when I am supporting a Government, sometimes I have to wink at things I disapprove of, and that is the case on the present occasion.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The information desired by the honorable senator is being obtained, and will be made available on Wednesday next.
Motion (by Senator Henderson) agreed to-
That the report from the Printing Committee presented to the Senate on the 10th October, 1912, be adopted.
– I move -
That the Senate approves of the fresh distribution of the State of Queensland into Electoral Divisions as proposed by Messrs. W. J. Gall, A. A. Spowers, and W. H. Graham, the Commissioners for the purpose of distributing the said State into Divisions, in their report dated the 22nd day of August, 1912, and laid before the Senate on 25th September, 1912; and that the names of the Divisions indicated on the map referred to in the report be adopted, with the exception that the name “ Landsborough “ be altered to read “ Lilley.”
Honorable senators will recollect that the Queensland redistribution scheme did not come before this Chamber because it was rejected in another place, and rejection by either branch of the Legislature is equivalent to rejection by both. The report, therefore, had to be returned to the Commissioners, who have now furnished another report. They say -
We desire to point out that your letter gave no indication of the grounds on which the proposed distribution was rejected by theHouse of Representatives, and, so far as we know, the only objections which were raised are contained in the speech which was delivered by the member for Herbert. Mr. Bamford’s contention was that whilst the number of electors was continually decreasing in the Kennedy Division, the number was increasing in the Herbert Division, and that the surplus from the Herbert Division should be taken from that division and placed in the Kennedy Division. He contended, further, that by means of communication and commercial interest the hinterland of Cairns was commercially united with Cairns, and inferred that, with a view to increasing the enrolment of the Kennedy Division, the Bowen and Mackay Subdivisions of the existing Herbert Division should be included in the Kennedy Division.
We have given careful consideration to the views expressed by him ; but, bearing in mind the nature of the objections which were urged against the inclusion of the subdivisions of B owen and Mackay, in the Kennedy Division, we cannot recognise that the inclusion of these subdivisions will introduce a foreign interest into the Kennedy Division, and detach a portion of the sugar-growing lands from the coastal division of Herbert, with which they have community of interests. We have unanimously agreed that the only alterations of the Herbert Division which we would feel justified in proposing, are the exclusion from that division of part of the Dalrymple Subdivision, in which the interest is largely mining, and the inclusion of it in the proposed Kennedy Division, and the exclusion of the Nebo Subdivision and its inclusion in the Capricornia Division.
The objection regarding the small enrolment of Kennedy, however, can be remedied, and in this connexion we propose the following alterations in the scheme, namely : -
The inclusion in the Kennedy Division of a part of the Dalrymple Subdivision before referred to, which contains fifty electorates.
The exclusion from the proposed Capricornia Division, and inclusion in the Kennedy Division, of the Longreach Subdivisions, and a part of the Muttaburra Subdivision, containing 2,547 and 791 electors respectively.
We propose to make further alterations, which will affect the proposed division of Capricornia and Maranoa, as follows : - The exclusion from the proposed Herbert Division and inclusion in the Capricornia Division of the subdivision of Nebo, which contains 228 electors.
The exclusion from the proposed Capricornia Division and inclusion in the Maranoa Division of the subdivisions of Barcaldine North, Aramac, and that part of the Alpha Subdivision which is contained in the State electorate of Mitchell, and which contains 174, 302, and 80 electors respectively.
The enrolment in the divisions which have been altered will now be as follows : - Herbert, 33,086, as against 33,364, formerly proposed; Kennedy, 30,565, as against 27,177, formerly proposed; Capricornia, 31,115, as against 34,781, formerly proposed ; Maranoa, 27,646, as against 27,090, formerly proposed.
A statement showing the number of electors in each of these before-mentioned divisions, together with details, technical descriptions of the boundaries of such divisions, is appended.
The question of amending the boundaries of the remaining proposed divisions was carefully considered, but being of opinion that the divisions, as already proposed, cannot be improved upon, we decided to adhere to the original distribution.
It will be seen that the alteration which has been made is one which provides for a more equal distribution of the electors in the various divisions than did the first redistribution scheme. TheGovernment feel in this case, as in the first instance, that it is their duty to uphold the recommendations of the Commissioners, and, therefore, I move the motion.
Debate (on motion by Senator Millen), adjourned.
– I move -
That the Senate approves of the fresh distribution of the State of Western Australia into Electoral Divisions as proposed by Messrs. A. Green, H. F. Johnston, and A. W. Piesse, the Commissioners for the purpose of distributing the said State into Divisions, in their report dated the 28th day of August, 1912, and laid before the Senate on 25th September, 1912 ; and that the Divisions referred to in the report and indicated on the map as A, B, C, D, and E, be named as follows : -
The alterations which have been made in this case are of a lesser character than are those which have been made in the case of the electoral divisions of Queensland. They practically affect only two electorates to any considerable degree, namely, those of Dampier and Swan. The boundaries of the other electorates will be altered only in a very minor degree. The report of the Commissioners, so far as it is pertinent to the issue, reads -
Section 16 of the Act provides that the Commissioners, when distributing the State into electorates, may, as far as the number of electors for each division is concerned, adopt a margin of allowance to be used whenever necessary ; but in no case must the quota be departed from to a greater extent than one-fifth more or one-fifth less. The total enrolment as on 19th December last on the Commonwealth Electoral Rolls for the State of Western Australia amounts to151,953, and the quota of electors under the provisions of section 15 of the Act is 30,391 for each of the five electoral divisions of the State. The proposed distribution must, therefore, conform to the following figures : -
Limit of variation from quota - 6,078.
Maximum enrolment permissible in any division - 36,469.
Minimum enrolment permissible in any division - 24,313.
They then give the figures with which they have been supplied by the Commonwealth electoral officer, which show that there was a total enrolment for 1911 of 151,953. In paragraph 5 of the report they say -
After due consideration, we recommend a fresh distribution of the State of Western Australia into electoral divisions, as shown on the accompanying map, and as more fully described in the technical descriptions of the boundaries of the proposed new divisions, as per appendix B herewith : -
Appendix A is a statement showing as nearly as can be ascertained the number of electors residing in each proposed electoral division of the State of Western Australia. The numbers are as follow : - Division A : 30,358, or 33 below the quota; Division B : 29,617, or 774 below the quota; Division C : 30,408, or 17 above the quota; DivisionD: 31,103, or 712 above the quota ; Division E : 30,467, or 76 above the quota. It will thus be seen that the total margin between the largest and smallest electorate under this new redistribution is only 1,400, so that practically the divisions are almost equal from the stand-point of voting strength. It is proposed to alter the Perth Division by leaving out part of the subdivisions of North Perth and Subiaco, and it is proposed to alter Division B by adding to it part of the subdivision of North Perth and the subdivision of Subiaco, and to add to the Swan Division the subdivision of Murray. In the Swan Division it is proposed to take out the subdivisions of Murray, Irwin, Northam, Swan, Toodyay, and York. To the Kalgoorlie Division it is proposed to add part of the subdivision of Murchison, and the subdivisions of Coolgardie, Menzies, Mr Leonora, Mr Margaret, and Yilgarn. To proposed Division E, Dampier, the Commissioners propose to addthe subdivisions of Irwin, Northam, Swan, Toodyay, and York. It will be seen, therefore, that the Commissioners have practically taken notice of the objections which were raised to the previous redistribution, and have included the State electorates of Cue and Mr Magnet in the Dampier Division. In these circumstances I ask the Senate to agree to the motion at once unless some objection is to be urged to it.
Debate (on motion by Senator Millen) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 27th September (vide page 3582), on motion by Senator Findley -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
– It is rather difficult, considering that this Bill was introduced a fortnight ago, and that after commencing to speak on that occasion I obtained, leave to continue my speech, to take up the thread of the argument where I dropped it. I see from Hansard, however, that I had reached the stage where I said that it would be interesting if we could look over the departmental papers tabled in the Library in connexion with this matter. The Minister of Trade and Customs acted on reports made to him which do not appear amongst the papers. He called for reports from his officers in the different sugar districts of Queensland and New South Wales as to what wages were being paid. Reports came from the officers. The information was tabulated, showing that cane-cutters were paid so much, ploughmen so much, general field hands so much, and so forth. Eventually the papers show a minute by the Minister asking that an average should be struck for the whole of the districts, excluding the southern district. Why the southern district should be excluded I do not know. An average was struck according to these instructions, showing that the wages averaged so much for cane-cutters, so much for ploughmen, so much for field hands, and so forth. Then we come to an extraordinary circumstance. The papers contain a typewritten foolscap document upon which we find ploughmen, chippers, and other designations of workers struck out, and the word “cane-cutters” altered to “adult labour.” The average for cane-cutters was increased by a certain amount per week. Apparently the writing on the document is that of Mr. Lockyer, the secretary of the Department; but I take it that he did not make the alterations without instructions from the Minister. The result was that an average of the whole wages paid was set down at something a little higher than is paid at the present time.
– What is the average?
– It works out at £2 4s. per week; but either the Minister or his officials added another 4s., making £2 8s. per week.
– Does the honorable senator object to the amount, or to the manner of fixing it?
– I object to the way of doing it. I have no objection to paying cane-cutters £2 8s. a week. Their services are well worth it, and probably most of the men on contract work are earning a little more than that. But let us turn to the rates of wages paid in agricultural districts in the State of Victoria. I take the figures from the Victorian YearBook. It shows that ploughmen receive from 20s. to 30s. per week, prevailing rate, 22s. 6d. ; farm labourers, from 15s. to 30s. per week, prevailing rate, 20s. per week; threshing machine hands, 6d. to is. per hour, prevailing rate, 8d. per hour ; harvest hands, 5s. to 8s. per day, prevailing rate, 6s. ; milkers, 12s. to 20s. per week, prevailing rate, 15s. per week; generally useful, 15s. to 30s. per week, prevailing rate, 20s. per week; market gardeners, 17s. 6d. to 35s. per week, prevailing rate, 20s. per week; orchard gardeners, 15s. to 30s. per week, prevailing rate, 20s. per week.
– Are those rates with rations ?
– Yes ; and in Queensland they estimate 12s. per week for food. Lodging is also thrown in.
– Mighty poor lodging at that.
– Lodging has to be provided under a law passed at the instance of Mr. Kidston. There is in operation a Sugar Workers Accommodation Act, and no one who is acquainted with the facts will say that sugar workers are now badly housed.
– I know that in many cases they are housed so disgracefully that there is certainly no room for compliment about the accommodation.
– In Queensland?
– In every one of the States.
– That remark may be true in connexion with the dairying business in some instances. It may also be true that a few small farmers in Queensland do not house their men properly. But certainly the cane-growers who employ a considerable number of men have to house them according to the Act of Parliament.There are inspectors who go round examining and reporting upon the working of the Sugar Workers Accommodation Act. I admit that about eight years ago, when the Act was passed, the inspectors did report in several cases that the accommodation was bad. But we are not legislating for what happened eight or nine years ago. We have to take the position as it exists today. In the departmental documents to which I have been referring no effort is made to arrive at what might be considered a fair average rate. Our Bounty Act provides that wages must be paid according to the standard rates in the localities affected. We used to have the word “ district,” but it was altered to “ locality.” I believe the alteration was made in deference to representations made by me and several of my colleagues to Mr. Austin Chapman in 1907. We objected to striking a rate which applied to over a thousand miles of coast line from south to north. But an alteration has now been made by a stroke of the pen, in the face of the reports of the officers. Chippers, who work with the hoe, hoeing weeds, are averaged in the same manner as cane-cutters.
– Hoeing is hard work. I have done a bit of it.
– My honorable friend never hoed in a cultivation paddock. He was simply cutting Bathurst burr, of which his State is full.
– I never hoed Bathurst burr in my life.
– The Minister has departed from the reports of his officers and raised every one’s wages from cane-cutters to field labourers, to the highest rate. All are set down at £2 8s. per week.. That is not what was asked for by the Workers Union. A conference was held in Brisbane in 1911. It arose out of the strike. That it was a fairly representative conference is shown by the fact that something like fourteen unions were represented. They came to a decision to the effect that the fixing of the rates of wages in the. various fields should be settled in the different districts by arrangements amongst the employers and employes. I have been fortunate enough to obtain access to the official report of the conference. It is not a published document. I find from page 29 of the report that Mr. Theodore, one of the delegates, who is Deputy Leader of the Labour party in Queensland, said -
If there was a danger of difficulty arising, why should they not make it more simple by making it a minimum wage of 30s. per week in mills and fields?
Mr. Coyne said
That the minimum wage of 30s. per week and found be the terms of employment in the mill.
That was eventually agreed to. Mr. Morris said -
It was a fair thing. Two or three years ago, when he was at Cairns, he had a trip to Mulgrave mill, and the manager there wanted to impress upon him that they were not only willing to give 30s. per week and found, but were also willing to give the men house rent free, and give them a little plot of ground to grow a little sugar on, in order to obtain good men. He (Mr. Morris) had said that if they :gave those conditions they ought to get most excellent workers - men whom the mills and fields could put reliance on.
– What is wrong about that ?
– The point is that the Minister is endeavoring to get behind what was agreed upon at the Brisbane conference, where 30s. per week and found was regarded as a fair thing. The late Mr. Batchelor himself agreed to men being brought into the country under contract from the United Kingdom, at a wage of 25s. per week. On page 37 it will be found that Mr. Theodore said -
The matter of fixing the whole wages as applying to the slack season was somewhat of a district matter, but the fact of fixing a minimum wage had not been regarded as a district matter.
Finally, at page 42; I find that Mr. Hinchcliffe, who is a member of the Legislative Council of Queensland, and is possibly well known to honorable senators as the secretary of the Australian Labour Federation, said -
The men asked for 30s. a week and found, and they were not asking for anything unreasonable.
Clause 4 of the agreement provides -
That it be a recommendation that the employers and employes in the various districts meet, and endeavour to arrange a mutually satisfactory agreement for next season, the same to be as far as possible uniform throughout the sugar areas.
That was signed, on behalf of the Government mills, by W,. H. Barnes, the Treasurer of Queensland ; on behalf of the Australian Sugar Producers Association, by the president, T. W. Crawford, and the secretary, G. H. Pritchard; by the chairman of the Inter- State Conference, J. Harry Coyne - the gentleman who had charge of another strike we know of - for the Federated Seamen’s Union, by Arthur H. Gibson; for the Federated Waterside Workers Union, by J. Morris; for the Merchant Service Guild and the Institute of Marine Engineers, by Tom G. Johnson; for the Federated Lorrymen and Carters Union, by Douglas Kingston; for the Amalgamated Workers Association, by Edward Theodore; for the Australian Labour Federation, by Albert Hinchcliffe; the secretary of the Inter-State Conference, Arthur Cooper; for the United Storemen” and Packers Union, by W. Bertram ; and for the Queensland Railway Employes Association, by J. H. Sherry. These signatures were witnessed by J. S. Gibson, whom I do not know. This shows that, as the outcome of .a strike, a conference was held by various delegates, at which the representatives of fourteen unions met. They, came to certain conclusions, and, while they did not fix the rates of wages in the field at the time, they passed a resolution in favour of arrangements being made between employers and employes as to the rates which should be regarded as fair and reasonable. The sugar-producers have tried to get the business on a satisfactory footing, and to carry out the agreement in the spirit as well as in the letter. They have agitated throughout for the establishment of Wages Boards. I went up to Brisbane from Melbourne for the sole purpose of addressing a meeting of representatives of the sugarproducers, in order to persuade them to adopt the Wages Boards system.
– And they carried a resolution to that effect afterwards.
– It was carried at that meeting. To make matters clear to honorable senators, I should say that it is impossible to arrange an agreement between employers and employes in the sugar industry until just before the busy season begins. At other times during the year the employes are scattered all over the country as the bulk of the field workers are migratory. What happened next? Representatives of both parties at Mulgrave, Aloombah, and Hambledon, the principal places in the Cairns district, met and agreed as to what should be considered fair rates of wages. At the Johnstone and at Mourilyan, also, rates of wages were agreed upon and fixed. I believe that the Mackay people also met, and on the Burdekin steps were being taken to fix wages when the Minister of Trade and Customs came down bang with his regulations, and all negotiations were broken off. The result has been that what might have been a peaceful settlement of differences has been prevented by the ukase issued by the Department. A curious ukase it is, when we remember that it is admitted that the Department have no power to enforce it.
– As Parliament fixes the bounty, why should it not also fix the conditions ?
– If the honorable senator will ask the High Court, the Justices will probably tell him. I cannot repeat for him the whole of the decision in the Harvester case.
– One answer is that Senator Rae knows nothing about the sugar industry.
– That has nothing to do with it.
– Yes, it has, because the honorable senator is a member of the Parliament.
– The Federal Government have wilfully interfered in this matter. The moment the regulations were issued protests began to come in from all parts of Queensland. I have received no less than thirty telegrams, letters, and resolutions from Ballina, in New South Wales, to the Mossman, in Queensland, protesting against the action of the Minister of Trade and Customs in, just as the sugar season was starting, altering the rates of wages, or refusing to pay bounty unless the rates he fixed were paid.
– Did the protests come from the workers?
– From the people who will have to pay the wages, naturally. One would not expect them to come from those who are to get the wages. The next thing that happened was that the Treasurer of Queensland, who is at present interested to the extent of .£350,000 in the industry, and also, I think, the Attorney-General of the State, came down here and interviewed the Government. Other deputations also came to Melbourne from as far north as Cairns and the Mossman. They did not come down for the benefit of their health, but to enter their protests. The Prime Minister, according to a letter tabled in the Queensland Parliament, and subsequently in the House of Representatives, was willing to meet the case, and made a certain suggestion. He suggested practically that the Government would be prepared to do away with Excise and bounty altogether if the Queensland Parliament would agree to provide for Wages Boards in the sugar districts, and to pass a law to prevent the employment of coloured labour in any shape or form in connexion with the industry. We have seen a copy of the reply from the Premier of Queensland, Mr. Denham. He said that the Government would provide Wages Boards, and would pass a measure to the effect that no coloured labour in any shape or form should be employed in the industry in future. He went further and said that if there were coloured people in the industry they would be compensated in order to get them out of it.
– The Queensland Government have not done so.
– They have done as much as they could possibly do. The honorable senator has only to look at the Industrial Peace Bill which is before the Queensland ‘Parliament. I admit that in the schedule to that Bill there was a provision exempting all rural industries. I went up to Brisbane and had an interview with the State Premier and a number of representatives of rural districts. Whether what I said had anything to do with the matter or not, I am not prepared to say, but I know that the Government accepted an amendment striking out the provision excluding the sugar industry from the advantages of the Industrial Boards to be established under the Bill.
– The Minister of Defence hints that the Premier of Queensland will not make his words good. He would not care to be treated in that way himself.
– I did not hint anything. I say that the Queensland Government have not introduced the legislation.
– The provision for Wages Boards is the most important matter, and that has been included in a Bill which has passed the Legislative Assembly, and has at least passed its second leading in the Legislative Council of Queensland.
-Does that Wages Board provision meet with the approval of the representatives of the workers?
– D id anything ever introduced by a Liberal Government meet with the approval of the Conservative Labour man? No, never. I admit that at once. Mr. Denham’s reply to the Prime Minister was tabled in the House of Representatives. I was in the gallery of the House at the time, and Mr. Fisher had not resumed his seat before the Minister of Trade and Customs was on his feet giving notice of his motion for leave to introduce this Bill to amend the Sugar Bounty Act. The two things would probably have been done simultaneously if that had been possible. What was the reason for the introduction of the new Bill at such a time? The Government did not give the Parliament of Queensland five minutes to carry out the promise of the State Premier. So far as it could be carried out up to the present, it has been carried out. It is quite clear that this Bill has been rushed forward when it is not required. It has been said that if the Excise and bounty are abolished, the grower, who has to pay the wages, will get any accruing advantage. I have here a blank form of agreement used by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. They make agreements for three years, and this one dates back about two years from the present time. The company provide in one of the schedules for various systems for the payment for cane at the will of the grower. I quote the following fromthe form of agreement - .
If the existing import duty of £6 per ton be retained and the Excise duty be reduced by £1 6s. 8d. per ton in each of the years 1911, 1912, and 1913, there will be paid on delivery, in addition to payments provided in schemes A andB, in 1911,1912, and 1913 respectively, in No. 1 District,3s.4d., 6s. 8d., and 10s.; in No. 2 District, 3s.1d., 6s.2d., and 9s. 3d.; in No. 3 District,2s.101/2d., 5s.9d., and 8s.71/2d.
– Are these extra amounts?
– Yes. The prices vary for the different districts, because of the different qualities of cane. The Premier of Queensland authorized Mr. E. Swayne, a member of the Queensland Parliament, to make the following statement -
That if bounty and Excise were abolished by the Commonwealth he would introduce legisla tion this session insuring direct payment to the grower of a sum equivalent to the bounty they now receive from the Customs.
– What about the extra £1 per ton ?
– I think they ought to get that, but I am quoting only the statement authorized by the Premier of Queensland. The manufacturers’ unions at Bundaberg and Mackay have agreed that the whole of the Excise shall be paid over to the farmers for their cane. In 1909 a document was signed by every mill in Queensland, undertaking to always return to the farmers any reduction in the Excise. The Excise, of course, is of no use to the millers, and it might as well go direct to the farmers through the millers as through the Customs, where £1 per ton is taken off, and then back to the farmers again. There is one other point to which I want to draw particular attention, and that is the way in which we are attempting to legislate entirely against the wishes and the desires of the workers themselves. It has been said that the reason why the Government had to interfere was because the Australian Sugar Producers Association refused to meet the workers in any way, and the last sugar strike was said to be undertaken on the same ground. I propose to read some correspondence, because it is important that honorable senators should understand that after all the Australian Sugar Producers Association is not a vile thing that refuses to meet the workers, and that a great many of its opinions have been distorted. The first letter in the correspondence reads as follows: -
Amalgamated Workers Association or Queens land : Executive Council Affiliated with the A.L.F.
Chillagoe, 1st February, 1911.
H. Pritchard, Esq., Secretary to Australian Sugar Producers Association, Brisbane.
Dear sir, - The various industrial unions which were previously operating among the sugar workers in Queensland have amalgamated under the Amalgamated Workers Association of Queensland, and I have been instructed by the Executive of that Association to approach your Association with a view to arranging a conference for the purpose of discussing and arranging the various ratesand conditions of employment as applied to the sugar industry in Queensland.
The Cane Growers Union, Colonial Sugar Refining Co., and the various other millers, have also been approached on the matter, and we would be pleased if your Executive will consider this important question as early as possible.
Thanking you in anticipation for a favorable reply. Yours faithfully,
General Secretary, A.W.A.
This is the reply to Mr. McCormack from Mr. Pritchard. 17th February, 191 1.
W McCormack, Esq., General Secretary, Amalgamated Workers Association of Queensland, Chillagoe.
Dear Sir, - I have to acknowledge the receipt of your letter, dated1st inst., and in reply, to say that my Executive do not see that any good purpose would be served by a conference between our associations, for the reason that the question of wages and conditions of employment must be regarded as a “ district “ one, on account of each district having its own peculiarities, and, in consequence, disparity of remuneration, particularly, for instance, in the price paid for the cutting of cane. We have been accustomed to allow matters of this sort to be settled by our District Associations with the men whom they employ, and no good reason has been advanced to depart from this course.
This is written on the 17th February, 191 1, so that the Wages Board business is no death-bed repentance.
Furthermore, it is the policy of our Association to encourage the creation of special Wages Boards in the various districts, and this appears to us to be the logical development of the attitude we have adopted in the past. Moreover, pending the result of the Referenda, it would seem premature to discuss the subject-matter of your letter.
Here is an interesting circular which was issued and which shows that the Australian Sugar Producers Association as an association was certainly wise in not rushing too quickly into a conference.
The question of rates for cane cutting has not been mentioned in the demands, and will be a matter for each district to decide upon locally.
This is written by a Labour man be it remembered.
– Mr. McCormack, general secretary for the Amalgamated Workers Association. The circular continues -
The same applies to skilled labour in the mills. We have fixed a minimum wage for the labourer, and all other classes of labour will be rated accordingly. When the minimum has been fixed all other wages can be based from tint amount upwards.
I would like all branch secretaries and district secretaries in the sugar district to reply to this circular, and to send any and every information that may be of use to us concerning detail matter in their particular district.
It was also decided to ask the branch or district secretary in each sugar district to submit the demands contained in the Other circular to all the employers in their respective districts, and if any replies are received, to immediately acquaint the Executive as to the nature thereof.
When all arrangements have been concluded, and immediately atthe start of the crushing season, the Executive Council will officially ask all work to cease until such time as the employers agree to meet us and discuss our demands. It is our intention that no work be commenced in connexion with the coming crushing season, and we ask all officials to work to that end.
All the southern papers will be communicated with, and we will try and warn all classes of labour to keep away from the sugar-fields until we have arranged a settlement.
General Secretary, A.W.A.
All this goes to show that the workers themselves realize that there is so much difference in the various districts that the only proper way is to settle a dispute locally. The State Government’s Bill providing for the. establishment of Wages Boards is probably through by this time. In the face of the Queensland Premier’s promise to introduce Wages Boards itwas an insult to his Government that the very second Mr. Fisher tabled Mr. Denham’s letter in the other House the Minister of Trade and Customs should introduce a Bill which practically ignored that promise.
– Do you say that it was introduced because of that?
– I did hear an excuse put forward as to why it was introduced. It was said that Mr. Tudor explained that he had the Bill ready long ago.
– The very fact that the Bill was introduced at the same time as the message was read shows that it was ready.
– Yes, but I should like to know whether the Minister of Defence will not admit that his Department, like every other Department, has a pigeon-hole chock full with Bills ready to be presented. Because a Bill is drafted that does not mean that it will be introduced. It appears to me that there has been no Cabinet consideration of the matter. Mr. Fisher expressed one set of opinions ; Mr. Tudor expressed another set, and apparently there is no Cabinet solidarity in this matter. I do not believe that the Government, as a Government, have ever given the matter the slightest consideration. Each Minister appears to be playing off his own bat.
– What is the difference of opinion?
- Mr. Fisher has stated that if he can make sure that coloured labour will not get back into the sugar industry and also that the grower will get the full benefit, he is prepared to dp away with the Excise and the bounty, while Mr. Tudor has said, “ Do away with the Excise and the bounty ! Why, we shall lose our control of the industry.”
– They were dealing with two separate questions at different times.
– They were dealing with the abolition of the Excise and the bounty. Hansard records the statements which were made.
– Under different conditions.
– The Prime Minister and the Minister of Trade and Customs do not agree. If you go and ask Mr. Tudor whether matters are to be arranged this way or that way, he will say, “ I do not know.”
– Four years ago you were the strongest advocate for the appointment of a Royal Commission on behalf of the sugar industry, but now your friends in the industry refuse to answer questions which the Royal Commission puts to them.
– Because I urged the appointment of a Royal Commission, I am not to be responsible because some contumacious person will not answer questions. I am hardly to be held responsible because Sir Normand MacLaurin did not turn up in Sydney to attend the Commission.
– Order! I hope that the honorable senator will not discuss that aspect of the question.
– My main objection to this Bill is that it is putting one more little cog into the machinery. It does not appear to be necessary, but seems to be anticipating the report of the Royal Commission, and the decision of the High Court on an appeal which is likely to be made before very long. It certainly does not show any faith in the promise made by the Queensland Government. I think it is a matter for regret that the Federal Government rushed the Bill in suddenly as they did after they got that promise, then held it up for a fortnight in the Senate, and finally gave us little or no real justification as to what the meaning of it is. The speech which was made by the Honorary
Minister in introducing the measure here shows that he, at any rate, knew nothing, about the subject, and ‘t looked as if he did not care very much about it. He knew that he had a majority behind him; he brought in the Bill, made a speech lasting fifteen or twenty minutes, threw the Bill upon the table, and told us to worry it if we liked.
– I do not think that a person needs to be an expert in the production of sugar to understand this Bill. I make bold to say that, on its very face, it is one of the best measures which have been introduced here for some time. I am very glad, indeed, that it has been introduced, because any Federal Labour man who would depend upon any action by the Queensland Government would be a bit of a fool, and false to his trust. To expect the Queensland Government, with the majority they have at present, to do anything in the interests of the workers would be a vain hope indeed. The mere fact that they have introduced some kind of an industrial arbitration measure, or whatever it may be termed, should not mislead any person. While I have not read their Bill, I have read some of the newspaper reports of the debates thereon. It is a measure of a most reactionary and retrogressive character, for it seeks to take away many of the rights which the workers have, instead of conferring more upon them. I was in Northern Queensland at the time of the sugar strike, and had the pleasure of addressing a few meetings of strikers, and meeting a good many of the leaders, including, Mr. Theodore, Mr. McCormack, and others, and, therefore, I knew a little about their demands. The statement that they agreed, and even advocated, that wages should be fixed according to the varying conditions of different localities, may be true ; but Senator Chataway, in pleading to his brief from the Australian Sugar Producers Association, quite omitted to state that all along they wanted a minimum, anyhow. While they might think that it was worth more to do the labour in one district than in another district, yet, in every sugar growing district they wished that a minimum, at any rate, should be fixed. As regards the statement that they were prepared to accept a 30s. minimum as a step in the interest of peace, they would rather take that than put up .a long battle for more when the average was then less. In other rural industries wages have gone up considerably since the time of the sugar strike.
– Senator Chataway read the wages in Victoria.
– Victoria has, unfortunately, been a low-wage State. But I would point out that, instead of having to depend upon local Wages Boards, we have the advantage of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court to deal with matters, and under a recent decision of the Court, which applies to Victoria as well as other States, the wages of labourers on stations at shearing time - or rouseabouts, as they are called - have been raised to 37s. 6d. per week. Whilst there is no such thing, perhaps, as absolutely unskilled labour, comparatively unskilled - and this applies not merely to one State, but to all the States - comes under the jurisdiction of the award. Then in regard to Tasmania, which, owing to technicalities, was ruled out of court in regard to that award, the local people, by the power of their organization, have compelled the squatters to give 37s. 6d. a week.
– N - Not before it was time, either.
– Senator O’Keefe will agree with me that three or four years ago, when the union was started in Tasmania, wages were as low as 15s. per week. Indeed, I know of cases in which rouseabout lads were actually working for 6s. per week and their food. The average wages of the men at that time ranged from 12s. to 15s. per week. They have now risen to 37s. 6d. per week.
– I - If it had not been for the Australian Workers Union none of those rural workers would have been in a better position to-day.
– Exactly. Seeing that this Parliament has to find the money with which to pay the sugar bounty, it should have the right to dictate the terms upon which that bounty shall be paid. The Bill provides that, if the Minister of Trade and Customs decides that the rates of wages paid by any grower are below the standard rates prescribed by any Commonwealth or State industrial authority, he may withhold the whole or any part of the bounty. So that Commonwealth and State industrial tribunals first have an opportunity of declaring what are fair rates of wages and conditions of employment. Where no industrial tribunal has given a decision upon these matters, the Bill authorizes the Minister to determine them according to the conditions which prevail in a particular district or in similar country. Only those who hold a brief for the sugar-growers can reasonably object to the Minister fixing the payment of a very much higher wage in the industry than was accepted by the men as a compromise before the termination of the strike in 1910. Surely it is worth more to work in the sugar-fields in the semi-tropical climate of Queensland than it is to perform ordinary shed work on the pastoral stations throughout the Commonwealth, where a wage of 37s. 6d. per week has been adopted. Any man who would go to these semi-tropical areas to work for less wages than those which obtain in the more temperate parts of Australia would not be worth his salt. I trust that the Bill will be carried, and that the Minister of Trade and Customs will see that a very much higher wage is paid in the industry than was accepted by the workers as the result of a compromise with the sugar-growers immediately prior to the termination of the strike in 19 10.
– In discussing this Bill we have two things to bear in mind. I am not like Senator Rae - an advocate of the rights of only one side. Honorable senators opposite who laugh are now adopting the attitude which is usually adopted by their followers at public meetings. I have a right to make the remark which I did.
– And we have the right to laugh.
– I do not know about. that. In the other branch of the Legislature I note that a Ministerial supporter objected to a member of the Opposition laughing. I repeat that we have to consider both sides of this question. We must all admit that the man on the land is. a worker.
– He is, sometimes.
– The small farmer, who spends all his money in taking up land, clearing it, and endeavouring to make a. home upon it for his wife and family, is. one of the best workers in the Commonwealth. He is an individual who labours all the year round.
– Senator Rae wished the honorable senator to make an exception in his favour.
– He does not constitute the exception. He receives £600 a year for doing work on his farm. I do not object to paying a fair wage to any man engaged in the sugar industry. But if we persist in fixing a higher wage than the industry can afford to pay, it necessarily follows that the industry will be crushed out of existence. I can identify most of the signatures to the letter which the growers have forwarded to the Colonial Sugar Refining Company regarding their inability to carry out their contracts. Who is the better judge of what the industry can pay - the employers and the men who are engaged in it, or the Minister of Trade and Customs? As a matter of fact, the Minister of Trade and Customs knows nothing whatever about it. These men have declared that the industry can pay a certain wage. But although the minimum in the agreement which was arrived at between the sugar-growers and the representatives of the unions is set down at 50s. per week, the Minister of Trade and Customs has said, in effect, “ I have a better knowledge of this matter than you have. I am an autocrat.”
– That rate was fixed eighteen months ago.
– And the industry is in a worse condition to-day than it was then. In spite of the knowledge which these men brought to bear upon the matter, the Minister has thrown the whole industry into confusion. By his act he prevented thousands of acres from being planted this year with sugar-cane. During the crushing season it is true that a good man can always command a good wage. At that particular period good men can earn from 15s. to £1 per day, although the minimum wage may be only 8s. per day. But the Minister has decreed that the industry shall pay that minimum the whole year round. Unless 8s. per day is paid without food and accommodation, or 6s. per day with food and accommodation, the grower cannot participate in the bounty.
– The Bill does not say that.
– That is the order which has been issued by the Minister, and which is still in force.
– If the growers think it is too much, they may appeal to the Arbitration Court.
– Are they to be compelled to spend thousands of pounds in order to upset the decision of the Minister ? If that is the way in which the laws of the country are to be administered, I am indeed sorry for the country.
– The wages fixed may be too low.
– I do not object to as high wages being paid as the industry will stand. My point is that the employes declared that 30s. per week, with food, was a fair wage. The Minister of Trade and Customs has since decreed that the wage shall be 36s. per week. During thecrushing season I know that a still higher wage is paid. I am sure that if Senator Lynch went on to a cane plantation during; the crushing season, he would make more than ros. or 12s. per day. But the order of the Minister is that the minimum wage shall be paid all the year round.
– Would the honorable senator like to work for less?
– I do not cavil at 8s. per day if the industry can afford to pay it. But if honorable senators opposite wish to wipe out the sugar industry, why not say so?
– The men agreed to accept 30s. per week as a compromise, but they did not regard it as a fair rate. They got the most they could under the circumstances.
– That is not the question. The question is whether the industry can pay these rates. I do not object to 8s. or 10s. a day being paid if the industry can afford it. But I maintain that instead of taking a one-sided view we must look at the matter as a whole. We must consider whether the industry can bear the cost. Those best able to judge say that it cannot. I know of land formerly under cane cultivation that has been put under grass. One man told me that he was not going to put in one stick of cane, because it did not pay him.
– When I was at the Proserpine people were taking up land for sugar cultivation there.
– I was at the Proserpine for a month, and went about amongst the people. I know many of them well. Some were formerly miners at Charters Towers. They are good working men. Some of them told me that for the last five years they have not been able to make enough to extend their operations. They have put all their money into their land and built homes. Some of them paid about £8 an acre for their land. That is not considered very high. A man can go there with a small amount of money, get a piece of land on a purchasing lease, and in a certain number of years the property will be his own.
– A sweating lease.
– A poor man who wants to get land has to make the best terras he can. I do not think that these terms are so very high, seeing that at the end of ten years the man becomes the owner of the property. I will admit that there are some sweaters, but they are the exception. 1 intend to read to the Senate a memorandum, addressed by growers of sugar-cane to the manager of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company’s mill at Hambledon. It contains some interesting information -
To the Manager,
S. R. Company Limited, Hambledon.
Sir, - We, the undersigned suppliers to
Hambledon Mill, regret to inform you that we are unable to carry out our agreements with the company so far as planting and cultivating the full amount of the areas which we have respectively contracted for.
The constant increase in the general costs of production, and all round, over which we have no control, without any corresponding increase in the price we receive for our cane, had already brought the margin of profit to a bare minimum, and now the recent regulations imposed on us without notice by the Minister of Customs have still further added to our working expenses.
Moreover, we do not now feel secure with regard to the administration of the Bounty and Excise Acts in the future. If we plant our land this year, it seems quite probable, judging from the recent Customs Regulations, which were to some extent retrospective, that when we are on the eve of harvesting the crops from such planting next year, some new conditions, either in the form of regulations or an award, may suddenly be imposed on us, which would discount our previous expenditure, and upset all our calculations.
We do not want to give up the industry, which is our livelihood, nar to leave the farms where we have made our homes, so we have decided that the best course for the present is to “ mark time,” and to limit our expenditure to the utmost by employing as little labour as possible. We propose, therefore, to clean up our farms as best we can after the present crops are off, and after that to plant only such areas as the grower can manage with his own labour and that of his family, with the assistance in the case of the large farms, of only one, or perhaps two, permanent employes.
Until we have some definite assurance both of better prices for the cane we grow, and of better security, in our position from the Federal Government, we cannot see any other course open to us. It is in fact for many the only possible course. It will enable us, at any rate, to hold on to our farms for a time in the hope (hat conditions will be so improved in the near future as to enable us to again plant up the areas we have contracted for, and to carry on our business as before.
We notify you of our intentions now so that you may be prepared for a short crop in 1913, and (unless the present outlook changes considerably) for a very considerable shortage in 1914.
The areas which will actually be planted under this limited scale of work cannot be estimated just at present, as most of us are departing from the plans we laid down for the working of our farms. Generally speaking, the paddock which would have been ploughed out this year and replanted will now be ratooned instead. Paddocks in an advanced state of preparation for planting will probably be finished more or less. In cases where preliminary work for planting had been undertaken this has mostly been abandoned.
We attach a schedule showing the areas which we intended to and would have planted under our agreements if conditions had been reasonably favorable to us.
We quite recognise on our side the necessity for the mill being fully supplied with cane, and we are aware that short crushings will be to our own immediate disadvantage, apart from the actual loss in wages and to the district generally ; but so far as we are concerned we cannot help it, as we are practically forced to limit our production in the manner shown herein.
Are we to crush this industry out of existence, or are we to do what is a fair and reasonable thing by it? The Prime Minister, in my hearing, said that he was favorable to abolishing the bounty and Excise; but the Minister of Trade and Customs declined to follow that course. He wants to keep a grip on the industry. Why not let it be in the same position as any other industry in the Commonwealth?
– Because the Commonwealth pays a bounty.
– In reality, the Commonwealth pays no bounty. The honorable senator is a fruit-grower. If the New South Wales Government charged an Excise of £3 per ton on his fruit, and gave him a bounty of £3, he would not consider that he was benefited. I turn to the statistics for 1 91 2, and I find that land under cane is going out ‘of cultivation. We have less land under cultivation now than we have had for years. That has occurred through the action of the Federal Government, and the uncertainty that prevails. The growers do not know where they are. If they put in a crop they do not know that the Minister will not, by the exercise of some extraordinary power, put them in such a position that the growing will not pay. We are preventing the planting of cane by this policy. The Minister has disorganized the whole industry. An offer has been made that if the Minister would return the full Excise the mills would give the growers 2s. 2d. per ton more for their cane. We have been told repeatedly that the consumer pays. Surely that is proof positive that the consumer does not pay one penny.
– What the honorable senator has said simply means that the mills will give the money to the grower instead of to the Government, but the public pays all the time.
– The public do not pay any more than they pay the duty on boots or any other protected article. The policyof the Commonwealth originally was that coloured labour should be discontinued and that white labour should be helped to produce sugar. Are you pursuing that policy now?
– I must ask the honorable senator to address the Chair. He is continually addressing his remarks to “you.”
– That may be a habit of mine; by “you” I mean the President. You. sir, are the only person whom I look upon as having authority here. We are told that land is not’ going out of cultivation in Queensland, but according to the statistics of the Queensland Government, which I take to be reliable, it undoubtedly is. In 1911, which is the last year for which figures are available, there were 130,376 acres under cane; in 1910, the area under cane was 1 41,000 acres. So that, roughly speaking, 11,500 acres formerly under cane went out of cultivation in one year. In 1910, 1 , 840,000 tons of sugar-cane was produced, and in 1911, the production was 1,534,541 tons, so that we were 300,000 tons of cane short. I am advised, on the best authority, that this year the production will be not more than two-thirds of what it was last year.
– What a howl there would be if that were the case with boots.
– Order ! I must ask the honorable senator not to interject.
– Suppose what is happening in the sugar industry in Queensland were to happen in some industry in Victoria. What would be said 011 the floor of the Senate then? What a protest would be made if 30,000 people concerned in city industries were thrown out of a livelihood. What would the people of Victoria say? We know the kind of thing which would appear in the Age every morning. It would loudly demand more Protection.
– The people would hold prayer meetings.
– They, no doubt, would hold prayer meetings, and very rough language would be used against the Government. But the people engaged in this industry are 2,000 miles away from the Seat of Government, and can only send an occasional delegation here.
– Have they no representation here?
– They have very little representation in the Senate, and there are only a couple of members in another place who can represent them. They are so far away that their wants are not even listened to. I have had occasion here to call for a quorum when Senator Givens has been addressing the Senate on the sugar question, because I wished honorable senators to hear what he had to say. We find that the sugar industry is going back.
– It was never on a better footing than it is now.
– Though it employs 14,000 less people than it did five years ago.
– When we quote the returns supplied by the Commonwealth Statistician we are met with such silly interjections as that made by Senator Lynch from honorable senators who really know nothing about the business.
– Order ! I have asked honorable senators not to interject whilst Senator Sayers is addressing the Chair.
– The sugar industry is of vital importance to the State I represent. I cannot plead too strongly with the Government to take some steps to give assistance to those engaged in this important industry.
– What does the honorable senator desire the Government to do?
– To leave it alone.
– To leave it alone, and let the people interested settle their differences amongst themselves. They have Wages Boards in the industry now, and will be able to do so. The least the Government can do is to abolish the Excise altogether, or return the full amount of it by way of bounty to those who are growing sugar with white labour. This year there will be but a poor crop, and yet it is estimated that the Government will extract £120,000 from the people engaged in the industry. I ask the Government not to take that money from them, but to allow the growers to secure the additional as. 2d. per ton for their cane which has been promised to them by the millers if the Excise duty is done away with. Honorable senators should take into account the fact that the grower has to pay interest on the cost of the mills, the wages of managers, assayers, and others employed at the mills. All these expenses have to come out of the cane before the grower can get a penny for it. Another difficulty which involves a hardship upon the grower is that, although the mills may not be working for more than three months in the year, repairs have to be made, the plant kept in order, and a staff employed throughout the year. A sugar mill is not like a crushing mill in a quartz district, which is at work all the year round. Something should be done to help the men who are struggling to make a living and remain on the holdings on which they have established their homes.
– And who are keeping out the blackfellows.
– They are doing what was asked of them by this Parliament, but the Government apparently have no sympathy with them. The Prime Minister is well aware that it is necessary to do something, but the Government .as a whole seem determined to do nothing. The Minister of Trade and Customs can know no more about the industry than I do. He has not, any more than I have, been practically engaged in it. I have, however, been going through the sugar districts for years and have lent a hand in a small way to help the industry along.
– I understand that the honorable senator actually worked In the fields not long ago.
– I had a week ot it to see what the work was like.
– I suppose one week was enough for the honorable senator?
– No, it was not. I wish to know whether the Government are prepared to assist this industry or not. I do not object to them making 10s. the minimum wage if they will do something to help the industry to pay such wages. If the Government desire to increase the rates of wages let them at the same time increase the Protection given to the industry, and so assist the growers to pay the increased wages. The Government say that the wages fixed by the Minister are to be paid, or he will retain the bounty. If that course is followed it will mean ruin to thousands of people. I am satisfied that honorable senators, no matter from what part of the Commonwealth they come, do not desire to bring about such a state of affairs. Queensland is a flourishing State, but the conditions of uncertainty in the sugar industry seriously retard its progress. Owing to the poor crop this year it will be necessary to introduce sugar from outside, grown by cheap, black labour, and, on that sugar, the Commonwealth will collect about ^800,000 in duty. I ask honorable senators who do not believe in these revenue duties to assist the sugarproducers,” and the people to whom they give employment in Queensland, by giving the industry such Protection that they will be able to pay the wages demanded by the Minister of Trade and Customs. I should be the last member of the Senate to object to men getting good wages, but I believe the sugar industry cannot pay the wages fixed by the Minister, and, unless something is done to assist those engaged in it, they will be crushed out of existence. There is a certain number of men employed in connexion with the industry all the year round, and these men will be forced out of employment if no remedy for the existing state of affairs is provided. Distress will necessarily follow, and we all know that it is too late to lock the stable when the horse is gone. I hope the Government will listen to what has been said by honorable senators on this side, and I expect support for what is reasonable and just in the interests of the industry from honorable senators on both sides.
– I am sorry that I cannot agree with a good deal of what has been said by my colleague from Queensland, Senator Sayers. He has apparently come to the conclusion that the sugar industry is in danger of being ruined and crushed out of existence. I can see no evidence that ruin is likely to overtake the industry, or that it is being crushed out of existence. Unfortunately the people engaged in the sugar industry have constantly set their faces against the policy which resulted in depriving them of the use of the kanaka. They have never got over their ill-feeling against the Labour party for doing that. Although Federal legislation has made independent men of numbers of them, they still retain their illfeeling towards the Federal Government and the Federal Labour policy in connexion with the industry. It appears to me that the sole ground of objection, on the part of Senator Sayers, Senator St. Ledger, and Senator Chataway, is the scale of wages fixed by the Minister of Trade and Customs.
– What right has he to fix any scale; what does he know about the industry ?
– The honorable senators I have mentioned say that the industry cannot bear the wages proposed.
– I did not say that.
– I said it.
- Senator Sayers and Senator Chataway said it.
– I did not say it, as the honorable senator would know if he had remained in the chamber when I was speaking.
– I was present, but I could not hear all that the honorable senator said. Senator Sayers, at all events, says that the industry cannot bear the wages fixed by the Minister of Trade and Customs. Let me inform the Senate that on every ton of cane grown in Queensland there is a Protection of 10s. I put the figure at10s., though I should probably be nearer the mark if I said 12s.
– The honorable senator should be fair, and admit that there is an Excise duty of 2s. on every ton of cane.
– If the honorable senator will permit me I will mention the whole of the facts. As every one knows, the nominal Protection is £6 per ton on sugar, and the real Protection is £5per ton, which means a Protection of10s. per ton of cane, taking the average number of tons of cane required for the production of a ton of sugar at ten, which is rather over than under the mark. When dealing with the sugar industry we need to take a comprehensive view of it, and to study every interest engaged in it. Connected with the industry we have the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, which does the refining. I do not suppose that any one here will be so foolish as to assert that that company is threatened with ruin, or is being crushed out. of existence by Federal legislation. It is one of the most prosperous business concerns in Australia. Indeed, it is one of the most prosperous corporations that I can read of anywhere in the world. I admit at once that the
Colonial Sugar Refining Company has a splendid organization. Doubtless it has good business men at its head, and that is one reason, in addition to the Federal legislation, why it is so successful. But my opinion is, and it is the opinion of a great many other persons, that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company is taking the cream off the sugar industry; and my advice to the growers is that, instead of kicking the men who work for them, they should kick at the company. Let them try to get better terms out of the company which refines the sugar and makes very large profits out of that business. Again, we have the central mills, which in many cases are doing very well. Of course, the mills are largely owned by the growers themselves, and whatever profits are made they get in the price of the cane.
– But the central mills are heavily subsidized by the State.
– No; the Government of Queensland has lent to them money which they are expected to repay, and which many of them have not made even an attempt to repay.
– They are repaying it gradually.
– They are; and they ought to repay it.
– Queensland and its Government have to be considered in this matter.
– The State Government must get this money back if it can. I do not say that it should not; but I say that if we inquire into the whole business we will find that a good deal of what might be termed land gerrymandering was engaged in in connexion with the sugar industry. I can tell the honorable senator how the oracle was worked in a number of cases. A number of men in a particular locality who had good soil which they were not putting to any particular use, met together and concluded that things would be all right if they could get a central mill established in the district. Next they brought pressure to bear upon their representative in Parliament, who in turn put the screw on the Government,, and the Government in a number of cases advanced the money to build a central mill, or promised to advance, say, . £50,000 or£60,000. The immediate result of that was that, without the owners spending a farthing or doing a single thing, the value of the land increased from10s. or £1 an acre to £3, £4, £5 or £10 an acre. That was one way in which the oracle was worked, as Senator St. Ledger knows perfectly well. These speculators, for they were nothing more or less, were speculating with the money lent by the State Government. If the central mill had not been erected in this way, they themselves would not have erected it. If the people had not found the money to erect a central mill, the value of these lands would never have increased above from IOS. to £1 per acre. The lands were portioned out to men who entered into an agreement to grow cane at the price I have indicated. Large numbers of growers have found it a very serious burden upon them to pay off the high cost of land in this way, and they have been continually trying to take it out of the unprotected worker. As a matter of fact, the sugar industry, previous to Federal legislation, was notorious in industrial circles. Not only did it employ kanakas and coloured people of all kinds largely, but the white men who were engaged in it were the lowest-paid men in the Commonwealth.. You could not find elsewhere lower wages or worse conditions.
– The Minister of Defence says “ Hear hear !” Will he give us proof?
– I have had some personal experience of the industry. I know that previous to Federal legislation being passed the condition of the industry was so. bad that no* white men who could get employment elsewhere would look near it. It was only able to get the flotsam and jetsam of industries.
– The mean whites. - owing to. the blacks being there.
– Yes. Only men who- were driven by stress of industrial weather, so to speak,, to look for temporary shelter, went near the sugar industry. The growers have never been able to divest themselves, of their old. ideas with regard to the industry. They looked upon the- kanaka, many of them, as being not nearly of so much consequence as one of the animals on the farm, and from treating the kanaka in that way they came ultimately to look upon the white man as not one. whit better than the kanaka, and to try to deal with him just as they dealt with the coloured1 man. Unfortunately - and I say this with a great deal of regret - many of them- have not yet recognised that the white man is just a human being, like- themselves, and. is deserving of the- kind of treatment which human beings ought to. get.. That feeling still exists in the minds of a large number of the sugar-growers. I admit that it is a most important industry, but when Senator Sayers says that it gets no assistance from, as he puts it, the Government of Australia - I would rather say from the people of Australia - he is saying something which is not true. As I have pointed out, the people of Australia protect the industry to the tune of I OS. per ton of cane.
– They protect boots to the same extent, too.
– If the honorable senator will allow me, I shall come in good time to that phase of the question. What I wish to point out clearly is that the sugargrowers, to my mind, at any rate, are mere catspaws for the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, and for a number of big landholders who are connected with die industry.
– Will you name a grower who has been driven out of the industry by the company?
– I do not know any grower who has been driven out of the industry.
– Then why did you make that assertion?
– I did not say anything of the kind. I said that the growers were mere catspaws. The Colonial Sugar Refining Company is,. I repeat, a splendid organization.
– But they are not making the big dividends out of philanthropy.
– Not at all. They are making big, dividends because they are good business men.
– Are not a good many of their operations conducted outside of Australia ?
– Yes. I have known the company to take up men without a farthing, and these men are independent 1 to-day. That has been done in the case of hundreds of men. I wish I could see the Commonwealth, or. any of the States, running a business of that kind as efficiently as that company does. But that does not affect the fact that it is taking the cream off this industry. My advice to the workers is not. to kick their employers, but to try to get better terms from the company, or, alternatively, to give the Federal Government power to establish a refinery. If that were done, the growers would, I am sure, get more- for- their cane, and would be able to give the workers a fair living wage without, grumbling.. There is the whole crux of the position. Give the Federal Government power to establish a refinery in competition with the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, or to buy out the company and do the refining and distributing; and then the growers will be in a very much better position than they are to-day.
– Are you certain that the Federal Government cannot establish a refinery if it chooses to do so now ?
– I do not think that it has the power. At all events, lawyers say that it has not
– I think it has the power.
– I never bother my head about whether the Constitution should be read in this way or that way, or some other way. I leave that to men who make it their business to interpret the Constitution.
– If that would settle the matter, then the Government should take the best opinion they can get on that point.
– Did not the Government take the opinion of the people at the last Referendum? Did they not ask the people to give them the necessary power ?
– Order ! I hope that the honorable senator will not discuss that matter.
– That is where, I think, the remedy of the growers lies, instead of trying to cut down the wages of men who do arduous work in the tropical portions of Queensland. It is hard, slavish work, which I, for one, would not do under any conditions. It is work which no man would willingly choose if he had an opportunity of doing almost anything else. These are the men without whom this industry cannot be carried on; and 8s. a day for slavish hard work, under a tropical sun, in the cane-fields is not a farthing too much. The industry can pay this wage if the cream, or some portion of it, is diverted from the jug of the company to the jug of the grower and the worker. I think that the Government might very well have equalized the Excise and the bounty.
– Do away with both.
– Is not that like a man cutting a piece off one end of a blanket to put it on the other end ?
– Evidently the honorable senator does not understand what I mean by equalizing the Excise and the bounty. One would imagine that a man who has focussed his mind on this subject for so long and so closely as the honorable senator has done, would at least understand it now; but evidently he does not.
– No, I admit that it is very difficult.
– What I mean by the expression is, that instead of the Government keeping £1 for revenue as it does now, that £1 ought to be paid to the grower. That would make the effective protection £6 per ton, instead of £5.
– And would not that only thicken the cream for the Colonial Sugar Refining Company?
– That is what I do not know. I cannot say. That is a matter upon which I am. in doubt. But the workers will be protected under this Bill. The Minister will be empowered to refuse to pay the bounty, or any part of it, to growers who do not, in the matter of the conditions of employment, conform to the award which has been given, by an Arbitration Court or by a local Board, or by some other established authority. Consequently, I think that the men employed in the cane-fields would get their share of the additional 2s. 2d. per ton which the grower would receive if the Excise were abolished. But I object to the Treasury obtaining revenue out of sugar.
– I thought that the honorable senator said he was in favour of equalizing the Excise and the bounty. Yet he now says that the Treasury should not get revenue from the industry.
– This is too funny for words. If we equalized the Excise and the bounty, does not the honorable senator see that the Treasury would get nothing from the industry ?
– It would get the Excise.
– Let me suppose that an Excise of £1 per ton were paid into the Treasury, and that a bounty of £3 per ton were paid out of it to the canegrowers. In that case the Treasury would simply pay out the amount of money which it had received. That is what I suggest the Government ought to do. If that course were adopted, the growers would be deprived of the cry that they were unable to pay decent wages, because they would receive 2s. 2d. per ton more for their cane with which to pay current expenses. I would rather they received that additional money than that it should go into the Commonwealth Treasury. Last year we collected about £170,000 from the Excise on sugar. When we take money from the sugar industry in that way, we make it all the less necessary to impose direct taxation.
– What is the use of paying £2 per ton into the Treasury, and then paying £2 per ton out of it?
– The people of Australia desire this industry to be protected. They wish, also, to see the men who are employed in it obtain a fair deal. The only way in which the men can be assured of a fair deal is by the adoption of the course which I have outlined. If we could trust the cane-growers to give their employes fair treatment, we could simultaneously wipe out both the bounty and the Excise. But to leave the men who are employed in the cane-fields at the mercy of the cane-growers would be equivalent to leaving a mob of sheep at the mercy of a pack of wolves.
– We are following the Prime Minister on that point.
– The honorable senator wants the bounty and the Excise to be abolished unconditionally. I do not. I desire them to be equalized, and I wish the Government still to retain power to withhold the payment of the bounty unless certain conditions are complied with. We have heard many complaints in regard to the sugar industry, complaints which are not justified. If those complaints continue too long, I am afraid that the people of the Commonwealth, in their anger, will entirely wipe out the protection which the industry enjoys. I hope that nothing of that kind will happen. We can grow our own sugar here, and we ought to continue . to grow it. If the people are wise enough to give this Parliament power to establish a refinery and central mills, I think we shall be able, not only to grow sugar, but to grow it very much more cheaply than we are doing at the present time.
– Before a division is taken upon the second reading of this Bill, I should like to make a small contribution to the debate upon it. I* happen to be exceptionally familiar with the sugar industry, having lived amongst the sugar-growers for very many years, and having devoted considerable attention to it. We have heard a good deal in opposition to this Bill. Yet it is a very innocent measure. Its main principle is that the Minister of Trade and Customs desires to be vested with authority to obtain a judicial declaration as to what shall be regarded as fair and reasonable rates of wages in the industry. That is the basic principle of the Bill. How anybody can object to such an eminently fair proposition is something which will require a good deal of explanation before I can understand it.
– Nicely put.
-Iwish to know whether I have in any way understated or overstated the position? A good deal of exception has been taken to the action of the Minister of Trade and Customs a little time ago in formulating certain rates of wages, which should be payable in the industry. I believe that he took that action reluctantly. To my own personal knowledge, he would have much preferred the matter to be settled by mutual agreement between the employers and the men. He has even gone so far as to say in this Bill that, where such an agreement has been arrived at, his regulation shall not apply. But ho was forced into taking up the position which he did, by reason of the fact that, in many instances, the employers absolutely refused to meet the men, or to discuss the matter of wages with them. I would further point out that, under this Bill, the Minister will be authorized to pay the bounty only in cases where the wages paid by the grower are satisfactory.
– Is not the Queensland Parliament appointing a Wages Board for the industry ?
– Have not the employers and employes met and arrived at an arrangement ?
– Yes; and where they have done so, that arrangement will stand.
– I would like to be clear on that point.
– The honorable senator may accept my assurance upon it.I hold in my hand the official statement of the position laid down in the regulation which was issued by the Department of Trade and Customs on the 13th August last. General Order No. 1451 states -
These minimum rates only apply to those districts in which no recognised standard rates have been arrived at by amicable agreement between employers and employes.
– From what is the honorable senator quoting?
– From an official copy of the regulation issued by the Minister of Trade and Customs, and of the conditions applying thereto.
– That is almost an inducement for the parties not to arrive at amicable arrangements.
– The Minister was faced with the position that, in many instances, an amicable arrangement had been arrived at. In other cases the employers had absolutely refused to meet the men. It was a duty incumbent upon the Minister to define what were the requirements of the law. Those requirements were that the bounty should be withheld unless the wages and the conditions of employment were such as were prescribed by a Wages Board or an Arbitration Court, or such as were a recognised standard in the district, or such as were mutually agreed upon between the employer and employe. In other cases the Minister himself had to be the arbiter. If the sugar-growers had not been so perverse - if they had agreed to meet the men - there would have been no necessity for the Minister to issue that regulation.
– The Minister has altered the reports of his officials, and ordered different rates of wages to be paid.
– I venture to say that that statement is absolutely incorrect. I am sure that the Minister of Trade and Customs has never altered a report by any official. Whether he has altogether adhered to any such report or not is quite a different matter. But in making the statement that he has altered the reports of his officers, Senator St. Ledger made an extravagant charge, which cannot be supported by any evidence.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.30 p.m.
– I have referred to the fact that the Minister of Trade and Customs was forced reluctantly to issue the regulation prescribing the rates of wages to be paid in the sugar industry to entitle the growers to the bounty under our legislation. It may be well to insist that the Minister was compelled to take that course. He is sworn to administer the law. The law is emphatic that the bounty shall not be granted unless and until such wages are paid as are prescribed by a Wages Board, or an Arbitration Court, or as conform to the standard rate of the district, or as may be mutually agreed upon between employers and employes. I have quoted a section from the regulation issued by the Minister showing clearly that it does not apply where any of those conditions exist. Where an agreement exists between employers and employes, the regulation issued by Mr. Tudor has no effect whatever. The agreement stands. The Minister was faced with the fact that, owing entirely to the obduracy of certain employers, there were no agreements in certain cases. Consequently, he was compelled to issue the regulation in conformity with his duty. Being faced with that position, what had he to do? Was it his duty to reduce wages? Was it his duty to try and minimize the standard rates paid to workers in any portion of Australia? Every honorable senator knows that we have had extended debates upon the sugar industry for a number of years. Controversy has ranged around it. We were told in this Parliament, when the White Australia policy was introduced, that it would be absolutely ruinous to sugar production. It was reiterated from the housetops, and howled from one end of Australia to the other, that nothing but blue ruin would face the industry, because white men could not, and would not, do the work in North Queensland. It was said that the climate and the conditions were too strenuous for them, and that, even if they could, and would, do the work, it would not be right to allow them to do it, because of the awful conditions prevailing. Yet, in spite of that, we are told now by the very same people that white men in North Queensland can work ten hours a day, as compared with eight hours in Victoria, and ought to be paid less wages than workmen receive down here. I wish to point out to the Senate, and through it to the country at large, that the Minister of Trade and Customs had a most excellent precedent to guide him. I regret very much that he did not go the whole way, and give to the workers in North Queensland the same fair and reasonable wages as the President of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court prescribed for rural workers in Victoria and South Australia. As I have pointed out, we were told over and over again that the climate of North Queensland was so severe that white men could not work there, and ought not to be compelled to do so. Now we are told that they ought to accept less wages, and work for longer hours, than prevail in the congenial climate of Victoria.
– . Who says that?
– The sugar-growers say it. They object to the wages and hours prescribed by the Minister. I am going to put on record the wages specified by him. and compare them with the wages awarded by Mr. Justice Higgins, the President of the Arbitration Court, in the dispute between the Rural Workers Union and the fruit-growers of Renmark and Mildura. I hold in my hand a copy of the regulation prescribing the minimum wages to be paid in order to fulfil the conditions required by the Minister. It reads -
Adult Labour. - With keep, £1 16s. per week ; without keep, £2 8s. per week.
Youths. - From 16 to 18 (with keep), £1 4s. per week ; under 16 (with keep), 16s. per week.
I need not read the remainder. The Minister prescribed that the hours of labour shall be forty-eight per week. He gave the planters the alternative of either employing the men by the hour, in which case they would have to be paid only for the actual time worked, or to employ them by the week, in which case they would have to be paid a weekly wage, irrespective of whether a little time was lost through wet weather or any other cause. That regulation was issued on the 13th August, 191 2. I also have before me a copy of the judgment of Mr. Justice Higgins on the matter of the dispute between -
Employes, members of the Rural Workers Union, and the employes, members of the South Australian United Labourers Union and the employers who are parties to the temporary agreement referred to in the order of the President, dated the first day of December, 1911, the Mildura Branch of the Australian Dried Fruits Association, the Renmark Fruitgrowers Defence Association, and the Renmark Fruit Packing Union.
Stated shortly, and divested of legal verbiage, the dispute was between the workers and the employers in the fruit-growing industries of Renmark and Mildura. I need not read the whole of Mr. Justice Higgins’ judgment, but I shall quote the wages which he prescribed. They were as follows -
There are the two scales placed side by side ; and will any one venture to say, in the face of those plain statements of fact - and they are facts, however they may be regarded - that Mr. Tudor erred on the side of generosity? As a matter of fact, he did not give to the workers employed in the sugar industry of North Queensland a wage equal to that which Mr. Justice Higgins prescribed for the workers of Mildura and Renmark. Every one knows that there is no work in connexion with the picking and harvesting of fruit which is at all comparable, in point of hardship, with work in the cane-fields in North Queensland.
– Are not the canecutters making very much higher wages than those prescribed by the Minister?
– In that case, the Minister’s regulation has no effect. These rates must be regarded as a minimum. Mr. Tudor was faced with the fact that, on the 28th June, 191 2, Mr. Justice Higgins gave the award from which I have quoted. Could he have done less than he did on behalf of the workers of North Queensland ? As I have shown, he did not treat them as generously as Mr. Justice Higgins treated the employes in an industry where the labour is far less strenuous, and where, by the universal consensus of opinion, the climatic conditions are very much more congenial.
– How is it that, at the Conference referred to by Senator Chataway, the employers and employes mutually agreed upon a lower wage?
– Where such an agreement has been made it stands. A little over two years ago the men employed in the sugar industry had to go on strike. They had to strike to get 30s. a week. They had approached the employers prior to the dispute. Some of the employers met them, and they arrived at a mutual understanding. The agreement thus made stands. This prescribed scale of wages does not apply there.
– I - Is the cost of living higher in the sugar districts than at Renmark or Mildura?
– I have not the actual figures by me; but, in the matter of many items which the men have to supply for themselves, the cost is very much less down here than in North Queensland. It is true that the price of meat is lower up there, but vegetables and other things which they have to purchase are much dearer.
– L - Living is not cheaper in North Queensland than it is here?
– As a matter of fact, housekeeping costs me very , much the same in Cairns as in Melbourne.
– The fruit-grower does not house his employes, but the sugargrower must.
– I have known sugargrowers in Queensland who, instead of housing their employes, simply, put up tents for them. I have known cases where employes utilized spaces on the sides of the main roads for their tents, and frightened every skittish horse that went along. They did this because they would not use their own land.
– The honorable senator is omitting a very important point when dealing with Mr. Justice Higgins’ award without mentioning that the sugargrowers house their employes.
– I am strongly of opinion that it is to the interest of the growers of Mildura to provide suitable sleeping accommodation and suitable kitchen quarters for their men, though I do not know, as a matter of fact, whether they do. At any rate, supposing Senator St. Ledger to be right, the extra amount in wages awarded by Mr. Justice Higgins would be more than sufficient to cover the expense incurred in putting up the iron skillions which many growers provide for their men in Queensland.
– I think that the people in Renmark do put up tents for their employe’s.
– I have seen decent accommodation provided for the employes in the sugar industry.
-I venture to say that is. per day would be more than four times sufficient to provide the accommodation furnished for the workers in. Queensland, so that, no matter how Senator St. Ledger tries to get out of it, and to champion a sweating wage in Queensland-
– That is ridiculous ; I am simply asking the honorable senator to debate the matter fairly, and take every item into consideration.
– With “all respect, I venture to say that I cannot debate the matter in a fairer manner than by quoting the concrete facts of the case. I have compared the rates of wages prescribed by the Minister of Trade and Customs with those fixed in the award of Mr. Justice Higgins. I have shown that even on the admission of the sugar-growers themselves any difference should be in favour of the workers in North Queensland, but that, as a matter of - fact, it is shown to be in favour of those who are working at Mildura and Renmark under much more genial climatic conditions and closer to the centres of population.
– The cost of production has to be taken into account.
– It has nothing to do with the matter, but I am prepared to deal even with that aspect of the question. If, as a worker, I use a horse, and I lose my employment, whether I starve or not myself I must feed the horse, or he will die, .and I shall lose money in that way. Human life is not a matter of much importance to some people, and they say to the worker, “ If you do not make sufficient, you can starve, and you will be replaced by some one else.” That is the callous way in which they look at the matter. Senator St. Ledger says that we must take the cost of production into consideration.
– Economically, 1 do not see how that can be avoided. Mr. Justice Higgins could not avoid it.
– Mr. Justice Higgins did not wish to avoid it, nor do I. I say fearlessly that it would be infinitely better policy, and more effective from their own point of view, if the mass of the sugargrowers of Queensland would make common cause with the workers in the industry, and see that they get full value for their product. Instead of doing that, the sugargrowers of Queensland, in common with their representatives in this Parliament, are ready to bow down and kow-tow all the time to the great sugar monopoly that is crushing workers and growers alike.
– I do not bow down to any one, here or outside.
– The honorablesenator is continually at their beck and call. We find that the sugar monopoly not only makes enormous profits from the refining of sugar-
– Those profits are notmade only in Australia.
– I have heard that interjection from Senator Walker on several occasions. In fact, every time I refer to the matter the honorable senatoris always on hand to remind me of the fact, that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company carry on operations in Fiji as well as in Queensland. 1 am, of course, obliged to> the honorable’ senator for his information, but I think I can show how this company rakes in huge profits from its operations in Australia. The profits of the company have been quoted over and over again, so far as they can be ascertained. The disclosed profits have amounted for a number of years to ,£350,000 a year. But the profits disclosed by the company’s balancesheets do not present a true statement of the case.
– On what capital are those profits paid ?
– On a very small original capital. A’ large proportion of the capital of the company to-day consists of debentures, which, have been redeemed out of profits. I do not wish to go over ‘ the whole thing again. I have put all the facts on record in Hansard. Any one who follows the operations of the company must know that, in addition to making a profit °f £350>000 a year> it has added each year huge sums to reserves of various kinds. Like the- gas monopolies, and other monopolies of the kind, it has formed the habit of continually hiding and covering up its profits by all sorts of reserves. During the last six or seven years the Colonial Sugar Refining Company has twice watered its .stock. On the last occasion, I think about four years ago, it watered its shares to the extent of ,£350,000.
– That is to say, it transferred reserved funds to capital.
– I am going to explain that. The company created a large number of new shares, and found the capital for them, as Senator Walker says, out of reserve funds. It made a present to the shareholders of a number of new shares, which cost it nothing.
– They belonged to the shareholders.
– Of course. We are told by Senator St. Ledger and others that the company has a right to expect to be paid dividends on its capital. But it is making dividends on what is not the real capital of the company at all, and never was capital put into the business of the company, but is part and parcel of the profits of the business. The company might have watered its shares from reserves to the extent of ,£1,000,000, but they preferred to write down the value of their properties and to cover up the enormous profits they are fleecing from the public, the workers, and the growers.
– If that be’ so, the growers cannot help the position very much.
– But the growers are ready; at all times to jump with both feet on the poor working men, while they bow down to the dictum of the great Colonial Sugar Refining Company, and have not a word to say against it.
– Does the honorable senator not think it right that the company should reserve so much towards the depreciation of machinery ?
– I have not the slightest objection to the company putting any amount it pleases to reserves. I am trying only to show the enormous profits the company makes, and, with all the watering of shares and payments to reserves, it finds no difficulty in paying a constant dividend of 10 per cent., with, a very handsome bonus occasionally, as Senator Walker knows. It would be in: finitely better for the growers if, instead of trying at all times to jump upon the working man, to grind him down, and force him to accept the most miserable pittance, they had the wisdom and common sense to make common cause with the worker to get a fair deal from the monopoly that is grinding down growers and workers. Let me quote an instance to show how the monopoly crushes the growers. Senator St. Ledger, on .behalf of the growers, is always ready to jump upon the working man.
– I have never said a word in this Parliament against the working man.
– The honorable senator formed one of an historic deputation that was in favour of a wage of 3s. od. per day for men working in the industry.
– I challenge the honorable senator to read my words from the official report of the deputation.
– I have the official report before me.
– The honorable senator will not face the music.
– There is nothing very musical about Senator St. Ledger. I may be allowed to say that, in addition to the enormous profits which the Colonial Sugar Refining Company get from the refining business, they are also growers to a very considerable extent in Queensland. The company owns several sugar mills in that State. I wish to show honorable senators the. way in which the monopoly treats growers as compared with the way in which they are treated when they work co-operatively. We have in . Queensland a large number of mills known as central mills. They have been established by money advanced by the Government. Interest and redemption have to be paid on this money, and the mills axe managed and worked by the growers co-operatively. I have not time now to go over the whole history of the business, or to quote, as I might, an extended list of facts in support of what I say. I can give one instance in point. In the Cairns district there are two mills - the Mulgrave Central Mill, owned . and worked co-operatively by growers, and the Hambledon Mill, under the sole control of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. It has frequently occurred that the company has paid growers supplying cane to its mill from 4s. to 6s. per ton less than is paid. for cane supplied to the Mulgrave Central Mill, although, in some instances, the cane is supplied from the same paddock.
– Then, why do not all the growers go to the co-operative mill?
– There are two or three reasons why they do not. In the first place, the Mulgrave Central Mill is capable of crushing only a certain amount of cane, and the shareholders and cooperators have the first right to supply the mill with cane. In the next place, a large number of growers are bound hand and foot to the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, and cannot take their cane anywhere else but to the company’s mill.
– That, I admit, is a frequent cause for complaint.
– The average price paid over a number of years by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company is 3s. per ton less than the average price paid by the central mills.
– Does not the Colonial Sugar Refining Company sometimes advance money to growers to enable them to clear and cultivate their land ?
– It is true that the company does that, but any bank will advance money on good security to enable a man to carry on his business, and no one will regard a bank as a philanthropic in:stitution because it carries on business of that kind.
– It occurred to me that that might be an element in the matter.
– It is not. The Colonial Sugar Refining Company does that kind of thing as a profitable investment of .itS ‘ funds, and in order to secure that a sufficient number of persons shall grow cane to keep its mills fully supplied. The broad - fact remains that those who grow cane for the Colonial Sugar Refining Company’s mills receive in many cases from 4s. to 6s. per ton less than the cane is worth to mills working alongside the company’s mills. The company exacts terms from those growing cane for it which compel them to sell their product to it at from 20 per cent, to 30 per cent, less than its real market value. It is clear that there is something radically wrong about that, and when an attempt is made to find out what it is that is wrong, . what do we find? Every one knows that when it was first proposed to enact the White Australia legislation there was an immediate outcry and howl on behalf of the sugar-growers that Parliament should stay its hand until a Royal Commission was appointed to inquire into the conditions of the industry, and see whether it could be successfully carried on with white labour. If honorable senators will refer to volume 48 of Hansard, pages 2938 and 2939, they will find that four years ago Senator Chataway put forward a most strenuous plea for a Royal Commission to inquire into the. conditions of the industry. Well, a Royal Commission has been appointed, and these very people absolutely refuse to give evidence before .it. Our Royal Commission is hung up because these people resort to every device known to the legal fraternity to delay its proceedings, and protect themselves against answering any questions at all.
– So far the law has been shown to be strong enough to get at them.
– I am not saying whether they are right or wrong, but- that the sugar-growers pretended that a Royal Commission was required to inquire into the conditions of the industry. The Colonial Sugar Refining Company raised a howl about it, and I am pointing out the hypocrisy of the whole business by showing that, as soon as a Commission was appointed and desired to procure evidence from members of the company, they exhausted every means in their power to avoid giving their evidence, and to defy the Commission which was called into existence by the Royal Warrant. The High Court of Australia has upheld their view, and no remedy is now left to us but to appeal to a higher Court still - the people of Australia - and I feel confident that when that is done the people of Australia will give us the verdict.
– I thought that the High Court upheld the position of the Attorney-General.
SenatorGIVENS.- The High Court upheld a decision of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, which declined to answer questions or give evidence.
– They upheld the position of the company.
-On some matters, not on all.
– While I am on the subject of the High Court, let me point out a curious anomaly. The Supreme Court of the United States of America, by whose procedure our High Court pretends to be largely guided, has consistently, continually, and emphatically refused to deal with, or give judgment in, hypothetical cases. From the day of its creation to the present moment it has never given an opinion or a judgment on a case which might occur. It has always insisted upon a cause of action being submitted before it would deal with a matter at all.
– And so has the House of Lords.
– Has our High Court done that, although pretending to be guided by these high precedents? It has not waited until a cause of action has arisen between the Colonial Sugar Refining Company and the Commonwealth, or between that company and aRoyal Commission; but it has proceeded on the hypothetical case of something which might happen in the future.
– Order! I hope that the Honorable senator will not discuss that matter.
– I am discussing how we have been delayed, because one of the arguments put forward has been that the Minister should not; meddle with the question of wages, but should have stayed his hand until the report of the Royal Commission, which is now sitting, was at bis disposal to guide him. That is why I am referring to the Royal Commission. With the greatest respect, sir, I think that I have the right to point out why the Minister could not afford to wait for that report, seeing that the possibility is that, owing to the High Court judgment, we shall never get such a report; and that if we do, it may be utterly inadequate.
– Will they not get the evidence now?
– Order 1 The only thing which the honorable senator was discussing when I intervened was the difference in methods between the Supreme Court of the United States and the High Court of Australia.
– I have finished with that subject, sir ; I have got it in, so it is all right. As I have said, it was urged that the Minister should not interfere in any way with the existing conditions or rates of wages in the industry until such time as the report of the Royal Commission was at his . disposal. Everybody knows what has occurred; everybody knows that every possible difficulty has been placed in the way of the Commission getting the necessary evidence. The company has dragged the Commission from one Court to the other. It has obtained an injunction or a prohibition in certain respects against the Commission, and the result has been a most unconscionable delay. Are the workers in the sugar industry, whether theybe in Northern Queensland or New South Wales, or Victoria, to wait until the Greek Kalends to get a decent wage? Are they to starve in the meantime? Are they to be compelled to sell their labour at less than they do now? The Minister was more than justified ; indeed, he would have been deplorably wrong, and worthy of the severest condemnation, if he had not taken steps to do his sworn duty and to administer the law as he found it.
– Can you tell me why the Minister did not order £3 a week to be paid?
– I have told the honorable senator before that the best guide for the Minister to take as to what was a fair and reasonable thing, in view of the fact that wages were to be prescribed by a judicial tribunal, was the very recent judgment of the President of the Arbitration Court in the Mildura and Renmark cases. If he had been convinced that £3, £4, £5, or £10,wasafair and reasonable thing, I feel satisfied that he would have prescribed it. But he adopted a medium course, and one which ought to have been as acceptable to the growers as to the men. And, because he has done so, be has evidently fallen foul of the honorable senator, who thinks that because a man can drink a’ pint of beer at one time,, therefore, a$ some other time he ought to drink. a barrel.
– I have not found fault with the Minister.
– Some time ago, an historical deputation waited upon the Minister of Trade and Customs. . It consisted of only one man, but he had a. very considerable following. I refer to Mr. G. H. Pritchard, secretary to the Australian Sugar Growers Association, which, I may say, is the Colonial ‘ Sugar Refining Company disguised, because it is the head and front of the whole thing. In Queensland, there are two such associations of growers, namely, the Australian Sugar Producers Association, and the Cane Growers Ass*ciation. The former association is simply the Colonial Sugar Refining Company in disguise, while the latter is composed of the .farmers.
Mr. G. Pritchard, secretary of the Australian Sugar Producers Association, accompanied by Senators Chataway, St Ledger, and Sayers, and Messrs. Archer, Foxton, and Sinclair, M’s.P., waited on the Minister of Trade and Customs on Wednesday, 20th May, 1908, and placed before him the views of the association regarding the departmental memorandum of the 4th inst., relative to the rates of wages to be paid for casual labour during the “off” season.
It will be remembered that the wage prescribed at that time was 22s. fid. per week and found ; and, not content with paying that miserable, paltry wage, every time that many of the planters could, they docked an hour or two hours from the men if they lost it through wet weather or some other unavoidable cause. In addition to that, if the men were out for any length of time, the planters would charge them the price of their meals, although they were not entitled to do so by equity, common law, or anything else. When some of us found that that was being done, we said to the Minister, “If the planters growl at having to pay a man by the weekly wage when he has lost an hour or two through wet weather or some other unavoidable cause; if the planters think it fair to pay the men a miserable rate of wages, and, in some instances, to dock them the price of their meals, it was fair to offer the planters an alternative.” What was it? The alternative, was that the growers should be permitted to employ men at casual-labour rates, and to pay the men for the actual time worked, and to be at liberty to dismiss a man at any moment Will honorable senators .be surprised when I tell them that the Minister agreed! to our suggestion, and that he prescribed 5s. per day, or 30s. per week as the casual rate of pay, and still allowed the 22s. 6d. to remain as the regular rate of pay when men were engaged by the week ? It was against that very moderate and modest regulation that Senator St. Ledger, accompanied and supported Mr. Pritchard in that deputation to the Minister.
– I told the Minister distinctly that 30s. a week was a miserable wage, and if he could find his way to give £2, let him inquire into it.
– The honorable senator can wriggle as much as he pleases, but he cannot get away from the fact that he went on a deputation to support Mr. Pritchard in his plea that 3s. 98L a day was sufficient.
– I stand by .what I said to the Minister on that point - it is on official record - and not by what the deputation, or anybody else, said!. This is the second time that the honorable senator has tried to twist what I said.
– I have read out the names of those who accompanied the deputation, and everybody knows what the object was. Mr. Archer, who was at that time a member of the other House, said distinctly and clearly-
– Mr. Archer may have said something. I am not going to stand by what anybody else said, but what I said.
– What did Senator St. Ledger say? I shall come to that directly.
– Let us have the lot.
– According to the official notes of the interview, Mr. Archer said -
As a matter of fact, when the first order was issued - it set out 25s. for harvesting and 233. 6d. for “off” season - I pointed out that it was anomalous, for in the sugar season the growers were prepared to make the rate 30s., but for the “off season they claimed that 22s. 6d. was extreme, which it was.
An extreme rate of wages. Now the complaint was often made in the Seriate thai coloured labour was necessary up there because the planters, although they might get men to remain during the harvesting season, could not get them to do so in the off season. But the reason was because the planters refused to pay the men even a bare, miserable, living wage. This deputation went to the Minister, and the whole burden of the argument was that, in’ the off season - that is for six or eight months, which, from a climatic point of view, ‘ are the very worst months in the whole year - the men should be compelled to work for 22s. 6d. a week; and Mr. Archer said it was an extreme rate, which it was.
– I told the Minister distinctly that I would fix no man’s wage, and that 30s. a week was a low wage. That is the position that I took’ up.
– I shall read what the honorable senator went in support of from the official memorandum.
– I dissociated myself from that. I said something at the deputation.
– The honorable senator went there in support of Mr. Pritchard, the organizing secretary to the Australian Sugar Producers Association.
– I did nothing of the kind.
– These were the objects of that meeting -
– Who are the “ we “ ?
– The Australian Sugar Producers Association, who presented this petition by deputation, in the person of Mr. Pritchard, supported by Senator St. Ledger, and other Queensland representatives.
– Well, I dissented from them.
– Then the honorable senator should not have gone there.
– Not at all. Why should I not have gone on a deputation?
– I am not growling. What I complain of is that the honorable senator went there to do a certain thing, and that as soon as we accused him of doing it, he immediately tried to throw off all responsibility. He, no doubt, said to himself, “ I will do one thing to-day and then I can repudiate it to-morrow.” No wonder that the one-time Mayor of Bundaberg spoke of the honorable senator’s wobbling proclivities.
– Read what I said.
– The memorandum continues -
The new rate of wages, namely, 30s. a week and found, is more than the sugar industry can afford to pay for casual unskilled field labour, and is nearly double what is paid for similar labour in other agricultural industries in this country.
The substitution of the new system will seriously affect the good relations between employers and employes, seeing that it will lead to men, instead of being housed and fed, during wet weather as at present, being paid off, and compelled to camp out or tramp to the nearest public house in search of accommodation.
As the next “off” season will not start before the beginning of 1909, the Minister has requested to make further and more exhaustive inquiries, with a view to rescinding the order of 4th May, 1908, and reverting to the more equitable and suitable prohibition of the order 8th June, 1907, making the wages “ at the rate of” 22s. 6d. per week and found, as hitherto observed.
That is equivalent to 3s.9d. per day -
If cases of deliberate evasion are proved, the Minister to take action against the individuals concerned.
– There is some statement there of what I said.
– I judge men rather by what they do than by what they say. The honorable senator may say, “ I am going to walk down Bourke-street,” but if, a few minutes later, I find him walking down Collins-street, I know that he has not carried out his original intention.
– But if the honorable senator said that I was walking down Collins-street, when, as a matter of fact, I was walking down Bourke-street, his statement would not be correct. That is the point.
– There are too many “ ifs “ about Senator St. Ledger for my taste. The fact remains that the honorable senator was in favour of one particular thing, namely, the maintenance of the rate of pay at 3s.9d. per day. That was the purpose for which the deputation waited upon the Minister. Whether or not the honorable senator made a speech on that occasion, he cannot escape the position that he waited on the Minister of. Trade and Customs, with Senators Chataway and Sayers, to urge him not to alter the old rate of pay, which was equivalent to 3s.9d. per day. It has been said that the position of the growers ought to be further enhanced by legislative action on our part, and that they would then be able to pay their employes increased wages. To allow that to be done, it has been urged that we ought to abolish both the Excise and the bounty. The industry would then stand in exactly the same position as does every other protected industry in Australia. It would receive Protection at the Customs House, and the growers would benefit to the extent of £1 per ton. At present, they pay £4. per ton by way of Excise, and receive £3 per ton by way of bounty. They enjoy a total measure of Protection of £5 per ton, whereas, if the Excise and bounty were abolished, they would be protected to the extent of £6 per ton. If the conditions which obtain in the sugar industry were similar to those which obtain in other industries, I would be in favour of the adoption of that course. But an Excise duty was imposed upon sugar, and the bounty system was inaugurated, to enable us to differentiate between sugar which was produced by white labour and that which was produced by black labour. We found ourselves so hampered by the limitations of the Constitution that we were obliged to adopt that method of overcoming the difficulty. Nevertheless, at its best, that is a crude system, and one which would be absolutely unworkable if we had to adopt it in connexion with every other industry in Australia.
– It would break down of its own weight.
– Yes. Nevertheless, while existing conditions continue, we must adhere to that system. In the meantime, we should equalize the Excise and the bounty. But if we wipe out both the Excise and the bounty, in what position shall we find ourselves? We shall find that sugar will be produced by any class of labour which may happen to come along, and we shall be compelled to give that labour the full measure of Protection. Had the growers exhibited any desire to be loyal to the White Australia principle, we might have been justified in wiping out both the Excise and the bounty. But they have not done so. I venture to say that if you, sir, in taking a trip through your constituency, were to land at Lucinda Point to-morrow, where the wharf is owned by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, your luggage would be handled by a gang of coloured labourers, who are in the em ploy of that company. Along the tramline to Halifax all the work is being done by coloured labour.
– I do not credit that statement, and I have been there.
– Then the honorable senator must be blind.
– It is easy enough to say that.
– The coloured labourers were there when I was there last.
– It is a fact, but it is very convenient to be Blind sometimes.
– The honorable senator had better not say that, otherwise I will remind him of the niggers who are at the head of the Wharf Labourers Union in Townsville and Fremantle.
– The honorable senator need not have threatened to do something which he was doing at the very time he made his threat. Wherever a coloured man can be employed by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company without endangering or forfeiting the sugar bounty he is employed.
– But we were talking about the small men.
– I, too, have been talking of the small men. But I have as much right to speak of things which please me as Senator Sayers has to speak of things which please him. I say that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company invariably employs coloured men where it can do so without either endangering or forfeiting the bounty. The law provides that the ground must be cultivated, and the work connected with the production of the cane must be done, by white labour. But in the handling of the sugar in the mills, the Colonial Sugar Refining Company employs coloured labour wholesale. Many of the small growers, too, do all the work that they possibly can, without imperilling the payment of the bounty, with coloured labour. They have cleared the land, broken it up, and planted it with white labour-
– Does this Bill provide for dealing with the employment of coloured labour?
– If my remarks are not relevant to the Bill, I presume that I shall be called to order by the President. I am dealing with the arguments which have been put forward on behalf of the growers, that they would be enabled to pay the prescribed rates of wages if the Commonwealth took a certain course of action.
While, under certain circumstances, that course of action might be eminently desirable, at the present time we cannot afford to take it.
– What wages are being paid to these black men?
– That is more than I can say. I know that in the old times the kanakas were paid £ a year with their “ tucker,” such as it was.
– What kind of coloured men are employed now?
– Japanese, Javanese, and all sorts of coloured men.
– Not kanakas?
– No, they have been deported. Senator Stewart has advocated that we should equalize the bounty and the Excise, and I say that such a proposal would have my unqualified approval. But we ought not to wipe out the bounty and Excise under existing conditions, because of the danger which exists that coloured labour would be at once employed by the growers.
– That need not happen.
– If the Excise and bounty were equalized, we would still retain control of the industry. But, if they were abolished, what I have pictured might happen. When the Prime Minister pointed a way to the State Government under which that could be obviated, the State Government, although it seemed to receive the suggestion with approval at the time, did not appear to be in a hurry to take any action. If the Queensland Government put upon the statute-book an Act absolutely prohibiting the employment of coloured labour in or about the sugar industry, I should immediately be a strong advocate for wiping out the Excise and the bounty. Or if we had the limitation upon our industrial powers at present imposed by the Constitution removed, so that we could deal with the question as we pleased, I should be in favour of wiping out the Excise and bounty as being an incumbrance upon our legislation. I should then be in favour of giving to the sugar- growers the highest Customs duty that could be required. But, even then, we should be up against another difficulty. How are we to insure that the grower shall receive that due measure of Protection which this Parliament in its wisdom might grant to him? We know that, at the present time, the Colonial Sugar Refining Company is taking the lion’s share, and that, as a matter of fact, the actual grower is not able to obtain that adequate protection which this Parliament voted to him. Why? Simply because he is entirely in the hands of that monopoly.
– Did the honorable senator hear the agreement which I read between the Colonial Sugar Refining Company and the growers?
– I am well acquainted with the agreement. If the Colonial Sugar Refining Company got what they wanted, they would have the Excise and bounty abolished so that they might be at liberty to employ coloured labour in sugar production, just as they employ it in their mills, and on their wharfs and tramways.
– This Bill does not deal with tramways and mills.
– I am pointing out that the company would like to do, in connexion with the growing of cane, what they at present do in connexion with their wharfs, mills, and tramway lines.
– If they could get the labour, the honorable senator means.
– The Green Hills Estate, which was entirely in the hands of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, was run absolutely by Chinamen. White men could not get a look in there. Why? Because the Chinaman was willing to pay a higher rent per annum for the land, and to produce cane at lower rates for the company. That is one of the reasons why we are compelled to stick to the Excise and bounty system under present conditions. It is necessary to retain some little control over an industry which Australia has done so much to foster.
– T - There is only one common-sense way out of the difficulty, and that is to remove the Colonial Sugar Refining Company.
– Of course. I advocated that when a member of the Queens-, land Parliament. I have constantly advocated the nationalization of the refining industry. I have advocated it here. A motion of mine to that effect was indorsed by the Senate.
– Why not start an opposition refining company?
– There is no company in Australia that could put up the capital that would be required to fight the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. At least £5,000,000 would be necessary, and it is exceedingly difficult to get so large an amount of capital to put into an industry in which it is well known that the most bitter, violent, and cut-throat opposition would have to be encountered from a powerful rival. Moreover, the sugar industry is so much in the hands of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company that it would be almost impossible for any rival company to get a footing. At one time, there was an opposition refining company in Melbourne.
– There is another refining company now.
– The honorable senator is referring to the Millaquan Company, which exists solely at the will of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. At one time, we had Poolman and Company, of Melbourne. They once imported between £40,000 and £50,000 worth of sugar from Java, for refining purposes, to fight the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. But, finally, the company bought them out, and the works are closed up to-day. That is why, in this Parliament, we find ourselves “ cabin’d, cribb’ d. confin’d,” and why we have not been able to follow the right course. We have been compelled to adopt another course, which is not so effective, but which we are compelled to stick to, nevertheless, in order to retain some little control over the industry. I do not think there is much more that i need to say upon the subject at this stage, beyond repeating that, instead of continually jumping upon the poor workman, and trying to cry him down, we ought to make common cause with him in an endeavour to get better terms from the monopoly, which at present is reaping the lion’s share of the wealth produced by this industry.
– Does not the honorable senator call the growers working men?
– Some of them are. If the honorable senator likes the term better, I will say that we should make common cause with the employes.
– They are all workers.
– Some of them work exceedingly hard. We have been told time and again that the industry is being ruined by Commonwealth legislation. But I know that, as a matter of hard fact, the industry was never so prosperous as it has been since it was under Federal legislation. It has fallen to my lot, after an income tax was imposed in Queensland, to make up returns for dozens of sugar-growers - I might even say hundreds of them. I had all the facts concerning their business placed at my disposal, and was enabled to examine their accounts. I know that the industry is in an exceedingly prosperous condition. Many of the men are personal friends of my own. Some of them who, ten years ago, were so poor that they could not afford a new pair of pants once a year have been able to enjoy every comfort, and almost every luxury imaginable. Some of them have been able to take two or three trips to the Old Country. All this has been done out of the “ ruined “ sugar industry. I know men who formerly were not worth a bean who have since paid £50 an acre for land for growing sugar-cane. We never hear of the harm done to the industry by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, but we continually hear of “ ruin “ through the demands of the working man.
– All those who say that they have not been able to make things pay cannot have been telling the truth, according to the honorable senator.
– I know men who have paid, thousands of pounds for property, who, ten years ago, could not have bought an acre of land.
– What I have seen does not square with the honorable senator’s statements.
– I will candidly admit that some persons who have tried to make a success of sugar-growing on land that was entirely unsuitable have failed. But where the conditions have been favorable, the industry has been one of the most profitable and beneficial in Australia. It has helped to settle a white population, and has enabled us to establish our White Australia policy. It has settled in the most tropical portion of Australia as large a rural population as you will find in any portion of the continent.
– How does the honorable senator reconcile that statement with the fact that there are so many thousand acres less under sugar this year, and that the industry is going back year by year?
– If the honorable senator takes the average for a number of years, he will find that sugar production instead of decreasing is continually on the increase. Now and again, we may have a diminution in one year as compared with another, but if you take a period of years, you will find that production is largely increasing. There is another fact which I have quoted over and. over again, but of which it appears to be necessary to remind honorable senators opposite. How is it that when we had coloured labour in Queensland in abundance, there were continually failures in the sugar industry? Why did the Pyramid Sugar Plantation “ go bung “ years before we had Federation, and when there was an abundance of coloured labour? What made the Hopwood Plantation fail ? The honorable senator and. his party have been continually talking about land going out of cultivation, but we hear nothing about land which went out of cultivation when there was a plethora of coloured labour. The Hamley Plantation was managed by that great champion of coloured labour, Sir Alfred Cowley, for years before we had a White Australia policy. Why did that fail? I could mention many similar cases. Yet, because an acre or two goes out of cultivation under the White Australia policy, honorable senators opposite are all up in arms, and say that the whole thing is going to the dogs. In the Commonwealth YearBook, issued by Mr. Knibbs, for the present year, at page 391, there is a table giving the area of land under cane from 1885 to 191 1. Let us take the year when the Commonwealth first commenced to “ meddle “ with the industry - 1902-3. The acreage in New South Wales was 20,160, and, in Queensland, 85,385. At the end of 1910-11, in New South Wales, the acreage was 13,763, a reduction of about 7,000 acres; and, in Queensland, it was 141,779, or nearly double the acreage in 1902-3. Where, then, is the reduction that Senator Sayers is talking about ? Let us take the figures for the whole Commonwealth. In 1902-3, the acreage was 105,489; in 1910-11, it was 155,542. Although the acreage was reduced in New South Wales, it increased largely in Queensland. But why was it reduced in New South Wales? Largely because the land used for sugar cultivation was getting exhausted after continuous cropping for a long time, but more largely owing to the fact that dairying was becoming more profitable and suitable to the nature of the country than sugar-growing.
– A sensible man will always turn his land to the best use.
– Of course he will turn his land to the most profitable and congenial use. The fact remains that this White Australia legislation of ours, which has been “ ruining “ the industry, has, as a matter of fact, made it more profitable than it ever was before. I should like to see the growers make common cause with their employes to secure fairer conditions in the industry from the bloated monopoly, which at present is fleecing them both. It is because the grower cannot get a fair deal from the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, to whom he is compelled to sell his cane in many instances at from 4s. to 6s. per ton less than is paid by a central mill alongside the company’s mill, that he is unable to make the profit he would like to make, and which would enable him to pay decent wages to his men. But, instead of making common cause with the worker, the growers are all the time making common cause with the bloated monopoly, and trying to jump on the working man with both feet.
– They are a bad lot !
– Whether they are a bad lot or not, I am not prepared to condemn any class as a whole, but I do say that, as a united body, they do not exercise that common sense which should teach them in what direction their true interests lie. It would be very much wiser if, instead of trying to jump upon the working men, and claiming that is an hour is too high a rate of wages for a worker in a climate in which they formerly said a white man could not work at all, they tried to make the industry such as would enable them to enjoy a sufficient measure of prosperity to allow of the payment of decent wages to the workers without encroaching on their own legitimate profit.
Debate (on motion by Senator Vardon) adjourned.
Assent to the following Bills reported : -
Naval Agreement Bill.
Pine Creek to Katherine River Railway Survey Bill.
Maternity Allowance Bill.
Senator PEARCE laid on the table the following paper -
Public Service Act 1902-1911. Department of Home Affairs. - Appointment of R. B. Ward to position of computer, Statistical Branch.
Senate adjourned at 3.50 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 11 October 1912, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1912/19121011_SENATE_4_67/>.