13th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. P. J. Lynch) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Motion (by Senator Sir George Pearce) - by leave - agreed to -
That Standing Order No. 68 be suspended up to and including the 3rd December to enable new business to be taken after 10.30 p.m.
The following papers were presented: -
Munitions Supply Board - Report for period 1st July, 1929, to 30th June, 1931, together with Report of Commonwealth Government- Clothing Factory for the year ended 30th June, 1931.
Superannuation Act - Tenth Annual Report of the Superannuation Board for the year ended 30th June, 1932.
– Has the Leader of the Senate read the overseas press cable news in the Canberra Times of this date to the effect that leading newspapers in London are appealing to the people of Great Britain not to buy goods manufactured in the United States of America? Are the right honorable gentleman and his colleagues, Senators McLachlan and Greene willing to appeal in this chamber, and also in the Cabinet room, to the people of Australia to buy only Australianmade goods?
– I have seen the statement referred to, and againI remind the honorable gentleman that it is not usual to disclose govern ment policy in answer to questions.
– Is the Leader of the
Senate aware that Mr. Jardine, the captain of the English cricket team now visiting Australia, when speaking recently over the air at one of the Sydney B-class wireless stations, appealed to listeners to make monetary donations for Christmas dinners for unemployed Australian returned sailors and soldiers and their dependants? If so, will the Government now reverse its policy and make available the sum of £1,000,000 for Christmas relief for the unemployed in Australia?
– The honorable senator has been informed, on several occasions, that the Government is making available through Commonwealth and State channels more than £1,000,000 for the relief of unemployment.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE Information is being obtained, and will be furnished as soon as possible to Senator E. B. Johnston with reference to freight concessions on the Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie railway.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The right honorable the Prime Minister has supplied the following answers: - -
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether ho has received a letter dated 23ru November, from the Queensland branches of the combined Public Service organizations, appealing for some measure of relief from th<recent wage cuts; if so, what decision has been reached upon the matter?
– The Prime Minister has supplied the following answer: -
An opportunity has not yet presented itself for considering the representations referred to, but the honorable senator will be advised in regard to the matter as soon as possible.
Debate resumed from the 29th November (vide page 2974), on motion by Senator Greene -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– Prior to the adjournment last evening, in the few preliminary observations which I was able to make, I referred to. the unfortunate position of the sugar industry. Owing to its remoteness from the principal centres of population, and also because sugar is produced chiefly in one State, the industry is more vulnerable to attack that it would be if it were carried on in several States. For some unexplained reason the production of sugar in many countries outside Australia has always been more subject to attack than any other industry. About three-quarters of a century ago Disraeli said of it - “ Strange that a manufacture which charms infancy and soothes old age should so frequently occasion political disaster.”1’ Ever since federation the industry in Australia has been so often called upon to meet attacks from various quarters that there might be applied to it the words spoken of those engaged in rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem - they have been working with a trowel in one hand and a sword in the other. I suppose we may congratulate ourselves that, in spite of the strength of enemy forces arrayed against us, we have been fairly successful, and that the people now recognize, through their governments, our claim for sympathetic consideration. . So far as the industry itself is concerned, the head and front of its offending has been the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. But why this should Ite so I am at a loss to understand. Possibly it is because a certain type of mind cannot view, with equanimity, success in others. We have been told, that dogs do ‘’ bay the moon “. That appears to explain the attitude of some people towards the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. I was a member of a royal commission which made a most exhaustive investigation into every branch of the industry about twenty years ago, and as a result of that inquiry which was, in a large measure, directed against the operations of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, I wrote the following in my minority report: -
The evidence reveals that the Colonial Sugar Helming Company occupies a commanding position in the industry, secured by steadily pursuing, for a long course of years, a policy which has won for it the confidence and good will of practically the whole of those with whom it has had business dealings. There is nothing to indicate that any of the company’s transactions have been in the slightest degree of a predatory character. Amicable relations subsist between the company on the one hand, and the manufacturers of raw sugar and the purchasers of refined on the other. That the company earns large profits both within and without the Commonwealth, appears to be entirely due to the volume of its business, the command of - adequate capital, the complete utilization of by-products, thorough organization, able administration, and high efficiency in every department.
What I then stated has not since been successfully challenged ‘from any quarter. I remember some years ago hearing a free lance journalist say that whenever he was hardpressed for a “ fiver all he had to do was to send to one of the newspapers one of his diatribes against the ‘Colonial Sugar Refining Company. ‘ These ebullitions have not appeared so frequently of late because the columns of our reputable newspapers are not, I believe, so open for the publication of misrepresentation and vilification of one of ‘ the most successful industrial and commercial concerns in the Commonwealth. One reason why so many attacks have been made against the company is that it has not been its policy to make reply to them. But that policy has been departed from to a slight extent of late, and I commend to honorable senators an article appearing in Current Problems of a recent date, and written by P. H. Goldfinch, General Manager of the Company. In that article he makes a passing reference to the way in which the Company has become possessed in recent years of its large funds. He says that during the early post-war years, the Company sold its Fiji sugar on the world’s markets, and got world prices. How high those were may be indicated by reminding honorable senators that in 1920, Great Britain paid to sugar producers in Mauritius £90 a ton for 200,000 tons, representing a payment of £18,000,000. As a consequence of those high prices, millions of money poured into the countries, such as Cuba and Java, which were producing sugar for the world’s markets. During the war, there was a distinct shortage of sugar in the world. Beet sugar production in Europe was greatly reduced in volume, and, to supply the deficiency thus created, every effort was made in cane-sugar countries such as Java, Cuba, Hawaii and Porto’ Rico, to produce to the utmost extent. Consequently, during the war years, there was a very great increase in the production of cane sugar, and an increase occurred in Australia to some extent. It was said by Senator Colebatch yesterday that the production of sugar in Queensland was very low in 1920, when an arrangement was made between the industry and the GovGovernment of the Commonwealth to increase the price to £30 6s. 8d. a ton. In 1917, the quantity produced in Australia was 324,260 tons. The estimate for 1918 was 3«5,000 tons, but then two most devastating cyclones, followed by floods and droughts, took place in Queensland, and instead of the anticipated 365,000 tons, only 209,000 tons were produced. During the war, and particularly in the later years of it, the industry was carried on in Australia under very great difficulties, partly climatic, but largely owing to labour difficulties. Practically all the farmers’ sons eligible for war service were at the war, and so were the best of the wageearners. There was a distinct shortage of efficient labour, and the best the industry could do was to mark time. A great many of our growers, and many of our millers, too, carried on at considerable loss, but having made arrangements with the Government t.o supply sugar at £21 a ton, we stood by the agreement, and did our best to give effect to it.
I make no complaint against the action of the present Federal Government in asking for a review of the agreement entered into between the Government of Queensland, on behalf of the sugar producers in that State, and the Commonwealth. Yet it was most unfortunate, I think, that the announcement was made in such regrettable terms. When we sat in conference with Senator McLachlan in Brisbane, and later, with the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) in Canberra, we were met in a very fair and reasonable way. After considering debits and credits in connexion with the proposed alteration of the price, we agreed to accept a reduction of ½d. per lb., on the condition that that price was fixed for a term beyond that for which the price was to run under the previous agreement. Of course, when an agreement is entered into, one cannot expect all the advantages to be on one side. This agreement involves a loss to the industry of £1,300,000 a year, and how that loss is to be met I do not know. But it was impressed upon us that, in view of the unfortunate position of some of the other big primary producing industries, we should., as far as possible, fall into line with them. Senator McLachlan, in Brisbane, assembled the representatives of the industry as a hen gathers her chickens, yet, at the same time he rifled the pockets of the industry to the extent of £1,300,000. So urbane was he, so persuasive, so exhortative, that I cannot help thinking what a great ecclesiastic was lost to the church when Senator McLachlan decided to study the law instead of the prophets. After our prolonged conference with the Prime Minister, I had a better opinion of him than I had previously held.
I shall refer to the nature of some of the propaganda which has been published in opposition to the sugar industry. I have before me an article which appeared in the Melbourne Herald a few years ago. It .has what is called a banner heading going almost across the page, and in it are some extraordinary statements.
– “What is the heading ?
– “ Millions from your sugar basin “. I shall show how these millions were calculated by Mr. J. M. Fowler, whom we recollect as a former member of this Parliament. In the course of the article referred to, he stated -
We were astonished at the relations between the Commonwealth Government and the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, relations which permitted arrangements which paid over to that company over £2,000,000 a year for management alone, and over a third as much in addition for distribution.
That remarkable article elicited a reply from Mr. Ling, an ex-officer of the Commonwealth Audit Department, in the course of which he said -
Surely Mr. J. M. Fowler is wrong in affirming that the Commonwealth Government paid to the Colonial Sugar Refining Company £2,000,000 per annum as a management charge and over a third as much in addition for distribution or selling charge. As the Commonwealth Government allowed £1 per ton of refined sugar as a capital and management charge and 7s. per ton of refined sugar as a selling charge, Mr. Fowler’s . figures would require two millions of tons of sugar to be refined annually, which is obviously absurd. Speaking from memory, the tonnage refined in Mr. Fowler’s time was somewhere about 250,000 tons by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, and 20,000 tons by the Millaquin Company. Further, his wish to know the cost of refining sugar could easily have been gratified by referring to the Commonwealth Auditor’s reports. The Colonial Sugar Henning Company was allowed the actual cost of refining, provided it did not exceed a specific amount per ton. I hare “ vouched “ every debit to refining costs, leading to much controversy as to the admission or rejection of certain debits. I believe I gave this fact in evidence before Mr. Fowler’s committee. I am in no way financially interested in the sugar industry (I wish I” wore), only as a consumer. I merely desire to point out what appear to be errors in Mr. Fowler’s article. . It’s pleasant, sure, to see Mr. Fowler in print again.
Ascot Vale, 13th August, .1930.
– He wished that he were a shareholder, because the profits were so great.
– Do not we all? Is that not the reason why there is so much envy of a prosperous company? But what would be the position of Australia, or any other country, if it had no prosperous citizens and no prosperous companies? This particular company now has between 3,000 and 4,000 shareholders. Something has been said about the profits of those engaged in the industry. I regret that the growers and the millers, too, are not so prosperous as somewho wish to reduce the price of sugar endeavour to lead the public to believe them to be. The majority of those who are engaged in the production of sugar cane in Queensland have to be financed from year to year by the banks, the mills, or the storekeepers, just as have the majority of those engaged in other land industries. At the present time, very few indeed of the growers can be said to be in a sound financial position. Yesterday,allusion was made to the great change that has taken place in some of the newer areas. Changes must necessarily take place, because a very large area of land has to be planted with cane in order to supply the requirements of a modern sugar mill, and that involves the expenditure of much money and the employment of a great deal of labour. In addition to those who are directly employed in the production of sugar, there are others who have to serve their needs in various ways; thus a number of businesses naturally spring up wherever a sugar mill is established. The Tully mill was given as an example. I suppose that this is one of the finest mills in the world. To a large extent that remark applies to practically every sugar mill in Queensland. I am acquainted with the results obtained by sugar mills in Java, Hawaii, Cuba and South Africa, and can say that theefficiency of the Queensland mills is not in any way inferior to them. But in spite of the efficiency of the industry in other countries, every one to-day who produces for export is in a very bad way. In Hawaii, which as honorable senators know is a territory of the United States of America, and where the sugar industry enjoys a protection of between £11 and £12a ton, not one half of the companies paid a dividend last year, although they employ very cheap coloured labour. It is ridiculous forSenator Colebatch to say, as he did last night, that the coloured labour employed in cane-producing countries is not cheaper than the white labour employed in Queensland.
– I did not say anything of the kind.
– Senator Colebatch agreed with Senator Collings, who said that cheap labour is not efficient.
– I cannot see any difference between that and what I have said. I have employed coloured labour, and can say that it is very much cheaper than white labour. I believe, however, that the sugar industry of Queensland employs as good a class of labour as is employed in any other industry in Australia. I have no complaint to make, and never have had, concerning the character of the labour employed in that industry. I, for one, welcomed the change-over from coloured to white labour - an industrial transformation which I believe is without parallel in any other country or any other industry.
A few months ago Senator Colebatch, who ispractically the leader of the opposition in the Southern States to the sugar industry, visited the Queensland sugar districts and wrote articles upon the industry which appeared in the Melbourne Argus and the Sydney Morning Herald. He referred to the price of sugar as fixed by the different agreements that had been entered into between the Commonwealth and Queensland Governments, and said -
The producers approached the Commonwealth Government with a request that the price should be advanced to £23 10s. Mr. Hughes jumped the price of raw sugar up to £30 6s.8d.
I do not know that I gain anything by removing the blame from the shoulders of Mr. Hughes and placing it on my own, but I was as much responsible as anyone for the increase of the price. Owing to adverse seasons, and to the difficulty of obtaining during the war efficient labour in sufficient quantity, the industry was in a very bad way when it asked the then Prime Minister, Mr. Hughes, for an increase of1d. per lb. in the price of raw sugar. The price previously received was 21/4d. per lb. Mr. Hughes fixed the price at 31/4d. per lb., which amounted to £30 6s. 8d. per ton. That enabled the industry to carry on in a reasonable way.
– Is it a fact that from 1915 to 1922 sugar was much cheaper in Australia than in Great Britain ?
– It is; and during the war Australia had sufficient
Sugar, not only for domestic users, but also to enable fruit processors in particular to export their products at the high world prices ruling, to the value of £17,500,000.
– But during that period it was not all of Australian production.
– No. Owing to adverse seasons, some sugar had to be imported at a higher price than was paid for that produced in Australia, and to make good the loss domestic and other consumers had to pay more than would have been necessary if Australia could have produced all that it needed. There was also a shortage for a brief period, not because the sugar was not available in Australia, but’ because its distribution was held up by a dislocation of shipping services. At no time, however, was there anything approaching the inconvenience and loss which occurred in other countries.
– As a matter of fact Australia had to pay £50 a ton for sugar to make good the deficiency in Australian production.
– During the war, and for some time afterwards, the production and distribution of sugar was directly controlled by the Commonwealth Government, and almost £100 a ton was paid for some consignments. I. believe that the average price paid for the sugar purchased abroad was something over £70 a ton. The whole of the facts are contained in the Commonwealth Government sugar control accounts from the 19th July, 1915, to the 31st March, 1922.
In the article that he contributed to the Melbourne Argus, Senator Colebatch made the following statement: -
In 1920-21 the production of sugar was 1S2.525 tons. This left no surplus for export, and the producers - those engaged in growing the cane and milling to the raw sugar stage - obtained the full £21 a ton.
During that year the industry received £30 6s. 8d. a ton; but, as I have already pointed out, away back in 1917 the production was 324,260 tons. Senator Colebatch also dealt in his articles, as he did in his speech last night, with the price of land. In one article he said -
The fact that land assigned to the growing of sugar is worth more than £100 an acre in good districts, while unassigned land would not bring £10 an acre in the same area, is proof of profits of the farmer that will withstand a cut.
When the honorable senator wrote that he must have known that land which was sold at a price approaching £100 an acre was not only assigned but also improved - that it carried a crop of cane, and all necessary buildings. As a rule, such sales are made on a walk-in, walk-but basis; therefore, the whole of the equipment, including perhaps costly tractors, passes to the new owner. In many cases, also, the purchaser obtains a number of paid-up shares in a farmers’ co-operative mill.
– What is the average cost, of clearing the land ?
– I should say that a fair average to make the land ready for the plough would be about £25 an acre, although I have had land prepared at a higher cost than that. If we add the value of fencing, necessary buildings, farm- equipment, crops, and shares in a farmers’ co-operative mill, the price received is probably less than the original cost. I believe that some farms have changed hands at more than their economic value. Probably Senator Guthrie will admit that that has occurred also in connexion with wool and wheat lands, and that it is not a disability peculiar to the sugar industry. Nearly everything cost more in previous years than it is worth to-day. I know from my own experience, however, that farmers who are not handicapped by the high price of land, and who are able to carry on wi,th little borrowed money, are not making unreasonable profits; and in unfavorable seasons some of them are sustaining serious losses.
– If the sugar we consume was produced by coloured labour, what would become of the land now used for the production of that commodity?
– It would revert to jungle conditions. Senator Colebatch, who paid a hurried visit to the sugar districts of Queensland, suggested that, instead of producing more sugar than is required, some of the sugar lands could be used for the production of tomatoes. He said “ The growing of fruit and vegetables offers wide possibilities.”
– “Where would those products be sold?
– In Sydney, I suppose, where a few months ago cauliflowers were selling at 3d. a dozen and certain other kinds of vegetables could not be given away. During recent months I have seen green peas and french beans selling in Sydney at 4 lb. for 6d. Anyone who knows anything about the growing of vegetables knows that there is no profit for the producer at such prices.
Reference has been made to the price of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company’s shares. Recently Mr. Knox, the managing director of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, said that the company had £18,500,000 invested in the business. As honorable senators are aware, the share capital is between £5,000,000 and £6,000,000 so that the 12* per cent, dividend which the company is paying is not high compared with the amount of capital invested in the business.
– The company is not responsible for the boosting of the shares.
– I am well aware of that. In Monday’s Melbourne newspapers the 20s. shares of the Melbourne Herald were quoted at 55s. buyers and 56s. 6d. sellers, so that the premium in the case of the Melbourne Herald shares is just as great as it is in the case of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company’s £20 shares. The company does not derive all its profits in Australia. For instance I read in the newspapers a few days ago, that the output from the company’s ‘ Fijian sugar mills this season will total 130,000 tons, and Upon that quantity the company is getting a preference in the British and Canadian markets of £5 a ton, which is considerably more than the preference afforded Australian sugar.
– In some instances the shares in gold mining ventures have doubled and trebled in value.
-Of course they have. Wiluna shares which could have been bought a few months ago at 14s. are, I believe, now quoted at 63s.
– The latest quotation is 58s.
– Investing in mining is a gamble, but in the case of the sugar industry it is a certainty.
– I cannot believe that in these times any commercial investment is a certainty. Complaint has been made that under the new agreement those engaged in the fruit industry will suffer some disability.
Senator Colebatch said that under the new agreement the fruit-growers will lose by the reduction in the concession to fruit processors of from £315,000 to £200,000. Apparently the honorable senator is mistaken as to the effect <of the provisions of the agreement. Fruit processors previously .obtained sugar at £36 lis. 9d. less a rebate of £6 5s. id. a ton. They thus paid £30 “6s. 8d. a ton for their sugar. Under the new agreement they will pay in the first instance £32 10s. 9d. and obtain a rebate of £2 4s. a- ton, making the price so far as they are concerned, £30 6s. 9d. a ton.
– Which is more than they paid before.
– Account has, however, to be taken of the statement of the Assistant Treasurer (Senator Greene) that £30,000 has already been approved as a further rebate, equal to £1 a ton, and that if the agreement is adopted the jam manufacturers and canners will obtain their sugar this season- at approximately £29 6s. 9d. a ton. I have taken from the Launceston Examiner, of the 24th November of this year, a report which contains the opinion of Mr. Feil, a fruit-grower and a representative of the growers on the Fruit Concessions Committee. That report reads - “ The adoption by Parliament of a new sugar agreement is of the greatest importance to the fruit-growers pf Australia,” said Mr. Feil, a director of the Port Huon Fruit-growers Co-operative Association, who has been attending a meeting of the Sugar Concessions Committee at Canberra. “ Especially may I stress its importance to the berry fruit-growers of Tasmania, as it ensures the continuance of the special concessions in the price of sugar to the fruit industry.”
As an illustration of the value of these concessions, Mr. Feil cited last year’s bounty of f 10 a ton on berry pulps exported overseas. This permitted from 500 to 700 tons of otherwise unsaleable pulp to be exported, thus clearing the’ local market of embarrassing surplus stocks.
Under the sugar agreement, growers are protected by the Fruit Industry Concessions Committee fixing reasonable minimum prices paid by factories. In the last annual report of the Port Huon Co-operative Association, issued a few weeks ago, the directors ‘ said, “ Fixing the minimum price- to growers is the best step ever taken to assist the fruit industry *’. “ This company,” Mr. Feil added, “ is one of the leading fruit organizations in Australia. It represents SO per cent, of the berry-growers of Tasmania, as well as many stone fruitgrowers “. He concluded by stating that opinion amongst fruit-growers was now practically unanimous in favour of the new sugar agreement.
That represents the opinion of the Tasmanian fruit-growers and also that of those engaged in the production of fruit in the Goulburn Valley and in the Leeton irrigation area.
Senator Colebatch also referred to the Maffra Beet Sugar Factory, but in that reference he was unfortunate. He surely knows that the fruit concessions, the payment of freight to Western Australia, and export concessions are not paid by the Maffra concern. The Victorian Government and the Irrigation Commission are heavily involved at Ardmona, yet the Maffra factory leaves the cane-sugar industry to grant concessions to the fruit-growers in the Ardmona and Shepparton areas, in Victoria, and at Leeton, in New South Wales. The honorable senator also referred to the British preference of £4 5s. a ton enjoyed by the Australian industry, which, he said, amounted to about £1,000,000 annually. That is not correct. The preference on raw sugar is now approximately £3 lis. 6d. a ton, and the average amount received on Australian sugar entering Great Britain during the last couple of years was under £600,000 per annum. This year the preference will again be under that amount. The sugar industry is, therefore, not enjoying such a high British preferential rate as the honorable senator believes.
Senator Colebatch also expressed the opinion that the sugar-producers should have consented to a reduction, equivalent to 22^ per cent.; but I would point out that sugar prices did not reach the peak prices paid for other foodstuffs. Sugar prices have always been limited by the agreement entered into between the Commonwealth Government and the Queensland Government. The price which the sugar producers will receive this year will be fully 40 per cent, below that which they received when the price of sugar was fixed at £30 6s. Sd. a ton. I admit that that is due to some extent to export considerations ; but, in’ primary industries, production cannot be so arranged as to avoid any surplus. Particularly is this the case in the sugar industry, the operations of which extend over 1,200 miles of coast line, and iti which 8,000 producers are engaged. It is impracticable to produce only sufficient to meet the local demand. What is wrong in the world to-day? Overproduction.
– It is production in excess of the market requirements, and, as a result, a buyers’ market has been established. The sellers have to take whatever prices buyers are prepared to give. That is the position with respect to wool. I believe that the Wool Committee which recently submitted its report has recommended that wool should be sold only at a price payable to the wool producers.
– If we purchased sugar from Java could we pay for it with wheat or wool?
– We are buyin a great deal more from Java than Java is buying from us. According to the last figures, we are buying annually nearly £2,000,000 worth of tea, which is sold in Australia as China tea. It has been said that the cost of sugar consumed in Australia, as compared with the price at which it could be purchased from other countries, represents an amount of £7,000,000. Professor Giblin estimated it at £5,000,000 and Professor Bridgen at £4,000,000. It would be reasonable to assume that the cost, is somewhere between those two amounts. By purchasing Australian sugar, instead of running to the bargain counters of the world to obtain it, the people of Australia are paying for the sugar they consume probably £4,500,000 per annum more than they would if they imported their requirements.
The reduction proposed in this bill will represent a . saving of £1,300,000 to them, so that the additional cost to Australian consumers of purchasing’ Australian sugar, in preference to the imported article, will be about £3,200,000, of which Queensland will pay one-sixth, leaving the other States to pay £2;666,667, the whole of which amount will be paid for in goods which are as much above the price of the bargain counters of the world as is the price of sugar. Queensland purchases from the other States goods to the value of £11,300,000 per annum, which it is only fair to assume could be imported at a much lower cost. If we examine the position closely, we shall find that the other States really owe Queensland a considerable sum, instead of Queensland being in debt to them.
Do honorable senators think that it is fair to compare the price of a commodity produced in Australia under white labour conditions with the price of a similar commodity produced in some other country by coloured labour and sold at half the cost of production ? I have always understood Australia’s fiscal policy to be based, not on the cost of production in other countries, but on the reasonable cost of efficient production in this country in industries which it is thought desirable should be established here. Once we depart from that principle, disaster will overtake the industries of Australia, and other countries which desire to do business with us will suffer also.
Some years ago, I was present at a festive gathering in Melbourne at which the speaker who proposed the toast of the host concluded his remarks by saying, “ May he live long and continue to prosper, because if he does not prosper he is of no use to us.” Applying the remarks of the speaker on that occasion to the case now before us, I would say that an impoverished Australia would be of no use to Great Britain. [Extension of time granted.] I thank honorable senators for their courtesy in allowing me further time in which to conclude my remarks. I shall not trespass unduly on their generosity. We can purchase from Britain only so much as our means will permit; if we buy our sugar from other countries we shall have less money to spend within the Empire.
– We shall have to get “ niggers “ to grow tomatoes with which to pay our debts.
– There are some persons in Australia who would like the “ niggers “ to grow more than tomatoes. Unfortunately, Australia is weakening on the White Australia policy and that weakening, if not checked, will lead to disaster. I speak to-day, not in support of any theoretical political idea, but in the interests of scores of thousands of persons in Queensland and other parts of Australia. Economists agree that, for every person directly employed in the production of wealth, two or three others are indirectly employed. If the thousands employed in the sugar industry are thrown out of employment, and the trade is diverted to coloured labour countries, the inevitable result will be that many more thousands of our people who are now supplying the requirements of the sugar producers will be unemployed. Some honorable senators may agree with Senator Colebatch that, in the event of restrictions being placed on the sugargrowing’ industry, those who are now engaged growing sugar could find employment, in some other form of primary production. In what primary industry in Australia today could production be increased without injury to those already engaged in it? That danger is recognized by the wheat-growers and the wool-growers of Australia, as well as by the fruit-growers, who are vitally concerned” with the success of the sugar industry. The Minister said that the only alternative to this measure was the continuance of the old agreement. The Commonwealth Government has promised to stand by that agreement if this measure is rejected, and the Senate will readily understand that, in that event, the Queensland Government, as well as the sugar producers of that State, will do the same.
– I understand that the price of sugar in England is 3.6d. per lb.
– That is not much less than the 4d. per lb. proposed in this measure. Most of the sugar consumed in England is imported from countries such as the West Indies, British
Guiana, Mauritius and South Africa, in which coloured labour is employed.
It has been suggested that the position could be met by a duty on sugar. That may be so ; but the duty would have to be sufficiently high to protect the Australian industry. It would have to be at least 3d. per lb.
– What price did the honorable senator advocate before the Tariff Board?
– I have never given evidence before the Tariff Board,and I cannot remember that a duty on sugar was ever mentioned by a representative of the sugar industry, or that the Tariff Board made any inquiry into that industry. It is true that the board made a report on sugar ; but it did not conduct an inquiry into the sugar industry. Its report was prepared in Perth. At one time, the duty on sugar entering South Africa was £14 a ten, but recently, the South African Government increased the duty by £3 17s. 6d. a ton. Its action in this respect is all the more significant when we reflect that South Africa has probably the cheapest coloured labour in the world.
The price of sugar under the new agreement will be11/2.per lb. more than it is in New Zealand under freetrade conditions. The sugar refined in New Zealand and consumed there in recent years has come chiefly from Cuba and Java. Fijian sugar is disposed of principally in Canada and Great Britain, where it enjoys a measure of preference, which now is greater than that given to Australian sugar. Surely, it is worth something to Australia to have its sugar requirements produced in this country. Taking the price of sugar in New Zealand at 21/2d. per lb., is it unreasonable to ask the people of Australia to pay an additional1d. per lb. to have their sugar produced in their own country, and another1/2d. per lb. for the sake of the great White Australia ideal?
– Not one per cent. of the people make any complaint.
– The additional cost of sugar makes no appreciable difference in the average household accounts.
– That may be said also of a sales tax on flour.
– I agree with the honorable senator. I think that I was the only member on this side of the chamber to advocate a special price for wheat consumed in Australia. I do not ask for the sugar industry anything that I would not give to other primary industries. Australia must stand by her primary industries if she is to find employment for her people. If this bill is defeated, and the sugar industry destroyed, many thousands of workers will be thrown out of employment, and the economic position, already grave, will be aggravated. I hope that honorable senators will give this bill their careful and sympathetic consideration, and that when the measure is put to the vote, very few, other than the avowed freetraders, will vote against it.
– I have, on a number of other occasions in this chamber, expressed my entire opposition to the existing embargo against the importation into Australia of sugar from other countries, and have also protested against the excessive prices which people in the southern States have been called upon to pay for Australian sugar in the interests of Queensland. This new agreement between the Commonwealth and Queensland Governments does not give adequate relief to the people in the southern States. Their demand is for cheaper sugar, particularly during this period of depression ; I regret to state that this bill will prevent them from getting it for at least four years. The reduction proposed in the price of sugar represents only 11 per cent. as against the221/2 per cent. demanded, under recent legislation, of other industries. Under the Premiers plan public servants and bondholders have been forced to accept a reduction of 221/2 per cent. in their salary payments and interest returns, hut the sugar industry is escaping with a reduction of only 11 per cent.
– If the price of sugar were reduced by Id. per lb., how many more people would be put into work?
– I cannot say, but I do know that such a reduction would enable people who are out of work and on the dole to get more sugar than at present they are able to obtain.
– A reduction of1d. per lb. would not mean a difference of 6d. a week in the budget of the average family of five persons.
– But it would mean much to old-age pensioners and the unemployed of this country.
– We never get much sympathy for our pensioners from the honorable senator.
– The honorable gentleman is wrong. If he looks up the record of Senate proceedings he will learn that, both by my voice and by my vote, I have shown my practical sympathy for our pensioners.
– The honorable senator did the right thing then.
Senator E. B. JOHNSTON.Naturally, I am pleased to have Senator Daly’s approval for my action towards our pensioners, even if he disagrees with me about the price of sugar.
– Is it not a fact that a reduction of1/2d. per lb. now would be equivalent to a reduction of1d. per lb. at the expiration of the old agreement?
– Why should we expect that, at some future date, the reduction in the price of sugar will be only1d. per lb. It might be 2d. per lb. or more. This Parliament should have an effective control over the tariff proposals of any government, so that, if a majority approved of an alteration of the sugar duties, sugar could be imported and sold to the Australian people at a reasonable price. This would permit States like Western Australia to engage in reciprocal trading with foreign communities close to their doors.
– Does the honorable senator suggest that we could find an outlet for our butter there?
– In Java there is an excellent market for many commodities produced in the southwestern portion of Western Australia, and in South Australia also, but because of embargoes and excessively high tariffs we are not permitted to take advantage of that natural market. We are not allowed, for example, to obtain cheap sugar produced there, in exchange for our horses, our apples, and other fruits, our biscuits, our wheat products, and many other commodities which we produce in abundance.For many years, Western Australia did a thriving trade with Mauritius, importing sugar, and sending away, in return, horses, timber, fruit and other products. In those days we were not ashamed to use the excellent brown sugar which we obtained from Mauritius. One of the things that I object to in this agreement is that it contains no provision for the marketing of brown sugar which, besides being excellent in quality - I was brought up on it - is also cheaper. All this, I remind the Senate, is done in the interests of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. Under the agreement, the price of sugar is reduced by only1/2d. per lb., from41/2d. to 4d. per lb.
SenatorFoll. - The honorable senator knows quite well that the growers could not stand a greater reduction.
– I know quite well that the growers, who do most of the work in producing sugar, are getting the least advantage out of this agreement. One of my main objections to its ratification is that it imposes onerous industrial conditions upon the growers; all employees in the industry are to be paid rates of wages out of all proportion to the wages paid in other industries, although climatic conditions are not, on the whole, more trying in the sugar districts of Queensland than they are in some other parts of that State and of Australia where farming, mining and pastoral operations are carried on.
I admit that work in the canefields is arduous, and I agree that the men engaged there should be paid adequately; but mypoint is that, for some portion of the time, at all events, the climatic conditions for cane cutting are comparatively favorable. The same cannot be said of harvesting operations. The best work is done during the hottest days, and, if a cool spell comes in the middle ofsummer, men engaged on a harvester have to cease work for the time being.
Under this agreement the price of sugar will remain constant until August, 1936, whereas under the did agreement it was to be reviewed in August, 1934, when there was good reason to expect there would be a reduction of Id. or 2d. per lb. in the retail price of sugar. There would be a greater reduction if the embargo were removed. Clearly, the object of the bill is to prevent, before 1936, any alteration of the price in a downward direction.
It is quite a mistake to suppose that this agreement finds general acceptance throughout the Commonwealth. Strong objections have already been made to it in every State except Queensland, and it does seem strange that it should have been signed by a Nationalist Prime Minister, and that the bill giving effect to it should be introduced in another place by a Tasmanian Minister, in the person of Mr. Guy. At a later stage I hope to be able to quote briefly from speeches made a few months ago by Mr. Guy, who then held views quite different from those lately expressed by him upon this important subject. In J July last, an important interstate conference was held in Adelaide for the purpose of considering this agreement. All the States except Queensland were represented at that gathering, and the following resolutions were carried unanimously : -
That, in the opinion of this conference of interstate organizations representing sugarconsuming interests, the sugar embargo, entailing a levy of approximately £7,000,000 annually, imposed an undue, unwarranted, and oppressive burden upon the people of Australia, and should be immediately removed.
That as, in the opinion of competent authorities, the sugar agreement is a violation of the provisions of section 99 of the Constitution, this meeting respectfully requests, in view of the remarks of the Chief Justice of Australia in the case of Anderson v. Commonwealth, that the Premiers of the States most vitally interested in the question take steps to test, by legal action, the validity of the agreement.
– Were industrial unions represented at that conference?
– I do not know that they were directly represented; hut it was a most representative gathering, and included the following: -
Victoria. - Sugar Consumers Association, incorporating eleven kindred associations; Housewives Association; Grocers Association; Tariff Reform League; Henry George League.
New South Wales. - Cheaper Sugar Association.
Tasmania. - Sugar Consumers Association; State Fruit Advisory Board.
Western Australia. - Housewives Association; National Council of Women; Women’s Section, Primary Producers Association; Women’s Electoral League; Grocers Association; Sugar Consumers Association ; Pastoralists Association.
South Australia. - Housewives Association ; Wheat Producers Freedom Association; Wheat-growers Protection Association; Wheat-growers Federation; Retail Storekeepers Association; Biscuit Manufacturers Association; Manufacturing Confectioners Association; Single Tax League; Country Womens Association; South Australian Fruit-growers and Market-gardeners Association; Citizens League.
– Did the conference discuss a proposal for a return of kanaka labourers to the cane-fields?
– No such suggestion was made. I may add, for the information of the honorable gentleman, that, like myself, the delegates belonged to political parties having as their foremost plank the maintenance of the White Australia policy. I do not know whether the South Australian Citizens League represented at the conference was the political body which played such a prominent part in the last State election. Possibly it was, and its representatives were Mr. A. L. Langsford and Mr. E. D. A. Bagot.
Senator Crawford, this morning, made a moving appeal to honorable senators to support the bill in the interests of one State. I am sorry that the honorable gentleman is not, at the moment, in the chamber, because I wish to emphasize that there is strong opposition to this agreement in at least two of the States, one of which is under a Labour government, and the other under an administration controlled by the Nationalist and Country parties. It may interest honorable senators to know that the South Australian Government sent the following message to the conference : -
It is the considered opinion of members of the South Australian Ministry that the present burden of sugar prices should be relieved. While realizing the benefits which the present embargo confers upon at least one section of the Australian community, it is felt that these are greatly outweighed by the disadvantages whichthe high prices place upon householders in the Commonwealth. It can be truly said that, in giving this assistance to an industry in one State, the whole of the people in the remainder of the States are having their conditions made more difficult in the process.
On behalf of the Government of South Australia, therefore, I desire to inform you that our attitude is that we believe that the most good for the greatest number of peoplein Australia would result from at least a substantial revision of the present policygoverning sugar.
– Is the honorable senator aware that a recent meeting of South Australian wheat-farmers carried resolutions in favour of the present agreement ?
No; I am not. The honorable gentleman’s versatility and knowledge of political happenings is such that, if a meeting of farmers were held in the remotest part of the Commonwealth, and that meeting supported the sugar interests, he would be fully informed. But if such a meeting were held, and if it carried a motion in favour of the agreement, I am surprised that it has not been included in the propaganda material published by the sugar interests in the Sydney Bulletin, and other newspapers. In these circumstances, also, I have no doubt that even if the gathering consisted of only seven persons, Senator Foll would set the resolution against even the considered opinion of the Labour Government of South Australia which, we may assume, represents the democracy of that State. Sir James Mitchell, the Premier of “Western Australia, has pithily expressed the considered opinion of that State on the sugar agreement.
SenatorRae. -He believes in secession.
– If the people of Western Australia succeeded in that direction, they would at least enjoy cheap sugar inthe future. I am almost constrained to say that that is the one chance my State has of sweetening’ its tea, by means of sugar purchased at a reasonable price.
– This agreement is the sort of thing, that causes secession movements.
– Yes. It is legislation of this nature that drives the most loyal community in Australia - if we may judge by its vote in favour of conscription - into considering the question of secession and into expressing an opinion such as that given by Sir James Mitchell, when he said -
On behalf of the Government of Western Australia, I enter my protest against continuance of embargo upon importation sugar, which not only seriously restricts the State’s commerce, but also imposes an unjust and heavy burden on householders. Removalof embargo would help closer settlement and intense culture, fostering fruit industry especially, and adding considerably to trade, commerce and production of State.
I commend that message to the notice particularly of the Minister who introduced the bill, and attempted to prove that the sugar industry had assisted the fruit industry. I contend that it has done nothing of the sort. I say that the sugar industry has battened, not only on the fruit industry, but also on the wheat, wool, mining, and other industries. Then it gives the community a small dole out of its huge profits. The Commonwealth Auditor-General has estimated that the assistance granted to the industry represents a tax on the people amounting to £7,000,000 a year.
– The fruit industry seems to like the agreement.
– Not at all. In Western Australia soft fruits are going out of cultivation. In that State we have lots of soft fruits which cannot be utilized, and this is due entirely to the excessive cost of sugar. If sugar were cheap in Western Australia and other States, housewives and small orchardists would convert large quantities of surplus fruit into jam. Senator Greene told us that the sugar industry supports the fruit industry; but the Premier of Western Australia, on the other hand, has pointed out that, if the embargo were removed, cheaper sugar would result in closer settlement, intense cultivation, and, particularly, the fostering of the fruit industry.
– Why is Western Australia worse off in this matter than any other State?
– It is the furthest removed from the sugargrowing State, but I think that all States suffer severely from the embargo. The
Perth Chamber of Commerce, at a general meeting, has passed the following resolution : -
That in the opinion of this chamber, imposition sugar embargo without approval Parliament, and entailing taxation approximately £7,000,000 annually upon the people, contrary to principles constitutional government, and imposes undue, unwarranted and oppressive burden on householders of Australia.
Of course, I am pleading for the men and women of Australia who consume sugar, while the support for this measure comes from the wealthy sugar barons of the northern States, and from the Labour party. The importers’ section of the Melbourne Chamber of Commerce forwarded the following message: -
Wish express entire sympathy with your endeavour effect satisfactory adjustment price of sugar.
Representatives of sugar consumers’ associations met in Melbourne on the 28th October, and, after full consideration of the Government’s proposals, the following resolutions were unanimously carried: -
I strongly object to this Government, without having received a mandate from the people at the last election, entering into an agreement which will extend into the life of the next Parliament. The sugar consumers would be better off without this agreement, which compels them to use dear sugar for the next four years.
I propose now to refer to the remarks of the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Guy) who, speaking in another, place on the 21st May, 1931, condemned the agreement as unconstitutional. This is the Minister who introduced and fathered the present bill in another place last week. In 1931. he said-
Last year, the Minister for Trade and Customs said that . the world’s, parity price of Sugar was approximately £1 1 per ton, and the average price in Australia, was £30 per ton. Tn view of the fact that the consumption of sugar in Australia is about 300,000 tons, a calculation will show that the annual charge to the Australian people over and above the world’s parity is about the amount mentioned by the honorable member, for Swan (Mr. Gregory ) , . namely, £7,000.000.
– Did the honorable gentleman oppose the agreement last vear?
– He certainly condemned the embargo. He proceeded as follows: -
When we take into consideration freight, landing, and other charges, that figure may be somewhat reduced. Nevertheless, a tremendous burden is placed on the shoulders of the people, and they are asking that the embargo be removed, and replaced by a reasonably heavy customs duty on foreign sugar.
Why does not M.r. Guy, as Minister in charge of this bill, put that policy into effect? He went on to say -
Another as poet of the embargo is that the excessive price paid for sugar in Australia benefits a section of the people residing in one State only. It is contended that that is n distinct violation of the spirit of federation. Section 02 of the Constitution reads -
On the imposition of uniform duties of cu» toms, trade, commerce, and intercourse among the States, whether by means of internal carriage or ocean navigation, shall be absolutely free.
Section 9!) reads -
The Commonwealth shall not,. by any law or regulation nf trade, commerce, or revenue, give preference to one State or any part thereof over another State or any part thereof.
Under the embargo, the people have to pay for their sugar a price fixed largely by the sugar interests, with, of course, the sanction of the Commonwealth Parliament. It will be admitted that the federal compact provides for absolute freedom of trade between the States.
Then the Minister quoted statements made by Mr. Deakin, Sir George Reid and Sir Edmund Barton, to the effect that trade and commerce should be absolutely unrestricted between all parts of the Commonwealth. These statements appear in Hansard of the 21st May, 1931, at page 2207. Mr. Guy added-
I claim that preference should not he given to an industry in one State, unless other industries in other States receive exactly similar treatment. I have already suggested that the sugar agreement violates the federal compact, and if it does not do that; it certainly strains it to the utmost limit.
I draw the attention of honorable senators to the Minister’s inconsistency in fathering the present bill, which gives preferential treatment to the sugar industry, while refusing similar treatment to the wheat industry by providing for a bounty on wheat by means of the imposition of a sales tax on the local consumption of wheat and flour. I am in complete agreement with the opinion expressed last year by the Minister that the special preference given to the sugar industry, if it is not an absolute breach of the Constitution, at least strains it to the utmost limit. Then the Minister made a strong attack on the finances of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. I have not time to read his remarks in that connexion, but they are to be found in Hansard. The Minister also said -
Another anomaly is that the Colonial Sugar Refinery quotes A.l sugar in New Zealand at £16 10s. a ton, while in Australia the very same sugar is quoted at £37 6s. 8d. a ton, more than double the price. That is regarded as exploitation of the worst kind by many persons outside this Parliament. It has been said in defence of the embargo that it enables Northern Queensland to support a white population, and tends to preserve our racial purity. Surely that contention has been exploded long ago. It is surprising that Australians have for so long been blind to the falsity of such a claim. It is altogether misleading. There is no reason why white people, even without an embargo, should not carry on the sugar industry just as they are carrying on other industries in Queensland. The mining industry at such places as Mount Morgan, Charters Towers and Gympie, has for years been carried on by white persons, without any special pampering such as is given to the sugar industry by means of the embargo. I think that it will be agreed that the bogy of coloured labour, with which the people of Australia have been constantly threatened, has cost them many millions of pounds. This money has been extracted from them on the pretence that it is a necessary charge to keep Australia white. That contention can no longer be supported.
I answer the criticism by Senator Collings of the attitude of those who oppose the agreement, by referring him to those statements in which the honorable member for Bass pointed out that in North Queensland other industries are carried on with white labour under equally unfavorable conditions, and without any support from the Government. In fact he contended that the White Australia policy in no way depended on the sugar embargo.
Earlier in my speech, I expressed particular opposition to the industrial clause of this agreement, which reads -
That the employees engaged in the Australian cane-sugar industry and in such sections of the Australian fruit industry as receive benefits under clause 7 of this agreement shall be entitled to have their wages and conditions of employment determined by conciliation or arbitration if not settled by agreement and in the case of any employees or section of employees who arc now or who may subsequently be excluded from the jurisdiction or control of any conciliation or arbitration authority the Commonwealth Government shall on the application of any industrial organization bona fide representative of such employees establish for the purpose of determining what wages and conditions of employment for such employees are fair and reasonable a tribunal or tribunals consisting of-
That reads more like an agreement between two union secretaries than one to which a United Australia Party Prime Minister is one of the signatories.
– -It appears in every bounty act.
– It does not appear in the Wheat Bounty Act passed by the Scullin Labour Government. It seeks to bring under industrial awards the fruit industry of Australia. I think that I am safe in saying that in all the States of the Commonwealth to-day the employees in that industry and in other agricultural pursuits do not work under such awards. That certainly is the case in Western Australia. Except under such industrial conditions, the fruitgrowers are not to be allowed to participate in the distribution of £200,000 a year.
– When I endeavoured to have a similar provision struck out of the Gold Bounty Act, the honorable senator voted against me.
– Certainly. That action was forced on me because the deletion of the provision would have meant the loss of the bill. If the right honorable gentleman was pre- pared to risk such a contingency rather than to consent to those conditions remaining in the measure, especially as they were already operating on the goldfields of Western Australia, I was not.
– They have been operating in the fruit processing industry for the last twenty years.
– I do not believe that they operate in any State except where necessary to ensure that those who are engaged in the industry may participate in the monetary concession under the sugar agreement.
– Is the honorable senator opposed to arbitration awards?
– I am opposed altogether to federal arbitration except in regard to, perhaps, shipping and shearing.
– This provision relates only to the processing of fruits, which is not done in Western Australia.
– Is this legislation designed to prevent Western Australia from ever sharing in the £200,000 provided for assisting the fruit industry.
– Not in the least.
– There is a very big fruit-growing industry in Western Australia. The south-western portion of that State is just as capable of producing fruit as any other part of Australia. No better fruit is grown in the world. Although a main objection to the agreement is that it includes these nasty industrial conditions, my opposition to it is strengthened by the fact that Western Australia is excluded from any benefits that may accrue from it. We have all the disadvantages of the embargo, and no share of the crumbs from the rich man’s table.
SenatorFoll. - What is the honorable senator’s objection to award conditions being observed?
– I object to these conditions becausethey are a burden on the cane-growers of Queensland. The Leader of the Senate referred to the fact that a similar clause in the gold bounty legislation was accepted by me, under duress.
– Not under duress; the honorable senator was a. free agent in the matter.
– Noninterference with the conditions meant the securing of the gold bounty; and a further factor was that the conditions already operated on the gold-fields of Western Australia.
– That is merely the honorable senator’s excuse for the action that he took.
– That action insured the payment of the gold bounty. Senator Crawford has asserted that this provision appears in all legislation relating to bounties. That is not so. The Scullin Labour Government, in 1931, introduced legislation providing for the payment of a bounty of 41/2d.a bushel to the wheat-farmers of Australia, and it did not include any such provision.
-That was to operate only for a few months.
– Why should there be such discrimination in regard to everything that affects sugar? Why is everyone associated with the sugar industry practically allowed to write his own ticket in regard to the profits that he may make, with the exception of the cane-grower, upon whom the clause that I have read imposes an unnecessary and unjustifiable burden. I would relieve from this burden the growers in both the sugar and fruit industries.
I object also to the absence from the measure of any provision for cheap sugar for the small fruit-growers who make jams on their own properties. Provision is made for certain wealthy manufacturers - the sum of £200,000 annually is to be distributed in the manner indicated by Senator Colebatch - but there is no provision whatever for the Australian housewife who makes her own jam, even when fruit is a glut on the market. If any money from this rich industry is to be distributed, the first to receive a concession should be the orchardi sts and housewives who make their own jams and preserves.
– Is the honorable senator aware that full provision is made in the case of the orchardist who buys sugar in half -ton lots?
– What is the extent of the concession?
– It is id. per lb.; he gets his sugar for 3£d. per lb. if he purchases it in half-ton lots.
– Everything seems to be done for those who are in a big way. What man who wishes to make jam in his own house from the product of his orchard buys half a ton of sugar at a time? The whole of the fruit in an average orchard does not mature at the one time. There is no reason why the concession should not apply when purchases of sugar are made in half-cwt. lots, or even half that quantity, so long as the purpose is to make jam. The whole of the. concessions are to be enjoyed by the wealthy manufacturers or the people in a big way of business. The same principle applies in connexion with the tariff. The Labour party and the wealthy manufacturers work together, while the small orchardist or householder who wishes to make jam from his own fruit, is not allowed to participate in any sugar concession.
I complain, not only of the industrial conditions imposed on the cane-growers, but also of the action that the Premier of Queensland, Mr. Forgan Smith, proposes to take. I listened to that gentleman’s policy speech, delivered in Mackay on the eve of the last Queensland elections. He then said that, so far as a government that he led was concerned, there would be no interference or alteration, in the direction of a reduction of the price of sugar, during the currency of the agreement. That assurance has been broken.
– Under duress.
– The new agreement is in the interest of the Queensland cane industry, and I do not blame the honorable gentleman for what he has done in that respect, but I do blame him for his announced intention to reduce, by legislative action, to 44 hours a week the working hours of all the people engaged in the Queensland sugar industry. Such action would be contrary to the provisions of this agreement. I should have no objection to the Arbitration Court altering the number of working hours after it had heard evidence on the point.
I wish to refer now to the comments of the Commonwealth Auditor-General on the sugar industry. That officer is the watchdog of the finances of Australia. His remarks, which are unbiased and irrefutable, prove conclusively the accuracy of everything that the critics of the industry have urged in condemnation of the embargo, under which alone the people of Australia have been exploited to the extent of - I quote the AuditorGeneral’s own figures- about £7,000,000 per annum. Mr. Cerutty is disinterested in this matter, and no one in Australia can do other than accept the opinion of an authority of his standing and ability.
He said -
In regard to the sugar industry in Australia, concerning which there are many debatable features, it is unquestionable that the arrangement made for financing it imposes on the community an enormous additional cost, adding to the expense of the home of rich and poor alike. World’s prices of sugar to-day in Java and Cuba are about £(> per ton. Australian prices are about £30 per ton. On a local consumption of 300,000 tons, and after making various allowances, the cost of the industry upon the community is probably £7,000,000 a year. Whether such a charge can be justified on economic grounds must be seriously questioned, particularly in regard to the surplus sugar grown and exported at world’s prices and at such a heavy loss. As about 30,000 workers are employed in the industry, they cost the community over £200 each annually. To import the sugar required for Australia would cost about £2,000,000, which would have to be paid for by the export of other con.modities. If the 30,000 . workers were employed in another form of productive effort, they would need to produce an average of only £70 worth of exportable goods each in order to balance the account. The average production in Australia per worker, however, is , not less than £300 per annum, and it is clear, therefore, that economically the sugar industry is a poor one, and a burden, rather than an advantage, to Australia. In other words, the sugar industry, and no doubt other industries receiving Government aid, provide unremunerative employment in a national or economic sense. Moreover, the general support given by means of the sugar agreement, taken in conjunction with the conditions and restrictions which that support has brought about, has artificially inflated, unduly and unsoundly, the price of land suitable for sugargrowing. It is, of course, recognized that at the present time the transfer to other occupations of those engaged in the sugar industry would be an exceedingly difficult matter, but the figures quoted indicate that a radical change in the existing conditions of the industry should be made to relieve the community of a very oppressive charge. In this connexion, it is difficult to refrain from comment on the great success achieved by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited, which, from a capital of £2,425,000, paid up in cash, has, out of profits, built up a business in paid up capital of £5,850,000 besides reserves, after allowing for depreciation, of over £8,500,000. During many years, large dividends have been paid, besides a return to the shareholders of £3,900,000 in cash out of capital provided by bonuses. Although profits have slightly declined, those disclosed are still ample to pay a dividend of121/2 per cent. on the existing paid up capita], even in this time of depression, and when special arrangements have been made to raisethe price of sugar artificially. There can be no doubt that this company has attained its present prosperous and monopolistic position as a result of the high price which the consumers of Australia have paid, and are continuing to pay, for sugar.
In summing up the position with respect to the sugar industry, the AuditorGeneral directs attention to the burden that it has been upon the working people of Australia, and also upon those engaged in other primary industries. If I spoke for a week on this subject, I could not put the position more effectively than it has been put by Mr. Cerutty, in his commendable report from which I have quoted. The Commonwealth is fortunate in having an Auditor-General, who, having a proper conception of his duties, reviews not only the finances of the Commonwealth but also matters vitally affecting the Commonwealth as he has rightly done in his report.
– Does the honorable senator suggest that we should not produce sugar in Australia?
– Certainly not. If the honorable senator will permit me to proceed, I intend to show why we should remove thepresent industrial and other restrictions which prevent further settlement in those districts . eminently suitable for sugar production. I refer more particularly to those rich districts from Mackay northwards to Cairns.
– Does the honorable senator suggest that the sugar fields should be worked iby Javanese who would have to be fed on Australian bananas?
– Decidedly not. I am pledged to the maintenance of the White Australia policy, and I am second to none in my advocacy of that policy. I have quoted Mr. Guy’s comprehensive statement proving that the abolition of the embargo is consistent with the maintenance of a White Australia policy, which is the foremost plank in the platform of the Country party.
I now wish to refer to Senator Collings’ reference to the fine shops, banks and other buildings in the towns in the sugar districts. The honorable senator is quite correct. He could also have referred to the fine type of persons to , be found in those towns and also in the sugar districts generally; there are no better types of citizens. But those engaged in primary industries, and the working people of Australia generally, are paying to the extent of £7,000,000 annually for the favoured conditions which are enjoyed in the sugar districts. The price of sugar is so high that in many Australian homes children do not receive sufficient sugar to nourish them adequately. The unemployed and also the pensioners are in a similarly unfortunate position.
I am opposing the agreement because it provides for a continuation of the present restriction on the planting of sugar cane in those fertile districts north of Mackay, and right through to Cairns, which comprise the richest land in Australia. The people in that locality wish to grow more sugar cane; the only complaint that I have heard from them was that many could not obtain an assignment or permit for their land on which to produce sugar. This agreement endorses the restrictions which prevent further white settlement in the sugar districts of northern Queensland. A casual inspection of the magnificent sugar cane produced in the Mackay district and northwards as far as Cairns, and which, I believe, is better still at Mossman, which I have not visited, shows that the sugar crops in those localities are much superior to those in and around Grafton and adjacent parts of New South Wales. The cane in the north is also superior as it contains a higher sugar content. There is, however, something radically wrong with the economic conditions of Australia, when under the sugar agreement, which is supported by the Government, the people in northern Queensland are prevented from planting sugar cane on land that is infinitely better than that in which it is produced in NewSouth Wales. I understand that the sugar crops in northern Queensland reach maturity within a shorter period than do the crops in northern New South Wales. I wish to endorse the remarks of Senator Crawford with respect to the efficiency displayed in every branch of the sugar industry, particularly in northern Queensland. It is a valuable industry ; but unfortunately it has to be heavily subsidized by settlers conducting their operations on poorer, higher, and drier soil, and under much less favorable monetary conditions in the southern parts of Australia.
– What would be a fair price for sugar and a fair wage to pay to the employees ?
– Time does not permit me to discuss that very interesting phase of the subject. I am anxious, however, to quote the remarks of the Bishop of North Queensland, who supports the attitude which I have adopted, that further white settlers should be permitted to engage in the production of sugar in that portion of Australia which is so eminently suitable for the purpose.
– With black labour?
– No, I said white settlers. The honorable senator has again to be reminded of Mr. Guy’s remarks, and of my statement with respect to our White Australia policy. 1 wish white settlers to have the same opportunities in those wonderful undeveloped lands in northern Queensland, as are enjoyed by others in Queensland, and in northern New South Wales. These persons are anxious to obtain permission to grow sugar. If I am ever in doubt I feel that I cannot appeal to a greater authority than the head of a Christian church.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
Senator E. B. JOHNSTON [Extension of time granted]. - Several months ago, the Bishop of North Queensland, speaking at Malanda in regard to the limitation of areas to be planted with cane, and of the effect of the restriction on new settlers and others who wish to establish themselves in those fertile areas, said -
Did their only hope lie in a continued embargo, restriction of areas, and refusal of permits to grow cane? How could that be just when, at the present time, sugar lands were selling at £150 the acre or more? Some men were making great fortunes at the expense of the whole country. And where was the justice of forbidding a land-owner to grow cane when values of that kind were being obtained in order to secure a monopoly to his neighbours ?
– Can the honorable senator say from his own knowledge that that is the average value of sugar lands in Queensland ?
– I do not think it is. It is not nearly so high on an average, and just as the value of wheat land in the same district varies, so does the value of sugar lands in Queensland vary. I have visited the coastal lands of North Queensland where sugar is grown, and they appear to me to be more consistently fertile than any other coastal regions in Australia that I have seen.
– The Committee of Inquiry found that the average value of the land was £28 an acre.
– The authority whom I have quoted-
– He is not an authority on sugar.
– The Bishop of North Queensland is a man of ability and education, who, from his constant travelling over the sugar lands and his conversations with people there, ought to be able to arrive at a sound conclusion.
– When did he make the statement referred to?
– About eighteen months or two years ago. He went on to say -
Give a permit to “A” and refuse it to “ B “. No industry thus controlled could survive. The palpable injustice would discredit the tiling.
From the remarks of the Bishop of North Queensland, it is clear that the restrictions on the expansion of the area to be planted with cane are most injurious to the expansion of white settlement in the vulnerable part of Australia. The Government is not opening up these rich tropical lands for settlement by this agreement; on the contrary, it is actually closing them against -development.
The richest portions of the tropical coastal lands in North Queensland are actually locked up against further settlement, because of the present system of restricting planting to areas now allotted and cropped; new lands will not now be assigned for sugar plantations, and no new settler can receive a “ permit “ to grow sugar, except by buying out an existing planter.
It is only the artificial assistance provided by the embargo that enables the sugar industry of northern New South Wales to survive in face of the competition of the more fertile areas of North Queensland. This Parliament should reject the bill and the agreement, and determine upon a policy which will encourage further settlement of North Queensland without harassing restrictions, in the interests of the industry, and those residents of North Queensland who desire to extend it. If, however, this measure is agreed to, I feel sure that the high price of Australian sugar will continue, with the result that the sugar beet industry in southern Australia will receive a new stimulus. Early this year, I visited Maffra? in Victoria, in company with Senator Colebatch. We found there a beet sugar mill with obsolete machinery working at a considerable disadvantage because of State management and control, and yet it was able to make an annual profit of £50,000. Large areas of Tasmania and in the southwestern portion of Western Australia are admirably suited to the cultivation of sugar beet, and if this measure becomes law, I believe that the beet sugar mills will be established there and in other parts of Australia. Nevertheless rather than establish such mills, it would be better for the people of Australia to be permitted to import cheap sugar, and for the natural industries of each State to have a chance to develop. Only to-day I have received from the Pastoralists Association of Western Australia a telegram dealing with this subject, reading as follows : -
This association emphatically opposed to ratification of sugar agreement, and urges abolition of embargoes at earliest opportunity, thus enabling this State, particularly northwest, to develop’ its natural trade with the Near East.
This important organization of pastoralists in Western Australia desires an opportunity to exchange Australian products, particularly meat, cattle, and horses, for the products of those islands close to Australia, the trade of which has been interfered with as a result of federal policy.
– That would mean the importation of blackdown sugar from Java. Would the honorable senator support such a policy ?
– I favour the importation of sugar and bananas from Java in exchange for our natural products. Western Australia buys from the eastern States each year goods to the value of £10,000,000, and in return those States buy from Western Australia goods valued at £1,000,000. Because of the big production per head of population, Western Australia has to find outside markets for its products. It desires to develop commercial relations with the East - J ava, the Malay States, China, and Japan - by selling to them the things it produces, and buying their products in return.
– Does the honorable senator favour the importation of blackgrown bananas?
– I wish we could obtain them for the children of the north-west.
– And sugar, too?
– In that case, how would the honorable senator develop the sugar lands in North Queensland?
-I would let them develop naturally, as the Tariff Board recommended on the only occasion on which it had opportunity to express its views. Its findings were so unpalatable to the sugar interests of Queensland that effect has not been given to them. The board has never been given a further opportunity to express its views on the subject. It is true that committees have been appointed, but they have, for the most part, consisted of interested parties, who have travelled about the country taking evidence, which, however, was not given on oath. Even now the Government has a clear and simple duty. It should adjourn the discussion of this bill until the Senate meets next year, and, in the meantime, refer the bill to the Tariff Board, with a view to obtaining its recommendations as to the protection which should be afforded to this industry.
-Would the honorable senator refer the bounty on wheat to the Tariff Board?
– Yes. I should like to hear its views on the wheat industry. Let us see what the Tariff Board did say on this subject. Although its report was presented in 1922, it is remarkable how adaptable it is to present-day conditions, notwithstanding that the price of sugar outside Australia has since fallen to about one-half the price it was when the report was presented.
– What was the Australian price of sugar when that report was submitted?
– I think it was 21/2d. or 3d. per lb. in Australia; but I shall let the report speak for itself. I understand that the Australian Sugar Producers Association Limited, of Queensland, has been fortunate in having had, since its inception, such a distinguished and capable gentleman as Senator Crawford for its president. In its report, the Tariff Board said -
The members of the Australian Sugar Producers Association Limited, of Queensland, through their president and secretary, have now applied to the Federal Government, stating “ that they are unanimously of opinion that it is vital to the interests of the sugar industry that an immediate and substantial increase in the amount of the present import duty on sugar should be granted. . . . We would ask for a duty of l1/2d. per lb.” This request means an increase in the import duties on cane-sugar from £6 to £14 per ton. The granting of this request would naturally mean the conclusion of the sugar agreement.
Referring to the economic position of the industry, the Tariff Board said -
The Tariff Board is forced to the conclusion that the sugar industry is on somewhat of an anomalous basis. In Queensland, where nearly all the sugar is produced, the . State Government - through its instrumentalities- fixes the wages and conditions of the industry, whilst the Federal Government is called upon to protect a position it has had no hand in creating. Speaking generally, this does not appear to be a proper economical position, for in the future it might happen that the granting of a certain protection, if made necessary through special conditions imposed by any State, might not be long sufficient if the State authorities concerned decided to impose additional conditions. Such divided control does not appear to be satisfactory, and it seems reasonable to suggest that, should any State desire un usual conditions in one of its staple industries, it should specially contribute towards such conditions, and not penalize the whole of the Commonwealth to maintain any special conditions desired.
It is remarkable to what extent those observations are applicable to the present condition of affairs in the sugar industry. The board goes on to say - .
As a means of protecting the sugar industry, the board strongly endorses the granting of a protective duty- not an embargo - in preference to the extension of an agreement. The latter is neither satisfactory to the producer, the manufacturer or the consumer.
In this matter I stand for the interests of all those sections of the community -
As soon as an agreement is made the general question is what is to happen atthe conclusion of the period. Is the agreement to be continued on the same terms or reduced, or what is to happen? The producer has no real security which would lead him to invest his savings in an industry not on a secure basis. It should not be forgotten that while the present agreement has meant very much more money to the producers, it has not meant that the natural increase in the production of sugar has been very much augmented. The good seasons recently prevailing have helped the agreement. On the other hand, a protective duty is a permanent assurance on which the public may rely when considering the investment of their money and time.
– Does the honorable senator favour a bounty on the production of wheat?
– I am not permitted, at this stage, to reply to the honorable gentleman. In its summary, the board states - it does, however, consider some increase is necessary to enable the industry to successfully compete against the black-grown sugar of other countries. Inarriving at the amount of duty necessary to protect theindustry, the following tacts have been taken into consideration : -
At that time the price of Java sugar was £17 3s. per ton. The board goes on to state -
This return shows that the average price of sugar imported for five years before the war was11/4d. per lb. On this average price for five years the request of11/2d. per lb. represents a protection of 120 per cent., which is excessive.
– Was that the price of raw sugar ?
– I think it related to refined sugar.
– No; it must have been mill whites.
– The report continues -
SenatorRae. - That was a very low rate of duty.
– Then let us go back to it. The report states further -
That charge cannot now be levelled at the sugar industry, because it is being conducted on a most efficient basis. The board states further -
After mature consideration the board considers the duty should be increased, but not beyond Id. per lb. or £96s. 8d. per ton. This will be a protection of 80 per cent. on the. prices of imported sugar before the war, and should be ample to enable the industry to be successfully carried on, provided efficient methods are adopted.
In support of the proposed duty, the board notes thatthe price of overseas sugar, which is higher than it was twelve months ago, is now quoted at Java at £17 3s. per ton. With the addition of the duty recommended, and the freight and other charges,this should leave ample room for profit, even should a further decrease take place in the price of overseas sugar.
The board is influenced in recommending1d. per lb. by the knowledge that the Navigation Act will add to the expense of placing the local product on the market; also that, during the war, our industrial conditions have improved, and it is not considered that they will, nor should, return altogether to pre-war conditions; also, for some time the cost of machinery and other equipment will be above pre-war rates, though this condition will, to some extent, apply in other countries.
The present duty on sugar is - Sugar, the produce of sugarcane, £6 per ton; sugar, n.e.i. (beet), £10 per ton.
The Tariff Board recommends that the import duty on canesuger be fixed at1d. per lb., and that the duty on beet sugar be fixed at lid. per lb.
– That report had been presented on faked figures.
– I cannot accept that statement, as the report was signed by the then members of the Tariff Board, Messrs. Oakley, Brookes and Leitch, and it represents the views of an independent tribunal, which made an investigation into the sugar industry. The report may be out of date, but successive governments could have remedied that by referring this important subject again to the Tariff Board. I conclude by repeating that the people of Australia desire cheaper sugar for household and other purposes, and that I am opposed to the agreement, because, for a period of four years, it will prevent them from getting it.
– The speeches by the freetrade twins from Western Australia force one to the conclusion that it is impossible for persons holding strong views with regard to State interests to overcome their prejudices, and consider this important subject from a national view-point. The sugar industry is essentially national in importance, because its development is so closely related to the life of the people throughout Australia. Personally, I regard Senator Johnston as a discredited witness. We all know that, in our law courts, the evidence of a discredited witness is ignored by the judge and jury.
Senator Johnston has endeavoured to establish the case for freetrade in sugar. Doubtless, the economics of industry in his State justify his attitude, just as they induced the people of Great Britain to remain loyal, for so long, to the policy of freetrade. For that reason, I have a certain amount of sympathy with the honorable senator; but I do not think he was quite fair in quoting the opinion of the Auditor-General, because it has been proved conclusively that that official was wrong.
– I know of no proof that the Auditor-General was wrong, and I quoted authorities for every statement which I made.
– Usually, when a man has a poor case, he quotes authorities, hoping, perhaps, to persuade his hearers that he is right. But I always feel a bit sceptical when a man relies wholly on figures and authorities to prove his case. Our case for the sugar industry rests on the truth, regardless of what the Auditor-General may say about it. He stated that we could import all our requirements in sugar for a total cost of £2,000,000, or £6 13s. 4d. a ton, whereas the official committee which investigated the position declared that to land Czechoslovakian refined sugar would cost £13 7s. 6d. a ton free of duty, and that to land Java raw sugar, and pay- all refining expenses, would cost £14 13s. 2d. a ton, free of duty. Thus the cost of 300,000 tons of imported refined sugar, duty free, would be £4,000,000; but it would co3t £4,300,000 to land that quantity of Java raw sugar free of duty and refine it in Australia. There has been a duty of £9 6s. 8d. a ton on raw sugar, and a duty of £14 a ton on other sugar. To, land 300,000 tons of Java- raws under statutory conditions, would cost £5,700,000, and to that mustbe added the refining cost of £1,250,000, while the same quantity of imported refined sugar would cost £8,200,000. The Auditor-General referred to raw sugar. The importation of 300,000 tons of raw sugar, duty free, to meet Australia’s requirements,, would cost £2,900,000, or £900,000 more than the Auditor-General said it would cost. Senator Colebatch contends that under freetrade there would be a general cheapening of commodities.
– The honorable senator, I think, has left exchange out of consideration.
– Under existing conditions it would be necessary to add exchange to the figures that I have given. Senator Johnston is the protagonist of freetrade. He believes in opening the ports of Australia to foreign goods of all kinds. Here is a quotation from the Sydney Morning Herald, which refers to the attitude of that honorable senator in regard to the Government’s proposal for assisting the wheat industry: -
If the bill reaches the Senate in its present form, Senator Johnston, of Western Australia, will move that the House of Representatives be requested to amend the bill to provido for a bounty on production of at least 4Jd. a bushel. This amendment may be carried with the support of five Western Australian senators and six from other States, in addition to the Labour vote. In that event, however, it would certainly be rejected by the House of Representatives.
How does Senator Johnston reconcile his freetrade ideas, his antagonism to bounties, and his bitter antagonism to the sugar industry, with what he proposes in regard to a wheat bounty? If governmental interference is wrong-
– Do away with all governmental interference, and no bounties would be required.
– Australia is experiencing abnormal times owing, to economic conditions prevailing both in Australia and beyond its shores. The price of wheat has fallen throughout the world on account of immense overproduction. We understand that the overproduction in all countries will total this year 388,000,000 bushels. When dealing with wheat, Senator Johnston has regard to present day conditions; but in discussing sugar he looks forward to the time when freetrade will prevail. I remind him that we must deal with the facts as we find them, and that if his attitude were adopted generally, the Australian sugar industry would, be destroyed. If the honorable senator supports a bounty on wheat, to be logical he must support political interference - if that term must be used - in order to protect those engaged in the sugar industry. According to Senator Johnston, there is nothing uneconomic about a gold bounty, and he does not believe in freetrade in the matter of the sale of Melbourne beer in Perth. He is in favour of gold and wheat bounties; but he is irrevocably opposed to governmental interference in regard to bounties in other directions.
I always listen to Senator Colebatch with a great deal of interest, because he is u logical debater. He admits that during the war the sugar industry rendered a service to Australia. He says that nobody wishes to damage the industry. “We are all friends of the industry”, he assures us. I arn reminded of a Minister of a government in Queensland who once said to me “ We are all socialists, and we all believe in the brotherhood of man “, yet I was put inside a gaol for two months by that Minister’s government because, on one occasion, I spoke on socialism without permission. This was fi. peculiar way of demonstrating fraternal relationship. Senator Colebatch reminds me of a cartoon I once saw, depicting “labour” and “capital” drinking together from a loving cup. Each had one hand on the cup, and the other behind his back holding a huge waddy. I am. afraid that some of those who claim to be friends of the sugar industry are holding a big stick behind their backs with which to give it a crack. However, I feel sure that the majority of honorable senators will vote in support of this agreement, because, as reasonable men, they will recognize that, in the present conditions of Australia, the industry would suffer if the Parliament did not stand solidly behind the agreement. Senator Colebatch further stated that a restriction on the production of sugar would not assist the White Australia policy. I ask the honorable gentleman if it would help that policy if production were not restricted. Senator Johnston considers that Australia should produce as much sugar as possible. I point out to both honorable senators that, if production is not controlled, the position of the industry will be harder than ever. In every country in the world, whether its policy be freetrade or protection, there is a movement to restrict production.
– What good will come of it?
– I propose to show that the honorable senator’s ideas are archaic. He is going back 40 or 50 years. Under present economic conditions, a certain line of action is demanded, and it is entirely different from that taken a generation ago. Throughout the world, the policy of freetrade has had to go by the board, because of the evolutionary development of economic conditions. A pious wish to put back the hands of the clock will not do away with the fact that the economic conditions are such that in every country efforts are being made by those in control of industry to limit production.
– That is a result of the capitalistic system.
– Quite so, and we must not ignore the economic conditions as we find them. It has been said that we should deal, not with theories, but with facts. I contend that the time of the Senate might well be occupied in first considering fundamental things; after that, we could proceed to discuss details. Instead of doing that, we too often pay close attention to the pettifogging interests of individuals and of separate States. The unrestricted production of sugar would be detrimental to Australia.
– Can any increase at all in the production be permitted ?
– I understand that the industry is trying so to organize itself as to obtain the best return for the energy expended. Intelligent men throughout the world to-day are seeking .a way out of the present economic difficulties, not by adopting the old policy of laissez-faire,. but by further organization of industry. We on this side contend that the sugar industry has made an important step in the right direction. Through the organization and’ control exercised to-day, we .know where it stands, and we appreciate its limitations. If the wheat, meat and wool industries were organized on similar lines, it would be possible for the Government or those in control of industry to obtain the best return for every man, woman and child concerned in the welfare of those industries.
– In the circumstances, would it not be better to nationalize the sugar industry?
– We are dealing with present-day conditions, and with people whose mentality is such that they do not at present favour the nationalization of the industry. Next to nationalization, I contend that the first duty of the controllers of industry is to organize in such a way as to get the best possible return for all concerned. It has been definitely shown in many countries in the last few years that failure to exercise control of industries has resulted in tremendous waste. Everywhere throughout the world to-day wo see the result of the laissezfaire policy; how through lack of proper control, there are millions of unemployed and many other economic troubles in the world. I understand that Senator Colebatch would break down all the barriers that exist between countries, and live in the hope of once more restoring the conditions that obtained 20, 30, 40 or 50 years ago. In that space of time, however, the world has made such progress that it is now impossible to apply old principles, or revert to freetrade conditions. Due cognizance must be taken of the facts, and every country must do its utmost to organize industry along the. lines adopted iri the sugar industry, so that best possible returns may be obtained. Senator Colebatch asserted that the sugar industry had exploited the consumer by means of political interference. In my early days, when I had more enthusiasm than brains, and because of my reading of Marxian philosophy, I used to argue concerning the exploitation of the consumers.. In the main, the consumers are the workers.. Senator Johnston read an account of a meeting of alleged consumers which was not attended by one representative of the workers, the great bulk of whom constitute the people of Australia. I make bold-to say that if the question were put as to whether the Australian sugar,industry should continue, or whether we should import blackgrown sugar, and retail it at a cheaper price, the great majority of the Australian consumers, about whom our freetrade friends speak so often, would vote in favour of the continuance of present conditions. This matter has been discussed from the point of view of the growers and from the fanatical freetrade point of view of “Western Australia. Let us now consider it from the point of view of the workers. With. in a very short period of any reduction in the cost of living throughout Australia, strong efforts are made to reduce the wages of the workers.
– They are reduced automatically. .
– Under Federal Arbitration Court awards, in many cases, they are reduced automatically ; but apart from those awards, the controllers of industry, through their henchmen, immediately, seek to effect a reduction. Those who follow the line of reasoning adopted by Senators Colebatch and Johnston believe in an “ open go “ for the employer, in regard to both wages and working conditions. The philosophical anarchist believes in. freedom in all things. Senators Colebatch and Johnston, and those who think as they do, want complete freedom in all things except those that affect their own material interests. The great majority of men and women who constitute the workers of this country, from manager to office boy, are practically unaware that .there is any differentiation in the price of sugar; and if they are aware of it, they are not concerned about it. The only people who are concerned are a few busybodies, who have been assisted in their propaganda by certain vested interests. I have visited several of the States, and conversed with many people, within recent months, and have found few who know the first thing about the sugar industry. They are not anxious for the reduction of price that our friends propose should be made, and certainly do not desire this country to enter into economic relationships with black labour countries, the consequence of which would be the reduction of the prices of our commodities. Senator Colebatch went on to say that economic fact is superior to geographical influence. He has left the chamber for the moment. If he were here I should ask him to realize the truth of his own statement, and to apply it to himself. Economic facts are paramount and outstanding, and we cannot ignore them. Senators Crawford, Collings and others, have placed before the Senate the facts relating to the sugar industry; we cannot brush them on one side, but must act in conformity with them. Senator Colebatch also alleged that Australian sugar is being, dumped in other countries. I interjected that we are not dumping our sugar in England; and he retorted that its sale at a price lower than is being paid in Australia constitutes dumping. The way in which I view r.he matter is, that if we send sugar or any other commodity to another country, and sell it at a lower price than is being paid for similar products from competing countries, that is dumping. As a people we believe in the White Australia policy. Consequently we must support any industry which stands up to White Australia conditions. The sugar industry, undoubtedly, by the exclusion of Kanaka labour and the payment of award rates to white people, has earned the respect of all good Australians. It is performing a splendid service, and we should support it in every way. It is argued by freetraders that the entry into Australia of sugar grown by black labour in Java, Cuba or any other country, does not represent in any way h breaking down of the White Australia policy. We who sit on this side are opposed to those whose colour is different from ours, and’ object to the admission of their products, only on economic grounds. -We realize the economic influences that they would have on the standard of living that has been established in this country. But I also point out to those who are students of economics and modern capitalism, that the different countries of the world have reached, in their development, the stage which enables goods to be produced so prolifically that every effort is made to prevent the free interchange of commodities between one country and another. It is not that the idea has suddenly become dominant that , a different policy from what has been followed in the past must be adopted. The very force of development has compelled the various countries to apply safeguards, the effect of which is to interfere with the free interchange of commodities. That is the point which I wish strongly to stress. In the Old Country the freetrade policy that has operated for centuries has had to be thrust aside, because of the march of events and the force of economic circumstances. If it be true that values exchange for values and goods for goods, and we are prepared to accept goods that are cheaply produced, we must pay for them in certain* values, and the goods with which we pay must go to those countries from which are obtained other goods the production value of which is low. It is demonstrable - and I hope that honorable senators who follow me will deal with the point - that under modern conditions it is bad for the community when there is what Mr. Forgan Smith terms a poverty competition - that is to say, each country seeking to find a market for its goods by underselling and wishing to purchase in the cheapest market. As the acceptance of goods for goods is the basis of all exchange, there will be countries, just as there are traders, who are prepared to sell for less, and as time goes on that must have an effect on the living standards of the community. Under modern conditions the tendency is to lower the standard of living. Had I the time at my disposal, I should illustrate that. If we enter into freer trade relations with those countries that are economically backward, and whose standard of living is lower than ours, the reaction must be to the detriment of our people. If we pursue the policy of admitting to Australia black-grown sugar, bananas, wheat, wool or any other commodity, in the long run our general standard ‘ of living will be reduced, unemployment will increase, and our people will be either on the dole or flunkeys to those who happen to be the ruling class in this country. For -many years that was demonstrated in “the- Old Country; thousands of men could be employed only as flunkeys to others who had money. We do not want to see that state of affairs in Australia; we want to find honorable work for our people. Every action that closes the - avenues of employment is bad for Australia. I contend that the opponents of the sugar industry are- seeking to establish conditions under which cheaper labour will be utilized to the detriment of our own people, who will be forced more and more on the dole. I put it to Senator Guthrie, who is deeply interested in the wool industry, that it is a step in the right direction to organize our industries. The facts demonstrate clearly the mistakes that have been made as a consequence of lack of organization. We who sit on this side would go a long way further than some of our friends opposite, in stabilizing prices internally. If definite and courageous action were taken by the governments of Australia, it would be possible so to organize our industries that working hours could be reduced, labour could be utilized to the fullest extent, and all the needs of this country could be produced. Any surplus could be exported to help in meeting our overseas obligations. Senator Colebatch admits that the sugar industry is efficient. Our friends opposite have always argued that efficiency warrants recognition, and that it is grossly unfair for any person or industry to be deprived of thu proceeds of what he or it produces. It has been drilled into me ever since I was a boy, that the capitalist must be given a fair return for his industry, and that, if he becomes more and more efficient, his return should be correspondingly increased.. The sugar industry, notwithstanding what Senator Johnston may say, undoubtedly has increased its efficiency and has helped Australia substantially by improving its productive capacity. Consequently, it should be rewarded. But the activity of the enemies of the industry has led to a reduction of the price of sugar. After all, that was inevitable. It must not be thought, however, that it is regarded as absolutely fair by the industry itself. A good deal is made by its opponents of overproduction in the industry. I point out, however, that during the years that we have been exporting sugar,, practically £14,000,000 worth has been sent abroad, and that has certainly helped Australia. “Within the last few years especially, there has been constant trouble concerning our credits in the Old Country, and at times governments have been at their wits’ end to discharge our obligations. The sugar industry has played a most important part in Australia’s development, and has also been of great assistance in helping Australia’s financial position in London. By its exports, no less than £14,000,000 has been available overseas, which has assisted Australia in meeting its obligations. If the sugar industry has been working at its highest capacity by utilizing the labour, land, mills and refineries to the fullest extent, it is only reasonable to assume that it will produce more than, is required for local purposes, and must naturally have a surplus for export. In America, and in other countries when industrial plants have been working to their fullest capacity, surplus production has resulted, and this has been disposed of in other countries. By economical methods it has been possible for the Australian sugar industry to assist the Commonwealth by exporting approximately £14,000,000 worth of sugar. Every effort should be made, which I regret was not done at Ottawa, to encourage the development of Australian industries that play such an important part in our industrial life. In the matter of exports the sugar industry has played its part. The surplus production of sugar in Australia has never been a burden upon the consumer, as some suggest, because the increased production has not resulted in an increased cost to the consumers. Under the new agreement, prices will be stabilized for a period of four years. From time to time, we have heard the cry that an effort should be made to stabilize prices in order to assist primary producers, but . in this instance some representatives of the primary producers in this chamber are opposing stabilized prices. Possibly, Senator Johnston will have something to say on that point when the bill is in committee. There are many who make stupid charges with respect to the sugar industry. It is a pity that those who make them do not follow the example of the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Senator McLachlan) and Senator Colebatch, and visit the sugar districts to see for themselves the actual conditions under which the industry is being carried on. I understand that although Senator Colebatch was in the north for three weeks, he spent two weeks of the time on the Barrier Reef, where, of course, sugar is not grown. We cannot condemn him for that, because I think that every one who can do so should take an opportunity to view the phenomena and natural beauties of the reef. As I have said, stupid charges are made from time to time; but these have been answered by another honorable senator who also said that they are usually made with the object of misleading ignorant people. For instance, it has been stated that £100 an acre is paid for the land on which sugar is grown, and that the profits made by some growers enable them to take a trip to the Old Country. That has been dealt with by other honorable senators. I have received a letter from a friend of mine in the Bundaberg district, and I hope that those who are opposed to this measure will listen to what this gentleman has to say. There are, of course, some who believe that the sugar districts of northern Queensland are an Eldorado, and that all a man has to do is to find a few hundred pounds with which to buy a sugar farm, and practically all his difficulties are at an end. The letter which I have received from Bundaberg. deals with the industry from the view-point, not only of sugar producers, but also of the workers. It states -
The 1932 season in the industry was one of the worst on record, because of the unfavorable weather conditions and frosts. The following are the dates on which mills commenced and finished: -
Gin Gin Central Mill, commenced 20th July, finished10th August (three weeks crushing).
I hope that Senator Johnston is listening, because he referred to the high wages earned by those employed in the sugar industry, and said that, in some cases, the amounts received were so high that those engaged in the industry were able to enjoy extensive trips. The letter continues -
Bingera Sugar Mill, commenced 20th July, finished 25th August (five weeks crushing).
Fairymead Sugar Mill, commenced 20th July, finished 30th September (ten weeks crushing).
Millaquin Sugar Mill, commenced 3rd August, finished 10th September (five weeks crushing).
Maryborough Sugar Mill, commenced 17th August, and worked for a period of five weeks.
Colonial Sugar Refining Company Mill, Childers, commenced 30th August, worked for a period of four weeks.
Isis Central Mill, commenced 31st August, worked for a period of six weeks.
Bauple Sugar Mill and Qunaba Sugar Mill did not crush this season.
You will note the short periods that the mills worked, as compared with previous years, when they worked for periods of fourteen to twenty weeks. No doubt the district suffered a severe blow financially, and the loss to the district, that is, to the growers and workers, is considerable, and it isestimated that at least the loss would be £725,000. Of course, consideration has got to be given to the drought which is prevailing, which has resulted in the small crop in this area. The reduction in the price of sugar,1/2d. per lb., will undoubtedly affect the growers and workers, because the grower, in the first place, will not be able to employ the necessary labour to harvest the crop, and, consequently a lesser number of workers will be engaged in the industry, and a big possibility of the growers going to the court and seeking a variation of the sugar industry award, with a view to lowering the wages of the workers.
It will be seen, therefore, that in at least one district in Northern Queensland the workers are not having the glorious time that many of those in the southern States and in the western State imagine they are enjoying. The letter which I have quoted clearly shows that in. portions of northern Queensland there is an absence of prosperity, and that the sugar-growing country is by no means an Eldorado. A few months ago a trader in Bundaberg told me that a number of sugar-growers who were in distress had asked him to carry them over for that season. Honorable senators should bear that in mind when dealing with this subject. It is said by some that the sugar industry is uneconomical, and that we, as intelligent people, should not allow it to continue, but should absorb those now engaged in it in other directions. Even if it were decided to wipe out the sugar industry, we could not possibly find employment for those now engaged in it in other branches of primary production. I remind honorable senators that there is over-production in the wheat industry; that the price of wool is lowerthan it has ever been; that the price of meat is still going down-
– Butter is falling.
– Yes, it is now 85s. per cwt. in Great Britain. It will be seen, therefore, that’ those now employed in the sugar industry could not possibly be provided with work in other branches of primary production. At present fewer persons are employed in these industries than in the past. Mr. Gordon Bennett, the president of the Chamber of Manufactures, said -
In1913 persons provided work by rural industries in Australia numbered 471,480. In 1919 there were only 443,000. Present-day developments in agriculture were accentuating the trend. The capacity of the human race to consume food was limited.
With due deference to the economic knowledge of those opposed to the views I am expressing, I contend that it would be impossible, even if we were to import sugar from Java or from Cuba, and thus destroy the Australian sugar industry, to find employment for those now engaged in that industry in other forms of primary production. I commend these remarks to Senator Brennan, who, as a lawyer, is quite capable of analysing my statement. To-day we are producing huge quantities on a falling market, and the position would be accentuated if further thousands of persons were thrown out of this industry and forced to seek work in other forms of primary production. To adopt such a course would mean that the prices of these products would be further decreased, and instead of Australia being better off as a result of the destruction of this so-called uneconomic industry, it would be infinitely worse. I understand that a livelihood can be obtained from working 40 acres of sugar land. A dairy farmer requires at least 160 acres, while a wheat farmer needs about 1,000 acres; but with wheat at its present price he would require about 10,000 acres, and might then be worse off than he is to-day. From one acre of planted cane 30 tons of cane, or 4-^ tons of sugar are produced. With an average price of 5s. a bushel for wheat, and a return of 15 bushels to the acre, a wheat farmer would receive £3 15s. an acre. With sugar at £10 a ton, and a crop of 2£ tons to the acre, the return to the sugar-grower would be £25, compared with £3 15s. from a wheat farm. In these circumstances 300,000’ acres under sugar are equal to 2,000,000 acres under wheat. There is, therefore, more in this industry than is suggested by those who favour the importation of sugar from Java or Cuba at a cheaper rate than that at which sugar can be produced in Australia. To me those figures are very significant, and show that the industry provides a better return in actual value than some of its opponents suggest is possible. Some contend that it is not a natural industry; that it is one that should be worked by black labour. Our people in the north are doing their work well. They are producing sugar in such a way that they can be favorably compared with those of other countries. Australia extracts more sugar from one ton of cane than does any other country. Moreover, the persons engaged in the industry compare more than favorably with many in the cities. It can readily be shown that it is in every sense a natural industry, particularly as those engaged in it are healthy and are rearing healthy families who are living in reasonable comfort. Sugar can be produced in Queensland by white labour as successfully as it can.be produced in other countries. Senator Collings referred to the efficient manner in which the industry is conducted. There is a popular delusion that the Queensland industry is carried on in an extravagant manner. For the information of honorable senators I quote the opinion of Mr. Wickens, consulting engineer to Auelett and Company Limited, sugar refiners, in Natal, who some time ago visited Queensland. He said -
The economic conditions, which demand cutting down labour costs all round, have been carefully followed up in Queensland. It was with the greatest interest that I noticed many gadgets both in field and factory which might with profit and general advantage be adopted in other countries.
Mr. McAlley, one of the leading technologists of Hawaii, supported these views. These experts stated that the sugar industry in Queensland was being carried on efficiently.
Senator Johnston said that the incomes of those engaged in the sugar industry have not suffered the 22£ per cent, reduction which other sections of the community have been called upon to bear. I remind him that in 1923, during the regime of the Hughes Government, the price of sugar was reduced from £30 6s. 8d. to £27 a ton. Later, under the Scullin agreement, the price for home consumption was still further reduced to £23 - a reduction of 14 per cent. Because of overproduction, the actual price to the sugargrowers was only £20 a ton over a period of five years, making the average reduction 25 per cent. As during the war years, and subsequently, the average world price of sugar was £46 a ton, it will be seen that many millions of pounds were lost by the Queensland sugar industry because it was unable to obtain world’s prices for its product.
Senator Johnston, who is .practically a freetrader excepting where wheat, gold and beer are concerned, and is a bitter opponent of the principle of the control oi wages by the Arbitration Court, said that the workers in the sugar industry were highly paid at from 27s. to 28s. a day, but he’ omitted to say that many of them are unemployed for many months each year. Their average earnings are low.
– Cane cutting is a seasonal industry.
– Those who speak of the high award rates would make it appear that the men receive these rates all the year round. That is not so. I am reminded of a man who is employed in the Brisbane Eight Hours Day procession, and, once a year, is paid £2 for his services. He, jokingly, claims to be in receipt of a salary at the rate of £600 per annum; and there are people stupid enough to ‘believe that these cane cutters receive throughout the year the rates set down in the award. The enemies of the sugar industry continually misrepresent it before the people.
– The industry has no enemies.
– Any man who advocates the importation of black-grown sugar at a lower price is an enemy of the Australian sugar industry. There are people in Australia who would entirely eliminate the industry, and throw open the land for dairying or tomato-growing. Can they be described other than as enemies of the sugar industry? The Commonwealth Government pays about £40 a- year extra to its officers who are employed in the tropics. A good deal of the work connected with the growing of sugar is performed in tropical areas, where the conditions are such that the men deserve more than they get. It is all very well for Senator Colebatch or Senator- McLachlan to visit Queensland in the winter, when conditions are congenial, hut those who know the conditions at other times agree that the men are not overpaid. I have never taken action to reduce the wages of any workers. I stand firmly for a direct change of our economic system which will enable the workers in both primary and secondary industries to obtain better conditions. It is a poor argument to say that, because the workers in North Queensland receive si little more than ether workers are paid, there is something wrong with the industry. Any ‘ injury done to the sugar industry must undoubtedly have an adverse effect on other industries. For instance, considerable quantities of South Australian wine are consumed in Queensland. If the Queensland sugar industry is destroyed will the kanakas provide a market for that wine ? So long as the workers of Queensland receive reasonable wages they will be able to purchase the products of the other States. Any action taken to destroy their purchasing power will militate against all other industries in this country. That is one of the lessons which this depression should have taught -us. We must alter the conditions under which we labour so that the purchasing power of the workers is increased.
I hold no brief for the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, but I submit that a lot of stupid things have been said about it by the opponents of the sugar industry, in order to prejudice people against other sections of the industry. The Labour movement has had occasion to fight the Colonial Sugar Refining Company in the past, and I imagine that it will have to do so again in the future. In that case, we hope to obtain better results than in the past, because of our better organization. Why is it that- those who attack the Colonial Sugar Refining Company do not attack other companies which make big dividends? If it is wrong for one company to make profits and to pay dividends, it is wrong for other companies to do the same. I favour the control of dividends, but the system should apply all round, and not to this company only. Even those who are most bitterly opposed to the capitalistic system must admit that, during the last century, it has, because of its reaching out after profits, increased the productivity of the earth and raised the standard of living. We, on this side, say that the system has passed its zenith and is now in process of disintegration, and that there is need for a fundamental economic change. It is most unfair to launch an attack against the workers in the sugar industry merely because this particular company has paid out large amounts in dividends.
– Not all the company’s profits have been made in Australia.
– That is so. The company has been blamed for having purchased a ship outside Australia. I should like to see the ship-building industry extended in Australia in order that this country may become more selfcontained.
– The honorable senator has exhausted his time.
.- I am surprised that there should be any hostility at all to this bill. For some time, both inside Parliament and among the people in the southern States, there has been an agitation for a reduction of the price of sugar. Queensland representatives in this Parliament naturally expected that, when the sugar industry yielded to that agitation and reduced the price of sugar, those who had clamoured most would have recognized its,voluntary sacrifice and, instead of criticizing it, commended the industry.
– We should have done so if the matter had stopped there; ‘but the industry is seeking all sorts of advantages to compensate it for the reduction of price.
– The industry heeded the clamour for a reduction of the price of sugar even though it knew that the agitation was the work of certain persons who sought popularity. The sugar industry recognized that other sections of the community, including the workers, had made sacrifices, and it was prepared to accept its share of that sacrifice. Yet, there are some who continue to condemn it, notwithstanding that it has made a present of about £1,250,000 per annum to its customers. The average grower can ill afford the sacrifice of £d. per lb. required of him under the new agreement, because for some years now the average returns for raw sugar have been getting less and less. One would imagine, to hear the comments of Senator Johnston and others who are opposed to the agreement, that the growers are all prospering - some critics describe them as “ sugar barons “ - when, as a matter of fact, their returns are nothing like the prices fixed under the original agreement. The loss incurred on the sale of sugar exported reduces growers’ returns by more than 22^ per cent., which was the objective of the
Premiers plan. To-day, very few producers in Queensland or northern New South Wales are getting anything like an adequate return on the capital invested in the industry, and as a reward for the labour involved in sugar production. Much of the criticism of the new agreement and of the industry generally is most unfair, notwithstanding that it voluntarily surrendered revenue to the amount of £1,250,000 to its customers. Apparently, the objective is not a reduction of the price of sugar, but the destruction of the industry in Queensland. Senator Payne has complained that, in return for the reduced price of sugar, the period of the agreement has been extended. I consider that, as the industry could ill afford to make any sacrifice whatever, an extension of the agreement was merely some recompense for concessions made in ‘the interests of the people of Australia.
– Is it not also a fact that this agreement represents a step forward, in that the whole question is submitted to Parliament for its approval ?
– I was about to come to that point. It is true, as the honorable senator has indicated, that for years complaints have been made that the embargo and the terms of the sugar agreements made by successive governments have not been submitted to Parliament for ratification. . This is the first opportunity that Parliament has had to discuss this important subject.
– Yet the honorable senator objects to criticism of the agreement.
– I do not object to criticism - I recognize th.at the honorable senator has every right to express his opinion on this subject - but 1 do object to unfair statements being made about the industry, and to attempts to show that the growers have not made sacrifices comparable with those required of other sections of the community under the Premiers plan. Senator Brennan and others who are so ready to criticize the sugar industry should first ascertain the true position of the growers, their returns from raw sugar, and their costs of production. If they do this, I feel sure that their attitude to the growers will undergo a change.
– Since I have said nothing at all about the agreement so far, the honorable senator’s allegation of unfairness cannot be levelled at me.
– It is true that the honorable senator has not criticized the agreement in this chamber, but his remarks outside are, I think, a sufficient indication of his views on this subject. I am, however, hopeful, in view of his recent undertaking to support our primary industries, that he will include this great primary industry of Queensland in the category of those industries which he has pledged himself to assist.
I turn now to some of- the “clever remarks made by Senator Colebatch who, last night, was obviously angling for the support of Tasmanian senators in his campaign against the bill.
– Whatever angling I did was done on the floor of the House - not elsewhere.
– I am referring particularly to the observations of the honorable gentleman in the Senate last evening. He spoke of the concessions made to the fruit industry in Tasmania, and endeavoured to make it appear that the fruit-growers in that State were demanding that their representatives in this chamber should support the views which he was enunciating. I believe, however, that the fruit-growers of Tasmania and Victoria know their own business quite as well as Senator Colebatch does. They have urged their representatives in this Parliament to support the new agreement because it contains provisions for the assistance of the fruit-growing industry. Their associations are, I imagine, fully alive to the benefits that will accrue to them under this new agreement; .so it is unnecessary for Senator Colebatch, by a manipulation of figures, to endeavour to make it appear that some injustice is being done to the fruit-growers under this agreement.
– They are now assured of a decent price for .their fruit, which is something to be thankful for.
– At the moment, it is the chief consideration of every fruitgrower. I am pleased to know that fair prices are assured to all fruit-growers under this agreement.
Senator Brown, this afternoon, emphasized the insistent demand that was being made in all countries for an increase of the price levels of primary products as a first step towards the economic rehabilitation of the world. We regard this course as an essential condition in the sugar industry, in which onethird of the people of Queensland are so vitally concerned; but some critics of the bill, and I include Senator Johnston in the, number, believe, apparently, that while there should be an increase of the price levels for wheat and wool, sugar should be sold for 2d. a lb. If an increase of the price levels of such commodities as wheat and wool are necessary for the recovery of Australia, the same may be said of the sugar industry, which, under the agreement, has consented to lower the price of sugar to the Australian consumers who this year will take 60 per cent, of the total production. Although the reduction means so much to the growers it means little or nothing in the budget of the average family.
I wish now to deal with a few of the mis-statements made by Senator Colebatch last night. The honorable senator said that in 1920 the sugar producers asked that the then existing price of £21 a ton be increased to £23 10s. a ton, that the Piddington’ Commission recommended £22 a ton, and that the Hughes Government fixed the price at £30 6s. Sd. a ton. On the surface, that statement might appear to require answering, but the recital of the facts by Senator Colebatch, and the inference which he deduced from the figures, were entirely misleading. Briefly the position was as follows : - The sugar producers did ask for £23 10s. a ton, but that was about one year earlier than Senator Colebatch said, and that higher price was required to meet higher costs’ ‘all round. The Piddington Commission’s recommendation of £22 was based on the 1919 sugar wage, which was ls. 7d. an ‘hour. In 1920 the producers asked for £30 6s. 8d. partly to rehabilitate their industry which had suffered through rising costs, and partly to meet a large wage increase then due because of the great advance in the cost of living index figures, the rate of wage being fixed by the ordinary arbitration process at 2s. an hour, the then current Australian parity. The consequential adjustment of the Piddington price of £22 was £26 5s. Mr. Hughes granted the industry £39 6s. Sd. or £4 more than the equivalent of Mr. Piddington’s recommendation, at a time when the Commonwealth Government had been forced to import 230,000 tons of foreign raw sugar within eighteen months at an average price of over £50 a ton, and when the world’s price was actually over £90 a ton. But he required a pledge from the Australian sugar producers that they would meet Australian requirements at the earliest possible moment. The extra £4 a ton was given to induce them to comply rapidly with the last-named condition. But there was a still more important point. The Government laid it down definitely that there should be no export of sugar by Australian producers. Had they been permitted to take advantage of world’s parity at that time, instead of selling their sugar in Australia for £30 6s. 8d. a ton, they could have sent it to London where the ruling price was £90 a ton. I was pleased to hear Senator Colebatch admit that the industry had rendered some service to the people of Australia at that particular time. Very few people realize what world’s parity then would have meant to the sugar industry in this country. Had the industry been permitted to follow the lead of other primary industries, it could have obtained huge additional profits in the London market.
– At about that time the British Government bought 250,000 tons of Mauritius sugar at £90 a ton.
– That is so; but the Australian industry rendered a distinct service to the people of this country by accepting £306s. 8d. a ton in the local market. Senator Colebatch also said that, of the £9 7s. a ton received last year on exported raw sugar, £4 5s. 7d. was due to British preference. I point out that the honorable senator was five years out of date in quoting that amountof nominal preference. The old nominal rate was reduced to £4 a ton in 1926, and the effective value of the preference since then has amounted to only £3 12s. a ton in actual monetary return. It seems to me to be absurd for the critics of the industry to suggest that the export surplus is of no benefit. I admit that it is not of benefit to the Australian sugar-grower, because it brings down the home price consider-‘ ably; but sugar sold at London parity is of great benefit to the nation. Surely Senators Johnston and Colebatch, who never tire of telling us of the value of our exports in building up credits overseas, to enable us to meetour financial commitments there, will recognize the tremendous advantage that will accrue to the nation as a whole from exporting 150,000 tons this year to Great Britain, and selling it at world parity.
– It is of no advantage if the sugar costs us more to produce it than we get for it.
– Its sale overseas is of great advantage in building up our credits there, yet the grower would be infinitely better off if he did not produce more than sufficient to meet Australia’s requirements. When Senator Colebatch. was discussing the subject of British preference, he said that this was worth a good deal more than £1,000,000 per annum.
– I was quoting the figure mentioned by Senator Pearce a few days ago.
– I may inform the honorable senator that our exports to the United Kingdom this year are worth something like £570,000. The average value since 1925 has been £614,000 per annum, which will be approximately the future normal value. The exports this year will amount, approximately, to 40 per cent. of the total crop, or about 150,000 tons.
Senator Colebatch also referred to the value of sugar lands. If land values in Queensland have been soaring, this tendencyis not confined to the sugar industry, for in practically every part of Australia, we are told that the reason why many of our wheat-growers, graziers, and others are in difficulties is the high price paid for land during the boom period. Why select one primary industry in particular, and hold it up as a striking example of the effects of soaring land values? Sugar lands vary in exactly the same way as do wheat, dairying, and other lands, according to the quality of the soil, and its capacity for production. The honorable senator and I together visited the Proserpine district. Will he contend that the land values there are exorbitant? Can he point to one farmer in the whole of that district who is making even a fair living, having regard to the amount of capital invested in his undertaking? The value of £100 an acre mentioned by the honorable senator probably includes the cost of a farm as a going concern. There might be a standing crop on it worth a considerable sum of money, and plant, horses and all equipment might also be included in the value. I frankly admit that, in practically every industry, the land values are too high. Many men engaged in wheat-farming, dairying and other industries are now in difficulties because their land was purchased at too high a price.
– Does the honorable senator suggest that when land is assigned for the growing of sugar, its value is not increased?
– Such land is naturally more valuable than other land. I do not like the assignment principle in the growing of sugar cane, wheat or any other commodity. To my mind, it is unfortunate that in a young country like Australia, which needs to be developed, that system has been adopted; but I should be glad if Senator Colebatch, with his wide knowledge and great ability, could tell us what other method could be adopted in place of the assignment principle. If a go-as-you-please policy were put into operation, the growers would find themselves with more sugar on their hands than could be coped with by the existing mills, and the-* surplus production would be so large that the prices obtained would be entirely unprofitable. The assignment system has been adopted reluctantly, because at the present time no better method is known. We hope that, as the world price of sugar improves, it will be possible in years to come to put many more acres of our sugar land under crop.
Senator Colebatch also referred to an “ antiquated “ beet sugar factory at Maffra, that could make a profit of £50,000 a year as a result of the inflated Australian price. In the first place, let me say that the Maffra mill is not “ antiquated “. In recent years it has introduced improved machinery, and it has enlarged its capacity.
– ‘Only a few months ago, I spent half a day with the manager of the mill at Maffra.
– Even if the honorable senator spent a week there, he may not know whether the machinery is new or old. I am prepared to substantiate my own statements, and the honorable senator can disprove them if he chooses to do so. Under this new agreement, the profits of the Maffra mill will automatically fall by £20,000 per annum; but one of the chief reasons for its large profits is that it contributes nothing to the fruit industry, although it is a Victorian Government factory, and government-aided fruit canneries and governmentirrigation group settlements in Victoria received last year nearly £100,000 from the cane sugar industry. The mill receives the Australian price for all its output, instead of for only 60 per cent, of it, as does cane sugar. Moreover, it is actually able to sell its output in the neighbourhood of the factory at from £1 to £” a ton more than the cane sugar Australian price; because of the transport charges which it avoids, but which the competing cane sugar-growers would have to pay. Maffra sugar takes all the benefits of the embargo, but bears none of the responsibilities. If it shared the latter on equal terms with cane sugar, its profits would disappear completely.
Senator Johnstone made reference to the fact that, in his opinion, sugar is being grown at present on land unsuitable for the purpose. He had in mind, I suppose, the southern part of Queensland.
– Only the northern part of New South Wales.
– In that district the crops are not so heavy as those , obtained in the far north. But’ are we therefore to say that the growers in the less fertile southern districts, many of whom are pioneers in the industry, should be driven out of it? What would you, Mr. President, say, if, because you are growing wheat in Western Australia on light soil, where the props are not so heavy as those obtained from farms more favorably situated, you were asked to go out of the industry altogether, to enable other farmers on richer land to grow more wheat than they do at present? Have we npt heard speaker after speaker in this chamber applaud those farmers who pioneered the light dry soils, and, with the aid superphosphates, proved that theywouldbe cultivated to advantage?Hvewe not applauded the men who have gone into those areas, and said that they are doing something for their country? If that applies to wheat, why should it not apply al so to sugar?
– They take world prices for their products, without any subsidy or assistance.
– It is of no use for Senator Colebatch to try to throw dust inmy eyes. I am awake to all the little tricks that he may attempt to employ. I am dealing with the principle that, because a man grows a crop in a light area, he should be put out of business in order that the man who is more fortunatelysituated in an area with a heavier soil and better rainfall should have the sole right to products. We applaud men who grow wheat in dry country. Why then should weobject to the production of sugar cane in the Northern Rivers district of New South Wales, because it takes a little longer to reach maturity and the crop is not so heavy as in the more fortunately situated sugar areas of North Queensland?
– How is North Queensland to bedeveloped with new settlers in the sugar industry?
– During the honorable senator’s absence from the chamber, I dealt with that point. The assignment principle is merely a temporary arrangement. I do notbelieve in it as a principle; but although a young country needs development, and any one who will grow any sort of crop should bo encouraged to do so, the withdrawal of the present arrangement in the. existing circumstances relating to costs, production, and accumulations of sugar in the storehouses of the world would seriously injure the industry. I wish to see this agreement pur, into operation. Had the industry stated its intention to adhere to the old agreement, I should have stood behind it, irrespective of what consequences might ensue. But the industry seeks this new agreement.
– Is that a fact?
– Well, then, it accepts the agreement, realizing the danger in which it might be placed under the old one. Furthermore, it has voluntarily made a concession in price to the consumers of Australia.
I wish to refer to statements that have been made by Senator Johnston or Senator Colebatch, concerning the position occupied by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. I have no brief for that company, nor, unfortunately, have I any shares in it. But a glance at the stock exchange list will show that the price at which its shares stand is not by any means so abnormal as some persons suggest. I remind Senator Johnston that, in his own State, the Western Australian Bank has for years paid a dividend of over 20 per cent.
– What about the Swan brewery?
– That bank has time and again paid back the capital invested in it by its shareholders.
– And probably it has watered its stock.
– I daresay that it has, if its practice has been similar to that of other institutions of the kind. Senator Greene has referred to the Swan brewery. Even in these days of depression, when every wheat-farmer in Western Australia is said to be faced with ruin, the 25s. shares of that concern are able to retain their position at about 60s. on the stock exchange lists. I take full responsibility for saying that hundreds of persons who are growing sugar in Australia to-day owe their start in life to the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. That company’s charges have not been increased for years ; and, furthermore, the company has had to finance the whole of the crop- a considerable undertaking, because the farmers have to get their money before the crop is sold.
– My only reference to the shares of that company was contained in the remarks of the Commonwealth Auditor-General towards the end of my speech.
– Then I beg the honorable senator’s pardon. But I know that more than passing reference was made to the matter by Senator Colebatch. There is, however, one point upon which I wish to put the honorable senator right. When I interjected that a public meeting held in Adelaide had expressed strong views in favour of the sugar embargo and the present sugar agreement, he appeared to doubt the accuracy of my statement. I have a press cutting which contains the report of a meeting, attended by between 150 and 200 persons, and held in Adelaide about two years ago. lt was addressed by representatives of the Queensland sugar industry, and the following resolution was carried with three dissentients : -
That this meeting of citizens of Adelaide support a continuance of the sugar embargo and agreement, and that the price of sugar be its fair and reasonable cost of production under White Australia conditions.
That, however, is not the meeting which I had in mind when I made the interjection. In Adelaide eight years ago, at a conference of the Australian Farmers Federal Organization, at which various primary-producing industries from all States were represented, the following resolution relating to the sugar industry was adopted: -
That the price paid for sugar shall be its fair and reasonable cost of production, plus a fair profit under White Australia conditions, and that a tribunal to fix the price of sugar shall be constituted representative of the Commonwealth Government, the consumers, and the sugar industry.
To my mind, much of the agitation for a reduction of the price of sugar has been over-estimated a good deal by many of those who are connected with the industry, and much of it has been fomented for political purposes by persons who seize every opportunity that offers to address public meetings and have their names mentioned in the press. I do not believe that the small farmer, the worker, the artisan, or the average man about town has ever been desirous of pulling down the price of sugar. One can organize a meeting on practically any subject, and secure the adoption of almost any resolution. The industry itself has made a sacrifice, at a time when Queensland is suffering very materially as a consequence of the fall in the prices of primary products. During the depression, when the returns from wool, wheat, meat, butter, mixed farming and other primary products have declined, the sugar industry has kept our people employed and our finances in circulation. Notwithstanding its difficulties, it has voluntarily surrendered to its customers a total of £1,250,000 per annum. The representatives of other States should accord recognition to what the industry has done towards assisting in the general rehabilitation of Australia. For that reason I hope that the agreement will speedily become law.
– I shall not detain the Senate very long, because from the end of July last I have been, metaphorically, chewing sugar-cane and now feel that if the process continues much longer I shall probably suffer from political diabetes. Excursions into the history of the industry from the economic standpoint, the lashings that have been meted out because of the mistakes that have been made, and the accusations of false economy that have been levelled against different governments, are beside the question which the Senate is asked to consider to-day. “We are asked to discuss the question whether we shall ratify an agreement negotiated between the Government of Queensland and the Commonwealth Government, so as to secure to the people of this country, from the 5th January next, a reduction of i’d. per lb. in the retail price of sugar. Whatever may be the mistakes of the past; however false the doctrines espoused, and however uneconomic the action taken, the fact remains that this Government was faced with an agreement executed by its predecessor, which the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) had undertaken to honour unless it was voluntarily reviewed. I do not consider that this Government had any moral right to repudiate that agreement; consequently, the only course open to it was to negotiate’ for a variation of the agreement. The prices that obtained are relevant to the debate only insofar as they affect the question whether the reduction proposed is sufficient or not. That, is the one question which has exercised the public mind, and the one matter to which the Government devoted its attention when it endeavoured to come to an arrangement with the representatives of the industry. ‘The stand taken by it was that the agreement was to be accepted in its entirety, but that an effort should be made to secure a reduction of the price. In the reduction that has been made, we may possibly not have paid sufficient regard to the happenings of the past, and on that score the Government may be open to criticism. I have never had an interest in maintaining the price of sugar at a higher rate than I conscientiously and honestly think ought to be charged, having regard to all the circumstances and the happenings of the past. On the contrary, the interests of the State that I represent, and tosome extent my own predilections, lean against giving to the sugar industry the price that it has hitherto enjoyedHaving regard to what had happened in the past, the fact which had frequently been brought under the notice of the Senate that the sugar industry had been penalized during a certain period through not being allowed to extract the tribute that, on the basis of the world’s market prices, it was entitled to extract, I felt that I had to approach this question with changed views with respect to the price that had been fixed. Honorable senators should remember that from 1915 to 1922 the price of Australian sugar was not allowed to be increased above pre-war prices to the extent which applied to most other commodities. At one stage when the peak price was 6d. per lb. in Australia, the price of sugar outside Australia varied from1s. 2d. to1s. 6d. per lb. In 1922 the price of 6d. per lb., which was then prevailing in Australia, was reduced by the Commonwealth Government by1d. per lb., bringing it down to 5d. per lb. Subsequently, while other industries were still allowed to obtain the benefit of the higher prices that were available and good markets, the then Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) in 1923 reduced the price of sugar by1/2d. per lb., thus bringing it down to41/2d.perlb. That was not the only reduction that was made ; but I am afraid that in the welter of debate that point has to some extent been overlooked. The sugar committee was referred to by Senator Johnston as a body that apparently was incapable of dealingwiththesubjectfromajudicial view-point; but whatever jurisdiction it had, it succeeded in embodying in the agreement accepted by the Scullin Government a rebate to the fruit producers and the fruit-processing industry of £315,000. Notwithstanding the statement of Senator Colebatch that rebate is still preserved to an extent to the industry. The honorable senator loses sight of the fact that, while the rebate is reduced by £115,000, the price of sugar has also reduced by1d. per lb, that reduction being commensurate with the £115,000 reduction of the rebate. There is, however, £200,000 still available to the fruit producers of Australia, and that represents a concession of, I think, about 2/3d. per lb. When we talk of reducing the price of sugar by221/2per cent., we must pay some regard to the actual facts. In the first place the price of sugar in Australia was never allowed to soar to the giddy heights it reached in other countries. Sugar was never allowed the freedom that pertained to wool, wheat, and other products. I do not think that we need pay too much attention to the peak price of 6d. per lb., because, in order to maintain sufficient supplies in this country, sugar had to be imported at a price higher than that fixed for the local article. The reduction of1/2d. on a price, of 5d. was equivalent to a 10 per cent. cut. We have now inflicted another cut of 11 per cent., and in addition to that there is a concession of2/3d. per lb. to those engaged in the fruit-processing industry. I venture to say that if some honorable senators feel that a reduction of 22£ per cent. should have been made, based on the Premiers plan, it will be found that the reduction if calculated on the same basis, as in connexion with
Other industries, the sugar industry has fulfilled its obligations in that respect.
– The price of 4d. in relation to the peak price of 6d. is equivalent to a reduction of 33 per cent.
– It can be put that way; but I do not want to state the case any higher than I am putting it. A certain portion of the 6d. was devoted towards meeting the extra price that had to be paid for the sugar imported at that period.
In the first place, I contend that the sugar industry has faced up to the requirements of the Premiers plan. and. that if it were called upon to stand very much more at the moment, it would receive such a shock that there would be a definite repercussion, not only in Queens- land, but in other parts of the Commonwealth as well, that would not be beneficial to the Australian body politic. Although I was anxious that the benefit of any reduction of price should go to the consumers of sugar, not only families, but also large charitable institutions which feel the pinch when making their supplies of jam, I felt that any fraction of a penny less than -Jd. would have very little effect; in other words, any benefit to the consumer would be lost in the process of distribution. If honorable senators care to examine the cost of living figures upon which wages are based, they will find that sugar is well into line with those other commodities the price, of which has been reduced. It is not my intention to repeat statements which have already been made, but- I should like honorable senators to bear in mind what is actually happening before coming to a conclusion in this matter. The Assistant Treasurer (Senator Greene) referred to the fact that the British Government purchased 250,000 tons of sugar from Mauritius at £90 a ton, and that from 1915 to 1922, the world’s parity for sugar was at its highest. It varied from £20 to £137 10s. throughout that period, and for a considerable time was about £100 a ton. It is not my intention to refer to the subject of preferences which was dealt with by Senator Colebatch, and replied to very effectively by Senator Foll. I should, however, like to say a word or two with respect to that portion of the agreement which preserves the concession to fruit processors. I have already pointed out that we have preserved to them the benefits which the enjoy under the previous agreement, but owing to the fact that the price of sugar bus been reduced, that benefit has been preserved in a slightly different way. The concession has been reduced by £115.000, but £200,000 is still available for the use of the committee. Some unwarranted references were made last night with respect to the personnel of the concession committee. That committee consists of one nominee of the Federal Government, one nominee of the Queensland Government, and four gentlemen nominated by various branches of the fruit industry. Mr. Feil represents the growers of jam fruits, Mr. Young the growers of canning fruits, Mr. Palfreyman the proprietary manufacturers of fruit products, and Mr. Fairley the cooperative and State manufacturers of fruit products, lt will therefore be seen that every section of the industry is represented. It was the duty of this committee to conduct an investigation, and report to the Minister as it did on the 4th of November last. The committeeprepared a balance-sheet which was duly audited, and then proceeded to give such advice as it thought necessary with respect to an industry which was receiving £315,000 for the purpose of encouraging fruit-processing. The sugar used by those engaged in fruit-processing provides an outlet for a portion of the product of the sugar industry. The sugar industry looks for an expansion of its activities, and for increased markets for its product. On the other hand, those engaged in the fruit industry, while they do not wish to see the sugar industry injured, are anxious that sugar shall be produced under the best possible conditions, so that it may continue to obtain the supplies it requires at the lowest pos’sible cost. On page 9 of the report, the result of the committee’s operations for last year is given. There is a summary of the minimum fruit prices for 1932. This is one of the industries which was consulted regarding the extent of the sacrifice being made by the sugar interests, and asked whether it could justify giving them a quid pro quo in the shape of an extended period. The following table shows the prices it was able to secure: -
The committee also dealt with pineapples ‘ and ‘ other fruits ; but I am more concerned at the moment with fruits grown in the southern districts.
Paragraph 27 sets out clearly what has happened. Whether or not weobjectto government by regulation, here is something which the fruit-growers want - a fresh agreement which is in the interests of the small fruit-growing industries in southern Australia.
– How do those rates compare with the rates recently decided upon ?
-The recent rates are, I am informed, slightly higher. The report then deals with the prices of various classes of fruit, after which it sets out the difficulties encountered in administration. Then follow the statistics relating to domestic rebates from which Senator Colebatch quoted last night. It is true that Western Australia received only about £1,337, whereas South Australia received £17,000, Queensland £19,000, Victoria, £72,000, New South Wales, £34,000, and Tasmania, £26,000. The smaller amount received by Western Australia is due to the fact that the industry had not developed to any great extent in that State. If Western Australia wants to get into the ring, and obtain these benefits, it should go in for fruit processing, for which I understand there is a good opening in the State. The honorable senator quoted statistics from paragraph 47 in relation to export rebates. Western Australia received £1 8s. 6d. - a small amount, it is true, but all that the State was entitled to receive. Its industry will have to be developed if more is to be received from that source. I do not think that the reflections made on these gentlemen yesterday were justified. They acted all through in a businesslike manner, in the interest of the industry. Unfortunately, there has been too much haphazard development in connexion with some Australian industries. An economic survey is necessary from time to time, in order to enable us to understand our position. Had economic conditions been taken into consideration at the beginning, we should not to-day be discussing a sugar agreement. The agreement is the responsibility, not of the sugar industry, but of this Parliament. The severe criticism levelled against the industry last night should have been directed against this Parlia ment, because the first step towards the agreement was taken here. The sugar industry cannot be blamed for having taken advantage of the opportunity presented to it. I have a good deal of sympathy with the industry, because of the criticism unjustly directed against it.
– What chance has this Parliament had to deal with the matter ?
– The responsibility lies with Parliament; and we should not attempt to lay the blame on the industry. On all sides we hear professions of a desire to help the sugar industry, but some of the sentiments which have been expressed in this chamber are not consistent with that profession. What other industry would not have done what the sugar industry has done?
A good deal of criticism was directed against the penultimate clause of the report which, in paragraph86, sounded a warning about expecting too much from Ottawa. Those responsible for the report desired to assist the industry by establishing it on sound lines. Yet, what they have done has been described as a piece of official impertinence. I deprecate such remarks. Surely those who have handled this business are in the best position to judge of the advice that ought to be given ! The berry-fruit industry, and other fruit-processing industries, have expressed their satisfaction that the Government has been able to make such satisfactory terms. Is it not fair that some security should be given to the sugar industry for a reduction of1/2d. per lb. in the retail price of sugar? It must be remembered that the industry was protected by an embargo on the importation of sugar for the remainder of the term of the old agreement. I suggest that even Senator Johnston would not have reduced the price of sugar by more than 1d. a lb. in 1934, so that by reducing the price by1/2d. a lb. now we have done as much as would have been accomplished then. The agreement is fair to both the consumers of sugar and those who produce it. It is impossible to determine these things accurately to decimals of a penny. I submit that the agreement is only fair to those people who have acted in the belief that the Commonwealth Parliament will continue to deal fairly with the industry. This national industry has been well advised to get its position stabilized. One sharp-minded gentleman who travelled with me put the position clearly when he said, “ Here is an industry in .which £30,000,000 has been invested, but which, nevertheless, is like an inverted obelisk in that it does not rest on a sound foundation “. Particularly in a time of crisis, it was the duty of the Government to establish this industry on a sound foundation in the interests, not only of the industry itself, but also of Australia as a whole.
Statements have been made regarding the charges levied by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. I am not personally concerned with the business of this company, and should not have spoken on this subject but for the fact that the committee which inquired into this question some time ago reported that the earnings of the company on its operations in Australia were only per cent, on the capital invested, after income tax had been taken into consideration and there had been a considerable writing down of values. The gross earnings of that company were found to be 7J per cent. Although the net profits were, as I have stated, 5 J per cent, on the company’s Australian operations, they were higher on the business done outside Australia. Since 1915, the company has not increased its charge for refining sugar. In my treatment of this question, I have endeavoured to get to the bottom of things. I know how popular it is to make huge concerns like the Colonial Sugar Refining Company a “cock-shy”. I desire to pay my tribute to the management of the company. That it has been able to make a profit, albeit a small one, on its undertaking, is, so far as Australia is concerned, evidence of its business ability.
– “Would that percentage of profit be on watered stock?
– No. The complaint about watered stock was investigated by the committee appointed by the Government of which the honorable gentleman was a member, and it was shown that there was no truth in it. Actually it does not matter very much if a company issues bonus shares, as happened in the case of the Swan brewery, or as might have been done by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, because bonus shares represent profits which should have gone into the pockets of the shareholders, but are retained to increase the share capital of a company without calling up more money from shareholders. Instead of receiving a dividend as his share of the profits, the shareholder get3 it in the form of bonus shares. It would appear that criticism of the agreement is really an attack on the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. I believe, however, that, in making this new agreement, the Government has done its duty by the industry, and that the industry has done its duty by the Australian consumers. The proviso relating to arbitration is not contrary to the law, nor is it foreign to the industry. It has merely been inserted- to provide for certain eventualities. My purpose in arranging the conference with those connected with the industry was to get a reduction of the price of sugar, and I was obliged to accept certain provisions that are contained in the agreement. But I put it to the Senate that it is for the industry itself to sec that the laws of this country are observed, and that the wages paid are in line with our accepted ideas of Australian conditions. I recognize, of course, that, trouble might arise if employers and employees acted in collusion, as was the case, some years ago, in connexion with another industry in which Queensland was not interested; but such a condition of affairs is not possible under this agreement. I therefore commend it to honorable senators as an amicable result of the conference between the Government and the sugar interests. It has been accepted by the Government of Queensland, and I hope that the bill will be carried, because it will give some relief to consumers, and because I believe it is also in the interests of the sugar industry.
– I intend to show my friendliness for the sugar industry by voting for the ratification of the sugar agreement, although I admit that it is rather a novelty for me to find myself supporting any proposal brought forward by thi3 Government.
– May we assume, then, that’ the honorable senator will support a suggested proposal to assist the wheat industry?
– I am willing to support any proposal for the assistance of the wheat industry that the honorable senator is game to bring forward. But, while I intend to vote for the bill, I am not very enthusiastic about the agreement. After listening carefully to all that has been said by honorable senators on both sides, I have come to the conclusion that much of the criticism has been of a destructive character; that no attempt has been made to suggest some other method which would secure the results that are expected to flow from the ratification of this agreement. It is as well to bear in mind that probably from 80 per cent, to 85 per cent, of the people in this country, and I think the same may be said of most other communities, are wage-earners - when they can get jobs to do - and that wages go up and down with the rise and fall in the cost of living. In recent times, unfortunately, the movement has been in a downward direction. I therefore contend that a reduction of id. per lb. in the price of sugar will mean that the wages of those employed in the industry will be reduced proportionately, and possibly to a greater extent. Under our present capitalistic system, the wages fall more rapidly than the cost of living figures, and conversely they lag behind any rise in the index figures. The Arbitration Court nowadays merely helps in the process. At the present time an appeal to the Arbitration Court is really an invitation to get a slap in the eye, because on every occasion during the last couple of years the Arbitration Court has acted as a wage-reducing tribunal, and it is likely to continue to so act for some time to come.
– Representatives of the workers in the sugar industry claim that a reduction of -£d. per lb. in the price of sugar will mean a reduction of 3d. per week in’ the budget of the average household, and a reduction of 6d. per week in the wages of the worker.
– I consider it is a matter of little moment to the average householder whether the retail price of sugar is 4-£d. or 6£d. peT lb., although I admit that the higher price might be made the subject of a grievance.
– Does the honorable senator suggest that prices paid for apples or potatoes are of no moment to householders?
– I am referring to the principle. As to how it would work out in actual practice would depend upon circumstances over which we have no control. It has also been contended that the agreements hitherto made between the Commonwealth Government and the sugar industry are a violation of, if not the letter ? at all events the spirit, of the Constitution. I was not aware that Mr. Guy, the Assistant Minister who moved the second reading of the bill in another place, was a constitutional authority; but he is reported to have declared that the earlier agreements were a violation of the Constitution. I assume he has ‘in mind those constitutional provisions which stipulate that no law shall be valid if it benefits one State only. I am not aware that there has’ ever been an attempt to give legal force to any proposal for preferential treatment to one particular State. If we enact a law or impose a duty which confers a benefit on, say, pineapple-growers, the fact that it may benefit Queensland only does not prove that it violates the Constitution, because Queensland is the only State where pineapples may be grown on a commercial basis. It follows, therefore, that if such a law or duty were a violation of the Constitution it might, with equal force, be argued that because galvanized iron is, so I am told, manufactured by only one firm in Australia, a tariff on galvanized iron would be a violation of the Constitution. Of course this would not be to state the position correctly, because manufacturers in any other State could, at any time, begin the manufacture of galvanized iron, so it could not be argued that the duties were really in the nature of differential treatment for one State.
The other point to which I desire to refer is the limitation of production under this agreement. It is a fact that, because of certain restrictive provisions in the agreement, the sugar industry cannot be further developed, even in areas most suitable for the production of sugar cane, because to do that would cause a glut in the market, thereby lowering the average prices to the growers. This is a condition of affairs for which neither the Government nor the sugar industry can be held responsible. It is merely another of those anomalies that arise under the capitalistic system and are causing so much trouble in various countries. In the newspapers of yesterday or the day before there appeared a statement that the Government of Brazil had absolutely prohibited the planting of any more coffee trees, the intention being to limit future production, because last year, so it was stated, over 4,000 tons of coffee had to be destroyed in order to keep up the price for the remainder of the crop. Some years ago there was an attempt to restrict supplies by using the surplus coffee as fuel; but as this arrangement interfered with the business of fuel merchants, the surplus stocks were then dumped in the sea. Two or three years ago, because of the extraordinarily heavy crop of cotton in the southern States of the United States of America, the growers decided to destroy every third row in their cotton plantations. Certain planters who, for some years, had been getting poor returns, and who, then, had better crops, declined to fall in with the proposal. Consequently, the majority of planters organized night raids and destroyed not only the crops, but also in many cases the dwellings of those planters who objected to the plan. More recently the British Government had to come to some arrangement to limit the production of cotton in the Soudan, and I understand that the authorities in Egypt have taken similar action.Actually, so much wealth isbeing produced in all countries that the problem now confronting governments is to prevent the glutting of markets, in order to keep up commodity prices.
– Proposals with regard to tin are the latest example.
SenatorRAE. - That is so. One could quote numerous examples of action in this direction by governments of various countries. It must be admitted that one of the outstanding weaknesses of the existing economic system is the fact that we cannot afford to buy for consumption all that we produce. This is one of the inherent faults of the capitalistic system, and until it is changed-
– What system would the honorable senator substitute for it?
SenatorRAE. - Socialism. If we do not succeed in introducing that system by peaceful methods, it will be brought into operation by other means. I support the agreement on the ground that it deals in’ an orderly way with an industry which, except, for an agreement of this kind, would be plunged into chaos, to the detriment of the people of Australia. I do not look with contempt upon any race, whatever its colour or degree of civilization; but, in all cases in which the white race has obtained power, it has attempted to use, and has mostly succeeded in using, the. coloured races to provide cheap labour in order to break down the conditions of the white workers.
– The honorable senator is departing from the subjectmatter of the bill.
– I merely wish to point out that any measure which aids in maintaining the White Australia policy should be supported by all who have the welfare of this country at heart. I do not think that any small decrease in the price of sugar would be of substantial benefit to the wage-earners of this country.
.- I was rather interested in the remarks of Senator Crawford regarding the “ vicious “ propaganda with respect to the sugar industry that has been published in the press in five out of the six States of the Commonwealth. I point out that a good deal of press propaganda has been indulged in on behalf of the industry.
– Many newspapers have refused to publish articles in opposition to the interests of the industry because of the huge advertisements being received from it. For a number of years attempts have been made by honorable senators from Tasmania and other States to obtain a reduction of the Australian price of sugar, and the action of the industry in voluntarily agreeing to the slight reduction now proposed is somewhat belated.
Senator- Crawford. - Not voluntarily.
– There seems to be disagreement among honorable senators from Queensland upon that point. I was interested to hear the remarks of Senator Colebatch about the attitude of the Government towards the Customs Bill. Senator Duncan-Hughes endeavoured to ascertain when that bill would be brought before the Senate, but he could obtain no satisfactory information on the matter. That measure was placed at the bottom of the notice-paper in May last, and there it remains. The Government does not appear to take the Senate much into its confidence when it is necessary for us to rely on press statements, even those appearing in the sugar journal, for information as to why the Customs bill has been placed in the back ground. I can well understand the anxiety of the Government and of Queenslanders regarding the legality of the agreement. In view of the numerous decisions of the High Court, it must have been worrying to the Government to be told that any agreement regarding sugar might be upset if action were taken by a State Government or by others to test its validity. I ask for leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
[5.27].- I move-
That so much of the Standing and Sessional Orders be suspended as would prevent the bill being passed through all its stages without delay.
Honorable senators will remember that some time ago the Parliament agreed to a bill for an amendment of the War Service Homes Act to enable certain relief to be given to tenants under that act, as a result of an inquiry made into their circumstances. When the Government came to give effect to that measure, it had to approach the State Savings Bank of Victoria which was under an agreement administering war service homes in that State, but owing to certain differences the Commonwealth Government and the State Government have amicably decided to alter the arrangement for the control of these homes in Victoria. It was necessary that a bill be passed immediately to give effect to the proposed alteration, and a bill was prepared and introduced in another place providing that it should take effect by proclamation. Owing, however, to various interesting events that intervened, this matter has been somewhat overlooked, and it is now apparent that the revised agreement must take effect from to-day; otherwise the tenants will not get the benefit of it until some time in January next. It has been ascertained that the proclamation cannot be made retrospective. The Victorian Government has, therefore, agreed to pass a bill through all its stages in the State Parliament to-day, and by arrangement with all parties similar action has already been taken in the House of Representatives. I am now asking the Senate to agree to the suspension of the Standing Orders so that the bill may be passed through all stages in this chamber without delay.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill (on motion by Senator McLachlan) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The Leader of the Government has explained the urgency of this measure. Prior to the passing of the War Service Homes Act 1927, the State Savings Bank of Victoria had acted in that State as agent on behalf of the War Service Homes Commission. By Act No. 33 of 1927, and at the request of the Victorian State Savings Bank, the homes which that body had provided as agents for the Commission were transferred to its control, and its relationship was changed from that of agent to that of principal. Honorable senators will remember that recently a committee appointed by the Commonwealth Government inquired into the administration of the War Service Homes Act, and the relief that should be afforded to purchasers ofhomes under it. In the main, the recommendations of that committee were accepted by the Government, and operated by the department. The Victorian State Savings Bank Commissioners were asked to extend similar concessions to the occupants of war service homes with whom they were dealing as principals. There are 3,600 of those persons in Victoria, and the Commonwealth Government considered that they should enjoy the concessions extended to the purchasers of war service homes in other parts of Australia. The bank, however, felt that such action would lead to its having to extend the concessions to returned soldiers who are purchasing homes from it under other terms, and that the resultant loss would be too great. It, therefore, asked to be relieved of its administration under the agreement. Negotiations were conducted with the bank over a considerable period, with the object of formulating proposals that would enable the War Service Homes Commissioner to discharge the obligations formerly discharged by the bank as principal for the Commonwealth Government. The arrangement arrived at is the subject of the agreement which is attached to the bill.
– Does the agreement impose on the Commonwealth a liability that so far it has not shouldered?
– No. To-day the bank is the principal, and, except by moral suasion, we could not compel it to give these concessions to the 3,600 purchasers of homes to whom I have referred. The position in South Australia is slightly different from that which exists in Victoria. This is simply an effort to extend to returned soldiers who have entered into contracts with the Victorian State Savings Bank, the concessions that have been given to those who have purchased from the Commissioner of War Service Homes. It was finally arranged that there should be a payment of £184,000 by the bank to the Commissioner. The department estimates that there will be a saving in administration of £10,000 a year, because the payment to the bank of 13s. per cent, upon loan balances will be terminated. As the passage of the bill will enable us to give the concessions that I have mentioned, I ask honorable senators to agree to it.
– I appreciate the fact that the
Government is “ in a jam “ in connexion with this matter, because this is the last day of the month; therefore, Senator Rae and I are willing to assist it to pass this measure. I understand, however, that there is on the business paper of another place a bill to amend the War Service Homes Act. When that comes before us we intend to seek a review of the whole of the conditions affecting the purchase of war service homes, so that they may be made more beneficial to the occupiers of these homes.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from page 3070.
– I was about to dissect the statistics of the Queensland Sugar Board, and to seek information concerning the sum that is required to finance and sell the product of the sugar industry. The efficiency of the industry is not disputed. We all agree that it is most efficiently managed. But in the accounts of the board huge amounts appear on the expenditure side, and it would be interesting to obtain information concerning some of them. I would not expect to succeed in that quest. I notice that last year £427,000 was provided for managing and financing, and a further £109,000 for the selling of the product. Those are considerable amounts. Looking at the advertisements concerning the industry that are circulated throughout Australia, and estimating roughly what they cost, it is apparent that considerable provision must be made under sonic heading. Probably, it is included in one of thesetwo sums to which I have drawn attention. But the whole of it has to come out of the industry and, through it, from the consumers within Australia. It certainly does not come from overseas consumers, because Australian sugar is sold abroad at probably half the cost of production Although the industry may be very efficiently managed there is another very large sum appearing in the interns of expenditure. I refer to the amount of £315,000 paid last year to the fruit processors and which I contend can be regarded only as a sop to the fruit industry, although it was very acceptable to that industry and should be continued at that amount instead of being reduced to £200,000.
– Would the honorable senator be in favour of wiping out that concession altogether?
– I would dispense with the whole agreement so that sugar could be obtained at a reasonable .price.
– Regardless of all consequences.
– I shall deal with that aspect of the question later. I am quite willing to answer pertinent interjections, but “I prefer to make my speech in my own way.
– Is the honorable senator in favour of the present agreement?
– I am prepared to support the ‘agreement, but I am opposed to and will vote against the imposition of an embargo upon imported sugar. I consider that the Queensland sugar industry is entitled to a reasonable protective duty, but it should not enjoy all the privileges which an embargo offers. In Hansard of the 14th May last year, I find the following: -
The sugar industry appears to me to be a sweet darling of the Federal Parliament, lt always has been. It embraces in its ranks companies de luxe, growers de luxe, and workmen living de luxe, because, compared with the current wages in Queensland, the wages paid in the sugar industry are altogether out of proportion. … I am totally opposed to embargoes in any shape or form. … :
In another portion of the same speech I find-
No comparison can he drawn between the sugar industry of Queensland, living, as it were, in the lap of luxury, and the unfortunate small dairy farmers who are eking out an existence in the southern States
– -From whose speech is the honorable senator quoting?
– It is not my intention to disclose the name of the speaker, at least at this juncture.
– I rise to a point of order. Is the honorable senator entitled to quote from Hansard without giving the name of the speaker whom he is quoting?
– The honorable senator is quite in order if he is quoting from a speech delivered in the Senate during the present session, or upon the same subject.
– I have not yet refused to disclose the author.
– Who made the remarks quoted?
– I have no doubt that, before the honorable senator con.cludes, he will give the name of the honorable gentleman who made the remarks he is quoting.
– I intend to do so; but I am not now in the witness box and should not be subjected to this cross examination. The remarks I have quoted were made last year by the present Vice-President of the Executive Council (Senator McLachlan). I am evidently not alone in opposing an embargo on imported sugar, but as I have already said, I consider that the industry is entitled to reasonable protection.
– The embargo mentioned in that speech had not ‘been sanctioned ‘by Parliament. In this bill the Senate is asked to sanction the imposition of an embargo.
– I do not intend to do that.
– Is the honorable senator opposed to an embargo on carbide ?
– That subject has been mentioned in this chamber from time to time, but the honorable senator should be aware of the fact that such an embargo has not been in operation since 1922.
– Was the honorable senator in favour of it when it was. in operation ?
– No, I never have been. Many honorable senators are under the impression that an embargo is still imposed upon the importation of carbide.
– What is the difference between a prohibitive duty and an embargo?
– I think that I should be entitled to make my speech in my own way. I do not intend to refrain from answering interjections, but if they are made too frequently I shall have little opportunity to express my ideas on the bill now before the Senate. It has been said that those honorable senators who are opposing the agreement are in favour of the employment of coloured labour. I give that statement an emphatic denial. I am sure that no honorable senator on this side of the chamber believes in the introduction of coloured labour. On the other hand, I am somewhat concerned about the labour actually employed on the Queensland sugar-fields. According to the Australian Sugar Journal of the 3rd November, 1932, large numbers of aliens are employed on the Queensland sugar-fields. Frequent reference has been made to the utterances of Professor Brigden, particularly by those who support the views which he has expressed. This is what that gentleman said concerning the naturalization of the workers in the Queensland sugar industry-
Tha Australian Workers Union * fully organizes the employees in the industry, and it is in close association with the organizations of the employers. A comprehensive State award regulates the conditions of employment; but subordinate agreements are made with the intention of limiting the employment of foreigners. The so-called - “ alien influx “ has been a troublesome question in the northern district, and some 43 per cent. of the cutters and 34 per cent, of thu field workers are of foreign birth and unnaturalized.
– And Senator Rae said that 98 per cent, of them were British.
– I am quoting the figures of Professor Brigden. He continues -
Indeed, in that district the British and Australian employees comprise only 42 per cent, of the cane-cutters, and 3(1 per cent, of the field workers.
That is in the whole of the northern districts of Queensland, where 70 per cent, of the sugar is grown. When I was in that district I visited places where one seldom heard the English language spoken. The article continues -
Very few mill workers are of foreign birth : but naturalized foreign farmers arc 30 per cent, of the whole.
Notwithstanding this we are told that we should give encouragement to Australian workers. The article proceeds -
The rates per ton for cutting cane are based on an average cut per man per day of 34 tons, estimated in 1920. Since then the average has increased, partly because softer varieties of cane are now planted, and in 1930 the cutters in one northern mill area averaged 4.0 tons, and £204 each for the season of twenty weeks.
That is at the rate of £10 a week per man.
– That is all they get for the whole twelve months.
– Does the honorable senator suggest that they loaf around the “ pubs “ for the rest of the year, mid do not engage in other work? Many Tasmanians go to Queensland during the season, but they do not loaf around when their job is over. They return to Tasmania where they earn good money.
– Do they earn good money in Tasmania?
– Yes; on seasonal work. They do not enjoy the advantages possessed by the workers in this sheltered Queensland industry, which levies a toll on the whole of the Australian people, and which sells a large portion of its product at about, one-half of the cost of production at the expense of Australian consumers. It is rather peculiar that there should be such wonderful unanimity between the workers in the industry and their employers, particularly as to the way in which this huge monopolistic concern is carried on. When the industry can afford to give away so much, it is only natural that its policy should be supported by its employees.
– Does the honorable senator suggest that they are bribed ?
– Certainly not, but the industry is able to pay higher rates because of the advantages which it enjoys in many directions, and there are ways in which concessions can be given without suggesting bribery. Because of the high price it receives for the refining of sugar, the Colonial Sugar Refining Company is able to grant privileges which otherwise would not be warranted. It cannot be denied that during the years in which the company has been in operation it has taken millions of pounds from some one. It has been said that these amounts were profits which could have been returned to the shareholders instead of being used for capitalization purposes. These profits had to come from somewhere, and must have been made out of the industry. It is remarkable to find the chairman of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company stating at its annual meeting year after year that it has been passing through troublous times and has just managed to make sufficient to ‘ pay a dividend. As a rule he also said that the outlook and the prospects of the coming season were uncertain. During the present unprecedented depression this company has not had to reduce its dividends. It is practically the only big Australian company which has not had to do so.
– A well-known company in Tasmania practically doubled its profits last year.
– I take it that the Minister refers to the company of Henry Jones Limited, whose dividend was considerably less than what was paid a few years ago.
– That company made a profit of £171,000 this year.
– It is true that this year Henry Jones Limited has done well, but for the previous two or three years its dividends were much smaller than in earlier years. Why is it that the Labour party never criticizes the Colonial Sugar Refining Company? Even the Queensland Labour Government offered no objection to its profits.
– What would the honorable senator suggest should be done?
– The dividends could be reduced by the company charging less for the refining of sugar, and passing the benefit on to the consumers of sugar.
Although the sugar agreement provides for the establishment of a sugar depot at Hobart, a depot has not yet been established there. Clause 11 of the agreement reads -
That the Queensland Government, if and when requested by the Commonwealth Government, shall establish a sugar depot at Hobart: provided that the Commonwealth Government shall not make such a request unless the request be accompanied by evidence proving that a general shortage of sugar has occurred in Hobart, which is due to Hobart merchants or the Queensland Sugar Board failing to adhere to the present arrangements, whereby special reserve stocks of sugar are supplied to and held by such merchants.
– The Government was assured in August last that the Hobart people were perfectly satisfied with the existing arrangement.
– I do not think the Minister’s information is correct. Within the last few months there have been shortages of sugar at Hobart, and merchants there have had to borrow from one another. In any case, I cannot see why there should not be a sugar depot at Hobart, as well as in the other capital cities. I admit that the position is not so serious as it was in previous years, when practically every summer the dislocationof the shipping service in Tasmania caused a shortage of supplies. Nevertheless, there are still shortages.
-Hobart merchants have not complained.
SenatorGRANT. - Probably the present arrangements suit them. If there were a depot at Hobart any one could obtain half a ton of sugar on the spot without difficulty, and supplies would always be available. The position should be looked into by the Government, with a view to placing Hobart on the same footing as the other capital cities. All that is needed is a request from the Commonwealth Government.
– There is no difficulty in obtaining half a ton of sugar in Hobart now.
– Only by paying cash, or by giving a bank guarantee. I ask only that Hobart shall be treated the same as the other capital cities.
Reference has been made to Queensland’s purchases of Tasmanian products. I submit that Queensland buys the products of the island State only because they are of good quality and can he obtained at competitive prices. Queensland does not buy Tasmanian apples and potatoes with the object of assisting Tasmania. Some time ago, a Tasmanian cement manufacturing company received an order from Queensland for cement, only to find later that the use of Tasmanian cement had been prohibited by some authority in Queensland. I suggest that that is a breach of the principle of freetrade between the States.
– The cement was used in Queensland subsequently.
– There is no doubt that the sugar industry is wonderfully protected. No one objects to a reasonable amount of protection for an industry of such importance, but the people of Tasmania certainly object to an embargo on the importation of sugar from other countries. The Government also professes to dislike that class of legislation.
– What would be the the use of the agreement without the embargo ?
– It would be possible to meet the situation by imposing a reasonable duty on sugar, instead of an embargo.
SenatorCrawford. - What about a duty equal to that on dried fruits?
– The sugar industry is entitled to a fair measure of protection. I suggest that this is a matter which should be referred to the Tariff Board to determine in the light of the terms of the Ottawa agreement. I shall support the second reading because I am desirous that the users of sugar shall obtain the benefit of the reduction of1/2d. a lb. in the price of sugar ; but I am unable to support the embargo, and will vote against it in committee.
Sitting suspended from, 6.12 to 8 p.m.
.- I should not have taken part in this debate but for ‘the fact that, prior to the dinner adjournment, Senator Grant created a wrong impression in the minds of some honorable senators when reading extracts from statements made by Professor Brigden with regard to the number of Italians engaged in the industry. The honorable senator omitted to mention that Professor Brigden’s statements referred particularly to the Ingham and Tully districts where, as is well known, the Italians are in the majority.
– I made it plain that my references were to the northern districts of Queensland.
– The Sugar Inquiry Committee, which was partly responsible for the drafting of this agreement, made it clear that the number of Italian canegrowers is only 10 per cent. of the total, but, as I have explained, they are in the majority in the Ingham and Tully districts. The honorable senator also misled the Senate with regard to the nationality of the cane-cutting gangs. As the result of negotiations between the rival nationalities in the industry, there is now in operation what is known as a gentlemen’s agreement under which the canecutting gangs are to be constituted of 75 per cent. British and 25 per cent. Italian.
– It is very kind of them to allow British subjects to secure employment in the gangs.
– Perhaps I was unfortunate in my choice of words. What I meant was that the British interests demanded that 75 per cent. of the canecutting gang should be British born.
– Since the Italians were encouraged to settle in this country, no one should now object to their employment in any capacity.
– At all events, as the result of an agreement recently made, in the southern districts, at any rate, British subjects constitute 80 per cent. or 90 per cent. of the cane-cutting gangs. Senator Grant also mentioned the high wages earned by some cane-cutters. Perhaps he is unaware that all cane-cutting is piece-work, and as the men have become experts at the business, they are able to make in some cases £10 a week working under conditions prescribed by the Arbitration Court. But this is not their net return. Out of their wages they have to provide for a cook and tomeet other expenses in connexion with the general mess.
– And the work lasts for only about fifteen weeks in each year.
– Senator Grant also spoke of the profits earned by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. I remind him that in the Melbourne Argus of the 16th instant, there appeared a statement of accounts in connexion with Henry Jones Co-operative Limited, fruit-eanners, for the year ended the 31st October, 1932. This showed that in 1931, on a capital of £1,430,173, the net income was £91,554 and the amount paid to reserve was £2,168.For this year, the net income was £171,066, and the amount placed to reserve was £45,926. This highly satisfactory financial position is, I contend, due to the efficiency of the company in question, and the same may be said of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. I regret that Senator Grant should have spoken iu such an offhand, if not sneering manner, concerning the Italians living and working in the sugar areas of Queensland. It is as well to remind him that, as they were admitted under our immigration laws, and, as the great majority of them have become naturalized citizens of Australia, they are entitled to full citizenship rights. I might add that it ill becomes any British subject to speak sneeringly of Italian citizens, because the British race is merely an offshoot of the Romans, who invaded Britain and settled in that country. This being so, it would not bo wide of the truth to say that the Italians now settled in Australia are, perhaps, somewhat remotely, I admit, our brothers and sisters, and, as such, should be treated with the respect due to the direct descendants of a worthy nation. “When I was in Northern Queensland recently, I made it my business to inquire of police magistrates, sergeants of police, and inspectors exactly what was the official opinion regarding the Italians settled in the suga.r-growing areas, and, without exception, they all spoke most highly of them. I have also had personal experience of Italian migrants, and I must admit that, judged from the physical stand-point, the great majority of them would make a very good blend with native-born Australian citizens. I therefore hope that we shall hear no more of these objections to Italians engaged in farming or employed on sugar-growing lands in Queensland. I felt it my duty to remove the false impression which, I fear, Senator Grant’s remarks had made on honorable senators; but I do him the credit of believing that he spoke in ignorance of the facts. I hope that the bill will be carried.
– I do not intend to occupy more than a few minutes in stating my reasons for opposing the second reading of the bill. Had the measure been framed in a different manner, and had it been capable of amendment, probably I should not have offered opposition to it. But the same tactics have been followed with respect to it, as were followed, and with less justification, in the case of the bill giving effect to the Ottawa agreement. “1 admit that a rearrangement of the subjects dealt with in that measure would have been very difficult, because of considerations of time and distance; but those difficulties do not present themselves in connexion with this bill. Senator McLachlan, who is to a great extent responsible for the measure, and who, doubtless, worked hard and disinterestedly in framing the sugar agreement, stated that the sugar industry has been under parliamentary control. I am sure the honorable gentleman did not mean what he said; because it has been pretty obvious for many years that the relations between the sugar industry and the rest of Australia have not been within the control of Parliament ; nor are they under this bill. In my opinion, it would have been better if the conditions agreed upon at the conference had been embodied iri a bill, because Parliament would then have had full opportunity to criticize, and, if necessary, amend them. But that was not done, and we are now asked to pass the bill approving the agreement, knowing full well that we cannot alter it. That is not giving to Parliament the full control which it should have. For that reason, and also because I think that the terms of the agreement as it stands at present are not fair and equitable to the State that I represent, I am opposing the second reading. If it had been decided to submit the terms of the agreement to Parliament, and if the agreement were capable of amendment, the task would have been simpler. . The process might have taken longer, but let me say that this portion of the present period is not the right time to bring a bill for an act such as this before the Parliament. That this is an intensely complicated measure is easily seen from the fact that, with four exceptions, all speakers have differed from one another. The honorable senators who constitute the four exceptions have said practically the same thing. I congratulate the Government on having brought down a bill which has produced such complete amity among hitherto warring sections in Parliament. On this side we have alleged tories, and on the other side, advanced gentlemen from Queensland - in the Senate new arrivals - agreeing to the horrible principle of piecework. There is hope in that for both parties. We have also heard them praising in unstinted terms a company which has done admirably well, and which, I understand, a few years ago was anathema to the party opposite. It is delightful to see brothers dwelling in amity together.
– The’ lamb is lying down with the lion.
– I am wondering who will prove to have been the lamb when this little contest is over. I can understand these gentlemen, who have believed all their lives in the socialization of industry, watching this great company grow fatter and fatter, and saying like Blucher, when he first saw London, “ Oh, what a city to loot “. I can imagine them looking at this company, and exclaiming to one another, “What a good thing to socialize”. I am wondering _ whether the industry will be socialized, or the gentlemen opposite civilized.
– It may prove a step in the right direction.
– Exactly. The bringing together of these parties to-day may be a prelude to the realization of the brotherhood of man.
I wish to disclaim any enmity whatever towards the sugar industry, for I have not seen much of it. It is not my custom to go into a district for about ten minutes, and then to think that I know all about it. I went into what is alleged to be the best sugar district of Queensland - that around Innisfail - and by the courtesy of those in authority there, I had ari excellent opportunity to observe the circumstances under which the industry is being conducted. It was very pleasing indeed to see this. People have talked vaguely in the past about the inefficiency of the industry, but, so far as I could see, nothing but the highest efficiency obtained there. I saw the three big mills at South Johnstone, Mourilyan, and Goondi. I was given every opportunity to go through those mills, and as an old mining man, I discovered great similarity between an ore treatment plant and a sugar mill. I could see sufficient to realize to what a high state of efficiency the gentlemen in control of those mills had brought them. I was struck by the friendly relations between the rival millers themselves. One noticed a gadget invented in connexion with one plant in order to produce greater efficiency, and when going to another plant, one noticed a different improvement. Yet the millers were living in the greatest amity with one another, because they have a great deal at stake. I found them in agreement with one another in all matters except in regard to the excellence of their respective gadgets. It was very pleasing to note that friendly rivalry. There is nothing like the two extremes - extreme prosperity or extreme poverty - to bring people together. In this case I am glad to say that it was extreme prosperity. They have been living, and they hope to continue to live, in a sort of golden era. They are satisfied that the closer they get together, and the more they cooperate with the workers, the more powerful they will be. There seemed to have been formed in North Queensland a powerful alliance between the two sections of industry.
– It might be on account of fear of poverty.
– It might be; but I think that that is somewhat improbable. It is said, and I think truly, that the fly in the ointment in the Queenslaud industry is the production of surplus sugar for export, which, I consider, is out of all reason.
– Senator Crawford said that that was a case of the chickens coming home to roost.
– That may be right. That honorable senator has a wide knowledge of the industry, and though I regard the matter from quite a different angle from that from which Senator Crawford views it, I congratulate him on his speech. It is true that he accused me of being a dog, and of “ baying the moon “, but I presume that he was referring only to a figurative moon. I suppose, in the first place, that the moon is represented by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. Yet there is no moonshine about that concern. It is not an extinct planet, but a live body inhabited by extremely efficient men, who found a field ready ploughed to their hands. They have cultivated that field to the greatest possible advantage, and 1 congratulatethem upon the success they have attained. It is not given to everybody to find such a field from which inch wonderful harvests can be reaped.
– They have been cultivating it for nearly a century.
– And apparently without the aid of fertilizers.
It must be a trouble to them sometimes to find a place in which to put all their winnings. Some of these are revealed, but I feel sure that some are not. There must be secret granaries where these golden harvests are put away for further use.
– There are lots of rats about which make storage in granaries risky.
– Quite so, and some undertakings are ruined by bad management.
Senator Colebatch made a statement about the division of the sugar districts, which, I think, is the only assertion that has not been contradicted in this debate. Like Gaul, Queensland is divided into three districts, the southern, the central and the northern, and so far as I can learn, the bulk of the sugar and the bulk of the interests are in the northern division. The southern and central divisions are apt to suffer from the vagaries of the climate. When I visited Queensland I could sec the effects of frosts and drought, and it occurs to me that it would be a good thing if the Queensland Government took steps to establish some other industry in place of sugargrowing in those districts. Of course the Commonwealth Government could not do it; it makes enough attempts at interfering with State affairs, sometimes with, and sometimes without conspicuous success. But if the people of those areas could be induced by the Government of Queensland, and by the force of circumstances, to turn their attention to some other means of livelihood, I think that it would pay them quite as well as the growing of sugar. Senator Colebatch was accused of having said that they ought to grow tomatoes, but I do not believe that he made that statement; it. sounds like a remark torn from its context. There are several other industries, however, the prospects of which have been wonderfully enhanced by the Ottawa agreement. I have in mind such an industry as the intense fattening of cattle. That, I believe, could be established. If a number of small holders of sugar lands, each with an area that could be well looked after, could be induced to cultivate suitable fodders for the fattening of stock - almost anything can be grown in those districts - so long as enough store stock were made available, the farmers could not only grow baby beef, but also beef that would be killed where it had been fattened. I have no doubt about a market being obtainable for such beef. That has all been made possible under the Ottawa agreement. 1 think that Senator Pearce said that Queensland stood to gain an additional £1,000,000 out of the demand for Australian meat. If the quality of the meat is improved, and the age at which the stock is killed is reduced, there is no limit to the possibility of building up a prosperous industry in this direction. The growers could adopt the same system as that followed in Canada and the United States of America, where the cattle are bred on the ranges and are fattened inspecial districts. The only difficulty is transport, but that could, I think, be arranged. If the Queensland Government could be brought to realize the possibility of establishing a large, new and what promises to be a very prosperous industry, I have no doubt that the necessary financial arrangements could be made. Many of the areas on which sugar is now grown are large and fertile, but they do not, as a rule, possess that regular and sufficient rainfall that is undoubtedly required for the successful cultivation of sugar. If the areas that are suitable for cattle-raising - and there are immense tracts of this country along the rivers and in other places - I am sure this industry under methods which are new to Queensland, could be put intosuccessful operation.
No opportunity is presented to honorable senators to make necessary alterations in the period of the agreement, or to increase or decrease the prices afforded under the bill now before us. The honorable senator who introduced . the measure merely said “ Here is the bill ; you can reject it or pass it, but you must not vary it “. I do not think that that is right.
– The same was said of the Ottawa agreement.
– Quite so; and, strangely enough, we passed this afternoon a bill embodying another agreement to which a similar condition applied. In its case, and in the case of the Ottawa agreement, that was inevitable; but it is not inevitable in this case. It could easily be arranged that Parliament should have the only effective means of criticizing the bill; that is, by making or endeavouring to make certain amendments to it in committee. We might then fix a period of years during which the price could be varied, and make it possible to effect savings by keeping as low as possible the exportable surplus that is necessary for the prosperity of the industry. The last thing that I desire is that the sugar industry of Australia shall be affected adversely in the slightest degree. We have chosen to cut Australia off from the sugar supplies of the rest of the world. That is the will of Australia, and it must prevail. But let us act sensibly, by improving the industry to as great an extent as possible, in the direction of avoiding the quite avoidable surplus production. I realize, of course, that there must be a margin; but the export figure has gone beyond a reasonable margin, and it is a question of “ the tail wagging the dog”. Those who live in areas that are more happily situated than others for sugar-growing, must see that it is nothing but a mistaken pride which prevents their adoption of the method that, in the embryonic stage, I have placed before the Senate. A good deal may be done in regard to beef, as well as with what the Ottawa agreement euphoniously terms “ pig meats “, and in the production of eggs - which, during the depression, came to the rescue of New South Wales to a most marked and wonderful degree.
I am sorry that I cannot support the second reading of the bill, because it is not placed before Parliament in a form which allows of our offering the most valuable and efficient criticism that can be directed against it, namely, the amendment of it in committee. I have no doubt that the second reading will be carried, because campaigns of this sort are always conducted very efficiently. If it is, I shall certainly vote for any amendment which would remove the embargo on the importation of foreign-grown sugar.
– I hope that the second reading of the bill will be carried. I am rather amazed at the attitude towards the sugar embargo that has been adopted in this, the States’ House. Senator Brown’s reference to Senator Johnston’s attitude to the transport of beer from Melbourne and Adelaide to Western Australia may have appeared on the surface to be merely jocose; but, viewed from whatever angle Senator Johnston may choose, his was, nevertheless, an attempt to raise a tariff wall against competition by other States with a Western Australian manufacture.
– I protested against unjust competition at the expense of the Commonwealth taxpayer.
– To say that it is unjust competition is merely to beg the question. For the purposes of my argument, I am content with the admission that the. object of the honorable senator was to protect Western Australia against competition.
I come now to the attitude of honorable senators from Tasmania. In their opinion, of course, Queensland industries get all the protection that they seek. It appears to me that Tasmanian senators have very short memories. The last Government, which was castigated hy Senator Grant, saved >the hop industry of Tasmania, ‘by reducing the output and by entering into ian arrangement with the manufacturers of Guinness’ stout which enabled that stout to be imported and to compete with stout manufactured in Victoria and South Australia. Was any complaint made when that assistance was granted ? Then, again, although Australia was in rather sore straits financially, the Scullin Government saved the berrygrowers of Tasmania, by distributing among them the sum of £5,000. The Queensland sugar producer paid his portion of that amount. Yet Queensland is now told that its industries should be placed in such a state of efficiency that they should not need any protection from the Commonwealth. I point out that
Queensland cannot help to carry Tasmania unless the production of Queensland is protected by Australia.
I come now to Western Australia. That State, of course, never needs assistance from ‘the Commonwealth. Honorable senators must have forgotten that there was such a thing as a gold bounty.
– It did not last long.
– Of course it did not. It is the Government that was put in office by ‘Senator Johnston and those who stand behind him which repudiated the gold ‘bounty.
– That bounty was given by Parliament. The sugar industry gets its assistance from the Government.
– Who but the Scullin Government presented the child to Parliament? I did not notice any anxiety on the part of Western Australian senators to disclaim relationship with that child. They unanimously invited us to become its foster parents. The very government which Senator Johnston helped to put into power disowned the child «nd said “We will not kill it, but will put it in an orphanage.” It probably believes that at the age of ten years it will die in the orphanage. The point that I want honorable senators to realize is, that the attitude of the Scullin Government towards the sugar industry of Queensland is condemned by those who praised the Government for its attitude towards other measures. I recall wheat bounties that were introduced. I admit that Senator Johnston made a mistake when he voted against the proposal of the Scullin Government to pay a wheat bounty of 4s. a bushel.
– I voted against the most objectionable condition that the responsibility for payment should be on the States.
– Although Senator Johnston made that mistake, he supported other bounty legislation for the assistance of the wheat-growers. Were I permitted to anticipate debate, I should forecast that he will move an ‘amendment to a bill that will come before the Senate in the next few hours, with the object of securing the payment of a bounty to the wheat-growers this year. I put it to him and to other honorable senators, that as the States’ House we should attempt to be consistent.
– We should attempt to be just. Consistency is the bugbear of little minds.
– The greater includes the less; no man can be consistent who is not just. I do not think that Senator Brennan can fault that proposition.
– I believe that I could.
– The honorable senator might do so from a literary standpoint. Personally, however. I cannot see see how any man can be consistent who is not just.
– Could a man not be a consistent .thief? Would he be just?
– The honorable senator is quibbling when he puts that proposition to me. A man may be a consistent thief. But when I used the expression “consistent” I did so in the sense in which I understand the Standing Orders compel me to use it in this debate. Any honorable senator who believes in the principle of paying a wheat bounty cannot deny the claims of the sugargrowers to some form of assistance. 1 fail to see how we can grant assistance to those engaged in the wheat and other industries unless we maintain our production.
– Why not protect the sugar industry by a protective duty?
– The question of whether it should be protected by au embargo or by customs duties is one for the Government to determine. Senator Kingsmill, Senator Johnston, Senator Colebatch, and Senator Grant told the people in their respective States to put Mr. Lyons into power, because included in the matters with which he would deal would be the vexed question of the sugar industry. Ha has dealt with it.
– I cannot recall the conversation.
– Perhaps not.; but the honorable senator must have a clear recollection of the advertisements which appeared on the hoardings throughout Australia. Senator Badman and Senator Duncan-Hughes will admit that the Emergency Committee in South Australia made the sugar industry a fighting plank of its platform. In effect, honorable senators opposite who represent South Australia said that if Mr. Lyons were placed in power, he would form a government that would appease the wrath of the Housewives Association and the different interests that were asking for a reduction of the price of sugar.
– Would not that be difficult?
– Perhaps it would. We told the people that if a Labour Government were returned to power, we would eventually solve the sugar problem. But; the people of Australia placed Mr. Lyons in power, and the Government which he formed sent one of its Ministers to Queensland to confer with the parties interested in the production of sugar. As a result this agreement was adopted. Personally, I should prefer the old agreement to remain iu operation ; but I am very anxious that nothing shall be done to interfere with the production of sugar in Queensland by white labour. It is easy to make inconsistent statements as to the necessity for opening up fresh fields in northern Queensland and, at the same time, to suggest that the embargo on importation should be removed. It is also easy to speak about the importation of Javanese sugar and to say that we should be prepared to treat the products of coloured races on ‘a fair basis. The real point is that there are approximately 30j000 persons directly associated with the Queensland industry. If 30,000 more persons were placed on the dole, we should not have enough money to pay the £2,000,000 or more which Senator Johnston suggests should be 0 appropriated for paying a bounty on wheat. We have to keep our men employed and the present is not an opportune time to tinker with the industries that are firmly established. Even if we felt that a change was necessary, we should not make any alteration at this critical period. If, as we have been told, wo are in mid-air, we should not meddle with the engine of the aeroplane. We should alight safely and then get to work to clear away some of the anomalies, the responsibility for which rests on this Government, and possibly on previous Governments. I trust that the second reading of the bill will be carried and that the speeches will be brief. I think that we know sufficient about sugar to enable us to dispose of the bill expeditiously, and thereby give the sugar producers some assurance for the future.
.- I regret very much the attitude adopted by certain honorable senators towards those who clare to criticize the sugar agreement. When I am assailed, as I have been during this debate, with being opposed to the Queensland sugar industry, I naturally resent it. I am not opposed to the industry. There is no undertaking in Australia with which I have more sympathy than the Queensland sugar industry; but, if I am of the opinion that an industry is not conducted on sound lines, surely I am entitled to criticize it ! I have taken a keen interest in the sugar industry since 1903, when I first visited the Queensland sugar-fields. Since then I have always kept in touch with its development, and I know probably as much about it as any one who is not a resident of Queensland. I have visited that State dozens of times since I made my first visit. One of the most important points we have to consider, and which should have been considered long ago, is that this industry has grown beyond all reasonable bounds. It is costing us too much to maintain it.
– And because it is successful, the honorable senator wishes to have a “ go “ at it.
– It is successful only up to a certain point, and, when it goes beyond that, it becomes a burden upon the community.
– It is more successful than any other Australian industry.
– I shall show the honorable senator that it is not. Last year an important committee made an exhaustive examination into the industry, and made certain recommendations to the Government. According to the report of that committee, the percentage of exports to the total production has been as follow: -
For the years 1925-28 inclusive, the production costs were £20 10s. a ton. The average price realized for sugar exported was £11 5s. a ton, leaving a net loss of £9 5s. a ton on the total exported.’ This represented the enormous loss of £6,058,990 for the four years, which had to be made up by the consumers of sugar in Australia. In 1.930, the quantity of sugar exported was 219,41S tons, the total loss on which was £2,029,616 for that year. That was the heaviest loss that has been sustained in any one year as a result of exports. In 1931, it was estimated that the cost of production would be reduced to £18 12s. 9d., as against £20 10s., or £1 17s. less than for the years 1925-28. It was estimated that, on the 45 per cent, of production to be exported, only £S a ton would be realized, thus incurring a loss of approximately £2,500,000 for the year. How long is this to continue? Is this to be a perpetual burden upon the people of Australia? Surely there is a means to remove this incubus eventually. Any sane individual conducting a commercial undertaking would avoid producing at a loss for an indefinite period. He would have to do so if he desired to remain solvent. The difference between an individual or a company and the Sugar Producers Association is that the Government is standing behind _ the association, and saying that that loss, whatever it may be, can be made up by the price charged to Australian consumers. Notwithstanding the fact that suggestions were made years ago by persons who had carefully studied the subject, no attempt has been made to give effect to the proposals then submitted. In 1917-18 there were 114,295 productive acres of sugar lands in Queensland. In 1.921-22 the area had increased to 128,356 acres’. In 1925-26 there was a further increase to 198,363 acres, and in 1927-28 the area was 212,304” acres. The latest figures that I can quote are for 1929-30, when the productive acreage had increased to 222,847, or an increase of almost 100 per cent., compared with 1917-18. Years ago those particularly interested in keeping the industry financially prosperous could., without imposing undue, burdens on the people of Australia, have formulated some scheme by which the continued increase in the area under production could have been avoided. I do not suggest that such a scheme could be brought into full operation at once. It would have to be spread over a period of years in order to reduce to a minimum the hardships and dislocation which may result. lt is’ imperative that such a scheme be established in order that this unnecessary burden may be removed within a reasonable period.
– That would mean less land settlement.
– Land settlement which involves heavy loss should not be . persisted in.
– On the honorable senator’s reasoning, we would have to scrap Tasmania.
– There is no justification for continuing to ignore warnings. I could turn up Hansard, and prove that years ago men who were just as keenly interested in Australia as are honorable senators opposite made similar suggestions; but at the time they were not thought worthy of consideration, although, eventually, they will have to be taken into account, because this kind of thing cannot continue. I know the difficulties which the sugar industry has had to meet, and no one has appreciated more than I have the way in which those difficulties have been tackled. No one was more delighted than I that the industry was established on a sound footing; but, unfortunately, it did not stop there. Instead, it expanded until losses amounting to £6,000,000 were incurred in four years through overproduction, an amount which the consumers had to make up. The continuation of that policy cannot be justified. T shall avail myself of every opportunity to press that point home, because I regard it as of paramount importance.
– One Western Australian senator suggested that the whole of the suitable land in Queensland should be thrown open to settlers for the growing of sugar.
– Wherever we find an industry which is taking a heavy toll of the people of Australia, it is time’ for us to consider putting our house in order. I hope that will be done in the case of the sugar industry. I make these remarks in no spirit of antagonism to the sugar industry or Queensland. I have visited the State on a number of occasions, and have many friends engaged in the industry to whom I have expressed these views. What I have suggested will eventually have to be done.
– Would the honorable senator scrap the hop industry of Tasmania?
– Senator Daly suggested that only 1 per cent, of the people of Australia were in opposition to the sugar policy. When the honorable senator was a member of the late Government, and was discussing a motion moved by Senator Colebatch, he admitted that the people of South Australia were against the sugar agreement, and that in opposing the motion he was acting in opposition to the desires of the people of that State. Does Senator Daly suggest that the populations of Tasmania and South Australia together represent only 1 per cent, of the people of Australia?
– Public opinion in South Australia regarding the sugar agreement is now different from what it was twelve months ago.
– According to Senator Foll, it is anticipated that 150,000 tons of sugar will be exported this year. In that case, the loss, based on the average loss for several years, will be about £1,500,000. A burden of this magnitude may be borne with more or less equanimity for a time, but not indefinitely. I advise the people of Queensland to confer with those connected with the Sugar-Growers’ Association with a view to the preparation of a well-thought-out scheme for reducing gradually the area under sugar cane.
– Already the area under sugar is being limited.
– Since 1917 the area has increased by 100 per cent.
– The mills must be kept going.
– Does Senator Reid suggest that because we have a millstone around our neck, we must continue to keep it there, without doing something to rid ourselves of it?
– The population of Australia is increasing every year.
– I admit that the sugar industry of Queensland is well managed. We have heard of the heavy losses which this agreement will mean to those engaged in the sugar industry. I had thought that the growers of sugar, as well as the mill-owners and refiners, would necessarily reap smaller profits because of a reduction of £d. per lb. in the price of sugar, and that they would bear an equal proportion of the loss; but I was surprised to find that shares in the Millaquin company, instead of falling, have risen materially since the agreement was entered into. Does that mean that the cane-growers are to bear all the burden ? Are not the mill-owners and the refining companies to bear their share of it?
– All industrial stocks have risen during the last three months.
– It is strange that in spite of the prediction of heavy losses the shares of these companies have appreciated in value. They are worth 3s. more than before the agreement, was decided on.
– That is because of the extended term of the agreement.
– Coming now to the bill itself, I shall probably support the second reading, first because it will reduce the price of sugar to consumers throughout Australia. Even -Jd. a lb. means something to them, although I should like to see a greater reduction. I have no desire to interfere with this small measure of relief being given to the users of sugar throughout Australia. There is a general feeling among the people of Australia other than those in Queensland in favour of a reduction of the price of sugar. Many anticipated a reduction of more than £d. per lb., and I hope that this small reduction is only the beginning of further’ reductions until the price of sugar becomes more reasonable. Another section of the community in whom I have great interest, is that section which produces 65 per cent, of the berry fruits and other small fruits of Australia. These people are located in Tasmania. Senator Daly smiles, and, therefore, I remind him that this important section of the people of Australia is worthy of some assistance, because without them the people on the mainland would be deprived of the only wholesale production of small fruit of good quality grown in Australia.
Every one admits the superiority of Tasmanian small fruits. That is due, not to any special merit of the Tasmanian people, but because the climatic conditions in Tasmania are eminently suited for the production of small berry fruits.
– I supported a bounty to assist that industry.
– It has been suggested that the small fruit-growers are not in favour of this agreement. I have with me to-night an expression of the views of Mr. Fyle, a member of the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee, and a small fruit-grower, who is interested in the prosperity of the industry in which he is engaged. No section of primary producers in this country has had greater burdens placed upon it than has the section represented by the small fruitgrowers of Tasmania. Mr. Fyle said -
Unfortunately, the public and the growers do not quite understand just what this organization means to them. A bounty of £10 per ton was granted for the export of berry pulps overseas. This permitted at least 500 to 700 tons to be exported from Australia, and so reduced the quantity in Australia that the minimum price fixed by the Sugar Concession Committee was exceeded, to the benefit of the growers. This also insured that no old stocks will 1ms on hand at the commencement of the next fruit season. The fixing of the minimum price to growers is the best step that has ever been taken to protect the industry, as if no minimum price were fixed, purchasers would endeavour to get fruit at the lowest price possible to prevent competition against them. It must be understood that jam manufacturers and other manufacturers cannot get the rebate on their sugar .unless they produce a declaration or evidence that the growers received the minimum price for the fruit.
I am glad to say that the’ small fruitgrowers of Tasmania will get a higher price for their product this year than they have received for many years. That happy result has been made possible by the hearty co-operation between the manufacturing interests in Tasmania and the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee, and the small berry-growers of Tasmania are this year looking forward with confidence to better prices than they have received for many years. I hope that what I have said will convince those honorable senators who have been rather free in their criticism of Tasmanian members, that we have approached the discussion of this sub1ject in a spirit of absolute friendliness to Queensland sugar-growers, and that, our one desire is to see the industry placed upon a sound and satisfactory oasis.
– The question before the Senate appears to be whether or. not we shall ratify the agreement contained in this bill, or whether the industry will be carried on under the old agreement. If that agreement had not been in existence, there would have been very little doubt about my attitude to the bill. This agreement contains some very objectionable provisions, but they are to be found also in the old agreement, so that, if .by any chance the Senate rejected this bill, the old agreement would operate, and it provides that the retail price of sugar for the next two years shall be 4£d. ‘per lb. I am not clear as to the meaning of the provision relating to the review of the agreement; it may mean anything or nothing. Under this proposal, the retail price of sugar is fixed at 4d. per lb. until August, 1936. It is somewhat difficult to say which is the better proposal, but probably the people pf Australia will appreciate the immediate reduction of -Jd. per lb. and decide that this is the better scheme. No one will deny that for many years the price of sugar in Australia has been too high. Many meetings of protest have been held in the southern -States. Economists, to whom this subject has been referred on many occasions, agree that the sugar agreement costs the consuming public of Australia anything between £6,000,000 and £7,000,000 a year. They also admit that at 4d. per lb., the cost to Australia will still be very high. I have always been opposed to the sugar embargo. This is the first time that Parliament has had an opportunity to consider that proposal, and it is my intention to vote against it. A reasonably protective duty should be an ample safeguard for the industry against the importation of sugar produced by low-grade labour. As has been pointed out by other honorable senators, the whole trouble seems to be due to the fact that Queensland is producing too much sugar. Growers have to sell, overseas 40 per cent, of their production at a tremendous loss. If that loss could be averted by limiting production, as is done in other primary industries, it would not be necessary to charge the people of Australia such a high price for their sugar. Some honorable senators have instanced the hop industry. That may be cited as a case in point. Two or three years ago, Australia was using about 12,000 bales of hops. To-day, our requirements are met by between 6,000 and 7,000 bales. Like the sugar industry, the hop industry in Tasmania is highly efficient, and when difficulties due to over-production became pronounced, the growers were forced to dig up considerable areas under cultivation for hops. I do not suggest that Queensland growers should follow that example and dig up any of their best sugar lands, but it is well known that certain areas are, not producing sugar on a competitive basis, and it is believed that these could be diverted to other forms of production. Although I have every sympathy with the sugar-growers of Queensland., I believe they should make their just contribution, equally with other industries, towards the rehabilitation of Australia.
– The industry contends that it has done so.
– The other day, I went to the trouble of examining the files of the Sydney Morning Herald on a certain date four years ago, to compare the then ruling prices for a number of primary products with prices for similar products on the same date this year, and I found that all primary industries, excepting sugar, had been compelled to accept reduced prices. Under the Premiers plan, the Federal and State Governments aimed at a reduction of221/2 per cent. in all adjustable expenditure. Accordingly, Public Service salaries were reduced by from 221/2 per cent. upwards, bondholders made a similar contribution, and, as we have good reason to know, all our primary industries, with the exception of sugar have, for some years, been feeling the effect of depressed prices. Although the figures in the Sydney Morning Herald may not be absolutely accurate, they fairly indicate the trend of prices for Australian primary commodities. Wool prices to-day are 50 per cent. below those ruling four years ago.
– That reduction has not been made voluntarily.
– Of course not; it is due entirely to the economic pressure.
– Would the honorable senator like to see the sugar industry in the same parlous condition?
– Not at all, but I consider that it should make its contribution to the sacrifices demanded of other primary industries in this country. The price of wheat is down at least 40 per cent. compared with the prices ruling four years ago, the relative quotations being 4s. 8d. a bushel four years ago, and slightly under 3s. to-day.
– Has not the Commonwealth made a fine contribution to the wheat industry?
– The wheat industry has certainly received some assistance in the form of a bounty, but prices are still from 30 per cent. to 40 per cent. lower to-day than they were four years ago. According to a statement made the other day by the chairman of the Graziers Association, the price of fat lambs, which is an important industry in Australia, is 65 per cent. below the rate ruling four years ago. Butter is down anything from 45 per cent. to 50 per cent. It is true that our dairymen are getting some relief under the Paterson scheme, but present-day prices are the lowest recorded for many years, and if the employees in the dairying industry were paid anything like the rates ruling in the sugar industry it would not be possible to produce butter in Australia at a cost of less than 3s. per lb. Potatoes this year are unpayable, prices being down’ anything from 50 per cent. to 60 per cent. compared with the rates ruling four years ago. Timber also has declined in value by from 25 per cent. to 30 per cent. Tin is down 35 per cent. and copper 50 per cent. Although the people engaged in all these industries are suffering severely from the effects of the depression, they have to make their contribution towards the Queensland sugar industry which, under this new agreement, is making a price concession of only 11 per cent.
I come now to the agreement itself. In my opinion it is not so valuable as some honorable senators would have us believe it is. I admit that, for the time being, the small fruits industry is getting a bounty which will absorb between £20,000 and £30,000, and enable growers to tide over present bad times; but if honorable senators will study the bill they will find that the rebate on sugar to be given to the manufacturers of jam and processors of fruit is reduced from £6 5s. Id. to £2 4s. per ton. I believe a contribution from some other fund will increase this rebate to £3 4s. per ton. This additional assistance very properly carries with it, first, the obligation to purchase the growers5 fruit at fair jiri ces, to be determined by the concessions committee. The actual rebate, however, is brought down to £2 4s. per ton, and there is a distinct danger that fruit processors and small jam manufacturers may decide to sacrifice the rebate altogether, and by buying their sugar in the open market at 4d. per lb., be able to fix their own prices for fruit purchased from the small growers, who may be forced to accept ruinous rates. I am sure that the rebate of £6 5s. per ton, which was high enough to make the fruit processors value it, was the safer proposal and more in the interests of the small growers. Moreover, to enjoy the rebate, the sugar-growers and the small fruit-growers are, under this agreement, required to pay wages to be fixed by the Arbitration Court. Hitherto industrial award conditions have not been applied to land industries. I do not believe in the Arbitration Court or any of its works. It has never yet given a nian a clay’s work; on the contrary, it has put between 400,000 and 500,000 men out of work in this country. For this reason I regret that Arbitration Court awards are to be applied to those of our small land industries that seek to benefit from this bill.
Another matter mentioned by my friend, Senator Grant, was the desirability of establishing a sugar depot in Hobart. For many years we have been agitating for such a depot, because we are wholly dependent upon the sea carriage of our products and because what has happened so often in the past, inter- ferenco with our shipping services, may again result in a shortage of sugar. Whenever that happens merchants in Hobart and elsewhere are obliged to apply to other merchants for supplies to tide them over a temporary shortage. Within the last few days, we Tasmanian members have received telegrams from about twenty organizations asking us to do what we can in the direction of having a depot established in Hobart.
– Are any of them Labour organizations ?
– Yes; requests for this have come from the Tramways Union, the Pastrycooks Union, the Trades and Labour Council, four or five municipal councils, and various other bodies. Because of the high price of the Australian article, the people of Australia have to pay for sugar hundreds of thousands per annum more than is justified. The reduction of ^d. per lb. provided for under the agreement is long overdue and will be welcomed ; but I have always opposed the sugar embargo, and I shall exercise my right in committee to vote against it, and against any other objectionable clauses in the bill.
– I congratulate Queensland senators on the eloquence with which they have presented the case on behalf of the great sugar industry. We all agree, no doubt, that it is a great industry, and but for its successful development, the north-east coast of Queensland, one of the richest belts of country in the world, would not have been so profitably occupied. The success of this industry is desirable from both a production and a defence point of view. Whatever some honorable senators opposite may accuse us of at election time, we on this side, all believe in the White Australia policy. But efficient as this industry undoubtedly is in all its ramifications, the questions we have to: ask ourselves to-day are: What is it costing the people of Australia, and is the cost worth while? Personally, I think that it is. Honorable senators who have advocated this agreement have pointed out that there are 8,000 sugar-growers in Queensland; but according to the Auditor-General’s report, in order to keep them profitably employed on the Queensland coast, and in a small portion of New South Wales, the consumers of sugar in Australia are penalized to the extent of £7,000,000 a year.
– The AuditorGeneral is wrong in that estimate.
– I believe that in this matter Senator Crawford is a greater authority than the Auditor-General, and I accept his assurance that the extra cost to the consumers is only from £4,000,000 to £5,000,000. If the 89,000 wool-growers and the 63,000 wheat-growers in Australia were granted similar assistance to that given by the people of Australia to the wealthy and sheltered sugar industry, what would be said? There has been much talk this afternoon about the large amount of capital employed in the sugar industry, the number of men engaged, and the quantity of fencing wire used. I do not believe the yarn that was told about strawberries and tomatoes, nor what was said about the possibility of fattening baby beef on land now used in southern Queensland for the production of sugar. Where would one get the young animals, and how would one get them there? The quantity of fencing wire required for the sugar industry would probably be less than that required on a single sheep station such as Alexandria, which comprises 10,000 square miles on the eastern portion of the Barkly Tableland. The quantity of fencing wire required by the sugar industry is infinitesimal.
– But there are 20,000 workmen employed in the industry, in addition to the 8,000 growers.
– It is most amusing to note the attitude to this bill of such honorable senators as the gentleman who has just interjected. He and his friends from Queensland are found linked arm in arm with that great capitalistic concern, the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, and both agree on the subject of piece-work, which is usually regarded as anathema to Labour. This is one of the most unholy alliances ever witnessed in the Senate. The inconsistency of it is quite Gilbertian. We find honorable senators opposite who have always been opposed even to Britishers entering -Australia under the migra tion scheme now embracing Italians as brothers. Italians who have not become naturalized Australians are found working and owning sugar land in Queensland! I am wondering if this brotherly love has resulted from the huge consumption of South Australian wines, which an’ honorable senator told us was one of the features of the sugar industry on the thirsty north-east coast.
As a Victorian, I find myself, with the great majority of the people whom I help to represent in this Parliament, against the agreement. They have always complained of the tremendous tax placed upon them through having to pay an artificial price for sugar. But I am in great difficulty in regard to the agreement, because the Minister has definitely said that if it is not ratified, obnoxious as it is to the people of Victoria and to me, the people will be compelled to go on paying the exorbitant price of 4£d. per lb. Therefore, I am forced to choose the lesser of two evils. This agreement provides for a reduction of the price by id. per lb.; but it also legalizes a total embargo against the importation of sugar for four years. To that I object, and in committee I shall vote against it. I have never supported an embargo on anything; but, on this occasion, I am forced, as I have said, by the pronouncement of the Minister, to support a bill, which while it provides for a slight reduction of price, also provides for an embargo. I do not like spoonfed industries; but all secondary industries in this country have been spoonfed, and some of the primary industries are to be similarly treated. I presume that honorable senators will be consistent. That is all that I ask of my Queensland friends. If they expect to receive this huge sum of money for the maintenance of the great sugar industry, I ask them to extend the same treatment to other and far more important industries such as the wheat and the wool industries.
– When the honorable senator said that all secondary industries have been spoon-fed, did he include the woollen manufacturing industry?
– I include every secondary industry ; but ‘ some are economically sound and worth spoon- feeding, while others are delicate, hothouse, unproductive and unremunerative industries. If the 8,000 sugar-growers are to receive a concession amounting to between £4,000,000 and £5,000,000 a year, the 89,000 wool-growers, if similarly treated, would be given a bounty of £55,000,000, and equality of treatment to the 63,000 wheat-growers, who are quite as worthy of assistance as are the sugargrowers, and who are in far more necessitous circumstances than those men and the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, would make it necessary to find £40,000,000 a year. We shall have an opportunity before long of testing the sincerity of honorable senators in regard to the wheat industry. It is very doubtful whether they will grant it £4,000,000, let alone £40,000,000 a year.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Herbert Hays). - An honorable senator is not entitled to anticipate debate on another measure.
– All that I ask is that the same consideration shall be shown to the wheat-growers and the wool-growers as will be received by the sugar-growers under this agreement. I have nothing to say against the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. Everybody knows that it is efficient, and I only wish that I had shares in it. Everybody knows that it is hugely wealthy, that its capital has been more than doubled, and that on the stock exchange its £20 shares are to-day worth £55. Honorable senators opposite, for the first time in their political lives, are championing a capitalistic concern which I do not think it can be argued is down and out, or is in necessitous circumstances, as are the wheat-growers. Nor are their friends the Italians, who apparency are making upwards of £10 a week.
– For only a few weeks in the year.
– They engage in other occupations for the remainder of the year. Surely my honorable friend, Senator Collings, who made the speech of his life on this bill, is going to be consistent, and does not intend to argue that his friends, the Italians, who are acclimatized but not naturalized, work for only fifteen weeks and spend the remainder of their time imbibing the Queensland rum which is a by-product of this industry. The wool-growers and wheatgrowers of Australia are working double the number of hours worked by cane cutters in Queensland, and I do not know of a single instance in which £10 a week is being netted. At most times in their political career, our socialistic friends opposite tear to pieces and endeavour to bring to ruin such poor, downtrodden, capitalistic concerns as the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, for which they are now fighting so keenly. Great wealth has been amassed by this company, although 1 understand that the greater part of its profits is derived outside Australia. I give it credit for its efficient and successful methods. It has made a lot of money, and has paid huge dividends year after year. It is a wealthy monopolistic concern ; yet our friends Senators Collings and Dunn-
– Is it not a fact that Dalgetys is a “scab” outfit?
– It is not; it is one of the finest concerns in Australia, and has helped to develop every corner of this country.
I intend to vote for the second reading of the bi’l as the lesser of two evils; but I shall oppose in committee the clause which imposes the embargo. Never in my political career shall I vote for the placing of an embargo on the importation of anything into Australia.
– I am sorry that Senator Guthrie ended his speech with the statement that he intends to oppose the embargo, because every Australian who has decent instincts realizes that that goes right to the bone of the matter. If we were considering a product of white labour, particularly British white, labour, ‘ 1 should not express myself so forcibly; but it is well known that the sugar which would be imported were the embargo to be abolished would come from Java, a country that produces about 3,000,000 tons annually, and could easily destroy our industry. Its people live under a different flag from ours, and I dare say are exploited by the Dutch. Such a suggestion is even worse than the proposal to admit Fijian bananas into
Australia, because Java is not under the British flag and the wages and conditions are such that if Ave submitted to them we should be degraded to the living standard of coolies. The literature that has been circulated among honorable senators contains a little about every phase of sugar. One document that ha/ been sent to me makes the statement that sugar cane was discovered first in India by the soldiers of Alexander the Great, in 337 B.C. If the matter were traced further back, even to the beginning of time, a number of other discoveries might bc made concerning it. During the last twenty years, many senators from other States have visited Queensland and made discoveries. One of these was discussed by Senator Payne, when he suggested that Australia is growing too much sugar, and that, because of over-production, loss is being occasioned. A senator from “Western Australia, on the other hand, complains that, in order to prevent over-production, the Queensland Government has limited the right to the use of land that is suitable for the growing of cane. He discovered the very interesting fact that the restriction on the use of land for sugargrowing should be removed, and that Queensland should go full-steam ahead in the development of every inch of sugar land that the State possesses. Other discoveries also have been made by visitors to Queensland. I am reminded of the discovery of a very highly respected and conservative New South “Wales statesman, that sugar grew on sugar bushes. He was subsequently disillusioned. Another visitor on one occasion spoke of the planting of ratoons.
I compliment Senators Greene and McLachlan on the very fair case that they have put to the Senate from the Australian viewpoint. Other honorable senators also have supplied most interesting information. I am not a bitter partisan of the sugar industry, nor a straightout supporter of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. Although I have criticized that company in this Senate, I am not one-eyed. Everybody who wishes to promote the interests of the sugar industry must admit that in its management and refining the company has -raised its operations to a very high pitch. So long back as 1912, a commission was appointed to inquire into the sugar industry, and upon it was a Labour member in the person of Mr. Albert Hinchcliff. Greatly to the surprise of some good Labour supporters, that gentleman reported against any withdrawal of control from the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, his investigations having convinced him that the company had reduced the cost of refining to the lowest possible point. In the propaganda that has been circulated, I find that the remuneration to the Colonial Sugar Refining Company for refining worked out in 1932 at .082. In 1915, the figure was .083. Consequently, the company has not increased its charges on the sugar industry. If it is a monopolistic company, and has been imposing an enormous exaction on the consumers and the manufacturers of jams and confectionery, surely the Government’ of this country, which, since 1916, with the exception of two years, has been in the hands of our honorable friends opposite, should have dealt with the matter instead of allowing it to continue until we had reached the stage of discussing an agreement which barely gives justice to the sugar-growers. If any honorable senator opposite feels aggrieved, he can endeavour to induce the Government to make a careful investigation, so as to obtain an exact statement of the position in regard to the profits of the company, and, if necessary, to introduce legislation to deal with the matter, as was done in Queensland in certain cases. As a Labour representative, I would not oppose such action. My economic doctrine is, that those who have greater gifts than others for management and superintendence should be suitably remunerated, and that those who take risks in- capitalistic enterprises are entitled to a better reward than others. But we certainly should prevent the making of anything like extortionate profits, which are damning both to the man who receives them and to those from whom they are taken. The Labour party in Queensland is not attempting to form an unholy alliance with’ capitalism. “We know that capitalism must exist, and that it will continue until we arrive* at a higher “state of society. But we shall certainly not allow our capitalistic enterprises^ be kicked to pieces, or unfairly criticized, by our friends opposite, who make no comment on their own capitalistic concerns, some of which are making twice as much and are as monopolistic as any concern in Queensland. Prior to the general elections held in 1931 consideration was given to the fact that Queensland was becoming more and more a primary-producing State, and that the opportunity for Labour representatives to be returned to the State Parliament seemed somewhat remote. I am surprised at the indifference displayed by certain honorable senators opposite who claim to be the representatives of primary producers towards a great primary industry in that State. One honorable senator representing Western Australia, who is a member of the Country party, seems to delight in attacking the sugar industry, but he should remember that the State which he represents, and also the State of Queensland, depend largely upon primary production, and not upon secondary industries. When I considered the possibility of Labour being represented in the Senate, I found that the primary producers of Queensland had increased during recent years by 6,000, which .meant an increase in the anti-Labour vote. Moreover, mining had declined to a large extent, and that was responsible for a reduction of the Labour vote. In the matter of secondary production, Queensland has remained stationary for the last seven years. I take this opportunity to place in Hansard some interesting figures with respect- to the number of hands employed in secondary industries in the various States. They are taken from the official statistics, and are therefore authentic. For the financial’ ‘year 1928-29, which is the latest for which figures are available, the number of hands employed in secondary industries in the various States was as follow: -
Honorable senators will’ doubtless say’ that, as the population in New South
Wales and Victoria is much larger than in any of the other States, the number of factory hands in those States should also be larger. The number is larger by 137,000. But an analysis of the figures shows that on a proportionate basis New ^ South Wales has 65,000 more factory employees than she should have compared with Queensland; Victoria, which is also a manufacturing State, with a smaller population than New South Wales, has 60,000 more ; and South Australia, which is next in importance in the matter of manufactures, has 15,000 more. Western Australia is on the same basis as Queensland. Even Tasmania has 7,000 more than Queensland or Western Australia. On a pro rata basis the total for the whole of Australia is 147,000 more than Queensland. It will be seen from these figures that those engaged in secondary industries in the other States are doing secondary production work for the Queensland people. If the total number of employees engaged in secondary production were divided on the basis of Queensland having oneseventh of the population of the Commonwealth, that State should have 21,000 more factory employees than it has to-day. As that number of operatives is not engaged in. secondary production in Queensland, the other States are evidently doing its work and, therefore, the northern State - should receive a quid pro quo. Surely it is not unreasonable to ask the. other States to assist Queensland in protecting what is a God-given right to produce tropical commodities. There is a good deal of tropical territory in the northern portion of Western Australia, but unfortunately the land in that locality is comparatively poor and is, therefore, used principally for grazing cattle. That is unfortunate for Western Australia, but Queensland, also, has disadvantages, particularly as the temperatures in the northern parts are exceedingly high for the greater portion of the year, which necessarily reduces the producing capacity of the people. Moreover, Queensland does not receive any great benefit from the tourist traffic from other States, which considerably increases the revenue of some of the other States. The Queensland people who are able to travel visit New
South Wales, and also Victoria, and the money which they spend is of benefit to the States which they visit. That should be taken into consideration when considering the comparatively small benefits which Queensland enjoys in other respects.
In view of the extent to which primary production is increasing in Queensland, and the fact that manufacturing is almost stationary, I thought -that it would be fruitless for me to contest the last Senate election. I decided, however, to enter the contest, because I thought that I might have a chance of success. Some ten years ago, when the Commonwealth Parliament was meeting .in Melbourne, and when it was suggested that the embargo should bc removed, I participated in the debate. A portion of my speech is recorded as follows: -
While the cost of living in Melbourne is practically double what it was in pre-war days, we cannot reasonably expect the retail price of sugar to be 3d. per lb., as it was some years ago. Having given a little study to the reasons which have necessitated the great increase in prices throughout the world, I have come to thu conclusion that . . . when economic stabilization is readied, prices and wages will be probably 50 per cent, higher than before the war. High prices are sure to remain when we consider that the war cost the world £40,000,000,000, and that the interest on that expenditure has to be met. Sugar is never likely to be at the pre-war retail rate of 3d. per lb.
– Not at the present cost of production.
– No, because the cost of living to the growers and those engaged in the works, at the mills, and in the refineries, is much higher than it was when the retail price of sugar was at the rate I have mentioned. If it recedes to 4$d. per lb., that is as far as we can expect it to go while the’ cost of other commodities remains at the present level.
Senator J. B. Hayes suggested that the sugar industry, in common with many others, should submit to a reduction of 22£ per cent., in accordance with the Premiers plan; but the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Senator McLachlan) showed that the industry has submitted to so many reductions, and has made so many concessions, that it is practically on the same basis as other similar undertakings. - The pre-war price of sugar was 3d. per lb.; it was eventually increased to 6d., and in 1923 reduced to 4£d. The present proposal is to bring about a further reduction, and, in view of all the circumstances, it is unfair to say that the industry has submitted to a reduction of only 11 per cent. Reference has already been made to the great benefit which the sugar industry was to Australia during the war period, when sugar was selling at ls. 6d. per lb. in England, as against 6d. in Australia. That benefit has been variously estimated at a sum ranging from £10,000,000 to £30,000,000. A former Minister for Trade and Customs said that it was approximately £16,000,000 ; but I do not think it would be incorrect to set it down as £20,000,000. What would be the position in the event of another war? If the sugar industry were not adequately protected, Australia would have to depend upon supplies from other countries, which might not be readily obtainable, and for which the consumers would have to pay excessive prices. One honorable senator suggested that British preferences represent £1,000,000; but I understand that the average is £650,000 and this year it will be under . that amount. If the embargo is removed, large quantities of land would go out of cultivation, and it would be impossible profitably .to use sugar land for any other purpose. We have also to remember that rum . is manufactured in Queensland, and that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company is also producing that beverage in Sydney. The production of. power alcohol mixed with Shell oil, and marketed under the trade’ name of “ Shellkol,” is also being undertaken in Queensland. Power alcohol is said to have many advantages over the pure spirit, and experts have expressed the belief that it will be possible to develop the power alcohol industry and thus reduce Australia’s bill for imported oil. Australia receives £2,000,000 per annum for the sugar it sells overseas, and that .amount goes towards meeting our national indebtedness. I shall not speak of the value of the treacle and syrup which Australia would have to import if it were mot for the sugar industry, except to remind honorable senators that in. the outback parts of Australia, golden syrup - more commonly known as “ cockies’ delight “ - is found most useful. If we lost the sugar industry, we should have to send good Australian money out of this country to buy these and other things. Senator Greene said that the sugar industry ran a risk if it did not take the advice of the Government. The frequent reductions of the price of sugar have caused dismay in Queensland because growers there have not known where the reductions would stop. Some honorable senators advocate freetrade, while others suggest a duty of only £6 a ton on sugar. In either case, the Australian sugar industry would bc ruined. As I have already stated there have been considerable reductions of the price of sugar. If we reduce wages and prices still further, the burden on our people will be so heavy that the country will not be able to ‘bear it. During the war, the workers received about £5 a week. If now their wages are reduced to £2 a week, and the prices of our export commodities fall, our interest burden will be relatively heavier, and Australia will become bankrupt. In view of our enormous war debt, it would not be safe for Australia to reduce wages and prices more than 50 per cent, below war time rates. I submit that 4£d. per lb. is about as low a price for sugar, as the industry can stand. Compared with the pre-war price of 3d. per lb. it is about equal to the general increased price level of commodities and services. For instance, a hair-cut which in pre-war days costs 6d. now costs ls. 6d. in Canberra. Well-established newspapers, such as the Sydney Morning Herald, the Melbourne Argus and Age, and th. Adelaide Advertiser, which, in the days ‘before the war cost Id., went up to 2d., and are now 1½d. Leading newspapers of Brisbane still cost 2d. each. Many similar instances could be given. I say now what I said in 1922, that it is only fair that the sugar industry should be given’ a full measure of protection. During this debate, Statements have been made in this chamber which indicate that the fears of the people of Queensland in relation to the sugar industry have not been without foundation. The growers of sugar recognized the need for greater stability in the industry, and consequently they consented to a compromise which was in reality the repudiation of an agreement solemnly entered into. Acting in accord-
Sena tor MacDonald. ance with the spirit of the times, the sugar industry has made a sacrifice in the interests of the whole community. All Queensland senators, irrespective of party, support the agreement and the embargo. They realize that without an embargo the way will be open for tha introduction into Australia of the products of sweated labour countries to com- ‘ pete with the product of white labour in this, country. If that were permitted the standard of the people of Australia would be forced down to the level of the black races, where men receive about ls. and women and children a few pence a day for their services. .
Senator Collings referred to the prosperity of certain towns in the sugargrowing districts of Queensland. If any one were to ask me whether Queensland was prospering, I would reply that, in view of the times, the State enjoyed a fair measure of prosperity. That is not to say that conditions in Queensland to-day are what they were in the years when prosperity was at its peak. I, personally, had not only suffered a reduction of salary, but at the time that I entered this chamber I had, under the operation of the Premiers plan, lost a considerable portion of my savings. Nevertheless, Queensland is a good place in which to live. It is a. :11ate with wonderful natural resources. Even if deprived of a market for its tropical products, Queensland would still have its wool, butter and cattle. Queensland is a primaryproducing State, which buys most of its manufactured goods from Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide. Senator Collings will agree with me that Queensland, is not so prosperous as it was in 1926-29. The honorable senator’s remarks have been challenged, and he has been charged with having painted a bright picture of conditions in Queensland. On that ground it has been contended that the sugar industry can stand the reductions proposed. That is an illogical argument. Senator Kingsmill interjected during the speech of Senator Collings that the rest of Australia paid for the ‘ thriving towns of Queensland. I retaliate by saying that Queensland is paying a good deal to the rest of Australia for the manufactured goods which she buys fromthe other States Senator Colebatch said that the people of Queensland who, not long ago, declared the sugar agreement to be a monstrous imposition, now regard it as a splendid achievement.
– I am afraid that the honorable senator has not reported my remarks accurately.
– Queenslanders do not admit that they have made a splendid bargain.
Senator Johnston read a number of resolutions against the continuance of the embargo. Senator Foll spoke truly when he said that it is sometimes easy to get a meeting to agree to a resolution.
– The resolution to which I referred was agreed to at an interstate conference.
– That makes no difference to my argument. I remember a convention carrying a motion dealing with income tax only to rescind it a little later when the Premier of the State came in hurriedly and said that it would mean a loss of 25 per cent. of the State’s revenue from that source. About ten years ago I was invited to address a meeting in the Bijou Theatre, Melbourne, on the sugar industry, and because of the antagonism which, I understand, had been aroused in the southern States as a result of misstatements concerning the industry; I was somewhat concerned as to what might happen to me if I attempted to defend the sugar industry from the attacks which had been made upon it, especially as the retail price then was 6d. per lb. But having accepted the invitation of the Victorian Australian Labour Party, I did my best. I put the case as straightforwardly as possible, and to myintense satisfaction there was not a singleinterjection from an audience of nearly 2,000 persons. I was convinced from my experience at that meeting, that, after all, the great bulk of the consumers in the southern States were not much concerned about the price of sugar. I feel sure now they will not worry much about the present proposal. If, however, theagreement affected the price of meat or bread, I have no doubt thatthe people generally would be greatlyconcerned because of the much bigger amounts involved.
– We are paying 4d. per lb. for the right to eat our butter.
– That is so, and the Australian industry has a protection of 6d. per lb. against New Zealand butter. Our dairymen are benefiting to the extent of between £4,000,000 and £6,000,000 and probably we shall this year assist the wheat industry to the extent of £4,000,000. The people of Queensland will cheerfully accept their portion of that burden.
Senator Grant told us this afternoon that he intended to support the agreement, but would vote against the embargo. I am wondering what will happen to the agreement if the embargo is rejected. I was under the impression that, like the Ottawa trade agreement, this bill containing the sugar agreement had to be accepted in its entirety. I, therefore, regret that, at this late hour, there are suggestions of opposition to the embargo, because sugar is selling at only1d. per lb. over pre-war prices although the cost of living is now 50 per cent. higher. I hope that Senator Grant will not persist in his opposition to the embargo. May I remind him that for many years there was an embargo against correspondence being carried through the post to the institution known as Tattersall’s Consultation in Hobart. Personally I did not believe in that prohibition, and I was in good company, as thousands of people in all States mades regular contributions to the Tasmanian revenue, which must have benefited to the extent of many millions of pounds. The Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), himself a good Tasmanian, was responsible for having that embargo lifted.
Oneof our Tasmanian friends- commented, this afternoon, on the fact that although the agreement contains provisions with regard to wages and conditions of labour in the sugar industry, nothing is said about the growers. For their information I may state that the Cane Prices Board, which has been operating for many years, fixes the price to be paid for sugar cane, with a result that the growers receive fair treatment from the mills.
– Is it not a fact that the grower is carrying most of the reductions proposed in the new agreement ?
– -That is a matter for consideration between the canegrowers and millers, and possibly the Colonial Sugar Henning Company; but I am afraid that, for any concessions that are made the worker will, as usual, suffer the most.
I support the bill, not because it represents an act of justice to the Queensland growers, but for fear that, if it is not accepted, something worse may happen to them. The idea that all representatives in this chamber from Queensland are a happy family when proposals affecting the sugar industry are under discussion is not quite correct. I have on other occasions condemned the Colonial Sugar Refining Company for certain actions, and, doubtless, I shall do so in the future, but I believe that all criticisms directed againstthat company should bc absolutely fair. The Colonial Sugar Refining Company is no more a monopolistic concern than are many other industrial activities in the southern States. Queensland growers have benefited to the extent of approximately £2,000,000 as the direct result of the operation of the Sugar Cane Prices Act passed by the State Government in 1915.
One or two mis-statements were made by some honorable senators this afternoon. I refer particularly to exaggerated reports about the number of Italians engaged in or employed by the industry. As one who has been studying and writing about the sugar industry for the last twenty years, I know that in certain districts like Ingham and Innisfail, the proportion of Italians who, after all are good Europeans, is large. In some districts where the farms are entirely -in the hands of Italians, the cane-cutting gangs are composed practically- of Italian labourers; but viewing the industry as a whole, the percentage of Italians engaged in it is not so large as some honorable senators would have us believe it is, and the intention is to work back to a percentage of at least from 80 to 85 per cent, of British workers, in the canefields.
If this agreement is not adopted the industry will, as the Assistant Treasurer said, in moving the second reading, be thrown to the wolves. It will be forced to continue under the old agreement, with all the possibilities for trouble and disturbance throughout Australia. The sugar industry is of national importance, and its continuance on the present scale is essential in the interests of the southern States. It would not be wide of the truth to say that in tourist traffic and in general trade advantages they get from £5,000,000 to £10,000,000 a year from Queensland. I hope that the bill will be carried.
ne of the reasons why I feel compelled to take up the attitude that I do adopt with regard to the bill. It is rather curious that such a sweet subject as sugar should lead to so much acridity in debate. I see no reason for it, and I hope that I shall get through what I have to say without’ exciting hostile interjections, even from those with whom I disagree. One of the peculiarities of the debate so far is the rather remarkable alinement of parties that it has revealed, as has ,-,-been mentioned by Senator Guthrie. ‘“We find, for instance, Senator Collings side by side with senators who sit ‘behind the Government as supporters of the bill, and we have Senators Daly and Dunn vis-a-vis with Senators Poll and Crawford in their support of the measure. When one sees that remarkable combination, one is tempted to ask, especially when one notes the absolute unanimity of senators from Queensland, whether Queensland is conscious of the fact that she is getting out of this agreement rather a good thing. We have been told almost ad nauseam of the insidious propaganda from the southern States and of the tirades of abuse with which the great industry has been overwhelmed. It has been suggested, and stated, indeed, openly, again and again,, that there is some hostility to the sugar industry of Queensland. That assertion has been repel1 ed by many honorable senators who have spoken. I merely join with them and say that we have no dislike, jealousy, or ill feeling whatever towards the great sugar industry of Queensland. But so far as propaganda is concerned, I am astonished that anybody could have accused those who are opposed to the concessions which Queensland has been granted, with having flooded the country with propaganda, when the fact is of course, that, whenever the sugar question comes up, one cannot open one of the leading newspapers of Australia without finding large sections of even the newscolumns containing very extensive advertisements, requiring not only artists to create them but also vast sums of money to pay for them. That propaganda has now had the very opposite effect to what was intended, because it has naturally excited the inquiry: “Where is all this money coming from? If an industry can afford to spend all this money in propaganda, it must really have something that is worth holding on to “.
– From the same source as the “ Eat more Fruit “ propaganda of “ Comrade “ Clapp.
– I do not thinkthat “ Comrade “ Clapp pays for any of this, nor does he take part in the compilation of the advertisements. Another fallacious line of argument adopted, in particular by Senator Collingsin his very exhaustive speech, is that of mentioning the tremendous amount of money that is directly and indirectly involved in this industry. Senator Collings referred to the wines and dried fruits of South Australia consumed by those engaged in the industry; to the apples and potatoes purchased from Tasmania; to the boots, clothing, and hats that have to be worn by those engaged in the industry,’ and generally to the amount of capital sunk in it. That is an argument based on the assumption that thealternative to the agreement is that the region now devoted to sugar-growing will revert to a wilderness. Of course, that is not the alternative at all. Nobody suggests that this area, which has been described as one of the richest areas for its size in the world, and which, I suppose, is larger than many European countries, will revert to a wilderness, whatever happens to it. But nobody suggests, as I understand the position, that this region should be closed to the sugar industry at all. When we are told of all these things, they do not supply an answer to the question, “Notwithstanding that this is a greatindustry, is it worth the amount of coddling that it gets from the people of Australia ? “ That is the question, as: Senator Guthrie put it, that must be answered, and strangely enough, notone of the many speakers who have supported the present agreement, and, in particular, not one of the speakers from Queensland, has faced up to that question.
– I showed that the industry has cost nothing.
– If the honorable senator made that assertion, I did not hear it, or I took no notice of it, because I was sure that he could not have intended it seriously. I dissent from the view expressed by Senator Guthrie that the industry is worth what is costs the people of Australia. Senator Collings described it, by way of interjection when Senator Guthrie was speaking, as the most successful industry in Australia. What does that mean? It is successful in the sense that it is making a good thing out of the rest of Australia? Is the industry successful because of the support that it has received from the people of Australia? If that is so, its success is nothing to boast about. Or is it successful apart from the support that it is getting? If so, the answer is that there is no need for the special treatment that it now receives. That is the point which should be settled. What is the reason why this industry should stand apart from the other primary industries on the one hand, or apart from the secondary industries on the other ?
– More commissions have held inquiries into the operations of this industry than into those of any other industry in Australia.
– That shows that there has been a long-continued sense of a grievance against it.
– It shows that the industry has been prepared to place all its cards on the table.
– It has had to do so by reason of these very things. Another form that the debate has taken has been in the direction of extravagant language. W e have been informed that those of us who venture to criticize the agreement are in favour of bringing back black-labour into Australia. We have been told that we are freetraders, and that none but freetraders, as Senator Crawford put it,would vote for the bill. May I say that in this matter, the subject of protection or freetrade does not arise. There is no question of a low tariff as against a high tariff. There is only one question and that is as between a high tariffand a very high tariff or prohibition. Just at present, what the industry has is prohibition. When we find an honorable senator who has borne His Majesty’s commission, saying that there were faked figures in the Tariff Board’s report that was signed toy Messrs. Oakley, Herbert Brookes, and Walter Leitch, I think that we get a rather distressing exhibition of in tempera teness of language. It is not that the figures cited by Senator Johnston were wrong, erroneous, misleading or mistaken, but Senator Crawford went to the full length of describing them as having been “ faked “.
Senator Brown was moderate and calm in his remarks, but, at the same time, he said that we could not bring about any changes in the sugar industry without bringing down our standard of living. Why should that result from treating the sugar industry as other industries of Australia are treated? What evil results necessarily follow from even the importation of sugar? We get both our tea and our coffee, which are responsible for a large part of our consumption of sugar, from countries where, it may be, black-labour is employed, and although wo might like to grow them if we could, we cannot do so.The importationofthose commodities does not have the slightest tendency to bring down our standard of living. On the contrary the means we employ to bring them in helps to raise that standard.
Senator Crawford also said that the working people had made no complaint about the agreement, and Senator Daly, I think, remarked that not 1 per cent. of the people of Australia had made any complaint regarding it. I donot accept either of those, two statements in their entirety, but supposing it were so, that affords a very strong reason it appears to me Why we, in this chamber, and others in the other branch of the Legislature should keep a very watchful eye on privileges which are granted to any section of the community. The great mass of the public are, as it has been truly said, not very active in their insistence to injustice, even if it falls upon them. You, Mr. President, I venture to say, and possibly some other honorable senators, will remember the opening passages in one of Henry George’s books in which he describes the predicament of a tethered bull that goes round and round a pole until it cannot move. It does not know what has happened to it, or how it can escape from its plight. The writer likened that animal to the great mass of the people who knew that something was pressing upon them, but who did not exactly realize what it was. That is very often the position which is set up when privileges are allowed to any section of the community; because the mass of the people is inert and inactive; what is everybody’s business is nobody’s business. But when it comes to upholding the sugar industry or any other form of privilege, we always find that it is the minority that is active, and puts forward the propaganda such as that which enabled Senator Poll, from arguments contained in documents handed to him, to make a very fine speech in reply to the criticism of the sugar industry.
– Is that unusual?
– I have not said that it is either unusual or improper; but, I have suggested that it is considerations based on propaganda of this sort, which legislators should always keep closely before their minds.
SenatorFoll. - I may inform the honorable senator that the statements from which I quoted were official documents from the department. The honorable senator should now withdraw his dirty accusation.
– I do not think that that is a nice thing for the Government Whip to say, particularly as I remarked, inanswer to an interjection by. Senator Sampson, that it was not unusual for that to, bedone, and that Idid not suggest that there was anything improper in it. Nor do I suggest that there is anything improper in an honorable senator supplying himself, from whatever source, with the. best material that he is able to procure. If there is now any question of a withdrawal, Senator Foll may feel inclined to make it.
The reason why I cannot .vote even for the second reading of the bill is that were I to do so, I should commit myself to what on my part would be a falsehood. Clause 2 sets out that “ the agreement made between His Majesty’s Government of the Commonwealth of Australia and His Majesty’s Government of the State of Queensland … is approved”. If I voted for that, I should signify my approval of it, and that would not be correct, because I simply cannot approve of an agreement of this sort. In the first place, as a matter of general principle, 1 am always opposed to the extension of government activities. I ask myself and this Senate, what arguments are left to any of us who belong to the individualistic side in politics - who arc anti-socialistic - if we support an agreement of this sort?
– Does the honorable senator prefer the only alternative - the old agreement?
– I am asked, in effect, affirmatively to approve. of a document. I say that I cannot do so, because I do not. approve of it. What is the result? It is to bring into operation, at any rate for the time being, a document which I had no part in bringing about and took no part in enacting.
The whole of the sugar industry is to be brought under government control. The sum of £200,000 is to bc doled . out to certain persons who are interested in it. In the past, the sugar industry did its part in ruining both the fruit industry and the jam industry.
– The jam industry is far from being ruined.
– These industries have recovered partially within the last few years. Not many years ago, however, jam fruits were allowed to rot on the trees very close to the suburbs of Melbourne, because the price of ‘sugar precluded their being made into’ jam.
– Nonsense !
-.Honorable senators may dissent from that; but I give it as the view that I hold on what I, at any rate, regard as sufficient evidence. The wages paid in the industry are to be fixed, if necessary, as well as the prices to be charged for certain kinds of fruit. The tentacles of government control arespread right over Australia. I find it very hard to give positive assent to a measure that enacts such things.
– The honorable senator’s negative attitude will result in exactly the same position being continued.
– I draw a distinction between my positive act, and what is merely negative on my part. If I voted for the agreement, it could be said that 1 affirmed it. No one can say that I voted for what is known as the Scullin agreement.
I desire to refer to two points. One is the difference between this agreement and the agreement which last week we were asked to assent to. Honorable senators will remember that I held strongly the view that we were bound to either accept or reject that agreement in toto; that we could not amend it. We are in the same position in regard to this agreement. It is impossible for any third party, even though it be a legislature, to amend an agreement that has been entered into by two other parties. In this case, however, the position is different from that of the Ottawa agreement. This is a domestic agreement, and, if necessary, the parties to it could be brought together without any difficulty. Consequently, those who want to modify it may do so by amending clause 2 of the bill, which expresses approval of it. What particular form that amendment should take, I must leave to those who think it ought to be made. Therefore, the difference between this agreement and the Ottawa agreement is that in this case, although we may not directly amend the agreement, we can offer suggestions as to why it should be amended - which we could not with propriety do in the case of the Ottawa agreement.
The second point that I wish to raise, and it has not so far been touched upon, concerns the. constitutional aspect of this agreement. T ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Senator
McLachlan.) : where does the Government find in the Constitution any power to enter into an agreement such as this? Although the parties to it are the right honorable the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) and Mr. Forgan Smith, the Premier of Queensland, each of those gentlemen signed it on behalf of his Government, and with no intention of binding himself personally. I should think that the whole trend of cases upon this subject is against the validity of any such agreement being made by the Government. I hesitate very much to offer an opinion, knowing, as I do, the standing as a constitutional lawyer of the honorable gentleman who occupies the position of Attorney-General; but I cannot help expressing the view that there is not in the Constitution any power to enter into an agreement such as this; and if the power is not given in the Constitution it cannot be done. There are several cases which approach very closely to the matter and I have no doubt that the AttorneyGeneral (Mr- Latham) is acquainted with them. It also appears to me that the agreement is obnoxious to the provisions of section 99 of the Constitution. That section says that the Commonwealth shall not, by any law or regulation of trade, commerce or revenue, give preference to one State or any part thereof over any other State or part thereof. Here is a long agreement, in which only two States are mentioned. One might almost say that it is entered into solely between the Commonwealth Government and the Queensland Government. Assuming no mention of New South Wales in it, how can it be said that the Commonwealth is entitled to enter into some commercial arrangement with Queensland, which does not apply to any other State in the Commonwealth? Another reason why I think this agreement is invalid is because of the inclusion in it of clause 12, which says that the Commonwealth Government shall, subject to compliance with clauses 3 to 11 inclusive, continue to prohibit the importation of sugar until the 31st August, 1936, with certain exceptions that are immaterial. -The Prime Minister, therefore, pledged the -Parliament of Australia that the prohibition of the importation of sugar should continue. The term of the agreement carries it beyond the term of the present Commonwealth Parliament. If the position is that the agreement is entered into by the Queensland Government because of the existence of that provisionand I venture to affirm that lacking such a provision it would not have been entered into - the Queensland Government has been induced to become a party to a contract by reason of a clause that has no validity, and which it is beyond the powers of the Prime Minister or the Government - one might almost say the Parliament - to make. In my humble view, that provision in itself is sufficient to invalidate the agreement. I offer this opinion with deference, but with some confidence that there is a good deal in it. I feel that I must vote against the bill as a whole, whatever be the result. Much is said concerning the crack of the party whip, and that sort of thing. Those who find criticism so cheap, may criticize. I find no difficulty in saying that loyalty to anybody, whether it be to a party, a government, or a friend, cannot be altogether a bad quality; and in these extremely troublous times I should be very loth to do anything that might embarrass the Government; but in view of the attitude that I have always taken in connexion with the Queensland sugar industry, I feel that there is no course open to me other than to vote against the second reading of the bill.
– It has been my painful duty, during the last two days, to listen to the criticism of “ sugar babies “. I wish to reply to one or two of the arguments that have been advanced by Senator Brennan.
Having listened to the speeches of Senators Brennan, Colebatch, and Johnston, one can understand the reference of the first-named gentleman to the bull, which is mentioned in one of the opening chapters of a work by Henry George. After hearing senators opposed to the bill, I am satisfied that the bull is in this chamber. I understand and appreciate the criticism offered by Senator Colebatch, whose arguments are ably supported by the “Insane Democracy League “ of New South Wales, and would receive the plaudits of the- Millions Club, which stands for any sort of cheap labour, coloured or otherwise. On this, as on other occasions in this chamber, the honorable senator has shown clearly where he stands in relation to the growth of sugar cane and the manufacture of sugar, tie is not greatly concerned with whether it is manufactured by white or coloured labour. In fact, if it were possible to give the people of Western Australia the benefit of black-grown Java sugar, he would tlo so. Senator Johnston supported the policy outlined by Senator Colebatch who believes in the importation of s’ugar produced by black labour. Apparently honorable senators representing Western Australia believe in opposing any assistance to the Queensland sugar industry, but, at the same time, they favour a bounty of 4^d. a bushel on wheat. Tasmania has also received a good deal of assistance from the Com.monwealth Government, and the only complaint of the representative of that State appears to be based on the fact that there is no sugar depot in Hobart. Senator Brennan has apparently expressed the views of the members of the Housewives Association in Victoria whose support he received at the last general election. I suppose that he will tell the members of that organization what he has done to protect their interests. It is not my desire to detain the Senate by further discussing a measure that has already been fully debated; but I sincerely trust that the bill will receive the support of a majority of honorable senators.
– I have listened to this debate with a good deal more attention than usual, because I have not been at all sure as to the proper course which 1 should adopt with respect to this particular matter. Some honorable senators ure fortunate in having their minds made tip before they enter the chamber, and I arn usually in that position myself; but I have not felt certain in regard to this, us it appears to me, somewhat difficult subject, particularly as some of the clauses of the agreement are in direct opposition to my general views. I refer more particularly to the very undesirable-from my” view-point quite undesirable - provisions in regard to embargoes. I dislike embargoes. I think they are bad for the people, and, consequently, for the country, i would sooner have a high tariff, even a prohibitive tariff. An embargo is bad for every one concerned, bad for the country to which it applies, and particularly dangerous, at this time above all times, as applied to trading relations with other countries. Other things being equal, a high protective tariff is more! desirable than an embargo. I do not claim to approach this subject with that broadnational outlook which. I hope, Senator Collings had when making That I considered to be the best speech I have heard him deliver in this chamber. When I was a member of another place we always thought that the possession of a broad national outlook indicated some particular interest in a State at the particular moment. I may mention in passing, that this bill is not a very redoubtable instance of the brotherhood of man in full operation. I do not think that I need emphasize that point to any extent. We have recently had the brotherhood of man preached to us, but this measure cannot be regarded as a striking instance of that brotherhood in full working order.
I do not propose to detain the Senate very long, but I should like to S:V a word or two about the old agreement which was never ratified by Parliament. It has been suggested that this Government had no “ moral right “ to repudiate that agreement. I cannot accept that view. It was the duty I take it, of the previous Government to bring the old agreement before Parliament, and until it was ratified by Parliament it was not, in fact, an effective or legal document. We cannot have all sorts of legal presumptions and moral rights set up when the law was really established for the purposes of defining what rights are. I can quite understand that those supporting the present Government may possibly have indicated to the people * ‘ Queensland during the last election campaign that if returned they would not discard the old agreement without entering into another voluntary agreement with the Queensland Government on behalf of those engaged in the sugar industry. Whether that is sb or not I do not know ; but I’ cannot accept the view that, if ah agreement “is made ‘and for whatever reason - and in some instances it may be for a deliberate reason. - that agreement is not brought before Parliament, any future government is morally bound by it although it has not been legally and properly completed. To accept that view would permit all sorts of agreements being made which would never be submitted to Parliament or would simply be brought in and dropped owing to the knowledge that they would not be passed.
A good deal has been said as to the relative claims of different primaryproducing industries. I do not make any apology for referring briefly to that aspect of the matter. I do not quite agree with what Senator Brennan said on the subject. I believe that there is a certain amount of jealousy on the part of the other States owing to the favorable position which Queensland has occupied, not only with respect to sugar, but also with respect to a number of other products. Very little has been said in this debate from the viewpoint of South Australia; but the fact cannot be questioned that there is a general feeling in that State that Queensland has done exceedingly well out ‘of sugar.
– We did very well out of wine.
– At the moment, I am discussing sugar. The feeling in South Australia is that Queensland has done very well out of sugar, and that the industry is sheltered compared with other great industries in other States not nearly so richly endowed. Wheat and wool, our two really basic products, are sold in the world’s markets, and at present, the wheat and wool industries are faced with extraordinary difficulties. I am quite prepared to admit that a bounty on wheat was paid last year, but it may be argued that that was only a set-off for one year against the amount which our tariff policy has cost the wheat producers. In any case, it was for only one year. What has been done for wool? Senator Greene claimed that something had been done for the wool industry. Some provision has been made whereby a wool-producer who has become insolvent,, or has not any income,’’ can- apply for. exemption from the payment of the tax on land from which he is not obtaining anything. That does not seem to me to be of any great value. I do not wish to emphasize the jealousy aspect ; but after all, these things are all a matter of proportion. We have to consider how our industries are being treated by the central Government. For a long time there has been a general feeling in South Australia that this great sugar industry is in a more fortunate and sheltered position than any other industry.
– At a protest meeting held in the Adelaide Town Hall, not more than 200 persons attended.
– I do not know whether that is or is not so ; I am stating what 1 believe are the facts. The feeling of antagonism is widespread. lt is not a feeling of antagonism to Queensland as a State, or to the sugar industry as an industry, but_ it is a feeling that the greater primary producing industries, which are really carrying the country, have not received, and have not really demanded, very much consideration, and that, by contrast with them, the sugar industry has been very fortunate. I have admitted the efficiency of the sugar industry. I think it is generally agreed that it is efficient; but I do not think that all primary producing industries in Queensland are equally efficient. Judging by the bananas we purchase, either the banana industry is inefficient, or the climate is unsuitable. I admit that the Queensland sugar industry rendered assistance to Australia during the war, but, with others, I agree that, generally speaking, since the termination of the war, it has done well under the altogether too generous agreement entered into by Mr. Hughes. Queensland has not hestitated .to’ take advantage of the excellent terms offeredto it, and hence has arisen some reaction, against sugar elsewhere. I think’ that the Queensland sugar interests have now been wise - I do not think that they took the original step ; I believe that that was taken by the Government - to make terms which, from their viewpoint, have been very good. They certainly have no reason to object, to the terms of the agreement.
I think that I have made my position as tor’ sugar clear, and ‘T now come to the crux of the matter: what is to be clone with the agreement? We are told that if it is accepted, it must be accepted in toto or rejected. If the latter course is followed, it may throw us back to a worse agreement. But there seems to be a general belief that the old agreement is defective, and could be upset by the High Court. What then would be the position, supposing the Senate rejected the agreement? We should revert to a position in which the whole of the industry would be unsettled, and we should have Ministers doing what the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Senator McLachlan) has recently been doing - rushing from one end of Australia to the other trying to get in touch with various interests, and bring them into line. I cannot see that any useful purpose would be served by re-opening the question, particularly as some agreement would have to be come to ultimately. In the meantime, there, would be unsettled conditions in the industry, and the problem of unemployment would be made increasingly difficult. Under present conditions, I cannot agree that that would be a sound course to adopt. Rather do I suggest that the proper course, and the one generally adopted in other cases, is _ to have a gradual scaling down. The scaling down, in this instance, is not so great as I would desire, but it represents a definite reduction, which means something to the consumers. Senator Colebatch, in an excellent speech, expressed surprise that no one stood for the consumers. I am not surprised, because I have always found that there are so many interests to be considered that the consumers, although the largest section of the community, arc left out, ‘because they are not organized. At this stage, especially, I do not believe in taking drastic steps. I do not think that this is a proper time either to upset or to retard unduly any agreement, if more or less reasonable. Having considered the matter carefully, I think that the proper thing for me to do is to vote for the bill as it stands, in the interests of the country as a whole. The position with regard to the embargo was put forcibly by Senator Grant, and at first I was inclined,. to agree with him. .’ Paragraph 1.2 of the agreement provides that no sugar shall be imported into’- Australia while adequate supplies are produced in the Commonwealth. Rather than have that embargo, I would prefer a prohibitive tariff. But, after all, it is largely a matter of words. An adequate prohibitive tariff is, in fact, the equivalent of an embargo. The only point in favour of a prohibitive tariff, as against an embargo, is that it avoids the objectionable word “ embargo.” I am, however,; not so interested in words as in facts. If the result is the same, I do not see why I should object to the word “ embargo,” and insist on another word which would have precisely the same result.
– Other nations do not take that view.
– I agree with the honorable senator on that side, and express surprise that the Government put the position in this way. I do not like the embargo, and would have preferred a prohibitive tariff; but I see no justification for refusing to vote for clause 3. If that clause is defeated, the bill will be left in an extraordinary position. Paragraph 12 will have been agreed to because of the passing of clause 2 of the bill, and that paragraph agrees to continue the prohibition against the importation of sugar. If clause 3 is then defeated, and the embargo thereby discontinued, a state of confusion will arise. The whole agreement will then have broken down, and the sugar interests will probably be entitled to say that the contract has been broken.
I do not believe that, because an honorable senator votes for a specific bounty, he must vote for every other bounty proposal in the future, yet that is the usual custom. While I propose to support this bill, believing that, on the whole, it is not radically unfair, I do not commit myself for the future, in relation to sugar or anything else. I dislike embargoes, and it is only” because in this case it appears to me the proper thing to do, that I am prepared to support the Government. I regret that it has done things in this way.
– No Australian industry has been more freely discussed of late than has the sugar industry. Queensland senators have regarded all criticism of that industry -as an attack, not only on the industry itself, hut also on Queensland, as well as on the White Australia policy. Any honorable senator who has expressed disapproval of the way in which the industry has been carried on, and has suggested an alteration, has immediately been assailed either as an advocate of the introduction of black-grown sugar into Australia, or as one who is in favour of the breaking down of the White Australia policy, in order that black labour may again be introduced into Australia. When Queensland was a separate colony, the sugar industry was an industry of Queensland. But when Queensland joined the federation, the sugar industry belonged to the whole of the Commonwealth. Honorable senators from the northern State are deserving of credit for their enthusiasm for this industry, but I submit they should not allow their enthusiasm to overcome their discretion to such an extent that they resent any criticism of this bill.
– We are astounded at such criticism.
– Were the honorable ‘senator to travel through
Some of the other States he would see that other Australian industries are just as efficient as is the sugar industry. I have no desire’ to harm the sugar industry, merely because other industries are not prosperous ; but I point out that it enjoys better conditions than any other primary industry in Australia. The trouble with the sugar industry is that it now produces more sugar than the Australian public can consume. In that respect it. is not unlike some of our secondary industries which find it difficult to export their surplus production overseas. Those other industries are, however, not in the fortunate position of being able to force up the price of their product and to make the people of Australia pay for the losses incurred on the surplus production exported overseas. The sugar industry has developed because .the legislation of this Parliament gave it such a measure of protection, that it became attractive. As in the case of .(he dried fruit industry, many persons were induced to engage in sugar-growing, and it was not long before the whole of Australia’s sugar requirements were produced’ in this country. During the boom years, when Australia appeared to be prosperous, because of borrowed money and high prices for our export products, the people did not mind paying high prices for sugar. Why has this industry been so much under public notice during the last two or three years, and why have meetings of protest been held so often in the southern States? Is it not because of the feeling of resentment on the part of the people against the continuance of the agreement?
– Vested interests have’ been responsible for the agitation.
– Why should that charge -be levelled against any body of persons who protest against certain items in Government policy? Why should it be suggested that, because there have been protests against the sugar agreement, those responsible for the agitation have been actuated by ulterior motives? Is it not the right of every citizen to protest against any government action which, in his opinion, is likely to injure him or the people collectively? It is the undoubted right of the people to make themselves heard in such circumstances. The sugar industry and those associated with it would have been wise to take cognizance of these continued protests from the southern States against the continuance of the agreement. We had every right to expect this of such a great national industry which, for so many years, has been working under the shelter of agreements and embargoes imposed by successive governments. I assure supporters of the bill and our Queensland friends that representatives of Tasmania and the people of that State are just as anxious as are the people in any other State to see this great industry prospering. I remind them that all the patriots in Australia are not domiciled in Queensland. If we criticize the agreement or the industry it is not because we have any desire to drag it down. The people engaged in the sugar industry have had ample,, time, to come forward voluntarily and offer some contribution towards the sacrifices .demanded of other sections of the community in order to rehabilitate this country. It may lie said that they are now doing this by reducing the retail price of sugar by -id. per lb. But that reduction does not represent a real sacrifice, and certainly it is not comparable with sacrifices made by other primary industries in Australia. As working costs and cost of living figures have come down during the last year or two, what the industry may lose “by a reduction of the price of sugar will, I suggest, be made up by savings in working costs and other items of expenditure. I have said that other primary industries have suffered to a much greater extent than the sugar industry is likely to suffer under this agreement. I am a farmer. Everything that we as farmers produce is down at least 50 per cent, compared with prices ruling five years ago, but our working costs have come down only to the same extent as working costs have declined in the sugar industry, which has agreed to a reduction of only 11 per cent, in the price of its product. It has been said that it is suffering under disabilities due to Commonwealth legislation. If that be so, it is the duty of the Government to submit proposals to remove some of the handicaps that may have been placed upon the industry. It is being carried on under awards made, not by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, but by the State Arbitration Court. Consequently it has to pay higher wages and give more favorable working conditions than are applied to any other primary industry in the Commonwealth. If the industry is suffering in consequence, it is strange that those connected with, it have not, up to the present, attempted to bring it under the Commonwealth Arbitration Court.
– There has been a reduction in the wages of mill hands and field workers.
– I am aware of that. Awards for waterside workers, railway servants, and employees in many other industries throughout the Commonwealth have ‘also been reduced as part of the p!an for the rehabilitation of Australia, and the people generally have looked to the sugar producers to make their contribution. It is my intention , to support the second reading nf the bill, but I. am opposed ‘to the embargo. I am at a loss to understand why the Government proposes to continue the embargo, because while high protection may hamper trade with other countries, embargoes are provocative of hostility, and not infrequently give rise to international difficulties. I, therefore, hope that the Government will not persist with the embargo.
– I have no intention of detaining the Senate at this late hour, but I should like to make one or two observations before the vote is taken on the motion for the second reading of the bill. Those honorable senators who have had an opportunity to visit the sugar-growing areas of Queensland and have obtained first-hand information concerning the industry will, I am sure, be reluctant to do anything that might damage it. About six years ago, it was my privilege to spend three or four weeks among the sugar-growers in Queensland, and I have no hesitation in saying that the industry, in all its phases, is highly efficient. But as other industries have been suffering sever e’y in recent years, it is only fair that some portion of the burden should be borne by this great primary industry in Queensland. I listened attentively to the speech of the Minister (Senator Greene) in introducing the bill, and also to the observations of Senator Colebatch, who, as usual, excelled himself in concise destructive criticism. I regret that the honorable gentleman did not offer some alternative to the agreement. It is true that he mentioned” the possibility of sugar production from beet in “Western Australia and Tasmania, but that was not a very helpful proposal, because about nine years ago, we thoroughly investigated the prospect of the sugar beet industry in Tasmania and came to the conclusion that a sugar beet mill would not be an economical proposition. We realized that it would be practical^ impossible to ‘ compete against cane sugar produced under ideal climatic conditions in Queensland.
In this agreement, like all others, there is a quid pro quo. Some parts of the proposal appeal to honorable senators, others do not. The agreement will mean a saving to the sugar consumers of Australia of over £1,000,000 a year, for a fixed term of years. Quite a number of my colleagues object to this, but I consider itonly fair that those connected with the sugar industry should know where they stand, and should have some reasonable assurance of tenure. It would be unreasonable if the proposal could be upset from year to year. Conditions in the industry would then be chaotic.
Sitting suspended from 12 midnight to 12.80 a.m.(Thursday).
Thursday, 1 December 1982
– It is only fair that there should be a guarantee of continuity of policy so that the sugar industry and the industries allied to it may know where they stand. When the late Sir Henry Jones visited the sugarmills of Queensland in 1924 he said -
He strongly favoured the stabilization of the industry. Three-year agreements were far too brief. They should have a ten or twenty years’ term so that farmers, millers and refiners would know where they were.
Therefore, the “quid” that we are getting is about £1,300,000 a year by reason of the reduction of1/2d. per lb. in the retail price of sugar, and the “ quo “ is the provision that the agreement shall operate for a term of years. If I rejected the new agreement I should be unable to justifymy action in refusing to accept a reduction of the retail price from 41/2d. to 4d. per lb. All honorable senators, I understand, have been bombarded with telegrams- for and against the agreement.
A much-debated subjectin Tasmania is the establishment of a sugar depot in Hobart. Clause 11 of the agreement sets out what is to be done in the matter. The Assistant Minister (Mr. Guy) has directed that frequent and periodical stocktakings shall be made by the Collector of Customs in Hobart of the merchants’ sugar stocks there, to ensure that merchants maintain adequate reserves. The penalty for failure to do that will be the. establishment of a depot, and naturally this will provide a, strong incentive to the merchants to “play the game”. I think that Tasmanians can rest assured , that there will always be adequate reserve stocks of sugar in the capital city.
The subject of the sugar agreement has been discussed on many previous occasions in this chamber, and I do not intend at this stage to go into detail regarding it. Although we have not obtained all that is desirable, I can see no justification for rejecting this voluntary offer on the part of the industry. The offer was made voluntarily, for the Government did not hold a pistol at the head of the industry. The partisans on both sides have been inclined to discuss this subject with some heat, and to use extravagant language, instead of keeping strictly to the facts. I have in mind a circular that I received last week from certain interests in Melbourne. The letter was signed by a gentleman named Hagelthorn, and it was said that the consumers in the Commonwealth were charged three times as much for their sugar as consumers in Britain were paying, but that statement is quite inaccurate. We should consider this matter calmly, and, in my opinion, a step is being taken in the right direction. The agreement will considerably help the berry fruit-growers of Tasmania, than whom there is not a finer or more hard-working body of men on the land. From investigations made by me in 1926, and since, I believe that the sugar-growers of Queensland work hard and for long hours, but they are not making a great deal out of the industry. The growers of small fruits in Tasmania are a hard-working and frugal section of the primary producers, and they deserve all the help that this agreement will confer upon them. The consumers generally will benefit to the extent of something over £1,000,000 a year, and that advantage is not to be lightly thrown aside. For these reasons, and for many others, I support the second reading of the bill.
– Half an hour after the “witching hour “ is not an appropriate time for an oratorical display. While I agree with what Senator Duncan-Hughes and others have said as to the objectionable provisions of the bill, I do notfeel disposed to askthe peopleof Tasmania to pay a halfpenny per lb. more for their sugar forthe next two years than will be charged if this bill is passed. Therefore, I intend to support the second reading of the measure, but I shall oppose the embargo.
Question - That the bill be now read a second time - put. The Senate divided. (President- Senator the Hon. P. J. Lynch.)
Majority . . 22
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
In committee :
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 (Approval of agreement).
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH (Western Australia). [12.45 a.m.]. - I suggest that the proper course is to postpone the clause until the agreement has been considered.
– I refer honorable senators to the ruling that I gaveon a similar point in connexion with the United Kingdom and Australia Trade Agreement Bill. The same principles apply in the consideration of this measure. It is quite competent, and would be clearly in order, for any honorable senator to discuss the schedule or any part thereof. But the agreement, which is the schedule to the bill, is an agreement entered into between the Commonwealth Government and the Queensland Govern ment, and this Parliament has no power to alter it. An amendment of the agreement can be brought about only by way of an amendment of a clause of the bill.
– I object to the Chairman’s ruling and, pursuant to the Standing Orders, hand in my objection in writing.
In the Senate:
– It is with reluctance, and the greatest respect, that I dissent from the ruling of the Chairman of Committees. I do so on two grounds. The first is, that it is in conflict with Standing Order 201. That standing order reads -
Any amendment may be made to any part ofthe bill, provided the same be relevant to the subject-matter of the hill and be otherwise in conformity with the rules and orders of the Senate.
So far as concerns the words “ provided the same be relevant to the subject-matter of the bill and be otherwise in conformity with the rules and orders of the Senate “, the point obviously cannot be decided until the amendment itselfis submitted.. Consequentlythe only portion of the standing order that has application to. the present situation is that which reads, Any amendment may be made to any part of the bill “. I maintain that die schedule is a part of the bill, and that, therefore, it is competent for honorable senators to move an amendment to any portion of it, so long as the amendment be relevant to the subject-matter of the bill, and be otherwise in conformity with the rules and orders of the Senate. My second objection to the Chairman’s ruling is that it restricts the constitutional powers of the Senate to amend bills of this character. Section 53 of the Constitution, after setting out certain limitations on the power of the Senate in regard to money bills - and this obviously is not a bill which falls within that category - concludes -
Except as provided in this section, the Senate shall have equal power with .the House of Representatives in respect of all proposed laws.
In the House of Representatives last week, during the consideration of the Ottawa agreement, the schedule to the United Kingdom and Australia Trade Agreement Bill was discussed in detail, and amendments to different clauses of it were accepted as matters that that House was competent to deal with. I maintain that, to deprive the Senate of equal power to deal with the clauses of an agreement, in to nullify the provisions of section 53 of the Constitution, which gives the Senate equal power with the House of Representatives.
– The ruling of the Chairman of Committees is absolutely ridiculous.
– The honorable senator took this point, and I supported him, when the question previously arose. I also direct attention to section 49 of the Constitution, which reads -
The powers, privileges and immunities of the Senate and of the House of Representatives, and of the members and the committees of each House-
These are the important words - shall be such as are declared by the Parliament, and until declared shall be those of the Commons House of Parliament of the United Kingdom, and of its members and committees, at the establishment of the Commonwealth.
There is not, so far as I have been able to find, any provision in i, our Standing Orders limiting the powers of the Senate in this matter. Lacking such provision, we are thrown back on the practice of the House of Commons. I take it that it is within your knowledge, Mr. President, that only a few weeks ago, when the Ottawa agreement was before the House of Commons, different clauses in it were debated, and members exercised their right to move amendments to it.
– In challenging the ruling of the Chairman of Committees, Senator Colebatch has misunderstood the interpretation - a fairly easy one, I consider - of Standing Order 201. I shall deal first of all with the honorable senator’s objection to the Chairman’s ruling on the ground that it is unconstitutional. I do not know whether you, sir, will take the power to interpret the Constitution. I have known other Presidents who declined to do so, on the ground that a special authority in the High Court exist3 for that purpose. All that I would say is, that the honorable senator really supplied the answer to his own contention, because he quoted section 49 of the Constitution, which says -
The powers, privileges and immunities of the Senate and of the members and the committee . . . shall be such as are declared by the Parliament.
They have been declared by the Parliament and are to be found in our Standing Orders. Consequently, it is not necessary for us. to fall back on the procedure of the House of Commons, or of any other house. Our powers in this matter are declared in Standing Order 201, which reads -
Any amendment may be made to- any part of the bill, provided the same be relevant to the subject-matter of the bill and be otherwise in conformity with the rules and orders of the Senate.
The Chairman of Committees has not ruled that no amendment can be made in the bill. He has informed the committee that this is a bill to approve of an agreement made between His Majesty’s Government of the Commonwealth of Australia and His Majesty’s Government of the State of Queensland. The enacting clauses, which approve that agreement, are clauses 1 to 3. The agreement, which is a schedule to the bill, cannot be amended. :It is not an agreement between the Commonwealth Parliament and the Queensland Parliament : it is one which has been entered into between the Prime Minister of Australia on behalf of the Commonwealth and the Premier of Queensland on behalf of the State of Queensland. What we are. asked to do is to validate that agreement.
– Without seeing it.
– Yes, if the honorable senator wishes to put it that way. In clauses 1, 2 and 3, this Parliament expresses its approval or otherwise of the agreement. If the ruling of the Chairman of Committees deprived the committee of its rights, there would be some substance in the dissent. Clause 2 of the bill provides that -
The agreement made between His Majesty’s Government of the Commonwealth of Australia and’ His Majesty’s Government of the State of Queensland (a copy of which agreement is set forth in the schedule to this act) is approved.
If honorable senators are not prepared to approve of the agreement in its present form, they may move amendments on that clause under which the committee is asked to approve of the agreement. Some honorable senators have said that they approve of the agreement, but that they are opposed to the imposition of an embargo. The right place for an honorable senator to express such an objection and to move an amendment is not when considering the agreement which this Parliament did not make but when discussing the clause under which the agreement, is ratified. We would then show that we were prepared to pass clause 2 provided the agreement were amended as provided in that clause. There is not a portion of the agreement which could not be amended under clause’ 2. The committee could, for instance, amend the agreement by altering the date.
– When Senator Dunn suggested an amendment in a previous agreement, the Chairman ruled that he could not do so.
– That was because the amendment was not relevant to the subject-matter of the bill. Provided that an amendment is relevant to the subject-matter of a bill, it can be moved when clause 2 is under discussion. The ruling of the Chairman of Committees’ does. not take away any of the privileges of honorable senators, ‘ and is in accordance with the proper procedure by which this bill can be amended. I submit that the ruling is in strict conformity with Standing Order No. 201.
– If clause 2 is passed, the committee will have approved of the agreement. The race is over. I suggest that the proper procedure is to postpone the consideration of clause 2 until the agreement has been considered.
– As stated by Senator Daly, I moved an amendment to clause 2 of the United Kingdom and Australia Trade Agreement Bill with the object of protecting the interests of Australian workmen. I have, however, more faith in this agreement because it has been signed by a Labour Premier. But I am afraid that Senator Colebatch has dissented from the ruling of. the Chairman of Committees to enable him to move an amendment which, if carried, would enable sugar produced by coloured labour to be imported into Australia.
– I am inclined to agree with ‘the ruling of the Chairman of Committees, but the principal difficulty underlying an amendment of the agreement i3 that if it is amended, it is not then an agreement between His Majesty’s Government of the Commonwealth of Australia and His Majesty’s Government of the State of Queensland. It would, therefore, be ineffectual, and nOt an amendment, which, in my opinion, and according to May, would be effective. I do not think that the right to amend this schedule is in any way affected at this stage. The procedure that I would recommend to the committee is to postpone clause 2 until after the consideration of clause 3. Clause 2 involves the approval of the agreement, and once that clause is passed, it cannot, unless recommitted, be further considered. Clause 3 suggests the possibility of the schedule being amended and in a way which I cannot understand, because a clause in the bill is also embodied in the agreement.
– That is inserted for the purpose of greater security.
– I thought that it was for the purpose of quicker and closer attack.
– It is proposed in ‘the schedule that there shall be an embargo.
– In the circumstances I am prepared to agree to the postponement of clause 2 until after the consideration of clause 3.
– I do not think that it involves any “derogation of the powers of the committee. Any amendment of the agreement renders the bill null and void.
– Not necessarily, because the parties to the agreement may agree to such an.amendment.
– Any amendment of the agreement renders the bill null and void, unless the amendment is made in the body of the bill itself, when a consequential amendment would have to be made in the schedule. That, in my opinion, is the proper way to attack the subject. I do not know that any further amendment might not be an amplification of clause 3. I submit that the obvious course to take is to amend clause 3 by indicating the nature of the principal amendment which it is desired to make. If the amendment is agreed to, then, in my opinion, the bill goes.
– In- -view of what transpired in this chamber on Friday last, I approach the consideration of this matter with some diffidence. An exactly similar situation arose when we were determining the procedure to be adopted in connexion with a bill to implement the Ottawa agreement and the schedule attached thereto. On behalf of the Labour party I then made the suggestion which Senator Colebatch has made to-night, that the vital clause in the bill should be postponed until after the schedule has been considered. I do not know what procedure has been adopted in the Senate in the past, but I do know the procedure in the South Australian House of Assembly, of which I was a member for some years. In every instance in which a bill embodying a schedule which formed an agreement between the Government and another party was under consideration, the procedure followed was that the clauses of the bill ratifying the agreement were postponed until after the schedule had b.een agreed to. .The South Australian Parliament has existed for about 70 years, whereas this Parliament has functioned for only a little over 31 years.
– What would happen to the operative clause in the bill if the schedule were altered ?
– The consideration of the operative clause was postponed until after negotiations had proceeded for an alteration of the agreement..
– What happened to the agreement^
– If the procedure now suggested by the Government is to be a standing rule for the guidance of the Senate it .will be useless for us to consider these bills at all. If we are to accept agreements signed by the Prime Minister, or other Minister, without having any’ right to amend them, this Parliament might as well close its doors so far as government by agreements is concerned. In view of the . attitude adopted the other night the only course to adopt is to agree to a ruling similar to that which was then given. I suggest that the deliberate act of the Government in trying to flout Parliament is placing the presiding officer in an invidious position. The Government must withdraw from its attitude and adopt a proper procedure in relation to measures of this kind, otherwise we shall have chaos, and an unworthy precedent, which will give rise to confusion in the future, will be established.
– When an agreement’ is embodied in a schedule, it is put there merely for the ‘convenience of Parliament. That is the position in this case. It was competent for the draftsmen of this bill to have excluded, the agreement altogether from the schedule and to have referred to it by description in clause 2.
– Can the Minister say where this has been done?
– It is constantly done in documents. The operative part of this measure is abuse 2 of the bill. If the Senate were Sole to alter any of the provisions of the agreement, the whole bill would fall to the ground, because we cannot agree to something which has not been agreed to by the two parties to the agreement. If we alter one word or letter, we approve of something which the other party to the agreement has not agreed to. There must be two parties in agreement before there can be any agreement. There has been no flouting of Parliament, as Senator O’Halloran has suggested. To use the words of Senator Barnes, if clause 2 is carried, it settles the race. We cannot touch an agreement which two parties have signed; but we may do what we like with clause 2. Senator Kingsmill said that if we alter clause 2 we may render .the whole bill ineffective. I suggest- that it would be well to have the practice settled, since our decision this morning may ‘govern the procedure of the Senate for the future.
– The ruling of the Chairman of Committees, with which Senator Colebatch has disagreed, is that we have no power to suggest amendments to the schedule.
– The ruling was that an amendment can be made only to the clause of the bill.
– What an illogical position we are placing ourselves in ! We can amend the schedule by an amendment to the clause of the bill.
– We may amend the clause to indicate the desire of the committee with regard to the schedule.
– In that case, the bill goes.
– That is what I desire to know. We are told that we may not alter the agreement, but that we may move an amendment to clause 2. Supposing that I have moved that we approve of the agreement with the exception of clause 1a, what would become of the agreement then ?
– It would go, if the amendment were carried.
– That is the position which Senator Colebatch and other honorable senators desire the Government to realize. If we suggest amendments, as the Chairman of Committees has suggested can be done on the clauses of the bill, the Government may postpone the further consideration of the bill with a view to entering into fresh negotiations with the other party to the agreement along the lines that this legislature desires. I shall never subscribe- to i-‘the principle that’ any action by the ‘“executive must.be either ratified or rejected by the legislature.
– Yet that is what the honorable senator has been arguing.
– No. If I am opposed to clause 1a of the schedule, and my opposition is backed up by the committee, a reasonable Government - which I believe the present Government to be - would report progress on the bill with the idea of entering into fresh negotiations for an agreement acceptable to both parties.
– The bill could never be taken up again.
– When the Scullin Government was in office it brought before Parliament a bill embodying an agreement relating to a certain gold mine in Western Australia. That Government was told in plain language that the Senate would ratify its action only on the distinct understanding that the legislature would not necessarily ratify agreements made by the Government ; that the Government was first to seek a direction from Parliament.
– We can say what we like to the Ministry, but not to the people of Western Australia.
– Senator Brennan knows that the agreement entered into between Mr. Lyons, as Prime Minister of the Commonwealth, and Mr. Forgan Smith, as Premier of Queensland, is not worth the paper on which it is printed until it has been ratified by this Parliament. At this moment there is no agreement; there is merely a suggestion to Parliament that an agreement should be entered into. While I stand for every line of the agreement, I am not prepared to subscribe to the principle that we must either ratify an agreement, or reject it, and that we cannot even suggest amendments.
– I listened carefully to the remarks of Senator Colebatch, and to the reading of section 49 of the Constitution, in which it is provided that “the powers, privileges and immunities of the Senate, and of the House of Representatives, and of the members and the committees of each House shall be such as are declared by the Parliament, and until ‘ declared shall be those of the Commons House of Parliament of the United ‘Kingdom, and of its members and committees at the establishment of the Commonwealth.” In May’s Parliamentary Practice, 13th edition, page 406, the following a appears : -
When si bill is introduced to give effect to an agreement or to confirm a scheme and the agreement or scheme is scheduled to the bill as a completed document, amendments cannot be made to the schedule, but an amendment to the clauses of the bill excluding part of the document contained in the schedule from the operation of the bill is in order, as are also amendments to those clauses which deal with matters not determined by the document contained in the schedule. i
There is no argument about the matter.
– Not the slightest.
– It is clear then that the committee could approve of clause 2 and as many other clauses as it wished if they started with the word “ Provided “.
– I have not consulted May on this subject, but I agree entirely with Senator Millen’s remarks. Under the authority which the honorable senator has just quoted, we could enact, as in clause 2, that the agreement made between His Majesty’s Government of the Commonwealth and His Majesty’s Government in the State of Queensland, “a copy of which has been circulated amongst members, is approved “. That would be a perfectly proper way to give honorable senators an opportunity to see what was in the agreement. Senator Daly argues that, under the bill as it stands, it is competent for the committee to alter the agreement.
– I certainly contend that . we have the right to suggest alterations.
– Exactly, and, as has been pointed out by the Leader of the Senate and Senator McLachlan, Ave can, under the ruling of the Chairman of Committees, suggest amendments in clause 2. To me the position as explained in May is so clear that it should not be misunderstood by any honorable senator. The whole trouble has arisen because there is no provision in our Standing Orders for what has occurred. It is an omitted case as we would say in the law. If we accept literally the viewpoint of Senator Colebatch, we should observe the procedure laid down in Standing Order No. 199, but- in -Standing Order No. 201 there is provision for amendments to be made to any part of the bill, provided they are relevant to its subject matter, and otherwise are in conformity with the rules and orders of the Senate. No provision is made, apparently, in our Standing Orders for the point that is dealt with in the passage from May, read by Senator Millen, and indicated by Senator O’Halloran, that a distinction must be drawn between a. schedule which embodies an agreement and -an ordinary schedule to a bill. Clearly, it is not competent for the committee to interpolate amendments in an agreement made between two parties.
– This bill relates to the original document, a copy of which has been inserted for the convenience of honorable senators.
– That is an excellent point. “We have not the original document before us, and if, by an amendment, we interpolated something into the document before the parties to it had attached their signatures, technically, we should be guilty of forgery. The Government submits, as a schedule to the bill, an agreement which is strictly valid, but for greater caution has asked Parliament for its ratification.
– I do not wish to delay the Senate because the case has been argued admirably already, but I should like to answer one point that was raised, I believe by Senator O’Halloran, that this Parliament has never validated an agreement without setting it out in a schedule to the bill. I have not the time to study the whole of the Statutes, but I invite the honorable senator to look at Act No. 31 of 1923. If he does so, he will find that it validated a whole series of agreements, and excepts from the operation of the act another series of agreements, not one of which appears in the schedule to the bill.
– I would again direct attention to the constitutional aspect of this question. It has not been denied by any member that the course adopted by the House of Representatives in regard to a similar bill prevented honorable members from considering the clauses of the schedule, and submitting amendments to it. . I am in entire accord with the statement made by Senator McLachlan and Senator Greene, but I agree that it would have been competent for the Government to submit this bill without including the agreement in the schedule at all, but if that had been done it would have been obvious that the schedule was not part of the bill and therefore could not be amended; the Government would have taken its chance of getting the bill through without including the agreement inthe schedule. As the Government, however, has included the agreement as a schedule to the bill, it is, I submit, part of the measure and, under our Standing Orders, the committee has the right to amend that part of the bill. .
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. P. J. Lynch). - The case before the Chair seems to be that when this bill was in committee and when clause 2 was being considered, Senator Colebatch suggested its postponement until the schedule had been dealt with. The Minister in charge of the measure took an objection and Senator Colebatch then asked the Chairman of Committees whether it wouldbe competent, when the schedule came before the committee, for an amendment to be made in the schedule, whereupon the Chairman ruled against the honorable senator. Following the usual procedure, when a clause of a bill is put to the committee, it is open to amendment. In this case an amendment to clause 2 might mean an amendment would be made in the agreement which appears as a schedule to the bill. It would really seem that the contending parties are almost at one with each other, the only difference being one as to procedure. Senator Millen has directed attention to the practice of the House of Commons when dealing with bills to confirm agreements as set out in May at page 406. Clearly, under that procedure, the rights of this chamber are preserved. Senator Daly contends that the agreement in the schedule to this bill can be altered by direct amendment to the agreement itself, but Senator McLachlan argues that its alteration may be brought about by amending the enabling provisions of the bill. Obviously, to be strictly in order, amendments should be made only in the manner indicated by May, the highest of all authorities, which Senator Millen quoted.
Senator Colebatch apparently relies upon the Senate procedure as laid down in Standing Order No. 201, which provides that an amendment may be made to any part of a bill provided it is relevant to the subject-matter of the bill and is otherwise in conformity with Senate procedure. I would, however, direct attention to the following, which appears in May, at page 404-
Amendments may be made in every part of the bill, whether in the preamble, the clauses, or the schedules; clauses may be omitted and new clauses and schedules added.
– If Senator Daly would turnto the next page and find out what is done in the case of a bill which contains an agreement he would find that the word “ exactly “ would not fit in. As has been mentioned by Senator Brennan, these Standing Orders do not provide specifically for this case. There is no standing order that fits the case the same as this authority does. But I have a recollection that when a contract was being entered into with the Orient Company some years ago for the carriage of mails between Australia and Great Britain an effort was made to amend the agreement, and it was held that such an amendment could not be entertained on the ground that the agreement could not be amended, but that an amendment of the preceding motion, if the Senate thought it desirable, could be effected. With that sole precedent before me, and as the Standing Orders are silent on the matter, I have only to rule that the Minister in charge of the bill was right in proposing that the clause should be proceeded with. And if the Chairman upheld that view, I have no ground to stand on except that which has never been challenged - that clause 2 can be amended, and by that means an alteration may be brought about in the agreement; hut where the schedule to a bill consists of an agreement the practice is that such schedule is not open to amendment. Therefore, I uphold the ruling of the Chairman.
Clause 2 (Approval of agreement) -
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH (Western Australia) [1.49 a.m.]. - I move -
That the following words be added to the clause: - “ Provided that clause 5 of the Agreement be amended by inserting the word ‘ and ‘ between the figures ‘1932-3’ and’ 1933-4 ‘ in the third and fourth lines of the clause and by striking out the figures ‘ 1934-1935 ‘ and ‘ 1935- 1936’ in the fourth line of the clause.”
The effect of this amendment would be to continue the price now fixed upon until the end of the 1933-34 season, as provided in the original agreement. Should the amendment be accepted I intimate my intention to submit a further amendment to provide that the selling price of sugar for 1934-35, and for 1935-36 shall be fixed in accordance with the provision of the original, or Scullin agreement. The effect would be that the1/2d.perlb. reduction would take effect, but naturally a further adjustment of the price could, if thought desirable, be made at the end of that period.
– Honorable senators will recall that the old agreement which is to be replaced by the agreement set forth in the schedule to the bill, provided that the price of 41/2d. per lb. should continue to the end of 1934, and that there should be a review of the price in 1934. When the question of a new agreement with a reduced price was being considered recently, the sugar interestsnaturally said that if they gave up their undoubted rights under the old agreement-
– Not quite their undoubted rights.
– I am assuming, of course, that the old agreement was valid, and that it was possible for it to be implemented until the end of its term. The sugar interests had that agreement for what it was worth. The Commonwealth Government had signed it, and, as I have already said, it believed that in the event of not being able to get a voluntary adjustment of the agreement, it was bound to implement it to the best of its power throughout its currency. The sugar interests, in entering into this voluntary agreement, said, “ You are taking away the right we had under the old agreement for the price of 41/2d. per lb. to the end of 1934. If we now give up this1/2d. per lb., is it not fair, that you should give us continuity until the end of the term?” . These are matters of compromise, and the Government endeavoured to hold the scales as evenly as possible between the parties. It was considered that in view of the fact that the growers were giving up what were their undoubted rights under the old agreement, there was no certainty that in the review of the price we should get any reduction, and as the sugar industry was prepared to take a reduction for four years, it was considered to be a fair quid pro quo. I think that it was, and in view of that, the Government cannot accept Senator Colebatch’s amendment. He desires to limit the price of 4d. per lb. to two years, and at the end of that period to endeavour to get it down again. In view of all the circumstances, I do not consider that that would be fair to the sugar industry. One of the things which the agreement is designed to secure is stability, not only to the sugar industry, but also to all the related industries. Under this agreement they will all know where they are for four years ahead, and they can make their arrangements accordingly. Therefore, the Government cannot accept the amendment.
– I intend to support the amendment,not because of its virtues, but because, if carried, it will effect thepurpose which we failed to achieve on the second reading. It is, so to speak, a destructive agent, and is therefore germane. It further goes to prove the truth of my contention on the second reading, that the only fair way of dealing with this matter is that the parties should agree on terms, and that these should be made the subject of a bill, which should be passed, in this case by this Parliament and by the Queensland Parliament.
– A sortof statutory contract?
– Yea. It isa contract, the terms of which are arranged, but which, before being signed, has to be approved, in this case by the Parliament of the Commonwealth and the Parliament of Queensland. That is the only fair course to take, because it is seen from numerous instances that this method of putting an agreement in as a schedule to a bill involves its acceptance or rejection, and cannot possibly permit of an amendment of the agreement.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH (Western Australia) [2.0 a.m.]. - The Assistant Minister has contended that it is fair to allow the present price to continue for the term of the agreement because of the concession of id. per lb. that the industry has made. That is entirely opposed to the principle of the concession, which was supposed to be an equivalent of the reduction of221/2 per cent. made by bondholders and every one else. My contention is that those who made the concession have no right to any new privilege in return for it.
Question - That the words proposed to be added (Senator Colebatch’s amendment) be so added - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Senator the Hon. Herbert Hays.)
Majority . . . . 21
Question so resolved in the negative.
Sugar Agreement, 1933-1936.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH (Western Australia) [2.4 a.m.]. - I move -
That the following words bo added to the clause: - “Provided that clause 7 of the agreement be amended, by striking out the words two hundred ‘ and substituting the words three hundred and fifteen ‘ “.
The effect of the amendment would be to restore the provision of the original agreement in regard to the amount that the sugar industry is required to provide for the assistance of the fruit industries. The Scullin agreement provided that for three years, as from the 1st September, 1931, the amount of £315,000 per annum should be provided for the purpose of payments being made for the benefit of the Australian fruit industry. The agreement that we are now considering reduces that amount to £200,000, and as a result it has been found necessary so to reduce the rebate given by the manufacturers of sugar for home consumption that the manufacturers of jam for home consumption will have to pay the same price as they paid under the old agreement. The advantage that they should have enjoyed has been taken from them.
The report also sets out the exact method by which the committee proposed to distribute the £315,000, which, under this agreement, has been reduced to £200,000.
– Senator Colebatch has not related to the committee the real story in regard to this particular matter; he has told only half t he truth. I do not know whether he was a ware of that. I assume that he was not, because I do not think that he set out deliberately to deceive the committee.
-i certainly did not.
– If the honorable senator will turn to the original agreement, he will find that the sum of £315,000, as ‘a firm amount, applied only to the first three years, and that during the last two years it was liable to be reduced to the extent of any reduction made in the then price. Assuming that the agreement was altered in regard to price at the end of 1934, this amount of £315,000 was to be reduced to the extent of the reduction. As the reduction has been ante-dated by two years, all that has been done is to apply the provisions of the old agreement to the present occasion. As a matter of fact, the fruit processing industry has lost nothing. It has the 1/2d. per lb. reduction in common with the rest of the sugar users in Australia, and also gets the £200,000.
– Does the Minister give me the assurance that the buyer of. sugar for jam-making for local consumption gets the full1/2d.per lb. reduction? If he does, I shall withdraw my amendment.
– I am now informed that he does not, but remains where he was formerlyon the domestic market. But the honorable senator did not mention anything about the old agreement providing for a reduction of the price.
– I read the old agreement.
– The honorable senator read only that portion which suited him.
– I object to that statement. What has just occurred indicatedthat I know quite as much as the Minister about the agree ment. Two minutes ago he gave me an assurance, and then had to retract it and say that he was wrong.
– At this hour of the morning, after having listened to the debate throughout the day, it is a little difficult for one to keep the whole thing in mind. But what is perfectly clear is that the old agreement provided that the sum of £315,000 should be reduced in the event of a reduction of the price. That is the point which Senator Colebatch did not touch. In view of it, the Government cannot accept the amendment. Every one knows that the sole object of these amendments is to break down the agreement, and that once it is altered in any particular it goes by the board.
– I intend to support the amendment, for the reason that, during the next two years at all events, the fruit-growing industry is entitled to the £315,000 provided for under the old agreement. Only during the last two years of the term of the agreement would there be any possibility of a reductionin the amount of the allocation.
Question - That the words proposed to be added (Senator Colebatch’s amendment) be so added - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Senator the Hon. Herbert Hays.)
Majority . 11
Question so resolved in the negative.
Sugar Agreement, 1933-1936.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH (Western Australia) [2.19 a.m.]. - I move -
That the following words be added to the clause - “ Provided that clause 12 of the agreement be eliminated.”
Clause 12 of the agreement which I have moved to eliminate provides for the prohibition of importations. In pursuance of the course which I have followed in connexion with other amendments which I have moved, I do not propose to discuss this amendment, as I think that the subject has already been sufficiently debated.
– This amendment, if adopted, would invalidate the whole of the arrangements entered into between the two contracting parties. In order to secure a reduction of the price of sugar the Government undertook to continue to provide for the prohibition of imports, and without which the whole of the agreement would be ineffective. In the circumstances, I cannot accept the amendment.
– I should like to ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Senator McLachlan), who conducted the negotiations leading up to the adoption of this agreement, if he can say on whose suggestion the provision providing for the imposition of an embargo was placed in the agreement. Was it suggested by the sugar interests or by the representative of the Government? I feel sure that it could not have been made by the representative of the
Government because, when speaking on the sugar policy on the 14th May last year, the Minister said - .
The agreement and the embargo impose on the taxpayers a burden ranging from £5,500,000, as indicated by the commission, to £7,000,000, as suggested by other outside authorities. Be the figure what it may, the taxation is excessive and we might very well complain that Parliament was not consulted before the Government decided to renew the agreement and re-impose the embargo. Under this arrangement the sugar industry is a taxing machine. Whether the amount which it levies is 15s. or £1 per head, is beside the point. What I and other honorable senators complain about is that the Government should have committed itself before giving Parliament an opportunity to express an’ opinion on the subject. It is no answer to say that this administration merely followed the procedure of previous governments. Our economic circumstances were entirely different when previous administrations entered into these arrangements. In our present circumstances no government should have inflicted this further burden upon the people without consulting Parliament.
As the Government has placed honorable senators in a somewhat unpleasant position in regard to the embargo, I think that I am justified in quoting the remarks of the Minister on that occasion.
– I am delighted to have an opportunity to explain the position. As the representative of the Government it was my responsibility to negotiate with the representativesofthe sugar industry, and in these negotiations I ascertained that the representatives of the industry were prepared to agree to a reduction of price and to give certain other concessions provided that the Government agreed to the imposition of an embargo, and the retention of certain other provisions which were in the old agreement. During the course of those negotiations Ifrankly confessed that I preferred the imposition of a protective duty to an embargo. I still hold that view, but I had to deal with the conditions as I found them, and to bear in mind that the industry was well established and efficiently conducted. . The sugar producers said that if they agreed to a reduction of the price of sugar, there were certain provisions in the old agreement, including an embargo, which they wished to preserve. They said that they required some security with respect’ to the future, and looking at the matter from all its viewpoints, the proposals they made were considered tobe fair. They said that the arrangement was voluntary, and that in view of all the circumstances, their proposal in this respect should be agreed to. Some of the provisions which they wished to preserve have already been attacked by Senator Colebatch in the amendments he has moved, and which have been rejected by the committee. The Government felt that it had cither to include this provision or leave the position as it then stood. The representatives of the industry having agreed to a reduction of price, the Government consented to provide for the prohibition of imports.
Question - That the words proposed to bo added (Senator Colebatch’s amendment) be so added - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Senator the Hon. Herbert Hays.)
Majority . . . . 11
Question so resolved in the negative.
Sugar Agreement, 1933-1930.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH (Western Australia) [2.30 a.m.]. - I move -
That the following words be added to the clause, “ Provided that clause16 of the agreement be eliminated “.
While I do not intend to say anything further than I have already said, I think that it is my duty to aid the Leader of the Government (Senator Pearce) in making up his mind how he shall vote on this amendment. I, therefore, recall a speech which he made on the Cotton Industries Bounty Bill, on the 20th June, 1930, as reported in Hansard on pages 3047 and 3048. Taunted by Senator Rae with having opposed an exactly similar provision in that bill merely because it was an innovation, the right honorable gentleman said -
No. I object to it because it is a vicious innovation. It is an interference with the rights of the States to regulate industrial conditions within their own boundaries.
The reasons given by the right honorable gentleman on that occasion are my sole reasons for moving this amendment.
– I oppose the amendment. The circumstances related by the honorable senator in connexion with the Cotton Industries Bounty Bill are altogether different from those associated with this measure, inasmuch as this is an agreement with the State of Queensland, which State has the power to regulate labour conditions within its boundaries. The sugar industry is almost entirely confined to Queensland, and the arguments put forward by the Leader of the Government in connexion with the Cotton Industries Bounty Bill do not apply to this bill.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH (Western Australia) [2.35 a.m.]. - The Minister has failed to appreciate whathis own bill provides. The Leader of the Government (Senator Pearce), when in opposition, objected to the Cotton Industries Bounty Bill, giving the Commonwealth Government the power to step in. That is exactly the position here. Clause 16 of the agreement provides -
That the employees engaged in the Australian cane sugar industry, and in such sections of the Australian fruit industry as receive benefits under clause 7 of the agreement, shall be entitled to have their wages and conditions of employment determined by conciliation or arbitration if not settled by agreement, and in the case of any employees or section of employees who are now, or who may subsequently be, excluded from the jurisdiction or control of any conciliation or arbitration authority, the Commonwealth Government shall, on the application of any industrial organization . . .
– The State has agreed to that.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH.Exactly the same wording was contained in the other bill to which the present Leader of the Government objected on the ground that it was proposed to insert a provision that, in certain circumstances, the Commonwealth Government could override the State Government.
– I should have preferred the amendment to be confined to the fruit industry, because, in its present form, the bill might take from that industry all the benefits which it will derive from the agreement. The fruit industry is different from the sugar industry. If clause 16 of the agreement were put into operation, the small fruit-growers of Australiawould be robbed of any benefit under the agreement.
– The honorable senator may move an amendment along the lines he has suggested, and if he does so, I shall support him. The principle is the same.
– I shall move later to that effect.
– I spoke against this clause in my second-reading speech, and I shall oppose it now. I do not think that all honorable senators have grasped the importance of this provision. The agreement refers to” such sections? of the Australian fruit industry as receive benefits”. In order that the berry fruit-growers may receive benefits under this agreement, industrial arbitration conditions must be introduced into the working of the berry fruit plantations. If that is done, the industry will be destroyed, because employees engaged in it will be entitled to wages and conditions which the owners of the properties and their families do not enjoy. I shall support the amendment.
Question - That the words proposed to be added (Senator Colebatch’s amendment) be so added - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Senator the Hon. Herbert Hays.)
Majority . . . . 11
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I move -
That the following words be added to the clause: - “Provided that the following words be excised from” clause 16 : - ‘ and insuch sections of the Australian fruit industry as receive benefits under clause 7 of this agreement ‘ “.
Persons engaged in the fruit industry who will receive benefits under this agreement are in an entirely different category from those engaged in sugar production.For years they have been carrying on their industry under great difficulties, even without any “interference with the wages and conditions of the industry by any arbitration tribunal. Berry fruit-growing is generally a family industry into which outside labour is introduced at times. The price paid for the fruit is so small that the industry would be destroyed if this provision were to remain.
– I support the amendment. Unless it is inserted, Mr. Forgan Smith, Premier of Queensland, will be able to enforce his policy, not only in the Queensland sugar cane-fields, but also throughout the fruit-growing districts of Australia. I mentioned this possibility in my second-reading speech. The Minister in charge of the bill (Senator Greene) has admitted that under this agreement Mr. Forgan Smith will have every right to dictate the industrial conditions that will obtain in the sugar industry. I hope, however, that the Government will accept the amendment, and exclude the fruit-growing districts in the other States.
– For reasons already given, I must ask the committee to reject the amendment. When the committee was discussing the gold bounty, and when a motion was submitted to reject the labour conditions, Senator Johnston supported it.
– That was because the Arbitration Act is already applied to that industry.
– Nevertheless, the honorable senator’s attitude then, and his objection to-night, are remarkably inconsistent. If there were any real substance in Senator Payne’s objection I should, perhaps, be found supporting him; but this provision has been in the agreement which has been in operation for the last two seasons.
– Parliament had no opportunity to discuss the earlier agreements.
– The honorable senator told the committee a little while ago that if this provision remained in the agreement, it would mean the extinction of the berry fruit-growers. Actually it has been in operation for two seasons, and the honorable gentleman did not know it.
– I cannot allow the Minister’s statement to pass unchallenged. He knows, as well as I do, that the Senate did not have an opportunity to deal with the earlier agreements made between the Commonwealth Government and the sugar industry.. What I did say was that if this provision were put into operation it would destroy the berry fruits industry. It has never been put into operation although it was in the old agreement. And I repeat that, if it is applied to the berry fruit-growers, it will annihilate them.
SenatorRAE (New South Wales) [2.51 a.m.]. - If Senator Payne or any other honorable senator thinks that he is going to get all the benefits that may arise under this agreement for his particular clients, operating under sweated labour conditions, we, on this side of the chamber, will not be a party to any such agreement. If any industry is so absolutely miserable as to decline to pay decent wages, as prescribed by the Arbitration Court, it is time that it was extinguished.
– I feel sure that honorable senators are not aware that this particular provision to which Senator Payne objects has never been operated; but the publicity which has been given to the matter to-night will undoubtedly stimulate Mr. Forgan Smith to invade Tasmania, and see that it is put into operation among the fruitgrowers in that State.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH (Western Australia) [2.53 a.m.]. - I again direct attention to the annual report of the Fruit Industries Sugar Concession Committee. If honorable senators will read it, they will see that the members of the committee say that this is the most difficult problem which they have had to face, but that they are making a complete investigation with a view to finding out those who are entitled to the benefits under this agreement; also that they intend to fix prices all over Australia. It seems to me that it would be inconsistent to carry out that portion of the agreement which relates to price fixing without also fixingthe wages to be paid in the industries concerned.
– I intend to support the amend- ment.This matter has never before been under review by the Senate. Although it is quite extraneous to the subjectmatter of the agreement, it has been interpolated, and now forms part of the agreement. The remarks made by Senator Rae and Senator Daly’s interjections indicate that the danger, to which Senator Payne has directed attention, exists. This was also suggested in the report to which Senator Colebatch has alluded. Clearly if the agreement is passed with this provision remaining in it, certain persons and influences may get into the little Eden of the fruit-growers in Tasmania and prove to be a very discordant element.
Question - That the words proposed to be added (Senator Payne’s amendment) be so added - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Senator the Hon. Herbert Hays.)
Majority . . . . 11
Question so resolved in the negative.
– Before the clause is passed I should like to have an assurance from the Minister that the provisions contained in clause 11 of the schedule will be properly policed in Hobart, so thatcitizens of Tasmania may be assured of ample supplies of sugar.
– I give the honorable senator that assurance.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 3 -
– I move -
That the following words be added to subclause 1, “ for a period of two years and no longer “.
I submit this amendment for the important reason that it is certain that after the next election there will either be a Country party Government in office or a government in which that party is dominant, and I am anxious that it should not find its hands tied when it gets into power.
Question - That the words proposed to be added (Senator Johnston’s amendment) be so added - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Senator the Hon. Herbert Hays.)
Majority . . . . 16
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Schedule, Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment.
Standing and , Sessional Orders suspended; report adopted.
Motion (by SenatorGreene) proposed -
That the bill be now read a third time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
AUSTR alian REPRESEN ta tion.
Motion (by Senator Sir George
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I direct the attention of the Leader of the Government to the following extracts from an article published in a Victorian newspaper, the Castlemaine Mail, of the 29th November : -
Frankness in Party Room.
Latest advices from Canberra, indicate the continued existence’ of a state of unrest and uncertainty in the Federal Government.
The suggestion now put forward is that Mr. Lyons should take a trip overseas to represent the Commonwealth at the World Economic Conference to be held next year. . . .
But there must be some particular reason prompting the suggestion that Mr. Lyons should take a trip to Europe. When the arrangements were being made for the representation of Australia at the Imperial Economic Conference, it was repeatedly emphasized that it was most essential that Mr. Lyons should remain in Australia to guide the ship of State through the troubled waters. The ship has not yet reached the calm waters of harbour; why, then, is it now possible to permit the master to transfer his responsibilities to some one else? . . .
The Attorney-General’s ambitions certainly carry him high - the High Commissionership, the Chief Justiceship, and, perhaps, the Prime Ministership. These may be three reasons for the very plain speaking that has been heard in the Ministerial party room at Canberra during the last three weeks, and that frankness may upset a few plans.
A few days ago I placed a question on the notice-paper seeking information as to whether it was the wish of the Government that the Prime Minister should go overseas to attend the World Economic Conference, or whether Australia was to be represented at that gathering by the Resident Minister in London, Mr. Bruce. I realize, of course, that it is not usual for matters of government policy to be announced in reply to questions, but 1 should like to know whether the Prime Minister will leave Australia at an early date to attend the World Economic Conference, whether at a later date he will be made High Commissioner or Resident Minister in London, and whether another member of the Government will be installed as Prime Minister?
[3.14 a.m.]. - I have heard of Castlemaine where, I believe, Senator Lawson resides, but I have never heard of the Castlemaine Mail. The Government is obliged to Senator Dunn for dragging this newspaper from obscurity, but I can assure him that there is not the slightest truth in the statements to which he has referred.
Question resolved in the ‘affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 3.15 a.m. (Thursday).
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 30 November 1932, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1932/19321130_senate_13_137/>.