Save Search

Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Wednesday, 2 October 1901


Mr BARTON (HUNTER, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for External Affairs) - I have as my authority the statements that were made during the debates on the Bill, but I may as well declare that I am not binding myself to any particular time. If we date the kanaka traffic from 1868, we have 33 years, and if we take it as having been in existence for five years prior to that, we have something like 40 years. In the debate on this Bill it was pointed out - and it is a curious fact - that the traffic had assumed some dimensions, because, however much influence and support any of us give to the London Missionary Society, it was then beginning to attack the traffic. The Act regulated the mode of introduction and the treatment of the kanakas, the mode of introduction being under licence, as every one knows, and the treatment being designed to prevent unnecessary hardship to those who were introduced. In 1877 a measure was brought in by the Hon. John Douglas, then Premier of Queensland - and as one is accused of knowing nothing about the history of this movement perhaps it is as well that I should be precise in referring to these matters - the Bill being devised to restrict the introduction of kanakas, and to limit their employment to the coast districts. Sir Samuel Griffith was a member of that Ministry, and in the debates on this Bill the abolition of the traffic was very strongly urged. The Premier, Sir John Douglas, who is now Administrator of Thursday Island, denounced the traffic - and I can give the page references for these passages inHansard - as "bad, wrong, and utterly rotten," and hoped that the measure, if passed, would ultimately put an end to the labour altogether. That is 24 years ago, and the House, at page 68 of the same volume of Hansard, was described by one of the speakers as being almost unanimous in its objection to black labour. I need noparticular authority for the statement that the House had an objection to black labour, for those who have in many instances asked Queensland to wait a little longer have, nevertheless, joined in the denunciation of the traffic. This Bill failed to pass, and the Bill of 1880 that is now on the statutebook of Queensland was introduced by Sir Thomas McIlwraith. The Bill became law under the name of the Pacific Islanders Labour Act ; it is really the principal Act of the series, and if I speak of the principal Act I shall mean this one. Now, this Act repeals the Act of 1868. It applied only to labourers, the stipulated time for whose return had not arrived. That is to say, it didnot affect any South Sea Island labourer who, having completed his agreement, was still in Queensland, but not under any control by way of agreement. That is a point to which I shall call attention in asking honorable members to note all the variations from the policy in the Bill we are bringing forward. The Act limited the employment of " islanders " to tropical agriculture, which is defined in one of the sections of the Act. In the course of the debate Mr. Rutledge, now a member of the Queensland Ministry, announced himself as an uncompromising opponent, on principle, of black labour. I do not want to pass any judgment on any one in this matter, but to trace the legislative history of this movement, and. the way in which it was regarded by those who spoke with an authoritative voice in this matter. However, it was found afterwards - this I deduce from the speech of Sir Samuel Griffith, reported in vol. 41 of Queensland Ilansard - that Polynesians were employed - I ask attention to that statement - in all branches of industry. I am not relying on my own judgment for this statement, but I am taking the voice of a leader of the people. The definition of tropical or sub-tropical agriculture in the principal Act was not strict enough, and as no provision was made in the principal Act for timeexpired Islanders, these were employed in many ways in which it was never intended they should be, and a Bill was therefore introduced by the same distinguished gentleman in 1884 to amend the Act of 1S80. Its chief provisions were the stricter definition of tropical and semi-tropical agriculture, the extension of the provisions of the principal Act to time-expired Islanders - a step eminently in the right direction - and the formulation of stricter rules with regard to recruiting in consequence of abuses which were becoming known. The chief object of the Act seems to have been the regulation of- time-expired Islanders, and let it be recollected by those who have in their minds the memory of those abuses in connexion with the traffic which sent a thrill of horror from one end to the other of Australia, that the Government of Queensland made the strongest efforts to do whatever legislation, regulation, and inspection could . do to minimize the necessary evils attendant upon such a traffic. I shall express presently my own opinion on any such traffic, no matter under what regulation. But we cannot withhold from Queensland a recognition of her constant endeavour to deprive it of all those elements of evil, except such as are inseparable from such a traffic. In introducing that Bill Sir Samuel Griffith said -

To tolerate the introduction of these kanakas is only a temporary measure.


Mr McDONALD (KENNEDY, QUEENSLAND) -paterson. - What date was that?


Mr BARTON - It was in 1884. I wish to quote a great deal from what statesmen in Queensland have said in the meantime. Sir Samuel Griffith continued -

I do not think that it will be ultimately found impossible to get white men to do field work. I believe that from my experience in the north. I wish the honorable member for Mackay could get some of the timber getters and miners in the north who are exposed to hardships infinitely greater than can exist in the cane fields, and ask them if they think it is impossible for white men to do the work on the plantations. I have never met one who has not scouted the idea unless he has gone into some commercial speculation the profits of which depend on the introduction of black labour. I do not believe that in Queensland it will ultimately be found necessary that in order to carry on field work we should introduce black labour.

It was further stated in the debate upon the same Bill that, in spite of the provisions of the principal Act, out of 12,000 kanakas in the colony, not one-half were engaged in field labour. Honorable members will be familiar with the name of Mr. Morehead, who was long a prominent figure in Queensland politics. In this debate he called the traffic what I venture to think it is, in its inherent conditions, and not because of any fault of the Government or of the Parliament of Queensland - "a system of limited slavery." Mr. Macrossan's is another honoured name. Honorable members will remember him as one of the wisest and ablest members of the Federal Convention of 1891, and also as having been present at the Melbourne conference in 1890. Unfortunately for Australia, he died during the sittings of the Sydney convention. Mr. Macrossan said -

There were no doubt scandals in connexion with the trade, and there always would be.

I venture to agree with that statement. It was said by Mr. Brookes, another member of the Queensland Parliament, that -

They all knew what the kanaka trade was - that it was a scandal from beginning to end, without a redeeming feature.

Mr. Macfarlane,another honorable member, said

They wanted to get rid of black labour as soon as possible.

Sir SamuelGriffith said

When the time had arrived for the prohibition of black labour, the Government would take the responsibility for doing it.

That was in 1884. Seventeen years have since elapsed, and it goes to .illustrate the position which I take up that the history of this movement throughout the legislation of Queensland has been that the evils of the traffic have been generally admitted, and that its abolition has been regarded not merely as a question of time, but as a question of limited time. That view is emphasized by what I am about to mention. I come now to the following year, 1885. The Premier of Queensland at that time introduced and carried a Bill to further amend the Act of 1880, and to put a limit to its operation. The earlier sections of the Act deal largely with the cost of administration, and with amendments in respect to to. it. The most important object of the Act was secured by section 11, which provided that after December 31, 1890 - not 1906 - no licence to introduce Pacific Islanders should be granted. The Premier in introducing it said -

The majority of the people of the country - and I take leave to say that this is the opinion of a majority of the people of the State of Queensland as well as elsewhere - - have come to the conclusion that the time is approaching when we can no longer depend on the introduction of this kind of labour for agricultural work. Before five years are over, other arrangements of a more satisfactory kind will be made. We shall see some other system of agriculture substituted. Agriculture will be conducted by farmers working for themselves rather than by men working in large numbers for absentee employers.

Sir ThomasMcIlwraith said during the same debate -

He supported the clause, not because he believed the sugar industry could be carried on in North Queensland without black labour, but because the colony could not go on creditably before the world and continue the South Sea traffic.

In the same year the Government of which Sir Samuel Griffith was the head placed upon the Estimates a sum of £50,000 for the purpose of erecting central mills with the object of encouraging small settlers and planters who would grow cane without black labour. There was a debate upon this, in the course of which Mr. Hume Black, a strong supporter of coloured labour, quoted, though, no doubt, with disapproval, from a petition from his constituents at Mackay, as follows : -

Farmers can grow and cultivate at a profit small areas of cane without coloured labour of any kind.

The principal Act was again amended in 1886 by a short Act which amended the definition of " islander," and cast certain charges on the employers, such as medical attendance and the cost of burials. I am only led to mention this lest it should be said that I have omitted any Act which is a link in the chain. In 1889 a certain Royal commission reported. 1 mention their report, not for the purpose of making copious extracts from it, but because I wish to deal with a motion which was brought forward by a member of that commission in the Queensland Parliament, and opposed by another gentleman who has lately been taken away from us. In the report of that commission, two of the three members, Messrs. Cowley and King, stated that there would be extinction of the industry if the licences were withdrawn, it being then the law that the licences were to cease at the end of 1890. They said that the extinction of the industry would speedily follow, and therefore recommended the continued issue of licences for some years. But even they did not think that there should be an indefinite continuance. The late Mr. W. H. Groom differed from them, and supported the termination of the licences in 1890. I mention this to point the attention of honorable members to what follows. In the same year Mr. Cowley, after the presentation of the report of the commission, moved that the State should adopt some means for encouraging the sugar industry. He made the suggestion that kanaka labour should be allowed for a further period of five years, and stated that such an extension would answer all present requirements. Mr. Cowley is still a member of the Queensland Parliament. The then Premier, Mr. Morehead, announced that the Government were fully determined not to allow the re-introduction of coloured labour after 1890. He gave as his reason the fact that, if they did not allow the kanaka industry to drop after five years, they might be asked at the expiration of that time for a further extension of five years, and so on. That is precisely what has occurred. Sir Samuel Griffith in that debate expressed pleasure at Mr. Morehead's declaration, and his hope that the question was permanently settled. He added -

It is idle to say that the cause of depression is the want of Polynesian labour. The causes are the same as have been in operation in every part of the world.

He then stated many of the fundamental objections to black labour, and moved an amendment on Mr. Cowley's motion so as to insure that any assistance given by the State should not involve a re-opening of the coloured labour question. I ask honorable members to mark what followed. After it had been stated by another honorable member that -

With the exception of districts more immediately dependent on sugar, there is no part of the colony returning a member to this House in favour of a continuance of black labour - which is the position in Queensland to-day, and which is almost the position that obtains in this Federal Parliament. Mr. Groom went on to justify his own report. If I may be excused for quoting him - and I think there is no honorable member who lias occupied a seat in this House whom I am more justified in quoting - I would point out that he said -

If the question is to be discussed on strong party lines, and with strong party feeling, and the result is to be, as the honorable member for Burrum has predicted, an appeal to the country, the planters will, in my opinion, get the worst of the contest.

That was the late Mr. Groom's opinion at that time. I quote it, not in any sense as a threat or warning, but for the purpose of pointing out to honorable members that the state of public opinion in Queensland to-day justifies Mr. Groom's prediction of that time. Mr. Paul moved to add to Sir Samuel Griffith's amendment the words " otherwise than by an extension of the coloured labour traffic for five years." That meant that the kanaka question was not to be re-opened except by an extension for five years. The amendment was put and negatived without a division. Sir Samuel Griffith's amendment was negatived by 31 to 25, and Mr. Cowley's motion in favour of giving some support to the industry was negatived by 21 to 5.


Mr McDONALD (KENNEDY, QUEENSLAND) -paterson. - In what year was that?


Mr BARTON - I think in 1889. The next phase of the legislative history was in 1892. Honorable members will recollect that the Act of 1885 professed to put an end to the traffic at the end of 1900. That Act was not altered or repealed, and so far as legislation can take effect - I am not now speaking of administration - it took its effect at the end of 1890 by the prohibition of any further licences. Whether there were any further licences or not will be a fact in the memory of all honorable members who come from Queensland. Thus matters went on until 1892. I think it my duty to give this history, which, although it may not be very lively in its details, ought to be on record in the debates of this House. In 1892 Sir Samuel Griffith introduced the Extension Bill, and the question was also discussed on the Address in Reply of that session, before the Bill was brought in. In that volume of the Queensland Hansard, a manifesto previously issued by Sir Samuel Griffith appeared. With regard to this Extension Bill, I would like to say, that it is clear from the manifesto and the debate that the measure was never intended to operate in any other way than as a temporary measure. We shall see what the manifesto was, and it will go a long way to support the conclusion arrived .it, because it was . a manifesto of the leader of the Government who introduced the Bill.


Mr McDONALD (KENNEDY, QUEENSLAND) -paterson. - It was a coalition Government.


Mr BARTON - I believe it was a coalition Government, but I should like to point out that an admission of the temporary nature of the traffic from a coalition Government was a strong admission. In his manifesto Sir Samuel Griffith said -

I can see no alternative but to permit, for a time at any rate, the resumption of Polynesian immigration.

At that time certain financial troubles had occurred in Queensland, and other financial troubles were impending. The manifesto continued -

It should be provided that the immigration shall continue (unless, of course, otherwise ordered by the Legislature) for a definite but limited period of say ten years.

That was in 1892, and we are not three months from the end of the period in 1902. In introducing the ' Extension Bill which came afterwards, Sir Samuel Griffith said -

What is proposed is that the restriction which at present exists on the importation of Pacific Islanders shall be removed. It will be open to any future Parliament to renew that restriction.

And therefore it was certainly open to that Parliament.

But in the meantime persons engaged in the sugar industry will have the opportunity of knowing before the coming planting season that they will be able to carry on their industry without ruinous loss.

That" passage shows to a certain degree I think, if not conclusively, that the idea was to give some security for the immediate season and for only a few seasons afterwards. Now, I come to the utterances of the honorable gentleman who is now Premier of Queensland. He said -

I do not regard this as a permanent solution of the difficulty, because in ten years there is not the slightest doubt the population of the islands will be so reduced that the supply will have ceased.

Whether that was partly the result of the traffic or not, I do not know. But being asked-" What then 1" he replied-

In ten years' time wo shall know a great deal more about sugar growing than we do now. We may be able to do with less labour in the field, and I know there is nothing like the amount of labour required now to what was required at the start.

I take it that conclusive proof is afforded that it was the intention of the Government of the day that this re-introduction should be only temporary. That is shown by the reason given for not limiting it to a certain period. The reason given was that they were afraid that if they fixed a period the industry would become a vested interest, and that they would find a difficulty afterwards in carrying out the cessation of the traffic - that by mentioning a period during which the re-issue of licences might go on, they would be giving the planters a vested interest in the continuance of the traffic for that time. I could quote a marked passage in Hansard, of which what I have said is a condensation. Sir Samuel Griffith, later on, said -

The object of the Bill is to give immediate relief in a pressing trouble.

That being the object of the Bill of 1892, it cannot be safely or correctly contended that that object continues to be served by leaving it in operation any longer, except so far as may be necessary to end a traffic which has met with the condemnation of all classes of statesmen in Queensland from the beginning until now.


Mr Macdonald-Paterson - That is incorrect.


Mr BARTON - There may be some exceptions. I admit it may reasonably be urged against me that there are and have been public men of Queensland who have spoken with some tolerance of the traffic at one time, and who have spoken strongly against it at another time. That appears to be the lot of politicians at times. The McIlwraith Government in 1893, the next year, brought down a Sugar Works Guarantee Bill, and Sir Thomas McIlwraith made a speech on the second reading. He pointed out that the earlier expenditure in 1885 for the same purpose was intended to supplant black labour by white labour, and he went on to say that the effort had been a failure. Mr. Chataway, a well-known and much regretted member of the Queensland

Parliament, who died a very little while ago - this year - said on that occasion -

I think this Bill will help the state of things at which they (the opponents of black labour) wish to arrive.

Further on Mr. Chataway said -

There is no one who wishes to see coloured labour permanently grafted on the institutions of this country.

The whole debate is further evidence that the system was regarded as only temporary. Passing over seven years, the next fact in the history to which I wish to call attention is that in 1900 the present Government of Queensland introduced a Bill to amend the Sugar Works Guarantee Act. In speaking on that Bill the Premier, Mr. Philp, said -

The sugar industry is a great thing for Queensland, and on both sides we desire to see it carried on with as little black labour as possible, and the only hope of doing this is by increasing the number of central mills with the object of getting families to grow the cane.

In fairness to all concerned, I have now dealt with the legislative history of the matter, as well as with the question of the importance of the industry to Queensland. I want now to say a few words on another topic. This being the declared policy of Queensland, the question which follows now is whether the time has really come for putting that policy into effect, not as a new policy, but as an acknowledged policy for about a quarter of a century, and for bringing to an end, not unjustly, but by just means, what has always been acknowledged to be a temporary expedient. The answer to that, on the part of the Government, is " yes," and " yes " as many times as the question is put. Is there any difference, then, in the attitude of Queensland in regard to this traffic 1 I claim that the general election shows that the attitude of Queensland in relation to this traffic is more emphatic in the demand for its abolition on just terms, and on no other terms, than it has been almost at any previous period. If I went a little beyond the general election, I could point to a worthy successor of a worthy father, whom we have lately welcomed amongst us, and who was elected by an enormous majority, thus emphasizing over and over again the policy I have referred to, as well as the policy of a Bill we have just passed through committee. That is the result of public feeling, as shown in the general election, and in a byelection. The time allowed in the Act of 1885 was only five years, which period expired at the end of 1900, and it was the professed object of the Act of 1892 to give temporary relief. The manifesto of the statesman who introduced that Bill spoke of an ultimate term of ten years, which will have altogether expired at the end of this year. If statesmen are to be taken at their word, and are to be regarded as representing the feelings of the people for whom they speak, surely there will be some defence for those who claim for Queensland that she should be taken at her word of that day - a claim which may be made by Queenslanders as well as by Australians generally. But it has still to be considered that there is no one in this House who wants to deal with undue haste, or in an unnecessarily drastic fashion, with an industry in which very large capital is embarked, and the destruction of which would be an injury not only to Queensland, but to the whole of Australia. We propose, therefore, to deal with the industry by this Bill and otherwise, in such a way as may enable us to carry out the policy which Australia demands from us, and which we first proclaimed to Australia in the most resolved fashion, being at the same time determined not to do any injury that can be avoided. I take it that this is a sufficient manner of dealing -with the third head of what I have to say. The fourth question of those to which I promised to address myself, is : Does putting an end to this temporary expedient mean putting an end to the sugar industry? In the same way as we answered "yes" to the first question, we can answer " no " to this question. The Government intrusted the duty >f bringing up a report on this subject to a scientist, and a very practical authority on the cultivation of sugar. The Government did that knowing full well that this gentleman had previously reported to the existing Government of Queensland, and that he was receiving a salary from them. We had no hesitation in submitting certain questions for his report ; and I am glad we did intrust the duty to that gentleman, because I believe we have received from him an honest answer to our questions. I have already submitted the question whether putting an end to this temporary expedient means putting an end to the sugar industry ; and I refer again to the passage quoted from Mr. Philp a little while ago when he spoke in regard to the Bill of 1892 being a permanent solution of the difficulty, and said that he did not regard it as such, because in ten years there was not the slightest doubt the population of the islands would be so reduced that the supply would cease. It will be remembered that Mr. Philp being asked - " What then ? " replied -

In ten years' time we should know a great deal more about sugar growing than we do now ; wemay be able to do with less labour in the field, and. I know there is nothing like the amount of labour required now to what was required at the start.

That is a significant utterance, because it does not look as if the means taken to reduce the number of black labourers would put an end to the sugar industry. Now, let us look at something else ; and, as the Government asked for this report, I may be allowed to quote from it. I find a passage which I think is worth bringing under the attention of the House. Referring to the policy of placing a greaternumber of cane-growers on the sugarproducing areas, Dr. Maxwell's sets forth that -

This result is seen to be working itself out in the history of the past recent years. In 1885, the number of white farmers growing cane wasrelatively fractional ; but the number of Pacific Islanders in the colony was 10,755, and the sugar produced was 55, 796 tons. In 1898, as it has already been stated, the number of white cane-growers, in Queensland was 2,610, with the production of sugar increased to 123,289 tons, and the number of Pacific Islanders reduced to 8,826. The actual reduction in the number of islanders is. 1,929, but the relative reduction is not less than 00 per cent, from what it was in 1885, when the production of sugar at these respective periods is considered.

And yet the production has gone on by leaps and bounds -

The logical indications of the situation are that the South Sea Islander is a declining factor -

And I think we may say he is a factor we shall grow to decline - in sugar production in Queensland, and that the decline is due to a natural operating law, by reason of which the lower is being gradually substituted by a higher form, and by a higher standard of producing agencies, in these locations where the laws or conditions of nature, such as climate, do not operate in the opposite direction. This law may be expected to continue to operate, and with continued and increasing results, providing it is not checked through any device by which it may be sought to hasten the rate of movement of natural law.

Whether it has been the policy of Queensland during all these years to hasten the methods of natural law, or to recognise the inevitable, both in its social aspect and in its relation to the industrial conditions of sugar-growing, I do not know, but I prefer to believe that the statesmen of Queensland have been sincere in this matter. At page 20 of the same report I find a further passage which I desire to quote. Dr. Maxwell writes -

It is indicated that invention may be expected to provide mechanical devices for the harvesting of the cane crop, and for other work ; and these will further strengthen the current tendency to Substitute lower by higher forms of labour where the conditions of nature permit.

There is, therefore, reason for us to place some relianceupontheprogress of invention, which, when forms of labour such as these have had to be dispensed with, can perhaps be relied upon to find some substitute.

This tendency - continues Dr. Maxwell - already very marked, will be accelerated by the settlement of a greater number of white families upon the grain-growing areas, resulting also in a more intense and productive cultivation of the partially exhausted soils. The increment of white settlers upon the sugar-growing lands during the past decade, and the concurrent increase in the volume of sugar produced, with the reduction in the number of islanders employed, demonstrate the present tendency, and indicate that, under the current operation of given natural laws, and particularly in certain latitudes, the Pacific Islander is a relatively declining factor in sugar production in Australia.

Let us take this into consideration in connexion with the question we have asked whether we are ruining the industry by putting an end to this employment and this traffic. If it is true thatthe cane-fields are increasingly able to do with a smaller amount relatively of black labour, if it is true that the extension of smaller areas under the operation of the sugar mills is leading to a greater production on the part of white families and to a further dispensation with black labour in that direction, it does not help the question to call this a natural tendency. The question for us is whether if there is this natural tendency we should leave it to the slow evolution of ages, or assist it in the same way that wo assist other good things - helping so long as we do not also destroy that which is good. I think we can do it. I think we shall be able to do it under this Bill. After all, the kanaka is only one factor in the cost of production: If black labour is abolished, and one factor, the cost of labour, is thereby increased in price, the question arises, "Cannot other factors in the production be cheapened?" I think they can. There is a general consensus of opinion, which is shared by Dr. Maxwell - and I leave it to others to read his reports ; I shall not quote them for this purpose - that the methods of agriculture in regard to cane-growing are in many cases crude, and that many steps could be taken by growers, or by the State itself, which would go far to counterbalance the increase in cost of production which is involved in substituting white labour for black. I am sure that is only a reasonable proposition, and I shall not labour it further by quoting from these reports. Those who turn to Dr. Maxwell's reports, both that which he gave to the Queensland Government, and that which he has so honestly rendered to me, will come to the conclusion that he describes a state of crudity in method ; a progressive deterioration Of the soil due to the failure to replace in it those elements which the sugar cane takes out of it ; and a neglect of all those methods of cultivation which, when applied elsewhere, have been highly beneficial to the industry. He shows these things in so vivid a form in his report that this question is atonce present to the mind of any one who gives his attention to the subject : Is the cry that you must indefinitely have black labour the result of a normal condition of affairs, or does it spring from that failure of production which inevitably results from unscientific or careless methods ? There is abundant evidence of that state of things. Do not let me be understood for a moment as making any attempt to depreciate the position of or to speak offensively of the planter in Queensland. I am endeavouring to give full consideration to his case, but I must be permitted to say, at any rate, that while we allow a cheap means of evading better methods of agriculture to go on, we are decreasing the likelihood of any substitute being obtained for these bad methods.


Mr G B EDWARDS (SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The history of the world shows us that.


Mr BARTON - The history of the world teaches, or at any rate ought to, teach us that. I venture to say that although many planters are striving to improve their methods, it will not be until a certain limit is placed upon this employment and this traffic that the full attention which is necessary to the scientific methods of cultivation, and to the application of science by way of machinery in sugar cultivation, will take place. Until then they will not be developed. Dr. Maxwell's reports show over and over again the immense natural fertility of the soils of Queensland for cane-growing, and the very great suitability of the climate to that industry. One would think that with conditions in the shape of soil and climate which are pointed out by Dr. Maxwell to be superior almost to any which exist elsewhere in the world, a traffic and an employment which other places have been able to do without could be done away with in respect to this industry in Queensland. I take it that they can be. The industry only needs the spur which will be afforded by the operation of the measures that we propose, in order to lead it to adopt better cultivation methods, and to attempt also to solve the question of machinery.

Mir. G. B. Edwards. - Manure, mechanism, and a market are wanted.


Mr BARTON - A great fallingoff is taking place in the yields per acre. This is shown over and over again by Dr. Maxwell. If honorable members will look at the tables he has collected, they will see that in some of the richest districts there has been a falling-off year after year. This falling-off is not because the soils are not equally fit with those of other parts for the cultivation of sugar, but because elsewhere certain constituents which are withdrawn from the soil by the cane are given back. In Queensland there are not, but they will have to be given for the industry to flourish, whether the labour which works it is black or white. In some places, according toDr. Maxwell, there is a great falling-off of yields. In districts which have yielded from 40 to 60 tons per acre the yield dropped last year to less than fifteen tons - a drop of about seventy-five per cent, on the late rate of production. The causes are given and explained. Let me pass that matter over by saying thatI am sorry that the causes exist, but I trust that with the adaptability of our race, the planters will be able to correct these results by adopting the suggestions which Dr. Maxwell makes. Better evidence than all this is to be obtained from the conference which was held in Bundaberg in June of this very year. Without quoting from the report of that conference, I will say that it bears out Dr. Maxwell's statement. Among the defects in the conditions of sugar-growing, if I may take the very able statement made by Mr. Denman, are the short tenancies in vogue, the failure to introduce up-to-date and labour-saving machinery ; insufficient ploughing; neglect to put plants in deep enough; and no care exercised in the selection of plants. This is important, because there are great differences between the sugar contents of various canes. The commission's report in 1889 mentioned a class of cane recently introduced into Queensland which contained 22.6 per cent, of crystallizable sugar as against 12 to 19 per cent, contained by the ordinary varieties in use. Then Mr. Denman speaks of the carelessness in treating the trash, because, under the method of burning which is employed the soil is deprived of much nourishment. He also refers to the careless methods of planting. These are the causes given by a well-known sugar planter, who has put his views in an admirably clear and well argued fashion. I have but to mention one more fact, namely, that the progress of mechanical invention will cheapen production, and diminish the necessity for black labour. On this point Dr. Maxwell has stated in his report that it is impossible to predict, within any near period, when the problem of cane cutting will be solved by machinery. He mentions the case of a Queenslander, who has been studying this question in America, and endeavouring to perfect and patent a machine for the purpose. A late extract from a newspaper which is not to be accused of giving an undue support to this Government, or to our policy of a " white Australia" - I refer to the Brisbane Courier of 10th September - explains the matter. According to that newspaper, the gentleman who, at the time of Dr. Maxwell's report, had not apparently made that progress which would enable the machinery problem to be definitely settled, has since solved the question practically by his patent, and invented a machine which will, by a reciprocating motion, cut the cane close to the ground - a process which other machines have failed in - and so prevent the failure to get healthy rattoons. The question at issue in this matter has always been whether such a machine could be invented, but if the Brisbane Courier is rightly informed, the problem is practically solved. We are therefore not so much in the dark about the labour question as we were twenty years ago. If it was then a question only of temporary expediency, the flood of greater knowledge shed upon it of later years makes it not only more just, but more politic, that its temporary expediency merely should be recognised, and that a limit should be put to it. Now I come to my last point. Putting aside all questions but the one great question of right and wrong, this Government thinks that the traffic in itself is bad, and must be ended. . The traffic, we say, is bad, both for the kanaka and for the white man. It is bad for the kanaka, because it is not inaptly described by Mr. Morehead as limited slavery. I say this because, in some aspects it must be slavery. The difference in intellectual level, and the difference in knowledge of the ways of the world between the white man and the Pacific Islander, is one which cannot be bridged by acts or regulations about agreements. The level of the one is above that of the other, the difference being one in human mental stature - of character as well as of mind - which cannot be put aside by passing 50 laws or 1,000 regulations. There must be an inequality between these two classes of people when they come to an agreement, and when we consider the question of getting a man - no matter under what regulations or control - from his native island, and asking him whether he understands under what conditions he is to serve in Queensland ever so many miles away, is there any one here who believes that the understanding of the man who explains is the same as the understanding of the man who listens, or that the listener is capable of understanding the facts that are mentioned to him ? Even when the recruiting ship arrives in Queensland, and the agreement has to be signed before the Government agent, however much a man may appear to understand, his degree of understanding can only be measured by his mental capacity, and that no statute can enlarge. He cannot be made to understand the conditions of his engagement. He may be brought to a state of partial understanding, but it is impossible to say that he can have a degree of contracting capacity equal to that of the man who is dealing with him. If that is so, and if this arrangement which takes place must be deficient in some of the essential characteristics of a full and intelligent agreement between two capable parties - between two ordinary men of the world, the one understanding what the other propounds - a Higher power having prevented equality, the result is not an agreement at all, but something which

British instincts have always revolted against. I hold that opinion. I do not want to speak too strongly about it, but I believe that is another and a very strong reason why this traffic should be terminated. We admit that restrictions have been placed upon the traffic, and we acknowledge the honesty of the Government and Parliament of Queensland in imposing these restrictions. We have no complaints to make of them, but we point out that human nature has made the difference, and legislation cannot correct it. There is no reflection to be cast upon the character of the employers, and, notwithstanding the complaints I have seen in the newspapers, I believe the Government of Queensland does its very best to see the Act carried out in a proper and reasonable manner. Although I did not see very much when I was in Queensland, I carried away the same impression about the planters, and 1 came to the conclusion that it was not in the individual that there was a fault, but in the inherent nature of the business. It will never be freed of its inherent character of slavery, because the limits have been set by a power which cannot be denied. The kanakas cannot understand these agreements, because the nature of a contract is foreign to them. The man who has been in Queensland before may possibly understand the nature of the agreement. By three years of this kind of service he may learn to understand what it is he is to undergo for another three years ; but his consent to that may be largely due to causes that we can understand - great hesitation ingoing back to the islands unless he is put down exactly where he came from. At any rate, our system of employment is not based on essentials such as these. Our system of employment as a State and as a nation is based upon wholly different conditions, and these are intrusions into it of elements so hostile to our sense of right and wrong, and of the relations which should subsist between man and man, that the sooner we put an end to them the better it will be for all concerned. Apart from this, the kanaka traffic is depopulating the islands from which these people come. What evidence is there that it is improving the social conditions among them 1 I do not need to allude to things which everybody knows ; but there are facts enough to show that it implants factors and conditions into these islanders which by their very communication are disastrous to their own people when they return to them. The traffic is bad for the white man - both for the employer and the white population generally ; and on this head may I use a few words from the late Professor Pearson's book on " National Life and Character," from which I quoted during the discussion on the Immigration Restriction Bill. Professor Pearson says -

When he (the black labourer) multiplies, the British race begins to consider labour of all but the highest kinds dishonorable, and from the moment that a white population will not work in the fields, on the roads, in the mines, or in factories its doom is practically sealed.

We do not want to see any tendency of this kind asserted, and I hope the Bill, regarding which I have now to say a few words in conclusion, will have the effect of correcting any such influences by putting an end within a reasonable and just period to something that we do not want amongst us, and at the same time avert the destruction of an industry. This Bill deals with two things practically - and from the history I have given of these Acts, I think it will be understood that they hinge upon two things - namely, the license to introduce the labourer, and the agreement to be made afterwards with his employer. This Bill sets a period to both, and it sets a shorter period to the licences .than to the agreements, because it is only just that the agreements shall have a certain time in which to run out. No licences will be granted under this Bill except during next year and the year afterwards, but a period of three months after the expiration of the two years is allowed for the introduction of those on board licensed vessels up to the 31st March, 1904. In other words, the Bill allows two years for the issue of licences, and two years and three months for the introduction of South Sea Islanders under licence. It prescribes also that the licences to be issued next year - and we hope the House will assist us to place this Bill on the statute-book so that it may begin to operate at the latest at the beginning of next year - may be used te the extent of replacing not more than three-fourths of the number of labourers who have returned to their native islands during this present year.


Mr Cruickshank - How long have the licences to run ?


Mr BARTON - They are annual. It is also provided that during the year 1903 the licences shall not extend to the introduction of more than half the number of Pacific Islanders who have returned to their native islands during the year 1902. Then a further period of three months is given so as to allow those who hold licences to complete their voyages. These are the provisions of the Bill as to the introduction of black labour. But the principal provision of this measure is, I think, the shortest, namely, the 7th clause, which reads as follows : -

No agreement shall remain in force after the 31st day of December, 1906.

That is to say, these agreements may go on, subject to existing laws, during 1902, and up to 1906, or for a period of five years. According to the Bill, an agreement means -

Any agreement for service made with a Pacific Island labourer within or under the Pacific Island Labourers Acts 1880-1892 of the State of Queensland.

Freedom is given in connexion with these agreements - and I think there ought to be such freedom - to make them for any term the law allows within the period fixed for the continuation of the employment of kanakas. But there is one term beyond which no agreement can exist, and that is. the 31st December, 1906. During these five years we give liberty to enter into agreements - although we terminate the introduction of labourers within a little over two years - so that the planter may have time to turn round, and so that there may not be any unnecessary destruction involved in this process My honorable colleague the Treasurer will show next week that that destruction is not involved, simply because it will probably be to the interest of the sugar planter to substitute white labour for black with such expedition as he may. This Bill is a short one, not only because we have endeavoured to make it short, but for the additional reason that it could not be a long Bill, because the machinery by which it is to operate is contained in the local Acts of Queensland. So far as it is to be applied in Queensland there is machinery contained in the local Acts, and we religiously refrain from the administration of the Queensland Acts, when it is passed, for two reasons. First of all we do not wish to create any jealousy. We do not wish to change the hands in which the administration of these Acts lies,_for two reasons. First of all we do not want to : have any friction with the great and important State which possesses our entire good-will, and whichI believe possesses the good-will and love of this Parliament ; and secondly, we do not wish to impose upon ourselves the necessity of handling a traffic which, after all, we should not be proud to handle at all. We do not want to touch it unless we are obliged to, and we think that by altering the administration as far as is necessary to carry out the provisions of this Bill, and no further, we shall enable the local machinery to do what is required, and at the same time evoke little or no discontent, except such as is inseparable from a change of laws. The responsibility will continue to rest in a very large measure where it now rests - that is where the traffic exists. We have a further provision about deportation. It operates in two ways. I wish first to say a word or two in regard to those who are found out of agreement in any part of Australia during the period covered by this Bill - that is up to the end of 1906. We empower an officer, having authority for the purpose, to bring before a justice of the peace any Pacific Island labourer found in Australia during that period whom he has reason to suppose is not employed under agreement. Upon the justice being satisfied that he is not thus employed, and has not been so employed for one month prior to that date, he may be returned to the place from which he was originally brought into Australia.


Mr V L SOLOMON (SOUTH AUSTRALIA, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Will that apply to time-expired men?


Mr BARTON - It will apply to all who are not under agreement. If they are a month out of employment, they may be brought before a justice of the peace, and if they cannot show that the charge against them of not being under agreement is untrue, they are subject to be deported.


Mr V L SOLOMON (SOUTH AUSTRALIA, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Have we the power to do that ?


Mr BARTON - I think we have the power, and as I said last night in regard to another matter, I will take the risk. It is clear that no Pacific Islander ought to be in Queensland after 1906. His only excuse for being in Australia prior to that period is that he is here under some agreement. As he will not be able to urge that plea after the date which 1 have : named, he- ought not to be retained in Australia. Being without the only excuse that can be offered for his presence in Australia, we take the power to return him to the place from which he was introduced, and I hope we shall use a little discrimination in that matter, so that he may be returned to a safe place. These are the main provisions of the Bill. It remains for me to apologize to the House for having occupied so much time. I need scarcely apologize, however, because I think it well that certain facts, historical and legislative, should be put upon record the first time that we touched upon this question. I apologize, therefore, only in a limited way, and I hope I have to some extent relieved those who have heard me of the necessity for investigating some of the more intricate points in connexion with these statutes. They may take what I have said for granted, and I may add that I have now in print a summary of the legislation enacted in regard to this matter, which will show honorable members exactly the provisions of the statutes relating to it. I thank the House for the tolerance and kindly hearing it has given me from both sides, and I hope to be able to say before this year closes that Australia will have this measure to accompany the Bill which we had in committee yesterday, the two together being not merely the realization of a policy, but a handsome new year's gift for a new nation.

Debate (on motion by Mr. Joseph Cook) adjourned.







Suggest corrections