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Wednesday, 13 December 1905

Mr DAVID THOMSON (CAPRICORNIA, QUEENSLAND) - The question now under discussion affects Queensland to a greater degree than any other State. It must be recognised that the sugar industry is of the utmost importance, not only to Queensland, but to the whole Commonwealth. I am surprised to find honorable members who profess to favour a White Australia practically opposing' the payment of this bounty to the white growers of sugar in Queensland. In other parts of the world the industry is conducted by black labour, and it is that fact which is responsible for the idea that white men cannot successfully engage in it. The majority of the employers of black labour in Queensland naturally desire a high duty to be imposed upon sugar, in order that thev may make larger profits. When the industry was started there large areas which were likely to prove suitable for the production of sugar) cane were secured by wealthy companies. These companies obtained the permission of the Government to indent black labour from the Pacific Islands. ' The introduction of the kanakas was prompted by a desire to secure cheap labour. At the present time the companies to which I have referred will not part with any of their land to white mein, except at exorbitant prices. They pay the kanakas whom they employ from £6 per year upwards, and the food which the latter receive would be a revelation to most people. Sweet potatoes are their principal article of diet. During the course of this debate frequent reference has been made to the jam industry. I contend that the jam manufacturers of the Southern States have nothing whatever to complain of. Prior to the establishment of the Federation there were several jam factories in Queensland, but since the Commonwealth Tariff came into operation they have been compelled to cease operations. If jam manufacturers wish to export their goods they have merely to use imported sugar, in order to secure a rebate of five-sixths of the amount paid by them. There is nothing to justify their complaints. I do not think that the fruit-grower has anything for which to thank the jam manufacturer. The jam factories purchase fruit at the very lowest possible price.

Mr Batchelor - The lower the sugar, the cheaper the jam.

Mr DAVID THOMSON (CAPRICORNIA, QUEENSLAND) - I do not think so. My experience is that commercial people study their own interests primarily. They do not care how the fruit-grower fares. The Government of Queensland have advanced £500,000 to central sugar mills under the Sugar Guarantee, Act, and there is no doubt that if the industry perishes the Government of that State will suffer. In the absence of the payment of a bounty to encourage the production of sugar by white labour, I feel convinced that the industry will be wiped out. To my mind it is a very singular fact that so far we have heard nothing from honorable members in reference to the duty. Some protectionists are quibbling over the payment of the bounty without assigning any reasons for their action. If Queensland could produce sufficient sugar to supply the requirements of the Commonwealth, and if an import duty of £6 per ton were operative the consumer would pay just as much for his, sugar as he is paying now. Yet honorable members quibble over the payment of the bounty. The fact that after four years' experience of existing legislation one-third of the sugar crop of Queensland is grown by white labour, is in itself eloquent testimony to the success of the policy we have adopted. Some years ago an Act was passed, at the instance of Sir Samuel Griffith, providing that no more kanakas should be imported into Queensland. That legislation was enacted just prior to a general election.

After the election, however, fresh legislation was introduced, under which the prohibition upon kanakas was removed. Some of the sugar-planters in that State appear to think that the same thing will happen in connexion with Commonwealth legislation. Until the end of 1907 arrives, and they realize that the kanakas are to be deported to their homes, we shall continue to hear the cry that white men cannot successfully labour in the cane-fields. As a matter of fact, it has been repeatedly demonstrated that white men can do the work that is demanded of them. The truth is that when they go into the northern por-: tion, or even into the central districts of Queensland, they cannot secure employment. I know some men who wandered all over that State last year in search of employment in. the cane-fields, and who were offered only a miserable wage of from 12s. to 15s. per week. Another point is that the housing accommodation in some cases is unfit for human beings. I am sure that if reasonable rates of wages were offered, and fair accommodation were provided, no difficulty would be experienced in procuring white labour for the cane-fields of Northern Queensland. Under existing conditions there is no inducement for white workers to go there. Mining is carried on in some parts, but there are no sheep stations ; and as the wages offered by many planters are not by any means reasonable, white workers are not encouraged to seek employment there. Travelling during the rainy season is also very inconvenient, as rain falls for weeks almost continuously. Some of the planters declare that white workers are unreliable, and hard to find; but the truth is that these men will not pay fair wages, preferring rather to employ kanakas, Chinese, and other Asiatics. If the large estates surrounding the sugar mills were cut up, the way would be open to the employment of a number of white men; but at the present time the Company rules the country served by the tramways, and asks such exhorbitant rates for its land that it is practically impossible for white men to secure it. It has been asserted by the honorable member for New England that on the occasion of a recent visit to Queensland, he made the startling discovery that white men could not work in the cane-fields because the sun was vertical. That must have been news to most honorable members. It is only during December that the sun is vertical, and as the cane-cutting commences in the early part of June, and is concluded, at the latest, in November, the honorable member for New England will have to search for some other reason. It is those who have but little knowledge of the conditions prevailing in Queensland who are continually bringing forward absurd arguments against the employment of white labour in the cane-fields. As to the terrible climatic conditions of Northern Queensland, of which we hear so much, I am sure that those honorable members who visited that part of the Commonwealth some time ago will agree that the men and women whom they met there would compare favorably with those living in any other part of the Commonwealth. Personally, I prefer the climate of Queensland to that of Victoria. I do not wish to prolong the debate, because I feel that my fellow representatives of Queensland, as well as the honorable member for Hindmarsh and others, have placed the question in its true light before the House. I earnestly hope that the House will have some consideration for the interests of Queensland. Any one who has seen the black, brown, and brindle people living in many of the towns in Northern Queensland must recognise the virtue of the policy of a White Australia. The sooner we get rid of these coloured aliens the better for the Commonwealth. I am sure that no honorable member would care to have to associate with such a class. We have heard a great deal about the cleanly habits of the Japanese, but when they reach Queensland they do not appear to differ in any way from the Hindoos and other Asiatics who flock to the northern part of that State. As to the kanakas, I may say that during the parliamentary tour of inspection, I did not hear of one who, when questioned on the subject, said, that he had no desire to return to his island home. That being so, why should we attempt to keep them here. We can do nothing, so far as the Chinese and other Asiatics already in the Commonwealth are concerned ; it simply remains for us to see that the Immigration Restruction Act is vigorously administered, so that we may have no increase in their numbers. I trust that the House will favorably consider the position of Queensland, and agree to the passing of this Bill.

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