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Wednesday, 13 December 1905

Sir JOHN QUICK (Bendigo) - I am very glad that I have been able to put in an appearance in the House before the close of the session, and I am particularly pleased to have an opportunity of saying a few words in support of this Bill. Of course, I cannot speak upon it with the same intimate knowledge and authority as can the Queensland representatives, who have grown up with the sugar industry, and who are thoroughly acquainted with its details. Whilst I was on duty in Queensland, in connexion with the Tariff Commission, I availed myself of the opportunity to make personal inquiries for my own guidance, and was particularly fortunate in being brought into communication with most of the leading State officials and others interested in the industry from whom I obtained much valuable information. I propose to place some of this before the House. I am one of those who believe that Queensland, as a State, has made more sacrifices for Federation than has any other State of the Union. Not only has she suffered a loss of revenue, but as one of the results of Inter-State free-trade, she has been the happy hunting-ground, so to speak, of commercial travellers and others, who have found there a very rich market for the disposal of the produce, wares, and merchandise of the Southern States. That is one of the results of Federation which was quite inevitable, and cannot be cavilled at; but since Queensland has suffered to such a large extent as the result of the establishment of the Commonwealth, her interests should be taken into consideration upon such a great occasion as this. The Federal Parliament has imposed upon Queensland the principle of a White Australia, in which I believe, and with which I am sure thebulk of honorable members are thoroughly in accord. That policy has undoubtedly involved a large expenditure of money; but when we entered upon it the price was calculated, and we haveto pay it. Such an immense revolution as the substitution of white for the coloured labour which existed in Queensland, could not be brought about except at some financial sacrifice. The honorable and learned member who has just resumed his seat has said that the difference between the price of sugar in England and Australia amounts to £4 per ton, the inference being that this has been brought about as the result of the bounty, and the difference between excise and import duties.

Mr BRUCE SMITH (PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I made this mistake - that, according to the right honorable member for Balaclava, I should have taken the average consumption at 170,000 tons a year instead of 100,000 tons.

Sir JOHN QUICK - Assuming that the price thatwe have to pay for the policy of a White Australia is £400,000 per annum -and that is not admitted - it must be remembered that the Parliament could not have been asked to consent to a policy which would have involved the annihilation of the sugar-growing industry; that would have been an outrage upon the principles of common justice. If Australia wishes to be white, it is only reasonable that the people of the whole Commonwealth, and not merely those of Queensland, should pay for it. I believe that the bounty has helped to save the sugar-growing industry from complete destruction, and it has been something in the nature of a setoff to the sacrifices which Queensland has made for Federation. Although it has not completely compensated for those sacrifices, it has helped the State to keep going, and has given the people heart. The people of the Southern States have not been without their quid pro quo, since they have found in Queensland a ready market for their produce and industrial output - a market which would not have been available had the Inter-State barriers prevailed. The honorable and learned member for Parkes has quoted the honorable member for Hindmarsh as saying that he believed the policy of a White Australia, as embodied in the Sugar Excise Act, had been a failure.

Mr Hutchison - No; I said that it had not realized the anticipations of the framers of the Bill.

Sir JOHN QUICK - I did not hear the speech made by the honorable member, but the honorable and learned member for Parkes asserted that he had declared that the White Australia policy had been a failure. The information which I collected in Queensland does not sustain that contention. I found that, as the result of the bounty system, the number of white cane-growers had increased from 2,610 in 1 901 to 3,422 in 1904. That does not bespeak failure. Then, again, I find that in 1902, 105,303 tons of white-grown cane were produced, whilst in 1904 the output jumped up to 379,884 tons.

Mr BRUCE SMITH (PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I presume that the honorable and learned member took care to ascertain the extent to which the output of black-grown sugar had increased?

Sir JOHN QUICK - I am quoting these figures in order to show the result of the bounty.

Mr BRUCE SMITH (PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - If it has increased the output of black-grown sugar in the same proportion, does that prove that it has been a success?

Sir JOHN QUICK - The bounty could not have increased the output of blackgrown sugar ; but the £3 per ton difference between the Customs duty and the Excise duty has undoubtedly assisted it.

Mr Cameron - Will the honorable and learned member tell us what has been the increase in the output of black-grown sugar?

Sir JOHN QUICK - I am not here to account for the increase in that direction; but I have admitted that black-grown sugar must necessarily have increased, as the result of the difference between the Excise and the import duties. The point I wish to make, however, is that the bounty has not been responsible for that increase. In 1902, over £24,000 was paid away by way of bounty, whereas in 1904 the expenditure in this respect exceeded £85,000. This is another indication of the substantial increase that has occurred in the production of white-grown sugar.

Mr Lonsdale - There has been a general increase in the output of both black and white-grown sugar.

Sir JOHN QUICK - But no bounty has been paid on black-grown sugar. The following figures may serve to some extent to show what is the present position. In the No. 1 district - that is, the Cairns district - in 1904, 52350 tons of sugar were produced, of which only 4,001 tons were grown by white labour, and the bounty paid upon the latter amounted to £8,002. In the No. 2, or Mackay district, for the same year, 43,230 tons of sugar were produced, of which 19,310 tons were grown by white labour, and upon which £38,620 were paid by way of bonus. In the No. 3, or Bundaberg district, 47,881 tons of sugar were produced. Of this quantity, 15,527 tons were produced by white labour, and the bounty paid upon it amounted to £31,055. In the No. 4, or Southern district, 3,728 tons of sugar were produced. The whole output was grown by white labour, the bounty paid being £7,534. I should like to draw the attention of the House to two facts which stand out conspicuously in connexion with these figures. The first relates to the Southern, or Logan district, south of Brisbane, and including the sugar-growing area in New South Wales. In that district every ton of sugar produced was grown by white labour; and earned the bounty. The explanation which I have received for this is that it is owing to the existence of small farms, and to the more temperate climatic conditions that prevail there. There the farms do not exceed 15 acres of cane each. A third reason for this result is that theSouthern district is more accessible to white-paid labour. With a small area, the farmer, assisted by his family, does his own labour. He is not dependent upon hired labour; but if he wishes it he may obtain it more reasonably than can the planters in the north. The important point is the absence of coloured labour from the Southern district.

Mr Cameron - Was there any coloured labour there prior to the granting of the bounty ?

Sir JOHN QUICK - There was in the Queensland part of the district.

Sir William Lyne - And also in New South Wales.

Sir JOHN QUICK - In the Northern district - that is to say, the Cairns district, in the extreme tropical north - the production of cane by white labour has not made any notable progress. This, I am informed, is due to the thinness of white settlement, and the relative scarcity of white labour. Both these facts are governed by the extreme tropical conditions that prevail. I have made a comparison between the two intermediate sugar-growing districts, namely, the Mackay, or No. 2 district, and the No. 3, or Bundaberg district. It will be seen from the figures I have quoted that the white-grown sugar in the Bundaberg district is only one-third of the total quantity produced there, whilst in the No. 2, or Mackay district, it comprises nearly onehalf of the total production there. It is, to say the least, singular that the Mackay district, which is much further north than Bundaberg, has a greater output of whitegrown sugar. The explanation is that in the No. 3district the plantations are, for the most part, large ones and are owned by planters who, in all cases, are employers of coloured labour. In the No. 2, or Mackay district, there are no large plantations, but farms only. These farms are very much larger than in the No. 4, or Logan district. The owners of the big plantations encourage the use of coloured labour.

Mr Higgins - It is the small farmer who is the white-labour man.

Sir JOHN QUICK - Apparently so. I asked why it is that coloured labour has persisted to a greater extent in some districts than in others, and the reply I received was that in the No. 3, or Bundaberg district, the influence of the holders of bigplantations is against the employment of white labour. In that district the climatic conditions suit the employment of white labour, being better than those of the No. 2, or Mackay district, which is further north, while sufficient white labour is available there. I was told by a State official, however, that last year the owners of one of the big plantations in this district sent agents to the No. 1, or Cairns district, to bring down Hindoos and other coloured men, although, at the time, there were a number of white men in the Bundaberg district who were unemployed, and were receiving Government rations. The coloured men were brought by steamer to Gladstone, and carried from there to Bundaberg by train. I was further assured that, if the planters offered better wages, provided better houses, and gave better conditions, they would obtain efficient and reliable white labour. The same authority told me that the planters who employ coloured labour in the Bundaberg district deserve no sympathy, because they are not forced to do so, since white labour is available. He said, however, that in the No. 1, or Cairns district, the planters deserve every consideration and sympathy, because of the real difficulties which they have to face. As a proof that white labour is available in the Bundaberg district, it was mentioned to me that four central sugar-mills controlled by the State Government there are earning the bounty. These mills are used by the small farmers, whilst the big plantations have their own mills, and employ coloured labour.

Mr Higgins - Why do the big plantations employ coloured labour?

Sir JOHN QUICK - Because they are owned by large capitalists, who do not engage in the work themselves, whereas the small man, who farms twenty-five or thirty acres engages in the actual work of the field, with members of his family, and employs white labour to assist him.

Mr Wilkinson - The big plantations are trying to destroy the White Australia policy.

Sir JOHN QUICK - It has been said that, if the big plantations are broken up into small farms, the farmers will be able to obtain sufficient white men for their purposes. There is no comparison between the difficulties under which white labour has to work in the No. 3, or Bundaberg district, and those under which it has to work in the No. 1, or Cairns district. I do not think that this Parliament will be able to solve the problem which confronts us in dealing with the Cairns district, though I believe that it is capable of solution, and that the solution will be found in the steady substitution of white for black labour, which is complete in the No. 4, or Logan district. This will be brought about by encouraging small farmers.

Mr Hutchison - The Mayor of Cairns told me that plenty of white men could be obtained there if proper wages were paid.

Sir JOHN QUICK - In the No. 1, or Cairns, district, the population is very sparse, and each farm contains seventy acres, as against twenty-five in the southern districts. So far, white labour has not been largely used in the Cairns district. It is remarkable that the production of sugar by white labour is larger in the Mackay than in the Bundaberg district. That fact is evidence of the tendency for small holders to employ white labour. They work in the fields, and assist each other, keeping together groups of men to help them all the year round. What is wanted is a policy which will keep labour in these districts, instead of merely utilizing it for the season, and then turning it adrift to shift for itself during the remainder of the year. I find that, in Cairns, white men are paid £1 15s. 4d. a week; in Mackay,£1 9s. 11d. per week; and in Bundaberg, £1 7s. 10d. per week, the labourer keeping himself.

Mr Higgins -Are those the wages for the season?

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