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Wednesday, 13 December 1905

Mr FISHER (Wide Bay) - I trust that the Committee will not agree to the amendment. I know that some honorable members entertain the view that if we do not adopt a sliding-scale, it will be impossible for us to terminate the bounty. They are altogether forgetful of the fact that closely allied with the bounty system is the payment of an excise duty by the white growers in excess of that bounty. There is no other instance in the world where a bounty is paid out of the excise levied upon the individual. I venture to say that the amendment would have the effect of restoring the old state of things under which the white grower was compelled to compete directly with coloured labour. Of the 70,000 adult aliens in Australia, a large proportion will always be found upon the cane-fields of Queensland. Why should we endeavour to deceive ourselves upon that point? Why should we not say to the white growers of sugar there, " We will not do you an injustice by asking you to compete against that class of labour, except upon the terms which have been outlined by experts who are absolutely free from political bias"? Dr. Maxwell declares that the white grower derives no advantage from the bounty if he pays his labourers a reasonable wage.

Mr BRUCE SMITH (PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - He also says that the uncertainty which at present exists as to the term during which the bounty will operate induces the growers to hold on to black labour.

Mr FISHER - The amendment, if adopted, will increase that uncertainty. No proposal has been made to reduce the excise at present levied upon Australian sugar. If the bounty were entirely removed there would remain an excise which the white growers would have to pay without deriving any advantage whatever in return.

Mr Batchelor - We can reduce the excise-

Mr FISHER - If we do that, we shall derive no revenue whatever from Australiangrown sugar

Mr Carpenter - If we do not adopt a sliding scale, when, will the bounty cease to operate?

Mr FISHER - Need I remind honorable members that we have already enacted legislation which prohibits aliens from entering the Commonwealth?

Mr Lonsdale - When will the bounty system terminate?

Mr FISHER - It will terminate when the alien population dies out, and I trust that it will terminate peacefully. There is no section of this House which desires to continue the bounty indefinitely. That being so, there is a period at which it must terminate. That period, however, is not at the end of five years. I appeal to the honorable and learned member for Boothby not to press the amendment.

Mr BRUCE SMITH (PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The amendment proposes to extend the bounty for seven years.

Mr FISHER - As the honorable and learned member for Bendigo pointed out, we are proceeding on insufficient data. The white growers expect the bounty to be extended over a further period of five years, and I appeal to honorable members not to agree to the introduction of a slidingscale.

An Honorable Member. - What about the abolition of the Excise duty?

Mr FISHER - I shall be prepared to debate that question when it arises. If the Excise is to be removed, the Commonwealth will be deprived of revenue, which it would be allowed to collect if the bounty were continued.

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