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Tuesday, 21 August 1906

Mr CAMERON (Wilmot) .- Before dealing with the Budget, I desire to refer briefly to one or two statements made by the honorable member for Capricornia, and also by the honorable; member for Darling. When speaking this evening, the honorable member for Capricornia appeared to be under the impression that Queensland riad a distinct grievance against this Parliament, and to believe that it had been wrongfully deprived of portion of the three-fourths of Customs and Excise revenue to which it is entitled. I can only presume that under the Constitution certain charges have been debited against Queensland, and that these have led to the deduction of which he com plains. I was much impressed by his ingratitude to the other ^States, who have so generously relieved Queensland of the burden imposed upon her under the sugar bounty system.

Mr R EDWARDS (OXLEY, QUEENSLAND) - The honorable member is" not serious.

Mr CAMERON - I certainly am. The honorable member for Capricornia seems to have forgotten that for twelve or eighteen months after the establishment of the Commonwealth Queensland had to take on her own shoulders the cost of the sugar bounty system. Then the right honorable member for Balaclava, who held offce as Treasurer, told us that, as the people of Australia had agreed to the policv of a White Australia, it was only fair that the other States should share with Queensland the burdens it imposed. An arrangement was then made under which each State has since borne -per capita her share of the / cost of this policy.

Sir John Forrest - -And they ha ve shared the cost of that policv since its inception.

Mr CAMERON - That is so. I would point out to the honorable member for Capricornia, who was so loud in his lamentations, that the small State of Tasmania, large Victoria, poor South Australia, and rich Western Australia, have all been pouring into the pockets of those engaged in raising sugar in Queensland sums amounting to several hundred thousands of pounds in respect to the bounty.

Mr DAVID THOMSON (CAPRICORNIA, QUEENSLAND) - That statement shows that the honorable member is ignorant of the whole question.

Mr CAMERON - My statement is absolutely correct. In the speech" which he delivered last week, the honorable member for Darling was good enough to liken the large land-holders of Australia to the aborigines, who formely occupied this vast continent. He told us that the white men, finding that the blacks were not making proper use of the country, took, it from them, and he suggested that the people should adopt the same course in dealing with the land-holders of Australia, since they were not devoting the land to the use for which it was designed by nature - the carrying of a large population. Might I suggest that the honorable member, and those who think with him, have overlooked the fact that they are proposing to dispossess of these large estates the descendants of those who originally came to this country, and, by thrift and industry - often carrying their lives in their hands - were enabled to acquire property. The honorable member does not propose to take the land from them in a fair manner; he does not propose that the States, shall acquire it at a fair valuation. He and his fellow members of the Labour Party seek to impose a crushing land, tax, and thus to compel these Unfortunate land-owners to sacrifice their property. 1 propose to give a brief example. In the State of Tasmania there are one or two persons who own £50,000 worth of land, and who, under the State . land tax, pay nearly £200 per annum. If the proposals of the Labour Party were carried into effect, this taxation would be increased by £400, and therefore, taking into account other taxation, these land-holders would have to pay to' the State and the Commonwealth nearly £800 per annum, or almost half of the annual value of their properties, which amounts to about £2,000. I need hardly point out that such taxation would mean absolute ruin to land-holders. No man could pay it and meet his other expenditure, too. The object of the Labour Party is to compel the large land-owners to throw their land on the market. But if, as the result of this crushing taxation, the large landholders found themselves unable to live, and their land were all thrown on the market, there would be practically no buyers, as the market would be glutted. As a result, confidence would be shaken, men would not be able to sell or to borrow on land, and the small holders would suffer with the large. The Labour Party, with a large amount of cunning, if I may use the term, though I allude not so much to the members of this House as to those responsible for the propaganda, are saying to the small land-holders, " Do not be afraid ; we shall not touch you. Our wish is to get at the big men. By making them pay this large burden of taxation, we shall be able, to get revenue for the establishment of an old-age pension system." Suppose, however, that the old-age pension system is established, and that this crushing taxation has had the desired result of getting rid of the large land-holders, what must happen? The large land-holders, the descendants of the men who pioneered Australia, having, gone, the money necessary to pay for old-age pensions must be found by the small landholders. The large land-owners may be struck first ; but, as sure as God made little apples, the small land-holders will be struck later on. The injustice which is proposed to be done is to be suffered, not by aboriginals or by coloured aliens, but by the descendants of the pioneers of Australia, and for this, among other reasons, I do not think that the scheme of the Labour Party will commend itself to the spirit of fair play which animates most Australian breasts, just as it will not be acceptable to the intelligence of our people. The resumption of private estate by the Commonwealth, or by the Governments of the States, is another matter. Such resumption is already provided for by the Acts of some, of the States, and a Bill is now before the Tasmanian Parliament which will allow the purchase of private estates at their assessed annual value, plus 5 or 10 per cent, for enforced sale. This, in my opinion, is not too large an allowance, in view of the associations and ties which bind land-holders to their properties. I, as a fair-sized land-owner in Tasmania, would not object to the honest purchase by the Government of land thought to be required for the settlement of small holders upon the soil ; but I say emphatically that the system of wholesale confiscation and robbery proposed by the Labour Party ought not to commend itself to the people of Australia. Coming now to the Treasurer's Budget, I wish first to refer to the sugar bounty question. When legislation for the establishment of a White Australia, was introduced into the House, the honorable and learned member for Parkes and myself were the only two members in an assembly of seventy-five who dared to oppose it. I well remember the jeers and unpleasant remarks with which our action was greeted. A little later, when the Sugar Bounty Bill was introduced, as; we were told, a necessary corollary to the Pacific Islands Labourers Act, some half-dozen members opposed it. Under these circumstances, it is pleasing to me to know that the Treasurer, in reply to an interjection by the honorable member for North Sydney, has had to tell the Committee that we must soon seriously consider the position.

Sir John Forrest - I did not go so far as that.

Mr CAMERON - The words are in Hansard. The right honorable gentleman was a member of the Barton Government, and is therefore responsible for the White Australia legislation and the original Sugar Bounties Act. His remark shows that common sense is returning, if not to the assembly as a whole, at least to himself. Accord- ing to his figures, the production of sugar has enormously increased since the establishment of the bounty system. Australia at the present time is producing as much as she can consume, or perhaps a little more. So many white growers have been induced by the bounties wrung from the people of the States, who have no interest in the matter, to enter upon the cultivation of cane, that the production of sugar has grown enormously, and I should like to know what will be done with the probable future surplus. Thanks to what I may call this cursed system of protection which has grown up in Australia, under which industries are fostered on the plea that we must assist our own people, in the sugar industry production has overtaken, or is rapidly overtaking, the local consumption, and within a very short period we shall be exporting sugar to other parts of the world for consumption by negroes, Chinamen, and other aliens. Further, in aU probability, this sugar will be sold at a lower price than that, ruling in our own market. Then we shall have to consider whether it Is worth our while to continue a system under, which our own people have to pay very dearly for the production of sugar for the benefit of the people outside the Commonwealth. We need only look to the example of Germany. Some years ago, it was thought that it would be a fine thing to encourage the manufacture of beet sugar in that country, and a system of bounties was introduced which resulted in sugar being sent to London and sold at one half the price realized in the local market. Three or four years ago, however, the system broke down. The German people could stand it no longer, and conferences were held with the result that it was decided to do away with the sugar bounty. Does not this show that the Treasurer was perfectly correct when he stated that we soon should have to seriously consider the question of abolishing the sugar bounties.

Mr R EDWARDS (OXLEY, QUEENSLAND) - The term for the payment of the bounties has been renewed for a further five years.

Mr CAMERON - Yes, and in all probability, they will be paid for that period. The subject, however, is one that the people of Australia should take seriously to heart. We should seriously consider whether it would not be better, to revert to the old system and permit the kanakas to be brought into Australia for the express purpose of assisting in the growth of sugar, at the same time preventing them from marry ing Europeans, and providing for their repatriation at the end of their period of service. The people of Tasmania, Western Australia, and South Australia, although they have no direct interest in the sugar industry, are being called upon to subsidizeit for the benefit of Queensland. Yet we get no thanks from the representatives of that State, and I think that the sooner the sugar bounties are done away with, the better. Had we been met with some gratitude, we might have been willing to bear the burden.

Mr R EDWARDS (OXLEY, QUEENSLAND) - We are deeply grateful.

Mr CAMERON - The honorable member for Capricornia did not show much gratitude. The Treasurer indicated that he intended to relieve Tasmania of the annual charge of ,£5,600 hitherto contributed by that State towards the cost of carrying on the cable service between Tasmania and the mainland. I have not asked that this should be done, but in view of the sacrifices that Tasmania had been called upon to make, I confess that the proposal is only a fair one. The Treasurer also told us that prior to Federation, Tasmania contributed £6, 000 per annum towards the subsidy for the mail service between that State and Victoria, and that shortly after Federation had been established, an improved mair service was brought into operation, when the subsidy was increased to £13,000 per annum. He mentioned, further, that New South Wales enjoyed the advantage of a mail service to the South Sea Islands, and that the subsidy payable in .connexion with it was charged to all the States upona -per capita basis. It seemed to him, therefore, that in view of the similarity of the circumstances, Tasmania should no longer be called upon to bear the cost of the increased subsidy, but that the amount should be met by a -per capita contribution by the States. I should like to know whether this proposal has been brought forward merely because a representative of Tasmania happens to occupy a position in the Cabinet, or whether it has been introduced in view of the general elections, and of the fact that in Tasmania, there is a deep-rooted dislike to the present Administration. Is this merely a " sop to Cerberus " - an effort to placate the people of Tasmania? If not, I should like to know why, bearing in mind the fact that Tasmania has for some years borne her proportion of' the cost of the mail service between Sydney and the South Sea Islands, this act of justice to Tasmania has been so tardily performed? If that State is entitled to be relieved of the payment of the extra subsidy now, she was entitled to be so treated three years ago.

Mr Storrer - Why was not justice done by the Government which the honorable member held in the hollow of his hand ?

Mr CAMERON - That Government

Gould not do what was necessary, because they had to adopt the estimates of their predecessors.

Mr Page - It was the honorable member's fault - he ought to have " biffed them out."

Mr CAMERON - If I had "biffed them out," I might have " biffed in " a far worse Administration. The Labour Party " biffed in " a Ministry far inferior to that which preceded it. I always judge men by what they do. The Reid-McLean Administration had no opportunity to show what they could do. They were just settling down in office, and were preparing a programme, which I believe would have commended itself to the people of the Commonwealth to a far greater degree than the programme of this Government has done, when they were turned out of office. If they had not been turned out of office, they would have had the support of an independent majority, even though that majority consisted of only one member. The majority would never have forced the Government to make concessions iri order to retain office ; but would have judged them upon the merits of their proposals.

Mr Culpin - They were turned out of office because they had no proposals.

Mr CAMERON - They left office because they were disgusted with the duplicity and underhand work of some of those who were supposed to be supporting them. Like honest men they faced the music, and took their defeat with a good grace, I. believe that, as the result of the next election, they will again be placed on the Treasury bench, and that they will reflect credit upon themselves and upon the country. If they do not succeed, we shall probably again see upon the Ministerial benches the representatives of that small minority who allow their movements to be controlled in the same way that a dog wags its tail. The members of the present Administration are practically responsible for every Budget that has been submitted since the Federation has been established. The Budget has invariably been submitted by a Barton-Deakin, a

Deakin-Turner, or a Deakin-cum-Watson Administration. I submit that if it is fair to relieve Tasmania of the payment of the extra £7,000 per annum in respect to the present mail service, the Treasurer should come down and tell the House that, in all fairness, that State should have refunded to it the amount in excess of the old contract price paid during the past three years.

Mr Page - Why did not the honorable member ask for this before?

Mr CAMERON - Upon various occasions I have demanded that fair play should be extended to Tasmania, but, unfortunately, I have not commanded the support of as many representatives from that State as I should have liked.' Owing to the way in which its representatives are distributed - two occupying seats upon one side of the Chamber, and three upon the other - there is practically only one voice representing it. Had I been able to command the same measure of support as a representative of Western Australia or Queensland is in a position to command, the fair claim which I have repeatedly urged on behalf of Tasmania would have received more attention. I trust, however, that after the approaching election the representatives of Tasmania will be animated by the same spirit, and will speak with a united voice. In the very near future, I hold that it will become absolutely necessary for the representatives of the smaller States to unite upon all matters directly affecting themselves. I quite recognise that this debate has been already prolonged, and that most of the subjects which have. been touched upon have been wc-rn threadbare. I do not propose to repeat what has already been said, but I do propose to ask the people of Australia to consider the present situation v Within the course of a few weeks, the Government will be upon their trial before the electors.

Mr Robinson - Thev will be convicted.

Mr CAMERON - -Probably they will be. I would ask the people of the Commonwealth as a whole what benefits thev have received at the hands of the present Ministry? Can the Government point to any legislation which has been conceived in the best interests of the people as a whole? Certainly not. Possibly they may be able to point to certain manufacturers whom they have endeavoured to benefit. Thev may be able to point to certain States which have benefited considerably at the expense of the other States, but can they point to a single Act upon the statute-book which is calculated to benefit the people as a whole? I venture to say that they cannot. When the verdict is demanded from the people, I feel sure that they will say to the present Administration : " Instead of proving yourselves able to control the destinies of Australia, you have allowed yourselves to become the tools of a third party. Upon you, therefore, rests the responsibility for the pernicious legislation which has been enacted at the instance of the Labour Party during the past four and a half years. It is idle for you to plead that you could not help yourselves. You could. If you were too weak to carry on with a minority, you could at least have adopted the dignified and honorable course of relinquishing; the reins of Government to somebody else. As you accepted the responsibility, you must accept our verdict. Our judgment upon yOU is sudden death, and when you are consigned to your political tomb, only the two words ' no resurrection ' will be inscribed upon your tombstone."

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