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Thursday, 28 July 1921

Senator CRAWFORD (Queensland) . - An industry which produces a commodity worth. £5,000,000, all of which, is consumed in Australia, may surely be claimed to be of greater national value than one whose product must be exported to find a market.

Senator Wilson - That is true, so long a? the home-consumed product is not expected to be spoon-fed at the expense of industries which are obliged to seek overseas markets.

Senator CRAWFORD - Senator Wilson has referred more than once to industries which seek overseas markets, and which are dependent on the world's parity May I ask to what extent the factors mentioned apply to the products of his own State, excepting wheat and wool ?

Senator Wilson - To practically all of them.

Senator CRAWFORD - Prior to the war it was the practice of the Dried Fruitgrowers' Association to decide what quantity of currants, raisins, and the like should be exported at, say, 3d. per lb., and what quantity should be retained for home consumption at a charge to the Australian consumer amounting to about three times as much.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - The dried fruit-growers learned those tactics from the sugar people.

Senator CRAWFORD - The sugar producers have never had anything to export.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable senator knows the movement to which I refer.

Senator CRAWFORD - I confess that I do not. -

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - In anticipation of a surplus, the people interested proposed the very procedure to which the honorable senator has just referred. Nature robbed them of a surplus, and the procedure was not put info practice; but that fact does not expunge the intention from the records.

Senator CRAWFORD - I have no recollection of the matter. It must have developed before I was connected with the sugar industry, which dates back for only about twenty-six years.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - It was in more recent days than that.

Senator CRAWFORD - Although Australia grows many hundreds of thousands of tons of hay, I do not know that any is exported. The home market is just as valuable as any foreign market.

Senator Wilson - The home market is the king of markets.

Senator CRAWFORD - Then, why should fault be found with an industry which seeks and finds its market at home?

Senator Wilson - No one is finding fault with the industry; the fault is found with the price.-

Senator CRAWFORD - Like many another southerner, the honorable senator believes in a White Australia; but, again like many another southerner, he is not prepared to pay anything for his principles. . It is most unfortunate that the true attitude of the southern Australian was not made as clear to the people of Queensland before they entered Federation as it has been made over and over again since the union. Queensland came in at the last moment, and very reluctantly; and a majority of the people have since regretted that they ever took the step.

Senator Lynch - Would Queensland not have been very much worse off if' she had remained aloof?

Senator CRAWFORD - No ! There is no reason why she should have come in. Unlike every other State, Queensland could be, if she wished, self-contained and self-supporting. Within her boundaries there is practically every range of climate known- throughout the Commonwealth.

Senator Vardon - How can the honorable senator argue as he is doing when it is obvious that Queensland could not produce sugar as she does but for the market which the other States afford?

Senator CRAWFORD - If Queensland were not hampered by her position as a party to the Federation, she would soon possess a population which alone would be sufficient to consume more sugar than is produced at present. However, there are broader aspects than have yet been touched upon. It is necessary that Australia' should produce all her own requirements. Sugar is one of these essentials. Germany has recognised that. Throughout a long period of years that nation directed its sugar policy with a t view to destroying the cane-sugar industry of all other countries. In 1896, Germany went so far as to impose an import duty of no less than £20 a ton, and arranged for the payment of a bounty on export of £10 a ton. But for the action of the United States of America in immediately imposing a countervailing duty on bounty-fed sugar and subsequently arranging to give a 20 per cent, preference to Cuba - which policy was followed by all the other interested nations sending representatives ,to the Brussels Convention of 1902 - such inroads would have been made upon the cane-sugar* industry that the world, in all probability, would have been without sugar upon the outbreak of war in 1914. The high military authorities who grace the Senate will readily agree that, from a military point of view, it would be a serious matter if troops had to fight without their ordinary sugar ration.

I am not asking for anything unreasonable. If the sugar industry is to be protected only to the extent of something under Id. per lb., such protection will be lower than that enjoyed by most of Australia's other industries. Australian wines,, have been given protection ranging from 12s. to 28s. per gallon. I understand that before the war a very good wine could be bought in bulk for 3s. or 4s. per gallon. That means that the protection accorded to the wine industry is equal to an ad valorem duty of from 200 to 300 per cent. Surely an industry which is peculiar to practically one State is entitled to as much consideration as if it were common to all. If each of the States were producing some 10,000 to 15,000 tons of beet sugar per annum, there would be no difficulty in persuading Parliament of the fairness of what I ask. I do not know why consumers are so much afraid of having to pay Id. per lb., more or less, extra for their sugar. I am not an ancient, but I can remember when sugar was sold for 4d., 5d., and 6d. per lb. in this country, and the article was considerably inferior to that supplied to the public to-day. Moreover, the people in those times were not nearly as well off, in the main, as nowadays.

Senator Benny - What proportion of the sugar consumed in Australia can Queensland produce?

Senator CRAWFORD - Under adequate protection, Queensland could produce sufficient to supply a population of 50,000,000 people.

Senator Russell - Queensland will produce this year 350,000 tons.

Senator CRAWFORD - Not so much as that, I fear. But Queensland could easily grow five or six times as much as she does to-day. We ,have the land - millions of good acres - capable also of sustaining a very large population. I shall harvest this year only 130 acres of cane, but my wages bill will run into the neighbourhood of £4,000. That will give the Committee an idea of what it costs.

Senator Bolton - Your return will be £60 an acre, at 2 tons to the acre.

Senator CRAWFORD - The cane has to be taken to the mill and treated by an intricate and highly technical process before the sugar is worth £30 6s. 8d. a ton. The manufacture has to be scientifically controlled at every stage. I doubt if a modern sugar-mill, with all the necessary equipment of tramways and rolling-stock, could be erected for £500,000 at present prices. ,

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - What is a fair return per acre gross?

Senator CRAWFORD - I could not say offhand. The average return is about 17 or 18 tons of cane to the acre, taking Queensland as a whole. With refined sugar at the present price of £30 6s. 8d. a ton, we might say that a ton of cane is worth 45s., but it might be a little more or less. Our costs have been changing so much from year to year, and there have been so many alterations in the price of sugar, that it is impossible to say offhand what the cost of production is.

Senator Bolton - According to your calculation, your return would be £40 an acre.

Senator CRAWFORD - But consider what it costs to produce. This year it will cost over £1,000,000 to harvest the cane of Queensland. A good many sheep could be shorn for that money. Honorable senators will make a serious mistake, and do the sugar industry a great injustice, if they run away with the idea that it is very prosperous. In the sugar districts there will not be found anything likethe sameaverage comfort amongst the growers as will be found amongst the fruit-growers in the irrigation settlements along the Murray. Nothing would convince honorable senators more of the true position ofthe sugar-growers of Queensland than a visit to some of our sugar districts. They would not find many evidences of general prosperity, nor would they see, as atRenmark and other fruit-growing settlements, practically every grower with his own motor car.

The CHAIRMAN (Senator Bakhap - The honorable senator's time has expired.

SenatorRUSSELL (Victoria- VicePresident of the Executive Council) [10.6], - I have to announce definitely that the Government do not feel justified in supporting the proposed increase at the present time. There is an existing contract, which has two years to run, and which we are in honour bound to complete. The sugar-growers have nothing to complain about in the terms of that arrangement, whatever the consumers may say. I am satisfied that the Australian consumers could do better to-day without that contract. Senator Crawford made an unfortunate statement when he said- we were looking after the consumers in that agreement and not after thesugargrowers. That is not so. In 1913sugar could be imported for £10 10s. per ton. That was a mixture of raw and refined. Adding £2 for refining gives a cost of £12 10s. a ton. The lowest we paid to the growers under the pooling scheme was about £18 a ton. We therefore gave them a lift of about £5 10s. a ton in the first year we started the Pool. At that time sulphate of ammonia became scarce, and its price went up, so that it cost the sugar-growers, who use it extensively, particularly in the more northern parts of Queensland, at least £4 or £5 a ton extra, when they could get it. If they did not get it, their crops were light. As they had tomeet that and other difficulties, we thought we were justified during the war period in granting them an increase in the price of sugar. At one time during the war we paid three times as much for the sugar we had to import, when Queensland failed to produce sufficient to meet the Australian demand, but averaging over the whole period of the contract, I am sure ' we havepaid for Queensland sugar more than the average price paid for sugar brought from overseas. Before the war the price of Australian sugar was generally fixed by the world's price outside, plus the £6 per ton duty. On that basis it has cost Australia over £26,000,000 to maintain the industry, which was a proper thing to do, as it helped to keep Australia white. On the pre-war price the protection of £6 per ton represents 57 per cent. Senator Crawford's proposal would make it a good deal more. If the duty on sugar were increased, we should have to review about 150 other items in the Tariff, affecting industries which use sugar as a raw material When the Tariff Board begins operations it ought to be able to start an inquiry into the condition of the sugar industry, and then, when the contract runs out, if the industry is in a difficult position and wants help, I shall be prepared to consider sym- pathetically a request for an increase of duty . That, however, cannot be done during the period of the contract, under which the sugar-growers are well treated. I urge Senator Crawford not to press the request now, not because we are unsympathetic to the sugar industry, but be- cause it would be two years before the increase could come into operation under the existing contract. Jam-makers and fruit preservers want to know where they arc. We are allowing the makers of jam and condensed milk a rebate of duty on. all the imported sugar' which they reexport in weir manufactures. Australia must have cheap sugar, because our jammakers and fruit preservers have to compete in the world's markets. We are temporarily in a difficulty in that trade, mostly for the want of cheap sugar, and cheap tin containers. The tin difficulty will be overcome, because the Broken Hill Company is going to make tin plate at Newcastle, and I am sure that sugar will come back to the world's' normal price. We must keep Australia white, and therefore must protect the sugar industry to give the white growers an equal chance against the coloured races. I believe the Australian production of sugar has been a great success to date, but I cannot promise to increase the duty two years in advance of the time at which the increase could operate. I do not want to see a

Bort of vacuum created when the contract expires,. and it ought to be possible .to arrange that an increased duty, if it is required, shall come into operation immediately on the expiry of the contract.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - The more . the sugar-growers stir this business up, the more opposition they will get.

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