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Wednesday, 25 November 1931

Mr SCULLIN - On the 18th September the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Tully) asked me the following questions,upon notice: -

1.   Is it a fact that several cane farms in the Cairns-Babinda districts are now occupied by natives of India?

2.   Is it a fact that these hindoos employ their own countrymen in the cultivation and harvesting of sugar-cane?

3.   Is it a fact that Europeans are interested in these farms occupied by natives of India?

4.   Is it a fact that the present Queensland Government has placed on the statute-book an amendment of the Electoral Act, giving natives of India the same rights as natural-born British subjects?

5.   Will the Prime Minister cause inquiries to be made as to the number of Asiatics employed in or in connexion with the sugar . industry in the Cairns district?

The following replies have been supplied by the Premier of Queensland, information in regard to parts 1 to 3 having been furnished by the sugar associations : -

1.   Of the 635 cane suppliers to the three mills in the Cairns-Babinda district, only nine are hindoos, most of whom have been resident in Australia for more than twenty years.

2.   Some of these hindoos employ British cutters, whilst others employ their own countrymen in cultivation and harvesting. Some of the latter on occasions employ mixed labour in cultivation. The sugar award contains a provision enabling a farmer to employ his own countrymen.

3.   No.

4.   An amendment of the Queensland Electoral Act passed last year provides, amongst other things, that a native of India who fulfils the qualifications prescribed by that act is entitled to be enrolled as an elector.

5.   Returns supplied to the Department of Agriculture show that there are thirteen Asiatics employed in the Cairns district.

On the 18th September the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Tully) asked me the following questions, upon notice: -

1.   Is it a fact that a dispute occurred this season at Mossman, North Queensland, between sugar-cane workers and sugar-cane farmers, owing to a large number of farmers deciding to harvest their own cane?

2.   Is it a fact that, out of a total of approximately 248 cane-cutters, who will cut cane at Mossman, 104 of this number are farmers ?

3.   Is it a fact that, out of the total number of farmer-cutters mentioned in paragraph 2, approximately 50 are foreigners?

4.   Is it a fact that the elimination of hired workers as cane-cutters is extending to other districts north of Townsville, notably at Babinda and Gordonvale?

5.   If the Prime Minister has not the fullest information on these matters, will he take immediate steps to get the information for the benefit of theconsumers of sugar?

The following information has been supplied by the sugar associations through the Premier of Queensland : -

1.   Yes; but this was not the only matter in dispute.

2.   No. The number of farmers cutting their own cane this season is 63. The total number of men cutting cane on contract and wages is 241, including the 63 farmers. The number of hired workers is increasing. There were 127 cane-cutters on contract for 1930; the number tor 1031 has increased to 151.

3.   No. Of the 63 farmers mentioned in No. 2, there are 32 of foreign origin, the majority of whom are naturalized. Of the contract and wages mcn cutting cane, about 60 per cent, are of British birth.

4.   No, The following is the position in tha various districts north of Townsville:- -South Johnstone - Five farmers did their own cutting in the 1930 season. The same number is doing o for the current season. Tully - No farmers are cutting their own cane. Cairns - The number of cutters signed on for the 1031 season was 913, an increase of 32 over the number signed on for the 1930 season. This district includes Babinda and Gordonvale. Herbert River - The number of cutters signed on for the 1931 season was 782, an increase of 108 over the number for the 1930 season. Mossman - See answer to No. 2.

5.   See answers to Nos. 1 to 4.

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