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Thursday, 5 December 1935

The PRESIDENT - Senator DuncanHughesmentioned £4,000,000.

Senator J V MACDONALD (QUEENSLAND) - He did on one occasion, but for the purpose of comparing the costs of the sugar and wheat industries he used the figure of £2,000,000 in respect of the wheat industry.

Senator Duncan-Hughes - That was for a certain year.

Senator J V MACDONALD (QUEENSLAND) - That is so, but the honorable senator then accepted that figure as a basis of the comparison which I have indicated.- The honorable senator also said that the exce'33 cost of butter to Australia is £2,600,000 annually.

Senator Duncan-Hughes - Yes.

Senator J V MACDONALD (QUEENSLAND) - The estimate with regard to butter has .gone up to £6,O00y®00. "We know that the duty on New Zealand butter., despite the facts that New Zealand is a sister dominion, and that we are connected with New Zealand by ties of blood, is 6d. per lb. This practically amounts to an embargo on New Zealand butter. Remembering that the price of -butter can drop to 10d. or 9d. a lb., a duty -of -6d. per Jb. in addition to costs of transport effectively stops the exportation of New Zealand butter to Australia. Speaking from memory, I think the cost of butter to Australia is about £6,000,000 a year. Queenslanders do not grumble -at .that cost. Of course, Queensland produces and exports a lot of .butter. These figures, however, show that any benefit Queensland may receive .by way of protection for the sugar industry does not stand mountain-high, and does not constitute a terrible incubus upon Australia; neither can it be said that Australia is carrying a.n excessive burden in this respect. During the last three years the wheat industry has cost Australia many millions of pounds, rising to as much as £4,'000,'000 a year. Queensland is not a wheat-exporting State, but it has never protested against that expenditure. We realize that owing' to the development of economic nationalism in other countries wheat-growers have got into difficulties, and that such assistance is necessary in the interest, not only of that industry, but also of Australian primary production generally. We 'do not growl .at such concession. On 'the contrary, Queensland is prepared 'to 'car

Senator E B Johnston - The nonparticipating States had to pay for those benefits.

Senator J.V. MacDONALD.Yes, and I could quote a score of similar -bills which have come before this Parliament within the last few years, which all honorable senators, irrespective of their geographical attachments, reciprocally supported. I feel sure that honorable senators generally will regard the sugar agreement in much the same light. However, whenever this agreement comes up for consideration there is a tendency in some quarters to point to Queensland's alleged prosperity as an argument against its ratification. 'One of the most important aspects of this measure which honorable senators should .bear in mind is that Queeusland 'has suffered considerable disability under federation. Due to the abolition of State tariffs, manufacturing production in Queensland has decreased tremendously with the result that to-day it is practically stagnant; it has not kept pace with the great increase of population. Figures published in the Commonwealth YearBoole show that if Queensland had not entered federation its manufacturing industries to-day would be employing from 20.000 to 30,000 employees more than they now employ. Thus, if it is claimed that the sugar industry gives employment to, say, from '20,000 to 30,000 employees, and this is pointed to as an alleged benefit, I remind honorable senators that such a development only compensates Queensland for losses suffered by its manufacturing industries 'as r. result of federation.

Senator Gibson - The sugar industry would 'have been in trie soup now if Queensland had not joined the federation.

Senator J V MACDONALD (QUEENSLAND) - That might have happened, but I stress the fact that compared with the rapid development of the manufacturing industries in Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide Queensland manufacture is practically stagnant. It has been pointed out that the motor body-building industry in Adelaide has benefited very greatly from protection. Furthermore, Queenslanders purchase a large quantity of Tasmanian jams and fruits; in doing so, I think, they adopt a patriotic attitude. They regard themselves as Australian, and being partners with the people of the other States in a Commonwealth, they believe that it is for the good of Australian industry as a whole that they should consume Australian-made goods.

I have covered this matter briefly; I do not intend to go into the genesis of the sugar agreement. I emphasize that the industry had a rough time. In 1922, when the freetraders tried to smash this agreement, they described it as a war measure. It may have originated as a war measure, but it is too valuable to be lost to-day. During the war it saved Australian consumers of sugar £15,000,000, because under this agreement we were able to buy our sugar in those years very cheaply when the world parity was about1s. 6d. per lb. This agreement in its relation to defence, the populating of the northern regions of Australia, and our prosperity generally, is of vital importance to this country. Queensland is practically the greatest market for Australian-manufactured goods, and the sugar industry plays a very important part in the economic life of Australia. I hope that my remarks answer the arguments of those opposed to this agreement and show conclusively that for whatever concessions Queensland receives through this agreement the other States are adequately compensated. I point out also that a decreasing number of cane-growers are taxpayers. If the price of sugar were reduced by½d. or1d. per lb., which is a big reduction in relation to the present price of 4d., it would not be profitable to grow sugar in Queensland and thus the industry would be destroyed.

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