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Thursday, 5 December 1935

Senator JAMES McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) . - It has been most refreshing to listen to Senator Johnston debating this, subject from an angle entirely different from that from which other honorable senators have viewed it. Until Senator DuncanHughes spoke this afternoon, we. had seen only one side of the picture. "Before leaving South Australia, and since I ha ve been in Canberra, in common with other honorable senators I have been deluged with letters and circulars similar to those from which Senator Johnston quoted to-night. I was inclined to believe that those responsible for their production were somewhat hysterical, but the Queensland representatives in this chamber appear to be in a similar state of mind. Only one honorable senator favours the removal of the embargo, so we are safe in assuming that 99 per cent, of the members of the Senate support the agreement.

Senator Brown - Three years ago eleven honorable senators were in favour of the removal of the embargo.

Senator JAMES McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - I am speaking of the Senate as it is constituted to-day. It has been said by previous speakers that Australia is now becoming accustomed to tariffs, trade treaties, preferences, quotas and embargoes, and it would appear that we have reached the stage when trade cannot be carried on without these artificial aids. We have been twitted with the fact that those engaged in the production of butter, wheat and other commodities receive government assistance; but I should like to tell those honorable senators who have mentioned the prices of butter and wheat that if the wheatgrowers received the same consideration in respect of wheat as Queensland receives in respect of sugar they would be receiving 9s. 3d. a bushel; if the butter producers were assisted to the same extent as are the sugar producers, they would be receiving 3s. a lb. for their product. We are not opposed to the embargo, but we are interested in the Government's proposals from a business standpoint. As business men, we should determine whether we are not paying too high a price for sugar, and if it is not practicable to reduce it in the interests of the Australian consumers. We do not wish to injure the industry. Senator Crawford, who delivered a most interesting speech on the subject, said that if the Australian consumers are paying Queensland £5,100,000 a year as a moiety towards the industry, the Queensland people were paying the Commonwealth generally more than that. For instance, he said that Queensland contributed £700,000 towards State grants, and purchased produce from the southern States valued at £4,000,000. There was another item of £400,000 making up the total I have mentioned. He overlooked the fact that the £5,100,000 paid to Queensland is distributed amongst 100,000 engaged in the industry, whereas the other transactions are between the entire populations of Queensland and the other States.

Senator Crawford - The other States are not buying any other protected commodities from Queensland.

Senator JAMES McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - The one which they are purchasing should be sufficient. One honorable senator said that only 23 per cent, of those engaged in the industry paid income tax, but during the last five years I do not think that 23 per cent, of other primary producers have been paying any income tax. It was refreshing to hear Senator Brown speak so favorably concerning the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. If he finds that there is so much good in this company cannot he find good in other similar industrial concerns which are just as beneficial to the country? The Colonial Sugar Refining Company belongs to the sugar industry.

Senator Collings - It does not, and it is not concerned in this agreement.

Senator JAMES McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - The Colonial Sugar Refining Company is vitally interested in the production of sugar. An honorable senator stated this afternoon, in outlining the history of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, that the enterprise was established in Sydney 90 years ago.

Senator Crawford - It has given considerable assistance to the industry.

Senator Grant - The Colonial Sugar Refining Company is still financing the industry; yet, Senator Collings says that it is not concerned with this agreement.

Senator JAMES McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - I shall support the second reading of the bill. I understand that an amendment will be moved.

Senator Millen - An agreement cannot be amended.

Senator COLLINGS (QUEENSLAND) - Surely the honorable senator does not lend himself to repudiation.

Senator JAMES McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - I shall await the amendment to be moved by Senator Duncan-Hughes at the committee stage.

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