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Wednesday, 17 June 1903

Mr FISHER (Wide Bay) - I am quite sure that if the Treasurer, or any honorable member of this Committee, takes up the position assumed by the honorable and learned member for Werriwa, they will bedoing an" absurd thing. Is there an honorable member with any intelligence who will suggest that when the date prescribed in the Excise Tariff Act was fixed, viz., the 28th February, 1902, that was to be the only time at which the Sugar-growers could take advantage of its provisions? Does any one say that the cultivators were to dispense with black labour immediately and employ white labour only from that date? The very idea is sheer nonsense. The Committee knows very well that from year to year each phmter who desired to work the whole or any portion of his plantation by white labour only would be entitled to earn the rebate. If this year's cane be cut with black labour, and next year's crop wholly cultivated with white labour, why should not the grower obtain the rebate in respect of next year?

Mr Thomson - The Act does not prevent that.

Mr FISHER - Then why provide that, after 1903, no planter shall be able to come under the Act? Does the Minister hold to that position ?

Mr CONROY (WERRIWA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - They can come in at any time.

Mr FISHER - How can they come in ?

Mr Kingston - By growing the cane by white labour only.

Mr FISHER - But if the roots set. by black labour have been left in the ground the cane cannot be said to be grown by white labour only, and that leads us to the posi tion taken up by the honorable member for Herbert - that the roots must be ploughed out.

Mr Thomson - The Act has not been carried out in that way.

Mr FISHER - We have been quibbling about the meaning of words and the strict interpretation of the Act ; but is there any real difficulty in providing in the Bill what should be done? Why should it not be stated that when once one crop is cut and taken from the ground, the bonus shall be paid on the next if white labour only had thereafter been employed in its cultivation and harvesting ?

Sir Edward Braddon - That is not what we are getting.

Mr FISHER - The New South Wales planters have been singularly well situated in a climate in which black labour need not have been employed under any circumstances ; but, in the case of the larger planters of Queensland, the position is very different. I have always strenuously opposed the employment of black labour, and it is for that reason I am endeavouring to give the planters an opportunity of substituting white labour. Why prevent planters from reaping the advantage of the bonus at any time they are able to do so ? They have imported black labour under fairly strict conditions, and are compelled to employ it for a certain number of years, or suffer monetary loss by keeping the labourers idle. I suggest that some time should be fixed when the planters may increase the proportion of their plantings under white labour, so that they may definitely know what they are to do to earn the rebate. I should not at all object to allow the long terra of twelve months - to provide that planters must work with white labour for that period before they earn the bonus. At any rate, they ought to know exactly the conditions; arid I believe the Government and Parliament wish to do what is fair. It is with the object of carrying out the idea of a white Australia that I make these remarks, and I believe that when honorable members understand the question they will do what is right.

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