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Thursday, 23 June 1904

Mr MCDONALD (Kennedy) - Some reference has been made to Italian immigrants, and some exception has been taken to what has been said concerning them. With reference to the Italians in Queensland, I may explain that when the Government of that State passed legislation to put an end to the introduction of kanakas to work in the sugar industry, and at about the time fixed for the importation of kanakas to expire, the present Chief Justice of Australia, Sir Samuel Griffith, devised a scheme for introducing a number of Italians. I think that about 1,000 Italians were brought out. But their services were not very valuable to the sugar industry. They did not remain long upon the plantations. I believe that within about six months from the time when they landed there was scarcely one Italian to be found working in the cane fields. Most of them drifted into competition with the miners and wood cutters in and around Charters Towers and other parts of North Queensland. The Charters Towers district got the great bulk of them. I know- from personal experience - having organized a very large number of these Italians into unions - that they are some of the best unionists we have in the North of Queensland. They are steady, industrious men, and their services have been of benefit to the country as miners. But, while recognising that fact, I for one should decidedly object to the sugar planters or any other section of the community indenting large bodies of Italians, or any other kind of labour, to work in the sugar industry, or in any other occupation. I do not merely object to indenting Italians - I object to all forms of cheap indented labour. I do not believe that an experiment in the way of introducing the Italians to work in the sugar industry would be successful, and certainly I should object to their coming out in large bodies. With reference to the position of the sugar industry itself, present reports indicate that we are likely to have one of the best seasons that Queensland has ever known, and the production, judging from the present rate of progress, will increase very largely. Therefore, it is clear that the legislation passed by this Parliament prohibiting the immigration of kanakas to work in the cane fields has neither done the industry any harm, nor has it brought about that ruin which was predicted by a large number of people. With reference to the statement published in a cablegram in this morning's Argus, respecting the remarks of Sir Horace Tozer, all I can say is that I should not be a bit surprised if, in the long run, it turned out to be "a tozer," and every one in Queensland knows pretty well what that term means.

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