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Wednesday, 2 November 1904

Sir GEORGE TURNER (BalaclavaTreasurer) (Treasurer) - On Thursday last the honorable and learned member for Parkes asked me without notice a question relating to the sugar bounties payable, and to the areas under cultivation by black and by white labour, in Queensland. In reply I mentioned that I had been struck with the peculiarity that practically equal areas of land under cultivation by white and by black labour produced very different quantities of sugar, and I mentioned that I was trying to ascertain from Queensland the explanation of the figures which had been furnished to me by the Customs Department there, and upon which I had to' depend, because the Treasury has no means of checking them. To-day the following letter, dated 26th October, reached me from the Collector of Customs at Brisbane, and I will read it for the information of honorable members : -

Sir, -Referring to your telegram of 24th inst., which reads, "As the acreage under black and white labour in Queensland is nearly equal, how is it that so much more sugar is produced by black than by white labour," I have the honour to advise that in my wire of 12th September, X904, it was stated that the approximate number of acres of white grown cane in 1904 was 56,289 acres, and the black area was 57,492, or a total area of 113,691 acres. The black area was arrived at by deducting the white area from the total area under cultivation. With regard to the question asked, it is pointed out that the bulk of the coloured area is situated in the northern districts, where the production of sugar is greater per acre than in the southern, also the whole of the coloured area is under cane, and will in all probability be crushed during the 1904 season, which will account for the larger estimated production of coloured sugar. The white area of 56,289 acres, chiefly situated in the less productive southern districts, represents the acres registered for bounty, but does not show the area under productive cane, as white growers give notice to register a white plantation, say 50 acres, of which 10 may bc cane to be crushed, 20 to be planted, and the balance to be planted the following years; also in the case of growers who are giving up coloured labour, the crop will be taken ofl as black sugar, and the land afterwards registered for bounty under the twelve months' notice, which has been done in several cases. These factors were taken into consideration when arriving at the approximate number of acres, black and white, for 1904. ' It is probable that the whole of "the white area given for 1904 may produce sugar in the coming season, 1905. If it is required to show the actual area under whitegrown cane, irrespective of the area registered for bounty, it would be advisable to amend sugar regulation 12, so as to provide for the giving of white and black-grown areas separately in the annual returns, as a number of growers produce both black and w'hite cane, and the areas under cultivation are constantly varying by ploughing out old cane, and allowing the land to remain fallow.

What i had asked forwere figures as to the areas under cultivation by black and by white labour, and I naturally assumed that the figures supplied related to the areas actually under cultivation, and not merely to registered areas, only part of which might be under cultivation during the year. I hope to get more accurate figures from the Customs authorities in. Queensland, and., if so, I shall publish them, and I shall take care that no similar error occurs when the next Budget papers are laid before honorable members. It is very annoying that this misapprehension has occurred, but I am glad that honorable members have drawn attention to the matter, though I had myself noticed the discrepancy, and had asked for an explanation prior to it being mentioned in this Chamber.

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