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Wednesday, 9 November 1904

Mr GROOM (Darling Downs) - I trust that the Minister of Trade and Customs will make some response to the appeal of the honorable member for Herbert, and favour honorable members with a definite statement with respect to the continuance of the sugar bounty. I can assure, the Minister that the statement made by the Treasurer, that he was favorably disposed towards the continuance of the bounty, was received with considerable satisfaction, and that, if a definite pronouncement that the Cabinet as a whole - including the representatives of both political sides - were in favour of the extension of the bounty beyond the time now fixed, unbounded satisfaction would be felt in Queensland, and those engaged in sugar production would proceed about their work with renewed confidence. The reason why I desire that the bounty should be continued is that those who are engaged in sugar-growing have shown a strong desire to loyally bow to the will of this Parliament, and to make sugar growing an occupation for white men. If the Minister could only make a favorable pronouncement on behalf of the Cabinet, as a whole, it would be received with very great satisfaction.

Mr Robinson - By whom?

Mr GROOM - By the sugar-growers in Queensland, and, I venture to say, also by the great majority of the people of Australia. We are now a Federation, and we are required to view Australian problems from a national stand-point. Ithink that I may claim that the representatives of Queensland as a. whole, have regarded the problems presented to them from a broad point of view. We have asked only for due consideration for the industries of Queensland, but we have endeavoured to grant our assistance to any industry, irrespective of the portion of the Commonwealth in which it might be carried on, which could be shown to be worthy of national support. I believe that that standard has been maintained throughout.

Mr BRUCE SMITH (PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The representatives of Queensland have been specially solicitous for their own industries.

Mr GROOM - I think we have adopted a fair attitude throughout. No doubt, from the stand-point of the honorable and learned member, he has also taken a national view of these matters. This is not a question merely of free-trade and protection, because we know that there are other economic problems surrounding it. This House decided that it would endeavour to lay down conditions under which the sugar industry could be carried on by white men, and the evidence furnished recently by Dr. Maxwell corroborates the view expressed by many honorable members at the time the sugar bonuses were granted. I need not say anything with regard to the magnitude of the industry, because the Minister must be well aware of that. It would be very gratifying indeed if he could make some definite pronouncement as to the attitude of the Cabinet before the House rises.

Sir John Forrest - The honorable and learned member is looking a long way ahead.

Mr GROOM - No, I am not, because the provision for bounties will expire at the end of 1906,

Sir John Forrest - That is a long way ahead.How can the Minister promise anything bevond that period?

Mr.GROOM. - He can easily make a promise on the subject. I do not desire that this question should be viewed from a party stand-point. It has been dealt with by all honorable members as a national question. When the right honorable member for Swan urged the claims of the proposed railway survey from Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta he asked that it should be considered from a national stand-point, and we adopted that attitude. Although some of our constituents in Queensland have subjected us to criticism for supporting a proposal for the survey for the construction of the Western Australian railway, we have stood by the right honorable gentleman, and we expect the same consideration that we have displayed towards him.

Mr Ewing - The honorable and learned member might explain that a sugar-cane crop lasts for seven years, and that only two more years are provided for under the present Act.

Mr GROOM - Exactly. I trust that the Minister will see his way to give us a definite pronouncement on the matter.

Mr BRUCE SMITH (PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I hope that he will not ; he has no right to bind future Parliaments.

Mr GROOM - The honorable and learned member forgets that the matter will have to be dealt with by this Parliament, because the provision for the bounty expires at the end of 1906. The Ministry have control of the policy of the country, and we are entitled to a clear pronouncement of their views. The question whether the industry is to- be further developed by those who are ready to embark their capital in it, may depend upon the policy announced by the Government. Moreover, it is only fair to the public that, they should be made acquainted with the intentions of the Government. I desire to refer to the matter which was mentioned by the honorable member for Riverina. I think the Minister might show favorable consideration to the claim of Mrs, Smith. What is the position? Here is a widow who has a claim against the Government. The Stature apparently requires that no claim can be made for the refund of duty unless evidence can be produced that a protest was made at the time the duty was paid. The Statute requires, further, that the protest shall be in writing, merely because evidence is required to the effect that the protest was made. It is, therefore, purely a question of evidence. The Department does not dispute the facts, but the point is that if Mrs. Smith desires to make a claim, she will have to prove that a protest was made, and in proof of that protest produce a written document.

Mr McLean - Has the honorable and learned member looked into the case?

Mr GROOM - I am speaking merely from the point of view of the honorable member for Riverina, on the only fact put before ihe House. I hope that the Minister will give the matter his attention.

Mr McLean - I intend to refer to it.

Mr GROOM - It seems to me that the claim is a just one. As was stated by the honorable member for Riverina, the question is simply whether a protest was made at the time the duty was paid. According to the letter read by the honorable member for Riverina, the Department admit that the protest was made; but as no written protest was made at the time the duty was paid, the evidence required by the Statute cannot be produced. When the demand for the duty was made in the first instance, the honorable member for Riverina saw the Minister of Trade and Customs, and was told that a protest would have to be made. He informed the person interested, and was afterwards advised that the duty had been- paid under protest. If these facts are clear, Mrs. Smith has an absolutely just claim. It is quite true that technically, owing to the absence of a written document proving that a protest was made, Mrs. Smith might not be able to establish her claim in a Court of Law, but certainly according to the equities of the case she is entitled to a refund of the duty. Moreover, in view of the cases which have been decided by the Minister, she seems to have precedent in her favour as well. Of course, if the Minister of Trade and Customs is in possession of another version of the matter-

Mr McLean - The other cases to which the honorable member refers are of a very different nature.

Mr GROOM - Whilst the honorable member for Riverina was addressing the Committee the Minister did not indicate that fact in any way.

Mr McLean - I did not think that it was necessary for me to rise so early in the discussion.

Mr GROOM - Upon the face of the letters which the honorable member for Riverina has' produced, I think that he hasestablished a very strong case, and that he would be justified in moving for a slight reduction of this vote, in order to insurejustice being done.

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