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Wednesday, 9 November 1904

Mr FISHER (Wide Bay) - I do not complain of the honorable member for Parramatta taking exception to my interjection that he knew nothing whatever about this subject. As a matter of fact, our jam-makers at present receive a drawback upon any sugar employed in the manufacture of jam which is exported to other countries. The jam manufacturers of Australia enjoy a highly-protected market. The article they produce is dutiable to the full extent of the sugar that is contained in it. Only the other evening I quoted figures to show that, so far from Queens- arid having acted in a dog-in-the-manger spirit, in regard to jam, it has purchased the whole of its supplies, with the exception of , £800 worth, from Australian manufacturers. If our jam manufacurers import the sugar which they use, at least fivesixths of the amount of duty is returned to them by way of drawback.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - And the other onesixth is a sufficient handicap to keep them out of the markets of the world.

Mr FISHER - Does the honorable member say that that is what he had in his mind just now?

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Most certainly. It is equal to £1 per ton.

Mr FISHER - It scarcely amounts to that But, even then, the home market of the jam manufacturers is highly protected - almost as highly protected as is sugar itself. A great deal has been said in reference to the amount which is paid by way of bounty to the sugar-growers. Is there any justification for an Excise upon sugar? There is no such duty upon potatoes or grain, yet nobody would suggest that an Excise should be levied. The Excise is imposed upon sugar to enable the bounty to be paid. I note that the Treasurer estimates that the production of sugar in Queensland this year will be 129,000 tons, and that in New South Wales, 20,600 tons. An excise duty of £3 will be paid upon every ton of that sugar, or a total of£448,800. Only£100,000 of that amount will be returned to the white growers by way of bounty. The balance of£348,800 will be distributed among the States of the Commonwealth which consume the sugar. Does that fact substantiate the assertion, that the other States pay this bounty? As a matter of fact, the sugargrowers might fairly complain that they are being; penalized to contribute to the revenue of the other States. What is the reason underlying the payment of this bounty? It is that most of us prefer to see a native industry conducted by our own people. Need I remind the honorable member for Parramatta that a New South Wales Government of a virtually free-trade character retained a dutyof . £3 per ton upon sugar, upon the plea that it was not fair to ask the white growers to compete with sugar which was produced by coloured labour in the neighbouring State?

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - There were other reasons. The major reason was that the Government could not " square " the revenue.

Mr FISHER - At any rate, a number of the supporters of the Government represented sugar districts, and they would have preferred to sacrifice the Government rather than to sacrifice the sugar industry. It was recognised that per ton was a fair difference to allow between the cost of employing white and black labour in the canefields.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Does the honorable member know that the sugar representatives were all opposed to the Government?

Mr FISHER - Upon the occasion in question, quite a number of them supported the Ministry. However, I have no desire to enter into New South Wales political history. The duty upon jam, to which reference has been made, is1½d. per lb. Surely upon sugar it is not proportionately larger?


Mr FISHER - I do not complain of the impost upon jam. With the exception of £800 worth, Queensland purchases all her jam locally. Surely it is not too much to ask the other States to reciprocate. I would further point out that not onefourth of the duty collected upon sugar is handed back to the white growers. I regret that the amount is not larger. I regret that white labour production has not expanded more rapidly, although it has grown quite as quickly as I anticipated. After a careful scrutiny of all the reports upon the subject - reports which range over an area extending from the far north of Queensland to its most southern portion - I am pleased to say that wherever white labour has been tried in the cane-fields, it has been commended, even by its opponents. The point which we have to bear in mind is that at the present time the industry is in a state of transition. The Minister of Trade and Customs has said that the Watson Government had no policy upon this question.

Mr McLean - Not for this session.

Mr FISHER - I clearly stated in Queensland that the policy of the leader of the late Government was that the Sugar Bounty Act should not terminate at the date fixed.Why was a limit to its operation inserted in the measure?

Mr McLean - How long did the late Government propose to allow it to remain in operation?

Mr FISHER - We proposed, as I advocated at the outset, that the limitation should be eliminated from the Excise

Act and the Sugar Bounty Act. Why should we fix any particular limit when we may terminate the system at any time? The policy of the late Government was to continue thepresent system of dealing with the industry.

Mr McLean - The late Government did not tell us that they intended to deal with the matter during the present session.

Mr FISHER - The accusation brought against the leader of the late Government was that he was attempting too much.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - But he did not propose to deal with the sugar industry in the way indicated by the honorable member.

Mr FISHER - The honorable gentleman must recognise that there is. a vast difference between initiating a new policy and continuing one already in existence. A statement that it was the intention of the Government to continue the present policy might be made in the last days of the Parliament.

Mr McLean - But only Parliament could authorize the continuation of the present policy.

Mr FISHER - Surely the Government do not propose to wait until a motion dealing with the subject is submitted before they make up their minds as to the course to be pursued in dealing with the industry.

Mr McLean - No, the Government might make a proposal to continue the present policy ; but it would be for the Parliament to say whether it should be continued.

Mr FISHER - The question we were discussing was whether the late Government had any policy in regard to this matter.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - If they had, it was never put before the Parliament.

Mr FISHER - I have already mentioned that the programme put before the House by the leader of the late Government was criticized on the score of its length, and I say that it should not be difficult for a Government to determine to continue a policy already in existence. The bounty was proposed in conjunction with an excise duty to assist the white grower, but a clause was inserted into the Act limiting its opertaion to 1st January, 1907, because the present Prime Minister made a clear and distinct statement that he would honour such a provision. I objected to the fixing of any limit, believing that it was undesirable that legislation, except that which is extremely experimental, should be expressly limited for a certain period. No one Parliament can dictate to another, and I did my best to prevent the insertion of the provision in question.

Mr G B EDWARDS (SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Would the honorable member have the matter debated every year? He says that he would not have any limit to the operation of the bounty.

Mr FISHER - I say that I would leave Parliament to decide how long the bounty system should continue.

Mr Groom - The honorable member would allow the Sugar Bounty Act to continue until it is repealed.

Mr FISHER - Quite so. I should be quite satisfied if the Government were prepared to strike out the limitation to the operation of the Sugar Bounty Act, and the Excise Act of 1902.

Mr G B EDWARDS (SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I should think the honorable member would.

Mr FISHER - We should then have a right to debate the matter every year. We should be able, if necessary to refuse to grant supply, so that we should retain full power to discontinue the policy at any time. Why should an Act passed by a Parliament which is now dead, be the means of causing uneasiness in the minds of the white sugargrowers in regard to a matter with which the present Parliament is quite competent to deal? At the time it was thought by some honorable members that this legislation was experimental, and that its operation should be limited to a certain period. The question for this or any succeeding Government, is whether the experiment has been sucessful.

Mr Johnson - Were not these Estimates framed by the late Government?

Mr FISHER - That is not a pertinent question. I am not complaining of the Estimates. It is our privilege to engage in a general discussion on the first item in the Estimates of every Department.

Mr Johnson - But, surely, the honorable member must have thought of this before the Estimates were considered by the Cabinet of which he was a member.

Mr FISHER - We certainly did consider the matter, and I made a statement that the leader of the late Government was in favour of the continuation of the bounty system.

Mr Wilson - For how long?

Mr FISHER - For as long as the Parliament was prepared to grant the necessary vote. All that I ask - and I think that my fellow-representatives of Queensland will agree with me in making this request - is that the limit to the operation of the sugar bounty and excise provisions should be eliminated. It would then be open to any honorable member to attack the principle at any time. I do not object to any one making an attack upon it ; but the danger at present is that white sugar-growers have no guarantee that the system will be continued. While our policy has proved successful, they will not enter upon the work with the same enthusiasm as they would if the limitation were removed, leaving Parliament free to decide the policy to be pursued. That is the whole matter at issue between the Minister and myself.

Mr McLean - Surely the honorable member will admit that if we did not fix limit to the operation of the bounty and excise system, but left Parliament free to abolish it at any time, the sugar-growers would have no guarantee beyond the current financial year.

Mr FISHER - Speaking for some sugar-growers, I prefer the course which I always advocated. There should be no express provision limiting the operation of the system for a given number of years, but we should trust the Parliament. Even if we provided that the Sugar Bounty Act should continue until 1915, we should not bind any future Parliament. The Treasurer of the day, if he had a majority behind him, might immediately stop the necessary supplies. It is amere delusion to impose such a limitation to the operation of an Excise Act. I do not say that a Government would do anything of the kind I have just suggested, but I wish to impress upon honorable members the fact that the limit was fixed because the present Prime Minister said he would respect the principle up to the 1st January, 1907. When this legislation was before us there were two contending parties. The one party stated that" under no circumstances would white labour produce any large quantity of sugar-cane in Queensland, while the other party, constituting, I am happy to say, a majority of the honorable members of this House, were able to state that they believed that white labour could not only grow sugar-cane, but cultivate it successfully, and in increasing quantities, and that ultimately the production of sugar by white labour would be greater than the output by coloured labour. Those statements have proved correct. The contention of those who believe in the policy of a White Australia has been, absolutely borne out by the facts. Every development has been in favour of the principle of white labour. Honorable members will surely agree that it is far more satisfactory to be able to point to nearly 2,200 white farmers who are now growing sugar-cane in Queensland than to have merely fifty or sixty large plantations in that State employing some thousands of coloured labourers.

Mr Wilson - Will white workers ever be able to grow sugar properly withouta bonus ?

Mr FISHER - They will if they are given fair competition. Does the honorable member know that the sugar excise produces over four times as much revenue as is paid by way of bounties?

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - That does not help the producer who uses sugar.

Mr FISHER - The producer who uses the sugar has made no complaint.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I must retort that the honorable member knows nothing about the matter.

Mr FISHER - I do not pretend to say that the honorable member may not have been upbraided perhaps once or twice in a friendly way about supporting a system which has led to an increase in the price of sugar, but no complaint on that score has reached this House. If we had an opportunity to take a referendum on this question, I feel that the Government would soon have a policy about which there could be no mistake in regard to the industry. An idea has grown up in the minds of many Victorians that they contribute towards the payment of the sugar bounty, and that the money so paid by the Government is not raised from the sugar-growers themselves. That is a wrong impression. At the present time there are two divisions in Queensland. The producers by black labour desire the excise to terminate, and are indifferent as to whether the bounty system is allowed to lapse or not. If the excise were abolished they would still have a protection of £6 per ton against the imported article, and would have the assistance of coloured labour in competing with the white growers. The result would be that the 2,200 farmers who are sustaining their families by the cultivation of sugar-cane would have to compete against the cheapest labour in the world, and would not be able to fight against it. In that event we should then return to the state of things which existed in Queensland for the years preceding 1901, when those in favour of coloured labour always urged that white labour was not competent to compete with it in the cultivation of sugar-cane. At the same time they knew very well that they got the coloured labour for at least one-third what a white man could live on. If honorable members desire that white labour shall have only the same standard of comfort and of living as is sufficient for the kanakas, let them discontinue the bounties ; but if they do not, and wish" to protect the white labourers, they must continue the bounties. Every expert has pointed out that the difference of £2 per ton made by the bounties is not more than the economic difference in value between the two classes of labour, assuming that the white man and the kanaka are equal, though it has been lately demonstrated in Southern Queensland that the white man is better than the black man, and even in Northern Queensland he has shown himself able to do more than the black man can do. A great deal has been said about the migration of Asiatic labour to Northern Queensland, though it has not been of any great volume. The Minister of Trade and Customs some time ago made a suggestion that the Chinamen here-

Mr McLean - I did not make the suggestion to which the honorable member is about to refer; it was made to me. I denied the statement in this Chamber immediately after it was attributed to me.

Mr FISHER - I am glad to hear that. The statement is one which I did not expect from the honorable member. It has been pointed out to me incidentally that the duty on jam is£14 a ton, while the duty on sugar is only£6 a ton.

Mr G B EDWARDS (SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The duty on jam is£12 a ton, and the only protected ingredient in locally-made jam is sugar.

Mr FISHER - With a duty of £12 a ton on jam and £6 a ton on sugar the fruit-growers have the same protection as the sugar-growers.


Mr FISHER - The honorable member has in mind the fact that if jams were admitted free of duty, the local manufacturer would be at a disadvantage through having to buy sugar on which a duty has been imposed. Local jam makers who export their jam, however, pay only one-sixth of the duty. When I was Minister of Trade and Customs, I laid down the rule that every facility should be given for the export of jam and other manufactures to foreign markets, and it is a mistaken idea that the rebate on sugar exported in jams injures the sugar-growers of Australia. If imported sugar is used by manufacturers, they pay £6 a ton duty on it, but on exporting their goods they get a drawback of £5 a ton, and the fallacy of the contention that this injures the Australian producers of sugar lies in the assumption that the jam which contains it is sold in the local market. As a matter of fact, it is sold in a foreign market, and any other policy would be a doginthemanger one, which would not benefit any one. It is most advisable, for the sake of the sugar-growers and of the Australian public, that the Ministry should make an early declaration of their policy in regard to the extension of the bounty system. For the last three years the bounty system has worked well, and has been demonstratedto be a sound one.

Mr McLean - It will be necessary to deal with the matter early next session.

Mr FISHER - I am glad to have that statement. A similar statement was made by the Treasurer, who says that he has full sympathy with the sugar-growers. . I believe that the subject has only to be investigated by the Ministry to receive favorable attention/ and I hope that Ministers will make a declaration of policy in regard to it before the session closes. The proposal of the honorable member for Parramatta that the question should be referred to the Royal Commission on the Tariff must be resisted by every one who supports the White Australia policy. At any rate, if the Government intend to refer the matter to the Royal Commission, they should first amend the two Acts under which the payment of bounties and the levying of excise duties on sugar terminate two years hence, because this subject differs from the other Tariff questions by reason of the fact that, whereas the duties on the Tariff continue to be levied until altered or removed, the payment of bounties terminates at the end of two years. If, however, the Government are prepared to amend the two Acts to which I refer, I shall not object to the remission of the question to the Royal Commission. Otherwise, while the Commission is discussing the. subject, the bounties will cease to be payable.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable member should assume that the Commissioners, as business men, will deal first with the most urgent question submitted to. them.

Mr FISHER - I have had some experience of Royal Commissions, and I have never yet found one to come up to expectations in the matter of expedition. It is a method of conducting public business with which I am not in accord, though I have had to do with the appointment of some Royal Commissions. Fortunately, the excise duties terminate at the same time as the bounties, which should make it easier for the Government to make up their minds on the whole subject. Those who are now complaining of the cost of the bounties will not like to lose the £348,800 which is the credit balance from Excise on sugar after paying the bounties. That is a matter which has frequently been lost sight of during these discussions. I should like to give a number of figures relating to the whole subject, but I do not wish to mix up technical matters with a question of policy. What we are most concerned about is a question of policy.

Mr McLean - The deportation of kanakas must be concluded by the 1st January, 1907.

Mr FISHER - That has nothing whatever to do with the question of the payment of sugar bounties. The Minister must remember that a large number of kanakas are not deportable, and that in addition to the kanakas who remain here there will be a considerable number of coloured aliens whom it will be possible to employ upon sugar plantations. The bounty was given to encourage the employment of white labour in the sugar industry, which we maintain is a white man's industry. We have proved that it is so, because white men are making a success of it.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - This Parliament is making it a success.

Mr FISHER - I am content to allow the honorable member to have his little joke. I was exceedingly pleased to hear him say that he had an open mind on this question. That says a great deal Tor the Honorable member.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - A speech like the honorable member's is not calculated to help his cause much.

Mr FISHER - Perhaps not. I am putting rav case in my own way ; no doubt the honorable member could, do much more justice to it. I am, however, pointing out the facts as they appear to me. Does not the honorable member think that it is only fair that I should point out that the excise collected upon sugar grown in the Commonwealth" far exceeds the amount of the bounty returned to the white growers, and that the provision for the excise duty and for the bounties terminates at the same time, namely, upon the 31st December, 1906? Sugar-growing is an industry in which a large amount of work has to be done before a crop can be cut. I know of no subject upon which there is so much misapprehension as that of sugar-growing. The Excise Tariff Act of 1902 provides that upon sugar there shall be a duty of 3s. until the 1st January, 1907, less from the 1st July, 1902, a rebate to the grower of sugar-caneand beet. The rebate, in the case of sugar-cane, is to be 4s. per ton on all cane delivered for manufacture, and in the production of which sugar-cane white labour onlyhas been employed after the 28th February, 1902. Not only the growers of sugarcane, but also the growers of beet, for the production of sugar, are to receive a bounty. The representatives of New South Wales and Queensland have not manifested a selfish spirit in connexion with this question, because they readily consented to the amendment which was intended to extend the advantage of the bounty to the growers of beet-sugar. The bonus is intended to encourage the production of beet-sugar in Victoria and other States, and I say "good luck" to the growers of beet-sugar if they can make a success of their undertakings.. I can find no justification for the conclusion that a country becomes poorer by producing commodities such as sugar.

Mr Lonsdale - We may become poorer if we pay too much for it.

Mr FISHER - The honorable member was not present when I explained that the Excise duty collected upon sugar far exceeds the sum distributed among the sugargrowers by way of bounty.

Mr Lonsdale - Surely some one is so much poorer by reason of the fact that Excise duties are levied?

Mr FISHER - I shall not attempt to enter into an argument upon that point at present. My contention is that the larger our productions of wheat, sugar, and other staple commodities, the greater will be our prosperity.

Mr. G.B. EDWARDS (South Sydney). - The honorable member for Wide Bay has well said that this subject is very complicated, and that it is not every one who understands it. I think that I am free to state from my own knowledge of one side of it, that the honorable member does not understand that aspect of the question, although, no doubt, he ably represents the interests of those who are engaged in the cultivation of sugar cane. I made a few remarks at a previous stage of this discussion, and should not have risen again except for the fact that the subject has been discussed in considerable detail. I deprecate the waste of so much time in the discussion of a question of high policy - a difficult question, as the honorable member for Wide Bay admits, and one that cannot be debated upon an occasion like this in such a way as to throw any new light upon it, or help us to an ultimate conclusion. Several honorable members are browbeating the Government in connexion with the discussion of the Estimates, with a view to induce them to make a declaration of policy, which they must know no Government could make in the circumstances. Ministers have committed themselves to the appointment of a Tariff Commission, and, therefore, could not make a declaration of policy on a question which must be closely related to the findings of that body. The Government have to think of a great deal in connexion with this matter before they make up their minds. Any hostile criticism of mine directed to the efforts of the representatives of Queensland to have this matter viewed in. a light favorable to themselves, may reasonably be accepted with good will, in view of the fact that I have been such a good friend to the White Australia policy, and have already declared myself as favorable to the continuation of the sugar bounty in some form or other.

Mr Fisher - The Treasurer has stated that the question of the sugar bounty was to be considered apart from the Tariff Commission.

Mr G B EDWARDS (SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I do not know what the Treasurer may have said, but the manufacturers who use large quantities of sugar as raw material will demand to. be heard, and there will be no sense or justice in trying to debar them from placing their case before the Commission. They must knock at the doors of the Commission, and ask to be heard.I am not an enemy to the sugar-growers. I voted for the bounty, in the interests of a White Australia, and during the first year of its operation, together with the Excise duty, I lost £2,400.The honorable member must know that the moment we recast our fiscal arrangements, the price of sugar was increased by £2 per ton, whilst the price of jam, in the manufacture of which sugar plays a very important part, was not advanced. In one factory in which I am interested we used 1,200 tons of sugar during the first year that the Excise dutywas imposed, and therefore lost ,£2,400. Thus, ill will be seen that there are interests at stake besides those of the sugargrowers. Notwithstanding the losses I have made in the past I am. prepared to look at this question fairly, and, if neces-sary, to continue the payment of bounties to sugar-growers. I hope that the suggestion which I offered to the Government this afternoon will be adopted because I think it presents the only way in which we can emerge from the present difficult situation.

Mr Fisher - If the honorable member allows the date for the expiration of >the bounties to be eliminated, I shall be- content.

Mr G B EDWARDS (SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - We shall have to consider that matter later on. I suggested that when the Government considered the question of the period over which the bounties were to be paid - probably next session - they should endeavour to ascertain whether we could not fairly deal with it in the same manner that the Constitution deals with the Western Australian special Tariff. If we are bound to carry on this system of bounties for a further period in order to assist the sugar-growers of Queensland and New South1 Wales, we should adopt a tapering policy, which would have the effect of gradually extinguishing the bounties at the end of the two, three, five, or seven year period that may be fixed. If that course were adopted, we should know that there would be some finality to the bounties. The honorable member for Wide Bay, however, appears to favour the idea of making an extension for a fixed period over which the bounties shall be paid in full, or eliminating dates altogether, and practically providing for a bonus for all time. He stated that this is a complicated question, and undertook to show the Committee that those industries in which sugar forms the principal raw material have not been injured by the payment of the bounty, or the collection of Excise duty on sugar. I shall be able to demonstrate, however, that we have been prejudicially affected, and that the honorable member for Parramatta was quite right when he stated that the fruit industry was suffering to some extent from the operation of the Excise duty and the bounty. First of all, the honorable member for Wide Bay is not accurate in saying that we obtain a full drawback of the duty upon the sugar used in the jam we export. What we do get is five-sixths of the duty on the sugar contents of the jam, as estimated by the Customs officials. Within the last week, I took out figures showing the quantity of sugar used in one of the jam factories in New South- Wales. A case of jam weighs 72 lbs., and I found that nearly 38 lbs. of sugar was used in the manufacture of every case of jam. That would represent more than half the weight of the total contents of the case. The weight given for the jam is not the nett weight, but only the reputed weight, and, consequently, the disproportion of the amount allowed by the Customs for drawback is greater still. The weight given for the sugar would be still more than the figures would at first glance represent. Then again, the sugar does not lose weight in the boiling, whereas the fruit does. Therefore, the honorable member must see that the Customs do not give us back five-sixths of the duty which we pay on the sugar we use. The honorable member for Parramatta is quite right when he declares that the difference between the duty which is paid by our jam manufacturers, and that which is returned to them by way of drawback, constitutes a serious handicap in the markets of the world. The question of drawback is one which becomes increasingly difficult every year. I recollect when the Barton Government introduced the legislation dealing with this matter. The right honorable member for Adelaide, who was then Minister of Trade and Customs, freely acknowledged to me that it was one of the most difficult problems with which he had to deal, because he could not see how he could adequately protect the sugar industry without injuring a number of other industries. The only way in which he thought that his purpose could be accomplished was by instituting a system of drawback, and he feared that anything in the nature of a liberal system of drawback would lead to abuses, and consequent loss of revenue. I suggested that the onlyway in which these abuses could be checked was by converting the factories into bonds, and allowing drawback upon the actual quantity of sugar used in the manufacture of jam. The canned fruit, confectionery, biscuit, and brewing industries are all handicapped by reason of this legislation.

Mr Fisher - It is all a matter of administration. '

Mr G B EDWARDS (SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Administration cannot entirely overcome difficulties which laws create. I recollect attending a deputation which waited upon the right honorable member for Adelaide, in his capacity as Minister of Trade and Customs, in reference to this matter. One of the speakers directed attention to the fact that in Victoria or Tasmania it is possible to purchase a cwt. of soft plums for 2s. There is only one way in which use can possibly be made of this fruit. It cannot be exported to England as green fruit, or as frozen cargo. It can only be rendered marketable by being preserved. But before anything can be done in that direction the manufacturer is called upon to pay 6s. to the Government. Can the honorable member for Wide Bay point to any other industry in Australia which is called upon to pay a duty of 6s. upon a portion of its raw material before it can use the other portion which costs only 2 s. ? I am certain that he cannot.

Mr Tudor - Is 2s. the general price of that fruit ?

Mr G B EDWARDS (SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - It is a very common price in Melbourne. That condition of affairs is necessarily a great handicap to the jam manufacturer. It imposes a heavy burden upon a legitimate and growing trade. It also checks its development in the home market. If we are required to pay 6s. upon imported sugar, in order to convert soft plums into jam for the home market, the price of that commodity must necessarily be increased by that amount. The result is that consumption is restricted. If we increase the price of any article, it naturally follows that the demand for it must be reduced. All that we asked the two preceding Administrations to do was to allow us a fair amount by way of drawback during trip continuance of the existing legislation. If it be found necessary to extend that legislation I shall not object. I have no desire to see any industry injured, but whilst we are protecting one we should1 be careful that we do not seriously damage others. The honorable member for Wide Bay has said that while this drawback is operative there is no inducement to local manufacturers to use imported sugar as against the Colonial article. But I would point out that so long as this drawback exists - and he will admit that we could not carry on an export trade without the aid of the drawback - the manufacturer will purchase imported sugar for his export trade, and will refuse to use Australian sugar. The price of sugar, like that of wheat, is dominated by the big markets of the world. The price at which imported sugar can be landed in Sydney, plus the amount of the duty upon it, is the price which the Colonial Sugar Refining Company ask for their sugar. That must be so until we produce more sugar than is consumed in Australia. I believe that we shall reach that period very shortly. What will be the re-' suit then? Let us assume that we have even so small a balance as 5,000 tons of sugar in excess of our requirements. Then we shall be compelled to export 10,000 tons, and to import 5,000 tons, because, in order to obtain the full amount of the drawback, the local manufacturer must use the imported article. That imported sugar, less the duty, is cheaper than the Commonwealth sugar, and will always be so until Australia becomes such a large producer that it can make itself felt in the markets of the world.

Mr Fisher - That does not injure the local grower.

Mr G B EDWARDS (SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Let us suppose that a few years hence we have a surplus of 5,000 tons of sugar, and that our manufacturers find it necessary to import 5,000 tons in order to obtain the full amount of the drawback. The Commonwealth will then have to pay the freight from Australia in addition to the freight to Australia of these two lots of sugar. I repeat that the manufactures in which I am interested are handicapped very heavily by present legislation. For the sake of preserving a White Australia, I am prepared to extend that legislation a little longer. At the same time, I am strongly of opinion that the Excise duty and the bounty should be gradually diminished, so that within a specified number of years they would completely disappear. The honorable member for Wide Bay desires the Government to declare that they will indefinitely continue the policy of granting a bounty upon sugar. To do th'at would result in a fiscal fight for the repeal of such legislation every year. My suggestion is, I think, an infinitely better and more practical one. The question, I admit, is most complicated. In the House of Commons a similar discussion took place a couple of years ago, and there were very few members of the gre"at mother of Parliaments who thoroughly understood the sugar question. Our difficulties are not so great as those with which that body was confronted, but they are much greater than honorable members imagine. When the Government come to decide upon a definite policy in regard to the termination of the bounty and excise duty upon sugar they will find it a troublesome question to deal with. For these reasons I do not think it is politic for the Committee to insist upon the Government making a declaration of policy whilst the general Estimates are under consideration.

Mr. FISHER(Wide Bay).- I think that the honorable member for South Sydney will admit that it would be unfair to remit this question to the Tariff Commission for investigation, considering that the terminable period of the sugar bounty is so near. I am of opinion that the limitation provided in the Sugar Bounty Act should be excised, and that Parliament should be allowed to deal with the matter as it chooses. I am quite prepared to trust it to deal justly with the sugar-growers.

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