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Thursday, 16 November 1905

Senator DE LARGIE (Western Australia) - This motion is of a character which will, I suppose, provoke a great deal of discussion. The principle underlying the proposal has caused considerable discussion outside the walls of Parliament, and I hope that before this debate is closed it will be opposed on the floor of the Senate, so that the arguments of its opponents may be refuted. I notice that many opponents of Socialism - and it must be admitted that the socialistic principle is involved in this motion - are very bold indeed in the presence of anti-Socialists, and give expression to all kinds of wild statements which bear no resemblance to the truth. Knowing that they are quite safe in the company of their friends they take all kinds of liberty with the subject. I hope that the champions of Individualism will be equally courageous on the floor of the Senate, where advocates of Socialism can meet them on a footing of equality, which we cannot get elsewhere. We know how the press buttresses the cause of Individualism and suppresses or misrepresents the cause of Socialism. We are not on a footing of equality with individualists when we appeal to the public through that channel, but here the position is different'; we are all on a footing of equality here. We can rely on a truthful report of our speeches being sent out to the public through the pages of Hansard, and that is a great deal more than we can hope toget from the capitalistic press. By his speech, Senator Givens has shown that he is thoroughly familiar with the phase of this question. I think that the Senate is under a debt of gratitude to him for the masterly manner in which he submitted his case. It has been submitted in so complete a form that there is really very little left for others to say on his side of the question..

Senator Walker - How are we going to pay that debt?

Senator DE LARGIE - Whether Senator Walker agrees with the conclusions of Senator Givens or not, I think that in fairness he must admit , that my honorable friend displayed a thorough grasp of the subject in moving the motion. I am not so optimistic as to think that the principle of the motion will be adopted straight away. I dare say that a considerable time will elapse before the people of Australia shall have become sufficiently alive to their interests to perceive the road in which they should travel, and the way in which legislation should be shaped. I dare say that we shall have a great deal of tinkering legislation in this regard, and that the people of Australia will act in the same stupid way as they have done for many years past in granting bounties, protection, and financial assistance in other ways to the sugar industry as at present conducted.

Senator Lt Col Gould - What bounty has the Colonial Sugar Refining Company received ?

Senator DE LARGIE - I am sorry to say that it receives practically the greater portion of the benefit from the bounties that the people of Australia have provided.

Senator Mulcahy - It gets about £20,000 a year from Tasmania.

Senator DE LARGIE - By the complete way in which this company has obtained control of the refining of sugar in Australia, the bounties granted by the people of this country have, for the most part, ultimately fallen into its coffers. From the growing of the cane until the sugar becomes a finished atricle, ready to be put into the hands of the grocer for sale to the consumer, the Colonial Sugar Refining Company maintains a monopoly of the trade.

Senator Walker - Will the honorable senator tell us what constitutes a monopoly?

Senator DE LARGIE - If the honorable senator requires instructions as to what constitutes a monopoly, I shall have to commence with the A B C of political economy.

Senator WALKER (NEW SOUTH WALES) - How can the company's business be a monopoly when there are three or four other concerns conducting the same kind of business?

Senator Givens - They can only conduct it under the terms which the Colonial Sugar Refining Company dictates.

Senator DE LARGIE - If Senator Walker had been paying attention to Senator

Givens when he submitted this motion, and had taken a note of the figures presented, he would have seen that it was true, beyond a shadow of doubt, that nearly 90 per cent, of the sugar trade of Australia is in the hands of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company.

Senator Walker - Senator Givens said 80 per cent. ; that is not 90 per cent.

Senator DE LARGIE - It is near enough, at all events, to show that the company has practically a monopoly of the sugar-refining business of Australia. Not only has it a monopoly in refining, but also in the Central Mills, which crush the cane and produce the raw sugar. It, like? wise, has a tight grip upon the sugar lands of Austrafia.

Senator Walker - Mere assertion.

Senator DE LARGIE - If we recognise these facts - and there can be no manner of doubt about them - it cannot be disputed that the company exercises practically a monopoly from the growing of the cane until me sugar becomes a refined article. But, while I refer to the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, I do not wish it to be understood that I am treating this matter from a personal stand-point. I do not happen to know any individual who is interested in the company. I only know, by name, the Knox family, which has the principal interest in the monopoly. I have heard th[at Senator Walker is a shareholder in the concern ; and I am quite sure that he could, in the light of his long acquaintance with Queensland affairs,, let us into a great many secrets which are at present excluded from the public. The company does not allow the public to know all the facts concerning its monopoly of the sugar market, and if Senator Walker chose to enlighten us, I am quite sure that, exhaustive as was the statement of Senator Givens, the honorable senator's pronouncement would be much more interesting and valuable. I wish, however, to discuss the question purely on the basis of principle. The persons interested in the monopolyshould not be considered for a moment. It is our duty to look at this, and similar questions, from a broader standpoint. The question of the nationalization of the sugar industry is altogether too great to be considered from a personal aspect. Therefore, I trust that we shall discuss it as an affair of measures, not of men. I think it will be admitted' that in view of the financial assistance that the sugar in dustry has received from the taxpayers of Australia, the results have not been such as to give us an equivalent return for the money spent.

Senator Walker - I quite agree" with the honorable senator there.

Senator DE LARGIE - It should also be remembered that Australia, at two general elections, has declared for the principle of a White Australia. The Colonial Sugar Refining Company has been able to direct its operations in such a way as to defeat that great national principle. We have passed legislation with the object of making Queensland1 a white man's country, as it may reasonably become. But notwithstanding all our legislation to attain that national ideal, I venture to say that it has, up to the present, been defeated principally through the operations of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. When I was in Queensland a few months ago. I had a splendid opportunity to study the question on the spot. I visited many sugar plantations in common with other members of this Parliament. But the one fact borne in upon us was that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company's policy was to employ black labour, and to do everything, possible to throw obstacles in the way of white men establishing a footing in the industry.

Senator Macfarlane - Quite the contrary.

Senator DE LARGIE - Has the honorable senator been in Queensland and studied the question?

Senator Macfarlane - Yes.

Senator DE LARGIE -When ?

Senator Macfarlane - Three or four years ago.

Senator DE LARGIE - The legislation to which I refer has been passed since that time. Therefore, the honorable senator is not in a position to express an opinion. I have visited Queensland within the _past few months, and I repeat that the legislation that has been passed by this Parliament during the last three years has been defeated by the company, backed up by the rich planters, who are practically part and parcel of it. Every obstacle that could possibly be thrown in the way of white people being engaged in the industry - everything that could possibly be done to retain the. services of the coloured individual - has been done by these people.

Senator Macfarlane - Quite the contrary.

Senator Givens - How does Senator Macfarlane know?

Senator Macfarlane - I know from the company itself.

Senator DE LARGIE - I hope that the honorable senator, and those who agree with him, will study the figures that have been collected, both by the Federal Government and the Government of Queensland, as to the employment of coloured and white labour. He will then see that a greater number of coloured people are engaged in the industry to-day than was the case before the White Australia legislation was passed.

Senator Macfarlane - That is not the fault of the company.

Senator DE LARGIE - Senator Macfarlanejust said that what I stated about the persons employed in the industry was wrong. Now he says that the fault is due to some one else. He admits that a larger number of coloured people is employed in the industry than was the case formerly.

Senator Macfarlane - I do not dispute that at all.

Senator DE LARGIE - I wish to prove that the Colonial' Sugar Refining Company is to blame for this state of affairs. In several districts which I visited1 in Queensland, white men had been refused jobs by the company, coloured individuals being preferred. A notable instance was brought to my notice at Green Hills, near Cairns. That is one of the finest districts for cane culture that we saw during the whole of our journey in Queensland, though we were taken to the principal sugar-growing localities. At Green Hills, which consists of something like 5,000 acres, we found1 that the plantations were in the 'hands of the Chinese. By whom was the land leased to them ? By the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. We had the statement made in public - not in a private underhand way - that white farmers had tendered for this land, and1 that their tenders had been refused, notwithstanding that they had made the same offer as the Chinese. The Chinaman was. given the preference. There is a concrete case.

Senator Walker - Did the honorable senator visit the Johnson River district?

Senator DE LARGIE - I hope that Senator Macfarlane, who has Questioned my statement, will refute it. I challenge him to do so, and not to try to evade it by a subterfuge.

Senator Macfarlane - I do not know anything about that case.

Senator DE LARGIE - It is an easy matter for honorable senators opposite to make interjections, which aire absolutely wrong. I have given a concrete instance.

Senator Walker - I simply asked whether the honorable senator bad visited the Johnson River district. There is nothing wrong in that.

Senator DE LARGIE - I did visit that district, and had ample opportunities for studying the conditions of the industry there. I found that the same conditions obtained as was the case in every other district. A preference was shown for the Asiatic by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. I have not given an isolated case. At Lucinda Point, which is the port for Halifax and Ingham, I saw Chinamen employed as lengthsmen on the tramways owned1 by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, which paid them 15s. per week.

Senator Givens - That is quite common.

Senator DE LARGIE - Senator Givens, who has resided in the district for years, tells us that that is quite common.

Senator Walker - What is there wrongabout it?

Senator DE LARGIE - Surely if Senator Walker has any consideration at all for white men he cannot expect them to work for 15s. a week in Queensland?

Senator Walker - We have the Chinese in Australia; will not the honorable senator let them earn a living?

Senator DE LARGIE - If Senator Walker's policy is to give the work of Australia to Chinese, what are we to say of the constant cry about the necessity for increasing our white population ?

Senator Walker - Does the honorable senator desire that the Chinese should be mere beggars ?

Senator DE LARGIE - It strikes me forcibly that the cry that we require a larger white population in Australia is downright hypocrisy. It is a political cry without any honesty- behind it. When the Chinaman' is given the preference, of what use is it to say that we want more white men ? Queensland for years pursued a policy of assisted immigration, but when immigrants landed in that State what became of them? Thev had eventually to go away to the south in order to find employment. This cannot be wondered at when we learn that the Chinese are given the preference, the kanaka is employed in the fields, Japanese carpenters in the mills, and Chinese farmers at Green Hills and elsewhere in that State. I wonder that any one can have any doubt as to why the Queensland immigration policy was a failure.

Senator O'Keefe - I had to walk for half-an-hour in Cairns to find a white man.

Senator DE LARGIE - In most of the other towns of the sugar districts many more coloured men will be seen. It was a perfect disgrace to be obliged to note the number of kanakas walking the streets of Bundaberg as compared with the few white men to be seen there. What I have complained of is to be attributed more to the operations of this company than to anything else. I hope that honorable senators will view the matter from a common-sense standpoint,, and, even if they do not agree with the principle of the motion, will still be prepared to try if something cannot be done to free the sugar industry from the curseof black labour. I have no special prejudice against the coloured man, but if we are to populate Australia with white men, means by which they can earn a livelihood must be provided for them. We cannot possibly develop Australia with black labour, though we may exploit the country, and the unsophisticated kanakas and Chinese. I have seen Japanese carpenters working in the mills belonging to this company, and Chinese working on their tramways. If all the employers of Queensland pursued a similar policy, there would be no room for a white man in the country. I can mention the wages paid in mills controlled by the company, and honorable senators will be able to say whether white men are likely to accept such wages. Some unfortunate men, driven by hunger and want, may accept the conditions forced upon them by this rich corporation, but it will only be for a time, and until they are able to go elsewhere. At all the mills I visited in Queensland I was particularly careful to collect facts concerning the wages paid, and when I mention the rates of wages paid by mills controlled by the company,I hope that Senator Macfarlane will have some more substantial answer to give them than a mere contradiction. I find that the rates of wages paid in many of the mills controlled by the company to white men ranged from 20s. to 25s. per week. What white man could live in Australia on such a wage? Of course there are rations thrown "in to the value of 5s. or 6s. a week, but a man's stomach would have to be in good order to digest the food with which he is supplied at these places. What are the hours of work for which these wages are paid? Honorable senators will perhaps be surprised to learn that the men receiving these wages have to work twelve hours a day. They start at 6 o'clock in the morning, have an hour for dinner between 12 and1o'clock, and knock off at 6 o'clock at night. A second shift goes on then, and works until 6 o'clock next morning. We are sometimes told that the eight hours day is established in Australia, but we are a long way off that yet. We have had some people declaring that in order to provide work for the unemployed, the hours of labour should be reduced to six per day - a very sensible proposal - but here in Queensland men have to work twelve hours per clay.

Senator Givens - In acountryin which we are told white men cannot work at all.

Senator DE LARGIE - In a country in which we have been told it is barbarous and cruel to ask white men to work.

Senator Lt Col Gould - The honorable senator is not referring to work in the fields?

Senator DE LARGIE - No; but to work alongside boilers and furnaces and under worse conditions than work in the fields. I consider the work in the cane-fields, as I saw it. light labour as compared with the workperformed by many white men in Northern Queensland. I saw white men loading bags of sugar on the wharfs in Northern Queensland - work which no coloured man could do. I do not think that any white man should be asked to work for twelve hours a day in the mills for 25s. a week.

Senator Walker - They get rations in addition, do they not ?

Senator DE LARGIE - They do; and rations is the proper name for them. I have only to add that the motion submitted by Senator Givens is in accord with the opinion of the white workers of Northern Queensland. At a white labour conference held at Townsville in the beginning of this year, the following resolution was carried unanimously : -

That a State refinery should be established as a consummation of the central mills system.

That was carried at a conference at which white workers were represented by their delegates. These people recognise the fact that so long as the refining of sugar is in the hands of this rich corporation, they will reap very nearly one-half of the profit* of the industry. Honorable senators will have observed from the speech made by Senator Givens in introducing the motion that the company are not content with an ordinary dividend of 10 per cent., but. must have a jubilee dividend over and above, and this is quite apart from the huge salaries drawn by the Knox families and their relatives.

Senator Pulsford - How often does a jubilee dividend come round?

Senator DE LARGIE - The pity is that it should come round at all for these people, who have secured it by sweating white men at 25s. a week. Instead of being called a jubilee .dividend, it should have been called blood-money for it was blood-money drawn from the white men working in the industry. Senator Pulsford extends his sympathy to everything Asiatic, but I wish to God the honorable senator had a little more sympathy for the white Australian, and would give a little more attention to this question. A Mr. Kenna, at the conference to which I have referred, stated that -

The Colonial Sugar Refining Company had a big monopoly of sugar grown in Queensland, and whilst the farmer only got £10 per ton for his. sugar, (he Colonial Sugar Refining Company got £22 a ton for refined sugar.

That will give some idea of the profits secured by the company.

Senator Givens - For a number of years the producer got 54 per cent, of the total price, and the Colonial Sugar Refining Company 42 per cent.

Senator DE LARGIE - Practically onehalf of the price. . Still, we are told that this is an industry which cannot employ white labour, and that we must recruit kanakas to keep it going. A Mr. Milroy stated -

At Aloomba a number of Chinese grew cane for the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. At Green Hills the Chinese were in possession of that place, put there by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company.

A cane-cutter from the Johnstone River district said that -

White labour has not been given a fair trial in that district. In a few cases, in which it had been tried, it had proved successful. The Colonial Sugar Refining Company and their farmers were against them.

Still we are told that white men have failed in the industry, in face of the fact that they have never been given a fair trial, and every influence that can possibly be brought to bear is exercised to oust them from the industry. A Mr. Niven, a cane-worker from the Mulgrave district, said -

I think farmers who grow cane for the central mills ought to urge the Government to erect a central refinery -

Senator Walker - Hear, hear.

Senator DE LARGIE - I am glad to hear Senator Walker cheer that statement. I hope we shall find the honorable senator voting in support of the motion.

Senator Stewart - What Government is referred to ?

Senator DE LARGIE - I do not know whether it is the Commonwealth or the State Government, but the principle is the same. He went on to say - so that they would get every penny of profit there was in sugar,* in place of the present system of sailing raw sugar to the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. If they had a central refinery to treat their sugar, the farmers would be able to pay good wages to white workers.

There is a solution of the problem of populating Queensland with white men, and of getting rid of the black man. All that is necessary is that we should provide work a,t rates of wages something like those which a white man requires. It will be impossible to settle a white population in the sugar districts of Queensland if white men are expected to work twelve hours a day for from 20s. to 25s. a week, and in competition with coloured men. It must be clear to honorable senators that the only remedy which will strike at the root of the evil is that provided for in the motion. The nationalization of the indus- \ try is, I hold, the only cure for the evil. With the nationalization of the industry, those who have to bear the heat and burden of the day will be able to reap the profit which is now secured by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. At the present time there is no inducement for white men to follow this occupation, unless they can find no better employment ; and the only way to induce them to take up the work is to nationalize the industry and give him adequate remuneration. I suppose that before long a Bill will be presented proposing that further financial support shall be given to the industry ; but unless that proposal is accompanied with some provision for a minimum wage, and proper safeguards for the interests of the white workers, I shall refuse to sanction any further bonus. We have already passed legislation with the object of making this a white man's industry, but that legislation has proved a miserable failure; and it would be the height of folly to any longer continue that policy. Queensland, in respect of its climate, soil, and rainfall, is well adapted for the growing of sugar; but if only coloured labour is to be employed no advantage can follow to Australia. The industry ought to be one of great importance to the Commonwealth as a whole, but at present it is profitable only to a few who prefer to obtain cheap labour from the South Seas, or from some Asiatic country. If the industry is worth conserving, it ought to be placed on a satisfactory basis, and to that end the proper means is nationalization.

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