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Friday, 15 December 1905

Senator PLAYFORD (South Australia) (Minister of Defence) . - I move -

That the Bill be now read a second time.

Honorable senators have received a vast amount of literature in connexion with the matters dealt with in this Bill - matters which have been under consideration for a long while, and have been discussed on many occasions. The period covered by the Sugar Bounty Act of 1903 expires on the 31st December, 1906. In the paper laid before Parliament on the 18th October, 1904, containing a communication from the Premier of Queensland, together with a memorandum from Dr. Maxwell, the director of the Government Sugar Experimental Station, it is shown how exceedingly important this industry is to that State. The Premier of Queensland in that letter wrote -

You will admit the importance of the industry when I inform you that one-fifth of the cultivated soil of Queensland is under sugar cane, that two-thirds of the value of her agricultural exports must be credited to sugar, and that about one-twentieth of her white population are dependent for their livelihood on the cultivation and manufacture of sugar. The State Treasury has also a large direct interest in the question, for no less than half-a-million of public money has been invested in the erection of central sugar mills.

These were the statements made by the Premier of Queensland when he was expressing a desire that the operation of the original Act should be extended for a period beyond December, 1906. Honorable senators are doubtless aware why that Act was passed. The sugar industry in Queensland has always to a large extent been carried on by means of kanaka labour, and the object of the legislation was to assist in the realization of a White Australia by the deportation of these coloured workers at the earliest possible moment. To that end, Parliament felt it to be its duty to encourage to the utmost the carrying on of the industry, not only in Queensland, but in New South Wales, by means of white labour. Section 2 of the Sugar Bounty Act 1903 provides that there shall be paid out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund a bounty on sugar-cane delivered after the commencement of the Act in July, 1903, and before the 1st January, 1907, in the production of which white labour only has been employed, after the 28th February, 1903, or employed for a period of twelve months immediately preceding delivery for manufacture. Section 3 of that Act provides for a bounty of 4s. to 5s. per ton of cane, calculated according to its sugar contents. This is equal to a bounty of £2 per ton of sugar. By the

Customs Tariff Act of 1902, the duty on imported sugar-cane is £fi per ton, while, according to the Excise Tariff Act of the same year, the Excise duty is fixed at £3 per ton. The employment of white labour against black labour is thus protected to the extent of £2 per ton of sugar equal to about 4s. 5d. per ton of cane. Section 3 of the Pacific Island Labourers Act 1 901 provides that no Pacific Island labourer is to enter Australia after 31st March, 1904, and by section 4, that no such labourer is to enter Australia before 31st March, 1904, except under licence. AH agreements for the employment of coloured labour terminate on the 31st December, 1906, and bv section 8 of the Act just mentioned, the Minister may cause a Pacific-Island labourer found in Aus.tralia after that date to be deported. I do not suppose that these kanakas will be deported all in one batch ; but the operation will be carried out as speedily as possible twelve months hence. I think I can best explain to honorable senators the position in regard to the sugar bonus if I read the report of Dr. Maxwell, in answer to a series of questions put to him by Sir William Lyne. Before I proceed to do that, however, I may say that in 1904 the whole question was laid before the Government, and a request made, as I have said,' for a continuance of the bonus after the end of next year. The letter of the Premier of Queensland, an extract from which I have already read, also contains the folowing : -

But it was held by those best acquainted with the Queensland sugar industry that the term during which the bonus would be payable was too short, and that it should be extended to at least ten years, in order that the industry might accommodate itself to the altered conditions. The experience of three years has proved the wisdom of this view. There is no hope tha-t two years hence the industry will be independent at once of coloured labour, and of the bonus granted for white-grown cane. There is no hope that within the next two years it will be so firmly established as a white labour industry, a-s to bc able, without the bonus, to pay the wages which white labour has a right to expect for such work. Such being the case, nothing can be more reasonable than the contention of the cane farmer that, as the Commonwealth Parliament has decided that, after igo6, sugar must not be grown by kanaka labour, it is the duty of the Commonwealth Parliament to provide a means by which sugar can be profitably grown, after that date, without the aid of the kanaka. And the only means consistent with the policy of excluding coloured aliens, and of finding sufficiently remunerative employment ' for our own race, is the continuance of the bonus now given for white grown cane. Unless this action is taken, there appears to be little hope for the sugar industry of this State. In view of the fact that no bonus may be granted after 1906, cane growers are restricting rather than extending their operations, and, indeed, it is probable that large areas now under sugar cane will soon pass out of cultivation. So far as Queensland is concerned, this result, harmful in any circumstances, would be disastrous in existing circumstances.

That letter was supplemented by a memorandum from Dr. Maxwell, who has, perhaps, a more intimate knowledge of this industry than any other man within the Commonwealth. Dr. Maxwell said -

An extension of time of not less than five years from 31st December, 1906, for the continued payment of bonus on white grown cane, is advised as necessary in order that the sugar industry, at its present dimensions, may continue to exist.

That means that after a certain period, unless we are prepared to continue the bonus for a further term, the effect on sugar cultivation in Queensland will be most disastrous. I have statistics showing that in Queensland the number of persons who grow sugar by means of white labour has very considerably increased.

Senator de Largie - And so has the sugar grown by black labour.

Senator PLAYFORD - The quantity of sugar grown by white labour has consider-, ably increased, though there has also been an increase in the sugar grown by black labour. The owners of plantations and the number of persons employed in connexion .with white-grown sugar have increased year by year since the bonus has been in operation. In the larger plantations in the north, which employ many people, there has been an increase in the output of sugar, partly due to better seasons. There has also been a considerable increase in the number. of owners and cultivators of small plantations; and this is a branch of the industry we desire to encourage as "far as possible. The following is an extract from the report showing the first question asked by Sir William Lyne, and the answer given by Dr. Maxwell : -

Question 1. - For what further period does it appear necessary to extend the system of paying bonus on white grown cane?

Answer. - In order to estimate this question, it is necessary to briefly review the results of the operations of the bonus legislation from its enactment to this date. Three years of the first period of five years 'have matured, and the fourth year is close to completion. The results are indicated, in the first place, by the increases during, those years in the number of white canegrowers, and in the areas registered to earn the bonus, in the several districts of the State of Queensland, as shown by the official figures.

Then Df. Maxwell gives a table showing the areas registered for bonus, and the number of white cane-growers. According to this table, the number of growers in 1902 was 1,521, as compared with 2,048 in 1903, a considerable increase. In 1904 the number of growers had increased to 2,429, a further increase of nearly 500, and in 1905 the number had increased to 2,681.

Senator Dobson - Can the honorable senator give the increase in the number of growers by black labour?

Senator PLAYFORD - Those figures are not given in the report, but I should point out that the increase in the production of sugar by black labour does not represent a proportionate increase in the number of black labourers employed but is due to the larger area brought under cultivation, and the good seasons experienced. Dr. Maxwell goes on to say : -

It is seen that very notable increases have been made in the total number of white growers, and in the gross areas registered to earn the bonus.

I have not given the areas, but they are as follows: - In 1902, the number of acres cultivated by white growers was 36,538 ; in 1903, 53,571 acres; in 1904, 63,277 acres; and in 1905, 72,606 acres. So that there has been a gradual and steady increase, first of all in the number of white growers, and secondly, in the area of land they have cultivated. Dr. Maxwell goes on to say -

The full results of the operations of1905 are not yet to hand, but the figures given under this year in the table indicate that these increases are steadily progressing. The table shows further that the increases in the number of white growers and of registered areas have transpired mainly in the Southern and Central Districts, and that a small relative progress has been made in the tropical north.

It is but natural that the number of white growers should increase in the colder districts rather than in the tropical districts of the north. The report continues - "The total number of all cane growers in Queensland at the beginning of this year was 3,422. The number of white growers according to the latest official figures is 2,681, or 78 per cent. of, the whole.

When the figures are analyzed it will be seen that, although 78 per cent. of the total number of growers are white growers those who cultivate with black labour are those who own the larger plantations and cultivate the larger areas. That accounts for the fact that the total output of sugar grown by black labour is greater than that grown by white labour. Dr. Maxwell says further -

The increases in the number of white growers, and in registered areas, do not necessarily convey a correct indication of the actual progress that white cane production has made, relative to the whole. At the close of the third year of the current period of the bonus operation the crop of 1904 comprised as follows : -

1.   Black grown cane, 947,105 tons, or 71.38 per cent.

2.   White grown cane, 379,884 tons, or 28.62 per cent.

So that, although 78 per cent. of the total number of growers cultivate sugar with white labour, they produce only about onehalf of the quantity produced by black labour. The report continues : -

These figures show that, at the end of the third year's operations of the bonus legislation, less than one-third of the sugar production of Queensland was eligible for the bonus. Something more than two-thirds of the whole was black grown. The figures covering the crop of 1905 will not be fully available for some three months, lt is estimated, however, that the proportion of current year's crop that is earning the bonus will be at least one-third, and may amount to, or exceed, 35 per cent. of the whole.

The actual situation is, therefore, that after four years operation of the bonus, approximately one-third of the sugar crop of Queensland is produced by white labour. In connexion with this summary result, it has to be repeated that the progress has taken place almost wholly within the Southern and Central Districts, which are the districts of densest settlement, and of the more temperate climatic conditions. The figure in Table " A " shows that in the first year of operation of the bonus,1,485 growers were registered in these districts, and only thirty -six in the districts of the north. These numbers show that more than one-half of the total number of white growers registered at this date were prepared for and actually entered upon production solely by white labour the moment that the legislation was enacted. These early registrations included farmers upon the smallest areas.

Senator Dobson - Can the honorable senator tell us the number of white growers just before the bonus was granted, that we may know the extent of the increase.

Senator PLAYFORD - I am unable to say, but perhaps honorable senators representing Queensland can give that information.

Senator Givens - The number of persons producing sugar by white labour before the bonus was established was so small that it might be ignored.

Senator Dobson - Then almost onethird of the total production of sugar is due to the establishment of the bonus?

Senator Givens - Yes.

Senator PLAYFORD - To go back to the question put by Sir William Lyne -

For what further does it appear necessary to extend the system of paying bonuses on white grown cane?

Dr. Maxwellsums up the answer in this way : -

An extension of the bonus for a period of seven years can claim the greatest measure of support; providing as it appears the highest mean of security and advantage to all interests concerned. On the maturing of such further period, the situation would again come under consideration.

We provide in this Bill for an extension of the present system for a further period of five years, and Dr. Maxwell does not quite know what the position will be at the end of that period.

Senator Walker - When will that period of five years commence?

Senator PLAYFORD - In 1906, and it will extend to 191.1:.

Senator Dobson - Why have not the Government adopted a sliding scale?

Senator PLAYFORD - Because they do not believe in it at the present time.

Senator Dobson - Is the Minister certain that Parliament will not be asked to continue the system after that period?

Senator PLAYFORD - I make no pretensions as to that. I have quoted what the expert says on the subject; and honorable senators are now aware that he believes that the extension of the bonus for a period of seven years can claim the greatest measure of support, and he adds that on' the maturing of that period the situation will again come under consideration.

Senator Dobson - Is it not fair to us that there should be a sliding scale proposed ?

Senator PLAYFORD - It is not fair to me that I should be so frequently interrupted by questions in the middle of my speech, as I am thus prevented from making a consecutive statement. The honorable senator will be able to discuss all these matters in debating the second reading of the Bill. I have no desire to lead honorable senators to believe that by consenting to continue the bonus for another period of live years, we shall put an end to the trouble.

Senator Dobson - We should do so.

Senator PLAYFORD - Dr. Maxwell will not commit himself to the statement that that will put an end to the trouble. Whether the system shall come to an end at that period will be for Parliament to say.

This industry is of vast importance to Queensland, and we believe that the proposal now made is in the best interests of the Commonwealth. Those concerned in the industry must pass through an exceedingly trying time when the deportation of the kanakas commences, as it will do next year. In the circumstances, unless we give them encouragement, and pass a measure under which the bonus will be continued to them, there is great danger that large areas of country will go out of cultivation by sugar, because those now engaged in the industry will not know whether they will be able to carry on at a profit. I repeat that Dr. Maxwell says that an extension of the bonus for a period of seven years can claim the greatest measure of support, and that on the maturing of such further period, the situation will again come under consideration. That is exactly the position.

Senator Mulcahy - How long is it to go on?

Senator PLAYFORD - Here are these questions again. How can I tell how long it must go on ? I can only say that in the interests of the industry, and of the whole community, it should be continued for another five years, and honorable senators will find that in this Bill we are proposing an increased Excise duty and an increased bonus.

Senator Dobson - And the Government are not proposing to put an end to it at any time.

Senator PLAYFORD - So far as we are concerned, it will end at the close of the five years' period provided for in this Bill, and it will then be for Parliament to say what should be done in the circumstances. We are doing now what was done four years ago. We are proposing the passing of a Bill to continue the system of bonuses for a period of five years, and we leave it to Parliament then to again review the situation. In five years' time Parliament will be in precisely the same situation, and must again review the whole matter. The question for Parliament to consider now is whether the bonus should cease at the end of the term already provided for, and we should run the risk of inflicting enormous injury upon one of the chief industries of Queensland. It must be 'borne in mind that people who have been cultivating sugar in Queensland for many years past with black labour are being compelled to give up that labour. They must be given time to prepare for the altered conditions under which the industry is to be carried on, if it is to be continued, and what honorable senators are now asked to consider is whether, in the circumstances, it is proper to continue the bonus, at all events for another five, years. We must do it. We cannot get away from it, unless we are prepared to destroy the industry. I am a believer in the White Australia policy, the majority of the community believe in it, and surely we are not going to say that the State of Queensland shall suffer immense loss in consequence of the action we have taken in compelling the deportation of kanakas ?

SenatorMulcahy. - Have not the sugar planters been aware for several years that the kanakas must be deported? Was not that provided for under the State law?

SenatorPLAYFORD. - The sugar planters are aware that the Queensland Parliament passed a law providing for the deportation of the kanakas many years ago, but when they were brought face to face with the question, they were afraid to give effect to the law. They found that they could not do so without the risk of fearful loss, and the result was that Sir Samuel Griffith, and others, who had been instrumental in passing a law to provide that the kanakas should go at a certain date, turned round and passed another law tosay that they should not go. That was the position when Queensland became a part of the Commonwealth. I have given honorable senators Dr. Maxwell's answer to the question as to the period for which it appears necessary to extend the system of paying a bonus on white grown cane. The second question was -

Should the bonus continue to be paid in its present amount, or are there reasons for a revision ?

That was a very intelligent question, to which the expert furnished the following answer : -

The purpose of the bonus is to substitute white for coloured labour, making it thus, in the first place, a matter of cost. In a report furnished by me to the first Federal Prime Minister, Sir Edmund Barton, in1901, it was shown that the relative costs of labour were : -


The present schedule of bonus was based upon the cost of labour, and upon other considerations, existing when the legislation was enacted. With the progress of white production, white labour must continue to command a higher compensation in the form of wage, and of better domestic provision for workmen. The existing measure of bonus must, therefore, tend to fall below, and not to exceed the cost of substituting white for coloured labour. It is the possibility of failure of the present measure of bonus to meet the difference in cost between coloured and white labour which is, in part, confirming the larger employers of wage-earning labour in holding to the use of aliens.

This question can be understood as also relating to the relation between the excise and bonus, the arrangement enacted being that the bonus shall not exceed two-thirds of the excise. If the results of each year are considered separately, it will be found that in some years the bonus is less, and in others more, than twothirds of the excise. In the average of years it is indicated that the mean of the bonus paid in the several districts will be almost exactly two-thirds, or a fraction less.

Dr., Maxwelldoes not give a very definite answer to the question. The third question was -

Should a reducing scale be adopted with a view to the gradual diminution and extinction of the bonus?

Inreply, Dr. Maxwell wrote -

To propose a reducing scale at this time would be to assume that this great experiment of substituting a white labour power for a coloured labour power, in a tropical industry, that is in its course of trial, were approaching maturity; that its purpose is already successfully established, and that it is at oncetime to begin the removal of the machinery by which it is being conducted. The experiment has made a very notable progress; the results set forth under Question No.1 show, however, that the present measure of accomplishment covers only one-third of its purpose. There are still two-thirds of the total sugar crop of Queensland being produced bya coloured alien labour power.

The measure of achievement has not yet been reached that would render the adoption of a " reducing scale " applicable to the situation at this time. To enforce its adoption prematurely can undo the present success, and threaten the future promise that waits upon the experiment.

I may inform honorable senators, as no doubt they already know, that in another place it was moved that there should be a sliding scale, to commence at a certain rate, and to gradually taper off until it terminated at a given time. The proposal was, of course, defeated, because the Government took the view of Dr. Maxwell as one which they could safely follow.

Senator Dobson - Is it not clear that, if, during the first period of ten years, we cannot even reduce the bonus by a sliding scale, at the end of the second period of ten years we shall be bound to. continue the bonus?

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