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Monday, 18 December 1905

Senator O'KEEFE (Tasmania) - It is my intention to move an addition to clause 6, which', if carried1, would make a radical alteration in the spirit and intention of this clause. I propose to move the addition to clause 6 of the following words : - but on all such cane or beet delivered for manufacture during the years 1908, 1909, 1910, and 191 1 respectively, four-fifths, three-fifths, two-fifths, and one-fifth of the aforesaid rates.

In other words, I propose that the bounty shall diminish at the rate of one-fifth or 20 per cent, during each year, until it disappears at the end of the period.

Senator Givens - Year by year, that would reduce the protection to white-grown sugar while leaving the protection to blackgrown sugar intact.

Senator O'KEEFE - This Bill must be considered in relation to the Sugar Excise Bill, which will be submitted. As one of those who loyally supported the grant of a bonus in favour of white-grown sugar, I cannot remember that any indication was given that we should be asked to continue its payment on those lines indefinitely.

Senator Playford - The people of Quensland asked for the grant of a bonus for ten years, and strongly urged upon the Government of the day that it should be continued for that period.

Senator O'KEEFE - I believe that the representatives of Queensland did urge that the payment of the bonus should be continued for ten years, but a number of honorable senators stated most emphatically that, in their opinion, five years would be sufficient to accomplish the desired object.

Senator DAWSON (QUEENSLAND) - But always with the proviso that we should reduce the protection to the kanaka-grown sugar. In those circumstances, I think that a bonus for five years would have been sufficient.

Senator O'KEEFE - I am willing to meet the representatives of Queensland, who wish to see sugar grown by only white labour, in any direction which would reduce the protection to black-grown sugar. There can be an understanding that if we pass this amendment we shall bring the Sugar Excise Bill into line with our intentions. Under the sliding scale which I propose, up to the end of the year 1907 the growers would have the full advantages they are now getting. In the year 1908 they would get 80 per cent, of the bounty proposed to be given them under this Bill. In 1909 they would get 60 per cent., or threefifths of it; in, 1910, 40 per cent., or twofifths; in 1911, 20 per cent., or one-fifth. The advantage of legislation by sliding scale is clear, but if we pass this Bill we shall be practically committing ourselves to the Queensland people to review the position at the end of five years.

Senator Playford - No.

Senator O'KEEFE - Dr. Maxwell distinctly lays it down that he is only making certain proposals for five years, and does not indicate that, in his opinion, at the end of seven years the time will have arrived for the bonus to cease. As a matter of fact, Dr. Maxwell's opinion seems to be that we shall have to go on indefinitely paying the bounty. If that is to be the case, the position should be put pretty clearly before the people of Australia. The object the Federal Parliament had in view in passing its sugar legislation was to do away with kanaka labour. Has that object been effected? Is it being effected as rapidly as ought to be the case?

Senator Playford - Perhaps not, but it has been effected to a certain extent.

Senator O'KEEFE - A large number of the Queensland growers do not seem to have made an honest and faithful attempt to substitute white labour for black.

Senator Fraser - They will go for the most profit.

SenatorPlayford. - We ought to 'have had a higher Excise, with a greater advantage to those who use white labour.

Senator O'KEEFE - It was within the power of the Government to introduce a Bill practically to compel everybody who grows sugar to employ white labour. Those who visited Queensland since we introduced our sugar legislation must have come to the conclusion that a large number of the growers have not honestly attempted to do away with black labour, and do not intend to do so if they can help it.

Senator Givens - Would the. honorable senator agree to a sliding scale in regard to jams and hops?

Senator O'KEEFE - Those articles are not being benefited by bounties.

Senator Givens - They are produced under protection.

Senator O'KEEFE - The sugar industry is not only protected, but has the further advantage of a bounty. There is no other Australian industry that is being similarly favoured. Fruit, timber, butter, jams, and all other produce are produced without bounties.

Senator Givens - Did I not state that fact fairly?

Senator O'KEEFE - Yes, but the honorable senator's interjection carried an unfair inference. The sugar-growers of Queensland must realize that a time must come when their bounties shall cease. Our legislation provides that after the end of next year no more kanakas shall be employed.

Senator Givens - The kanakas are only about one-hal!f the coloured population.

Senator O'KEEFE - It is true that neither by the Commonwealth nor State legislation has it been provided that coloured aliens shall be deported. But they will die out in the course of time, and our Commonwealth legislation prevents the importation of more. Our -bounty legislation was designed to cover a period during which the Queensland sugar-growers shall gradually substitute white labour for black. That period has just about arrived. Would it not be better to deal with the whole question by way of Excise and Customs duties rather than by mixing up three things - Excise, Customs, and bounties? I' can assure the Committee that this question of paying bounties is a live one in some of the States, which are not at all satisfied that the bounty proposed by the Government should be continued for another five' years. Representations have been made by the Premier and Treasurer of Tasmania, though I do not vouch for the correctness of their figures. The Premier says that the annual loss in connexion with sugar revenue during several years in comparison with the year before Federation has been about £23,000. The people of Tasmania were quite prepared to accept a certain loss with a view to bring about the employment of white labour in the sugar plantations. But they are not prepared to incur a further loss of £15,000 which the Premier states will be involved if this Bill is passed. We shall deal fairly and even generously with the growers if we pass a Bill providing 'for the continuance of the bounty for five years, decreasing it bv a sliding scale from year to year.

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