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Monday, 18 December 1905

Senator STANIFORTH SMITH (Western Australia) - As there has been no objection offered to the Customs, duty on sugar, this proposal will carry us forward for the next six years. I do not see why an industry which draws all its wealth directly from the soil should not be protected equally with a secondary industry. I voted for the imposition of the duty, and I think that a large majority in each House voted in that direction because we were establishing new conditions in the sugar industry. We knew that it had been carried on in Queensland exclusively by coloured labour. We decided, and we decided rightly, to bring about a condition of affairs which would make it, at any rate, difficult for the industry to be carried on with coloured labour. It was part of our White Australia policy to impose the duties. In view of the fact that the various States have decided to have that policy, no State should shrink from bearing its proportion of the cost.

Senator Dobson - Ought there not to be a limit to the responsibility?

Senator STANIFORTHSMITH.Certainly, and a limit is now proposed. I hold that the States in which the sugar industry is not carried on at the present time ought to be willing to bear their share of this burden. It is by no means certain that, as, time goes on, some of the southern States will not be large competitors with beet sugar, which, it has been demonstrated in Germany and Austria, can compete successfully, on level terms, with cane-grown sugar. It is well for us. to inquire what our White Australia policy has cost. Speaking from a purely taxation stand-point, not only has it cost the Commonwealth nothing, but it has yielded to the Treasurer an increased revenue of £500,000 per annum. It is possible that some States do not receive the same amount of benefit as other States do. The Excise duty of £4 per ton is divided amongst the people of the Commonwealth according to the consumption of the article in each State. But the bounty of £3 per tom is contributed by the people of the States on a per capita basis. If the Excise duty and the bounty was swept away, no one in the Commonwealth would benefit except the employers of coloured labour. It seems to me that there was no reason why there should have been an Excise duty or a bonus in connexion with this industry, except as an instrument by which we could differentiate between sugar grown by coloured labour and sugar grown byl white labour. In other words, it was a lever by which we could assist the repatriation of kanakas.

Senator Fraser - It was the only means.

Senator STANIFORTH SMITH - We had passed a law which made it imperative. But we also provided for a differentiation in the Excise and bounty, so that it would be to the interest of growers to use white labour, and that meant that we were willing to pay something in order to attain that end. This Bill, and the ancillary Bill with regard to the bounty, enables us to say that sugar grown by white labour shall have a protection of £5 per ton, and that grown by coloured labour a protection of £2 per ton.

Senator Walker - How does the honorable senator reconcile that with fair play?

Senator STANIFORTH SMITH - If that is unfair, I would gladly be more unfair, and say that there shall be no protection whatever to sugar grown with coloured labour in Australia. Let the growers stand on the same footing as those who produce sugar by coloured labour outside Australia. I would give them no advantage.

Senator Mulcahy - We must take into Consideration existing conditions.

Senator STANIFORTH SMITH - The existing conditions are that if the growers substitute white for coloured labour, the Commonwealth will give them an advantage 01 £5 Per ton- I a111 opposed to Senator O'Keefe's amendment for this reason.. He proposes gradually to decrease the bounty, but he proposes to retain the Excise.

Senator Givens - If we did reduce the Excise, the effect would be that we should greatly increase the protection to the product of black labour.

Senator STANIFORTH SMITH - That is what I am coming to. There is no logical justification whatever for charging an Excise duty on sugar. Sugar differs altogether from commodities like spirits and tobacco. It is a necessity of life. But we have imposed an Excise duty on sugar to give us an instrument to differentiate between coloured and white-grown sugar. By adopting Senator O'Keefe's amendment we should absolutely play into the hands of the employers of black labour. At the end of five years they would be put on precisely the same footing as the employers of white labour. Senator O'Keefe has stated that we shall have no coloured labour in Australia when the kanakas are sent back to their islands. But that is a very great mistake, and one that must not by any means be overlooked. There are at the present time in Australia, apart from the kanakas, something like 80,000 coloured people. There is sufficient coloured labour in Australia to man the cane-fields of Queensland twice over. We must not, by any means, allow ourselves to consider that when the kanakas go away sugar must necessarily be grown by white labour. It is a fact that Chinese, Malays, and coolies from India, who are already in Australia, are gradually migrating to the sugar fields ; and if Senator O'Keefe's amendment is carried, we shall be deliberately enabling those who desire coloured labour to use it. Certain of the plantations are now being purchased by Chinese. When the kanakas go away, many growers will employ Hindoos* or Malays. If we carry Senator O'Keefe's amendment, we shall, at the' end of 191 2, have the people who are employing coloured labour on exactly the same footing as those who are employing white labour. The very object of the differentiation of £3 a ton, and of giving no advantage to those who use coloured labour, is to promote the use of white labour. Senator O'Keefe proposes to wipe out that differentiation of per ton, so that those who grow b"y means of coloured labour will be able still to do so. He must recognise that he has overlooked the large quantity of coloured labour now in Australia, and which will be available after the kanakas are repatriated.

Senator Fraser - The coloured labour will not go to Queensland.

Senator STANIFORTH SMITH - It is going there now. Coloured people are going from Port Darwin. Some are purchasing sugar plantations and others are working them. I saw a sugar plantation in Queensland, upon which 100 coloured people were employed, apart from kanakas. If we adopt Senator O'Keefe's proposal, we shall gradually bring about a condition of affairs which will tend to make the growers who employ coloured labour realise that it is to their advantage to put up with a distadvantage for a few years, because they will ultimately have the benefit of cheap labour, and will be in the same position as those who grow by white labour.

Senator O'Keefe - Was .not the original intention of our legislation on this question to do away with kanaka labour?


Senator O'Keefe - Has not the kanaka to go ?

Senator STANIFORTH SMITH - He has to go under an Act of Parliament, which provides that at the end of a certain time the kanakas who came out under contract must be returned.

Senator O'Keefe - Now we are introducing a new phase.

Senator STANIFORTH SMITH - It is a consideration of the greatest importance that the 0 Chinese, Hindoos, and Malays in Australia will take the place of the kanakas if we adopt an amendment like this.

Senator O'Keefe - What are those people doing in Australia now? They are working at something.

Senator STANIFORTHSMITH.But the tendency is for many of them to go back to their own countries. If we afford facilities for them to enter into a profitable industry like sugar-growing, they will not go back. At present a considerable number of coloured people, apart from kanakas, are leaving Australia. We want to assist that process, not to give incentives for them to remain. For these reasons, I hone that the amendment will not be adopted.

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