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Monday, 18 December 1905

Senator MILLEN - Then I had the misfortune to be absent when the honorable senator quoted them. It seems to me that the onus is upon those who ask for th;s concession - who ask the Federation to pay a large sum of money to a particular class in Queensland - to show, first of all, the necessity underlying their request, and, secondly, how much it is going to cost us. I am not aware that any one has entered upon the task of placing before the Senate figures which throw any light upon the matter. The perusal of the return which the Minister has just handed to me is a little staggering. It shows that the amount of bounty which it is expected that the Commonwealth will pay, from 1907 to 1911, exceeds ,£2,000,000. I admit that that' bounty comes from a fund contributed by the payers of Excise. But that Excise, if not returned as bounty, would still be available for the ordinary purposes of government. Therefore, while I merely refer to the source .from which technically the Excise is drawn; I still say that we are asked to make a present of £2,000,000 sterling to the sugar industry.

Senator Turley - Would ihe honorable senator favour an Excise duty without a bounty ?

Senator MILLEN - That would depend entirely upon the financial condition, not of the Federation, but of those States which, like Queensland, had their finances disturbed by the inauguration of the Commonwealth. The necessity for the sugar duty was not the situation of the Com/monwealth as a whole. It was a necessity arising out of the financial position of certain States. The sugar duty was one of the duties by means of which it was proposed to enable some States to tide over the early years of Federation. Senator Pearce, in a most telling speech, has shown the wide departure which is now being made from the original claims. He pointed out that the original bonus was asked for as compensation to the growers for the sudden wrench given to the business by the abstraction of some thousands of kanaka labourers. Now, as he points out, the basis of the demand is changed, and we are asked to continue the bonus, in order to give the white people engaged in the industry some measure of protection against the Asiatic labourers who are scattered about Australia. Whatever value that argument may have is, I think; disposed of by the fact that other industries are at the present time employing coloured labour. If coloured labour is attracted to the sugar industry, and we endeavour to prevent it from entering that industry, we have to do one of two things - we must either take upon ourselves the maintenance of these aliens, and find free board and lodging for them, or they must be sent out of the country. These people, however, are now in the country, and common humanity prevents our bundling them into the sea or executing them wholesale. We must either keep them gratuitously, or allow them to work for their living. What particular reason is there why the sugar industry should be put on a different footing from that of any other industry? Why should sugar-growers have special treatment as against the growers of cabbages?

Both alike are citizens of the country, and, to my mind, one citizen has no more right to protection, bonus, concession, or favour than has any other citizen similarly situated. For that reason I view the present proposals with a considerable amount of suspicion. Then., again, whenever we grant a concession to an industry, it is not long before that concession is made the basis of further demands. It is pointed out that the industry has been built up under the concession, that vested interests have gathered, and that the withdrawal of the measure of assistance is in the nature of an injustice. We see that idea already developing in connexion with the sugar industry. The bonus when first asked for was, as I have said, in compensation for the deportation of the kanakas, as is shown by the fact that it runs concurrently with their presence in the country.

Senator Mulcahy - Most people expected that the bonus would cease with the deportation of the kanakas.

Senator MILLEN - I am pointing out that, once a concession of this kind is granted, it is made the basis for claims for further concessions. Parliament, in no ungenerous spirit, granted the bonus in consideration of the deportation of the kanakas. The growers of Queensland, although they have received the bonus, are not satisfied, and now ask that the grant shall be continued1 practically indefinitely. I understand that' you, Mr. Chairman, together with Senators Givens and Turley, and others, have for very many years consistently contended in Queensland for the abolition of the kanaka, on the ground that the sugar industry is one which can be profitably carried on with white labour. When that claim for the deportation of the kanaka- was made by you and others, it was made without any condition whatever; it was never stipulated that any bonus was necessary. If you, sir, and your fellow senators thoroughly considered the matter before you ventured to put forward that proposal, I 'can only assume that in your opinion a bonus was not necessary Otherwise you, and those who think with you, will be placed in the position that you were prepared to abolish the kanaka, believing that his banishment would inflict no injury on the industry, but that, now the Federal authority is in power - unless some other factors have come in - you are asking for a bonus, not because it is thought to be necessary, but simply because there is a possibility of getting it. If that be not so, the obligation rests on those who advocated the banishment of the kanaka without a bonus to show why a bonus is necessary now.

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