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Monday, 18 December 1905

Senator HENDERSON (Western Australia) - The question before us is so complicated that it is easy to misinterpret the position that an honorable senator may assume in giving a vote upon it. At the outset, I have to admit that there .are two or three difficulties under which I labour. In the first place, I am not opposed to the payment of the bounty, provided I can see that it will, lead to the accomplishment of some legitimate object worthy of accomplishment. But I am convinced, by the evidence of the past four years, that if we go on paying bounties for another ten or fifteen years we' shall be . absolutely no nearer to the accomplishment of our object than we are at the present moment. Senator Givens has asserted that this Bill will thoroughly establish the industry. But he has advanced that idea in opposition to a quantity of evidence which negatives any such hope. Every report that we have had upon the industry is indefinite. The conclusions arrived at, as Senator McGregor says, merely shows that we must trust to Providence. I do not 'know that in this matter it is a safe thing simply to allow our legislation to slip through our fingers, and to trust to Providence as to whether its effect is beneficial or otherwise. I do not oppose this Bill because of the fact of the bonus which it grants. On this point I take an objection altogether different from that put forward by Senator Dobson. That honorable senator asked whether we were prepared to continue paying a bonus for ten years without endeavouring in one way or the other to free ourselves from the burden of taxation which this industry practically imposes on . the shoulders of -the whole of the people of the Commonwealth. To extend the payment of the bounty for ten years might, of course, be a benefit, rather than an injury, to the Commonwealth ; and could I have seen any prospect of such an eventuation, I certainly should not be found opposing the Bill. But when we come to look the facts fairly in the face, we must recognise that even were the kanaka deported - if ever he be deported - there will still remain the great menace which has been pointed out by honorable senators who are favorable to this measure, as it is presented to us. There are 80,000 aliens within the Commonwealth, and it may be found just as necessary to give bonuses to other industries in which these people are engaged, as to the sugar industry of Queensland.

Senator Guthrie - Many of these 80,000 aliens are white men - Germans, for instance, who, for reasons of their own, have not become naturalized.

Senator HENDERSON - I am not particularly concerned about that class of alien. It has been pointed out very clearly that, with this large number of coloured aliens within the Commonwealth, the payment of the bounty might go on for the next halfcentury, and then we should find ourselves no nearer our goal. It is quite probable that the people of the Commonwealth, with the exception of those engaged in the Queensland sugar industry, may, with a great deal of justice, enter a strong protest against the burden which the bounty involves. There may be a burst of indignation at what is regarded as the application of an unfair principle, inasmuch as the sugar industry is assisted to the exclusion of other industries which might be enumerated. For four years we have been endeavouring to -lessen the production of sugar by coloured labour, and, to our amazement, we find that the sugar produced by that class of labour is actually increasing at almost the same ratio as the production by white labour. We see no prospect of any betterment in the conditions, but rather a strong possibility that, for generations to come, this bounty will have to be continued. Senator McGregor, in answer to an interjection by Senator Gray, presented a simile of a broken leg. That, however, in my opinion, was not a correct simile, because, even if Senator O' Keefe' s amendment be agreed to, the bounty will not expire, and the splints will remain. The industry ought to be able to stand alone in the course of five years; if not, and the bounty has to be handed down from generation to generation, we ought to turn our. attention to almost every other industry in the Commonwealth, with a view to rendering similar assistance. Of course, in that event, every industry would soon be reduced to its own level. I shall oppose the Bill, and support the suggested amendment of SenatorO' Keefe, believing that the Commonwealth has been exceedingly generous to this industry. I am by no means arguing in opposition to -a White Australia. I am as much in favour of that policy as any honorable senator, or any man outside Parliament House. Indeed, I sometimes think I feel too strongly in regard to coloured humanity; but that only applies when it is a case of personal contact. There is ample room for coloured people elsewhere, and they, like the white people, ought to live with their own kind. I admit that the Queensland sugar consumers pay equally per head with the other citizens of the Commonwealth ; but, in my opinion, an industry that cannot be established by the expenditure of nearly a million of money is an absolute failure, and the sooner we recognise the fact the better. Why, with a million of money, we might establish any industry ! We may be asked to continue this bounty., and spend two or three millions more, and then find that we are no nearer the establishment of a substantial industry.

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