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Monday, 18 December 1905

Senator WALKER (New South Wales) - I believe that I was one of those who opposed the discrimination between white and black labour in the sugar industry. When the bonus was granted for five years, it was distinctly understood that at the end of that term the discrimination would cease.


Senator WALKER - At any rate, I was under that impression. As a free-trader, I think that any bonus granted should be established on a sliding scale, in order to give a helping hand to an industry in the early stages of its development. It will be my duty, therefore, to support an amendment in favour of adopting a sliding scale. Should Senator O'Keefe's amendment be not carried1, possibly another amendment on similar lines may be submitted. At the present time, the difference in favour of white-grown sugar as against black-grown sugar is £2 a ton, and under .1 this Bill it will be increased to ^3 a ton. It seems to me that, in fair play, we should endeavour to keep up the same proportion as now exists between the two kinds of labour. Let it then be continued upon a graduated scale. It seems to me that the Treasurer wants to increase his revenue, and, therefore, I do not disapprove of the Excise being raised by £1 per ton. If, however, it is impracticable at the present time to carry out a sliding scale on the lines I desire, we might do worse than accept such a- proposal as was made in the other House, carrying on the ^3 bonus for whitegrown sugar for two or three years, after which we might impose a sliding scale extending over five or seven years. I should not object to seven years, because I recognise that it is more easy to reduce such payments gradually than by too large in,stalments. Dr. Maxwell's report satisfies me that for a long time to come sugar will be grown by black labour in the northern parts of Queensland, and unless we have a sliding scale those who are in favour of white labour production will naturally wish it to be continued until the use of black labour ceases altogether. I am satisfied that the use of black labour will be continued for an indefinite time. . The figures quoted by Senator Pulsford are simply alarming to one who wishes to protect the revenue of Australia. The amount that we are paying as a bounty to one industry would be sufficient to establish some new industries altogether. I am one of those who think that a great part of Australia is naturally a black man's country. The aboriginals are black, and some persons allege that Australians are beginning to have a dark appearance in some parts of the country. Dr. Maxwell's last report contains a very interesting passage, which I should like to quote. He says -

The situation io the North includes a. further condition and problem. So far, these considerations have dealt with, first - White cane-growers, producing with white labour and earning bonus; and second - White farmers producing with coloured labour and not earning bonus. But a third class of cane-growers exists, comprised of alien occupiers and growers, who are producing by the aid of alien labour, and this class is confined almost wholly to the localities of the Northern District. The question essentially arises, whether protection should be extended to this class of producers; and, if so, what proportion of the amount that is being given to those white farmers, who, although they have not yet adopted, are eligible to, and are in part preparing to adopt those conditions that are required to place the sugar industry upon a permanent white basis. Alien producers are outside, and must remain outside, the conditions of white production. The existence of this class of producers not only allows of competition to the immediate injury of white labour; it threatens the position of the white farmers by producing upon terms that European standards of living and civilization are not prepared to accept. It presents a most acute form

Of opposition, where it exists, to the progress of exclusive white production.

My own belief is that we are legislating in such a manner as to establish coloured alien proprietors in the sugar industry, whereas under the old condition of .things we had' white proprietors employing white or black labour. Senator Stewart spoke of the sugar industry being thirty years old in Queensland. To my knowledge, sugar was grown in the Mackay district forty years ago. Senator Stewart made a very telling point, and a very interesting one from his side of the question, when he said that the free-trader should desire the Excise and the duty to be exactly level. I agree with that view. I should 1 ike to see, soonor or later, genuine free-trade in this country, under which the Excise and the dutv, when both were imposed on any commodity, would be at the same rate.

Senator FRASER(Victoria).- When I spoke a few hours ago, I had not quite made up my mind with regard to the proposed sliding scale. After thinking the matter over, I have come to the conclusion that if the Government will extend the term to 1910 instead of J912, I shall support them. The people of the Commonwealth will have had two general elections before the term expires. By that time I believe we shall be exporting sugar from Australia. It will be ah extraordinary thing if we are exporting, and at the same time paying a bounty on the article exported. We might as well pay a bounty on the exportation of wheat. I shall vote to extend the bounty to 1910, as an intimation to the people of Queensland that the Com. monwealth Parliament may consider s*ix years' hence that the bounty should be discontinued. They will have no reason to complain. They have not been treated harshly, for they have received tens of thousands of pounds from the Commonwealth.

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