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Monday, 18 December 1905

The CHAIRMAN - I am sure that Senator Mulcahy will withdraw the remark, if it be thought offensive.

Senator Mulcahy - I thought Senator de Largie was referring to honorable senators opposite in an offensive way, but if he was not doing so, of course I withdraw the remark I made.

Senator Dobson - I did not take any notice of Senator de Largie' s remarks, but I say now that I regard them as grossly, offensive to myself.

Senator DE LARGIE - When T was down in the sugar districts I met men who had previously been engaged in coal-mining, and I was informed by them that they found the cane-cutting a much easier calling. After seeing these men at work, I came to the conclusion that it was what might be called light labour, particularly as compared with the wharf labour involved in the loading of ships, which is always carried on by white men, and in regard to which we hear no comment made. At the ports white men have to carry bags containing 200 lbs. of sugar, and to work in very badly ventilated ships' holds, and, altogether, I am of opinion that the men in the cane-fields have much the better bar- , gain. As to the climate, Dr. McDonald, who has given the matter considerable attention, described that of Northern Queensland as being absolutely the best in Australia; indeed, his remarks incline one to the opinion that there are much worse conditions in Melbourne. An important point to consider is that the cane-cutting commences in the second week of June, and is all over by Christmas, so that the men are called upon, to work in the coolest period of the year. As to the necessity for a clause of the kind proposed by Senator Pearce, the secretary of the Mackay branch of the Sugar Workers' Union informs me that the hours in that district are' something like twelve a day, and the wages are far from what 'they ought to be. This gentleman points out that unless some legislative effort is made to secure better conditions, the men have very little hope of improving their lot. On several occasions, when the Tariff was before us, protection was objected to in certain industries, because of the fact that the workers engaged therein were not justly treated. At any rate, I remember one occasion when, for this reason, I voted against protection being afforded, and I am still of opinion that unless the workers receive proper consideration bounties 'and other conditions should be withheld. For these reasons I support the new clause, believing that it will assist workmen who labour under worse conditions than those prevailing in any other part of Australia. As T said before, I have no doubt as to how the Queensland senators will vote.

Senator Playford - There is 'no opposition to the new clause.

Senator DE LARGIE - I am glad to hear that.

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