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Thursday, 10 October 1912

Senator SAYERS (Queensland) . -As I do not wish to repeat what has been said by other senators regarding the Vancouver mail service, I will only say that Queensland spent a lot of money in trying to establish that service, thinking that it would greatly benefit her industries. We were promised that Brisbane would always be a port of call, but we find now that that promise, like many others, was not intended to be kept. I join in protesting against what has been done, but I shall not speak more fully on 'the matter now, because of what has been said by Senators Chataway and St. Ledger. Honorable senators opposite have said that we on this side were opposed to the land tax. I opposed it, not because it was a tax on land, but because I thought that the right to impose such taxation belonged to the States. I am in favour of the taxation of land by the State Parliaments, and always voted for such taxation when a State member. It is the business of the State authorities to open up the country by the construction of railways and the making of roads, and it is not right that the Commonwealth Government should reap the results of their enterprise. In Queensland, only about '6 per cent, of the land has been alienated, and the revenue from any taxation on land should go to the State Government to be used in its development.

Senator Mcdougall - The land tax should pay for the defence of the country.

Senator Buzacott - Who will pay for the defence of the country ?

Senator SAYERS - The people will pay for the defence of the country. It was never suggested, when Federation was proposed, that the land should pay for defence. All these things were kept in the dark. It was represented that the State rights would not be touched, but we know how promises are made when it is- desired to engineer a thing through.

Senator Rae - The taxing power is given in the Constitution.

Senator SAYERS - And I think it ought to be, but only to meet a case of great emergency, such as an invasion. We have been told that for one piece of land there were sixty or seventy applicants, but it ought to be explained that there may not have been more than three or four, or halfadozen, and that each put in twenty or thirty applications on the chance of being successful at the ballot.

Senator Rae - That is not allowed in every State.

Senator SAYERS - It is not supposed to be done, but it is done in my State, and

I believe in other States. Where is the vast amount of settlement that we were told would result from the land tax? In Queensland land has actually gone out of cultivation.

Senator Rae - Sugar land.

Senator SAYERS - Not only sugar land, but other land, as is shown by the latest return issued by the Government Statistician. What would have been the state of affairs if there had been a drought ?

Senator Stewart - There was a drought for nine months.

Senator SAYERS - That was nothing like the droughts we have had of six or seven years. Land has gone out of cultivation because the people have no confidence in the Federal Government; they do not know the day or hour when there may be some drastic legislation, under which they will have to suffer.

Senator Buzacott - What are they doing for a living?

Senator SAYERS - A great many of them are going into the towns, and in Victoria and Queensland a fictitious prosperity is shown in the cities which will crumple up when adversity comes.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - Melbourne is not a fiction.

Senator SAYERS - I have seen Melbourne poor and poverty-stricken when the boom burst. Like other cities, it depends on the prosperity of the country ; and a few bad seasons would make a change. There are some facts disclosed in the Budget-papers in reference to the Public Service that require explanation. I see that in the Postmaster-General's Department the average pay of the officers in New South Wales, in 1902, was £n6 4s., and that it gradually increased until now it is £128 2s. In the same period the pay in Victoria has increased from £123 8s. to £130 8s., but in Queensland it has decreased from £136 4s. to £129 is., though in 1903-4 it was £142. In South Australia the average pay has increased from £ir6 5s. to £135 5s., and in Western Australia, from £126 2s. to £137 3s.

Senator Pearce - Has any public servant's salary been reduced ?

Senator SAYERS - In all of the States except Queensland an increase is shown. In Tasmania the average wage has increased from £99 7s. to £136 5S-

Senator Keating - There must have been a large increase in the number of junior public servants in Queensland.

Senator SAYERS - The Queensland public servants urge that they are not receiving the fair play that is extended to others nearer the Seat of Government. At any rate, the figures require some explanation. The number of public servants in the Post and Telegraph Department in Queensland has increased from 1,502 in 1909 to 2,977, but in Victoria there has also been an increase from 2,400 to 4»529 > and I suppose that some juniors must have been appointed in the latter State. The public servants of Queensland believe that they are not getting fair play. I am not in a position to say whether they are justified in that belief, but I give the official figures supplied by the Post and Telegraph Department, and I say that they require explanation. Honorable senators are bound, I think, to say what they believe to be true, and I believe that some system is adopted which places Queensland in an invidious position. I hope that Ministers will be able to explain the matter, not for my sake, but for the sake of the people who feel aggrieved. _ I asked a question to-day in connexion with the matter, and was told that it was under consideration, and would be remedied. I had to put up with that answer, but I now quote specific figures, and why lower rates should be paid in Queensland than in other parts of Australia I do not know.

Senator McDougall - All wages are lower in Queensland than in the other States.

Senator SAYERS - The honorable senator may talk through his neck, but I say that wages are as high in Queensland as in any other State in the Commonwealth.

Senator Lynch - The " cockies " in Queensland pay the lowest wages paid in Australia.

Senator SAYERS - As a "cocky" himself the honorable senator should know what wages he pays in Western Australia.

Senator McDougall - Better wages are paid in Western Australia than in any other State.

Senator SAYERS - I know that in Queensland miners are paid far better wages than are paid in New South Wales or Victoria.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - They do not pay miners at all in Victoria.

Senator SAYERS - Senator Russell admits my statement, and I defy Senator McDougall to prove the statement he has made.

Senator de Largie - The poorest paid coal-miners in Australia are the Queensland coal-miners.

Senator McDougall - In every other calling it is the same.

Senator SAYERS - Probably Senator McDougall knows most about the wages paid in Sydney, and I know that as good wages are paid in any Queensland port as are paid in Sydney.

Senator McDougall - Nothing of the sort.

Senator SAYERS - I shall not continue the argument. The facts speak, for themselves. I do not know what wages are paid in the coal mines of Queensland, as I have never had anything to do with coal mining in that State, but I say that in the gold-mining industry there are still being paid in Queensland, and have been paid for the last forty years, higher wages than are being paid in any other State with the exception of Western Australia. We know that a big rush took place to Western Australia when gold was discovered there, and as things were very dear, it was necessary that the wages paid should be very high. But we find that they are now gradually coming down more nearly to the level of those paid in the other States.

Senator Henderson - What nonsense t They are going up.

Senator SAYERS - I read a statement of the wages at present being paid in Western Australia in a newspaper which I saw only to-day. I suppose honorable senators will admit that wages are not as high in Western Australia to-day as they were ten years ago?

Senator DE LARGIE (WESTERN AUSTRALIA) - Yes, they are.

Senator SAYERS - I shall not continue the argument, but I adhere to my opinion.

Senator de Largie - The difference is that I know something about it, and the honorable senator does not.

Senator SAYERS - I can read a newspaper with as much intelligence as can Senator de Largie. I have seen statements, of the wages being paid in Western Australia, and I read that there is now a dispute there between employers and employes.

Senator de Largie - The miners are asking for an increase.

Senator SAYERS - I am aware of that. But the increase asked for is not as large as the honorable senator would have us believe. I know that the standard rates in North Queensland, in the mining industry, range from £3 to £3 10s. per week, and from £4 to £4 10s. for enginedrivers.

Senator de Largie - Much higher rates are paid in Western Australia.

Senator SAYERS - If we take into consideration the cost of living in the two States, I think we shall find that the wages paid in Queensland are really higher than those paid in Western Australia. We have heard a lot about what the land tax has done for Australia, but my reading leads me to believe that, instead of the area of land under cultivation increasing, as it ought to do, by thousands of .acres, the figures show a falling off.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - There has been an increase of 2,000,000 acres in two years.

Senator SAYERS - I do not regard land under grass, and used for dairying, as agricultural. '

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - I am talking of cultivation. In two yeaTs there has been an increase of 2,000,000 in the area under cultivation.

Senator SAYERS - I know from the returns that in Queensland there has been a decrease in the area under cultivation, and unless the people of Queensland can secure better terms from the Federal Parliament the area under cultivation will continue to decrease. Honorable senators have said something about a match industry in Victoria, which employs 400 people. I have every sympathy with the people engaged in that industry, but we have in Queensland an industry which supports, not 400, but some 25,000 people, who are not getting what they asked for from this Labour Government.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - Are they not getting Protection?

Senator SAYERS - Within the last ten years the Federal Parliament has bled the people concerned in, that industry to. the tune of £2,100,000. According to the official returns, that amount of money has been taken from the " man on the land " in Queensland. It is he who finds work for the mills, the shipping, and the labour on the wharfs. But is there any consideration extended to him? We know there is mot. We have done away with black labour. I was in Queensland forty years ago, and long before Senator Givens, who mentioned my. name in connexion with the matter to-day, saw the place. There is no man who can say "that I did not fight my best from 1873 or 1874, when the first kanakas were introduced to be taken out west, to prevent their introduction.. When Sir Thomas Mcllwraith and Sir Samuel Griffith became members of the same Government in Queensland, although I was returned to the State Parliament to support Sir Samuel Griffith, I crossed the floor of the House, and spoke against the Coalition Government. I have all my life been against the introduction of any black labour into this country. We have got rid of coloured labour now. It was done away with some time ago ; but we still continue to exact an Excise duty of £1 per ton on sugar in excess of the bounty paid, and that is taken from the grower. No one can deny that, because the millers have said that if the Excise duty were done awa]' with they would be prepared to give the growers 2s. 2d. per ton more for their cane. Has the Federal Parliament risen to the occasion in dealing with the sugar industry ? It is indifferent to those engaged in that industry. They are 2,000 miles away, and, apparently, do not concern us. I have stated that since Federation those engaged in the industry have paid into the Consolidated Revenue of the Commonwealth no less than £2,100,000. Now they ask that the Excise should be abolished. I contend that the Commonwealth is not dealing fairly with the sugar growers of Queensland, who were induced to embark upon the industry in the expectation that they would be fairly dealt with.

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