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Wednesday, 23 October 1912

Senator VARDON (South Australia) . - I have been somewhat puzzled about this Bill. It has had a very leisurely progress through the Senate so far, although in another place it was rushed through in a few hours, as if it were of the utmost importance that it should be at once passed into law. I hate circumlocution. I prefer to come direct to a point. This Bill seems-' to me to go a very long way round to secure very simple results.

Senator Rae - That is owing to our roundabout Constitution.

Senator VARDON - The Constitution, is direct enough for me in most respects. I am not making any complaint with regard to the wages prescribed by the Minister of Trade and Customs. So far as I can see, they are reasonable enough. If the Ministed has erred at all, it has been perhaps through fixing the wages under rather than over the mark. But I do not exactly see why it should have been necessary for him to prescribe wages for this industry. I want to know why we should not put the sugar industry on exactly the same footing as any other protected industry. Why should we not do away immediately with both bounty and Excise?

Senator Sir Josiah Symon - The same state of things prevails with regard to wine, spirits, and tobacco. There is in the case of each a Customs and an Excise duty.

Senator VARDON - But there is no bounty.

Senator Sir Josiah Symon - That is just the mischief here; but the honorable senator says,that we should do away with both Excise and bounty;

Senator VARDON - I think it is better that we should do away with both. In the case of industries generally, which have been given the advantage of a Protective duty whether they pay Excise or not, the wages in them are regulated by a State industrial authority, or some other body created for the purpose.

Senator Givens - The only reason why it is necessary to retain Excise and bounty in connexion with the sugar industry is in order to differentiate between sugar grown by white and sugar grown by coloured labour.

Senator VARDON - I do not see why it is necessary to retain Excise and bounty for that purpose.

Senator Givens - If we wish to keep the industry a white industry it is very necessary.

Senator VARDON - I am told that there is only about 4 per cent, of coloured labour employed in connexion with the production of sugar.

Senator Givens - Abolish both Excise and bounty, and it will be 40 per cent, next year.

Senator VARDON - It seems to me that that does not necessarily follow at all. Suppose the same rate of wages was fixed for a black man as for a white man, how long would the black man continue in the industry ?

Senator Givens - Not long.

Senator VARDON - By that means the white man would drive the coloured man out of the industry. Why should not wages in the industry be fixed in that way ? I do not like this Bill, because, as I have said, it goes such a long way round to secure the very simple result of giving fair wages to those employed in the sugar industry. According to this measure, the Minister of Trade and Customs has first to make an appeal to an Arbitration Court. I believe that the whole thing has been a ghastly failure from beginning to end.

Senator Rae - What has been a failure ?

Senator VARDON - The Arbitration Court.

Senator Ready - Does the honorable senator say that, when there are 100,000 persons working under awards and agreements made in the Arbitration Court?

Senator VARDON - How much has it cost to secure those awards? How long has the Tramways case been going on, and how long will it continue? What will it cost to secure an award in that case ? Will there be peace when the award is given?

Senator Guthrie - There has never been a breach of any award of the Arbitration Court.

Senator VARDON - A great deal of discontent has been caused by the awards of the Court. I do not look upon the Conciliation and Arbitration Court, or any Court of that kind for the fixing of wages, as in any way a success. I believe that the Wages Board system is very much better.

Senator Guthrie - The Arbitration Court has been very successful.

Senator VARDON - The Wages Board system has done more to raise wages and improve conditions than any other tribunal or Board established in the Commonwealth. I say that fearlessly.

Senator Rae - It is an assertion which the honorable senator cannot prove.

Senator VARDON - The honorable senator can get the particulars to prove it, especially in regard to the State of Victoria, where, I understand, the system was first established, from reports of the work done by Wages Boards.

Senator Guthrie - It applies to only a few industries.

Senator VARDON - The Arbitration Court applies to only a few industries also. I see no reason why the Wages Board system should not apply to all industries.

Senator Rae - How could a Wages Board deal with an Inter-State industry?

Senator VARDON - We have a Court to settle Inter-State matters, and if it confined itself solely to them, it would be better. I believe that we could find a better system for the settlement of Inter- State disputes than is provided by. the Arbitration Court. Under this Bill the Minister is called upon to go to a Judge of an Arbitration Court, a Judge of the Federal or State Court, or a State industrial authority for an award as to wages. Why should we not confine the matter straight away to a State industrial authority, and let such, an authority fix the wages of the industry, irrespective of colour? I believe that if that course were followed, it would settle the question almost immediately. We might, as an alternative, provide for a conference between growers and employes in the industry, and give the force of law to a mutually satisfactory arrangement come to by them. It would be better to deal with this matter in that way than to continue the system of bounty and Excise, simply in order to prevent the employment of black labour.

Senator St Ledger - The Government do not wish to settle the question. The Bill shows that clearly.

Senator VARDON - I know that negotiations were begun and suggestions made fully two years ago, with the object of bringing about a satisfactory state of things in the industry. It was suggested by those interested that coloured labour should be done away with altogether. I have here some correspondence which took place on the subject in July, 1910. There is a letter written by Mr. G. H. Pritchard, secretary to the Australian Sugar Producers Association Limited, and addressed to the Prime Minister, in which he says -

I have the honour, by direction, to convey to you the following resolution which was unanimously adopted by the Australian Sugar Producers Association at the half-yearly meeting of their Council held in Cairns on the 21st and 22nd ultimo : - " That steps be taken by the Australian Sugar Producers Association to have the necessary legislation passed forthwith by the Federal and State Parliaments to absolutely prohibit the production of sugar by coloured men either as growers themselves or by the employment of coloured labour in any shape or form in the sugar industry, and that a copy of Mr. Duffy's opinion, and of this resolution, be forwarded to the Federal Prime Minister, and the Premier of this State, asking that such direct legislation be passed forthwith, as will give effect to the wishes of this Association.

Twenty-two delegates attended this meeting, representing growers and manufacturers from various sugar districts of the State extending from Nambour in the south, to Mossman - the sugar outpost - in the north, so that you will see that the gathering was thoroughly representative in character.

I have now to formally invite you to consider the advisableness of giving effect to our wishes, as embodied in the resolution, by passing the necessary legislation through Parliament.

I am aware that the opinion is held that the coloured races cannot, constitutionally, be excluded from the industry, but have pleasure in handing you herewith a printed copy of the opinion of Mr. Frank Gavan Duffy, K.C., together with a copy of the case submitted for his opinion, by which you will see that he states, unreservedly, that the Federal Parliament is clothed with full authority to pass the legislation which we desire. As Mr. Duffy is a gentleman who is regarded as being in the front rank of his profession, as a constitutional lawyer, and, moreover, has been selected by the Federal Government to advise and act for them where constitutional questions are involved, we specially chose him to give the opinion in this case. His opinion therefore should be entitled to particular respect.

Further, the language of the section of the Commonwealth Constitution Act upon which he relies is so clear that it does not admit of any ambiguity of construction. I quote the text of it for your guidance and information -

Section 51. The Parliament shall subject to' this Constitution have power to make laws for the peace, order, and good government of the Commonwealth with respect to -

xxvi.   The people of any race, other than the aboriginal race in any State, for whom it is deemed necessary to make special laws.

I am directed to remind you that the members of our Association heartily subscribe to and cordially support, the policy of a white Australia as applied to the sugar industry, and embrace every opportunity which presents itself of letting this be understood. We, however, are emphatically of the opinion that the policy should be carried to its logical conclusion by absolutely excluding the coloured races from participating, in any shape or form, in the production of sugar, and as there is no legal ban to this being done, we trust that we may rely upon you to take the matter in hand with the object of giving effect to our wishes.

Further, I desire to point out particularly, that the absolute exclusion of coloured races from the industry would be the best possible means by which we could most directly, and effectively, deal 'with the excise and bounty legislation which expires on the 1st January 1913. Your own public announcements, from time to time, have made it quite clear that your chief, if not indeed your only, reason for advocating a continuance of the existing legislation is that if the legislation were allowed to run out, as Parliament has designed that it shall do, the coloured races would be placed upon the same footing as the white races. Permit me, therefore, to strenuously urge upon you the adoption, of the course which our Association have pro.posed and ardently wish for, and so settle this much vexed question in a conclusive and effective manner once and for all.

Commending our proposal to your earnest and best attention,

I have the honour to be, Sir,

Your obedient servant,

G.   H. Pritchard, Secretary.

On the 12th July, Mr. Shepherd, the Secretary to the Prime Minister, replied to Mr. Pritchard in a letter in which he said -

I have the honour, by direction, to inform you, that the representations of your association will receive consideration.

Then, on the 12th August of the same year - 1910 - Mr. Pritchard again addressed the Prime Minister in the following terms : -

Permit me to invite attention to my letter to you of the 5th ultimo, and to your reply thereto saying that the subject-matter thereof would have consideration. I shall be pleased to know whether we may rely upon you to give effect to our desire to exclude coloured persons from engaging in any shape or form in the sugar industry ? I venture to think that my letter above quoted made a full and complete presentment of the matter to yon, and as you are now dealing with the legislation affecting the industry, it would be the most appropriate time to deal with the whole subject comprehensively and conclusively on the lines indicated in my letter.

In explaining the intentions of your Government you are reported by the press to have said, amongst other things, that " the arrangements for the payment of bounty and the collection of excise will remain undisturbed on the basis which it occupies this year, lt mill be preserved until a better means of accomplishing our aims has been discovered." The words which I have underlined made it abundantly manifest that the two amending Bills now before Parliament do not comprise the whole of your Government's policy in connexion with the sugar industry, and as you have time and again made it plain that your aim is to make the industry a wholly "white" one, it does not seem to me possible to conceive any more direct, effectual, and conclusive manner of accomplishing the end you have in view than that set out in my letter of the 5th ultimo. May I therefore again commend its contents to your earliest and best attention.

I have the honour to be, Sir,

Your obedient servant,

G.   H. Pritchard, Secretary.

On the 1 8th August, the Secretary to the Prime Minister replied -

Your representations on the question of the exclusion of coloured persons from engaging in this industry have been brought under the notice of the Department of Trade and Customs, and will receive full consideration.

I have here the case on which the Australian Sugar Producers Association asked Mr. F. G. Duffy to give an opinion, but I do not intend to read it all. The first question on which he was asked to advise was -

Can a law be enacted to entirely prohibit the employment of coloured labour in the sugar industry, and to prohibit the growth of sugarcane and manufacture of sugar by coloured labour ?

To that query Mr. Duffy replied, "Yes." The second question on which he was asked to offer an opinion was -

Can there be levied on sugar-cane a duty of Excise so high as to make it financially impossible for sugar to be produced by coloured labour ?

To that question Mr. Duffy answered " No." He said-

In view of my opinion expressed above, it becomes unnecessary to answer these questions, but I think the answer to question No. 2 should be " No," because, for the reasons relied on by the majority of the Court in the King v. Barger, 6 C.L.R., 41, a duty of Excise, such as that suggested, would be regarded as an incursion into the domain exclusively reserved for State legislation.

At any rate, two years ago it was the desire of these sugar-growers to overcome the difficulty of black labour in this way, and, ap parently, it received some sympathy from the Prime Minister, because I find, from a paper tabled in the other House on 10th October, Mr. Denham, Premier of Queensland, wrote the following letter to him on 5th September of this year -

I have the honour to inform you that my colleague the Treasurer, on his return to Brisbane, communicated to me your expressed opinion that it would make for the welfare of the sugar industry if both excise and bounty were abolished, that you would do your best to influence your colleagues to take the sameview, and, if successful, would next session introduce Bills for the repeal of so much of the excise and bounty sections as applied to the sugar industry. While thanking you for this attitude on the question, I must say I was not unprepared for the information, as I was aware you had on' former occasions expressed yourself similarly thereon. Whatever co-operation I can ive you in the matter will be cheerfully rendered, for I am fully satisfied that along such lines as you suggest lies the only solution of the difficulties which have to be met. I hope therefore you will be able to prevail on your colleagues to take action in the direction mentioned, and to take it during the current session of Parliament, for delaying it until next year would entail very serious consequences on the industry, and, among other evils, the intensifying of the present feeling of uncertainty and unrest in those connected with it.

If you can give me your assurance on this point, I shall undertake to introduce legislation prohibiting Asiatic aliens from engaging or working in the industry, and compensating such aliens as may be bond fide owners or leaseholders of land now under sugar cane. The people of Australia desire the sugar industry to be a white-labour one, and I gladly give my support to any arrangement which will ensure the realization of that desire. It is also their wish that this industry should pay the white labourer the highest wage consistent with its prosperity, and the better to achieve that end I shall so enlarge the Industrial Peace Bill as to bring sugar workers (both field and mill hands) under Industrial Boards. I think that will be the most effective means of protecting their interests.

I am informed that you have expressed some doubt as to whether the cane-grower would reap any benefit under the altered conditions. On this point Mr. White, M.L.A., assures me he raised the matter at a meeting of the Sugar Manufacturers' Association held in Bundaberg on the 2nd September, when it was resolved that in the event of the excise and bounty being abolished the millers will pay the 'growers of cane 8s. 8d. per ton in place of the 6s. 6d. now paid by the Customs. The Treasurer will also give the growers the full benefit of the difference between excise and bounty.

You are aware of the intention of the Government to erect mills under the Sugar Works Act 191 1, three of which have been approved and »ill involve a total expenditure of ,£350,000. Other mills are likely to be pressed upon our attention, but I fear that, in the present unsettled state of the sugar industry, the House will not vote the necessary funds.

I have been favoured by an authority, whose opinion may be implicitly relied on, with the following reasons for the abolition of the sugar excise and bounty : -

1.   That no other primary industry pays excise.

2.   That the abolition of the excise and bounty will place the sugar industry on the same footing as other protected industries in the Commonwealth.

3.   That the reason for the excise on sugar does not now exist, as only about 4 per cent, of last year's crops was grown by coloured labour.

4.   That the abolition of the excise and bounty will not increase the price of sugar to the consumer.

5.   That the abolition of excise and bounty will create a feeling of security in the sugar industry which does not exist at the present time, and will ensure it vigorous development, whereas the prevalent uncertainty is causing farmers rather to restrict than extend their operations.

6.   That, as regards other Australian industries, our foreign rivals are manufacturers of goods produced by white labour, but the sugar industry has to compete with the sugar grown and manufactured by cheap coloured labour in other parts of the world.

7.   That nearly all the growers throughout the State have dismissed their employees other than those engaged in harvesting the present crop, and as the time for spring planting is at hand, immediate action must be taken if the industry is to be saved from extinction.

I have the honour to be, Sir,

Your most obedient servant,

D.   Denham.

That is the case which was put, and it seems to me that it took exactly the right ground. If you do away with the bounty and the Excise, and provide for the maintenance of fair conditions and the payment of fair wages, the sugar industry will be put on a better footing than it is at present, simply because of the existence of the bounty and the Excise. I know that the growers themselves feel that the Excise works against them altogether. It means that they are paying £1 of it. If the suggestion I have made is adopted, and the primary production of sugar in this way is placed on,exactly the same footing as any other protected industry, I think it will be a good deal more satisfactory than will be this Bill, which calls upon the Minister to interfere and prescribe rates of wages, and so on, when it might easily be done under the State industrial authority, and to the satisfaction of all parties concerned.

Senator Sir JOSIAHSYMON (South Australia) [4.23]. - Like my honorable friend, Senator Vardon, I have been a good deal concerned about this Bill, which is a comparatively small one, both in typographical extent and, I think, in other respects. But my concern has rather been to find out why the Bill should be opposed. I have most attentively read all that has been said, and I have listened - it could not have been better put - to the view suggested by Senator Vardon, but I confess that I am entirely unable to understand why the Bill should not be accepted at the present moment.

Senator St Ledger - Are you speaking from the stand-point of emergency, or from the stand-point of policy?

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - I am speaking from the point of view of policy.

Senator St Ledger - And of emergency?

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - And everything else that my honorable friend likes concerning the industry. Some of us have been here throughout the legislative proceedings in connexion with this industry, and when I hear it said, as stated in the letter which has just been read, that if the Bill is passed the industry will be threatened with extinction-

Senator CHATAWAY (QUEENSLAND) - Who said that about the Bill?

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - I am delighted to hear that that view is not put forward, because, if there is one industry in this country which, instead of being, as Senator St. Ledger said the other day, tormented, has been coddled, it is the sugar industry of Queensland. Whether the enormous profits which have been derived from the sugar industry have been fairly and justly distributed, whether they have gone into the right pockets, is another question, and a very important one, too, which has to be dealt with, because, as we all know, there are three sets of people who are concerned in the industry.


Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - I shall add the other if my honorable friend will let me mention the three. First, there are the workers; second, the growers, that is the owners of the plantations; and, third, the refiners represented by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company principally.

Senator Chataway - Excuse me, you omitted to mention the mill-owners, between the growers and the refiners.

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - I am much obliged to my honorable friend. I omitted the mill-owners for this reason that sometimes the growers and the mill owners - at any rate in co-operative mills - are identical, and on the other hand equally so, I suppose, the Colonial Sugar Refining Company are interested both as growers and as refiners. These four classes have to be justly dealt with, and if there is consideration shown by this Parliament out of the pockets of the taxpayers towards the industry as a whole, we cannot, in considering the position of, for instance, the growers, eliminate the enormous profits which are made by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. When I recall the efforts which have been made by the Parliament to assist this industry as a whole, and when it is pointed out to me that one of these four different classes engaged in the industry is suffering to some extent, or is not quite so prosperous as is another section, I ask myself whether it would not be better to arrive at some means of diminishing the enormous profits of one section, and allowing a portion of them to percolate down to others who are not so prosperous. We must take the industry as a whole. Until this afternoon, when Senator Vardon rose, this debate was practically a duel between two sets of representatives from Queensland - between Senators Stewart and Givens on the one hand, and Senators Chataway, St. Ledger, and Sayers on the other hand. I congratulate Senators Stewart and Givens - there were various points of vehemence in the speech of the latter - upon what I thought were the very fair, large, and sensible views, having regard to the history of this legislation, which they took of the whole position. In the first session of this Parliament - in 1901 - the Liberal party, led by Sir Edmund Barton and Mr. Deakin, instituted a policy for the repatriation of the kanakas. I opposed that step, because I thought that an immediate repatriation of these Pacific Islanders might inflict hardship and cruelty upon them. But another aspect of the matter was presented by my honorable friends, namely, that if we repatriated these people, and insisted upon effect being given to a White Australia policy in Queensland, white men would be obliged to do work for which they were not fitted, and, consequently, they ought to be paid a very much higher rate of wages. The outcome of that discussion was that, when the Excise Tariff Bill was under consideration in 1902, a provision was inserted for the payment of a rebate in the Excise - which was then 3s. per cwt. - upon all sugar grown by white labour. The object was to assist the growers, who, it was anticipated, would be obliged to pay very much higher wages, in order to give effect to the White Australia policy. But no provision was made to insure that those higher wages should be paid. Their payment was left to whatever machinery was then available. Later on it was found that that rebate would have had to come out of the pockets of the Queensland growers - a position which it was said would have been unjust. Parliament felt that a national policy should be paid for by the genera] community, and, therefore, in 1903, the law was altered by substituting a bounty for a rebate. That bounty was intended to achieve the same object. In the Act of 1903, however, no proper provision was made for the exercise by this Parliament of some control, in order to insure that the White Australia policy should be faithfully given effect to, and that the white men engaged in the sugar industry should be paid a wage commensurate with the additional drain which was being placed upon their vital power and energy. That was the true principle underlying the whole thing. In 1905, when the Deakin Government were in office, a Bill was introduced which contained a provision similar, to a great extent, to that which is now proposed, by which the Minister was enabled to withhold the bounty in any case in which he found that the rate of wages paid by the grower was below the standard rate paid in the district in which the sugar was grown, to similar white labour employed in the industry. At that time I feared that the employment of the term " standard " in connexion with the rate of wages paid would prevent us from effectually achieving the object which we had in view. It was too vague. That was found to be the case; and in 1910 we passed a Bill which attempted to remedy that defect, but which did not do so effectively. It provided -

(2)   If the Minister finds that the rates of wages and conditions of employment, or any of them -

(a)   are below the standard rates and conditions of employment prescribed by any Commonwealth or State industrial authority ; or

(b)   in the absence of any such standard applicable to the case, are below the standard rates payable and conditions of employment obtainable in the locality in which sugar is grown ; or

(c)   in the absence of any such standard rates and conditions of employment respectively, are, on application by the Minister to the President of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, declared not to be fair and reasonable by him or by a Judge of the Supreme Court of a State or any person or. persons who compose a State industrial authority to whom he may refer the matter, the Minister may withhold the whole or any part of the bounty payable."

That is the present state of the law. The provision contained in this Bill is substantially the same, although it appears in a different, and, in my view, a better, form. If this were a court of arbitration whose function it was to determine the rate of wages which should be paid in the industry, a great deal of what has been said would be most important. But it is not. As to the payment of 8s. per day, I think it is a paltry wage, in comparison with the work which has to be done and the conditions under which it has to be done, especially when we recollect what was urged as a reason for the payment of this bounty some eight or nine years ago.

Senator Blakey - Does the honorable senator know that quite recently the men had to go on strike for 7s. a day?

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - I do not wish to enter into a discussion on that matter. I think that the balance of the argument is in favour of what has been urged by Senator Stewart and Senator Givens. But that is not the question with which we are now dealing. We are dealing with a. machinery Bill, which represents another attempt to carry out the declared policy of this Parliament.

Senator St Ledger - The question- is not as to the object which we have in view, but as to the means which should be adopted to attain it.

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - I may tell my honorable friend that, in my humble judgment, this is a very much better measure than is the Act of 1910.

Senator St Ledger - In my judgment, it is very much worse.

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - That merely shows how bad is the honorable senator's judgment. The Minister declares that a condition of uncertainty prevails in the industry. Why? Because the growers cannot tell, until after their cane has been handed over to the sugar mills, whether they will obtain the bounty or not. The Minister affirms that the unfortunate grower has to go through all the operations connected with cultivation, and to cart his crop to the mill, where it is crushed, and its sugar contents ascertained, before the Minister can step in and say, " You cannot obtain the bounty." If that be so, it is a most unjust position for the grower to occupy.

Senator Findley - And for the workman.

Senator Sir JOSIAHSYMON.Exactly; because the workman cannot say to the grower, " You are getting the benefit of the bounty, and, therefore, ought to increase my wages, in view of the arduous tropical work which I have to perform." But I would point out that the grower himself may lose the bounty after he has been to the trouble of cultivating his land, and after he has paid his workmen an adequate wage. The Bill proposes to make a slight alteration in the law which was enacted in 1910, to enable the Minister, before any cultivation has been undertaken by the grower, to apply to the same tribunals which are specified in the law in question for a declaration as to what wages and conditions of employment are fair and reasonable. He may do that before the season begins. Consequently, before the grower puts a plough into the ground, and before the worker engages with him for the season, each will know how he will be affected by the bounty if the grower complies with the conditions which have been laid down. Thus the measure will do away with all the uncertainty which now exists. That is my view of the object of this Bill, and, such being its principle, I do not see how any one can fail to give it assent. Looking at it not as a new provision, but as designed on the lines of the old policy of paying a bounty to those engaged in the industry, and, taking an Excise from them, it appears to me that there is only one of the sub-clauses which can possibly be open to the slightest objection. The Minister is to have nothing to do with determining wages where a rate has been agreed upon or fixed by some per.perly constituted tribunal. If he finds a rate prescribed by a Commonwealth or State industrial authority, he cannot touch it. He has to pay the bounty. So also if an agreement has been made between the workmen and the planters, the Minister cannot touch it. He is powerless, and has no right to interfere. If standard rates applicable to a particular locality have been agreed _upon by employers and employed, the Minister cannot interfere. The rates have to be recognised. Then comes a provision that if the Minister finds that the rates paid and the conditions observed are below the rates and conditions declared to be fair and reasonable, he can interfere. I cannot conceive of anything more reasonable and more just in order to settle this very troublesome question. It is applied without that Executive interference which is so justly reprobated. I find that in August of this year the Minister issued a regulation providing that certain rates of wages were to be considered ordinary rates. That was an interference by the Minister. This Bill, as I understand it, is to have the effect of checking such interference. Of course, very often when we try to read a Bill in the simplest fashion, there is no difficulty about understanding its meaning. It is only when we resort to roundabout tortuous courses, and try to find some sinister purpose in a measure that we get into trouble, and imagine all sorts of evils that are likely to happen. That is one of the reasons why I think we should all support this Bill. It is an effort to get rid of Ministerial interference with the wages question. It puts the matter into the hands of tribunals, which are amply well constituted. There is one other word which I should like to say. It has been suggested that we should abolish the Excise and the bounty at one and the same time. I am not in favour of that policy. If such a proposal is made, I shall give it my most strenuous resistance. I am opposed to the abolition of the Excise, and although I was originally opposed to the bounty because I do not like bounties of any sort - and, further than that, I did not like the way the coloured people were treated - still I think that this method is the best to follow. But if we are going to get rid of the bounty, and the sugar people are in favour of its relinquishment, still, that is no reason why we should relinquish the Excise. In any case, as pointed out by Senator Givens and Senator Stewart, the bounty gives a leverage over the conditions in which the workers are placed, and should not be released without proper guarantees.

Senator St Ledger - Is not that what the Premier of Queensland has promised to do?

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - Let him do it. That will be one step. I have heard read the letter of the Queensland Premier. It is an excellent letter. It is full of the most excellent promises.

One part of it, we are told, has been performed. But the other, and the important part, has not yet been performed. I do not wish to express any positive opinion about the matter until it comes before us ; it will be time to consider that aspect when a Bill is passed in Queensland prohibiting the employment of coloured labour in the industry. Senator St. Ledger, as a lawyer, will see that that is only a reasonable thing. The first step should be taken by the State authorities. Then they should come to us, and say, "We have done this thing; here is our charter of freedom in connexion with the sugar industry in Queensland. Now, do your part." I do not agree with the captivating contention that we should place the sugar industry on the same footing as any other protected industry. There are other protected industries which quite justly have Excise duties imposed upon 'them. It is a perfectly legitimate thing from the point of view of revenue to impose an Excise upon such a thing as sugar.

Senator Givens - Upon a necessary of life?

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - There is an enormous Customs duty of £6 a ton on sugar, which it has been said in some of the speeches made, and as I believe, is paid by the consumer of the article. We know that sugar is dearer in Australia than in New Zealand by about £6 a ton. I am not going into the question of whether the advantage goes into the coffers of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, or not. The company is certainly in the happy position, as one of the four elements in the sugar industry, of disclosing a profit at the end of each year or £350,000 or ,£360,000. If we add the amounts put away in various reserves, and so forth, I think it will be found that the annual profit amounts to £500,060. It does not appear, therefore, that the industry is one which requires a heavy duty like j£6 a ton.

Senator St Ledger - Mr. Knox says that he likes Free Trade in sugar.

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - I admire him for that, although I do not think he pledged his company.

Senator Givens - Mr. Knox said that he was. a Free Trader, but that his company had no political opinions.

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - I think it would be found if the matter came up in this Parliament, that representations would be made on behalf of the Colonial

Sugar Refining Company to preserve the duty, or, at any rate, a considerable part of it.. We find that there is at, present an Excise of £4 a. ton, which, if retained, would still leave a protection of £2 a ton. But. the bounty associated with the Excise is in quite a different position. I should like to see the bounty abolished. I am led to believe that the exclusion of coloured labour has been a great success in Queensland, and that if a measure' were introduced in the Queensland Parliament to prohibit the employment of coloured labour, we should then reach a happy Elysium. I should not then seek to interfere with the £6, and the sugar industry would have the difference between the £4 per ton Excise and the £fi per ton Customs duty as a nice little nest-egg.

Senator Givens - Would the honorable senator charge an Excise on salt or olive oil?

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - There is an Excise on spirits distilled in the country.

Senator Givens - Spirits are not necessaries of life.

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - Well, a little spirits, as St. Paul said about wine, are good for "the stomach's sake." We are growing a large quantity of tobacco, and shall grow move in time. There is no reason why there should not be an Excise on tobacco.

Senator Givens - Surely the honorable senator would not put tobacco on the same footing as sugar?

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - When my honorable friend says that he would not impose an Excise on necessaries of life, he forgets that we already impose a duty of £6 a ton on the very commodity which, he truly says, is a necessary of life. I do not want to go into that, however, nor into the Tariff at all. Other points have been raised as to the disputes between the growers and the workers. I do think that this Bill is justified, on the ground put by the Minister, as an improvement upon the measure of 1910, which was intended to follow the lines of the policy adopted by this Parliament.

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