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Wednesday, 13 December 1905

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I do not think that we troubled very much about the sugar-growers of New South Wales. We knew we were going to make them a very handsome present.

Mr Lee - They pay for it by way of Excise.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am very glad to hear it. I was not aware of it. As a matter of fact, the result of our legislation -as the honorable member ought to know - was to make the sugar-growers a present of£2 for every ton of sugar which they produced by white labour over and above the protection which they received when the Federation was established.

Mr Lee - The sugar company gets the benefit of that.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Yet we were assured by the Minister of Trade and Customs that he does not expect to be able to touch the Sugar Trust by the Bill which he introduced this morning.

Sir William Lyne - I am not certain about it.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The Minister ought to be certain, before he submits a proposal of that kind to the House. It is a deplorable thing to hear him confess that he does not know whether the Bill over which the Government have been pondering for months, will affect the biggest trust in Australia.

Sir William Lyne - If the honorable member chooses to move an amendment with that object in view I will accept it.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I hope to make the Bill much more acceptable than it is in its present form before, it leaves this Chamber. The honorable member for Cowper has said that the Colonial Sugar Company is really deriving the benefit of the present bounty. That is a fact which we ought to keep in mind in dealing with this measure.

Mr Fisher - With all its faults the Sugar Company cannot touch the bounty.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable member is very simple if he thinks that.

Sir William Lyne - He knows more about the matter than do most of us.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I doubt whether he knows very much of the ramifications of business as they apply to the Sugar Trust. The Colonial Sugar Refining Company have the means of taking full advantage of the bounty if they desire, since they have absolute control of operations in New South Wales, and nearly absolute control in Queensland. Under such circumstances, any company may determine prices and the conditions under which the sugar shall be produced.

Mr Fisher - There are the Central Mills, in Queensland.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The argument that I am now using, the honorable member for Wide Bay has used eloquently and forcibly in regard to other trusts, but not in regard to the trust in. the sugar industry. However, I do not wish to deal with the Colonial Sugar Refining Company this- morning, but with the sugar industry, and that very briefly. The Commonwealth Parliament have been exceedingly generous to Queensland by imposing heavy duties on the people of Australia, with a view to making a change in the kind of labour employed, and to purifying the race to which we belong. We are not free to approach this question as if we .vere legislating ab initio; there is a transition proceeding, and black labour is supposed to be steadily clearing away from Queensland. I very much fear, however, that the results are not such as Parliament expected when we set out to be so generous. The figures show that there is still an abundance of alien labour in Queensland, almost -at the end of the verv term which was fixed for its absolute abolition.

Mr Fisher - The end of next year terminates the period, and all coloured labourers have the right to remain, until then.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - But does the honorable member think that if there had been a sincere desire on the part of planters to abolish black labour within the period specified, a movement in that direction would not. have been begun long ago?

Sir William Lyne - If this Bill passes, a number of black labourers will go away at once.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am afraid that . the black labourers will never go if the special conditions be maintained for all time. Human nature accommodates itself to circumstances ; and1 the conditions will be so fostered as to make a bounty absolutely necessary for all time. Encouragement in this is given by the attitude of the honorable member for Wide Bay, who has himself declared that he will maintain this bounty until- white labour is fully established in Queensland.

Mr Fisher - I have said that there is no justification for either excise or bounty, except the conditions be unfair to the white man.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - And by unfair conditions the honorable member means, the presence of black labour?

Mr Fisher - Yes.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable member furnishes a motive to maintain the unfair position, by fostering a hope that the full measure of generosity displayed by this Parliament will bte continued.

Mr Fisher - The honorable member is committing an injustice; no white man desires that black labour shall be employed to grow sugar.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am doing no injustice; I am referring to an elementary trait in human nature.

Mr Fisher - I do not know one white grower who desires the continuance of the employment of coloured labour.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - ([ am sure the honorable member knows a lot of growers who will not willingly part with black labour.

Mr Hutchison - The growers told us they will not.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - We are told, on the one hand, that there is not one white planter who desires to maintain the employment of black labour, while, on the other hand, we are assured that there is hardly a planter who desires to part with it.

Mr Hutchison - There is not a white planter now employing black labour who would willingly part with it.

Mr Fisher - There is not a white grower who desires black labour to be employed.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I do not suggest that there is a white grower who desires to employ black labour if he can employ white labour and reap the same profits. But a motive is given to continue the employment of black labour, because we furnish an excuse to demand the continued generous assistance of the Commonwealth.

Mr DAVID THOMSON (CAPRICORNIA, QUEENSLAND) - A grower gets no bounty if he employs black labour.


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Those growers who are continuing to employ black labour do so because the inducement is not sufficient to make them abolish it. This is all a commercial matter - a question of pounds,, shillings, and pence. The moment it can be shown that it is advantageous to abolish black labour, the planters will abolish it, but not till then.

Mr DAVID THOMSON (CAPRICORNIA, QUEENSLAND) - That argument has to do with the duty, and not with the bounty.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The argument has to do with both duty and bounty. What do we find when we investigate the figures ? When we set out four years ago to eliminate black labour in Queensland, we believed that at the end of five years a substantial advance in that direction would have been made. The honorable member for Wide Bay claims that great strides have been made towards the abolition of black labour.

Mr Fisher - I say there have been marvellous strides.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - What the honorable member means is that there has been an increase in the quantity of white-grown sugar in Queensland. But what I should call a substantialstride would be a great decrease in the black-grown sugar. That is the only test that can be applied as to the effectiveness of the Act; and the figures are all in ugly array against the latter conclusion.

Mr Fisher - I am surprised at the honorable member !

Sir William Lyne - The honorable member for Wide Bay ought not to be surprised.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - That is quite true, and I am sure the Minister is not surprised.

Sir William Lyne - I never am, at what the honorable member for Parramatta says.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) -So long as the Minister of Trade and Customs has the votes behind him, he will be surprised at nothing. Nothing would surprise him except the withdrawal of that support, and the bundling of himself out of office. It is true that the white planters number 1,160 more than at the beginning of the period, but the increase is only eighty-height in the North, where the bulk of the sugar is produced. Nearly the whole of the increase is in the central and southern districts, where it has always been admitted white labour can be employed Even in the comparatively cool southern districts there are to-day 128 more Kanakas employed than there were two years ago.

Mr Fisher - That is correct in regard to the No. 3 district.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - To-day there are 3,174 coloured labourers employed in the southern plantations after four years operation of the bounty. The great outstanding feature of these figures, so far as I can see, is that there is about the same proportion of black labour employed in sugargrowing in each district - north, central, and south - as there was four years ago.

Mr Hutchison - There is now a bigger acreage under black labour.

Mr BRUCE SMITH (PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - So that all the money Has been wasted.

Mr Fisher - It is pitiful to hear honorable members make such statements ! The ratio of increase is as two to one.

Sir William Lyne - It is more.


Mr Fisher - The ratio of increase in the white-grown sugar as compared with black-grown sugar.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable member is entirely wrong. I am not speaking of the quantity of sugar grown, which is quite another question, but of the number of labourers. That is the crucial point in regard to the proposal before us. We have not to regard the quantity of sugar, but how it is grown, and with what labour. I say that to-day there is preserved exactly the same proportion of black labour in all the three districts, as when we legislated four years ago.

Mr BRUCE SMITH (PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Then the measure has failed entirely?

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Dr. Maxwell,on whose figures I rely, states in his report, that two-thirds of the sugar in Queensland is still produced by alien labour.

Sir William Lyne - That does not mean black labour, but coloured labour.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Dr. Maxwellmeans kanakas, Chinese, Japanese, and so forth - alien labour which we thought we were going to abolish.

Mr Fisher - And we all deplore the employment of this labour.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I quite admit that there has been an increase in the quantity of white-grown sugar, and in the number of planters who employ white labour, but what the honorable member for Wide Bay has to show, in order to prove the success of the bounty, is not only that the white growers have increased in numbers, but the black growers have decreased. There has been an increase in the quantity of white-grown sugar and the number of planters, but there has been an actual increase in the quantity of black-grown sugar and the number of black labourers.

Mr Fisher - The ratio is about as two is to three-quarters.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The result of the stimulative method adopted by the Commonwealth Parliament has been to attract more white people to the industry, but not to discourage black labourers. The Minister for Trade and Customs very largely relies on the evidence furnished by Dr. Maxwell ; but I do not regard that gentleman as quite an unbiased witness.

Sir William Lyne - Why not?

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Because he was specially engaged by the Queensland Government, and paid a large salary to attend to the sugar industry in that State. We cannot, therefore, regard him as a totally unbiased witness where his State is concerned.

Mr Bamford - He was engaged by the Queensland Government prior to Federation, so that his judgment cannot be affected by the question of a White Australia.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - What I suggest is that, while Dr. Maxwell comes here to place his evidence before the Minister of Trade and Customs, he has yet to keep an eye on his own State. I am suggesting nothing, save a little unconscious bias on the part of Dr. Maxwell.

Mr Bamford - That is rather an unfair imputation.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - No. I suggest nothing but unconscious bias on his part.

Mr BRUCE SMITH (PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - His reports regarding theindustry, both in New South Wales and Queensland, read very fairly.


Mr Mauger - He is a very straightforward man.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am not suggesting that he is not ; but when he is asked to answer a straight question, he replies in effect, " This or that could be done in certain circumstances." There is nothing very definite about his statements. The opinion that I gather from his words is that he sees no prospect of the industry being carried on in the North at any time without black labour.

Mr BRUCE SMITH (PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - In what part of the reportdoes that statement appear?

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - That is what he says, in so many words.

Mr Glynn - That is the effect of his report. At the close of it he points out that this is a big experiment.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - What he does say - and this supports my contention more strongly than does the other statement to which I have referred - that the present difference between the Excise and the Customs duties is barely sufficient to maintain the industry inthe north of Queensland. If we are going to decrease that margin by £1 per ton, then, according to Dr. Maxwell's reasoning, the sugar industry in the North must fail. Theonly remedy that he suggests in the meantime is that, by the operation of the bounty, and the increase in the output of white-grown sugar in the southern districts, some of the black labour there will be released, and can go north.

Mr Fisher - I think that the honorable member is committing Dr. Maxwell to more than he actually says.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I believe that I am quoting him accurately, although I regret that I have mislaid the copy of the report which I had annotated fully.

Mr Fisher - There is nothing to conceal ; I wish all the facts to come out.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - So far as I know, I have stated the effect of Dr. Maxwell's view; he does not anticipate a time when he will be able to grow sugar in the north of Quensland other than by black labour. As a matter of fact, he points out that there are reasons why the bounty, should continue for longer than five years; he is in favour of a ten-years' extension, and believes that only at the end of that time should the experiment be finally considered.

Mr Knox - The system is still to be experimental ?

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Yes; and so far from there being any reason for the reduction of the bounty, the marginbetween the cost of white and black labour, he says, has continued to increase. That being so, there is no possibility of sugar being produced in the north of Queensland other than by black labour. It is just as well to remember these facts, because they do not demonstrate that our experiment has so far been a success. On the other hand, it is only fair to say that when an industry of this kind has such widely-extending ramifications, affects so profoundly the whole Continent, and involves financial and commercial considerations of an exceedingly complex character, four years is a short time within which to complete our experiment in relation to it. I admit that to the full, and that, having regard to the intention which we had in originally granting the bounty, it is a justification for a further extension of the generosity of the Parliament. The experiment has not yet had time to develop itself. It is in a condition of transition, and by the end of next year, when the provisions of the act in relation to the deportation of Kanakas begins to operate, we shall know what the trend of the industry is likely to be. That being so, I feel inclined to view with some favour the proposal of the Minister tofurther extend the payment of the bounty. I know well the sacrifice that this means to many people in the southern States, whose conditions of living are quite as hard as are those of any man in Queensland. There are people in the southern States whose conditions of living are such that they have no margin to enable them to be generous, and they have to be considered in this connexion. We must not lose sight of the consumers, nor of the producers of Australia, in whose productions sugar forms so large a part. But we threshed that out three years ago, when we had all the facts in view, and, therefore, there is nothing we may now say in that respect that was not well known when this proposal originally came before us. There is, however, one matter that I should like to impress upon the Minister.I should like to have a definite answer to the question of whether or not he proposes to allow the full drawback in respect of the duty on imported sugar entering into the manufacture of jams and preserves for export. The honorable gentleman has made many promises to consider this question, but nothing definite has been done. Why does he not take the difficulty in hand, and grant a request which will result in a margin of profit where otherwise there would be none, and so offer an added inducement to persons to enter into the extension of the jam industry in Australia? The Minister ought to let the House know whether he will deal out this modicum of justice. At the present time a drawback of five-sixths of the total amount of the duty on sugar used in jam for export is allowed. Why not allow the remaining sixth?

Sir William Lyne - I have made inquiries in regard to the matter, and intend to give instructions that that should be done.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Do I understand that the Minister has definitely decided to give the officers that power ?

Sir William Lyne - Yes.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am very glad to hear it.

Mr McWilliams - But that refers only to sugar used in jam for export. What about a drawback on sugar used in jams for local consumption ?

Sir William Lyne - I have made inquiries, but find that there are many difficulties in the way.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I confess that there are very great difficulties in theway. Still, I am pleased that the Minister will make the concession of the remaining onesixth in respect of the drawback on imported sugar used in jam for export. It is the least that we can do for the jam manufacturers, at a time when we are placing upon them a heavy burden in relation to a stable part of their products. The question now arises whether the bounty is to go on, like Tennyson's brook, for ever. In the interests of Australia, and of our revenue, that cannot be. If the bounty is to be a continuing and1 constantly accelerating quantity, there must come a time when we shall be in financial difficulties with regard to it.

Mr Watkins - The question of the policy of a White Australia should not be dealt with from the stand-point of revenue.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I have already dealt with it from the other points of view. I am now dealing with the question of whether or not we should continue to pay the bounty,, in respect of what ought to be one of our staple items of revenue, when that payment has been shown to be futile for the purposes intended. At the end of the period fixed in the Bill, the experiment will have had1 time to prove itself to the full - to prove whether it should be continued, and upon the lines on which the Parliament set out to conduct it. I, therefore, intend to support the amendment of which notice has been given by the honorable and learned member for Corinella, providing for the gradual disappearance of the bounty by means of a sliding scale. The intention of the honorable and learned member is, I understand, that the bounty shall be paid at the rate proposed for three years after the coming into operation of this Act, and that during the succeeding four years it shall taper off to the extent of 25 per cent, per annum until it finally disappears. Meantime, we shall have paid no more under the proposal of the honorable and learned member than would be paid under that submitted by the Minister. The bounty will be extended over seven, instead of five, years, as proposed by the Government, and the amendment will put upon the growers a steady pressure in the closing years of the bounty period to accommodate themselves to the original intentions of this Parliament, and to show whether or not the experiment can be demonstrated to be a success. That is my attitude towards this measure, and I shall, therefore, be found in Committee supporting the proposal for the gradual tapering off of the bounty.

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