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Wednesday, 13 December 1905

Mr McWILLIAMS (Franklin) - I have always admitted that the sugar question is one of the most difficult with which we have to deal. Australia is not the only country which has experienced difficulties in connexion with the sugar industry. Even in England the question of the production and consumption of sugar has exercised the minds ofsome ofthe very best men. There are two points which we ought to carefully consider in connexion with this matter. The real objective was to insure that the sugar industry in Queensland shall be carried on by white labour. But we must not lose sight of the effect which this class of legislation has upon other industries. In spite of what has been said by the honorable member for Herbert and the honorable member for Wide Bay, I fail to see that the bounty is achieving the object for which it was granted. Undoubtedly that object was the practical abolition of black labour in the sugar plantations. Is the bounty having the desired effect? Dr. Maxwell, whose report appears to be a very fair one, points out very clearly that, whilst in the southern, or cooler portions of Queensland, the white labour employed upon the plantations is increasing, the black labour which it is displacing is simply being transferred to the northern parts of that State.

Mr Bamford - The position is the reverse.

Mr McWILLIAMS - According to the figures quoted by the honorable member for Kennedy, no decrease has taken place in the number of coloured aliens in Queensland. If anything, there has been a slight increase. My point is that though we may legislate to drive the kanakas, Chinese, and Japanese out of the sugar industry, we shall not benefit Queensland one iota if we merely force them into competition with some other class of labour.

Mr Page - The legislation which this Parliament enacted in respect of the sugar industry has been the means of placing hundreds of families on the land, who would not otherwise have been settled there.

Mr McWILLIAMS - That does not apply to the northern portions of Queensland. According to Dr. Maxwell's report, there has been practically! no increase in the number of white settlers engaged in the production of sugar in the northern areas. Although there has been a considerable increase in the quantity of sugar produced by white labour during the years the bounty has been operative, there has actually been a larger increase in the output of sugar grown by black labour. Between 1902 and 1905 the increase in the production of sugar grown by white labour was 40,634 tons, arid during the same period the increase in the quantity produced by black labour was 41,799 tons.

Mr Fisher - In 1901 there was more sugar produced by coloured labour than was produced this year.

Mr McWILLIAMS - In his report Dr. Maxwell discusses one aspect of the case which we must consider. He says : -

The situation in 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 exist, 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.

There we have disclosed the real effect of the bounty system. Whilst we are driving the black labourers out of the temperate portions of Queensland, we are forcing them into the northern areas, where they are themselves becoming the producers ofsugar, and the employers of other aliens.

Sir William Lyne - There is a clause in the Bill which will stop that kind of thing.

Mr McWILLIAMS - Is the Minister going to absolutely prevent the production of sugar by alien races ? If so, what will be the result? He will simply drive the kanakas out of the sugar industry, and they will enter into competition with white people in other occupations.

Mr Fisher - He would only prevent them from earning the bounty.

Mr McWILLIAMS - If a Syrian, a kanaka, or a Chinaman takes up land, and employs his own countrymen, he cannot obtain the bounty. If I were offered the choice, I would rather see a' white man employing a Chinaman or kanaka than a black man employing a white man. If the number of aliens in Queensland is about stationary, or if it is increasing, I contend that our legislation is failing to accomplish the purpose for which it was enacted. Then again we have to consider the effect of the assistance we are granting to the sugar industry upon kindred industries. Some time ago I pointed out that the fruit industry is suffering very severely on account of the policy which we are adopting. But before dealing with that aspect of the question, I should like to direct special attention to the real cost in which that policy is involving this country. Last year some 30,000 tons of sugar were imported, upon which a revenue of £183,000 was collected. The excise paid upon 100,000 tons of Australian sugar was £300,000.

Sir William Lyne - There were 45,000 tons imported last year, and 12,000 tons have been imported during nine months of the present year.

Mr McWILLIAMS - Those figures represent an importation of about 30,000 tons for each year. Altogether the policy which we have adopted costs the Commonwealth annually about £1,250,000. Admitting that the price of sugar was abnormally high during a portion of last year, it is quite safe tosay that the public of Australia have paid that amount to the sugar producers, but more particularly to the Colonial Sugar Refining Company to whom the great bulk of the money has gone. Now I have said that the total cost to Australia of the sugar bounty and the sugar excise and import duties imposed in connexion with this industry is about £1,250,000.

Mr Fisher - But the Sugar Refining Company cannot touch the bounty.

Mr McWILLIAMS - I do not wish to weary honorable members by quoting all the figures, but I have here a return, from a perusal of which honorable members will ascertain the enormous profits made by the Sugar Refining Company. I hold it to be the greatest monopoly in Australia. I believe that it is making more out of a primary industry in Australia than is any other monopoly in the Southern Hemisphere.

Mr Bamford - And we shall not be able to get at it by means of the Anti-Trust Bill.

MrMcWILLIAMS.- If that Bill be passed, I sincerely hope that it will be general in its application. When I dealt with this question on a previous occasion, some honorable members held the opinion that the fruit-growing industry of Australia was not by any means as important as is the sugar industry; but they will probably be surprised to learn that, whilst the sugar-growing industry employs, according to Coghlan, about 5,540 persons-

Mr Fisher - That is the registered number. There are14,522 white people employed in the sugar industry, and over 8.000 coloured labourers.

Mr McWILLIAMS - There are considerably over 20,000 persons engaged in connexion with the fruit-growing industry of Tasmania, South Australia, and Victoria, so that the number ofpersons employed in each industry is practically the same. I have never taken up a position of antagonism to the sugar-growing industry of Queensland. My desire is that it shall progress, and be worked, as far as possible, by white labour; but I wish honorable members to assist me in an effort to bring into much closer union than at present exists the great natural products of the tropical parts of the Commonwealth and the great natural products of our temperate zone. At the present time, the amount paid by way of duty on sugar used in the manufacture of jam in Australia is practical ly equivalent to the value of the fruit so used. At the last Conference, certain figures were produced, which were checked by delegates from Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, and Tasmania, and they showed that the value of the product of an acre of quince trees was about £12, whilst the duty paid on sugar used in converting that output into preserves would be practically £24.

Mr Bamford - Do these figures apply to a particular State?

Mr McWILLIAMS - They apply chiefly to the three States producing these fruits. The value of the fruit obtained from an acre of plum trees is about £15, and to convert that fruit into preserves involves art expenditure of £19 by way of the duty on the sugar used. The value of apricots obtained from one acre is about £26, and the duty on the sugar used in converting that quantity into preserves is about £20. Again, the value of peaches obtained fromone acre is £25, and the sugar used in converting them into preserve bears duty to the extent of about £19. I would ask honorable members to seriously consider what these figures mean. They mean that when a man has planted an orchard, and waited four or five years for it to come into bearing, he has to pay £1 by way of duty before he can convert £1 worth of that which he produces into preserves.

Mr Bamford - The position in Victoria and Tasmania was practically the same prior to the imposition of the Federal Tariff.

Mr McWILLIAMS - No. Speaking subject to correction, I believe that a duty of £6 per ton was imposed on sugar by Victoria, but that there was a full rebate allowed on all sugar used in the production of jams for export, and a rebate of £3 per ton on the sugar used in preserves for home consumption. I obtained these figures from a gentleman connected with the trade in this State, and I believe them to be correct. In Tasmania, we allowed a full rebate of duty on all sugar used in the manufacture of jam for export, and as practically the whole of our preserves were exported, the sugar used by the jam manufacturers was virtually free of duty ; whilst their raw material was absolutely free. At the present time, we obtain a rebate of five-sixths of. the duty on sugar used in jams exported beyond Australia; but the full duty has to be paid on that used in jams consumed within the Commonwealth.

Mr Wilkinson - But did not Tasmania have intercolonial duties operating against her prior to Federation ?

Mr McWILLIAMS - Certainly. But our position has been greatly altered. If the land now devoted to fruit-growing were thrown into disuse, its capital value would not be worth more than from £3 to £5 per acre; £6 per acre would be a very high value to place upon it. That being so, the duty on sugar used to convert the produce of our orchards into jam is about three times as much as is the value of the land. No industry has ever been so heavily handicapped as the fruitgrowing industry is, by reason of the difficulties we are placing in its way.

Mr BRUCE SMITH (PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - What was the Tasmanian duty on sugar ?

Mr McWILLIAMS - £6 per ton, with a full rebate on the sugar used in manufacturing jam for export.

Mr BRUCE SMITH (PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - So that in that respect Tasmania had practically free-trade.

Mr McWILLIAMS - That is so.

Mr Thomas - In other words, the foreigner got his jam made with duty-free sugar, while the sugar used in jam for home consumption bore a heavy duty?

Mr McWILLIAMS - The quantity used locally was so small that I think the jammakers, as a rule, were allowed a full rebate.

Sir William Lyne - No.

Mr McWILLIAMS - The quantity made for home consumption was so small that I do not think it was ever taken into account. In the fruit-growing district's every man makes his own preserves. Nearly the whole of Tasmania's output of jam is exported.

Mr Thomas - Those who made jams for their own use received no rebate on the sugar used, so that the Tasmanian had to make his jam with dear sugar, while the foreigner was able to procure jam made with cheap sugar.

Mr McWILLIAMS - My point is that Australia was then, as it is at present, a market for Tasmanian jam, and that we had a full rebate allowed on the sugar used in that exported to the other States. We sent outa large quantity to New South Wales, which, prior to Federation, offered us practically an open market. At the present time, however, we are allowed no rebate in respect of sugar used in jam sent out to the other States. In 1900, the price of sugar in Queensland was, roughly speaking, £13 per ton. The markets of the other States were closed to the Queensland product, so that it had to compete with the imported article. But, to-day, under Federation, Queensland has all the markets of Australia open to her, and yet the price of sugar produced there is about £18 per ton.

Mr King O'Malley - What is Tasmania's proportion of the bounty ?

Mr McWILLIAMS - We lose about £23,000 per annum.

Mr Ewing - Tasmania receives more by way of Excise duty than she pays in respect of the bounty.

Mr McWILLIAMS - I have before me a statement issued on the 10th ultimo. by the Government Statistician of Tasmania, as to the probable effect of the proposed increase in the bounty to growers of sugar by white labour. In this he gives the following table showing -


Mr Watson - How could there be a loss from the bounty?

Mr McWILLIAMS - This is the loss which Tasmania is suffering under the operation of the present duties and the bounty system.

Mr Watson - It is owing not to the bounty, or the Excise duty, but to the fact that no Inter-State duty is collected.

Mr McWILLIAMS - That is so.

Mr Watson - It is only fair to point out that Tasmania can now send her jam to every partof Australia without having to pay duty on it

Mr BRUCE SMITH (PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable member for Franklin can go too far in considering this question from the Tasmanian stand-point.

Mr McWILLIAMS - The point I wish to make is that a primary industry is being unfairly handicapped. So far as the duty is concerned, it is unnecessary to point out that when 98 per cent. of the production of a State is exported, an import duty is of no value to the producers.

Sir William Lyne - Tasmania pays £5,000 towards the bounty, and gets £24,570 from the excise duty.

Mr McWILLIAMS - To show the effect of our present policy on the consumers of sugar in Australia, let me quote the prices of sugar in England, where it is not produced, and in Australia, where it is produced. These are the Colonial Sugar Refining Company's prices for1a, best granulated sugar. In 1900 the price of sugar in Australia was £15 5s. per ton, and in London £11 per ton; in 1901 the price in Australia was £16 10s., and in London £11 5s.; in 1902 the price in Australia was £15, and in London £8 15s. ; in 1903 the price in Australia was £1410s., and in London £9 5s. ; and in 1904 the price in Australia was £14 5s., and in London £10 5s. In January, 1905., there was a great increase in prices, owing to the comparativefailure of the world's crop, and to something approaching a corner taking place, the price then being £17 in Australia, and £16 5s. in London. In August, however, prices had fallen to £15 in Australia, and £11 8s. in London. Those figures show that consumers and manufacturers in Australia pay from £4 to £5 a ton more for their sugar than is paid by consumers and manufacturers in England. The fact is that, having regardto the import and excise duties, and the bounty, Australia pays £1,250,000 a year for the maintenance of a White Australia. But, even if it be the right thing to give a bounty to one industry for the maintenance of this policy, another industry should not be crucified. The fruit industry employs, quite as many men as are employed in the sugar industry, and at present, while the latter is receiving a bounty, the former has to pay an enormous tribute to provide that bounty. I am opposed to the imposition of an excise duty on sugar. I do not think that there should be an excise duty on sugar any more than that there should be an excise duty on wool, wheat, butter, fruit, potatoes, or any other primary product. The excise on sugar was adopted in furtherance of the White Australia policy ; but I have shown that we have not secured the object which we have had in view. The number of coloured aliens in Queensland has not decreased, and in the northern districts the sugar industry is falling into the hands of aliens, who have been driven out of the southern districts. It is said that, because the production of sugar by white labour is increasing, we are securing a White Australia ; but in the northern districts of Queensland aliens are taking up land and cultivating it for the production of sugar, while other aliens have been driven from the sugar industry into other industries. The honorable member for Kennedy, who has given considerable attention to this subject, and as the representative of the northern portion of Queensland should know something about it, stated distinctly in this Chamber, a short time ago, that the number of aliens in Queensland is practically stationary, and the figures given by the honorable member for Wide Bay show that the number there to-day is practically the same as the number there four or five years ago.

Mr Fisher - There has been a decrease of some hundreds.

Mr McWILLIAMS - The number has fluctuated between 21,000 and 22,000 for very many years.

Mr Fisher - It is down to about 20,000 now.

Mr McWILLIAMS - The point I wish to emphasize is that the money which we are spending to secure a White Australia is being used merely to drive aliens from one part of Queensland to another or from one industryto another. Iask honorable members to consider if it is not possible to devise means to give the manufacturers of fruits and preserves an opportunity to obtain sugar at a lower price, and to remove the unfair handicap which is now placed on their industry.

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