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Wednesday, 13 December 1905

Mr HUTCHISON (Hindmarsh) - In dealing with this question, we have first to consider what has been the effect of the present legislation; how far the bounties have had the effect of discouraging the employment of coloured labour in the canefields. We have next to consider what would be the effect of adopting the proposals now before us, and whether they are the best for attaining the object which we have in view - the maintenance of a White Australia. I do not know that they are the best. The recent visit of honorable members to Queensland, at the invitation of the Government of the State, should be very helpful to us in dealing with the subject. We were treated with the utmost generosity by the State Government, and by both the advocates of coloured and the advocates of white labour, by whom we were flooded with information of the most conflicting character. We found that, with very few exceptions, the large planters think that without coloured labour their industry must come to an end, while those who use white labour - and they are chiefly the small farmers - assert that, with the continuation of the bounty, the industry will assuredly prosper. The difference between these two views is as pronounced as that between the views of free-traders and protectionists. The advocates of white labour can show that the white growers have increased from 1,521 in 1902 to 2,68:1 in 1905 - an increase, as stated by Dr. Maxwell, of 78 per cent, on the total number of cane-growers. On the other hand, the advocates of black labour can point out that, in spite of the bounty, there has been an increase in the acreage planted with black labour, and that the production of cane grown by black labour in 1904 was 71.38 per cent, of the whole crop, while there has been no diminution worth speaking of in the number of planters employing coloured labour. In fact, the number of planters employing black labour has increased. We have to consider why the process of substituting white for black labour has been so slowly carried out. Before I visited Queensland we were constantly being told, not by the planters of North Queensland, but by the press, that white labourers could not work in the cane-fields of Queensland. When we arrived in that State, however, we found that that cry had been abandoned. It was reported, not that white labourers could not do the work, but that reliable men could not be obtained.

Mr BRUCE SMITH (PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable member is dealing with the whole of the fields, instead of differentiating between the far northern fields and those in the southern districts.

Mr HUTCHISON - I am speaking generally. Some of the southern planters say that they cannot obtain white labour, and I wish to show why they are not likely to do so. Very little patriotism was shown by the big planters. They appeared to me to be cold, calculating, and, in some instances, inhumane money-makers. They raised exactly the same cry that came from the American planters when it was proposed to abolish slavery, namely, that they could not possibly carry on -without slave labour. The kanaka is undoubtedly a slave in a modified degree. One planter stated that he had seen kanakas sold as chattels in bygone days.

Mr BRUCE SMITH (PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - In what they called the " blackbirding " days.

Mr HUTCHISON - Yes; and those days were not so very long ago - they are not in the dim and distant past. At one place which the party visited, we found that the kanakas had to sleep in a large galvanized iron shed. They had to recline on shelves, which were destitute of mattresses, and they were, in fact, stowed away like so many bales of goods. I did not care to reflect upon what the conditions must be in that shed during the hotter months. They were bad enough when I was there.

Mr BRUCE SMITH (PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Were not the kanakas allowed to sleep in the open if they pleased ?

Mr HUTCHISON - No. I understand, however, that they prefer to build their own houses, and I must say that those I saw were very comfortable, because they were suited to the climatic conditions. Among the scores of kanakas questioned by myself and others, not one was found who did not wish to get back to his island home.. I find that the Queensland Government were under the impression that we were much misled with regard to the treatment meted out to the kanakas, and. I have here some' 'Correspondence from the Chief Secretary's Department, containing a report from the Pacific Island branch of the Immigration Department, which reports that the kanakas are well treated, and that they have no difficulty in getting, back to their homes. ' The report does not disprove the representations made to us. We found that the kanakas sometimes experienced the greatest difficulty in returning to their homes; in other words, that the legislation of Queensland was very badly administered. The kanakas were allowed to come into the State under agreement, upon the expiry of which they were at liberty to go back to their homes or to re-engage for a. further term of service. When their time expired-, however, th'ey were often told that there was no ship. I am glad to say that the inspector admitted that a good deal of trouble had been experienced, but he contended that that was largely due to the kanakas, who, after agreeing to go. home, would suddenly re-engage for service. These time-expired kanakas are a. great menace to the people of Queensland.

Mr BRUCE SMITH (PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Owing to their conduct ?

Mr HUTCHISON - Yes. Their conduct has been very bad. I heard a great deal about the danger to be apprehended from the kanakas. I did not believe ali that was said, and, therefore, upon one occasion, I left the party, and, in company with a justice of the peace, whom I took with me as a witness, went out to obtain information that could be relied upon. I went out to see some families near Ingham, the heads of which had asserted that their children had been molested by time-expired kanakas. In the first house we visited we found eleven children, who, we were told, could not be sent" to school. Upon asking the reason, I was informed that they were afraid of being molested by kanakas.

Mr BRUCE SMITH (PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - What was the justice of the peace doing whilst all that was going on ?

Mr HUTCHISON - He was sitting on the Bench, and performing his duty as best he could, but he was always overruled by the police magistrate, whom I afterwards interviewed. I asked what proof ;he parents could give that their children had been molested, and all they could tell me was that they had complained to the 'police some little time before. I grant that that was not satisfactory evidence, because the parents might have allowed their fears to get the better of their judgment. Upon visiting the next residence, I put the same question, and had my attention directed to a little girl of eleven years, who had recently been interfered with by a kanaka, who had been sentenced to three months' imprisonment. I was also informed that a similar case had occurred in the same family two or three weeks before. Although, in the latter case, the kanaka pleaded guilty, the magistrate, -who had every sympathy with the employers of black labour, merely told him that if he came there again he would be strung up, and ordered him to be deported. The father of the child told me that, after he had attended a banquet in the town, he dared not return home by himself, and that his wife had had to barricade her house, and have a gun always at hand, whilst her husband was away.

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