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Wednesday, 13 December 1905

The CHAIRMAN - Order ! The question is whether there shall be a slidingscale.

Mr CONROY - As the result of our fixing the import dutv at £6 per ton. and imposing an Excise duty of only £3 per ton, we have encouraged the growth of sugar by black labour. We have given it an advantage of £3 per ton as compared with imported _ sugar, and this difference in favour of alien workers in Australia has had to be made good by the white people of the Commonwealth. It is now proposed to increase the Excise to £4 per ton, so that we shall still give the growers of sugar by black labour an advantage of £2 per ton as compared with the imported article, which the people of the other States will have to provide.

Mr Hutchison - We thus encourage black labour.

Mr CONROY - Most certainly we do. Whilst on the one hand we have passed an Act for the abolition of black labour, we are, on the other hand, encouraging it by taxing the white people to the extent of £2 per ton on sugar grown by coloured aliens in Australia. Why should we be asked to pay a bounty to the holders of some of the richest land in the Commonwealth? It would be most unjust to continue the bounty for one day longer than is absolutely necessary. We were asked, in the first place, to allow it to be paid up to 1907, when the deportation of kanakas would commence under the Pacific Island Labourers Act. But, although that law has not been repealed, the Government are now urging the Committee to continue the bounty for a further period of five years.

Mr.Fisher. - What would the honorable member give by way of a protective duty to the white labour employed in the canefields?

Mr CONROY - Why should we single out any one section of the community for especial treatment? We are told that the competition still continues, but the difference is that it is now between the holders of some of the richest land, and the owners of some of the poorest. The honorable member for Wide Bay has simply asserted that as the growers of sugar by white labour have to find a market in competition with others, they should be assisted. The assistance which he proposes to give them will have to be paid for by the other white inhabitants of Australia.

Mr Storrer - The honorable and learned member might apply that argument to every protective proposal.

Mr CONROY - So I do.

Mr Storrer - It is the usual free-trade argument.

Mr CONROY - Surely the honorable member is aware that it is anticipated that this year £151,000 will be paid by way of bounty to the white sugar-growers. That will be made up by the contributions of the rest of the people of Australia.

Mr Fisher - Would the honorable and learned member compel the grower of sugar by white labour to pay an Excise duty of £4 per ton - the same duty as the black grower has to pay?

Mr CONROY - As he is the owner of some of the richest land in Australia, I would compel him to pay exactly that amount of excise that he might fairly be called upon to pay.

Mr Fisher - The same as the black grower ?

Mr CONROY - Once these coloured men have come here we should not treat them differently from white men. There is sound reason for adopting the proposed sliding scale; but, personally, I would favour the abolition of the bounty forthwith. Even with the payment of this bounty the competition between the white and the black grower will continue. We are asked to continue the payment of a bounty to the owners of some of the richest land in Australia. What would be said if the holders of some of the rich land in the neighbourhood of Tower Hill, or on the Murray, demanded a bounty ?

Mr Bamford - They secure a bounty in the shape of special railway freights.

Mr CONROY - Who pays the fax?

Mr Bamford - The people to whom the honorable and learned member has referred.

Mr CONROY - Incidentally, I might point out, as is shown by a letter appearing in to-day's newspapers, that in Canada, even on some of the private lines, the rates are very much lower than they are here. But if the holders of rich land, such as that at Warrnambool, Kyneton, or on the Murray, were to ask for a bounty, or, being in possession of a bounty, were to object to its discontinuance by means of a sliding scale, they would be told that the sooner it was taken off the better, as they were not entitled to it at all. That should be our answer to the sugar-growers.

Mr BRUCE SMITH (PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - A fair compromise has been offered.

Mr CONROY - Yes. If the proposal of the honorable and learned member for Corinella is adopted, the white growers will receive the full bounty for a period of seven years in all, at the end of which time it will be reduced by 20 per cent. for each of five succeeding years.

Mr Frazer - Would the honorable and learned member leave the excise at £4?

Mr CONROY - I should like to see the excise on black-grown sugar made equal to the import duty.

Mr Hutchison - We cannot do that.

Mr CONROY - No, because we cannot increase any tax. The Committee should recognise what a heavy tax is now being borne by the people of Australia to provide this bounty. It is now proposed to make the excise £4 a ton, and to return the white growers £3, leaving them a protection of £5. But surely it cannot be soundly argued that that arrangement should continue in force for ever? Honorable members should unite to put an end to it as soon as they can. There is, no mysterious fund out of which the bounty can be provided. The people have to pay it, and the sooner we remove this burden from them, the better it will be for every one.

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