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Wednesday, 13 December 1905

Mr WATSON (Bland) - I should like honorable members to consider the effect of the Braddon section of the Constitution in its relation to this matter. It is, with me, a matter of principle that those who get the advantage of cheap labour should be prepared to compete with the cheap labour of other countries, and I, for one, am not anxious to extend protection to sugar produced by coloured labour. But honorable members must recollect that all the revenue derived from Excise that the Commonwealth has a right to retain for its own purposes is 5s. in the £1 - one-fourth of the total sum received. That means that from an Excise duty of £6 per ton we should receive only 30s. Assuming that the employment of white labour increases as we have every reason tohope that it will, the proposed amendment would mean the giving of a bonus of £5, and we should be paying away 100s. in respect of every ton of sugar, and receiving only 30s. ; so that the Commonwealth would lose 70s. on every ton of sugar during the currency of the Braddon section.

Mr Webster - We should kill black labour.

Mr WATSON - We should kill our own finances. With all respect to the honorable member for Gwydir, until we have an opportunity to alter the Braddon section of the Constitution, and adjust financial matters in a more sensible way, it does not seem to me to be practicable to carry out the scheme now suggested.

Mr Frazer - How would it affect the taxpayer ?

Mr WATSON - Sofar as the taxpayer is concerned, I admit that the States Governments would get what we should not receive, but so far as the finances of the Commonwealth are concerned, if we were to take over now the functions which, in the interests of the Federation we should have taken over long ago, the expenditure necessarily involved would severely tax our financial resources, limited, as they are, under the Braddon section. If that is so, it would be the height of folly to further restrict our revenue in the manner suggested by the honorable member for Grey - that is, by paying away the sum of 70s. in respect of every ton of sugar produced by white labour above what we should receive in revenue by way of Excise.

Mr Poynton - We should get £3 per ton more.

Mr WATSON - I admit that the States would get it, but we should not, and there can be no doubt that our finances would be hampered in the way I have described. Until the ten years' period, during which the Braddon section is to operate, has expired, it would be absolutely unwise to adopt a proposal of this character.

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