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Tuesday, 19 December 1905

Mr BRUCE SMITH (PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The Minister has told us that the. principle of the sliding scale had been adopted in the Senate, and that the amendment now before us had resulted, as if it were a novel proposal. It is scarcely fair to this Chamber to forget that a large number of honorable members, including myself, advocated the sliding scale in this Chamber on freetrade principles, and that when the Committee divided, the Government had a majority of only two votes. The honorable member for Bland expressed the opinion that it was premature to introduce the sliding scale. I quite agree with him that it is premature to bring it into operation at the present time; but I do not share his opinion that it is premature to announce to the sugar growers of Australia as soon as possible that they are not to look for the permanent establishment of the artificial protection which the bounty gives. I suppose that some of the strongest advocates of protection look forward to the time when artificial assistance to industries will be withdrawn, and they will be able to stand alone.

Mr Mauger - That can happen only when we have a little Heaven below.

Mr BRUCE SMITH (PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Victoria has been trying for 39 years to reach the millennium, and seems to be further off it than ever. Although I recognise the right of the Queensland sugar planters to claim the principle of "general average" over the whole of the people of Australia, by way of compensation for the disabilities, which have been imposed upon them by the White Australia policy, I am glad that the Senate has recognised the danger of creating the impression that the bounty is to be permanent. Although the other Chamber has extended the time during which the bonus shall be given, and has made the declivity, from the present state of affairs to nothing, more abrupt than we proposed, the principle it has adopted is a sound one; as the, sugar growers will now have notice that this Parliament will not be a party to according artificial support to their industry in perpetuity. Another amendment has been made by the Senate, and I should like to have an explanation from the Minister as to its practical effect. I have not seen the amendment, but I understand that it is intended to impose upon those planters who participate in the bounty the obligation to pay a minimum wage.

Sir William Lyne - It is proposed that they shall pay the wages current for the same class of labour in the district.

Mr BRUCE SMITH (PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - That provision may have a most important bearing upon tha employment of white labour on the plantations. A- number of circumstantial statements have been made with regard to the great disparity of the wages paid in Queensland. Some men receive as high as 35s. per week and their keep, whilst others are paid only 12s. 6d. per week with keep -and, it is alleged, very bad keep at that, However, sufficient for the day is the session thereof, and during the next five years we shall have ample time to reconsider this question, if developments make it seem necessary.

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