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Friday, 14 October 1910

Senator PEARCE - In all States. When that time arrives, it may properly be argued that there is no reason why any particular industry should be picked out to receive a bounty, because we can make our protective Tariff on whatever lines we choose with the object of keeping out foreign competition. We can then proceed to stipulate the conditions which shall apply to the production of various article? in Australia. But until we have secured an amendment of the Constitution, we are, unfortunately, without that power. We have done something, however, in regard to the sugar industry, and I will give a few figures to show what has been effected by Commonwealth legislation.

Then the honorable senator read the figures which it is unnecessary for me to quote, and he went on -

But the Government take up the position that the sugar-growers of Queensland, New South Wales, and any other part of the Commonwealth, should be given a definite assurance of what their policy will be for the next few years. We think it only reasonable that before they embark further capital in the industry they should have some assurance of stability in the conditions which will apply to it. We say that, so far as the bounty, Excise, and Tariff are concerned, these Bills give that assurance.

Senator de Largie - Does the honorable senator object to that ?

Senator CHATAWAY - What I say is that those words of Senator Pearce state perfectly plainly that if the referendum on the industrial legislation to be taken probably next March or April is in favour of the Government proposition, the whole sugar question may be reopened at any moment.

Senator de Largie - Why not ?

Senator CHATAWAY - Now we have it from the Government Whip ! No assurance is given that the new arrangement is to continue for a few years. The concern of the Queensland sugar growers is that they shall know that the new arrangement is likely to last for a reasonable period. But the statement made on behalf of the Government is practically that the operation of this Bill is to continue only until the Government secure their object in relation to the control of industrial legislation.

Senator de Largie - Until we get power to legislate in regard to labour conditions generally.

Senator CHATAWAY - And the Government are going to ask for that power in six months' time. Consequently, there is no permanency in regard to this arrangement. To that extent the Bill is thoroughly unsatisfactory. I did hope to hear from the Minister that even if the Government carried the referendum they would undertake that this arrangement with the sugar growers should continue, at any rate, for a definite number of years. The farmer who puts in his cane with the anticipation that he will receive a bounty on the sugar produced does not put it in expecting a harvest in a few weeks. He expects to take three or four crops off his land. For that reason the Government ought to give some degree of permanency to the new arrangement. When the Bill was before another place there was no suggestion that the arrangement was not to be permanent. Now, however, we have one of the most important Ministers in the Cabinet telling us plainly that if the Commonwealth Government gets the extra power for which it is asking -

There is no reason why any particular industry should be picked out to receive a bounty.

Senator de Largie - Queensland has received more than some of her representatives in this Parliament deserved to get for her.

Senator CHATAWAY - If the referendum is successfully carried next year in accordance with the proposals of the Government, it may probably be argued by their supporters that there is no reason why this particular industry should be picked out to receive a bounty, because they can do as they please with the Tariff. Consequently, there is no assurance of permanency, and what is given with the one hand is practically to be taken away with the other.

Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.30 p.m.

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