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Wednesday, 23 October 1912

Senator FINDLEY (Victoria) (Honorary Minister) . - The debate on this Bill has been of a general character. We have heard much to the effect that the sugar industry is an important One, and is of special concern to Queensland. The industry, in all its phases, has been discussed. The majority of honorable senators who have spoken support the measure. Those who have opposed it are the three Queensland senators who sit in Opposition to the Government. Their reasons for so doing, are more than paradoxical. I was pleased1 with the remark of Senator Symon when he said that it was proper that this Bill should receive unanimous support from the Senate. Senator Sayers objected to it, because he asked, " What right has the Minister to fix any scale of wages for the sugar industry > What does he know about it?"

Senator SAYERS (QUEENSLAND) - Well, what does he know ?

Senator FINDLEY - It is not necessary for a man to live all the days of his life amongst the cane-fields in order to familarise himself with the conditions of this industry. 'There was a time - and that not so far back - when those who professed to know most about the sugar industry were found to know least concerning it. A few years ago - my memory is quite clear on thepoint - men who had lived for a number of years in tropical Queensland were convinced that the industry could only be conducted by the employment of coloured labour. They contended that white men could not engage in sugar production, and that the climate of the sugar districts was too enervating for them.

Senator Sayers - Quite a number of people held that doctrine, but I never did.

Senator FINDLEY - It was said that the industry could not be conducted unlesscoloured and cheap labour were employed. Such labour has been abolished. Only white men are, for the most part, employed! in the industry to-day. But, unfortunately, for quite a long period of time when the coloured people were deported, and white men employed, the latter were employed at black men's wages - 22s. 6d. per week and found.

Senator Sayers - How many people inVictoria are getting no more than that today ?

Senator FINDLEY - Did the honorable senator at any time during the period he has been a member of the Senate make thesame inquiry in regard to the schedule fixing the rate of wages at 22s. 6d. per week and found, issued by Mr. Austin Chapman when Minister of Trade and Customs, as he now makes in respect of the scheduleissued by the present Minister of Trade and Customs? Did he say " What right has the Minister to fix the schedule of wages? What does Mr. Austin Chapmanunderstand about the sugar industry?" No,. the pages of Hansard are destitute of any record of remarks of the kind by the honorable senator in respect to the schedule drawn up by Mr. Austin Chapman fixing the wages at 22s. 6d. per week and found.

Senator Sayers - Mr. Austin Chapman was asked to have an inquiry into the matter.

Senator FINDLEY - I venture to assert that the schedule drawn up by Mr. Austin Chapman fixed a sweating rate of the very worst kind - 22s. 6d. per week and found - for an occupation in which it was said by many persons a few years ago white men could not engage;

Senator Givens - The honorable senator did not say how many hours were to be worked.

Senator FINDLEY - I was going to mention that. They work ten hours a day in tropical Queensland. Not a, word of protest was uttered against that schedule by the honorable senator who objects to this Bill and the schedule of wages fixed by the present Minister of Trade and Customs. Senator Sayers. - I beg the honorable senator's pardon ; he is making a statement which is not correct.

Senator FINDLEY - The other day when I said in introducing this Bill that I had been informed that the schedule drawn up by Mr. Austin Chapman was not rigidly adhered to, and that some growers read into it that men might be paid by the hour, and paid them accordingly, Senator Sayers asked me for proof of my statement.

Senator Sayers - That is ridiculous nonsense.

Senator FINDLEY - I have here a number of dockets of men who worked by the hour on different plantations in Queensland.

Senator Sayers - Let the honorable senator name them.

Senator FINDLEY - They include Gibson and Howe's, of Bingera ; Young, of Fairymead; Henry Paris, whose plantation is near Bundaberg ; Nott, of Windermere; Smith, of Pialba; and Clarke, of Kolan River. It should be remembered that these are big growers of sugar cane in Queensland. They did what I said in introducing the Bill. They read into the schedule that it meant so much an hour, and they paid 41/2d. an hour to able-bodied men for work in tropical Queensland.

Senator Sayers - Do two or three swallows make a summer?

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