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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 73

The Employment of Labour

page 13

The Employment of Labour.

I have been informed that the experiment of a tobacco factory has already been tried in New Zealand, but I have reason to believe that the attempt has been inadequately made, and I am convinced with greater experience and more ample means and the employment of the best modern appliances, we shall be as successful in New Zealand as in the other Australian colonies, and I am under no apprehension that the considerable capital which we propose to invest will not prove unproductive. I especially wish to point out that the manufacture of pipe tobacco, which I propose to devote my attention to, is totally dissimilar to the cigarette business. Whilst we possess the exclusive right of the use in Australasia of one of the best cigarette machines of modern invention (which we propose to employ in New Zealand, as in Australia, in this remunerative branch of manufacture) I am prepared to admit that this portion of our industry stands on an exceptional footing, and is susceptible of special treatment. A cigarette is not, generally speaking, a working man's smoke; those who indulge in it can well afford to pay sixpence per packet, which has been and still is the standard retail price for imported cigarettes. The introduction of most ingenious labour-saving machines, almost entirely automatic in action, has enabled the local producer of cigarettes, under cover of the protection afforded to the manufacturer of plug tobacco, to produce colonial cigarettes in enormous quantities, which have been placed on the market to be retailed at 3d per packet. This has led to a considerable increase in their consumption—largely, it is said, by youths and boys, to whom the premature use of tobacco is held to be deleterious. I would suggest, therefore, with all respect, that a substantial increase in the excise on cigarettes, which would bring this retail price back to sixpence per packet on the colonial product, would not appreciably effect the ordinary cigarette smoker, but it would check the consumption in a direction which is held by many to be an objection, and it would yield back to the revenue probably more than would be taken away by the suspension of the excise on the material which can be grown in the Colony. The duty on cigarettes manufactured in New Zealand at present by the American Trust is 3s 6d per lb. They manufacture 1000 cigarettes to 2lbs. of tobacco, while the duty on imported cigarettes is 7s per lb., and about 2½lbs. of tobacco is used. The duty amounts to page 14 17s 6d; clear protection 10s 6d per 1000 for this branch of the industry, which is done entirely by machinery and has deprived a large number of girls in this Colony from employment that, prior to this machinery, they were able to earn fair wages by. The machines can turn out, by the employment of one man and a boy, from 8000 to 10,000 cigarettes in an hour. This has deprived the country not only of revenue but of employment for a large number of hands and has enjoyed a heavy protection.

I quote from the New South Wales Statistical Register, for 1893 and previous years, "Manufactories and Work," the following tables:—
Year. Tobacco Factories. Hands Employed. Total Hands Employed.
Males. Females.
1891 11 449 163 612
1892 11 443 163 606
1893 11 452 142 594

In the factory which I had charge of in Sydney we employed about 190 hands, the pay roll for wages generally being from £240 to £280 per week, besides the large amount of repairs which had to be locally done, which extended the employment still further. And, in addition to this, the working in tobacco factories is a very healthy occupation, in no way affecting the labourer's health. The rate of wages is fixed by the unions, and is thoroughly satisfactory all over Australia.

I am familiar with your labour laws, and anticipate no difficulty in working under them.