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Wednesday, 13 July 1921
Page: 9957

Senator GARDINER - Nobody will accuse me of saying that the owner of the land may take away the crop. He is willing to sell the crop for a period of nine years. But what price is he asking for it? It amounts to £200 an acre or more.

Senator Elliott - The house would cost nearly £1,000 at the present time.

Senator GARDINER - I would not mind meeting my honorable friend upon that argument. As a carpenter, I know that very little can be gained by pulling down and removing a house. But my point is that 10 acres of banana land, with a four-roomed cottage upon, it, is worth an annual rental of £200 per acre.

Senator Crawford - The purchaser would be buying the owner's crop, which is worth some hundreds of pounds.

Senator GARDINER - That is my point. If the honorable senator had been following my remarks he would know that what I desire to make clear is that the man who is working a small banana holding, at the present time, obtains an ample return for his labour, and that, consequently, there is no occasion for us to provide him with a bigger market.

Senator Crawford - It cost many hundreds of pounds to bring that property into the condition which is describedin the advertisement. At Mildura orangeries are worth £700 per acre, and a similar position obtains at Gosford.

Senator GARDINER - I would like my honorable friends' who do not know from experience anything about the growing of bananas, not to hurriedly institute a comparison between a banana plantation and an apple orchard. In the case of the former, during the first year one gets a crop of some sort. During the second year he gets a better crop, and during the third year his plantation arrives at maturity. The banana plant will stand for only three years. It is not like a plum tree, an apple tree, a pear tree, or a cherry tree, which, if . properly looked af ter, may live for centuries. The banana must be planted every three years. I just read an auctioneer's advertisement, in which 10 acres of banana growing land are offered upon lease for £1,750, with an additional £3 per acre annually by way of rental. If the profits from banana culture are so large, do the growers require higher prices?

Senator Reid - Most of the growers who took up land ' at the price indicated in the advertisement would go under because it would be too heavy a burden for them to carry.

Senator Crawford - Will Senator Gardiner give us an instance of an actual sale of banana land ?

Senator GARDINER - I could do so. The advertisement which I have quoted was forwarded to me by my old friend exSenator McDougall, who states that as the Government are obtaining some pictures to exhibit at Australia House they ought to, send a man up to the Tweed to obtain photographs of theChinese who are engaged in the banana industry there. He also suggests that they should secure other photographs of the firms in Hay Street, Sydney, who handle the bananas.

Senator Reid - Of what place is the honorable senator speaking?

Senator GARDINER - Of the Tweed River.

Senator Reid - Does the honorable senator mean to say that Chinese upon the Tweed River grow bananas to the extent that he has suggested ?

Senator GARDINER - I have not the slightest objection to Chinese making a profit out of bananas. When once they set their! feet upon our shores they have every right to become full citizens of this country.'But I can imagine somebody interjecting "What about the men who grow bananas in Fiji?" Fortunately I have a first-hand knowledge of them, because I worked there for twelve months. I found that during recent years the coolies from India are taking up land there wherever they can get it. The Fijians themselves, too, are experts in the cultivation of bananas. In passing, I may mention that one of their number is the equal of our best strike leaders. Not so long ago he engineered an industrial disturbance which had for its object the shipping of only Fijian bananas. Unfortunately the Government of the Island broke down the strike by landing him in gaol upon some trivial charge. I understand that he has since been released.-

Who are the people who grow bananas in Fiji? They are British subjects. The flag about which some honorable senators talk in such a way as to suggest that they alone have a right to praise it, floats over them. Now, Fiji offers a splendid opening for trade to the people of the Commonwealth. Its very climate lends itself to this.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Did the honorable senator like it ?

Senator GARDINER - When I went there I weighed 14 st. 10 lbs.-, but though I speedily lost nearly a stone, I returned to' Australia after twelve months of work still weighing 14 st. 10 lbs. Owing to its moist, wet climate, it is impossible to store things in Fiji in the same way that they are stored here.. Flour itself quickly becomes mildewed. Consequently there is a constant call for the things which the island produces.' If we refuse to take the bananas they grow, we lose the trade we would otherwise secure by having a complete line of steam-ships running regularly between their country and Australia - a most important consideration to the Australian people. During the period I spent there, which was over twenty years ago, I found that New Zealand was twice as alert as Australia to obtain the Fijian trade. Its commercial travellers were always on the look-out to ascertain exactly what the people of Suva and other centres required, and took very fine care to supply them with it. The labour on the banana plantations in Fiji consists of coolies and other coloured people, who are sometimes controlled by white proprietors and sometimes not. The coolies, although they were the poorest paid workers I ever saw, somehow managed to pool their funds, and, by picking up small pieces of land as they became available, were rapidly becoming land-owners, and organized their trade in a wayquite equal, if not superior, to our trade organization. Are we going to refuse to trade with these people because they are of a different colour from ourselves? How would we apply that principle to the banana trade in Australia? Our policy is that once a man is legally entitled to come here, he can go into business here, and we do not care of what colour he is. There is a constant demand for this fruit in Australia, and it has not been supplied at a high price, yet it is to be shut out by means of an exorbitant duty.

Senator Crawford - Bananas are eighteen for 6d. in Melbourne to-day. Every barrow was loaded up with them yesterday.

Senator GARDINER - That may happen . at times from the way the fruit ripens on the bunch. Once decay sets in, they have to be sold immediately, or they are worth nothing. We have put on a duty of1d. per lb., or about 3d. per dozen, which is really 100 per cent. of the value. The quotation I have read shows that the banana-growers in Australia haveone of the finest businesses possible. If a man can earn in nine years enough to pay £2,000 in rent, and the right to go in, it must be an exceptionally fine business ' to get into. The wheat-grower cannot do that: We have no import duty on wool, but wool brings -in the biggest share of the wealth that keeps this country moving. Wheat finds a huge share, also.

Senator Crawford - Every industry finds its share. .

Senator GARDINER - Then why not give every industry a free run ? We cannot protect wheat, wool, and minerals. Why, then, make those industries pay for protecting a few people?

Senator Crawford - Ifwe are to have Protection, let it apply ' equally to the products of all the States.

Senator GARDINER - Although the Minister says this is a scientific Protective Tariff, I do not think he will claim that it applies equally to all the States. How can it be made to apply equally to industries whose market is the world ?

Senator Crawford - Then, make it apply equally to those whose market is in Australia.

Senator GARDINER - If ever there was a fruit that is a fruit of the poor, it is the banana, yet we put a duty of 3d. a dozen on them, and, according to the people of Fiji, shut out their product altogether. The banana industry of Fiji interferes very little with the banana industry of Australia. Fiji has an earlier and warmer climate, and the bulk of their trade is done at a time when the Australian fruit is not on the market.

Senator Sir Thomas Glasgow - Bananas bear the whole year round. '

Senator GARDINER - Yes; but they ripen in one particular season of the year. In the warm tropical islands of the Pacific, the ripening season comes earlier than on the northern coast of - New South Wales, or on the Queensland coast. If their season is earlier, the bulk of their fruit is earlier, so that it is not a serious competitor with the Australian fruit.

Senator Crawford - The conditions on the north coast of Queensland are exactly the same as iri Fiji.

Senator GARDINER - That may be so a long way up north, but most of the banana-growers of Queensland are much further south.

I have here a list of the products of the land in Australia, and their average yield per acre. I have not been able to ascertain the value of raw sugar cane at the mill, and shall be glad if Senator Crawford can tell me.

Senator Crawford - You might say about 45s. to 50s. per ton.

Senator GARDINER - The statement of the productivity of the different crops shows the following results : - For a tenyear period ending in 1919, oats averaged 17.02 bushels to the acre for the whole of Australia, and the value per acre' was £2 6s. 10d. Sugar, for a five-year period - the best I could get from Knibbs - showed a return of about 30 tons of cane to the acre for the northern coast of New South Wales, and about 20 tons to the acre for Queensland.

Senator Crawford - New South Wales has a two-year crop.

Senator GARDINER - What has Queensland ?

Senator Crawford - A one-year crop in the centre and north, and a two-year crop in the south on the average.

Senator GARDINER - The higher return in New South Wales is due to the fact that sugar cane is grown there in much smaller quantities. Those figures give a return from sugar cane in New South Wales of £67 10s. per acre, and £45 per acre in Queensland, for the fiveyear period I have taken. In potatoes, the average crop over ten years was 2.59 tons, at a value of £14 8s. 3d'. per acre. In wheat, the average return was 11.17 bushels, with a value of £2 6s. 5d. per acre. In maize, the return was 26.35 bushels, of a value of about £5 per acre on the a'verage. In hay, the return was 1.23 tons, or a value of £4 2s. 6d. to the acre.

Senator Crawford - Can you give us the cost of production per acre?

Senator GARDINER - That will not affect my argument. I only want to show the difference in the return per acre from the rich cane lands of Queensland and northern New South Wales - the richest cane lands in the world - and the return from' the lands of Western Australia, South Australia., Victoria, Tasmania, and southern New South Wales, where oats, wheat, maize, potatoes, and other crops are grown. The people there put quite as much labour into those crops as is put into cane-growing in Queensland.

Senator Crawford - It is absurd to say that it takes as much labour to grow an acre.of oats as to grow an acre of cane.

Why not make the comparison complete ?

Senator GARDINER - Time will not permit me to argue all the details, but I invite the honorable senator, .who is the champion of the cane-growers, to disprove my statement.

Senator Crawford - It will cost £10 per acre to harvest the cane.

Senator GARDINER - Even if it cost him £20 per acre, the Queensland canegrower would still have a return of £25 per acre, as against an average return of about £2 per acre" for the grower of wheat and oats in the other States. Those who occupy the richest lands in Australia call upon the men on the wheat, oat, and potato lands of the other States to keep them in their business by paying an exorbitant duty on sugar.

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Is it not according to the classics that you always grease the fatted pig ?

Senator GARDINER - That original quotation was too vulgar for me to use. I have shown that for a five-year period the cane-grower of New South Wales would average a return of over £60 per acre.

Senator Crawford - You do not get five crops in five years in New South Wales.

Senator GARDINER - Not from the one planting,, but the business is going on all the time. If the honorable senator tries to exaggerate the cost of production in .the sugar industry, I shall be forced, later on, to read from the reports of a Commission giving all these costs. . What happens with regard to the duty on sugar, which the sugar industry has demanded for many years? The producer of sugar sells it for what it costs him to produce, plus the duty; that is, he sells it at the price at which an outsider must sell to compete with him. Taking the figures since 1901, I find that the workers of Australia have paid to the sugar industry no less than £21,000,000, if my assumption is correct.

Senator Crawford - During the war Australia was selling sugar at half the world's price.

Senator GARDINER - I know we secured it at a reasonable price.

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - And New Zealand was selling it at. ?6 per ton less than we were.

Senator GARDINER - That may be so. During the period I have mentioned we paid ?21,574,213, which represents the increased cost incurred by the . people of Australia, to support the great sugar industry. How has this large sum been expended? As the workers of Australia taxed themselves to build up this industry, they should know where and how the money was used and if it was employed for the benefit of the industry. I have a statement, made on oath, which practically proves that some of the money derived from the people's earnings by the master class in the sugar industry was paid to a fund to defeat the ends of Labour during a campaign which was in progress. I shall quote the questions asked before the Royal Commission on the sugar industry and which arose from the statements made by the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney), who, when advocating an amendment of the Constitution which was submitted to the people by means of a referendum, said that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company had paid ?50,000 into a fund to secure the defeat of the Labour party.- Some time after, when the Royal Commission on the sugar industry was sitting, Mr. Hinchcliffe questioned Mr. Knox, the director of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, in this way -

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - When was that?

Senator GARDINER - On the 17th October, 1912. The evidence reads -

By Mr. Hinchcliffe.; I want to put this question to yon, in addition: Did the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited contribute money out of its undistributed profits or out of any other fund belonging to the company, to support the opposition to the proposed law to alter the provisions of the Constitution of the Commonwealth relating to monopolies, which proposed law was submitted to the electors on 26th April, 1911?

Mr. E. W. Knox.; You ask, did we contribute anything?

Mr. Hinchcliffe.; Yes, did, you contribute anything?

Mr. E. W. Knox.; That is a matter I am not. prepared to give you any information on. We have not done' anything in that matter,. or in connexion with anything else, or relating to the business of the company, which is not strictly legal.

Mr. Hinchcliffe.; You do not deny such a contribution was made?

Mr. E. W. Knox.; I do not say anything about it, one way or the other. You have no right to ask the question.

The Chairman - We have a right to ask the question; but no right to compel an answer.

Mr. Hinchcliffe.; I thought I was giving the company an opportunity to repudiate it.

Mr. E. W. Knox.; When you began about Mr. Parker Moloney I thought you were going to' suggest, if we had paid the ?50,000, that is where . it had gone. I do not say that it would have gone with' a very good object. But we did not make that contribution.

Mr. Hinchcliffe.; You did not make the contribution ?

Mr. E.W. Knox.; I do not say we did not make the contribution; we did not make that contribution.

Here is a highly-protected product on which the workers of Australia pay ?6 per ton duty, and the money is used to create the master class by whom they are employed. But as soon as a question arises affecting the industry and the whole of the people of Australia, funds are contributed by this industry ; but for what purpose? To prevent an amendment of the Constitution. I strongly object to money being paid to the master class of employers to assist them in such a purpose. The people controlling this industry are exploiting the richest sugar lands in the world; but the men in the wheat areas, in the coal mines, and on the wharfs cannot get any such protection, and to enrich this class they have to pay. Under this Tariff the workers of the community will have to contribute still more, and will continue to assist in establishing a master class to employ our Australian people. Some honorable senators may take exception to the term " master class," but I am not using it in a disrespectful way to employers, but simply as an opponent of theirsystem. I suppose the employing class in Australia is just as good as in any other country in the world; but in a Democracy such as this we are able to compel the employing class to give . some measure of justice to their employee. Very often when the employing class have said that they would be harassed and injuredby the demands of the workers, experience has shown that in nine cases out of ten the dangers which were supposed to be threatening did not arise. The predictions as to what would follow the demands made by the em- ployees have never resulted in any injury to the employing class. They may have been the means of reducing their profits, but better conditions have resulted, and in the end the employers have been satisfied.

This is unquestionably the most important measure we shall have to consider during this or perhaps any other session, as it enters into the ramifications of trade and employment throughout Australia. Coming back to where I commenced, I am opposing this Tariff because it will not do what the Protectionists think it will. It will not be the means of creating additional employment; it has never been shown that high protective duties produce that result. It is difficult to understand why such excessive duties should have been imposed twelve months ago when Great Britain and her Dependencies, as well as other countries, were staggering out of the ring in a battered state looking for every means of recovering their former position, and, as far as Australia was concerned, this is the most disastrous stroke that could have been dealt to Britain's trade. During the war period the operatives of Great Britain were engaged only on war work, and when an attempt was made to return, to normal conditions this loyalist Government - and whose professions of loyalty no one can doubt-- submitted a measure such as this. It is more remarkable still when we consider that the Ministry consists of a majority of Free Traders, or who were at one time Free Traders, including the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), the Assistant Minister for Defence (Sir Granville Ryrie), the Treasurer (&ir Joseph Cook), the Minister for Repatriation (Senator E. D. Millen), and the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce), and, in saying that they also possess a majority of the intellect, I do not wish the statement to be regarded as offensive to their colleagues. I know that the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Senator Russell) does not think I am reflecting upon his intellect in any way. A Government composed of such members, striking such a blow at the Em, pire through the medium of this Tariff, is beyond my comprehension.

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