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Wednesday, 3 August 1921

Senator KEATING (Tasmania) . - I agree that it is desirable that this industry should be protected; but, iri my view, it has been very well protected in the past. The further protection given in this schedule, as it was originally introduced in another place, was surely adequate. Replying to questions by

Senator Prattenthis afternoon, the Minister (Senator Russell) furnished information of a strikingly interesting character. The particulars revealed that the importations of bananas have been steadily diminishing.

Senator Crawford - During the war.

Senator KEATING - No ! The facts are shown by the following particulars : -

In 1913-14 there were imported 367,531 centals, valued at £241,137. In 1914-15 the importation totalled 274,217 centals, valued at £238,653. Those figures show a decline in the first year of the war ; but, so far from the war having affected the situation in the direction indicated by Senator Crawford, the fact is that in 1915-16 the importations were 329,452 centals, valued at £256,395. In 1916-17, importations further increased to 399,452 centals, valued at £213,118. The statistics for 1917-18 - the third year of the war - reveal that importations dropped from close upon 400,000 centals to 235,952, the value of which was £137,140.

Senator Crawford - When the shipping position was most acute.

Senator KEATING - In 1918-19, after the war, importations fell by nearly one-half, namely, to 136,139 centals, valued at £89,529.. For the calendar year 1920 the importations were only 76,080 centals; valued at £76,388. These particulars show that the banana-growing industry in the Commonwealth is more than holding its own. Some weeks ago members of Parliament had the privilege of, seeing a cinematographic representation, in the Queen's Hall, of some of the features of the industry in Queensland and northern New South Wales. One permanent impression must have been carried away by the audience, and that had to do with the prospects of the young man as revealed in the closing scenes of the picture, when he was visualizing his motor car and the fiancée who was to share a very pleasant home with him on the plantation. The whole depiction suggested to my mind how successful was the industry - not under the Tariff of 8s. 4d. per cental, but under the protection 'which has been afforded during the past few years. The whole industry appeared to be very thriving and profitable, and the lands given up to banana-growing were obviously very valuable when it came toa question of selling out. Alto gether, the conditions of life were very attractive; and, in all the circumstances, I wondered that, almost immediately afterwards, members of this Parliament could have pleaded that the bananagrowing industry was languishing and in need of further protection. Since the duty has been raised in another place to 8s. 4d. a cental there has been an increase in the price of bananas.

Senator Reid - That is not so.

Senator KEATING - You will see them marked up at1s. 6d. a dozen, and, in Sydney recently, they were being sold for more than1s. a dozen.

Senator Vardon - I paid 2s. a dozen the other day for bananas.

Senator KEATING - No doubt, the further you get from Sydney and Melbourne the more the price of bananas increases. I have refused to buybananas since their price has been increased because of the increase in the duty, but those who still buy them say that the increase in price is not justified by any improvement in their flavour or quality. I remember when, years ago, bananas could be bought for fourteen for 6d. Those were Fiji bananas, admitted duty free.

Senator Crawford - And I have seen apples sold in Melbourne for1d. per lb., and now apples are 6d. per lb. here.

Senator KEATING - The increase in the price of apples is not due to on increase of the import duty upon apples.

Senator Crawford - There is an import duty of 6s. per cental on apples.

Senator KEATING - What was the previous rate? The duty on. apples has not been increased as the duty on bananas has been increased. The latter has jumped from1s. 6d. to 8s. 4d. per cental, yet we are asked to believe that this has had no effect on the retail price of bananas.

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