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Wednesday, 3 August 1921

Senator DE LARGIE (Western Australia) . - I approach this question from a different angle from that from which I would approach other Tariff items. Bananas are undoubtedly an essential article of food. Perhaps, if I lived on the Pacific Coast instead of on the shores of the Indian Ocean the increasing of the duty on bananas would not seem to me quite so gross a blunder as it appears from the Western Australian point of view. Bananas cannot be taken, from Queensland to Western Australia, and the supplies for that State must come from abroad. Queensland has do part of the Western Australian banana trade, and is not likely to get .it, because the shipping facilities will not permit of that.

Senator Reid - Queensland is going to make a good attempt to get it.

Senator DE LARGIE - That State has never had it, and has no prospect of getting it. Although banana growing has made great strides in Queensland, that State has done nothing to obtain the Western Australian market for its produce. The impost under consideration is undoubtedly preventing the people of Western Australia from procuring an essential article of food, and is, therefore, a wrong one. When, with Senator Keating and others, I visited the sugar districts of Queensland some years ago -

Senator Crawford - How long ago ?

Senator Keating - In 1905.

Senator DE LARGIE - At that time we gave the sugar industry the greatest fillip that it had yet received. No one can say that this Commonwealth Parliament did not then deal generously with Queensland.

Senator Crawford - It has always dealt-grudgingly with Queensland. -

Senator DE LARGIE - It has dealt generously with that State in regard to the sugar industry. The maintenance of the White Australia policy, of course, justifies the treatment that we have given to Queensland, and I have always looked at the sugar duties from the broad Australian stand-point. On the "occasion to which I refer, we saw a great, many banana plantations, but the men engaged in banana growing were not white men, but Chinamen.

Senator Crawford - There is not a Chinaman in that business to-day. .

Senator DE LARGIE - Such a sweep- ing assertion cannot carry . weight with honorable senators.

Senator Reid - It is pretty true, anyhow.

Senator DE LARGIE - So far. as "Western Australia is concerned, the present duty on bananas prevents their use there. I do not regard this matter .from the fiscal stand-point, or from the White Australia stand-point; I look, upon it wholly from the stand-point of the people's need, and I say that if this impost is maintained it will be impossible for those living in Western Australia to get bananas.

Senator Sir THOMASGLASGOW (Queensland) [4.36].. - I trust that the Committee will not agree to the request. We have heard much about the way in which the banana industry has advanced, and I draw attention to the fact that the progress that has been made has been due to the protection which it has received through the lack of shipping preventing competition. In 1898, banana growing was a flourishing industry in Queensland, no fewer than 4,000,000 bunches being produced in that year; but afterwards, owing to the competition of Fiji, the Queensland production declined until, just prior to the - war, it did not amount to 1,000,000 bunches per annum. To show the effect of the Fiji competition, let me contrast the cost of bringing bananas from Fiji to Melbourne with the cost of bringing bananas from Queensland to Melbourne. In 1919, the selling agents in the trade supplied the following particulars of the cost of bringing a case of bananas from Fiji to Sydney : - Transport to steamer, ls. ; freight to Sydney, 3s. 2d. ; duty, ls. 6d. per cental - say ls. Id. a case containing about 80 lbs. weight of fruit - wharfage dues, lid.: inspection fees, 2d.; Fiji export duty, id. ; cost of case, 2s. 9d:; carting, 2d.; commission, say ls.; the total being 9s. 5fd. When these figures were made known, the secretary to the Southern Queensland Fruit-growers Association compiled a statement of the cost of transporting a case of bananas from Gympie to Melbourne. The fruit is carried weekly by train, in what are called " fruit specials," the Fruit-growers Association having an arrangement with the Railway Commissioners of the States under which it is carried through from Gympie to Melbourne' direct in about 4 days. The rninimum railway rate per case from. Gympie to Melbourne is 4s., the cartage to rail averages ls. 3d., association and landing fees come to 2d., the cost of the case averages ls: 8d., the agent's commission is 10 per cent, on 25s., or about 2s. 6d., the inspection fees at Melbourne Id.; the receiving costs at Melbourne Id., and the carting cost at Melbourne. 2d., making the total cost 9s. lid., or 5id. per case more than the cost of bringing bananas from Fiji to Sydney.

Senator Senior - The agents' fees are twice as high in Melbourne as in Sydney.

Senator Lynch - Two shillings and sixpence as against ls.

Senator Sir THOMAS GLASGOW - The Melbourne selling agents charge 10 per cent., whereas Fiji bananas are sold on a commission of 7& per cent. As to the cost of production, in Fiji a native man is paid 2s. 6d. per day and a native woman ls. 6d., whereas in Queensland the workers get from 10s. to 14s. a day, and it costs four or five times as much to grow bananas in. Queensland as it costs in Fiji. In a book entitled The Colom/ of Fiji, issued some time, after 1916 - the exact date is not given - it is stated that the cost of producing bananas is ls. 6d. a bunch, which would be about 4s. 6d. a case, there being three bunches in a case. It costs at least 16s. to produce a case of bananas iu Queensland, allowing a reasonable return to the grower. I do not think that the Queensland growers .should be asked to compete against the black labour of Fiji. During the Tariff discussion a great deal has been; said in this Chamber about the interest that honorable senators take in the primary producers, and they now have a chance to show their practical sympathy by giving adequate protection to the banana industry, so that those connected with it may receive as good a return as the workers and others connected with city industries. It has been said this afternoon that the price of bananas has been increased by the duty, but in today's Melbourne Herald bananas are quoted at from 15s. to 20s. a case. There are about 30 dozen bananas in a case, and if honorable senators have, been pay-- ing from ls. 6d. to 2s. per dozen retail for bananas, it is not the - growers who have been getting the high prices. Bananas are sold by auction without reserve, and the growers have to take whatever prices are created by the demand.

Senator Russell - Prices determined by the consumers, not by the growers ?

Senator Sir THOMASGLASGOW.Exactly. Other fruits compete with bananas, and they cannot become very dear. Banana grow'ing is an industry in which a good many of our returned sol diers have embarked, and I hope that honorable senators will give to it a measure of protection which will enable it, now that it has been re-established, to continue. In the early days banana-growing in North Queensland was principally in the hands of Chinese; but no fruit comes on to this market at all from north of Rockhampton. The Queensland fruit that comes here is grown between Rockhampton and the Tweed River. There is a considerable number of banana plantations on the northern rivers in New South Wales. I believe the production amounts to about 350,000 cases in New South Wales, and 400,000 cases in Queensland. In another place those who opposed the duty said that the industry in New South Wales was in the hands of Chinese. That is not so.

Senator Gardiner - Very largely.

Senator Russell - I. understood Senator Glasgow to say that Queensland produced more than 1,000,000 centals. The latest figures I have for the year 1918-19 are 435,000.

Senator Sir THOMASGLASGOW.I said the production was about 400,000 cases. If I mentioned millions previously, I was referring to the number of bunches. The Minister for Trade and Customs in another place quoted a letter which he had received, giving the number of. Chinese interested and employed in the industry in New South Wales. This showed that they were very few in number. I ask honorable senators to realize that banana-growing is an Australian industry. We in Queensland feel that "we are somewhat isolated in regard to primary products. We are the only State that produces tropical products, and we feel that, as the southern States are not interested in them, we do not get full consideration in the matter of tropical industries. It has been urged that the trade with Fiji will be lost owing to the fact that the boat which brought Fiji bananas here has been discontinued. Surely the trade of Queensland to the southern States is of more value than the trade of Fiji? The people of Queensland consume largely the products of the southern States, and I ask the people of the southern States, in a reciprocal spirit, to deal justly with the primary industry of banana-growing.

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