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Wednesday, 3 August 1921

Senator RUSSELL - The honorable senator is apparently referring to the export of bananas from Fiji since the war, when it has been almost impossible for the island to send away its produce owing to the scarcity of shipping.

Senator Keating - During the war the importation of bananas from Fiji increased each year.

Senator RUSSELL - That is true, but the quantity has fallen considerably since the Armistice. Queensland growers must be congratulated on their successful efforts in building up their trade during the war and the influenza period from an output worth £150,110 in 1916-17 to an output worth £435,000 in 1918-19, the latest year for which the figures are available.

Senator Lynch - That development took place on the lower duty.

Senator RUSSELL - It came about not because of the protection afforded by the duty,, but because there was practically no importation of bananas from Fiji, owing to conditions over which this Parliament had no control. Some honorable senators have told us that Chinese are growing bananas in Queensland and in the northern part of New South Wales. In this connexion, the Customs Department has received two telegrams. The first, from the secretary of the Tweed Fruitgrowers' Co-operative Company Limited, says -

In refutation of allegations regarding Chinese engaged in the banana industry in the Tweed River, 300 bond fide banana-growers in the district hold shares in this company, representing approximately 3,000 acres. .Not one Chinese grower is on our share register and no Chinese labour is employed by shareholders. Similar conditions apply to Queensland banana areas south of Southport. About 60,000 cases of bananas from Tweed Heads, and 40,000 from Currumbin have been railed south during the past twelve months, all European grown.

The other telegram, from a Mr. Stuart, secretary of an organization at Murwillumbah, says -

Four thousand acres under bananas Tweed River; 222,000 cases produced for year ending April by 600 Europeans. Not one Chinaman engaged in production either as freeholder, leaseholder, or as employee. Area in Queensland south of Southport produced 40,000 cases in the same period. No Chinese in any way interested.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Those telegrams do not definitely say that there are no Chinese growers.

Senator RUSSELL - I do not contend that there are no Chinese engaged in the business. My point is that, while we ought to protect this national industry wo should do so in a way which will not. enable certain individuals to extract unfair profits from others. The fruit we produce should be sold at a reasonable price which will afford reasonable profits to the growers. The proposal of the Queensland representatives for a duty of 13s. 4d. per cental would fall very heavily on the great majority of the people of the Commonwealth.

Senator Keating - The Government's proposal was to make the duty 2s. 6d. per cental.

Senator RUSSELL - That is so. We have had a very profitable debate upon this question. I do not think any honorable senator is anxious to injure the banana-growing industry. I suggest a reasonable compromise, which, while affording it protection, will, at the same time, not injure the children of Australia, who eat so many bananas. The Government are prepared to consider any reasonable suggestion, but they do not propose to deny to the banana-growers protection equal to that afforded to Australians engaged in other industries.

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