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Wednesday, 3 August 1921


Senator KEATING (Tasmania) . - I wish to add a few words to what I have already said on the request submitted by Senator Lynch. I listened to what was said respecting the alteration in the output of bananas in Queensland during the war period. I have npt yet heard any refutation of the figures I advanced as to the imports during the - period covered by the war. Those figures clearly show that during the war and up to the time of the armistice the importation of bananas was substantial, and, if anything, showed a gradual increase. Since that time there has been a tremendous drop in -the importations, and there has been a larger proportion of the Australian demand for bananas supplied by Queensland and the Northern Rivers districts of New South Wales. That occurred under the pre-existing duty. The proposal of the Government, as the Tariff was originally introduced, was to raise the duty from ls. 6d. to 2s. 6d. per cental. As Senator Bolton has pointed out, that represented very generous treatment to the industry. On the top of that, honorable members in another place raised the duty from 2s. 6d. to 8s. 4d. per cental. Senator Reid, speaking earlier in the debate, said that "Fiji has been cut out." He told us that, since the 27th May, no Fiji bananas have come into the Commonwealth. Later on he referred to the period since when "Fiji has been cut out." That is an admission that the Tariff, as it stands at present, is, under this item, not merely protective, but prohibitive. If there is one case in which we should not at this time go beyond necessary protection into the realms of prohibition, it is in con nexion with trade with British Possessions in the Pacific Ocean.


Senator de Largie - And with a food supply of the people.


Senator KEATING - Exactly. We have been told that Fiji has been cut out, and it has been complained by the people of Fiji that they have been cut out. We know, as a matter of fact, that thu Levuka, a very large vessel, and wellfitted, not merely for the carriage of bananas and other tropical products, but also for the carriage of passengers, which was engaged in the trade of Fiji for many years, has been taken out of that trade.


Senator Crawford - That was decided more than twelve months ago. ;


Senator KEATING - That statement may or may not be correct, but it has been publicly claimed, and, so far as I know, hot so publicly denied, if denied at all, that it was in consequence of the fact that no bananas were being imported from Fiji that the Levuka was taken out of that trade. Whether that be so or not, the prohibition, which in effect this duty means, of this trade between Fiji and Australia involves the lessening of our commercial relations with a British Possession in the Pacific. As a result of the war, Australia has assumed ' obligations in connexion with mandates. The position of Australia with regard to these mandates is being viewed very jealously, not merely by our former enemies, but by some who, during the war, were our Allies. If there was ever a time when the Possessions of the British Empire in the southern seas and in the Pacific should be drawn closely together in all their relations, it is the present time. Such a policy as that involved in the duty under consideration will not tend in that direction, but will' have the opposite effect. For these reasons, I am not disposed to support a duty which has proved to be prohibitive of our trade with Fiji in the products of this staple industry of that British Possession. I think that a duty of 2s. 6d. per cental would afford Australian producers of bananas adequate, if not generous, protection. It would not give them a monopoly, but under such a duty competition from Fiji would be handicapped, and the Australian industry would not suffer. If I thought that it would .1 should have to review the position. Feeling as I do with regard to the maintenance and development of our trade relations with Fiji and other British Possessions in the Pacific, and assuming, as I have been invited to do by representations of the industry recently shown in the Queen's Hall, that it is in a flourishing condition in Queensland, I am strongly impelled to support the request submitted by Senator Lynch.







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