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Wednesday, 16 November 1921

Senator PAYNE (Tasmania)

I have been following the debate on this particular item with a great deal of interest. An ordinary listener who is not seized with the actual position might imagine from the utterances of Senator Crawford that the Committee was endeavouring to take away protection from those engaged in the banana industry in Queensland. I desire to consider the matter from a reasonable point of view, and, in doing so, recall the words of the Minister, who said that the spirit of compromise should enter into the consideration of the items." One honorable senator said that the spirit of compromise had actuated the Committee in requesting that the item be amended by reducing the duty from 8s. 4d. to 4s. 2d. per cental, when it was before us some weeks ago. I think the honorable senator was perfectly correct in what .he said. The fact is that before the introduction of the new Tariff the duty was ls. 6d. per cental, and under that protection the banana industry had become established. I personally had never heard of any great hardship being suffered by those engaged in the industry on account of that duty. It was proposed under the original schedule that the Tariff should be increased to 2s. 6d. per cental, in order that the growers might have the necessary additional protection on account of the alteration in the cost of labour in the banana fields. For some reason or other, the House of Representatives increased the original duty of 2s. 6d. to 8s. 4d. I think the majority df members in the Senate took a reasonable view, and followed the course of compromise in requesting the House of Representatives to reduce the duty of 8s. 4d. to 4s. 2d. I intend to support the request of the Senate, because I believe 4s. 2d. per cental will give those engaged in the industry all the protection required for years ahead.

Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) - Yon may know something about apples, but what do you know about bananas?

Senator PAYNE - ^1 may not know as much about them as the honorable senator, but every member has the privilege of giving expression to his opinions. I shall not be a party to unnecessarily imposing a burden on the consumers. Australia should not adopt a policy of isolation, and tell neighbouring countries, with whom we have been trading for years, that we do not wish to have any more dealings with them commercially. Such an attitude must re-act prejudicially upon Australia. Our trade with Java is no small thing, and it is growing year by year. In 1918 goods of Australian production were exported to Java to the extent of £2,500,000 worth, and I believe the trade now reaches considerably over £3,000,000. In 1918 the export trade with that country in butter represented £368,000; in flour, £391,000; and in apparel and textiles, £35,000. Almost every newspaper of note has published paragraphs urging the necessity to cultivate trade with Java, with a view to considerably increasing it, and also to foster, as far as possible, commercial' relations of a more favorable character with the Pacific Islands. Our export trade withFiji is not very great, but it is worth having. In 1918-19 it was valued at over £500,000.

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Is that a Free Trade argument ?

Senator PAYNE - No. I am not adopting a Free Trade attitude when I am, supporting a protection of 4s. 2d. per cental on bananas. I believe that that is a greater duty than tha growers in Queensland ever expected. From conversations I have had with Queensland people, I am quite satisfied that they were very delighted to find that the Senate had agreed to a duty of 4s. 2d., and they believed that that would give ample protection.

Senator Reid - Were they bananagrowers 1

Senator PAYNE - I do not think so, but they are interested in the development of Queensland. I say advisedly that we cannot afford to run the risk of losing the trade we have already built up with the Pacific Islands and Java. Prominent men in Fiji and other Pacific Islands have said that if the present prohibitive Tariff is retained it must eventually lead to strained commercial relations between Australia and those islands. New Zealand is carefully watching Australia's attitude, and cannot be blamed if it endeavours to score a point at bur expense.

Senator Crawford - If this Parliament does a flagrant injustice to Queensland, what will happen ?

Senator PAYNE - If we grant a duty of 4s. 2d. per cental on bananas, it cannot be called a flagrant injustice, because it will be giving the growers three times as much protection as they have ever before had. An increase from ls. 6d. to 4s. 2d. is a big one. The Queensland growers have always had to compete with Fiji, and have been able to carry on with a Tariff of ls. 6d. I intend to support the Senate's request.

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