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Wednesday, 16 November 1921

Senator REID (Queensland) .- Honorable senators seem to have made up their mind on this question, and I do not expect that any discussion at this stage will alter their opinions; but there are one or two facts concerning Free Trade and Protection to be considered. I do not think tropical fruit has bv fir been so cheap in Melbourne as it is at present. Bananas are cheaper than ever before. If the people are deprived of Fiji bananas, they can. get others equally as good. There is a special train from Queensland to Melbourne once a week, and bananas grown in Queensland, and on the Tweed River, are distributed at various places along the railway. Australian bananas have been put on the market as Fiji fruit.

Senator Henderson - Fiji bananas were purchased last week at six for a shilling in preference to Queensland fruit at ten for a shilling.

Senator REID - Is the honorable senator sure they were Fiji bananas ?

Senator Henderson - Certainly.

Senator REID - That may be the information supplied to the honorable senator, but I would like to ask him if he knows the difference between a Fiji and a Queensland banana, or one grown on the Tweed River. How does the honorable senator judge them ?

Senator Henderson - By the taste. I find that the Queensland banana at present is rotten before it is ripe.

Senator REID - It has been stated by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) that no Fiji bananas have come into Australia since the Tariff was put on. Therefore, Senator Henderson could not have seen Fiji bananas, unless they had been brought to Australia 'privately. A couple of nights before I left Queensland prior to the resumption of the parliamentary session, I entered a fruit shop in Brisbane, and purchased a smoothleaved pineapple for ls. 3d. On my arrival in Melbourne I saw similar pineapples in the shop windows for. ls. each. Previously one could not purchase a pineapple at anything less than double the Queensland price. This shows the benefit of the special fruit train.

Senator Lynch - Can the industry stand the rail freight?

Senator REID - By special arrangement the fruit train supplies all the towns along the railway from Brisbane to Melbourne. A great deal of the trouble connected with the ripening of bananas is due to the fact that the banana merchants have not installed proper plants. If the bananas are placed in a sweating chamber, and the heat properly regulated, the whole of the fruit will mature regularly.

Senator Henderson - The bananas I referred to were rotten half way up before they were ripe.

Senator REID - If the banana merchants of Melbourne obtain green bananas and make proper provision for them they will ripen satisfactorily. The Queensland and New South Wales growers are anxious that the duty should stand. What is all the fuss about ? The duty only represents 1d. per lb., and in the Tariff there are very many other fruits carrying duties of from 3d. to 6d. per lb. It must not be forgotten that the banana is a soft fruit, and will not stand a lot of handling. It should be marketed promptly.I have every sympathy with the position of the people of Western Australia, but it appears that bananas can be grown there, because Senator Crawford mentioned a company that had been formed for this purpose.

Senator Lynch - I never heard anything of that company, or of any application for an increase in the duty.

Senator REID - It is strange that Queensland industries found no place at ali in the pictures illustrating the visit of the Prince of Wales, but bananas, said to have been grown in Western Australia, were included, though the fruit shown was the most miserable bunch I have ever seen. If bananas can be grown in Western Australia, the people of that State have not very much to complain about in regard to the Tariff. I admit that at present their position is rather difficult, but every Tariff hits some people. Senator Guthrie, referring to the sugar industry, said that Queensland was the most spoon-fed State in the whole of the Commonwealth. May we not also say that Victorian industries have been spoonfed? The industries of this State, under the influence of Protection, have become well established, and the banana industry ill Queensland will have the same experience. The cultivation of bananas will go a long way towards solving the labour problem. It is essentially a one-man, or family, industry, and it leads to a great deal of closer settlement. Therefore it should have a chance.

Senator Wilson - Do you not think that 4s. 2d. per cental is a chance?

Senator REID - I do not wish to express an expert opinion on that matter. All I know is that banana growers, both on the Tweed River and in Queensland, have made representations to the Minister that the duty is necessary if the industry is to sucoeed.

Senator Senior - How were they able to grow bananas when the duty was1s. 6d.

Senator REID - The growers did not then cater for the whole of Australia's requirements. They say now that, pro vided they are given this amount of protection, they will be able to supply the people of the Commonwealth with good bananas as. cheaply, if not more cheaply, than ever before. Already we have had proof of the truth of this statement. Bananas are being sold in Melbourne more cheaply than hitherto, and in addition the people of this State are being supplied with other tropical fruits.

Senator Lynch - But if this increased duty is necessary, why did areas under bananas increase under the old duty ?

Senator REID - The area increased because the growers were expecting to get this additional protection. I may also remind the Committee that large numbers cf returned soldiers have gone into the industry recently. They have been settled on the land by the expenditure of Commonwealth money, and unless they are given adequate protection many of them will be obliged to abandon their holdings.

Senator Wilson - Is it not a fact that some of the returned soldier bananagrowers were placed on unsuitable land ?

Senator REID - No. That remark is not true of banana-growers, but I understand that some ofthe pine-apple growers were placed on land that was unsuitable for the cultivation of the pine apple.

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