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Wednesday, 16 November 1921

Senator DUNCAN (New South Wales) . - I do not care to give a silent vote upon this item, because in the north of my own State there are some thousands of banana-growers. I do not claim that the area, under cultivation for bananas is large. Nevertheless, it is an important industry, and I do not want to lose sight of the fact that many of the men engaged in it are returned soldiers who had to pay a high price for their land, and who, of course, had to be assisted as far as possible by the Government in order to make their venture a success. Twelve months ago I took the first opportunity that presented itself after the last general election to visit the North Coast districts, and saw a great many banana plantations. I also spoke to a large number of growers, not one ofwhom made any representation to me for an increase in the duty, which then was1s. 6d. per cental. Nor have I had any representations since then.

Senator Reid - But their views are expressed through the North Queensland Association, of which they are members.

Senator DUNCAN - I have not had one single protest from any New South

Wales banana-growers against the action of this Committee in requesting a reduction of duty from1d. to½d. per lb. Seeking as I do to represent the interests of New South Wales, I feel that I would be doing something entirely foreign to my conception of duty if I voted for the increased Tariff upon this particular item without having had representations from my own State as to the necessity for such increase. The banana-growers of New South Wales, I imagine, are not less keen as business men than the banana-growers of Queensland, and yet they have not asked for an increase in the duty.

Senator Wilson - Senator Reid has said that the New South. Wales growers had arranged with the Queensland growers to ask for the duty.

Senator DUNCAN - I cannot overlook the fact that the New South Wales banajia-growers have their representatives in this Senate, six of them, and not one has any representation made to him upon this matter.

Senator Crawford - But their market is Sydney, is it not!

Senator DUNCAN - I believe it is, but that does not alter the fact that when the duty was1s. 6d. per cental they had to compete with the Fiji bananas, and I understand they were able to compete successfully.Large profits were made in the industry. If any honorable senator will take the trouble to peruse the advertisements in the Sydney newspapers at any time during the last twelve months or so, he will find that it was stated that huge fortunes were being made, and that values of banana land increased enormously. The duty then was1s. 6d. per cental. Now this Committee is being asked to agree to a duty of 8s. 4d. I am not saying one word against the Australian-grown banana, and I do not believe it is necessary to do so in order to produce evidence against this proposed duty. I have found the Australian-grown banana to be just as good as anything grown in any other part of the world.

Senator Senior - How is it that New South Wales bananas are never quoted here?

Senator DUNCAN - Probably because they are all eaten in New South Wales. Australia can consume more bananas than are grown here and imported from Fiji. The supply of bananas is not equal to the demand at a reasonable price.

Senator Reid - What would the honorable senator call a reasonable price?

Senator Crawford - About half the price of apples.

Senator Reid - Bananas can be obtained, and the best in the market, for less than1s. per dozen.

Senator DUNCAN - That raises this issue: If the Queensland banana-growers can place bananas on the market at such a low rate as Senator Reid suggests, they need not fear competition from Fiji. The object of the duty is to enable the Queensland and New South Wales growers of bananas to obtain a higher price than they could obtain if they had to compete with bananas grown in Fiji. The banana has become almost a staple article of diet, and is especially used by children. We are proposing, by an excessive duty, to make it more difficult for children to obtain this fruit. If I had received any representations from banana-growers in New South Wales, and theywere able to show me that it was absolutely essential for the success of their industry that this duty should be imposed, I might have been prepared to support it. I have received no such representations, and I can only assume that New South Wales banana-growers are satisfied with the previous action taken by the Committee in dealing with this item. I trust that action will be indorsed on this occasion.

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