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Wednesday, 16 November 1921

Senator EARLE (Tasmania) .- As one who has no special interest in the banana industry, I intend to support the motion. In my view, the price of bananas will not be influenced in the slightest degree by the imposition of a heavy duty. I realize that a duty of 8s. 4d. per cental on bananas is prohibition; but I find that the banana industry, under the system of Protection, and the promise of Protection, has increased by 300 or 400 per cent. during the last three or four years. There is no doubt in my mind that the banana-growing States of Australia, if not immediately, then in the very near future, will produce all the bananas that the people of Australia require if we encourage the industry by protecting our growers against the product of black labour in other places. If that be so, the demand for bananas will rule the price. It must not be forgotten that bananas cannot, like a pair of boots, be stored for an indefinite time. They mustbe consumed within a reasonable time after they havebeen cut. Once the industry is established we need have no fear of a monopoly, because the law of supply and demand will operate to regulate the price.

Senator Gardiner - Who will control the supply?

Senator EARLE - In this case nature will control the supply.

Senator Gardiner - The honorable senator should not believe it. Those who control the market will do that.

Senator EARLE - Does the honorable senator mean to tell me that men who have gone into this industry because of the protection given to them against importations from outside will cut down some of their trees in order to obtain higher prices for their bananas?

Senator Duncan - It is the middleman who will control the market.

Senator EARLE - Honorable senators do not realize that bananas are perishable goods, and that the middleman cannot, therefore, control the market, since they cannotbe kept for an indefinite period.

Senator Gardiner - What kind of fruit is not perishable?

Senator EARLE - All fresh fruits are perishable, but some kinds of fruit can be preserved. I have yet to learn that bananas can be preserved, or even kept in cold storage, in the way that other fruits can be kept.

Senator Vardon - Bananas cannot be put into cold storage.

Senator EARLE - I am glad to have my opinion confirmed. During the season, fresh bananas will be coming into the market all the time, and the middleman must get rid of them. He must place them on the market at a price acceptable to the public or they will perish on his hands.

Senator Wilson - Does the honorable senator not admit that the banana industry is well established in Australia?

Senator EARLE - I believe it Is being well established. But, if we were to allow the product of black labour from countries equal, if not superior, to Australia in natural conditions for the production of bananas to compete with the Australian industry, there is a possibility that we would destroy all that we have already done to establish the banana- growing industry here. I frankly admit that in this case I am going the whole hog for absolute prohibition of the importation of bananas. But, from the figures supplied to me, I have every reason to believe that Australia will produce more than sufficient bananas to meet the Australian consumption. If that be so, there can be no monopoly in the banana industry, and the people of Australia will get bananas as cheaply as they could get them from countries where they are grown by black labour. I prefer the cheap banana grown by the white man in Queensland, New South Wales, and Western Australia to that grown by Indian labour controlled by the planters of Fiji.

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