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Wednesday, 16 November 1921


Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Repatriation) . - I have listened for some little time to arguments as to whether the duty proposed by another place on bananas is too high or too low. One cannot be oblivious to the fact that honorable senators representing States in which bananas are grown have regarded the duty as reasonable, whilst honorable senators from States whose people are only consumers of bananas regard the duty as excessive. This question, however, cannot be regarded from the standpoint of States in that way. If so, we should revise the whole Tariff. Where duties of 30, 40, and 50 per cent. have been imposed on certain items, the result must be to injure some people, and who get the benefit in those cases? Are we imposing duties to help particular States or to help Australia? It is as much to the advantage of Australia that an industry should be established in Queensland as that an industry should be established in Victoria.


Senator Wilson - Is it a fair argument to say the duties should be put on Australia to help a State?


Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am not certain that I can aecept at its face value what may be offered by Senator Wilson as a fair argument. If the duty on bananas is too high, because incidentally it may help a particular State, we should revise the whole Tariff. I can point to dozens of items in connexion with which duties have been imposed for the establishment of an industry in a particular

State, and it may be said that in those instances the other States have to pay tribute to that State.


Senator Benny - We have already agreed to a duty of½d. per lb. on bananas as sufficient to protect the industry.


Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - We did so some weeks ago, but the honorable senator will scarcely affirm that he is in a position to provethat such a duty is sufficient for the protection of the industry.


Senator Benny - What I mean is that, as the result of discussion here, we came to the conclusion that a duty of½d. per lb. would be adequate.


Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Honorable members in another place came to the conclusion that the duty should be1d. per lb. I am trying to discuss the merits of the case. If the duty on bananas is considered too high, merely because it may appear to prejudicially affect the people of States in which bananas are not grown, I say that we must revise the whole of the Tariff.


Senator Wilson - I agree with the honorable senator.


Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Senator Wilson will not go to the people with that as his policy.


Senator Wilson - Why not?


Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - If the honorable senator did go out with that policy, he would not come back.


Senator Wilson - One never knows his luck!


Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - And probably the country would not know its luck! I want to appeal to honorable senators to consider this item,not in the light of its effect on Queensland and Western Australia, estimable as those States may be, but in the light of the fact that we impose duties to create industries. No honorable senator will get up and say that he supported a protective duty merely in order to establish an industry in a particular locality.


Senator Wilson - Do not the Government admit that the banana industry was well established before this duty was proposed ?


Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I will accept that argument. If we are not to impose duties because an industry is well established, we should tear up the Tariff, because three-fourths of our industries are established.


Senator Wilson - Not to the extent to which the banana industry is established.


Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - The agricultural implement industry is established, and the same remark applies to the iron industry, the boot industry, and in certain aspects the woollen industry. We are, however, continuing the duties on the products of those industries in order that having been established they may be preserved.


Senator Wilson - The Minister's statement was that the duty was imposed to establish the banana industry, and I say that it had already been well established.


Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I did not say that the duty on bananas was proposed for that purpose, but that honorable members have passed protective duties to assist in the establishment of industries.


Senator Wilson - It is just as well to be candid.


Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am glad to hear of the sudden conversion of the honorable senator.


Senator Wilson - I want cheap bananas for the people.


Senator Crawford - The honorable senator does not want cheap prunes for (he people.


Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Is Senator Wilson as keenly anxious to secure cheap dried fruits for the people as he is to secure cheap bananas for them? One way of testing this duty is to see how it compares with other duties to which honorable senators have agreed. I say that it is not as high as the average of the duties imposed by the Tariff. It is not easy to determine exactly what is the ad valorem equivalent of the duty of 8s. 4d. per cental on bananas. But, so far as I can make out, taking the price of bananas at from 22s. to 25s. per case, this duty represents about 25 per cent. ad valorem.


Senator Payne - Twenty-five per cent. on the value of the banana to the grower ?


Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - No; 25 per cent. on the sale price of the article.


Senator Payne - That is not a fair way to put it.


Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - How does the honorable senator interpret a duty of 25 per cent. on boots?


Senator Payne - On the invoice price.


Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am referring to the price of bananas in the market where they are sold in case lots. To meet my honorable friends, I will say that 8s. 4d. per cental on bananas is equivalent to an ad valorem duty of 30 per cent., and I ask them to say whether that is above the average range of duties imposed by this Tariff.


Senator Wilson - It is above the reach of the people.


Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - If a duty of 30 per cent. places an article above the reach of the people, . I ask Senator Wilson to apply his argument to many items in the Tariff, protecting town industries, where the duties range from 30 to 55 per cent.


Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) - More shame to us !


Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Senator Guthrie may plead shame, but I am under the impression that, at the last election, he stood as a Protectionist.


Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) - A sane Protectionist.


Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I find it difficult, in the honorable senator's case, to decide where sanity begins and insanity ends. I reiterate that the duty given in favour of the banana industry is not so high as the average of this Tariff. Now I come to another argument that has been used. Senator Guthrie said that ha was against taxing food.


Senator Gardiner - That is a good, sound argument.


Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - That is so, but it is rather late to apply it to this Tariff. While Senator Guthrie has been here the Committee has passed duties on dozens of itemsof food - fruit, fish, vegetable preserved milks, butter, cheese, bacon, maize, cereals generally, and, if I may include it as a food, beer. It may be an excellent thing to raise the cry of "the free breakfast table" - it worked great charm in the Old Country - but I submit that if we are to go back to that as a guiding principle we shall have to revise the whole Tariff from that standpoint.


Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) - We want reasonable Protection.


Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - That is what I am pleading for. I do not occupy the time of this Committee in asking for anything unreasonable. These arguments, if they apply logically to this item, also apply to 95 per cent. of the items in the Tariff. Yet this Committee would not deliberately destroy the Tariff. If the Committee is prepared to maintain the spirit and principle of the Tariff, duties ought to be applied to bananas as to all other articles. Something has been said about the effect of the duty on trade with Fiji. I have no desire to injure the trade with that or any other country, but there is very rarely anything in this world that has not a reverse side. Anything we get we have to pay for in some way or other. Therefore, when talking of the Fiji trade it is well to remember the kind of competition that wo are faced with. I have in my hands a statement by Mr. John Wear Burton, who is conference secretary of the MethodistMissionary Society. I take it that from his position he may be accepted as a reliable and truthful witness. In giving evidence before the Inter-State Commission, he said that the Indian coolies received1s. per day, but that he thought the planters would soon have to pay up to 2s. per day. I need hardly do more than read that statement.


Senator Gardiner - How long is it since that evidence was given ?


Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - It was given in 1918. I will read the exact words: " In Fiji among the Indian coolies the indenture system has been broken, and the planters will be obliged to give a higher price. Instead of paying1s. per day, as the standard is now, they will probably have to pay 2s. per day for ordinary labour." If we go a little further than the witness suggested, and suppose that 4s. per day is paid, I venture to submit that that would represent very serious competition for the banana-growers in Australia, who are obliged to pay the white wages ruling in this country. The margin in favour of Fiji is a tremendous one in the matter of wages alone. It has been said that this duty will jeopardize our trade with Fiji. What does that trade amount to ? I do not wish to decry it by saying that it is not worth anything. It is a valuable trade, but, on the other hand, in estimating the extent of the danger to it we cannot afford to shut out of our minds the valuei of the banana industry. It is a fair comparison to set the Fiji trade against the value of the banana crop. The value of Australian imports from Fiji in 1919-20 was £298,000. I am going to suppose- which is, of course, in a sense, ridiculous - that all that trade was wealth produced to Australia. We may have derived some profit from handling the goods or shipping them to other countries. It is quite clear that the value of that trade to us could not have been more than the capital value represented by the trade itself. The value of the Australian banana crop in 1919-20 was £496,000. I think we are entitled to consider whether, in preserving the Fiji trade, we may not be threatening a more important industry in Australia. If the monetary value of the Fiji trade were equal to the value of the banana crop, there would still be more profit to Australia in the banana crop than in the Fiji trade. There is more profit to Australia in fi worth of goods produced in Australia than there is in anything we may collect in handling £1 worth of Fiji trade.


Senator Senior - The duty on banana3 was formerly ls. 6d., and the Senate increased it by 200 per cent. Surely that should suffice?


Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I ask the honorable senator, if he is sincere in presenting that argument, to apply it to every other item in the Tariff. If he argues that because this duty was ls. 6d. per cental it should now be only 4s. 2d., he ought to oppose the placing of a duty upon any article that previously had no duty.


Senator Senior - Put it on proportionately.


Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I have endeavoured to show that the duty on bananas is not out of proportion with other duties in the Tariff.


Senator Gardiner - Can the Minister inform the Committee what was the value of the goods sent from Australia to Fiji in 1919-20?


Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - The value was £664,000. Many of those exports were goods on the way from Europe to Fiji, and Australia received only the transhipment profit. If £1 worth of bananas are grown in Australia, Australia receives the whole of the profit.


Senator Payne - Is it not a fact that the banana crop in Queensland in the year referred to was all consumed in Australia?


Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Granting that it was, that is what the bananas are grown for. We want to encourage local consumption.


Senator Wilson - There are not enough bananas grown in Australia to supply local requirements at a fair price.


Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - That statement applies to every other article in' the Tariff. Not enough woollen goods are manufactured in Australia to supply local requirements. Does my honorable friend say that on that account a duty should not be placed upon tweeds ?


Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) - It is not necessary, anyhow.


Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Did the honorable gentleman vote to put it on?


Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) - I did not.


The CHAIRMAN (Senator Bakhap - I direct the Minister's attention to th'i fact that his time has expired.







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