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Wednesday, 16 November 1921

Senator GARDINER (New South Wales) .- The figures quoted by the Minister (Senator E. D.. Millen) show that Australia was receiving from Fiji in 1919-20 a little over £200,000 worth of goods a year, and was sending to Fiji in return over £600,000 worth. By this banana duty we are, in my opinion, sacrificing the whole of that trade. The business men of Fiji are angry against Australia, and are looking for places where they can carry on their trade elsewhere than in Australia. Has any injury been done by this Senate to the banana industry of Queensland? The banana-growers can sell in Australia every banana that they can produce. It has to be borne in mind that the consuming capacity will be increased if the fruit is marketed at a price that is within the purchasing power of the people.

Senator Crawford - What do you think the retail price of bananas should be in order to bring them within the purchasing power of the people?

Senator GARDINER - I do not think that the people should be saddled with a duty of 3d. or 4d. a dozen.

Senator Crawford - That would not pay for the cost of cases and freight.

Senator GARDINER - I have an objection to paying the cost of freight and of oases. « The man who goes into the business and makes the profit should pay those charges. The Minister has compared this duty with other duties. I am an opponent of all duties. A comparison cannot be made between the duty on a pair of boots and the duty on bananas. For the manufacture of boots a large and expensive plant, which is continually wearing: out, is required; but for growing bananas all that is needed is a mattock and a knife. The Protectionist argument is th,at Protective duties are imposed in order to enable a man to invest capital in an industry. Boot factories and woollen factories require tens of . thousands of pounds to be invested in them before they are sufficiently well equipped to compete in the world's markets. I realize that the Minister has put his arguments very cleverly and very honestly, because all the arguments that have been used against this item apply equally to every other item in the Tariff. The arguments are perfectly sound, and they should convince the Senate and the country that . these duties ought not to be imposed. I, who am always a reasonable man, say that whatever the country decides must stand; but surely we can ask not only the country j but the people interested in the industry, to accept a fair thing. If the banana industry could grow to the extent of producing in the year 1920 over £420,000 worth of bananas with a duty of ls. 6d. per cental, what need is there to ask for a duty of 8s. 4d. per cental? It should also be remembered that in the year referred to many petrie who would otherwise have been engaged in production were absent at the war. The industry grew to an enormous extent under the Tariff of ls. 6d., and now the Committee is asked to go out of its way and give a duty which the industry did not ask for, and ona which is three times larger than the Ministry asked for.

Senator Crawford - The industry did ask for the duty.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - The question is not what the Ministry or the industry asked for, but what the other House has asked for.

Senator GARDINER - The other House may have acted impulsively. This is one of the instances in which the revising Chamber should meet the other House and say that neither the Ministry, the Government, the Minister in charge, nor the industry asked for this duty, and that a duty of 30 per cent, should be protection enough. I have discovered that the grower of bananas is getting no benefit from this Tariff, but that the man who imports them is. I can illustrate the position by a reference to another fruit industry. A fruit-grower close to Sydney, who was new to the business, determined to establish a name for himself. He gathered his fruit carefully, sent only the best to market, folded them in paper, and packed them properly. An old hand shovelled the others into a case and sent them to Parramatta market. The latter returned 6s. a case, while the others, properly graded and packed, returned only 2s. a case. If honorable senators will talk to a grower of bananas in this country they will find that this enormous duty has crippled Australia's Fiji trade. That is my chief objection to all duties - they cripple trade. The banana-growers are anxious to market their own fruit. It is not a question of whether we are to develop or manage the industry or encourage people to invest their money in it, but whether a duty of 4s. 2d. per cental, which is six times more than the industry developed under, is sufficient.

Senator Crawford - That will not cover the difference between the present freight and what it was eighteen months ago.

Senator GARDINER - Although the Levuka is now on the Australian coast.

Senator Crawford - But bananas go by rail.

Senator GARDINER - If the growers send their' product by the most expensive method, they must bear the consequences.

Senator Crawford - It is cheaper than by sea when the risks on the wharfs are taken into account.

Senator GARDINER - Risks were incurred when importations came from Fiji. I have said quite a good deal concerning the protection which I consider this industry requires. I am only speaking, for the people I represent, although I know my remarks may be somewhat irritating to Senator Crawford. The honorable senator referred to the wharf labourers, but he must remember that the wharf labourers are a hard-working and deserving class, and our present. Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) was drawn from their ranks.

Senator Crawford - They frequently hold up our stuff by unnecessary strikes.

Senator GARDINER - Wharf labourers here and in other parts of the world cease work when they are being unfairly treated. I read in a trade journal the other day that 3,500,000 people were unemployed in Protectionist America.

Senator Reid - What is the number unemployed in Free Trade Great Britain ?

Senator GARDINER - About 1,500,000; but the proportion would be very much the same. Those figures are, I think, sufficient to show that Protection is not a cure for unemployment.

Senator Sir THOMASGLASGOW (Queensland) [5.39]. - The discussion this afternoon has covered quite a number of the points brought forward when this item was previously before the Committee. I donot wish to repeat the arguments that have already been adduced; but I desire, for the information of honorable senators who have been wondering how the industry was established with a duty of1s. 6d. per cental, to point out that during the war period there was a natural protection because the plantations in Fiji were destroyed by a disastrous cycloneand freight was exceptionally scarce.' In consequence of this, the Queensland banana-growers were able to proceed without much competition, and the industry received an impetus. Why do the Queensland growers require protection? Simply because the bananas grown in Fiji are raised with cheap coloured labour. The. wages in Queensland vary from 10s. to 14s. per day, and, as the Minister (Senator E. D. Millen) pointed out, the labourer in Fiji receives only 2s. per day. When the schedule was previously before the Committee, very high protection was given to some commodities at the request of honorable senators. Those honorable senators must now endeavour to be consistent, and not be fiscal chameleons. There is no industry that I know of that assists closer settlement to a greater extent than banana-growing, because a banana-grower can make a living on from 7 to 10 acres of land, whereas a wheatgrower requires anything from 300 to 600 acres. Comparisons have been made with the returns derived by banana-growers and those of wheat-growers; but if a settler can make a living on from 7 to 10 acres when others require from 300 to 600 acres, surely he is entitled to consideration ! The industry has developed on the north coast of Queensland and in the northern portion of New South Wales to a great extent, and I desire to direct the attention of honorable senators representing Western Australia to the fact that as we are now encouraging immigration on an extensive scale, there is no form of settlement that would be of greater assistance than banana-growing. Rich scrub lands in suitable localities along the coast will produce bananas, and if Western Australia wishes to look for new avenues of settlement this is an industry in which people can be profitably employed. '

Senator Lynch - It is really a question of what is a fair duty.

Senator Sir THOMASGLASGOW.When the schedule was previously before the Committee, some honorable senators were opposed to any duty at all. Senator Wilson said that the apple-grower was pleased to receive a duty of1d. per lb. on his products; but the banana-growers are getting very little more.

Senator Senior - But the apple-grower exports his product.

Senator Sir THOMASGLASGOW.That is all the more reason why he should have less protection, because his opportunities of disposing of his product are greater. The Government once placed an embargo on apples to protect the Australian producers. There is a duty of 6s. on apples, and of 8s. 4d. per cental on citrus fruits.

Senator Senior - That is of no use, because we produce more than we use.

Senator Sir THOMASGLASGOW.The honorable senator should endeavour to be consistent. Some honorable senators have attacked the Sta'te which I represent; but they should remember that we are in a peculiar position, as Queensland is really the only State producing tropical fruits which come into competition with the products raised by cheap labour in the Pacific Islands. If we favour the White Australia policy, we must afford adequate protection to tropical products raised in the Commonwealth. We have settled our north-eastern coast to some extent, but development cannot continue unless we have an opportunity of competing withtropical products raised elsewhere.

Senator Benny - Will not a duty of ½d. a lb. adequately protect the industry?

Senator Sir THOMASGLASGOW.No. The duty fixed by another place is not above the average fixed in connexion with other fruits. The banana-growers should have a uniform market. In the past, when the monthly boat arrived from Fiji, large quantities of bananas were dumped on to the market, and the Queensland growers could not obtain sufficient to cover the freight. They now know the requirements of the southern markets, and are able to regulate consignments in such a way that the demand can be met without the consumers having to pay an unreasonable price.

Senator Duncan - Would the honorable senator beprepared to split the difference and accept a duty of 6s. per cental ?

Senator Sir THOMASGLASGOWNo. I think the higher rate is reasonable, and in keeping with duties imposed on other fruits. In these circumstances, I trust the Committee will afford the higher protection to a deserving industry.

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