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Wednesday, 16 November 1921

Senator CRAWFORD (Queensland) . - I am very much surprised that so much opposition has been shown towards the proposed duty of 8s. 4d. per cental on bananas. I was astonished that Senator Duncan, in whose State a considerable quantity of bananas is grown, should have been amongst those who hold the view that 4s. 2d. is a sufficient duty.

Senator Duncan - No dissatisfaction has been expressed in my State.

Senator CRAWFORD - New South Wales growers are situated a short distance from Sydney, compared with the distance the Queensland growers have to send their fruit, because their principal market is Melbourne. Therefore, the New South Wales growers are in a very advantageous position. The official Year-Book, No. 13, shows, at page 394, that, in New South Wales, 259,427 cases of bananas were produced in 1918-19, of a total value of £220,510. In the same year, Queensland produced 1,267,641 bunches of bananas, the value of the output being £211,273. According to the authority I have quoted, bananas produced in New South Wales were worth just twice as much to the grower as those grown in Queensland.

Senator Duncan - It shows the superiority of the New South Wales article.

Senator CRAWFORD - Not so; but probably, it would have cost to send the New South Wales fruit to Sydney only one-fourth of what it would cost to consign bananas from Queensland to Sydney ot Melbourne.

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Then, do we not need as much protection in New South Wales?

Senator CRAWFORD - The grower in New South Wales is certainly in a more advantageous position. Comparisons have been made of the duties which have been imposed on various items, and it has been shown very clearly that quite a number of industries would have more than double the protection which the Queensland banana industry would receive even if the full duty of 8s. 4d. per cental were conceded; and those other industries are in competition with countries where white labour obtains. I can find only one item in the Tariff dealing with an industry which has to contend with the kind of competition, to which the banana grower is subject, and that is eggs. There has been considerable discussion in the newspapers and elsewhere about the competition which egg producers have to meet through eggs being imported from China. The Australian industry is protected practically to the extent of 9d. per lb." which is nine times the protection desired for the banana industry. Of course, the duty on eggs was very readily conceded, because poultry farming is common to all the States, while banana growing is carried on only in New South Wales and Queensland to any great extent. Certainly it is proposed to grow bananas on a large scale in Western Australia, and I am quite prepared to help in the establishment of the industry on a sound footing in that State. Bananas are undoubtedly the cheapest fruit obtainable in Melbourne at present. I have seen them on sale at 2d. or 3d. per lb., while in the same shop window apples were priced at 8d. per lb. It costs a great deal less to keep apples in cold storage for six months than it does to bring bananas 'from Queensland to Melbourne, the latter cost being 4s. 6d. per case. The railways of three States benefit by the Queensland banana trade. Inquiry has been made as to why the fruit is not forwarded by steamers, which one would expect to provide cheaper transport. The actual difference between the steamer and rail freight is less than ls. per case, or about id. per dozen.

Senator Gardiner - How many bananas are in a case?

Senator CRAWFORD - The number varies from 20 dozen to 24 dozen. There is only one steamer on the coast, the Levuka, insulated and suitable for the carriage of bananas. The practice is to bring the bananas down in the summer in louvre trucks, and in cold weather in closed trucks, because bananas are very susceptible to extremes of heat and cold. I understand that if they were being conveyed in a louvre truck on a frosty night they would practically be destroyed, because they could not be kept long enough to ripen properly. The banana-growers have a very good organization both for the transport and marketing of the fruit. They understand their business thoroughly, and we may take it that if they thought it would be more profitable to send bananas to Sydney or Melbourne by steamer they would do so. In the first instance, the fruit would have to be railed from the district in which it is grown to the port of shipment, and, as vessels are frequently held up perhaps a week or a month en route, the bananas would perish. There is need to specially protect Australian products that have to be grown in competition with cheaplabour countries. ' In the smaller States, the principal industries have the market at their door, so to speak. I direct attention to' the position of the wine industry, which enjoys protection equal to about 200 per cent, the value of the product.

Senator Gardiner - Was the duty put on to protect the industry or limit the use* of wine?

Senator CRAWFORD - The duty was imposed for the purpose of encouraging the production of wine. There is no Excise duty. It cannot be said that the primary producers in the southern States are in competition with cheap-labour countries. The duty on bananas imposed by another place is fair and reasonable, and I hope it will commend itself to honorable senators.

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