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Wednesday, 3 August 1921

Senator CRAWFORD (Queensland) . - I have no desire to unduly delay the taking of a vote on the question before the Chair, but I must say a word or two in reply to some statements made by other speakers. I begin with Senator Senior's announcement that during a visit he paid to Queensland three years ago he could obtain no Queensland bananas, whilst an abundance of Fijian bananas was on sale wherever he went. I do not wish for a moment to question Senator Senior's veracity, but I shall certainly, in future, discount by 100 per cent, everything I hear the honorable senator say. I have lived in Queensland for thirty years, and throughout the whole of that time I have never seen a Fijian banana in that State, whilst, to my knowledge, there has been in the coastal centres, at any rate, an abundant supply of home-grown bananas. With regard to land prices, I should like to read a couple of advertisements from the Brisbane Courier of the 1st August. Here is one -

Banana and pineapple farm, 30 acres, 12 acres cultivated. Comfortable dwelling, two horses, cart, implements. Half-a-mile from railway station_ £950.

Senator Earle - Where is the £200 an acre man now?

Senator CRAWFORD - Yes, where is he?

Senator Lynch - The advertisement refers to pineapples, which do not grow on rich soil.

Senator CRAWFORD - Here is another advertisement -

Bananas. - 330 acres freehold, rich scrub and. forest. 5,000 bananas (which would represent about 30 acres), 600 citrus trees. Bargain - £2.300. On easy terms.

It is quite a mistake to imagine, as Senator Lynch evidently does, that it is impossible to grow bananas and pineapples successfully on the same kind of soil. It can be done, and is being done. Honorable senators may see pineapples, bananas, custard apples, strawberries, and almost every kind of tropical and sub-tropical fruit growing on the same class of soil within a few miles of Brisbane. I do not wish to discount the importance of the numerous islands in the Pacific over which Australia has been given a mandate. Even if it be necessary to develop the trade with these islands, Queensland should not be called upon to make the whole of the sacrifice, as she has been asked to do in connexion with this item. If bananas were being grown in Victoria, Tasmania, and South Australia, this duty would not have been debated for five minutes; it would have been agreed to almost without comment. But because bananas are at present grown extensively only in. two States the industry has not received that consideration which its importance deserves. The attitude of representatives of other States towards this industry in my State will have an important influence upon my attitude towards the industries of their States. Senator Bolton said that he would follow in every instance that policy which would yield the greatest good to the greatest number. Therefore, I suppose if there are 2,500,000 producers in Australia, and 3,000,000 consumers, Senator Bolton will always give first consideration to -the interests of the consumers. If that attitude were adopted by the majority of honorable senators Protection would very soon be a thing of the past.

Senator Bolton - Protection is valueless when it becomes prohibitive.

Senator CRAWFORD - Is there not prohibitive protection in respect of many other items? Does Senator Bolton say that, whilst an import duty of Id. per lb. on bananas is prohibitive, the same duty on citrus fruits is not prohibitive? Wherein lies the difference except that bananas are produced mainly in Queensland, whilst citrus fruits are common to all the States, and, therefore, receive greater consideration? I ask honorable senators to seriously ponder over this item. . More is involved in their vote than its effect upon the banana industry. Senator d« Largie may smile, but before this Tariff is disposed of he may find himself in the same position as I occupy to-day - asking for some assistance for an industry peculiar to his State, and unable to get for it fair consideration. I ask the Committee to declare that if there is to he any difference between the treatment given to tropical products and that given to the products of the temperate zone, special consideration should be shown to the former because of the cheap labour against which they have to compete. "We are all determined to uphold the White Australia policy, but we cannot maintain it and expect our products to compete successfully, without substantial protection, against the products of countries which do not pay a weekly wage equal to the daily wage we have to pay.

Senator Bolton - The banana industry has done that successfully already.

Senator CRAWFORD - Under special circumstances. The reason why the production of bananas has increased in Queensland is that many returned soldiers have been encouraged and assisted to engage in the industry. These men, having been advised to enter into this business, and having been financed by the Commonwealth; are now to be deprived of the chance of achieving success by the refusal of this Senate to give them adequate protection.

Senator Bolton - How long does it take a banana plantation to become productive?

Senator CRAWFORD - A bananagrower will receive a small return at the end of the first twelve months, but it takes three years for a plantation to come into full bearing.

Senator Bolton - Then the returned soldiers cannot he making very much money yet.

Senator CRAWFORD - Quite a number of returned soldiers engaged in the fruit-growing industry before the Repatriation Department was established.

Senator Duncan - And many took over plantations as going concerns.

Senator CRAWFORD - That is so. Much has been said about the withdrawal of the Levuka from the Fiji trade, but she is. now employed in the coastal trade, and she would not be so employed if the owners had not seen a good prospect of running the vessel profitably. Surely the Inter-State trade is just as important as is the trade with Fiji and the other Pacific Islands. Whilst honorable senators should have some regard to the trade with the islands, they should not ask one State to sacrifice its banana industry for the sake of a problematical advantage to a small number of people employing a class of labour different from that employed in Queensland, and who may, if adequate protection is not given to other industries, be competitors with the Australian producers in respect of them also.

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