1st Parliament · 1st Session
The President took the Chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– It is the intention of the Government to proceed with the Franchise Bill, the Governor-General’s Establishment Bill, and a Supply Billwhich must come up here early this week. I hope to deal with three measures so as to interfere with the consideration of the Tariff as little as possible.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 23rd May, vide page 12808).
Division IV. - Agricultural products and groceries.
Item 2). - Fruits and vegetables, n.e.i., (preserved in liquid, or partly preserved, or pulped) -
Half -pints,. and smaller sizes, per dozen,. 9d.
Pints, and over half-pints, per dozen, ls. 6d.
Quarts, and over pints, per dozen, 3s.
Exceeding a quart, per gallon,1s.
Fruit and vegetables, n.e.i., per cental,2s.
Bananas, per cental,1s. upon which Senator Sir Josiah Symon had moved–
That the House of Representatives be requested to amend item 21 by inserting after the figure “ Is.”, line 6, the words “and on and after 1st July, 1902, 15 per cent. ad valorem.”
– When Senator Playford suggested a compromise of. 20 per cent., I proposed 15 per cent. In Western Australia, the duty varies from 10 to 15 per cent. My original suggestion was 10 per cent., but, as a fair compromise, I proposed to adopt 15 per cent. all round. It is very difficult to hit the mean in these things ; but it is certainly better in the interests of revenue that the rate on commodities of this kind should depend on their quality rather than on their price, and that the same fixed duty should not apply all round.
-Senator Playford, who made some reference to a 15 per cent. duty, expressed only his own view. On behalf of the Government, I object to any alteration from the specific to the percentage method. Senator Symon seemed to imply that there was some compromise on his part in coming up to 15 per cent. from 10 per cent., because Senator Playford had proposed that the duty should be 1 5 per cent. I do not know whether Senator Playford made that proposal seriously, but if he did the Government feel bound to adhere to the duty as it is. In the first place, the suggestion, if adopted, would lead to a loss of revenue. I have had some calculations prepared by the Customs officers, and making the fullest possible allowance for the increase of imports that may arise from the lowering of the duty, it will be apparent, I think, that there must be a loss of revenue. The estimate of revenue which has been made by Mr. Lockyer in the papers before the Senate is £4,800. In order to get a basis of comparison we must take a fair value of these fruits and vegetables. I think that 4s. a dozen all round f.o.b. would be a fair value to take. That would give an invoice value on the basis of the estimate of £12,800, and if to that sum we add 10 per cent. we get a total estimated value of £14,060; a duty of 15 per cent. on that trade value will yield a revenue of £2,112. There will be, I assume, an increased importation because of the reduction of duty. If we add for that increased importation theveryliberal allowance of 100 per cent. - too liberal I think, but still it is better to err on the safe side - reduced duty would yield a revenue of £4,224, or £576 less than the very low estimate which Mr. Lockyer has made. As a measure of protection, as well as of production of revenue, it falls very far behind that which we propose. Our specific duty gives a very much larger protection to these industries, which certainly are very considerable, especially the preserving of fruit and similar products, and when compared with the duties in the State Tariffs, it is a very reasonable one. If honorable senators will look at the Tariff they will see that these specific duties are divided according to the sizes of the packages. For instance, fruits and vegetables in half-pints and smaller sizes are subject to a duty of 9d. per dozen; in pints and over half-pints, to a duty of ls. 6d. per dozen ; in quarts and over quarts, to a duty of 3s. per dozen ; and in quantities exceeding a quart, to a duty of ls. per gallon. In the State Tariffs the quantities are not taken in quite the same way, but on examination honorable senators will find that the statement of the effect of the Tariff which I have made is perfectly correct. In New South Wales all these articles were free except pulp fruit, on which the duty was £d. per lb. In Victoria the duty on preserved fruits and vegetables, in half -pints, was ls. 6d. per dozen ; in pints, 3s. per dozen ; in quarts, Gs. per dozen ; and in quantities over a quart and up to a gallon, 18s. per dozen. The duty was charged on a different basis, but it amounted to more than our proposal does. In Victoria pulp fruit was charged 3d. per lb., whereas our proposal amounts to l-!-d. per lb. In Queensland, fruits and vegetables in pints were charged ls. Cd. per dozen. In South Australia, in many instances, the duty was higher. The duty on fruits in half-pints was ls. 6d. per dozen ; in pints, 2s. per dozen ; and in quarts, 4s. per dozen ; and pulped fruit was dutiable at 4d. per lb. In Tasmania, where I think specific duties were charged in some instances, duty on fruits amounted to 3d. per lb. The duty on pulped fruit was ls. per bushel, which I understand is equal to about 1/3 d. per lb. In Western Australia, apparently, preserved fruits were charged 15 per cent., and pulped fruit 2d. per lb. In .New Zealand the duty on preserved fruit is 25 per cent, ad valorem, find on pulp lid. per lb. I mention these facts in order that honorable senators may know precisely what they are doing if they reduce the duty. Prom this comparison it will be seen that the Commonwealth duty is very much lower than were the duties in the States generally, and in regard to several of the States it is quite half of the old State duty. When we remember the industries which in the different States were dependent on the duties, I think honorable senators will see that it would be a very serious matter to interfere with the position as it is. If the question is examined from the revenue point of view, it will be seen that the suggestion of Senator Symon involves a loss of £575 on our estimate, that is after making allowance for double the importation. If we look at it from the revenue point of view, putting it in the strongest way for the supporters of this suggestion, it will be seen that we should not get more revenue, but less ; while it will also be seen that the suggestion would interfere very seriously with the protection which has hitherto existed in all the States except Western Australia in regard to the carrying on of the industry. Ought that to be done? The industry which is particularly interested in this matter is, of course, that of fruit preserving and jam-making. The fruit preserving industry is very important indeed. In order to give some idea of the substantial nature of it, I would call attention to the exports. I find that in 1900 the value of the exports of fruits, dried, bottled, and canned, from Victoria was £22,239 ; from Queensland £194; from South Australia, £644; from Tasmania, £168; and from Western Australia nothing. The great bulk of the £22,239 worth exported from Victoria went to South Africa. In regard to pulp, the making of which is, of course, the first rough process of preparing fruit for jam-making, New South Wales exported 17,920 lbs. ; Victoria, 342,603 lbs.; Queensland nothing; South Australia, 6,800 lbs. ; Tasmania, 25,130 lbs. ; Western Australia nothing. These figures also apply to the year 1 900. The bulk of these exports also went to South Africa. If they had not gone there the commodities would have been distributed throughout the States, because I understand that up to this time we have not been large exporters of jams and pulps to other parts of the world. It cannot be said that we have attained in this industry the stageat which we are supplying the whole Commonwealth, though we have very good opportunities of developing the trade to a large extent. I think I have shown that this is a very substantial industry to Australia, and that is the point of view from which we have to look at it. It was protected in all the States except New South Wales by specific duties, which in all cases were higher than those proposed now. To treat this duty in such a way as to get less revenue from imports, whilst injuring the industry, would be something in the nature of a wanton interference, which I hope the committee will not tolerate.
– I would draw attention to one or two facts in connexion with this item. Senator O’Connor, in referring to the imports, gave the value of them at about £12,800, on which it was estimated that £4,800 of revenue would be received. That being so, the duties under this Tariff,which appear as specific, are equal to about 40 per cent. ad valorem, which is very much too high, and constitutes a heavy burden upon Western Australia. Out of the £4,800 which the Government anticipate receiving, no less than £1,875 is expected to be paid by the one State of Western Australia. So that 5 per cent. of the population is to pay about 40 per cent. of the amount received. I submit that the proposal of the Government is extravagantly high, and, as a protective duty, is out of all harmony with the spirit of compromise about which the honorable and learned senator has spoken so much. The 15 per cent. proposed by Senator Symon is fair and reasonable, though the great bulk of that amount would be collected from Western Australia. It must also be remembered that the 15 per cent. will be protective, and will hit Western Australia hardest of all the States. I see no reason for my own part why the articles in question should not be made free of duty, as the committee have recommended that concentrated and dried vegetables should be, but in agreeing to 15 per cent. we shall be adopting a compromise which is entirely reasonable.
– (Tasmania). - Before the committee deals finally with the item under discussion I should like to ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council whether provision has been made for a duty on dried or evaporated apples, which are produced in large quantities in Tasmania, and dried apricots and other fruits which are produced in New South Wales and Victoria? In Tasmania there are about five factories which in the fruit season are engaged in peeling, slicing, and drying apples. A large export trade is springing up. It seems to me that those goods come in under fruits and vegetables n.e.i., but I doubt whether they are properly mentioned in the division at all.
– In answer to the honorable and learned senator, I wish to say that the fruits about which he very . properly expressed some anxiety on behalf of Tasmania, where this is a very important industry, are provided for under the heading “Fruits dried - raisins, and other.” They are included under “ other.” That is the view of the Customs authorities, and that is the way in which the Tariff is being administered. The duty was 3d. under the Tariff as introduced, but the committee has recommended that it be reduced to 2d., which, I think, is something like 60 per cent. ad valorem.
– That is quite enough.
– If we are to have a specific duty of 2d. on dried raisins, how can any one who holds that that is a proper duty think it sufficient to put something like 15 per cent. ad valorem upon these other fruits? I quite agree with Senator Dobson that the apple industry is a very important one in Tasmania, as it also is in South Australia and some other States, and it will become much more important in the future. It is one of those industries in which Tasmania has a great opportunity. There are certain lines in which Tasmania seems destined in time to supply the whole Commonwealth. The production of fruit in every form - whether as jam or preserved fruit or fresh fruit - is likely to flourish in Tasmania if the market is retained, which can only be done by a measure of protection. The committee should not assent to a duty which will give no increase of revenue and may imperil the industries affected.
Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON (South Australia). - We are indebted to Senator Dobson for directing attention to what appeared to be an omission from this division, though I concur that the article he has mentioned is covered by the word “other.” The term “ raisins and other “ seems to be comprehensive enough to take in dried apples, on which he rightly says 2d. per lb. is an abundant protection. Senator O’Connor has taken the opportunity upon Senator Dobson’s inquiry to endeavour to establish an analogy between dried fruits, and fruits in liquid and in bottles, with which we are now dealing. It seems to me that there is no analogy whatever between them. Dried fruits are in a distinct category, and are, of course, fairly open to the fixed duty which has been imposed upon them. But if the same rule is adopted in regard to fruits that are bottled in liquid, and dried fruits, we shall be imposing a duty on so many lbs. of water. The two things cannot possibly be dealt with on the same footing. The duty must be so much per bottle or dozen bottles which will not discriminate in respect of the value of the fruit, or it must be an ad valorem duty which will discriminate. A duty of 2d. per lb. upon these goods would be absurd; as it would be an utterly extravagant duty upon the quantity of solid foods contained in these bottles of liquor. I point out that the duty upon fruit pulp is entirely an Inter-State Tariff question. I do not believe that whatever duty we impose upon fruit pulp we shall get a single fraction of revenue from it. I can say that in South Australia duties were imposed upon fruit pulp as a protection to the fruitgrowers of South Australia against the importation of raspberry and other fruit pulp from Tasmania. It was purely a protective duty as between those States. Who are we likely to get fruit pulp from now? There may be some coming in from New Zealand, but I am not aware of any. Fruit pulp may really be left out of consideration altogether. When considering the protectionist aspect of the matter, we might very fairly look at it also from the point of view of the consuming State of Western Australia. There they have a duty of from 10 to 15 per cent., and we are proposing a reduction to 15 per cent. It seems to me, looking at the matter all round, that 15 per cent. is a fair thing. That will give some measure of encouragement to production, and a large amount of revenue, and, having regard to, all the circumstances, it would not press unduly upon the large body of consumers in the interior of the Commonwealth, who are greatly dependent upon these commodities for any fruits they may enjoy.
– The discovery the committee have made, with the assistance of Senator O’Connor, that dried apples will receive a protection of 60 per cent. under a duty of 2d., just shows how iniquitous these specific duties are. We pass a duty of 2d. upon dried apples, without in the least understanding what it means. We know that apples are absolutely left to waste and rot for want of being used. They are a surplus commodity, and almost a waste commodity in South Australia, Tasmania, and New South Wales. Yet we are seriously told by Senator O’Connor and others that this is an industry which requires 60 per cent. protection. I submit that an industry which requires 60 per cent. protection in order to exist through the utilization of an absolutely waste product, is not worth protecting. Senator O’Connor takes exception to a 15 per cent. duty on the item before the committee, but I should like honorable senators to understand that it means a tax of 15 per cent. upon the consumer of these canned fruits, which are used principally where people cannot obtain fresh fruit. So that what the Government propose to do is to tax the unfortunate men who live in the arid parts of Australia, simply in order to encourage the canning of fruit in districts where it is plentiful. This is one of the taxes which I consider most iniquitous. If some of us could have our own way, we would admit tinned and canned fruits absolutely free. I should like honorable senators to understand that when we go across the chamber to support Senator Symon in connexion with this and other items, it is because his proposals are the result of a compromise, and that many members of the committee consider a proposal like this an absolutely barefaced robbery of the people living in the arid parts of Australia. I absolutely fail to see why this industry, which is carried on in parts of Australia where there is every facility for a pleasant existence, should be fostered in order that a few men may get small wages, and at the expense of the community living on the arid plains of Australia. Considering this matter from a revenue point of view, Senator O’Connor pointed out that £500 is the estimated loss of revenue which would accrue if the request were carried.
– On an assumption of double the imports. But the honorable senator would prefer that.
– I do not care twopence whether it doubles the import or not. I am considering the consumer. I do not think is is right either to consider the interests of any particular State. I do not speak with regard to any particular State, and it is a mistake to he dragging in one State as against another.
– After spending ten minutes claiming that Western Australia should not be taxed at all.
– I have not done so. I have scarcely spoken upon the Tariff, and I have carefully avoided mentioning Western Australia whenever it has been possible for me to do so. Senator O’Connor has not produced any proof whatever that under the protection which has existed the canned fruit industry has prospered in Victoria. Looking up the records, I find that there is no prosperous canning industry in Australia. There are jam and pulp industries. The pulp industry has been so prosperous as to be able to export fruit pulp to England without any protection whatever. Yet we have a proposal to impose a duty upon fruit pulp, and we are told that the industry is in need of protection. There is no place in the world from which fruit pulp can possibly be economically introduced into Australia. Senator O’Connor spoke of the substantial nature of our exports of canned fruit, and mentioned £22,000 as the value of our export trade in that article. But how does that compare with the jam industry, which has grown up under a much lower Tariff? Our exports of jam amounted to 3,269,000 lbs., worth £60,000. I submit that that is an industry which is so prosperous that it does not need protection, and it is a natural industry absorbing the fruit we grow. Here we are asked to agree to an enormous protective Tariff for the benefit of the canned fruit industry simply to support a few people who are making an article for which there is no demand.
– I hope the committee will not agree to the request for a reduction of the duty, because the duty proposed will afford a certain amount of protection to an industry which ought to be encouraged by every one who desires to see people settle on the soil. Men go to parts of the country remote from the cities, where the climate and soil are suitable for fruit-growing, and there endeavour to make a start with this industry. It is known to be an industry which it takes I some time to develop. It is a long time before a selector gets a crop f from his fruit trees, and, even then, he often fails to realize upon it on account of the difficulty of finding a market. I think this is an industry which should be encouraged to the fullest possible extent, and this duty would be a very considerable help r.o the farmer. We ought not to take up the position in Australia that we are unable to supply our own wants in this respect. We know that in many localities in Australia fruit is grown and goes to waste wholesale. It lies under the trees rotting. All for want of-
– Cheap labour.
– Not necessarily for want of cheap labour, because a great deal of fruit-growing is done by small farmers, and the crop can be gathered by the farmer and his family. I can speak from experience of attendance at local shows in a great many parts of the country, and other honorable senators as well as myself must know that at many of these local shows there are to be seen splendid exhibits of fruit bottled upon such a small scale that it must have been from crops off only about an acre of land.
– We do not see that in South Australia, which is a great fruit-growing country.
– I have seen it in Queensland almost wherever I have gone. I know that people there are making efforts in the direction of preserving fruits in the way I have stated, and I think they should be encouraged to the fullest extent. It does not seem to me to be quite fair for senators who come from States which are not advanced in general agriculture to object to a duty of this kind simply because it encourages the development of an industry in another State. What did we go into federation for if it was not with the idea that the States would trade with one another in preference to trading with the outside world? Yet here we have honorable senators getting up one after another and claiming that though the States are federated, no possible obstacle should be put in their way of obtaining their supplies from the outside world. Whenever it suits them, they claim all the benefits of federation, but they insist that they should not be liable to any of its obligations. With respect to the State represented by Senator Matheson, I suppose that by-and-bye the population of the eastern States will be called upon by representatives of Western Australia to bear the burden of making a very expensive railway. I mention that, only by way of illustration, and because we have an honorable senator from that State who clearly does not desire to trade with the eastern States, if by, going outside, he can get anything threepence cheaper. I suppose it is the experience of every other honorable senator as well as myself, that almost whereever we go, we find bottled fruits imported from California, when we know those fruits can be produced in abundance in Australia. Why should not a preference be given to Australian products ?
SenatorClemons. - We are giving a big preference.
– It is a matter of degree, and the suggestion made is that the duty should be something like half of that we propose.
– Then there is the natural protection.
– The natural protection is not sufficient, because we find that in towns close to agricultural districts specially adapted for fruit growing, tinned and canned fruits are being imported from the United States and Great Britain. I see no necessity for such imports at all. We have beeninvited to consider theposition of pioneers who have gone out into remote districts ; but I remind the committee that the consumption of these goods is not confined to the people of those districts at all, because, the foreign article is being sold even where there is “any quantity of the local product to be had. Honorable senators have mentioned the. loss of revenue that will be caused if the request made be carried ; but the calculation made by Senator O’Connor is that the revenue will lose £576 supposing the importation to be doubled, and all that would be to the detriment of the people engaged in the industry locally. That is not a proper position for honorable senators to assume in a country like this, in which we are endeavouring to build up industries, and to help people to settle upon the soil.
– I think honorable senators who make suggestions in this committee ought to consider the prospect of carrying them in another place. I find on reference to the records that the following amendment proposed by Mr. Conroy was negatived, apparently on the voices : -
That the words “and on and after 23th of November, 1901, per dozen,6d.” be added to the duty on fruits and vegetables n.e.i., half-pints and smaller sizes, per dozen, 9d.
It will be seen that an attempt was made in another place to do something on the lines of Senator Symon’s proposal. It would indicate to my mind that he has merely an extraordinary anxiety to alter the Tariff. He does not mind in what direction it is done, so long as it is altered.
– That state ment is without any foundation.
– That is a matter of opinion. The honorable and learned senator ought to consider the industry in Queensland . If honorable senators will refer to page 404 of the Statistics of Queensland, they will see how this industry has progressed there. From a tabulated statement headed “ Jams, pickles, &c,” they will learn that there were, in the metropolitan district of Queensland, 23 factories, with 322 hands ; at Cairns one factory, with five hands; at Cleveland, one factory with three hands ; at Croydon, onefactory, with onehand; atMaryborough, three factories, with six hands; at Toowoomba, onefactory, with eleven hands; and at Towns ville, one factory, with two hands. These 31 factories, employing 350 hands, produced 5,268,666 lbs. of jam and £8,532 worth of pickles. And in spite of the heavy duties the great importing industry, consisting of two men and a boy imported from the United Kingdom, the Australian States, Hong Kong, British Columbia, Japan, China, Germany, France, Belgium, and the United States, 6,233 packages of preserved vegetables, valued at £7,670. Senator Pulsford has said that we should deal with Western Australia in a spirit of compromise. There is a great anxiety on the part of some senators that the people of that State, should be able to get preserved fruits and vegetables at a lower rate. How is it that the people have not moved the State Parliament to repeal the duties and allow them to get all these articles absolutely duty free from the several States? In that case the apples which are rotting on the ground in Tasmania and South Australia would be sent over to Western Australia. The proposal that we should consider Western Australia comes a great deal too late from honorable senators. Western Australia, it is said, did not impose this duty against the products of the other States ; but there has been no agitation throughout that State, so far as I can see, in favour of the duty being reduced or abolished. Senator Matheson has spoken of this duty as an iniquitous tax. He implies that the people in South Australia and Tasmania who produce such a large quantity of fruit will make very large fortunes out of the unfortunate people in Western Australia. In all probability a very large number of the residents in the arid districts of Western Australia went there because things were not very good in their own States, particularly in Victoria and New South Wales. Several senators for Western Australia came from New South Wales. Probably things -were so quiet in their own State that they went to Western Australia to seek a fortune in mining. If it ever happens that owing to the imposition of these duties, people in South Australia and Tasmania should make a f fortune out of the preserving of fruits and vegetables, some of these persons in Western Australia will return to their own State and enter into competition with them. There is absolutely no fear that any injustice will be done if -we retain the duties as proposed. If we give way to these captious notions of honorable senators who are anxious to alter the Tariff, we shall do very great harm to a number of persons in Queensland. :Some honorable senators laughed at the statement of the fact that there are 300 odd employes in the factories of that State. I ask them what they propose to do with those men when they are thrown out of employment? Are they going to send them into the great pastoral industry and other primary industries which they are so anxious to preserve 1 No matter what industry comes before the committee, it is an exotic or artificial industry, and requires no protection. It is really very difficult to find out what industries they would preserve besides the great importing industry whose interests Senator Pulsford voices.
– I do not wish to give a silent vote on this motion, because one of the very important industries of the State I represent is the growing of fruit. I have not had the advantage of hearing all the arguments which have been adduced for a reduction of the duty ; I was in the unhappy position of being engaged outside the Chamber, but I did understand Senator Matheson to say that if the duty were retained it would not give any increased protection to the fruit growers.
– What I said was that there is no substantial canning industry to protect in Australia.
– I am one of the young Australians who hope that before very long there will be a substantial canning industry to protect. Although Senator Matheson is a Western Australian, he ought to recognise that he belongs to a federated Australia. Honorable senators who seem so anxious to reduce the protection to every industry that is small, ought to look forward to the time when it will grow. In Tasmania we can look forward with reasonable hope to the time when fruit canning will be an important industry. The southern part of that State has derived very great benefit from the increase of the fruit growing industry during the last fifteen or twenty years. It will encourage the fruit growers to continue their operations, and stimulate other persons to start fruit growing, if they get control of the Australian market as against the competition of the outside world. Honorable senators for Western Australia are looking at this question in a selfish spirit. They have said a good deal about Western Australian pioneers and miners being compelled to pay high prices for articles of food owing to the heavy duties. They ought to remember that it is within the power of Western Australia to take off the Inter-State duties, and thereby decrease the cost of living to its people. If we decrease this duty and other duties the other States will not -be placed in a fair position as compared with Western Australia. Its representatives ought to discuss the Tariff, in a federal spirit. I hope that there is a sufficient majority to retain the duty as proposed.
– ! think it is rather unfortunate that people have to be taxed at all ; and it is most generous and exceedingly benevolent on the part of honorable senators on the other side to allow a duty of 15 per cent, on these fruits and vegetables in order to encourage the industry in the different parts of the Commonwealth. I need hardly say that I do not share their generosity or their benevolence. The duty ought to be higher than it is, and it ought to be the pride of every member of this Parliament to see our various industries, small though they may be, growing and prospering. I presume that most honorable senators will agree that an industry such as fruit-preserving would be useful and advantageous to some of the States. Queensland is capable of growing peaches and other fruits in abundance, but from the want of that reasonable protection which it is our duty to give, the industry is not likely to grow for a considerable time, if our honorable friends opposite get their way. In the country towns of that State honorable senators will find only Californian fruit. Why does it come there? Do the people of the United States open their ports and allow our products to go in free, or comparatively free, to compete against their own products ? Not at all. The people of the United States, and of other countries in which these products are grown, have some common sense, and wish to encourage the development of their own industries. The whole aim and object of honorable senators opposite is to encourage industries in every part of the world except their own. It ought to be our distinct aim and object to encourage the various industries of Australia by a reasonable amount of protection. The soul of man would be measured by percentage by some honorable members, if they could do it. They would not allow any man to enter Paradise, unless so much per cent. was put upon him ! But this is not a question of 15 per cent. only. Honorable senators should recognise that the industry affected is one that ought to be encouraged. Our free-trade friends should say - “ Although we are free-traders in theory, yet, desiring to see our country prosper, we will be generous and give to this industry that measure of protection that is necessary to enable it to grow.” It does not follow that an industry should not be protected because it only employs a few hands. I heard Senator Clemons laugh when it was said that in some cases only a few men are employed in fruit preserving. These industries will grow in time. California and Oregon are the largest fruit producing States in the world, but 40 or 50 years ago the industries there employed only a few hands, whereas to-day there are tens of thousands of men employed. It behoves us to have some regard to giving encouragement and a good heart to people who are engaged in these industries, rather than that we should sneer and gibe at them because while they are in a struggling condition only a few men are employed in them. Those few have to earn a livelihood, and we should endeavour to give buoyancy and prosperity to the industries in which they are engaged. I hope we shall hear less of the miserable nonsense about 10 per cent. or 15 per cent. being sufficient, taking into consideration the distance foreign goods have to be brought. A duty connot be sufficient unless it is one that will enable industries to grow under it. Let honorable senators remember the wages that are paid here, as compared with those paid in other parts of the world. Let them also remember the cost of living, and the rent that our workmen have to pay. We are a young community and our industries are of only a few years’ creation. It must of necessity take a time for those industries to grow. It does not follow that because an industry is protected to the extent of one-third the value of the commodity it produces that rate is sufficient. My first concern is my own country and its industries. With the industries of other parts of the world we have little or no concern. I trust that the committeewill be sufficiently patriotic to give the necessary encouragement to the industry in question.
– I want to re-assure Senator Glassey and others, who have some fear that if we do not impose a duty of 45 per cent. we shall ruin the fruit-growing industry. I can show from the example of Western Australia that it is possible for fruit-growing to spring up and flourish without Customhouse protection. We have had in Western Australia a duty of 10 per cent. on bottled and preserved fruits. In 1897, we had 2,294 acres of vines, and 2,393 acres of fruit trees. In 1 901, only five-years later, we had under the same duty of 10 per cent. 3,325 acres of vines, and 5,296 acres of fruit trees, or an increase of 100 per cent. How can honorable senators claim, in face of those facts, that a country cannot go in for fruit-growing without protection? It has also to be remembered that in Western Australia the cost of labour is very high, and there was the counter attraction of the gold-fields, which drew away many people from cultivating the soil. As a Western Australian senator, what reason is there why I should vote for increased taxation on the people of my State? If I am told that they are agreeable to accept their present Tariff, I reply that in that case the duty imposed should be 10 per cent. on bottled fruits, and I will be no party to increasing their taxation on this article by 35 per cent. In answer to the statement that Victoria, Queensland, and the other Eastern States cannot compete against America and other parts of the world in the canning of fruit, let me quote some figures. In Western Australia we had a duty from 1 0 to 15 per cent. on this article. Victoria was in exactly the same position as America as regards the supply of the Western Australian market, and so were all the other eastern States. If Victoria and the eastern States cannot compete with America unless there is a higher duty than 15 per cent., the fact ought to be that America had a monopoly of the Western Australia trade. But, as a matter of fact, in one year 41,972 cases came from the eastern States, and only 34,536 cases from the rest of the world, clearly showing that the eastern States of Australia can hold their own in the markets of the world on level terms.
– It ought all to have come from the eastern States.
– If Senator Stewart takes the trouble to analyse the figures he will find that a large proportion of the preserved fruit imported into Western Australia from abroad was such fruit as cannot be grown in Australia. Further, this is a tax upon the food of the people, and there is a strong feeling throughout the Commonwealth against taxing articles of food. It will not operate so much against the consumers in the eastern States, because they grow fruit for themselves ; but it will press I very heavily upon the consumers in Western Australia. Regarded from the point of view of revenue it will be seen that no great amount of revenue can be produced from this duty in Victoria, Tasmania, Queensland, or South Australia. In fact it will be nonrevenue producing in nearly all the eastern States, but it will be productive of revenue in the one State of Western Australia. Amongst the people who will have to pay a large amount of that revenue will be the Western Australian fruit-growers themselves, who at present have to buy preserved and bottled fruit. The party with which I am associated made an endeavour last year in the Western Australian Parliament to remove the duties on food, but were defeated by the plural voting or conservative party. I look upon this as a food duty which will operate against the development of the primary industries by making the food of the primary producer dearer, and will retard settlement. An additional reason against it is the fact that there is such a great variation in the price of the article in question, comparing the cost of American tinned fruit with bottled fruit. The bottled article is taxed, comparatively speaking, from two to three times less than the tinned article, which is consumed by the working classes. This is an iniquitous system of taxation, and I should vote for an ad valoremduty, even if it were only equivalent to the duty now proposed by the Government; but as a motion has been moved by Senator Symon for a reduction of the amount of the duty, I shall support it.
Question - That the House of Representatives be requested to amend item 21, by inserting after the figure “1s. “ line 6 the words, “and on and after July 1, 1902, 15 per cent. ad valorem” - put. The committee divided -
Ayes … … … 15
Majority … … 2
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to amend item 21 by adding to the duty “ Fruits and vegetables n.e.i., per cental, 2s,” the words “and on and after July 1, 1002, free.”
Honorable senators will see that this line means that all fresh fruits of every kind - except, of course, bananas, which are specially mentioned in the next line - and all fresh vegetables, are to be taxed to the extent of 2s. per cental. That means, for instance, that cabbages will pay a duty of -)d. per lb. Of course, so far as concerns the eastern States, the duty will be inoperative. I do not see the use of putting such a line in the Tariff, because if it is ever operative it will only be in times of very great scarcity, such as we can hardly conceive. It will be seen from the records of the House of Representatives that an amendment to reduce the duty to ls. was only defeated by four votes. We, therefore, must see that the step we ought to take is to make the article altogether free.
– I oppose this motion. Senator Symon has given no reason for it. There was a duty on fruit in’ some of the States, and has it been shown that the consumer suffered by it? On the other hand, it is quite clear that it was a standing protection to a large number of persons who are growing fruit in different parts of Australia. We have no right to put the grower of fruit in a different position from the grower of any other produce, unless we make up our mind that there is to be no protection to the primary producer.
Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON (South Australia). - I wish to say, in reference to what Senator O’Connor has remarked, that it is altogether misleading to have regard to the former Tariffs of the States in a question like this. Of course, those Tariffs were framed for the purpose of Inter-State protection. Therefore they were either revenueproducing, or they were prohibitive. Though a similar duty in South Australia was intended to prevent the importation of fresh fruit and vegetables into that State, it was largely inoperative, because South Australia always has been, and is now, a producer of fruit and vegetables far beyond its own consumption ; and in regard to fruit that State has, for a considerable time, been increasing its export. Therefore the existing duties under tlie old Tariff are absolutely no guide whatever in considering the duties proposed in this Tariff.
– Some of the items covered by this item were free in four of the States.
– I am coming to that. But I may say, in regard to those duties which were imposed in the other States, that the same reason for their imposition now does not exist at all, because they were imposed as retaliatory duties by one State against another, and that principle has no application in regard to the Commonwealth Tariff. It is difficult to say what fruits and vegetables were free under the State Tariffs and what were subject to a duty, but in half at least of the federated States these articles were free. One has a difficulty in understanding why a line of this sort should be placed in the Tariff, and, as I have shown from the records, the House of Representatives was evidently impressed by that. I hope the Government will not press for this duty.
– I think Senator Symon is not quite correct with regard to the duties prevailing in the different States under the State Tariffs. My information is that these articles were free in New South Wales, but we know that everything came into New South Wales free. In Victoria the duty was 9d. and ls. 6d., and some articles were free. In Queensland it was 25 per cent, and some free. That is to say, certain vegetables were admitted free and the rest came under the drag-net clause and paid a duty of 25 per cent. South Australia, Western Australia., and Tasmania each had a duty upon these articles. But the remarks made by Senator Symon do not apply at all to Western Australia, even though they do apply to the other States, because if the request is adopted the result will be that fruit and vegetables may be imported free into Western Australia from places outside the Commonwealth, while that State will impose a tax of from 10 to 15 per cent, upon similar articles grown in the other* States. If Senator Matheson supports the motion, his object will be to enable fruit and vegetables to be imported free into Western Australia from places outside the Commonwealth, while that State will continue to tax the similar products of the other States by 10 and 15 per cent. That appears to me to reduce federation to an absurdity, and to nullify nearly all the intentions with which the Union was formed, because surely what was implied in federation was that the States should join together and trade with one another rather than with the outside world.
– It is unfortunate that Senator Drake should have adopted such a line of argument, because it argues a want of acquaintance with the Constitution. If the honorable and learned senator will refer to the Constitution he will find that, where a duty upon any article is imposed by the State Tariff, that duty applies to all over-sea goods whether free under the Commonwealth or not. If the committee is k> be guided in these matters by the honorable and learned senator, the least we can expect is that he shall properly post himself as to the effect of the Constitution. I shall dwell for a moment upon the vexed question of the Western Australian Tariff. It is absurd to hear honorable senators, who know perfectly the condition which really prevails in Western Australia, bringing this matter up time after time, and using it as an argument when they know it is not one. Though 50 per cent, of the people of Western Australia living upon the coast have two-thirds at least of the representation in the Western Australian Parliament, the other 50 per cent, of the people of that State wish to have the Inter-State duties swept away. I say this item should be altered, in spite of the State Tariff in Western Australia, and the reason I give is that the State Tariff is not one which the people of Western Australia wish to see maintained. I trust that this will not again be used as an argument when those who use it know that it is no argument at all. Senator Drake says that fruit will not be imported into Western Australia, and that therefore the duty can stand. And, again, that if fruit is imported, the duty should also stand. What I say is that I am opposed to any duties upon food, and every time a proposal is made to impose a duty upon food I, and other honorable senators, will attempt to prevent its imposition. We shall do so for two reasons. One is that if such duties are operative they increase the price to the consumer,’ and the other is that if they are not operative they are a blot upon the Tariff, and the ‘ sooner they are swept off it the better.
– I oppose this duty for the same reason that I have opposed some ‘which have gone before, and for which I shall oppose some which are to follow. This duty, at least as regards vegetables, will only be operative in the case of a public calamity in the Commonwealth in the form of a drought. It is quite certain that it will .not pay to ship vegetables from New Zealand to the Commonwealth when there is any supply available here. But there may be occasions, such as unhappily exist at the present time, when it would pay to bring vegetables from New Zealand, or from New Caledonia, for the needs of the people, who are unable to grow them themselves under the affliction of a drought. Here is a proposal to impose a duty of A. per lb. on cabbages. Any decent cabbage weighs 41bs., and that will be a duty of a penny upon a cabbage required by a starving family, ‘for whom vegetables are necessary as a matter of health as well as for food. On anything like a good cabbage the duty would run to over one penny. Take another article - carrots - which I do not think have been previously mentioned. They are necessary as food for horses. The idea of having to pay 3s. or 4s. upon a bag of carrots required to keep life in a horse under circumstances of drought is absurd. Senator Drake will know that the State of Queensland is at present suffering a terrible calamity from drought, and a tax upon fodder as well as a tax upon simple articles required for consumption by human beings is not such an One as this Committee or any thinking body of men may contemplate with any degree of pleasure. I oppose this duty in the interests of the Commonwealth, and particularly in the interests of the State from which I come. At the present time there is an important public agitation going on to ask for the suspension of all duties upon articles of fodder. We know that live stock are dying by the million, and that represents a pitiable amount of suffering as well as monetary loss. I have pointed out that duties of this kind can only become operative for the purposes of revenue on occasions of drought, and a duty which can only become operative at a time of great loss to the community and great suffering to man and beast is not one which any sensible person would seek to impose.
– I should like to give the reason for the vote I am about to give upon this item, because that reason will apply to a great many similar items to be brought forward. It has been contended that this duty will have no effect, and that we can hardly conceive of circumstances in which fresh vegetables would be imported into the Commonwealth. I believe that is so, and, therefore, I believe that the existence of- this item in the Tariff will have no effect. But will not the effect of the Tariff be just the same whether this item is in or out ? And is it therefore wise for the Senate to make alterations for the sake of making alterations when they can have no practical effect? That is the way in which I look at it. It is quite true that in a possible combination of circumstances, for instance in a time of great drought extending over the whole of the.Commonwealth, vegetables might be imported, but we must legislate for ordinary circumstances. If in these extraordinary circumstances people who are suffering will have to pay duty to make up the revenue, I am afraid we cannot get out of the difficulty, because the revenue will have to be made up, and whether upon these, or upon some other items, does not make much difference in my opinion. I shall vote for the retention of the item, because this Tariff has passed the other branch of the Legislature, and no practical effect can be brought about by striking it out and putting fresh vegetables upon the free list. For these reasons I shall vote in the same way in connexion with many other items, of a similar nature, if requests for alterations are brought forward.
– I wish to complain that the honorable senator has not given due notice of this motion. There is a mass of literature concerning the question which I should like to glance through if I had time. From the records of another place I find that a similar proposition was defeated by a majority of ten. I imagine that this motion, if carried, will receive very little support in that House, and for that reason I do not feel disposed to help the committee to carry it. Senator Matheson has asked - From what countries is fruit imported into the Commonwealth ? To Western Australia fruit of all kinds is imported from the United Kingdom, the United States of America, Singapore, India, Fiji, France, .Belgium, Italy, and Greece. In Queensland, the fruit industry is beginning to be one of very great importance’. Although the item seems to be a very simple one, it covers a vast number of industries throughout the Commonwealth. Some honorable senators have questioned the capacity of the Commonwealth to produce certain fruits. In his report on agricultural and pastoral statistics for 1900, the Registrar-General of Queensland says -
The area of ground under pine-apples was less for 1900 than for 1899, the areas being 939 acres, yielding 424,835 dozen, in 1900, against 994 acres, yielding 401,692 dozen, in 1899, so that whilst there was a reduction of 55 acres, there was an increase in the yield of 23,143 dozen. The principal increase in yield occurs in Brisbane, where 52,562 dozen more are returned for 1900 than were returned in .1899, although the area decreased by 18 acres. This increase is more than counterbalanced by a decrease in Cairns of 53,543 dozen, where there was also a decrease in area of 17 acres. ‘ Cleveland returnsan increase in area of 30 acres, but a decrease in yield of 6,078 dozen of fruit. Maroochy returns an increase of 1 acre, but an increase in yield of 17,970 dozen of fruit. In Charters Towers, where the drought was very severely felt, the whole area of 12 acres disappears. Indeed, in this district many of the formers gave up agricultural pursuits from this cause. The cultivation there is entirely in the hands of the Chinese. Cairns, which in 1898 cultivated 284 acres, returned only 90 acres for 1900, most of the plants being ploughed out, and other crops substituted.
With regard to oranges, which are brought into the Commonwealth from various countries, he reports in these terms -
Satisfactory increase is returned under this heading for the past as compared with the previous year, both in area and yield. For 1900 there were returned 2,882 acres, yielding 2,041,068 dozen, against 2,324 acres, yielding 1,420,839 dozen, in 1899, being an increase of 55S acres and 620,229 dozen in yield. The area of productive trees in 1900 was 2,045 acres, and of nonproductive, 837 acres. The district returning the greatest area was Maroochy, with 562 acres, of which 271 acres, or nearly one-half, were unproductive. This district also produced the largest crop, returning 234,763 dozen. Maryborough returned 261 acres under orange trees, being 10 acres less than in 1899. One hundred acres of this total area were returned as being unproductive, but the 161 acres shown as productive produced 212,522 dozen. Gatton, for 1900, returned 181 acres, of which 54 acres were non-productive. Bowen returned .174 acres for 1900 ; Nerang, .154 acres ; and Rockhampton, 137 acres.
And with regard to mangoes, which some honorable senators seem to think cannot be grown in the State, he says -
A good, steady increase was shown in the area under this fruit for the past as compared with the previous year, the area for 1899 being 245 acres, returning 191,074 dozen, which increased in 1900 to 411 acres, yielding 277,444 dozen. Of this area 349 acres were productive, while 62 acres were non-productive, not having yet come into bearing. The principal increases had taken place at -
Bowen, 47 acres ; Mourilyan, 32 acres ; “Rockhampton, 28 acres, most of the other districts showing increases of from .1 to 7 acres. Rockhampton had the largest area - 61 acres - under this crop; Bowen next, with 48 acres ; Mourilyan, with 47 acres.
In Queensland, there are so many different climates that all English fruits and all tropical fruits can be grown. “We have established agricultural colleges in order to teach the youth how to grow fruits mad vegetables, and we have been settling the people on the soil.
– How did Queensland establish fruit-growing when fruit was dutyfree there ?
– If the honorable senator will give me notice of that question I shall be glad to answer it to-morrow. Queensland is quite willing, I am sure, to abandon her open port for fruit in order that her own fruit-growers, as well as other fruit and vegetable growers of the Commonwealth generally, shall have some protection against the cheap labour of other countries. Some honorable senators seem to lose sight of the fact that New Guinea will be opened up very shortly, no doubt, with the aid of vast hordes of black labour. In that country the people will be going in for all kinds of fruit production before very long, and if some honorable senators have their way the farmers and agriculturists of Queensland will be brought into competition with those persons, although by other legislation we have decided, and rightly, too, that they shall not have the use of black labour. I should like honorable senators to consider that point. Senator Symon is not carrying out his promise to protect the primary industries when he attacks this primary industry. I pay a great deal of respect to what Senator Baker said, but a large amount of revenue is derived from this source, and we have no reason to believe that it will not be the same in the future. “Will Senator Matheson tell me how it is that, if 50 per cent, of the people of his State are on the coast and the other half are free-traders, the free-trade Government has not made an attempt to remove these duties ? “While these facts remain he cannot impress the committee with the belief that the majority of the people of that State are free-traders. I think they are protectionists.
– Senator Higgs has advanced a most extraordinary reason why we ought to adopt this protectionist duty. He tells us that fruit was grown very freely in Queensland when no duty was imposed there, and a duty was imposed in the other States, and therefore a protectionist impost is now required. If in Queensland they could manage to encourage the growth of fruit when- the ports of other States were closed against Queensland fruits, surely there is no necessity to impose a duty on fruit which may or may not be imported to Queensland from oversea? Again, he has pointed out that the other House lias decided by a majority against a proposal similar to this one. I assume that every item in the Tariff has been approved by a majority in that House. If his argument is to be carried to its logical conclusion, we should not attempt to interfere with the Tariff at all. Whatever the majority against the proposal was - ten or twenty - that is no reason why the Senate should stultify itself if it believes that a mistake has been made, nor is it any reason why it should not endeavour to rectify the mistake. One of the most extraordinary arguments we have heard was introduced by Senator Baker - that this duty could have no effect, and that therefore it might as well be allowed t’o stand. Why was it included in the Tariff? I do not assume that the Government proposed the duty as a pretence or a make-believe. They talk about getting.a total revenue of £165,000 from this line. If it is to be inoperative it should be deleted, because we do not wish to have the Tariff disfigured. We are told that the only occasion when it could have any practical effect .would be in a time of scarcity. That is the very time -when people wish to be relieved as much as possible from taxation. Some of these vegetables will probably be raised for fodder. All the States are in a terrible condition from the want of fodder. When stock are dying in every direction, and men are losing money right and left, is that a time when they should be met with a tax which is unnecessary and undesirable? I hope that the committee will never listen to such arguments. I have heard the argument put forward seriously that in a good season the farmer gets no benefit from the tax, but in a bad season he has his turn, and it is a very good thing that he should. Does it not sometimes happen that the farmers may find themselves in the position of wanting to purchase because of the failure of their own crops? We ought not to adopt this duty.
-Senator Gould is altogether mistaken in supposing that it is only in times of drought that the duty will be operative.
– I was taking the argument of Senator Baker.
– That applies to a number of articles here, but it does not apply to the revenue aspect of the matter. No doubt it is perfectly true that in regard to a number of fruit and vegetables the importation would occur only during a dry season ; but in addition to that, other fruits will come in from other places, which it is estimated will yield a revenue of £8,000. If honorable senators are -going on in this way, to absolutely disregard revenue - to give up £5,000 on one item, £4,000 on another item, and £3,000 on a third item - they will soon build up a very considerable deficiency. I cannot understand the attitude of some honorable senators, who lay down as the principle on which they are going to proceed the obtainment of revenue, and yet, throw away revenue, it appears to me, without reason. From Italy and America lemons, oranges, and other fruits come into New South Wales and Victoria, at a time of the year when they are out of season in Australia t My honorable friends opposite are willing to impose a duty on preserved fruits and on other articles of food, and why should not these fruits be subject to a duty? From the Statistical Enigister of New South Wales for 1900, I find that there was imported from Italy fruits of the value of £15,979. No doubt that would be lemons. From the United States of America £5, 129 worth were imported. Probably, that would represent apples or oranges. Taking Victoria, where there was a duty, I find that in 1900 there were imported from Italy 10,807 bushels of lemons and 4,017 bushels of oranges. I will not deal with bananas and pine apples, which are treated separately under the Tariff. The figures I have quoted are some indication of the kind of fruit that is expected to come here. Unless we are going to accept the proposition laid down by some of the Western Australian senators, that no article of food is to be taxed, why should we allow oranges and lemons from Italy or apples from. America to come in without paying duty when we impose a duty on dried fruit, such as raisins and currants ? If we are not prepared absolutely to give up all duties on articles of food, how can we justify surrendering the large amount of revenue which it is estimated will be derived from this article ? The prospector has been alluded to. We all realize the work the prospector has done and is doing. But it is possible to cany the glorification of the prospector and of the pioneer a little bit too far. Senator Matheson does not seem to realize that it is a Tariff for the Federation which we are making. It is not a Tariff for Western Australia. We are not framing a Tariff under which each State is to struggle to get the best terms for itself, and in the framing of which Western Australia, which is equally represented here - and very properly so - is to cast almost the whole of its votes against the imposition of any duty which will give, protection to the working men and producers in other parts of Australia, in order that food may be imported a little more cheaply into Western Australia. If the Western Australian senators are going to follow this plan, it is probable that my honorable friends from Tasmania will take a certain point of view as to what their State wants, and the senators from Victoria and New South Wales will take separate views as to what they want. How are we to come to an agreement about a Tariff for all .Australia unless on the. principle that every industry is an Australian industry, and that the basis of our union is Inter-State free-trade? If Western Australia wants to have cheap food, her proper course is to allow the products of the other States to come in free of duty.
– Are we discussing Western Australia, Mr. Chairman ?
– I want to indicate the principle that I have gone upon. Western Australia, it is perfectly true, has frequently been referred to, and I cannot avoid an argument such as this - that the Tariff of Western Australia imposes a duty of so much on the particular item before the Committee. In reference to an item like that before the Chair, for instance, I cannot avoid references to the effect of it upon Western Australia, nor can I prevent comparisons being made with the Western Australian duty on the item. We have, throughout these discussions, compared the Tariffs of the several States with the items proposed by the Government, and the motion before the Chair. It is only from that aspect that I propose to allow references to the Tariffs of the States.
– Honorable senators will realize at once that we are framing a Tariff for all Australia, and not for one portion of Australia. In addition to that, this is a Tariff which, I will undertake to say, the Australian people will take care that they have some reasonable share in making. They are not going to allow the Tariff to be moulded by any one particular State ; and it is not because a large number of senators from Western Australia make a declaration that, regardless of other considerations, they are going to have free food, that the Senate will forget what the real object of the Tariff is. If they do, it will be impossible to have an Australian Tariff at all. Can we afford to give up the revenue that it is anticipated will be collected from this item? It is a revenue which is collected without undue pressure upon any part of the community. No one has shown that the price of the article is increased to the consumer by this duty. The duty is there for purposes of revenue. That revenue will be collected under certain circumstances. I hope we shall stand by the revenue, as well as give a reasonable amount of assistance to a large number of persons who are engaged in the industries which will be protected by the imposition of this duty.
Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON (South Australia). - I think an injustice has been done to the Western Australian senators in the way in which Senator O’Connor has referred to that State, and in the way in which Western Australia has been introduced so frequently in the course of the debate. Western Australia has been mentioned because she is typical. She is at present the largest consumer of these particular goods.
– I was referring to a declaration of Senator Matheson, that he would take care to see that no article of food was taxed.
– That seems to have irritated the honorable and learned senator very much.
– Nothing irritates me, but I do feel a sense of injustice sometimes.
– Then my honorable and learned friend assumes irritation very well, if he does not possess it. The real point of view from which
Western Australia was alluded to, was not in reference to the Tariff of Western Australia so much as in regard to whether there were means by which the local Tariff might or might not be altered. That is beside the question now. But apart from that, Western Australia, in regard to this item, is unfortunate. She is a large consumer of imported fruits. She has been suffering for years under a Tariff which has imposed heavy duties upon these particular lines, to the great inconvenience, and in many respects the prejudice, of (tie health of her population. No one who is familiar with the progress of Western Australia during the last seven or eight years can fail to be aware of the fact that if there had been a large importation of fruit to that State, typhoid fever and all the other pestilences of the gold-fields would have been reduced considerably, and the hospitals would have been tenanted to a less degree. Any one who knows Western Australia is perfectly well aware that her people have been suffering all these years from the extremely high price of fruit and vegetables. In the first place the Western Australian duty increased the price in some cases to a prohibitive degree under the thin disguise of preventing the introduction of disease ; though we all know that it was done for the purpose of encouraging the local producer. Senator Higgs has given reasons for this duty on the ground that under normal conditions it will produce revenue. Whether we agree with the duty from the point of view of taxing the food of the people is another thing, but from the point of view of revenue, the argument of Senator Higgs demands consideration and must not be overlooked. My honorable and learned friend, Senator O’Connor, followed the same line of argument, and I should be the last to minimise the effect of what was said on that head. But when we remember that the £8,000, which is the revenue involved, includes bananas, it will be seen that we have no means of ascertaining what that revenue represents. If it is derived from oranges or lemons, or fruits of that kind, all I can say is that it is a disgrace to the growers of these articles in some of the States - in South Australia as well as elsewhere - that they do not produce enough lemons to supply the whole of Australia without any protection whatever. We know what has been done at Renmark and Mildura, and it is sheer downright laziness in many instances that prevents the local growers supplying the local market.
– They do produce, but they cannot keep the fruit all the year round.
– My honorable friend will pardon me for saying that the great difficulty has been due to inattention to the gathering of the lemons at the proper period, and the proper grading of them at the time when the rind is thin, so as to make them equal in quality to the Neapolitan and Sicilian lemons. In South Australia lemons are largely grown, but the majority of them are grown so carelessly, and are so carelessly gathered, that they have thick skins, arid no one will buy them when the imported lemons can be obtained. I have had the young trees at Renmark shown to me by Mr. Charles Chaffey, who pointed out that the difficulty is overcome if the lemons are gathered at the proper time, graded through a ring, and then allowed to ripen after being taken from the trees. All that can be done without any protection whatever. That is a consideration which honorable senators are entitled to weigh with regard to the revenue. But while those are strong arguments, as far as concerns revenue, I certainly am unable to understand the arguments, so called, addressed to the committee by Senator Baker. Senator Gould has already pulverized them. Some of us are protectionists, some are freetraders, and some are revenue Tariffists, but I cannot understand the contention that because this Tariff has been passed by the other branch of the Legislature therefore we should agree to it. That would be an admirable argument for accepting the Tariff as a whole, and abrogating our functions as a Senate altogether. If that is the attitude we should assume, the sooner we know it the better. Then my honorable and learned friend, Senator Baker, asked - If this duty will have no effect, why take it out of the Tariff? I say, however - Why put it there ? If it is an idle thing, we want to know why it was placed in the Tariff at all. Surely that is as effectual a question as the other - “Why take it out?” Then my honorable and learned friend said - and to this argument I take the greatest exception. - “ Is it wise to make alterations simply for the sake of altering ?” That conveys a reflection which I entirely resent. It is all very well to put it in the form of a suggestion, but I repudiate the suggestion that I or any of my honorable friends who are voting with me, are submitting these proposals for the sake of making alterations. The position is that we say, revenue or no revenue, however much or however little it may mean, this is a tax on food, and a tax on a particular kind of food, the consumption of which should be encouraged throughout Australia. It is desirable that this food should be consumed from a medicinal point of view. And, therefore, we say, that if it is possible to reduce the duty, or to take it off altogether, it ought to be reduced or taken off. Many of us believe that it would be unproductive of revenue, except in times of scarcity. From that point of view, 1” believe that we should leave fruits and vegetables free, and the illustration that has been given from Western Australia applies to every part of the continent that is not fortunate enough to produce fruit and vegetables.
– I should prefer that honorable senators did not waste time upon items which are not of very much consequence. There will be little or no revenue obtained from this item. I have been round the world two or three times, and I know of no country that produces fruit in such abundance as Australia, or in which fruit is as cheap as it is in Australia. I have no doubt that the Commonwealth will provide more than sufficient fruit for its own requirements, and I, therefore, do not see why there should be a duty imposed upon fruit. But I paddle my own canoe to some extent, and, I may be excused for saying that I think items, such as this, which will not produce much revenue should be allowed to pass even though they may be of no use in the Tariff. I find that in 1898, Victoria imported fruit from the otherfederating States to the value of £25,000, and from other places to the value of only £63. New South Wales imported £172,000 worth of fruit from the federating States, and only £28,000 worth from all other countries; South Australia, £16,000 from the federating States, and only £717 from outside: Tasmania, £11,000 from the federating States, and only £1,000 from outside. Queensland, £68,000 from the federating States, and only £800 worth from outside. Western Australia, where fruit was free, imported £18,000 worth from the federating States, and only £2,000 worth from outside. That unmistakably shows that with or without a duty on fruit the Commonwealth can well supply the necessities of the various States. As three of the States had previously no duty upon fruit, I see no necessity for putting a duty on it now. I am, therefore, compelled to vote for the inclusion of fruit in the free list, but in future, rather than waste time over small matters of this kind, I shall prefer to support the Tariff as it stands.
– As I think I was the first to particularly mention Western Australia in connection with this item, I should like to show that the representatives of that State are in a very different position, in discussing this item, to the representatives of the other States, because, if the request is carried with the help of the votes of the senators from Western Australia, the result will be to make these articles free in the other five States, but not free in Western Australia. All the arguments adduced with regard to. Western Australia has tended to show that it is a dire necessity to the people of that State that fruit and vegetables should be free. We were told by Senator Symon just now that if fruit had been admitted free into Western Australia it would have gone a considerable way in assisting the doctors to combat the epidemic of typhoid fever.
– What I said was, that the difficulty in obtaining fruit in Western Australia during the last eight or ten years had a great deal to do with the insanitary condition of the goldfields.
– That was the argument put forward, and I am pointing out that if this request is adopted it will not give these things free to Western Australia, because the Western Australian Legislature has imposed duties upon them which will remain.
– They are now one-fifth less than when this Parliament began sitting, and are gradually disappearing.
-They are gradually disappearing, but for so long as they last, and to the extent of the duty, these articles, if this request is adopted, will be free only in the other States and not in Western Australia. That is why I say the representatives of Western Australia are not in the same position as the representatives of the other States in discussing this item. The duty proposed would affect principally fruit, such as oranges and lemons, and, possibly pine-apples, and those are fruits which we can grow in Australia in the greatest abundance. I can see no necessity whatever for any importations of such fruit. I know that in Northern Queensland we can produce enough lemons to supply the whole of Australia. It is likely that at the present time they are not well graded or well packed, but that is because the industry is in its infancy. ‘If we desire to develop an industry of the kind, we must take steps to see that it is not unduly interfered with by importations from abroad. It is the old question we have had over and over again, of whether we should not give some preference to producers in Australia. We are endeavouring to help the producers, and whenever we do so, even with regard to this item, we find honorable senators opposite who call themselves freetraders desirous of promoting the interests of the importing industry, and the reason they give is that these duties are only fooling the people.
– Looking at this matter from the point of view of revenue it is impossible to say how much of the revenue which is shown to have been derived from these articles by the returns before us was derived from articles which would be included under the heading n.e.i. But I take it that a considerable proportion of that revenue was derived from such articles as Senator Symon now proposes should be placed in the free list. I assume that, because one or two items such as oranges and lemons are under the heading n.e.i. and there is a considerable importation of those fruits. I think the figures quoted by SenatorFraser are not quite up to date, because in the returns placed before us by Senator O’Connor, giving the revenue derived for the six months from the 9 th October to 31st March, the revenue derived in Victoria from fruits and vegetables combined amounted to £29,250.
– That includes currants, raisins, dates, and bananas.
– It includes fruit and vegetables, and I assume that under this heading- “n.e.i.” are included fruits which we can produce in Australia. The revenue derived in Victoria was £27,605, in Queensland £13,849, in South Australia £6,943, and Tasmania £3,539, making for the six months nearly half of the estimated receipts for a normal year - £1 65,000. Senator Symon has not taken up a consistent position in this matter, because just now we passed an item at 15 per cent, on the honorable and learned senator’s suggestion.
– That was quite a different line-
– There should be some consistency in the Tariff, and when we have agreed that the duty upon fruits preserved in liquid or partly in liquid and pulp fruit should be 15 per cent., fruit and vegetables should not be made free. If the honorable and learned senator altered his request and proposed that the duty should be 15 per cent., he would find me voting with him, for the sake of having something like symmetry in the Tariff. It is not denied that a duty upon fruit and vegetables would produce something in the shape of revenue, and if we suggested that the duty should be -15 per cent., it would be more consistent with the item which we have just passed.
– I ask whether it would be competent for the Chairman to put the items fruit and vegetables separately? There may be members of the committee who are prepared to vote for one item and not for the other, and it may save time and discussion if they can be put separately.
– I propose doing so.
– Before that is decided upon, I point- out that a difficulty would arise in putting them separately, and there must be another alternative, as is shown by the method* adopted in the House of Representatives. The resolution which will be arrived at by the Senate must, to some extent, confirm the collection of duties up to a .certain date, and, if the items were put separately, it would mean that there would be no confirmation of the collection of the duty, which it is agreed should be struck out. Honorable senators will find that, where the House of Representatives desired to separate two articles, so that one might remain dutiable and the other be free, they carried out their desire by a special exemption, and they did it somewhat in this way: They provided that the Tariff, for instance, on fruit and vegetables should be 3s., then in the special exemption column, that on and after such a date vegetables should be free. That would be a better and move correct way in which to deal with the matter.
– I have no objection to any course which will ‘ facilitate the committee arriving at a decision. It was quite competent for me to have moved one motion as to fruits and another as to vegetables ; but I moved that on and after the 1st July both fruits and vegetables be duty free. I am in charge of my own motion, sir. I am entitled to have the question put to the committee, and if it is not carried it will be perfectly competent for any honorable senator to move that either fruits or vegetables be duty free. If I had wished to move one line free at a time I should have done so.
– I ask you, sir, to consult the standing orders to see whether the motion cannot be divided. In the Legislative Assembly in Queensland a motion of this kind could be divided, and I imagine that it can be done here.
– It is my duty to facilitate the transaction of business, and to assist every honorable senator to have his proposal put. It has been intimated to me by Senator Neild that he_ desires to propose that the other House be requested to make vegetables free. If the motion of Senator Symon is put in its present form it will preclude Senator Neild from submitting that proposition. It is desirable that our requests should take the form of substantive motions, and the way in which that can be achieved in this case is by putting, fruits and vegetables separately. Whenever an honorable senator indicates his desire to submit a motion, it is my duty to state the question then before the committee in such a way that, if it is negatived, he will not lose his opportunity of doing so.
Senator Lt.-Col. NEILD (New South Wales). - I mean to vote to make both fruits and vegetables free. All I desire is to be in a position to get a separate vote on the item of vegetables, if I cannot get fruits made duty free. I would prefer very much, if Senator Symon does not raise any insuperable objection, to have the two items put separately, rather than to move an independent motion.
Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON (South Australia). - Senator Neild has made the request in such a way that it would be impossible for me even if I took a stronger view on the point of procedure than I did to hesitate a moment as to the course I should take. This discussion, sir, has not been thrown away, because it may affect many important items in the Tariff. The view which I put did occur to me as the more correct view, but I am not going to challenge your ruling.
Senator HIGGS (Queensland). - Senator Eraser has expressed the view that we ought not to waste time on trivial matters. I commend that view to Senator Symon. In a Chamber of 36 members, only one or two have supported him in his proposal. Where is the support of the free-trade party ?
– We held our tongues with the expectation of expediting business.
– Senator Symon said he was willing to move that the duty on fruit be 15 per cent. if vegetables were made duty free.
– I did not say anything of the sort.
– The honorable and learned senator asked Senator O’Keefe if he would be willing to vote that vegetables be duty free if fruit were made dutiable at 15 per cent.
– That is quite different.
– The honorable and learned senator, being a lawyer, can see a difference. It has been said by Senator Gould that the Senate will stultify itself if it declines to alter the duty on this item. Whoever contemplated that the Senate would attempt to tinker with the Tariff in the way in which certain honorable senators are doing when they propose to make fruits and vegetables duty free. This motion is only in keeping with Senator Symon’s proposition about muscatels and cigars. The man who is able to have a good meal always winds up with muscatels and cigars, but now the honorable and learned senator wishes foreign oranges to be brought in at a cheap rate. If he says that the duty will produce no revenue, I would point out that the value of green fruits imported by Western Australia from the United Kingdom during 1900 was £64; from Singapore, £352 ; from India, £6 ; from Fiji, £314 ; from the United States of America, £4; from France, £36 ; from Belgium, £241 ; from Italy, £5,550; and from Greece, £36; or, including the imports from the Australian States, a total of £18,386.
– What have the States to do with it?
– Through want of notice of this motion, I have not had time to take out the figures for the States. When honorable senators assert that the duty will yield no revenue, their assumption is not borne out by the facts of the case. Why should not Western Australia take a fair share of the burdens of the Commonwealth? She is well able to bear any taxation of this kind, and for some years she will enjoy the revenue she gets from this source. Although a large quantity of fruit and vegetables may not be brought into the Commonwealth at, the present time, there is no knowing to what extent science may advance and enable the people of foreign countries to compete unfairly with our white growers. The people of Italy and Greece are able to preserve their lemons and oranges in a remarkably successful manner, and what may apply to those two items may also apply to other items under this head. This is another attack by Senator Symon on the great farming and horticultural industry.
– I also joined in the conspiracy of silence; and I keptmy peace very well. I am very sorry that Senator Neild has broken away from the spellunder which he seems to have been this afternoon, and declared that he is going against the interests of the Parramatta fruit-growers. He knows that in certain portions of his State, oranges and lemons are grown as well as they can be grown in almost any other part of the world. These aretheverydescriptions of fresh fruits which will be imported to the greatest extent from other countries. Always believing that Senator Neild had a very large amount of sympathy with the poor producers, I expected that he would support the duty on fresh fruit. It is utter nonsense to talk about the poor prospectors being supplied with oranges, and lemons, and pine-apples. Those who are attempting to make these fruits duty free, are pandering not to the class who deserve most consideration, but to the class who are best able to bear a fair proportion of the taxation. It is not the poor prospector, or the poor farmer, who is going to get oranges and lemons from other countries. A great many fruits and vegetables can be grown in the South Sea Islands, and if there is a free market here with a large population ready to consume the articles, a great many persons may settle in those islands and send such products into the Commonwealth. We should show some consideration for the growers of lemons and oranges, who, in some instances, are only begining to get a little return from their life’s labours, especially as the duty will fall very lightly on the poor consumer. If any one has to pay it will be the wealthy consumer. I am sorry that Senator Neild has forgotten so many of his friends in New South Wales. To a certain extent I agree with Senator Baker that the duty on some kinds of vegetables may have very little effect. But there are a number of fruits that will be imported, and imported by those who can afford to pay this duty. I hope that honorable senators will not merely for the sake of altering the Tariff remove the duty on this item.
Senator Lt.-Col. NEILD (New South Wales). - I am very well aware that oranges and lemons are grown with a great deal of success in parts of New South Wales. I am also aware of what perhaps Senator McGregor is not aware - that from those very districts I had a very large support in my contest for a seat here. But that is not the question at issue. The orange and lemon growers to whom he has referred have never possessed, so far as my memory serves me, anything in the way of a protective impost, and unquestionably the great majority of the persons engaged in the industries have been, and are free-traders.
Question - That the House of Representatives be requested to amend item 21 by adding to the duty “ Fruits and vegetables, n.e.i…… 2s.” the words, “ and on and after 1st July, 1902, fruits, n.e.i., free” - put. The committee divided.
Majority … … 1
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question - That the House of Representatives be requested to amend item 21 by adding to the duty the words “ Fruit and vegetables,n.e.i….. 2s.” - “and on and after 1st July, 1902, vegetables, n.e.i., free “ - put. The committee divided.
Majority … … 1
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON (South Australia). - I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to amend item 21 by adding to the duty “Bananas . . …1s. . . . “ - the words “and on and after 1st July, 1902, free.”
There are two points of view from which this motion may be regarded. As to the first, I do not wish to say more than I have said as to other articles dealt with under this item. This is a duty on a fruit which is largely consumed by the poorer classes. I can hardly describe it otherwise than by saying that bananas are of almost universal consumption. They are nutritous as well as agreeable. But there is a broader ground than that. We are seeking to encourage trade, and keep up a connexion with the islands of the Pacific ; and it seems to mo that, on the one hand, we are declaring our desire to secure the control over these islands, and their connexion in a permanent way with Australia, and yet, by the imposition of this duty, we are seeking to destroy the possibility of that connexion, and throwing an obstacle in- the way of the trade of the islands with Australia. I saw on Saturday a telegraphic summary of a speech made by Sir J oseph Ward, who is at present the Acting-Premier of New Zealand. He referred to the island trade, and declared that the great policy of New Zealand was to secure the entire control over those islands : and that when New Zealand had her hand upon that trade, she would have a lever which would enable her to exercise an influence for the benefit of New Zealand against the interests of the Commonwealth of Australia. Nothing could be more significant than that declaration. I hope those honorable senators who did not see it will look it up. They must realize that it is incumbent upon us on broad grounds to encourage our trade with the islands. By that means, we shall be doing the best we possibly can with the view of carrying out the policy in which I believe, and in which every citizen of the Commonwealth believes, of keeping control over the Pacific islands. I do not want to be ‘unfriendly towards New Zealand, but if there is to be a struggle to acquire control over the Pacific islands for the purposes of trade, we should be in the field, and should endeavour to make all the productions of the islands free of duty in Australia. It is bad policy to impose a duty of ls. per cental on one of the products of the islands with which we desire to secure trade and intercourse as much as possible. On both the grounds I have mentioned I commend this motion to the committee.
Australia with all its reasonable consequences, I do hope the committee will see that it is impossible to agree to Senator Symon’s proposal.
SenatorMILLEN (New South Wales).I have heard so frequently this afternoon an appeal to members of the committee to be consistent to the policy of a white Australia, that I think it right to make a brief statement with regard to the matter. I say that the equivalent for a white Australia, so far as Queensland is concerned, is represented by the concession in the matter of the sugar duties, and having received that payment Queensland has no right, either directly or through the Vice-President of the Executive Council, to ask for further payment upon that head. I am certain that the mercantile and shipping community of Australia will be interested in the declaration of Senator O’Connor this afternoon with regard to the Fiji trade. I take the honorable and learned senator’s statement, speaking for the Government, to be a very frank and open one. Those interested in the shipping trade may be thankful for it, because it will give them a warning as to what they will have to expect. Senator O’Connor affirmed that Senator Symon’s motion was intended to keep up an increased trade with the Fiji Islands, and as he opposes that motion I can only assume that he does so because he wishes to destroy that trade.
– It seems to me to follow as a consequence of absolutely unanswerable logic. While I admit that business people have gone into this tradefor business reasons, they have certainly also rendered public service in conducting trade between the mainland and those islands. Andthey should be interested to know that the desire and policy of the Government is to stop all trade between the mainland and the Fiji Islands.
– The policy of the Government is to have more regard for our own people in Queensland than for the people of Fiji.
– If I take the honorable and learned senator’s later statement, and I have no wish to misinterpret what he said, he desires to encourage trade with Fiji so long as it will not interfere with our own people, and then I ask him what becomes of the white Australia policy ? It is not possible to do the two things at once.
– We are dealing with bananas only.
- Senator O’Connor certainly referred to a white Australia, and when he made the first reference to it, I interrupted his remarks, and said that any remarks upon the subject must be limited to its connexion with the item before the committee. I cannot avoid a general and passing reference to it, but I must restrict any attempt to develop the question.
– I have no intention of following the example of the VicePresident of the Executive Council in making asecond-reading speech upon the matter. I point out, dealing strictly with the item before the committee, that the trade in bananas is an important part of the trade between the mainland and Fiji. The value of the trade between Sydney and Fiji amounts to £265,000 annually, the greater portion of it being in local products. I do not know the value of the exports from Melbourne and other ports to Fiji, but the value of the trade from Fiji to New South Wales amounts to £72,000.
– In 1900 bananas accounted for £14,274 of that amount.
– It is quite clear from those figures that there is room for a very desirable expansion of trade between the mainland and Fiji, and we know that at present that trade is in such a condition that it is doubtful whether it ispaying, or whether it will be profitable.
– We do not bring bananas overland from Queensland.
– The honorable and learned senator must know that shipping cannot be profitably conducted unless a ship has a fairly full cargo. If there is not a fairly full return cargo the prospects of a profitable trip are so much lessened. If we send £265,000 worth of produce from Sydney to Fiji, and our ships come back from Fijicomparatively empty, it must be seen that the trade with New South Wales will be very seriously hampered, because the profit on the trip from Sydney to Fiji will have to be sufficient to pay the cost of the two journeys. I should have thought that would be obvious tohonorable senators. Senator O’Connor has appealed with a good deal of force to honorable senators, that we should remember all parts of
Australia in framing the Tariff. That is exactly what I desire to do, and I ask that some consideration should be had for the shipping trade which has sprung up in Sydney, and that the Tariff should not be used as an instrument to ruthlessly destroy an important branch of industry of this kind.We know that our friends opposite regard those who are connected with shipping, or have anything to do with the trade of other countries, as enemies of their own.
– That is absolutely incorrect.
– It may be an exaggeration, but it is consistent with what we hear honorable senators opposite say.
– It was stated by Senator Millen that the exports from Sydney to Fiji were £265,000, and the imports £72,000, of which £14,274 was represented by bananas. His contention is that if this dutyis accepted then aconsiderable numberof the Fiji bananas will be displaced by bananas imported from Queensland, and perhaps the northern rivers of New South Wales, and that this result will be injurious to the shipping trade between Sydney and Fiji. The exports from Sydney to Fiji no doubt represent goods of a considerably higher value, so that it is impossible to say, without an exact knowledge of the articles, how far in bulk the £265,000 of exports would be equivalent to the £72,000 of imports. But in any case, accepting his position, surely it must have the effect of correspondingly increasing the shipping between Sydney and other ports within the Commonwealth, so thatI can not see how the duty can do any injury to shipping. The reason which is sometimes advanced by honorable senators opposite in support of their views is absent in this case, because wherever the bananas came from they would enter the port of Sydney. I cannot understand the yearning on their part to trade with foreign countries. No matter whether it is Germany, Japan, or an island in the Pacific inhabited by savages, they seem to have a preference for trading with some country outside rather than with a State of the Commonwealth. In this case itcan not be pleaded that it is an article on which there is what they call a natural protection, because the ports in Northern Australia, where bananas are most extensively grown, are probably at a greater distance from Sydney than is Fiji. The natural protection, if there is any, is in favour of the article imported from Fiji or the Pacific Islands. The motion will give a distinct preference to the imported article as against the Australian article. We now come to the question of the labour conditions under which bananas are produced. We have laid it down as a rule that the use of black labour in Australia is to cease after a certain period, and thediminution inthenumber of coloured labourers is to commence at once, though I admit that there are coloured labourers still in Australia, and some of them no doubt are engaged in this industry in the north, though not in the south of Queensland. In considering this item we must regard Australia as a country in which it has been decided that industries are to be carried on by white labour, so that it is a matter of a competition between an article produced by white labour in Australia, and an article produced by black labour outside Australia. A duty of1s. per cental can only be regarded as a fair margin, representing the extra cost of producing the article under labour conditions which are not enforced outside. It seems to me almost a mockery for us to have taken up the position that Australian products are to be grown under certain labour conditions, and when we have placed that extra burden on the producer in Australia to allow products grown under different conditions to come in free to compete with them.
– The Minister admits it to be a burden on the sugar grower?
– I do. I have always said that the sugar-grower is getting an advantage from the employment of very cheap coloured labour. I have always pointed out that in the change to white labour he is put to a certain amount of present loss, which should be compensated to him by giving him some advantage in the Australian markets, and that is whathas been done with regard to the sugar duties. In the Senate I have always pointed out that the difficulty of making the change from black labour to white labour depends to a very great extent on the locality, and the locality in which the greatest difficulty will arise is the port of Geraldton. In this very fertile district, far removed from other industries, sugar and green fruit are produced. I was surprised when I was up there last to be informed that in value the exports of green fruit from that port are very nearly equal to the exports of sugar, and inquiries were particularly made of me as to the probable policy of the Commonwealth in regard to green fruit.
– “Who are the principal growers of green fruit up there - white men or Chinamen ?
– There are Chinamen engaged in producing bananas there as there are kanakas engaged in producing sugar. We cannot help having the Chinamen there. It is a legacy. It is very unfortunate that they were allowed to come here, but still they are here, and we do not seem to have any means of getting rid of them. Taking that particular district as an illustration, is it not the proper policy - and the policy which was always believed to be that of Australia - to give every facility to the land-holders to grow bananas for the Australian market ? Bananas were grown in the southern parts of Queensland, and I believe on the northern rivers of New South’ Wales before they were grown in the north of Queensland - and grown very extensively, too. To a great extent, it was the competition of the bananas from the more fertile districts of the north, perhaps grown with the aid of coloured labour, which depressed the growers in Southern Queensland. We may be reasonably assured that if a small duty is imposed, it will have the effect of developing at once the industry of banana-producing in Southern Queensland, and in the northern , parts of New South Wales by white labour. We are perfectly capable of supplying all the bananas we require in the Commonwealth. It is better to impose a duty of that character, and to get all our bananas produced locally, than to strike off the duty in order to encourage the importation of bananas. There are some honorable senators who, I suppose, will say that the duty will increase the price of bananas. Seeing that there is such an unlimited quantity coining forward continually from Australia, a duty of ls. per cental is not likely to increase the price perceptibly. On the coast in Queensland the growers get ls. a bunch for the bananas, and three or four bunches would go to a cental. A bunch is supposed to contain twelve dozen, and it cannot weigh 50 lbs. The object of the motion clearly is to develop the trade with Fiji and the Pacific Islands. If you encourage the introduction of bananas from those places, you will surely swamp this market and discourage the production of bananas in Australia, perhaps more than was done in times past in Southern Queensland. It will be discouraged to such an extent that that there will be few persons in Australia who will attempt to compete against the cheap products grown by black labour, and when the local industry is destroyed we shall have to -depend entirely on the imported article. It is also probable that we shall have to pay very much more for our bananas then than we have to pay now.
– It is a remarkable thing that the less necessary a duty is, the more determinedly the Government seem to fight for it. If the item had come to the Senate as it was introduced in the other House, bananas would have been duty free under the resolution we have carried.
– Perhaps the resolution would not. have been carried.
– The duty on bananas was fixed at half the duty on the other items. What amount ought, therefore, to be charged when those items are made duty free? What is the half of nothing? I wish to confirm what has been said about the competition for the trade of the islands. It has become the policy of France, through New Caledonia, to compete for the island trade. We have both New Caledonia and New Zealand making efforts to attract trade which hitherto has come to Australia. Speaking at the annual meeting last week, Mr. Derham, the President of the Victorian Chamber of Manufacturers is reported by the Age to have - urged the necessity of taking steps to maintain the trade with the Pacific Islands, which the Tariff was likely to seriously interfere with.
We also know that bananas were free in Victoria and New South Wales, as well as in Queensland itself. Really, I do not know where they were subject to a duty. Senator O’Connor read from the Statistical Register figures regarding the importation of Fiji bananas into New South Wales, but there was a fact that he did not tell us. Although New South Wales imported £14,274 worth of bananas from Fiji, she also imported £47,149 worth from Queensland. It would have been a fairer way of conducting the controversy if Senator O’Connor had said that although £14,000 worth came from Fiji, between three and four times that amount came from Queensland. On reference to the statistics of Victoria, I find that that State imported from Queensland bananas and pineapples to the value of £17,472. Seeing that this large amount of business was done with Queensland, is there any reason for this tone of cowardly fear about the trade of that State being endangered by the admission of a certain quantity of bananas from the islands of the Pacific ? The population of Australia is increasing every day, and we can very well take a large quantity of bananas from the Pacific islands, while at the same time consuming all Queensland can produce. Under the decision of the Customs authorities, No. 4, relating to bananas, no allowance is to bo made for stalks, but the duty is to be charged on the gross weight. Everybody knows how large a proportion of the weight of a bunch of bananas is made up by the stalks. So that although the proposed duty does not seem in itself a very high percentage, when we consider the small original cost and other elements, we find that ‘the amount is somewhere in- the neighbourhood of 200 per cent, of the shipping cost in Fiji. That seems absurd. A considerable amount of both Victorian and New South “Wales capital has already been lost in prosecuting the trade with the islands, which has not been by any means a profitable trade for the shipping industry. That trade has been considerably imperilled by the duties included in this Tariff, of which the one before us is particularly noteworthy. In view of the whole of the interests concerned, I confidently ask the committee to continue its good work, and place bananas on the free list.
– This matter of bananas may seem to some honor.able senators rather a small affair, and scarcely worth contesting, but if the statistics are referred to it will be seen that the question very materially affects Queensland. A few years ago there was scarcely any settlement in Northern Queensland except for sugar production, but during the last few years a considerable number of persons, all men of limited means, have engaged in the production of bananas, coffee, and other commodities of that kind. These industries are growing slowly. The export of green fruit from Queensland is considerable. Is it wise on the part of the committee to discourage the continuance of an industry which is regarded as a stand-by to persons engaged in agricultural pursuits ? In 1888 Queensland exported green fruit to the value of £23,652, but in 1900 she exported to the value of £1.04,000 odd ;. so that a great increase was made in the short period of fourteen years. I am quite sure that Senator Symon has no burning desire to strike a blow at any industry, more particularly one in which men of limited means are engaged. He may take my word for it, that no syndicate of any kind, so far as I am aware, is concerned in this industry. It is wholly carried on by men of limited means. We have bananas produced all the year round in Queensland. In the winter time we get them in abundance from the north, and in the summer we obtain them from the south. The farmers who produce bananas, particularly those in a small way, looked with some degree of hope to obtaining the whole of the Australian market under federation, so that their industry might prosper and develop to a greater degree than it has hitherto done. If this fair and reasonable duty is not imposed, then, undoubtedly, the importation of bananas from Fiji, grown exclusively by black labour, will be increased, and the production of the fruit in Queensland will be lessened. That is very poor encouragement to give to men who looked forward with hope to the accomplishment of federation to extend their market, as they were to some extent induced to do by those who strenuously advocated the cause - Senator Drake, Senator Higgs, myself, and others. It is unwise, and highly imprudent, not to say unjust, to endeavour to remove the duty. It has been said that those engaged in banana-growing in Queensland are chiefly Chinamen. There are, of course, a certain number of Chinese, but there are also very many white people engaged ‘ in raising bananas. The whole of the bananas grown in the south are produced by white labour. If there were numbers of coloured aliens concerned in the production one might sympathize with honorable senators opposite, but that is not so. The greater portion of the bananas produced in Queensland are raised by white labour, and by men of limited means. I am told that the average weight of a bunch of bananas is about 45 lbs. Taking into consideration that a bunch will perhaps contain about ten or twelve dozen, can any honorable senator argue that the duty will increase the price to the consumer to any appreciable extent ? Certainly not. What will the consumer gain, except, it may be, politically, as Senator Symon argues, from the abolition of the duty? The honorable and learned’ senator urges that we need to cultivate trade relations with the Pacific Islands rather than endeavour to trade with other portions of our own Commonwealth.
– I say not so much that we should cultivate the trade as that we should not interpose obstacles to it.
– Surely it is the first duty of this Senate to look after the interests of the people within the Commonwealth. Senator Symon urges that because Sir Joseph Ward has stated what New Zealand is going to do in regard to the islands, we ought to enter into competition with New Zealand, and endeavour to wrest the trade of the islands from that colony, even though it be to the detriment of the people of the Commonwealth. But I reply that, before we consider the islands, we should consider the interests of the people of the Commonwealth itself, and the agriculturists of Queensland deserve consideration at the hands of this branch of the Legislature. They certainly have a prior claim over Fiji. Here is an opportunity of helping the primary producers. I suppose that we shall hear a similar demand made to reduce the duty on pineapples, mangoes, and other fruits. I echo the sentiment of Senator O’Connor, and ask - Are honorable senators opposite going to consider the interests of the primary producers of Australia ? Are they considering them now ? Certainly not. I wonder what the Queensland agriculturists will say with regard to this method of considering the interests of the primary producers ! Honorable senators opposite are rather considering the interests of persons with black skins in some other parts of the world. Senator Millen made a strong appeal to the committee not to do anything which would injure the shipping trade. He said that members on this side have no regard for those engaged in shipping, and are anxious to injure the shipping trade. I can inform honorable senators that some years ago the A.TJ.S.N. Company went to considerable expense in fitting their ships specially for the banana trade, and they do an enormous trade in the carriage of bananas during the greater part of the year. I ask now whether that company is to be injured, or whether we are to injure them in this instance with a view of increasing their trade ultimately with the Fiji Islands ? I think I may also speak for Howard Smith and Company, who also provided facilities for carrying on the trade in bananas. I venture to say that these shipping companies would be the last to do anything which would discourage that trade in any way. Those who advocated federation were not slow to point out to the people engaged in growing bananas in Queensland that they would derive a great advantage from federation, and that they would have the whole of the Australian market of 4,000,000 of people for their produce, instead of being limited to Queensland and to New South Wales, where bananas were free. Senator Symon and other honorable senators say that they did not make such promises, and are not bound to fulfil the obligations entered into by others. But if one industry is to be struck down after another, the people of the different States will have some reason to reflect and consider whether it was a wise thing for them to enter this union or not. I appeal to honorable senators to allow the item to go as it is, and not to continue a policy for the destruction of industries.
– It will be admitted that the banana is one of the most wholesome and nutritious fruits which can be consumed by the people. It is also one of the cheapest fruits, and one which is most largely consumed by the poorer people of the Commonwealth. Why, then, should we make an exception in the case of this fruit when every other fruit is placed on the free list? What was the duty imposed upon bananas by the various States before federation ? I find that in Victoria, New South Wales, and Queensland, which comprised the bulk of the population of Australia, there was no duty at all. I think bananas were free also in Tasmania, and in Western Australia and South Australia there was a duty of 10 per cent. It is clear that the average duty for the whole of the Australian States would not be more than 5 per cent. What are we proposing now ? We are proposing a duty of 40 per cent. I have taken that statement from the Commissioner of Customs himself. He states that a duty of ls. per cental on bananas is equivalent to a duty of 40 per cent. We are therefore proposing a duty of 40 per cent, upon this necessary article of diet, which before federation was duty free in the most populous States. We are accused in this matter of favouring coloured labour, but I say without fear of contradiction, that two-thirds of the bananas grown in Queensland are grown by Chinamen.
– What is the honorable senator’s authority ?
– My authority for the statement is Mr. McDonald, member of the House of Representatives for Kennedy. He has as good a knowledge of Queensland and is as good a democrat as our friends in the labour comer of the Senate. We are really proposing that Queensland shall be maintained in the position in which she was previous to federation, and it is therefore idle to say that we are doing an injustice to that State. The removal of duties means tlie cheapening of commodities, and that means increased consumption, and therefore the proposal we make is rather for the benefit of Queensland. All we are asking is that we shall maintain the present trade with Queensland and with Fiji. It has already been pointed out that Queensland has a natural protection, because the distance from Cooktown to Sydney is less than the distance from Sydney to the New Hebrides, and Fiji is further from Sydney than the New Hebrides. The extra distance is not perhaps very great, but it gives a certain amount of > .protection, and it must be remembered that that natural protection is increased by the fact that freights are very much cheaper from Queensland ports to Sydney than from Fiji to Sydney. We were told by Senator O’Connor that for some national reasons we were going to stimulate trade with the Pacific to the injury of our own people. I have pointed out that we will not be injuring them, and Senator O’Connor is asking us to give fi special concession in respect of a certain fruit produced by Queensland, while to do that will tend to ruin our trade with the Pacific Islands, which, from a national point of view, would be a very great loss to Australia. Our principal trade with those islands is in fruit, and we have also a certain trade in maize and copra. That trade was built up by the enterprise of people in Victoria and New South Wales, and many of the people who embarked in it have lost a considerable amount of money. I think I am fully justified in saying that our preponderance of interest in the Pacific Islands will depend entirely upon whether we have a preponderance of trade with those islands. If we can maintain a preponderance of trade it will not only affect Fiji, which is British territory, but other islands which we desire to have under the control of Australia, or which we at least desire should not be under the control of a foreign nation. We have subsidized Burns, Philp, and Co. to run a line of steamers to the New Hebrides, and while with the one hand we give them money to enable them to carry out that service, with the other, under this proposal, we are taking away the means by which they can make it profitable. A previous speaker has said that New Zealand is straining every nerve to open up communication with Fiji and other islands in the Pacific. She is offering reciprocity of trade, that her trade with those islands may increase in every way, while we are deliberately endeavouring to cut off that trade. The object of New Zealand is to build up another confederacy in the Pacific, and that is a very injurious policy for Australia and the Empire. We desire that those islands shall be ‘controlled by the British people, and that there shall be but one control in the Pacific. It will be inimical to the best interests of Australia if there is any confederacy formed among the Pacific Islands, and the members of the Government have already strenuously protested, to the Secretary of State for the Colonies against New Zealand annexing those islands. At present there is a question as to whetherFrance or Great Britain shall have the ownership of the New Hebrides, and that hinges upon who will have the preponderance of trade. As I have said, the Government have subsidized a line of steamers to increase our trade with those islands, but under this Tariff .they propose to shut out the imports which might be brought from those islands. On the contrary, France is allowing the products of the New Hebrides to enter New Caledonia free in order to stimulate the trade. I say we shall be adopting a very ill-advised policy if we do not follow that example. Protectionists admit that we should do what we can to stimulate our exports, but we cannot do that unless we stimulate imports. We cannot run steamers full of merchandise to those islands and bring them back empty, or freights would be so enormous that other nations would have a tremendous advantage over us in trading with those islands. We were told by Senator
O’Connor, and by honorable senators from Queensland, that we should be prepared to make some sacrifices for Queensland : that Western Australian senators ave exceedingly selfish and provincial, and look at everything from the point of view of what is best for the people of that State. It is ungenerous to say that senators from Western Australia are actuated by any such motives. We are not, and we have referred to Western Australia only for purposes of illustration. I should like in this connexion to ask what we have done for Queensland? We have consented without protest to pay an extra £5 per ton upon all the sugar produced there. That means we are willing to pay every year a sum of at least £750,’000 in order to benefit the sugargrowers of Queensland. As a free-trader I came here pledged to my constituents to make this Tariff as much a free-trade Tariff as possible, but I made no objection to this concession to Queensland, which will cost my constituents some £40,000 a year. Yet we are told that we view this matter of bananas from the purely provincial point of view. We have made more sacrifices for the benefit of Queensland than she will be asked to concede to us upon every item of the Tariff. Queensland had previously no advantage as against the foreign producer with regard to bananas, and we propose to continue that principle. We say that Queensland has great natural advantages, and, without any protection, has supplied the bulk of the bananas consumed in Australia, and we further say that this valuable and nutritious food should be made as cheap as possible. We also say that we shall be acting foolishly in the interests of the Commonwealth if, instead of stimulating trade with the Pacific, we do anything which will decrease that trade, and which will prevent us from being paramount in those islands.
Senator HIGGS (Queensland). - I regard this as another blow at the primary producer. I find, on looking at the records, that the original duty proposed by the Government was 2s. per cental, and that the honorable member for Bland moved -
That the words “bananas on mid after 28th November, 190.1, per cental, Gel.,” be added to the item.
There was no opposition shown to a proposal to reduce the duty, and Mr. Watson’s amendment was altered to read as follows : -
That the words “ Bananas, on and after 28th November, .1901, per cental ls.,” be added to the item.
That amendment was agreed to on the voices on the 27th November. The honorable and learned senator, who is striking another blow at the primary producer in Queensland, was very anxious to give him the black labour for ten years, but now he wishes, apparently, to expose him to all the competition of the South Sea Islands, Fiji, New Hebrides, New Caledonia, New Guinea, and so forth. Senator Millen said it was just as well that the people who had brought about this trade with Fiji should know what the Government were doing to kill it. It is just as well, too, that we should know who are these gentlemen who are interested in making the Commonwealth a free port for island products. I have a copy of a letter which these gentlemen sent to the Minister for Trade and Customs, and in which they say -
We, the undersigned merchants and shipowners of Sydney, view with alarm the almost certain destruction that threatens the trade of this port with the colony of Fiji and the other islands of the Pacific, if the Federal Tariff, as proposed, is confirmed by Parliament.
We respectfully desire to point out : - 1st. - Sydney, from its geographical position, has been, and is, the natural entrepot of the island trade. 2nd. - Sydney has, more or less, always been a free port, and in consequence her trade with the islands has been a growing one - especially has this been so in the last few years. 3rd. - That the total trade of Fiji is approximately .£1,000,000. 4th. - -That the value of imports into Fiji from New South Wales alone is 86 ‘46 per cent, of the whole of the imports from Australia and New Zealand. 5th. - That the total trade of New South Wales with Fiji in the year 1900 was approximately £350,000. 6th. - At great expense, regular steam communication has recently been established between this port and British New Guinea, Solomon Islands, the New Hebrides, and Norfolk Island. The proposed Tariff will so handicap the trade that the steamers must cease to run. 7th. - The principal exports from the islands are now so heavily taxed under the Federal Tariff that, in the case of Fiji, the trade will certainty be driven to New Zealand and elsewhere. 8th. - That at present there are two steamship companies (the A.U.S.N. and the Union S.S. Company of New Zealand) running a fortnightly service between Sydney and Fiji. 9th. - That since the proposed Federal Tariff has been in force, these steamers, which previously came here laden with fresh fruit, have arrived practically empty. 10th. - The result is obvious. Steam-shipowners must cither relinquish the trade, or so considerably increase the rates of freight on goods from Sydney, that it will become unprofitable for Fiji merchants to operate in this market. 11th. - The banana and fresh fruit industry in Fiji isa very large and important one, mostly produced by white settlers, Australian born, on whom the operation of the proposed Tariff will press most ruinously, the markets of the Commonwealth being practically closed against them. 12th. - The proposed duty of 2s. percental on bananas, stalks included (which are valueless), makes the importation absolutely prohibitive, consequently no revenue would be derived from this source. If any duty is imposed, we respectfully suggest it be at so much per bunch. 13th. - Bananas are largely an article of diet with the working classes. The proposed duty has already increased the price fully 100 per cent. 14th. - We are aware bananas are a product of Northern Queensland, where they ore almost exclusively grown by Chinese, and shipped by them to their countrymen in the other States for sale. We respectfully point out that it is not the policy of the Federal Government to encourage alien races to settle within the Commonwealth. 15th. - The products of Fiji are sugar, coffee, tea, tobacco, maize, copra, cocoanuts, peanuts, bananas, pineapples, and other tropical fruits, beche-de-mer, pearl shell, turtle shell, vanilla, cotton, wool, &c. 10th. - We respectfully beg that you will be good enough to take into your special consideration the trade of the Commonwealth with Fiji and the South Sea Islands, and be graciously pleased to place on the free list such products as copra, cocoanuts, peanuts, bananas, pineapples, beche-de-mer, vanilla, pearl shell, and turtle shell. 17th. - We would remind you that recently, whenNew Zealand was trying to bring about the federation of Fiji with that colony, the Federal Government strongly protested to the Honorable the Secretary of State for the Colonies against same being sanctioned, pointing out that ninetenths of the trade of Fiji was transacted with Australia. It would therefore appear to be inconsistent for the Federal Government now to so tax the products of Fiji that the trade must undoubtedly be forced to New Zealand and lost to the Commonwealth.
The letter is signed by a number of gentlemen who are manufacturers as well as importers, namely : -
Burns, Philp, & Co. Ltd.
Colonial Sugar Refining Co. Ltd
Dalgety & Co. Ltd.
Union Steamship Co. Ltd.
Elliott Bros. Ltd.
Edwards, Dunlop, & Co. Ltd.
Morgan & Smith.
Paterson, Laing, & Bruce Ltd.
Brunton & Co.
Garrick & Co.
Feldheim, Gotthelf, & Co.
Gollin & Co. Propy. Ltd.
James Sandy & Co.
Enoch Taylor & Co. Ltd.
John Keep & Sons Ltd.
Farleigh, Nettheiin, and Co.
McMurtrie and Co. Ltd.
Sargood, Butler, Nichol, and Ewen.
RobertReid and Co. Ltd.
Henry Bull and Co. Ltd.
Robert Harper and Co. Propt. Ltd.
John Paxton and Co.
Scott, Henderson, and Co.
Goldsborough, Mort, and Co. Ltd.
Hill, Clark, and Co.
Australian Drug Co. Ltd.
Brown and Joske Ltd.
Robert Little and Co.
John Bridge and Co.
Mungo, Scott, and Co.
Paul and Gray Ltd.
Learmonth, Dickinson, and Co.
Jewell, Davis, and Co.
If Senator Sargood votes on this occasion he will vote on a question in which he is personally interested. I suggest to him the propriety of retiring from the Chamber when the division is taken.
SenatorFraser. - He is not interested in it.
– This is the first time I have heard that Senator Sargood is not a member of the great firm of Sargood, Butler, Nichol, and Ewen. Honorable senators will be interested in some of the arguments put forward by the writers of that letter, many of whom, I may say; are very excellent employers, but some of whom are always found on the side of those who wish to cut down the rates of wages, and to put as many burdens as they can on the working classes. They say that bananas are largely an article of diet for the working classes. Practically they say - “ Because it is not the policy of the Government to encourage alien races to settle within the Commonwealth, therefore it should be the policy of the Commonwealth to throw open the ports to all the competition of the alien races in Fiji and other islands.” They must have known that a number of their statements were not true. They assert that a great proportion of the fruit grown in Fiji is produced by white settlers. It is very fortunate for me that I happened to drop across the report of an interview between a Sydney Daily Telegraph reporter and Mr. A. B. Joske, who, in reply to certain questions about Fijian affairs, said - “I lived there for 23 years, so I know exactly what I am talking about. Generally speaking, the natives are well treated, and as for the Indian coolie, the best proof respecting his condition is that when his indentures are completed no disposition is shown to leave the place. On the contrary, they very often go into business themselves on the islands, but it must not be forgotten that rations are supplied also.” “But what about the alleged heavy task work?” “I do not think that any of these people ure overworked. Amongst blacks there is always a certain amount of scheming, and this has to be guarded against.” “ Some people think that the importation of coolies is a peculiar proceeding, when there is a great number of natives available ? “ “But the native is not a great success as a labourer. The coolie is very much ahead of him,” was the reply. “ He can do twice the work of a Fijian, who is generally content to eke out an existence, and has no ambition to grow more produce than will pay his annual poll-tax of £1 and keep himself. On the other hand, the coolie is willing, and much more enterprising. The Fijian, too, is dying out gradually, and eventually the coolie will be numerically the predominant force there. They now number no less than .16,000 ; the native population being 98,000, and the whites about 5,000.” “ Do the Fijians threaten to rise, or do they unitedly complain of their lot 1” “ Nothing of the kind, that I am aware of,”
Said Mr. Joske. “ On the other hand, they are a contented people. They are too indolent to bother their heads about much. The highly productive nature of their country has spoiled them. There ore a few people down there who seem to glory - for the sake of personal interests - in endeavouring to foment discontent, and that is why special precautious are taken to keep the leading spirits in check.” ‘ Do you think that they should be paid for the road work they are expected to gratuitously perform in their districts ?” “ Yes, I think that is a matter that ought to be changed. It is obvious that the Government have no just grounds in compelling such jobs to be performed for nothing.” «
– What the honorable senator is reading at present seems to have no immediate reference to the item before the committee.
– I apologize if “I am out of order. In this Tariff there are certain items which have a very strong connexion with the question of coloured labour, and when honorable senators prefaced their speeches as Senator Symon did, by saying that this was a matter which concerned Fiji and the control of the islands, it struck me that it would be well for the committee to know exactly the labour conditions under which bananas and other fruits are produced in Fiji ; and when I state, on the authority of Mr. Joske, that the native labourers are forced by the Government to give a certain amount of their labour for nothing in making the roads, the committee can see how much the planters will have to pay the labourers when they go on to the plantations to grow bananas. Honorable senators are being flooded with letters of the kind I have quoted from eminent firms of merchant shippers throughout the Commonwealth. Senator Smith says - “ We want to get the control of these islands, and therefore we desire to make bananas duty free.” If Fiji and other islands in the Pacific are going to be settled and production is to be carried on in this way, we had far better cut them adrift and impose as high a duty as we can on bananas. I have a few figures relating to the production of bananas in Queensland, which I think it well to give. I do not know whether Senator Symon was serious when he suggested that the Queensland banana is of better quality than the Fiji banana. Perhaps he thinks it will induce us to make bananas duty free, because we can compete in any market. A few years ago Queensland bananas were not of the same quality as the Fiji bananas, but owing to the introduction of improved methods and proper selection -by the growers, a much higher quality of fruit is being produced. Senator Smith states, on the authority of Mr. Charles McDonald, a member of the other . House, that two-thirds of the bananas of Queensland are grown by Chinamen. While I have the highest respect for that gentleman, who I know is regarded as quite as good a man as any one else in the political world, still I venture to think that his statement is a little exaggerated. When I mention the places in which bananas are grown in Queensland, honorable senators will recognise that a very large number of white men are engaged in their production. At Mount Cotton, which is within 30 miles of Brisbane, white settlers grow a great number of bananas. Of course, they have the assistance of some kanakas, who also work in the cane-fields, but, as has been said here, in time we hope to do without that black labour. I have a table which shows the area and yield of the different districts for the past two years, but as I know we all wish to get to a division, I shall only give the figures for one year : - _iven though there may be a number of Chinamen engaged in tlie production of bananas in Queeusland, does it follow that we’ should throw the white settlers, who are competing with those Chinamen, into competition with the black labour of Fiji ? Reference has been made to the efforts of France to secure trade with the New Hebrides. But there is a great deal of black labour employed there, and some of the French trading vessels are competing with our own “black-birders” in trying to get black labour from the New Hebrides and other islands. We should not encourage them by making bananas duty free. The public will recognise how much sympathy Senator Symon has for the primary producer when ha- is striking blow after blow at the various primary industries of the country.
– Some ‘ honorable senators appear to have the idea that, when any motion is moved in favour of the reduction of a duty proposed by the Tariff, the object of the movers is to strike a blow at the primary industries. But such is not the case. If honorable senators only took the trouble to listen to Senator Glassey’s speech they would have been abundantly satisfied that there is no necessity for a duty on bananas. Senator Glassey told us that in 188S the whole export of green fruit from Queensland was valued at £23,000, and that in the year 1900 it had grown to £104,000. It must be borne in mind that this increase was attained in the face of competition from outside sources. Statistics have been quoted to show how the trade of New South Wales in Queensland bananas has grown as against the trade in bananas grown in the South Sea islands. Does not that prove that Queensland has been enabled to hold her own in the free ports of New South Wales ? The same has been the case in Victoria. Senator Higgs has given us the reason. He says that during the last few years the Queensland banana-growers have had much better plants than they had a few years ago. Formerly the fruit was not equal in quality to that of Fiji, but the growers had been putting in new plants, and the crops of bananas have consequently improved. That goes to show that Queensland can hold her own. And is it not a miserable thing for honorable senators after all this to say that their people cannot manage to grow bananas in free competition with the fruit produced in other parts of the world ? It is one of those wretched whines for protection made by those who believe that by its means they can put more money into the pockets of a few growers at the expense of the interests of the whole community. Senator Higgs has mentioned the resolution arrived at by the House of Representatives last November, but he took very good care not to mention what was done on the 2nd April last. On that occasion an amendment was moved upon a recommittal to make bananas free of duty. The voting was - ayes 22, noes 26; so that the majority against the amendment was only four. I should also like to call the honorable senator’s attention to the fact that Mr. Watson, who leads the party to which he belongs in the other House, voted with the “ Ayes “ again. The item was recommitted, and another division was taken on the 17th April, when it was proposed that the duty should be made 6d. per cental. On that occasion there were 22 ayes and 24 noes. In that case again, Mr. Watson, the leader of the labour party - a gentleman who has fought perhaps more strongly in favour of a white Australia than any other member of his party - was found voting in the minority, anxious to see that the duty on this fruit should be reduced.
– He is only one.
– But he is the leader of the party to which the honorable senator belongs, and he voted for the reduction of the duty in the interests of the people he represents, and of the community generally. While so much has been said with regard to the interests of the people in Northern Queensland who are growing bananas, there is a matter of much wider significance relating to this question, and that is whether we are going to do what we can to maintain and retain the trade that exists between Australia and the Pacific islands at the present time, or whether we are going to lose that trade.
– Trade amongst our own people is more important.
– But I will be bound to say that Senator Drake would be amongst those who would go to considerable lengths to maintain the British flag, and to retain the dominions over which that flag now waves.
– What has that got to do with bananas ?
– Is the honorable senator so ignorant as not to know that trade follows the flag 1
– Queensland is also under the British flag.
– So are some of the Pacific islands. We also import copra and maize from Fiji. Honorable senators opposite are going to vote to permit copra, which could be grown in Queensland, to be introduced free, although it is absolutely produced by black labour. It is therefore nonsense to say that this duty is necessary because of the competition of -the black labour of Fiji. The trade between the Pacific islands and Australia may not be very considerable now, although we find that there is £346,000 worth of trade with the islands. Some of that trade is worth keeping, and if we are not prepared to reciprocate, we may depend upon it that New Zealand or New Caledonia will, and the trade with the islands will be diverted from AuStralia. If it is diverted to French or German territories, it means that the French and the Germans will obtain a greater hold upon the islands ti ian they have now. I do not believe that there is an honorable senator who would not be prepared to make every possible effort to prevent the islands getting into the hands of foreign nations. It would hurt us a great deal if we found settlements by foreign nations surrounding our shores. There are people in England who are known as “ little Englanders,” and there are those in this-country who may be called “ little Australians.” It is to the interests of Australia that our trade with the Pacific Islands should be maintained and developed, and we should make a serious mistake in striking a blow at any portion of the trade, especially as we should not get any commensurate benefit from its loss. Queensland is enabled to hold her own, and has been holding her own. That fact is more than a sufficient refutation of the fears that have been expressed by some honorable senators. I trust the committee will see that it is a reasonable thing to make this particular article free, and that we should maintain the trade relationships which at present exist between the Pacific Islands and the Commonwealth.
Senator HIGGS (Queensland). - It needs to be pointed out to Senator Gould that if we trade with Hindoos and savages and import their products into the Commonwealth we shall, to that extent, throw our own people out of employment. That is a matter which apparently does not concern the honorable senator and those who hold his fiscal faith. Apparently he only considers the importers, such as Burns, Philp, and Co., who have sent a letter appealing for the free admission of bananas, and who are making dividends of 10 per cent, even in these times of drought and suffering.
– The argument that people will be thrown out of employment by the reduction of this duty is mere nonsense, and the history of the banana trade with Victoria can be quoted to prove that statement. Prior to 1895 there was a duty on bananas in Victoria. That duty was practically prohibitive. In 1895 the duty was taken off and the consumption of bananas was something like quadrupled. The result was that in 1899 the bananas imported from Queensland into Victoria, amounted to 330,000 bushels, whilst from Fiji there were imported only four bushels. Under those circumstances I do not think there is the least need to argue that if the duty is reduced there will be any loss in the trade with Queensland.
– I am . sorry to find that senators from some of the States, more especially those from New South Wales, do not seem to have any consideration for the young industries of the State I represent. Senators Pulsford, Gould, Symon, and a few others seem to be much more concerned about trade with Fiji than the interests of a portion of this Commonwealth. I wonder who is going to the assistance of the people of New South Wales if a foreign foe should bombard their ports. Will it be the people of Fiji or the people of northern Queensland ? There is no doubt about the answer. The Sydney people will call upon the Queenslanders, whom they have driven out of employment, to help them. There is a portion of Queensland which is particularly well suited to the banana industry. At present a large quantity of bananas are grown by Chinamen. We desire as a portion of our white Australia policy to eliminate Chinese labour as well as kanaka labour ; but if we place white men in Northern Queensland, in competition with black men in Fiji, what chance have we of the industry remaining in the hands of white settlers 1 It has been made as clear as daylight that there is a need for this duty. The desire of some honorable senators, however, is only to suit the interests of Sydney and her shipping trade. It appears to me that there is altogether loo much Circular Quay about this business ! Everything is looked at from the point of view of the shipping companies.
– The shipping companies employ labour.
– I would rather see 10,000 men employed on the soil of Australia, than 10,000 employed on the seas of Australia. The shipping trade is only a teamsters’ trade. We want something more than a carrying business. We want the delving of the soil, the growing of crops, the settling of people upon the land all over the country. We want to get something to carry - that is the policy that is needed in Australia.
– The honorable senator only wants stuff carried one way. He does not want to take anything from the islands.
-I do not want to take from anywhere anything that we can produce here. Let honorable senators bring home to themselves this question of importing and exporting. We will say, for instance, that the leader of the Opposition imports £5,000 a- year in fees, and he exports or buys commodities from other people not to the extent of £5,000 a year - he would not be such a fool - but to the extent of perhaps £1,000 a year. I know that a large number of settlers, not only in the
Cairns but in the Central district of Queensland, where I come from, are interested in the growth of this excellent fruit. I know that if the ports of Australia are thrown open the industry will probably languish. The shipping companies in Sydney, Brisbane, and Townsville have steamers running continually to the Fiji islands, and their great difficulty is to get freight from those islands. If our ports are free to bananas they will bring huge cargoes of that fruit from Fiji, which will be sold at such ruinous prices in Australia that the growers of the Commonwealth will not be able to compete with it. I appeal to honorable senators as Australians and as men who profess themselves desirous of encouraging Australian industries, to permit this very small protection upon bananas to remain. I hope they will for once allow their love of country to rise superior to their devotion to that fetish called free-trade.
Question - That the House of Representatives be requested to amend item 21, by adding to the duty “Bananas, per cental ls.,” the words “ and on and after 1st July 1902, free”- put.
Ayes … … … 13
Noes … … … 15
Majority … … 2
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to amend item 21 by adding to the duty “Bananas per cental ls.” the words “and on and after 1st July, 1902, 6d.”
This is a motion of which I gave notice some little time ago. I remind honorable senators that 6d. per cental is a duty of at least 25 per cent. I point out also, that if trade between the Commonwealth and the islands of the Pacific that produce this fruit is to be materially interfered with by a prohibitive duty, the effect will be to prevent the manufacturers of the Commonwealth from having an outlet for their goods beyond the limits of the Commonwealth. I recognise very fully that there must be reciprocity in trade and that we cannot have it with a prohibitive duty. A duty of ls. per cental upon bananas is a prohibitive duty, and I submit that 6d. per cental would be a fair compromise.
– I do not think we need take up much time upon this. The honorable senator said something about the percentage value of a duty of 6d. As a matter of fact, a duty of ls. per cental is only 40 per cent, ad valorem, and what Senator Neild is proposing is a duty of 20 per cent. The matter has been fully discussed, and I hope that those who have just voted in favour of a duty of ls. per cental will vote in the same way again.
Item 22 - Grain and pulse, n.e.i., per cental ls. Gd.
– I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to amend item 22 by adding the words “ and on and after 1st July, 1902, free.”
This, of course, is a duty upon wheat and such like produce. It is admitted that it can have no effect except in times of scarcity and disastrous seasons, of which we have an example this year, which is only the culmination of several years of drought and scarcity. The duty is having a very prejudicial effect’ upon the pastoral industry, which is one of the great sources of the wealth of Australia. Senator O’Connor and other honorable senators have said that this disastrous drought overspreads the greater part of Australia, and we know that stock are dying in hundreds of thousands, and the stock left are absolutely being kept alive by feeding them upon these products, and upon oats, maize, and other things which we will come to later on in this Tariff. I venture to say that if there ever was an occasion when we should resist the imposition of a duty of this kind it is now. Why should we take advantage of these difficulties in order to increase the price of the food being used to keep animals alive during the drought ? There will be very little consolation for the pastoralist for a considerable time to come, because there will be no sheep to stock the country again. Sheep farmers and breeders, who are going to enormous expense to keep alive the remnant of their flocks, are really public benefactors of Australia in the highest degree. Yet we are going to tax what they use for the purpose. On the second reading of the Bill, I referred to the state of things in New South Wales, and I have received the following information from that State -
At the present time the great bulk of pastoralists in this State are compelled to purchase wheat at from 4s. 3d. to 4s. 9d. per bushel to enable them to keep their sheep alive. The price of hay i3 practically prohibitive, when the cost of railing same into the country is taken into consideration. For instance, lucerne, which is the chief hay used in this State, is worth from £G to £1 10s. per ton, whilst similar fodder could be imported from Chili and Argentina, if there were no duty, at about £i per ton. It is quite safe for you to assert that there is realty no necessity for a duty on either hay or straw, as the freight thereon, owing to its bulky nature, renders it impossible to import such an article unless in very exceptional circumstances, and those circumstances can only arise during a period of disastrous drought, such as is at present obtaining in the central portion of South Australia and the greater portion of New South Wales and Queensland.
I need make no comment upon that statement. In Victoria, of course, a very large number of persons are interested in pastoral pursuits, and from Melbourne I received this information to-day -
At the present price of oats, wheat, and other feed, it is almost impossible for owners to meet the cost, and concessions or relief have become absolutely necessary in order to enable them to cope with the difficult position which is now apparent. If they cannot get feed at more reasonable rates, they will have to allow thenstock to die. This would be a national calamityIt is certain that many millions of sheep can only be kept alive by artificial feeding, the soil being absolutely devoid of all grass or other sustenance for stock. Even to feed sheep in Melbourne it would cost Id. per day, or 7d. per head per week, if oats had to be bought at the present prices, and, of course, when used, in the country districts, carriage has to be added. It is well known that many owners are expending from 8d. to ls. per week on feed to keep each sheep alive, and if they do not succeed in doing so, the result , will, in most cases, be ruin to them, and most serious loss to the whole community. The wage-earners are probably more affected than any other class, because there must inevitably be a large reduction in the numbers of men employed in station work, shearing, &c, &c, and employment will thus become very difficult to obtain. The position is in every way most serious, and immediate relief is earnestly asked for.
There are two ways in which that relief may be given. One is a proposal made in the other branch of the Legislature, and referred to in various quarters, and that is to suspend the operation of these , duties at a disastrous time like the present. The other way is to remit the duty, which in a normal year will be entirely inoperative. That is the course I propose. I say it is idle to put duties upon our Tariff which in disastrous times we have to remit. Senator Playford made some allusion to this subject and pointed out that there was a duty in the South Australian Tariff upon wheat brought over sea. But what was the result of that, when in 1S96 the same state of tilings occurred as is occurring now ? I ask honorable senators to consider this concrete instance, which is of far more value than any amount of theoretical assertion or argument. In 1896 a state of considerable scarcity existed in South Australia, and we had to import wheat. That resulted in an agitation for the suspension of the duty. A motion was brought “forward in the South Australian Legislative Assembly to suspend it during the period of scarcity. Two reasons were given for that motion. One was that it would ruin the milling trade, because the millers of South Australia could not possibly expect to enter into competition with other countries if they had to pay the duty of 2s. per ‘cental upon wheat. The other reason was that the cost of food to the people had .been greatly increased. What was the result? When that motion was made the Government of South Australia’ preferred the course of simply winking at the suspension of the duty by allowing imported wheat to be gristed in bond. The position was a most serious one. The very moment this duty, which in a normal condition of things would be entirely inoperative, comes into effect, it has to be suspended, because the conscience of the community will not tolerate it. I recollect a very distinguished and prominent member of the labour party in South Australia speaking upon the matter, and he said -
The first duty of Parliament was to see that famine prices were prevented if possible. The labour party, although protectionists, were not prepared to carry that policy to the point of insanity.
That is exactly the position here. We are carrying protection to the point of insanity and absurdity if we impose duties which we know are utterly useless to the farmer in ordinary seasons, and which, when a time of stress comes, will be taken advantage of to increase the price of the article. Of course the farmer will not get the benefit of that. When that state of things comes, the grower does not get the benefit, because in 99 cases out of 100 he has sold his wheat to the middleman. In South Australia, for instance, all the small farmers are powerless to hold their wheat. Most of them have not the conveniences for doing so. Wheat is not collected there in barns and treasured for years, as it is perhaps in some parts of the old country, because they have no barns. If honorable senators travelled through South Australia they would see enormous stacks of bagged wheat - bigger than this magnificent Chamber - covered by a few sheets of galvanized iron, but in the hands of the millers and dealers, most of it being either sold or advanced on. All of the farmers are more or less in the hands of the middlemen. Therefore, even if you say - Why should not the farmer in a time of difficulty make money out of the misfortunes of his fellow producers ? that view is not susceptible of being supported by argument, because we know from experience that a farmer, even under these trying circumstances, would not get the benefit that is anticipated for him. On one occasion the point was put that the price of seed wheat would be raised by this duty, and that as the farmer might next season get a larger crop, he should pay a higher price for the benefit of those who had seed wheat to dispose of? These are the reasons which influence me in proposing that this item should be free. If the duty is of no effect in normal years, then I submit the question to be asked is not - Why should you strike out “the duty? but - Why should it be inserted ? And if it is to take effect in an abnormal year - in a condition we all deplore - then the natural impulse of the people will be to agitate against its continuance, and the only question will be whether it should be suspended or wiped out. If it is a duty which is to be suspended under such conditions, let us strike it out, for it is only a delusion and a snare to the farmer, and is of no earthly good to the revenue. When I referred to. this duty before, some allusion was made to the fact that in England a duty was imposed upon grain. We have now the details of that proposal. Previously we had only cablegrams. It is simply a restoration of the old registration tax of 3d. per cwt. on corn and other grain, and on flour in proportion, which was originally proposed by Sir Robert Peel, remodelled by Mr. Gladstone in 1864, and finally taken off by Mr. Lowe in 1869, for some purpose which I need not enter into now. It had nothing to do with the corn laws, which were the subject of legislation at that important and difficult time in England. It was a mere registration duty which was continued during all the period of free-trade, from 1S46 to 1869. If the duties which we are attacking, and which I hope we shall moderate, were on the same infinitesimal scale of 5 per cent, I think we should dispose of the whole of the Tariff in halfanhour.
– I hope that the committee will not listen to the suggestion of Senator Symon, that this question should be decided with regard to only the very exceptional circumstances in which we stand. If we were in the middle of a series of good seasons, the honorable and learned senator might be able to rely upon the argument as having some strength. But I think it will be realized that if we were to frame the Tariff upon considerations arising out of exceptional circumstances, it would be altogether unsuitable to the conditions of Australia in ordinary times. I qui te agree that his argument has a bearing from the way in which he put it. But before I answer his argument I should like to point out what this general duty of ls. 6d. per cental means, and in order to enable honorable senators to realize what it means, I shall turn the cental into bushels. Per bushel, it amounts to 9d. on barley, 10-8d. on beans, lOd. on maize, 7-2d. on oats, 3”6d. on bran, and 10”8d. on peas, r)’e, tares, and wheat. It is well to realize what the duty means in bushels when we consider the argument Senator Symonhas put as to a dry time. I quite agree with .him that unfortunately in many parts of Australia stock are in such a condition that it must cost an enormous sum to keep them alive, and, probably, notwithstanding the greatest efforts which may be made very many more will die. It is a very disastrous thing for the country, but you will not keep the sheep alive by taking off this duty. You will you have to rely on imported grain, and that will be increased in price per bushel to the extent which is marked down here. When you come to realize the expenditure which will be involved in keeping sheep alive under these circumstances, the addition of this duty to the price will not be a very serious matter.
– Ninepence a bushel on barley is very serious.
-There is no doubtthat it will be an addition, but it will not and cannot - make the difference between keeping the stock alive and not keeping them alive. My honorable and learned friend has referred to the consideration that in ordinary times the duty will not affect the consumer in any way ; that it is only in times of drought it will make any difference, and that, therefore, those are the times which we ought to regard. It is very seldom that we have a drought which affects the whole of Australia at the same time. Tasmania for instance is now in a very prosperous condition. The crops have been good, and the State is having a better time now by reason of the dry season in Australia than she has had for very many years. Tasmanian produce of . different kinds has found a ready market at high prices in Australia. That nearly always happens in dry times. If, in one or two parts of Australia it is dry, that is the opportunity for the other parts to sell their produce. A drought all through Australia is of very exceptional occurrence. Let us look at the question from another point of view. A time of scarcity is a time when the farmer cannot look forward to getting any crops. Surely that is the time when he ought to get some compensation ; surely that is the time when he ought to be considered. During eight, nine, or ten normal years, he, by the use of his land and his labour, is enabling the consumer to get his wheat or his oats at a reasonable price, or at a lowprice. When in a time of abundance the farmer gets a small price, who gets the benefit of it? The consumer. In times of scarcity the price goes up. Surely that is the time when the farmer ought to expect something like a compensation for the misfortunes which the drought brings upon him as well as everybody else. While the pastoralist may feel that it is a difficult matter to keep his stock alive, the fanner is thinking that it will be impossible for him to get a crop for the following year. It falls on them all equally. Under these circumstances it is only right that if in a good time the consumer gets the benefit of the low price of stock or produce, in a dear time the farmer should get some benefit from protection. What is the benefit which he gets? He knows that the price must go up to a certain extent before he can be called upon to compete with foreign imports. That ‘ is a steadying of the market which he is entitled to have. That is a steadying of the price which it is the purpose of protection to give him, and if honorable senators take that away they put him in this position - that at the very time when he ought to get some benefit from these protective duties, he is open to the competition of other countries which may send in their products at a price which will absolutely undersell him. It will perhaps interest honorable senators to hear what were the duties before this Tariff was introduced ? In “Victoria the duty per cental on barley was 3s.; on beans, maize, wheat, and peas, 2s. lid.; on oats, 3s.; on rye and tares, 2s.; and on flour, 5s. Those were the duties in Victoria. They were very much higher than any duties which will apply under this Tariff. In Queensland the duty on ordinary barley was the same- ls. 6d. ; on malting bailey, 3s. ; beans, ls. 8d. ; maize, ls. 2£d. ; oats, ls. 8d. ; peas, ls. Sd. ; wheat, 6 2/3d; rye, 25 per cent. ; tares, 25 per cent. ; flour, ls. a cental. In South Australia, barley paid 3s. a cental; beans, 2s.; maize, ls.; oats, 2s.
– Barley was ls. 6d. in South Australia.
– No. Barley was 3s. I think that figure is correct, but if it is not I shall bo glad to admit the error if I am shown to be wrong. The duty on beans in South Australia was 2s. ; on maize, ls. ; oats, 2s. ; peas, 2s. ; wheat, 2s. ; rye, 2s. ; tares, 2s. These figures show that the duties were very much higher than those proposed in this Tariff. In Tasmania the duty on all the articles I have been referring to - barley, beans, maize, oats, peas, wheat, and soon - was ls. 6d. a cental. In Western Australia the duties were all lower ; they were revenue duties. So that, speaking generally, the duties in Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, and Tasmania, were higher than those proposed at present. 36 p
That is the position of things under which the very large trade has grown up which undoubtedly does exist in regard to all these articles in different parts of the Commonwealth. It is quite true that Australia in plentiful years exports very largely. But that is only in plentiful years. At other times she does not grow enough for her own consumption. It has been stated that there is no danger of importations to any extent coming into Australia, and that the Australian producer has the market to himself, and cannot be interfered with. The experience of New South Wales shows that that is not so. I take the illustration of wheat, because that is brought out separately in the figures. I take the years 1898, 1899, 1900. I find that in 1898 there were imported into New South Wales only 49 centals of wheat. But to compensate for that small quantity there were imported 207,247 centals of flour. In the next year, 1899, there were 142,450 centals of wheat imported into New South Wales, whilst in the same year the imports into Victoria were only 169 centals. Into Queensland in that year the imports were 22,298 centals. In 1900 there were imported into New South Wales 50,545 centals, and into Victoria only 31 centals. Into Queensland there were imported 6,950 centals. I think those figures show that there has been a considerable invasion of the markets of Australia by foreign importations of grain. A very large importation into New South Wales was of Manitoba wheat, which, I understand, has some special quality of dryness which makes it essential in the making of flour. Manitoba wheat is now being grown in Australia. There is no doubt that we shall be able to produce that kind of wheat in Monaro, and other parts of the continent. At present, however, it is being largely imported into New South Wales and to a certain extent into other States. No man who thinks for a moment upon the meaning of the figures I have quoted can escape the conclusion that there is great danger of large importations into New South Wales and into the other States. What we have to consider infixing this Tariff is that consideration must be given to the wheatgrower. We have already given consideration to the products of different parts of Australia. We have protected tlie products of South Australia, New South Wales, Victoria, and Queensland. Wheat can be grown in most parts of Australia, with the exception perhaps of Queensland. We owe it to the farmers and producers in every portion of Australia that we should give them * some kind of protection, approaching at least to what they have had in the past,’ in order that they may benefit under the provisions of the Tariff. The consumer cannot be affected, except in times of scarcity, and, as I have pointed out already, the small amount of duty which is here imposed cannot add very largely to the price- which has to be paid by a few persons, whereas it does give the farmer some kind of benefit. I hope, for these reasons, that the committee will not interfere with the duty, and will not carry Senator Symon’s proposal.
– The “Vice-President of the Executive Council has admitted that this duty will only be operative in times of scarcity. He proceeded to argue, on the principle that it is an ill wind that blows nobody any good, that it was a reasonable and a fair thing to allow the farmer in such times to make an additional profit. But he might have shown, first of all, out of whom the farmer makes that profit, and who it is who has to pay the higher price to the grower of grain and pulse. I cannot see that it is the duty of the Legislature to in any way increase the misfortunes which may fall on a large portion of the community, even though by doing so some additional profit may be put into the pockets of one section. There can be no getting away from this simple position - that in proportion as one section of the community is put in the position to levy a charge upon another, the one section can only benefit in proportion as the other is disadvantaged. Is it the duty of Parliament in times of stress to make misfortunes more serious and disasters harder to bear 1 If Parliament cannot help the community in such times it can at least refrain from injuring them. Senator O’Connor has pointed out that the cost of imported produce would be increased by the amount of the duty in times of distress. This is an important admission. It is a very great thing, indeed, to have it admitted by any one tarred with the protectionist brush that a duty under any circumstances will increase the price of the article to the consumer. The VicePresident of the Executive Council went on to show that the duty would not tend to stop the importation of goods, but would simply make the cost of them slightly higher. In proportion as the. cost is made higher, the demand must decrease. I think he said that the duty on. oats would be 7£d. a bushel. Roughly speaking, that is about 25 per cent. In. other words, a grazier requiring to feed his starving stock would be able to buy five bushels for the same money as he could otherwise buy four- if he had not to pay the duty. Senator O’Connor having admitted that it is the importer of the goods who has to bear this higher cost cannot get away from the fact that, in proportion as you increase the cost of the imported article, to that extent you penalize the grazier in times of drought and hamper him in obtaining supplies. I do not know that it is necessary tosay very much about the acute crisis which prevails just now, not only in my own State, but throughout all Australia. Only to-day, ina paper which I have no doubt will commandthe admiration - if it does not earn the respect - of the Vice-President of the Executive Council, the Age, there is half a column of telegrams from different places in Victoria, and some in Now South Wales, giving instances of the distress which prevails, not only amongst, graziers but also amongst small farmers, as the result of the drought. I believe I am correct in saying that -the Railways Commissioner of this State is making great concessions in the matter of freight, to enable farmers and others to obtain produce at as low rates as possible. In New South Wales that condition of affairs has existed for a long while. A rebate amounting to 63f per cent, is allowed on fodder sent to districts declared drought stricken. In addition to that, only yesterday the Colonial Treasurer of New South Wales, Mr. Waddell, called upon me, and explained a proposition he is trying to develop for the purpose of cutting emu bush to be used as fodder and carried down to districts where there is a dearth of food for stock. That will show how serious the position is. I remind honorable senators that it is not merely a matter of saving a few thousands or hundreds of thousands of sheep. The serious matter, to my mind, is that if we lose the stock to-day it will be years before the pastoral industry of Australia will be in anything like the position it was in years ago.
– That will be so in. any case.
– But surely, taking a broad view of the position, it is our duty to ease the blow as much as possible rather than make it more severe. I have mentioned that two State Governments are anxious to do something to assist the graziers, and I have no doubt that the Governments of the other States are prepared to act in the same way. When thatis the case it hardly becomes us to nullify all the efforts of the State Governments by putting on duties which will counterbalance any benefit which they may be prepared to confer within their respective State boundaries. I remind honorable senators that apart from the losses already incurred, whether rain comes or not, in at least three of the States there will be a greater loss of stock in a given period than has ever occurred before. The stock in New South Wales to-day are in such a weak condition, and the paddocks are so absolutely bare, that if rain does come they will go down in thousands, and if it does not come we shall lose them all. I could mention numbers of instances of graziers who are speeding enormous sums,some of them as much as £200 and £300 per week, in trying to keep alive their breeding sheep. As they are doing that, and as the Government of the State is ready to come to their assistance, is it anything like statemanship for us to come along now with the imposition of a duty to increase the burden they are called upon to carry? Senator O’Connor has said with regard to this matter,’ that if the duty is operative in a time of scarcity it is only fair that the farmer should get the benefit of it. But as Senator Symon has said, the fact is that in nine cases out of ten the grower of the wheat does not get the benefit. That is abundantly clear to any man who has even a superficial knowledge of the conditions under which our farmers work. Not only are they unable to keep wheat for a rise, but in a large number of cases the wheat is practically sold before it is put into the bags. All through Riverina and the great wheat areas of New South Wales the necessities of the farmers compel them to part with their wheat almost immediately.it is harvested, and the only people who reap the benefit of increased prices are the merchants and millers.
– Surely the farmer can hold if he wishes. Do not the merchants give advances upon the crop 1
– A great many do hold their wheat.
– “A great many” is only a comparative term, and though a number may be able to hold their wheat, the percentage of those who can do so is very small. Although the industry is making enormous strides in New South Wales in spite of the drought, it is a comparatively new industry, and it has not yet reached the stage when we have wheat factors and people who do business in that large way, and who would make such advances as Senator Dobson suggests. Most of the advances made to farmers in New South Wales are by local millers and local storekeepers, who, of course, take a lien over the wheat. Senator O’Connor gave us figures showing the imports of wheat into New South Wales. It is certainly instructive to know what the imports were, but if the honorable and learned senator wished the committee to draw from his figures the inference that New South Wales is not in this matter a self-supporting State, he hardly stated the case correctly.
– I did not ask honorable senators to draw that inference. I proposed merely to show that there were importations of wheat.
– The honorable and learned senator will be the first to recognise that a statement of imports in that way is altogether valueless unless it is placed side by side with a statement of exports. If we take lost year, for instance, when, as Senator O’Connor has pointed out, New South Wales imported 50,000 centals of wheat, she also exported during that year over 2,500,000 bushels, besides a large quantity of flour. I remind honorable senators, in addition, that per head of population New South Wales consumes a much larger quantity of flour than Victoria. It is possible that Victoria consumes a larger quantity of other commodities, but I point out that the home consumption must be considered in these matters. In considering the question of whether this duty is necessary to encourage what we all admit is a most important industry, I should like to give some figures showing the rapid development which has taken place in this industry in New South Wales without any such assistance as the Tariff is supposed to give. In 1891 New South Wales produced less than 4,0.00,000 bushels of wheat, and Victoria then produced 13,500,000 bushels. But in li?98 the production in New South Wales had gone up to 13,500,000 bushels, and the production in Victoria , had gone up from 13,500,000 to 15,000,000 bushels. I do not put this forward with the view of, in any way, setting one State against the other, because it would be idle to do so unless one made an exhaustive comparison of the natural conditions prevailing in each State. But I do say that these figures prove that without such a duty as we are asked to impose now, wheatgrowing in New South Wales has been carried to a satisfactory position. Coghlan admits that New South Wales is in the matter of wheat a self-supporting State, and that the industry would have reached the export stage only for the extremely severe drought which overtook it. That being so I venture to say that it is quite unnecessary to impose a duty merely for the purpose of encouraging wheat growing. The wheatgrowers of New South Wales, without a duty and without Government assistance, and in the face of many difficulties, have produced more than sufficient / for the requirements of the State. I have no doubt that the moment the drought breaks and we get a run of fairly good years, New South Wales will be able to double her output. But apart from the consideration of any particular Statu, there is no doubt that the Commonwealth as a whole has reached the stage at which’ it will never require to import any wheat - except it may be the hard variety, such as Manitoba wheat, which is used for mixing purposes. If we can grow that variety of wheat here, no doubt it will be grown, but 1 have very grave doubts about it. If we cannot grow it, it will be necessary to put our millers in a position to import it. and for that reason it is very undesirable to place a duty at least upon that particular variety. I am not aware of the quantity used for mixing purposes, but as an illustration, if ono bushel of Manitoba wheat is worth nine bushels of local wheat, if we impose a duty upon the imported wheat wc shall be hampering local millers in the utilization of the nine bushels of local wheat. Something has been said about the drought being a benefit to farmers in enabling them to obtain higher prices, but Senator O’Connor will know that there has hardly ever been a drought in New South Wales when the farmers have not come to the Government to supply them with seed wheat. When they are amongst the first to feel the stress of hard times and to call upon the Government for assistance, it ill behoves us to place a duty upon the articles which they have to solicit from the Government as a matter of charity. I hope that for these arid many other reasons the request submitted by Senator Symon will bc acceded to by the committee.
Bill received from the House of Representatives, and, on motion by Senator O’Connor, read a first time.
Senate adjourned at 10.37 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 27 May 1902, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1902/19020527_senate_1_10/>.