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Friday, 5 August 1921

Senator EARLE (Tasmania) .- In my opinion, it is necessary to increase this duty to insure the security of the hop industry. The duty on imported beer has been increased, and that in itself is some justification for increasing the duty on hops, although, while hops are essential to the manufacture of beer, only a pound of hops is used in 29 or 30 gallons of beer, so that the cost of hops is not a very large item in a brewer's expenses.

Senator Rowell - What is the price of hops?

Senator EARLE - Hops have been imported at a cost of 6s.1¼d. per lb. No other rural industry gives employment to so much labour as hop growing. None but the best valley loam is suitable for the growing of hops, and much labourhas to be employed in clearing such land. Then come the planting of thehops, the training and tending of the vines, and finally the picking of the crop. The hop vines have to be trained on poles,' to which they are fastened with strings or runners, and the industry thus employs a larger number of men, women, and children to the acre than any other rural industry. Tasmania could supply Australia's demand for hops, and most of our hops are grown there, though some hops are grown in Victoria. In the old clays, the labour employed in the hop industry was paid very little, and in those times growers made a fair profit by selling hops for1s. per lb. Now, however, everything is changed. Thecost of materials - such as wire, poles, fertilizers, and farm implementsis very much greater than it was, and wages have more than doubled.

Senator Gardiner - At what are hops sold for to-day?

Senator EARLE - The price fixed by the Hop Pool was 4s. 6d. per lb.; but, as I have said, hops have been imported at a cost of 6s.1¼d. per lb.

Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) - Then why is a higher duty needed?

Senator EARLE - Because the buyers of hops would rather pay 50 per cent. more for the' imported article than give the local growers a fair price.

Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) - Are the local hops so bad?

Senator EARLE - When a small number of people are interested it is very easy for them to determine that, rather than pay what they consider to be an inflated price - and 4s. 6d. per lb. was not an inflated price under the circumstances - they would pay 50 per cent. more for imported hops in order to beat down the price asked by the local producers.

Senator de Largie - What has been the retail price of hops in recent years?

Senator EARLE - I cannot say, but in the previous year the wholesale price was1s. 6d. per lb., and, although last year's Pool price was fixed at 4s. 6d. per lb., the hops were actually sold, at 3s.. 6d, per lb- I. have received the following letter from:the representatives of the hopgrowers in Tasmania, written, with the object of seeking greater protection upon hops : -

We understand that the Minister for Customs has been informed: that the Tasmanian Hop-growers' Pool.fixed their price much higher than the. market warranted. We enclosc figures obtained from the Customs Department, which we shall be glad if you will submit to the Minister,' as they will prove that on the date we fixed the price, viz., 8th April last,at 4s.6d., this was not so.. We also have a cable from England quoting Kent hops, on 8th April, at 3s.11d. c.i.f. Australian ports, which means, with duty and other charges, at least 4s. 7d., while the figures enclosed show that importers had paid on average price of 6s. lid. for 3,800 bales from America before out price was fixed, a very large proportion of which are still in bond, banked up against our 1021 crop. The total importation from all countries reached the large figure of 5,500 bales since 1st June, 1920. Through these large stocks being here, we have now had to sell the proportion of our crop which we handle at 3s.6d. per lb. We also wish to point out that nineteen breweries signed contracts last March to pay Pool price on condition that their quantities were guaranteed, which was done, and yet they, backed up by the middlemen, have now refused to pay more than 3s. 6d., despite the fact that imported hops have cost much more, viz., an average of 5s. 7¾d., duty paid, from all countries.

Senator de Largie - Is the honorable senator sure of the correctness of that last statement?

Senator EARLE - I have every confidence that it is absolutely correct. The letter proceeds -

We will also be glad if you will point out to the Minister that during the three years he put an embargo on foreign hops we did not take advantage of it to exploit the brewers, as. far 1919, when we fixed our price at la. 6d., they wore really worth 2s: 6d.; and, in 1920, when we fixed the. price at 3s. 9d., the balance, of the Tasmanian crop was immediately sold at from 6s. to 7s. We would also stress the point that the enclosed figures show £202,774 was sent out of the Commonwealth to pay for foreign hops, when we could easily grow all the Commonwealth requirements if we were assured of adequate Protection, but hop growing is such a costly business that the hop- growers, from the bitter experience of. the past, are afraid to launch out in extending, their grounds without it. The great thing at the present time that is threatening our industry, is the fact that, owing to America being a prohibition country and the hops there being largely grown by Japanese and Chinese labour, they are offering 1921 season's hops, to be harvested next September,, at 20 cents f.o.b. San Francisco.

Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) - Surely it cannot pay to grow hops- at that price under American conditions.

Senator EARLE - It might pay to grow them by Japanese and Chinese labour. I am not familiar with the labour conditions, in America, but hops grown by cheap labour, such as we had in the early days when they could be sold at 9d. or1s. per lb., can be sold at a. profit at a very low price.In any case I can understand American hopgrowers selling abroad at a low price a crop which, owing to the prohibition against the manufacture or sale of intoxicating liquors, would otherwise; be useless to them.

Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) - If it can be proved that hops are produced at a cost of 20 cents per lb. in America I would support the honorable senator's request, but the hop-growers cannot use cheap labour in , America, because they are not allowed to do so under the local laws.

Senator EARLE - There are 11,000,000 blacks in America. Does the honorable senator contend that these blacks are receiving the standard wage paid to white men ? There are also large numbers of Japanese and Chinese at work in America. Are they also receiving the standard wage paid to white workers?

Senator Duncan - What is the honorable senator's authority for the statement he has made?

Senator EARLE - I am quoting from a letter written by the chairman and secretary of the Hop Growers' Association.

Senator Duncan - But they do not give any authority for the American price they mention.

Senator EARLE - I shall be. glad, to hear the honorable senator's authority for saying that the assertion of these gentlemen, in whom I have every confidence, is not true. It is a poor argument to contend that a. statement is untrue because one cannot personally vouch forits accuracy. At any rate, until some one can show that the statement which, has been made is wrong it must be accepted as correct.

Senator Crawford - It is quite likely that the fact that America has gone " dry " will have an effect on the price of American hops.

Senator EARLE - The letter which I am quoting says -

Owing to America -being a prohibition country and the bops there being largely grown by Japanese and Chinese labour, they are offering 1921 season's crops to be harvested next September at 20 cents f.o.b. San Francisco, which means, with charges and duty added, 2s. Cel. per lb. landed here in .store.

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