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Friday, 5 August 1921

Senator GARDINER (New South, Wales) . - Senator Earle certainly made out a convincing case, but it was not for an increase of duty. Indeed, it was for a reduction. The figures which ho quoted were utterly astonishing. I had had no notion of the profitable nature of hop-growing. In my ignorance of Tasmania, I had considered that its most profitable industry was the promotion of Tattersalls sweeps, but the particulars provided by Senator Earle place hopgrowing on the same plane at any rate as the other. Tasmania is one of the most favoured parts of the Commonwealth. It does not suffer from droughts.. Its soil is rich, and its climate is beautiful. One of the most superb sights on the island is the hop crop at picking time, although I understand that there are only about 1,200 acres under hop cultivation. Seeing that the produce from one acre, at the rate of 4s. per pound, equals more than £400, tow much more profitable does Senator Earle wish the industry to become? The honorable senator remarked that there was a lot of work attached to hop-growing. I can quite believe .that there is. All those who work on the land, one way or another, must get up early and work pretty hard. But, if a grower can make £400 per acre, and if his toil upon one acre does not extend for more 'than three months in the year, is he notto be envied ?

Senator Earle - The honorable senator is talking nonsense. The hard work is spread all over the year.

Senator GARDINER - According to the honorable senator's description of the industry, one does not require to work more than three months per annum in the cultivation of an acre of hops. At any rate, Senator Earle has provided such attractive information as may en- courage considerable competition from the fertile valleys of New SouthWales. The old price per pound was1s. Conditions have changed, and the hop-growers must now pay more for their labour; but the increase has not been great. It cannot be claimed that there hasbeen any considerable advance in the rate3 of wages paid to hop-pickers. According to present selling prices, the return per acre has increased by about £300.

Senator Earle - The wages of hoppickers have risen about . 300 per cent.

Senator GARDINER -I am not prepared to believe that the pay of the women and children, who chiefly do the picking, has been increased by so much. And, after all, the process of picking is only a small part of the general operation of cultivating and placing the product on the market. Seeing that the industry is being particularly well treated, and that it has reached a stage of prosperity which could not have been imagined a few years ago, the request now under consideration by the Committee is merely a greedy claim to heap up further prosperity. There is no chance, if the rate of duty be increased, of the wage earners making a little more, for the cry among employers throughout Australia' to-day is that wages must be reduced in order to bring down the cost of living. If the hop-growers were not getting a fair deal I would readily agree that - the policy of this country being Protection - they should be given that degree of protection to which they are entitled. I do not believe that the people engaged in the brewing business, who are the chief buyers of hops, are deliberately refraining from encouraging local pro- duction by buying at a cheaper rate than the price at which hops canbe imported. Such a policy would be foreign to common sense; and the brewers are not fools. If 4s. 6d. per lb. is four and a half times as much as the price at which hops were quoted some months ago, how can Senator Earle reasonably advance his request'? I am. glad,at least, that the honorable senator is sufficiently liberal not to propose to tax further British-grown hops.

SenatorLYNCH (Western Australia) [11.53]. - I have before me a volume containing the most recent available congressional reports from the United States of America. These suggest that the hopgrowing industry in that country has undergone many fluctuations. The figures quoted have to do with the seasons from 1908 to 1910.

Senator Earle - That was before prohibition.

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