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Friday, 5 August 1921

Senator GARDINER (Kew . South Wales) .- Senator Seniorseems to think that my lack of knowledge if the cultivation of hops disqualifies me to speak on the subject. I thank him sincerely for the detailed information he gave upon the subject. I stated that in cultivating 1 acre of hops a man would not work more than three months in the year, and I am convinced after having listened to the honorable senator that a man does not work even so long. With a chipping hoe I will break the soil on an acre of hops in a day and a half, or possibly in one day. In regard to the harvesting, Senator Senior has said .that the gathering of the crop does not last more than three weeks. Certainly a large number of children have to be put into the field, but it is evident that I allowed an ample margin when I allowed three months' work for an acre of hops. I gathered from Senator Earle that there were some hop plantations of 25 acres each in Tasmania. According to the statistics there were only 1,260 acres under hops in that State in 1918; and rather than increase the duty as he proposes it would pay the Commonwealth better to allow each family engaged in the hop-growing industry in Tasmania an income of £500 a year. If Senator Earle would make such a proposal he would be doing a generous act to the Commonwealth as a whole. The attitude I am adopting in regard to this Tasmanian industry will apply equally to industries in my own State. If the cultivators of 1,260 acres of hops are to be allowed, by means of the Tariff, to handicap the rest of the Commonwealth to the extent of £100,000 or £300,000 per annum, would it not be better to give those people £100,000 to go out of the industry and allow hops to be imported free of duty? In taxing an article which is used in the production of bread and beer we are making a levy upon every pocket in the community. I am as willing to give advantages to people in Tasmania as to anybody else, but I would not confer them at such enormous cost to the rest of the community. To-day when the hop-growers are receiving; 4 s. 6d. per lb. for their product they are asking for more duty than they received when they were getting a return of only ls. 6d. per lb. Senator Senior told' us how a once flourishing industry in South Australia has almost ceased to exist. It is true that the time of which he spoke was thirty years ago, and that workmen were then receiving about 5s. per day. Cannot the honorable senator see that until labour entrenched itself in Par- liament , and its unions, the purchasing power of the people was so ground down that the things produced by the men on the laud could not be sold. Now that wages have increased to such an extent that there is a reasonable purchasing power well distributed throughout the community this product in Tasmania, Victoria, and South Australia is realizing 4s. 6d. per lb. I know that women and children pick the hops, and receive comparatively good wages for that work. According to the figures as to the average production, an enormous return, amounting to something like £400 per acre per annum,' is secured. Allowing for the cost of cultivating, weeding, and chipping, which is by no means continuous - one chipping every two or three months is sufficient - a very big profit must be secured.

Senator Senior - The honorable senator's knowledge is again at fault.

Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) - I am afraid the honorable senator is " chipping " Senator Senior.

Senator GARDINER - When I am not " chipping " him he is usually " chipping " me. There are 1,260 acres of land under hops in Tasmania and 2 acres under hops in South Australia. Is it worth while taxing the consumers of bread and beer in South Australia to this extent, in order to protect one man in that State who has 2 acres under hops?

Senator Earle - We must do justice to every industry, no matter how small it may be.

Senator GARDINER - If justice were meted out to some of these industries, no one would be advocating more protection for them. It is not justice, but generosity that is demanded of the people who are asked to pay this duty, in order to maintain an industry that can give employment to so few, seeing that the total area under hops in Australia is only1,333 acres. We are asked -to believe that brewers are paying 6s.1¼d. per lb. for foreign-grown hops rather than purchase - the splendid Tasmanian product at 4s. 6d. per lb. I cannot accept that statement. It would mean that the brewers, because of sheer stupidity, or perverseness, so far as Tasmanian hops are concerned, are expending, quite unnecessarily, from £100,000 to £200,000 a year in the purchase of foreign-grown hops.

Just as I cannot swallow the product of the brewers, so I cannot swallow this tale of their alleged stupidity.

Senator Senior - Has the honorable senator no faith?

Senator GARDINER - I have not sufficient faith to believe that the shrewd business men who have built up great breweries in Australia are prepared to spend from £100,000 to £200,000 more than they need to do in the purchase of hops. Intelligence is the only basis of faith. I wish it to be distinctly understood that I am not taking up this attitude because of any spirit of hostility "towards the Tasmanian hop-growing industry. I shall vote on this item just as I voted against the proposal to increase the duty on dried fruits, although dried fruits are produced in large quantities in New South Wales. My desire is to protect the consumer. We must endeavour to do the greatest good to the greatest number, and, in a case of this kind, I must vote to protect the consumer. If I thought it would be possible to carry a request to remove the whole duty, I should submit such a proposition ; since' I do not think that in the circumstances a duty is required.

Request negatived.

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