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Wednesday, 6 August 1930

Senator J B HAYES (Tasmania) (3:26 AM) .- The trouble with the hop industry for some years past has been that there are too many hops grown. If there were no surplus there would be no trouble. The hop-growers have been able to avoid trouble until the present by exporting; but, as has already been explained, the fact that the hops grown in European countries can now be bought at as low a price as- 2d. or 3d. a lb., excludes any possibility of Australia exporting hops. That leaves only the Australian market available. The industry is not a big one as industries go in Australia ; but it means a tremendous lot to those engaged in it in Tasmania.

At all times of the year it employs a great deal of labour, and especially does it do so at picking time. Anything we can do for it in a sensible way should he done; but no solution will be found unless provision is made for growing a smaller quantity of hops. Any scheme to help the hop industry must provide for a compulsory cessation of any extension of planting. I hold no brief for big or little growers. All should have a chance to make a living. No other industry in Australia lends itself so much to co-operation and voluntary control as does the hop industry. The total area under hops is not more than 1,200 acres, and it should be an easy matter to arrive at a scheme whereby every one can be satisfied. At present no one is satisfied. Senator Dunn has read one telegram; I could have read 50. I have received from 20 to 30 from each side - one lot frantically telling me to support the bill, and the other lot assuring me that it would mean ruination to the industry if the bill were passed. I have, as I say, no brief for either side. All I want is that something shall he done to help the industry. I am convinced that, this bill will not do it. All that it will do is to provide for the granting of a licence to export hops from one State to another. If that is done fairly, the hops will be exported pro rata according to the number of bales produced. But that in itself pre-supposes that some hops will not be exported. If there were no surplus there would be no need for the bill. If this bill is passed there will be such an increase in the surplus that in a year or two the cool stores in Tasmania will not hold it, and the scheme will break down with its own weight. This has been our experience with other pools. Those in control of the canned fruit pool adopted some weird scheme by which they tried to make people buy what they did not want. If they asked for peaches they had to take apricots or plums. As a result the people turned to America, which was prepared to supply them with what they required. The compulsory pool was supposed to be aimed at monopolies in Australia, but invariably its only effect was to lose the trade to Australia and allow monopolies in America to secure the market. They ai-c bound to fail because they interfere with the ordinary course of business. It has been said that the proposed pool will not interfere with the hop-growers in Victoria. Of course it will not.

Senator H E ELLIOTT (VICTORIA) - This bill will interfere with Victorian growers.

Senator J B HAYES - I do not think it will, as I understand the growers in Victoria can dispose of the whole of their product to Victorian breweries; but it may interfere with the growers of that State if they attempt to export hops to New South Wales. The proposal certainly will interfere with Tasmanian growers, and actually it will be an open invitation to growers in Victoria to increase their acreage. Growers will chafe under the restrictions and will turn their attention to Victoria, where they will be free of restrictions. This will ruin the Tasmanian industry. In Victoria there is a great deal of land that is suitable for the growing of hops, and strangely enough Victorian growers usually obtain higher prices 'than are paid to Tasmanian producers, although I do not think the Victorian product is superior in quality. Some objection appears to be taken to the action of certain Tasmanian growers in making contracts for the disposal of .their hops for the ensuing three years. Does not every producer wish to make contracts for the sale of his crop? It seems to me to be a sensible way of conducting business operations. Only this week I received information that fourteen additional growers in Tasmania had made contracts to supply hops to consumers in Victoria. There is really nothing wrong about making a contract, but there is something fundamentally wrong about the action of a government which seeks to break contracts. A contract, honestly made, should be regarded as sacred. I hope that I 3hall never be a member of a parliament that passes legislation to annul contracts honestly made for the protection of producers and buyers. I believe that the industry can be stabilized if a certain proportion of the growers can be induced to cease production for a time. My information is that they are prepared to take this action voluntarily if they receive adequate compensation. After all the quantity of hops involved is not very great. According to Mr. Gunn's report, the carry-over is only about 4,000 bales. I feel certain that, if a workable scheme is evolved, a number of the growers will voluntarily cease production for the time being, so as to stabilize the industry. I do not know whether the figures which I have are correct, but for the purpose of my argument they are near enough. 1 am informed that the production this year will be 10,000 bales, and the requirements of the Australian market 8,000 bales, leaving a surplus of 2,000 bales. To stabilize the industry it will be necessary to make a levy - I suggest a compulsory levy under either the Commonwealth or State law - of id. a lb. on brewers, agents and growers. This will return l£d. per lb. on the total production. Prom the fund so created, it will be possible to pay 6d. per lb. to those growers who undertake not to string their hops for two or three years. On a crop of six bales to the acre, which is rather under the average, this will provide compensation equal to £36 per acre to those growers who cease production. It has been suggested that the Government may contribute another 2d. per lb. to the stabilization fund. If it does, this additional amount will bring the compensation payment up to £48 per aero per annum, which is rather more than growers have received for their hops in recent years. Hops exported to Ireland have realized 8d. per lb. c.i.f. United Kingdom ports, so the compensation necessary to stabilize the industry will give to those growers who, for the time being, cease production, more than they have obtained in the open market in recent years. I have it on good authority that those interested in the scheme will submit to a levy without the necessity to pass legislation. This scheme should stabilize the industry until the market recovers. The bill contains no reference to the disposal of the existing surplus. This is an important omission. I am informed that at the present time there is in Australia 12,000 bales of hops and that the brewers could have carried on without this year's production. If the Government had directed its attention to the disposal of the surplus, by offering an advance of 5d. or 6d. per lb. for a term of years, something would have been done to stabilize the industry.

The scheme which I have outlined will not mean the elimination of the small grower. I have as much practical sympathy for the small growersas I have fox the hig men in the industry. A stahilization scheme which provided for the payment of fair compensation, would be acceptable to the big growers, some of whom would be glad to take advantage of it, and turn their attention to some other form of production. It will, I think, be necessary to prohibit by legislation or by agreement the planting of further areas.

Senator H E ELLIOTT (VICTORIA) - Does the honorable senator suggest that Victorian growers also should be included in the scheme f

Senator J B HAYES - Certainly. The honorable senator's interjection clearly indicates his belief that, if action is taken in Tasmania to restrict production, a splendid opportunity will be presented to growers in Victoria to extend the industry in that State, and engage in what will be a profitable trade. I would prohibit any growers from planting further areas. It would be necessary, also, to place an embargo on the importation of hops from overseas, because importations have primarily been responsible for all the trouble in the industry. If the Government placed an embargo on importations; if it prohibited the planting of further areas, and if it brought in a measure to provide for compensation to be paid to growers who elected not to string their hops for two or three seasons, I should support it as it would make the industry prosperous, and those engaged in it contented. This bill will not achieve that purpose, so I must vote against it.

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