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Wednesday, 6 August 1930

Senator HOARE (South Australia) (3:47 AM) .- Senator H.E. Elliott has just informed the Senate that he has received a communication from Colonel Cohen, who, I understand, is a chairman of directors of the Carlton and United Breweries Limited, to the effect that if this measure is enacted it will inflict a great deal of hardship on the Victorian hop-growers. I cannot understand why such a message should have been despatched when the same gentleman has informed others that the bill will not have any detrimental effect on the hop industry in that State.

Senator H E ELLIOTT (VICTORIA) - Has the honorable senator anything in writing to that effect?

Senator HOARE - No; but I understand that other honorable senators have been verbally informed in that direction. Further, I understand that one of the largest hop-growers in Victoria has definitely stated that the measure will not interfere with the industry.

Senator Herbert Hays - Mr. Gunn's report is to the contrary.

Senator HOARE - Possibly the persons who gave certain information to Mr. Gunn have since changed their opinions.

Senator H E ELLIOTT (VICTORIA) - Will the honorable senator give the name of the large grower in Victoria who said that he was not opposed to this scheme?

Senator HOARE - Mr. Panlook. He is, I believe, one of the largest hop growers in Victoria, and is not opposed to the bill.

Senator H E ELLIOTT (VICTORIA) - That is the person who forwarded the message which I read.

Senator HOARE - The Leader of the Opposition and Senator J. B. Hayes said that they could not see how this bill will assist the hopgrowing industry; but we have been informed that if some control is not exercised, 120 small growers will be compelled to cease producing hops. It would appear that an effort is being made by the big hopgrowers to squeeze out the small producers, and then to increase prices to the detriment of the consumer. I am totally opposed to monopolies in any form. According to the opinions expressed by a number of growers, this measure should have the effect of stabilizing the industry and limiting production. I am informed that if the measure is passed, 120 families will be able to continue in the industry, which means that, apart from manual workers, no fewer than 700 persons will benefit. Apparently, it is the intention of Henry Jones and Company, of Hobart, to exercise a controlling interest in the industry. The ballot which was taken was conducted in a most unsatisfactory manner, because it was assumed that those who did not return their ballot papers were opposed to the pool. The present pool was due to expire on the 30th April of this year. A ballot-paper was issued and each grower was asked to vote for or against a continuance of the pool. An instruction with the ballot-paper stated that those who did not return their ballotpapers would be considered to have voted against a continuance of the nool. About 34 papers were returned on twenty of which an affirmative vote, and on fourteen a negative vote was recorded. The real result of the ballot, excluding those who did not return their papers, was that 20 voted "Yes" and 14 voted "No". It was then announced that taking it that those who failed to return their ballot papers were against the pool, there was a substantial majority against its continuance, that the pool was at an end, .and that each grower would have to look after himself in the future. That is a most unusual way to obtain an opinion of thu growers. No one had a right to say that the papers which were not returned could he regarded as votes for or against the proposal. Only votes received should have been counted. Before the vote was taken the directors expressed themselves in favour of a federal pool. Jones & Company, the principal hop-growers and sellers, said they would not agree, and offered to the directors of the pool and a few others a contract for their own hops. The directors accepted the contract, thus acting contrary to the interests of the other growers who had elected them. They played safe ; but who will say they played cricket? When the facts became known there was great indignation among the other growers. Jones and Company gave contracts to 26 persons. The larger number of 126 were to be absolutely excluded, and driven from the industry. A public meeting was held, and the matter fully discussed. A defence committee was formed, and an appeal made to the Federal Government to protect 126 families and their dependants and workers from destruction and ruin by the combine. The Government sent Mr. Gunn to report on the industry. Mr. Gunn's investigation was necessarily hurried, but he got a fair grasp of the position. The main fact revealed by him is that 126 families will be driven out of this highly protected industry unless this Parliament comes to their assistance. A defence committee was set up, and a defence fund, to which the whole Derwent Valley district subscribed, was created Apparently these people were afraid of the combine. Otherwise what was the reason for their request for an investigation, and government assistance? Senator J. B. Hayes stated that he would not support the bill, although he admitted that it contained some redeeming features. He probably referred to the licensing of men to export hops. There seems to be a good deal of uncertainty as to the effect of this measure if passed. Some growers believe that it would benefit them; others are opposed to the bill. It is a pity that all the growers did not take the trouble to record their votes, for then we should have known whether a majority of them favoured the Government's proposals or wanted something different. In the circumstances, we can- not do better than accept the opinion of the Premier of Tasmania. The VicePresident of the Executive Council (Senator Daly) has told us that Mr. McPhee informed him that he was prepared to accept the bill. All honorable senators may not fully understand the position of the hop industry in Tasmania to-day. They should, therefore, be willing to be guided by the Premier of that State, who Bhould know what is best for the industry. I hope that Senator J. B. Hayes will reconsider his decision to vote against the bill. Even if it does not accomplish all that we desire, it can do no harm. Honorable senators should be prepared to give it a trial. I do not want to benefit a few hop-growers at the expense of the many. The object of the bill is to assist the small growers of hops. If honorable senators find later that the results are less favorable than the Government expects them to be, they will be able to claim that they followed the advice of the Premier of Tasmania.

Senator Sir Hal Colebatch - When did Mr. McPhee tell' the Leader of the Senate that he would accept the bill?

Senator HOARE - Yesterday.

Senator Sir Hal Colebatch - He told me the very opposite.

Senator Daly - The bill would never have been introduced but for a conversation I had with the Premier of Tasmania.

Senator HOARE - There seems to be a mass of contradictions. It would appear that the Premier of Tasmania has expressed differing views. Nevertheless, I think that in the interests of the small growers of hops the measure should be passed. If my vote can help the small man, rather than the monopolist, the small man will get it every time. I trust that the Senate will pass the bill.-

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