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Wednesday, 6 August 1930


Senator O'HALLORAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) (4:30 AM) . - A most extraordinary set of circumstances has developed during the time this bill has been before the Senate. Honorable senators were first of all assured that certain interests most whole-heartedly supported the measure, but a few days afterwards similar assurances from other quarters indicated an entirely opposite view. My main reason for rising at this late hour of the morning to offer a few observations on the bill is the hope that some of those who have changed their minds during the last few hours, may again change them. We have listened to most extraordinary arguments, more particularly from some honorable senators representing the State which is most vitally interested in the bill. We are told by one that this proposal is an unnatural interference with trade. I venture to suggest that the proposed action of the Government is that of the policeman who steps in to protect a weak section of the community from the oppressive action of a strong section. The action of the strong section of the community in squeezing out an industry which exists under the tariff wall built by this Commonwealth seems to me to be something in the nature of restraint of trade. I remind honorable senators that there may come a time when the majority of this Parliament may reconsider the giving of protection to the hop industry if those who happen to have the power today use it to smash the weaker but more numerous section of the industry. I do not say that I advocate that course. I think that the saner course is for the Commonwealth Parliament, which has already protected the industry, to see that the benefits are reasonably distributed among all who are entitled to participate therein. The result of the defeat of this bill will be that growers who have been growing hops, some of them for 40 years, others on holdings selected by their forefathers a century ago, will be forced off the land, and thrown into an already overstocked labour market to work as -employees for those who will benefit by the arrangement which will be consummated if this legislation is not passed. So much for the alleged unnatural regulation of the industry.

We are told that the principal difficulty as regards the marketing of hops, is the huge surplus which hangs like a dark cloud over the industry. I have searched the various documents that have been submitted in connexion with this proposal, and I have not discovered any evidence of a serious surplus. I do not blame Jones & Co. for the arrangement which they have made with a limited number of Tasmanian growers. I have never taken up an attitude of hostility to any hig combine merely because it is a combine. If the people of Australia are foolish enough to approve of a Constitution under which big business organizations can obtain a strangle-hold on industry, they deserve to suffer. The remedy lies in an alteration of the Constitution to permit this Parliament to legislate against that condition of affairs. The Hop Growers Defence Association contends that the surplus is not nearly so serious as honorable senators would have us believe, and Mr. Gunn's report seems to endorse the views of that body.. In a review of the hop-growing industry from 1921-22 to 1929-30 he states that the average annual production is 9,726 bales and the average annual consumption 10,548 bales. That does not look like a. serious over-production. - I understand also that it is possible to grow in Tasmania a type of hops which will render it unnecessary to import hops. That statement has not been denied. It is not fair to. base any argument of over-production on figures relating to production and consumption for one year only. The only safe course is to consider these figures over a certain period and the longer the period the more accurate is the estimate likely to be. A period of ten years is, I suggest, sufficiently long to arrive at a correct estimate of the position. During the period mentioned by Mr. Gunn, the acreage under crop ranged from 1,400 to 1,500 acres. This does not bear out the contention of those who oppose the bill that the Australian market cannot absorb the present production.


Senator Herbert Hays - If the position were as stated by the honorable senator, the industry would not be in its present difficulty.







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