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Thursday, 7 May 1987
Page: 2853

Mr CAMPBELL(8.12) —Thank- you, Mr Deputy Speaker. Before I begin my speech I want to take issue with something that the honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Hunt) said, because I think it indicates the paucity of ideas that emanate from the National Party of Australia today. I am not seen in my Party as one of the leading feminists. I think that that would be true. I must say that I generally have contempt for what I consider to be the hairy-legged Stalinists who tend to abound in some places. But it is absurd to oppose the equal opportunity provisions of this legislation. What the honourable member for Gwydir calls a political stunt--

Mr McVeigh —Mr Deputy Speaker, I take a point of order. I would like your ruling on whether it is appropriate for a person to speak on a wool Bill-an industry in which the people work in flannels-while wearing a dress suit and a bow tie.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —There is no point of order.

Mr CAMPBELL —I point out to the honourable member that it is a pure wool dress suit.

Mr Peter Fisher —On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker: I find it offensive that the honourable member has referred to some of his colleagues as hairy-legged Stalinists.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —I do not believe that the honourable member for Kalgoorlie has referred to any members of the House in any such form.

Mr Peter Fisher —I heard it, Mr Deputy Speaker.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —The honourable member for Mallee will resume his seat.

Mr CAMPBELL —You are quite right, Mr Deputy Speaker. I certainly did not refer to any members on this side of the House. I said that those sorts of people abound. The equal opportunity provisions of this legislation make it very clear that positions should be judged without reference to gender, on the basis of ability. It seems to me that the National Party is saying that even if a person is equal, or, in fact, better, if that person is female, it is quite okay for people to discriminate against her. That is a nonsensical situation.

I am very pleased to speak on the Wool Marketing Bill 1987 and the Wool Tax (Nos 1 to 5) Amendment Bills 1987 because I have had a long and intimate association with the wool industry. I believe that the Australian Labor Party has a very good record in regard to the wool industry and, indeed, in the entire rural sector. I remember the disastrous decade of the sixties when the wool producers were faced with falling prices and rising costs and which culminated in the price collapse of 1970-71. I remember well the voluntary price support scheme which disintegrated at the sale in Fremantle in 1970. All the wool on which my brother and I were depending was sold for a song-a song that nearly became a funeral dirge for our pastoral property. I remember Elders forsaking the bush. That great Australian pastoral house literally turned its back on the people who had been the source of its wealth and rushed into diversification, including a bigger investment in wheat farming.

Of course, wool boomed again in 1972 as the Japanese reorganised themselves, re-entered the market and spun and wove the yen into dollars. The year 1972 saw the advent of a Labor government and the introduction of a floor price scheme. The Australian Wool Corporation moved quickly to minimise types and lines, thereby giving a greater reliability to our wool clip. The year 1974 saw the strengthening of the wool support scheme with a guaranteed minimum price and a floating floor price.

The advances which have given the wool industry stability in the years since came from initiative Labor governments. Those initiatives were opposed by the honourable gentlemen opposite. I would exclude the honourable member for Gwydir from that comment because he was significant in the National Party in those days when there was very little support for orderly marketing. The recognition of China opened up wheat sales to that country, even going back to the wheat stabilisation legislation of 1948. Great initiatives were taken by Labor governments and they were opposed by honourable members opposite. I can well remember sitting in my swag at night listening to Doug Anthony, who was then a member of this House, telling the world that he would not sell his soul for trade. Shortly afterwards, his Party formed the Government. The way he and his Government grovelled to China was a little sickening.

The Wool Marketing Bill is designed to replace the Wool Industry Act 1972 and it provides for major reforms to the Australian Wool Corporation-reforms that emanate, for the most part, from the Government's White Paper en- titled `Reform of Commonwealth Primary Industry Statutory Marketing Authorities'. I congratulate the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Kerin) on the effort he has put into the Bill. Sometimes I feel embarrassed when I say this, but there is no doubt that the Minister's contribution to the rural sector of this country is an achievement of enormous dimensions.

Mr Simmons —Outstanding.

Mr CAMPBELL —There is no doubt about that. The Bill will give additional power and responsibilities to the Corporation in the areas of reserve price setting, borrowings, wool stores, quality assurance of our wool and administration. The Wool Council of Australia will have additional powers in the apportionment of the wool tax and determinations of refunds from the market support fund. Also, the Bill gives the Corporation an important input into the appointment of directors of the Corporation. These changes have been made in consultation with the industry and they have its general support. It is a credit to the Australian Wool Corporation and the wool growers of Australia that they have been able to strengthen the position of wool internationally. They made a commitment to wool promotion, research and development and it has paid off. There is no room for complacency, and the industry understands that.

Today wool has about 18 per cent of the menswear market. Less than 20 years ago it had 33 per cent. It has gone up market in a growing demand area. Similarly, in the same timescale, the percentage of wool used in womenswear has fallen from about 28 per cent to 15 per cent and, in knitwear, from over 40 per cent to under 30 per cent. When we add to this the volatility and vagaries of the fashion world, it becomes obvious how well the industry has done and how difficult its task has been.

The number of sheep in Australia has risen rapidly and it can be expected to rise further as farmers decide to plant less wheat. In 1982 there were about 130 million sheep; today there are about 160 million. We must have a strategy to handle this increased supply. The industry has a good record of innovation and it must continue to innovate or it will perish. I believe that the wool industry understands that. The industry faces competition not just from other producers but from the makers of other natural fibres and synthetics. If I had any advice to give the industry I would cite the Bible text: Keep your light so shining just a little in front of the next.

Clearly, there is room for improvement in transportation costs. I hope that we will see the demise of Railways of Australia. It is an entity that does not own a single inch of railway line or possess a single shunting engine. It is merely a very costly accounting monster that interfaces between the various rail systems and induces some awful anomalies in the costing. I believe that, in the long run, we need one single railway system in Australia. I would suggest that the relatively efficient Australian National railway system and the Western Australian railway system-Westrail-amalgamate and pick up the less efficient railways of the eastern States. I look forward to that happening and I hope that it will happen during my time in this Parliament.

The further processing of wool is something which we must consider. I believe that Australia is uniquely placed to do this. I think we have the resources not only to scour but also for top making as well and for spinning into high quality yarn and weaving of very good quality worsted material. I hope that the Australian Wool Corporation will do a lot of research in these areas. Wool and cotton blends should also be considered. From my own experience, wool and cotton makes an admirable mixture and is ideal for shirting material. Wool and silk is another mix which I think should also be considered. It is ideal for tropical wear and may be a very useful avenue to pursue in developing trade relations with our neighbours to the north.

I recognise that this Bill focuses on three main objectives. First, it places the Australian Wool Corporation on a sound commercial footing. Secondly, it introduces appropriate arrangements to ensure that the Corporation is fully accountable to the industry and to government without hindering its commercial performance. Thirdly, it introduces new arrangements for the quality assurance of our wool. Overall, these three objectives will provide a modern businesslike framework under which the industry can go with confidence towards the next century.

I want to stress the need for research, for it is through research that improvements in productivity can be enhanced. During the last 50 years there has hardly been any advance in the weight of fleeces in New South Wales. There has been virtually no increase at all. Prior to this there was a continuous improvement, due almost totally to pasture improvement. Western Australia started from a lower base and it is the last 30 years that have shown no growth in fleece weight.

The pastoral industry is a somewhat different scene. Up until 1978 there had been an average increase of one per cent in the per sheep wool cut. This could not be attributed to pasture improvement for there simply was none, and the benefits were almost entirely genetical. In my own State the introduction of Bungaree lines in what had been predominantly Peppin areas would have improved frame size and fleece averages to a considerable degree. The eminent sheep breeder and geneticist, Dr Helen Newton Turner, believes that we have achieved only about half the improvement that we could have if we had a greater commitment to objective measurements. There are about 150 stud breeders in Western Australia making use of the objective measuring testing service of the Western Australian Department of Agriculture. I would like to pay tribute to the Western Australian Department of Agriculture. It has developed a sire reference scheme which is gradually expanding Australia wide. It is based at the Animal Breeding and Research Station at Katanning and it is a scheme against which stud breeders throughout Australia can measure the performance of their stock. I think this is a genuine contribution to the enhancement of the wool industry and to improvements in productivity.

Other things that could certainly improve the situation in Western Australia include research into tender wool. It is one of the greatest causes of fleece loss in Western Australia as farmers continue to shear in the autumn and to lamb in the spring. There are many reasons why it is difficult to change this situation, but research into economic hand feeding during that intervening period could probably cut that wastage down considerably.

Another area that needs to be researched is lanolin. I believe that much more could be done with lanolin. Once we have a fully-fledged industry in this country, we will have a lot more lanolin to play around with and we can expand its use in cosmetics and other areas. I believe that will also work to the benefit of the rural sector.

I would also like to see more research being done into the admixture of goats, the running of goats with a sheep flock. I believe this will increase productivity. As it is, there is a lot of scientific evidence to show that the goats tend to eat different fodder, and the stocking rate can be increased without putting any additional pressure on the land.

In total, I believe that this Bill goes a long way to giving the industry the sort of leadership that it needs. I would like to pay credit to the Australian Wool Corporation and the people who have been running it over the last few years. I would also like to pay credit to Bill Gunn. Although there is very little that Bill Gunn and I would agree on, I believe that his passion for the establishment of the Wool Corporation was very worth while. I was very happy to give what support I could at the time. I must say, looking back on those years, that the people who opposed the formation of the Corporation still loom very large in the wool industry. I can remember the people of the McLachlan empire telling me how they thought that this was a bad thing. These people still oppose innovation in the industry although some of their relations now pose as saviours of the same industry. But I remember their attitude then. It was a negative one of opposing any reform and adherence to the status quo.

We can all be proud of the Australian wool industry. It is the most efficient wool industry in the world. This is in part due to our unique climate and the sort of land we have. It is an industry which we must cherish and develop. The wool industry has become Australia's most significant exporter. I say this knowing full well that on face value the coal industry exports more. But that industry also exports more profits overseas, which the wool industry very seldom does. It is with great pleasure that I support this legislation and I commend the Minister for a thoroughly workable document.