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Thursday, 24 March 1994
Page: 2256

Senator MURPHY (4.39 p.m.) —As one who derived his living from the wool industry over a long period, I feel it is appropriate that I say a few words in support of Senator Sandy Macdonald's motion. That is not to say I agree with everything he said, but I would like to impart some of the experiences I have had out of the wool industry, ranging over a long period.

  I say to Senator McGauran that I do not think any shearer has ever thought himself to be particularly special. Rather, a shearer is often confronted with a very difficult job and usually gets on and does it. We have to look to the history of the wool industry to make some analysis of the circumstance it was confronted with very recently. Yes, it has been a major contributor to the economy of this country over a long period and, indeed, for most of country Australia it was the very fabric of the country in terms of employment.

  It was unfortunate that for so many years we left this industry to its own devices. There was no real consideration of how we should shape the future of the industry, and it ultimately took a very difficult occurrence, almost a disaster, for the industry to actually start to put things right. Having met many of the woolgrowers involved in the industry, having shorn in every state in this country bar Western Australia, I have great admiration for people in outback Australia. Not only do they have a difficult enough job looking after sheep out there along with however many million blowflies Senator Woodley was talking about, but also the climate they have to put up with is tough enough in itself.

  Because of the peaks and troughs the industry has been confronted with, production has been based on the price of wool. When we went to a floor price in wool it was a very good thing which was heralded by growers at that time. The unfortunate thing about the floor price for wool was that we could not and did not control the production. Of course, production went through the roof.

Senator Panizza —Or the value of the dollar.

Senator MURPHY —Do not worry about the value of the dollar. The production was the greatest influence, Senator Panizza. Had we been able to control that we would not have been in too bad a shape. The future of this industry is good, and I certainly hope it will be a long one because we grow the best wool in the world. We ought to continue to make those efforts.

  I do, though, have a concern as to the export of live sheep, particularly those in the stud merino area. One has only to look at the circumstances of the prices being paid by growers for sheep now—there have been record prices in the last three years—to see the enthusiasm that those growers who have been able to manage have for the future of this industry. It justly deserves this recognition through National Wool Week. I also endorse the motion of Senator Sandy Macdonald.