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Thursday, 8 August 1946

Mr HUTCHINSON (Deakin) .- I remind the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Mountjoy) that neither he nor the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) mentioned the name of any particular person. I invite the Minister (Mr. Dedman) to tell me the exact amount in this fund. I believe that the sum is nearer £8,000,000 than £7,000,000. When the Minister made a statement to the' House in April, he gave the figures which the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley)' subsequently used in his second-reading speech, but the honorable gentleman said also that he believed that those figures would be substantially increased by the end 'of June. To-day is the 8th August. The Central. Wool Committee has been wound up, and the Joint Organization and Australian Wool Realization Commission is now operating. Therefore, honorable members are entitled to a statement from the Minister of the exact amount in the fund. If an amount of £8,000,000 were distributed among woolgrowers it would increase their last year's return by 14 per cent.

The honorable member for Forrest . (Mr. Lemmon) agreed with the Minister that it would be impossible equitably to distribute this amount of money among -wool-growers. The argument has centred ^principally on skin wools, although the wool content of materials exported from Australia and wool tops are also involved. I shall confine my remarks to skin wools. Any honorable' member who possesses a practical knowledge of the pastoral industry will admit that the value, of skins does have an appreciable effect, or the value of the flocks. If skin values decline,, we expect, speaking generally, a reduction of the price of sheep. If skin values rise, as they are rising now. the effect is considerably to appreciate the value of the flocks. My contention is that, if we decrease, by some method, the value of the wool on the skin, we shall decrease the value of the wool on the flocks. Therefore, the producer of the wool will lose money.- If we increase tinvalue of the wool on the skin, the effect will be to increase the value of the flock* in the hands of the individual woolgrowers. Therefore, from that standpoint, the moneys derived from the wool on skins should be paid to the individual producers. The fellmonger has no claim to any portion of them. The Treasurer made that point clear in his secondreading speech. If further evidence be needed, it will he found in the White Paper containing an extract of the negotiations which led to the United Kingdom-Australian wool arrangement.' The Prime Minister .said -

Growers have been paid the contract price in respect of wool bought by the United Kingdom Government, and a similar price -in respect of wool sold to Australian manufacturers. Each grower received initially the appraised price according to a " Table of Limits ", which recognized a price differential as between various qualities, and at the end of each season he also received a supplementary payment to bring the average appraised price' up to .the flat-rate contract price.

Every purchaser of skins bought them according to the " Table of Limits ", and, therefore, their skins were bought at a price considerably below what would have been the figure if the price had been subject to the supplementary payment, to bring the average appraised price up to the flat-rate contract price. The effect was spread over the flocks. On that ground alone, the growers are entitled to the money represented by that wool. The . fellmonger has no claim to' it.

Some honorable members opposite contended that the distribution of this money could not be made equitably among all wool-growers. When the scheme was introduced, the intention was- to divide among- the wool-growers the Australian share of the profits from the sale of wool to foreign countries. The late Prime Minister, Mr. Curtin, made that position clear on the 17th November, 1942. He declared that the Australian share of the profits would be distributed among the growers in proportion to their contributions to the whole scheme during the period of its operation. I agree that the profits could not be divided equitably among individual growers. The reason is that certain wools ultimately determine the greater percentage of the profit derived from the scheme. The grower- of fine merino, comeback or free wools would receive considerably more money tor them than would the grower who produced low grade and hurry wools in the Mallee of Victoria. Suppose that the stockpile was in the hands of the United Kingdom and was to be sold, the producers, whose wool would ultimately determine the profit, would be those who grew the finer and freer wools. . That will be shown clearly at the wool sales which, we hope, will open in Australia before long. But the only way in which 4o divide the profits successfully would be in accordance with the original intention, namely, to distribute them to the individual growers in proportion to the quantity of wool each put into . the scheme: I challenge honorable members opposite successfully to combat that contention.

Last night, I dealt thoroughly with the subject of wool research, and pointed out that this Government already possesses, for the purposes of research, funds which cannot be advantageously expended at present. The honorable member for Forrest stated that the Government had waived the tax which was imposed under the Wool Use Promotion Act for the purpose of providing money for wool publicity. What actually happened was that the grower did not escape the obligation to pay that contribution. The tax normally levied under the act is now included in the contributory charge. Therefore, the grower is not escaping the tax for wool research. Last October, when this House was considering the wool agreement, I stated that the producers desired to know what percentages of the contributory charge represented the amount available for publicity and administrative costs respectively. My point is that the wool-grower is still being taxed for publicity purposes, but the tax is now coming out of the contributory charge, and is not being applied under the terms of the Wool Use Promotion Act. That is quite clear tq any honorable member who cares to study the _ agreement that was before us last October.

The honorable member for Barker pointed out that under this measure^ the Wool Industry Fund could be used, in whole or in part, to meet any ultimate loss which might be incurred through our endorsement of the wool agreement. That is made clear in the agreement itself, which provides -

Ultimate Profit or Loss. - The ultimate balance of profit or loss arising from the transactions of the Joint Organization in the wool of any Dominion will thus be shared equally between the United Kingdom and the Government of the Dominion.

When the Wool Realization Bill was before the House last October, the Government gave an assurance that its terms would be honoured, but, in practical effect, it is now scrapping article 5 Part "III. by providing that moneys which it is holding in trust for the wool-growers may be applied wholly or in part for the many purposes specified in this clause. Whatever credit may have accrued to the Government for having introduced legislation to ratify the agreement - which, after all, was an agreement arranged, not by the Government, but by the representatives of the woolgrowers of Australia with the Government of the United Kingdom - has now been lost through the introduction of this clause. The Government is saying, in effect, " We will apply these funds to meet losses as well as other things ". It must be recognized that the money rightly belongs to the woolgrowers, and if it be applied to the uses now proposed by the Government, it will in fact be confiscated in the most highhanded and disgraceful fashion that could be imagined.

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