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Thursday, 7 May 1987
Page: 2863


Mr BRUMBY(9.04) —It is my pleasure to speak in support of the Wool Marketing Bill and the Wool Tax (Nos 1 to 5) Amendment Bills before the House. The principal Bill is the Wool Marketing Bill, which replaces the Wool Industry Act. The purpose of this major Bill is to provide major reforms to the Australian Wool Corporation, and to a number of other matters that affect the export marketing of wool. They are wide-ranging reforms, principally designed to enhance the flexibility of the Australian Wool Corporation in what is becoming more and more a complex trading environment. That is occurring through what we are providing here-the greater devolution of responsibility to the Corporation for planning and reporting procedures.

The extent of the reforms includes the removal of obsolete legislation and streamlining and restructuring, which will make more compact and more easily understood wool marketing legislation. As the honourable member for Calare (Mr Simmons) noted earlier, most of these reforms emanate from the Government's White Paper on the reform of Commonwealth primary industry statutory marketing authorities. These reforms are principally aimed at providing much greater autonomy to statutory marketing authorities so that they can be more flexible, are able to meet the market more effectively and are more accountable to the growers. Associated with the principal Bill are the Wool Tax (Nos 1 to 5) Amendment Bills. They all form part of this major package. They have been developed after extensive consultation with the Australian Wool Corporation, the Wool Council of Australia and other elements of the wool industry. As the Minister for Science (Mr Barry Jones) noted in his second reading speech, there is no question that these Bills will provide the framework for the marketing of Australian wool in the next decade.

It is self-evident to anyone in this chamber and those in the community who follow the fortunes of the wool industry that the industry at the moment is enjoying a relatively buoyant phase of activity. Today's Melbourne Age, for example, carried a major article headed `Wool demand is likely to yield $4 billion'. The article stated that wool, Australia's biggest agricultural export, is tipped to earn close to $4 billion by the end of 1986-87 because of record prices and strong overseas demand. The article went on to say that the industry's export earnings have doubled in three years-that is, during the period of the Hawke Government-against the general downward price trend in primary commodities. Wool has so far outstripped wheat, which is expected to earn about $2.2 billion in 1986-87. The depressed nature of wheat prices has resulted in a reduction of 25 per cent compared with the figure for 1985-86. The article goes on to say that overseas demand for wool has increased to the point where, over the past two years, Australia has sold one million bales more than it produced, despite shorn wool production being up by 22 per cent since 1982-83. Finally, the article says that it is the depreciation of the Australian dollar, which occurred because this Government had the courage and the foresight to float the Australian dollar, which has strengthened world demand for wool.

There is a challenge before us, though, and that is to sustain the present industry strength. I think we can all learn from the experience of this industry, going back for more than a decade. Looking back to the early 1970s, it was Ken Wriedt in an Australian Labor Party government who gave us the Australian Wool Corporation in 1973 and the reserve price scheme in 1974.


Mr Simmons —Second best Minister for Primary Industry.


Mr BRUMBY —We can learn a lot from that. I would describe Ken Wriedt as the second best Minister for Primary Industry we have had in this House-second only to the current Minister for Primary Industry (Mr John Kerin), who is so widely supported across all political groupings throughout rural Australia. It is no wonder because the policies that the Minister has managed to have supported in Federal Cabinet have been of immense benefit to the rural sector in Australia. I repeat the message that we can all learn from an examination of history and we would do well to remember that it was an Australian Labor Party government in this place in 1973 and 1974 which set the institutional structure which has so shaped the future of the Australian wool industry.

In addition to that institutional factor, a number of marketing factors have contributed to the present strong position of wool in the international market. I have mentioned the Age article, which refers to the depreciation of the Australian dollar. There is no question that that has been significant in improving world demand for wool. Last year the Bureau of Agricultural Economics calculated in a study that, without the depreciation of the Australian dollar in the last two years, wool sales would be 20 per cent lower, the wool stockpile would be somewhere between one and two million bales and market prices would be 10 to 20 per cent lower than they are now. So that depreciation of the dollar, a direct response and policy initiative of this Government and this Minister, has unquestionably contributed to the buoyancy of the wool industry at the moment.

A second factor is that investment in research and development has been vital in enabling wool growers and the wool industry to survive in an extremely competitive fibre market. It is clearly crucial that that effort be continued. This Government has put the funding for wool promotion on a secure long term basis. That particular policy initiative has also played its part in boosting world demand for wool. However, we should not be complacent. As I have said, as other speakers in this House have said, and as the Minister has mentioned, there is a big challenge ahead of us. Wool, for instance, presently accounts for only around 5 per cent of overall world textile use. That compares with 47 per cent for cotton and 48 per cent for synthetics. So wool has only a small part of the market. But it needs to be noted that in those areas of the market where wool is strong its share has been declining. For instance, wool had around a third of the menswear market in 1970, but it has around 18 per cent today. Equally, its share of womenswear has fallen from around 27 per cent to 14 per cent. So these are some of the demand-side factors. On the supply side we have to be aware that, because of the poor international prices for grains, many farmers in Australia are moving, with good reason, from cropping to wool. Sheep numbers have increased from 130 million to 160 million over the last few years. We need to be aware that if that trend continues it will, of course, put supply-side pressures on what is now clearly a viable industry.

The debate tonight has been interesting because we have seen all political parties and factions represented. Of course we have seen a united contribution from Government members, because we have a united party with a coherent policy determined to get the best possible economic environment for this crucial Australian industry. But, looking at the contribution from the Opposition side-I do not want to be overly political about this-I think the point needs to be made that there are now effectively three shadow Ministers for Primary Industry in this Parliament. So when John Kerin, whom I have described as an outstanding Minister for Primary Industry, speaks in this Parliament or goes out into the community, he has to have three Opposition shadow Ministers trailing him around, shadowing him wherever he goes in Australia. The Howard Liberals have Mr Wal Fife; the Sinclair Nationals have retained Mr Ralph Hunt. But we now have the Joh New Nationals, who have Mr Ian Cameron. He, I understand, will be following me in the debate. All we need now is a representative of the Peacock Liberals, and then we will have all of the Opposition factions represented in the Parliament.


Mr Hawker —Mr Deputy Speaker, I raise a point of order. Is it not normal for a member to refer to another member by the name of his seat?


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Leo McLeay) —I was just about to draw that matter to the honourable member's attention, actually. I thought he had passed on to other areas.


Mr BRUMBY —As I was saying, there are currently three shadow Ministers for Primary Industry in this place, and all we need now is a spokesperson representative of the Peacock Liberals and we will have four shadow Ministers for Primary Industry represented in this place. How laughable it is that honourable members opposite can attempt to retain any credibility at all in this place. They can speak in response to a Bill which is introduced and debated in this Parliament, but as far as members of the public-who have a right to know-are concerned, who are they to believe is the genuine spokesperson for the Opposition, the genuine shadow Minister? Is it Mr Fife? Is it Mr Hunt? Is it Mr Cameron, or is it a spokesman for Mr Peacock? Which honourable members are we to believe when they speak about primary industry matters? The relevance to the Australian people and the farmers, who want strong effective government which they are getting; who want coherent policies which they are getting; who want a united government, which they are getting; is that before they can get any commitment from the Opposition they will need agreement across all four political factions in the Opposition parties. This hurts because it is true, does it not?


Mr Downer —Mr Deputy Speaker, I raise a point of order. I draw your attention to the fact that these Bills are about the wool industry. The only thing we can hear about wool is the woolly thinking of the honourable member as he makes cheap party political points. I ask you to draw his attention to the Bill.


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Mildren) —Order! I just ask the honourable member for Bendigo to try to remain relevant to the Bill.

(Quorum formed)


Mr BRUMBY —I was saying that there are, effectively, four shadow spokesmen on primary industry in this Parliament. It does not take one spokesman to match our Minister; it takes four spokesmen. Examples of the division which I have outlined are nowhere more clearly marked than in the fact that the honourable member for Fisher (Mr Slipper) called a quorum and members of the Liberal Party came into the House to attack him for calling it and destroying their speaking time. This Opposition is hopelessly faction ridden. How many shadow Ministers does it want? It has three; it has four. Will the amendments to be moved by Mr Hunt, who is a member of the old Nationals, be supported by the new Nationals or the Liberals?


Mr Slipper —Mr Deputy Speaker, I raise a point of order. The honourable member who is presently addressing the House has been here long enough to know that he ought to refer to honourable members by the names of their electorates, not by their personal names.


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member for Bendigo will address members through the Chair and according to accepted decorum.


Mr BRUMBY —We have never seen such ducking, weaving and slithering to get away from a fundamental item of debate such as this. The honourable member for Gwydir and the honourable member for Fisher both have different policies on these Bills. What about the amendments that will be moved tonight by an old National? The old Sinclair Nationals will be very old after the next election. Six amendments have been moved. They all relate to the equal opportunity clauses of the Bill. We do not know the attitude of the Peacock Liberals. I suspect that they support the Government. What is the attitude of the Hunt old Nationals? They probably oppose the Government. The Cameron new Nationals, the Joh new Nationals, probably support the amendment because they moved it. What is the position of the Opposition in this House? As I have said throughout this debate, this only confirms that the Opposition is hopelessly faction ridden. Unless the Opposition can get the agreement of all four factions, the public cannot believe it as credible.

Let us look at the amendments that have been moved. They are to oppose clauses 41 and 42 of the Bill, the equal employment opportunity aspects. Opposition members are opposing these clauses in direct contravention of the views expressed by the Australian Wool Corporation, which has expressed its full support for this legislation. So the Opposition is not even in touch with constituent bodies, with representative bodies, with the needs of the industry. Opposition members espouse a hard line extreme conservative policy which has no relevance to the vast majority of Australian people.

The honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Ian Cameron) will be the next speaker in this debate. Let us look at some of his policies on women which are relevant to these clauses of the Bill. On The World Today on 19 February 1986 Mr Cameron said:

I'd support paying a higher wage to men so that their wives can be home with the children where they ought to be.

I, you know, I don't even believe in pre-schools.

What a remarkable statement! I am sure that all of the mums and dads around Australia who have their kids at pre-school will be rapt in that comment. He went on:

They've (women) got to look at the social problems they're creating. You know, this women's movement.

What a great statement, that women have to look at the social problems they are creating! Wait for the next one! This is a real beauty. The Opposition can add it to its $16 billion of promises that it has clocked up already. He said:

I believe the Government can spend money to encourage married women to stay at home. They ought to be making the kitchen a bit more attractive than what they do these days . . .

That is from the Joh new Nationals. What a great setup we have in this Parliament from this hopeless, tattered, battered Opposition. It is snaking its way towards a finishing line that it will never cross because we will decimate it at the next election. We have heard some of the Opposition's policy proposals. I see that the honourable member for Moncrieff (Mrs Sullivan) has come into the House I am sure she would have a lot in common with these views espoused by the Joh new Nationals. I will just repeat them in case she missed them. The honourable member for Maranoa said:

I believe the Government can spend money to encourage married women to stay at home. They ought to be making the kitchen a bit more attractive than what they do these days . . .

The Opposition can add that to its $16 billion worth of expenditure. We will see what happens to the amendment tonight. Opposition members will not have the courage to divide on it, to call a division, because they do not have the guts to go back into their electorates and line up on these aspects of the legislation. They lack any policy and will be removed at the next election.


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member's time has expired.