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Thursday, 12 May 1994
Page: 769

Senator SANDY MACDONALD (3.40 p.m.) —Before I commence, I seek leave to have my speaking time extended to five minutes.

  Leave granted.

Senator SANDY MACDONALD —The Minister for Primary Industries and Energy (Senator Collins) needs a little explanation about sheep husbandry because in his answer today he said that the wool market was presently giving a simple market signal to producers to move to `higher quality wools' to take advantage of the improved price for 19-micron wool or finer. By this he means that to fine up the clip will provide a better return, and at the moment he is right because the 20-micron and finer wool is certainly looking very encouraging. Unfortunately, wool production is not that simple because, under normal circumstances, which are only theoretical because of the variation in seasons, it takes 15 years or more to move two microns by mere selective breeding within a flock. Therefore, to move from the 21.5- to 23-micron range, which is the great majority of the Australian clip, will take a long time, even if it were possible.

  As Senator Crane has said, it is not possible in the vast majority of the wool growing areas of Australia. It is not possible, or it is difficult, at Charleville in Queensland; it is not possible, or very difficult, at Clare in South Australia; and it is not possible, or difficult, at Cobar in the west of New South Wales. The nature of the country itself and the climate do not permit many breeders moving, by breeding, to meet the market that the minister talks about. The minister has talked, as I have said, of `higher quality wools' by selective breeding; in other words, to 19-micron wool or finer.

  There are, therefore, many breeders who require a general improvement in wool prices for them to survive. The changes identified in the budget this week to the exceptional circumstances under which the rural adjustment scheme operates have been taken away too soon by the government, and I think it should be aware of this.

  Question resolved in the affirmative..

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Order! The time allotted to the consideration of this item has expired.