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Wednesday, 1 September 1920

Mr HUGHES (Bendigo) (Prime Minister and Attorney-General) . - Honorable members will be aware that for some considerable time communications have been passing and negotiations proceeding between the British Government and the Commonwealth Government in relation to the payment of half profits due on wool sold for civilian purposes. For reasons which I need not enter into now, the British Government has not hitherto been ina position to make a payment. Quite recently, however, the Chancellor of the Exchequer addressed to me a cablegram stating that if I, as agent for the growers, could give certain definite assurances, he would be prepared to pay, roughly speaking, some £6,500,000 by way of an interim dividend. I laid the matter before the Australian Wool Council, and subject to the advice of the Central Wool Committee, they authorized me to givethis assurance. I have done so, with the result that the payment of £6,500,000 will be shortly made.

I had better address myself now to a statement of the position covering the whole period during which the Wool Pool has been operating. . On 30th June of this year there remained in the Commonwealth of greasy merino, 320,815 bales, and of scoured merino, 177,431 bales. Of crossbred wool there remained 439,411 bales of greasy, and 224,166 bales of scoured wool. There was thus a total of 498,246 bales of greasy and scoured merino wool, and 663,577 bales of greasy and scoured crossbred wool, or a grand total of 1,161,823 bales. I turn now to a general and very brief résuméof the financial side of the Pool. The total credits of all sorts on account of wool, sheepskins, charges, &c, since the inauguration of the scheme in November, 1916, amount to £173,896,059 9s. 3d. The appraised value only of wool for the four seasons, including part of the clip for 1916-17, and the complete clip for 1917-18, 1918-19, and 1919-20, amounts to £153,066,058 2s. 8d. The actual difference between the appraised price and flat rate for the season 1919- 1920 is 1.8 per cent. of the appraised value. The Central Wool Committee have resolved to increase the percentage to 2 per cent., which necessitates a payment over and above appraised prices to woolgrowers of £906,423,000. The 10 per cent. retention money represents for the season 1919-1920, £4,532,118. The retention money and adjustment of the appraised price to flat rate amount to £5,438,541, which will be paid by the Central Wool Committee in all wool centres of the Commonwealth on 22nd September, 1920. The 50 per cent. profits resulting from the resale of wool by His Majesty's Imperial Government, and credited to Australian wool-growers, are as follows: - For the year ending 31st March, 1918, £1,936,845 ; and for the year ending 31st March, 1919, £4,550,147; a total of £6,486,992, which is equivalent to 4.24 per cent. on the appraised value of wool for the four seasons. That is to say, this 50 per cent. half profits, up to the 31st March, 1919, amounts to £6,486,992. The amount of profits, distinct and additional to the 50 per cent. profits, from resale of wool by the Imperial Government, earned by the Central Wool Committee, since the inception of the wool scheme, is estimated at £1,667,469. In the payment of the interim dividend, the Central Wool Committee have resolved to allocate the full amount of profits earned by His Majesty's Imperial Government to 31st March, 1919, namely, £6,486,992, and the additional sum of £1,166,300 from the Central Wool Committee's administration profits, making a total of £7,653,292. This is equivalent to 5 per cent, on all wool appraised for the four seasons, included in the wool contracts between His Majesty's Imperial Government and the Commonwealth Government, as agent for Australian wool-growers. The Central "Wool Committee have fixed the 27th October, 1920, for the payment of the interim dividend, provided that arrangements can be completed with the Committee's bankers for the transfer of the money from London to Australia. That is the dividend from Britain. To recapitulate, in one comprehensive statement, the amount of retention and readjustment money is £5,438,541, and the dividend money - the half profits - and administration profits are £7,653,292. That is to say, the half profits made by the British Government from the resale of wool, plus the £1,166,300 that the Committee have made in administrative profits, amount to £7,653,292, making a grand total of £13,091,833, which will be distributed to the Australian wool-growers during the months of September and October-. I desire honorable members interested in the matter to follow me. During the months of September and October there will be distributed £13,091,833, of which £6,486,922 is the first interim dividend paid by the British Government to the growers, the residuum being made up of the administrative profits of £1,166,300, and retention and adjustment money £5,438,541. The Central Wool Committee points out, however, that its ability to pay the £6,486,992, the interim dividend, depends on two things - one, the Chancellor of the Exchequer making it available; and, the second, the ability of the Committee to arrange with its bankers to transfer the money from London to Australia. As to the first difficulty, I desire to say to honorable members, and through the press to the wool-growers, that the arrangements made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer are quite definite. It is enough for me to say that the money is available, and will be paid to the Government, as the agent of the wool-growers, in London; then it remains only for the

Central Wool Committee to transfer it to Australia. That accounts for £6,486,992. The balance of the £13,091,823 will be here, and, according to a report I have received from Sir John Higgins, this money - that is to say, the £5,428,541 - will be distributed during the months of September and October. Putting it quite shortly, if the Chancellor of the Exchequer makes the money available, which I think I am quite safe in stating d. finitely will be done, and if the bankers can transfer it to Australia, it will be made available to the growers during those two months. or as soon thereafter as the Committee can distribute it. There is only one word more I need say. It is quite understood that these half profits of which I am speaking are only until 31st March, 1919, and do not cover at all the profits on wool up to date. On the other hand, it is not to be forgotten that the British Government have, speaking very roughly, about 2,000,000 bales of wool. The greater portion is relatively lowgrade wool, on which it is probable that the flat rate " or/and " the appraised rate will not be realized; and, therefore, there will be a debit set against the accruing profits on the higher-grade wool from the 31st March, 1919, until the date when the whole of the wool shall have been sold. I hope I have made the matter perfectly clear. I have in my hand the report of the Central Wool Committee for the season 1919-20, and a resume of its administration since its appointment in 1916. It is set out in the form of a letter, and there is also a brief resume of the financial side. I desire to lay these documents on the table of the House, and I move -

That the papers be printed.

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