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Tuesday, 15 March 1932

Mr LYONS (Wilmot) (Prime Minister and Treasurer) . - by leave - A few days ago, I received' from Sir John Higgins and the other members of the Central Wool Committee, the final report of that body, and I think it appropriate that I, as Prime Minister, should publicly acknowledge on behalf of the Government and the people of the Commonwealth, the debt of gratitude that we owe to the chairman and members of the Central Wool Committee, the chairman and members of each of the State Wool Committees, and to all of those technical advisers, honorary insurance advisers, and officials who have contributed, each in his respective sphere, towards the successful completion of what can only be described as a gigantic task.

The Commonwealth of Australia Central Wool Committee was appointed in 1916 to control, under the direction of the Prime Minister, the administration of the War Precautions Wool and Sheepskins Regulations.

It was necessary,, during those dark days of war, that the nation's principal source of wealth should be adequately protected, and that the sale of our chief primary product should be effected under the best possible conditions obtainable for Australia. The Central Wool Committee has done both of those things. I think that we must all agree that the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), who was the leader of the Government of the Commonwealth during that important period of our history, displayed true wisdom in his choice of Sir John Higgins to guide the destinies of the central wool organization.

The .outstanding position which Sir John Higgins had won for himself in the commercial life of Australia afforded every justification for optimism as to the outcome of the committee's work. I go further, and say that his chairmanship of the committee was from the outset a guarantee that the huge task entrusted to the committee would be discharged with the conspicuous ability that had distinguished Sir John's previous career.

It must not be forgotten that the whole of the work of the Central Wool Committee, as well as that of the State Wool Committees, from the time of their initiation in November, 1916, has been performed by the members in an honorary capacity. I feel, therefore, that, while our gratitude to Sir John Higgins is great indeed, we should acknowledge also our obligation to those patriotic Australians who, without financial recompense, devoted so much time and energy to the important work assigned to them.

From beginning to end the enormous wool and sheepskins transactions of the Central Wool Committee, which amounted to no less a sum than £242,689,899, were conducted without cost to the funds of the Commonwealth, the whole of the expenditure being borne by the interests concerned.

I do not propose to make any detailed explanation of the scheme under which our wool was sold through the committee, as we are now chiefly concerned with the result of the committee's work.

The following epitome of the monetary transactions relating to the acquisition of Australian wool and sheepskins by the British Government through the committee, reveals the magnitude of the operations: -


The committee has generously acknowledged and drawn special attention to the services rendered to it by the Commonwealth Crown Solicitor's Office, particularly by the Crown Solicitor, Mr. W. H. Sharwood, personally, and by the Commonwealth Auditor-General's Office, through its officer, Mr. H. C. Hine.

A.I.C.A., B.Com., Commonwealth Audit Inspector. It has also recorded its appreciation of the services of its successive secretaries, chief accountant, assistant accountant, and staff generally, and of the unfailing assistance rendered by their hankers, the Commonwealth Bank of Australia in London and Melbourne.

The Commonwealth Government is glad to know that the services of its officers have merited and received the approbation of the committee. These officers effectively seconded the members of the central committee and the members of the various State committees, and contributed in no small measure to the success of the- committee in carrying out what has been described as the largest wool transaction in the history of the world, as well as the biggest commercial transaction conducted during the war period through the agency of the Commonwealth Government.

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