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Wednesday, 7 August 1946

Mr SPEAKER - I remind the honorable member that the bill deals with the distribution of the moneys to which he refers, and not with their origin.

Mr HUTCHINSON - As the Treasurer, in his second-reading speech, dealt with the origin of these moneys, I submit that I am in order in dealing with the same matter.

Mr SPEAKER - The Treasurer may have referred incidentally to those matters; but the bill deals with the disposition of certain sums of money. The honorable member is entitled to make passing reference to the origin of those moneys ; but the essence of the bill is the disposition of them, that is, the application of the fund as provided by clause 6.

Mr Spender -I rise to order. Although clause 6 deals with the application of the fund, is it not important, for the purpose of determining whether the bill should be passed, and in order to determine, in particular, the application of the moneys standing to the credit of the fund, to know how those moneys came into being, and in whose interests, accordingly, they should be disbursed? Assuming that a large pro- ' portion of the moneys, in equity, belonged to the wool-growers, is it not permissible for an honorable member, in discussing the application of the fund, to show why he believes it should not he applied as proposed in clause 6, but in another way?

Mr SPEAKER - I have already indicated that the bill deals with the investment and application of the fund. We must assume that the fund has been created ; and the bill deals with its application. I have already said that the honorable member may refer in passing tot the origin of the fund. I point out that the honorable member has already exhausted nearly half his time in dealing with the origin of the fund.

Mr HUTCHINSON - The Treasurer, in his second-reading speech, gave the amounts involved in this bill as follows : -


This money has all come from the woolgrowers of Australia.

Mr Scully - That is not a fact.

Mr HUTCHINSON - It has certainly come from the flock-owners. Was the Central Wool Committee acting as a trading agent for the Government or as a realizing body for the wool-growers? If" the Government was trading in wool which was not subject to the agreement with the United Kingdom Government,' it is entitled to keep the money, but the wool-growers desire admittance of that fact. If the Government was not trading in wool, the Central Wool Committee was a realizing body. The Menzies - and Fadden Governments did not set up. a trading agency in wool, but the Central Wool Committee was' utilized as a realizing body. The Government will not hand th'is money over to the growers; but it accepts the principle that the money does not belong- to it. It states that it was not trading in wool, but it will not take the money into Consolidated Revenue. It proposes to place it in a fund and use it in the way it thinks best. The Government claims to be better, able than the wool-growers to determine what should be done with it. Stock-owners suffering from the effects of drought, who require money to restock their holdings, will take a poor view of the Government's claim that it knows better than they do what should be done with their money.

The Government will use portion of this money for wool research purposes, and is supplementing the existing provision of £300,000 a year. I doubt whether the money available could be wisely expended, because there is a worldwide shortage of technicians for research regarding the problems of the wool industry. The proposed expenditure on research will be supplementary to that being incurred by private manufacturers. What is meant by the granting of temporary relief to the industry? If wool prices fell some relief could be given, according to the Treasurer, in respect of the contributory charge under the wool disposals plan. Most of the growers admit that that charge is .abnormally high. The Australian Wool Realization Commission has a habit of granting to its staff much larger salaries than those paid in the past. This new body seems to be indulging in a good deal of extravagance. The Wool Industry Fund is being built up so that the contributory charge may be reduced when the price of wool falls. Provision is therefore being made for that contingency. In his second -reading speech the Treasurer remarked -

The bill .also contains a provision that some part of the moneys referred to may be applied in meeting wholly or partly any ultimate loss the Commonwealth may incur undethe wool disposals plan.

When the wool agreement with Great Britain was under . consideration in this chamber I dealt with the matter on- behalf of the Opposition, but I heard no suggestion that the wool-growers should bear any lo.?s that might occur as a result of the ramifications of the scheme. At that time I thought the Government was at least acting courteously in carrying out the agreement, but nothing was said about any money to which the growers could lay claim being used to offset any loss arising from the wool disposals plan. From whatever aspect we may view the matter, the money has come from the wool-growers. The fellmongers have no claim to it at all. They bid only at a low price for skins on the sheep's backs. The tops and noils were exported and the. money . went into the fund. If any one has the right to it, it is the wool-growers, because the top makers get their due profit in the combing. In fact, they were assured of it before they started combing. So they are satisfied. The only people who will lose are the wool-growers. The money should be repaid to them. If the Government does not pay it to them, the Liberal party and the Australian Country party, if returned at the general elections, will ensure they shall get it, because it is their due.

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