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Thursday, 8 August 1946

Mr TURNBULL (WIMMERA, VICTORIA) . - This is a bill for an act to provide for the application of certain funds vested in the Australian Wool Realization Commission. You have ruled, Mr. Speaker, that only passing reference may be made to the source of the funds. It is right that you should rule in that way, because it takes little time to discover that the source was the sale of wool grown by Australian growers. It has often been said in this chamber that the price of wool was about 15Jd. per lb., but a certain amount was paid to the Australian Wool Realization Commission in excess of that, as the result of which more than £7,000,000 has accumulated. Now the Government has introduced a bill to provide for the distribution of that money. The bill "would be all right if it provided a proper distribution, -namely, to the wool-growers, but clause 6 provides for- distribution in other ways. It is significant that the clause claims that the money is to be applied for purposes associated with the wool industry, implying benefit to the wool-growers. The money is to be expended on scientific, economic and .cost research in connexion with wool and for other purposes. Therefore the Government realizes, as all honorable gentlemen must realize, although it has not admitted it, that the money belongs to the wool-growers. The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Lemmon) spoke about the fog-horn used by the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott). The honorable member for New England tried tq penetrate the fog placed over this matter by the Government. I hope that I shall be more successful than he was. The truth is that if the money is to be used in the best interests of the wool industry it ought to be given to the growers. One honorable member said that if it were distributed to them in proportion to the quantities of wool put by them into the pool certain growers would not get their just dues; but that difficulty could be easily overcome by distributing the money to all the wool-growers.

Mr Dedman - How can the honorable member logically argue that if the money belongs to some wool-growers it b equitable to distribute it to all woolgrowers ?

Mr TURNBULL (WIMMERA, VICTORIA) - The point has been made that if the money in the fund were paid to all wool-growers, certain men not entitled to it would receive a share, but that objection applies equally to the methods of distribution proposed in the bill, because it proposes the application of the money for the benefit of all wool-growers regardless of what quantities of wool they put into the pool. Paragraph a of clause 6 provides that the 'money may be applied for scientific, economic and cost research in connexion with the production and use of wool and goods made wholly or partly from wool. The present set-up must be considered. After six years of war and an unparalleled shortage of labour, the woolgrowers' properties and equipment are in probably a worse condition than ever before. Wool is our greatest asset, and we cannot afford to let the industry further decline. In order to preserve its economy we must ensure that it shall have all the best possible ingredients of its prosperity. Pastures, fences and equipment must be restored to their former good condition. Instead of distributing the money in the fund to people without close touch with the economics of the industry to carry out research, the Government should pay it to the growers in order that they may apply it to purposes more immediately necessary to their 'welfare. Drought is raging in parts of New South

Wales and Queensland and other areas of Australia have, only recently passed out of a devastating drought. In. the western district of Victoria floods worse than ever before experienced swept into the sea some of the best fine-wool sheep in Australia. Woolgrowers who have lost 75 per cent, of their sheep in droughts, floods and other disasters have -to re-stock at high prices farther afield. To-day, the rates are at least one-third higher than those which prevailed three or four years ago. The wool-growers require all the available money in order to. enable them to restock their properties, so that the industry may continue to be the great national asset that it has been in the past. One honorable member opposite stated that the Government is making this money available. I wonder what the woolgrowers will think of that statement. Of course, the wool-growers have provided the money. It is in the fund; but it should be distributed to the growers. Last week, I asked the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) a question relating to the conference which the Minister for Postwar Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) and he had with the representatives of. woolgrowers regarding the distribution of this money. 1 asked the right honorable gentleman whether the wool-growers were satisfied with the Government's proposals. He replied cautiously that the wool-growers did not appear to be wholly satisfied. Of course, wool-growers throughout Australia are incensed at the decision. More than ever before, they require money to enable them to restock their properties and purchase new equipment, but the Government proposes to devote the fund to wool research. The time is not opportune to expend this money for that purpose. We must meet the needs, of the moment, but the Minister's lack of practical knowledge of primary industries prevents the application of these moneys to the best advantage. When in committee, I propose to move an amendment to clause 6, for the purpose of providing that the money shall be paid to the growers to the value of the wool sold on their account, instead of being placed in this fund. The object of the amendment has the approval of wool-growers generally.

About 1.35 a.m. to-day, the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson) apologized to the House for resuming the debate on this bill at that hour. He used the phrase, "but the show must go on ". I believed that the honorable member meant that the wool-growing industry must go on, and that he would emphasize that this money in the fund should be distributed amongthe woolgrowers for the purposes which I have already mentioned. However, I discover that the honorable member was referring, not to the wool-growing industry, but to the debate. So far as the wool-growers are concerned, the show must go on. Let us consider whether this money will be used to better advantage if paid to the woolgrowers now, or if used for research purposes. The equipment of the woolgrowers has fallen into disrepair. In addition,we must build up our merino and other wools. Would not a greater advantage be derivedif we were to pay this money immediately to such men as John Taylor, of " Winton," Campbelltown, in Tasmania, and " Valley Field," who took the first three prizes at the Melbourne Sheep Show last week? Men of that type have established a reputation for possessing a thorough knowledge of the wool business. They have built up the great studs which provide the rams. Would not this money be expended to greater advantage by men like Mr. Laird, the manager of Murray Downs station, instead of allocating it for research at this stage? Would not those men have a more practical use for. the money to foster the interests of the wool industry that languished in war-time ? Surely, that is a practical argument. Every day, Ministers raise technicalities in an endeavour to cloud the issue. Now, they pretend that the Government is making a wonderful gift to the wool industry. What a wonderful gift it is! The money is provided by the wool-growers themselves, andI contend that it should be returned to them. Australia must not miss any opportunity to foster its principal national asset. One had only to visit the sheep show at Albury, where His Royal Highness the Duke of Gloucester attended earlier this week, or the Melbourne sheep showto find out who are the men responsible for the progress of the industry. This money should be paid to them, not only because it belongs to them but also because they can make the best use of it. That fact is undeniable. But the Governmenthas other plans for the expenditure of the money. As on other occasions, it has assumed a dictatorial attitude by announcingits intentions before it sought parliamentary approval for them. We had evidence of the same dictatorial attitude a few weeks ago. Before the Parliament had passed the Parliamentary Proceedings Broadcasting Bill, microphones were placed in the Senate and the House of Representatives. The determined refusal of the Government to accept any amendments submitted by the Opposition reveals that decisions of policy are made by caucus long before the legislationis introduced. Even if the greatest expert in the world were to formulate proposals for the improvement of a bill, the Government would not accept them. All practical proposals put forward by the Opposition are totally disregarded. Before I became a member of this Parliament, I was under the impression that bills were amended in the light of constructive proposals submitted in the Senate and the House of Representatives. Nothing could be further from the truth.

I protest strongly against this bill, which deprives the individual woolgrower of the money which rightly belongs to him. The best interests of the industry and of Australia would be served if that money were paid to him instead of being devoted at present to wool research. One suggestion which has been made is that a portion of the money should be paid to the fellmongers. The next absurdity will be a proposal for a percentage of the money to be paid to the coal-miners. What have the fellmongers to do with wool-growing?

Mr.FULLER. - Are all auctioneers like the honorable member?

Mr TURNBULL (WIMMERA, VICTORIA) - No, I am an outstanding example of a good one. Summarizing my objections to this bill, I point out that the wool-growers haveexpressed their strong disapproval of the proposal of the Prime Minister to allocate these funds in the manner which the bill provides. This money belongs to the wool-growers, and, as individuals, they should receive it.

Mr Ward - They will get the benefit of it.

Mr TURNBULL (WIMMERA, VICTORIA) - The wool industry will derive a greater benefit if the money is paid direct to the growers to enable them to renew their machinery and equipment, produce more wool) and stabilize the industry generally.

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