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Thursday, 8 August 1946

Mr McEWEN (Indi) .- There is nothing novel in this measure.- It represents merely a further " steal " from another section of primary producers.

Mr Dedman - The honorable gentleman is an expert in that connexion.

Mr McEWEN - The Government has established quite clearly the principle, if it can properly be so described, that has been applied in connexion with this matter. It has completely abandoned the old-fashioned idea that when a man invests his capital and labour. ' takes risks, and produces something, that something is his. That idea has 'stood the test of time. Yet in the few years during which the Labour party has occupied the treasury bench, it has substituted for that principle this new idea, that when a free Australian produces a commodity, and the circumstances of war require that the Government shall arbitrarily take possession of it, the owner is to be regarded 'as having :no real equity in it, but is to be given only what the Government, in accordance with its political idealogies or idiosyncrasies, considers is good enough for him. The Government may or may not throw a tit-bit to him later on. It. is time the primary producers understood the fate which awaits them if Australia is to be afflicted much longer with a Labour government.

Many arguments have been advanced about the ownership of -money derived from the sale of this wool. I do not propose to go over again what. has been expounded with such undeniable logic by my colleagues. The price for skin wool from fellmongers was arbitrarily fixed, and the question is, who is to be regarded as the person entitled to any subsequent profit. The butcher or the fellmonger bought the skins on a clear understanding of the value of the wool as declared by the Government. Then certain profit accrued, but no one has said that the fellmonger is entitled to this fortuitous profit.

Mr TURNBULL (WIMMERA, VICTORIA) - It has been suggested.

Mr McEWEN - It is true that the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Lemmon), without being named, immediately accepts responsibility for the suggestion. However, there can be no question of the fellmonger being entitled to the .profit, lt must belong either to the Government or to those who grew the wool.

Mr Dedman - The original owners of the sheep from which the skins caine.

Mr McEWEN - I would have thought that such persons could be described as wool-growers.

Mr Dedman - But they are a particular kind of wool-growers.

Mr McEWEN - They are woolgrowers. I did not think that I would, have to make such an elementary explanation, but I remind the Minister that sheep skins are taken off sheep which are raised by wool-growers. We do not get sheep skins- off trees, but off sheep, and sheep are raised by wool-growers.

Mr Scully - How would the honorable member work it out if the man who raised the sheep sold a flock to someone else, who then sold it to another person who finally sold the sheep to a butcher? Who would get the skin money?

Mr McEWEN - We are not here to put riddles to . each other, but to do justice to the producers, and I am not going to be deflected from my purpose by questions of that sort. Let the Minister put them to the " Quiz Kids ". This is a serious matter.' If the Minister believes that he can establish a case by tricky parliamentary practices, which will' justify the Government in refusing to pay the original sheep owners what they are entitled to, he may succeed here, with the help of his majority, but he will not convince the wider audience outside' this Parliament. Just as the logic of the case which we have advanced in regard to skin wool is unequivocally clear, so it is in regard to wool from noils, and the wool content of manufactured goods. Of course, I do not expect that argument from this side of the chamber will make any impression on the Government, which is notorious for never having accepted any amendment or suggestion from the Opposition. I know that I am merely beating the air so far as anything I may say can affect this bill, but I know also that the woolgrowers will formulate an opinion on the subject which they will translate into action at the forthcoming elections.

The Government will crash this bill through Parliament as it has done with other measures, but in spite of that, it will feel that there is a cold breeze blowing when its. representatives face the electors in a short while. The wool-growers have a claim to this money -on grounds of simple equity, and on what used to pass for justice in this country, but at this time they have special need of the money because they have suffered the effects of a devastating drought. It is calculated that, in Victoria, sheep flocks have declined from 20,000,000 to 14,000,000 in the last year. In New South Wales and Queensland, one of the most disastrous droughts ever known is raging now. The wool-growers are at their wits' end to carry on under such conditions, and they confidently expected that, sooner or later, they would be paid for the wool they grew. . It will be poor consolation for them to learn that their £7,000,000 will be used at the discretion of the Government for research or publicity purposes, or for stabilizing prices, or for almost any reason that the Minister thinks fit. I warn the Government that the policy implicit in this proposal cannot be sustained when the Australian people have an opportunity to express their will. If Australia is not to degenerate into a socialist state we must get back to the simple principle that what a man produces by the sweat of his brow, or by the investment of his own savings, is his, and shall not be seized by any government and disposed of by caucus behind closed doors in the manner deemed to be best in the interests of the party.

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