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Thursday, 8 August 1946

Mr DEDMAN (Corio) (Minister for Post-war Reconstruction and Minister in charge of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research) . - No amount of debate on this subject will, presumably, make it clear to the Opposition that the Government is doing a fair and just thing with the money under discussion. The mere fact that honorable members opposite, one after the other, have said that the money belongs to the wool-growers, does not make the statement true. Mere repetition does not make any statement true. .If one considers the origin of this. fund it becomes evident that the wool-growers have no claim to the money at all. The point was discussed very fully by the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Lemmon). The money in the fund was derived from three different sources,' the first being skin wool. The honorable member for Forrest pointed out that if anyone had a claim to the profit which accrued from the sale of this wool it would be the person who had owned the sheep whose skins were sold to the skin buyers. However, honorable members opposite suggest that the money should be distributed to all wool-growers, throughout Australia. It might have been possible in the early stages, if the -Government led by the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) had evolved a plan whereby the ownership of the skins could be traced, to pay the profit to individual owners of the sheep from which the skins were taken. However^ the right honorable gentleman knew perfectly well that such a scheme would be extremely difficult to put into effect. Therefore, he made a clear statement in which he said that the price paid for wool from skins would be the final price, and that no addition to that price would be made at any later stage. The P-rime Minister (Mr. Chifley), in the course of a statement on the subject, also made the position clear. He said that when the wool purchase arrangement was commenced in 1939, it was announced by the then Prime Minister (Mr Menzies) that wool from sheep skins would not participate in any subsequent division of profit, and that the price paid at the time would be' the final and only price. That statement was not qualified in any way. If anyone is to blame for the nonpayment of this £7,000,000 to the persons who raised the sheep from which the skins came, it is the Leader of the Opposition for failing to put into effect a suitable plan at the beginning. There are two other sources from which the £7,000,000 is derived. Certain profits were made in respect- of wool-tops exported from Australia, and certain sums accumulated from the export of manufactured woollen goods on which manufacturers had to pay to the Central Wool Committee a. sum equivalent to the difference between the appraised price for wool and the export price fixed by the British Government. In respect of wool used for the manufacture of cloth and exported from this country, the growers were paid the appraised price, plus a supplementary amount which is paid at the end of every year.

Mr Abbott - That is incorrect, and the Minister knows it.

Mr DEDMAN - It is not. The growers who owned the wool which was used for the manufacture of wool-tops, converted into cloth and finally exported from Australia, were paid the full price for their wool.* How then can anything more be due to them? Honorable members opposite refuse to be convinced on this matter because they are determined to use the proposal to further their own political purposes. There is absolutely no logic in their opposition to the bill; the reasons they have submitted as to why the money should be returned to the woolgrowers will not bear examination. At least two Australian Country party members pictured a very depressing scene, claiming that thousands of wool-growers are suffering badly from the effects of drought and that if only this money were paid to the growers they would be able to buy new equipment and re-stock their properties. What are the facts? If this money were distributed among the growers at least one-half of them would get the large amount of £2 10s. each. How could they equip their farms and buy new stock with that? It is true that a small- number of growers would get a large sum of money, but, even if they did, a considerable portion of it would go back to the Treasury by way of taxes. If the Government desired to derive financial benefit from the existence of this fund, the best thing it could do would be to pay the money to the growers and collect the greater part of it in taxes.

Mr McEwen - How' does the Minis:ter arrive at the figure of £2 10s.?

Mr DEDMAN - The honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) has made his speech ; I am now making mine. The accuracy of any statement I have made in this chamber has never been challenged. The honorable member may rest assured that when I make a statement it is true, as this one is. Honorable members opposite concentrated on the question of research in the use of wool, saying that it would not be possible to expend purely on research in a short space of time the large sum of money lying to the credit of the fund. There are six avenues through which this money' is proposed to be expended. The proceeds of the fund are, however, to be invested, and it is expected that the income will amount to between £200,000 and £250,000 per annum. The amount standing to the credit of the wool fund will be supplemented by moneys collected under the Wool Use Promotion Act, which amount to approximately £325,000 per annum, and will be used for research, publicity and other purposes as set out in clause 6 of the bill. I propose to deal specifically with the subject of research. The estimates of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research for the current financial year include an amount of £453,000 for research in wool production and textiles. It is obvious, therefore, that research may absorb quite a large amount ,of money. Expenditure by the council for that purpose will be undertaken whencomplete investigations ' of the benefits which may or may not be derived from such research have been estimated. Theresearch programme pf the council in respect of wool has been discussed by the Wool Consultative Council on which have been appointed two members of the Wool Board. When the wool-growers met representatives of the Government in conference on this matter and contended that they had no say in the expenditure of this money, it was pointed out to them that the two members of the Wool Board on the Wool Consultative Council would assist in ' advising the Government as to what research should be undertaken. The growers, however, still maintained that they did not have sufficient representation, whereupon the Government agreed to co-opt two additional growers to serve on the Wool Consultative Council when matters relating to the research programme were under consideration. It is, therefore, not true to say that the wool-growers have not been consulted about the research programme. Tt is a fact that the growers claimed that if they could exert sufficient pressure upon the Government they might be able to secure for themselves the money now in the fund. That, after all is but human nature. ' Mr. Abbott. - And honesty.

Mr DEDMAN - My sense of honesty is just as highly developed as that of the honorable member. It is understandable that when the growers saw so much money accumulated in a fund they should desire to secure it for their own use. I point out, however, that a largeportion of the money has accrued from the trading enterprise of the Government and rightfully belongs to the Government, but the Treasurer has been generous ; realizing, that the wool industry is of the greatest importance to Australia, he has decided to use the money for research and the promotion of the use of wool. The view held by the Government on this subject is shared by at least one leadingmember of the Wool Board. The expenditure of this money as proposed in the bill will benefit the wool industry generally and will confer' benefits on in: dividual growers .greater than could be obtained by them if it, were handed over to them.

Question put -

That the bill be now read a second time.

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