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Thursday, 8 August 1946

Mr CLARK (Darling) .- The mournful dirge of members of the Australian Country party indicates that they are suffering pre-election jitters. Bytheir characteristic gross, misrepresentation of facts they are trying to mislead the wool-growers and other primary producers of this country. They are not doing that innocently. Let us analyse dispassionately the wool realization agreement. We .must remember that, at the outbreak of the last war, an arrangement was made whereby Great Britain under- took to take over, the whole of Australia's - wool production for the period of the war and one season thereafter. The Minister for Commerce who signed that agreement was the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir. Earle Page), a prominent member of the Australian Country party, which was then an appendage of the Government. Members of the Opposition fully realize that the- agreement definitely provides that any profits on the sale of unprocessed wool were to become a part of the . profits of- the scheme and be divisible among the various wool-growers. But the arrangement . also provided that any profits from the sale of processed or partly-processed wool were not to be regarded as profits that should be divided under the scheme. The . substantial profits that were made during the war from the sales of wool tops and other partially-treated wool did not come into the scheme. The profits made in Great Britain were regarded as the property of the Government of the United Kingdom, and, I assume, were paid into the British treasury: The profits on the sale of wool processed and partly-processed in Australia were not regarded as profits under the scheme. Therefore, the statement that any funds derived in that way should be divided among the producers is gross misrepresentation of the facts. As a matter of fact, skin wools were specially excluded from the scheme, and the growers were not entitled to share in the profits that were made when -they were sold. It is quite definite that they cannot claim a share of the profits from the sale of processed articles. The Government,' but for its magnanimity, -could have paid the whole of this amount into Consolidated Revenue. It would have been quite -justified in' doing so, because the fund was not associated in any way with the profits that were made under the arrangement. But the Government has set the money aside for the assistance of the wool-growers. Paragraph a of clause 6 provides that the money may be used for -

Scientific, economic and cost research in connexion with the production and use of wool, and goods made wholly or partly from wool.

Research on those lines must be helpful to the wool industry. Before the war, we heard much about the danger of synthetic fibres to our wool industry, so that the -Government cannot be blamed for expending money on research to enable wool to compete effectively with synthetic fibres. The clause- also provides for the expenditure of money on the promotion by publicity and other means of the use of wool in Australia and throughout the world. I have recently had an opportunity to see what is being done in the way of such publicity in London, and I am sure that the wool industry will benefit by the expenditure of money on these lines. We have been told that those interested in the manufacture of synthetic fibres are prepared to spend millions of pounds on publicity. Therefore, we must be prepared to meet this competition. Paragraph e of the clause provides for regulating or assisting the marketing or stabilizing of. the price of wool. Paragraph 6 (/) is in these terms -

The provision of temporary relief for the wool industry in such circumstances and under such conditions as the Treasurer, after consultation with the Ministers, thinks just;

That is a very wide provision. If it is thought fit, the Government may use some of this money to assist wool-growers. It is evident, therefore, that the money will be expended to the great advantage of the whole industry. It is misrepresentation to say that the amount of £7,000,000 is the property of the woolgrowers. It never was their property, because it was placed outside the provisions of the arrangement entered into by the Australian Country party with the Government of Great Britain.

Mr Archie Cameron - I was not a member of the Government which made the arrangement, nor was. any member of the Australian Country party.

Mr CLARK - The right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), claims that he was a member of the Government at that time. As I have said, the agreement specifically excluded skin wool, and honorable members opposite are endeavouring, by gross misrepresentation, to. mislead the people.

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