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Thursday, 8 August 1946

Mr ARCHIE CAMERON (Barker) . - If the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark) chooses to -enter this debate he should at least stick to the facts. I am not at present a member of the Australian Country party, and it is inaccurate to say that the Australian Country party entered into the agreement under discussion. No member of the Australian Country party was in the Government at that time. In fact, it was not an agreement in the ordinary sense of the word, but simply an arrangement based upon an exchange of cablegrams between the two governments. I am prepared, if necessary, to second the amendment of the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony). No .wider powers could be given to any government for the disposal of money than this Government assumes in regard to the fund of £7,000,000. For instance, in paragraph a it seeks power to use the money for -

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

Thus, the money may be expended upon promoting the use, not only of goods, made wholly of wool, but also of goods made partly of wool. There is nothing to prevent the Government from using this money for research into rayon, or other synthetic fibres, or for research into the use of cotton, because it is much used for mixing with wool. Indeed, under the terms of this provision, the Government could set up a factory for the production of rayon. Paragraph b says that the money, may be used for the provision of ' all things necessary for, or essential to, the carrying out of such research, and paragraph c states -

The co-ordination and application of the results of any such research;

Just what that means we might find out by calling a meeting of all the professors in the Department of Post-war Reconstruction and asking them for an opinion. [ know of no other way. Paragraph d is as follows: -

The promotion by publicity and other means of the use of wool in Australia and. throughout the world;

Mr Calwell - There is nothing wrong with that.

Mr ARCHIE CAMERON - The vote for the Department of Information lias grown from £22,000 a few years ago to £320,000 for this year. The taxpayers can only view with horror the prospect of handing £7,000,000 over to any Government department for publicity purposes. The department might even publish books telling prospective migrants ro Australia that they can buy suits of clothes here for 6M. It is a wonder that some of the publicity issued by the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) does not make him blush. It is typical of the kind of bombast delivered by Faust in . his address to the Almighty. The next paragraph is as follows : -

Regulating or assisting the marketing, or stabilizing the price, of wool by the purchaseof wool or by other means.

This bill proposes to take £7,000,000, Robin Hood fashion, from the growers, and to hand it over to other persons who1 are to be charged, apparently, with assisting in the marketing of. wool, or in the stabilization of the price of wool. Only last year, the Government introduced certain legislation, and explained that it was necessary because stocks of wool wereheld which it would take fourteen years to dispose of. Of what use is it now to establish a fund for the purchase of wool when we already have so much that it will take us fourteen years to dispose of it?' Paragraph / states -

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;

Elsewhere, the "Ministers." are defined as the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, and the Minister in charge of Scientific and Industrial Research. . Thiscommittee of the House of Representatives is supposed to exercise full control over .the nation's finances ; yet it is proposed to hand over to a committee of three Ministers the right to dispose of £7,000,000 which does not morally or legally belong to them. They may apply the money in many directions, including the temporary relief of the wool industry in such circumstances as they think just. The honorable member' for Darling must surely have problems in his electorate, particularly in regard to re-stocking. In. the first place, it is practically impossible to buy stock, and those which are obtainable fetch a very high price. Why does not the Minister explain how it is proposed to. expend this money? Relief measures have been brought down in regard to other industries, notably the wheat industry, and their provisions have always been carefully explained. Here, however, we are asked to authorize a committee of Ministers to expend money from a fund of £7,000,000 for the relief of thewool industry,, under such conditions and in such circumstances as the Ministers- think just. However, the richest part of the whole proposal is in paragraphj, which reads as follows : -

In meeting, in whole or in part, any ultimate loss to which the Commonwealth may be subjected by reason of its participation in the disposals plan set forth in the Schedule to the Wool Realization Act 1945.

The Wool Realization Act is the one under which the Government hopes to dispose, within a period of fourteen years, of the present accumulation of wool. In effect, the Government now says that if it bungles the disposal of this wool, it will recoup itself out of the fund of £7,000,000 that rightly belongs to the wool-growers. This paragraph is the finest piece of political impertinence that I have ever seen. If the Minister for Information can convince the growers of the justice of the Government's proposal, he deserves a crown of gold adorned with platinum. However, I doubt that even he would try to explain to the woolgrowers that they should feel satisfied in having £7,000,000 filched from them, and used for the purposes set forth in clause 6.

Motion (by Mr. Scully) put -

That the question be now put.

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