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Thursday, 8 August 1946

Mr BREEN (Calare) . - Honorable members opposite seem to be using that characteristic Nazi trick of making extravagant claims and continually repeating them in the hope that reason may be drowned by noise. They realize, however, that skin wool constitutes the Achilles heel of their arguments, because from the very outset of the negotiations with the British Government for the disposal of the Australian wool clip it was made clear that skin w.ool would be excluded from the agreement. Skin wools have been discussed in debates in this House in the 'last few years. On one occasion the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson) correctly declared that wool derived from the skins of butchered animals was worth about 3d. per lb. less than shorn wool. As the result the farmers refused to send their sheep to market when they were approaching the shearing stage in order to get the benefit of the extra value of shorn wool. The graziers had to be given the inducement of increased prices for the unshorn sheep to off-set that loss. I made representations to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) on behalf of several meat processors and exporters that they be allowed access to the table of limits and be granted packing house licences in order that they might be able to submit their wool skins for appraisement. They claimed that their ineligibility to submit skins for appraisement involved them in the loss of more than 2s. a skin through their having to sell on the glutted open market, in comparison with the other meat processors and meat exporters who, having packing house licences, could submit skins for appraisement, the reason being that a fair part of the skin that was not submitted for appraisement was a dead loss. It has been argued that the farmer who breeds sheep mainly for shearing will lose because .the Government proposes that the money derived from the handling of the skins by the Central Wool Committee shall be paid into the proposed. Wool Industry Fund, but the argument is false. The loss will be incurred by the meat exporters and processors who had to pay more for stock in order to encourage the graziers not to withhold sheep from the market until after shearing. I failed to induce the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture to grant them packing house licenses in order that they might remove the anomaly in the wool scheme that was involving them in heavy losses. There are many of them, but only about half a dozen had packing house licences and accordingly access to appraisement centres for their wool skins. The others appealed to the Government to allow them to use a part of the unused quotas of those with packing house licences, but they were not given access to the table of limits because their wool skins were excluded from appraisement. In order to reduce their losses several of them went to the expense of establishing their own shearing plants at their slaughter houses. Roger Brothers, of

Orange. is one firm that did that. The cost to have the sheep shorn was 6d. a head, hut that was better than losing -2s. a skin. ,So, on the question of who suffered loss in the handling of the skins, I can affirm that the wool-growers were not the only losers. ft ha? been frequently claimed tha t . the wool-growers have never been subsidized and that they have got only what their own efforts have entitled them to. Yet the Australian Country party members said recently, in debating another measure, that they had no objection to subsidizing primary producers who wanted cheap wheat to fatten or keep their stock . alive so long as the subsidy .was not at the expense of the wheat-growers. There is an admission that wool-growers are to a degree subsidized.

Mr Anthony - Subsidized by the wheat-growers, yes.

Mr BREEN - The fact remains that they are subsidized by some one, which is a contradiction of the claim of the Australian Country party that they are not. Honorable members opposite condemn themselves out of their own mouths. They claim that the £7,000,000 involved in this legislation is entirely the property of the wool-growers.. That raises the question of how much has been paid to wool-growers. If honorable members will cast their minds back only a little while, they will remember a dispute between primary producers, who grow wheat as well as wool, and the Government on the No. 7 wheat pool, which the Government finally subvented to the amount of £7,000,000. Therefore, wool-growers who grew wheat, fat lamb raisers who bought wheat as stock feed, and wool-growers who .bought wheat in order- to keep' their sheep alive until shearing time, collected about £9,000,000 by way of subsidy, which came out of the consolidated revenue. There is no dispute between the wheat-growers and the Government about the other wheat pools, prior to the last; all difficulties and differences have been ironed out. So honorable members can use whatever argu ments they like about wheat-farmers subsidizing the wool-growers-

Mr Archie Cameron - On a point of order, Mr. Chairman, this bill dealswith wool,- but the honorable member is debating wheat.

The CHAIRMAN - The honorable member for Calare is quite in order. H*is making only a passing reference towheat.

Mr BREEN - Honorable gentlemen opposite introduce so many irrelevanciesthat I am to be pardoned for replying to them in these passing references. The Government will be empowered by thu legislation to use the £7,000,000 that will be placed in the Wool Industry Fund to benefit the wool-growing industry. It would not be wise to restrict the means of disbursement of that money in achieving that purpose. The Government should have carte blanche to expend the money in whatever way it likes so long as the expenditure is directed to ensuring that the wool-growers shall derive benefit therefrom. The sympathy of the Government for the wool-growing industry is proved by the fact that although it might well have paid the money into consolidated revenue, without logical argument against that, it has earmarked the profit for the benefit of the wool-growers.

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