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Thursday, 8 August 1946

Mr HAYLEN (Parkes) .- I have no diffidence in participating in this debate, although I might be diffident about discussing wool in its technical and production aspects with wool-growers of experience. I rise chiefly to make the point that the Australian Labour party is deeply interested in the wool industry as one of -the greatest of Australia's primary producing activities, and I make the point that honorable members opposite should disabuse their minds of any idea that, because some of us represent consumer constituencies, we and our constituents must necessarily be opposed to the .best interests of the wool industry. Such a view, of course, is a patent absurdity. My family was associated' with wool-growing as farmers in this country for 86 years, and probably I would still have been on the land if the good farming practice of my .forebears had not been matched by the bad banking practice of years gone by. It is a most invidious and unsubstantial argument that because the members of this Government, and honorable gentlemen sitting on this side of the chamber, represent what might roughly be called consumer constituencies we must necessarily be antagonistic to the wool industry and to the man on the land in general. That is not so, because the members of this party represent all sections of the community. It has occurred to me to put the point that the whole Australian community is involved in the problems of this industry, because I have had to listen to a tirade of bad logic in the speeches of honorable members of the Australian Country party in connexion with the allocation of the money in the fund now under consideration. A strong case has been put for the attitude of the Government. I have listened with interest to the speeches made from both sides of the chamber on this subject, and I have formed the conclusion that the £7,000,000 or more in the Wool Industry Fund could rightly be applied in the . manner the' Government has proposed. As an observer and a representative of consumers who provide a considerable market for wool in this country, I have spoken to many of my constituents who have retired from the land by reason of old age, or by some lucky chance that enabled them to make enough money to leave it. These people are convinced that we shall have to spend large sums of money if we are to enable our great wool industry to hold the proud position it holds to-day. Important avenues of expenditure in this regard are publicity and research. One of the most praiseworthy proposals in this measure is that, some of this money should be spent on publicity. Surely no one is foolish enough to think that the present boom conditions will last forever. It must be realized that stable prices and stable economic conditions must ultimately affect the prices which are now being paid foi primary products. I do not suggest that prices will again collapse, and that another depression will occur; but prices will certainly revert to a .lower level in consonance with the style of living to which ultimately we shall have to adapt ourselves.

Some reference has been made in the course of the debate to the menace of synthetic textiles, to the- wool industry. Surely honorable members do not forget that some years ago the pages of our newspapers were filled with reports regarding the menace of synthetics to our wool. Surely they do not believe that that longer exists or that the press had invented a bogy to frighten the wool-growers. Surely they do' not believe that chemists and scientists who have created atom bombs and synthetic? in many forms, will not ultimately develop a synthetic' fibre with a tensile strength equal to that of wool which will probably' be put on the market at a much' cheaper price than woollen textiles. Synthetic producers in America who were able to expend £2,000,000 in publicity through one series of newspapers offer a serious challenge to the wool industry, and I suggest that we could well spend £8,000,000 to make a publicity counter-blast in the interests of the wool-growers of Australia.

We are tremendously fortunate in that, hitherto, our climate and production methods have enabled us to produce the finest wool in the world ; but are we to be so complacent as ..not to recognize that this market might be whisked away from us almost overnight by reason of the discoveries of scientists and chemists? Recently when I was travelling through America and Europe, I found that Austalian wool was almost unknown as an Australian product. Textiles were sold as wool, but the labels did not disclose that it was Australian wool. Publicity "in this regard, from our point of view, was seriously at fault. We have a tremendous fight before us to let the world know that we exist. This criticism of publicity in respect of primary products may also be applied to Government and national publicity. It is broadly true to say that "we have ' not been able to " break through " in regard to publicity. Our publicity has not been slick enough, nor has its tempo been adequate,' to let the consumers overseas know the facts about our great wool industry. In my view it is merely a quibble to say that the woolgrower is being robbed because the Government has made a proposal that this money should be applied in part for publicity and experimental purposes. If the money were distributed among the growers, as honorable gentlemen opposite have suggested, a good- deal of it would be repaid to the Government in additional taxation, and I do not believe that the wool-growers themselves would regard that as a satisfactory proposition. We need an incisive and strong overall campaign to develop markets for Australian wool in overseas countries. At the moment our wool is at a premium owing to special circumstances that exist in the post-war world; but as conditions become more stable and competition becomes keener, the wool-growers will undoubtedly be crying out for increased publicity in order to expand the market for their product. I consider that one of the best ways in which this money could be expended would be to apply it to publicity purposes and to placing our wool industry on a sound economic basis.

The allegation that there is a conspiracy on the part of the Government to take this money away from the wool-growers is ridiculous. That aspect has already been dealt with effectively by honorable gentlemen on this side of the chamber. The arguments of the members of the Australian

Country party have been entirely sectional. 1 utterly repudiate and resent their assertions that members on this side of the chamber have no appreciation of the problems of the wool industry. The expenditure of this relatively paltry sum of about £8,000,000 to attempt to change, by a publicity campaign, the outlook of the "unwoolminded people " of Europe is highly commendable.

Mr Anthony - Why not take the lOtt

Mr HAYLEN - The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) is a specious-minded individual who sees horror and murder and disgraceful occurrences in every simple legal enactment. He would have us believe that he is a rebel, but he is without the courage, of a rebel. He is a jackal rather than a lion. The honorable gentleman is rattling a can and using the microphone to lead the people to believe that the Labour party is not interested in the wool industry, but I am sure that the people will dismiss his views as unworthy of consideration. He is more interested in banana oil than " dinkum " oil. The proposal of the Government that a part of this fund should be used for publicity purposes is indisputably sound and there is no logic in the case that has been made out against it. After all, this is not actually the wool-growers' money. It has been accumulated because of the good business management of a Labour Government, and I am sure that the wool-growers would be glad to benefit by a continuation of this good business in the shape of a world-wide publicity campaign which will do them a greater service than an inequitable distribution of the fund.

Mr. ABBOTT(New England) [4.29'j. - After listening to the speeches of honorable gentlemen opposite on this subject I am bound to say that I have never heard, and I never expected to hear, in an Australian legislature, such a violent attack as has been made this afternoon on the natural wool fibre in comparison with synthetic fibre, nor did I ever expect to witness .such a craven attitude as' that of the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark), who has been followed by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen). The former said that it was impossible to distinguish, the synthetic fibre from real wool. Anybody who is conversant with the matter knows that a simple and effective test is ' to unweave a portion of the fabric and apply a match to it. If it burns, it is synthetic fibre, and if it does not burn it is pure wool. The wearing of wool has saved many lives. Persons clothed in synthetic fabrics will catch alight, whereas those clothed in wool fabrics will not. The honorable member for Parkes has argued about the menace of synthetics. This menace existed a few years ago, hut it has been removed by the work that was done during the war by the Australian Wool Board and the International Wool Secretariat. Only last week, the Australian Wool Board displayed in Sydney probably the most attractive fabrics supplied by British manufacturers, which have ever been seen in this country. Those fabrics, woven by means of the alginate process are so sheer that they compare favorably with pure silk and, I am told, almost with nylon. The alginate process derives from three processes that were discovered as the result of the work of the Austraiian Wool Board and the International Wool Secretariat. Alginate is a product of seaweed. When washed in soapy water it dissolves and disappears. Professor Speakman, of the University of Leeds, discovered that by making a composite yarn of very fine wool and alginate, he could weave -a fabric, after dissolving the alginate, as fine at the sheerest silk stockings. The woollen fibre is treated by what' is known as the enzyme papain process, which removes the " tickle " and also gives it a lustrous appearance comparable with that of silk. Prior to that, the fibre is treated to make it non-shrinkable. By the use. of a combination of the three processes, the fabric is made non-shrinkable, is given a lustrous sheen like that of silk, and is as fine as. the finest silk fibre, with which it is able to compete. I intensely dislike listening to persons who, whilst styling themselves Australians, are the greatest calamity howler's one could imagine.

I come now to the statement of the honorable member for Parkes that £2,000,000 a year is being expended on advertising by the manufacturers of synthetic fabrics in the United States of America.

Mr Haylen - And only in the magazine press, which is read by women.

Mr ABBOTT - Listening to these gentlemen, including the Minister at the table (Mr. Dedman), one would think that wool is not advertised at all anywhere in the world. One has only to read the journals in the Parliamentary Library to convince oneself that wool is advertised by every manufacturer of woollen goods, and by the whole of the retail . houses throughout the world. A journal called the Ambassador, which is published in Spanish and English, is being sent out from the United Kingdom at the present time. It is an ambassador for the woollen and textile industries of Great Britain, in their great drive throughout the world to-day for export trade. This journal contains probably the most beautiful colour-plat* advertising that, is being done anywhere in the world, and with one small exception the advertising is carried by the manufacturers, wholesalers and retailer? of the United Kingdom.

Mr Haylen - Who reads it? Mr. ABBOTT.- All the wholesale houses throughout the world.

Mr Haylen - Wool has to be brought to the notice of the people.

Mr ABBOTT - Does the honorable gentleman consider that the wholesalers do not realize that as well as he ? Of course they do ! They know the effect and the value of advertising. These calamity howlers are terrified that wool will not go into consumption. They can disabuse their minds, by reading extracts from the monthly report of the Australian Trade Commissioner, in the Australian Trade Commissioner Service journal, New York, for June, 1946. The prospects in relation to wool consumption in the United States of America are excellent. This report states -

Unsold stocks of 1943 wools were reduced in March from flO.873,000 to 84,870.000 pounds and those of 1944 wools from 117,210,000 to 115.2(17,000 pounds, indicating - sales of 7,952,000 pounds .... Unsold stocks, as shown above, were reduced 12,000,000 pounds net. That would indicate sales for the month of about 22,000,000 pounds, but it is reliably reported that gales have been at the rate of 4.000,000 weekly ....

As at March 1st, British-owned stockpile wool in this country was 108,291,957 pounds, chose being figures issued by the RFC. The total was 208,170,497 on January 1st and 232,732,070 on February 1st, indicating that the wool is moving out of the country at the rate of about 55,000,000 pounds monthly. At the game rate the stockpile would disappear in another 6 months.

Therefore, the fear that we had drummed " into us that the enormous stockpile of wool accumulated under the wool purchase scheme would not disappear quickly, is unfounded. Wool is passing into consumption far more quickly than new wools are being produced. Consequently, the new incoming wools are being consumed, and simultaneously the stock-pile is decreasing. What is the position in Australia? During the last few years, the flocks of sheep in this country have dropped from 125,000,000 to about 100,000,000. If the drought which exists over a large part of the great wool-producing districts of New South Wales and Queensland continues, there will be a further curtailment of wool production, and in consequence the clothing wools of the world will be in short supply for many years. Eastern countries will have an impact on this problem. India is determined to raise its living standards. Of its population at least 190,000,000 aTe capable of wearing and desire to wear wool for those six months of the year during which the climate is suitable. India has ' a credit balance with the United Kingdom of over £1,200,000,000 sterling. That is a vast purchasing power. If India's standards of living be raised, wool will havea secure future. I am not one of those who cry and cringe because of the fear that wool has no future.

I claim that everything that has been said in this chamber to-day, and all that the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) ' said in his second-reading speech, go to show that the wools from which profits were derived were included in the arrangement that was made with the Government of the United Kingdom. The Prime Minister said that, although the matter involved exports, the United Kingdom Government had intimated that any moneys derived from the operations were on account of the Commonwealth Government. In common justice and ^onesty, and in the light of the statement of the Prim6 Minister, the wool-growers of Australia should receive the money to which they are entitled.

The bill provides -

The moneys standing to the credit of the fund may be applied in any manner approved by the Treasurer, after consultation with tha Ministers.

According to the definitions clause, " the Ministers " are the Minister of State for Commerce and Agriculture, the Minister of State for Post-war Reconstruction and the Minister of State administering the Science and Industrial Research Act 1926-1945. I assume the last named Minister to be identical with the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction. Thus, he will be one of the two Ministers who will have the disbursement of this enormous sum that has been filched from the wool-growers. To-day, he made the extraordinary statement that, if this £8,00.0,000 were distributed, ' one-half of the wool-growers would probably get about £2 10s. each. There would need to be 1,700,000 woolgrowers in Australia in order to make that calculation accurate. As a matter of fact, the number -of wool-growers in the Commonwealth is approximately 86,000. Is it right and proper that a man who is so ignorant of the wool industry, including its needs and the number of persons engaged in it, should be allowed to disburse this vast amount, which has been taken quite unjustly from the woolgrowers ? *

The provision with which I shall finally deal is that which states that the moneys standing to the credit of the fund may be applied 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. I believe that there will not be any loss. But, if there were, it would be most unjust and inequitable to break the undertaking given to the wool-growers of Australia in the Wool

Realization Act 1945, without their hav- ing been told anything about the intention to do so. That agreement will be broken by the Government retaining this £7,000,000, and applying a portion of it against any loss that may be made in the future. "When the Wool Realization Act 1945 was passed, the Commonwealth Government undertook to share with the Government of the United Kingdom any loss on the realization. This money is being niched from the growers. The Government intends to use, a portion of it in a way that was never intended.

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