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Tuesday, 21 May 1957

Mr FAIRBAIRN (FARRER, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I thank the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) for being instrumental in bringing more honorable members into the chamber, because 1 think that this bill is one of the most important to be presented to the Parliament for a very long time.

As I was saying, if we are to hold our place in the world and if wool is to hold its place as a textile fibre there is a great necessity to spend considerably more on wool research than we have been spending. In addition to the spinning qualities of wool, to which I have already referred, there is the advantage of its great ability to take dyes. There is also the advantage of its resilience. Unlike synthetic fibres, wool can be stretched and regain its form. It has a great ability to absorb moisture. Wool can absorb up to 20 per cent, of its own weight of water. In fact, this very capacity for absorption is being considered by the Government at present in relation to the setting-up of wool testing houses, so that the actual content of wool may be defined.

But, with all its advantages, wool has many disadvantages, and this is where the money made available as a result of this increased contribution, to be made partly by the growers and partly by the Government, will be used. It will be expended on trying to overcome those disadvantages with a view to making wool a more ideal textile than at present.

The Minister for Primary Industry mentioned the disadvantages of tar brands, which occur frequently in wool. The C.S.I.R.O. has done considerable work on this problem, and has produced two branding fluids, one of which is known as " B " and the other as " Siromark ", which are completely scourable but will not be washed out by the normal process of weather in the field.

The time has come when the State Departments of Agriculture should legislate to make the use of tar brands illegal. We know that they cause considerable trouble in the industry. Many fabrics are completely ruined because the area where a tar brand shows has to be torn out. The loss to the wool industry is considerable.

Another disadvantage of wool is that it has to be moth-proofed. Here again, the C.S.I.R.O. is doing a considerable amount of work at its textile research laboratories at Geelong. It has shown that by treatment with as little as 0.02 per cent, of a preparation called dieldrin, wool can be made almost permanently moth-proof. In the experiments which are going on in that direction the cloth is put through all the vicissitudes to which it would normally be subjected in its life time.

Shrinking is another disadvantage of wool, and far more research is necessary into this problem, because, although there are nineteen different methods of shrink-proofing, none of them can be said to be 100 per cent. The C.S.I.R.O. is using one of its own products called " Si-ro-fix ", in which resins from nylon scrap, and casein have been used, to proof wool fibre and, more or less, to weld the fibres together, thus preventing a considerable amount of shrinkage. This is not 100 per cent, satisfactory yet, but I do not think that wool will ever be a completely satisfactory textile until a garment made from it can be thrown into a washing machine, completely washed out, and, when hung out to dry, show absolutely no sign of shrinkage. We must overcome the tendency of wool to shrink if we are to compete with synthetic fibres.

Another disadvantage of wool is that it cannot be permanently pleated. This quality is possessed by some of the synthetic fabrics. Although the pleating done may not be actually permanent, it will last for a considerable time. Nothing like a 100 per cent, permanent process for pleating wool has been discovered. I know that work is going on in this direction, and we are assured by the scientists that they hope to achieve a permanent process for pleating wool. If it is achieved, we will have gone a long way towards making wool the ideal textile fibre.

The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization has done considerable work in Melbourne, Sydney and Geelong on the removal of grease during the original processes of scouring. It has been possible, by different means, to reduce considerably the damage done in those processes. Another method which has been invented by the C.S.I.R.O. is the method of putting a wetting agent in the sulphuric acid when the carbonizing process takes place, which makes it possible to reduce the damage greatly, lt is believed that when this method is adopted over the whole of Australia, it will mean a saving to the industry of £500,000; and when the method is adopted all over the world, it will probably save ten times that amount.

In the field of textile research, there is a very great problem ahead of the scientists both here and abroad. We can say that, generally speaking, the research work being done on wool is being done mainly in Australia and the United Kingdom. Apart from the work in those two countries, there is a little done in Europe and an almost minute amount done in America. We in Australia have a vested interest in seeing that this work is carried on and that wool is made the ideal textile. I hope that what I have said will show that an increase of the amount of research on wool as a textile is necessary, that good results have already been achieved, and that there is every possibility that much better results will be achieved in the near future. After all, it is only in very recent years that we have started to delve deeply into the question of wool as a textile. In the past, the wool trade has been regarded rather as a craft in which people learned the lore handed down by their fathers and grandfathers. Very often, work was done without a scientific basis. Now that the scientists are looking into wool problems, they are asking why certain things have been done, and whether it is not possible to do something else. The result is that this great textile, on which Australia is so dependent for its overseas balances, is being improved every year, and we hope the time will come when it will really become the ideal textile fibre.

With these few comments, I support the bill wholeheartedly, and I would like to congratulate the Minister for Primary Industry on the introduction of the measure, the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) who is ministerial head of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, on the work already done by that organization and the work which, I have no doubt, it will do in the future, and also the Treasurer on making extra funds available in the interests of the wool-growing industry.

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