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Tuesday, 21 May 1957

Mr POLLARD (Lalor) .- The measure before the House for discussion is the Wool Research Bill 1957. On the notice-paper there are four other measures dealing with wool - the Wool Tax Bill (No. 1) 1957, the Wool Tax Bill (No. 2) 1957, the Wool Tax Assessment Bill 1957, and the Wool Use Promotion Bill 1957. The ultimate intention of all these measures is to bring up to date existing legislation relating to the use and improvement of Australian wool. It would facilitate the business of this House, I suggest, if honorable members were permitted to direct their remarks in this debate to the all wool bills. After all, these bills are intimately related, and their concern is the welfare of the great Australian wool industry, which is so important to our economic life.

As I listened to the speeches of the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Mackinnon) and the honorable the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) - I might include also the second-reading speech of the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon) - I thought that if I had been uninformed, I would perhaps have been inclined to think that these measures were some move by this Government, to render assistance, for the first time, to the great wool-growing industry.

The history of government action to assist this industry is very long, but it is sufficient for my purpose to go back to 1936. I hope, by doing that, and by outlining the subsequent measures, to give a clean picture of the background of the legislation before the House. It is my purpose to give a very brief and concise historical review of action taken by successive governments to deal with the problems of this great industry. If one goes back to 1936, one finds that there was then a wool measure before this Parliament which provided for a levy of 6d. a bale on all wool produced by Australian wool-growers. In those days, that levy produced a substantial amount of revenue - indeed, an amount almost the equivalent in terms of purchasing power to that which the levies now imposed on wool produce. In 1945, despite the fact that the world had just emerged from a war, the then Labour Government was acutely conscious that wool was the all-important factor in Australia's economy, and that research into its uses and quality should be undertaken to ensure that Australia would continue to lead the world in both the quality and the quantity of wool produced. For that purpose an amending Wool Tax Act was passed. That act provided for a tax of 2s. per bale, ls. per fadge or butt, and 4d. per bag on all wool grown in Australia. The proceeds of this tax were to be paid into the Wool Use Promotion Fund. In other words, the levy covered the whole of Australia's wool production. The Wool Use Promotion Bill of 1945 was the forerunner of the Wool Use Promotion Bill now before the House. Although the first Wool Tax Act was passed as far back as 1936, it was not until 1945, when the amending measure was passed, and the Wool Use Promotion Fund was established, that the Commonwealth - and I remind the House that a Labour administration was then in office - subsidized the wool-growers' contributions on a £l-for-£l basis. The Labour government was, of course, acutely conscious of the economics of the wool industry at that time.

It was estimated in 1945 that the contribution from the Commonwealth Treasury would be £650,000 annually. I emphasize again that this was the first time in the history of the Commonwealth that such a substantial appropriation was made from Commonwealth revenue to match the amount contributed by the wool-growers of this country for wool use promotion and research purposes. The legislation provided that the Government's contribution should be paid into the Wool Research Trust Account. Thus, there were two separate funds, one contributed to by the woolgrowers and the other contributed to by the Government on a £l-for-£l basis. The proceeds of the levy on wool-growers were to go to the Wool Use Promotion Fund and the Government contribution was to go to the Wool Research Trust Account.

The 1945 act continued provision for the appointment of a Commonwealth Wool Adviser and the reconstitution of the then existing Australian Wool Board so that it would consist of the Commonwealth Wool Adviser and three representatives of both the Australian Wool Growers Council and the Australian Wool Producers Federation. The administration of the two funds was to be supervised by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, who was empowered to take measures to promote the use of wool and perform other functions of benefit to the industry. As a means of better utilization of the growers' contribution, the Australian Wool Board was strengthened financially and in every other way so that it would be able to cope with the problems that confronted the industry and effectively exercise the powers that were vested in it by the Parliament. The Australian Wool Board as it was constituted by the 1945 act did magnificent work. Ultimately, it affiliated with an international secretariat and put forward most constructive suggestions for inducing the world to use more wool. Wool is the basic material for the best clothing of mankind in every country.

The 1945 act provided for the constitution of a Wool Research Trust Account. The administration of that fund was vested in a Wool Consultative Council, provided for in the legislation itself. The fund to be administered at that stage amounted to approximately £600,000, which had been contributed by the public. It came from government funds. The Wool Consultative Council was established to advise Ministers on matters concerning the wool industry and its members consisted of the Commonwealth Wool Adviser, two grower members of the wool board, the then existing wool use promotion instrumentality, representatives of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, wool manufacturers and - I emphasize the next groups of members - representatives of textile distributors, technical education authorities, the Australian Workers Union and the Textile Workers Union. The financial provisions of the legislation were to be administered by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, the Minister in charge of the C.S.I.R.O. and the Treasurer. They were to be assisted by an interdepartmental committee of which the Commonwealth Wool Adviser and the chairman of the Australian Wool Board were members.

The C.S.I.R.O. was made responsible for scientific, biological and technical research and the Department of Commerce and Agriculture for economic research. Provision was made also for co-operation with the State Departments of Agriculture and other organizations. That legislation established an organization that was considered in those times adequate and suitable for its tasks, both in promoting the use of wool and in research. It is admitted that with the passage of time and the placing of other responsibilities on the Commonwealth Wool Adviser and the Commonwealth Deputy Wool Adviser, and with other developments in the economic sphere since 1945, there is some need to simplify the administration of the funds gathered from both sources - growers and government. To that extent I do not disagree with the general principle of making a more modern approach to the expenditure of those funds, as is proposed in the measure before the House. Nevertheless, I am emphatic that it is retrograde to provide in this bill that the representation of the Australian Workers Union and the Textile Workers Union shall be abolished.

It is acknowledged that human relationships in industry have never been more important than now; that employees should be taken into the trust of employers. In addition, it must not be overlooked that taxpayers generally are finding half, and sometimes more', of the money contained in these funds administered by the important bodies constituted by this legislation.

It is all the more essential, therefore, that those bodies should include representatives of the workers in the wool and textile industries. Their presence must make for more effective administration, but this bill proposes to drop them from the controlling bodies. At a later stage, my colleague, the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey), will move amendments to the bill, and we hope that they will receive support from all sides of the chamber. The purpose of those amendments will be to restore to these important controlling bodies representation of workers in the industry.

In 1952 an act was passed to repeal the 1945 act that had been sponsored by the Labour government. The 1952 legislation provided that all assets of the Australian Wool Board would be vested in a new body to be known as the Wool Bureau. The funds that were available for promotion of the use of wool were to go into the Wool Use Promotion Fund, which was to be established under a later act passed in 1953. The 1952 act provided further that the maximum tax permitted to be imposed on the wool-grower would be increased from 2s. a bale to 4s. a bale. The 1952 legislation made no provision for a government contribution, but the Government promised to consider later making from Consolidated Revenue a contribution equivalent to 2s. a bale. This would have been approximately £350,000. In 1953, yet another act was passed. There seems to be no end to the acts passed by this Parliament in relation to wool. The 1953 act provided for the appropriation of about £350,000 from Consolidated Revenue, and made some improvements in the legislation that was then current. It provided for the transfer of the statistical services of the Australian Wool Realization Commission to the Wool Bureau, and so on. It made the most important provision that the funds at the credit of the Wool Research Trust Account established by the 1952 act and the proceeds of the 1952 tax of 2s. a bale should be augmented by a government contribution equivalent to 2s. a bale.

I am departing now from the chronological order of events to refer once more to the 1945 legislation. In that year the Wool Tax Act was suspended and it was estimated that the revenue from the tax on wool for the current year would be £4,500,000. Therefore an act called the Wool (Contributory Charge) Assessment Act was passed. This was associated with the vast transaction that took place between the Governments of New Zealand, Great Britain, South Africa and the Commonwealth of Australia in connexion with the disposal of surplus wool accumulated during the war years as a result of purchases by the United Kingdom Government. This Wool (Contributory Charge) Assessment Act provided that a tax should be applied to the sale value of the wool at the rate necessary to meet half the expenditure over the whole period of the Joint Organization plan, and that it should be at the rate of 5 per cent, for the year 1946-47, three-quarters of 1 per cent, for 1947-48 and one-half of 1 per cent, for 1948-49. The proceeds of the tax were to be expended in meeting the industry's share of the operating expenses of the Joint Organization - that is quite apart from research or wool use promotion; in the payment of interest on the amount expended in the purchase of wool and unrecouped; and finally - and this is where wool use promotion and wool research come in - in payment into the Wool Use Promotion Fund of the equivalent of the wool taxation collected under that act. So the growers had to pay the wool tax of 2s. a bale, in addition to the administrative charges of the Joint Organization, of which the Australian Wool Realization Commission was a subsidiary.

The Wool Industry Fund Act - Act No. 52 of 1946 - made certain provision concerning funds of approximately £7,000,000, together with any additional profits subsequently accruing. I well remember the acrimonious debate that took place over that measure. At that time I was a Minister in the Labour Government, and the present Government parties were in opposition. In brief, that act provided that the accumulated funds of the Central Wool Committee arising from its activities in nonparticipating wool under the war-time wool purchase scheme be paid into the Wool Industry Fund. As I have pointed out, that fund was to be used to finance research. The 1946 act also stipulated how the money could be expended. The fund was to be applied - and this, again, indicates the interest taken by the Labour Government - in supplementing the moneys available under the Wool Use Promotion Act for the pur poses of (a) wool research, (b) capital expenditure for wool research, (c) the application of the results of research, and (d) wool use promotion; or in regulating or assisting the marketing, or stabilizing the price, of wool - that is, in economic research; in providing temporary relief for the wool industry; or in meeting any ultimate loss under the wool disposals plan.

Some objection was taken in this House to the last of those purposes, because we were then in the process of disposing of approximately 10,000,000 bales of warsurplus wool in transactions with the United Kingdom. It had been agreed that any profits arising from the sale of that surplus wool would not be collected by the Australian Government as government funds, notwithstanding the fact that the government of the day had invested £40,000,000 of the taxpayers' money in buying a share of that surplus wool. It had been agreed, also, that the profits, if any, should be distributed among the wool-growers of Australia pro rata in accordance with the contributions that they had made during the currency of the agreement with the United Kingdom. On the other hand, the Government was to cover any losses. Fortunately, over the period of realization, the profits that accrued to the Australian Government amounted to between £90,000,000 and £100,000,000, every penny of which, under legislation introduced by the Labour government, was distributed pro rata to the Australian wool-growers. There was no complaint about that. That is the explanation of the £7,000,000 of the accumulated funds from war-time transactions that went into wool use promotion activities, and I think that that adequately covers the provisions of the 1946 act.

Further legislation was passed in 1952 and 1953, and we now have another measure which makes some amendments to the 1953 legislation. The Government has decided to drop the Commonwealth Wool Adviser and the Deputy Commonwealth Wool Adviser from the organization concerned with wool use promotion and wool research. The Opposition does not quarrel with that. I think that the work of the wool adviser and his deputy in other fields is so great, and that wool use promotion and wool research activities have now developed so much, and are so clearly defined, that it is no longer necessary to have the wool adviser and his deputy as members of the body concerned with wool research and wool use promotion. The bill provides that the new Wool Research Committee, which is to administer the separate funds which are to be combined, shall have one representative of the Department of Primary Industry. In the old days, the wool adviser was a member of the executive staff of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture. The representative of the Department of Primary Industry may be displaced at the whim of the Minister for Primary Industry in favour of some other member of the department. The fund to be administered by the Wool Research Committee will be a substantial fund, because the total contribution is to be increased to 4s. a bale. We hope that there will be large private contributions to the fund. The Commonwealth contribution will be substantial, as it was under Labour legislation. We hope that more and more of the tag ends of funds - most of them are included now with the taking in of the funds of £7,000,000 and £2,750,000 - will be put into the one bag, as it were, and that administration and planning for the future will be facilitated.

The Wool Research Committee, which is to administer the Wool Research Trust Fund, shall consist of the chairman of the Australian Wool Bureau, which, at one time, was the Australian Wool Board - the bureau was established under the Wool Use Promotion Act 1953; one member to represent the Department of Primary Industry; two members to represent the organization known as the Australian Wool Growers Council; two members to represent the organization known as the Australian Wool and Meat Producers Federation; one member to represent the organization known as the Associated Woollen and Worsted Textile Manufacturers of Australia; one member to represent such universities in Australia as engage in research related to the wool industry; and one member to represent the C.S.I.R.O. This body is equivalent almost exactly to the consultative council established in 1945, on which there were a representative of the Australian Workers Union, which, after all, plays a very important part in taking off the wool clip, and a representative of the employees in the textile industry. Representatives of the workers are not provided for in this measure. In the name of goodness, why?

What harm have representatives of the workers done in the past? All the evidence that I have been able to find suggests that they have been a decided and decisive help. I shall have more to say about that aspect of the bill at the committee stage. If the Government wishes to bar from this very important body representatives of the workers, who, no doubt, could play a constructive part in its operations, why is representation of the Associated Woollen and Worsted Textile Manufacturers of Australia provided for?

Mr Roberton - The members of that organization are very large buyers of wool.

Mr POLLARD - Of course they are, and they are very large manufacturers. But shearing, and the operation of textile machinery, upon which the textile industry is completely dependent, are activities that are undertaken by members of the Australian Workers Union, and by textile workers. Likewise, the provision of the capital which, in the final analysis, is the result of human labour, is provided, after it has been extracted from the producers in industry, by the Associated Woollen and Worsted Textile Manufacturers of Australia. Are the owners of the factories, the plant and the materials more important in this process of making textiles than are the members of the union, either in the field or in the factory? I say to the Government that it is of no use its supporters going round the electorates, as they have in the past, and posing as the friends of the workers unless they are at least prepared to give the workers representation on advisory industrial organizations.

During my period of office as Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, representation was granted to the Meat Industry Employees Union on the Australian Meat Board and representation also was granted to the unions on the Australian Egg Board, the Australian Wheat Board, the Australian Apple and Pear Board, the Australian Wool Realization Commission and the Australian Dairy Produce Board. There has not been one complaint from any of those great and successful export organizations, which represent every field of endeavour in the respective industries, about the activities of the union representatives who serve on them.

Mr Turnbull Mr. Turnbullinterjecting,

Mr POLLARD - The honorable mem-' ber for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) is an auctioneer by avocation and therefore would not know anything about production, manufacture or any other useful human activity.

I have never yet heard, from employer or employee, exporter or importer, one word of complaint about the union representation on those useful organizations which have been created by statute. On the other hand, I have been told of the very great importance of their service and of the useful work which they have performed. In some instances, the representatives have been able to go to the wharfs and explain to fellow unionists the need to load on to ships proceeding overseas the particular products in which they have been interested, and matters of that kind. I know that the union representative on the Australian Dairy Produce Export Control Board tours Victoria and other parts of Australia from time to time visiting the various butter factories, thus transmitting to the members of his union a knowledge of the importance of the organization with which he is associated and the need for every endeavour to be made to see that it achieves greater status in the economic life of the community.

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