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Tuesday, 21 May 1957

Mr ROBERTON (Riverina) (Minister for Social Services) , - I want to say just a few words for the good of the soul of the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard). There is grim irony in the situation in which he finds himself. I have very vivid recollections of 1945, when he, or his immediate predecessor, as Minister for Commerce and Agriculture in the Labour Government, adopted a certain attitude when that government entered into negotiations for an international wheat contract. On that occasion I made representations to the honorable member for Lalor, both before he became Minister and after, that in international negotiations dealing with a commodity like wheat, surely the wheatgrowers ought to be represented in relation to the disposal of a product which rightly belonged to them. The honorable member for Lalor at that time would have nothing to do with the wheat-growers or anybody else. He said, in effect, " This wheat belongs to the Crown, and the Crown will dispose of it as it likes ".

Mr Clarey - Well, two wrongs do not make a right.

Mr ROBERTON - The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon) said that the amendment was not acceptable to the Government. I expressed my own com ments to substantiate that attitude. In case they failed to convince honorable members opposite may I be permitted to quote the opinions of the Minister, who has considered the amendment moved by the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey). The Minister has written, in a note, as follows: -

As clearly illustrated in the Wool Research Bill 1957, the function of the Wool Research Committee is to recommend to the Minister for Primary Industry the expenditure of moneys in the Wool Research Trust Fund on scientific and economic wool research, the co-ordination and application of the results of such research, and for the dissemination of information and advice relating to research in connexion with the wool industry.

It will be obvious, therefore, that labour conditions or management are not involved in the functions of the Committee and accordingly, there is no necessity to provide for trade union representation on the Committee.

On the other hand wool-growers are vitally concerned with research into wool in order to make it better fitted to compete with man-made fibres, and to this end are prepared to voluntarily levy themselves in order to help finance the wool research programme.

During the negotiations with wool-growers for the financing and administration of wool research, no request was made by the wool-grower organizations for trade unions associated with the production, sale and processing of wool, to be represented on the Committee. Nor have any requests been received from trade unions themselves for representation on the Committee.

Even if requests had been received from unions they would have been refused for the reasons outlined above.

Finally, the Minister writes -

Provision is made in the Bill for the committee to appoint advisers if required. Accordingly, if the occasion ever arose where the committee considered that the views of trade unions would be helpful, then they can be consulted.

So, the point regarding advice, which the honorable member for Lalor raised, is provided for in the bill. If there is any person anywhere - a member of a trade union, or a member of the general community - who has any advice to tender to the Wool Research Committee, the committee, and the Minister, will at all times be pleased to hear it.

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