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Friday, 5 June 1970

Mr ANTHONY - Mr Speaker,I find this question somewhat amusing. The Labor Party expresses great concern that no debate has taken place in this House on this subject; that it is a matter of great importance; and that it should be resolved. It is of interest to note that, during the course of the 2 or 3 months in which this Parliament has sat, the Opposition has found any number of matters of great urgency and public importance to bring before this House for debate. But as far as the lifting of the ban on the export of merinos is concerned, no, the Opposition has just been silent, almost as if its members have been frightened to express their own opinions. The facts of the matter are that every newspaper across this country, whether it had a point of view in the first place about the easing or the partial lifting of the embargo, now has a firm point of v ew regarding the attitude of the Labor Party in defying the Government. This is what has happened.

Mr Whitlam - There is a split among your own followers on this. That is why you will not have a debate.

Mr SPEAKER -Order! The Leader of the Opposition has been here long enough to know that, after he has asked his question, interjections when the Minister is answering that question are out of order. I call the Minister for Primary Industry.

Mr ANTHONY - The Australian wool industry through its organisations and its supreme body, the Australian Wool Industry Conference, has made a request to the Government for the partial lifting of the merino embargo for a trial period of 12 months. The Government has authority to do this. It is acting under the law that is on the statute book. I see no po'nt in bringing this matter before the House for debate. We have discussed it. A debate has taken place on the subject in this House. The industry has expressed its wish and we are carrying out that wish. If the Lahor Party wants to maintain this attitude it is all right with me. Its prestige is certainly dropping across the nation as a result.

Opposition members - Oh, no!


Mr Foster - Look at South Australia and Victoria.

Mr SPEAKER - Order! I would suggest to honourable members that they cease interjecting.

Mr ANTHONY - Apparently the Labor Party is proud of this principle of calling the unions out to defy Government action. As I said, this is a very serious breach of the law. It is the start of anarchy in this country. Control cannot be exercised unless the law is obeyed. Here the alternative Prime Minister of this country is inciting the unions to defy law and order. Is government to be determined by the masses in the streets or the trade unions, or is it to be determined--

Mr SPEAKER - Order!I ask the Minister for Primary Industry to resume his seat for a moment.I remind honourable members that this is question time. Honourable members are entitled to ask questions based on fact and to receive answers to those questions. I suggest also that when a Minister is making a reply to a question the House should give the Minister the courtesy to which he is entitled. This morning far too many interjections have come from a certain group in the House and one particular area of it. I would suggest that honourable members refrain from interjecting.

Mr Whitlam - I take a point of order, Mr Speaker. I certainly applaud your ruling that questions should be based on facts.I submit to you that answers likewise should be based on facts. You should call to order the Minister who stales--

Mr SPEAKER - Order!

Mr Whitlam - Mr Speaker, I have not finished-

Mr SPEAKER - Order! No point of order arises. The Leader of the Opposition knows that it is not within the province of the Chair to know the facts of questions or of answers.In fact, the Standing Orders say that a Minister may answer a question in the manner in which he thinks fit providing that answer is relevant to the question asked.

Mr Whitlam -I seek your guidance, Mr Speaker. What remedy have I if the Minister, in answer to my question, says something about me which is not true?

Mr SPEAKER - Order! This is question time. I say to the Leader of the Opposition that any member who feels aggrieved at an answer given to a question - or for that matter, at anything said during a debate in the House - may, after the person making the statement complained of has finished his answer or his speech, take the opportunity to make a personal explanation. If such a statement is made during question time the correct procedure is to make that personal explanation at the conclusion of question time.

Mr Whitlam - On your interpretation, Mr Speaker, in the interests of fairness to all members - and you are the guardian of the rights of all members - I submit to you that this is an inequitable approach. The Minister's answer is broadcast and is often re-broadcast. Any personal explanation made afterwards is not re-broadcast.

Mr SPEAKER - Order!I want to say to the Leader of the Opposition that there is no substance in his point of order. It is my function as the Speaker of this House to interpret Standing Orders. This I am doing. There is nothing in the Standing Orders to require me to do anything to assist the honourable member other than what I have already done.

Dr Patterson - I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister for Primary Industry has said that the industry has agreed--

Mr SPEAKER - Order! The honourable member said that he was raising a point of order. This is not a point of order. The honourable member will resume his seat.

Mr Whitlam - Mr Speaker, the Minister attributed to me advice to the trade unions on this issue and I have not expressed a view on this in the House or outside it.

Mr SPEAKER - Order! The Leader of the Opposition will resume his seat.

Mr Whitlam - I will not be silenced on this. I have not expressed the views attributed to me by the Minister-

Mr SPEAKER - Order!

Mr Whitlam - In the House or outside it.

Mr SPEAKER - Order! The Leader Opposition has been asking the Chair to interpret the Standing Orders.I suggest that he should at least obey the Standing Orders when he is asked by the Chair to do so.

Dr Patterson - I raise a point of order. The Minister for Primary Industry has told a deliberate untruth.

Mr SPEAKER -Order! The honourable member for Dawson will resume his seat.

Mr Whitlam - He said it about the two of us.

Mr SPEAKER -Order! I suggest that the Leader Opposition restrain himself.

Mr Scholes - I raise a point of order. I ask for a ruling. Is it in order for a Minister in this House to refer to a resolution of the Senate as an illegal act?

Mr SPEAKER - I am sorry, I did not hear that said.

Mr Whitlam - He has said it.

Mr SPEAKER -Is that so?

Mr Anthony - No, I did not say it.

Mr SPEAKER -I must say that I did not hear it said. I call the Minister for Primary Industry.

Mr ANTHONY - The sensitivity of the Leader of the Opposition shows either that he has a guilty conscience about this matter or that there is a change of attitude. If this is so 1 would be very glad to hear of it, and I would be very pleased if the Leader of the Opposition would go to the Australian Council of Trade Unions and tell it that his attitude has changed and that he is against the unions taking this kind of action. We made an announcement and then we delayed action for 9 or 10 months. This gave the industry an opportunity to review its earlier decision. No action was taken to review it. In fact the reply I received was that the industry stood by its earlier resolution that there should be a partial lifting of the ban, on certain conditions, for a period of 12 months. As a result of that decision overseas buyers came to the Sydney sheep sales earlier this year and about 47 rams were sold to a number of countries. Those countries have not been able to collect the sheep which they purchased.

As a result of the actions of the Australian Labor Party relations with those countries are in a bad state. The Government stated that they could buy sheep in Australia. Having bought sheep they cannot take delivery of them. The possibility of retaliation of various kinds always exists. We were making excellent progress in our efforts to have Argentina become a member of the International Wool Secretariat. No doubt matters such as this were considered by the industry when it made the decision to lift the export ban, but today our relations with other countries have deteriorated. Mainland China bought 14 rams and still cannot take delivery of them. Does anybody think that mainland China appreciates the action of the Australian Labor Party in not allowing those rams to be delivered?

The Australian wool industry has made a decision in this matter. Thirteen of the 16 national and State organisations supported the decision when it was initially taken. The Australian Wool Industry Council, which is the supreme body of the industry, voted in favour of lifting the ban for a period of 12 months, after which the decision could be reviewed. But the Labor Party continues to support the trade unions and to incite them not to allow the law to be enforced. I know that some people say that the Government should take firm action, but a government has to bear in mind the possible consequences of any action it might take. We are going through a period of industrial trouble in this country. This is tending to force up costs and prices and is having a serious effect on primary producers, who are in an impossible position. I suppose we could force the issue, and we may have to consider that.

Mr Martin - 1 rise to order. The Minister is making a statement and deliberately wasting question time.

Mr SPEAKER - There is no substance in the point taken.

Mr ANTHONY - The Government will have to consider what action it might take, but I would not like to be responsible for major industrial trouble across this country. There is no need for it if the Labor Party would take a rational and sensible attitude towards this matter instead of trying to defy the law.

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