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Wednesday, 4 May 1921

Senator MILLEN (TASMANIA) . - I have listened with a good deal of interest this afternoon- to the discussion'' that has taken place, but I am still in some difficulty concerning what is proposed. We are told that this wool is to be sold at an average rate, according to Bawra anticipations, of 9d. per lb., and the price may go from id. per lb. up to 18d. per lb.

Senator Fairbairn - Up to 24d. per lb.

Senator MILLEN (TASMANIA) - We are told at the same time that the cost of produc-tion is within a decimal of lld.per lb., and in the circumstances I am at a loss to know how the average price proposed is made up. If the wool people are selling a large percentage of crossbred wool for 2d. to 3d. per lb., and the cost of production is about lid., we can see inevitable disaster sticking out. I am not in a position, and do not propose, to criticise the scheme of the Government. I would like to help the pastoralists, and I realize that they should know their business. I understand that Bawra is largely made up of representatives of the pastoralists. If that be so, and they are prepared to take 9d., I am prepared to support the proposition.

Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) - As a matter of fact, there are very few pastoralists on the Board of Bawra. Most of the wool in Australia is produced by farmers, and not by pastoralists.

Senator MILLEN (TASMANIA) - I do not wish to split words or chop logic with the honorable senator. Whether the wool is produced by farmers or pastoralists does not affect either myself or the situation.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Wool is produced by wool-growers.

Senator MILLEN (TASMANIA) - I am prepared to let it go at that, and to view the position in the light of the ordinary acceptation of the term. My difficulty is to be satisfied whether the wool-growers are content to take an average price of 9d., when we are told that the production cost is lid. I do not know what the exact position is, but I perceive that a great many of the small growers are faced with trouble. No doubt, they made 'big profits during recent favorable years, but they spent much of their money. Australia has never known such luxury as exists to-day; but bank balances are not big enough to pull all these people through when collapse occurs in the wool market. Australia must have exports, and her export trade must not be permitted to collapse. I understand that we can save a certain proportion of our ex port connexion from collapse by fixing a. minimum of 8d. or 9d. per lb. for our wool, and I am prepared to support the proposal on the basis of 9d. However, Australia is not the only place which has had to cope with similar difficulties. The ยป United States of America has had her cotton production problem to handle, and ' that country has entered into a scheme not unlike thai suggested . by Senator Pratten. That is to say,. America has been selling bor cotton to European countries on long terms, expecting .to get something back, not solely 'in money, but partly in kind. We are told that we do not want our value back in kind because of the fear of the flooding of our markets with cheap goods. I do not like that argument. It sounds as though we would be prepared to accept the exchange of those goods if they were dear goods.

I intend to support Senator Gardiner's amendment. I do not like legislation by regulation. I have been looking up the subject of the control of exports under the Customs Act. I understand that control arises under section 112, sub-section b, which states, " The exportation of which would, in his opinion, be harmful to the Commonwealth." If that provision is good, why was it deemed necessary to amend it as in Act No. 19 of 1914 ? That Statute provides for the amendment of the previous Act by inserting after sub-section 1 the following : - 1a. In time of war the Governor-General may, by proclamation, prohibit the exportation of any goods.

One would imagine that if there were' any time in the history of the Commonwealth when the exportation of goods should be prohibited, such course being essential for the safety of the Empire,' the previous Act would ha ve, covered the position. I note that the Minister in charge of that amending measure stated in the House of Representatives -

The prohibition of expectations contemplated by the Bill is necessary, and it is considered by the Law authorities that there is not sufficient power to enforce it under the law as it now stands.

If that held good then I would take it that it should hold good to-day. If the. situation is so serious that it is essential that the wool industry of Australia should be protected, then we must protect it by an enactment; and if, under the Act of 1914, it was demonstrated that there was this apparent flaw in the previous legislation - so that the amending Act became necessary - surely it would be wise to bring this whole proposition having to do with wool under an enactment, in order to make it stable I am given to understand that the situation is, indeed, extremely serious. That being so, we cannot afford to have the activities of the Government in regard to the matter, carried on for a time, only, to find that, upon reference to the High Court, that body may throw the whole business in the melting pot.

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