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Friday, 18 November 1921

Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) . - I cannot allow this item to go without a protest. We went into the matter thoroughly when last it was before us, and honorable senators with the whole of the evidence before them agreed to the request by seventeen to nine. It is absolutely absurd for any person posing as a wool authority to say that these duties would not help the Australian woollen industry. I know who is the so-called authority mentioned by the Minister (Senator E. D. Millen). He is a gentleman who had nothing to do with the wool trade, except in a secretarial capacity, for the last two or three years.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Then when you asked who was the authority, you knew all the time?

Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) - I only wanted the Minister to confirm my statement. We all know what is the present position of the woollen industry. Hundreds of thousands of bales of crossbred wool, some of it particularly suitable for mattressmaking, are being produced by our small farmers at very much above present market rates. The statistics show that the Bawra stocks of crossbred wool, instead of decreasing, have increased during the last two or three years by 300,000 bales, although we are able to sell our merino wools at a good price. Wool for mattressmaking has been used in Europe for the last hundred years. No one will say, of course, that its use in this country will result in moving a mountain of crossbred wool off the market; but, at all events, it will encourage the use of the Australiangrown product manufactured by Australian people under Australian conditions in preference to a product grown by black labour in Java. Wool is better than kapok for mattress stuffing. Kapok, being a vegetable matter, is inflammable, and is a conductor of both heat and cold - in addition to which, it powders, and is liable to attract microbes - whereas wool, being an animal matter, is a non-conductor of heat or cold, and is non-inflammable. It is admitted that those engaged in the mattress-making industry were at first supplied with an unsuitable material, in the Lincoln wool, which was then selling at 3d. perlb, becauseit felts and ropes.

The ideal material is the crossbred noils. The wool-combing industry is established both in Melbourne and in Sydney. We are exporting the tops, but there is very little sale for the noils, which are the short bits combed out. There is also a large stock of second crossbred lambs and short pieces, and what we call crutchings, almost wasting at the present time; this also may be used: One firm of returned soldiers, working on a co-operative basis, bought a lot of this cheap wool for mattress-stuffing. We were very glad of their competition. They have invented a machine for cutting long Lincoln wool up into requisite lengths for mattressstuffing. Treated in this way, it is an ideal material. I have taken the trouble to write to the mattress manufacturers who have been getting supplies from these returned soldiers, asking if the material is suitable, and I have had a sheaf of replies to the effect that they are very well satisfied, and would not go back to the kapok. It is probable that some of the Minister's advisers - who, perhaps, have never seen wool in theirlives except out of a railway carriage window - will say that this is unsuitable because a certain amount of the grease has not been removed. It would not be so terrible after all if, say,½per cent, of grease remained; but if any of the grease is left in the wool it only indicates careless preparation. The wool can be bone-dry scoured, which means that every particle of grease is taken out of it. Some of the English manufacturers purposely leave a small proportion of the grease in the wool In Yorkshire they put as much as 5 per cent, of olive oil in wool when combing it, but on the 'Continent, and particularly in France, the manufacturers comb the woolbone-dry. We can do the same in Australia, and as we can produce the wool at a relatively cheap price, we should be able to build up a first-class industry in mattress-making, using our own materials instead of the product of black labour in Java. What is more, the wool will last very much longer than kapok, and if properly prepared it will neither felt nor rope. A Sydney firm has supplied the Hotel Australia with these wool mattresses, and I understand that the management is delighted with the product.

Senator Reid - But the manufacturers who use kapok say they cannot get the wool.

Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) - They can get as much of it as they want. Of course, these returned soldiers for whomI am speaking are not millionaires. They have no huge factory or big plant. We must give them a chance to live and build up the industry. They can already supply the wants of all the mattress manufacturers in this State if they are sufficiently protected from the cheaplabour product of Java, and their business will develop. It is not necessary to confine mattress-makers to the use of crossbred wool. They can use the broken yarns from the spinning mills established in Victoria and New South Wales. Some of the mattress-makers prefer these broken yarns. Honorable senators know the position of the wool industry in Australia. We are producing about 2,000,000 bales per annum. Of this quantity 36 per cent., is crossbred, and, unfortunately, about 25 per cent of this class of wool is only saleable at very much below the cost of production. This being so, why should we attempt, by means of this Tariff, to penalize men who are endeavouring to establish a new industry? At all events, they should have protection against the Java product for a few years.

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