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Thursday, 23 April 1936

Senator J V MACDONALD (QUEENSLAND) . - I gathered from the remarks of Senator Guthrie that the wool-growers in Australia are not unanimously in favour of the proposed levy.

Senator Duncan-Hughes - They never are.

Senator J V MACDONALD (QUEENSLAND) - It is difficult to obtain unanimity in any industry; and in this case the WOOlgrowers are not all in favour of a levy. Honorable senators on this side of the chamber followed the remarks of Senator Guthrie with interest, because they realize the importance of the WOO industry to Australia. Although it has been said to-day that we are opposed to any assistance being given the \V001 producers, quite a number of distinguished men, who once supported our policy, are now leading supporters of this Government. It is from this side of the chamber that our opponents have looked for and obtained in the past some of their ablest men. Indeed, the Country party member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) went so far as to say that some able men now supporting the Labour party in this Parliament are only awaiting an opportunity to transfer their allegiance. Senator Guthrie has given the Senate and the country generally a clear outline of the dangers which he considers are confronting the Wool industry. Along with other Queensland senators probably, I have received communications from the selectors' association in that State objecting to the propaganda supporting a leA'y, which. they say, is unnecessary. They cannot afford it, and it would be reasonable to assume that selectors, not only in Queensland, but also in other woolproducing States, are opposed to it. When making a purchase recently in a Brisbane retail establishment, I was offered a rayon article of men's attire which was 140 per cent, cheaper than a similar article manufactured from wool; but I was willing to pay the higher price in order to obtain an article of better quality. As wool represents 50 per cent, of our export trade, its production is of definite value to Australia. Senator Duncan-Hughes challenged me to mention one instance in which the woollen industry has been assisted financially by Commonwealth or State governments. Fortunately, the industry has not needed much assistance from the Australian people ; but, as the result of the extensive production of substitutes, it is now challenged.

Senator Duncan-Hughes - It has always been challenged.

Senator J V MACDONALD (QUEENSLAND) - Not by effective substitutes.

Senator Duncan-Hughes - By pests and taxation and in other ways.

Senator J V MACDONALD (QUEENSLAND) - The wool industry, in common with other primary and secondary industries, must contribute towards Commonwealth revenue, particularly as those engaged in it are usually able to pay. It is difficult to estimate the value of the gold-mining industry to Australia, hut as the result of successful dealings in goldmining ventures, particularly in Victoria, extensive pastoral holdings have been acquired by Victorians, and gold mining has thus played a great part in paying the country's taxation and in assisting the country's development.' Those engaged in the wool industry have appealed to the Commonwealth Government and also to various State Governments for assistance, particularly in connexion with the reduction of railway freights, removal of starving stock and the carriage of fodder at rates cheaper than those ordinarily charged.

Senator Brennan - Those are humane steps.

Senator J V MACDONALD (QUEENSLAND) - Yes. but persons in this country who cannot obtain sufficient food and clothing are not transported at reduced rates. Their only opportunity of moving from one part of the Commonwealth to another is to " jump the rattler " and if they do so and are detected they are brought before the court and punished. Queensland is not the only State in which starving stock is transported at reduced rates, or where fodder is carried at rates lower than those usually charged.

Senator Duncan-Hughes - Does the honorable senator suggest that the assistance thus rendered is in any way comparable to that afforded to the ' wheat or sugar industries or to our- secondary industries ?.

Senator J.V. MacDONALD.Perhaps not, but the wool industry is particularly fortunate in that it has a monopoly. Senator Duncan-Hughes admitted that fine merino wool such as is grown in Australia cannot be produced satisfactorily in any other country. I understand that Australian rams have been exported to Manchuria in the hope of building up merino flocks, but owing to the quality of the fodder available, and the climate, the strain soon dies out. The Leader of the Senate also mentioned the fact that English worsteds are superior to American worsteds, because in the manufacture of the former Australian merino wool is used. Three generations of my family have been pioneers in Australia and in New Zealand, and until I was 33 years of age I was interested in a farm carrying a few hundred sheep. It is unreasonable to suggest that the members of the Labour party and the workers generally have no interest in the wool-growers. There is scarcely an Australian family that is not or has not been, either as workers or producers, connected with our greatest industry, although they have not been or are not, multi squatters. It is said that Mr. Edmund Jowett, who died the other day, was interested in 67 holdings. Members of the Labour party realize that unless the industry can be conducted successfully the whole of Australia will suffer. The members of the Labour party trust that the wool industry will overcome the difficulties now confronting it, and that goods now manufactured from substitutes will eventually fall into disuse. I trust that Senator Guthrie's fears will not be realized, and that everything possible will be done by the Government to protect the Australian wool industry which means so much to all sections of the community.

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