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Thursday, 23 April 1936

Senator BROWN (Queensland) . - I commend Senator Guthrie on his speech. Admittedly, he understands this subject thoroughly. It is always a pleasure to note the cairn and dispassionate manner in which he deals with any subject he reviews. I point out to him, however, that on many occasions within the last two years, when the Opposition in this chamber stressed the dangers threatening the wool industry from competition by artificial fibres, he poohpoohed the idea that vegetable fibres would ever . seriously compete with wool as a clothing material. To-day, apparently, he realizes the truth of what we have repeatedly pointed out. The honorable senator spoke about the need for advertising, and said that an advertising campaign in America had materially assisted in improving the distribution and sale of wool products. The Opposition supports his remarks in that respect, because under the existing competitive capitalistic system advertising play3 a very important part in fostering the sale of any. commodity. But there is a danger that, if the wool industry receives financial aid from this Parliament, the money may be thrown in the gutter. Mr. F. W. Kitchen, past president of the Australian Associated Chambers of Manufactures and the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures, on his return recently from an eight-mouths' trip abroad, stated that Australia's methods of publicity for its primary products in Great Britain resulted in much money being wasted ; that hundreds of thousands of pounds were, so to speak, being thrown in the gutter because of the ineffectiveness of the methods employed. He said -

Duy after day the futile parrot-like cry of Buy Australian " is sent forth, at considerable expense, but absolutely nothing is being done to link that slogan with some definite, tangible labels or trade marks which would sink into the minds of buyers, and thus extract from the publicity the maximum of effort.

Although Mr. Kitchen was dealing with advertising campaigns in connexion with the sale of primary products other than wool, his remarks might apply to any similar scheme adopted for the sale of wool. While, therefore, everything possible should be done to increase the sale of Australian wool, and to defeat competition of vegetable fibres, we must bear in mind our failures in advertising other products, and realize the possibility that money raised for this purpose may not be spent effectively. While it may be advisable to embark upon an advertising campaign to stress the quality of Australian wool, and its superiority over rayon and staple fibres and other artificial fibres, the Opposition claims that one of the best ways to increase the sale of Australian wool would be to disseminate propaganda with the object of giving a greater purchasing power to the people, not only of Australia, but also of other countries. At present there is competition between wool and rayon and staple fibres, but no attempt is being made to increase the purchasing power of the people to enable them to purchase the better commodity. A campaign to increase the sale of wool should therefore have as one of its primary objects the increasing of the purchasing power of the people.

I deplore the fact that Senator Hardy has seen fit to throw cold water upon tho remarks made by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) in this respect.. My leader was trying to point out, as .L am now doing, that it is necessary to end thu contradictions existing under the capitalistic system, and to overcome these basic difficulties rather than merely cry out that natural wool is better than materials made of vegetable fibres. We must get down to bedrock, and deal with basic facts, and one of these, I suggest, is that the purchasing power of the people must be increased to enable them to buy the better commodity. The Labour party emphasizes the point that before any substantial advance can. be made in the sale of commodities, an effort must be made by governments generally to increase the purchasing power of their communities, thus enabling people generally to buy better quality goods. I hope that Senator 'Guthrie, when speaking to those closely associated with him in the woo: industry, will suggest that a large portion of the £150,000, which he hopes will be raised for the purpose of advertising wool, should be used in propaganda in the direction I have mentioned, because if he doe* so, he will render a real service to the community generally, and to the wool industry in particular. The Leader of the Opposition referred to the fact that owing to the application of sanctions one country at least had been compelled to try to find a substitute for wool. Addressing the annual assembly of Fascist corporations last month, Signor Mussolini declared -

Forty-four million Italians will always have the necessary clothes to cover themselves. Those who think that with the lifting of sanctions the situation will return to that of the 18th November, 1935, are deceiving themselves as the 18th November marked the beginning of a new phase of Italian history.

As my leader has already stated, the Italians were compelled to seek a substitute for wool because of the action of the Commonwealth Government which, along with other governments, was responsible for the application of sanctions. Naturally the people of Italy are going to look for a substitute for wool much in the same way as the German people have been compelled to do so. . German chemists have been hard at work to find and improve such a substitute. Surely the Leader of the Opposition cannot be blamed because, as a realist, he deals with actual facts.

Senator Abbottdeplored the development of economic nationalism. He said that the world is getting sick of it. Why continue to deplore the fact that the world is moving in a certain direction under the influences of the present economic system? We cannot stop it from moving in that direction. We have been asked not to discuss the actions of a particular country in relation to the development of artificial fibres, but this particular country has played a great part in developing such substitutes, and is marketing them in Australia. I do not blame it for doing so; it is compelled by economic circumstances to fight for itself, and in order to find markets and to secure credits for the purchase of raw materials its people are forced to place their manufactured products on the markets of the world as best they can. That is only one of the contradictions which arise out of this discussion. Honorable senators have been asked not to say too much about this aspect of the matter, because it might jeopardize our trade relations with that country, yet the commodities manufactured in that country directly compete with wool grown in Australia. It is another example of the contradictions which arise out of the modern economic system.

Senator Guthriemade a sincere and justifiable plea on behalf of the wool industry. He was afraid that the use of vegetable substitutes would seriously affect the sale of wool, but would not say too much about it lest our relations with a country which sends such substitutes to Australia to compete with our wool might be jeopardized. Senator Duncan-Hughes, however, suggested that my leader should not be prevented from discussing this aspect of the problem, and, indeed, the position is such that soon we shall be compelled to deal with this problem basically and not superficially.

The Opposition agrees with Senator Guthrie that this Parliament should assist in any move designed to foster the sale of wool as opposed to substitutes. The Labour party is not opposed to the wool industry; it wishes to help it. In addition to assisting the industry by facilitating the moving of starving stock and fodder in times of drought, the Labour Government in Queensland arranged for long-term purchases of barbed wire by wool-growers. If the Labour party is to be charged with having failed to do anything to assist the wool industry, why have not the opponents of Labour - this Government, for instance - done their best to support this industry? The wool industry could further be substantially assisted in Queensland by the building of a railway from north to south in that State to connect the rail heads at Cunnamulla, Longreach and Cloncurry. The Commonwealth Government could assist in that project, particularly in view of the fact that its revenue has considerably improved. Out of its large surpluses it ° could help this industry, not only in Queensland, but also in other States by building railways for the purpose of facilitating the moving of starving stock in times of drought. Senator Guthrie knows that millions of pounds have been lost to Australia, because, at such times, the wool-growers could not move starving stock rapidly. The Opposition in this chamber, which represents 45 per cent, of the people of Australia, heartily supports the honorable senator in his effort to rouse the people to a realization of the necessity of assisting this industry by the wearing of natural wool in preference to substitutes. However, as we did a year ago, we emphasize that, before this problem can be solved, the Government muse get down to basic facts, and we suggest that, in order to bring about a permanent improvement in the sale of our primary products, it should, first of all, take steps to increase the purchasing power of the people. This would be more effective than simply bewailing the possibility that the wool industry will be ruined through the use of substitutes.

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