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Thursday, 23 April 1936


Senator ARKINS (New South Wales) . - I commend Senator Guthrie for having brought this matter before the Senate, as I cannot possibly agree with statements that there is nothing to fear from the synthetic products which have been put on the markets of the world. In the introduction of rayon as a form of synthetic silk we are provided with an example of the success which can attend synthetic products. The acceptance of rayon by the world has practically meant the extinction of one of the world's great primary industries, namely sericulture. The production of silk formerly was one of the major industries of Japan and of China, and it was a very valuable industry in Italy and France and several Continental countries, but it is now almost extinct. There are but a few remnants of it here and there throughout the world. Originally silk was produced in the following way: The silkworm was bred and fed principally on the leaves of the mulberry tree. It was then allowed to spin a cocoon, the thread of which was taken, and the finest silk produced. The quality varied, of course, according to the type of silkworm and to the type of country. The Japanese, fearing competition, took steps to safeguard the industry. Instead of producing synthetic silk by chemical means, they took the worm at maturity, put it in acid, took the extract of raw silk from within the worm, and then spun- the thread. No sooner had they done that than scientists came along and, instead of waiting for a worm to spin a thread, proceeded to make that thread in a laboratory. That meant the destruction of an industry that has been established in several countries from time immemorial. Silk has been one of the principal materials for the manufacture of wearing apparel.

Let us take wool. We in Australia produce some of the finest wool in the world. I sincerely hope with Senator Guthrie and others, that a synthetic product that will replace wool has not been discovered, but we have no guarantee that it will not be discovered. Some five or six years ago I was given the opportunity to see samples of synthetic wool. If they had been placed before the average man in the street and he had been asked to indicate the better article, in 99 cases out of 100, he would have indicated the artificial product. It had a better appearance, and was longer in staple. I am told, although I have not had the experience, that if cloth made from the synthetic product and cloth made from wool were set before the man in the street he could not select which was wool and which was not. I understand that to-day Japan, in which country there is an enormous internal consumption of wool products, is on the verge of making the third fibre of rayon. Thar decision would affect the whole of the world. If cloth were to be made up of one-third rayon the whole of the world markets must be tremendously affected.

Although wool has been affected by rayon, it has not been affected to the same extent as cotton. King Cotton has been sitting on a throne in the southern States of America, but now his throne is toppling. It was said that ' science could not invent a method of picking the boll of cotton, but in America 'we find that two brothers have invented a picking machine which, in solving one of the major problems in the production of cotton, has presented a further big problem for America. In that country, cotton-producers hitherto have been nearly all poor whites, living on small tracts of land held on lease. They will now have to go off their holdings, because the best class of cotton can be produced in California on big areas, as the result of the use of machinery to replace the hand pickers, whether they he poor whites, near-blacks, or blacks.

Let us take wheat. -.Honorable senators say that there has been hardly any change in the methods of culture of wheat, but it is not now grown in the areas where it was originally grown. The United States of America has transformed the whole of the wheat areas. Many years ago it seat scientists and enthusiasts into Russia and other countries near the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea. They got the original wheats, and to-day they are growing wheat in parts of America where wheat could not be grown before. They surmounted the trouble of frosts and want of rains. The same thing happened in Australia, where Farrer, that great wheat experimentalist, made discoveries which meant that, instead of wheat cultivation being confined to the tablelands, it could be grown where it

Was formerly said to be impossible to grow wheat.

I commend the grazing industry for what it has done for Australia, but I am sorry to have to disagree with one action that it has taken. I think the graziers of Australia made a mistake in allowing stud sheep to be taken from the shores of this country, for instance, to Russia. I say this, not because I object to Russia, but because I understand on very good authority that it is likely that from the types of sheep that it has obtained from Australia, it will become one of the dominant sheep-producing countries of the world. In that respect, I hold the same regrets that the Lancashire people must feel that they ever saw fit to send their weaving machines to Japan. I understand that Russia is a country which in every possible form can produce wools that will be very serious competitors with the wools produced in Australia. The United States of America to-day has its cotton problem, but all countries have the one major problem in common, and that is the great scientific development that is taking place. The world is discovering that it can produce by scientific means instead of leaving the task to nature. "Wonderful advances have been made in agricultural science. We always understood that for production of articles for human and animal consumption light and water were necessary. But what is happening to-day? In England, it is stated on the best authority, the best fodder and vegetables are being grown in cellars without light and practically without moisture. That is a remarkable contradiction of the former belief. Scientists in England have shown that fodder grown in cellars and fed to selected dairy herds results in the production of more and better milk and more flesh and fat than fodder grown in the normal way.

I commend Senator Guthrie's suggestion that this country should follow the American lead and institute a modern advertising campaign to induce the people to wear wool. I believe that wool is a better wearing material than its competitors, and that it has certain medicinal characteristics, I think, was proved in the Great War. Nearly every soldier wore wool next to his skin, and I believe that the mere fact that he did so made him a much healthier man. From the viewpoint of health, it is much more satisfactory to wear wool next to the skin than any other product. A feature of Australia is that it is the greatest producer of the best wool in the world. The growing of wool is Australia's greatest industry. It is a primary industry essential to life and being, and I hope that graziers will begin to advertise it. It certainly does pay to advertise. It is more a question of psychology than anything else. If you can make people believe that wool is the best for them they will wear it.


Senator Collings - If they can afford it.


Senator ARKINS - There is no question about that. The trouble is to get the people to wear wool. They might like woollen suits, but they like gaudy things, such as rayon. Rayon, with all its characteristics, is the most beautiful thing that can be imagined. I always thought that silk held that honour, but science has produced a more beautiful product than silk. People now buy wonderful things which are made of rayon. It, however is only a matter of getting the people to know the medicinal value and wearing properties of wool. Show them that the use of wool will have a beneficial effect on health and at the same time on the pocket. Honorable senators know as well as I do that a few years ago in England a man would buy an overcoat and pass it on to his son and sometimes to his grandson, whereas to-day, a new overcoat is bought every year. The great textile manufacturers of Great Britain have many secrets, not necessarily in connexion with the wool, but with the weave, which are well kept from the world. That is the reason why they maintain their supremacy. I commend the suggestion that the wool industry should campaign not only internally, but also externally, to maintain a trade which is so valuable to Australia.

SenatorGIBSON (Victoria) [5.55 J.I am glad that Senator Guthrie introduced this subject, for he is an authority upon it, having been for 25 years the senior expert for a leading firm of wool brokers which operates in both Australia and New Zealand. He was also the expert of the "Wool Advisory Committee which drew up the scheme to appraise 848 different classes of wool, and conducted the biggest commercial deal that has ever taken place in the world. What Senator Guthrie says about wool can be taken as a fact. The honorable senator was also a member of the State Wool Committee in Victoria. He, therefore, has authoritative standing in the industry. I hope that what he has said to-day will be broadcast throughout Australia, and that it will do something to counter the unfair propaganda that is being conducted against Australian wool. Use is being made to-day of statements that are quite unfair to our wool industry, and also untrue. The wool industry of Australia has a most intern::ting history. I advise honorable senators to read the life story of Sir Sydney Kidman, for it is typical of the career of many pastoralists. Sir Sydney Kidman started with a flock of sheep of very little value. As Senator Guthrie has pointed out, the weight of the fleece a sheep has, in the course of the years, been more than doubled. I consider that the stage of development now reached is the maximum. To go further would probably be to court danger. Had sheep remained in the same stage of development as the sheep of 40 years ago, Australia would have had no great pastoral industry, for the cost of shearing and running the sheep would have been too great to make the industry payable-; yet to-day wool is our most valuable export commodity. As several honorable senators have pointed out in the course of this debate, the wool industry has been maintained without government assistance. In the next few weeks we shall probably set in motion machinery which will bring to certain industries as much as £30,000,000 a year of the taxpayers' money as a kind of bounty. Yet immediately the suggestion is made that a bounty should be provided for a primary producing industry an outcry is heard. The wool-growers, however, have never sought assistance by bounty. The development of this industry has been achieved by the application of scientific research methods to it. Improved breeding in Australia has been mainly responsible for the increased weight of fleece obtained from each animal. The scientific methods suggested by those engaged in research work have been applied by practical men. As much as £2,000 has been spent for one ram in order that flocks might be improved. Research is still being pursued. Senator Guthrie referred to. the percentage of wool produced in Australia to the world production. I was sorry that he did not also refer to the percentage of fine wool of the merino class produced in Australia. Australia supplies 52 per cent, of the world's wool of this description. It is this quality of wool which will be most severely hit, possibly, by the competition of rayon. Pasture improvement is now being practised by pastoralists. When better feed is provided for sheep, more strong and less fine wool is produced. It is unfair that in the reports of wool sales only the top price is given. It is quite common to see a top line of, say, five bales quoted, and nothing else. I know of one or two properties which produce about 900 bales of wool, but when it is marketed only the top line of, say, five or, it may be, nine bales, is quoted at perhaps 26d. or 28d. No reference is made to the price obtained for the other qualities. If a top line fetches 21d. per lb., it may be said that the average from that particular property would be about 14d. per lb. I think Senator Guthrie will bear me out when I say that the average price is about twothirds that of the top line. Many people seem to think that pastoralists obtain about the top price for all the wool that they market, but the fact is, of course, that the price obtained for cross-bred wools - that is, wool from the sheep used for raising fat lambs - is usually only about10d. or11d. per lb. for top lots. As it is our finer merino wools which "are likely to be subjected to severe competition from rayon, I should like Senator Guthrie to furnish us with some information, which I have no doubt that he has, regarding the cost of producing rayon. If it is between10d. and1s. per lb.-


Senator Guthrie - It is less than that.







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