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Thursday, 23 April 1936

Senator LECKIE (Victoria) .- The discussion this afternoon has emphasized the value to Australia of the wool industry, and the need for measures to be taken for its protection. I should not have taken part in the debate but for the fact that. Senator Duncan-Hughes made some sneering references to Australian woollen manufacturers. I gathered from the tone of his remarks and the observations of other honorable senators that there is" some misconception about the part played by our manufacturers in the development of the wool industry. Apparently they do not realize that Australian manufacturers are the third ot fourth best customer of our wool-growers, and that the amount of Australian production which they take has been doubled in the last ten years. Every year they purchase over 300,000 bales of the best Australian wool - a fact of which there is good reason to be proud.

I also take exception to Senator Payne's suggestion that Australian manufactured woollen goods are not comparable with the best of imported products. When.- 1 heard the honorable gentleman advising our manufacturers to produce a better article, I wondered where he had been living during the last ten years, and if he had been watching the development of the manufacturing industry; if he had ever slept in Australian blankets, or enjoyed the comfort of an Australian rug on his frequent journeyings from Tasmania to Canberra to take part in the debates in this chamber.

Senator Payne - I rise to a point of order. I deny absolutely that I spoke disparagingly about the quality of Australian blankets. On the contrary, I declared that they were equal to the best in the world.

Senator LECKIE - I am glad to have the honorable senator's acknowledgment of the undoubted quality of Australian manufactured woollen goods.

Senator Sampson - That is what Senator Payne said.

Senator LECKIE - Senator Payne definitely advised Australian woollen manufacturers to produce a good article, and I say that they are the best except, possibly, in the somewhat restricted market for the best worsted materials which only wealthy people can buy. The ordinary tweeds, rugs, blankets and other woollen goods made in Australian mills are as good as any produced in the world; they defy competition.

Senator Duncan-Hughes - They are definitely not the best in the world.

Senator LECKIE - If I said that Australian manufactured goods are the best in the world, I qualify the statement by saying that they are equal to anything produced in the world except in respect of first quality worsteds for which the Australian market is so restricted. No one would have believed, five or six years ago, that our woollen manufacturers would be able to produce such a wide range of first quality goods as are now being placed on the market. I am not sure that Senator Guthrie's proposal for the raising of a large amount of money from wool-growers foi,, propaganda and scientific . research will do all the good which the honorable senator expects of it; but the money will be found by those in the. industry, and it is our bounden duty to do what we can to forward any project that will protect the industry and encourage its expansion. Nor am I sure that the danger to industry due to competition by manufactured substitutes is so real as some people believe it to be. I think that Senator Arkins said that the industry producing silk from silk worms was dead. I doubt the correctness of that statement, and believe that ladies who are in the habit of buying real georgette have no difficulty whatever in distinguishing between material manufactured from, real silk and georgette manufactured from rayon or some other substitute.

Senator McLachlan - They may be deceived by substitutes.

Senator LECKIE - I have a better opinion of the judgment of ladies in such matters. At all events, the silk industry is not dead. Good things will always sell, and good wool will always have its market.

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