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Thursday, 23 April 1936

Senator GUTHRIE (Victoria) . - in reply- In again emphasizing the danger confronting the Australian wool industry due to competition by artificial substitutes, I would point out that, directly and indirectly, wool gives more employment than any other industry in Australia. This is a fact which, I believe, is not generally realized. I also stress the continuous study by chemists and scientists of all countries in the production of .synthetic fibres and other materials. The better class of rayon consists of 80 per cent, wood and 20 per cent. tin. There is a smaller percentage of tin in the cheaper materials. The danger to the wool industry is not so much from rayon which, as I have explained, competes, more directly with real silk and cotton products, as from artificial wool produced in Germany, and staple fibre. I examined some of this staple fibre last week and saw it spun in much the same way as Bradford 64 tops are spun. The advance that has been made in the production of this material is so pronounced that the difference between the artificial and the real wool is not easily discernible by the inexperienced. No one will for a moment contend that the synthetic product is equal to wool, but on a price basis it is definitely a. keen competitor. The danger facing the wool industry in Australia is due to lack of organization. There is not yet in the British Empire an organization of wool-growers whose definite purpose it is to carry out propaganda in order to protect the wool industry against competition from synthetic products. New Zealand woolgrowers have decided to make a levy of <5d. a bale, and South African growers have agreed to a levy of ls. a bale; but there is definite need for an Empire organization to take care of this Empire industry. The abolition of the federal land tax would help growers. One thing in our favour is the fact that, hygienically and economically, wool is the better article. A suit of clothes made from wool will outlast three or four made from the German vistra and wool, which we call woolstra. To emphasize the danger to the wool industry from this competition, I attended a luncheon in Melbourne given recently by leading wool-growers, brokers and buyers to welcome Lord Barnby, wearing a suit made entirely from wool and wood fibres, and all my other articles of clothing were manufactured from cotton or rayon. Not one of those present was aware of that fact.

Senator Sampson - The honorable senator gave a good advertisement to manufacturers of wool substitutes.

Senator GUTHRIE - My intention was to impress upon those who attended that gathering the real danger to the wool industry from this competition by wool substitutes, the world's consumption of which, last year, was twice the quantity of the total scoured wool clip, of Australia.

The effect of this competition on our trade balance is a matter which, I suggest, may more profitably he considered when we are dealing with the tariff schedule which will come before us within the next few days. I agree that the Australian woollen manufacturers provide an important market for our woolgrowers. They purchase over 300,000 bales a year of our best wool, and manufacture it into a variety of materials of a quality equal to the best produced in the world. Our Australian mills are highly efficient, and provide a great deal of employment for Australian operatives, so they are deserving of the support of all those who have at heart the welfare of this country. I have always stated that, after protecting the home market, we should give preference to Great Britain, and then to those countries that trade with us. As the United States of America, of which we are a good customer, purchases so little from Australia, our adverse trade balance with that country is in the vicinity of £8,000,000 or £10,000,000. " .With other honorable senators, I should like to see some rectification of the position, with a view to improving our trade relations with Germany and Japan, which are anxious to increase their business with us. I hope, that it will be possible, in the near future, to iron out some of the difficulties due to our adverse trade balance with the United States of America. The wool industry is not asking the Government for financial aid. It protests against being singled out for special taxation, and asks the Government to remove the federal land tax, thus, helping growers to reduce their costs of production. With honorable senators opposite, I realize that when employment is good and secondary industries are paying good wages and giving employment to a large number of workmen, the increased purchasing power in the hands of the people is a definite incentive to our primary industries. I am also aware that the enormous expenditure on rearmament schemes is an important factor in the present buoyant condition of the wool market. As the subject-matter of the motion has been thoroughly discussed and honorable senators on both sides of the chamber unanimously approve of the organization of the industry for scientific research, and to induce the people to use more wool, I ask leave of the Senate to withdraw my motion.

Motion - by leave - withdrawn.

Sitting suspended from 6.20 to8 p.m.

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