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Friday, 22 May 1936

Senator BRENNAN(Victoria- Acting

Attorney-General) [5.18]. - I move -

That the bill be now read a second time.

This bill has been so much discussed and its provisions are so simple that not many words are needed in commending it to honorable senators. Its general principle will have, I believe, no opponents, though some honorable senators may feel a twinge of regret that the great wool industry, whose proud boast has been for many years, that, no matter what the conditions of other industries may have been, it has always stood on its own foundation, now finds itself, to some extent at least, coming into line with some of the lesser Australian industries. I hasten to say that there is no request on the part of the industry for pecuniary assistance; it merely asks that it should be given legislative authority to enable it more properly to organize itself, and to raise the funds necessary to enable it to secure a larger share of the world's markets. The keen competition which the wool industry has to face, as the result of the increasing use of artificial fibres, was set out very ably and attractively by Senator Guthrie in this chamber only a few days ago. The funds to be raised are mainly to be expended, first, in carrying on scientific research, and, secondly, in the conduct of an intensive and extensive advertising campaign. The competition engendered by the advertisement of rival products has been so great that the wool industry has almost been compelled, in its own interests, to resort to similar methods. This bill provides for the establishment of an Australian "Wool Board, which will control wool publicity and research in Australia and overseas. The board will consist of six members nominated by the Australian Woolgrowers Council and one representative of the Commonwealth Government, and will be financed by a levy on all wool shorn in Australia after the 1st July next. The bill will be followed by two other bills which will provide for the assessment and collection of the tax upon wool, and for the amount of the levy. It is unnecessary for me to emphasize, in this chamber at any rate, the importance of the wool industry and how necessary it is for the woolgrowers to be given power to raise the necessary funds to conduct a world-wide publicity campaign, and to finance further scientific research in connexion with new uses for wool, and improved methods of manufacture. With over 110,000,000 sheep in the Commonwealth,, the sheep-breeders provide over one-half of Australia's total exports, and although we produce the bulk of the fine wool of the world, there is still room for increasing the carrying capacity of our pastures. Millions of sheep are lost annually through drought and disease, many of which could be saved if proper control methods were thoroughly understood by stock owners. It is impossible to forecast what scientists may discover in the future, and it would be difficult to indicate what benefits may accrue to the wool industry from a carefully-planned, world-wide scheme. While the Acting Minister for Commerce (Mr. Thorby) was abroad last year he represented Australia at the International Wool Conference, held in Berlin. Upon his return to London, the High Commissioner for Australia, Mr. Bruce, called a conference of representatives of British wool manufacturing interests, the New Zealand Government, the South African Government, and expert officers attached to the Australia House staff, and many problems confronting the wool industry in the British Empire were fully discussed. The South African representatives pointed out that a fund, derived from a levy on wool, had been in existence in South Africa for some years, but that they were quite prepared to co-operate with Australia and New Zealand in an extensive wool publicity campaign, and to contribute to a fund to place the research work on a permanent and satisfactory footing. The representatives of the Government of New Zealand indicated that they would be prepared to recommend to their Government the adoption of similar action. On behalf of Australia, the Acting Minister for Commerce agreed to urge the Australian wool-growers to consent to a levy for the purpose of creating the funds necessary to undertake the work indicated in this bill.

A strong committee was formed in England among the wool interest.3, first, to secure their co-operation, and, secondly, to urge the dominions to agree to an Empire plan of publicity in order to combat the ill effects being suffered by the woollen industry from the competition of the artificial fibres made in various parts of the world, which are gradually robbing the wool-growers of part of their market. Later, the matter was taken up by the various graziers' associations throughout the Commonwealth. The levy received strong support from the Australian Wool-growers Council, with the result that the proposals now before the Senate were almost unanimously accepted by the wool-growers of Australia. The council is composed of representatives of almost all the pastoral and agricultural societies in Australia and organizations associated with the land, and speaks on behalf of the owners of 55,000,000 sheep. It is proposed to provide for a maximum levy of 6d. a bale, 3d. a butt, and Id. a bag, which will raise a sum of between £60,000 and £80,000, according to the clip.

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