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Thursday, 10 December 1998
Page: 1872

Mr HAWKER —My question is directed to the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry. I ask the minister: will he inform the House of the latest developments in the wool industry.

Mr VAILE (Trade) —I thank the honourable member for Wannon for his question. He has always shown a great deal of interest in one of Australia's great rural industries. The House will be aware that there have been difficulties in recent times with the wool industry, and that the government, prior to the election, took a decision with regard to the management of the wool stockpile. That was welcomed across the industry. We have now gone on with that.

The legislation has gone through the House of Representatives—and is now through the Senate—to establish the freeze, and we will go on now to establish an interim advisory board to work with industry and government in the management of the stockpile as we go through the transitional process of moving towards the demutualisation of the stockpile.

It was interesting to note a press release from the member for Corio earlier this week when he spoke about the cost to the stockpile of the government's decision, but what he did not realise, what he did not mention in his press release, was the fact that those are costs to the stockpile, and—whether we remain under the previous administration's regime or whether we move to the position the government is now taking—those holding and management costs will be there. But the stockpile has maintained its level and increased its value.

So we are moving to establish the Interim Advisory Board. Yesterday we announced that the Chairman of the Interim Advisory Board would be Donald McGauchie, a highly respected agropolitician across Australia, a former President of the NFF, a highly respected corporate player in Australia.

Opposition members interjecting

Mr SPEAKER —Order! The Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry is answering a question of interest to all Australians, and he deserves to be heard.

Opposition members interjecting

Mr VAILE —The new Chairman of the Interim Advisory Board is a great Australian and he is a well-respected industry leader. I suppose the Labor Party would have us appoint John Coombs to the job. You've got to be joking! We want people with ability, experience and respect within the industry. Through this transitional period with the wool stockpile, we are very confident that Mr McGauchie will do a great job on behalf of the wool industry in Australia as we de-mutualise the stockpile and hand control of the stockpile back to the owners, the wool growers of Australia. I say again that our government has a great deal of confidence in the job that Mr McGauchie will do in looking after the interests of the wool growers of Australia.