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Thursday, 14 October 1971
Page: 2389

Mr PETTITT (Hume) - I rise to support this wool support scheme, knowing how extremely important it is to everybody who lives in the rural areas. I speak as a woolgrower and as a member of growers* organisations, not as a bureaucrat or an ex-journalist or somebody who has no real sympathy or understanding of or stake in the industry. This has been one of the best pieces of legislation to come before this

House for some time and it has been introduced during a time of difficult circumstances. The wool industry is an important industry. This country was built on wool. It has carried the people of this country since Australia's foundation. It has gone through bad times before and it has survived and it is going through a difficult period at present.

Current difficulties have been aggravated by the world monetary crisis and the 10 per cent surcharge which has been imposed by the United States of America on our wool exports on top of the existing 25c a lb import duty. This has clouded the whole issue at a time when, according to those who were in a position to know, it seemed as though the industry was recovering, that demand was rising and that prices were starting to increase. In the meantime, this Bill will provide an assured price for wool to all wool growers. As 1 said earlier, wool is still Australia's most important export industry and the future livelihood not only of the wool growers and most of the people who live on the land but also of those who live in country towns - business people and wage earners alike - depends on the wool industry. We were able to get agreement on this support price scheme in the face of opposition from many quarters because, I believe for the first time in the history of this country, all rural organisations were united in pressing for the need of a support price. Not only were all the rural organisations united in their support but also business houses throughout the country gave their support to the proposal. In my own town of Cootamundra one organisation made a tremendous effort to get in touch with as many business houses as possible in country towns seeking their support of this proposal. I believe that this is what has swayed the Government eventually to provide a support price.

We have been told by those who claim to know that although the price support does not reach the 40c a lb sought by the Australian Country Party - an amount this will solve the problems of the industry which it thought was really necessary to provide a solid background and price for Australian wool - in actuality it will be close to 39c a lb. The Minister said that this will be about 20 per cent on the price that wool will fetch. I do not suggest that - far from it. However, it does give producers a breathing space and an opportunity to do something that will be more effective and long-standing for the wool industry. It will give them time to readjust and take control of their industry and to eliminate some of those people - the parasites - who have been making much more out of the industry than has the wool grower. It will give the wool growers, who are in a position where it is difficult to become economic at anywhere near present prices, a chance to diversify. It will give them a breathing space in which to adjust and time to see whether wool will return to its rightful place as the world's superior textile. I believe that we have a lot of homework to do ourselves. I do not exempt completely the primary producers from the present crisis. I believe that we primary producers have to do what was done in the case of wheat. We have to take control of our own product and follow it through. For too long we have been prepared to put all our effort and all our scientific knowledge into improving our product and then, as I heard the Minister once say, to push it out on the landing and say to those who handle it from there on: 'Do what you damn well like with it'.

I remember very vividly when members of the International Wool Textile Organisation came to meet our Committee. Mr Peltzer started his discussion with us by saying: 'Gentlemen, we represent the biggest wool manufacturers in the world. Our companies throughout this continent and in Japan have many millions of dollars tied up in machinery. We have been in this game for generations. We have a clientele and we have a business. We want to stay in it. But the trouble today is that wool is too dear in the shops'. That is a fact. Wool is dear in the shops, lt is a premium fabric in the shops. He continued: 'It follows that we cannot pay you growers any more for your wool'.

That is where I objected and many of us who were practical wool growers objected. I said to him at that meeting: M happen to be wearing a $100 pure wollen suit today, but my share of the raw wool in that suit is worth less than 50c'. I said: If you want to stay in business, so do we and neither of us will stay iri it alone'. I also remember vividly when he laughed and said: 'For years you wool growers have been taken for a ride. You have paid expensive wool classers. You have put a straight merino clip up in 15 to 16 lines and so often we buy it and then put them back together again.' This is where we have fallen down as growers in not following through with the sale of our wool.

Mr Peltzerrepresents, in my view, the biggest wool manufacturing interests in all the world. He went on to say: 'What we will hope to do is to buy on sample. It will be a sample perhaps taken in the shed, maybe on the sheep's back. The bale will be pressed in the shed and possibly not opened until it is taken to the factory'. One does not have to use much imagination to see what would be saved there. But, he said: 'We will want to buy it in 1,000 or 2,000-baIe lines'. This means that we have to have a stockpile. We hear all this ballyhoo about the small stockpile that the Australian Wool Commission has at the moment. The cost of it is peanuts when you consider it in relation to other costs in this country. Why, the granting of an extra week's leave to our public servants, so I am told will cost about $250m a year. Yet there is a scream about the spending of $100m in the support of our greatest industry. The wool does not disappear. It will still be there to be sold.

I remember the days of the Joint Organisation and how wool made a comeback. We have homework to do. I think the move into blends is a tremendously important one. I think there is a great deal that can and will be done. We have perhaps 9 months in which to show that something can be done. If, within those 9 months, we are able to show that wool is coming back, if we have done our homework in cutting our costs and cutting handling costs then we can legitimately expect the Government and the Australian people to support the industry until it gets right back on its feet, as I believe it will.

We have heard some members of the Opposition. Maybe the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly), who has just interjected, was born in Currabubula. I am told it was in a manger, but I am not sure about that. But that would be about the limit of his knowledge of the wool industry. He has lived on the wool grower, like many others, ever since. It always aggravates me to hear the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) and the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Grassby) talking about their interest in (he wool growers. These are the people who support a party that is pressing for a 35- hour week. Nothing would be more detrimental and more disastrous, not only to the wool industry but also to the whole community. It has been reliably estimated that a 35-hour working week would increase costs in the city by at least 12 per cent and in the country by 20 per cent. We hear these honourable members who claim to represent rural electorates rising and weeping crocodile tears for the primary producers and then supporting a policy that would do more than anything else to destroy them. If I have any criticism of this Government, it is that they have not been firm enough with those who are disrupting our economy and forcing our costs up. No matter what we do in regard to supporting our industry, no matter what we do to improve our handling and presentation of the product, it will be of no avail whatsoever if our costs go on skyrocketing as they are. I remember very vividly a quotation made by Mr Hawke. He said: The only farmers who are in trouble are a few small inefficient farmers'. By God, let him come out into my electorate and make that allegation - and my electorate is a good one, with good country.

I have heard the same sort of statement made by some of the banking fraternity. They have a complete lack of appreciation of the problems and the importance of the wool industry. I believe that the time is fast approaching when we will have to have some type of acquisition. When one talks about acquisition one can be given a dozen different ideas of what it means. I believe that we have to be in the position to be able to do as Mr Peltzer said. That is, we must be able to present wool on sample and say: 'Look, we can load within a week a thousand bales and guarantee it to your specification*. I think this is tremendously important. I think that in any plan that is adopted we must make room for Economic Wool Producers Ltd, an organisation that has shown what can be done. This is a prime and typical example of private enterprise getting out and helping itself.

Do not let us be afraid of at least some stockpiling. I remember all the criticisms of what would happen when the Australian Wheat Board first came into existence. It was said: 'How will growers be paid?' We were told that it was impossible for many farmers to join the Board because the grain merchants financed them. They supplied them wilh seed and super and everything else. We got over that problem. Who would want to return to the old days without the Australian Wheat Board, the most successful selling organisation this country has, despite the attempt by the Opposition and the honourable member for Dawson to make it a political issue.

The Australian Wheal Board is still our most successful selling organisation. We arc still selling more goods to China than many other countries which do recognise China. Many countries who do not recognise China at all are selling vast quantities of goods. It was never a political matter until the Australian Labor Party tried to make it one and tried to play politics. There is a future ahead of the wool industry as there is a future ahead of the wheat industry. I believe the future is very largely in our own hands. Many other industries are tied up with the future of the wool industry and with primary industries generally.

I believe that most important of all is the provision of long term finance. Anybody who has had anything to do with primary production in a practical way knows that the length of term of the loan is much more important than the rate of interest. We are pressing for the provision of this sort of long term finance. I there is a reluctance on the part of the trading banks we must press for the setting up of a special division of the Development Bank. I know that there is opposition from the Treasury and from the trading banks. I have never yet heard a legitimate, sound reason why there should not be a provision of long term rural finance. If the wool industry and our other rural industries are to survive, this is a necessity.

But the provision of finance, the development of salesmanship - and there is a great deal to be done here - will all be of no avail unless we keep our costs within reason. Today on every hand costs are escalating. We heard Mr Hawke say: 'This will be the year of strikes'. He is VicePresident of the Australian Labor Party. We saw what happened to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) very quickly when he suggested there should be some control of strikes. We have seen the opposition to proposals for compulsory secret ballots so that sane sensible people could gain control of our industrial unions. I, am not an opponent of industrial unions. 1 am an opponent of the Communist leaders who have aggravated the whole situation. This is extremely important to the wool industry.

Dr Patterson - I rise on a point of order. We are dealing with Wool (Deficiency Payments) Bill. I am amazed that you, Mr Deputy Speaker, could sit there for the last 3 minutes and listen to a speech on industrial unions and the Leader of the Opposition.

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