Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Full Day's HansardDownload Full Day's Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Thursday, 9 December 1971
Page: 4464

Dr PATTERSON (Dawson) - 1 cannot speak on behalf of the Australian Council of Trade Unions but I can assure the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) that the Australian Labor Party has not in any way changed its opposition to the relaxation or the partial relaxation of the merino ram embargo. The views of the Opposition are exactly as they were before and they will stay that way until the Government presents evidence in this Parliament, allows it to be debated and a vote taken both in this House and in the Senate to support the relaxation of the ban. The last time that a vote was taken in the Parliament was in the Senate and the Senate rejected the Government's recommendations. As the Government was not bound by the decision of the Senate, its action being taken by regulation and not by an Act of Parliament or an amendment to an Act, the Government contemptuously ignored the decision of the Senate and despite repeated efforts by the Opposition the Government refused to have the matter debated and a vote taken. I would remind the Parliament that the Government is not consistent in this matter. We recall that when the reserve price scheme for wool was being mooted approximately 6 or 7 years ago - and this was a controversial issue just as the merino embargo is a controversial issue and it has been since 1929 - the Government did not act as it has now acted. It put this controversial issue to the wool growers of Australia to make a decision. The same preamble was applicable in that the Australian Wool Industry Conference had in fact recommended in favour of a reserve price scheme. I want to make it quite clear that the Opposition completely supports a reserve price scheme. A referendum was held but unfortunately, because of tremendous confusion throughout the industry, caused by intensive lobbying and misunderstanding, the wool growers voted against the scheme. This was, I believe, perhaps the biggest blow to the wool growers in financial terms, in organisation, etc., for a very long time. But we cannot look back. We must look forward.

If this Government is to be consistent over this controversial issue of the merino embargo it should allow a referendum to be held, but it has not allowed a referendum. The Opposition has not changed its view. As 1 have already said, I am unable to speak on behalf of the ACTU. It is entirely a matter for the ACTU to make up its own mind on this issue. However the ALP is still opposed to any relaxation of the embargo on the export of merino rams until, I repeat, there is a debate in this Parliament and until a vote is taken. In that debate the Government should put forward its evidence, scientific, economic and otherwise, to enable all members of this House to debate it, to weigh it up and to vote upon it. This, I believe, is only fair. It is of no use the Government saying the Opposition can raise it. We cannot raise it. We can raise it as a matter of urgency; we can raise it by way of a notice of motion. But as the Government well knows we cannot bring the matter to a vote unless the Government wants a vote on it. We know from experience that we have never been able to get a vote on matters of this kind.

Mr Sinclair - You can have a vote on the statement if you wish.

Dr PATTERSON - It is not a question of having the vote on the statement. We want a full scale debate on the issue. We have been told tonight that we can have only a limited number of speakers in this debate. The fact is that if the Government had allowed a full scale debate on this matter we would have been ready for it, as is the Government. I am quite certain that there are no members on the Government side other than the Minister ready to debate this question at length tonight. Therefore until we can have a full scale debate and until the views of the large number of small producers throughout

Australia are taken into account the Opposition has no alternative to questioning the Government and opposing the Minister's statement. It is our job to do so.

It is all very well to say that the Government is putting forward a case on behalf of the stud breeders. I will not decry the stud breeders in any way. What the Minister has said about the parlous financial position of stud breeders is entirely correct. There is no question of that. But this is irrelevant in terms of the overall question of the wool industry itself.

Another point I want to make is that we do not know what the last vote taken by the Australian Wool Industry Conference was. I have no doubt that I could find out what the vote was if I wanted to do so. However, at the moment I do not know what the vote was. But certainly the first vote on the AWIC decision was by no means unanimous. In fact, there was considerable opposition from very powerful wool organisations. I notice that the Minister for Primary Industry, who is at the table, gave no indication of what the composition of the vote of the AWIC was at this time.I can only assume that the result was the same as last time. I could be wrong and it could have been unanimous but I do not think it was. I do not think it was unanimous judging by the number of letters that members of the Opposition are still getting from organisations and growers and particularly, I might say, from many growers in electorates around the area represented by the honourable member for Hume (Mr Pettitt).

Mr Pettitt - When did you get your last letter?

Dr PATTERSON - Last week.

Mr Pettitt - It would be more like 2 years ago.

Dr PATTERSON - If I say last week I mean last week. There is no need for the honourable member to be smart because he does not know. This is typical of his ignorance in this matter.

Mr Pettitt - Why would they write to you? It is you who are ignorant.

Mr Daly - He is on a trip.

Dr PATTERSON - The honourable member said that he is on a trip. I have known for 6 years that the honourable member has been on a trip.

Mr Sinclair - He is not a bad farmer all the same. Ho probably knows more about rams than you do.

Dr PATTERSON - I do not doubt that.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order!I suggest that the House come to order.

Dr PATTERSON - I have often wondered what his capabilities were, and the Minister for Primary Industry now has told us.

This is a serious problem. We believe that the Government has taken blatant action in not allowing this Parliament to debate a controversial issue. We have said this many times in the House and we will continue to say it until the Minister allows this Parliament to debate the issue. When I say that the Minister should allow the Parliament to debate it I mean that this matter should be put to a vote in this House and in the Senate. The Opposition will oppose this relaxation of the merino export embargo. We will do so on behalf of thousands of wool growers and particularly the small wool growers who have completely given this Government away.

Mr Grassby - Mr Deputy Speaker--

Debate (on motion by Mr Fox) adjourned.

Suspension of Standing Orders

Suggest corrections