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Wednesday, 10 June 1970

Mr GRASSBY (Riverina) - I join with the honourable member for Corangamite (Mr Street) in drawing the attention of honourable members to the present problems of the wool growers, particularly the problems dealt with in this Bill. They face great hardship. There is a growing demand throughout the eastern part of Australia - I cannot speak for the west - for some remedial action and there is no doubt that it is required urgently. The Australian Labor Party's programme for the wool industry has been very well set out in the course of this debate by the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson). He spelt out precisely what our proposals are. The honourable member for Corangamite said that he did not offer any firm answers to the problems but he made a plea - I hope I am not misquoting him - that whatever is done with the statutory authority there should also be some private marketing organisation to operate concurrently with that authority. Undoubtedly the honourable member has been applying himself to the problems of the wool industry and that is the contribution and suggestion he has made.

I have tried very hard to understand how this Bill has come before the House at the present time. It is puzzling to me because it has been indicated by the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton), the Deputy Prime Minister, the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen), and the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) that major changes in the wool industry are under consideration. Much has been made of the fact that a report of a special committee of the Australian Wool Board is expected. That special committee was set up to make recommendations to the Government in connection with these major changes. I should have thought that it would be logical and proper to wait for that report if there is need for a major change in Government policy on wool and a major reconsideration of the organisation of the industry. It would have been logical to have delayed this Bill and considered everything together. Therefore 1 must admit I am puzzled as to how this Bill comes before us at the present time.

I have looked into the background of what Government spokesmen have said. The Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister for Primary Industry have been consistent on this matter. The consistency of the Deputy Prime Minister goes back to, I think, May 1969 when he made a visit to the electorate of the honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Hunt) who is to follow me in this debate. I think the Deputy Prime Minister made a firm promise on that occasion to support a wool industry subsidy. Nearly a year later, on 4th February 1970, at the Sydney Sheep Show, he said that the Government would give financial aid to the wool industry. It might be just as well to tell honourable members exactly what the Deputy Prime Minister said at the Sydney Sheep Show. He said:

.   . it is apparent that it producers are to receive reasonable returns for their investment in the industry, we are on the threshold of a period of important change involving the wool industry.

Again this leads me to wonder why this Bill is merely a fragment of an important change. Later, on 18th February, when speaking to a meeting of Federal and Queensland Country Party Ministers and members of Parliament at Surfers Paradise, the Deputy Prime Minister indicated that he would press the Commonwealth Government to help the wool industry from what he called its present desperate position.

Sitting suspended from 11.30 p.m. to 12 midnight

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