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Wednesday, 10 June 1970

Mr HUNT (Gwydir) (12:13 PM) Firstly, I want to say that I support the broad objectives of the Bill. It provides for new arrangements for the financing of wool research and promotion, the granting of greater powers to the Minister for Primary Industry to control wool research funds and to widen the borrowing powers of the Australian Wool Board to enable it to renovate and to rebuild wool stores under its control. (Quorum formed.) The broad objectives of the Bill, as I outlined earlier, are to provide new arrangements for the financing of wool research and promotion, for the granting of greater powers to the Minister to control wool research funds and widen the borrowing powers of the Australian Wool Board, to renovate and rebuild the 280 wool stores under its control, to construct, equip integrated wool selling complexes and also to effect changes in the manner of selection of the chairman of the Australian Wool Board and the 3 members with special qualifications.

Before proceeding I would like to reply to the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Grassby) who felt that it was a strange time for the Government to be introducing this Bill, when the wool industry is in the process of negotiating with the Government the establishment of a single wool selling authority. Those negotiations are under way. Certain provisions of the Bill will fall in with the general concept as outlined by the industry. Whilst the wool industry is in a desperate economic situation, with the lowest wool prices for over 20 years, never before has the Australian Government Worked more closely or shown more incli nation to assist the wool industry. It is to the credit of the Minister that he has endeavoured to meet representatives of the industry to resolve these problems. No responsible government should allow this great industry, the greatest export industry in Australia, to become a peasant industry.

I agree with other speakers that action has to be taken urgently in consultation with the industry to ensure that the maximum number of wool growers survive. The industry is caught up in a cost - price squeeze. It grieves me to read statements such as that reported to have been made by Mr Hawke in the 'Financial Review' of 19th February. The article reads:

Mr Hawkesaid that he did not deny that some farmers were in financial trouble, but these were almost solely small and inefficient marginal producers.

To assist these farmers the Government had to rid itself of its 'grab bag' rural support measures, and tackle the problem of adjustment.

He was critical of the rural policies of all the major parties, including the ALP. Mr Hawke said he was not sure to what extent the whinge about the cost-price squeeze affected wage judgments, but the state of agriculture was still afforded considerable emphasis by the Arbitration Commission.

He went on to contend:

The cost price squeeze argument 'amounted to little more than a plea for maintenance of a rural production structure which includes a substantial number of inefficient marginal producers without whom we would all be beter off'.

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