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Tuesday, 22 May 1973
Page: 2449

Mr STREET (Corangamite) - This legislation provides a good example of the Government's attitude, to primary industry. I am referring not so much to the legislation itself as to the way in which it was prepared and introduced. Firstly, there was no consulation with the industry and, secondly, the Government repudiated an arrangement entered into by the previous Government. This situation has been brought about at a time when wool is facing a dangerous situation as a major textile fibre. As the Managing Director of the International Wool Secretariat pointed out recently, the real test of wool's market position will come when wool products in the shops reflect the recent price rises for raw wool. The IWS will need every cent it can get to maintain demand in the light of probable considerably increased prices. Let us never forget the simple fact that the price that wool growers get for their product is ultimately determined by the demand for wool. It is not the slightest use having the best selling system in the world if no one wants what you have to sell. Therefore, it is of paramount importance that the IWS have not only adequate funds but also a guarantee of continuity of funds.

That is where this legislation falls short of requirements and so endangers wool's position in the world textile market. This is especially serious coming just at the time when it seems that years of hard work by the IWS in association with some brilliant research work by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation has achieved real breakthroughs in new' products and processes. Machine washable wool, permanent press wool fabrics and wool cigarette (filters are just a few of the new developments which have opened up new horizons for wool. But there is no reason to suppose that wool is any different from other products when it comes to getting maximum market acceptance for these exciting developments. They need promotion, and promotion on a massive scale, if we are to convince the buying public that wool products justify their price premium. It would be disastrous if at this crucial time there was any lack of confidence in the IWS of the Australian Government's determination to stand with the industry in providing the funds essential for this promotion and research.

I now come to two particular aspects relevant to the responsibilities of the Australian Wool Corporation. The first is the general question of getting wool off sheep. I deliberately do not use the term 'shearing' because there has to be a completely open mind in approaching this problem. Perhaps it is not generally realised the threat that is posed to the wool industry by shearing costs. These costs are rising at about 7 per cent a year, and in practical terms this means that shearing costs double about every 12 years. Of course, if woo] prices rise at a comparable rate it should not be a major problem, but if there should be a substantial fall in wool prices shearing costs will become a crucial factor in the future of the industry.

Some years ago in this place I advocated a major research program into getting wool off sheep. I am delighted to note that a great deal of work has been going on in this field, but the present wool prices must not be allowed to divert attention or funds from this vitally important work. There are many exciting prospects for research. Chemical shearing is one, the use of advanced cutting mediums such as gas or laser beams is another. Mechanical aids to handle and restrain sheep is yet another fertile field for intensive research effort because that is where the major cost - labour cost is relatively most important. One of the very few good things, probably the only good thing, to come out of recent years of drought and disastrously low wool prices has been the upsurge in interest in cost cutting methods, not only along the lines I have just described but also in handling wool between shed and customer and in the actual selling procedures. That is the second topic I wish to speak about in this debate.

The success of Economic Wool Producers, which has proved in practice the theories which a lot of us have for years believed to be true, and the very encouraging results of the Australian Objective Measurement Project, have removed any doubts that the future marketing of the Australian wool clip will be closely associated with core testing and subsequent sale by sample and description, perhaps eventual sale by description alone. No single fact has greater implications for all those engaged in the industry than this. In particular, it has revolutionised the sorts of facilities which will be required if growers - I emphasise 'growers' - are to get maximum benefit from the cost savings which are potentially available. Traditional wool stores and methods of displaying wool will become virtually irrelevant.

This brings me to the main point I want to make. The Australian Wool Corporation is now responsible for wool stores in Australia, including the Yennora wool complex. It is apparent from what I have just said that the Yennora complex has become overtaken by technical advances. It is already out of date even before it has been brought into full operation. I realise that a substantial investment has been made in Yennora. I realise too that h represents an advance on the previous fragmented location of wool stores in the Sydney area. But the fact remains that wool growers will not get maximum benefit from new wool selling techniques if Yennora or similar complexes become part of our selling system. They probably are better than what we have at the moment, but that is not the point. 1 use as an analogy the argument over what are the most efficient types of shipping for Australian exports. The real argument is not about whether container ships are better than conventional ships. It is whether container ships are better than the more advanced ships such as vehicle deck ships, roll-on rolloff ships and so on. We now have clear evidence that container ships are, for many types of cargo, including much Australian produce, less efficient and more expensive than are some of the other sorts of ships I have just mentioned. Exactly the same thing applies to wool handling. Fortunately we are not nearly so deeply committed to Yennora-type complexes as we are to container shipping.

I appeal in the strongest terms to those who are responsible in this field to ensure that no decisions are made which will deprive wool growers of the potential benefits available to them from the earliest introduction of new cost savings techniques. The Australian Woo] Corporation carries a heavy responsibility, and the Government deserves strong criticism for limiting its financial commitments to supporting the AWC operations to one year thereby repudiating the previous Government's undertaking to provide funds for 3 years. By its action the Government has introduced an element of uncertainty into our promotion and research program at a time when continuity and confidence are more necessary than every before.

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