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Wednesday, 4 May 1921

Senator ELLIOTT (Victoria) .- It is with some hesitation that I address the Senate on this subject to-night, as it is a long time since I had anything to do with wool, although I was brought up on a farm. It seems to me that, if we members of the National party approve of the proposal made by the Government, we shall be running counter to every principle which we have enunciated for a generation past. It is. no .longer war time, and there should be no necessity for ' legislation by means of regulations. That pernicious practice grew up during the war, and because of its necessities, and the sooner we cut it out now the better. So much for that point.

In regard to this particular measure I may say that I have always been opposed to trusts and combines, but it seems to me that this proposal is in the direction of encouraging combines. As far as concerns the people, who for good or bad reasons are not disposed to join the association known as Bawra "willy-nilly,'' we. always opposed the desires of trade unionists to force "blacklegs," or nonunionists or free-laborers as we call them, to join a particular union whether they liked it or not; and, therefore, it seems to me that we shall be departing from that principle if we approve of these proposals.

Senator Fairbairn - I do not think the 6 per cent, of the wool-growers referred to ever had an opportunity of saying whether they were for or against the scheme.

Senator ELLIOTT - By rushing this measure through we are not giving them a chance to say whether they are or not. I have received letters from persons interested in the wool-scouring and fellmongering industry, requesting me to oppose such a proposal as this and to assist in establishing a free market for wool.

Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) - They do not oppose . the scheme. They want a free market for fellmongery wool.

Senator ELLIOTT - It was expressed in general terms,., and I am not sufficiently versed in the business to know whether they wanted a free market for all wool or for their own products. While Senator Guthrie - who is so great an authority on, such .questions as this that I am feel- ing very uncomfortable in opposing him - was speaking, he thoroughly lashed, the manufacturers of clothing for selling their goods at high prices. It may not -have occurred 4 to Senator Guthrie that those people are continuing to charge high prices, because they purchased the wool from which the clothing is manufactured at the high price which was insisted upon at that 'time by what I term the Combine. They, cannot sell their cloth or manufactured articles at a reasonable price without a heavy loss.

Senator Crawford - Bawra has only been in existence a few weeks.

Senator ELLIOTT - Well, its predecessors in title were responsible. That is the difficulty, and if we adopt the proposal of the Government we shall be strengthening the hands of the Combine and keeping up prices. We may be committed to maintain prices on behalf of other people who are faced with a sudden loss. I believe there is hardly a softgoods firm in the "Lane," where those who are supposed to be profiteers are to be found, which is not tottering on its foundations.

Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) - What have those people done with the fortunes they made during the last five- years? Have they spent it on motor cars or passed it on to some one else?

Senator ELLIOTT - I do not know; but I am told that now at any rate the banks are keeping them on their feet.

We know that the boot manufacturers are deliberately closing down their establishments and dismissing their employees to enable them to unload . the huge stocks accumulated when leather was at a high price. If such is the case these manufacturers are entitled to ask the Government to pass legislation to protect them. If we are to give protection to wool-producers, it will be very difficult to meet the strong criticism on the refusal to pass the basic wage, which at times it is not easy to answer, even now, considering the fact that honorable senators recently increased their salaries. I was not a member of the Senate at that time, and did not Lave an opportunity of recording a vote for or against the proposal.

The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon T Givens - Order! The honorable senator must not discuss salaries of honorable senators on this motion.

Senator ELLIOTT - It is very difficult for us to reply to the constant bombardment from people demanding a basic wage.

The PRESIDENT - Order ! The honorable senator is not entitled to discuss the basic wage on this motion.

Senator ELLIOTT - I am merely pointing out that if we support this proposal, which is really to provide a basic wage for the wool-producers by allowing them to receive what it actually costs to produce, we shall be met with a similar request from others.-

Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) - It is below the cost of production. o

Senator ELLIOTT - At any rate, we would have to meet the position, and would have to answer the shearers when they made a demand for increased wages. It seems that if we are to bring matters back to normal, we must dispense with Government control at the earliest possible moment. I have the greatest sympathy with graziers; I have a brother in New South Wales who is producing wool, and who has to market his product. I would be quite prepared to support the proposition if it were not contrary to long-established principles.

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable senator must live and learn.

Senator ELLIOTT - My political education is not complete, and, as Senator Pratten suggested, there is a probability of the proposed cure being worse than the disease because it is by no means sure that, at the end of six months, the position will be any better than it is to-day. There is no reason why we should slaughter our principles, and, as it seems difficult for me to' change my views so rapidly, I intend to support the amendment moved by Senator -Gardiner.

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