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Thursday, 23 April 1936

Senator COLLINGS (Queensland) , - Like the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce), I congratulate Senator Guthrie upon his speech. Whether he has suggested the right way out of the difficulty that has arisen, is a matter upon which there will probably be some disagreement in this chamber, hut we all recognize his wide knowledge of the wool industry, and the telling manner in which he has presented his case. To those who sit in opposition to the Government, the developments taking place in this direction and- in many others are exceedingly interesting. The wool industry, like all others that are controlled under the capitalist, competitive system, is to-day getting too strong a dose of its own medicine. The policy of the present Government or. this matter and others, is unrestricted competition. It believes in the survival of the fittest. The whole burden of Senator Guthrie's story this afternoon was a fear that the fittest might not survive, meaning by the fittest the best. The best, of course, rarely does survive. The fittest to survive in the competitive struggle is not necessarily the best in the interests of humanity. It is a source of satisfaction to the Opposition that one after another these great competitive industries and large manufacturing concerns have to admit that whilst 50, 25, or even 10 years ago they managed to carry on despite competition, to-day the game is up.

Senator Hardy - The wool industry is not seeking a subsidy.

Senator COLLINGS - I am not suggesting that it is. I am amazed at Senator Guthrie's suggestion that, while the industry would not ask for assistance or tolerate interference, a request is made for legislative enforcement of the proposed levy to raise £150,000 for propaganda purposes. Let me suggest to Senator Guthrie and his friends that the money, proposed, to be raised for this purpose be spent on propaganda having for its object the clothing in wool of millions of people in the world who to-day cannot afford more than perhaps a loin-cloth. We do not need to go beyond the British Empire to find those who would like to wear good Australian wool, but who cannot do so because of the rotten economic conditions which Senator Guthrie and those sitting with him continue to support.

Senator Arkins - Would the honorable senator socialize the wool industry?

Senator COLLINGS - I should like to socialize the honorable senator. Of all the illogical arguments that I have ever listened to, we get them in this chamber on matters of this kind.

Senator Dein - We are hearing such arguments now.

Senator COLLINGS - I am not responsible for the honorable senator's inability to appreciate my view-point. I drew attention some time ago to the factthat it was unwise to permit the exportation to Japan of stud rams and other blood stock. Senator Guthrie then contended that Japan could not possibly produce wool equal to the best Australian merino wool. He suggested that exporters were not sending merino sheep to Japan, but only a few innocent Corriedales. Apparently, the latter have been doing their job.

Senator Arkins - But they do not produce rayon.

Senator COLLINGS - Even if I had not previously been aware of that fact, Senator Guthrie has explained that rayon is manufactured from wood pulp.

During the few weeks that the delegation from the Manchester Chamber of Commerce spent in Australia, I had the opportunity to hear Sir Ernest Thompson and Mr. Ellis speak upon this very subject. Those gentlemen came to Australia because, like Senator Guthrie, they were horrified at the prospect of synthetic woollen articles entering into successful competition with wool itself. On that occasion I heard what I consider was a most illuminating statement. A member in the small circle of gentlemen who were invited in Brisbane to listen to the opinions of the experienced members of the delegation, asked -

Is it not a fact that Japan's capacity to compete is largely due to the fact that their spinning and weaving machinery is the most modern available, while in Lancashire, the mill-owners will not get out of a groove, and have much machinery that is obsolete?

The honorable senator, who interjected that the stud stock exported to Japan did not grow rayon, might remember that Senator Guthrie, in this connexion, stated that rayon could be spun and woven on the same machinery as wool. Sir Ernest Thompson replied -

It is true, as stated, that Japan's machinery is the most modern. We know that, because Lancashire supplied it. Our spinning and weaving machinery in Lancashire is also up-to-date.

He proceeded to say that it was not true to state that the Lancashire machinery was obsolete, because the mill owners had been dismantling the old machinery and replacing it with new. In the name pf goodness, what did they imagine the Japanese would do with the machinery they bought? That they would put it in a glass case and exhibit it as being something modern from the Western world? Of course, the British manufacturers knew that the machinery would be used for the manufacture of textile goods. And the same applies to the export of stud sheep from Australia to Japan. Not very long ago this little Opposition stood alone in this Senate - and for that matter alone, among the Labour parties throughout the world - in regard to the application of sanctions against Italy. Australia took that step despite our protests, and what alternative had Italy except to instruct its skilled scientists to devise substitutes for the goods, the purchase of which was being withheld owing to sanctions? I merely put forward these facts so that honorable senators will appreciate that they are fast getting into a complicated tangle of affairs from which there will he no escape under the present system, and which must eventually lead to chaos. They must adopt the principles of members of the Opposition on such matters and become realists, not mere theorists. The Opposition has every sympathy with Senator Guthrie, and it will support any proposal, so long as it does not infringe the basic principles to which Labour is pledged, that is designed to encourage the wool industry to extricate itself from the impasse visualized by him. We were gratified to have the detailed facts from Senator 'Guthrie, 'but we did not require to be told of the vast importance of this industry, not only to Australia, but also to the British Empire. We have a full realization of the position, and no act or word of ours will do anything to injure any of the great industries. But I believe that it is my duty, and that of the Opposition, to show that the prevailing difficulties arise because of the fact that honorable senators who support the Government are not willing to admit that remedies of the Victorian era are utterly impracticable when applied to the problems of 1936.

Senator HARDY - Then what would the honorable senator do to improve the position ?

Senator COLLINGS - That favourite interjection of Senator Hardy's is becoming monotonous. I realize that I am expected to be the embodiment of all wisdom and a veritable encyclopaedia, which is a pinnacle to which Senator Hardy at his best will never rise. I admit my litter incapacity to answer his futile and continuous interjections.

I have never been more serious in my life than when making this speech to-day. What I have said should be taken to heart by Senator Guthrie and all persons associated with the great wool industry. One cannot go on every year and escape the ultimate results of his philosophy, which is based on unrestricted and unbridled competition and the survival of the fittest.

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