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Friday, 22 May 1936

Senator GUTHRIE (Victoria) . - I shall be brief on this occasion, because on the 23rd April I delivered a fairly long speech in this chamber, in which I set out the overwhelming importance of the sheep and wool industry to Australia, and the desirability of agreeing to the suggestion of the woolgrowers that they should make a levy upon themselves in order to raise funds for the protection of the industry.

When introduced in the House of Representatives, the title of the measure was "A bill for an act to make provision for improving the quality and increasing the production and use of wool." I would not have supported it in that form. The quality of wool cannot be improved by legislation. The quality is the spinning quality. It would not be of advantage to Australia if its wool were made finer. That objection has been removed, and the date of commencement has been altered to the 1st July. I therefore offer no opposition to the measure.

The raising of funds for publicity purposes is necessary in the interests of Australia, so as to counter the antiwool campaign which has been launched throughout the world. Wool is now, and always has been, the best commodity for the clothing and other uses of mankind. There has been an enormous increase of the production of substitute fibres. The danger of this cannot be brushed lightly aside., as some members of Parliament who visited Germany were inclined to do, by saying that these fibres would not compete with wool. That is nonsense. It is not suggested that they are as good as wool; but that they compete with it cannot be denied. To illustrate the progress which has been made in Europe in the production of these materials, ^1 am to-day completely clothed in them, instead of in woollen materials, as has been my practice throughout my life. They can be manufactured at one half the cost of woollen goods, and consequently it is impossible to compete with them on a price basis. Millions of yards of the stuff are being manufactured in Germany, Italy and other continental countries. Funds are needed for research to combat diseases, if possible, to reduce the costs of production; and, by means of publicity, to prove to the world the inestimable value of woollen goods in comparison with those of artificial fibre.

I am glad that the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) supports the suggestion that the wool-growers should be allowed to make a levy upon themselves. I am proud of the fact that this is the only Australian industry, either primary or secondary, which stands on its own feet. It has never had, and never asked for, government assistance, either directly or indirectly. It is prepared to find money to fight for the welfare of Australia's greatest asset.

A poll of the 97,000 growers would not be practicable, because they are so widely scattered. I go so far as to saythat the vast majority of them would vote for this measure. I have not met opposition from any small grower. Some opposition has been offered by a few wealthy growers, and the Settlers Association in Queensland, to which Senator Collings referred. He is probably not aware that that body proposes that a board shall be established in that State to raise a levy such as is here, proposed, but its scheme provides for government control, whereas under this measure the growers themselves will exercise control.

The Australian Woolgrowers Council is a broad and democratic body. It comprises the Pastoralists Association of Western Australia, the Stockowners Association of South Australia, the United Graziers Association of Queensland, the Graziers Association of New South Wales, the Pastoralists Association of West Darling, the Graziers Association of Victoria, the Graziers Association of Southern Riverina, the Tasmanian Farmers, Stockowners and Orchardists Association, the Northern Territory Pastoral Lessees Association, the Primary Producers Association of Western Australia, the Victorian Country party, the Victorian Chamber, of Agriculture, and the Farmers and Settlers Association of New South Wales. Any recognized bona fide association may join it.

I had intended to move an amendment to provide that at least 15 per cent, per annum of the funds raised should be devoted to scientific research in connexion with the industry in Australia, and to publicity, but have received the assurance of the Minister who introduced the bill in the House of Representatives, and is handling the matter, that at least 15 per cent, will be used for those purposes within Australia. I accept his assurance. Otherwise, I should have had to move an amendment in accordance with a promise I made to certain organizations. I also accept the assurance from the Leader of the Senate ^Senator Sir George Pearce) that, if we are not satisfied with these bills in their entirety or if we find that there are any defects in them, amending bills can be brought down in September. I commend the bills to honorable senators. It is a wonderful gesture on the part of the wool-growers of Australia to put up the money themselves, instead of asking the Government for assistance to fight the rich and highly organized opponents on the other side of the world, who have invested millions of pounds in the artificial fibres. The wool-growers have put their shoulders to the wheel, and, in co-operation with their kinsmen in South Africa and New Zealand, are finding the necessary funds to -

1.   Conduct research with a view to reducing costs.

2.   Organize publicity throughout the world, telling the people of the marvellous qualities of wool, so that the people of all countries will be induced to wear wool to the exclusion of all substitutes.

I commend the attitude of the Government for providing the machinery whereby the necessary funds will be raised, and I hope that these bills will be allowed to go through without amendment.

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