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Wednesday, 28 November 1973
Page: 2183

Senator MAUNSELL - I ask the Minister for Primary Industry whether he said at a Press conference in London last week that wool had regained popularity because of dissatisfaction with man-made fibres. Did he also say that he was concerned at suggestions in Britain and Europe that wool would become a luxury item because of price uncertainty? Does the Minister agree that while the production of wool is the world remains constant, the demand for apparel fibres is increasing at a considerable rate and that the inability to meet the demand is the main reason for wool becoming a luxury product, with price rises an obvious result? When the Minister says that he wants to avoid wool becoming a luxury item because of price, does he mean that the wool clip should be controlled by a compulsory acquisition scheme and sold direct to manufacturers at a fixed price? While overseas did the Minister discuss with the wool trade the possibility of such a scheme?

Senator WRIEDT - While overseas I did say that I was concerned at the opinions expressed to me that the market for wool would continue to decline and wool would become virtually a luxury item. Overseas there seems to be a wide acceptance of this belief. I do not believe that if this occurred it would be in the best interests of the wool industry. It is true that, in the main, the supply of wool is fairly constant but it is also true that the percentage of the fibre market for wool is declining. If we allow the present situation to continue then we must expect that decline to continue. As I have indicated on many occasions previously. I do not commit myself on the position as to whether a system of acquisition will be an alternative to the present system. Buyers overseas are not greatly concerned as to the system we adopt in Australia for the marketing or wool. What most of them are concerned about is a proper access to wool so that if they require more they will not be prejudiced by any advantages which may accrue to other countries or other buyers.

I assure honourable senators that, if any alterations do take place in the system as a result of the marketing report coming forward, free access will be made available to as wide a field as possible. If the demand does expand in the years ahead to a point where the supply is inadequate, it is possible that we may have to look at a system whereby the needs of those people, countries and buyers who show the greatest interest in the development and expansion of the wool trade will be given the most sympathetic consideration. It is my hope that if we can stabilise wool prices and if we can ensure the proper promotion and development of wool the supply position will be overcome by increasing production.

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