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Wednesday, 28 March 1984
Page: 837

Senator MACKLIN(6.56) —I intend to speak for longer than four minutes on the Wool Industry Amendment Bill. I will not curtail my remarks but will be forced to continue them tomorrow. The Australian Democrats commend the Government on the introduction of this Bill and will be supporting its passage through this place. The Bill's enactment will, as other speakers have already said, enable the Australian Wool Corporation to seek funds from additional sources which will, as the Attorney-General (Senator Gareth Evans) pointed out in his second reading speech, enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of the Corporation's activities. I wish not to criticise the Bill but rather to question the Minister's stated reasons for its necessity. When one goes through the second reading speech and sorts it out it appears to blame the whole situation on what the Minister calls depressed market conditions rather than address the lack of action by this Government in certain areas and the effect of other government actions on the wool industry.

One of the important areas that the wool industry has had to contend with is the constant fluctuations in the value of the Australian dollar. In the six months prior to the floating of the dollar in December last year the dollar revalued by up to 15 per cent on a wool trade weighted index so that the local merino type wool was being quoted up to 50c a kilogram dearer than its South African counterparts. That, I believe, would certainly show to anybody in the Senate why we would run into difficulties, particularly with the operation of the South African market. As a result of that fluctuation up to that time, in the four-month period following the opening of the wool sales in July last year the Australian Wool Corporation consistently purchased more than 30 per cent of the catalogue, boosting its stock pile by more than 400,000 bales to 1.3 million . Such a rate of buying is reasonable, looking at this Bill, because it exhausted the Corporation's support fund and forced it to borrow some $40m off- shore and to make preparations for a further $150m loan on the domestic market.

Debate interrupted.