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Thursday, 3 February 1994
Page: 376

Senator PANIZZA (5.05 p.m.) —I would like to address very briefly document No. 6, the 1992-93 report of the Australian Wool Realisation Commission. Senator Woodley is listed as being in continuation, and I thought he would have finished off what he had to say. I would like the Senate to note that there is a belief in the wool industry that there is an improvement. Of course there is an improvement; there is a slight improvement from the basic price that has been around for quite a few years now. Having gone down to the depths of despair, the price is starting to turn around. But it is nowhere near the figure that we need for it to be a viable industry, especially when producers totally rely on wool as an income.

  I did quite a tour of the southern Nullarbor pastoral industry and the eastern goldfields pastoral industry over the break and I found that most of those stations are in a care and maintenance situation. They are keeping the improvements up and the numbers of stock up, but there are certain things that they are not able to do. They are not able to make any improvements to their structures. They are not able to do new fencing. As honourable senators might have heard, there were a lot of bushfires in the Nullarbor that burnt a lot of fencing down. Fortunately, all of those were insured and they are able to replace the fences. What the people in the pastoral industry did impress upon me—not that I did not know before—is the present price. The last price I was given was about 536c a kilo.

  To have a viable wool industry, we have to return to around 700c a kilo. When we do—I can see it coming; probably in a couple of years time—that industry will be very viable, not only for the pastoral industry but for the wool industry that is run alongside the cropping situation. We had a new scheme put in place in the wool industry some six- or eight-odd months ago—maybe a little longer than that—under the stewardship of Mr Crean, who was minister for primary industry at the time. What I would like to impress on the industry and everyone is that we cannot depart from the arrangements that were made.

  Wool production is down this financial year to 717 million kilos for the year. More is being sold. There is more coming out of the stockpile, and I believe that that situation, having been fixed, has to stay. There is no going back on that one. That is what wrecked the old scheme. Honourable senators may remember when Mr Kerin ran around the world and said that 700c was unchangeable, and then all of a sudden it was gone. There was a lot of damage and a lot of confidence was lost at the time. No matter how tough things are, even though the stations and others are on care and maintenance, we must stay where we are and look forward to better times.

  I noticed during the week that Mr Kerin, the former Minister for Primary Industries and Energy, was appointed Chairman of the Australian Meat and Livestock Corporation. He was described in the Australian Financial Review as `the farmer's friend'. I wish Mr Kerin well in his new job as head of the AMLC, but I would not call him a farmer's friend, not after what he did to some of our rural industries, and to the wool industry in particular. While I wish him well in his new venture, those of us associated with the wool industry will remember him for the damage that he did rather than for the good that he did.

  Question resolved in the affirmative.