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Wednesday, 28 October 1970

Mr CORBETT (Maranoa) (12:36 PM) We have just listened to the honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Kennedy) who claims that the scheme proposed by the Bill offers nothing to the wool growers. Nothing could be further from the facts of the situation, because the scheme offers something of very great benefit to the wool growers. The honourable member said that it was not what the wool growers asked for. It may not be exactly what was asked far at the meetings to which he referred, but 1 have talked to wool growers who were at those meetings and they are very satisfied with the progress that has been made towards achieving a great improvement on what existed at that time. That is the important factor. Never in the history of the wool growing industry has there been such an acceptance by the representatives of the growers as there has been of this particular action on the part of the Government.

Most of what I would have liked to have said about the Bill has been well said already by members of the Australian Country Party, but as, with my colleague the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter), I represent many of the most sorely pressed wool growers of the Commonwealth because of the tremendous drought that has extended over those areas, I thought that I should at least say how pleased I am-- and I am sure that the honourable member for Kennedy would join with me in this - to know that the Government has come down with a scheme which offers such promise of assistance to the wool growers in that area. Surely if anyone needs assistance, it is those people. Wool growers recognise that statutory powers are necessary. That was one of the major factors mentioned at the meetings that have been referred to by the honourable member for Bendigo. There is no question either that a flexible price is the most efficient way of ensuring that wool growers will get the highest price that the market is prepared to pay. At the same time it will ensure that the stockpile of wool is kept within reasonable limits. This is, indeed, the best way to overcome the substantial fluctuations that sometimes occur during wool sales.

The desperate situation with which the wool industry is confronted demands that growers receive the highest price obtainable, and this is the objective of the Bill. This is what those meetings of wool growers wanted to achieve, and this is the way the Government has decided it can best be achieved. This has been approved almost unanimously by representatives of the wool growers throughout Australia. The Bill does, in fact, represent what the Australian wool growers want. One of the fundamental operations associated with this scheme will be the accuracy with which the market can be gauged and the flexible reserve price applied. Wool growers arc hard pressed financially - and that takes in many of them, especially in the areas that I have referred lo - are no doubt hoping for a quick return to prices which show some degree of profitability, but I am of the opinion that it would be unwise to expect miracles. Steady progress towards that objective would be more likely to ensure the ultimate success of the scheme. I realise that many wool growers cannot afford to wait, but these growers may have to be taken care of under a debt reconstruction scheme and with finance made available on long term low interest conditions.

The personnel of the Commission will have a heavy responsibility and they should be given a reasonable time to achieve the results at which they are aiming. There is no doubt that marketing would be streamlined anl considerable savings made in the selling of wool if it could be sold by sample. When core testing and objective measurement reaches the stage where it is universally acceptable as accurately representing the article, these aims will be achieved. Every effort must be made to have this method operating at the earliest possible time, and I am confident that this will happen. The establishment of confidence will, I believe, be one of the great benefits arising from this legislation. I feel that this confidence will spread through all sections of the wool industry and I confidently trust that it will become the base for the rehabilitation of the wool industry.

I join with other honourable members who have offered congratulations to the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) on being able to bring in this Bill in the time that has been available to him and against a background of division that has become so much a part of wool industry negotiations in the past. As my colleague the honourable member for Calare (Mr England) has said, the Minister has accomplished almost the impossible. I join in (he congratulations to all who have been concerned or who have assisted the Minister in this matter and to Sir John Crawford for the part he played in assisting the Minister to have this Bill before the House tonight. I trust that this achievement will encourage the wool industry to continue to strive to maintain unity of approach in facing the problems of the future and that by our combined efforts we will be able to give the maximum assistance to this great industry which is still of such national importance. 1 should like to make a few comments on the efforts of the Opposition in this debate. I believe this has been one of the worst efforts that we have ever seen from the Australian Labor Party. Honourable members opposite have asked what the Government has done for the wool industry. I tried to make a note of the words used by the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Grassby) who said that the Government had hitched its wagon to the auction system. Whatever his words, he tried to convey that the only thing the Government had ever done was to stick to the auction system. Nothing could be further from the truth. The honourable member for

Riverina should have known that the Government twice stood ready to back a reserve price plan for wool and stood ready to back those reserve price plans financially, placing no limit on the extent of the amount which might have been necessary to support the plan. Yet the honourable member tonight said that the Government has been concerned only with sticking to the auction system.

If the honourable member did know of the action taken by the Government he must stand condemned for his completely inaccurate statement regarding the Government's attitude. If he did not know, he should not have had the temerity to talk about a subject that he knows so little about. J have selected the honourable member for Riverina on whom to comment because I took a note of some of his remarks, but his was characteristic of the approach of the Labor Party to this Bill. I mention also that the Japanese Trade Agreement paved the way for Japan to become the greatest buyer of Australian wool, yet honourable members opposite say that the Government has done nothing for the wool industry. As I have said, the Opposition has put up on this occasion one of its poorest performances. Perhaps one of the reasons for this is because all that honourable members opposite know about the wool industry is second hand or theoretical. But the Opposition's performance has been made even worse by its blatant efforts to try to get some political gain from the desperate situation in which the wool growers now find themselves. 1 would have liked to say much more on this subject.

Dr Gun - You have not said anything yet.

Mr CORBETT - I want to leave time for my colleagues to speak in the debate. I ignore the interjections which are no better than the poor efforts that have been put up by the Opposition during the debate. I conclude by saying that it gives me great pleasure to support the Bill.

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