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Wednesday, 28 October 1970


Mr TURNBULL (Mallee) (1:58 AM) - As the Whip of the Australian Country Party, I put my name on the bottom of the list of speakers. I had not intended to speak tonight because time is the essence of the contract. We want to get this Bill through this chamber as soon as possible and to get it to the Senate so that that chamber can pass it and it can become law as soon as possible. Some honourable members have aasked: 'Why all this rush?' It took some time for the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) - I must compliment him on doing an excellent job - to be sure that the primary producer organisations, specifically those concerned with wool, would approve of the legislation that he hoped to implement. He did a magnificent job in getting agreement from the chief primary producer organisations and wool bodies in Australia.

So, the Bill is before the House tonight. As far as I am concerned, the sooner it is passed the better. Recently - I think it was last week, but it may have been this week - the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) said that members of the Australian Labor Party would do everything they could to facilitate the passage of the Bill. I believe they will do that. However, from some of the speeches I have heard tonight from Labor members condemning the Bill, it is a wonder to me that the Labor Opposition supports it. Members of the Labor Party were quick early in this debate to say: 'We do not oppose the measure. We will support it. We may have some amendments but if the amendments are not carried' - and from what I can gauge, I do not think they will be carried - 'we will support the Bill'. Yet they have condemned it. This seems strange to me and I cannot understand that attitude at all.

One thing that would have brought me to my feel if nothing else had was the quoting by the honourable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr Collard) of what 1 said in 1964. What 1 said then was quite true; and it is true today. Regarding the auction system, the Bill is aimed at stopping collusion at auctions. A close watch will be kepton what is happening. Anyone who has had any experience of auctioneering or of the auction system will quickly realise if there is any collusion to bring prices down. I believe that the people who will be appointed to the Commission will be men who have had experience of auctions and of selling. They will quickly note whether collusion is taking place and take necessary action to stop it. After all, there can be collusion between buyers in private selling as well as in auction selling. It cannot be said that if there is private selling there is no collusion. Some people come from overseas to buy wool. One man may buy wool, take it to the United Kingdom and split it up between two or three Bradford mills. The situation must be watched closely not only in Australia but overseas, especially if the wool that goes overseas is being divided among different people who send one buyer to Australia to act for them. This will be one of the most difficult things for the Commission to overcome. It will have to be watched very closely. I hope it will be overcome and I give the Bill my best wishes in doing this.

The honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Duthie) said that the Australian Labor Party has a right to speak on wool legislation. He said: 'Although some members of the Australian Country Party seem to think that we do not have that right, we represent so many more rural electorates than does the Country Party'. That may or may not be so. but I put it to members of the Labor Party that in half of the electorates that he mentioned Labor wins the seat not on the rural vote but on the vote of a city within the electorate. If honourable members look at the returns of the elections they will find that a Labor Party candidate may have won but his vote in the rural area would not have got him very far towards victory on any occasion.

The Japanese Trade Agreement has been mentioned tonight. I think that a lot of the new members do not know what happened when that Agreement came before the House. Every member of the Labor Party who was in the chamber when the vote was taken voted against the Agreement. It is on record in Hansard that the Labor Party of the day pledged himself to rescind the Agreement at the first opportunity. When honourable members opposite say: What rot' they should remember that their Party pledged itself at the first opportunity to rescind the Japanese Trade Agreement. The Labor Party has not been in office since then. When it gets into power, if it ever does, will it rescind that Agreement, or has it thrown this pledge overboard? These are the big questions that members opposite must answer if they can.

We must have a Bill such as this to give the wool industry a chance to recover. All of the talk about the Country Party being to blame for the wool market languishing is so much rot. No-one can prove anything of that nature. The Country Party, of course, represents in this Parliament prim ary industry and country districts generally. It represents country towns and it knows that people living in country towns are dependent for their prosperity and well being on the produce of the surrounding farmlands and the price that can be obtained for that produce. Consequently I can say that the Country Party represents a great deal in that better part of Australia that lies outside the metropolitan areas. We give our wholehearted support to this Bill. I shall not go into details because members of the Country Party who have already spoken in the debate have gone into detail and have pointed out the ways in which this Bill will provide great help to the wool industry and to Australia. It has my full support.

Mr FitzPATRICK(Darling) (2.6 a.m.)I must admit that I have come into this debate a little late, but this was not my intention. 1 have been out on electoral business and when I came back I found that the list of speakers for the debate had been almost filled. Evidently members of the Australian Labor Party have been very concerned about the crisis in the wool industry and have been doing a lot of study on the subject to enable them to make their contribution to the debate. This, I believe, is to the credit of members of the Labor Party. Because of the large numbers of wool growers in my electorate, which, like that of the honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett), has for a large part of it some of the worst country in Australia in a drought stricken area, I felt that at least I should ask the Opposition Whip to put me on the list of speakers to enable me to enter the debate for a few minutes at least. There is another reason for my entering the debate. I had not intended to mention this, but because of what was said by the honourable member for Mallee (Mr Turnbull) I propose to do so. I enter the debate also because of the large vote that I received in country areas. In many places the vote that I received was equal to that received by the Liberal Party and Country Party put together. Consequently, I feel that I should spend at least some time in dealing with the problems of the wool industry and that I should have the indulgence of the House to enable me to do so.

I was very surprised to bear some members of the Country Party criticising honourable members on this side of the House because we have not spent years in the wool industry. Members of the Country Party seem to be very confused. It appears to me that some hurried agreement has been reached between members of the Country Party and members of the Liberal Party, but from listening to the debate tonight I have the impression that they are miles apart. If we were to talk to wool growers other than those who are members of the Country Party we would find that there is a three-way split because wool growers generally to whom I have spoken have an entirely different idea about a wool marketing scheme.

Much has been said about the auction system. No doubt in the past the auction system has appeared to work all right, but the benefit of a system is not really known until it is subjected to pressure. I feel that this is what has been happening and that the wool growers have found that they can no longer carry the bankers and the brokers on their backs and are looking for a better system. I propose to accept the challenge issued by the honourable member for Wimmera (Mr King) and read out the Labor Party's policy on wool. I believe that this is consistent with what has been asked for by wool growers throughout Australia. I am very proud to have the opportunity to place this policy before the Parliament.

The Opposition's policy is as follows:

The establishment of a statutory authority to acquire, appraise and market the Australian wool clip on behalf of woolgrowers;

A reconstruction scheme to assist in the solution of problems of production and streamline selling methods;

A consideration of a tariff compensatory bounty to offset the serious cost disabilities incurred in the production of wool for export;

A fully elected Australian Wool Industry Conference to represent all wool producing areas of Australia.

STATUTORY AUTHORITY

(i)   The establishment of a statutory authority which would be responsible for the acquisition, appraisal, marketing and distribution of Australia's annual wool clip.

(ii)   The authority would be conducted on sound business principles applicable to co-operatives.

(iii)   The authority would arrange for the acquisition and appraisal of the wool clip to be located in decentralised modern wool marketing complexes.

(iv)   Wool would be appraised and catalogued by competent appraisers under the jurisdiction of the authority in the short term, with the rapid progression to pre-sale testing by objective measurement and equivalent scientific techniques designed to improve, standardise and streamline the preparation and sale of the clip.

(v)   After consultation and collaboration with world wool organisations and exporting and importing countries, an annual average appraisal price for the Australian wool clip to be determined, based on the level of realistic world prices.

(vi)   A minimum reserve price (floor price) would be then placed on all wools; those lots not realising the floor price, either by auction, tender or private treaty would be 'taken over' at the minimum reserve appraisement price by the authority.

(vii)   Special contracts or international bi-lateral agreements can be negotiated by the authority, acting in association with the

Federal Government.

(viii)   Wool growers would contribute a small percentage of the gross proceeds of (heir annual wool clip for a period of say five years in order to build a capital fund to control and market all surplus wools 'taken over'. (This would act as an 'insurance fund' until any wool 'taken over' is disposed of at the most satisfactory level of prices).

(xi)   All profits, after working expenditure and the provision for normal reserves, would be returned to wool growers each year.

RECONSTRUCTION SCHEME

The physical and economic problems associated with the production and handling of wool are becoming more evident as the cost price squeeze continues.

In order to encourage continuous innovation with respect to:

(i)   wool production and land use;

(ii)   domestic transport efficiency;

(iii)   wool handling and distribution; and

(iv)   pre-safe testing; development funds (grant and loans) be made available to the authority, the States and to wool producers.

I believe that our policy is consistent with the decisions of wool growers throughout Australia. I feel there are some weaknesses in the proposition put forward by the Government, one such weakness being the composition of the authority. We heard the honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Irwin) criticise the Australian Wool Board.

If we read the suggested composition of the authority we see that the Chairman is to be appointed for 5 years by the Minister for Primary Industry after consultation with the Australian Wool Board. The Bill also provides for 2 woolgrower representatives to be appointed by the Minister also after consultation with the Australian Wool Board. But I believe that the main factor that will determine whether this authority is successful will be its form of leadership. I feel that this is the weakness in the composition of the authority. It appears to me that it has taken power right away from the woolgrower representatives. In ray opinion, any authority that is set up should have a majority of wool growers on it so that they can determine and advise other wool growers what is taking place. Also this would give them a voice in the authority and some power to select their own chairman.

Just in passing, I want to inform the House that the date on our policy is 22nd May 1970. I commend it to the House. 1 draw the attention of members of the Country Party to the fact that it was our intention, although we disagree with a lot of the proposals in this Bill, not to hold up the passage of the legislation. We realise the crisis in the wool industry. We do not intend to delay the passage of this legislation in case it does contain some benefits for the wool growers. We point out to the Country Party members that it is their responsibility to see that this proposal works. I am quite sure that the Liberal Party does not have a great deal of time for it. Judging from the speeches made by members of the Liberal Party, I feel that they would give it away at the first opportunity and say to their Country Party colleagues: 'It was your scheme. We did not want it anyhow.* I feel that the Country Party members have a bigger responsibility in this matter and 1 hope that they will live up to it because there is no doubt that there is a crisis in the wool industry.







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