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Wednesday, 24 May 1972
Page: 2985

Dr PATTERSON (Dawson) - It was very clear that the honourable member for Hume (Mr Pettitt), who just interjected, did not rise in support of the proposal to discuss this matter. Apparently he believes that the Country Party, and his own Government, have given positive leadership to the wool industry on the question of the acquisition of wool. It must be patently clear to the rural industries of Australia that this Government is incapable of giving positive leadership to the Australian wool industry. The Government has now embarked upon a deliberate policy of procrastination and stalling, aimed at delaying any positive decisions with respect to the most dynamic question in rural Australia today, namely the establishment of a wool marketing authority to acquire, to appraise and to market the wool clip on behalf of the Australian wool growing industry.

The peculiar behaviour of the Government in consistently refusing to make decisions, and in appointing yet another top level committee to look into the problems of wool marketing, illustrates its incompetence. A government is elected by the people to make decisions. This Government has had at least 2 years to consider the problems of wool marketing and to make a positive decision on the need for acquisition and on the future of the wool auction system in Australia. Reforms and new policies are urgently required. The Government has had before it considered reports and recommendations from both independent and industry organisations. It has had at its displosal the most knowledgeable government agency in Australia on the economic structure of wool marketing, the Bureau of Agricultural Economics. It has had access to the top marketing and finance brains of the Commonwealth in the Department of Primary Industry, the Treasury and the Department of Trade. In addition, the Australian Wool Industry Conference, the so-called parliament of the wool industry, has carefully considered this matter and has made constructive recommendations to the Government. The Government has had the benefit also of the views of wool growing and marketing organisations throughout Australia.

Despite the availability over the past two years of this wealth of advice from the industry, from government agencies and from independent committees, the McMahon-Anthony Government still refuses to make positive decisions on wool marketing and on the acquisition of the Aus tralian wool clip. Instead, the great decision it has made up to date has been to establish yet another committee. The Government is so incompetent that it cannot even make a positive decision on the amalgamation of the Australian Wool Board and the Australian Wool Commission, an obvious and urgent requirement for streamlining wool marketing in Australia.

Not only is the Government incapable of giving leadership, but also the Parliament is being treated with contempt by the refusal of the Prime Minister and his Ministers to make a considered statement in this House as to what the Government has decided up to this point of time, after 2 years of consideration, about acquisition. Parliament is being treated with garbled newspaper reports about Country Party and Liberal Party in-fighting, and the warriorlike attitude outside Parliament of the Minister for Trade and Industry, the Leader of the Country Party (Mr Anthony), is in marked contrast to his attitude in Parliament, which is one of subservience to the Prime Minister.

This is not good enough. What are the preliminary recommendations, for example, of the Randall Committee? Surely after 2 years of deliberations and stalling the Government has made some progress on whether or not it is desirable to acquire the wool clip; and surely after 2 years it has some positive views on acquisition. Or is it a fact that the Government is in a hopeless position, incapable of sound and constructive decision on wool acquisition? Wool growing is Australia's most important single industry. Its past and present contributions to the growth of Australia economically, and to the development of the nation, are of great magnitude. Its future is clouded with deep uncertainty and the Government, by refusing to make a positive decision and to give leadership on this vital marketing reform, is contributing greatly to wool's misfortunes and the widespread uncertainty which presently exists. Instead of making wool marketing reform one of its highest priorities, the Government has relegated it to one of the lowest priorities.

Let not the Government waste time in the House this afternoon parroting off its policies on wool deficiency payments, the

Australian Wool Commission activities or the price averaging plan policy. These are temporary stop-go policies only. They are not necessarily reliable or permanent machinery for stabilising the wool situation in this country, and they are not based on the solid foundation of permanency. The basic issue before the House today is whether or not the Government supports the establishment of a wool marketing authority to acquire and to market the Australian wool clip. Does it support this proposition or does it not, after 2 years of deliberations? All we have had has been a wall of frustration and indecision, buckpassing and promises.

What this nation desperately needs, not only in wool marketing but also in other economic matters, is some semblance of leadership. At present, the Government is nothing more than a rabble, torn apart by dissension on this most important matter.

For 2 years the Australian Labor Party has been hammering the Government to take action to establish a statutory authority to acquire and market the exportable wool clip. Every major wool grower organisation in Australia now supports the principle of orderly marketing through acquisition of the wool clip. The auction system of selling wool in Australia has failed the wool grower. The auction system is archaic and inefficient and should be progressively scrapped. By continuing with this system, the Government is condoning inefficiency; it is perpetuating the problem. Because the Government has strong political allegiances to the major wool broking houses and hire purchase and pastoral companies, it has embarked on a deliberate policy of stalling. The Liberal Party, as is well known and as was certainly exposed last night by the honourable member for Moore (Mr Maisey), is bitterly opposed to any interference with the auction system. It is prepared to sacrifice the economic livelihood of thousands of traditional small wool growers and their families in order to support powerful wool broking interests and an inefficient auction system.

It is obvious also that the Australian Country Party is too weak to buck the Liberals for fear of widening the serious dissension which already exists within the Government. The Country Party is most vocal outside the Parliament - in the electorates - about its wicked partner, the Liberal Party. But, when it comes to positive decisions in this House and positive action in the Parliament, every member of the Country Party is completely subservient to the dictates of the Liberal Party and the Liberal Prime Minister (Mr McMahon). Despite the fact that the Prime Minister and his Liberal Party cohorts are doing consistent damage to the overall economy of this nation, serious blame must also fall on the shoulders of members of the Country Party for their weakness in not taking the responsibility of leadership in the matter of wool. The honourable member for Moore is most vocal in his electorate and elsewhere outside the Parliament in condemning his own leaders. I hope that he would be taking part in this debate this afternoon in order to make his statements in the Parliament. If he liked to ask for leave to make a statement in order to repeat and to elucidate the allegations that he made last night, the Opposition would have no hesitation in giving him leave to make such a statement.

Two years ago, when I announced Labor's policy on wool marketing, of which the central theme was the establishment of a statutory marketing authority to acquire, appraise and market the exportable wool clip, Government speakers ridiculed Labor's proposals and the principle of acquisition. Now, of course, the wool industry throughout the nation has stated in categorical terms that acquisition is urgently required and is the key to the marketing needs of wool on the international scene. Wool growers have seen the efficiency of the international marketing of wheat and sugar and they want it also for wool. But still the Government refuses to make a decision, obviously because of its political allegiance to the powerful vested interests who bitterly oppose a governmentbacked marketing organisation. lt is clear that the Government is blind to the current facts of political life throughout the wool growing and rural electorates of Australia. The LiberalCountry Party coalition is facing political oblivion in wool growing electorates because of its arrogance and its contemptuous treatment of the entire wool industry - mainly because it refuses to make positive decisions. The wool industry in the producing areas does not mean just wool growers; it embraces entire rural communities of producers, businessmen and employees. It is not just the wool growers who are condemning this Government. It is being condemned also by the workers, the shopkeepers and the trading interests throughout the electorate whose economic livelihood is tied to the wool towns throughout Australia. Does anyone in the Parliament really believe that the Randall Committee will come up with anything which is new or which has not been thoroughly evaluated before? Of course it will not. It is simply a delaying tactic which should not be tolerated. It is a tactic to hoodwink the wool growers of Australia.

I want to make it perfectly clear that Labor fully supports the establishment of a statutory marketing authority to acquire and market the Australian wool clip. Labor's policy is centred on 5 fundamental points: Firstly, the amalgamation of the Australian Wool Board and the Australian Wool Commission to form the nucleus of a single statutory marketing authority under the control of a full time chairman; secondly, a statutory authority to acquire, appraise and market the Australian wool clip on behalf of wool growers; thirdly, a continuous and progressive reconstruction and development scheme to assist in the solution of production problems and in the solution of production problems and in the streamlining of the physical methods of selling wool, including objective measurement; fourthly, the payment of tariff compensation, if justified, to offset the serious net cost disabilities incurred in the production of wool for export as a result of essential high tariffs in Australia; and, lastly, a fully elected Australian Wool Industry Conference to represent wool growers in all wool producing areas of Australia. Those are the 5 basic points on which the Labor Party's wool policy has been formulated, and it has been in existence for 2 years.

Mr Sinclair - When was this?

Dr PATTERSON - I announced it 2 years ago in the Parliament and, if the Minister for Primary Industry wants to confirm it, he can look through the record of the debates. But where is the Government's wool policy? That is the most pertinent question today. Firstly, of course, we know that the Government was opposed to the acquisition of the wool clip. I can only assume - with other members of the Opposition and, I believe, most other members of this Parliament - that the Government still is irrevocably opposed to acquisition. Because of the Government's silence in this matter, every wool growing organisation in Australia is full entitled to make the same assumption, namely, that the Government is opposed to acquisition. If the Government is not opposed to acquisition, let the Minister, when he follows me in this debate, state the case of the Government and where it stands on the acquisition of the wool clip.

The House should not complete this session until the Government has made and announced in this Parliament a definite decision on wool marketing reform and has told the industry and the nation whether it will legislate for a statutory marketing authority to acquire, appraise and market the wool clip. The indecision and uncertainty of this Government cannot be tolerated any longer by the wool growing industry and, because of the importance of this industry to the nation, by the nation in general. Because of the great importance of wool, the wool growing industry and the nation are fully entitled to a decision by this Government - a decision based on positive leadership, not the negative leadership we have had with respect to the wool industry over the last 2 years.

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