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Thursday, 19 December 1912

Senator FINDLEY (Victoria) (Honorary Minister) . - The Leader of the Opposition directed most of his criticism towards the proposal to extend the bounty on wool tops. He said that there is no information forthcoming that this industry cannot be carried on without the aid of a bounty.

Senator Millen - I did not say so. I said I wanted to know whether it was so.

Senator FINDLEY - The honorable senator wanted the information ; but to his own satisfaction he proved that it was a highly profitable business, and could be carried on without the aid of a bounty.

Senator Millen - I did not say so.

Senator FINDLEY - The honorable senator said that the business was paying dividends, was a profitable concern, and on that account consoled himself with the view that it could be carried on without the aid of a bounty. Not long since a deputation composed of persons, who are said to be members of a Meat Ring in Sydney, waited upon the Minister of Trade and Customs, and expressed a desire that the bounty on wool tops should no longer be paid. In reply to the deputation, I find that the Minister of Trade and Customs said -

He had made an inspection of the particular establishment under notice, and he thought it was worthy of the company.

Referring to the members of the deputation, who expressed themselves strongly in favour of the discontinuance of the bounty on wool tops, the Minister said -

The members of the deputation would, perhaps, say that if there were no bonus the business would be wiped out.

To that statement a Mr. Gee said, " It would wipe itself out." Mr. Gee was one of the principal speakers on the deputation that desired the discontinuance of the bounty, and I am informed is a prominent member of the Sydney Meat Ring.

Senator St Ledger - By the way, is there a meat ring in Sydney?

Senator FINDLEY - Every one but the honorable senator is aware that there is. Some little time past a series of articles appeared in a certain weekly newspaper published in Sydney. They were, in my opinion, inspired by the Meat Ring.- Copies of the newspaper were sent to members of both Houses of this Parliament with a view, no doubt, to influence them to vote against the extension of this bounty on wool tops. The reason for the hostility shown by this newspaper towards the company interested in the manufacture of wool tops, is that Mr. Hughes, who is carrying on the wool-top industry, is associated with the company that is coming into competition with the Meat Ring for the purchase of skins. When he first entered into the business, the members of the Meat Ring believed that they would be able to wipe Mr. Hughes out altogether, but he became a competitor with them, in the purchase of sheep. He has gone into the meat business, and when his sheep are slaughtered he utilizes the skins, the wool on which, in an up-to-date establishment, is converted into wool tops and exported to Japan.

Senator St Ledger - This is Hughes' story which the honorable senator is telling us.

Senator FINDLEY - The important point is that it is a correct story.

Senator Millen - Suppose that the Meat Ring wanted Hughes shut out; how does that demonstrate the necessity for a bonus for this industry?

Senator FINDLEY - The Meat Ring want Mr. Hughes to cease being a competitor with them for the purchase of sheep.

Senator Millen - How does that justify the continuance of the bounty on wool tops ?

Senator FINDLEY - Mr. Hugheswas forced to become a buyer of sheep against these people, in order to secure the skins he required for his wool-top making business.

Senator Millen - The information I want is how the Minister can claim that that justifies a bounty on wool tops?

Senator FINDLEY - When Senator Millen is given one piece of information he wants something else. The honorable senator told us that we are providing 70 per cent, of the wages paid in this industry by way of bounty.

Senator Millen - Hear, hear.

Senator FINDLEY - The honorable senator is wrong in that statement.

Senator Millen - Then the case made out bv Mr. Tudor was wrong.

Senator FINDLEY - The wages paid by two firms engaged in the wool-top industry amount annually to £35,249.

Senator McColl - Not in connexion with the manufacture of wool tops alone.

Senator FINDLEY - Yes. The Minister of Trade and Customs has supplied the figures. He shows that the wages paid in the industries amount to £35,249, and as the bounty paid amounts to £16,897, the rate per cent, of the bounty works out at about 48.

Senator Millen - That is on the wages paid over the whole of the industry.

Senator FINDLEY - No, in the wooltop industry.

Senator Millen - Then Mr. Tudor gave wrong information.

Senator FINDLEY - Portion of that bounty was paid on a basis of 1¾d. per lb. Senator Millen said that, because the bounty is providing 70 per cent, of the wages paid in the industry, a searching inquiry ought to be made. The honorable senator can always make out a good case when he is opposing a proposition. But why did he not go a little further ? He knows very well that the industry could not be established without capital. Land was required, buildings had to "be erected, machinery was absolutely essential. Official figures show that the company concerned imported £14,156 worth of machinery for use in the industry, and paid duty thereon to the amount of £2,361 4s. nd. Consequently, the statement that the wages of the company were paid out of the bounty to the extent of 70 per cent, is incorrect.

Senator Millen - What I said was that the bounty represented 75 per cent, of the wages paid.

Senator FINDLEY - But that is .only one aspect of the case. Machinery, land, and buildings had to be paid for.

Senator Millen - And dividends had to be put into the pockets of the shareholders.

Senator FINDLEY - Wool tops were never exported until this bounty was paid.

Senator St Ledger - Where are they being exported to now ?

Senator FINDLEY - To Germany and Japan.

Senator St Ledger - To compete against British manufactures.

Senator FINDLEY - They are also competing against German manufactures. Why should they not compete? We compete in the markets of the world wherever our exports go, and what reason is there why we should not compete in regard to wool tops? It has to be remembered, as I said before, that in this industry contracts have to be made twelve months in advance, and it would have been manifestly unfair to wait until the bounty period expired before giving consideration to this matter. In justice to the manufacturers we should decide here and now whether we will continue this bounty. Senator Millen said that we should have an inquiry to ascertain what machinery the company has in its establishment, what wages are paid, the price paid for wool, and the profits realized. Has the honorable senator been as anxious in regard to other bounties proposed?

Senator Millen - My remarks on that aspect applied to all the bounties.

Senator FINDLEY - I do not think they did. If one were to look up Hansard' he would fail to discover anything like the criticism in regard to other bounties .that was directed against the bounty on wool tops. This is an industry that deserves encouragement, and the opposition that has been manifested in the Senate and outside is not so much an opposition on business grounds as a personal opposition due to the fact' that certain persons have a grudge against Mr. Hughes.

Senator Millen - The honorable senator has no justification for sayang that.

Senator FINDLEY - I am alluding to what has appeared in certain newspapers, and not to speeches which have been made here. Certain persons elsewhere have a grudge against Mr. Hughes because he has been treading on their corns in certain directions. Newspapers which Iia ve taken up the opposition to Mr. Hughes' industry have been circulated amongst honorable senators.

Senator Chataway - I have never read one of them.

Senator FINDLEY - I have seen dozens of copies of the Newsletter addressed to various members of the Senate. Other literature has also been circulated. Under all the circumstances, I say that this is an industry deserving of every encouragement.

Senator Millen - Why does not the Minister attempt to show that this bounty is necessary?

Senator FINDLEY - In the first place, Mr. Gee, who is a strong opponent of Mr. Hughes, asserts that the industry would be wiped out if the bounty were discontinued. Mr. Hughes himself also says that the industry could not be conducted without the bounty. Furthermore, the workers in the industry are anxious for the continuance of the bounty, and it is believed that in two or more years the business will be established, and the bounty will be proved to be no longer necessary.

Senator Millen - Who has made the statement that after two years the bounty will not be required ?

Senator FINDLEY - Information .we have received shows that, in all probability, the industry will be established within the period mentioned, and the bounty may not be required after that time.

Senator Millen - Who is the authority ? Where is it from?

Senator FINDLEY - From an authoritative source.

Senator Millen - The Minister has no information at all.

Senator FINDLEY - We have this knowledge - that the bounty was originally i£d. per lb. on wool tops exported. It was reduced to id. for the next two years. Our proposal is that when a manufacturer produces 1,000,000 lbs. of wool tops there shall be a reduction to fd. per lb., and we have particular knowledge that the factory in which Mr. Hughes is interested will in all probability produce that amount soon. The amount of fd. per lb., therefore, will be paid, which will only be half what was originally paid. All this having happened within a period of four years, we are hopeful that in two years more - or three at the outside - the industry will be established firmly, and the bounty will be unnecessary.

Question resolved in the affirmative..

Bill read a second time.

In Committee:

Clause 1 agreed to.

Clause 2 -

Section 2 of the Bounties Act 1907 is amended by omitting therefrom the word " thirty-nine " and inserting in its stead the word " fifty-nine."

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