Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Full Day's HansardDownload Full Day's Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Thursday, 18 February 1971

Senator MAUNSELL (Queensland) - We have heard a remarkable variation of speeches tonight. Unlike the previous occasions when this matter was discussed, the relative merits of the embargo have been dodged neatly by the Opposi tion.. Its only argument is based on its claim that the wishes of the Parliament have been ignored by the Government. Senator Greenwood dealt effectively with that argument. I think it is just as well to recount some of the issues which brought about the Government's decision. As Senator Drake-Brockman. who represents the Minister for Primary Industry, stated earlier, the ban was introduced in 1929 by proclamation. Neither the Parliament nor the producers were consulted. Subesquent Ministers, irrespective. of political allegiance, had to administer the proclamation as they saw fit. As a result of pressure from the wool industry the Government, on the advice of Mr Anthony, the former Minister for Primary Industry, decided on a partial - not a total - lifting of the ban, such decision to be reviewed in 12 months.

We have heard some arguments tonight about why the ban should be continued. The ban on the export of merino rams was imposed, and was supported by the wool industry over the years, because, as has been mentioned already, Australia has been' producing fine wool. Because of our climatic conditions, stud breeders have been able to produce rams which grow the fine wool. Breeders in other countries have not been able to do so. The object of the ban was to create a monopoly for Australia in fine wools, the argument being that if there was a shortage of fine wools the price would go up and the Australian wool producer and the Australian people generally would get a higher return. That reasoning has fallen down because people have forgotten that falling prices can result not only from over production but also from under production of a product. That is exactly what happened with Australian fine wools.

Since the war the demand for apparel fibres has risen tremendously and the production of wool has never been able to catch up. That is why at one stage at the end of the war the Australian wool. industry was able to produce .16 per cent of the world's requirements of apparel fibres. Today, however, we are flat out producing 7 per cent or S per cent of the world's requirements. What has happened to the fine wool with which we are particularly concerned tonight - the wool which is produced by our merinos? In 1940m, the first year for which we have been able to get a complete breakup of the Australian wool clip - that was the first year of operation of the Joint Organisation - 64's and finer, the fine wools of this country, represented 53.7 per cent of the total Australian wool clip. The latest figures which we have been able to obtain - they cover 1968-69 - indicate that 64's and finer represent only 13.7 per cent of the Australian wool clip. A ban which has been in operation for some 40 years and which was imposed with the object of protecting the fine wools of this country in order to put up the price and to ensure that Australia would be able to produce this wool and maintain the wool industry, has had the reverse effect. It has happened because we have not been able to supply the needs of the apparel industry.

Senator Byrnemade the point very well earlier tonight when he referred to the decline in the prices of fine wool over the years. One would imagine that the shortage of this type of wool would cause the price to rise. As I explained earlier, we have not been able to produce enough fine wool for the apparel industry and it has been forced to turn to synthetics. It is argued that if we send our rams out of this country and improve the quality of wool in other countries we will affect the price we receive for our product. That is just so much rubbish. The problem in the Australian wool industry does not arise because of wool grown by other countries. It arises through competition from synthetics. Until we can produce sufficient high quality wool we will have a problem. Australia produces only 30 per cent of the world's wool needs. From remarks made in this debate one would imagine that we produce all the wool required throughout the world. The only way to save the wool industry through increasing prices is to improve the quality of wool, not only in Australia but throughout the world.

The other argument put forward by the Opposition stems from the lobby established with it by a section of the industry, and with our semi-opposition. That lobby has been established by people who are worried about competition from overseas countries which seek to buy rams from our stud breeders. That argument completely ignores the rules of supply and demand.

Over the years the studs in which the Opposition now has so much faith, because it is said they have been able to produce super wool that no-one else can produce, have gone out of production. Of the studs operating about 20 or 30 years ago, only half are left today. Stud breeding is a very involved and costly business. The owners of these studs are finding it is much more profitable, even under existing conditions in the industry, the turn to wool growing rather than stud breeding.

If the last Sydney sales are a true indication, before very many years the merino breeding section will cease to be a major part of our wool industry. The only other way to protect the stud merino breeding section of the industry is by subsidy, at the expense of the taxpayers, because the returns from rams are not sufficient to make ends meet at present. One stud after another will go out of business. Quite a few studs have gone out of business in the last few years. If buyers in overseas countries can help to keep the industry solvent, what is wrong with selling them rams? As an ordinary flock breeder I am vitally interested in the sale of rams. I can predict what will happen in future if action is not taken in respect of stud breeding. If income from overseas will keep our stud sheep breeding industry solvent, is that not preferable to asking the taxpayers to do so?

SenatorKeeffe - What will happen if those overseas buyers sell more wool than you?

Senator MAUNSELL - Senator Keeffeis an expert on rams. The Government has acted under the provisions laid down in 1929 by a Labor Government. On this occasion, unlike then, the Government has consulted the industry. Honourable senators opposite have been very critical of the Australian Wool Industry Conference. The AWIC is made up of employers in the wool industry. If honourable senators opposite do not recognise the AWIC as being representative of the wool -industry of Australia, how the devil can they recognise the Australian Council of Trade Unions as being representative of the unions of this country?

Senator Keeffe - The unions are better organised.

Senator MAUNSELL - We might agree about that. It' appears so, anyway. 1 will ignore future interjections by Senator Keeffe because he is not contributing to the debate. I turn to consider the suggestion of a plebiscite of wool growers. Senator Milliner said tonight that a plebiscite should be conducted. I have noticed on the notice paper an item bearing Senator Milliner's name that does not -mention a referendum.

Senator Milliner - That is right.

Senator MAUNSELL - It is an after thought.

Senator Milliner - Do you support the Senate's decision?

Senator MAUNSELL - We will get back to that. I know certain members of the Labor Party' who believe that the Senate should be abolished, lt is amazing that members of the Labor Party have so much to say on this issue and are so churned up about the fact that the vote of the Senate was not taken into consideration. I ask honourable senators opposite whether they have been able to convince members of their Party in another place that this is a serious matter. Since this issue has been before the Parliament oodles of urgency motions have been moved in the other House, but not once has the Labor Party seen fit to raise this matter there. The forms of the other place would have provided an opportunity for the Labor Party to do so.

Senator Murphy - I rise to a point of order. I do not think the honourable senator should be discussing procedures in the other House. I am not saying that he is being offensive to my Party. I do not regard his remarks as offensive but I do not think he should be discussing the affairs and conduct of motions in the other House. I ask, Mr Deputy President, that you suggest to the honourable senator that it is extremely undesirable and contrary to Standing Orders for him to do so. It is incumbent upon each House to ensure that it does not offend in that regard. I am not saying that the honourable senator intends to be offensive, but the rules should not be transgressed by discussing the affairs of the other House. 1 ask that it be suggested to the honourable senator that he should not do so.

Senator Prowse - I wish to speak to the point of order. Surely what Senator Maunsell has said is merely a criticism of the Labor Party for its failure to use the forms of the other House and no criticism whatever of proceedings. It is simply a criticism of the lack of action by the Labor Party.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Bull) - Senator Maunsell will continue. As I have just come into the chair it is difficult for me to adjudicate on this point. I ask Senator Maunsell to conform with Standing Orders..

Senator MAUNSELL - I am extremely sorry that the Labor Party is a little hurt by what I have had to say. If the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Murphy) does not like it, I simply say to him that the Labor Party has had ample, opportunity to debate this matter. Mr Hawke used the argument that we have heard in this place. He said that he would be quite happy to lift the ban, provided the issue were debated in the Parliament. Surely he has had every opportunity to" convince members of another place to initiate a debate. I thought he had more influence in the Labor Party. Mr Hawke is one of those people who think they can run this country. The real issue before the Senate is not whether rams should be exported - that decision was made constitutionally in a proper place - but whether the elected representatives of the people or the people outside who are not responsible to the community should govern the country.

Most thinking Australians - certainly most that I have talked to - even if opposed to the ban have applauded the action of the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) in ensuring that the decisions of the elected representatives of the people were carried out. It is a shocking indictment against this country that pressure groups from outside, no matter of what type they may be, should dictate to the elected representatives of the people. The sooner that we in this and the other place recognise this, the sooner we will receive the support of the Australian people. I am completely opposed to the motion that we are debating tonight. We have made our stand on this matter abundantly clear in previous debates. A decision has been taken constitutionally by the Government in the same way as a previous decision on this issue was taken and enforced by a former Labor government. Until such time as the wool industry through the Australian Wool Industry Conference, which is its superior body, decides that the ban is having an effect on our wool industry the Government's decision should stand. As the matter is to be reviewed every 12 months, I cannot see any danger in the partial embargo which is being enacted at present.

Senator Milliner - Mr Deputy President, this question has been traversed quite openly-

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Bull) - Order! Is the honourable senator rising to a point of order?

Senator Milliner - No.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- The honourable senator may not speak a second time in the debate.

Senator Milliner - There are no other speakers listed and the subject has been canvassed quite openly. I request that the question be now put.

Senator Webster - Senator Prowse was on his feet.

Senator Milliner - He was not on his feet.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT - Order! I call Senator Prowse, who was getting to his feet.

Senator Milliner - On a point of order, when Senator Maunsell resumed his seat no senator on the Government side of the chamber attempted to rise. It was only after I began to speak that Senator Prowse attempted to rise.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT - Order! I call Senator Prowse, whose name appears on my list of speakers.

Senator Milliner - Mr Deputy President. I looked at the list-

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order! The honourable senator may address himself to the point of order only.

Senator Milliner - I am addressing myself to the point of order. When the list of speakers was compiled, Senator McClelland was to follow Senator Maunsell in the debate. Senator

McClelland intimated that he did not wish to speak and, consequently, I believe that should be the end of the debate. I pursue my point of order.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order! There is no substance to the point of order. I call Senator Prowse.

Suggest corrections