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Thursday, 14 October 1971
Page: 2407

Mr BUCHANAN - The purpose of this Bill is to give assistance to wool growers to bolster the poor returns that are being earned at present. Without the export earnings of this great industry it would have been impossible to achieve the high standard of living which we take for granted today. It is up to us to get the industry back to the state of its former glory. Anyone who begrudges assistance to it in its great need now does Australia a disservice. There are about 100,000 wool growers. Also, there are 300,000 employees and their dependants and probably something like the same number of people in Australia who are partly dependent on it in other activities. So this Bill provides some encouragement and assistance for quite a large proportion of the Australian population.

Many of us have seen the present situation coming for some years. The failure of the industry organisation leaders to come to grips with the problem has been of great concern to those of us who have been looking on and seeing Australia's most important industry slowly degenerate into one which, if the drift is not stemmed, will become a dead loss. I am not going to delve into the whys and wherefors of the types of wool that are being- grown. Suffice to say that there is far too much that should not be marketed at all. But the answer to that can only be the economic one of diminishing returns which will force these growers of unwanted types to grow something else - preferably, of course, to grow saleable wool. What I want to put forward into this very interesting debate is that wool is a fibre that has established an enormous industry on a world basis. Australian wool growers have built up a great trade for Australia by supplying the raw materials that have been going to mills on the other side of the world, and Japan, where it is turned into products 10, SO or even 100 times the value of the raw material which other countries buy from us.

For generations Australian wool growers have been able to earn above average and really quite generous incomes because the mills in other countries set up processes for scouring, carbonising, spinning and weaving and the world population provided a growing demand for apparel, carpets and all the wonderful fabrics that make life pleasant today. The trouble with wool today is that the growers have sat back and said: Well, wool is better'. They said: 'Buyers will have to come to us for it'. Before the invention of synthetics there was a lively demand for wool in the auction rooms, but since the development of synthetics mill owners can be selective and do not need to compete with each other, and the auction system is shown to be the disaster it always must be when demand is slack. But I remind the House that the 'living fibre' market in the world has been so great that if it had not been for the advent of synthetics we would not have been able to grow enough wool to supply the world's demand. There is a growing demand for, and a growing use of, wool in quantity. Although it may not be quite so much in percentage, the market is there. Although there is talk of competition with synthetics, this does not mean that wool cannot be sold to the same mill owners who will use synthetics if they are sold to them for the qualities that wool possesses and at a price which will make it worth growing.

Several speakers today have said that the problem of the wool grower is his costs. Others have preferred to say it is the price that he gels for the product. I want to go a long way further and say that it is the marketing. There is a complete absence of expertise in meeting the challenge of the market place. One of the problems in the past has been that wool has been used for garments for which it did not give complete satisfaction. Resistance to the use of wool as a blending material has held wool back. I do not think we can really see the degree to which this has occurred. No-one today would regard all wool socks for ordinary wear as satisfactory. The synthetics have made wool socks acceptable to women who objected to the darning and men who did not like the holes. Light weight suits need a synthetic stiffener to resist creasing yet, strangely enough, suits made wholly of synthetic material crease so badly that they must be ruled out altogether by anyone seeking a well-groomed appearance.

I would like to suggest a few things that are not done. I read the other day that the cricket season is with us now and that cricketers want a cable stitch woollen garment but this article is not made in Australian factories. If a cricketer wants a woollen garment of this type he has to buy an imported one. However, synthetic garments of this type are made in some of our Australian mills. This is a wrong approach to the marketing of a product which is wanted for its superior qualities. People have to put up with a substitute because the mill owner in Australia might find that the synthetic article is a little easier to handle or sometimes a little more profitable. However, I believe that with the proper marketing techniques, he can be shown that he can do just as well by selling good stuff as a shoddy copy.

Too much time effort and money have been lavished on trying to make wool exclusive or to alter the fibre so as to achieve such things as making it machine washable. After all, wool has its own characteristics and has to be sold for the product that it is. We should leave all the gimmicks to the synthetic people. Let them have their market and we will take ours. Too much of growers' money has been spent on promoting 'wool' and not 'Australian wool'. This is holding us back more than most people realise. Wool is being sold on the simple basis that wool is good. For all that, wool today enjoys about 6 per cent of the apparel fibre market, but that is still a big and valuable market. We should put a lot more effort into providing that market with what it wants, not what we think it wants.

Wool, as we are speaking of it today, is a raw material. We sell it in the greasy state and naturally take a very low price for ft, just as we get a very low price per ton for iron ore compared with the price that the producer receives for the steel he makes from it. In our planning for the iron ore industry we stipulate the establishment of steel mills within a certain time. If only the early wool barons had thought of this, we would today have flourishing wool scouring, wool top, wool spinning and wool weaving industries of a size to compare with the great mills of the world. As it is we have the highest quality weaving mills in the world. I say this without any fear of getting beaten in any argument on it.

I can take honourable members to mills that are producing materials from Australian wool which they buy. Australian wool is treated wholly at those mills. It is woven and we are able to send the finished product to markets outside of Australia such as Hong Kong, America and the United Kingdom. These products and their quality are fully accepted for what they are. If we go to a show put on by the wool industry - not an Australian Wool Board show because it is no good going to one of them if we want to see wool in its best form - we can see the industry showing off what it can make. At these shows the industry gives its awards to the best materials. We would not get any better suitings, materials and various fabrics anywhere else in the world.

As my allotted time has almost concluded I will now sum up my remarks. As I said earlier, the auction system has failed the wool grower. When competition left the price left with it. When prices are falling the manufacturers hold off buying; this is historically true. Under present conditions no good buyer, no sharp buyer would do more than buy minimum stocks when he knows that the Wool Commission will store the wool until he wants it and then give it to him at a price he wants to pay. On the other hand, total acquisition and marketing by sophisticated techniques, with one marketing authority instead of the conglomeration that we now have, properly equipped to present the wool in its most attractive form, properly classed, using core testing, objective measurement and all the latest techniques, offering guaranteed parcels of anything from 25 to 100 or more bales to suit the buyer's specifications, the wool industry can once again become the most important industry in Australia.

We should go further and establish Australia as the world centre for Australian merino wool, shift the International Wool Secretariat from the other side of the world to Australia where it belongs, and establish a woollen manufacturing centre perhaps similar to Bradford - and, I would hope, better - and set ourselves up as the authority, which we are and which we should be recognised as. We could then go out to capture world markets wherever they may be. There is no need to have organisations such as the IWS located on the other side of the world. When we have modern travel facilities available, Australia is the country in which these organisations should be located. We could go out to capture world markets, but not by selling our wool as a raw material from which other nations can build up their economies. Our wool should be in the form of finished products that will capitalise on the fact that in its proper end use wool is the top quality fibre in the world.

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