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Thursday, 2 December 1971
Page: 3987

Mr IRWIN (Mitchell) - lt is deplorable that the House has had to listen to this subtle, cunning, miserable attack on the people referred to. Before anyone brings this sort of muck into this House he should have perfectly clean hands. The honourable member for Hunter (Mr James) should recall his attitude and behaviour when he was in Uganda.

Mr James - I ask the honourable member to withdraw that. I ask him to say it outside the House.

Mr SPEAKER -Order! The honourable member for Hunter will restrain himself I. warn the honourable member for Mitchell in the same way as I warned the honourable member for Hunter that personal implications or accusations in regard to a member's personal character or action is completely out of order in this House.

Mr IRWIN - Mr Speaker, I desire to speak about and give some advice on the unfortunate position of the Australian wool industry. This week I have had representations from the Villawood Textile Company of Riverstone, New South Wales. Since November of last year the company has been trying to purchase SOO to 1,000 bales of cross-lamb wool. It claims that it knows that the Australian Wool Commission has purchased this type of wool and has such wool in its possession, but the company feels that for some unknown reason the Woo) Commission is reluctant to deal with the company. The company is unable to ascertain the reason. I suggest that possibly the price factor may be the cause. Evidently the Wool Commission bought the wool at a higher price than the then prevailing price. I stress, for the benefit of the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair), that while 1,000 bales of wool remain in the stockpile they are not in the pipeline being manufactured into articles for export and, of course, such exports increase our earnings.

I receive hundreds of letters of advice from various people throughout Australia, all of whom are concerned with the wool situation. I have received a letter from a man named Peter Hauff who has had many years of experience in the wool industry. He was an executive of a wool buying house and he was responsible for buying wool with all the guarantees con cerning yields, quality, faults, content, length and regularity. He has been closely associated with the wool industry but he had great foresight and three or four years ago, when he realised the difficulties in which the wool industry would find itself he took up another executive position. He has made certain suggestions that may prove beneficial to the wool trade. I shall endeavour to state them as quickly as possible. He wrote:

May 1 suggest to consider a much simpler and cheaper method. Though its simplicity might be against its application! We have an excellent organisation in our wool selling brokers; they value their offerings very conscientiously before every auction sale. Instead of having an army of Commission appraisers, running parallel to the selling brokers' work and wool buying trade, the Government should appoint five of the best experienced wool valuers from the buying trade and allocate these five experts to the selling brokers of the day. On Mondays they work, say with Dalgety's and Farmers' teams, on Tuesday they work with Winchcombe Carsons, and so on right through the week's selling programme, As the selling brokers put a price on each lot, so would the Commission valuers, on the basis of the Commission's table of limits.

In the afternoon, during the auction sale, when the formerly mentioned lot reaches 37c only, the Commission would not buy it in at 40c but the lot would be knocked down at 37c, the Commission augmenting to the grower his price by the difference of 3c. Thus the lot would go into consumption, it would not add to the costly stockpiling scheme; we would keep the wool flow alive and do away with the world wool trade's antagonism against the 'schoolteachers attitude' of the Commission. When one considers the high price of the present buying-in by the Commission, plus all the accumulating overhead cost of a large staff, storage, shipping, interest and what not, the gamble to get a .higher price some fine day for the stockpile .wool, does not look attractive.

As I said before, the world does not depend so much on Australia's supplies; the trade would like to buy them but only at a price at which it can place the wool amongst the topmakers, spinners and manufacturers. These consuming industries are holding the trump cards; if the Commission will not 'play' they find enough other sources of spinnable material without waiting for an allocation of an aged stockpile sometime in the future, may be. I do not advocate that wool should be got rid of at any price, enriched by the Commission's subsidy. The valuers of the selling brokers, of the trade and of the Commission are quite aware of a lot's merits and its market value of the day. If the bidding stops at an unreasonably low level, a lot can always be passed in and be available for further negotiation.

The Government has provided a considerable sum to assist the wool industry but the lime has arrived when we cannot continue with piecemeal methods. The time has arrived when there should be restructuring and rehabilitation not only of. farmers themselves but also of selected country towns which are becoming ghost towns. My desire has been, and always will be, to assist to rehabilitate the wool industry but the piecemeal methods which have been adopted will have cost the Government, by 30th June next when an accounting is made., nearer to S3 00m than $200m. At that lime we will be faced with a stockpile of 1.5 million bales of wool.

The present situation creates confusion and doubts in the minds of those we depend upon to take our wool and pay us in return. This applies to the Japanese, to Continental buyers, to European buyers and lo English purchasers. They feel that because wool is being stockpiled they are inhibited from taking part in auction sales. This, more than any other reason, has been responsible for the low prices that have prevailed since about March 1970. I appeal to all those associated with the wool industry to get away from the piecemeal efforts that we have been making. We must get down to a consideration of reconstructing not. only the wool industry but also all primary industries, and we should give particular attention to country towns.

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