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Wednesday, 14 March 1973
Page: 591

Mr WHAN (Eden) (Monaro) -! speak tonight because I feel it is time that the wool industry in Australia realised that decisions are made in this Parliament in respect of that industry and that the Government will not follow the traditional practice of allow' ng policy decisions to be made outside this place. Within the last few weeks a report produced by the wool industry on the subject of the objective measurement of wool in Australia has been released. 1 do not think many honourable members have seen the report which involved the expenditure of $1.5m of Commonwealth funds. The report was paid for with Commonwealth money, but apparently the Australian Wool Corporation did not consider it necessary to release the report to members of this House.

In view of the inquiry into wool marketing that is now being conducted by the Australian Wool Corporation, I believe that the Parliament should take a very active role in wresting the initiative away from people whom the Country Party, in its practical way, has left in office to make decisions for the industry over the last 15 years. Their term of office has resulted in one disaster after another. But this seems to be the major qualification that the Country Party looks for in selecting members for organisations such as the Wool Corporation. That Party seems to want people whose only claim to notoriety is that they have been associated with one disaster after another. Apparently the more tragedies that one can be associated with the more likely one is to be selected by the Country Party to lead an organisation within the wool industry. The situation in the wool industry today is that wool prices are determined in a fashion market. The result is that wool growers these days find that their income is subject to violent fluctuations. There are only 2 ways that I can see to remedy this situation. I see from the behaviour of Country Party members opposite that kindergarten is out again. They cannot even take time to show interest in a matter that presumably their supporters have close to their hearts.

I repeat that the wool industry is subject to violent price fluctuations. These can be moderated in 2 ways. The first is by introducing some insurance into the market system. I believe that, now that we have had the experience of a season of very low wool prices, we should have great confidence in supporting the Australian Wool Corporation to the tune of 2 million bales in a businesslike proposition in which capital is provided for the Corporation to buy wool. This is preferable to adopting a policy of subsidising growers through deficiency payments. Our recent experiences show that if the Corporation had purchased 2 million bales of wool it would now have accumulated a considerable amount of capital from the profits on the resale of that wool. But, more importantly - and this is an area on which the wool industry has not concentrated very seriously in the past - we need to keep our options open right through the pipeline. We need to be able to say to the manufacturer who makes his own choice to produce a product out of alternative fibres that we intend to keep our options open. We have a marketing organisation which will now commission processing and which will ensure that we have wool tops and not just synthetic tops, wool yarn and not just synthetic yarn and that wool products will go across the counters of the retail shops in the world rather than synthetic fibres alone.

The reason why options have been closed to consumers is that the Corporation has restricted its activities to the greasy wool market. We have not been able to say to the world: Here is the wool product; we are in the business of selling it; we are going to make it if nobody else does'. It is not necessary to acquire capital investment to do this. We can commission the people who have already invested capital to carry out the job. For example, it might be necessary for the Wool Corporation to commission work behind a tariff barrier in order to maintain the competitive position of wool. This is a far more positive approach, I submit, than the ones to which we have been subjected because in this way the actual competitive mechanism can be stimulated and wool can be sold at all points. At the moment we control only the greasy wool end of the pipeline.

Other changes have taken place which have gone right past the organisation of the industry. I should like to concentrate tonight on one in particular which stems from this report, which the Wool Corporation has failed to distribute to members of this Parliament. That is the radical changes which are taking place in clip preparation and the hand-: ling of wool. Not one attempt has been made to bring the people whose livelihoods will be threatened most into these considerations. I refer to the wool classers and other people employed in the business of marketing wool. Today they are naturally very concerned. I would not be at all surprised if we find a great deal of industrial unrest in this area of primary industry, simply because the Country Party and the Liberal Party have failed to keep these people briefed on the developments which affect their very livelihoods. The whole professional justification of some people will be swept aside by these new technological developments. Yet not one step was taken by the former Government to keep these people informed of these developments. The greatest barrier to technical change in the wool industry will be the legitimate barrier of people whose personal interests have been jeopardised by a lack of consultation. This is the spirit of the industrial relations policy of those who are now in Opposition. Consultation in this area has been vital for so long that the debt that remains now will represent a major barrier to reforming the wool industry.

Another problem which plagues the wool industry and which needs very close attention is the confusion of functions that exist in the present Corporation. At once this Corporation is empowered to collect cost data from enterprises which compete with commercial enterprises under the jurisdiction of the Corporation. How, for example, can a private enterprise wool testing organisation - presumably,

Opposition members are wedded to the view that private enterprise is very good - be expected to hand over its costings to the Wool Corporation when the Wool Corporation is also responsible for the commercial operations of the Australian Wool Testing Authority. This would immediately give the Australian Wool Testing Authority a very strong commercial advantage. While ever we have this situation the conflt between the rule-making function of the Corporation and its commercial operation is irresolvable. This should have been recognised by the people who established the Wool Corporation. They were warned about this. They were warned about many other aspects of the Wool Corporation which will come back to plague the wool industry for the many years, until they are changed.

Mr King - Why did not the Labor Party warn them?

Mr WHAN - I warned them and I was their adviser. I warned those people who established the Corporation. The situation now exists where there is a legacy from the Country Party of people whose justification for being on the Corporation is that they have the right connections. They do not make a contribution to the activity of the Wool Corporation in any positive way. There are one or two notable exceptions to this rule but their voices are very much muted by the overwhelming weight of traditional associations which exist between these people, and the interests they represent. One could spell them out. The dominant role that Dalgety Australia Ltd, has played in the last 4 or 5 years in wool marketing bears close examination. The interests that this company represent go right into the heart of the organisation. The man who was supposed to represent wool manufacturers on the Wool Corporation belonged to a firm which went bankrupt. So much for his management. His position was saved by the Dalgety organisation. So this firm exercised its influence through the Corporation in many ways.

One could spell out the same sorts of associations with all sorts of companies which have a vested interest in no change taking place in wool marketing. Today the Corporation has to be badgered into realising that, having spent $1.5m of Commonwealth money, it has the responsibility to produce reports and provide them to members of this Parliament. The Corporation has spent Com monwealth money like water in the past without any accountability. It has made decisions which have a fundamental impact on the Australian wool industry. It made those decisions in isolation from this Parliament. I am very pleased to belong to a Government which will see an end to this sort of decision making outside this place.

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