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Wednesday, 11 December 1974
Page: 3420

Senator MAUNSELL (Queensland) - Firstly, on behalf of the Opposition I would like to say that we deplore the handling of this Bill by the House of Representatives. We all know that the wool industry is Australia's most important industry and at this stage it is going through difficulties. In the main, the Opposition supports the additional powers which are proposed for the Wool Corporation. This Bill was sent across to the Senate from the House of Representatives on Thursday last week. We did not receive the Bill until 8 o'clock at night some 2 hours after the House of Representatives was due to rise. We had to debate the Bill immediately. It went back to the House of Representatives and without due consideration being given to it the House of Representatives sent the Bill back to us in its present form. I believe that had the House of Representatives been prepared to concern itself with this legislation much earlier in the session and had given us more time to consider it we possibly could have come to some agreement with the Government.

There are 2 main areas in which the Opposition and the industry have expressed concern. One concerns the reconstitution of the Corporation. There is a feeling throughout the inductry and amongst members of the Opposition that the interests of the growers would be jeopardised to a certain extent by this legislation. The legislation provides for the appointment of a member with special qualifications. The Opposition would like to know what special qualifications are necessary. Had we had time to discuss this with the Minister we possibly could have been satisfied with what the Minister had in mind. In the interim since last Thursday I have been able to discuss these matters. We have been able to raise our particular concern with the Minister. I would hope that at this stage the Minister will give us some assurance of what he has in mind. It is important that the Wool Corporation should retain the confidence of all sections of the industry which is going through difficult times. If the Minister can do this I am quite satisfied that we would be happy to accept the legislation.

The other important area concerned proposed new section 20a (1) and 20a(2). We ask that not only should trade unions be consulted in the new avenues in which the Corporation is embarking but also that employer groups should be included. We also feel that there is a danger of ministerial direction in respect of industrial matters. We wanted to find out whether this direction applied only to the supply and management section of the Corporation's new powers and the future operations of the Corporation in that area because when one talks about the wool industry one covers a pretty wide field. Many people are concerned that there may be ministerial direction in respect of arbitration decisions made way back at the grass roots concerning shearers awards and station hands awards. At this stage I ask the Minister whether he can give the Opposition some assurance in relation to those areas. If he can, we will decide what we do from that point on.

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