25th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. Sir John McLeay) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I desire to inform honorable members that when I learned of the untimely death on 2nd September of the Speaker of the House of Commons, Sir Harry Hylton-Foster, I sent to the Clerk of the Commons on behalf of this House a message expressing our deep sorrow. The Clerk of the House of Commons has replied in the following terras: -
Following the tragic death of our Speaker, members of the House and the Speaker’s family greatly appreciate your kind message of sympathy and gracious tribute, notice of which will be permanently recorded in the Commons Journals.
Mr. HUGHES presented a petition from certain wool growers in Australia praying that (1) the Australian Wool Board be restrained from expending large portions of its funds in putting the case for a reserve price scheme and (2) the Parliament do not pass any legislation designed to enable a referendum of growers to be held on the adoption of a reserve price marketing scheme until an independent and impartial committee of inquiry has investigated and reported upon the proposal.
Petition received and read.
– I desire to inform the House of ministerial arrangements during the absence overseas of the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr. McEwen). The Minister left Australia last Friday, 10th September, on Government business which, as honorable members know, is far reaching and somewhat complex. It is expected that he will return on or about 16th November next. He will be visiting the United States of America, Britain and countries in Europe and Asia. During the Minister’s absence, the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hasluck) will act as Minister for Trade and Industry.
– I ask the Prime Minister: When does he expect to be in a position to make a statement to the House, if he has that in mind, on the situation existing in the undeclared war between India and Pakistan?
– I am glad that the Leader of the Opposition has raised this matter. Last week, the House was not sitting and these deplorable events having occurred, I made a very short statement exhibiting our distress about these hostilities and apprehensions about their growth and consequences. I indicated that we deplored the loss of life and destruction of property of two great nations, for each of whom Australia has an affectionate feeling and profound goodwill. I indicated that it would be a great tragedy if great damage should be done to what has been achieved in recent years in their economic development and social progress. I welcomed on behalf of the Government the efforts of the SecretaryGeneral of the United Nations to do all that he can to secure a cease fire. He is still engaged in this very important mission.
I am sure that my honorable friend would agree that we should not in this place do anything that would cut across his prospects of success. If, in the result, it turns out that his mission does not bear fruit, then we will have a different set of circumstances arising and at that time we will have to consider what can or should be said or done on this matter. But in the meantime I am quite sure that the honorable member will agree with me that our best contribution is not to interfere in any way, by observations or by arguments, with his prospects of success. The honorable member may take it for granted that when the Secretary-General’s mission has concluded, his report has been made and circumstances seem to suggest that something else might be proposed or done, we will be then in a position to consider that problem. Of course, if we arrive at any conclusion, I would be the first to desire that the House should have an opportunity to discuss it
– I ask the Acting Minister for Trade and Industry a question. Is he aware of the statement that was made in Great Britain by Britain’s Economic Affairs Secretary recommending a dramatic increase in the production of mutton,lamb, bacon and beef? What steps can be taken to see that Australia’s market is protected a$laid down in our trade agreements with Great Britain?
– The honorable gentleman can be assured that we value very highly the market that we have in the United Kingdom for meat and dairy products. It will be the constant endeavour of this Government and the Department of Trade and Industry, in particular, to see that we continue to get as large a share of it as possible.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Air. Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to a report published in the New York “ World Telegram and Sun “ last Saturday headed “TFX Plane Proves Defence Disaster”? Has the Minister noted that it is expected that if these planes ever see service they will cost approximately £4 million each? Does he still think they will ever be delivered and, if they are, does he think they will be worth £4 million each?
– As far as I am concerned the reports I have had direct from the factory and from the United States Air Force authorities do not tie up with the reports the honorable member has read in the Press. The reports I am getting are that the aircraft is meeting fully the requirements laid down for it. As was formerly made known to this House, the cost in the early days was an estimate; the final cost will not be made known until our aircraft have been fully produced. When they have been produced, the full cost will be made known to the House.
– My question to the Acting
Minister for Trade and Industry relates to Government action following a recent Tariff Board report on petroleum products. As there has been considerable variance between the Tariff Board’s recommendation and the Government’s action, will the
Minister assure me that when the legislation is introduced the House will be given full reasons for the Government’s departure from the Board’s recommendations?
– I understand that later this week the Minister who represents in this place the Minister for Customs and Excise will be bringing down tariff proposals on the matter raised by the honorable member. When these tariff proposals are brought down the Minister will give a full account of the Government’s reasons for its decision.
– I preface a question to the Minister for the Army by saying that last Saturday I received bitter and anguished complaints from parents of servicemen concerning the publicity in the “Sydney Morning Herald “ that morning regarding the impending departure that day of the troop carrier “ Sydney “ and details of military and Air Force equipment it was supposed to be picking up in Brisbane on the way to Vietnam. I ask the Minister: Is it a fact that the embarking servicemen were forbidden to fell even their parents of the time and circumstances of their intended departure because such information was classified? Would it be true to say that inquiring parents and other near relatives and friends were so advised by the military authorities? Has the Minister examined the newspaper article in question? If he has, does he consider that it represented a breach of security or was likely to cause undue danger to the troops being despatched to a war zone? If so, what action does the Minister intend to take?
– I have not seen the article in question and I would prefer to examine it closely before answering the question without notice. But I will say that in the interest of the security of Australian troops all troops are cautioned to be extremely careful in making available any information about equipment, times of departure and so on. I believe that to be a very good policy.
– I direct a question to the Minister for National Development. Has the Australian financial stake in Australian oil resources fallen by some 7 per cent. since 1963? In view of this serious decline, is the Government considering possible action to keep Australian oil out of foreign hands?
– The Australian Government assists the search for oil in Australia in a variety of ways, as the honorable member would realize. The subsidy which we pay for the search for oil in Australia was stepped up quite considerably this year. The Government also makes a considerable sum available to the Bureau of Mineral Resources to encourage the search for oil through mapping. I might mention also that we grant taxation concessions too. Any new or changed procedure is, of course, a matter of policy.
– My question ls directed to the Treasurer. Has the right honorable gentleman seen the “Taxpayers’ Bulletin “ of Saturday, 4th September 1965, which contains an article headed “ Startling Figures”? The article alleges that the average family unit of a man, wife and one child will in the current year pay taxation of not less, and probably much more, than £13 13s. 2d. a week. Much of this burden will be hidden in the added costs of items bought by the family because of sales tax, excise duty and customs charges. If these facts are substantially accurate, will the Treasurer consider alleviating this gross unequal burden on the average family by further skimming off the huge profits that foreign vested interests are taking from this country each year?
– I usually catch up on my reading of the “Taxpayers’ Bulletin” at one time or another, but I have not yet read this issue. If the honorable gentleman is arguing that in the current Budget we are increasing taxation on the community to an inordinate extent, having regard to the purposes of the Budget, I can assure him that that has not been the reaction I have encountered from a fairly wide range of people since the Budget was introduced. I think that most people are rather agreeably surprised that, in view of the obligations we had to meet in framing the Budget, we were able to achieve the desired result with the relatively modest additions to taxation that have been imposed. When the honorable member speaks about extra burdens being imposed on taxpayers, he should take into account the extent to which the Commonwealth Budget provides services to the community these days, and, of course, the community includes the general body of taxpayers. Many taxpayers have a net gain through the social welfare programme as it affects members of their family, elderly relatives and so on. The honorable member asked whether we could secure more of the revenue we need for general Government purposes from those who invest their funds in Australia and derive some profits from that investment.
– One hundred per cent.
– The honorable member for Scullin is prone to exaggeration on these matters. The official figure is that over the period of recent years the net return has been 6i per cent, and for the last year the provisional estimate is about 6 per cent. I think he needs to brush up his statistical recording, if that is the view he holds. As I have pointed out publicly before, these companies pay 42i per cent, of their profits as company tax. If they remit overseas, even to countries that enjoy a double taxation arrangement with us, they pay a withholding tax of 15 per cent. I think that we secure a pretty good Australian equity return from the successful investment of overseas funds here and, of course, this is quite apart from the manifold benefits Australia secures in employment, development and the other values with which honorable gentlemen are quite familiar.
– I rise on a point of order. I have been grossly misrepresented by the Treasurer. He said that I was prone to misrepresentation.
– Order! No point of order arises.
– I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service a question concerning the ballot held for selective national service. I ask this question without any reflection on men for whom I have the highest regard and who have carried out their task with distinction, and I agree that the Minister may well want to have a representative present during the drawing of a ballot. However, the bill having been enacted and in the belief that it is of vital importance that a ballot should not only be above reproach but should also appear to be above reproach, will the Minister in future appoint a judge, magistrate or some independent person to preside during the conduct of the ballot for national service instead of allotting the task to members from either side of the Parliament?
– There is no provision in the Act as to how the presiding officer shall be chosen or how the member who draws the marble from the barrel shall be chosen. We have attempted to ask the most distinguished people we can think of whether they would be good enough to preside at the ballot and to draw the marble. I believe that this practice has met with warm approval. I have not had any complaints about the choice of personnel. However, as the honorable member has raised this matter I will look into it and give him a further reply as soon as possible.
– I ask the AttorneyGeneral: Will he have an examination made of the legislation in the Australian Capital Territory relating to the attachment of debts? Will he take whatever action is necessary to make amendments to that legislation in order to ensure that in garnishee proceedings the debtor will have left to him sufficient of his wages or salary properly to provide for himself, his wife and his family? In particular, will the Minister examine reports that in recent cases debtors have been left with only £2 a week, which is the amount stipulated by the Attachment of Wages (Limitations) Act of New South Wales, which has operated in the Australian Capital Territory without amendment, I understand, since 1900?
– The honorable gentleman has asked whether I will look into the matter that he has raised. I will do so.
– I ask the Minister for National Development a question. In view of the fact that Australia imports more than £100 million worth of timber a year, will the Minister inform the House of any Government action to produce timber in Australia, thus reducing this regular import bill?
– The Australian Forestry Council, which was established a little more than 12 months ago, has looked very closely at the problem of producing enough timber in Australia to overcome our shortage. In particular, the Council has recommended that plantings in the States and Territories be increased. The Council is aiming at an annual planting of softwood in Australia of 75,000 acres. In addition, it is hopeful that the States will increase production from their natural forests. Although the Council has been functioning for only a short time, it is playing a very active part in drawing attention to the shortage of Australian grown timber. We hope that, in time, plantings will increase to the stage where we may be self-sufficient in timber. We hope to reach this happy state by the turn of the century.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question. In view of recent reported statements by a senior Minister, speaking on behalf of the Government, that there was a need for married women to be employed by industry, will the Prime Minister arrange for a practical demonstration of the Government’s faith in the statements by implementing the recommendations of the Boyer committee on Public Service employment that marriage should not be a bar to a woman’s continued permanent employment in the Service or to her acceptance as a permanent employee in the Service?
– This is a very complex matter. The question is more complex to answer than to ask. From time to time, the Government has looked at this matter. It is clearly a matter of policy. When it seems appropriate to say something about it I will. I do not think it is a matter that can be dealt with at question time.
– Is the Minister for Primary Industry aware that statements have been made by those who can be termed armchair agriculturists suggesting and even advocating a restriction of the acreage sown to wheat in Australia? As these statements are disturbing to many wheatgrowers, will the Minister make a clear statement of the Government’s policy on this subject?
– I have heard statements of this nature from time to time, but not recently. I make two remarks about this matter. First, this is entirely a function of the individual State Governments and they have made no request to the Commonwealth Government, nor indeed to the Australian Agricultural Council, concerning it. So there is evidently no desire on the part of the States to restrict production. Secondly, I point out that we have had three successive harvests of record proportions, and on each occasion Australia has been able to sell that wheat quite satisfactorily. The result is that at the end of this wheat year we will be down to the minimum stock level. I also remind the honorable member that it looks as though there will be reduced production this year because of the drought in Queensland and New South Wales. I do not fear any overproduction and I think it is quite clear where we stand.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Primary Industry been directed to a statement by Sir William Gunn, Chairman of the Australian Wool Board, that, “ All those Liberal back benchers who are making a lot of noise about the wool industry are trying to use the industry as a political football for their own political gains”? Will the Minister, as head of the Department concerned, say whether this attack on Liberal members of the Parliament was made with his approval and support? If it was not, what action, if any, does the Minister intend to take to restore the harmony in the Government parties so badly disturbed by the outburst of the future leader of the Australian Country Party?
– The Government’s stand on the wool reserve price issue is quite clear. It wants to give the wool growing industry a vote to decide whether it desires a reserve price plan. That is the attitude of the Government. So far as a statement by Sir William Gunn - or indeed by any opponent of the scheme- is con cerned, 1 have not authorised any such statement and do not intend to do so. As to harmony between the Government parties, I think that the honorable member will see that when the Wool Reserve Prices Plan Referendum Bill is debated later in the day.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Air. Are Royal Australian Air Force personnel serving at places such as Ubon in Thailand entitled to any repatriation benefits? If not, in view of the fact that a certain percentage of the Royal Australian Air Force personnel there are always on a 24-hour alert basis, and are therefore in what might be termed a danger zone, will the Minister consider granting the personel concerned at least the right to repatriation benefits under the War Services Homes Act, which after all would not cost the Government any money in the long run?
– This is really a matter for the Minister for Repatriation, who is responsible for repatriation benefits, and the Minister for Housing, who is responsible for the administration of the War Service Homes Act. I think it would be better if the question were put to them.
– I direct a question to you, Mr. Speaker. It is supplementary to an earlier question asked by the honorable member for Grayndler. Has your attention been directed to the deliberate charge made by Sir William Gunn, and published very widely, that the honorable members for Parkes, Bradfield, Mackellar and Moreton are a collection of back bench fools? If so, does this constitute a breach of parliamentary privilege, or is it merely a statement of fact?
– The subject matter raised by the honorable member for Scullin does not come within the administration of the Speaker.
– In addressing a question to the Treasurer, I refer to the negotiations in progress under which the banks would earmark a large part of their available funds for a loan at a special low rate of interest to finance the wool marketing scheme if and when that scheme should ever become operative. Would not the committal of this very large sum for the financing of wool marketing seriously reduce the ability of the banking system to make future funds available to graziers for drought relief, restocking or development? Since these low interest moneys are apparently available, would it not be more to the benefit of the grazing industry if they were lent, at concessional interest rates, to graziers who at present have been affected by drought or who need money for restocking after a drought?
– My understanding of the matter is that the negotiations to which the honorable gentleman has referred have not yet been concluded in detail. The honorable gentleman puts a number of contingent circumstances which could arise in the future. There is no proposal that vast sums should immediately become available and be provided by the banking system for these purposes. It is not easy to say at this stage just what the state of the banks will be at some future point of time when a demand might be placed on these resources for these purposes. I should imagine that what would have to be weighed in the judgment of those who will be recording a vote on these matters is the importance of the wool industry, and the problems which beset it. Those factors would have to be weighed against some of the considerations to which the honorable gentleman has made reference. It is, no doubt, in that act of judgment on this and many other related matters that a final vote will be recorded.
– I address a question to the Treasurer. It is prompted by the right honorable gentleman’s statement to an economic forum of the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures in which he referred in great detail to the desirability of establishing an overseas shipping line. Will the Treasurer say why he now believes it is necessary to establish an overseas shipping line? Will he state further whether he intends to use his influence as a senior member of the Govern ment to convince his colleagues that they should move to give effect to a proposal that has been consistently advocated by members of the Australian Labour Party?
– I thank the honorable gentleman for the question. What I said in Melbourne was in answer to a question from the floor of the gathering after the general addresses had been delivered. A point was raised about the balance of payments, which had been canvassed in the course of my own speech, and the draw upon our overseas funds by the payments we have to make for insurance and shipping charges. I dealt with the insurance aspect as best I could. In referring to the shipping matter, I made the comment that I hoped to live to see the day when there would be Australian ships carrying Australian goods to other parts of the world. I imagine there is not a member of the House who does not share that aspiration. As I am feeling pretty fit, and have, I hope, a few years ahead of me, I may yet live to see that day arrive.
– You have had 30 years here and you have done nothing to hasten it.
– We have done more than the honorable gentleman’s party was able to do during its term of office. These are not merely matters which we have studied; they have been canvassed in appropriate quarters with employers, employees and others. We have compared the cost of shipping cargoes from this country, observing Australia’s standards and conditions, with the cost of similar cargoes carried by ships of other countries. The problems are certainly formidable. I made the comment that I do not think they are insuperable. I was not attempting to suggest any likelihood of early action but I think it is an objective to which we should be directing our attention in the hope that there will come a time, as occurred in the case of our air services, and as is occurring increasingly with our coastal shipping, when Australia, as a great trading nation, will be able to see that a proportion of its own exports is carried overseas, and a proportion of its imports brought here in Australian bottoms.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Labour and
National Service. During the week-end the Minister announced that deferment of the call-up of men under the national service scheme would be given to students and trainees in industry in many categories, but it was significant that he did not refer to those who are being trained in Australia’s greatest industry, primary production. Will the Minister state whether any such provision is extended to a young man eligible for the call-up but who will not complete his practical training in primary industry for at least two years?
- Mr. Speaker, if the honorable gentleman will look carefully at the statement that I made he will see that I used the word “ industry “. In other words, it was intended to cover primary industry as well as the manufacturing industries. The Government has based its action - the law itself and the practice - on the principle of non-discrimination as between country and metropolitan interests. That principle has been universally acclaimed by the Australian community. Now, the position as far as people employed in rural industries are concerned, is this: If the students attend an agricultural college or some technical college in one of the country areas they will be treated in exactly the same way as students attending universities, technical colleges or technological colleges. No distinction will be drawn. As to the last part of the honorable gentleman’s question, here again there is no distinction between practical training on the farm and practical training on the shop floor. So the Government adheres to the principle of non-discrimination. If there is formal training under a recognised formal training scheme the principle applied will be exactly the same; but there will be no deferment in the case of practical training on the farm or on the shop floor.
– My question is directed to the Minister for the Army. Is it a fact that troops of the United States of America serving in Vietnam receive a special combat allowance of 55 dollars a month if serving six days or more in the front line? If this is a fact, could the Minister see that a similar allowance is paid to Australian troops performing similar duty?
– I am not sure of the exact amount but I understand it to be true that the United States does pay soldiers in a combat zone what is known as a combat allowance. It has never been the practice of the Australian Government to do this. There is an element for combat service in every soldier’s pay. In addition, an overseas allowance is paid to compensate for differences in the cost of living as between Australia and the country in which they serve. This is currently under consideration in relation to South Vietnam and there should be an announcement on the matter in the very near future.
– I address my question to the Minister for Labour and National Service. Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to reports that there is a lack of uniformity in the granting of exemption from national service training to conscientious objectors? Will the honorable gentleman advise the House what rules or interpretation of the legislation have been provided to State authorities to ensure there is uniform demand upon the young men called up and that complete exemption will be restricted to a minimum?
– I have received some complaints that magistrates in different States, and even within a State, have been interpreting the provisions of the National Service Act in a variety of ways and that, in some instances, it appeared that injustices might have been done to various persons who had applied for exemption on conscientious grounds. We have decided to prepare a document for distribution to our regional officers in an attempt to secure uniformity of approach in hardship cases. I think the honorable gentleman will realise that the decisions have to be made by individual magistrates and it is quite possible that magistrates always will have some differences of opinion about whether exemption or deferment should be granted. I just want to tell the honorable gentleman that in the one case that was brought to my notice by a member of this House who believed that there had been discrimination, I came to the conclusion, on looking through the files, that the magistrate was right.
– I ask the Treasurer a question which is supplementary to that asked by the honorable member for Bass. Since the right honorable gentleman based his hopes for an Australian overseas shipping line on Australia’s successful operation of an overseas airline, I ask whether he accepts the fact that the Government will have to establish and operate any overseas shipping line, or at least share in establishing and operating it, just as Australia’s overseas airline is entirely operated by the Government.
– The honorable gentleman read some conclusions of his own into what I said. I was not making a policy statement; nor would it have been appropriate for me to attempt to do so in the circumstances. This is not the product of some policy decision. As a good Australian, I was expressing what I imagine the honorable gentleman, as an Australian, would feel about an objective which I happen to hold and which, as I said earlier, I imagine that most members of the Parliament would at least aspire to. But I do not imagine that the development of such a shipping line could proceed under current conditions without some government aid, though I would hope that it could be the product of private enterprise activity.
– Why could it not proceed without government aid?
-The honorable member, if he had studied the facts of the matter, would know that the basis of competition between an Australian manned ship and one manned from overseas puts a prohibitive premium-
– What about the invisible costs?
– I know all about the invisible costs. All I am saying is that these are factors that have been weighed by governments in the past. The honorable gentleman supported a government that had eight years in which to deal with this matter.
– We were winning a war then. We could not build ships, too.
– The honorable gentleman has used that excuse long enough. The Labour Government had four years after the war, if it had chosen to take advantage of the opportunity, at a time when a great deal of shipping was available all round the world. As I said earlier, my observation was not a policy statement, nor was it made in a place for making a policy statement on a matter of this kind.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. I ask: Have all the States concurred in the legislation providing for petrol prices in country areas to be equalised at a level not more than 4d. a gallon above capital city prices? Will the scheme come into effect on 1st October next as promised? Is the administrative machinery necessary to ensure the lower prices now operative?
– I am not prepared to be precise about the current timetable and to say how far things have gone. If I may, I will regard the question as being on the notice paper and I will have the facts set out for the benefit of the honorable member.
– I ask the Minister for External Affairs a question. Has he noted that recently a number of students from overseas who live in Perth were said to have made some statements approving the Australian Labour Party’s change in its immigration policy and subsequently to have been visited by officers of his Department, in their lodgings, and reprimanded for having made these statements? Does the Minister know whether this occurred? If it did, is it a practice of his Department to watch overseas students in this way and to reprimand them if they make any political statements?
– I know nothing of the incident described by the honorable member. I can only say that when overseas students are brought to Australia under a scheme involving Government assistance, they enter into an undertaking that they will not engage in political activity in Australia or make statements on matters of domestic politics. I think that is a sound and fair proposition. Of course I personally can have no objection to anyone comment- ing on the fact that the Labour Party has at last caught up with the Government on the question of immigration.
– by leave - The Government has decided to invite the organisations which sponsor the proposed reserve price plan for wool and those which oppose it to prepare statements setting out their respective arguments. These statements, of not more than 2,000 words in length, will be printed at Government expense and sent to every wool grower voting in the referendum along with his ballot paper. These statements will be separate from the factual description of the plan which will be prepared by the Government and also distributed to voters.
The statement of arguments for the plan will be prepared by the Executive of the Australian Wool Industry Conference with the assistance of the Australian Wool Board. The statement of arguments against the plan will be drawn up by representatives of the following organisations -
The Committee for the Retention and Improvement of the Free Wool Market;
The three wool selling brokers who have publicly stated that they oppose the plan, namely the Australian Mercantile Land and Finance Co. Ltd., Pitt Son and Badgery Ltd. and Winchcombe Carson Ltd.
The Government realises that there are other organisations and individuals who support or oppose the proposed scheme. However, it would not be practicable for all such organisations and individuals to be consulted in the preparation of the respective statements, and the organisations I have named have been chosen as spokesmen for the two sides.
I would also like to inform the House of the stage which has been reached in finalising the financial arrangements for the proposed reserve price scheme. The Government has decided that it will finance the proposed scheme at the outset when no wool grower funds will be available. The interest charges on Government advances for the buying-in of wool will be the short term bond rate, which is variable, but with a minimum of4½ per cent. per annum. The levy to be paid by wool growers for their capital contribution to the proposed scheme, that is, £30 million over 7 years, will commence from the start of the scheme. As growers’ funds accumulate, the principle will apply that these funds, as available, will be used first before recourse is had to Government finance. Further negotiations are to take place with trading banks regarding the possibility of their participation in the financing of the proposed scheme.
I have said that the interest charges on Government advances for the buying-in of wool will be the short term bond rate, but with a minimum of4½ per cent. the short term bond rate at present is 5 per cent. It is not suggested that the present rate will be 4½ per cent. That rate will be the minimum. The rate will vary, as it has varied in the past from time to time between £3 10s. and £5 10s. per cent. per annum.
– It will be available at the short term bond rate, which at present is 5 per cent.
– The Wheat Board is getting finance at 4 per cent.
– Under the rural credits scheme.
– No, from the Reserve Bank.
– Advances under the rural credits scheme are made through the Reserve Bank. The Government will provide finance at the short term bond rate, which is variable.
Debate resumed from 18th August (vide page 181), on motion by Mr. Adermann -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
.- The measure before the Parliament is a Bill which the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) introduced and about which he made a second reading speech on 18th August. It is a Bill for an Act to provide for a referendum for the purpose of ascertaining whether the wool grow: rs of Australia approve a certain plan for maintaining reserve prices for the Australian wool sold at auction.
To Labour Opposition, the purpose of the Bill is unexceptionable. The Labour Party in this House further believes that from the point of view of the franchise laid down the measure should be more generous, but we are prepared to accept the 10 bale minimum and the 300 sheep minimum. The Government’s proposal that there should accompany the ballot papers a statement or an outline or a survey - call it what you will - of the plan which will be introduced in the event of an affirmative vote also receives our approval. This is not something new; in 1951 when a similar scheme was proposed the then Minister circulated a statement setting out the case for an affirmative vote. The present Minister told us a few minutes ago, in the statement that he was granted leave to make to the House, that the Government has decided to go a little further on this occasion and that the ballot papers will be accompanied by statements setting out the case for an affirmative vote and also the case for a negative vote. We do not disagree with that proposal. The Labour Party has always been conscious of the relationship between the welfare of our primary producers and the welfare of all other men, women and children in Australia. We appreciate the right of proponents of the proposed plan and those taking a contrary view to state their case in literature which will be distributed with the ballot papers, in the Press and in this Parliament. People have a perfect right to state their opposition, whether they are wool growers or anything else, because the impact of the plan which may be adopted in the event of an affirmative vote is one which the
Opposition believes will be a step in the right direction. The Opposition hopes that tha plan will be adopted and I think it will be. We believe that it will enable the organised wool growers of Australia to have some say in the marketing of theo- product. That is something they have lacked throughout the wool industry of Australia from the beginning of time.
Practically all of our primary industries from time to time have enjoyed, not always but usually at their own request, the protection of legislation enacted by State and Commonwealth Parliaments. Every one of those industries, without exception, has been better for that protection. Therefore, in the mind of the Opposition, it goes without saying that the most important of our industries - the wool industry - should have organised marketing facilities at its disposal. Such facilities should have the backing of Commonwealth legislation, because the future of this industry will have an impact not only upon the wool growers but upon every Australian as well. To the extent that our marketing system is lacking, Australia’s import and export revenue is lacking. It has been said by people who are particularly well informed that because Australia, apart from periods during World War I and World War II, has lacked organised marketing facilities which have had the backing of the Commonwealth Parliament, there has been a net loss to our revenues of not less than £1,000 million. I do not think that is an extravagant estimate. We have an annual wool clip which, this year, will return to Australia a revenue of about £369 million. The return would have been £450 million if the wool growers had been organised and enjoyed the protection of this Parliament and a reserve price. That is no exaggeration. We have the spectacle of the loss of revenue occurring every year.
Surely the very least that can be expected is that this great industry, which provides the revenue with which we buy petrol, luxury goods, machinery, and a vast range of chemicals and other goods, should be protected. At this stage the Australian Labour Party stands firmly for the taking of a referendum to determine the wishes of the wool growers in regard to the plan which has been outlined by the Minister for Primary Industry. In his second reading speech the Minister outlined the nucleus of the plan that is proposed. Looking back over a long period in the Parliaments of this country, as a wool grower all I have to say to those who are the vicious opponents of this plan - they are entitled to be as vicious as I hope I will be - is that if this plan does not produce something better than the system that has been operating in Australia in periods other than war time and in the immediate postwar years, it does not say much for the system under which it is proposed that our wool will be marketed. Let us consider the situation.
From year to year, from month to month, from week to week and indeed from day to day the prices of equivalent quality wools sold at auction have varied widely. One can understand that no legislation which this Parliament can pass can hold the world to ransom or cope fully with all the intricacies of international trade. However, it is pertinent to say that to the extent that the organised marketers of wheat, butter and sugar have been able to face the world’s producers of those products with a united front with distinct and real advantages to Australia and the primary producers concerned, even the most meagre element of organisation in our marketing of wool, backed by legislation, will benefit Australian wool growers to a similar or greater extent. Only a fool would suggest that we can fix an extravagant price for wool and expect the world to pay that price. Equally, after making a survey of all the relevant international factors, a study of the economics of all countries which normally purchase our wool, a study of the machinations of the wool buying agencies in Australia and in other countries and a study of the operations of the future’s market, only a fool would suggest that an organisation of 90,000 wool growers who will be eligible to vote under this legislation would not be immeasurably strengthened in their capacity to bargain more advantageously than any single individual. That is the view of the Labour Party, which has held it for a long time.
Back in 1921 or 1922 - I remember this well because I had a vote - after the termination of the arrangements by which the United Kingdom Government had purchased Australian wool during wartime from 1917 onwards, a vote was taken among the wool growers of Australia to ascertain whether they would like a continuation of the organisation which had been formed to sell the wools which were surplus to Britain’s wartime requirements. That organisation was known as the British Australian Wool Realisation Association. That Association unlike the Joint Organisation or the Australian Wool Realisation Association of World War II, simply had the function of marketing in an orderly manner the surplus wool in which the British Government and the Australian Government each had a 50 per cent, interest. The Association was successful, but only after it had been in operation for some time. It achieved success when the British Australian Wool Realisation Association and the associated banks, graziers and others found themselves in such a desperate position financially that they approached the right honorable William Morris Hughes and said that no wool grower in Australia could produce wool to be sold at less than 8d. per lb. They asked William Morris Hughes to invoke regulations made under the Customs Act which laid down that no wool should be exported from Australia for less than 8d. per lb. As a result the market recovered to the extent that in that year wool was sold at an average price of more than 13d. per lb.
In view of the success of the British Australian Wool Realisation Association, I have always been intrigued as to why, in a ballot of growers taken to determine whether that scheme should continue into the postwar period, or beyond the period for which B.A.W.R.A. had been formed, a 75 per cent, affirmative vote was required to determine the issue. A document which I have in my possession reveals that the British Australian Wool Realisation Association was governed by two boards of directors, one in London and one in Australia. Let us have a look at them. The United Kingdom directorate comprised Sir Arthur Goldfinch, K.B.E., Director-General of Raw Materials, London - no doubt he had some Conservative affiliations; Sir J. Ferguson, K.B.E., Joint General Director of Lloyd’s Bank; Mr. Francis Willey, wool merchant; Mr. H. E. Davidson, Secretary of Dalgety & Ca. London; and Mr. J. H. Cooper, Fellow of the Society of Accountants - and in those days there were not many radical accountants. In Australia we had Sir John Higgins,
Chairman of the Central Wool Committee. I think he was a radical, because it was he who made the suggestion that the scheme should be continued in Australia at that time. The other members of the Australian directorate comprised Mr. W. A. Gibson, General Manager of Goldsbrough Mort & Co.; Mr. W. S. Stevenson, Managing Director of Younghusband & Co.; Mr. J. McKay, pastoralist - no doubt a cobber of the Graziers Federal Council crowd - and President of the New South Wales Graziers Association - more conservative then than it is now, if that is possible; Mr. C. R. Murphy, pastoralist and Chairman of the Australian Wool Council; and Mr. W. Riggall, solicitor, of Blake & Riggall. Would any honorable member be simple enough to imagine for one moment that two directorates of that character would state a franchise requirement that would make it easy for the wool growers of Australia to vote in favour of a continuing organised marketing award? Of course not. What did they do? They fixed the requirement of an affirmative vote of 75 per cent. Lo and behold, 74i per cent, of the wool growers of Australia voted affirmatively. Under the plan now being considered with its simple majority proposal, the B.A.W.R.A. scheme would have continued and no doubt organised wool marketing would be operating today and in all probability the wool growers of Australia, and the nation itself, would be up to £1,000 million better off than they are today. There are the facts; now let us proceed.
Let us now consider the Imperial wool sales of 1939 to 1945, with all the wool sold to the British Government. In 1944 the British Government, realising that the war was nearing an end, suggested to the supplying countries - Australia, New Zealand and South Africa - that something ought to be done about the orderly marketing of the huge carry over of about 10 million bales of wool. Conferences were held in London and through the skill and brains of Mr. Eric Hitchins, the Secretary of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture - and I am not reflecting on other participants, who comprised representatives of growers and were most able - the great Joint Organisation - Australian Wool Realisation Commission scheme was originated. T do not want to ro into all the details of this, but the Australian delegation returned to Australia in July 1945 and presented its recommendation to the Curtin Labour Government. There were no delays and humbug such as the present Government has been indulging in until recently.
By December 1945 the Joint Organisation, with its Australian subsidiary, the Australian Wool Realisation Commission, was operating. It fixed a reserve price. It was an authority with a majority grower control. It had a competent executive. A packet of wool of over 8 million bales, which it was considered would take 14 years to dispose of, was disposed of in five to six years. Its sale was finalised in about 1950 or 1951 and it returned a net profit to the Australian Government, which financed it and was prepared to accept a loss of up to £40 million, of £93 million, of which every penny was returned to the wool growers of Australia on a pro rata basis in accordance with the contributions they had made. This scheme was a magnificent success in 1945.
It is now 1965, and after a lot of fiddling, fooling and nonsense this Government is introducing into the Parliament a scheme of a somewhat similar nature. All I can say is that we, as an Opposition, are prepared to help the Government, and we will help it avidly and enthusiastically, although no doubt we will have some criticism of the legislation which is presented to us. We will support, and our annual and triennial conferences have supported, a reserve price for wool. Lest it be thought that I am too radical let me put on record the relevant portion of the 1961 policy speech of the Australian Labour Party. What we said pushed the Government - the Country Party and the Liberals - into this scheme. The Government dare not face the electors without it. On 17th November 1961 our policy speech stated -
On taking office, a Labour Government will submit to grower organisations for their consideration, a marketing plan of a similar kind.
Similar, of course, to the Joint Organisation plan.
After a reasonable time for consideration by these organisations and their submissions of any amendments they may consider necessary, a poll of growers will be taken to ascertain their desires regarding a final draft plan.
The plan will provide for the creation of a competent marketing authority with majority grower representation.
Financial provision for the operation of the plan will be provided by a Government guarantee to the Commonwealth Bank of a sum of up to £25,000,000. A grower levy of not more than -
And I emphasise this - 5 per cent, will operate while prices remain at a level not exceeding the found cost of production as ascertained by the Bureau of Agricultural Economies.
In the event of this found cost being exceeded, the levy, if necessary-
And I place emphasis on this - would be increased to not more than Ti per cent.
I remind this Parliament that in 1951 the then Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, who is now Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr. McEwen), took a referendum and subsequently introduced legislation in this House to provide for a levy of 7i per cent. Our policy speech continued -
For so long as a Government guarantee is involved, the final determination of the reserve price shall be the prerogative of the Commonwealth Treasurer after consideration of the marketing authority’s recommendations.
However, should the need for the Government guarantee be found unnecessary, if adequate grower levy funds accumulate, then the fixing of the reserve price shall be the prerogative of the grower majority marketing authority.
In other words: “When you are free of Commonwealth funds, run your own show “. There was nothing wrong with that. In 1963 the Labour Party’s rural policy was on similar lines. Labour’s wool marketing pledge was as follows -
Promptly a Labour Government will submit a wool marketing plan for consideration by wool growers’ organisations. Promptly wool growers approval will be sought at a ballot.
Basic principles of the plan will be a reserve price auction principle similar to that operating under the Australian Wool Realisation Committee from 1945 to 1950-51. It will be administered by a competent authority, with a majority of elected grower representation. Essential financial support will be provided by the Commonwealth Government by a guarantee to the Commonwealth Bank-
Note, no trading banks were involved - plus the revenue from a grower levy not exceeding 5 per cent, when wool prices are at a level not exceeding the found cost of production, as ascertained by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics. In the event of wool prices exceeding ascertained costs, the levy may be increased to not more than 74 per cent. As long as a government guarantee is needed the approval of a reserve price will be (he function of the Commonwealth Treasurer. When sufficient grower levy funds accumulate and the need for a government guarantee disappears, then the fixing of a reserve price shall be the pre rogative of the marketing authority. Co-operation of the United Kingdom, South African and New Zealand Governments will be sought. South Africa and New Zealand already have similar plans operating.
That was not dissimilar to the Government’s present plan, except that it was a better plan. The principle is the same. How disrupted has the situation been? Mr. Howell, who is Vice-President of the Victorian Wheat and Wool Growers Association, a member of the old Australian Wool Bureau and a member of the new Australian Wool Board, is reported as having said in July 1960-
Australian wool growers were the mugs of the world. The Government must be told to do something about organised marketing and production costs.
A Federal inquiry into the industry has been suggested, but there was no need for one. The proof was already available. The problems of the industry had been considered for years and an inquiry would be a time wasting process.
This brings me to the point. After 1951, the same situation kept on. Wool prices would be up today and down tomorrow; up next month and down the month after; up this year and down next year. Fluctuations cannot be eliminated, but we can try to iron them out. The situation became so disrupted that by 1955 questions were being asked in this Parliament about the existence of pies. The rumours became constant, but the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon), who was then the Minister for Primary Industry, denied that pies existed. However, the New South Wales Labour Government appointed Mr. Justice Cook to inquire into the existence of pies. Everybody knows what a pie is. A pie is an agreement at an auction sale by one buyer not to outbid another. It is a denial of the principle of auction sales. In due course, on 30th October 1959, Mr. Justice Cook reported that pies did exist. Amongst other things he said -
I therefore hold that pie arrangements, being combinations falling within paragraphs (b) and (d) of the Terms of Reference, are detrimental to the public.
If they are detrimental to the public, they are detrimental to the wool growers. Mr. Docker, who was a member of the Wool Marketing Committee of the Australian Wool Board and a representative of Goldsbrough Mort & Co. Ltd. is reported by Mr.
Justice Cook as having said in evidence at the inquiry that while he knew that pies had always existed to some extent in the wool trade, he “was amazed at some of the evidence which had been presented to the Commission of the continuing nature of pie arrangements”. Having read the evidence which had been given by witnesses, he said he was even more convinced that pies definitely had a depressing effect on the wool market by the removal of competition.
Time went on and complacency began to rule again. Then there was a rude awakening with a further depressing of the wool market. Members of the Opposition in this Parliament began speaking during adjournment debates about conditions in the wool industry. Apologies were made by honorable members on the Government side, but pressure began to mount. The Government did not want to do anything but decided to hold an inquiry. Of course, Mr. Howell said that an inquiry was unnecessary because all the facts were known. Of course they were known. But what did the Government do? It appointed an inquiry, but did not give it the powers of a royal commission. The inquiry was presided over by Mr. Justice Sir Roslyn Philp. The members were Mr. Merry and Mr. Buttfield. They were undoubtedly good conservative minded people who reflected the attitude of the Government. They were authorised to inquire into the wool industry and were asked specifically to make recommendations on marketing. What did they do? They did nothing. They dealt with everything except marketing. They recommended that a wool board be established, that research, promotion and statistical services be amalgamated and that the board should be empowered to appoint a wool marketing committee from amongst its personnel and perhaps other people. This committee passed the buck. In due course, the Australian Wool Board was established. The Board appointed a Wool Marketing Committee from its ranks, with the addition of some other individuals. In 1964, the Committee presented a report to the Board. In the interim, the Government had encouraged the formation of the Australian Wool Industry Conference. The Australian Wool Board, having received the report of its own Wool Marketing Committee, made a recommendation to the Australian Wool Industry Conference and in due course the Conference made a recommendation to the Government. The Government at last has faced up to its obligations and has agreed to hold a referendum to ascertain whether the wool growers want a scheme that Chey should have had 14 years ago.
The Opposition will not prevent the passing of this Bill. We hope that later a bill to establish the essential and satisfactory authority will be passed by the Parliament. For the first time in the history of Australia, with the exception of periods of war and a few brief periods after the war, the wool growers will stand united as 90,000 growers facing the purchasers of wool throughout the world. They should then be able to obtain the maximum return possible and I hope they will not foolishly try to obtain something that is beyond them.
Inevitably when organised primary producers have tried to improve their lot, opposition has arisen. Recently we have had opposition to this scheme from the Graziers Federal Council of Australia, a committee known as the Committee for the Retention and Improvement of the Free Wool Market and others. Let us have a look at some of these people. Some of the graziers who are opposing the scheme do not have any sheep, but still I do not challenge their right as citizens to protest. These people include Malcolm Vincent and Mr. Le Couteur. A prominent firm is hostile to the scheme. This year the Australian Mercantile Land and Finance Co. made a profit of £1 million from Australian wool growers. This profit went back to Great Britain because there are no Australian shareholders in the company. Quite a number of members of the MacArthur-Onslow Retention Committee are on the Australian Advisory Committee of the Australian Mercantile Land and Finance Co. MacArthurOnslow himself and Mr. Davis of Blackall in Queensland are also directors of the Australian Mercantile Land and Finance Company. Therefore, it appears that the Committee comprises nearly all brokers and merchants. So much for the Retention Committee.
Mr. J. McLeod, General Manager of Pitt Son and Badgery Ltd., was best man at the wedding of Frank Packer last year. That was very nice for him. Frank
Packer is the proprietor of the “Daily Telegraph “ in Sydney. When I was Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, Frank Packer and the Consul for the Argentine came to my office and pressed very hard for me to lift the ban on the export of merino rams. I turned them down flat. 1 told them that, although we were not willing to export merino rams to the Argentine or anywhere else, we were prepared to sell the product of the ram, the wool. We would not sell the machine that made the wool, just as the British United Shoe Machinery Co. would not sell its machines to shoe makers in Australia. As everybody knows, we could not buy the machines and we pay a royalty on every pair of shoes we make. A canning factory in Shepparton could not buy pear corers and we now pay a royalty on every can of pears we produce. But Frank Packer was one of those who wanted to export our merino rams. If I had acceded to his request, the end result would have been that soldier settlers in this country would not have been able to buy a decent ram to improve their flocks for less than £5,000. So much for Frank Packer. Mr. G. Ashton is another who is opposed to the reserve price plan. Good luck to him; that is his business. He is a defeated Liberal Party candidate. He operates in a big way in the futures market. This Government has consented to the creation of a futures market in Austrafia. This is nothing more or less than interposing between the grower and the buyer another lot of blood suckers. Mr. Ashton is one of those.
All the Opposition which the graziers association has brought to light concerning overseas manufacturers has come from merchants. There has not been one statement from anybody who is not a merchant, despite the claim that the view of the association represents the opinion of overseas manufacturers. A merchant is a man who makes his money from price fluctations in the Australian open auction system. Apparently this is not generally understood. The brokers have been making great capital around the countryside with graphs which purport to show that price fluctuations in Kew Zealand and South Africa are greater than they are in Australia. But there are so many mistakes in the graphs that it is difficult to know where to start. Both the Bureau of Agricultural Economics and the Inter national Wool Secretariat have checked the graphs and have found no substance in the claim that fluctuations are greater in New Zealand and South Africa than they are in Australia. Where are the funds coming from to back the opposition campaign to the reserve price plan? It is estimated that in New South Wales alone between £20,000 and £30,000 has been spent through Press, radio and publications. Eventually millions of pounds will be involved.
I think I have said enough on this subject. The Labour Party hopes that this Parliament will endorse the holding of a referendum of growers, leading eventually to the formation of a well designed plan whereby, for the first time in the history of this great country, growers will be able to stand up to buyers and at least say; “ We are as strong as you are “.
– The position of the Government in relation to this matter is quite plain. It has been said repeatedly that the future of the wool industry is to be decided by the growers themselves. This is fair and reasonable. It is also fair to draw the inference that the Government feels that the scheme that has been agreed upon by the executive of the Australian Wool Industry Conference is reasonable and practical because if the Government did not feel this way it would not have gone so far as to put the matter to a vote of growers. Everybody, both in this Parliament and outside, who has an opinion on this matter has a right to express himself. But I think there is a difference between the stand taken by an individual member and the stand taken on this matter by the Government as a whole. Some members of this Parliament have a particular concern with the wool industry and every member has the right to say what he believes to be correct concerning the proposals for the future of the industry.
As a grower I will have a vote in the referendum. As a member of Parliament 1 believe that I should do more than say that this is just a matter for growers themselves to decide. I have a responsibility above simply casting my vote and keeping my views to myself, lt is reasonable and proper that my views in this matter should be made quite clear, as indeed they have been outside the Parliament. I regret that some of the discussions that have taken place outside
Parliament on this subject have descended in the worst possible fashion to personalities involved and have not centred on the issues that are at stake. Those issues are of extreme importance not only to the wool industry but to Australia. This is a matter that must be decided calmly and on its merits. I hope that between now and the holding of the referendum this will happen.
May I commence my arguments in support of the proposed change by relating the changes that have taken place since the last ballot was held in 1951? There is a need to change the system of selling because of changed circumstances since 1951. It must be remembered that the vote in 1951 was not so much a vote against the reserve price proposal as a vote against the misunderstood action of the Commonwealth Government. This had severe repercussions for the Government. At a subsequent general election the Government parties almost lost the majority that they had held in this House. This other issue cut completely across the reserve price issue at that time. So the vote in 1951 cannot be regarded in any sense as a fair judgment on the merits or demerits of the reserve price proposal.
The high prices obtained for wool in the early 1950’s gave synthetics manufacturers their first real introduction to the world textile market. They were able to establish their factories and production lines, to raise the funds necessary to embark on a vast promotion campaign, and to get below the high ceiling that was then operating in the price of wool. But up to 1961 the availability of synthetics was still limited to a reasonable extent. The better synthetics were still produced under licence agreements or patent rights still existing. But since 1961 synthetics have been in full supply. Patent rights have run out and the price of synthetics over the past 15 years and particularly over the past five or six years has been reduced markedly. In addition to the introduction of synthetics we have seen the introduction of modern textile machinery, which may easily be used for synthetics or woollen fibres. So the manufacturer has a choice of materials. He may use either synthetics or wool, depending on the market demand and the price he pays for his product. Many manufac turers found that life is made easy if they use synthetics. They know the price they will pay for their material. They know how much their competitors will pay. They know that their competitors are paying the same price as they have paid for their material. They do not have the fear, as they have with wool, that they might buy at a certain price this month and their competitors might buy six weeks later at a price 10 per cent, or 20 per cent, lower than they had paid and so be able to undercut them when the finished product was sold. The fortunes of many manufacturers have changed because of this course of events. When this has happened once manufacturers tend to change to synthetics where life is made easy, and to a degree, a good deal safer.
The desire of the manufacturer to reduce his risk is clearly apparent in the percentage of the Australian wool clip that is now sold on a firm offer basis. The Philp committee estimated that in 1956-57 15 per cent of the clip was sold in this way. This was at a time only shortly after synthetics came to be fully promoted. By 1960-61 the percentage had increased to 24 per cent. If this rate of increase is projected to the present time the position will be that more than one third of the clip is sold forwards on a firm offer basis. Once a buyer has made a commitment of this kind he is not interested in commission or in a high price at auction, which would give a better commission. He is interested in buying as cheaply as possible so that the margin between what he pays and the offer he has made to the manufacturer will be greater. It is probable that this trend will continue. This is evidence of a desire on the part of manufacturers not to carry the risk that they have traditionally carried, with the price of wool materially fluctuating by up to 30 per cent, and even on one occasion up to 50 per cent, in a season, and sometimes more than that between seasons.
A great many arguments have been advanced on behalf of manufacturers as to whether they want a change in the soiling system. Resolutions have been quoted and misquoted time and time again in recent weeks and months. I think a fair body of opinion stands out in favour of measures designed to achieve a greater level of stability in the price of wool. This would seem to be clear from the International Wool Textile Organisation resolution of May 1965 which says in part -
The I.W.T.O. recognises that it is for the woolgrowers to decide how their wool is to be marketed. However, the LW.T.0. is of the opinion that should Australia introduce a Reserve Price within the present auction system on a conservative price basis and administer it wisely and efficiently, this, together with similar systems in New Zealand and South Africa would reduce the magnitude of raw wool price fluctuations with consequent benefit to the world wool textile industry.
In 1964 Lord Rochdale, Chairman of Kelsall & Kemp Ltd., a large United Kingdom firm, in his annual report to shareholders directed his attention to the same problem. He said -
Two years ago I was able to comment on the advantages which the industry gained from steady wool values, and while all engaged in the manufacturing and selling of cloth would wish wool growers to have a fair price for their product, there is no point in denying the unsettling effect which the fluctuations experienced in the past twelve months have had on the industry as a whole. The problem is not confined to the purely financial aspect, although this in itself is a matter of concern to manufacturers; perhaps more important is the uncertainty which is generated in their customers’ minds as to whether goods ordered at one time will prove later to have been bought at the top of the market. It is under such conditions that many are inclined to turn to the calmer waters of the steady prices offered by synthetics. I feel it is in this area of greater price stability that those concerned with the promotion of wool on behalf of the producers, could do much valuable work.
That is precisely what the Australian Wool Industry Conference and the Australian Wool Board have been trying to do. There is evidence from Australian firms, and other United Kingdom firms, of more recent date, that they support the same ends. On 13th August it was reported that two United Kingdom wool organisations had reaffirmed their support of the reserve price scheme for wool marketing proposed by the Australian Wool Board. The organisations were Woolcombers Ltd. of Bradford and the United Kingdom Woolcombing Employers’ Federation. In addition the Australian Wool Textile Manufacturers Association has declared full support for the Board’s proposals. This was published on 19th August this year.
The details of the plan up to this point of time should be reasonably well known to most honorable members, but there are two points on which I should like to make some comment. What I have to say could do something, I hope, to allay the fears that some people have in relation to the plan. The basis on which the price will be set is clearly set out in the publication “ The Reserve Price Plan for Wool Marketing” authorised by the Australian Wool Industry Conference and prepared by the Australian Wool Board, which is currently being circulated to growers. Some of the principles set out in that publication are well worth noting, and I hope that on a later occasion it will be possible for those principles to be written into legislation. That, of course, will depend upon a successful ballot.
The guiding principles in establishing a reserve price in any one year would be these: The average reserve price should be set at a level so that, except in exceptional circumstances, it will be unlikely to lead to heavy buying-in of wool. On the other hand, it should not be fixed so low that the authority is not required to operate even in periods of depressed prices. Such a reserve would have no practical value. Once the reserve price is fixed it should not be changed during a season. The cost of production of wool will not be taken into consideration. This is something which was supported by the Australian Wool Industry Conference and it shows that the Conference is looking to the practical possibilities of what price it can get and is not looking at the question of cost of production, which I know has concerned many people and made them feel that this is the beginning of a subsidy scheme. The Australian Wool Industry Conference itself supports the view that cost of production should not be taken into account. It is the market prospects and possibilities which are important.
Other matters, of course, will be taken into consideration in setting the level of the reserve. Among these will be the level of reserve prices fixed by other countries; the average price for wool in the previous season; economic conditions in the major consuming countries; the relationship between prices of wool and other competitive fibres; and the likely capital requirements of the reserve price set in relation to other financial arrangements. These are all sensible criteria and they are set out in great detail on page 12 of the report of the Board.
Honorable members would do well to study them. I hope they will satisfy some people who have had fears in these directions.
There is one other aspect which I should like to mention. It has been said that the Government is going to provide money and that if the operation of the authority is not entirely successful that money will be lost. I find it difficult to see how government taxpayers’ money can be lost. The wool growers are to supply £30 million. This money will help to buy-in wool, and if more money is needed, then Government or bank funds will be used to buy-in the extra wool. When the wool is sold the first charge on the proceeds will be the repayment of moneys borrowed from the Government. This means that if there is to be any loss it will be met from the £30 million of growers’ money and not from any funds advanced by the Government. The growers’ £30 million will have to be lost entirely before the Government or the taxpayers can lose any money. I think that this knowledge will surely mean that the authority, the Board, and those responsible, will try to manage their affairs sensibly, because I am sure the growers themselves will not want to lose their £30 million or any part of it.
I should now like to devote a few moments to dealing with some of the principal arguments that have been used against the scheme. When I say “ principal “ I do not mean to give these arguments an authority which I believe they have not got. A great deal has been said against the proposal, and I have tried to extract from the arguments of associations and individuals some of those that may carry some weight when stated in bald terms to growers. One of these arguments is that the scheme would not reduce fluctuations to a degree necessary to benefit growers and users. This is an argument contained in a statement of the Graziers Association of New South Wales. It is an interesting argument because it admits that it is necessary to reduce fluctuations. It offers only an opinion as to the degree or the extent to which the scheme would reduce fluctuations. It produces no evidence to show why it will not reduce fluctuations sufficiently. The importance of this argument is that it admits that fluctuations are harmful to the industry, but it puts forward no alternative of any kind whatsoever. Indeed, the evidence that has been quoted by the three brokers who are standing out against the other seventeen in this matter provides proof that fluctuations for similar wool in New Zealand and South Africa have been markedly less where a scheme operates than they have been in Australia where no scheme operates.
The Graziers Association of New South Wales says that the scheme would depress prices as a result of stockpiling or a release of bought-in wool. It is only a question of where the wool is held and who releases it, because in periods of depressed demand the wool does not go into production; it is not consumed in the shops but is held by merchants. It is held in the pipeline, as it were, and wool held in such circumstances depresses the price of wool just as much as would wool held by any marketing authority in Australia. It is nonsense to suggest that if an authority were operating and did hold some wool this would have a more depressing effect than would the present system in which wool is held in the pipeline - wool which must all be cleared before people will come back into the market again, because a merchant is not able to hold wool for as long as an authority operating in Australia would be able to hold it.
It is said, again by the Graziers Association of New South Wales, that the reserve price would become the ceiling price. This assumes that the buyers can manipulate the market at will. If they could depress the market price in times of reasonable demand just because a reserve price is operating this, in fact, means that under present circumstances they can depress the price to whatever level they want, and there is no bottom beyond which they cannot go because there is no reserve price. I, in fact, would deny that buyers have this control over the market, but apparently the Graziers Association of New South Wales believes that they have. This indicates more strongly than ever that there is a need for a change. The Association gives no evidence for its assertion, and it denies what does in fact happen when there is a fall in the market under present circumstances. If there is a fall in the market one of two things happens. Either buyers are told to hold out of the market for a little while to see what will happen, thus encouraging a further fall in the market, or they are told to go into the market, but with reduced limits. The result is that the market falls in any case.
Under present circumstances, once the market has started to fall, nobody knows what the bottom will be. A manufacturer then thinks that if he buys now his competitor might buy six weeks later at 12d. per lb. cheaper, and so he decides that as this would not be of advantage to him he will not buy at the moment and will stay out of the market. But if there is a floor price, then, when the price gets to 3d., 4d. or 66. above that floor price the manufacturer may say: “ Well, if I buy now, at least my competitor cannot buy at more than 6d. per lb. cheaper than I am buying”. Postponement of buying because of fear of falling prices is the sort of thing that has been happening up to the present, and it will continue to happen until there are changes in the system of marketing the Australian wool clip.
The Graziers Association of New South Wales has said that the scheme would put research and promotion funds into jeopardy. 1 emphasise that once funds are allotted to promotion and research they cannot be switched to some other purpose. The Association’s claim has been vigorously denied in detailed terms by the Board. It is true that, irrespective of whether the scheme is introduced and irrespective of whether the growers support it - I certainly hope that they will - funds for research will have to be reviewed in June 1967. The same organisation also said that the scheme would lead to undue government influence. The only real government influence there will be is limited to acceptance or rejection of the reserve price that is set. The Government will not be able to offer a higher reserve price and so, as some sceptics might say, buy votes at future elections. Its influence is limited to acceptance or rejection of the reserve price set by the Board or the authority. It cannot offer a higher price.
There is only one way to maintain freedom for any industry in Australia and that is by maintaining a government and a standard of government that will not interfere with the domestic affairs of industries. Even though the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) supports the Bill, this could mean that his party will be kept out of office indefinitely, because this is the only way to secure the industry against government interference, no matter what the proposed plan does or does not do.
It was further said by the Graziers Association of New South Wales that the scheme could not guarantee the profitability of wool growing. Who can guarantee the profitability of any enterprise when we do not know what marketing conditions will be, what competitors will do, or what price they will charge? But the fact that profitability cannot be guaranteed to any enterprise is no argument against a scheme for improved marketing methods, or a scheme which, in addition to improving marketing methods, will, at the same time, increase our ability to promote sales and thus put us in a much better competitive position to meet any adverse situation that could arise in world trading conditions. The Graziers Association of New South Wales has also said that the scheme could result in a diversion of demand from wool to synthetics. This diversion of demand is already taking place because of the fluctuations in the price of wool. As Lord Rochdale has pointed out in his statement, unless something is done to minimise these fluctuations, diversion will continue, and it is up to the industry to do what it can in this particular matter.
It was also said by the same people that insufficient information has been made available. I submit that when people say this it indicates that they have not looked for the information because the Board, the Conference, the Chairman of the Conference, and the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) have made repeated statements. Documents have been published and a great deal of other information has been made available over the preceding 18 months.
Three brokers have stood out from the 17 brokers in Australia. These three brokers are opposing the scheme as vigorously as any group or organisation in Australia, but I think the merits or demerits of their argument can be judged from one or two of their publications, in which they compare the price behaviour of wool in the Australian, New Zealand and South African markets. One publication to which I refer is “The Reserve Price Scheme for Wool “. In it the three brokers - Australian Mercantile Land and Finance Co. Ltd., Pitt Son and Badgery Ltd., and Winchcombe Carson Ltd.compared Australian and South African 64’s, and were trying to prove that the comparison was unfavorable to Australia. The fact is that in South Africa, where a reserve price scheme operates, the fluctuation was 23 per cent, while in Australia it was 31 per cent. As to New Zealand, the brokers compared Australian 64’s with New Zealand 46/50’s. These people claim to be brokers. If they are brokers, they should know that it is complete and utter nonsense to compare Australian 64’s with New Zealand 46/50’s. Any person who has handled or grown wool at any time would know that any comparison of those two completely dissimilar types is complete and utter nonsense.
I think it is worth noting that, last year, New Zealand’s average reserve varied between 5 Id. and 52d. That I think is not a bad average when you realise that, in a sense, the New Zealand and South African schemes have been carrying the Australian woolclip. which is by far the largest clip and which has no reserve established within an auction system to assist it. But translated into Australian terms, New Zealand has been able to establish an average as high as 5 Id. and 52d. without any jeopardy to the scheme. It is worth noting, too, that the growers’ groups and organisations that are opposed to the scheme failed to persuade the Australian Wool Industry Conference to reject it. I emphasise that the Conference supported it by 45 votes to 5. Again, these opposing organisations made no direct approach that I know of to the Government, to the Board or to the Executive of the Conference. Instead, they promptly embarked upon a campaign which some might say was a campaign to confuse.
T understand that the Board has offered to discuss the points of difference with some of these groups and that the offers have been resolutely refused. The three brokers opposing the scheme have failed to persuade the National Council of Wool Selling Brokers to come out in opposition to the scheme. They did not approach the Conference, the Board or the Government about it. I have a letter from the General Manager of Australian Mercantile Land and Finance Co. Ltd. which makes quite clear his reasons for failing to make any approach, but he gives reasons which I believe are completely specious because honorable members will remember that these matters have been under discussion between the Government and the Executive of the Conference for at least 12 months, and it would have been pertinent during this time for any group to put its point of view if it so desired. The General Manager said that the Board and then the Conference had said that they did not want public discussion or dissension until the final details were known. That is all very well, but I point out that the putting of a view to the Government or to the Board, or to the Executive, does not involve public discussion. Further, this group has rejected offers by the Board to discuss any differences between them.
It may well be that the three brokers did not act earlier because they are not entirely theft own agents. At least one of them is not. One broking firm has an English board; it has no Australian shareholders and no Australian directors. It has two Australian advisers to the board. Clearly the general manager of such a company could not embark upon the campaign which was embarked upon by this particular General Manager without at least having the approval of the English board. It is more likely that he acted on the instructions of the board. As I understand the matter, this is a full time campaign and to pursue it would not leave room for a general manager to carry out his own official reponsibilities to his company.
It is clear when one examines some aspects of the opposition to this reserve price scheme that it stems mainly from fairly limited sources. It comes mainly from the three brokers I have mentioned and from some growers who have affiliations or relations with them which put them in a similar position in relation to this matter. This should not be overlooked when judging the merits of the arguments they are putting forward. I emphasise that every person and every organisation has a right to say what he or it wishes to say in connection with this matter, but because the two cases are going to be published together when the ballot papers are issued, and because the Board’s affiliations and associations are well and clearly known, I submit that the affiliations of the people who will be submitting a case in opposition to the scheme should also be fully known. Both cases, on the statement of the Minister for Primary Industry, are going to be put forward with the ballot papers. This also should not be taken as placing the
Board and the opposition on an equal footing in relation to this particular matter. It should not be construed by growers as giving equal weight, in my view, to the arguments of both sides. It is important that a clear decision be made m this matter with scrupulous fairness in the ballot so there cannot be any claim at a later date that there have been unfair tactics on one side or another. A minority, no matter how small or how large, has the right to be heard. But it should be remembered that this minority, or a large part of it, has been rejected by the Australian Wool Industry Conference on the one hand or by the National Council of Wool Selling Brokers of Australia on the other. Again, it is quite clear that the National Council does not support the three brokers in the campaign which they are undertaking.
The wool industry is of great and vital importance to Australia, as nobody would deny. It is common justice to do what can and should be done to protect the rights of the minority and the wool industry will not be lacking in this particular field. But again, in judging the statements that will be put forward, due weight must be given to the facts which I have mentioned: The three brokers concerned and perhaps the Macarthur-Onslow group as well have already been rejected by the Australian Wool Industry Conference and the National Council of Wool Selling Brokers.
It is my firm belief that this industry needs changes because of the changed cir.stances over the last several years. The funds that are spent on promotion will not and cannot be fully effective until a proper marketing plan is put into operation which will reduce fluctuations in prices of the Australian wool clip. Nobody has come forward with any other alternative although many of the critics recognise the ill that these large fluctuations do and the hampering effect of this to the people who are trying to sell wool on the markets of the world. I hope the industry will come to a decision in support of the Board’s proposals calmly and without heat, based on the merits and the urgency of the case.
.- All honorable members realise that, with an issue as big as this affecting so many thousands of wool growers, there will be a difference of opinions. The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Malcolm Fraser) has spoken for the wool reserve price scheme. On the other hand, others in his party today and tomorrow will speak against it. We do not know, yet, what the Australian Country Party is going to do. lt has not publicised its views but no doubt there are many members of the Country Party who will secretly oppose this scheme though they may give the bloc vote for it when the time comes. It is inevitable, therefore, that inside this Parliament as well as outside there will be these different opinions about the reserve price plan. The Wool Reserve Prices Plan Referendum Bill before us, for which we have interrupted the debate on the Budget and the Estimates, gives the legislative green light for the launching of a referendum among wool growers producing ten bales of wool or more. The referendum is to decide whether the Government shall legislate for the reserve price auction scheme as operated in New Zealand and South Africa for many years.
The Opposition, in principle, is in favour of such a scheme. We may not agree with all the details to be brought down in the ultimate of this Bill is passed but we have felt for many years, as my colleague the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) said this afternoon, that thi3 great industry, which is about the last to bring any form of stabilisation within its ranks, is due now for a new look at itself, a new look at its problems and a new look at its competitors. All that this Bill will do in the long run and in the overall view is to give a complete new look to the wool industry.
I want to mention, here, the democracy of a referendum. Parliament is not deciding the issue. The growers will decide it. The new plan affects the livelihood of every wool grower in Australia, and there are 90,000 of them. This new plan, if and when agreed upon by the growers in a ballot, will influence the marketing of their wool fo- many years to come. This is no light matter. This is a vital, important and far reaching matter. No wool grower worth his salt can ignore this issue, brush it aside or treat it with contempt. His own future is being decided partly by the decision that will be made. It is his interest which is the subject of a secret ballot in a referendum and every grower should bc there to vote. There is no other truly democratic way to decide this issue than by a vote of growers themselves on a basis of one grower one vote.
– Order! Honorable members will come to order.
– There is a Country Party conference going on in the House. Its supporters probably have not decided what they are going to do on this matter. If the growers believe in this reserve price plan - if they believe that it is a good thingthen they will vote for it. If they do not agree that it is a good thing they will vote against it. That is true democracy. I cannot see that the critics of the scheme have any basis for opposition to such an argument. The only thing which seems to upset the growers on this point is that the big producer has one vote and the little producer has one vote. But what sort of a system could there be other than that? Where would the line be drawn?
The Government only provides the legal machinery in this Bill before Parliament, which we are asked to agree to, to make a vote on the matter possible. If the plan is approved, later the Government will underwrite the scheme to the tune of £50 million if necessary and, in addition, it will underwrite the £30 million to be provided by the growers over a period of seven years. The plan itself was approved by the Australian Wool Industry Conference on the 23rd June of this year by a majority of 45 votes to 5. Its main aims are, first, to reduce extreme downward fluctuations in the price of wool and so protect the grower against exceptionally low returns. Secondly, by thus limiting the price falls, the plan makes possible a greater degree of confidence among wool users and manufacturers, thus creating a stronger demand for wool among consumers. Manufacturers, particularly, are frightened by large fluctuations in the prices they pay for wool. All sorts of people profit out of this. We have had debates on wool pies and other skulduggery which has gone on in the buying and selling of wool. The victims all the time, right down the line, were the growers themselves. If this can be greatly reduced by this legislation then that is one good reason for it.
Thirdly, the floor price or the reserve price of the wool is fixed at a minimum level below which prices at auction are not allowed to fall. There will be about 3,000 reserve prices fixed each year because there are about 3,000 different types of wool. The immensity of the task of the Australian Wool Marketing Authority is seen in that one factor alone. The care and wisdom that will be needed to fix what has been called a “conservative, equitable, floor price “ for each of the 3,000 different types of wool can be seen.
– The honorable member introduced the word “ equitable “.
– Yes. I did so deliberately - quite deliberately. It has to be equitable. An authority will be set up by the Australian Wool Board which will have the power to purchase any wool for which the commercial bids fail to reach the reserve price. This wool will be held by the Authority on behalf of the growers and will be resold later when prices are more favorable. To provide the finance for this buying in of wool, growers will be asked to provide a fund of £30 million by an annual levy over seven years. If this sum is not accumulated over seven years, the levy will continue for a year or two until it is reached. Once the fund reaches £30 million, there will be no more levy on the growers for the purposes of this fund. In addition, a contingency fund is to be established by a small levy on growers to cover operating costs not met by profits from the resale of wool brought in.
It is no wonder that some growers are critical of the cost factor that is creeping into this scheme. I shall have something more to say about that later. An overall annual levy on wool growers of 3 per cent, of the gross proceeds of wool sold is contemplated. Finance will be sought from the banks to a total of £50 million in addition to the £30 million to be provided by the growers. If this additional money cannot be obtained, the Federal Government will be prepared to provide the necessary funds from its own sources. The Australian Labour Party agrees with this. When we form a government after the next election, we shall make sure that this undertaking is observed. We shall stand by this guarantee to help the industry by providing the necessary funds over and above those obtained from the levy on growers. Some people feel that, in the foreseeable future, costs could exceed the £80 million envisaged. Tha
Government guarantees to provide at reasonable rates of interest funds needed to meet costs in excess of £80 million. Here, I stress for the benefit of the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Mackinnon) the word “ reasonable “. At this time, we do not know what will be reasonable rates.
– Earlier, the honorable member used the word “ equitable “.
– I was then talking about the reserve price itself. 1 am talking now about the interest rates on additional funds that will be provided by the Federal Government to meet costs in excess of £80 million. The factors that influence the fixing of a reserve price are very important. The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Malcolm Fraser) mentioned this, and it is the key to the whole scheme - the heart of the scheme. Later, I shall deal further with the proposed Wool Marketing Authority of seven members. The Authority will have to fix an average reserve price for about 3,000 types of wool. We appreciate the factors that the Authority will have to take into consideration in fixing reserve prices, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) mentioned a number of these factors in his second reading speech. As appears at page 178 of “Hansard “, he said -
The principal criteria would be the average price for wool in past seasons; economic conditions throughout the world, particularly in major wool consuming countries; the relationship between wool prices and commodity prices generally and in particular the price of competing fibres; tie level of stocks and the anticipated volume of wool production; trends in wool consumption and market prospects in wool consuming countries; and the level of reserve prices fixed by New Zealand and South Africa.
That is a tremendous range of criteria that will have to be taken into consideration. I believe that the fixing of the average reserve price at the beginning of one wool selling season will mean for the Authority the beginning of its thinking on prices for the next season, because so many factors have to be considered. We on the Labour side of the Parliament consider - we are against the honorable member for Wannon and the Government on this point - that the cost of production also should be considered by the Authority in fixing the average reserve price. 1 turn now to the extent of the Government’s influence on this whole scheme. The average reserve price, once fixed by the Authority of seven, will have to be approved by the Government. As reported at page 178 of “Hansard”, the Minister, dealing with this vital aspect of the scheme, stated -
The power of the Government in regard to the fixing of the average reserve price would be confined to accepting or rejecting the Board’s recommendations. The Government could not fix a price that had not been recommended by the Board.
That is the Minister’s assurance to the industry that government interference will be negligible. The Government will have nothing to do with the actual fixing of reserve prices. It will either accept or reject the prices fixed. No doubt, if a price determined by the Authority is rejected by the Government, it will go back to the Authority for reconsideration of the whole matter so that a different price may be fixed. The Government will be able to refer the matter back to the Authority in that way, of course. But I do not think that the growers should fear that the Government will suddenly take over the industry lock, stock and barrel. That will not happen, whatever may be the political complexion of the government of the day.
The proposed Wool Marketing Authority will be appointed by the Australian Wool Board to discharge the tremendous task of fixing a reserve price for each grade of wool. Each of the seven members will hold office for three years. This Authority will be a very important body. The Wool Board will have power to appoint the Chairman of the Authority in consultation with the Minister for Primary Industry and the executive of the Australian Wool Industry Conference. Furthermore, the Board must consult the executive of the Conference before appointing the other members of the Authority, five of whom will be appointed by it and one by the Government as its representative. So only one out of seven members will be appointed by the Government. Therefore, the Government will have a very small influence on the Authority. The growers will have the major voice in the reserve price scheme and, through the Authority, will consider all the factors and determine the average reserve price. The price determined will have to be approved by the Wool Board and presented to the Government for its approval. As I have said, if the average reserve price is rejected by the Government, either wholly or in part, the matter will be referred back to the Authority for reconsideration, and no doubt another price will be determined.
The point that I want to stress here, Mr. Deputy Speaker, is that the growers will have the major voice in the scheme, because the main say rests with the Wool Board, which is the mouthpiece of the growers. The Wool Marketing Authority will be an administrative body acting on behalf of the Board, not on its own initiative. All the way along, the Authority, in spite of the great powers to be given to it, as outlined in the Minister’s speech, will be under the overall control and direction of the Board. So the growers can feel confident that, in effect, their own Board will be running the scheme. The activities of the Authority will be under the overall control of the Board, and therefore of the growers themselves.
Naturally, there are some doubts about the scheme. In all industries and in all communities, there are those who fight against change. Some of the big wool growers of Australia are perhaps the most conservative of men. They are afraid of change and suspicious of anything new. This is a human characteristic, and I do not criticise them unnecessarily for having it. However, all through history, reform has come only when men have been inspired by a vision of something better. Many men have fought because they have had such a vision, and many have died for it. I believe that the time has come for change in the wool industry, in spite of the few who see tremendous dangers in the reserve price scheme - apparent dangers that they imagine threaten them like great dragons. This is the time for a new look and for the building into the industry of strength and guarantees. I believe that those who are resisting change will be overwhelmed in this instance. I do not suggest that they have not the right to their opinions. They have, of course. But it is the majority opinion that counts. There is not a football club meeting, a tennis club meeting, a rifle club meeting that is not conducted on democratic lines- by the majority vote. Meetings of State and Federal Parliaments and municipal councils are conducted in a similar fashion, as are meetings of the Wool Industry Conference. So the decision in the proposed referendum will be arrived at in the democratic way by the majority vote.
When the stabilisation plan for the wheat industry was originally proposed many people fought against it. One was the former Minister for Social Services who is now our first Ambassador to Ireland. He fought the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) up hill and down dale over that scheme between 1946 and 1949. 1 was in the House at the time and 1 remember the circumstances. Many people outside the Parliament also fought against the stabilisation plan. It was described as being tainted with socialism and fraught with Government interference. We were told that it would wreck the industry in the long run. What wheat grower now, after the stabilisation plan has been in operation for 18 years, would ever want to go back to the conditions that existed before that plan was introduced.
Our experience with the wheat stabilisation plan merely serves to illustrate how entrenched conservatism is eventually overwhelmed and a new order emerges. I think the wool industry is due for the introduction of this new idea, this new marketing scheme within the industry itself. Yet there are doubts, and some of those doubts are quite justified. Fears have been expressed and arguments have been engaged in - and rightly so. Debates have been conducted in various centres throughout Australia. Sir William Gunn has been travelling widely in wool growing areas and speaking in various centres, and he has been followed by others who oppose the scheme. He and his opponents have debated the matter, sharing the same platforms, in various towns throughout Australia. This is an intensely interesting development. We had such a discussion in Launceston the other day. One of the members of the Australian Wool Board, a highly respected grower, lives at Ross in the centre of my electorate of Wilmot in which there are hundreds ot thousands of top class sheep. He is Mr. Don von Bibra, and he debated the issue at a well attended meeting in the Windmill Hill Memorial Hall in Launceston two or three weeks ago. It was a most enlightening debate and was shown on television so that we were able to see and hear the debate as it was conducted. Mr. von Bibra’s opponent was Mr. le Couteur, who came from Sydney. He is one of the most vigorous opponents of the proposed scheme. The mayor of Launceston acted as chairman and the discussion was most enlightening.
Such debates are good things for this country. I believe that many wool growers will learn more from this kind of verbal conflict than they could learn about their industry in any other way, especially about the intricate marketing side of the industry. I believe that knowledge is gained from a consideration of differing opinions.
We have heard two very serious criticisms of the proposed scheme. One concerns the cost to the individual grower, who is becoming genuinely frightened. Some have mentioned their fears to me and I too am concerned about the rising costs of research and promotion, on top of which we now have this proposal for a guaranteed amount of £30 million and also a contingency fund. In some areas these proposals will have quite a serious effect on small wool growers. They have seen their production costs steadily mounting and now are faced with these added costs of marketing. They are naturally frightened when they see how the costs of the Wool Board’s research and promotion programmes are steadily increasing. We know that the cost to individual growers has been raised from about 10s. a bale to a good deal more than £2 a bale in recent years. It seems to me that Sir William Gunn has become so used to talking in millions that when he comes to this House - if he ever does - he will be a real asset to the Treasurer. He will be well equipped to talk about matters affecting the Treasury because he has been handling millions for some time. I believe that some of the criticism of the way the Wool Board funds are used has been justified.
That brings me to the second serious criticism that has been levelled. We have heard of the lavish campaign conducted by Sir William Gunn, which will cost about £30,000 of Wool Board funds. I believe that the use of this money has been technically legitimately correct, but it has angered many growers. Sir William Gunn has a decided advantage over those who oppose the scheme in that he is on the inside looking out while they are on the outside looking in. He is on the inside looking out with £30,000 of the Board’s funds to use, while his opponents are on the outside looking in, the only funds at their disposal being what they can raise by their own contributions.
These are matters that we should rightly mention as aspects of the campaign that is being waged. I am not criticising the ability of either Sir William Gunn or Mr. Vines. They are most able men. I am wondering, however, whether they have become so captivated by the prospect of the promotion campaign, and by the millions of pounds at their disposal, that their heads have been turned. What I am afraid of is that the whole situation has gone to their heads. Perhaps it would be a good thing for the wool industry if Sir William Gunn were to get inside this place, because then his activities would be somewhat restricted.
I want to conclude my speech by enumerating some of the fears that have been entertained about this proposed scheme. The first is the fear that the Government will eventually acquire the whole wool clip. This would constitute total acquisition and it is the basis of one of the fears of undue government interference. On behalf of the Opposition I want to say quite categorically that there will be no total acquisition of the wool clip unless we have another world war on the scale of World War II, involving the destruction of shipping so that we could not send our wool overseas. In those circumstances the wool would have to be bought in and stored. This would be done in the same way as wool was bought in under the great Joint Organisation scheme during World War II. But this will never be necessary unless we have another terrible war involving all the nations of the world.
Secondly there is the fear that overseas buyer countries with balance of trade problems may place their buying in the hands of one representative if we, together with New Zealand and South Africa, should combine to hold up the price of wool unnecessarily. This may be a genuine fear.
Thirdly there is the fear of the building up of a bureaucracy which could strangle the industry. The growers do not like bureaucracy - nobody does - but I remind the House that the growers will be their own watch-dogs. This is not going to be a Government show, it will be a growers’ scheme, and if a bureaucracy grows up the growers will have the right to alter : he situation. They will have the right to change the names of the people running their industry.
Fourthly, there is the fear of the difficulty of changing the scheme at a later date should it show signs of failing. Fifthly there are fears concerning the high cost of the scheme and grave doubts as to whether the 3 per cent. levy will be enough. These are the main fears of those opposing the scheme, but we should also look at the advantages of the plan.
What are the main advantages? First, it will help to stabilise the industry which is being challenged more and more by synthetics. Secondly, itwill introduce new marketing methods to counter the highly skilled marketing methods of those who sell the products that can be considered wool’s competitors and rivals. Thirdly, it will be backed financially by the Federal Government. A fourth advantage was mentioned by Mr. T. B. C. Walker, the President of the Graziers Association of New South Wales, who said in June this year, as reported in “ Muster “of 16th June-
Growers, I believe, will be better off, in the long run, by having at their disposal a marketing mechanism which might be used to keep buyers in the wool market. 1 know the limitations of the Wool Board’s recommendations and the dangers inherent in the scheme. I am, however, even more fully aware of the dangers to the wool industry if no steps are taken to try to minimise the fluctuations in prices which wool users say deter them from using wool. I know price fluctuations are only part of the problem facing wool growers, but I say that if price fluctuations reduce demand for wool, then the fluctuation of prices is one of the most pressing of the wool growers problems.
I could not agree with him more. He is president of the Graziers Association, which rejected the scheme, and he made those remarks. I ask honorable members to mark his words. I believe that any wool grower who is in doubt should read them because they contain a sound argument in favour of the reserve price plan.
There is confusion in the ranks of the Liberal Party on this issue. The Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr. McEwen) has been called unworthy by Mr. R. W. MacArthur Oslow because of his remarks on the subject. I agree with what was said by the Minister, as reported in today’s “ Daily Telegraph “. He criticised wool selling brokers, wool futures operators and other more powerful interests for entering the controversy on the proposed reserve price scheme. Because of his criticism he was called unworthy by Mr. MacArthur Onslow. The Minister for Trade and Industry was perfectly right in what he said and I agree with him. I feel that he should not be accused of being unworthy for making that statement.
In today’s edition of the “Daily Telegraph” under a heading “State Libs. Condemn Wool Plan “ is an article which states that the Rural Committee of the State Liberal Party in New South Wales has condemned the scheme. The articte states -
The State Secretary (Mr. J. Carrick) has sent copies of the Rural Committee’s recommendations to all New South Wales members of Federal Parliament.
Evidently this Committee is powerful. It has 10 members who are in revolt against the wool reserve price plan and they have put their arguments against it. There is confusion. There is definitely revolt in the ranks of the Liberal Party on this important issue. In the long term I believe that the Bill will go through this House and the Senate and that the referendum will be carried by a majority of growers. It is my humble opinion that the scheme will be successful and in the interests of the wool growers. I have faith in the growers’ ability to handle this great question and this great scheme after the amazing succees of the Joint Organisation scheme during and after the war. We leave the scheme in the hands of the growers and we trust that they will give the matter every consideration and vote according to the facts and their aspirations for the industry.
– The Bill before the House concerns the arrangements to be made for holding a referendum of wool growers to decide whether they wish to introduce into the present auction system of selling wool a reserve price scheme. I do not propose to cover very many of the details of the scheme. I propose mainly to confine myself to the general theory of the scheme and to certain details which are contained in the Bill. I am sure that honorable members who are interested in this subject and the public generally will appreciate very much those preliminary remarks by the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) today in regard to the financing of the scheme and the part to be played by outside finance, over and above the growers’ contribution in the form of a levy. I think everybody will appreciate the generosity and wisdom of making available to growers on a highly complicated subject both sides of the question in fairly short terms so that they can at least see some of the pitfalls as well as some of the advantages. To my mind that is a very sound and wise decision.
At the outset I want to refer to one or two remarks made by the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard). I felt, with all due expectancy, that he was going into rather extravagant terms about the part played by the Australian Labour Party. I suggest to the honorable member that in 1961, when obviously there was a tendency among many wool growers who had been pushed around by low prices to believe that any scheme was better than the existing one, the A.L.P. seized the opportunity to jump on the band wagon and to go ahead with the proposition which is contained in the supplementary policy speech issued by the honorable member for Lalor. I should like to refer also to another remark made by the honorable member in the course of his address. He referred to the obviously good work done by the British Australian Wool Realisation Association and the Joint Organisation in the periods immediately after World War I and World War II. Undoubtedly that was a tremendous contribution towards the welfare of the wool industry and also to the general public throughout the world who were interested in the wool trade.
I should like to remind the honorable member that after the cessataion of hostilities of both World War I and World War II there was a vast shortage of clothing and a vast shortage of furnishing materials. The warehouses were all empty and, despite the fact that the surplus of the wool from the scheme in each case had to be sold in competition with the current wool clips, it was quite obvious that the demand was assisted by the large amounts of finance which were poured into many European countries and into Japan to establish their textile industries for which they had no raw material. Of course, that produced this extraordinary situation. I am not decrying in any way the magnificent work done by the two organisations, but the honorable member tried to relate the success of this scheme, which he described as a form of stabilisataion or rationalisation - whatever one likes to call it - to the existing current situation. That would be quite wrong because the circumstances were entirely different.
The principle involved in this scheme is no novelty and, despite the apparent surprise of some of my colleagues in this place, a similar proposal was submitted to wool growers in 1951. This was rejected by a substantial majority at a referendum of wool growers. Only one State - Western Australia - voted in favour of the proposal. The details of the eligibility for voting for this proposal and also the details of the proposed plan vary considerably from those submitted in 1951. The 1951 plan, in brief, envisaged a joint plan for the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa, wholly financed by growers’ contributions plus the addition of £Ai5 million provided by the Government of the United Kingdom from its share of the Joint Organisation profits. Over and above the growers’ contributions by way of levy, the 1951 plan involved a further government guarantee to provide the additional amount necessary to continue buying in wool in the event of the growers’ capital becoming exhausted, but such guaranteed government contributions were to become a first charge on the proceeds of bought in wool which was subsequently sold by the Australian Wool Organisation. Under these conditions the final approval of the general level of reserve prices recommended by the central authority was to be the responsibility of the four governments and the approval had to be unanimous. We all know what happened. That scheme was defeated, and two of the countries - New Zealand in 1952 and South Africa in 1958 - carried on their own scheme, but Australia was not in it.
The conditions for eligibility for voting in the present scheme have been altered by increasing the requirements of a grower within the definition from a minimum of five bales produced or 200 sheep to 10 bales or 300 sheep. Voting is to be compulsory for all growers over 21 years of age and a simple majority of growers will be sufficient. In the case of wool growing properties worked in partnership, each partner whose share of the wool clip is equivalent to 10 bales or more will be eligible to vote and one trustee for each trust estate will have a vote in addition to any personal vote to which he might separately be entitled. A company will have only one vote.
These voting rights, as well as the initial qualification of 10 bales or 300 sheep, have been the subject of considerable criticism and it is certain that a number of anomalies will arise. We have heard a number of these mentioned in our own party rooms at times. The main criticism is that under this franchise the growers of an overwhelming proportion of Australia’s wool could be outvoted by the large number of small producers who produce only a small proportion of the total clip. However, I agree with the attitude taken by the Minister and the Government that it is difficult to see how any form of loaded voting rights could be introduced, especially when we have the precedent of the previous referendum in 1951. Honorable members will know that once a precedent has been established it is extremely difficult to get past the system which embodies that precedent. Furthermore, I approve the system of compulsory voting, and I trust that all eligible voters will do their best to inform themselves on the issues involved hi the full realisation that the future wellbeing of Australia’s greatest export industry - and I emphasise “greatest export industry “ - could be vitally involved. But I feel that the proposals, both for and against, have been so clouded recently by confusing smoke screens that the real issues could become obscured.
One point also that has been subject to discussion has been the opportunity for reviewing the scheme and its operation at the end of a predetermined period, and strong arguments have been submitted that a further referendum at the end of a defined period should be held to decide on the continuity of the scheme. In his second reading speech the Minister said that if the referendum proposal were passed the scheme would commence to operate on 1st July 1966 and it would be subject to a complete review in the fifth year of its operation. In the pamphlet issued to growers prior to the 1951 referendum paragraph 47 stated -
There would be a complete review of the plan in the fifth year of its operation. Australian participation in the plan after the end of the fifth year would only .be continued with the approval of wool growers generally.
I have an open mind about the necessity of a referendum or, in fact, its value in such a case at the end of the five year period, as I believe the opinions of wool growers will be clearly formulated and expressed through their organisation representatives and extended to the Australian Wool Industry Conference. In these circumstance I do not consider it serves any useful purpose to legislate that a determining referendum on continuing this scheme must be held at the end of this period. I think we might easily arrive at a situation where unless there is violent opposition to the scheme, expressed by a large number, the expense and trouble involved in holding another referendum would be completely redundant. I suggest for the consideration of the House that this situation will be fairly well determined by the end of the fifth year.
However, I do believe - and I say this with diffidence - that a biased administration of a loaded fixing of the reserve price and its translation into the multitude of types - some 3,000 - under the table of limits to be drawn up could bring about a grave injustice to growers of good wool to the advantage of the far more numerous farmers not primarily dependent on wool for their income and not continuously engaged in the breeding and growing of good quality wools. If the reserve price scheme is going to be used as a medium for bolstering the growing of inferior woo] at the expense of the type of wool grower who in the past has brought to the peak of excellence Australia’s sheep flocks - particularly its merinos - it will be a tragedy that only thoroughly bad politics can justify.
I mentioned earlier that the subject of introducing a reserve price scheme into the auction system of selling wool in Australia is no novelty. Such a scheme was submitted to a ballot of growers in 1951. At that time, for various reasons, I was in favour of the proposal which undoubtedly was prejudiced, in the eyes of growers - as mentioned by my colleague from Wannon (Mr. Malcolm Fraser) - by certain other influences, particularly the introduction of the wool deduction for taxation purposes during tha wool selling season 1950-51, when prices soared to unheard of heights mainly due to the activity of buyers on behalf of tha
United States of America for stockpiling in connection with the Korean war.
Since the previous referendum in 1951 a lot of wool has passed through the auction floors and there have been substantial and revolutionary changes in the world’s textile fibre position, as well as substantial alteration in the wool grower’s position. Perhaps the most important has been the vast development both in range and quality of synthetic fibres. Due to these improvements, and a restraint on costs, the artificial fibres have made significant inroads into the world markets of other fibres, particularly cotton and wool. This, of course, has been contributed to by alterations in our methods of living, especially in the more sophisticated countries of Europe and North America - our main buyers - where the wide introduction of air conditioning, central heating and heated motor cars has limited the necessity for wearing heavy woollen clothes.
The second major alteration to the grower’s position now as compared with 1951, when the previous referendum was taken, is financial. In 1951 wool prices were soaring and as the growers’ contributions towards the capital for a reserve price scheme were deductible for income tax purposes it was obvious that the Treasury would have carried a considerable proportion of the growers’ contribution, especially as growers’ incomes due to high wool prices were subject to a tax liability no-one could have foreseen. Most of us who were here at that time will realise the truth of that. There were a number of cases of people being involved in tax liability which they could not possibly have foreseen two years before, or even one year before. Indeed, as we all know, the wool deduction legislation disclosed many tax defaulters. It will be remembered also that in this period the distribution of the profits of the Joint Organisation was taking place, and this was also helping to swell the income of wool growers. So, in fact, wool growers generally were in a good financial shape to make a substantial contribution towards the setting up of the capital fund to support a reserve price scheme, and as their incomes had temporarily reached unheard of heights any contribution they would have made to the capital fund of the scheme would have been partially carried to a greater or lesser degree by the Treasury.
Today the financial situation is completely altered. Perhaps the most significant change has been in the heavy rise in costs on a decreasing wool return. Most of these increased costs, particularly in the higher rainfall areas, are inescapable. I refer to such items as State land tax, municipal rates and, to a less direct degree, death duties, none of which add one farthing - or should it be one-quarter cent? - to the productivity of the wool grower but which, in fact, are direct taxes on the wool grower’s production plan, just the same as if a tax were imposed on factory premises, buildings and plant, increasing rapidly as the sliding scale took values higher. So it is evident to anyone with even the slightest knowledge of the wool growing industry that the grower today is far less financially strong to meet the demands of a levy, part of which is already committed to the promotion obligation.
There is another factor in the altered scene from 1951 which is really a development out of the first I mentioned. Artificial fibres on the previous scale have been an increasing menace to the expensive outlets for wool, particularly in apparel fabrics - the top quality fabrics which normally bring good prices and for which high prices are paid for wool - but the patents of some of the better known synthetics have expired or are about to expire, and although it would be difficult for newcomers to seriously embarrass such giants as Du Pont, I.C.I, or Courtauld, the additional opportunities for newcomers to manufacturing could even stimulate research, if it requires stimulation, into improving synthetic qualities and in lowering costs.
As the growth of synthetics has gone on iri many of the more progressive countries of Europe and in North America as well as in Japan there have sprung up very considerable industries based on the production of artificial fibres that compete with wool. These industries provide a considerable employment capacity, both directly and indirectly. They also have a very considerable potential for replacement of overseas exchange, a financial problem which seems to bedevil both rich and poor countries. Even the giant United States of America is involved. What really does concern me is that industrial pressure and exchange problems can be expected in future to play an increasing part in the exclusion of wool from markets in countries that rely entirely on imports to feed their wool textile industries.
In the light of all these factors of change since 1951 my own inclination has been to approach the question of this second vole on a reserve price plan with the greatest caution, despite the fact that I was in favour of, and voted for, the 1951 proposal. I certainly have no respect for the views of certain elements in the wool industry who assert that the introduction of a reserve price will be the panacea for all their ailments. Anyone who thinks that rubbish should consult a psychiatrist. The honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie), who preceded me in this debate, spoke about an equitable price for wool. This reminded me of some of the ridiculous letters I have seen published in newspapers about this reserve price plan and I propose to refer to them a little later.
The main and almost sole reason for my advocating a “ Yes “ vote is certainly quite simple and I certainly hope it is not wrong. After years of bickering and rivalry between grower organisations, the Government achieved a degree of unity in setting up the Australian Wool Board and the Australian Wool Industry Conference. The composition of the Conference has been, to my mind, seriously prejudiced by its failure to admit any representative of the other considerable grower organisation, the Australian Primary Producers Union. How much more effective would the voice of the Conference be if it could say that it embraced all growers and none were excluded. However, this has happened, much to the regret, I believe, of the Minister and the Government. When I think of the reputations of one or two of the members of the Conference, I am resigned to the most unpredictable decisions coming from the body. But I hope I am right in the assumption that the majority will be right in the case of the reserve price plan, even if the sensible members were unable to muster a two-thirds majority to support the admission of representation from the Australian Primary Producers Union. Apart from this definite weakness, the Conference does represent the growers and again I hope the Conference members have come up with a carefully studied recommendation based on the fullest and most accurate information, and this recommendation is not in any way tainted by organisation politics or compromise, because the future of Australia’s greatest industry could be at stake on this matter. However, once again I hope that, provided the scheme is run on the recommended conservative lines, not much damage can be done, leaving out the word “ equitable “ used by the honorable member for Wilmot.
The Conference has made this decision on the basis of its own sources of information and as propounded by the Australian Wool Board. I think I would be completely inconsistent if I said: “ Well, we put them there but when it comes to a major decision we do not trust them to make a sound, logical and studied recommendation for the industry”. My other reason for supporting the proposition is that, as I mentioned earlier, New Zealand adopted the reserve price plan in 1952 and South Africa adopted it in 1958. To the best of my knowledge, the wool growers in those countries would never dream of getting back on to a free market again.
I want to say a few words about the expense of promotion. There has been much uncertainty about the results so far achieved by the expensive promotion campaign being undertaken by the International Wool Secretariat. In actual fact, allegations about the expense are not quite true. The full blast of expense has only come within the last 12 months. Some of the uncertainty has descended into ill-informed and hostile criticism related to the fall in wool prices during the 1964-65 selling season. This has led to an additional clamour for an alteration of the auction system. The point I now wish to establish is that world prices for wool are not determined solely by the laws of supply and demand. There are several other factors, in particular the financial measures adopted by the Governments of our main customer countries. I mentioned earlier that I believe exchange problems could be expected to play an increasing part in encouraging synthetic production and consumption in countries we consider our best wool customers and this must have some prejudicial effect on world woo] prices. But there are also many other fiscal measures that have been taken and are being taken by overseas governments which have a direct bearing on the buying capacity of the consumer countries.
The simplest case of’ this type of action is the case of the United States of America where a tariff of 25i cents per lb. based on clean scoured weight of greasy wool is charged on apparel wools imported into the United States. The revenue collected goes to the support price scheme for wool. But it is quite obvious that, while the revenue might be helping to bolster up the wool cheque of the local sheep farmers in the United States, the long term result is to give a direct encouragement through a huge price advantage to the synthetic manufacturer.
Although at present our main customer countries are not directly limited by restrictions of foreign exchange for the purpose of buying wool - the last major wool buying country to remove direct restrictions was Japan in 1961 - certain lesser purchasers, such as the Communist bloc and India, still allocate specific amounts of foreign exchange for imports of various items, including wool. However, the control of imports where credit restrictions have been removed is now being achieved by indirect methods. For instance, Japan has a system of prior deposits for imports. Importers are required to deposit a certain percentage of the import value of wool with their banks before applying for an import licence. This prior deposit has varied from 1 per cent, to 5 per cent, on raw materials, the deposit varying in the form of cash or securities according to the necessity of the internal economic policy. The House will realise the difference. It is much more difficult to find the deposit in the form of cash than it is to set up securities.
Almost certainly the reflection of internal bank credit and interest rates have had a major effect on wool demand, and these can be best illustrated by what happened in the United Kingdom in October 1964. I should perhaps remind the House that this was the period when the weakness in wool prices became a pronounced fall. In October, the bank rate in the United Kingdom was raised from 5 per cent, to 7 per cent, and continued at that rate until April of this year when it was reduced to 6 per cent. During those six months, the main bulk of the Australian wool clip had been sold on a continuously falling market. In Japan, the discount rate increased in June 1964, the same period, from 5.8 per cent. to 6.5 per cent, and in November 1964, still in the same period, in the United States of America the Federal reserve discount rate rose from 3£ per cent, to 4 per cent. In other words, almost simultaneously three of our customer nations introduced moves to increase substantially the cost of borrowing. I contend that this was directly reflected in the wool buying capacity of the countries concerned.
A different credit restraint with an effect on its wool buying capacity has been operating in France since 1963. The French Government established a price stabilisation plan, designed to curb inflation, in 1963. One of the effects of this has been a reduction in wool textile activity arising in part from restrictions on credit available to wholesalers and retailers in semimanufactured and finished goods. In this case, it was an internal application of credit restriction rather than limitation of foreign exchange that brought about the reduced activity of French buyers in the world wool auctions. So I suggest to the House that it is quite illogical to expect a promotion campaign to be successful in the face of government fiscal action which cuts right across the normal application of supply and demand. I would also suggest to those suspicious growers who hold a continuing belief that they are being robbed by the buyers that the hands of the buyers are on occasions tied by conditions outside their control.
Arguments to support a reserve price plan currently are attempting to establish that the fluctuation upward and then downward of prices in the 1963-64 and 1964-65 selling seasons was responsible for creating buyer and manufacturer uncertainty and for turning manufacturers more to synthetics with their stability of prices. So far no-one, in propounding the benefits of a reserve price scheme, has touched on anything but the floor price. There has been no serious mention of a ceiling price. This attitude of mind that stability, or at least the stability necessary to allay the fears of manufacturers, can be achieved by a floor price seems to be completely opposite to the experience of the seasonal prices of 1963-64 and 1964-65 and their effect on. manufacturers. If it is stability of buying price for the manufacturer that is a main objective, then it is an elementary axiom that there must be a ceiling price fixed each year, similarly to the floor price, by the wool authority in conjunction with the Government. If there is no ceiling fixed, then the upward fluctuations in price, so much appreciated by the grower, will assuredly be followed by downward periods when both grower and manufacturer will be caught, the latter by a fall in value of stocks of wool on hand and in process of manufacture. Assertions have been made that the price of synthetics will automatically set a ceiling on wool prices. I suggest to those who make this assertion that the price of synthetics was not noticeably successful in restraining the high prices obtained for wool during the 1963-64 season. What could happen so recently could happen again. I believe, moreover, that this type of sudden fluctuation upwards has a most unsettling influence in the market. It is asserted also that bought-in wools will be available to control high prices. This is a most absurd assertion because mainly bad wools will be stockpiled, and this will not control the price of anything.
It seems to me that the real philosophy which motivates most grower enthusiasts for the reserve price scheme is that subconsciously they associate the reserve price in wool with the guaranteed price available to producers in other fields of primary industry and particularly the guaranteed price for wheat, which in theory is based on cost of production figures. I gathered that impression from the remarks of the honorable member for Wilmot. If this is so and eventually, by political pressure, an attempt is made to tie the reserve price for wool to a level based on cost of production, I have no hesitation in saying that the Australian wool industry will be doomed to extinction. The textile manufacturers of the world, who normally are expected to purchase the export content of the Australian wool clip, could not care less about the Australian wool grower’s cost of producing wool or, for that matter, about his standard of living. They are interested only in wool at a price competitive with other fibres.
If the Australian wool grower chooses to fix a reserve price beyond that considered competitive by the manufacturers, he will surely cut his own economic throat. Once the manufacturers have turned away from wool to synthetics, any residual sentimental attachment to wool, particularly as an ap parel fibre, will disappear for good. The financial results of the wheat stabilisation scheme have left no doubt in my mind where a reserve price for wool, based on a cost of production figure, would place Australian taxpayers. They would become contributors to supporting an uneconomic scheme. This matter is of great moment not only to the wool industry but to the economy in general. Every facility should be made available to those who will vote to enable them to express an informed, logical and, I hope, wise decision.
.- I rise to support the case presented in favour of this Bill by the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard). I do not have the honour to represent a wool growing constituency but, like all Australians, I share a common interest in the industry. I take a pride in it. I wish wool producers well and I want to see the best done for them and for Australia.
I have had some years of experience in another legislature. The Australian Labour Party has no need to hide its light under a bushel as far as primary production is concerned. The former Labour administration in New South Wales has a very proud record in soldier settlement and the stimulation of rural production. We are by definition, policy and precept a party of protection. Naturally we would do our best to protect any Australian industry and to do what is best for the welfare of Australia and its people. In my lengthy political experience I do not know of any topic or measure which has provoked within the ranks of the traditional conservatives of Australia more frenetic and sustained criticism than this Bill. Who is responsible for the Opposition to this proposal? Is it a case of the old biblical saying: “ The voice is Jacob’s voice, but the hands are the hands of Esau.”? What are the motives of these people? I can quote from my own experience.
In the New South Wales Parliament the most vigorous opposition to the establishment of wool sales in Goulburn came from wool broking interests. For their own special reasons, it did not suit the brokers to have sales established at Goulburn, but they have been established there and they are very successful. Goulburn is one of the major centres of fine wool production in Australia. I think it is well to quote the words of the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr. McEwen) who is also the Leader of the Country Party. I cite the text of a letter sent by him to the New South Wales chairman of his party. In the letter, the contents of which were fully publicised, he said - . . brokers, futures operators and even more powerful interests who are not involved in woolgrowing might, with more credit to themselves, have left this discussion to be conducted within the wool industry.
The most we ask is that the wool growers should have an opportunity to vote in a democratic fashion on what seems to be essentially a democratic set of proposals. While on this occasion the Country Party seeks to practise economic democracy of the first magnitude, I would hope that when matters of electoral redistribution are being discussed it might apply with equal fervour the principles of political democracy.
I doubt whether there could be a debate more important to the welfare of the Australian economy than a debate on this measure. We live in a most important period. It is a period of approaching financial crisis for Australia. We have just terminated a trading year when our terms of trade were adverse to the tune of about £375 million. We must think carefully whether we are selling, processing or weaving our wool production to the best advantage of this country. Traditionally, we have been a primary producing country. Our wealth has come essentially from the soil. This has been supplemented to a certain extent by mineral wealth and in the future we anticipate that we will draw even more
F.10615/65. - lt. - 132J of our wealth from below the surface of the soil than from above it because of the mineral resources recently discovered in northern and north western Australia.
We are traditionally a nation of husbandmen. If you look at a list of the breeds of sheep, horses and almost all domestic livestock you will see listed the names of the counties of England. You will see also a reflection of the English farmer’s mind. We can take credit for the fact that no nation in all of history has played a more important part in the breeding of stock and in primary production. Because of our climatic conditions we can produce naturally wool of the highest quality. Wool, after all, is our main product. It represents 30 per cent, to 40 per cent, of our exports. In other words, our main export is grass converted into wool by the metabolism of the sheep.
I propose to approach this subject from a somewhat different angle from that used by most of the previous speakers. They are men experienced in the wool industry, its techniques of production, its costing and its administration. I propose to deal a little with the history of wool production, because it seems to me that there are unique historical parallels in the history of wool manufacture in Britain with the situation which exists in Australia today. I gravely doubt that we are doing the best for Australia by our methods of marketing wool. Even if the referendum proposal is carried and a reserve price plan is put into operation we still have a further stage to reach. We need not merely to sell wool to the best advantage, using a reserve price scheme for that purpose, but we need also to process and weave the major part of our wool clip to extract the maximum benefit for our nation.
It is common knowledge, of course, that the Lord Chancellor of England sits on the Woolsack. By tradition wool is the wealth of England. As one authority has put it, wool is the flower, the revenue, the strength and the blood of England itself. In our more homely phrasing we say that Australia rides on the sheep’s back. The historical parallels to which I previously referred go right back almost to the pre-Christian era, because at that time Phoenician traders coming to the coast of Cornwall exchanged woven cloth - woollen cloth - for wool produced in England. Certainly sheep existed in England long before even the Roman conquest. When the Romans came they found that there were a substantial number of sheep already in Britain. The Romans were responsible for establishing the first manufactury of wool in Britain for the purposes of clothing their army.
After the Romans left England wool technology, primitive as it may have been in that day, did not advance. The technical experts of the day were on the coast of Flanders. Wool travelled from England to be processed in Flanders. The first Flemish weavers came to Britain with William the Conqueror and they established the nucleus of what we might term the English woollen industry of today. But they did not come in sufficient numbers and they were not able to offset the predominance of Flanders itself in the woollen industry.
I come now to a later period, the reign of Edward III, who specially encouraged the influx of Flemish weavers, dyers and fullers. At this time there was a transition from the feudal system and from the system of cultivation to that of grazing. Honorable members who can recall a little of their primary history, will remember that the enclosures - the conversion of cultivated land to pastures for sheep - were one of the contributing causes of the Peasants’ Revolt. Edward III introduced laws restricting, and in certain cases prohibiting, the export of wool. He did his very utmost to stimulate the processing of wool within Britain so that the maximum profit could be obtained. I now pass to a later period, namely about 1660, when Parliament placed a prohibition on the export of wool from Britain. That legislation, which was the subject of considerable controversy, and which I would not myself support, was finally repealed in 1825. It can be said that until the development of the cotton trade at the end of the 18th century the woollen industry was the most important source of wealth in England. I quote from figures relating to the year 1.774. In that year there were 10 million sheep in Britain which were producing wool valued at £3 million. These figures will be of more than passing interest to wool growers. At that time wool was valued at 5s. per lb. The value of the manufactured product was £12 million, or some four times the value of the raw material, lt should be of more than passing interest, too, to know that wool is normally one of the three or four most valuable commodities in international trade. That being so, the apprehensions of the some of the dissentient Government supporters can be well and truly answered. If wool is weak in its price a lot of other major commodities will be even weaker in price.
Let me draw the parallel. As England sought first to establish the production of wool and then its processing, we must do exactly the same. We have a dominance in the production and export of wool, but we certainly have no dominance in its manufacture into clothing and other finished woollen piece goods. Therein lies the future of Australia. We produce 30 per cent, of the world’s total wool. In terms of world exports we produce 45 per cent. However, our utilisation of wool, the weaving of wool into cloth or woollen piecegoods for our internal consumption, is of the order - and I quote figures for the last five years - of only 7.7 per cent, of national output.
No-one would suggest that we should put an’ embargo on the export of wool from Australia, but why should we not extract the maximum economic advantage from our undoubted predominance in wool production? If we do not do this, no one else will do it for us. What proportion of the wool that we export to other countries is reexported by those countries at a very considerable profit to them? I find a remarkable paucity of statistics on this point. The case I have most in mind is that of Japan. I cannot quote authoritative figures, but I understand that by repute some 30 per cent, of the wool that Japan imports from Australia is re-exported at a very substantial profit, and a major proportion of it is re-exported to the United States of America. It so happens that the profit made by Japan is approximately equal to our trading deficit with the United States. This is a matter to which every honorable member who can think above party political issues should give the most serious consideration.
I do not propose to take up the time of the House unduly because other more authoritative speakers can deal with the subject at some length. I do suggest however that we should have a look at the potentialities of different parts of Australia for wool processing, and I refer particularly to the area that 1 have the honour to represent. On the Robertson Plateau, which has an elevation of some 2,000 feet, and which is some 30 miles from the City of Greater Wollongong, there is an area which the meteorologists say is a homoclime with Leeds and Bradford. The precipitation of rain is similar; the average mean temperatures, summer and winter, are similar; and even the water supplies are similar. There is a tremendous wealth of soft water in the Wingecarribee Swamp which would be ideal for the scouring of wool. We have the right to draw on Goulburn wool. A number of plans have been projected for the export of wool from Port Kembla. We have a perfect right not only to export wool in bales but also to establish an industry to process wool, turn it into clothing and woollen piecegoods, and so get the maximum advantage for Australia.
England has very serious problems, and any Australian with any British sentiment should do nothing to embarrass -England. But the hard facts must be faced. They are simply these: The minute that Britain enters the European Common Market Britain will be faced with a crisis. When that crisis comes it will have no greater effect on any trade than on the woollen trade. Britain’s crisis will be Australia’s opportunity to help Britain to transfer its industries to this country. If we take the long term view, there will be no greater markets in the world than the markets of Asia and Africa which are m the process of being raised to similar standards of living as we now fortunately possess. I say in conclusion that the wool growers would be very well advised to support this proposal and the referendum. I say also that unless they do, then, instead of Australia riding on the sheep’s back, we shall find the wool brokers and the pastoral companies riding on the Australian wool grower’s back.
.- Early this afternoon the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) expressed some concern as to where the Australian Country Party stands with respect to the reserve price plan and, by inference, some concern with relation to the attitude of individual members of this party. At this early stage of my remarks, let me put his mind completely at ease about my own attitude. As a representative of an electorate embracing a vast number of wool growers who will be eligible to vote, I am convinced that an overwhelming majority of the votes cast in the Division of Moore will be cast in favour of the plan. I am further convinced that the voting formula as laid down by the Bill before us is accepted by them as a necessary compromise on what has long been recognised as a very difficult question.
For my part, therefore, as their representative, I support this Bill. For the benefit of the honorable member for Wilmot I can go even further than that because, like the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Malcolm Fraser) I am also a wool grower who is eligible to vote under the formula provided in this Bill and, as a wool grower, I intend to cast my vote in favour of the reserve price plan. As to the attitude of the Australian Country Party, it is an historical fact that we have stood solidly behind the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann), who is also our acting leader, in his efforts to bring the wool growers’ federal organisations together in order that they may, in a properly constituted manner, determine their own destiny, consistent with the basic belief that the produce of the land belongs to the producers, subject only to the payment of their just debts. The Bill presently before the House is a further step in the direction of giving effect to these basic beliefs.
The principle of Parliament debating the reserve price plan before the ballot of growers is held, is surely one which all members must approve. It is quite illogical to suggest that any useful purpose would be served by debating the proposal after it has been submitted to growers. Once the Cabinet had concluded negotiations with the responsible body representing the industry, established in accordance with the Wool Industry Act 1962, and then submitted this proposal to growers by referendum, it is unthinkable that the plan could be altered by the Government after it had been accepted by a majority of growers.
This plan has emerged after a long and tortuous journey through the politics of the industrial organisations, and although many growers have misgivings at the very conservative approach it makes towards solving the marketing problems of the industry, those members who have been close to the problems of the industrial organisations are prepared to accept that this conservative approach is the only sort of approach likely to receive the endorsement of a majority of growers at a ballot. The plan has evolved from a general recognition that although the auction system of wool marketing may have served the industry reasonably well in the past, it does not meet the requirements of the modern world of industry and commerce, nor does it meet the situation created by the development of man-made fibres. In the highly competitive field of the textile industry it is essential today that a manufacturer should be in a position to plan ahead of production, and that he should be able to make these plans against a background of stable prices for basic raw materials. The importance of reasonable stability of prices for raw materials in the textile industry cannot be over-emphasised, and it is essential to recognise that a textile manufacturer, in his search for stability, will lean heavily towards a fibre with a price history not associated with violent price fluctuations, either up or down.
I turn now to the position created by the auction system of wool marketing, and the need to plan shipping well ahead to meet the requirements of the sales programmes as laid down by brokers. Inevitably, we have a situation where vast quantities of wool are going under the hammer without any regard whatsoever to demand at the time the sale is held. This and many other factors relating to availability of finance and changes in government policy in consuming countries are substantial causes of widely fluctuating wool prices, and these factors are further aggravated by the operations of speculators who are ever ready to buy at bargain prices any lines of wool for which there is a temporary lack of demand.
These widely fluctuating wool prices are a veritable nightmare for the manufacturer and place him in a situation where he must programme to use the maximum quantity of synthetic fibre, as he knows that by doing so he is able to maintain maximum stability in his production costs, consistent only with his need to produce a quality fabric. It is quite true to say that unless the wool industry is prepared to recognise the dilemma of the manufacturer in this essential aspect of his production problems, then most of the vast sums of money presently being spent on promotion are being wasted.
Considerable argument has developed around the questions of the extent to which the International Wool Textile Organisation has either supported or failed to support the reserve price plan, and how to reconcile the decision on the present proposal with the background of the report of the Wool Marketing Committee of Inquiry under Sir Roslyn Philp. An examination of the report and findings of the Philp Committee left me firmly of the opinion that this Committee became hopelessly lost in the maze of evidence it collected, and finally built its recommendations around the evidence it was given by the International Wool Textile Organisation. At the time the Philp Committee met, the International Wool Textile Organisation was completely dominated by merchants and speculators operating in the European zone. It could not be said that manufacturers and end-users of wool had any audible voice at its meetings, and it had virtually no representation from the United States of America, Japan, or the South American countries. Is it any wonder that neither the International Wool Textile Organisation, nor subsequently the Philp Committee, found any merit in a proposal to bring stability to the wool market and reduce the margins in which speculators and merchants could operate?
It is to meet this problem of fluctuating prices that the reserve price plan has been designed. The plan recognises that any attempt to interfere with the auction system would meet the full force of vested interests entrenched behind this system, and would be doomed to failure, lt recognises that some alternative methods for growers to dispose of their wool, other than by auction, do exist, and it does not propose to interfere with these, subject only to their observing the requirements of the reserve price plan and conducting their activities in a manner not prejudicial to the plan. In essence, all the reserve price plan proposes to do is to create an artificial person to attend wool auctions and buy-in wool when it falls to a pre-determined level. Hie reserve price will vary from type to type and quality to quality, and will in its initial stages be fixed at conservative levels. Perhaps it could best be described as a bench mark. It is recognised that this artificial person cannot attend an auction sale and bid for wool unless he has finance to back his operations.
This plan provides for a levy on a grower’s proceeds, regardless of how he disposes of his wool, to raise this finance and it makes provision for the raising of additional finance in the event of funds subscribed by the grower temporarily running down. The question which a wool grower has to ask himself when he receives his ballot paper is whether or not he is satisfied that the present arrangements for disposing of his clip are satisfactory, and if not, whether this proposal can effect an improvement’. If he believes that it can, then he must ask himself whether the likely improvement is worth the modest amount he will be called upon to pay into a fund in order to finance the buying-in operations. It is inevitable at this stage that we should have all sorts of people forming all sorts of organisations with the object of confusing growers and endeavouring to create a fear that this or any plan which attempts to protect the growers’ interests is loaded with the dangers of Government control and socialisation of their industry. Once the ballot of growers has been counted we can confidently expect these groups to disperse and vanish once again into obscurity. We shall hear no more of their professed desires to improve the free wool market. I am convinced that they will be content once again to resume their rounds of social activities and leave the real people in the industry - the organised growers of wool and the end users of wool - to get on with the very important work of providing stability and maintaining prosperity and growth in this industry which is tremendously important, not only to the individual wool grower but to the nation.
There have been quite a number of snide attempts to delay the holding of this ballot, lt should be clearly understood that all these attempts have as their final objective the defeat of the reserve price plan. These people have challenged the right of the Australian Wool Industry Conference to speak on behalf of the growers on the grounds that at least one body of wool growers is not represented on the Conference. They have sought to delay the ballot on the specious argument that if it was delayed it would give the Wool Industry Conference time to admit the Australian Primary Producers Union and would allow the Union to associate itself with the securing of a majority vote in favour of growers adopting by majority decision the plan which has already received the overwhelming support of the Conference. The Australian Primary Producers Union has made several attempts to gain representation on the Conference. The last attempt failed by a very narrow margin. It is confidently expected by those people who are close to the Wool Industry Conference that the next attempt by the A.P.P.U. will gain the necessary support round the table of the Conference. But, Mr. Speaker, whether this will prove the case if the position of the A.P.P.U. is used to frustrate the implementation of the Conference decision to proceed with the ballot for the reserve price proposal is a matter for conjecture. It is difficult to see how the interests of the A.P.P.U. in its efforts to gain a seat on the Wool Industry Conference are being served by the people who continue raising these issues at this particular time. I submit, with very great respect, that these people are doing the A.P.P.U. a very great disservice.
It may be advisable, perhaps, to have a brief look at the policy of the A.P.P.U. on wool marketing and from it gauge the sincerity of the people who are trying to use its position to secure the delay of the ballot and the ultimate defeat of the plan. The Federal Wool Committee of the A.P.P.U. believes that a change in the method of disposal of the Australian wool clip is inevitable. It is the Committee’s opinion that the most efficient and desirable method of disposal would be by an appraisal scheme with sales at quoted prices. The Committee recognises the need for this end result to be brought about.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– Mr. Speaker, when the sitting was suspended, I was dealing with the marketing proposals of the Federal Wool Committee of the Australian Primary Producers Union as submitted to the Government Members Wool Committee, which was of the opinion that the most efficient and most desirable method of disposal would be an appraisal scheme with sales at quoted prices. The A.P.P.U. Committee recognised the need for this result to be brought about in stages, probably over a number of years.
As a first step towards this goal, it recommended an appraisal scheme with sales at auction. The intermediate step envisaged was for wool to be taken over by a selling authority on entering brokers’ stores, where it would be appraised by the authority’s appraisers and subsequently offered for sale at auction after buyers’ inspection but on behalf of the selling authority, not the grower. The grower would be paid on the basis of the appraised value of his wool, the scale of values being unchanged throughout the season. There were a number of further refinements in the proposal, but generally it followed the system of selling by auction of appraised wools, which is in operation in the United Kingdom.
I have delved into the wool marketing policy of the Australian Primary Producers Union not with the object of discussing the merits or otherwise of the ideas of this organisation, but simply to illustrate that acquisition of the Australian wool clip is fundamental to the implementation of the Union’s wool marketing policy. It must surely be obvious from this situation that the admission of the A.P.P.U. to the Australian Wool Industry Conference would strengthen the arguments within the Conference for a more radical approach to wool marketing reform, and would further incite this so-called Committee for the Retention and Improvement of the Free Wool Market. However, Mr. Speaker, I feel that I could not leave the subject of the admission of the A.P.P.U. to the Wool Industry Conference without at this juncture paying the highest possible tribute to the Union for the attitude that it is adopting during the present crisis. It has endured much frustration, misrepresentation and misunderstanding in recent times. But, notwithstanding this, it has forgotten its grievances for the time being and submerged them in a genuine desire to put the welfare of the industry first. This organisation is displaying an attitude of responsibility that surely qualifies it as one that should be represented on the Wool Industry Conference.
Further efforts to delay and defeat the ballot of wool growers have been directed along the lines that the proposal to limit the number of votes to one vote for one person is unjust to the big growers and that the qualification of 10 bales or 300 sheep for receipt of a ballot paper unduly loads the poll in favour of the small producer to the detriment of the big producer. That a decision on voting qualifications had to be made was inevitable. No matter what the decision finally was, it was equally inevitable that people anxious to disrupt the process of the ballot would latch on to it. To attempt to devise a voting formula in an industry which ranges from the small mixed farmer with 300 or so crossbred ewes producing fat lambs and wool to the big grazier producing, say, 1,000 bales of wool is to embark on an exercise presenting problems that can be solved only by compromise. It could be that the small farmer’s 300 sheep represent to him the same percentage of net income as the big grazier’s 1,000 bales. The proposal in this Bill to base the formula on 300 sheep and 10 bales of wool is a just and reasonable compromise having regard to the contentious nature of the issues involved. It was arrived at by the Australian Wool Industry Conference after 12 months of hard and at times acrimonious discussion and it is a tribute to the determination of the Conference to resolve the differences that it was able ultimately to reach very substantial agreement on the present formula.
It is important to understand the background of the problem confronting the Wool Industry Conference in its need to reach agreement on the qualifications for a vote at the ballot. The Conference is constituted by bringing together under an independent Chairman 25 delegates appointed by the Australian Woolgrowers and Graziers Council - representing in the main the big graziers - and 25 delegates appointed by the Australian Wool and Meat Producers Federation, who are mainly representative of the agricultural wool growers. The policy of the Woolgrowers and Graziers Council was that the ballot should be based on an annual production of at least 20 bales and that, if this limit were substantially reduced, there should be a formula providing for multiple voting in relation to total annual production. The Wool and Meat Producers Federation based its policy on the formula used for the 1951 ballot on the Post- Joint Organisation marketing plan - that is, five bales and 200 sheep. The Council ultimately modified its thinking to a qualification based on 15 bales and the Federation raised its limit to eight bales. At this point, a deadlock was reached. But, as agreement on this vexed question was fundamental to further progress with the major decisions on the reserve price plan, the Wool Industry Conference agreed to appoint a committee and to give it the responsibility for making a recommendation to the full Conference. The committee appointed ultimately recommended the voting formula spelt out in the Bill now before the House. It is significant to note here that the committee’s recommendation was adopted by the full Conference.
From this very brief history, it can be appreciated that this voting formula is a compromise by two groups of people with widely diverging and very strongly held views. The suggestion that some outside individual or group of individuals has a better chance of coming up with a formula more acceptable to wool growers is so silly that it is not worthy of serious consideration by this House, in my view, Mr. Speaker. Until the rolls of wool growers are completed, it will not be possible to say precisely how many growers will be eligible to vote under the formula contained in the Bill, but a reasonable guesstimate is somewhere between 90,000 and 100,000. The number of owners of properties producing wool not in sufficient volume to qualify for a vote will probably exceed 30,000. If the qualifying limit were raised to 20 bales and 600 sheep, as many as 52,000 owners would probably be disfranchised.
On the question of multiple voting, it is sufficient to say that it is difficult to find a precedent in any Australian primary industry ballot for the adoption of this principle, and the volume of wool produced is no sure guide to the relative importance of the part that wool production plays in the ability of the individual to maintain his standard of living. It should be appreciated that approximately 30,000 wool growers producing fewer than 10 bales of wool will not be allowed to vote on the scheme, but if the scheme becomes operative they will be called on to contribute the same percentage of their gross proceeds to supporting the plan as will be contributed by the growers who vote for its adoption. If the qualifying limit for a vote on the scheme were raised to a higher figure, this anomaly would be intensified to an extent that would be quite intolerable in my opinion.
It has been said by opponents of the reserve price plan that they are being treated like sheep. One cannot help but conclude from this assertion that these opponents are representative of people who in the past have been fleecing the growers and who are now disturbed at the effect that the plan may have on their ability to continue to do so. Further, if we were to heed the demand for a different system of voting that would unduly favour the grower who has more sheep than others have, it could be said that we were giving the vote to the sheep, not to the man.
The various sections of the wool industry have been striving for 30 years to reach agreement on some measure by which greater stability can be built into the industry’s marketing procedures. The proposals in the Bill before us, including the formula for voting within the industry, represent the considered views of the widest cross-section of grower opinion ever assembled for such a purpose. I believe this Parliament should give to wool growers an opportunity over the next five years to put their ideas to the test. If they are successful the benefits that will accrue will be of as much assistance to the whole Australian community as they will be to the industry itself.
.- The Bill authorising a referendum of Australian wool growers to determine their attitude to the proposed wool reserve price plan is supported by the Opposition. I am pleased to find, after listening to the honorable member for Moore (Mr. Maisey), that at least some members on the Government side are supporting the plan. Happenings over recent weeks have shown that quite a few of the members on the Government side do not support the principle of the reserve price plan. I think this is unfortunate.
The Labour Party and the wool growers have been endeavouring for a long time to bring about stability in the industry. The proposal before us, I believe - and the Australian Labour Party believes - is one way in which a measure of stability in the industry can be achieved. The Labour Party has for years advocated the adoption of a reserve price plan, and we make no apology for that. Our attitude towards the marketing of primary products has been consistent down the years. The Labour Party has unwaveringly stood out for organised marketing subject to the approval of a majority of producers in the industries involved. Labour’s record, of course, is on the statute books for anyone to look at. Before the advent of Labour Governments, Australian wheat growers, sugar cane growers, dairy farmers and other farmers were all prey to merchants and buyers, who, dealing with each farmer individually had them all at their mercy. The wheat stabilisation scheme, which was introduced by the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) as Minister for Commerce and Agriculture in the Chifley Labour Government, proved the salvation of the wheat industry. Everyone knows the vital importance of the wheat industry to this nation. The dairy industry price guarantee system pulled the dairy farmer up from virtual slavery. This again was a Labour Government creation. A Labour Government first implemented the International Sugar Agreement with the co-operation of New South Wales and Queensland State Labour Governments. There is no question about where Labour stands in relation to organised marketing.
The record of the Menzies Government in respect of wool marketing reform has been a very sorry one indeed. I shall go back no farther than 1951 when a plan put forward by the Menzies-Fadden Government of the time - and it was a good and fair plan - was scuttled by the Government itself. The plan provided for a 7* per cent, levy on wool grower’s returns to finance the scheme.
– No, 7i per cent.
– In addition, the Government proposed to impose a 20 per cent, taxation levy over and above the 7i per cent, levy and, of course, this scuttled the scheme. It was murdered by the people who proposed it. Whether this was deliberate or not I do not know, but if it was not done deliberately it was certainly an extremely clumsy move.
Over the years since that time there has been pressure for reform from the Opposition and from wool growers who have been concerned at the losses to the industry caused by fluctuations in prices with their attendant peaks, booms and busts. There has been a great deal of pressure on the Government to have something done. Questions have been asked in the Parliament and speeches have been made by members of the Opposition who have expressed great concern at various aspects of our marketing system. Concern has been expressed, for instance, at the activities of what are known as pies - groups of buyers who operate in collusion to depress prices. As a final result of the pressure that built up over the years, the Government appointed in January 1961 a Wool Marketing Committee of Inquiry, although, of course, the facts were already available to the Government and to the many wool growers who were greatly concerned at the goings on in the industry. The Labour Party at that time said quite frankly that the appointment of the Committee was a time-wasting manoeuvre, an evasion of the issue. The members of the Labour Party were not the only ones to adopt this point of view. In July 1960 Mr. Howell, the VicePresident of the Victorian Wheat and Wool Growers Association, a member of the then Australian Wool Bureau and now a member of the Australian Wool Board, was reported as having said -
Australian wool growers were the mugs of the world. The Government must be told to do something about organised marketing and production costs. A federal inquiry into the industry has been suggested but there was no need for one. The proof was already available. The problems of the industry had been considered for years and inquiry would be a time-wasting process.
So it was not only the members of the Labour Party who considered that (he appointment of the Committee was an evasion of the issue. What happened then? The Committee of Inquiry, to the astonishment of many thousands of Australian wool growers and of the members of the Labour Party, recommended yet another inquiry into wool marketing and now, four years later, that inquiry has produced the proposal which is before us tonight. Years of pressure from wool growers and from the Labour Party have at last borne fruit. I recall that in 1964 the Opposition in this Parliament requested the Government, as a matter of urgency, to bring in legislation for a referendum to let the wool growers decide for themselves what they wanted in the way of a reserve price scheme. What the wool industry and the nation have lost because of the delay that has occurred cannot accurately be estimated but surely the loss must be calculated in tens of millions of pounds. Years of stonewalling, of reluctance to do anything, have cost this country dearly.
A wool reserve price plan was included in the Australian Labour Party’s policy some years ago, and it was included for a number of good reasons after careful consideration. I think they can be summarised briefly and divided into three. First, a wool reserve price scheme can promote stability in the industry - stability which will be of benefit to individual wool growers. Secondly, such stability can be of benefit to the customer of the wool grower, the wool textile manufacturer. Thirdly, this stability can be of benefit to the nation itself because, after all, we are dealing with the nation’s most important industry. I want to examine briefly each of these three beneficiaries, if I may use that term, the wool grower, the textile manufacturer, and the nation. Unfortunately in the present situation if a person is a wool grower he is a gambler. That is the plain fact. The wool grower first faces the risks and hazards of the elements, droughts or excessively wet seasons, pests and so on. These are accepted as normal risks in the farming community. But there is more to it than this for the wool grower. At an early hour this morning - and it was a very early one - I was driving on a highway in Victoria and I followed a truck which was loaded with bales of wool. It was evident that the wool was on its way from somewhere in the Wedderburn area to a Melbourne wool store for eventual sale. The farmer who produced that wool has successfully faced the risks I have already mentioned but his biggest gamble is yet to come. The price of wool varies from day to day, from week to week and from month to month, and the variation could be as much as 15 or 20 per cent. That wool grower’s return will depend largely on his luck, the determining factor being the time at which his wool hits the market. If the wool is sold now it may be that he will receive an average price of 57d. per lb. If it is sold next week he may get an average of 59d. per lb., and if it is sold the following week or next month it may he that he will receive an average of only 54d. per lb. It is the belief of the Labour Party that a reserve price system will not end these fluctuations entirely, but it could and would minimise them. This is tremendously important.
A reserve price scheme will provide a base below which the price cannot fall and, consequently, it will give a guarantee of income to a wool grower based on the volume of his production. To the wool grower who is continuously seeking to improve his property and to add to its carrying capacity, this guarantee is vital. In present circumstances he cannot look ahead and plan for new or additional machinery, nor can he provide for fertilisers and other farm improvements as to do so he needs to have a pretty fair idea of his income. When he is asking for a loan or an overdraft, a bank would certainly have a favorable view of a guaranteed income. Then again the common Australian term of a fair go comes into the sale of wool. I share the belief of the Labour Party that the wool grower is entitled to a fair return for his labours and on his capital outlay. The fact is that he has been cheated out of a fair return by collusion among wool buyers. This has been going on for many years. Buyers have grouped together into what are commonly known as pies to depress prices and to reduce production. Indeed, as far back as 1932 a committee of inquiry revealed the existence of this practice.
In 1958 a royal commission in New South Wales presided over by Mr. Justice Cook found that pies existed, that they were damaging to the industry and that they caused losses for the wool grower. Even the Philp committee of inquiry admitted their existence but said that it was not able to assess their effect. The effect has been that Australia and Australian wool growers have lost many millions of pounds because of the activities of pies over the years. Occasionally from Japan and from other wool buying countries there come scraps of additional evidence which show that this sort of thing does happen. A report in the Melbourne “Age” stated that the following report came from Osaka in Japan -
The Japanese Woolspinners Association was considering a plan to curb the current trend of raw wool import prices.
Does anyone want further evidence to prove that there is collusion between wool buyers? A woolspinners association, was considering what it could do to curb prices. This means, obviously, that it wanted to lower prices, and it is obvious that its representatives get together at the wool auction. Again, a wool reserve price scheme would reduce the impact of such activities, at least at the base price level. There can be no question that a reduction in fluctuations and a measure of stability would assist the wool textile manufacturer, who is the wool growers’ direct customer. The wool textile manufacturer always lives with the fear that his competitor in a very tight industry may buy wool a week, a fortnight or a month later at a price which is 10, 15 or 20 per cent, cheaper. Competition is so fierce in the world textile market that a variation of this magnitude in the cost of materials could mean the very life or death of a manufacturer in the industry. With a wool reserve price scheme a manufacturer could approach the sales with greater confidence and surely, in these circumstances, this could bring only benefit to the wool grower.
What of the nation? Years ago it was said - I recall this saying when I went to school a long time ago - that Australians live on the sheep’s back. It is true that in the postwar period our industry has been diversified to a great extent, but this statement still has much truth in it. I cite the following figures which appear in “Wool Facts “, a publication compiled by the Australian Woolgrowers and Graziers Council, which is opposed to the scheme: For the 12 months ended 30th June 1964 the income from the export of wool was £480 million, and in the 12 months ended 30th June 1965 the income was £404 million, a drop of £76 million on the income of the previous year. In 1963-64 the income derived from the export of wool represented 35 per cent, of Australia’s export income, and in 1964-65 it represented 31 per cent. So, despite the lowering of the price and the lower return from wool, our income from the export of wool still accounts for 31 per cent, of Australia’s export income. From that we can see that the industry is vital to the nation.
It is not surprising that in an issue which is vital to the wool industry there are widely differing opinions as to the merits of a marketing scheme. More than 100,000 wool growers, large and small, affluent and struggling, must inevitably have divergent views on such an issue. Consequently, opposition to the reserve price scheme and to a referendum has arisen. That opponents of the scheme should seek to present their view is legitimate enough. Of course, we of the Labour Party disagree with them. I believe that the opposition which has arisen to the scheme is based largely on false premises. In a statement made only today the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) said that the Government has agreed to forward to each wool grower with the ballot paper and with an outline of the scheme a case in support of the scheme and one presented by those in opposition to it - those of whom I have just spoken. We on this side of the House believe that that is fair enough, and we approve of the Government’s decision. Every grower should be fully informed of the issue upon which he will be asked to vote; he can thus make his choice and cast his vote with a full knowledge of both sides of the argument.
The opposition to the wool marketing scheme has come from various quarters. I feel that there must be some who oppose the scheme whose motives are genuine, but there are others whose motives are extremely suspect. Indeed, having regard to the statements that have, been made throughout the nation, I believe that some of those in opposition to the proposal can only represent those who have been fleecing the wool growers and the nation for many years. There is opposition to the scheme even within this chamber. I should like to refer first to a statement made by the Chairman of the Australian Wool Board, Sir William Gunn, who was very critical of some honorable members. I believe he said that they were back bench fools, but I do not propose to argue that definition. However, I wish to defend the honorable members to whom he referred. I believe they have a perfect right to have an interest in the industry and a perfect right to form an opinion one way or the other. They have not only a right but also a duty to do so. I think it is the duty of all members of Parliament to interest themselves in the nation’s problems, and this is a vital problem. I understand that the Chairman of the Wool Board is a prospective Australian Country Party candidate for Parliament. I would naturally vigorously oppose him and endeavour to see that tie never got to this place. But if he does, I hope that he will interest himself in more than wool; that he will also concern himself with other national problems as, on this occasion, have other members who may not appear to have any direct interest in wool. I believe that this Parliament can ill afford another Country Party member whose views are restricted to the farmyard.
The New South Wales State Liberal Party is opposing the Federal Liberal and Country Party Government in respect of this matter. This is positively an entrancing situation. It is virtually a revolt against the Menzies Government and must be extremely embarrassing to it. Of course, if such a situation had arisen in relation to the Labour Party it would have rated banner headlines. It would have been described as a split in the Labour Party. However, we find that opposition to the Government from a State Government and from within its own ranks - they can squabble, argue and revolt -does not rate more than a passing reference in most daily newspapers.
However, I want briefly to study the arguments that the New South Wales Liberal Party has apparently put up. It claims, first, that the scheme could depress prices. I am at a loss to understand the reasoning behind this argument. I should have thought that because the authority would be in at the auction, bidding when prices came to a certain base level, this would have assisted to lift prices. So it is difficult to work out the reasoning behind this particular claim. The State Liberal Party suggests that the scheme might not reduce price fluctuations to a point where the reduction would benefit growers or manufacturers. One can read into that claim the suggestion that the plan could have some effect in reducing fluctuations but that it might not be enough. This is strange. It is saying, in effect, that the reserve price scheme could in some way reduce price fluctuations. It will be interesting to hear some of the honorable members who support this particular view argue out this point.
The next argument of the State Liberal Party is that inadequate finance could curtail promotion and research. We know that the average Australian wool clip brings into Australia income in excess of £400 million. Admittedly In the last twelve months it has been somewhat lower than this, but £400 million is a fair average to take. From this, a levy of 2 per cent, is set aside for promotion and research. Last week, in answer to a question, the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) commented that this research and promotion levy money was protected by act of Parliament. This is so, and the 2 per cent, is safe and will be used for promotion and research. Then we have the extra 1 per cent, levy which, on £400 million, amounts to £4 million. The amount raised by the levy could be higher as the wool income increases and over a period of seven years it could amount to £28 million or £30 million - more, if prices improve as we hope they will under a reserve price scheme. This is fair enough. There will be no interruption to research and promotion activities and there is every indication that on an average wool clip, because of the reserve price scheme and the 1 per cent, levy over and above the 2 per cent, levy, sufficient will be raised to make up the £30 million that the wool growers have to raise to set this scheme under way. This, therefore, demolishes that particular argument by the State Liberal Party.
The next argument is that by withholding wool from manufacturers the demand for synthetics could be increased. I do not think anyone envisages a large scale buying-in by the authority. Australia has always sold all of her wool. There has never been a backlog of wool waiting to be sold, other than in times of war when, because of transport difficulties and upset conditions throughout the world, the market has not been as free as it ought to be. Australia has always sold her wool as have New Zealand and South Africa, and there is no indication that there will be a great buyingin of wool. Indeed, a clear indication of what is happening can be gained from an examination of the position in New Zealand. Here it is appropriate to refer to a booklet issued by the Committee for the Retention and Improvement of the Free Wool Market. On page 6 of its publication entitled “What Every Woolgrower Should know About the Dangers of the Proposed Reserve Price Wool Marketing Scheme” the following appears -
For instance, in 1963-64 the New Zealand scheme bought in only two bales. Its running expenses to buy these two bales were £75,000.
This argument was advanced to wool growers to show how expensive the scheme was- £75,000 for two bales of wool. This was shocking, according to this publication. Of course, the real reason for this expenditure was that the authority was bidding for bales of wool which it might not necessarily have bought. In fact, it might have bid for thousands of bales of wool and so increased the price by providing competition to the wool buyers at that market, yet only bought two bales of wool. This would have assisted the industry. We hear argument about extensive buying-in. One group of people opposed to the scheme say that we will buyin a lot, but another group scornfully refers to the fact that New Zealand bought only two bales of wool. The opponents of the scheme cannot have it both ways.
A wool reserve price scheme is not new. One could imagine, from the activities of some honorable members opposite in recent weeks, that such a scheme is an innovation previously unheard of in Australia or overseas. The plain fact is that in South Africa and in New Zealand reserve price schemes have operated successfully, ‘ and there is evidence to indicate that the wool growers in those countries strongly support the schemes. Such a scheme operated successfully in Australia in the selling seasons from 1946-47 to 1950-51. Australia, in cooperation with New Zealand, South Africa and Britain, operated a wool realisation scheme under what was known as the Joint Organisation. It was very successful. The plan which will be put before the wool growers in a referendum, I hope in the near future, is for a scheme similar to the scheme operated in the 1946 to 1951 period. Granted, circumstances are different, but I feel that the scheme as it was then, and as it is to be applied now, can operate successfully.
I want briefly to mention the Philp Wool Marketing Committee of Inquiry report which has been used by some opponents to this scheme as a basis for their opposition. The report stated in paragraph 12 on page 3-
With the postwar resumption of the free auction sales in 1946-47 wool prices rose rapidly from their fixed wartime levels.
There was no free auction sale in 1946-47; it resumed in 1951. There was a reserve price scheme from 1946 to 1951, so in this the report was at fault. Then the Committee made several other mistakes. In many ways this is a good report on some aspects of the industry, despite the mistakes in it. I am sure that if the referendum is held and is carried, the wool growers of Australia will benefit remarkably from the scheme.
.- In my view, the main principle of the Bill is unexceptionable and I support it. It is quite clear, certainly in my belief, that the industry, which is a great segment of our primary economy, is entitled to decide by a vote whether it will have a reserve price scheme as proposed. There can be no debate about that at all. I extend my congratulations to the Government on the decision it has taken that the “ Yes “ case and the “ No “ case should go out with the ballot papers in the referendum. I regard this as a step of the utmost importance, because it will tend towards attaining the very desirable objective of a balanced, well considered view among the people who have to make the decision, and I am very glad that this is being done. I would also like to say to the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann), through you, Mr. Speaker, that I am very delighted that steps are being taken to ensure that the rolls of electors will be exhibited in prominent places so that people will have an adequate opportunity to ascertain whether they are entitled to vote.
Having said that, I want to put this proposition: It is no part, as I see it, of the function of a member of this Parliament to try to instruct the members of the wool industry as to how they should vote in the referendum. To do so would be nothing short of impertinence and I shall not try to do so. I do not think any effort to do so would be particularly welcomed. But I do think that it is the function of a member of the Parliament in this great national controversy to do what he can in his own small way to ensure that the issues are fairly presented to the electorate. That is why, as I said a moment ago, it is a matter of great importance to me that the “ Yes “ case and the “ No “ case will be issued with the ballot papers. It is essential - indeed, it is recognised as essential by the Australian Wool Board - that in this issue the people in the industry should have at their disposal all the information that will help them to cast an informed vote in the referendum. I am quoting verbatim from the report of the Australian Wool Industry Conference, which
Sir William Gunn said on an occasion in my presence was written by the Board and which was published to the industry in July of this year. I endorse what the Board, writing for the Conference, said in this document; but I do say that in my view the Board has not to date discharged the obligation that is says rests upon it.
I say it has not discharged that obligation, first because we all know now - this has been a matter of some public discussion - that there is a report, which took 12 months to prepare, of the Wool Marketing Committee of the Australian Wool Board. Frequent requests, some of them coming from me, have been made that the document be made public, and even at this late stage I repeat the plea that it should be made public before the referendum. We may expect to find in this document a full statement and a reasoned argument in favour of the adoption of the reserve price scheme. I do not know, but it may be that the report, in whatever form it exists, will reveal some divergence of viewpoint or some difference in emphasis between the various members of the Wool Marketing Committee. I do not know; it may be a unanimous report. But if it is what it should be, it is a valuable report and a report that can throw light - I suggest where light is needed - on the great problems in this industry which is of such vital importance to our national life and our national welfare.
Sir William Gunn has been heard to say in public in recent days that it is not convenient or, in his opinion, not proper that this report should be produced because, so he claims, certain assurances were given to some members of the Committee that their proceedings and their final determination, their report, would be kept confidential. In an issue that is as important as this one is, I do not admit the right of the Australian Wool Board to create self-imposed rules against the admission to the public view of documents that cannot but be of tremendous public interest. I do not know whether the members of the Wool Marketing Committee who, so it is said, asked that the matter be kept confidential have in turn been asked whether they are prepared to lift the veil of confidence. Sir William Gunn has not said so. I suggest at the very least it would be right and proper that they should be asked. We have not been told this step has been taken.
– They were asked.
– Even if they have been asked-
– They were asked.
– The honorable member for Wannon seems to be determined to interject. I listened to him in silence this afternoon and I thought he might have shown me the same consideration. He is a long way out of his place and in point of fact out of his depth. If the members of the Committee have not been asked, they should be asked, and if they have been asked and have refused, I do not see that their refusal should stand in the way of the release of this undoubtedly important document. I make this point because in my belief the people in the industry are entitled to see the document before they vote.
The industry, it should be noticed - this appears from the Minister’s second reading speech - is being asked to vote on whether it wants a conservative reserve price scheme. The question that arises is whether what is in the minds of the promoters of this scheme is really a conservative reserve price scheme or something that is more radical. I think it is important that the people in the industry who have to make this vital decision should ponder upon this question: Is there a risk that if they cast a vote in favour of the proposed scheme, as outlined by the Minister for Primary Industry in his second reading speech, they may find not very long after the scheme comes into operation that they have something other than a conservative reserve price scheme?
I wish to refer to some statements that have been made by Sir William Gunn, because it is my opinion - I venture to suggest that this may be the opinion of many people in the industry - that the people who have to cast a vote in this referendum should reflect very deeply on his statements when they are making up their minds. It is clear enough that in the report of the Australian Wool Board to the Australian Wool Industry Conference, which was presented in July 1964, the scheme that was proposed was a conservative scheme - one like the New Zealand scheme. It is only proper to say that, in recommending - not in terms of any great confidence but, as the Board put it, on balance - that a conservative reserve price scheme in which the price was not pitched too high or too near the ceiling of the market should be adopted, the Board indicated very properly that there were risks involved even in such a scheme. As I said, the recommendation was not made in tones of ringing confidence. If one looks at the terms of the July 1964 report, one sees that the recommendation was made rather tentatively. The Board said, in effect: “On balance, it is recommended that a conservative reserve price scheme be adopted “. The Board went on to say that nothing had emerged in the evidence before it to indicate that the things called “ hidden gains “ would be outweighed by hidden losses. The matter was left in equipoise. This is a matter of some importance because it would appear from what the Board said in July 1964 that there is no evidence to suggest that the overall returns to the wool growers will be higher, even under a conservative reserve price scheme, than they would be under a free market. The point that I want to make is that, even in recommending a conservative reserve price scheme, the Board acknowledged - rightly acknowledged - that there were risks involved. Some of those risks are summarised on page 11 of the July 1964 report. One of them is -
The Authority itself-
That is, the Australian Wool Marketing Authority - for the initial period at least, would be unlikely to have the experience immediately available and errors of judgment could occur which could be costly.
It is quite clear that the errors of judgment, to which the Board was referring very frankly and very properly at that stage, were errors in fixing the reserve price - errors that could lead to the price being fixed too high, which in turn could lead to the very real risk that the Authority might have to buy in substantial quantities of wool, even under a conservative scheme.
If the voters in the industry voters think that the scheme which may result from the vote at the referendum will necessarily be a conservative scheme of the New Zealand type, perhaps they ought to ponder on a statement by Sir William Gunn to which I will now refer. In July 1964, after the document to which I have just referred was presented. Sir William Gunn, addressing the Australian Wool Industry Conference, said that the New Zealand auction reserve scheme was an extremely conservative scheme. He said that the New Zealand scheme was - . . nearly too conservative for us to recommend. The cost does not justify it because of the very limited benefit that accrues to the market.
That statement is interesting because Sir William Gunn is implying that the scheme that he is recommending is of the New Zealand conservative type, but he is expressing grave doubt as to whether the cost justifies the effort. On 28th July 1965 Sir William Gunn appeared on the television programme, “ Four Corners “. He is reported as having said -
Once we have got experience and we find ourselves operating at a level which does not buy in substantial quantities of wool, we will then be recommending a movement in the reserve price upwards, and I think no doubt in the light of knowledge we have gained overseas that there is no doubt that as the years go on we will be able to lift the level of a reserve price and bring it closer to the ceiling.
If those statements that I have just quoted represent the real intention of the chief promoter of the scheme, I believe that the industry will be interested to think about them.
The important point to bear in mind on this part of the question is that the wool trade - the customers for this country’s wool, particularly the International Wool Textile Organisation - in the main have said consistently, on the various occasions on which their opinion has been sought, that there are great dangers in a marketing scheme in which the price is moved up to the ceiling of the market because if that is done one is likely to have his fingers burnt. If there is a steady decline in the price of wool there will be stockpiling which will lead to lack of confidence on the part of the trade - that is, among the customers - and recourse to synthetics rather than to wool.
– I am glad that the honorable member is not my advocate.
– I find it very difficult to make the honorable member understand anything. We must ask ourselves this question: What does Sir William Gunn intend? Is it the conservative reserve price scheme that has been publicised in the Wool Board’s document that was published initially, or is it something of a more risky type? On 28th
June 1965 he was reported in the “Wool News Digest” as follows -
He admitted that the kind of reserve price scheme recommended would not give the degree of price stability necessary in the best interests of both grower and end user of wool.
But he said the Board was confident that, with the experience gained in the operation of a conservative reserve price scheme, an ultimate method of marketing could be obtained which would give the degree of stability needed.
So it may be deduced - at least, this view is open and should be considered by the industry - that the ultimate intention is that it is not merely a conservative reserve price scheme that is envisaged but something of a more radical nature and something against which the International Wool Textile Organisation has counselled all along because of the risk of stockpiling and the consequential risk of depressing the market and the price of wool generally.
If one wants an eloquent testimony of the risks involved in stockpiling, one has only to look at what happened in Argentina and Paraguay early in 1964. It has been said in some quarters - whether rightly so or not I would not be qualified to judge - that the stockpiling that occurred in those two South American countries at that time has played a large part in the general depression of world wool prices since that time. What happened in those two countries early in 1964? The marketing authorities stockpiled 1,500,000 bales of wool. Since then we have seen a steady and consistent decline in the market. Let the wool industry ponder on whether what is actually envisaged is a conservative and relatively harmless scheme - perhaps, if all goes well, s quite harmless scheme - or a scheme which has great inherent risks.
– A loaded gun.
– Yes, a loaded gun. The next matter on which I should like to spend a few moments, because I think it is important, relates to the controversy that has raged around and focussed on one of many Australian Wool Board recommendations about marketing. Perhaps people tend to forget that in the July 1964 report of the Australian Wool Board to the Australian Wool Industry Conference a number of recommendations were made about the marketing of the Australian clip, only one of which concerned the adoption of a re serve price scheme. It would be fair to say that the adoption of a reserve price scheme depends on whether the growers introduce by their vote a radical change in the wool marketing set-up or preserve a scheme which the Australian Wool Board, in its July 1964 report to the Australian Wool Industry Conference, has described as a scheme - h was talking of the free auction system - which had served the interests of the wool industry reasonably well over many years. When it comes to vote, the industry may be interested to reflect upon this question. As the Wool Marketing Committee of the Australian Wool Board has come up with a large number of suggestions as to marketing, each one of which, it says, is significant and important, might not the industry - it is not for me to say, but it is a question for the industry to consider - be minded to take the view that it would be prudent and common sense to introduce the marginal, non-radical reforms in the marketing system before branching out into a radical departure in the marketing of the wool clip? In the latter connection, of course, I refer to the adoption of a reserve price scheme.
The changes that were recommended by the Australian Wool Board in its July 1964 report - apart from the reserve price scheme - were many and varied. I am not well qualified to judge, but I have no doubt that they are valuable changes of a nonradical nature and well worth trying. I refer to such matters as the spreading of types, sales rosters and the establishment of a wool exchange or exchanges. Those are only a few of them. There was also the question whether some system could be worked out, within the framework of free auctions, for the making of suitable advances to wool growers, at reasonable or cheap rates of interest, upon the receipt of their wool into store. All these, and a number of other matters, were referred to by the Board as reforms worthy of being carried out.
The Board said, in making its report to the Australian Wool Industry Conference, that the adoption of a reserve price scheme in itself would not work a miracle. The Board’s view is that a number of steps are needed before a measure of stability can be introduced into wool prices. The growers might consider that the sounder approach may be to introduce these marginal and, according to the Board, important reforms which the Board set out in its report, before embarking upon a reserve price scheme which so many people think, if it is conservative, at best may not do very much good even though it cannot do any harm, but at worst, if it becomes radical, could do a great deal of harm and a great deal to undermine the Australian wool industry’s stability. Those are considerations of the sort that I should like to put before the House, not for the purpose of expressing any concluded view upon them one way or the other - because as a member of this House who is not engaged in the wool industry that is not my function - but because they are important issues which I think that I, as a member of the Parliament, have a duty to the public to raise in this debate.
The other matter is this: Has the Board been entirely accurate in its statements?
– I do not think the honorable member would know one way or the other.
– Do not get nasty.
– I would not get nasty with him.
– Order! The honorable member will address the Chair.
– Has the Board been accurate in its propaganda? It has waged a very high pressure campaign. I am not necessarily being critical in saying that. A great deal of public money has been spent in promoting the case for a reserve price scheme. Has the Australian Wool Board, in this high pressure campaign, been entirely accurate in its statements to the Industry on what the customers overseas think about the reserve price scheme? I think that there has been a considerable degree of inaccuracy and misstatement, as I shall endeavour to show. It is very interesting in this connection to notice that in the July 1 964 report, when dealing with the attitude of the trade overseas, the Australian Wool Board, in paragraph 21 on page 4 said -
The evidence which the Committee received from the overseas wool industry was extensive and helpful. Though the emphasis on various aspects of wool marketing varied considerably from country to country, and as between particular interests in the industry, it basically suggested that the wool textile industry overseas favoured the present auction system in principle, but with some marginal but important, reforms.
In using the word “ marginal “ in that content it is clear that the Board meant the type of reforms to which I referred earlier - reforms which might well be required, but which do not involve a fundamental change in the method of marketing the clip. That was the Board’s report on the trade’s attitude in 1964. There have been some very wild statements by the Board in recent months to the effect that the international wool textile organisation in May of this year passed a unanimous resolution. It was suggested that not fewer than 500 delegates took part in this unanimous vote in favour of the adoption in this country of a conservative reserve price scheme. I suggest for the consideration of the industry that that statement was altogether - or, if not altogether, certainly substantially - inaccurate, because I am in a position to say that in a letter dated 22nd July 1965 the SecretaryGeneral of the International Wool Textile Organisation - and I quote from a copy of a letter that I have - said -
There has never been in the International Wool Textile Organisation a positive vote for a floor price scheme in Australia, whether on a conservative price basis or otherwise. Nor has there been a vote against it.
I find it difficult to understand how this inaccuracy could creep in unintentionally, but it is not for me to cast aspersions. How could such an inaccuracy creep in? A misstatement has been made, and I think it is as well that the people engaged in this industry who have to cast their votes should realise that their votes are, in large measure, sought on the basis of inaccurate information. And it is an inaccuracy that deserves to be corrected. 1 mention these matters in the time that is available to me because it is of fundamental importance that when the vote is cast in this vital referendum, the people in the industry to whom we are rightly committing the responsibility of decision should say “Yes” or “No” on the basis of accurate information properly placed before them without misstatements or exaggeration. Only if the information circulated to the wool growers presents the issues fairly and accurately will the final vote on the referendum produce the proper result.
.- On 20th October last year, the Opposition, through the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) brought forward for discussion in this House the following matter -
The failure of the Government, three months after receiving the Australian Wool Board’s recommendations, to formulate proposals for a wool reserve price auction scheme for submission to woolgrowers for their acceptance or rejection at a growers’ poll.
During the course of that debate, we pointed out the need for a reserve price scheme. We pointed out how important such a scheme was to both the wool growers and the Commonwealth. We appealed to the Government to treat the matter as being extremely urgent, and we asked the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) to ensure that the necessary steps were taken to submit an early referendum to the growers.
During the course of his contribution to the debate, the Minister for Primary Industry, who is now sitting at the table, said -
The Government will complete its proposals and will make its decision. If the decision is that there will be a reserve price plan, no confusion will bc allowed to exist in the minds of the growers.
I might say at this stage that it is quite obvious that the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Hughes) is not a wool grower. The Minister went on to say -
The whole plan will be set out in pamphlet form. We will make the same approach as we made in respect of the dried fruits industry recently. Every condition will be set out so that the growers can understand the proposal and vote intelligently on it.
Now, eleven months later, we have this referendum Bill before us. Neither in the contents of the Bill nor in the Minister’s second reading speech do we find any implementation of the promises given by the Minister when replying to Labour’s criticism last year. Neither in this Bill nor in the Minister’s second reading speech is there any mention of the setting out of every condition of the plan in such a way as to enable the growers readily to understand its implications. The Bill simply refers to a statement of the plan that is to be made available to growers. It would seem, therefore, that the ideas that the Minister had last year have either been taken from him or fallen by the wayside.
During the debate last year, I pointed out that there were many differences of opinion between Government members. Also, at that time the “Australian” newspaper suggested that while the Country Party Ministers favoured the reserve price plan there were several Liberal Party Ministers who were opposed to it. It is quite obvious that that position still applies to a large extent. In fact, from what we have heard from the honorable member for Parkes, the difference of opinion seems to have extended to the back benches.
We certainly have a referendum plan placed before us today, but to my mind the proposal submitted is camouflaged to some extent. I feel that it should not have been necessary to debate this Bill at any great length for the simple reason that there should have been only one or two issues for members to determine. Unfortunately, as a result of the Minister’s attitude, and perhaps that of the Cabinet also, towards members of this House, we now find more issues involved than would have been the case had the whole question been handled in a proper manner.
The measure before the House is a Bill for an Act to provide for a referendum for the purpose of ascertaining whether the wool growers of Australia approve a certain plan for maintaining reserve prices for Australian wool sold at auction. We have to decide first whether a referendum is necessary to decide whether there should be a reserve price plan. In other words, we have to decide whether the wool growers should have the opportunity to state to this Parliament, by way of vote, whether or not they are in favour of a reserve price plan. If we decide that there should be a referendum, we must then satisfy ourselves that the action proposed in the Bill will be such as to ensure that the referendum will be conducted in a manner that will meet the requirements of everyone concerned. We on this side of the House are in complete agreement that the wool growers should have the right to state by way of vote their attitude towards the proposed plan. Therefore, we support the holding of a referendum.
Having agreed that there should be a referendum, the next question is whether sufficient information has been made available to the growers to ensure that they know exactly what the plan is that they will be voting upon. That information is very important to the wool growers and to the obtaining of a proper result from the referendum. If the growers have any doubts about what the plan means, I would say that they will vote against it. I feel that they will have to be sure of all the implications embodied in the proposal. So we now have a position in which, if the information which is supplied to the growers is insufficient, it could happen that some growers who, if given sufficient information and knowledge of all the implications of the plan, would have voted for it, will vote against if. It seems to me that the most important issue involved in this referendum legislation could be to ensure that growers are given sufficient information to enable them to understand fully what they are voting upon.
We have been told that the plan for maintaining reserve prices for Australian wool sold at auction has been formulated after consultation between an organisation known as the Australian Wool Industry Conference and the Government of Australia. As far as I can gather, it would seem that, by the time the referendum is held, the wool growers will have been furnished with at least three statements on the proposed plan. There might be more, but there will certainly be three. Because I have not been supplied with any of the satements, I can only hope that all will follow the same lines and that there will be no confusion created in the minds of the growers as to what the plan actually means. As I said earlier, if there is any confusion I am fearful that the growers will vote against the proposal, supporting the devil they know rather than the devil of whom they are not completely sure.
On 28th April of this year, Mr. R. V. Sewell, an executive member of the Australian Wool Industry Conference, is reported in the “ West Australian “ newspaper as having said -
The final decision to ask the Federal Government to conduct a referendum of growers would be made at the annual meeting of the A.W.I.C. on June 23.
In the meantime, a statement outlining the full implications of the scheme, prepared by the Australian Woof Board, the A.W.I.C. executive and the Primary Industry Department, would be posted to growers. It was expected to be sent out on May 10.
This was part of the plan to educate growers and explain how the scheme would work.
If k was decided to conduct the referendum, another explanatory document would be sent to growers with the voting papers.
So that makes two statements on the wool reserve price plan. Of course the second one referred to by Mr. Sewell is the same one, I take it, as referred to in this Bill and which is to be sent out with the ballot papers. On Monday 13th September- that is yesterday - Sir William Gunn is reported in the “ Daily News “ of Western Australia as making an appeal to wool growers. The article states -
An appeal to all woolgrowers to understand fully the implications of the proposed reserve price plan has been made by Australian Wool Board chairman Sir William Gunn.
Sir William said that some opponents of the reserve price plan had set out on a deliberate policy of misleading the industry. “ It is unfortunate that there has been substantial, misrepresentation of fact by these people at a time when growers did not have all the information to come to an informed decision,” he said. “The board is now mailing a copy of a document explaining the reserve price scheme to every woolgrower who is a member of an organisation. Growers who are not members of any organisation are being asked to write to the board for the document.”
It would seem, as I said just now, that at least there are three statements concerning the plan which will be sent out to wool growers before they are required to vote on this referendum. That is so unless the statement referred to by Mr. Sewell has been delayed and is the same one as was recently referred to by Sir William Gunn; or, on the other hand, unless the statement referred to by Sir William Gunn is actually the one referred to in this Bill and Sir William Gunn is beating the gun in sending out the statement before the Minister for Primary Industry approves of it. However, Mr. Sewell did refer to the 10th May as being the posting date of the statement. It seems to me that apparently there are three statements being sent to the wool growers. However, whether they are the same statements or not the fact remains that statements have been sent out in explanation of the plan but apparently honorable members of this House who are being asked to support this Bill and the plan in question have not been considered important enough to have been furnished with copies of the statements or with copies of the plan so that they can make themselves completely au fait with the position.
Personally, I take very. strong exception to that particular matter. I would like to have been in the position where I could have risen to speak knowing exactly what was in the plan and the statement and also being certain that the statement contained a clear interpretation and full explanation of what the plan contained and meant. No doubt the statement does contain that information. I certainly hope that it does. But I still would like to have been told specifically that this was the case. 1 think every honorable member of this House would have liked to have had a copy of those documents to study. Not having seen the plan or any of the statements, and as I strongly support the proposition of a reserve price scheme. I am now left in the position of supporting the Bill for a referendum by growers and hoping at the same time that the plan is actually one which the growers will find acceptable. I am also hoping that the statements about the plan will be in such terms as to be readily understandable by the growers and will give them a clear and precise picture of how the reserve price plan will operate.
As has been said by other speakers in this debate, a proposal for a reserve price plan for wool is nothing new. Honorable members will recall that between 1945 and 1951 a reserve price auction system was in operation. In fact, it was the first really worthwhile attempt in Australia to bring about a system of organised marketing. The scheme worked so well that a move was made for wool growers at that time to make it a permanent method of wool disposal but unfortunately when the proposal went to a poll of the growers it was rejected. It was only rejected, I suggest, because the Government of the day - the Liberal-Country Party coalition which had taken office just prior to the expiration of the scheme - imposed levies of such high amounts on the wool growers that they could not possibly accept them. I make that suggestion for the reason that before taking the poll legislation was introduced by the Government levying a charge of 7i per cent, on the growers’ gross wool income for the year opening on 26th August 1951. The legislation - and of course this was an invitation to the wool growers at that time - provided for a refund of the levy if the poll result was in the negative. The levy proceeds were to provide for administrative costs and a stabilisation reserve for the proposed plan. In addition, the Budget of 1950-51 provided for a deduction of 20 per cent, of growers’ gross wool proceeds for the season commencing on 28th August 1950. This meant, according to the way I worked it out, a deduction of between £110 million or £114 million. Apparently that 20 per cent, deduction had nothing to do with the wool reserve price plan. It was simply a measure adopted by the Government of the day to make some halt to inflation. However, whatever its aim, it was certainly sufficient to swing a large number of wool growers from any reserve price plan.
As a result of the poll being defeated, since then marketing has continued to operate in a haphazard manner and in a way which was open to control by the buyer. There seems no doubt that buyers would not hesitate to operate in a manner that suited them. A reserve price plan will certainly not be the complete answer to buyer control. It will certainly go a long way towards putting some obstacles before the buyers. The reason for ensuring that wool prices are not reduced to any degree is obvious from the fact that a reduction of Id. per lb. in the price of wool means a reduction of £61 million to £7 million in our export income.
I do not think there is any argument about our means of producing a great deal more wool than we are at present producing. There has been a considerable increase in production over the past 10 years following the progress of science in relation to pastures and other matters, and the opening up and developing of much more virgin country. Our sheep numbers and wool production will continue to increase but there will be no benefit to Australia, or not as much benefit as there should be, if the price of wool is to be allowed to decline. We would finish up with much more wool but much less money for it. Any decline in wool prices can be prevented, at least to a large degree, by a proper reserve price scheme. If such a scheme is brought into operation it will not only be the means of bringing stability to wool prices but will also bring a measure of stability to the income of wool growers. It will allow them to organise their holdings and their flocks by giving them a form of protection against fluctuating prices - protection which they do not have today and cannot have under the existing method of marketing. The wool grower today has no more control over the price he will receive for his wool than he had back in 1932 when the price dropped as low as 5.9d. per lb. I am not suggesting that the price is going to drop to anything like that figure today. I simply use that illustration to show that the price in 1932 was half the price that existed towards the end of 1929. As all honorable members know, as a result of the large drop in the price of wool, the industry was in a disastrous situation and so was the country generally. At that time the Commonwealth Wool Inquiry Committee was set up. Many other speakers in this debate have spoken of the importance of the wool industry to Australia. It is important as an earner of export income. I was interested to see that the Commonwealth Wool Inquiry Committee, which was appointed in 1932, spoke of the same thing in its report. Under the heading, “ Importance of Wool Industry to Australia”, the Committee, in its report, stated -
Hie primary and exporting industries are the base of Australia’s existence.
The manufacturing or secondary industries are dependent upon the primary industries.
The first consideration in the economy of Australia should be, and inevitably must be, the solvency of the primary and exporting industries. The predominant and constant aim of all Governments should, therefore, be the welfare of the export industries.
If these become unprofitable Australia must eventually suffer throughout all its industries. In short, the relationship of the export industries to the national welfare is such that every possible relief must now be accorded them in order to arrest a further decline, and build up the economic structure of the nation.
Wool is the chief export industry. In recent years -
I repeat that this was in 1932 - wool exports have comprised 40 per cent, and more of our total exports. Even now, at their low values, they provide one third of all our export credits abroad.
The crisis in wool is, therefore, a prime cause of the economic depression prevailing throughout Australia today.
Not only is wool the chief export product, but sheep raising is an industry of major importance in every State of the Commonwealth. It has been built up by long years of arduous and painstaking labour, and those who have contributed to its progress have placed Australia in the forefront of all the wool growing countries of the world.
That, of course, was written about 33 years ago, Sir. Yet, over all the time since, with the exception of the later war years and a short time after the war, nothing has been done up to now to protect this industry, which means so much to Australia and to our trade balance, against those who would like to see lower prices for wool.
I notice that Mr. E. Grayndler, who was a member of the Commonwealth Wool Inquiry Committee in 1932, made some comments about auctions such as we have today, which are controlled by buyers. He declared -
In reviewing the evidence as shown in the transcript it is abundantly clear that the wool buyers have a very close organisation and have such power among themselves to enable them to keep down prices. The existence of “lot splitting” in my opinion is not as innocent and legitimate on all occasions as their advocates imply. The composition of a “ pie “ seems to be readily accomplished at their will. Those in the “pie” do not bid against each other. The “ pie “ may be composed of any number of buyers who desire to secure any part or any lot of wool offered for sale. The evidence tendered by some witnesses indicated that the buyers can exercise a strong influence on the market prices. The constitution, rules and regulations of the Buyers Association give power to a committee to refuse membership to any buyer, to call upon any member to resign, and to expel any member for any reason that the committee thinks fit, and the member has no redress or any right to take legal action in defence of his rights.
I am forced to the conclusion, after hearing the evidence on this matter, that the buyers could exercise, if they wished, a stranglehold on the wool market and stifle any successful competition.
Mr. Grayndler went on to state
Yet under the circumstances obtaining, it is possible for powerful buying groups to stifle competition and obtain our wool at prices below its cost and fair value.
T have considered it my duty to call attention to the above matters in the interest of the large number of growers who are unable to help themselves out of the difficulties and obstacles that confront them in the disposal of their wool clips.
If that was the position of buyer control in 1932, there seems to be no reason why a similar situation would not continue today to operate to the disadvantage of the Australian wool growers and of Australia generally.
Since the commencement of the wool industry in Australia more than 150 years ago, it has been the practice to sell our wool at public auction. Over the last 150 years, buyers have had ample time to develop ways and means of making the methods that they -use to control the market appear innocent. It is no wonder, also, that the growers are tied fairly closely to the auction system and would not give it away easily. The proposed plan that we are discussing tonight is a reserve price plan within the auction system. 1 hope that it will find favour with the growers. Certainly, today we are no further ahead in terms of the producer having a major say in what his product will bring on the market than we were a considerable time ago. Indeed, the present method of auction leaves a lot to be desired.
It has been suggested in some quarters that a reduction iti the price of wool would bring about such a reduction in the price of woollen goods as to end the competition by synthetics and other fibres. But, if an article entitled “ Cost Components of Manufactured Wool Products “, which was printed in the “ Quarterly Review of Agricultural Economics” published by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics, is soundly based, that suggestion is not so well founded as we might be led to believe. This article states -
The accumulation of all costs contributes far more to the retail price of finished garments than the raw wool costs. In fact, if greasy wool cost nothing at all a suit which now costs £25 would still sell for more than £20, and a £10 10s. frock for about £9.
To clarify the picture of the cost structure of wool products, several Australian manufacturers and distributors were asked for information about the values added to raw wool in the various stages of processing. Four specific products made in 1960 were selected for study; and costs were traced from the particular wool used, through the yarn, cloth and garment manufacturing stages up to the point where they are sold by the retailer. The articles selected were a man’s £25 suit, a woman’s £10 10s. frock, a 12s. 6d. pair of men’s socks and a 3s. ball of hand-knitting wool. The particular costs presented are not necessarily those of any one manufacturer, but they are considered to be representative of Australian production costs for those types of articles. Costs would, of course, be different if other qualities of wool or counts of yarn were used, or if there were any differences in manufacturing methods. In the examples given, the purchase of raw wool by different firms took place at different times, so that the prices paid were at varying market levels.
Details of costs were presented in a graph. The article dealt with them in these terms -
Costs of raw wool represented 8 per cent of the retail price of the man’s suit, 6 per cent, in the case of the woman’s frock, 11 per cent, in the men’s socks and 27 per cent, in the hand-knitting wooL
The article also contains a table showing the cost components of a man’s suit This table is interesting and, with the concurrence of honorable members, I shall incorporate it in “ Hansard “-
The table shows that the cost of the wool represents only a small part of the cost of the article. If that is so, a reduction of 12d. or 15d. per lb. in the price of wool would not make a great deal of difference to the price of a woollen garment. But such a reduction in the price of wool could reduce our export income by £80 million to £100 million a year. Bearing in mind the action taken by the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) last month to get several million pounds more from the taxpayers, I suggest that we would be much better off if we could increase, not decrease, our wool export earnings. I am sure that a reserve price plan acceptable to the growers and the Government would go a long way towards establishing real stability in our wool industry.
The Minister for Primary Industry, in his second reading speech, dealing with the early history of the reserve price plan, told us that when it was first decided that a reserve price scheme should be adopted, it was accepted from the outset that any plan evolved would require the approval and support of the Government, the Australian Wool Industry Conference and wool growers generally. Therefore, Sir, when the Minister finally got around to introducing the Bill that we now have before us, we naturally expected that all honorable members on the Government side of the Parliament would be fully behind the proposal and would fully support the plan, which, in the Bill, is described with the words “ a certain Plan “.
Later events showed that the plan did not have the full and unqualified support of honorable members on the Government side. In fact, as in many other matters, we have found strong differences of opinion between members of the Liberal Party of Australia and members of the Australian Country Party. As a consequence, it was expected that this debate would be a fairly lively one. Then later today we learned that the rebels had been pulled into gear at a meeting and told that they must at least appear satisfied. And, of course, this is what has transpired. We saw the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Pettitt) in a previous speech with fire flashing from his eyes and looking like a lion in a cage. Tonight he looked like a mouse sneaking away to its hole. It is obvious that something was done this morning to quell the rebels. However, this plan has, according to the Minister, been found acceptable to the Government and to the Executive of the Wool Industry Conference. That being so, the next step must be to ascertain whether it is also acceptable to the wool growers. This can be discovered, of course, by the holding of a referendum.
My only criticism in relation to this measure is that the Minister and the Government did not see fit to provide the members of this House with a copy of the plan so that we would know just where we stood. I would have thought that the Minister, being so disturbed about people making uninformed comments and saying things that were not so, would have ensured that the members of this House, or at least those supporting the referendum proposal, would have had the fullest information in order that they could tell the people the exact position.
.- If this Bill could be regarded simply as a bill to provide for a referendum of wool growers to determine whether they wanted a wool reserve price plan or whether they preferred to retain the present open auction system I would not be speaking on it, because obviously we must have a referendum. This is a basic tenet of orderly marketing. A referendum must be held before any change in the traditional method of marketing can be made. But this Bill has become more than that because of the failure of the sponsors of the reserve price plan to present the wool growers with a factual and precise statement of what is intended.
The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) told us in his second reading speech that a statement setting out full details of the plan will be sent to all eligible growers with their ballot papers. By this time I should think that everybody interested in this proposal knows what the plan will be, but only in the most general terms. If a precise plan is to go out with the ballot papers, and if, as in the definition in the Bill, the plan means “ the plan for maintaining reserve prices for Australian wool sold at auction that has been formulated in consultation between the Australian Wool Industry Conference and the Government “, why is it not attached to this Bill? How can we be asked to approve the holding of a referendum on something without being told in precise terms what the referendum is about? If the plan is to be sent out with the ballot papers in a few weeks, why can we not see it now? If the details have not yet been hammered out, what are we voting on? Are we simply voting on the holding of a referendum about something that will be decided later?
– What more does the honorable member want?
– I want to see the plan that is going to be put to the wool growers. Another difficulty that presents itself is that of the rolls. The rolls have been prepared on the basis of the deliveries of wool by the growers in the 1963-64 season, but a qualification to vote relies on deliveries made in the 1964-65 season. There must be confusion, and duplication is inevitable. Ballot papers will be going out to people who have died or people who have sold their properties and are still eligible to vote according to the wording of the Bill. Fortunately the Minister has agreed to have the rolls available for inspection. This goes a long way towards overcoming the difficulty, but it does not overcome it completely.
Sir William Gunn has gone on record as saying that he believes that we back benchers who are questioning the manner of his presentation of the case for the reserve price plan are fools and that only wool growers should have any say in what happens in this industry. I personally have no wool to sell, nor have 1 any axe to grind for myself or anyone else. There is not very much wool produced in McMillan. We have about three quarters of a million sheep in West Gippsland and produce perhaps 30,000 bales of wool. I would have been quite content to leave the explanations to Sir William until I made a study of the literature that he has put out to support his proposals and compared -this with what has been put out against the proposals by a group who must be considered as having a pretty vital interest in preserving the place of wool in the world’s markets for textile fibres. Not that 1 find the members of that group exactly lily-white when it comes to twisting the facts to suit their case. Both sides in this discussion are unfortunately inclined to over-paint the picture. It is for this very reason that we back bench members have every right to come in with an unbiassed examination of the facts as far as we can glean them.
The Minister has told us that he has accepted the conditions imposed by the Australian Wool Industry Conference on how the ballot should be conducted because he is obliged, as Minister for Primary Industry, to accept the advice tendered to him by a body that he accepts as being the voice of the industry, as fully representing the various views that one would expect to find in an industry that starts with small sideline producers, whose main interest is wheat or milk or beef but who run a few sheep to round off their operations, and goes right through to the great pastoral companies that make such a large contribution to Australia’s economy. I submit that it is the duty of this House to examine these proposals and see whether they are in fact designed to ensure a true and accurate assessment of the opinions held by approximately 100,000 individual wool growers who will be voting on this question. It is our duty to decide whether in fact even a unanimous request - and the Australian
Wool Industry Conference was not unanimous - for action by the Government, coming as it does from an interested body examining the proposal from its own biassed viewpoint, is necessarily in the best interests of the Australian economy.
I think the first thing we have to do is to look back in history. The origin of the pressure from some grower organisations for a reserve price plan arises from the winding up of the Joint Organisation which acquired wool during the war and, finding itself with large stocks, had the very delicate task of feeding the wool onto the market without too much disruption of prices for the new stocks coming onto the market. A system of reserve prices was decided on to operate as a safeguard against a fall in the market due to the weight of wool to be unloaded. In practice at that time this proved to be unnecessary. The world was hungry for wool and the 10 million bales were absorbed along with the normal clip in a very few years at buoyant prices. I may mention that in 1950-51 the reserve price was 28d. and the realised price was 144d. I give those figures in the context of the sort of conservative scheme that I presume Sir William Gunn intends now.
At the time of which I have been speaking it was decided to submit a reserve price plan to growers by referendum, and in August 1951 they voted overwhelmingly, by a 75 per cent, majority, against the Minimum Reserve Prices Plan as it was then called. New Zealand and South Africa did adopt a basis of reserve prices but they used the profits from the Joint Organisation to provide the backing. The New Zealand scheme makes no levy on wool proceeds, unlike our proposed scheme which will make very considerable inroads into the incomes of growers.
The two groups which now make up the Australian Wool Industry Conference asked the Government to hold an independent inquiry into wool marketing in 1960. Eventually we had the Philp report after that Committee of Inquiry had spent a year taking submissions in every State and in visiting all wool buying countries throughout the world. The Committee went to the United Kingdom, France, Belgium, Italy, the United States of America and Japan. One paragraph of the report of that Committee is quoted quite a lot and it is rather pertinent. lt states -
After careful consideration and close assessment of the merits and demerits of the existing method of marketing Australian wool and proposed alterations to this method the Committee concludes that there are not sufficient advantages in any alternative proposal to warrant its adoption, at present, in place of the existing system.
Those propounding the case in favour of the plan make much of this limitation “ at present “, claiming that things have changed since 1962. The only change I can find is that manmade fibres have become more freely available. In fact, there are so many types of them that they are competing with each other with consequential reductions in their prices. But I find no evidence that a reduction in manmade fibre prices causes a reduction in wool prices. Manmade fibre prices are comparatively stable - mostly the movement in their prices is down - while wool prices fluctuate up and down for a great variety of reasons. A vital reason is demand - not supply and demand, but demand. A reserve price plan can do nothing to increase demand.
Just a year or two before this, Messrs. Weatherly and Chislett, the chairman and the secretary respectively of the Australian Woolgrowers and Graziers Council were sent overseas to examine marketing and they came back to report in favour of the open auction system. Arising from the Philp report, the Australian Wool Bureau was reconstituted to become the Australian Wool Board in 1962, and once again it was determined that a wool marketing committee should be established to inquire into marketing. A reserve price scheme within the auction system was specifically mentioned in the terms of reference, as also was a central appraisal scheme and even a full blown acquisition scheme. This Committee also spent a year or more examining the worldwide attitudes to the marketing of wool and it visited all the wool buying countries. The report of this Committee is regarded as being confidential to the Wool Board, but we are told by Dr. Melville, chairman of the Australian Wool Industry Conference, that the wool marketing proposals, including the reserve price plan, put to the A.W.I.C. by the Australian Wool Board are the same as the findings of the Wool Marketing Committee of Inquiry in almost every detail. The Conference was assured of this.
There is quite a lot of difference between that statement and the assumption being made by the Minister, and deliberately fostered by the proposers of the reserve price plan, that the recommendation of the Australian Wool Board to the A.W.I.C. is identical with the report presented by the Wool Marketing Committee to the Board. There is every reason to believe that the Wool Marketing Committee made no recommendation to the Board. It no doubt submitted a summary of the evidence it had gathered on the many aspects of wool marketing that it examined - a summary from which the Board proceeded to put together the present reserve price proposals. It is quite significant that nothing is said of the Wool Marketing Committee’s findings about a central appraisal scheme, an acquisition scheme, private selling or improvements to the auction phase of marketing. By this I mean: Did the Committee suggest the elimination of pies? Did it set out some method of achieving stability of return between growers of the same grades of wool? How can a reserve price scheme do anything to assist in that vital part of marketing? Did it refer to availability of all types of wool throughout the full season, something that everybody in the wool industry knows is badly needed, instead of offering, as now, a feast or famine? Then there is uniformity in classification and continuity of wool to the machines as and when wanted. This is of paramount importance to the industry. But equally important is some way of increasing the actual return to the producer. A reserve price scheme will not have the slightest effect whatever on any of the defects of the auction system. All it can do is prevent the price from going below a certain figure which must be so conservative that it comes into operation only when the bottom has really fallen out of the market.
I was most intrigued to read one of the comments by Sir William Gunn to the effect that the idea is to get a better average price for wool and to minimise fluctuations in price. But then he went on to refer to New Zealand which does have this very scheme and he said that New Zealand - did not set out to achieve stability in prices and only put up a reserve price at a level to prevent the New Zealand wool grower from going bankrupt.
In practice, the New Zealand scheme causes greater fluctuations and makes prices drop more quickly when the market weakens. But to come back to what I was saying of the background in which this plan is set, the group - whoever they are - which keeps pushing for reserve prices did not lose heart when it failed to have its ideas accepted by the industry. The 1951 referendum was against them, and so was the Chislett report and the Philp report. The result of the Goulburn and Portland inquiries did not help them. But they did not despair. They had another outlet - the A.W.I.C. - and through this body they are advancing the proposition again. What I object to is that the Conference is being used to weight heavily the vote in favour of acceptance of this certain plan which has been formulated between the A.W.I.C. and the Government, but which is not spelt out in plain terms and attached to the Bill.
The Minister said that it is clearly desirable that the people who cannot claim a real interest in the industry should not vote at the referendum. This is given as the reason for setting ten bales as the minimum requirement. But we know that there was violent disagreement as to this low figure being accepted and it was only after prolonged haggling that it was arrived at as a compromise. Worst still is the alternative of 300 sheep. A dealer buying off-shears wethers and selling in the wool qualifies for a vote. A butcher with no interest in wool, other than a few pence per lb. for the skin, qualifies for a vote. Yet a family of four, six or eight - whatever size one likes - which operates as a company in which each may have a stake in 100 or more bales gets only one vote between the lot of them, whilst a small property holder who works as a partnership with his wife for income tax purposes - I think it is safe to say that it is for that purpose - and just scrapes in with 20 bales gets two votes. That gives him a distinct advantage. There are too many difficulties in having a multiple vote according to the number of bales to make it feasible, but surely the restriction to a one man one vote principle adopted has been specifically put forward to weight the vote to give a favorable result to the referendum.
The Conference had some conscience in this matter because it evidently said to the
Minister in presenting its demand that this decision shall not be regarded as a precedent for any future referendum in the wool industry since there is a considerable proportion of growers who believe that the volume of production of those voting for and against should be taken into account. Of course, there is a considerable proportion against it because it is the very negation of the principle that he who pays the piper calls the tune. The only way to right this injustice now is to make the requirement for carrying the referendum a 60 per cent, majority, at least. The Conference itself set a precedent when it refused to allow the Australian Primary Producers Union to take part, and so make the Conference truly a voice that could speak for the whole industry. It did this by rejecting a vote of 30 in favour of the A.P.P.U.’s admission to 20 against, because it claimed that a two-thirds majority was necessary to make any change in the status quo. A vote in the case of wool is rather different to a vote in the smaller primary industries that have voted on orderly marketing schemes. We know that in many cases simple majorities have been accepted. For example, a question in a dried fruits industry referendum could well be decided by a simple majority: Most of the producers concerned in such an industry are about the same size as far as production is concerned, and have very similar problems, and such a vote would quite reasonably reflect the general views of the industry. But not so with wool. The huge variation in properties and the large number of producers contributing in a small way could easily mean that the vote could be dominated by producers of only one-sixth of the clip. We have no actual indication that small or large growers will vote in any set pattern according to size. I am just putting to the House what could happen. All the indications are that there will be ardent exponents of each side of the case, and it is extremely difficult at this stage to see just what the vote will be.
My main reason for seeking acceptance of the principle that a vote of 60 per cent, in favour of adoption of the scheme should be necessary is based on the fact that Sir William Gunn in his explanations of the scheme during his Australia-wide campaign to sell it to the growers has included such a lot of generalisations that cannot be sustained. Quite rightly - and I think everyone except the commission agents agrees - he says that a change in the present method of marketing wool is needed. We all know thai. He points out that textile trade managements are not interested in gambling on a raw materials market. They want to know that their competitors are paying the same price as themselves. Manufacturers want to see the production of wool increased because they believe that the world is going to need more wool than is being produced at the present time. They want wool growing to be profitable, even proffering the advice that a reserve price for fine wools should bc firmer than that for coarser grades.
The wool trade desires to see change. lt desires to see stability. But a reserve price scheme, such as is being sold to wool growers today by the Board, will do none of these things. If it is intended to get the growers in by having first of all, a harmless reserve scheme and later leading them along to an acquisition scheme, why are we not told so? We are told that the whole scheme will be reviewed in the fifth year but if, in Sir William’s own words, the introduction of a conservative reserve price will not at once achieve the ultimate objective, then the legislation should provide for another referendum in five years, lt should not be just a simple review with changes made as the Board thinks fit.
I have no doubt of the ability of wool growers to make up their own minds on this question. The provision of a statement setting out the opposing views of the groups who have combined to formulate their ideas will do much to make this possible, and has removed most of my fears as to the result. However, I feel that in the whole presentation of the proposal we should have been given a lot more information so that not only the wool growers, who are required to make up their minds and decide something that is extremely important to the whole future of Australia, but members of this House also should understand clearly what this plan, which has been formulated and which will be sent out to the wool growers with their ballot papers in a few weeks time, seeks to do. It must be known, so why cannot we be told?
– I rise to make a personal explanation.
– -Does the honorable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. During the course of his commendable speech the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Collard) several times referred to remarks made in this debate by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Hughes). However, the honorable member for Parkes was mistakenly referred to as the honorable member for Hughes. This confusion results from the fact that the honorable member’s surname happens to be the same as the name of my division. I have burdens enough of my own and I should like the error corrected.
.- Whatever effects this legislation will have on the wool industry time alone will tell, but it is quite apparent at this early stage it has shattered the vision splendid of the love match between the Liberal Party and the Australian Country Party. To say the least, there are some very reluctant supporters in the Government ranks tonight. After listening to the honorable member for McMillan (Mr. Buchanan) is it any wonder that it has taken the Government 14 years to think of this legislation and introduce it into the Parliament? When one hears a democrat demanding a 60 per cent, favourable vote in order that legislation might be carried one realises the backward thinking of honorable members opposite on wool industry policies generally. I intend to say quite a deal more about the disunity existing in this so-called united Government on this issue, but before I do I wish to pay a tribute to the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) for presenting an outstanding contribution on this legislation - a contribution of interest not only to the wool growers but also to those who would knock the proposed legislation, which has the support of the Opposition.
I could not help but note that in his opening remarks in moving the second reading of this Bill the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) said -
The purpose of this Bill is to make legislative arrangements for a compulsory referendum of wool growers on the question of implementing a reserve price plan for wool. All honorable members will have heard about the proposed plan, which has attracted a great deal of public comment Not all such comment has been objective or informed, and it may therefore assist the House in considering the present Bill if, before dealing with the Bill itself, I describe the plan end outline ils genesis.
When he said, “ Not all such comment has been objective or informed “, to whom was the Minister referring? I would say that he was referring to his colleagues of the Liberal Party who, in this Parliament, have criticised the legislation. Tonight they came in like lions and went out like sheep - like lambs. These are the persons he criticised in the very opening remarks of his speech in order to bring to the notice of the people that supporters of the Government of which he is a member are ill informed on this subject and are endeavouring to destroy a scheme which means so much to the wool growers. I think that privately the Minister is in complete agreement with Sir William Gunn’s views on the back benchers that that gentleman mentioned. The honorable member for McMillan (Mr. Buchanan) tonight said: “That is why we back benchers are revolting “. Evidently he does not matter much, because Sir William Gunn did not mention him.
At this stage I mention briefly that the Bill in essence is for a reserve price scheme involving fixing a minimum level, also called floor or reserve, below which prices at auction are not allowed to fall. This is to be achieved by establishing an authority to purchase any wool for which commercial bids at the auction fail to reach the reserve price. Such wool is to be held by the authority and resold under more favorable conditions. The Minister outlined the financial arrangements in his speech. I mention these points in order that I will not have to come back to them later. The Minister also said -
The Conference also recommended that the alternative to the minimum qualification of 10 bales should be the ownership of 300 sheep. The alternative qualification of sheep ownership is necessary to cater for producers who have entered the industry recently and have the potential to produce 10 bales of wool but have not yet done so.
In other words, that section of the legislation deals with one vote one value. Let me at this stage congratulate the members of the Australian Country Party for introducing a measure of democracy into this vote, although they deny this right to the Australian electorate when it i’s choosing a government. On the other side of the ledger, let us look at the reversal of the Liberal Party. On this legislation the Australian Country Party has advocated the principle of one vote one value, although this is a contradiction if its earlier policy. The Liberal Party has worked against it, wanting one vote as the Australian Country Party wanted in the legislation and a 60 to 70 per cent, majority to carry it. This is a remarkable proposal to be put by the Government. I notice that a rebellion in the ranks of the Government has brought forward certain changes in the Government’s attitude. The rebellious back bench members had been called into line by the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) and their fight in this debate was different from the fight they put up in the party room. However, on instructions from these members, the Minister for Primary Industry decided to issue the arguments for and against the scheme with the ballot papers that are to be sent out.
It was interesting to note that members of the Liberal Party were questioning whether the ballot would be conducted fairly and impartially. It is a wonder that this was not made a court controlled ballot, or something of that nature. Fancy members of the Government parties saying that the Minister for Primary Industry may be associated with what is termed a crook ballot. This comes from supporters of a Government that has said it is united on this great issue. I am sorry that honorable members opposite have chosen to humiliate the Minister for Primary Industry by making him give in and change his policy on this question. Evidently the five members to whom Sir William Gunn referred do not trust the Minister to give the wool growers a fair vote unless the pros and cons are put before the people who will vote. The Australian Labour Party supports the proposal to hold a referendum, lt is to the credit of the honorable member for Lalor, who was a Minister in a Labour Government, that he sponsored the great schemes that brought stability and security to the people in our primary industries. Despite the claims of members of the Australian Country Party, they would still be in the doldrums, were it not that the policies of Labour Administrations ensured the prosperity of the people in the primary industries.
I think tonight, for the benefit of the House, I should mention the remarkable activities of Sir William Gunn. Undoubtedly he is a man of great capacity and he is a very versatile man. While sponsoring this scheme for the wool growers of Australia, he has had time to take part in a selection ballot for the Australian Country Party seat of Maranoa. I suppose that is his non-political activity as Chairman of the Australian Wool Board. He has had time to bc up in Queensland attacking the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Brimblecombe), flying all around the countryside arguing on the one hand that he should be elected to the Parliament to lead the Australian Country Party and on the other hand telling the wool growers that they should vote for his proposals. I wonder what the Minister for Primary Industry would say if this were a Labour nominee who was running around arguing for a case for primary producers and at the same time taking part in a Labour selection ballot. We can well imagine the outcry that would come from honorable members on the other side of the House. They would say such a person was playing politics. The rebel on the back bench opposite, the honorable member for Bowman (Dr. Gibbs), the other night attacked the Australian Labour Party for selecting Dr. Patterson as its candidate simply because he was a public servant. The honorable member for Bowman said that Mr. Patterson had socialist leanings.
Does the Minister for Primary Industry condone the attack by Sir William Gunn on back bench members of the Parliament? Does he condone Sir William Gunn’s action in calling certain honorable members on the other side fools? This is not a complimentary remark for the future leader of the Australian Country Party to make about his prospective colleagues. How can these honorable members be expected to respect him when he is elected to the Parliament, if that is his opinion of them now? But Sir William Gunn is a remarkable personality. He is running on different courses all over the country as a top man in the wool industry, and we must remember that some of his salary is subsidised by the Government. He is attacking members of the Parliament and at the same time presenting himself for selection as a Country Party candidate. He is doing all sorts of things. I do not criticise his objective on the wool scheme because we on this side of the House think it is a commendable scheme.
I ask the Minister for Primary Industry the question that I have previously asked him in this Parliament. Do the Prime Minister and other Ministers support the attack that Sir William Gunn has made on members of the Government parties for their failure to support what the Government says is its policy on this scheme? Let me read from an article that appeared in a leading journal of this country on the 9th of this month. It is headed: “ Bitter Attack on MPs by Wool Chief. ‘Backbench Fools ‘ “. The article stated-
Canberra. - The chairman of the Australian Wool Board (Sir William Gunn) yesterday attacked members of Parliament who have intervened in the dispute over the wool reserve price scheme.
Sir William bitterly attacked five Liberal backbenchers, whom he named as Mr. Hughes, Mr. Turner, and Mr. Wentworth, (all New South Wales), and Mr. Killen and Dr. Gibbs (Queensland).
He described the backbenchers as “ fools “, who had “clearly not set out to understand tha problems of the wool industry.”
Does the Minister think that of them? I do not question their right to attack the scheme, but it is quite obvious that they are ill informed. The article continued -
Speaking at a press conference, Sir William said the backbenchers were prepared to use the wool industry as <a political football for their own political gain.
They are pretty strong words from a man whose salary is subsidised by the Government these members support. The article went on - “They are further adding to the bitterness and confusion within the wool industry “, he continued. “If they came from electorates where wool is grown, I could not quarrel with them, but they come from electorates where wool is not grown.
To-day we saw the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Hughes) present a petition from 7,000 people. I suppose they come from Campsie where a live sheep has not been seen for 20 years. The article continued - “ I don’t think it is fair to the wool industry and
I think it is time they took a mon responsible attitude.”
He is referring here to members on the Government side and not to members of the Opposition. The article stated further -
Sir William said the backbenchers were representing somebody, but not the woolgrowers in the country.
They must have a motive, but it was not the welfare of the woolgrowers.
That is a bitter attack on honorable members on the Government side of the House, who say they are united in their support of the Government’s policy. The article went on to say -
The members had set out by various means to delay the proposed referendum on wool reserve price plan. “ I understand that they asked for an act of Parliament to be prepared and to be attached to the bill now before the House authorising the referendum “, he said.
That is correct. This was done tonight by the honorable member for McMillan. The article added -
Referring generally to opponents of the scheme, Sir William said: “ I would like to state now that those who oppose the plan have never taken the trouble to come to the board and state their objections. “Nor to my knowledge have they approached the Australian Wool Industry Conference on whose behalf the board is acting. “They are causing confusion and bitterness wherever they go and they are using every power in their means to publicise their objections without having ever come to the board itself to try to reconcile these objections. “They have accused us of derogatory remarks. I would like them to state clearly what these are. “Frankly, during this campaign, I’ve been called carpetbagger, a travelling salesman and a dictator, among other things. “Their advertisements refer to Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s Russia. “ They say we treat the woolgrowers like sheep. These are not the actions of rsponsible or intelligent people.
That is a clear imputation against the five honorable members opposite, and we must agree with him a bit somewhere along the line. The article went on to say - “These people are committed to create confusion and to work for the defeat of a reserve price plan and one can only wonder whose is the actual motivating force behind their work. “Some of the people working for the opposition don’t even own any sheep.”
Sir William said that to the best of his knowledge parliamentarians who came from woolgrowing electorates supported the reserve price plan.
I would like the Minister for Primary Industry, who is the ministerial head of the Department concerned, to tell us whether he is in agreement with Sir William Gunn and whether he agrees with Sir William’s comments about the honorable members opposite. The Australian Labour Party makes its attitude quite clear, as I said earlier. We support the proposal. But the bitter statements made by Sir William Gunn show that people in the Government parties are sabotaging the scheme, though it could well be the life blood of the wool industry, to which Australia owes so much. The honorable member for Parkes spoke in the Parliament tonight. I hope that nobody outside the Parliament who listened to him thought that he came from the country area of Parkes. He represents a metropolitan electorate that is about half as big as mine is and which would have very little, if any, connection with the wool industry. As I say, I do not criticise him for speaking on these matters. After all, the greatest experts on industrial affairs, Communism and the best way to run Sydney transport are members of the Australian Country Party. If honorable members have to sit silently by and not talk simply because they come from the back blocks of the country, we will never hear a yap out of any member of the Country Party because none of them would be qualified, according to the principles applied by Sir William Gunn. I thought that tonight we would hear a really turbulent speech from the honorable member for Parkes. I thought that there would be fire and fury in the chamber when he rose, because for weeks we have been reading in the “ Daily Telegraph” what he intended to say. We have read the leading articles by Sir Frank Packer. We have read about how the story would be put over in this Parliament by the honorable member for Parkes. But tonight, when he shied at the shadows, he gave me the impression that his script had not arrived in time and that he had to speak without receiving the appropriate background information from the source from which he was supposed to receive it.
I could not help noticing that the honorable member for Parkes reflected severely on the Minister for Primary Industry. I am a little pained to have to defend the Minister, but I cannot stand by and see injustice done. The honorable member for Parkes said he hoped that the referendum would be carried out without misstatement and exaggeration. That is what he thinks of the Minister. Why does not the Minister tell us what he thinks of Sir William Gunn’s opinion of the honorable member for Parkes and the other members of the Parliament whom Sir William has attacked? When all is said and done, only a water pistol or a pop gun went off tonight. The big guns were not out when the honorable member for Parkes spoke, because he was ironed out in the party meeting this morning. The Prime Minister has spoken. The rebellious spirit has died. The honorable member for Parkes can now go back and defend the people whom he ought to be defending in this Parliament - the pensioners, people in the middle income group and other people who are suffering under this Governmentnot the huge vested interests that seek to gain at the expense of the wool growers, as the honorable member for Moore (Mr. Maisey) said earlier in this debate.
These matters are worth mentioning because they show what is happening in the Government parties. Let us look at a few other things. People think that when legislation comes before this Parliament every member of the Government parties knows all about it. But what is the position? One criticism was made by the honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Turner). He said: “ We had no knowledge of what was in this legislation when it came into the Parliament”. People talk about control of the Labour Party and insinuate, quite wrongly, that outside people control members on this side of the Parliament. But under a Labour government, every Labour man knows what legislation is being introduced. Yet, very important legislation is not explained to many members of the Government parties before it is introduced into the Parliament. Let us look at what the honorable member for Bradfield said recently. A newspaper report of his speech stated - . . Mr. Turner complained that members were being asked to vote on the wool reserve plan when they did not know what the plan was.
The Government must think that he is really bright and is one of the up and coming stars. The report continued - < “This is government by subterfuge, by pulling the wool over our eyes,” he said.
At yesterday’s meeting of Government parties, several members including Mr. Hughes and Mr. Wentworth are reported to have demanded further details before the referendum proposal is accepted by Parliament.
The people of this country, particularly the’ wool growers, should know that illconsidered legislation is coming before the Parliament for the simple reason that the Government evidently docs not consider that members of the Government parties can be trusted and some Ministers share Sir William Gunn’s opinion of the honorable members who have criticised this legislation.
We can pick up newspaper after newspaper and see headlines such as “ Government Criticised by Liberal M.H.R.” and “Government Will Not Bow to Backbenchers on Wool Scheme”. The Deputy Prime Minister (Mr. McEwen), a rather reputable citizen, made a statement on the wool reserve price scheme and, in the “Daily Telegraph” of 13th September, under the headline “ Liberal M.H.R. Answers McEwen on Wool”, we read -
Mr. W. C. Wentworth, M.H.R., last night accused Mr. McEwen of having issued a statement with the object of preventing Country Party opponents of the wool scheme from expressing their real views.
That accusation was made against the Deputy Prime Minister, to whom the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) owes allegiance and loyal support in this Parliament. I have not time to read the whole article, but it is worth framing. The idea of these good, united, friendly people in the Liberal Party and the Country Party needs to be exploded once and for all. The people should know that the Government parties are seething with discontent, and that discontent has come to the surface on the matter that is now under discussion.
Let me quote something that appeared in today’s “Daily Telegraph”. We have to take notice of what that newspaper says on these matters because, for some reason or other, Sir Frank Packer is interested in wool. I do not know why he is interested in wool. He might wear a lot of it, or he might have interests, financial or otherwise, in the industry. But be has certainly criticised Sir William Gunn, the Minister for Primary Industry and anybody who supports this scheme, which will do so much for the Australia wool industry. I quote the following from today’s issue of his newspaper -
In Canberra the “ Telegraph “ correspondent, Alan Reid, said last night tension on the wool price scheme would reach a high note this week.
The Federal Liberal-Country Party meeting today will discuss the scheme.
The introduction of the necessary bill in Parliament later this week could spark off more tension.
But, as the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Collard) said, somebody forgot to light the match. Nothing at all has happened. The speeches that we heard tonight were almost apologetic. The newspaper article continued -
The two-Party meeting today has been called to hear the Government’s reaction to backbenchers’ complaints against the way in which it proposed to hold the referendum.
Then it listed a whole lot of backbenchers’ complaints. There is nothing there about any need for an apology from Si: William Gunn for what he said about some of the backbenchers. I would have thought that that would have received No. 1 priority. 1 mention these matters so that everybody will know that we on this side of the Parliament believe that this scheme constitutes a benefit to the wool industry and that we intend to support it in the face of opposition by people who would undermine a scheme which it has taken this Government 14 long, weary years to introduce.
I like to deal with governments and parties that have high principles and are prepared to fight for them and stand by them in the Parliament. That is why I was interested tonight to hear members of the Country Party support the principle of one vote one value in respect of this scheme. It is one principle to which the Country Party has always been opposed. In this Parliament, members of the Country Party have denied the Australian people the right of one vote one value. They have stood up in this Parliament and said that the principle could not be implemented. Yet today we have had the spectacle of one member of the Country Party after the other advocating the principle of one vote one value, with which the Labour Party completely agrees. They are advocating it on this occasion because it suits their point of view. They are like a weather vane; they change according to the circumstances. That is why the people who usually are opponents of the principle of one vote one value want to apply it to this wool industry scheme.
Let us look at what the Deputy Prime Minister had to say on the principle of one vote one value in the debate on the Commonwealth Electoral Bill on 24th May. Of course, the Bill was concerned only with the election of governments, lt would not matter much, in his opinion. This is what he said -
The principle that is to be violated - according to some quarters - is the sacred principle of one vote one value; that every vote shall have equal value, lt is terrible, we are told, to perpetuate an arrangement whereby there may be a variation of 20 per cent, from the mean.
He went on to say -
Let me say to the honorable member for Bradfield that one cannot apply the principle of one vote one value.
That is the attitude of the Country Party in respect of electoral redistribution. In that debate the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Anthony) said -
When Opposition members speak about one vote one value, what do they mean? Do they mean a perfect electoral roll? That is about all they can mean. It is impossible to adopt one vote one value accurately, because the levels of population in the electorates are changing all the time.
He also said -
If Opposition members want to argue about one vote one value, they should say what they mean.
There we have two of the most prominent members of the Country Party expressing their complete opposition to the principle of one vote one value. Even the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) chimed in on that occasion. He joined the crusade against democracy in the electoral system.
I do not criticise members of the Country Party for their remarkable change of front. I congratulate them on applying a measure of democracy which I did not think they would apply even to the wool growers. As I say that, I look with regret at members of the Liberal Party who are fighting against that principle tonight. I see the reversals of form in these allegedly united parties which constantly criticise members of the Labour Party on the attitudes that we adopt in this Parliament 1 do not wish to say much more. I thank the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Beaton) for referring me to one or two matters which I think I should mention before I conclude my speech. The royal commission conducted by Mr. Justice Cook in New South Wales revealed the existence and adverse effects of collusion between wool buyers, which resulted in a reduction in competition and a lowering of prices. That has been mentioned tonight as one of the reasons why legislation such as this must be enacted in order that the industry may prosper, that it may be stabilised and that the growers may have a measure of security. 1 have not the time to deal with that matter at great length. The honorable member for Bendigo and the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) referred to it in thenspeeches.
The honorable member, for Lalor outlined the long and progressive record of the Labour Party in this sphere. It will be realised that it is not a change of front for the Labour Party to support this legislation. We have advocated such legislation over the years because we realise the need for the wool industry to be prosperous, to be stabilised, to give security to the people engaged in it and to supply a product to the consumers at a reasonable price. I rose in this debate merely to let the people at large know about what might be termed the saboteurs in the Government ranks who have been attempting to destroy this legislation which means so much to Australia. I wish to place on record their criticisms, some’ of which have been subjected to challenge by Sir William Gunn. I ask the Minister for Primary Industry, and some other members on the Government benches, whether they agree with these criticisms, and why action is not taken - if Sir William Gunn is correct - to see what can be done about these honorable members on the Government side who come into the House and vote one way, although behind the scenes they speak in another way.
I support the legislation and I congratulate the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) on his presentation of the Opposition’s case. I appreciate also the attitude of the Australian Country Party on the measure of democracy it has shown by supporting the principle of one vote one value. Far from any of them trying to sabotage this legislation and indulging in pinpricking about it, Government supporters generally should inform themselves on the history of the wool industry so that they will realise the value of the industry to the nation and how much we depend upon it. The Opposition supports the proposal, which can only further this great industry and the people in it.
.- I rise to speak on the Wool Reserve Prices Plan Referendum Bill 1965 from quite another angle to that from which it has been considered so far. I do not suppose that in the history of the wool industry there has ever been a matter debated in which there has been so much sidetracking and such an attempt made to cloud the issues that are to be put before the wool growers. I am a wool grower, and I believe that the bulk of wool growers are looking for a starting point from which to evaluate the proposed reserve price plan. It is the policy of the Australian Country Party, and my policy, that the adoption or rejection of the plan is a matter for the wool growers and the wool growers only to decide.
I want to refer to something in the industry which is in very great danger of being destroyed, namely the unity that now exists within it. No matter what might result from this proposed plan, if the industry itself loses its unity it will lose something that will be very difficult to recover. For years the industry never had one voice to speak for it. It was not until the Wool Marketing Committee of Inquiry, generally known as the Philp Committee, was set up to inquire into wool marketing that the industry had any sort of uniformity. The Philp Committee was set up by the Cabinet from a panel of names that were submitted to the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann). It comprised the late Sir Roslyn Philp, who was a Supreme Court judge in Queensland, as Chairman, a bank economist and an insurance man, Mr. Buttfield. The inquiry was held over a long period. The Committee went overseas and a lot of the evidence which it took was treated as confidential. Its report contained several important suggestions. At the time that the Philp Committee was set up there was a wool bureau, the only function of which was to promote the sale of wool. It was a statutory body comprising six wool growers nominated by the grower organisations and approved by the Minister. There was also a wool research committee which was quite an independent body, and a wool testing authority, which was also quite independent.
The great feature of the Philp Committee’s report is that irrespective of what it said about marketing it did state in plain words, in four places throughout its report, that the unification of the industry, with one body to speak for it, was vital. What has been going on during the last few weeks has done more to damage the image of the organisation that has been set up than has anything that happened during previous years. The Philp Committee recommended that the Australian Wool Industry Conference be created, that it be comprised of 20 members from the Australian Wool Growers Council, 20 members from the Australian Wool and Meat Producers Federation, six merino stud breeders, one Corndale breeder, one Pol worth breeder and one representative of breeders of British breeds. In other words, the Philp Committee recommended that the representation on this conference be as wide as possible. I subscribe very strongly to that. Personally, I should like to see the representation of the Australian Wool Industry Conference made wider still by having somebody from the Australian Primary Producers Union appointed to it. Extravagant claims have been made by each growers’ organisation as to how many wool growers it represents. In actual fact there is much overlapping of representation by these organisations and it is very difficult to determine the exact number of growers for whom each organisation can speak.
As a result of the Philp Committee’s report the Australian Wool Board was also created. The Australian Wool Industry Conference nominates six grower members approved by the Minister to be appointed to the Board. The important point is that the wool growers are nominated solely by the wool growers’ organisation, although the Minister does have the right of the veto. However, he can only approve of people nominated by the industry. An additional three members with special qualifications came from the financial field, the commercial field and the manufacturing or wool marketing field, and again the Minister could only choose these members from a panel of five names submitted to him by the Australian Wool Industry Conference. There was an additional member, who was a Government nominee. From these nine members a chairman was nominated and then an additional member was put in his place. That is the composition of the Australian Wool Board.
It was envisaged that the Australian Wool Industry Conference would be, in fact, the Parliament of growers and would speak for the industry. The Minister has no control whatever over elections to this body. The members are elected annually from the industry and, as I say, the Minister has no say as to who is to be elected or over what is recommended. This is a very important feature. The Australian Wool Industry Conference in turn has an executive to speak for it which elects its own chairman.
In this sidetracking which has been engaged in during past weeks there have been suggestions about dictation by the Minister. Such suggestions are completely misleading. I regret to say that some people who have made these suggestions must have been well aware that what they were saying was not correct. These are things that the wool growers will have to consider.
Section 22 (I) (b) of the Wool Industry Act 1962-64 provided that the Board was to establish a committee to assist in investigating wool marketing continuously. The Committee was set up in June 1963 and the names of the people chosen to be on it were put before the Minister. They were selected by the industry. The committee comprised a top maker, a broker, a buyer - lately retired - and two producers of fairly large clips, but by no means big producers. There were the chairman of the Board as an ex-officio member and Sir John Crawford as a special adviser. That committee had the bulk of the Philp Committee’s confidential evidence made available to it, although some of the people who submitted evidence to the Philp Committee on a confidential basis did not wish their evidence to be made available. They took evidence overseas for a full year, in America, in the United Kingdom, and on the Continent. They interviewed the Chairman of the Japanese Wool Spinners Association and the Chairman of the Japanese Importers Association, who were invited to come to Australia for discussions. They took evidence from merchants, top makers, spinners, textile manufacturers and multiple tailors. After hearing all that evidence, they submitted suggestions to the Board for its consideration. The Board in turn submitted the matter to the Australian Wool Industry Conference.
I am quite adamant that it is not the function of any parliamentarian to try to convince the growers that the plan is good or bad. That is entirely a matter for the wool growers to decide for themselves. As one who has a wide knowledge of wool growers and the wool industry - I do not say that with any vanity - I am confident that the people engaged in the industry are quite capable of arriving at a considered decision, and a good one, if they are not confused by side issues.
Many things have been said about this plan. I do not propose to put the case for one side or the other, but I do think that certain things should be considered. The first is that the plan which is put before the wool growers to consider has been submitted to them by their own elected representatives of their own organisations. That is a very important point. Of course, the counter argument is that no body of men is necessarily infallible. So the wool grower must, consider certain things in connection with the present marketing system. For instance, does the market fluctuate? If it does fluctuate, is that detrimental to the end users of wool? Again, will a plan of this sort lead to stock piling? How is it to be financed?
There is one factor with relation to market fluctuations which I have not heard anybody mention. Apart from, or perhaps within, the normal fluctuations shown in graphs there are what 1 call pulsating fluctuations that occur in markets within markets. These must have a detrimental effect on- the ability of wool to compete with other fibres the prices for which remain stable so that the manufacturer can estimate his purchase costs as far as two or three years ahead. That fluctuations in wool prices do occur is irrefutable and manufacturers say that this detrimentally affects their operations. Whether this plan is the only way by which that disadvantage can be corrected is for the wool growers to say.
The honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Mackinnon) stated that certain synthetics have been removed from the patent list recently, and this is a new factor to be considered. I agree also with what the honorable member for Corangamite said about holding another ballot on this plan - if it is accepted - within five years. I agree that if the plan is completely acceptable and is operating well, it would be a waste of time and money to hold another ballot, but I would like to see the growers’ organisations given the opportunity to reconsider it at the end of that time. I suppose it is reasonable to assume that if the plan were not working well the responsible wool growers’ organisations would certainly demand that it be reconsidered. I suppose that it is reasonable, also, to answer that any responsible government would pay some heed to that demand.
The second important point is that 1 feel that there should be no acquisition whatever within a certain period, and I think that we can accept the Minister’s assurance on this point. It will set many people’s minds at rest. I hope, tod, that- when the referendum is finally held it will not result in a photo finish, but that there will be ‘ a large majority voting either for or against the plan. I have tried to look at this proposal absolutely objectively, but one thing that causes me some agitation is the system of voting. During recent weeks, indeed over recent months, I have been unable to find any solid basis for suggesting that the granting of a vote to the producers of 10 bales of wool will necessarily make any difference to the acceptance or rejection of the plan. 1 think that those who produce’ 10 bales of wool are just as capable of thinking the whole problem out as are the producers of 1,000 bales. I would have liked to see the production requirement a little higher, not that I think any moral issue is involved, but simply in order that the industry might be completely satisfied when the vote is taken. The vital thing is that the industry should be able to weld itself together again when this is all over. There can be no denying that certain organisations connected with the industry are split down the middle. I know that in some companies the directors have differing viewpoints. Even brothers differ.
I repeat my earlier statement that there are many people, particularly young people, who will look at this proposal objectively and work it out for themselves. It is a great pity therefore that the opponents of the scheme did not have somebody to argue the case against it sensibly, coolly and calmly. An organisation was formed and it might well have made a great contribution to objective consideration, but it blackened its name in the eyes of scores of people, particularly younger people, by making sweeping statements about the Australian Wool Board. I have heard here many references about the Chairman of the Board. I point out that he is only one man out of 61. There are II members of the Australian Wool Board and 50 members of the Australian Wool Industry Conference. It is misleading nonsense to suggest that one man could wield such influence. But the suggestion has been put forward, and not without a motive. This is not being fair, and fairness is what we want in this controversy.
In my opinion, despite the strong competition which the wool industry is meeting from synthetics, mainly because of the stable price of synthetics, there is still a place for wool. Although wool commands only 9 per cent, of the world’s fibre market, there is still a place for wool as a specialty fibre. Fluctuation of price is without doubt the factor most detrimental to wool marketing. Another point for the people engaged in the wool industry to consider is the suggestion that a bottom in the market price would not have any effect. Certain graphs have been produced comparing South African and New Zealand systems with the Australian system. I point out that the South African clip is about 95 per cent, merino wool. There is some cross bred wool and some wool from Persian sheep but the quantities are not significant. The New Zealand clip is 93 per cent, cross bred wool. Therefore, I do not think the comparison proves anything either way.
Repeated references have been made to what the International Wool Textile Organisation has said about the plan. It is suggested that the Chairman of the Australian Wool Board quoted out of its context one clause from a resolution passed by the Organisation. No wool grower should attempt to take anything out of context because that art takes years of training and commands very high fees. I would say that the opinion of the International Wool Tex tile Organisation is not very strong with me, in any case, because that organisation comprises top makers, merchants and manufacturers, a large proportion of whom want stability and a large proportion of whom live by instability.
These are all things which the wool grower has to assess in all this mixed up opinion. There are people who want to sea fluctuations in prices. They have a vested interest in fluctuations. Futures are something which could be a good influence on the wool market if they were properly used. They would enable the wool grower to hedge his clip and the manufacturer to hedge his purchases. But in fact by far the greatest turnover in the Sydney futures market is handled by speculators who never handle an ounce of wool. They toil not. neither do they spin, but they ride in limousines. This is a thing which has to be considered. This does not necessarily mean that the opinion put forward against the plan is bad but decisions made by the International Wool Textile Organisation should be carefully considered. The other influence in the wool market is forward selling. A large proportion of our wool is sold forward now. It is reliably estimated that about 32 per cent, of the next wool clip will be forward sold. A merchant who sells wool forward must want to depress the market because the mors the market is depressed the greater his profit.
I want to stress something about the report of the Wool Marketing Committee of Inquiry conducted under Sir Roslyn Philp. Great stress has been put on the fact that the Philp report did not recommend a reserve price for wool. I want to stress - and I am not speaking for or against the report - that the whole crux of the Philp report was the fact that the thing Sir Roslyn Philp most wanted to see was this industry put on a united basis with one voice to speak for it. If the wool industry were split as a result of the reserve price plan and our organisations ceased to function as they should the industry would be like a rudderless ship in a stormy sea. It would be prey to all the ills and the rivalry in the commercial world today. I want to refer to a letter written by the brother of Sir Roslyn Philp. I do not want to quote anything out of context but I will quote two passages from it. By doing so I will not be altering the meaning of the letter. I am not endeavouring to do that at all. I am not trying to argue this case one way or the other. I want to establish a good solid basis for the thinking wool grower, not the bigot on one side or the other, so that be can make a decision as to what will be the best for the industry in the long run, not the short run. This letter states -
Although the Wool Marketing Committee-
That is the Philp Committee -
He stated that while he did not subscribe to the floor plan, if in its wisdom the Wool Board decided to accept the plan, it would be the decision of a properly constituted body representing wool interests.
My brother expressed pleasure that the board had been formed and got its teeth into the problems so early, as he expected it would take five years to shake down and come to any worthwhile decision.
That is the very structure that a lot of people in our midst would seek to destroy, either by direct action or by inuendo There are people who are afraid that this plan will lead to nationalisation of the wool industry. I think that no matter what the viewpoint may be, all things should fairly be considered. But I do pose a few questions with regard to the people who have come out now with strong views against the plan. I wonder why that evidence could hot have been given to the Committee of Inquiry.
If we are afraid of nationalisation, the quickest way we will achieve it is to destroy the body set up by the industry itself to report on this matter. That would force any government to take some control of the industry concerned. There is no question about that. It seems strange to me that, after so much hard work to formulate the plan, objections are raised against the decision made by the people who must be the chosen ones of the industry and who were appointed to make the inquiry which led to the decision. Those people made their decision and their findings may not necessarily be right, but a large section of people have immediately made all sorts of suggestions about their integrity and their veracity. This, to me, is deplorable. We need to get the reasoning on which the wool grower has to make his decision completely away from that sort of attitude.
The wool grower is naturally an individualist. He would not succeed, by and large, if he was not an individualist because he is confronted with natural problems. That is why he is always suspicious of change. The quickest way to cause him to oppose change is to put some doubt in his mind about a minor point. In my opinion, the main points in this plan are crystal clear. There is, for instance, the matter of finance. I would say, in passing, that the question of finance concerns every honorable member here. Each is entitled to have his own opinion. This plan will mean that, in the final analysis, this money is only being guaranteed by the Government. If some honorable members suggest that there is the risk that this money will be lost, I can only say: “ Goodness help the national economy if the Government ever had to put in the money to make up a loss in a scheme of this sort.” Any suggestion that there would be an objection to it because we might have to put money in does npt seem to ring true to me. Without a doubt there are many matters to be considered and weighed carefully but I still say that the greatest disservice that can be done to the industry today is to wreck something that took SO years to form.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Irwin) adjourned.
House adjourned at 10.59 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated -
y asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
Mr. H. B. Turner, M.P. (Liberal Party)
Hon. P. Howson, M.P. (Liberal Party)
Sir Garfield Barwick- (Liberal Party)
Mr. Malcolm Mackay, M.P. ; (Liberal Party)
Mr. i. F. Cairns, M.P. (A.L.P.)
Hon. A. A. Calwell, M.P. (A.L.P.)
Senator S. H. Cohen; (A.L.P.)
Mr. E. G. Whitlam, M.P. (A.L.P.)
Hon. E. J. McEwen, M.P. (Country Party)
Hon. H. S. Roberton, M.P. (Country Party).
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are incorporated in the following table -
Permanent servicemen with less than 20 years service who were retired on the grounds of invalidity or of physical or mental incapacity to perform their duties and in respect of whom immediately on discharge the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Board determined that the total incapacity in relation to civil employment was less than 30 per cent.
y asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
Commonwealth benefits) at the commencement of the National Health Scheme. 2 and 3. My department has carried out several surveys of doctors’ fees on an Australia-wide basis, to ascertain the most common fees charged for particular services. The most common fees charged for general practitioner consultations, as indicated by these surveys, were as follows -
No information is available to indicate when the various increases took effect or what the fees were in each State in the years 1955, 1957 and 1959. The figures set out above relateto the years in which the respective surveys were carried out The 1955, 1957 and 1959 amounts relate to both surgery and home consultations. Separate figures for surgery and home consultations are not available.
The Australian Medical Association has announced that further increases in doctors’ fees . will take effect in November 1965.
m asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows -
The following table sets out the amounts which it is estimated will be paid by the Commonwealth to the States in 1965-66 under arrangements whereby the States are required to allocate funds for similar purposes. For a number of reasons details are not available of the amounts that will be provided by the States in respect of the great majority of items, e.g., some of the arrangements between the Commonwealth and theStates refer only to minimum contributions by thelatter; under others, either the precise contributions to be made by the States are not specified or the matching arrangements are applicable over a period of some years without the Commonwealth and State expenditures in any particular year necessarily being in the agreed proportions. However, the footnotes to the table describe briefly the general nature of the financial conditions attaching ‘ to eacharrangement between the Commonwealth and the Slates. Further information relating to the payments inthis table is contained in the White Paper “ Commonwealth Payments to or forthe States, 1965-66 “.
b asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
m asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
What payments have been made to the -
non-sterling area in each of the last two years for -
t. - The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows -
Overseas exchange has been allocated as follows during the last two years -
m asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows - 1. (a) Payments made to registered hospital benefits organisations by their members during the financial year 1963-64 amounted to £25,745,138. Figures for 1964-65 are not yet available,
The average amount of Commonwealth benefits paid per claim during 1964-65 was £9 2s. 3d.
The total operating expenses incurred by registered hospital benefits organisations for the financial year 1963-64 amounted to £3,542,244. The 1964-65 figure is not yet available.
a asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows -
The figures for Commonwealth and State Government debt in the table below, are of securities on issue as published in the White Paper on Government Securities on Issue and in the annual Finance Bulletin issued by the Commonwealth Statistician.
The amounts shown for local and semigovernmental authorities include, in addition to securities on issue, net overdrafts, and liabilities of over one year for which no formal securities have been issued. These are also published in the Finance Bulletin.
The latest date for which comparable information is available for all authorities is 30th June 1963. Details are as follows -
m asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Does the Statistician request or receive information on the registration of births, e.g., the names of unmarried mothers below a certain age?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows -
The Statistician receives information on the registration of births for the compilation of official statistics. This information includes names of mothers of all ages, whether married or unmarried, and once in the hands of the Statistician is confidential under the Census and Statistics Act and may not be divulged to any other person or authority.
n asked the Treasurer upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
Royal Australian Navy. (Question No. 1206.)
e asked the Minister for the
Navy, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows - 1.150 sailors.
In addition to the above numbers) 38 Ordinary Seamen (Sick Berth Attendants) are under training and of a total overall allowed of 217 the number borne is 188. The shortages are distributed mostly between the two Naval hospitals at H.M.A.S. Cerberus (Flinders Naval Hospital, Victoria) and H.M.A.S Penguin (Balmoral Naval Hospital, New South Wales) while the complements of H.M.A. Ships and the smaller Naval establishments are maintained at as high a level as possible with little or no reduction in numbers. Since March 1965, five per cent. of all recruits are being categorised into the Sick Berth Branch and concurrently a large number of Women’s Royal Australian Naval Service Sick Berth Attendants are being recruited to help alleviate the shortage.
b asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
In view of the shocking state of Australians’ teeth, will he give consideration to the introduction of a national dental scheme?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows -
The provision of adequate dental facilities is the responsibility of State Governments, just as the States arc responsible for providing medical and hospital services within their borders. The Commonwealth is already making a very substantial contribution towards meeting the costs of health services and is providing financial assistance of over £100 million per annum. I have given and will continue to give earnest consideration to ways and means of improving national health services within the limits of available finance. However, there is no immediate plan to introduce a national dental scheme.
b asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
Will he provide separate medical entitlement cards for married pensioner couples?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows -
Generally, a single Pensioner Medical Service entitlement card is issued to a married pensioner couple to cover their needs, except in the case of a couple living apart. In the majority of cases, it is considered that this does not impose any inconvenience upon pensioner couples so far as the Pensioner Medical Service or the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme is concerned. Where special circumstances exist, separate cards are issued on receipt of an application setting out the reasons for the request.
b asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows -
b asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows -
Of a total of 5,635 young men medically examined for consideration for call-up in the first Army intake of national servicemen during the week beginning 28th June 1965, 29 per cent, were classified at the initial examination as not fit for service duties and 17 per cent, were deferred for further consideration.
The standards of fitness required of national servicemen are the same as those required of volunteers for the Regular Army and are necessarily high because the men are required to perform two years’ full-time service in the Permanent Forces in Australia, and overseas if required. The first group of young men examined was by no means fully representative of all young men who registered; for example, it did not include any of those granted deferment of call-up because they were students, apprentices or members of the Citizen Forces. My department has already begun a study of the data revealed by the medical examinations and is consulting with the Department of Health regarding a more detailed examination of the implications of the data.
b asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
m asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
Convention concerning Minimum Age for Admission to employment Underground in Mines.
Convention concerning Medical Examination of Young Persons for Fitness for Employment Underground in Mines.
Recommendation concerning Minimum Age for Admission to Employment Underground in Mines.
Recommendation concerning Conditions of Employment of Young Persons Underground in Mines.
Recommendation concerning the Employment of Women with Family Responsibilities.
For ratification or acceptance -
Convention No. 112 - New South Wales
Convention No. 122 and Recommendation No. 122 - South Australia.
Recommendation No. 113 - Tasmania
Recommendation No. 1 17 - Victoria
Against ratification or acceptance -
Conventions Nos. 120 and 121, and Recommendations Nos. 120 and 121 - South Australia.
Convention No. 122 and Recommendation No. 122 - Victoria,
Poatina Irrigation Project.
– On Tuesday, 31st August 1965, the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) asked me without notice when the Government would give a decision on a request made nine months ago by the Premier of Tasmania for Commonwealth assistance for the Poatina irrigation project in northern Tasmania. I said then that I knew the matter to be under investigation and hoped to be able to give the honorable member an answer within a few days.
The position is that, although the Tasmanian Premier did, late in 1964, request Commonwealth financial assistance for the Cressy-Longford irrigation scheme and forwarded in support a report by the Tasmanian Rivers and Water Supply Commission, it was found that insufficient information had been provided to allow the Government to complete a proper study of the proposal. Consequently, the Tasmanian Rivers and Water Supply Commission was asked to furnish additional information and this was received earlier this year. Since that time the matter has been under close consideration by Commonwealth officials.
The officials’ examination of the request is now almost complete and I expect the Government soon to be in a position to study the matter.
– On 25th August the honorable member for Shortland (Mr. Griffiths) asked me a question without notice concerning the reference in the AuditorGeneral’s report to the accounting methods adopted in the overseas division of the Department of External Affairs. I said then that I would have a look at the matter.
The position is that certain deficiencies have been brought to the notice of the Department of External Affairs. The department has said it is taking steps to rectify these deficiencies in consultation with the Treasury and the Audit Office and I can assure the honorable member that the suggestions made by the Auditor-General will be followed up.
b asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice -
Which of the ships owned by Australian companies and trading overseas from Australian ports or trading between Australian ports are manned by crews not employed under Australian award conditions?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows -
The following ships owned by Australian companies trade between Australia and overseas countries and are partly manned by crews not paid under Australian awards; -
These ships are not registered in Australia or licensed under section 288 of the Navigation Act to engage in the coasting trade.
Ships owned by Australian companies and trading between Australian ports employ crews engaged in Australia under the relevant Commonwealth and State awards.
Department of Housing. (Question No. 1149.)
son asked the Minister for
Housing, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
son asked the Minister representing the Minister for Customs and Excise, upon notice -
– The Minister for Customs and Excise has furnished the following answers to the honorable member’s questions -
Chairman - £320 per annum.
Deputy Chairman - £270 per annum. 4 Members, each - £210 per annum.
No. 66 29th September, 1960
No. 16 16th February, 1961
No. 87 2nd November, 1961
No. 11 22nd February, 1962
No. 47 21st June, 1962
No. 64 1st August, 1963
No. 75 12th September. 1963
No. 104 5th December, 1963
No. 6 16th January, 1964
No. 39 30th April, 1964
No. 74 3rd September, 1964
No. 80 24th September, 1964
No. 96 26th November, 1964
No. 45 10th June, 1965
No. 69 19th August, 1965
Control of imported literature is authorised by regulation 4a and Items 20, 21 and 22 of the Second Schedule to the Customs (Prohibited Imports) Regulations which prohibit, except with the written consent of the Minister, the importation of- blasphemous, indecent or obscene works or articles and advertising matter relating to blas phemous, indecent or obscene works or articles (regulation 4a); literature advocating the forceful overthrowof the government (Item 20); and literature which, by words or pictures or partly seditious literature (Item 21); by words and partly by pictures, in the opinion of the Minister -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 14 September 1965, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1965/19650914_reps_25_hor47/>.