8th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator theHon. T. Givens) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
The following papers were presented : -
Commercial Activities Act- Regulations Statutory Rules 1920, No. 64.
Defence Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Bales 1920, No. 46.
Elections and Referendums - StatisticalReturns in relation to the Senate Election, 1919; the General Elections for the House of Representatives, 1919; and the submission to the Electors of Proposed Laws for the alteration of the Constitution, entitled (1) Constitution Alteration (Legislative Powers) 1919; (2) Constitution Alteration (Nationalization of Monopolies) 1919; together with Summaries of Elections and Referendums, 1903-1919. Elections, 1919 - Statistical Returns showing the Voting within such Subdivision in relation to the Senate Election, 1919, and the General Elections for the House of Representatives, 1919, viz.: -
New South Wales.
Income Tax - Royal Commission - Minutes of Evidence with Appendices -
Seventh Instalment (Papers presented to the British. Parliament).
Papua - Ordinances of 1919 -
No. 2 - Roman Catholic Mission Property.
No. 3 - War Precautions (Validating).
No. 4 - Prisons.
Public Service Act -
Appointments and Promotions -
Prime Minister’s Department - W. E. Dunk, N. J. O’Heare.
Department of the Treasury - G. G. M. Pain.
Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1920, No. 43.
War Precautions Act - Regulations amended -Statutory Rules 1920, No. 2-No. 52.
War Service Homes Act - Land acquired for War Service Homes purposes atWaratah, New South Wales, Spotswood, Victoria.
– I ask the Minister in charge of Governmentbusiness in the Senate, referring to the proposed visit of His Royal Highness the Prince ofWales, whether in view of the fact that there is a Lord Mayor representing Labour presiding over the Municipal Council of Sydney and a Labour Government in office in New SouthWales, and that the National party and the National press for some years have continuously spread the report that Labour representatives are disloyalists, proGermans, Sinn Feiners, and I.W.W. men, will the Government telegraph to their Majesties the Royal parents of the Prince that such statements have no truth whatever in them, and were merely used by the Nationalist party as dope for their silly followers ?
– The honorable senator should not debate the matter.
– And will the Government inform them, in order to relieve their mental anxiety, if they have believed these statements, that the Prince ofWales is assured of as loyal a welcome at the hands of Labour in New South Wales as if any other Government were in office ?
– I am sure that the honorable senator will get more satisfaction out of putting his question than he would from any answer I could give, and I therefore do not propose to say anything further.
– I ask the Minister for Defence, regarding certain cables published in the Australian metropolitan dailies of the 12th inst. concerning the alleged distress of a number of Australian soldiers in London awaiting their return to Australia and the difficulties of meeting their distress, has he received, beyond what has been published in the press, any direct representation by cable or otherwise from Commonwealth authorities or others in London dealing with the matter, and, if so, what is the nature of the alleged distress, and what action has been taken to relieve it?
– The honorable senator is slightly inaccurate. The cable to which he refers did not say that the distress was amongst Australian soldiers, but amongst soldiers who had taken their discharge at their own request in England. They consequently come more properly under the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen), and he has cabled to the High Commissioner to ascertain the facts.
– It was said that they were awaiting transport to Australia.
– They were not a charge on the Commonwealth Government at all, because every Australian soldier who, at his own request, took his discharge in the United Kingdom signed a statement that he thereby relieved the Commonwealth Government of any financial obligation whatsoever on his account. He took his discharge with that knowledge.
– He was setting out for himself.
– That is so. The alleged distress is said to exist amongst those discharged men, to whom the Commonwealth Government are under no obligation whatsoever, but having seen the statement referred to, the Minister for Repatriation caused a cable to be sent to the High Commissioner to inquire as to the truth or otherwise of the statement.
So far no reply has been received, and no report has been received from any Commonwealth officer that distress does exist amongst Australians in London.
Bill received from House of Representatives, and (on motion by Senator Pearce) read a first time.
The Wool Position : Control of Sales :
– I have received from Senator Pratten an intimation that he proposes to move to-day that the Senate adjourn until 10 a.m. to-morrow, for the purpose of discussing a matter of urgent public importance, namely, “ the wool position.”
.- I move-
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn until 10 a.m. to-morrow.
Four honorable senators having risen in theirplaces in support of the motion,
– Crossing the border this morning I noticed in an edition of one of the country dailies of New South Wales a cablegram that had reached it since yesterday, headed “ Australian Wool.” The sub-heading was “ Our next clip wasted.” The cable was dated London, 13th April, and reads: “ The Daily Mail understands that the British Government is negotiating with the Australian Government for the preemption of the wool clip.” No such cable appears in the Melbourne dailies this morning, and the one I have quoted purports to be a Reuter’s message. Perhaps the printer of that border daily builded better than he knew when he suggested that if the wool-growers of Australia pre-empted the next wool clip, the clip would be wasted. I propose setting out, so far as I amable, the wool position of the Commonwealth as I see it to-day. I intend examining the administration of the Central Wool Committee, making some reference to the wool tops agreement, and attempting to analyze the position in an endeavour to ascertain what is the amount of money due to the wool-growers of Australia in the way of profits. I propose having something to say on what should be done in the interests of this vast industry, and it may be that the importance of the topic may compel me to throw myself upon the- indulgence’ of the Senate in regard to the time I am likely to occupy, as I am afraid I shall not be able to complete my remarks in the period of half-an-hour allowed by the Standing Orders. It is a matter of common knowledge and agreement that wool is largely the basis of the finances of the Commonwealth. It is our oldest and greatest industry and has a direct bearing upon the comfort and prosperity of every citizen. My object in initiating a discussion upon this overwhelmingly important matter to the wool-growers and every one of us is that the very best in the interest of the country at large should be done to aid, guide, and help the wool industry. It is certain that many members of this Parliament could explain the technicalities of this complex industry better than I, who have no financial or other interest in the matter, but I am hopeful of adding something to the common knowledge whereby those interested may be helped to a decision in their own interests and those of the country.
The real control of wool started when the prohibition of its export without the consent in writing of the Minister for Trade and Customs was gazetted under the Customs Act on 23rd October, 1914, by Mr. Tudor, the then Minister for Trade and Customs. A similar export prohibition was issued by the Minister with regard to sheepskins on 28th October of the same year. The regulations of the Central Wool Committee did not come into force until 23rd November, 1916, and during the hiatus in the wool trade between the date of the prohibition of the export without the consent of the Minister and the issue of regulations under which the Central Wool Committee exercised full control, trade went on through its normal channels, export being allowed only to England, France, Italy, and Japan. During his visit to England in 1916 the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) approached the Imperial authorities regarding the matter, and at a big conference of wool-growers, held in Melbourne towards the end of 1916, the Prime Minister, on his return, was authorized to sell the whole of the Australian clip straight out to the BritishGovernment at ls. 3d. per lb. flat rate. The first official cable, I understand, in connexion with this matter was sent by the Prime Minister on the 14th November, 1916, and, so far as I can understand, those who had attended the conference - consisting, I am told, almost entirely of producers - were anxious for their offer of ls. 3d. to be accepted. Ultimately the sale of the remainder of the 1916-17 clip at ls. 3Jd. per lb. was made, “being £d. more than the growers themselves offered to sell for. This rate at the time, however, was a slight reduction on the prices ruling towards the latter part of the year 1916, but was a considerable increase, about 55 per cent., on the price of pre-war years. It was owing particularly to the knowledge obtained when in London of the world’s wool shortage that the Prime Minister sensed an advancing market, and on the 30th November, 1916, after his return to Australia made a further condition” with the British Government, on his own initiative, that, in addition to getting ls. 3$d. per lb. flat rate, the wool-growers of Australia should get half the profits made by the British Government in selling the wool to the’ world’s consumers at the world’s parity, the reservation by the British authorities being that all wool required for military and naval purposes could be sold at the flat rate; that is, at cost price plus expenses, but without profit. This reservation included wool required for the Allied as well as the British Forces. So far as I know, the sales of the 1917-18; 1918-19, and 1919-20 clips were on the same basis, so that we can speak of all the Australian wool sales that have been made to the British Government up to now as being similar to one another, and on the same terms ;and conditions.
It is to the Prime Minister alone that we owe the fact of getting Jd. per lb. more on the foul* wool clips sold. This, in itself, amounts to a sum of, approximately, £5,000,000. It is also due to his efforts that we get the extra profit which will eventually come ‘to Australia on the world’s prices. It was entirely owing to the persistence of the Prime Minister and his skilful handling of the position that the bargain was made, and that the further benefits which the wool-growers will get over and above the price they asked have been obtained.
Of all the problems that revolve round this complicated and complex wool position, there is none that has so far raised so much controversy, unrest, ill-feeling, and trouble as the reservation, in the sale to the British Government, of wool for Australian industries at the flat rate. In order to make the position as clear as possible, I desire ‘to quote from Hansard the words uttered by the Prime Minister in another place on the 6th December, 1916. On this point he said -
All interests involved, including those of the manufacturer, scourer, and fellmonger, have been taken into consideration and safeguarded. It is the intention of the Government to retain from the clip a quantity of wool sufficient for the purposes of the Commonwealth, and also to send overseas as much scoured wool as possible, in order that employment may be given to our own men.
On 14th December he said -
The idea is to have the treatment of the wool as far as possible to its ultimate form carried out in Australia.
There is no doubt at all that in the first sale to the British Government it was clearly understood that they purchased the whole of our wool, less Commonwealth manufacturers’ requirements, or, to put it in another way, there was a clear understanding that sufficient wool should be reserved to keep all the Commonwealth industries allied with wool working full time. This basis of sale is indorsed in the first report of the Central Wool Committee, printed on 25th July, 1917, from which I take the following extracts : -
The local requirements of woollen manufacturers amounted to 10,207,834 lbs.
The fellmongering and scouring industries have been carefully protected, and all wellequipped works throughout the Commonwealth have been fully engaged. At present the scouring and fellmongering capacity in certain wool centres is far below requirements, and much larger quantities” of wool would be earmarked for local scouring if the plants were available.
The manufacture of wool tops for export is under the control of the Commonwealth Central Wool Committee. The raw wool used in this industry is paid for on the flat-rate basis of 15*d. per lb, and “ tops “ are sold at prices fixed by the Army Contracts- Wool Committee, London. Agreements exist between the Commonwealth Government and the manufacturing companies whereby the profits are regulated, and according to definite terms set out in the agreement, a certain percentage is returned to the Commonwealth Government.
Culled from another part of the report are the words -
Particulars of wool actually purchased by the British Government after meeting requirements of Commonwealth manufacture.
Another sentence is -
Particulars of wool purchased by Commonwealth manufacturers.
Senator Russell further defined the position by definitely stating on 27th August, 1919, that wool required for the manufacture of wool-tops in Australia for export was regarded as included in local requirements, and that the arrangement made with the British Government would not affect the manufacture of wool-tops for export.
All the evidence, therefore, is that it was clearly intended that Australian manufacturers should get all the wool they needed in their business at the flat rate both for local consumption and export, and that the Commonwealth Government alone should profit bythe worlds parity on Australian manufactures sold for export, and the CentralWool Committee itself, including the growers’representatives on it, established that principle.
The Central “Wool Committee, together with the State “Wool Committees operating in each separate State, consist of gentlemen with a thorough knowledge of the wool trade from their respective stand-points and interests; but, I have never been able to satisfy myself as to what is their exact locus standi.
– Nor anybody else.
– I am glad to hear that interjection, and propose to make a little analysis to find out where we are. I do not know whether they regard themselves as acting only for the British Government, and entirely in their interests as purchasers of. the surplus Australian wool clip, or whether they regard themselves also as trustees for the Australian wool-growers.
Let us analyze what they say about their own duties. In their report of 1918 they state that at the commencement of that season they decided that only shorn wool should participate in any distribution of moneys over the flat rate of 151/2d. per lb., thereby encouraging the export of wool on skins to. the British Govern ment to the prejudice and loss of the producer and scourer. They further stated -
It is contrary to the instructions of the Director of Raw Materials, London, that any agitation to increase the number of appraising centres should continue.
Honorable senators will remember that that refers to the objections raised in this Chamber to important appraising centres, such as Newcastle, being shut out of the scheme. The Central Wool Committee, apparently, tell us that that was done on instructions from London. In another paragraph they stated -
Wool tops are sold at a price fixed by the Army Contracts Wool Committee, London.
In another part they said -
The fellmongering and scouring industries have been carefully protected during the term under review consistent with the instructions from the Director of Raw Materials.
As trustees of Imperial Government wool, we must adhere strictly to the requirements and directions of those controlling the British wool scheme.
The 1918-19 report contained the statement -
The privilege of purchasing wool at appraised prices was again extended to woollen manufacturers.
I wish emphatically to assert that the sale of wool to local manufacturers is a right, not a privilege, and has nothing to do with the British Government purchase. I regard with some trepidation the administration of the wool scheme in such a way as to make it now appear that the British Government own everything and that the Director-General of Raw Materials should lay down the policy upon which our secondary industries are to be supplied.
– The honorable senator is referring to the Imperial DirectorGeneral of Raw Materials?
– Yes. Judged by the paragraphs I have read from the reports, the tendency of recent administration is to carry out the instructions of the Director-General of Raw Materials, London, with regard to the whole of the wools produced in Australia. Sir Arthur Goldfinch, the Director- General of Raw Materials in London, is the chairman of the British Wool Council, which consists of representatives of the wool industry of Britain and includes a representation of labour. The Council was formed for the purpose of advising the British Government on all wool matters, and I understand that much, if not the preponderating, interest, upon ‘the Council, is represented by Yorkshire manufacturers. There were, of course, many hundreds of sub-committees formed in England during the stress of war.
– But the textile industry in Great Britain is principally located in Yorkshire, is it not?
– Yes. When we speak of the British Government in connexion with wool matters it must always be remembered that it is not Mr. Lloyd George, or Lord Milner, or Mr. Balfour, or Mr. Amery, or any of the other Imperial statesmen that we are referring to, but that the wool control in England consists of representatives of the woollen and allied industries there, and is practically a commercial advisory body whose chairman is Sir Arthur Goldfinch, who is officially designated Director-General of R,aw Materials. Apparently, then, the administration of matters concerning the growers of wool has been guided from Great Britain, necessarily so, I admit, if the world’s parity is to be secured. But in view of the personnel of the British Wool Council, I assure honorable senators that all the evidence is that Yorkshire interests are not lost sight of. In fact the immensity of the fortunes which have recently been made by Yorkshire wool-spinners is one of the commercial scandals that is now troubling the British public.
Clearly the arrangements for half the profits upon all wool sold for civilian purposes made the Australian growers partners with the British Government in its sale.’ I think the growers have a right to complain that they have been given no indication of what is Australia’s share in the enormous prices which have been- obtained for wool in the world’s market during the last year or two. They may justly complain that no accounts have been rendered of their half-share of the profits made by the British Government on the world’s parity. Neither have they, nor has any of us, even an approximate official estimate of what that share is, although considerably more than half of the whole four clips sold to Britain has been, re-sold. Although nominally the Commonwealth Government must be responsible for the administration of the Wool Pool, the Prime
Minister must not be charged - particularly as he was absent for such a long period at Versailles - with that responsibility. Nor can the Government be charged’ with any faults of administration. These must be solely the responsibility of the Central Wool Committee, as, up- to a point, the slightest wish of that body has been indorsed by the Government as a whole. Had this Committee been given less responsibility on questions of policy, and had its activities been confined purely to matters of administration, some of the troubles with which we are faced would not have arisen.
A good many complaints have been made of the autocratic, tyrannical, and arbitrary action of the chairman of the Central Wool Committee in connexion with various interests here. In my opinion injustices have been inflicted upon certain interests in connexion with the administration of the Wool Pool. Country scouring has been gravely prejudiced. The tops industry has not been fairly treated, and scourers and fellmongers have resented so much the injustices under which they have suffered that they have taken the matter to the Law Courts.
It is most reprehensible that some time ago a secret attempt was made, a secret campaign entered upon by the Central Wool Committee, or somebody connected with it, to extend the existing wool scheme for a further period of five years till 30th June, 1925. This campaign was initiated, or, at any rate, was vigorously prosecuted, by the Chairman of the Central Wool Committee. Quoting from the London Weekly Times of 1st August last, Mr. Andrew Williamson, of the Australian Estates and Mortgage Company, London, is reported to have said that-
The chairman had been entrusted by the Government with very wide and almost autocratic powers, including the censorship of cables, and that there were at that time indications that whatever might be the view and intentions of the Cabinet- - that is, the Australian Cabinet - the chairman of the Central Wool Committee was determined to carry through his scheme of extension of control till 30th June, 1025, and that, he was vigorously and secretly at work to effect his object.
Mr. Williamson went on to say
As in duty bound, our manager in Australia cabled to us in regard to this matter so vitally affecting our post-war interests, and advised us as to the best way, in his judgment, to safeguard those interests and those of our constituents. Though this dealt with future arrangements outside of the war altogether, and outside of the official sphere of the chairman of the Central Wool Committee, our manager’s cables were not only censored, but were held back altogether, and communication with his principals - the owners and growers of the wool - was deliberately blocked by a flagrant abuse of bureaucratic power conferred for war-time purposes.
This reference is to Mr. Smith, the manager of the company in Melbourne, who was also threatened, I understand, by the Chairman of the Central Wool Committee with a fine of £1,000 if he attempted any criticism of his (the chairman’s) action.
– Has any reply ever been made to the allegation which the honorable senator has just quoted ?
– Not to my knowledge. In the opinion of many who are best able to judge, a further five years’ control of wool upon the present terms would be a tragic blunder for Australia, and could have no other effect than that of protecting for five years the trade interests which are being conserved by the Pool, and swinging the whole of our wool interests into the hands of the present wool bureaucracy.
– Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
Extension of time granted, on motion by Senator Pearce.
– I thank honorable senators for the extension of time. This is a very important topic, and I hope, later, to add information with regard to the pounds, shillings, and pence view of the position. I was saying that, in the opinion of many of those best able to judge, a further five years’ control of wool on the present terms would be a blunder from the Australian stand-point, and could have no other effect than that of protecting for five years the trade interests that are being served by the Pool. I do not think it would, or could, safeguard Australian financial wool interests as efficiently and effectively as re-establishing the wool trade here would do- that is, re-establishing Sydney and Melbourne in the proud position of being two of the principal wool distributing centres of the world.
There has been admittedly a tremendous amount of profiteering on Australian wool in England, and in view of the published statements I am surprised that the keen men on the Central Wool Committee have not insisted upon being supplied with information as to what share of this is coming to the part owners of the wool in Australia.
– I understand the Treasurer has gone Home to attend to that matter.
– I will come to that. Irrefutable evidence has accumulated that profiteering during the war was winked at by the British Government, as it was one of the many avenues for raising the large amounts required to carry on the war. Virtually, while the British war- time profits tax (the provisions of which since the war have been eased, but not entirely abolished), existed, it resolved itself into British ship-owners and manufacturers constituting themselves profiteers throughout the world at a commission of 20 per cent. to themselves and80 per cent. to the British Government.
While not desiring to unduly stress my complaints in connexion with the administration of the Pool from the stand-point of the growers or the subsidiary industries, it is clear that there is a great amount of justification for keen criticism seeing that the Treasurer (Mr. Watt), now on his way to England, has publicly stated that one of his very important duties will be to attempt to unravel the wool tangle. This is a pregnant admission that wool interests from the stand-point of Australia have got into a tangle, and responsibility for this must be taken by the Central Wool Committee. It is a matter of regret that the sale of the wool of the current clip was made at the old prices and on the old’ conditions, and, as things have turned out, the bad judgment of those who advocated it has been costly to the producer. However, to think what might have been is futile. We can all be wise after the event, but we cannot afford to make further mistakes.
Suggestions have been made and a good deal of propaganda work has been indulged in in order, by clever publicity, to bring the Australian woolgrowers into the frame of mind that it will be necessary, in their own interests, to continue the Wool Pool in some way, and to control exports, sales, and shipments. A Wool Council has been formed here. It is a voluntary body, consisting of half brokers and half growers, and the chairman is Mr. Murphy. I understand he does not grow any wool or own any wool. He is a retired squatter, and is said to be persona grata to the present Central Wool Committee or some members of it.
The suggestion emanating from this propaganda work, and’ which has been scattered broadcast all over Australia, is that future control is to be on the lines of sending all wool to brokers to be valued by experts. In other words, the growers of the wool must hand their property over to the broker, and a preliminary valuation will be made by the experts of the Pool. It will then be offered at auction twice, and if not sold at the valuation placed upon it, the grower may jet the consent of the Wool Pool, or Committee, or Council, or control, and ship it abroad. This consent may. however, be arbitrarily withheld. I would point out that this brief outline of the proposed scheme still inflicts upon the wool-growers of Australia bureaucratic domination. It has been most strongly objected to by some of the graziers associations in my own State, and producers, in effect, will practically lose control of their own property if this scheme is carried out.
I understand that the proposal has been submitted to wool-growers, and that a ballot is now being taken, and will close on the 30th’ of this month; but the question of who controls the ballot, what the basis of the franchise is, and all other matters relating to this proposal to ascertain the real desire of the wool-growers of Australia is not generally known. The occasion may arise, however, later, when information on these points will be demanded. .1 should like now to read an extract from an article that appeared in The Land newspaper, published in Sydney, recently, as follows: -
A meeting of growers of the West Darling was held at Broken Hill last week. . . . The report of a deputation which waited on the’ chairman of the Central Wool Committee was read, and after a long discussion the following resolution was adopted: - “That all members of the Pastoralists Association of West Darling pledge themselves to vote solidly for the formation of the Australian Wool Council, and to influence other woolgrowers to use their best endeavours to bring such council to a successful issue.” Members expressed appreciation of the way the Central Wool Committee had handled matters in the past, but agreed to accept the advice of the chairman, Sir John Higgins, regarding the council.
Therefore I am justified hi saying that the formation of the proposed Wool Council is supported by the Chairman of the Central Wool Committee, if it has not been initiated by him.
I understand in connexion with this socalled ballot amongst the wool-growers, that those in authority have refused to place any counter proposals before the growers. I merely mention that fact as fair comment, but I say that it would certainly be to the advantage of some wool-broking firms to see the wool controlled and a monopoly of wool selling established which would be confined to the existing houses, and with the exception, perhaps, of some of the co-operative companies, they would then speak as one as to just what they would charge the growers for the selling and handling of their wool and produce, but this position would be intolerable for wool-growers and the trade alike.
The three principal reasons given to the wool-growers of Australia as arguments for the necessity of further extending bureaucratic control are that there will be great difficulty about finance, troubles about shipping space, and that the sale of the next clip may compete with the balance on hand held and paid for by the British Government, with a consequent possible- slump in prices.
With regard to the point of finance. Leading bankers in Australia do not consider there will be any difficulty in financing next season’s clip if normal Australian wool business is re-established.
As to shipping, we know how rapidly ship-building is going cn. Few people realize, that the tonnage of the British merchant service has now overtaken the level at which it stood previous to the war. There is a large increase in tonnage over the pre-war totals in other countries, particularly in America, Japan, and Scandinavia, and seeing that the freight on Australian greasy wool, which went as high as 3£d. per lb. during the war, is now 1?d. per lb., or 303/- per ton - over double the price before the war - and that it is not likely that there will be much more than 1,000,000 bales of wool left on hand in Australia on 30th June next, and no wheat or tallow, it seems likely that ships will soon be looking for cargoes instead of cargoes looking for ships. It is more than likely that at the present rate of 1?d. per lb., there will be no more difficulty in shipping from Australia to the world’s centres the next wool clip than there was before the war. Senator Fairbairn, in a letter to the press, states that -
His information from England is that after the 30th September shipping space for wool will be open to Australian growers. There will be no danger of Government interference with private sales of growers’ wool, and the British Government would co-operate with growers here regarding the separate selling of the new clip.
The portion of the clip sold to the British Government in 1916-17 amounted to 1,082,000 bales, of an appraised value of £22,150,000. In addition to the above, Australian, manufacturers consumed wool to the value of £1,000,000. The next clip, 1917-18, was about 1,825,000 bales, of an appraised value of £39,500.000; Australian manufacturers again this season consuming a further £1,000,000 worth.. In 191S-19 the British Government purchase amounted to nearly 1,920,000 bales, of a total appraised value of £42,500,000, Commonwealth manufacturers taking this year further wool to the value of £1,500,000. The total, therefore, of the portion of three clips sold to the British Government was about 4,827,000 bales, of an appraised value of about £105,000,000, or, say , an average of £22 per bale of 350 lbs. weight. The best judges I have been able to consult estimate that the portion of 1919-20 clip for sale abroad will be in the region of 1,600,000 bales, and, so far as I can ascertain, there will be of the four clips not much more than 1,000,000 bales left in Australia on the 30th June next.
Sir John Higgins said, as recently as the 24th of March, that transport arrangements are such that it would be practically impossible to ship the whole of the wool purchased by the Imperial Government this year. This opinion does not reflect the opinion of high shipping authorities, as, in addition to the list of steam-ship lines trading to and from Australia and the United Kingdom, now associated with Lord Inchcape or his group, the following are direct competitors for the Australian trade with one another as well as with the Inchcape group: - White Star Line, Aberdeen White Star Line, Holt’s Blue Funnel Line, EllermanBucknall Line, Clan Line, Scottish Shire, Commonwealth ‘ and Dominion Line, Cunard Line.
It seems, therefore, that a carry-over of, say, 1,000,000 bales on 1st of July next is not beyond the ability or the desire of so many competing steam-ship companies to lift at a very rapid rate, especially as very little other freight for the remainder of this year from Australia will be available. A weighty, and the only, argument in favour of the continuation of the wool control is that with regard to the carry-over wool stocks that will be in the hands of the British wool control. So far as I can ascertain, basing my calculations on the figures issued in an official cable message to the chairman of the Central Wool Committee regarding Australian wool stocks held by the British Government in the United Kingdom, Antwerp, and the United States of America, as well as those afloat and stocks here, there were 2,250,000 bales of Australian wool to be sold on 1st January last, plus the estimated quantity still to be appraised from 1st January of this year to 30th June next - say one-third of the clip, or 550,000 bales. There will be, therefore, a total of 2,800,000 bales of Australian .wool to be sold as from 1st January last, and according to another estimate in connexion with the opening up of the Continental markets, 225,000 bales of the world’s wool can be, with advantage, marketed in England per month. We can, therefore, reasonably assume that up to 1st November next - in a period of ten months - in view of the world’s wool hunger, there could not be a carry-over of Australian wool of much more than 1,000,000 bales.
As a member of this Parliament I have nothing but kindly thoughts of the British people and the Imperial Government in connexion with the treatment meted out to Australia during war time. I believe that many df the big commercial deals that were made by the HomeGovernment with Australia were not made with any ideas of obtaining profits- from our producers, and the British Government in many ways showed a desire to help us during a time of stress and difficulty. These deals, however, have turned out to be unexpectedly profitable to the Home Government and the British Treasury, and indications have appeared in the public press that those in authority there when the present wool control expires on 30th June next would favorably regard a policy, in connexion with stocks of wool held in Britain, of cooperation with Australian interests concerning the marketing and selling of our next clip, as they do not want or desire further wool control.
The Director-General of Raw Materials has expressed in no measured terms his strong desire to consider Australia regarding stocks of carry-over wool, in order that any arrangements entered into would not clash with the marketing of the 1920-21 Australian wool clip.
It should be remembered that this 1,000,000 .bales, comprising the estimated carry-over of Australian wool on 1st November next referred to, will probably be at least half, if not two-thirds, merino, and of the cross-bred sorts a good deal is fine wool and particularly suitable for the Belgian and German markets, the latter of which is now beginning to absorb supplies.
I suggest, therefore, in view of Australian wool having been so very profitable to the British Government, and Australia and New Zealand being the only two wool-producing countries that have not obtained the world’s parity for their producers, that there be no sales in Australia for the new clip until the first of November next, and that the British Government be asked to undertake to stop all sales in London of Australian wool from 1st November, 1920, to 1st May, 1921, allowing Australia to reestablish her trade and preponderating position in wool distribution without any clash in connexion with carry-over stocks of wool in the Motherland.
There must be a large reduction in the 1920-21 clip here owing to drought. New South Wales alone has lost from 25 per cent, to 35 per cent, of her sheep - in other words, considerably over 10,000,000 sheep out of the 40,000,000 in that State are gone. This means a reduction of one-eighth in the next Commonwealth clip. The Argentine flocks have been reduced by drought from £0,000,000 to 42,000,000, so that there will be a little more than half the quantity of wool exported from that big woolproducing centre for the coming year
Cotton, with which the world’s coarse wools compete, is still worth in Liverpool to-day more than 2s. per lb. There are 4,000,000 bales, each 500 lbs., or 2,000,000,000 lbs. weight used in England every year ; consequently, I feel sure that the great bulk of the evidence is that a free market will ultimately be much more profitable to the producer than a continuation of control which expires by effluxion of time” on 30th June next.
The fact of the world’s diminishing wool production must help to protect next season’s market and safeguard Australian wool-growers against low .prices for their produce. The maximum amount of money to the Commonwealth producers at a time it is so badly wanted could thereby be assured. Further advantages would clearly be, the probability of higher net prices to the grower ; complete freedom for Australia of trade,, with no intermediate profits, expenses, or interested controls ; the lifting of bureaucratic domination, by which our wool-growers would have no partners, no outside vested interests or disabilities in connexion with their property which have so often worked against them, and the veil of mystery with which our wool operations for years has been shrouded would be lifted.
– What would be the negotiating authority at this end’?
– The Commonwealth Government. Clever Yorkshiremen, who so often beat Australia, will have to deal with stronger sellers, and there will be ‘no more transactions such as letting 450,000 bales of wool go at issue price with the perfectly correct and laudable idea of reducing the price of British tweeds, but which was ultimately engineered by Bradford manufacturers to their own advantage and sole profit. In addition to this, I understand that about 250,000 bales were also sold to our Allies, including the United States of America, at issue prices, for civilian purposes - a clear infraction of the honorable understanding made by the Prime Minister that our wool, excepting that required for British and Allied naval and military purposes, should be sold at world’s prices, and that half the profits therefrom should go to Australian growers. If the control is lifted, we shall have no more wool-top or wool-scourers’ complaints, as all will have to pay the world’s parity.
I am glad the Prime Minister has been strong enough to settle the wooltops controversy. Where the Central Wool Committee departed from the basis of wool control laid down by him they went wrong. For two years Australia has lost much wealth owing to the practical idleness of the big works at Botany, which are the eighth largest in the world, and comprise awes of machinery. I am one of those who believe that the bigger the favorable balance of overseas Australian trade is - be it in primary products, manufactured goods, or partiallymanufactured goods - the more easily shall we be able to bear our financial burden. In the first agreement made with the Colonial Combing, Spinning and Weaving Company, wherein the profits were equally shared by the Government and the company, the recommendation for the Prime Minister to sign is indorsed on the agreement by J. M. Higgins, Chairman of the Central Wool Committee. Now, the Prime Minister has been strong enough to insist that work in this very important industry shall continue, and has made a much better contract with the company, wherein they get only 20 per cent, of the net profits, and the company has further to set off those profits against any claim in its cross-action against the Government.
– Where does the wool-grower come in?
– I shall tell the honorable senator shortly. In this action, which is sub judice, the company charges the Central Wool Committee with the repudiation of a signed and sealed agreement. No doubt the company has been advised by the best legal brains in Australia, ‘but I hope, for the sake of the reputations of the gentlemen constituting the Central Wool Committee, from the Chairman down, that its case will not be sustained. The Prime Minister has tried to carry out the policy he laid down at the inception of the wool scheme that Australian industries and workmen should be fully employed. Credit, surely, should be given where credit is due. The growers may have a case, which the
Prime Minister has already agreed to consider in regard to wool used for the manufacture of wool-tops for export, that they should not be placed in a worse position than they would have been had that wool been shipped and sold ‘by the British Government. They must, however, remember that their own representatives on the Central Wool Committee agreed to the first contract made, which eliminated their interest altogether, and they must not forget that there are three parties to the wooltops contracts - the manufacturers, the growers, and the Government - and by no stretch of imagination can it be conceded to the growers that they can, will, or should participate in manufacturing profits. This question has arisen only towards the end of the wool control, and no objection was taken to the principle of this arrangement at the start of the scheme by either the wool-growers’ representatives or any other member of the community. It has been aptly said that in this matter the woolgrowers and their representatives are “ straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel.” The gnat they are straining at is the very proper desire of the Prime Minister that the Australian wooltops industry should be kept going, even ‘ if i per cent, of the wool of one clip is required to do it. The camel the producers appear to swallow is the administration of the Australian Wool Pool, in which they are partners, whereby, after more than four years of waiting, and record world’sprices, they have, up to now, no idea of” how they will ultimately fare on wool, shipped overseas.
Briefly, I would like to. examine thisquestion so far as one can theorise on the partial and meagre information available. The big rise in the world’s wool market began in 1917-18, and a profit on the flat rate, and in many cases a big profit, should have been made on all sales since then. I will assume for the purpose of this rough calculation that out of the 6,500,000 bales that have been sold to the British Government, and will be sold by them, 2,000,000 bales have been sold at issue prices, or have been used for military and naval purposes, and that 2,000,000- bales will romain unsold on 1st July next. There remain, then, 2,500,000 bales upon which profits have been, or.- will be, made up to 30th June next. Appraised prices average £22 per bale, and our total wool clips comprise, say, half merino wool and half crossbred. Compared with prices in July, 1914, auction prices of Australian wool in December, 1919, of the finer sorts were 400 per cent. higher; for the coarser wool they were 250 per cent. more, and since then prices have gone higher. I will assume that the average increaseon flat rate from, say, April, 1919, when auction sales first commenced, to 30th June next will be three times more for merino and twice for crossbreds. Supposing the cost of marketing, in order to allow for waste, extravagance, many and liberal commissions, storage, &c., is 6d. per lb., or, say, £9 per bale - which, compared with prewar costs, is an extremely excessive amount - the following table will be clear : -
On these figures, I have made up an account with the British Government on these lines -
to an average of over £6 10s. per bale on the 4,500,000 bales I estimate will be sold at auction and for all purposes to 30th June next.
Another table, based on twice the average cost of the wool being obtained, and charging £6 per bale for all expenses, shows the following: -
The amount due to Australian woolgrowers on thiscalculation to 30th June next, would be £20,000,000, or £4 10s. per bale, spread over all wool sold to date. These figures are buttressed by the general admission in the British press that a profit of 10s. on the cloth for every good woollen suit made in Yorkshire is now going to the Australian wool-grower. The loyal contribution of our wool-growers to the war I have taken as about 15 lbs. of wool at1s.31/2d. to every belligerent engaged on the side of the Allies, including Russians and Americans. The sale of 700,000 bales at issue prices or fixed rates at a little more than cost, of which 450,000 bales went to Yorkshire, was intended to keep down the price of clothing to the masses, but, owing to the break-down of the British Profiteering Act, nearly the whole of the profit went into the hands of Yorkshire manufacturers.
Therefore, profits made so far are on only 2,500,000 bales out of 4,500,000 bales sold. Of the 2,000,000 bales remaining unsold we should expect 1,000,000 bales sold during the latter half of this year at not less than double the average flat rate, giving a further net profit of £16,000,000 in all, of which half would belong to the Australian wool-grower. Surely also we can expect the carry-over of 1,000,000 bales, after we start marketing out next clip, to bring ultimately as much as cotton is bringing now, in view of future world’s shortage, and, I think, in spite of heavy expenses, a profit of a few million pounds sterling to our own producers, as well as to the British Government, can be expected from this last 1,000,000 bales.
It does seem to me that an animal product such as wool should, as compared with a vegetable product such as cotton, be entitled to at least the. same price, and I believe the world’s buyers will give it.
I estimate, therefore, a total ultimate profit of from £30,000,000 to £40,000,000 to the wool-growers of Australia, equal to from nearly £5 to over £6 .per bale, on the whole of the deal, after making generous allowances for war purposes, expenses, and contingencies. For this our producers have to thank the Prime Minister. His services to Australia in connexion with wool can be capitalized at that amount.
What a boon the distribution of only a portion of this money would be to the drought-stricken wool-growers of New South Wales! Even an advance of 50 per cent, on realized and expected profits would mean nearly £2 10s. per bale on every bale of wool put into the four Pools. Conditions are extremely sad and disheartening in some of ‘the woolgrowing centres in the State I represent, and a pound now would be of perhaps more value than several .pounds later on. One of the urgent necessities of the day is to see whether this cannot be done. Parts of New South Wales are in a desperate condition, and a little extra wool money now would be of incalculable value.
In connexion with this great wool problem, I would draw the attention of the Government to the export now going on of stud sheep. The Central Wool Committee and the wool advisers of the Government have been apparently ignoring the fact that some of our best stud rams are being bought up and shipped to other countries. The foundation upon which the Australian wool industry is based is a monopoly of the world’s fine wool, and if the cream of our flocks is allowed to leave Australia, we are asking for trouble and encouraging a competition which .some day we may rue. The ostrich-feather industry still remains peculiar to South Africa, by reason of the prohibition of the export of ostriches. We could raise ostriches just as well here as they can in South Africa, but we are unable to import a bird, and the authorities will not allow even an egg to leave that country. A policy of prohibition of export of stud sheep, therefore, would, in my opinion, be wise for the Australian Government to pursue, for the sake of the future of the Australian wool trade.
In the interests of the primary producers, I would like the fullest possible light on the operations of the Central Wool Committee, in conjunction with the’ Wool Council in London. The war being over, and the necessity for secrecy having passed, plain statements in connexion with losses, interest, insurance, expenses, commissions, and all charges the Pool will have to bear should be unequivocal and absolute. The large amount of money that is clearly due to Australian wool-growers should be asked for, and some payment on account be made, especially to needy wool-growers.
I conclude by again stressing the importance of our wool industry and the necessity that exists to develop all secondary industries based on it. I have already pointed out, from my place in this Chamber, that as, owing to the elementary condition of our secondary wool industries, we make only one-third of the woollens we use, Ave are paying a toll to outsiders of two or three guineas on every suit of clothes we wear.
I trust that in the forthcoming ballot a large number of wool-growers will, in their own interests, give a decided “No,” thus refusing to consent to any further control, and that the Government will allow our oldest and most important industry to get back to normal conditions as soon as possible, in order that the world’s parity of price, without deduction, shall gat into the hands of the producers of Australia, many of whom so badly need it. .if the wool control ends on 30th June next, as I hope it will, and if the Government turn a sympathetic ear to the future, on the lines I have suggested, co-operating with the British Government with regard to the carry-over stocks, I believe Australia will be all the richer, and much benefit will be felt by the primary producers.
– The Senate is indebted to Senator Pratten for his masterly setting-forth. of this very intricate and complex question. I refer particularly to that portion of the wool problem known as the agreement with ‘ the Colonial Combing, Spinning and
Weaving Company. The honorable senator can claim that he has put the case dispassionately. He is one who takes an independent view on most questions, and, as a member of the Government, I am glad to note that, generally speaking, his view of the matter ia dispute is that the Government have succeeded in doing the best in all the circumstances. One could not have been a member of the last three Governments without becoming somewhat familial with this question, but I must confess that, unless one applied himself closely to it in all its ramifications, it was exceedingly difficult to sort out the points upon which difficulties arose. Briefly put, the position is that in 1916, as the result of a conference at which, I think I am safe in saying, the wool-growers of Australia were represented, it was decided that the Commonwealth Government should offer the whole wool clip to the Government of the United Kingdom, and that to do this effectively the Commonwealth Government must first acquire the clip. That was done, and the British Government purchased the whole clip at a flat rate of ls. 3d. per lb. for greasy wool.
– Did they purchase the whole clip without any reservation?
– No; there were certain reservations, one of which was that sufficient wool could be retained and sold in the Commonwealth for the purpose of local manufacture at the flat rate of ls. 3d. per lb. The Central Wool Committee was set up. It was never suggested at that time that any share whatsoever of the profits made in the local manufacture of wool into either wool tops or any other form of manufacture should go to the Central Wool Committee. These seem to me to be the essential points: - The Commonwealth ^Government was authorized by the interested parties, including the wool-growers, to acquire the whole clip. Sufficient wool was to be retained for the requirements of local manufacturers, and the local manufacturers were to get the wool at the appraised price. On 1st March, 1917 - and this, too, is very essential when we come to consider the present case: - on the recommendation of the Central Wool Committee an agreement was entered into by the Commonwealth with the Colonial
Combing, Spinning, and Weaving Company, which agreement provided that half of the net earnings should be placed at the disposal of the Commonwealth Government. The profits under that agreement were not paid into the Pool. A dispute arose in 1918, which is now the subject of litigation, as to whether or not the agreement had expired. A second agreement was proposed to be drawn up in 1918, and in fact a draft agreement was drawn up, but it was not ratified. At a conference at which the Treasurer (Mr. Watt) represented the Commonwealth Government, and at which the Central Wool Committee and the Colonial Combing, Spinning, and Weaving Company were also present, certain articles to be embodied in the agreement were adopted and signed. One of those articles provided that a proportion of the profits was to go to the Commonwealth. It is provided in the agreements made with the other companies that a proportion of the profits shall go to the Commonwealth Government, and under those agreements already the sum of £135,000 has been paid, or is available to be paid, into the Commonwealth Treasury.
– What does the Commonwealth purpose doing with the money t
– To put it into the Consolidated Revenue.
– Does it not revert to the wool-growers in any way?
– Certainly not.That is a short statement of the essential points of this matter. It seems that the Central Wool Committee became at loggerheads with the Colonial Combing, Spinning, and Weaving Company, largely, I understand, over the question of the usa of the wool for the making up of wooltops for export. Whatever claim the Central Wool Committee might have, it cannot be said to have any greater claim than this, that it should be in as good a position in regard to the quantity of wool used by local manufacturers to be made up into any form for export as it would have been if that wool had been sold to the Government of the “United Kingdom. Clearly, that is the utmost claim that the Central Wool Committee could advance. It could have no claim to any increase in’ value given to that wool by the processes of manufacture, or by any increase in value in the world’s markets of a particular form of manufacture, because this was not due in any sense to its efforts.
– But that would increase the quantity of raw wool required at that price, and this would prejudice the grower to some extent, as he would have participated in half the profits on such wool if it had been taken over by the British Government.
– No. Supposing 1,000 bales of wool were made up into wool-tops in 1918.
– For Australian requirements ?
– Either for Australian requirements or for foreign export. But, adopting the honorable senator’s suggestion, supposing 1,000 bales of wool were made up in the Commonwealth into wool-tops in that year, the only way in which the wool-grower could have been prejudiced by it was this, that as the wool was made up in Australia he would get only the flat rate of ls. 3d. per lb., whereas if it had been sent to the United Kingdom he would have received that flat rate plus a share of the profits made by the British Government, and less the cost of sending it to the United Kingdom.
– He could not complain of that, because he knew there was a reservation in favour of Australian requirements.
– That is so, but I understand that that is not the complaint. The complaint, as I understand it, is that the wool is made up into wool-tops, not for sale in the Commonwealth, but is afterwards sent out into the markets of the world and sold to outside countries.
– To America, for instance ?
– Or to other countries.
– Has not the grower some legitimate complaint?
– I think not. The most he can complain of is that in addition to the ls. 3d. per lb., he should get the profit which he would have derived had that wool been sold to the United Kingdom. As I understand the position, he is claiming more than that. Senator de Largie has reminded me that if the wool had gone to Tasmania and had been returned in the form of the splendid blankets which come from Launceston, and if those blankets had been subsequently sold on the markets of the world, it could not :be contended that the wool-grower was entitled to any of the profits made by their manufacture. Surely the most the grower can claim, is the profit which he would have made had the wool been sent in its raw state to the United Kingdom.
– Is not that what he is after?
– I understand that he is asking for very much moTe. The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) has already announced on behalf of the Government that the Commonwealth is prepared to extend to him the consideration which I have indicated. The Wool Committee should be placed in as good a position in respect of the wool used by this particular company as they would have occupied had that wool been sent to the United Kingdom and sold there.
– I think that they have a splendid case upon that point.
– I come now to the question raised by Senator Pratten regarding the profits made by the British Government, in which, under the arrangement made by the Central Wool Committee, the latter should share. This is a most important question to the Commonwealth. It is one of the matters which the. Treasurer, who has a full knowledge of it, will take up on his arrival in England. I am sure that it will be in capable hands, and that Mr. Watt will do his utmost to see that the Commonwealth and the wool-growers get a just and speedy settlement o’f this much-vexed question.
– There has never been any authoritative statement as to what those profits really amount to.
– That has not been due to any lack of inquiry on the part of the Commonwealth Government. As a matter of fact, the Prime Minister has been cabling frequently and emphatically upon this question, but so far has been unable, to get any satisfactory reply. Senator Pratten has dealt with this matter in a very full and effective way, and I am very glad that he has seized the opportunity to place the whole of the facts before the public. I am sure that when the people are acquainted with those facts much misapprehension that has been caused by statements which are neither fair nor accurate will be removed.
Senator GARDINER (New South Wales) “4-40]. - I congratulate Senator Pratten upon the case which he has presented for our consideration this afternoon. Like most of the subjects which he takes up, he had given it most careful preparation. Whenever he speaks, therefore, we have the advantage of learning something upon which we may confidently rely in the future. I realize that to the wool-growers of this country and to its people generally, this is the most important question that the Senate can. discuss. I am not at all satisfied with the easy manner in which the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) sought to gloss over one phase of it, when he said that the lack of information on the part of the Government was not due to any lack of inquiry on their part. To my mind, that is a tame and lame excuse to emanate from the Ministry. The people of Australia are- entitled to the desired information, and if the Government asked for it with the authority which they possess, they would get it. But there is no desire on the part of Ministers, nor has there been for the past two or three years, to supply this information to the public. I gather my information from scraps of reports gathered here and there, and it is really surprising how even an ordinary statement in regard to this wool matter will be met -by the wool-growers themselves with point-blank denials of their accuracy. This is due to the fact that there is no reliable source of information to which we can a’ppeal. But a little while ago there returned to Australia from Great Britain a gentleman who occupies a very high position in commercial circles in Sydney - I refer to General Lassetter. He brought back with him some most valuable information. He told us that last year the English and Scottish wool-growers did not enter the Wool Pool. From him we also learned that Australian wool - millions of bales of it - has been held out of the market in order to enable the English and Scottish wool-growers to obtain a much higher price for their wool than would have been possible if they had been obliged to compete with the Australian article. Of course, I recognise that it is the ‘duty of the British Government to look after the interests of their wool-growers; but it is equally the duty of the Commonwealth Government to safeguard the interests of our wool-growers. For the information of honorable senators, perhaps I had better read precisely what General Lassetter says upon this question. It is as follows -
Up to the end of December, one and threequarter million bales of wool were sold, and during 1920 there remained three times this quantity to be disposed of.
Therefore I consider that at least £60,000,000 will be lost to the Australian public.
The position with regard to the contracts made with the British Government does not seem to be understood by the wool-growers, and is all set forth in the report to which I have alluded. In October, 1916, the basis of wool was fixed at 15Ad. ; it was renewed in the middle of 1917 for another year, then extended in 1918 to cover clips for a year after the war. This has since been interpreted to mean all wool shorn up to June, 1920. For English and Scottish wool the initial price was in 1914 advanced 55 per cent.; in 1917, 50 per cent.; and in 1019, 60 per cent. But in 1919 the English farmers asked for an 80 per cent, advance, and the Scottish for 100 per cent, advance. After prolonged consideration, the Government decided to abandon the purchase of the Home clip, and the wools have been sold, in the normal pre-war manner, through the country wool fairs. Prices realized show ari advance of from 100 to 200 per cent, on pre-war rates. The English and Scottish farmers were much too shrewd to hand over their wool to the Government.
That is an interesting statement by a very reputable business man in Sydney, and, as far as I can learn, it is one which has neither been contradicted nor denied.
– The English and Scottish wool-growers were right alongside the world’s market, and could do what they liked.
– The English and Scottish wool-growers were interested in the Pool during the war period, but immediately the war was over they asked for an increase of from 80 to 100 per cent, upon the prices which they had been getting. Their claim having been refused, they did not again enter the Pool, and, as a result, their wool was sold at a very much higher Tate. I am not blaming the British Government for leaving their wool out of the Pool, or for keeping our wool out of the market in order that the English and Scottish growers might secure a better price for their commodity. Senator Pratten;, in referring to this agreement, said that there had been an unexpected increase in the price of wool. By whom would the increase be unexpected? Would it be unexpected by any man who has been following the use to which wool has been put during the five years of war?
– Was there always transport for our wool?
– Had our wool been sold in the open market there would always have been shipping available for it.
– I doubt that.
– Why, the one thing out of which money could be made was woollen goods. I am not complaining because our wool was permitted to go under British control whilst the war was raging. But immediately the conflict was over, especially in view of the fact that for five years the woollen goods of the world h’ad been depleted’, and no attempt had been made to restore the quantities needed by the nations, why should not the markets of the world be afforded an opportunity of purchasing Australian wool ? Had our wool which is now held in the stores been sold twelve months ago, the greater part of it would have been worn out to-day. But now the best we can hope for is that next year’s clip will have to compete with the wool which has been held off the market.
– It will probably bring more than ls. 3Ad. per lb., anyhow.
– I should think so. A grave injustice has been inflicted upon the Australian wool-grower by reason of the price which has been maintained. A corner has been established in wool. Statements have been circulated that favoured manufacturers in Great Britain have been enabled to purchase wool at favoured prices, out of which’ no profits will come to the Australian growers, notwithstanding that the materials into which that wool entered have been sold at five times their ordinary value.
– Is the honorable senator alluding to local manufacturers?
– I am referring to the favoured manufacturers of Great Britain. Personally, I am ‘of the opinion that a monthly report of the wool sales in Britain should be published by the Government even now.
– Do the manufacturers in Great Britain get their wool cheaper than do the Australian manufacturers?
– Yes. Certain manufacturers in Britain have been able to obtain our wool at favoured prices, and’ are making untold wealth out of it. Here in Australia one can point to persons who purchased wheat under very favoured conditions, and who made considerable wealth out of it. Where there is wool, there are men who want it. For what purpose was a whole year’s wool clip of Australia held back? Evidently for the purpose of enabling some manufacturers of woollen goods to get the cream of the market when the war was over.
– What other countries, apart from France, America, and Japan, were in a position to purchase wool ?
– I take ,it that, immediately the war was over, all countries could purchase wool.
– Oh, no.
– Then, if the honorable senator’s statement is correct, and no country outside of Great Britain was in a position to purchase wool, there could be no occasion for the Pool. The one thing needful for the civilized world is woollen goods; and it is absurd to say that the world’s credit was so depleted that no country, outside of Great Britain, was in a position to purchase wool immediately the war was over. What is wrong with Holland? And what is wrong with Germany ? But I know that my friends opposite will not sell wool to Germany.
– But it has been urged that Germany has no credit with which to buy our wool.
– Well, I want the position tested, by having the Australian wool sold by public auction as formerly. I am convinced that it will bring higher prices than ever, and that shipping will be secured, outside of British -owned vessels if necessary, to take it to wherever it may be required. This policy will lead, to an immense growth of trade in Australia, and the Commonwealth will reap the full benefit of the position. To my mind, the Commonwealth Government ought to make this their first duty.
– But remember that the Australian manufacturer will also have to pay higher rates for his wool.
– I have no sympathy with any Australian manufacturer who gets wool at1s. 31/2d. per lb. and - on this point we have sworn evidence - retails at 22s. per yard material which costs only 7s. to produce. There can be no sympathy for any man who gets wool at bedrock prices and charges the general community profiteering rates. This advantage has been given to manufacturers by the Government which they have spent good money to keep in office. There is no doubt about the Government’s association with this profiteering in woollen goods. The people have to pay through the nose for every yard of material they buy.
– There cannot be much margin for profiteering, because SenatorPratten has shown that only about1/2 per cent. of the output is required for local needs.
– I was referring to wool-top requirements.
– As far as I can see, there is a corner in wool, and manufacturers are able to charge any prices they like.
– And with the consent of the Labour party we are now going to put on a duty to keep out goods from other countries.
– It has always been contended that the brains of the Labour party are on the Ministerial benches, so I do not see how Senator Thomas can charge the Opposition with the responsibility for that position. This is the work of the old-time Free Traders, Senator Thomas, Senator Pearce, and the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes).
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon.
– If the honorable senator desires, I will move for an extension of time.
– Did not the suspension of the standing order to enable Senator Pratten to continue, apply also to other honorable senators?
– Then I do not want any special privileges.
Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
Bill presented by Senator Pearce, and read a first time.
Senate adjourned at 4.57 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 14 April 1920, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1920/19200414_senate_8_91/>.