23rd Parliament · 2nd Session
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services aware that under the Coal and Oil Shale Mine Workers Pensions Act 1941-58 mine workers in Queensland who have to leave the industry at 60 years of age receive a pension of £5 17s. 6d. per week and, if they are married, their wives receive an allowance of £5 2s. 6d. per week? Is he also aware that the widows of miners receive a pension of £5 17s. 6d. per week? Will the Minister examine the pensions scheme which is applicable to miners in Queensland to ascertain whether there is one sound reason why medical and pharmaceutical benefits should not be made available to them from the National Welfare Fund as is done for age and invalid pensioners?
– I do not know exactly what pensions are payable to miners in Queensland. Under the pensioner medical scheme there is an income limit, in the case of a single person, of £2 over and above the rate of the pension. I presume that the pensions payable to the miner and his wife are greater than the amount of pension and income to which I have referred and that therefore they are not entitled to medical and pharmaceutical benefits. If the honorable senator places his question on the notice-paper, I shall get the Minister for Social Services to examine it and 1 shall obtain a statement for him.
– Has the Leader of the Government in the Senate seen statements in the press recently to the effect that the outflow of gold from the United States of America within the last week was valued at 181,000,000 dollars, and that over the last five weeks some 360,000,000 dollars worth of gold has been exported from America to enable her to meet her international commitments? I further ask the Minister: In view of the excellent work that America is doing in providing finance to help undeveloped countries, would this not be the appropriate time for the gold-producing countries of the world, including Australia, to approach the Government of the United States of America with a view to obtaining an increase of the price of gold so that she may more readily help those deserving, undeveloped countries?
– It has been the policy of the Australian Government for some years past to seek an increase of the price of gold, and there has been no deviation from that policy. I have not seen any reports of the proceedings of the members of the International Monetary Fund, but I would be surprised if Mr. Holt, during the course of those proceedings, did not again state Australian policy on this matter. I would not like to express an opinion offhand on the effect that the weakening of American gold reserves, which has been going on for some little time past, is likely to have on the price of gold.
– My question is directed to the Acting Minister for External Affairs. By way of preface I invite the Minister’s attention to the fact that towards the end of last year the Australian Government was considering the establishment of a second diplomatic post in South America, namely, at Buenos Aires in Argentina. Has the Minister noted the stress placed in recent reports, including one in to-day’s Sydney “Daily Telegraph” headed “China Woos Latin America “, on the increasing exchange of cultural and diplomatic missions between the South American countries, once traditionally anti-Communist, and iron curtain countries, including Communist China? Will the Minister inform me what progress has been made in the appointment of an ambassador or other diplomatic representative to Argentina?
– I do not think that conversations between the Government of Argentina and the Government of Australia, referred to by the honorable senator, have reached a stage where it could be claimed that the Australian Government is considering the appointment of an ambassador to Argentina. It may be that an unauthorized press release from New York, repeated in this country, has been misleading on this point. At the moment the Australian Government has no intention of appointing an ambassador to Argentina, largely because of staffing and finance limitations. The Government would like to have as many Australian representatives as possible in as many places as possible. Argentina is one of the countries that will be considered when additional appointments are in contemplation.
– 1 direct a question to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General. Has the Minister’s attention been directed to a statement in the Twelfth Annual Report of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board to the effect that few television station licensees have taken positive action to provide children’s programmes of the type recommended in the broadcasting standards? Has the Minister also noted that a study made during last year appeared to indicate that the standard of programmes for children and the amour t of time devoted to them had been still further reduced by some stations? In these circumstances, will the PostmasterGeneral take up the matter with those licensees who are not complying with the recommended standards?
– I think this matter is dealt with in the report of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, which I shall be tabling in the Senate this afternoon. If I am wrong in that belief, I will bring Senator Wedgwood’s representations to the notice of the Postmaster-General.
– I ask a question without notice of the Minister representing the Minister for Health, ls it a fact that repeat orders of a medicine on the free list, prescribed by a doctor under the Commonwealth Government’s health scheme, carry a charge of 5s. each even though they are authorized by the doctor on the original prescription?
– I will obtain correct information for the honorable senator, but my recollection at the moment is that two repeat orders are allowed in respect of an original prescription within a period of four weeks. That is my recollection of the posi tion, but if the honorable senator will place his question on the notice-paper 1 will obtain for him a more detailed answer.
– I ask the Minister for the Navy the following question: What is the relative value of a modern nuclear submarine carrying a Polaris weapon in comparison with the value of an ordinary submarine? Would it pay Australia to discard conventional submarines and purchase a modern nuclear submarine carrying u Polaris weapon?
– Speaking in very broad terms, the cost of a conventional submarine is approximately one twenty-fifth of the cost of an atomic submarine equipped to fire a Polaris missile. I add that at the present time an atomic submarine equipped to fire a Polaris missile, which is an atomic missile, would appear to be of very little value to Australia, since we do not have any atomic missiles to fire from such a submarine.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for National Development, relates to a press announcement in Western Australia of the discovery of what is claimed to be a very large iron ore deposit near Augusta in the extreme south-west of Western Australia. Can the Minister state whether the press announcement to the effect that this deposit contains upwards of 60,000,000 tons is accurate? Can the Minister also state what is the significance of the Japanese interests in Augusta in relation to this discovery? Can he state whether the Government of Western Australia is negotiating with the Japanese interests in relation to the iron ore deposit?
– I read the press report this morning with a good deal of interest, of course, and made some inquiries about it. The inquiries are not yet concluded and it may be that the information at my disposal is not complete. The press report referred to a low-grade iron ore deposit. I am told that it is well known that there may be substantial iron ore deposits in the locality referred to, which adjoins the area in which bauxite is being prospected. I am told that whatever announcement has been made comes from the prospecting company, because at this stage there has been no examination of the deposit by either the State Mines Department or the Commonwealth Bureau of Mineral Resources. In making that statement I am not casting any doubts on the company’s announcement.
Of course, a Minister can properly give only such information as comes to him from a government department, and as yet there is no information on this deposit from governmental sources. I gather the impression that this discovery is not an unexpected development. It is a lowgrade iron ore deposit, and apparently geologists think that there may be quite a number of such deposits in Western Australia yet to be discovered. I simply say that I cannot make any official statement on the matter, but I do not doubt the company’s statement. I do not know the significance of the Japanese association with the deposit. I had not heard anything of it prior to the newspaper report.
I know that a good deal of exploration has been done in that area in order to find a suitable grade of iron ore which could be used in the manufacture of sponge iron for use by the Australian steel industry or some other steel industry. The claim is made that sponge iron, into which the lower grade iron ores can be converted with the use of coal, is i good basic material for use in steel-making. Therefore, the proposal, whatever the details and whatever may be the way in which it is being approached, is at least of considerable interest.
– I address a supplementary question to the Minister. Can he tell us whether the negotiations between the Government of Western Australia and the Japanese interests are in respect of sponge iron? Can he also say whether there is an embargo on the export of sponge iron, as there, is on iron ore?
– I do not know whether there are or are not negotiations between the Government of Western Australia and the Japanese in relation to this matter. If such negotiations are proceeding, I have never heard of them. As I said previously, I did not know that the
Japanese were interested in this deposit. I should very much doubt that the Government of Western Australia was a party to any such negotiations, although, as I say, I have no knowledge of the matter, which is one for the Government of Western Australia. As to whether there would be an embargo on the export of sponge iron as well as iron ore, again I do not know. The honorable senator will appreciate that we do not make sponge iron in Australia, and I think it would be unwise for me to hazard a guess about what we would do. I had better not make any guesses at all.
– I direct a question to either the Leader of the Government in the Senate or the Minister representing the Treasurer. I refer - with due diffidence, T hope - to more Service regulations, this time relating not to pay but to losses or deficiencies of public moneys or property. I ask the Minister whether he recalls that, after the presentation of the tenth report of the Regulations and Ordinances Committee in 1955, regulations made on this subject by all three Services were deleted. Has he considered paragraph 117 of the 1958 report of the Auditor-General? In that paragraph it is stated that reference was first made to this subject in paragraph 109 of the AuditorGeneral’s report of 1942-43, and the report of 1958 then states -
Fifteen years have elapsed since the inadequacies of statutory provisions for recovery of losses or deficiencies of public money or properly occasioned by neglect or misconduct of Service personnel were first reported upon by the AuditorGeneral of the day. The position has been reached that all regulations providing for recoveries by administrative processes have been repealed.
I also ask the Minister whether he has considered the reference in the 1959 report of the Auditor-General, and paragraph 121 of the report of the Auditor-General, issued on 31st August, 1960, in which it is stated -
However, the necessary legislation had not been enacted when this report was compiled, despite Treasury representations as to the urgency of the matter.
Will the Minister give an undertaking that a statement will be made in the Senate at an early date concerning the action taken pursuant to those comments, and will he also make a full statement on the matter when the estimates for the Services come under review?
– Perhaps 1 may be permitted to answer the question, since I know a little of this subject. The answer is that the paragraphs referred to in the Auditor-General’s reports have come under notice. There has been a desire on the part of the Department of Defence to bring in a new defence act and new Service acts which would remedy this deficiency. It appears as though it will be some time yet before the bills are introduced, but the matter to which the honorable senator has referred is under active discussion at the present moment.
– I desire to ask a supplementary question. In the absence of the contemplated legislation, can the Minister say what provision is being made to safeguard the public against losses and deficiencies of the kind referred to?
– The position will not necessarily be remedied by legislation. I said that the matter was under active consideration at the present moment because, since the repeal of the regulation by the Senate at the instance of the Regulations and Ordinances Committee, there has been no means of recovering these losses.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport. What stage has been reached in the standardization of the railway gauge between Albury and Melbourne? How many men are employed on that undertaking? When is it expected that the line will be in operation? Has the Government taken any steps, or does it contemplate taking any steps, to standardize railway gauges in any other parts of Australia?
– I cannot state in detail the specific stage reached or the number of men employed on the Albury to Melbourne project. It is expected, however, that the line will be open for service early in 1962, and I am informed that there has been no delay in the project. As to the other part of the honorable senator’s question about further standardization projects, one project under discussion between the relevant governments is the Une from Port Augusta to Broken Hill. Only recently, in answering a question on behalf of the Minister for Shipping and Transport, I said that discussions were taking place and that an examination of the project was proceeding.
– Can the Acting Minister for External Affairs inform the Senate whether the Treaty on Antarctica negotiated last December has been ratified by any nations since the treaty was recently before the Senate for ratification? If so, what nations have ratified it?
– The only information I have on the subject has been forwarded from the Australian Embassy in Moscow. It was a report published in “ Pravda “ on 29th September this year to the effect that the U.S.S.R. Council of Ministers had approved the treaty and had forwarded it to the Supreme Soviet for ratification.
– I think the Minister for the Navy misunderstood the question I asked a few minutes ago. The information I wanted to elicit was the value of a nuclear modern submarine in relation to the ordinary submarine. Is it worth one submarine, two submarines, or how many?
– I think the honorable senator probably has in mind the submarine’s relative fighting value rather than its relative monetary value. However, I should like to advert to the previous answer I gave him as to monetary value. I may have misinformed him and I should like to put the record straight. I think the monetary value of a submarine such as he mentioned would be about ten times that of the conventional submarine. It is very difficult indeed to assess the relative fighting value of an atomic submarine with a Polaris missile as compared with a conventional submarine because the vessels are designed for entirely different tasks. A conventional submarine is designed, I suggest, principally for the sinking of shipping. A submarine of the other type to which the honorable senator referred is essentially a mobile, submerged launching pad for deterrent atomic missiles. To assess the relative values of vessels designed for such different tasks is almost impossible.
– I understand that the Minister representing the Minister for Air has an answer to a question I asked on 29th September, in relation to the Royal Australian Air Force station at Wagga.
– The question concerned a report that approximately £500,000 was to be spent on the building of a R.A.A.F. School of Technical Training at Wagga. I was unable to answer the question at the time, and the Minister for Air has now provided me with the information sought. It is as follows: -
The School of Technical Training at Wagga has been in existence for many years. A special base for this purpose was not established. The wartime training base at Wagga was utilized for this purpose. It had been a large establishment during the war and was readily adaptable for its new purpose. However, as the honorable senator is well aware, the wartime structures at Air Force installations were not intended to be permanent. In fact, many of the buildings could, at best, be described as sub-standard. Due to the need to spend considerable sums on the reconstruction of airfields to ensure the safety and to withstand the operations of modern heavier or higher performance aircraft, much needed improvements to domestic and living accommodation had to be deferred.
Planning to improve the situation was started some years ago, and last year substantial progress was made in replacing wartime and substandard and inadequate accommodation at Wagga. Approximately £215,000 was committed during 1959-60 on a sergeants’ kitchen and sleeping quarters, a swimming pool, a technical college block, test boring for water and electrical reticulation.
About £220,000 will be authorized this year for works at Wagga. The principal works making up this total are three airmen’s sleeping quarters blocks estimated to cost £160,000 and the transfer and re-siting of 20 married quarters from the now disused base at Uranquinty at an estimated cost of £40,000. The only other major works to be undertaken at Wagga this year are modifications to an electrical sub-station, £6,000, installation of additional water reticulation and fire hydrants, £12,000, and the transfer and resiting at Wagga of a class room building from the disused Uranquinty base.
It will be seen, therefore, that the only outstanding major current work is that for the airmen’s living blocks at a cost of £160,000. These blocks are of standard construction and are a project which would not warrant reference to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Work*.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The Minister for Health has now furnished the following reply: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
Minister for the Interior has furnished the following replies: -
– Pursuant to section 28 of the Broadcasting and Television Act 1942-1960, I lay on the table the following paper: -
Broadcasting am! Television Act - Twelfth Annual Report of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, for year 1959-60.
.- I move -
That the paper be printed. 1 ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Debate resumed from 4th October (vide page 879), on motion by Senator Henty -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– I have relatively little to add to what I said last night up to the time when the debate was interrupted and the Senate adjourned. I reminded the Senate that the AuditorGeneral, in his report of 31st August last, drew attention to the fact that the new system applied by the Petroleum Products Branch had been in operation for only a brief period, and that an audit assessment of the efficacy of the new controls in the protection of the revenue was then in course. One will look forward with interest to the issue of the next report of the Auditor-General, by which time no doubt the evaluation of the system by his department will have been completed. Last night, I quoted from paragraph 70 at page 46 of the Auditor-General’s report. In the next sentence he stated -
The procedural changes will necessitate, in part, amendment of the Customs and Excise Regulations. At the time of compiling this Report, a review of the Regulations was being made by the Department.
I would be glad if the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty) would in due course advise the Senate whether that review has been completed and whether the regulations have been brought up to date. lt is rather interesting, having regard to what has already been said by me regarding the system of test checks that is being substituted for the whole time services of customs officers at petroleum refineries, to observe in section 45b of the Audit Act the provision -
The Auditor-General may, at his discretion, dispense with all or any part of the detailed audit of any accounts.
Any one with commercial experience knows that it has been commercial auditing practice for many decades not to engage nr complete checks but to operate pursuant to test checks. It rather interested me to find that the Auditor-General himself had that power specifically conferred upon him by the Audit Act. My own experience many long years ago - just how far back I shall not say - when I was a member of the Auditor-General’s staff showed that I was far more concerned with test checks than’ with complete checks. So I can say that the system now in operation at the refineries and at warehouses connected with imported refined petroleum products is not new in concept. 1 was also rather interested to see how far the Auditor-General himself may go in looking at the accounts of the various holders of warehouses, whether they be those who import refined petroleum or the holders of refineries which manufacture in this country. T thought that I should place on record my understanding of the situation and trace my thinking. Section 41a of the Audit Act authorizes the AuditorGeneral to examine the accounts of the receipt of revenue and other moneys by all departments. Section 13 authorizes him to require such persons as he thinks fit to appear personally before him and to produce all books and accounts in their possession as shall appear to him to be necessary for the purposes of any examination authorized by the act. Under section 14, the Auditor-General is authorized to administer an oath, declaration or affirmation to any such person brought before him. Section 14a, which is the operative section, provides that the two preceding sections, which I have just paraphrased, relate to persons whether they are in th» capacity of an accounting officer or not and whether employed by the Commonwealth or an authority of the Commonwealth or not. So it would seem to me that, pursuant to section 14a, the Auditor-General has complete authority, if he wishes, to call the officers of the various warehouses and refineries before him and oblige them to produce books and to be free to make extracts from those books. That, of course, is an added safeguard in the operation of the new system. I thought it worth while to record those facts.
I direct the Minister’s attention to the fact that clause 4 of the bill, which deals with new applications and which seeks to impose on the licensee of a warehouse the obligation to keep records, to retain records and to produce them when required, is in quite general terms. It is wide enough to apply to any goods that may be stored ia any type of licensed warehouse. Proposed section 92a is not confined in its terms to petroleum products. In other words, it is quite general in scope, as is section 50 of the Excise Act. 1 shall be interested to hear from the Minister for Customs and Excise whether it is proposed to confine the operation of the proposed section to petroleum and petroleum products only or whether it is contemplated extending the new system to other goods and, if so, what types of goods.
There is only one other matter to which I need make any reference - the fifth matter dealt with in the bill. Set out in clause 8 is a set of provisions which would enable a customs officer to stop any carriage, which would include a motor vehicle, railway truck and that kind of thing, which he thinks may be carrying petrol or petroleum products, to search it, and to inspect any documents which may be carried in connexion with it. That is a necessary provision, of course, for the purpose of safeguarding the revenue. It may not be used very frequently, but it is one which 1 think is unexceptionable.
I have already outlined at some length the other four matters involved in the bill. I indicate to the Senate that the Opposition will not oppose the passage of this measure.
– I was particularly pleased to hear Senator McKenna refer to the cour tesy that had been extended to him by the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty). I wish I could say that similar courtesy had been extended to me. On 1st September 1 placed on the notice-paper what 1 thought were three very simple questions, which are directly applicable to this measure. If the answers to those questions had been made available to me, 1 would have been helped in discussing the bill. The Minister did not answer those questions. He must have the answers because the questions are very simple. I shall again pose them before I conclude my speech.
I believe that it is too early at this stage to say whether the new system will meet with success or failure. Departmental officers are confident that it will be successful. I hope it will be, but as the organization came into operation only in March or April of this year there has been very little time in which to test its success. My leader has suggested that a test check is better than a permanent check. That, of course, is arguable. It depends upon what kind of test check is adopted and what kind of permanent check is used. I have seen many test checks which, over a long period, have turned out to be dismal failures and very costly to the people concerned. However, in this case the situation is different, because we already have a permanent test check in operation. We have discarded the system that was in operation earlier in order to adopt the test check method.
One of the main reasons advanced by the Minister for the adoption of the new method was that it would save the Government a substantial sum of money. He said that more than £50,000 per annum would be saved. Having seen so many of these ideas on paper and having seen the anticipated saving not achieved, I was very anxious for the Minister, after four or five months’ operation of the petroleum test check method, to tell me whether the projected saving will in fact be achieved. It will be recalled that under the old scheme the oil companies paid approximately £880 per annum for each man employed in their plant. One of the questions I asked the Minister a few weeks ago - I now ask it again - was whether the licence-fee was to be altered in any way. I understand that the fee has been reduced very considerably. I do not know whether that reduction was anticipated in the early planning of the department. The fact that the fee has been reduced must affect the Minister’s prediction about the savings that will be achieved. The first question I placed on the notice-paper was as follows: -
Has the original number of officers employed in the new petroleum products section of the Department of Customs and Excise been increased and, if so, by how many?
I also asked -
Does the Minister still consider that the savings to the department by the operation of the new section will amount to £50,000 per annum or has this estimated figure been revised in any way?
As I have already indicated, my third question was -
Is the present licence-fee of £880 per annum to be altered in any way? 1 do not want to discuss the bill in any detail. I just wanted to say that 1 felt that out of courtesy those questions should have been answered. They have been on the notice-paper for five weeks and answers could have been obtained in five or ten minutes simply by making a telephone call. I have taken this opportunity to speak on the bill as it is one way in which I may obtain answers to those questions.
– in reply - I should like to make some comments on the points raised by Senator McKenna and Senator Armstrong. Dealing first with Senator Armstrong: I am sorry if he feels that he has been treated discourteously in not being provided with answers to his questions. We have in the Customs Department a works simplification scheme and an Organization and Methods Committee. The staff is trained never to take two bites at the cherry if one will suffice. Working on that principle, and in the hope that this bill would have been discussed ten days or a fortnight ago, I thought that one bite at the cherry would have suited Senator Armstrong best. I would have been able to deal at the one time with all these matters that he has raised. Working on that principle I obtained the information that he requires, and I will give it to him in due course.
I agree with Senator Armstrong that the procedure outlined in the bill has been in operation for only a few months, and that it is as yet a little early to ascertain whether it will be a complete success or a failure. However, in my mind and in the minda of my departmental officers there is no doubt of its success, although I admit that sufficient time has not yet elapsed really to test the position. Some most interesting developments have taken place. I do not want to weary the Senate with a lot of figures, but I point out that this overhaul of the oil industry involved the abolition of 106 positions, of which 77 were those of lockers. We knew what we had in mind and, by reason of retirements and other vacancies, we have been able to re-employ all but fifteen of those people. That is the latest information that I have. Expected future vacancies provide positions for most of those fifteen persons. Thus, we have fitted the displaced officers into various positions in the department without loss of status. In some cases, the officers have, I think, been placed in higher positions than those they held previously.
I do not mind accepting advice from Senator Armstrong at any time, and I noted with interest a comment that he made in 1956. I thought that it was a wise comment and very applicable to the present situation. On 26th September, 1956, speaking on the Tariff Board report, Senator Armstrong said -
As a community of only 9,500,000 people we must make up for our lack of numbers by efficiency in industry.
I agree with that statement, and that is what we are doing in this bill. We are making available staff which, in the opinion of the department and myself, were not as gainfully employed as they could be. We believe that the new set-up is an advance on the previous system and is well worth While. A good deal of comment was made when the change was first proposed. I know that some sections of my department issued various documents in relation to the matter showing what would happen under the new system. I have mentioned the positions that were abolished. Fortythree new positions were created, but the number of permanent positions has not been increased. That answers the first question that Senator Armstrong had on the notice-paper. He asked whether the original number of positions had been increased. They have not.
– That figure of 43 positions is for the whole of the Commonwealth, is it not?
– Yes, this scheme works on a Commonwealth-wide basis. Forty-three positions were created, but the total number of positions has not been increased. It is not expected that any new permanent positions will be necessary unless there is an appreciable expansion of the oi! industry in some particular area. All of us have read that a refinery may be built in Queensland, and that the oil industry may expand in other areas. Naturally, the department will examine the position from time to time, and if it is believed that one or two additional officers are necessary, it shall see that they are appointed. So 43 new permanent positions have been created, but 106 have been abolished.
– Did the reorganization affect any temporary officers who are not included in the figures mentioned by the Minister?
– Not that I know of, but I will find out.
Senator Armstrong was, 1 know, worried about quantity losses, and he was fearful that under the new system these losses would not be dealt with adequately. Therefore, I think it is relevant to examine what has happened in the few months ‘that this new system has been operating. We have found that it is much more effective to be able to declare an overall Australia-wide loss ratio than to deal with the matter on a State basis. For example, we can say to the various companies, “ Why is your loss ratio in Queensland higher than it is elsewhere? “ We can compare the loss ratios in the various States, and the situation can be controlled more closely because the operation of the system is Australiawide. From January to June, 1959, the percentage loss was .28 per cent. Under our new system, from January to June, 1960, the loss has been .23 per cent. The comparative loss reduction, taking into account increase in throughput, amounted to 719,029 gallons for the half year. That loss does not mean a reduction in revenue. Losses are caused by a number of factors - faulty taps, faulty connexions or evaporation. We have been able to compare losses on a nation-wide basis, and in the first six months of this year the figures of losses have shown a reduction.
– Those figures are from January to June?
– From January to June, 1959, and for the same period in 1960 - a six months comparison. The pamphlet that was issued by some of the officers concerned showed that we would allow, without examination, a loss of 2 per cent. If you compare that figure with the actual loss of .28 per cent, now reduced to .23 per cent., you will realize that many of the statements in the pamphlet were not based on knowledge.
– It was an estimate. No knowledge was available.
– It was a pretty rough estimate in view of the facts. That is the point I make. I shall now deal with the comments made by Senator McKenna.
– Have you finished with me?
– No. Apparently Senator Armstrong would like me to answer his other questions. Very well. The answers to the questions asked by Senator Armstrong are -
The honorable senator has reminded me that I estimated the figure at £50,000 per annum. My estimate was on the low side. In the Customs Department we like to be a bit cautious, and to date the gain to the department under the new system has been about £80,000 per annum. The answers continue -
In answer to the question Senator Armstrong asked me about temporary positions, I advise him that there are two such positions in Sydney to deal with problems associated with the change-over. Those two temporary positions will be reviewed later. 1 thank Senator McKenna tor the comments he made during his speech in this debate. 1 will certainly convey to the officers of my department his very kind remarks about the assistance they gave him. 1 point out to Senator Armstrong that that assistance was available to him. ll was made available not to the Leader of the Opposition, but to the Labour Party, and I understood a number of members of that party were interested in this matter. Officers of my department answered all the questions that were asked. Had Senator Armstrong availed himself of that opportunity, I am sure he would have been fully informed on any matter he had in mind, because we have nothing to hide. Senator McKenna asked me about amendments to the regulations. They have been partly made and we are currently working on them. I hope that it will not be much longer before they are completed. He also referred to the opportunity available to the Auditor-General to examine records. Senator McKenna’s appreciation of the position is the same as mine. However, if any difficulty arose and the AuditorGeneral wanted his staff to go into an cil installation and have a look at its records, if there was any difficulty under the Audit Act we could always appoint somebody a.« a customs officer under the Customs Act. We could appoint a member of the AuditorGeneral’s staff as a customs officer pro tern, which would give him every opportunity to go into the installation and examine the records. I think that is what Senator McKenna would want.
Section 4 is a broad section which deals with goods of other types. The overhaul which we have made of our administration in regard to the oil industry is just one section which is claiming the attention of our organization and methods committee. The section is composed of customs officers. There are four customs officers in !he section and they are currently examining every section of the Department of Customs and Excise with a view to eliminating unnecessary processes, cutting out dead wood and eliminating red tape and forms. We intend to go beyond the oil industry. The work in regard to that industry was just a start. This work is one of our major undertakings and, as the Auditor-General has pointed out, it was carried out with ministerial approval. So, I am very closely bound up with the matter because in the final analysis I approved of the work being undertaken. I also made a close examination of our old systems. I went to most of the oil installations in Australia. I spent some time looking at them and questioning the officers. 1 went right into the details of the work because it was a big step to take and one that 1 had to be perfectly satisfied, after thorough examination, would be successful. Therefore, having entered into the detailed administration, I have to accept a great deal of the responsibility for the final decision. In fact, 1 accept full responsibility for the final decision.
In regard to the section of the act which gives officers of the department power to stop and examine vehicles which they think are carrying petroleum products, we already have that power under the Excise Act. Under that act we have that right - where there is reasonable cause for suspicion - in relation to about 90 per cent, of our petrol which is refined in Australia and so comes under the Excise Act. This provision merely extends that power to the other 10 per cent, of our petrol so that we shall now have that power in respect of all petrol. I believe it is necessary’ to have the power to make occasional test checks and to have a mobile system under which no one in the oil industry knows where the departmental officers will be at any given time. I think that is one of the reasons why the test checks will be most formidable. 1 think I have answered all the points raised by Senator McKenna and Senator Armstrong. I thank the Senate for its response to this bill and I thank Senator McKenna for his commendation of officers of my department.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 29th September (vide page 826), on motion by Senator Wade-
That consideration be given to the wool industry and particularly to the following matters: -
Whether the wool industry and the Australian economy generally are being endangered by the downward trend in wool prices;
Whether an expanded sales promotion campaign would have a steadying effect on the market;
Whether a more vigorous research programme into credit facilities and production problems would materially assist the industry; and
Whether a competent independent body should be set up to inquire into all the aspects of wool marketing.
– Mr. Deputy President, honorable senators on both sides of the chamber who have participated in this debate are all of the one mind. They all agree that wool is the most important commodity in the Australian economy and that the decline in the income received from the sale of wool could have far-reaching effects on every man, woman and child in Australia. Previous speakers have also said that the problems are not confined to the wool industry. If this industry continues to decline not only will the industry itself but also the Australian economy as a whole will be adversely affected. As we all know, wool is Australia’s largest income earner. It helps us to maintain a favorable overseas balance without which we would not be able to purchase heavy equipment, machinery and the raw materials which keep our secondary industries operating. Should the industry be retarded, the effect on Australia would be very critical indeed. I believe that Senator Wade’s motion and the subsequent discussion of it will focus attention on the plight of the wool industry. The question we must ask ourselves, Mr. Deputy President is: What can we do to improve the serious situation that confronts not only the wool industry, but also this Parliament and the nation as a whole?
Offhand, we might say that if the woolgrowers received a higher price for the wool they produce, that would solve the problem. I agree that an increase of price would help. Perhaps we should urge the wool-growers to increase the production of wool. I agree, again, that increased production would help to solve the problem. But let us be broadminded and down to earth in our approach to this matter. A solution of the problem is not as easy to find as it might appear. The wool industry is unique. We know that most secondary industries can counteract increases of costs, first, by increasing the prices charged to the consumer for their products, and secondly, by increasing the volume of their production, thereby reducing to a great extent their overhead expenses. While the wool-grower cannot increase the price that is paid for the commodity he has to sell, he can increase the volume of production, although, should he do so, there is no guarantee that his monetary return will be any higher. The return that he gets for the wool he sells is controlled by the prices that are fixed by the auction system under which wool is sold to-day. When I refer to the prices that are fixed, I do not mean that they are fixed before the commodity is sold; I mean that the producer must accept the prices that are fixed at the time that the hammer falls.
If the price of wool continues to fall, the extent to which production is increased will not matter very much. As I have said, the return to the wool-grower is governed by the prices paid under the auction system. I believe that the whole foundation of the wool industry is the price per bale that woolgrowers receive for the wool they sell. I have here, Mr. Deputy President, figures relating to the total proceeds of the Australian wool sales held during July and August of this year and during the same months last year. The total amount this year was £1 8,00,000, or £3,400,000 more than in the corresponding period in 1959, when the total proceeds amounted to £15,100,000. The average price per lb. in 1959 was 61.74d., and in1960, 46.02d. The average value per bale was £80 13s. 8d. in 1959 and £59 16s. l1d. in 1960.
– I take it that would be for fleece wool?
– Yes. The figures that I am about to refer to are very interesting. They relate to the total number of bales sold in July and August, 1959, and in the same period this year. In 1959, the number of bales was 187,940. and this year it was 307,906, or 1 19,966 more. Yet the increase in value amounted to only £3,400,000. I suggest that those figures prove that even increased production does not necessarily mean that our total income from the sale of wool will be appreciably higher than it was previously. Despite the increase of about 60 per cent, in the number of bales sold this year, the increase in return to the growers was only about 15 per cent.
There are other problems which face the industry to-day, including competition from other wool-producing “countries. Those countries are increasing their production of wool, and as they improve production methods and efficiency we may find that they will be competing more and more with Australia. I agree with Senator Wright’s statement that perhaps Australia will find other countries pressing it hard to keep the lead in wool production. I wish now to refer to a statement published in the “Textile Journal of Australia”, at page 644. Under the heading “World Wool Production and Stocks” the following appears: -
World production of raw wool during 1959-60 is now estimated at just over eighteen million bales (Australian), according to the International Wool Textile Organization. This represents an increase of 5 per cent, on that of the 1958-59 season, which was itself a record.
The output of merino wool is estimated to have risen by nearly 6 per cent., while that of crossbred wool has risen 4 per cent, and that of carpet wools 5 per cent. Production in the “ free “ world was estimated to have been about 14) million bales (Australian) or 4 per cent, above the previous season’s total.
Australia has again contributed the major portion of the increase. In fact almost every woolproducing country in the world has shown an increase during the season.
That article indicates that other countries are increasing their production of wool, just as Australia is increasing its production. I hope the time will never come when Australia will have to play second fiddle to some other wool-producing country.
Another problem facing the industry to-day is competition from man-made fibres. These fibres have entered into a field in which at one time natural wool held sway, and they present a great problem to Australia. The far-reaching nature of this problem is borne out by the views expressed by Dr. Giuseppe Luraghi, of Italy, which were reported at page 552 of “The Textile Journal of Australia” as follows: -
In a report, the effect of the increasing use of different fibres on the traditional features of the wool textile industry, Dr. Luraghi stressed how the integration of natural raw materials with artificial materials was necessitated, not only by certain technical requirements, but mainly by the grave disparity between the rapid and unceasing increase in world population and the inadequacy of the means of subsistence produced.
This problem, he said, had considerably affected the textile field, particularly in the wool sector, as revealed by a brief examination of the trend of world production of textile fibres; an examination which showed how a relatively modest increase in the production of natural fibres contrasted with a rapid increase in the production of man-made fibres.
The report proceeded to a practical analysis of the processes in a large, integrated wool factory, for the production of three types of fabric made from wool and synthetic polyester fibres, compared with three similar and technically comparable types of pure wool fabric, to establish the respective production costs in each stage of processing.
This comparison showed that the costs were, on the whole, lower for the mixed fabrics; furthermore, the perfecting of production envisaged with the introduction of new machines and of new dyestuffs would certainly imply an even greater difference in costs.
This examination led to the conclusion that, from every aspect, far from representing dangerous competition for wool, man-made fibres were in fact a necessary complement and they should be accepted as such, by both wool-growers and manufacturers.
Growers would be spurred to increase production and improve quality through intensified scientific research and assistance to consumers.
The wool textile industry might find that it was possible, through the combined use of different fibres, better to meet the technical and economic requirements of consumers. Dr. Luraghi expressed the opinion that a closer co-operation should be established between the interested parties, concluding that closer contacts and agreements would enable them to find the best solutions.
– If you cannot beat them, go with them.
– Yes. I believe that the last part of that report answers the third question raised in the motion moved by Senator Wade.
Wool receipts for 1958-59 accounted for only 37.2 per cent, of the value of our total exports, compared with an average contribution of 46.5 per cent, and a contribution of 48.5 per cent, for the preceding five-year and ten-year periods respectively. Last financial year, wool, in fact, gave us the lowest return since 1948-49, despite the fact that our production had increased by about 10 per cent, over the previous record level achieved in 1956-57. The monetary value of the wool produced last financial year was 14 per cent, less than the value of that produced in 1956-57. The price recovered somewhat in the latter part of the year, but the auction price was 22 per cent, less than the average for 1957-58. The latest estimate for 1959-60 indicates that production will reach the all-time record high of 1,690,000 lb. compared with 1,588,000 lb. in the 1958-59 season. These figures show that although the industry is improving its output each year, the monetary return is not in keeping with the higher production being achieved. One factor that has been responsible for this increased production is good seasonal conditions in many areas, and the placing of more and more sheep on the land.
– And also better breeding.
– Yes, that would have an effect too.
The Australian export figures for 1958-59 show that a number of countries bought less wool from Australia than they did in previous years. I shall name the countries and the amount in Australian currency of the reduction in their purchases -
There may have been a number of contributing factors which caused those countries to buy less Australian wool. It would be difficult probably to enumerate those factors. I hope that in the coming season those countries will buy as much, if not more, Australian wool as they have bought in the past.
It is true that Japan emerged as the largest purchaser of our wool, purchasing even more than did the United Kingdom. This may have helped to counter the reduced purchases that I have just mentioned. The outlook for 1959-60 seems to be a little brighter. The publication “ Overseas Trading “, Volume 12, No. 5, states -
Exports of raw wool from Australia in the first six months of 1959-60 at 697.7 million lb. were valued at £183.1 million, an increase of 108.3 million lb. (18 per cent.) in quantity and of £50.6 million (38 per cent.) in value compared with the corresponding months of the previous year.
Shipments to the United Kingdom declined slightly while those to Australia’s other major customers showed marked increases. Japan was the leading destination followed by the U.K., France, Italy, Belgium-Luxembourg and West Germany.
Exports of greasy wool to the U.S.S.R. and Eastern European countries rose from 30.1 million lb. in the first six months of 1958-59 to 55.3 million lb. in the same period of 1959-60.
In the few minutes left at my disposal, I should like to discuss wool marketing. Like others who have preceded me in this debate. I am of the firm opinion that a reserve floor price would be beneficial to our economy. The Queensland Primary Producers Cooperative Association Limited stated, in a letter dated 15th September, 1960 -
New Zealand contacts report complete satisfaction (by the wool-growers of that country) with the results of the New Zealand Wool Floor Price Plan and the efficiency of the N.Z. Wool Commission - while a South African authority has affirmed that this method of wool marketing has given such satisfaction as to assure its permanence.
It seems that a floor price plan would provide a partial solution to our problem. As I said previously, the amount of wool sold is not so important as the price that we receive for it. We of the Australian Labour Party have always been in favour of a reserve floor price. Only three years ago, in 1957, in another place, Mr. Pollard submitted a motion of censure against the Government in relation to pies and buying rings in the wool industry. The Labour Party’s view has been borne out by the royal commission conducted by Mr. Justice Cook, who found that pies and rings did exist. The only way of overcoming those practices is by the application of a reserve floor price, and the sooner all parties concerned get together and decide upon this system, the better it will bc for the whole of the Australian economy
– The first question raised by Senator Wade is -
Whether the wool industry and the Australian economy generally are being endangered by tha downward trend in wool prices.
My answer to that is, “ Yes “. The second question is -
Whether an expanded sales promotion campaign would have a steadying effect on tha market.
My answer is, “ Not an immediate effect “. The third question is -
Whether a more vigorous research programme into credit facilities and production problems would materially assist the industry.
My answer to that is, “ Yes “. The fourth question is -
Whether a competent independent body should be set up to inquire into aspects of wool marketing.
My answer vo that question also is, “Yes”.
I should like to commend Senator Wade for bringing this matter before the Senate. His action had the very beneficial effect of informing the people of Australia of the problems facing the wool industry, and of the fact that prospects for the immediate future are far from reassuring. There is scarcely any need to stress the importance of the industry to Australia; we are all well aware of that. I find it very comforting that the Opposition is seised of the importance of the wool industry just as we on this side are. I. should like to remind honorable senators, as well as broadcast listeners, that we owe a great deal to the early settlers who faced hardships that we can scarcely envisage. They worked long hours for seven days a week, enduring all sorts of privations and selfdenial. They cleared land, fenced it where necessary and gradually developed virgin country to the state in which we see it to-day. I think it is timely that we should pause in silent thanks to those early settlers who laid the foundation of our present prosperity. I move on a few years and pay a tribute also to the pastoral workers who worked on those properties. They gave long hours, although they were only employees and not owners. They did a great job for the rest of Australia and it is only fitting that we should include them when we are paying tributes. The unfortunate aspect is that that type of employee seems to have vanished. It is very hard now to find such men who are available for employment.
We should also pay a tribute to our merino stud-breeders. Australia occupies a predominant place in the world wool industry, of which we are justly proud. But for the application and ability of our studbreeders we would not have gained that place. The Government would do well to keep that fact in mind and to see that there is no danger of merino studs going out of existence. I am afraid that there is a tendency for their numbers to diminish, because of the conditions that they have to face. If that trend were to develop to any great extent, it would be a tragedy for this country.
This debate has ranged over a wide field. It might be as well if we had a look at the practical side of the industry - at the problems facing those who grow wool in Australia. First, we have to remember that, unlike the people in the cities and the large country towns, those who live on grazing properties cannot catch a bus to the nearest shopping centre. They have to work long hours, and even in the more comfortable residences on these properties there are not always to be found as many amenities as are available to the wives of basic wage workers in the cities. This is an aspect of the matter to which consideration should be given.
Let us look at the qualifications a man needs in order to become a successful woolgrower. I shall deal mainly with the owner-worker. He has to be something of a mechanic, because usually there is a tractor or truck on the property that has to be maintained. He must know quite a lot about agronomy and he must be an agrologist. He must be something of a veterinary surgeon. He will be in difficulties unless he is able to do a bit of building and plumbing work. If he intends to breed sheep, he must have a knowledge of genetics, as Senator Branson reminds me. Land husbandry is important, because if a grazier does not look after his land he will not continue to get good returns from it. He must take steps to prevent his property from becoming denuded of valuable soil.
Let us look at some of the problems that graziers have to face. Particularly in lush seasons, they have to contend with fly strike. A few years ago, when preparations such as deildrin and aldrin came on to the market, we felt that the fly had been dealt almost as heavy a blow as the rabbit was dealt by the introduction of myxomatosis. But unfortunately the blowfly speedily built up a resistance to these insecticides, and after a while they were not nearly so effective as at the beginning.
However, there are one or two other preparations on the market now which do give some immunity.
For the control of fly strike, there is the mules operation. This involves cutting off the wrinkly flaps on the breech of the sheep and also cutting off quite a portion of the skin on each side of the tail, leaving the tail and the breech bare of wool. Consequently, with ewes particularly, that area does not become stained and lead to blowfly strike. This has been a great step forward in the prevention of blowfly strike. I am referring now to breech strike. In good seasons we get what is known as body strike. The fly strikes the sheep on the back and travels right round; it completely encircles the sheep. In the case of young sheep carrying heavy fleeces, if there is much high grass on the property, and if the property is of a fair size, they go down on the grass, they cannot be found and they die speedily. These fly strikes usually run in waves and they normally last about six weeks. This is a very anxious period for the sheep-owner.
In the better rainfall areas, worms are very prevalent. All that one can do is to drench the sheep constantly. There are a number of drenches now available, but some are not so good as others. Drenching must be carried out in order to combat worms, otherwise the sheep may die without having shown signs of anything being wrong with them. As Senator DrakeBrockman reminds me, drenching must be done four or five times a year - and perhaps even more, depending on the location of the property.
I come now to the matter of lice in sheep. In order to prevent lice, the sheep must be dipped regularly. All these things, of course, not only take up time but also involve the spending of money. On an average, the cost of dipping is about £8 per 1,000 head of sheep. While referring to costs, I would mention that drenching costs about 2s. 9d. a head, depending on how many times the sheep are dipped. In addition to these charges, there is the value of the time of the owner or those who do this work.
The occupier of the land must decide whether his property is suitable for the running of ewes or wethers. Apparently one of the Opposition senators, when speaking the other day, thought that we could breed from wethers. We have not reached that stage in New South Wales yet. Some land is more suitable for wethers than for ewes, while other land is more suitable for breeding ewes than wethers. A man must have some knowledge in this direction before he undertakes wool-growing.
There is a difficulty in the smaller flocks in the culling out of sheep. It is essential that the flocks be culled to get rid of the poorer types of sheep. 1 do not refer to sheep of poorer physical condition but to the lower-yielding sheep - sheep that are not of the desired quality. If the flock is of any appreciable size, it is a comparatively simple matter to sell the culls, but it is a more difficult matter with smaller flocks.
The man on the land has to keep a careful watch on his pastures. This leads me to the question of carrying capacity. Under one owner or manager a property may carry only one sheep to the acre whereas under another owner or manager it may carry considerably more. Land husbandry and pasture management are very important. Mention has been made of pasture improvement. This has resulted in a very great increase in the production of wool, but many people overlook the fact that much of the land in Australia has very definite limitations so far as pasture improvement is concerned. In many instances, the land is arid ar.d conditions are hard. Up to the present time, we have not been able to develop pastures that will stand up to these conditions. Only a sheepowner who has moved about his paddocks and seen his sheep running about, well feci and contented, can appreciate to the full the sense of satisfaction that this gives.
I come now to drought feeding. This is something that graziers must expect to do from time to time. It is all very well to say that the wise man makes provision for the bad years. Every one attempts to do that. Since this Government assumed office, in New South Wales literally thousands of grain silos have been erected throughout the central west and in the northern areas for the purpose of storing grain for use during drought years. That has been made possible because of the policy that has been adopted by this
Government. The owners of these silos have been able to write off the cost within a very short period.
– Do you mean by way of depreciation?
– Yes. We have taken a very big step forward in regard to drought feeding. Some twenty years ago it was thought that it was necessary to feed sheep daily. But it has been found that they do just as well by being fed once weekly. That represents a considerable saving in time and labour. Naturally, they get a bigger ration when they are fed once weekly than they would if fed on a daily basis. One-quarter of a pound of oats a day is sufficient to keep a sheep alive. Seven times that quantity would be the amount one would put out each week if one wanted to keep it alive. Of course, if one wanted to keep the sheep in better condition one would have to give them more.
Fodder also is stored other than in the grain silos I have mentioned. Many different kinds of ensilage are put by for the dry years. We have had some quite prolonged dry spells, but in many cases our losses have been negligible simply because of the foresight of owners who have put feed by in time of plenty.
– The New South Wales Government has helped a bit.
– Yes. I give due credit to the New South Wales Government. The only trouble is that it has not done enough. There is one other pest that I forgot to mention in my recital of pests that are experienced from time to time in the central west of New South Wales. I refer to the large hordes of grasshoppers which plague us from time to time. One can be saving paddocks in the hope that they will be quite useful within three or four weeks when almost overnight the grasshoppers come in and destroy the pasture. The only feed left is fouled and the stock will not eat it.
One thing which makes me see red is to hear people referring to the wool barons. That phrase was coined during the period of high wool prices. Admittedly, during that period some people spent their money unwisely, but they were a very small minority. If, when people use that term, they are referring to just half a dozen woolgrowers I take no exception to it; but to refer to large numbers of people as being wool barons is too stupid for words. People just display their ignorance by making such statements. If the wool-growers are in better financial circumstances now than they were twenty years ago, in almost every case they have earned their money over and over again.
People frequently ask why, if the wool industry is experiencing a relatively hard period, land prices have not fallen more than they have. It seems to be a fairly well accepted fact that three years elapse after the prices of various products have fallen before there is any great change in the price of land. During this debate, one honorable senator who apparently had no great knowledge of these things, asked why, if the price of wool was down, the woolgrowers could not engage in agriculture or grow vegetables. A lot of the properties I have in mind carry a sheep to ten acres and are not suitable for agriculture, because the climate is too dry. If wool prices fall, it is all right for people who are in the agricultural zone to turn their attention to agriculture. But that is not possible in every case.
Many figures have been cited to illustrate the returns of the wool-grower. Chislett has stated that the average grazier who has a capital investment of £40,000 receives £2,000 net after allowing for a station hand’s wages. That represents a returnof 3 per cent. on the capital outlay. There has been some disinvestment in this industry. Let us consider the size of the flocks. Forty per cent. of our sheep are run on mixed farms. Of the 50,000 holdings which grow wheat 41,000 run sheep. Fiftyeight thousand holdings run both sheep and beef cattle. At page 13 of Chislett’s review of factors influencing production this statement appears -
At page 28 of his review Chislett said that in the pastoral zone the average Australian return was 1 per cent., in the high rainfall zone it was 0.5 per cent. and in the wheat-sheep zone it was 4.1 per cent.
Yet we were told by honorable senators opposite that the sheep men are not as badly off as we are trying to make out. Those figures speak for themselves. In appendix 13 attached to the review it is shown that of Australia’s annual export income of £976,000,000 wool has accounted for £386,000,000. That shows what wool is worth to this country. I was very pleased to hear reference made to the effect, not directly but indirectly, of wool on employment. If we experience a period of low returns for wool, it will not be long before the effect will be felt throughout the economy. Perhaps the effect will not be as great as it was ten years ago, but still it will be felt to a large degree.
Much has been said about subsidies, and various ideas have been advanced for providing assistance to the wool industry. Let me refer briefly to some of the results of the subsidy programme in the United States of America. At the moment the United States Government has on hand 1,212,879,000 bushels of wheat, 1,188,236 bushels of maize, 5,160,000 bales of cotton, 74,720,000 lb. of butter, nearly 290,000,000 lb. of dried milk, and huge quantities of barley, rice, soya beans, peanuts, oats and other farm products. That is where the payment of subsidies can land a country. I feel that we in this country should not embark upon a subsidy programme unless we are driven to do so as a last resort. I say that we should exhaust every other possibility first.
I want to refer briefly to a very interesting talk on television recently by Dr. Ewen Roberts, who has just returned from a visit to Russia. In an interview he told us that there are at present 60,000,000 sheep in Russia. Russia uses 750,000,000 lb. of wool a year. A film was screened showing sheep grazing. They seemed to be a type of plain bodied sheep, smaller than the sheep we have in this country. The rams appeared to be a heavy cutting type. The wool had a fair length of staple, and the rams seemed to be maintaining some of the characteristics of Australian sheep, despite the fact that that blood was imported into Russia in 1928. There were no fences on the properties. Three shepherds watched over 1,000 ewes. Water for the sheep was drawn from wells by means of horses. Rural workers are prohibited from moving to Moscow. The Russians get between 140 per cent, and 150 per cent, of lambs from their ewes, mainly because the lambs are not born during the cold winter. The wool of the sheep is not a good colour. The quality varies from 60 to 64 count. That compares with our strong type of wool. Women shear in Russia. I do not think they do all the shearing, but they do quite a lot of it. The wool is appraised, bagged and sent to market. The Russians claim that no synthetic fibre oan possibly compete with wool in Russia because wool is so suited to the climate there.
My time is running out - I would like to go on for a further half hour. Although this debate has, in the main, been conducted on non-party lines, a few remarks were passed about the Australian Country Party, and I shall devote my remaining few minutes to dealing with them. We on this side of the chamber realize that the Opposition would be very foolish if it did not attempt to spread dissension within our ranks. Honorable members opposite have been trying to do that for some time. Their activities have been increased recently, but with no success. I do not think their activities in the future will meet with any more success than they have in the past. Just as we on this side of the chamber like to see dissension between supporters of the Australian Labour Party and supporters of the Australian Democratic Party, honorable senators opposite like to see dissension amongst supporters of the Government on this side of the chamber. Honorable senators opposite would be failing in their duty as members of the Opposition if they did not take every opportunity to provoke dissension within our ranks. They ask why the Australian Country Party does not do something about the way this country is being governed. They tell us that we in the Australian Country Party represent the country people of Australia, and that we have the power to influence the Government. On other occasions we are told we do not carry much weight in the Government. Other people tell us that the Government must do as it is told by the Australian Country Party. So the Australian Country Party must be of some importance.
Earlier in the debate I said, by way of interjection, that the Australian Country Party has saved Australia from a Labour government since 1949. This has been a great boon not only to the country people, but to everybody in Australia, and we will continue to save Australia from a Labour government. The Australian Country Party is a partner in this Government. It is a partner because the present Administration has given good government to the people since 1949. I have not the slightest doubt that it will continue to give good government for the next twenty years. After that it may slip a bit - I do not know.
– What has the Australian Country Party done for the woolgrowers?
– The woolgrowers, particularly in New South Wales, have asked all governments to keep out of their industry. The Commonwealth Government has kept out of their industry. It has told the wool-growers that it will assist them to hold a referendum if they want one. Any request that is made by the wool-growers to this Government will be considered sympathetically.
In his speech Senator Armstrong referred to the 20 per cent, tax levy on woolgrowers. When I could get a word in I asked him what happened to that money, but he did not attempt to reply. That 20 per cent, levy was returned to the woolgrowers the following year, and absolved them from the payment of thousands of pounds in taxes. The return of that 20 per cent, levy was one of the best things that the Treasurer of the day, Sir Arthur Fadden, did. Contrast the Government’s action on that occasion with the situation that obtained in New Zealand, where a far greater sum was taken from the woolgrowers who, in many cases, have not had a razoo since. I regret that I must close on this note, but honorable senators opposite must know that sooner or later the worm will turn.
I have much pleasure in supporting Senator Wade’s motion.
– In some respects I agree with the sentiments expressed by Senator Wright in his speech. If any good is to come out of this discussion, which I think we all agree is a most important one, at some future time the Government will have to take some action. In other words, if any words of wisdom are spoken during this debate it is the duty of Ministers to be present in the chamber to hear them. Ministers should take part in the debate and they should note, for future attention, any helpful suggestions that are made. Accordingly, I join with Senator Wright in criticizing members of the Ministry for what he described as their token representation in the chamber during this debate.
Senator Wright said that he had some misgivings about taking part in the debate because of his lack of practical experience in the wool industry. If I thought that knowledge of the industry was a necessary prerequisite to taking part in the debate, I would have to confess to the same misgivings as Senator Wright felt, but I do not think that it is necessary to have a wide knowledge of the industry in order to understand its problems and its importance to Australia. All speakers in this debate have agreed that the critical period in the industry has been the last ten years. It has also been agreed on all sides that the economy of the wool industry is wedded to that of the nation, and that anything that affects the one will affect the other. It may be argued, of course, that the economy of the country should not be wedded to the fortunes of the wool industry as closely as it is.
At the risk of arousing the ire of Senator McKellar, I say that it is impossible to divorce politics from a debate such as this if we are to seek a solution to the problems confronting the wool industry. If, during the ten years under review, the Government failed to discharge its responsibilities, and if representatives of the Australian Country Party failed properly to serve the people whom they profess to represent, we should not hesitate to direct attention to the fact. Judging by the remarks of some honorable senators who have taken part in this debate the Liberal Party expects, with the help of (the Australian Country Party, and another party whose name I shall not mention, to govern for some considerable time. Whether that expectation is proved correct only time win tell. In my opinion, it is dangerous for a party that, at the most, represents less than half of the Australian people to boast that it will be in office for the next twenty years at least. If my views on that matter are correct - that the Australian Country Party has been doing a disservice to the people it represents in joining in a coalition and allying itself with the action or inaction of the Liberal Party - and if we are sincere in our views and want sincere views to be expressed in this debate, we are entitled to express ours. 1 believe the true answer to the first proposition raised in Senator Wade’s motion, to which I will refer in a moment, can be supplied by determining whether the Government could and should have countered unbalances in the economy resulting from fluctuations in wool prices, and whether the Government’s failure in that regard has been and still is prejudicial to certain sections of the community whilst allowing another section of the community to profit from such fluctuations. Let me analyse Senator Wade’s remarks in proposing this motion. The first part of it - the part which I think is germane to the whole question - reads -
Whether the wool industry and the Australian economy generally are being endangered by the downward trend in wool prices.
Senator Wade referred to the prices received for wool from 1950-51, when I think it was 144d. per lb., to the recent sales, at which I think the price was down to 45d. or 46d. per lb. I will not repeat all the prices because they have been given. For quite a number of pages of “ Hansard “, Senator Wade dealt with the effect of the gradual fall from the high price received in 1950-51. On page 747 of “Hansard” he is reported as follows: -
We must have n balanced economy. 1 do not want the Senate to infer from my remarks that I am suggesting we should bolster the primary industries at the expense of the secondary industries. In my opinion, the only chance that this country has to meet its obligations in a changing world is to develop and expand every section of its economy … I freely admit that. I also freely admit that no responsible Australian, whether he be a primary producer or be engaged in secondary industry, would want to see that type of peak again.
I should like to know why Senator Wade left certain questions unanswered. He said that he did not want to see the price of wool again reach the peak price of 1950-51. That statement must leave some questions unanswered. I do not think that he meant to imply that the action that should have been taken on that occasion in order to escape the evil consequences was for the growers to subsidize the buyers. I do not think he suggested that at that time the wool-growers should have fold the woolbuyers, “ We do not want 144d. per lb. for our wool; we will settle for 70d. per lb., or some such sum !”. Nor do 1 think Senator Wade meant - if he did mean this he certainly did not say so - that he believes that some of the money received should have been taken from the wool-growers and paid to Consolidated Revenue. Nor did he suggest that some of the money received should have gone into a stabilization fund, to be paid to the wool-growers in limes of falls in the price of wool. As 1 say, Senator Wade left those questions completely unanswered.
I do not think 1 am doing him an injustice in placing my own construction on what he said. 1 think he meant to voice the feelings of every one on this side of the chamber and everybody else in the community, namely, that the effect of that high price was allowed to flow right through the whole cost structure and thus was the beginning of inflation. That meant that the wool-growers were denied the benefit of the high price they received for their wool for the simple reason that within a very short time the cost of every commodity in Australia was increased and the value of the money the wool-growers received was reduced. As I mentioned earlier, that applied to the wool-growers and to every other section of the community. In other words, at that time the Government failed to prevent the effect of the excessively high price received for wool in 1950-51 flowing through the Australian cost structure.
– Other sections of the community received increases in wages.
– Senator DrakeBrockman refers to the effect on wages. I will answer his interjection because I intend to discuss that matter as part of my contribution to this debate. Senator McKellar said that honorable senators on this side of the chamber could be charged with lacking knowledge of the wool industry; but judging from the debates that have taken place in the Senate since I have been a senator, if there is one thing that honorable senators opposite lack it is a knowledge of the arbitration system and the trials and tribulations which trade unionists experience in order to obtain increases from arbitration courts. For that reason I intend to deal with the matter raised by the honorable senator who interjected. In fact, I was leading up to it.
No honorable senator on either side of the chamber has denied that the woolgrowers have suffered as a result of fluctuations in prices. I have already made that clear, but in case I have not, I do so now. Although Senator Wade’s motion refers to the downward trend in wool prices, he said that no responsible person would like to see the price of wool again reach the high price received in 1950-51. Therefore, he would have framed his motion more appropriately if he had used the words “ fluctuating wool prices “ instead of the words “ downward trend in wool prices “. If it is agreed that the wool-growers have suffered as a result of the fluctuations in wool prices, particularly from the effects of the inflation which the high price of wool brought to Australia, we can also see that other sections of the community have suffered in the same way. That is what prompted the interjection by Senator Drake-Brockman.
I think all honorable senators agree that 1950-51 should be taken as the base year if this proposition is to be properly analysed. In that critical year, the trade union movement went before Chief Conciliation Commissioner Galvin. The unions had not had a margins application before the court since 1948-49. In 1951, it was generally agreed - I say this with certainty because I was one of the advocates concerned - by advocates of both the employers and the unions that the court would grant a marginal increase. That agreement was based on the fact that in 1947 the court had applied a mathematical formula to margins, which gave employees the same purchasing power in relation to the basic wage as they had received under previous assessments by the court.
In case somebody treats that statement as so many words, the Ford Motor Company, believing that an increase would be granted, in September, 1950, granted an increase of 15s. a week to skilled tradesmen and 9s. a week to semi-skilled tradesmen, and agreed with the unions that after the court gave its decision- the 15s. and 9s. would be adjusted in accordance with the increase granted by the court. It is now history that the judgment was given in 1952 and no increase was granted. The unchallenged evidence that was presented indicated that farm income in that year - I am referring to evidence tendered in the case and not supported by figures, and I am speaking in round figures only - had increased by 1,400 per cent, over the 1939 level. The increase in income of wage and salary earners was about 220 or 230 per cent., while the increase of income of companies, both private and public, on capital invested was about 330 per cent. Those figures may not be completely accurate; the important point is that at that time the rate of increase of the income of wage and salary earners was far below that of farmers and companies.
Honorable senators may remember that at the time of which 1 am speaking the then Chief Judge of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, the late Chief Judge Kelly, felt that the economy of Australia was reaching bursting point and that before the court, or conciliation commissioners who heard such cases, gave decisions, evidence should be taken from economic experts. Accordingly, Conciliation Commissioner Galvin invited the parties to place a reliable economist in the witness box. Neither side was prepared to do so. The unions obviously believed that they were entitled to sit pat on the previous decision of the Arbitration Court which had prescribed the degree of relativity that margins should bear to the basic wage, and no doubt the employers were not satisfied that they could produce evidence of an economic character to convince the court that they could not stand the increased wages that the unions were seeking. Conciliation Commissioner Galvin was then obliged to invite a witness of his own choosing to give evidence. He chose a person by the name of D. W. Oxnam who was then, and I believe still is, lecturer in economics in the University of Western Australia.
This is neither the time nor the place to go fully into the evidence that was given by Mr. Oxnam. It is sufficient to say that the general tenor of his evidence was that to increase wages at that time would be to increase inflation. He also stated that, in his opinion, what he called the “ escalator “ clauses in awards should be abolished. In other words, he indicated that the basic wage should not be tied to the cost of living, as measured by the C series index figures.
– Of what year is the honorable member speaking?
– Mr. Oxnam gave evidence on 28th August, 1951. The evidence indicates that his view that to increase wages at that time would have the effect of increasing inflation was based on the large volume of income from farm products. He gave more than one reason for the imbalance in the economy, but the main reason was that there was so much money coming into the community in that way that it was creating what he described as a condition of over-full employment which, he said, was itself inflationary. He stated that the high prices being received for wool and wheat, together with the increased demand for goods caused by the correspondingly higher returns to producers, were creating over-full employment. When the time came for me to crossexamine Mr. Oxnam, I asked whether, in his opinion, the right time to increase wages was not when high prices were being received for farm products, but when farm income had fallen, and he said, “ Yes “.
Honorable senators opposite have shown a tendency during recent debates in this chamber to try to make the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission the scapegoat for the state of the economy on the ground that the commission, when giving judgment in claims for increased wages and marginal rates, does not take into account the interests of the farming community. I can say from my experience that that is not correct, either of the time to which I have referred, or of the present time. The evidence of Mr. Oxnam undoubtedly brought about a refusal by the arbitration authorities to grant an increase in the margins of workers. It was not until 1954 that relief was granted to the workers. It is history that in 1953 the so-called escalator clauses in awards were cancelled and that from then on the cost of living did not decide the rate of basic wage that should be paid in Australia. So, I claim that it is false to say that the arbitration authorities do not consider farm income when they are determining basic wage and margins applications.
Assuming that I am wrong and that the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission does not give sufficient consideration to the farming community when it is arriving at decisions, 1 ask honorable senators opposite - and I should like some one who follows me in the debate to answer the question - what the court can do, if it desires to give a fair and just judgment. What can it do if, in the course of a hearing, it finds that companies in Australia are making exorbitant profits and are clearly able to pay higher wages, but if, at the same time, farm income is falling, as this debate has. made clear it is falling at the present time? Should the commission say to the representatives of the workers, “ You have established your case regarding the ability of your employers to pay you higher wages, but we cannot grant you higher wages because there is another section of the community, over which we have no control, which is not getting a fair share of the national income “.
I put it to the Senate that I have indicated that the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission should not be criticized on that score, because the commission has no power to control farm income. It certainly has the power to refuse to grant increases of wages, but if it does so, does that assist farm income in any degree? ‘ I say that there is only one body in Australia which can possibly bridge the gap and overcome the imbalance between the proportion of the national income that is going to capital investment, that going to wage and salary earners, and that going to people dependent on farm income, and that body is the Federal Parliament. The Parliament may not have the necessary constitutional power at the moment, but nevertheless it is the only body that can hope to achieve a balance between those three elements.
It is fallacious to criticize the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission for failing to take farm income into account. I know that I may be said to be using contradictory terms, in that I have said that the commission does take farm income into account; but what I am pointing out is that there are three elements in the national income, namely, the return from capital investment, wages and salaries, and farm income. This debate has shown that although perhaps there has been some improvement in the position of one section of the community, that improvement has taken place at the expense of the farmers and of those who work on farms. I can assure honorable senators that the share of farm income being received by wage and salary earners is nowhere near that being received by those who have invested money in the industry. The two sections of the industry which have the worst end of the stick are the farmers and the wage earners.
Not only Senator McKell:,4 but also Senator Wright and others criticized Senator Kennelly because he dared to gibe at the expense of the Country Party for not making use of the power that it had in this Parliament and for not representing the people it claimed to represent. If, as I have shown, two sections of the community are not getting their fair share of the national income, common sense would dictate that the representatives of those two sections should get together in an attempt, as it were, to apply the brake on the amount that is being taken by the third section to which I have referred.
– Will- you tell us how that can be done?
– The responsibility of any government, no matter what its party colour may be, is first to endeavour to ensure a buoyant economy. Its second task, is to see that the national dividend resulting from that buoyant economy is shared equitably among all sections of the community. If the government of the day finds that it has not the necessary power to ensure an equitable distribution of the national income among the three sections of the community which I have mentioned, it is the duty of that government to ask the people to give it that power. I am firmly of the opinion that the fanners are not suffering because they have to pay wages that have been awarded by the Arbitration Commission, but because other sections including the big financial institutions are receiving in dividends a: disproportionate share of the wealth of the community.
– I welcome the opportunity to say a few words on this important motion introduced by Senator Wade, whom 1 congratulate for having introduced it. 1 have before me a statement issued by the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) to the effect that he met a joint deputation from the Australian Wool Growers and Graziers Council and the Australian Wool and Meat Producers Federation and discussed a proposal for a high-level independent inquiry into wool marketing. The two organizations had decided to ask for this inquiry at a conference which had been held previously. The Minister went on to say that he would refer the request to ihe Government for its early consideration. I think it is a healthy sign when two of the major primary producing organizations get together to discuss a matter such as this and arrive at agreement. Those two organizations have asked for an inquiry into wool marketing, but the motion introduced by Senator Wade is, of course, wider in its scope. It covers much more than wool marketing. Personally I do not believe that a solution to the marketing problem alone will solve the problems that confront the wool industry. Senator Wade’s motion embraces the trend of wool prices and the danger inherent in the fall of those prices to the Australian economy. It relates also to promotion, research, credit and production problems, and finally, to the need for a full inquiry into the industry.
I agree with Senator Ridley that the present state of the wool industry poses some difficult problems for the Australian economy as well as for the Australian Government and the wool-growers in particular. We must consider these problems both nationally and individually. Other speakers have emphasized the importance of the wool industry to> the Australian economy. The. vital part that it plays has been established by the figures produced by Senator Wade and others. I do not think any harm can be done by reiterating those figures. The total value of Australia’s exports is £900,000,000, and of that amount £700,000,000 represents primary products, of which £400,000,000 worth, or approximately 45 per cent., is supplied by the wool industry. The statement that the wool industry is of national importance is fully justified. We have, therefore, to give urgent consideration to this problem from a national point of view if we are to maintain the buoyant conditions which obtain in this country at the present time.
I was interested to hear recently that if we are to maintain our present rate of development we will have to increase our export income by £250,000,000 during the next five years. That poses a very big problem. We export primary and secondary products and our predominant exports are, of course, those produced by our primary industries. Our secondary industries contribute to our export earnings to a small extent, and if we can increase the amount of our secondary exports that will help our overseas balance of payments position. It should be our aim to improve our economy, but even to maintain our economy it will be necessary for us to increase our exports by at least £250,000,000 during the next five years.
The position of the wool industry is paradoxical at the present time. A few years ago it was one of our most prosperous industries. It was able to get along without government assistance, but to-day it is one of our problem industries. Formerly it was always the. boast of the Australian wool industry that it was prepared to stand on its own feet. Because of increased costs and lower prices during the last few years, we are now looking for ways of assisting the industry. We need to devise means of keeping the industry going, ensuring its progress, and seeing that it plays its full part in earning overseas income.
It is an historical fact that when this Government came into office, certain woolgrowing interests sought the introduction of a reserve price scheme. We, who have been in the Senate for ten years or so, know the background to that proposal. On reflection, one wonders whether the wool-grower took the correct attitude when he rejected the proposal. Did he assess the situation accurately when he thought that he could get along without a reserve price scheme, believing that he could meet world competition without the assistance that such a scheme would provide? I mink that at ‘was perhaps rather unfortunate that the scheme was rejected. That is only my personal opinion; I may be right or wrong. I have some knowledge of the benefit that such a scheme would provide in bringing a certain stability to the industry and acting as ,a :back*stop in times of adversity. We must respect the attitude taken by the industry in the past. It has been independent of government aid. Although some associations of growers asked for a .reserve price scheme, the proposal was defeated at a ballot. The Government has consistently followed the policy that it will not introduce a stabilising scheme without the full concurrence of a majority of growers, whether they be in the wool, wheat or any other industry. That policy has been followed for years, and I think it is the best policy.
Senator Kennelly criticized the Government for not introducing a reserve price scheme. He .said that if the Australian Labour Party had been in power it would have introduced the scheme willy-nilly, whether or not the .growers approved, if it thought that such a scheme was desirable. We believe in the democratic principle that an industry should decide such matters for itself. I was very interested to hear Senator Kennelly’s attack upon the Australian Country Party. We on this side are very proud of the collaboration of the antisocialist parties over the years. In South Australia an amalgamation of the two antisocialist parties has existed for very many years. In the Commonwealth sphere, these two parties form a coalition or composite government, working in perfect unison and harmony. We cannot be chided by the Labour Party for that association. We know that no such collaboration exists in the Labour Party. Senator Kennelly’s remarks could be interpreted as an attempt to drive a wedge between the Government parties. He made a rather sneering reference to the Australian Country Party, saying that all that it wanted was number two position on the ballot paper. That was a most unworthy statement. Although he is not present in the chamber, I should like to remind him of the wonderful work that has been done by members of the Australian Country Party, particularly by members of the Government, including the leader of the party, Mr. McEwen, and by Mr. Adermann, who holds the important Primary Industry portfolio. We know of the work that has been done right through the field of government by Australian Country Party Ministers in association with Liberal Party Ministers. The Government parties represent the interests of all sections of the people, and they are very much concerned with the man on the land. I am reminded by my colleague, Senator Mattner, that I should pay a tribute to Senator Sir Walter Cooper, who is also a member of the Australian Country Party. His work as Minister for Repatriation is a land-mark in the history of Commonwealth administration over the past ten years.
I want to refer to certain problems confronting the wool industry, with which I have had a fairly close association, both before and after coming to the Senate. We all know that the simple business of trying to get a payable price for wool in one part of the country is not all that is involved. We know that different conditions apply over the vast area of Australia that is devoted to wool production. Were it not for sheep, some outback areas that are now productive would be largely unproductive We know the valiant part that the wool industry has played in developing those areas. Vast flocks are spread over large holdings, under conditions entirely different from those that operate in farming areas and the high rainfall zone. Perhaps to-day the problems faced in the outside pastoral zone are a little less serious than those faced in the farming and high rainfall zones. We must analyse the conditions that have applied to these three zones in recent years.
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
– When the sitting was suspended, Mr. Deputy President, I was referring to the fact that the areas devoted to the production of wool in Australia differ materially. I had referred, first, to the outback or marginal areas, secondly, to the farming areas, and thirdly, to the pastoral areas that have been developed in the higher rainfall districts, along with the older established properties which are a feature of the area I have in mind in the south-east of South Australia. I think it is true to say that the ‘ wool-growers in all those areas realize that, great as their problems are, to some extent the solution is in their own hands. They are independent people who realize that the problems that confront them have to be met, and they are prepared to do what they can to meet the situation.
People in the outback or inland areas have to contend with many difficulties, particularly drought. This is the greatest difficulty to be overcome in the inland areas where sheep are carried. In this regard, the Government has assisted the farmers by permitting as income tax deductions money expended on the establishment of watering points and other improvements designed to increase production. lt was mentioned during the debate this afternoon that the amount of rent paid for leasehold property has an important bearing on wool production in the outback areas. 1 think it is incumbent on the governments concerned to render assistance in this connexion if the leaseholders feel that the rent they are paying is affecting them adversely in the production of wool. By and large, this Government has done something in that direction. It has extended valuable assistance to people engaged in primary production throughout the country by allowing amounts paid to effect improvements, such as the establishment of watering places, fences and yards to be claimed as income tax deductions.
I want to make the point that most of the wool-growers in the farming areas are engaged also in other forms of production. This is a very material factor which enables them to carry on more or less successfully. I have been a wool-grower for a number of years, and it has been a valuable assistance to me to grow cereals and to produce pigs and other live-stock, including fat lambs, in association with my wool-growing activities. Therefore, in the main farming areas I do not think the situation is quite as black as one might believe from some of the remarks that have been made during the course of this debate. I know that what I am saying may be glossed over by those who contend that it may embarrass the Government in giving assistance to those industries, but I still maintain that it is a good thing for a farmer not to have all his eggs in the one basket. In the main, people who are engaged in the farming industry are alive to the fact that it is wise to diversify their farming activities. That has been done quite successfully throughout the main farming areas of the country. I know that it is not the whole answer, but it is an important factor in the successful carrying on of a farming property.
In the high rainfall areas we have, perhaps, - greater problems because of the number of soldier settlers who have been induced to take up land in places where the cost of development and the cost of production, have been quite high, and in some instances almost prohibitive. We have the problem before us.
I always feel that some people have a tendency to adopt a wrong outlook in relation to wool. From the earliest days, this industry has been looked upon as one of the cushiest of the industries engaged in primary production. Quite a number of people in the community look upon it as an industry that does not require as much hard work to be put into it as does cereal production, dairying, pig raising or other activities associated with mixed farming. That is a wrong outlook. I hope that people will realize that it will be detrimental to agricultural production throughout Australia and will certainly make it more difficult for the wool industry to carry on successfully. The diversification of farming methods, particularly in the higher rainfall pastoral areas, is of great assistance.
– What do you call a high rainfall area?
– 1 shall occupy only a little of my valuable time to tell the honorable senator. Generally speaking, a high rainfall area is one where the rainfall is from 20 inches to 50 inches a year, but in South Australia an area which receives rainfall of from 20 inches to 30 inches a year would be classed as a high rainfall area. An enormous amount of work has been done to develop those areas and to enable production to be carried on successfully. An enormous amount of research has been done in relation to production. Carrying capacity is an important factor. In certain areas in South Australia, the introduction of trace elements and the heavier application of superphosphate have increased the carrying capacity of the land by many sheep per acre. That has been a valuable assistance and has enabled the farmers to carry on successfully, because if land can be improved to carry more sheep to the acre, the property can be run more economically.
As 1 have said, as a result of the enormous amount of research that has been carried out, country that was previously carrying only one sheep to the acre is now carrying three or four sheep to the acre. I think that greater attention should be given to meat production in those areas. At the present time, beef is a valuable export commodity. In most of these areas - in my State of South Australia, anyhow - the production of meat is associated with the production of wool. This, I think, stands the farmers in good stead.
Reference has been made to factors that are operating against wool. We are aware that one of the principal menaces to the wool industry is the man-made fibre. We cannot ignore that fact. It is with us and we must face up to it. We are doing what we can to counter competition from manmade fibres. We have entered upon a programme of research and I am glad to be able to say that the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, which has been in the forefront of research activity, has made a valuable contribution to the more attractive processing of wool. I believe that the Si-ro-set process is having an important effect upon the popularity of wool. 1 have .seen some mannequin parades within recent months. I went with my wife to one not long ago and 1 also attended one at the Adelaide Show. The first one was not confined to woollen fabrics, but the second one was. Both mannequin parades were very good, but the second one was the better of the two. Many parts of the world are absorbing only comparatively small quantities of wool. There should be an enormous reservoir in the United States of America and Europe for the sale of wool. Figures have been quoted by some one in the chamber - I do not remember who - which show that the amount of wool used per capita in certain countries is very small compared with the amount used in Australia. We should promote the use of wool for all we are worth.
The Commonwealth’s representative on the Australian Wool Bureau, Mr. Ewen Waterman, when opening a show recently at Tumby Bay, 1 think it was, on the Eyre Peninsula, said that the promotion of wool was absolutely essential. He claimed that it was the most important factor in assuring the well-being of the wool industry. 1 do not know that 1 go the whole way with Mr. Waterman,, but at least 1 am prepared to recognize that what he advocated has au important bearing on the prosperity of the industry from the viewpoint of the individuals who are engaged in it and from the national viewpoint.
– We are spending £2,000,000 annually on the promotion of wool, but America is spending £22,000,000 on the promotion of synthetics.
– lt is true that our expenditure on the promotion of wool does not compare at all favorably with what is being spent by some of the big producers of man-made fibres. We should do all we can to make wool more popular and to advertise its qualities. We have not necessarily to promote the sale of wool, because all our wool is consumed. What we must do, as I have said, is to make it more popular. Judging from what I saw at the mannequin parades, woollen fabrics can be made very attractive indeed. The inherent qualities of woollen fabrics are unsurpassed, but in the past they have lacked a certain amount of the glamour that is associated with other textiles.
I have enjoyed this debate very much. I listened with great interest to one or two of the contributions that were made on the other side of the chamber, particularly that of Senator O’Byrne. The honorable senator made some rather drastic strictures against the wool industry in regard to its efficiency. Although the efficiency of the wool industry has not reached the stage of perfection, if compares more than favorably with that of many other primary and secondary industries. What the wool industry has done over the years rates very high indeed.
I must now conclude my remarks, f wish to pay a tribute to my friend Senator Pearson for his reference to one factor that could have an important bearing on the prosperity of the industry. The honorable senator suggested a tariff review. That matter could be considered by a committee of inquiry. Senator- Wright referred to the subject of arbitration. 1 am not in a position to judge the merits of such a suggestion, but all such suggestions could be considered. I believe that an inquiry covering all those matters would be worth while. I compliment. Senator Wade upon having submitted the motion and I heartily support it.
.- Mr. Deputy President, this has been a moat interesting debate. Senator Wade did well when he decided to submit this matter for discussion. For the benefit of those who may be listening to the broadcast of these proceedings - and there are not many, because of competition from television - I should like to say that Senator Wade moved that consideration be given to the wool industry, particularly to whether the industry and the Australian economy generally are being endangered by the downward trend in wool prices. He also wanted to know whether an expanded sales promotion campaign would have a steadying effect on the market. No doubt it would have. He also asked whether a more vigorous research programme into credit facilities and production problems would materially assist the industry. Well, credit facilities are being restricted. It was only yesterday that I saw a caption in one of the newspapers to the effect that money was becoming tighter and tighter. I remind Senator Wade and all those who support him that he is a supporter of the Menzies - McEwen - Spooner Government and that the blame for the present situation rests with the Government. It is they who are in control of credit facilities. However, it is well that this matter has been brought forward for discussion.
Senator Wade also wanted to know whether a competent independent body should be set up to inquire into all the aspects of wool marketing. I think it was the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator Kennelly) who pointed out that practically all the facts were known and that there was no need to set up any further independent bodies. If the wool industry wants an independent body to be appointed and if the MenziesMcEwenSpooner Government is eager to appoint one, let it be so. I do not suppose that we on this side of the chamber would oppose it.
Senator Wade went to a lot of trouble in preparing his case and he certainly knew what he was talking about. His speech was very interesting and informative. But the general tone of the speeches of many other speakers on the tory-capitalist side showed that they wish to socialize losses and capitalize gains. That is what I call tory communism. Of course, we on this side of the chamber approach the matter from a Labour stand-point. We have had great experience during our 75 years’ sojourn on this mud ball. We have also read of the early days in the history of the Labour movement when supporters of the movement in Queensland were attacked by the military authorities and gaoled. In fact, one of them - a shearer - became President of the Legislative Council. There is no doubt that when one reads Spence’s “ Australia’s Awakening “ one gets the true story of what happened as between the graziers or the wool-growers and the workers. We do not forget those things. At the same time, we must deal with reality. I often laugh when I hear people, including Labour supporters, speaking about our wool. The workers generally do not own the wool. They do not own the land. They do not own the sugar that is produced. But we of the Labour Party have the interests of the small farmers - the small sugar-growers and the small woolgrowers - at heart. The wool does not in all cases belong to the small wool-grower. I have a relative in Queensland with whom I have been in contact recently. He has spoken of his farm, but from my understanding of his financial position, he does not own the farm - it is practically owned by the bank. Many small wool-growers are in a position similar to that of my relative, who is a peanut-grower.
– They are a dying race.
– Let me state frankly the policy of the Australian Labour Party. Its members are realists. When we become the government in 1961-
– That will be the day.
– The signs are favorable to Labour, and if the light of reason enters the ranks of the Democratic Labour Party, we shall be the government. I am not ambitious for myself, but I would like to live long enough to see my good friend Arthur Calwell leading the government of this country. We on this side of the chamber say that only a Labour government can fully develop Australia. Despite the class antagonisms that are inherent in modern financial capitalist society, a Labour government would do its best to improve the position economically, and to improve our markets internally and externally.
In regard to the wool industry, the Australian Labour Party affirms the policy that it has held for many years. As a party we strongly favour organized marketing. In Queensland, from 1915 until a few years ago, Labour did a great job in the way of organized marketing. We believe in a certain amount of control. Unlike the Communists, we do not believe in taking full and complete control of industry in the name of the nation. We do not plan for that, because it would lead to control and domination by an oligarchy. We are democrats.
One of the speakers from the other side of the chamber misinterprets what my good friend Senator Kennelly said. The honorable senator opposite said that Labour, if in power, would introduce a scheme willy-nilly for marketing wool. Senator Kennelly made no statement like that. Certainly, when Labour is in power it will watch the interests of the wool-growers as well as those of the workers.
Senator Kennelly said that the Government had ample material at its disposal from which to draw up a scheme, in conjunction with representatives of woolgrowers’ organizations, and submit it to a vote of the wool-growers. He said nothing about drawing up a scheme, willynilly. His suggestion represents a reasonable approach to this problem, and should win the support of all sensible wool-growers.
– What scheme will you draw up?
– We are in favour of a floor price, but I do not want to go into that. I read Senator Drake-Brockman’s speech, and I found that he was in favour of a floor price. I admit that there is a difference of opinion among wool-growers on this matter.
Senator Wade told us that since 1950 Australia’s sheep population has increased by 50,000,000. That is a wonderful increase. In the last ten years wool production rose by 1,500,000 bales. Our friend, the tribune of the small farmer - Reggie Pollard - said that men on the land were working harder and longer, but were receiving a smaller reward under the Menzies Government than they ever received before. Australia has more sheep, we are producing more bales of wool and more of our wool is being sold; yet the man on the land is not getting his just reward. 1 want to say a few words about the laxity of our democratic governments in preparing for the future. We know that this country has suffered terrible losses due to drought. Time and again parts of Australia have been subjected to drought. Recently 1 asked my friend, Mr. Barnes, whether at any time there had been a general drought throughout Australia. He thought that in 1901 there was such a drought throughout the whole country. Looking at figures in the Commonwealth “ Year Book “ I find that at the end of the last century and the beginning of the present century there was a terrible drought in Australia, but I did not ascertain whether it affected every part of the country. Such droughts are rare. Because of that, in time of drought we should be prepared to transport sheep from drought areas to pastures in other parts of the country. In good times we have not appreciated the need to prepare for drought. At present Queensland is suffering from a drought. Many farmers in Queensland are on the verge of walking ofl their properties. The tory Government of Queensland is preparing a plan - I do not know when it will be put into effect - under which roads will be built to connect the country towards the Gulf of Carpentaria with the Channel country. The Queensland Government will ask the Menzies-McEwen-Spooner Government for a few million pounds with which to build those roads so that losses from drought may bc minimized.
The Queensland Government intends to ask the Menzies Government for a lot of money. For a long time the Queensland Government tried to get money for the reconstruction of the Mount Isa railway line and eventually it got a loan, so they say, but at a price; whereas the Commonwealth
Government has practically given money to the Victorian and South Australian Governments. This Government sticks the fangs of interest into poor old Queensland which has to pay a high price to borrow money. 1 am warning Senator Spooner that shortly Mr. Nicklin, Mr. Hiley and the mighty Morris will come down to Canberra and ask for money for the development of Queensland in order to overcome the rigours of drought. That development should have been carried out many, many years ago. Sometimes 1 wonder whether Australia is sufficiently wide awake to deal with the situation. In the lands ruled by dictators they can do these things in preparation for the future; but we, in the democratic countries, are very lax indeed in that regard, lt is a pity that we have not thought of doing this work in the past and have not put more time and effort into the development of Queensland and other country areas in order to overcome the ravages of drought.
I have in my hand a summary of some very interesting information contained in the “ Year Book “. During the last 100 years, Australia has been subjected to at least seven major droughts which affected the greater part of the continent, and several other droughts which caused severe losses in restricted areas. So, it is apparent that droughts present tremendous problems. The information from the “ Year Book “ goes on to deal with the drought from 1895 to 1903 which was undoubtedly the most disastrous in its effect on primary producers. From 1939 to 1945 we had further droughts in Australia, and the main dry periods in those years were 1940 and 1943 to 1945. Sheep numbers in Australia had reached 125,000,000 by 1942. In the following four years there was a decline of 29,000,000. There was a loss of 18,000,000 in 1944. New South Wales lost 10,000,000, Victoria 3,000,000, Queensland 2,000,000, South Australia 2,000,000 and Western Australia 1.000,000.
I have a lot more figures that I could cite but I want to make the point that if this democratic country of Australia, by using its economic power through this Parliament, had taken effective measures and saved only half the number of sheep that were lost, we would have had all the money required to build the railways and roads that are required to move sheep from dry properties to places where they can get water and feed. But we have noi an efficient transport system. We are trying in a limited way to overcome the problems, but the attempts are very belated. 1 come now to the matter of synthetics. Competition is playing a part in the diminution of the income of the wool-growers: indeed, some wool-growers are afraid that in the future there will be greater competition from countries such as Russia. One of the greatest problems is the competition from synthetics. About 25 years ago I was speaking from this side of the Senate and Senator Guthrie was on the Government side. He was a great sheep man. He lost his leg because of anthrax; he had many operations, and he died only about eighteen months ago. When I spoke in this chamber 25 years ago about the competition from synthetics and the future possibilities, Senator Guthrie rose in his place and threw cold water on my proposition. He said that synthetics would never be competitive. A few years afterwards he left this chamber. That was about 1937 or 1938, if my memory serves me correctly. Before he left he came into this chamber dressed in a synthetic suit, a synthetic tie, a synthetic shirt and synthetic socks. I understand that a Government supporter on my left - I will not mention his name - when he spoke the other day, was wearing similar synthetic clothing. I do not say that in a sarcastic way. He was dressed that way for the purpose of showing how far we have travelled along the way to being clothed in synthetics.
– I think you had better name him, senator, because we are all under suspicion.
– If he gives me permission, I will do so. We know that synthetics have driven wool out of the stockings and socks market. I remember my boyhood and the neighbourhood in which T lived. I suppose one might say that I came from a middle-class family. We always had plenty to eat. My father had a bootshop, and he employed several workers. Living around us were thousands of people who were on the verge of starvation and many of them never knew what it was to have a sock or a stocking. You did not see the ladies stocking because their dresses reached to the ground and trailed behind them. To-day the women have discarded woollen stockings and they wear synthetic stockings. The other day I asked a question-
– You got some good publicity.
– The result of that publicity was that 1 received a letter from Prestige Limited, lt was very kind of them to send me a letter thanking me for my serious interest in the synthetic stocking industry. The company was kind enough to send me two stockings. Unfortunately they are odd ones, so I cannot give them to my wife or my secretary. I hold in my hand a lady’s synthetic stocking. There is no lady’s leg inside it, as you can see. When I asked my question 1 wanted to know why the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization could not do something about ladies’ stockings, seeing that it had done the nation a great service by discovering a process to put an everlasting crease in men’s trousers. My question was published all over the country.
I think I should read part of this letter from Prestige Limited because it is very interesting to half the population of Australia. Incidentally, I will admit that the letter says that if I would like to name some one the company will send her a pair of stockings so that she can try them out. I think I should choose my wife. Part of the letter reads -
It is a fact that no truly non-laddering stocking has been manufactured and this is because of the various peculiar shapes of women’s legs. One foot size in a stocking has to be made in a way that it will fit at least 20 different leg shapes. To get it over the instep and fit the ankle and at the same time make it ladderproof, it would necessitate some kind of zipper up the back which would make it very unattractive and therefore unsaleable. Stockings are much like other articles of merchandise, whether they be motor cars or fine china, all subject to accident, the length of wear and satisfaction one receives can be considerably improved with care, and the wearing qualities of the stocking which Madam decides to wear almost entirely rest on her own vanity. In this letter we are enclosing a sample of the finest stocking we make, which is 12 denier-
I wish there were a pair -
The other stocking is 60 denier (which is quite attractive on the leg) . . . lt is said that if the lady is careful, that stocking will give up to three years’ continuous wear. The letter- continues -
Unfortunately, generally speaking, Madam prefers the finer type stocking such as 12 and IS denier-
Here is some interesting information - and it must be borne in mind that the thread in both the 12 or IS denier stocking is not even half the thickness of a strand of your hair, therefore in the 60 denier stocking the thread is four times stronger in itself, plus the elasticity of the yarn, which makes for longer wear. In between the two samples we have enclosed which are 12 and 60 denier respectively, we manufacture fifteen to twenty other qualities, and the higher the denier in the stocking Madam chooses, generally speaking, the longer the wear she will obtain, so you will see. Sir, the problem rests entirely in Madam’s own hands.
Recently, when I was speaking to the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti), he told me of a firm which makes stockings that are really long lasting. I said to him, “ What is the firm? I will get in touch with it. I am getting quite interested.” He said, “ Holeproof “.
– They might send you a pair.
– I told the Holeproof people what the Prestige people had done. The person to whom 1 spoke is going to send me brochures and advertisements, and he may even send me a pair of stockings. I hope he does not send odd ones. The gentleman was very nice during the telephone conversation and explained that the Holeproof company manufactured a stocking which would wear for a very long time. He said that its wearing qualities were due to a technical difference between that particular type of stocking and other types. The company used a double thread in the manufacture of it. He said that it was of 30 denier and was on the market. However, I have been informed by a member of another place that only a few pairs of those stockings were put on the market. An honorable senator on this side of the chamber has told me that he made a speech in this place about a year ago on this subject. He said that the people concerned could make stockings that would last, but they did not do so because it was not profitable. I am not saying that that is so. I do not know whether it is or not.
– You will not get stockings by making that kind of statement.
– That may be so. I have made further inquiries. I shall not say the name of the person to whom 1 spoke because he was rather afraid that 1 would not do the wool industry any good. I understand that the C.S.I.R.O. is conducting experiments in a certain direction, but I think it will be a long time, unfortunately, before it is possible to produce from wool a thread that is fine enough to compete with nylon thread for use in stockings. I express the hope that it will be possible for the wool industry to achieve success in that direction.
It has occurred to me that it would be a good idea if .the wool industry, through the Paris office of the International Wool Secretariat, were to approach the firm of Christian Dior with a view to seeing whether or not it could influence fashion so that the ladies of Paris would wear Australian wool stockings instead of nylon. There are in Paris many firms similar to the Christian Dior company and if the International Wool Secretariat could persuade them to make the wearing of such stockings a world fashion, we should have achieved a degree of success for the wool industry of Australia.
I come now to the question of competition from other countries, such as Russia, which is engaged actively in the rearing of sheep. She also is sending rams to various countries which she hopes to control in the future. She is getting on the right side of them. I have been intrigued by some of the cuttings that I have received on this subject. I may say that the views expressed vary somewhat regarding the damage that may be done to our industry by the Soviet wool challenge. I point out, Mr. Acting Deputy President, that when the graziers went to the Arbitration Court they painted a doleful picture because they were trying to secure a reduction, of the wages of workers engaged in the industry. The United Graziers Association, when seeking a 10 per cent, reduction in the rates for shearers, expert wool-classers and shed-hands told a story about the competition being provided by Russia. Naturally, when employers are trying to have workers’ wages reduced they say that the industry concerned is suffering terribly. The “Sydney Morning Herald” of 15th September, under the caption “ Soviet Wool Output on the Increase “, stated -
Although Russia has made tremendous strides with its sheep production, no threat was presented to Australian wool export, said Mr. Basil Clapham.
There we see the difference between the statement made by the representatives of the wool-growers, when they were seeking a reduction of the workers’ wages, and the statement of Mr. Basil Clapham. Although there is much more that I should like to say, 1 see that my time has expired and I am therefore obliged to conclude.
– 1 welcome the opportunity to add something to the debate on Senator Wade’s motion that consideration be given to the wool industry. I, too, congratulate the honorable senator for bringing this important subject to the notice of the Senate. The solution of the problems of the wool industry is of great importance not only te wool-growers but also, 1 should say, to the Australian economy. Before I proceed with my remarks, Mr. Acting Deputy President, may I say that I am sure we all enjoyed the humorous speech made by Senator Brown. So far as 1 could see, he made only one mistake, and that was in his reference to the Queensland Marketing Act. I remember referring to that act for a particular reason some years ago. The objection that wc in Tasmania had to the legislation was that it contained provision for the compulsory acquisition of the produce Of primary producers, including the right to enter properties for that purpose, li also included arbitrary provisions relating to the sale or disposal of farm produce. Before I continue with what I intend to say 1 should like to refer to some remarks made by my Tasmanian friend opposite. Senator O’Byrne. He made some rather sweeping statements about primary producers which are reported on page 801 of “ Hansard “ of 29th September. I think 1 should quote the exact words that Senator O’Byrne used. Perhaps he really did not mean to speak in such a sweeping manner. Senator Hannaford has already referred to this statement. Senator O’Byrne said -
I want to deal now with a matter of efficiency in the industry. In many respects the industry is pretty haphazard. That is partly the fault of the farmer himself, and partly the fault of the brokers for not supplying the farmer, in his isolation, with information about the latest develop ments and techniques. The old farmer, of course, is a stubborn fellow. He does not like a Johnnycomelately to tell him much about things.
Senator O’Byrne also said later that there was great wastefulness in the industry. 1 refute both those statements. As a matter of fact the farmer in Australia is recognized abroad as one of the most efficient primary producers in the world, particularly in the fields of wool and wheat. Primary producers and visitors from all parts of the world, including Russia, have visited Australia and have remarked on the very highly efficient methods of production in use in this country. The Australian farmer in many respects outstrips the farmers of America, particularly in specialized branches of production. 1 do not agree with the statement thai Senator O’Byrne made later in his speech that the grower has contributed towards the present high costs in the industry. The present Government has co-operated with the growers in au attempt to put primaryproduction on the highest possible plane. The farmers of this country are not only efficient, and not only work a twelve-hour day but also have done a particularly good job for Australia during the term of the present Government. I should like to read from a statement made by the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) and distributed to the press on 27th July, 1960. The statement reads -
The Minister for Primary Industry, Mr. C. F. Adermann, said to-night primary industries had good reason to be proud of their production and export achievements in the past year.
That was the year 1959. He continued -
The primary industries had again made a remarkable contribution to Australia’s export income. The total value of products of rural origin, at about £740,000,000, represented approximately 80 per cent, of the total of merchandise exports valued at £926,000,000.
Of this overall total, wool accounted for about 44 per cent.
I think that everybody connected with primary industry was very disappointed that the price of wool fell by 25 per cent, at the opening sales this year compared with the corresponding period of last year. The average price of wool up to June, 1959, was 63d. per lb., but at the opening sales of July and August mis year, the average was only 46d. per lb. In my opinion the minimum price required to give a reasonable return on capital and a reasonable living for the primary producer himself is 80d. per lb. I can never understand why wool does not sell at a higher price in view of the high price of the finished article. A suit of clothes contains only 8 lb. of greasy wool which would cost £3 at the outside. That represents only about 6 per cent, of the cost of a finished suit which sells at £45 to £50. I can never understand why the basic content of the article is so low in price compared with the high price of the finished article. I know that that observation applies to many other articles of wearing apparel. The present price received by the grower does not give him a reasonable return for supplying an article which is of such value to the Australian economy.
The latest figures 1 could obtain in relation to the Tasmanian wool industry arc those for the year 1956-57. In that year our small island produced 28,600,000 lb. of wool from about 3,000,000 sheep which returned Tasmania in the aggregate about £10,000,000. Our return was high, averaging 10.7 lb. per sheep and for lambs 2 !- lb. The average price for wool during that year was 86d. per lb. I think our small island can be proud of that record. The wool produced is mostly fine merino. 1 am pleased to know that the woolgrowers have come to an arrangement and have asked the Minister for Primary Industry to initiate an inquiry into marketing. The efficient marketing of our clip is vitally important to every wool-grower and, in fact, to every Australian. From figures supplied recently I ascertained that the United States of America imposes a duty on Australian wool of 25 cents per lb. I understand that the Wool Secretariat spends 800,000 dollars a year in America on wool promotion compared with an amount of 2,000,000 dollars spent by America. Spread over the whole world the secretariat last year spent £1,800,000 on wool promotion. In addition the trade spent £800,000 which means that last year about £2,500,000 to £3,000,000 was spent on promotion. The Wool Secretariat does not represent Australia alone but represents also the interests of the wool trade generally overseas. Of course, 93 per cent, of the wool produced in Australia is involved in this trade promotion and it is much more important to spend this money overseas than to spend it in Australia.
However, I agree with the policy of the Wool Bureau in establishing a wool promotion scheme in Australia before attempting to extend its activities overseas for the benefit of overseas countries. As honorable senators know, the Wool Bureau levies the industry to the extent of 5s. a bale. It has reserves at the present time amounting to £4,000,000. I should think that the bureau has plenty of money at its disposal to carry out any reasonable promotion scheme overseas which it may deem desirable. I hope that in the next two years as much as possible will be expended. It is very pleasing to notice also that wool promotion in Australia has had the effect of increasing wool consumption this year by at least 20 per cent. Australians use annually 7.7 lb. of wool per head, as against 5.7 lb. in New Zealand. This consumption is fairly high in comparison with consumption in other countries.
Wool is of such importance to the Australian economy that the continued deterioration of the industry gives cause for very grave concern. It is no longer a matter that affects only wool-growers; it affects “the standard of living and prosperity of every citizen. In my opinion, the continued low price for wool is a definite danger to our economy, and something must be done quickly to put the industry back on a basis of stability and prosperity. Promotion in all its aspects, and research in the widest interpretation of the word, together with an approved marketing scheme, are vital to the survival of the industry. The time is long overdue for establishing some statutory controlling authority, headed by a man of outstanding ability with special qualifications and a wide knowledge of business and marketing in all its phases, with the task of fostering the wool industry and generally managing its affairs and co-ordinating its activities.
A short history of the industry and a statement of its present position and the manner of its control may not be out of place. Wool is our basic and most important industry. It earns from 45 to 50 per cent, of our export income, and it returns, in round figures, about £400,000,000 a year. I understand that New South Wales is the greatest producing State, having about 45 per cent, of Australia’s sheep. Victoria has 17 per cent., Queensland 16 per cent., South Australia 10 per cent., and “ Western Australia 9.9 per cent. Our little island of Tasmania has about 3,500,000 sheep, and the balance of Australia’s sheep population is located in the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory.
The basis of our wool marketing is the auction system. By World War I., this system had largely replaced the former practice of shipping all wool to the United Kingdom. We have had three control schemes. The first was the Imperial Purchase Scheme during World War I. In order to safeguard wool supplies during the period of hostilities, the Government of the United Kingdom contracted to buy the whole of the Australian clip during the war and for one year thereafter. Similar agreements were concluded with South Africa and New Zealand. Under the scheme the Australian wool clip was acquired on appraisement, which was conducted by a body known as the Central Wool Committee. The United Kingdom paid a flat rate of 15id. per lb. The whole of the profits from the resale of Australian wool not required for war purposes was divided equally between the United Kingdom Government and Australian wool-growers. That scheme terminated on 30th June, 1920. Upon completion of the Imperial Purchase Scheme, the United Kingdom Government found itself holding a stock of 2,600,000 bales of wool. Of that quantity, 1,800,000 bales were Australian wool. The British Australian Wool Realization Association, which we know by the name of Bawra, was formed to handle this wool, all of which was disposed of by May, 1924.
In 1848, the number of sheep in Australia was only 10,000,000. During the gold rush period, from about 1851, there was a great change in the sheepraising industry, and in about 1860 the number of sheep had increased to 20,000,000. The number has increased progressively over the years, and in March, 1957, it stood at 150,000,000. A record production of 1,565,000,000 lb. of wool was reached in 1956-57. In that year, Australia produced 31 per cent, of the world’s wool output, 90 per cent, of our production being exported. In 1950-51, we produced 3,547,000 bales of wool to the value of £636,330,000. The record clip in 1956-57 amounted to 4,887,000 bales, which was 1,340,000 bales more than was produced in 1950-51, and it was valued at £482,860,000.
Wool exports are predominantly in the form of greasy wool, but exports of scoured wool, carbonized wool and woolled sheepskins represent an important contribution to export income. There are about 120,000 wool-growers in Australia. The industry gives direct employment to very many more people engaged in various branches of it, including pastoral workers - those persons engaged in growing and shearing wool - and people engaged in transportation, selling, and in the developing local manufacturing industry. Wool-growing has been through some very difficult times. It has suffered from droughts, adverse seasons and low prices, but has come through with flying colours. We must give it full marks for the great expansion that has taken place. The great depression of 1929 brought distress to the industry. Prices fell to an almost ruinous level. In 1928-29, wool exports were valued at £66,000,000. In 1929-30, the figure fell to £36,500,000, and in the following year we experienced an all-time low in income from wool exported, when the figure was £32,000,000. I remember wool selling at 5d. per lb., and locks and pieces were down to one half-penny and one penny per lb.
– In what year was that?
– In 1931-32.
– Labour was then in office?
– Yes. The prices that were received during the depression years were well and truly below the cost of production. Wool prices declined again to almost depression level during the years immediately preceding World War II. It was only due to the buoyant post-war demand for wool that prosperity returned to the industry. .
In 1939 the United Kingdom Government again agreed to purchase the whole of the Australian clip, for the duration of the war and one full year afterwards. The agreed price per lb. was 10*d. sterling, or 13.44d. Australian. It was also agreed that the Australian wool-growers would share equally with the United Kingdom in any profit resulting from the resale of any of the wool purchased under the scheme that was not required. In 1942, the average purchase price was increased to 15.35d. Australian per lb. It is interesting to note that the total amount paid by the United Kingdom Government to the Australian wool-growers for wool sold during the seven years of the appraisement scheme was about £457,000,000.
The end of the war saw a vast accumulation of wool stocks owned by the United Kingdom, amounting to 10,400,000 bales. Of these, 6,800,000 bales belonged to the Australian wool-growers and the remainder comprised the wool that had been acquired from New Zealand and South Africa under a similar scheme.
After a conference in 1945, a joint organization known as United KingdomDominion Wool Disposals Limited - J.O. for short - was formed to carry out the orderly disposal of the stocks on behalf of the four governments concerned. We are familiar with the development of the wool industry since that date. I shall not have sufficient time to give any further details beyond saying that the net profit that resulted from the liquidation of the huge stocks amounted to about £250,000,000, of which Australia’s share was £93,000,000, which was distributed some years afterwards. I think that we in Australia received the final payment as late as 1951.
I would like to stress that, over the years, Australia has experienced three control schemes. The first was Bawra, the second was the appraisement scheme, and the third was the Joint Organization. I can see no reason why we should not have another control scheme if that would he in the interests of the wool-growers.
The second matter mentioned in the motion is -
Whether an expanded sales promotion campaign would have a steadying effect on the market.
Wool promotion is a very complex problem which, coupled with the problems of marketing and merchandising, is difficult to solve. The Australian Wool Bureau has taken on this job, backed by adequate funds, in addition to the levy of 5s. a bale on all wool shorn in Australia. The bureau is well equipped to carry out this job. In addition to capable wool organization representatives, it employs a staff of experts to carry out marketing and merchandising both in Australia and overseas. I should like to outline the bureau’s activities in this regard, but my limited time will not enable me to do so.
I pass on to the third matter mentioned in the motion, which is -
Whether a more vigorous research programme into credit facilities and production problems would materially assist the industry.
I believe that any information that has been gained as a result of expert inquiry will be helpful and that it will be put to very good use.
There has been a very vigorous research programme carried out by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization over the years. 1 think th:it the wool industry, and primary industry in general, have benefited considerably from this research. Perhaps the organization’s ‘most spectacular success was in the myxomatosis campaign, which was inaugurated to control or eliminate the rabbit menace. This campaign alone was estimated to be worth about £100,000,000 to primary industry.
– That campaign was commenced by this Government.
– That is so. The history of the wool trade shows that it has a tradition of service to this country. Many honorable senators have mentioned its sturdy independence. This policy of sturdy independence has built up a body of men with a love of the land. It is a self-reliant, sturdy, independent and loyal section of the community, composed of people who like to stand on their own feet and who resent too much direction by governments or departments. All this in turn makes primary producers difficult to organize and weld into a composite body, even for the purpose of protecting their own interests and institutions. The fourth matter mentioned in this motion is -
Whether a competent independent body should be set up to inquire into all the aspects of wool marketing.
I would like to make some suggestions with regard to the setting up of such an organization, which I think would be of benefit to the wool industry. I believe that a competent independent body should be set up to inquire into all aspects of wool marketing, and I am sure it would meet with the warm approval of wool producers throughout Australia. If a request comes from the wool-growers for the establishment of such an organization, no time should be lost in setting it up. This body would have an immense amount of data at its disposal and it should be in a position to present an acceptable plan to the wool-growers within a few months. That plan should be adopted by the industry without question. f believe that an orderly marketing scheme applied to wool would be a pronounced success. There would have to be general agreement on the form it should take and it would have to be acceptable to the majority of wool-growers - after submission, of course, to a referendum.
A floor price plan or a stabilization plan based on the auction system would seem to me to have the best chance of success. Reserve prices need not be based exclusively on any particular aspect of the industry, but also on the cost of production, wool demand, stocks on hand, prospects of wool use, production and wool available for sale. Competition from synthetics, cotton, Ac, would all have a bearing on the reserve price. I believe that the fixing of a price, based on cost of production alone, on a take-it-or-leave-it basis, should be avoided at all costs. I believe that such a reserve price plan would stabilize the industry in much the same way as the wheat stabilization plan has done for the wheat industry. Undoubtedly the time to introduce such a plan was in 1950-51 when the price of wool was high, lt will certainly be more difficult to implement now, but I do not think it will be impossible to implement. The present system of wool auctions should not be replaced unless a suitable substitute combined plan can be found. There should be no question of government control or compulsion.
In my opinion, the most important argument in favour of a stabilization scheme is that violent fluctuations in wool prices, as distinct from the average level of prices, are one of the main reasons for the switch to synthetics. The second argument in favour of stabilization is the contribution it would make to the stability of the economy through moderating fluctuations in farm income. Fluctuating wool prices are not conducive to rural expansion. Finally, I believe there is a great need for setting up an independent and impartial committee to look into the problems confronting the wool industry, especially marketing, and to bring forward practical recommendations. That would serve to reconcile differences amongst woolgrowers and lay the foundations for a revitalized industry. I support Senator Wade’s motion.
– Over the last couple of weeks we have been discussing one of the most important industries that we have in Australia. The difficulties we are facing now are only a commencement of the troubles that this Government will have to face up to in the near future. We on this side of the chamber have warned the Government on many occasions that if it did not do something to stabilize the wool industry and other industries the time would not be far distant when the country’s finances would be in a very bad way. Senator Wade’s motion means nothing. It does not contain any proposal. No plan has been put forward. The motion is couched in these terms -
That consideration be given to the wool industry and particularly to the following matters-
Who does the honorable senator suggest is going to give consideration to the wool industry?
– You can offer suggestions yourself.
– I suppose we are close to the time when you people will be prepared to accept some suggestions from the Opposition.
– That is why we are sitting here listening to you.
– We dealt with these matters very effectively during the war. The first matter suggested by the honorable senator is -
Whether the wool industry and the Australian economy generally are being endangered by the downward trend in wool prices.
One does not need to be Argus, the wonder boy, to know that the industry is being endangered. What does the honorable senator propose to do to stop it?
– We want to hear you on this matter.
– Honorable senators opposite, as supporters of the
Government, have to meet these problems. They should come into this chamber with concrete proposals for remedying the ills that are besetting many of our industries to-day.
– We will give you our ideas if you give us yours.
– When you give us your ideas, we will criticize them. We may even support them. The next matter proposed by the honorable senator for consideration was -
Whether an expanded sales promotion campaign would have a steadying effect on the market.
Of course, it would. No one can argue the point about that. Then the honorable senator suggests that we should consider -
Whether a more vigorous research programme into credit facilities and production problems would materially assist the industry.
There have been any number of investigations into the wool industry, and plenty of data is available. It only remains for the Government to use it effectively. Then Senator Wade proposed that consideration should be given to this matter -
Whether a competent independent body should be set up to inquire into all the aspects of wool marketing.
I do not know whether the setting up of such a body would provide the answer. 1 should say that it would have possibilities, but I would not venture to make any further statement on that matter here to-night.
Before I deal with the motion in detail, I should like to refer to one or two statements made by speakers on the other side of the chamber. Senator McKellar said that this Government had done nothing for the wool-grower. We know that. He said that the Government had not done anything for the wool-grower because it would not interfere with him, but that if the woolgrowers made representations to the Government it would consider those representations. The honorable senator is supposed to be a representative of the Australian Country Party. When the producer checks up on these alleged Country Party representatives, they say to him, “ Do not talk about what we are not doing there. Think of the Corns. Beware that when you go out to cut your crops they are not full of Corns”. These representatives distract the attention of the producers from the things they are not doing here in this chamber. The time will come, unfortunately, when the wool-grower will be forced to go to the Government and ask it to do something to stabilize the industry.
Senator McKellar also said that the Country Party had kept Labour out ot office since 1949. We know it has; and for the few benefits it has got on the side. But the Country Party did not keep Labour out of office during the war from 1941 to 1949.
– That wa>> when their hides were at stake.
– And their assets.
– That was when they deserted in the face of the enemy.
– Most of them were away fighting.
– I can remember seeing Mr. Menzies off at ihe wharf when he went away. Senator Hannaford referred to wool sales and mannequin parades. I remind the honorable senator and other honorable senators that there is nothing wrong with the marketing of wool. We can sell all the wool we produce. The question is: How are you going to produce it economically and sell it? That is the problem with which we are confronted.
The motion that has been submitted by Senator Wade has afforded honorable senators an opportunity to voice their opinions about the wool industry and other industries. But that is all it has done. No proposals have been advanced to stabilize the industry or to put it on a firm basis.
– Or to put value back in the £1.
– That is the cause of the present situation. In my opinion, there are two factors that have led to the difficulty in which the wool industry finds itself. The first is inflation. I do not hear any supporters of the Government denying that that is so. We have directed the attention of the Government to that factor for the last eleven years. But it has said that prices would find their own level. The other factor is that of organized sales, or what are known as pies. I do not know where the name comes from, but I know what it means. It means that wool-buyers are able to carry one now as they did before the outbreak of the Second World War. Certain countries have joined together to submit prices for not only our wool but also other commodities that are bought on what is alleged to be an open and free marke . Something should be done to ensure that wool sales are conducted on a basis that will give the benefit to the wool-grower instead of the wool manipulator who buys wool at a certain price but farms it out at another price.
– Is that a restrictive trade practice?
– I do not know. I should not think so. The same thing goes on in many other industries. The wool-grower who was in the industry before the Second World War is not too badly off. Senator Wardlaw said that in 1939 and 1940 the price of wool was 1 Hd. sterling per lb., or ls. Id. in Australian currency. So, if the wool-buyer is getting 4s. to-day, he is not doing too badly. Fortunately, the grass grows the same as it did earlier, and I hope it will continue to do so. We have had no droughts within the last twelve or thirteen years.
– South Australia has.
– South Australia has had a drought, but in recent years there have not been droughts like the droughts of 1914 and 1943. I hope we will never have such droughts again. I repeat that the grass grows on the sheep properties now just as it did in 1939 and 1940 and that to-day the wool-grower is getting, instead of ls. per lb. in round figures for his wool, a minimum price of 4s. per lb. The person who is in trouble is the person whom the Government misled into buying property in order to compete with other wool-growers when wool was fetching an inflated price. Many people who were engaged in the dairying industry during the war years, and up until the Labour Government was defeated, turned their attention to raising sheep when the price of wool rose and the economy of this country went haywire. Anybody who has had anything to do with farming, particularly members of the Australian Country Party, will know that you cannot economically grow, wool on agricultural land because sheep-raising land is generally worth about £20 an acre - less in many cases - whilst dairying country is worth about £120 an acre. So it is not an economical proposition to raise sheep on dairying land.
– What part of Australia are you referring to now?
– In the western district of Victoria, around Camperdown, Terang and Cobden, agricultural land is worth £120 or £130 an acre. Many men engaged in dairying turned their attention to wool growing when the price of wool rose in 1950 and 1951.
– How long did they continue to grow wool on land as valuable as that?
Senator HENDRICKSON__ Some of them continued long enough to go broke. I will have more to say about that later.
How do we arrive at a cost-of-production figure for wool? I know how we do it for wheat. We say that the cost of production of wheat is based on a yield of seventeen bushels to the acre. I can take honorable senators to a place in northeastern Victoria, where Senator Wade comes from, where they do not get seventeen bushels of wheat to the acre, but seventeen bags.
– Is that average?
– No, it could not be average. Senator McKellar is a practical farmer. Did I not tell him that the cost of production of wheat is based on a yield of seventeen bushels to the acre?
– The honorable senator should be practical about his figure of seventeen bags to the acre.
– If my friend from South Australia is interested I will produce to him the record of the man in the north-east of Victoria who won the wheatgrowing competition in Australia, and who grew seventeen bags of Wheat to the acre. So how do we get down to arriving at a cost-of-production figure? How are we to arrive at a cost of production figure in relation to wool, wheat or any other primary product unless we have some control over the product?
– Control is a mania with your party.
– I do not know whether control is a mania with the Labour Party or not.
– Is not a floor price a form of control?
– Who is advocating a noor price?
– I think the wool-growers will be advocating a floor price before long. Soon they will have to find some way to get out of the trouble they are in. The Labour Party does not believe in controls unless they are necessary. Senator Paltridge finds that statement amusing. In the I940’s we asked the people, by way of referendum-
– Does Khrushchev believe in controls?
– I do not know anything about Khrushchev, and I do not want to know anything about him. The Government is misleading the people of this country with its filthy, insidious propaganda about communism. Communism is the only thing that supporters of the Government can think of. The time has arrived when they should realize that they will never defeat communism with their present methods of saying that everybody who does not agree with their policies is a Communist. I would rather be the way I am than have the fascist tendencies of some of my friends opposite.
When the war ended, the Labour Party had devised a scheme that would have stabilized primary and secondary industry in this country, but the people were fooled by the propaganda of those who constitute trie present Government. The Labour Party knew that the price of wool would rise to a high level. Europe had been devastated.
– When was this?
– The honorable senator would not know what I am talking about, so I remind htm that when his Government ran away in 1941 a war was being fought. In the years from 1941 to 1945 Europe was devastated. Germany was blown to pieces.
– You are indulging in hyperbole now.
– Senator Hannan would not know what was going on in those years. He was in B Company - be here when they went away and be here when they come back. Europe was devastated, and we knew that the price of commodities would soar.
– When did you make that forecast?
– Those facts were given to the people of Australia by the great Australian Labour Party, when it was the Government.
– The people did not take much notice of that warning.
– No, because they were misled by the people who had money to buy time on the air and space in the newspapers. The Labour Party knew that prices would soar. It wanted to fix a home consumption price for wheat, wool and other commodities that would be in short supply. The present Government said that Labour wanted more controls. I recall that one of the lures offered by the anti-Labour parties in 1949 was that petrol rationing would be ended if they were returned to power.
– Is it not a fact that our Government did remove petrol rationing?
– It did, but although honorable senators opposite profess their loyalty to the mother country, they did not tell the people of Australia in 1949 that they were pinching dollars from the dollar pool and causing the people of England to go without the necessaries of life in order that men like Senator Hannan could drive around in Rolls Royce cars. Senator Hannan is interjecting and making some comment about McCarthyism. I hope and trust that he does not end up where McCarthy is. McCarthy has gone to a place, I am sure, that I do not want to go to.
If the Labour Party had remained in office it could have fixed a home consumption price for commodities and exported our surplus production to those countries that wanted to buy it. The Labour Party could have kept the basic wage down to £5 or £6 a week. If Labour had remained in office land that is now selling at £60, £70 and even £.100 an acre for wheat growing, and at an inflated price for wool growing could have been bought at reasonable prices. Any farmer should know that land is worth a price related to its productive capacity in normal times, not abnormal times. People who wanted to go on the land were misled into buying property at inflated prices. Money was advanced to them by various corporations, and those people are now unable to make their properties pay. Their properties will never pay because the price of wool will never reach its 1950-51 level. Countries are no longer stockpiling wool. They have all they need. This Government, which has fooled the people for so many years, must do something practical to help the wool-growers, who will be in financial distress in the near future. I have heard honorable senators opposite say that we must increase the value of our exports by £250,000,000 in the next five years in order to pay for our imports. I ask any Minister to tell me where those exports are to come from in the next five years.
– Sell out some more Australian industries.
– Nobody can answer that very serious question, The Government has got itself into this trouble. Articles cannot be produced in Australia on a basic wage of £12 or £13 a week in the expectation that people overseas, where wages are £4 or £5 a week, will buy them. That is utterly impossible. That is the position that confronts Australia, into which the Government has misled the country. The time has arrived when the Government has to do something more than Senator Wade has done; he has merely said that we should do this or that, or asked whether this or that will help. The Government should bring before the Parliament a concrete plan which will give stability not only to the wool-growing industry but also to other industries in this country.
I have a copy of a question which was asked of the Minister for Primary Industry in another place in 1958, only two years ago. The question was -
In view of the recent decline in the price of wool and its impact an the Australian economy and primary producers, will the Minister have an inquiry instituted to ascertain to what extent buyers rings - either rings or local buyers acting on behalf of foreign interests or foreign buyers - are operating?
Mr. McMahon was the Minister for Primary Industry at that time, and this was the reply he gave as the responsible Minister -
I feel sure that this is a figment of the honorable gentleman’s imagination.
I hope he got a pamphlet printed, containing that statement, and sent it to all the Australian woolgrowers. His reply continued -
I have no evidence and I have never heard it. suggested that buyers’ rings of any kind are operating in the Australian wool market.I feel reasonably confident that if they had been operating that fact would hare been brought to the attention of the Government, the department or myself.
That was a reply given by the responsible Minister in 1958. When the Minister for Primary Industry is so far out of touch with one of our main primary industries, what can we hope for from the Government?
When this debate concludes, no action will result from it because there is no proposal in the motion. On behalf of the wool industry, which is one of our greatest industries, I appeal to the Government, even at this late hour to present some concrete propositions which we on this side of the chamber can support, inorderto give some stability to the people in this industry. In the present position we see again what happened in primary industries before the war. The wheat kings, the Collins-street farmers who never saw where the wheat was grown, used to meet at 11 o’clock every morning and send statements to their agents at the various sidings in the Mallee. The price of wheat was1s.71/2. a bushel and after the poor old farmer’s horse had brought it eight, ten or twelve miles from the farm to the siding, the farmer could not sell his wheat at that price, so he took it home again or was forced to put it into the hands of the wheat buyers such as Younghusband Limited, Dalgety and Company Limited, and New Zealand Loan Limited. What did they do with the wheat? They held it for a week, a fortnight or a month until the price went up from1s. 71/2d. to1s. 9d. Twopence a bushel is not a bad profit for those people who never see where the wheat is grown.
The same thing is being done with wool and other primary products. The people who have made fortunes out of our primary industries, have never been out of sight of the Melbourne Town Hall clock. They are the people who make the profits. The Australian. Labour Party will not stand for such a state of affairs. We believe that the people who are closely associated with an industry, primary or secondary, should reap the harvest or rewards from it. In the great woolgrowing industry, apart from the growers there are shearers, shed hands, wool-classers and other workers, who we believe should receive more than they do from it.
– What about the prosperity loading?
– If you understood the award, senator, you would know that there is no prosperity loading.
– There was.
– Where is the prosperity loading? Who is getting it?
– Under the shearing award.
– There is no prosperity loading.
– There was.
– There was, and there was a Liberal government too.
– The position is getting back to what it was prior to the Labour Government coming into office in 1941. At that time we set about giving the people who deserved it a fair equity in what they produced. We set about stabilizing the price of wheat. That is the next hurdle which this Government will come to and will have to face very shortly. The other day I was at a meeting in a Victorian country area and a farmer said to me, “We will have to ask for a subsidy on wheat. We cannot afford to produce it at the price we are getting to-day”. That is the position with which the .Government will be confronted in the wheat industry, quite apart from the wool industry.
– And in the dairying industry.
– The dairy farmers are in the same position as the wool-growers.
I appreciate the opportunity I have had tonight and over the last few days to hear the views of different honorable senators. Those people in the Liberal Party who are supposed to represent the primary producers and the Australian Country Party supporters of the Liberal-Country Party Government - I do not know how to differentiate between them - supported by members of the Australian Democratic Labour
Party, talk about unity tickets. Let us have a look at that unity ticket. I want to see Senator Wade and other parliamentarians who represent or are supposed to represent the primary producers in this chamber and in the other chamber, come out in their true colours and demand that something be done for primary producers, instead of allowing the people who control finance - the banks and hire-purchase companies - to control primary production also.
– They control the Liberal Party too.
– Of course; they keep the Liberal Party, and the Liberal Party keeps the members of the Australian Country Party as messengers or yes boys to do as they are told. That is what members of the Australian Country Party do. Imagine sitting in their position over there. They should be ashamed of themselves. Fancy Senator Robertson supporting this Government. She should be the last person in the world to support it. She should be supporting the Australian Labour Party, because if I received the treatment that she received from the leaden of the Liberal-Country Party Government, I would not support it.
– You would not get into the party.
– Do not worry about that. I know a gentleman who joined the Liberal Party. He was a councillor in Melbourne, a member of the Australian Labour Party, then a member of the Australian Democratic Labour Party, and now he is in the Liberal Party. That party will take anybody at all. All you have to do is go along with a dollar in your pocket, and you can join the Liberal Party, whether you are a Communist, a member of the Australian Democratic Labour Party, or anybody at all. Anybody can join the Liberal Party. The Australian Country Party should wake up to its position and realize that it represents a very important section of the Australian community.
– We are awake to you.
– I doubt whether you are. I would not have thought that even I could wake you up, senator. This debate will close to-night.
Liberal Party senators and senators on this side of the chamber, and also the errand boys of the Government - the members of the Australian Country Party - recognize that the wool industry is in a very difficult situation. I hope members of the Australian Country Party will come to life and force this Government to do something. When they put the bell on the cat, they are not going to be as popular as they think they are unless they see that something is done in the near future in order to save the economy of the country.
– I wish to make a personal explanation. Senator Hendrickson, who has just resumed his seat, stated that I had said that this Government had done nothing to assist the woolgrower. I give an emphatic denial to that statement.
– I rise to support the motion submitted by my colleague, Senator Wade, in connexion with the wool industry. The honorable senator’s motion covers a great deal of ground, and having heard his speech I thought at first that there was little left for the rest of us to say. However, we have had a most educative debate, although some honorable senators have wandered far from the subjects of sheep and wool. I do not want to repeat the figures that have been given. As honorable senators know, conclusive figures have been cited, and a great deal of information has been provided by honorable senators on both sides of the chamber. Indeed, I think that the debate has proved that honorable senators generally, with one or two exceptions, regard this subject as one of great importance to the economy of Australia. That is as it should be.
For five minutes or so to-night I regretted that the proceedings of the Senate were cot being televised. I think that Senator Hendrickson’s outburst would have provided an informative picture for people who were watching the proceedings during a discussion of the wool industry.
– It would have blasted the tubes.
– Yes. Certain points made during the debate need to be emphasized. My colleague, Senator Wardlaw, gave a very good resume of the historical progress of the wool industry, which began many years ago. I am sorry that he did not go far enough back into history and tell the Senate that the merino flocks of Victoria were introduced by a German woman who walked from a little German village to the port of Hamburg, driving a small flock of merino sheep in front of her, and bringing with her also her son and an invalid husband. She waited at the port of Hamburg for a long time before she could get a passage on a ship to Australia, but eventually she came to this country and established the merino sheep industry in Victoria, an industry that has been of great benefit, not only to Victoria but to the whole of Australia.
I have heard sufficient during the debate to prove to me that an inquiry into methods of bringing stability to the wool industry is necessary. I think it was a step in the right direction when the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann), in response to the request of a joint deputation from representatives of the Australian Wool Growers Federation and the United Graziers Association for a high-level, independent inquiry into wool marketing, said that he was prepared to refer the matter immediately to the Cabinet for early consideration. That request could well be tied with Senator Wade’s request for assistance for the industry.
Senator Wade stressed the work that the Australian Wool Bureau has been doing in connexion with wool, and it is true that the bureau has been doing wonderful work. He stated -
A survey of all the information available indicates that the International Wool Secretariat and the Australian Wool Bureau are making a splendid contribution to the wool industry. The Australian Wool Bureau, which is the Australian counterpart of the International Wool Secretariat, has three sources of incomes. It receives money derived from a levy on every bale of wool produced by the growers, it receives interest on investments of capital, and it receives funds from appropriations from the Wool Stores Fund. The major portion of the income of the bureau is derived from the levy on growers, which to-day is 5s. a bale. That is the maximum levy that is permissible under the existing legislation.
The work that the bureau is doing is costing a good deal of money, but the bureau is not spending nearly as much as are the producers of synthetics in advertising their goods.
The Australian Wool Bureau is trying to popularize wool in a variety of ways. For instance, it organizes fashion parades. It endeavours to give the public constant reminders of the attractiveness of wool products. As we know, one of the outstanding advantages of wool is its lasting qualities. I have at home a woollen rug which has been handed down in the Robertson family as an heirloom, and which is now about 150 years old. The colours - those of the Robertson tartan - are just as perfect as they were when the rug was woven. The weaving is similar to that of the finest woven materials being put on the market to-day and shown at fashion parades by the International Wool Secretariat. Its warmth and softness, after all these years, proves the durability of wool.
One of the disadvantages that I see in fashion parades at which woollen articles are shown is that those present are looking at finished articles. Many of the garments displayed are beautifully designed and attractively coloured. They are light in weight because they result from the application of the most modern ideas on weaving, and they show the beauty of wool. But when you come to price them, Sir, you find that the prices are far too high for the ordinary family purse. After the last Wool Bureau fashion parade that I attended, I thought I would make a tour of the shops to find out how the goods displayed were selling. 1 went into one of the very largest emporiums in Melbourne and asked to be shown some wool coats. The first coat I was shown was a real beauty. It was slightly cinnamon-coloured, very well made and beautifully light. I tried it on and it fitted me perfectly. I really looked very nice in it. I said, “ What is the price? “ and the answer was, “ Ninety guineas “. I did not think that I looked like a capitalist. 1 hastily took off the coat and got the attendant to hang it back on the rack. I went through the racks and found that the woollen coats varied in price from £17 to 95 guineas. Such prices bear no relation to the return that the wool- grower receives. If the inquiry that Senator Wade is trying to promote by means of the motion that he has moved does no more than show where the woolproducer is losing and the shopkeeper making a tremendous fortune out of wool, it will serve a very useful purpose.
An honorable senator who sits not more than 100 yards from me wears beautiful woollen shirts for which he pays £8 each. They have three collars and last a long time, but I ask honorable senators how many of the ordinary people could afford to buy a shirt for £8, even if it had three collars and would last a long time? The only way in which many people could do so would be on hire purchase or by the lay-by system, so that by the time they had finished paying for the article they would have worn it out.I once thought I would buy myself a woollen twinset. I walked into nearly every shop in Canberra and, it seemed, nearly every shop in Perth. I found that I could buy synthetic garments, made of fabrics such as orlene, for £2 15s. for a set of two pieces. They were beautiful garments, as light as a feather and, I think, almost warmer than wool. When I priced the pure woollen garments I found that they cost £6 15s. a set. It will be seen that the price of some woollen garments puts them beyond the purchasing capacity of the ordinary person. We hare been listening to a rather doleful tale about the wool industry. I was very cheered to read a statement by the managing director of Fletcher Jones and Staff Proprietary Limited, who has just returned from the United States of America. He is the managing director of a firm which apparently specializes in the manufacture of trousers. The report of his statement reads -
The Fletcher Jones company has 1,200 employees, and uses between 2,000,000 to 3,000,00 lb. equivalent of greasy wool a year to produce an average of 1,600 pairs of trousers a day.
Mr. Fletcher Jones made these points about wool.
Wool is definitely on the up in America.
Americans love wool, but’ it is “frightfully dear “.
People are getting sick and tired of the “ overclaiming “ in selling synthetics.
The best woollen trousers available in America was not comparable with the best Australianmade article.
Mr. Jones told “ Muster “ that he had heard that U.S. wool-growers were prepared to launch a combined campaign to “ sell “ wool to the public.
The theme of the campaign was “ Pure American Wool - loomed in U.S.A.”.
Mr. Jones believed that the campaign would benefit wool-growers everywhere.
Mr. Jones is also chairman of directors of Warrnambool Woollen Mills Ltd.
Mr. Jones is well known to primary producers as one of the early sponsors of a new promotion approach from the Australian Wool Bureau.
Two years ago Mr. Jones returned from abroad to report that “ point of sale “ advertising was essential to promote wool.
Shortly afterwards, following changes in the bureau’s policy, efforts were directed at this type of promotion.
The Fletcher Jones organization was also an early user of the C.S.I.R.O. process Si-Ro-Set which pushed wool ahead of many of its rivals in the drive for permanent pleating of garments. lt is interesting to know that America is interested in wool from Australia but is finding it frightfully dear. The men who produce the wool are not getting the high prices, and therefore an inquiry into the costs of the industry would be most valuable.
Another very striking statement was made by Mr. Ewan Waterman, who is a member of the Australian Wool Board. On his return from overseas the other day, he is reported as saying -
Wool was not being affected by any superior fibre, but was being affected in traditional world markets by superior promotion.
He was referring to the promotion of synthetic goods. The report continued -
Manufacturers of imitation wool-type fibres wilh qualities far inferior to the natural product had gained a share of wool’s markets on one factor only - the expenditure of vast sums of money on the vigorous and skilful promotion of their products.
But my confidence in wool’s future is such that I predict that in 20 years Australians and the people of many other countries will work, play and sleep in practically nothing else but wool.
All that is needed is confidence and imagination in every section of the Australian wool industry to maintain a situation that has always existed.
As I said before, he found woollen fabrics in America frightfully dear. Surely there is need for an inquiry to ascertain the amount which the wool-grower receives for his products and the amount which the store that sells those products receives.
Another very interesting comment was made by one commentator, Mr. John Eddy, about the reason for the fall in the price of wool. He said - . . The wool-grower is being gradually squeezed with rising costs here and a world market and competitors to face.
Men who inherited their land and flocks are no doubt still well off. Some of those, particularly soldier settlers who went on to their properties when land and stock were at boom prices, are now struggling.
Costs are rising all the time and even some of the highly efficient men are worried.
Higher costs include rates, land tax, superphosphate, water, labour and shearing. Taxation, if they have a good run, limits their ability toexpand.
Some growers urge a floor price for wool with, an organization to buy in the wool if prices fail.
That could be dangerous. The greatest merit, of our wool marketing is that it has always met the market and faced each new season with clean: floors.
Mr. Eddy also said ;
Slow clearing of stocks in Britain and Japan is the main cause of the present price lapse. The answer to this must be high-pressure selling and promotion, to outmatch wool’s competitors. And, of course, whatever can be done to makewool less expensive to the consumer, throughboth farm and factory.
I desire to repeat what I said in my speech on the motion for the printing of the Estimates and Budget Papers. Threats to our wool industry are coming from other parts of the world. I spoke about the threat from Russia and instanced the remarks of a woman grazier who had returned from Russia. She had spoken with men in Russia who told her that they intended to promote their industry so as to take control of the wool markets of the world. Her statement was supported by Mr. Nott, the Minister for Agriculture in New South Wales. At the opening of a new wool store for Winchcombe Carson Limited at Goulburn, “Mr. Nott is reported as saying -
Russia’s striving to lead the world’s wool production needed close and constant attention.
Recent visitors to Russia had been impressed by the increased number of sheep being carried there.
The newspaper report of his remarks stated! -
Mr. Nott said he had discussed this with the leader of a group of Russian wool scientists who visited Australia last year.
The scientist had said that at present the Soviet is raising mainly dual purpose sheep for both wool and meat.
However, Russia intended to endeavour to increase the existing 50,000,000 Merinos by 140,000,000 by 1965.
Other plans provided for the Soviet’s total sheep population to be increased from 140,000,000 to 200,000,000 in ten years.
Mr. Nott said it was more than ever necessary to be well informed on Russia’s possible influence on future production and markets.
However, because a great proportion of Russian sheep were required to be slaughtered for meat, the Soviet was expected to remain a wool importer for some years.
Another country to enter the wool market is red China. The newspaper “Muster” published the following article: -
A textile executive recently back from China told Dalgety’s in Sydney that the textile output of China had increased ten-fold in the decade, and that the city of Shanghai was probably producing more wool, cotton and fibre goods to-day than the United Kingdom.
Trade between Russia and China had reached an annual rate of £A.l Billion per annum and had quadrupled with U.K. in the last three years, he said.
China was also trading with 80 non-Communist countries and was handing out foreign aid at the rate of £A125 million per annum to Afro-Asian countries in a bold bid for undeveloped trade.
Last week, Peking offered to send 5,000 skilled workers to Guinea to develop its industries.
The executive said the happenings in Africa, the Chinese believed, were the beginning of a new era in which rising living standards of millions would have a tremendous impact on world trade and industry, and in which wool consumption was expected to rise steeply.
China, with the help of Russia, hoped to build a huge domestic wool and textile production to eventually lead the world, he added…..
It was disturbing when Bradford had to remind us that imports of wool cloth into New Zealand have> been halved over the past five years, whereas imports of cottons and synthetics have increased, the branch said.
The pill’ was not made any sweeter by the announcement of New Zealand’s import licensing policy for 1960, which -cuts wool piece-goods back to 75 per cent, of the 1959 quota, but permits an increase of up to 150 per cent, of imports of cotton and synthetic piece-goods.
The need for more intensive wool publicity and promotion becomes painfully obvious, when New Zealand, the world’s main supplier of crossbred wool, now qualifies as one of the biggest per capita consumers of synthetic fibres.
We should appreciate the challenge of synthetics to wool. Something must be done not only to stabilize, but also to improve our flocks by scientific and other methods. Whatever inquiry is conducted must be very searching and it must touch all points. Manufacturers of synthetics are spending colossal sums on advertising. They are bidding for markets everywhere. To-day I received from Belfast information about the inroads being made by synthetics upon the flax industry. Manufacturers are mixing terylene with flax in the ratio of 67 per cent, to 33 per cent. That sort of thing is happening to our wool. A big percentage of terylene and orlene is being mixed with it. People who think they are buying woollen garments are really buying garments with a high proportion of synthetics. We need to watch the latest attempts by manufacturers of synthetics to capture not only the wool market, but also the flax market.
It has been truly said that Australia rides on the sheep’s back. We have had wonderful seasons of prosperity with large wool clips. With these other commodities making a bid for this world trade, now is the time to institute the inquiry asked for by Senator Wade. 1 hope that as a result of this debate the Government will see fit to conduct an inquiry, in terms of the motion, into every aspect of the wool industry. I support the move for such an inquiry. From it nothing but good will come to a great industry, which is so important to this wonderful Commonwealth in which we are privileged to live.
– The discussion which . has taken place on Senator Wade’s motion is most timely, because it has given to senators an opportunity to discuss the ramifications of the very important wool industry, upon which the Australian economy depends so largely. During the debate 1 have been rather perplexed to determine exactly what is the great problem confronting the industry. The motion poses four questions -
Whether the wool industry and the Australian economy generally are being endangered by the downward trend in wool prices;
Whether an expanded sales promotion campaign would have a steadying effect on the market;
Whether a more vigorous research programme into credit facilities and production problems would materially assist the industry; and
Those are very important questions. I shall deal now with the first of them. Australia depends largely on her export trade, of which 80 per cent, is in primary products, and at least 44 per cent, in wool. Some discussion on this matter is required, especially when conflicting opinions have been expressed recently by people who should know the facts. Senator Robertson said that the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) had received a deputation from organizations representing the wool industry, which sought an inquiry, and that the indications were that the request would be granted. I direct the Senate’s attention to a rather remarkable statement made by the Minister during a discussion of the Budget in another place. I have a report from the well-known pastoral publication “ Muster “. J enjoy reading this journal very much, and I obtain from it some very useful information about our trade unions. This issue is dated 6th September, 1960. The report is headed “ Primary producer not worse off “ and states -
The Minister for Primary Industry, Mi. Adermann, forecast last week that primary producers would not suffer disproportionately under the 1960-61 Budget if recognition is given by the banking system to their peculiar and vital needs. “ While the general tightening of credit will affect that section of the community “, said Mr. Adermann, “ I am confident that the primary producer will not be relatively worse off.”
Honorable senators will remember my asking the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Spooner) a question regarding the opinion of another organization that should know something about the Australian economy. I have referred to a review of Australia’s economic position that appeared in a recent edition of “ Muster “. A report of a recent review by the Australia and New Zealand Bank Limited appeared in yesterday’s Melbourne “ Age “. 1 think all honorable senators remember the reply that the Leader of the Government in this chamber gave to a question in relation to this review that I asked yesterday. He said, in effect, that the Budget represented the last word by the Government on the matter. Let us look at the opinion that has been expressed by the Australia and New Zealand Bank Limited. The article in yesterday’s Melbourne “ Age “ reads -
The bank points out that imports have risen significantly following the removal of import restrictions as a matter of Government policy.
The adverse balance of payments in 1959-60 will probably exceed £150 million and may be closer to £200 million, the bank states.
Through its effect on banking liquidity and on the general spending power of the rural community, this will have a depressing influence on business activity as the year progresses.
This prospect does not explain the need to maintain pressure on banking liquidity.
Mr. Adermann has suggested that the rural community will not be worse off. The bank states that as a result of the Government’s budgetary measures credit will be more difficult to obtain, and that this will bring distress to our rural population and injure the whole of our economy, ft also complains that as a result of the
Government’s budgetary policy in restricting the normal practices of the banking institutions by denying them access to their reserves, and so on, other financial institutions over which there is no control are making inroads into the financial position of this Commonwealth. There is a conflict of opinion. If there is to be an adverse trade balance of between £150,000,000 and £200,000,000, then, as we depend upon upon wool to bring us at least 44 per cent, of our income from abroad, I think the first question asked in Senator Wade’s motion answers itself. If the price of wool declines, that will undoubtedly have an adverse effect, not only on this industry, but also on the economy of the country.
What is the reason for the present trouble? It is nol because Australia cannot sell its wool. Every ounce of wool that is produced here is being sold. The trouble appears to be that the price being received for our wool is not sufficient to meet the cost of production. The decline in prices recently has been very great. The following article appeared in “ Muster “ of 9th August: -
Variation in wool prices ever the remaining part of I960 are unlikely to be large, the Bureau of Agricultural Economics reports.
World consumption of wool should be maintained for the year at a level “ substantially the same as in 1959 and slightly above production in 1959/60”. World wool production in 1959/60 is estimated at the record level of 5,593 m. lb. greasy, equivalent to 3,178 m. lb. clean - 4.6% above the 1958/59 level.
In 1960/61, world production, the Bureau says, is likely to be higher; an expected decline of 5 per cent, in Australia being off-set by anticipated rises in N.Z, the U.S.A., U.S.S.R., Argentina and Uruguay.
That bears out Senator Robertson’s contention that Russia’s production is increasing -
Summarising the world wool situation as at July, the Bureau said that in 1958/59, “of tha main producing countries, the U.S.S.R. showed the largest percentage increase of 9.3 per cent, followed by the U.S.A. (7.8%) and Australia (6.2%); the only country where a fall in production occurred was Uruguay …”
The Summary continued: “ Supply stocks at the end of 1959-60 are estimated to be up to 80 m. lb. higher than a year earlier, mainly as a result of accumulations of stocks in South America. Stocks are estimated to be about 10 m. lb. lower in the three main producing countries of the Commonwealth; and the U.K. government stockpile was reduced by 12 m. lb. to 50 m. lb. “ Commercial stocks of raw wool at the end of March 1960 were lower on total than a year earlier in those consuming countries for which recent information is available. Reductions occurred in the U.K., France, and Japan, but stocks held in Italy, Belgium and the Netherlands were higher than in March, 1959.
Here is a further illuminating statement in this journal - “ Wool textile activity in most of the main wool consuming countries had recovered from the recession by the middle of 1959 and wool consumption has levelled off since then. In ten of the main consuming countries combined wool usage in the first quarter of I960 was- only 2 per cent, higher than in the previous quarter, while the average daily rate showed little change. In the U.K. and Japan the daily rate was a little higher than in the final quarter of 1959, but this was offset by declines in France, Italy and the Netherlands. Stocks of certain semi-manufactured wool products are reported to be high in the U.K., France and Japan.
Dealing with exports, the article states - “ Exports of raw wool in the first U months of 1959-60 were higher than in the same period of 1958-59 from Australia, South Africa and New Zealand, but were substantially lower from Uruguay, and from the Argentine . . .
That was in the period from July to April.
In the first few months of I960 imports into five of the seven main consuming countries were higher than a year earlier, but the U.K.. and the U.S.A. each imported less.”’ 1 quoted that passage because we have always thought that the old system of supply and demand operated in regard to wool. Those honorable senators who were members of the Parliament prior to the Second World War will know the difficulty that was experienced by the Australian wool-grower in selling his wool abroad during the war. No means of transport were available, with the result that demand fell off and wool was selling at a very low price. I can recall that when we sold wool to the United Kingdom at ls. 3d. per Jb., the wool-grower experienced a marvellous change of fortune and we thought that prosperity abounded.
After the war, the price of wool increased rapidly. I think the peak was about 12s. per lb., which was the price paid a year or two ago. We felt that that increase occurred because there was a demand for wool. Although the shooting war was over, the cold war atmosphere prevailed and nations were beginning to accumulate wool in case the cold war should again become a shooting war. Very many of our wool growers and others who were interested in the industry felt that the price then paid was too high and that in the long run it would be injurious to the industry because the textile mills, which were being forced to pay that high price, were being- priced out of the market. At that stage a very concerted effort was made by the synthetic fibre industry to push its products and the consuming public, which, because of the high price of wool, was unable to afford the garments it had previously bought, went for the less expensive fabrics. lt is suggested that there has been a levelling off in the industry. There is no doubt about the fact that the industry is confronted with a grave problem. What will happen if other wool producing countries improve the quality of their product? Another problem exists in the fact that there is a. conflict between two sections of the industry. The breeders of our flocks have been hostile about the prohibition against the export of Australian merino rams to other parts of the world. It is suggested that this breed of sheep, which Senator Robertson said was brought to Australia by a German woman but which has been developed here as a result of the application of our studmasters should be let loose in other wool-producing countries. What would happen to our wool industry if Australian merino sheep were allowed into countries that enjoy cheaper labour costs? Perhaps it would be better to speak of costs of production than to refer 10 labour costs, because not all costs are bound up with the question of wages. There are other ingredients in the cost of production. The fact that other countries have a lower cost of production than has Australia poses another problem for our industry.
Although it is suggested that the price we are receiving for wool to-day is below or is very close to the cost of production and does not allow for much come and go, years ago it would have been looked upon as being a wonderful price. We have an industry in which production is increasing. Australia’s sheep population in the last ten years, I would say, has increased by 50,000^000 and is now 155,000,000. Our clip is increasing. The industry should be booming; there should be expansion, everywhere. But we find that the producer is in a quandary. It is suggested that sales promotion would be of benefit to the Australian economy. Let us suppose that to be so. The fact is that we are selling all the wool we have, and as the industry expands, we are still able to sell it. The wool is not in the stores; it has gone abroad. Therefore, we are brought back to matter of orderly marketing. Despite what one or two honorable senators opposite have said about the speech delivered by Senator Kennelly, 1 think it was excellent. One portion of Senator Kennelly’s remarks was misinterpreted or was misunderstood by one honorable senator opposite who suggested that the attitude adopted by the Labour Party was to formulate a policy and to say to the wool-grower, “This is our idea. Take it or leave it.” I think it was Senator Wardlaw who said that objection could be taken to a marketing scheme advocated on this side of the chamber because it would mean the compulsory acquisition of the produce of the farmer. Country Party senators will have difficulty in persuading the wool-growers to depart from the present system of disposing of their clips at auction, and to accept a floor price. I make that prediction because of my experience when the Labour Party was endeavouring to induce wheat farmers to accept a system of orderly marketing. The wheat farmers for so long had been accustomed to going to representatives of the wheat agents and wondering what price they would receive for their wheat that they were loath to change. Even though they felt that they were being robbed they did not- want to change the system. Probably they felt that the devil they knew was better than the devil they did not know. It was hard to convince the wheat farmers that a system of orderly marketing would be to their advantage. I can remember going into the Mallee during an election campaign and meeting the wheat farmers. I conversed with them years before I was a member of this Parliament. They did not know what to do. The wool-growers to-day are in a similar situation.
The present situation in the wool industry is completely different from what it was in the old days of the wool barons. In the old days, pastoral companies ran thousands of sheep on thousands of acres of land. Tt was largely the attitude of the pastoralists of Australia that led to the birth of the Australian Labour Party. Tn those early days the shearer met with fierce opposition because he wanted a few shillings for taking the wool off the sheep and because he wanted decent living conditions. His claims were resisted violently. He was considered to be the greatest enemy that the wool-producer had. Thank goodness that to-day the wool industry has been, so to speak, decentralized. With due respect to my friends opposite, I think the Labour Party can claim almost all the credit for developments that have taken place in recent years. After the last war, the Labour Party engaged in an extensive scheme of soldier settlement. Large estates, which were previously owned by the wool barons, were broken up and given to soldier settlers - the people who are producing our wool to-day. During the course of this debate honorable senators have referred to the large number of small farmers. Senator Drake-Brockman said that some people have the idea that the wool industry is still in the hands of wool barons. I am pleased to say that the great wool barons of the past are now in a minority.
Without doubt the wool industry faces problems. I do not know whether this debate will influence the wool-growers to change their system of marketing. I know that they feel that they are not getting a fair go. The royal commission that has been mentioned by honorable senators proved conclusively that agents were bandding together. That practice is not exclusive to the wool industry. Farmers know, irrespective of what they are selling, that certain buyers go along to the markets whenever they are held. Those buyers travel together. They live together and they discuss the requirements of their principals. The tendency is for them to come together to see that the people who employ them get their requirements at as low a price as possible. It did not need a royal commission to convince me that the woolbuyers were putting their heads together and were determining the price of wool.
Senator Robertson mentioned the wool sales held at Goulburn. Centres such as Goulburn have been set up despite the efforts of the people who control the sale of wool in this country. Those people wanted to abandon the wool-selling centres of Goulburn, Albury and elsewhere and concentrate on a central selling place so that they could operate together. What is happening in Western Australia to-day? Some buyers are going out to the farms and trying to buy the wool from the grower before it reaches the selling centre That is competition.
If this discussion convinces somebody that there should be a change in the method of selling wool, and if it convinces the Government that it should hold an inquiry, it will have served a useful purpose. When the Government is talking of short-term financial arrangements from the banks it should remember that it has prevented those institutions from giving financial accommodation to farmers. A few years ago, the wool-grower was chasing wool agents seeking financial accommodation. I shall be pleased if some good comes out of this discussion. However, I suggest that the wool-growers could do something to help themselves if first they were to put their own house in order.
.- At the outset I wish to join with other honorable senators who have commended Senator Wade for bringing this motion forward. The wool industry is so vital to the economy of Australia that it is a fitting subject to be discussed in the National Parliament. Speaking as a representative of Tasmania, I regret that so little publicity has been given to this debate in the press of that State. I do not know whether the same position pertains in the other States, but I believe that this subject which is so vital to the economic welfare of the Commonwealth should have been given due prominence in the Tasmanian press.
Over the past few days a good deal has been said about the wool industry and Australia’s export position. I agree entirely with Senator Sheehan’s statement that the exorbitant wool prices which we enjoyed a few years ago are not good for the industry. Very often they result in the market being upset and encourage substitute fibres. I call to mind quite well that similar conditions pertained in the potato industry three or four years ago when the price of potatoes rose to more than £100 a ton; but unlike wool, potatoes rose to that price simply because the producers did not have them. Nevertheless, that was bad for the industry. Very high prices are nearly always bad for any industry because there is always a tendency to gauge the state of the economy, particularly the economy of the wool industry upon which the Australian economy is so dependent, from high prices.
My mind goes back to 1929 and the years of the great depression. I think Senator Scott said that at that time the price of wool receded to 6d. per lb. In the main, falls in the prices of wool and wheat caused the depression in Australia. At that time we were trading in a world practically all of which was in the grip of an economic depression. Millions of people were unemployed all over the world. It was only to be expected that those countries which had so many people unemployed would not be in a position to purchase wool from us at anything like a payable price.
Not so long ago I was interested to read, an article headed, “ The New Era of Abundance in Europe “. It did me good. to read that Western Europe, that bulwark against Communist aggression, was going, through such an era of prosperity and that there should be such an abundance of production. That position is not confined to Western Europe. I believe that another country which has proved to be such a. great customer of Australia, Japan, is alsofairly prosperous. The article to which I refer said that since 1948 Western. Europe had prospered as it had never prospered before in peace-time. According tostatistics issued by the Organization for European Economic Co-operation, the gross product per person had risen by more than 40 per cent, compared with an increase of less than 25 per cent, in the United States of America and Canada since 1948. Car ownership had risen by 53 per cent, in the past four years. The owners of television sets had almost trebled in number in three years. The article also said that the key to all this remains in Western Europe’s rising productivity or output per man-hour. The steel industry in Soviet Russia projected an increase of 4.8 per cent., and although the increase did not. eventuate, Europe’s steel production is rising by nearly 9 per cent.
I cite those figures to indicate that the countries with which we trade are in a relatively good economic position and in a prosperous condition. What we term a decrease in the price of wool is not due to the fact that the countries with which we trade are not in a prosperous condition and therefore are unable to buy our products. So, it may well be that the price of wool throughtout the world has levelled out and there will not be any very great fluctuations in the price we receive for our wool for many years to come. We are dealing with customers who are in a relatively prosperous condition, and it may well be that there will not be any very great change in the price we receive overseas.
In my opinion, Senator Hendrickson summed up the position well when he said : that we who pay a basic wage of £12 to £14 a week cannot expect people who are paid a basic wage of £4 to £6 a week to purchase our products. In my opinion, that sums up the whole position. We are being costed out of our markets, and until there is a change in the outlook, opinion and perspective of all sections of the community, and there is a realization that our prosperity must be gauged in accordance with productivity and the quantity of goods we can export - which I believe is the only real gauge of the prosperity of this country -I am afraid that we will not get out of the difficulty in which we find ourselves in regard to the export of our wool.
In considering the present position in the western European countries, I was greatly interested to read a report of a lecture delivered in Melbourne some time ago by Sir Douglas Copland. The lecture was entitled, “ Productivity - Its Contribution to Economic Growth “. He said this about the trade unions in Great Britain -
I just want to quote what the British Trades Union movement has to say about this problem of productivity. These are the words: “ The British Trades Union movement is vitally interested in problems of production and productivity. The standards of life and employment of its organized millions and their security in their jobs depend upon an increasing output from industry and a higher level of efficiency. British Trade Unionism is standing on the threshold of a new social, economic and industrial orbit. Mass and hardcore unemployment and social insecurity - characteristics of social injustices - have, we hope, disappeared for good. What lies beyond this threshold of labour movement achievement? The answer is: too seek a higher standard of life for all, achieved through increasing industrial productivity or output per man-hour.”
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator the
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 5 October 1960, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1960/19601005_senate_23_s18/>.