27th Parliament · 2nd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at 10 a.m., and read prayers.
– I present from 139 citizens of South Australia the following petition:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate hi Parliament assembled. The Petition of the undersigned citizens of South Australia respectfully showeth:
That due to the higher living cost, persons on Social Service Pensions are finding it extremely difficult to live in even the most frugal way.
We therefore call upon the Commonwealth Government to increase the base pension rate to 30 per cent of the Average Weekly Male Earnings for all States, as ascertained by the Commonwealth Statistician, plus supplementary assistance and allowances in accordance with Australian Council of Trade Unions policy and adopted as the policy of the Australian Commonwealth Pensioners’ Federation, and by doing so give a reasonably moderate pension.
Your Petitioners most humbly pray that the Senate and the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled will take immediate steps to bring about the wishes expressed in our Petitions so that our citizens receiving the Social Service Pensions may live their lives in dignity. And your Petitioners as in duty bound will every pray.
Petition received and read.
– ls the Minister representing the Treasurer aware of the serious situation that has developed in Tasmania as a result of that State’s inability to maintain economic growth equal to that of the mainland States? Is the Minister also aware that Tasmania’s population growth has almost reached stagnation and that as a result the State is receiving a progressively smaller share of Commonwealth financial grants each year? Will the Minister request the Treasurer to have a detailed report on the Tasmanian economy prepared and submitted to Cabinet for consideration of additional special grants to that State?
Yesterday, I think it was, I introduced legislation in relation to grants to the States. In the second reading speech that was given there was an exposition of the situation of
Tasmania, with particular emphasis on the special grants that we give to that State and with special reference to the Commonwealth Grants Commission which has a responsibility to examine the question of economic growth in relation to the whole of the Commonwealth. I think it would be premature to speak about this matter now as the legislation to which I have referred is on the business paper and when we come to debate it, if not today then on Monday, the honourable senator will have an opportunity to speak about this matter. Quite clearly, special consideration was given to Tasmania at the Premiers’ Conference. Quite significant amounts are being given to Tasmania and certain provisions have been made for that State in relation to consideration by the Grants Commission.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry whether it is a fact that dairy factory managers throughout Australia have been advised by the Dairy Industry Council to ease the restrictions on the supply of milk to their factories. Is it a fact that whilst Victoria is meeting its quota of production other States, including New South Wales and Queensland, are much below their quotas? Is it a fact that the Dairy Industry Council is concerned that insufficient butter will be produced in Australia to meet established market requirements? Does this appear a paradox in view of Britain’s proposed entry into the European Economic Community?
– Yes, lt is a fact that dairy factories in Victoria and Tasmania have been told that they can accept all the whole milk that they can get from farmers. 1 understand this is due to bad seasons in most parts of Australia. The Council is concerned that because of drought conditions it wilt be difficult for the industry to produce sufficient butter this season to meet the British quota. As a result the Council has eased restrictions on factories in Victoria and Tasmania. I also understand that the Council has made it clear that the policy of developing a production restraint mechanism for the future has in no way changed. The Council is urgently working on proposals to develop this mechanism.
– -Is the Minister for Air aware that as far back as November 1969 the Australian nation was warned that the storage of Australia’s 24 Fill fighter bombers in the USA could cost up to $ 1,700 a day? Can the Minister advise the Senate of the total cost of storage up to the present time? ls this cost of $1,700 a day still occuring? If not, what is the daily cost of storage or parking fees for the 24 Fill fighter bombers in the US?
– I think 1 have answered this question a number of limes in the Senate. I have said on each occasion that it is a figment of someone’s imagination that Australia is being charged so many thousands of dollars a day. At the present time no-one knows the cost of storage. Responsibility for this is something that has to be worked out between the US authorities and the Australian Government when we take final delivery of the FI 1 1.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry seen a report in today’s Press that prices for some wools at the Sydney wool sales yesterday rose by between 2i per cent and 5 per cent? Could this not be related to a reflection of confidence being shown in the wool industry following the passage in the House of Representatives the day before of the Bill dealing with wool marketing?
– I would like to think so but if the honourable senator looked at the morning newspapers yesterday he would have noticed that on the previous day prices at the Brisbane sales rose 2i per cent. The most satisfactory thing is that if we look at the futures quotations over recent days we find increases for every quality. I think this looks well for the future of wool. I hope this is so. I hope that the action of the Government in setting up the Wool Commission can do something to iron out the fluctuations that have been the pattern in the wool market over the years.
– I desire to ask the Leader of the Government a question.
I thought it would be a good question to ask so that we can have a little pleasantry before we get down to real work. Has the Minister read the Melbourne ‘Age’ of today in which the Leader of the Australian Country Party, which forms part of the present coalition Administration, is reported to have said that he believed bis Ministers had an undue amount of power in the coalition? When Mr McEwen was asked why, according to the Press he said the reason was that his Ministers were more dynamic than those of the other partner in the coalition. 1 thought the Minister would be very happy to pass some comment on this.
All 1 can say is that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration elaborate on the plight of British migrant Dennis Turner who is picketing the Northern Territory office of the Department of Immigration to pinpoint his current difficulties?
– I have seen the statement in the Press concerning this matter and I have taken the matter up with the Minister for Immigration. At the moment all I can say in reply to the honourable senator’s question is that the Department is investigating Mr Turner’s case.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Air. How long is it since the investigation team which is in the United States of America to take account of tests and other matters in relation to the Fill Aircraft has reported to the Government? What was the content of recommendations or opinions expressed by this investigation team in its last report to the Government? When is it expected that some firm report upon which the Government might decide its future policy in respect of this aircraft will be available for examination by the Department?
– We have Australian engineers and scientists in America continually watching the Fill programme and anything that is associated with it. They are continually reporting back from day to day. This morning I read a report from our scientists in America relating to the recent crash of an Fill. As to the final report, I think the Minister for Defence said in his statement towards the end of the last sessional period that it would not be until the end of 1971 that the Governments would be in a position to make a final determination as to when we would receive the aircraft.
– I address a question to the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior. Has the Minister approved any proposals to ensure that as far as practicable a minimum of informal votes will be registered at the forthcoming Senate election? What methods are to be employed to give wide publicity to such proposals?
– I am sure it will be remembered that Senator Mulvihill asked a question about a film that had been prepared by the Australian Broadcasting Commission to demonstrate the problem of informal voting and which suggested that perhaps a higher level of education in voters would overcome this. I referred not long ago to the fact that this film was available to be seen in the Department of the Interior. I suggest that Senator Millner and Senator Mulvihill should take advantage of this, if they wish to do so. It is a matter of educating voters, as far as possible. It is tied up with the complexity of the Senate method of voting and the voting paper. I cannot say more than that. It is a function of the Minister for the Interior and equally, 1 imagine, of political parties to inform voters accordingly.
– Does the Minister representing the Treasurer recall my request prior to the Budget to reduce sales tax on women’s face powder and requisites? I ask him, in the name of everything decent: How can the Government justify the increase of sales tax on ladies’ face powders and requisites while dog powders are free of sales tax? Is he aware of the strong protests from women’s organisations throughout Australia on this matter?
– During the Budget debate I thought the subject of the imposition of sales tax on individual items was covered fairly widely, and points were made and views were expressed. I do not know what has touched off this reference to it again almost immediately following a debate on these issues in this place. If it is just that Senator Fitzgerald wants to re-emphasise his stand on this matter, I take on board what he says, that prior to the Budget, as ( recall it, he did make some reference to sales tax on cosmetics. I, like all other honourable senators, think that the use of cosmetics is a very good thing. They are, of course, used quite significantly and the sales tax on these items is an instrument for raising revenue.
– Has the Leader of the Government in the Senate seen Press reports that Mr Whitlam did not raise the question of a 35-hour week when delivering the Australian Labor Party policy speech for the Senate election. Is it a fact that the introduction of a 35-hour week and a further reduction to a 30-hour week is official ALP policy? Does the Minister know of any reason why Mr Whitlam omitted to mention the 35-hour week issue whereas Mr Hawke of the Australian Council of Trade Unions speaking from the same platform made it his main issue?
– Some questions were asked of me yesterday on this aspect of a 35-hour week. As I indicated then, it is within my knowledge that a 35-hour week is Labor Party policy. As we all know, a document which spells this out quite clearly is available from the Library. I am not informed on the matter of a 30-hour week and I cannot make any useful contribution about it. As I said yesterday, a 35-hour week arbitrarily imposed upon the Australian economy would have a disastrous effect on our growth at the present time. It would affect rural industries in particular, which have very serious problems.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Defence aware of the recent newspaper reports indicating that the British Conservative Government’s first defence White Paper proposing a new 5 power defence arrangement for South East Asia is designed to replace the existing Anglo-Malaysia defence agreement? The report States -
– Order! The honourable senator is getting on to dangerous ground.
– Is is important that I preface my question with these remarks so that the Minister will understand it.
– The honourable senator may go on for a while and I will see what happens.
– The report stated:
Britain’s new While Paper on defence gives Australia the major responsibilityfor air defence of Malaysia and Singapore and it also gives to Australia the senior role in the army garrison maintained by Britain, Australia and New Zealand.
I ask the Minister: Does this mean that the Australian Government intends to adopt the role of a European policeman in this region of South East Asia for the purpose of protecting European investment at the expense of the Australian taxpayers and the youth of our country who will no doubt be required to service this new commitment as they now do Vietnam?
– Australia’s participation in the 5 power agreement is a recognition of her responsibility in the Far East. In the final analysis Australia’s very security depends upon such an agreement. For anybody to imagine - as is suggested in the question by implication - that we can live in an ivory tower in isolation without regard to the security of our neighbours and that we can sit back in Australia’s vast open spaces secure in our own defence is living in a dream land. History would demonstrate that rather bitterly to some of us. I say to the honourable senator that our participation in that agreement is consistent with our policy in relation to Vietnam and in relation to being in collaboration with our neighbours and allies, in the ultimate, for our own existence and security.
(Question No. 769)
asked the Minis ter representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice:
– The Minister for Shipping and Transport has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
I understand there have been occasions when land, which isno longer needed by the Commonwealth, has been made available to State and local Government authorities with restrictions on its future use.
My Department would of course fully inform the Department of the Interior of any arrangements made with a State Government regarding fauna protection.
(Question No. 773)
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice:
Is it a fact that the Postmaster-General’s Department contemplates, in the immediate future, the downgrading from official status to non-official status, the post offices at Yandina,
Eumundi, Landsborough, Palmwoods, Woodford. Yarraman and Woombye? If so, in view of the further restriction this will place on employment opportunities in country areas, will the Postmaster-General give serious consideration to reviewing such decisions and thus ensure better post office facilities for people residing in the aforementioned areas.
– The Postmaster-General has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Automatic telephone working has been introduced at Landsborough, Palmwoods and Woombye and is being planned for Yandina, Eumundi and Woodford. The remainder of the work at each of these post offices is relatively light and can be handled efficiently under non-official staffing arrangements.
It is proposed to change these post offices to non-official status when the present staff have been suitably placed elsewhere after the introduction of automatic telephone working at each centre. Palmwoods will operate on a non-official basis from 1st November 1970 but no firm date has been set for any of the other offices.
I should like to emphasise that the variation in status does not involve the withdrawal of any of the present services provided but is merely a change in the method of staffing the offices to one more appropriate to the level of business handled. There are many centres with a similar volume of traffic throughout the Commonwealth where a very good grade of service is being provided under non-official conditions.
There are no plans at this stage to alter the status of the Yarraman Post Office.
– On 22nd September 1970 Senator Lillico asked me the following question:
Has the Minister representing the AttorneyGeneral noted a report in today’s Press that all pea processors throughout Australia have increased their wholesale prices by 30 per cent, apparently by mutual agreement, and that it is claimed retailers will be compelled to do likewise because they will not be able to secure supplies from other sources? Will not this action by the processors tend to encourage the import of peas and other frozen vegetables from overseas? Can the Minister express an opinion - perhaps in due course - as to whether this section constitutes collusion under the Trade Practices Act?
The Attorney-General has now furnished me with the following information in reply:
The Trade Practices Act provides for certain classes of agreements and practices to be examined by the Commissioner of Trade Practices and, if he thinks necessary, by the Trade Practices Tribunal, to determine whether they are contrary to the public interest.
The question whether the conduct of the processors of frozen peas to which Senator Lillico refers involves an examinable agreement is one for the Commissioner in the first instance. The Commissioner has in fact indicated that he is looking at the relevant agreement It would not be proper for me, in these circumstances, to express an opinion as to whether the pea processors’ action comes within the provisions of the Act
– (Question No. 624)
asked the Minister representing the -Minister for the Interior, upon notice:
– The Minister for the Interior has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
EDUCATION (Question No. 640)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Education and Science, upon notice:
– The Minister for Education and Science has provided the following replies to the honourable senator’s question:
A full list of independent schools to which grants have been or will be made between 1st July 1964 and 30th June 1971 is attached.
It is the responsibility of State government authorities to determine which government secondary schools are assisted. Attached is a list of Slate government schools in which facilities have been provided with Commonwealth funds during the 1968-69 financial year. This list supplements that given on 27th March 1968 to which I have referred earlier. When the Slate Governments provide their full lists of government schools assisted during the financial year 19K9-70. I shall send this information to the honourable senator.
LIST OF GOVERNMENT SECONDARY SCHOOLS ASSISTED DURING FINANCIAL YEAR 1968-1969 UNDER STATES GRANTS (SCIENCE LABORATORIES) ACT 1968
New South Wales
Barham Central High School
Campbelltown High School
Canowindra Central High School
Canterbury Boys’ High School
Canterbury Girls’ High School
Charter Hill High School
Cleveland Street High School
Deniliquin High School
Dover Heights Boys’ High School
Fairvale High School
Farrer Memorial High School
Figtree High School
Gosford High School Annexe
Homebush Boys’ High School
Hunter’s Hill High School
Killara High School
Killarney Heights High School
Lismore High School
Maitland Boys High School
Miller High School
Moruya High School
Ml Druitt High School
Narromine District Rural School
Narwee Boys’ High School
Oxley High School
Randwick Boys’ High School
Raymond Terrace High School
Rooty Hill High School
Sefton High School
South Sydney Boys High School
Sydney Girls High School
Tenterfield High School
The Forest High School
Tumut High School
Warilla High School
Warren Central School
Wiley Park Girls’ High School
Windsor High School
Ararat High School
Ashwood High School
Ballarat High School
Balwyn High School
Beaumaris High School
Brighton High School
Preston Girls High
Ararat Technical Schoo
Box Hill Girls
Northcote Technical Schoo
Brisbane High School
Mt Isa High School
Christies Beach High School
Piympton High School
Cummins Area School
Karoonda Area School
Maitland Area School
M annum Area School
Brighton Boy’s Technical High
Christies Beach Technical High
Port Adelaide Girls
Albany High School
John Curtin High School
Burnie High School
Smithton High School
Brigidine Girls’ Regional School, Maroubra Junc tion
Catherine McCauley High, Westmead
Convent of the Sacred Heart, Elizabeth Bay
Convent of the Sacred Heart, Rose Bay
McKillop Girls’ School, Lakemba
Marist Sisters’ High School, ‘Cerdon’, Merrylands
Mary McKillop College. Hunters Hill
Our Lady of the Sacred Heart College, Kensington
St John’s Coilege, ‘Woodlawn’, Lismore
StMary’s College, Gunnedah
St Mary’s Star of the Sea High School, Hurstville
Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth Secondary School, Marayong Stella Maris College, Manly
The School for the Deaf, North Rocks
Academy of MaryImmaculate, Fitzroy
Boys Reginal School, Doveton (near Dandenong)
Christ the King College, Braybrook
Christian Brothers’ ‘Parade’ College, Bundoora (East Melbourne)
Convent of the Sacred Heart School, Glen Iris
Our Lady of the Sacred Heart College, Bentleigh
Star of the Sea’ College, Gardenvale
St Joseph’s College, Fern tree Gully
St Mary’s Convent of the Angels, Nathalia
St Monica’s School, Kangaroo Flat
St Patrick’s College, Ballarat
St Patrick’s College, Sale
St Patrick’s School, Camperdown
St Patrick’s School, Manangatang
St Patrick’s School, Pyramid Hill
St Paul’s College, Altona North
St Paul’s College, Traralgoto
St Paul’s Technical College, Ballarat
St Thomas, C.B.C., CliftonHill
St Thomas Girls School, Blackburn
St Thomas More’s College, Nunawading
St Thomas School, Terang
St Vincents’ College, Bendigo
Sancta Sophia, Glenroy
Star of the Sea, Convent of Mercy, Apollo Bay
Stella Maris, Frankston
Trinity College, Colac
Vauclause Convent School, F.C.J. Richmond
Xavier College, Kew
Xavier Preparatory School, Burke Hall, Kew
Xavier Preparatory School, Kostka Hall, Brighton Beach
STATES GRANTS (SCIENCE LABORATORIES) ACT 1965-67, 1968 GRANTS ALLOCATED 1964-71
Schools Other Than Roman Catholic
Adventist School, Hawthorn
Ballarat College, Ballarat
Ballarat Grammar School, Wendourie
Beth Rivkah College for Girls, East St Kilda
Brighton Grammar School, Brighton
Carey Baptist Grammar School, Kew
Carey Baptist Grammar Junior School, Kew
Camberwell Girls’ Grammar School, Canterbury
Camberwell Grammar School, Canterbury
Camberwell Grammar Junior School. Canterbury
Caulfield Grammar School, East St Kilda
Clyde School, Woodend
Church of England Girls’ Grammar School, the Hermitage, Highton (New Site)
Clarendon Presbyterian Ladies’ College, Ballarat
Elsternwick Methodist Ladies College, Elste rn wick
Essendon Grammar School, Essendon
Fintona Girls’ School, Balwyn
Firbank C. of E. Girls Grammar School, Brighton
Geelong College (Senior), Geelong
Geelong Church of England Grammar School, Coria
The Geelong College Preparatory School, Newtown
Gippsland Grammar School, Sale
Girton Church of England Girls Grammar School, Bendigo
Grimwade House C.E. Boys Grammar School, Caulfield
Haileybury College, Brighton
Hamilton and Alexandra College, Hamilton
Huntingtower School, Mt Waverley
Ivanhoe Girls Grammar School, Ivanhoe
Ivanhoe Grammar School, Ivanhoe
Kilvington Baptist Girls’ Grammar School, Ormond
Kingswood College, Box Hill
Korowa Church of England Girls Grammar School, Glen Iris
Lauriston Girls School, Armadale
Lilydale Adventist Academy, Mooroolbark
Lowther Hall Church of England Girls Grammar School, Essendon
Luther College, Croydon
Malvern Memorial Grammar School, Glen Iris
Melbourne Church of England Girls Grammar School, South Yarra
Melbourne Church of England Grammar School, South Yarra
Mentone Boys Grammar School, Mentone
Mentone Girls Grammar School, Mentone
Methodist Ladies College, Kew
Morongo Presbyterian Girls College, Geelong
Mount Scopus (War) Memorial College, Burwood
The Peninsula School, Mount Eliza
Presbyterian Ladies’ College, Burwood
Presbyterian Ladies College, Moonee Ponds
Queens Church of England Girls Grammar School, Ballarat
Ruyton Girls Grammar School, Kew
St Anne’s Church of England Girls Grammar School, Sale
St Catherine’s School, Toorak
St Leonards Presbyterian Girls College, Brighton
St Margaret’s School, Berwick
St Michael’s Church of England Girls Grammar School, St Kilda
Scotch College, Hawthorn
Shelford Church of England Girls Grammar School, Caulfield
Strathcona Baptist Girls Grammar School, Canterbury
Timbertop School, via Mansfield
Tintern Church of England Girls Grammar School, Ringwood East
Toorak College, Frankston
Trinity Grammar School, Kew
Wadhurst School, Melbourne
Warburton Seventh Day Adventist School, Warburton
Wesley College, Melbourne
Wesley College Junior School. Syndal
Yarra Valley (C.E.) School, Ringwood
Yeshivah College, East St Kilda
STATES GRANTS (SCIENCE LABORATORIES) ACT 1965-67. 1968 1968 GRANTS ALLOCATED 1964-71
Roman Catholic Schools
All Hallows School, Brisbane
Boys Town, Beaudesert
Brigidine College, Indooroopilly
Christian Brothers’ College, Gympie
Christian Brothers’ College, St Patrick’s, Shorncliffe
Christian Brothers’ St Laurence’s College, South Brisbane
Christian Brother’ Aquinas College, Southport
Christian Brothers’ College, St Mary’s, Toowoomba
Christian Brothers’ College, Ipswich
Christian Brothers’ College, Mackay
Christian Brothers’ College, Mt Gravatt
Christian Brothers’ College, Warwick
Christian Brothers’ High School, Bundaberg
Christian Brothers’ High School, Maryborough
Christian Brothers’ St James’ School, Brisbane
Co-Instructional Secondary School, Aitkenvale
Convent High School, Rockhampton
Star of the Sea Convent, High School, Southport
Schools other than Roman Catholic
Presbyterian Girls’ College, “Fairholme”, Toowoomba
Our Lady of the Manger School, Findon
Ourlady of the Sacred Heart College, Enfield Rostrevor College, Magill
Star of the Sea, Convent of Mercy, Henley Beach
Our Lady of the Missions, Fremantle
Schools other than Roman Catholic
Schools other than Roman Catholic
(Question No. 652)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice:
– The Minister for the Interior has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(Question No. 661)
asked the Minis ter for Housing, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
(Question No. 665)
asked the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice:
– The Postmaster-General has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
My Department is installing a radio transmitting station near Darwin. This is the Radio Australia Booster Station which Cabinet approved in principle by Decision No. 1408 dated 22nd June 1961. The station is situated on Cox Peninsula and, in the first phase, consists of three 250 kilowatt transmitters and five transmitting aerials.
(Question No. 738)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Navy, upon notice:
What was the total cost of refitting (including provision of new planes and equipment) carried out on HMAS ‘Melbourne’ from1st January 1965 to date.
– The Minister for the Navy has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The refitting costs on HMAS ‘Melbourne’ since 1st January 1965 total $11.684m. This figure includes collision repairs and the sum of $8.665m for the extended refit of HMAS ‘Melbourne’ between January 1968 and January 1969. In the period in question the Government approved the purchase of Skyhawk and Tracker aircraft and support equipment for use in HM AS ‘Melbourne’ and at HMAS Albatross’ (the Naval Air Station) at a total estimated cost of $69.157m.
(Question No. 753)
asked the Minister for Housing, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
(Question No. 756)
asked the Minister for Housing, upon notice:
Is the Department of Housing prepared to build war service homes on the group system for Aboriginal and island ex-servicemen on Cape York Peninsula and on islands in the Torres Strait in the same way as the Department provides group housing for white ex-servicemen in other parts of Australia.
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
The same considerations would apply to proposals to commence a group building programme for aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders on Cape York Peninsula or on islands in the Torres Strait as would apply to proposals to build group homes in any other part of the Commonwealth. I would mention that in practice group homes are built only where there is a known firm demand for such homes from eligible persons who are able to meet all the requirements of the War Services Homes Act.
It is pointed out the applications for all forms of war service homes assistance, including proposals to buy group homes, are considered only having regard to the requirements of the Act which contains no provisions in any way related to the colour, race or nationality of applicants.
(Question No. 759)
asked the Minister for Housing, upon notice:
Would the Department of Housing construct 100 homes under the war service homes scheme if a group of 100 Aboriginal and Island ex-servicemen were to make application for homes in the Cape York and Torres Strait Island areas during the period between now and 31 December and were able to provide the required minimum deposit.
– the answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
Consideration would be given to the commencement of a building programme under the war service homes scheme should a sufficient number of applications be received from eligible persons with firm proposals which meet all requirements of the War Service Homes Act.
– We shall proceed to the presentation of papers. Has any Minister a paper to present?
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leaveis granted.
– I inform the honourable senator that the Minister for Immigration is aware of an application by an English migrant, Mr Dennis Turner, for repatriation for him and his family. As I said, the Department of Immigration is considering this matter. At present the family is being accommodated in a Darwin motel under the auspices of the Welfare Branch of the Northern Territory Administration. Mr Turner has been offered work commensurate with his training as a motor mechanic but has refused to accept the offer.
Senator Murphy - Mr President-
– Order!I am dealing with the presentation of papers.
– I am sorry, Mr President. I thought you were still dealing with answers to questions on notice.
– No. A practice which has grown up in the Senate is for a sheet of paper to be placed in front of me showing the answers to questions on notice which honourable senators require to be read by the responsible Minister. When I have exhausted the questions listed I go on to the presentation of papers.
– 1 seek leave to ask a question. the PRESIDENT - Is there any objection? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I want to draw attention to a matter which I have raised on, I think, three or four occasions previously. I refer to the failure to supply an answer to question No. 488 which I placed on the notice paper. I wonder whether the Minister representing the Minister for Health is able to inform me of the present position.
– I have brought this matter to the attention of the Minister for Health on each occasion Senator Murphy has raised it. I hope that he will get an answer as soon as possible.
– Pursuant to section 40 of the Australian National Airlines Act 1945-1966, I present the twenty-fifth annual report of the Australian National Airlines Commission for the year ended 30th June 1970, together with financial statements and the report of the Auditor-General on those statements.
– Pursuant to section 12 of the Petroleum Search Subsidy Act 1959-1969, I present the eleventh annual statement on the operation of the Act and the payment of subsidy during the year ended 30th June 1970.
– Pursuant to section 314 of the Bankruptcy Act 1966-1969, I present the third annual report on the operation of the Act for the year ended 30th June 1970.
– On behalf of the Public Accounts Committee, [ present the one hundred and twenty-fourth report. With the concurrence of honourable senators, I incorporate in Hansard a statement on the report.
Honourable senators will recall that yesterday I tabled the one hundred and twenty-third report, which relates to expenditure from the Advance to the Treasurer 1969-70. The one hundred and twentyfourth report relates to expenditure from the Consolidated Revenue fund for that year and covers the remainder of the items included in your Committee’s examination of the expenditure results of departments. As both reports stem from the same inquiry, many of the observations made by your Committee in its one hundred and twentythird report apply equally to the items included in the report that I am presenting today.
In its previous reports relating to expenditure from the Consolidated Revenue fund your Committee has emphasised that the overprovision of funds for a department is undesirable, misleading and perhaps unfair to other departments whose financial needs might not have been met fully as a consequence. For this reason your Committee has outlined, in several of its reports, the principles relating to estimating that have been formulated by the Department of the Treasury and endorsed by your Committee. The evidence taken in respect of the financial year 1969-70 has again reflected the need for these principles to be restated and they are included in chapter 1 1. of the report for the guidance of departments and others concerned. Successful financial management, however, depends not only on the realistic formulation of estimates but also on efficient administration throughout the financial year. In this regard evidence tendered during our inquiry has revealed cases of administrative weakness which we believe require early attention. Your Committee would emphasise that in its inquiries into the estimates and related expenditure it must continue to highlight these shortcomings whenever and wherever they occur.
Ordered that the report be printed.
Moi ion (by Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) agreed to:
That the Senate at its rising adjourn until Monday, 2nd November at 1 1 a.m.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Wright) read a first lime.
– I move:
The purpose of this Bill is to appropriate additional grants to meet the Commonwealth’s contribution to the costs of the new levels of academic salaries in universities that the Government agreed to support from 1st January 1970, in accordance with recommendations of Mr Justice Eggleston. The governing bodies of universities are responsible for determining the actual levels of remuneration of their staff. This Bill provides that the Commonwealth will contribute towards new salaries for the senior academic staff up to the following levels:
The Bill includes, within the funds to be appropriated, amounts to meet the Commonwealth’s contribution towards new salaries for junior academic staff and certain university officers in medical schools. These amounts are also in line with the recommendations of Mr Justice Eggleston. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Wheeldon) adjourned.
– (New South WalesLeader of the Opposition) - by leave - A few days ago when a number of Bills were coming from the other place to here, the second reading of one of them almost went through by misadventure. When dozens of Bills are coming through at once, we may not be sure when a particular Bill is to be dealt with. Senators are engaged in preparing speeches on Bills and in all sorts of other activities. I would like to say that there is an understanding between the Government and the Opposition that if a Bill is introduced in this manner and the Opposition senator who would normally be asking for the adjournment of the debate is not here, an honourable senator on the Government side will move that the debate be adjourned unless there is a clear understanding beforehand that the Government will be pushing for the measure to go through. Otherwise it would mean-
– A recommittal.
– Yes. In the manner in which we work here Bills should not be passed through by misadventure. I am not suggesting that there would be any such deliberate attempt. That is never the way in which the Senate has been conducted. I suggest that this would also work for the convenience of whoever is presiding, because on occasions the senators presiding may not be aware of the understanding.
– I point out that it is extremely difficult for the Chair if no honourable senator stands up. I cannot call a senator when he is sitting down. If honourable senators do not rise it is almost impossible for the Chair to know what is going on.
– The other day when some Bills were being dealt with together there was almost a misadventure. It would be easy for an Opposition senator not to notice that a particular Bill was going through in a group.
– It is impossible to hear the conversations that go on at the table with yourself, Mr President. Very important matters involving the attitudes of the Parties are discussed and sometimes we cannot hear the discussions. I do not know whether the microphones are switched on. It would be of great assistance to this corner of the chamber if we could hear those conversations. Sometimes the speaker is not aware that he is not being heard in this corner.
– I think that is a trouble which affects all of us at the table. The system is not as good as it should be but I think it is behaving better now than it was. I was suggesting that in the press of Bills which were coming through the understanding was that because a Bill came in suddenly, or, for that matter, at any time, the adjournment of the second reading debate would be moved by the Government if the Opposition did not so move so that a Bill would not slip through by misadventure. That would apply unless some clear intimation were given beforehand that it was the intention to push the measure through, even against the wishes of the Opposition.
– (New South Wales - Minister for Supply) - by leave - I agree with Senator Murphy that an incident did occur the other day. I was handling the matter and 1 paused deliberately because I was conscious that we have a certain responsibility. We have a government and an official opposition and nothing is achieved in the field of parliamentary practice by sleight of hand or by similar methods. We do not operate in that way in our democracy. There is a tradition that the Opposition has the right to take the adjournment of the second reading debate on the introduction of a Bill. I am sure that my Ministers would agree with me that if, by an odd circumstance, members of the Opposition were not here at the critical moment the Government would take the adjournment at least to give time for the Opposition to indicate its intentions. I do not see anything wrong in that. I am sure that such an arrangement will be satisfactory. Sometimes the Opposition says: ‘We will let the Bill go straight through.’ That is very good, but at least the Opposition should have the opportunity to indicate its wishes. The same remarks apply to the Australian Democratic Labor Party.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Wright) read a first time.
– [ move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to give effect to the election policy of the Government to increase the amount of Commonwealth assistance to educational research in Australia. As honourable senators are no doubt aware, some details of this policy were given in my statement in the Senate on 16th April 1970. The Commonwealth is already assisting educational research in a number of ways. Some examples of this are the assistance given to selected educational research projects through the Australian Research Grants Committee and the Commonwealth Advisory Committee on Advanced Education. In addition there are special grants to the Australian Council for Educational Research for individual projects such as the Australian science education project and the tertiary education entrance project. There are also special grants for the purposes of research and research training in the programme of assistance to Universities. As shown in Appropriation Bill No. 1, division 230.5, there are grants-in-aid to various bodies such as the AustralianAmerican Educational Foundation, the Australian Academy of Science, the Australian Council for Educational Research, the Social Science Research Council of Australia, the Australian Academy of the Humanities and the Lady Gowrie Child Centres, some parts of which are applied for the purposes of research.
Notwithstanding that the Commonwealth has for some time been assisting education research in this country, it has become evident that more needs to be done. In September 1969, at a meeting in Canberra, a number of leading Australian educationists carefully considered the needs of educational research in Australia and highlighted several areas demanding greater attention. The meeting strongly recommended that a greater measure of assistance be given to research in education, and emphasised the importance of communication of results, identification of areas of national importance, co-ordination of research efforts and the training of research personnel. Subsequently the Government promised, as part of its policy before the 1969 House of Representatives elections, to stimulate educational research still further by means of special assistance, commencing with the allocation of $250,000 in the 1970-71 Budget. The Bill now before the Senate and the programme to which it gives effect are the results of that promise.
To implement this policy, and to advise the Minister for Education and Science on the administration of the new research programme, the Minister has established a committee known as the Australian Advisory Committee on Research and Development in Education. The Chairman of this Committee is Professor P. H. Partridge of the Australian National University. With the concurrence of honourable senators, I incorporate in Hansard details of the membership of the Committee.
Professor P. H. Partridge, Professor of Social
Philosophy, Australian National University.
Mr R. S. Coggins, Principal, Salisbury Teachers’ College, South Australia;
Professor S. S. Dunn, Professor of Education, Monash University;
Professor A. G. Mitchell, Vice-Chancellor, Macquarie University;
Mr D. M. Morrison, Assistant Secretary, Policy and Research Branch, Department of Education and Science, Canberra;
Professor E. A. Russell, Professor of Economics, University of Adelaide;
Mr D. J. A. Verco, Director General of Education, New South Wales.
Mr A. H. Webster, Director of Planning, Department of Education, New South Wales;
Mr L. W. Weickhardt, Deputy Chancellor, University of Melbourne:
Mr W. Wood, Director of Special Education Services, Department of Education, Queensland.
The Committee has held 2 meetings. When this legislation is passed, the Committee plans, as part of its programme, to call for applications for support to research projects from the beginning of 1971. As honourable senators will recall the terms of reference of the Committee were set out in detail in my statement in the Senate on 16th April. To summarise them briefly, they are to advise the Minister on priorities in educational research, to make recommendations for the financial support of research projects and the training of research personnel, and to suggest means for the improvement of educational research and the application of results in Australia. I have no doubt that this programme will give fresh impetus to educational research in Australia, and I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Wheeldon) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Wright) read a first time.
The Bill before the Senate is designed to amend the States Grants (Advanced Education) Act 1969 to enable the Commonwealth Government to provide for increased grants to the States for advanced education. The reasons for these increases are as follows: The Bill consists of 4 parts. The first part is concerned with increases in the grants offered to all States, in order that we might meet our share of academic salary increases in the current 1970-1972 triennium, brought about by the adoption by the States, in whole or in part, of the report of the Sweeney inquiry into salaries in colleges of advanced education and the Eggleston report on salaries in universities. The Commonwealth Government has signified acceptance of these reports. The new schedules to the Act in the main are a result of the decision to accept these 2 reports. For one State, Tasmania, there is one new element. Honourable senators will recall that the second report of the Commonwealth Advisory Committee on Advanced Education recommended support for teacher education in certain colleges of advanced education. Teacher education at these colleges will attract the normal Commonwealth grants, namely, for recurrent expenditure $1.85 State and fees of $1 Commonwealth, and on the capital side SI for $1 between the Commonwealth and the States.
The Second Report of the Commonwealth Advisory Committee on Advanced Education recommended that a total of Sim be made available for capital development on the Mount Nelson site at Hobart of the school of teacher education within the Tasmanian College of Advanced Education. The Commonwealth share of this is $500,000. No recommendation was made for recurrent expenditure at that time. The situation has now changed because teacher education in Hobart became the responsibility of the Council of the Tasmanian College of Advanced Education from 1st January of this year. The amendment before the Senate makes provision for this.
The second part of the Bill makes a minor adjustment to the capital expenditure programme in Western Australia and South Australia by the addition of two projects. No new money is involved; The amendment is being made at the request of the 2 States concerned. The third part increases the Commonwealth offer made for support of the recurrent expenditure of some colleges of advanced education in the 1967-1969 triennium. The Commonwealth Government supports in the colleges approved increases in academic salaries. Increases in a number of States have already been met by way of amendment to the 1967 Advanced Education Act. There remains, however, the need to increase the grant available to 3 States - Western Australia, New South Wales and Queensland. It was not possible in the course of the last triennium to make , these adjustments which are now being made. The increases are small, but the offer must be made to discharge our undertakings to the States.
The fourth part of the Bill deals with the residential college being established at the Western Australian School of Mines at Kalgoorlie. The Government is prepared to support the establishment and maintenance of residential colleges of advanced education as it does in the universities. The Commonwealth has already made provision in the original Act to match dollar for dollar, up to $200,000 Commonwealth share, the cost of erecting an affiliated residential college at the Kalgoorlie School of Mines. Senators will be pleased to know that the Mining Industry has raised a considerable proportion of the total capital costs of the college which is expected to be in operation in 1971. This is earlier than was expected; consequently there is a need to make provision for recurrent expenditure assistance. I should inform the Senate that on the formula in the Bill the maximum grant is expected to be $6,500 a year for each of the years 1971 and 1972. This has been calculated on the formula adopted by the Australian Universities Commission for similar residential colleges at the universities.
The Commonwealth Advisory Committee on Advanced Education is at present examining the means whereby residential accommodation in the colleges of advanced education might best be assisted and will make recommendations in its third report. The total effect of these amendments is an additional cost to the Commonwealth of S5.97m. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Wheeldon) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Wright) read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to make certain amendments to the Canberra College of Advanced Education Act 1967. These changes are in accordance with proposals submitted to the Government by the College Council. Most of the amendments concern the membership of the Council but there is also an important amendment to enable the College to award degrees. I shall deal in more detail with the latter at a later stage. The first alteration of Council membership under the Bill is to make provision for student representation. There is at present no such provision but it was envisaged that a decision on this question would be made when the College had come through its early developmental stages. This point has now been reached. The Bill therefore provides for two students to be elected to the Council by the student body and for the Council, should it wish, to arrange for separate representation of part time or full time students. Related to the amendment to have student representation on the Council is an amendment to reduce the minimum age of Council membership from 21 to 18 years.
The Bill provides for teaching staff representation on the Council to be increased from 2 to 3 members. The last of the proposed alterations to Council membership arrangements is one to make the Vice-Chancellor and the Deputy ViceChancellor of the Australian National University alternative members of the College Council. The duties of the ViceChancellor make it difficult for him to attend all Council meetings, and the Act now makes provisions which enable the Deputy Vice-Chancellor to be appointed to the Council in his stead. A more flexible arrangement is desirable), which would allow either the Vice-Chancellor or the Deputy Vice-Chancellor to attend Council meetings as circumstances permit. The Act at present provides for a Council of 16 persons, with the possible addition of another person as Chairman. The Government believes the strengthening of Council membership by the addition of student representation, and further staff representation, is fully justified at this stage of the College’s development.
The other important matter contained in the Bill is provision for the award of College degrees. The functions of the College are to be enlarged to permit it to award degrees, in addition to the award of diplomas and certificates. Honourable senators will be aware that when the Canberra College of Advanced Education was established in 1967, it was not given the power to award degrees for the satisfactory completion of courses. This arrangement was consistent with the Government’s policy t that time of not providing financial assistance for degree courses in colleges of advanced education in the States.
In the meantime the Government sponsored an inquiry into the nature and classification of awards in colleges of advanced education by a committee under the chairmanship of Mr F. M. Wiltshire. The recommendations of the Wiltshire Committee have been under discussion between State and Commonwealth Ministers of Education for some considerable time now. Although details of appropriate administrative arrangements have not yet been agreed upon, the Ministers have agreed on the desirability of consistency in awards throughout Australia. For its part, the Commonwealth has said that it will be prepared to provide financial assistance for degree courses in colleges where the standards of those courses have been endorsed through appropriate national accreditation machinery.
The proposed amendment to the functions of the Canberra College of Advanced Education will enable the College to make statutes for the award of degrees in appropriate circumstances. Those statutes will be subject to approval by the GovernorGeneral. The Minister for Education and Science will be prepared to recommend such approval where the academic standards of courses in the College have been established through effective national accreditation machinery. Pending arrangement with the States on the form that machinery will take, the Minister proposes to invite a small independent group of knowledgeable persons to make recommendations to him in respect of awards at degree level submitted by the Council of the Canberra College of Advanced Education.
The Bill deletes certain parts of the existing Act which refer to the Interim Council and the First Council report and are therefore no longer operative. T commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Wheeldon) adjourned.
Bil) received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) read a first time.
(11.2)- I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill seeks the approval of Parliament to the guarantee by the Commonwealth of a $US4.5m ($A4m) borrowing by the administration of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea from the International Bank for reconstruction and development. The proceeds of the loan, together with the proceeds of a credit of similar amount from the International Development Association, will assist in the financing of a major highways project in the highlands of New Guinea.
Following a recommendation by an International Bank mission in 1967, a survey of the transport requirements of the territory, financed by the United Nations, was carried out in 1968 by an international firm of consultants. The highways project is based on the recommendations of these consultants. It involves the realignment and construction of the South Wahgi Highway from Kundiawa to Mount Hagen and of the Southern Highlands Highway from Mount Hagen to Mendi. The detailed engineering for a new road from Madang to Kundiawa, to provide a second access from the coast to the highlands, is also included in the project. Normally, borrowings by the Territory Administration automatically carry a Commonwealth guarantee by virtue of the operation of section 75a of the Papua and New Guinea Act 1949-1968. However, with loans from the International Bank, a formal guarantee agreement is required from the Commonwealth and this must be authorised by specific legislation. The guarantee agreement for this loan, which is shown as the first schedule to the Bill, follows the form of a guarantee agreement previously approved by Parliament in connection with a telecommunications loan made by the International Bank to the Territory 2 years ago.
The loan agreement, which is shown as the Second Schedule to the Bill, has been approved by the Territory House of Assembly. The loan carries an interest rate of 7 per cent and has a life of 24 years, with repayments commencing after 4 years. A committee fee of¾ per cent per annum is also payable on undrawn balances while the loan is being drawn down. Tenders have been called and are presently being considered. It is expected that work on the project will commence early next year. The Bill provides for Parliamentary approval of the guarantee agreement. It makes consequential provision to ensure the effectiveness of undertakings in the guarantee and loan agreements regarding freedom of payments from Australian taxation or restrictions imposed by Australian law. It also includes an appropriation of moneys required for the Commonwealth to make any payments under the guarantee. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Keeffe) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Wright) read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of this Bill is to remove any obstacle that the Bankruptcy Act may present to the operation of compositions or schemes of arrangement entered into under State or Territory legislation providing for assistance to farmers in respect of their debts. The Bill seeks to achieve this object by, firstly, preserving the validity of compositions or schemes of arrangement that might otherwise be void because of the provisions of the Bankruptcy Act and, secondly, authorising the Bankruptcy Court to stay proceedings under the Bankruptcy Act that might affect such a composition or scheme of arrangement.
Having regard to the provisions of section 213 of the Bankruptcy Act, questions have arisen as to the validity of compositions or schemes of arrangement made under State legislation. Section 213 renders void a composition or deed of arrangement thai is not made in accordance with the provisions of Part X of the Bankruptcy Act. I understand that it is unlikely that arrangements made between farmers and their creditors under State legislation would be in accordance with Part X of the Bankruptcy Act.
The repealed Bankruptcy Act contained a provision, section 57a, directed to protecting the operation of compositions and schemes of arrangement ‘providing for the management administration or control of the business, property or affairs’ of a debtor. The provision was inserted in that Act in 1933 following the enactment by some States of legislation to provide relief to farmers during the financial depression of the 1930s. Section 9 of the Loan (Farmers’ Debt Adjustment) Act 1935 of the Commonwealth was enacted for a similar purpose. However when the committee that was appointed to review the bankruptcy law of the Commonwealth presented its report in 1962, the affairs of very few farmers were being administered under the various State Acts to which section 57a of the repealed Bankruptcy Act applied. This prompted the committee to comment in paragraph 83 of its report that ‘this section we enacted in 1933 as a result of the economic conditions prevailing at that time, but it no longer appears to have any practical value’. The committee therefore recommended that ‘section 57a should not be included in the new Act’ and this recommendation was given effect to when the Bankruptcy Act 1966 was enacted.
The effects of the drought, particularly severe in some States, appears to create a fresh need for the management of farmers’ affairs under State farmers’ debts assistance schemes. I understand that some millions of dollars are held by the States under their farmers’ debts assistance legislation and that these moneys could be made available for the assistance of farmers faced with mounting burdens of debts because of the drought. There may be some hesitancy in providing that assistance because of a doubt about the validity of proposed compositions or schemes of arrangement. The Government has, therefore, decided to introduce this Bill to ensure that the Bankruptcy Act is not an impediment to the provision of assistance to farmers under State or Territory farmers’ debts assistance legislation. The scheme of the Bill is as follows: A State or
Territory law providing facilities for the giving of financial assistance to farmers for the purpose of discharging all or any of their debts may be proclaimed under proposed section 253b. This is a wider description of the laws that may be proclaimed than that contained in the old section 57a. The decision of the Bankruptcy Court in re Francis, 1941 12 ABC 11, raised a doubt about whether some State Acts answered the description in section 57a of an Act ‘providing for the management, administration or control of the business, property or affairs of the debtor’.
The Bill will preserve the validity of compositions or schemes of arrangement under a proclaimed law by excluding them from the operation of Part X of the Bankruptcy Act. This will be done by excluding the composition or scheme of arrangement from the definition of ‘composition’ or deed of arrangement’ in section 187 of the Act. The Bill provides, by section 253c, the machinery to enable the authority administering the proclaimed State or Territory law to notify the Registrar in Bankruptcy of a bankruptcy district that proceedings or execution against a debtor are stayed under that law. I should mention that the time at which a stay is granted under the State or Territory law seems to be the most appropriate time for extending protection under the Bankruptcy Act. It appears that an automatic stay operates under all State Acts when an application for assistance has been accepted except in the case of New South Wales legislation under which, however, a stay can be granted if sought. The Registrar is required to maintain a register of notices received and forthwith to notify the Registrars of every other bankruptcy district, who are also required to enter in a register all notifications received. Each Registrar will, therefore, have a comprehensive register of notifications concerning all districts, not merely concerning his own district. This could be of importance where a farmer has creditors in more than 1 State or Territory.
The Registrar will be required, by new section 253d, to notify the relevant State or Territory authority of pending proceedings against a farmer in relation to whom a stay is in force under a proclaimed law. These pending proceedings include the ordinary creditor’s petition, a partnership petition presented by the partners of a farmer, a petition for an order for the administration of the estate of the deceased farmer - dealt with in new section 253E - and an application by a farmer for leave to present a petition against himself or against a partnership of which he is a member, which is dealt with in new section 253F. The protection given by the sections mentioned is wider than the protection that was provided under section 57a of the repealed Act. By new section 253e, the State or Territory authority will be given the right to seek, and the Bankruptcy Court will be empowered to order, a stay of the pending proceedings. The Court will be able to take into account all the facts of the case in determining whether to grant a stay of proceedings of a petition that has been presented or to give leave to present a petition. A stay may be of indefinable duration or for such period as the Court thinks fit.
I should mention that the opportunity has been taken in this Bill to include a provision in clause 20 that makes it an offence for a person wilfully to swear a false affidavit for the purposes of the Bankruptcy Act. The penalties provided are the same as those provided by section I I of the Statutory Declarations Act for wilfully making a false statement in a statutory declaration. The Government believes that the provisions contained in the Bill will provide a satisfactory scheme for ensuring the validity of compositions and schemes of arrangement made under State legislation and will allow the Bankruptcy Court in pending proceedings to consider the circumstances relating to farmers who have sought assistance under such legislation. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Cant) adjourned.
Bill returned from the House of Representatives without amendment.
Debate resumed from 29 October (vide page 1651), on motion by Senator Drake-Brockman :
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– At last the Senate has an opportunity to consider legislation which the wool industry has been keenly awaiting for a long time. The wool industry has been eagerly hoping that some assistance would be provided to it and that some guarantee would be given for the future of the industry. The wool producers hope that the industry into which they have put a lot of work over many years will continue as a viable one. I do not need to tell anybody that the wool industry is in an extremely critical situation. In the last couple of years there has been tremendous united action throughout Australia on the part of primary producers. This action was initiated by the wheat growers. The situation has developed to the stage where action has been taken by wool producers. Their actions have been echoed by the dairy farmers. There have also been repercussions in the banana and pineapple industries. In fact, there has been considerable disquiet in every section of primary industry at the present trends.
I believe that I should at the outset voice my objection to the undue delay in the presentation of this legislation. The Bill has been introduced during the closing stages of the session. I atn not saying that it was not necessary for something to be done; 1 am saying that it should have been done earlier. The Australian Labor Party had a look at the wool situation and on 22nd May produced an il-point programme which it considered was worthy of consideration by wool growers. Its programme has received quite considerable approval from them. But what has happened in the Parliament? We find that this Bill was hurriedly introduced in the other place at the beginning of this week. The debate on it took place on Wednesday. Although I am vitally interested in this subject I was not able to get a copy of the Bill until Tuesday evening of this week. The Bill itself was introduced in the Senate yesterday after the debate had concluded in the other place. I saw the second reading speech of the responsible Minister only the night before. It has been extremely difficult for me to formulate a reasonable speech on this vitally important Bill because of the limitations which have been imposed on the debate in order to force the Bill through the Parliament. It is worth pointing out that it was only possible at a late hour last night to formulate, in conjunction with the Clerk of the Senate, appropriate amendments to bring before the Senate. That was the first opportunity we had to formulate them. It is only within the last quarter of an hour that these amendments have been duplicated and distributed. I therefore apologise to the Government, the Minister for Air (Senator Drake-Brockman) who is in charge of this Bill, and senators of the Australian Democratic Labor Party because they have had notice of the amendments we propose to move at the Committee stage only within the last few minutes. Our problem is no different from the problem of DLP senators. If they wish to propose amendments to this Bill, they are caught in the same dilemma as we are.
I have said that protests were made all over Australia at the seriousness of the situation. About 2 months ago in addressing a question without notice I quoted a report which appeared m the ‘West Australian’ describing the situation of farmers in that State. Of course, I was not able to quote the whole of the article at that time and 1 do not propose to quote it all now. However, 1 will quote portion of the article which appeared on the front page of the West Australian’ under the heading ‘3,000 WA Farmers May Be Forced Off The Land’. The article is written by the agricultural reporter of the newspaper. It states, in part:
About 3,000 West Australian grain and sheep farmers now appear to be in a near hopeless financial position and are almost certain to have to leave their farms in the next few years. About 1 in 5 wheat and sheep fanners is unable to pay debts and earn a reasonable living. They cannot borrow more money . . . Consideration may have to be given to abandoning some of the areas recently opened up and resettling the farmers elsewhere. Up to another 5,000 farmers are in no immediate danger of being forced off, but are having trouble servicing debts which average about $30,000 a farm and run up to $70,000 to $80,000 . . . The total rural debt in Western Australia is now more than $200m owed to banks, slock firms, insurance companies, hire purchase companies and other lenders. These figures, which do not include dairy and horticultural fanners are based on discussions with government officials, representatives of lending institutions and farm leaders . . . Farm values are estimated to have fallen 20 per cent to 25 per cent in the past 18 months.
The whole of that article is well worth reading to get an impression of the situation in Western Australia. I do not think for one moment that that is the only area of Australia in which the wool industry is experiencing difficulties.- I want now to mention the demands that are being made by the farmers themselves to get some assistance in the problems they are facing. I have travelled fairly extensively in the south west of Western Australia. I have talked with wool growers from other States. All their ideas seem to crystallise along the one line and I will describe the points they have been considering for at least the last 2 years. They are making 5 demands. Firstly, they are asking that there should be a statutory authority to acquire, appraise and market wool; secondly, that there should be majority grower representation on such authority; thirdly, that there should be a guaranteed price to cover production costs; fourthly, that there should be no limit on wool to be acquired or held, and fifthly, that there should be an attack on the cost price squeeze.
I propose to deal with those items but first [ turn to the possibilities in endeavouring to get better prices for the wool we are selling. I obtained from the Library quite a volume of material on textile companies - a whole host of them ranging from European textile mills to Japanese textile mills - which shows that they are in varying degrees of solvency and conduct their operations with varying degrees of efficiency. I draw from the information that I obtained the cases of 2 Japanese firms because it is with Japan that we are finding considerable difficulty in maintaining good prices for our wool. It will be remembered that only recently Mr Gorton, the Prime Minister, was in Japan discussing, amongst other things, the matter of wool prices and expressing the hope that we might be able to achieve a better result than we have been achieving in recent times. On his return he sent the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen) to Japan, I think much against the wishes of the Minister who thought that he was going on a fool’s errand. Nevertheless Mr McEwen went. Mr Anthony also went. The buyers and millers in Japan with whom they discussed the matter of wool prices assured them that it was not possible to pay any more than they were paying. They pointed out to the Ministers that they were paying the world price, and that was it. Honestly. I do not believe for one moment that the buyers would have said: Oh, yes. we can give you another 5c,’ or We will increase the price by 2c’ They are business men and they know what they are doing in the field of profit making.
I have selected 2 of the companies on the list supplied to me because they are the 2 best illustrations for my purpose and there is no reason why I should not select them. They said that Japan cannot afford to pay more for Australian wool. One company, Japan Wool Textiles, earned a profit rate in the vicinity of 30 per cent in the period from December 1966 to May 1967. In the following half-year from June 1967 to December 1967 the profit rate rose to over 40 per cent, but in the next half-year from December 1967 to May 1968 - that is as far as the figures go - the profit rate dropped to 36 per cent.
– That is the profit on what? What percentages are being quoted?
– These are the percentages mentioned in the material that I have obtained from the Library. Whether it is profit on the amount of capital invested, which 1 doubt, or whether it is profit on working expenses for the year, which I think is much more likely, I do not know.
– lt is a ridiculous figure unless you know whether it is on the nominal capital of the company or whether it is a trading profit.
– If this were profit on the capital ot. the company it would be a tremendous profit.
– No it would not. lt would show only that the company was under-capitalised.
– Yes it would. The profit is 30 per cent. The profits of another Japanese mill, which has sales of about $10m and produces only textiles, were even greater than those I have quoted. This is a well established firm which has been in operation since 1918. Over the period to which I referred in respect of the first company, this company had a profit rate of 85 per cent in the first half-year, 88 per cent in the second half- year and 93 per cent in the third half-year. In regard lo Senator Webster’s interjection, 1 say that that is probably the rate of profit on capital. It is still very good business. Do not let us get away from that.
– lt does not describe anything.
– Yes, it does. I consider that the profits the companies are making are quite good. 1 could go further into the matter and work out the profits they are making on transactions or on their yearly operations; but it is up to the honourable senator to do that if he wants to. I am just quoting these figures. 1 consider that the companies are well able to meet the extra price for wool which should be paid.
It ls very interesting to realise that Japan is one of the strongest advocates of the proposition that if we want to produce belter prices for our wool we have to produce and prepare a better clip. Anybody who has been around wool sheds realises that a terrific amount of very good work is put into the presentation of the clip. 1 am not saying that there are not some clips that are badly presented. But one has only to go clown to the wool stores and have a look at the wool that is presented to see that in the main it is well presented. In my opinion this criticism is used to write down our valuation of our own clip. This is something which I believe we have to guard against.
When we are considering the price of wool, which I believe could be very much better than it is, another question to consider is: Where is the wool going? We have mentioned in this chamber before that the suits that we wear have about H lb of wool in them. If we doubled the price of the wool it would not make any difference at all to the $60, $70 or $80 that we pay for a suit. If the wool goes into carpets, what about the carpet in Australian Pavilion at Expo 70 in Japan? It astounded everybody by having 16 million people walking across it during the time the pavilion was open and still being in good condition when the exhibition finished: whereas the synthetic carpets were replaced twice during the period of the exhibition. I believe that we are being scared by the threat of synthetics. Do we find that we have any surplus of wool when we have finished our yearly operation? I suppose everybody will rush in and say: ‘Look what happened to New Zealand. It had a surplus’. New Zealand had a surplus because it was conducting a reserve price scheme in conjunction with South Africa and we were not. We were the ones who were breaking the agreement. That is what happened in that case. 1 consider that there is collusive buying. At the sales in Sydney a month ago, at which a large number of bales were dealt with, there were 6 buyers to purchase the wool. If anybody wants to tell me that there was not collusion there he will have to bring some very good arguments. We have heard a lot about the presentation of this Bill. We have heard that it has the support of Sir John Crawford. I think some people have said that he actually produced the report on which the Bill is based. He did not do that at all. He had a look at the report of the advisory committee and made his report from that. That is quite different. The Government followed, as far as it. thought was possible, the suggestions that he made after reading the report. I would like honourable senators to know that Sir John Crawford met the Rural Committee of the Parliamentary Labor Party. He told us that in his opinion - he is only one of many - there is collusive buying in the wool trade. There is no doubt about that.
Let us have a look at the Bill and see how it meets the demands that have been made by the farmers over the last couple of years. Their first suggestion was for a statutory authority. This is something on which the farmers of Australia have been insisting for the last couple of years. What do we find? The Government is proposing a statutory authority, but has wrapped it up with so many difficult situations that this statutory authority will not function in the way that was intended by the farmers when they asked for one. They asked for a single statutory authority. This authority will not be a single statutory authority able to acquire the whole Australian wool clip. That means that we will be left with a situation in which the growers will still have the right to go to a private buyer or to sell their wool under the auction system, as they have done in the past. They do not have to put their wool through the statutory authority.
What will happen as a result of that? I predict that just about the only wool that will be handled by the statutory authority will be that which comes under the price averaging plan. Nobody else will send wool to the statutory authority. The growers do not have to do so. They can sell their wool in the ordinary way. They can put their reserve on it. If they receive their reserve they will be quite happy. If they do not receive their reserve the wool will stay on the floor. It will be at that stage - when they cannot get the price they are asking - that the brokers will ask the statutory authority to take over the wool. There are many difficulties with regard to the way the Government is setting up the statutory authority, but that is the most important one. It will not be a single statutory authority and it will not have the power to acquire the wool, to appraise it and to market it. It can do those things only on a voluntary basis.
The next point was that there should be majority grower representation on any authority such as this. The authority that the Government proposes to set up looks all right on the surface. It will have 7 members. There will be a chairman, 2 members representing the Australian wool growers, 1 member representing the Commonwealth and 3 other members. When we analyse this we find that the representatives of the Australian wool growers will be appointed after consultation with the Australian Wool Industry Conference. The Government has said all along that it believes that the Australian Wool Industry Conference represents the industry. A lot of people in the industry do not think it does. Every time this matter is brought up the Government insists that this is the only body it can go to because it does provide the view of the industry. But the farmers have not varied their claim that they want closer representation than they get from this body which does not represent wool growers as a whole. They consider there should be more wool grower representatives on the Commission, not just 2 or 3 other members who will represent the brokers and the buyers. They consider that if an authority is to sell our wool they should have more representatives from men on the land and less from buyers and brokers.
It is interesting to note that any member who raises a matter to which the Minister objects can be removed at any time by the Minister. He can be reinstated or replaced by the Minister at any time. This is the sort of thing that wool growers will not accept in this Bill. They will feel that they have been let down. I do not propose to go much further because there is insufficient time available but if we look at the setup of the Australian Wool Industry Conference, the Australian Wool Board and the Wool Advisory Committee we find the same people represented throughout. I have had this argument before with Senator Young. I am certain that we will find that those people who are able to spare the time to be members of such a commission will again be drawn from the AWIC. That is the sort of thing we object to.
We should look at the question of a guaranteed price. This is something that wool growers are demanding. I know it is impossible to amend this Bill because it is a money Bill. We cannot include a fixed reserve price in it. If there is to be a price to cover the cost, of production it should be determined by some form of stabilisation scheme which is quite different from what is dealt with in this Bill. If we are to try to meet the cost of production we have to know the average cost of production throughout Australia. A lot of loose thinking is going on. People are saying that they want the figure of 45c written into the Bill. T. do not think we should do this and the Government was quite right in leaving it out. At the same time this is the sort of thing that wool growers have been demanding and they will feel quite upset if they do not get their cost of production.
– Have you worked out how you could ascertain the cost of production for wool throughout Australia?
– This could be worked out by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics. It did this in the case of wheat and it could do it for wool.
– Are von saying that the cost of production in pastoral areas throughout Australia is the same as it is in the south west of Australia?
– I am not trying to have this included in the Bill. I was saying that it could not be included. I did not say that I was supporting this idea.
What I say is that I think the wool growers will object to not having something to cover the cost of production. I believe that it is difficult to write this sort of thing into anything, lt could only be done in a different type of Bill. This Bill was not designed for that purpose. The guaranteed price which wool growers are seeking is a very difficult thing to achieve. The Minister did not refer to how difficult it is to do this and just ignored the question. This is one of my objections.
Wool growers are demanding that there be some recognition of the cost price squeeze problem. This matter concerns everyone of them. They find that their costs are rising while their income is decreasing. They believe there should be some recognition of this problem and that some attempts should be made to put it right. There is no mention in the Minister’s second reading speech of his appreciation of this problem and it is not touched on in the Bill. The Bill does deal with one thing which farmers insist on. This is the fifth point I mentioned. The Bill makes the point that, there should be no limit on the amount of wool that the Commission can take over. If there were to be a limit we would find that all the buyers would wait until the limit had been reached and would then buy the remaining wool at rock bottom prices. The Bill states that there will be no limit on the acquisition of wool. The only objection is that this is not compulsory. However it can be taken over.
– By the comment that it is not compulsory do you mean that you support acquisition?
– I do support acquisition. I support acquisition of the whole clip. This is the policy of the Australian Labor Party. I want to mention a couple of things in the Minister’s speech and to give him credit for what I think is a very good statement. He said:
In introducing this Bill the Government is acting in accordance with the wishes of the wool growing industry.
I do not think that this is in accordance with the belief of people in the industry. I agree that this Bill probably meets the requirements of the Australian Wool Industry Conference but that is a different matter. The Minister continued:
The original resolutions passed by the wool growing industry organisations calling for the establish- ment of a statutory wool marketing authority used the term ‘single marketing authority’. This term was still used by the Advisory Committee of the Australian Wool Board in keeping with its terms of reference. The outline of the authority drawn up by the Advisory’ Committee and which was endorsed by the industry and put to the Government clearly did not envisage a single body with monopoly powers to buy and sell the whole Australian wool clip, which the term ‘single’ implies.
What was put to the Government was a body which should be given certain powers relating to the whole clip but working within the existing marketing arrangements in which a number of private firms carry out the physical task of selling wool. The Government has very largely adopted the proposals put to it by the industry and they have been embodied in this Bill.
That was not the extract I wanted to read because it just points out what I have been saying all along - that this Bill does nol create the single authority. However, there was a remark in the Minister’s speech for which I wanted to congratulate him. At that page he said:
The Commission is empowered to purchase wool in two ways - through the operation of its flexible reserve price scheme after the wool has been offered at auction or, with the consent of the grower, before the wool is offered at auction In cases where it is considered that the wool cannot advantageously be sold at auction. In the latter case, the Commission would pay the grower a price equivalent to its most recent reserve price for the particular type of wool or such higher price as the Commission may determine.
That is a very good statement and I am very much in favour of its being applied to this Bill. The unfortunate part is that it is not in the Bill. Nowhere in the Bill can we find it. A second reading speech has no more authority than anything 1 say. The only thing that counts is the Bill. That is the basis for any legal action which may be taken at any time. Putting those words iri to the second reading speech is a very good piece of window dressing, but it does not get us anywhere.
I am concerned also about the financing of this scheme. The Australian Labor Party feels that it is not good policy to go to the associated banks or other financial authorities in order to obtain finance for this Commission as suggested in the Bm We in Australia, particularly those of us in the Labor Party, believe the Government should adopt the same principle as it has for financing the wheat stabilisation scheme, that is, of going to the Reserve Bank of Australia. This is the place to which we should go in order to finance schemes of this kind. The proposal in the Bill is an open ended type of arrangement. The Minister has said, that on the basis of calculations carried out by Sir John Crawford he does not expect that it will cost more than $115m to set the scheme in operation and that the cost of running the scheme each year would be of the order of $ 18.7m. But it could cost a lot more than that although I hope that it will cost much less. I would hope that an authority which is functioning correctly would have control of the majority of the clip would be able to sell the product and would have money coming in to meet the demands which are made on the banks. But this is something on which we will move an amendment in due course.
We feel that the Bill does not meet the needs of the industry. There are the difficulties which I have enumerated and which stem mainly from the fact that it is not a single statutory authority. I think it would be of interest to put on record some of the main features of the ALP programme which we produced in May, some months before the proposal which is now in the Bill was put before us. We have been thinking about this for some time, just as Government supporters have been thinking about it. lt is not only since we have been dealing with the Bill that we have been giving the matter our attention. For the record and for Senator Young who was questioning me on what I said about a statutory authority, the main points of the ALP wool plan would be the establishment of a statutory authority to acquire, appraise and market the Australian wool clip on behalf of wool growers; a reconstruction scheme to assist in the solution of problems of production and to streamline selling methods; the creation of a capital fund to act as an insurance against price falls; and the authority to tackle cost disabilities in producing and marketing wool, particularly for export.
We considered also the necessity for grower representation on the authority. Although I am not stating what should be the method of selection I suggest that representation on the authority should be arranged with the industry as a whole and not just with specialised groups like the Australian Wool Industry Conference.
Another point in our plan is that there should be a basic average appraisal price and a minimum reserve price or floor price on all wool. I have not stated all the points in our plan, but they are the most important ones.
– What do you mean by grower representation? Do you mean an expansion of grower representation, a domination by grower representation or just grower representation?
– I would say a majority of grower representation. That is our policy. It does not include representatives of other bodies, which I think would be advisable, but the grower representation should be in a majority and the representatives should be carefully selected by growers themselves. I think that covers the main points. 1 shall not go through the amendments. We will be presenting them as we come to each part in the Committee stage. The proposed amendments will be circulated so that honourable senators will have knowledge of what is proposed. The point that the Government probably is waiting for is that, apart from the amendments which we will endeavour to introduce into the Bill, the Opposition does not oppose the measure.
– I support the Bill. I should like to congratulate the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) and his staff for the work they have done in preparing this Bill to come before the Senate before the session ends. Because of the critical situation the industry is facing at the moment, it is imperative that the Commission be sent up without delay and that steps be taken to do something about the effects of the present crisis and economic conditions in the wool industry. One might say that this is the most important legislation concerning the great wool industry that has ever come before the national Parliament. For years the industry has been divided on how best to market its product. We have had two referendums, both of which were defeated, for changes in the auction system. I would say without hesitation that it is the price that at present is being received for wool and the financial trouble facing wool growers which have brought about a change of attitude. In other words, the sacred cow of the auction system no longer holds-
– Water, in this case. What is the use of retaining a system of selling if the producers of a product cannot sell at a profit? In recent times we have seen industry organisations and groups of growers throughout the nation banding together, and in most cases they have come up with some sort of national scheme. After taking into consideration all the problems faced not only by growers but also by manufacturers because prices of synthetics are becoming lower and lower, they have agreed that a statutory authority must be set up to market the Australian wool clip. I am talking now of manufacturers mainly of woollen products. They have a problem in competing with the manufacturers of synthetic material. This statutory marketing authority which is proposed by the Government is the bes means of dealing with the problem because it takes into consideration the problems of other sections of the industry - the manufacturers and the buyers. To alter our system of marketing overnight could completely disrupt the whole wool industry and be to its detriment. Of course, it is unnecessary to say how important is this industry to the nation. Perhaps I should remind honourable senators and the public generally that since 1949 the wool industry has returned to Australia $ 17,000m in export income. This represents 40 per cent of the total export income earned during that period.
– Over what period is that?
– Since 1948-49. This fact atone will bring home to all of us the importance of this industry and what it has meant to the development of this nation. We as a nation have a responsibility to see that this industry is not only preserved but is also put in a financially sound position. This is important not only in regard to the export income that it could earn but also to ensure that the nation’s development and the wealth which the people are enjoying today are al least shared by those who have been responsible for it and that they are not thrown to the wolves.
– Who are the wolves?
– The Australian Labor Party. I believe that this Australian Wool Commission can do a great deal, with relatively small cost to the nation, towards bringing this about. Most of the financial requirements of the Commission will be met in the form of loan moneys and not in the form of grants. Of course, it will require considerable amounts of money. Senator Wilkinson mentioned earlier that he was pleased to see that no restriction was placed on the Commission’s loan in the first year. This is most important because, after all. if the amount were restricted to, say, $100m this could be eaten up within 2 months of selling and then the Commission would be in a position where it could no longer buy in and the whole object of the exercise would be defeated. The eventual cost to the taxpayers of this nation to operate this Commission will be very small in comparison with the overseas export income earned by the wool industry. Many secondary industries in this country are receiving price benefits up to one-third of their gross sale value, ff it costs the nation $200m or $300m to assist this industry, it would still be good business from a national point of view. The $800m that the industry returns can more than repay any assistance given to it.
As I see it, the Bill does contain a few very important points in regard to the operation of this Commission. One point is the initial unlimited finance, which I mentioned previously. Another factor is the power given to the Commission to dispose of its wool as it sees fit. If it can be shown to be of advantage, it can sell by tender direct to the manufacturers. This lays it clearly on the line to the wool buyers, or merchants, or traders, that unless they are prepared to pay a price for wool that is reasonably close to the price the manufacturing side of the industry is prepared to pay, the auction system which has been operating for so long will be in danger. So it is up to the wool buyers, the merchants and other people who want to retain the auction system without putting anything into it to see that the price paid to the growers is reasonably close to that which it is felt the manufacturers can afford to pay.
– What happens if they do not pay that price?
– If Senator Milliner will just listen, 1 will go on with my speech. The Bill also provides that the Commission has power to manufacture wool up to a certain point, if it so desires. I presume that in the first place it will simply manufacture wool tops. If we enter into this field we can assist the grower in another way. In the past wool manufacturers have preferred to buy their wool as tops rather than in the raw state, and this top making field has been quite lucrative. Because it would involve another operation, extra capital would be required by manufacturers. Under the provisions of the Bill the Commission will be able to keep the top manufacturing section of the industry honest because it will set the price of tops to the manufacturers. Any savings effected in the manufacture of tops will be passed on to the growers.
Because of the importance of the wool industry to Australia, over the years the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation has done a great deal in developing techniques of manufacturing and processing wool, lt will be very interesting to see the wool commission operating with its own processing plant. The new techniques which have been developed as a result of research can be used immediately in this processing plant. We will not have to follow the old procedure of having to convince manufacturers around the world that these techniques should be introduced. In a lot of cases the manufacturers do not have the necessary capital available to alter their manufacturing processes. Consequently in some cases a long time elapses before these developments actually find their way into the processing plants. All the points that I have raised are ways in which we can help the grower receive a better price without in the long run increasing very much the price to the manufacturer.
Other very important techniques in the marketing of wool have recently been developed. I refer particularly to core testing and micro-measuring. There are machines that can scientifically assist in the micro-measurement of the yield in a matter of seconds. The micro-measurement of wool is important to the manufacturers because it enables them to determine the type of yarn to be manufactured. Of course they must know the yield to know how much wool is actually in the bale and what percentage of the bale is vegetable faults, moisture and other matter. So it is just a factor in determining price. Wool is handled about 28 times before it reaches the manufacturer. If we could cut out a lot of these handling costs as a result of research once again this would be of benefit to the grower.
Another important factor is that the Commission, by adopting a floor price and controlling the flow of wool on to the market will be able to bring about a stabilising effect on prices. I think all will agree that price fluctuations associated with wool selling is one of the bugbears from a grower’s point of view which has existed over the years. No grower knows exactly what he is going to get for his wool, not even on the day before .sale. To be able to budget over a year’s operation - after all it is a business proposition - is an impossibility. With a floor price built in to the various types of wool the price will be set for the grower and the Bow of wool coming on to the market will be controlled. In other words if a lot of I type of wool for which there is no demand at that time is coming on to the market the Commission has the power to withhold that wool until another sale and at the same time compensate the grower. I believe these are very important factors.
Another important factor as far as the wool industry is concerned is that buyers in the past have not set a division between different types of wool. Their attitude has been: Wc will buy all the wool at a certain price or around about a certain price which will average out. This practice has encouraged the wool industry to produce wools which are really not required by the manufacturing industry and are not in the class which the industry wants. The Japanese have criticised the Australian methods of woolgrowing and the handling of the clip. Of course the Japanese were responsible in the main for bringing this about. They came here and gave the same price for coarse wool and medium wool as they did for the fine wool. This Commission, appraising the wool responsibility, will again be able to tell the industry: ‘There will be a premium for better types of wool.’ The industry will then see the advantages of growing better types of wool. We will see better wool coming on to the Australian market. This must be of benefit to the whole industry, both the producers and manufacturers.
Senator Wilkinson, during the course of his speech, mentioned a few points to which I think I should reply. Like many people in the industry be referred to the cost of production. I think that some of my friends on this side of the chamber by way of interjection asked: ‘What is the cost of production? Who knows what it is?’ I know in my area of western Queensland some people say that they can produce wool for 25c a lb but others say that they cannot produce it for 40c a lb. To try to relate the price received for wool to the cost of production could be not only difficult but also dangerous. We have seen in the past that once the price of a commodity is related to the cost of production it is not long before all sorts of extraneous matters come into consideration such as land values. State governments which control land policy then say that the industry is a lucrative one, that it has security. Consequently they divide the land and put more people on to it. All these factors contribute to an increase in the cost of production. State transport departments increase rail charges. This happened during and for a long time after the wool boom in Queensland. I presume it happened in other States. These are all factors which come into consideration and you then find that you have a dog chasing its tail. The cost of production is set and the growers say that they cannot produce for that figure - that they have to have a higher price. Before long the product is priced off the market.
– Does not the honourable senator think that that is an important factor?
– That we should price our product off the market? No, I do not. The first thing we have to do - this is why the Commission was set up - is to see that we obtain the best possible price, considering the ceiling price set by synthetics, which wool manufacturers can afford to pay. That is the first priority. The Commission has to see that the grower obtains the maximum price which the industry can afford to pay. The second thing the Commission has to do is to eliminate, if possible, the selling charges and extra costs. I know one manufacturer who has been in the game a long time. He has been a wool buyer. He maintains that core testing and the developments made in that field will save the woolgrower $15 a bale on handling costs alone. At today’s price that is a lot of money and it can represent all of a grower’s profit. In the industry we find inefficient units which might be too small in area. We shall have to examine this situation. In certain cases the industry will have to be restructured into bigger units. There may be those in some areas who cannot grow wool profitably because the area is not suited. If the bulk of the producers are still not able to produce at a profit the whole setup will have to be looked at and from then on the only thing to do is to subsidise the industry. After all when 95 per cent of the product is sold overseas one cannot demand from other countries the price which they are going to pay. If people do not want to pay the price they can turn to synthetics. This is a matter we have to watch because every year the demand for fabrics is increasing rapidly.
Although we sell all our wool the percentage that wool represents of the world fibre market is decreasing fairly rapidly. In war time the percentage was about 16 per cent but now it is down to about 6 per cent and we are selling every pound of wool we can produce. The time will come when wool will be so rare that manufacturers throughout the world will say: ‘If the industry is going to demand this high price for wool which represents only 6 per cent of the world apparel fibre we will switch to synthetics. We will gear our manufacturing industry to synthetics.’ We have to make sure that the people at the other end of the wool industry, the manufacturers, are considered, too. As far as I am concerned the 2 most important groups are the growers and the manufacturers. We have to make sure that they work in harmony - that the manufacturer receives the type of product he wants in an efficient manner and that the grower receives the best possible price. That is about the only thing we can do in that regard. The rest of the problem has to be handled by subsidy or Government help.
– ls there a general complaint regarding the quality of the Australian wool?
– There has been a complaint not only from the Japanese buyers but also from the Australian Wool Board that the quality of Australian wool has receded in recent years.
– That is because of drought.
– It is not only because of drought. As I said before, at one stage during the late fifties, people were receiving the same price for coarse type wool as they were for fine wools. About 50 per cent more wool can be put on a sheep’s back if they are coarse than if they are a fine wool sheep. If that is done there is no doubt about what the growers monetary return is going to be. The coarse wool sheep is the better proposition. In western Queensland a large number of people switched to strong wool sheep and grew good medium to medium-fine wool. In western Queensland in particular a large number of property owners switched to strong wool sheep which grow good medium to medium-fine wool. I believe the clay will come when graziers in that area will, have to switch back to good medium and medium-fine wool.
The drought in Queensland has played a very important part in the problems of the wool industry. Not only the cost price squeeze, as mentioned before, and the prices received for wool but also the drought have created very grave problems. Yesterday I was pleased to receive a telegram from the President of the Central and Northern Graziers Association. This Association covers about two-thirds of the area of the State. Its members own half the sheep and cattle population. Practically the whole of this area has been suffering from drought in recent years. The telegram congratulated the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) and thanked the Government for the work they did in introducing the Bill.
– That must be the only telegram praising the Government. We got about a hundred of them that did the reverse.
– The honourable senator should have read them.
– The Government is too late. The telegrams are not for the wedding; they are for the funeral
– The industryleaders in Queensland are thankful that the industry’ is getting the type of Commission it wants. Senator O’Byrne interjected and said that the Government was too late. We have always believed that the interests of the industry should be respected at all times. Until now the majority of the Australian wool industry has not wanted a change in the marketing system.. That situation has changed. The Government has the support of the vast majority of the industry. The Opposition does not like that. We have introduced this Bill. The Opposition of course does not oppose it. 1 would like to see some of the amendments which will be moved at the Committee stage because, if they are the same as those moved in the other place, they are very weak and will not change any part of the main structure of the Bill. Those moved in the other place sought to dot the i’s and cross the fs. In most cases they were very weak efforts at that, too. But we will deal with them at the Committee stage. My time has almost expired, I, Too, congratulate the Minister for the work that he has put into this Bill and for the fact that he was able to introduce it before this session finished. It is a most necessary piece of legislation at this time. I support the measure.
– I hold in my hand a copy of the Australian Wool Commission Bill presented to the Parliament by the Minister who misrepresents the primary industries. It is perhaps the worst piece of legislation that has been presented to Parliament since this Government assumed office on 10th December 1949. I hope that the Minister for Air (Senator Drake-Brockman), who is handling the Bill on behalf of his colleague, will be prepared to explain to the Western Australian wool growers that this Bill will be of benefit to them, that it will prevent them from being driven off their farms, and that it will improve the conditions of people on farms and of people who are dependent on farms and who live in rural areas. Senator Maunsell made a very profound statement shortly after he commenced to speak. He said that this industry should not be thrown to the wolves - the Australian Labor Party. I remind the honourable senator that the ALP, by the introduction of the BAWRA scheme - the British Australian Wool Realisation Association Ltd - saved the wool industry during the First World War. The ALP also saved the industry and set the pattern for what could be done by the introduction of the JO - the Joint Organisation - scheme during the second World War. Not one wool grower would deny that. If anyone here denies that, let him do so.
Last night at Katanning, which is the centre of a large wool growing area in Western Australia, a public meeting was held. The hall was overflowing. The growers were most irate at the information they had received about the Bill, as published by the media of public information. That is why I challenge the Minister for Air to go to that area and justify the Bill. Senator Maunsell said also that he hoped that the amendments which would be presented by my colleague, Senator Wilkinson, later in the debate would not be the same as those that were presented in the other place, because they were very weak. This may be so. I am not arguing whether they are weak or strong, but I do say that the Bill is drawn in such a manner that it is impossible to amend it in any effective way. Anyone who knows anything about politics knows that it cannot be amended in any material way.
The first criticism that I have of the Ba is that the Australian Wool Commission will be a voluntary organisation. In other words, it will be unable to acquire the Australian wool clip and to sell it on behalf of the growers. No-one will be bound to make his wool available to the Commission. The Bill perpetuates the existence of the private buyer, the broker and the auction system. That is done for a particular purpose. I do not want to talk much about the Bill now because I will have a good deal to say at the Committee stage. The Bill also perpetuates the financial structure of the private banks and the stock firms in that it allows the Commission to borrow from them or even from hire purchase companies, to finance its operations, at whatever rates of interest those organisations care to charge.
It may be of interest to those who have not taken an interest in this problem over a good many years to know that quite recently the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) went to Japan to try to talk to the Japanese about contract buying of the Australian clip. He did not talk about reserve prices or about collusive buying in Australia. He talked to the Japanese about contract buying. In 1951 the Government of the United States of America offered to enter into a contract with the Australian Government to buy the Australian wool clip at 100c per lb. Had that contract been accepted that is the price that the Australian wool grower would be getting for his wool today, because the contract was to extend for 20 years.
But what was Mr McE wen’s answer? He said that it would destroy the auction system. The Government is bent on perpetuation of a system of exploitation of the grower. It is not interested in the grower; it is interested only in those in big business.
We are constantly being told that there is no collusive buying of the Australian wool clip. Those who say this should read the report of a royal commission which was conducted in New South Wales by Mr justice Cook. The royal commission proved conclusively that there were all sorts of pies operating within the Australian wool auction system. When the wool industry asked for a single marketing authority the European Common Market countries said that there should be the greatest flexibility possible in the sale of the Australian wool clip. The Japanese have said that there should be no interference with the free sale of the Australian wool clip. To combat collusive buying I think that there should be collusive selling. But there can only be collusive selling if the clip is acquired and marketed by an Australian authority on behalf of the wool growers of Australia. However, the Government will not face up to this fact.
The only wool which the Australian Wool Commission will acquire is the 40 per cent of the Australian wool clip which goes under the PAP - price averaging plan - scheme, but the PAP scheme has already been discredited throughout Australia.
– On the contrary.
– It has been discredited. It has done nothing to lift the price of wool. One has only to look at the information made available by the mass media to see how prices have been falling and small lots have been grouped together so that the buyers are able to buy on the basis of the price of the worst bale and not the best. This practice has been described in the newspapers. Articles have been written about how the lots are put together to reduce the price of wool. Senator Young should not kid himself that the PAP scheme has done anything for the grower because it has not done anything and it will not do anything. I do not know why this scheme has been included in the provisions of this Bill. It will not solve any of the problems of the wool growers.
Honourable senators on this side of the chamber believe that, ineffective as it may be, the Australian Wool Commission should be allowed to commence operations as soon as possible. Perhaps it will do some good. However, I do not think that it will. I do not believe that it will do anything effective. Nevertheless, some of my colleagues seem to think that it will have some effect. We do not believe in stifling anything which may give some support to those people who are trying to make a living, such as the 40,000 wool growers who are alleged to be living on an income of $2,000 a year or less. If something can be clone to assist them we will facilitate its introduction. However, I do not believe that this Bill will assist them.
Over the years many millions of dollars belonging not only to the growers but also to the public have been spent on the promotion of wool. In fact, 3 small bales of Australian wool - each about 4 inches high - were sent around the world with Sir Francis Chichester. They were locked up in the hold of his vessel. This is an example of the sort of promotion on which we have spent millions of dollars, but there has not been one bit of research into the marketing of wool. The thing which has to be looked at is the marketing of wool. Markets have to be found for our wool. Millions of dollars have been spent - another $27 m has been made available this year - on promotion, but up to this point of time not one penny has been spent on research into marketing. I am not complaining about the money which is made available to the wool industry. I refer to such things as the $27m which will be made available this year for promotion, the $1.5m which will be made available for testing and the $90m which will be made available for the setting up of wool complexes as well as the $11 5m which will be provided under this Bill and the $18m which will be provided for the administration of the Commission. But I do complain about how it’ is spent. It should be spent for the benefit of the growers, but I do not believe that it is being spent foi their benefit. I do not believe that there should be an open ended contract with respect to the public purse of Australia. No country can afford to make an open ended contract.
– Does the honourable senator want acquisition at a big reserve price?
– Let the honourable senator choose his own words. I said that there should be a compulsory acquisition scheme. 1 did not mention anything about a reserve price.
– But your colleague did.
– I am making this speech. I will inform the Senate in a little while about what the Australian Labor Party proposes in regard to a reserve price. I do not believe that the industry will have a future unless money is spent in a wise manner. Not only will the Commission be given $90m for the construction of wool complexes but it will also be given all of the land which the Australian Wool Board owns throughout Australia, which is quite considerable. This was transferred by way of legislation which went through the Parliament earlier in the session.
What has been the effect of the fall in wool prices? Farmers are walking off their properties. Some of them are staying and are endeavouring to eke out a living for themselves and their children, but many of them have to move off their farms. For every farmer who leaves a district 3i families leave the adjacent towns. The rural centres throughout Australia are being denuded by the inactivity of the Government. I would say that it is due to the collusive action of this Government because there is no doubt in my mind that when a referendum was held 5 years ago with respect to a reserve price the Government did not support the idea of a reserve price. When Sir William Gunn was stumping this country advising growers not to support the referendum for a reserve price-
– Not to?
– This is true and the honourable senator knows it. It is absolutely true. This Government backed Sir William Gunn. It did not want to provide assistance to the Australian wool industry at that time. It is only because there is a Senate election in the offing that the Government comes in with some measure of support for the wool industry. The sands of time are running out for Vietnam and Australia’s external affairs policy; another election issue has to be found. This is it. The Government is trying to get the wool situation on to the electoral market. Law and order would not float for it and the 35-hour working week controversy will noi float for it. Even with the assistance that it might get from the media of public information, it will not float. The Government has to find another issue and this is the one it is trying to float to bring back to its support the people it has deceived for the past 20 years.
– What a lot of hogwash.
– I read a heading in a newspaper the other day, Senator, which said that the Empire of Jack was being disbanded.
– Which Jack?
– 1 think the honourable senator knows to whom I refer. The policies of the Government for the rural industries are falling apart. All that Government supporters can think of at any time to help the rural industries - and I do not quarrel with it - is more and more subsidy.
– Are you complaining about that?
– 1 said that 1 did not complain about it, but it does not provide the answers for the industry, and the honourable senator knows that. Putting a bit more in the barrel does not touch the basic problems of the industry. When it comes to workers’ wages the Government tells them that they cannot take more out of the barrel than they put in. It talks about productivity. But when the farmers are unable to produce sufficient to keep themselves alive they dip into someone else’s barrel.
– You are criticising the farmers now.
– Not at all. 1 am criticising your policy because it does not go to the basic problems of the industry. You are too lazy to carry out proper research to find remedies for the rural industries. When Government supporters sit down to talk to the farmers and to ascertain their problems so that they may be properly researched and cures found, they will become members of a respectable political party. Not until that happens will they become respectable.
– Do you consider the Labor Parly to be respectable?
– I am proud to belong to it.
– That is not an answer.
– I am proud to belong to it and 1 regard myself as respectable.
– A lot of blokes in Victoria do not know whether they belong to the Party.
– If your brain was as big as your mouth you would be a genius. I warn honourable senators opposite that the Government is denuding the rural areas of their population. People go on to farms not only to earn a living but also to follow that way of life. People who go to live in rural towns do so because they want to live there. The policies of this Government are forcing them to migrate to the cities. What happens then? They immediately leave their homes in the country and enter into competition for homes with everyone in the cities. They come into competition with all the people in the cities for all the community services such as roads, power, water supplies, hospitals and schools that already exist in the centres they have left. What is the Government doing to keep them in the rural centres? Nothing at ail. I believe that on 21st November the Government will find the answer in the ballot box.
The Australian Labor Party proposes the establishment of a statutory authority which would be responsible for the acquisition, appraisal, marketing and distribution of Australia’s annual woo) clip, lt would be located in decentralised and modern wool marketing complexes in an effort to keep people in the rural centres. Wool would be appraised and catalogued by competent appraisers under the jurisdiction of the authority in the short term, with rapid progression to pre-sale testing by objective measurement and equivalent scientific techniques designed to improve, standardise and streamline the preparation and sale of the clip. We propose that a minimum reserve price would then be placed on all wools. Those lots not realising the floor price, either by auction, tender or private treaty, would be taken over by the authority at a price which may be equal to or less than the floor price, depending on the circumstances.
The physical and economic problems associated with the production and handling of wool are becoming more evident as the cost price squeeze continues. In order to encourage continuous innovation with respect to wool production and land use, domestic transport efficiency - the Government has just increased the price of all diesel fuels - wool handling and distribution, and pre-sale testing, development funds by grants and loans will be made available to the authority, the Slates and wool producers.
– From what paper are you reading?
– It is part of the Australian Labor Party’s wool policy.
– I think you ought to table it.
– If you want to move that T table it, I will table it.
– By the sound of it, it is not a very sensible paper.
– Nothing is sensible to you once you move out of the milk market in the Melbourne area and your timber mill. You know nothing about this industry. You sit there to misrepresent the country people and you live in the metropolitan area. The value of farmers’ holdings is falling far faster than their accumulated debts. What does the Government propose with respect to long term finance? What is the long term plan of the Government to assist the industry? It does not exist. We would provide funds at reasonable rates of interest in order that farmers would be able to stay on their land.
– What tlo you consider to be a reasonable rate of interest?
– The rate of interest would be that which this industry could bear.
– What would that be?
– lt would be less thar the 15 per cent that the Government proposes to be paid by the Australian Wool Commission when it borrows funds from hire purchase and finance companies. It would be much less than that. That is the saddle that you propose to put upon the wool growers of this country - money borrowed at 15 per cent to run the Commission. Our proposal would be very much better. My time has run out. I shall have a lot more to say at the Committee stage of the debate, lt has been noted that the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) has said that the setting up of the Australian Wool Commission would probably lift the price of wool by 20 per cent. I point out to Government supporters who may be optimistic enough to believe that estimate that if it were true the price would be lifted by 5c per lb and growers would receive 34c per lb for their wool. Does any honourable senator who has grown wool believe that it can be grown for 34c per lb? If so, it is time he bad another look at the industry. The big scale grower might grow wool for that price, but the wool grower with a small property - the man who is the backbone of the industry - cannot grow wool for that price.
– I am sure that the matter we are now debating would be regarded by every thinking person in the community as being of the utmost importance to the future of Australia because involved in it is one of Australia’s great industries. From the time when 1 was a boy at school I have believed that the wool industry is one of the mainstays of Australia’s economy. 1 could not believe that there would be anyone in the community, much less in this Parliament, who would not bc conscious of the great deterioration which has taken place in the economics of the industry. Furthermore, if one has taken time to study the changes that have taken place in the industry of recent years one could not but have sym pathy with those engaged in it because of ever increasing costs and overheads, on the one hand, and falling prices on a restricted market on the other. Therefore, if the proposed Australian Wool Commission is an attempt on the part of the Government, as I believe it to be - whether it be belated and overdue matters very little at this stage; - to assist this great industry, the Party which I am privileged to lead welcomes the legislation.
There has been a lot of controversy about the merits and demerits of the methods which have been adopted for some time for the selling of our wool, lt is not surprising that there are different schools, of thought on a matter such as (hat, and particularly in regard to such an industry, just as there were different schools of thought on the controversial question of the export of merino rams. Big sections of the industry saw merit in selling our merino rams overseas while people associated with the graziers organisations and the woo! industry were strong advocates against it. When that matter was before the Parliament my colleagues and I, none of us having any intimate association with the wool industry but feeling that we had a responsibility to acquaint ourselves with the pros and cons of the case, went to great pains to ascertain the position. We have demonstrated that interest. We hold the balance of power and proposals which come to this place from the Government can be carried only with our support.
After a very exhaustive search and close inquiry I found that there was very poor liaison between the parliament of the wool industry and many of those engaged in it in relation to the proposal to export merino rams. Many of those with whom I spoke <ere so uncertain about it that I and my colleagues suggested that the export of merino rams should not take place until a referendum of those interested in the industry had been taken, and that they be given an opportunity to express a view following presentation of the case for and against (he proposal by the Australian Wool Industry Conference, the parliament of the wool industry. I mention that merely to show the difference of opinion which can exist among those associated with an industry such as the wool industry.
Such a difference of opinion could exist in the meat industry, the wheat industry or any other industry. lt is not surprising that some people are not enamoured of this legislation and that some predict dire results if it is implemented. I cannot accept all of the fears that Senator Cant has expressed regarding it. The object of the Bill, as we all know, is to establish a statutory body to be known as the Australian Wool Commission, empowered to operate a flexible reserve price scheme for wool sold at auction and to perform a number of other functions relating to the whole clip and aimed at improving the marketing of Australian wool. If the idea behind this legislation is the creation of an Australian Wool Commission which will endeavour to improve wool marketing, then that in itself justifies the legislation. We have been informed by Senator Drake-Brockman, who in this place represents the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony), that the proposal for such a body was supported by mass meetings of wool growers throughout Australia, and that the 2 federal wool grower organisations - the Australian Woolgrowers and Graziers Council and the Australian Wool and Meat Producers Federation - resolved to press for such a body, as did the national body of the wool growers, the Australian Wool Industry Conference. 1 am compelled to accept that statement in preference to the dire predictions made by Senator Cant. With all respect to him, I suppose that his association with the wool industry has been about as close as mine has. He has had practically no intimate association with the industry but, as a thinking man in the community, he would have some knowledge of its great value to the economic life of this country and would be conscious also of the fact that today the industry is suffering because of low prices, lack of markets, increased overhead expenses, higher wages and increased cost of materials, equipment and all the things necessary for the successful management of a farming property. He must be conscious also of the fact that on top of all that the people in the industry for too long and too frequently have been bugged by long and extensive droughts. Therefore, if anything, the Government has been a bit tardy in its approach to this matter because the problems confronting the industry did not appear on the horizon only last month or the month before.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
– When the sitting was suspended for lunch I was expressing my opinion that the Government had been a little tardy or slow in acting to aid the wool industry. Many of the conditions and circumstances that exist now have not just appeared on the horizon; they have been in existence and gradually growing worse because of increased overheads and the decline in prices. No doubt the position has been aggravated by the droughts that have occurred in the various States, particularly in the State that I represent - Queensland. We have had a continuity of droughts for years. Some properties in Queensland have not enjoyed a favourable season for more than 10 years. This position has compelled the Government to take some action.
Palliatives are of little value to an industry of this kind, and gimmicks have even less value. So, it is necessary for the Government to make a proper and complete survey of the position. What has been said about the wool industry today, unfortunately, can be said of most of the rural industries. This makes such a survey imperative in the interests of our society. The failure of rural industries in a country such as ours is not only a problem for the national economy but also a social catastrophe. When one has regard to the number of people who are employed in rural industries and the others who are engaged in businesses such as stores, transport firms, garages and other activities in a country community, I suppose that ii can be estimated conservatively that 1 million of our people are engaged directly or indirectly in the primary industries.
I believe that the time for slick expedient solutions has passed. I repeat that gimmicks and palliatives will merely extend the agony and cost of the present crisis. It is time the fundamental causes of the crisis were more widely explained and understood because too many people, including farmers, are becoming hysterical about the situation. 1 know from personal contact that in the western parts of Queensland there are people who will never recover unless something big is done to help them
Australian Wool in meeting their debts which have accumulated and also to provide them with the wherewithal to restock when favourable conditions obtain.
In that connection I have often wondered why in drought periods, when our graziers are required to move their stock to agistment areas to the best of their ability and provided agistment areas are available and when they are required to sell stock if they can sell them rather than allow them to die, the income they receive from the sale of such stock should not be exempt from taxation and held for restocking purposes when the season becomes more favourable. At least they would have some finance with which to proceed with that work if a scheme such as that were implemented.
We know that the crux of the whole problem, in the main, is the steady collapse of our markets. This Bill, after examination by Sir John Crawford and others, is based on a scheme of firstly endeavouring to obtain suitable markets and secondly providing a reserve price for wool. We cannot overlook the challenge to the wool industry. The international petrochemical industry, with its vast resources of scientific skill, has been constantly improving the quality of synthetic fibres over the past 20 years. The use of polyester and acrylic fibres is increasing, and they have an advantage over wool. We have to face up to that fact. That is why I believe that if there is anything we can do to assist this industry we as a Parliament have an obligation to do it.
Speaking generally of rural industry, I say that the position is nothing short of disastrous and has reached the stage of being a national crisis. Unless urgent remedial steps are taken, many of these rural industries will go out of existence with the result of which I spoke previously. The I million people who are now engaged directly or indirectly in rural pursuits will transfer to the metropolises which already are splitting at the seams because of their overpopulation and the inability of the municipal authorities to provide them with power, transport and all the other things that are necessary for the settlement of people in a metropolitan area or elsewhere.
Commission Bill 1 769
We say that the Commonwealth Government should immediately establish a national rural finance corporation, adequately financed by the Commonwealth and structured specially for making low interest loans to agriculture. The corporation should make short term - such as 12 months - medium term and long term loans at a minimum rate of interest. It should begin immediately to fund and refinance rural debts, including an interest free and non-redemption period for the debts so funded. Only a national corporation of this type can cover the needs of such a widely diversified range of products and circumstances. Credit available to agriculture must be different in scope and approach from that available to manufacturers and general traders. Rates of interest on rural loans should be lower than those available to manufacturers, traders and general merchants. This is because rural operations cover greater periods of time than other processes and the yield on capital invested is lower. Only specially trained and oriented finance and credit officials can attempt to estimate accurately farmers’ security based on moral occupational training, standing and experience factors.
We can go on talking about the difficulties being faced by those engaged in our rural industries. We can go on extending to all these people the utmost sympathy but unless we give them some real assistance all the other is of little avail. It is not good enough to say: T sympathise with you, old fellow, because you have run into this great difficulty.’ There are some places where young people have drawn a block of land, gone into debt to carry out a lifelong desire to become land settlers, and have had 3 or 4 successive droughts. What they have not lost through drought, in certain parts of the State the dingoes have eaten. Imagine the feelings of those people, particularly if no aid is forthcoming. How could they think of going into further debt in order to restock their properties? I say very definitely that the wool industry, in common with other rural industries, is entitled to aid not so much in the interests of the people involved as in the interests of this nation and of preserving industries that will and must always be a part of the economic and social structure of a country like Australia. 30 October 1970
Imagine, Mr Acting Deputy President, how many ghost towns there could be in a vast country like this. I know what Queensland would look like because I know that State like the back of my hand. [ have been all over it dozens of times. I have seen it in periods of drought. Unless a person goes to a drought stricken area he cannot have a full appreciation of the difficulties and trials that people on the land are required to bear. We do not want a lot of ghost towns throughout a State or the country generally. We want to see these industries flourishing or at least returning a fair profit to those who have invested their capital in them. We want to see the business places providing these people with goods and services making at least a reasonable living. All this contributes to the overall prosperity of Australia and the various States. That is the outlook of the Democratic Labor Party on this matter.
We will assist the Government in any sincere well thought out plan to help the wool grower, the wheat grower, the dairy farmer, the cotton grower or any other section of primary industry. I am satisfied that the Government has given this matter the careful consideration that it merits. I have every confidence that Sir John Crawford and the Wool Advisory Committee have examined this position very carefully. Sir John Crawford has had wide and long experience and the Committee’s report would be based on sound grounds. It is on this report that this Bill is based. The Democratic Labor Party will support it and we sincerely hope it will have the desired effect. It will not solve all the problems associated with the wool industry. I do not believe that even the most sanguine or optimistic of those in the industry believe that it will. But it can contribute a great deal and it could iron out some of the difficulties that face the industry, particularly in the marketing field and in that respect I believe it will serve a good purpose.
– I rise with pleasure to support strongly the Australian Wool Commission Bill. I believe it marks the most important milestone that the wool industry in Australia has yet passed. This great industry has been in existence for almost 200 years and this step represents perhaps the most dramatic and most momentous change in its marketing procedures. I have supported this type of approach to wool marketing for many years because I believe it is a purposeful, modern and logical attack on the marketing problems of the Australian wool industry. It seems to me to be a shame that we have had to linger on until 1970 to bring about these dramatic and important changes but I must say also - I am sure you will agree with me, Mr Acting Deputy President - that the powers of inertia are strong. There is an inherent suspicion of change, perhaps even an abhorrence of Government control, in the tradition of independence that has been built up in the 150 to 200 years of existence of the Australian wool industry. However, these problems have been overcome in the main and we can only regret that we have had to wait until this point of time when there is a somewhat disastrous slide in wool prices before the industry has consolidated itself to such a degree that it has demanded and is getting, by prompt Government action, u radical change in the wool marketing situation.
If unchecked this slide in prices could do tremendous damage to the entire Australian economy. Indeed, it would be a severe blow to Australia’s overseas credit situation. It would create an even greater imbalance in the rural economy of this country. This slide is in the process of being checked by the unification of the industrial organisations in demanding what was so obviously needed - a major change in the marketing approach; a change which will involve such things as the concept and implementation of a flexible reserve price in the wool market, control of the flow of wool types onto the market, and the constant usage and expression of scientific measurement in the marketing area of the industry. Perhaps it would be pertinent if 1 tried to confine myself to some remarks about the more significant features of this Commission which is the subject of the Bill which we have before us. Firstly. I think it is significant to consider the nature of the Commission itself. The Commission will have grower representation, but it will not be grower controlled. It will be a Commission which will have basically a wide spread of industrial, commercial, economic and promotional brains as its main functioning units. I think it is pertinent to remember that this is the sort of Commission which the great organisations of the wool industry had in mind when they urged this dramatic change in our marketing procedures. The Commission will have widespread statutory powers over the handling and sale of wool.
Again I feel that I should point out, as I have done once or twice before in this chamber, the basic nature of the wool industry to the Australian scene. Poverty in the wool industry must bring an incredible number of problems of price, marketing, quota restrictions and the like to all those industries which we are urging to diversify and which over the years must diversify. The wool industry is basic and is more significant to the Australian rural economic scene than any other industry that we have or are likely to have in this Country. Wool alone among our products is significant insofar as we produce in this land the most and the best wool in the world. As a final word on this Commission, I ask honourable senators to remember that its structure is extremely close to what was suggested by the industry itself, as well as by the Government and Sir John Crawford, and might well serve the industry best.
The second interesting feature of this commission is its adoption of a plan incorporating the concept of a flexible reserve price. A flexible reserve price is an important and dramatic change in the Australian wool marketing scene. This must give teeth in the market place to the Commission, and for the first time in the history of this industry, a plug will be placed at the bottom of the auction. This can only tend to give confidence in the buying and user trade. It must rule out to a large degree the snowballing psychological effect on an industry of falling prices, an effect which is felt just as severely by the using side of the industry as by the producing and selling sides. This reserve price will operate on a day to day basis and even at intervals of less time than that. It will operate on the evidence of the market around it and according to the spirit of the buying trade at any particular time. It will operate according to the widespread information that must come to it from this form of market intelligence.
Thirdly, the Commission will have the power to regulate the flow of wool on to the market in a sensible way. This is an important and very specific power. To control or direct the flow of wool means simply that at any time in the buying year there will be available to users of wool in the world adequate quantities of the types that may be in demand and there will not be situations in which the market will find itself overloaded with a type of wool which is out of demand - probably temporarily - or has been over-supplied due to seasonal conditions and things of that nature.
I refer next to the Commission’s power of purchase and disposal. These are extraordinarily important concepts. The fact that the Commission may purchase and will purchase wool will put a bottom into the wool market, will give to the market some sort of security which, it must be agreed, will tend to iron out the severe troughs that the graph of wool prices over the years, particularly in the last few months, has tended to show. It will make sure that virtually no wool will be sacrificed on the market because of a temporary situation of demand or supply or both. Equally important as the power to purchase is the power of disposal. The Commission will have unrestricted power to dispose in every field - through the auction room or by direct negotiation or, should it deem it necessary, by processing and even manufacturing woollen cloth, either in our own country or perhaps in the factories of our neighbours to the north. We must keep open our options to use other more modern and sophisticated methods of marketing. I suggest that the Commission’s broad sweep of power must involve it in a capacity and, 1 should imagine, a will to revitalise and change the nature and direction of wool promotion. This, 1 believe, is of tremendous significance. There must be a promotion not only of the pure woollen textile with its superior characteristics, but also there must be a tendency to promote a wool and synthetic blend. I believe that this broad sweep of power will involve the Commission in just this sort of activity in the field of promotion.
This Commission has been criticised on the ground that it has not an acquisition force as such, but I suggest that it is perhaps a strength of the concept of the
Commission that it does retain in the selling world the element of free enterprise. It will retain the possibility of operation by private buyers, and it naturally will have room for organisations, projected and otherwise, such as the economic wool producers. This must surely ensure that there will be competition of sale within the industry. But it will be a competition which is different in that it will be operating from a specific base and under the close surveillance of the Commission itself. Selling agencies in a situation such as this must surely be on their mettle to obtain the best possible price for the raw woollen fibre, because they know only too well that the scientific developments of our time must bring closer the possibility of disposing of wool by other and more direct methods. t believe that already there has been apparent throughout the wool industry a great deal of appreciation of the manner in which and the speed with which the Government has acted, and particularly of the way in which the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) has co-opted all the forces possible to bring about in the smallest possible time this solution to their problems. It is apparent that at long last the producer organisations throughout the Commonwealth have come to a solid decision in regard to the needs of marketing in their industry. They having done this, the Government has acted with very great and specific speed. Of course, it is a matter for regret, as I said before, that the price in the wool industry had fallen so low so suddenly before this sort of unity in the organisations was in fact achieved, because their demands, when they became evident and strong, were met with great and prompt attention.
May 1 once again draw attention to these dominant features of this legislation, the Australian Wool Commission Bill. I refer honourable senators again to the fact that the composition of this Commission is very much in line with that envisaged bv the industry itself. The Commission will have a widespread variety of abilities, a refreshing degree of independence and a spread of specialist type personnel. This is of extreme importance to the industry and, indeed, to the satisfaction of the producers within the industry. 1 refer again to the flexible reserve price concept. We believe it will rule out in large measure the severe pot holes within the price structure evident in the industry over a long period of time, and particularly in the very recent past. Because of its tendency to equalise and put a base in the market, I am sure that this reserve price system will foster a sense of confidence which has been so sadly lacking in wool marketing for a considerable time. I believe that the Commission’s power over the direction of flow of the wool is among its most important features. For the first time there is a possibility of having a wide range of wool types available at any particular time. I have no doubt that the proposal will become a reality.
I refer again to the significance of the power of the Commission in relation to the purchase and disposal of wool. Surely its power to purchase provides the teeth which enables it to put a floor in the auction price system. Surely, the power of disposal will enable it to use a vast range of possibilities in its attempts to ever improve the methods of marketing this raw material. I believe that the Commission will revitalise the promotional processes and look into areas of processing and manufacturing wool when dealing with the promotional aspect of the industry. The legislation provides for the retention of competition among sellers, and I consider that this will be of tremendous importance in the immediate future. This competition will be established from a specific base and will be under the continued surveillance of a commission which has a vast knowledge regarding the possibilities and the realities of the marketing situation in the wool industry.
May I refer just briefly to the situation that arose some 5 years ago when 1, among many thousands of others, happened to be an advocate of a reserve price scheme. The situation in those days was distinctly different from that which faces us today. At that time we were negotiating from a point of strength. Wool prices were at a relatively high level, and our negotiating situation was vastly different from the situation that we face today. The organisations in those days were still in large measure divided on many issues but this. I am glad to say, is no longer the case. Even so, I believe that 5 years ago this type of system would have been introduced had it not been for some form of action in which quite predominant were the wool broking interests - or some of them - some sections of the Press, some of the almost immovable reactionaries among wool producers, and indeed some people in the buying field. Had these elements not been capable of sowing distrust and doubt and confusing issues, I believe a reserve price scheme may well have been introduced at thai point when the industry itself was in a strong situation. The confusing of issues, the sowing of doubt, the associating of a scheme with personalities were the mischievous methods which largely accounted for the failure to have the legislation passed 5 years ago.
Having said that, 1 must now refer to what appears to me to be a somewhat unfortunate attitude of the Opposition in this chamber to this Bill. Whilst they support the Bill - no-one could fail to support a Bill that will make such a dramatic and vast change to the marketing situation in the wool industry - they have been lamenting this and lamenting that. I believe they have tended to establish a situation which is somewhat similar to that which was established by the reactionary elements .5 years ago. They appear to be sowing seeds of doubt as to whether this can happen or that can happen. Already there has been a suggestion that this Commission would be broker controlled. There is no evidence to suggest this. This is not the wish of the industry and it is extraordinarily unlikely that this sort of thing could happen. But to talk about it is to show distrust and discontent about the very situation that may be predominant in aiding the wool industry to get out of the trough into which it has fallen. This sort of reactionary approach spelt disaster to the scheme in 1965. Let us hope that it will find no place in the position as it applies today.
The suggestion has been made also that the Commission may dispose of wool at any price rather than the best price offering. This, too, is a fairly pathetic sort of suggestion because, after all, the Commission is not there to make loss upon loss. In any case, it has to report to the Minister for Primary Industry and indeed to the Treasurer (Mr Bury) at least fortnightly. The suggestion that the Commission may sell wool at any old price is pathetic and unreal, lt can do nothing more than sow discontent and doubt at a time when discontent and doubt are 2 of the most dangerous things that can confront the Austraiian wool industry. Reference has been made to the suggestion that we should have had a hard reserve price at some very much higher level. 1 would like to see this sort of thing but we must look at the situation which confronts us. We have seen a tumbling in price and 1 believe it is our job now to stop that tumbling and realistically and strongly to build this industry up from a base which is regrettably low. I am sure the Commission will be the first instrument in making this buildup, this regeneration in the marketing of wool, and so in the industry a reality.
It was said in another place that the Bill was nothing more than a scries of pious hopes. 1 say that those hopes are the hopes and the convictions of the Australian wool growing organisations. If they are pious hopes that is just matter of description. I believe they are much more than pious hopes. I believe they have a strong chance of becoming reality through the operation of this Australian Wool Commission Bill. This Bill has all the strength that we can expect at this time. It has adopted a radical change in method and in approach to the marketing problems of this great industry. I believe it has the strength and the backing of the great majority of wool growers in this industry. I believe, too, that this Bill can be destroyed only by an effort - if an effort should be made - to sow doubt, discontent and wonderment in an industry which above all requires confidence in itself forthwith and in the future. I strongly support the Bill.
– At least Senator Douglas Scott and 1 find some common ground when he says that the process and the powers of inertia are strong. I interpolate by saying that the powers of inertia are strong and that is evidenced clearly under conservative governments which have been in office in Australia for a considerable number of years. I do not believe, like Senator Douglas Scott, that the inertia has yet come to an end or that it will come to an end merely by the enactment of this legislation. I believe that the road to recovery for the wool industry is going to be a long one indeed. Before any good will come out of this legislation a lot more farmers are going to go to the wail. Senator Douglas Scott said that at one stage he was an advocate of the reserve price scheme. This was at a time when growers were negotiating from a position of strength. But that position no longer applies. He said the situation is vastly different today. Surely those words better than anything else indicate the crisis that has been allowed to drift for so long in the wool industry by the present Government. About the only thing which has come our of this crisis is that there now appears to be unanimity of purpose amongst the growers and grower organisations. They have been made to realise because of the critical situation which confronts the rural sector of the Australian economy today that if they do not get together quickly they will be in severe straits.
During the whole of this debate, with great respect to my friends from the Australian Country Party, I have compared their remarks with those of some prisoner in a dock who has been found guilty oy a court and who has been asked by the court whether he has anything to say before sentence is passed upon him according to law. Today the spokesmen for and on behalf of the Australian Country Party have indicated by their speeches their neglect over so many years of this nationally important rural industry. They hoped that they would not be caught out but having been caught out they now offer some recompense in the hope that their apparent concern for the industry will lessen the penalty which will be imposed upon them shortly by way of the ballot box. lt has always been said that Australia rides on the sheep’s back. If that statement be true Australia is in a serious economic situation because of the plight of the Australian wool grower and Australian wool industry. It is a shocking indictment of this Government that the position has become so critical and it has taken so long for the Government to determine some course of action. The Government and particularly the Country Party has been recreant to the trust which has been reposed in it by that section of the Australian community which has been supporting it for so long. We find that this great national industry - an industry upon which Australia has relied for so many years and for which Australia is recognised internationally - is in a parlous situation.
We of the Australian Labor Party do not oppose the Bil) because at least and at last some attempt is being made - however small we may regard it as being - to halt a critical situation into which this industry has drifted. One has only to go to the woolgrowing areas of New South Wales - the State which I have the honour to represent in this Parliament - and talk to the wool growers, the farmers, the rural workers, people living in the country towns and to the businessmen of the country towns to appreciate the urgency and the vastness of the problem. Whilst I personally express a doubt that this Bill when enacted will reach deep into and overcome the many problems confronting these people, we of the Labor movement have to be realistic and not oppose anything which might ameliorate some of the critical difficulties which obviously exist. As my colleague Senator Cant said earlier during the course of this debate there is little else that we can do because the Bill has been drawn in such a way that it is practically incapable of being amended.
A responsible citizen who has lived all his life in the central west of New South Wales and who has been associated with that area’s primary producers said recently at a meeting at Forbes in the central west of New South Wales that he has never known confidence in the rural sector of the economy and the businesses which service the rural sector to bc so low. The position is even worse today than it was during the days of the great depression in the 1930s. Farmers and rural workers are bewildered by the depressed state of the rural economy, apparently within a national economy which is supposed to be booming.Today it is unbelievable that the price of greasy wool is lower than it was 25 years ago Today costs and prices have risen lo record levels in a period of inflation which has been brought about by the policies pursued by this Government. For every 2 job vacancies which are offering in country districts there are 5 prospective applicants for jobs. That short description paints the picture of the seriousness of the problems that confront our rural sector today.
It is true that there have been problems of production, of marketing and of competition with man-made fibres, but any primary school child who knows something about the industry and about the vicissitudes of rural affairs, could see what was ahead for the primary producers. There certainly has been inertia on the part of the Government - strong inertia, to use the phrase used by Senator Douglas Scott who preceded me in the debate. There has been a fouling up of the industry by sheer Government incompetence. Australia produces almost one-third of the world’s wool and more than one-half of the world’s fine quality merino wool. The bulk of our production has been exported, mainly as greasy wool. More than 90 per cent of the Australian wool clip has been disposed of by auction. One would have thought that, with the world’s population increasing and with the economy of the developing and emerging nations being on the up and up, the demand for wool throughout the world and consequently the price paid to Australian growers would have been on the up and up. The demand and the prices are down. Today the price of wool is about 29c per lb. lt is lower than it has been for the last 25 years.
The Government has had numerous warnings about the situation. For many years it has been merely tinkering with the problem in the hope that the fatal day could be put off and in the hope that it would never be caught out. Let us take some of the history of this industry. In 1961. at the time of the Government-made recession in this country, when thousands of men were out of work because of the economic policies pursued by the Government, the wool indus’ y was facing a crisis. In 1961 the Government appointed the Wool Marketing Committee of Inquiry for the purpose of reporting upon the marketing and promotion of Australian wool. The Committee’s report was presented in about 1962. Among other things it recommended that wool promotion, research and testing should be brought under the control of a single body. As a result the Australian Wool Board was set up in 1962 or 1963. In its first annual report to the Parliament in 1964. the Wool Board said, among other things-
– The honourable senator is right off the track.
– Senator Young may tell his story later on. I am telling my story now. I am relating what has occurred in the last decade to show the neglect of the Australian Country Party, and of the Liberal Party of which he is a member and which is the majority section of the Government. The first annual report of the Australian Wool Board to the Parliament said:
The Board, after having given full consideration to Promotion and Marketing, has come to the following conclusions: (1) That there is an urgent need for an examination of the method by which the Australian wool clip is marketed and the Board is determined that the examination be carried out with (he least possible delay. (2) That wool promotion cannot succeed in its objectives if the method by which the Australian wool clip is sold is not the most efficient. lt was not until 1967 that proposals for the enforcement of standards of clip preparation were put forward. In July 1964, after an investigation by the Wool Marketing Committee, the Wool Board made recommendations to the Australian Wool Industry Conference for the introduction of a reserve price plan for wool. That was put to the growers by way of referendum in December 1965. Unfortunately - I use that word advisedly - because of the great confusion that was created in their minds, the wool growers rejected the plan. All of us remember Sir William Gunn stomping the country, advocating and espousing support for the referendum. All of us remember the barrage of the mass media in opposition to the proposal. The headlines in the ‘Daily Telegraph’ and the editorials written by employees of Sir Frank Packer and others who were supporting the brokers and the vested interests in this country urged the wool growers to reject the reserve price plan. Tragically for the industry and for Australia, by a vote of about 53 per cent or 54 per cent, they overwhelmingly rejected the proposals. Confusion among the growers was worse confounded. Since that time the vested interests and the wool brokers have been protected by the Government at the expense of the Australian grower and of the Australian rural worker.
The Government cannot say that it has not been forewarned. Let me cite, in the time that is available to me, 3 or 4 examples. In 1966 the ‘Australian’ had an article headed ‘Wool cheque at 4-year low’. It stated:
Australia’s wool cheque fell to its lowest level in 4 years in the 12 months ended 30th June.
Despite improved values during the latter half of the year, total receipts dropped by $27. lm to $71.0,901,715 in 1965-66.
In the previous 12 months receipts had fallen by $1 56.6m.
This was shortly after the referendum in 1965. In 1967 the publication ‘Muster’, the journal of the Graziers’ Association of New South Wales, carried the headline Record production, but BAE’ - that is the Bureau of Agricultural Economics - ‘sees continued low prices’. The article stated:
Record production and continuance of the present low level of prices are the outlook for the Australian wool industry this year.
The Bureau of Agricultural Economics, in a report on the wool industry published last week, made this somewhat gloomy forecast.
In 1967 an organisation known as the Basic Industries Group which, as honourable senators opposite will agree, certainly is not a Labor-oriented organisation produced a publication entitled ‘Wool Report: Guidelines for a great future. A Basic Industries Group Survey’. Among other things the report referred to the Country Party’s policies. Under the heading Country Party “Growth” Policies’, the report stated:
Not content with a negative attitude to inflation, some of our political groups have actively encouraged policies which contribute unnecessarily to it. Chief among these has been the Federal Country Party.
Although the Country Party has served a very useful purpose in the past, it has been misguided in the course it has followed.
The Country Party has, in fact, taken upon itself in recent years the role of leading advocate for policies of growth - growth in population, growth in secondary industry to provide employment and. as a result, growth in the problems of the wool industry.
Openly admitting the results of these policies, the Federal Leader of the Country Party, Mr John McEwen, said in a speech at Rochester, Victoria (a dairying and fruit growing district), on October 7 1966: ‘1 have never run away from saying that I am supporting policies which tend to put a burden of cost on the farm.’
Mr McEwen then went on to list what he termed ‘policies of compensation’ or ‘offsetting policies’ which his Party had secured to help primary industry. While the list was long and impressive, it didn’t contain one significant thing for the wool industry. In other words, the wool industry pays for most of these benefits to others!
The report went on to say that the Government must carry a large share of the responsibility for the confusion and dissention in the wool industry Which, until this crisis brought about some unanimity of opinion, had existed for so long because of its failure to act on matters of great importance to the industry. But the confusion, principally because of the negative policies pursued by this Government, still continues to exist. The wool has been pulled over the growers’ eyes.
The 27th November 1968 edition of Muster’ reported that the Managing Director of the International Wool Secretariat had said in Melbourne that the wool industry had shown its capacity to meet more formidable competition in the past 10 years than any major agricultural product had ever had to face. He is reported as having also said that International Wool Secretariat’s research, development and promotional policies had begun to succeed in a very remarkable fashion. In a Press statement that he released in November 1969 - nearly .12 months ago - the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) admitted that the Australian wool industry had reached a crisis point. He went on to say that the wool industry must make up its mind on the marketing question. Surely the Government also had a responsibility 12 months ago, if not before then, to make up its minds. The Government was elected by the people of Australia as their custodian and protector. Surely it has a responsibility to give some lead to the people of Australia. When an industry is in dire straits and agreement cannot be reached amongst the growers and the grower organisations, it is surely the responsibility of the Australian Government to give a lead. But in the typical fashion of conservative, reactionary governments it once again shirked its responsibility to the Australian grower and the nation. The Minister went on in the same Press statement to say:
One important challenge that confronted the industry was the fact that unless it did something positive about achieving uniform high quality standards in preparation and presentation of the clip in order to hold the confidence of users, ils reputation on world markets would steadily decline.
As I have said, the Australian Wool Board had, 5 years earlier, in its annual report to this Parliament drawn attention to the need for an urgent examination of the method by which the wool clip is marketed. It said that wool promotion could not succeed in its objectives if the methods by which the Australian wool clip is sold are not the most efficient. We find now that some provision is included in this Bill for the Australian Wool Commission to apply standards in relation to the manner in which clips are presented for sale. It has taken this Government some 5 or 6 years to act. It did not act until the position became critical. It delayed action until the eve of the completion of .h:s session of the Parliament and just prior to a Senate election.
In the absence of any steps being taken in this connection to achieve uniformity of standards and presentation of the clip expensive wool promotion has been indulged in. I notice that in the pamphlet to which I have referred of the Basic Industries Group which was published at some time in 1967 it is claimed that between 1958 and 1967 world promotion expenditure on wool by grower, government and trade sources totalled over $200m. In this respect I refer to an article which appeared in February of this year in Muster’, the journal of the Graziers Association of New South Wales, under the heading ‘Situation too urgent for delay’. It stated:
The latest announcement by the Chairman of the Australian Wool Board, Sir William Gunn, that the Board was about to begin a comprehensive investigation to find solutions to problems linked with the ‘cost-price squeeze’ wool producers are suffering must be viewed by the industry with interest tempered by certain reservations.
The Chief Executive Officer of the Graziers Association of NSW. Mr Ick-Hewins, said this today.
Mr Ick Hewins said that there had been previous investigations into the wool industry, none of which had resulted in action which had ameliorated to any significant degree the troubles besetting wool growers.
A further investigation, fully comprehensive in scope, could be of value, provided those cooperating in the venture were selected in such a way as to be truly representative of the many interests involved and were, moreover, fullyinformed in their individual spheres.
At a time when the industry has reached such a critical state, when the price of wool is lower than it has been at any time in the last 25 years, when costs and prices are at a record level, when the employment situation in rural areas is in a severe position and after a series of protest meetings have been held throughout many rural areas in Australia, particularly in New South Wales, after the farmers have marched in Adelaide and in Melbourne, and in the dying hours of this session of the Parliament and, perhaps more importantly from the Government’s point of view just prior to a Senate election being held, the Government has decided to introduce legislation to establish the Australian Wool Commission, which will consist of a chairman, 2 members representing the wool growers, 1 member representing the Commonwealth Government and 3 other members, all of whom shall be appointed by the Minister.
Who will be the other 3 members? It has been suggested by some of my colleagues that they will be representatives of the brokers. The Minister certainly has a choice under the provisions of the Bill. He has to choose from those experienced in the marketing of wool or wool products, in the processing of wool or in the manufacture of wool products or by reason of other experience in commerce, finance or economics. Before appointing a person to be a member of the Commission the Minister has to consult with the Australian Wool Board. The choice which is open to the Minister is wide and varied. Nonetheless, the members of the Commission will come from those who have a vested interest in the wool industry.
Many questions have yet to be answered. The Labor movement certainly intends to scrutinise closely the administration, function and operation of the Commission. The Labor movement believes that, notwithstanding anything else which has been said, collusion in wool buying operations still exists. The overall number of buyers has declined and is still seriously declining. If there is no collusion why. I ask rhetorically, have prices dropped so alarmingly? We of the Labor movement say that a single statutory marketing authority should be set up to purchase and sell wool on behalf of the Australian grower. There should be a majority representation of primary producers on all boards handling the marketing of their products.
Whilst it has many misgivings about the effectiveness of this legislation, the Opposition does not oppose it because it hopes that something will emerge from it which might put the great Australian wool industry and those who rely directly or indirectly upon it for their livelihoods - the farmers, shearers, shed hands and the town workers and business men in country towns - back on (he long hard road to recovery. The Opposition does not oppose the Bill, although it has certain misgivings about it. However, it intends to ask one or two pertinent questions of the Minister at the Committee stage of the debate.
– ] support the Bill. 1 was interested to hear that the Opposition does not intend to oppose the Bill despite the considerable criticism that honourable senators opposite have voiced. 1 hope that they are sincere and will give their full support and cooperation towards getting the scheme off the ground, and to making a contribution towards obtaining a better price for wool growers in an industry which means so much to all Australians. 1 note that this Bill is to set up a statutory body known as the Australian Wool Commission. The Commission is to be empowered to operate a flexible reserve price scheme for wool sold at auction. It is also to have many other functions. The idea for the scheme has come from the wool industry itself and haS” been accepted by the 2 federal wool growers’ organisations.
The Commission is to take over the function of the Australian Wool Marketing Corporation Limited, which operates the price averaging plan for small lots. This new body is being set up to market Australia’s wool. It will control the whole industry. It marks a new and far reaching stage in wool marketing, lt is a completely new concept in the wool industry as we have known it in Australia over a long period. The proposed section 4(1.) provides:
The object of this Act is to promote trade and commerce with other countries and among the States in Australian wool to the advantage of Australian wool growers and the Australian economy by means directed to encouraging and facilitating the purchase of Australian wool for the purposes of, or in the course of, that trade and commerce, and at the same time securing, in respect of wool purchased for the purposes of, or in the course of, that trade and commerce, prices that are not subject to undue fluctuation or irregularity and are at levels appropriate to the competitive position of wool in world markets.
I emphasise the expression ‘at levels appropriate to the competitive position of wool in world markets.’ Sir John Crawford said in the course of his report:
Under the present auction system wool growers are in a weak selling position as they have no means of effectively judging the strength of the market or of testing it.
The Commission also has power to sell woo) outside the auction system. This is a radical departure in wool marketing. Senator Wilkinson led for the Australian Labor Party in this debate. I do not think he was very convincing in some of his arguments. He quoted the ALP’s policy on wool. He mentioned that there should be a statutory authority with a majority of wool grower control, but he did not say whether big and small growers would have an equal say in the election of growers’ representatives. Honourable senators will remember that this was one of the problems which arose in 1965 in deciding who should have a vote, or whether big wool growers should have more votes than small wool growers.
Senator Wilkinson referred to a guaranteed price but did not say how it would be financed. It is interesting to note that each lc per lb in the price of wool represents about $20m in the total clip. When the honourable senator was referring to the cost of production and a guaranteed price. I think he confused those 2 .items a little, especially in answering an interjection. He did not mention that the extra cost would be a direct flow-on cost which the wool growers would have to meet if the Opposition’s policy of a 35-hour week was introduced. The honourable senator went on to refer to the profits of Japanese textile firms. In answer to interjections he could not tell us whether the percentage profits referred to capital, turnover or working expenses.
Senator Wilkinson said that the ALP’s policy would provide a capital fund but he did not explain whether the wool industry or the Government would have to provide it, or whether it would be found from somewhere else. He said that Labor’s policy would overcome the cost disability of marketing wool for export. That is a very interesting section of Labor’s policy, but no explanation was given of how it is to be arrived at. The policy involved in overcoming the cost disability of marketing wool for export was not explained. Is it to be a subsidy for wool growers? Who is to find the money for the subsidy? The honourable senator did not explain what will overcome the so-called cost disability.
– lt is not our Bill. II is your Bill. We do not have to provide that information.
– But you said that was your policy and that that is what you would do. I realise that we should not live in the past but I remind honourable senators that over a long period the woo) industry has kept Australia solvent. It has provided much of the funds for our growth and development, lt has made possible the development of our rural towns and transport systems to many areas of inland Australia. As a nation we owe a lot to this industry and we must do something tangible to see that it can survive as an economic unit. Despite the competition of synthetics wool is still the best fibre. It is way above synthetics in the qualities required for its traditional uses. We are unique in this country in that our merino sheep industry has been adapted to many dry areas of the continent. I refer particularly to western Queensland. A lot of land used there to produce wool is incapable of diversification to any other industry except possibly cattle. It is essential that this industry be preserved and that the scheme set out in the Bill be made to work.
I have no doubt that the scheme will have teething troubles. These problems will be ironed out. Unfortunately for many wool growers in Queensland that State has suffered a disastrous drought which has lasted in some areas on and off for 12 or 14 years. Many wool growers have been placed in financial difficulties through fighting the drought. Now they are confronted with the problem posed by a collapse of wool prices. They have to contend with those 2 problems. They may have been able to overcome one of them, but the two problems having arisen at the same time the wool growers have found themselves unable to cope. As has been explained already, the value of their properties had depreciated as a result of their reduced income and for other reasons. I was pleased that the Government provided $30m in the Budget as a carry-on measure for the wool industry. I think that much of the money will go to Queensland.
As I have said, each lc a lb in the price of wool represents a total of nearly $20m, so it can be seen how much additional income the industry would receive if the
Commission Bill 1 779 price could be increased even to a level which would enable the industry to cover expenses, let alone make a profit. Just to break even would require an enormous amount of additional income. It is estimated that $115m will be required for the Commission by way of working capital in the first year, and about Si 8m to cover annual operating expenses. I am informed that there has been some appreciation in the wool futures market. Perhaps that indicates the beginning of a return of confidence. Perhaps it is associated with the Bill now before the Senate which could be having some indirect effect on the industry. In the closing paragraph of his second reading speech the Minister had this to say:
The marketing reforms which this Bill aims to bring about, in conjunction with other measures now being pursued as a matter of urgency by the Government - such as debt reconstruction and farm adjustment - will assist materially in the rehabilitation of this great industry.
I congratulate Mr Anthony, the Minister for Primary Industry, on the work that he has done in bringing this proposal to fruition in such a short time despite the great difficulties which confronted him. 1 hope that it will turn the tide, restore confidence and be the start of what could be the long road back for wool growers and their industry. I commend the Bill.
– The Australian Labor Party has done much today to ventilate some of the weaknesses of this measure. Those honourable senators on the Government side who have participated in the debate have shown the Government’s apathetic approach to the problem which has confronted the wool industry over many years. In almost every speech that they have made on this Bill they have told of the difficulties with which the wool growers have had to contend. But the Government took no action in an endeavour to remove those difficulties. Now at this late stage it has brought a measure before the Parliament. lt would be agreed, I am sure, that Australians owe much to the wool industry. It was said, to use a cliche, that Australia rode on the sheep’s back. Therefore it is astounding that the Government has allowed the industry to get into the parlous position in which it is today without 30 October 1970 having taken adequate precautions to protect it. Members of the Austraiian Labor Party have mentioned today the warnings that were given to the Government of the difficulties which would confront the industry. As far back as 1965 Sir William Gunn stomped the country advocating a scheme which he and some of his supporters believed would be in the interests of the wool industry. Senator Douglas Scott today referred to that episode and indicated that he was a supporter of that proposition, but I remind honourable senators that the Government took no active part in the campaign. Instead it allowed the campaign to deteriorate to such an extent that one of the most important figures in the wool industry was ridiculed. It allowed the Press of Australia to say things that the Government knew to be untrue but it took no active part to assist the promotion of a scheme which the leaders of the industry knew would be to the advantage of the industry and, consequently, of Australia. Therefore, can we not seriously challenge the Government with allowing the industry to drift into the position in which it is today? 1 remind the Senate of the words of Country Party members who have told of the difficulties that have existed in the industry for many years. The Government did not take any action in an endeavour to reduce or remove them.
At this stage I want to correct an impression that Senator Young has about something that was said by Senator Cant. Senator Cant made the positive statement that Sir William Gunn stomped this country in support of a reserve price scheme. Senator Young said a moment ago that Senator Cant had made no such statement. J have checked with Senator Cant and he has told me that be has referred to the Hansard report of his speech and he has found that he did make that statement. The Government stands condemned for having allowed one of the leading figures in the wool industry to be vilified in the way in which Sir William Gunn was vilified. It stands condemned for having allowed the leaders of the wool industry to advocate a proposition and then, knowing that proposition to be the correct one to adopt, refusing to take the lead in advocating it. The Government stands condemned by the words of its own supporters who now claim that it is timely that this measure should be introduced. We of the Australian Labor Party believe that it was timely for the measure to be introduced many years ago because it was obvious to all of us that the industry was deteriorating into such a position that it would be impossible to retrieve it.
– And shortly after Sir William Gunn propounded the referendum cause he contested Country Party pre-selection and missed out:
– If I inject that into the discussion it may be regarded as being political. However, as Senator McClelland has said, shortly afterwards Sir William Gunn contested a pre-selection ballot for the Country Party but so much bitterness was directed towards him by some people in that Party that he was rejected.
– What has that to do with the argument?
– I am not suggesting that it has anything to do with the argument but the same situation could confront Senator Webster on the next occasion that he seeks endorsement. 1 now wish to bring before the attention of the people of Australia the cavalier way in which the Government has introduced this measure. All Government supporters say that it is most important, but I wonder whether the people of Australia know that it was introduced into another place at 8 o’clock last Wednesday night and that the Government required its passage by Thursday, leaving approximately 24 hours in which to discuss an important measure of this nature. It came into the Senate yesterday, and the Government tried to push it through yesterday. But, because of opposition from the Australian Labor Party senators, the Government was required to hold it over until today. Here again the Opposition has had only 24 hours in which the consider all features of the Bill and to explain to the Government why it believes that certain features of the Bill are wrong. We regard this as one of the most important pieces of legislation to come before us. Yet this national Parliament has not had sufficient time to make known its views by an exhaustive examination of the provisions of the Bill.
Senator Douglas Scott said that we criticised the Bill in order to cast doubts. The way we listened to him in silence should indicate to him that we respect his point of view. ( hope that he will respect our point of view when we say that we are not endeavouring to create doubts; we are endeavouring to show some of the weaknesses of the Bill. If we thought that the Bill was not to the advantage of Australia we would oppose its passage. But, in point of fact, we believe that it will assist in some directions, although it will go nowhere near as far as it should. Consequently, we do not oppose its passage. But we do have a responsibility. So, we cannot be charged with carelessness when we point out to the people of Australia what we believe are the deficiencies in the Bill.
I think the people of Australia also should know that we have no indication whatsoever of the cost of this legislation. No-one is able to judge accurately or even to estimate how much will be required to be paid by the people of Australia as a result of this legislation. I submit that, had there been more time to prepare the Bill and had more thought been given to its preparation, some of these matters could have been included for consideration by the people. I wonder why the Government acted so hurriedly. I suggest that it has taken a keener interest in this aspect of this important industry since the Australian Labor Party, through Dr Rex Patterson, presented its policy. Surely it is significant that Dr Rex Patterson presented our policy on the rehabilitation of the wool industry and then the Government became interested and felt that it could do something for the industry. 1 repeat that it was the Government’s responsibility to do something for the industry years ago, but it failed to take the initiative in that direction. lt has been said that there is collusion by the Japanese wool buyers. Mr Anthony has denied that there is such collusion. But no-one has explained why the price of wool has dropped. Therefore, one can only believe that there has been such collusion. Whether this measure will overcome that difficulty, I do not know, nor, I suggest, does anybody else. Perhaps it is too late to do even that. The fact remains that the price of wool has dropped to an alarming level. The Government cannot blame the drought because the drought has been with us for many years. If it wants to blame the drought, surely it could have done something about it before this. Whether the measure will be successful we know not. The members of the Australian Labor Party, in the interests of the wool industry and the people of Australia, trust that the Commission will be successful.
I repeat that it is a tragedy that at this late stage Australia should have been left in the position of having the Government introduce a Bill which should have been introduced many years ago and which should have been examined more exhaustively. The Government failed to recognise the dangers that were apparent to all. lt is to the credit of the wool growers that they, finding themselves in such an alarming position, got together and, with a united front, demanded that the Government do something in this direction. 1 believe that history will record that this has been a chapter of national disaster, inefficient government and adoption of a couldnotcareless attitude by a government that prides itself on business efficiency. If the Government claims that with business efficiency it has allowed this industry to reach the level at which it is today, I suggest with respect that it is not business efficiency at all.
The Australian. Labor Party will not oppose the provisions of the Bill, believing that something is better than nothing. But I have indicated that that will not stop our criticising constructively the provisions of the Bill, even though it must be recognised that insufficient time is available to examine them exhaustively. How can one make an unclean thing clean? We believe that the Bill is unclean. We believe that it is unclean in that it does not do the job that is required. In order to bring it to a standard that we believe would be to the advantage of Australia, it would be necessary to put it through the cleaner several times. It will take years to do that. The way in which the Government introduced the Bill would indicate that, to some extent, it has been drafted hastily as well. The second reading speech contains this statement:
The Chairman would be appointed by the Minister after consultation with the Australian Wool Board.
If any honourable senator thinks he can point to a provision of the Bill which says that the Chairman will be appointed by the Minister after consultation with the Australian Wool Board, I will be pleased if he will do so. There is no provision for that in the Bill. 1 suggest that that is a further indication that the Bill was drawn together hastily. 1 do not think that is the way in which the business of this Parliament should be done. The members of the Australian Labor Party will submit amendments to the Bill at the Committee stage. I trust that the Government will examine the amendments that are submitted. I trust that it will find merit in them, as indeed it should, and that it will accept the amendments and accept the fact that we are doing our very best to criticise the Bill constructively and at the same time to improve it by means of amendments.
– 1 rise to support this Bill, which is a most important Bill concerning a most” important industry. When it is carried today, as I hope it will be, it will create history for the Australian wool industry. At the outset I congratulate not only the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) and the Government on what they have done in bringing this legislation forward but also the industry leaders, including the gentlemen who, assisted by the advisory committee to the Australian Wool Board, have finally brought us to a position in which today we have before this Parliament a new method of marketing wool which could have a far reaching and beneficial effect on the industry not just in the short term but also in the long term. 1 am very pleased to see that the Opposition also is giving its support to this Bill. After all, this matter is far beyond the realm of party politics. I accept that the Opposition will give its full support. The wool industry will then know that the parties comprising the Parliament are giving solid backing to these proposals. Naturally I accept that honourable members opposite will carry out the role of the Opposition and look for faults in the Bill. I am particularly pleased today, as I was when I read the Hansard report of the debate in the House of Representatives, to note how little criticism of this Bill can be found. Senator Cant did say in the debate today - it is rather an unusual remark for him - that it probably is the worst piece of legis lation he has seen since he has been a member of this chamber. I question the validity of that remark because the Opposition has been able to point only to little things within the Bill - functional things which require flexibility. There must be flexibility in so many of these areas. In some ways we are entering the world of the unknown and no doubt the industry as well as the Parliament will be watching these things closely as time goes on so that we can amend the legislation to make the Australian Wool Commission an even more effective authority. I hope this responsibility will be accepted by all those within the wool industry and within the Parliament.
I want to refer to some of the comments made by members of the Opposition in this debate. Senator Wilkinson criticised one area. He said that the Commission should have a majority of growers represented on it. There is a place for growers on the authority and it is right that they should have this place. But let us be honest and factual; this authority must be composed of some of the best men that we can get in this country. We must have some of the best men from the wool industry to accept responsibility as representatives of the industry. We also must have some of the best men we can get from areas of trade, commerce and finance in order to make the Commission function. The Commission will not be an ordinary type of committee consisting of a few gentlemen meeting and discussing what might happen. It will be charged with great responsibility and any honest man will accept his responsibilities. Specialists will be needed to accept responsibilities in certain fields. It is necessary to get a broad representation in order to cover all the areas to be affected by this Commission as well as those that it will affect. Provision has been has been made in the Bill to get the best personnel available in order to make the Commission as effective as humanly and commercially possible.
Turning now to the composition of the authority, it will be headed by a chairman. I believe he must be one of the top marketing men in Australia, competent and experienced. I hope this will be the case. Then there is provision for 2 members to represent the Australian wool growers. The industry will have the choice. There is no doubt that it will appoint 2 of its most responsible and experienced members. There is to be a member to represent the Commonwealth Government and 3 other members. Senator McClelland referred to this point. These 3 men will have to come from areas involved in the handling and marketing of wool or wool products, the processing of wool or the manufacture of wool products, or they must have experience in commerce, finance and economics. These 3 members will be drawn from those areas. The Minister for Primary Industry saw the need to ensure that this Commission will be a very competent one comprising men of ability and experience. I commend the Minister and others associated with this Bill for making sure that the kernel of this marketing change will be the best possible.
Senator Cant said that history showed that the Government would not support the reserve price plan. Senator Milliner said the same thing. This is not true. History clearly shows that the Government gave all possible support to the wool industry. lt accepted responsibility for the wool industry and endeavoured to bring about various improvements within its overall operations. I must correct what I thought was a legitimate mistake by Senator Cant. He said that Sir William Gunn stomped the country opposing the reserve price plan. Senator Cant is looking for the proof of his speech and no doubt he will find that that is what he said. I accept that this was a legitimate mistake on his part and that he did not mean what he implied.
– I hope Senator Milliner heard that.
– I am noi interested in what Senator Milliner said; I am referring to the remarks of Senator Cant. I want to refer again to the comment made about the Government’s responsibility. I refer the Senate to page 2879 of the Hansard report of the proceedings in the House of Representatives. Dr Rex Patterson, the shadow Minister for Primary Industry in the House of Representatives said:
Until a few months ago - until this year - when the finances of the wool industry started to deteriorate seriously, nothing was being done to stabilise wool prices except talk, and to the great credit of the wool growers of Australia, they took the matter into their own hands.
This shows very clearly how little Dr Patterson knows about the history of the wool industry. This Government not only accepts responsibility for it but gives the industry responsibility. I refer the Senate to the Australian Wool Industry Conference set up in 1962. It is a non-statutory body to which a statutory body, the Australian Wool Board, is responsible. To my knowledge there is no other body in this Commonwealth that has been given that power and charged with that responsibility. It is sheer and utter nonsense for Dr Patterson to say that all of a sudden at least the industry had done something because the Government had not bothered to do anything along these lines. I speak with first hand knowledge of the Australian Wool Industry Conference because I was a foundation member of it. The Australian Wool Industry Conference set out, from its inception, to look at proposed changes in the method of handling all our wool. This is not anything new. It is not a case of the industry suddenly, out of the blue, coming to light with some proposals. The industry has put proposals forward before. Unfortunately the proposal recommending a reserve price plan when put by referendum to the industry was lost. Ever since then the Wool Industry Conference and the Goverment have recognised that there is need for changes, not only in the marketing system but also in the physical handling of our wool. These aspects have been looked at constantly.
In dealing with this subject I would like to go further. In 1.966 the Australian Wool Board and the Australian Wool Industry Conference set up two ad hoc committees to look at the various aspects of the physical side of the preparation of our clip. One committee was to look at the possibility of the elimination of the small lots which had a high cost factor in selling. It was considering the elimination of the 1, 2 and 3 bale lots and the overall preparation of the Australian wool clip. The other committee was set up to look at what effects private buying had on the overall marketing of the Australian wool clip. This was an example of the industry doing something for itself, of making an honest endeavour to do something to assist and improve the industry. ft is interesting to deal further with this comment that nothing has been done. I refer next to what is known as the price averaging plan which includes also the elimination of the I, 2 and 3 bale lots. That scheme was set up by the industry, it is in operation, and it is working most effectively today. I took a very keen interest in the effect of the price averaging plan and the results of the ad hoc committee which investigated the elimination of the 1, 2 and 3 bale lots and the standard of the preparation of the Australian wool clip, because I was one wool grower who spent some months on a committee studying the overall situation. When we hear this tripe being talked today about various sections, including the Government, passing the buck for so long, we know that the comment is entirely wrong and that it is purely a political comment made at a time of a Senate election when certain people in a Party are looking for political mileage.
There has been much criticism to the effect that the Government has rushed in this legislation because we are to have a Senate election. Let me make it perfectly clear that the industry has been looking very closely at the possibility of changes in the marketing system. Acting on a recommendation of the Australian Wool Industry Conference, the Australian Wool Board set up a special advisory body to look into the areas in which changes could be made in the marketing of our wool, not only as to method but also as to the physical side. This advisory committee was set up in March of this year. It made its final report to the Australian Wool Board in July. But in addition to this, the Australian Wool Board, in conjunction with the two major Federal wool growing bodies - the Australian Wool and Meat Producers Federation and the Australian Woolgrowers and Graziers Council - finally put a report through to the overall parliament of the Australian wool industry, that is the Australian Wool Industry Conference, which presented its recommendation to the Federal Government on 7th July 1970.
Since then the Government has acted very promptly. It appointed as an adviser Sir John Crawford who is one of the top economists in this country and, incidentally, the foundation chairman of the Australian Wool Industry Conference. His background knowledge of the overall problems of the wool industry and his sound background as an economist enabled him to be a very effective adviser. He considered the report from the Australian Wool Industry Conference and then presented his report to the Government on 14th October. Today is 30th October. Instead of this criticism of the Government, I feel that if each and every one of us in this chamber, irrespective of Party, was truthful we would be sincerely congratulating and thanking the Minister for Primary Industry, the Cabinet, the Parliamentary Draftsman and all those who have been involved in bringing the Bill forward to us so that we in this place can legislate and have this marketing authority set up and brought into operation. If it is not done this week the industry will have to wait for another 6 months.
Today we have heard the Opposition talking about the desperate plight of the wool industry. Nobody denies that this is the situation in the industry, and we all are concerned about it. But by this measure the Government is making an honest endeavour to implement, as quickly as it can, a plan which is based on the advice of authorities and which will be as effective as any plan could be for the industry. Although the Government has done this, the Opposition sees fit to condemn il rather than to commend it. Quite frankly, I am very surprised that the Opposition has seen fit to criticise this important piece of legislation. As I have said before, the Opposition is entitled to do this and it is here to criticise and to do what it can to improve legislation, but T am surprised that on this occasion it has seen fit to accuse the Government of trying to play politics. I do not suppose there has been any occasion when a government has acted with more expedition and more responsibility.
This afternoon the Opposition mentioned that it would like to see an acquisition plan. It is strange how political philosophy often seems to float to the surface. Today we see this old philosophy of compulsion and regimentation floating to the surface. Honourable senators opposite want an acquisition plan. Again I commend the Government and the Minister for Primary Industry for allowing flexibility to remain, for giving a freedom of choice to the wool grower to sell his wool as he sees best. This is the right of the individual grower. If circumstances change and the growers say that they want to see some change, and overall it is considered that there should be further changes, let us consider the situation then; but let us not start charging in like a bull at a gate and doing foolish things. Let us leave a few freedoms with our growers, but let us also do the best that we can for them.
There has been a lot of talk, as I have said, about acquisition and a price being set. [ question who would set the price at this stage, but quite apart from that I suggest that the Opposition should look at the other end of the pipeline. We are not the only ones in this game. The wool growers are not the only link in the chain, nor i* the broker the only other link. The chain goes much further. The other end of the chain is at the other side of the world where there are manufacturers who perhaps have certain loyalties to the industry. Perhaps they have been with us for generations, but we must remember also .that they have a hip pocket nerve. They will not buy our wool just out of loyalty if we start to raise prices. This would have the effect of frightening them out of the business or forcing them out of the business, because they have an alternative in synthetics. They could turn to synthetics. So I suggest to the Opposition that it should look at the other end of this chain and get away from political philosophies. It should look at realities, including economic realities, when it begins to talk of compulsion in this area.
Much has been said about what the Commission will do and what it will not do. 1 believe we are leaving certain freedoms with the growers so that they have a chance to use various methods of selling their wool - even private selling, if they so desire. I am all for this. Perhaps one day the industry may need to have another look at this but at this stage I am al) for leaving this right of flexibility with the grower. Then we come to the reserve price which is allowed for in this overall scheme. It is a flexible reserve price that is set up purely to take the peaks and the troughs or the potholes out of the market.
The reserve price scheme will be operated by the Commission and will be on a flexible basis. It will not be fixed for a whole season. The reserve price itself could be fixed on a day to day basis or at frequent intervals and will be fixed for certain types of wool offered at auction. This will be determined after consideration of many factors, such as recent prices paid by commercial buyers and any other aspects that have been compiled by market intelligence. In relation to the actual operation of the scheme, if the bidding on any lot does not reach the reserve price, the Commission would be prepared and able to purchase the wool at that price. The wool purchased by the Commission would be re-offered at auction or disposed of by some other means. The grower would retain his rights to place his own reserve price on his wool. So again we have freedoms coming in. The grower would retain his right to place his own reserve price on his wool, except in the case of wool included in the price averaging plan or voluntarily pool. I have already dealt with this aspect with regard to the elimination of 1, 2 and 3-bale lots.
Another very important aspect of the scheme - Senator McClelland said today that the Government suddenly realised that something should be done about it - is the standard of preparation of our wool clip. His suggestion is so much eyewash, lt is a pity that the Opposition did not spend a bit of time going through the history of what has taken place in the wool industry. The requirement for a wool classer to be registered has been in operation for a long time. That proposal was adopted to improve the standard of preparation of the clip. Other things have come in with the PAP. The Commission can go further and remove certain wools from the floor if they are badly prepared. So those who have accepted their responsibility in the industry will not be disadvantaged by those who are not prepared to do anything at all about the standards of preparation of the wool. This is also included in the Bill, but it has been in operation since before the Bill was introduced. So let us not start talking this nonsense about these things being thought of only in the last week and having suddenly come into the Parliament today just before the Senate election. In reality these things have been in operation for quite some time.
I have mentioned the PAP. It is also included in the provisions of the Bill and will continue to operate. Growers have the chance, if they wish, to put other lots of wool into the voluntary pool. Many other things are provided for. The Commission has power to sell wool other than by auction. This again is a very important function. lt allows flexibility but it also allows the grower the opportunity of saying yea or nay. The Commission is empowered to purchase wool in 2 ways. It can do it through the operation of its flexible reserve price scheme after the wool has been offered at auction or - I want to emphasise this - with the consent of the grower, before the wool is offered at auction in cases where it is considered that the wool cannot advantageously be sold at auction. So this gives the Commission flexibility and gives the grower his democratic right of saying yea or nay to these things. [ believe that is very important. lt will be seen in the provisions of the Bill that the Government has bent over backwards to leave as much power and right with the grower as it possibly can in order to give the most effective protection and assistance to the grower. So the Government has tried to assist the industry in every way it can. I believe that it should not be difficult to go to those engaged in the industry throughout this countryside and talk over this plan with them. There are 2 main features here - the genuine desire to get maximum mileage to do as much as possible for the industry and the individual grower, and at the same time the desire for the protection of the individual grower’s rights. These are very important points.
I come now to the physical side of the wool industry, which is the overall handling of wool. There are different methods in the marketing and presentation of the wool clip. Also there is a very great cost factor in the buying of our wool today. The Government in its Budget allowed quite a large sum of money - I think it was $lim - for research into methods of preparing the clip and assessing the quality of the clip. The Bill provides for research into other methods of aiding the efficient marketing of wool. I refer to such things as micro-measurement, core testing and things of that nature. Instead of the present method of pouring one great heap of wool out of a bale, there will be basket samples. All of these things could mean great savings to the industry, to the buyers, and possibly in time there may be greater efficiencies in many of these areas. We hope that this will reflect itself in savings not only for the buyers but also, if the buyers co-operate, for the wool growers.
Under the provisions of this Bill the Government is prepared to pay half the costs of wool broking charges. On top of this it will continue its research programme and look into all aspects of the overall marketing of our wool. There are many fields in which great changes and savings can be made. So on this aspect alone there are great advantages. The Government is willing to back the reserve price scheme unconditionally for the first 12 months, to do all it can to make sure that the potholes can be taken out of the market and the grower will get the maximum benefit from this new wool marketing procedure. I commend the Bill to the Parliament. I congratulate the Government in introducing it. We hope it will do a lot for the industry overall.
– The Australian Wool Commission Bill is, 1 suppose, apart from the Budget the most important measure that we have considered during the current session. Since the Senate will be meeting on Monday. I regret that the Government did not allow enough time for those who are not engaged in the industry to give the matter the attention it deserves. Yesterday the Government intended, after the Minister for Air (Senator Drake-Brockman) delivered the second reading speech, to continue the debate in the afternoon or the evening. Now that we will be sitting on Monday, one would have thought that we would be spending more time in the consideration of the measure. It is true, as previous Labor speakers have said, that we do not intend to oppose the Bill. It is a step in the right direction, but just a step. However much Senator Young likes those nice words ‘freedoms’ and ‘democracy*, we will be moving amendments to the Bill. I often wonder how many sins are committed in this world in the name of democracy. It amazes me, because I remember that in 1948 the Press of this country said that the people ought to have freedom to charge what they like. The decision may have been made in the cause of freedom and democracy but, I believe that in respect of prices it was one of the worst decisions that people of this country ever made. Ever since then the dog has been chasing the tail. Prices go up and wages go up which has a big effect on this industry. Of course the effect is not as big as the effect of the price of land. I cannot understand why the industry did not or does not today fully believe in a reserve price. There are 3 countries which control the wool of the world, particularly as far as merino wool is concerned, and they are Australia - they say we produce half of it - South Africa and New Zealand. Australia should get together with representatives from those 2 countries and have some plan to provide that those who grow the commodity shall receive a fair recompense for the work and the capital thai they have in the industry. 1 was delighted to listen to Senator Young because of his intimate knowledge of this industry. He was keen to mention freedoms. 1. wonder how far one can take these freedoms when they have placed the wool industry in the position it is in today. I do not say the Government rushed this measure in because there is to be a Senate election. I believe the people who brought this Bill before the House were the farmers who had meetings and marches. I. know it may not suit Senator Young to think the wool formers will agitate. They are becoming as militant in their own interests as the workers in the large cities. I do not blame them for it. I believe the only way one can get anything out of life is to be prepared to fight for it. 1 am not one who likes strikes, but they are a necessity in the industrial field. If the wool grower is going to sit at home and read the Press of this country and take his politics from that Press - the politics of the honourable senators who sit in the Australian Country Party corner of the chamber - he will find he is in the position which he is in at the moment with very little hope. 1 ask honourable senators to trace the history of this industry. I do not speak as a wool grower but as one who attempts to take some interest in the industries which are vital to the success and progress of this nation. Twice in the history of the wool industry there has been a compulsory price on the wool clip. 1 know it was some years ago; it was the time of the Firs! World War and the Second World War. Senator Young who as a wool grower has taken some interest in the politics of the wool industry knows what happened then. The wheat industry practically has a compulsory price scheme. Growers sell their wheat to the Australian Wheat Board which sends it to various parts of the world - whether it be mainland China or Rhodesia. The Board sells as much wheat as it can directly on behalf of the wheat growers oE this country and, in essence, on behalf of all people in this country. Why do not the wool growers do that? Why do honourable senators opposite - I say this without being offensive - mouth these shibboleths of freedom and democracy when they know it would be practically impossible for Senator Young or any other wool grower to establish any person in the wool industry today at the current price of land. One has to commence at the grass roots of the problem. I have always said and believed that the wool grower is just as entitled to his return for his labour as I am for mine, whether I work in the city or not.
The problem in the industry affects not only the wool grower but, as has been said here, every decent country town. Without the wool grower’s cheque how do the country towns live? But the problem not only affects country towns. Recently it was reported in the Press that 200 or 300 employees had been put off from the various rural machinery manufacturing firms. How can one expect wool growers to buy when 1 understand wool is selling at a price lower than that at which it has ever sold before. This amazes me. A few years ago woo) growers were told by the inquiry into the industry, chaired by Mr Justice Cook in New South Wales that those who were selling wool at auction were, to use a phrase of the man in the street, putting it over the wool grower. The Cook inquiry showed that pies were operating. These pies were in collusion in regard to the price they gave the wool grower. The wool grower mildly wants to stick to the old scheme, and to share his profit with the broker and the auctioneer. I ask honourable senators to think of the tremendous amount of wool that this country has produced over the years. To a large extent we have relied on wool. lt is true that our exports have been enhanced by the finding of oil in various States. We have saved a tremendous amount of money by discovering oil here. Of course people are paying more for oil now than before it was discovered. That is one of the greatest jokes the world has known. But still it would be tremendously handy if we ever unfortunately faced the problems of 1941 or 1942 again. Let us hope that that will not happen. It amazes me to think that some of the leaders of the wool industry were against a reserve price scheme. I do not include Sir William Gunn. I understand that when the leaders were fighting against the referendum proposal for a reserve price scheme Sir William fought for it. This is incomprehensible: Wool growers have a report that the auctioneers are putting it over them and that they are in collusion as to price.
It is amazing to think that the Government should carry on in the same way until prices are such that even the farmers protest. However few their numbers may have been here in Canberra, in Melbourne the farmers marched in protest in very large numbers. Whether they have their meetings in Canberra, Melbourne or Jerilderie, they should remember that they are not entitled to get what they believe they should get unless they are prepared to fight for it. The Bill goes only half way towards meeting the problem. How much can the Commission acquire under this Bill? I am told that it will be able to acquire 30 per cent to 40 per cent of the wool clip. I understand that it will be able to acquire that portion of the wool clip that is in small lots. Why do honourable senators opposite not fight to have the Commission acquire the lot? All of the wheat crop is acquired. Why is the .same approach not adopted towards wool?
The overseas countries want our wool. I know that synthetics have worn a great hole in the wool market, but overseas countries still need wool. I have yet to be told that there is a tremendous carry-over from one clip to another. In fact, I am told that the reverse is the position, that there is extremely little carry-over of wool in this country. If I were a wool grower I would say that there is only one thing to do. I would use the phrase that has been used all my life. I would say: ‘Unity is strength’. I would say that the wool growers should get together, have a fair go and get what they believe they are entitled to. I would say that the Government should send its emissaries to New Zealand or to
South Africa. They are the only two countries which can in any way influence the merino wool market. I would ensure that the people who purported to represent me did represent me.
When I asked a question this morning about the Leader of the Country Party (Mr McEwen) saying not very nice things about his Liberal colleagues and their ability to get things done, I heard honourable senators opposite laugh. Mr McEwen said that Country Party Ministers have more power in the Cabinet than they are entitled to have. If I had that power I would ensure that the people whom I represented would not be wanting. If they were, they should do one thing to me, that is. put me where I could not hurt or could not help.
I was fortunate enough to come upon an interesting analysis by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics of the cost of a woollen suit, lt is true that the information is a bit old; it is 7 years old. The cost of producing the greasy wool, the raw wool, the dyeing and recombing of tops, 2 lb of worsted yarn and 3i yards of worsted fabric adds up to only 24.75 per cent of the retail price. No doubt synthetics have made inroads into the wool market, but the people who are supposed to be the custodians of this industry - I refer to the members of the Country Party - have not done anything to protect the wool growers. I trust that the Bill will do all that the Government expects it to do. I am certain that those who will be here in the immediate years to come will need to move important amendments to the legislation. However much Senator Young might believe, in the Bill, he will forget all the nice words he uttered about freedom because he will have to protect his own interests. I understand that he is a wool grower. He will have to say that freedom is all right in theory but that in practice the wool industry needs organisations similar to those in other industries.
The woo! industry is in a fortunate position. Wool is in a different position from that of any other rural commodity. As we were told recently by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson), Australia is facing tremendous troubles in relation to the export of other rural products. If I may digress for a moment. I hope the Government does not take the United Kingdom decision lying down. The Government should consider British preferences too. In this world if one is hit on one side of the face, one should forget the Good Book and should have a go at the other person. That is my attitude. I hope and believe that something can be done for this industry. Any industry that returns about $800m in export income to the nation has to be protected. If we do not protect the industry, I would expect my friend Senator Young to be the loudest in ensuring that his fellow wool growers get what they are entitled to get. No-one wants the world; no-one wants more than his share. If he does, he is foolish. All one wants is a share in the decent things of life. 1 think there is every hope of putting this industry on its feet. I think the Government has to do things that possibly some members of the Country Party would never dream of doing. The Government may have to introduce a reserve price scheme. I know that there are many grades of wool. I have enough faith in the competence of the people in the wool industry to believe that they would be able to fix a reserve price. They would not put themselves out of business. They know as well as I do - possibly better than I do - that they have a very strong competitor in synthetics at the moment. But if a reserve price scheme were introduced, the position would not be as it is at the moment. The wool growers would be better off than the wheat growers and the dairy farmers. Incidentally, the dairy farmer has some tremendous worries awaiting him. The Australian economy cannot alford to subsidise all sections of primary industry. It is costing $29m to subsidise just one primary industry. It is not solving anything to offer a subsidy; it is just putting off the evil day. The wool industry is properly organised. It has had plenty of experience. In previous years it has been able to get rid of more wool than was ever dreamt it would handle. I appreciate that the competition from synthetics was not the problem then that it is today. Even so, wool is a commodity which the world needs. I understand that one-half of the world’s merino clip is grown in Australia.
We should be able to say: ‘This is what we believe is a fair price for our wool’. I remember reading about the Government stepping in not so long ago and demanding better terms in relation to 2 other export industries. One was the wood chip industry. Wood chips were to be exported from Tasmania to Japan. The Government stepped in and told the Japanese - not the people in Tasmania who were interested in the industry - that wood chips could be exported only on condition that a certain price was paid. Those who come from Western Australia know full well that this was also done in the iron ore industry. Fair prices are now being paid for those 2 commodities. I believe that the same thing will have to be done in relation to wool.
The Opposition will be proposing certain amendments to the Bill. It will be doing so because it believes that its amendments will improve the Bill. Whilst most honourable senators on this side of the chamber are not connected with the industry in any way we appreciate its importance to Australia. No doubt I will have a bit more to say when the amendments come before the Senate for consideration.
– Firstly, I wish to commend the Government for its actions in bringing this legislation before the Parliament. Contrary to what has been said by some speakers today, I believe that the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) has done a tremendous job in bringing this legislation before the Parliament this session, even though it is the dying stages of the session. I hope that it will receive prompt royal assent and be put into operation as early as possible. I believe that anybody who is associated in any way with the wool industry has regard for the tremendous energy and capacity of the Minister. We must all pay him a tribute for the tremendous work he has done in this regard.
I have not been present in the chamber for much of the time today, but I have heard some of the Opposition speakers talk about what the industry wants. As one who has been associated with the industry from an organisational point of view over a number of years I believe I can say without qualification that it has never been more united than it is at present. 1 think it is indisputable that its unity will result in the bringing down of worthwhile legislation which will assist in offsetting the disastrous prices which are confronting the industry at present and affecting the economy of this country.
I supported the last referendum in, 1 think, 1965 because I believed that it would assist in bringing stability into the market. I admit that the referendum issue was controversial, but I do not think that there is much controversy about the present situation I believe that everybody - even those who are not directly associated with the industry - feels that it is essential to have some floor in the market in order to restore confidence in this great industry of ours. I was particularly impressed with the reference of the Minister for Primary Industry to the psychology of the selling of our clip. I wish to quote a paragraph from the second reading speech which he made in the other place. He said:
Of equal importance is the confidence which a flexible reserve price system could engender in the market as a whole, particularly in the circumstances we are witnessing today. The psychological factors which operate in such circumstances lead buyers to hold off in bidding for fear that their competitors will obtain wool at a lower price later. In this way the decline in prices feeds upon itself. In situations of this nature there is a great need for a strong holder of wool who is able to exercise a restraining influence against these temporary depressive factors. In such a manner a measure of badly needed confidence can be restored to the market.
In that paragraph the Minister has summed up what I believe is a very important factor in the necessity for bringing this legislation before the Parliament. It is hoped that this legislation and the setting up of the Australian Wool Commission with all that this entails will have some influence upon prices. It is hoped that prices will increase from the present disastrous level.
I do not propose to go through the various provisions of the legislation because others have already done so. However, I would like to deal with a few matters which I think are important. Firstly, I want to say that I am very glad that the legislation will provide for flexibility, as was pointed out by the Minister in his second reading speech. I believe that flexibility is essential at a time when we ate going through great technological changes in the marketing and processing of wool. But we do not want to be too inflexible in marketing, processing and so on. This is why I would oppose straight out acquisition, which I believe Senator Wilkinson said is the policy of the Australian Labor Party. I feel that it would be very danger ous to have an acquisition scheme at this stage. I do not think that there is any movement by the growers themselves within the wool industry for this sort of scheme at present. As I said earlier, we are going through a period of change. An acquisition scheme would not allow us to gain the full benefits which might accrue from the technological changes which are occurring. In this respect I must pay a great tribute to the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation for the work it has done over the last few years on core testing and fibre measuring. I think we can expect with some confidence that before long wool will be sold by specification. In other words, it will be weighed and core tested on arrival al a store. The brokers will then know that they have so many pounds weight of a certain type of wool. This will allow them to offer wool in quantities of pounds weight rather than on an individual basis. I think that this aspect is tremendously important.
In my opinion the Government was wise in keeping its options open and in allowing the grower to sell his wool as he chooses. This will allow the private buyers to operate as they have in the past. I believe that this system has much to commend it. A number of well founded organisations operate in Australia as private buyers. Organisations such as Economic Wool Producers Ltd and private buyers will put the Commission on its mettle in ensuring that wool meets competition in all directions and that all the best scientific methods are used. We must keep in mind the importance of having a viable wool industry. I particularly have in mind diversification which would help to a degree if the wool industry were to go downhill. 1 remind honourable senators and people engaged in primary industry that if that should take place, other industries such as the meat and wheat producing industries would in turn be endangered. A viable wool industry is the key to the rural industries of Australia. Confidence must be restored in the rural industries from all angles - for growers, people in country towns who depend on these rural industries, and the lending institutions which have played a tremendous part over the years and are being strained to a degree by the demands made on them because of disastrous prices for wool.
I think the establishment of the Commission will have some effect in lifting prices, but I would not go so far as to say that it would have a tremendously marked effect. Other aspects must be considered in lifting wool prices even to 35c or 45c per lb as an Australian average. The demand must be increased. The blending of wool with synthetics must be examined in greater depth and in that respect the International Wool Secretariat could play an important part. The IWS and the Government should explore areas in which demand is likely to increase. In a few moments I will cite figures relevant to that issue. They indicate whence increased demand is most likely to come. We must look to the developing countries, particularly in the northern hemisphere. At this stage of development of the less affluent countries, some of them- are not able to afford such amenities as heating in homes and transport as are enjoyed in the more affluent countries. The figures I have on the consumption of wool support that view.
Earlier this week I asked the Minister for Air (Senator Drake-Brockman), who represents the Minister for Primary Industry in the Senate, for information concerning wool stocks held at present. With the concurrence of honourable senators, I incorporate those figures in Hansard.
From those figures it seems that stocks are higher than usual, but not so high as to be a danger to wool’s prospects. Honourable senators will note that a considerable amount of wool is held in Australia. The position is a little obscure because the quantities that have not been placed on the market or are held in brokers’ stores are not known. There has been a falling off in Australian sales and stocks held at present are higher than normal. However, overall there is not much to be frightened of in respect of world stocks.
The picture on the consumption side is more heartening. If my assumptions are correct the picture is encouraging. I read in the Press some figures on wool consumption for last year and the year before. They present a hopeful picture. Today I checked them with the Department of Primary Industry, where they originated. Because they are so encouraging I checked to ensure that they are correct. With the concurrence of honourable senators I incorporate the article in Hansard.
WORLD USING MORE WOOL
In the 6 months January to June 1970, Australia lifted its consumption of virgin wool by 3 per cent to 37 million lb, clean, from 35.8 million lb in the corresponding 6 months of 1969.
Japan also increased consumption by 3 per cent - from 208.6 million lb scoured, to 215.7 million lb.
France showed an increase in the period of 2 per cent (148.2 million lb to 151.7 million lb), and Belgium an increase of 1 per cent (48 million lb to 48.3 million lb).
All other countries listed by the marketing division of the Department of Primary Industry in its latest Wool Notes show decreases in their virgin wool consumption in the relative 6 monthly periods.
Italy had a decrease of 6 per cent, Netherlands 13 per cent, United Kingdom 11 per cent, United States of America 19 per cent and Germany 8 per cent.
The latest world consumption figure quoted by the department is 3,531 million lb in 1969 compared with 2,449 million lb in 1968.
Whilst there has been a slight increase in consumption in a few countries - Australia, Japan, France and Belgium - in other countries consumption has fallen considerably. I refer, for instance, to Italy, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, the United States of America and Germany.
– In the more affluent countries.
– That is so. In those countries people are better able to afford heating in their homes and transport. They do not require as much wool for clothing as previously. That is why we should be trying to sell more wool to the less affluent countries, even to the extent of extending them credit and to negotiating trade agreements and arrangements. If necessary the Commission will be able to negotiate sales of the lower grades of wool which it may not be able to sell to advantage by the auction system. It would be assisted by the low cost factor in processing. There would appear to be some advantage to Australia in that respect.
The article I have had incorporated in Hansard shows that consumption rose by about 1,100 million lb or by nearly onethird for the year ended December 1969. According to the Department of Primary Industry the calendar year was used for the figures. Because of the bad trading position in Europe at present, and other factors, the rise in wool consumption may have slackened since the figures were taken out. However, they give some hope that the demand is there. The trouble lies with the low prices we are receiving. I think this has been brought about largely through the competition of synthetic fibres. It is tremendously important that we try to stimulate demand in other countries.
To me it is essential that we restore profitability to the industry. I cannot see any industry operating for any length of time unless profitability is restored, and it can be restored only by lifting the price and creating the demand. Conversely, I have no faith in trying to lift the price, except temporarily of course, by way of subsidy. In the end a subsidy would beat us. The only way in which we can hope to restore the industry is through the activities of the Australian Wool Commission in selling our wool, putting a bottom in the market, being able to offer our wool to the buyers in a better way than we are doing at present and by taking full advantage of the scientific knowledge that we have. We should concentrate on those aspects in our efforts to restore profitability to the industry.
I do not propose to speak at great length but I should like to refer briefly to 2 or 3 other matters. The first is the need for quality wool. Wool is produced in many areas of the world but it is not of the quality of the wool which can be produced in Australia. The emphasis must be on improving the quality of our wool irrespective of whether it be of the finer type or of the broader type. I think that we can succeed in this regard when the Commission takes over to ensure that the wool is properly classed and prepared, and when we become better accustomed to core testing.
The second point to which I wish to refer relates to the managerial side of the Commission. As one who has been associated with the industry for a long time I am definitely opposed to grower control. It is right, as is proposed, that there should be at least 2 growers of the 7 members of the Commission. We need on the Commission men who have been proved in trade and commerce because the wool industry is Australia’s biggest business and I do not think that growers, with perhaps odd exceptions, are sufficiently qualified to run a Commission of the magnitude and importance of the proposed body.
– Would you have any objection to 1 of the other 5 being a man with the background of a representative of Dalgety’s?
– You are talking now about a particular firm.
– Or any such firm?
– There may be some advantage in that but I would want to know about the man who would be selected. The honourable senator has selected a wool broker. Perhaps we may want a wool broker. However, I would like to look at that aspect before committing myself. World trade is of tremendous importance and only men of experience can give the best help to the Commission in this regard. This is big business and you need people who have a knowledge of shipping and international trade. I would not spell out who the other members of the Commission would be but I would urge that the Commission not be grower controlled, one reason being that pressure from the growers would be too strong and to the disadvantage of the industry. I have lived a long time with the industry and I know that there would always be pressure on those who came from grower organisations. In saying that I am not speaking in any derogatory way of the growers. I have been associated with them for many years and although they have wonderful qualities I think they generally lack experience in this regard.
I refer now to Sir John Crawford, the man whom the Minister said was of tremendous help to the industry. In my opinion a better man could not have been selected to give advice. He was associated closely with the Australian Wool Industry Conference. Not only has he an exceptional background in the wool industry but he also is intensely interested in it and has assisted it greatly over the years.
I very much regret that the Australian Wool Commission will not have power to negotiate directly in the matter of shipping rates. I have spoken on this subject in this place on more than one occasion. I am not at all satisfied that the Government’s involvement in international shipping and conference lines has been in the interests of the wool growers. I direct attention to the report of the Senate Select Committee on the Container Method of Handling Cargoes. We were not required to deal specifically with the cost of shipments of wool but I do not think that the trend 1 have mentioned has been beneficial to the wool growers.
I am even more convinced of that now than I was a couple of years ago. I think the Commission should have been empowered to negotiate the shipping rates which would affect the price of wool when sold at a price inclusive of cost, insurance and freight, in order to gam the greatest advantage. I congratulate the Government on the establishment of the Australian Wool Commission. I am confident that it will bring stability into the industry in the future and set the machinery in motion to take advantage of the new procedures which are likely to be used in the selling of our clip in the next few years.
– In a valuable contribution to the debate Senator Bull made the point, amongst many others, that the wool industry has never been more united than it is today. The industry is united but unfortunately it has had to reach one of the lowest points in its history to become united. It is a great pity that over the years many attempts to get the wool growers to unite have failed. Senator Bull mentioned that the Government needed a psychology for selling the clip. It also needs a special psychology to understand the wool grower. By the very nature of his calling he is separated by distance from his neighbour. He has to be very resourceful and able to turn his hand to anything that arises on his property. Further, he is isolated to the extent that he has to make his own decisions. In many ways he becomes slightly different from the ordinary member of an urban community.
The point can be well made that the wool growers at long last have united. It is of interest that one of the methods that was used to unite the wool growers was to get them into the streets to march. I did not think I would ever see the day when wool growers would be so incensed by what they saw facing them and by their disillusionment after 20 years experience of a Government which had promised them all sorts of things by way of financial stability and had broken its promises. The Government had broken its promise to put value back into the £1. It had assured wool growers that if their contributed towards a wool promotion scheme many of the problems of the industry would be solved. Finally, they reached the stage where their belief in the Government could no longer be sustained and they went out and marched in the streets. That has brought quite a reward to them because this legislation is the first glimmer of hope that we have had, other than in wartime, of a properly organised wool industry.
Senator Bull spoke about having some sort of floor in the market. It is my view that we will never have sufficient funds to keep a floor in the wool market as long as the other end is open under the auction system of selling wool. The importance of having a viable wool industry is obvious to us all. Its position in our economy and the contribution that it makes to our export markets and our balance of trade are of tremendous importance. Keeping the industry viable and maintaining the faith of the people in the industry in their ability to continue producing as economically as they possibly can are of great importance and are the reason for the introduction of this legislation.
It is a great pity that the Government has left it until so late in the parliamentary session to introduce this important legislation. The Bill is designed to set up the Australian Wool Commission which in turn is designed at a very late stage to rescue the wool industry, which the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen) has described as being in a disastrous condition. The situation is no credit to the Government, which has been kept in office for such a long time by members of the Country Party. I mention them specifically because Senator Young, during his remarks, kept expressing surprise that the
Opposition had been accusing members of the Government parties of trying to make political mileage out of this legislation.
The point we have been making all along is that the government has waited until the last possible moment before a Senate election to introduce this legislation, whereas it could have done so at any time during the period since 1959, when recommendations were made. The referendum that was held in 1965 and the other attempts that were made during that period to introduce some sort of stability into the industry did not meet with any success. So, we are quite entitled to charge Government senators, including Senator Young, with making as much political mileage out of this legislation as they can.
The situation has developed to the stage where the confidence, financial standing and morale of people in the wool growing industry are even worse than they were in the years of the depression. When the average price of wool was 8d per lb in the worst of the depression years the costs of commodities needed to carry on wool growing were also low. Everyone was in the same boat. But today the wool grower is living in a so-called affluent society in which he sees the people associated with the mining industry, those operating on the stock exchanges and those in other fields of industry and distribution, including retailing, sharing in the affluence while he is the forgotten man in the community. He has very little chance of diversifying. He cannot sell his property. In addition - I will develop this point later - he cannot be absolutely assured that even this instalment of assistance will be able to restore his morale and restore him to his previous financial position in the community.
This legislation can be likened to a blood transfusion given to keep the patient alive pending the diagnosis. The big problem that faces the whole of this industry, apart from the immediate problem of being able to dispose of its product, is to find out where the wool industry stands in relation to other primary industries and whether it will have to go through the process through which they have had to go. In the wheat industry quotas have been introduced. The dairy industry has reached saturation point and is being restructured. All the other seg ments of primary industry have had to undergo similar processes. They have had to get right down to bedrock and find out the cause of the problem. I am sure that that has to be done in the wool industry. This restructuring may well be a drawn out. process. But it is something that has to be tackled.
Over the years I have warned members of the Government parties in this chamber of the consequences of their policy of allowing prices to spiral. Those consequences have now caught up with the wool industry with a vengence But still, in my view, no attempt is made by the Government to neutralise in any way whatever the very adverse effects of continuing inflation. In some other industries the wave can be ridden by increasing prices because they have a captive market. So, the consumers in the society continually have to put their hands deeper into their pockets to meet the increasing costs of commodities. The arbitration court then reviews the price spiral situation and makes adjustments to wages. This process is going on all the time. It allows people in other branches of commerce and industry to adjust themselves as the inflation continues. But that does not happen in the primary industries, particularly the wool industry.
Government senators are looking for excuses as to why the wool industry has come to its present sorry state. One of the worst features of this industry is that there can be no stability for it while there is such an array of people associated with it and even living off it to their advantage and to the disadvantage of those who are actually growing the wool. The sticking plaster that is being placed over the basic sore from which the industry is suffering is giving only temporary respite and eventually will turn out to be just a victory for the buyers, the brokers, the bankers and the merchants.
The $130m that the Government is providing, in the first place, to try to build up the capacity of the industry to continue to operate is a big contribution. It will come from the taxpayers in this country. The ordinary man in the street will contribute to that fund. I believe that the taxpayer is quite willing to make that contribution, provided we obtain the best value for it. As I see the situation, we are assuring that the auction system will continue. No provision is being made to ensure that collusive buying, pies and the like are noi continued. If we just bolster up the floor price I cannot see, however long we have the auction system, how we will prevent collusive purchasing. lt has been mentioned during the course of this debate that collusive tendering is part of the Japanese policy of selective buying. Surely people as highly organised economically as the Japanese are will no! allow their buyers to compete in a market which is a buyers’ market. The wood chip industry in Tasmania was mentioned earlier by Senator Kennelly. This is a lew industry which is growing and expanding. It is one in which the Japanese are very interested. The Japanese said that they had a bone dry price for our wood chips. That was their set price. The Treasury and the Department of Trade and Industry believed that the Japanese were driving too hard a bargain. The Japanese were prepared to walk out of negotiations because it suited their economy to buy at this tower price because then they could play the price of our wood chips against the cost of wood chips that they could purchase elsewhere. This illustrates that we. will not influence people who have highly sophisticated methods of purchasing. I refer not only to the Japanese but also to continental buyers who come to Australia who go through the process of appearing to bid and yet are buying wool that costs so much to produce at a price that »s uneconomic to the wool grower himself. The industry could not be in a worse plight than it is in today. It certainly needs this shot in the arm.
I have mentioned already that the reasons for the low prices that are prevailing are not hard to deduce. No pricing structure other nian those fixed by highly organised buyers is available. It will be an open ended process where, virtually, the Treasury has opened up its doors. If honourable senators look at the legislation they will see that the Commission is treated most generously. To get this scheme afloat, the Commission has been given directions to put some sort of underpinning under the industry and whatever the costs are they will be met. I believe that men will be selected who will do the job as economically as possible. Nevertheless, this indicates the very serious situation in which the wool industry finds itself.
It has been said quite rightly that the future of the wool industry and wool growers is at stake. The viability of rural towns is up for decision. The employment of a vast number of people who are living outside city areas and who are rearing families has been put into a state of uncertainty by this depression in the price paid for wool which has spread through the wool industry. On top of the drought and other hazards that the industry has had to face recently, depressed wool prices have been a very heavy blow and a heavy burden for the wool grower to bear.
It can be said - this is a little note of confidence - that this legislation can lay the foundations for a progressive and viable wool scheme. I believe that it will not be long before a change of Government occurs and a marketing scheme will be introduced in which the grower will know that, if he produces a commodity of quality, he will be given every encouragement to introduce into the production of that commodity all the advances that science can bring to the industry. Different- processes that are used in getting wool to the market, such as handling it some 85 times between the farm and the ship, will be approached in a better way in the overall scheme which a Labor Government will introduce. We will introduce a comprehensive and viable wool selling scheme that will give to the wool grower a good future in which he will be able to reap the rewards of his labours.
We believe that our plan will restore confidence to the wool growers. I believe that our wool growers have completely lost confidence in the Government of this country. Wool growers want something that will last longer than the palliative provided by this legislation with its restrictions. The fact is that this is more of a temporary makeshift measure than a continuing long range plan. The wool growers will find that they will have the answer not only in the near future but also that in 1972 they will have the chance to get a new deal from the Commonwealth Government.
I wish to deal with 2 or 3 of the things that I believe are necessary. This organisation either will have to obtain power to implement them or a complete rearrangement of the provisions of this legislation will be necessary. Senator Bull mentioned his disappointment that Australia could not make arrangements for the transport of its wool fo its overseas markets by Australian ships. We have had the opportunity before to do this. What has happened? Instead of the Austalian National Line being able to follow its own policy and its own course, it has joined the Conference lines, it is now a case of Tweedledum and Tweedledee. For years and years the Australian wool industry has been subject to the dictates of the international shipping Conference. Now our own shipping organisation has joined that Conference. What advantage will this bring? What influence could the Australian Wool Commission have on such a very strongly entrenched monopoly as the international shipping Conference? This in my view is one of the most important matters that must be rearranged in the wool industry.
The same importance applies to presale testing or core testing which was mentioned earlier. No doubt exists that a commodity such as wool, particularly high quality wool which is unobtainable in other parts of the world, should be presented economically but, as attractively and as efficiently as possible. Yet, many of the methods that are used in shearing sheds today have obtained there for 100 years. Senator Young spoke of the registration of classers. But the classer who goes out into the shearing shed with the shearing team has not the facilities to do this work. He is in the middle of the shearing and shearing is one of the most active industries. From the time the commencement bell goes in the morning until the shearers knock off at night, the work is a continuous rush. Each man is going as fast as he possibly can to keep up with the next man. The pace is set by the shearer. The shearer has to compete not only with his fellow shearers but also with the award wage. So it goes on right throughout the shed. The wool classer day by day. handles his side of the job. It is impossible for a wool classer who at times must class 1,500 or even more fleeces a day to do his job so that the end product is of such a standard as to satisfy the most sophisticated buyers of fine or medium quality wool on the continental market, including the Italians and the Germans.
Other things need to be streamlined. I believe that this Commission will need to play its role and, if necessary, obtain extra authority in the matter of the auction system itself. I have mentioned this before, but 1 believe it will have to step in to make certain that the competition is not organised. Many people in this day and age are just idealists if they think that any country which is well enough organised to buy on world markets is going to allow individuals from that country to compete with ODe another. 1 believe it is the brokers who will get the full benefit of this scheme. Wool growers have been facing up to enormous problems, such as declining prices, increases in interest rates, increased costs for shire and council rates as well as increased freights. The grower has been relieved of these things temporarily. On the other hand the broker will have the benefit of the price being underpinned. He gets his commission no matter what happens. His position is assured and he does not have to worry about the plight of the wool growers. 1 believe that the Commission should go into the broking business and take it over. That is one of the best contributions that we could make to the future of the industry.
The Commission has in front of it the overall problem of the competition we are meeting from synthetics. There is no doubt that the production technique of synthetics has developed enormously over the last 20 years. However, wool fibre does have special qualities which will allow it not only to compete with, but beat, synthetics if all the other factors along the line of wool production are looked into.
We of the Opposition wish the Commission well. We hope it will lay a groundwork on which a better scheme can be built, one which will enable wool growers to get the best possible return. I refer to a scheme which will handle wool from the woof sheds right along the line to the ship and eventually to the world markets - a single wool selling authority. I think that many wool growers throughout Australia believed that the Commission was to be a single wool selling authority. However, under the terras of this Bill, it will merely be an agent to make certain that the wool brokers, the bankers and the other merchants get their slice of the cake as usual. We can only hope that the Commission does what the Government claims it will do. We hope that the tide will turn for the wool grower, because he has been going through such a bad time. A man who works as hard and as long as the ordinary man on the land deserves a much better, fate than he is suffering at the moment. The Opposition gives its imprimatur to this legislation. We propose to move some amendments during the Committee stage. We hope that the future condition of the wool industry will be much brighter than its present condition. If this legislation can help, then 1 am right behind it and I support it.
– The Senate is debating a Bill which is to establish a statutory body known as the Australian Wool Commission. The Commission is to be empowered to operate a flexible reserve price scheme for wool sold at auction and to perform a number of other functions relating to the wool clip, aimed at improving the marketing of Australian wool. When we talk of marketing we have to consider it in a much wider sphere than just the physical selling of wool. We must consider it firstly in the light of the preparation and handling of the wool which is to be sold, its transportation and the use of scientific and technological aids to increase the efficiency of the marketing process.
Some speakers in this debate seemed to adopt the attitude that bringing this Bill into this place and setting up the Australian Wool Commission is the be-all and end-all of this operation. The marketing requirements which will be created by this Bill must be considered along with other measures being pursued as a a matter of urgency by the Government. I refer to such things as debt reconstruction and farm adjustment. We also have to consider the setting up of complex wool villages and so on. This Bill represents only a part of the overall operation being carried out by the Government in an endeavour to assist the wool industry during its difficult times.
The presentation of this Bill marks for some honourable senators the close of a long period during which we have been involved in marketing problems. I refer to Senator Young, Senator Bull and myself. Those years have been most trying and frustrating. I remember making my maiden speech in this House during which I referred to the establishment of a reserve price scheme. I suggested, as was suggested today, that New Zealand and South Africa should work in co-operation with us. The wool industry has been, and still is, a great industry despite the fact that it is has very deep problems at present. It supplies a considerable amount of our export earnings and, as other honourable senators have said today, it plays a very important role in country areas because it holds people to those outback areas and gives them a livelihood. This assists in decentralising the population. But the industry has problems, and some of the answers have been found.
I think some honourable senators went a little further in this debate than merely talking about the establishment and operation of the Australian Wool Commission. Most of them had something to say about what they thought should be done with the wool industry. Strangely enough, a number of the things referred to have already been done. 1 would like to refer to some of these things. The Government has been blamed for doing nothing until this time, lt was suggested that it has taken this action only because a Senate election is to be held in the near future.
Some honourable senators who spoke in this debate referred to what happened back in 1965. An odd one or two went back to 1964. But let us turn our minds back to 1950. Senator Cant said that if the Government in 1950 had accepted the offer of the American Government we would have got 100d per lb for our wool. He was talking about the pre-emption days when America, through the International Materials Conference in 1950, suggested that wool auctions should be suspended and replaced by a scheme involving international allocation of wool with an internationally agreed price ceiling imposed on wool exporting countries. In other words. America was saying to other countries: We will come in and get your wool. We will take what we want and we will give you 10Od per lb for it. You can sell the wool we do not want to someone else for the best price you can get.’ The Government would not accept that proposition. We told America that if she wanted our wool she had to come and buy it on the market here in Australia. The result was that after the outbreak of the Korean War we did not get 10Od per lb, Senator Cant; many woolgrowers got up to 240d per lb. Senator Cant said that we should have accepted that offer then and given away all the opportunities and price rises obtained since.
I will now refer to 1951. Honourable senators said this afternoon that this Government should have set up a reserve price plan. They said that the Government should have had a scheme under which Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, which were the biggest wool producers in the world, could have got together and done something about stabilising the price. In 1951 the Government offered the wool growers of Australia a reserve price plan. This was a joint scheme between Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and the United Kingdom and it involved formal agreements between the four governments. Not only did we offer the wool growers that plan but we offered them a fixed floor price to be determined at the beginning of each season and not to be altered during the season except in exceptional circumstances. Honourable senators opposite have said that the Government should be doing this now, but we offered this scheme to the wool industry in 1951 and the industry would not accept it. The proposal was rejected by a 4 to 1 vote. We even offered wool growers a backing of approximately £Stg66m at that lime, but still they would not accept it.
In 1960 economic measures were introduced because the wool industry, and the rural community generally, said that prices were starting to get away from them, that costs were increasing. The Government introduced some economic measures which cost the Government dearly, but for some years afterwards these had a stabilising effect on prices. Yet the Opposition says that the Government has done nothing. In 1960, because of increasing costs and poorer wool prices, the Government set up the Philp Committee to inquire into the wool industry. This Committee reported that because the industry had spoken with two voices, and no-one of any real authority had a voice in the industry, the industry should have a voice of its own. It suggested the Australian Wool Industry Conference as that voice. The set-up was altered and the Australian Wool Bureau became the Australian Wool Board.
The Board established certain committees, one of which was a marketing committee to examine marketing and to make suggestions about what the Government should do. This committee got to work, lt worked intensely over the years and came forward just before 1965 with a suggestion for a reserve price scheme. The Government examined the suggestion and said ih.it because New Zealand and South Africa were already operating their own schemes the plan would apply only to Australian wool. Like the 1951 plan, it was to provide a fixed reserve price. Finance was to be provided by the wool growers to the extent of $60m and by the trading banks to the extent of $ 1.00m. On top of that the Commonwealth Government was to guarantee to provide any additional money that was needed. When it was put to a vole the growers said: ‘No, we do not want if. This was the fourth time that the Government stepped in and took action on behalf of the wool growers.
Today we have been told that we have introduced this legislation because a Senate election is imminent. Let me remind the Senate of what has happened. In January of this year it was announced that a committee would be established to advise the Wool Board. This was at a time when the average price for wool was 39.67c per lb and at a time when the Australian Labor Party was keeping very quiet about the price of wool - when it was not saying a word about increased costs. On 6th March it was announced that the Advisory Committee of the Australian Wool Board would be established with certain personnel to serve on it. That Committee set to work and finally produced a report to the Wool Board on 6th July. The Wool Board went along with the report, met the two Federal organisations and discussed the report with them. Then there was a meeting of the Wool Industry Conference. Finally these two Federal bodies and the Australian Wool Industry Conference presented their recommendations to the Government on 7th July. The Government’s decision, together with the Crawford report, was considered and accepted by the Wool Industry Conference on 14th October, and last Tuesday this Bill was introduced into the Parliament That is the background to this Bill which the Opposition claims the Government has introduced in a hurry in an attempt to gain some votes at the Senate election. I shall not trace all the ins and outs of the Bill. This was done very well in the second reading speech of the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony), but I should like, quickly, to make a few comments on some of the matters raised by honourable senators during the course of this debate.
First, I refer to the remarks of Senator Wilkinson who opened the debate for the Opposition. He claimed that this scheme was simply a continuation of the price averaging plan. All I can say in reply is that the honourable senator cannot have looked closely at the Bill if he thinks that. The reason for setting up the Commission, its powers and functions, are stated clearly in the Bill and have been elaborated in the Minister’s second reading speech. The Commission’s main function is to operate a flexible reserve price scheme for wool sold at auction. All growers will, therefore, be protected by the reserve price scheme because the results of it must flow to those who sell wool privately. The honourable senator referred to what he regarded as one of the faults of the Commission. He complained that it was not a single body designed to acquire, appraise and market wool, lt is not, and that is not what the industry sought. By the industry, of course, [ mean the Australian Woolgrowers and Graziers Council, the Australian Wool and Meat Producers Federation and the Australian Wool Industry Conference. The Advisory Committee of the Wool Board, and the Wool Board itself, have had a hand in the mix. The word ‘single’ was used by the industry initially, but it really was a misuse of the word as can be seen from the Minister’s second reading speech. Next the honourable senator spoke about the composition of the Commission and said that the Australian Labor Party wanted a majority of wool growers on it. The reason for the Commission’s small composition is set out in the second reading speech.
– I did not say that these were our contentions. These were the wool industry’s wishes.
– I accept that. It is essential to have the necessary skills and expertise on the Commission. I think this would be recognised. It must be a small and efficient body. The honourable senator gave me the impression that the 3 members of the Commission with special qualifications would be brokers and buyers. The members can be drawn from a very wide field as sub-clause (4.) of clause 7 of the Bill indicates. Every endeavour will be made to obtain the widest range of skill. The honourable senator said also that a member of the Commission could be sacked if he disagreed with the Minister, but this is not so. I understand that a member can be. dismissed only because of misbehaviour or for physical or mental incapacity.
I must make 1 reference to Senator Douglas Scott. His contribution was a very fine and well reasoned speech, particularly for a new senator who is making only his second or third speech in this place. An honourable senator raised the question of promotion of blends. I understand that this question is to be examined in depth at the International Wool Secretariat meeting at Pretoria, South Africa, commencing on 9th November this year. Senator Milliner gave the impression that a drop in wool prices can be due only to collusion between buyers. I understand that a drop in prices can be due to a number of factors, such as the economic conditions applying in major wool consuming countries, the level of activity in the wool textile industry, the fiscal and monetary policies followed by governments in overseas countries, and competition from synthetic fibres. All these, when taken together or singly, have quite an impact on the price of wool.
Finally I should like to comment on Senator Kennelly’s remarks. The honourable senator talked about co-operation with New Zealand and South Africa. Provision is made in clause 18 (1.) of the Bill for co-operation with authorities and organisations in other countries with respect to measures aimed at the more efficient marketing of wool. Again I thank honourable senators for their contributions to the debate. I am very glad to see that the Opposition is supporting the Bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Sitting suspended from 5.57 to 8 p.m.
Clauses 1 to 10 - by leave - taken together.
-I want to invite attention to clause 4, which sets out the objects of the Australian Wool Commission, because during the debate this afternoon some honourable senators on the opposite side of the chamber talked about the Commission being able to enter into the manufacturing industry, particularly with respect to tops. Clause 4 sets out the object of the Commission as follows: . . to promote trade and commerce with other countries and among the States in Australian wool to the advantage of Australian wool growers and the Australian economy by means directed to encouraging and facilitating the purchase of Australian wool for the purposes of, or in the course of, that trade and commerce, and at the same time securing, in respect of wool purchased for the purposes of, or in the course of. that trade and commerce, prices that are not subjectto undue fluctuation or irregularity and are at levels appropriate to the competitive position of wool in world markets.
So the only object the Wool Commission will have will be to promote Australian wool at prices that are not subject to undue fluctuation or irregularity and at levels appropriate to the competitive position of wool in world markets. Subclause (2.) of clause 4 limits the Commission to that object. It states:
The Commission shall not perform its functions or exercise its powers except for the purpose of achieving the object specified in the last preceding sub-section or for another purpose in respect of which the Parliament has power to make laws.
So the Commission will be limited to the object that is set out in clause 4(1.), and it may not enter into any other matter for which the Parliament has power to make laws. The discussion we had this afternoon about the Commission being able to enter into the manufacturing industry was misleading in view of the objects as stated in clause 4. Therefore I ask the Minister for Air (Senator Drake-Brockman) whether he can explain how the Commission could enter into the manufacturing industry under those objects, because, as I have stated, sub-clause (2.) of clause 4 provides that the Commission may not go further than the object stated in clause 4(1.).
– I was about to move onto clause 7, butI do not want to do that if we have not finished dealing with clause 4 or if someone else wants to deal with clauses 5 and 6.I do not want to leave the matter raised by Senator Cant unanswered by the Minister.I am hoping that the Minister may be able to give us a reply beforeI open up a different subject.I will want an answer to my question too. I would like to go on to clause 7, but perhaps the Minister is ready to give a reply to Senator Cant now.
– In answer to Senator Cant, I point out that the Australian Wool Commission, having brought the wool in, will then have the power to dispose of it.If the honourable senator turns to page 7 of the Bill and looks at part III, particularly clause 18(1.) (g) he will see that one of the functions and powers of the Commission is as follows: to make arrangements for the sale, otherwise than at auction, of wool received by a broker for sale at auction that the Commission considers cannot advantageously be offered for sale at auction and for the processing of any such wool before sale;
That is the information I can give to Senator Cant at the moment.
– I have read the functions of the Commission set out in partIII of the Bill. I think that many of the matters that are mentioned in partIII, with which I shall deal later, are beyond the powers of the Commission, because the powers of the Commission are set out in another clause further on in the Bill. But in any case subclause (2.) of clause 4 creates a complete estoppel on the Commission performing a function if it is beyond the objects of the Commission or in respect of a matter in relation to which the Parliament can pass laws, and of course the Parliament cannot pass laws with respect to the manufacturing industry. It may be able to make funds available to a State to enter manufacturing. The Commonwealth can of course in the Territories perform the function of manufacturing, but not throughout Australia generally. I suspect that subclause (g) of clause 18(1.), to which the
Minister referred, sets out a function that is beyond the objects of the Commission as set out in clause 4.
– Possibly we could delete the last line.
– I do not think deleting the last line would cure the position, because the objects of the Commission are limited to promoting the sale of wool and to securing prices not subject to undue fluctuations or irregularity and at levels appropriate to the competitive position of wool in the world markets.
– 1 am advised that once the Commission has bought the wool it must get rid of the wool. This is not inconsistent with that purpose. If the Commission wants to process the wool because it thinks this would be the best way of getting rid of that wool, it can do so.
– I wish to speak on clause 4 in support of the contention that has been propounded by my colleague Senator Cant. As I understand the Minister, he seemed to suggest that the ability of the Commission to engage in the manufacturing of wool, as was suggested in some of the speeches made by Government members during the debate on the motion for the second reading this afternoon, stems from the last phrase in sub-clause (g) of clause 18(1.). That sub-clause slates that the functions of the Commission are: to make arrangements for the sate, otherwise than at auction, of wool received by a broker for sale at auction that the Commission consider cannot advantageously be offered for sale at auction and for the processing of any such wool before sale;
That is one of the functions of the Commission. But if one turns to clause 4 (2.) of the Bill, it states:
The Commission shall not perform its functions or exercise its powers except for the purpose of achieving the object specified in the last preceding sub-section . .
But nowhere in the preceding sub-section does it say anything about the manufacture or processing of wool. Indeed, the object of the clause is: to promote trade and commerce with other countries and among (be States in Australian wool to the advantage of Australian wool growers and the Australian economy by means directed to encouraging the facilitating and purchase of Australian wool for the purposes of, or in the course of, that trade and commerce, and at the same time securing, in respect of wool purchased for the purposes of, or in the course of, that trade and commerce, prices that are not subject to undue fluctuation or irregularity and are at levels appropriate to the competitive position of wool in world markets.
In the exercise of the powers of the Commission, I would think that the last phrase in clause 18 (1.) (g) is completely outside the objects stated in clause 4.
– If the honourable senator understands the position to be otherwise, he can explain it. I am simply saying that is my belief. I do not think the Minister has as yet satisfactorily answered the query raised by Senator Cant. Clause 21 sets out the Commission’s powers. Nowhere there do I see anything about engaging in the act of manufacture or processing. It states that the Commission has power to do a number of things - to inspect and appraise wool, to buy wool, to sell wool, to appoint agents, to make arrangements and agreements with persons, to obtain market intelligence, to operate a wool statistical service and to acquire and dispose of property or rights in respect of land or buildings. Therefore I think the Minister has to give a much better explanation of the point raised by my colleague, Senator Cant.
– Senator Cant, supported by Senator McClelland, has referred to clause 4, which expresses the objects of the Act. The purpose of the clause is to put right at the forefront of the statute a statement of the objects of this Parliament so as to make the general Act and its objectives conform to the constitutional powers of this Parliament. We have no power over the general manufacture of any product, and certainly no power over the general manufacture of wool within Australia. But the Parliament has power in relation to trade and commerce between the States and overseas. The purpose of clause 4 is to confine the objects of the Act to our constitutional power. Having that as our objective, when the Commission is authorised to buy wool it is under clause 18(l.)(g) to which my colleague, Senator Drake-Brockman, referred. Under that clause the Commission, as part of its functions, is authorised: to make arrangements for the sale, otherwise than at auction, of wool received by a broker for sale at auction that the Commission considers cannot advantageously be offered for sale at auction and for the processing of any such wool before sale;
The processing of the wool is incidental to its presentation the more advantageously to be sold for the purpose of interstate and overseas trade. The two things are perfectly synthesised in that respect. It is quite important that we should express our statutes so as to conform with the constitutional limitations. Clause 4, therefore, is an expression introduced by the Draftsman as to the objects of the Act so as to ensure that the courts will not interpret the Act as an attempt to go beyond the proper constitutional powers that this Parliament has, those powers not enabling us in any way to regulate, prohibit or promote the manufacture of wool within Australia, but being limited to trade and commerce in wool among the Slates and overseas. Therefore we limit the objects of the Act to that particular constitutional purpose but, of course, indicate under paragraph (g) that it is a function of the Commission, if it thinks it is advantageous to the trade and commerce of wool overseas, to process it in any form that makes it more advantageous to market.
– I might be able to clear up this matter. Although I am in some agreement with the remarks of my friend and colleague, 1 do not think Senator Wright has quite given the explanation that we are looking for. Perhaps this is the correct explanation: Clause 18 (t.) (g) provides that this Commission will have power: to make arrangements for the sale, . . . and for the processing. . . . lt we leave out all the words in between, I think we will find that this is what is intended - that the Commission can make arrangements for the sale of wool and it can make arrangements for its processing.
– For he purpose of that sale.
– I think the viewpoint expressed by Senator Wright was given some strength by the remarks of Senator Wilkinson. Clause 7(4.) sets out the members who shall constitute the Commission. Obviously the Commission will have in its membership men with a great number of skills. That sub-section reads:
A member referred to in paragraph (d) of subsection (1.) of this section shall be a person specially qualified for appointment by reason of experience in the marketing of wool or wool products, in the processing of wool or in lbc manufacture of wool products. . . .
That sub-clause seems to me to reinforce the views expressed by both honourable senators.
– 1 can fully appreciate the argument advanced by Senator Wright as to clause 4 being within die constitutional ambit of the Commonwealth Parliament. Paragraph (g) of clause 18 (1.) does make some sense if read in this way: to make arrangements for the sale … of wool received by a broker for sate at auction that the Commission considers cannot advantageously be offered for sale at auction and for the processing of any such wool before sale.
The query I raise now is this: As the objects of the Bill are limited to the Constitution, and as the Commonwealth Government has no power with respect to manufacturing, does this require an arrangement with the States? If it requires an arrangement with the States, has there been any negotiation with the States? Have there been any attempts to make an arrangement with the States for that purpose?
– Under clause 1 8 (1 .) (g) if wool comes in for sale and it is dusty or burry or carrying a good deal of condition - in other words, if it is a type of wool that is not moving in the market - the Commission could have it processed so that it is cleaned before being offered for sale. It does not need any amendment or agreement with the States to do that.
– At whose cost is that?
– The cost of that is borne by the Commission.
– Following the explanation given by the Minister that the Commission has
Australian Wool authority to clean wool that may be burry, dusty or carrying a lot of condition, I ask whether the Commission would be able to set up scouring facilities and engage in top making. It has been my view that one of the failures of our industry is that we have sent our basic product overseas in its rawest form, paying the highest freight rates for sending burrs, dust, dags and lanoline overseas. We have not been getting any value at all from that. The cost of freight has lessened the value of the commodity overseas. If this industry is to be properly organised, in view of the fact that we cannot manufacture for the world’s markets, at least we should prepare our wool so that it is in its best possible state when it is placed on overseas markets. I ask the Minister whether there is provision in this Bill for the Commission to set up facilities for top making, scouring and the like.
– As Senator O’ Byrne has said, the aim is to get our wool on the market in its best condition. That is one of the objectives of the Commission. There is nothing to slop the Commission if it is getting a tremendous amount of poor quality, dusty, burry wool–
– Short, dirty wool.
– You can call it what you like. There is nothing to stop the Commission from setting up these facilities. But it is not the intention at the present time. If the requirement is there at a later stage when the Commission is operating no doubt those in authority will have a look at this. But the present intention is to send wool which needs treatment to those plants that are already established and the charge will then be against the Commission.
– Clause 7 deals with the membership of the Commission. When I spoke in the second reading debate 1 expressed some diffidence about the membership. Since I have spoken there have been a number of speakers from the Government benches who have claimed that this was a very good representation. Therefore, I want to ask the Minister what his altitude is to this provision. We are supposed to be considering a Bill which will be to the advantage of the wool grower.
Commission Bill 1803
This is not a Bill which is to the advantage of the broker or the buyer; it is to the advantage of the wool grower. This being so, my contention when 1 spoke first was that we should have had perhaps a greater representation of the wool growers and a lesser representation of the 3 other members who are representing the brokers and the buyers. I think it is still a legitimate objection to raise. I express my feelings again because I do not think this point was dealt wilh in the discussion which occurred after I made my original address.
– -I took notice of what Senator Wilkinson said and I recognise the point he was making - that is, that there should be a majority grower representation. That is the point he was trying to make. The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) and his advisers believe that there should be a compact committee of expert people, consisting of representatives from the 2 federal wool industry organisations, a chairman and a Commonwealth representative together with 3 men from any walk of life, provided they have the particular quality, knowledge and expertise that the Commission is looking for.
– Not particularly in growing but in marketing.
– In marketing or promotion. This Commission will be a time absorbing occupation for its members. A man who has to earn his living in the wool industry, who then has to play his part in the organisation and who finally has to take his seat on this Commission will find his lime pretty fully taken up. It is believed to be much better if we can get men who have a thorough knowledge of and expertise in the spheres of marketing, promotion, commerce or something like that.
– While we are dealing with clauses 1 to 10 I am anxious to raise a matter which is just beside that which the Opposition has raised. One of the most important matters that I believe came forward during the debate today related to consultation with other wool producing countries. Through you, Mr Chairman, I ask the Minister to say where in this legislation we can find the authority for the Commission to consult with other countries. The Minister, in his second reading speech, said: 30 October 1970
An important matter envisaged under this function is to consult with the New Zealand and South African Wool Commissions in the operation of their flexible reserve price schemes.
I ask the Minister: In which clause can we find the authority for this to occur? I did not speak earlier in this debate. To me the ability to be able to consult with other wool producing countries is probably the main factor associated with this matter. I am prompted to question this because in looking to earlier debates on this matter I found a question directed by a member of the Opposition to the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen) on 6th April 1967. Mr Beaton asked the then Acting Prime Minister, Mr McEwen, this question: 1 ask the Acting Prime Minister and Minister for Trade and Industry whether he is aware of a claim by New Zealand Treasury officials that New Zealand’s wool crisis and balance of payments problem have been caused by a massive wool buyers’ speculation against the New Zealand Wool Commission, a claim supported by the general manager of the New Zealand Co-operative Wool Marketing Association. Does the Minister agree that if buyers gang up against the New Zealand Wool Commission they can even more effectively gang up against and reduce prices gained by Australian wool growers? Does he agree that the lack of a floor price in Australia acts to the detriment of the reserve price scheme in New Zealand? Has his Government, in the interests of the nation as a whole, impressed upon the Australian wool industry the urgency of its consideration of changes in wool marketing?
That is the end of the question but it is relevant to the Bill we have before us. In replying I asked the Minister to direct the attention of the Senate to where in this Bill is the authority for the Commission to go beyond the shores of Australia and to consult so that the wool industry of the world will maintain an average price and buyers will not be able to offset one country against another. The Acting Prime Minister gave the following very important answer to the question:
I am not aware ot the statement that the honourable member claims has been made, and, not being aware of it, I certainly do not challenge it. But I do know that when I was in New Zealand a few weeks ago there was a considerable body of opinion to the effect that there were interests that were ganging up in New Zealand to try to break the reserve price plan. Whether these allegations were justified I do not know, but if in fact a senior Treasury official made them, that would appear to give substance to the claim. It is an historic fact that the broking houses have resisted the reserve price plan. It is not for me to offer comments upon what Ls done in New Zealand. The policy of the Aust ralian Government with respect to wool marketing is that if the Australian wool industry wants a change in its marketing arrangement the Government stands ready to support a change . . .
The Minister has stated that there is an ability for the Commission to discuss with overseas wool producing countries the matter of a floor price. I feel that is most important. Apparently some years ago it was evident to the management of this country that there was action by outside interests to keep the floor price lowered. 1 have some concern that this offsetting may occur again unless it is mandatory for the Wool Commission to take cognisance of what is happening in New Zealand and South Africa.
– In my summing up before the suspension of the sitting for dinner tonight 1 drew the attention of the Senate to the fact that in the 1.951 reserve price scheme there was cooperation between South Africa. New Zealand, Australia and the United Kingdom. I went on to point out that clause 18 (I.) (I) of the Bill gives authority to cooperate with South Africa and New Zealand. Paragraph (I) reads:
That is clear. I think the honourable senator was called to the telephone when I gave that explanation.
– In clause 5 of the Bill under definitions reference is made to the corporation, lt states:
The Corporation’ means the. company incorporated under the law of the Australian Capital Territory by the name of the Australian Wool Marketing Corporation Pty Ltd.
In his second reading speech the Minister stated: lt has been estimated that the Commission might require in the region of $H5m by way of working capital for a full year - to operate flexible reserve prices, make advances to growers, etc. - and about $!8.7m to meet its likely annual operating costs . . . Moreover, the estimates include the finance which is already required for the operations of the Wool Marketing Corporation, mainly for the elimination of small lots and the price averaging plan.
I would like the Minister to explain why the name of the organisation - the Australian Wool Marketing Corporation Pty Ltd - contains the words Proprietary
Limited. Where does the Corporation fit into the pattern of the Australian Wool Commission? Will it remain a separate body? Will the price averaging plan continue as a separate part of the organisation, or is that incorporated into the Commission’s functions?
– I desire to refer again to clause 7 which relates to the membership of the Commission. Clause 7 (1.) states: 7 (1.) The Commission shall consist of seven members, namely:
Before the 2 members to represent Australian wool growers are appointed the Minister shall consult the Australian Wool Industry Conference. In the case of the other 3 members, that is those coming from what 1 shall describe, for want of a better term, as the business section of the industry-
– How does the honourable senator know? It is not written in the Bill.
– If the honourable senator will read the Bill he -vill see that those members must have special qualifications relating to the processing of wool, the manufacture of wool products or have other experience in commerce, finance or economics. If, in the broad, one cannot describe that as the business section of the industry, then I will-
– Would the honourable senator bring the wool buyers in?
– Yes, of course. I was saying that as to the appointment of the 3 members of the Committee who are not growers, not the Chairman and not Commonwealth public servants the Minister, prior to their appointment, has to consult the Australian Wool Board. Immediately the Chairman is appointed under the terms of this legislation, he automatically becomes a member of the Wool Board. Therefore I take it that the Chairman would have some influential say in discussions between the Minister and the Wool Board in who the 3 other members of the Board would be. The position of
Chairman, therefore, becomes one of importance so far as the operation of this proposed section is concerned. The Chairman need not necessarily be a wool grower. There is no necessity on the part of the Minister to discuss the appointment of the proposed Chairman with either the Wool Industry Conference or the Wool Board.
It would appear that the Chairman will play an influential part in saying at least who the 3 other members of the Board who represent what I have called, for want of a better term, the business section of the industry will be. I urge the Government in giving consideration to the appointment of a Chairman to heed the views of the growers in particular and appoint, if not a grower then a person who above all else will place the interests of the “growers paramount. If 3 persons are appointed under clause 7(l.)(d) from the one section of the industry - whether it be commerce, finance or economics - and those members gang up against the growers, I can see a lot of difficulties ahead for the effective functioning of the Commission. I bring forward those points in a constructive endeavour to ensure a successful functioning of the Commission.
– I wish to speak very briefly about the composition of the Australian Wool Commission. If honourable senators opposite were my sheep I would have them wigged to keep the wool off their eyes because the important thing is, as has been stressed, that we want people with an expertise in marketing and in commerce.
– You do not want them with human interests, do you?
– That is a typical Labor Party, narrow, bigoted attitude. They are suspicious of anybody who has succeeded in life or who has some pecuniary interest. Typically, the Labor Party thinks that such people have some ulterior motive. All I want to say is this, and I speak as a woolgrower: If the Commission is to operate effectively and efficiently with the expertise to do the things it is being empowered to do then we require people with an expertise in commerce, an expertise in business and an expertise in marketing. With great respect to the woolgrower - I am one of them and so are most honourable senators on this side who speak on this measure - there are very few woolgrowers with this expertise. This old fashioned idea that any sort of commission or body which deals with primary industry must be dominated by growers, is something which went out with the ark. 1 repeat that we have to have people with expertise. I fully support this measure. 1 have not heard any argument advanced which would cause me to change my mind.
– 1 accept the explanation given by the Minister for Air (Senator Drake-Brockman) who represents the Minister for Primary Industry on the question that I asked about a quarter of an hour ago. In his reply the Minister said that the 2 members to be appointed to the Australian Wool Commission to represent the woolgrowers would be taken from each of the 2 bodies which form the Australian Wool Industry Conference. That is not my understanding of the Bill. I understand that the Minister is to select 2 people and that he will then consult the Australian Wool Industry Conference to see whether they would be suitable people to act on behalf of the woolgrowers.
– Senator O’Byrne asked me where the Corporation fits into the Australian Wool Commission.
– I asked about the ‘Pty Ltd’, too.
– 1 know. Let me get to it. I am talking about the! Corporation first of all. The Corporation fits in in this way: The Commission will absorb the Corporation. The Pty Ltd* became a company because it wanted to constitute within its ambit a number of various interests in the wool industry. In other words, it took under its wing the Corporation. So it became a ‘Pty Ltd’ or a company to take in the various functions or interests in the wool industry. Senator McClelland spoke about the Minister appointing 2 grower representatives from the Australian Wool Industry Conference. The Minister appoints them from this Conference because the Conference is made up of the Australian Woolgrowers and Graziers Council and the Australian Wool and Meat Producers Federation.
Therefore the industry voice is represented in that body.
The Minister goes to that body and seeks its advice as to what grower representation there should be from that body. While I am dealing with this matter, in reply to Senator Wilkinson 1 would say that 1 cannot tell him whether 1 representative will come from each of the Federal bodies or the 2 will come from 1 body. This decision will be up to the organisation and the Australian Wool Industry Conference.
– It is up to the
Minister, is it not?
He will be discussing it with the Conference.
– But it is up to the Minister.
Minister makes the appointment. But he does not just walk into the committee and say: ‘1 will have you. 2 blokes,* and appoint them. He discusses it with the Australian Wool Industry Conference.
– They are not necessarily from the AWIC?
– That Ls right. 1 want to refer to Senator McClelland’s question. When we come to the selection of the Chairman of the Commission we find that he has a seat on the Wool Board. There are already 11 members on the Board, of whom 6 are woolgrowers. Three are special representatives. There is a Commonwealth Government representative and there is the Chairman. Senator McClelland says that the Chairman of the Australian Wool Commission could sway the meeting as to whom it recommends to the Minister. It was desirable for the Chairman to be on the Wool Board because, as honourable senators know, in the past the Wool Board played a very prominent part in promotional activities and research. No doubt a lot of this information would be wanted by the Commission. It was then thought that by having the Chairman of the Commission on the Wool Board he would be getting first hand knowledge of what was going on and could convey it to the representatives of the Commission.
Clauses agreed to.
Clause 11. (1.) A member, other than the Chairman or the member representing the Commonwealth, may, with the approval of the Commission, appoint a person, other than a member, to be his deputy, and may revoke any such appointment.
– 1 move:
In sub-clause (I.), leave our ‘Commission’, insert Minister’.
It seems to the Opposition fairly obvious that if we have gone to a lot of trouble to make sure that the members are correctly appointed, have the approval of the Australian Wool Commission and have been very carefully vetted, it should not be possible for one of the members then to appoint a proxy or deputy in his place with just the approval of the Commission. We feel that the Minister is the one who should have the authority to see that this is carried out in conformity with his wishes as the person in charge of the Australian Wool Commission. 1 do not think it is necessary to belabour the point any more because it seems to be perfectly obvious that the Minister should have the sole responsibility. Otherwise we might have some peculiar circumstance of people not being available at a particular time and appointing deputies, and possibly we would have people of whom the Commission approves but of whom the Minister does not approve. [ think this is an avenue that should be closed.
– J want to support the amendment moved by Senator Wilkinson. Sub-clause I seems to me to be peculiar in that a member with the approval of the Commission may appoint his own deputy, providing he is not a member of the Board, and at any time he may revoke that appointment. I would have thought that considerable attention had been given to sub-clause (4.) of clause 7. It has been passed. It states:
A member referred to in paragraph (d) of subsection (1.) of this section shall be a person specially qualified for appointment by reason of experience in the marketing of wool or wool products, in the processing of wool or in the manufacture of wool products or by reason of other experience in commerce, finance or economies and, before appointing a person to be such a member, the Minister shall consult the Australian Wool Board.
Sub-clause (1.) of clause 11 brings about an absurd situation in that a member has the
Commission Bill 1807 right to appoint a deputy, with the approval of the Commission. The deputy does not have to have an qualifications to act in the place of the member. Under sub-clause (4.) of clause 7 the Minister will make the appointment of the member only after consultation with the Australian Wool Board. Sub-clause (1.) of clause 11 makes no provision for the Commission to consult anyone. The appointment of a deputy is made with the Commission’s approval. The Commission does not have to consult the Wool Board or ask it whether the person who is to be appointed a deputy of another person is a suitable person within the terms and qualifications of sub-clause (4.) of clause 7. The appointment might be for a considerable length of time. 1 believe that the Minister must accept responsibility for the appointment of members of the Australian Wool Commission. The Minister is the only person who is responsible to Parliament and the only person who can be questioned and brought to order, if necessary. I do not imply anything by that statement. Part of the responsibility of being a Minister is his liability to be brought to order by Parliament if things go wrong. The Minister can lose complete control of the activities of the Commission if the Government allows deputies of members to be appointed by members, with the approval of the Commission, and not after consultation with the Australian Wool Board, which advises the Minister on the appointment of the member. A deputy can be appointed completely contrary to the wishes of the Board. He might be appointed for quite a period of time. Therefore 1 think that not only in justice to the Australian Wool Commission but also in justice and fairness to the Minister the word ‘Commission’ should be deleted and the word Minister’ inserted.
– 1 shall reply to Senator Cant first. In the first place, a member appointed to the Commission would be a man of responsibility and with expertise in a particular field of marketing. He would not bc absent from meetings of the Commission for a continuing time or for a whole series of meetings. Therefore, being a man of responsibility, I think he would insist that his deputy be a man of responsibility and 30 October 1970 perhaps a man with expertise in the same field in which he has expertise. A similar position arises in relation to the Australian Wool Board, the Australian Wool Testing Authority and the Australian Meat Board. In other words, in all commodity boards similar provisions apply. Parliament has passed that legislation. The amendment moved by Senator Wilkinson is not acceptable to the Government. We believe that it would be far better for the Commission at a meeting to appoint a deputy of a member who cannot attend the meeting because he is in Melbourne than to wait until the Minister is available to make the appointment. The necessity for the approval of the Commission is considered to be sufficient safeguard against the unlikely event of a member appointing an unsuitable person to be his deputy. Similar provisions apply in relation to the commodity boards about which I have spoken.
– 1 regret (hat the Minister has taken the stand that he has taken on this amendment, lt seems to me that the Government has gone to considerable trouble in subclause (4.) of clause 7 to say that all members shall be appointed by the Minister. The Chairman is appointed a full time member. As has been stated by my colleagues. Senator Wilkinson and Senator Cant, sub-clause (2.) of clause 11 gives the Minister control over the appointment of a deputy of the member representing the Commonwealth. The Minister has control over the appointment of 2 deputies. The other members are allowed to select their own deputies, with the approval of the Commission. No-one can say how long the deputy will be there. It may be for one meeting; but it may be for a number of meetings. In sub-clause (4.) of clause 7 the Government was intent on ensuring that all members were appointed by the Minister. Why then does the Government become - if I may use the word - loose and say that of the 7 members deputies of 2 still have to be appointed by the Minister and the deputies of the other 5 can be appointed by the individual members, with the consent of the Commission?
The Commission will play a very important part in a very important industry. Control should be kept with the Minister. The Government’s original intent was that control would be with the Minister. The
Minister still has a say over the appointment of 2 deputies the deputies of the Chairman and the representative of the Commonwealth. If either of those 2 wants to appoint a deputy because he cannot be there, the approval rests with the Minister. Each of the other 5 can appoint his own deputy, subject to the approval of the Commission. In this Commission of 7, I suppose the votes of 4, whoever they may be-
– No, the votes of 4 out of 7.
– A quorum is five.
– Well, a quorum may be five, but decisions can be made by four.
– By three.
– Well, a decision may be made by 3 members if the quorum is five. This is a fairly high number for a quorum of a body consisting of 7 members. The Minister’s consent is necessary if two of the members wish to appoint deputies, but each of the other five, irrespective of what section they represent on the Commission, can appoint his own deputy as long as the majority of the Commission
– lt does not say that.
– Well, with the consent of the Commission, and I would say it could be done only with the consent of a majority of the Commission. I do nol think a minority of the Commission could give consent. As the honourable senator said in an interjection which I was pleased to receive, the quorum is five. If the quorum is five you then have three as a majority. So 3 members can act on behalf of the Commission and give their consent. I do not see any reason why, just because (his clause happens to have been carried in another place it has to be persisted with here, because I feel that the rightful person to give consent is the Minister who is responsible to the elected representatives of the people in this Parliament
– The predominant purpose of this Bill is to constitute an Australian Wool Commission whose function is more effectively to secure the marketing of wool. The Commission is constituted by a Chairman, 2 members to represent the wool growers appointed after consultation with the Australian Wool Industry Conference, one member to represent the Commonwealth and 3 other members who, by the statute, are required to have special qualifications from their experience in the marketing of wool, in the processing of wool or in the manufacture of wool products or by reason of their experience in commerce, finance or economics. The purpose of that constitution is to have a body that will, of its own experience and by reason of its own integrity, judgment and dedication to the purposes for which the Commission is constituted, more effectively market wool.
The Labor Party is putting forward objections to the provision that enables deputies for those specific members to be appointed - deputies who, when appointed, may attend as substitutes.
– That is not a fact.
– Do not howl mc down. I gave the honourable senator audience uninterrupted. This provision enables a deputy to be appointed who, when appointed, is entitled to attend a meeting in substitution for the original member. The 2 members who represent the Australian wool growers, appointed by the Minister after consultation with the Australian Wool Industry Conference, are, by the section that is challenged by the speeches that we have listened to, given the right, with the approval of the Commission to appoint deputies. Are we in the beginning, when we pass this Act, at the same time as constituting the Commission and thereby reposing the confidence that we have in the members when appointed by the Minister after the consultations I have referred to - and having given them that confidence - on the advocacy of the Labor Party to suggest that we have so little confidence in them that we will not trust the 2 wool grower members to appoint their deputies with the approval of the Commission, or the 3 other persons with special experience in marketing, manufacture or business to appoint their deputies with the approval of the remainder of the Commission? These are the experiences that we have heard from the Labor Party which reflect the dissidence, fighting and internal attitudes of the Labor Party. We are dealing with the Wool Commission constituted-
– You will get nothing through now unless you gag it.
– How vocal they become. Their leaders are absent wrangling in the same way at a Party conference.
Order! 1 think the Minister should get back to the Bill.
– Yes, I will come back to the Bill. I just wanted to illustrate the behaviour of members of the Labor Party. What 1 say is that when we appoint the original 7 members of the Commission the 2 wool grower representatives can be trusted, with the approval of the remainder of the Commission, to appoint deputies who will truly represent them in the functions of the Commission. The 3 other specially appointed representatives, who are appointed after consultation with the Australian Wool Board, can be trusted to appoint deputies who will truly represent them to carry out the functions of the Commission at meetings which they attend. I rose only to dissipate this pure facade that is being put up by the Opposition entirely for electoral and political purposes.
- Senator Wright, in his capacity as a Minister, has put on the same old drama and the same old act to which we have become accustomed since he has been a Minister. But as the Minister representing the Attorney-General in this chamber, the Minister for Works and the Minister-in-Charge of Tourist Activities was speaking on the Australian Wool Commission Bill I could not help but compare his remarks as a Minister with the remarks that he enunciated front time to time when he sat up on the back benches as a private member espousing the cause of the community at large, the rights of the Parliament and the responsibility of the Executive to the Parliament. It is all very well for the Minister for Works to get up in this chamber and say that it is a matter of confidence and a matter of trust. Had he been a back bencher, as he was until 2 or 3 years ago, he would, 1 am sure, have been joining us in our espousal of the doctrine of responsibility of the Executive to this Parliament. 1 think that by a provision of this nature being included in a Bill of this nature, a very important national Bill, the Executive is undermining the authority of Parliament, because the Executive and the bureaucracy is answerable to Parliament, ft is unbelievable to me that here we have a Hill which contains a clause of this nature where a person being appointed to a statutory commission for whatever period it might be, cannot be determined by the Minister but can be determined by 3 members of that Commission because the quorum of the Commission is 5. The Bill provides that a member may, with the approval of the Commission, appoint a deputy. I take it that the approval would be determined by the majority of the members present. If the minimum quorum of 5 members is present 3 members would constitute a majority. In such circumstances 3 members - the Chairman, the representative of the Commonwealth and one other - would be able to determine whether they agree to the appointment of the nominee. Of course, the approval of the Minister has to be given in the case of the appointment of a deputy for the Commonwealth’s representative.
It is ail very well for the Minister for Air (Senator Drake-Brockman), who represents the Minister for Primary Industry in this chamber, and the Minister for Works to speak about confidence and trust and things of this nature. I hope that the original members who are appointed to the Commission are men of responsibility and trust - 1 believe they will be - but there have been instances in the past where people who have been appointed to positions of authority, responsibility and trust have fallen by the wayside. 1 recall to mind immediately the case of a very prominent and senior banking official-
– What about the Victorian Executive of the ALP?
– If the hoaourable senator wants to speak he should stand and have a go.
– One time waster on a subject is enough.
Sentaor MCCLELLAND - lt was quite pleasant while the honourable senator was away. Now we have to put up with him again. I suppose he has to make up for lost time. There have been instances in the past when men of responsibility who were acting in positions of trust fell by the wayside. I bring to mind the position of a prominent banking official from my own State who is now serving a lengthy period of detention at Her Majesty’s pleasure. I hope it will never happen again, but it is always possible for something of this nature to happen. What would be the position if it did happen here? Because the person concerned had not been appointed to the position by the Minister, the Minister would always have the outlet when questions were asked of him in the Parliament that he had no say in the appointment of the deputy member. Frankly, I think the rights of this Parliament would be undermined if a provision of this nature were to be included in the legislation. I believe that a person appointed to a statutory commission of this nature - of any nature for that matter, but more particularly of this nature - should be appointed with the approval of the Minister. After all is said and done, what objection does the Government have to the Minister saying that he approves of an appointment? Why is it necessary to have this escape clause? Is it because the Government is frightened, that the administrative affairs and functions of the Commission will not be carried out successfully, ls the Government leaving the way open for the Minister to dodge his responsibilities? I believe thai it is vital to the maintenance of parliamentary democracy that the amendment which has been proposed by the Opposition be supported. Not only is the amendment in the interests of this Parliament and the Executive in its responsibilities to the Parliament; more particularly it is vital to the interests of the growers and the protection of the people of Australia.
– Having listened to the debate which it has generated on clause 11 of the Bill, I feel that the Opposition is being unnecessarily obstructive to the passage of this measure. The Opposition is in effect saying that, if a member of the Australian Wool Commission is unable to attend a meeting and he desires to appoint a deputy to take his place, the Minister and not the member should appoint the deputy.
– No, that is not it.
– That is the point of the amendment which has been moved by the Opposition. I have read the amendment. I think that the barrage of interjections from the Opposition merely discloses that it does not know what it is doing, which fortifies my point that it is being unnecessarily obstructive. The Minister for Works (Senator Wright) said earlier that the Commission shall consist of seven members. He said that one shall be the Chairman, two shall represent the wool growers of Australia and one shall represent the Commonwealth Government. There shall also be three other members. The Minister for Primary Industry, of course, reserves the right to appoint any deputy to substitute for the member whom he appoints to represent the Commonwealth Government. Why should the other members be not able to appoint the deputies who they would like to attend in their place, providing the Commission approves of their choice? It is a totally reasonable proposition, lt accords with the idea that this independent corporation should be able to manage its own affairs. To confound what Senator McClelland has said, it does noi perpetuate the control of the bureaucracy; it means that the organisation is in conduct of its own affairs.
This ought not to .be a matter which the Senate should take three-quarters of an hour - possibly longer if it is necessary to reply to my remarks - to debate. For the greater part of this day we have heard from Opposition members speech after speech which have amounted to criticism of this measure, but not one member of the Opposition has been prepared to say that he is opposed to it. The Opposition allowed this measure to go through on the voices because - I suggest this with all respect - it recognises that this is a scheme which has been devised over a period of time, with a considerable amount of ingenuity, to meet the pressing problems in this industry. Honourable senators opposite know this but they will not acknowledge that I am correct All that we have had for some 7 hours today is carping criticism. The debate on this clause is the climax of a great deal of carping criticism.
– 1 rise on a point of order, Mr Chairman. Can you inform me whether Senator Greenwood has confined his remarks strictly to the amendment? All he has done has been to refer to what was said this afternoon in the debate on the motion for the second reading of the Bill. The Committee is now considering clause 11. I ask with respect, Sir, whether the honourable senator is in order in traversing what was said this afternoon.
– I think we would get on much better if speakers on both sides of the chamber were to confine their remarks entirely to the clause or clauses under consideration.
– I respect your ruling, Mr Chairman, and I will endeavour to do so. I apologise if I have transgressed, but 1 do feel that much of what has been said by the Opposition far exceeds a relevant consideration of the issues raised by it in its own amendment. I say that it is unreasonable to argue, with the hope of persuading the Committee, that if any one member of a commission of seven wants, to. appoint a deputy he should go through the process of approaching the Minister and obtaining the Minister’s approval before that deputy can sit in and exercise the functions of a member. If one reflects upon the matter I think one will find that the processes which are involved will defeat the arguments which have been raised by the Opposition. It would mean that if a member could not attend a particular meeting he would have to approach the Minister, presumably by letter, wherever he was and get an approval in an appropriate form. That is totally unreasonable. It appears to me that the Commission can give the approval which is contemplated in the clause as drafted.
I sense that if we are appointing a Commission which is to be self governing in most of its activities, we can leave it to that Commission to determine how it shall conduct its activites and whether or not a deputy> shall sit on a particular occasion. After all, Parliament is not being denied control. When one looks at the other clauses of this Bill one finds that the operation of the flexible reserve price shame is subject in almost minute detail to the policies and directives of the Minister. The flexible reserve price scheme is really the core of this legislation. Indeed, the Minister has a tremendous amount of control over the scheme. Therefore I say that Senator McClelland is way off the beam in arguing that in some way the bureaucracy is undermining the Parliament. Indeed, his plea that the Minister should be able to appoint all deputies to this Commission is an elevation of the bureaucracy rather than a reduction of its influence. I think that for a host of reasons the Opposition’s argument on this clause is not only unreasonable but, as I said before, unnecessarily obstructive.
– I think that it is necessary for me to correct some of the statements that Senator Greenwood has just made. He has based the whole of his argument on a wrong premise. Being a lawyer, T am surprised that he has done this. Apparently Senator Greenwood was not present in the chamber when the amendment was moved. All that the amendment seeks to do is to substitute the word ‘Minister’ for the word Commission’ in clause 11 (I.). The effect of this would be that the member could still appoint a deputy but it would be with the approval of the Minister. Senator Greenwood made the point that we were objecting to the appointment of a deputy by a member. This is not so. I hope that now he will get the message that we are not objecting to the clause in the Bill which enables a member to appoint a deputy. We say that this should be done with the approval of the Minister instead of the Commisson.
– Tonight we have witnessed the spectacle of two members cf the legal fraternity trying to turn this debate into a party wrangle. I can assure the Minister that the amendments which the Australian Labor Party puts forward are put forward with sincerity and that they should not be labelled as Socialist aims of the Labor Party. We are clearly endeavouring to be constructive in our amendments.
– As I said, the amendment is obstructive and unnecessary.
– Senator Greenwood may have his opinion. I am trying to advise the Minister that we are a responsible, not an irresponsible, Party. There are some irresponsible people on the Minister’s side of the chamber. My main objection, even to the member appointing his own deputy, is that there is no necessity to comply with the conditions that are provided in clause 7 (4.). If the Commission is formed within the terms and condi tions set out in clause 7, I would say that it will be a very respectable sort of a Commission to handle the mighty task which it has to perform. It seems that the intention of the draftsman and of the Government is to appoint to the Commission 7 members who it is thought are the most highly qualified men to do this job.
It is suggested that it should be left to the member to find his own deputy, and that the appointment of that deputy should be approved only by the Commission. Let me take that suggestion right to the point of the ridiculous. Five members are required to form a quorum of the Commission. Questions before the Commission will be decided by a majority, that is, by 3 members. The member asking for the appointment of a deputy could be one of those 5 members. He could be one of the majority of 3 members who made the decision about the appointment of his deputy. Therefore he could make his own appointment. I say that this possibility should be completely removed. 1 do not accuse anyone of being corrupt or in any way dishonest, but we are dealing with human beings and with the weaknesses and frailties of human nature.
The Commission will have an unlimited amount of finance at its disposal, lt has open sesame to the Australian purse, subject only to the approval of the Minister and the Treasurer. For a start, it has access to $133m of public funds. I think that the Opposition is not being unreasonable when it asks that the person who is responsible to the people and to this Parliament should be the person who approves of the appointment of a deputy.
– It is not my intention to take any great length of time-
– What right have you to speak when the Minister is on his feet waiting for the call?
– The Minister sat down. I shall have great pleasure in sitting down if the Minister wants to proceed, because I have the utmost respect for him. All I want to suggest is that it is a case of saving me from my friends. I was going to say a few words and then sit down. If the Minister wants to speak first I will sit down.
The CHAIRMAN (Senator Bull) Order! 1 call Senator Kennelly.
– 1 think that the amendment which has been submitted is a reasonable one. First of all, when the Government appoints these people it will go to all the trouble to see that they are okayed, to use my term, by the Minister. He will put the imprimatur on them. What delay will be caused if our amendment is accepted? My colleague from Victoria, Senator Greenwood, said that a member might be away from a meeting for a day. The clause does not provide that a member shall appoint a deputy for only a day. No time limit is imposed. Following on from what Senator Greenwood has said, how can the member request his deputy to be present if he is not at the meting himself? The member has to seek the approval of the Commission to appoint a deputy. He proposes somebody, whether by name or in person. The clause does not say whether it shall be by name or in person. All that we are saying is that the member could get the consent of the Minister as readily as he could get the consent of the Commission. lt is rubbish to talk about being distrustful. That is poppycock. The fact is that a lot of trouble will be taken to appoint the 7 members of the Commission. The Minister must sanction the appointments. All we are saying is that if a member wants a deputy to represent him, whether for a long time or for a short time - even one meeting, he can get the consent of the Minister just as easily as he can get the consent of the Commission. I cannot see for the life of me why honourable senators opposite should raise any objections at all to our suggestion. We are in the position that Senator Wright used to take when he occupied not so long ago the seat next to that now occupied by Senator Greenwood. Senator Wright then wanted everything done by the Minister. He did not want any boards to have any powers. He did not want administrative acts controlled from outside the chamber. We are simply asking for the same view to be taken on this provision - nothing more or less.
– I rise to a point of order. I doubt that the honourable senator is speaking from his own place.
– Here is my seat.
– You know that you are not speaking from your right place.
– I like to move about when 1 speak.
Order! 1 must uphold the point of order.
– 1 will move to satisfy the honourable senator who has interjected.
– Perhaps he thinks that you may not be recognised when speaking out of your own place.
- Mr Chairman, there is no reason why you would not recognise me if I was within my rights. The interjection is a reflection on the Chair. I regret an element that was introduced earlier in this debate. I do not want to refer to it again because I appreciate that the Minister is awaiting the passage of this Bill, as any other Minister would. Even though the other place may not be sitting, the fact is that what we are suggesting will not affect very much the work of the Commission. It simply means that the members who were in attendance would have to carry out the work. The Bill provides for a quorum of 5, or 2 fewer than the number of members appointed. If our proposal is adopted it will be in the interest of keeping the Commission always under the control of the Minister, particularly in respect of appointments.
– I will be brief. 1 believe 1 should contribute to the debate on the amendment as there seems to be some doubt as to the attitude of my Party to it. At the outset I would like to apologise to Senator Kennelly if he believes that I had any ulterior motive in interjecting. As all honourable senators are aware, Senator Kennelly is probably the best known member of the Senate. I. think anybody listening would realise who. was speaking, irrespective of the part of the chamber from which he was speaking. I do not accept what Senator Kennelly has said about the period of time involved in respect of the proposed amendment. Clause 16(1.) states in part:
If a member -
is absent, except on leave granted by the Minister, from 3 consecutive meetings of the Commission; or . . . the Minister shall, by notice published in the Gazette, remove the member from office. lt seems perfectly obvious that if a member of the Commission appoints a deputy to attend a meeting in his place and this happens on 3 consecutive occasions the member himself then has to refer the matter back to the Minister.
– No, that is not right.
– If it is not right I want you to tell me why it is not right. That is very specific in the Bill. If a member - not a member or his deputy - does not attend 3 consecutive meetings the Minister is obliged to replace the member by a deputy unless the member had the leave of the Minister to absent himself. Should that circumstance develop the Minister must remove the member from the Commission and this would lead to the appointment of a new member. It does not mean that this state of affairs can go on for a long period.
Senator Cant said that he was very sure the Commission would be very respectable. Me said that it would be composed of highly qualified men.
– lt must be.
– The honourable senator says that it must be. If very respectable and very highly qualified men in their particular fields are selected for the Commission surely they will be sufficiently qualified to appoint deputies to attend a meeting which they may be unable to attend. This is particularly so because a deputy has to be more or less approved by the highly qualified and highly respectable Commission itself. Even if the appointee were a Labor Minister I do not think he would be more highly qualified or more respectable than the honourable senator suggests the members of the Commission would be. For the reasons I have outlined we have no hesitation in saying that this is not of tremendous importance and we are wasting a lot of time on it. We are not prepared to vote for the amendment.
– In view of what Senator Little has said will the Minister say whether a member may be removed from the Commission should he fail to attend 3 consecutive meetings at which he was represented by his deputy approved by the Commission. This raises a new argument with respect to the Commission itself. My understanding throughout my experience on any sort of committee is that if a member is represented at a meeting by an approved deputy, or proxy it counts as an attendance by the .principal person. I would like the Minister to say whether this applies to the Australian Wool Commission. If it does not, the 7 experienced members of the Commission will not be young men. Quite a span of their lives will have slipped by while they become experienced to the extent that is necessary. This relates particularly to the provisions contained in clause 4.
These men will be subject to illnesses. They will be only part time members of the Commission. They will not be full time members. They will have the responsibility of earning a livelihood in some other occupation. It may well be that these men could be attending to their own affairs outside Australia for considerable periods of time and will require a deputy to attend meetings in their place during their absence. If for this reason members can be removed by the Minister after they have failed to attend 3 meetings, we will very soon run out of qualified men to appoint to the Commission.
– They get leave from the Minister under these circumstances. This means that the Minister would approve of the deputy who is suggested in the amendment of the Opposition.
– He is not responsible for the approval of the deputy. I think that we cannot bring the Minister into it through this sort of back door approach, by suggesting members of the Commission will get leave from the Minister to be absent so that they can appoint a deputy. This is trying to bring the Minister in through the back door. I do not believe that any responsible Minister would allow himself to be used in that way. I ask the Minister for his interpretation of the position when a deputy - we are not talking about a member whose appointment is approved by the Minister - attends in place of a member and that member misses 3 meetings. In these circumstances will that member be disqualified by the Minister?
– I would like to read to the Senate clause 16(1.) (c). The clause states: (1.) If a member -
If a man is going overseas, as Senator Cant said, and he will be absent from 3 meetings he can go to the Minister and say: ‘Look, I will be absent from the next 3 meetings andI want your permission’. The Minister will ask: ‘Who are you appointing as your deputy?’ The deputy will be named. If this meets with the Minister’s approval the member of the Commission will be given leave of absence. On the other hand, if a member who is in Australia has already been away from 2 consecutive meetings and, for instance, something turns up in his business which prevents him from attending the third meeting he can go along to the Minister and say: ‘I must miss this meeting; it will be the third meeting I have missed in a row and under the Act I will be disqualified’. The member can then obtain permission from the Minister to be absent from the meetings.
– The Bill says ‘Commission’. We are saying it should be the Minister.
– You are not reading the clause thatI am.I am putting forward my argument. The Government is not prepared to support this amendment. A number of reasons have been put forward by the Opposition as to why we should support the amendment. Senator Cant got down to the position where he said that the Commission could hold meetings with only 5 members present Let us have a look at this argument. Firstly, the Chairman, who is a full time member, will attend the meeting. He is likely to know exactly-
– Not necessarily. It could be his deputy.
– I am taking this example; the honourable sena tor brought up all sorts of red herrings. Next, there is a government member appointed by the Minister. If there is to be a quorum of 5 there will need to be 3 other representatives present. Let me suggest that one of them will come from the industry representatives and the other 2 will perhaps be from the special appointees. Can anything go wrong with this sort of arrangement?
Senator Cant hinted that the Commission would deal with an unlimited sum of money. Let us have a look at this. The Commission has to report to the Minister and to the Treasurer every fortnight. Senator McClelland said that he did not think that members of the Commission, who will be men of responsibility, will do anything they shoul dnot do. But he went on to say that surely there will always be exceptions. He pointed to one recent case in New South Wales. I ask the honourable senator: If there were a meeting of 5 members consisting of the Chairman, a government representative, a representative from industry and 2 special appointees, does be think that the deputy of an appointee on that day could do something wrong and could involve the Commission in the expenditure of some substantial sum of money? We do not believe that he could. So the Government does not feel that it can support this amendment.
That the words proposed to be left out (Senator Wilkinson’s amendment) be left out.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman - Senator Bull)
Majority . . . . 2
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 12 to 15 - by leave - taken together.
– I wish to draw attention to clause 12.
Clause 1 2 provides: (1.) Members and deputies of members shall be paid, out of the funds of the Commission, such remuneration and, in the case of the Chairman, such annual allowances (if any), as the Parliament fixes . . .
Up to there, that is fair enough. The provision is made ‘as the Parliament fixes’. However, the clause continues:
– Where is it prescribed?
– Well, it is going to be prescribed after this Parliament has risen. It will be prescribed by regulation under the Act. This Bill will be passed before we rise. It will receive the approval of the Governor-General and come into force. After that, a regulation will be made which will prescribe the remuneration and allowance, if any, that are to be payable to members of the Commission.
I do not know - and I think there is not anyone else who knows - when the Parliament will meet in the new year for the autumn session. But, in any case, the regulation will run until that time plus a further 15 siting days which, as this Parliament is operating, means about 5 weeks before the regulation prescribing this remuneration and allowance must be con tinued in operation or disallowed by the Parliament. So, the prescribed remuneration and allowance, if any, will apply for that period. If the Parliament meets at a reasonable time, say, towards the end of February next year, it could be the middle of April before the regulation prescribing the remuneration and allowance is considered by the Parliament. For this lengthy period, the remuneration and allowance, if any, that are fixed become somewhat permanent. A precedent is created when this amount is paid for a period of 6 months.I would say that if for some reason or other the Parliament when it comes to the fixing of the remuneration and allowance in 1972, and not before–
– It must be 1971 because they expire on 3 1 st December 1971. It must be late 1971.
– Well, they will not expire on 31st December. The Parliament will not be sitting on that date.
– The salaries and allowances must be fixed before the Parliament expires, surely.
– In any case they will run until 31st December 1971 that is, the day before 1972. I take your point, senator. These amounts will largely influence this Parliament in fixing remuneration and allowances. I would have thought that there would be some attempt by the Government to inform the Committee of the remunerations and allowances that it intended to pay these people. The Government will not get these men for peanuts. We know that the Government will not get for nothing the qualified persons provided for in the Bill. The Government will have to pay these people. Not only will this work be taking up their spare time, but also it will be taking up time that they otherwise could be using to earn money. They will have to receive just and fair compensation for their work.
I think the Government should give some indication of what it intends to prescribe in the regulations for their remunerations and allowances. There are enough open doors and open ends in this Bill as it stands without adding more to them. I think it is unfair for the Minister to introduce a Bill of this nature which allows for remunerations and allowances to be fixed by the prescribing of regulations. The Government has to remember that the remuneration and allowances for the top people in the Australian Wool Commission will have some bearing upon the remunerations and allowances for those employed by the Commission. We must remember at all times that the employees of the Commission have no tribunal to fix their salaries, and allowances if any. The salaries will be fixed by the Commission. That is a further objection I have to allowing the remunerations and allowances, if any, under clause 12 to be running loose without some information being given to the Committee at this time.
– I must inform Senator Cant that clause 12 was drafted in this form in order to meet the wishes of the Senate as expressed in regard to legislation previously brought before the Parliament. It would have been much easier for the draftsmen to put this information in the Bill and have the Governor-General fix the salaries. The Senate has objected from time to time to that course being followed and the clause was therefore drafted in this way. I cannot inform the Committee what the salary range will be. This will have to be negotiated. The honourable senator said that we must go out and get the best type of men and the best equipped men for this job. All of us have seen advertisements in the paper calling for applications for positions as top men in the business world. They state that the salary is to be negotiated. That is probably what will happen in this case.
– 1 am interested in this particular principle embodied in the clause because, as the Minister for Air (Senator DrakeBrockman) says, it was at the instance of the Senate in consideration of another Bill that this principle was written into that particular Bill. On that occasion there was provision that a salary or an allowance be fixed by regulation. The Senate decided it should be fixed by statute but, in order to provide for the interim period, it was proposed originally that it should be fixed by regulation and subsequently, after a certain date, by statute. The Senate was not altogether satisfied with that proposal and I think I might have made an alternative suggestion that the salary be stated to be fixed by statute but that a dispensing period be given to a certain date up to which it could be fixed by regulation. That is the principle that is embodied in this clause, precisely as it was stated by amendment by the Senate on that other occasion. The reason, if 1 remember it, that was given on that occasion was precisely the reason the Minister has announced on this occasion that it would be impossible to determine the salary while a man was being selected for the job and until, perhaps by negotiation, that salary was able to be actually determined and acceptable, it was impossible to fix a salary. So I think that this clause, allowing for the reason which prompts it, is in pursuance of the very strict insistence of the Senate on the former occasion and is completely in accordance with the lines which were then laid down.
– Clause 14 provides that the Minister may remove a member of the Commission from office by reason of misbehaviour or physical or mental incapacity. The last 2 qualifications for removal are, of course, quite understandable, and so is misbehaviour, if one knows what misbehaviour means.
– What is up with you? If you want to have a sleep, go home.
– What is the definition of misbehaviour? Surely if we look at it in the terms of this clause it is misbehaviour in the mind of the Minister and not necessarily misbehaviour in any other way. If the Government Whip, who shakes his head so much, has a definition of misbehaviour I should be pleased to know what it is. I should be pleased also to know whether the Minister, in determining the removal of a member of the Commission, would follow the definition given by Senator Withers. It is no good the honourable senator holding up the Standing Orders of the Senate which refer to misbehaviour because we are dealing with an independent body. Members of that body are not bound by the Standing Orders of the Senate. The clause does not say that our
Standing Orders will guide the Minister who happens to be in another place which has completely different Standing Orders. If the Minister is to be the sole judge of what misbehaviour is, what redress has the member who is to be removed? If the Minister says: ‘You have misbehaved yourself so I remove you from the Commission’, what redress is there for that member? His removal from office may reflect upon his character and may ruin his business career, but what redress has he against an arbitrary decision made by the Minister?
Let it not be said that Ministers do not make arbitrary decisions. This arbitrary power may react against our being able to recruit to serve on the Commission the best types of men or those with the qualifications required by the legislation. 1 think there should be some explanation of what is meant by ‘misbehaviour’ in clause 14. Perhaps the Minister is not prepared to define what is meant by that expression, but I suspect that Senator Wright, Senator Greenwood, or Senator Murphy if he were here, could give us the common law definition of ‘misbehaviour’. I do not doubt that the word has been defined, but I do not know what it means in this clause. If there is a common law definition of ‘misbehaviour’, in fairness to the people who are appointed to the Commission surely the word should be defined and surely there must be some redress for a member who is accused of misbehaviour. 1 suggest to the Minister that clause 14 is lacking in what would be considered in Australia to be fair play.
– Clause 14 merely provides that if there is improper conduct by a member in carrying out the duties of bis office, the Minister may dismiss him.
– I think Clause 14, which has few words, is important. Can the Minister tell me whether the Bill provides for a right of appeal for a member of the Commission who has been discharged for misbehaviour? I realise that this word can cover a multitude of things, but it is referred to elsewhere in this measure? I recall seeing a reference to workers compensation, but I do not recall any reference to mis behaviour. The conduct for which a person has been discharged might be regarded as misbehaviour by the Minister or by any other normal person, but it might not be regarded in the same light by the person involved. Would he have the right of appeal under any clause of the Bill?
– You cannot have it both ways. I do not want anyone to be working as a member of the Commission if he has been guilty of misbehaviour as it is normally understood, but misbehaviour becomes a matter of degree. In the event of what the Minister may consider to be misbehaviour a person may be removed from office but, in addition, his reputation would be taken away. J suggest that when an individual is appointed to a board the legislation relating to his appointment should provide that certain things shall be considered to be misbehaviour, and that if he is guilty of those things the Minister may remove him from office. 1 would agree with a provision such as that. It amazes me to think that whilst the Bill gives the Minister the right to dismiss a person it does not give the person who is dismissed any right to appeal against his dismissal. 1 think that any fair minded person would agree that he should have that right. I am not objecting to the right of the Minister to sack the man - perhaps ‘dismiss’ would be a nicer word, but in my time the word was sacked’.
– They terminate a person’s employment now.
– 1 will terminate my own pretty soon. A person who is dismissed should be given some right of appeal against his dismissal, not so much to get his position back but to clear his character. I think this right is of vital importance to us all.
– I would like to allay any anxiety that has been expressed by Senator Kennelly. The Bill provides that the Minister may remove a member from office by reason of misbehaviour. There is nothing in the Bill that says the Minister is to be the sole judge. If the person removed from office disputes that his conduct amounts to improper conduct in the exercise of his office, he is fully competent, under the Bill, to appeal to any court of the country to claim for restitution of his office and for damages for wrongful removal from office. So I rise only to say that any fears that the individual removed would be precluded from having full recourse to a judge or a jury to establish the propriety of his behaviour are unfounded. He has full rights of access to all the tribunals of the land to establish the propriety of his behaviour.
– This is a vital matter. It is true, as Senator Wright has said, that a person has civil rights. If a public servant, of whom we have many thousands, is sacked or has bis employment terminated, to use the nice words, although they mean the same thing, he has rights of appeal. I do not agree with Senator Wright. I do not know whether there is anything in the Bill that gives to a person dismissed from this Commission a right to appeal to the courts. I have yet to read anything in the Bill that says that. This may be the normal course for a public servant who is dismissed, but 1. am talking about what happens if the Minister terminates the employment of an officer of this Commission. I regret that the time we have for debating this matter is so limited. This is another reason why these important matters should not be dealt with at such a late hour. At this late stage of the sittings it would not be possible to amend the Bill even if everyone in the House agreed that it was necessary.
When regulations are made, as apparently they will be made to make functions for which the Bill provides to be carried out, will it be possible to insert in those regulations the right of appeal for an officer of the Commission who is dismissed? Such a dismissal may never occur. I am worried not so much about a person losing his office as about the slur that will be placed not only on him but also on those who belong to him. If possible, when the regulations are being made, could a regulation be incorporated to give the individual who is dismissed from the Commission a right of appeal so that he may be able to clear his character, if not get his position back?
– As I. understand the position, if the person appointed as Chairman was, prior to his appointment, a member of the
Public Service, the latter is removed from his position as Chairman of the Commission, he is not automatically removed from the Public Service. He remains a member of the Public Service. If he was not a member of the Public Service and his appointment is taken away for what the Minister alleges to be misbehaviour, he has all the normal civil rights to sue for wrongful dismissal. As I understand the law - and I am quite prepared to be corrected - if he sues for wrongful dismissal he would normally get damages only, but this again depends on the sort of action he takes. He could most likely take action to be reinstated because he was wrongfully dismissed. This is up to the individual. He could initiate action asking for a declaration that he was wrongfully dismissed and should be reinstated. He could ask for reinstatement wilh damages as well. As a third alternative he could ask for damages only. His rights are completely protected. Nowhere in the Bill is there a prohibition against his taking this action. If he has all the normal rights and no rights are taken away, why worry about putting rights :n the Bill? I would refer Senator Kennelly to section 72 of the Constitution under which High Court judges may be removed by the Parliament for misbehaviour.
– It is a matter of degree and interpretation.
– It is a matter of degree. 1 am talking rather off the top of my head here, but if the Parliament - that is, we here and those in the other place - removes a High Court judge, as we can, for incapacity or misbehaviour, he has no right of appeal to anybody. He has had it. But if the Minister removes the Chairman for misbehaviour, that Chairman has the normal recourse to the courts of the land to establish whether or not the Minister was justified in removing him. What could be fairer than that?
Clauses agreed to.
Clause 16. (1.) If a member -
– 1 move:
– ls there any objection? There being no objection, that course will be followed.
– The first amendment proposes the addition of the words or his deputy’ after the word ‘member’. Then the whole of the clause, including all the provisions under (a), (b), (c) and (d), would apply to a deputy as well as to the member himself. We feel this is essential. We have already been dealing with the appointment of deputies. They will have the rights and privileges and responsibilities of the normal members of the Commission while they are acting as deputies for those members, and it seems to be perfectly reasonable that in considering their responsibilities we should also consider their position in regard to the provisions of clause 16. I think that amendment needs no further explanation because it is perfectly straightforward.
The reason for the proposal to insert new sub-clause (1.) (a.) is that we feel that in a body such as the Australian Wool Commission we have to be very sure that those allotted the responsible task of handling the whole of the acquisition and marketing of the wool put into their hands are people who will operate in the highest traditions of and with dedication to the industry, but not necessarily people who are tied to any firm or organisation which could give them an unconscious bias that would be against the objective interest of approaching the welfare of the industry as a whole. Therefore, we feel it is quite important to include a sub-clause such as the one we have suggested, which reads:
If a member or his deputy has direct managerial or policy making responsibility in any wool broking or wool buying firm in Australia or elsewhere the Minister shall by notice published in the Gazette remove the member or his deputy from office.
In our approach to the Bill that seems reasonable because it would endeavour to keep the operation of the Commission on the highest level possible. If this sub-clause is acceptable it means that part of subclause (2.) becomes redundant. It would also mean that words contained in subclause (2.) would be unnecessary because they would conflict with sub-clause (1.) (a) which we propose to be inserted. Those words are: . . otherwise than as a member of, and in common with the other members of, an incorporated company consisting of not less than 25 persons . . ,
So the third section of our composite amendment would be to omit those words.
Those are the 3 amendments which I suggest we debate together when dealing with clause 16. I think the reasons 1 have given are now perfectly obvious. I suggest, depending on your interpretation, Mr Temporary Chairman, that we vote on them together. If not, we would take them separately.
– If it is acceptable to the Committee I propose to take the amendments together in the vote because we have agreed to discuss them together.
– I support the amendments moved by Senator Wilkinson., in particular the amendment proposing the inclusion of the words ‘or his deputy’. Sub-clause (3.) of clause 10 reads:
The Deputy Chairman or the member appointed to act as Chairman under the last preceding subsection has. when acting as Chairman, all the powers, functions and duties conferred by this Act on the Chairman.
The chairmanship of the Australian Wool Commission will be a very responsible job for anyone to perform and the Minister, in referring to the qualifications of the Chairman, set down very stringent conditions which had to be complied wilh. 1 am not so concerned about clause 16(1.) (a) which states:
Honourable senators will remember that the Chairman is the only fully paid member of the. Commission.
– Before the honourable senator goes on I suggest that he read clause 16(5.) of the Bill.
– I had a look at clause 16 (5.) earlier. That clause applies only if the chairman fails to comply with his obligations under the next succeeding subsection. Clause 16 (1.) (c.) provides:
That is fair enough, but a lot of damage can be done in 3 meetings of the Commission. The condition imposed by clause 16 upon the Chairman is that he does not engage in paid employment outside the duties of his office. 1 find that principle difficult to apply to the Deputy Chairman because the other members of the Commission from whom the Deputy Chairman would be drawn are part time members. They would be engaged in some form of employment or would be of independent means. Clause 16(l.)(b) states:
Clause 16 (1.) (d) states:
The Australian Labor Party will attempt to amend the next succeeding sub-section. Sub-clause (11.) concludes with the words: the Minister shall, by notice published in the Gazette, remove the member from office.
The conditions to remove a member of the Commission from office as outlined in clause 14 are quite different from the conditions to remove a Chairman from office which are outlined in clause 16 (1.). The Minister proposes to appoint a Deputy Chairman to whom these conditions shall not apply. If he is a man to whom the conditions outlined in clause 16 (1.) (b) or (d) could apply the Minister cannot remove him from office because these conditions do not apply to the Deputy Chairman.
– They do.
– The Minister says that they do. but the Bill does not provide that they do. This is one of the reasons why the Opposition wants to include in this clause the person who is appointed a deputy. Whilst the Minister draws attention to clause 1 6 (1.) (c) 1 invite his attention to clause 10 (3.) which is also pertinent. The exception is clause 16(5.) to which the Minister invited my attention. Sub-clause 5 reads:
The preceding provisions of this section (other than paragraph (c) of sub-section (I .) ) apply to and in relation to a deputy of a member in like manner as they apply to and in relation to a member.
That does not apply to or in relation to the Chairman. Sub-clause (5.) has no relation to sub-clause (1.). It applies to a member. Clause 10 sub-clause (3.) states:
The Deputy Chairman or the member appointed to act as Chairman under the last preceding sub-section has, when acting as Chairman, all the powers, functions and duties conferred by this Act on the Chairman.
That raises for consideration the distinction between a member as such and a member when acting as Deputy Chairman, ls he the Deputy Chairman, is he replacing the Chairman, or is he still an ordinary member of the Board? If he is still ordinary member of the Board sub-clause (5.) of clause 16 may apply to him. But if he becomes the de facto Chairman sub-clause (5.) does not apply to him. For that reason the Opposition says that the sub-clause should apply to the Deputy Chairman. The insertion of sub-clause (I.) (A) which we proposed in our second amendment provides that:
II’ a member or his deputy has direct managerial or policymaking responsibility in any wool broking or wool-buying firm in Australia or elsewhere, the Minister shall, by notice published in the Gazette, remove the member or his deputy from office.
We say that it is a reasonable proposition that the member or bis deputy should not have managerial or policy making responsibility. One does not know where this might end or where the member’s loyalties might lie. We are all human. None of us is different. It is very difficult to find out at times where loyalties lie. If the member or his deputy has direct managerial or policy making responsibility it is likely that his loyalties may become divided. We wish to ensure that this position does not arise and that a member is not placed in the position where he will have to find out whether his loyalties are to the Australian public, the Australian economy, the Australian Wool Board or to the wool broking or wool buying firms. We must remember at all times that he is only a part time member of the Commission, not a full time member. His direct pecuniary interests are with the wool buying or wool broking firm of which he is a manager or in which he has policy making responsibilities.
The Opposition wants to insert this amendment because it thinks that it is only fair to the Australian public, to the Australian Wool Commission and to the member who is appointed. We do not think that he should be put in the invidious position of having to make up his mind on where his loyalties Ite. The third amendment that Senator Wilkinson moved was to delete the words: otherwise than as a member of, and in common with the other members of, an incorporated company consisting of not less than 25 persons.
What is behind this figure? Some of the most influential incorporated companies have less than 25 persons. We think that, if a member has an interest in a contract made or proposed to be made by the Commission, he should disclose to the Commission at a meeting of the Commission the relevant facts and the nature of the interest. It must be remembered that he is not making a public disclosure of his interests because subclause (3.) states:
A disclosure under the last preceding sub-section shall be recorded in the minutes of the Commission and the member -
shall not take part after the disclosure any deliberation . . .
I find nothing in the Bill that states that the minutes of the Commission shall be made public. They are the property of the Commission and would be made available, I would think, to the Minister under another section. No business secret will be divulged when the member makes a disclosure of his interest in any contract made or proposed to be made by the Commission. We feel that the proposition that we put to the Government with respect to members of the Commission is a reasonable one. It protects not only the Commission but also the members of the Commission. The Government places responsibilities upon members of the Commission, particularly the Chairman and the Deputy Chairman. The selected members of the Commission at all times are in very responsible and very awkward positions as they try to administer things on behalf of Australian wool growers and with advantage to the Australian economy. I think it is quite unfair for the Government to expect people to put themselves in positions of this kind. They should not be expected to be in such positions. For those reasons, I support the amendments moved by Senator Wilkinson.
– -I shall deal firstly with the amendment to clause 16(1.) where, after the word ‘member’ the Opposition seeks to insert the words ‘or his deputy’. Clause 5, in part, states: member’ means9 a member of the Commission, and includes the Chairman;
Sub-clause (5.) provides:
The preceding provisions of this section (other than paragraph (c) of sub-section (1)- -
That is the paragraph which refers to a member being absent without being granted leave) - apply to and in relation to a deputy of a member in like manner as they apply to and in relation to a member.
So the Government believes that adding the words ‘or deputy* is quite unnecessary because of this provision that I have pointed out. The Government believes that the subclause which the Opposition wants to insert in clause 16 is neither necessary nor desirable. The Bill provides that the full time Chairman of the Commission must not engage in paid employment outside the duties of his office. This is laid down in clause 16 (1.) (a). With regard to the members of the Commission other than the Chairman the adoption of the amendment would mean that a wool selling broker would be excluded from being appointed as a member of the Commission even though it may be highly desirable to have his special skills.
– We would not think it would be highly desirable to have a wool broker.
Government has a different view to that and so we cannot accept the amendment. In clause 1 6 (2.) the Opposition moved for the deletion of certain words. 1 point out again to the Committee that the subclause is the standard form that has been included in Commonwealth Acts creating statutory corporation since 1956. The words proposed to be omitted by the amendment are copied from section 44 of the Constitution where they are used to make it an exception to the provision that a person who has a direct or indirect pecuniary interest in an agreement with the Public Service of the Commonwealth is incapable of being a member of Parliament. In the present Bill the words referred to would dispense with the necessity for a member to disclose a shareholding interest in a public company in which he was merely an ordinary investment shareholder and not a director or manager. If the amendment were passed an example of its effect is that if the Commission effected an insurance policy with an insurance company in which the member of the Commission happened to own a few shares purchased on the stock exchange it would be necessary for the member to disclose his shareholding and refrain from taking part in any discussion on the matter. Moreover, if the member failed to make a disclosure, perhaps because he thought the matter of no significance, the Minister would be obliged to dismiss him from office in accordance with clause 16(l.)(d), and it is not considered necessary that a clause should go so far. The Government cannot accept any of the amendments.
– I am grateful for what the Minis ter has put forward but he referred me to the definitions clause of the Bill. I invite his attention to clause 16(6.) which states:
If a member is appointed Chairman of the Commission, he ceases to be a member otherwise than as Chairman and. if the deputy of a member is appointed Chairman of the Commission, he ceases to be a deputy.
Here is seems to me that there is some conflict of definition in clause 5 which states that a ‘member’ means a member of the Commission and includes the Chairman. Just what is meant when we have that definition of the Chairman and then in clause 1 6 (6.) the Bill states that he ceases to be a member otherwise than as Chairman? lt seems to me that sub-clause (6.) attempts to distinguish between a member and the Chairman, whereas in the definition clause the Chairman is only a member of the Commission. 1 think a closer examination of this aspect is necessary. A member who holds some shares in a company would not necessarily be dismissed if he disclosed his pecuniary interest. Proposed sub-section (3.) states:
A disclosure under the last preceding subsection shall be recorded in the minutes of the Commission and the member -
shall nol take part after the disclosure in any deliberation or decision of the Commission wilh respect to the contract; and
shall be disregarded for the purpose of constituting a quorum of the Commission for any such deliberation or decision.
This provision does not mean that a member would be dismissed or removed because he disclosed a shareholding, whether it be small or substantial; it means that he shall not take part in a contract made or proposed to be made by the Commission nor shall he form a quorum for the purposes of deliberating on that contract.
– I am not prepared to accept the explanation which was given by the Minister with regard to the Opposition’s first amendment, but ( do not intend to press it any further. The Opposition will wait and see how the provision operates in actual practice. I am not saying that I do not intend to vote on the amendment; I am simply not going to discuss it any further. T wish to comment on the reply which the Minister gave in regard to the second amendment of the Opposition. Subclause (4.) of clause 7 provides that the 3 other members ofthe Commission would be persons specially qualified for appointment by reason of their experience in the marketing of wool or wool products, in the processing of wool or in the manufacture of wool products, or by reason of other experience in commerce, finance or economics. The Minister has turned down the Opposition’s amendment, which I shall repeat because I want to draw particular attention to its terms. It states:
If a member or his deputy has direct managerial or policy-making responsibility in any wool broking or wool buying firm in Australia or elsewhere, the Minister shall, by notice published in the Gazette, remove the member orhis deputy from office.
There is a tremendous difference between what we have accepted under sub-clause (4.) of clause 7, which I referred to first, and what the Opposition seeks to insert here, which is, as I said earlier, which is to keep this on the basis of an objective approach on the part of the members of the Commission to the highest traditions that one can expect from such a body. I make that point because of the Minister’s reply. I think it is important to put my view on record.
That the amendments (Senator Wilkinson’s) be agreed to.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman - Senator Bull)
Majority . . 2
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 17 agreed to.
Clause 18 (Functions of Commission).
– I invite the attention of the Committee to clause 18(1.)(i) which provides that the functions of the Commission include the following: to maintain records of persons carrying on the business of purchasing wool from wool growers outside the auction system and to obtain from such persons information of such kinds as the Minister approves:
I question the Minister whether the provision should be in the Bill; whether negotiations have been conducted with the States; whether it is within the responsibilities conferred by the Australian Constitution for the Commonwealth Parliament to approve this provision without complementary State legislation. It seems to me that if this provision is approved as it stands it will be ultra vires the Constitution without reference of powers by the States to the Commonwealth. What right has the Commonwealth to enter a State and to demand from persons carrying on the business of purchasing wool, operating within the auction system, their records and information of such kinds as the Minister approves?
What does the provision mean? Does it mean that the Minister can ask for details of the everyday activities of a person so engaged? I can find nothing in the Constitution that authorises the Minister to act in that manner. Surely this is a transgression by the Commonwealth Parliament of the liberty of citizens to perform commercial activities within the States without interference from the Commonwealth Government. If there have been any negotiations or consultations with the States on this matter and it is proposed by the States to pass complementary legislation, the Senate should be so advised. Otherwise, we should be very careful of our responsibilities in agreeing to include a provision of this nature in Commonwealth legislation. It would leave the legislation open to challenge by any person carrying on business of the type 1 have described. Immediately the Minister or any of his officers, or theCommission under its function as a Commission, asks for information in the circumstances I have outlined, the legislation will be open to challenge. Is this the type of legislation we should be passing in this Parliament, in the full knowledge that we will be transgressing the Constitution? The consequences extend even further.
– Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question:
That the Chairman do now leave the chair and report lo the Senate.
Question resolved in the affirmative. (The Temporary Chairman having reported accordingly)
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Bull) - Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11.1 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 30 October 1970, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1970/19701030_senate_27_s46/>.