PM Transcripts

Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 287

SPEECH GIVEN BY THE HON. R.G MENZIES AT THE WOOL INDUSTRIES SEARCH ASSOCIATION ON 21/22 MARCH, 1961

Photo of Menzies, Robert

Menzies, Robert

Period of Service: 19/12/1949 to 26/01/1966

More information about Menzies, Robert on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 21/03/1961

Release Type: Speech

Transcript ID: 287

Speech given by the Rt. Hon. ReG. Menzies at the Wool
Industries' " search Association on 21/ 22 March, 1961
Chairman, ay Lord Mayor, my Lord, ladies and gentlemen, I have
now successfully performed the first part of my duty. You don't know how
lucky you are, because sometimes when you invite a politically-inclined fellow
like me to come to open something and to unveil a tablet, he's liable to forget
to unveil the tablet. Which, of course, means that what he was doing remains
veiled in decent obscurity. So I've developed rather a prudent habit nowadays
of unveiling it first, so that, at any rate, you will all know what it's
about and whatever I may say.
" Now you have been told I've already dealt with two audiences today I
rather suspect that some of you were in the earlier ones this is a form of
torture which exists only in English-speaking countries. But at any rate,
this afternoon I'm back on the home ground; because it can't be too difficult
to speak about wool if you are an Australian, or even if you're a politician.
So your've been properly reminded that this is the greatest of Australian
industries. When the price of wool goes up, everybody smiles, the balance
of payments problem diminishes in intensity, treasurers beoome genial, you can
get a little more money for the universities, and if you have an election,
you wing " If the price of wool goes down, faces become long, Governments have to
do unpopular things, and you avoid having an election for as long as you
possibly oan So that, from my point of view, in that horrible sense, wool
is tremendously important. But, of course, to the whole national economy
of Australia, it means so much. And to the economy of your country, the
country of most of you, it means so much. And I suppose one of the troubles
that we have all been suffering from is this very fluctuation in the cost of wool,
which may, in some ways, be related to a fluctuating demand for wool. And the
makers of artificial fibres have an advantage, because the price of their raw
material doesn't fluctuate within the same violent fashion and they can
therefore attend to their costing a great deal more simply. We are familiar
with these problems; and, of course we are also familiar with some of the
oddities that bemuse political people and administrators. For a long time
Australian wool which, after all, is a very different proposition from
home-grown United States' wool, as everybody knows has been met at the
Customs' barrier in the United States by a high duty. Why? Nominally to
protect the native woolgrower. And if I may say so, quite bluntly, to
relieve him of the necessity of becoming a little more up-to-date, as a
woolgrower and as a wool-marketer. But in reality, of course, the effect
of the duty is to give a comfortable protection to the makers of artificial
fibres. " And these are matters that have to be attended to steadily so far as we
can on the political level by persuasion and otherwise. But in reality what
we have all begun to see more and more in modern times is this that wool
must not simply remain something that we proudly refer to as the greatest
of all fibres, but that it should meet the challenge of other things by the
most persistent research into its quality, into its use, into its treatment,
so that when it does meet competition, it will continue year by year to meet
it at an advantage, and not at a disadvantage*
" You know, there wasn't much said about research when I was a boy, it
was regarded as some mysterious ( I can always be relied upon to do that)
/ knooked over microphone/, some mysterious and rather malodorous operation
conducted in universities. It's only in my own time that the world of
industry, the world of business, has become aware of research, of the
pressing need for it, of the fact that without it no great industry will develop.

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I reumawber during the war, just about the time I was give the livery of the
Clothworkers' Compan~ y,, going over a great and world-famous motor engine
establishment it needs no advertisement from me and into their research
establishment, with hundreds of poeple employed, a vast series of factories
and workshops, all engaged on research not engaged in the production of
a single thing for sale at the time that's waht we were looking at as a
possible development for 1944. So that we think: ' If it comes out might be
coming right in 194 You kcnow, this kind of thing. And the result of this
enormous vision and concentration on research in today,, it stands pre-eminent
in the world. It is the first with the latest and the bent all the result
of spending, what I'm sure some people thought, a waste of money,, so mowe
years ago,
" Well. gradually we are beginning to approach these things in the right
way. And it is comforting to me to know that in the case of wool there is
this approach at, I think, all stages in the industry. You go down to a sheep
station in the Western District of Victoria and you stay for a weekend with
a man and whose name is 9, famous name ( Oh, dear) / knocked over niicrophone/
S ( Leave it out these modern inventions). You do down to one of these plaoes,
Wthe present owner has a name that has, for a hundred years, been connected with
that property it might be supposed that he has inherited the fruits of the
earth, and that he can have a good time and not worry too mch. TMe after
time the first thing he wants to tell you about is how imuch he has increased
the yield,, how many' pounds he has put into the fleeoe, what he has been
doing in the way of breeding and development, what he has been doing in
pasture improvement. All these things go on at that level, and have, of
course, enormously increased production of the cawitry.
" The great thing ( you refer, Sir, to perhaps one of the great
dramatic things is, of course as you know, was the treatment of our friend
the rabbit with myxomatosis. After this brutal business some people said,
there were others who complained that you could no longer prudently buy a
rabbit for a rabbit pie and admittedly that was a defamation but the
estimates that have been made as to what zg-momatosis with its successful
war on the rabbit it has meant to the Australian wool industry, are of course
as you know, fabulous.
" I believe that but for that, but for the attack on the rabbits, but
for this scientific approach to what had become a great national economic
problem, we wouldn' t have anything like the number of e1eep we have today,
and nothing like the quantity of wool production that we have today. People,
with modesty, estimate the difference that has been made at least œ 50 million
a year pounds, money, a year. And therefore on that side of research with the
kind of work that is done by on the field, so to speak,, the effects
have been enormous. But then, of course, C. S. I. R. O. has been working in
other fields. For a long time now we have been vaguely aware of the work
done by devoted scientists to discuss the problems of shrinkage in wool,
the problem of getting a pair of trousers for a humble decent citizen that
won't get baggy at the knees in side two or three days, permanent creasing
( These are not permanently creased, but the other pair I've got with me, out
in the bag, they're permanently creased). A very great advantage. And then,
Sir,, you are devoting a great deal of time and an enormous volume of ability and
knowledge to the-problems of the processing of wool at its various stages in the
course of manufacture. And whn all that is done, then we have to take the end
products of all these thingsm, we have to present them to the world attractively,,
have to add to their variety, to their qualitfl % e have to make them appeal not
only to rugged, masculine characters in the country, but to finely drawn women
in the cities who~ want a find, delicate, shizmmering piece of woollen material
that looks as if it almost might be silk. This is it. This is the problem
we have. And I am delighted, uiself, as the more or less temporary head of the
Aus~ tralian Governmnt, I'm delighted to ome once more into contact with an
aspect of this enormous task.

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" Interestingly enough, you know, when you try to do something for a
particular industry, it says: ' Yes, that's a very good idea you pay for it
you, the Government, you, busy bodies, you butt in on this matter, you find the
money'. In the case of wool, I must say for the wool people in Australia they
have shown at all times a very enlightened approach to this matter. They have
subjected themselves to levies, they have raised large sums of money for
research; they are aware of this problem, because they know that bnless this
problem is dealt with progressively, then the future of their industry, and
of the country, may be adversely affected. Now I was almost tempted, for a
moment, to says ' When these problems are solved'. I don't want to enco age
you into a belief that you have had a species of professional inmortality,
but I think you have; because I don't think that the problems will ever be
completely solved. These will be new problems arising every year; there
will be new aspedts of competition in the world which will arise; these will
be new things created in the world, that are a competitive kind. And therefore
the problems of wool will never be completely solved, anymore that the problems
of. human happiness and human health and human political satisfaction, will ever
be solved. This is a continuing thing. But the great beauty of it is that I
think we awake to it today; I think we are conscious of this problem, and
conscious of it as a continuing problem. And to me it is a wonderful thing
to recall that not only on sheep stations in Australia, in scientific
laboratories in Australia, but here in Leeds here in Great Britain somewhere
else in the field of presentation, all around the world people who are
concerned with wool are realising that their task is not a defensive one, but
is an agressive one. It's attacking something done. This is the very dynamic
exercise so far as the qoonomy of Australia is concerned and, I venture to
believe, in the long run in its various aspects so far as the economy of
this acient country is concerned.
We are never to become defensive. You know, people talk about Breat Britain
as " the old country" well, if somebody in Australia, like myself, refers to the
" old country" that's a glancing reference to the fact that Gran-Papa came from
there, you see, and Gran-mama that's very interesting s it's the old country.
( And I speak quite freely about my grandparents they went out quite freely,
themselves). But what you must feel troubled about is when people talk about
Great Britain aa " an old country" not as " the old country", but as " an old
country". Ah well so to speak they are old, tired they've had itl I've
heard it said, you know, quite a bit around the world. I don't believe it.
If anybody wanted disproof of it, he would need only to come here today. But
at the same time, it will become an old country, and heaven help many of us
W around the world if it does, it will become an old country, if it assumes a
sort of static position on various matters. If it forgets that the whole source
of its greatness was the dynamo that was in it right through the 19th century,
in particular, and before that. And therefore this must be kept alive, the
spirit of research; the spirit of looking for quality, the spirit of meeting
the world and meeting all compettion with the certain feeling that " these goods
are the best". And, in the long run, the best goods will defeat the secondclass
in the judgment of people who matter. I always remember that I had a
remote relative who was old enough to me my uncle and was then, I thought,
an imense age I think that he was probably a shade younger than I am now,
but he seemed to me to be incredibly venerable at this time and I said to
him " Where do you get your clothes Where do you get your suits built?" you see
he lived in Melbourne. He named the most expensive tailors in Collins Street
and he added, with a wry smile: " You know, Bob, I'm much too poor to afford
to have an clothes built anywhere else". Now you can broaden that out; this
is what we said about wool.
" We must persuade the world and we will, if we maintain quality, if we
raise quality and if we solve all these problems of the kind to which you are
directing yourselves. And therefore, if this goes on, Great Britain becomes
greater, Australia becomes greater in fact, you might become so great, you
people who are Englishmen, you never know that in due course, you might win a
Test Match against Australia at Heddingly. Sir, if I'm not occupying your
ftL sw

0.4 as
tim too long, might I before I conclude what has been an over-serious
addes, perhaps by giving you one simple reminiscence of a Test match
at Heddingly in 1948. This was an introduction to a new aspect of English
character to me. There we all were I was sitting with the great; I was
sitting with the Lord Mayor ( not you, Madam, but your then predcessor)
and the people sat behind these little low ropes. ( We keep people outside
the pickets in Australia, you see). There is no argument then as to whether
it is a four or not you hear a crack or rattle on the pickets, you see.
But hen the poeple sit down 8 or 10 rows deep right down both sides of the
ground, there can be an argument occasionally, I suppose, as to whether it's
a 4 or it's a 6. Of course, we never argue and the last people in the world
to argue about cricket would be Yorkshiremen, of coursel) But one of our
fellows one of the Australian players hit a noble, towering 6 mid-wicket
( and it seemed to me to almst kill somebody three rows back) but it wasn't
clear to the uqpirewho was a celebrated Chester, who had as you know
lost an arm, and thereforehad a sleeve flapping. He was/ ficturesque, rather
dramatic character. And he went across in his long white coat unpires in
Australia use short ones, but they're cotton so it doesn't matterl He went
across and conducted a coronial enquiry among the people in that section of the
crowd t was really wonderful. I think he called witnesses and finally
decided it was for 6. But he wasn't going to signal 6 from the boundary
not on your life he went walking with great dignity right back to the
umpire's position and then signalled his 6. It could only happen herel
Don' t know what would have happened to him in Melbourne, but I know what
would have happened to him in Sydney!

Transcript 287