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Beyond the Bale : December 2013
23 OFF-FARM With lanolin running through his veins, Ian Laycock has a message for woolgrowers: don’t forget about the domestic processing sector as we are just as committed to the industry as you are. Mr Laycock’s family tree shows a connection with wool dating back to the 18th century. He is a walking encyclopaedia of the history of wool as a fibre that helped build Australia. The family dynasty in the UK set up the first carbonising plant in Australia in 1886. It later moved to Normanby Road, South Melbourne (an icon that still stands), and subsequently the business continued in Geelong. Wool dynasty backs Aussie processors Michell in South Australia, Victoria Wool Processors and E.P. Robinson in Geelong, which we started.” As a self-confessed “wool junkie” Mr Laycock is keen to see the survival and evolution of early stage wool processing in Australia for various reasons. “I understand the need for a low cost processor; I was on the first trade mission to China in 1994 with then Trade Minister Bob McMullan. Naturally the sector is still dominated by China but that is now moving to Bangladesh and other centres. However maintaining wool processing in Australia is vital. We have to keep in touch with our own product, not to mention what would happen in the unfortunate case of a foreign disease scare. If we couldn’t export raw wool the industry would be paralysed overnight.” While Mr Laycock says it may not be the role of AWI to be investing directly in processing he says unity is important and would like to see perhaps some assistance to help processors research and evolve new processing opportunities. “Growers, processors, manufacturers and retailers are all vital aspects of the wool industry. I think it is important to stay united for the sake of Australia and if we can help in any way to keep the processing sector viable, including their environmental credentials, then I see that as a good thing,” he added. “I have been critical of the former Australian Wool Corporation for encouraging foreign processing businesses to open in Australia that subsequently moved to China. We still have three companies processing wool left in Australia and while we all have been around a very long time there is always something new to trial and learn. Let’s move forward together because we are all committed to producing the best quality, as is Woolmark.” FAST FACTS l The family tree of Ian Laycock shows a connection with wool dating back to the 18th century – and his ancestors set up the first carbonising plant in Australia in 1886. l As a self-confessed “wool junkie” Mr Laycock is keen to see the survival and evolution of early stage wool processing in Australia. l There are three first stage processors left in Australia: Michell in South Australia, Victoria Wool Processors and E.P. Robinson in Geelong. Ian Laycock with a cartoon image of his grandfather Thomas Laycock who came to Australia as a wool buyer for the famous W.C. Gaunt. December 2013 BEYOND THE BALE Mr Laycock’s obsession with wool began in 1950 when, at the age of 16, he started work with John Vicars, manufacturer of cloth for Fletcher Jones. In 1953 he worked as a “fine apprentice”, working with the massive Salts Mill in Bradford, England, the largest in the world at the time. Later he was to work with Sir James Hill, the world’s largest topmaker and became a junior wool buyer on his return to Australia. “When I started work there were about 60 processors in Australia: worsted, carpet and woollen mills, scourers, carbonisers and sock manufacturers. By 1970 there were about 40 and now in 2013 there are only three first stage processors left in Australia;