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Thursday, 5 December 1974
Page: 4595

Mr BUNGEY (CANNING, WESTERN AUSTRALIA) - Is the Minister representing the Minister for Agriculture aware of statements made in Western Australia by distributors that deliveries of the nitrogenous fertiliser urea cannot be guaranteed for the 1975 cropping program? Will the Minister investigate whether the statements are valid, and if so the reasons for such a shortage? Additionally, will the Minister take all possible action to see that sufficient urea is available for the forthcoming cropping year?

Dr PATTERSON (DAWSON, QUEENSLAND) (Minister for Northern Development) - I have been aware for some time of reports of possible shortages of nitrogenous fertilisers- not only urea, but also some of the ammonia sulphate compounds. I can assure the honourable member that I am taking a very close look at this matter. He well knows that in addition to Western Australia being a major user of nitrogenous fertilisers, the Queensland sugar industry is vitally concerned as are the horticultural areas. All I can say to him is that we are closely watching the output of the manufacturing plants throughout Australia and the availability of the relevant raw materials.

I also take the opportunity to clarify an issue in relation to nitrogenous fertilisers. Last week there was tabled in this House a recommendation by the Industries Assistance Commission against providing a bounty to the manufacturers of nitrogenous fertiliser. Unfortunately, this was widely interpreted as being a recommendation against the subsidy payable on the sale of nitrogenous fertiliser which, of course, is designed to reduce the overall price of nitrogenous fertiliser in Australia. The bounty on the manufacture has not been in operation for a number of years. I think it was terminated whilst the Liberal-Country Party Government was in power in 1970. So it is not to be confused with the subsidy, which is still in operation. Unfortunately, this confusion in the interpretation has had the effect in some instances of increased buying of nitrogenous fertiliser. As to the principal purport of the question, the honourable member may rest assured that it is being looked at very closely.

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