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Wednesday, 26 November 1941

Sir GEORGE BELL (Darwin) . - I appreciate the provisions of this measure and, although its introduction was contemplated by the previous Government, I congratulate the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Scully), upon having brought it down. It will relieve the primary producers of the obligation to bear at least some of the excessive cost of superphosphate. The importance of this commodity need not be stressed, because it is well known that the stability of primary production, and, in fact, the stability of the whole economy of Australia, depends largely upon the supply of superphosphate. I should like the Minister, when he replies to the debate, to inform the House, if it bc possible for him to do so, of the prospects for future supplies of superphosphate from Nauru and Ocean Islands. A large part of the increase of the cost of phosphatic rock is the result of enemy action which destroyed the cantilever machinery that was used for loading ships at those islands. I have heard it said publicly - and I was not in a position to deny the statement, although I expressed doubt of its accuracy - that the increase was due largely to the fact that the British Phosphate Commission had raised the price for the purpose of financing the installation of new machinery. I should like to know whether the machinery is, in fact, being replaced. The present method of loading involves the use of baskets and barges, with the result that the cost has increased and the process has become slower. There are no sheltered ports at those islands, and, in bad weather, ships cannot be loaded by the present method. I urge the Minister to inform the House of the prospects regarding supplies from those sources. Farmers want to know the facts, because the rationing of superphosphate and the increase of price affects their plans.

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