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Wednesday, 29 November 1944

Mr RANKIN (Bendigo) (12:27 PM) . - L bring to the notice of the Government the shortage of superphosphate throughout Australia, and particularly in Victoria. Because the island of Nauru has been occupied by the enemy for so long there is a shortage of phosphatic rock, hut we now have an opportunity to obtain supplies from Transjordania. At present, we are obtaining from North Africa phosphatic rock of very low content which is hard to process. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) said that, in the coming year, it would not be possible to sow as much wheat as we would wish, because of the shortage of superphosphate. The richest deposits of phosphatic rock are those in Nauru, the phosphatic content being about SO per cent. The deposits in Transjordania have a phosphatic content of 74 per cent. I know the Transjordanian country particularly well, where there is one deposit which is estimated to contain 16,000,000 tons of rock, which canbe landed at Akaba for about half the price which we pay for phosphatic rock obtained from America. The Transjordanian rock is very friable and easily worked. Those interested in the deposit have offered to send a trial shipment to Australia, and thereafter to send monthly shipments at a reasonable price. Therefore, there seems to be no excuse for curtailing sowings of wheat next year because there is a shortage of superhposphate. In the Corio electorate there is a cooperative fertilizer company, one of the biggest phosphate processing companies in Australia. In its factory eight or nine employees, for weeks at a time, refused to handle a machine to mix superphosphate and sulphate of ammonia which were urgently required for the growing of potatoes and other vegetables. The Government took no action against them, although the other employees of the company continued to work. The men in question claimed that the work was dusty. That may be. Farmers who use fertilizers know that it is dusty.

Mr Dedman - Has the honorable member seen the conditions in that factory?

Mr RANKIN - Yes, and I have seen worse conditions in other industries in the Minister's electorate.

Mr Dedman - That is not so.

Mr RANKIN - Working conditions are worse in the cement-making factory near Geelong. The machine can be closed after the sulphate of ammonia and superphosphate have been placed in it, thereby reducing the dust. Other men have to work in dust and under bad conditions. That applies to many men in the Army who, in addition to working under unpleasant conditions, are in constant danger of losing their lives. The Government submitted a programme to the people for the greater production of vegetables, and yet it allows eight or nine men to hold up production.

Mr Dedman - How many shares has the honorable member in the company?

Mr RANKIN - I have ten shares in it. I should be prepared to do some work in the factory, as was done by New Zealand farmers on one occasion when wharf labourers refused to work. The New Zealand lumpers have not forgotten the lesson that they then learned. It would be a good thing if the shareholders of the company were to teach the men to whom I have referred a salutary lesson. The Government should not allow Mr. Gazze, who apparently has been " nozzled " by the British Phosphate Company, which has large deposits of phosphatic rock in North Africa, to hold up all attempts at trial shipments from other sources. If the phosphatic rock to which I have referred is as good as has been claimed, it should be of great value to the primary producers of this country. It is the duty of the Government to see that a trial shipment is imported, in order that the growth of vegetables and other primary products may be encouraged.

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