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Wednesday, 3 October 1956

Mr ANDERSON (Hume) .- For the benefit of the honorable member for Scullin (Mr. Peters), I point out that the story about the ostrich burying its head in the sand is a complete myth. The ostrich does not bury its head in the sand. The reason this story is used by the Labour party is that the Labour party believes a good deal in mythology.

Earlier this afternoon, the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) attacked the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) on the matter of television. I cannot understand the interest that is displayed by the honorable member in television. He has said times without number in this chamber that he represents the depressed classes, the unfortunate poor, whose faces are ground into the dust by honorable members on this side of the chamber. Why is he always interested in television? Can the reason be that the workers support the introduction of television?

I was interested in the reply made by the Minister for Trade to the honorable member for Hindmarsh because it showed the difference between the views of the Labour party and our views. However, I should like to criticize the Minister, if I may, on his choice of words. He said that the great difference in outlook that is displayed in the debate was the difference between socialist thinking and non-socialist thinking. I wish to criticize his choice of the words " nonsocialist thinking". That is an understatement. Our thinking is the thinking of free men, who like to act on their own initiative and who desire to get away from the constrictions of socialism. The difference between the socialists and ourselves is that we like a free society.

Another point that I should like to mention is the extraordinary defence made by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) of the honorable member for Hindmarsh when he had been sadly knocked about in the debate. He was being dogmatic on the question of the issue of import licences. He said that the method should not be flexible. He was basing his line of thought on that of trade union thinking on demarcation issues. I emphasize that the method of import licensing must have some flexibility. 1 now wish to speak about primary production and at the outset, if 1 may refer again to socialist thinking and socialist propaganda, I direct attention to a remark in a question asked a few days ago by the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard). I am sorry that he has left the chamber. He said in a question to the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon) that the profit made by the Nor'-west Whaling Company Limited - the old whaling trouble again - was ?400,000, and he proceeded to make the point that the company had purchased the assets of the Australian Whaling Commission for only ?880,000. That is the sort of propaganda, the sort of misleading statement, that constantly comes from the Opposition. Let us examine the profit of ?400,000.

The first point I make is that the profit is taxable at the rate o'i lis. in the ?1 so that immediately the large sum of ?160,000 went straight into the Treasury. That left ?240,000. I cite these figures in simple terms, otherwise the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr. Curtin) may have difficulty in following them. The profit, when distributed to shareholders, is taxable in their hands. What amount of tax would be paid to the Treasury at that point? We are told times without number by Opposition members that the assets of the Australian Whaling Commission were sold to our rich friends. On a conservative figure, our rich friends would pay tax at the rate of 10s. in the ?1, so that taxation would account for a further ?120,000.

Honorable members will now see that the profit of ?400,000, which is cited to mislead the rabble, is reduced to a net profit of ?120,000. The honorable member for Lalor completely forgot that the profit was not made solely by the Australian Whaling Commission. The profit was made by the commission and the company, so that the net amount of ?120,000 which I have calculated should be divided by two. That is to say, the correct profit on the first year's trading is ?60,000, or in other words a return of 7 per cent, on the capital. That is not an unreasonable return in a risky trading business in a good year. 1 refer to that matter in order to show how Opposition members try to mislead the people with their constant attacks on the capitalistic system. It is always the same.

When Opposition members cite misleading figures time after time there is gradually revealed to us the common front that is so strongly advocated by Dr. John Burton. The Communists have no worries about proof. We have, on these distortions of figures, the gradual approach to the common front.

No one wants to impose import restrictions. 1 feel that the Government is making strenuous efforts to increase our balance of payments by the export of manufactured goods. I believe that in time this export drive will succeed, but much will depend upon such factors as costs of production, and wages. Once better relations are established between management and labour, I believe that we shall be in a position to increase the production of our secondary industries. In the meantime, the quickest way in which to increase our exports and thereby improve our balance of payments is through the primary industries. There are many ways in which primary production can be increased.

At this juncture, I desire to suggest one way that is worthy of consideration. I believe that superphosphate should be subsidized. I do not like subsidies, but a subsidy on superphosphate is not an ordinary subsidy. I note that an Opposition member remarks somewhat sarcastically that it is in a different category because it assists the man on the land. If the honorable gentleman will listen, he may understand. I realize, of course, that he does not understand much about farming. Superphosphate, if applied to the land in the way of top-dressing of improved pastures will increase the carrying capacity at least threefold. That is to say, three sheep may be carried where one could be carried before. The application of superphosphate also increases the yield per sheep. The subsidy may be paid in one of three ways. The Commonwealth might subsidize superphosphate by paying the railage or coming to an arrangement with the State governments whereby they reduce the railage on the fertilizer and the Commonwealth pays a subsidy to them, or the Commonwealth might pay the subsidy at the actual point of production. What is the result? It means the imposition of certain strains on the Treasury, but the Treasury will recoup itself enormously in the first year from the increased collection of income tax.

That is an ordinary straightforward business proposition. The primary producer puts the superphosphate on the land, and his yield is increased. The Government gets a rake-off in the form of increased income tax. My statements in this respect can easily be proved. The State governments, if they reduce rail freights on the transport of superphosphate, will be recouped. When 1 make that statement, 1 refer to State governments other than the New South Wales Government. Indeed, the New South Wales Government will recoup itself in two ways. The first is by the receipt of the increased rail freights and the second is by an increased return from gambling. As everybody knows, the New South Wales Government derives a good deal of its revenue from gambling and poker machines. The land-owner who uses superphosphate on his property will, spend some of his increased income on lotteries and gambling, so that the New South Wales Government will get a return in two ways.

I should like the matter of the payment of a subsidy on superphosphate to be considered because 1 think that the use of this fertilizer will enable us rapidly to increase primary production. Some honorable members may say, " That is all very well, but does not the farmer already use superphosphate as a matter of course? " Several matters arise here. One is that the farmer is very conservative. Even in these modern times, he is so conservative that he still works hard. That is a point that Opposition members do not realize. He still believes that hard work is the ultimate solution of all our problems. But he is conservative because he lacks cash to spend on superphosphate, which is costly. That is why I ask the Government to subsidize superphosphate in order to enable farmers immediately to recoup their expenditure and to encourage them to adopt this method of farming. If that is done the production of wool, beef, and similar commodities, the output of which is improved by the application of superphosphate to the land, will increase substantially.

Another matter that I should like to mention while the Estimates for the Department of Primary Industry are under consideration is the amount of money devoted to the Commonwealth subsidy on extension services conducted by the State agriculture departments which organize field days and agricultural schools for farmers. These services are designed to modernize agricultural methods, and they are having very beneficial effects. To the consternation of those people who know something about agriculture, a recent survey in the Riverina revealed that 80 per cent, of the sheepfarmers did not cull their flocks. That is a scandalous admission in a country which claims to be fairly modern in its farming methods. All stock should be culled. I believe that enormous benefit will be reaped from the money which is being spent by the Commonwealth on extension services. I recently opened a special school in my electorate near where I live. Those who attended underwent three days of intensive study and lectures, and watched demonstrations and motion films. My conversations with the students afterwards showed that they were much impressed, and I am sure this training will have considerable results by improving production in the areas in which the students are engaged in farming. Much more of this work should be done. It can be done only if the Commonwealth subsidizes the extension services conducted by the States. There is no doubt that farmers are conservative. They have to be, because experiments which must be conducted if farming methods are to be improved do not show results for a long time, and they are too costly for farmers to finance. In addition, if farmers have not the aid of trained scientists they may suffer serious losses if they make mistakes.

I commend to the Government the wisdom of subsidizing the use of superphosphate in order to increase the production of certain commodities, and of increasing the subsidy paid to State agriculture departments for extension services.

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