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Wednesday, 1 May 1957

Mr OSBORNE (Evans) (Minister for Air) .- I move-

That the bill be now read a second time.

Since this is a financial measure and subject to a resolution of the House, it has to be introduced, in the first instance, in this chamber. The bill amends two sections of the Sulphuric Acid Bounty Act as further encouragement to an expansion of the use of indigenous materials in the production of sulphuric acid.

In very brief terms, Australia's present capacity to produce sulphuric acid is about 1,060,000 tons a year, and almost 95 per cent, of this capacity is currently used. Somewhat less than half of the production is from indigenous materials and the remainder from brimstone, imported mainly from America. About 80 per cent, of our acid is used to manufacture superphosphate, approximately 5 per cent, to manufacture ammonium sulphate, which is an important fertilizer for sugar-cane growing, and the balance of 15 per cent, is used in a great number of industrial applications. The demand for acid is expected to increase with the more extensive use of superphosphate in pasture lands and the opening up of marginal country by the use of trace elements supplemented by superphosphate.

At the present time, bounty is restricted to sulphuric acid produced from Australian pyrites and sold for delivery in Australia, or used by the producer in the manufacture of fertilizers. The first amendment which this bill seeks to make will extend the field of bounty to cover all sulphuric acid produced from prescribed materials, irrespective of the use to which the acid may be put in Australia. The second amendment seeks to remove the £600,000 limitation in the amount that can be paid, as bounty, on each year's production. This should overcome any fears on the industry's part that increased usage of pyrites will reduce the rate of bounty payments.

Bounty payments on the production in the first year of operation of the act) to June, 1955, were £472,557, and in the second year, to June, 1-956, £446,666. Payments on the production of the halfyear just completed, to December, 1956, amounted to £221,222. The rate of bounty prescribed in the regulations is related to the price of brimstone and rises and falls inversely with fluctuations in the landed cost of imported brimstone. The rate reached its highest peak in the December, 1954, quarter, at £2 12s. 3d. a mono ton, and the lowest level in the December, 1955, quarter, at £1 9s. 6d. a ton. For the December, J 956, quarter, the rate ruling was £1 1 ls. 3d. a ton. Generally speaking, there has been a fall in the price of imported brimstone, but this has been more than offset by the rise in freight.

The Australian raw material prescribed as subject to bounty is pyrites. Early last year, however, the Broken Hill Association Smelters Proprietary Limited commenced the production of sulphuric acid at Port Pirie, in South Australia, from the gases arising from the roasting of lead concentrates produced at Broken Hill. A reference is now before the Tariff Board as to whether such sinter gases should be brought into the bounty field.

Sulphuric acid production for the year ended June, 1956, totalled 904,500 mono tons, of which almost 360,000 tons were made from Australian materials, or less than 40 per cent, of the total. An improvement is expected in the current year, when the total production is estimated at 977,600 tons, including. 474,000 tons from Australian materials. Thus the percentage used should rise towards 50 per cent. This is still below the target set by the Government as the desired level of usage.

Honorable members will, I am sure, appreciate that the bounty is achieving its purpose of removing from the sulphuric acid and complementary industries the uncertainties surrounding the supply of overseas brimstone. There is still a long way to go, however, before it can be said that full advantage is being taken of the raw materials indigenous to Australia. I commend the bill to honorable members.

Debate (on motion by Mr. Pollard) adjourned.

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