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Wednesday, 23 November 1921

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Repatriation) . - I want to remind the Committee of what is, to me, a very important factor. If my motion iscarried, it will leave all manures free except those superphosphates whichsome to us from outside the British Empire.

Senator Wilson - Superphosphate is virtually the only manure that matters. The motion will retain a duty on the only article that is of any moment.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Where do superphosphates come from ?

Senator Wilson - I will tell the Minister in a moment.

Senator Earle - The Minister knows quite well where they come from.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) -Of course I know, and everybody else knows. I want to find out whether Senator Wilson knows. I remind the Committee that this country recently put in a very large sum of money, amounting to millions of pounds, to purchase Ocean Island and Nauru Island. What for? To add to its territorialdominions? Not a bit. It purchased them in order to assure a supply of phosphatic rock for the farmers of this country.

Senator Lynch - At a cheap price?

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - We believe so. In any case, the Senate approved of that purchase. Having invested a very large sum of money for the sole purpose of benefiting the farmers and giving them an assured supply of this essential commodity, it appears entirely reasonable that we should say, " You shall take that commodity and not leave it idle upon out hands."

Senator Plain - No Japanese superphosphate will be imported for many years.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Then where will it come from? If none is imported the dirty is inoperative.

Senator Lynch - Why does the Government want the duty if no superphosphate will be imported ?

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - The duty is wanted to insure that there shall be a preference in the use of the commodity that we have purchased for our own farmers. We have been imposing duties to protect industries with a capital of £200,000 or £300,000, and sometimes very much less, perhaps £20,000 or £30,000. Here is an industry in which the Government has placed some millions of public money, and it is suggested that the Committee should say, " It can take its chance, and if it proves a loss the taxpayers must carry it." There can be little profit to the taxpayers in any circumstances. As soon as a profit is made the farmer will ask, and will succeed in getting, superphosphate at a cheaper price. The Government will not be allowed to make a profit. The benefit is to the farmer; the risk is to the taxpayer. Is it too much to ask that we do for our own national industry what we are doing for the industries of private individuals? These islands are capable of supplying Australia's needs at a reasonable figure. The Senate must have thought so, or it would not have agreed to their purchase. Having done that, we have a right to say that a market shall be kept for the products of those two islands, and that the farmers for whom they were purchased shall be asked to take their supplies of superphosphate from them. In the circumstances, I ask the Committee to reject the amendment.

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