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Wednesday, 23 November 1921

Senator REID (Queensland) .- I listened with great interest to Senator Wilson, and during thecourse of his speech I asked him if he could give the Committee any idea of the increased cost of production in the superphosphate industry. He was unable to supply me with the information; but since then I have obtained it from a most reliable authority. I find that the cost of production has gone up over 50 per cent. Wages in 1914 were 9s. per day, "and now they are 14s. 3d.

Senator Wilson -So these superphosphate manufacturers are losing money?

Senator REID - I do not say that. The honorable senator, in his characteristic and dogmatic manner, also told honorable senators that we were now getting phosphatic rock at 15s. per ton less than in 1914. I am informed by the company that the price is £1 per ton more, owing to the" cost of carriage.

Senator Wilson - That is a serious condemnation of this Government.

Senator REID - It is not. Wages, freights, and everything else connected with the industry have increased so considerably that if the price of phosphatic rock is only £1 per ton higher than in 1914, there should be no reason to complain of freight charges.

Senator Lynch - Who is your authority for that statement?

Senator REID - The representatives of the company in Melbourne. I am also informed that the price of sulphur has doubled, and that the industry has to pay Arbitration Court awards, and observe Australian conditions, over which this Government have no control whatever. It appears that the Arbitration Court, not the Government, determines the amount of taxation which an industry shall pay. I intend to support the motion, because the Government, in my opinion, are supporting an industry which requires protection.

Senator Wilson - You cannot say that. (There is nothing upon which you can base that statement.

Senator REID - I am basing it on the present cost of production of this commodity in Australia, and because Australian conditions do not apply to outside manufacturers. I do not think anybody can say that the farmer will not pay the increased cost, but this industry, if encouraged, will support a certain number of breadwinners, whowill use the farmers' wheat and his other products. All these things, whether under Protection or Free Trade, are interacting. Even ifthe cost of superphosphates to the farmer is increased, he will benefit indirectly because the number of consumers of his products will be increased. I am sorry that the price of wheat is coming down, but that is a matter quite beyond the control of thisCommittee. I am just as anxious as anybody else to protect the primary producer. I support these duties on the principle that what is good for the community generally is good for a section of it.

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