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Wednesday, 30 June 1937

Senator PAYNE (Tasmania) . - I desire to protest against the action of the Government in reducing the fertilizer subsidy from 15s. to 10s. a ton. This is a matter of vital importance to those throughout Australia who are engaged in a small way in primary production. I understand that requests for assistance under this provision became so numerous that the Government, desiring to keep expenditure down, reduced the amount of the subsidy.

Senator Sir George Pearce - The matter which the honorable senator is discussing does not come under any item now before the committee.

Senator PAYNE - I know that, but we are considering a vote for the encouragement of plant industry, and that is the purpose of the' fertilizer subsidy. The reduction of this subsidy has been a hardship to many of our most reputable small farmers who have been battling for years against all sorts of difficulties while carrying on an industry which is of the greatest use to Australia. It must be obvious to honorable senators that these small farmers are the very men whom we should most encourage. We want small land-holders, preferably men who own their farms, and as many of them as we can get. It has been suggested that the Government might reasonably consider limiting the amount of assistancewhich any one person may receive by way of subsidy. I think the suggestion an admirable one, as it should then be possible to keep the subsidy at the original rate of . 15s. a ton. It has been found that -the -application of the right kind of fertilizer in suitable quantities has been most helpful. This season has been a most prolific one in Tasmania ; there has been not only an increase of quantity, but also an improvement of quality, which has never previously been excelled, and seldom equalled. That is largely due to the use of more fertilizer of the right type, a practice which has been made possible by the Commonwealth subsidy. Unfortunately, although production has increased, prices have been unusually low, with the result that the farmers have not been able to recover the cost of production. That consideration should induce the Government to restore the subsidy to the original 15s., and it would probably not be necessary to increase the aggregate expenditure if the amount receivable by any one person were limited.

Senator Arkins - What limit does the honorable senator suggest?

Senator PAYNE - I do not suggest any limit; that is a matter for inquiry.

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