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Thursday, 1 September 1921

Senator PEARCE (Western Australia) (Minister for Defence) . - I move -

That the House of Representatives he requested to amend the item, to read as follows : -

Manures -

(a)   Superphosphates manufactured with in the British Empire from rock phosphate produced within the British Empire, including any Territory administered under Mandate by any part of the British Empire, British, free; intermediate, free; general, free.

(b)   N.E.I., ad val., British, 10 per cent.; intermediate, 15 per cent.; general, 25 per cent.

Honorable senators will see that the effect of this request, if carried, will be to allow all superphosphates manufactured anywhere within the British Empire or in the Mandated Territories to come into the Commonwealth free of duty.

Senator Lynch - Where it does not come from.

Senator PEARCE.Yes, it does. Honorable senators know that on the Island of Nauru, which is under the joint control of Great Britain, New Zealand, and the Commonwealth, there is one of the greatest deposits of phosphatic rock in the world. Australia is rich in sulphide and pyritic ores, and the sulphuric acid manufactured from these ores with the phosphatic rock form the raw materials from which superphosphate is made. Superphosphate is produced very extensively in the Commonwealth. It is also manufactured, I understand, in New Zealand and South Africa, so that there are ample sources of supply within the British Empire. It is true that in the past we have imported a large quantity of phosphatic rock from Japan, and in this connexion" I desire to direct honorable senators' attention to the remarks of Sir Edgeworth David, one of our greatest scientific chemists, concerning the lessons to be learned from the war. One of these, which he particularly emphasized, is the absolute dependence of a country upon acid production as the foundation of its munition supplies. A country that has not developed its production of acids is impotent and helpless. Here is a country not very far from us which has developed its acid plants to a tremendous extent, not only for the production of acid for commercial purposes, but also that they may be used for the production of munitions. If a country is cut off from its supply of fertilizers in time of war the supply of food, which is essential, at once is lessened. What was it that strangled Germany ? The want of fertilizers for the treatment of the soil decreased the production of food and fats in that country, and had an appreciable effect in bringing about the end of the war. During the war our superphosphate manufacturers had the opportunity, if they had desired, to exploit this market, but they did not do so. They kept their prices below the world's parity. During the war period New Zealand was paying £12 per ton for superphosphates, whilst we were paying £6 per ton. The definite guarantee has been given by the manufacturers of superphosphates that if the duties now proposed are adopted they will not take advantage of the impost and increase their prices. The Department has that assurance in writing.

Senator Wilson - Is it a proper agreement ?

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