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Thursday, 1 September 1921

Senator GARDINER (New South Wales) . - Before the item is disposed of, I think it would be as well if the Minister (Senator Pearce) placed some information before honorable senators as to the profits from Nauru Island for the last twelve months. This Government have invested £1,480,000 in that venture. I do not know how much they are paying to salaried officials there, but I believe their overhead charges average something like 42 or 45 per cent. Any one who has a knowledge of the business knows -that, no matter what happens, there is never going to be cheap phosphate from that island. Apparently, this proposal to impose a duty of -25 per cent., while it may have the effect of making superphosphate dearer, will, perhaps, enable the Government to show some profit on the island proposition. The Government bought their ships out of the farmers' produce, and now they are going to do the same with regard to Nauru, the acquisition of which I regard as the biggest blunder ever committed by a blundering Government. The overhead charges are enormous, and the proposed increased duties are merely an effort to make the farmer pay more for his superphosphate.

Senator Wilson - They are unloading their mistakes on to the farmers.

Senator GARDINER - Yes ; to make up for this' Government blunder.

Senator Pearce - There was no blunder, about Nauru. It is one of the best things we have done.

Senator GARDINER - It is absurd for the Minister to say that, in the face of the overhead charges on a capital expenditure of about £3,000,000, of which amount this Government is responsible for £1,480,000. Every one knows that the cost of phosphatic rock is the cost of the labour employed in getting it out, just as with quarried metal. In the case of Nauru Island, the labour costs will be as great as in any other country, and, in addition, there are the overhead charges on the capital cost, as well as the salaries of highly paid officials. Now we are asked to agree to a duty in the general Tariff of 25 per cent., which will probably give the Government enough revenue to cover up their tracks. . I want to voice my protest against this additional burden upon our primary industries, which again have to take second place to our secondary industries. All through this Tariff the primary producers have 'had no consideration, and this is the last attempt to handicap them.

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