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Thursday, 1 September 1921

Senator WILSON (South Australia) . - All the arguments which I advanced at an earlier stage with respect to superphosphates still hold good. When this Committee expressed itself in favour of a duty upon sulphur, approximating 50 per cent., it was obvious to all who take an interest in the matter that the manufacturer of superphosphates would pass on his added costs to the man on the land. The Government went before the electors nearly two years ago with the cry, " Produce, produce, produce " ; but they have turned round since and put all the burdens upon the producer. A fey? days ago Senator Earle stated that almost' the whole of the sulphur used in Australia was locally produced. Between 40,000 and 50,000 tons of sulphur is imported annually by the superphosphate manufacturers. In 1914 farmers were paying £4 2s. 6d. per ton for their fertilizers. To-day, the price is £6. I have been informed that the quantity of superphosphate used per acre is about 1 cwt. To-day his fertilizers cost the farmer about 6s. an acre. What will be the effect of the proposed duty?

Senator Earle - Not a penny more.

Senator WILSON - When the duties imposed by the Government begin to take their full effect the cost will be somewhere about 8s. per acre.

Senator Pearce - That is merely an assertion. More competent authorities than the honorable senator have stated that the cost will not be increased.

Senator WILSON - Only a day or two ago I read, in this chamber, a statement from the chairman of a South Australian superphosphate company which indicated that the duties imposed upon imported sulphur would represent an addition of 5s. per ton to the price of superphosphate. That / is how the manufacturers will be passing on the impost, of £2 10s. on sulphur. The Government have entered into business-like arrangements for the sale of the product of Nauru Island. Everything, including finance and provision of shipping, has been thought out in the interests of the manufacturer. Why did not the Government include in their arrangements a provision fixing the cost of superphosphate to the producer? The whole difficult question might have been settled once and for all. Now, however, it is Up to " the Senate - seeing that another place has refused to take the responsibility - to fix the price of the farmers' fertilizers. Why should this Committee be saddled with the delicate responsibility? The farmer is not looking for sympathy, but he has a claim for fair play. I plead with the Committee to fulfil that claim.

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