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Tuesday, 24 September 1974
Page: 1290

Senator YOUNG (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Is the Minister for Agriculture aware that the dropping of the superphosphate bounty will cost rural industry an extra $66.9m, much of which will be reflected in increased costs to the consumers? Is the Minister also aware that the cost of superphosphate has risen this year from $15.55 a tonne to $33.58 a tonne and without the current bounty will cost $45.39 a tonne? Is he also aware of the New Zealand Government's approach to increased costs of superphosphate in that country? What does this Government propose to do about this matter in Australia?

Senator WRIEDT - I am not sure that Senator Young's calculations of the costs of superphosphate are correct. My understanding is that there is a slight variation between the States, with Tasmania paying about $2 a tonne more than the mainland States. But the average is about $33 or $34 a tonne and not $45 a tonne.

Senator Young - I said 'without the bounty'.

Senator WRIEDT -Well, that is the price they are paying at the present time. It is true that the cost has risen. Naturally this means a higher input cost to the rural sector. In taking this decision the Government has to consider other areas of expenditure. I should at least remind the honourable senator that one other area of increased expenditure this year has been an extra $60m spent on education in rural areas. I suppose it is a matter of judgment whether it is of more benefit to the rural community to give a subsidy on phosphate or to make sure that equal education opportunities are given to children who live in rural areas. I would have thought that the latter was more important.

I am aware of what happens in New Zealand. The system of paying a maximum tonnage bonus or subsidy has been discontinued and a new system has been introduced whereby the price will not be allowed to exceed $26 a tonne in that country. I understand that there is no limit to the actual amount. The cost to the New Zealand

Government is around $45m. However, the Australian Government has said that the Industries Assistance Commission is available to receive applications from the rural industry and to hear it argue its case. This has been the whole purpose of the Commission from the time of its formation. I might say that with the exception of the Australian Country Party it has had and still has wide support in the rural sector.

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