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Tuesday, 29 October 1974
Page: 2020


Senator YOUNG (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Is the Minister for Agriculture aware that since he last answered me on the matter of superphosphate bounty, chemical workers in the industry have received a 20 per cent wage increase, the metal trades unions have applied for a 10 per cent wage increase, the price of rock phosphate has further increased by 32 per cent to 35 per cent, there has been the effect of the 12 per cent devaluation and the price of sulphur is expected to increase early in 1975? Is the Minister also aware that these increased costs will raise the price of superphosphate by at least $8-odd per tonne to a maximum of $40-odd per tonne? I am talking of the 1975 anticipated costs. In the light of these factors, will the Minister give consideration to introducing some form of bounty for superphosphate to assist and encourage increased production in the rural industry? Will he make an early statement on the matter to clarify the situation? If not, how does the Government align itself with its present policy of support for the Food and Agriculture Organisation in order to increase food production and to help feed the starving millions in the world today?


Senator WRIEDT (TASMANIA) (Minister for Agriculture) - Last week Senator Young asked me a question along lines which sought the Government's agreement to extending the payment of the superphosphate bounty to 30 June next year. He suggested not that we increase the actual amount of money being paid but that the amount remaining to be paid be extended over those additional months. I indicated to him last week that despite the fact that the initial proposition did appear to have merit, on investigation through my department and the Bureau of Agricultural Economics, we found that the benefits which would flow from such a proposition would be minimal and, spread over the totality of the Austraiian farming community, would average approximately 3 tonnes for the remaining part of the year. For that reason and in view of the very great administrative work that would be involved such action did not appear to be warranted. It is true that the price of phosphate will increase. The wage claims to which the honourable senator has referred are not in my sphere of responsibility. No doubt those matters were settled under the proper arbitration procedures. He asked me how the Government justifies its position at the forthcoming world food conference without supporting the price of phosphate.


Senator Young - I said a support system.


Senator WRIEDT - A support system to subsidise it, in effect. I have stated on many occasions that the real incentive to the farmer is the price that he will get finally. When we are talking about the world food conference we are talking about wheat particularly and the great responsibility on this country to maximise its wheat crop, especially next year when the real pinch almost certainly will come. The greatest incentives to the farmer to maximise that production are, as I am sure Senator Young will agree, the level of the first advance and the removal of restrictions on his plantings early next year. I believe these are much more effective ways of getting maximum production.


Senator Durack - Without super?


Senator WRIEDT -Without super; that is right.


Senator Withers - They can use mulch.


Senator WRIEDT -If Senator Withersis such an authority in this area perhaps he would like to write a paper and countermand the fairly competent economists available to the Government who can disprove what he has just said and endorse what I have just said. It is true that next year especially there will be an increase in the price of phosphate occasioned by the world demand for it, in exactly the same way as there will be increasing prices for wheat occasioned by the world demand for that commodity. If we operate in a free market society we must take the bad with the good. Our greatest safeguard for the future of phosphate and the protection of our agricultural production is through the development of our own phosphate deposits. That is where the answer lies, not in the payment of a bounty. This Government, in conjunction with Broken Hill South Ltd in Queensland, is taking every step it can to accelerate the production of that phosphate. The first of it will be available next year. If we put our efforts to maximising that production to protect the Australian farmer from the world price for phosphate rock we will be doing more to increase his efficiency and protect him from the world market than we will by paying phosphate bounties now.







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