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Wednesday, 23 November 1921

Senator SENIOR (South Australia) . - I did not intend to enter into this discussion, but so many statements, that seem to be half truths, have been made that I must correct them. On

Friday last the Committee was discussing the question of sulphur, and it distinctly and emphatically placed a higher duty on it than that which is now being placed on superphosphates. How can it be reasonable and just to the men who are making superphosphates to leave the duty on sulphur if superphosphates are allowed to come in with a lower duty? The Senate will be stultifying itself if it removes the duty from sulphur.

Senator Wilson -Is the honorable senator arguing that two wrongs make a right?

Senator SENIOR - I say that deliberately and emphatically the Committee considered the position at its last meeting, and arrived at that decision.

Senator Lynch - Was the decision right or wrong?

Senator SENIOR - The honorable senator says that because the Senate did a certain thing last week it should do something entirely contrary to-day. Is that right or wrong ? There must be some consistency. I take my fair share of the responsibility for what has been done previously. I took into account the fact that there were a number of individuals in South Australiawho were manufacturers of sulphuric acid, and who considered that the introduction of sulphur free of duty would be inimical to their interests and to the interests of South Australia and the Commonwealth. That was not denied, and the Senate agreed to the duty. To-day we are being asked to wipe out the duty on superphosphates. We cannot do that unless we wipe out the duty on sulphur. We cannot be a party to an injustice' to-day that we would not have been a party to last week. The arguments that have been advanced are based on the idea that the whole of the profits made by the companies were made out of superphosphates'. These companies are manufacturers of superphosphates, and, incidentally, many of them are manufacturers of sulphuric acid from the by-products of their mines. The period during which the immense profits are said to have been made was a period when the companies were mining large quantities of metals, and were not making large quantities of superphosphates. No member of this Committee has attempted to prove that the profits were made out of superphosphates or sulphuric acid.

Senator Lynch - Did I not show it by the balance-sheets of the Mount Lyell and Wallaroo mines?

Senator SENIOR - The honorable senator did not show that. Wallaroo produced copper, and the other mine lead and silver. There are three companies that manufacture superphosphates in South Australia, two in New South Wales, and four in Melbourne. I am quoting the two companies of whose operations I know something. If the honorable senator will prove to me that the profits he takes exception to were made on the production of superphosphates, then he will have some ground upon which to base his argument for a reduction of duty.

Senator Lynch - There is not a single reference to mining in the balance-sheet.

Senator SENIOR - The balance-sheet includes every activity of the company. During the war, and up to the time of the signing of the armistice, large numbers of people were employed in these mines mining ore, and presumably because of that activity profits were made. If the profits were made in some other way I am open to conviction. But so far that has not been demonstrated.

Senator Wilson - What has the mining of ore got to do with the superphosphate question ?

Senator SENIOR - That shows how absolutely ' "one-eyed" my honorable friendis. The mining of copper at Wallaroo has a great deal to do with the manufacture of sulphuric acid.

Senator Lynch - The balance-sheet does not show it.

Senator SENIOR - I do not say that it does. It is "up to" my honorable friend to show that it does not. His argument is not worth a 2d. bun unless he can show distinctly that the profits were made from the manufacture of super - prosphates. There is another point that I want to bring home to Senator Wilson's attention. From what part of the world are we to expect competition?

Senator Wilson - Manufacturers do not expect any competition, and the request for a duty was made to enable them to regulate prices. I could not have emphasized that point more than I did if I tried for a week, and I am sorry the honorable senator did not grasp it.

Senator SENIOR - That is a very nice argument. The honorable senator is so innocent that he expects the Committee to accept the statement as if it did not know anything else. He trespasses upon the common sense of the Committee by advancing such an argument. He does an injustice to himself.

Senator Wilson - Did I not tell the honorable senator that the very people who are to-day pushing for this duty were against it until a duty was placed on sulphur. Now they are prepared to load the duties on to the farmer.

Senator SENIOR - I have not been within that " push." The honorable senator may seek to cloud the issue, but I ask him : Where are we to expect competition from ?

Senator Wilson - Competition will be met locally, but not from outside Australia. If my honorable friend knew a little more about commerce he would realize that a duty is often imposed merely in order to get a higher price.

Senator SENIOR - The honorable senator is quite well aware that there are two places from which we may expect competition. Japan has free sulphur, and can get rock phosphate at a lower cost than we can get it in Australia.

Senator Wilson - Did not Japan have free sulphur in 1914?

Senator SENIOR - I grant that she did; but Senator Wilson must have forgotten the figures supplied by Senator Earle, which showed that Japan's exports of this article rose from less than 250,000 tons a year to 1,250,000 tons. The honorable senator has also forgotten that in Australia there has been an increase of 50 per cent. in the wages cost of manufacturing superphosphate. Australia would have to compete against the cheap labour of Japan in this industry, and if we consider the position in South Africa, the other country from which we might expect competition, it is that which confronted us when we were dealing with explosives, and the arguments then accepted by the Committee as sound are equally sound as applied to this article. The Committee, having deliberately come to the conclusion that it is necessary to press for the duty on sulphur, is morally bound to follow that upby pressing for a duty on this article. It has to be borne in mind that superphosphate imported from Britain and from British Possessions will be admitted free. Our friends who are opposed to the duty say that that is not sufficient. They desire that superphosphate shall be admitted free from countries that are not British, in order that it may compete with superphosphate manufactured in Australia.

Question - That the word proposed to be inserted be so inserted (Senator DrakeBrockman's amendment) - put. The Committeedivided.

Ayes . . . . 5

Noes . . . . . . 17

Majority . . . . 12



Question so resolved in the negative.

Amendment negatived.

Motion agreed to.

Item 424-

Vessels, including all fittings imported therewith, viz.: -

And on and after 1st January, 1923 -

(b)   Vessels, n.e.i., trading Intra-State or

Inter-State, or otherwise employed in Australian waters for any continuous period of three months, ad val., British, 25 percent.; intermediate, 30 per cent.; general, 35 per cent.

Senate'sRequest.-Makethe date 1' 1925."

House of Representatives' Message.- Made with the following modifications: -

Sub-item (b) (second occurring) - The date made - And on and after 1st July, 1923 ; ' and after the word " months " the following inserted: - ", excepting vessels exceeding 500 tons gross register ordered before the 11th October, 1921." (As a consequential amendment, the date in sub-item (f), paragraph (2) will now read 30th June, 1923, instead of 31st December, 1922.)

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