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Tuesday, 17 May 1960

Mr McEWEN - The honorable member refers to a variety of matters. The payment of a bounty on sulphuric acid is in accordance with a policy that has stood for a long time, and was designed to ensure the use of indigenous products, such as sulphuric acid which is necessary for the production of superphosphate. It has been the policy of this Government, as indeed I think it was the policy of the government in which the honorable member was a Minister, to pay a bounty on the production of sulphuric acid rather than impose a tariff on elemental sulphur. This was done so that the cost of supporting the local industry would be borne by the community as a whole rather than by the primary producers, of whose position the Government is very conscious.

As for copper, it is well known that the Government's policy is to protect the Australian copper industry. The tariff is designed to ensure that the local copper industry shall enjoy protection to the extent of £275 per ton f.o.b. or c.i.f. - I forget which. However, should the industry need further assistance, the Parliament has approved the payment of a bounty on copper rather than that the import duty should be increased. This has been done in order to keep the price of copper down to a reasonable level.

Much more sulphate of ammonia is produced in Australia by private enterprise than is produced in government-owned factories. I understand that much of this commercial production, with by-products from steelworks and gasworks, can be sold competitively. However, the industry, which for the most part is centred in Tasmania, has asked for a reference to the Tariff Board, and the matter is before the Tariff Board now. There seems to be no likelihood that production at the government explosives factories can be continued except at unreasonable cost to the taxpayers.

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