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Wednesday, 18 May 1960

Mr BROWNE (Kalgoorlie) .- I do not think this is a bill which requires much discussion, but the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) said one or two things which might create a false impression. For instance, he said that the Broken Hill Company Proprietary Limited will receive a benefit under this legislation. I cannot agree with that. Then he said that Cuming Smith, and Mount Lyell Farmers Fertilizers Limited, Commonwealth Fertilizers and Chemicals Limited, Cresco Fertilizers (W.A.) Limited and Australian Fertilizers Limited had, between them, received many hundreds of thousands of pounds by way of bounty. I think I should point out that the bounty was not paid to the manufacturers of sulphuric acid merely for the purpose of enabling them to carry on; it was paid to them in respect of their use of indigenous materials. There is no doubt that the manufacturers of sulphuric acid would have made the acid in any case, but possibly by using imported brimstone, to the detriment of the producers of our indigenous materials. One of the producers of indigenous material is operating in the Kalgoorlie electorate, and I think it produces most of the pyrites used in the manufacture of sulphuric acid. I refer to the Norseman gold mine.

In his second-reading speech, the Minister said that the Government recognized its obligation to the producers of indigenous materials, and I am pleased to see that it is honouring that obligation now. The obligation arose in the first instance, I think, during the war years, when supplies of brimstone and other sources of sulphur from overseas were hard to get. Eventually, the manufacturers of sulphuric acid adapted their plant to the use of pyrites, and one gold mine ceased mining for gold and concentrated on the production of pyrites in order to meet the demands of the manufacturers. Now that supplies of brimstone are more plentiful, there is a big temptation to the manufacturers of sulphuric acid to use this cheaper material, but in order to keep in operation those businesses which made a sacrifice during the war and concentrated on the production of indigenous materials, the Government pays a bounty to the manufacturers of the acid who will use indigenous materials. This is not a matter of Cuming Smith, Cresco or any of the other big organizations profiting from the bounty, because I understand that, despite the provisions of this bill, it would still pay the manufacturers of sulphuric acid to use brimstone. The fact is that they are paid a bounty for using a certain quantity of the indigenous materials, and this is the Government's way of keeping faith with those who produce those materials.

I think it is a very good thing that the Government is endeavouring to keep the indigenous materials industry going until the Tariff Board's report comes to hand. I hope I shall have an opportunity to elaborate the position further when the Tariff Board's report has been submitted and considered by the Government. I hope, too, that the Government will renew the bounty for another period of one or three years, as the case may be. In the town of Norseman, which has a population of 2,500 people, the payment of this bounty has had a beneficial effect in that it has kept in operation the gold mine which concentrated on the production of pyrites in the interests of the country's war effort. There are only two mines in the district. If one were to close down, unemployment would result, and we do not want that. I congratulate the Government upon this measure, and I trust that I shall be able to deal with the matter further on a long-term basis when the Tariff Board's report comes to hand.

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