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Thursday, 19 December 1912

Senator LYNCH (Western Australia) . - There is an old saying that " all things come to him who waits"; but I began to think during the last few years that the proverb would be falsified in my own case. I am glad to learn, however, that the Government have deemed it well to introduce a Bill for the purpose of encouraging rock phosphate and wood pulp manufacture. I have been more particularly interested in the encouragement of a fertilizing industry. I have always held the view that primary production in this country needs to be fostered for all it is worth. We are able to produce far more than is required for local consumption. Therefore, we have to look for markets oversea, where we are compelled to jostle against competitors from all parts of the world, who are producing under conditions which are favorable to their out-bidding and under-selling us. Our wheat-growers, for example, have to compete with wheat grown in India, where labour is cheap, and In Southern Europe, where it is very little dearer. It is quite plain, therefore, that if we are to turn our waste lands to profitable use, we must see to it that those engaged in cultivation receive the utmost assistance that it is possible to extend to them by legislation. Any person going on to the lighter and drier soils of Australia has not the ghost of a hope of succeeding unless he is able to till the land properly with due attention to seed and fertilizing. Fertilizing in at least one of our States has almost revolutionized land values. We mav be quite satisfied that unless settlers fertilize they may as well give up cultivation altogether, or -expect little reward for their labour, especially in the drier parts of Australia, where the rainy season is short, and the light soil will not yield those abundant harvests which are only to be obtained at all bv the adequate use of suitable manures. At present the price paid for fertilizers in Australia is far too high. About two years ago I went to the trouble to find out what our competitors in the wheat-growing areas of America were paying. I found from the New South Wales Agricultural Department that the American wheat farmers, who send their produce into the markets of the world in competition with ours, are paying something like 60 per cent, less than the Australian farmer for fertilizers of corresponding quality. European farmers have further advantages in being nearer the principal markets. It is quite plain, therefore, that the Australian wheat farmer is seriously handicapped, and can only succeed by the liberal use of suitable fertilizers. I thought that the position could be made easier by offering a reward for the discovery of rock phosphate, and I am glad to find that after some years of waiting the Government have recognised the wisdom and necessity of taking action in this direction. It is not only the wheatgrower who will benefit from the production of phosphates, but also the orchardist, the dairy farmer, the market gardener, and every person engaged in cultivation. Fertilizers may be said to be essential for the successful development of the waste lands of the Commonwealth. I should like Ministers to enlighten me as to how the £75,000 is to be applied. I notice that it is payable over a five years' period, at the rate of 15 per cent, for wood pulp, and 10 per cent, for rock phosphate. I am at a loss to understand why any distinctionis made, because 10 per cent, on the market value of phosphates is poor enough. It is true that there will be a reward of £1,000 for every fresh discovery that is made. That is indeed a good thing. But I do not see any justification for placing wood pulp in a more favorable position than rock phosphate. There is no necessity to discover the wood, because it is here. We do not know anything about rock phosphates further than that there are indications all round the Commonwealth, especially on the islands adjacent to the coast, of deposits of it being in existence. But I think a difference of 5 per cent, is rather too liberal, and that it would be well to put both industries onthe same footing. As regards the amount of £1.000 for the discovery of rock phosphate, it is by no means too much, because a person has to provide himself with a plant, which will cost a great deal of money. He may have to find a boat for the purpose of searching the islands round the coast, so that £1,000 will not go very far towards the provision of the necessary outfit.

Senator Guthrie - The South Australian Government offers £5,000.

Senator LYNCH - That makes me somewhat sorry for the extra caution observed by the Government. I am glad that this amount is provided, even if it is far below what South Australia has offered. I welcome this measure, because I believe it is an honest endeavour to help those people who are very much in need of assistance to-day - the primary producers of the country. It is a laudable effort to supply them with a cheap fertilizer.

Senator Guthrie - And also to develop our resources !

Senator LYNCH - Quite so. It will have this double advantage: it will enable deposits which may be found to be worked, and our people will not be put to the necessity of going to Ocean Island, Christmas Island, or Japan for fertilizers for their use. There may be latent deposits of rock phosphate which may be brought to light through the action of the Government, and I congratulate them, even at this eleventh hour, although they are not wholly blamable, on respecting the finding of this Senate on two occasions, when we passed resolutions in favour of taking action in this direction.'

Senator Findley - Its introduction is mainly due to the efforts of the honorable senator.

Senator LYNCH - I . am pleased to know that ; but, apart from personal considerations, it will have a double advantage - first, of providing labour in Australia to work our own deposits, and, secondly, of giving men on the land in the interior a chance to make better progress than they have hitherto made through having to pay such high prices for fertilizers.

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