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Wednesday, 2 October 1974
Page: 1575

Senator DRAKE-BROCKMAN (WESTERN AUSTRALIA) -My question is directed to the Minister for Agriculture and I too would like to know what the Government has in mind. In view of the admission by the Acting Prime Minister that the Government bungled over the superphosphate bounty decision, how many applications have been received by the Minister's Department requesting the continuation of the bounty and how many were referred to the Industries Assistance Commission? Who made the referral decisions and what criteria were used to determine the merits of the applications? What is the superphosphate price in Australia following devaluation? How does this compare with the price 12 months ago?

Senator WRIEDT - I am not aware that any Minister has said that the Government bungled on the matter of superphosphate. It is true that one comment has been made to the effect that the Government may have acted in a manner different from the way in which it did act. But it should be pointed out that at the time of the decision it was made quite clear that access to the Industries Assistance Commission would be available to any section of rural industry in Australia or to any region of rural industry, that if it presented a prima facie case to the Government, that case would be referred to the Commission. In the case of the Westralian Farmers Co-op Ltd, its submission was regarded as a prima facie case of disadvantage to the area. As a result the submission was referred to the Commission. I believe that a finding by the Commission should come down by about March of next year. I cannot say exactly the precise number of other submissions which have been made. I think it would be of the order of eight or maybe ten. None of them established a case as clearly as the Westralian Farmers did. Consequently it was decided by the Government that a prima facie case had not been established. The matter is always under review by the Government, as are all policies. Although the present system of approach may appear on the face of it to have some difficulties, I believe that in fact it does provide an open channel to any section of rural industries to make submissions to the Government. I am quite sure that in every case a fair evaluation is made of these submissions before a decision is made.

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