8th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. W. Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– “Will the Prime Minister, before introducing a Bill to increase the allowance of members of Parliament, ask the approval of the House to the same rate of increase, namely, 60 per cent., in the allowances made to soldiers incapacitated by the war?
– When the Bill is introduced, the honorable member will have an opportunity of expressing his views regarding it
– Is it the intention of the Government to take control of the sugar produced in Victoria from beet, and, if so, will that he done by regulations under the War Precautions Act?
– On Friday a deputation put its case before me, and in reply I pointed out that at present prices the Government is losing £14 per ton on the sugar it is supplying to the community; but I promised to do what I could. I have not yet had an opportunity to put the matter before my colleagues. Probably the Government has no power except under the War Precautions Act to control the production of beet sugar, but we could control it under that Act until its expiry, which must come about within a certain period after the declaration of peace. At present I can only say that the Government will consider the matter. We are desirous of helping, not of crushing, the beet sugar industry, and I sincerely regret that, after eight years of encouragement by the Government of Victoria and the Commonwealth Government, the total production of beet sugar in this State is the paltry amount of 1,400 tons.
Mr.BLUNDELL. - Owing to the seri- ous shortage of coal in South Australia, a number of industries there may have to close down within the next few weeks. May I, therefore, ask whether the Government cannot, under the circumstances, try to supply coal so that these factories may be kept open?
– The question was raised last week, when I said that I would see what could be done to make freight available. At least four Commonwealth vessels arc now carrying coal, and I have been conferring with the Manager of the Commonwealth fleet as to the extent to which other vessels could be made temporarily available. Of course, our vessels, like private vessels, are under contracts to load cargo.
At the Premiers’ Conference, which meets at the end of the week, an opportunity will be given to discuss the matter, which I recognise to be of very great importance.
– It is stated in this morning’s newspapers that large sums of money are being expended in purchasing machinery for an arsenal, and works of a similar character. I ask the Prime Minister whether the Government will prevent the expenditure of large sums of money in this direction until Parliament has approved of the carrying out of the work.
– I cannot say on the spur of the moment whether Parliament has or has not approved of the establishment of an arsenal, though I hardly imagine that it would disapprove of such a thing. Without an arsenal we might as well say to the nations of the world, “ Come in, brothers, and take our appointed place.” The material to which the honorable member refers was offered to us by the British Government at prices so much below cost that we felt that it would be absurd to refuse it;but, of course, the transaction could be cancelled, because there has not yet been delivery. I shall see that when we are discussing the Estimates, the fullest information is made available to honorable members.
Facilities for Shipment of Coal
– I ask the Prime Minister whether, in view of the fact that the released Inter-State shipping from Government control, during the last four or five weeks, has not reached nearly the volume of coal deliveries that were current during the period of control, the Government will ask the Inter-State shipping companies to do their best, at least, to keep up to the facilities in this regard provided during the control of Inter-State shipping by the Government?
– Yes, we shall, but I think I may be permitted to remind honorable members that this House almost went on its knees every day, but the Sabbath - which is the best day of all for such a purpose - to ask that, for God’s sake they should have no more of Government control. The Government not only listened to, but heeded those prayers, and abolished Government control. Honorable members have now the full benefit and glorious blessings of private enterprise, which seemed so attractive to them when they were afar off. Now they have got them.
– We have not got them.
– You have got them. However, I shall go down to these companies, and speak to them.What their answer will be is very obvious. They will say that they conduct their business on commercial principles. The Government do not do that. The Government have bowels of compassion. They listen to what honorable members say. They do not want 30s. for every 20s. they expend. I am very sorry to hear what the honorable member for Wakefield has complained of. I shall speak to the shipping companies.
– I wish to ask the Acting Treasurer a question without notice. There was an announcement made in this morning’s newspapers that the Government have in contemplation the erection of offices for the High Court and some other purposes in the city of Melbourne. I shall be glad to know whether Parliament will be consulted before authority is given to begin any of this work.
– I should think so. I know nothing whatever of the matter to which the honorable member refers.
Presentation of Address-in-Reply.
– I have to inform the House that His Excellency the Governor-General will this day receive the Address-in-Reply agreed to by this House. I shall be glad if the mover and seconder, together with other honorable members, will now accompany me to present the Address. I shall now leave the chair, and propose to resume at a quarter past 4 o’clock, or as soon thereafter as may be convenient for the House. The bells will ring five minutes before the re-assembling of the House.
– I have to announce that, this afternoon, accompanied by honorable members, I waited on His Excellency the Governor- General, and presented to him the Address-in-Reply to His Excellency’s Speech at the opening of Parliament, which was agreed to by the House of Representatives on the 18th March, and that His Excellency was pleased to make the following reply : -
I receive with much pleasure the address which has been adopted by the House ofRepresentatives in reply to the speech delivered by me on the occasion of the opening of the first session of the eighth Commonwealth Parliament, and desire to thank you for your expression of loyalty to His Majesty the King.
Papers presented to the British Parliament -
Income Tax - Royal Commission (Imperial) - Report.
Peace - Treaty of Peace between the Allied and Associated Powers and Bulgaria, and Protocol, signed at Neuilly-sur-Seine, 27th November, 1919, with Map.
Profiteering Act - Findings by a Committee appointed to investigate the cost of production and distribution of wool, tops and yarns at all stages, and the profits arising therefrom.
Defence Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1920, Nos. 67, 69.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: - 1 to 3. All Departments affected by the report have been given the opportunity of replying to any adverse criticisms, but members can raise the question on Supply or on the Estimates.
Remittances to Germany
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
War Precautions Regulation 64b of 1915 is still in force; but consent to remittances to German nationals is given, provided the remittances are not -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
Whether, in view of the great demand for private letter-boxes, it is possible to arrange for the manufacture in Australia of the locks now said to be unobtainable from abroad?
Mr.WISE. - Locks for private letterboxes have been manufactured in Australia for some years past.
– On the 13th May the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill) asked the following questions: -
The information was then being obtained. I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
– On the 13th May the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mathews) asked whether the Government intended to pay Commonwealth employees for the holidays they received during the visit ‘of His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales. I then intimated that an announcement would shortly be made. I now desire to inform the House that, in order to have uniformity in this matter, it has been decided that where public holidays are granted to Commonwealth employees in connexion with the visit of His Royal Highness, such employees are to be paid for one public holiday.
– On the 3rd March, the honorable member forCapricornia (Mr. Higgs) asked the following question : -
Will the Prime Minister give instructions for the preparation of a memorandum by the Crown Solicitor showing in parallel columns the respective proposed alterations to the Constitution in the years 1912, 1915, and 1919, and the clauses of the Constitution that would be affected by the proposed alterations if carried, showing in black type in what respect the proposed alterations of 1919 differed from those of previous years?
I then undertook to comply with the honorable member’s request as far as possible. The following statement shows in as convenient a form as possible the several proposed alterations : -
Statement showing the text of the provisions of the Constitution proposed to be altered and the textual alterations and additions proposed to be made to the Constitution, by the proposed laws passed by both Houses of the Parliament inthe years 1912, 1915, and 1919 respectively. The text of the existing provisions proposed to be altered is shown immediately under the heading of each section of the Statement, and the text of the provisions as proposed to be altered is shown in the parallel columns in each section -
Note. - Each of the proposed laws passed in 1919 also contains the following provisions: -
The alterations made by this Act shall remain in force-
Provided that if no such Convention is constituted by the Commonwealth before the thirty-first day of December, One thousand nine hundred and twenty, the alterations made by this Act shall cease to have effect on the said thirty-first day of December, One thousand nine hundred and twenty.
– On Friday last the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. McWilliams) asked the following question : -
Can the Minister for the Navy, as Acting Treasurer, let us know on Tuesday the actual position of the credits in Australia of the Wheat and Wool Pools? Can ho tell us briefly what the total credits are? This would simplify matters when we deal with the Supply Bill, which must come before us shortly.
I promised to furnish the information, which is as follows : -
The operations of the Wheat Pools have resulted, to date, in an overdraft of £1,909,000. Arrangements are now being made for the payment of a further advance, details of which will be published shortly.
The Central Wool Committee’s only credit in Australia, other than small balances in the various administrative accounts, is the sum of £521,000 received in respect of wool sold on behalf of the British Government to local manufacturers. This amount will be credited to the British Government after the 30th June next.
Debate resumed from 14th May (vide page 2142), on motion by Mr. Tudor -
That the Bill be referred to a Select Committee.
.- The debate last week was remarkable for the fact that only one of the speakers, the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Marks), declared himself in favour of the Bill. My honorable friend the honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best) said he favoured an inquiry, and honorable member after honorable member on the other side urged thai; further information should be given before Parliament was committed to the agreement.
– I raised certain objections, and said I desired further information before I could support the Bill.
– And apparently the honorable member has had further information upstairs from the Prime Minister.We have not had it down here.
– We have had it on the floor of the House.
– No, we have not. The honorable member has no doubt heard the Prime Minister upstairs, but I did not have that advantage. On Friday, when honorable members on this side of the House were urging the need for further inquiry, the Prime Minister remarked that representatives of the Standard and “ Shell “ companies were in the galleries smiling with satisfaction, and I interjected that the smile on their faces was as nothing compared with the smile on the face of the Anglo-Persian man in the gallery. The incident reminded me of the limerick -
There was a young lady of Riga,
Who smiled as she rode- on a tiger;
They returned from the ride, with the lady inside,
And the smile on the face of the tiger.
– That does not apply to this situation.
– It does. The Prime Minister is absolutely “ inside “ the tiger as faras this agreement is concerned, and the “tiger” is the Anglo-Persian Oil Company.
– I am sorry for the tiger, then.
– The best speech made last week on the Bill was, in my opinion, that made by the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce) . And he ridiculed that part of the agreement relating to freight on crude oil at current rates, also that portion having reference to the amount of capital to be invested in the business. He stated that the £250,000 which the Government have agreed to put into the business, and the £250,000 to be invested by the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, will not be more than sufficient for distribution expenses of the oil business in Australia. The company have taken up land at Fremantle, and have also mads arrangements for land in Port Melbourne for the erection of storage tanks, but there is nothing in the agreement providing that these tanks shall go over to the refinery company. What will be our position if oilrefined in the Commonwealth refineries has to be stored in tanks belonging to the Anglo-Persian Company? It is quite possible that one-tenth of1d. per gallon per annum will be ample for storage, but until we have information’ on this subject we ‘ shall have no idea how much it will actually cost. The Anglo-Persian Company may charge what they like, and no doubt they will do so. We have been told that crude oil has increased in price all over the world. According to the Petrol Commission’s report, the price in the United States of America at present is 6 dollars per barrel, and I understand a barrel contains 42 Imperial gallons, making the price about 8d. per gallon. If we can get the crude oil to Australia, not at 8d., but at 6d. per gallon, the 200,000 tons will, at 240 gallons to the ton, cost us about £1,200,000.
Now on the question of freight, I may inform honorable members that the Anglo-Persian Company are the only people who trade in the Persian Gulf, and, according to the Petrol Commission’s Report, they are charging more than £15 per ton freight from Adaban, in the Persian Gulf, to the United Kingdom, and as the distance to Australia is as great, if not greater than, to England, they are not likely to charge the Commonwealth less. ‘ The Prime Minister has stated that he will alter that portion cf the agreement relating to price, and that the rate for crude oil will be the same as that charged to the British Government. But the British Government are not buying crude oil at all.
– Yes, they are. The British Government are the AngloPersian Company.
– I know the British Government hold more than one-half the shares in, the company, but it is not likely that they would fix the price f.o.b. Persian Gulf, and then sell it to themselves after refining. If we discover oil in Papua, are we likely to fix the price f.o.b. there? The honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best) and the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Austin Chapman) will bear me out when I say that these house-to-house transactions are always a source of trouble to the Customs Department with companies having establishments in Great Britain or other countries and Australia. Therefore, the Anglo-Persian Oil Company would not be likely to fix the price for crude oil in Persia. Crude oil varies in quality. During the war it was found that the product of one of the other Combines was’ infinitely superior for explosives to that obtained from the Persian Gulf. We have been told that 80 per cent, of the toluol used ‘ for explosives manufactured by the Allies was made ‘from, the Sumatra oil, and the verdict, of the men “ over there “ was that had it not been for the Combine which1 the Prime Minister has denounced as “ foreign “ making available this product for high explosives, the Allies would not have won the war. That is the position. During the war we spoke of those who fought with us as our Allies, and of those who were against us as the enemy. The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) apparently tried to confuse the issue by making it. appear that the Shell Oil Company was a foreign corporation, and, therefore, worthy of any ill-treatment to which we chose to subject it.
– That company was working on purely business lines.
– Undoubtedly. And the Anglo-Persian Oil Company is not in business merely “ for the good of its health “ or for the benefit of the country. It is in this enterprise for what it can make out of it.
– And’ so with, the Imperial Oil Company.
– The whole of them are in exactly the same position. I urge that we should have further information upon this subject, firstly, because the agreement would commit us in respect of too long a period, and, secondly, because of the amount of money involved. Let us assume that the crude oil to-day is worth 6d. per gallon, or 25 per cent, less than the American crude oil is worth to-day, according to the report of the Petrol Commission. That Commission was appointed by the British Government. It was not in any way connected’ with the oil trade, and its report was denounced by the trade in Great Britain. It proved that the value of crude oil in America at the present time is about 8d. per .gal: lon, or 6 dollars per barrel, and it is said that the price is going up. Taking the value of the crude oil at 6d. per gallon; we have a total of £1,200,000 in respect of the annual supply from Persia. If we allow freight costs at £15 per ton, or less than is being charged the British Government at the present time, we have in respect of the 200,000 tons an expenditure of £3,000,000 per annum, making a total of £4,200,000. Thus, during the first’ five years we should have a total of £21, 000,000 if before the end of that period we discovered oil in Papua, and they started to work it. The company’s ten years’ operation in Papua would represent, in respect to the cost of the oil, £1,200,000 per annum. Freight, at £7 10s. per ton - or one-half the rate at present charged between Persia and the United Kingdom - would amount to £1,500,000 per annum, making a total of £2,700,000. Thus, in respect of the ten years’ period the amount involved is £27,000,000, or a grand total of £48,000,000, spread over the fifteen years covered by the agreement. We shall be committed to an expenditure of £21,000,000 during the first five years, assuming, of course, that by that time oil will have been found in Papua, and that the crude oil is still worth 6d. per gallon, or 25 per cent, less than it is to-day in America. The Prime Minister said last week that if we were dissatisfied with the freight charges it would practically be possible for us to bring the oil over in our own ships. Have we any oil-tank steamers available? As a matter of fact, we have none. There are only two or three companies in the world that have “ oil tankers,” and by means of this Bill we are saying to thos© companies to-day, “ Clear out of Australia. We will have nothing to do with you.” Under this Bill the Go’vernrnent are taking up an attitude which I hope will never be adopted by the Labour party when in power. They are creating what may prove to be a valuable precedent. They are saying, in effect, in this Bill, “ If you have an opponent, destroy him by fair means or foul. Freeze him out.” They are saying to the oil companies now doing business here, “ We will rob you of the trade you at present enjoy here; we will destroy your business.” They are going to render valueless the storage places that they have scattered all over Australia. When I entered into possession of the room assigned to the Leader of the Opposition, which had previously been occupied by the present Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook), and before him by the late Sir George Reid, the only book I found there was an album of photographs of the tank storages of the British Imperial Oil Company. That book shows that the company has storage places all over the Commonwealth. Under this Bill the Commonwealth intends to take such action eis will prevent that company from doing any trade in Australia. If the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce) were a director of that company, and received two years’ notice of the intention of the Government to take over the whole of the oil business in Australia, what action would he take in regard to oil supplies for Australia in the meantime f
– But 50 per cent, is not a monopoly.
– In respect of some of the commodities dealt with more than 50 per cent, of the trade is to be taken over. The Government propose to favour a company with which they have entered into partnership, and to impose’ a rate of duty on oil brought in by other companies which will lead to an absolute monopoly. If I happen to be in Parliament when such a proposal is made, I shall not hold myself bound by this agreement to give the company an absolute monopoly by imposing prohibitive Customs duties, and refund them later to one company only. I shall not be prepared to freeze out every other company by means of Tariff preferences. I shall not be prepared to join with the Government in a proposal to refund to this company every penny that it pays by way of Customs duty, so as to give it an advantage over its competitors. We are asked to tie ourselves up for the next fifteen years to this company. We are to have only three directors, while the other parties to the agreement are to have four. We shall thus have no real control over the £48,000,000 involved; but. if the House votes for an inquiry, it will be open to us to determine what terms should be imposed.
– Are these the only points in respect of which the honorable member has asked for an inquiry?
– No. I am not going to traverse the ground travelled by me last Tuesday when dealing with this question. I object to the agreement for the reasons given last week by the honorable member for Flinders and myself. The British Petrol Commission reported that the people in Great Britain who were supposed to be interested in keeping down the price of oil were apparently interested in keeping up the price. That will be the effect of this agreement. The Commonwealth, as a partner in this enterprise, will be more interested in getting revenue from its operations than in seeing that the people of Australia obtain oil at a reasonable price.
– What sort of an argument is that against State enterprise?
– It is the most fatal blow ever directed, within my knowledge, at Socialism.
– Not at all. We have only a half -share in this enterprise, and while we are to have three directors on the Board, the other party are to have four.
– But if the Commonwealth is going to do what the honorable member suggests, because it has a half -share, what would it do if it owned the whole concern ?
– Many Commonwealth enterprises - particularly the factories associated with the Defence Department - have been able to manufacture and sell at prices below those charged by private firms and companies. But with, four directors controlling this business as against three representing the Commonwealth interests-
– And the Parliament will control the whole.
– Not at all. We shall control this enterprise only to the extent set out in the agreement. There is not one word in the agreement in regard to the fixing of the price of oil.
– There is.
– The right honorable gentleman is mistaken. It gives the company complete power to conduct its operations as it desires, and, very naturally, it will take advantage of that privilege. It will fix the price. I have read the agreement which was only recently signed by the Prime Minister, and presented to this House on Thursday or Friday night last, and there is not one word in it to indicate who is the owner of the oil after it is discovered.
– Which oil?
– The oil discovered in Papua.
– What has this agreement to do with oil in Papua ? If I were to employ the honorable member at 30s. per week to build a house for me, am I the owner of the building before it is completed ?
– Of course: but that is anentirely different proposition to the one I am submitting. There is no provi sion! in the agreement to say who is the owner of the crude oil when it is discovered. I suppose we are to assume that all indigenous oil belongs to the Commonwealth, and I am objecting to the AngloPersian Company taking one-half.
– One-half of what?
– One-half of the oil.
– That is not so.
– The Anglo-Persian Company is to receive one-half of the profits on the reined product.
– The company is contributing one-half of the capital, and is also supplying the necessary expert assistance. What does the honorable member know concerning oil?
-Nothing. I told the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) that on Tuesday last.
– The honorable member is now proving it.
– I have gone into this question very carefully, and am more than ever convinced that if the agreement is adopted it will be a bad bargain for the Commonwealth. I stated last Thursday that during the nineteen years I have been in public life I have never received a single penny-piece from any outside source. I say that deliberately. I have not the slightest interest in any concern, either manufacturing or importing, insideor outside of Australia, and if honorable members dare to hint that I am in any way connected or interested in any commercial concern, I may inform them that they are absolutely wrong. I am justified in repeating this statement, because certain insinuations have been made that opposition has been taken to this agreement because some of those outside who are supporting me in my motion for an inquiry are interested parties. I am confident that if we enter into this arrangement with the Anglo-Persian Company we shall be making a bad bargain, and one which we shall always regret. We shall be encumbered for a period of fifteen years, and the Anglo-Persian Company will be in a position to charge what it likes for refined oil.
– But it cannot.
– Of course, it cannot.
– It is nothing of the kind.
– I can only follow one interjection at a time, and-
– Under the agreement it is impossible for the company to fix any price that, in the opinion of the Commonwealth, is not fair and reasonable.
– Where is that stated ?
– In clause 14, I think.
– Clause 14 gives the company an absolute monopoly.
– I am not quite sure of the clause, but the Commonwealth interests are protected.
– Who is the tiger in this instance ?
– The Anglo-Persian Oil Company.
– Order ! I must ask honorable members to allow the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Tudor) to proceed. These interjections are distinctly out of order.
– I think protection is given under clause 14.
– I was referring to the price which consumers will have to pay for oil.
– The honorable member will see-
– Order! I must again ask honorable members not to persist in interjecting while the honorable member for Yarra is speaking.
– We shall be making a very great . mistake if we prevent other companies from competing, as we shall be closing up the oil industry - small as it is - in Australia. It is generally admitted that the shale oil industry should be protected.
– It will not interfere with the shale oil industry.
– When, once this agreement is adopted the shale oil business will be wiped out entirely.
– We could give it a small bounty.
– What opportunity will it have of competing even if assisted by a small bounty? I had the privilege of assisting in the passage of an oil bounty Bill through this Parliament for protecting the production of shale oil and paraffin wax. But apparently we are to have - as a result of a meeting upstairs - an amended agreement.
– A meeting upstairs ! To what is the honorable member referring?
– As a result of a party meeting last Thursday morning, we were told through the press that certain recal citrant members . will now support the agreement. We were also informed that certain amendments were to be brought forward.
–.The press is, of course, the honorable member’s Bible!
– Then why does the honorable member believe it? Is the honorable member prepared to follow the press on this occasion ?
– The press has supported the right honorable gentleman, but it has never supported me.
– The press supported me!
– I would like to see the newspaper that has supported me.
– The right honorable gentleman has had more support from the press than I have ever had. We have been led to believe by the honorable member for Illawarra (Mr. Lamond) that there were to be six amendments in the agreement, and the Prime Minister hinted on Friday last that some amendments would be made. I am anxious to know in what way the measure is to be modified.
– The honorable member will get it in Hansard.
– The Hansard number containing the Prime Minister’s speech on Friday last will not be available until next Saturday, and I would like to have had a copy of the speech delivered by the Prime Minister on Friday last.
– But the honorable member heard it.
– I am anxious to peruse the amended agreement, and I trust honorable members will meanwhile vote for the appointment of a Select Committee, as further information should be submitted before the Bill is considered in Committee. The particulars before us at present are not sufficient to warrant the . Government entering into’ an agreement for such a lengthy period, and in view of all the circumstances it is desirable that further inquiry should be made before the House is asked to pass the Bill in its present form.
.. - The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Tudor) suggests by his motion a most ‘unusual course, in order that we may obtain further information. The honorable member said a good deal, but very little about the proposed Committee, still less concerning the sources from which it would get its information. Committees aTe like human beings, neither good nor bad; they move m their appointed way, but the Father of all decides. Where this Committee is to get its information from the honorable member did not tell us. But I, when speaking on the second reading on Friday, told him where he would get it, that is, from those who know all about it. Curiously enough, a volcanic eruption of activity has taken place during the last few days. Meetings have been held in the capital cities of the Commonwealth, traders have been brought together, and, with singular unanimity, resolutions ha<ve been passed asking for this same blessed thing, -more information. Roses do not grow on thistles, nor do meetings of this sort take place without some moving force- behind them. In this instance, it is ea”sy to locate. Those companies which for many years have exercised a monopoly over this essential to our welfare, and which this cruel Government proposes to crush, have appealed to the great heart of the trading companies of Australia, who buy their oil from them and can buy it from nobody else, and these traders,, between the devil and the deep sea, have rolled up and sent sixpenny, and, in some cases, shilling, telegrams to honorable members of this Parliament, urging them, in the name of God, to stay their impious hands. When I heard the honorable member the other day - and this is the second time I have heard him - put up his plea for private enterprise, I was amazed. If I did not know the circumstances in which he finds himself, bereft of any argument, I should be appalled; but, as it is, I am merely’ amazed. He says, “ You propose to crush these companies, without which the Allies would never have won the war. There would have been no toluene and no explosives, and. men would not have been shattered to atoms but for the philanthropic efforts of these companies.” He admits that they are not in the business for their health. He: says that the Anglo-Persian Company is not in the business for its health. But what has all that to do with the Bill ? The alternative that presents itself ta honorable members is whether, in regard to this vitally necessary commodity - fuel oil and the other refined products of petrol - without which the Commonwealth qua Commonwealth is powerless, it is better that it should have some control over the price as well as an effective assurance of supplies, or whether we should go on and trust to the tender mercies of commercial companies who are domiciled in foreign countries. The honorable member has. spoken very harshly to me this afternoon about my attitude towards foreign companies. He has suddenly developed a. tenderness of heart -towards the foreigner, that seems a trifle inconsistent, comingfrom the lips of a Protectionist who first taught me to slip from that narrow footpath of Free Trade upon which my infant feet were firmly placed. I remember in the bygone days, when I was a convinced Free Trader, the honorable member coming forward with an absolutely appalling proposal, amounting, in effect, to about 40 to 60 per cent, duty «n hats. I have always liked the honorable member, and while, as a matter of principle, I was a convinced Free Trader, yet when he put these hats before me, I fell, and voted for his hats; I was prepared to crush at one fell blow the Austrian, the American, and the Englishman. What more could I have done to show that when it came to a choice between Australia and the rest of the world, I was for Australia? But now, when it is proposed to set up a. refinery in this country to refine oil, the honorable member says “ No. Let the Standard Oil Company and the “ Shell “ group flourish in America or Holland, or wherever they are located.” The honorable member has no ground for his feet to stand on. Let me take his points, one by one. He wants more information? He does not want more information. His trouble i3 that he has too much. He knows the facts. What are they? These companies, ever since they came to Australia in the dawn of the petrol age, as I have termed it, have- exploited it to the last penny. Not a trader in Australia dares to raise his voice against them. One trader wrote to me the other day, marking his letter “ private and confidential,” saying that he had been told to attend a meeting, and* at that meeting everybody had to sign this protest, to which reference has been made. He signed it. He had to do so, but he said, “I want to tell you that if you can get this agreement through, and the Anglo-Persian people are prepared to supply my wants, they can have my custom.” This amazing activity of the companies throughout Australia against the Bill is the best argument why we should support it. We are asked to support an Australian industry, but the honorable member wants more time to support it. I have heard him get up and advocate the establishment even of such an exotic industry as the manufacture of matches in this country. He never lacks an argument as to why aru industry should be established and encouraged here, bub when it comes to something that is vital to the very existence of the Commonwealth, he wants more information. I have seen a whole Tariff bundled through the House with less information. Honorable members will have an opportunity of displaying their amazing knowledge on a Tariff very shortly, and there will not be one item in it on which honorable members will not want more information than is required in regard to this agreement. The honorable member, leaving the safe and pleasant path of generalities in which a man may wander at will, incurring no ill consequences, has committed, himself to a certain particular criticism of the Bill. He says, for example, that a monopoly will be established in this country. I have already said in the plainest possible terms that this will not be so, but he himself has said it in more emphatic terms this afternoon. He said that the point that struck him more than anything else in the speech of the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce) was that the amount of capital these people were to put into the industry, together with that put in by the Commonwealth, would be insufficient to create a monopoly, because it would not supply one-half of the capital necessary for that purpose. Furthermore, it has been observed by honorable members on both sides of the House that not one-half of the petrol, kerosene, and lubricating oil required in this country can be supplied under this proposal. Therefore, the Australian market will be open to the whole world. That is the first answer to the honorable member’s statement. The world can enter upon as good terms as ever, excepting that it will now have a competitor inside Aus- tralia, who, at any rate, will be some protection to us against that combined influence of commercialism outside to which we have been exposed so long. The honorable member also said something about freight. He affirmed that the AngloPersian Company will be able to make huge profits out of its freight charges, and he mentioned £1,200,000 in this connexion.
– That was the value of the crude oil at 6d. per gallon.
– Naturally the freight would be more than the value of the oil. The honorable member affirmed that the value of the crude oil is such that we cannot even bring it here and refine it locally. He said that we cannot even do that, because the raw material would be too expensive, and the freight would be too heavy. But he did not say one word about the freight upon refined products. Does he think that these gentlemen bring their refined oil products here for nothing, and distribute them to the people as a gift from God ? He said that the AngloPersian Oil Company was charging £15 15s. per ton freight from somewhere in Persia to Great Britain. I do not know where he got his figures.
– From the report of the Petrol Commission.
– Anybody would think that the Petrol Commission was a competitor with the Almighty, and that we had to accept as gospel everything that it says. But it does not follow that what that Commission says is true.
– Is the Prime Minister prepared to say that its report is not true?
– If I thought that it would interest the honorable member I would not mind doing so. As a matter of fa-ct, the Anglo-Persian Oil Company carries its own oil, in its own steamers, and it consigns that oil to itself and to nobody else. It does not carry oil to Great Britain for anybody else ; it does not carry any oil except in its own ships, and it carries no oil but its own. What benefit it derives from charging itself £15 15s. per ton freight upon that oil, I leave it to the honorable member to determine.
But this has no relevance whatever to the point under discussion. If the AngloPersian Company is likely to charge too much by way of freight, we may then get freight wherever we are able to procure it. The honorable member said that there are no vessels available to carry oil from overseas. Then all I have to say is that we shall have to find oil in Papua. In the meantime we shall get oil at a reasonable rate, and freight at the world’s rate. If we do not like the world’s rate, we can get freight of our own. The honorable member stated that the Commonwealth will have no voice in the matter of the price at which oil will be sold here. I do not know why he said that in face of the amended schedule, which distinctly sets out that “ The refinery company shall sell its oil products at such prices as are fair and reasonable.”
– In what section of the agreement does that provision appear? I have not seen it.
– I have said that the Commonwealth will determine what is a fair and reasonable price. I do wish that those honorable members who are thirsting for information would, by their demeanour, exhibit more of those indications of a genuine desire for information.
– You have not the information that we want.
– Pray do not let me interrupt you. These asides with which the honorable member is accustomed to enliven the dull, prosaic tenor of our debates are so very delightful, and help us so much to get on with the public business.
– They are generally true, whereas the Prime Minister’s statements are not.
– In the amended agreement it is laid down quite clearly that ‘the Commonwealth will decide what price is fair and reasonable, and, after all, that is the thing which really concerns the people of this country.
– That provision is . not contained in the agreement which has been handed to me.
– The honorable member made allusions, in a way that was very improper, to a meeting which, took place upstairs. He is the last man in the world who ought to object to such meetings, because everything that he says and does is determined by what takes place at meetings held upstairs or downstairs.
– No. We meet on the ground floor.
– The honorable member will be down in the cellar if he goes an as he has been doing.
– That is not original. The late Sir George Reid said that about us.
– In speaking of a meeting at which he says this matter was discussed, the honorable member affirmed that certain alterations had been made in the agreement. He was annoyed that they had been made, because they cut the ground from under his feet; yet he now says that he cannot see them anywhere in the agreement.. What am I to do to please him? When I make alterations in the agreement they do not suit him, and he cannot find them. The honorable member, in speaking of this bowelless combine, which in its utter disregard for foreign companies is going to crush them out of existence, rather overstepped the limits of accuracy, because it is set down in paragraph 14 of the bond that the protection to be given to the refinery company is contingent upon its selling oil at a fair and reasonable price. When it ceases to do that, the protection accorded to it wholly disappears. I wish that a similar provision could be applied to all kinds of protection - every item of the Tariff. I do not think there is one honorable member who would cast a vote against a proposal of that sort. When local manufacturers or traders, whoever they are, exploit or take advantage of the community under the protection given them, there ought to be some kind of punishment, and that is here provided for under the provisions of this agreement.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) is very much ‘concerned about Papua. He says he is not quite sure who owns the oil in that Possession. What has the agreement to do with the oil in Papua ?
– It has a great ‘deal to do with the oil in Papua - it has all to do with it. .
– How is that?
– Because Dr. Wade and those associated with him could stop production there if they wanted to. Oh, I know !
– Let me advise the honorable member to retire into that cave of silence which he keeps with sp much dignity and so much success. These outbursts into speech, in which the honorable gentleman is at once irrelevant, inaccurate, and not at all amusing, only besmirch bis fair reputation. Despite the interjection, this agreement has nothing to do with Papua. However, I may say - because one has to deal with things as they are - that the oil in Papua’ belongs to the people of this country, and it is the intention of this Government that it shall always remain the property of the people of this country, to be sold neither to this refining company nor the Anglo-Persian Company, nor any individual whatsoever, but to be owned for ever as one of the vital necessities of the public and corporate activities of the Commonwealth. The price of crude oil is fixed under the amended schedule, and the price of the refined product is fixed, and both prices have to be fair and reasonable, with the Commonwealth as judge in both cases. Freights are to be supplied at our option, either by the Anglo-Persian Company or by whom we will.
The proposal that we should delay the passage of this measure in order that we may get more information fails; it must fail, because it is obviously a proposal emanating - though I do not suggest for a moment that that is why the honorable gentleman puts it forward - from those great interests which have too long dominated this country, and which see in the agreement a blow at their supremacy. What are the great points we have to decide? The first is, whether we shall ‘have an Australian company or a foreign company here - whether we shall have oil refined in Australia or outside Australia, whether we shall give work to our own people or to the foreigner. The second point is, whether we shall have a company which, in its essence, is British, or one which, in its essence, is foreign; the third, whether we shall have a company which is not only British, but is also dominated and controlled by the British Government, as full partners with ourselves, or whether we shall still hand ourselves over, tied hand and foot, without any protection, to the foreigner ; and the last point is, whether, since we have to depend on the Navy for defence, we shall take hold of this great opportunity to protect ourselves, and secure ample storage for crude oil around this coast. These are the four points on which honorable members are to form their judgment.
One word more, and I have done. It is said that the Anglo-Persian Company has already, in anticipation of this agreement, bought land at Fremantle.
– I know that the company has purchased land there; it has a site there and another at Port Melbourne.
– And the honorable gentleman, in order to support the statement, told u3 that he saw it in the newspapers.
– There is no doubt about the company having a site at Fremantle; they have applied for a Bill to the Western Australian Parliament.
– Anybody who wants greater proof than that would be difficult to please. However, let me explain the position. What has happened is this: I am told that the Anglo-Persian Company has made, or is making, arrangements for leasing land in this country. But that has nothing to do withthis agreement. What is proposed is that there shall be storage for oil for the British Navy in certain parts, where the China Squadron, or any other, can oil if circumstances require. That is a very necessary thing, which is being done, not only here, but right throughout the Empire. That is the answer to the honorable member, and, I think, a good one. What we require is oil for our own Navy, and the chance to control supplies, control prices, and prevent the community from exploitation. We have ample information - us much information, at any rate, as we should be able to get from a Select Committee, which can hope for information only from one of two sources. We follow an admirable example - that of the British Government. The Leader of the Opposition said that the Commonwealth would be more concerned about getting profits .than in reducing prices; but in the next breath he told us that the Geelong Woollen Mills sell cloth at a much lower price than do private firms. Those two statements, when put together, seem a trifle inconsistent. We are more likely to get oil at a reasonable rate when the Government has control.
– The Leader of the Opposition said that we have only three directors, while the company has four. But the Commonwealth qua Commonwealth, and not the directors, will decide what is a fair and reasonable price.
– That is not in the copy of the agreement which I received.
– It is in the amended agreement.
-It is in the copy of the agreement which I have, and I got mine off the table.
– If the Leader of the Opposition has not an amended copy, I am sorry; but it is not my fault. Clause 13a provides -
The refinery company shall sell its oil products at such prices as are fair and reasonable.
Honorable members have my assurance that the Commonwealth is to fix what is “ fair and reasonable “ ; but, if that assurance is not sufficient, and if the insertion of the words “ considered by the Commonwealth “ is necessary, I would be prepared to put them in. I assure the House that the Solicitor-General and myself went into this matter very carefully, and we think that a fair interpretation of the contract means “ fair and reasonable in the opinion of the Commonwealth.” Still, I should be willing to make it read, “ at such prices as are considered fair and reasonable by the Commonwealth.”
– Would that definition require ajudgment of the High Court?
-No, because clause 22 provides -
In the event of any disagreement between the Commonwealth and the oil company as to the meaning of any clause hereof, or touching any matter arising out of the same or connected therewith (other than the purchase price to be paid by the Commonwealth for any interest or holding of the oil company in the refinery company), the matter in dispute shall be referred to one arbitrator mutually selected, or failing mutual selection shall be determined by arbitration under the Arbitration Act 1915 of the State of Victoria or any amendment thereof for the time being in force.
– Then the Commonwealth will not settle the question, but the Arbitration Court will settle it?
– That has nothing to do with the Arbitration Court. It is a question of referring any point in dispute to an arbitrator. Time is the essence of the contract; we have much to do this week, and we must close at the end of the week. In all the circumstances, and in view of the statement which I have made, and which I think fairly covers the whole of the points - if it does not, I shall be glad to answer by way of inter jection any question that may be put - I ask the House to reject the proposal of the Leader of the Opposition, and to take the Bill into Committee forthwith.
– As the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. James Page), who signed the notice of motion as seconder, is now present, I ask him to second the motion formally, so that I may state it to the House.
– I second the motion.
– The Prime Minister has stated that the choice is between an Australian (Company and a foreign company. To me it is nothing of the kind. To me, it is a question of the safety of the Commonwealth in making an agreement which will have a vital influence on perhaps one of the most important industries in the Commonwealth. The Prime Minister has shown by his remarks that he has not taken the trouble to read the one document where he can get information on this subject - I mean the report of the Petrol Commission, which dealt with these matters in Great Britain lately. For the honorable member to gibe at a Commission such as that, is an insult to the. intelligence of the House, and shows the depths to which some men will stoop in order to carry their way through the House. Is it fair to ask us to discuss an agreement which has been amended in caucus, and distributed in caucus, when the House has not had the information before it until now?
– That is quite untrue.
– The honorable member for Illawarra (Mr. Hector Lamond) has stated repeatedly, “ Oh, that is provided for.” When I asked him “Where?” he said, “In the amended, schedule.”
– An atrocious misrepresentation !
– I ask the honorable member and the House if it is fair, on an important matter like ‘this, that an amended schedule making vital alterations in the Bill should be produced here by the Prime Minister, and discussed by him before honorable members have had an opportunity of seeing it?
– He told us all about it on the second reading.
– When honorable members learn the rules of debate, and the procedure of the House, they will find that principles should be discussed in the House, and that the details of those principles should be dealt with in Committee. We have been told of a clause which it is said affords the protection that some of us ask for. Clause 14 of the agreement, as amended - the only clause that I have seen in the new form - provides that where the Commonwealth believes that the company is charging an unfair price it may open the Customs House door, and allow competition. Competition from whom? From one of the greatest monopolies in the world. In spite of everything that has been said, the AngloPersian Oil Company does control the Refinery Company. It has a majority of four out of seven on the board of directors. Whilst the Commonwealth retains the majority of the shares, it can elect only its own three directors, while the other four, comprising the majority of the board, are elected by the company.
– That is an argument against the second reading of the Bill, and not in favour of the appointment of a Select Committee.
– I shall be glad if the honorable member will allow me to make my own speech in my own way. The Commonwealth Government has been fighting a Combine. If honorable members look up the speeches of the Prime Minister and the then Minister for the Navy (Mr. Poynton), they will see how bitterly they resented the attempt made by the Inchcape Shipping Combine to crush the Commonwealth line of steamers. Inchcape, who controls that Combine, is the man who represents the British Government on this Combine. The Inchcape combine entered into an alliance with the Morgan combine to control the shipping of the world. Who can say that the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, under the presidency of Lord Inchcape, will not enter into a similar combine here with the Amerioan oil companies to controlthe oil supplies of the world ?
– He is statutorily prevented from doing that.
– You give, the company a majority of four on the directorate, and say that if oil is not being sold by it at a fair and reasonable price, the door of the Customs House will be opened to admit competition. It is reasonable to argue that Lord Inchcape, who has engineered in Great Britain a combine with an American shipping trustmay, in Australia, engineer another combine with the American Oil Trust. What conditions in the agreement would prevent him from doing that?
– The conditions in the agreement with the parent company, and the conditions in this agreement, would prevent it. Lord Inchcape does not control the parent company. The honorable member holds him up as the controller of the whole concern, but he is not that.
– The agreement with the parent company has no bearing on the question. The Petrol Commission has shown that the rate of freight - not that charged to the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, but that charged to the British Government - is £15 10s. We know, of course, that the oil is carried in tank steamers which cannot take return cargo, so that a profit has to be made out of vessels that travel one way empty.
– I remind the House that the question before the Chair at the present time is that the Bill be referred to a Select Committee; but we are really having another second-reading debate, after the motion for the second reading of the Bill has been carried. Honorable members may not continue a discussion in the nature of a second-reading debate, nor may they, refer to notices for the amendment of the schedule to the Bill, which have been distributed, and of which I have just received a copv. These cannot be discussed until the Bill gets into Committee. They do not come before the House at all.
– You are more fortunate than I, Mr. Speaker, because I have not seen the notices of amendment to which you refer. I regret that you did not an hour ago make your discovery of the character of the debate, because I am replying to statements which fell from the Prime Minister.
– The general purport of the Prime Minister’s speech was an argument against the reference of the Bill to a Select Committee, on the ground that he had endeavoured to meet objections raised during the second-reading debate by drafting certain amendments which, would be proposed in Committee, and incidentally, he referred to some of those amendments. But it would be improper to allow, at this stage, the discussion of those amendments, they being purely matters for the Committee of the whole House to consider.
– It is new to me to ] learn that a reply is not allowed to any statement that may have been permitted.
– A certain amount of latitude is always given to a Minister in charge of a Bill in the explaining of its provisions, and when, during a debate, suggestions have been made for the improvement of a Bill, the Minister in charge of it is entitled to indicate what he proposes to do to meet those suggestions. That is what I understood the Prime Minister to do. He may have been led by interjections to go more fully into matters than he would otherwise have done; but it would certainly be irregular to allow now a general discussion, on proposals which will properly come up for discussion in Committee of the whole House, and which can there be discussed in every detail.
– On a point of order -
– No question of order arises out of a statement from the Chair.
– I merely wish to say that you are m error.
– An honorable member may not canvass in that irregular way the decisions of the Chair.
– I accept your ruling, Mr. Speaker. The statement of the Prime Minister that the only information that could be obtained by a Select Committee would be the evidence of interested parties is at variance with what I know. My object in pressing for a Select Committee is not to hear what may be said by the representatives of the American Oil Trust- if I were on the Committee I would not want them to be summoned - but to get the evidence of experts. This agreement has been drawn up, presumably, by the persons who- drew up the shipping agreement and other agreements under which the Commonwealth has been so unfortunate. In regard to all these agreements, the Commonwealth has been let down badly, and has lost, I think, most of the cases that it has entered into. It is not clear what the agreement means. If, as the Prime Minister has stated, the Commonwealth is to be the sole arbiter of the price at which oil shall be sold in Australia, the monopoly which some of us fear will be prevented; but there is a yet greater monopoly to fear. The extent to which this company will control discoveries of oil in Australia and its Territories has not been made clear.
– It will not control them at all. You have been told that half-a-dozen times.
– I have discussed the matter with persons whom I regard as experts, and who, though not interested in this arrangement in any way, are distinctly favorable to it, and they say that the extent to which the company will dominate operations in Papua and German New Guinea is not clear. I think that it ought to be made clear.
– The statement that some one, who is not named, but who is favorable to the Bill, is not clear about the effect of the agreement, does not carry us anywhere.
– I have not the permission of the person whom I have in mind to give his name before the House; but I ask honorable members to remember that we are tying up the industry for fifteen years, and that an adequate supply of oil is essential, not only for city industries and pleasures, but also f ot rural occupations. I welcome the introduction of an oil refinery into Australia; but there are certain doubts in my mind which I wish to have cleared up. I do not wish to .place our oil- supplies in the hands of some outside combine, especially in view of the fact that the Commonwealth is now fighting a shipping combine, which is trying its best to strangle our line of Government steamers, and whose chairman has entered into an alliance with the Morgan ‘Shipping Combine of America to dominate the shipping of the world. As this man is also at the head of the concern with which it is proposed that we should enter into an agreement for the supply of oil, I dread the effect of his influence on our oil supplies. Lord Inchcape controls the biggest combine in the world, the Shipping Combine that beat the -British, American, and Australian Governments. It is now fighting our Commonwealth line of steamers, and causing them to come out here half empty. It is. doing its best to prevent them from securing a ton of cargo. Therefore, it is our duty to see that the Commonwealth does not again enter into a contract fatal to its interests. I shall vote for sending the Bill to a Select Committee. No harm can be done by a short delay.
– The honorable member has already voted to kill the Bill.
– Rather than see the Bill pass in its present form, I would vote to kill it. It is in its present form that i must discuss it, because I have not seen any proposals for its amendment. I believe that, if passed as it stands, it would give a monopoly to the Anglo-Persian Oil Company. The operations of that company are not confined to Persia. It has interests in Mexico and other parts of the world.
– It is the tail end of the American Oil Trust.
– Yes, say that. Anything goes.
– I suppose that is why the American Oil Trust is fighting this company.
– I am not aware that the. American Oil Trust is fighting it.
– I hope that the parent company is interested in oil deposits in various parts of the world.
– I have given notice of an amendment which I hope will be accepted if the Bill is not sent to a Select Committee. I want to make it perfectly clear that there shall be no monopoly. Clause 14 of the Schedule means nothing. It provides for the opening of the door of the Customs House; but an arrangement may be made between the Oil Trusts to prevent competition. The amendments spoken of by the Prime Minister may remove some of the objections to the Bill, but the measure, as it stands, does not make clear the position of the Commonwealth and of the company in regard to discoveries in Papua and British New Guinea. So far as I can understand the whole of the operations in exploiting the oil resources of Papua are to be handed over to this company.
– No; not under this agreement.
– The Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook): has said that the previous agreement will prevent that, but when I asked him whether the two agreements were to be taken together he said that they were.. There really can be no doubt that the two agreements must be taken together,, and that the other agreement is incorporated with that now under consideration.
– Certainly not.
– Then i ask the right honorable gentleman to say who will carry out the oil exploring, operations in New Guinea under this agreement.
– This company.
– Of course it will. That is what i said, but the Minister for the Navy contradicted me.
– But solely as our agents, and with not one-fourth proprietary interest in the concern.
– They can do practically what they like.
– They cannot do what they like.
– It means, in plain English that the Commonwealth Government and the British Government are subscribing each a certain amount of money, which is handed over to this company.
– It is not handed over to this company. Again the honorable member is wrong.
– It is a pity the honorable member has not read the agreement.
– i have read it very carefully.
– All payments under this arrangement will be made by the British Government.
– is that not exactly what I have said? The British Government and the Australian Government have entered into a partnership under which each is to expend a certain amount of money in boring and exploring for oil in Papua. The Minister for the Navy says that it is not true that we have handed over to the Anglo-Persian Oil Company the expenditure of this money, but that the British Governmentwill hand over its expenditure to that’ company. What is the difference?
– That is not so.
– The Prime Minister said that we know nothing about oil, and that these people are experts, and that . it will be to our advantage that they should carry out these operations. The Minister for the Navy now tells us that they are not to do so.
– i did not say anything of the kind. I said that they were agents of the British Government and of the Commonwealth Government.
– Lord Melbourne on one occasion, when a Cabinet meeting of which he was leader was about to break up said, “Well, it does not matter a hang what we agree to, but let us all say the same thing.” I advise the Minister for the Navy that it would be well if all the members of the Government said the same thing in connexion with this Bill.
– And I advise the honorable member to read the agreement.
– Honestly, I do not think the Minister for the Navy . can have read it. I have read it very carefully over and over again.
– The honorable member has read the agreement with only one idea in his mind, and that was to find every fault he could with it. That is perfectly plain.
– It wouldbe very much better if the right honorable gentleman would keep his temper.. I repeat . now that under the two agreements the whole of the operations that are to be carried out for the development of the oil resources of New Guinea are to be handed over to this company, and I have the strongest objection to its ‘personnel. I say here and now that the great reason for my doubts in connexion with the company is the fact that that master of Trusts, Lord Inchcape, is associated with it. I shall vote tohave the Bill referred to a Select Committee.
– I am sorry that you, sir, have ruled that the amended schedule to the Bill cannot, be discussed on the motion to refer the measure to a Select Committee, . because the airy fairy pictures painted’, by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), when’ he informed me that it would be better for me to remain silent, were based upon his statement that I had not read the amended schedule. I had not seen it at the time, and the basis of all theridiculoius pictures which the Prime Minister drew was that we had not seen the amended schedule. I thoroughly understand the reason for the ruling that hasbeen given, but it is a pity that because of it honorable members who desire to refer to the statements made by the Prime Minister should be unable to do so.For three-quarters of an hour the right honorable gentleman laboured in ridiculing those opposed to him because they did not know what was contained in the amended schedule.
– The Prime Minister did not refer to the amended schedule in detail.
– When I made an interjection, whichI admit was unruly, the Prime Minister ridiculed my statement, and proved that I was wrong by a reference to the amended schedule.
– I had not the amended schedule before me at the time.
– There has been some reference to the agreement having been referred to the Ministerial Caucus. I make no complaint about that. The Government found that some honorable members opposite were slipping away from them, and they were justified in trying, in Caucus, to secure a majority in favour of their proposal. The Prime Minister became eloquent in his appeal to Protectionists to support the agreement, and, pointing to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor), he said that, while that honorable gentleman was in favour of Protection for hats, matches, and other things manufactured in Australia, he was apparently slipping on the question of Protection for kerosene. I suppose that there is not an honorable member on either side of the House who is not in favour of the production and refining of oil in Australia.
As a reason for referring the Bill to a Select Committee, I may mention the fact that the Government have, themselves recognised that the schedule, as originally introduced, was not what it ought to be. If the Bill had been referred to a Select Committee, -it would have been shown that alterations were necessary. I think it can be shown that there is still much in the agreement which should be altered. I see no reason why, if a Select Committee considered the measure, they should not be able to submit an agreement in accordance with Australian policy which would be accepted unanimously by. this House. We have been told that we have been tied for years to an overseas and foreign monopoly, and we should prefer a so-called British and Australian monopoly; but there is one matter in connexion with this proposal which should be inquired into if a Committee were appointed to do nothing else. I have been assured, and have been given strong evidence . in support of the assurance, that the crude oil supplied by the
Anglo-Persian Company is very inferior. The proposed Select Committee would be able -to define whether there is any foundation for that statement.
– It is good enough for the British people and for the British Navy.
– The British Government do not get one-fifth of their supplies from the Anglo-Persian Company.
– The British Government made certain arrangements during the war for certain purposes, which might not be considered reasonable arrangements to make now. The British Government have interests in this matter, and I am glad to find them seek: ing an interest in productions required by the people. I am assured that the crude oil produced by the Anglo-Persian Company is inferior, and that there is a greater loss in refining it than in the case of any other oil. I do not claim to be able to say what is the value of either crude or refined oil, but I do think that we should inquire into the assertion that the crude oil supplied by the AngloPersian Company is inferior in quality, and that from an economical stand-point it would not be beneficial to the people of Australia to use it. We should not lose sight of the fact that some of the people who have put their money into the Ang-10: Persian Company have not shown themselves to be friends of the Commonwealth. Having control of the directorate in the. matter of administration they will direct operations under the agreement.
– The honorable member has heard that the crude oil produced by the Anglo-Persian Company is inferior, and we have heard that it is one of the best oils produced in the whole world.
– The Minister for the Navy has said that the oil produced by this company is good enough for the British Government, but as the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Tudor) reminded him, they do not supply one-fifth of the demand for oil made by the British Government. I see no exceptional hurry for passing the Bill. I can assure the Minister for the Navy that we are quite willing on this side to assist the Government to fight the Standard Oil Trust, or any other Trust, but. we ought to be assured that in doing so we shall not be handed over to a combination that may be quite as bad, if not worse.
In his endeavour to ridicule honorable members on this side, the Prime Minister pointed to the fact that under the amended schedule a “fair and reasonable “ price for oil would be fixed by the Commonwealth. I have not been a member of. this House for thirteen or fourteen years without knowing that the phrase used is about as vague as it could possibly be. From time to time we have had Bills under consideration in this Chamber, which we have been assured would stand the test in any Court, but the. High Court has subsequently driven the proverbial coach and four through them. Under the schedule to this Bill, we may have to go to the High Court every now and again to find out what is a “ fair and reasonable “ price, and to find out whether fixed “ by the Commonwealth’’ means by this Parliament or by the Ministry. I know that if the directors of the Anglo-Persian Company have anything to do with the matter the price will be a fair and reasonable one for them, and not for the people of Australia. What is to be a “ fair and reasonable” price for this oil will have to be more clearly defined before the proposal will suit me.
The Minister for the Navy has said that this agreement has nothing whatever to do with the exploitation of the oil fields of Papua. When the Prime Minister was dealing with this subject, I made an interjection referring to Dr. Wade’s connexion with the oil-fields in Papua. I have not a word to say against that very estimable gentleman, but in view of the number of years during which he has been associated with the production of oil and with the Anglo-Persian Company - and that does not make him any the worse - and the fact that he has been in Papua for, I think, about three years, he should now be able to give us some very definite information concerning the prospect of the discovery of oil in payable quantities in Papua.
– Dr. Wade was in Papua for, I think, six or seven years.
– I did not understand that he had been there so long. If he is the scientist he is supposed to be, he ought at this stage to be able to give us that information.
– He is a very eminent geologist.
– Then by this time he should be able to express a definite opinion as to the probability of the production of oil in Papua. If he cannot do so, he is not the man who is wanted. I shall not approve of the Anglo-Persian Company having any control whatever of those appointed to investigate the possibilities of Papua for the production of oil. If we could appoint some one outside to go into the matter I would be quite satisfied, because under this agreement the Anglo-Persian Oil Company’s crude oil will be used until we are in a position to refine our own crude supplies, drawn either from the mainland of Australia or from the Territories. I wish to help the Government in the production of oil in Australia, but if that cannot be brought about at once I want to assist in the matter of securing refineries here. However, we should have all the evidence concerning the suitability of the product and the economic possibilities of refining in Australia before we bind ourselves hand and foot for fifteen years. We know Lord Inchcape as a gentleman who is in business for the “ quids “ he can get out of it; and even though he represents the Imperial Government that should not entirely disarm this Government. Indeed, the Imperial authorities were indiscreet in placing upon the directorate as one of their representatives a gentleman having such interests, and we would be indiscreet, also, if we were to accept Lord Inchcape in the character of a guardian of our interests, seeing that at the same time he is doing his utmost to break up another Australian enterprise, namely, our shipping. A Select Committee should particularly inquire into three things - into Lord Inchcape’s association with the Anglo-Persian Oil Company; into the matter of the inferiority of their crude oil ; and with respect to who shall fix a fair and reasonable price. We are entitled to, and should see that we secure all that information, despite the ridiculous criticisms of the Prime Minister.
– I rise not to criticise the Bill - because I think the agreement is a good one - but to ‘ make a statement which is rather in the nature of a personal explanation. I de sire to make clear my own connexion with exploration for oil in Papua. When, in 1916, I was appointed Minister for External Affairs - the Department is now known as that of Home and Territories - one of the first matters to which I directed my attention had to do with prospecting for oil in Papua. There had been a great deal of dissatisfaction concerning these activities, and I, personally, shared in that dissatisfaction. The fact is that the position of the Commonwealth in respect to oil investigations has been unfortunate. When I made my first inquiries I discovered that up to that stage we, had expended about £60,000 in exploration work, with a return of about 2,000 gallons of oil. That was very poor, of course; but at least it indicated that there was oil in Papua, although it did not determine whether or not it was there in payable quantities. It was still considered that scientific and practical investigations might discover payable deposits. Soon after I had assumed office the representatives of two separate syndicates waited upon me to ascertain whether private enterprise would be allowed to prospect for oil in Papua. So far as I was concerned, I said “Yes.” One of these gentlemen represented a Californian company, and the other a local syndicate. Both concerns were apparently in a position to conduct exploration work on a practical basis. I went into the matter very thoroughly, and formulated a scheme which provided for the prospecting to be undertaken in such a way as to secure the Commonwealth Government in every conceivable direction. The information at my disposal was insufficient ‘ for me to know whether the oil was likely to be struck in the form of a continuous stream, or lode, or in reservoirs. In either case, however, I had arranged that there should be areas of 5 square miles allotted, and that every alternate area should be held by the Commonwealth Government, so that we would be protected, no matter whether the oil was discovered in lode formation - that is to say, in a continuous canal - or in subterranean reservoirs. I set forth that the Commonwealth should have’ first call upon all oil produced, and that the price should not exceed 3d. per gallon, which would amount to about 10s. per barrel on the basis of 40 gallons to the barrel ; also that the company should build such wharfs as might be necessary, and should lay a pipe line from the source of oil supply to the wharfs on the coast ; further, that it should find its own tank steamers. The representatives of the syndicates were quite willing to accept all that I had laid down, and all this was to be done without cost in any way to the Government. I then wrote to the Legislative” Council in Papua, submitting my proposition, and asking for concurrence. I was informed, however, that that body could not concur, that it would not agree to my proposition, because, if the field were developed by private enterprise, the labour engaged thereon would be drawn from the rubber and cocoanut plantations, so that the latter would be left shorthanded. I responded that no matter by whom the oilfield was developed the same conditions would arise, providing prospecting proved to be successful. Prom all appearances, then, the curtain was rising on what promised to be a successful commercial drama ; but soon there followed the tragedy. Before I had received a reply to my second letter to the Legislative Council in Papua I had departed from office. Nothing further, so far as I could ascertain, was done; and that was three years ago last February. Had my project been given effect to, the oil industry in Papua might have been flourishing to-day. Of course, I want to make it clear that I could not have overridden the dictum of the Papuan Council without the sanction of the Commonwealth Cabinet, and that up to that stage i had submitted nothing to- my colleagues, because I desired first to have all the facts, marshalled in order that Cabinet might be in a position to accept or reject a complete and definite project. As I say, nothing more was done after my retirement. I have often wondered why, and have come to the conclusion that - perhaps, notwithstanding his wonderful versatility, and despite his numerous speeches and voluminous writings - the subject of boring for oil was never once mentioned or described by Edmund Burke. That is the only reason that I can attribute for the failure of my successor in office to go on with the Papuan oil project. Had it been proceeded with, this agreement might never have been called for. Three years ago we “.vere in dire need of oil, and it is not impossible that to-day we might have been floating prosperously along a stream of oil emanating from our own Papuan fields. Wherefore, there would have been no necessity to enter into an agreement with any outside organization.
I have nothing to say against Dr. Wade in respect of his scientific attainments, but I cannot help feeling that scientific attainments and practical knowledge are seldom found together. I say this in justification of my actions in endeavouring to develop and open up the Papuan oil-fields. I regret that even the Prime Minister, with all his political omniscience, has never been able to recognise a real hustler when he has met him.
Mr. AUSTIN CHAPMAN (Eden-
Monaro) [6.19]. - I am always opposed to monopolies; but it seems that every precaution has been ‘taken in this instance against the establishment of a monopoly. In the matter of Australia’s oil interests, there is something actually more dangerous than the creation of a monopoly-; that is the factor of delay. What does the reference to a Select Committee mean ? Ma-ny honorable members have had experience of such inquiries. After all, the Prime Minister appears to have met the objections of those who are appealing for the appointment of a Committee. How can there be a monopoly when the Prime Minister has promised to insert a clause which will insure that the Commonwealth authorities shall fix the price? And the proposed amendment of the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Mcwilliams) is of a character calculated to doubly safeguard the position. The Prime Minister has told us that prospecting is not to be prevented.
– The Government, are encouraging prospecting by the reward.
– The motion by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Tudor) seeks to elicit further information by having the agreement referred to a Select Committee. But who will give this information ? It must be obtained either from those who support the Anglo-Persian Oil Company or those whose ideas are directly opposed to that concern. The inquiry, therefore, will simply mean further delay.
– But after evidence has been taken, members of the Select Committee must use their brains to come to a decision.
– It is necessary first to have the brains before they can be used. I am opposed to the motion to refer the Bill to a Select Committee, because it is of vital importance that this great question of discovering oil should be. settled as soon as possible. We must find oil deposits in the Commonwealth territory. It is almost criminal on the part of honorable members to take any action, either here or elsewhere,. that will lead to delay. No sound reason has been- advanced to justify the appointment of a Select Committee to inquire into this matter. We now have all the safeguards that are necessary, for this afternoon the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) told the Leader ‘ of the Country party (Mr. McWilliams) that if he were not satisfied with the Ministerial interpretation of the clause relating to the price to be fixed for crude oil - and the Prime Minister’s interpretation is backedupby the opinion of Sir Robert Garram, who does not make many mistakes - then the Government are willing that the clause shall definitely state that the Commonwealth shall fix the price. What more can we ask? And is it not better to be associated with a company that belongs to the Empire?
– Why does not the Commonwealth Government take entire control of the whole business?
– We know what happens when Governments go into ventures of this kind. We have been fooling about in Papua for a long time without any definite results. We want experts, and we cannot expect people like those connected with, the Anglo-Persian Oil Company to go into this business for the good of their health. They want to establish a commercial concern. The history of the company shows that it is comprised of men who understand the business, and, as I have just said, it belongs to the’ Empire. Consequently it is inexpedient to do anything that is likely to lead to delay. The appointment of a Select Committee would mean delay, and for that reason I intend to support the Government.
– I listened attentively to the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) this afternoon, and came to the conclusion that he was entirely governed by sentiment, due, no doubt, to the fact that for the- last four or five years sentiment has entered so largely into all Government undertakings. But the time for that sort of thing has passed. Our financial position is such that sentimental considerations must be put on one side. We must endeavour to do something practical. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) has moved torefer the Bill to a Select Committee, for the purpose of eliciting further information with regard to the agreement, and during the debate this afternoon, by a marvellous piece of conjuring, the amended schedule was placed in honorable members’ hands. I was so surprised and annoyed that in speaking plainly I gave utterance to words at which you, Mr. Speaker, took offence. It is not in my nature to insult anybody, but I think the circumstances warranted a strong statement. I am informed, on credible authority, that the Anglo-Persian Oil Company’s crude oil is not a first-class article, or at least that there is better. And, moreover, I believe that the AngloPersian Company draw their chief supply from wells that are not under the protection of the British flag, so that it is possible that foreign Governments may be in a position to place an embargo on the output.
– What country do you refer to?
– I refer to Russia, for one. Those who are interested in this matter have written to me on the subject, and in interviews with me have made statements which, I think, warrant honorable members in giving more mature consideration to this agreement before it is ratified. I . can understand the Prime Minister’s confidence because of the environment in which he has moved in Great Britain during recent years. But he appears to have lost sight of the fact that he is now in Australia, and that we are dealing with what is purely an Australian matter. If this agreement is heaven-born, thennot much harm can be done if it is scrutinized by members of a Select Committee, to make sure that it contains nothing that is likely to be detrimental to Australian interests. I do not know whether members realize their position as representatives of the people.’ I regard myself as a trustee of the public interests, and as such I want to make sure thatthis agreement is quite in order before I attach my signature - for I regard my vote as my signature - in ratification of it.
– When dealing with the question of the . freight on the oil from the wells to the refinery, the Prime Minister, in reply, to an interjection made by the Leader of the Country party (Mr. Mcwilliams), said that under the agreement the rates must be fair and reasonable. The determination of what i9 a fair and reasonable rate to charge for anything depends upon whether one is a buyer or a seller. We ought to have more information on this subject. If the company fixed upon exorbitant freights, it seems to me that under this agreement we could not object to them, and that the Government would be powerless to take action if it were dissatisfied with the way in which the oil was shipped to the refinery. -It is all very well to say that we could use our own steamers, but the wells from which the oil is at present being obtained are in other countries over which we have no control, and we might not be permitted to use our own vessels.
The schedule to the Bill is so full of anomalies that it might well be described as “ A Schedule of Anomalies for the most part Telling against Australia.” We ought to exercise the greatest caution’ in accepting an agreement involving, as this does, a gigantic financial deal and binding us down for fifteen years. We have no idea what Australia’s future oil supplies may be. The whole position is so uncertain that there ought to be no hostility to the proposal to appoint a Select Committee to ascertain who are the moving spirits in this enterprise, and whether a better agreement could not be drafted. If these oil people are the monuments of perfection they claim to be, and are so anxious to help Australia, they have nothing to fear from the appointment, of a Select Committee.
I received this morning the following telegram from Sydney: -
At meeting of New South Wales oil trade hold Sydney to-day, following resolution passed: - “In view far-reaching effects of proposed agreement between Commonwealth Government and Anglo-Persian Oil Company, the oil trade - some thirty firms - urges upon members the necessity of the matter being referred to Select Committee of the House for further serious inquiry on behalf of the oil trade.”
– We have all received a copy of that telegram. The Standard Oil and “Shell” companies are responsible for it.
– I represent the most important constituency in the metropolis of Sydney, where this meeting was held. The people concerned are citizens of repute, and are surely deserving of some consideration. They are evidently dissatisfied with the agreement, and do not approve of the Commonwealth binding itself in this way for fifteen years. The original agreement, as brought before the House, was found to be so dangerous that a caucus meeting of Ministerial supporters was held, and drew the attention of the Government to certain defects in it, with the result that a further agreement was drawn up and put before the House in some mysterious way. -In business phraseology* it seems to be suggested that the Government have “fallen into a trap.” The Prime Minister this afternoon indulged in a flood of eloquence-
– Was it oily eloquence?
– He seemed to be steeped in oil. He has become so elastic and pliable as the result of the company he kept while in England, that one wonders whether he is really W. M. Hughes, Prime Minister of Australia, or quite another man. The right honorable gentleman adduced no argument in favour of the (ratification bf the agreement. In effect, what he said was that, as Lord Inchcape, the Duke of So-and-so, and several others were connected with the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, and they were such jolly good fellows, we ought to sign the agreement. I hope that honorable members will not be influenced by sentimental considerations, but will deal as practical business men with this question, which is deserving of the best that is in them.
The Prime Minister, in supporting the agreement this afternoon, suggested that it was loaded with benefits for the Commonwealth, and in his enthusiasm he waved his arms as wildly as if he were conducting a musical entertainment. I hope that the House will recognise the wisdom of sending the whole matter to a Select Committee for inquiry. If that is done, and the Committee recommends the ratification of the agreement, no one will be better pleased than I shall be. My own belief is that inquiry will show that it should not be adopted in its present form. We are the custodians of the public purse, and should be watchful of the people’s interests. If any honorable member were asked to sign a contract for the sale of his house, he would seek advice before doing it. Yet we find some honorable members prepared, without any inquiry whatever, to approve of an agreement involving a commodity that is the bread and butter of industrial life’I hope that my appeal will not be in vain. The proposed inquiry would not occupy much time.’ It would be unnecessary for the Committee to go to the United States of America to prosecute its investigations. It would simply examine the agreement with the object of ascertaining whether it was in the best interests of Australia, and would inquire as to who were concerned in the enterprise. We want to know if this agreement will be a benefit, not to <a few individuals, but to the nation as a whole.
.- I should very much like this agreement to be referred to a Select Committee empowered to make the fullest investigations. The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) stated that the Government would have to continue the policy of assisting and developing the Australian shale oil industry. I fear, however, that by the establishment of this enterprise we shall practically extinguish the whole of the shale oil companies now operating in Australia. The Prime Minister contends that the agreement will not interfere with them in the slightest degree. There does not, however, seem to be any reason for rushing this agreement through the House. If it were referred to a Select Committee that Committee could make the fullest inquiries in regard to our present shale oil industries, and also as to the personnel of the AngloPersian Company. I have not had time to carefully consider the whole schedule to the Bill, but I have perused it, and can find in it no provision for empowering a private company to establish oil refineries here and to import its crude oil free of duty. If any other private company established refineries here, and attempted to import crude oil, it would thus be crushed out of -existence by this monopoly. That appears to be the stumbling block to the ratification of the agreement. If the Government are anxious that Australia shall have an adequate supply of crude oil, it has an excellent opportunity to develop the oil-fields of the Commonwealth. There is now in operation in
New South Wales a company with 250 square miles of undeveloped oil shale country. The shale is positively the richest in the world. One ton of shale will produce something like 102 gallons of crude oil. The honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Fleming) should be familiar with the territory to which I am referring.
– Notwithstanding the fact that ,the company has received a bonus, the quantity of shale oil produced has been infinitesimal.
– I am prepared, to admit that, but it must be remembered that the corporation has only now reached the stage when it is in a position to produces If the honorable member will read the history of the Commonwealth Oil Corporation, the works of which are at Newnes, he will find that approximately £1,250,000 has been spent on plant and railways. When the deposits there were first opened up, the company was not in a position to treat crude oil, and it was not until after a period of four or five years had elapsed, when Mr. John Fell took control, and when experimental retorts were erected, that the venture began to make any progress. To-day the industry is in a position to compete with other industries of a similar character.
– This agreement is to cover only one-half of the requirements of the Commonwealth, and other companies will be in a position to supply the balance.
– There would be plenty of .scope for the Commonwealth Oil Corporation to continue its operations under ordinary circumstances; but the Government are assisting a private company in such a way that competition by outside companies will be prevented.
– This is not a monopoly, because only one-half of the needs of the Commonwealth are to be supplied by the company.
– To me it is a monopoly, as the provisions of this agreement will be detrimental to other such industries at present operating in Australia.
– If it is a monopoly it is a Government monopoly, as they hold a majority of the shares.
– If it were a Government monopoly I would not be opposing it very strongly. If the “ Government are anxious to establish industries in Australia, I am prepared to assist; but we should see that such industries are under their control, and not in the hands of private companies.
Tha honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Blundell) stated that this was a Government monopoly ; but, according to the agreement, the refinery company is to have a capital of £500,000 in shares of £1 each, of which 250,001 will be allotted to the Commonwealth, 249,996 shall be allotted to the company, and nominees of the oil company shall be allotted three shares in the refinery company. The company will therefore hold two shares less than the Government, which means that the Government, with the assistance of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, will control this monopoly.
– The Government, if they desire, can control the company.
– Supposing that the company commences refining operations, is there any guarantee that sufficient supplies of crude oil will be forthcoming from Persia or Papua to keep the refinery in operation?
– That is the company’s lookout.
– But the Government are subscribing £250,000, and this company is experimenting at the expense of the taxpayers of Australia. Doubtless, it will make an attempt to develop our oil fields, but if supplies are not available, the company will allow the Government to shoulder the whole responsibility.
If the Government are genuinely desirous of developing our oil resources, why do they not commence at home ? There is ample scope for developmental work, particularly in connexion with our shale oil deposits, which, if properly worked, would enable us to obtain supplies for the requirements of the Navy at the same price as the AngloPersian Company will be able to supply it. For some time, I have taken a considerable interest in- the operations of the British-Australian Corporation, and I do not want to see anything done that will be detrimental to- its interests, because I knew the shareholders of that concern have expended an enormous sum of money in developmental work. I am not particularly concerned in the shareholders’ interests, but I do not want to see development retarded in such a way that it will result in men being thrown out of employment. The greatest obstacle in connexion with this- proposal is that if any other refinery were to start, there is a possibility of the Government refusing to allow it to obtain crude oil from abroad.
– The Government would not do that.
– They may do it.
– Under this agreement, the Government will be supplied with, only one-half of their requirements, and we must obtain ‘the balance elsewhere.
– Supposing that another industry such as this was started in Australia, would the Government allow that industry to import crude oil, free of duty, and refine it under the same conditions as the Anglo-Persian Oil Company?
– There is nothing to stop it.
– Has the honorable member read paragraph c of clause 14 of the agreement.
– That paragraph reads : “ The Commonwealth will cause to be introduced into the Parliament of the Commonwealth”-
– Order! The honorable member cannot go into that question on this motion.
– My contention isthat a private company will not be allowed to compete against the AngloPersian Oil Company. The question of freights is also a very serious one, and must be closely considered.
The honorable member for EdenMonaro (Mr. Chapman) said there was no necessity to pass the Bill with undue haste, and I agree that no arguments have been advanced to justify the measure being disposed of in this manner. There is every reason why the whole question should be referred to a Select Committee for the strictest investigation.
– Where would such a Committee obtain its information?
– Honorable members are not expected to be oil experts, although there may be some who profess to have expert knowledge of the question. If honorable members- have not a full knowledge of this intricate question, it is only right we should obtain information from outside sources.
– From whom does the honorable member suggest that information should be obtained?
– I do not know of any oil experts in Australia, but I know of one who is closely associated with -the oil industry.
– Perhaps he is the person who despatched telegrams to honorable members.
– The telegrams may have been sent by persons interested in the shale oil industry.
– The interests of the shale oil industry should not be overlooked, as there are large undeveloped areas of shale oil country in Australia.
– I have already explained that there are 250 .square miles of oil-bearing country, where the shale extends from 15 inches to 4 feet in depth, and returns 102 gallons per ton, where £1,250,000 has been spent.
– Is it not a payable proposition ?
– I have already stated that the industry is about to be placed upon a paying basis, and if the Anglo-Persian Oil Company is given a monopoly, those who have been prospecting for sixty years will not have any hope of success.
– Cannot its products compete with the oil to be refined by the Anglo-Persian Oil Company?
– There is every possibility of the industry ceasing to exist.
– Because there will be no encouragement for it to continue, and, after spending £1,250,000, the Commonwealth Oil Corporation and its interests will be thrown to the four winds of heaven.
I do not wish to labour the question, but I am anxious that careful consideration shall be given to the whole matter, as it is an important proposal, and one that should not be disposed of in a hurried manner. I venture to say that not 2 per cent, of the members of this Cb amber have had time to thoroughly peruse the agreement embodied in. the Bill, and it is for that reason I am anxious that the whole question shall be referred to a Committee of inquiry. If the industry is to be established, let the Government undertake the whole responsibility and invest the money they contemplate spending in developing the oil fields at Newnes, where there is an abundance of oil.
.- I cannot agree with the statement made by the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Nicholls) that honorable members have not had time to peruse the agreement. But I agree with him that it might be here for a very long time, and yet many of us would not fully grasp the meaning of its contents, or what it may lead to. It is an extremely intricate document, and I fail to understand the need for urgency, or the occasion for the fulminations of the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) this afternoon when he seemed to assume that there was something wrong in the attitude of honorable members who urge that the Bill should be sent to a Select Committee. In this House we have passed various kinds of legislation, and we have heard many statements made that would not stand the light of day. We are now dealing with a very important agreement, and I defy half-a-dozen honorable members to say honestly that they have fully grasped its contents. It deals with, something entirely new. None of us have had any knowledge of oil refining. Can it be contended that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) or any honorable member is urging anything on the House in the interests of the Standard Oil Corporation or people dealing in oil? The charge of the Prime Minister in that regard was a monstrous one; it was, as I felt, an imputation against those who, when something novel is brought into the chamber, have a perfect right to be fully satisfied that they grasp its contents, and thoroughly understand what they are giving away. I cannot understand the urgency for the establishment of a refinery. We are told there is to be a bonus of £50,000 for the discovery of oil in Australia. .But there is no need to give a bonus. The men who discover oil in Australia will make a fortune. An honorable member was discussing the question with me a little while ago, and insisted that the Anglo-Persian Oil Company’s association with the Government in boring for oil in Papua was part and parcel of this agreement. It only shows how little honorable members know of the matter. The Anglo-Persian, Oil Company are simply acting as agents of the Commonwealth in boring for oil in Papua, and that arrangement has no connexion with the Bill before the House.
– A Select Committee would not be required to point that out.
– A Select Committee may be necessary to point out what we are giving to this company.
– Where would a Select Committee find oil experts in Australia, except the American representatives?
– We might get good information from that source. The honorable member, as a business man, knows perfectly well that he has no special knowledge of oil refining, or of the oil industry.
– I have distributed copied of the Bill among halfadozen of the keenest men in Adelaide, and they tell me that it is good business.
– I have discussed the matter with the honorable member, and he knows I have found very little in it which is objectionable.
When the honorable member for Mac quarie (Mr. Nicholls) was speaking, and was about to quote one of the clauses of the agreement, I drew his attention to clause 14, paragraph c, in which it will be seen that if other persons wish to import crude oil to Australia, and start a refinery here, the Anglo- Persian Oil Company has a guarantee from the Government that legislation will be brought down imposing a special duty on any imports if it should be shown there was anything in the nature of unfair competition.
– This Parliament will be master of the situation.
– I am looking at the matter in the interests of the people who are using oil, and I do not wish to see something established here which may mean very dear oil for them. Until we discover oil in Australia, we must get our crude oil from the Anglo-Persian Oil Company. They may charge a higher price for their crude oil, and for the cost of refining than the cost of other imported oils; but if some other firm proposes to start a refinery in, Australia, bringing oil here for that purpose, and charging halfthe price which the Anglo-Persian Company may be asking, this Parliament is pledged under the agreement to pass legislation imposing a duty on crude oil coming into this country if there is unfair competition.
– Parliament will need to be shown that it is unfair competition.
- Mr. Speaker, would I be in order in reading a paragraph of the agreement?
– No. I ask the honorable member not to take notice of interjections.
– I have no desire to transgress the rules of the Chamber, but I would like to point out the danger of our being called upon to pay a higher price for this product, and that there is need for the House to become possessed of the fullest information, before accepting this agreement.
I do not think there is much justification for the Bill, because I cannot see what we are to gain by having an oil refinery here. Enormous gain would result if sound, practical efforts were made to prove the existence of oil in Australia. For a great number of years, we have been spending money in Papua with bad results, because the work has been undertaken by the Government, instead of endeavouring to carry on the work under a political Minister. I commend them now for taking steps to utilize the services of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, who have special experts and geologists who thoroughly understand the business. I am also pleased that, instead of adhering to the terms of the memorandum., which provided for retaining the field of exploration to Government efforts, such a policy has been renounced, and the Government are now prepared to allow outsiders to prospect for oil in that field. Before we talk about establishing a refinery, we should give every assistance to people to prospect, not only in Papua, but also on the mainland, to see if oil can be developed here. Once we discover oil in Australia, we shall soon have a refinery established. I think) the Government would be justified in giving a bonus or financial assistance such as is given to the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, for the purpose of endeavouring to establish such refineries here, but our first step should be to do all we possibly can to . discover oil. Some of my constituents recently paid a very large fee . to one of the best oil experts in Australia for a geological report on certain portions of Western Australia, and he gave a very favorable report. Other persons are applying for land in. the Northern Territory, believing from reports and indications that it would be possible to obtain oil there. If these people are prepared to spend their money, and if it can be certified by a geological Department that the conditions are in any way favorable for the discovery of oil, the Government will be justified in spending many thousands of pounds in the purchase of drills, which could be lent out to parties, prepared to guarantee the expenditure of a certain amount of money in prospecting work. In my opinion, the offer of a large bonus is worthless. Let us give assistance to prospectors. However, as we are dealing with something novel, which carries with it many; important functions and conditions, and as I cannot see any justification for urgency, I strongly support- the motion to send the Bill to a Select Committee, so that we may be able to secure advice, and see that the measure gives the best possible protection to the interests of the people of Australia.
– One of the questions uppermost in the consideration of this matter is where the great bulk of the oil supplies of the world come from, and another is what are the principal influences at work in keeping the price of oil at such a high figure. I must again refer to that most valuable report of the Committee of the House of Commons on petrol supplies from . Great Britain. It would have, been of great benefit to honorable members if the Government had had the whole of the Committee’s report printed, because it is so educative. Unfortunately, I do not think the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) had taken the trouble to scan it when he introduced the Bill; otherwise he would not have given expression to so many erroneous ideas. One paragraph of the Committee’s report says-
The greater bulk of the petrol landed in this country (Great Britain) at the present time is produced by American, Dutch, or Mexican companies,which are outside the control of His Majesty’s Government.
It is proved up to the hilt that the great bulk of the oil supplies of the world are under the control of American, Mexican, and Dutch companies. It is admitted that had. it not been for the supply received from these quarters, Great Britain would have been bankrupt in oil supplies during the recent war. If this agreement be adopted, it will give the AngloPersian Company a big Government backing and a considerable monopoly so far as supplies of oil for Australia are concerned. Now it has been admitted upon all sides that that company, either from its Persian wells or from any other source, cannot supply one-fourth of the requirements of Britain and Australia.
– Is that not due to lack of refineries?
– The facts have been elicited by a Committee consisting of members of the House of Commons and of oil experts. This Committee grew out of the Profiteering Act which was passed by the British Parliament in 1919. To it was allotted the duty of inquiring into the petrol supplies of the world. It had the best possible evidence at its command, and, after going into the whole question exhaustively, it arrived at certain conclusions. Amongst other things, it concludes that one of the factors contributing to the high cost of oil is the Shipping Ring. Now, who . is one of the chief instruments of that great Shipping Combine? The very man who occupies the position of representative of the British Government in connexion with this Anglo-Persian Oil Company - I refer to Lord Inchcape. He is at the head of this great Shipping Combine, and, to a large extent, he and his associates can control the freights of the world. It was admitted in evidence before the Committee which investigated this matter that one of the chief factors in the high price of oil is the cost of transferring it either from the oil wells or the refineries to its various destinations. The Committee says in its report -
The . recent advance to 3s.81/2d. in the price of petrol is, according to a public announcement, largely based on the increase in freight, although it is stated in the announcement referred to that only one-half of the present nominal market freight is included in that price.
And who is it that is charging these high freights? In this connexion the Committee says -
Figures furnished by the Ministry of Shipping show that early in December, 1919, the rates between the United Kingdom and the northern ports of the United States were 150s. per ton, between the United Kingdom and Trinidad 170s., between the United Kingdom and the Persian Gulf 210s., and between the United Kingdom and Borneo 280s.
The .Shipping Combine. of which Lord Inchcape is the head, and the Persian Oil Company to a large extent control freights.
Honorable members, I am sure, are grateful to the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce) for the splendid way in which he dealt with this question the other evening. He said that he could only see two ways by which the AngloPersian Company can make a profit out of this agreement. It will certainly make a profit out of the production of crude oil, but it will derive a much greater profit out of the freights from Persia to Australia. What matter, then, if the Commonwealth has a bite at the small portion of the cherry which is left? Freights are dearer from Persia to Britain than they are from the United States to Britain, or from Trinidad to Britain. During the war, although the British Government were supposed to exercise a dominating influence in the affairs of the Anglo-Persian Company, that company exacted from the British public more profits by way of freights than it obtained in any other way.
– Did not Great Britain get more than half of those profits?
– When the honorable member can controvert the facts which I have stated I shall be prepared to listen to him.
– The honorable member is merely expressing his opinion. I suppose that I am just as entitled to express mine.
– I am giving the honorable member the opinion of an expert body. I am not talking sugar now.
– I know perfectly well-
– The honorable member does not know perfectly well. That is the trouble. I am giving him the facts as they are related by an expert body which was formed of members of the House of Commons and experts of the oil industry. Can he do any better than that? He is dumb now. Evidently he is prepared to listen to what takes place at the caucus meeting of his party, and to swallow whatever the Prime Minister may say. Even the British Government cannot control the supplies of oil that enter Britain to-day. What does the Committee to which I have alluded say in this connexion ?. It says that the only way of rescuing the British public is by the League of Nations assuming control of the matter. The British Government have not been able to keep down freights, have not been able to leg-rope Lord Inchcape.
I believe that the appointment of a Select Committee to inquire into this matter would not delay the passage of this Bill three weeks.
– What about the proposed adjournment “for a month?
– It will be two years before the proposed refinery is established in Australia. In three weeks, a Select Committee could obtain sufficient information to satisfy even the most critical honorable member.- Then, if certain amendments were suggested by it, the House would readily accept them so long as they safeguarded the interests of the Commonwealth, and the passage of the Bill would thus be expedited. In the absence of such an inquiry, there will be grave suspicion that everything connected with this agreement is not quite above board. What will happen during the two years which must elapse before the Anglo-Persian Company is able to refine a gallon of oil in Australia ? After the refinery has been established, the company will supply us with only a portion of the oil that is required to carry’ on industry in Australia. Every day, in every part of the world, the demand for petrol is increasing; and the day may soon dawn when America will put its long arras practically around, the whole of the American supplies.
– The Petrol Commission says that.
– Yes, and it predicts a world famine in petrol. That being so, we should hesitate to shut out supplies of oil from Australia. There is the shale oil industry here which we should encourage more than we have encouraged it in the past. We are assured by those who are interested in it that that industry will be seriously imperilled, if it be not actually wiped out, if this agreement be adopted. I would like to give the representatives of the shale oil industry an opportunity of stating the reasons why they fear that it will be ruined if this agreement be approved. I ask honorable members to look at the amended agreement, though I understand that you, sir, will not allow me to deal with that.
– In Committee honorable members will be able to deal with it.
– But before we reach that stage, a most important matter will have been decided, namely, whether this Bill is to be referred to a Select. Committee. It is rather unfortunate that we are unable to discuss the details of the agreement before we arrive at a decision on that question.
– Order ! I must again remind honorable members that this is neither a second-reading debate nor a debate in Committee upon the Bill. So far, I have allowed a considerable amount of latitude; and what honorable members have really been doing is to go over a lot of matter which has already been thoroughly- threshed, out in the House. When they desire to go farther, and to debate details of the schedule, and possibly details of suggested amendments, obviously, I must draw the line, because those are matters which can be dealt with only in Committee. When we reach that stage, honorable members, may dissect every word, every letter, and every comma of the Bill, or any proposed amendments to the Bill, if theyso desire. Consequently it will not be in order at this stage of the proceedings to debate the matters to which I have alluded. The proposal is to refer this Bill to a Select Committee, when such matters would be freely open, to discussion, as they would also be in a Committee of the whole.
– Unfortunately, the numbers appear to be up. It is set out in the Bill that this Anglo-Persian Company is to use its best endeavours to obtain a full supply of oil for Australia. It may very soon report to the Prime Minister that it has used. its best endeavours in the direction indicated, and without success. But if, on the other hand, it obtains a full supply of oil for Australia, it will be obliged to go for that supply to the very people against whom honorable members opposite have inveighed so vigorously. If the Bill be referred to, a Select Committee, I hope that that body will examine representatives of the Vacuum Oil Company, of the Standard Oil Company, of the Shell Company, of the Anglo-Persian Company, and other’ experts who may be available.
I understand, for example, that Dr. Wade is still in Australia. If honorable members were sitting in judgment upon any case, would they limit the evidence to . one side? I claim that if any information can be obtained, even from an enemy source, that information should be made available. I should have no hesitation in telling any Select Committee appointed to get evidence where it could, so long as it obtained necessary information, and surely some information could be obtained from the men to whom I am referring. A Select Committee appointed by this House would no doubt possess sufficient brains to judicially examine evidence, and the whole inquiry could be completed in two or three weeks, and the report presented to Parliament when we meet again after the adjournment for the Royal visit. The question to be decided is a momentous one to’ Australia, and we ought to see, when starting a business of this kind, that the foundations are firmly laid. There are columns in the Times of the 2nd March this year which disclose to me, at any rate, that we are in some danger if, without inquiry, we close with this- company. What is being done in other parts of the world where the oil industry is developing by leaps and bounds? In Mexico there are not fewer than 150 American companies obtaining and exporting oil, and if we depart from the State system of developing our oil resources we ought to allow other companies to send their experts to Australia. Personally, I should like to see the best experts employed, because, if we could get twenty companies to establish themselves in Australia, it would not- be long before we should be self-contained so far as oil is concerned. If this were so, we in Australia would be able to rejoice in the fact that by the development of our oil wells we were conferring immense benefits, not only on ourselves, but on all the world.
. -The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) has expressed the joy with which he would welcome twenty companies to explore the Australian . oil resources. But Australia has been open to these companies all along, and one result of our neglect to do anything to provide ourselves’ with oil was that petrol and other oils that come from petroleum were exceptionally dear in the Commonwealth all through the war period. One would think, to listen to some honorable members, that this was a new question suddenly sprung upon us; but those who follow the news of Australia will remember that the operations of the American Oil Combines in this country were fully investigated in the Courts of New South Wales only a year or two ago. It was shown that these Combines had made enormous profits at the cost of this country during the war period, and when the Necessary Commodities Commission fixed a price which was considered fair, the Combines boycotted the State until the price was lifted to a level they thought they had a right to demand. Now, when the Commonwealth Government submit an agreement with a company which will provide, at any rate, some cheap oil, we have, from ‘Unexpected quarters, these extraordinary arguments against the proposal. I was astounded to hear the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) say that, because the Government would hold half the stock, they will become a party to the extortion of high prices. I never heard a more damaging argument against any proposal to nationalize an industry. If the Government would do such a thing, are they not just as likely to extort high prices through the medium .of other industries they might wholly control ?
– The Government might do it under cover of the company.
– The argument is so artificial as to suggest that honorable members are not expressing their convictions, but looking around for some means of bolstering up the case for opposition companies. It is, unhappily, the fact that whenever an effort is made to deal with any of the big interests, we find - without the slightest suspicion of corruption or collusion - that those who wish to oppose everything the Government may do become naturally the mouthpiece of those interests.
– Is this one of the Government’s anti-profiteering moods?
– I am always in my anti-profiteering “mood”; I do not change it simply because the Bill to deal with it bears the name of some man I dislike. I venture to say that if this Bill had borne the name of the Leader of the Opposition instead of that of the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), or some other Minister, we should not have heard the speeches we have been under the painful necessity of listening to in this debate. ^
I have been waiting to hear one sound reason advanced for sending this Bill to a Select Committee. We heard reasons last week in the House and in the lobbies, but those reasons have all been dissipated into thin air; and we now hear great fear expressed that a giant monopoly is being established. We in Australia have suffered under at least two oil monopolies for many years. In New South Wales a Labour Ministry introduced a proposal to deal with the matter by establishing a State monopoly, not of crude oil, but of petrol ; and that proposal was supported, not only by the Labour party, but by a large section out- ‘ side.
The proposal now before us is to refer to a Select Committee the agreement which the Government have entered into subject, to the approval of this House. The agreement does not establish a monopoly; and there is nothing in the way of the establishment of a monopoly to inquire into. The contract is to deliver certain quantities of crude oil yearly, and that quantity is not sufficient to meet the demands of Australia; thus the contract can have little effect on competing companies so long as their prices are as satisfactory as the prices of others. If the prices of those competing companies are better for the public than those charged by the Anglo-Persian Company the trade will soon go to them. But the fear that the public are going to be charged more is not the reason that we are inundated with expensive telegrams and literature - the- fear is that the presence of a company controlled by the Government will bring down the price of oil, and that the competing companies will have to leave the market or sell at the same figure. The whole agitation against the Bill is founded on an idea that by the establishment of refineries in Australia, where our people may find employment, we are striking a blow at the monopoly prices to which the Commonwealth has hitherto had to submit. That is not a matter for a Select Committee, but a matter on which every one who has followed the profiteering operations in this country can come to a speedy determination.
– Should we not have made more progress if the Government had undertaken the business themselves?
– If the object of the Leader of the Opposition is to get from a Select Committee a report in favour of nationalization, the honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine’) knows that such a proposal has no chance at all of being accepted by this Parliament. That choice is not open to Parliament; the choice is between the Bill as presented and no attempt to control the price of oil. The suggestion that we are to refer this matter to a Select Committee in order to get a report in favour of nationalization is an idle pretence which I do not think appeals to many honorable members. The practical suggestion is made that we should have our own refinery; but there is nothing to prevent the Shell Company or any other company from starting business here. Not many years ago, when I was on the same platform as honorable members opposite, the Standard Oil Company was an organization of which we spoke most scathingly; but to-day, apparently, the interests of that company are the inspiring theme of the opposition to the Bill. The Standard Oil Company is quite free to open refineries in Australia, give employment to our people, and sell us cheap oil if it can. There is not a line in the Bill which removes the power of the Commonwealth to encourage exploration for oil. The agreement has nothing to do with exploration for oil that is dealt with in- an entirely different agreement, which does not bind the Commonwealth to any one company. Any one of the twenty companies which the honorable member for Maribyrnong pictures in his imagination is free to explore for oil in Australia as much as it likes ; the agreement establishes no monopoly - gives no monopoly rights.
Reference has been made to the powers that may be exercised in connexion with the Customs duties; but under what conditions? If the Commonwealth Government thinks the price charged is fair and reasonable it may do the things provided, and can only do them through this Parliament; not only is the Government to be satisfied that the price is fair and reasonable, but the majority of honorable members has to be satisfied before any one of these three conditions apply. The fear that a monopoly will be created is the emptiest of all the suggestions made in support of a Select Committee. There is not a line in the . Bill that gives a monopoly to the Anglo-Persian Company, or prevents any other company establishing refineries here; and all the arguments advanced, one after the other, against the agreement are arguments that do not touch the case.
For myself, I am prepared to accept the Billin its present form. After all this talk about the amendments those we have so far seen in print are only explanations of the Bill, or intended to more clearly phrase the provisions already in the measure. To me the Bill seems entirely unobjectionable from the point of view of the establishment of a monopoly. And we must remember that we are not in a position to make a free choice. If we could have got our oil refined and sold at a reasonable price, there would have been no necessity for this Bill; but at present we are absolutely in the grip of monopolies which have been levying toll on us all along, and which will continue to do so unless we take some action.
– The Anglo-Persian Company has been doing the same thing.
– Of course it has; and, therefore, all the more necessity there is for an agreement to prevent it doing it in the future. If we could make similar agreements with other companies it would, be for the benefit of the Commonwealth, for that would, at any rate, give us some cheap oil, and enable the public to see the comparative prices, and judge what ought to be paid under present world conditions.
– You are easily pleased.
– Easily “ bluffed.”
– I am not so easily “bluffed “ that I accept some of the speeches which have been made in this Chamber to-day, as expressing the real opinion of those who made them. Nor am I so easily “ bluffed “ that I can be induced to repeat here the statements which appear in pamphlets issued by what is one of the greatest monopolies in the world to-day, the Standard Oil Company. Honorable members opposite have condemned these monopolies, and yet in their speeches on this Bill they have re-hashed the arguments which the Standard Oil Company has caused to appear in the newspapers, and has circulated wherever they would find acceptance.I should have liked to hear from the honorable member for Maribyrnong something in the vein of the ‘ old Labour opposition to monopolies, and some slight approval of the action of the Prime Minister in making an agreement which will enable us to at least reduce the toll that some of these monopolies levy on the Commonwealth. I believe that the effect of the Bill will be to reduce the cost of fuel oil to Australian industries, and it is because I so regard it that I shall support it.
.- I shall vote to refer the Bill to a Select Committee, though I do not think that any ultimate good will result unless the proposed arrangement is prevented, and for that reason I shall vote against the Bill altogether.
– The House has approved of the principles of the Bill by agreeing to its second reading.
– That does not remove my disapproval of it.
– -The honorable member may not now discuss the principles of’ the measure.
– I do not propose to do so. It was you who drew my attention, to” the fact that the House had given its approval to the measure by agreeing to the second reading. I wish to express my views in opposition to the agreement.
– The honorable member would not be in order in doing that. As I have pointed out, the secondreading debate has closed, the House having, on a division, agreed to the second reading of the Bill, and thus having approved of its principles. The honorable member would not be in order in discussing the agreement, which is a schedule to the Bill, and, virtually, the whole Bill, at this stage. He may address himself only to the motion before the Chair, for referring the Bill to a Select Committee. He will be in order in giving reasons why that should or should not be done, but he would not be in order in making a second-reading speech on the Bill itself.
– I suppose that T shall be in order in speaking in favour of the proposal to refer the Bill to a Select Committee to inquire into the doubtful antecedents of the party with whom it is proposed to enter into an agreement ?
– The honorable member will be in order in speaking in favour of the proposal to refer the Bill to a Select Committee.
– The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) has told us that the Anglo-Persian Oil Company came into existence as the result of the activities of a certain Mr. Knox d’Arcy, who obtained a concession from the Persian Government for the purpose of exploiting the oil resources of Persia, excepting that part of it which borders on the Caspian Sea. In what has happened since we have an illustration of the new phase of Imperialism. The explorations of. Mr. d’Arcy, and the energetic persuasions of certain high British officials who are mixed up in this company have become responsible for the fact that Persia is now to all intents and purposes a part of the British Empire. It seems to me that the scheme is part and parcel of the activities of what is known as the Round I1 able group, or the newer Imperialism, that seeks to exploit the outlying parts of the Empire in the interests of a gang of financiers in London. It is eighteen years since Persia became an oil-producing country. Close upon the discovery of oil there, Persia was partitioned between Russia and Great Britain, but as the result of the European war Britain now holds not merely the part allotted to her by the agreement with Russia, but thewhole of Persia. The internal composition of this Anglo-Persian Oil Company makes it apparent that it is intended to act towards the oil fields which are thought to exist in the Commonwealth and its Territories in the same way, and. to my mind, the development of the oil industry in Australia under the terms of the Bill would be fraught with as great danger to the liberties of the people of this country as the discovery of oil brought to the people of Persia.
In a. booklet issued during the war by the Society of Friends in Great Britain, and entitled, Whence Come Wars, there is a very illuminating reference to this matter. The writer points out how the great armament firms were supported by their various Governments, and were the cause of precipitating the nations into war. He goes on to say: -
The Powers depend on their Vickers, their Schneiders, and their Krupps, their Ternis their Skodas, and ‘their Putiloffs. With these they endeavour - snaking the best terms they can, according as the State or the corporation is more self-assertive and independent-to obtain allies and to weaken their enemies. They foster their firms, wink at their extortions (Schneider in Morocco), disregard their corruptions (Krupp and Carnegie in Germany and United States of America), and ignore their briberies (Vickers in Japan).
France helps Schneider by every means in its power to obtain the iron deposits in Morocco which Germany endeavours to prevent becoming French. Terni and Skoda both cast their eyes on the mineral riches of the Balkans. The Persian Oil Syndicate and the European Petroleum Union contend for the finest oil wells, and, when war threatens them, the Governments behind each group divert large forces to the Tigris Basin. The French Government likewise, intervene to keep Krupp from acquiring an interest in the Putiloff Steel Works, whilst the same Government works with might and main, to secure the railway contracts of Anatolia for its own capitalists as against the Germans.
These are the kinds of economic conflicts which bring nations to the brink of war, for the reason that on the prosperity and consequent efficiency of certain highly-developed industrial concerns depends the success of the countries -themselves should war break out.
– How the honorable member admires the autocracy of the Kaiser !
– The honorable member is quite wrong. What I object to is the establishment of an autocracy in this country as well as in Germany, or, for the matter of that, in any other country. I am afraid that I cannot help the honorable member if he is unable to see the drift of my argument, but what I am endeavouring to show is that the operations of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company represent simply one of the newest methods of extending the frontiers of the Empire, by securing, by one means or another, materials essential to the development of certain industries, and especially those necessary in war time. I have said- ako that the adoption of these methods is one of the most potent factors in fomenting wars. The honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) must know very well that Mesopotamia and Persia are, for all practical purposes, part and parcel of the British Empire, simply because of the existence of oil wells in those countries. The Prime Minister, in introducing the measure now under consideration, pointed out that oil has to-day become an essential requirement for warships, for war industries, and for transport by land and sea. It is now on the same plane as iron, cotton, rubber, and other commodities essential to the operations of people bent upon, Empire building and land grabbing, if they are to successfully make war against their trade rivals. In the view of these people, countries or small nations weak in defence have no rights, and must be wiped off the face of the earth, or be forcibly incorporated with one or other of the great Powers in order that the world may be divided up into new Imperial groups.
– The honorable member is very consistent. His themes do not vary much in this House.
– I take that as a compliment from the honorable member. I was not sent here to vary my themes. I was sent here to advocate the views held by an increasing majority of educated working men throughout the world.
– I have not heard the honorable member use the word “Russia” for ages.
– Possibly the honorable member has not; but I remind him that there has been a’ notable and eloquent silence on the part of honorable members opposite since the Allies withdrew their military forces from Russia.
– Order ! I ask the honorable member not to .follow up interjections that are themselves disorderly.
– There has been an eloquent silence in Russia since they killed half their people.
– Order I I ask honorable members to cease interjecting. May I remind them that it is extremely disorderly to interject immediately after the Speaker has called the House to order. I hope that the practice will not be indulged in in future.
– I am not very much concerned about the view which honorable members may take of what I have to say, because, like the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers), they may become a little tired of my theme, since I approach every subject that comes up for discussion in this House from the stand-point of the working class position, as I understand it.
– What about Standard oil?
– I ask the honorable member to take no notice of an interjection from an honorable member who has so frequently been asked not to interject.
– I did not intend to do so. When addressing myself to subjects under consideration in this Chamber, I am not concerned about the individual opinions of honorable members opposite, or even of honorable members on this side, but my purpose is to discuss various matters from the view-point of the industrialists in all countries, who, I may tell honorable members, are very much concerned about the system of concession giving and exploitation of which the operations of the AngloPersian Oil Company are a sample. If honorable members take the trouble to read such organs of the New Imperialism as the Bound Table, they will know that there is a combination in Great Britain whose idea is to exploit the Dominions of the Empire in the interests of a financial group whose head-quarters are in London.
– No. that is not so.
– The honorable member does not know it. He is not aware of the development of the Empire Resources Committee. If he investigated’ the matter for himself he would find that the Round Table group even approached members of this House when they were on the other side of the globe, and offered to find seats for them in the House of Commons.
– The honorable member would not accept that offer.
– Not under present circumstances. Honorable members should be aware that the world to-day is being divided into huge international Trusts. The nations are taking on the aspect of Trusts. They have become huge industrial workshops that must have control of the materials they require or go under in the industrial struggle to maintain their supremacy. It every day becomes increasingly necessary for them to control in one way or another countries rich in iron and the other articles I have referred to that are essential for the maintenance of their superiority in armaments. They must acquire these countries by force, or, if they have them, must use force to retain them. Taking this view of the question, I find no reason for supporting the oil agreement which has been submitted to us. In my opinion, it calls for a very exhaustive inquiry by a Select Committee, or by some other body, to justify the Government in asking us to consent to it.
Some honorable members have said that this agreement will not retard the development of oil supplies in Australia or the Territories under the control of the Commonwealth. Why is it that honorable members who have talked about the Commonwealth Shipping Line have not come forward with a proposal to establish exclusively Commonwealth refineries. During the debate on the second reading of the Bill it was said that the reason is that we have not men possessed of the necessary technical knowledge to handle oil.
– Those who said that had sense enough to realize that brains are required to manage this business.
– Does the honorable member mean to confess that he has nob brains enough f
– Not to manage the oil business.
-Order! ,1 once again ask honorable members to cease interjecting.
– The honorable member believes that the rulers of this country claim to possess brains enough to exercise control over such matters as shipping, mills, and several other phases of commercial activity. But this oil business seems to be surrounded by a mysterious halo which cannot be penetrated. When it is a matter of Australia desiring, to build submarines and destroyers we can send men to Great Britain to learn their job. Are there no refineries in other parts of the world where Australian citizens can be sent to learn the technique of refining oil during the period which is to be occupied by endeavours to discover oil deposits here? I have been reading a book in which I learned that the trouble with the Anglo-Persian Oil Company has been, not that it has had insufficient supplies of oil, or that the. quality has not been up to the mark, but that it has not had enough refineries to cope with its output. The nature of this agreement, in my mind, tends to support that fact. Can it be expected that the Anglo-Persian Company’s experts will be particularly keen on discovering oil m Australia and its Territories, seeing that they have, in their Persian fields, more than sufficient oil to keep all their refineries going, including , the proposed refinery in Australia? Here is a quotation from The Mineral Industry During 1917 -
It is now stated that the oil-fields that are being developed and tested by the producing companies of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company are among the most extensive and prolific in the world. Were refineries existing to deal with the oil, the field from which crude is now being obtained would produce a/bout 4,000,000 tons annually. Most of the wells, however, have to be kept shut down for want of facilities to deal with the crude. Some idea of the richness of this field is given by the statement that the present obtainable production exceeds that of the whole of the Roumanian and .Galician oil-fields before the war.
All this business is merely part and parcel of a great scheme which I term the new Imperialism ; that is to say, the exploitation of the outlying portions of the Empire in the interests of a financial group in London. I am opposed to the proposition, and, for that reason I shall vote in the direction of securing a Select Committee.
.- We know that Australia is lamentably short of oil, and that it is all-important that we should be in the way of securing cheap supplies in order to increase our production, primary and secondary. This agreement provides a means of securing oil fuel more cheaply, and it should certainly stimulate efforts to discover oil in Australia. If a monopoly were to be given to the Anglo-Persian Company I would endeavour to secure the insertion in the Bill of clauses calculated to frustrate such a purpose. But the satisfactory fact is that, under the terms of the Bill as it stands, the company’s interests will be acquirable by the Commonwealth within fifteen years. I trust that this House will specifically define in the Bill the duties of the two independent persons who are to be called upon to fix a valuation. The factor of goodwill in relation to this matter should be considered now, and in cold blood. I know that in Western Australia the neglect to make definite that point in the drawing up of an agreement with a certain company cost the city of Perth over £240,000. I hope the Commonwealth will never be called upon to pay anything for goodwill; and that, indeed, nothing but the question of actual value will be taken into consideration. Now is the time to safeguard the position. I feel that a House comprising, as it does’, seventy-five honorable members representative of every part of Australia, should be capable of saying whether this agreement is in accordance with the wishes of the people without calling for the appointment of a Select Committee. It would be dangerous to try to secure expert evidence in Australia upon the oil question. I certainly was not helped in that direction by a certain telegram which I received to-day. I have not had too much sympathy - and neither have the people of Australia, generally - from these people who are concerned ‘in the supply of Australia’s oil requirements. The House is indebted to the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce) for his able contribution to the debate. The honorable member correctly expressed the feeling that if any alterations in the agreement were necessary they could be effected during the Committee stage of this Bill.
.- I approach this subject with diffidence, because of the attitude I have always adopted towards great Trusts or Combines. I regret that we are not sufficiently advanced in our ideas of Democracy to follow the example of Japan, and deal with these corporations as effectively as has the Government of that country. Last year the people of Australia paid £6,500,000 for the petroleum used in this country, and when we remember that the total cost of production, including mining, casing, and refining, was only about £500,000, and freight absorbed another £500,000 at the outside, we find there was a clear profit of £5,500,000 for the oil companies. I have no great regard for the Standard ‘Oil or Vacuum companies, because, in my opinion, they are all joined together against the interests of Democracy. Their only god is pelf, and their only desire is to secure dividends. Let us look at this proposal in a common-sense way. It seems to me that its only effect will be to prevent the development of our oil deposits in Australia or Papua, and to encourage the crude oil products of Persia in the refineries to be erected in Australia. Therefore, I earnestly urge honorable members to follow the lead set by Japan and support the motion for a thorough investigation into the agreement. Lord Inchcape is at the head of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company. I only mention his name as a reminder to honorable members of the difficulties we have experienced of late years in connexion with the Shipping Trust.
I have had many differences of opinion with the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce), but in connexion with this Trust evil I should like to quote briefly from The Uprising of the Many, by Russell, who, by the way, gives a good deal of credit to the Minister for Defence for action which he took some years ago fighting Trusts that were threatening Australia. A former Premier of South Australia, the late Mr. Thomas Price, had trouble with the Shipping Trusts of Australia. This is what happened -
The Trust got a verdict of 500 dollars. Mr. Price owned his cottage, the result of years of toiling at his trade, and beyond that he had not a dollar. So the great Shipping Trust, which annually gouged millions from the people of Australia, purposed to seize the 900- dollar cottage to punish him for telling the truth.
Then an agent tried to tempt Mr. Price by offering to advance him the money, and it is related by one eye-witness that a somewhat portly gentleman was seen rushing out of a house with an infuriated member of Parliament behind him. This agent, we are told, was finally kicked like a bundle of rags into the gutter. The writer also has something to say about George Ryland, who was eliminated from the Northern Territory by that man who, in my judgment, ought to be in gaol for his administration there. George Ryland was black-listed for five years. This is bow Mr. Andrew Fisher, who enjoyed the unique distinction of being regarded as an honest politician, was treated -
Andrew Fisher, .a locomotive and mining engineer, and afterwards in the Labour administration, the best Minister for Customs that Australia ever had, went up and down the colony looking in vain for employment. He made a study of mines; no man knew them better; but no employer would have him on liny terms. Finally a miner, who was an old friend, and to whom he had made a rather pleading application, said to him, “ Fisher, I should like to have you here, for I know your ability, but it is impossible. You know what would happen to me if I employed you. In six months we would both be looking for jobs.”
I have referred to these incidents in order to bring home to honorable members the evils that confront us in connexion with these Combines. I may also relate my own experience of Standard Oil methods. A gentleman who, I understand, enjoyed a salary of £16,000 a year, and commission, boasted, I believe, at a meeting in South Africa, that, if necessary, he would buy the Commonwealth Parliament iri order to advance the interests of his company. I was introduced to him a few years ago by Mr. Alcock, of Messrs. James Service and Company. He at once commenced to speak about Standard oil, which, as honorable members know, is not a pleasant subject with me. I said to him, I do not care to talk about Standard oil. Let us talk about something else.” In the course of our conversation I was interrupted by a constituent, and upon my return he again started to talk Standard oil. Another interruption in the conversation occurred, and for the third time he introduced the subject of Standard oil. I then said to him, “ I will eat with you, drink with you, or smoke with you, but I will not talk Standard oil with you.” He at once replied, “But, doctor, you must know that we give the public a better article at a cheaper price than any other company, and we pay better wages.” It then flashed across my mind that he was the man from South Africa, and I said to him, “ I believe you are the man who boasted he could buy the Commonwealth Parliament. Let me tell you that your Standard Oil Trust may be rich enough to buy anything, but, by the Living God, you will not buy the Australian people, who have the adult franchise.” At that moment my friend, Mr. Alcock, joined in and asked the reason for my display of temper, and the Standard Oil- Company’s representative at once replied, “ The doctor is not to blame; h© gave me three warnings.” I then remarked that I would like to fling the Standard Oil Company “ down below.*’ He replied, “It would make a mighty fine blaze.” Mr. Alcock was pacified, and there the matter ended. The man, however, attained his object. “We were trying to bring about the importation of oil in bulk, so that it might be tinned and cased in Australia, and thus give employment to tinsmiths and carpenters. In that effort we were defeated by two votes, and I believe that those two votes were had.” The two men who were suspected have long since been relegated to oblivion.
– The honorable member is now going somewhat beyond the scope of the question immediately before the Chair.
– I have mentioned1 this incident in support of my contention that the Government should allow, this agreement to be inquired into by a Select Committee. If we had the power of the people of Switzerland we could alter matters.
– But Switzerland has no Trusts.
– Order ! If the honorable member for Grampians cannot refrain from interrupting I may have to ask him to retire from the chamber, or take another course.
– There are no Trusts in Switzerland. Under the Constitution of that country a law may be altered or amended at any time. If the referendum, the initiative and recall were in operation here the position would be very different. As it is I view with some degree of trepidation the proposal to bind the Commonwealth in this way for fifteen years. Why should Australia be delivered into the hands of this wealthy Combine, with Lord Inchcape at its head, for such a period? The time fixed for the operation of the agreement is too long. In the words of one of the brightest Englishmen that ever lived, no generation has a right to make laws that future generations must obey. No King or Parliament should impress upon future generations laws which are thought suitable for the control of the people in their day. This Parliament has no right to impress upon future Parliaments any agreement made between the Government or a Trust or Combine that may be found to be detrimental to Australia. In The Uprising of the Many, honorable members will find further arguments in support of the view I have put forward. That book shows how japan settled the question.
The Standard Oil Company was nominally dispersed, but in dealing with some results of the anti-trust laws in America that brilliant graduate of the Melbourne University, Mr. H. L. Wilkinson, in his work entitled The Trust Movement in Australia, writes, at page 186 -
In the case of the dissolution of the Standard Oil Company there are, or were, 6,000 stock or shareholders tobe dealt with. They were called upon to surrender the scrip, and in exchange received shares pro rata in the forty other subsidiary companies which have constituted the Trust. At first sight this return to original conditions would appear to he destructive of the combination against which action had been taken. . But although the
Standard Oil Company had 6,000 shareholders the majority of the stock was possessed by about a dozen men, who will continue to control the majority of the shares in the forty companies. It may, therefore, be expected that the forty companies will continue the policy of the Standard Oil Company, and in that case the public will be no better off, the only result being that the administrative expenses will be greater.
Nominally the Standard Oil Company was dissolved, but actually it was not, and it controls many of the State Legislatures of the United States of America as only great Trusts and Combines could.
I am proud that my Leader (Mr. Tudor) has come forward with ah amendment to refer the agreement to a Select Committee. Such a Committee would make a thorough investigation. I am not the friend of any corporation, but I believe that the wages and working conditions of the company engaged in the Australian shale oil industry, which has spent between £2,000,000 and £3,000,000, principally in New South Wales, could be controlled by us. On the other hand, what power should we have to control the wages of those employed by this company in Persia? People work there under conditions of semi-slavery. What power should we have over them? None whatever. Honorable members will find in The Mineral Industry During 1917, which was quoted by the honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine), a very strong argument in favour of the reference of this question to a Select Committee. The Bill was introduced and read a first time on 4th May. Honorable members then saw it for the first time, and no man, no matter what his ability, could in the meantime have made a thorough study of the issues involved. We are to have next week a visit from a very high and cultured individual - a Prince of the Royal House, of England - and we are to adjourn for something like a month. During that time the Select Committee could make full inquiries, so that there would be very little delay in dealing with the agreement if the amendment were adopted. I shall vote for the appointment of a Select Committee, and I regret very much that the Government has not seen fit to accept our proposal.
Question - That the Bill be referred to a Select Committee - put. The House divided. .
Majority . . . . 11
Question so resolved in the negative.
In Committee :
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
– I move -
That the following new clause be inserted : - “ Nothing contained in this Act shall be deemed to prevent any person or persons, either individually or collectively, from prospecting for, developing, manufacturing, refining, and marketing any well oil, shale, or other oil, in any part of the Territories or areas mentioned in this Act.”
If the provisions of the Bill do not interfere with any one having a free hand in the development of the oil industry of Australia no objection can be taken to the proposed new clause. It is an additional safeguard, and simply provides, for what many honorable members have been advocating, that there shall be no obstacles placed in the way of other companies who desire to operate in any of the Territories or areas mentioned in the Bill. We have already threshed this matter out, and I, therefore, do not intend to repeat what I have already said; but, for the safety of the industry in Australia, I think it is necessary that such a provision as this should be inserted.
– I do not know the object of the proposed new clause ; it is entirely new to me. This is a proposal for a co-operative enterprise in which the Government is the predominant partner, and the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. McWilliams) now desires that everybody shall be able to operate, and that nothing in this Bill shall be held to prevent them coming in and cutting the throat of the Government at the earliest opportunity. That is what it means if it means anything at all. These gentle aids to Government enterprise no doubt appeal to some honorable members ; but I am bound to say that I cannot conceive of anything more calculated to assist the foreign exploiter than such a proposal as this. It is an invitation for every one to come here and do whatever they please. It is as foreign to the Bill as it is possible to conceive. All that the Bill does is to give effect to the agreement. The amendment proposes that nothing contained in this measure, meaning the Bill as distinct from the agreement, shall be deemed to prevent any person or persons, either individually or collectively, from prospecting for, developing, manufacturing, refining, and marketing any well oil, shale or other oil in any part of the Territories or areas mentioned in the Act. The proposal goes very much further than the honorable member intends, if one is to deduce his intentions from his words. For example, it may be held that the agreement gives persons the right to prospect for oil in any Territory of the Commonwealth. But it does not. We do not propose to allow any person to prospect for oil in New Guinea, except under our direction and under certain prescribed and proper restrictions.
– They can do so on the mainland.
– They cannot do anything of the kind unless they get the permission of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company.
– God forbid that I should do anything to dissolve the bonds of this unholy alliance between the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Tudor) and the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Mcwilliams). I can only say, as I nave said frequently in the discussion of this Bill, that there is nothing to prevent any one from coming here to start another refinery, or to prospect for oil. Furthermore, i said this afternoon that the Government proposed to aid in the search by offering £50,000 for the discovery of oil . But now the honorable mem”ber wishes to sweep this to one side by putting in a’ clause the scope of which may go, for aught I know, very much further than honorable members are prepared to let it go. Since the Bill cannot take away any right from anybody, except as set -out in the agreement, and since the agreement does not prevent any one from coming here to prospect for, or develop, or refine oil, the proposed new clause is superfluous, and to the extent that it mentions the Territories, which we are resolved to reserve as the prerogative of the Crown, it is dangerous. I hope honorable members will not agree to it.
.- I trust honorable members will agree to the new clause. Honorable members opposite advocate open competition, while we on this side stand for Government monopoly ; but I propose to support the clause because it will permit others to come here and erect refineries1, and will nob permit the people of Australia to be swallowed by the Anglo-Persian Oil Company.
.- If the new clause were inserted in the Bill, it would most effectively reduce to nothing the agreement entered’ into between the Government and the AngloPersian Oil Company, and open wide the opportunity to the Standard Oil Corporation, the Shell Group, and other companies to operate here while not bound by any of the conditions by which the Anglo-Persian Oil Company undertake to refine oil for the Commonwealth. It would make the Territories of the Commonwealth the spoil of the great concerns that bold a monopoly here to-day. No attempt is made by the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Mcwilliams) to harness any outsider to the ‘conditions under which the Commonwealth is endeavouring to safeguard the operations of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company. All the trouble the Government have taken to insure the supply of oil to Australia in the hour of emergency will be put in jeopardy. At the very foundation of the agreement is the recognition of the fact that the hour of danger may arrive when the whole of the Pacific may be in turmoil. If the two great contending Powers bordering the Pacific to-day come into conflict, we may be cut off from the rest of the world, and the mobility of our Fleet reduced , to naught. We would look in vam for a supply of oil from one of the great competitors in the struggle, and assuredly we would be drawn into the maelstrom of war, because these two great contending forces which are to-day more or’ less our Allies, would, certainly require our foodstuffs and our raw material, and as soon as either secured supplies from us, those very supplies would be declared contraband by the other. In such circumstances, we should look in vain for supplies of oil from any other source. This agreement is an honest endeavour to provide supplies of oil within the Commonwealth or our Territories for the hour that may arise, and the company with whom we are making it is good enough for Great Britain. I repeat that the proposal of the honorable member fm Franklin would render valueless all the trouble the Government have taken to safeguard Australia from the need to depend on foreign competitors for supplies of oil.
.- I voted against the second reading for reasons I previously advanced. I voted to refer the measure to a Select Committee’. The motion was defeated. I have already voted . against giving a semiGovernment institution the right of a monopoly over oil, because nothing will satisfy me but a Government monopoly in the commodity. Now, as I do npt propose to allow any of the subsidiary companies of the giant oil corporations to come into Australia, or one of its Territories, or one of the Possessions over which we have a mandate, I shall vote against this clause.’ There are two brothers named Stewart. One of them is “ sitting down “ on oil wells discovered by the Germans in Rabaul. The other is in Melbourne to-day. They are trying to get some fledglings on the Stock Exchange. They desire to float a syndicate and ultimately to dispose of the oil wells which the Germans unsuccessfully attempted to conceal. It may be that there are sufficient persons in Melbourne who are willing to aid them financially. But I am not prepared to allow them to go there. If this amendment be carried, they will be at liberty to go there; and for that reason I shall vote against it.
– I can quite understand the attitude of the honorable member who has just resumed his seat. He has said straightforwardly that he does not wish to allow Australians to embark upon the oil industry. He is logical and straight. The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) has talked more absurdly upon this question than has any other honorable member to whom I have listened. Throughout the debate upon the Bill the objection urged to its reference to a Select Committee has been that there is nothing to prevent anybody outside the Anglo-Persian Company from embarking upon the industry.
– There is nothing to prevent them from finding oil.
– I accept the honorable member’s definition. But may I ask him what would be the value of any discovery of oil in Australia to its discoverers? This amendment willreally test the feeling of the Committee as to whether we are going to create a gigantic Inchcape Combine by preventing the people of Australia from developing the oil industry.
– This amendment ought not to be agreed to for many reasons. It says that nothing contained in this Act shall be deemed to prevent any person or persons from prospecting or developing, manufacturing, refining, and marketing any well oil, shale, or other oil “ in any part of the Territories or areas mentioned in this Act.” Now, no Territories or areas are mentioned in the Bill. It has nothing whatever to do with the finding of oil, but merely with its treatment when found. If the words in the amendment relating to “ any part of the Territories or areas mentioned in this Act,” but which are not mentioned in it, were struck out, and there were substituted a provision that the Commonwealth should have the same right to fix the price of oil as it has in connexion with the Anglo-
Persian Company, then it would be quite all right.
– I will accept that amendment.
– The only “areas” mentioned in the Bill are in Persia.. That is where the crude oil will come from. There are no “Territories “ mentioned in the measure. We merely say to the Anglo-Persian Company, “ You shall not sell oil here except under certain conditions, and we shall fix the price of it.” But the amendment would allow the foreigner to come here and to ruin our industry. That will not do. The honorable member sought to kill the Bill in one way, and now he is seeking to kill it in another way. Neither method will be successful.
– I rise to a point of order. I submit that the amendment is not in order, inasmuch as it is outside the order of leave. The Bill is one to approve of an agreement which has been entered into by the Commonwealth with the Anglo-Persian Oil Company Limited. Clause 2 approves of that agreement, and! the remainder of the measure is practically the agreement itself. The amendment is an attempt to introduce extraneous matter, and I submit that it is, therefore, out of order.
– I rule that the proposed new clause is in order.
– - I understand that the Prime Minister is prepared to accept the amendment provided that certain words are excised from it.
– Provided that the honorable member for Franklin agrees to strike out all the words that I desire to have struck out, and to insert all the words that I desire to have inserted.
– The Prime Minister, if he is going to stick to his promise for once, has told us the words that he desires to have struck out, and the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. McWilliams) agreed to accept the amendment.
– I called his “ bluff,” and he turned it down.
– The Prime Minister, without a smile on his face, looked straight at the honorable member for Franklin, and said that provided certain words were eliminated he would accept the amendment.
– Provided that certain words were struck out, and that certain words were put in.
– That may be the Prime Minister’s amended statement, but it is not his original statement. I suggest that the honorable member for Franklin should include in his amendment a. proviso that, subject to Commonwealth control, every company shall be afforded the fullest opportunity of coming into Australia. But either with or without that limitation I shall support the amendment.
Question - That the proposed new clause stand part of the Bill - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 19
Question so resolved in the negative.
Proposed new clause negatived.
Motion (by Mr. Hughes) agreed to -
That the schedule be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof a new schedule.
Proposed new schedule -
Mr.TUDOR (Yarra) [10.42].- I move -
That sub-paragraiphs b and c of paragraph 14 be left out.
I take it that it will be for Parliament to decide any Tariff concession given to this or any other company. If this company is refunded the duty paid on the importation of crude mineral oil, it will place it in a position to defy competition. To this I object, because, in my opinion, every company should be treated alike. The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), who, at an earlier stage, said that I had, in days gone by, converted him to the virtues of Protection, knows that I have never asked that any enterprise or industry shall be given an advantage that is not given to all similar enterprises and industries.
– I shall give the Leader of the Opposition what, I think, he will admit are good reasons for not persisting in the amendment. I could recognise the force of his argument were the clause as he represented it, but he did not quote the whole of it. Taken as a whole, the provision is a sensible one, and necessary in the interests of Australian interests. Paragraph 14 reads -
In order to insure the full success and development of the oil-refining industry in Australia, the Commonwealth will, so long as the prices charged by theRefinery Company for products of refining are considered by the Commonwealth fair and reasonable -
I say to the honorable gentleman who, as I have before admitted, by example and precept led my footsteps along the road which the Free Trader believes to lead to perdition, but which the Protectionist knows is the way to salvation, that if he gives up that he gives up all, and undermines the corner stone of the temple. We cannot allow unfair competition within the Commonwealth, and one of the things that we have always been trying to do is to prevent outside competitors from ruining our industries. There are two reasons why the company should be given a refund of any Customs duties paid. It should be given a refund because the prices of its finished material are to be fixed by us, and must depend on the cost of the raw material. The less the raw material costs, the lower will be the cost of the finished product. How absurd it would be to say that what the people of this country want is cheap oil, and at the same time to charge a duty on crude oil. Then, again, the Commonwealth is . to be a partner with the Anglo-Persian Oil Company. Yet the honorable member, who is a believer in Protection and in State enterprise, says to the Government, “ Charge yourself duty, and do not refund any of it.”
– No; I wish to omit paragraph c, under which provision is made for the charging of duty.
– The honorable gentleman considers it pernicious for the Government to refund to itself the duty charged, which is absurd. The clause, as it stands, is one which would be very useful if it could be applied to all our industries. If we could’ say to every manufacturer in Australia, “ Unless you sell your goods at fair and reasonable prices we will open the Customs barriers, and let foreign articles come in; but if you will sell at reasonable prices we will protect you,” the consumers and the country at large would benefit. I hope that the honorable gentleman now sees that his amendment lays the axe at the root of the evergreen and fruitful tree of Protection, whose growth has been so stimulated by his oratory and watered by the tears of his enemies.
– I see little to object to in the paragraph, and, in my opinion, we can safely pass sub-paragraph c, because it will be useless. The agreement is “to last for fifteen years, and before the end of that time there will have been in all probability some changes of Government. Could a Ministry which did not favour the Inchcape Combine be farced against its will to bring in a Bill in opposition to its policy, and compel its supporters to vote for it? Whatever action may be taken will depend entirely on the views of the Government in office. If there is a Government in office in favour of continuing this Combine it will be prepared to pass this legislation, but if there is in office a Government opposed to a monopoly of this kind there is no power under this agreement to compel a majority in this Parliament to do anything.
.- The honorable member is correct in saying that if the Government in power is opposed to this agreement it may under paragraph 14 of the schedule take away a great deal of the power the Anglo-Persian Company will have by means of the Tariff. But I have said twice already in the discussion upon this Bill that I desire to be perfectly honest with these people, and so far as the provision with respect to the duty is concerned, I say that I do not feel myself bound by it. If the Government intend to bolster up the Anglo-Persian Company they can impose a duty of1s. per gallon, and refund it under the circumstances set forth, but there is nothing in the agreement to prevent the next Government, should it be opposed to the company, imposing a duty of one-thousandth part of a penny per gallon, and refunding that. I was glad to hear the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) say that my efforts in connexion with the Tariff diverted his infant footsteps into the path of Protection. I hope that the Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook), the honorable member for Grey (Mr. Poynton), and the honorable member for North Sydney (Sir Granville Ryrie) have also been converted.
– The honorable member will need a few to make up for the falling off of others.
Mr.TUDOR. - The honorable member who interjects is also concerned in this matter, and it looks as if we are going to have stirring times when we are considering the new Tariff, which I look forward to with a great deal of pleasure. I shall not be found backward in supporting Australian industries, but I shall object to differential treatment of Australian industries.
Proposed new schedule agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with an amendment.
Standing Orders suspended, andreport adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Motion (by Mr. Hughes) agreed to- -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until half-past 2 o’clock p.m. to-morrow.
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
It is proposed to-morrow to deal first of all with the Estimates, and, if the House approves, with the amendments of the War Gratuity Act which have been agreed upon. A short measure for that purpose will be introduced.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.1 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 18 May 1920, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1920/19200518_reps_8_92/>.