15th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. G. J. Bell) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– In view of the seriousness of the many and continuous complaints of persons formerly engaged in the wool trade, including a number of returned soldiers, on account of their inability to regain the employment they once had, because it is alleged that discrimination is being practised and men who had been retired are being recalled for the purpose of taking part in wool appraisements, will the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce have inquiries made with a view to clarifying the position?
– I shall bring before the Minister the complaints that have been made, with a view to seeing if the action suggested may be taken.
– Has the attention of the Minister for the Army been drawnto the statement of the Honorable R. W. D. Weaver, M.L.A., that he had made representations to the Commonwealth on behalf of several enemy subjects, of whom Dr.Huth was one? In view of this declaration by Mr. Weaver, will the Minister make available all papers in connexion with the matter, including those setting out the representations made by Mr. Weaver in connexion with Dr. Huth and other enemy subjects in whom he claims to have been interested, and Mr. Weaver’s association with enemy subjects generally?
– I have not seen the statement to which the honorable member refers, but I shall give consideration to his request.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral either direct or advise the Australian Broadcasting Commission to put thebroadcaster of parliamentary news at national station 2CY, Canberra, on the air earlier than the present hour of 10.30 p.m., and also advise an extension of this service from ten minutes to fifteen minutes ?
Mr. HARRISON.Ishallgiveconsideration to the request of the honorable member, and call for a report giving full information.
– by leave - As the Prime Minister pointed out, when announcing to the House the decision of the Government to establish a Ministry of Information, the duty of the new department is to assemble and distribute over the widest possible field, and by every available agency, the truth about thecause for which we are fighting in this war, and information bearing upon all phases of the struggle; also,by its many agencies, to keep the minds of our people as enlightened as possible, and their spirit firm.
The head-quarters of the department have been established in Melbourne, in offices at an annual rental of £866. This, however, does not include the rent of the Chief Publicity Censor’s head-quarters - a sum of £178- or £328 for the District Censor and the Victorian branch of the Department of Information. The Chief Censor and his staff were taken over by the department from the Defence Department.
A branch office of the department, under the control of a Deputy Director, has been set up in each capital city and in Launceston, as it is my aim to make this work as autonomous as possible upon a voluntary State basis. The estimated expenditure for the current financialyear is £22,500, which will be expended in the main in rents, salaries and payments to outside contributors of literary matter.
The staff so far appointed is a small one. At the central office, in addition to the Director, there are five journalists, with seven representatives spread over the six States. These are in addition to a limited clerical staff and typists.
The duties of the head-quarters staff are in the main to initiate, news-edit and direct the supply of information to its various channels throughout the Commonwealth. Head-quarters will cooperate very closely with the State representatives. To expedite the supply of articles, photographs, cinema, and material for broadcasting, the supply for each State will, whenever practicable, be issued direct from each State office.
The department might have confined itself merely to the supply of information to the metropolitan and provincial newspapers of Australia to the degree to which those journals were prepared to find space for it. It appeared to me, however, that if we were to be content with this field only, we should be neglecting a great deal of the department’s potential usefulness. It was, therefore, decided to invite all organized bodies in the Commonwealth to co-operate with the department in a voluntary capacity, in spreading as widely and as fully as possible all available in- formation having a direct and an indirect bearing upon the war. In brief, the Government felt that, having taken the grave step of committing the people of Australia to this conflict, in co-operation with the rest of the British Empire and France, it should not shirk the duty of assisting by every means in its power the ‘ great Press of Australia, the broadcasting stations and every other agency, including the innumerable cinema activities, to tell the people why they were at war and as much as possible about every phase of the war.
A further decision was to set up in each State a writers or publicists committee, to co-operate with the Government in the selection and presentation of literary material upon matters of war interest generally. Similarly, in addition to this, voluntary committees are being formed of high executives in the world of advertising. These will meet frequently in cooperation with the department and will give to us the full benefit of their experience and wits in determining means by which this information campaign may be most effectively conducted.
In the very few weeks dunn? which the organizing of this great voluntary body has been proceeding, I have been deeply impressed by the instant and widespread response of prominent men and women, representative of every kind of interest - religious, educational, social, professional, trade union, financial, industrial, both primary and secondary, commercial, sporting and other - to the request that they might lend their aid to the work in hand. To all of them I express ‘the grateful thanks of the Government.
At the outset, I entertained some doubt as to the measure of the assistance which the department would be able to give to the great metropolitan dailies, but week by week we are finding that we can be of real help even to these very highly organized newspapers. To the weekly and other periodical press, it has been made clear that we can assist, not perhaps all of them, but at least a very great many of them, very materially. The provincial press, which plays a far greater part in the affairs of the Commonwealth than is always recognised, has so far, with little exception, readily taken advantage of the new information service. A sound beginning has also been made with the magazines and other periodical press.
Up to date, regular services are being offered to 600 country and suburban newspapers. Some 60 per cent, of these appear to be using the service in full, and of the balance only 10 per cent, have refused it in full. More than 30 provincial dailies have accepted the offer of a day by day commentary upon foreign affairs, the war, and kindred subjects. Many special articles have been supplied to daily, weekly and bi-weekly papers and periodical and specialized press, and have been freely published. There is a keen and rapidly-growing demand for photographs which deal in the main with Australian wartime activities.
Very little of the matter supplied by the department is published with any reference to its source. This, however, is a matter of no concern. The sole object is to have the material distributed and published.
The cinematograph branch of the Department of Commerce has been taken over by the department for the duration of the war, with the understanding that special attention is to he given to the great rural activities engaged in the production and handling of produce . for overseas. Films dealing -with the three defence services are in active course of preparation and others are in contemplation. All interests engaged in cinema entertainments have shown a generous disposition to find room in their programmes for the department’s output.
The freest possible use of broadcasting in Australia will be commenced almost immediately. Arrangements for the initiation of overseas broadcasting from Australia are on the eve of completion. It is the intention of the department to broadcast to many countries for some hours during the seven days of the week, and in a number of languages. The central feature of the overseas programmes will be, in the first place, a talk supplied by the department upon Australia’s instant and full-hearted co-operation in the war, the steps it is taking for the defence of the Commonwealth, its war programme, and its development generally. The Australian Broadcasting Commission, with the fullest approbation and the most helpful support of my colleague, the PostmasterGeneral, has very cordially agreed to prepare the programme, other than the information talk, in co-operation with the department. At the present time the Australian Broadcasting Commission does not possess stations equipped with sufficient power for broadcasting - with limited exception - to the outside world. The assistance of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited has, therefore, been sought, and the prompt response of that company has been much appreciated by the Government.
– At what cost?
– The cost has not yet been quite decided, but it will, I think, be on a basis satisfactory to the Government.
For six months at least Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited stations will do the greater part of the overseas transmissions, but it is anticipated that by the end of that time the Austraiian Broadcasting Commission will have stations with sufficient power to take over this work. I had hoped to have this service in operation at an earlier date, but the arrangements have occupied more time than I anticipated.
Although, as I have indicated, a substantial beginning has been made with the actual distribution of information, the activities of the members of the headquarters staff, who actually commenced work on the 9th October, have been in the main taken up in the organization of the voluntary bodies which will, I hope, play a most important part in the task upon which we are to be together engaged.
The aim is to set up in each State a voluntary information council. To arrive at this council, organizing meetings are being held in each of the six capital cities, with an additional one at Launceston. I might mention that these meetings were brought about by more than 2,500 individual letters of invitation, addressed by name to the presidents of different bodies, and personally signed by myself. The response was a very wonderful one. The fifth meeting is being held to-day in Perth. At the others, which I attended personally, in Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne and Adelaide, in that order, the gatherings, all of them very large, were more representative of every interest and section of the Australian people than any I have attended >at any time. I mention this as an indication of the profound interest shown by our people in this tragic ordeal which has been forced upon us.
In each case there was the warmest disposition to co-operate with the Government, or I should say, with the Parliament as a whole, in the prosecution of the war, and to assist, in every practicable way, the new department. Meetings will be held immediately in Hobart and Launceston. As soon as working conditions permit, it is intended to establish honorary branches of the organizations throughout the provincial cities and larger towns of the Commonwealth, but this will take some little time.
The organizations represented at these meetings are now being gathered, as far as meets with their wishes, into groups, unless indeed, as in the case of the friendly societies and many other units, they are already associated. These groups will elect small and, as I hope, active committees, and the committees, in turn, will elect a council for each of the six States.
– They will be all “ Nats “ on that.
– That is not so. As a matter of fact, there has been a very substantial representation from the Trades Hall at these meetings. I take particular pleasure in that, and I trust that the manner in which the department is handled will justify the continuance of the interest of Labour representatives.
It is intended that the committees will form the point of working contact with the State executives of the department, acting all the time with the concurrence of the councils. We hope, through active discussion with these committees, to ascertain all available channels for the distribution of information, and, of course, also the class of matter desired in each case. Every possible effort will be made to supply, expeditiously, information of any kind bearing upon the war requested by the committees. Where organizations prefer to Stand individually, the department will be no less pleased to consult with them, and meet their wishes.
There are published within Australia a few thousand periodical publications serving special interests. Some of these are, for example, the various trade journals of substantial importance, while they run down to very small productions having, perhaps, only a local circulation. The organizations responsible for these publications are all being approached, and the department will be prepared to supply to them matter of a kind that meets with their distinctive demand, and of a wordage adaptable to their available space.
Apart from this activity through these special publications, however, it is intended to engage in the production of leaflets and pamphlets for circulation at meetings of all organized bodies acting in co-operation with us, which make a request for such letterpress. The field here is very great indeed. For example, in the State of New South Wales, no less than 1200 meetings of friendly societies are held each week.
I could go on almost indefinitely indicating channels by which matter of a helpful kind might be circulated. My purpose has been, however, at this stage only to give the. House an indication of the purpose and early work of the new organization.
Finally, I come to the committees of authors and writers generally which are being set up in each State. Here., again, the response to the appeal from the department for co-operation has been of a most generous kind. These committees will include, in addition to well-known authors, many writers of learning and distinction from the faculties of the universities, from journalism, and from the professions, and the best of our free-lance contributors. They will, it is anticipated, supply, in co-operation with the journalists engaged upon the staff, all written information which is needed to supply what will become,I confidently trust, a very great demand from every corner of Australia.
To facilitate the work of these contributors, the department has been for some weeks engagedupon précis writing over a very wide range of subjects, directly and indirectly associated with the war. Each of these summaries will include the background of its particular subject, and will be brought up to date from day to day. Copies of these will be not only available to our organized writers, but also, I hope, of value to honorable members of this Parliament, and, indeed, to any one in the Commonwealth who shows a disposition to draw upon them for public speaking or for writing.
Moreover, speakers’ notes will be issued as soon as arrangements can be made, and these will be revised from time to time, and kept up to date.
The organization is a comprehensive and ambitious one, but, nevertheless, I anticipate that it willbe fully in action before the end of the year. The department is already, as I have pointed out, performing a definite service, and Ican assure the House that each day from now on its contribution as an auxiliary in the national war effort will advance in quality, in rangeand in volume. I lay on the table the following paper: -
Department of Information - Functions and Activities - Ministerial Statement. and move -
That the paper be printed.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Curtin) adjourned.
-Now that the Defence Department has completed the extension of the water mains from Rutherford reservoir to Allandale military camp, these mains are only a half-mile to two miles distant from the towns ofLochinvar, All and ale, Greta and Branton, which, for 25years, have unsuccessfully agitated for a water supply. Has the Minister for the Army any objection to the Hunter District Water Board making a connexion with the campmain in order to supply water to the towns mentioned?
-Ishouldsaythatno objection would be raisedby the Department of the Army provided the main is of sufficient size to supply both the camp and the towns mentioned.
– Has the Prime Minister received a protest from the Australian Flying Corps Association, a body representative of members of the Australian Flying Corps in the last war, protesting against the abandonment of an Australian Air Expeditionary Force ?
– A letter has been received by me from the body indicated. I understand that the Acting Minister for Air is receiving a deputation from the association, at which their views will be further developed.
– As a first step towards making the Kingsford Smith aerodrome at Mascot safer, will the Acting Minister for Air undertake to have the present runway extended for 500 yards ?
– I understand that extensions are now being made. I shall institute inquiries, and convey the information to the honorable member later.
– Will the Minister for Information comment on the report in to-day’s press that the announcement of a probable increase by 6d. a gallon of the price of petrol emanated from the Ministry for Information?
– It did not.
– In view of the fact that training camps for the Militia are tobe more or less permanent, will the Minister for the Army consider having them sewered, whether by septic tanks or by connecting themwith the sewerage systems of the nearest towns, rather than continuing the use of latrines ?
– That is already being done where practicable, and where the expense it nottoo great.
– by leave-On Friday last,the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Sheehan) asked me to make a statement on the subject of hides and skins.Control of the export of bides and skins, including sheepskins and pelts, was instituted to enable domestic prices tobe fixed for leather, boots and shoes, and other products manufactured from hides and skins. Increased internal prices for hides and skins, varying from 15 per cent. to 20 per cent., were fixed, and appropriate increases in respect of leather, 10 per cent. to 12½ percent., and boots and shoes, 7½ per cent., were also fixed.
The Commonwealth Hide and Leather Industries Board was established to control marketing at the fixed prices, and to enable the exportable surplus of hides, skinsand leather to be sold at the higher world prices, thus ensuring thebest returns to producers. The arrangements are such that ample supplies of hides and skins will be available for local manufacture in all ancillary industries, so that employment under wartime conditions will be at a maximum. At the same time, boots and shoes and other products will be available to Australian consumers at reasonable prices, in face of higher world prices for hides and skins. The balance between tanners and hide producers and merchants has been maintained by the provision that leather can be exported only if it has been made from hides purchased at the higher world prices.
-Can the PostmasterGeneral state whether a lease of the post office at Collinsville has been secured, and, if so, for what period, and on what terms ?
– I shall obtain the information.
– Will the Prime Minister have inquiries made regarding the distribution of the amount of £12,000,000 voted by Parliament for farmers’ debt adjustment? Has he noticed that in New South Wales the constitution of the board appointed to administer the fund has been changed? Will he have particulars gathered from all States with a view to learning whether the fund has been distributed in the way intended by Parliament, having regard particularly to an amendment which was inserted in the act providing that farmers were to be removed from marginal land to more suitable areas?
– I shall have inquiries made.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether the Government has given consideration to the problem of storage of the wheat crop? Has the Government made contact with the State Governments to ascertain to what extent they propose to assist the Commonwealth in this matter? To illustrate my question, I shall read a telegram which I received this morning from a wheat-grower in my electorate -
Manilla andAttunga silo being full no trucks or stacking sites available new bags at prohibitive price what are we going to do with ourwheat.
– The problem to which the honorable member refers is regarded as serious and urgent. As to what steps have been taken by the Wheat Boardand the Government,I shall obtain information from my colleague, the Minister for Commerce, and provide an answer to the question.
– Is it intended to pass the Australian Broadcasting Bill through both Houses before the Christ mas adjournment, or is it intended to extend the term of the present Broadcasting Commission?
– It is hoped that it will be possible to pass the bill through both Houses before the Christmas adjournment.
– Is the Acting Treasurer yet in a position to answer the question that I addressed to him a few days ago about the possibility of gold won in New Guinea being subject to two taxes, one the 5 per cent. tax imposed by the Legislative Council of New Guinea and the other the gold excise imposed by the Commonwealth Government ?
-Ihavediscussedthe matter with the Minister for Territories. The appropriate occasion on which to deal with it will be when the measure to validate the gold excise is introduced.
– In view of the congestion at the Essendon aerodrome as the result of its being used for commercial flying and the training of pilots as well as “joy riding”, is it intended to provide an additional aerodrome in the Essendon district for Melbourne?
– It is admitted that at some of the aerodromes in the capital cities there is congestion, and the provision of additional aerodromes is being investigated by the Department of Civil Aviation, but lack of funds will not allow of early action.
– Will Parliament have an opportunity this session to discuss the Estimates for the current year?
– Can the Minister for Trade and Customs give the House any idea of when the second reading of the Wine Export Bounty Bill will be debated ?
– I am not able to give a precise answer to that question,but I hope to be able to go on with the bill next week.
– Quite apart from the statement read to the House by the Minister for Information, is there any immediate prospect of an improvement of the broadcasts of the international and local news over the national broadcasting stations, or must we wait for the big scheme announced by the Minister before the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s news programmes are worth listening to?
– The matter referred to is at the moment under the close joint consideration of the PostmasterGeneral and myself.
– In view of the fact that rebroadcasts by the Australian Broadcasting Commission of British Broadcasting Corporation news bulletins is often somewhat unreliable and contradictory, will the Postmaster-General endeavour to obtain information, possibly by a voluntary ballot, to determine whether broadcast listeners desire an extension of thenews services?
– I cannot concede the point that the news broadcasts are contradictory, particularly in view of the fact that they are rebroadcasts of the British Broadcasting Corporation news. I do not think that the occasion warrants the taking of a ballot as suggested by the honorable member.
Mr. COLLINS.WillthePostmasterGeneral give consideration to the provision of pillar boxes at suitable places in country towns for the convenience of those persons who wish to avoid long walks to post offices?
– Taking into consideration the restricted finances that will be available for postal activities, I shall give consideration to the honorable gentleman’s suggestion.
-Is the Prime Minister in a position to say whether the Government has been able so far to sell any of the ensuing season’s wheat crop to the Imperial Government?
– Not yet.
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral whether the Australian Broadcasting Commission has been called upon to pay an increased rental for the premises leased in Hobart for its studio in the city? What is the annual rental paid by the Australian Broadcasting Commission in respect of those premises?
– I have no knowledge of the matter referred to by the honorable gentleman, but I shall endeavour to obtain the information and let him have it.
Acquisition by Defence Department.
– Last week I asked a question of the Acting Minister for Air in regard to the Douglas air liners that were taken over by the Defence Department from Australian National Airways and located at Canberra for reconnaissance work. My question also related to the conditions under which the pilots of those machines, who were also taken over from the Australian National Airways, were working. I understand that the pilots are receiving less than half the pay they received from Australian National Airways. The Minister promised that he would look into the matter and advise me. I ask him now whether he is aware of the poor salary that these men are receiving, and of the fact that they are being paid no allowance for living in tents in Canberra whilst they are required at the same time to maintain homes for their families at Essendon.
– Under the terms of the agreement between the Government and Australian National Airways, pilots of the company are required to become members of the Royal Australian Air Force Reserve. When the Douglas machines were acquired by the Government, certain pilots were also taken over. I discussed this matter with members of the Air Board in Melbourne last week-end. It is recognized that these men have suffered considerable loss of pay, and I am having an investigation made of the possibility of arranging a roster system for these pilots sothattheycanberelievedbyothersat regular intervals. Alternatively, I am investigating what other method of alleviation can be applied. When I have the necessary information I shall impart itto the,honorable member.
– Is.it correct that, in spite of the fact that, when the Douglas aerophones were taken over by the Defence Department, their pilots were also taken over atsalaries, in many cases only one-third of what they were receiving from the Australian National Airways, inexperienced hands were allowed to fly the Douglases, with the result that an accident occurredcosting the department about £4,000 or £5,000?
-An accident did occur to one of the Douglas planes. That machine is now being repaired. Atthe time of the accident there weretwopilots intheplaneadjacent toeach other. One wastheregularpilot formerlyemployed by the Australian National Airways and the other was the squadron leaderof the flight.
-Butwho was in charge of the plane?
– The squadronleader.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce what is the difficulty which is causingdelay in my receiving an answertoa question that I asked last Thursday relating to the appraisement of wool and have repeated several times since ?
– I have no personal knowledge of the difficultybut I shall communicate with theCommerceDepartmentagain.
-Is it intended to proceed this session with the Commonwealth Bank Bill or at any rate that part of it which provides for the establishment of a M’ortgage Bank?
Minister for Supply and Development received any informationthat would answer my question asked yesterday about the supply of wheat bags?Can the Minister inform the House when supplies of wheat bags willbe available to enable many farmers in thenorthwest of New South Wales to resume harvesting operations which have had to be suspended owing to their inability to obtain supplies ofbags?
– The tone of some of the questions relating to wheat bags may lead people to believe that it is a primaryresponsibility of this Governmenttofindwheatbags for the farmers; whereas it is as much a responsibility of the wheat-growerto provide his ownbagsasitisforhimto till his own soil. But theCommonwealth Governmenthasnotstoodfastonthat attitude.Ithastakentheresponsibility uponitselftofindthebagsand,astheresultofitsaction,Ihavebeenassuredby the MinistersforAgricultureinQueenslandandNewSouthWales,whicharethe onlyStatesinwhichthereistrouble,the difficultieshavebeenremoved.Yesterday Iinvitedthehonorablememberfor Gwydir(Mr.Scully)toprovidemewith informationtocontrovertthatinformation,butIhavenotyetreceivedanyfrom him.
Mr.THORBY.-Iask the Acting MinisterforSupplyandDevelopment whether he is aware thattheMinisterfor Agriculture of New South Wales has announced that nosacksareavailable for immediate delivery? He suggested that the growers- in this case, specific referencewas made to thewheat-growersofthe Wellington district-shouldapplytothe railwaystationmasterforsacksexship arrivingearlynextweek,thiswould probably mean that farmerswouldhave to leave theirharvestersandheaders standingidlyinthefielduntillthesacks areavailable.Astheshipisnotduein Sydneyuntilnextweek,thiswouldinvolve a serious delay.Thesackswould probably not be available for at leastanother week after the arrival of the ship. I raisethepointbecauseoftheverydefiniteassurancesthathavebeengivenby theMinisterforTradeandCustoms,the MinisterforCommerce,andtheState Ministers for Agriculture thatample suppliesof sacks would be available to meetallrequirements that would, or could, be made.
– If the honorable member willbe good enough to pass on to me the communications from which he has just quoted I shall, this morning, make investigations concerning them. Moreover, in view of the many and diverse points of view expressed in regard to this matter, I shall, onTuesday nextmake a complete statement which I think will indicate that the Commonwealth Government has gone the second mile in endeavouring to overcome this difficulty.
Mr.LAZZARINI.-is the Minister for Trade and Customs ableto give the House anyinformationconcerning anyeconomic change in the industry concernedwhichhas warranted the substantial increaseofthepricesthathave beenfixedforleather boots and shoes?
-The chief reason why the Common wealth Prices Commissioner authorized an increase of life prices of thesecommoditiesisthatat theoutbreakofthewar, the prices of hides and skinswere undulydepressed. Immediatelyafter the warbegan, the world prices for hides andskinsrose steeply. Thereupon, the Commonwealth Prices Commissioner authorized what he considered to be a proper rise of local prices which necessitated anadjustment oftheprices charged for leather, boots and shoes.
Mr.CLARK.-Willthe Prime Minister give consideration tothe advisability of constructing a railway between Port Augusta andBroken Hill, in order that a railway ‘of uniform gauge may be available from east towest of the continent, and also that employment may be providedformany men who are at presentoutofworkin the locality?
Mr.MENZIES.-I shall beglad to look into the matter.
Ministernot considerthat,inanyfinal solution of the problems of the wheat industry, there must be some provision, either voluntary or otherwise, for a restriction of production? Will the Government make a pronouncement of its policy on this subject at an early date, before the land required for next year’s crop is cultivated? Does the Government consider that it could bring about some form of restriction by the exercise of its powers under the National Security Act?
– In the circumstances, as we now see them, it seems inevitable thatthere must be some restriction of the area put under wheat next year. It is realized that, if this is to be brought about, the problem will have to be approached in January, or, at the latest, in February next. The last matter mentioned by the honorable member is engaging the attention of the Government.
– Last week a deputation waitedupon the Minister forCommerce in the interests of the apple and pear growers of Australia. I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce whether any reply is yet available to the requests made by the deputation?
– I was not present at the deputation, and do notknow exactly what submissions were made. Ishall, however, seethe Minister for Commerce concerning the subject, with a viewto expediting hisreply.
Mr.THOMPSON.-I ask you,Mr. Speaker, whether it wouldbepossible for you toeffectsomeimprovementofthe methodsbywhichyougivethecallfrom theChairtohonorablememberswhosit onthecrossbenchesonthissideofthe House?Ihaverisenatleastfourteen times thismorning.
– Order ! Thehonorable member is not now stating a fact.
Mr.SPEAKER.-Order!Surely honorablegentlemenwillpermitmeto hearthequestionthatisbeingaddressed tome.
Mr.THOMPSON.Foryourinformation,sir,Iwishtosaythatduring yesterday’s debate on the motion for the adjournment of the House, I rose four times. On each occasion a member on this side or the other side of the House received a call, and, finally, I had to abandon my attempt to make a speech. I know that you have made various statements, sir, indicating the plan which you adopt in giving the call, but I should like to see a plan in operation which would avoid the intense dissatisfaction which members on this side of the cross-benches, who theoretically, at all events, belong to the Opposition, will be alleviated. We still do not understand exactly the method which operates.
– The honorable member has complained of the method by which the Chair gives the call to honorable gentlemen. I have, from time to time, told the House that the call is given from the right . side to the left in the order in which honorable members rise. It will, of course, be realized that when a number of honorable members rise together, the Chair can give the call to only one. I do not wink that there is any justification whatever for the complaint that the honorable member has just made. He made a statement that was not correct when he said that he had risen fourteen times this morning. I leave the House to judge whether that is so. The honorable member was given the call very early to-day and he is the first member on his side of the House to receive a second call. The right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) was the only member of the Country party who was called before him. The honorable member for New England is not entitled to a second call until now. I do not recall all of the circumstances of yesterday’s debate, but the Chair does its very best to give the call in the order in which honorable members rise. The honorable member for Barker.
– Mr. Speaker-
– There! Two honorable members of the Country party have been given the call in succession. They are putting it over properly.
– It is true that two honorable members of the Country party have received the call in succession, but I presumed that the Leader of the Country party intended to say something on this subject.
– May I ask you, sir, how it came about this morning that the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Jennings) had received three calls up to the time when only a second call had been given to my party? Since then the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) has received two calls in the period in’ which the honorable member for New England has risen frequently.
– Apparently, _ the Leader of the Country party considers that the call should be given to parties in rotation.
– I do.
– The call is given according to the side of the House on which an honorable member sits. I suggest that the members of the Country party might consider sitting on the same side of the House.
– May I ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether you will accept a vote of thanks from the Opposition for the suggestion that members of the Country party should sit on the other side of the House ?
Question not answered.
– I ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether, during the present sitting of the House, and in view of the fact that three distinct parties are represented, it would be possible to allot the call in turn to the three parties ? My party would be quite prepared to take third place. If it is argued that we should sit on the Government side of the House, may I point out that this would necessitate the removal of a number of members of the United Australia party from the positions in which they now sit to seats behind the Government, where, apparently, they have no desire to sit. I respectfully ask that my suggestion be taken into consideration because this matter is causing grave dissatisfaction among the members of my party.
– The Chair is fully aware that there is dissatisfaction regarding the call ; but it does not, honestly, feel that it is to blame, though, of course, it is not infallible. The question has been raised on other occasions whether the call should be given to parties in preference to members on the right and left of the chair. To adopt that procedure would be to alter our practice. The method by which the call shall be given is laid down in May and also in our Standing Orders. To depart from our existing procedure would be an innovation. I shall look into the matter, but I suggest that there is no justification for the dissatisfaction. I also suggest to the Leader of the Country party that he might allow the Chair to decide this matter, for it only is in a position to do so.
– Is the Minister for the Army aware of the reason why the speer fications for the painting of the Kurri Kurri Drill Hall provided that only half the interior should be painted? Has the Minister given consideration to the representations I made to him respecting the desirableness of completing the painting of the interior of the hall?
– ;As the result of an inspection of the drill hall I made in company with the honorable member, it has been decided that the interior shall be completely painted.
– I have received a communication from the Annandale Rifle Club complaining that it has been limited to 150 rounds of ammunition for each member per annum. Formerly it could purchase additional supplies at £2 10s. a thousand. In view of the developments that have taken place in the production of small arms ammunition, I ask the Minister whether it would not be possible to increase the issue of ammunition to rifle clubs so that they may be able to fulfil their engagements?
– It is a’ fact that certain restrictions have been placed on the issue of ammunition to rifle clubs. Whether, in view of the “ stepping up “ of the production of small arms ammunition, it will be possible to restore the issue to its former volume, I cannot say at the moment, but I shall inquire into the matter.
Leave Conditions of Employees
– Is the Minister for the Army prepared to take steps to inquire into the question of the application of the principle of a fortnight’s annual leave to all workers engaged in defence or naval activities? I have particularly in mind the men employed at Cockatoo Island Dockyard. Will he take steps to see that the principle of granting a fortnight’s annual leave, or one day’s leave for each month of service, which applies to employees at Garden Island, also be applied to workers engaged in a similar class of work at Cockatoo Island Dockyard ?
– I shall give full consideration to the point raised by the honorable member.
Married Men’s Allowance
– I wish to direct a question to the Minister for the Army on a matter which may have a very definite bearing on the future population of this country. I have received a letter from the ex-Mayor of Burra, in South Australia, complaining that men who marry after they go into camp do not receive the married men’s allowance. Will the Minister see if arrangements can be made for such men to be paid the allowance?
– I can inform the honorable member that the ex-Mayor of Burra has been misinformed; That is not the case.
– I desire to direct a question to you, Mr. Speaker. During your remarks regarding myself you stated that it was impossible for me to have risen fourteen times without getting the call. With all respect, I regard that as a slight reflection on my veracity, and a suggestion that I made a wild statement Would you be prepared to accept a written check taken by the honorable member for Grey (Mr. Badman), which I have in my hand, stating that I rose fifteen times, and regard that as evidence that my statement was correct?
– Order! The honorable member’s veracity was questioned by me ; I said that he had not risen fourteen time. I am perfectly certain thathe did notdosowithout receiving the call. I do not need any written statement in regard to the matter.
-To obviate any difficulties that might arise in connexion with this matter, and to cut down a good deal of the time which is wasted at question time-
– Order !
– Perhaps I may be permitted to put it this way: In order to limit the time taken up by questions, so that matters of national importance may be gone on with, would you, Mr, Speaker, instruct the Standing Orders Committee to investigate the procedure of the House of Commons., under which questions are put on notice, and only supplementary questions are asked of Ministers?
– This matter could be investigated by the Standing Orders Committee; but I do not propose to call the committee together to. deal with it as I regard it as a part of the business of the House and one for theGovernment todecide.
-Iam afraid, Mr. Speaker, that you took my question in the wrong way. I asked if you would investigate the procedure in the House of Commons as outlined in May, and ask the Standing Orders Committee to report to this House whether that system is not better suited to this Parliament than the present one.
– I am aware of the procedure of the Houseof Commons with regard to the asking of questions. I repeat that I do not propose to ask the Standing Orders Committee to consider the adoption of a time limit for the asking of questions without notice, as I regard it primarily as a matter for the Government to decide each sitting.
-Has a certaincitizen force officer been appointed to re-organize canteens in military camps, and has that officer made a reportcontaining recommendations to the Government ? Willthe report of the committee appointed to inquire into the destruction of a canteen tent recently be made available to thisHouse, and willthe Minister give to honorable members an opportunity to express an opinion on a certain grievance of the enlistedmen, namely, the question of wetversus dry canteens?
– Canteens generally are dealt with by the QuartermasterGeneral. As I have said in this House, the whole matter of canteen administration is at present under investigation so that the department may take over their control. Speaking subject to correction, I do not think any appointments have yet been made with regard to canteen staffs. With regard to the last part of thehonorable gentleman’s question, I suggest that itis within hispower to find an opportunity to discuss the matter of wet versus dry canteens if he so desires.
– The experience of the last war showed that the Defence Department made a complete mess of running canteens. Will the Minister consider the placing of canteens throughout Australia under the care or management of a committee of business men with a view to having them run on behalf of the membersof the forces as was done during the last war, when the canteens made a profit of £1,000,000, which was used exclusively for the benefit ofthe men who served?
– Substantially what the honorable member suggests is what is proposed to be done, except that the Departmentof the Army is responsible forcanteenadministration.
-Can the Minister inform the House as to who was responsible for the closing of an unofficial canteen established outside the military camp at Ingleburn, New South Wales? That canteen was well patronised because of the high prices charged at the canteen inside the camp, and the military authorities ordered the proprietor to close it and go away. Is it the policy of the department to provide canteens only inside the camp, to give those who conduct them an absolute monopoly, and the right to charge whatever prices they wish?
– I am unaware of the particular case referred to by the honorable gentleman. In respect of the last part of his question, it is not the policy of the department so to act. The case at Rutherford camp, mentioned by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James), was subsequently satisfactorily dealt with. I shall look into the case mentioned by the honorable gentleman to see what the position is.
– Does the Minister consider it better that the profits from the sale of liquor consumed by the troops should go into the hands of hotelkeepers, or should be used for the benefit of canteen funds under the canteen system ?
– That is purely a matter of personal opinion which I should be glad to discuss with the honorable member. It is not, however, a matterof urgent or public importance.
Shipment of Ore - Unemployment
– Is the Prime Minister aware of the likelihood that 500 miners will be thrown out of work at the Lake George Mine at Captain’s Flat, because of the inability of the mine-owners to get sufficient shipping accommodation to take their concentrates from Port Kembla to England? Has he been able to do anything in response to the representations which I understand have been made to him?
– I am not aware of the details of the matter referred to by the honorable member; but I do know that every conceivable effort is being made to obtain shipping space, and that that difficulty is one of the outstanding features, so far, of this war.
– Will the Minister take steps to allow wheat-growers to sell wheat direct to poultrymen, under licence if necessary, in order to ease the position with regard to the shortage of bags ? I have had telegrams from several people stating that they are not allowed to sell wheat direct to poultrymen. As a large number of poultrymen have tanks and containers sufficiently large to hold a whole year’s supply of wheat, if this request were granted a good deal of the difficulty associated with the shortage of bags would be overcome.
– I shall be very pleased to do as the honorable member requests.
Motion (by Mr. Menzies) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until Tuesday next, at 3 p.m.
– I have received from the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) an intimation that he desires to move the adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, “ the necessity for immediate and vigorous action to develop areas within Australia known to contain mineral oil, especially the proved oil-bearing area at Lakes Entrance, Gippsland, Victoria, upon which the Commonwealth Oil Advisory Committee, in their report of December last, made specific recommendations “.
Mr.PATERSON (Gippsland) [11.44]. -I move-
That the House do now adjourn, in order to draw attention to: the necessity for immediate and vigorous action to develop areas within Australia known to contain mineral oil, especially the proved oil-bearing area at Lakes Entrance, Gippsland, Victoria, upon which the Commonwealth Oil Advisory Committee, in their report of December last, made specific recommendations.
– Is the motion supported ?
Five honorablemembershavingrisen in support of themotion,
– Iconsider that the subject of oil production in Australia is of such national importance, especially at the present time, asto warrant my asking the House to depart from its normal order of business for, possibly, a couple of hours. I wish, particularly, to bring to the notice of honorable members the position of the Lakes Entrance field because, so far as I am aware, up to the present it is the only area within Australia from which something more than samples of oil has been obtained. Indeed, more than 4,000 barrels of oil have been produced and sold commercially from this area by the very small-scale methods up till now employed. With such concrete evidence of the existence of oil in substantial quantities, the question naturally arises in the minds of honorable- members, “ Why has large-scale production not quickly followed?” I think I can best answer that question by giving the House a brief history of the initial difficulties met with in this field. During recent years, some 30 bores have been put down by various small companies and by the State Government. In almost all cases the mistake has been made, when the oil bearing strata Was entered - and that strata, I remind honorable members, averages about 33 ft. thick over an area of several square miles - of boring right through into a water-filled strata lower down, with the result that the fluid pumped up from such wells consisted of more water than oil. Whilst the oil, undisturbed, floats on the water and remains quite separate from it, the mechanical action of pumping tends to make an emulsion of it, requiring chemical treatment at the surface, properly to separate the oil from the water. Such treatment has for some time been successfully applied on the spot to the mixture of water and oil obtained from several bores in this area. Prom one bore alone, 80,000 gallons of oil have been recovered in this way. But water, being thinner than the oil, flows more freely, and its increasing intrusion is encouraged by the action of the pump, the result being that the water ultimately won the contest at the particular well that I have mentioned. Until last year, the Commonwealth Government’s technical advisers - the Commonwealth Oil Advisory Committee - had reason to believe that the glauconitic sands at Lakes Entrance contained both oil and water, and that special, treatment to separate these two substances at the surface was inevitable. But in 1938 a small company - the Austral Oil Drilling Syndicate - which had been operating there for some time and had got together a very efficient drilling team, put down a bore which changed the whole outlook. Drilling at this bore was discontinued on the advice of the Oil Advisory Committee as soon as the hole had penetrated well into the oil sands, and, in accordance with present oil field practice, a pine plug was driven into the bottom of the well. The oil obtained from this well, known as the Imray well, was free from water, demonstrating beyond doubt for the first time that the presence of a considerable volume of water in all previous bores had been due to faulty drilling. The company was then instructed immediately to seal this well, and did so. I may mention that this well was the first of a group of three bores which the company and the Oil Advisory Committee had agreed should be put down in a kind of triangle around an existing bore. The company .had been subsidized on a £1 for £1 basis in the putting down of this particular well. Having received a subsidy and carried out the instructions of the Oil Advisory Committee in respect of plugging the well at the bottom and sealing it at the top; the company naturally felt that any new steps should be taken on the advice of the Oil Advisory Committee; but many weeks elapsed without such advice being offered, despite the fact that it was urgently sought. Finally, an intimation was received by the company that the Oil Advisory Committee would be prepared to consider an application for assistance for the drilling of a further well in accordance with the original programme. On the 6th October of last year an application was made for a subsidy for the drilling of a further well, but it was some three months later when advice was received that the Oil Advisory Committee would not recommend an advance for the drilling of the further well. I wish to be scrupulously fair both to the Oil Advisory Committee and to the Minister. I take it that the reason for the delay was that, in the interim, the Oil Advisory Committee had prepared and presented to the Minister a report which embraced a very much larger proposal than the original one to which I have referred. The report was released by the Minister very promptly on . the 6th December last. I shall endeavour to summarize its main points.
The Oil Advisory Committee said -
On a conservative estimate it may be stated that the total oil content of the sand within the area containing the oil-producing bore holes is not less than 150,000,000 gallons - a quantity sufficiently great to make imperative the full testing of the field in accordance with the best practice in use to-day.
The Oil Advisory Committee also said, in reference to the particular bore which had been put down and sealed from the ingress of water -
It was found that the oil sands were free from water, and the water bearing beds -were below. Moreover, these oil sands are “ dead “, that is to say, the oil is under no natural pressure which would compel it to flow into the borehole.
This fact changed the whole aspect of the problem. The Oil Advisory Committee went on in its report to indicate that in its opinion the proper way in which to recover the oil from this field - which, it said, was under no natural pressure - was by repressuring. It gave instances of the success which had attended that process in other parts of the world, one instance noted in its report being in the Island of Zante, in the Mediterranean, where production had been increased from 1^ tons to 300 tons a day by this method.
I should like to say in passing that while it may be true that the pressure of natural gas in this field is insufficient rapidly to re-fill a bore from which oil is being quickly pumped, it is nevertheless far from being dead; in fact, it is definitely under some considerable natural pressure, because in the Imray well a column of oil has risen some 327 feet, and is still rising at the rate of about four feet a day. A height of 327 feet, calculated on the diameter of the casing of that well, represents nearly 30 cwt. of oil, and that is standing on the 25 square inches at the bottom of the hole, which really means that there is a pressure of 140 lb. to the square inch. That oil is coming through the oil sands against a pressure of 140 lb. to the square inch. There is another well nearby known as Mack’s well, from which oil actually flows. At the top of that well, a pipe of small diameter has been fitted, with a tap attached. If that tap be turned on, oil will freely flow from it for some considerable time. That oil rises from a depth of some 1200 feet. Therefore, it can be seen that the pressure which it has to overcome is about 500 lb. to the square inch. At Lakes Entrance, a substantial quantity of gas exudes from taps used in connexion with a water supply drawn, from a water strata below the oil strata. I have seen a light put to them, and the resultant flame is almost like that of a blast lamp. This shows that there is at least some gas pressure in this field.
The report of the Oil Advisory Committee went on to say that before repressuring would be practicable the old bore holes, of which there are some 30 odd, would need to be sealed up, because, if left in their present condition, they would act as escape valves for the pressure of air or gas. The report also stated that the whole of the area would need to be brought under one control; there would need to be unified control. It further pointed out that State Government action would be involved, to enable larger leases to be taken up by companies, and, indeed, to compel individual lease or licence holders to cooperate or combine in a repressuring programme. It also stated that it would be costly to seal up these old bores in order to control the water. Estimates were given of the probable cost, varying from £55,000 to £80,000. As a mere layman, I find it difficult to believe that this task would cost anything like so much. I believe that it could be attempted in the first place on a comparatively small scale. With respect to this, the Oil Advisory Committee said -
We consider, however, that the known extent of the oil bearing sands at Lakes Entrance is sufficiently great to justify the large expenditure necessary.
In regard to unified control, a substantial degree of consolidation of interests has already been secured, and the coping stone has now been placed upon this essential requirement by the recent passage through the Legislative Assembly of Victoria of legislation for this purpose - legislation which, I believe, “fills the bill” completely with respect to what is required for repressuring. In the concluding portion of the report the following paragraph appeared:-
Provided that some effective ‘ means can be found for treating the whole field as a single unit in a manner conforming with the requirements of Shite legislation, we shall be prepared to recommend that the Commonwealth should give financial assistance to the repressuring scheme here discussed. Pending the introduction of the repressuring scheme, we consider that no financial assistance should be given to the drilling of further holes in any part of the Lakes -Entrance area.
Lakes Entrance is one of the very few areas within Australian territory in which oil has been definitely proved to occur, and it is ‘our considered opinion that there is a reasonable prospect of rendering the field productive by dealing with it as a whole, and adopting Modern methods of repressuring in order to augment, if possible, a yield that is insignificant while no recourse is had to this method, which has proved effective elsewhere.
In another part of the report, the Oil Advisory ‘Committee made the following observation : -
We are of the considered opinion that existing interests are not equipped either financially <yr technically to perform the operations necessary to carry this proposal into effect.
The Oil Advisory Committee apparently favours the major oil companies, because of their financial strength and (technical experience. I hold no brief for any oil companies, either large or small. I am extremely anxious that, for the sake pf Australia, this area should be developed, but I consider that a small .company which has been sufficiently game to expend some £20,000 m the search for oil, and has been the to tap oil without water in this area, should be given an opportunity to see what it can do with a repressuring scheme. Moreover, I understand that it is prepared to form a much larger and stronger company, and to obtain the best technical advice available, if it is given the reasonable initial encouragement recommended by the Oil Advisory Com’mittee in the report from .which I have quoted.
Ait examination of cores from some of these bores has ‘been made by an officer of the State Mines Department, Mr, Croll,
These tests reveal that the permeability is of an order which compares favorably with that in fields where repressuring has been successfully applied.
Mr. Croll estimated the saturation with oil at 1 per cent. Referring to repressuring he said -
The tests have disclosed no reason why such a scheme could not be put into operation.
He went on to say -
On the other hand they have not altered the speculative nature of the scheme.
I should say that whilst there may he something speculative about attempting, by repressuring methods, to bring to the surface oil that is known, to exist, surely it must be conceded that it is less speculative than the spending of tens of thousands of pounds in the search for oil in places where it may not exist. The chairman of the Oil Advisory Committee has now revised his original estimate of 150,000,000 gallons, and says that he believes that there are only 41,000,000 gallons in this area, though he freely admits that the grounds for assessing the oil content at this figure axe somewhat flimsy. It is no secret that the most ‘complete differences of .opinion exist between the geologists and .the oil drilling expert among the Commonwealth Government’s advisers. There is a difference pf opinion “between the chairman, who is a geologist, and the department’s oil drilling expert. The search has reached a stage when it is more a matter for experts with drilling and repressuring experience than for the geologists. Let us, however, put the estimated cost at the highest figure and the estimated yield at the lowest figure, and see what result we get. Assuming that the cost of preparing the field for repressuring would be £80,000, and that the oil content of the field would be no more than 41,000,000 gallons, and that only 10 per cent, is recoverable, it would, even on that most pessimistic basis, cost the Government only 4.8d. a gallon. I point out that the Commonwealth Government to-day is prepared to sacrifice 5½d. a gallon revenue on every gallon of petrol produced from shale, for the next 25 years. It may be said in reply to that argument that that is for petrol, whereas the Gippsland field would be producing crude oil. I admit that, but I am assured that the crude oil at Lakes Entrance is actually more valuable, gallon for gallon, than is imported petrol. It contains 45 per cent, of good diesel oil.
We know that the use of diesel oil is rapidly increasing ‘because from it power can be produced cheaply. I know that it is possible with diesel oil to plough an acre of land at a fuel cost of 8d., and every gallon of diesel oil used releases a gallon of petrol for use for other purposes. There is 40 per cent, of highquality lubricating oil in the crude oil from Lakes Entrance, and lubricating oil is very much more valuable than petrol. Finally, there is 15 per cent, of bitumen in the oil. The Country Roads Board in Victoria - I do not know what the position is in other States - urgently needs 10,000 tons of bitumen and cannot got it, with the result that its maintenance and construction work on the roads is proceeding under very great difficulty. [Leave to continue given.’] Unless bitumen supplies can be obtained, it is probable that roads will fall into disrepair, and a great deal of unemployment will be caused. The bitumen found in the oil obtained at Lakes Entrance is admittedly of excellent quality for road making. I mention this in order to show that even the so-called residue from the oil can be made to serve a valuable purpose.
Let us return, now to the small company which has interested itself in this enterprise. What is it asking from the Government? In the first place, it is asking the Government to make available the advice and collaboration of its technical drilling expert, a Canadian brought over to Australia some time ago by the Oil Advisory Committee. They want this man’s advice and collaboration to assist them in drawing up a programme of future development. I believe that the Oil Advisory Committee is opposed to the giving of such advice by Commonwealth officers on the ground that it is not their business to give technical advice to companies; but, I ask, to what better use could this man’s expert knowledge be put at a time like this?. The Oil Advisory Committee has recommended that six small bores should be put down about two miles apart, and that cores from the bores be sent to England and the United States of America for examination. J understand, further, that it is proposed that this drilling shall be done with some old-fashioned State drilling plant about 70’ years old. The plan* is capable of doing effective work, but it is extremely slow. Nearly twelve months has already elapsed since the release of the report of the advisory committee containing its recommendations in regard to this area. If its advice is followed, and new bores are put down with an old plant and cores sent overseas for examination, another twelve months must elapse before anything is known, and possibly the information which would then be obtained would be of more interest to the geologists than to anybody else. I urge the Minister to take a shorter cut, and immediately to concentrate action on this area where oil has been definitely proved.
I appreciate the interest shown by the Minister for the Interior (Senator Foll) and his predecessor, the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen). Both have visited the field. I do not blame either of them for the irritating delay that has taken place because, though a Minister must accept complete responsibility for matters connected with his department, I realize to what an extent a layman is in the hands of his technical advisers in matters of this kind. However, when those advisers profoundly disagree among themselves, the Minister must either accept the advice which appeals to bis common sense, take a line of his own, or he must get fresh advice. The Government of Victoria has taken action to make possible one unit control for a repressuring programme. I hope the Commonwealth Government will now take immediate steps to put this programme into effect.
I have here a book entitled The American Petroleum Industry published by the American Petroleum Institute, an. organization, with a world-wide reputation. This is what it says, on the art of discovering, oil -
Kew oil pools are found only by the drilling of wells. All geological and geophysical work serves only to indicate the existence of traps- - of underground conditions, suitable for oil accumulation.. Whether oil is present in commercial quantity in an apparently suitable trap- can be determined only by drilling. Indeed, oil deposits of great magnitude have been, and are being; discovered by random drilling.
There is, no fixed formula for discovery - and* important as our advanced, and advancing technique ‘of prospecting may be, we are, nevertheless, indebted for a large part of our reserves to discoveries made by the thousands of wells drilled at random. Not only new pools, but occasionally new regions and new types of pools, are discovered through ventures, regarded as too risky to attract the ‘ skilful prospector. Even among the most experienced technical men there is often diverse opinion us to whether a particular prospect may be attractive enough to justify the expense of drilling.
That indicates clearly the limitations of geology in connexion with the search for oil. It is a mistake to depend too much on the science of geology. I trust that the Government will deal at once with the situation in a practical way, and will regard this particular proved area as a field for drilling engineers and production experts rather than for geologists.
– I have listened with interest to the remarks of the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson), and I thank him for having brought the matter under the notice of the House. There is not much that I can say, because I am in agreement with practically everything he has said. The Government is not unmindful of the urgent necessity for discovering oil in Australia in payable quantities. Qf course, I can speak on this subject only as a layman. Three weeks ago, I visited the field at Lakes Entrance, and was surprised that it was not more fully developed. The Government subsidized boring operations to an amount of £1,200, but after oil has been discovered it is for the company concerned to get on with the job. Therefore, it was surprising to me that the company had not been more fully supported, not necessarily by the people of Gippsland, but by the people of Australia generally. As the honorable member has stated, 4,000 barrels of oil have already been sent away from the field. Active operations were not in progress when I was there, but the manager showed me the oil coming from the ground. He said they were getting only about four barrels a week at the time, but I know that there are payable enterprises in America which produce only one barrel a week. The Gippsland field is a difficult one to develop, because the oil has to be forced up. That process has gone beyond the experimental stage, of course, but it remains an expensive one. The Minister for the Interior (Senator Foll) has also visited the field, and I think he was impressed with its possibilities, though, of course, he, too, is a layman. The Government must be guided by its experts, but 1 know that it is the intention of the Minister to get in touch with the Oil Advisory Committee to see what action can be taken. There are other parts of Australia in which the prospects of finding oil are good. One of our experts has told me that it is possible in the near future that oil-fields of considerable size will be discovered in Australia, but there is a lack of money for experimental work. A sum of money is voted each year by this Parliament to subsidize the search for oil. I assure the House that the policy of the Government has not changed. The Government is as anxious as ever that oil should be discovered in Australia.
– But is the Government granting financial assistance to people who discover oil?
– In the past, the policy has been that once oil is discovered, the discoverers should develop the field in the same way as prospectors, who discover gold, exploit their finds. Oil has been found in Gippsland, and it is up to the company to ascertain whether the field is payable and to develop it if it is. That is the present policy. Whether it is to be changed I cannot say, but the speeches that have been made on this subject to-day will be referred to’ the Minister for the Interior.
– Does the Minister think that a small company would have a chance against the opposition of the major oil companies?
– We have often heard it said that as soon as an oil-field is discovered, the discoverers have to fight against the major oil companies, but if the oil is there the people who have the lease should be able to beat the whole of the opposition.
In its report of December, 1938, the Oil Advisory Committee stated, as a result of boring operations already carried out in the Lakes Entrance area, that the oil was under no natural pressure, and that it had become evident that no commercial production of oil was possible in the area bythe mere drilling of wells and the pumping of oil therefrom. The committee expressed the considered opinion that there was a reasonable prospect of rendering the Lakes Entrance field productive by dealing with it as a whole, and adopting modern methods of repressuring. On the data available at the time, the committee stated in its report that the total oil content of the sand within the area containing the oil-producing boreholes was not less than 150,000,000 gallons. As the result of investigations made subsequently by an officer of the Victorian Mines Department, further data produced caused the committee to reduce the estimated total oil content of the sands to 41,700,000 gallons. This estimate was based largely on cores about ten years old. In the opinion of the committee, the data did not furnish in all respects such accurate information regarding essential properties of the oilbearing beds as would help in determining whether repressuring would be successful. In order to obtain this necessary information, it has been decided that a series of six boreholes should be drilled for cores and so spaced that the data obtained can be taken as representative of the conditions existing in as large a part as possible of the area underlain by the oil-bearing beds. That aspect has been mentioned by the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson). He threw cold water on the idea. I shall direct the attention of the Minister to his remarks in that regard.
The Victorian Governmenthas agreed to drill the six holes referred to as part of the scout drilling campaign jointly financed by the Commonwealth and Victorian Governments. It is proposed to send the cores from these boreholes to experts in Great Britain and America for examination, with the object of determining whether or not repressuring of the area would he practicable and profitable. When the new cores have been reported upon, consideration will be given as to the further action which might be taken by the Commonwealth.
I am only a layman and I have little personal knowledge of this matter. All that I can do is bring statements made by honorable gentlemen beneath the notice of the Minister who has promised to give them every consideration. When that is done, I shall be able to give the House further information.
– I listened with keen interest to what the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) had to say on this important subject. I have visited the Lakes Entrance oil-field on three occasions, and on one or two occasions already I have directed the attention of honorable members to its possibilities and to what is being done there. My first visit to the area was a casual one, but during it I obtained information which warranted my making further inquiries, and my next two visits were for the purpose of seeing personally the results of the efforts that were being made to develop the production of oil. The honorable member for Gippsland referred to an oil well there as “ Mac’s “. I thought it was MacGowan’s well, from which Messrs. Ramsay and Treganowan have regularly for a long period purchased oil, which, having been refined, has been used for lubrication purposes.
– About 150,000 gallons have been sold in that way.
– In view of that, and the production of oil at any time for any one who cares to makes a visit there, it is extraordinary to hear the remarks made about “ the discovery of oil in Australia “. Oil has been discovered - even the Minister (Mr. Perkins) conceded that - and can be produced in large quantities. The people living in the Lakes Entrance district are greatly interested in visits of public men, because they believe that they can demonstrate that the oil is present in commercial quantities over a fair area. They will go to no end of trouble to do so. I suggest that any member of this Parliament who is in the neighbourhood would be well rewarded by calling on the shire clerk, who is always ready to arrange for a practical demonstration of oil being pumped.I do not desire to fix blame for the delay and lack of practical encouragement which have been evident but when the honorable member for Gippsland was Minister for the Interior there was dissatisfaction at what was thought to be lack of enthusiasm on his part about the venture. I did not encourage that idea, but it was volunteered to me. It was thought that there was indifference and apathy on the part of the Government, in regard to the production of oil. Some people suggested that the major oil companies were exerting influence in order to retard development of the oil industry in Australia. Whether that is true ot not I do not know, but it has been suggested to me that it is a fact, and the apparent lack of interest of the Common wealth Government lent colour to that view. We-have passed the prospecting stage and reached the development stage, and I disagree with the attitude of the Government in placing oil on the same basis as gold, and declaring, in effect, that, once oil has been discovered, it is up to the people who discover it to develop the industry. The gold and oil industries cannot be compared. Indigenous oil is essential, especially to-day when our defence needs are so great.
– I said that that was the past policy of the Government. Whether there is to be a change, I do not know.
– I .sincerely hope that there will be a change, because oil is essential to our progress. If supplies of oil from overseas are stopped we shall have the greatest difficulty, because oil is needed not only for transport, but also for the manufacture of bitumen for our roads, which must he kept in a state of repair. The Government should give the most serious consideration to die matter and change its previous policy in such a way as to enaWe practical assistance to be given to those people who are to-day endeavoring to develop the Gippsland oil-field.
About twelve months ago, I was at Bairnsdale with Senator Sheehan. I suggested to him that we should travel to Lakes Entrance to witness the production of oil. He, like others I had spoken to, was sceptical, but I persuaded him to accompany me. His scepticism changed to astonishment when he saw the Imray well in production. He said to me “ We should do all that we can to stir the authorities to action to develop this field, in order to enable us to produce the oil which we need so greatly”. Originally the Oil
Advisory Committee estimated that the Lakes Entrance field contained 150,000,000 gallons of oil, but subsequently it would appear, after the Victorian Mines Department had made tests of a core ten years old, the estimate was dropped to 41,000,000 gallons. I have very great respect f ot the qualifications of geologists and the theories they develop from their tests and knowledge, but we can rely too much on their learning. I think that it is fair to place more reliance on the. experience of practical men. That has been proved time after time in the gold industry. It has been stated by geologists that certain localities cannot possibly be gold-bearing. But that has not stopped practical prospectors from discovering rich fields in those localities, fields which would have remained undiscovered if we had relied entirely on the theories of geologists and scientists. It is quite possible that the same will happen in respect of oil, and that areas pronounced to be nonoilbearing will .yield eventually vast quantities of petroleum. That Ls apart from the present situation. In this instance oil has been located, and, although the estimates of the quantity available vary greatly, the Government should concentrate on that field. I hold no “brief for any particular company, but I believe that the company which first produced oil without water In the Gippsland field should be given substantial Government assistance to develop the enterprise. The Government, however, should retain the controlling interest, and any profits that it makes from that interest it should set aside for development of other fields. Procedure on those lines would he practical. The people at Lakes Entrance have reason to be disappointed that the Commonwealth Government has been unable to make up its mind, but I trust that the unfortunate position in which we find ourselves as the result of international events, will be accepted by the Government as warranting it in altering its policy and pushing the development of the Lakes Entrance field with the utmost vigor.
This matter was the .subject of a debate in the Victorian legislature in 1935, when the State Parliament passed the Petroleum Act.. Some people thought that the areas laid down for development under that act were too small for anything effective to he done, but now it is suggested that, as the result of influence exerted by the major oil companies on the Victorian Government, the areas will be made much larger - so large, in fact, that it would be impossible for a small company to have the funds to operate to the required extent. That forces me to suggest that the Commonwealth should make available a much larger amount of money for the assistance of the oil industry than it does at present and the interests of the smaller people who have done the pioneering work in the face of government apathy should be protected. Insufficient financial provision has been made for a search for oil to be conducted in all of the numerous likely. localities, but I think the main financial effort should be concentrated at this time on the areas where oil is known to exist.
Neither I, nor, should I think, any other honorable member, is equipped to deal with the technical side of this industry, but I am informed by a Mr. Lightner, who was on the field on my second visit and who claims to have had experience in the principal- American and Mexican oilfields, that in 80 per cent, of those fields the conditions are similar to those at Lakes Entrance. That is to say, in 80 per cent, of the oil-fields, the oil has to be pumped. Gushers are only a small proportion of the total of producing wells. The people of Australia apparently will not believe that there is oil in Australia until they see it rise under pressure.
My interest in Lakes Entrance is, to a degree, sentimental, because in my younger days I lived in Gippsland and spent many happy yeaTs there, but it is the practical aspect that concerns me mostly now, and that aspect includes not only the actual production of oil, but also the employment that the production of oil would provide. It may be that production of oil on a large scale in Australia would mean a diminution of the use of coal with consequent lessening of employment in the coal-fields, but if that occurred, those thrown out of employment in the coal-mining industry could readily be transferred to the oil industry. The expert to whom I have referred said that the successful development of the oil industry in Australia would more than absorb the men who as the result of its establishment would be thrown out of employment in the coal industry.
Up to the present, the area which is being exploited is small. It is for the Commonwealth Government to ensure that the whole of the prospective field is covered. To that end, it should concentrate its endeavours and assistance on the part where the pioneering work has been done, retaining a controlling interest in the industry. The profits thus obtained could be set aside for expenditure on development elsewhere. I sincerely hope that the raising of this subject by the honorable member for Gippsland will result in a change of heart in the Government and that such financial assistance as is necessary for the proper development of the oil-fields of Australia will in the interests of the people be made available, so that this country will no longer have to rely on overseas sources for its supplies of oil and bitumen.
.- The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) is to be commended for bringing this matter to the notice of the House and the Government. I believe that no member of this Parliament or of the Australian public would dispute that the production of oil in useful commercial quantities in Australia should not rank as a matter of the highest importance in national policy. Oil is so closely associated with commercial life that the part that it plays needs no comment, but defensive measures are becoming increasingly dependent on oil. To-day, when this country is at war and an interruption of shipping is to be expected, the provision of a local supply of oil becomes more important than ever. Another point that may be made in connexion with this subject relates to the very evident desire on the part of the British Government to preserve the dollar exchange position. As a very substantial proportion of the oil imported into Australia comes from America, or from sources with American interests, the production of sufficient oil to be of commercial use in Australia would be a useful factor in preserving the dollar exchange position.
The purpose of the honorable member for Gippsland in moving the motion was to stimulate the Government to take more vigorous action. This, however, is merely the latest of a succession of steps taken by the honorable member to endeavour to exploit the Lakes Entrance oil-fields, which are the only known oil-fields in Australia of anything approaching real consequence. The extent to which geological investigations have disclosed the presence of oil in substantial quantities1 in these fields is not generally known. The area itself is not large, as it extends for only a few miles in either direction, but the presence of oil in certain sands in this area has been known for very many years. As the honorable member for Gippsland has stated, more than 30 bores have been put down in this area over a period of years. The approximate limits of the glauconite sands have been determined and also the approximate area in which bores may be put down. The depth at which the drills may be expected to enter the oil-beds can be estimated by geologists to-day to within a few feet. The thickness of the bed of the oil-hearing sands is known, and the area within which oil may be found has been reasonably well determined. These facts have been so definitely ascertained that fairly exact estimates have been made from time to time of the number of million gallons of oil held in saturation in the oil-bearing sands.
The “catch” about the whole thing is that the oil-bearing sands are not under any considerable pressure. It appears to be usual where oil-impregnated sands exist for there to be associated with the impregnation a sufficient gas pressure, or hydrostatic pressure, to force the oil to the surface when a clear passage is made for that purpose, or at any rate to force it into ‘bores so that, if it does not flow from the bores, it can at least be pumped from them without great difficulty. It is only in occasional instances that oilImpregnated sands have been discovered where there is no pressure. These facts are now beyond dispute. Until only about eighteen months ago it was thought to have been proved conclusively that the oil was in the sands in association with water. The honorable member for Gippsland mentioned that bores had been drilled from which oil had been obtained which appeared to be mixed- with water. We now know that the bores were put down through the oil-bearing sands into, an artesian area with the result that when the oil was brought to the surface it was in an emulsified form associated - with water. It is now known that it is practicable to put down the. bores without passing into the artesian area. Unfortunately, the recovery of the pure oil from the emulsified substance that has been brought to the surface has proved to be so expensive as to make the venture uneconomic.
With the drilling of the Imray well, which was the first put down by the Austral Oil Syndicate under close and continuous supervision of members of the Commonwealth Oil Advisory Committee, it was disclosed that it was possible to drill deep into the oil-bearing sand without going into the water at all. This is a fact of prime importance, for it indicates the possibility of recovering pure oil. A great deal of the oil produced in the world in recent years has come from fields that are similar to this one, or from fields which once yielded flow oil but now, due to the loss of pressure, have ceased to do so. A system which is known as repressuring has been adopted in those fields. Under this system, a series of bores is put down, it may be in the form of a square, in the centre of which another bore is sunk to cause pressure to be applied, with the result that the oil is made, in some instances, to flow, and, in others, to be capable of pumping. The theory is held by the Commonwealth Oil Advisory Committee that it would be practicable to apply the repressuring system to the oil field at Lakes Entrance. This view is also held by the Austral Oil Syndicate, which is the most active syndicate engaged in that area at present. From the experience I gained while I was administrative head of the Department of the Interior, I also hold the view that the repressuring system would prove effective at Lakes Entrance. So does my predecessor in office, the honorable member for Gippsland.
The difficulty that I, as a layman, was confronted with in dealing with, this whole subject, however, was that I did not feel that I could act, or direct that action should be taken, on such a technical matter entirely of my own volition. My predecessor in office was probably in the same position. Speaking for myself, however, I regarded this as such a highly technical matter that I felt bound to act upon the advice tendered by the Commonwealth Oil Advisory Committee. That committee intimated that it- was necessary, for the ascertainment of certain facts in regard to the matter, that recourse should be had to the information in the possession of the Mines Department of Victoria. [Leave to continue given.] When it was sought to obtain access to this advice, constitutional difficulties arose consequent upon the the division of authority between the Commonwealth and State Parliaments. We found that the State was responsible for mining laws. It alone could determine the condition under which petroleum licences should be granted, and upon it rested the right to undertake certain investigations. It claimed the right to carry out the actual drilling campaigns in this area, although the Commonwealth Government, as the force behind the search for oil, was expected, to provide the funds. It was a case of those who paid the piper being unable to call the tune. This is just another of the unfortunate incidents which continually occur to hinder the development of our country through the clash of the Federal and State systems.
The cumulative effect of all investigations so far made is, at any rate, that the geological facts are now well known. There remains little to be determined in that regard. The limits of the oil-bearing sands have been determined and so have their depth and thickness. The next step seems to be to investigate the practicability of introducing the repressuring system. The advisableness of applying this system depends upon the ascertainment of the degree of saturation, porosity, and permeability of the sands. I am sorry to say that when an attempt was made to determine this matter, the Department of Mines of Victoria used for the purpose, apparently with the approval of the Commonwealth Oil Advisory Committee, an old core about the size of a tea-cup which had stood upon a mantelpiece in an office in the State Mines
Department for the previous ten years. I had often seen it there. Of course, fresh cores should have been obtained. I contend that only by the use of fresh cores can the degree of saturation, porosity, and permeability be ascertained. I have no hesitation in saying that it was quite unjustifiable, in every sense of . the- word, to use a core ten years old for this purpose. I have been advised by qualified professional men that, whenever tests of this kind are made in other parts of the world, absolutely fresh cores are obtained from the bores and kept in airtight containers until the laboratory tests can be carried out. It is extraordinary to me that in the tests conducted by the Mines Department of Victoria a core ten years old, which was full of dust and in which the paraffin content had become set, should have been used. It is quite unjustifiable in my opinion that the first estimate of 160,000,000 gallons of oil in this field should have been revised to 41,000,000 gallons after an unsatisfactory test of that description. No time should be lost in obtaining fresh cores and sending them abroad for further examination. I understand now that it is desired to send cores to laboratories in both England and America, where such tests are usually carried out. It is of extreme importance that we should test these fields without further delay, and whatever Government assistance is possible should be given to enable these experiments to be made. The original difficulties of unit control, referred to by the honorable member for Gippsland in connexion with this oil field, have now been overcome by amended State legislation. It is intolerable to me that the new drilling campaign which is now to be undertaken by the State Mines Department should be carried out by drilling plant which was obsolete before I was born. I understand that new drilling plant can be obtained which would put down a satisfactory bore in a. day.
Sitting suspended from 12.J& to 2.15 p.m.
– I conclude by saying that I believe that the bringing of the oil production at the Lakes Entrance field to commercial dimensions could be best assured by the continued provision by the Government of adequate technical and professional advice to the companies which are engaged in the search for oil there, by the provision, either by the Commonwealth Government or by the Governments of the Commonwealth and the States in mutual agreement, of more modern drilling plant than is at present available for use in this regard, and by the separation of the professional geological officers of the Department of the Interior from the more practical drilling inspector, who is also an officer of that Department. I believe that there is a proper field for geological investigation, and a quite separate field for the prosecution of methods of production. It would be very much in the interests of the successful fulfilment of this venture if the practical drilling inspector were permitted to function directly under the secretary of the Department of the Interior rather than under the authority of the professional officers. As a matter of fact I had such a step in mind in the concluding days of my occupancy of the post of Minister of the Interior, but I did not think it would be proper to take that step when my departure was so imminently in prospect. Finally, I Relieve that if the Department of the Interior were more free from the restrictive influences of the Treasury in connexion with the search for oil better results could he secured. These, I believe, are the bases upon which a final and successful endeavour could be made to bring the Lakes Entrance field into full production. There are few Government activities which better warrant the closest attention of the Government than does this matter.
.- The subject of the motion by the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) is one of outstanding importance, particularly at the present time, and no effort should be spared in an attempt to make this country self-contained in respect of oil supplies. It is remarkable to think, however, that if the honorable member had had his wish, he would have restricted the debate to what he termed purely mineral oil. Had he used the term “ flow oil “ the debate would have been restricted to oil which gushes from the earth. I claim that, under the terms of his motion, I am perfectly justified in discussing oil from coal and shale. I wonder, at times, if the honorable gentleman is sincere in his advocacy of Government support for the companies engaged in the search for oil, because for a long time he was a Minister in the composite Government, and wa3 himself in charge of the Department of the Interior, which deals with this matter. His colleague, the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen), more recently occupied the post of Minister for the Interior, and he could have done much to influence the then Government to develop the Lakes Entrance field, and put into effect his proposals for the division of responsibility amongst the technical and professional officers of his department. No member of this House has done more than I have during the last eleven years in an attempt to get the Government to realize the necessity for doing everything to make Australia selfcontained in the matter of oil supplies. I have constantly referred in particular to the successful efforts made in Great Britain, Germany and Japan to establish industries for the extraction of oil from coal and shale on a commercial basis. We have been told that the erection in Australia of a plant such as is in operation at Billingham would prove too costly. I have done a considerable amount of research in connexion with this matter and have given to the House the benefit of the knowledge which I have gained from time to time. The late Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), in replying to a question which I asked in this House, said that the cost of erection of such a plant would be £11,000,000. I refer honorable members to the report of the debate in the House of Commons on the 25th February, 1936, at page 276. Mr. George Hall asked the Secretary for Mines if he could give the total cost of the works at Billingham up to date. In his reply, the Secretary for Mines, the Honorable Captain Crookshank, said -
I am now able to give the following information with regard to the present position. Up to the present time a total of about 80,000 tons, or 24,000,000 gallons, has been obtained, of which approximately 36,000 tons were produced during the three months October to December, 193S, or practically up to the full capacity of the plant as given in the earlier statement referred to.
Multiplying that 36,000 tons by four we arrive at an annual output of 144,000 tons, or not less than 43,000,000 gallons. The Minister’s reply continued -
The number of workpeople employed at Billingham in connexion with petrol manufacture is over 2,000, and it is estimated that, in addition to miners directly engaged in producing coal for the plant, something approaching the same number may be employed in secondary industries. I have no information about the cost of the works beyond what was announced by the company in October last, when the plant was officially opened. It was then stated that the new capital expenditure amounted to about £3,000,000.
That is a very different figure from the £11,000,000 mentioned by the late Prime Minister. I do not wish to weary the House by needless repetition of facts associated with the production of oil from coal and shale because they are already on record. We know the grave danger in which Australia would be placed in the event of our oil supplies being cut off. Of what use would be our Navy and our mechanised units if that happened? It is generally -known, I think, that there is sufficient petrol stored in containers in this country to last only approximately twelve weeks. What chaos would result not only to the defence forces of this country, but also to trade and commerce generally if our oil tankers were successfully attacked and our supplies of oil cutoff? The British Government has seen the wisdom of making adequate preparations against such an eventuality as this ; why cannot we do likewise? Statements have been made by responsible Ministers in the British Parliament that practically the whole of the oil used by the Air Force and the Navy is extracted from coal and shale. Although, from time to time, I have placed before the House the fullest information in regard to the extraction of oil from coal .and shale, my remarks seem to have cut no ice with the Government. When the honorable gentleman who raised this matter to-day was a Minister of the Crown, I urged upon him and upon his Government the desirability of doing everything possible to establish this industry in Australia ; it appeared to me that he was, and is only interested in the development of the flow oil-field in his own electorate. There is sufficient coal in Australia to supply all of our requirements of oil, both commercial and military. The Australian consumption is approximately 5,500,000 gallons a week, or 280,000,000 a year. The oil stored in Australia in containers amounts to practically only 60,000,000 gallons, or sufficient to meet our requirements for five weeks. In the event of the operations of hostile raiders in Australian waters proving successful, our defence activities would become stagnant and the whole commercial operations of this country would be brought to a condition of chaos. Whilst they had a share in the Government of this country, Country party members’ made no contribution towards the solution of this problem. [Leave to continue given.] I shall not trespass unduly on the patience of honorabe members. To show how real is the danger of enemy action resulting in a petrol shortage in Australia, we have only to remember that during the last war, German U-boats sank oil tankers carrying supplies for the Allies right outside New York harbour. Even the meagre supplies we have in this country are not safe from attack. The honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) and I, as well as other honorable members, have repeatedly warned the Government of what splendid targets our petrol containers along the coast line would make for enemy ships. Apart from the Billingham, or hydrogenation, process of extracting oil from coal, there is also the low temperature carbonization process perfected by the Lyon brothers, and also the process operated by Phoenix Oil Extractors Limited, which is somewhat similar to that of the Lyon brothers. All of these processes for the extraction of oil from coal and shale have been tried and proved. Representations have been made to the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) on behalf of Phoenix Oil Extractors Limited, and the Minister for the Interior (Senator Foll), in company with other honorable members, has visited the plant established by that firm. The directors of the company claim that they can produce petrol from coal at a cost of 7d. a gallon. The same claim is made by Imperial Chemical Industries Limited in respect of their hydrogenation process. The Government says that these are not commercial pro- * positions. I ask the Government, is the building of a warship, a battle ‘plane or any instrument of war, a commercial proposition? What use would they have if there were no petrol to supply them with motive power? The Government has an obligation to do something definite to solve this problem because if this war continues as long as the last one, and Australia is cut off from oil supplies, not only the present but also future generations of Australians will curse the inefficiency of the present Administration.
.- The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) is to be commended for having brought this matter before the Mouse. It is a matter of national importance and extreme urgency that we should have adequate supplies of fuel available within our own country. I have found it extremely difficult, indeed almost im-> possible, to arouse any official sympathy for the search for oil in Australia.. We must blame the Government and the Department of the Interior for their failure ro give more financial and expert ‘assistance in the past. Where there is a possibility of discovering oil in Australia the interested people have to secure finance and expert advice without help from the Government, with the result that a vast amount of time and large sums of money have been wasted. The honorable member for Gippsland was himself Minister for lie Interior at one time; if a Minister cannot obtain sympathetic treatment for his own electorate, there is very little chu nee for private members. The field at Lakes Entrance has been referred to by most of the honorable members who have spoken to-day, but I assure, the House that there are reasonable prospects of obtaining oil in other places in Australia. I am particularly interested in. the possibility of discovering oil in the Portland district in Victoria. For a considerable time I have been endeavouring to obtain encouragement and assistance for a company established in that district by local people. The company is not of the “ go-getter “ type and it has expended a great deal of its own money. 1 asked not for financial assistance for it only, but also for expert advice in the form of a survey of the1 area. A survey was made from an’ aeroplane, lini it was reported that, on the day that the survey was made, there was so much smoke over the area that unsatisfactory results were obtained.
Inquiries made by the company indicated, however, that no large fires were burning within 100 miles of the district on that date. That has led officials of the company to believe that they are receiving unsympathetic treatment from the Oil Advisory Committee. I persevered with my requests that another examination be made, but so far the company has been disappointed. It has had to obtain outside advice, and outside advice is in some cases not the most reliable. It is a grave mistake on the part of the Commonwealth Government, or its officials, not to show more interest in the activities of local companies searching for oil.
– Money is allocated by the Commonwealth to assist in the search for oil.
– Yes, but it is allocated in such a way that, unless companies are very strong financially, they have difficulty in complying with the condition? attached to the allocation of funds. They are required to prove that oil is in existence before they can receive helix and “that is almost impossible. If the Commonwealth Government and its officials wish to preserve oil in the ground, and that may be their intention, they are certainly going about it in the right way. But one never kno ws when oil may become obsolete as a fuel. It may be possible to evolve by soma chemical process another substance to take its place. Oil which we should be using now may be left in the ground for ever. The company established near Portland has carried on its activities in spite of setbacks and lack of sympathy on the part of the Government.
– Did the company make an application to the Government?
– The manager told me that he had been in communication with the Department of the Interior but had been so disappointed that he would not approach it any more. In spite of all this, the company has sunk two bores, one of which has reached a depth of nearly 1,000 feet and has penetrated oil-bearing sands. As far as I know, the other has not shown any indication of oil as yet, but the result obtained from the first one is very encouraging. Such companies are to bc congratulated on the energy that they have displayed in the absence of official assistance. I urge the Government to formulate a new and more definite policy in relation to the search- for oil so that expert advice will be given to genuine companies; it is easy to ascertain if a company is genuine or not. The policy should be one of encouragement, not of discouragement.
.- 1 support the appeal of the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) for more sympathetic consideration of the needs of companies that have been struggling to locate oil in Australia. Unless oil is discovered in large quantities or a substitute fuel, such as oil extracted from coal, or power alcohol, is developed, Australia will be in a very bad position from the point of view of defence efficiency. Our Defence Forces have been mechanized and, without adequate local supplies of fuel, they would be almost useless within three months should overseas supplies be cut off. Our aeroplanes would not be able to leave the ground and we should become an easy prey to any enemy that might decide to invade our shores. In the hope that there would be some encouraging sign of the discovery of oil deposits in quantities sufficient to assist in our national economy, I paid a visit to the Lakes Entrance oil-field. I inspected the Imray well and Mack’s well where, as the Minister knows, a considerable flow of oil is being forced out under its own pressure. There is very grave doubt about the value of the advice given in the past by our experts, and one wonders whether they are inefficient or whether pressure has been brought to bear by vested interests so that the search for oil has not been conducted sincerely. I believe, although many people may laugh at the idea, that the great oil companies have taken definite steps to prevent the discovery of oil in payable quantities in Australia, which has been a wonderful milking cow for them. They have been receiving approximately £7,000,000 a year from the sale of fuel in this country. Naturally, they do not want oil to be discovered here. Owing to the fact that we are at war, we now have an opportunity that is not likely to occur again to discover and develop oil resources. A great quantity of oil has been taken from thu Lakes Entrance field by primitive methods because modern drilling machinery has not been available. No gushers have been discovered, but in Sumatra, where one of the greatest gushers in the world is operating,, the presence of oil was not discovered until 50 or 60 bores had been drilled. In SPlit of what the experts may say, there is no proof that a gusher will not be discovered in the Lakes Entrance field in course of time. At present the Victorian Government proposes to put down a number of scout bores in order to obtain cores from the oil-bearing sand to send to experts in the United States of America and England. I suggest to the Government that those cores will come into the hands of people working for the major oil companies or definitely connected with them in some way; it is very doubtful, therefore, whether we shall be told a true story by those experts. I do not think that Australian experts have had very much experience in the discovery of oil. One geologist stated that there was no gold at Tennant Creek, but gold is still being won at Tennant Creek in considerable quantities. Some day possibly a great field will be discovered there.
– If the Commonwealth assisted the search for gold, a second Kalgoorlie might be discovered there.
– I would not say a second Kalgoorlie, but at any rate rich deposits might be found. Australia has an obsolete system of railway communication, complicated by breaks of gauge, and should our motor transport break down, we should be in a very sad position to meet an invasion. Lt is a colossal risk to take. Even if it be expensive to produce the oil, we have to face the extra cost in the interest of national safety. The estimates of the quantity available apparently have been influenced in some degree by a certain amount of research and by statements of State officials. Tho State experts say that, conservatively, there is 1 per cent, of oil in the oil sands of the Lakes Entrance area. The federal officer says that a safe estimate would be only one-tenth of 1 per cent. To me. the story appears to be rather thin. I hope that in future the Government will see that, in spite of experts and of vested interests, no stone is left unturned to discover oil in Australia. If flow oil cannot be located, we must adopt the more expensive method of producing it from coal or shale. It is essential to our very existence that we have sufficient supplies of oil for defence purposes, if for no other purpose.
– I have listened with close attention to the debate on this most important matter. In respect of Lakes Entrance, I feel that the department has not given the subject the attention it deserved. Prom time to time, this Parliament has appropriated certain sums for oil search in Australia. I understand that the department feels that, oil having been found at Lakes Entrance, its association with the matter should cease. Any sum appropriated for the purpose of oil search could be put to very good use in giving extra assistance to those who are already working at Lakes Entrance. I ami sorry that the practice has been adopted of conducting the search, for oil from the air. That, to me, may or may not be good business. We are gradually adopting new-fangled ideas, which I regard as likely to be less effective than the old methods. Searching for gold, oil or coal from an aeroplane does not appeal to me as the most practical method that could be adopted.
– It is the latest scientific method.
– I cannot seu how oilbearing country could be located from an aeroplane. It is necessary to conduct the search on mother earth, ft is of vital importance that we should provide for our own requirements of oil. I am anxious that supplies should be found, and believe that they can be if the search for them is conducted on proper lines.
Whilst I support everything that the Government can do in regard to the search for flow oil in Australia, with a view to providing this country with supplies sufficient to meet its requirements, provided hat they can be found, I object - and always have objected - to either this or any other Government spending tens of thousands of pounds, possibly more, in subsidizing private enterprise with a view to enabling it to discover a valuable commodity such as oil, and getting no return from the millions of pounds that may be made put of it. From one point -of view, that is an immoral practice. The history of oil throughout the’ world is the darkest and most tragic conceivable. Gangstering exploitation of the worst character, with murder as a common feature, has been associated with oil the world over. Espionage and double-crossing of the most deadly kind are features of it, not only in the United States of America, but also on the continent of Europe. I have no wish to see in this country what has characterized the commercialization of oil in the United States of America. If oil is here, what is wrong with the Government taking action similar to that taken in connexion with Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited and Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, thus reserving to itself a controlling interest in any company formed to exploit our resources, so that the taxpayers will get some return from the wealth that will flow from the discovery of oil? Honorable members opposite always say that we must not interfere with private enterprise, yet the Government is constantly doing something that private enterprise has failed to do, and cannot do unless it is subsidized. The subsidizing of private enterprise is an immoral use of public money. If oil were found in abundant quantities., and private enterprise were allowed to make profits running into millions of pounds out of it, after having been subsidized by the Government, all the thuggery and thievery associated with it the world over would be engrafted on to this community. I shall fully support any Government activity, but shall oppose’ to the utmost of my power the ‘use of public funds for the discovery of oil for the benefit of private enterprise, which would exploit the whole of the community as the great oil monopolies have always done. I shall not dispute what has been said in regard to the possibilities of certain oil-fields, but I do affirm that evidence has not yet been produced to show that there is sufficient flow oil in Australia to meet the whole of our requirements. In our coal beds we have a prolific field for the production of oil, and their use would resuscitate an industry which to some degree is retrogressive. There is another and more fruitful field awaiting exploitation. 1 do not believe that it is necessary to carry the production of oil from coal to the stage of refining it until it resembles petrol. The production of crude oil for use in diesel engines would be a much cheaper proposition, and should be exploited by the Government. This would provide an immediate and quick solution of Australia’s transport problem. The Government has been lacking in its duty in having left this country at the mercy of the oil monopolies of the world, with all the dangers associated therewith not only in connexion with war operations, but also in respect of ordinary transport requirements. Ever since it took office, it has refused to exploit the possibility of obtaining oil from coal. I have said at least a hundred times that if in a time of war Australia could not obtain supplies of oil, it would be defeated at the outset, before a single shot was fired. Not only would its mechanized army be rendered ineffective, but also the whole of the economic life of the nation would be paralysed, because two-thirds of our transport would become stationary. Any Government that views such a contingency with equanimity, and will not move to make the country secure against it, when science has provided ready means to do so, must be charged with dereliction, of duty. I agree with the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin), that there is something sinister about the whole of this business. I have read the history of oil in every country. The influence that the oil combine has exercised on the cabinets of the United States of America and other countries is so sinister that a Government which doesnot wish to be charged with being under the domination of these interests must get busy very quickly and see that this country is made secure in respect ot its oil supplies.
– I wish to deal with only one point. The House should be thankful to the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) for having placed this proposition before it. To my mind, the crux of the whole matter is the granting of financial assistance to certain approved companies, to enable them to continue their search for flow oil in this country. Such assistance would be granted by the Commonwealth Government only to such companies as were approved by the Department of the Interior, and only in those cases in which geological experts had decided that the prevailing geological conditions were such as to warrant the conclusion that flow .oil might be found. There are many men in this community who have spent a lifetime in the study of oil problems - I refer to the finding of flow oil - and who may be termed amateur geologists. There is great jealousy on the part of the professional geologists towards those who may be described as amateur geologists. It is generally argued by the professionals that the amateurs know practically nothing about the business. I agree with the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford), who interjected that, if the discovery of gold and other minerals had been left to the professional geologists, they would probably never have been discovered at all. There are men with technical training who will tell us confidently what is below the surface to a depth of 2.000 feet and 3,000 feet, but I have known of instances in which these highly-trained men have been utterly and absolutely wrong. In one instance, a leading geologist declared that a prospector was absolutely wrong when he said that he had encountered a body of elate when boring on Yorke Peninsula. The expert said that there was slate on the other side of the gulf, but that it could not possibly have been found on Yorke Peninsula, where the formation was entirely different. The fact remaps, however, that the bore had gone through 400 feet of slate.
– It had no right to be there !
– That is bo. The Almighty had no right to put it there without asking the permission of the experts. I know men with no university training, but who have made a study of geology, who are able to state what would be found beneath the earth’s surface in certain places, and they have been very little out in their forecasts, even though those forecasts were altogether different from those of the experts. Some time ago, an expert, whose visit received considerable publicity in this chamber and outside it, arrived in Australia from Iran. I refer to Dr. Washington Gray, who was supposed to investigate thoroughly the geological possibilities of the existence of oil in Australia. Notwithstanding the publicity attending his arrival, the Government has so far not said one word regarding the recommendations which he made. Now we are told that the real object of Dr. Gray’s visit was, not to report to thu Commonwealth Government on the possibility of the existence of oil in Australia, but to report to the Commonwealth Oil Refineries, in which the Commonwealth Government holds more than 50 per cent, of the shares. To my mind, there is something mysterious about the whole business of the search for oil in Australia. I have said before that if the Commonwealth had done as much to find oil as certain interests had done to prevent its being found, oil would have been discovered years before, if it exists here at all. I do not profess to know whether it does or not.
If oil is ever discovered in considerable quantities in Australia, there is bound to be a- conflict between the Commonwealth Government and the State mining departments. This is already forecast in the Western Australian Mining Act, which, notwithstanding section 92 of the Constitution, provides that all oil found in Western Australia must be refined in that State, and that no oil discovered in Western Australia may be exported from there in its crude state. So far, the need has not arisen to test the validity of that legislation, but the time has arrived, I believe, when the Commonwealth should seek to make an arrangement with the State governments on this subject. The State mining laws, insofar as they affect’ oil, are obsolete, and should be re-drafted in the light of present needs. Perhaps the States might even be asked to cooperate with the Commonwealth to the extent of agreeing to the passage of a uniform law for the whole of Australia and its territories dealing with flow oil, and its discovery and utilization for the benefit of the community.
I congratulate the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) upon raising this very important matter. It would appear that the Commonwealth has not given to those interests concerned with the search for oil the encouragement they deserve. If wo are to go on buying from the United States of America for war purposes at the present rate - a recent order was for 100 Douglas aeroplanes to cost more than £1,000,000 - it will be necessary to conserve our finances as much as possible, and one of the heaviest drains on our overseas funds has been for the purchase of oil. At the present time Australia is sending £6,000,000 a year overseas for this purpose. It would pay us to expend hundreds of thousands of pounds in the search for oil in the hope that it might be discovered in quantities sufficient to meet the needs df the country. Investigations have shown conclusively that oil exists beneath the sands at Lakes Entrance. The Commonwealth Geologisthas estimated that there is not less than 150,000,000 gallons there waiting to be brought to the surface. Australian capital has been invested in the enterprise, but more Government assistance is desired. The honorable member for Gippsland has pointed out that the expenditure of £80,000 would probably be sufficient to provide for the repressuring of the field.
– That is only for the preliminary work. It would require another £167,000 to develop even a portion of the field.
– The Government, in its desire to develop the Newnes shale oil-field, is prepared to sacrifice 5£d. a gallon excise. It should be prepared to make at least an equivalent sacrifice to further the search for flow oil. It has been pointed out that, even if there is not sufficient oil in the Lakes Entrance, field to supply any appreciable portion of our petrol needs, it could, at any rate, provide bitumen for the construction and maintenance of our roads. In my part of Australia the Main Roads Board, shire councils, and municipal councils are experiencing the greatest difficulty in obtaining sufficient supplies of bitumen, and hundreds of men are being thrown out of work as a result.
Debate interrupted under Standing Order No. 257b.
Motion (by Mr. Holt) agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act to approve an agreement made between the Commonwealth of Australia of the First Part,the State of NewSouth Wales of the Second Part, and National Oil Proprietary Limited of the Third Part.
Bill brought up, and read a first time.
Debate resumed from page 1538.
. -I have not had a great deal of opportunity to consider the statement made at length this morning by the Minister for Information (Sir Henry Gullett), but the motion that the paper be printed cannot be allowed to pass on the voices, as this matter of the creation of a new department of information is one which challenges criticism or, at least, comment. In any event exceptional circumstances must bo proved to justify thecreation of a new department of State, if, in fact, this is, in the technical and legal sense, a new department of State. It is a matter for some argument as to what it is. Normally there is a tendency to enlarge existing departmentsof State and to increasethe number of Ministers, and this present Administration has reached the highwater mark in point of numbers as compared with any,orall,ofitspredecessors. When one harks back to the commencement of federation and the simple functions that were then to be discharged by the Government and compares them with the present Administration and the functions that it claims to perform, one sees at a glance that the system of government is becoming from day to day more complicated and more expensive to a degree out of proportion to the population and to the reasonable requirements of the people.
– Does the honorable member think that administration has become more efficient?
– I do not think that it is efficient at the present time. However, the honorable gentleman who interjects seems happy in supporting the present Administration, so I do not think that he should provoke me to a diversion on those lines. It may be conceded, however, that the existence of a state of a war is, providence be praised, an exceptional circumstance which may conceivably justify the creation of a new department, if that new department can be given clearly defined and useful functions. I am certainly prepared to admit that the purpose for which, according to the Minister’s statements, this department has been created, have been very ill-served in the past. The duty of the new department being -
To assemble and distribute over the widest possible field, and by every available agency, the truth about the cause for which we are fighting in this war, and information bearing upon all phases of the struggle; also by its many agencies to keep the minds of our people as enlightened as possible and their spirit firm.
I repeat with emphasis that these purposes have up to the present been very ill-served indeed.
There is one thing upon which I venture to congratulate the Government, and that is the removal of the censorship from the Department of Defence. My recollection enables me to declare that the censorship during the currency of the last war was distinguished by grave ineptitude and prejudice, and that it was a potent cause ofrecrimination and bitterness amongst the people whom it was the then expressed desire of the Government to keep united on one set purpose. Truth at that time was taboo. The censorship reached its high water mark of tragic absurdity, if I may use such a phrase, upon that memorable occasion upon which the publication of the Sermon on the Mount was prohibited. But of course the military mind, as we know, is a totalitarian mind. Whatever is thought by the military authorities to serve the State in the purely material sense, is necessarily right. This Government, however, through the Prime Minister, has already given a promise of better things under its administration and during the currency of this war. But I have -already pointed out to the Prime Minister that, whatever his judgment might he on that matter at the beginning of the war, the conduct of the censorship and other matters of that kind would very soon pass out of his hands into the hands of others, and that he would find himself in the newly-formed totalitarian State with very little personal authority in very important matters, and that notably one of them. The Minister for Information, I gather from his reaction to some criticism which I made on another recent occasion, is somewhat sensitive of criticism which is necessarily, to a certain extent, of a personal character. But I am bound to say that he has always been a caustic critic himself; not only did he not spare me or my colleagues while I was a member of a government, but also he was not wanting in keen criticism of those whom he was supposed to be supporting. We owe to him the memorable phrase “tragic Treasurer “, and other such phrases applied to those to whom he was in duty bound to render loyal support. But I must say, in fear and trembling lest I may offend the honorable gentleman, that this department over which he presides has been very slow in getting into its stride. And the leisurely action on its part is the more remarkable when we remember that it is an emergency department, that it was created for swift and decisive action, that it is in a sense an arm of the military machine, and that it is acting in circumstances of grave emergency. Having regard to those facts, the appearances and reappearances of the Minister at the table telling us that by and by, when this Ministry finds its feet, it shall be extraordinarily effective, are . a little tedious to those who are insisting on prompt and effective action on the part of other people in other departments of State. Speed and resourcefulness are the watchwords of journalism, and I cannot imagine journalists, ‘accustomed to act quickly when action is called for, being very much enamoured of the leisurely movements of this inchoate Department of Information. The motto of journalists is “ There is nothing quite so stale as yesterday’s news “. What must they think, therefore, of the news of the day before yesterday and the day before that again, when it is not even rehashed, but comes before us clad in the garb of a promise that later on certain effective things are going to be done? So, after some eleven weeks of the war, we find that the Ministry of Information is still in its swaddling clothes and that it is a department of promise, in the verbal sense, rather than a department of performance. To-day, we have had the first public authoritative statement by the Minister of the aims and composition of the Depart-‘ ment of Information. Even now the questions that I asked a day or two ago as to the standing of members of this ministry - whether they are members of the Public Service, temporary or permanent; and, inferential ly, what rights they possess and how they stand in competition with other members of the Public Service - those questions still remain unanswered. I see some complexity in the fact that their positions as officers of the Department of Information are held on very precarious tenure because the war may come to an end at any moment. I remind this Government that it is already greatly embarrassed by the fact that it has had to find new jobs for a number of new, highlyplaced individuals in the Public Service who have found . themselves unemployed because great undertakings by the Government in time of peace were abandoned long before the war started. I refer amongst others to the national insurance legislation and the department that was created thereby.
If this new department is merely to elaborate the manifold deficiencies of the overseas “press news, it will serve no useful purpose; on the contrary it will render a dis-service to the people of this country. It is very evident that the outlook of the Minister for Information is- primarily the outlook -of newspaper proprietors and editors. Human nature being what it is - and I say this tenderly - this department cannot fail to be infected by the fact that the Minister’s long and perfectly honorable association -with newspaper proprietors and editors has always assured him of unlimited space in the current daily publications of this country.
– Oh, no!
– Does the Minister deny that?
– Yes, absolutely.
– I am surprised. When we add to what I have already said the consideration of the kind of foreign news which is circulated by the press, we must really despair of this new department becoming a public utility. The Minister, and, therefore, the department, as long at least as he continues to be its administrative head, can, I fear, perform no better function than is now being performed by the daily newspapers.It follows, therefore, that the war news likely to be circulated through the department will be of negligible value. The overseas war news, as every intelligent observer is prepared to admit, is purely propagandist in form, and affords no reliable information to thinking persons of the actual progress of events. If news of value from overseas is printed, it is usually deliberately obscured, whereas other classes of propagandist statements are given publicity in the forefront of the news, and unquestionably affect and infect the public mind.
If the Minister is prepared, in spite of his public statements, to reconsider his declaration that his department is nonpolitical in character, and if he will amend that statement and admit that the department is, as is obviously the truth, intended merely for Government propaganda, I suggest that he could not do better than employ trained journalists to hold the brief which the Government places in their hands. Trained journalists are usually skilled, watchful and efficient, according to their instructions. From my close association with journalism I must say that it istrue - and no one knows it better than the professional journalists - that journalism has deteriorated insofar as the newspapers are concerned, at any rate, as a medium of literary expression. Still, the journalists, like competent advocates in my own profession, will always enjoy the satisfaction of doing well the task entrusted to them. Therefore, if the purpose of this department is to act as a propagandist agent for the Government, I commend the Minister for having selected trained journalists to do the work.
Speaking entirely for myself, I look forward to the time when the Government will take the responsibility of issuing its own news organ, and of using it also for the publication of Government advertisements and other cognate purposes. Above all, such a journal should be the medium of authentic news on public affairs and, particularly, on international affairs. It should not be impossible to publish such a journal, seeing that the Government which preceded this one, and was not a Labour government, issued a publication known as Current Notes on International Affairs. I congratulate it on having done so. I have found these “ Notes though they are not supplied hot onthe heels of the events that they record, to be temperate in tone, accurate as to fact, and authoritative, for a government department accepts responsibility for what is published. That method of disseminating international news might well be expanded, even though the facts published do not follow closely upon the events described. Such publications are, in the minds of sober students and readers, of considerable value just as pamphlets and books are of value, even though they may not be published immediately after the events they describe. Indeed, they may be all the better in that they are the result of mature judgment and some little research, and that the Government is responsible for them. I hope that the necessity which exists for this depart-‘ merit, in the mind of the Government at least, will soon pass ; but when that time comes, the Government, when it is in a more sober frame of mind, might consider the suggestion I have made for the elaboration and expansion of its own news chronicle along better and fuller lines than hitherto.
I hope that the Minister, while this department lasts, will be able to infuse into it the vitality and energy requisite to such an organization. If the department is either an inspiration to newspaper propagandists or an echo of existing news-sheets, it will’ utterly fail to serve any useful purpose. Already,I understand, some of the best officers appointed to it have withdrawn their services, declaring that the department, as conducted, is futile. Men of action will not continue to be associated with a body, which, in a time of emergency, is discharging no really useful function. Since I last spoke in this chamber I have had occasion to refer to the names of some of those associated with the department, and have found there the names of some persons for whom I have great respect. I only hope that they will not follow those who have already left the department, but that they will be able to discharge some useful purpose. The creation of a new department of State is a big venture which must be justified first in theory, and secondly, and more importantly, in performance. Above all, this department must accept responsibility for the information that it circulates. It should not publish or echo news that is unreliable, prejudiced or of a party political character. I suspect from my observation that the department may, to a considerable measure, do this.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Archie Cameron) adjourned.
Mercantile Marine : Wartime Services - Australian Broadcasting Commission : Free Tickets to Concerts : Appointments to Staff - Parliamentary Business - Britain’s Purchase of Australian Meat - New Guinea: Workmen’s Compensation - Commonwealth Departments in Melbourne - Ammunition for Rifle Clubs.
Motion (by Mr. Menzies) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I wish to touch briefly upon a question which I have raised on two or three occasions recently - the treatment of men engaged in the mercantile marine who have to take part in wartime operations. Although men engaged in the mercantile marine rendered yoeman service during the last war, the treatment meted out to them subsequently left much to he desired. A few of them were given medals, and were admitted to membership of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia ; but they were completely excluded from the provisions of the Repatriation Act, and no provision was made for them or for their dependants to receive assistance from the various organizations established under the aegis of the Repatriation Department. Because of thatI raise this question now. It is almost certain that during the present conflict ten times as many men will be called upon to serve their country in the transportation of goods through the war zone and to assist in the defence of Australia. There is not the slightest doubt that these men will volunteer for any service that is asked of them ; but they have asked me to speak on their behalf. They are naturally asking what is going to happen to them on this occasion; they want to know if they will receive a little better treatment than was meted out to them after the last war. I want the Minister for the Army to be impressed with the statements which 1 am making now. I know that he has this matter under consi deration, but in the welter of other important matters which he has to consider I fear that it might be passed over for some considerable time. At present probably not more than twenty men, who volunteered in Australia, some not much more than middle-age, and a few who have passed middle-age, who served as volunteer gunners on merchant ships and passed through romantic and tragic experiences, many times preventing U-boats from sinking the ships they were guarding, are now absolute wrecks as the result of pneumonia and paralysis contracted whilst on service during the last war. All of the arms of our service bear testimony to the loyalty and courage of the men of the merchant service, yet these men, for some unexplained reason, were not covered by the provisions of the repatriation legislation in any way. If they die in abject poverty their dependants are entitled to a burial allowance of £15. Some of the men who served in the mercantile marine during the last war for over six months weregiven medals, but what use is a medal to broken men or their dependants. I am not so much concerned about the medals as about the plight in which so many of them find themselves. I interviewed one of these men a few days ago. He had been first mate on the steamer Austral Ford, which was attacked on many occasions by enemy U-boats. This man is now absolutely broken down in health as the result of his experiences. He is not old enough to get the old-age pension, and is in destitute circumstances, but no provision was made here under the Repatriation Act under which he could be assisted. I believe that the Minister for Social Services (Sir Frederick Stewart) will give kindly consideration to his case when I have the chance to put it before him.
– Would not such a man be entitled to a service pension?
Mr. HOLLO WAY.Thatistheburden of my request now. I ask the Government to consider now, before it is too late, its obligations to those who volunteer as members of gun-crews on our merchant ships, not only those taken over by the Navy, but also those engaged in the transport of our products overseas. The men who volunteer for perilous work of this kind are of the finest type. Even as early as this in the present struggle we have heard of men who have been torpedoed volunteering to serve again in another ship as soon as they could be placed. When the Minister has time to deal with future repatriation activities I ask him to consider the claims of the merchant service. I trust that the Prime Minister, the Minister for the Army and the Minister for the Navy will give this question very serious consideration at an early date. I intend to continue asking until something is done.
– I shall not keep the House more than a few moments. I wish to deal briefly with a question which I asked in the House this week regarding the issue of free tickets to concerts sponsored by the AustralianBroadcasting Commission. This may seem a small matter but it is one affecting the policy of the Commission. I asked the following questions: -
I have information that tickets worth some £1,500 were given away free. I want that either admitted or denied. The Australian Broadcasting Commission receives very large revenue; it has piled up assets valued at £450,000 in a few years. Its reserve funds amount to £249,700 and its accumulated funds amount to £179,000. According to the balance-sheet tabled in the House yesterday, expenditure) for artists’ fees and programmes absorbed 65 per cent. of the total revenue. The answer to my question was - it is undesirable in the business interests of both the commissionand the artist to make such information public.
That may satisfy the Minister and some honorable members - they may think it adequate - but I do not. If it is a fact that social favours are being handed out by the Government, that should be stopped. If social patronage of this kind available only to city folk is going on to any degree, the Australian Broadcasting Com mission should be treated the same as other government departments are treated. At present the revenue of the Australian Broadcasting Commission is detached from other Commonwealth revenue. I believe that all of it should go into general revenue, and that the expenditure of the commission should be subjected to the same scrutiny as that of other Commonwealth departments. Questions of this kind should not merely be put off by Ministers. Recently I asked whether vacancies on the staff of the Australian Broadcasting Commission were advertised. It was alleged that many appointments are made by favour. The answer was, in effect, “ In some instances”. do not think that this should in any way be a star chamber department. Everything should be available to Parliament. If Parliament cannot got the information, the public certainly cannot get it. Over 1,000,000 people pay £11s. a year for the services of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. They are, in many respects, excellent services; but at least we ought to see that the activities of the commission are economically conducted, and that no patronage is practised and no favours are handed out.
.- 1 should like to impress upon the Government, particularly the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), the urgency of allowing this session to fulfil the functions for which it was convened. It was promised that this session would be one in which every member would have the fullest opportunity to criticize things done by the Government under the vast powers conferred upon it by the National Security Act. In carrying out that promise, Ministers have made statements, and these statements have been submitted to a debate which in more than one case has been abandoned. Papers have been submitted to this House, motions that the papers be printed have been made by Ministers, and debate has taken place; but some of the papers have disappeared, and there is no prospect of the debate upon them being resumed. We had this afternoon a statement on a very debatable exorcise of Commonwealth power. .The debate was adjourned following the speech pf the Minister and, on behalf of this side of the House, that of the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan). It is very important that these debates, not only on that statement but also on other important statements, should be revived. In themselves the debates are of no importance unless every member of the House is given an opportunity to state his views and to criticize the actions of the Government. In no direction is there greater need for discussion than in the field of information, propaganda and censorship, the debate on which was initiated by the Minister for Information (Sir. Henry Gullett) this afternoon. I hope that the Prime Minister is in a position to promise the House that honorable members will be given a full opportunity for the discussion of this matter and other important matters, and that this House will not rise until those discussions have been completed. I understand that the House is to sit next week and the week after. It seems to me that that will not leave sufficient time to permit the full consideration of these important subjects. Their discussion and the discharge of the duties which members of Parliament owe to the public should come before everything else, before adjournments and Christmas holidays. If we rise in a fortnight’s time, we shall leave these vast powers in the hands of the Government without check. We want to be sure that this House has the fullest opportunity to indicate to the Government as to how it should proceed in the exercise of these wide powers. I trust that the Prime Minister will promise that an opportunity will be given to continue the debates originated by the presentation of ministerial statements within the few days during which the House has been sitting.
– I direct the attention of the Government to what appears to me to be an exceedingly undesirable state of affairs in connexion with price-fixing. Upon the outbreak of war it became necessary for the Commonwealth Government to make arrangements with the British Government for the purchase of Australia’s meat surplus. It was also both necessary and desirable that negotiation between the two governments should be conducted secretly, so that only the Ministers and officers most closely associated with the matter-
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. G. J. Bell).The honorable member is clearly anticipating ‘debate upon a matter that is now on the notice-paper. He cannot do that on the adjournment or at any other time.
– I understand that point, Mr. Speaker, but because of the course taken by the Government I may lie precluded otherwise from drawing the attention of the House to what I consider to be a scandalous case of maladministration by the Government. As the session will- be of short duration, I hope that I may be given an opportunity to discuss this matter.
– What the honorable member says may be true, but if ‘the Chair allowed him to debate this matter on the adjournment, other matters, including those mentioned by the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn), could bo freely debated.
.- 1 direct attention to a matter that particu- larly concerns the Minister in charge of External Territories (Mr. Perkins). Although that Minister is not present in the chamber, I am pleased that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) is here to hear the case that I shall submit. A resident of Wau has pointed out in a letter, to me that there is no workmen’s compensation ordinance in force iri New Guinea. The matter which 1 raise shows definitely that it is necessary to promulgate such an ordinance in that territory. The only legislation of the kind which exists in New Guinea is an ordinance relating to compensation to relatives, which necessitates the fighting el any claim in the courts. The writer of this letter states that a vigilance committee at Wau, with which he is associated, requested the Administrator about eighteen months ago to introduce a measure of this kind. The Administrator replied that the Australian legislation bearing on this subject would be examined with a view to introducing some provision in New Guinea, but up to now nothing has been done. About four months ago a man named Lionel Hartley was killed while at work in a mine at Edie Greek. Representations were made by the Public Curator on behalf of his widow, but the only compensation offered by the mine-owners was the totally inadequate sum of £100. On making inquiries, the widow learned that if she took the case to court it would cost her £100, and as she has not sufficient money she cannot proceed against the mining company. It is suggested, therefore, that appropriate legislation should be introduced to take effect retrospectively or, alternatively, if that is not legally possible, that the question should be given special consideration in order 1-jia.t adequate compensation may be awarded to the widow. The lowest sum paid by way of compensation for death in any of the Australian States is £600: in Western Australia it is £750. Usually the amount paid is four times the annual basic wage. In New Guinea, wages are much higher than in Australia; yet this woman, who is isolated at Wau. is offered only £100. That is due to the failure of the Administration to brine in humane legislation in line with that operating in the Commonwealth. As tho
Minister in charge of External Territories is not present, I shall take it upon myself to send him a copy of the letter that I have received, together with a covering memorandum. I trust also that the Prime Minister will take .cognizance of the case and, as a truly democratic Australian, ensure that justice is done in this instance.
.- During this week I have asked questions of various Ministers relating to the cost of establishing Commonwealth departments in Melbourne, and from answers supplied to me I learn that the Government has rented additional accommodation in Melbourne for the period of the war as from the 1st September, 1939, at a total rent of £9,995 14s. 6d. a year. The attitude of the Commonwealth Government and the British Government is that preparations should be made for a war of three years’ duration. If that be the case, and rental payments can be terminated immediately on the cessation of hostilities, at least £30,000, if not more, will bc expended for additional accommodation in Melbourne. That sum would go a long way towards providing permanent accommodation in the National Capital. In any case, it would provide 60 houses, each costing £500, for departmental officers.
– Can the honorable member have houses built in Canberra for £500?
– Perhaps £500 is not enough in Canberra. The honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Stacey) knows something of housing conditions here, because he has also raised questions on the subject in this House. The fact remains, however, that a number of houses could be built for the staff at Canberra with the money that is to be expended on office rentals in Melbourne and for which, at the end of the war, the Government will not have any assets to show. It may be argued that, in a case of emergency, money cannot be set aside to build homes and provide accommodation for officers in the National Capital, but in rebuttal of that argument I point out that the Department of Commerce, for which accommodationhas been secured in Melbourne until September, 1941, was established in Canberra with a small suboffice in Melbourne. The payment of £500 a year for additional accommodation suggests that the department’s activities in Melbourne will increase, with a consequent decline of its activities in Canberra and the transfer of officers to Melbourne. There is no justification for such action. As far as I can see, it has no relation whatever to war activities. A rent of £2,240 a year is to be paid for Melbourne accommodation for the new Department of Supply and Development, which could behoused in Canberra for only a fraction of that cost, whereas buildings erected for it in the National Capital would become a permanent asset. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) will argue, and, indeed, has already argued, that the activities of this department are correlated to defence activities, and that therefore it should be situated in close proximity to defence head-quarters. Ido not subscribe to that view, and I enter a strong protest against the action of the Government in expending money unnecessarily in Melbourne. These departments, having been established in Melbourne, will become more or less permanent, institutions there. It is interesting that £1,473 is to be paid by the Department of Information for accommodation in Melbourne. By no stretch of the imagination can it ‘be rightly said that the head-quarters of. this new department should be in Melbourne.
– That is where all the information is to be had.
– Melbourne is the home of the Prime Minister, the Minister for Information and several other Ministers; it is also the home of the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford), and possibly that is why he has suggested by interjection that he has some sympathy for the Government’s notion in this connexion.
– Melbourne is the “ Queen City of the South “.
– I am prepared to accept these statements about Melbourne; if is certainly a beautiful city and has made rapid progress, but that is no reason why this Parliament should allow the Federal Capital to be robbed by subterfuge. That was not contemplated by the founders of federation, which would not have been accomplished had the States not agreed that aFederal Capital should be built in territory purchased from the State of New South Wales, not closer than 100 miles to Sydney. For good or ill, Canberra has been selected as the National Capital, and the administrative offices of this Government should be situated here. I know that the Prime Minister has never been favorably impressed by Canberra, and now he is attempting to take advantage of this national emergency to remove the administration from Canberra to his own doorstep. I cannot accept that without entering a strong protest and drawing the attention of the nation to what is being done. I forecast that the present total of £.10.,000 a year for new rent payments in Melbourne will grow very quickly unless a check is placed on the Government’s determination to make Melbourne the war capital and allow the real nation’s capital to stagnate. Up to the present the Prime Minister has ignored almost completely any references to this subject and has continued on his own sweet way, but honorable members should not let his action pass without making a vigorous protest.
I have asked the Prime Minister further questions regarding the holding of Cabinet meetings in Melbourne during parliamentary recesses. The questions read as follows: - 1.Is his statement of yesterday that the War Cabinet would, as in the past, continue to hold the majority of its meetings in Melbourne, to be taken as an indication that there will be, during the coming recess, a repetition of the Government’s abandonment of Canberra?
Economic Cabinet shall meet in Canberra (luring the recess? If it is so intended, can he say how often it will meet and how it will function if he is absent in Melbourne presiding at meetings of the War Cabinet?
The replies of the right honorable gentleman to those questions were -
That was a very clever and neat way of ignoring the question as to what is going to be the position in regard to the attendance of Ministers in Canberra during the recess. I asked the questions because [ wanted to know if the treatment of Canberra was to continue during the term of office of the present Prime Minister. Is it to be ignored, and left without a Minister ? Is the Government to be run mainly from Melbourne? Is the present subterfuge to continue ? Will the practice grow in the future as it has grown since the present Government has been in charge of the treasury bench? The matter is one which should be raised in this National Parliament. Honorable members should enter an emphatic protest against, the practice that has been introduced by the present Government. I, for one, do so most’ emphatically.
.- I direct the attention of the Minister for the Army (Mr. Street) to the necessity for the provision of adequate supplies of ammunition for rifle clubs. Throughout the North Coast of New South Wales, rifle clubs have thrown open their ranks to civilians, and have offered to train business men and others in the use of the rifle. Each Saturday afternoon, a number of these persons have responded to this offer. In Murwillumbah, 30 business men and others who had had no military training and were not qualified to join the Militia, nevertheless felt, the desire to acquire a knowledge of the use of the military rifle. They were even prepared to buy the necessary ammunition. After the first two or three shoots, word arrived that further supplies of ammunition were not available, and the offer of the rifle club had to be withdrawn. Thus, persons who are patriotically disposed to train themselves have been prevented from doing so. From time to time it has been asserted that the available supplies, of ammunition arc adequate, and that there is no drain on them at the present time. I suggest to the Minister that he should endeavour to make such provision tha’, those who wish, in their own time and at their own expense, to equip themselves better for the possible defence of this country, should be permitted to do so, provided that the necessary ammunition is available for their training.
– I should like the Prime Minister, when replying to the debate, to give us, if he can, some indication of the business that lie wishes us to discuss next week. If it relates to bills, then he should indicate those upon which he desires that finality shall be reached. One or two ministerial statements have not yet come up for discussion, although they have been on the notice-paper for several days since they were made. Other ministerial statements have been the subject of some debate, the usual practice having been to debate two of them together, but there are still some members of my own party who wish to make a few observations in respect of the matters covered in the statements dealing with overseas export contracts, and pricefixing.
– The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) has referred to the application of the Repatriation Act to members of the mercantile marine. This is a matter which I hope will be. considered by Cabinet next week. I have already promised the honorable member that consideration will be given to it, and I think that Cabinet will be able to complete discussion upon it in the coming week.
The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) has referred to the use of small arms ammunition by rifle clubs. As I said this morning in answer to a question, the quantity of ammunition available to rifle clubs has been reduced on account of the fact that a much more severe drain is made on our supplies at the present time by reason of the very large number of men that we have in camp who have to fire a musketry course. For a number of years the Government has been attempting to increase the reserve of small arms ammunition, which was not as high as one would wish it to be. The time may come when, the lag having been overtaken, we shall be able to increase the issue to rifle clubs, and enable them to regain the normal position. I point out to the honorable gentleman - no doubt he is aware of it - that this ammunition is made available to rifle clubs at a price of about £2 10s. a thousand, notwithstanding the fact that its production costs the Government about £10 a thousand. This is a very considerable contribution by the Government towards assisting rifle clubs to carry on. When .., position in relation to the reserve of small arms ammunition is satisfactory, and production reaches its maximum, no doubt we shall be able to give back to the rifle clubs that of which for the time being they have been deprived. I cannot make a forecast of when that is likely to be, but I shall consult my colleague, the Acting Minister for Supply and Development (Sir Frederick Stewart), to see if I can obtain an approximate date for the honorable member.
– in reply - I shall take an opportunity to discuss with my colleague, the appropriate Minister, the matter of a. workmen’s compensation ordinance for New Guinea, raised by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Green ) .
One or two honorable members, beginning with the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn), have raised the question of the business of the House. I fully appreciate that the House is entitled to ample opportunity to criticize freely, especially in the circumstances in which the government of the country is now being carried on. It is for that reason that I have, I think it will be agreed, already provided a great deal of opportunity for discussion. The House has been sitting for two weeks and the whole of the time has been made available foi criticism. On Tuesday next, when the House again meets, it is proposed that consideration shall be resumed of the statement made in respect of the Department of Information. That is a matter upon which honorable members may weil de.sire to offer their views. Subsequently discussion will be resumed of the war activities on the fighting services in respect of which a statement was made by my colleague, the Minister for the Army, (Mr. Street). The suggestion of the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) that further discussion of overseas sales should be allowed is one that I shall be glad to consider. The Estimates and Appropriation Bill will come on for discussion towards the end of next week or at the beginning of the following week. Some shorter measures, which appear on the notice-paper, some minor technical measures, some bounty bills, the Broadcasting Commission Bill and the measure to give effect to the Government’s proposals relating to a mortgage bank will also come up for consideration in due course. Progress with these measures is subject to the taciturnity of honorable members at the appropriate time.
The. honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) referred to Canberra, and I almost gathered from what he said that he thought that personal antipathy to Canberra had induced me to establish the War Cabinet in Melbourne. If it. will be of any interest to him, I now inform him that my household, insofar as it i”> established anywhere, is established in Canberra. It suits me very well indeed to be in Canberra and to have meetings of Cabinet here; but, in the existing circumstances, it would not ensure the adequate and efficient carrying on of the war to establish the War Cabinet here. Consequently, for the time being, it must continue to sit primarily at Melbourne where the defence services are established.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Australian Wool Board - Third Annual Report for year 1938-39.
Iceland - Treaty regarding Extradition - Supplementary Convention between United Kingdom and Iceland (London, 25th October, 1938).
National Security Act - National Security (Prices) Regulations - Declarations Nos. 18, 19.
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1939, No. 154.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired -
For Defence purposes -Rosemount, Queensland.
For Postal purposes - Allansford, Victoria.
National Security Act - National Security (Prices) Regulations - Orders Nos. 32-34.
House adjourned at 4.28 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated : -
h asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Advisory Committee on Capital Issues.
r asked the Acting Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
y asked the Acting Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
y asked the Acting Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honora ble member’s questions are as follows : -
y asked the Prime Minis ter, upon notice -
In view of the great troubles in Mexico and Persia caused by the oil controlling interests, will the Government consider reserving a controlling interest in all grants, leases, &c, for oil rights, and thus prevent such troubles arising in Australia?
– Apart from the territories of the Commonwealth, this matter is one which comes within the jurisdiction of the States of Australia. So far as the territories of the Commonwealth are concerned, the legislation of Papua and New Guinea has recently been revised and now conforms to modern requirements and good oil-field practice throughout the world. While the Commonwealth Government has no financial holdings in the companies which are operating in the territories, it is considered that ample safeguards exist in the ordinances to meet any special situation which may arise. A provision exists in the ordinances that upon a state of emergency being declared by the GovernorGeneral, the Administration shall have the right of pre-emption of all petroleum on payment of appropriate compensation. It is also provided that Australia and the territories shall have first call over oil produced in the territories.
r asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
y asked the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
y asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
r asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Will he request the railway commissioners of the various States to follow his advice that sporting activities should not be curtailed and to allow the annual railways cricket carnival to take place in Melbourne during February as originally proposed?
– The matter of the arrangement of sporting activities under the aegis of the State railway departments is one in which the Commonwealth could not. with propriety, interfere.
n asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
Division, Telephone Branch, received appointments as traffic officers?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
s asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
In view of the fact that the Government will acquire the whole of the Australia!) wheat crop during the war period, and is at present arranging for storage space, will he see that the facilities at present existing at Newcastle for wheat storage arc utilized to the fullest extent, and that, when wheat is despatched overseas, ships will be compelled to call at Newcastle in order to load the wheat stored there?
– The Minister for Commerce has supplied the following information : -
The point raised by the honorable member willbe investigated. The storage of wheat in New South Wales is governed largely by the hulk storage system. The general question of receival and storage of wheat is at present under discussion between the Australian Wheat Board and the New South Wales Bulk Handling Authorities.
d asked the Prime Minis ter, upon notice - 1.Is his statement of yesterday that the War Cabinet would, as in the past, continue to hold the majority of its meetings in Melbourne, tobe taken asan indication that there will be, during the coming recess, a repetition of the Government’s abandonment of Canberra?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Department of Inform ation.
n asked the Minister for Information, upon notice -
– This information was supplied in a statement which I made to the House to-day.
Last week the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark) asked me questions bearing upon the Department of Informa tion. They were -
The answers are as follows: - 1, 2 and 3. This information has already been supplied to the House to-day.
The honorable member also asked the following questions: -
The answers to these questions are as follows : -
– On the 21st
November the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) asked whether I was aware of the present acute shortage of baling wire which is used for baling pressed hay. In reply to the honorable member I am now able to inform him that, as a result of inquiries which have been made, it is understood that the position of orders with suppliers is as follows : -
Thus all orders outstanding at the 1st November, plus orders for 9 tons since that date, have been met. The balance of 57 tons being cleared at the rate of 20 to 25 tons a week.
It is expected that a further25 tons will be shipped this week-end and on next Tuesday’s boat, leaving 48 tons still to be shipped.
Both companies have stated that there must have been some duplication of orders by people who feared that supplies would not be available and have, therefore, made inquiries of a number of different suppliers who in turn have lodged orders which may subsequently be cancelled. There is no definite evidence of this, but the two companies concerned feel quite satisfied that this position must have arisen. Any definite cases of failure to supply will be immediately investigated if the names of the persons concerned are supplied.
t. - On the 21st November, the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Jennings) asked the following question, with out notice: -
I ask the Acting Minister for Air whether he has seen a statement in the press by the secretary of the Royal Aero Club of New South Wales, Mr. S. C. Bridgland, that “far too much flying is allowed on Mascot aerodrome and that the lives of men training to join the Air Force are being unnecessarily endangered”? Will he call for a report on this statement and consider it in relation to the suggestion that a second aerodrome should be established in Sydney?
I now desire to advise the honorable member that the question of the establishment of a second aerodrome in Sydney is being investigated but it is not likely that civil aviation funds can be made available for this purpose during this financial year.
On the 21st November, the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) asked the following question, without notice: -
I ask the Acting Minister for Air whether in view of the present inadequacy of the Essendon and Kingsford Smith aerodromes as air terminals and of their useas training centres, will he takeearly measures to provide for the filling in or hoarding over of the reservoir at Essendon and for a considerable extension of the Kingsford Smith aerodrome so that these airports may more nearly approach the standard of air safety of airports overseas?
I now desire to inform the honorable member that an extension of the landing area at Essendon aerodrome is to be carried out as soon as funds are available, and the filling in or boarding over of the reservoir is not practicable. The acquisition of land for the extension of Kingsford Smith aerodrome has already been effected and the work of extending the landing area will be put in hand as soon as funds are available.
Air Service for Maryborough.
t. - Recently the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) asked me the following question: -
Will the Acting Minister for Air inquire into the inconvenience that is caused to Maryborough, Queensland, on account of the fact that that centre is not a stopping place in the Townsville-Brisbane air service?
I now desire to inform the honorable member that since May, 1939, when subsidy was paid to the operating company, Maryborough has not been included as a stopping place on the service between Brisbane and Townsville. On the 11th September, 1939, the service was varied to operate between Sydney and Townsville. This service is operated to a oneday schedule and it is not possible to include any additional stopping places without upsetting the time-table and resulting in landings being made at Sydney and Townsville after dark. 2nd Australian Imperial Force: Enrolments.
asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
t. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
War Service Homes : Militia Trainee Purchasers.
n. - On the 15th November, the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) asked the following question, without notice : -
Will the department take into consideration the appropriate reduction of instalments due by purchasers of wor service homes who enlist either in the 2nd Australian Imperial Force, or in the Garrison Forces, and whose incomes are substantia!lly reduced by reason of the difference between civil and military pay?- to which I replied-
T shall bring the honorable gentleman’s question under the notice of the Minister in charge of War Service Homes and ask him to give a full reply.
The responsible Minister has now furnished me with a reply in the following terms : -
Proposals for the granting of relief to purchasers under the War Service Homes Act who may be called up or? enlisted for military service, will be considered by the Government in conjunction with the question of the effect which enlistment for war service will have upon home purchasers throughout the Commonwealth. Meanwhile, any case.3 of a pressing character will be reviewed if brought to “the notice of the War Service Homes Commissioner.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 23 November 1939, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1939/19391123_reps_15_162/>.