14th Parliament · 1st Session
The Deputy President (Senator Sampson) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Defence state whether the Government has yet decided upon the route to be followed by the flying boats which are to be used for the mail service between England and Australia, and whether the port of Townsville in North Queensland will be a base?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.Up to the present no decision has been reached in regard to these matters, but I am sure that the claims of Townsville will receive full consideration.
SenatorCOLLINGS asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Is it a fact that the Prime Minister stilted on the 4th November in answer to the question - “ What have the geologists (of the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited) done so far “, that, “ for obvious reasons it would not be in the public interests to disclose this information “?
Is it a fact that when Sir John Cadinan wag in Sydney, prior to the arrival of geologists in the employ of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, he announced that a committee of eminent scientists would act as an advisory committee to the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited?
Is it a fact that this Committee of eminent scientists consists of Professor Skeats (Professor of Geology of Melbourne University), Professor Payne (Emeritus Professor of Engineering, of Melbourne University, and a Director of Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited), Dr. Keith Ward (Director of Mines, South Australia), and Dr. W. G. Woolnough (Commonwealth Geological Adviser) ?
Is it a fact that Dr.W. G. Woolnough and Dr. Keith Ward arc members of the Technical Committee advising the Commonwealth Government on the administration of the Petroleum Oil Search Act 1936?
Is it a fact that all Companies applying for advances under the Petroleum Oil Search Act 1936 have to submit to the members of the Federal Technical Committee complete geological reports on the areas on which it is proposed to sink test bores! 6.If so, is such information given to members of the Technical Advisory Committee used by those members in their capacity as a “ Committee of Eminent Scientists “ advising the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited?
Is any guarantee of secrecy given to the companieswho are compelled to submit their confidential reports to the Federal Technical Committee ?
If the answer to No.7 is in the negative, is this thereason why it would not be in the public interest to disclose what the geologists of the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited engaged in the search for oil in Australia have doneso far?
The Prime Minister made available advice which had been furnished by the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited to the effect that it would not be in the public interest to disclose the information referred to. The company has since advised that the work on which it is engaged consists of both ground and aerial surveys in potentially petroliferous areas as well as the collection and examination of data and all the necessary preliminaries to test drilling.
The conditions under which advances may be made provide that each applicationto the Minister for an advance shall be accompanied by a complete geological report on the area in which it is proposed to sink the test bore.Each application, together with accompanying data, is submitted to the Oil Advisory Committee for consideration and recommendation.
No. 7-8. No guarantee of secrecy is given. The data supplied by applicants is, however, regarded as strictly confidential.
Callofthe Senate: Suspension Of Standing Order No. 283.
Motions (by Senator SirGeorge Pearce) agreed to -
That Standing Order No. 283 he suspended so as to enable a call of the Senate tobe made, without the usual 21 days’ notice, in connexion with the third reading of the Constitution Alteration (Aviation) Bill 1936.
That there be a Call of the Senate on Wednesday, the 2nd of December, 1936, at 4 o’clock p.m., for the purpose of considering the third reading of the Constitution Alteration (Aviation) Bill1936.
NEW BUSINESS AFTER 10.30p.m.
Motion (by Senator SirGeorge Pearce) agreed to -
That Standing Order No. 68 be suspended up to and including 11th December next, to enable new business to be taken after halfpast ten p.m.
Motion (by Senator Sir George Pearce) agreed to -
That, until the 11th December, 1936, unless otherwise ordered, Government business shall take precedence of all other business on the notice-paper, except questions and formal motions.
The following bills were read a third time : -
States’ Grants Bill 1936.
Defence Equipment Bill1936.
Trade Agreement (Czechoslovakia) Bill 1936.
Trade Agreement’ (Belgium) Bill 1936.
Trade Agreement (South Africa) Bill 1936.
[11.12].- I move-
That the hillbe now readasecondtime.
This is a short measure, the purpose of which is to rectify a legal difficulty which has arisen out of the operation of the Finanoial Relief Act passed by Parliament recently. It relates to the operation of the. provisions in various regulations, by-laws, &c, which provide for the adjustment of salariesof Commonwealth officers and employees in accordance with variations of the cost of living. The regulations to which I refer provide that the salaries of officers shall be adjusted as from the first day of July in each year in accordance with cost of living index figures for the previous calendar year as published by the Commonwealth Statistician. These regulations, by-laws, Sui., were, in effect, suspended by the operation of the Financial Emergency Act. The repeal of the relative sections of the Financial Emergency Act automatically brings the various regulations regarding cost of living into operation, but legal authorities have ruled that as the adjustment of salaries was not actually made under those regulations, &c, as from the 1st July last in respect of personnel whose salaries were then subject to reduction under the Financial Emergency Act, no further adjustment under those regulations can legally be made until the 1st July, 1937. This would have the effect of entitling all such personnel to the full standard 1926 rates of salaries, without any reduction whatever in respect of cost of living, and would place officers and employees in a better position than they would have been in, hadthe Financial Emergency Act never beenenacted. The normal reduction from rhe1926 rates at present is £30 per annum. It had been intended to overcome this difficulty by passing a regulation or by-law in respect of each section of Commonwealth employees concerned ; but it has been ascertained that it would be necessary to move the Public Service Arbitrator to grant awards to the same effect in respect of all sections of employees whose salaries are governed by his awards. This would have involved considerable delay, and also would have necessitated retrospective action so that all sections of employees would be similarly treated. The bill now before the Senate merely provides that the normal cost of living adjustment of salaries shall apply to the first periodical payments of salaries which were increased by the Financial Relief Act recently passed, and shall continue until the end of this financial year, when the cost of living provisions of the regulations, by-laws, &c, governing the various services, will automatically come into operation as from the 1st July, 1937. No new principle is involved in the bill, which is necessary merely to meet a legal technicality.
Debate (on motion by Senator
– I move -
That thebill be now read a second time.
Thebill is a machinery measure relating to the submission of arguments in connexion with a referendum on an alteration of the Constitution. Section 6a of the Referendum (Constitution Alteration) Bill 1906-1934 provides the procedure to be adopted to submit a statement of proposed alterations of the Constitution, and the case for and against such alterations. That section reads -
If within nine weeks after the passage of the proposed law through both Houses there is forwarded to the Chief Electoral Officer -
Honorable senators will, I think, agree that it is very desirable that the electors should be provided with statements giving information as to the nature of the alteration, and the arguments for and against such alteration. Those voting on a proposed alteration of the Constitution should be in possession of the exact terms of the proposal, and of arguments for «nd against its adoption. Otherwise electors might fail to perceive the nature of the issue and cast their votes in ignorance. Pamphlets were issued in connexion with the referendum of 1913. Pamphlets in connexion with the referendum of 1915, which was not proceeded with, were printed but were not issued. Pamphlets have not been used in connexion with any referenda since the war. Having regard to the fact that the precise nature of proposals, particularly in relation to marketing, are not likely to be understood at a glance, the Government proposes on this occasion to continue the practice followed before the war of circulating pamphlets. Under the existing law, arguments for or against a proposal are to be forwarded to the Chief Electoral Officer within a’ period of nine weeks after the passing of a proposed law to alter the Constitution. It is now considered that four weeks should be sufficient to enable the necessary arguments to be prepared in connexion with the proposed referenda, and the Government has decided to submit an amendment to reduce the period.
Another amendment provides that an argument may be submitted by a majority of members who desire to do so. Possibly some members who vote either for or against a proposed alteration of the Constitution do not desire to be associated with the preparation of an argument. Such members may constitute the majority of those who voted either for or against the proposal, and the result would be that the authority of the majority, as required by law, would not be available. The members who desire to submit an argument should have an opportunity to do so, and the bill enables that to be done.
– As the Senate is a States House in which honorable senators endeavour to safeguard the rights of the States, the pamphlets to be issued should give prominence to the fact that the pro.posals to be submitted to the people by means of a referendum are supported by a large majority of honorable senators, including the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) and the other members of the Labour party in this chamber. I shall give my strongest-support to the proposals, and endeavour to convince the electors that the proposed alterations of the Constitution are in the interests of the Commonwealth.
Senator GRANT (Tasmania) [11.23 1. - I am not so confident as is the Minister that the pamphlet to which he has referred will be read by a majority of the electors. When previous referenda were held similar pamphlets were issued, thousands of which were not even opened by those to whom they were addressed. The law now provides that a period of nine weeks shall be allowed in which to prepare arguments for or against a proposal; but under this measure that period is to be reduced to four weeks which appears to be a drastic reduction. A period of six weeks would, I think, be reasonable. I do not propose to move an amendment when the measure is in committee, but the time provided may be found to be inadequate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Collings) adjourned.
[11.25].- I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill is to extend the operation of the Federal Aid Roads Agreement of 1931 for six months from the 31st December, 1936, to the 30th June, 1937.
The original .agreement which came into operation on the 1st July, 1926, was for a period of ten years. In 1931, however, when the agreement had been in force for five years, it was revised and its operation extended so that the original and amending .agreements covered the period from the 1st July, 1926, to the 31st. December, 1936 - ten and a half years. Some months ago it became evident that, in order that the Treasurers of the Commonwealth, and States should have firm figures on which to base their estimates for 1936-37, it would be expedient to extend the operation of the agreement to cover the whole of the financial year J 936-37. This extension was acceded to by all governments and .agreements have been signed to that effect. The conditions of the grant are not affected by this bill which merely provides for an extension of the 1931 agreement. The rates of duty imposed on petrol and their allocation between the Commonwealth and States are ae follows: -
In respect of benzol the excise duty is 1-kl. only a gallon, the whole of which is paid to the States, lt is anticipated that the total payment to the States in 1936-37 for roads purposes will be about £3,000,000. The basis of apportionment of Federal Aid Roads moneys between the States, since the inception of these agreements in 1926, has been as follows: - Tasmania has received one-twentieth; the remaining nineteentwentieths being divided between the other five States on the basis of three-fifths population and two-fifths area. Tasmania received special consideration as otherwise its share would have been inadequate. The payments to the individual States during the last three years have been -
The total payments to all States in each year since the inception of the agreement to the 30th June, 1936, have been-
The estimate for 1936-37 is £3,000,000. The purposes for which the federal aid roads grant was made available were as follows : - Under the original agreement moneys were to be used solely for the construction and reconstruction of main, trunk and arterial roads. The States were obliged to spend 15s. for each £1 granted by the Commonwealth. Under the agreement which took effect from 1931, the Commonwealth grant could be used for the construction, reconstruction, maintenance or repair of roads, and the States were exempted from the contribution of 15s. The 1931 agreement is still in force and, with the passage of this bill, its life will be extended from the 31st December, 1936, to the 30th June, 1937.
A new agreement, to operate from the 1st July, 1937, is now being drafted, and will be submitted later to Parliament. The new agreement will be for ten years from the date mentioned, and will increase by slightly more than 20 per cent, the present rate of payment to the States.
Debate (on motion by Senator Collings) adjourned.
[11.32].- I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
The Trade Commissioners Act of 1933 provides for the appointment of trade commissioners and assistant trade commissioners, and prescribes the conditions under which such appointments may be made. This bill provides for certain minor amendments of that act.
The amendments proposed in clauses 2. 3 and 4 c of this bill have, therefore, been so designed as to permit of the appointment of trade commissionersand assistant trade commissioners for such periods, upon such conditions, and at such remuneration as are prescribed by regulation or as the Governor-General in any particular case may determine.
The bill also provides for amendment of the original act in two other particulars, both of which relate to officers seconded from the Public Service. Paragraph 1b of section 6 of the act states hat a public servant who is appointed as a trade commissioner or assistant trade commissioner “ shall retain all his existing and accruing rights “. The in
Clause 4 a adds a further qualification to exclude from re-appointment to the Public Service officers who are over the retiring age.
Debate (on motion by Senator Col- lings) adjourned.
[11.37]. - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This is a short bill conferring the right on the representative of the Northern Territory in the House of Representatives to vote on motions for the disallowance of ordinances of that Territory.
Section 5 of the Northern Territory Representation Act 1922-1925, provides that the member representing the Northern Territory shall not be entitled to vote on any question that arises in the House of Representatives. It has been represented to the Government that he should be entitled to vote on Northern Territory matters. Section 21 of the Northern Territory (Administration) Act 1910-1933 confers on the Governor-
General power to make ordinances having the force of law in, and in relation to, the Northern Territory. That section requires, however, that all ordinances shall bc laid on the table of both Houses of the Parliament, and provides that they may be disallowed by resolution of cither House after notice has been given in the prescribed manner. The Government considers it desirable that the member representing the Northern Territory should be entitled to vote on motions for the disallowance of ordinances of the territory, and this bill proposes to confer on him the power to vote on such motions and on any amendments thereof.
Debate (on motions by Senator COL./,1 NON) adjourned.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
I do not propose to say very much concerning this measure at this stage. The bill lends itself, I think, to more advantageous consideration in committee. Honorable senators may be assisted, however, if I outline, in general terms, its principal objects.
In the first place, the bill is designed to extend the already liberal provisions of the repatriation legislation and the regulations made under it. The precise nature of these extensions will be indicated in committee. Secondly, provision is made for continuity in the appointments of the several members of the various appeal tribunals. The appeal system has proved of great value, and I think it will be generally agreed that the tribunals should be continued.
Again, the conditions governing the grant of service pensions to nurses are to bo liberalized. It will no longer be necessary for a nurse to have served in a theatre of war in order to become eligible for a service pension. If this bill is passed, a nurse, aged 55 years or more, will be eligible for consideration, provided she embarked for service abroad. Further, a nurse will be eligible for consideration, irrespective of her age, if she embarked for service abroad and is permanently unemployable. As the act stands at present, to be eligible for consideration for the grant of a service pension she must have served in a theatre of war. In the fourth place, a very definite increase of assistance to pulmonary tubercular pensioners is proposed. At the present time, a single man may receive 19s. a week. This bill empowers the Repatriation Commission and the Commissioner of Pensions to pay 31s. 6d. a week to such a service pensioner.
A further liberalization of the act which will- benefit considerably the wife and children of a returned soldier who dies after lodgment of his claim for service pension, and before a decision is given, is contained in clause 6, inserting in section 45 a k new sub-section 3. If this new sub-section be adopted, a service pension will be paid to the widow and children of such a soldier from the date of the claim, provided that the commission is of opinion that the soldier was, in fact, permanently unemployable. The sixth important feature of the bill relates to the case of a returned soldier, other than a tubercular sufferer, who is drawing an invalid pension. At present, a service pension can be granted to him and his dependants only from the day following the surrender of his invalid pension. The amendment contained in clause 7 provides for the payment of the service pension to be made to the dependants as from the date of the application for the pension.
The last matter to which I wish specially to refer is the proposal to pay service pensions to returned soldier inmates of mental asylums. The Government has decided to empower the commission to grant a pension of 6s. a week to such inmates. At present, they do not receive any payment.
Those, briefly, are the principal features of the bill. As it will rectify anomalies, facilitate administration, and extend materially the very liberal, benefits provided for our returned soldiers, I confidently recommend it to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Collings) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 19th Novem(vide page 2069), on motion by Senator Sir GEORGE Pearce -
That tlie bill be now read a second time.
– -It is essential that a bill which proposes that Parliament shall grant a huge sum of money to the Government to carry on the services of the State should have very close scrutiny by every one taking any interest at all in the government of this nation. In the committee stage of the bill, honorable senators will have an opportunity to deal with specific items of expenditure and will then be able to say whether they approve or disapprove of them. Control of the expenditure of public money by the Crown i3 one of those privileges which Parliament now possesses, but which it did not always have to anything like the same extent. Keeping in mind the struggles of the British people at different stages of their history to secure over-increasing control over expenditure by the Crown, we who occupy positions in a British legislature should not to-day regard that privilege lightly.
I desire to address myself at the moment to a very important matter, to which this Government has given a- good deal of attention, but without having yet achieved any practical results. I refer to the development of the oil resources within the boundaries of the Commonwealth. Successive governments have considered this subject for the last fifteen years, but no practical results have yet been obtained. I know of no other question which is of more immediate vital importance to the nation. It should not be necessary to stress the importance of the development of our oil resources. I am sufficiently optimistic to believe that flow oil will be discovered in this country. I think that it should have been found a long time ago. I was closely associated with the attempts made in Queensland in that direction, and I have reason to believe that the experiments made there would have been much more successful than they were, had it not been for the sinister operations of foreign interests. Whilst I do not suggest that we should relax our efforts to discover flow oil. I do assert emphatically that . we should proceed immediately with the production of oil from coal and shale. This work would give employment to thousands of men who are now out of work. The discovery of flow oil or the production of oil from shale or coal would be of immense commercial benefit to Australia. An attempt is to be made to improve the unfavorable trade balance between this country and the United States of America. Is there one thing, apart from the complete manufacture of motor cars in Australia, likely to be more effective in improving that balance of trade than making this country selfcontained in the matter of oil supplies?
The importance of oil for the purposes of defence needs no elaboration. The people of Australia should not worry greatly about their national safety; I consider that we have no potential enemies. If we show goodwill to other nations we have nothing to fear. Our splendid isolation affords natural protection. A country that prepares for defence, and asserts definitely, as every country does, that its preparations are not for the purpose of offence, should have no fear of offensive measures on the part of neighbouring countries. The present Government symbolizes the fears of that section of the community which believes that Australia is in imminent peril. Should Australia ever be attacked it would be of incalculable advantage for it to be independent of the outside world in regard to oil supplies. When the imposition of sanctions against Italy was under discussion in this chamber, the Opposition took a definite stand in that regard.
– It adopted a wrong attitude.
– That interjection makes me feel all the more sure that the stand we took was right. I stated in this chamber that sanctions would not be imposed in respect of oil, and the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) asserted that the next thing to be taken into consideration in connexion with sanctions was oil and its derivatives. As events proved, sanctions were never imposed on oil. The Mediterranean ports were choked with it, and the defeat of Abyssinia was accomplished. I merely direct attention to the national importance of taking definite steps to discover or produce oil in this country.
In replies to questions submitted to the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) in the House of Representatives on the 13th March last, it was stated that the total sum expended by the Commonwealth Go- vernment in the search for flow oil was £578,290, of which £25,000 had been contributed by the British Government. The expenditure was made up as follows : -
Recently the Government made £250,000 available for the purpose of inducing private enterprise to undertake a thorough search for oil, but up to the present time no good results have followed. I applaud the efforts of the Government to obtain all the data possible. Thechannels through which it has been making investigations are numerous and appropriate, but the time has come for action. No doubt, I shall be told that to do anything satisfactory in the production of oil from shale would cost £10,000,000. That statement was made by the Minierter-in-charge of Development (Senator A. J. McLachlan) for the purpose of silencing me on a former occasion. I do not intend to be silenced by sophistry of that kind now. Times of national emergency are predicted throughout the world, and if these fears are wellfounded the expenditure of £10,000,000 would be a mere bagatelle. During the last four and a half years, we have remitted taxes to the wealthy landholders of this country to the tune of nearly half of that sum, and more remissions are to follow; therefore, the production of oil from shale should not be abandoned on the score of expense. What are the possibilities regarding the discovery of flow oil in Australia? I direct attention to the follow ing extract from the Sydney Bulletin of the 18th. January, 1923-
At a Commercial Congress held at Honolulu in October last, a paper was read by Dr. David White, Chief Geologist of the United States of America Geological Survey on the Oil Resources of the Pacific Basin. In his final summing up,he gave North America, including Alaska, Western Canada, Western United States of America and one-half of Mexico’s reserves as 5,000 million barrels and Australia as 4,000 million barrels.
Every attempt to find flow oil in Australia has been unsuccessful, but geophysical authorities declarethaat the main oil basin of the world is in the Pacific, and that the greater part of it lies within Australia.
– I do not believe that any recognized authority has said that.
– Rather the reverse.
– I can assure Ministers that authority for the statement is available. I obtained it from a report published in the Sydney Bulletin some years ago, as the result of investigations then being made.
I have a return, which shows the amount spent up to date under the agreement made in 1920, between the Commonwealth and British governments, and the Anglo-Persian Oil Company. I do not propose to read it because the details of the expenditure are included in the general statement which I have already made. In reference to the importance of this matter, I quote an extract from the Sydney Sunday Sun and Guardian of the8th November, 1936, which deals with the position of Iraq, a country of fewer than 3,000,000 inhabitants, but one of vital importance to the British Empire, because of its oil resources: -
Iraq produces oil - in a world whose oilthirst increases every day, and in which wars are won and lost with oil. Britain has a greater stake in Iraq, in proportion to the population, than in any other foreign country except, perhaps, the Argentine. And it has been said that the Iraqi cities of Bagdad and Basra are to the air communications of the Empire in the East what the Suez Canal is to the seaborne trade with Asia.
I now propose to make a brief review of what Australia has done in connexion with the discovery of oil. Over a number of years the Government has continually excused itself because it has not proceeded with a policy for the development of the extraction of oil from shale and coal, and it was only quite recently that any definite action to encourage the finding of indigenous oil was taken. In regard to shale, the Government has done nothing whatever of a practical nature. I do not deny that voluminous reports in connexion with this subject have been submitted time after time; that royal commissions have delved into the whole matter, only to have their reports shelved; and that frequent ministerial statements in respect of the value of the development of the shale resources have been made; but in no instance has anything practical been accomplished. In view of the fact that throughout the world other countries are extracting oil from coal and shale, this apathy on the part of the Commonwealth Government is deplorable; yet we continue to exist in a happy state of uncertainty in the spirit, “ Things are all right to-day; let to-morrow look after itself.” Another important point is in regard to what is being done in connexion with the search for oil in Australia, and more especially in the Mandated Territories. Certain companies have made tentative proposals to the Government in respect of the quest for oil in Papua and New Guinea, and my researches have disclosed some interesting facts.
The directors of the Papua Oil Development Company Limited are Mr. V. Smith, who is general manager of the Shell Oil Company; Mr. C. J. Ahearn. a partner of the firm of Gillett, Moir and Ahearn, solicitors for the Shell Oil Company; and Messrs. W- H. Anderson and M. Bland, both of whom are officials of the Shell Oil Company. The directors of the Island Exploration Company Proprietary Limited are Mr. H. Hamilton, an official of the Vacuum Oil Company; Senator J. D. Millen, who is actively associated with the Vacuum Oil Company; Mr. W. A. Ince, solicitor for the same company, and Mr. J. C. Blair, one of its leading officials. Thus there is a possibility, by no means remote, of all our endeavours to discover oil in the Mandated Territories being definitely blanketed by these great oil companies, whose objective is not to discover oil in Australasia, but to maintain their stranglehold on the oil supplies of the world. These are matters that should be made known to honorable senators and to the general public. In view of the fact that the two companies which I have mentioned are enormously rich, they should not be allowed to exploit any portion of the sum of £250,000 which the Government has made available for exploration purposes in connexion with the search for oil.
– Companies operating in New Guinea and Papua are excluded from sharing in that grant.
– But these companies have been negotiating with this Government, and doubtless the Minister in charge of the bill will be able to tell honorable senators how effectively they are excluded.
– They are certainly excluded from participating in the grant of £250,000.
– In my opinion the Government could assist companies which have taken out or are about to take out permits to search for oil, and have not the enormous reserves of the major companies. For instance, there is Oil Search Limited, a company composed entirely of Australian shareholders with no foreign capital aud no foreign entanglements. It is undoubtedly doing good work in this connexion, as the Minister admitted a few days ago.
– That company has been given a permit.
– Yes, a permit to search for oil in New Guinea, and I am of opinion that this and any similar company should be entitled to assistance in regard to its geophysical survey. At the present time, it is not entitled to receive the assistance in this regard which it is entitled to get in connexion with drilling operations.
In the past considerable doubts have always been associated with the bona fides of every attempt by certain oil companies to discover oil in Australia. Now, however, the major oil companies of the world are reaching out into new countries because they realize that their present sources of supply may not always be available. “What has been done in other countries in connexion with this matter? What have been the results of the scientific investigations which have been made in other parts of the world ? From my studies of this matter I learn that other countries have been by no means backward in recognizing the importance of discovering oil within their confines, and in doing their utmost to make themselves self-contained in this respect. For example, according to the Sydney Morning Herald of the 3rd September -
The Japanese have already succeeded in carrying to realization their quest for a nearby oil supply in Dutch East Indies. Japan is securing supplies on three of the islands, namely, Borneo, Java and Sumatra. In Borneo, it has been announced that two companies have been producing a daily average of 13,040 barrels for the past veur. Furthermore, the Japanese have arranged for a combine of the Mitsui, Mitsubishi, and Sumitomo interests to operate under the new fuel policy of the Japanese Ministries of the army, navy, foreign office, and colonies. Thus the commercial side of this effort is consolidated by a new Japanese oil combine capitalized at approximately £3,000,000. The American interests take the position that they are merely seeking to augment their sources of oil supply in the East. Australia and Japan are, howover, engaged in an effort to develop nearby supplies of oil that would make them sellsufficient for defensive purposes.
In regard to the production of oil from shale and coal, we should concentrate our activities in this direction at the moment, because’ whatever may be said about the uncertainty of discovering flow oil in Australia, we can definitely proceed with the extraction of oil from shale and coal. I know that the Leader of the Senate does not agree with my suggestion that a tremendous proportion of the oil basin of the Pacific lies within the confines of Australia.
– I merelysaid that I had never heard of any geologist who had expressed that opinion, and I should like to know the name of the honorable senator’s authority.
– I cannot, give the name offhand, but I shall obtain the information for the right honorable gentleman. There is no necessity for us to get down to an argument in regard to Australia’s coal possibilities, although I am aware that even in this respect the Government has not given much practical assistance to the industry. I shall not attem.pt to pose as an expert on this matter, but I shall quote the opinions of authorities. There are two processes by which coal can be “ cracked “ with a view to extracting from it its oil content - the carbonization process, and the hydrogenation process. In this connexion I quote the opinion of Sir David Rivett, Chief Executive Officer of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research -
Coal is processed by cracking in two ways. It may bc subjected to pure cracking, termed carbonization, and in that way broken down into coke and gas with but small yields of oil; or it may be subjected to hydrogenation cracking and so converted wholly into oil. The production of lubricating oil from coal and the treatment of the tar are two interesting side lines in coal utilization equally in the domain of the scientific worker.
In a later report the same gentleman stated -
The attitude has apparently been that this was some one else’s business and the position in which that attitude has landed the industry (coal) is that, as pointed out by Sir Frank Smith in his impressive presidential address to the Junior Institution of Engineers, the industry has, during the reign of King George, lost a total sale of 7.500,000 tons of coal a year for shipping services.. It may not be imagined that the whole of this loss could have been prevented by even the most outerprising and enlightened coal policy but at least something might have been saved.
The Minister-in-charge of Development, according to a report in the Sydney Morning Herald of the 25 th September, 1935, expressed the opinion that the hydrogenation process of obtaining oil from coal was the best for Australia. We can, therefore, confine our attention . to the development of that process. The honorable gentleman also said -
It would be folly for the Government tn embark upon a huge expenditure here of perhaps £10,000,000 per annum before the process had been thoroughly tested. It would hu at least eighteen months before the efficacy of the process, as applied to raw coal, could be determined at Billingham-on-Tees.
Fourteen months have elapsed since the honorable senator made that statement, but the Government has not yet published its intention to proceed with the development of -the hydrogenation process in Australia. I now quote from the September issue of the Industrial and Mining Journal -
Sir David Rivett (chief executive officer of the Australian Council for Scientific and Industrial Research) has returned from Germany, most enthusiastic regarding the significance to Australia of the development in the processes for extracting oil from coal. At
Oberhausen lie inspected a plant which, is being operated by tlie Fischer process, in which the basic materials are coke, or coal, and steam. The process is relatively simple, and is being exploited at a rapidly-increasing rate in areas where coke and brown coal are readily available. He also inspected plants at Ludwig- shafen and Leuna, which are operating on the hydrogenation process. The output at Len no, at present is 300,000 tons yearly. The hydrogenation and Fischer processes, in certain respects, are complementary, he pointed out, and each is attractive from an Australian stand-point. The Germans were most willing to supply information, either independently or in association with certain British Anns. Close estimates of capital and running costs have been prepared, and will be submitted to the Commonwealth Government.
Presumably, they have been submitted to the Commonwealth Government in the intervening period of three months, but the Government has not yet announced its intention to proceed with this work beyond making available £250,000 for the encouragement of prospecting for oil. South Africa is also doing wonderful work in the distillation of oil from coal. !Ii i this connexion the Queensland Government Mining Journal of the 15th June, 1935, stated -
A very effective start has been made in the commercial development of coal by-products by the South African Iron and Steel Industrial Corporation Limited, and the production to dato represents a very creditable achievement.
There is surely no need for me to discuss the general question at any greater length, al though I could amplify the evidence that I have already submitted. I wish to know why the Government has not done more to develop our Australian resources. I hope that the Minister will not merely tell me that the expense is too great, or that investigations are still being made - though I confess that I have this fear. Abundant evidence is available from wally countries to demonstrate the practicability of various processes for the extraction of oil from coal, and the inaction of the Government cannot be excused on the ground of lack of information. I suggest strongly that this undertaking should be put in hand by the Government itself and not left to private individuals, for if private enterprise embarks on the work, vested interests will be established. Moreover, private enterprise is solely interested in making profits for shareholders. The Opposition believes that these great natural resources of Australia should be exploited for public benefit and not for private profit. It, therefore, asks the Government to proceed with this important work without further delay.
Coming now from the general to the particular, I wish to refer to a letter which the Rockhampton Chamber of Commerce recently wrote to the Ministerincharge of Development on this subject. I shall not cite the whole letter, but it stated, inter alia -
There can be only two States concerned in this oil-from-coal experiment or business, viz.: New South Wales and Queensland, as Victoria and South Australia have only brown coal, Western Australia cann el coal, and Tasmania undeveloped deposits, and tlie last two might be ruled out of consideration as not being central enough.
Honorable senators from Tasmania will, no doubt, be able to inform the Government as to the possibilities of Tasmania in this respect. I have no definite information on the subject. It must be admitted, however, that Australia has a wonderful variety of coal deposits. “Whatever the kind of coal required for the hydrogenation process, it can be found in Australia, and, I believe, in Central Queensland. The letter to which I have already referred, continues -
Now South Wales has. undoubtedly, immense deposits of good quality coal, but no part of Australia has tlie variety of coal, the immensity of deposits, or the high quality coal which Central Queensland possesses.
It may be safely said that New South Wales coal is all of the bituminous type - very good, useful coal suitable for steam and gas-making, its is the case with the southern Queensland and Bowen coal; but in Central Queensland we have, this type as well in the Styx and Balmoral mines, and have, in addition, the free-burning coal of Blair Athol in 95-ft. seam with light over-burden, the anthracitic coal of Cambria Colliery, so named because tlie Royal Navy, years ago, reported on it after tost as “ approximating more nearly to Welsh coal than any found outside of Wales “, and the semi-anthracitic scams of the Dawson Valley, and the immense deposits of brown coal at Point Clinton.
I well remember the report submitted years ago as to the quality of the coal of the Cambria Valley. The letter proceeds-
We laymen are in the dark as to what class of coal is going to be most suitable for the extraction of petrol, but here is a choice from the lowest calorific values to the highest, which does not obtain in any other district in Australia.
If the Commonwealth Government and Imperial Chemicals Limited are going to combine in the erection of works in Australia, Queensland has an incontestable claim to be considered in the site selected.
The Minister replied very courteously to that letter and observed that the committee was impressed by the possibilities of the Blair Athol field; but significant silence was preserved respecting several other fields mentioned in the letter that X have read. It seems, to me that the Government could well give consideration to these various fields and should do so without delay. It cannot be denied that Australia has every, class of coal that might be required for use by any of the processes to which I have referred. Perhaps I should not argue that the deposits in Central Queensland are better than those elsewhere, though I believe that the information contained in the letter from the Rockhampton Chamber of Commerce is accurate. I appeal to the Minister to see that effective action is taken without further delay in connexion with this important subject. “We need no further inquiries or investigations, for ample resources have already been discovered in Australia to enable the Government to proceed at once to establish plants to extract oil from coal or shale, or both. This subject is of such immense importance to the Commonwealth that I offer no apology for having occupied the time of the Senate in discussing it. The Government should make no more investigations, appoint no more commissions, and permit no further procrastination. If the meagre sources of information at my disposal have yielded such convincing evidence, I have no doubt that abundant additional information could be obtained from the Government’s archives in which there must be numerous reports of royal commissions, scientific investigators, and many others which have been accumulated during the last twenty years. It is high time for the Government to be up and doing.
– I take this opportunity to discuss a certain matter of intense interest to the returned soldiers of Australia, and also to the people of our community whoare interested in the welfare of these men. I refer to the principles governing thework of the War Pensions Entitlement Tribunal and the interpretation of those principles by its members. Having personally observed this body at work, I am amply satisfied that a grave danger existsthat its findings and decisions may becomea serious hardship to the ex-soldier appellants whose appeals are submitted to it for determination. In my opinion, it isabsolutely essential that appellants submitting cases to this tribunal shall have the most complete confidence in it, and in the impartiality of its members. The object of Parliament in setting up the tribunal was to ensure to all appellantsa thoroughly impartial investigation of the merits and demerits of their claimsfree from the usual procedure characteristic of courts of law. For honorable senators to understand the situation it- is necessary that they should clearly appreciate the procedure to be followed by applicants for war pensions, and the exact relationship existing between the Repatriation -Commission and the tribunal. The ex-soldier, in order to secure recognition of his disability as warcaused, has first to make his claim to the branch of the Repatriation Commission in the State in which he lives. That body examines all the evidence offerer! by the applicant, and in order that his disabilities may be ascertained it also subjects him personally to a thorough examination in a military hospital. His medical record while abroad is carefully scrutinized, and all the information available regarding his service which may have a bearing on his disability is sifted and catalogued. In the course of time the claimant is advised as to the success or failure of his application. In very many cases the application for a pension is disallowed, for obviously, after the lapse of twenty years or more, many difficulties are encountered in the determining whether disabilities are due tothe war or not. Let us now consider the next step. Upon the rejection of an application for a pension by the State branch of the Repatriation Commission the applicant is entitled to approach the head-quarters of the commission. In other words, an appeal is made to the
Commonwealth Repatriation Commission. His case is thereupon again examined in close detail, and again it frequently happens that the claim is disallowed. At this stage, the applicant has the right of appeal to the final court - the War Pensions Entitlement Tribunal. It was because so many claims were rejected by the Repatriation Commission that the Parliament in 3929 constituted the War Pensions Entitlement Tribunal with the intention that ex-soldiers whose pension claims had been rejected should be enabled to submit their cases to a tribunal which would consider all the evidence in an entirely informal way with the object of assuring the appellant substantial justice. I have carefully read the debate on the proposal to appoint this tribunal, and the record indicates clearly that Government supporters and Opposition members alike desired that the new tribunal should deal with the claims submitted to it with the utmost sympathy and liberality. It was said that the members must be men of the greatest understanding and human sympathy. I draw the attention of the Senate to the principles enunciated in the act. Section 45 w 2 of that act provides that -
An assessment appeal tribunal shall not, in the hearing of appeals, be bound by any rules of evidence, but shall act according; to substantial justice and shall give to the claimant the benefit of the doubt.
Every endeavour was made to enable the tribunal to act freely and on a most informal basis. It was not intended that it should be cluttered by the procedure of courts of law, or that there should be a majority of legal thought amongst the members of the tribunal. Applicants were to be put in a position to state their own case in their own way without the embarrassment of a legal atmosphere. I say without any hesitation that this was the intention of Parliament, and I also state that those principles have now been infringed. In order that it should be perfectly clear that these principles should be adhered to, the act provided that every appellant should be permitted to be represented before the tribunal by an advocate; if the soldier’s disability did not enable him personally to submit his case, or if he felt that a third person could better present his case, he could have the services of a “ soldier’s friend The act, however, on one point is perfectlyplain; it provides that the services of a legal practitioner could not be used. Why was that provision inserted? That provision was made because the tribunal was intended to be a friendly body, consisting of members appointed by the Government, who would, free from legal thought, interpret the law with wide sympathy and the utmost liberality. That was the reason for providing in the act. that the tribunal should not be bound by rules of evidence, and that legal assistance should be denied to the appellants. The Government did not leave to the members of the tribunal the interpretation of what constitutes wide sympathy and utmost liberality. The act is clear. Section 45 w, sub-section 2, of the Australian Soldiers Repatriation Act 1929, sets out -
Subject to this act, an appeal tribunal and an assesment appeal tribunal shall not, in tlie hearing of appeals, he bound by any rules of evidence, but shall act according to substantial justice and the merits of the case and shall give to an appellant the benefit of tlie doubt.
I intend to show that those principles have been definitely abrogated. The returns for the year ended the 30th June, 1936, show that 2,725 ex-soldiers approached this tribunal - this court of friendly atmosphere and substantial justice, bound to consider the merits of the case and to give to the appellant the benefit of the doubt - to have their disabilities recognized as being due to war service. Of that number, only 699 appeals were granted; in other words, a bare 25 per cent. Surely such a result should cause honorable senators to wonder whether the tribunal is really carrying out the intentions expressed in the act, and, I believe, the desires of this Government. The facts support my statement that the principles laid down in the act have been abrogated. I wish, at this stage, to emphasize that when the legislation was originally before Parliament the words “ reasonable doubt “ were contained in the section of the act to which I have referred. It is interesting to note, however, that after consideration in committee the word “ reasonable “ was omitted. The then Attorney-General, Sir John Latham, now Chief Justice of Australia, fought most strenuously to have the qualification expressed in the word “ reasonable “ retained. He said - “ Tlie benefit of any reasonable doubt “ is a well established legal term. In this legislation it means that the benefit of any doubt s u eli us a reasonable man would entertain in the circumstances of the case, shall be given to the appellant. If the word “ reasonable “ is omitted, the effect will be that the benefit of any doubt at all - whether reasonable or unreasonable - must be given to the appellant.
Nevertheless, the then Minister for Repatriation, Sir Neville Howse, accepted an amendment for the omission of the word “ reasonable “ and the act to-day in that respect states that the appellant shall be given the benefit of the doubt. In view of the objection taken by the present Chief Justice, Sir John Latham, when he was AttorneyGeneral, to the omission of the word “ reasonable “, the interpretation which must be placed upon the sub-section is that, if there exists the slightest element of doubt in any appeal, even if that doubt is an- unreasonable one, tie appellant must receive its benefit and secure recognition of his disabilities as having been caused by war. Even admitting that nearly twenty years have elapsed since the termination of the war, the fact that only one-fourth of the appeals have been allowed shows that there is wide room, for doubt as to whether the particular principle outlined in the sub-section is being carried, out. Personally, I am satisfied that the benefit of The doubt is not being given to returned soldier appellants. I say frankly that it is common talk among appellants that, as the years go by, the Appeal Tribunal is becoming harsher and harsher in its dealing with appeals, and that one member of the tribunal, except in special cases, invariably casts his vote against the appellant. By questions in the Senate, I have sought information as to the number of affirmative votes cast in each year by each individual member of the tribunal, because that is the only way in ‘which we can Satisfy ourselves as to whether the advantages of the principles which the act sets out to give to the appellants are, in fact, being given to them. I have grave doubts *as to the impartiality of the tribunal’s decisions.
The history of the establishment of the War Pensions Appeal Tribunal is interesting, as it reveals the purpose which the tribunal was intended to serve. The first time it was definitely advocated was at the federal congress of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia in 1928.
– The necessity for its establishment had been talked about in the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia for years.
– That is so, but it was at the congress of 1928 that the first definite steps were taken. That congress decided on the principles that are contained in the legislation which set up the tribunal and which should govern its decisions. The decision of the congress was later affirmed by a meeting of the federal executive of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia which was attended by the late Sir Neville Howse, in his capacity as Minister for Repatriation. The federal executive re-affirmed the principles enunciated by the congress: it decided that the personnel of the proposed tribunal should not include a majority of representatives of any one profession - legal, medical - but that, in order to guide the tribunal as to procedure, the chairman should be a barrister-at-law. Those principles were accepted by the Government of the day and are still in the act. Yet, when the last appointment to the tribunal was made they were set aside and a barrister was appointed. I wish to make it clear -that I do not attack him personally - I understand that he is a fine character - but I do attack his appointment because it represents a breach of one of the fundamental conditions upon which the tribunal was established, namely, that there should not be a majority of members representing either the medical or the legal profession.
My second point, which is a vital one, is that an appeal comes before the tribunal, not as a direct claim by the applicant, but as an appeal from the decision of the Repatriation Commission. The act which governs the principles to be followed by the commission provides -
Provided, too, that if the appellant or the representative of the appellant shall make out a prima facie case in support of his claim that the incapacity from which he is suffering or from which he has died was caused or aggravated by war service, the onus of proof that such incapacity was not, in fact, so caused or aggravated shall lie with the commission.
Therefore, if an application has been disallowed by the commission it is, in the majority of cases, because the soldier has not been able to make out a prima facie case before the commission. The provision I have quoted was made so that the tribunal, which has to dispense substantial justice and reach a decision on the merits of the case, and is not bound by rules of evidence, might even, if, in the opinion of the commission, a prima facie case had not been made out on behalf of the applicant, decide in his favour. The debates in the Parliament when this legislation was introduced clearly showed that it was intended that the tribunal should act in this way. The Minister for Eepatriation (Mr. Hughes) said it was wrong for a man to have to appeal from Caesar to Caesar, but that is what is happening to-day. The Repatriation Commission, itself arrives at its decisions on a legal basis, particularly as to whether a prima facie case has been made out. If the applicant wishes to appeal against the decision of the commissionhe has then to appear before the tribunal, two of the three members of which are barristers, who, in turn, have to decide whether or not a prima facie case has been made out. To my mind that state of affairs is contrary to the requirement of the act, that the tribunal shall “ act according to substantial justice and the merits of the case, and shall give to an appellant the benefit of the doubt “.
– Surely the merits of a case determine whether a case has been made out.
– Exactly, but if the tribunal is cluttered up with barristers, legal considerations and the process of legal thought must come into the cases, and that is exactly what the act was designed to avoid. Does the right honorable senator think that a barrister, as a member of the tribunal, could dissociate himself from his legal training and reach judgment in the same way as a layman would? He would not. It was in order that the tribunal should not be cramped by the need for legal proof that the word “ reasonable “ was omitted from the original act.
I shall now describe the actual work of the tribunal, which, from personal observation, I have had the opportunity of studying. There are definite features of its work which do not seem to be in the interests of the soldier appellants. Unaided by any legal representation, as required by the act, the appellant or his non-legal advocate, enters a room in which the three members of the tribunal, two of whom are barristers, and the secretary, are sitting. The advocate for the appellant commences the presentation of the appellant’s case, and speaks generally from ten to fifteen minutes in an endeavour to show that the disabilities of the appellant should be recognized as being due to war service. But no record beyond notes in a minute book are taken of the advocate’s remarks.
Sitting suspended from12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– I stress the absence of any verbatim record of the advocate’s address. The secretary to the tribunal merely includes in the minutes of the proceedings a brief outline of what has taken place. Undoubtedly there should be a record of the proceedings. The tribunal is popularly regarded as the last court of appeal, but in certain circumstanees there is a further appeal, for the soldier may present his case before the Repatriation Commission again, and failing there, he may again appeal to the tribunal. Section 45k sub-section 7 of the act provides : -
If at any time after a decision of an Appeal Tribunal, made under sub-section (3) or subsection (6) of this section, the appellant submits to the commission in writing any further evidence which, in the opinion of the commissioner, is relevant to the appellant’s claim, the commission shall reconsider the claim and, if the claim is refused by the commission, the appellant may, within twelve months of the decision of the commission, appeal in writing to an Appeal Tribunal which shall consider the further evidence and decide the appeal.
That clearly demonstrates that, in certain circumstances, there is a further right of appeal. But let us see how it can be exercised. An appellant, who is dissatisfied with the decision of the tribunal, and wishes to make a further appeal, naturally desires to have access to tlie evidence offered in support of his case. But he cannot get that evidence, because the minutes, which are the only record of the proceedings, are not made available to him. Surely it is an elementary principle of justice that a person who desires ‘to carry an appeal to a higher court is entitled to obtain a full record of the proceedings in the lower court. That principle evidently do.es not apply to the tribunal, for the appellant is expected to make his appeal without that record. The absence of a verbatim record of the advocate’s address, in which reasons are given for attributing to war causes the disabilities of the appellant, operates to the disadvanage of the appellant when medical advice during the progress of an appeal is secured. Sometimes the tribunal postpones the hearing of an appeal in order that the appellant may be examined by a specialist. The specialist is asked to express an opinion as to whether or not the disabilities of the appellant are the result of his war service. Is it reasonable to ask a specialist to express an opinion in the absence of full particulars of the case? Obviously, the specialist cannot know the full circumstances, but the advocate does, because he has set them out in his plea. The failure to keep a full record of the proceedings before the tribunal is a grave defect, and operates against the interests of the appellant.
Let us now consider how the members of the tribunal deal with the cases which come before them. I again remind the Senate, that the act requires that substantial justice shall be done, that each case shall be decided on its merits, and that the appellant must be given the benefit of the doubt. It does not even say reasonable doubt. Each member of the tribunal who is required to judge the case has a notebook, in which, as the case proceeds, he makes entries; but, so far as I am aware, the minutes of the proceedings record merely the decision of the tribunal as to whether the pension shall, or shall not be granted. The notes of the judges do udt appear in the records. How different is the procedure of this tribunal - a tribunal that is expected to dispense justice - from the procedure in our courts, particularly th* High Court! There, ‘the judges do not merely say, after a short consultation, “ The appeal is upheld “, or “ The appeal is disallowed “ ; each judge records his individual judgment, and gives substantial reasons for arriving at that decision. But an appellant who appears before the entitlements tribunal cannot ascertain any reason for the decision given in his case. He cannot secure the judgment of any individual member of the tribunal, and, therefore, is unable to say whether that member has decided the case on its merits, and given to the appellant the benefit of the doubt as required by the act. He does not even know whether the tribunal has, in fact, set out to do substantial justice. Of what use is a further appeal if the record of the proceedings, and the reasons for the decision, are not available to the appellant in order that he may prepare grounds for an appeal. He is, as it were, blindfolded, and is forced to rely on his own ingenuity when presenting new facts for the consideration of the Repatriation Commission, to whom further evidence must be submitted. There is no doubt that ‘the judgment of each member of the tribunal should be released to the appellant. I say, emphatically, that many soldiers are losing confidence in the entitlements ‘tribunal. They believe that it acts harshly, in dealing with their cases, and that they are not receiving the benefit of the doubt. That may, or may not, be so; but the fact that only. 25 per cent, of the 2,700 cases submitted to the tribunal have been decided in favour of the appellant gives ground for the belief. One has only to sit among the men waiting for their cases to be heard to realize that, in their opinion, the chairman of the tribunal will decide against the appellants in all but extraordinary cases.
– Most of them think they are beaten before they start.
– I hope that it can be shown that the charge against the members of the tribunal is unfounded ; but something must be done immediately if confidence in the tribunal is to be restored.
In conclusion, I repeat that a tribunal, the majority of whose members are bar.ristersatlaw, is not in accordance with the spirit of the act. In my opinion, the appointment of a second barrister to tlie tribunal was a grave mistake; it means that every appeal is in fact an appeal from Caesar ‘to Caesar. In saying that, I make no charge against the integrity of the second barrister on the tribunal. Nothing is further from my mind; ‘but I ask that the position be corrected. I understand that the term of the present members of the tribunal expires in May, 1937, and I ask the Government to remedy the present unsatisfactory position when the tribunal is being re-appointed. I suggest that a second entitlements tribunal be created, and that Colonel Mason, the last appointee to the existing tribunal, who is a barrister, be transferred to the new body as the only barrister member. The number of cases awaiting hearing justifies beyond doubt the appointment of a second tribunal. To-d’ay, there is only one entitlements tribunal for the whole of Australia, and, as much of its time is necessarily taken up in travelling between the various capital cities, arrears of work are piling up. No cases can, of course, be dealt with while the tribunal is travelling. I understand that the present tribunal deals with from eight to ten cases on each sitting clay; but as there are more than 1,000 cases awaiting hearing, a second tribunal is necessary if they are to be heard without undue delay. It is not fair that men, many of whom are in desperate circumstances and in a delicate state of health, should have to wait months to have their Gases heard. The fact that they are appealing for further consideration of their claims shows that they suffer disabilities which they honestly believe are war caused, and it is only reasonable to assume that they are not in the best of health. The appointment of a second tribunal would not only expedite the hearing of cases, but would also correct the unfortunate position which has arisen through having two barristers on the existing tribunal, for, as I have suggested, the latest appointee, Colonel Mason, could be appointed chairman of the new body. That action would be in accordance with the act, which provides that the chairman of a tribunal must be a barrister, and the existing tribunal would no longer have a majority of legal men which is contrary to the intentions of the Government and, I believe, the real spirit of the act.
.- It is satisfactory to note that the Opposition has- broken its silence on national defence, and has enunciated a more detailed policy. Some people would like to see Australia hopelessly defenceless, a gift to any aggressive foreign nation. I cannot understand that outlook. Our increased defence expenditure for 1936- 37 has been forced upon us because of the international situation. As a virile community we prefer to make provision for our own protection. Defence expenditure is a form of national insurance, a’- “ cover “ against the risks of international repercussions. I was surprised to hear this morning so well-informed a gentleman as Senator Collings contending that Australia’s isolation is its best protection. The contrary is the case : modern development in aviation has so completely nullified that isolation that it becomes imperative for us to establish an efficient air defence force backed up by mobile land forces. The militia is our home defence army. Under the Defence Act not one militia man can be sent beyond our shores for military service elsewhere without the approval of this Parliament and the people. Voluntary service overseas is distinct altogether- from service within Australia in time of war. Under section 59 of the Defence Act every male inhabitant, if he be a British subject, eighteen years and over, is liable, in time of war, for service in Australia’s home defence forces. There are, to-day, approximately 1,250,000 male persons of military age in the Commonwealth, yet comparatively few are fitting themselves to perform that obligatory service should it ever be necessary to put this section of the Defence Act into operation. It is folly to think that the existing nuclei of the three defence services - army, navy and air - can be expanded, in the time an aggressor would allow, into an effective fighting force without a reserve personnel built up over a number of years. Bravery, the reputation of the Australian Imperial Force, and a smug sense of superiority over peoples, who are trained to defend their native lands, are no substitutes for a reserve of trained personnel under trained leaders. How many militia men remain long enough with their units to be classed as trained soldiers ? Ridiculously few. The. continuous flow of “ ins “ and “ outs “ is a drawback to the education of leaders and specialists. To their credit, however, an enthusiastic band of officers and noncommissioned officers have carried on, despite this difficulty, and have reached a reasonable standard of efficiency, though not so high a standard as could be attained if the ranks of the militia were complete during tlie whole period of three years for which each member lias enlisted. A minimum of 35,000 is generally accepted as an adequate nucleus for the training of Australia’s home defence army. This number has never been reached since universal military training was suspended in 1929, when 4S,000 were in training. The special recruiting drive to raise the strength of the militia from 26,000 on the 1st July last to 35,000 is reported to be proceeding satisfactorily. The success of the drive, however, can be judged only by the increase of the strength of the infantry battalions. There is no difficulty in filling the ranks of the other arms of the service. Three-fifths of a modern army are infantry. They are the backbone of a fighting force, the spearhead, and thrusting power of an army. The rapid strides made in air offence are counter-balanced by equally effective air defence; nothing can beat infantry but better infantry. If the opening up of country centres to fill the ranks . of metropolitan infantry battalions fails to produce, and maintain the required numbers, then there is no alternative but to revert to the more democratic system of universal training. However, it is the duty of every one to give the voluntary system one last fair trial.
There are too many undersized young fellows in the militia; too many undeveloped youths are offering. Their unsatisfactory physical condition may be attributed partly, but not entirely, to lack of nourishment during the depression years. Prior to 1932 the percentage of rejects on medical grounds, which include chest and height standards, was far too high. The hearts of these young men are in the right place. They are keen enough but do ‘not measure up to required standards. I suggest that none should be rejected; all of them should be drafted into groups for a six-months, or twelve-months’ course of physical training. It is a moot point whether such training should he undertaken by the Health Department’ or by the Defence Department. The latter seems the more preferably, because it has all of the necessary facilities available to it. The young men likely to undergo such training voluntarily are potential militia recruits. A course under trained physical instructors would be of national value, and its cost would be inconsiderable. Tlie youths who undergo the training might be allowed rail and tram fares to and from the various drill halls in the metropolitan areas. Country lads are not so much in need of setting-up exercises as are city lads. The Minister for Defence should investigate this suggestion ; a healthy young manhood is an asset, from which we will reap benefits later through a reduction of invalid pensions expenditure.
Despite our feverish anxiety to bring the militia up to 35,000, not one additional penny has been allotted on the Estimates for the encouragement of regimental rifle clubs. If these clubs had received more consideration in the past there would have been no necessity now to open up new country centres in order to keep metropolitan infantry battalions up to strength. Under the Financial Emergency Act 1931, the allowance of 2s. Gd. for each effective member per annum was reduced to ls. 6d. That was five years ago, and it is still ls. 6d. This reduction hits hard the enthusiastic young militia rifleman. It would not cost more than £500 to restore this allowance. Out of its annual allowance each club has to pay markers’ fees, prizes for periodical rifle and Lewis gun competitions, besides administrative expenses. When the compulsory or universal system was in force, hundreds of trainees joined the rifle club of their battalion or unit” Rifle shooting was a phase of their training which appealed to them most; it had a. sporting flavour. The average young Australian likes keen competitive sport. When that recreation is of national value it should be encouraged especially when it tends to hold the young militiaman and make him less anxious to seek his discharge before his three years’ term of enlistment has expired. The Minister for Defence is very optimistic about the number and calibre of the infantry recruits in country centres. They will be keen enough for a year perhaps, but eventually their enthusiasm will wane if small arm training be restricted to the drill ground.
Whilst on defence matters I desire to commend the Government for providing a sum of . £18,000 this year for the partial restoration of free ammunition to reserve or civilian rifle clubs. Much of that ammunition is the ancient mark VI. stuff. Some day there will be a serious accident with this pre-war ammunition, and the Government will have to pay heavy compensation. I again urge complete restoration of the annual grant of 200 rounds of mark VII. ammunition of the type which we used in the Great War. Australia, with advantage might follow South Africa’s policy of encouraging these semi-military clubs. With a white population of 2,000,000, the number of effective white rifle club members in that country last year was 120,000 ; Australia, with nearly 7,000,000 whites, had only 47,000. Of that number 7,000 belonged to regimental rifle clubs. There is a desire amongst rifle club members all over the Commonwealth for instruction and practice in the lewis gun, or in the Bren gun, when it is adopted. This shows commendable enthusiasm on the part of these reservists to fit themselves to take their places in the ranks of our home defence army in time of national emergency. Laudable though the desire may foe, however, the care and custody of such weapons, the increased numbers that would be required, apart altogether from the greatly increased amount of ammunition involved, are factors which make such’ training impracticable.
– Could not a few of those guns be supplied at selected centres?
– Ammunition is the big problem. If the supply for ordinary rifles cannot be kept up, how can we provide it for guns which fire 120 rounds a minute?
– There may be no necessity for firing practice.
– In that case the men would soon get tired of dismantling and re-assembling the gun.
In certain quarters, the necessity for standardizing our railway gauges has been stressed as a part of any government’s defence policy. The disadvantages of existing breaks of gauge are not. nearly so great as they might appear at first sight. The enforced stops could be used for resting troops, feeding, watering and exercising horses. Even if there were a change to the standard 4-ft.8½-in. gauge, the existing capacity of our railways is not sufficient to enable our troops to be shifted at as rapid a rate as would be necessary. What is needed is the duplication of the whole or sections of the lines that are likely to be used, the laying down of subsidiary or alternative lines, the provision of more cross-overs, and greater facilities for loading and unloading. Even with a standardized gauge, these improvements would still be required in order that the maximum number of trains could be run every 24 hours. The matter is worthy of consideration, because of the employment that would be provided for a considerable number of men. Many persons have not the faintest conception of the size of an infantry division, with all its technical units and impedimenta, under war conditions. To shift a division, 100 trains are needed. Our field army will consist of five such divisions and two cavalry divisions. Something more than road transport would be required to shift those troops quickly, because the majority of them would have to be transported in a limited space of time to some important centre of operations. Sound strategy dictates that the objective of an enemy must be against some centre or centres, the loss of which would vitally affect our national life. Notwithstanding the development of road transport and the improvement of our roads, that means can never displace the railways for the transport of large masses of men and supplies. Considerable importance is placed by some persons on the development of air navigation. That need not be seriously considered; it is less useful than road transport. Its use would be confined to the conveyance of a small detachment with light equipment to someimportant selected spot. For strategical moves, air transport is out of the question. The Commonwealth is fortunate in having an Australian War Railway Council, of which the Commonwealth and State Railways Commissioners are members. Any recommendations that this body may make should, I think, be embodied in our defence policy and be given effect, because one result would be to provide employment for thousands of men.
Ex-soldier members of this Parliament regret no less than do others the necessity for this year’s rather big expenditure on defence. We see even in this chamber to-day the effects of war on men who served in my brigade on the western front. That brigade, with other brigades, participated in some of the most terrible battles of the last war, and in it were no -fewer than eight holders of the Victoria Cross. Can it be said that Senator Sampson, Senator ‘Cooper, both of whom arc ex-soldiers, or any other honorable senator, desires a repetition of those days from 1914 “to 1918? One would think that the colossal human wastage of those years, and the aftermath of misery and human wreckage, would cause all nations to hesitate to precipitate a similar conflict. Unfortunately, the road to peace seems to be deserted. We and the Empire generally owe it to those who are coming after us to keep our eyes on that peace road; but, at the same time, we must keep our lantern alight.
– I am glad to have the opportunity to speak on this Appropriation Bill, especially in view of the fact that, because of the exigencies of the parliamentary situation, there will be no opportunity before the termination of this period of the session to continue the debate on the Estimates and budgetpapers. I shall now make the few remarks that I intended to make on the motion for the printing of those papers.
Before doing so, I wish to voice my gratification at the prominence which the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) has given to one of the greatest needs in Australia to-day - the need for oil. No more important subject can exercise the minds of parliamentarians, in view of the present condition of the world. Supplies of oil are vital for the maintenance of services in all countries. I was pleased to hear the Leader of the Opposition urge that the Government should do all that it can to assist in the extraction of oil from those sources which have been proved to exist in Australia. I am specially interested in this matter, because the island that I assist to represent, though small in area, has always been very wealthy in minerals, and is now proved to have valuable shale deposits. That is not a haphazard statement: investigations that have been proceeding in Tasmania for many years have proved conclusively that that State possesses enormous deposits of high-grade shale. Attempts have been made to exploit them, but, notwithstanding the large amount that has been expended, no really practical results have been obtained - at all events, not sufficiently practical to ensure the continuance of the efforts of the companies that made them. The Adelaide Oil Exploration Company, which was formed some years ago,, has taken a very keen interest in the matter, and has spent a large sum of money in the employment of men who were capable of assisting materially towards the attainment of the desired object. I understand that that company now has a concrete proposition to place before the Government. If this is approved, and its hopes are realized, an industry will be established that will supply a very large proportion of the oil needed in Australia. This company, conditionally upon the granting of certain concessions by the Government - not in the form of cash, but the waiving of import duties on the machinery needed to exploit the shale field - says definitely that it is prepared to proceed with the construction of the works. It has furnished me with a list of the materials that it may need. The quantity that it proposes to import has a sterling value of £151,585, which, with material of Australian origin valued at £114,315, makes a total of £265,900. This gives an idea of the magnitude, of the undertaking at the commencement of operations. It is not my intention to justify all the statements that are made iri the document that has been supplied to me, because I do not know whether they are correct or not, but they can be. investigated. If they are found to be correct ‘ and soundly based, the Government would be well advised to give to the proposition its favorable consideration.. What would be the effect if, as the result of encouragement by the Government in the direction sought, this industry were soundly established in Tasmania, or anywhere else in Australia? Its proposition is to treat the shale fields of
Tasmania. A large volume of employment would be provided, and when the material had been treated and the oil had been extracted, the Government would derive considerable revenue from taxation. In addition, the marine boards and other authorities that control the ports must materially benefit from the shipment of the product. If this or iwy .other company or individuals can show good grounds for believing that the difficulties which so far have accompanied every effort to extract oil from shale commercially in Australia have been definitely overcome by a company in the United States of America, the Government would be well advised to give serious Consideration to the matter. I’ trust that the request of this” company will be fully considered, .and. that the Government will find that there is sufficient justification to warrant its granting the assistance sought.
The efforts ‘to obtain liquid fuel in Aus- tralia have not been confined to- those who are interested in our shale deposits. . I have learned of a more recent effort than that which I have just mentioned, the object being to interest the Governmnent in the possibility of the commercial production of power alcohol from the sweet potato, not from the ordinary potato in general commercial use. Some time ;ago I asked to be informed as to the possibility of the economical commercial production of power alcohol from the ordinary potato, and the information furnished to me proved conclusively that - .there is no prospect . of it, because the cost would .be too . great. In regard to the other tuber, however, I understand that the contrary is the case. It has been stated to me - whether the statement is correct or not is for the Government to investigate when the proposition is made to it - that at a realization of 103. a ton, the production of sweet potatoes would pay handsomely, because of the enormous yield. Experiments have shown the yield to be 31, 29, 22 and 20.S6 tons to the acre. At 10s. a ton, the gross return would be at least £10 an acre. An enormous area of land is not being put to its best productive use, and may be suitable for the growth of this tuber. It seems to me that, apart from any other aspect, as a means of settling people on the land this matter is worthy of consideration. If we can satisfy ourselves that this process is commercially possible, we should, having regard to the need for oil fuel, and the importance of land settlement, investigate the proposition with all care. We cannot afford to ignore any possibility of developing Australia’s resources.
Population is probably the most important subject that could engage the attention of Australians to-day, because the vital statistics for the last few years are such as to alarm any intelligent person. Quite recently the Minister for Health (Mr. Hughes) drew attention to the high rate of maternal mortality in Australia, and before that we were told that the rate of infant mortality was much higher than it should be. It is high time that the public conscience was aroused in regard to these matters. For many years, efforts have been made in all the States to reduce the percentage of mortality among mothers and infants, these efforts taking the form of supplying information to expectant mothers, and establishing baby health centres. Unfortunately, although much excellent work has been done in these directions, the percentage of mortality remains high because the good effects achieved have been offset by other factors. It is all very well for members of Parliament to criticize the Minister for Health because the results achieved have not been satisfactory, and for the Minister to repiy that the position is such and such, but we must examine causes. One of the principal causes was very much in evi- deuce a few years ago, though I am glad to notice that it has largely disappeared to-day. I refer to the extraordinary idea that was prevalent among the young girls of Australia, and, indeed, of other countries also, that the most desirable figure to cultivate was one that resembled a paling, and that anything in the nature of plumpness was anathema. Therefore, the practice of slimming became very widespread, and I am convinced that it contributed to the increased rate of maternal mortality. I am speaking frankly on these matters, because I have an interest in Australia. I want to see the Australians a strong and virile people, second to none in the world. Some time ago, I saw comparisons made of the birthrate in Australia and in other countries, particularly Japan, Italy, and Scandinavia. Every one who has travelled and observed knows that no people in .the world have a finer physique than have the Scandinavians. I am sure that if any one were to suggest to the Scandinavian women that they should practise slimming, the suggestion would be scorned-. They would understand immediately the foolishness of girls following such a practice just when they should be building up their constitutions to fit them to become the mothers of their race. The suggestions would receive no more favorable consideration in Italy. We can imagine what Mussolini, for instance, would have to say about it. He is a man who has done much to build up his nation, not to destroy it. As for the people of Japan, they recognize that the safety of their country depends upon maintaining a large population. There should be a better recognition, not only amongst the women, but also amongst the men of the community, of the importance of population to Australia, and all should der cline to have anything to do with practices which militate against the building up of a virile population. These matters were ignored by the Minister for Health, and, to a large extent, by the delegates to the Health ‘Conference.
As I have said, the vital statistics reveal a. most alarming state of affairs.- In 1922, when the population of Australia was 5,250,000 people, the natural increase for the year was 84,000, whereas in .1934, although the population had, increased to . 6,750,000, tlie natural increase had dropped to 52,000.. .This sub ject has engaged the attention of Sir Raphael .Cilento, a medical man, whose work in New Guinea and Queensland ‘has earned for him a high reputation. ‘In an article published in Th,e Harbour, he stated -
Warnings of danger continue- to drop from high places. But all warnings . fall upon a!pathetic ears in Australia. Sir Raphael’ Cilento has always been an’ enthusiastic upholder of the view that a - sub-tropical climate is not in itself prejudicial to the increase’ of the white population. He has quoted figures to show that. the climate lias not in the past interfered’ with child-‘bearing by white .women in Queensland. -Now the times are changing for , the. worse, and the Director pf Public Health in the northern State sounded a note of real alarm in his address at the annual conference of the British Medical Association in Melbourne. He stressed the urgent need for a -larger population in Australia. Sir Raphael Cilento, quoted figures to show that the natural increase in population iri the Commonwealth was unsatisfactory, and stated that the indications were, that the population would not advance beyond 8,250,000, with an excess of females over males. He suggested that the difficulty could be overcome by immigra’tion. The alternative was invasion. He said that in another 32 years the population of Japan would exceed 113,000,000. Simultaneously England and America would reach their period of stalemate and decline, so far as population was concerned. “ This is the situation’ to be feared, both in .the interests of these countries and of the world in general,” he said. “ We cannot preserve our frontiers unless we can effectively occupy the land we claim. Economic drought has caused the stream of population to dwindle to a trickle. Australia ‘must’ have’ more population if it is to survive’ the period of - economic and physical pressure which appears to lie inevitable in the Pacific.”
That statement justifies the remarks I have just made. I leave the matter there in the earnest hope that the Minister for Health will carry on, with even greater activity, the ‘good work on which he- has been engaged during the past two or three years.
During the recess I visited the applegrowing districts in Tasmania) where the conditions are similar to those in applegrowing districts in the other States. Many of the leading apple-growers are anxious to know what is to happen to this important industry. We must always remember that apple-growing is a great aid -to closer settlement, mainly owing to the fact that land which cannot be used for other purposes is particularly suitable for growing apples. Therefore, nothing should be allowed to interfere with this industry, which is of great importance to Australia. Provision is made in this measure for the appropriation of a grant to assist the industry. On numerous occasions my colleagues and I have stressed the necessity for increasing the amount of the grant so that it will be of some real benefit to those engaged in growing apples. To support the requests we have made for more sympathetic consideration I shall submit some interesting facts in the hope that next season the apple-growers who have to export most of their product will find at the end of the season, that, even if they have not made a profit, they at least have not incurred a loss. At present the apple-growers in the United States of America, who are our greatest competitors, ship the enormous quantity of 11,500,000 cases annually to Great Britain, which is our chief market. American apples are subject to a duty imposed by the British Government of 18d. a case; that duty is paid, not by the apple-growers, but by the American Government. .
– Are not American apples exported in barrels?
– I believe they are, but the figures supplied to me may represent the equivalent in cases. In 1935, on an export quantity of 11,500,000 cases, a duty of 18d. a case, or £862,000, was paid, but as that cost is met by the American Government, it can be regarded as a subsidy to the growers. In consequence of the shorter distance to the British market, the American apple-growers pay a much lower freight than the Australian growers. The American producer gets an advantage in two ways. Our exports last season totalled 5,500,000 cases, the freight on which at 3s. a case amounted to £962,500, plus 18 per cent., £154,401, which is equal to 7d. a case. If we add to that amount the shipping charge of 2d. a case, or £45,833, it makes a total of £202,234, which is equivalent to 9d. a case, or a total, including freight, of 4s. 4d. a case. In view of the great disadvantage which the Aus tralian apple-growers suffer in this respect, it is difficult for the industry to carry on profitably. I have also been informed that -
By to-day’s Mercury, I see the duty has been increased by approximately ls. making 2s. Od. a case which in the circumstances is not prohibitive.
– Speaking from memory I think the duty imposed by the British Government is at per cental.
– That may be so, but I believe that in the figures I quoted centals have been converted to cases. I urge the Government to give to this matter further consideration, particularly as the industry which has experienced some difficult years is worth preserving. I have already mentioned its advantage as a means of closer settlement, and considering the handicaps it has experienced and the determination which those engaged in it have displayed I trust that the Government will make some representations to the shipping companies in respect of freights. If the industry be destroyed the shipping companies will lose a very valuable trade. If the Government will assist by increasing the grant to an equivalent of ls. a case, the industry may be able to carry on for many years.
I have been approached by persons in Tasmania who have benefited by the fertilizer subsidy. They appreciate the help which this subsidy has been to small farmers, and particularly* to those working comparatively large areas of poor land, the pastures of which have been improved by the application of fertilizers. I understand that this year the subsidy is to be reduced from 15s. to 10s. a ton.
– But there has been a reduction of the price of superphosphate.
– Yes, but it is insufficient to be of benefit to many engaged in rural production. An .area of good land in the north-west of Tasmania which has been subdivided into small holdings soon becomes worked out, necessitating the use of fertilizers to improve its productive capacity. A reduced subsidy will affect somewhat seriously the prospects of these land-holders, and I suggest that this year the Government should restore the subsidy to the rate of 15s., which was paid for several years. When the higher amount was paid production increased, particularly on the land to which I have referred.
Another subject of great importance, especially to the farming community, is the cost of spare parts for agricultural implements.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT ( Senator Sampson). - Spare parts for machinery are not dealt with in this bill.
– I had secured the adjournment of the debate on the motion for the printing of the budget papers, and on that motion I would have been able to speak on almost any subject.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- On the first reading of this bill the honorable senator would have had that right, but in speaking on the second reading he must confine his remarks to the subject-matter of the bill.
– Some time ago I asked whether the assistance given by the Commonwealth to the States to supplement their efforts to put in hand forestry schemes would be made continuous so that the State forestry branches might be developed into valuable commercial assets. The reply was that the matter was receiving full consideration. .For some years some of the States have been carrying out forestry experiments in a- rather haphazard way; no continuous forestry policy had been attempted. Only by the adoption of a continuous forestry policy, which of course will require money, can wc hope to build up forests which will be of commercial value to the nation. I rend in the press the other day that some of the timber cut from forests planted in the Federal Capital Territory had already been put. to commercial use. That should he the object of all forestry schemes, and a continuous forestry policy should be adopted to provide steady employment, especially for young men. Such a policy would ensure the production of all Australia’s timber needs, and at the same time yield a considerable amount of revenue to the Government. In the mattor of forest policy, Victoria is somewhat ahead of the other States. I was very pleased to read in the Melbourne Herald last Saturday an article entitled “ Youth in Young Forests “. I shall read an extract from it to give an idea of the practical outcome of what I consider to be one of the best attempts to solve the problem of the unemployment which, unfortunately, exists amongst lads in the cities, many of whom have never been given a chance to work. The article reads, as follows: -
In June, 1!KI3, Messrs. Herbert Brookes and G. E. Nicholas offered the State Government 1,900 acres of land at Noojee, in Gippsland, 90 miles from Melbourne, carrying mountain ash in seedling and sapling stages of growth, provided that the Government would use the gift to provide work for 100 boys within two years.
The Victorian Government accepted the offer and more than 500 boys were employed during the stipulated period of two years. In Victoria to-day, there are fifteen forest camps, in which 500 lads are residing. About 1,800 have already passed through forest camps, having acquired physical fitness they had never known before, and a decent opportunity in the world outside. The Victorian scheme has been strikingly successful, and the writer of the article urges that it be developed and placed on the basis of permanence. I urge the Commonwealth Government to grant to the States the assistance which they ask in order that their forestry schemes may be placed on a permanent basis. I know of no industry to which we could better devote our attention at the present time. The establishment of forests will be of great value to Australia, not only now but also in future years, as a means of helping to relieve the terrible tragedy of the unemployment of the youth of our country. The Government might very well supplement the efforts of private individuals and State governments by making a grant available for this purpose.
I was glad to read in the press that something definite may arise from the representations that have been made for some time past that we ought to do something to ensure the continuance of the satisfactory British merchant shipping service to Australia. I was interested to read in the press recently the following paragraph dealing with the report of the expert committee on subsidized Pacific shipping: -
The report of the Imperial Shipping Committee on subsidized Pacific shipping, which is expected in Canberra on the 28th November, will state that British ships must be subsidized and also modernized, if they are to compete successfully with American vessels.
I hope that the outcome of the consideration of this report will be that we shall see more British ships coming to Australia, and that they will be placed on an equal footing with their competitors from the United States of America.. By doing this we shall be able to maintain ourproud boast for many years that British ships, whether of the navy or the mercantile marine, remain supreme.
– My intervention in the debate at this juncture is due to the fact thatI desire to reply to the gusher of criticism from the voluble lips of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) concerning the Government’s policy in connexion with the development of Australia’s oil resources. The honorable sena- tor chose to take the Government to task for not having, in reality, a policy in relation to oil. I remind the honorable senator; however, that it was not until the Government enunciated its policy last year that Australia had any oil policy at all, although it is a matter that concerns the communitygenerally and, I agree with the honorable senator, concerns itvitally. People in Australia have been financing companies that have been experimenting with bores, and in a superficial way spending money more or less in the dark in an attempt to discover flow oil in Australia, but we had no concerted policy in regard to it. It fell to my unfortunate lot when the first Lyons Government took office in 1932, to find that the Newnes shale-oil field had been exploited by our predecessors in office for the purpose of alleviating the sufferings of a number of unemployed coal-miners. “We had witnessed the spectacleof the Government trying to do the job itself. That did not appeal to me, nor do I think it would have appealed to Senator Collings. We ceased those operations, and undertook a proper scientific examination in the light of modern knowledge to ascertain the capabilities of the shale field. We endeavoured, during a period of two years, to get somebody to take it over on conditions which, I think, should have been entirely satisfactory to financial interests. The field was examined by a committee of experts who have a wide knowledge of chemistry and are well versed in the mining of coal and shale. The Science and Industry Endowment Fund enabled a young Australian to be sent abroad for tuition in oil-production methods, and he has been brought back to advise the Government on this most intricate branch of industry. My friend, the Leader of the Opposition, has spoken as though, after making an investigation in regard to oil production, men may be put to work immediately in the production of oil from shale.
– Up to the present time, the Government has done nothing except undertake examinations.
– Working in the dark would result only in disaster to those whom we wish to serve. The young officer to whom I have referred had associations in Great Britain with companies interested in the hydrogenation process, and in low carbonization and other methods of production of oil from coal -and shale. The Government has also had the advice of other distinguished men sent here by the Anglo-Persian Oil Company. Messrs. R. Crichton and H. R. J. Conacher have visited the Newnes district. Sir John Cadman himself also went there, and the Government has had the benefit of his advice. Yet, notwithstanding the attractiveness of Newnes as a proposition for the production of oil from shale, the necessary capital to develop the field has not been raised. The Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) issued a statement early this year indicating the policy of the Government regarding this matter. We have no intention to work the shale deposits as a government enterprise. Enough wrecks are to be found in Australia to-day as the result of attempts to socialize various industries.
– There areprivate enterprise wrecks, too.
– Private enterprise will succeed where governments have dismally failed. The railways to-day afford a striking example of unsuccessful socialization, and their losses are crippling the States. I will be no party to socialization of the production of oil from shale or coal. When it was decided to provide £250,000 to assist boring and other activities in connexion with the search for flow oil, the Government also offered to waive the excise charge over a period of twenty years on oil produced from shale, up to 10,000,000 gallons per annum.
– That has not cost the Government anything yet.
– Does the honorable senator realize what that concession represents over a period of twenty years? The Government practically offered a. subsidy of £5,000.000 to encourage the production of oil from shale, but that was not sufficient to attract outside capital for the development of the shale deposits. I am glad to know that we have, in Australia, men with sufficient patriotism to help in the development of the Newnes deposits, provided they are satisfied as to the prospects of success.
– And provided the rake-off is large enough.
– The honorable senator objects, of course, to anybody obtaining a rake-off, but if the field were developed as a government undertaking there would be one long rakeoff. The Government is impressed by the necessity for the production of oil in Australia for the reasons mentioned by Senator Collings, and also because, as Senator Payne pointed out, the industries of this country would benefit enormously. I have dealt with Newnes, because I do not wish it to be thought that the Government is ungrateful to those who are now making investigations there. I hope that they will be able to submit proposals which will justify the Government in going ahead with the scheme.
As far as flow oil is concerned, we have been working hitherto in the dark. One or two companies are examining various regions geophysically and geologically on a basis worthy of consideration. They have eliminated all of the areas in which it is definitely known that flow oil cannot be found, and they are now carrying on the geological and geophysical investigation of promising areas. Details of these examinations have been submitted to me, but I shall not mention in what States the promising areas lie. There are several of them. The Government proposes that each of these areas shall be examined by the three most qualified men in Australia - Dr. Woolnough, the Commonwealth geologist; Dr. Keith. Ward, of South Australia, and Dr. Arthur Wade, whose reputation as an authority on oil is world-wide. The committee of the Cabinet which has been appointed to administer the fund established to assist in the search for flow oil, can grant financial aid only on the recommendation of the three experts. Numerous applications for assistance have been received, and one or two only have been granted. Every precaution is being taken to ensure that the money is spent to the best advantage. The Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) will speak later of oil investigations in the territories of the Commonwealth outside Australia. In the past the discovery of flow oil has been left to chance, but the work is now being carried out on a scientific basis. Honorable senators would be most amused at some of the proposals that have been made to me in connexion with this matter. In some instances the discoveries alleged to have been made in certain wells and bores suggest that the applicants for assistance are extraordinarily innocent, whilst other applicants I could hardly describe as innocent. I desire honorable senatorsto realize that in relation to flow oil and shale, the Government has left no stone unturned, consistent with its principles of keeping out of this deal itself, in order to obtain the production of oil in Australia.
The third matter which was referred to by Senator Collings was the hydrogenation process. If some honorable senators had their way, they would install hydrogenation plants to-morrow. I am not aware ‘ whether the Leader of the Opposition has seen the latest statement which has been made in connexion with this matter, but judging by some of the remarks which fell fromhis lips, this morning, I assume that he musthave done so. There are as many methods of producing oil from coal and shale as there are members of the House of Representatives and the Senate. Sir David Rivett, Chief Executive Officer of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, whose absence overseas has been largely for the purpose of checking up what has been done in connexion with the development of the hydrogenation process by Imperial Chemical Industries Limited, has written me that the names of the various companies which are experimenting in this matter are legion, but that from every one of them secrecy is demanded of the man who inspects their plants, with the result that it is naturally useless for representatives of the Commonwealth to examine them. But two matters emerge from the visit of Sir David Rivett to Great Britain and the Continent. In the course of his investigations he visited Germany, and was doubly impressed with the FischerTropsch process, and indicated that if all that was claimed of this process, compared with the Bergius process, were borne out, it would probably be the more suitable one for Australia to use. The Leader of the Opposition, in his “youthful “ rashness, would rush headlong into the adoption of the Bergius process.
– I did not say so. I said that I should proceed with the installation of some process, instead of wasting time on talk.
– By so doing, the honorable senator would probably get himself into trouble, because before he knew where he was, he would find himself in the same trouble as others who have embarked upon this matter.
– I would give it a fly?
– That is the sort of thing which we would have experienced if Senator Collings were a member of a Labour government in office at the present time. He would give the taxpayers’ money a good fly. He would let their money fly away at a rate at which I do not propose to let it fly.
I do not desire honorable senators to think that this Government has not been fully alive to the necessities of this country in regard to securing oil supplies, for the two reasons which I have mentioned. The Leader of the Opposition should recognize that we are proceeding along safe and sound lines. The Government has sent abroad a leading officer of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, and Imperial Chemical Industries Limited have permitted him to examine their experimental plant at Billingham-on-Tees from one end to the other, in order to enable him to acquaint himself with every detail of whathas been done there.
-Every officer who has investigated this matter has told the Minister what has been done in all parts of the world.
– Mr. Deputy President, I speak more in pity than in any other spirit on hearing the remarks of the honorable senator. Admittedly, petrol is being produced from coal and shale in Germany and Manchukuo, and boring for flow oil is being carried on in England, but these operations are not being carried out upon an economic basis. It is simply because of the uncertainty of the international situation and the possibility of being deprived of fuel oil in the event of war that these countries are now producing oil from coal uneconomically. At the present time, Manchukuo is the only country in the world which is producing petrol from shale on a commercial basis, and why it can do so the honorable senator probably knows; but what of England and Germany? The protection extended to the oil industries in those countries is something enormous, and I should not for one moment consider that the Commonwealth should proceed along similar lines.
– Powerful companies are doing the work in those countries.
– That may be so, but of all the experiments which have been carried out, the only one upon which we can really rely, until Sir David Rivett returns from England - he is now on his way back - is the experiment at Billingham-on-Tees. While the plant was in course of erection, the de- signers were obliged to alter the first portion of it, and subsequently they have had to make other alterations.
– That would not be necessary in Australia, because we should have the benefit of their experience.
– Yes ; but if we had rushed in, as the honorable senator suggested we should have done, we should have had to go through the same performance as Imperial Chemical Industries Limited. Honorable senators should realize that the people who have investigated the possibilities of Newnes have no interest other thanthe desire to serve Australia. Sir John Cadman’s company in Australia is two parts governmental and one part private enterprise, and the Commonwealth has at its disposal the services of gentlemen whose expert advice we do not propose to disregard lightly. Our endeavour is to ensure that, whether ultimately we adopt the Fischer-Tropsch process or the Bergius process, it will function satisfactorily.
Turning to the minor trickle of oil as against the regular gusher which emanated from the Leader of the Opposition, I come now to the suggestion of Senator Payne. If the anticipations of Adelaide Oil Exploration are realized, the possibilities of establishing a valuable shale-oil industry in Tasmania are good; but as the company has notbeen able to submit plans and specifications of its process, the Government’s technical advisers are not in a position to pronounce upon its efficacy. The shale from the Tasmanian fields yields about 25 gallons, and is charged with sulphur, but the shale from Newnes yields 100 gallons without’ the sulphur. Therefore, if the Newnes proposition is not attractive to private enterprise - I do not say that it is not - it goes without saying that there are less possibilities for the Tasmanian proposition unless there is some fundamental method of removing the sulphur. It perhaps may be done by some secret process in the hands of American companies, and there may be possibilities in it. At the moment the Tasmanian Government is considering a proposal to turn the shale deposits in that State, by a certain process, into roadsurfacing material. A quantity weigh ing some hundredweights is being sent to Canberra and will be tried out by the Department of the Interior. The economics of the company’s proposition would have to be inquired into, but if it has a suitable method and faith in itself, no difficulty’ will be placed in its way by the Government. I understand that it requires no financial assistance from this Government, but I have been approached by its representatives with a request that the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) should admit the machinery which it requires for its operations free of duty. If that be the position, the company should approach the Minister for Trade and Customs, who would, 1 am sure, give favorable consideration to such a request.
The Lyons Government has done more to encourage the development of the oil resources of Australia than any previous Commonwealth Government or any State Government, for it has fully realized the importance of the subject.’ Every member of the Cabinet, from 1932 onwards, has, in common with myself, had in mind the necessity to obtain oil locally if possible. Unfortunately, however, difficulties have been encountered. We have not in this country the technique that is available in older countries where oil has been obtained by one means or another, but the Government is doing its best to supply this deficiency.
– The results of the research work of those countries are surely available to us.
– So much of the results of such research work are made available to us as- pleases the persons in whose possession it is. Imperial Chemical Industries Limited has freely made available to Australia the results of its operations, but even “the Leader of the Opposition, with all his partiality for hydrogenation, would not. 1 think, advocate the expenditure of £8,000,000 or £10,000,00 in plant and machinery if a probability existed that, by a little more investigation, an expenditure of £1,000,000 would serve the same purpose and give equally effective results.
Debate (on motion by Senator AllanMacdonald) adjourned.
Senate adjourned at 3.54 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 20 November 1936, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1936/19361120_senate_14_152/>.