15th Parliament · 2nd Session
The President (Senator the Hon J. B. Hayes) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– In asking you,
Mr.President, to suspend the sitting until 8 o’clock, I intimate that the Government proposes, in this period of the session, to deal with only two measures, namely, an amendment of the National Security Act, and a Loan Appropriation Bill. It is hoped that the first bill will be passed by the House of Representatives this afternoon in time to be dealt with by the Senate at 8 o’clock.
Sitting suspended from3.1 to 8 p.m.
Business of the Senate - Transport of Members - Petrol Rationing - Government Printing Office, Canberra - Lands and Buildings for Military Purposes - Motor Car Hire Contract - “ Mirror “ Newspaper - Oil Prospecting in Australia - Wool Appraisement Centres.
– I move -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
I point out to honorable senators that the measure for which we are waiting will not be passed in the House of Repre sentatives until a very late hour this evening. Honorable senators will understand that under the Standing Orders the Senate will meet at 11 o’clock to-morrow morning.
SenatorKEANE (Victoria) [8.1].- I wish to bring under the notice of the Minister for the Interior (Senator Foll) the inadequacy of the arrangements made for the transport of members of Parliament this morning from the Canberra railway station. One bus was provided for over 40 members, each of whom had considerable luggage. At the same time, I noticed twelve limousines standing by at the station. I do not know for whom they were provided. Following a similar occurrence about eight or ten weeks ago, I complained to the House Committee, of which I am a member. No excuse exists for such a condition of affairs. The officer who attends to the transport of members should ascertain beforehand how many members will be arriving in Canberra, and arrange for any extra buses which might be required. Members of Parliament do not enjoy very many privileges, but they are at least entitled to expect a fairly comfortable seat in a bus on their way from the station at Canberra. The one bus employed on this job this morning was dangerously overloaded. In fact, the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Stacey), who, I should think, would weigh about 18 stone, was obliged to travel on the running board.
– I have a suggestion to make to the Government with regard to the rationing of petrol. In a country town the other day I was approached by a gentleman who discussed with me the scheme of petrol rationing which operated during the last war in the United States of America, where he was then residing. This scheme, which he said had proved most successful, would, I believe, cause very much less inconvenience than the proposal which the Government now has under consideration for the rationing of petrol on a basis of so many gallons for each car according to its horse-power. In the United States of America one day of the week was known as a “no-car day”. We could set apart one, or two, or even three days, each week as “ no-car days”. Medical doctors, whose cars would be distinguished by the usual badge of a snake on a stick and clergymen, whose cars would carry a white cross on a dark background, would be exempt from these restrictions. Under the American scheme, no compulsion was exerted, but the effect of it was that private persons who used their cars on a “no-car day” aroused so much public resentment that they were almost hooted for refusing to co-operate in the national effort to conserve petrol. In addition, a farmer or other resident in a remote area, who drove his car to town on a “ no-car day “ was obliged to report immediately to the local police and to give a valid reason for using his car on such a day. My informant told me that the scheme was a wonderful success, and that as the result of it the petrol saved throughout the United States of America would have been sufficient to meet the weekly fuel requirements of the British navy. That is how he put it. It appears to me that such a scheme would cause much less inconvenience than the proposal which, according to newspaper reports, the Government has now under consideration. In addition, it would cause less dislocation and less unemployment in the garage business and the motor car industry generally. The Government would be well advised to inquire into this matter in order to see what really was done in the United States of America during the last war in order to conserve petrol, and, should the American scheme be found to be better than the proposal now under consideration, it should be adopted.
– In view of the grave urgency of the measure which we shall consider to-morrow I suggest that the Senate should assemble not later than 9.30 a.m.
I take this opportunity to bring under the notice of the Government certain facts in relation to the Government Printing Office in Canberra. When Parliament is sitting the staff of the Government Printer is not only fully worked, but also overworked. Honorable senators will agree that these employees give highly efficient service. I have in my hand an application form for use by men desirous of joining the Royal Australian Air Force. It is a stereotyped form, similar to thousands which are printed each year in relation to Government activities. Yet I find on it the imprint - “ T. Rider, Government Printer, Melbourne “. I have repeatedly protested against the continuance of this policy of sabotaging the National Capital. It is time that we put a stop to it. Not the slightest excuse exists for it. When we know that a large number of Government Printing Office employees in Canberra are unemployed when Parliament is in recess we should not have our printing done in Melbourne. If this were an isolated case it could probably be excused. However, it is not an isolated case. I have repeatedly raised matters of this kind in this chamber. When shall we put a stop to this practice? I also protest against the holding of Cabinet meetings, and the receiving of deputations by Ministers, in Melbourne. If we hope to justify Canberra - and I believe that the building of this city is one of the finest experiments yet undertaken by any nation - all of the Government’s activities should be carried on in the National Capital. It is ridiculous to say that Ministers cannot remain here and at the same time confer with officers who are stationed in Melbourne. Why cannot such officers be brought to Canberra when Ministers wish to confer with them? Such an arrangement would be no more expensive than the travelling of Ministers to Melbourne each week-end, taking with them an army of under-secretaries, typists and secretaries. Because of the seriousness of the international situation the Opposition is loath to raise points which have no immediate relation to the greatest crisis with which we have yet been confronted, but I feel obliged to raise a matter of this kind. Later on perhaps I shall have something more to say about the necessity for Ministers to carry out their ministerial activities in Canberra. The Government is aware of our opposition to the closing of Parliament, although probably it will be better able to appreciate our views on this subject to-morrow, when we are discussing the important measure for which we are now waiting. We shall then renew our protests on this matter. All the talk about Ministers not being able to do their jobs properly if they are obliged to attend to parliamentary matters, or must confer with officers situated in Melbourne or Sydney, is unconvincing. Such officers should be obliged to come to Canberra and do their job here, just as it is the duty of Ministers to do their job in Canberra. The matter which I have just raised is only one of many of its kind.
– I am prepared to compromise with the Leader of the Opposition. I suggest that the hour of meeting to-morrow should be 10 a.m.
– I accept the Minister’s compromise.
. I am pleased to hear that the Senate will meet to-morrow an hour earlier than is usual on a Friday. Like other honorable senators, I realize that the measure which will come before us to-morrow is of great importance, and, particularly in view of the fact that it has been “guillotined” in the House of Representatives and, in consequence, debates in that chamber will be considerably curtailed, the extra hour to be afforded to us will be most welcome.
I protest against the manner in which a. question asked by me from the Minister representing the Minister for the Army has been answered. Honorable senators will remember that on the 22nd April, and later on the 14th May, I asked the
Minister if he would supply to me £ statement of the cost to the Com monwealth of land and building: that had been vacated by the military authorities or which the military authorities proposed to vacate. Sub sequently representations were madeto me that the cost of obtaining such information in respect of the States would be considerable and would take some time to collect. Consequently, I compromised and informed the Minister that I would be satisfied if I were given this information in respect of Victoria. On the 7th June, I received the following letter from the Minister for the Army (Mr. Street) : -
With reference to your questions in the Senate on the 22nd April and the 14th May, in regard to lands and buildings temporarily occupied for military purposes and the costs involved, I desire to confirm the reply given on the first occasion, which was to the effect that the question was of too general a nature to be answered without special and lengthy investigation,but that particulars would more readily be furnished in respect of any particular locality.
I have accordingly had prepared the attached list of properties occupied in Victoria on various dates, but for the reasons indicated, have been vacated during the three months - March to May.
I did not ask for this information in respect of three months from March to May. The list furnished by the Minister showed that the total cost involved was £497. Included in the list was the military camp at Torquay. It is well known to honorable senators that the cost to the Commonwealth of the occupation and eventual abandonment of Torquay as a military encampment has run into thousands of pounds. The reply that I received indicated that at Torquay the sum of £29 was involved in respect of the occupation of the drilling and manoeuvring area, that £127 was the cost involved in the occupation of a portion of the drilling and camp site, and that a further portion of the camp site had cost £210s. a week until vacated. I was not informed as to when the land was vacated, nor as to the reasons for vacating it. I submit that a Minister should at least see that replies to questions contain the information sought. This particular reply was a ridiculous one in view of the known facts. I further request the Minister representing the Minister for the Army to go into the matter fully, and to furnish me, at least, with a statement of the cost that has been involved in Victoria since September, 1939.
In view of the possibility of an early adjournment of the Parliament for some weeks, I draw attention to a motor car hire contract entered into in Melbourne by the Commonwealth Government. I have taken up this matter with the Minister for the Interior (Senator Foll), who has informed me that his department is not responsible for the conditions of the new contract. I do not desire to criticize the Minister or his department, but the conditions arc such that they should be reviewed. When the time arrived for the renewal of the contract, tenders were invited, and, after investigation of them, a tender was accepted from the Astoria Private Hire Service. I have been approached regarding this matter by the Motor Transport and Chauffeurs Association of Australia. It appears that the contract does not provide that the successful tenderer shall observe award rates and conditions.
– Unfortunately, that is not the position in this case. My investigation of the matter shows that the contract merely provides that white labour must be employed, no other reference being made to industrial conditions. According to my information, the socalled company which has obtained the contract is not, in fact, a company at all. I have received the following letter from Mr. O. McKenna, secretary to the Motor Transport and Chauffeurs Association of Australia : -
As explained to you verbally the sole proprietor of the Astoria Private Hire Service is Victor Samuel Johnston. Mr. Johnston docs not own any car but is acting aB an agent for seven independent owners who pay him a weekly sum to cover overhead expenses, attending to phone, &c. Such owners may work as many hours as they wish.
Mr. Johnston said in an interview I had with him that they would not work more than twelve hours in any one day. The owners who employ drivers pay them a commission on earnings, therefore there is no payment for waiting in between jobs. When I interviewed Mr. Johnston he did not have a copy of the
Motor Drivers Determination, nor did he have a time book in accordance with the provisions thereof.
As there is no clause in the contract relating to working conditions the Federal Government apparently unknowingly is condoning pricecutting and sweating and also encouraging the breaking of State laws regarding working conditions and Australian, living standards.
This union is not concerned what firm obtains the contract provided the conditions laid down by the Motor Drivers Wages Board Determination are observed. Firms complying with all State laws regarding hours, wages, &c. cannot compete in tendering for work with persons who work under the conditions abovementioned. The above facts are brief and I feel confident that you will do all in your power to have the matter further investigated.
– Yes. A strong appeal has been made by the Prime Minister to the trade unions of Australia to render every possible assistance to the Government in the great crisis through which the Empire is passing.
– Why are the drivers of these cars exempt from award rates ?
– Because they are not drivers within the meaning of the award. The person who has taken tho contract lets the work out at a certain rate, and whatever profit he makes is gained at the expense of the drivers who undertake the work. He is under no liability at all.
– Since the work is done by owner-drivers, would they have been any better off if the contract had contained a clause providing for award rates and conditions ?
– A contract of this nature should never have been entered into by the Government. These owner-drivers are not protected by insurance against accidents. If a member of this Parliament, or a member of the Commonwealth Public Service, met with a serious accident while travelling in one of these motor vehicles, what protection would the Government have? I understand that an effort is being made to effect accident insurance, and, that each owner will need to take out an insurance policy.
– Is that not necessary under the laws of tha State!
– The Crown Law authorities in Victoria have informed me that, although insurance against accidents is compulsory in respect of taxi-cabs in Melbourne, in the case of the cars used under this contract such insurance is not compulsory. Even if the seven owner-drivers concerned in this contract took out accident insurance policies, it might be necessary on some occasions for more than seven motor cars to be employed. In the event of an additional car being required at short notice for Commonwealth purposes in Melbourne, a vehicle not covered by insurance might be called into service. If the Government dealt with a reputable firm, which was adequately covered by insurance, members of the public service would beprotected, and the Government would not run the risk of being involved in large claims for damages. The whole matter should be thoroughly investigated. At a time when a strong appeal is being made to the industrial movement to render every possible assistance to the Government, a contract involving a violation of award rates and conditions should not be entertained. This matter is regarded in trade union circles as being so serious that it is to be discussed by the Melbourne Trades and Labour Council.
– I bring under the notice of the Leader of the Senate (Senator McLeay) the drastic action taken in New South Wales in regard to the Truth Newspaper Company Limited, which recently sought a licence to publish an afternoon journal to be known as the Mirror. Mr. Ezra Norton, the owner of the company, received a letter intimating that a licence would be granted to enable this newspaper to appear on the streets of Sydney. Of course, it would have been in competition with the Sydney Sun. It is understood that Sir Hugh Denison and Sir Graham Waddell came to Canberra and brought pressure to bear upon the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and other members of the Government, as a result of which the promised licence to import newsprint for the new journal was withdrawn. The sad feature is that Mr. Norton induced a number of people to accept positions on the staff of the proposed new journal, and entered into contracts with some of them for two years and more. Mr. Norton now finds himself unable to fulfill those contracts; he has had to tell the men to whom he has offered employment - most of them are members of the Australian Journalists Association - that there are no jobs for them. It is considered by that association, by the printing trade union, and by a very large majority of the people of New South Wales that the Government should not have suppressed the new paper. It is thought that the vast population of New South Wales warrants the publication of two evening papers in its capital city, I do not know whether or not action to suppress the journal was taken because criticism of the Government was feared. Very few papers do criticize the Government to-day. In fact, the Government refuses to allow the publication of criticism. I believe that the Mirror would have supported the Government, because, under the threat of censorship, it, like most other newspapers, would not have the temerity to oppose it. I urge the Government to withdraw its opposition to the establishment of the new paper, and grant the requisite licence. If that were done the people to whom employment has been offered would then be given their jobs, the people of New South Wales would have a new evening paper, and public opinion would not be so much under the influence of the existing evening journal.
.- The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) has asked that the Senate should meet at 9.30 a.m. to-morrow in order to discuss the very important business which is now before the House of Representatives, and the Leader of the Government (Senator McLeay) has compromised by agreeing to 10 a.m. as the hour of meeting. In that arrangement I concur. The Leader of the Opposition has on many occasions reprimanded the powers that be for not keeping Parliament in session longer than is now the practice, and to some extent I support his protests. So long as there is business worthy of discussion, Parliament should be kept in session.
To-night we have been treated to an oration by an honorable senator from Victoria with regard to industrial trouble among taxi drivers - a matter which he no doubt deemed to be important - and we have listened to another honorable Benator from New South Wales make representations in regard to the refusal of a licence for a proposed new newspaper.
-The Government had nothing against the proposed new journal. The problem was the granting of an import quota for newsprint.
– Similar action was taken in connexion with a proposed new journal in Victoria.
– It is necessary to conserve exchange in order to strengthen our war effort.
– In normal times, no doubt, the suppression of a newspaper would be a matter of great importance; but it sinks into insignificance in a period such as the one through which we are now passing.
I wish to direct attention, however, to happenings on the 31st May, at the close of the first period of this session. We were called upon to deal expeditiously with a large number of important measures, one of which was a supply bill for £13,700,000. I ask honorable senators to-night how many of them were in their places in this chamber on the Friday night when the Senate passed that measure? Surely a measure of such importance to this country deserved some attention and consideration. Why do honorable senators prate about keeping Parliament in session, if they are not prepared to give reasonable attention to important measures when we do meet?
-The honorable senator would not have voted for an extension of the time allowed for the discussion of that measure. The Government had determined to close the session and the honorable senator was a consenting party.
– The honorable senator has no right to say that; it is not true. The measure to which I have referred came before the Senate in the ordinary way.
– How many Government supporters were in their places?
Senator JAMES McLACHLAN.It is not my intention to draw invidious distinctions between one party and another. Again I ask, of what use is it to come here and prate about Parliament not being kept in session, when so little interest is shown in important measures that are submitted to us?
– The Government which the honorable senator supports has the power to say whether or not Parliament shall be kept in session; it is not a matter for us to determine.
– The Government had nothing to do with the matter to which I refer. The Government representatives were here in their places, and they were prepared to keep the Senate in session on Friday nightand even on Saturday if honorable senators wished to discuss proposed legislation. Nobody on this side ran away while there was business to be done.
– I have something to say with regard to the complaint voiced by Senator James McLachlan about honorable senators not being in their places when certain legislation was passed in the dying hours of the first period of this session. I draw attention to the fact that on the Thursday evening, I was speaking on the financial statement when the sitting was suspended for dinner. Immediately on resuming, I was asked by the Leader of the Senate (Senator McLeay) to obtain leave to continue my speech at a later hour. I did so. Government business was then introduced, and was continued until after 10 o’clock on the Friday night. I was not given an opportunity to resume my speech.
– The honorable senator was not here to resume it.
– I was here. I find that in Hansard it is recorded that I asked for leave to continue before the suspension of the sitting for the dinner adjournment, and not after it. Have things come to such a stage that we cannot rely upon Hansard to be a true- record of what takes place in this chamber? Incidentally, the proof of my speech reached me two days after it should have beep available. In future, I shall submit to an interruption of my speech only if I am forced to do so by a vote of this chamber.
I should like to direct attention also to the manner in which some questions asked by honorable senators are answered. Recently, I asked the following question of the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice: -
Will the Minister supply the Senate with the names of the person or persons, or company or companies, who have been granted permission to raise capital by public subscription for the search for oil, or for scoutboring in Victoria, stating the respective amounts and the dates permission was granted.
Senator McBride gave the following reply : ;
The particulars which are submitted to the Treasury in connexion with applications to issue capita] are confidential. The Treasurer is, therefore, unable to supply the details asked for. 1 protest against the reading into a question of something which it does not contain. As is clearly shown in the question, I simply asked for “ the names of the person or persons, or company or companies, who had been granted permission to raise capital by public subscription for the search for oil, or for scout boring in Victoria “.
– That information is confidential.
– The names are confidential ?
– Then that must be under the provisions of some regulation of which I do not know.
I shall read to honorable senators a letter which I intended to bring under the notice of this chamber had I been permitted to continue my speech on the 30th May. In connexion with the search for oil in Australia at present, there is a search for something besides oil. Recently a friend of mine, a shorthand writer, was standing at the corner of Castlereagh-street and Martin-place, Sydney, when a man standing beside him opened a letter and commenced to read it. My friend took some notes from the letter, and he saw the name Steinbuchel - that gentleman who was so ignobly refused the right to stay in this country. Honorable senators know well my connexion with this matter, and realize that my association with it will stand the light of day.
– Does the honorable senator say that his friend stood looking over the shoulder of this man?
– My friend stood alongside the man while he was reading the letter. His shorthand notes ofthe contents of the letter read as follows : -
We must use all influence possible to pre vent operations. I understand Max Stein buchel has made application to enter New Zealand, so if he goes it may be to our advantage. There is one of the representativesI would like to get drunk. I will watch opera tions and report to you anything of interest but for the present I would advisesilence.
Possibly some honorable senators may recognize these initials. After further inquiries and investigations, the person reading the letter was found and followed to his office. He was located at Room 3 Fourth Floor, Twyford House, 17 Castlereagh-street, Sydney, and the names over the door were -
Miss Edith Joseph, typist, B 4038.
Miss Edith Joseph, 70 OceanStreet, Wool lahra, FM 1119.
James Service and Company, general mer chants, B 4038.
Further investigation revealed that Mr. Brooksbank is a journalist, and is the editor of the Air Raids Precaution magazine. He is also a warden under the national emergency scheme, and carries on some kind of a business in that building. I bring this matter under the notice of the Senate because the discovery of flow oil in Australia is most important - in fact, so important that, in the past, certain people have been assaulted. As I have said before, one man was brutally assaulted and bashed at the top of William-street, Sydney, and another was hit over the head and left for dead in Mr. Menzies’s electorate of Kooyong. Also ?35,000 was paid to a driller’s wife in connexion with drilling operations at Mount Gambier, in South Australia. I care not whether these people will try to knock me in the same way,but while I have breath in my body I shall continue to fight against their methods, regardless of the consequences. This is a matter in connexion with which we have received no assistance from the Government. In fact we have had most misleading statements from the Minister for the Interior (Senator Toll). For instance, on the 7th December last, the Minister told us that, because of the decline in known world resources of flow oil, it was essential that we should discover oil in this country. On another occasion the Minister took me to task for alleging that certain people who were placing obstacles in the way of Australian companies that had been formed to search for oil in this country were emissaries of the major oil companies; yet, almost inthe same breath, he said that a large concern like the Shell Oil Company of Australia Limited, which has a concession of 87,000,000 acres in Queensland, worth to-day on the New York Stock Exchange at least £10,000,000, was the most likely to be successful. In this connexion, I impress on the Senate the need to check any attempted sabotage in this Parliament of proposals to locate oil in this country. To-day I inquired whether the well-known publication, World Petroleum, which is published in New York and London, was available in the Parliamentary Library. That journal is rightly regarded as the highest world authority on the petroleum industry. Yet, so I was informed, it is not filed in our Parliamentary Library. Consequently those who are interested in this subject have not an opportunity to inform their minds of the most modern methods employed in the search for petroleum. In order to place the facts before the Senate and to counter the misleading statements of SenatorFoll made, I presume, on the advice of the gentlemen constituting the Commonwealth Oil Advisory Committee, I take the following from World Petroleum for February last : -
Rapidly mounting motor fuel stocks inthe United States are the subject of widespread discussion and concern throughout the trade. The concern deepens as weekly reports make it evident that the volume of gasoline in storage will exceed all previous records before the seasonal increase in con sumption that begins with the approachof summer makes possible a change in the cur rent upward trend.
This situation is regarded, rightly enough as a most serious threat to market stability during the coming year. As stocks approach more and more closely to the limit of avail able storage capacity, the none too secure gasoline price structure will be further undermined, bringing nearer the possibilityof market disintegration at the time when it is most damaging, that is, at the very commence ment of this season of heavy demand.
The trade in America is of such a character that, at the moment, there is an over-production of petroleum, World Petroleum also publishes a chart indicating world areas where there has been an increase of production in recent years and giving the production figures for last year. Other areas showing a decrease of production are included in the chart, which gives world production for 1939 at 2,076,852,000 barrels, representing an increase of 110,265,000 barrels over the production for 1938. These figuresare so arresting that those who have anyknowledge of the position must take strong exception to the misleading statements made by the Minister for the Interior, who, I presume, obtained his information from the Commonwealth Oil Advisory Committee.
I also remind the Senate that on a previous occasion when I mentioned the work being done in Australia by Mr. Max Steinbuchel, I produced a photostat of a report relating to Mr. Steinbuchel’s activities in the United States of America. On that occasion Senator Foll sneeringly asked if I had the original. I have it now. I also have another photostat of a report relating to wells that have been discovered by Mr. Steinbuchel, and which are now operating. The speech made by Senator Foll on that occasion was misleading, and will not be accepted except, perhaps, by those who are uninformed and sceptical of the system for locating oil employed by Mr. Steinbuchel. I understand that certain Australian companies had concessions granted to them as far back as 1915. Those concessions had a currency of 25 years, and therefore would expire this year ; but about fifteen months ago the companies concerned got busy when the company with which I have been associated commenced its activities for £3,500 or £1 15s. an acre, and we know that the plaintiff’s share of the plunder was between £0,000 and £7,000.
On the following day in the Senate, Senator Foll admitted that while he was at sea on his way to England, he had accepted a seat on the board of directors, but he led the Senate to believe that he knew nothing about the company’s operations. I have given the facts to the Senate. I have brought this matter up because Senator Foll unjustifiably maligned certain people who were associated with some New South Wales companies that were interested in the search for oil, and I suggest that the investigation of the company with which he was associated disclosed a sordid and disgraceful state of affairs. While on this subject I have in mind another concern. The Minister for the Interior in December last read a part of a letter on a secret departmental file from a wellknown firm of Melbourne solicitors, Russell, Bona and Russell, which challenged Steinbuchel’s ability as an oil producer, and belittled his activities in the United States of America. I am informed that one Russell never practised his profession, that the other Russell is dead, and that Bona carries on the firm’s business. Bona, I understand, works in conjunction with Connelly, better known as “ Race-course Harry “ and George Alexander Macdonald in promoting “ crook “ companies. Macdonald is the man who floated a company in Sydney and robbed the shareholders. He escaped to Western Australia, where he floated the Lady Miller mine and the North Norseman mine and robbed the shareholders of those concerns of £35,000. At one stage the people were so incensed that they threatened to lynch him, but he got away to Adelaide. His method of working was to ascertain when a rich man died, then to rush to the home of the widow to offer condolences, and attend the funeral - on one occasion, he dropped clods of dirt on the coffin. Afterwards he would go home to the widow and remain friendly with her until the probate of the will was granted. Then he would tell her what a fine fellow her late husband was and how anxious he had been to assist in the flotation of companies for the promotion of the search for oil in
Australia. Honorable senators opposite, particularly those representing South Australia, should ascertain whether there are not at least five or six persons in that. State willing to give £100 if that individual, who is a fugitive from justice, would set foot in South Australia, because of the fact that some persons in that State have been robbed of thousands of pounds. In one case a widow was robbed of £5,000 and to-day is a ward of the State. lt is people of that type who say that Mr. Steinbuchel should not remain in Australia. A Minister in this chamber has said that we are doing everything possible to obtain supplies of oil in Australia; but what efforts have been made in that direction! What is to happen to our mechanized units used for defence purposes if we cannot obtain adequate supplies of liquid fuel in this country? If we have not sufficient for the use of our mechanized units we are down and out. Notwithstanding that fact, all kinds of obstacles are placed in the way of those desiring to discover oil, and a determined attempt has been made to frustrate the efforts of the only company that has tried to secure supplies locally. Shortly we shall again be asked to cooperate with the Government and to display a spirit of unity. We shall be told of the way in which the Government proposes to defend this country. Last Monday week I was privileged to visit the annexes being used for the manufacture of munitions to aid Australia’s war effort, and I was astounded, so much so that I could hardly speak, at the inactivity of this Government in respect of its bounden duty to provide for the defence of Australia. The Government says that it needs the assistance and cooperationnf the trade unionist.?, and the workers generally ; but behind that there seems to be a very sinister move to introduce conscription. In one of the annexes visited, the paint had not worn off the machines, and the floor was as clean as it was on the day on which it was laid down. A few men were working and a few bars of iron were lying about. We were told that within three days the men would be workins: two shifts, but; in that time the employees engaged had been paid off. At Pyrmont the work in the annexe had just commenced, and although there were in this country. The representatives of these vested interest companies en? deavoured to persuade the people of Australia that the geological structure in this country is such that only concerns with an enormous amount of capital are likely to be successful in the search for oil. In his tirade against Mr. Steinbuchel some time ago the Minister for the Interior admitted- that he had made some inquiries concerning Mr. Steinbuchel’s activities in the United States of America, and that there was nothing against his personal character, but the Minister said that Mr. Steinbuchel had never discovered oil in America. Again I presume that the Minister was speaking on information furnished by Dr. Wade, Dr. Woolnough or Dr. Ward, and again the Minister misled the Senate. The following is a copy of a cablegram that was sent to World Petroleum, Hoboken, New Jersey, on the 29th March, 1940:-
Cable if Max Steinbuchel discovered Raymond Martin siliea pools. (Sgd.) Mackay.
To that cablegram the following reply was received from World Petroleum : -
Steinbuchel credited with discovery Raymond 1929, combined area known as Silica Pool same county, another Kansas promotion 1938. Been active as promoter with varying success.
That information refutes absolutely the statement of the Minister, based on information supplied by his expert advisers, who, I contend, are not working in the best interests of Australia. It is known that Dr. Wade was for many years a company man. It is known that since 1923 or 1924 he was travelling in various countries on behalf of several companies and was so employed until he was brought to Australia in 1936.
In September of last year Mr. S. E. Levy, managing director of Western Petroleum N.L. Co., Hamilton, Victoria, received the following letter from Mr. C. 0. Willson, editor of the journal Oil and Gas, Oklahoma, United States of America, relating to Mr. Steinbuchel’s record -
Our records show that Mr. Max Steinbuchel has been an active operator in Kansas and Oklahama He is credited with the discovery of the Raymond Pool of Rice County, Kansas, United States of America, and has been an independent operator in other fields.
All this information proves conclusively that the Minister’s statement in the Senate was absolutely misleading, and its effect will be most damaging because the speech has been reprinted and sent out by the Minister and the Prime Minister as a reply to letters which were received asking for an extension of Mr. Steinbuchel’s permit to remain in Australia. I therefore protest most strongly against the action of the Minister in this matter. The honorable gentleman, it will be recalled, went on to say that several Australian companies - he was referring to concerns in which shareholders had lost their money - originated in New South Wales. As regards the companies with which Mr. Steinbuchel has been associated, there has been nothing to hide, and I emphatically protest against the Minister’s unfair allegations. There is, of course, one company whose position is being investigated. As that matter is sub judice it is not desirable that I should say anything about it, but I could mention other companies whose record i3 not above suspicion. There was, for instance, the National Tobacco Corporation of which Senator Foll was a promoter and director. That company’s record was the subject of examination in the Supreme Court of New South Wales in 1935 and this is what Chief Justice Jordan said about it, as reported in the Sydney Morning Herald of the 5th December, 1935 -
Evidence you have heard discloses a state of things which is sordid and disgraceful ….
On May 22nd, 1930, at the first meeting of the National Tobacco Corporation which had just been incorporated, 3,250 shares were allotted to Bagnall and 750 shares were allotted to Bagnall’s friend, Senator Foll, apparently a reward to the senator for having introduced Bagnall to Moulton.
The Chief Justice went on to say-
You have heard the letter read, and you may think it discloses as choice a piece of rascal it)’ as was ever disclosed in any court of justice . . .
We do know that the company was robbed at its birth by those who brought it into existence. We have been told that they manoeuvred things in such a way that the company had to pay £32,000, or £10 an acre for land that had been bought a month before from 80 to 100 able-bodied men seeking employment, no -work was available. We heard the propaganda of the Prime Minister on Sunday night which, in effect, was merely propaganda for the sinister policy of conscription.
– Order ! The honorable senator is not entitled to use the word “ sinister “.
– I shall withdraw the word if it is unparliamentary; but it seemed to me that there was something behind the idea which the Prime Minister outlined.
– What is behind it?
– The conscription of labour and of unionists generally. The Government has all the power it requires under the supply and development legislation passed through this chamber some time ago, and there is no need whatever for it to introduce the bill which is now being discussed in the House of Representatives.
– Order! The honorable senator is not entitled to anticipate the debate on business that is to come before the Senate later.
– If I am again out of order I shall discuss that measure when it is before the Senate.
– As it appears to be the policy of this Government to keep Parliament in recess as long as possible, I shall take this opportunity to bring under the notice of Ministers several matters which are of importance to the people. The responsibility to keep Parliament in session rests not upon the Opposition.
– The honorable senator does not assume any responsibility.
– If I did not accept any more responsibility than the honorable senator, there would be no need for me to occupy a seat in this Parliament. We do not shirk our responsibilities. The Opposition can accept responsibility.
-Yes, but it does not.
– We are not responsible for the government of this country. If the honorable senator is referring to a national government, we have stated our position very clearly in that respect
– It is as clear as mud.
– If the Assistant Minister for Commerce (Senator McBride) would pay as much attention to the affairs of this country as he devotes to the alleged need for a national government, he would be rendering a greater service to the community. Senator James McLachlan referred to the vacant seats on this side of the chamber on the night of the 31st May. I can assure the honorable senator thatthe members of the Opposition will always be in their places when there is business to transact, despite the long distances which some of them have to travel in order to attend the sittings of this Parliament. Within a day or two the Senate will again be going into recess, and we shall be expected to dispose of, within a few hours, the most important legislation that has ever been brought before this Parliament. During the last day on which the Senate sat, more bills were passed in this chamber than during the whole of the session. Such unnecessary haste prevents honorable senators from devoting their time to the legislation which the Government introduces. Senator James McLachlan should remember that some honorable senators have to travel 2,000 miles toreach Canberra, and owing to transport difficulties, some have been prevented from attending to-day. The bill which the Senate will shortly be asked to debate - the Prime Minister said that it was the most important ever introduced into this Parliament - has been “ guillotined “ in the House of Representatives, and doubtless a time limit will be imposed upon the measure in this chamber. The Opposition believes that Parliament should remain in session throughout the present crisis.
– The honorable senator’s talk will not assist in winning the war.
– If the Minister does not do more for the good of Australia than he has done during the last ten months, I dread to think of what will happen tothe country. Honorable senators opposite think that the formation of a national government would be a way in which to hide the deficiencies of this negative Government.
Can the Assistant Minister for Commerce say whether additional WOOappraisement centres are likely to be appointed in Western Australia) The Government promised to give the matter further consideration, and I trust that an early pronouncement on the subject will be made.
– I ask leave to withdraw, temporarily, the motion which I had moved.
Leave granted; motion withdrawn.
Motion (by Senator McLeay) agreed to -
That the Senate, at ito rising, adjourn till 10 a.m. to-morrow.
Senate adjourned at 9.10 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 20 June 1940, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1940/19400620_senate_15_164/>.