House of Representatives
3 February 1926

10th Parliament · 1st Session

Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Littleton Groom) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.

page 591


The Clerk announced the return of the writ for the election of a member to represent the NorthernTerritory, endorsed with the name of Mr. Harold George Nelson.

Mr. Nelson made and subscribed the oath of allegiance.

page 591



Sale of Expropriated Properties


– Tenders have been called for the sale of certain expropriated properties in the mandated territories, and in these tenders certain concessions have been offered to returned soldiers. I ask the Treasurer whether a tender board has yet been appointed to deal with the tenders that have beenreceived? Has he been asked that returned soldiers shall be represented on the board ? If not, will he give the House an assurance that when a tender board is appointed, the returned soldiers will be represented upon it?


– The Custodian of the Expropriated Properties will deal with the tenders when they are received, and there will, therefore be no need for appointing a tender board to deal with them.

page 592



MELBOURNE, VICTORIA · ALP; FLP from 1931; ALP from 1936

– I ask the PostmasterGeneral to say whether be thinks that such a rubbishy, tinpot building, as is shown in the photograph I submit to him, is a fitting adjunct for Melbourne’s chief post office? .

Postmaster-General · CORANGAMITE, VICTORIA · CP

– If the honorable member will look at the photograph to which he refers he will see that additions to the building are being made at the back, and I can assure him that when the Elizabethstreet front is added, it will be in keeping with the architectural beauty of the rest of the building.

page 592




– Will the PostmasterGeneral make a statement with regard to the persistent rumour that returned soldiers employed at the Sydney General Post Office are to be discharged, and their places filled by juniors?


– I promise that a state-, ment in connexion with this matter will be made shortly.

page 592




– Have the claims against the captured ship Wotan yet been finalized ?

Minister for External Affairs · FLINDERS, VICTORIA · NAT

– Not yet.

page 592



Sydney Railway Station


– I ask the PostmasterGeneral why the late-fee letter boxes have not been removed from the assembly platform of the Sydneyrailway station and placed outside the station, so that persons having late-fee letters to post shall not be obliged to buy platform tickets?


– Steps are being taken to insure that what the honorable member suggests shall be done. There has been some difficulty with the New South Wales railway authorities, but we are endeavouring to overcome it.

page 592




– I ask the Prime Minister whether it is the intention of’ the Government to hold a special session to consider the necessary amendment of the Constitution, and, if so, when?


– The honorable member’s question refers to a matter of policy, about which the Government will announce its intentions when it is convenient to do so.

page 592




– I wish to. ask the Prime Minister a question of urgent public importance. Will the Prime Minister consider the tightening up of the regulations with regard to broadcasting, so as to prevent the dissemination of unauthorized matter? I may be permitted, by way of explanation, to say that at a recent foundation dinner of the Australian Natives Association, when a number of important addresses were made by distinguished men, including the Treasurer of the Commonwealth, a leading Nationalist supporter was heard to say, lotto voce, “ These coves should be limited to five minutes.”


– I do not think that tightening-up of the regulations is needed. It is for those controlling broadcasting to take precautions to prevent such remarks from being sent out.

page 592




– Has the Prime Minister noticed that the Canadian . Government is seeking the permission of the British Government to publish the various papers connected with the Locarno treaty of guarantee? If so, will he associate his Government with that request ?


– I have not seen any reference to the representations to which the honorable member has drawn attention. In due course, the papers referred to will be forwarded to the Dominion Governments for their consideration, and the matter will then be considered by this Government.

page 592



Mr SPEAKER (Hon Sir Littleton Groom:

– I have received an intimation . from the honorable member for Maribyrnong that he desires to move the adjournment of the House, this afternoon, to discuss a definite matter cf urgent, public importance, namely, “ The importation of kerbside petrol pumps, and the rise in the price of petrol.”

F’ive honorable members having risen in. their places,

Question proposed.

Mr. FENTON (Maribyrnong) [3.10 j. - I do not intend to delay the House long, because, as a rule, when action is taken, inside or outside Parliament, in regard to big oil corporations, the struggle is generally a protracted one, so that this debate may be merely a preliminary canter, though I hope that the companies to which I am about to refer may soon come to a state of better behaviour, and treat the people of Australia better. It was, at first, my intention to place on the notice-paper four questions for the purpose of eliciting certain information, but in view of the importance pf this matter to quite a number of people and particularly to certain individuals who have been deprived of employment, I subsequently decided to .move the adjournment of the House so that honorable members on both sides might have an opportunity to express their views on theposition as I shall present it to the House. The four questions I intended to ask are as follow: -

  1. Is it a fact that the British Imperial Oil Company, which asked that an additional duty of 2d. per gallon should he put on petrol, imported in tins and cases, to protect Australian industries, has now imported several hunderd “Kerbside pumps” from abroad, which pumps could have been manufactured, in Australia?
  2. Have the British Imperial Oil Company and Vacuum Oil Company, after having tied up most of the bulk retailers for a year by promising them a rebate of id. per gallon on all their brands of petrol sold through kerbside pumps, now raised the price to the public by lid. per gallon?
  3. Is it true that some of the smaller companies have been . absorbed, and have made arrangements with the British’ Imperial Oil and Vacuum Companies for supplies of petrol which is being, or is to be, marketed under the smaller companies’ brands?
  4. Is the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Company Limited, of which the Commonwealth Government owns a share, to be instructed to raise its prices to the level of the private companies’ prices?

I do not deny that the community frequently derives considerable benefit from the operation of a well-organized trading combine, but sometimes these corporations, while extending benefits with the right hand, take them back with the left hand, and operate to the detriment of the public. We have sometimes had that kind of’ treatment from the British Imperial Oil Company and the Vacuum Oil Company, a subsidiary company of the Standard Oil Trust. The bulk of Australia’s supplies of petrol are provided by these two companies and the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, in which the Commonwealth Government is associated with the AngloPersian Oil Company, and holds the majority of the shares. Although the bulk of my complaint to-day will relate to matters controlled by the Minister for Trade and Customs, I am pleased that the Prime Minister <Hr. Bruce) is in the chamber, because I understand that his department deals with matters relating to the Commonwealth Oil Refinery. I hope that if he has any influence with the Commonwealth representatives on the board of directors of the Commonwealth Oil Henneries Limited, he will instruct them, if possible, to stick to their guns, and not increase the price of petrol.


– The Commonwealth has representation on that board.


– Yes; but the Prime Minister has often told us that the representatives of the Commonwealth are placed on these boards to act according to their own judgment, and are not to be dictated to by the Government. Nevertheless, I hope the right honorable gentleman will have something to say to this board in regard to the price of petrol. I am also pleased to see the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Latham) in the chamber, because if these great controllers of the supply of petrol keep on raising the price of the commodity, they will be interfering with transport in Australia to a greater extent than would be possible for any member of a trade union, and the honorable gentleman ought to be able to bring them under the operation of the Crimes Bill. In Saturday night’s Herald the Vacuum Oil Company and the Imperial Oil Company explained that the price of petrol ought not to have Deen reduced, because as far back as September of last year, the market conditions did not justify any reduction. It is strange that about September of last year a representative of one of these companies, giving evidence before the Public Accounts Committee, in reply to a question about the probable oil supplies of the world, stated that that was more or less a matter of speculation, but that his latest advices were that there was in the world at the moment an over-supply of petrol. If that gentleman’s evidence was correct in September last, why should the market conditions in Australia at the present necessitate a rise in the price of petrol? However, that is a matter that can be determined by further inquiry. “What concerns me most is the fact that a number of workmen engaged in Australia in the manufacture of kerb pumps have lost their employment. These petrol pumps, commonly known as bowsers, have been widely installed with a view to obviating the expense of tinning and casing petrol. Through them the user of petrol ought to obtain his supplies more cheaply than by purchasing petrol in tins and cases. I am not averse to the use of these bowsers, because they are one of the greatest conveniences the’ users of petrol could have, and I trust that on all the roads of Australia, even in sparsely-populated districts, this facility will be available for motor traffic. I was greatly concerned to learn from an officer of the Engineers Union that 24 employees in a Melbourne firm had received notice of dismissal owing to the fact that the British Imperial Oil Company were importing 750 bowsers from Great Britain, and the Vacuum Oil Company, not to be behind, had placed an order in America for 1,000 bowsers.


– Can the pumps be made here?


– Yes. The public might well believe that the Vacuum Oil Company and the British Imperial Oil Company were fighting each other over every inch of Australia; but it is remarkable that when both are anxious to increase the price of petrol up goes the price. The following letter has been received from their employers by 24 employees of the E.M.F. Electric Company, operating in South Melbourne and at 24 Bond-street, Sydney: -

We regret that owing to the action of the British Imperial and Vacuum Oil Companies who are proposing to import into Australia 1,750 petrol pumps, we are compelled to give you one week’s notice of our intention to dispense with your services owing to the fact that so far as we are able to ascertain there will be no market for the pumps we have already constructed let alone any possibility of new construction on our part.

Regretting very much that we have to place you in this position and assuring you that so soon as we have re-organized our business to overcome this situation we shall be only too pleased to engage you again on the same conditions as at present.

I understand that other firms affected include the Larkin Aircraft Company, the Hammond Company of Sydney, and the S. and D. Company of Melbourne. The employment of about 300 people is menaced. Associated with the Larkin Aircraft Company and the E.M.F. Company are many returned soldiers, some of whom have lost one limb. The fact that the employment of such a large number of men is being affected by the importation of pumps from. Great Britain and America is an additional reason why this House should take action to protect a young and struggling industry. If any honorable members are doubtful of the facts I have stated, I urge them to visit the factory of the E.M.F. Company. There they will see a couple of completed pumps which reveal a high standard of workmanship, and other pumps in various stages of manufacture. Unfortunately, this work has been discontinued.

Mr Stewart:

– Probably it is only a matter of price.


– I understand that, once again, the Australian article is not only better than the imported, but also produced at a lower price. Honorable members may ask why, if the Australian product is the cheaper, the oil companies I have mentioned should prefer to import pumps from Great Britain and America. The fact is well known that the shareholders in oil companies are interested in many related concerns, and it is quite possible that the profits which the Vacuum Oil Company and the British Imperial Oil Company would derive from the manufacture of pumps in Great Britain and America would more than counterbalance any economies that might be effected by buying the cheaper and better Australian article. That aspect of the case should be investigated by the Minister for Trade and

Customs and his officers. The proposed importation of petrol pumps is a serious menace to Australian industry and the employment of our people, including many returned soldiers. I believe that even such an ardent freetrader as the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) would, if fully seised of the facts, be prepared to endorse the claims of local industry.

Mr Gregory:

– The strange fact is that the more protection we give the more unemployment increases.


– That is not so. The Melbourne Herald, referring to the British Imperial Oil Company and the Vacuum Oil Company, said -

As part of their scheme to give motorists correct quantity and quality of petrol from kerbside pumps, wholesale distributors are facilitating the acquisition of pumps by retailers.

One thousand punps, worth £150,000, will be landed shortly by the Vacuum OilCompany Proprietary Limited.

A large supply of pumps of British manufacture was indented recently by the British Imperial Oil Company Proprietary Limited.

The scheme adopted by the Vacuum Oil Company is that, if a retailer wishes to acquire a pump for the sale of Plume spirit, the concern instills the pump, entering into an agreement with the retailer whereby he contributes £10 towards the cost of erection and pays an annual rental of 10s. The company reserves the exclusive right of access to the storage tank, which is sealed, locked, and the keys retained at head-quarters.

The agreement contains a proviso by which the retailer guarantees to distribute at least 800 gallons of petrol a month. If this quantity is exceeded for a period of three months, the company pays the retailer a halfpenny for every gallon sold in excess of 800 gallons.

Should the monthly quantity of petrol distributed fall below 800 gallons for three consecutive months, the company reserves the right to cancel the agreement and resume possession of the pumps, or increase the rental by a sum corresponding to a halfpenny a gallon on the difference between the quantity distributed and the agreed quantity.

In cases where a retailer already owns a pump and wishes to supply Plume products exclusively from it, the company contracts to pay him a halfpenny for each gallondistriuted.

A somewhat similar arrangement has been agreed upon by the British Imperial Oil Company.

The average price of a pump is probably about £150, and the retailer will be charged a rental of 10s. per annum. It appears to me that the proposed agreement may bind retailers for a number of years; in fact, their establishments will be like the “tied houses” in the liquor trade. I do not think that the Prime Minister would regard such a state of affairs as satisfactory; indeed, this agreement might reasonably be regarded as an improper restraint of trade. Although the representatives of the two companies mentioned have stated in the press the reasons for their actions, I have not read any contradiction of the extract I have just quoted. The Age, in the course of a leading article on the 1st February, said -

The organizer of the Engineering Society quotes the announcement that the British Imperial Oil Company is importing 750 kerbstone petrol pumps, and the allegation that the Vacuum Oil Company, if it has not already ordered, is negotiating for the supply of 1.000 pumps. If these things are even approximately true, Australian citizens are entitled to feel incensed. Efforts to build up Australian industries will be seriously retarded as long as such incidents recur. Protection is the longdeliberated and now accepted policy of this country. Every move to circumvent it is an act of national disloyalty. And practically every such move is made more contemptible by the fact that there is invariably a’ personally selfish, sordid motive behind it When articles that could be made as satisfactorily in Australia are imported, the importers have always numerous explanatory excuses.

The paragraph continues -

While there are freetrade traitors within the citadel the enemy will from time to time steal in. But it must never beallowed to happen without a vigorous expression of the community’s dissent. Indeed, there are associated with this latest case circumstances certain to excite every fair-minded citizen’s disgust. The companies concerned begged the Tariff Board to increase the tariff on petrol imported in cases or tins. They said their desire was to give as mucli work to Australians as possible. They are now honouring their word by resorting to action which will deprive many an Australian working man of his job. The outstanding thing is that firms considered reputable should stoop to methods so harmful to the best interests of the country in which they are making their money. Efficient petrol pumps can be obtained for less price in Australia.

The position is that Australian petrol pumps can be obtained at £36 a pump less than the price of the imported article. If the combined oil companies proceed with their present methods I shall certainly return to the attack on the floor of this House. In that event I hope that I’ shall be backed by all honorable members. This discussion may be only a preliminary skirmish in what may be a long fight to protect Australian industries against an undue increase in the price of petrol. I ask the Minister to inquire whether there is a combination between the big oil companies to fleece the users of petrol, thereby interfering seriously with transport; and whether these companies purchased job lines of pumps abroad and are now dumping them into Australia, to the detriment of local manufacturers. Will the Minister make full inquiries, and use the powers that he possesses to save the Australian industry, thereby permitting of the work of manufacturing petrol pumps being done by Australians, and will he also see that the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited do not join the combine in its attempt to keep up the price of petrol? When the representative of the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited gave evidence before the Public Accounts Committee - the honorable member for Oxley (Mr. Bayley) will support my statement - he was persistently asked why it was that the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited were charging the same price for petrol as that charged by the Vacuum Oil Company and the British Imperial Oil Company. He replied that he considered the ruling price was fair market value. He was further asked whether he considered that the company as then established stood as a safeguard against an undue increase in the price of petrol, and he answered, “ Yes” So long as the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited take that position it is worth while the Government remaining a shareholder. I have been told authentically - and I know from personal observation - that already the increased price of petrol charged by the Vacuum Oil Company and the British Imperial Company has driven custom from them to the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, and I hope that it will continue to do so. The Government should help to protect the public from undue increases in the price of petrol. I was told this morning that some of the imported pumps were a job lot, which had for some time been on the market, and at last had found a buyer. The Minister on inquiry will, no doubt, find that petrol pumps are being dumped into Australia, and if the dumping provisions of the Customs Tariff Industries Preservation Act do not deal with cases such as this, he should at an early date take adequate steps to protect Australian industries. I am certain that Australian workmen in Australian factories can supply Australia with all the petrol pumps that we require.

Minister for Trade and Customs · MARTIN, NEW SOUTH WALES · NAT

.- The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fen ton) courteously informed me this morning that he intended this afternoon to move the adjournment of the House to discuss the subject of the increased price of petrol, and, as a result, I have been able during the short time at my disposal to make a few inquiries. I first of all wish to assure him that” the Government is entirely in sympathy with a fair and reasonable protection being given to Australian secondary industries, and if the position is as he intimates - if 300 men are affected by the importation of petrol pumps alone - adequate inquiry is needed to ascertain the full facts. It is approximately true, as the honorable member asserts, that these petrol pumps cost about £150 each to install, and that the two bulk petrol distributing companies are charging for these instalments the sum of £10, and a yearly rental of 10s. each. From this it can be clearly seen that the proposition is so attractive to the retail petrol distributors that practically all the local pump manufacturers are being frozen out, and their businesses under these conditions must cease. The companies concerned are the Vacuum Oil Company, which is directly or indirectly associated with the Standard Oil Company of America, and the British Imperial Oil Company, which; I understand, is owned internationally, and relies almost entirely upon the Dutch East Indies for its supplies of petrol. It is obvious that these two companies must be doing an enormous business in Australia. The pious observation has been made by at least one of these companies that it was sympathetic with Australian manufacture. We must meet the position as it is. I am pleased to be able to announce, as a result of personal inquiry since the honorable member for Maribyrnong spoke to me this morning, that the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited have not increased the price of their petrol, and will not do so provided public support is given to them. If this support is forthcoming, the company will be able to add about 2,500,000 gallons to its annual sale of motor spirit, thus making the total sales for this year 6,500,000 gallons. As the importation of petrol and motor spirit is expected to be about 100,000,000 gallons for the financial year ending 30th June next, the quantity of 6,500,000 gallons produced by the Commonwealth Oil Refinery with that produced by John Fell and Company, the benzol produced by the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, and the expected development at Hoskins’ works and others will not amount to more than 12½ per cent., or about one-eighth, of Australia’s requirements. Honorable members will therefore see that, not only in order to make Australia self-supporting for the purposes of defence, but for other reasons it is urgent that we should, by all fair means, increase the production of petrol and motor spirit in this country. As a good Australian, who sees the importance and urgency of this matter, one of my dearest political wishes is to see the development of motor transport in this country until we can make our own chassis, in addition to our own motor bodies and motor accessories. I look forward to the day when we shall have an all- Australian motor car, using only Australian petrol or power spirit. Admitting that the proposed installation of bowser pumps will cost £200,000, and that the recent rise in the price of petrol will provide the companies with £500,000 a year additional income, I have to answer the honorable member’s question as to what can be done. The immediate issue is the importation of petrol pumps. The larger issue in the future may, perhaps, be the monopoly of distribution that may be created by the installation of the pumps. On the immediate issue, the Customs Department can do three things. The first avenue of effort is directly through the tariff. By the new tariff schedule, under which duties are collected prior to their ratification by the Parliament, a duty of 60 per cent. is imposed. That duty will be collected. The second avenue of effort for preventing the smashing of a reasonably good Australian industry lies in the direction of ensuring, through the Customs administration, that importers state a correct valuation, for the assessment of duty. The third avenue is through the Australian Industries Preservation Act, of which only sections 4 and 5 apply in this case. Section 4 reads: -

If the Minister is satisfied, after inquiry and report by the Tariff Board, that goods exported to Australia, which are of a class or kind produced or manufactured in Australia, have been or are being sold to an importer in Australia at an export price which is less than the fair market value of the goods at the time of shipment, and that detriment may thereby result to an Australian industry, the Minister may publish a notice in the Gazette specifying the goods as to which he is so satisfied.’

Section 5 of the same act reads: -

If the Minister is satisfied, after inquiry and report by the Tariff Board, that goods produced or manufactured outside Australia have been or are being Bold to an importer in Australia at an export price which is less than a reasonable price, and thatdetriment may thereby result to an Australian industry, the Minister may publish a notice in the Gazette specifying the goods as to which he is so satisfied.

The complaint of the honorable member for Maribyrnong was that the pumps were being installed by the petroldistributing companies at only a nominal price, and in circumstances that were seriously detrimental to Australia. He inferentially said that the companies were receiving back, in the increased price of petrol, the equivalent of the price of installing the pumps. I shall carefully peruse the report of the speech of the honorable member and endeavour to answer his several questions and inquiries. He wanted to know whether dumping had taken place. I shall have a full and complete inquiry made into that matter, and I am hopeful that action by the department will at all events prevent unfair competition that may have the effect of seriously injuring Australian indus- tries. {: #subdebate-9-0-s3 .speaker-DQC} ##### Mr W M HUGHES:
North Sydney -- Honorable members owe their thanks to the honorable member for Maribyrnong **(Mr. Fenton)** for bringing this matter forward. This subject does not appeal to me from the stand-point only of the bowser pump. There is a wide-spread feeling in this country that the American oil companies are levying toll on the community, and with me that is no new conviction. I have in this House at various times stated my opinions forcibly on that subject, and one result of my efforts was the creation of the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited. The Minister did not deal as effectively as I should have liked with the charge made by the honorable member that the cost of the bowser pumps was being passed on to the petrol-consuming public. The public believes that statement to be true, and I believe it to be true. The only evidence we have that it is not true is the mere statement of the Vacuum Oil Company and the British Imperial Oil Company that the increase in the price of petrol is the outcome of an increase in America. I have never been able to understand why the price of petrol in this country is so high. In 1924, when I was in the United States, the greatest price which I paid for petrol was 28 cents an American gallon, equivalent to about 33 cents for an imperial gallon. That was at the top of the Great Dividing Range. Both on the east and the west coasts the price was about 22 cents an American gallon, or approximately ls. for an imperial gallon. We have been told that the higher price of petrol in Australia is due to freights. I noticed in last evening's press some comments by an Englishman on the disastrous effect of our tariff on the importation of British goods. The writer pointed out incidentally that it cost £17 to transport from England to Australia an article on which £250' duty was paid. The freight from California, or from the Eastern States of America generally, to Australia is ascertainable. There cannot be any material difference between the freight rates for petrol and for other goods. In any case, that difference cannot account for the difference between the price of petrol in California and in Australia. The Minister has said that he will take action respecting the bowser pumps, but what action is possible I do not know. The tragedy of the position - and it is a tragedy - lies in the fact that to a great extent Australia's progress is dependent on the price of motor spirit and proper means of transport. Modern transport in Australia means motor transport, and we are, therefore, forced to the conclusion that he who levies toll upon our fuel lays siege to the citadel of our lives. Notwithstanding the undeniable evidence afforded by ;the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited that the price charged for petrol by the Vacuum Oil Company and the British Imperial Oil Company .is not its real price, Australia depends for 87£ per cent. **Mr.** TP. *if. Hughes.* of her petrol requirements on supplies from overseas. It is a tragedy that Parliament, in the one sphere in which' it should be able to exercise control, is utterly powerless. We can only endeavour to do by circuitous means what we should be able to do directly. The best way to deal with these oil companies, and with other American interests which, it is- rumoured, are about to pitch their tents in this country, not for the country's good, but for their own, is by an alteration of the Constitution. At present the Minister can do nothing. He has promised to do something regarding the bowser pumps, but he can really do very little. The fact remains that, whenever a man seeks to obtain a gallon of petrol, he is as effectively held up as by the bushrangers of other days. He pays the extra 1½d a gallon under protest, but he pay's it; and he will continue to pay it. That the Government recognizes that the progress of this country is dependent largely on speedy and cheap transport is shown by its proposal to spend £20,000,000 on main roads. That expenditure is not contemplated in order that bullock-wagons may travel over those roads, but that motor vehicles, driven by petrol, may do so. Unfortunately, Parliament is powerless to prevent this additional l^d. or 2d', a gallon on petrol from being charged. All that we can do is to respectfully utter our protest, knowing while we do so that it is in vain. Not content with levying toll upon us, these American companies defame the Australian product. So far as my experience goes, there, is not a distributor of motor spirit in Australia who has a good word to say for the product of the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited. They all say that it destroys the. engine. That is not true. The motor spirit retailed by the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited has been tested and proved to be. at least equal .to the best imported spirit. That fact should be proclaimed throughout Aus: tralia. If the Commonwealth Oil Refineries. Limited can continue to sell petrol for 2s. a gallon, the other companies should be able to do the same. I realize that in this matter we are powerless, But I am grateful for the opportunity to express my views concerning the American oil companies. I do not believe that the increased price of petrol is due to any other cause than the desire to get back the expenditure involved in providing bowser pumps. {: #subdebate-9-0-s4 .speaker-KZA} ##### Mr WEST:
East Sydney .- I agree with the right honorable member for North Sydney **(Mr. Hughes)** that the present occasion affords a favorable opportunity to ventilate a grievance. As a member of the Public Accounts Committee, which investigated matters in connexion with the supply of oil in Australia, I came to the conclusion from the evidence submitted that the management of the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited is not what it should be, otherwise Australia would" not be in her present unsatisfactory position so far as the supply of motor spirit is concerned. In the course of its investigations the committee examined some of the officials of the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, who were asked why the company was not supplying the Australan navy with its oil requirements. The only explanation given was that the price charged by the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited was less .than that charged by other companies. When the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited wanted a machine to do special work - folding and seaming - it was obtained from Great Britain. The manager, when asked why it was not purchased from an Australian manufacturer, replied that he had no knowledge that Australia was able to produce a folding and seaming machine. Yet hundreds of such machines had been made in Australia. In Victoria the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited conducts its own business, but in the other five States its business has been handed over to Dalgety and Co., a firm of importers, which acts as the representative of rival companies also. While the management of the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited remains as at present, additional burdens will be thrown upon the people of Australia, and the company will be unable to compete against "the other oil companies now doing business in Australia. No better means could be devised to check the progress of the operations of the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited than those which have been adopted by the company for the distribution of oil in Sydney, and also in Brisbane. They have a tank with an iron fence around it in Sydney, which no one would imagine be- . longed to a company in which the Commonwealth Government was interested. If the last Parliament had continued for a few months longer, a report on the subject would have been presented by the Public Accounts Committee, and I can assure honorable members that its terms would have been stronger than any of the remarks I have made to-day. The production and distribution of oil is a matter of greatest importance to the people of this country. The right honorable member for North Sydney **(Mr. Hughes)** desired that the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited should be conducted along right lines, and that might have been done if those placed in charge of it were fit for the positions to which they were appointed. In all probability, one member of the board **(Sir Robert Garran)** has not the necessary time to give to the matter; another member of the board **(Sir Robert Gibson)** on his appointment had the company's account removed from the Commonwealth Bank to a private bank. . Later he was appointed to the board of directors of the Commonwealth Bank, and had the account removed again from the private bank to the Commonwealth Bank. I do not know whether this matter is dealt with by the Minister for Trade and Customs or by the Prime Minister. {: .speaker-K1J} ##### Mr PRATTEN:
MARTIN, NEW SOUTH WALES · NAT -- It is under the Prime Minister's Department. {: .speaker-KZA} ##### Mr WEST: -- It certainly should be given earnest consideration. I trust that the references I have made will lead to some improvement in the distribution of oil by the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited. I was not aware that the matter was to be dismissed to-day or I would have been prepared with extracts from the evidence taken by the Public Accounts Committee to support the statements I have made. {: #subdebate-9-0-s5 .speaker-KLM} ##### Dr MALONEY:
MELBOURNE, VICTORIA · ALP; FLP from 1931; ALP from 1936 -- I compliment the honorable member for Maribyrnong **(Mr. Fenton)** on bringing this matter before the notice of honorable members. He has earned the gratitude, not only of members of this House, but of the public outside. I was very pleased at the definite statement made *hy~* the Minister for Trade and Customs **(Mr. Pratten),** who I feel sure will endeavour to obtain his expressed desire. . It was an education to listen to the remarks- of the right honorable member for North Sydney **(Mr. Hughes),** who recognizes the difficulty with which Australia is confronted. This is not in any sense a party matter. Interest must be taken in it, not' only by every member of this House, but by every citizen of the Commonwealth. It is -only a nation enjoying the right of the adult franchise that can hope to deal with the Oil Combine. Only one country in the world, and that is Japan, was able successfully to fight a similar combine - the American Tobacco Trust. An attempt was made to fight it in Great Britain, but to-day in that country the tobacco business is being carried on by persons with English names who are under the control of the Americans. In Australia, two large companies announced their intention to fight the combine, and they coalesced to increase their strength. They were not, however, successful, because they subsequently found that the majority of shares in their company was held by the American Tobacco Combine. I have a great respect for **Mr. William** Cameron, who, if he were not in the tobacconist business, would, I believe, be prepared to support the nationalization of the industry. If honorable members would care to study the question, I suggest, for their perusal, a work on trusts in Australia by **Mr. Wilkinson,** the winner of an important scholarship at the Melbourne University. The book is in the Parliamentary Library, and will repay any one who reads it, as showing the foundations upon which large combines are built. When the question arose here of preventing the importation of oil in bulk to be put into tins made here for distribution, in order to promote the tinsmithing industry in Australia, a representative of the combine in America said that he proposed to buy the members of Parliament here in the interests of the combine. I believe that he was successful in buying the votes of two members of Parliament, but I am glad to say that the members whose votes were given to the Standard Oil Trust are out of politics in this country for ever. When I was introduced to this representative of the trust, I asked him if he boasted in South Africa, on his way here, that he was prepared to buy up the Australian Parliament. He said, "Well, not in those words." I replied, " You may buy up Parliament for a time; you may secure a majority in Parliament for a time ; but neither you nor all the money behind the Standard Oil Trust can buy the citizens of Australia, who have adult suffrage." I trust that honorable members will not regard this as a party question. It is an Australian question, and we must retain a hold upon the distribution of oil in this country. The Government proposes to grant £20,000,000 for main road construction, and that is a matter of considerable importance to those who use oil as a motive power for vehicles. We are only at the beginning of the use of oildriven vehicles, and no man can say what the demand for oil for this purpose will be in the course of the, next ten years. I hope that the Government will be liberal in its expenditure to secure the production of power alcohol, so that Australia may, in time, be independent of the oil trusts. Question resolved in the negative. {: .page-start } page 600 {:#debate-10} ### QUESTION {:#subdebate-10-0} #### PACIFIC CABLE BOARD Mr. Percy Hunter's Appointment {: #subdebate-10-0-s0 .speaker-KLM} ##### Dr MALONEY:
MELBOURNE, VICTORIA · ALP; FLP from 1931; ALP from 1936 asked the Prime Minister, *upon notice -* {: type="1" start="1"} 0. Does the Commonwealth own any interest in the Pacific Cable Board, and, if so, what is its value? 1. Was such interest used to advance or assist the appointment of **Mr. P.** Hunter to the position of general manager of such board iti the Pacific? 2. What are the reasons that applications for the position of general manager were not called to permit eligible Australians to have a chance? {: #subdebate-10-0-s1 .speaker-F4B} ##### Mr BRUCE:
NAT -- The answers to the. honorable member's questions are as follow: - {: type="1" start="1"} 0. Yes, the Commonwealth owns one-third interest in the Pacific cable enterprise. 1. No.. 2. This is a matter for the Pacific Cable Board, and the Government has no information on the question. {: #subdebate-10-0-s2 .speaker-JXA} ##### Mr CHARLTON:
HUNTER, NEW SOUTH WALES asked the Prime Minister, *upon notice -* {: type="1" start="1"} 0. Was the Commonwealth Government consulted with regard to the appointment of **Mr. Percy** Hunter as general manager of the Pacific Cable Board, and what action did it take in the matter? 1. Did the Government give any instructions to its representatives on the Pacific Cable Board with regard to **Mr. Hunter's** appointment? If so, what instructions were given? 2. Were applications invited by public advertisement, or in any other form, for the position? 3. What experience has **Mr. Hunter** had in regard to cable administration? 4. Has the Prime Minister received a protest from the staff of the Pacific Cable Board with regard to **Mr. Hunter?** If so, will he publish its contents? {: .speaker-F4B} ##### Mr BRUCE: -- The answers to the honorable member's questions are as follow : - {: type="1" start="1"} 0. The appointment of administrative officers is a matter solely for the Pacific Cable Board, and there was no necessity for the Government to be consulted. However, as **Mr. Hunter** was occupying a position under the Commonwealth Government, the board advised the Government of his suggested appointment, as such appointment would involve the' acceptance of his resignation of the position of Director of Migration. The Government acquiesced in his release, and the board was accordingly notified. 1. No instructions were given. 2. So far as the Government is aware, no applications were invited. 3. So far as I am aware, **Mr. Hunter** has not had previous experience in cable administration. 4. Yes. A letter has been received from a number of employees of the Pacific Cable Board in Australia, and a copy of such letter, together with the reply thereto, may be seen by the honorable member at my office. {: .page-start } page 601 {:#debate-11} ### QUESTION {:#subdebate-11-0} #### IMPORTATION OF BROOM MILLET {: #subdebate-11-0-s0 .speaker-K6S} ##### Mr CORSER:
WIDE BAY, QUEENSLAND · LP; NAT from 1917 asked the Minister for Health, *upon notice-* {: type="1" start="1"} 0. Is it a fact that the Government contemplate the lifting of the embargo only recently imposed on the' introduction of millet broom? 1. If so, would not such action greatly interfere with, if not ruin, the Australian millet broom industry? 2. Will the Minister have the fullest investigation made before taking any definite action? {: #subdebate-11-0-s1 .speaker-KI7} ##### Sir NEVILLE HOWSE:
Minister for Defence · CALARE, NEW SOUTH WALES · NAT -- The answers to the honorable member's questions are as follow : - {: type="1" start="1"} 0. In consequence of representations that sufficient locally-grown " long-hurl " millet is not available, inquiries are being made as to the possibility of a reliable system of importation under safe conditions. 1. No action which would have such a result will be taken. 2. Such investigation is now proceeding, and no decision will be made without complete information. {: .page-start } page 601 {:#debate-12} ### QUESTION {:#subdebate-12-0} #### PROPOSED FLOATING DOCK {: #subdebate-12-0-s0 .speaker-KMU} ##### Mr MARKS: asked the Prime Minister, *upon notice -* {: type="1" start="1"} 0. Is it a fact that the Admiralty dispositions for Singapore include a 55,000-ton float ing dock, and also a graving dock to accommodate two capital ships?. 1. If so, does not this portend the presence in the Indian Ocean and the Pacific of large naval ships? 2. Is it a fact that the Commonwealth Government is negotiating with the Government of New South Wales for the construction of a floating dock at Walsh Island, which, whilst being able to accommodate a ship of 10,000 tons, will not be able to slip a British capital ship should one visit our shores? 3. Is it a fact that the proposed floating dock to be built at Walsh Island has Admiratty approval ? 4. Is it not a fact that the Admiralty would gladly welcome the presence in the Commonwealth of a floating dock which would accommodate a capital ship or airplane carrier of large tonnage? {: #subdebate-12-0-s1 .speaker-F4B} ##### Mr BRUCE:
NAT -- The answers to the honorable member's questions are as follow: - {: type="1" start="1"} 0. No official information has been received as to the latest Admiralty dispositions for Singapore in this respect. 1. See answer to No. 1. 2. Yes. 3. Yes. 4. I have no advice as to the views of the Admiralty in this connexion. {: .page-start } page 601 {:#debate-13} ### QUESTION {:#subdebate-13-0} #### QUEENSLAND COUNTRY MAIL' SERVICES {: #subdebate-13-0-s0 .speaker-JWQ} ##### Mr G FRANCIS:
KENNEDY, QUEENSLAND · NAT asked the PostmasterGeneral, *upon notice -* {: type="1" start="1"} 0. Whether he will, as early as practicable, place on the table of the House - {: type="a" start="a"} 0. A list of the corporations, firms, and individuals who pay subsidies on or for country mail services in Queensland, with particulars of the amounts so paid, and the services affected? 1. A list of country mail services which have been curtailed or suspendedin consequence of the non-payment of such subsidies? 1. Will the Government take early steps to defray the full cost of these country mail services, and thus relieve such corporations, firms, and individuals of this special burden or tax? 2. On what principle have these subsidies been based? {: #subdebate-13-0-s1 .speaker-KAY} ##### Mr GIBSON:
CP -- Inquiries are being made, and- the desired information will be furnished as soon as possible. {: .page-start } page 601 {:#debate-14} ### QUESTION {:#subdebate-14-0} #### ANZAC SQUARE : COMMONWEALTH OFFICES, BRISBANE {: #subdebate-14-0-s0 .speaker-JUB} ##### Mr D CAMERON:
BRISBANE. QLD · NAT asked the Minister for W orks and Railways, *upon notice -* {: type="1" start="1"} 0. Has he been informed that the Brisbane City Council has definitely decided to accept the Anzac Square proposal as approved by the Commonwealth Works Committee?. {: type="1" start="2"} 0. Is it *now* intended to proceed with the erection of the Commonwealth offices in Brisbane? {: #subdebate-14-0-s1 .speaker-JOS} ##### Mr BELL:
DARWIN, TASMANIA · NAT; UAP from 1931 -- The answers to the honorable member's questions are as follow : - {: type="1" start="1"} 0. No. 1. The matter is under consideration. {: .page-start } page 602 {:#debate-15} ### QUESTION {:#subdebate-15-0} #### CAPE BORDA AND CAPE DE COUDIE LIGHTHOUSES Cost of Landing Stokes {: #subdebate-15-0-s0 .speaker-JVZ} ##### Mr CAMERON:
BARKER, SOUTH AUSTRALIA · LP; NAT from 1925; UAP from 1931 asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, *upon notice -* >What is the annual cost of landing stores and provisions for (a) Cape Borda lighthouse; (6) Cape De Coudie lighthouse? {: #subdebate-15-0-s1 .speaker-K1J} ##### Mr PRATTEN:
MARTIN, NEW SOUTH WALES · NAT -- I am informed that both stations are attended to. by the s.s. *Lady Loch,* at an approximate net cost of £120 per annum for each station. {: .page-start } page 602 {:#debate-16} ### QUESTION {:#subdebate-16-0} #### AMENDMENT OF INVALID AND OLD-AGE PENSIONS ACT {: #subdebate-16-0-s0 .speaker-KJM} ##### Mr JACKSON:
through Mr. Lister asked the Treasurer, *upon notice -* >Whether, in view of the fact that the recent Health Commission has recommended that the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act should be amended to allow of payment of pensions to dependants of patients suffering from infective tuberculosis, while they are undergoing treatment in sanatoria or hospitals, will the Treasurer take steps .to give immediate effect to this recommendation in the interests of the health of the community? {: #subdebate-16-0-s1 .speaker-C7E} ##### Dr EARLE PAGE:
CP -- The matter will receive consideration. {: .page-start } page 602 {:#debate-17} ### QUESTION {:#subdebate-17-0} #### REGISTERED LETTERS {: #subdebate-17-0-s0 .speaker-KLM} ##### Dr MALONEY:
MELBOURNE, VICTORIA · ALP; FLP from 1931; ALP from 1936 asked the PostmasterGeneral, *upon notice -* {: type="1" start="1"} 0. In view of the public not" being well informed *re* the insurance method on registered letters, will he give instructions so that the average person can understand that any perBon who has registered a letter cannot receive more than £2 indemnity from the department no matter what sum the letter contains, unless insurance is sent by extra stamps? 1. Will he cause placards to be placed in various post-offices explaining that for additional stamps money can be insured above the £2 up to £50? {: #subdebate-17-0-s1 .speaker-KAY} ##### Mr GIBSON:
CP -- The steps to be taken to keep the public informed of the facilities extended by the Post Office, including the system of registration with compensation, is at present receiving the consideration of the department. The honorable member's suggestion will not be overlooked. {: .page-start } page 602 {:#debate-18} ### QUESTION {:#subdebate-18-0} #### POSTAL DEPARTMENT CONTRACTS Preference to Australian Tenderers {: #subdebate-18-0-s0 .speaker-KMQ} ##### Mr MANN:
PERTH, WESTERN AUSTRALIA asked the PostmasterGeneral, *upon notice -* >Whether, with reference to his reply to the question of the member for Perth, on the 29th ultimo - ' > >Is it a fact that recently before the Tariff Board a responsible official of the department stated that a definite percentage of 15 per cent, preference is allowed to Australian manufacturers in contracts for that department? > >Is such statement correct? > >If not, is any definite limit of preference adopted, and what is that limit? {: #subdebate-18-0-s1 .speaker-KAY} ##### Mr GIBSON:
CP -- The answers to the honorable member's questions are as follow : - {: type="1" start="1"} 0. Yes. 1. No. 2. A definite preferential allowance in respect of Australian manufacturer's has not been fixed, but discretion is exercised in according preference where competitive tenders are received from overseas, and from within the Commonwealth. {: .page-start } page 602 {:#debate-19} ### COMPENSATION TO ELECTORAL OFFICERS {: #debate-19-s0 .speaker-F4B} ##### Mr BRUCE:
NAT -- On the 14th January, the honorable members for Hume and Forrest (Messrs. Parker Moloney and Prowse) represented that divisional returning officers should be granted some extra payment for the performance of overtime in connexion with the recent election. Similar representations were also made by letter by the honorable member for South Sydney (Mt. E. Riley) on the 15th December, 1925. I now desire to inform honorable members that I am in receipt of the following advice from the Public Service Board: - >The fact that divisional returning officers' are required to work overtime in connexion with elections and referenda was carefully taken into consideration in determining their scale of pay, and in these circumstances the board cannot favorably consider the suggestion to pay them a bonus. {: .page-start } page 602 {:#debate-20} ### QUESTION {:#subdebate-20-0} #### SYNTHETIC WOOL {: #subdebate-20-0-s0 .speaker-K1J} ##### Mr PRATTEN:
MARTIN, NEW SOUTH WALES · NAT -- On the 28th January, the honorable member for Barker **(Mr. M. Cameron)** asked the following questions : - >In view of the possibility of the introduction into the Commonwealth of a substance commonly described as synthetic wool, and its use in combination with wool, will the Minister for Trade and Customs sec that the resultant product is not marketed as pure wool? I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information : - >Collectors of Customs in all the States have been instructed that apparel, piece-goods, and the materials from which they are made, when imported into the Commonwealth, manufactured from synthetic wool, must, for the purposes of the Commerce (Trade Descriptions) Act and Regulations, Ite described as "artificial wool." Artificial and mixtures of wool will, of course, pay the same duty as wool unless otherwise specifically provided for. {: .page-start } page 603 {:#debate-21} ### QUESTION {:#subdebate-21-0} #### COMMONWEALTH GOVERNMENT LINE OF STEAMERS {: #subdebate-21-0-s0 .speaker-F4B} ##### Mr BRUCE:
NAT -- On the 29th January, the honorable member for Lilley **(Mr. Mackay)** asked the following question: - {: type="1" start="1"} 0. What is, the total number of ships disposed of by the Commonwealth Shipping Board ? 1. What is the total amount received in payment? 2. What are the names of the Commonwealth ships now in commission? 3. Are negotiations being conducted for the sale of other ships? I now desire to inform the honorable member that the number of ships sold prior to the establishment of the board was three, for which an amount of £300,450 was received. Since the inception of the board, 38 ships have been disposed of, realizing £1,072,880. The vessels of the Commonwealth Line now in commission are as follows: - > *Esperance Bay, Ferndale, Eurelia* (temporarily), *Moreton Bay, Fordsdale, Eromanga* (temporarily), *Largs Bay, Bulla,* *Hobson's* *Bay, Boorara, Eudunda* (under charter), *Jervis Bay, Carina.* {: .page-start } page 603 {:#debate-22} ### NORTHERN TERRITORY (ADMINISTRATION) BILL Bill received from the Senate, and, on motion by **Mr. Mabb,** read a first time. {: .page-start } page 603 {:#debate-23} ### PAPERS The following papers were presented : - Northern Territory Acceptance Act and Northern Territory (Administration) Act - Ordinance of 1026 - No. 4 - Lunacy. Public Service Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1926, Nos. 15, 16. Scat of Government Acceptance Act and Seat of Government (Administration) Act - Ordinance of 1026 - No. 1 - Dogs Registration. {: .page-start } page 603 {:#debate-24} ### PERTH- ADEL A IDE TELEGRAPH LINE REFERENCE to Public Works Committee. {: #debate-24-s0 .speaker-KAY} ##### Mr GIBSON:
PostmasterGeneral · Corangamite · CP -- I move- >That, .in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 11)13-21, the following work be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for their report, viz. : - Transfer of Postal Department's telegraph lines between Perth and Adelaide to the transcontinental railway route. It is proposed to transfer to the transcontinental railway route the two telegraph lines between Perth and Adelaide which now run along the coast. . The coastal route is 1,870 miles in length, and as it traverses some almost inaccessible country, it is hard to keep the lines in repair. Three wires run from Adelaide, to Eucla, from which point two run north to Norseman and thence to Perth. As there is settlement along this route, it is proposed to leave that line undisturbed. The oilier line goes west from Eucla to Albany and thence north to Perth. The Commonwealth Railway Department placed extra telegraph posts to the mile along the transcontinental . railway, so that at some future date use might be made of them by the post-office, and the proposal now is to run the telegraph wires between Adelaide and Perth along those poles. The existing line is composed mainly of ordinary galvanized-iron wire, and the sea air has a very detrimental effect upon it. One section alone would cost the Department £34,000 to place it in something like decent repair. The new lines will consist of three copper wires, one of which will be leased to the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company. This company now sends its messages from Perth over the coastal route. It is laying an extra cable to Cocos Island, and when that is completed it will have two cable services across the Indian Ocean, one to Mauritius and one to Singapore. On the completion of this scheme, it will have direct overland communication along the eastwest railway to Adelaide and Melbourne. The estimated cost of effecting the transfer of these telegraph lines from the coastal route to the transcontinental railway route is £167,000. The cost of maintaining the existing lines is very high, owing to the comparative inaccessibility of the country traversed. On two of the copper wires on the new route we shall, in the future, be able to superimpose the carrier wave system, and thus enable telephonic communication to be established with Perth. It is not intended to go on with that project at present, but when the two copper wires are in position, it will be a simple matter to install the necessary machinery to enable the carrier wave system to operate, thus rendering it possible to hold a telephonic conversation between Perth and Brisbane. Already, tenders have been let for the installation of the carrier wave telegraph system between Melbourne and Adelaide. The copper wire which will be used will be practically everlasting, as compared with galvanized wire. The whole of the evidence will be submitted to the Public Works Committee, but the main features of this proposal are that the new lines will give freedom from interruptions, that it will be very much easier to effect repairs in case of a breakdown, because they will be for the whole of the distance alongside the railway track, and that it will make ultimate provision for telephonic conversation through to Perth. {: .speaker-KMQ} ##### Mr Mann: -- What will be the saving in distance? Mr.GIBSON. - About 200 miles. {: #debate-24-s1 .speaker-KF9} ##### Mr A GREEN:
KALGOORLIE, WESTERN AUSTRALIA · ALP; FLP from 1931; ALP from 1936 .- It was rumoured a little while ago that the Government proposed to abolish the telegraph line between Esperance and Albany, via Ravensthorpe, and I should like to know from the Postmaster -General **(Mr, Gibson)** if that line is to remain. It at present passes through a comparatively sparsely-populated district, but, already, there is a fair number of settlers there, and as Western Australia is the only State in the Commonwealth which is left with a considerable amount of unoccupied agricultural land, that district will ultimately be a thickly-settled one. The settlers, present and prospective, would be deprived of a means of communication with the outside world if the department decided to dismantle the present line. I may have been misinformed, but I received this information from people who might be thought to know the intention of the Government. I should also like to know whether the wire the Minister says is to be leased by the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company is to be put up and maintained entirely by the cable company, or whether the company will merely rent the line from the Commonwealth Government, and pay a rental for the facilities provided. {: #debate-24-s2 .speaker-KAY} ##### Mr GIBSON:
PostmasterGeneral · Corangamite · CP -- I thought I had made it quite clear that, wherever settlement has taken place on the original route, particularly to the north of Esperance, the telegraph line will be left for the use of the settlers. From Eucla one line runs north to Norseman, and the other runs west to Albany. Both lines will be left for the use of settlers along the respective routes. {: .speaker-KMQ} ##### Mr Mann: -- It will only be the portion to the east of Eucla that will be cut out. {: .speaker-KAY} ##### Mr GIBSON: -- That is so. The whole of the evidence will be submitted to the Public Works Committee; but although it is proposed to lease one wire to the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company for an annual rental, the department will be able to install the carrier wave system, so that three or four departmental messages may be transmitted along the wires while the company is transmitting its messages. Question resolved in the affirmative. {: .page-start } page 604 {:#debate-25} ### INCOME TAX ASSESSMENT (BONUS SHARES) BILL Bill presented by **Dr. Earle** Page, and read a first time. {:#subdebate-25-0} #### Second Reading {: #subdebate-25-0-s0 .speaker-C7E} ##### Dr EARLE PAGE:
Treasurer · Cowper · CP -- *(By leave.)* - I move - That the bill be now read a second time. The most essential factor in commercial life is general confidence by. the trading community in the good faith of the Government. That confidence must be continuous, no matter what party happens to be in power. In addition, the public must be able to rely to some extent upon the general acceptation of the law. This bill is introduced to maintain that confidence of the public in the good faith of the Government. It seeks to give statutory effect to what both the public and the Commissioner of Taxation have regarded as the will of Parliament con- cerning the course to be followed under the Income Tax Assessment Act 1915-21 in relation to the non-collection of income tax on bonus shares issued by companies during the operation of that act, and paid for out of the profits of the companies, upon which profits income tax had been paid at the rate applicable to companies in respect of undivided profits. The bill introduces no new principle. It merely applies to the years 1915-21, the policy that was explicitly expressed in the acts of 1922 and subsequent years, namely, that bonus shares distributed out of reserves which have been taxed in the hands of the company shall be exempt in the hands of the individual. In order to refresh the minds of honorable members, I quote the following passage from the speech delivered by the then Treasurer **(Mr. Bruce)** when moving the second reading of the Income Tax Assessment Bill on the 2nd October, 1922 (it will be found in *Hansard,* at page 2966): - >I come now to bonus shares, and here an apparent alteration is being made in the law, although, as I shall indicate to the committee later., the alteration is more apparent than real, because what we are actually proposing to do is to make clear beyond doubt what apparently is the law to-day. The assets against which bonus shares can be issued are - (1) where the fixed or capital assets arc written up; (2) where there are profits on the sale of fixed or capital assets; (3) where there are accumulated profits held in the form of reserves; and (4) where bonus shares are issued against the current profits on the company's trading year. In regard to (1) and (2), the issue of bonus shares against the writing up or realization of the profits in respect of capital assets, there has been little doubt but that they were exempt from taxation. They were issued against the accretion of capital, and it has not been seriously maintained that they were liable to taxation. The difficult question has been where bonus shares have been issued against accumulated profits generally in the shape of reserves. There has been a great deal of argument with regard to this question, both in Great Britain and here, and the royal commission gave a great deal of consideration to it. The commission recommended : - > >On the grounds specially that bonus shares are capital, and that the issue of those shares affects neither the proportionate interest of the shareholder in the company, nor his taxable capacity, the commission is of opinion that bonus - shares should not be treated as liable to income tax in the hands of the recipient shareholders. > >The Government agree with that finding, and propose to exempt such shares.... > >The old acts were not clear on the subject, and there has been a good deal of litigation. Webb's case is the latest one, and even there the power to tax bonus shares issued against accumulated profits was not made absolutely clear. {: #subdebate-25-0-s1 .speaker-JPC} ##### Sir ROBERT BEST:
KOOYONG, VICTORIA · LP; NAT from 1917 -- It was made clear with regard to the reconstruction of companies. {: .speaker-F4B} ##### Mr Bruce: -- Yes. There is very little doubt as to what the decision would be, and, in view of the judgment in Webb's case, the Government have come to the conclusion that, although the point has not been absolutely settled by that case, they would be unable, by taking further action in the courts, to establish that bonus shares issued against accumulated profits are liable to tax under the law as it existed prior to the present act. They have accordingly decided to take no further steps in endeavouring to establish the claim for income tax in respect of such shares, and they are prepared, where any tax has been collected on the ground that such shares were liable to tax, to make a refund, if such refund is applied for not later than six months after the date of this notification. That statement was explicit, and gave the interpretation of the law as then accepted by the Taxation Department and the general body of taxpayers. The then Treasurer had sought the opinion of independent counsel as to the effect of the Webb judgment upon bonus shares, and he was advised that the interpretation placed upon the judgment by the department was correct. The right honorable gentleman's speech was debated by several honorable members, including the Leader of the Opposition **(Mr. Charlton),** who, although at first disinclined to acquiesce in the Government's action, expressed himself as satisfied with the course proposed after the then Treasurer had by interjection explained the position more fully. The honorable member for Yarra **(Mr. Scullin)** interjected several times in the course of the speech of the right honorable member for Balaclava **(Mr. Watt),** but apparently did not consider the subject of sufficient importance to speak on it at length. {: .speaker-JXA} ##### Mr Charlton: -- How much money will the department have to refund? {: .speaker-C7E} ##### Dr EARLE PAGE: -- It is impossible to say how much would have to be collected afresh, because the liability has not been fully investigated. {: .speaker-JXA} ##### Mr Charlton: -- The amount will be substantial. {: .speaker-C7E} ##### Dr EARLE PAGE: -- Yes. About a year ago the High Court had to consider an appeal by a shareholder in a company against an assessment issued to him in respect of bonus shares paid for out of the current profits of the company, upon which the company had not paid income tax. This shareholder had, at the same time, during the year 1920-21, received shares from the company which had been paid for out of past profits that had accumulated, and upon which the company had paid income tax. In the shareholder's original assessment, he was not assessed upon the shares paid for out of profits, upon which the company had paid income tax, because the department was acting in accordance with the policy announced by the Treasurer in Parliament in October, 1922. That individual desired not only that benefit, but also to escape payment in respect of bonus shares paid for out of current profits, upon which the company had not paid taxation. The High Court held that all bonus shares, whether paid for from accumulated profits, upon which taxation had been paid, or from current profits upon which taxation had not been paid, were taxable in the hands of the recipient. Up to that time the department's interpretation of the law was regarded by all parties interested as representing the legal position and the will of Parliament. The decision of the High Court placed the Commissioner in an invidious position, having regard to the statement of the former Treasurer that taxation collected from the shareholder on bonus shares distributed out of accumulated profits would be refunded; that where such taxation had not been actually collected the department would not press its demand, and that no further action would be taken in respect of people who had not yet received an assessment. If the Commissioner were to carry out the law as interpreted by the Court, he must demand payment from people who had previously paid, and been recouped the amount of the tax, and he must claim upon people who, by his own deliberate action, with the explicit approval of Parliament, had been exempted from this liability, and had applied the money thus saved to other uses. To give effect to that law would be both difficult and unjust, because this money has already paid taxation in the hands of companies at the rate of from ls. 6d. to 2s. 8d. in the £1. {: .speaker-JXA} ##### Mr Charlton: -- There appears to have been a weakness in the drafting of the bill. {: .speaker-C7E} ##### Dr EARLE PAGE: -- Not so much that, as the fact that the judgment of the Court was not fully understood. {: .speaker-JXA} ##### Mr Charlton: -- The Treasurer, when drafting the bill, must have been guided by legal opinion. {: .speaker-C7E} ##### Dr EARLE PAGE: -- Owing to the decision of the High Court in the James' case, the Commissioner of Taxation finds himself now confronted with the duty of re-opening all old assessments affected so as to collect tax from all shareholders who received the bonus shares in question. In consequence of the Treasurer's definite announcement in Parliament in 1922, many persons applied for and obtained refunds of tax which they had paid in respect of all shares of the class mentioned, and in many other cases in which assessments had not yet been issued no action was taken by the Department to assess and collect the tax. If action were now taken to collect the tax from persons who were not previously assessed, and to re-collect it from those to whom refunds had been made, the Government and this Parliament might justly be charged with a breach of faith. Furthermore, collection of the tax now, after a lapse of three years, would probably be attended by considerable difficulties to some of the taxpayers concerned. The tax would have to be collected from the persons who actually received the shares in the first instance, or from their legal representatives. If the original recipients were alive and resident in Australia, they would be called upon to pay. Those able to pay would, no doubt, find the money. Those unable to pay would have to apply to the Hardship Board for relief from taxation. If the original recipient were dead and the assets of his estate had been distributed, the department would be unable . to recover any tax. If the distribution of the estate had not been completed, the trustees .would be called upon to pay the tax. They would bo faced, in some cases, with legal complications as between life tenant and remaindermen, and would, in such cases, have to incur expense in ascertaining what course should be adopted within the limits of their trust deed. A trusteecould not, of course, be required to pay any tax exceeding in amount the value of the assets of the estate still held by him. Even in some of these cases a trustee might be holding assets by direction of a court for some purposes specified by the court or the trust deed, and it might be legally impossible for him to pay the tax in the circumstances. There would possibly be cases in which the original recipient shareholder had left the Commonwealth and had taken all his assets with him. He could not be followed by the Taxation Department, and would therefore escape payment of the tax. Others who had left the Commonwealth but had left assets behind them might be reached by collecting the tax from the person looking after the assets or handling money belonging to the absentee person. Some of the companies concerned ar«s no longer in existence, and possibly some of their shareholders would be beyond the reach of the department. The many shareholders who received refunds of tax accepted and dealt with the money either by investment or expenditure, on the understanding that the refund could be taken as. an indication that the tax refunded had not been legally due. It must also be borne in mind that the shares in respect of which refunds were given represented profits which had already paid income tax in the hands of the companies at rates varying from ls. 6d. to 2s. 8d. in the fi. It is also probable that the majority of the shareholders who received the bonus shares would pay income tax at rates less than the rates paid by the companies. If the Government had refused to come to Parliament and ask for statutory authority to be given to the Commissioner of Taxation to enable him to adhere to the position' which arises out of Parliament's acquiescence in the Treasurer's announcement in 1922, the Government could have been charged with a gross breach of faith with this Parliament, and with the taxpayers concerned. I have every confidence, therefore, that the House will pass this bill. Every honest person desires to keep his word, and it is up to this Parliament to keep its word in connexion with these bonus shares. Debate (on motion by **Mr. Charlton)** adjourned. {: .page-start } page 607 {:#debate-26} ### WAR-TIME PROFITS TAX ASSESSMENT BILL Bill presented by **Dr, Earle** Page, and read a first time. {:#subdebate-26-0} #### Second Reading {: #subdebate-26-0-s0 .speaker-C7E} ##### Dr EARLE PAGE:
Treasurer · Cowper · CP -- *(By leave.)* - 1 move - That the bill be now read a second time. This bill is designed primarily to extend the provisions of the War-time Profits Tax 'Assessment Act 1924, so as to cover the cases of pastoralists who, after the passing of the 1924 act, were assessed for the first time to pay war-time profits tax. In presenting this bill the opportunity has been taken to rectify an anomaly existing under the present law regarding the incidence of the tax on businesses owned partly or wholly by persons who were exempt from income tax on account of active service, but who did not fall within the provisions of the exemption from war-time profits taxation provided by section 8, sub-section 3, of the War-time Profits Tax Assessment Act. I shall first describe the provisions of the bill relating to assessments involving the valuation of live stock. The amending act of 1924 was rendered necessary owing to the fact that, as a result of the High Court judgment in the Cameron case on an income tax assessment, the departmental regulations fixing standard values for live stock for use in assessments were inoperative. Up to the time of that judgment the Taxation Department had been making assessments of pastoralists for income tax and wartime profits tax by bringing live stock to account at an average cost based upon actual cost of purchased stock, in association with standard values fixed by the income tax regulations- for stock bred by the owner. The High Court held that, as the standard values for the same class of live stock, were not uniform throughout the Commonwealth, but different as between the States of the Commonwealth, they were contrary to the provisions of section 55 of the Commonwealth Constitution, and were, therefore, invalid. This position was rectified by Parliament passing the Income Tax Assessment (Live Stock) Act 1924, which required all live stock on hand at the beginning and end of each trading period to be brought to account in the assessments, and gave the' live-stock owner the option of bringing the live stock to account at market values or of accepting the existing assessments based on departmental standard values. Only 212 live-stock owners throughout the Commonwealth chose to bring their live stock to account at market values for purposes of income tax. These persons were obliged to clearly demonstrate the accuracy of the market values claimed by them for the purpose of the assessments. The remainder of the pastoralists were content to accept the existing assessments on departmental standard values. Many of these so decided because of the practical impossibility in 1924 of demonstrating market values as existing in the years from 1914- 15 to 1920-21. Those who chose market values did so because, in the special circumstances of the cases, the net result in tax, over the whole of the past years affected, was less than the tax as assessed for those years. Drought losses and cessation of business were the prin cipal causes of these reductions in tax which followed the use of market values. It was necessary also to rectify the position for the purpose of war-time profits tax, and Parliament took a step in that direction by passing the War-time Profits Tax Assessment (Live Stock) Act 1924. That act gave taxpayers the option of having live stock brought to account in their assessments for war-time profits tax at departmental standard values, as used in the existing assessments, or at average cost, based upon actual cost of purchased stock, in association with standard values for bred stock, to be selected by the taxpayers themselves between the minimum and maximum limits of values fixed by income tax regulation No. 197 of 1923. The old departmental standard values compare with the present minimum and maximum values as follows: - {: .speaker-KZA} ##### Mr West: -- There was little sense in the old method. {: .speaker-C7E} ##### Dr EARLE PAGE: -- It had a great deal of merit, because the value of animals differs. Horses in Tasmania are of much more value than horses in Queensland. Fat cattle close to Melbourne and Sydney are more valuable than cattle on stations that are hundreds of miles from railways. {: .speaker-KXG} ##### Mr Watt: -- Who decides whether a minimum or maximum is to apply in a given case? {: .speaker-C7E} ##### Dr EARLE PAGE: -- It is a matter of election inside those values. {: .speaker-KXG} ##### Mr Watt: -- That is the taxpayer's option. {: .speaker-C7E} ##### Dr EARLE PAGE: -- Yes. The question was raised in Parliament during the discussion on the 1924 bill whether the option to be granted to taxpayers should not be an option between market values and the existing departmental values, as had been fixed in regard to similar legislation for income tax purposes. There were found to be several difficulties in the way. With the object of convincing honorable members of the necessity of acting as the department has done, I should like to indicate what the difficulties are. First,there is the fact that, under the provisions of the Wartime Profits Tax Assessment Act 191 7-8, the pre-war standard of profits, with which the profits of the war-time period had to be compared, had to be calculated by the same rules as were applied to the calculation of the profits of the war-time period. It would, therefore, have been necessary to make the option apply to market values in the pre-war period, as well as in the war-time period. It was practically impossible in 1924 to ascertain the market values of live stock carried by many pastoral businesses during the pre-war years, and therefore any option granted to those taxpayers between assessments based upon departmental standard values, as applied in the assessments, and assessments based upon market values, would have been ineffective. No one could tell what market values were. The second difficulty was the legal necessity to legislate to overcome the constitutional obstacle revealed by the judgment of the High Court in the income tax appeal of *Cameron* v. *Commissioner of Taxation.* It was not competent for Parliament to legislate to declare as valid certain statutory rules which, the Court had declared, offended against the Commonwealth Constitution. The only course open was to give the taxpayers a choice between existing assessments and assessments based upon some valid foundation. {: .speaker-F4Q} ##### Mr Scullin: -- "Would the constitutional point arise if a taxpayer exercised the option? {: .speaker-C7E} ##### Dr EARLE PAGE: -- I assume that the constitutional point would not arise unless a taxpayer tested it. {: .speaker-F4Q} ##### Mr Scullin: -- And if the taxpayer exercised the option, he would not test the point? {: .speaker-C7E} ##### Dr EARLE PAGE: -- He would hardly test it in that case, and unless he tested it no one else would be likely to worry. Market values would have afforded a valid foundation for an alternative to departmental standard value*, but that foundation would, in most cases, have proved ineffective. Furthermore, if market values for all pre-war and wartime years had been known, that basis would have proved disastrous to pastoralists generally, and more particularly to those who, after struggling, on the verge of collapse, during pre-war period', were rescued financially by the improvement in prices during the war-time period. Every, one knows that in 1912 and 1913 there was a very bad drought, and that another drought occurred in 1915. Those droughts were not uniform throughout Australia, and if pastoralists had. been forced to accept, the market value they might have found themselves with assessments they could not pay. No honorable member would endorse a proposal that would injure the primary industries, especially those which, like the cattle industry, have been in difficulties since 1919. I am glad that the Government's efforts to place the cattle industry on its feet appear to be meeting with success at last. Any injury done ti our primary industries must react on the whole of our social system; and injure our prosperity. Consideration had to be given to the further fact that, if market values had been made the alternative to the unconstitutional departmental standard values, pastoralists would have been placed in a different position, in regard to valuation of stock for the purposes of assessment, from that enjoyed by ordinary traders. The latter were not required by the law to value their trading stock at market values. They had the choice between market values," actual cost, -and replacement cost, and were permitted to select the lowest of these. The unconstitutional departmental standard values had been fixed a3 representing what was understood to be the cost of securing the birth of young animals. They were less than market" values at the time they were prescribed. It was also known that Parliament was content to have the war-time profits tax assessed to pastoralists by basing their assessments upon what were believed to be valid departmental standard values. The act was originally conceived and announced to the public by the Labour party, and that party, in drafting it, provided a basis of assessment that did not involve the use of market values for live stock. The third reason for the rejection of market values as an alternative wa3 that, as the war-time profits tax was to be assessed for each of the four "years covered by the act, namely, 1915-6, 1916-7, 1917-8, and 1918-9, without any provision for adjusting the assessments so that they would accord with the netresults of the business operations during the whole of those four years, the use of market values would have caused a pastoralist to pay very heavy tax on the unrealized profit of a good season, as represented by the paper-profit from increases in the market values of live stock, without giving him any relief for subsequent losses which he might sustain through the death of some or all of his stock in following years. We are now proposing to give the taxpayer the choice of two alternatives. When an alternative has been given to a taxpayer in one field of taxation, it is not fair to deny him the same alternative in another field. {: .speaker-KXG} ##### Mr Watt: -- The Government could not take the figures relating to market values, because no such figures were obtainable. {: .speaker-C7E} ##### Dr EARLE PAGE: -- That was the effective answer; any figures .that we <:ould get were only conjecture. {: .speaker-F4Q} ##### Mr Scullin: -- Is the alternative to take the increase in stock year by year, or the price when they are sold? " {: .speaker-C7E} ##### Dr EARLE PAGE: -- In the Income Tax Act four alternatives are provided. In this bill, however, there are only two. A taxpayer may take the departmental standard value or the present assessment. {: .speaker-F4Q} ##### Mr Scullin: -- "Will the existing market value be taken whether the stock are sold or not? {: .speaker-C7E} ##### Dr EARLE PAGE: -- This bill does not deal with market values. Parliament decided in 1924 to allow taxpayers to elect to accept the existing assessments, or to have them amended so that their stock should be brought to account at values selected by the taxpayers from the range of values fixed for the Commonwealth as a whole by the Income Tax Regulations of 1923. Three hundred and seventeen pastoralists made effective elections under the Act. They represent approximately 19 per. cent, of the pastoralists who were assessed to pay the tax. Since that time the department has discovered othe"r cases in which pastoralists are liable to taxation, and under the act there is no provision for an alternative. The taxpayers were forced to take the market value. One purpose of this bill is to give them the alternative that all taxpayers have who happen to have been assessed previously to the passing of the. act. Another reason for an amending bill is that it was found necessary to publish an amending ruling relative to the maximum standard value which could be used in the case of cattle. One ruling had been given which suggested that £2 per head should be the standard maximum value. Owing to that low maximum value, many pastoralists who had four months in which to choose the system under which they would be assessed chose the existing rates. It was found that that was an unfair basis, and after considerable discussion it was realized that the fairest way would be to give a wider latitude up to the figure of £5. Because a certain number of taxpayers refrained from making their election or taking any action whatever,, the- Government makes provision in this Bill for an extension of the period allowed to the taxpayer for making his election. That period has been extended from four to seven months. It was also found that a large number of pastoralists who were unaware of the passing of the act, and, therefore, of the necessity for making an election. Many of them live in remote parts of the continent, and the department did not circularize all taxpayers under the act. It is provided in this bill that those who were in ignorance of the law shall be given an opportunity of making their election within three months of the passing of the bill. The bill makes special provision for election in cases in which an original assessment for any financial year may require to be made after the bill becomes law. In these cases it is proposed that the period for making the election shall be 60 days after service by post upon the taxpayer of notice by the Commissioner to make an election. It is considered that this time will give taxpayers ample opportunity to make their election. The bill also provides for the department assessing the taxpayer on the present basis if he omits to make an election. The Government thinks that with the extra time given for the election, the taxpayer will be treated fairly. Clause 4 deals with anomalies which have arisen from the fact that men on active service were exempted from the payment of income tax. Some of the persons who went into the firing line are actually penalized by the provision made ostensibly for their benefit. I will give a practical illustration of what has really happened, from which every one will recognize that the law' should be altered. A person who. was on active service, and was exempt from income tax, but was liable for wartime, profits tax, made profits amounting to £5,000. The war-time profits assessment was £4,000 and the income tax deductions nil. The taxable amount of wartime profits was £4,000, and the war-time profits tax, at 75 per cent, was £3,000. The position of the same person if he had not been on active service, and was therefore not exempt from income tax would have been better. With the same amount of war-time profits, his taxable income would be £4,000. The income tax on £4,000. would be approximately £500-, which,, subtracted from £4,000, leaves £3,500. The war-time profits tax on that would be £2,625. Thus the man who had not been on active service would pay £2,625 war profits tax on £3,500, and £200 income tax on £2,325, making a total of £2,825. No one desires that the man who went to the war should pay £175 more than the man who remainedat home. No honorable member desires to see the man who went away penalized by a provision that was intended for his benefit. The number of persons affected is very small, and embraces first, any absentee who was on active service with any of the allied forces, in respect of assessments of profits derived by him between the date of his enlistment and the date of his discharge; secondly, any resident who before he went on active service did not devote the whole or the greater part of his time to the management of his business, or whose duties while on active service did not require him to be in any place where there was danger to life as a result of enemy operations, in respect of assessments of profits derived by him between the date of his enlistment and the date of his discharge ; and, thirdly, any other resident who at any time during the war was on active service outside Australia, in respect of assessments of profits derived by him between the date of his enlistment and the date of his discharge, in any accounting period during no part of which he was outside Australia. Such persons were assessable for war-time profits tax on profits derived in accounting periods between enlistment and embarkation - before they left Australia - and between return to Australia and discharge. If, however, such persons were assessed for any financial year while actually on active service in the danger zone they were exempt from liability to pay the tax. Such cases are an exception to this class. The proposed amendment provides also for the case of a partnership which, for the reason that any member thereof was on active service, has not obtained a deduction of the national income tax payable by that member. Such partnerships are in a worse position as regards wartime profits tax than they would have been in if the member had not been on active service. Before the partnership can benefit under the proposed amendment the member who was on active service must be a person who had not received a re fund of war-time profits tax by reason of his active service, and such a person must be within one of the abovementioned three- classes. {: .speaker-KYI} ##### Mr Prowse: -- Is this legislation to beretrospective ? {: .speaker-C7E} ##### Dr EARLE PAGE: -It applies to the whole period during which the War-time Profits Tax Assessment Act operated. {: .speaker-KXG} ##### Mr Watt: -- Will it involve any largerefunds ? {: .speaker-C7E} ##### Dr EARLE PAGE: -- No; but it removes an injustice from which a few men have been suffering. Debate (on motion by **Mr. Charlton)** adjourned. {: .page-start } page 611 {:#debate-27} ### DRIED FRUITS ADVANCES BILL *In committee* (Consideration of GovernorGeneral's message) : Motion (by **Mr. Atkinson)** agreed to- >That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue he made for the purposes of a bill for an act to amend the Dried Fruits Advances Act 1024. Resolution reported. Standing Orders suspended, and resolution adopted. *Ordered -* >That **Mr. Atkinson** and **Mr. Marr** do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution. Bill presented by **Mr. Atkinson,** and read a first time. {:#subdebate-27-0} #### Second Reading {: #subdebate-27-0-s0 .speaker-JMG} ##### Mr ATKINSON:
Honorary Minister · Wilmot · CP -- I move - >That the bill be now read a second time. The object of this measure is to grant to those growers who received assistance under the Dried Fruits Advances Act of 1924 an extension of time for the repayment of their advances. Honorable members will remember that, a few years ago, the quantity of fruit produced in Australia was greatly increased, rendering it necessary for an overseas market to be obtained for that fruit if the fruitgrowing industry was to be placed on a satisfactory footing. With the increased production there was, unfortunately,, a serious drop in the prices obtainable for dried fruits in the London market. Consequently, those engaged in the industry sought the aid of the Government, and in 1924 an act was passed under which advances were made to the growers of currants, sultanas, and lexias. Among the growers who received advances under that act were many returned soldiers, who, prior to the drop in prices, had not long been engaged in the industry, and had not benefited by the better prices which obtained in previous seasons. In the case of currants, the advance was 30s. per ton, and for sultanas and lexias it was £9 a ton. Payments were made through the various packing organizations throughout the Commonwealth. The act provided for repayment of the advances from the proceeds of the 1925 crop, together with interest at the rate of 6 per cent, per annum. In Victoria, South Australia, and Western Australia, 4,500 growers participated in the advance, the total sum advanced being £204,000. In 1924, the Dried Fruits Control Board, authorized under the legislation of that year, was appointed. That, board regulated and controlled the export and marketing abroad of our surplus production of currants, sultanas, and lexias, and handled 11,752 tons of the 1925 crop of sultanas, which was sold in Great Britain at an average price of £68 6s. per ton c.i.f. That price gave the growers the satisfactory return of £48 per ton in the sweat boxes. The average price received for 2,881 tons of lexias and for 4,476 tons of currants was £32 17s. and £32 14s. per ton respectively. The prices in respect of lexias and currants1 were not really payable ; but had it not been for the good work accomplished by the control board, the prices received by the growers would have been much less. {: .speaker-KV8} ##### Mr Stewart: -- I take it that the Government recognizes that the prices received for lexias and currants did not pay the growers. {: .speaker-JMG} ##### Mr ATKINSON: -- That is so; but had it not been for the good work performed by the board the price received by the growers would have been much less. I have here a return covering the period from the 22nd to the 28th of January, 1926, which shows that, 81 tons' of sultanas were sold for £67 per ton, or £1 6s. per ton less than the price received for the 1925 crop. The drop in price is, however, not so serious as it is in the case of currants and lexias. During the week mentioned, 107 tons of cur rants and 6 tons of lexias were sold at an average price of £26 12s. per ton and £23 Ils. per ton respectively. {: .speaker-KV8} ##### Mr Stewart: -- Those prices spell ruin to the growers. {: .speaker-JMG} ##### Mr ATKINSON: -- Those figures refer to one week's sale? only. I have quoted them to show the necessity for granting to the growers the concession provided for in the bill. Under it they will be enabled to repay one-half of their advances from the proceeds of the 1926 crop, and one-half from the proceeds of the 1927 crop instead of the whole having to be repaid from the proceeds of the 1925 crop I do not desire that honorable members shall attach undue importance to those figures for cue week, as when the returns for the whole season are available it is hoped that they will show a much better average price. The tendency, however, is for prices to drop, rather than to rise. {: .speaker-KV8} ##### Mr Stewart: -- That means that the position is going from bad to worse. {: .speaker-JMG} ##### Mr ATKINSON: -- I may . mention that the board that investigated the position is quite satisfied that there is an improvement in the quality of the fruit as a result of the rigid inspection by the Commonwealth this year. There is an improvement of the marketing arrangements in Great Britain, and it is assumed that some benefit will be derived from the Imperial preference, and that the industry will eventually be placed upon a sound footing. {: .speaker-K6S} ##### Mr CORSER:
WIDE BAY, QUEENSLAND · LP; NAT from 1917 -- Will the Minister say whether the ' reciprocal treaty with Canada will assist the industry? {: .speaker-JMG} ##### Mr ATKINSON: -- There is no evidence on that subject before me to warrant an expression of - opinion, but ifc is hoped that it will assist the industry. Coming to the bill itself, honorable members will see that clause 2 empowers the Minister to make an arrangement for the repayment of half the advance to the grower out of the proceeds of the sale of the 1926 crop, and for the repayment of the balance from the proceeds of the 1927 crop. Clause 3 provides for the appointment of a board of three, whose duty will be to consider any claims by growers for release from repayment of their advances, or for modification of the terms and conditions connected with those advances. {: .speaker-JVZ} ##### Mr CAMERON:
BARKER, SOUTH AUSTRALIA · LP; NAT from 1925; UAP from 1931 -- Why appoint a new board ? {: .speaker-JMG} ##### Mr ATKINSON: -- This board will be appointed for the special purposes of this measure, and its duty will be to say whether an applicant grower is entitled to the relief he seeks. {: .speaker-KV8} ##### Mr Stewart: -- "What is meant by relief ? Does it mean that a grower may have his debt wiped out? {: .speaker-JMG} ##### Mr ATKINSON: -- That might he so, if the circumstances of a particular case warranted it? {: .speaker-KV8} ##### Mr Stewart: -- "Will that be within the power of the board ? {: .speaker-JMG} ##### Mr ATKINSON: -- No. The board will make a recommendation, and the' Minister, acting upon that re"commendation, may give the grower the relief recommended. It is not the intention of the Government to permit those who can repay the advances made to them to evade their just commitments. But where a grower is in such, an unfortunate position that he cannot repay his advance, and the board recommends his release, or partial release, the Minister will have power under this measure to adopt the recommendation. {: .speaker-KV8} ##### Mr Stewart: -- This board will have specific duties which will not conflict with the duties of any other board? {: .speaker-JMG} ##### Mr ATKINSON: -- Quite so. {: .speaker-JXA} ##### Mr Charlton: -- "Will the board sit continuously ? {: .speaker-JMG} ##### Mr ATKINSON: -- I presume that it will sit only when applications for relief are received. The bill provides that the board can call witnesses, take evidence on oath, and take all necessary steps to inform itself before it makes any recommendation. {: .speaker-JXA} ##### Mr Charlton: -- I am afraid, the board will become a permanent institution, and it might be better to wipe out the advances altogether. {: .speaker-JMG} ##### Mr ATKINSON: -- Clause 4' of the bill provides that it will be a sufficient return for the information of Parliament if the total amounts granted for sultanas, lexias, and currants are separately furnished. The existing act provides that the advances made to individual growers shall be set out in detail. In view of the fact that there are between 4,000 and 5,000 growers, this is considered to be too cumbersome, and it will be sufficient if a statement is furnished of the total advances granted in respect of the different sections in the industry. Honorable members will see that the object of the bill is merely to grant to the growers of these products extra time within which to repay the advances made to them. {: .speaker-JXA} ##### Mr Charlton: -- There is no objection to that, but the machinery proposed for the purpose will be very costly. {: .speaker-L4X} ##### Mr PARKER MOLONEY:
HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES · ALP -- How much has been advanced ? {: .speaker-JMG} ##### Mr ATKINSON: -- The total amount advanced is £204,000. {: .speaker-KEV} ##### Mr Fenton: -- The grower is to be asked to repay his advance from the proceeds of prosperous years? {: .speaker-JMG} ##### Mr ATKINSON: -- The position is that £204,000 has been advanced under the act of 1924. {: .speaker-KZT} ##### Mr RODGERS:
WANNON, VICTORIA · LP; NAT from 1917 -- How much remains outstanding % {: .speaker-JMG} ##### Mr ATKINSON: -- I presume the whole of the amount advanced. The money was advanced on the condition that it should be repaid, with 6 per cent, interest, out of the proceeds of the 1925 crop. The condition of the industry does not permit the growers to repay their advances in that way. The matter was investigated by a board, which recommended that the growers should be given further time and should be allowed to repay half their advances out of the 1926 crop and the balance out of the 1927 crop. {: .speaker-L4X} ##### Mr PARKER MOLONEY:
HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES · ALP -- Will the whole function of the proposed board be to see to the repayment of the advances? {: .speaker-JMG} ##### Mr ATKINSON: -- The board will investigate all cases of alleged hardship. If repayment would impoverish a grower and prevent him from providing for his family, he can make an application to the board and, after investigating the circumstances, the board can recommend his release wholly or partially from his indebtedness. Debate on motion (by **Mr. Charlton)** adjourned. {: .page-start } page 613 {:#debate-28} ### PRECIOUS METALS PROSPECTING BILL * In committee* (Consideration resumed from 20th January, *vide* page 217). Clause 5 - >The Minister may, out of the moneys standing to the credit of the Trust Account, make advances to assist persons or companies engaged in prospecting for precious metals in the Commonwealth. > >Of the moneys appropriated for the purposes of this act, the sum of Fifteen thousand pounds shall be allocated for expenditure in the Northern Territory of Australia and the sum of Twenty-five thousand pounds shall be allocated for expenditure amongst the States in such proportions as the Minister determines. > >Any advances under this act shall be made upon such conditions, and subject to such terms, as are prescribed. {: #debate-28-s0 .speaker-KMW} ##### Mr MARR:
Honorary Minister · Parkes · NAT -- When this .clause was last before the Committee, there was some discussion as to whether the subsidy proposed for prospecting should be distributed by the States or by the Commonwealth Government direct to individuals and mining companies. The honorable member for Capricornia **(Mr. Forde)** suggested an amendment providing that the subsidy should be paid to the States on a. £1 for £1 basis. {: .speaker-F4U} ##### Mr Forde: -- My amendment was to provide that, apart from the amount proposed to be spent in the Northern Territory, the subsidy should be paid to the States on a £1 for £1 basis. {: .speaker-KMW} ##### Mr MARR: -- It is necessary that the Commonwealth Government should itself handle the money to be paid to prospectors in the Northern Territory. I move - >That the word "amongst" be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word "by". Sub-clause 2 would then read - >Of the moneys appropriated for the purposes of this act, the sum of £15,000 shall be allocated for expenditure in the Northern Territory of Australia, and the sum of £25,000 shall be allocated for expenditure by the States in such proportion as the Minister determines. Some of the States make advances for prospecting on old fields, but it is the intention under this bill only to subsidize advances mad* by the States for prospecting on new fields, and the amount to be paid to » State will be in proportion to the amount spent by that State for prospecting on new fields. {: .speaker-KEV} ##### Mr Fenton: -- The intention should be made clear, because it has been suggested that thu States may reduce their prospecting votes by the amounts to be advanced to them under this bill. {: .speaker-KMW} ##### Mr MARR: -- It is intended to make a proviso to reimburse a State' the amount spent, last financial year on prospecting, on condition that it spends a similar amount this year. If a State spends £7,000 on prospecting this year, the Government proposes out of the £25,000 to advance to the State an amount in proportion to the amount it has spent- {: .speaker-KJM} ##### Mr Jackson: -- If Tasmania spends £10,000 this year on prospecting, the Commonwealth will advance £10,000 to Tasmania next year ? {: .speaker-KMW} ##### Mr MARR: -- The States may, between them, spend £60,000, but under this bill it is proposed only to advance £25,000 to them. The advance made from the vote to each .State will be in proportion to the amount it has spent. {: .speaker-KJM} ##### Mr Jackson: -- The more a State spends the bigger the advance it is likely to get? {: .speaker-KMW} ##### Mr MARR: -- If Tasmania spends £10,000 and South Australia spends only £5,000, the Commonwealth Government, if it approves of the prospecting schemes, will in such circumstances advance twice as much to Tasmania as to South Australia. {: .speaker-JVZ} ##### Mr CAMERON:
BARKER, SOUTH AUSTRALIA · LP; NAT from 1925; UAP from 1931 -- The State has to satisfy the Minister that its prospecting scheme is a sound one. {: .speaker-KMW} ##### Mr MARR: -- Yes, that is necessary, where Commonwealth money is being granted. {: .speaker-JVZ} ##### Mr CAMERON:
BARKER, SOUTH AUSTRALIA · LP; NAT from 1925; UAP from 1931 -- The Government will rely upon information supplied by a State Mines Department? {: .speaker-KMW} ##### Mr MARR: -- Absolutely. The efficiency of the mines departments of the States will guarantee that the money will be properly spent. I think that the substitution of " by " . for " amongst " will meet the point raised by the honorable member for Capricornia **(Mr. Forde).'** The money will be advanced to the States and spent by them, and the only expenditure that the Commonwealth will control directly will be the £15,000 to be spent in Commonwealth territory.. {: .speaker-F4U} ##### Mr Forde: -- A State having spent £7,000 last year, may, instead of spending the same amount this year spend nothing,, and rely on the £7,000 which the Commonwealth will advance. {: .speaker-KMW} ##### Mr MARR: -- The State having spent £7,000 in one year, the Commonwealth grant will recoup it for that expenditure, providing that out of its own funds it spends a similar amount in the following year. Thus, more will be spent in the second year. This will enable it to spend more during the next year. {: .speaker-F4U} ##### Mr Forde: -- That would be well enough if the- grant were made on a £1 for £1 basis as I suggest, but as it is there will be a tendency for the State to cut down its own expenditure on prospecting and to rely on the money obtained from the Commonwealth. {: .speaker-JXA} ##### Mr Charlton: -- The amount of the grant is so small that the matter is not worth fighting about. {: .speaker-KMW} ##### Mr MARR: -- It is not. This is merely a small grant to assist the States, and they will directly benefit by the discovery of new Reids. {: #debate-28-s1 .speaker-JXA} ##### Mr CHARLTON:
Hunter .- The amount of the grant is so small that very little can be done with it by the States; but, the Minister **(Mr. Marr)** has left me in doubt as to whether we shall get the best results even from the limited expenditure provided for For instance, he said that if a State can satisfy the Commonwealth department that it has spent £7,000 in any year it will get £7,000 from the Commonwealth ; but the desire of honorable members is that when the Commonwealth gives this assistance to the States they should not regard it as a substitute for their own expenditure, but should continue that expenditure irrespective of the assistance received from the Commonwealth. Otherwise no advantage is to be derived from a Commonwealth grant for prospecting. {: .speaker-KMU} ##### Mr Marks: -- It will merely relieve the States of a certain amount of expenditure. {: .speaker-JXA} ##### Mr CHARLTON: -- Exactly. Conditions should surround the grant. The State should at least be obliged to' spend £1 for £1 with what the Commonwealth is advancing to them. Otherwise it would be. better to spend the whole of the amount in our own territory in an attempt to discover something beneficial to its development. The amount involved may be small, but there is a principle at stake. The States ought to be compelled to spend during the new year an amount equal to that which was advanced to them by the Commonwealth on the past year's operations. {: .speaker-KMW} ##### Mr Marr: -- I thought I mentioned that the States would be required to spend in the new year an amount equal to the amount paid by the Commonwealth . {: .speaker-JXA} ##### Mr CHARLTON: -- I am afraid that the Minister did not make it clear that the State must expend in the new year £1 for £1 with the amount advanced by the Commonwealth. {: #debate-28-s2 .speaker-KMW} ##### Mr MARR:
Honorary Minister · Parkes · NAT -- We propose to make advances to the States in proportion to the amounts they have spent- on prospecting in the previous year on condition that they spend a similar amount during the coming year. {: .speaker-KEV} ##### Mr Fenton: -- That is for the prospecting of new fields ? {: .speaker-KMW} ##### Mr MARR: -- Yes. {: #debate-28-s3 .speaker-KIT} ##### Mr MACKAY:
Lilley -- I am pleased that the Minister has "retreated from the previous impossible position that the Commonwealth should spend the whole of this money. I gather now from the Minister's explanation that the expenditure is to be on a fi for fi basis. I understand that if the States between them have spent a certain amount on prospecting, they will be reimbursed, up to f25,000, on a fi for fi basis, providing they spend a similar amount in the next year. If that is the position, it will be satisfactory. At the same time, I hope that the Minister will not expect the States to satisfy the Commonwealth Government that the money is being spent in the right direction. The States know more about prospecting than the Commonwealth does, and it would only cause waste of time if au attempt were made by the Commonwealth to follow up this sort of expenditure. {: .speaker-KMW} ##### Mr Marr: -- I said that the State mines departments would be our safeguard. {: .speaker-KIT} ##### Mr MACKAY: -- I think that we can be quite satisfied that the State mines departments will spend the money to the best advantage. {: #debate-28-s4 .speaker-F4U} ##### Mr FORDE:
Capricornia .- When the bill was before the committee previously I suggested an amendment to provide for advances to the States upon a fi for £1 basis. I thought it would *b-:* inadvisable for the Commonwealth to make advances directly to individuals, because it would not have the machinery to enable it to investigate every application received from all over Australia. The Minister **(Mr. Marr)** promised to reconsider the matter, and he has now indicated that he proposes to amend subclause 2 by deleting the word " amongst " and inserting "by" in lieu thereof. That is to say, he proposes that the money advanced by the Commonwealth shall be spent by the States. The amendment meets ray requirements so far as it goes, but there is nothing in the bill to show that the Government will make this a- £1 for £1 grant. It is quite possible that if the Commonwealth makes a grant to a State equivalent to the amount the State has spent in the previous year, the Premier and Treasurer of that State, in an endeavour to wind up the financial year with a surplus, may cut down their own expenditure for that year and rely on the Commonwealth grant. For example, a State which has spent £7,000 in one year, may cut the amount down to £2,000 in the next year, and thus effect a saving of £5,000 ; there is nothing in the bill to prevent that. {: .speaker-KEV} ##### Mr Fenton: -- That would be guarded against in the regulations. {: .speaker-F4U} ##### Mr FORDE: -- If it can be prevented by regulation, it will be all right. {: .speaker-KMW} ##### Mr Marr: -- That will be done. {: .speaker-F4U} ##### Mr FORDE: -- I am glad to hear the Minister say so, because, unless the grant is on a £1 for £1 basis, a State may seek to economize at the expense of the Commonwealth, and we shall be entering upon yet another field that should be controlled by the States. {: .speaker-KMW} ##### Mr Marr: -- The expenditure will really be on a £1 for £1 basis. {: .speaker-F4U} ##### Mr FORDE: -- That will be all right, but I think it would have been better to accept my amendment and provide in the bill itself for a £1 for £1 basis. If the Minister gives me an assurance that the Government will not make advances direct to individuals, and that the amount granted to the States will be advanced on a £1 for £1 basis, I shall be satisfied. However, I see no reason why my amendment should not have been accepted . {: .speaker-JWQ} ##### Mr G FRANCIS:
KENNEDY, QUEENSLAND · NAT -- To accept the honorable member's amendment would give the States a Wank cheque. {: .speaker-F4U} ##### Mr FORDE: -- Not necessarily. The maximum advance to all States if £25,000. If a State spends '£10,000 this year, the Commonwealth should grant it a similar amount next year. {: .speaker-JWQ} ##### Mr G FRANCIS:
KENNEDY, QUEENSLAND · NAT -- Yes, but what if the State spends £50,000? ' {: .speaker-F4U} ##### Mr FORDE: -- The Commonwealth grant is too restricted to be of much use. It is limited to £25,000. We should make the advance to the States on a £1 for £1 basis. The money might be allocated on a population basis. At any rate, the Government should work out some equitable scheme of distribution. I object to the Commonwealth finding money to relieve the States of their responsibility in the matter of prospecting for minerals. If, however, the proposal is merely to do something over and above what the States are already doing, so that they will not be relieved of expenditure upon prospecting, I shall be satisfied. {: #debate-28-s5 .speaker-KMQ} ##### Mr MANN:
Perth .- The debate, during the last few minutes, has laid emphasis on the point I made in my second-reading speech, that this is a very imperfect measure, inasmuch as like many other bills, it leaves its main proposals to be effected by regulations. I have previously protested against this method of legislating. On the very important problem of how this money is to be allocated to the States, the Minister **(Mr. Marr)** has made a statement. The essential principle of the allocation of the expenditure is not provided for in the bill, as it ought to be. {: .speaker-KFP} ##### Mr Foster: -- It should be a vila provision of the bill. {: .speaker-KMQ} ##### Mr MANN: -- It is vital in more ways than one. The honorable member for Capricornia **(Mr. Forde)** speaks as if this subsidy would prevent, the States from fulfilling their proper function. He would have us believe that they would undertake prospecting at the expense of the Commonwealth. I call his attention to the fact that many States are being impoverished by the Commonwealth. If, when Commonwealth money is to be granted to the States, honorable members talk about the States putting their responsibilities on to the Commonwealth their language is a little beside the mark. There is another aspect of this question. As I have pointed out previously, in connexion with roads and other grants, it is very much iu the nature of a Greek gift for the Commonwealth to advance money to the States on a £1 for £1 basis, because when the Commonwealth makes a grant on that basis it usually insists on certain conditions affecting the finances of the States. In the case of the roads grant, it was soon found that we were requiring from the States the provision of sums of money for road purposes which they could not afford. {: .speaker-KAY} ##### Mr Gibson: -- The expenditure required from the States was just about the same as they had been spending previously. {: .speaker-KMQ} ##### Mr MANN: -- It was soon found that the States had not the control of expendi- ture they previously had, because of the dictation of the Commonwealth. {: .speaker-KFE} ##### Mr Gregory: -- Not wholly. {: .speaker-KMQ} ##### Mr MANN: -- To a large extent. My contention has always been that by these grants of money to the States the Commonwealth must of necessity, by influencing the expenditure of the States, intrude upon State financing. I have always protested against this, and I claim that it is the duty of this Parliament to preserve the proper federal character of the Constitution, and not to intrude upon or invade the functions of the States at every possible opportunity. {: .speaker-KEV} ##### Mr Fenton: -- What can the Commonwealth do when it is asked, over and over again, to advance money to the States? The States are continualy coming to the Commonwealth for financial assistance. {: .speaker-KMQ} ##### Mr MANN: -- These applications have been rendered absolutely necessary, because the Commonwealth has taken hold of the purse strings. It is because the Commonwealth has assumed control of the main finances of Australia that the States are obliged to come to the Commonwealth Government for money with which to carry out their necessary functions. If the States were relieved of the incubus that has been placed upon them, they would have a better chance of carrying out their proper functions and managing their own finances. This bill is nothing but an insidious attempt to further the principle of unification, against which I shall always protest. I do not think it will do much good or harm; its value will depend upon the regulations made under it. The money is to be distributed by the States in one of two ways - either as they think fit or on a £1 for £1 basis. I am opposed to the £1 for £1 subsidy as an attempt to dictate to the State Governments how they shall prepare their budgets. This Parliament has gone far enough in that direction already. If the Commonwealth believes that prospecting for gold needs a stimulus, it should return to the States some of the money improperly collected from them, and leave them to spend it in their discretion. {: #debate-28-s6 .speaker-KF9} ##### Mr A GREEN:
KALGOORLIE, WESTERN AUSTRALIA · ALP; FLP from 1931; ALP from 1936 .- It will be necessary for the Minister to redraft sub-clause 1 to bring it into harmony with sub-clause 2. {: .speaker-KMW} ##### Mr Marr: -- Not necessarily. The £25,000 will be spent by the States only, but the £15,000 that is to be available for the Northern Territory will be advanced by the Commonwealth direct to individuals or companies. {: .speaker-KF9} ##### Mr A GREEN:
KALGOORLIE, WESTERN AUSTRALIA · ALP; FLP from 1931; ALP from 1936 -- I think that the verbiage of the clause could be improved. I am glad that the Minister has agreed to leave the distribution of the money to the States. They have well-equipped departments which can be trusted to administer the fund efficiently and economically. I have already received many letters from persons who desire assistanceunder this bill; one man has asked for £2,000. Members do not care to be involved in applications of this kind. The State departments of mines undoubtedly have records of every mine and district within their jurisdiction, and are best qualified to pronounce upon the merits of any application. I ask that the Minister will make the money available as soon as possible, and let prospectors know that applications must be sent to the State departments of mines. We should avoid a repetition of the trouble that has occurred in connexion with the roads grant. Some honorable members have urged that the Commonwealth should distribute that grant to the roads boards direct. If that policy were adopted, honorable members would receive letters from every roads board in the State, and their lives would be almost unendurable. Let the State members attend to that work. The amount of the proposed grant is small, but I ask the Minister not to place undue restrictions upon the Mines Departments, because they are anxious to do everything possible to develop the territories under their control. If the Commonwealth undertook the distribution of the money, there would be some prospectors - not in Western Australia - who would quickly " sell a pup " to the Government. {: #debate-28-s7 .speaker-KFE} ##### Mr GREGORY:
Swan .- I do not know who asked the Commonwealth for this assistance for prospectors, or what the Government expects it to achieve. If this Parliament desires to encourage prospecting in the Territories, it can do a great deal of good by encouraging the search for other than precious metals. In the north and north-west of Australia there are extensive deposits of base metals, including lead, copper, tin, molybdenite.. and wolfram. The Northern Territory is said to abound in base metals, and the Minister should have power to assist prospectors to search for them. This bill only permits assistance to prospect for the precious metals. Of course, even though he subsidizes prospectors to search for gold, there will be nothing to prevent them from prospecting for other metals. Wolfram exists in the Territory, and tin has been mined there for many years. Not far from Darwin is a big deposit of galena. I agree that sub-Clause 1 should be amended to make provision for prospecting within Commonwealth ' territories. For instance, gold might be discovered in the Federal Capital territory. I am glad that after the money has been allocated to the States, the Minister for .Home and Territories will have no further responsibility in connexion with its distribution. It would be absurd for prospectors in remote portions of Western Australia, Queensland, and South Australia to apply to the Department of Home and Territories for assistance under this bill. The State departments of mines are the proper channels of distribution. I cannot believe that New South Wales and Victoria need this form of assistance from the Commonwealth; but Queensland and Western Australia, with their huge areas, and, possibly, Tasmania also, would be glad to accept Federal financial aid for prospecting. At the same time, I believe that more good would result if this £25,000 that is to be allocated to .the States were made available to the Institute of Science and Industry for the preparation of a comprehensive summary of :the wonderful mineral wealth of Australia. I have travelled extensively throughout the Commonwealth. I had many years of experience as Minister for Mines in Western Australia, and I know of no area, in the world that is so highly mineralized as the Pilbara Province of that State. The mineral resources there include gold, silver, copper, tin, molybdenite, asbestos, tantalite, and mica. Small diamonds have been found in thousands in the battery boxes on the conglomerate lode at Nullagine, where there is a wonderful body of low-grade ore similar to the banket formation in South Africa. Most of the diamonds have no market value, but occasional rich stones have been found. Geological reports show that the staniferous area extends over thousands of square- miles, whilst the copper lodes are exceptionally rich. Recently a 'very promising lode has been developed about 120 miles east of Marble Bar; two rich parallel bodies of ore have been traced for 40 miles. Hitherto the obstacles to the development of these resources have been the distance from the coast, the lack of transit, and the scarcity of timber, fuel, and labour. The climate is not a great disability, because inland "the heat, though intense, is dry. If the Commonwealth were to employ a first-class man to compile from the geological records pamphlets or books for distribution throughout the world, thus bringing under the notice of capitalists abroad the wonderful mineral resources of this continent, more benefit would result than can be expected from any pettifogging meddling with the legitimate work of the State Governments. I am confident that a scheme of the kind I have indicated would meet with the cordial approval of the Chambers of Mines. {: #debate-28-s8 .speaker-KFP} ##### Mr FOSTER:
Wakefield .- The amendment, if inserted in the bill, might be an improvement, but it would not overcome the .difficulty of adequately safeguarding 'Commonwealth expenditure. As the honorable member for Swan **(Mr. Gregory)** has pointed out, the bill is confined to precious metals and prospecting. I have no objection to it so far as it deals with the proportion of moneys to be allotted to the Commonwealth's own areas. {: .speaker-KFE} ##### Mr Gregory: -- The Minister could not, under the bill, lend money to small companies for the development of lead or copper mining territory. {: .speaker-KFP} ##### Mr FOSTER: -- That is so, and, therefore, the money is liable to be wasted on wild-cat schemes. There is no safeguard under the bill ; but it is presumable that .the Minister may have in his mind the provision of restrictions by regulation which may alter the feature of this proposal. Parliament will be responsible for the. expenditure, and it should, therefore, know from the Minister for what purpose the money is to .be used. {: .speaker-KMQ} ##### Mr Mann: -- The money would be , bet.ter :spent on the -discovery of base metals than precious metals. {: .speaker-KFP} ##### Mr FOSTER: -- That is so. I believe that the money would be better expended on a thorough and systematic geological survey, first, of our own territory, and then, if thought desirable, of other parts of the Commonwealth. {: .speaker-KFE} ##### Mr Gregory: -- What is wanted is the collection of data. {: .speaker-KFP} ##### Mr FOSTER: -- I am referring to the expenditure of money for that purpose. A thorough survey of our territory by a competent geologist might prove more effective than the Government proposal in drawing attention to the potential wealth in many parts of Australia. Subclause 1 of clause 5 as it stands is quite proper in its application to the Northern Territory, and I should not object if the money were exclusively applied to the territories of the Commonwealth, including the mandated territories, in which there is just as much promise of wealth as in any part of Australia. Clause 5 is very loosely drafted respecting the allocation of money to the States. Honorable members know the requirements of their own States. It has been said more than once in this chamber that the States have no desire for this. We should have some assurance from the Minister that this money will be soundly invested. The adoption of the £1 for £1 basis if it were applicable would be some security to the Commonwealth, because of the States having to meet a portion of the expenditure. {: .speaker-KMQ} ##### Mr Mann: -- Why should the Commonmonwealth say how the States should spend the money? {: .speaker-KFP} ##### Mr FOSTER: -- That question is not involved. If the States submitted a scheme on a £1 for £1 basis, which they were prepared to put into effect, the Minister if he thought fit could approve of it. {: .speaker-KMQ} ##### Mr Mann: -- Under the bill the States cannot obtain money unless on a £1 for £1 basis. {: .speaker-KFP} ##### Mr FOSTER: -- The Minister said definitely that expenditure on a. £1 for £1 basis would not be insisted upon. {: .speaker-KMW} ##### Mr Marr: -- No. I have already stated that the money will be distributed to the States in proportion to the amount that they spend on prospecting this financial year. {: .speaker-KFP} ##### Mr FOSTER: -- In what proportion?. {: .speaker-KMW} ##### Mr Marr: -- If a State expended) £10,000 this year, its proportion of the £25,000 might be £5,000. {: .speaker-KFP} ##### Mr FOSTER: -- I believe, with other honorable members who have spoken, that the Commonwealth should expend this money in its own territory. The general manager and some of the directoi's of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company, after travelling, through the Northern Territory, stated that the central portion of it was rich with minerals and precious stones. {: .speaker-KF9} ##### Mr A GREEN:
KALGOORLIE, WESTERN AUSTRALIA · ALP; FLP from 1931; ALP from 1936 -- Why did they not pick up some of them? {: .speaker-KFP} ##### Mr FOSTER: -- Specimens are being found there almost daily. It is well known that Queensland prospectors have travelled through the Territory and found valuable minerals and precious stones, but money is needed to develop the mining territories. The proposal under the bill is unsound, and the Minister would be wise to adjourn the bill so that the. Government may bring forward a measure that is more in accord with the wishes of Parliament. *Sitting suspended from 6.25 to 8 p.m..* {: #debate-28-s9 .speaker-KZT} ##### Mr RODGERS:
WANNON, VICTORIA · LP; NAT from 1917 . -While the Government must be credited with good intentions in offering a stimulus to the discovery of precious metals, now that it has had an opportunity of hearing the voice of the States, and the discussion in this House, it should withdraw the bill', recast it, and restrict its application to the federal territories-. The scope of the measure should be widened in order to cover prospecting for base, as well as precious, metals. The small amount of money provided in this bill, when spread over the whole of the Commonwealth, cannot offer an effective stimulus to the. discovery of precious metals. My proposal would remove from the measure one of. the. objections that some honorable members, including myself, have voiced, namely, that it is. an incursion by the Commonwealth into the well-defined realm of the States. There must be some limit to the dual obligations of the Commonwealth and the States. I agree entirely with the honorable member for Perth **(Mr. Mann)** that the people will become bewildered as to the limitations of the State and Federal functions, and that measures like this can only encourage the demand for unification. I do not speak in a captious spirit when I strongly recommend the Minister in charge of the bill to accept my suggestion. This is not an urgent measure. There has been no definite demand for it by the States, and there has been, on the other hand, a rather ungenerous criticism of it by representatives of the States. Let us leave to the States the problem of mining within their own boundaries. In some of the States digging for gold has been discontinued, but there are many other metals for which prospectingcould be encouraged. {: .speaker-L1T} ##### Mr Yates: -- Honorable members opposite are debating their own mandate. {: .speaker-KZT} ##### Mr RODGERS:
WANNON, VICTORIA · LP; NAT from 1917 -- That shows the wonderful character of the charter under which we come here. The Minister has not sufficiently explained the details of the bill, and the conditions upon which the grant will be made. I should like the measure to contain a few of the fundamental principles spoken of by the Minister. It is subject to the objection voiced by the honorable member for Perth, that it leaves the people in doubt as to how the money will be spent, for the Minister can spend it as he thinks fit. Further, there is no basis of allocation as between the different States. The Minister stated that the allocation would be on a £1 for £1 basis, but he gave us a new interpretation of that basis. Apparently when States spend their £1, they will be reimbursed by a £1 of Commonwealth money, and thus, in the following year, be able to spend another £1. The Minister might incorporate the fifty-fifty basis in clause 5. I feel quite sure that he will be wise in adopting my suggestion. {: #debate-28-s10 .speaker-L1T} ##### Mr YATES:
Adelaide .- As so many suggestions are floating about, and this bill seems to be damned with faint praise by its sponsors and supporters, I make bold to put forward the suggestion that the Minister withdraw the bill immediately. It is not compatible with the Government's mandate. It is not approved by the Government's followers. It will not have the effect it is intended to have. It will, perhaps, be a stimulus to a few more " wild cats." It conflicts with the rights of the States. It may bring about a civil war on the issue of State rights. The Federation may be torn asunder. In fact, anything may happen. The splendid vote of the 14th November, may be nullified to that extent. The bill is a stop-gap. and I doubt whether any supporter of the Government will contend otherwise. Before it was introduced no one had heard of the gold bounty; and no one now appears to know the reason for it, or to see any virtue in it. The suggestion I wish to make will probably have the support of Tasmanian representatives, who, last week, desired that all the laws of the Commonwealth should be torn up to suit the parlous condition of their State.I suggest that when thebill has been withdrawn the amount provided in it should be supplemented by sufficient additional money to give an impetus to the paperpulp manufacturing industry in Tasmania. There seems to be something sensible in that suggestion, the adoption of which would develop the latent resources of Tasmania by giving an impetus to an industry that the Commonwealth ought to be able to maintain. It would be better to do that than to throw £40,000 away. Of all the mining magnates in this House - the representatives of electorates where there are mines and' miners - the only honorable member who spoke truthfully about mining was the honorable member for Ballarat **(Mr. McGrath),** who has dead miners and miners dying with phthisis in his district. I do not think the same unfortunate results will follow in the wake of the wood-pulp industry. Let the Ministry devote the money to something practical, something that will develop the Commonwealth. The Government is out of step with the people of this country. The Honorary Minister has been given a job that none of the other Ministers can do. I sympathize with him, and suggest that in order to save his face he should withdraw the bill and produce something more beneficial to the Commonwealth. {: #debate-28-s11 .speaker-KF9} ##### Mr A GREEN:
KALGOORLIE, WESTERN AUSTRALIA · ALP; FLP from 1931; ALP from 1936 .- I regret to find that there is in this committee a pronounced objection to assisting the gold-mining industry. {: .speaker-KMQ} ##### Mr Mann: -- There is no such objection. {: .speaker-KF9} ##### Mr A GREEN:
KALGOORLIE, WESTERN AUSTRALIA · ALP; FLP from 1931; ALP from 1936 -- It is made evident by the speeches made this afternoon. If the honorable member for Perth **(Mr. Mann)** will cast his mind back to other bounty acts passed by this Parliament, he will recall that they were passed, not merely without dissent, but with approbation from both sides of the House. We have had iron and steel, oil, meat export, sulphur, canned fruit, cattle export, and wine export bounty acts, by which bounties amounting to £1,301,000 were provided. *Now,* when it is proposed to assist the gold-mining industry, which was responsible for bringing a virile population to this State from every part of the world, and for giving to Victoria a lead over other parts of Australia that were naturally more productive, many objections were raised. Criticisms from representatives of Victoria show lack of appreciation of an industry that has done much for this State. We can easily understand the attitude of the honorable member for Adelaide **(Mr. Yates),** who comes from a State tb at produces nothing but wheat, and it is wheat that bounds his vision. The prospector, whether for base metals, silver, or gold, in the remote parts of Australia is doing more to support the outposts of civilization than any one else. If honorable members are sincere in seeking assistance for the base-metal industry, I am quite willing to support them, but what consistency is there in destroying a measure that proposes to assist the very deserving gold-mining prospector, who is in need of assistance, in order to substitute something else. Whatever our views may be on the need for assisting the basemetal industry, let us go forward with the proposal to assist the gold-mining industry. The proposed bounty is small, but I am. pleased with it, because it is an acknowledgement that something is owing to the gold miner, who has done so much for Australia. The following statement, which I quote from the local evening newspaper, should give us faith in our country : - >BURIED GOLD. > >Big Alluvial DEPOSITS in W.A. > > *Prof. David's Opinion. (Herald* Special Representative.) > >London, Fab. 2. Professor **Sir Edgeworth** David, who is preparing a book on the geology of Australia, hopes that it will be published in June. > >He pays a tribute to the work of the geologists of the States, on which the book will be largely based. He predicts that Australian gold raining will improve, and that scientific prospecting will eventually locate big alluvial gold-bearing areas in Western Australia, where the deposits at present are difficult to trace. > >On the other hand, lava streams flooded the old valleys in the eastern States, permanently indicating their shape and. course, thus facilitating the search for alluvial gold. No such basaltic flows occurred in Western Australia, where the gold lies buried under layers of wind-blown or water-carried deposits. The bill will assist in keeping men in the hinterland, where at present no other industry than gold-mining can be established. My only regret is that the Government will not provide more money.' However, if the money is used wisely by the States the vote will, no doubt, be increased in the future, and this great industry recognized, as other industries are to-day. {: #debate-28-s12 .speaker-K6S} ##### Mr CORSER:
WIDE BAY, QUEENSLAND · LP; NAT from 1917 .- I am pleased that this measure has been introduced, as, although the amount of the bounty is small, it is better than none at all. There is plenty of room for development in the mining industry of Australia. There is no reason to suppose that, so far as Queensland is concerned, mines equal to those already in existence will not be discovered in the future. Queensland has an area of 419,000,000 acres, and there is no knowing what gold it contains. The existence of gold at Mount Morgan and at Gympie was discovered by accident. The same is true of other finds. If encouragement such as that proposed by this bill be given to experienced prospectors, they will be prepared to go out in search for gold. Some years ago a gold mine was discovered in. my constituency, but the site of it is not now known. From it about a ton of ore was sent toSydney, and, although the assay proved satisfactory, the cost of treatment at that time prevented the development of the mine. But now, with better methods of treatment, that mine, if rediscovered, would prove a valuable asset. If we can assist the States in the manner proposed by this measure, there is a possibility of good results being obtained. The bill is a step in the right direction. Some have said that legislation of this character is an interference with State rights, but I do not think that any State minister would be other than pleased to receive money to assist the development of mining in his State. Amendment agreed to. Clause, as amended, agreed to. Clause 6 agreed to. Preamble and title agreed to. Billreported with an amendment. Standing Orders suspended, and report adopted. Bill read a third time. {: .page-start } page 622 {:#debate-29} ### PETROLEUM PROSPECTING BILL {:#subdebate-29-0} #### Second Reading {: #subdebate-29-0-s0 .speaker-KMW} ##### Mr MARR:
Honorary Minister · Parkes · NAT -- I move - That the bill be now read a second time. The object of this measure is to appro- propriate the sum of £60,000 for the purpose of assisting State governments, companies, ' and individuals engaged in the search for oil in Australia, in carrying out boring operations, and in making geological surveys in areas where it is considered that there is a reasonable prospect of obtaining oil. For a number of years the Commonwealth Government offered a reward of £50,000 for the discovery of petroleum oil in Australia in commercial quantities; but, although several companies have said that they were applicants for the reward, it cannot be said that the offer of that reward has done much to advance the search for oil, or 'that it is likely to prove of any real value in that direction. The Government hasgiven this matter careful consideration, especially in the light of the advice received from **Dr. Arthur** Wade, an oil expert of world repute, who had previously made exhaustive inquiries as to the prospects of obtaining oil in Australia., and also of the recommendations of the geologists who met in Melbourne in June last. The result has been the withdrawal of the offer of the reward of £50,000, in lieu of which this bill, providing for a subsidy of £60,000 to assist in the search for oil and in the conduct of geological surveys, has been substituted. {: .speaker-DQC} ##### Mr W M Hughes: -- Does the bill apply to Australia only? {: .speaker-KMW} ##### Mr MARR: -- Yes, for the time being. In considering the. form which any assistance to the oil industry should take, the Government was guided by the advice of **Dr. Wade.** In his report **Dr. Wade** stressed the importance of the employment of methodical and scientific methods of prospecting, and the need for further detailed geological surveys. The Government decided to make money available to assist in boring operations and in conducting geological surveys, limiting such assistance to those areas which have been favorably reported on by **Dr. Wade.** The subsidy proposed will be on a £1 for £1 basis. In the case of boring operations it will be confined to. the expenditure actually incurred in boring, and to bores put down in areas and at sites approved by the Commonwealth. {: .speaker-DQC} ##### Mr W M Hughes: -- Does that apply to bores already pub down ? {: .speaker-KMW} ##### Mr MARR: -- It will, if in the opinion of the Government's experts their situation is satisfactory. The sum of £60,000 bo be appropriated will be allocated to various districts. Up to £22,500 will be set aside for boring operations in the Fitzroy River area and in the vicinity known as Price's Creek, in Western Australia; a similar amount will be allocated to the area known as Belford Dome in the Hunter River district of New South Wales; and a sum not exceeding £5,000 will be set aside to enable a thorough and detailed geological survey to be made of the areas in the vicinity of Longreach, Blackall and Ruthven in Queensland,and such other areas as may be agreed to by the Commonwealth and the States. In the areas mentioned, the Government's expert adviser considers that there is a reasonable prospect of obtaining oil. {: .speaker-KZT} ##### Mr RODGERS:
WANNON, VICTORIA · LP; NAT from 1917 -- Where a state government is doing the prospecting, will the Commonwealth subsidy apply ? {: .speaker-KMW} ##### Mr MARR: -- It will, if our expert adviser is satisfied that there is a reasonable prospect of the State discovering oil. {: .speaker-KZT} ##### Mr RODGERS:
WANNON, VICTORIA · LP; NAT from 1917 -- Even though it be a state enterprise ? {: .speaker-KMW} ##### Mr MARR: -- The great thing is to discover oil. {: .speaker-DQC} ##### Mr W M Hughes: -- Will the Minister say whether the Government's expert adviser has expressed an opinion as to the prospect of finding oil in Austrailia. {: .speaker-KMW} ##### Mr MARR: -- He reports that in the FitzroyRiver and the Price's Creek areas, which are in the Kimberly district of Western Australia, and also in the Belford Dome area of the HunterRiver district of New South Wales every indication exists for the successful flow of oil. Prospectors may obtain the subsidy, or a State may receive assistance in conducting geological surveys, in respect of anydistrict where the Commonwealth adviser considers that there is a reasonable pros- pect of oil being obtained. The conduct of geological surveys is left to the States for the reason that they already have this work under their control, and the maps are in their- possession. In the Fitzroy River area, **Dr. Wade** indicated three sites where he considered bores should be put down. At one of them a company has. already commenced boring operations. This company the Government will assist, as it believes that those people who are prepared to- accept its expert's advice as to the- site at which boring operations' should take place are entitled to assistance. {: .speaker-JWQ} ##### Mr G FRANCIS:
KENNEDY, QUEENSLAND · NAT -- Is £5,000 to be spent in each of these localities? {: .speaker-KMW} ##### Mr MARR: -- It is proposed that £22,500 may be spent in these localities. I do not say that the Government intends to spend the whole of that amount ; but under the bill it may spend up to that amount in. these areas. The amount of £5,000 is set aside to. assist the States in geological survey work. I have no doubt that there are many other possible oil-bearing areas in which honorable members may be interested, in the mandated territories, Papua, and in parts of Australia to which I have not referred. We must be guided by our expert in this matter. We may get. f further advice about other fields, and that, when it is received, will be taken into consideration. It is possible that the budget proposals for next year will include further sums for subsidizing operations for the discovery of oil, {: .speaker-JOS} ##### Mr Bell: -- There will not be much left for areas which have not been referred to by the Minister if £50,000 is spent on the areas he has referred to. {: .speaker-KMW} ##### Mr MARR: -- It may be contended, as was contended in connexion with the vote proposed for subsidizing prospecting for precious metals, that the amount of the vote covered by this bill is too small. It may be considered small, but it is a beginning. {: .speaker-JOS} ##### Mr Bell: -- In the Mersey "Valley, in Tasmania, there are indications of oil. {: .speaker-KMW} ##### Mr MARR: -- The Government placed itself in the hands of **Dr. Wade,** who is recognized throughout the world as an expert in oil geological survey work. It was guided by his reports as to the areas in which there is a reasonable prospect of oil being discovered. {: .speaker-KXD} ##### Mr Watson: -- Is **Dr. Wade** in the employ of the Federal Government? {: .speaker-KMW} ##### Mr MARR: -- He was retained- by the Federal Government to report on the possible occurrence of oil in various parts of Australia. It was open for him to investigate any proposition, carry out surveys, and make inquiries in respect of any areas throughout the Commonwealth in which it was thought that oil might have been discovered. {: .speaker-KEV} ##### Mr Fenton: -- **Dr. Wade** is not now in the Commonwealth. {: .speaker-KMW} ##### Mr MARR: -- He has now left the Commonwealth. Various questions may be raised and replied to" during the debate. The honorable member for Maribyrnong **(Mr. Fenton)** moved the adjournment of the House this afternoon to refer to the shortage of petrol in Australia. The right honorable member for North Sydney **(Mr. Hughes)** has mentioned the position in- which Australia is .placed, and the vital need for the discovery of means for- the production of power. As we are burning up our timber and our coal, it is essential that oil should be discovered in Australia, and that the discovery should be made as speedily as possible, if we are to extend our operations and to exploit our industries- to their fullest extent. {: #subdebate-29-0-s1 .speaker-KFA} ##### Mr R GREEN:
RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES · CP .- Although I intend to support the bill, Ihave some criticism of it to offer. I hope it will prove to be helpful criticism. I have given some consideration to this matter since it was suggested, prior to and during the Federal elections, that it was possible that the Government would set aside a certain amount to assist in the discovery of oil in Australia. Although the amount provided for under this bill will be regarded as quite insufficient, the measure is evidence of the desire of the Government to discover the occurrence of oil, the importance of which is increasing every year. Honorable members know the importance of oil from an international point of view, and are aware that discoveries of oil-fields and their possession are responsible for diplomatic changes in these times. Nations envy others the possession of oil fields. **Dr. Wade** has been quoted bv the Minister, and, in a report on oil in Papua which he submitted to the Government, he made certain valuable suggestions, which I bring under the notice of the Minister for consideration when regulations under this bill are being framed. Incidentally, I may say that in bills submitted to this House some more definite terms than are found in this and in the last measurewe had under consideration should be used to indicate the nature of the regulations to be framed to give effect to the provisions of a bill. This bill provides that regulations may be made " prescribing all matters that are required or permitted to be prescribed." We have been given no inkling by the Minister as to the conditions likely to be prescribed under this bill. The House is being asked to agree to a vote of £60,000 to assist in the discovery of oil, but we know scarcely anything of the conditions under which the money is to be advanced. Unless the Minister informs us of the nature of the conditions we cannot properly discuss the merits of the proposal. The only thing mentioned by the honorable gentleman was that the subsidy is to be paid to assist boring operations in areas that have been favorably reported on by the Government Geologist. {: .speaker-KMW} ##### Mr Marr: -- I said that it was to be paid on a £1 for £1 basis. {: .speaker-KFA} ##### Mr R GREEN:
RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES · CP -- That is so. {: .speaker-KZT} ##### Mr RODGERS:
WANNON, VICTORIA · LP; NAT from 1917 -- What is the objection to putting that into the bill? {: .speaker-KFA} ##### Mr R GREEN:
RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES · CP -- The interjection of the honorable member for Wannon **(Mr. Rodgers)** is pertinent and timely. Such provisions should be set out in the bill so that honorable members might know something of the conditions' upon which the money is to be advanced. There should be a provision requiring continuity of operations, and Commonwealth inspection of the work done. **Dr. Wade,** in his report, mentioned that regulations should be enforced with regard to continuity of work, and that operations should be subject to Government inspection of blocks of land taken up for boring purposes. Too often companies, after doing a certain amount of work, run out of capital and become sitdownanddonothingcompanies. I suggest that no subsidy should be paid to any company that has not a paid-up capital of at least £10,000. Where oil may not be found above a. depth of from 1,500 to 2,000 feet, money spent on a narrow - say, 5-in. - bore may be absolutely wasted, and the company conducting the operations may he unable to reach the oilbearing strata. I hope that in reply to the debate the Minister will give honorable members some further information as to the conditions likely to be prescribed before any payment of this money is made. Another suggestion I should like to make is that, in return for the payment of the subsidy, where oil is found in commercial quantities, the Government should be entitled to a percentage of the oil obtained. In the case, for instance, of an outbreak of hostilities, oil would be urgently required for the navy, and there should be a reservation to the Government in case of emergency of any oil found as the result of subsidized operations. I should like to see the Commonwealth derive some benefit from the payment of this subsidy. By its payment the Government is actually buying shares in the company to which the money is paid. If a company discovered oil in commercial quantities and the Government took 1 per cent. of the oil found, the companywould be let off very lightly. This would recoup the Government for the subsidy it paid, and would enable it to subsidize further boring operations or geological surveys. In this bill it is mentioned that the subsidy, amounting to £60,000, is to be spent only in Australia. In this connexion, referring again to **Dr. Wade's** report, which was submitted in 1913 - in pre-war days - I find that he said - >Indications of petroleum have also been noted in Dutch New Guinea and in the German portion of the island. The conditions in both cases appear to be similar to those existing in Papua, but little has been done towards their development. The German Government, however, has recently had the question under consideration, and investigation by a petroleum technologist, having experience in the Dutch East Indies, is proposed. This is the important sentence: - >The relation between the New Guinea oil belt and the oil-bearing territories in other parts of the Bast Indian archipelago, i.e., Java, Sumatra, Borneo, &c, is a close one, geologically speaking. All these areas are situated on one connected line of earth movement. Personal examination of these other fields has shown me that the beds are much the same, both in age and in nature, as those in Papua. I have read that report to honorable members, because I am anxious that some assistance in the way of subsidy should be given to those who are prospecting for oil in the mandated territory of New Guinea. In spite of the statement of the honorable member for Wentworth **(Mr. Marks)** the other day that he had definite proof that there was a movement on foot by Germany, the late owner of New Guinea, to get this , territory back again, I am of the opinion that Australia will continue to hold its mandate. In any case, if oil were found in New Guinea, the value of the islands would so increase that it would probably be impossible for any other country to buy them back again, and I cannot see how the League of Nations would permit of any transfer until the proper financial adjustments were made to the country holding them and developing them during the period of the mandate. If that were not done, a gross injustice would be perpetrated to Australia, and a precedent would be set up which would create a feeling of insecurity on the part of other countries holding mandates, inasmuch as they would fear that they might not be reimbursed for expenditure incurred by them in developing the areas entrusted to them under the terms of their mandates. More than that, there would be a consciousness of injustice that would not tend to that harmony among the nations one is so desirous of seeing. However, I think we can put aside the possibility of Australia losing its mandate to govern New Guinea. I want to show honorable members that the evidence in favour of success in boring for oil in the mandated territory is overwhelming. That evidence covers the period from 1913, when **Dr. Wade** reported, . until almost the present moment. **Mr. Evan** R. Stanley, Government Geologist of New Guinea, made some reports in regard to petroleum in a book he published, and I have with me the report to the League pf Nations on the administration ' of the territory of New Guinea from the 1st July, 1921, to the 30th June, 1922, in which **Mr. Stanley** covering his section says: - >The first reference to the characteristics of the north-east coast of New Guinea was made in 1886 by Baron von Schleinitz, who explored from Fortification Point to the mouth of the Sepik River in the Ottilie. Some of the low, undulating portions of the coast-line were referred to as being tertiary in age. The first reference to the discovery of oil in New Guinea was made by Professor A. Wickmann, who described the occurrence of brine, mud, and oil springs in the Buti River, in the Takar district, on the north coast of Dutch New Guinea. Oil saturates part of the coal-bearing series in the Iwaka 'River, south of the Nassau range, in the same territory.- Therefore we have definite evidence that as far back as 1886 a certain quantity of oil was found. {: .speaker-DQC} ##### Mr W M Hughes: -- That was in Dutch New Guinea. {: .speaker-KFA} ##### Mr R GREEN:
RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES · CP -- Yes, but I am following up **Dr. Wade's** contention that the oil strata ran right through from Dutch New Guinea to the German portion of New Guinea. **Mr. Stanley's** report continues: - >In 1010, Professor Leonhard Schultz*!, of Jena, whilst engaged on the delimitation of the German-Dutch boundary, refers in his map to the occurrence of brine springs near the Bawarni i Mountains, and to the presence of raised limestones capping some of the sandstone hills. The sandstone hills referred to, the brine springs, which are usually associated with petroleum occurrences, and the existence of mineral oil on the north coast of Dutch New Guinea, point to the possibility of the occurrence of oil in late German New Guinea. lt was not long after 1910 that the German Government heard of the reported occurrence of oil in the Aitape district. Aitape is within the mandated territory. The Reichstag voted 120,000 marks for the purpose of scientific investigation of this area, which was later increased to 500,000 marks. During 1911 petroleum was discovered on the south coast of Papua, and **Mr. J.** E. Came, F.G.S., referred to the various occurrences in 1913. He refers to the distribution of petroleum in New Guinea and its relationship to the East Indies. In 1911-12 I made an investigation of- the oil area, preparing maps and a report, which were incorporated in **Dr. Wade's** report in 1914. That is the report to which I have already referred. **Mr. Stanley** says further that in 1914 and 1917 there were reports on occurrences of oil in German New Guinea, and then he proceeds as follows : - >During April to September, 1921, some members of the geological staff of the AngloPersian Oil Company investigated a portion of the New Guinea Territory, specializing in those districts which were reported to be oilbearing. I have been privileged to peruse their report on the "Geological Survey in exGerman New Guinea" after submission to the Prime* Minister's Department, and the geologists who investigated the Aitape and Madang districts deserve congratulations for the work they have done in this little-known field. I personally investigated the region from Madang to the Sepik River, and the results of my own observations compare very favorably with that of the Anglo-Persian in proving the extension of probable oil-bearing strata almost along the whole northern coast-line from the Maclay coast to the Dutch border. Thus we have proof running over quite a number of years of occurrences of oil in this territory administered under our mandate. .. In his general report- **Mr. Stanley** says - >There appears to be a large development of Plio-miocene sedimentary rocks in the upper reaches of the Toriu, where there has been very little rolling and faulting. The series is quite typical ,and requires further investigation at this point. On New Ireland the late tertiary deposits called " Tamui " are also related to the Toriu occurrence, and further work on these coal-bearing areas should be encouraged. The area between Aitape and the border should be examined in some detail, as that area is likely to be less disturbed than that portion south-east of Aitape; for the volcanic trend line disappears seawards near Aitape, and though oil may be found in the western littoral of Aitape, there is a better chance of obtaining the geological structure suitable for largo deposits, and which would not have been subjected to faulting and intrusion as occurs in the Matapau district. Then he speaks of explorations by Lieutenant C. T. Young in . 1919, from Vanimo, in the mandated territory, where distinct traces of oil were found. He proceeds : - >This additional information regarding oil indications in the geologically unexplored area west of Aitape is valuable knowledge, and. should be further investigated. He concludes his report as follows: - >In supporting the recommendations set out in the report by the Anglo-Persian geologists, I would strongly advocate a thorough examination of the Sepik and Ramu valleys as- far as is practicable, the Vanimo area, and nil that portion of the coast-line between the Dutch border and Aitape, together with afurther examination of the hinterland portions of the Toriu and Iboki districts, in New Britain, and the late tertiary coal-bearing series on New Ireland. I make no apology for quoting these extracts, because the finding of oil in Australia, or within those areas contiguous to Australia and administered by the Commonwealth, would be a matter of the greatest importance. The Minister's statement that the department has received no report from New Guinea is disproved by these documents, which show not only that reports have been made by geologists of repute, but also that the Germans themselves were very well seised of the possibility of what could be done, and even went so far as to 'provide two amounts of money, the last totalling about £25,000, for exploring in one particular district alone. I have also a report by **Dr. H..** I. Jensen, a gentleman of very high repute in. the geological world. Speaking of one of these areas in New Guinea, he said: - >The geological strata passed through in drilling to 305 feet . . . are highly favorable and promising, and should stimulate the desire to push on with the drilling with the least possible delay. In another part he said:, - >Drilling in the Marienberg area should yield oil between 700'. and 1,500 feet, with better pools at greater depths up to 4,000 feet if the analogy with the Astrolabe sequence is maintained, as it probably will be. That report was submitted after **Dr. Jensen** had made a visit to the Astrolabe Bay area in New Guinea. The opinion of a man of the repute of **Dr. Jensen** should not be lightly passed over by this House. When **Mr. L.** J. Jones, a geological surveyor in the New South Wales Mines Department, gave evidence before the Commonwealth Public Accounts Committee, he was asked - >You think there are great possibilities of securing oil in the mandated territories? His reply was - >I think it is a surety. The Dutch are producing it in commercial quantities just, over the border. He had been there and knew what was being done. There are now 61x companies working in New Guinea, and; two of them are now boring, so far as I have been able to ascertain on making recent inquiries in Sydney. One company, which started with a 12-in. hole, is: down 530 feet, and another, which started with a 5-in. hole, is down 560 feet, but ia practically at the end of its tether because its plant will not enable it to go to any greater depth. These companies are spending their own capital. The initial cost is very high. To send a geologist to make a survey to see if there is any possibility of discovering oil, and to mark out sites for bores where the best results arelikely to be obtained, is a very heavy expense. In addition, the companies have to buy their own machinery, and ship it to the seat of operations. They must also employ a minimum of six white men, and the wages of white men in that, locality are no. small item. A £1 for £1 subsidy -would go a long way towards helping bona fide companies working, in an area where there is- a big possibility of finding oil, as is proved by reports to the Government, in. addition to those of private companies' geologists. This Par- liament should take into serious consideration the extension of the subsidy for oil to the mandated territory. I am asking nothing for Papua, because the Commonwealth Government is now subsidizing the Anglo-Persian Oil Company to bore for oil in that territory. So far as ex-German New Guinea is concerned, we appear to have a sort of Cinderella among our possessions. Although there is the greatest possibility of finding oil there, it has been deliberately omitted from the bill. This omission cannot be due to lack of knowledge, for the Commonwealth department handling this matter must be aware of the reports which have been furnished, unless they have been conveniently pigeon-holed. The Government subsidized the AngloPersian Oil Company, whose limited geological survey of the coast of New Guinea was the foundation of subsequent surveys by various companies. If the Government knows of any reason, founded upon considerations of high policy or international relations, for not subsidizing prospecting for oil in the mandated territory, the House is entitled to be told what it is. I have produced sufficient evidence of the probability of finding oil in the petroliferous zone that extends through Dutch New Guinea into the mandated territory, and this Parliament should agree to encourage prospecting there. There is more likelihood of finding oil in that territory than in any part of Australia. **Dr. Wade** was by no means optimistic regarding the prospects on the mainland ; even in regard to the Belford Dome, his report was very guarded. The mandated territory is under the control of Australia, to be held and developed to the best possible advantage. Let us therefore expend the Commonwealth's money where there is a reasonable chance of obtaining oil, and, by making Australia self-contained in that regard, avoid a repetition of those commercial conditions which were the subject of the motion for the adjournment of the House to-day. The honorable member for North Sydney **(Mr. Hughes)** suggested that the operation of combines can be checked only by an alteration of the Constitution. We can more effectively relieve Australia of the strangle-hold imposed by the oil trusts if we develop the oil resources within our own territories. {: #subdebate-29-0-s2 .speaker-KZA} ##### Mr WEST:
East Sydney .- If I thought that the proposed bounty would lead to the discovery of oil, I would not hesitate to approve of the expenditure of £500,000 to that end, hut I am not sanguine of the possibility of discovering oil anywhere in Australia. We can be almost sure that oil will not be found in Victoria, because the State departments, in prospecting for coal and other minerals, have sunk 9,000 bores without finding any indication of it. I think it is futile to offer advances to discoverers of flow oil, because anybody so fortunate as to locate oil in commercial quantities will not require a paltry £50,000 from the Commonwealth. The Public Accounts Committee examined Professor David, **Dr. Wade,** and many other experts, but no evidence of a positive or encouraging character was tendered. Some of the witnesses indulged in dreams and imaginings, but, when cross-examined, they admitted that their opinions were based solely upon surface indications, and that the bore was the only real means of ascertaining subterranean conditions. If the Commonwealth intends to give any form of assistance to oil prospectors, the most effective method will be to subsidize boring operations. In Queensland large sums of money have been expended on prospecting for oil without success. At Roma, gas was found in quantities sufficient to provide illuminant and power' for a large centre of population, but there was nothing to warrant expectations of striking a flow of oil. If there are persons or companies willing to undertake prospecting, I have no objection to the Commonwealth assisting them, but, except for a few visionaries who claimed that they could locate oil if they had £500,000 to spend, the Public Accounts Committee heard of nobody who had any tangible scheme to put forward. My own view is that the most promising field for oil prospecting is the Hunter River district. Coal is of %'egetable origin, and oil, too, has always been found in regions that at one time were covered with heavy vegetation. I would, therefore, give preference to boring in districts of that character The actual work .of boring is very delicate and often disheartening! Sometimes after the drill has reached a depth of 2,000 feet the casing collapses, and either stronger casing has to he inserted or a new hole has to be sunk. At other times the bore is ruined by "running mud stones," caused by the disintegration of the strata under high pressure. I do not agree with the honorable member for Richmond **(Mr. R. Green)** with regard to prospecting in the mandated territories. It is possible that if oil were found there the League of Nations would lay claim to it, and Australia would be robbed of the fruits of its enterprise. Favorable indications of oil have been obtained in Papua. At the present time the Government is providing up to £2,000 per month for the boring operations that are being carried out by the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, but I am not at all satisfied with that arrangement. I um not convinced of the justification for abandoning the Vailala field and transferring to Popo. Moreover, the Commonwealth representative is also manager for the company, and I always distrust the principle of dual responsibility. A man cannot serve two masters. It is not to the company's interest to produce oil in Papua for the Commonwealth, when it can bring crude oil from Persia in tank steamers for refining in Australia and so help its own business. There is a great possibility that Australia will benefit considerably from the extraction of benzol from coal. We do not know the extent of our coal deposits. Coal is still being found in different parts of Australia, and the value of the benzol and other by-products extracted from it has greatly stimulated the coal-mining industry. Various companies, including the Sydney Gas Company and the Broken Hill Proprietary Company, are extracting benzol and other products from coal. Coke, which is the principal by-product, is very valuable, because of its use in the smelting of iron and steel. It represents about 45 per cent, of the byproducts. The Sydney Gas Company is extracting benzol and tar from coal, and, under improved methods, the tar would ' be equal to the best French tar, and could be produced in sufficient quantities to asphalt the streets of Sydney and its suburbs. lt does a large distributing business in benzol. But the company is not prepared to go to the expense of im- . proving the quality of its tar, because a State act provides that profits must not exceed 8 per cent., and that any addi- tional revenue must be used to reduce the price of gas to the consumer. Because of this, the company does not take any interest in the extension of its works. It may increase its capital and extend its operations. Australia has a bountiful supply of coal and shale from which, in conjunction with the development of the cassava-growing industry, we, at no distant date, will be able to supply the whole of our oil and petrol requirements. There is little possibility of discovering an oil flow in Australia. The Public Accounts Committee recently inquired into this matter, but its labours were in vain. It was unable to hold out to this House any prospect of oil being discovered- in Australia. I trust that the bill, if passed, will prove to be beneficial, and that persons who are willing to search for oil will receive adequate assistance from the Government. Gas has been discovered at Roma, and it is likely to be discovered in other parts of Australia. Fresh bores may disclose new coal deposits. There are coal-fields in Queensland, Western Australia, and New South Wales. One coal-field in New South Wales extends for 50 miles south and about 100 milesnorth of Sydney. The State of New South Wales is virtually a coal bed. I have received from England some of the latest literature respecting the extraction of benzol and other by-products from coal, and this, I hope, will be of some use to the Public Accounts Committee. The *Sydney Morning Herald* recently .published on this subject a very fine article, based on English authority. I believe that the British Government has practically decided to introduce legislation to prevent the burning of coal in its raw state, so valuable are the by-products to be obtained from it. Honorable members know how injurious are fumes from coal. Before the Melbourne suburban train system was electrified, dense volumes of black smoke, containing valuable byproducts, hung continuously over the city. We are indifferent to this waste because of our plentiful supplies of coal. We must produce oil, and not allow our supplies to be at the mercy of the oil combines. We do not know how long the oil wells of Persia and America will last. There is grave fear in America that, in ten years' time or less, steps will have to be taken to prevent the export of oil, because that country will then have barely sufficient for its own requirements. We should take up this matter earnestly, so that Australia may, in a few years, become self-contained in its supplies of oil. This afternoon, the honorable member for Maribyrnong **(Mr. Fenton)** moved the adjournment of the House to bring under our notice " the unfair methods adopted by the oil combine to increase the price of petrol and so compensate for the extra cost of imported petrol pumps. The Vacuum Oil Company and the British Imperial Oil Company are making enormous profits, and the Government should take immediate steps to protect the Australian petrol consumers. The sum of £60,000, provided for under this bill, would be useless to any person who discovered oil, because plenty of outside capital would be at his disposal. We should encourage persons to bore for oil, because of the possibility of discovering other valuable minerals at the same time. The only method of discovering oil in Australia is boring. {: #subdebate-29-0-s3 .speaker-DQC} ##### Mr W M HUGHES:
North Sydney -- Aa one who has long recognized the of oil to this country, I welcome this measure. The Honorary Minister, when introducing the bill, referred to the policy of the late Government, which offered a reward of £50,000 for the discovery of oil in commercially payable quantities. He said that the, reward had proved of no avail, and that the Government had now turned to the method provided for in the bill. I do not complain of the honorable gentleman's criticism- of the policy of the late Government; I only wish to say that the Government which I had the honour to lead did everything possible, not only in that, but also in many other ways, to encourage prospecting for oil in this country. I remind the Minister that, in addition to offering a reward of £50,000, the late Government did many things to promote and safeguard the interests of Australia in this direction. Along with the British Government, it spent hundreds of thousands of pounds in prospecting for oil in Papua; it spent large sums of money in prospecting in former German New Guinea. That among those efforts, extending over a number of years, it established the Commonwealth oil refineries, one, indeed, almost the only, means which Australia possesses of protecting herself from the great American oil interests. The British Admiralty was at one time so seised of the importance of oil being available at this strategic centre of the Pacific that it co-operated with the Commonwealth in the hope of discovering it. The honorable member for Richmond **(Mr. R. Green)** has dealt at some length with the possibility of finding oil in New Guinea. Although large sums of money have been spent, and, to my certain knowledge, two Government expeditions and some other .missions authorized by the Government of which I was the head, have been to that territory, nothing has come of the efforts. The expeditions made not merely casual efforts, but penetrated far into the interior - at least, if we can accept their reports. I have always regarded the failure to find oil as savouring somewhat of a mystery. I remember very well discussing with **Mr. Theodore** the many and unaccountable mishaps at the Roma bore; and I remind the Honorary Minister that the late Government cooperated with the Queensland Government, and defrayed half the cost of continuing that bore. It is undoubtedly true that a number of most extraordinary accidents have happened in connexion -with our attempts to bore for oil. I discussed this aspect of the matter with the Admiralty authorities. We agreed upon the agencies most likely to prove fruitful, and employed the best experts at our disposal. We accepted the experts recommended to us, with the assurance that they were entirely free from that sinister control of the American oil interests, whose heavy hand appears to be over the whole of the oil-bearing earth. But, notwithstanding all these precautions, and the expenditure of very many thousands of pounds over a long period, no oil was found. I heard recently that oil had been found in the mandated territory of New Guinea, but I gather from what the Minister has said, and from his silence on that point, that that is not so. During the period when the AngloPersian Oil Company was boring for the Commonwealth Government in New Guinea, all the oil-bearing lands were retained by the Crown. At that time I never doubted for one moment that there was oil there. I had the positive assurance of men who had been there - Australian officers who had been on the borderland of .the German and Dutch territories - and, having those positive assurances, supported by very strong geological evidence supplied by **Dr. Wade,** the Government did not hesitate to spend money .somewhat lavishly in the hope of finding oil, But none was found. While it may be, and probably is, merely a coincidence that all. these accidents have occurred in boring for oil, it is nevertheless a fact that not- in one of the thousands of water bores sunk in this country - bores which have been as deep as the Roma bore - has the same thing happened as happened to the Rom:i bore. The Government should be commended for having introduced this bill. The importance of oil to Australia can hardly be exaggerated. Honorable members have listened with very great interest -to the honorable member for East Sydney **(Mr. West),** who has pointed out - what all of us, perhaps somewhat imperfectly, recognize - that the position . achieved by America is due, in the main, apart from the qualities of her people, which in any circumstances would have made her great, to cheap power, water and oil particularly. It is a fact that no nation in this machine age can hope to achieve greatness without having at its disposal an ample supply of cheap fuel. The honorable member for East Sydney told us something of the great extent of the coalfields of this country. Indeed, it would be almost impossible to exaggerate the mineral wealth of Australia. In addition to vast fields of anthracite, we probably have the largest deposits in the world of what is called brown coal, and we also have extensive deposits of shale. Neither black coal,- brown coal, nor shale, however, is equal to well oil as a source of cheap power. The internal combustion engine is here, and it is here to stay. It has revolutionized means of transport. It is more effective and moTe convenient than the steam engine, and its application to road transport, in particular, has done more than anything else to make the America of to-day. Its value in a country like Australia, whose drawback is its vastness, and the inaccessibility of some of its most valuable mineral and pastoral areas which cannot be exaggerated. I do not doubt the truth of what was said earlier this evening, that there are in Western Australia, and, in fact, throughout this country, great unexploited valuable mineral deposits. But the difficulty is to get at them. There are known fields in this country which would pay if there was easy and cheap access to them. The petrol motor is the most convenient, and incomparably the most effective, means of transport. The Government may subsidize the production of alcohol from prickly pear, cassava, or other starch-bearing plants, but alcohol produced in that way cannot compete in price with well oil. I hope that the Government will administer this measure in a liberal spirit. The Minister has said that the Government proposes to make the money available on the advice of its experts. Nothing could be more proper. However, I remind honorable members of what the Minister himself said - that experts sometimes disagree. It may be known' to him that in the early days of colonization in Victoria and New South Wales, government geologists of the respective States said that it was impossible to find gold in this State or coal in New South Wales. Those opinions are on record. Of course, experts have learned much since then. Those foolish pessimists Who could not believe that any good thing would come out of Nazareth have gone, and we must hope that those on whom the Government relies will look a little kindly on the efforts of the optimists now engaged in boring for oil. I support the suggestion of the honorable member for Richmond that the application of the bill should be extended to what was formerly German New Guinea, and I see no reason why it should not be extended to Papua, except that which the honorable member gave, namely, that the Commonwealth is at present operating with the Anglo-Persian Oil Company there. It might be extended to any new venture on ground where there is a reasonable prospect of success. What we want is oil, and it does not matter two straws where it is found. It would be more convenient if we could - find it near the great centres of population, but that, unhappily, is not probable, so we must take it where we can get it. It would be far better to find it in New Guinea than not to find it at all. As it seems by the consensus of general opinion, and by the verdict of experts, that the mandated territory of New Guinea is the most probable field for finding well oil in payable quantities, the scope of the measure should be extended to that territory. In the administration of the hill on the mainland, I can only hope that the Minister will take steps to ensure that the subsidy is granted only where a reasonable case is made out for it, and where the companies applying for it have laid out their own money. No subsidy should be granted where a company has not shown its bona fides by spending its own money, but where there is a prima facie case, the assistance should be provided. I shall support the bill. {: #subdebate-29-0-s4 .speaker-JVZ} ##### Mr CAMERON:
BARKER, SOUTH AUSTRALIA · LP; NAT from 1925; UAP from 1931 .- I shall not detain the House long, as after the eloquent speeches delivered by the right honorable member for North Sydney **(Mr. Hughes)** and the honorable member for East Sydney **(Mr. West),** it is unnecessary for me to refer to the subjects with which they dealt. I compliment the Government on the introduction of this measure, which I believe will be acceptable to the majority of the people of Australia. If I rightly understood the Minister, he stated that ?22,500 of the amount to be appropriated under this bill would be allocated to the Fitzroy River district of Queensland, a similar sum to the Hunter River district of New South Wales, and ?5,000 for other districts, leaving ?10,000 for further geological surveys of Australia. If that be so, other portions of the Commonwealth where oil is said to exist will-, be at a disadvantage. In the south-eastern district of South Australia, and in a portion of Victoria, the South Australian Oil Wells Company- has been boring for oil for a considerable time. That company has already spent about ?90,000, and another company over ?30,000, in this district. One bore has reached a depth of 1,554 feet. This area has been very favorably reported on by H. S. Lyne, a geologist of high standing, who said - >That a closed dome or anticline is .proved in the Glenelg district, and that No. 2 bore to 1,554 feet is on the top of the anticline. Oil in quantity should be present at about 1,600 feet. **Dr. Wade,** the Commonwealth Government's own geologist, had not sufficient time to report on this area, but he said- that it was worthy of further geological survey. Referring to- this area, he stated - >Provided a closed dome or anticline is proved the strata should be an oil-bearing one. **Mr. H.** C. Dod, the company's own geologist, reported - An anticline or closed dome has been proved by the correlation of evidence from logs of bores sunk and from surface indications. Oil is increasing in quantity, together with petroleum gas at a pressure of over 400 lb. to the square inch. **Dr. Jensen** said that there was every indication of an oil field there. The South Australian Oil Wells Company should be assisted to the extent of at least ?5,000 to enable it to reach a depth at which the existence or otherwise of oil could be proved. I agree with the right honorable member for North Sydney, that it is rather remarkable that so many accidents have happened in. connexion with these boring operations. In the south-eastern portion of South Australia four or five wells have been sunk, but only in one instance has granite been reached, and that at a depth of 4,500 feet. Accidents occurred- at all the other bores when a depth of about 2,000 feet was reached-. If the Minister is unable this year to grant assistance to this company, I hope that next year an amount will be set aside for the purpose. {: #subdebate-29-0-s5 .speaker-K6S} ##### Mr CORSER:
WIDE BAY, QUEENSLAND · LP; NAT from 1917 .- I am pleased that this measure has been introduced, and I intend to support its second reading. I desire, however, to call the attention of the Minister to- what I consider a serious omission. The Government's own expert, **Dr. Wade,** I was informed by the Minister, was *nar~* sent to Roma to report upon what I believe may be the best oil-bearing area in Australia. In that district one bore on reaching a certain depth caused gas containing oil of rich quality to escape. That gas- caught fire, and the bore had to be abandoned. Later, another bore was sunk to a depth of nearly 3,000 feet, and again large quantities of gas containing rich oil were encountered. Unfortunately, disaster again overtook the workers, the bit of the bore having broken. Since then another bore has been commenced, and every care is being taken with the work. Although I understand that **Dr. Wade** has left Australia, the Government could send another expert to survey 'the district, as not only is this company operating at Roma, but a considerable area of land surrounding Roma, and a distance therefrom, has been taken up with the intention of boring for oil there. A report from the Commonwealth's expert would be of material assistance to those interested in the discovery of oil in that district. If they knew that they could obtain financial assistance from the Government, they, would be prepared to spend more of their own money in the search for oil. I hope that the Minister will give an assurance that a survey of Roma and the surrounding district will be made. {: #subdebate-29-0-s6 .speaker-KMW} ##### Mr MARR:
Honorary Minister · Parkes · NAT -- The honorable member for Richmond **(Mr. R. Green)** suggested that this bill should apply to the mandated territory of New Guinea, and also to Papua. Any one who has had experience of those territories and of the islands of the East Indies knows that oil does exist there. There is a belt of oil-bearing country running through Borneo, . Celebes, and New Guinea, and it is reasonable to expect that oil will be found there. The question at present undecided is in what spot it will be found. The Government believes that oil exists in the mandated territory of New Guinea, but in view of the fact that so many licences to search for oil have been granted it does not propose to grant any assistance until some of the companies engaged in prospecting for oil there actually discover oil in commercial quantities, or until its advisers report that there is a reasonable prospect of oil being found in payable quantities. It is well known that in many of the islands the natives are able to obtain from shallow holes sufficient oil to keep their lamps burning for considerable periods. That, however, does not necessarily mean that Bores sunk at those sites would prove the existence of oil in paying quantities. The Government has under consideration the extension of this bounty to the territories mentioned, but I cannot promise that next year's Estimates will include a sum for the purpose. However, if its advisers recommend the extension of this legislation to Papua and New Guinea, the Government will give their recommendation every consideration. I think that the honorable member for North Sydney **(Mr. Hughes)** misunderstood my introductory remarks regarding the withdrawal of the reward of £50,000 for the discovery of oil in' Australia in commercial quantities. When I said that the proposal contained in this bill had been substituted for that reward, I did not intend to cast any aspersions on .any previous Government. We all know that the ex-Prime Minister has done much to assist the discovery of oil in Australia, as he has done much to assist Australia in other ways. The Government, however, considers that there are certain objections to the offer of a reward. The Government believes, first, that the expectation of a reward of £50,000 is of no real importance in stimulating the search for ofl, as such a sum is insignificant in comparison with the value of the asset that would be created by the discovery of payable oil, the prospect of which is consequently the only material incentive to search; secondly, that an applicant for the reward is- required to comply with the conditions attaching thereto, and to incur expenditure which he would otherwise avoid, with the result that his financial loss is greater in the event of the failure of his search than it otherwise would have been ; and thirdly,, that company promoters, in some instances, improperly put forward the Government's offer of a reward as an inducement to unthinking members of the public to invest money in their propositions. The honorable member for Richmond said that the Government should not help companies which had not spent their own money first. That is the intention of the Government. Where companies have been actively engaged in the search for oil on a field which has been reported upon favorably by the Commonwealth's experts, the Government will grant them assistance to further exploit those fields in an endeavour to find the power riches which we seek. The honorable ' member for Wide Bay **(Mr. Corser)** referred to boring operations in the Roma district. **Dr. Wade** reported upon the whole of that area. In moving the second reading of the bill, 1 mentioned that the Government proposed to spend £5,000 on further geological survey work in the districts of Longreach, Blackall, and Ruthven, which include the Roma area. **Dr. Wade** said that, although there were no surface indications of the presence of oil at Roma, he believed the strata was such that oil might be discovered there. The Government is, and for some time has been, working in co-operation with the Queensland Government in connexion with this area, and £5,000 -will be spent in conjunction with the State Government in making a further geological survey of it. The honorable member for Richmond **(Mr. R. Green)** objected that the bill does nob apply to the mandated territories. The Government has under consideration oil-boring operations in the mandated territories, and if that be deemed necessary will, I have no doubt, make funds available for the subsidizing of operations there next year. {: #subdebate-29-0-s7 .speaker-KZT} ##### Mr RODGERS:
WANNON, VICTORIA · LP; NAT from 1917 -- What about the South Australian proposition? {: .speaker-KMW} ##### Mr MARR: -- The honorable member for Barker **(Mr. Cameron)** said that we should help companies that have been helping themselves, und have spent thousands of pounds on their operations. A great many bores have been put down in this country, and, when it has been thought that oil would shortly be struck, something has occurred to prevent ite discovery. Where companies have done such work, assistance will be given if the experts believe that oil may be discovered. If it is reported that oil is likely to be found in the district mentioned by the honorable member for Barker, I am satisfied that the Government will be prepared to give some assistance for its further development. The Leader of the Opposition **(Mr. Charlton)** mentioned with regard to the Belford Dome that a man has been boring in that area for years. Be has spent £3,000 of 'his own money, because he believes that there is oil in the area. It is one of the areas which has been reported upon very favorably by **Dr. Wade.** As the honorable member for East Sydney **(Mr. West)** has said, the Public Accounts Committee last year gave a great deal of time and attention to. an inquiry into the occurrence of oil in Australia, and honorable members were, no doubt, interested in some of the concluding paragraphs of the. committee's report quoted by the honorable -member. I am glad that the bill has been received so favorably, and I hope that it will be passed through its remaining stages with as little delay as possible. Question resolved in the affirmative. Bill read a second time, and reported without amendment; report adopted. Bill *(by leave)* read a third time. House adjourned at 10.5 p.m.

Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 3 February 1926, viewed 22 October 2017, <>.