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Tuesday, 11 May 1920

Mr PARKER MOLONEY (HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES) . - There are several aspects of this agreement which were not touched upon by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) in the lecture he delivered ' to the House and in regard to which I desire enlightenment. There is a great deal about this agreement which appears to me to be very suspicious. We are dealing with an oil proposition, and, naturally, we expect to find some slippery business connected with it. I am disposed to believe that there is something about this agreement that the Prime Minister wishes to keep back from honorable members. When the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) was speaking to-day, the Prime Minister sought to bluff him in regard to much of the information he was seeking; but this is a matter concerning which the whole of the facts should be given to the House. The Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook) said that this Bill will not create a monopoly. If I understand what a monopoly means, I cannot see how any other interpretation can be placed on the agreement. If it is accepted there will be no opportunity for any other company to engage in the oil business in Australia on the same terms as are offered to the Anglo-Persian Company. If that is not giving a monopoly I do not know the meaning of the word. When all other companies are to be denied the privileges conferred by this agreement there can be no other interpretation placed on this Bill than that it will give a clear monopoly to the Anglo-Persian Company. Paragraph 5 of the agreement provides that -

The technical and commercial management of the refinery company shall be left entirely in the hands of the refinery company.

Mr Atkinson - There may be a very good reason for that. The company has the brains.

Mr JAMES PAGE (MARANOA, QUEENSLAND) - We shall show that we have no brains if we consent to this agreement.

Mr PARKER MOLONEY (HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I quote that paragraph of the agreement in reply to the statement that the Commonwealth Government will have a controlling influence in the refinery company. How that can be contended in face of a definite provision that the technical and commercial management shall be left entirely in the hands of the refinery company is entirely beyond ray comprehension. It is said that the Government will hold the majority of the shares in the refinery company. Whilst that is so, the Commonwealth will have only three directors on a board of seven. Superficially, the arrangement that the Government shall have a majority of the shares looks all right, but this refinery company is to be merely the offspring of the Anglo-Persian Company. The Government will not have a controlling influence in the parent company. It will be only in the subsidiary company that the Government will hold the majority of shares, whilst on the board of directors the Government nominees will be in a minority. The point cannot be too strongly stressed that the company will have the controlling influence in the whole of the operations, and that the Commonwealth Government will be in the minority on the directorate, which will be the only body to count for anything.

I doubt whether it is generally known that Lord Inchcape, a man whose name is familiar to most people as that of the head of the Shipping Combine, is on the board 'of directors of the AngloPersian Company. And a very powerful influence does that gentleman exercise. The question naturally occurs to one's mind as to why Lord Inchcape, as a director of the Anglo-Persian Company, is so anxious to get these privileges from the Commonwealth.

Mr Poynton - He is the British Government's representative on the board of el iirectors.

Mr PARKER MOLONEY (HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I do not know that that fact is any recommendation of him. It may be said with truth that the British Government were during the war, and are still, amongst the greatest profiteers. In any case, Lord Inchcape has been a most uncompromising opponent of the Commonwealth line of steamers, and I am just a little suspicious that he is one of the prime instigators of this agreement in order that be may have a greater opportunity to drive a nail into the coffin of the Commonwealth steam-ship service. This agreement will enable fuel oil depots to be established along the Australian coast, and I can imagine nothing more pleasing to Lord Inchcape, as head of the great Shipping Combine, than that these depots shall be established at convenient places in order that they may be used for the fuelling of his fleet. I can see, and no doubt he can, great possibilities of advantage to his fleet from the establishment of these depots.

Mr Atkinson - How does that affect the agreement?

Mr PARKER MOLONEY (HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Since the Commonwealth line of steamers was established at the beginning of 1918 they have earned over £1,000,000 for the carriage of oil to Australia. If this agreement becomes operative and the AngloPersian Company obtains a monopoly of the carriage of crude oil from Persia the trade that has hitherto gone to the Commonwealth line will become the exclusive perquisite of the company. Thus Lord Inchcape will have an opportunity of diverting to his own fleet a trade that hitherto has been enjoyed by the Commonwealth line.

Mr Atkinson - The Anglo-Persian Company has a fleet of its own.

Mr PARKER MOLONEY (HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES) - And Lord Inchcape is one of the directors of the Anglo-Persian Company.

Mr Poynton - I do not think we have one ship that carries crude oil.

Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for the Navy) - Who says that Lord Inchcape is a director of the AngloPersian Company? I would be surprised to hear that he is.

Mr TUDOR - The Prime Minister admitted this afternoon that Lord Inchcape is one of the British Government's representatives on the board of directors of that company.

Mr PARKER MOLONEY (HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The interjection by the Minister for the Navy reveals how little is known about this agreement.

Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for the Navy) - I am certain that I do not know nearly as much about it as does the honorable member.

Mr PARKER MOLONEY (HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am quite satisfied that Lord Inchcape knows all about it, and as he is an uncompromising opponent of the Commonwealth line of steamers the suspicion enters my mind that he is anxious to bring about this agreement in order that he may by his controlling influence drive a nail into this shipping enterprise of the Commonwealth Government.

Mr Atkinson - The Commonwealth line of steamers has never carried crude oil.

Mr PARKER MOLONEY (HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I have already stated that the Commonwealth line of steamers has earned over £1,000,000 from the carriage of oil - presumably case and barrel oil. . If this agreement is consummated there will be no further necessity for such trade; the Anglo-Persian Company with its own ships will have a monopoly of the carriage of crude oil to Australia, and the Commonwealth line will not carry a gallon of case or barrel oil.

Another objection which I see is that by giving the Anglo-Persian Company a monopoly, we shall be simply restricting the supply of crude oil to Persia, instead of having some claim upon the resources of the world. The Prime Minister said, in regard to this agreement, that one of the benefits would be that in time of war we would have ample supplies of oil. I cannot follow him along that line of argument. If we give a monopoly to the Anglo-Persian Company, we shall render ourselves entirely dependent for our supplies upon Persia, and there is scarcely a more unstable part of the world than Persia to-day. If we are to look to that source of supply, we shall be deliberately placing ourselves at a disadvantage..

Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for the Navy) - This company has oil in other parts of the world besides Persia.

Mr PARKER MOLONEY (HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES) - It has been said that Great Britain could take all the oil' of this company at present, for the reason that the demand is so great. That being so, why does not Great Britain appear to be anxious to do so? It strikes me that when the Imperial authorities are apparently so careless of their interests, there must be something wrong with the standard of the company's oil.

Mr Fenton - It is much more difficult and costly to refine it.

Mr PARKER MOLONEY (HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES) - There may be something in that point. Certainly there is the suggestion in my mind that something is wrong with AngloPersian oil. If there is to be a monopoly in Australia, it should become a Government monopoly.

Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for the Navy) - This oil is quite good enough for the British Government, and is supplied to it to-day at less than 60s. per ton. We pay £9 per ton.

Mr PARKER MOLONEY (HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Then, why does not the British Government take the whole of the output? Is it because it has had experience of the commodity, and does not want much of it 1

Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for the Navy) - It is, I presume, because it does not control the whole of the supplies of Great Britain. The Imperial Government takes all the oil it wants from this company, and no other.

Mr PARKER MOLONEY (HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I do not admit that it takes all the oil it wants.

Mr Tudor - It got only 19,000,000 gallons from Persia last year, out of ii total of 200,000,000.

Mr PARKER MOLONEY (HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES) - In those circumstances T say, with the Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook), that Great Britain, 'takes all it wants from that source; it does not want any more of this Anglo-Persian oil. But I am suspicious that if Great Britain secures such a relatively small percentage of its requirements from the Anglo-Persian Company there must be something wrong. I would not object if the Commonwealth Government were to retain the monopoly.

Another consideration is that, if oil is to be used instead of coal, a blow will be struck at our coal-mining' industry, which may have a crippling effect upon employment in Australia.

Mr Bayley - That was not the effect in the United States.

Mr PARKER MOLONEY (HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES) - It is almost a natural corollary of the substitution of oil for coal fuel. Altogether, considering the possible effects upon our coal industry, and its consequences in associated respects, such as shipping, and remembering that a monopoly is to be given away instead of being held by the Commonwealth Government, the whole proposition becomes objectionable to me. I understand that the vessels which are to bring the crude oil will not be capable of taking away Australian produce ; they will have to return in ballast. Hitherto, vessels which have brought case and barrel oil to Australia have been able to carry back up to 5,000,000 bushels of wheat, on an average. Have the Government thought of that factor, and- have they taken any steps with a view to replacing the lost tonnage?

Mr Jackson - -But there are tankers coming to Australia now.


I wish to know something regarding exploration for oil. If this work is to be conducted solely by the employees of the Anglo-Persian Company, why are they to be paid out of the funds of the Commonwealth and British Governments? That point was not referred to by the Prime Minister, but this Parliament is entitled to full information. It would appear that the company is to use the plant of the Commonwealth, and that all the money necessary for repairs and upkeep and payment of wages is to be drawn from the Commonwealth and

Imperial Exchequers. The company, in fact, will be on a very good wicket. Lord Inchcape also will be on a very good wicket, because he will be able to use his position to divert trade to his own fleet, while the money for the exploring work and the plant and its upkeep will be found by the Commonwealth Government. The Commonwealth Government will be supplying the funds that will enable that gentleman and his shipping company to go a very long way towards destroying the Commonwealth line ' of steamers, because it will be handing over a monopoly to the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, of which Lord Inchcape is a very influential director.. I heartily agree with the proposal to appoint' a Committee to investigate fully the agreement with the company, particularly in regard to exploring. I cannot see the necessity of rushing on with this proposal. There is a great deal about it that honorable members desire to know. Its effects are so far-reaching that I cannot see the justification for hurry, especially when the Government do not show any desire for haste in connexion with many other of their measures. Why this hurry-scurry to get the Bill through? The whole thing makes me very, suspicious of it. Before we commit ourselves to an agreement with such farreaching effects, the 'Government should stay their hand. If they are not prepared to do so, there should surely be a majority in this House, if not totally opposed to the agreement itself, at any rate ready to' say that we should defer final action until we are able to make a further examination of the whole scheme.

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