Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Friday, 14 May 1920

Mr FLEMING (Robertson) .- Quite contrary to the honorable member who has just resumed his seat, the fact that the company with which the Government propose to enter into this agree-1 ment is a purely British one carries considerable weight with me. To my mind, especially in the matter of oil, it is essential that the British Empire shall protect its interests against the great Trusts of the United States. I have no desire to traverse the agreement, which is set out in the schedule to this Bill, and which appears to be, on the whole, a very acceptable one. But I wish to draw special attention to one remark made by the Prime Minister in discussing the measure. He stated that, in connexion with the future oil supplies of Australia, we should put shale upon one side and look only for well oil. Now, there are quite a number of really good shale propositions to be found throughout the Commonwealth. Some of them are of the most promising nature. Upon page 441 of the Official Year Book of the Commonwealth for 1914, I find the following:

Production on " anything like a large scale commenced in 1868, when about 17,000 tons, valued at £48,000, were raised. The production in 1912 amounted to 86,018 tons, valued at £34,770, as compared with 75,104 tons, valued at £36,980, in 1911. Of the total raised in 1912, 40,185 tons were produced in the Northern District, and 45,833 in the Western District.

In addition to that there are deposits in Western Australia, the Northern Territory, and Queensland, any one of which might be well worth developing. Some of them certainly are. The Tear-Book further says -

During the year ended 30th June, 1913, the Commonwealth Oil Corporation at Hartley Vale, New South Wales, received bounty to the amount of £804 on kerosene, and £882 on refined paraffin wax, while the British Australian Oil Company received £1,988 on kerosene, and £86 on parafin wax.

That bounty ceased to exist at the end of 1913. When it ceased the British Australian Oil Company, - which had its works at Murrurundi, was compelled to close down, though a very small additional bonus would have enabled it to continue operations. It seems to me that the Government would be well advised not only to adopt this agreement with the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, but to do something in the direction of encouraging shale oil production in Australia. I know that a good deal of money has been lost, both in Scotland and Australia, in connexion with the production of shale oil. -But that was before oil was in such great demand as it is to-day. We must recollect that during the past three or four years the_ price of that commodity has increased by 200 per cent, or 300 per cent. Properties, therefore, which under former conditions required a good deal of assistance from the State ought not to need very much in the way of financial assistance in the future. I have not the slightest doubt that before many years we shall discover mineral well .oil in Australia. In this connexion the honorable member ' for Maranoa (Mr. James Page) told us to-day what happened in Queensland. All the oil experts in this country, and. certainly a great number of American experts, regard the experiment at Roma as convincing proof that, sooner or later, good, free oil will be discovered in Australia.

Mr McWilliams - Good oil has been discovered in South Australia.

Mr FLEMING - I do not think much of the results which have been achieved there, but I am satisfied that good oil will yet be obtained, both in New South Wales and Queensland. Until that time arrives, however, the Government will be well advised to give due encouragement to shale oil propositions.

Suggest corrections