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Tuesday, 18 May 1920

Mr MATHEWS (Melbourne Ports) . - I am sorry that you, sir, have ruled that the amended schedule to the Bill cannot, be discussed on the motion to refer the measure to a Select Committee, . because the airy fairy pictures painted', by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), when' he informed me that it would be better for me to remain silent, were based upon his statement that I had not read the amended schedule. I had not seen it at the time, and the basis of all theridiculoius pictures which the Prime Minister drew was that we had not seen the amended schedule. I thoroughly understand the reason for the ruling that hasbeen given, but it is a pity that because of it honorable members who desire to refer to the statements made by the Prime Minister should be unable to do so.For three-quarters of an hour the right honorable gentleman laboured in ridiculing those opposed to him because they did not know what was contained in the amended schedule.

Mr SPEAKER - The Prime Minister did not refer to the amended schedule in detail.

Mr MATHEWS - When I made an interjection, whichI admit was unruly, the Prime Minister ridiculed my statement, and proved that I was wrong by a reference to the amended schedule.

Mr SPEAKER - I had not the amended schedule before me at the time.

Mr MATHEWS - There has been some reference to the agreement having been referred to the Ministerial Caucus. I make no complaint about that. The Government found that some honorable members opposite were slipping away from them, and they were justified in trying, in Caucus, to secure a majority in favour of their proposal. The Prime Minister became eloquent in his appeal to Protectionists to support the agreement, and, pointing to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor), he said that, while that honorable gentleman was in favour of Protection for hats, matches, and other things manufactured in Australia, he was apparently slipping on the question of Protection for kerosene. I suppose that there is not an honorable member on either side of the House who is not in favour of the production and refining of oil in Australia.

As a reason for referring the Bill to a Select Committee, I may mention the fact that the Government have, themselves recognised that the schedule, as originally introduced, was not what it ought to be. If the Bill had been referred to a Select Committee, -it would have been shown that alterations were necessary. I think it can be shown that there is still much in the agreement which should be altered. I see no reason why, if a Select Committee considered the measure, they should not be able to submit an agreement in accordance with Australian policy which would be accepted unanimously by. this House. We have been told that we have been tied for years to an overseas and foreign monopoly, and we should prefer a so-called British and Australian monopoly; but there is one matter in connexion with this proposal which should be inquired into if a Committee were appointed to do nothing else. I have been assured, and have been given strong evidence . in support of the assurance, that the crude oil supplied by the

Anglo-Persian Company is very inferior. The proposed Select Committee would be able -to define whether there is any foundation for that statement.

Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for the Navy) - It is good enough for the British people and for the British Navy.

Mr TUDOR - The British Government do not get one-fifth of their supplies from the Anglo-Persian Company.

Mr MATHEWS - The British Government made certain arrangements during the war for certain purposes, which might not be considered reasonable arrangements to make now. The British Government have interests in this matter, and I am glad to find them seek: ing an interest in productions required by the people. I am assured that the crude oil produced by the Anglo-Persian Company is inferior, and that there is a greater loss in refining it than in the case of any other oil. I do not claim to be able to say what is the value of either crude or refined oil, but I do think that we should inquire into the assertion that the crude oil supplied by the AngloPersian Company is inferior in quality, and that from an economical stand-point it would not be beneficial to the people of Australia to use it. We should not lose sight of the fact that some of the people who have put their money into the Ang-10: Persian Company have not shown themselves to be friends of the Commonwealth. Having control of the directorate in the. matter of administration they will direct operations under the agreement.

Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for the Navy) - The honorable member has heard that the crude oil produced by the Anglo-Persian Company is inferior, and we have heard that it is one of the best oils produced in the whole world.

Mr MATHEWS - The Minister for the Navy has said that the oil produced by this company is good enough for the British Government, but as the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Tudor) reminded him, they do not supply one-fifth of the demand for oil made by the British Government. I see no exceptional hurry for passing the Bill. I can assure the Minister for the Navy that we are quite willing on this side to assist the Government to fight the Standard Oil Trust, or any other Trust, but. we ought to be assured that in doing so we shall not be handed over to a combination that may be quite as bad, if not worse.

In his endeavour to ridicule honorable members on this side, the Prime Minister pointed to the fact that under the amended schedule a "fair and reasonable " price for oil would be fixed by the Commonwealth. I have not been a member of. this House for thirteen or fourteen years without knowing that the phrase used is about as vague as it could possibly be. From time to time we have had Bills under consideration in this Chamber, which we have been assured would stand the test in any Court, but the. High Court has subsequently driven the proverbial coach and four through them. Under the schedule to this Bill, we may have to go to the High Court every now and again to find out what is a " fair and reasonable " price, and to find out whether fixed " by the Commonwealth'' means by this Parliament or by the Ministry. I know that if the directors of the Anglo-Persian Company have anything to do with the matter the price will be a fair and reasonable one for them, and not for the people of Australia. What is to be a " fair and reasonable" price for this oil will have to be more clearly defined before the proposal will suit me.

The Minister for the Navy has said that this agreement has nothing whatever to do with the exploitation of the oil fields of Papua. When the Prime Minister was dealing with this subject, I made an interjection referring to Dr. Wade's connexion with the oil-fields in Papua. I have not a word to say against that very estimable gentleman, but in view of the number of years during which he has been associated with the production of oil and with the Anglo-Persian Company - and that does not make him any the worse - and the fact that he has been in Papua for, I think, about three years, he should now be able to give us some very definite information concerning the prospect of the discovery of oil in payable quantities in Papua.

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