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Tuesday, 18 May 1920

Mr AUSTIN CHAPMAN (EDEN-MONARO, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The motion by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Tudor) seeks to elicit further information by having the agreement referred to a Select Committee. But who will give this information ? It must be obtained either from those who support the Anglo-Persian Oil Company or those whose ideas are directly opposed to that concern. The inquiry, therefore, will simply mean further delay.

Mr West - But after evidence has been taken, members of the Select Committee must use their brains to come to a decision.

Mr AUSTIN CHAPMAN - It is necessary first to have the brains before they can be used. I am opposed to the motion to refer the Bill to a Select Committee, because it is of vital importance that this great question of discovering oil should be. settled as soon as possible. We must find oil deposits in the Commonwealth territory. It is almost criminal on the part of honorable members to take any action, either here or elsewhere,. that will lead to delay. No sound reason has been- advanced to justify the appointment of a Select Committee to inquire into this matter. We now have all the safeguards that are necessary, for this afternoon the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) told the Leader ' of the Country party (Mr. McWilliams) that if he were not satisfied with the Ministerial interpretation of the clause relating to the price to be fixed for crude oil - and the Prime Minister's interpretation is backedupby the opinion of Sir Robert Garram, who does not make many mistakes - then the Government are willing that the clause shall definitely state that the Commonwealth shall fix the price. What more can we ask? And is it not better to be associated with a company that belongs to the Empire?

Mr Nicholls - Why does not the Commonwealth Government take entire control of the whole business?

Mr AUSTIN CHAPMAN - We know what happens when Governments go into ventures of this kind. We have been fooling about in Papua for a long time without any definite results. We want experts, and we cannot expect people like those connected with, the Anglo-Persian Oil Company to go into this business for the good of their health. They want to establish a commercial concern. The history of the company shows that it is comprised of men who understand the business, and, as I have just said, it belongs to the' Empire. Consequently it is inexpedient to do anything that is likely to lead to delay. The appointment of a Select Committee would mean delay, and for that reason I intend to support the Government.

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