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Tuesday, 18 May 1920

Mr CONSIDINE (Barrier) .- I shall vote to refer the Bill to a Select Committee, though I do not think that any ultimate good will result unless the proposed arrangement is prevented, and for that reason I shall vote against the Bill altogether.

Mr SPEAKER (Hon W Elliot Johnson - The House has approved of the principles of the Bill by agreeing to its second reading.

Mr CONSIDINE - That does not remove my disapproval of it.

Mr SPEAKER - -The honorable member may not now discuss the principles of' the measure.

Mr CONSIDINE - I do not propose to do so. It was you who drew my attention, to" the fact that the House had given its approval to the measure by agreeing to the second reading. I wish to express my views in opposition to the agreement.

Mr SPEAKER - The honorable member would not be in order in doing that. As I have pointed out, the secondreading debate has closed, the House having, on a division, agreed to the second reading of the Bill, and thus having approved of its principles. The honorable member would not be in order in discussing the agreement, which is a schedule to the Bill, and, virtually, the whole Bill, at this stage. He may address himself only to the motion before the Chair, for referring the Bill to a Select Committee. He will be in order in giving reasons why that should or should not be done, but he would not be in order in making a second-reading speech on the Bill itself.

Mr CONSIDINE - I suppose that T shall be in order in speaking in favour of the proposal to refer the Bill to a Select Committee to inquire into the doubtful antecedents of the party with whom it is proposed to enter into an agreement ?

Mr SPEAKER - The honorable member will be in order in speaking in favour of the proposal to refer the Bill to a Select Committee.

Mr CONSIDINE - The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) has told us that the Anglo-Persian Oil Company came into existence as the result of the activities of a certain Mr. Knox d'Arcy, who obtained a concession from the Persian Government for the purpose of exploiting the oil resources of Persia, excepting that part of it which borders on the Caspian Sea. In what has happened since we have an illustration of the new phase of Imperialism. The explorations of. Mr. d'Arcy, and the energetic persuasions of certain high British officials who are mixed up in this company have become responsible for the fact that Persia is now to all intents and purposes a part of the British Empire. It seems to me that the scheme is part and parcel of the activities of what is known as the Round I1 able group, or the newer Imperialism, that seeks to exploit the outlying parts of the Empire in the interests of a gang of financiers in London. It is eighteen years since Persia became an oil-producing country. Close upon the discovery of oil there, Persia was partitioned between Russia and Great Britain, but as the result of the European war Britain now holds not merely the part allotted to her by the agreement with Russia, but thewhole of Persia. The internal composition of this Anglo-Persian Oil Company makes it apparent that it is intended to act towards the oil fields which are thought to exist in the Commonwealth and its Territories in the same way, and. to my mind, the development of the oil industry in Australia under the terms of the Bill would be fraught with as great danger to the liberties of the people of this country as the discovery of oil brought to the people of Persia.

In a. booklet issued during the war by the Society of Friends in Great Britain, and entitled, Whence Come Wars, there is a very illuminating reference to this matter. The writer points out how the great armament firms were supported by their various Governments, and were the cause of precipitating the nations into war. He goes on to say: -

The Powers depend on their Vickers, their Schneiders, and their Krupps, their Ternis their Skodas, and 'their Putiloffs. With these they endeavour - snaking the best terms they can, according as the State or the corporation is more self-assertive and independent-to obtain allies and to weaken their enemies. They foster their firms, wink at their extortions (Schneider in Morocco), disregard their corruptions (Krupp and Carnegie in Germany and United States of America), and ignore their briberies (Vickers in Japan).

France helps Schneider by every means in its power to obtain the iron deposits in Morocco which Germany endeavours to prevent becoming French. Terni and Skoda both cast their eyes on the mineral riches of the Balkans. The Persian Oil Syndicate and the European Petroleum Union contend for the finest oil wells, and, when war threatens them, the Governments behind each group divert large forces to the Tigris Basin. The French Government likewise, intervene to keep Krupp from acquiring an interest in the Putiloff Steel Works, whilst the same Government works with might and main, to secure the railway contracts of Anatolia for its own capitalists as against the Germans.

These are the kinds of economic conflicts which bring nations to the brink of war, for the reason that on the prosperity and consequent efficiency of certain highly-developed industrial concerns depends the success of the countries -themselves should war break out.

Mr Gregory - How the honorable member admires the autocracy of the Kaiser !

Mr CONSIDINE - The honorable member is quite wrong. What I object to is the establishment of an autocracy in this country as well as in Germany, or, for the matter of that, in any other country. I am afraid that I cannot help the honorable member if he is unable to see the drift of my argument, but what I am endeavouring to show is that the operations of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company represent simply one of the newest methods of extending the frontiers of the Empire, by securing, by one means or another, materials essential to the development of certain industries, and especially those necessary in war time. I have said- ako that the adoption of these methods is one of the most potent factors in fomenting wars. The honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) must know very well that Mesopotamia and Persia are, for all practical purposes, part and parcel of the British Empire, simply because of the existence of oil wells in those countries. The Prime Minister, in introducing the measure now under consideration, pointed out that oil has to-day become an essential requirement for warships, for war industries, and for transport by land and sea. It is now on the same plane as iron, cotton, rubber, and other commodities essential to the operations of people bent upon, Empire building and land grabbing, if they are to successfully make war against their trade rivals. In the view of these people, countries or small nations weak in defence have no rights, and must be wiped off the face of the earth, or be forcibly incorporated with one or other of the great Powers in order that the world may be divided up into new Imperial groups.

Mr RODGERS (WANNON, VICTORIA) - The honorable member is very consistent. His themes do not vary much in this House.

Mr CONSIDINE - I take that as a compliment from the honorable member. I was not sent here to vary my themes. I was sent here to advocate the views held by an increasing majority of educated working men throughout the world.

Mr RODGERS (WANNON, VICTORIA) - I have not heard the honorable member use the word "Russia" for ages.

Mr CONSIDINE - Possibly the honorable member has not; but I remind him that there has been a' notable and eloquent silence on the part of honorable members opposite since the Allies withdrew their military forces from Russia.

Mr SPEAKER - Order ! I ask the honorable member not to .follow up interjections that are themselves disorderly.

Mr Jowett - There has been an eloquent silence in Russia since they killed half their people.

Mr SPEAKER - Order I I ask honorable members to cease interjecting. May I remind them that it is extremely disorderly to interject immediately after the Speaker has called the House to order. I hope that the practice will not be indulged in in future.

Mr CONSIDINE - I am not very much concerned about the view which honorable members may take of what I have to say, because, like the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers), they may become a little tired of my theme, since I approach every subject that comes up for discussion in this House from the stand-point of the working class position, as I understand it.

Mr Jowett - What about Standard oil?

Mr SPEAKER - I ask the honorable member to take no notice of an interjection from an honorable member who has so frequently been asked not to interject.

Mr CONSIDINE - I did not intend to do so. When addressing myself to subjects under consideration in this Chamber, I am not concerned about the individual opinions of honorable members opposite, or even of honorable members on this side, but my purpose is to discuss various matters from the view-point of the industrialists in all countries, who, I may tell honorable members, are very much concerned about the system of concession giving and exploitation of which the operations of the AngloPersian Oil Company are a sample. If honorable members take the trouble to read such organs of the New Imperialism as the Bound Table, they will know that there is a combination in Great Britain whose idea is to exploit the Dominions of the Empire in the interests of a financial group whose head-quarters are in London.

Mr Jowett - No. that is not so.

Mr CONSIDINE - The honorable member does not know it. He is not aware of the development of the Empire Resources Committee. If he investigated' the matter for himself he would find that the Round Table group even approached members of this House when they were on the other side of the globe, and offered to find seats for them in the House of Commons.

Mr Jowett - The honorable member would not accept that offer.

Mr CONSIDINE - Not under present circumstances. Honorable members should be aware that the world to-day is being divided into huge international Trusts. The nations are taking on the aspect of Trusts. They have become huge industrial workshops that must have control of the materials they require or go under in the industrial struggle to maintain their supremacy. It every day becomes increasingly necessary for them to control in one way or another countries rich in iron and the other articles I have referred to that are essential for the maintenance of their superiority in armaments. They must acquire these countries by force, or, if they have them, must use force to retain them. Taking this view of the question, I find no reason for supporting the oil agreement which has been submitted to us. In my opinion, it calls for a very exhaustive inquiry by a Select Committee, or by some other body, to justify the Government in asking us to consent to it.

Some honorable members have said that this agreement will not retard the development of oil supplies in Australia or the Territories under the control of the Commonwealth. Why is it that honorable members who have talked about the Commonwealth Shipping Line have not come forward with a proposal to establish exclusively Commonwealth refineries. During the debate on the second reading of the Bill it was said that the reason is that we have not men possessed of the necessary technical knowledge to handle oil.

Mr Gregory - Those who said that had sense enough to realize that brains are required to manage this business.

Mr CONSIDINE - Does the honorable member mean to confess that he has nob brains enough f

Mr Gregory - Not to manage the oil business.

Mr SPEAKER -Order! ,1 once again ask honorable members to cease interjecting.

Mr CONSIDINE - The honorable member believes that the rulers of this country claim to possess brains enough to exercise control over such matters as shipping, mills, and several other phases of commercial activity. But this oil business seems to be surrounded by a mysterious halo which cannot be penetrated. When it is a matter of Australia desiring, to build submarines and destroyers we can send men to Great Britain to learn their job. Are there no refineries in other parts of the world where Australian citizens can be sent to learn the technique of refining oil during the period which is to be occupied by endeavours to discover oil deposits here? I have been reading a book in which I learned that the trouble with the Anglo-Persian Oil Company has been, not that it has had insufficient supplies of oil, or that the. quality has not been up to the mark, but that it has not had enough refineries to cope with its output. The nature of this agreement, in my mind, tends to support that fact. Can it be expected that the Anglo-Persian Company's experts will be particularly keen on discovering oil m Australia and its Territories, seeing that they have, in their Persian fields, more than sufficient oil to keep all their refineries going, including , the proposed refinery in Australia? Here is a quotation from The Mineral Industry During 1917 -

It is now stated that the oil-fields that are being developed and tested by the producing companies of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company are among the most extensive and prolific in the world. Were refineries existing to deal with the oil, the field from which crude is now being obtained would produce a/bout 4,000,000 tons annually. Most of the wells, however, have to be kept shut down for want of facilities to deal with the crude. Some idea of the richness of this field is given by the statement that the present obtainable production exceeds that of the whole of the Roumanian and .Galician oil-fields before the war.

All this business is merely part and parcel of a great scheme which I term the new Imperialism ; that is to say, the exploitation of the outlying portions of the Empire in the interests of a financial group in London. I am opposed to the proposition, and, for that reason I shall vote in the direction of securing a Select Committee.

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