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Tuesday, 18 May 1920

Mr HUGHES (Bendigo) (Prime Minister and Attorney-General) . - I do not know the object of the proposed new clause ; it is entirely new to me. This is a proposal for a co-operative enterprise in which the Government is the predominant partner, and the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. McWilliams) now desires that everybody shall be able to operate, and that nothing in this Bill shall be held to prevent them coming in and cutting the throat of the Government at the earliest opportunity. That is what it means if it means anything at all. These gentle aids to Government enterprise no doubt appeal to some honorable members ; but I am bound to say that I cannot conceive of anything more calculated to assist the foreign exploiter than such a proposal as this. It is an invitation for every one to come here and do whatever they please. It is as foreign to the Bill as it is possible to conceive. All that the Bill does is to give effect to the agreement. The amendment proposes that nothing contained in this measure, meaning the Bill as distinct from the agreement, shall be deemed to prevent any person or persons, either individually or collectively, from prospecting for, developing, manufacturing, refining, and marketing any well oil, shale or other oil in any part of the Territories or areas mentioned in the Act. The proposal goes very much further than the honorable member intends, if one is to deduce his intentions from his words. For example, it may be held that the agreement gives persons the right to prospect for oil in any Territory of the Commonwealth. But it does not. We do not propose to allow any person to prospect for oil in New Guinea, except under our direction and under certain prescribed and proper restrictions.

Mr Richard Foster - They can do so on the mainland.

Mr HUGHES - Yes.

Mr Tudor - They cannot do anything of the kind unless they get the permission of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company.

Mr HUGHES - God forbid that I should do anything to dissolve the bonds of this unholy alliance between the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Tudor) and the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Mcwilliams). I can only say, as I nave said frequently in the discussion of this Bill, that there is nothing to prevent any one from coming here to start another refinery, or to prospect for oil. Furthermore, i said this afternoon that the Government proposed to aid in the search by offering £50,000 for the discovery of oil . But now the honorable mem"ber wishes to sweep this to one side by putting in a' clause the scope of which may go, for aught I know, very much further than honorable members are prepared to let it go. Since the Bill cannot take away any right from anybody, except as set -out in the agreement, and since the agreement does not prevent any one from coming here to prospect for, or develop, or refine oil, the proposed new clause is superfluous, and to the extent that it mentions the Territories, which we are resolved to reserve as the prerogative of the Crown, it is dangerous. I hope honorable members will not agree to it.

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