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Wednesday, 2 November 1921

Senator EARLE (Tasmania) . -

I offer my congratulations to Senator Foster upon the introduction of this subject and the lucid manner in which he placed the information at his disposal before the Senate. I regret that he had not time in which to complete the speech which he had prepared, but I think that he has accomplished his purpose, inasmuch as he has received from Senator E. D. Millen, representing the Government, a recognition of the importance of the question he has raised, and a promise that his remarks will be brought before the attention of the experts responsible for advising the Government on this question. That is about all that Senator Foster could have hoped to achieve by a discussion of the question at the present time, since there is noi member of the Senate in possession of the necessary knowledge to pronounce a definite decision on the matter.

I join with Senator Foster in impressing upon the Government the great importance to Australia, of the cheap transit of goods overseas. As a representative of the island State of Tasmania, I feel very keenly the need for satisfactory means of communication between that State and the mainland, and the importance to the people of the Commonwealth generally of efficient and satisfactory communication between Australia and the rest of the world. Some ' of the interjections during Senator Foster's speech were made in a hopeless sort of tone. If we are to refuse to do anything in this matter because the supply of oil might be interfered with by a future war, we shall have to stay our hand in regard to many things. We must take some risk. We firmly hope: that we are not going to have any more wars such as that which only lately interfered with the development of Australia and, indeed, of the world a't large. But it is of no use for us to- refuse to advance merely because we may receive a set-back by the occurrence of war. During a period in which I had some responsibility for the gO'vernment of Tasmania an attempt was. made to develop the shale deposits of the State for the distillation of oil fuel. I witnessed a trial of the oil at Hornsby's machinery warehouse, in Bourke-street, Melbourne, and I had the assurance of the manager that the oil distilled from the Tasmanian shale was equal to any fuel oil in the world. I believe that there are deposits of shale on the mainland that may be as good as the Tasmanian deposit, but I was assured by experts that an enormous percentage of oil might be distilled from the Tasmanian deposits. I was looking forward to the time' when we would distil our own oil from the shale deposits at Latrobe for use on our own motor-driven steamers between Tasmania and the mainland. I am sorry that that policy was not persisted in and carried into effect. I believe that if it had been we should to-day be in possession of a permanent supply of fuel- oil - so far as such things can be said to be permanent, because all these deposits have, of course, only a certain life - with which to carry on our own ] shipping.

Although Senator Foster does not accept personal responsibility for the1 correctness of the figures he has given, he has told us that those responsible for them pronounce them unchallengeable. If they are correct, the extra cost of installing oil machinery in our boats would be paid for in a couple of trips.

Senator de Largie - Not quite so fast as that.

Senator EARLE - Yes. Senator Foster told us that the saving in fuel by an oil-fuel ship in the round trip would amount to £46,000. According to the honorable senator, the extra cost of installing oil-fuel engines would be £80,000. So that in two round trips the whole of the extra cost of installing the new machinery would be paid.

Senator Foster - That is exactly what the experts say.

Senator EARLE - This is a question which cannot be lightly regarded. The Government must force it upon the attention of their experts, who should bo directed to advise them whether Senator Foster's figures are correct. If it is proved that they are, there is only one thing for a progressive Government to do. and that is to get to work at once and' establish a system of motor-driven ships.

No one can question the importance of efficient sea-carriage for goods. A.11 the States own their own railways, which bring the produce of the primary producers to the different ports. When they reach the ports they are at the mercy of the Shipping Combine. That is a ridiculous position, and those who advocate the withdrawal of the Commonwealth from the shipping enterprise are, in my opinion, very short-sighted indeed. We must supply the missing link between the railway termini and the markets of the world for our produce, otherwise we cannot expect to be a successful exporting nation. Assuming that the information supplied by Senator Foster is reliable, the honorable senator has indicated one way in which the Government may do something to make their name memorable in the history of Australia.

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