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Friday, 21 May 1926

Senator PAYNE (Tasmania) . - The hill appears to embody a business proposition from this view-point: Some time ago Parliament agreed to assist the establishment of the oil refining industry in Australia; but up to the present the industry appears to have been under certain disadvantages. I am supporting the bill, but I think it is just as well to say that many of the statements made concerning the operations of the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited and the companies which have been supplying Australia with liquid fuel for a considerable period may be misunderstood, particularly when it is suggested that the two companies operating in. . Australia have been exploiting the public. The companies engaged in the distribution of liquid fuel in Australia have met a decided need, as without the British Imperial Oil Company and the Vacuum Oil Company I do not know where we should have obtained supplies. It is, of course, desirable to safeguard the interests of Australia by refining oil here, and I ain hoping that before long the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited will be able to supply a substantial portion of our requirements. The two companies operating in the Commonwealth are controlled by keen business men, who never lose an opportunity to extend their business. I have no quarrel with them in that regard. Recently there have been very great developments in connexion with the distribution of petrol. Reference has been made to the fact that during recent months a large number of petrol pumps have been installed. That is only reasonable, 'because a better system of supply was necessary. In considering this subject it must be remembered that these petrol pumps were installed by the companies -not because the garage proprietors were anxious to handle only the products of the British Imperial Oil Company and the Vacuum Oil Company, but because 90 per cent. of the garage proprietors "were not in a position to pay cash for the installation of the pumps and tanks. Seeing the opportunity, the companies offered to undertake the work at a relatively low cost, which was met by paying a lower commission on the petrol sold by the garage proprietors. We have to face this competition, and adopt similar methods, otherwise we shall be out of the race. We have placed £375,000 of the people's money in the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, but it is unable to show a profit, and we have therefore fo adopt up-to-date methods in order to produce a satisfactory return.

Senator Thompson - The Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited is not a. serious competitor of the other companies.

Senator PAYNE - , 1To. I am not in a position to give any information concerning the quality of its product. I have used petrol only in Tasmania and, so far as I know, the Commonwealth Oil Refineries' product is not on the market in that State. Even if there is a prejudice against it, provided that it is equal to that supplied by our " competitors, that prejudice will gradually disappear. When any commodity in general use has gained public favour, it cannot be easily displaced even by an article of slightly better quality. The products of the British Imperial Oil Company and the Vacuum Oil Company have, on the whole, given general satisfaction. It was brought under my notice a few days ago that certain garage proprietors who had recently installed petrol pumps to supply Waratah motor spirit, had "been notified that the price of Waratah spirit must be the same as that of the other two well-known brands. The Waratah spirit, I understand, was being sold at Id. * per gallon less than

Shell or Plume, and the Commonwealth Oil Refineries' product was1d.per gallon less than Waratah. If that is sothe Commonwealth Oil Refineries' product should have a still better opportunity to get on the market. On the staff of the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited there are doubtless experts who are able to distinguish any deficiencies or defects in its petrol, and I trust that the consumption of the Australian product, which is at present only 6 per cent. of the total, will rapidly increase. I am supporting the bill for the reason that, from a business point of view, it would' be fatal to reject this proposal. We must adopt the up-to-date methods of our opponents. An uphill fight is before us. Many of the smaller garages, which in the aggregate sell greater quantities of petrol than do the larger garages, have already installed two petrol kerb pumps, and have no room for another tank. We shall have to look beyond them to place the product of the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited on the market in a satisfactory manner. We must install pumps where at present none exist. To some extent, particularly in the city of Melbourne, the ground has been cut from under our feet by the action of the British Imperial Oil Company and the Vacuum Oil Company. Whatever difficulties may present themselves, it is imperative that the operations of the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Ltd. be extended, by the provision of additional capital'. I hone that the venture will be successful.

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