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Friday, 21 May 1926

Senator PEARCE (Western Australia) (Minister for Home and Territories) . - I do not propose to traverse the general discussion on this bill, but I cannot allow a statement made by Senator Duncan to go without challenge. The honorable senator deprecated an attack on the other oil companies, and complained that wild and rash statements had been made during this deb.ate. By interjection, I invited the honorable senator to tell me what were the wild and rash statements to which he objected, but he did not avail himself of the opportunity to do so. During the debate I have heard no wild or rash statements in regard to this matter, nor any attack on other companies. For my own part I simply stated certain facts which had led up to the decision of the Government to place before Parliament this proposal for an increase in the capital of the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited. Senator Duncan, like any other honorable senator, had the opportunity to prove that those facts were not true, or that the Government had been misinformed. But he did not avail himself of that opportunity, nor try to throw any doubt upon the statements I had made. Senators Needham and Foll, who as members of the Public Accounts Committee, have gone thoroughly into the position of the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, gave the Senate the result of what they had learned as members of the committee, and if any statements they made were inaccurate, I presume Senator Duncan would have drawn attention to their inaccuracy. But, again, he did not do so. He did not treat the Senate fairly by making the general charge he did without bringing forward a scintilla of evidence to back it up. It is somewhat peculiar that this honorable senator, who deprecates what he calls wild and rash statements on the part of others, should himself make the most wild, rash, and inaccurate assertion that in the present year the petrol turned out by the Commonwealth Oil Refineries is not equal to that turned out by its competitors. The inaccuracy of that statement can be proved by countless testimonies from unchallengeable sources. I shall tell the honorable senator one test which is taking place at the present time and has been in progress for some months. The Commonwealth owns quite a number of motor cars. These cars formerly used other petrols on the market - Shell, Plume, and various others - but it was decided that they should use only Commonwealth Oil Refineries petrol. They have now been using it for a considerable length of time with the same drivers and the same men in charge of the garage, and from the recorded results it is the unanimous judgment of that particular branch of the Commonwealth service that it is getting, from Commonwealth Oil Refineries petrol, results ' at least equal to if not better than those obtained from the best of other petrols. That testimony amply demonstrates the fact that the Commonwealth Oil Refineries' product is equal to the best of other products on the market. Senator Duncan should not have made his statement without giving honorable senators an opportunity to judge the evidence on which it was based. He simply made an allegation without bringing forward evidence to prove it. In the course of the debate an honorable senator asked what action had been taken to distribute the product of the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited throughout Australia. I am informed by Major Bird, of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, that the principal depots outside Victoria are situated in Sydney, Newcastle, Brisbane, and Adelaide ; that the largest number of depots is in Victoria ; and that there are 80 in New South Wales. I regret .that whilst deprecating what he called wild and rash statements on the part of others, Senator Duncan should have made most wild and rash statements in regard to the product of the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, because, going out as it will in Hansard, the allegation he made without the slightest scintilla of evidence in proof of it will have the effect of damaging the reputation of the company's product. The honorable senator said that at the present time the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited iB turning out a product which is not equal to the product of other companies;.

Senator DUNCAN - I do not think I said that. I said that I did not know what quality it was turning out at the present time.

Senator PEARCE - I asked the honorable senator if he was referring to the present year, and he said "Yes."

Senator Duncan - Yes, I was speaking of what had been supplied to me early this year. I may have been supplied with some of the earlier product.

Senator PEARCE - I told the Senate that when the company first started operations its product was not quite satisfactory. But that was only in the initial stages. That difficulty was overcome, and its product is now declared by all impartial people to be at least equal to that of any other company.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.

In committee:

Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.

Clause .3 (Authority to borrow money to pay Commonwealth's share of increased capital.)

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