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Friday, 21 May 1926

Senator NEEDHAM (Western Australia) .- This i« a vital provision of the bill. It authorizes the borrowing of money to increase the capital of the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited by £100,000. When speaking on the second reading I expressed the hope that the Government would indicate when it would go further than is now proposed, and in this regard I think I shall be in order in quoting the following paragraph from the report of the Public Accounts Committee proving the vast amount of good that the company is doing to the people of Australia who use petrol : -

A review of the oil prices in Australia during the last few years indicates that the establishment of the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited has undoubtedly had considerable effect in st ob li zing the local market far oil products. Figures placed before the committee indicated that in December, 1922, when the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited was preparing to enter the Australian market, the price of first-grade motor spirit was 23s. per case, whereas it is now 17s. per caBe, and as a consequence, it is claimed that during that period reductions in the price of petrol alone have saved the people of Australia nearly £5,000,000. The reduction in prices has. to a certain extent, synchronized with a fall in price throughout the world, but it. may be said that the presence of the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited has been a powerful influence in securing to Australia the benefit of price reductions.

In view of that undoubted fact, to which Senator Duncan has evidently paid no attention, the statement of which he complained was not a wild or rash one, but perfectly true. The cost of distribution has to be considered. I understand from evidence submitted to the Public Accounts Committee that the duplication of the plant at Laverton would take a year, and cost about £170,000, whereas the erection of a similar plant in or near Sydney would occupy a longer period and cost, exclusive of land, from £320,000 to £330,000. I am hoping that the Government will agree to either the duplication of the present plant or the installation of a similar one in Sydney, and that the Government's policy of preventing private companies from exploiting the people will be rigidly adhered to in regard to not only petrol, but also other commodities.

Senator Pearce - "We are bringing down a measure to enable the Parliament to have the necessary power.

Senator NEEDHAM - The honorable senator remembers his Labour day: when he advocated that the Parliament should have full control over trade .and commerce and industrial matters. I hope that -Senator Drake-Brockman, too, will realize that the public are- being exploited in more ways than one. I welcome this measure as au instalment of most desirable legislation.

Senator Pearce - I cannot pledge the Government at this juncture, but Ave shall watch the whole position with a view to deciding what future steps shall be taken, if any are found to be necessary.

Clause agreed to.

Clause 4 agreed to.

Schedule agreed to.

Title agreed to.

Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.

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