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Thursday, 5 August 1926

Senator CRAWFORD (Queensland) (Honorary Minister) . - I move -

That the bill be now read a second time.

This measure provides for the continuance of the Shale Oil Bounty Act 1917-23, for another three years from the 1st September, 1926. The principle of assistance to this industry was established in 1917, when the Shale Oil Bounty Act No. 29 was passed, providing for the payment of a bounty of2¼d. on each gallon of crude oil up to 3,500,000 gallons, produced in Australia, with lower rates varying from 2d: to 1½d. per gallon on greater production. By Act No. 6 of 1921, the period of payment of the bounty was extended until 31st August, 1922. In that year the Tariff Board made a very thorough investigation into the industry. In view of the position as shown in the board's report, an amending Act, No. 40 of 1922, was passed further extending the period for one year, and at the same time increasing the maximum rate of bounty to 3£d. per gallon. A further extension of the period was effected by Act No. 23 of 1923, until 31st August next, and, unless renewed, will expire on that date. The amount appropriated by ihe Shale Oil Bounty Act, 1917-23, was £270,000, of which £125,491 has been expended, leaving £144,509 still available. At the maximum rate of 3½d. per gallon, this amount will be sufficient to pay the bounty for the extended period now proposed. I feel sure honorable senators will agree that if the industry is to continue it is necessary to renew the bounty, particularly as the products of the industry are exposed to the competition of several countries possessing natural oil wells from which oil is produced much more cheaply than from shale. This com- ^petition would result in closing up the Australian industry unless it received protection in some form. From 1917-18 to 1924-25, approximately 13,000,000 gallons of crude oil have been produced or an average of 1,625,000 gallons a year. The highest year's production during that period was about 3,000,000 gallons. The output is, however, only a small proportion of Australia's requirements. The company interested in the industry in New South Wales has recently installed an up-to-date plant costing £100,000, for the treatment of crude oik. This represents the very latest machinery for the complete extraction of the valuable oil contents with a minimum of residual oil, for which residue the market in. Australia is very limited. The New South Wales deposits have been idle for some time, but their re-opening is at present under conaidderation by the company. In addition to the New South Wales industry, a Tasmanian company has commenced operations on the shale deposits of that State. If the bounty is allowed to lapse it is quite certain that the New South Wales works will not be re-opened, and that the Tasmanian project will be abandoned. The Tariff Board, which recently conducted an investigation into the industry, recom- mended a continuation of the payment of the bounty for a further period of three years, and in adopting the board's recommendation the Government believes it is acting in the national interest and assuring to Australia the establishment of a most vital key industry. As the bill merely provides for a continuation of existing legislation, I trust honorable senators will be prepared to continue the debate to-day.

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