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Thursday, 5 August 1926

Senator H HAYS (Tasmania) . - I support the bill, but I regret that the bounty is not offered for a longer period than three years. Thiswill cause uncertainty in the minds of those who are commercially interested in the deposits, or are prospective investors. I have no intention to submit an amendment of the bill; but I urge the Government to give closer attention to the matter than it has received in the past. In speaking on the budget last night I referred to the importance of the deposits, and the need to develop what has been rightly described as a "key" industry. In the course of time oil will be of even greater commercial value than it is to-day in the industrial sphere. The burning of coal is fast going out of favour as a means of developing power for ships, and oil is being substituted for it.

Senator Thompson - Great Britain has not yet given up coal.

Senator H HAYS - No, but it is proposed that some of the locomotives in the Old Country should be fitted up as oil burners, and I am under the impression that several of the railway companies there are already burning oil fuel. Its use in ships and locomotives has passed the experimental stage, and it seems to me that it might well be tried on the long stretches of the north-south railway, since oil is more economical to haul than coal. In New South Wales and Tasmania large sums have been expended in efforts to develop the deposits of oil shale. The Government, which has directed its attention particularly to attempts to discover flow oil, should be generous in its assistance to those interested in the commercial production of shale oil. The report quoted by Senator Needham indicates the extensive nature of the deposits in the Mersey Valley and in the Newnes district of New South Wales, and I remind honorable senators that since that report was prepared, further enormous deposits have been discovered. It is impossible accurately to state their full extent. I do not agree with Senator Needham that, when a nucleus supply of shale oil has been provided, further development should cease, the deposits being held in reserve. If the bountywere limited to a given quantity of oil, there would be no incentive for private enterprise to develop the deposits vigorously,

Some years ago Lord Jellicoe visited Australia; he drew attention to this latent wealth, and pointed out that in the interests of the defence of the Commonwealth the earliest consideration should be given to its development. I have on previous occasions suggested that the Government should request the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research to cooperate in the efforts being made to produce shale oil on a commercial basis. If the attempts to discover flow oil prove unsuccessful - I sincerely hope that they will not - the Government will have to turn its attention to the shale deposits in the event of overseas supplies of oil failing. The Government should give every possible encouragement to those who have done the spade work in this industry, and are still endeavouring to develop a great national asset for the benefit of the Commonwealth. Five or six years ago the Naval Board entered into a tentative agreement with the Tasmanian Government to purchase 8,000 tons of oil per annum for naval purposes, but the efforts to get the necessary legislation passed by the State Parliament failed, and the negotiations ceased. The amount of the bounty might well be increased in order to give greater encouragement to. the pioneers of the industry. I hope that the Government will consider the advisability of increasing the three-year period.

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