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Thursday, 18 September 1941

Senator MCBRIDE - I did not mention total war.

Senator ARMSTRONG - The Minister said that in view of the need to prosecute our war effort to the full, even some existing industries might have to be abandoned. If the term " total war effort" offends the Minister, I substitute the term, maximum war effort; although I feel that it cannot rightly be described as such. The term is used purely as fodder for the newspapers. For instance, what percentage of the people one sees daily in Pitt-street and Martin-place, Sydney, is engaged in productive work? How many of them are still employed in parasitical occupations? If the Government were sincere in its talk of a maximum war effort it is time it transferred the thousands of able-bodied men and women, who are not yet engaged in productive work, to essential industries. Until it does so, it cannot say that it is making a maximum war effort. However, it has no intention of doing that, because such action would cut across the interests of certain of its friends. The Minister also said that, owing to changed circum stances, this proposed company could not now produce bitumen at the cost it originally claimed.

Senator McBride - I said that even Senator Ashley would not suggest that this proposed company could produce bitumen as cheaply to-day as it originally claimed it could.

Senator ARMSTRONG - But is it not also apparent that the price of imported bitumen is increasing ? And does not that fact balance the increase of the cost of producing bitumen in this country? Indeed, it can safely be said that the cost of imported bitumen will rise much more rapidly than the cost of the local product. That must be so if we take into consideration only the war insurance risk now payable in respect of imported bitumen. The Minister also said that bitumen is not used nearly so much as formerly. I agree that that is so. However, if we made a maximum war effort in the direction of constructing strategic roads, we should require twice as much bitumen as we use in peace-time. Indeed, if we constructed only the strategic road connecting Darwin with the south of Australia, as it should be constructed, we should require all of the bitumen we could import, or manufacture, to-day. The final point made by the Minister was that Mr. Craig had refused to give to the Government information concerning the American contacts, from whom he was to obtain crude oil if given permission by the Government to import it. In view of the fact that during the .last nineteen months, two American business interests which were to supply the crude oil were lost to Mr. Craig, because of the vaccilation of the Government in this matter. Mr. Craig was justified in refusing to give that information. There was a danger that such information would be bandied around the corridors of Parliament, and other gentlemen might take advantage of it, as Sir Bertram Stevens and his friends took advantage of similar information twelve months ago. Thus, there was a danger that Mr. Craig's project would have been undermined, or taken over by certain influential friends of the Government. The Minister also suggested that Mr. Craig's proposal regarding deferred shares savoured of a rake-off. Mr. Craig's commercial reputation is sound.

Senator McBride - Does the honorable senator agree with that prospectus?

Senator ARMSTRONG - That proposal was made in connexion with Mr. Craig's original application, but as Senator Keane has stated, Mr. Craig was prepared to abandon any right in deferred shares immediately he received the decision of the Tariff Board. I do not agree with large numbers of deferred shares being held in respect of any prospectus. However, Senator Keane has mentioned at least three cases of that kind in which the Capital Issues Advisory Board gave permission for the issue of capital. Therefore, the Government believed in deferred shares particularly, when there was no danger that the interests of the major oil companies, or monopolies, in this country would be affected.

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