|Title||NATIONAL OIL PROPRIETARY LIMITED AGREEMENT BILL
|Source||House of Reps
|System Id|| hansard80/hansardr80/1937-09-14/0127
Mr McEWEN (Echuca) .- This clause, which enacts the approval and the ratification of the agreement, gives honorable members opportunity to discuss in general terms the agreement itself. It seems to me that, so far, we have not had a very clear explanation on the Government's proposal to appropriate sums of money under this measure. When members of the Country party expressed concern about the probable effect of the amendment of clause 7, and suggested that it might mean payment of compensation under paragraph 24 of the agreement, as well as involve the Commonwealth in other obligations, they were told by the Minister for Defence (Sir Archdale Parkhill) that all such payments would come before Parliament in appropriation messages from the Governor-General, and that the amounts would be specifically mentioned. I have no doubt that the assurances given by the Minister induced a sufficient number of members of my party to support the Government and thus carry the amendment. It is unusual to appropriate money in such general terms.
The CHAIRMAN - The committee has disposed of clause 7. The question now before the committee is clause 3, which provides for the approval and ratification of the agreement.
Mr McEWEN - I appreciate your point, Mr. Chairman, and will speak in general terms on the clause which reaffirms everything that has been done by the committee. We have been assured that no clause of the bill gives authority to pay compensation under paragraph 24 of the agreement, although, apparently, having amended the bill, we have authorized, in general terms, the payment of a specific sum of Â£334,000. We were told definitely that the amendment would not enable the payment of certain sums under one paragraph of the memorandum of agreement without the introduction of a further measure, yet we have already been given to understand that the amendment can be construed as authorizing the payment of a specific sum under another paragraph of the memorandum. I contend that the ratification of the agreement will commit the Commonwealth Government to appropriate a specific sum of Â£334,000; to forgo approximately Â£250,000 a year from the import duty on petrol for a minimum period of 20 years and to pay bounty in certain circumstances. It is conceivable, also, that it will commit the Commonwealth to the writing off of the original sum of Â£334,000 which it will advance to the company, as well, also, as the payment of further compensation. All this is involved in the carrying of the amendment and the adoption of this clause.
The extent of the Government's liability will be determined very largely by the efficiency of the management of this new venture. The Commonwealth Government and the Government of New South Wales will have a debenture interest in- the company of up to Â£500,000. Whether the money will be used profitably, whether it will ever be repaid, whether the interest will be met, or whether all of this Commonwealth money will go down the sink, together with other contingent liabilities, will depend on the successful management of the company. Vast as is the extent of the Government's financial obligations, it is not asking for the right to have one representative on the board of directors. This is not right. Ministers and supporters of the project have spoken highly of the character and business ability of Mr. Davis. They have pointed to hi3 successful management of the Gelatine Company and of Cockatoo Dock. All that they have said may be true, but it is no reason why the Government should be so liberal in its treatment of Mr. Davis in this particular venture. I accept wholeheartedly everything that has been said as to his integrity and business efficiency, but I emphasize that, in this project, vast sums of public money will be involved, the successful use and return of which will, according to the speeches of the Minister, largely depend upon Mr. Davis continuing in good health. There is no assurance that any person will not die suddenly. This is a contingency which the Government should keep in mind. It should, therefore, endeavour to protect itself by having at least one representative on the directorate. It is only because I feel that the passage of the bill would be jeopardized if such an amendment, along these lines, were carried, that I have not submitted one. I realize that such an amendment, if carried, would involve a further conference with the Davis Company and would also necessitate the bill, which has been carried through the New South Wales Parliament, being referred back to that Parliament. I am further impressed by the necessity for getting on with the job of extracting oil from our shale deposits. For this reason, I am reluctant to do anything which might have the effect of destroying the bill. I cannot, however, allow this opportunity to pass without expressing the hope that, in future legislation of this kind the Government will consider the advisability of submitting its proposals to a committee of the House and, also, that it will make provision for government representation on the directorate.
Clause agreed to.
Schedule agreed to.
Preamble and title agreed to.
Bill reported with an amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.