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Wednesday, 3 June 1942

Mr MORGAN (Reid) (5:42 AM) . - I bring to the notice of the Government the need to make some provision for the compensation of persons who may suffer loss or be injured as the result of air raid precautions. Steps have already been taken to insure property against war damage, but I hope that flesh and blood will not be considered of less value than property, although that has been the traditional attitude of governments. Recently I brought to the notice of the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) the death of a little girl, two or three years of age, through drowning in an air raid shelter. No amount of money could compensate the parents for the loss of this little child, but at least a compassionate allowance could be provided to meet the funeral expenses. I urge that consideration be given to cases of this description for I have little doubt that many of the kind are likely to occur.

It is necessary, also, that special consideration be given to the difficulties of persons who are purchasing homes under various time-payment processes. There are 228 building societies in New South Wales, with a membership of 22,000. The average loan granted to the members of these societies is £780. This is, therefore, a people's organization. Many men who, prior to the war, had entered into obligations with financial institutions in respect of the purchase of homes, have since enlisted, and their payment as members of the fighting services, particularly if they are privates, is not sufficient to enable them to maintain their instalments. It may be said that contractual obligations have been made, but surely in days like these financial institutions are not to be allowed to demand, like Shylock, their pound of flesh ! The Government should take immediate steps to meet this situation. The policy of the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) is to reduce rates of interest on new loans. That, however, does not meet the position in respect of loans already raised. Nor would a moratorium meet the situation. Interest will accumulate, and upon their return the men will be confronted with a large debt. The only way is to reduce the interest rate, thus enabling the men to meet the payments from their military allowance. The Treasurer has already received a deputation, and I assume has given careful consideration to the matter. If he were to approach the financial institutions, they might voluntarily recognize their obligations, as members of the fighting forces have recognized the duty that they owe to their country, and reduce the interest to a reasonable rate. The money was raised at a rate of about 5 per cent., which is considerably higher than the ruling rate in respect of new loans. If these institutions were not prepared to do the decent thing, the Government should take appropriate action under the National Security regulations for the reduction of interest to a fair level.

There is vital necessity to conserve supplies of petrol. Australia may be blockaded, and thus be prevented from obtaining supplies from overseas. A considerable quantity of spirit is needed by the Air Force. It is time that we had a statement in regard to the Newnes plant. There has not been a statement of the position of that plant for some time, and considerable concern is felt as to how matters are proceeding. The Commonwealth, must have well over £1,000,000 invested in the enterprise. This Government was not responsible for the methods adopted in the initial stages, and a mistake was made. Instead of setting up a large plant, and expending hundreds of thousands of pounds, it might have been better to start in a small way, and proceed by the process of trial and error. I urge the Government to give some relief and encouragement to the smaller concerns. It is all very well for the Minister for Supply and Development (Mr. Beasley) to say that some of the sponsors of such concerns are not governed by lofty motives. We realize that they are governed by ordinary business motives. This applies also to the major oil companies. It is doubtful whether those companies understand the term "lofty motives ". This is evident from the revelations that have been made in connexion with the parent concern - the Standard Oil Company of

America - to the effect that it has been linked up with the enemy not only prior to but also during the war. A few months ago, it endeavoured to prevent the despatch of lubricating oil to this country, which would have resulted in a saving of hundreds of thousands of pounds under the lease-lend arrangement. We have to become self-dependent in regard to supplies of oil. We have means for the production of oil in our huge supplies of coal, which could be developed by the different processes that have already been tested. I ask the Treasurer to consider the payment of a subsidy to the Government of New South Wales. The previous Government was requested to make a subsidy of £80,000 in order that the State Government might give encouragement and assistance to the different concerns which wished to develop the local oil shale deposits. Had this been granted, the matter would have been directly under the control of the State administration. The community would have been amply protected. The policy laid down by the previous administration in regard to the development of our shale oil deposits completely hampers the operations of private individuals; because it is stipulated that any company that produces this fuel shall be restricted in the use of it to the quantity required for its own motor vehicles and those of its shareholders. Contract sales to nonshareholders are not permitted. This has played into the hands of the major oil companies. Many persons would be prepared to invest in and encourage these concerns, but there is no demand for the product. On the other hand, many users of it may not have capital to invest. The restrictions should be lifted, and the companies should not be hampered. Facilities should be provided whereby the State Government may control the deposits and encourage their development.

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