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Wednesday, 19 May 1920

Mr MATHEWS (Melbourne Ports) . - During the debate on the AngloPersian oil agreement a number of members expressed concern as to whether the search for oil in Papua had been carried out in a satisfactory manner. In this connexion I have received from Darwin a letter, written by a friend of mine who has been in Papua, and' I think honorable members ought to know how the position is regarded outside this House. My friend in his letter says -

In the -local papers at Port Darwin a paragraph appeared worded in this style - " There areugly rumours through the Northern Territory reDr. Wade and oil operations. It is asserted that Dr. Wade isin receipt of the same amount from the Vacuum Oil Company not to find oil as he is from the Government to find oil."

That is a terrible statement to be made. The extract goes on - " Why is it that as soon as oil is struck Dr. Wade packs up, and makes for fresh fields, and why was it one American in his party left because it was a ' crook ' business ? If this paragraph is untrue we will be glad to have and publish Dr. Wade's denial."

It is generally understood that these investigations in New Guinea have not been carried out in the way they ought to have been. Last night a Minister, while not endeavouring to belittle Dr. Wade in any way, said that, while that gentleman may be a great scientist and geologist, he is not a business man. The trend of opinion is that there is something " crook," or, if not " crook," something that indicates a necessity for investigation. Rumours of the sort ought to be contradicted. The next statement in the letter is a very remarkable one -

Also it is asserted that in German New

Guineaoil at the rate of 40,000 gallons an hour is flowing out to sea.

Mr JAMES PAGE (MARANOA, QUEENSLAND) - Where did the honorablemember get that information?

Mr MATHEWS - It is published in a Darwin newspaper, and I have been given the information in a letter from a friend of mine -

This oil business agreement has not a healthy look, has it? Mr. Hughes knows about the 40,000 gallons.

Mr Burchell - How does the writer know that the Prime Minister knows of the oil running?

Mr MATHEWS - I suppose that the writer is referring to Mr. Hughes as head of the Government, and that the information is in the possession of the local officials. I do not know whether the Minister in charge of the House (Mr. Poynton), who is not the Minister of the Department concerned, has heard any rumours to that effect.

Mr Poynton - This is the first I have heard of the matter.

Mr MATHEWS - I admit that it is the first I have heard of it.

Mr JAMES PAGE (MARANOA, QUEENSLAND) - It cannot be true.

Mr MATHEWS - That is quite possible; incorrect statements are very often made. But we have heard that German New Guinea is richer in oil than is British New Guinea; in fact, the Germans have declared that that was our reason for desiring to possess the former German territory.

Mr Poynton - The prospects there may be brighter than in Papua, but no discovery has been made there yet.

Mr MATHEWS - There maybe some exaggeration, but the matter certainly ought to be inquired into, and deniedif untrue. The movements of Dr. Wade spoken of may be due to the fact that, when he has made a discovery, he goes out looking for further evidence of oil. However, the whole oil question is one about which people are talking in. a most peculiar way. Now that the agreement with the Anglo-Persian Oil Company has been assented to, we ought to have more information as to the quantity of oil in German New Guinea, and some investigation should be made, even if not by scientists, as to what work Dr. Wade has done, and what would be the possible outcome. Parliament, I understand, is shortly to adjourn until the beginningof the next financial year; and this question is one of great importance that ought to have early consideration, especially in view of the statements that are being made in the press.

Motion agreed to.

Divisions 1 to 12 (Parliament), £39,780; divisions 13 to 25 (Prime Minister), £199,301; divisions 26 to 36 (Treasury), £926,596; divisions 37 to 43 (AttorneyGeneral), £67,367; divisions 44 to 55 (Home and Territories), £618,413, agreed to.

Department of Defence.

Divisions 56 to 82. - Proposed vote, £1,119,034.

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