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Wednesday, 26 November 1941

Mr PATERSON (Gippsland) .- I am most interested in the relation of the proposed amendments to the oil field in Gippsland, although the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beasley) referred mainly to oilfields in the territories north of Australia. The proposed amendment of section 3 of the principal act may restrict slightly the power of the Minister or of the Commonwealth to make agreements, since they must relate to advances. The only alteration which will be made to section 5 of the principal act is to insert after the words "in the name of the Commonwealth enter into such agreements " the words " relating to the advances ". Presumably the principal act at present enables agreements to be made on matters other than those relating to the advances. Consequently, we must regard this amendment as having a restrictive effect.

Clause 4, which amends section 6, appears slightly to widen the discretionary power of the Minister. Instead of the limitation, which is imposed in section 6 of the act by the words " that the amount paid to any person shall not exceed the amount expended by that person after the commencement of the act," the

Minister is empowered, in a particular case, to vary that by notice published in the Gazette. I take no exception to that, because I can conceive that instances may arise when it may be desirable that the Minister's hands should not be tied. As the notice has to be published in the Gazette, it will give any arrangement by the Minister sufficient publicity, and honorable members may bring the matter before the House for criticism or commendation, as the case may be.

Clause 3 of the bill relates to the Commonwealth entering into agreements regarding advances. Concerning the agreement which, I understand, has been or is likely to be reached in connexion with the oil field at Lakes Entrance, I hope that the provisions will be sufficiently generous to make it possible to raise the private capital necessary to undertake the work, with the assistance of the advance from the Government. The agreement proposes that the amount of money to be made available by the Commonwealth and State Governments, £50,000, must be fully repaid to them before any return can be received by the investors in the enterprise. In my opinion, that provision is a little harsh and is likely to discourage men from putting their money into this enterprise, because attempts to produce oil in Australia to date have not profited those who were " game " enough to invest their money in them. It would be a good thing to temper or modify the proposed arrangement by requiring the companies to repay the advances on a £1 for £1 basis. In other words, the Government should permit £1 of profit-taking by the people who ventured their money, for every £1 which is repaid to the Crown. Admittedly, under that method, a little longer time would be required for the repayment of the advance, but people would be encouraged to invest their capital in the enterprise at Lakes Entrance. I bring that matter to the notice of the Minister for his sym-pathetic consideration. The proposal is in my opinion, quite reasonable. I trust that the Minister will follow the words of the Scriptures -

Withhold not good from them to whom it is due, when it is in the power of thy hand to do it.

I commend the bill.

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