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Wednesday, 11 August 1926

The CHAIRMAN - The honorable senator is not in order. The Senate, by agreeing to the second reading of the bill, has decided that the money required to give effect to the roads scheme, as set out in another bill, shall be raised by an amendment of the tariff.

Senator NEEDHAM - I submit that, although the Senate carried the second reading of this bill, it is competent for an honorable senator in committee to suggest other ways and means of raising the money.

The CHAIRMAN - To do that would be outof order.

Senator NEEDHAM - My experience, after nearly twenty years in this chamber, is that honorable senators are permitted in committee to suggest other ways and means of achieving the object of a bill, even after the second reading has been agreed to.

The CHAIRMAN - Not in connexion with a Customs Tariff Bill.

Senator NEEDHAM - Very well, Mr. Chairman, I shall accept your ruling. Customs duties, which are paid by every citizen in Australia, represent a form of indirect taxation. But there are other citizens who, in my opinion, should be called upon to contribute to the revenue required for the construction of roads. I refer to the 26,282 persons who are in receipt of incomes from £1,000 a year to £10,000 a year; to the 679 citizens in receipt of from £10,000 to £100,000 a year ; and to the twenty persons whose incomes exceed £100,000 a year.

The CHAIRMAN - This bill has no relation whatever to the Income Tax Act.

Senator NEEDHAM - Perhaps, then, Mr. Chairman, I may be permitted to refer to the position of the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited. It has been said, in the course of debate, that that company could supply the whole of Australia's requirements.

Senator Pearce - Who said that?

Senator NEEDHAM - Some of the speakers in the second-reading debate.

Senator Pearce - Not in this chamber.

Senator NEEDHAM - At all events, the statement was made. On this subject, I take the following extracts from the report of the Public Accounts Committee, which inquired into this subject recently : -

It having been decided that the company would undertake the distribution and marketing of its products throughout the Commonwealth, it became necessary to create a sales organization, and to establish distribution depots. Throughout Victoria, and in the metropolitan area of Sydney, the company has its own distribution staff, but in the country districts of New South Wales, and in Queensland and South Australia, Messrs. Dalgety and Company have been appointed selling agents on a basis which was stated, in evidence, to be a very fair one for the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited.

Senator Barwellstated that. last year the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited showed a loss of £53,754 on its business operations. I thought at the time that the honorable senator was in error, andI find, from the Public Accounts Committees report, that I was right. The committee states -

The published balance-sheets of the company show that for the first three years of its establishment, namely, up to 30th June, 1923, the losses on the company's operations each year had been£ 3,060 10s. 6d.;£ 4,765 9s. 6d.; and £4,004 13s. l0d. respectively, or a total of £11,830 13s. 10d. Shortly before the close of the year ended 30th June, 1924, the company commenced refining and trading, and the profit and loss account showed a loss on refining and trading, after charging administration and other expenses and depreciation, of £1,909 7s. 8d. During that year the directors transferred to development and establishment account the balances against profit and loss and preliminary expenses account, at the 30th June, 1923, together with the portion of the current year's expenditure applicable to the period prior to the commencement of the re- fining and marketing operations. It is proposed to write off the amount so transferred during the next few years as profits become available.

I understand that the amount has since been written off, and that the company is now making a profit. I hope, also, that instead of having one refinery at Laverton, in Victoria, we shall have one in every capital city of the Commonwealth, because this development of the company's operations would be the most effective means of combating the influence of the oil combine. The report further states -

As the Common wealth Oil Refineries Limited provides at present only a comparatively small proportion of Australia's consumption, in fixing the selling price of its products regard must be paid to the prices charged by competitors; and in the event of reductions the company must follow the market, or else lose its business. In the case of increased rates, however, the company can fix its own. price.

Recently, the other companies raised the price of their petrol, but the price of Commonwealth Oil Refineries spirit remained unaltered. T. rose merely to point out that the official report shows that the loss was not so great as Senator Barwell represented it to be.

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