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Thursday, 24 March 1927

Senator H HAYS (Tasmania) . - In supporting the bill, I should like to say that I share the views expressed by Senator Abbott. It would be dangerous to grant assistance to companies or private persons engaged iu drilling for oil on localities other than those approved by the Commonwealth's technical adviser. On this point, I may state that, some time ago, the Tasmanian geologist warned the public against investing in companies formed for the purpose of boring for flow oil in that State. He stated that he took full responsibility as a Government official when he said that a geological survey of the State did not justify boring operations for flow- oil. That was a big responsibility for a Government official to take. I know that his advice was strongly resented not only by companies but also by investors. I agree with Senator Thompson that it is highly desirable that the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research should continue its investigations into the extraction of oil from coal, as is being done in other Countries, particularly Germany. Perhaps my remarks under this head do not come strictly within the four corners of the bill; but, on an occasion like this, one might expect a little latitude, because the two subjects are interwoven. The object of the bill is to encourage boring operations for flow oil; but the sole purpose in view is to secure an adequate supply of fuel oil to meet Australian requirements. I commend the Government for its action in increasing the amount, to be made available to prospectors; but I suggest that, side by side with that work, we should see what can be done in the production, on a commercial scale, of oil from shale or coal. The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research should be able to render valuable assistance.

Senator Sir WILLIAMGLASGOW (Queensland - Minister for Defence) . [12.28]. - I am pleased to have the general approval of honorable senators for the bill, though I note that Senators Thompson and Hays expressed a doubt as to the prospect of obtaining flow oil except, perhaps, in Papua or New Guinea. It is hardly necessary to remind them that the bill has nothing to do with proposals for the extraction of fuel oil from coal or shale. That is a matter for the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research.

Senator Foll - That subject was fully investigated by the Public Accounts Committee some time ago.

Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW - As a matter of fact, there has been a great deal of research in all countries during recent years; but that matter does not come within the scope of the bill. I know of nothing that would have a more important bearing on the development of the Commonwealth, or its defence, than the discovery of flow oil either in Australia or the adjacent islands. In recent years there has been an extraordinary development in the use of mechanical means of transport. The bill is an indication that the Government is displaying an interest in this matter. I have been asked by what means the Government is endeavouring to prosecute prospecting in Papua and New Guinea. It is utilizing the services of the experienced officers of the AngloPersian Oil Company. The management of that company has placed at the disposal of the Commonwealth some of its leading geologists, as well as Mr. Maslin, who is recognized as a boring expertof very high repute.

Senator Foll - And a most conscientious officer.

Senator Sir WILLIAMGLASGOW.As Senator Foll has stated, he is a most conscientious officer. Honorable senators may, perhaps, remember that some little time ago the Committee of Public Accounts investigated and reported on boring operations at Popo, in New Guinea. Senator Abbott wished to be furnished with evidence of the reliability of the work that is being done by the AngloPersian Oil Company and its officers. On that point I shall quote from the report of the Committee of Public Accounts. It says -

In conclusion the committee is of opinion that, as a result of its close investigation of the work of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company Limited, and its officers in Popo, and a visit to the scene of operations at Popo, there is nojustification for the insinuation oft repeated that the company is not doing its best on behalf of the Commonwealth Government to find oil in the Territory. The services of the company's experts have been placed at the disposal of the Commonwealth Government for the performance of this work, and only actual expenditure incurred by the company in connexion with operations in Papua is allowed it.

I have spoken to some of the members of that committee who saw the work which had been done by Mr. Maslin. They were impressed not only by his knowledge of boring operations, but also by the earnestness with which he was endeavouring to make successful the sinking of a very difficult bore at Popo. Senator Grant asked why the company had not been able to get that bore down. The reason was that they struck a strata consisting of mud stones. As the casing was dropped the strata froze on to it, and it was impossible to get through themudstones. Mr. Maslin was so anxious to find a way of overcoming the difficulty that, at his own expense, he visited the oil fields of the United States of America to see if there was one on which a similar difficulty had been experienced. Senator Abbott asked why various syndicates and companies that are operating in Papua and New Guinea have not so far been granted any assistance. The reason is, first, that the moneys appropriated by the act have been exhausted; and, secondly, the advice of the experts of the AngloPersian Oil Company in regard to certain areas in Papua was unfavorable, and the examinations in New Guinea were restricted and inconclusive. Geologists have been specially engaged by the Anglo-Persian Oil Company to make a special examination of all likely areas in the territory, including those held under licence. As soon as those experts arrive they will make a geological survey of the territory, and when their reports are received the Government will consider whether assistance should be rendered in respect of areas that are at present held under licence. Senator Reid referred to operations at Orallo and Roma, in Queensland. A considerable amount of work has been done at Orallo, but the results have not been favorable. The Commonwealth Government paid over £7,000 to the Orallo Company to enable it to sink a bore; but the indications at the bottom were not at all favorable, and on the advice of Mr Ball, the geologist, it was decided to discontinue it. The question of assisting the subsidiary company of the Orallo Company to enable it to commence boring at Roma will be considered by the Government.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.

In committee:

Clause 1 agreed to.

Clause 2 (Payments to trust account).

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