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Thursday, 3 July 1941

Senator McLEAY (South Australia) (Minister for Supply and Development) - by leave- In view of the many questions asked in connexion with petrol stocks, I desire to inform honorable senators that the stocks held by the various oil companies are not based on sales, nor on any period for consumption. At the outbreak of war, the companies were asked to increase the stocks to three months' supply, and the larger companies did so. More than twelve months ago, when the cartel was being formed, the companies agreed to increase their stocks to the limits of storage capacity, and financial assistance has always been available if required. Financial assistance has been declined only in respect of increased seaboard storage. It is the Government's policy to increase storage inland. The cartel was formed mainly to increase that capacity, and to pool both tankers and tanks. Provision was also made to pool stocks. The cartel is a voluntary arrangement entered into by all importing companies to assist, in increasing storage, and the sales quotas fixed by them are incidental to that objective. Unfortunately, the British controlled companies have had special difficulties in getting tankers. The cartel and the individual companies have been asked to get tankers wherever they may be available. The Government has assisted the smaller companies in particular, and is negotiating for the direct, purchase of large stocks. At every point, however, the world shortage of tankers presents serious obstacles. There is no truth in the statement that tankers serving Australia have been diverted to Japan. The Government will support any endeavour to get tankers from any source. Aviation spirit is supplied under contract and has priority for tanker capacity. The prices paid compare favorably with those paid by any other country. The two larger companies are the contractors because they alone have been able to fulfil the onerous conditions of supply throughout the Commonwealth for Royal Australian Air Force depots not only in the settled areas, but also in many remote places throughout the continent. The price varies according to locality and the landed cost of the product. It is impossible to reveal figures of stocks or other information without disclosing vital facts to the enemy. Stocks are much better than has been alleged, though they are not, as great as we need. On all these questions the Government is in constant communication with the British Government, and is making the strongest possible representations for the release of more tankers for all classes of petroleum products. Three additional tanker voyages have been allotted to Australia within the last few days, two for aviation spirit and one to build up stocks of motor spirit for civil purposes. These tankers will increase stocks by approximately 8,000,000 gallons.

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