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Thursday, 28 August 1941

Senator KEANE (Victoria) .The last paragraph of the second-reading speech to be delivered by the Minister for Munitions (Senator McBride) reads as follows : -

Except in the case of defence and war services, no provision is made in the bill for any new expenditure, and no departure from existing policy is involved.

The members of the Labour party in this chamber realize that the Government must have the money asked for in this bill in order to enable it to carry on until the budget is passed. I take this opportunity, one of the few afforded to us, to raise one or two important matters. I should like the Government to inquire into an incident that happened on the Spirit of Progress train on Tuesday last. At about 8.45 p.m., a soldier who had been invalided home from the Middle East, went to the dining car for a meal. He was asked by the attendant if he had a warrant for the meal. He replied that he had, and he was served with a meal, the cost of which was 5s. When he produced his authorization from the department, it read " Supply Melbourne to Brisbane,1s. 3d.". The unfortunate soldier was placed in an awkward position. Naturally, because of his ignorance of the procedure, he blamed the railway staff for the trouble that ensued. For an invalided soldier to be provided with such a warrant for meals between Melbourne and Brisbane shows that a shocking blunder had been made or that somebody had badly fallen down on his job. I ask the Minister representing the Minister for the Army (Senator Foll) to look into this matter.

I propose now to direct your attention, Mr. President, to a small matter which, I think, comes partly under your jurisdiction as a member of the Joint House Committee. The men working in the lavatories in this building have been instructed by the housekeeper that they must refrain from smoking whilst engaged in that work. In the interests of their health, smoking should be allowed whilst they are working in the lavatories, particularly at a time such as this when highly contagions colds are so prevalent.

About eighteen months ago, a man named Mr. D. A. Craig, of Sydney, made an application to the Capital Issues Advisory Board for the right to form a company to import crude oil into Australia with the object of converting it into petrol, fuel oil and bitumen. The claim made by Mr. Craig was that, if approval were given for the raising of the necessary capital, the proposed company could produce 20,000,000 gallons of petrol, 10,000,000 gallons of crude oil and 70,000 tons of bitumen per annum. The application was held up by theCapital Issues Advisory Board because of some objection in relation to certain preference shares. After many months, the matter was referred to the Tariff Board for inquiry and report as to the economic aspects of the industry. That inquiry has since been held, but no effect has been given to the recommendations of the board and the application has been referred back to the Capital Issues

Advisory Board. Mr. Craig has been informed that the application will be considered by the full board on Monday next. Practically every Minister who may have some control of this matter has been interviewed by Mr. Craig and his associates, and I, myself, have done what I could to have the application granted. We have even gone so far as to see the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), but without avail. The final objection raised is that Mr. Craig cannot get tankers to transport the crude oil from the United States of America to Australia. On two occasions, Mr. Craig made arrangements for the supply of crude oil and the chartering of the necessary tankers, but the arrangements had to be cancelled because the Capital Issues Advisory Board had. not authorized the raising of the capital required to float the company. Obviously, if authorization be not given Mr. Craig cannot get the tankers, the crude oil, or anything else. He and his associates are not asking the Government for financial assistance; they represent a financially sound group and have done big business in this country. In view of the shortage of petrol and fuel oil in Australia, surely this matter should be expedited. My dealings with the Capital Issues Advisory Board in respect of other matters have been highly successful, but in respect of this application I have been greatly disappointed. If approval be given for the raising of the necessary capital to start this venture in Australia, an important industry will be established here and it is probable that the company will engage in the extraction of crude oil from shale obtained from the deposits in Tasmania and New South Wales. I do not suggest for one moment that the oil companies have exerted an influence in this matter. But the handling of this application by government officials and boards has hardly been fair. I have personally interviewed every Minister who has had anything to do with the matter. The Minister for Supply and Development (.Senator McLeay) and the Minister for Munitions (Senator McBride) were helpful, but, apparently, their help has been of no avail. Mr. Craig visited Canberra last Thursday and interviewed the Prime Minister, but owing to recent political happenings, the latter was precluded from giving to the matter the careful attention it deserves.

Senator A J McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - An appeal can be made from a decision of the Capital Issues Advisory Board to the Treasurer.

Senator KEANE - But this man must first have a decision from the board. The Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) has indicated that he will not interfere with the board at all. The hearing of this application by the board is now set down for next Monday, but it has already taken nineteen months to deal -with it. I realize that the Capital Issues Advisory Board is an essential authority in time of war, and that that body is doing an excellent job. However, due to the changes of Ministers this matter has not yet been finalized. The Tariff Board approved the scheme. Ordinarily, the Government carries out the recommendations of that board, but in this case it has not done so. The matter has now to be referred back to the Capital Issues Advisory Board. The delay which has taken place does not reflect credit upon the administrative authorities concerned. Quite a lot of people suggest that there is some mystery at the bottom of the matter; hut I do not agree with that view. This man's connexions, and ako his claim to be in touch with certain interests overseas, can easily be checked up. However, unless he has the authority of the Government to proceed with the venture, he cannot possibly secure supplies of oil from the United States of America. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) asked a question on this subject recently and was told that the matter was under consideration. It has been under consideration for nineteen months. This delay has involved Mr. Craig and the interests associated with him in an expenditure of up to £15,000. He hae visited the United States of America on two occasions and has ordered supplies of oil, but has been obliged to cancel the orders.

I trust that Parliament will be given an early opportunity to discuss the budget, and that the arrangement sought by the Opposition will be strictly observed. I hope that we shall have an opportunity to analyse the finances of the Commonwealth. When Mr. Theodore was Treasurer in the Scullin Government he circulated with the budget an explanatory note which enabled members generally to study the Government's proposals intelligently. I suggest that that practice might be followed by this Government when it brings down its budget in the near future. It would certainly tend to shorten debate.

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