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Wednesday, 14 September 1949

Mr FADDEN (Darling Downs) (Leader of the Australian Country party) . - It is indeed regrettable to have been the recipient of the opening remarks made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) in his speech on this very important matter. The right honorable gentleman must be made to appreciate that he is not the only citizen in this country who conscientiously desires to discharge his public duty as he sees it. I have persisted in the attitude I have adopted towards petrol rationing and the Government's policy in this matter because I conscientiously believe - and my belief has been strengthened by the effluxion of time - that the Government either has been misled or has failed to consider the problem in the best interests of motor users in Australia. The right honorable gentleman can sound a personal note as much as he likes and talk about chasing tin hares and being a receptacle for all sorts of "furphies", but in the course of my remarks I shall produce some live hares of an electric nature which I believe he will not be able to evade as he has evaded' the real substance of the motion now before the House.

Without doubt, the two most important aspects of the petrol problem are : First, is an adequate supply of oil necessary to Australia's economy and development ? ; and, secondly, is oil available to us? The first question was answered effectively by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies). Every student of the problem as well as every honorable member must appreciate that Australia's economic progress depends upon an ample supply of petroleum products. Without such supplies our productive capacity would be kept at a minimum, our post-war recovery retarded and our future as a nation imperilled. Indeed, our defence strategy and security as a whole would be jeopardized. In this matter I have endeavoured to survey Australia's position in comparison with that of other nations and I have come to the conclusion that adequacy of petrol supplies is more vital to Australia, having regard to the peculiar circumstances in which this nation finds itself, than it is to any other nation. Australia is sparsely populated and much of it still undeveloped, but we have a responsibility as one of the great primary producing countries of the world to help to save the starving peoples of not only the United Kingdom, but also other countries which were devastated in the recent war. Members of the Opposition parties stand second to none in their support of the United Kingdom. This is not a newfound love with us, if it is with honorable members opposite. It is sheer hypocrisy for supporters of the Government to talk as they talk to-day about their desire to help the great United Kingdom. If they look back through the pages of Hansard they can ascertain what they have really done in that direction over the years. They have opposed every action taken by previous governments for the purpose of co-operating fully with the United Kingdom in its defence obligations and needs. On that point I emphasize, if emphasis be really necessary, that members of the Opposition parties do not require to be lectured by the Prime Minister concerning our duty to help the people of the United Kingdom.

Motor cars, utility trucks and tractors are integral parts of our national pro- ductive system. Only by providing adequate supplies of petroleum products can we keep the wheels of transport moving in this country and thus maintain maximum production in our great primary industries for whose products the United Kingdom and other countries are clamouring at the present time. The second question on which the Prime Minister is at variance with me is : Are petroleum products available to us to-day? Because of its importance I shall deal with the answer to that question at some length. If petrol rationing is re-introduced in Australia, the only person who will be responsible for such action will be the Prime Minister. The re-introduction of petrol rationing will be due solely to his policy of using Commonwealth laws, as the Leader of the Opposition has said, to restrict the importation of petrol and thereby force the hands of the various State governments by a system of Commonwealth rationing at the source of supply. This restrictive policy is supported by the Australian Labour party because in typical socialistic fashion that party always places restriction before freedom and reduction before production and always endeavours to maintain the greatest possible degree of control over the individual citizen. The Prime Minister has dealt with the petrol problem in a manner that leads one to only one conclusion. He wants petrol rationing solely for rationing's sake; he does not want to relax his policy of control over the individual. That attitude is consistent with the socialist's policy of subservience to the Government. The right honorable gentleman has exerted all his efforts to find a means by which petrol rationing can be re-introduced in this country rather than remove the need for the re-introduction of petrol rationing. One has only to recall what happened on the day on which the High Court announced its judgment declaring the Commonwealth's petrol ration regulations to be invalid. The ink on that judgment was not dry before the Prime Minister stampeded and announced that chaotic conditions would result and that the responsibility for avoiding such conditions was cast on the States; and ever since he has been determined to see his prophecy come true.

I repeat that the Government has not lifted a finger or made one solitary effort to remove the need for petrol rationing. On the contrary, it has exerted all its efforts with a view to creating reasons for the re-introduction of rationing. The Government expends nearly £200,000 a year on the maintenance of its commercial intelligence service overseas. It has trade commissioners in many countries as well as ambassadors, ministers and consular representatives at most of the important centres overseas, but I challenge the Prime Minister to produce any evidence whatever that those government instrumentalities were even approached on the matter' or were capable, on their own initiative, of finding alternative sources of supplies of petrol in order to avoid the need to re-introduce petrol rationing. It was left to an independent oil company, which is controlled exclusively by Australian enterprise, and consists of 5,000 Australian shareholders, to seek other sources of supplies in an endeavour to prevent Australian citizens from being harassed in their efforts to develop this country.

I come now to the availability of petrol supplies, recognizing, of course, the fact that petrol is essential to maximum production in this country. On the evidence that is available, certain facts relating to the petrol position cannot be denied by any reasonably informed person. First, there is a world surplus of oil. In fact, to-day there is an oil war between the major international petroleum companies. Within recent hours a reduction of 75 cents a barrel for American oil has been announced. The world's oil resources are now placed at a higher figure than ever before. The latest figures show that known global crude oil resources increased in 1948 by 4,890,000,000 barrels or 6.6 per cent. During the ten years 1939 to 1948, 25,000,000,000 barrels of crude petroleum were produced, yet the estimated proved oil resources grew during that period from 34,000,000,000 barrels to 78,000,000,000 barrels, a net gain of 129 per cent. If the oil that has been taken from the ground is added, the gross increment in reserves has not been far short of the startling figure of 70,000,000,000 barrels.

Let us turn now to movements in the sterling area. It is from that area, of course, that Australia can most advantageously obtain its oil supplies. In 1948, there was a substantial surplus of sterling oil. Production amounted to 64,000,000 tons, and the total British Commonwealth consumption was only 45,000,000 tons. Only about 330,000 tons, or a mere fraction of that surplus, would be required annually to abolish rationing permanently in this .country, even on the most pessimistic consumption estimates given by the Prime Minister. Let us consider the position that the Government has allowed to develop in this country. During the last session of this Parliament a petrol freezing measure was passed ostensibly because it was necessary to build up emergency stocks in this country. In spite of the plentiful supply of oil throughout the world, and the surplus of sterling area oil to which I have referred, the Minister for Postwar Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) admitted in this House on the 1st July that stocks of motor spirit held at the seaboard in Australia in 1948 were, at one stage, less than one month's rationed consumption, and that the average held throughout the year had been only enough to meet Australia's demands for five and a half weeks.

I turn my attention now to the lifting of petrol rationing by European countries. The Prime Minister, either intentionally or otherwise, but obviously only halfinformed, misled the House on this subject, which has a most important bearing on the petrol problem. Obviously, it is most desirable from all points of view that we should obtain as much sterling oil as possible. The information in my possession is authentic and is available to any one. It shows clearly that several European countries have removed restrictions on the use of petrol, although the Australian Government has refused to follow suit. There is no restriction upon the consumption of motor spirit in France in spite of what the Prime Minister has said. The right honorable gentleman was merely playing with words when he took the Leader of the Opposition to task for having said that France received only crude oil from the sterling area. I leave that matter there for -the present, but J shall refer again to hath France .and Italy as I proceed. I repeat tha.t there is n.o restriction .on the consumption of motor spirit in France. A similar position exists in Belgium, Luxemberg, Switzerland,, Portugal, Turkey and, since February of this year, Finland... There is no rationing in 'the strict sense pf the word in Holland .or in the .Scandinavian .countries with the exception ,of .Sweden. In Denmark, a special unrationed holiday period pf one month is .allowed} an-d a similar period of , weeks is allowed in Norway at the choice pf the motoristPetrol is officially seated to be unrationed in Poland and Roumania and, since April, it has been unrationed in H,unga-ry. The .only Marshall aid countries in which rationing still a,re Britain, Iceland, and Haly. Restrictions in Italy are slight and cannot be compared with those operating here. The British ration is .approximately the same as in Australia. Apparently, no special .consideration is given to the vast distances over which motor vehicles h.a-ye to travel in this country. Most pf the unrationed petrol consumed in the countries that I have mentioned is undoubtedly sterling in .origin and, any wide awake government, knowing -those facts, would naturally inquire into the possibility pf the diversion to this country .pf some of .the available supplies. Particularly in view .of the statement on .defence stocks made by the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction the Australian Government, which is responsible for the sa.fe.ty and economic well-being of this country should have investigated fully all possible avenues pf supply. Increasing consumption of sterling oil and other non-dollar oil by European Marshall aid countries is apparent from figures that I shall give to the House. It was interesting to hear the Prime Minister say that had it npt been for the United States pf America the Marshall aid countries would now be under .Communist control. Let us see to what extent British oil companies have increased their sales to those countries. In 1947, oil sold to European Marshall aid countries iota-lied 19,500,000 tons In the fiscal year 1948-49, that figure increased to 2'6,.8O0,p66 tons. The esti- ma.te for the current fiscal year is 3,0,90.0,00.0 tons. The increase , the last three years, ther.ef.ore, has been ap.proxjmat.eiy 50 per cent. Yet, the people .of Australia are expected to believe that it is net possible to send $.0 this country the mere trickle of S.0,00.0.,000 gallons annually which is required .to ensure adequate .supplies. I turn now to the Middle Eas'.t .sterling oil share of European In 1938, 24 per cent, of Middle East sterling oil went to Europe. In 1947 the figure was 32 per cent. In 1949 it rose ,to 47 per cent, .and the .estimate for the .current financial year is 54 per cent. Whore and how has Australia participated in this increased availability of sterling oil? We are asked to believe tha.t petrol rationing is the only means by which equitable .distribution of petrol can b.e .achieved in this undeveloped nation. British oil interests have captured, and .are still capturing, foreign markets for British oil. An oil war is being waged between the big oil companies. Current British and American petrol journals highlight the fact that in their endeavours to save dollar currency continental .and Marshall aid countries .are buying sterling oil from Britain's increasing sterling production. In addition, three other important countries - Egypt, .Sweden and Argentina - have recently switched to British oil Conditions in Norway indicate that that country, too, may be forced to rely on sterling oil because of its dollar situation. Does the Minister who will follow me in this debate know, and if so will he admit that sterling oil is going into China? Where are we getting sufficient sterling oil to make up even the pessimistic ration proposed by the Prime Minister? We have npt taken .advantage of these supplies in order to safeguard the economy of this country. Great Britain is committed to supply to Argentina £29,000,000 worth of petroleum "products during the first year of operation of the Anglo-Argentine agreement. These products will be supplied .by British oil-producing companies and wi.ll .comprise lj.800,000 tons of crude oi}, 3,7.50,000 tons of fuel oil-which is refined - and 250,000 tops pf other petroleum by-products. Under a trade agreement completed between Britain and

Brazil on the 3rd August last, Britain has undertaken to supply Brazil with £7,4S6,000 sterling worth of petroleum and petroleum products. What will be the dollar component of the products covered by these two agreements which in the aggregate will be worth approximately £36,500,000 to Great Britain? We are aware that Great Britain must obtain foodstuffs quickly, and that in order to do so it must depend on Argentina and be willing to make concessions in return. It is regrettable that Australia cannot obtain even a trickle of sterling oil to develop its productive capacity when at the same time its greatest competitor in the meat markets of the world is made the recipient of large quantities of sterling oil which, after being refined, will undoubtedly be resold. The Prime Minister has said that the contract with Argentina covered the supply of only 100,000 tons of petrol. Even if his statement is correct E remind him that that is equal to 30,000,000 gallons, a quantity which would go a long way towards relieving the petrol position in Australia. How are we to expand production in Australia in order to meet our commitments to the United Kingdom, unless we obtain sufficient petrol to meet our needs? Sterling oil trade agreements have also been concluded by the United Kingdom with Denmark, which is our greatest competitor in dairy products. As the result of the petrol shortage our dairying capacity must remain static. Our dairy-farmers are to be deprived of the requisite petrol to enable them to expand their activities so that they may be able to take advantage of desirable and promising markets. Sterling oil trade agreements have also been concluded by the United Kingdom with Sweden, India, and Israel. The Prime Minister has admitted that Britain has supplied quantities of crude oil to our former enemy, Italy. Indeed, the right honorable gentleman took the Leader of the Opposition to task for mentioning that fact, saying that after all it was crude oil, not refined oil. The supply of that oil places Italy in an 'advantageous position. The Italians have established refining capacity and are selling refined oil to India and other countries. Nothing has been, done to obtain oil from Italy as a means of obviating dollar expenditure on petrol. I doubt whether the Government even knew of the existence of such an arrangement until it had been mentioned in this House. At present these continental and Marshall aid countries, in many of which petrol is unrationed, enjoy the advantages of dollar saving while Australia suffers the disadvantage of having to pay for its petrol in dollars and at the same time have its supplies of petrol rationed through the Chifley Government's control of imports. Last month, the chairman of the British Automobile Association, Canon Hassard-Short, referring to the British Government's explanation that rationing must continue for economic reasons, said very pertinently -

We should like to know how it is that other European countries which were conquered and overrun by the Germans are able to abolish petrol rationing and we m-e not.

Could not a similar question be asked by Australians with regard to the Australian position? When the European recovery plan was evolved it became clear that, on a long-term basis, increased refinery capacity would be necessary to avoid a heavy drain on the dollar or foreign exchange requirements of the importing countries. The provision of such increased capacity was a basic requirement. Britain has planned to increase its refinery capacity from 3,000,000 tons to 20,000,000 tons annually. Marshall aid Europe and associated Middle East oil production areas increased their refinery capacity from 70,000,000 tons in 1947 to 92,000,000 tons in 1949, and plan to increase capacity to 137,000,000 tons by 1952. What requests were made by the Chifley Government during the progress of that phase of long-term dollar planning, or since, to assure dollar conservation for Australia in the light of the warnings that were obvious from these facts? In the light of that information, all documented and authenticated despite what the Prime Minister may say about it, Australians are asked to accept the British position on faith alone without being supplied with sufficient facts on which to judge the case for themselves. One could not advantageously enlarge upon what the Leader of the Opposition had to say when he pointed out that honorable members had not been entrusted with the information that the Government must have in its possession so as to enable them to arrive at a sound decision in relation to petrol rationing. We are expected to follow the Government blindly, and the people are obliged to accept the decisions that are forced upon them by the Government. The Prime Minister told the Premiers that the total net cost of oil to the sterling area was well in excess of 400,000,000 dollars, or £100,000,000 sterling, annually. Subsequently the London Economist, which the Prime Minister cited as a non-partisan journal this afternoon, proved that the real cost of petrol and other oil products purchased from United States companies was only about 160,000,000 dollars a year. The balance, of well over 240,000,000 dollars, was split up into non-recurring capital items, such as refinery equipment, and current operating expenses at British exploited oil-fields outside the sterling area. Even when faced with this proof, the Prime Minister reiterated in the Parliament that the drain on the dollar pool in respect of petrol was well over 400,000,000 dollars a year at a very conservative estimate. When the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) challenged his statement by interjection, the right honorable gentleman admitted that the cost of petrol was only £42,000,000 a year and that the balance was made up of " incidentals " .associated with petrol.

Mr Dedman - That is not so.

Mr FADDEN - It is recorded in Hansard. What is the good of saying that the Prime Minister did not admit it? The Minister denies everything.

Mr Dedman - That is not in Hansard.

Mr FADDEN - I will bet that it is. Returning again to the figures stated in the Economist, I point out that the amount of 160.000,000 dollars is not a net figure, as no reduction has been made for the re-export of coal at a profit in foreign exchange, which has been made possible by the substitution of oil for coal as a fuel in the United Kingdom. What has the socialist Government of the United Kingdom done in order to boost its nationalized coal industry? It has carried out & campaign for the conversion of industry to fuel oil consump tion. The latest United Kingdom Hansard that I have received shows that 1,300 industrial undertakings have been converted, to use oil instead of coal, thus making it possible for Britain to export coal to Sweden and other countries and earn about £1 15s. 4d. a ton in exchange advantage. Much of the refinery equipment needed by the sterling area might bc supplied through the Marshall aid plan. When assembled it would be a future dollar-earning, or at least a dollarsaving item.

Sitting suspended from 5.55 to 8 p.m.

Motion (by Mr. Chifley) agreed to -

That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) from concluding his speech without interruption.

Mr FADDEN - I thank the Prime Minister for the generosity that he has extended to me in moving the motion that lias just been agreed to by the House. Before the suspension of the sitting I mentioned the Prime Minister's admission that the cost of petrol itself was only £42,000,000 a year, and that the "incidentals " associated with it made up the balance. That admission is to be found in Hansard of the 7th July last, at page 21SS. I also pointed out that even then 160,000,000 dollars is not a net figure, because no reduction is made for the re-export of coal at a profit in foreign exchange, which is made possible by the substitution of fuel oil for coal in the United Kingdom. The socialist Attlee Government's policy has been to make the maximum possible .use of fuel oil, which it imports in order to relieve the demand on British coal, so that more British coal can be exported in order, no doubt, to boost the nationalized coal industry.

The United Kingdom imports of motor spirit alone from dollar sources, including aviation spirit, but excluding other oil products, are officially stated to have amounted in 1948 to only £stg.l6,000,000 f.o.b. My authority for that statement is the. authoritative journal which the Prime Minister himself quoted this afternoon, Petroleum Press Service, London, and the statement is contained in the issue of May, 1949. That is the figure for refined petrol, and it is surprisingly small when compared with the total dollar expenditure for all petroleum products, including the heavier oils similar to those supplied to Argentina and to Brazil. Furthermore, the London Petroleum Times of the 28th January, 1949, published a table of total United Kingdom imports of crude oil and refined . products for the calendar year 1948 from the various countries of consignment. Those imports were calculated from the preliminary official data published in the Trade and Navigation Accounts of the United Kingdom. They were preliminary figures only, but are sufficiently accurate to enable broad conclusions to be drawn. They show that the United States itself consigned only 551,000,000 gallons of crude oil and refined products to the United Kingdom in 1948, or 11.8 per cent, of total imports, the cost in sterling being £26,293,011, or just over 100,000,000 dollars. In the previous year, 1947, the United States supplied the United Kingdom with 25.7 per cent, of total imports, so that in one year the percentage supplied by America has declined to less than half.

Those figures, however, apply to the expenditure side only. They give only the gloomy half of the picture. The income side, which is far brighter, has not been given to the Parliament by the Prime Minister. He alone knows whether it has been given to him by Sir Stafford Cripps. From an exhaustive survey of British White Papers, I have calculated that receipts for petroleum sales by British companies will be in the vicinity of £170,000,000 net for the calendar year 1949. The British budget statement that was presented in April of this year emphasized the high hopes placed by the British Government in oil companies as earners of foreign exchange. Net invisible income, which includes the overseas earnings of British oil companies, was provisionally estimated at £100,000,000 in 1948, in contrast with a net deficit of £190,000,000 in 1947. Consequently, my provisional estimate for 1949 should not be very far astray. In any case, it must be admitted that Great Britain is making substantial inroads into world oil markets with considerable resultant profits. Dollar expenditure on oil is naturally closely related to Britain's entry into world oil trade. Petrol rationing in Australia is also very closely related to it. All members of the Parliament are vitally interested in Great Britain's economic recovery, and it may be that sales of sterling oil, or even oil with a dollar component, to other countries are a considerable factor in assisting that objective. If that is so, then let us have the full particulars of British oil trade and collateral advantages, so that we can form our own judgment in Australia of the necessity or otherwise for these trade manipulations to Australia's disadvantage.

If Australia is being called upon to make more and more sacrifices to bolster up British economy, let us be treated with the frankness that is necessary between partners who, from sentiment as well as from economic necessity, are determined to revive a run-down business. Many thinking people consider that the British socialists have no practical plans for getting out of their troubles. If that view is wrong, the British and Australian Governments should dispel it by frank facts and detailed figures. Otherwise, Australia must be prepared to stand up to the British socialists. We must push on with our own development as a great nation, instead of slipping back into the position of the old colonial days by paying tribute to a bankrupt socialist economy in England. The situation must worsen if the Australian people meekly accept the dictates of Sir .Stafford Cripps, without having the factual basis to check his judgment to discover where we are heading for.

This afternoon the Prime Minister quoted the opinions of various people in a comparison of the rate of recovery of the United Kingdom with other countries that have received Marshall aid. He told us to give those comparisons a reply, and to ponder over them. I quote now the statement recently made by no less an authority than Mr. Winston Churchill.

Mr Conelan - A tory.

Mr FADDEN - No one can ever accuse Winston Churchill of being anything but completely British. He said -

Every account which reaches us from Europe shows how more rapid in many ways has been the recovery of all the European countries than it has been here at home.

Some of these countries were our enemies and were forced to surrender unconditionally after being sheltered in war. Others have been defeated and overrun and held down for five years by foreign invaders.

But there is not one outside the iron curtain behind which socialism and communism prevail, which has not managed to get its life going in an active and civilized manner in many ways better than we have done under our Socalist Government with its mania for regulation and restriction.

Mr. Churchillis an eminent world figure, and even his greatest enemy must admit the outstanding value of his efforts towards saving the civilized world during the last war. I have read to the House Mr. Churchill's appreciation of the position of the countries of Western Europe that are in receipt of Marshall aid compared with the plight of the United Kingdom under socialism.

As the Australian Government evidently is prepared to adopt a completely negative attitude towards increasing bur petrol supplies, the Opposition will suggest ways and means that may be explored to avert rationing in this country. I have already given the House authentic figures about the position in the countries of Western Europe that aTe in receipt of Marshall aid and in other countries, notably our former enemy, Italy. We in Australia are at a disadvantage compared with them. However, I leave aside that aspect, and even omit from consideration for the moment the wisdom of using every possible effort, as the Government should have done, to obtain at least a portion of the unrationed supplies of petrol from those countries in order to relieve the petrol situation in Australia. I shall now produce indisputable evidence, which is available to every honorable member, in order to show that petrol rationing can be averted, to the advantage of this country. Sterling tankers should be employed as far as possible to replace dollar tankers on the Australian run. My information is that approximately one-half of Australia's imports of petroleum products arrive here in dollar tankers. If sterling tankers were used in preference to dollar tankers, the saving in freight, according to my advice, would be about 8,000,000 dollars a year. That amount would be sufficient to purchase, even if we were forced to purchase, 70,000,000 gallons of dollar petrol annually. At present, sterling tankers aggregating 100,000 tons are laid up. That figure includes five vessels each of which exceeds 8,000 tons dead weight which normally carry crude and dirty oils. I also understand that a considerable quantity of Panamanian tanker tonnage is laid up. The owners, in most instances, are willing to accept sterling in payment for freight. Although it may not be practicable to replace all the dollar tankers used in the Australian trade, a substantial saving of dollars, and a consequent increase of imports of petrol, should result from a thorough exploration of my suggestion.

An immediate investigation should also be made with a view to increasing refinery capacity in Australia. The Prime Minister has admitted that sterling crude oil is readily available to us. However, it is useless to import crude oil unless we have the necessary refining capacity. According to an official review of the Australian petroleum industry by the Department of Post-war Reconstruction, dated August, 1949, approximately 16 per cent, of Australia's requirements of refined petrol are provided by local refineries. The review also states that the output of the Australian petroleum industry from refineries is currently at the rate of 649,000 tons a year. This output is the result of using only 75 per cent, of the present refining capacity. Although it is a common practice to keep the output at about 85 per cent, of the capacity of the refineries, this figure may be exceeded in times of shortage or emergency. Therefore, by increasing the present output of Australian refineries to full capacity, as it is the responsibility of the Government to do, between 15,000,000 and 20,000,000 additional gallons of motor spirit could be refined each year in Australia. Combined with supplies obtained by other methods, that quantity would go far towards overcoming the need for petrol rationing in this country. I suggest that, because of the importance of this matter, the Government should give first priority to means for steppingup the capacity of refineries already operating in Australia. As I have stated, the output at present is only 75 per cent, of the capacity of the refineries. One of the companies which is already engaged in refining operations iii Australia is Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, in which, the Australian. Government has .a contrpiling interest,

I sis© suggest that available European sources of refined petrol, which may be purchased for sterling, should be more fully explored immediately. An independent Australian company, Australian Motorists Petrol Company Limited, .commonly known as Ampol, has paved the way for this method of 'relieving petrol rationing in Australia. Obviously, if sufficient petrol from those sources is available and if the Government is prepared to issue an import licensee to cover them, the rationing of petrol in Australia, can be averted. One licence has already been granted to Ampol to import .3,500,00,0 gallons of Polish petrol.

Mr Conelan - Will the company get that petrol?

Mr FADDEN - I shall deal in a moment with the reason why Ampol has not obtained the petrol, and I shall also refer to the scurvy treatment given to it by the Government in connexion with the matter. I understand Ampol was asked whether it would be prepared to market substantial quantities of Roumanian petrol in Australia. Negotiations are now under way as to quality, specification and price, and it is probable that substantial quantities will shortly be offered for firm shipment. An approach has also been made to sell petrol to Ampol through a Dutch source, for shipment to Australia. Here again, negotiations are in progress as to quality and price, but cargo load quantities are available from this source. Further, from two separate sources in London, firm cargoes of motor benzol have been offered to Ampol for shipment to Australia from a Russian port in the Black Sea, near the Turkish border. Negotiations are still in train with regard to these cargoes.

A licence to import Polish petrol has already been granted to Ampol by the Australian Governmnent. The London agents have advised that the necessary Polish export licence is in process of being issued to the Polish Government agency, which is the seller of the petrol. Advice has also been received from the

London .agents that .additional cargoes from, the same port and supplier will also be available. The whole of the suppliers pf petrol all the sources which I have listed are prepared to accept non-convertible sterling for supplies. It would be impossible for these suppliers to obtain dollars for the petrol under the arrangements being negotiated. If an independent Australian petrol company, with its limited international resources, can unearth sterling petrol from more than one European country, why has not the Government been able to do at least as well with all of the facilities available to i t ? Failure to locate sources of European petrol offering for payment in sterling proves that the Australian Government has been guilty of gross negligence and of a callous disregard for the rights of Australian citizens, and, indeed, of the future defence and prosperity of this country.

By an agreement signed in New York on the 3rd June, 1948, the Australian Government agreed to supply the Government pf Poland with £A.250,000 worth of Australian wool as a free gift, and to pay the cost of procurement, storage, transport and shipping to the port of entry into Poland. That adequately combats the sneers of Government members with relation to Russian petrol. On the 29th June, an agreement was concluded in London to supply the Hungarian Government with wool worth £A.150,000, while on the 5th July a further agreement was concluded to provide Italy with £A.250,000 worth of Australian wool. In July, also, agreements were made to provide Austria and Yugoslavia each with £A.150,000 worth of wool. These are all free gifts of Australian wool that has been grown by rationed Australian primary producers, who are supposed to accept meekly, and without protest, the Prime Minister's ultimatum with relation to petrol rationing. According to an official statement, for the nine months ended March, 1949, Russia purchased £A.11,375,000 worth of Australian wool. Why should we not p.ow take advantage of the petrol offered by some of these countries for export to Australia? We are not depriving other sterling areas of petrol, and we could purchase it with our overseas balances of which we have about £380,000,000 lying idle in England. What arrangements have been made for Russia to liquidate its wool debt to us of over £11,000,000? Are we to be supplied with goods, including petrol, in exchange, or will our idle London balances be augmented? Great Britain signed the Anglo-Soviet Trade Agreement in Moscow on the 27th December, 1947. Under that agreement the Soviet receives locomotives, rolling stock, excavators, caterpillars, cranes, generating equipment, and even oil purifying equipment, in return for grain. On the 13th April, 1949, it was announced in London that the negotiations were proceeding for a one-year trade agreement between the United Kingdom and Russia, but details of commodities were not mentioned, and are not available. These agreements surely provide the pattern for Australia. If we are selling Australian wool to Russia, and if we are giving wool free to her satellites, why should we not negotiate for petrol from Russian-controlled territories in exchange, and, indeed, approach these countries to facilitate the granting of necessary European export licences? In reply to the Prime Minister's disclosure this afternoon of what he said was a confidential cablegram from London to the effect that Ampol had applied to the Australian Government to lend its aid to facilitate the issue of the requisite export licences, I point out that the right honorable gentleman accepted that as a weakness and a change of front. The definite responsibility of the Prime Minister and the Government is to facilitate these requirements on a government basis. If this Australian company cannot get the Australian Government to assist it in connexion with the requirement of export licences from Poland, to what other source can it apply? Instead of Government members sneering and jeering at the request, the Government should have exerted expeditiously every possible effort to assist the company to obtain the export licences.

I come now to another alternative. If it were necessary it could be implemented, although assuredly it is not necessary, in view of the evidence of availability of extra petrol. I challenge the Government to announce what it has done to exert its influence and discharge its responsibility to Australia in this regard. There should be a round-table conference with other Commonwealth countries to secure a more equitable re-allocation of dominion quotas. What is the position in relation to so-called reciprocal trade, sentiment, and British Empire preference? Irrespective of the Marshall aid position in Europe, what is the position in relation to Australia and its sister dominions in the British Commonwealth of Nations? The figures issued by the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries, the accuracy of which has never been denied, indicate that the Australian motorist gets the lowest quota per vehicle of any British Commonwealth country. Canada uses 726 gallons, India 664, and South Africa 612 gallons a vehicle each year, which is more than twice the Australian quota on which the Australian consumers are asked to maintain the activities of this nation. This anomaly is unfair to Australia, and it should, and could have been rectified long ago. Apart altogether from availability, this is decided evidence against the necessity for petrol rationing in Australia.

The construction of a new, complete, modern refinery should be commenced immediately in Australia by Australian oil companies, and every assistance and encouragement should be extended to that project by the Australian Government. The official post-war reconstruction report, to which I have already referred, states that the case for undertaking such a project in this country as soon as possible is definitely considered to be strong. Such a refinery should be fully equipped to produce all commercial oil fractions, and to meet the most up-to-date specifications and utilize the gases by means of modern synthetic processes. It should have an annual throughput of not less than 500,000 tons, or about 150,000,000 gallons a year. On the basis of costs in the United States of America this would necessitate an expenditure of about £A.6,000,000. Even from a defence point of view alone the expenditure of so large a sum in dollars could be fully justified. Great Britain is spending millions of dollars on refinery equipment for use in that country. I have already described what other European countries that are in receipt of Marshall aid are doing. In 1948 the United Kingdom Government -authorized the oil industry to embark on an extensive programme to establish oil refineries in the United Kingdom capable of handling 20,000,000 tons of oil a year. That Government has also interested itself in the provision of refining plant in other countries in the soft currency area. Under Marshall aid, European refinery capacity has almost doubled since the war, as shown by the following figures : -


Italy has increased its refinery capacity in two years from 3,000,000 tons a year to 5,300,000 tons a year and is planning for a capacity of 10,000,000 tons a year by 1952. If Australia cannot obtain sufficient dollars from the dollar pool to establish a modern refinery here, we should immediately negotiate a dollar loan for the purpose from one of the international financial authorities of which we are a member. Such a refinery in Australia, using the modern cracking process, would supply us with high octane aviation fuel, refined petrol, kerosene, fuel oils, bitumen and lubricating oil. If the search for flow oil in Papua and in Australia itself happens to meet with success, we should be prepared with a refinery of a capacity sufficient to utilize the crudes that will then become available. Even if no flow oil is found here, we shall be able to obtain sufficient crudes from the islands adjacent to our north-west coast to keep such a refinery working at full capacity. The official post-war reconstruction review admits that sufficient supplies of crude oil are available in the sterling area. The Prime Minister also admitted in this House on the 7th July and has done so again to-day.

Recently it has been indicated in many English and American petroleum trade journals that the amount previously authorized under Marshall aid to provide for petroleum refineries in Europe is to be substantially reduced. Mexico is considered by many people not to be a progressive nation, but the Mexican Govern ment has seen the possibility of obtaining some of this divertible refinery equipment and has applied for 100,000,000 dollars' worth of refinery plant. Articles in current journals indicate that a loan for this purpose will be granted through the Export-Import Bank. Has the Chifley Government watched this overseas development with the same interest and concern for the Australian people as that with which the Mexican Government has watched it on behalf of the Mexican people? Has it thought of applying for a share of this refinery equipment, or has it given any consideration to the matter whatever? The Dominican Republic is a small part-island in the "West Indies. Its area is approximately 19,000 square miles, and its annual budget is only £14,000,000.. The Government of the Dominican Republic has announced that an oil refinery is to be built there at an estimated cost of 15,000,000 dollars. The capital is to be provided jointly by Dominicans and foreign investors living in the republic. Evidently the Government of that relatively small and poor territory has displayed a greater concern for its people in a modern world than the Australian Government has done for our people.

I consider that I have submitted a most detailed case for the permanent abolition of petrol rationing which should convince every member of this House, every member of the State parliaments and every Australian citizen that the restrictions upon petrol imports that have been imposed by the Prime Minister, and the consequent rationing of supplies, are unreasonable and unnecessary. It is owing only to the obstructionist policy of the right honorable gentleman that the States have been put into the difficult position in which they now find themselves. They should never have been stampeded into accepting a responsibility, or any part of it, that assuredly is the Prime Minister's responsibility. He is the head of the Australian Government, and he alone will be to blame for either emptying the bowsers or stopping the people from getting the supplies that they need without coupons. The facts and figures that I have presented show beyond all doubt that there is no ground whatever for the re-introduction of petrol rationing, even accepting the Prime Minister's pessimistic forecast of future petrol consumption, -which he conveniently but unwisely bases upon abnormal conditions. If the right honorable gentleman can do no better than he has done, he should give way to a government that will have something positive to offer in exchange for his negative, stagnant policy of obstruction. He has no hope to offer in a world brimming with surplus oil.

Britain is supplying oil to European countries, which have been able to abolish rationing, but the Australian motorist has been left out in the cold. British oil companies are capturing world markets. Argentina, Brazil, Egypt, Sweden and Norway can buy British oil, but Australia cannot get enough. Canada, India and South Africa have double our petrol quota per motorist, but our Government will not fight for a better quota. We know that British oil companies arc making profits by selling elsewhere oil . that could come here, but nobody has told us how large those profits are. The British oil companies know that the Australian market can be picked up at any time because the amount of oil that it absorbs is, comparatively speaking, only a trickle. Consequently, they are concentrating on the more favorable markets from their point of view, and that is to the disadvantage of undeveloped Australia. Dollar tankers come to Australia, while sterling tankers are idle. Other countries can obtain modern refining equipment, but Australia is left out on a limb, and in fact is not even using the refining capacity that is available to it. The Australian Government has not lifted a finger to get available non-dollar supplies of petrol. It has adopted obstructionist tactics against those who have refused to accept its defeatist policy and have bestirred themselves to improve our position. The Government has left its run too late, and is now blaming every one else for its own shortcomings. Petrol is available. Those who seek it will find it if they have the will to do so and are encouraged and assisted by this Government to take the necessary steps.

I support the motion of censure that has been proposed by the Leader of the Opposition. I say that every honorable member who votes against it, in face of" the facts that have been presented, will vote in favour of petrol rationing, to the detriment of Australian petrol consumersand of the nation as a whole.

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