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Friday, 16 September 1949

Mr ANTHONY (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The Prime Minister in a statement which he made to the House recently said that the consumption of petrol since the abolition of rationing and during the last three-monthly period for which statistics were taken had increased by about 21 per cent. Did the right honorable gentleman endeavour to ascertain the increase of consumption during the first month following the abolition of rationing? Has he ascertained that during that month the consumption of petro] increased only to a small degree ? Has he ascertained the quantity by which consumption increased during the first month after he called the States together and requested them to re-impose rationing? Can he say what quantity of petrol has been distributed in 44-gallon drums throughout Australia as the result of the panic created by the Australian Government? As the annual Australian consumption of petrol is 470,000,000 gallons, does the Prime Minister consider that 3,500,000 gallons is a fair estimate of the increased consumption due to the strike ?

Mr CHIFLEY - Some of the honorable member's figures are astray. I thought that I had made certain things clear when I spoke recently. I said in my letter to the State Premiers - and I do not think that there has been any denial of the statement - that so far as could be ascertained from available figures in the first unrationed month, for part of which the coal strike was in operation, the increase of consumption was 45 per cent. After that, the oil companies, seeing what was happening, instituted some form of control over the distribution of petrol and consumption in the second unrationed month was about 20 per cent, above normal. In the last month it was 17 per cent, or IS per cent, above normal. The honorable member says that an allowance of 3,250,000 gallons was made for the strike. "What I said was that the allowance for added consumption during the strike was approximately 5,250,000 gallons. I think that the exact figure is 5,240,000 gallons.

Mr Anthony - I thought that the right honorable gentleman said 3,250,000 gallons.

Mr CHIFLEY - I am sorry if I did not make myself clear. Allowing approximately 5,250,000 gallons for the strike, the average increase of petrol sales was 21 per cent, for the three months. It should be remembered also in regard to the strike that although motor transport services were expanded, many business organizations, particularly in New South "Wales and Victoria, were not using their motor lorries and other vehicles, because their establishments were closed down. This reduction of normal consumption to some degree countered increased con sumption in other avenues due to the strike. I repeat that allowing 5,250,000 gallons for the strike, the average increased consumption for the three months was 21 per cent.

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