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Wednesday, 19 October 1949

Mr THOMPSON (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Can the Prime Minister say whether any State Premier has notified him of a scarcity of petrol, and has asked him to take action in the matter? Have the oil companies notified him of the quantity of petrol they have in stock, and stated that it is insufficient to meet the needs of essential users?

Mr CHIFLEY - I have discussed the question of petrol supplies with three of the Premier.s by telephone. I believe that they are fully aware of the possibility of a shortage which appeared to be indicated at an early' stage. I regret that it was not possible to convince the State Premiers to take action to meet that possibility immediately after the High Court delivered its judgment. I was confident that such action would overcome many of the difficulties that have since arisen due to circumstances over which the Australian Government has no control. Although I called a special meeting of the Premiers to consider the position immediately after the High Court gave its judgment, no action was taken in the matter by the Premiers. Subsequently, when a shortage appeared to be inevitable I again asked the State Premiers to discuss the matter and either to refer power to the Australian Government to reimpose rationing or to pass legislation in their respective Parliaments which would enable the Australian Government under complementary legislation to reimpose rationing. That complementary legislation will be introduced in this House this week. As I have dealt with this subject fully from time to time I do not think that I can say anything further upon it. The Premiers to whom I have spoken are fully aware of the position. I have discussed with them the legislation to be introduced in the respective State parliaments. So far Western Australia is the only State that has yet passed such legislation although I understand that the Premier of South Australia, Mr. Playford, has introduced similar legislation in the Parliament of that State. We are endeavouring, by moral suasion of course, to get the States that intend to pass similar legislation to expedite its passage. When complementary legislation is introduced in this Parliament honorable members will be given an opportunity to discuss the subject. As I have said previously, the Australian Government has no control over petrol after it is landed at the seaboard except in respect of reserve stocks for defence purposes.

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