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Wednesday, 26 October 1949

Mr CALWELL (Melbourne) (Minister for Information and Minister for Immigration) . - The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) said - and he was in the subjunctive mood when he made the statement - that if thu Opposition were returned to power on the 10th December it would give the people of Australia, without rationing, all the petrol they wanted, and without any interference by the Government in any circumstances whatsoever. If the Opposition ever did become the government of this country again - and God forbid such an eventuality - it would have to do better in peace than it did when the country was at war. It then left the country defenceless, not only in arms, but also in petrol. When the rabble that sits opposite was the government, it fell to pieces in October, 1941, because its members could not even trust one another. Indeed, their hatred of one another was greater than their hatred of the enemy. When the Labour Government took over, it found that Australia had practically no petrol at all. I propose to tell thu

Story, and it is a grim one. At the 3lst December, 1940, when the war had been in progress for fifteen months, the total non-military stocks of motor spirit, in Australia amounted to 101,000,000 gallons, but they had fallen to 42,000,000 gallons by the 31st July, 1941. That was within six months of the time when the Japanese struck at Pearl Harbour, and the Pacific war began. At that time, which was before Australia became involved in the Pacific war, the armed Services were using 60,000,000 gallons of petrol a year, so that there was not nine months' supply of petrol in hand, although everybody knew that war with the Japanese was coming. That was the time when honorable members opposite, as members or supporters of the government of the day, closed the Burma Road as part of an appeasement policy to Japan. Although it was known that it was only a matter of days or months before Japan would strike, petrol stocks were allowed to dwindle until the position became so bad that action had to be taken, and a cable was despatched by the Government-

Mr Spender - I rise to a point of order. I ask you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, whether it is permissible to review conditions said to have obtained some years ago. The purpose of the bill is to provide for petrol rationing to a date next year. I submit that it is not permissible for the Minister to proceed as he has been doing.

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