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Tuesday, 10 October 1972
Page: 2239

Mr CORBETT (MARANOA, QUEENSLAND) - Is the Minister for National Development aware of a shortage of motor spirit in southern Queensland? As such a shortage not only could cause disruption in general traffic but also could seriously delay the harvesting of wheat which has just begun, will the Minister take every practicable measure available to him to alleviate the position as soon as possible as these wheat areas are subject to serious storm and hail damage at this time of the year? Finally, can the Minister advise the present position with regard to motor spirit supplies in Queensland, particularly in the Darling Downs and Maranoa areas?

Sir REGINALD SWARTZ (DARLING DOWNS, QUEENSLAND) (Minister for National Development) - I appreciate the interest the honourable member is showing in this matter. In fact, I can join with him because the area of Darling Downs, as be knows, is adjacent to his own area of Maranoa. If I had had the opportunity, perhaps I would have asked myself a question on the same matter. The problem of supplies of motor spirit in Queensland is perhaps more difficult than that of other States. This goes back to the strike which took place some time ago when the Ampol refinery had some maintenance problems with its catalytic cracker. The difficulty at that time was that it could have no staff working on maintenance. The situation shortly after the end of the strike was that the cat cracker broke down altogether and it meant that total production from the Ampol refinery, which is one of 2 refineries in Queensland and on which Queensland depends very substantially for supplies, was reduced to about 30 per cent to 40 per cent. Maintenance work was carried on after the breakdown had occurred, and it was brought back into production just a few days ago. The problem was assisted by the diversion of tankers to several ports in Queensland. Of course, this does pose a problem of distribution from those centres to inland areas.

However, there is a co-ordinating committee which consists of representatives of the State Government, the Commonwealth and the industry. This committee is doing everything possible to ensure that supplies are maintained over the whole of the State on the best possible distribution basis. I am very pleased to inform the House that today rail tankers will be commencing to move from Brisbane to the Darling Downs and Maranoa areas and that the situation should be overcome substantially in a matter of days. I suggest, however, that the situation can be assisted by the public not undertaking panic buying. Perhaps I could pay a tribute to the people of Queensland for not buying in a panic fashion during this period of shortage. As a result, the distribution methods which have been adopted have been more successful. I think that, in view of the fact that the 2 refineries are now working at full production, additional tankers have now been diverted to Queensland and rail tankers are now carrying supplies out into the distant areas, this problem should be resolved in the very near future.

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