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Tuesday, 8 November 1910

Senator O'KEEFE (Tasmania) . - Senator Millen has said that good reasons were not shown by the Ministry for the introduction of this Bill. When I have been speaking of the necessity of encouraging shale-mining by a bounty or a duty - and a duty on kerosene is to me unthinkable at the present time - I have been asked why we should not be prepared to assist other mining industries in the same way. I think the answer to that is that shale-mining is almost unknown to the bulk of the people of Australia who are ready to embark their capital in mining enterprises.

Senator Millen - The money put into the industry at present is absentee money.

Senator O'KEEFE - It does not matter whether it is absentee money or not. Very little notice is taken of shale-mining by mining speculators in the ordinary sense of the term. It is because it is a new industry that it has special claims to encouragement in this form, which could not be urged in connexion with any other branch of the mining industry. The volume and value of the importations of oil supply another good reason for the assistance here proposed to the Australian industry. Senator de Largie has expressed his regret that there is only one State in the Commonwealth that is likely to benefit from the proposal to grant a bounty for the production of kerosene from Australian shale. But, as a good Federalist, he is quite prepared to support the proposal, though die State which he represents is not likely to share in the bounty. It is true that nearly all the money spent in the development of the industry in the Commonwealth has been spent in the State of New South Wales, but during the last couple of years, and especially during the last few months, a start has been made in shale-mining in Tasmania. Possibly Senator de Largie has not yet seen a report issued recently by the Government Geologist of that State on the shale deposits of Tasmania. I have not yet seen the report myself, but I have seen references to it in the newspapers which warrant me in saying that the Government Geologist of the State, who is eminently qualified to express a valuable opinion upon this matter, has stated that there are enormous deposits of shale in Tasmania containing a sufficiently high percentage of oil to justify him in believing that it might be profitably worked. Seven or eight years ago experts were brought, I think, from South Australia to test the deposits, and the tests showed high percentages of crude oils of splendid quality for lubricating purposes. No advance was, however, made in the establishment of a profitable industry owing chiefly to the fact I have already mentioned, that the mining investor has been slow to invest in shale-mining. During the last few months a large area of the Latrobe district, in the north-west portion of Tasmania, has been prospected, and it is found that there are deposits of shale there of considerable depth containing as high a percentage of oil as the shale to be found in other portions of Australia, and especially in New South Wales, where a considerable amount of money has been spent in the effort to develop the industry. As a representative of Tasmania, I am naturally pleased that the Government have introduced this measure to encourage the shale- mining industry. Without some such encouragement it would continue to languish as it has done for the past ten years, notwithstanding the fact that during the whole of that -time the -public have been aware of the existence of the deposits of shale in two of the States from which residual oils might be profitably extracted. I congratulate the Government upon the introduction of the Bill. I indorse the expression of regret that the total amount of bounty proposed should be so small, but I take it that it may be regarded as an earnest of the intention of the Government, if they continue in office, to support the industry. I have no doubt that they will propose an increase in the amount to be proposed by way of bounty if in the next few years it is shown to be necessary in order to place the industry on a satisfactory footing. It may be regarded as an .industrial rather than a mining industry, and if profitably developed it is sure to find employment for a large quantity of labour.

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