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Tuesday, 8 November 1910

Senator VARDON (South Australia) - - Upon the face of it, this seems rather a tin-pot piece of legislation. I do not object to the payment of a bounty in order to secure the establishment of an industry upon a sound basis. If we could establish the oil industry in Australia so thoroughly as to enable it to supply all our needs, that result would not be dear even if we had to pay £[250,000 or £500,000 to bring it about. But the whole of this discussion seems to have centred round the operations of one company. We have not been told whether it requires the bounty or whether, if it secures it for three years, it will afterwards be in a position to supply the Commonwealth with oil at a reasonable price. We have been informed that it has already expended ,£1,000,000, and that it contemplates the further expenditure of £250,000 before it will be in a position to manufacture the articles to which the Bill refers. To my mind, it is absurd to offer to a company which can afford to expend £1,250,000 in endeavouring to establish an industry, a bounty of £50,000. Moreover, we have no guarantee that when that bounty has been exhausted, the industry will be satisfactorily established. I agree with the principle underlying the payment of a bounty to industries of this character, because I know that shale deposits exist in four of the States. But for that reason I hold that the bounty should not be confined to one company or to one State. That is the question.

Senator de Largie - This Bill does not confine the bounty to any one State.

Senator VARDON - The amount is set down at £50,000, and the period over which the. payment is extended is three years. How long has the New South Wales Company been in existence, and how long has it taken to get its works up to the present pitch? Would it be possible to establish' other companies in Australia within three years? I do not believe that is at all likely. Therefore we are proposing to pay this bounty practically to one company only, and to a company that has been able to spend over £1,000,000 already. Surely £50,000 to such a company can hardly be worth considering. If I could be assured that the payment of this sum would be of advan- tape to the Commonwealth, and that it would do any good whatever, I should be the more inclined to favour the Bill.

Senator de Largie - The bounty will not do everything we should like, but it will do some good.

Senator VARDON - If the payment of this bounty would have the result of establishing the oil industry on a sound basis, the proposition should have the support of every member in the Senate. But it does not appear to me that the payment, of so small a sum as £50,000 will be of any advantage to a company that has had command of a capital of over £1,000,000. I wish to be quite sure that our legislation is going to do what we wish it to do ; that the. money we propose to expend will be Sufficient for the purpose, and that the industry when established will be able to Supply the wants of Australia, and so render us independent of outside supplies.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - If the company shows reasonable signs of expansion, we can give it the assistance of a protective duty.'

Senator VARDON - We have first to establish the industry, and to show that it is able to supply the Australian market, and then we can, if we like, give it the advantage of a duty which will prevent it from suffering from unfair competition. I think that the Government might have gone further in this direction than they have proposed. I do not object to the spending of a large amount of money providing that it leads to permanent results. But I confess, after the discussion that we have had this afternoon, and from the references that have been made to the company at present carrying on operations, that it does not seem to me that the bounty will conduce to. the thorough establishment of the oil industry. The Minister in his reply may be able to tell us whether the company have asked for this sum, and whether they think it will be effective. I shall be glad to receive that information. I wish to see established in this country an oil industry that will be able to produce the requisite commodity for the supply of all our needs, and render us independent of outside supplies. I should not mind going to any decent length if that end could be accomplished. But this proposal seems to me to be a paltry thing, which is not likely to accomplish the end in view.

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