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Wednesday, 16 May 1973
Page: 2214


Mr WENTWORTH (Mackellar) - I move:

That the following new clause be inserted in the Bill: 16a. (1) The Authority shall be deemed to be a common carrier and to have the obligations of a common carrier.

(2)   Without limiting the generality of sub-section (1), the Authority shall, subject to the capacity of its pipelines, be under obligation to accept petroleum at any point on its pipeline for delivery at any other point on its pipelines, and to charge for such service a fee which is not greater than either -

(a)   a fee which is reasonable having regard to the costs incurred by the Authority for such service and for the use of its facilities;

(b)   the fee charged to any other customer for such service; or

(c)   the fee reasonably included or notionally included in its own accounts for comparable services performed on petroleum in its own ownership.

(3)   The Authority shall publish in the Gazette particulars of all contracts which it makes for the transport of petroleum.'.

This is a substantial matter and I would ask the Committee to consider it very carefully. The Minister in his second reading speech spoke of the Authority having a role as a common carrier'. I think that if this is what the Minister intends it should be put into the Bill. As honourable members will know, in common law a common carrier has certain obligations. They are the obligations of acting fairly with all potential customers and preventing the exploitation of a monopoly position. If the Minister is reasonable and if he meant what he said - I assume that he meant what he said - he should have no difficulty in accepting into the Bill the words of his second reading speech. In his second reading speech he used the words 'a common carrier'. I have therefore moved that the Authority shall be deemed to be a common carrier and to have the obligations of a common carrier.

Furthermore, in order to make these obligations explicit 1 have moved certain other additions. My amendment reads in part:

Without limiting the generality of sub-section (1), the Authority shall, subject lo the capacity of its pipelines, be under obligation to accept petroleum at any point on its pipeline for delivery at any other point on its pipelines, and to charge for such service a fee which is not greater than either -

(a)   a fee which is reasonable having regard to the costs incurred by the Authority for such service and for the use of its facilities;

(b)   the fee charged to any other customer for such service; or

(c)   the fee reasonably included or notionally included in its own accounts for comparable services performed on petroleum in its own ownership.

These amendments are meant to carry out the principles which were enunciated by the right honourable member for Higgins (Mr Gorton), whose speech the Minister commended so much and whose speech I support in the same terms. If the Minister really meant what he said, he will be inclined to accept this amendment.

The amendment goes to the root of the difficulties that the Opposition has in regard to this Bill. The Opposition is not worried about the national pipeline system. What it is worried about are possible abuses of the national pipeline concept by the Government. They are abuses which I understand the Minister disavows. If his disavowal is honest - why should we accept it as being anything other than honest? - he will not object to including in the Bill the specific provisions which will carry out what should be his honest intention. It is important that the new Authority should not be in a monopolist position which would enable it to abuse that position. Under my amendment the Authority will be compelled to accept, subject only to the capacity of its pipelines, petroleum products from any producer for delivery at any other point on its pipelines. A producer can, if he feels so inclined, build his own pipeline into junction with the Authority's pipeline. But at that point of junction the Authority would, under my amendment, be compelled to accept that petroleum for transport over its pipelines as a common carrier.

My amendment goes on to say that the Authority should not charge an unreasonable amount for this service. Again I refer to what the right honourable member for Higgins said, because I think that the Government might well consider the point he made about including the interest on the pipeline. My amendment says that the fee charged for the service should not exceed the proper cost of that service; nor should it exceed the comparable cost charged to other customers, so that it would not be able to freeze people out; nor should it exceed what the Authority is charging itself for the service of transport of petroleum it has bought over that pipeline. In other words, this amendment will be quite harmless to the Authority if the Authority acts in the honest way in which the Minister believes it will act; but, of course, it is designed to prevent the Authority from doing a dishonest thing. If the Minister is of good faith - let us assume that he is of good faith in this matter, as I am prepared to do-

The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Dr Jenkins) - Order! The time allotted for all stages of the Bill has expired.

Proposed new clause negatived.

Remainder of Bill agreed to.

Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.







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