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Tuesday, 23 October 1984
Page: 2202

Senator RICHARDSON —Will the Minister representing the Acting Minister for Resources and Energy confirm a statement made by the New South Wales Minister for Mineral Resources and Energy, Mr Peter Cox, in the New South Wales State Parliament on 20 September that spending on private oil exploration in New South Wales is expected to double next year? Will the Minister outline the value and details of exploratory activity that will be undertaken in New South Wales next year?

Senator Crichton-Browne —Just off the cuff.

Senator GRIMES —Just off the top of my head, as Senator Crichton-Browne said, I am aware that Mr Cox, New South Wales Minister for Mineral Resources and Energy, made a statement about a month ago in which he said:

I expect a total expenditure of $14 million compared with an expenditure of $6 million last year. The Department of Minerals is drilling a stratigraphic hole at Grafton and is undertaking seismic surveys at Tibooburra. This year I expect at least eleven wells to be drilled in New South Wales, and a big increase is expected in the drilling of stratigraphic holes. In addition, 1750 kilometres of seismic surveys will be made.

Mr Cox's statement is generally consistent with reports from industry sources concerning expenditure on oil exploration in New South Wales. Although the Commonwealth has no direct involvement in the administration of petroleum exploration on-shore, I emphasise that these activities are monitored closely. At a national level, the immediate outlook for exploration is for a continuation of the high levels of expenditure recorded in recent years.

I happen to have, for Senator Crichton-Browne's benefit, a statement by the Australian Petroleum Exploration Association Ltd which has been put out in the last couple of days. That statement showed that, for the nine months to the end of September 1984, 166 exploration wells-130 on-shore and 36 off-shore-and 85 development wells had been completed. Exploration wells completed on-shore during the third quarter were up 39 per cent from the previous quarter of 1984 and 20 per cent from the third quarter of 1983. Exploration wells completed off- shore during the third quarter were the same as for the previous quarter, but were up 36 per cent from the third quarter of 1983. The graph supplied with the statement indicates that the high level of drilling activity reached in early 1982 has been maintained. Off-shore development wells, the association points out, completed during the quarter were half the number completed in the previous quarter, but were up 67 per cent on the third quarter in 1983. It is expected that this high level of exploration will continue for the immediate future not only in New South Wales but throughout Australia, first demonstrating the health of the industry in this country, and, secondly, giving the lie to the nonsense we have heard from the Opposition that Government policies would result in a rapid downturn in exploration.