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Wednesday, 27 March 1985
Page: 880

Senator DURACK —Has the Minister for Resources and Energy consulted with his State and Territory colleagues about the Federal Government's proposal to introduce a system of cash bonus bidding for oil exploration permits? If so, has he asked them to consider the application of the system to waters adjacent to the State or Territory in which they are interested? What is their attitude to this proposal and why was it impertinent, as Senator Walsh said in the Senate yesterday, for the Premier of Western Australia to express a view in relation to this matter?

Senator GARETH EVANS —Some initial consultation with the States has taken place, most recently at the Australian Minerals and Energy Council meeting in New Zealand just a few days ago. The views of the States on this matter were expressed. They vary in intensity, but in respect of all of them it is obvious that a degree of further consultation will be necessary before we go down the path of introducing cash bidding for the allocation of acreages in State-adjacent or Northern Territory-adjacent areas. I made it clear in an announcement a couple of weeks ago on the Timor Sea releases that the Commonwealth has quite deliberately at this stage proposed cash bidding releases only in an area that is wholly and solely within the Commonwealth's area of legal competence, as the legislation now stands-not as the constitutional situation now stands, but under the legislation. It is in everybody's interest to wait and see what the outcome of that first round of bidding is in that particular environment before pressing the matter so far as the States are concerned.

I did note what Premier Burke had to say two days ago at the Western Australian conference. I also noted what my colleague Senator Walsh had to say yesterday in this place. It needs to be appreciated that Senator Walsh and Mr Burke have been close friends and colleagues for many years and it would be quite presumptuous of me to contradict any description Senator Walsh might offer of his friend. Indeed, it may well be that in Western Australia the terms used are terms of endearment; they certainly seem to throw them around often enough. Of course, when Mr Burke spoke he was labouring under the disability of not having heard or read the speech I made in Perth yesterday afternoon. I am sure that when he does so it will make impossible any claim of ignorance that one might be minded to make about his understanding of these issues and I am sure that impertinence will be the furthest thing from his mind when he is so armed with this information.

Senator DURACK —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I am wondering whether Senator Evans's reference in his speech yesterday to Mr Burke as Attila the Hun is likely to encourage Mr Burke's support for him.

Senator GARETH EVANS —Again in context that has to be understood as a term of endearment. I did in fact say that I thought he was a little too plump to play the role of Attila the Hun but in every other respect he would be perfectly well cast. If Senator Durack happened to read the transcript of that ad lib section of my speech, he would react as calmly as apparently Mr Burke has to the noises that I then made.