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Wednesday, 3 December 1986
Page: 3316

Senator GRIMES (Minister for Community Services)(10.08) —The Government, to nobody's surprise, will not support the approach taken by Senator Vigor. I think it is very sad to see people in this place who claim to be radical taking such a conservative approach, which is the conservative approach taken by Senator Sanders.

Senator Sanders —Conservationist, you mean.

Senator GRIMES —It is not conservationist; it is preservationist. Senator Sanders wants us to lock it up.

Senator Sanders —For you and your kids.

Senator GRIMES —Perhaps I can say this: Whose kids are going to use the oil?

Senator Sanders —Hopefully our grand- children.

Senator GRIMES —Our grandchildren? What about our great-grandchildren? Why not keep it for the great-grandchildren or the great-great-grandchildren or the great-great-great-grandchildren? This is a silly, nonsensical approach. It is not helped by Senator Chaney who goes on as though we are a huge taxing country as far as oil production is concerned. In fact, in that area Australia is the second or third or fourth lowest taxing country in the world. We really have the situation here of these people pretending to be radicals when in fact they are conservatives. Senator Chaney spoke about the horrendous taxing policies of the Government, but in fact in this regard we are a low taxing country.

I should point out to Senator Vigor, who as Senator Chaney said at least put up a serious argument and not a hyperbolic and rhetorical argument, as Senator Sanders did, that it has been Government policy since 1983 to pay rebates on free market sales of crude oil. This has been done since 1983 by way of regulation. Tonight we have heard from Senator Vigor on this. He has had many opportunities to object to this policy in the past but he has not. He has only just discovered it. He sat down in his office with all that paper around him and said: `Oh, here is a good argument. I will use this argument tonight'. It has been going on since 1983 and he has not said a word about it in all that time. Suddenly, tonight, he has discovered the great nirvana. It is absolutely typical of the nonsense that goes on in this place.

Senator Vigor —I was not here in 1983. I was elected in 1984. I have been misrepresented.

Senator GRIMES —I said it has been going on since 1983. The honourable senator has had opportunities long before tonight, but he has just suddenly discovered it. Tonight he has given us a lecture on how to solve not only our economic problems but also the world's economic problems. I am sorry, but we do not believe him, the electorate does not believe him, and the Australian Democrats' preselection committee in South Australia does not believe him. That is what it is all about.

Earlier this year the Government became concerned about the revenue and the balance of payments impact of reduced oil production that occurred together with the reduction in oil prices. It should be noted that the value of crude oil exports in the 12 months ending December 1985 was second only to the value of coal exports in earning foreign exchange for Australia. That is important. If the honourable senator wants to talk about our balance of payments, he has to consider that oil played a part in that. However, in the period April to June 1986 only one export cargo was made and domestic crude oil production levels fell accordingly. In response to this situation the Government has introduced further concessional excise arrangements for free market sales to stimulate a resumption of these types of sales. That is a sensible thing to do. Since that has happened, Bass Strait production levels have increased. Sales have totalled some 14.7 million barrels, to the value of $288m. So that has had an effect on our balance of payments. These sales will result also in an increase in Government crude oil excise revenue of about $170m.

It may be that our good colleagues sitting there say that this is all nonsense, that what we should do is lock it up, put a tap on all the wells, not use the oil or sell it, so Senator Sanders's great-grandchildren may use it.

Senator Sanders —It certainly will not be there at your rate of progress.

Senator GRIMES —There are some of us who believe that in this strange world of ours we must accept that there are finite resources and therefore we have to look at alternatives. The problem is that the honourable senator does not accept alternatives, except for the stoves he sells. They are very efficient, but in order to use them to heat houses one has to chop down trees. This measure is about taking a sensible and balanced approach to the use of our resources, including our oil resources. That is why we take the sensible and balanced approach that we do. If the honourable senator wants to shut down the shop, if he wants to put a tap on every well in the country, if he wants to say that what we have we should hold forever, or until his great-grandchildren need it, he can take that approach. But that is not the approach of most people in this country and it is not the sensible approach of people who realise that this is an evolving world in which we will develop future facilities and use the brains, the sense and the resources that we have. If the Democrats want to take the extremely conservative approach that no, we should not use any of the resources we have now despite the fact that one of our problems is that the prices we can get for our resources are so low because, as Senator Chaney says, there is an excess of them, and if they want to say that the world has this terrible shortage and that we should shut up shop and not use any of these things, they can do so.

I finally say that I can remember Senator Mason going to Queenstown in Tasmania-it is a place I like; copper is produced down there-and when he came out of Queenstown he said: `I have the solution to Queenstown's problems. It should be the area which produces solar panels for the whole of the South Pacific'. He suggested that Queenstown's problems were suddenly going to be solved by that area producing solar panels for the whole of the South Pacific. The people of Queenstown laughed, the people of Tasmania laughed, and the people of the South Pacific laughed-and they will continue to do so as long as the Democrats indulge in that sort of off the cuff solution to the world's problems and as long as they come into this place and say: `You are all wrong; you are all mad; I have got the solutions to your problems and unless you do this the world will fail and fall down'. As long as the Democrats take that approach they will remain where they are now-a small party whose only luxury is that it can promise what it likes in the absolute certainty that it will never have to carry out those promises. For that reason, I reject the approach taken by Senator Vigor.

The CHAIRMAN —I call Senator Sanders.

Senator Grimes —Oh, my God! What have I done?