Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Full Day's HansardDownload Full Day's Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Wednesday, 11 April 1973


Mr JACOBI (Hawker) - by leave- From the outset, let me say quite bluntly that I and the Government have complete faith in the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor). If there is a storm in a teacup facing this country and the world it is something of which the previous Government had no knowledge or to which it would not face up. I refer to the fact that there is a world energy crisis looming. The world reserves of oil are about 90 billion metric tons, 50 billion metric tons of which is controlled in the Middle East. If Australia is to become self-sufficient in the near future - by the year 2000, at least - one thing it cannot tolerate is having its oil, natural gas and uranium dominated by the big 7 or the multi-national corporations. At long last, the United States of America has come around to the idea that any agreements made in regard to the price fixation of crude oil throughout the world should be determined on a government to government basis and not between the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting countries and the multinational corporations. 1 noted that, throughout his long address, the shadow Minister for Minerals and Energy, the honourable member for Farrer (Mr Fairbairn), never tackled the question on which I am very interested to pass some remarks, namely, the level of Australian equity on the north-west shelf. I put some 20 questions on the notice paper in February last year on the very matter that the Minister for Minerals and Energy has raised this evening. ] did not receive a reply until after the House had risen last October. If one looks at the statement made by the Minister this evening, one will see that it has taken from 25th November 1968 until this month, April 1973, for a national government of Australia to be in the position to make an exact evaluation of the recoverable reserves on the north-west shelf.

It is a singularly odd fact that over 18 months ago the previous Minister acknowledged, as I understand it through the Bureau of Mineral Resources, that there were in fact some 45 trillion cubic feet of natural gas reserves on the north-west shelf. That information was divulged by way of a leak in London. According to the figures, those reserves were valued at that time at $16.5 billion. I wish to ask again a series of questions which I asked in October last year. As I understand it, although the national Government of the time was not provided with runoff sheets to indicate what were the recoverable reserves on the north-west shelf, this information certainly was known in London. Since that point of time there has been a deterioration of Australian equity in the north-west shelf to a level of 12.3 per cent. In fact, there has been a counter balance all the way through. Last October I put questions to the previous Government, but it did not recognise this fact at all. I asked why did Withers, in fact, last October retire as Managing Director of Woodside-Burmah. Was it not, in fact, that there was a conflict between the Australian representatives - a minority group, I might add for the benefit of the shadow Minister opposite - on that Board on the failure of the Burmah dominated board to disclose the recoverable reserves? While we are dealing with that point let me outline to the Minister my assessment of who controls Woodside-Burmah. Donaldson is the Chairman. In my view he stands for Burmah. Withers, a director, is Australia; Rover. Burmah; Wilson, Burmah; Martison, Burmah; Breen, Australia; Prince, Australia; Sackville, Australia; Seddon, Burmah. I ask the honourable member for Farrer (Mr Fairbairn) who controls Woodside-Burham. I think the internal conflict within the structure of WoodsideBurmah was such that Withers resigned in protest against the failure of the company to divulge its recoverable reserves and so attract Australian shareholding and equity. The company's failure to do this has meant that in one of the largest hydro-carbon deposits in the world Australia is. left with 12.5 per cent equity. We are moving to the stage where it will be completely dominated by multinational corporations. No national government should ever be placed in that iniquitous situation. During this period there was a reduction in share prices of Woodside-Burmah, but there was a corresponding influx, I believe, of nominee share transactions, particularly of scrip from New York and London with the net result that Australia's equity declined to 12.5 per cent.

Last October I also asked whether it was not a fact that the Bureau of Mineral

Resources had carried out investigations and knew the depth of the reserves in the area. The then Minister was correct in his reply then. It is obvious that it has taken a Labor government to ascertain the reserves. Since 1968 until the previous Government was voted out of office it was refused information by Woodside-Burmah concerning the reserves. This is common of multi-national corporations. The honourable member for Farrer spoke about BP but made no reference to Esso. On behalf of the Australian shareholders 1 should like to know what are the recoverable reserves at Mackerel and Flounder fields. Why is this information being withheld? It is the tactic of all multi-national corporations to conserve and not divulge their reserves. This is a deplorable situation when one has regard to the terms of the agreement that was hammered out. Clause 13 of the Commonwealth-State Agreement on Off-shore Petroleum Resources states:

A State government will, when so requested by the Commonwealth Government, ensure that copies of the returns, reports, maps, notifications, logs, records and the like material and adequate portions of all cores, cuttings and samples that are received by it or its authorities by virtue of the operation of the Common Mining Code in relation to the adjacent area of the Slate ure, as soon us reasonably practicable after receipt, forwarded to the Commonwealth.

I want to express my personal assessment and observation on what are, in fact, the reserves on the north-west shelf. I have gathered much of this information from the Kitcat and Aitken report - a London report bearing a date 12 months ago. It is remarkable that this information was available in Britain, but no assessment was made in Australia. In the report is a comment about the North Rankin field. The honourable member for Farrer will know that technical runoff sheets are made by these companies, taken to a technical committee and subsequently put to the boards. My assessment is that on the North Rankin field there could well be 32 trillion feet recoverable with condensate around about 25 barrels per million. The Goodwin field could well have 16 trillion cubic feet; Angel, 8 trillion cubic feet; Rankin, 5 trillion cubic feet; Scotts Reef, 18 trillion cubic feet with condensate as high at 350 barrels per 18 million; Eagle Hawk, no condensate and 2,700 barrels of oil a day; and at Egret the prospects for oil are excellent. These figures represent about 60 trillion cubic feet which I believe is about accurate for the north-west shelf. Why is there such a wide disparity between the figures that have been disclosed by WoodsideBurmah and what I consider to be closer to the actual mark?

Honourable members opposite talk about risk capital in Australia. As long as multinational corporations withhold recoverable figures Australian risk capital will not be attracted in terms of share equity. The Government has a national responsibility to find out and have disclosed exactly what are the reserves. It is time the national Government controlled one of the areas most crucial to this nation if not to the world. Who is to control our oil, our gas and our uranium? If ever there is an indictment of the previous Government, after its 23 years in office, it is that we have no balanced evaluation of our national resources. Above all, we have no balanced evaluation of our fuel and energy needs for the next 20 years. An extrapolation should be undertaken now of our needs for the next 50 years. We should determine what needs to be conserved and, if such is possible, what can be exported. We should be in a position where Australia can act as a seller's market and not a buyer's market. If the previous Government had remained in office for the next 3 years all I can say is God help this country because it would have controlled absolutely nothing.

If honourable members want to understand the situation as it is tragically affecting the United States of America I point out that the United States is finding, for the first time in its history, that the biggest issue facing Nixon at present is his energy policy and his energy prices. He has been put in an invidious position because he permitted the multinational corporations to negotiate with OPEC rather than on a government to government basis. Fuel in the United States - whether it be gas, oil, uranium or coal - is controlled by multi-national corporations. Australia should never be placed in that situation. I support the Minister's statement.







Suggest corrections