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Thursday, 10 May 1973
Page: 2011

Mr CONNOR (Cunningham) (Minister for Minerals and Energy) - I move:

That the Bill be now read a second time.

The Governor-General's Speech foreshadowed that, in pursuit of its policy for maximising Australian ownership, control, use and development of Australian resources, the Government would introduce legislation to establish a Pipeline Authority. This concept of a national pipeline system also takes account of wider issues - of defence, of decentralisation, of population growth, of national development, of the importance of interconnected supplies to meet increasing long term demands, emergency situations and the exhaustion of particular regional energy sources, and the possible export of liquefied natural gas.

This Bill seeks to establish the Authority for the transmission of petroleum, natural gas and other hydrocarbons, by interstate ringmain pipeline systems. With the aim of ensuring continuity of supplies and uniformity of price, the Authority will have trading rights to buy and sell hydrocarbons. In addition to its role of being a common carrier, the Authority naturally will sell for reticulation to appropriate authorities and corporations.

In establishing the Authority the Government is following the well established and highly successful precedent of the former Labor Government which created the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme. This will be a project of at least equal magnitude. The project provides for the linking by a continental pipeline of the city of Sydney with the Gidgealpa natural gas fields in the Cooper Basin in South Australia, with an early extension through Wagga to Albury and Wodonga with later extensions to Melbourne and the Bass Strait reserves.

From Gidgealpa the pipeline will be linked to the Palm Valley field in the Amadeus Basin of the Northern Territory. From there it will continue to Dampier on the north-west coast of Australia where the resources of the North-west Shelf will be available. The proposed pipeline route will also traverse and serve the Pilbara region of Western Australia. There will also be a spurline to serve the Northern Territory. The first stage of the project will be from Sydney to Gidgealpa ensuring that there will be no delay in planned supplies of natural gas for Sydney under the long standing city of Sydney gas franchise legislation. Extensions will also be built to the Newcastle and Wollongong-Port Kembla areas.

Because of the lack of indigenous on-shore fuel supplies in Western Australia, a pipeline link between Palm Valley and the Kalgoorlie mineral province and Perth will be an early priority. The Commonwealth and the Western Australian Governments have already agreed to a feasibility study on this section of the project. In view of the limited reserves of the Moonie field, an additional spurline wil be built between Sydney and Brisbane with extensions to coastal Queensland cities. The total concept will provide a completely interconnected grid system, ensuring back-up supplies in case of interruption by natural calamities or exhaustion of supply from an individual source.

I should mention that the construction and operation by East Australian Pipeline Corporation Ltd of the Gidgealpa to Sydney pipeline would have pre-empted the Government's concept of, and decision for, a national pipeline system. In taking over responsibility for that pipeline and to obviate unnecessary delays, the Government has undertaken that it will stand in the shoes of the pipeline company; observe contractual commitments entered into by it, including the retention of the project managers already retained by the company; and reimburse expenditure already undertaken and committed on the project. The Government will enter into a contract with the Australian Gas Light Co. Ltd to carry the gas for the company and, in general terms, it is the Government's intention that the replacement of the company's proposed pipeline by the national pipeline system will not disadvantage the company in respect of the transmission of the gas which it has contracted to purchase from the South Australian field. Arrangements with the company are continuing.

The Bill is not a complex one. It is simple and has the clear and definite purpose to set up an authority with adequate powers to construct and operate a major public utility having the responsibility of making one of our greatest natural resources available to the Australian people. The Authority will consist of 5 persons: a part-time Chairman; 3 parttime members, one of whom would represent the trade unions and another will be, exofficio, the Secretary of my Department; and a full-time executive member. Members other than the Secretary will be appointed' for periods not exceeding 7 years but will be eligible for re-appointment. The Authority will be required to submit a report with appropriate financial statements annually to the Minister for presentation to the Parliament. I commend the Bill to the House.

Debate (on motion by Mr Fairbairn) adjourned.

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