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Thursday, 31 May 1973
Page: 2986


Mr GORTON (Higgins) - As one who has made it quite clear that he is not opposed to this concept of a national gas pipeline, I want to express a measure of dismay and apprehension that this Senate amendment is not acceptable to the Government. I think it is an apprehension which the people of Australia ought to share. The purposes of the Senate amendment were to prevent the possibility of the Pipeline Authority's discriminating between one producer and another for any reason which seemed to be good to the Authority, and from perhaps ruining one producer and advantaging another with no recourse for those producers who felt that they were badly treated and, indeed, with no recourse to this Parliament because the Authority is apparently to be entirely autonomous. One of the main reasons for this amendment was to prevent this kind of discrimination. I do have dismay and apprehension that this is not an approach acceptable to the Government.

Another reason for it was to prevent a different kind of discrimination, that is, the charging of different prices to different producers for the use of a pipeline which should be available to all. That is another example of action which, taken by an authority outside the control of this Parliament, could very gravely damage the interests of particular producers who would have no recourse if their interests were so damaged. Indeed, the reasons given by the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) in the speech he has just made for rejecting the amendments, or one of them, is that there would be a difficulty if various gases were mixed into the pipeline. There may be something in that. But does it mean, as one could come to the conclusion it means, that the only gas which will be transported through this pipeline is the gas that is bought by the Authority? If it is impossible to mix gases from the various producers, and particularly to separate them after they get to a processing plant, it would seem that we could be well entitled with some apprehension to believe that this will be not only a carrier pipeline but also the monopoly pipeline which will carry only fuel and gas bought by the Authority, except for the Australian Gas Light Co. Ltd's gas. I believe that that would not be the proper way to use a national pipeline ring of which, in principle, I approve but which I think would be very badly used if it were used in this way.

There is another reason why I have apprehension about the refusal of the Government to accept this amendment. As the Bill stands it would be perfectly possible, particularly if the only gas to be transported were to be gas bought by the Authority, for the Authority to buy gas and transport it to the only processing plant somewhere in Australia - that gas being the Authority's property - and process it there and export it, thereby getting for itself an export premium which ought to be available to the explorers and producers who found the gas field in the first place. These are all dangers which should be guarded against. If we do not have the numbers to see that they are guarded against here on this occasion and if the arguments we put forward fall on deaf ears, we will have a responsibility - there is a demand on us - to point out to the people of Australia and the producers in Australia that these hidden dangers do exist, to tell them that these problems are there and to give an undertaking that at the first opportunity we have to be a government again we will, while we are happy to continue the general concept, not be happy to continue a regime where individual producers - those who risked their capital to find the fields - are being discriminated against either one against the other or one against a Government owned authority that is not subject even to the Government.







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