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Thursday, 31 May 1973
Page: 2987

Mr KEATING (Blaxland) - This is the most obnoxious of all the amendments to the Bill that were made by the Senate. It is one which defeats the intention of the Bill and seeks to have the national Pipeline Authority as merely a common carrier. The right honourable member for Higgins (Mr Gorton) has just said that he supports the concept of the Bill. That is just humbug. The concept of the Bill is, as the Australian Labor Party said in its policy speech and as is contained in its platform, to provide for the transmission of natural gas by an interstate ring main to ensure continuity of supplies and uniformity pf price. It is not just a milking horse that is to be put there at enormous public expense so that private companies will have a cheap supply line to their markets. The Senate's second amendment reads:

(1)   The Authority shall be deemed to be a common carrier and to have the obligations of a common carrier.

(2)   Without limiting the generality of subsection (1)-

Listen to this - the Authority shall, subject to the capacity of its pipelines, be under obligation to accept petroleum at any point on its pipelines for delivery at any other point on its pipelines, and to charge for such service a fee which is not greater than -

(a)   a fee which is reasonable having regard to the costs incurred by the Authority for such service. . . .

What does the Opposition in the Senate think we are by forwarding this sort of amendment to the House of Representatives - lop lollies? It is just impertinence on the part of the Opposition in the Senate to use its numbers to defeat the provisions of a Bill for which the Government has the clear mandate of the people. This is one of the programs mentioned by the Leader of the Australian Labor Party in his policy speech and one of the platforms upon which the Australian Labor Party was elected to office. We reject out of hand this amendment. We could not possibly reach any uniformity of price and rationality of supply if the Authority were to be at the whims of various producers along the line whose produce we were obliged to transmit in the pipeline. The whole concept of the buying and selling of gas is that we would operate as the New South Wales Electricity Commission operates; in other words, we would wholesale the natural gas in the same way as it wholesales electricity, and we would sell to every reticulation authority throughout the length and breadth of the Commonwealth gas at an equal price.

There are special provisions in the Bill for the Australian Gas Light Co. Ltd in relation to Gidgealpa-Sydney, because of the complexities of the situation, nevertheless the meaning of the provision and the totality of the concept of the Pipeline Authority requires it to acquire, transmit and sell natural gas at a uniform price. We will not be discriminating against producers. We will rationalise the supply. I do not know where the discrimination will be because the producers who supported the Liberal Party under a Liberal government will have access to the pipeline - anyone else will be left behind. The way that this is taken out of the control of the Parliament and put in the hands of a statutory corporation, which would rationalise the supply, would make sure that the price is uniform throughout Australia. The technical difficulties mentioned by the Minister about impurities - carbon dioxide, nitrogen and wet gas - being pumped into the line, are valid. The Government's amendment seeks to overcome those problems by making sure that the Pipeline Authority is able to pump the gas it buys itself.

The stark, staring example which I mentioned earlier - I will not dwell upon it - is the Victorian situation. The Victorian people have been sold a pup. They are paying a price for the natural gas, but the producers in Victoria can offer to New South Wales consumers gas at two-thirds of that price. If this Authority comes into being, as envisaged in the original Bill, it will be able to supply all the people of Australia with gas at a reasonable price. The Government rejects the Senate's amendment out of hand. It is impertinent of the Opposition in the Senate to propose these amendments and it is impertinent of the Liberal Party to suggest now that it will use its numbers in the Senate to defeat the amended Bill.

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