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
Thursday, 29 October 1964

Senator ORMONDE (New South Wales) .- I refer to Division No. 350- Joint Coal Board. The report of the Joint Coal Board for 1962-63 states that the power and functions of the Board include the taking of such action as in the opinion of the Board is necessary or desirable to ensure that coal is produced in the State of New South Wales in such quantities and with such regularity as will meet requirements throughout Australia and in trade with other countries.

The estimates for the Department of National Development make provision for administration of the Bureau of Mineral Resources and for field operations, which have to do with mapping and the search for coal and oil bearing areas and various minerals. Provision is made also for the Australian Atomic Energy Commission and the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority. The Joint Coal Board is performing a function which it has almost completed. In my view, the functions of the Board should be extended. When Senator Sir William Spooner was the Minister for National said on quite a number of occasions that he was working towards the establishment of a fuel board. I thought he had in mind an extension of the powers of the Coal Board so that it could interest itself in the winning and distribution of minerals, and in other sources of fuel, with a view to rationalising supply in the national interest. The supply of natural gas and fuel oil comes into the picture. Honorable senators know the struggle that has occurred between the producers of fuel oil and the producers of coal, and that coal is being pushed out of the local market - I say that advisedly - and on to the external markets which are not as secure as is the local market. There is constant argument about whether in a time of national emergency coal resources or oil resources are the more important. This question is posed: In the national interest, should the coal industry be allowed to give way to the fuel oil industry?

I think Senator Sir William Spooner was very much in accord with the arrangement in America, which has an organisation that exercises oversight over fuel supplies in an endeavour to rationalise production in the national interest. I have heard the comments of great authorities on this subject, including Mr. Pettingell, who is the Manager of the Australian Gas Light Co. in Sydney. On occasions he has spoken about natural gas and what will happen if it is found in the Sydney Basin. The discovery of natural gas in that area would alter the whole outlook on fuel in Australia, particularly in New South Wales. On many occasions Senator Sir William Spooner announced the discovery of natural gas in different parts of Australia. I have been told that if natural gas were piped to Brisbane, the whole coal industry in that area would be wiped out. I am not suggesting that these developments will not occur, but I do not think they should be allowed to take place willy nilly.

This is my query: Are the Government and the Minister considering an extension of the powers of the Joint Coal Board to give it authority, even if only in an advisory capacity, over the production of other fuels in Australia? I should not have to remind the Minister that very severe competition helped to destroy the coal industry in pre-war days. The same sort of thing could happen again. I appeal to the Minister to consider my proposal that the powers of the Coal Board should be extended to encompass the matters I have been mentioning.

Suggest corrections