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Minister keen to announce good news but remains silent on bad news



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THE SENATE

SENATOR PETER DURACK, QC DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION

PRESS RELEASE i n t h e s e n a t e

SHADOW MINISTER FOR RESOURCES AND ENERGY

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The Minister for Resources and Energy, Senator Evans, is keen to announce the good news but remains silent when there is bad news.

Last week he enthused about official statistics which revealed that a number of oil drilling records were set in 1984. The records however did not include one for off-shore exploration wells where there was in fact a small reduction from the preĀ­ vious year. .

The Australian Petroleum Exploration Association survey (released yesterday) of proposed 1985 petroleum exploration and development activity reveals that Senator Evans drew some wrong conclusions m his previous statement. He talked about a resurgence in off-shore seismic activity and claimed that the figures for 1984 were "highly encouraging".

The APEA survey however reveals a different and more depressing situation. Although the on-shore exploration effort is forecast to be maintained in 1985, off-shore exploration is likely to be at its lowest level since 1981.

37 off-shore exploration wells are scheduled (only 24 of which will be new-field wild-cats), compared to 43 in 1984 and 49 in

However, more worrying is the forecast that off-shore seismic activity is not expected to be much different from the 1984 level. This is where Senator Evans really ran off the rails in his earlier statement when he claimed that there were encouraging

signs of a resurgence in off-shore seismic work.

The APEA survey completely contradicts this misplaced enthusiasm.

1985 activity is forecast to remain sluggish in contrast to the great activity which took place in 1981 and 1982.

The decline in off-shore exploration is disturbing and it is foolish for Senator Evans to be talking up a situation which, although pleasing as far as on-shore exploration is concerned, contains clear evidence of problems ahead.

In order to maintain our present level of self-sufficiency in oil, APEA estimates Australia needs to discover 200 million barrels a year. Experts agree that this high level of discovery is much more likely to be made off-shore than on-shore.

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The significant reduction in off-shore wild-cats and seismic activity bodes ill for such discoveries in the years ahead.

In this climate the Government should be giving every encourageĀ­ ment to the industry rather than adding to disincentives with its resources rent tax to be introduced this year and its foreshadowed legislation for cash bonus bidding for exploration

licences in highly prospective areas.

These proposals have already created an air of uncertainty in an already difficult situation.

The APEA survey contains a clear warning to the Government when it says that "off-shore activity could change significantly after March/April 1985" when the full details of the Government's policies are likely to be known.

This clearly indicates that if the Government proposes further disincentives, off-shore activity could be even less than the present forecasts. The Government should take heed of this sombre warning.

PERTH 30 January 1985

Contact: Keith Kessell 09 3254482