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Thursday, 13 September 1984
Page: 995


Senator CHANEY (Leader of the Opposition) —Mr President, I gave notice to Senator Walsh that I would be raising in the adjournment debate the remarks he has been making-he made some today and he has made some earlier in this current period of sittings-on the North West Shelf project. I understand that Senator Walsh is hosting a luncheon for a visiting New Zealand Minister and I would imagine that that is why he is not here. I do not complain about it, but I merely wish to place on the record that I did indicate to the Minister that I would be raising his remarks here today. I will be quite brief.

What the Minister has done is, in response initially to a question from Senator Cook, a fellow Western Australian of Senator Walsh but one who like Senator Walsh sometimes seems doubtfully interested in the welfare of his State to criticise the Western Australian Government and the previous Western Australian Government in particular, for the contract it entered into with respect to gas from the North West Shelf. He has claimed that the Western Australian Government could face a very large bill for the unused gas which the State Government or its instrumentality, the State Energy Commission, would be obliged to purchase.

I place on the public record my total disagreement with the views which have been expressed by Senator Walsh. That disagreement is across party disagreement, Mr President. Senator Walsh's remarks have not been welcomed by the Premier of Western Australia, Mr Burke, who is reported on 5 September as saying that he was not embarrassed by Senator Walsh's figures which did not appear to be accurate. The Premier went on to say that the Government was working on various projects which would use this energy. I do want to make the point to the Senate that on a number of occasions-it is in the daily news as I have said, but also at the launching of a boat called the Blue Nabilla on 7 September-Senator Walsh was deserted even by his State Australian Labor Party colleagues. The Premier on that occasion took the opportunity to explain that, whilst Senator Walsh was entitled to say what he likes, the Premier disagrees with him. Mr Burke said on that occasion that there is a surplus of gas but the State Government has it well in hand for new industries to take up that surplus, including the aluminium smelter in the south-west.

If Senator Walsh thinks that it is beyond the wit of the present Government and beyond the wit of the present Labor Government in Western Australia to use the resources of the North West Shelf which have now been opened up by the building of the pipeline, and so on, I can only suggest that they hand it over to people who believe that they can make good use of those projects for Western Australia. I am quite sure that the Leader of the Opposition in Western Australia would be happy to accept that challenge and that his team in the State Parliament would be anxious to use the very great advantage which Western Australia now enjoys of very clean, readily available source of energy.

There are exciting possibilities for the State of Western Australia in what has been achieved, and I suppose it is very easy to forget at this time when we have some energy surplus that at the time when the basic decisions were made with respect to this project we were in a time of energy crisis, we were in a time of energy shortage. It was a very different market and what is occurring now is simply the natural adjustment to the changing world scene which is beyond Australia's and certainly beyond Western Australia's control. I think it is a pity that the national Minister for Resources and Energy should indulge in the sort of cheap political point scoring which he has used with respect to this project. I wish to reject his comments and to say that most Western Australians, I believe, would reject them and would disagree with his general conclusions.