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Thursday, 31 May 1973
Page: 2976

Mr KEATING (Blaxland) - There are 2 things before us at the moment. Firstly, the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) has introduced amendments to the original Bill. Also he will be speaking to the amendments made in the Senate, of which notice has been given to the House of Representatives. The honourable member for Farrer (Mr Fairbairn) went to great lengths to say that he could not understand what appears to me to be a simple amendment. The Government should not be held responsible for the intellectual inadequacy of the Opposition. I first saw this amendment, or a detailed draft of it, only an hour ago and I can understand why it is necessary. Clause 13 says that the Authority will construct pipelines to convey petroleum and that it will convey through the pipes operated by it petroleum belonging either to it or to other persons. The Bill says that it will be able to buy and sell petroleum. The Minister's amendment clarifies the situation because it states:

(d)   to ensure continuity of supplies of natural gas, that is free from impurities;

(e)   to ensure that natural gas supplied by the Authority is available at a gate-valve delivery price that is, at all times, uniform throughout Australia . . .

(f)   to ensure that condensate, petroleum gas and other substances derived from natural gas are retained and processed in Australia . . .

(g)   to secure, control and retain reserves of petroleum adequate to meet the long term needs of the Australian people.

It is obvious that the Minister has moved this amendment to clarify the intention of the Government in regard to the functions of the Authority because in view of the way the Bill has been emasculated in the Senate one could be excused for believing they did not understand the Government's intention. The Senate's amendments have totally destroyed the concept of the Bill.

The Minister's amendment has been moved so that, in the unhappy event that the Liberal and Country parties take office again, honourable members opposite will have the very arduous task of facing the Australian people and saying that they want to take these amendments from the Bill and change the operations and functions of the Authority. That is why they are quite properly to be put in there. While discretion is vested in the Ministers and the Authority if the Parliament makes it clear what it envisages the Authority as doing, successive governments of the persuasion of honourable members opposite will not be able to wreck it in the future as they have wrecked a lot of other national ventures. They are the reasons why these provisions have been included. They are reasonable provisions. It is the aim of the Government to make sure that this pipeline is not just a common carrier but a public utility to serve the nation, to provide natural gas at a uniform price throughout the length and breadth of the Commonwealth. People will have natural gas supplied to them at a uniform price whether they be in areas in the middle of New South Wales or South Australia or in the capital cities of Melbourne, Sydney or Brisbane.

If that sort of concept had appealed to the previous Government the people of Victoria would not be held to ransom as they are being held now by the slap-happy deals concocted in the past. We now find that the Victorian producers. Esso-BHP, are trying to get into the New South Wales market. They have indicated that they can supply gas to New South Wales at a price dramatically below that offered to Victorian consumers. So, thanks to the previous Government's efforts in the past, the Victorian people are being sold down the drain, day in day out, while they use natural gas. That is why the Government is clearing up this matter. The second stage of the operation will be to reject the Senate's amendments. I would like to speak at that stage of the debate.

The CHAIRMAN (Mr Scholes - Order! The honourable member will be out of order if he discusses that now.

Mr KEATING - 1 am just saying that I intend to speak at that stage of the debate. I will leave my remarks on that matter until later. It is as clear as the nose on your face why these amendments are being proposed. It is not the Government's problem that the Opposition cannot understand simple amendments.

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