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Monday, 22 October 1973
Page: 2401

Mr HUNT (GWYDIR, NEW SOUTH WALES) - My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. He will remember an answer he gave to a question from the Leader of the Australian Country Party concerning a written undertaking given on 15 December 1972 by the former Department of the Interior to Queensland Mines Ltd. I ask the Prime Minister whether it is correct that the Department of the Interior was in existence on that date and whether Mr Barnard was Minister for the Interior in the first Whitlam Government. Did the Deputy Prime Minister authorise the letter to which the Leader of the Country Party referred last week in which assurances were given that 'in the view of the assurances given by the former Government' the renewal of the exploration licences from 1 January 1973 would be granted subject to certain conditions? I ask the Prime Minister whether he is aware that a letter written to Mr P. R. Stork, the Manager of Queensland Mines Ltd, dated 15 December 1972 stated in part:

Dear Sir,

I have discussed with the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister foi the Interior the matters raised in your letter of 8 December.

In view of the assurances given by the former Government and the expenditure incurred by your company I am authorised to assure you of renewal of exploration licences from 1 January 1973 and of the grant of leases subject to the following conditions:

The letter is here if any honourable member wishes to see it. Is the Prime Minister aware of this fact? Was he aware that the Deputy Prime Minister had given Mr George Warwick Smith, who was the Secretary of the Department at that stage, authority to write that letter?

Mr WHITLAM - The Minister for Minerals and Energy will answer the question.

Mr CONNOR - Such a letter was signed by Mr Smith, but there were other qualifications in it as to the price to be obtained and other conditions. Let me say this to the honourable member: There is no need for undue haste in the whole matter. The contracts that are available provide for delivery to commence in 1976 and run on for an extensive period beyond that. In view of the answer given by the Prime Minister last Thursday to the Leader of the Country Party, the matter can well be left in abeyance. I do not see that there is the slightest need for agonising on the part of any of the companies concerned or the arm twisting tactics that they are attempting to follow.

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