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Wednesday, 27 September 1972
Page: 1271

Senator O'BYRNE (Tasmania) - It indicates the cynicism of the Australian Democratic Labor Party and the way this Parliament has been degraded by the presence of its members here that they pose as being on the Opposition side and take their turn in the debate as being in Opposition when on every occasion they stand up and support the Government policy. I believe that they have the audacity and temerity to parade in front of this Parliament and in front of the people of Australia that they are Opposition. We know very well where their interests are. The Democratic Labor Party has given notice of intention to propose a motion, which has been read to us, although the Australian Labor Party specifically has said that the Government has failed to take action to protect Australian employment and industry in respect of the supply of the Moomba-Sydney pipeline.

The Democratic Labor Party talks about having a full inquiry by the Standing Committee on Trade and Industry in order to get the full facts. The Senate Select Committee on Off-shore Petroleum Resources examined this matter for 3 years. We knew that the situation would arise. But in making those points I just wanted to dismiss the meanderings of the previous speaker. I want to ask the Minister for Works (Senator Wright) what he himself is doing. Today he asked for time to enable him to get answers to our proposition. He said that notice was given by Senator Murphy of his intention to debate this matter only a few minutes before the Senate met this morning, and he wanted an interval of some hours to enable himself to get some background information. But what the Minister came up with was a lot of incoherent rhetoric and he failed to show any proof that the Government had taken any action to protect Australian employment and industry in the supply of the MoombaSydney pipeline.

The Minister has performed a complete somersault. I remember quite well the occasion when the Minister was a back bencher. Before dinner he put up a very strong case about the oil industry, the discovery of Bass Strait oil, the CommonwealthState agreement and all the other legislation that followed from the secret agreements that were made by the late Prime Minister, Mr Harold Holt, and Henry Bolte, the old stager from Victoria, in concert with the biggest oil monopoly in the world today. We knew very well that these secret agreements were made. However, Senator Wright, in all his righteousness, took exception to it. However, it took the dinner period for him to change his mind. Senator Wright had a committee set up to investigate the oil industry, and it took the Committee a number of years to investigate it. He was the first chairman of the Committee. He was very promptly given a portfolio which removed him from the area of being a critic to becoming a supporter of this whole racket that is being sold to the Australian people.

The PR PRESIDENT - Order! Senator, you are treading on dangerous ground because there is an imputation that Senator Wright was improperly removed from the services of the Senate in the pursuit of promotion. I think that is an unqualified remark and I am just drawing your attention to it.

Senator O'BYRNE - Well, you are putting that construction on it.

The PRESIDENT - I just draw your attention to the fact that I will not allow that sort of language to be used.

Senator O'BYRNE - I would like to continue with my remarks.

Senator Little - Why do you not tell us of the arrangement you made with the Government last night to vote with the Government yourself last night on the social service proposal?

Senator O'BYRNE - This was just another miserable Democratic Labor Party ploy. Members of the Democratic Labor Party knew very well that their resolution had exactly the same intent as ours.

Senator Little - You say that we vote with the Government. What sort of hypocrisy is this?

Senator O'BYRNE - This was typical Democratic Labor Party hypocrisy. Members of that Party knew that the wording of their resolution was the same as ours. However, I am wasting good time in talking about this.

What I want to point out is that the essence of Senator Murphy's submission is that the people of Australia want to know what is going on. They want to know who owns the oil of Australia. Also they want to know the answers. Are we to be put in pawn? Are we to sell so blatantly our resources on which the future of Australia will depend? Gas and liquid petroleum are the fuels of the future; they are the power of the future. Australia is so fortunately placed in having these vast resources. Only in this morning's newspaper attention was drawn to the extra millions of cubic feet of gas that have been discovered on the north-west shelf and a new discovery at Gidgealpa-Moomba. These matters are involved in this debate. Yet, people beyond Australia's control, such as Delhi over in Dallas, are wondering whether they should be in on the bargain and whether they are getting enough out of it. What right have they to influence the future of Australia? And why should we be standing up in this place defending them?

On the other hand we have the dispute between the Australian Gas Light Co. and the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd. This dispute goes back to the veiled negotiations over the supply of Bass Strait natural gas to Sydney. I remember quite well how Henry Bolte and his colleagues were trying to-

Senator Hannan - You are not knocking Sir Henry! I will not have that.

Senator O'BYRNE - The honourable senator, in leaving the chamber, is doing a Bolte himself. But these negotiations fell down in 1970. The Australian Gas Light Co. would not accept a price level of around 3c a therm which Esso-BHP was getting in Victoria. If the Victorian people had only known the truth, they would have realised that they were being held by the throat by Esso-BHP and Sir Henry Bolte and all his cohorts and colleagues in Victoria. The people were being charged 3c a therm for this resource that had been discovered as an extra. The hydrocarbons that were discovered made a most pofitable enterprise. Esso-BHP was fortunate that it was able to discover or was directed by the Bureau of Mineral Resources and other people who had done the investigatory work to find that the oil was there, that as well as hydrocarbons it also had gas. This was presented on a plate to EssoBHP, It was told that it was an economically viable proposition for it to produce hydrocarbons, or crude oil, and that gas was an extra. Yet the Victorian Government has imposed 3c a therm on the distributors of gas in Victoria.

Senator Little - What has this to do with the pipeline?

Senator O'BYRNE - This is the important point. The Victorian Government insisted that New South Wales had to buy gas at this excessive price. The Australian Gas Light Co. said that it just could not impose this price on the New South Wales people. It said: "You might be mugs in Victoria but we are not going to fall for the same confidence trick in New South Wales'. The Australian Gas Light Co. then made other arrangements with the people in South Australia at Moomba-Gidgealpa to see whether they could prove their resources there. These resources gradually have been proved. The discovery of new resources there, which was announced yesterday, has made possible the continuity of supply to New South Wales, the biggest area for the consumption of natural gas in Australia.

The pipeline that will be built to connect the South Australian field to New South Wales has been made necessary through no fault of the New South Wales people. Because of a cunning type of business arrangement and the activities of Victoria the people of New South Wales will have to build a 760-mile pipeline to bring gas to Sydney. It is here that revenue is coming in. I would like to quote from an article which appeared in a newspaper. It stated:

Esso-BHP regarded the Victorian level as the minimum acceptable, however, and were also bound to lower the price to Victorian distributors under their Victorian agreements if they sold Bass Strait gas cheaper elsewhere.

The sudden spurt of discoveries in mid-1970 which turned the Cooper Basin into a likely major gas field, led AGL to switch its gas negotiations instead to the group of companies around Santos Ltd, Delhi International Oil Co. and Burmah Oil.

A deal was agreed on last year, pending the Burmah-oriented group proving up a minimum of 2 trillion cubic feet of recoverable reserves.

The deadline for this has been extended 3 times and is now expected next month, as the Burmah group have run into a variety of difficulties - including last year's floods . . .

The whole episode has led to extremely bad feelings between Esso-BHP-AGL.

Herein lies the problem which we are discussing. Because of this jealousy and bitterness which has developed, AGL is displacing BHP which has an interest in oil and steel and AGL is giving the contract to a Japanese company.

Senator James McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) - The negro in the woodpile.

Senator O'BYRNE - Absolutely; that is well expressed - the negro in the woodpile. Our Australian workers could be employed in an industry which is quite capable of producing 30-inch, 34-inch or whatever diameter pipeline and could be tooled up in sufficient time if there were a policy along those lines to supply this pipeline. In Queensland BHP has been able to supply the pipeline from Roma down to Brisbane. It has been able to supply the pipeline from Bass Strait across to its refineries in Victoria. The pipeline has been supplied by BHP from Dongara to Perth in Western Australia. Just because of pique and spite between these 2 giant companies we are losing this contract.

It is my belief that this is the responsibility of the Australian Government which has authority and must assume authority over these matters, even though it has been able to pass the buck in the CommonwealthState agreement regarding off-shore licences and the many other anomalies in this oil industry setup. But it has a responsibility here to see not only that we retain the fullest interest in our natural resources but also that whatever benefit comes from them should flow to the Australian people. The pipeline system eventually will tie up the area at Mereenie in Palm Valley in the centre of Australia, the Moomba-Gidgealpa area and the north-west shelf area, like a railroad system or any other system of transportation. I am given to understand that this could mean between 10,000 and 15,000 miles of pipeline. Does the Government mean to say that when the first crisis comes and Tubemakers of Australia Ltd are temporarily unable to quote for this contract because of a sudden change in the diameter of the pipes which are required it can be deprived of the potential that it should have here as an Australian company, employing Australian labour. It should be able to quote for this vast projected pipeline concept which we have in front of us.

Senator Wright - Part of it is in British shareholding, is it not?

Senator O'BYRNE - I am not certain of the shareholding of Tubemakers or of BHP. I understand that Tubemakers is a subsidiary of BHP. I do not know what the shareholding of BHP is, except that it is reputedly an Australian company.

Senator James McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) - There is no doubt about the shareholding of the Japan ese company.

Senator O'BYRNE - There is no doubt whatever that there are no Australian shareholders in the Japanese company. Not only is there a lack of Australian shareholders but also there is the principle of displacement of the potential for Australian industry. We are just in the teething stages or becoming an industrial nation. We are fortunate enough to have found these new natural resources. We see them obviously fading away from us because ownership of the gas resources are in the hands of people in Dallas, Texas, 10.000 miles away. The direction of the policy as to where our fuel goes is in the hands of overseas people. To me this is intolerable. It is intolerable that any government should allow this to happen. But then we come around to the real facts of life. We are supplying our iron ore to Japan which is sending it back here and displacing Australian workers. This is absolutely terrible.

The PRESIDENT - Order! The honourable senator's time has expired.

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