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Thursday, 19 September 1974
Page: 1266

Senator DURACK (Western Australia) - In reply- We have heard convoluted thinking from this Government on many subjects but I think that the argument I heard a moment ago from the Minister for Agriculture (Senator Wriedt) beats them all. He is chiding the Opposition in defence of his own accusations. We have levelled accusations at him for the lack of leadership of this Government, but he chides the Opposition and says that we have not shown leadership. I can assure him that we are perfectly prepared. We stand ready with a policy and we stand ready to show leadership which is so badly needed, not only on this subject but also on the whole of Government in this country. As I suspected, the Minister's defence of the Government in this matter does not reveal any policy whatsoever. He has been able to say only that the Government's policy in this whole mining issue is to set up a Petroleum and Minerals Authority, and that it has done. But in this debate we have been discussing specifically a lack of policy in relation to uranium mining. When I talk about that, I am talking about a total lack of policy, not only along the lines on which Senator Hall spoke, about the enrichment of uranium and so on, but a total lack of policy in relation to the whole ambit of uranium mining from the exploration stage through to its development and ultimate enrichment. There is just no policy whatsoever.

The companies that have over the years of the Liberal Country Party Government gone out and found reserves- very handsome reserves- of uranium are now facing not only the possiblity that they cannot exploit these reserves in any shape or form but also a very real possibility of the Government taking over some or all of thendeposits. Whilst dealing with deposits, there is another good example of how unrealistic and how ignorant the Government is in regard to these matters. The Minister says that the known reserves of uranium are 1 30,000 short tons. The known reserves are far more like 230,000 short tons. I think that if the Government reflected on the situation it would see that it is way off beam if that is all it thinks our uranium reserves amount to. That does not mean to say that the Opposition is satisfied with the position. We want to see encouragement given to greatly expand these reserves. I indicated in my speech here today on the motion for the disallowance of the regulations how we think that may be done.

I come back to the motion and the Government's defence of the regulations. I am really more alarmed than ever. If the Government says that the only policy it has- and it is its only policy- is the establishment of the Petroleum and Minerals Authority and if one couples that with the licensing power given to the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) under these regulations, and with the attitudes of mind and the statements which have been made by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) as well as the Minister for Minerals and Energy in relation to this rationalisation of the deposits in the Northern Territory, it makes me, as it is making the companies concerned, even more worried as to what are the real intentions and the real purposes of these regulations and these powers. If there is the Petroleum and Minerals Authority and if total power over utilisation of resources rests with the Minister and the total ownership rests with the Commonwealth Government, how easy it is simply to hand over the deposits of some companies to this Petroleum and Minerals Authority and allow that Authority to become the sole proprietor of uranium mines in this country. So far, the Government shrinks from saying that, but this may well be the true policy of the Government. If it is, I only hope that the Government has the moral courage to come out and make it perfectly clear so that everybody will know where the Government stands.

I have already indicated my reasons for moving for the disallowance of this motion. Those are additional reasons why we in the Opposition believe that the regulations should be disallowed. Therefore we have moved this motion today that these regulations should not be allowed.

Question put.

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