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Wednesday, 16 May 1973
Page: 2199

Mr HURFORD (Adelaide) - It is with a great deal of pleasure that I rise to support this Pipeline Authority Bill 1973. If there is one overwhelming thought I have in doing so it is that it is utterly extraordinary that the Liberal Party-Country Party Opposition is not supporting the Bill with enthusiasm, and it is utterly inexplicable that those Parties did not bring in such a Bill when they were in Government. I should like to explain further. In fact, the honourable member for Gippsland (Mr Nixon) a member of the Australian

Country Party and former Minister for Shipping and Transport, gave the game away in a debate earlier today when we were discussing the length of time we would have to debate this Bill. He referred to this Bill as a piece of nationalistic legislation. I repeat the word nationalistic' because it is a correct word. I do not know what he means by it, but I know what I mean by it. Why on earth should it not be nationalistic? Every loyal Australian wants to reap the benefit of his own birthright, a word that I think I have heard used by the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor), who should be congratulated on this Bill.

The natural gas of Australia is the birthright of every loyal Australian. Why on earth should it be left in the hands of some private shareholders and their management - at their whim - when the energy represented by this natural gas is so important for the future development of Australia and for the future standard of living of the people of our country? We have needed a national Government which would exercise the undoubted right of the Australian people to construct such a pipeline as will be constructed after this Bill is passed through the Parliament. Australia needs this pipeline as a common carrier of natural gas. Thank goodness we at last have a Government which will give us this national pipeline.

I have had a good look at this Bill. I can have no sympathy whatsoever with the attitude of the honourable member for Farrer (Mr Fairbairn) or the Deputy Leader of the Country Party, the honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair), who has just resumed his seat. The honourable member for Farrer gave us a laboured speech - thoroughly laboured. He did not even sound sincere in what he had to say. He mouthed the inevitable words of conservatives - the rather doctrinaire words. I am afraid we heard them again from the Deputy Leader of the Country Party - words of arch-conservatives. Those words were in no way substantiated. It was suggested that the Authority, because it will be a public one, will not be as efficient as a private organisation would. This was never substantiated. Is it claimed that Trans Australia Airlines is less efficient, for instance, than the Ansett airline? The honourable member for Farrer said, and I heard the same proposition in the speech of the Deputy Leader of the Country Party, that the proposed Authority should have been established in conjunction with the States.

What on earth does this mean. Nobody in this Government, or indeed in this Parliament, will 6et out deliberately to counter the wishes of the States. Everything that the Federal Labor Government is doing or will do will be done, where possible, in co-operation with the States. It is Labor members of Parliament, State and Federal, who have adopted the phrase co-operative federalism'. The only time when there is or will be conflict between the Commonwealth and the States is where the national interest does not conform with the particular State interests. Labor Party members believe strongly that it is the national interest which should prevail.

I believe that the Opposition Liberal and Country parties have forgotten that we have already a statutory authority to do this type of work in one part of Australia. I am referring to the Natural Gas Pipelines Authority of South Australia, set up in 1967 with the complete and splendid support of the business community in my State. I am afraid that I have not inquired whether it had the support in the State Parliament of the then Liberal Party Opposition, but I believe it probably did, and certainly it had the enthusiastic support of the Liberal Party when it was in Government in South Australia from 1968 to 1970.

Mr Hewson - What do you pay for the gas?

Mr HURFORD - The Natural Gas Pipelines Authority of South Australia distributes gas at one of the lowest costs in the world. It is true that this Authority will have representatives of producers and of consumers on its board, but it is my belief after studying the composition of this Authority and after talking with a number of people involved with it that it was not necessary to have such producer and consumer representation on the board.

Whenever there are differences the Government members of the South Australian Authority virtually must make the decisions; in other words, they are calling the tune, as indeed the representatives of the people, which the Government representatives are, should call the tune. I am referring to the Chairman, Mr Norman Young, a well known Australian company director and not, let me say, a supporter of the Australian Labor Party, as far as I know, but appointed to that position by a Labor Party Government, and Mr Leslie Parkin, a former Director of Mines in South Australia and now a director of AMDEL. This is the calibre of people that the

South Australian Labor Government has put on the South Australian Natural Gas Pipeline Authority. This is not a new concept. What it does drive home to us is how utterly ridiculous it was that the New South Wales Liberal and Country Party Government did not set up such an authority so that this common carrier of gas from Gidgealpa to the eastern seaboard of our country was in the hands of the people, which at least before we had a national government worth its salt it was not, rather than in the hands of private shareholders.

I have respect for the views of the right honourable member for Higgins (Mr Gorton). Another Labor member, my colleague the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating), has already said what I find myself wanting to say about his contribution to this debate. We welcome his support for the concept of this Bill. He is someone who is not as doctrinaire as the others who have entered into this debate from the other side of the House. I believe, however, that his fears are totally unfounded. He made a contribution about price, among other things. If the dire things that he thought might happen do happen it will be a tremendous boon to al] of those in Opposition. They will be able to make something of this at the hustings. They will be able to clobber the Federal Labor Government if these dire things happen and they will be able to use them in their attempt to regain the Government benches, and then they will have the opportunity to put their own people on the board of such an authority, if by any long chance these dire things did happen. But of course they will not happen.

We shall have men of great ability on our pipeline authority. We shall have men who are looking to the future far beyond when natural gas itself is available in Australia. We shall have people on the board of this authority running it efficiently, running it in the interests of the Australian people, making sure that when one well of natural gas dries up it will be possible to plug into the grid another available source of natural gas, available in the interests of all Australians whether they live on the eastern seaboard or the western seaboard. I will not take up any more time of the House. I know that members of the Opposition want to move amendments not only at the second reading stage. Because of the all important legislation we want to put through this Parliament in the short time available to us, we on this side of the House have agreed to restrain ourselves in the things we would like to say. I end on the note on which I began. This is a thoroughly good day for Australia when we have an authority such as this. I pay a tremendous tribute to the Minister for Minerals and Energy for the energy he has shown in bringing this Bill to the Parliament and getting so far as we have in such a short space of time. It is with those remarks that I support this Bill with enthusiasm.

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