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Wednesday, 16 May 1973
Page: 2210

Mr O'KEEFE (Paterson) - This Bill is designed to nationalise the natural gas industry in Australia; every facet of the Bill points in this direction. I was interested to hear the honourable member for Hawker (Mr Jacobi) castigate foreign oil interests for exploring in this country. If foreign capital had not come into Australia and provided the finance and the know how, there would have been no discoveries of oil in this country today. The Australian petroleum industry is providing 60 per cent of our oil requirements. So, it has been very important that we have had foreign companies entering Australia to put down the rigs and drill wells so that we might have petroleum for our own needs.

I would agree with one point made by the honourable member for Hawker, namely, that we should not let these foreign companies take complete control of our industry. Australia should maintain a percentage control but, at the same time, we should encourage these companies to come to Australia for the reasons that I have enunciated - to supply the know how and the capital. There have been some fine petroleum and natural gas discoveries in this country. The honourable member for Hawker deplored the fact that these overseas companies had come and assisted us in this way. There is a great deal of Australian equity in Ampol Exploration Ltd, which has made finds at Barrow Island in Western Australia. Esso-BHP, which was responsible for one of our great finds off the Victorian coast, is controlled by the great Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd. Here again, if we had not been assisted by the Esso company, this project would not have been developed in the way that it has and would not be providing petroleum resources for this country which are of great advantage to each and every one of us.

In his second reading speech, the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) said that this was a simple Bill. When we have a look at the Bill, we find that it is not so simple. There are many clauses in the Bill which give members of the Opposition considerable cause for concern. The clauses contained in the Bill will give the proposed authority practically unlimited scope in all sorts of fields, quite apart from the provision of a pipeline transporting natural gas from Gidgealpa into the eastern States of Australia and, indeed, right across the entire country. Clause 16 contains 13 paragraphs giving the proposed authority the power to do all sorts of things - to purchase land, to take land on lease, to take easements over land, to sell or otherwise dispose of land, to release any easements over land, to purchase or take on hire plant and so on. To my mind, these clauses will give the authority far too much scope. One of the paragraphs in clause 13 will empower the authority to buy and sell petroleum, whether in Australia or elsewhere.

These clauses indicate clearly that the Bill is designed on nationalisation levels, to nationalise this great industry and that, of course, is the policy of the Government. Such a course will be followed not only in the field of natural gas but also in many other spheres. Private enterprise was quite prepared to develop this undertaking and build pipelines across Australia, without any need for the Government to interfere and provide thousands of millions of dollars of the people's money in a nationalistic enterprise. Private enterprise could have carried this out. I was interested to read some excerpts from articles that appeared in various daily newspapers in this country when the announcement was made that the Federal Government intended to take over this pipeline. The 'Daily Telegraph' on 27th March, under the headline Federal Government Win Over Gas Pipeline', said:

The Federal Government has won the major battle in its fight to take control of the proposed {160 million natural gas pipeline from South Australia to Sydney.

The article pointed out that now, instead of private enterprise doing it, public funds have come in to take over the project on a socialistic basis. One of the great men in our gas industry in Australia, Sir William Pettingell, has queried very strongly the reason why the Federal Government has taken over this pipeline. He has stated quite openly that private enterprise - his company in particular - has sufficient funds to pipe this gas from Gidgealpa to the eastern States. Why is it necessary to raise millions of dollars from the public of this country to be put into such a pipeline when this will cause increased taxation and all sorts of things in order to provide this necessary service?

Natural gas is a very important source of power. I have no doubt that overseas countries will desire to purchase natural gas from Australia because world supplies of natural gas, as has been pointed out by previous speakers, are diminishing. In Canada and in the United States of America, as well as in other overseas fields, natural gas supplies are diminishing. We in Australia have a very fine supply of natural gas and consequently will have many overseas buyers for it. Of course, one of these will be Japan. I would caution here against over-selling our supplies in any 1Way, because if we do we could find ourselves in trouble in meeting our own demands. We should give very careful consideration to how we handle the sale of our natural gas. I have noted with interest that Japan is providing the pipes for the natural gas pipeline from Gidgealpa. At present something like $40m worth of pipes is stored in Newcastle ready to be put into the pipeline. This apparently was arranged prior to the Federal Government taking over this pipeline. Sir William Pettingell, the Chairman of the Australian Gas Light Co., had something to say on this question. He said that money is being wasted on the natural gas pipeline. The 'Daily Telegraph' of 26th April reported as follows:

Federal Government plans to link New South Wales and Victorian natural gas pipelines were a 'sheer waste of money', Sir William Pettingell said last night. He was commenting on an announcement that the Federal Government had agreed to build a 20-inch pipeline connecting Wagga, Cootamundra and Albury with the Sydney-Moomba natural gas link.

Sir Williamis chairman of the Australian Gas Light Company, which has prepared plans for the construction of the main $160m pipeline from South Australia to Sydney . . .

However, Sir William Pettingell last night described the move as a 'sheer waste of money*.

They are tipping money down the drain - an eight inch link would meet the requirements of the country centres for years to come'.

That is from a man who has a great knowledge of the gas industry in Australia. He has been one of the real pioneers in the supply of commercial gas to industry and the supply of gas to our great cities on the eastern seaboard. Whilst we support the establishment of a natural gas pipeline system in this country I - and most other members on this side of the House agree with me - believe that it should be done by private enterprise. This move by the Government to socialise the industry certainly has not my support. We believe in private enterprise, and this Bill does nothing but socialise one of our great industries - an industry that will expand and become of great importance to Australia. The Bill in its present form gives far too much power to the Federal Government. Upon studying it clause by clause, one will see that the Authority has power over practically everything. This is socialisation to the full extent.

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