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Thursday, 15 December 1983
Page: 3843


Senator TATE(11.38) —Rather than grizzling about the procedures, I have had an opportunity to read the report of the National Energy Advisory Committee in the last five minutes. Indeed, it is the final report of the Committee which ceased its activities mid-way through this year. It is an excellent report, as would be expected, by these persons who give their time to advising the Government on these matters. It indicates that three reports were prepared. They were entitled: 'Electricity in the Australian Energy Market', ' Transportation of Export Coal' and 'Trade in Energy'. Each of those reports is summarised, in a very helpful form in the first few pages of the report. In the report entitled 'Transportation of Export Coal' it is pleasing to note that it is stated:

The Committee concluded that adequate port capacity was either in place or under construction to meet coal exports of up to 100 million tonnes by 1990 . . .

The report indicates that attention would need to be given to stockpiling capacity at Newcastle. The Committee looked at rail facilities in Queensland and New South Wales. It noted the major upgrading programs that should facilitate the movement of coal to export markets. It is a most important matter for the generation of wealth within the Australian community that that be the case. I simply wish to take advantage of the presentation of this report to comment on the excellent lead which the Federal Minister for Resources and Energy (Senator Walsh) has given to the coal industry throughout Australia in the six or seven months that he has been in office and responsible for its arrangements within Australia. I recall that within a month of the Federal Government assuming office Senator Walsh brought about and pleaded for a one month moratorium on further retrenchments in the coal mining industry. The goodwill that was generated by his interest, at that time, flowed through the national coal conference held in Canberra and led to the establishment of the Australian Coal Consultative Council which he chaired at its meeting on 11 November recently.

That Council decided, after a very wide-ranging discussion which involved employers, trade unions and government agencies, that it should have a further look at a study of the international factors affecting the market for Australian coal and a study of the social and economic implications of new mine development and how it should be regulated. It is very interesting to see that nice balance between the social implications of new mine development and the recognition of the need to get Australian coal on to the international market to earn wealth for redistribution within Australian society either by way of wages or through the taxation system where it is redistributed by our democratically elected government.

It is not only in relation to the coal industry that this Minister has taken initiatives which are of great importance to the development of energy resources throughout Australia. In relation to the absorption of domestic crude oil by the Australian refining industry, once again the Government has tried to grapple with this problem which is extremely difficult. It is quite obvious not only that there are implications for Government revenues but also that it is necessary to assure oil explorers that there will be a market for the oil they find and produce. There is a very important effect on our current account trade balance too, of course, by favouring increased domestic production over imports of crude oil. The Government has taken certain steps in that regard.

It is interesting to note-I return to the paper, Mr Deputy President, so as to stay within Standing Orders-that in the third report prepared by the National Energy Advisory Committee for the year under discussion, the report entitled ' Trade in Energy', it is stated that there would be very considerable export opportunities for Australian energy resources in the 1980s and 1990s. Indeed, the Minister took a very courageous decision during the year when he decided to permit the export for spot sale in 1983-84 of new oil produced from Fortescue which is in excess of 18 million barrels, together with old oil produced from the Bass Strait fields which is surplus to domestic refiners' requirements above 385,000 barrels a day. Each export requires specific government approval. But it is quite clear that the industry and governments concerned have reacted very favourably to that particular proposal. It shows that Australia, over a very wide range of energy resources, is taking very seriously its obligations to provide energy resources to other countries. We are trading in an efficient and competitive manner. As I said, with Senator Walsh at the helm, this particular portfolio is being well directed to the great benefit of Australia.

Debate (on motion by Senator Kilgariff) adjourned.