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Thursday, 5 April 1984
Page: 1294


Senator CHILDS —I refer the Minister for Resources and Energy to the recently advertised off-shore petroleum acreage and to his statement last week that he hoped to be able to make some announcement about applications for exploration permits in that acreage this week. Is the Minister now able to advise the Senate of the results of advertising that off-shore acreage?


Senator WALSH —Yes. Senator Chaney asked me a question about this last week and I said that I would release the results after contacting the two relevant State Ministers. Twelve off-shore areas were advertised last November, 10 off the Western Australian coast and one each off South Australia and Tasmania. The applications closed on 23 March. It should be noted at the outset that all these permit areas had previously been allocated and either surrendered or cancelled. In respect of the 12 areas, a total of five applications were received, two for the Tasmanian acreage, one for each of the two Bonaparte Gulf areas, and one application for a small part of one of the eight Exmouth Plateau areas.

The interest in the Tasmanian area is encouraging and reflects, in a significant way, the results of the marine geophysical work carried out by the Bureau of Mineral Resources in the Bass Basin region a couple of years ago. That same work has been a significant factor in attracting experienced companies to farm in existing permits in that area.

The BMR's deeper seismic survey work has provided the geoscientific framework which has been of great value in reassessing the Basin's potential and has assisted in planning future detailed exploration. Recent advances in seismic technology have also improved the prospects of defining attractive drilling targets in the prospective but largely untested Bass Basin sequences.

The response in relation to Western Australia, especially the Exmouth Plateau, is disappointing and probably reflects the increasing perception that whatever hydrocarbons are in that area are more likely to be gas than oil. It would also appear that for the most part the exploration companies have decided not to take up less prospective acreage, at least at this time. It has been suggested in the Press that they prefer to focus their attention on the impending release of more highly prospective areas between Australia and Timor.