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Wednesday, 6 November 1985
Page: 1652


Senator DURACK —My question is directed to the Minister for Resources and Energy. I refer him to the irresponsible and indecent haste with which the South Australian Government is this week pushing through legislation which breaches the gas contract with the Cooper Basin producers, applies impossible supply requirements which place producers in continual breach of their indenture agreements, and applies punitive fines of $1m per producer and up to $100,000 a day. I ask the Minister: Are he and the Government concerned about the adverse impact on the Australian dollar, on interest rates, and on the international investment reputation of Australia as a result of this irresponsible action of the South Australian Government? If so, what action has the Government taken or will it take to dissuade the South Australian Government from its course of action, as the Federal Government did earlier this year when the Western Australian Government was threatening to repudiate the North West Shelf agreement?


Senator GARETH EVANS —For a start, the Western Australian exercise was not one of threatened, attempted or any other kind of repudiation. Moreover, the matters in issue there involved an export project and, as such, one in which the Commonwealth had a major and very direct interest. As a good States' righter, as Senator Durack alleges himself to be-not with much supporting evidence on occasions like this, if he thinks there is a political bone to be pointed-he would appreciate that there is very little, if anything, the Commonwealth could appropriately do in the context of the particular brawl that is now well and truly under way between the South Australian Government and the gas suppliers in the Cooper Basin. There are many dimensions to that controversy. There are many points of view that could be adopted about the respective positions of the parties to that negotiation. Clearly, the simplest solution all round to the longer term problems of gas supply in South Australia would be for Premier Bjelke-Petersen to get off his high horse in Queensland and accept the viability and sense of a linkage of the gas fields between Moomba and Jackson, thus making possible-


Senator Sir John Carrick —Link Albury and Wagga and use two gas fields.


Senator GARETH EVANS —That is possible too, and I am delighted to see that Senator Sir John Carrick is maintaining his intense, legitimate and very constructive interest in these matters, unlike the destructive contributions of the kind that we have just heard from the current spokesman on this matter, Senator Durack.