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Friday, 6 December 1985
Page: 3122


Senator SANDERS(9.38) —The Petroleum Revenue Bill is supported by the Australian Democrats. It permits the waiving of State royalties and Commonwealth excise duties when a State government introduces a resource rent tax and signs a revenue sharing agreement with the Commonwealth. It seems to me that the chief advantage of this Bill is that it will mean that older fields can continue to be developed productively. Our oil resource is variable, depending on how much of a field we can economically produce. If we are interested in oil self-sufficiency, it makes good sense to create an economic regime which encourages people actually to produce as much oil as possible from a field and not just to abandon it when it still has 20 or 30 per cent of its producible reserve. This Bill provides for that. I think it is a good Bill in that respect and it is a good Bill for the conservation and wise use of the resource.

It is also a good Bill because it advances the concept of resource rental taxation. I believe this shows a coming of age in Australia. Australia is making a transition from a Third World country, which simply considered itself an open quarry for anyone who wanted to come along to exploit it, to a developed country, a country with some self-confidence that can say: `Our resource is worth something and you will have to pay for it if you want it. We will not just give it to you'. This is a very important point. As honourable senators may or may not have noted, I come from overseas and I have a slightly different perspective on the way multinationals work and also on how Australia perceives its own resources. It seems to me that Australians have very little true appreciation of the value of their land, their trees, or their resources in general. I suppose this is only natural because for so many years we were simply a colony of a very important and aggressive nation, Great Britain, which used us to supply raw materials for its manufacturing processes.

This thinking goes on today. It is a kind of parallel to the New Guinea cargo cult of some years past where the New Guinea natives, perceiving that aeroplanes would land at Port Moresby with refrigerators and washing machines on board, would go out in the bush, hack out a strip, build a decoy aeroplane out of palm thatch, and hope somehow to attract the cargo from the sky. I think Australian leaders often do the same thing. We put in massive infrastructure development, hoping that somebody will come along and use it to mine our resources. We can develop our own resources. We should have the self-confidence to do so, and I think the self-confidence is coming.

The Australian view towards the country is really a function of the people who came here first, the convicts and settlers, who were ripped out of a Northern Hemisphere environment and put in a very harsh, to them, area to which they simply could not relate. When I came to Australia from the Northern Hemisphere I found it difficult to appreciate the land. It was harsh; the seasons were backwards; Christmas came at the wrong time of the year; the weather patterns were wrong. If one projects that back to the early settlers, who depended on their senses, one can see that they may have had an intense dislike for the land, especially if they were kept here under force. I hope that modern Australians can learn to appreciate their land, and when it is exploited to extract the proper value from it.

I agree with Senator Cook that the resources of the nation belong to the nation, not to the multinational oil companies or to any individual. If they are to be utilised-I hope not overutilised-the people of this nation should receive recompense and share in the benefits. It should not be for just one small section of the community, namely, the oil companies and those who support them, it should be for everyone. For those reasons I support the Bill.