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Wednesday, 1 November 1967

Mr CONNOR - Before the suspension of the sitting I was reading from the Financial Review' of 19tb October. I was referring to a comment by Sir Henry Bolte. I feel that I should read it again for the benefit of honourable members in the House. The article stated:

Victorian Premier Sir Henry Bolte said yesterday that New South Wales would not be able to get cheaper gas than Victoria as a result of the Commonwealth-States agreement. He said that the annexe to the agreement, under which the States agree to encourage interstate sales of gas declared the common intention of the parties not to discriminate against interstate trade.

He said this made the annexe a 'two-edged sword' and it would be discrimination if New South Wales were to get gas cheaper than Victoria. He said that letters of intent exchanged between himself and the Prime Minister also ruled out the possibility of such sales through the pipelining authority given to the State Governments.

At this stage I do not want to discuss the correctness or otherwise of the Victorian Premier's statement, but merely to point out that if this is evidence of good faith I would hate to see evidence of bad faith. There could not be a more deliberate attempt completely to distort and to destroy this Agreement before it has even gone through his own House or through any other House of Parliament in any of the States. This is the man who is supposed to be a party to a gentleman's agreement. I am only sorry that the Attorney-General (Mr Bowen) is not present in the chamber to comment on this particular point because as the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) said there is some very cunning drafting in this legislation. There is also some very cunning drafting in the Agreement between the States. I am glad that the AttorneyGeneral has come into the chamber. I would like to hear his comment on Mr Bolte's attitude. As I have said, some very cunning drafting and some very peculiar wording appears in the legislation and in the Agreement between the States. Of course, the seed of that peculiar wording was laid in the letter-

Mr Bowen - In the Agreement or in the Bill?

Mr CONNOR - No. I am referring to Sir Henry Bolte's statement that any attempt to sell gas in New South Wales at a lower price than that at which it was being sold in Victoria would be a breach of the Agreement.

Mr Buchanan - Why should not Victoria get it cheaper?

Mr CONNOR - The honourable member for McMillan can have his say later. He is not worth answering. The letter of 16th February from the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) to the Premier of Victoria was the key to the situation. The second paragraph of the letter states:

We are agreed that Victoria should not be required to approve any transaction for the sale of natural gas interstate which would have the effect of putting Victoria at a disadvantage in relation to that interstate purchaser, having regard to the following:

1.   Adequate reserves are available to meet contractual obligations already entered into;

2.   The conditions of such sale and their relation to sales already effected in Victoria:

This is the gentleman that the Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn) and the Government would have us believe will act in good faith and honour this Agreement to the letter. It is absurd. It is ridiculous. The Government is too hardened in the error of its ways to show any shame or embarrassment in the process.

Turning to the question of the powers of delegation, for the information of the Committee I shall read clause 16. Of course, the designated authority in the case of the Commonwealth is the Minister of State for Territories. This is the point at which we cavil. Clause 16 (2.) states:

The Minister of State for Territories, as the Designated Authority . . . may, by instrument in writing, delegate to a person all or any of his powers or functions under this Act (including the Acts with which this Act is incorporated) or the regulations either generally or otherwise as provided in the instrument.

Sub-clause (3.) states:

A power or function so delegated-

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