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Wednesday, 1 November 1967

Mr CONNOR (Cunningham) (1:05 AM) _ There is, according to naturalists, a wellknown phenomenon in the insect world. When a spider stings a fly it does not do so for the purpose of killing it, but merely to paralyse it so that it will remain immobile and available for consumption at a later date. With this clause we sense precisely the same technique in operation in relation to what might be called plum areas. Once oil exploration really starts, once cores are made available, once information gets around among scouts for rival companies, once it is known that there is a particularly desirable area that might hold a lot of oil - and it might be an area that a company operating in a particular sector cannot acquire under the Government's policy as outlined in subsequent clauses of the Bill - nothing could be better than the cosy arrangement that can be made under this clause. The designated authority - the Minister for Territories foresooth - can, in the words of the clause: by instrument published in the Gazette, declare that a block specified in the instrument (not being a block in respect of which a permit or licence is in force or over or in which there is a pipeline) shall not be the subject of a permit, licence, special prospecting authority or access authority and that a pipeline licence shall not be granted in respect of a pipeline over or in that block. (2.) While a declaration under the last preceding sub-section remains in force in respect of a block, a permit, licence, special prospecting authority or access authority shall not be granted in respect of that block and a pipeline licence shall not be granted in respect of a pipeline over or in that block.

In other words it can be frozen; it can be immobilised, at the whim, at the will, at the caprice, at the discretion of the designated authority or, under the clause which has just been rammed through, his delegate. That is what the Government proposes and that is what it expects the Opposition to accept. That is the form in which it frames this legislation. In the vernacular it smells. This could be the genesis of a Teapot Dome scandal. It is the kind of thing we object to most strongly. It smacks of hole and corner methods.

I refer again to the second reading speech of the Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn) in which he said:

However, tire draft regulations are by no means complete and in any case the governments wish to give industry, as the operating parties, the opportunity to discuss the proposed regulations in detail. Many of the companies have had considerable experience in offshore work in other countries, if not already in Australia.

By the same token their footwork inshore, particularly in lobbying, could allow them to buy up a very valuable sector of land. The honourable member for Mackellar cited accurate figures when he said that in oil bearing strata with 80 feet of sand there could be in 1 square mile 100 million barrels of crude oil. The pegged and accepted price of that crude oil in Australia is $3 a barrel, so that the deposits could be worth $300m.

Dr Mackay - I will sell the honourable member some shares if he wishes.

Mr CONNOR - The honourable member is a rather good share salesman, and a very good speculator. In a situation such as I have outlined, the limits are fantastic. The Government has already dissipated and squandered the national heritage pf the people of Australia. An area of 750,000 square miles of the continental shelf has already been allocated in one form or another - by exploration permits or production licences. The Government is capable of giving away anything. We do not trust it, nor do the people of Australia. The Government has given us no reason to trust it. This legislation is being introduced by hole in corner methods and the manner of its drafting does not inspire trust. It is a rotten agreement which has been brought into this chamber. It is a piece of impertinence that is not justifiable. It would not stand up if subjected to challenge, and the Attorney-General knows that is true. So does any other lawyer who is worth his salt. But on that basis the Parliament is asked to give the Government approval to freeze land in the fashion set out in the Bill. No! Land of this nature, the value of which is known, should be put up for tender. Let tenders be called in the proper way. Let the people who are capable, willing and anxious to develop the land do so. We do not want land frozen in this fashion, just as a spider stings its prey and leaves ft for future consumption. This legislation is rotten and it stinks. It is a disgrace to the Government. We do not accept it. Can any member of the Government justify it? Let him speak now if he can. If not, we will brand honourable members opposite for what they are.

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