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Thursday, 2 November 1967


Mr WENTWORTH (Mackellar) (12:35 PM) - The first of my amendments refers to clause 94, which reads:

The Designated Authority shall cause such particulars as he thinks fit of -

(a)   the grant, and the grant of the renewal, of a permit, licence or pipeline licence;

(b)   the variation of a licence or pipeline licence;

(c)   the surrender or cancellation of a permit or licence as to all or some of the blocks in the permit area or licence area;

(d)   the determination of a permit as to a block or blocks;

(e)   an application for a pipeline licence or for the renewal or variation of a pipeline licence;

(f)   the surrender or cancellation of a pipeline licence as to the whole or a part of the pipeline; and

(g)   the expiry of a permit, licence or pipeline licence, under this Part to be published in the 'Gazette'.

The second refers to clause 115, which reads: (1.) Where the Designated Authority, or an inspector, in respect of an adjacent area has reason to believe that a person is capable of giving information or producing documents relating to petroleum exploration operations, operations for the recovery of petroleum or operations connected with the construction or operation of a pipeline in that adjacent area, he may, by instrument in writing served on that person, require that person -

(a)   to furnish to him in writing, within the period and in the manner specified in the instrument, any such information; or

(b)   to attend beforehim or a person specified in the instrument, at such time and place as is so specified and there to answer questions relating to those operations and to produce such documents relating to those operations as are so specified. (2.) A person is not excused from furnishing information, answering a question or producing a document when required to do so under this section on the ground that the information so furnished, the answer to the question or the production of the document might tend to incriminate him or make him liable to a penalty, but the information so furnished or his answer to the question is not admissible in evidence against him in proceedings other than proceedings for an offence against tion 117 of this Act.

The third amendment refers to clause 118, which reads in part: (2.) The Designated Authority or a Minister may, at any time after the relevant day:

(a)   make publicly known; or

(b)   on request by a person and, if the Designated Authority or that Minister so requires, on payment of a fee of Five dollars per day, make available to that person, any information that has been furnished to the Designated Authority or has been made available to that Minister under the last preceding subsection, being information that relates to the sea-bed or subsoil, or to petroleum, in a block, out not including any matter contained in a report, return or document that in the opinion of the Designated Authority or Minister, is a conclusion drawn, in whole or in part, from, or an opinion based, in whole or in part, on any such information. (3.) The Designated Authority or a Minister may, at any time after the relevant day:

(a)   make publicly known any particulars of; or

(b)   on request by a person and, if the Designated Authority or that Minister so requires, on payment of a fee of Five dollars per day, permit that person to inspect, any cores or cuttings from, or samples of, the sea-bed or subsoil in a block, or samples of petroleum recovered in a block, that have been furnished to the Designated Authority or have been made available to that Minister under subsection (1.) of this section. (4.) For the purposes of the last two preceding sub-sections:

(a)   where:

(i)   a permit is in force in respect of the block; and

(ii)   the block is not a blockthat is, or is included in, a location, the relevant day is the day on which the period of five years that commenced on the day on which the report, return, other document, core, cutting or sample was furnished to the Designated Authority expires;

(b)   where:

(i)   a licence is in force in respect of the block; and

(ii)   the block is not a block that is, or is included in, a location, the relevant day is the day on which the period of twelve months that commenced on the day on which the report, return, other document, core, cutting or sample was furnished to the Designated Authority expires;

(c)   where a permit or licence is not in force in respect of the block but:

(i)   a permit or licence has been surrendered or determined as tothe block;

(ii)   at the time of the surrender or determimnation, the block was, or was included in, a location; and

(iii)   a notification in respect of the block has been published under sub section (2.) of section 23, orunder subsection (4.) of section 47, of this Act, the relevant day is the day on which the period of six months that commenced on the day on which the notification was published expires;

(d)   where the report, return, other document, core, cutting or sample was furnished to the Designated Authority during the period during which a permit or licence was in force in respect of the block and:

(i)   the block is not a block that is, or is included in, a location and the permit or licence is surrendered or cancelled as to the block;

(ii)   the block is, or is included in, a location and the permit or licence is cancelled as to the block; or

(iii)   the permit or licence expires but is not renewed in respect of the block, the relevant day is the day on which the permit or licence is so surrendered or cancelled or expires, as the case may be, whether another permit or licence is subsequently in force in respect of the block or not; and

(e)   where:

(i)   the report, return, other document, core, cutting or sample was furnished to the Designated Authority during a period during which a permit or licence was not in force in respect of the block; and

(ii)   a permit or licence is not in force in respect of the block, the relevant day is such day as the Designated Authority determines. (5.) Where:

(a)   a report, return, other document, core, cutting or sample referred to in sub-section (1.) of this section was furnished to the Designated Authority:

(i)   during or in respect of a period during which a permit or licence was in force in respect of the block; or

(ii)   during or in respect of a period during which a special prospecting authority or access authority was in force in respect of the block but during which a permit or licence was not in force in respect of the block; and

(b)   the permittee, licensee or holder of the special prospecting authority or access authority or, if the permit, licence, special prospecting authority or access authority has ceased to be in force, the person who was the holder of the permit, licence, special prospecting authority or access authority -

(i)   has made publicly known any information contained in the report, return or other document or has consented in writing to any of that information being made publicly known; or

(ii)   has made publicly known any particulars of that core, cutting or sample or has consented in writing to any particulars of that core, cutting or sample being made publicly known or to that core, cutting or sample being made available for inspection. the Designated Authority or a Minister to whom that information, core, cutting or sample has been made available under subsection (1.) of this section may, at any time after that information has, or those particulars have, been made publicly known or after that consent has been given-

(c)   make publicly known that information or, on request by any other person and, if the Designated Authority or that Minister so requires, on payment of a fee of Five dollars per day, make that information available to that other person; or

(d)   make publicly known those particulars or, on request by any other person and, if the Designated Authority or that Minister so requires, on payment of a fee of Five dollars per day, permit that other person to inspect that core, cutting or sample, as the case may be. (6.) Except as provided by the preceding provisions of this section or for the purposes of the administration of this Act and the regulations, the Designated Authority or a Minister to whom any information, core, cutting or sample has been made available under sub-section (1.) of this section shall not -

(a)   make publicly known, or make available to any person (not being a Minister or a Minister of State of a State), any information contained in a report, return or other document referred to in any of those provisions; or

Cb) make publicly known any particulars of, or permit any person (not being a Minister referred to in the last preceding paragraph) to inspect, any core, cutting or sample so referred to.

I move:

1.   In clause 94, omit 'such particulars as he thinks fit', insert 'full particulars'.

2.   In clause 115, after sub-clause (2.) insert the following sub-clause: (3.) lt shall only be possible for the Designated Authority or the inspector acting under this section to requisition basic factual information, which shall be taken not to include any matter contained in a report, return or document that in the opinion of the Designated Authority is a conclusion drawn, in whole or in part, from, or an opinion based, in whole or in part, on any such information; nor shall it be taken to include information revealing techniques of exploration or development which are known only to the permittee or licensee'.

3.   In clause 118, omit sub-clauses (2.) to (6.), insert the following sub-clauses: (2.) The Designated Authority or a Minister or a Minister of State of a State to whom information or material has been made available under the preceding sub-section may -

(a)   refer the information or material to any officer for the purposes of the administration of this Act and the prosecution of the search for petroleum; and

(b)   make the information or material publicly known at any time after 3 months after the date at which it was provided to the Designated - Authority. (3.) Except as provided by the preceding subsection, the information or material shall be kepi confidential*.

The first amendment relates to the publication of particulars. If honourable members look at the Bill, they will see that after clause 76 and after clause 94 provision is made for the publication not of full particulars but of some extracts of particulars. The Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn) did give us an assurance earlier in the debate that the working conditions of the permit would, in general, be published in full. This would relate not only to the amount to be spent but also to the term of the lease, the relinquishment provisions and so on. He gave that assurance in good faith, and I have no doubt that as long as he is the Minister he will endeavour to see that the provisions are carried out.

But I remind him that he will not be the Minister in charge because the designated authority will not be responsible to him. The designated authority will be a State Minister whom he cannot control. I do not think the Commonwealth will have power to issue a direction to the designated authority. Therefore, I would prefer that these provisions be put into the Bill. Unless this is done there is the possibility in the States of all sorts of hole in corner, undercover arrangements being made with the oil companies. We should be able to know what are the conditions of the exploration permits.

I should like to draw the Committee's attention to a rather peculiar lapse in the drafting in clause 94, which we have under discussion at the moment. If honourable members look at paragraph (a) they will sec that it speaks of the grant, and the grant of the renewal, of a permit, licence or pipeline licence. If they look at paragraph (b), they will see that it speaks of the variation of a licence or pipeline licence. The vital words 'exploration permit' are left out of this paragraph. The Minister may be able to tell me why this is so. There may be some good reason for it, but I am unable at the present moment to see why the phrasing in paragraph (b) should not cover the same complete range that is covered by the phrasing in paragraph (a).

This is a matter of some consequence because it involves an error in drafting and, it seems to me, an error in drafting that would open the door to all kinds of shenanigans by designated authorities in the States who would be able to make, with companies, under-the-counter variations of agreements, and would not be under any obligation to publish anything about them. The Minister may be able to explain to me why the vital word 'permit' which occurs in item (a) of clause 94 has been left out of item (b). I shall await the Minister's explanation of that peculiar omission.

The second amendment I shall defer for a moment, and pass on to my amendment to clause 118. I think the provision for the holding of this basic information as secret - and I am not speaking of techniques and such things at this time - for the tremendous periods of time which are provided, is quite unjustifiable. If honourable members will look at the definition of 'relevant date' as occurring at various times in the legislation they will see what I mean. This provision has two bad consequences. Firstly, it will deny to other oil explorers the geological information which they need and are entitled to get. Secondly, it will pave the way to all sorts of possibilities of corruption within the Department itself. When valuable information of this character is held for lengthy periods within a department, known to the department but not to the public, inevitably there will be a possibility of corruption within the department.


Mr Arthur - Would not this apply to the oil companies themselves?


Mr WENTWORTH - The oil companies can do their own policing as they see fit. That is their business. I am talking about the possibility of corruption inside Commonwealth and State departments. We pray every morning in this Parliament: 'Lead us not into temptation'. I think we would be very unwise to introduce the occasions of temptation into a department by providing that this information be kept nominally secret for these great lengths of time. The principle is bad and I hope the House will reject it.

Finally, let me go back to my amendment to clause 115. Here the honourable member for McMillan (Mr Buchanan) and I are on the same side. I think that here there is a case to be made out for companies. The companies have made a valid point when they say they have secret techniques which are known only to them and which they should not be asked to divulge to third parties. These techniques do exist, and if companies are under the impression that they will have to divulge them to third parties they simply will not bring the techniques to Australia, and search for oil will be slowed down because the modern techniques will not be available. Therefore the honourable member for McMillan and I have put in parallel amendments. I think mine is a little clearer but it goes a little further. The wording is very much the same. I shall be happy with either his amendment or mine.







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