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Thursday, 2 November 1967

Mr FAIRBAIRN (Farrer) (Minister for National Development) {12.58 a.m.] - I shall reply very briefly because I do not want to deal with all the ramifications of the various clauses, but I want to set the mind of the oil industry at rest so far as I can in relation to the disclosure of information. All the States take the view that the resources of the continental shelf belong to the nation and to the Crown, and that governments are entitled to be fully informed concerning exploration and exploitation activities. However, it is not the intention of the Commonwealth Government to require the submission of reports prepared by company officers for the consideration of their boards in determining company policy. What is required is, for example, the result of exploration and exploitation operations, including the interpretation and information relevant to quantities, qualities, sale price, etc., of petroleum products. To my mind this would exclude techniques.

The honourable member said - and I completely agree with his interpretation - that at the present time there is an agreement between the States and the Commonwealth. No amendment could be moved to the agreement because it would make it null and void. I have previously given the assurance and I now repeat it that Mines Ministers will be meeting from time to time as required and will be discussing these matters. If at any stage representations are made within the House by honourable members or outside the House by representatives of the industry and they appear to have merit, I can see no reason why the agreement of the States could not be obtained to an amendment. After all, this vast legislation has been produced with the goodwill and co-operation of the States. I am sure that the same relationship could operate again, or it could even be tha: amendments would be agreed upon more easily than this legislation, provided that the Mines Ministers believed them to be necessary.

I am sorry that the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) attacked my colleague the honourable member for Evans (Dr Mackay). No-one has worked harder than the honourable member for Evans to understand this Bill and I think we owe him a debt. It is a mammoth Bill. Many honourable members have grappled with it. The honourable member for Evans, who is Chairman of the Government Members Mining Committee, has accomplished a considerable task in understanding fully the application of this legislation. He was sneered at because he is associated with drilling for oil. What a pity it is that more people in Australia have not done the same. We have listened for hours to members of the Opposition saying that there is too much overseas interest and not enough Australian interest in the oil industry. The honourable member for Evans and the honourable member for North Sydney (Mr Graham) have been associated with projects which have tried to find oil for Australian companies. Rather than sneer at them we ought to thank them.

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