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Thursday, 16 May 1968

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - I regret that the Standing Orders allow only 10 minutes in which to reply. We are dealing with a subject that affects every motorist in Australia. Some 3,100,000 Australian motorists will be called on to pay an extra $4 to $20 a year for petrol while the Esso-BHP group reaps an enormous profit. This is reflected in the price of shares in Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd which rose from $9 to $25 in less than 12 months. The Government should have continued the policy started by the Chifley Government and should itself have engaged in the exploration and drilling for oil. The Australian Government bought an oil rig. This Goverment sold it. We should have been buying more oil rigs instead of selling the one we had. The Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn) has admitted that the man chiefly responsible for the discovery of oil in Australia was Sir Harold Raggatt, who was at the time the Chifley Government was in office employed by the Government for the purpose of discovering oil. This man should have been fully supported by the present Government. He should have been given the salary that his position deserved and he should have been given the financial support necessary to ensure that the oil in Australia was discovered by the Australian Government for the Australian people so that the value of the discovery could be reflected in a reduced price for petrol.

Instead of being able to buy cheaper petrol as a result of Australia discovering its own oil, the Australian consumers of petrol must now pay more than they would pay if the oil were obtained from the Middle East sheikdoms. This is one of the greatest political scandals that this country has ever seen. Unfortunately this is only the beginning. Generations yet unborn will pay for the tragedy that this Government invited by handing over to private enterprise, half owned by foreigners, the control of the fabulously wealthy oil reserves in Bass Strait. These are oil reserves which, according to the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth), were worth $350m per square mile. Altogether private enterprise has an area of 14,000 square miles, every square mile of which, if resources prove to be as valuable as those already discovered, will be worth $350m.

The Minister for National Development skirted round the chief charge that was laid against the Government by my friend, the honourable member for Cunningham (Mr Connor), who asked: 'Can you deny that at the well head petroleum from Bass Strait should cost no more than $1.10 to $1.20 per barrel?' This figure allows for the miserable royalty of 11%, now increased to 124%, which is paid in this country, compared with about 16% paid in the United States of America and as much as 50% paid for the oil of the gidgea whiskered sheikhs in the Middle East. The figure allows also for the cost of piping the oil. According to no less an authority than Dr Alex Hunter, a senior fellow in the Institute of Advanced Studies at the Australian National University, the cost of oil at the well head ought not to be more than a maximum of $2.50 per barrel. This is a price that would give the oil companies a very handsome profit after deducting the cost of producing the oil.

This is not good enough when we consider that there are 4,171,000 registered vehicles in Australia today. Of this number, over 3 million are owned by private citizens. The total amount of petrol consumed in Australia last year was 1,868 million gallons. Consumption will go up by 8% to 9% each year if the present trend continues. This is a very small rate of increase when one bears in mind the fact that the rate in Japan is 20% per year. If we work it out, we find that the average motorist consumes approximately 400 gallons of petrol per year, for which he is now to pay an extra lc a gallon. It is anticipated, according to the 'Canberra Times', that in 2 years time the price to the motorist will have increased by 5c a gallon. This is the figure given by Dr Hunter who was recently engaged by the Australian Automobile Association to make a study of the price of petrol. According to an article published in the 'Canberra Times' of 10th May 1968, he stated that we could anticipate an increase in the price of petrol of anything up to 5c per gallon in 2 years time. If he is correct, petrol will cost every motorist in Australia about $20 a year more in 2 years time. If any Government had a cheek to put a $20 per year increase in taxation upon the motorist, it would be thrown out of office neck and crop.

Let us consider the person who has shares in the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd. If the shareholder were a motorist and was to obtain any benefit from local oil production, even if BHP dividends were increased by 100% he would, at present share prices, have to hold shares to the value of $6,000 for the extra dividends to meet the annual cost of the additional 5c a gallon. Of course, I do not blame the companies for welshing on the public because they are monopolistic capitalists whose job it is to make the maximum profits irrespective of the effects of doing so. I blame this Government and its cohorts in Victoria for the crooked and rotten deal which they have made with the Esso-BHP interests in handing over our oil resources to this group, half of which is foreign controlled. We could have found and developed our own oil resources had we followed the policies of the Chifley Government. Had the present Government done this, it would have done something to be proud of. The prices of BHP $2 shares have risen from $9 to $25 in about 12 months. This is because shareholders have been selling their anticipated share of the profits that the company would extract from the Australian community as a result of the exorbitant prices that are to be charged.

When we take into account the full effect that' the 10% increase will have, we find that the extra cost of petrol to Australian motorists will be more than double $98m a year. So that, in 10 years time, we will be paying about $200m a year more than we are now paying for petrol from the present sources of supply. Just imagine the roads, freeways and highways that could be built and the financial assistance that the Government could give to those authorities responsible for the upkeep of roads if this money which will now go into the pockets of the foreign investors who own the oil wells in Bass Strait went to the Commonwealth and State governments and local government bodies. Just imagine the improved roads that motorists would get if this money was not paid to foreign investors. However, Australian motorists are denied these benefits because of the Government's sellout. This is the most disastrous Government that this country has ever seen. When historians write the history of Australian oil supplies, this Government will go down in the record as the most treacherous Government this nation has ever seen. Generations yet unborn will pay through the nose for petrol belonging to the nation which should never be given away to foreign investors in the way it is being given away now.

I only wish I had more time to debate this matter. I would like to refer quickly to the additional cost which petrol users in South Australia will have to pay in 10 years time. If the anticipated increase of 5c a gallon in the price of petrol comes about, South Australia's share of the extra cost will be about $22m a year. Just imagine what could be done in my State if its 143 local government bodies and the State Government had another $22m a year to spend. I am sorry I cannot follow in the debate the honourable member for North Sydney (Mr Graham), who is about to speak, because he is a liaison officer for the various oil companies throughout Queensland-

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