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Tuesday, 22 August 1972
Page: 469

Mr JACOBI (HAWKER, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - I preface my question to the Prime Minister by referring to a recent statement by John Irwin, the United States Under-Secretary for State, who said:

The urgency of the developing world energy crisis surely dictates that the time for our governments to take action is now.

I ask: Is is a fact that the recent rash of takeovers offers involving the Ansett, Travelodge, Valentine, and Kiwi organisations total a mere SI 90m? In contrast this nation's most valuable asset is its vast, nonrenewable fuel resources of natural gas and uranium which are conservatively valued at $ 19,000m. Of these 2 areas on the national priority list-

Mr SPEAKER -Order! The honourable member is now giving information. He should ask his question.

Mr JACOBI - In regard to these 2 areas on the national priority list, does he agree that the national interest demands the taking of action against escalating alienation and foreign control? Will he take immediate steps to set up a joint parliamentary committee for the purpose of a complete, balanced evaluation of our fuel and energy resources and our requirements?

Mr McMahon - I ask the Minister for National Development to answer the question.

Sir REGINALD SWARTZ (DARLING DOWNS, QUEENSLAND) (Minister for National Development) - I will not deal with the first part of the question which was more in the nature of a statement and a comment than a question. Dealing with the second part, which related to the industries associated with the production of petroleum gas, often termed natural gas, and uranium, these 2 industries have a tremendous importance to our future economy. I would certainly not be in a position to accept or deny the figures which have been quoted by the honourable member. I have seen quite a number of references from time to time to the estimated value of the ultimate production from the known deposits of these 2 industries. I merely repeat what I have said before in this House, namely, that I will not accept any figures until they are finally proven and then I will make a statement on them. This applies to these two industries.

The position in relation to natural gas is that the deposits which have been discovered so far are being utilised substantially for local domestic purposes. It appears that on the north-west shelf there are very substantial deposits which are not yet proven. This, of course, is well known to the honourable member. If he can contain his anxiety a little I will obtain as much information as I can in relation to a quite extensive question which he has on the notice paper. Undoubtedly he will obtain some more information when an answer to that question is supplied to him.

To deal with the question of uranium in the depth with which one should deal with an industry of such importance would take a considerable time. The interesting fact - I think that the Leader of the Opposition also will be pleased to know - is that the present uranium province in the Northern Territory, the discoveries in Western Australia and the anticipated proving of areas in South Australia show that the bulk of the exploration work and also the results that have been achieved so far are largely in Australian hands. The policy that applies generally in relation to this industry, as in other resource industries, is that even though extensive overseas resources are involved in many cases of development the policy followed by this Government has always been that there is an element of Australian equity, which varies in accordance with the resource concerned, and principally that the management of the resource industry remains in Australian hands.

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