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Thursday, 21 September 1972
Page: 1741

Mr JACOBI (HAWKER, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - I address my question to the Minister for National Development. Has the Government decided to approve or prohibit exports of natural gas from the Palm Valley field in the Northern Territory? Is it a fact that the Australian equity holding in that field is only 20 per cent? Is it a further fact that if the all-clear is given by this Government to export natural gas from Palm Valley it will inevitably lead to an even greater density of overseas control of our resources? Will the Minister undertake to table all relevant documents in the House before any final decision is made in this matter?

Sir REGINALD SWARTZ (DARLING DOWNS, QUEENSLAND) (Minister for National Development) - I am not quite sure what the relevant documents are in relation to the question, but I assume that the honourable member is referring to a proposed contract between the Magellan and Pacific Lighting companies. In those circumstances, any information which is provided by companies to the Government, of course, is confidential and obviously could not be tabled. I can only repeat that the Government has made its policy in relation to liquefied natural gas. The position is that it has been taken under export control, and no permits for its export will be issued until such time as we are satisfied that Australia's requirements can be met. Secondly, consideration will be given to granting permits to export liquefied natural gas from reserves which are located in substantial quantities in remote areas where there is little likelihood of it being a viable proposition to market it domestically and where the States concerned recommend export. We have discussed this matter in detail with all the States over recent months. I am sure from my conversations with them that they concur in the policy that we have adopted in relation to the present position. I should, of course, qualify this by saying that our natural resources policy must always be flexible because, at present, we do not know exactly what the final proven reserves will be in relation to Palm Valley, the deposits in South Australia, Bass Strait, the North West shelf or any other area in Australia. We are hopeful that the indications that are there determined will show that we have very substantial deposits. We must assess our requirements over a 50-year period.

However, in relation to the Palm Valley situation, I can assure the honourable member that the submission that has been made to the Government for its consideration by the Magellan company and the Pacific Lighting Co., of which I informed the House a few weeks ago, is now being examined by the Government. We have had close discussions with the Australian industry and with the State concerned, and before any decision is made all these points will be carefully examined and the matter will be submitted to the Government for final decision. Under the present circumstances, as the policy now applies, I would say that the chances of the Government granting export permits for gas from Palm Valley are a little remote.

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