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Wednesday, 21 May 1980
Page: 2976


Mr ANTHONY (Richmond) (Minister for Trade and Resources) - We have listened to the usual banal arguments by the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating) in relation to energy policies. Today he is trying to beat up a phoney issue about the Government's not accepting its responsibilities to inform and to educate the Australian people as to the energy problems that this country faces. Australia, as an industrialised nation- as indeed any industrialised nation around the world- has an enormmus challenge in front of it to see that its industries are fuelled with secure supplies of oil. This Government has to take measures to see that our industries can keep performing in five, 10 or 20 years time. The Government will not do that if the Australian people are taken in by these phoney policies- the promises of the Australian Labor Party- that Australia can have artificial prices for Oil. That is just not a reality and is not possible in the world that we live in today. Certainly the Labor Party might be able to do it for a few years, but it will not do it any longer. It would put us in a situation of near disaster, if this country is to remain a competitive producer which can sell on the world markets.

Everybody knows that our great industries, whether they be farming, fishing, manufacturing or mining, rely to a very heavy degree on the reliability of oil supplies. Our transport industries depend upon oil. There is no substitute at this point of time for portable energy in the form of oil. Therefore, what we have to do is to explain the situation to the Australian people. We intend to do it by advertising, if need be. What phoney arguments this alert shadow Minister brought up today. An article by Laurie Oakes in the Age of 9 May reveals that he was the one who beat up the story. He telephoned the honourable member and said: 'What is the Government doing about this advertising business?'. The honourable member knew nothing whatsoever about it. This is all revealed in the article. All of a sudden the honourable member, in trying to justify himself to his own party men, introduced the matter for discussion.

There is a great need for the Australian people to understand that oil is a finite resource. It is scarce and limited. It will become more valuable and more scarce as we move into the future. The only answer to the problem is to try to get Australian people to conserve and to try to get them to understand the Government's policies of trying to attract industry and people to use alternative forms of energy where possible and to encourage the development of other forms of fuel. That is a major responsibility of the Australian Government, and we intend to follow it through. The key to all these things falling into place is having a true market price for our products. If we try to move away from that other things will not fall into place. While we keep in line with the world parity price all the massive and interrelated decisions will fall into place.

What a sham the policies of the Australian Labor Party have been. One of the greatest legacies of the Australian Labor Party was the consequences of its attitude to energy, to the exploration policies of this country. What did we see during the three years Labor was in office? We saw almost a cessation of exploration in this country. It is to the Labor Party's complete damnation that it did not realise the significance of the situation in 1973, 1974 and 1975. What did it do? It scared away prospectors and scared away exploration teams and development teams.


Mr Keating


Mr ANTHONY -Let us look at the situation. When the Labor Government went out of office in 1975 there were nine exploration holes and four development holes being drilled on-shore. Today, in 1979, 23 exploration holes and 45 development holes are being drilled on-shore. What off-shore drilling occurred in 1975? There were 19 exploration holes being drilled but no development holes were being drilled- none at all. Now, in 1979, we have 20 exploration -


Mr Young -It is 1980.


Mr ANTHONY -There will be more in 1980. Eight development holes are being drilled now. Under the Labor Government the great Northwest Shelf development went by to the board. Why? Because the Labor Government took away all the exploration incentives that LiberalNational Country Party governments had given in the form of taxation concessions. The Labor Government jiggered up the in-farming arrangements whereby people could offer leases to other people. It had a xenophobia about any foreign capital coming into Australia. The thought of anybody getting involved in oil exploration was a complete anathema to it. All the Labor Government espoused was its ideas about nationalisation and socialisation of the energy industry, particularly the oil industry. All honourable members remember the background to the Khemlani affair and the illegal Executive Council minute. The Labor Government was trying to borrow $4,000m from overseas. Why? It wanted to borrow that money to nationalise those industries. It is little wonder that the whole area of exploration ground to a halt under the Labor Government. We have paid the price for that in the last few years. If the Liberal-National Country Party Government had not come into office to get things moving again the Australia people would have been in real jeopardy in the future.

This Government is trying to educate the Australian people. I believe that the Australian people understand that every measure has to be taken to conserve oil in this country. Our oil energy policy and our import parity pricing arrangements are working. The consumption of oil is starting to decline. The rate of increase certainly has dropped as against previous years. This Government is encouraging exploration and is encouraging people to look to alternative forms of fuel. Already underway is a massive changeover from oil to gas or from oil to electricity around the country. This is being brought about by the Government's policies of giving tax incentives and encouragement to people. But, of course, nothing works like the economic force of price. That is the great incentive for people to achieve the most economic use of energy.

Of course, the major decisions being made as a result of our policy relate to alternative synthetic forms of fuel. There has been a tremendous uplift in the amount of research into and interest in methanol and ethanol. These are two alternative forms of fuel to oil. A great deal of research is being undertaken into converting coal to oil or oil shale to oil. Massive amounts of capital will be required if we are to get the necessary quantities of oil to meet Australia's future requirements. This massive amount of money has to be provided by somebody. The Government does not believe that it can best be provided by Government. The Government believes it can best be provided by private enterprise, by people putting risk capital into these great ventures. If there is any vacillation, if there is any doubt at all as to what is the Government's firm pricing policy people will delay these decisions. They cannot take the risk of ploughing thousands of millions of dollars into an oil shale venture, for instance, if they do not believe the Government is genuine. If it were thought that the Labor Party would gain office I venture to say that these projects would stop immediately.

The greatest thing that this country has to do is to provide security of supply of oil. Supply is the most important thing. It is far more important than price. Of course, nobody likes the price to go up. This is not a problem unique to Australia. It is a world wide problem. It will not diminish; it will become more and more intense as the demand for oil increases and as oil becomes a more limited resource. Oil is under the control of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries, which can determine the price and can determine the supply. For Australia to leave itself completely vulnerable to outside sources of oil is to take a completely unnecessary risk. Australia is probably more endowed with resources than any other country, but unfortunately these great energy resources are not in the form of oil. It is only by converting these forms of energy to a liquid form that we will be able to replace our requirements of oil. The Government's policies have worked in relation to more exploration. They have worked in relation to the development of our oil fields. When we came into office our known reserves were about 1,800 million barrels of oil. Today those reserves have been upgraded to about 2,100 million barrels. They have been upgraded because the oil companies have been given the incentive to drill and to determine the extent of fields and because they have been able to exploit fields knowing that they will get a higher and better return.

The Labor Party has tried to excuse itself for having introduced import parity' pricing for new oil. It did it and it will stand by that decision. The Labor Government introduced that policy about a month before it went out of office. It took the Labor Party three years to make up its mind that that was the only sensible policy to encourage exploration in this country. The import parity pricing policy for new oil helps to achieve greater exploration. It is also necessary to upgrade the price of old oil to import parity to achieve a proper rationalisation of energy resources in this country and to achieve full utilisation of the oil which is already in the old fields. Unless the producers can get a reasonable return they will not completely exploit and develop those old fields. It is necessary to have one uniform policy right across the board so that all these things fall into place. It is absolute nonsense for the Labor Party to say that it will have import parity pricing for new oil and an artificial price for old oil. All the Labor Party wants to do is to exploit as quickly as possible all the old oil. Any talk of a cheaper price for oil by the Labor Party is nothing but political bidding leading up to an election campaign. It is phoney and it is false. The Labor Party's policy at the moment is that it will delay passing on one increase in the OPEC oil prices.


Mr Hodgman - A con trick.


Mr ANTHONY -That is all it is. It is a facade for election purposes. How does anybody know how high the price of oil will go? Some reports suggest that by 1985 the international price of oil could be $90 a barrel. How will the Labor Party stop the price going up? There is only one realistic attitude to follow- the international pricing of oil. Statements by the Labor Party that it will give a lower price do not take account for its policy of implementing a resource tax, a secondary tax. If that policy were introduced we would be back to exactly the same stage we reached in 1972-75. Exploration would just fall to the ground.

If one wants to stifle development in this country, bring in a resources tax. Everybody in the mining industry or the oil industry knows only too well that a Labor government spells disaster for them. It also spells disaster for Australia because if we do not have this exploration and development going on our future supplies of oil are put into jeopardy. There can be no security for our farmers' continuing the ploughing of their fields or harvesting their crops unless there will be a regular supply of oil in this country in the future. We have to try to become as selfreliant as we can as quickly as possible. With all the delicacies of the world oil situation, nobody knows how long we can rely on a continuing supply of oil coming into this country. We have to try to make our own resources go as far as possible and, thereby, try to encourage as much conversion and conservation as possible in this country. If we have to have an education program by advertising to help, we will do it.


Mr Keating - Liberal Party propaganda.


Mr ANTHONY -There will be no propaganda and there will be no repeat of the period of the Labor Party in office when it used every Government device possible to try to hold it in office. We have a responsible job to do. We will do it. We realise that there is probably nothing more responsible on the Government's part than fully explaining the energy situation of this country.


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar

Order! The right honourable gentleman's time has expired.







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