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Thursday, 22 May 1980
Page: 3050

Mr HAYDEN (OXLEY, QUEENSLAND) - I ask a question of the Prime Minister. I refer to certain rather puzzling aspects of the way in which the Fortescue oil field was classified as a new oil field and of unanswered questions on this matter raised by the honourable members for Hawker and Werriwa in this Parliament. Is the Prime Minister aware that, on the basis of documents publicly released by the Government, the only evidence upon which the declaration of Fortescue as a new oil field was made was on the data supplied by the Esso-BHP company, which is scarcely a disinterested party in the matter? Is it a fact that, according to the Government's documents, the only independent data used provided by the Bureau of Mineral Resources is inconsistent with the evidence and claims submitted by Esso? Further, is he aware that a leading Australian geologist, Mr Colin Laing, has publicly declared that on the evidence available Fortescue is indisputably part of an old oil field? Does the declaration of Fortescue as a new oil field mean that under his Government's policies Esso-BHP will net an extra $ 1,000m in 1985 alone, above what it would have received had Fortescue been declared an old oil field? Therefore, I ask: Will the Prime Minister immediately review this extraordinary and apparently scandalous situation whereby the Government-

Mr SPEAKER -Order! The honourable member will cease using words of that nature. He is entitled to ask for information but not to categorise the preface to his question in that form.

Mr HAYDEN - Will the Prime Minister immediately review this situation whereby the Government has provided for a $1 billion bonanza for Esso-BHP at the expense of the Australian people by ignoring independent evidence and accepting advice provided only by the companies?

Mr ANTHONY (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Deputy Prime Minister) -The question of making a determination of whether a field is a new one is a very significant question, particularly if the field has any relationship to what are classified as old fields. The question of Fortescue, therefore, was a very important one and one that needed to be examined thoroughly. The Government used the full resources of the Bureau of Mineral Resources to assist it in making a determination as to whether it was a separate field. The advice that has been given to the Government is that it was classified as a completely separate development.

I know the Australian Labor Party would, of course, like to make as much capital as possible out of these things to try to discredit the Government.

Mr Hayden - It is a $1 billion payoff. How much got into your party's funds?

Mr ANTHONY -Let me say this about the Labor Party-

Mr SPEAKER -Order! I ask the Leader of the Opposition to withdraw.

Mr Hayden - Withdraw what, Mr Speaker?

Mr SPEAKER -There was a reflection upon the Deputy Prime Minister.

Mr Hayden - It was a reflection on the party and I do not believe I should have to withdraw. You have held, Mr Speaker, on many occasions in this House, as have your predecessors, that while on the one hand a reflection directed to a person in this House has to be drawn, that does not apply to a collective group, an entity. You have certainly applied that principle to this side of the House. I referred to his party.

Mr SPEAKER -The honourable gentleman in fact did not refer to the party.

Mr Hayden -I did.

Mr SPEAKER -The honourable gentleman will listen to me. The statement made by the Leader of the Opposition was an implication that as a result of actions taken by the right honourable gentleman somebody else, to wit the party, had benefited. It is an implication against the right honourable gentleman. I ask him to withdraw.

Mr Hayden - What I said was: How much got into your party's funds from the company? It does not necessarily follow, although the suspicion obviously entered your mind immediately, Mr Speaker, and I can understand why-

Mr SPEAKER - I ask the honourable gentleman to withdraw.

Mr Hayden - I withdraw, but I must say that the Opposition has doubts about the administration -

Mr SPEAKER -Order! I ask the honourable gentleman to withdraw and I ask him to do so unqualifiedly.

Mr Hayden - I have withdrawn.

Mr SPEAKER - I call the Deputy Prime Minister.

Mr ANTHONY - I disregard the remark as a cheap Jack political comment from the Leader of the Opposition.

Mr SPEAKER - I ask the right honourable gentleman to proceed with the answer to the question.

Mr ANTHONY -The Labor Party seems to be particularly guilty-

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - I take a point of order.

Mr ANTHONY -So far as its own policy -

Mr SPEAKER - The Minister will resume his seat. I call the honourable member for Hindmarsh on a point of order.

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - All around me, sir, I hear cries of: 'How much in fact did your party get?'. I find it disturbing and I wish that they would stop asking questions like that.

Mr SPEAKER - I will treat the point of order of the honourable member for Hindmarsh in the way it deserves to be treated. I call the Deputy Prime Minister.

Mr ANTHONY - It is quite obvious that the Labor Party feels very guilty about its own energy policies and the lack of exploration and development that took place during its period in office. Development in Bass Strait came to a halt under the Labor Government.

Dr Everingham - I raise a point of order. I resent the implication directed at the Labor Party and the imputation which is thereby attributed to my leader. I ask that it be withdrawn.

Mr SPEAKER - There was nothing unparliamentary in what the right honourable gentleman said.

Dr Everingham - On a point of order, Mr Speaker: He said that it demonstrates the guilt of the Labor Party. I submit that that is directed at my leader. I ask that it be withdrawn.

Mr SPEAKER -My ruling is this: The words used by the right honourable gentleman were not unparliamentary. The words used were to the effect that the Labor Party must feel guilty about its lack of exploration. I do not find in that any imputation of dishonesty or anything of the kind.

Mr ANTHONY -Everybody in this country knows that one of the greatest legacies of the Labor Party was its complete and utter failure to give any stimulus to oil exploration and development in this country. Since we came to office we have seen progress taking place, particularly in Bass Strait, where the reserves have been upgraded as a result of further exploration. We are getting more oil from Bass Strait as a result of sensible, practical policies being implemented.

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