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Wednesday, 20 August 1980
Page: 564

Mr Howe (BATMAN, VICTORIA) asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development and Energy, upon notice, on 1 5 April 1980:

(1)   Has the Minister's attention been drawn to the claim that the $300m reportedly being invested by Esso Australia Ltd in the pilot shale oil plant at Rundle, Queensland, corresponds almost exactly to reported extra profits made by the company in 1979.

(2)   Is the Minister able to indicate whether the reported profit increases resulted from the higher price of petrol paid by the Australian people.

(3)   Is there any substance in claims that the Australian people are now financing this trans-national company's further involvement in exploitation of Australia's natural resources.

(4)   Has the Minister's attention been drawn to evidence given by Dr D. R. Warren to the Senate Standing Committee on National Resources on 6 February 1 980 to the effect that the Rundle project is of highly dubious economic feasibility: if so, is it intended that money obtained from the Australian people, allegedly for the encouragement of further oil exploration, will be invested in this project.

(5)   Is the Minister able to explain what is proposed to be done with the 1 3 tonnes of overburden estimated to accrue per tonne of oil produced from the Rundle operation.

(6)   Is the risk capital involved ultimately derived entirely from Esso Australia Ltd's sources; if not, why does the Government welcome the company's use of money from Bass Strait operations.

(7)   Are there dangers in arrangements which might enable one company to be in a position to control the supply of oil from a variety of sources and therefore able to dictate price; if so, what are they.

Mr Anthony - The Minister for National Development and Energy has provided the following answer to the honourable member's question:

(1   ) and (2) Esso Exploration and Production Australia Incorporated made an after tax profit of $1 19m in 1979. The Company's Annual Report stated that the increased profit results from higher producer crude and LPG prices and record levels of production of crude oil, LPG and natural gas. (3), (4) and (6) See the Statement made by the Prime Minister on 28 February 1 980 and my answer to a question without notice from Senator Georges on 2 April 1980 (Hansard pages 1334-5).

(5)   The Minister for Science and the Environment has directed the preparation and submission by Central Pacific Petroleum and Southern Pacific Minerals of an Environmental Impact Statement under the terms of the Environment Protection Administrative Procedures in relation to the Rundle proposal. The issue of the disposal of overburden from mining will be a matter for consideration in this context.

(7)   Such widespread control of supplies of oil by one company is not anticipated. In any event, the price of indigenous crude oil is established from time to time by the Government and there is no question of a single company being able to dictate prices. The most recent adjustment to the price for indigenous crude oil was on 1 July 1980.

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