Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Full Day's HansardDownload Full Day's Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Thursday, 21 August 1980
Page: 603


Mr JACOBI (Hawker) - If ever a government deserved to be condemned, it is this Government for its open slather approach to foreign ownership. Unquestionably the world today faces a hydrocarbon crisis and beyond question it is the most critical issue facing all governments. This country is richly endowed with natural resources, particularly those resources which are to play a crucial role in the world's energy supply. Our vast energy and mineral resources ought to be our strength, our bargaining power. The benefit and the return to our people will hinge on how national governments structure policies in three basic areas, namely, the level of exploration, the degree and rate of exploitation and the economic return. Under this Government's policies, our resources are being plundered at an alarming rate; the level of foreign ownership is deplorable; the degree of exploitation a scandal and the rate of economic return a pittance.

Why has the Government ceased to collect, to monitor and to collate statistics in relation to foreign ownership in Australia? The answer is quite simple. If the statistics were available they would be a damning indictment of this Government's bankrupt policies. The Foreign Investment Review Board has shown no ability to distinguish between worthwhile and undesirable foreign investments. What do the figures available for last year reveal? Over the last 12 months the Foreign Investment Review Board considered 1,725 applications or proposals; it rejected twelve. That represents 0.07 per cent and it is an indictment of the Government's attitude. The huge overseas energy companies are swallowing up alternative energy resources that this country is well endowed with. In the process, the Government is cancelling out this country's independence to determine what is to be done with its energy resources. We ought to take stock of the fact that Australia and the United States of America, will be the world's bread basket in the next 10 to 20 years.

Recently an International Energy Agency report in Europe clearly indicated that the world will have to rely ultimately on coal. Australia will have to lift its potential from 45 million tonnes to around 195 million tonnes if the world is to have sufficient energy sources. That accounts for the scenario in this country for increased Australian coal exports and increased penetration by overseas corporations. In effect, overseas corporations are becoming the de facto energy policy makers in this country, as they are in the United States. The biggest oil companies own most of the oil reserves in the United States. They control the natural gas supplies, as they control the oil shale, coal and uranium reserves.I suggest that there is absolutely no excuse for allowing the self-proclaimed energy companies to control the alternative energy resources upon which this country's future will depend. An effective energy policy can never materialise while energy conglomerates control every alternative energy source.

In June last year I placed on the Notice Paper my first question on Rundle oil shale. I asked:

What steps does the Government intend to take to ensure Australian control of this important deposit is protected.

The answer I received stated simply:

Any proposal for the development of the Rundle deposit will be considered in the context of the Government's foreign investment policy.

The answer is simple. It went to Exxon in the United States. Why is oil shale so important? Let me put it this way. This country has to look to its alternative synthetic energy resources, that is, oil shale and coal. We can obtain oil from both, but the important factor with oil shale is that we will be short of heavy crude oil. So the concentration and penetration has to be in the alternative sector, which is oil shale. Oil companies know well that this country is going to rely ultimately on its heavy crude oil, and that crude oil can be extracted only from oil shale. That accounts for the oil companies' penetration into this area.

One needs to look at the track record in the United States on the question of oil shale. It is a national scandal. Let me quote from Harper's magazine of 1 968. lt states in relation to oil shale:

.   . in the words of one geologist 'the greatest package of potential energy on the face of the globe'. . . The major known deposits are in Colorado . . . Wyoming and Utah . . . The shale . . . could yield as much as four trillion barrels of oil - ten times the world crude deposits, worth SIO trillion, or $50,000 for every person in the United States. At present 80 per cent of this shale is government-owned. . . The shale oil controversy has been enlivened by allegations of . . . scandals, gigantic giveaways ... But unquestionably the major barrier to shale development has been the oil industry's historic opposition. . . In 1945, responding to war-time fears of an oil shortage, the government opened a small research plant at Anvil Points in Colorado.

It pumped in $ 17m of public funds. Following debate in the United States Senate the plant was shut down. Senator Kefauver put it bluntly in an angry speech in the House, when he said:

It is difficult to conceive of a more clear-cut case of oilcompany domination of the policy of the United States government.

Nonetheless, in 1 956 Anvil Points was closed. The Harper's article points out that the oil companies proceeded to hire most of the government shale engineers. The Government later allowed Anvil Points to be re-opened by a consortium of six large oil companies for, as one oilman put it, some cheap research just in case. While the oil industry's attempts to dominate shale research in the United States are more than well documented, the article clearly points out that the United States Government, in dubious circumstances, allowed oil companies and land speculators to gain ownership of thousands of acres of rich oil land, and readily acquiesced to the oil industry's concept of a prudent federal oil shale policy.

Let me conclude by referring to what Senator Hart of the United States Senate had to say. He said that oil shale development in the United States ought to be a means of reducing the monopolistic power of the oil industry, but it has failed to do so. The whole of the oil shale deposits in the United States are owned by overseas corporations, and particularly by Exxon. In the United States and Canada today we find that whether the deposits be coal, oil sands, tar sands or oil shale, they are all owned by overseas corporations. Professor Lance Endersbee, who is the Dean of Monash University's Faculty of Engineering, raised a couple of very important points in dealing with the question of oil shale in Queensland. One point he made was that the Government had an obligation to ensure that manufacturing industry in Australia was exploited to the full and that overseas corporations, particularly Exxon, ought not to have a monopoly on manufacturing industry in Australia.

I think that this Government and this House have an obligation to study the oil industry before it is too late. Let us consider the last 70 years in the oil industry throughout the world. In the early years there was a struggle between the oil corporations. Today there is a struggle between governments. If one considers the Chinese and Mexican markets, and the Rockefeller Trust when it was first set up, the struggle was not between producers but was to control the marketing, distribution and refining factors. It is ironic that today, now that the large oil corporations have lost the production factor in the Middle East, their struggle in Australia, the United States and Canada is to maintain and control the marketing, distribution and refining sectors of the economy. The tragedy for Australia under this Government can be summed up in a few very simple words: The root problem of the energy policy in this country is that it is made for the wrong reasons by the wrong people. The sooner this country and this Parliament set up a proper parliamentary committee of inquiry the better. Otherwise the nation will never get the return from its resources to which it is entitled.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. J. D. M. Dobie)- Order! The honourable member's time has expired.







Suggest corrections