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Friday, 10 May 1985
Page: 1757

Senator COOK —Has the Minister for Resources and Energy seen the Press release by Senator Durack urging the Government to drop all consultative processes and move immediately to a free market in crude oil? Is the Government about to take Senator Durack's advice?

Senator GARETH EVANS —I have seen a rather frisky Press release from Senator Durack in the last couple of days suggesting that the Government stop vacillating on the question of crude oil prices and move immediately to make a decision about the implementation of a free market. It is interesting, because at the time I received that Press release I also received a Press release from his colleague David Connolly, who purports to be the shadow Minister for the Environment and who, so far from suggesting that the Government move immediately to a free market, suggests that this step be treated with the utmost caution and that a long series of questions be closely addressed in the Government's proposed discussion paper. I am reminded in the circumstances of the Opposition careering downhill like a skier not able to make up its mind which side of the tree to go past and, in the process, wiping out large portions at the centre of its anatomy as a result of that particular indecision. It is symptomatic of the impossibly disorganised condition of the Opposition, not least in its policy approach to the resources and energy area, an area where it was waxed indignant and eloquent in the past.

The Government's position, by contrast, on this matter is quite straightforward. We acknowledge that there are many policy difficulties that have to be carefully and sensibly addressed before we make a decision to move to a free market-a decision which we propose to make, if we possibly can, before July and not, as according to Senator Durack's Press release, some time next year. It is a decision we will make in the light of the responses to the discussion paper which was released yesterday and which addresses all the issues that Mr Connolly would like us to address, and a few others besides. It enables us to create a climate for informed consultation, debate and discussion with the industry and everybody else. I hope that the industry notes finally the disregard Senator Durack obviously has for the consultative processes which are so important for sensible policy making in this and other areas.