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Tuesday, 23 November 1971
Page: 3451

Sir JOHN CRAMER (BENNELONG, NEW SOUTH WALES) - My question is directed to the Minister for National Development. Is the Minister aware that exploration for minerals and oil, particularly oil, is decreasing alarmingly? Is this serious condition due to the withdrawal by the Government of certain incentives which had inspired the expenditure of considerable risk capital in this country and produced such worthwhile results in recent years? Will the Minister closely examine the unfortunate position which is developing and recommend to the Government action which will give encouragement to promote renewed interest in our mining and oil potential?

Mr SWARTZ (DARLING DOWNS, QUEENSLAND) (Minister for National Development) - Exploration for minerals and oil in Australia is a matter with which we keep in constant touch. I know the honourable member has always shown a personal interest in this matter and also has taken an interest through the various committees with which he is associated. The latest figures which I have indicate that although some major exploration companies in the mineral field have made some adjustment to their expenditure for this year we anticipate the total expenditure for mineral exploration in Australia to be much higher for this financial year than for the previous financial year. When it comes to the question of oil exploration we anticipate that the reverse situation will be a fact in that there will be less expenditure on oil exploration during this year than during the past year. Of course, we have had this matter under close examination. There is quite a big variation between the amount that is being expended on off-shore and on-shore exploration. The amount expended on off-shore exploration will perhaps be slightly down but the amount spent on on-shore exploration will be down to a reasonably substantial degree.

I think this can be attributed to a number of reasons. One has some relation to the incentives that were and are still being provided in substantial amounts by the Government. The second has some relation to the problem relating to the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries that arose just some months ago and the third relates to the fact that we have not had a substantial discovery of liquid petroleum in Australia for some years. But the position is being carefully examined by the Government at the present time. In fact, an inter-departmental committee has been studying the situation for some months. We have received submissions, principally from the Australian Petroleum Exploration Association and from individual members of that association, and those submissions are being studied by the inter-departmental committee at the present time. After the committee has concluded its study in relation to the provision of incentives by the Commonwealth and whether the present situation should be changed or whether some other recommendations should be made to the Government for consideration, a report will be made on a ministerial basis and will then be considered by the Government.

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