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Thursday, 24 May 1973
Page: 2587

Mr SPEAKER - Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.

Mr FAIRBAIRN - This will be only a short statement but the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) said that it was rubbish for me to make an inference. I am glad to see that the Minister is in the chamber. I believe it is the duty of Ministers of the Government to be in the chamber at question time. The Minister would know that on 3 occasions it has been necessary for me to approach the Government Whip to find out why the Minister was not here because I was trying to ask important questions or refer matters to him. I hope that in future we will see him in the chamber. This, I believe, is the first priority of a Minister and not to be elsewhere during the hour devoted to questions. 1 point out that I was not making an inference. The Managing Director of Santos Ltd was not making an inference but was telling the person concerned to whom he will be selling his gas that it was perfectly clear that there would be a slippage in the delivery date and that there was nothing he could do about it because he had been forced, after an interview with the Minister, to terminate arrangements with the engineering contractors for detailed design and specifications. This is made clear in his letter. It is his allegation, not mine. He wrote:

Most of the Consortium companies are unwilling to undertake any major capital expenditure until such time as the participation and financing for each individual company has been finalised and agreed. This matter is being actively worked upon and we expect some concrete results within the next month. Nevertheless, it would appear unlikely that the group would be in a position to provide gas until about 1 May 1975 assuming the problems of participation and finance are overcome by early July of this year.

There is a slippage date of 6 months already, yet the Minister is trying to say that this was nothing to do with the present Government and that the only reason for any slippage date was the inquiry instituted by the New South Wales Government. That is completely incorrect.

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