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Thursday, 31 May 1973
Page: 2988

Mr KELLY (Wakefield) - I cannot help smiling at the reference by the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating) to impertinence. He mentioned as one of the justifications for the Government's amendment that it would provide for a common price. I am certain that the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) has not realised the significance of what he is doing. The natural advantage that Alice Springs, for instance, would have will disappear because the price will be the same in Sydney. There will be no inducement for someone to establish a plant at Alice Springs if gas is cheaper in Sydney.

Mr Keating - Are you saying that electricity should be dearer at Alice Springs?

Mr KELLY - Gas should be cheaper at Alice Springs because Alice Springs will have a natural advantage but under this proposal it will be the same price in Sydney as it is in Alice Springs. Obviously the natural economic place to establish a plant to use the gas will then be Sydney. The Gidgealpa pipeline will be close to Port Augusta. The South Australian Premier has suggested the establishment of a petro-chemical plant at Port Augusta where there is a natural advantage, but this advantage will disappear and a!l the economic pressures will be for it to be located in Adelaide. Adelaide is much closer to Gidgealpa than is Sydney but gas will be available at the same price in both capital cities. What inducement is there for a real policy of decentralisation? I am certain that the Minister has not realised the significance of the step he has taken. All honourable members have been preaching a real policy of decentralisation. I was glad to see it coming to fruition but what the Minister has proposed inevitably will result in a movement towards centralisation. I notice that the honourable member for Macquarie (Mr Luchetti) is listening and revealing his usual intelligent interest in such matters. If the pipeline passes close to Bathurst the natural advantage that Bathurst would have will disappear because the price of gas will be the same in Sydney as in Bathurst. Such a proposal must act contrary to decentralisation.

Another aspect of the common carrier argument, which was tackled sensibly by the right honourable member for Higgins (Mr Gorton), is that one of the inevitable results will be that if a company is successful in finding gas yet knows that it has no right to get its gas into the system, and knows that the Authority can impose price conditions that make it unattractive, it must lose the incentive to go looking for gas. We are not trying to stop the Authority being formed; we just want to make certain that it will work in the way the Minister wants it to work. I issue the grim warning that there will be an inevitable barrier against searching for gas if people engaging in that risky exercise know that they will not be able to get their gas into the system. That is why we are putting this argument and I think it should be listened to with more respect.

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