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Monday, 15 October 1973
Page: 2051

Mr VINER (STIRLING, WESTERN AUSTRALIA) - My question is addressed to the Minister for Minerals and Energy. Having regard to the Minister's statement in answer to a question on 10 October that Australia has only 8 years supply of crude' - I take it the Minister was referring to crude oil - I ask the Minister: Is it a fact that since he took office in December he has refused to allow petroleum exploration in offshore West Australian waters in at least 4 instances? Firstly a farmout by Abrolhos Oil NL and BP Petroleum Australia Pty Ltd in off-shore Dongara, Dongara being the place from which onshore natural gas for the supply of Perth comes. Secondly a farm-out on the North West Shelf to Mount Isa Mines Ltd, and thirdly 2 farmouts by West Australian Petroleum Pty Ltd in its off-shore areas. Has this action of the honourable gentleman resulted in the loss of use this year of at least 3 oil rigs off the West Australian coast in prospective areas at a time when there is an urgent need in the national interest to promote exploration in order to discover and establish Australia's oil and gas reserves?

Mr CONNOR (CUNNINGHAM, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Minerals and Energy) - It is correct that I have disallowed quite a number of farm-ins in respect of the North West Shelf, and for the very best of reasons - namely, that the North West Shelf happens 'to be the property of the people of Australia. For too long the practice has prevailed that individual companies have acquired areas beyond their capacity to explore adequately; and then, having done as much as possible and having nearly reached the point pf surrender, it has been their practice to farm out to some other company and get the odds to nothing - in race course parlance - from another company which will undertake the whole expense of the drilling and will share the yield with the original company in respect of half at least and in some cases two-thirds. If the company holding the exploration permit is not able to cover by exploration the whole area in the terms of its permit, it should return that to the Commonwealth of Australia which in turn will let it out, if necessary, and in appropriate cases may even explore in its own right.

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