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Tuesday, 16 October 1973
Page: 2202

Mr KEATING (Blaxland) - One would believe that the honourable member for Farrer (Mr Fairbairn) thought that he had a policy in the days of the last Government. The Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) did not inherit even a shambles because there was no shambles to inherit. There was nothing. There was no policy. We had to start from the beginning to develop a resources policy. The honourable member for Farrer might not realise it but in the last days of his Government oil search in Australia was at its lowest ebb since the middle 1960s. He might also not have heard that there is an energy crisis in the world, that President Nixon this week has put an embargo on the use of heating oil in the United States of America, that the war in the Middle East is threatening oil supplies for Europe and that we are in the hands of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries, King Faisal and Colonel Kadhafi. It has not dawned on him yet.

If the Australian people fall for the policies of the Liberals they will have no fuel in their cars and no heating in their houses within the next 5 years. Those are the facts. So this Government feels obliged to step up seismic search in Australia in a useful way and at the same time to develop a complete resources policy. I think it is an affront to the Parliament that the honourable member for Farrer should be getting up and talking about how we should develop a policy when he was the principal opponent of giving this Parliament power over the offshore of Australia, prepared to destroy his own Prime Minister and prepared to allow these matters to be taken to the Privy Council in London for decision and to see the High Court's nose rubbed in the dirt. That is the position of the honourable member for Farrer, who is at the table and was telling us that we had the wrong policy.

Mr Ian Robinson (COWPER, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Your Minister does not believe in ordinary justice.

Mr SPEAKER -Order! The honourable member for Blaxland will resume his seat. I intend to take appropriate action if there are persistent interjections. I warn the honourable member for Cowper.

Mr KEATING - Not only did the honourable member for Farrer do that, but he also destroyed the graticular system whereby fourninths of an area, after exploration, would have reverted to the Commonwealth. He gave that system away for a miserable 10 per cent increase in royalties on possible production. This is the policy with which we are dealing.

Australian oil has a very light gravity and after cracking only about 5 per cent to 10 per cent of residuals are left, whereas, with Middle East oils there is about 25 per cent left. In that 5 per cent or 10 per cent is every fuel commodity other than petrol. So for heating oil, furnace fuel and lubricants we are in the hands of the suppliers of heavy crude oil, and that is the Middle East. We are trying to see that our other alternative sources of heating energy - natural gas - is at least conserved to the point where we have adequate domestic reserves. It is shameful that the former Minister, who has just spoken, and his successor, went cap in hand to Woodside-Burmah asking it please to supply details of electric logs and core samples which it was obliged to give to the Bureau of Mineral Resources under the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Act, and which it failed to give for 3 years. It was not until the present Minister for Minerals and Energy assumed office that he obliged the companies to supply the Commonwealth with that material so that at least we could make some intelligent assessment of the state of our reserves. Some of those electric logs were 3 years old. The former Government completely neglected its obligations under the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Act to govern this area of exploration in Australia.

I should like to deal for a moment with another aspect of the Woodside-Burmah question. The former Minister said that the holding is not owned completely by WoodsideBurmah. These are the facts of the matter: Woodside-Burmah Oil has 50 per cent of it, the Shell Company of Holland has 16} per cent of it - a huge multi-national company - British Petroleum has 16} per cent and the California Asiatic Oil Co has 16} per cent of it. In that enormous area of 140,000 square miles, one of the richest gas deposits in the world, there is 15 per cent Australian equity. Yet the honourable member for Farrer is talking about the national interest. The Minister for Minerals and Energy has said all along that the Commonwealth would acquire this gas through the Pipeline Authority. Honourable members recall that when the Pipeline Authority Bill was before the House the Opposition objected to it. It used its numbers in the Senate to defeat the Bill. The Bill was returned to this House and there was a big debate over whether the Authority ought to be just a common carrier or should have acquisition powers. When the acquisition clauses of the Bill were debated the honourable member for Farrer knew then that it was the intention of the Government that the Pipeline Authority should acquire gas at the well head. But he used the Woodside-Burmah statement to fan the fires for the people who send money to his own slush funds.

The Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony) gave details of the WoodsideBurmah statement to the Melbourne newspapers the day before the report was released.

Mr Anthony - Mr Speaker, I take exception to that because it is completely dishonest.

Mr KEATING - Wait till I am finished speaking. Sit down.

MbAnthony - I will take the matter before the Privileges Committee if the honourable member makes statements like that.

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