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Tuesday, 23 March 1999
Page: 2998

Senator MURPHY (3:18 PM) —The price of petrol under the GST is the price that the poor old pensioners and the mums and dads who live in the country, versus the city, will have to pay. That is what the question was about. It was about the claim that the government made that, under the GST, the price of petrol would not rise. Mark Vaile, the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, is quoted on many occasions, and I would like to read one or two of those quotes. He said on 8DDD about petrol prices:

What we will guarantee is that the price will not rise with the GST.

He says they `will not'. That is a fairly clear statement. Yesterday he said:

In fact already this government's policies have seen the price of petrol in regional Australia fall.

I would suggest that the price of petrol has fallen in some cases, but not as a result of any policy and certainly not as the result of the introduction of a GST, because the price of petrol will rise. It is all about the differential between country and city prices. As the Automobile Association pointed out to the committee conducting the inquiry, the differential between city and country prices, as they stand now, will mean that the price of petrol in country and regional areas will rise under the GST.

The government's claim—not unlike many other claims that you have made about your tax package in an overall sense—is that there will be a reduction in costs. Not true. Your claims are being disproved at every single step of the way with regard to local government services—and, Madam Deputy President, there is a point that I would like to make with regard to another question that was raised as part of the overall package that the other senators seem to want to talk about so much, about local government services—

Senator Calvert —Hey, get back to the question!

Senator MURPHY —Well, it does deal with petrol prices, because the mums and dads have to buy the petrol to take their kids to the preschools, et cetera, which are funded by local government to a large degree. They will be the subject of the GST as well.

Senator McGauran —On a point of order, Madam Deputy President, Senator Murphy is flouting your rule with regard to keeping this as a narrow debate on petrol pricing. You can see that he is deliberately straying into other areas.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Senator McGauran, you had a fair bit of latitude. Senator Murphy, you will be relating this to petrol pricing, I am sure!

Senator MURPHY —Absolutely. As I said, the mums and dads have to buy the petrol to actually take their kids to use the basketball stadiums et cetera that are supplied by local government, which are now going to be subject to the GST as well. The whole point of this exercise is about government claims about its tax package, claims that relate to all manner of things and, in this particular case, to petrol. As I showed when reading quotes from the minister, they have said on any number of occasions that the price of petrol will not rise. Indeed, they made claims that the price of petrol will actually go down.

I go back to a point that Senator McGauran was making about 1993. In 1993 when you came to the election with your Fightback package, what you proposed then was to remove the excise on petrol. Remember that, Senator McGauran? You were going to take it away—but not on this occasion. You are in effect taking away something in the order of 7c a litre. This goes to the very question of the differential. You take away 7c a litre and, in some cases in some major city areas, the price of petrol may—may—go down. But the differential between country and city areas is where the problem is with regard to your GST package. That is where your claim does not stack up.

If you were about looking after the people in regional Australia, you would take that sort of problem into account. You would also take into account the port charges with respect to transport costs of fuel—that is, bulk fuel. So you have not fixed that problem either. The claims that the government makes time and again with regard to its tax package—it does not matter whether it is petrol prices or any manner of things—do not stand up. They are proven to be wrong every time the evidence is presented to the committees that are dealing with the issue of the introduction of the GST. The government is falling down every step of the way. Its claims are being found to be deficient and indeed to be misleading the public of Australia. That is why we are opposed to the GST. That is why it should be opposed, and that is why the Australian public have every right to be concerned with regard to charges on collection, charges on local government or indeed, in this case, why petrol prices will not go down. (Time expired)