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Monday, 29 May 2006
Page: 14

Mr CAMERON THOMPSON (1:22 PM) —It is a pleasure to speak on this motion today. Looking at the words put forward by the member for Holt, I see the point he is putting forward and the outcome he is seeking. He asks that:

... at the very least, the Treasurer take action to direct the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to formally monitor fuel prices ...

If that is the least that he seeks, I wonder what could we do. If he had wanted the most that he could seek, perhaps it might have been to have an even bigger study and maybe to get a group of organisations to study fuel prices. Studying fuel prices is not going to deliver a better outcome for motorists. I would like to look at some of the different points associated with this issue. I would like to suggest something which members opposite might like to consider as an alternative and which, perhaps, could give motorists something positive to think about.

I would like to talk a bit about excise and that part of the taxes on fuel that goes to the states. The Commonwealth applies an excise rate of about 38c a litre on fuel. That is an interesting position, because the Commonwealth under the coalition has capped the excise rate at 38c a litre. It is interesting to note that, when the new tax system came in on 1 July 2000, under the imposition of the goods and services tax there were reductions in rates of excise at that time. Now that we have the GST in place and the capping imposed by the government, we have had real reductions in the cost of that part of fuel that is levied by the Commonwealth as part of excise. It is interesting to note in comparison that, during the time the Labor Party was in power, the rates of excise on petrol went from 30.75c a litre back in 1994—and that is as far back as I can go—to as high as 34.5c a litre, as at 1 August 1996. So, during its time in office, the party that the members opposite represent continually ramped up excise and sought to benefit from it.

I would like to raise the fact that, quite some time prior to the introduction of the new tax system, the Commonwealth had to take over the petrol franchise fees, which were being levied by the states on fuel as a way of covering up all the black holes they had in their budgets. They imposed petrol franchise fees in order to keep their budgets as healthy as they possibly could. Those petrol franchise fees have now been rolled into the GST. So an amount of about 8.3c litre in the GST component is the old petrol franchise fee. What I would like to put to the House is that each of the states is now receiving revenue returns from the GST far and above the amounts promised to them at the time we introduced the GST. The states are receiving a higher amount of money and they are above the amounts that were guaranteed to them.

Given that there are serious concerns in the community, as the member for Holt pointed out, I think we could look to recover the old petrol franchise fee. We could take it from state revenue, not from the GST money but from other grants that are applied to them by the Commonwealth, and we could recover up to 8.1c litre. If members opposite want to look at a way of addressing this issue they could get real and look at the petrol franchise fee money going to the states, which is being used to prop up their budgets and which does not provide a beneficial outcome for motorists. I think this is an option that should be pursued by members. We should look at reducing the amounts of grants to the states, particularly those states that have not been honouring their GST obligations, those states that have not been making all the tax cuts that they promised they would. This is a way to use a lever on those states to ensure a bit of justice for motorists. The petrol franchise fee is something that members opposite are not speaking about because it directly aids those Labor state governments. (Time expired)