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Tuesday, 3 May 1994
Page: 101

(Question No. 1042)

Senator Watson asked the Minister for the Environment, Sport and Territories, upon notice, on 9 February 1994:

  With reference to the fact that the price of diesel fuel in most service stations is now higher per litre than both leaded and unleaded petrol:

  (1) Given that it is generally acknowledged that diesel engines emit less major pollutants than conventional petrol engines, are more thermally efficient and therefore consume less fuel, why is the Government not keeping the price of diesel low to encourage its use.

  (2) Given that European manufacturers are actively developing diesel powered cars because of the need to dramatically reduce fuel consumption and to cut pollution, and that currently 50 per cent of new car sales in parts of Europe are diesel, what is the Government doing to encourage the manufacture and use of diesel engine cars in Australia rather than imposing petrol price imposts on older cars driven by people who cannot afford more fuel efficient cars.

Senator Richardson —The answer to the honourable senator's question is as follows:

  (1) There is no decisive evidence that diesel fuel is more environmentally-friendly for private transport purposes than petrol used in cars with catalytic converters. Presently, energy efficiency gains from use of diesel fuel are offset by higher particulate and sulphur dioxide emissions. For this reason, the same level of excise (30.75 cents per litre) applies to both diesel and unleaded petrol.

  (2) Consistent with (1) above, the Government is not actively encouraging production of diesel powered vehicles.

  However, the Government is:

  (i) through the Advisory Committee of Vehicle Emissions and Noise (ACVEN), tightening the Australian Design Rules (ADR) which relate to vehicle emissions and noise. A new vehicle emission control ADR for diesel vehicles was promulgated last year and a more stringent ADR is being finalised for petrol vehicles,

  (ii) committed to a five year excise-free guarantee on alternative transport fuels to encourage the use of fuels such as Liquefied Petroleum Gas and Compressed Natural Gas,

  (iii) developing a national environmental standard for petrol as part of a Lead Abatement Strategy.