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Thursday, 20 May 1965

Senator ANDERSON (New South Wales) (Minister for Customs and Excise) (12:30 PM) . - It is true that in some States, such as Victoria, there is no price control of petroleum products. It is equally true that price control operates in three States. We live in a free economy. This Government does not believe in price control. If an oil company for good and sufficient reasons, as Senator Wright suggested, decided to increase the price of petrol it could do so. All that it would have to contend with would be the weight of public opinion. The company would have to answer to public opinion for its action. I concede that that is so. But let us come back to this scheme. Regardless of what the oil companies do with their prices, the point is that the price of petrol as at 3 1st December 1964 is known and is established. It is not something which can be altered subsequently.

Under this scheme we propose to provide that that price will be the basis, and we intend to pay a differential amount so that the price of petrol in country areas will be not more than 4d. above the price in the capital cities as at that date. Therefore, I do not think that a variation in price would have the weight that Senator Wright attributed to it, but I am bound to acknowledge that in the States where there is no price fixing if a company for good and sufficient reason, or for other reasons, wished to increase the price there would be nothing that could be done about it. But as I have already stated, within the oil industry there is a degree of uniformity in regard to prices. In any case, as normal traders, the oil companies have to face up to the responsibility for an increase of price and the effect that it will have on the industry.

Senator Webster - Could the Minister state the proportion of the £6 million subsidy that will be applied to aviation fuel?

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