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Tuesday, 15 April 1986
Page: 2349

Mr SHARP(10.44) —I draw the attention of the House to yet another of the fallacies perpetrated by the Hawke Government in its `attempts' to help the rural sector out of the dire straits it finds itself in today-the great farce of the petrol price reduction. Speaking of great farces, I do not think many of us in the chamber have witnessed any farce greater than that which the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Kerin) made us witness this afternoon in his expulsion of what can be described only as hot air. He will have to go down in the history of the Federal Parliament as being the only deaf and blind Primary Industry Minister we have ever had, because he would have to be deaf and blind to have brought out the sort of rural aid package he brought out this afternoon. He travelled around Australia and listened to farmers right across the country, to the wives of farmers-to the people who live in rural communities. He has completely and utterly ignored the message those people have been crying out with.

The message those people have been crying out with is that rural Australia wants some assistance in the form of a reduction in interest rates. People have been calling upon the Government to get out of the interest rate market, to stop inflating interest rates. They have been calling upon the Government to allow the full benefits of the world wide reduction in the price of fuel to flow not just to farmers but to every Australian so that our transport costs can come down, therefore reducing production and input costs for farmers and other people right across the country.

These things were completely ignored. We were told that capital gains taxes would be good for us. We were told that fringe benefit taxes would be good for us. We were told that we would still have to undergo the ALP-ACTU 3 per cent superannuation deal, even though it might be delayed for a couple of years. These things are not what rural Australians want. The package that was brought out this afternoon is a farce and will be seen as such in the community. It will live for ever in the mind of the Minister for Primary Industry as one of his great failings in that role.

Tonight I want to speak about a fellow in my electorate called Mr John Mood, who owns a farm in the town of Koorawatha, in the western portion of the electorate of Gilmore, called `Burlington Heights'. Mr Mood contacted me last week to ask what had happened to the 10.6c per litre price reduction he had been led by the Hawke Government to expect after the middle of March for the diesel he uses for off-road purposes. Mr Mood has sent to me his fuel accounts for March and April. On 5 March the price he paid per litre for his diesel was 53.3c. On 2 April he paid 49c per litre for his diesel, a reduction of only 4.3c per litre-some 6c short of the 10.6c per litre he thought, and was informed, he was going to get from the Prime Minister.

Where has the 6c per litre gone? It has been gradually whittled away by many things-by the difference between the prices offered to the company and the price the company then offered to the local dealer, by the additional freight charges that were placed on diesel immediately after the reduction was announced and by factors such as the cost of filling drums, which is $2 per 200-litre drum.

These are the sorts of `additional costs' not taken into account by the Government, which have quickly added up to reduce the reduction of 10.6c per litre to the 4.3c per litre actually received in the hand by Australian farmers-yet another deception by the Government.

These are the facts. This is why the fuel price adjustments, so loudly announced by the Hawke Government, have failed to be fully realised at the farm gate. Despite the scandalous difference between the diesel price reduction offered and that which has actually eventuated, the reduction in the price of super has been much more in line with what was expected. No doubt, city dwellers, who have received the price reduction on their petrol that the Prime Minister told them to expect, share the assumption of the Hawke Government that farmers received a full 10.6c per litre reduction on diesel. We have just seen that such an assumption is grossly inaccurate. How can the Hawke Government pretend to make all important policy decisions resulting in the rural package that is supposed to rescue farmers from their current state of emergency if it is so badly informed and if it is working on assumptions that are clearly incorrect? I suggest that, if the Government were more aware of the huge differences between price reductions offered and those received at the farm gate many of the problems facing rural Australia at the moment could be overcome.