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Wednesday, 13 June 1984
Page: 2950


Senator CHANEY (Leader of the Opposition)(6.02) —I move:

At end of motion, add 'but the Senate condemns the dishonest approach of the Government in failing to reduce the price of liquefied petroleum gas in January 1984 by $50 per tonne in line with the then-existing policy in order to mask the removal three months later of three-quarters of the former subsidy'.

I have noted the response which the Minister for Resources and Energy (Senator Walsh) has made to the matters which I raised in the second reading debate on the Excise Tariff Amendment Bill. I also noted his inability to pick which way the market was moving in January of this year. I believe that it was obvious to the Government that the price reduction was due in January and the decision to delay it was obviously related to the decision which was going to be made on the subsidy in March.

With respect to the fact that the Minister has had only a couple of complaints about the matter, I can only say that that confirms the success of the sleight- of-hand that I referred to in my speech in the second reading debate. The Minister has had signal success in masking the removal of three-quarters of an $ 80 per tonne subsidy, a subsidy for which there was considerable enthusiasm in the country. The fact that he was able to remove three quarters of the subsidy without apparently affecting the price has, I am sure, masked the fact that the subsidy has even gone in the way that it has. As I have said, that confirms the view which I put about the way Minister went about it. It was extremely cunning. It certainly achieved the political effect the Minister sought but it is a less than admirable way of ensuring that the electors know what is going on.