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Friday, 19 October 1984
Page: 2077


Senator JACK EVANS —Will the Minister representing the Minister for Resources and Energy confirm that the Government intends to maintain the import parity pricing formula it inherited from its predecessors as the basis for undertaking the review of petrol prices due in December this year? Does the Minister agree that this will result in a sizable increase of at least 2c a litre in the price of petrol to Australian consumers, due to the decline in the value of the Australian dollar relative to the United States dollar? With the world price of petrol falling steadily, as witnessed by Norway's and Britain's recent decisions to effect a substantial cut in the price of North Sea crude, does the Government 's current import parity pricing formula make a complete mockery of a statement by the current Treasurer and then Opposition spokesperson on resources and energy, Mr Keating, that the Fraser Government's petrol pricing policy 'is a tax by stealth with a branch of the Australian Taxation Office at every petrol pump' and his promise that 'a Commonwealth Labor Government will break the nexus with the Fraser Government's import pricing policy so that Australian oil would be cheaper than the world price'?


Senator GRIMES —On 9 October the Minister for Resources and Energy announced amendments to the marketing arrangements to apply to indigenous crude oil from 1 January next year. This followed an extensive review of the existing crude oil allocations and the import parity pricing arrangements over the last six months. Part of the decision referred to the maintenance of the import parity pricing formula as the basis for government determination of prices for Australian crude oil allocated to Australian refiners. The calculation of the import parity prices takes account of the latest movements in the official price of market crude-that is, Saudi Arabian light-and the Australian and United States dollar exchange rates. In the context of the latest announcements from Norway and the United Kingdom of significant price cuts for North Sea crude oil, there is speculation in the Press that this will add pressure to the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries and to Saudi Arabia in particular to reduce prices . It would therefore be inappropriate for me or anyone else to speculate on the possible impact of these various factors on Australian crude oil prices. Nevertheless, the decline in the value of the Australian dollar relative to the United States dollar since July would tend to increase the Australian import parity price, but this may well be offset by a decrease resulting in these latest international crude oil pricing decisions.

As for the political sting in the end of Senator Evans's question about statements allegedly made by Mr Keating, I think before the 1980 election, I will refer those matters to Senator Walsh, and Mr Keating if necessary, to get an appropriate answer. But I believe that the present policy is a sensible one. We will continue to monitor it, as we have in the past, with the intention of bringing justice and equity to both sides of the oil market in this country.