Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Disclaimer: The Parliamentary Library does not warrant the accuracy of closed captions. These are derived automatically from the broadcaster's signal.
Order In The House -

View in ParlView

(generated from captions) THEME MUSIC Welcome to Order In The House - in Federal Parliament. a review of the week's business and ask those families Get out of your car and go down there in the excise on petrol whether they reckon a five cent cut might make a difference.

bullet when it comes to petrol. The bottom line is there is no silver to help working families. We all believe that we need his own Energy Minister, Why is the Prime Minister ignoring "FuelWatch is anti-competitive, who said, will hurt small business, with higher petrol prices." and will leave Australians

with different points of view. We're relaxed about a debate with the Prime Minister warning The session kicked off of dire consequences, block the budget. should the opposition is to block the budget, Their promise so far

to the tune of some $22 billion. to block budget revenues

fighting inflation At a time when we are pressure on interest rates and fighting to put downward and the response from the party economic management is to say, of so-called responsible to the tune of $22 billion" "We'll raid the surplus This was a remarkable first step. about this overall budget position There are three things that stand out on the part of our opponents. to the country These are of direct relevance the fate of the budget in the Senate. because the opposition controls on the surplus, When we look at the raid other than what Saul Eslake said, nothing can be said of it which is dopey, dopey, dopey." "As a piece of economics INTERJECTIONS Prime Minister.

will resume his seat. The Prime Minister with a point of order. Member for O'Connor the delivery of written speeches A point of order regarding during question time... will resume his seat. The member for O'Connor Prime Minister has the call. I thank the member for O'Connor,

observations on Aboriginal policy including for his enlightened at the door today. and why it represents a threat The second point about this budget long-term economic security to Australia's the inflation challenge. is what it does in terms of think there is any inflation crisis. The Leader of the Opposition doesn't opposite a statement We've had from those that it's a charade, that inflation is a fairytale, crisis whatsoever. there is no inflation of the most fundamental precepts This flies in the face of economic responsibility. opposition's posture on this budget The third thing to say about the with one another. is that they don't agree if not three or four, They have at least two, different positions on petrol tax. on the question of means testing. whether to means test the baby bonus. They're divided on the question of

of the Liberal Party. of who should be the leader They're divided on the question wants to replace the member The member for Wentworth who is currently the leader. the member for Wentworth he wants to replace The member for Higgins thinks of the Liberal Party. as the prospective leader

to replace the member for Wentworth Then the member for Mayo, wants

the leader of the Liberal Party. as shadow Treasurer before becoming

which is terminally divided. We have a Liberal Party I say this to those opposite, economic management here. there is a challenge of responsible The member for Canning. Order. INTERJECTIONS is not helping. Minister for resources INTERJECTIONS Member for Canning. the point of order is on relevance. It would be very obvious that I call the Prime Minister. of prospective candidates Of course, in that list

Party we left out Hockey Joe, for the leadership of the Liberal

over the course of the weekend. who added his name to the list The Manager of Opposition Business. from those opposite. I anticipate the interjections Prime Minister will resume his seat. INTERJECTIONS Member for O'Connor. of members of this House It is a requirement electorate name and when you try... to address members by their

The member will resume his seat. will not encourage him. The member for Trade he is required to refer to members The Prime Minister knows that return to the question. by their titles and he will Thank you, Mr Speaker. the leadership of the Liberal Party Now we have these five candidates for an interesting season ahead. it'll make I can only imagine why those opposite on this question today. are somewhat sensitive Liberal Party in three months' time, My message to whoever leads the or nine months' time, six months' time in five different directions I need to address these remarks to make sure they hit the mark, responsible economic management this budget is a budget of to embark upon a course of action and if those opposite are about

to the tune $22 billion, involving a raid on the surplus financial integrity an assault on the fundamental the Commonwealth of Australia, of the budget of the consequences will be for them. then be it on their heads what the consequences will be for you. Be it on your heads what on world markets With oil prices soaring to use the consumer watchdog, the government defended its decision to keep petrol prices down. the ACCC, current price for Malaysian Tapis oil I can report to the House the is $139 a barrel, a rise of $8 in the last week. competition in the fuel market Increasing transparency and for this government. has been a priority increased the powers of the ACCC, That's why we have substantially that's why we have appointed Petrol Commissioner. Australia's first INTERJECTIONS Order! The Assistant Treasurer... has the call. The Assistant Treasurer of the ACCC's petrol inquiry An important result

of a national FuelWatch scheme. was to suggest the consideration by the Court Liberal Government FuelWatch was introduced in Western Australia in 2001

in that state since then. and has received bipartisan support put motorists back in charge FuelWatch is a scheme which will when buying petrol. and will give them more certainty It is a scheme which will enable motorists to map their route between work and home to determine where the cheapest petrol will be today and tomorrow and to make their decision on that basis. We know that there is a big gap between the most expensive and the cheapest petrol in any capital city on any given day.

Today in Brisbane the gap between the cheapest petrol and the most expensive petrol is 24c a litre. On 15 May, the day the Leader of the Opposition responded to the budget, the gap in Melbourne between the cheapest and the most expensive petrol was 30c a litre. FuelWatch will enable motorists to find that cheap petrol from their home or from their work on their computer. Order. The member for Dickson. INTERJECTIONS This will put motorists back in charge. INTERJECTIONS I am asked if there are any obstacles to the introduction of FuelWatch. I regret to inform the House that there is an obstacle to the introduction of FuelWatch, they sit opposite, because FuelWatch will require the passage of legislation

through both houses of the parliament. Obviously, it will be a lot easier with the support of honourable members opposite. Now, we're not sure where they stand. The Leader of the Opposition and others have criticised FuelWatch. Yesterday the leader of the opposition in the other house said they have yet to make a decision about where they stand on FuelWatch, so we're not sure where they stand. I refer to the Prime Minister's announcement of a national FuelWatch scheme on 15 April. INTERJECTIONS My question is addressed to the Prime Minister.

I refer to the Prime Minister's announcement of a national FuelWatch scheme on 15 April, and his statement that the scheme would bring, "Maximum competition policy pressure onto petrol retailers across Australia."

When he made that statement, was the Prime Minister aware of evidence that FuelWatch will in fact be anti-competitive and lead to higher, not lower, prices? Prime Minister. Thank you, Mr Speaker. I thank the honourable member for his question. On the question of FuelWatch, we've looked carefully at the experience of the Western Australia state Liberal government, who introduced this scheme in 2000 and who continue to support it on a bipartisan basis. We've taken advice from a range of people about its potential impact at the bowser. We've never overstated it. INTERJECTIONS At the time of its launch we said about 2c on average over time at the bowser. But, as the Assistant Treasurer just said, the critical challenge lies in the ability to provide consumers with information 24 hours before as to where the cheapest petrol can be had in a given area. That is an important piece of information because, as honourable members would know, as you go from the CBD out into the suburbs across metropolitan Australia you can see such a huge variety of fuel prices across the suburban area and within the one day. Therefore, for us it simply makes basic common sense that this helps. My question is to the Prime Minister. Does the Prime Minister agree that even if the arguments in favour of FuelWatch had some validity, working families such as those in Western Sydney

would receive the least benefit? The Prime Minister. Thanks, Mr Speaker.

On the question of fuel, we need to embrace a range of policies. The Assistant Treasurer before outlined the undertakings we gave prior to the last election on enhancing competition in the fuel industry and our implementation of those. And to those we have added our new policy in relation to FuelWatch. On the FuelWatch question, the honourable member refers to Sydney in particular. INTERJECTIONS Order. The leader of the New South Wales Liberal Party, Barry O'Farrell, said, "FuelWatch will also ease some of the wild fluctuations in weekly pricing which frustrate motorists so much. This will ease the burden on families and pensioners by helping drive down petrol prices." This is Mr O'Farrell. "FuelWatch will put motorists, not the oil companies, back in charge. It will put an end the common frustration for motorists of driving past a petrol station only to find when they return hours later the price has jumped by ten cents a litre." The Prime Minister will resume his seat. INTERJECTIONS Order. The Member for North Sydney. Mr Speaker, the Prime Minister was asked a specific question about families in Western Sydney. He cannot spend his whole life copying from the Liberal Party...

The Member for North Sydney resume is seat. That's not the way to put a point of order. INTERJECTIONS Prime Minister. I find that remarkable from the Manager for Opposition Business. He said, I think, this policy was copying Liberal policy. Is what he was saying? They are going to block this policy in the Senate. I can't make hide nor tail of where the Liberal Party stands on any matter on fuel policy - divided on excise, now divided on FuelWatch. It will be remarkable to see what unfolds in the Senate. In response to the honourable member's question - NSW Liberal opposition fair trading spokesman, Catherine Cusack - "Labor has shown leadership. We think it's good news for motorists... Prime Minister resume his seat. The Leader of the Opposition with a point of order. Mr Speaker, the question, in plain language, to the Prime Minister is -

how can the families in the outer suburbs... Order. The Leader of the Opposition resume your seat. The Leader of the Opposition resume his seat. The Prime Minister is addressing the question. Thank you, Mr Speaker.

Again I return to the question asked by the honourable member, quoting the Liberal opposition fair trading spokesman in NSW - "Labor has shown leadership. It's good news for motorists, "and congratulate the Federal Labor Government for doing it." If the Liberal Party cannot sort itself out within Canberra on where it stands on excise, it certainly cannot sort itself out nationally about where it stands on FuelWatch. I find it remarkable those opposite could hold open the possibility of this measure being blocked in the Senate. There is no silver bullet when it comes to petrol. We all believe that we need to help working families under financial pressure... On Tuesday the Opposition's attack was fuelled by calls from the states

for GST compensation, and by a lead that revealed that Energy Minister Martin Ferguson had argued against FuelWatch. My question is to the Prime Minister. I refer the Prime Minister to petrol prices today in Western Sydney where residents are paying over $1.53 a litre for petrol. Why did the Prime Minister say after only six months that he has done all he can for our community. Why is the Prime Minister ignoring his own Energy Minister who said, "FuelWatch is anti-competitive, will hurt small business, "and will leave Australians with higher petrol prices"? The Prime Minister. I thank the honourable member for her question. On the question of policy debate within the government, as I said yesterday, there's always going to be conflicting views. I would have thought a healthy policy debate in a cabinet would have been had in their cabinet

prior to their decision to invade Iraq. Actually having an exchange of views and having a debate where you have a complete embrace of different points of view is the way to go. We are relaxed about a debate with different points of view. we do not seek to suppress points of view. We encourage debate, we like debate. We do not suppress debate as those opposite did on the question of... I warn member for Indi. ..on the question of climate change, on the question of all those matters which went through the cabinet of the departed Howard government matters where there was not a free and frank debate, where there was one predetermined outcome and one alone. Off they went to war without thinking about it. Off they went for a decade of inertia on climate change Off they went in multiple directions without thinking about it. To return to the honourable member's question about Sydney, again I draw her attention to the findings of this document. This document commissioned by the member for Higgins when he was Treasurer of the Commonwealth. Presumably those opposite, including the honourable member, were becoming concerned about petrol prices back then so decided at 5 minutes to midnight to do something. So they commissioned Graham Samuel and the ACCC to investigate the price of petrol and what could be done about it. Then they produced some analysis, analysis which goes to the difference between the price in Perth and all the other metropolitan centres on the east coast, and that would include Sydney as well. As a consequence, they reached a conclusion that there be a 2% differential over time. That's why we proceeded on that basis. The Leader of the Opposition. Thank you, Mr Speaker. My question is to the Prime Minister. Prime Minister, now that it is clear the GST petrol review has been discredited by the states his own minister believes FuelWatch is anti-competitive and the Prime Minister has admitted that he has done all that he can,

will the Prime Minister now stop watching fuel prices and support our policy to cut the petrol excise by 5c per litre? If the Leader of the Opposition were serious about analysing the responses of those who head the motoring organisations - the NRMA as well as the RAC in WA and others - what you have is a clear-cut statement that you have arrangements that puts the power in the hands of consumers or arrangements which puts the powers in the hands of the petrol industry. We stand for empowering the individual motorist and consumer. Those opposite stand for the reverse. On the question of budget measures, it's in a responsible economic framework and we will continue to examine further measures to assist working Australians families under financial pressure. That is the responsible thing to do. You do it with an economic framework. You don't pull out a budget reply and say later you didn't cost it. That is the recipe of economic responsibility, and those opposite have shredded what remains of their credibility.

The Leader of the Opposition. Mr Speaker, I seek leave to move a motion censure against the Prime Minister. Is leave granted? Leave is granted. The Leader of the Opposition. Mr Speaker, last year when Leader of the Opposition, the Prime Minister said a lot of things... The Leader of the Opposition - granted leave to move his motion. Mr Speaker, this House censures the Prime Minister for letting down Australians struggling to make ends meet with the high cost of petrol... The RACV, in contrast, that looks after the interests of motorists in the State of Victoria, in a letter to me from its president on 22 May, said in part - "We believe Melbourne motorists would be denied access "to weekly discounted fuel as a result of FuelWatch."

It goes on - "FuelWatch may put the future of independent operators in jeopardy "if they're unable to move their prices for 24 hours in order to compete with major retailers." These statistics clearly show that motorists take advantage of cheaper days of the week, "especially when the cheapest price usually applies, "which is on a Tuesday." Mr Speaker, the Prime Minister may not have a high regard for the RACV. We, on this side, have a very high regard for the RACV. So, if the Prime Minister is not going to listen to Australians - and I will get to that in a minute - if he's not going to listen to the RACV, who might he listen to?

Would he listen to a former ACTU president?

I reckon he might. Would he listen to a senior cabinet minister? I reckon he might. But today, in the Australian newspaper, we read that the Resources Minister wrote to his own government and said that with the introduction of FuelWatch -

"the biggest losers would again be working families in places like Western Sydney." Mr Speaker, can I point out to the Prime Minister, today is Tuesday. For those of us who live in the real world, tonight, Tuesday night, in every part of the country except WA

there will be queues of motorists up to half a kilometre long outside petrol stations. You know why they are there, Mr Speaker? They'll be there in their 20-year-old Mitsubishis, they'll be there in a 10-year-old Commodore, three kids in the back, they'll be there in a Tarago, with a wheelchair in the back and five kids. They will be there, Mr Speaker,

because tonight is the night when you get the cheapest fuel in the cycle. I say to the Prime Minister - go down there and ask those families

if a 5 cent cut in the excise on petrol will make a difference. Mr Speaker, I say to the Prime Minister - these are men and women who are making decisions about whether they are going to buy processed sausages or chops, whether they can afford to put 40, 50 or $60 worth of petrol in their car. The last thing they need is a Prime Minister who says, "There's nothing more I can do for you." They're not sure where they stand on the question of their own fuel excise proposal, because where this entire argument collapses - I listened carefully to the Leader of the Opposition - he said that their position on this was clear. If it's clear why does not the alternative treasurer of Australia stand up and say, that when he replaces the Leader of the Opposition, it will be their policy come the next election. This fraudulent debate engaged in by those opposite falls apart at the seams because the alternative Treasurer of Australia - the person who conspires day in, day out to replace the Leader of the Opposition - when asked point-blank at the National Press Club whether this would be Liberal Party policy at the next election, said, "I cannot give that commitment." That is how robust the position of those opposite is. In Perth today the average unleaded petrol price is $1.54, higher than the average prices elsewhere in the country. And really that is what this all boils down to.

This is a government that is determined to manipulate and constrain the market that has no faith in competition. They say their economic onservatives. This is old-style socialism, this is old-style nanny-state, this is a Prime Minister who said, said, Mr Speaker, in his remarks earlier, how horrible it was to have fluctuations in the price of petrol in the course of one day. So we can't have price fluctuations in the course of the day. What's going to be next? Will fruit and vegetable prices be fixed today in advance? What about real estate prices? What about shares on the stock market? What are we going to do? We want to be a financial centre in Australia, but we'll have prices fixed the day before. We're going back decade. Repeatedly on Wednesday, the Prime Minister refused to give guarantees about the impact of FuelWatch on petrol prices. My question is to the Prime Minister.

Why won't the Prime Minister guarantee that Australian's won't pay a cent more for petrol under FuelWatch? Hear! Hear! The Prime Minister. Mr Speaker, the former Liberal prime minister of Australia stood here with the support of his party and then said that working families have never been better off, but went one better.... Order! Order! And said this irresponsibly, that interest rates would be kept at record lows. And if I know one thing about the Australian people is that they are sick and tired of irresponsible promises. Prime Minister, with petrol crashing through the $1.60 a litre barrier, why won't the Prime Minister guarantee Australians they will not pay a cent more a litre for petrol under FuelWatch? The Prime Minister. Mr Speaker, the advice on which the government has constructed its FuelWatch policy comes from this 300, 400-page report commissioned by the member for Higgins commissioned by the previous government,

delivered to this government and referred to just now by the Assistant Treasurer. It says quite clearly that the relevant weekly average price margin was around 1.9c per litre less on average for the period from January 2001 to January 2007.

We believe that is a robust basis upon which to implement this, as does Senator Adams from Western Australia. We think it's a robust way ahead and not a silver bullet and we think it's appropriate. The Prime Minister will resume his seat. Leader of the Opposition a point of order. Why won't the Prime Minister guarantee Australians they won't pay a cent more for petrol under FuelWatch?

A point of order is not just an opportunity to repeat questions. If the intent of the point of order was relevance, the Prime Minister is responding to the question. Prime Minister. Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. This was a very clear-cut piece of advice commissioned by those opposite, INTERJECTIONS ignored by those opposite, but we have decided to back consumers. This actually is the party which supports consumers. It seems that those opposite are the party of big oil.

The member for Wentworth. Thank you, Mr Speaker. Prime Minister. Prime Minister, here is the ACCC report, here's a highlighter. You show us where it recommends the introduction of FuelWatch. Mark the passage ? you show us where it says that.

INTERJECTIONS Order. I would... I would ask... INTERJECTIONS Order. The leader of the House resume his seat. I would ask the... I will give the Member for Wentworth an opportunity to rephrase his question. Thank you, Mr Speaker. I respectfully request that the Prime Minister do us the honour of marking the passage in the ACCC report which provides a clear-cut

recommendation that FuelWatch be implemented. That is not a question. My question is to the Minister for Resources, Energy and Tourism. Why did the minister originally advise his colleagues

that Labor's FuelWatch scheme is anti-competitive, will hurt small business and will slug motorists hardest in areas like Western Sydney? The Minister for Resources, Energy and Tourism. Mr Speaker, I thank the honourable member for the question. It is a very serious question going to a problem confronting not only Australia but also the global community.

It goes to the fact that the global community at the moment is experiencing huge increases in the price of fuel which are a reflection of high oil prices and simply a question of demand outstripping supply. In that context, can I also say to the House, it is about time the Australian community understood that this little problem did not eventuate in the last six months. INTERJECTIONS Order. Order.

Mr Speaker... Order! The minister will resume his seat. Order! Minister resume your seat. Minister... INTERJECTIONS The Leader of the Opposition has asked a question.

The minister is responding to the question. The minister will be heard in silence. Minister.

Mr Speaker, this problem... INTERJECTIONS has not eventuated since 24 November last year. The Rudd government has been seeking to do everything possible to work out not only short-term solutions but also medium and long-term solutions. Order! The member for Dickson and the member for Paterson! Minister. The facts show that last week the world benchmark West Texas crude oil price hit US$135 per barrel. It is interesting to note that this means that the benchmark price of crude

has more than doubled in the last 12 months. You are also no doubt aware that it crosses the Member for Mayo's mind from time to time

that the price of crude oil has increased by more than 400% since the Iraq war. It is for those very reasons that the government... INTERJECTIONS Order! ..has been doing everything possible to actually try and work out not only the best possible response in terms of consumers' immediate demands and challenges but also to put in place a medium to long-term strategy, which goes to a very serious alternative fuel debate... INTERJECTIONS Order! The member for Dickson! ..that was neglected time and time again by the previous government. It is in that context, Mr Speaker... INTERJECTIONS The member for Casey! ..and as part of a normal cabinet process that views are tested,

and the best policy comes out of open and robust debate. INTERJECTIONS Order. I simply say that I fully support the cabinet decision on FuelWatch. INTERJECTIONS Order!

FuelWatch... INTERJECTIONS Those on my left will sit in silence and listen

to the response to the Leader of the Oppositions question. FuelWatch, in association with additional powers to the ACCC

and a cop on the beat, represents the best available option for the Australian community at the moment in a very tough global market. My question is to the Assistant Treasurer. I refer to the minister's claim, on AM radio today,

in defense of the FuelWatch scheme in Western Australia: "Well, in Perth today you will find that the price of fuel "is on average less than the other capital cities." Can the Minister confirm that according to, the average price of fuel today is $1.40 in Brisbane, $1.49 in Melbourne, $1.50 in Sydney

and $1.51 in Adelaide and has increased to $1.55 in Perth?

INTERJECTIONS Order! Order! Didn't the minister blatantly mislead listeners about the effectiveness of Labor's FuelWatch scheme?

The Assistant Treasurer. INTERJECTIONS Assistant Treasurer. Mr Speaker, if my honourable friend would quote the whole interview, he would provide a very different indication to the House. What I am more than happy to confirm for the House is that the ACCC has found that fuel, on average, has been cheaper in Perth for the last five months INTERJECTIONS and has been cheaper in 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007. I am more than happy to enlighten the House on the full interview. Almost all observers believe that the only real downward pressure that occurred in Western Australia in relation to fuel pricing during the period when FuelWatch has been in operation was the introduction of Coles and Woolworths into the market. There was a reduction of one or two cents in the average price of fuel in Western Australia at about the time that Coles and Woolworths entered into the market in 2004. Frankly, the experience in the eastern states has been the same. When Coles and Woolworths went into a market, the price went down. If you go to a town that has a Coles or Woolworths petrol station, the prices tend to be lower there than anywhere else. There is no doubt that there were clear factors that influenced fuel pricing in Western Australia and in the eastern states. There are pluses and minuses in each of the markets. Western Australia actually has a freight advantage in bringing fuel in from the Asian refineries.

So there is a strong case that the price in Perth should always be lower than any of the other markets. Always lower. Instead, it has been largely higher than in the eastern markets. The fact is that FuelWatch has been a failure in Western Australia and for that reason there is no logical basis for it to be spread to other parts of the nation. The Opposition made hay on Thursday after another leak revealed that four departments had advised the government that FuelWatch could push up prices. Now FuelWatch, Mr Speaker, is nothing more than a fraud being perpetrated upon the most vulnerable Australians and that is not only the view of the Opposition, it is the view of one of the government's most senior ministers, the Minister For Energy and Resources. But we also now know, that it is the considered view of the four major economic departments in the government.

And what happened, was the Prime Minister then said, "Well, I've come up with this stunt. "I need to make Australians think that FuelWatch, watching petrol,

"is actually going to bring the price down." He said to his advisors, "I need some evidence to support it."

So he turned around to his own department, his own department of Prime Minister in Cabinet, which he himself has said, and all of public service departments need to come to the centre of government decision making. He turned around to his department and they actually said, "Well, Prime Minister, "FuelWatch- There's no evidence that it's going to work, "in fact, it is possible that it will increase the price of fuel." Increase! Increase! Increase! So the department of the own Prime Minister, Mr Speaker, actually said that the ACCC modelling indicates a small overall price cannot be ruled out.

So in other words, the ACCC modelling indicates a small overall rise cannot be ruled out. So in other words, the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet said we cannot guarantee this will not increase petrol prices. We think it will. So, then, he went to the Department of Finance, and the Department of Finance said, "It's likely to create "a defacto floor price." In fact, it will increase the regulatory burden on business of over $20 million a year. He went to the second pigeon hole to get a solution... ...the Department of Finance, and they actually said, "It's going to create "a defacto floor price." In plain language, that means that the current lowest price for petrol will be higher than it is. So the second department said, "It will increase petrol prices." He went to 'Resources and Energy'. As we know from the Minister for Resources and Energy, that department said, "Well, actually, "it will hurt those "needing the cheapest petrol." INTERJECTION: Yeah. That's those lining up on Tuesday night, on the country's eastern seaboard. Prime Minister, those that will be hurt, according to your own minister, according to your own departments, are the people that are most vulnerable, those that are most sensitive to the petrol prices... ..that's those that are capitalising on the cheapest cycle price, on a Tuesday night. He went to the Department of Industry. The Department of Industry, amongst other things said, "It's going to be bad for small business.

"It will take independent retailers out of the sector." So it would cost them an additional $4,000 a year. So here we are with major oil giants, effectively controlling much of the petrol retailing in this country, aided and abetted by Woolworths and Coles, and then, we've got a significant and very important part of that sector, the independent small business part of it, and the government's own department says it will increase business costs for them by $4,000 a year. What does the Prime Minister do? He then goes to the ACCC report, he selectively pulls out bits that he thinks are consistent with the stump he's confected, and then tries to tell Australians, that watching the price of fuel will bring it down. We welcome the contribution of the Public Service to the debate. The contribution of the Public Service is critical. We said to Public Servants since forming government... ..we haven't changed departmental heads,

is "We don't mind if you contest our views.

"We welcome a debate, an argument, "we welcome a discussion." In contrast to those opposite, who, when in, had differing views. Remember the debate with Mick Keelty, over question of Al-Qaeda,

and of what happened at the Madrid train station? What did Mr Downer say to Mick Keelty when he offered a contrary view to the Government? Downer said, "I think he's expressing a view "that reflects much propaganda we're getting from Al-Qaeda."

That is the view you took to your public officials, regarding Public Servants with contrary views, to government policy decisions... To attack them, to ridicule them, to say they were... INTERJECTIONS SPEAKER: Order. Member for North Sydney. Ridicule them to attack them, and, even worse in this statement by the former foreign minister saying they acted in cahoots with terrorist organisations. We have different views of public policy. We take our advice from the Public Service, we take our advice from agencies such as the ACCC which exists within the Treasurer's portfolio. We take advice from a range of sources

and we make a decision. The core argument put forward here, is that because individual government departments had a different view, the decision taken by Government...

There's something wrong in that as a model for public policy decision making. That, of itself, is a fraudulent proposition. SPEAKER: The Deputy Leader of the Opposition. Thank you, Mr Speaker.

My question... for the Treasurer. Does the Treasurer stand by his previous statement that...

and I quote... "Discipline economic managers "do not wantonly ignore the advice of Treasury." LAUGHTER SPEAKER: Order. The Treasurer. Yes. INTERJECTION Hear, hear! SPEAKER: Order. Deputy Leader of the Opposition?

I seek leave with the members' front pages SPEAKER: Is leave granted? Leave is not granted. The Deputy Leader will resume Deputy Leader... resume her seat. Leave has been denied. INTERJECTION: The Member for Wentworth. Thank you, Mr Speaker. My question is for the Prime Minister. I refer the Prime Minister to the Treasurer's contemptuous description, of the expert departmental advice from four departments, in relation to FuelWatch, as being, in the Treasurer's words, "Bureaucratic and academic." Prime Minister, given the Treasurer's lack of faith

in Public Service advice, why did the Government appoint the head of Treasury to head up the government's own 'Root and branch' tax review?

LAUGHTER SPEAKER: Order. The Prime Minister. One of the interesting things about the ACCC and the attitude of the member opposite... SPEAKER: Order! Order! and in the sources of advice for pricing questions, is, there's a view of those opposite, that all wisdom lies is the regular bureaucratic department. SPEAKER: Member... North Sydney. I'm taken by what is said by the Higgins Member, and what he's up to. We're taken by what he's done in recent times. He should inform the Leader of Opposition what that is, in due course. The Member for Higgins said... when this report, by the ACCC was first launched.

He said this, "The ACCC is an independent regulator that has... ..and I quote him, "More expertise in the area of access and pricing, than any other federal government or agency. "The ACCC, I repeat, is an independent regulator "that has more expertise

"in access and pricing that any other federal government or agency, "and that is why it's very important "that it's engaged on all pricing issues." That is what he described yesterday... Order. Fountain of economic wisdom said when this report was launched, "That's why this government, in considering its position on FuelWatch, has been entirely mindful of the econometric modelling contain... SPEAKER: Order. In ACCC report. Mr Speaker, my question is to the Prime Minister. I refer him to a FuelWatch statement by the Assistant Treasurer on the 27th of April, 2008, on Sky News. That the government will be covering the cost of the set up, and they'll be no increase compliance cost for service stations whatsoever. LAUGHTER Giver that the Treasury has estimated the small business cost of fuel watch, would be $4,000 per annum, does the Prime Minister stand by his minister's statement? The Prime Minister. Mr Speaker, I do, and both the Assistant Treasurer and myself... Have said this, when we did a press conference before entering the chamber.

The National Party Leader would have been better advised to observe our comments rather than expend a question the way he has. The text of the Government's decision on this matter, was, there would be no net establishment cost to participating retailers, but these net establishing costs for participating retailers, be zero. That's a decision we took then. SPEAKER: Order. Member... North Sydney. We maintain that decision... we recognised some things. There are cost impost on retailers in the sector, because many of them are either required or are participating in... Order. Member... North Sydney. Prime Minister, resume your seat. Member for North Sydney on a point of order. Ah, Mr Speaker, the question was not about establishment costs. It was $4,000 per annum.... every year. SPEAKER: The Prime Minister is responding. Prime Minister. Mr Speaker, when Cameron considered this matter, it was mindful of any compliance costs faced by business. That's why we took our decision.

Because we are a party which supports business, and we are unapologetically a party which believes that we've got to get behind our small business entrepreneurs out there, rather than miss-inform them like those opposite, by doing nothing to assist them in practical terms,

after 12 years in office. We remain with the decision of Cabinet. We'll honour that commitment.

My question... for Minister for Finance and Deregulation. "Will the Minister release the regulatory impact statement provided to cabinet, which fully examines the costs and impact of fuel watch, will the Minister guarantee that if the regulatory impact statement is released, it has not been altered since cabinet."

Hear, hear! SPEAKER: The Minister for Finance and Deregulation.

The answer is "No". SPEAKER: The Member for Moncrief. My question is to the Minister for Small Business. Independent contractors in the service economy. I refer the Minister to advice for Prime Minister's and Cabinet which warned that FuelWatch would involve increased compliance costs

of $4,000 a year to effected small businesses. Why did the Minister Advise Parliament yesterday that small business will be the big beneficiaries from the introduction of FuelWatch, when Prime Minister and Cabinet advice is opposite? Ah... SPEAKER: Order. At the government's urging, the FuelWatch scheme was designed in such as way as to minimise any compliance costs.

There is no need for businesses to establish and maintain IT infrastructure, to communicate with the ACCC under the approved school... FuelWatch scheme. They could use a... SPEAKER: Order. Mr Speaker?

Order. Mr Speaker, they can use toll free numbers. WOMAN: Start again. They'll have to notify petrol prices to ACCC, but this is a one in a day event, and integral to the scheme as a whole,

but I compare that with present subscribers to Inform Sources. Now, Do you know Informed Sources? Informed Sources...

Under informed sources... SPEAKER: Order.

..underinformed sources... ..curb their enthusiasm. ..underinformed sources, those subscribers must subscribe and notify of any price changes many times a day. Under this scheme, they'll have to do it only once. Treasury has ensured that the legislation is simple and easy to comply with.

There's no need to establish record-keeping IT systems or records on petrol prices. The ACCC, Mr Speaker, will wear the cost and keep the records. My attention has been drawn... Order. a statement that has just been made today

by the Queensland Liberal Mark McArdle. He's a relatively new leader in Queensland. It was on ABC Radio today. I am advised that he has contradicted his federal counterparts and advocated support for - FuelWatch. (ALL LAUGH) McArdle says FuelWatch is worth considering.

FuelWatch is worth considering, I quote - "The issues around FuelWatch are very complicated but certainly it is an initiative that appears to have worked in Western Australia and it should be looked at here in Queensland and across Australia as well." Go, Mark! "I understand that my federal colleagues may have a different view but that's their point of view." Here's the Liberal leader... Order! Queensland saying FuelWatch is worth considering. So the Liberal leader in Queensland, Brendan, give Mark a ring. Give Mark a ring on the toll-free number.

Mark McArdle knows what is in the interests of motorists. And Mark McArdle has contradicted you. The leader of the Opposition. The Minister will refer his remarks through the chair. He has contradicted his Queensland colleague the Shadow Minister for Small Business and the Member for Moncrieff and the Liberal leader in Queensland as was, the Liberal leader who introduced FuelWatch in Western Australia and as is, the Liberal leader in New South Wales, they are all right. They support FuelWatch and so they should and it's about time you got on-side. (All exclaim) Order. One of the Budget's revenue-raisers, the luxury car tax, came under attack from the two independent MPs. They said it discriminated against their constituents in the bush. I'll reiterate a couple of facts if I could. As I said then, I'm delighted to see the Assistant Treasurer in the House today because I have spent some time with him in a four-wheel-drive vehicle on some very rough roads in the Pilliga Scrub looking at various things and some very rough roads in the area of Nowendoc. He would - or should, given his past history - fully appreciate the need for four-wheel drive vehicles in some country roads. I made the point earlier that four-wheel drive vehicles aren't a luxury to those people who are trying to look after their families in circumstances where roads can be quite trying. They can be very rough, there can be wash-outs, there can be water, there can be mud, there can be corrugations,

there can be dust. People in country areas don't have the luxury of public transport. They don't have the luxury, in many areas, of paved roads. They don't have the luxury of tollways, motorways. Many people have to purchase vehicles that will not only withstand the arduous roads

that they will have to drive them on, and the Deputy Speaker in the chair will be well aware of those road circumstances. I appeal to the Government, in this, what seems to be rushed taxation legislation, to actually look at what they're doing here and if they don't, or won't, agree with the amendment, I would urge them to lift the threshold in terms of the 57,000 for those people who require those vehicles in country areas because of the circumstances in which they live. This is a tax on a necessity in those particular areas, not a tax on a luxury. My station property, for many, many years, was over 320km, 350km to the nearest town of Richmond. My neighbours - Belfield, Esmeralda and Victoria Vale were all over 300km to the nearest town. Mr Acting Speaker, each of these people had families, they had ringers and stockmen. They needed fairly big cars to be able to travel that distance. That's not a luxury, Mr Acting Speaker, it's an absolute necessity. If you go to do your shopping, it takes you a 600km round trip.

You want a fairly decent car to do that in. So, whilst I've got nothing against the Government increasing charges for people that are rich and want to buy very expensive luxury vehicles,

I object very, very strongly when our shearers, for example - and we do a lot of suburban shearing now, and the last two teams teams I've been two were driving an average of 70km a day - the last two shearing teams I was out with, I've got 400 or 500 farmers on the southern Atherton Tableland, all are on dirt roads and all of the workers who have to commute there are also on dirt roads. What may be a luxury in the city is an absolute necessity. Surely the Government... They're not talking very much money here. Surely the Government could come to the party. A committee of road safety chaired by the Member for Kennedy's father in the Fraser years looked at the circumstances of driver licensing and during the evidence they received, which is a matter of record in this parliament, two engineers in Queensland came before that committee to put the case on economic and social grounds as to why bigger vehicles were better than smaller ones, simply on the grounds of road trauma. They had the statistics to prove it.

Those who drove larger vehicles used a bit more petrol, and I know there are other implications, but they were safer. Subsequently, taking that advice from that committee, when I bought my younger daughter her first vehicle, I chose a Celica, second-hand admittedly, that would be categorised in the values of that day as being a luxury car. In her early driving experience on a country road as she drove along the highway, a driver pulled out with a truck from a side road in front of her. She had nowhere to go, trees on both sides, stood on the brakes, the car slid sideways under the bull bar and cracked the windscreen in front of her face. If had bought her a less substantial vehicle

I would not be celebrating the recent birth of her second child. My daughter drives an SUV but it's a very small SUV. They're very high off the ground with a very small wheelbase and are prone to instability. You need a big car with a wide wheelbase to be stable.

She, a few days before Christmas, rolled the car, some six times on the highway, it is thought from the evidence. She was very nearly killed. If she had been driving a vehicle with a wider wheelbase, in all probability the car would not have rolled,

Mr Deputy Speaker. For we people that have to drive very great distances, this is a reality for us.

My daughter and my son are living some 800km away in Mount Isa

from our home in Charters Towers. I find it difficult to support the amendment of the Honourable Member for New England because I believe that his proposal would be easily rorted.

If every four-wheel vehicle registered in a rural area was to be exempted, it would be a simple matter of registering your vehicle in a country town, then driving it to Melbourne or wherever and it would be a city-based vehicle. I don't think this, therefore, is an appropriate amendment to the legislation. I believe, however, that this is a issue that must be addressed in the amendments that will eventually be proposed for this legislation and in saying that I think the amendment is flawed in its drafting, I don't intend to be critical of the Member for New England. In reality, he, like the Opposition, has been presented with this bill being dumped on us nothing a day, then expecting it to be through the House in a very short period. To come in here and to condemn a well-meaning amendment to a rather stupid piece of legislation that the Government has put up that's been supported by the Member for Kennedy and myself as something that could be rorted, what this says to me, Mr Deputy Speaker, is that the National Party has done absolutely no homework on any of this.

They've assumed that just by opposing the Government, it'll drift through and the Government will get the blame for the legislation. Well, I don't think the Government will be totally getting the blame. I think the National Party, if they don't support the amendment, will clearly display that they really don't care about this issue.

The statement made by the National Party, it insults the intelligence of every rural person in Australia. Quite clearly, if it's registered rural and the person is living in the city, then it's in breach of the Tax Act. It would be construed as an attempt to dodge tax, Mr Deputy Speaker. and of course would be considered that way by the Tax Department.

It's an act of hypocrisy. We see how they'll vote - how they're told to by the Liberal Party and they soon will be the Liberal Party. Closed Captions by CSI