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Wednesday, 27 October 1971
Page: 2577

Mr BUCHANAN (MCMILLAN, VICTORIA) - My question is directed to the Minister for Customs and Excise and is supplementary to a question asked earlier. In his report Sir Leslie Melville touches briefly on the fact that the independent marketers want to sell only in the easy and profitable metropolitan areas and do not intend to carry the cost burden of distributing to country areas. When considering this case will the Minister give particular attention to the point raised by the refiners that the independent marketers should, in justice, be required to accept some penalty for avoiding their responsibilities in this way?

Mr CHIPP - I do not know that I understand the honourable gentleman's question correctly. My understanding of what Sir Leslie said was that the prices set in city and country areas were not in accordance with distribution costs. The honourable member went on to say that there did not seem to be proper accounting methods used when determining prices for bulk sales against other kinds of sales and so on. I think the inference was that the city price was higher than it need be in relation to the country price and that the independent marketers, those who do not have refineries, choose to sell their petrol in that area where the price is higher and distribution costs are lower. In reply to the latter part of the question, now that Sir Leslie Melville, an independent arbiter of impeccable authority and ability, has investigated the industry I would hope that the parties involved - the marketers and the refiners - would be able to come to some arrangement in regard to refining in which case the Government on that issue at least would not necessarily need to intervene. This matter will come to the Government only if the negotiations break down, at which point we would be asked to grant an export licence to independent marketers who will be forced to take up their share of the Bass Strait indigenous crude oil and who are at the present time precluded from exporting because of Government policy.

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