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Thursday, 20 May 1965

Senator ANDERSON (New South Wales) (Minister for Customs and Excise) . - in reply - I am grateful to the Opposition and to honorable senators on the Government side for their support for, and general approval of, the Bill. As has been said, a tremendous amount of work has gone into the preparation of this Bill for presentation to the Parliament. Both the Commonwealth and the States are concerned in this legislation because, of necessity, it has regard to the provisions of section 96 of the Constitution. The States and the oil companies have had to be brought together so that a scheme acceptable to all parties could be evolved. This has not been easy to do, and the reference to the volume of work done by the Minister for National Development (Mr. Fairbairn) in another place is well merited. It was necessary to evolve a scheme which would not only protect the Commonwealth, in the sense that it will be providing £6 million for the implementation of the scheme, but would also give effect to the promise contained in the Prime Ministerls policy speech. The officers of my Department have also played a not inconsiderable part in preparing this legislation.It was a tremendous job because as the Bill and the second reading speech indicate, the Department of Customs and Excise will be called upon to administer the Act.

Senator Kennellysuggested that any increase in the price of petrol would corrode the scheme. 1 point out to him that the scheme is based on the differential factor. An increase in the capital city price does not affect the scheme, which is based on the differential. The differential was pegged at 31st December 1964. It is necessary to bear in mind, too, that the only factor which could affect the situation would be a variation in differentials by the oil company. In that respect honorable senators should remember that in three States price control operates. In any event, the cost to the Commonwealth will remain static because it is based on the differential as at 31st December 1964. It is based on a price of 4d. a gallon over and above city prices. To that extent it remains constant. lt is interesting to take random examples from the Schedule to see the benefits to be gained by people in the country. For example, in New South Wales, Cobar is to receive an advantage of 6d. as compared to the present price. Walgett will benefit by 5d. In Victoria, Mildura will receive an advantage of 2id. The advantages to be gained in Victoria are not so marked because it is a small State and the distances to the distribution points are not so great.

This is reflected in the retail prices. In South Australia, Maree will benefit by 61/2d. Halls Creek in Western Australia will benefit by ls. 10d., which should considerably assist the residents there. The price at Broome will be reduced by 7d. and at Birdsville, in Queensland, by 2s. 41/2d. If Senator Maher were present, he would be delighted to learn that the price at Cooktown will be reduced by 8d. a gallon. Victoria River Downs, in the Northern Territory, is a recognised distribution centre and is therefore incorporated in the Schedule. The price there will be reduced by ls.51/2d. Alice Springs will benefit by 91/2d.

It is true that administrative problems will arise in a scheme of this nature which involves the States, the Commonwealth, and the oil companies. I am sure that they will be solved to the advantage of the country community which will find that as a result of this legislation the prices paid for petrol will not be more than 4d. a gallon over and above the capital city price.

Senator Websterfound some difficulty in understanding the Schedule. There are 5,000 recognised distribution points at present which are listed in the Schedule. As to aviation fuel, it will be seen that a dash is shown against most places listed for New South Wales. In some cases the Schedule is based on the assumption that subsidy rates are fixed on the industry's list prices. The oil companies are prepared to sell aviation fuel, if required to do so, at the points indicated in the Schedule.

I thank honorable senators for their cooperation in assisting to facilitate the progress of this legislation.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.

Friday, 21 May 1965

In Committee.

The Bill.

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