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Thursday, 27 May 2004
Page: 29393

Ms GAMBARO (3:14 PM) —My question without notice is to the Prime Minister. Is the Prime Minister aware of any proposals to increase excise on petrol or diesel? What is the government's response to such reports?

Mr HOWARD (Prime Minister) —I thank the member for Petrie. I know that she expresses the concerns of many in her electorate about the price of petrol at the present time, due as that is to circumstances beyond the control of the Australian government and beyond the control of retailers of petrol in Australia. I would have thought in the current circumstances that nobody in their right mind would be proposing an increase in excise, but I am wrong: I plead guilty to not understanding the motivations of some.

What has been drawn to my attention is an article in a local newspaper in Western Australia under the heading `ALP president launches $2.50 a litre petrol plan'. I think it is interesting that this should come to my attention on the same day that the member for Hunter says that we can solve it all and get crude down to 50c a barrel by amending the Trade Practices Act. This excellent newspaper report is the best newspaper report I have read today—no, it is the second best. Dennis Shanahan's article in the Australian reporting the member for Rankin is the best but this one follows as a close second.

It is written by Vida Caruba and it says:

The Western Australian government should increase Perth's petrol prices to $2.50 a litre to encourage more sustainable modes of transport, according to the Western Australian Sustainable Transport Coalition. The recommendation is in the Perth-based group's `Oil: living with less' policy, scheduled to be launched on Thursday by national ALP president Carmen Lawrence.

“Oil: living with less'—there is an invitation and a nice photograph. Dr Carmen Lawrence will launch it. It goes on to state:

Western Australia faces crossroads as global oil supplies peak and transport costs soar. Personal and state transport is heavily dependent on cheap oil—

So let's make it dearer!—

But the finite resource is running out. We must act now to reduce oil vulnerability.

So I had a look at the pamphlet: it is quite nice; it is professional. I am sure the member for Fremantle would not have been associated with something she did not professionally feel comfortable with. It is a very well put together document. I read the very first recommendation. Listen to this—it says:

1. Incrementally increase excise on petrol and diesel—

incrementally, though; they are being fair—

to European levels.

Not to some new level that is a bit higher—not to some sort of Labor level that is a bit higher. There are no half measures with the ALP national president; we will go to European levels.

The member for Petrie asked me, `What is the government's response?' I do not think that this is the time to be increasing excise on petrol or diesel. I can say on behalf of the federal parliamentary Liberal Party and, I am sure, on behalf of the federal parliamentary Nationals, on behalf of the entire Liberal Party organisation and the CLP—everybody!—that we do not believe in increasing the level of excise; we believe in having as cheap petrol as world circumstances will allow. We have the policies in place. We have the low inflation. We cut excise. We got rid of the automatic indexation of excise three years ago. If you want the cheapest possible petrol in Australia, vote Liberal or National.