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Monday, 7 November 2005
Page: 16

Mr WAKELIN (1:27 PM) —The great advantage of spending a term in opposition, as I did from 1993 to 1996, is that you do remember what Labor was like in government. Having fought a campaign in 1993, when the coalition offered to abolish excise, which is currently at 38c a litre, it is somewhat ironical to note the rise in fuel prices of about 20c to 30c due to overseas circumstances—that is, high world oil prices—and the relativity of the fact that the Labor government raised the excise rate from 6c a litre in 1983 to around 30-odd cents a litre by 1993. After the unsuccessful attempt to abolish excise by the coalition, it was then ramped up by the Keating government to something in excess of 42c a litre.

In terms of where the Labor Party sit on this issue, I note that it is easier to make these offerings from opposition than it is from government, because their record speaks for itself. Of course, there is even more strongly worded evidence from the Labor Party when you look at the words of Craig Emerson, chairman of the federal Labor caucus economic committee. He states:

Australia’s record petrol prices have one cause and one cause only—high world oil prices.

Surely we should be speaking about the things that we might do to alleviate the energy issues of this nation and, in cooperation with the Western democracies, what we are going to do about energy over the next generation.

There are a lot of things we can do. There are many examples throughout the world, and I will not go into them all now. Certainly the issue around ethanol bears greater examination. When we look at what the Labor Party did to discredit ethanol in the recent past, it is very pleasing to note that ethanol is now becoming more accepted and that the incentives are there to place it in the energy supply in a way from which it should never have been disrupted. It is tragic that, when the government endeavours to do something for the long term—like encouragement of ethanol—it is discredited by our Labor opponents. It is very annoying that after a lot of hard work—and I know some of the work that was done to try to convince the Labor Party that ethanol had a role in Australia’s energy discussion—we have to be waiting, years on from when this disruption has occurred, to see it. It might have some good effect now, when we are under some pressure with prices.

I remind the House that the future for energy supplies is becoming more urgent as every year passes and that we have some very good options. One that I will conclude my speech on is the one surrounding the collection of excise—remembering, of course, that this government abolished the CPI increases, which are now worth a significant amount of money to the Australian consumer. We collect something like $15 billion from this excise at, really, the courtesy of the Labor Party, who promoted this program of collection. Thank you, Labor; thank you, no doubt, Treasury. But that should be going much more into R&D. We need greater research and development to look at the future energy supplies for this nation and the world.