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Monday, 7 November 2005
Page: 20

Ms CORCORAN (1:41 PM) —It is with pleasure that I support this motion. We all know about driving past a petrol station on the way to work in the morning and noticing the petrol prices and then, on the way home, stopping in to buy the petrol and noting with amazement that the price has moved several cents during the day. We all know that if there is a holiday weekend coming up the petrol price will rise and then fall again after the holiday weekend.

Over the years, this has been regarded variously as a minor irritant; frustrating; a factor in budgeting and timing of petrol buying; and, by everybody, as a clear indication that something is not right in the petrol industry—that we are being ripped off. Many people have called for answers and action but nothing has been forthcoming.

Recently this has come back to the forefront of political debate as petrol prices soared as a result, we are told, of hurricanes or threats of hurricanes overseas, as well as other factors. The ACCC has noted that ‘something funny is going on with the refiner margins’. We do not need the ACCC to tell us that; we all know that something funny is going on and that it has been going on for some time. That is very clear to my constituents and, I suggest, to most of Australia, including the independent petrol companies.

Petrol prices are of particular concern in many parts of my electorate because of the heavy reliance many of us have on private car transport and also because many households in Isaacs are not in a position to sustain increased costs of essential items, including petrol. So, what to do? The government seem to think that wringing their hands and mumbling, ‘Out of our control,’ is enough. Well, it is not enough.

Sure, the petrol market is a global market but there are things we can do here in Australia. There are two areas in which we must act. Firstly, we have to come to grips, once and for all, with the mysterious pattern of petrol price fluctuation and deal with those who are not behaving ethically in this area. The ACCC should monitor petrol prices. It should report regularly on this monitoring and it should investigate the ‘something funny’ that they note about petrol prices.

At the same time, we should lift our heads above the immediate and look ahead. It is well accepted that the supply of oil is finite and that it is not going to last much longer under current rates of increasing demand. We need to develop the alternatives to oil that we know about already—like liquid petroleum gas, ethanol and biodiesel. We need to investigate emerging alternatives such as compressed natural gas, liquid fuel from gas and stored electricity. Finally, we need to look to future fuels, such as hydrogen.

We also need to develop the technologies to make all this happen. We need to do all these things and take short-term actions, like monitoring and investigating the existing industry to stop the funny things happening so regularly to petrol prices. We need to do this to deal with the short-term damage increasing petrol prices is doing to many households already on the edge financially. We need to do the longer term things to ensure we survive and thrive into the future.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Jenkins)—Order! It being approximately 1.45 pm, the debate is interrupted in accordance with standing order 34. The debate is adjourned and the resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day for the next sitting. The honourable member for Isaacs will have leave to continue speaking when the debate is resumed on a future day.