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Tuesday, 17 March 1987
Page: 934

Mr BARRY JONES (Minister for Science)(6.26) —in reply-I want to respond to the courteous interjection of the honourable member for Kooyong (Mr Peacock) who wanted to know why agreement on uniform legislation could not be reached prior to this legislation. There were differences between the States and the Northern Territory on the common form legislation. All the States and the Northern Territory have some form of legislation for handling local emergencies-for example, those that arise from industrial disputes-but the legislation in each State is not capable of being implemented in a co-ordinated manner to cope with a major national emergency, such as could arise from the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries inspired emergency as happened in 1973-74.

Queensland has an Act which its Government proposed as a model for a uniform Act in all States. It was discussed by a sub-committee of the Australian Minerals and Energy Council, AMEC, but agreement was not reached because of the differences in the approaches preferred by the States. For example, Queensland prefers stronger police powers than New South Wales. The differences could not be resolved in the three years set aside for discussion. Most of the differences were points of detail. All States and the Northern Territory acknowledge the need for legislation to respond to national emergencies. In the absence of agreement, the AMEC Ministers wish to see the Commonwealth legislation continue to be active. That necessitates the amendment before the House. It does not prevent the States coming to an agreement on uniform legislation in the future. The AMEC sub-committee on the legislation has been asked to continue its meetings to discuss the possibility of reaching agreement.

The honourable member for Dawson (Mr Braithwaite) raised a number of points about the falling levels of exploration, the operation of the free market and petrol discounting. The retail prices of petrol are generally determined by the refining companies and their distributors and agents. Differences between metropolitan and country prices are mainly due to the higher cost of supply to remote areas and higher costs associated with smaller sales volume. The Commonwealth subsidises costs over 5.7c per litre of freighting certain transport fuels to country areas. This has the effect of setting maximum wholesale prices for those fuels in country areas at 5.7c per litre higher than the maximum wholesale price in the State capital city. The Commonwealth Government has no control over the retail price market. The constitutional authority to control retail petroleum product prices lies primarily with the States. The Commonwealth is minimising the effect of crude oil price charges on petrol prices by offsetting increased revenue from crude oil excise as prices change by varying excise on petroleum products.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.