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Tuesday, 29 August 2000
Page: 19503

Mr CREAN (2:01 PM) —My question is to the Deputy Prime Minister. Deputy Prime Minister, you say you have cut petrol excise by 6.7c a litre. Isn't it also true that motorists in Coonabarabran today are paying 9.7c in GST for every litre of petrol? Doesn't this mean a 3c tax windfall for every litre of petrol sold in Coonabarabran today?

Mr ANDERSON (Deputy Prime Minister) —I thank the honourable member for his question. Coonabarabran happens to be in my electorate, and it is a place where, interestingly enough, petrol prices are often quite high in contrast with the surrounding towns. But let me put this into some overall perspective, because there is no doubt that the opposition are very good at the selective quoting of some isolated statistics. People in the electorate are undoubtedly bearing the difficulties of higher fuel prices. But, of all the commentators on fuel, the one thing you can say with certainty is that the ALP would be the last people to have any credibility on this at all. I do not always agree with the motoring organisations' perspective on everything, but I am indebted to the AAA's Informed sources document, which points out that, if you compare on a raw average the June 2000 price gap across Australia with the July raw average, there was a reduction in the country-city price of 1.3c per litre. In simple terms for those opposite, the country-city price differential has narrowed quite substantially, particularly between June and July this year.

Mr Crean —I don't believe you. When did you last buy fuel there?

Mr ANDERSON —About three days ago I bought fuel out there. Interestingly enough, I noticed in Gunnedah, which is my home town, that for the first time since I can remember the price was within striking distance of the price in Sydney on that day. In fact, the differential was the lowest I can recall. But, as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has selectively quoted Coonabarabran today, let me simply refer to the average price in June of this year—the price differential between Coonabarabran and the raw average in urban Australia. He does not want to hear this.

Mr Crean —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. It goes to relevance. It clearly is the difference in the amount of tax being paid before the GST came in and now.

Mr SPEAKER —The Deputy Leader of the Opposition will resume his seat. There is no way that the response of the Deputy Prime Minister could be deemed to be other than relevant to the question asked.

Mr ANDERSON —Let me come back to Coonabarabran. I know the town well; I actually pay rates in the shire there. In June of this year, on a raw average basis, the difference between average prices in that town and urban prices paid across Australia was 9.4c—quite high. But do you know what it was in July? It was 5.8c—a considerable reduction. The fact of the matter is that, when these people opposite talk about tax on fuel, they want you to ignore the fact that they were the absolute masters of ripping tax out of fuel—a 500 per cent increase.

Mr Beazley —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. It goes to relevance. The question was narrowly cast. It dealt with the question of the cut to petrol excise, which is 6.7c according to the government, and the fact that in Coonabarabran today they are paying 9.7c a litre in GST. That was it—no comparison between city and country prices or anything. The question was about a 3c tax windfall.

Mr SPEAKER —The Leader of the Opposition is now repeating the question and will resume his seat. The Leader of the Opposition is as well aware as everybody in this chamber that the reply by the Deputy Prime Minister is by any measure relevant to the question asked.

Mr ANDERSON —I think it will suffice to conclude on this note—

Opposition members interjecting—

Mr ANDERSON —Well, I could keep going. I could talk about the fact that you opposed us every inch of the way on the $2.2 billion reduction in excise on fuel in this country. The member for Batman was out there on the weekend making all sorts of claims about his contribution to the debate—and he sidelined himself on fuel.

Mr SPEAKER —The Deputy Prime Minister will come to the question.

Mr Beazley —Mr Speaker, I raise a further point of order.

Mr ANDERSON —Again! Goodness!

Mr Beazley —There is a rough requirement to relevance. In no way, shape or form has he addressed the question.

Mr SPEAKER —The Leader of the Opposition will resume his seat. The Deputy Prime Minister will come to the question.

Mr ANDERSON —Suffice it to say that, when we came to power in March 1996, for every dollar spent on fuel in this country by motorists, the excise burden under Labor was 58.6 per cent; today, under us, it is 47.2 per cent. I think the case is open and closed: when it comes to rip-off merchants on fuel, you people raised it to an art form.