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Wednesday, 13 June 1984
Page: 2949

Senator WALSH (Minister for Resources and Energy)(5.56) —in reply-The Leader of the Opposition, Senator Chaney, in his opening comments on the Liquefied Petroleum Gas (Grants) Amendment Bill 1984, the second Bill that is being discussed, said that there was a requirement to adjust the administered price for domestic LPG on 1 January this year. There was no requirement in any formal sense to do any such thing. The Government chose not to make an adjustment at that time because the previous legislation on the LPG subsidy was due to expire at the end of March and the Government wanted to review the entire LPG policy at that time. That is what has finally happened. We also had a desire , for very good reasons, and for reasons put to us by local government associations in particular, to change the dates upon which prices were adjusted in the future from the January and July dates used by the previous Government to April and October. Senator Chaney's hypothesis about what the Government did and why overlooks, among other things, the fact that the export parity price of LPG, as it happens, fell between the end of December and the end of March. It need not necessarily have fallen between the end of December and the end of March; it could have gone in the opposite direction.

In general there is absolutely no doubt that the new LPG pricing arrangements adopted by the Government have been extremely well received. The Opposition appears to be a little unhappy about them. Premier Gray wrote to me the other day complaining about them and I will mention that again in a moment. Just as an example of the other types of comments which have appeared and which have been passed on to the Government, about six weeks ago I received a letter from the honourable member for Hume, Mr Lusher, passing on to me a letter from the Council of the Shire of Cowra. Mr Lusher had been asked by the shire of Cowra to pass that letter on to me. I am sure that the shire would not mind my referring to that letter. The Council said:

Council was recently advised, through the Local Government Association of New South Wales, by the Under-Secretary of the Department of Resources and Energy that the Commonwealth Government had reviewed its policy in respect of pricing and subsidy for LPG. I advise that Council is most satisfied with the decision taken by the Government in this matter. Council request you to convey to the Minister for Resources and Energy Council's congratulations and appreciation for his decision in respect of the matter of pricing and subsidy for LPG.

We have received many communications, formal and informal, along those lines. The people I have mentioned who are directly affected, apart from Premier Gray and the Opposition, are happy. I cannot remember anybody actually complaining about the new policy. Premier Gray wrote to me the other day and put the view that it was essential that a subsidy of $80 a tonne be paid on LPG used for certain purposes regardless of what the price of LPG may be. I suppose that is a view which the Premier is entitled to hold. He also told me that he would be writing to other State Ministers for energy with a view to orchestrating a campaign to force the Commonwealth Government to apply an $80 a tonne subsidy regardless of what the administered price may be. I will be replying to Mr Gray telling him that if he or any of the other State energy Ministers believe, as Mr Gray says he does, that it is absolutely essential that a subsidy of that magnitude be paid there is absolutely nothing to stop State governments-I particularly commend this course of action to Mr Gray's Government-paying the subsidy themselves. If Mr Gray believes that really ought to be done I suggest that is what he should do. I do not intend to delay the passage of this legislation any longer. I thank the Opposition for its support and wish this legislation a speedy passage.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without requests or debate.