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Wednesday, 17 April 1985
Page: 1135

Senator DURACK —My question is directed to the Minister for Resources and Energy. I refer the Minister to the widespread speculation, which no doubt has been assisted by inspired leaks by Ministers, that the Government is considering changing the policy of import parity pricing for oil. Bearing in mind the opportunistic approach to this policy which was adopted by Labor when in opposition, particularly in statements made by the present Treasurer, Mr Keating, when he was shadow Minister in this area, I ask: Does the Minister agree that import parity pricing has greatly benefited the Australian economy by encouraging oil exploration? Is the Government considering a change in that policy? Does the Minister agree that a change of the policy for short term political purposes would be contrary to the Prime Minister's undertaking in an interview with Max Walsh last week that the Government would not allow the benefits of devaluation to be dissipated by inappropriate decisions?

Senator GARETH EVANS —The Government does believe and I believe that import parity pricing has greatly benefited the exploration industry, as Senator Durack has said. However, the Government has foreshadowed on a number of occasions the possibility of a move to a modified free market system as far as crude oil is concerned, and that is something to which the Government is giving continuing consideration. In the context of the regular two-monthly review of the operation of the import parity pricing formula in a changing currency and sometimes overseas crude oil price environment, the Government is presently considering what the appropriate move should be on 1 May. That matter is before the Cabinet and when a decision is made the Senate and the public will be informed accordingly. We will also give reasons for the course of action that we take, which will be consistent with the suggested parameters Senator Durack has just articulated.