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Thursday, 2 December 1971
Page: 3977

Mr LUCHETTI (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - My question to the Prime Minister concerns the price of liquid petroleum gas. In order that the right honourable gentlemen may better understand my request for action I refer to a letter that I have received from the Town Clerk of the Lithgow City Council in which he states that bulk supplies of liquefied petroleum gas are to be increased in price by S7.25 a ton to a total price of $52 a ton whilst Victorian producers are selling the same product to Japan for SI 6 a ton.

Mr SPEAKER -Order! The honourable gentleman is giving a great deal of information in relation to this question. I am prepared to allow a reasonable preface to a question but not an unduly long statement of fact.

Mr LUCHETTI - I have concluded my preface. [ ask the Prime Minister to investigate this serious complaint and to take such action as is necessary to protect Australian consumers in the use of their own resources. Finally, will the right honourable gentleman have regard to prices charged and profits gained by oil companies in any inquiries that be may make?

Mr McMahon - The Minister for National Development will answer the question.

Mr SWARTZ (DARLING DOWNS, QUEENSLAND) (Minister for National Development) - From memory I think that the honourable member did raise this matter in correspondence. I know that it has been raised on a few occasions and that an investigation has been made in relation to it. The position is thai quite often when comparisons are made - I have noted this publicly - they are between the relatively standardised price for natural gas and the variation in the price in distant country areas for liquefied petroleum gas. The main variation is, of course, related to freight costs and handling charges. Liquefied peteoleum gas is a refinery by-product and is produced fairly cheaply at the refinery. The cost at the refinery is relatively cheap hut the further an area is from the refinery the higher is the price.

This problem has been raised on a number of occasions because the price of liquefied petroleum gas in distant areas is quite different from the price in centres principally in the capital cities - where the main refineries are located. The matter has ben examined very carefully. There is no way in which this situation can be overcome. It would be extremely difficult to introduce an equalised pricing scheme for liquefied petroleum gas because of the low quantity that is now used throughout Australia. So, whilst up to the present an examination has been made, the problem is understood; it has been raised before by the honourable member and by other honourable members in this House. So far, (here has been no solution to the variation in price between the major capital city centres adjacent to refinery areas and the country centres, where freight and handling costs must be added to the price. However, in view of the fact that the honourable member has raised the matter again, I will certainly undertake to have another look at the situation.

The final point that he raised in relation to the oil industry itself is a matter that, if it were raised in any other context, would be given consideration. At present, it has not been taken into account in any specified way, but there is a overall check kept on the position and I can assure the honourable member that this matter is being carefully watched. However, after we have studied the matter further regarding liquefied petroleum gas, I will let him have another reply.

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