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Wednesday, 20 August 1980
Page: 552

Petrol Pricing: Effect on Rural Areas - Utilisation of Airport Facilities at Tullamarine

Motion (by Mr Ellicott) proposed:

That the House do now adjourn.

Mr FitzPATRICK(Riverina) (10.52) - I ask the Government to show a little more concern for the quality of life of people who live in country areas. I remind the House that when the Fraser Government came to power, petrol cost 13c a litre. It now costs 32c to 34c a litre in most metropolitan outlets and much more than that in country towns. Members of the National Country Party of Australia would know that this not only represents a big drain on the incomes of country workers and farmers but also is sending many small businesses to the wall.

Why do members of the National Country Party remain silent while the Fraser Government's oil pricing policy is keeping thousands of young country youths out of work? I believe that there can be only one answer. The Leader of the National Country Party, the Minister for Trade and Resources (Mr Anthony), is not worried about how the price of fuel affects country people. He is not only a full partner in the Fraser oil parity pricing policy but also the architect of the scheme. I think it must be admitted that oil parity pricing is the greatest revenue gatherer that any government has ever had. The 1 50 per cent increase in petrol prices is due almost entirely to the taxes imposed by the Fraser Government. This not only represents a crippling burden on every citizen but also is a particularly cruel blow to those who live in country centres. We must ask why some attempt is not made to equalise the burden and why country people have to bear an unequal share of this unnecessary tax.

I want to emphasise the fact that country people are forced to use their cars. As you know, Mr Deputy Speaker, many country people have to take their children to school or several miles to catch a school bus. People in smaller towns have to go to larger country towns to get their provisions. People from towns such as Balranald in my electorate have to go to Hay or Narrandera at weekends to enjoy a game of sport. Oil parity pricing is gradually affecting the quality of life because more and more people are forced to forgo these activities.

We must ask ourselves how this lines up with the Fraser Government's pre-election promise to end the great tax rip-off. Personal income tax, expressed as a proportion of the national income, is the highest it has ever been, and the $3, 000m crude oil levy is additional to that record tax. All of this is crippling country industries. But the Government's economic vandalism does not stop here. Interest rates have gone up by 2.5 per cent since Mr Fraser said in November 1 977--

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Order!The honourable member will refer to the Prime Minister as such.

Mr FitzPATRICK - I am sorry, Mr Deputy Speaker. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) said in 1977 that interest rates were too high. He made the statement that they would fall by 2 per cent over the coming year. He said this is a target that can and will be met. But I want to inform this House that interest rates are heading in the opposite direction, the same as all the other promises that the Prime Minister made. We have been told time and time again that the Government's policy of enterprise and freedom will solve all our ecomomic problems. The Government can go back into its long sleep and say that its policy of enterprise and freedom will solve the problem. It would have us believe that there is no need to worry about rotten roads, the lack of television in many country centres and the high number of unemployed. Even in this Budget we have heard again that the policy of enterprise and freedom will solve these things. But what freedom is there for half a million unemployed? What enterprise is there for young Australians when 20 of them have to line up for every job vacancy? It is essential to the quality of Australian life generally that we have strong and vigorous country communities. We will never do it while the Government has this oil pricing policy.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Order!The honourable gentleman's time has expired.

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