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Thursday, 20 May 1965

Senator WRIGHT (Tasmania) . -I wish to say that it is a positive disgrace that the Government should programme its work to include a major Bill of this description for the consideration of the Senate at this time. It was introduced in the chamber not much more than 12 hours ago. Honorable Senators who give attention to the business of the chamber and devote a genuine interest to the job are precluded from a proper scrutiny of the legislation. Only a subservient House would accept such posi- tively insulting and disgraceful treatment from a Government. I regard it as an affront that the Committee has to deal with a measure of such major national importance, as the short but pregnant speech of Senator Webster pointed out, among other things. 1 wish to refer to several matters at this stage because I desire to have elucidation. Much as 1 regret the necessity to take time at this hour, the responsibility to the Senate is not mine. I shall not insult members of the Committee by imputing to them a lack of interest, even at this hour. The responsibility is the Government's for offering us this insult. 1 ask the Minister: What security do wc have to see that the differential, to which the honorable gentleman referred in his speech in reply, is based upon a price that cannot be so varied by oil companies as to deny the transporter and the consumer of oil in the outback the advantage included for them in this Bill? I would like the Minister to explain to me what is the basic factor that governs the determination by oil companies of prices in the cities, and what assurance this Parliament can have that the prices will not be so varied by an oil company as to take away some of the benefit that is intended in the legislation for the outback consumer and use it to the oil company's own advantage? 1 shall explain my difficulty a little more by saying that 1 understand there are eight oil companies. It seems to me that the Schedule is constructed on the basis that there is complete uniformity of price. Am I to infer that by some mystery that does not enter into the category of a trade arrangement, each of the eight oil companies is able to sell petrol in Perth at the same price? And then, insofar as there is any competition in Kalgoorlie, it is sold there at the same price? And then in Cobar, or at any point listed in the Schedule, there may not be competition. How do we get the same price there? It seems to me to be a matter as to which one must necessarily inquire whether the disunity to which Senator Drake-Brockman referred as confronting this proposal some years ago from the oil companies has now been developed into unity by some degree of amenability on the part of the oil companies, motivated by the advent of the restrictive trade practices legislation. But if there is an expectation by the oil companies to escape that legislation and maintain their unity, how do we obtain a guarantee that they will not vary the basic price upon which the differential is calculated so as to deny to the ultimate recipient the advantage intended by the subsidy? I would like to have that basic information.

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