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Monday, 23 March 1987
Page: 1345

Mr McGAURAN(10.11) —I am very pleased to follow the honourable member for Mallee (Mr Peter Fisher), with his thoughtful contribution. I think the honourable member for Mallee and my colleagues on this side of the House have stressed the importance of the Petroleum Resource Rent Tax Assessment Bill, the Petroleum Resource Rent Tax Bill, the Petroleum Resource Rent Tax (Interest on Underpayment) Bill and the Petroleum Resource Rent Tax (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, which are before the House, to the very fabric of the underlying basis on which our economy is so dependent.

Mr Hollis —Come on!

Mr McGAURAN —I hear mocking laughter from the honourable member for Throsby. This is the man whom dairy farmers in New South Wales have on record as arrogantly and superficially dismissing their concerns. That is in a Hansard, I understand, that has done the rounds of many a dairy farm in New South Wales. His mocking laughter about the importance of fuel is to be expected.

Mr Nehl —He wouldn't know.

Mr McGAURAN —As the honourable member for Cowper says, he would not know that farmers' fuel consumption is about 40 per cent petrol. So they pay the same excise and State government charges as do road users. One major impact on the inflation rate of some 10 per cent which this Government is trying to dress up as being merely grocery price rises has its basis in fuel pricing.

Mr Braithwaite —More than four times that of our competitors.

Mr McGAURAN —As the honourable member for Dawson says: `More than four times the inflation rate of or major trading competitors'. The price of fuel is of absolute importance to primary producers as well as to all consumers and road users. I refuse to allow myself to be distracted by the inane interjections of the honourable member for Throsby. I simply make the point that he is completely out of touch with the concerns of primary producers and road users.

By necessity, the four pieces of legislation before the House are of some complexity. They are, nonetheless, of abiding interest and importance to all members of this place, because they very much set an economic framework for the future. If we are to stand aside and allow exploration for fuel to diminish, as this Government seems quite prepared to do, we will pay the price in the future. At a time when our current account deficit is in worse shape since certainly anybody can remember and more likely since figures were kept we badly need some export income of the type that an active and healthy fuel exploration industry can bring us. As the member for Gippsland with one of its principal centres being Sale, I probably am more aware than most members of the human loss and the human suffering caused by the current downturn. In fact, it is true to say that Sale has been the city in Australia most affected by the recent oil exploration downturn. Late last year I introduced to the Minister for Resources and Energy (Senator Gareth Evans) a delegation from the Sale City Council led by Mayor Peter Synan. That delegation realistically knew, and certainly knows even today, that the Government is not going to manufacture or bend its fuel pricing policies simply on the concerns of one city, but it was an attempt to show the human face and some of the very real losses that the Sale municipality, as well as the community, had lost in hundreds of lost jobs.

Mr Braithwaite —A lot of good workers are out on those rigs.

Mr McGAURAN —There are a great many good workers, as the honourable member for Dawson reminds the House, his having visited them as a guest of Esso on some occasions.

Debate interrupted.