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Thursday, 5 April 1984
Page: 1335

Senator CHANEY (Leader of the Opposition)(6.16) —Mr Chairman, I would like to make some quick comments before someone takes a point of order on me. I just wish to make a brief response to the point made by the Minister for Resources and Energy, Senator Walsh. I would accept what he said, that there are other factors in the matter that I raised and that competition for market share has certainly led to some heavy discounting. That does make some of the arguments of those who are concerned about the dual system of price control look a bit odd at first examination. I will quote just one paragraph from the annual report of the Chairman of Caltex Australia Ltd because I think it makes the point in a way which is quite appropriate. He said:

The State price controls have contributed signficantly to your Company's losses . Petrol discounting occurs in cycles and in different markets at different times. When prices are firming State Government controls constrain the upward movement and over time inhibit a gradual return to correct pricing in the industry.

The situation is, I suppose, that by putting a lower maximum price level it simply means that in the peaks and troughs business, the troughs remain low and the peaks are cut off, and so the overall trading conditions are affected in a way which does make it difficult for the companies. I accept the Minister's comment that there are other factors and factors such as the whole energy usage situation and the economic situation and so on all come into play. Price control is one of the problems but it happens to be one of those problems which are susceptible to government remedy; some of the others are not.

Bills agreed to.

Bills reported without amendment or requests; report adopted.