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Tuesday, 26 November 1985
Page: 2289

Senator Sir JOHN CARRICK(9.33) —Will the Minister check the figures I have given in due course? When he talks about the high rate of economic growth, will he keep in mind that the American figure that I have given is an annual growth of 0.6 per cent in petroleum consumption and that America has had fairly consistent growth. Whilst I am on that subject, perhaps I may remind the Senate that when the Minister for Veterans' Affairs (Senator Gietzelt) was present I drew attention to a very considerable failure and was seeking information on that. In the past and under the Fraser Government, a major program was implemented to convert vehicles, including Commonwealth vehicles, to operate on liquefied petroleum gas in order to get fuel saving. My memory is that there was to be a target of about 3,000 vehicles a year. The answer to me in the Estimates Committee was:

Currently the Commonwealth departmental fleet has 144 LPG-powered vehicles out of an estimated total of 15,300. The major statutory authorities operate 417 out of an estimated total of 31,000.

It goes on to say that the taxi fleets, which understand the economics of this matter, have converted very fully and that in Adelaide, Melbourne and Brisbane taxi industry sources estimate over 90 per cent of the taxis are LPG fuelled. Sydney and Perth fleets are undergoing conversion with current levels of 56 per cent and 50 per cent respectively. It is expected that these levels will rise to those obtained in other capitals within five years. About 55 per cent of the Tasmanian taxi fleet is LPG fuelled; in Canberra, it is 98 per cent. Against that background, the government policy was to pursue the targets I have indicated in the hope that in a decade or so some 14 per cent of automotive fuel would be provided by LPG. I draw the Minister's attention to the report in the Estimates:

However, it is estimated that in 1983-84 LPG displaced 2.1 per cent of the motor spirit market and that around 40,000 vehicles were LPG fuelled.

The simple fact of the matter is that the whole gearing of the LPG program was aimed to give automotive use high priority against the day when the oil supplies would fall in sufficiency.

I pointed out to the other Minister that evidence had been given before the Senate of a very likely fall, over the next seven years, of self-sufficiency, possibly down to as low as 42 per cent, unless there are significant oil finds, and that we are using more oil than we are finding. I am relating it to the item on energy conservation, where, as my figures show, there has been a marked failure in the programs, and I seek the Minister's comment on the matter.