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Tuesday, 6 June 1989
Page: 3408


Senator POWELL(12.24) —We are addressing the Bill as a whole. Before we move on to Senator Alston's next amendments, I would like to ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade a question with regard to clause 21, which has passed us slightly, on the issue of the price cap mechanism. If it is appropriate, I would like to do that now. In my speech in the second reading debate I expressed concern that the Government has decided to operate from a single basket. That is, of course, in contrast to the May 1988 statement by the then Minister for Transport and Communications, Senator Gareth Evans, in which he said:

There will be separate price control formulas for residential and business customers. The residential formula will limit both the increase in the average price of all standard services and the change in price of standard access charges.

Last week we had a statement from the Minister for Transport and Communications (Mr Willis) on price capping. In my speech in the second reading debate I expressed concern that the process which has been decided upon might not be the most appropriate. I think it is worth commenting that it might have been more appropriate to defer the question of the number and composition of the baskets until Austel had been formally established and, with any luck, a consultative process was able to be developed so that we are certain that the decision has been made appropriately. However, that decision has been made. Having looked at the Minister's statement and been somewhat dissatisfied, I wonder whether the former Minister, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, can justify that decision a little more.