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PETROLEUM PRODUCTS PRICING BILL 1981

Order of the Day read for the adjourned debate on the Question--That this Bill be now read a second time.

Senator Evans moved an amendment, viz: Leave out all words after ""That'', insert ""the Senate is of the opinion that--

(a) the Bill should be withdrawn and redrafted to extend the role of the Petroleum Products Pricing Authority to that of an independent regulatory agency for the petroleum and petroleum products industries, as recommended by the the Report of the Royal Commission on Petroleum (the Collins Report), with functions to include:

(i) restructuring, monitoring and regulating the pricing system, (ii) the rationalisation, where necessary, of retail outlets,

(iii) the regulation of dealer-company relationships, and

(iv) the development of a conservation programme; and

(b) the Government should be condemned for its decision to abolish the Prices Justification Tribunal which was carrying out the functions of the proposed Petroleum Products Pricing Authority and calls upon it to retain a reformed Tribunal for such purposes as the provision of effective powers to monitor and inquire into the justification of prices in all oil products and other goods exempted by this Bill''.

Debate ensued.

Question--That the words proposed to be left out be left out--put and negatived.

Amendment negatived accordingly.

Question--That this Bill be now read a second time--put and passed.

Bill read a second time.

The Senate, according to Order, resolved itself into Committee for the consideration of the Bill.

In the Committee

Bill, by leave, taken as a whole.

Senator Evans, by leave, moved the following amendments together:

Page 2, clause 3, lines 33 to 35, definition of ""petroleum product'', leave out paragraph (c) of the definition.

Page 3, clause 4, sub-clause (1), line 4, after ""company'', insert ""or by a trading entity in which a company has a beneficial financial interest''.

Page 6, clause 12, sub-clause (2), lines 9 and 10, leave out ""being an interest that could conflict with the proper performance of his functions in relation to that inquiry,

Page 6, clause 12, sub-clause (3), lines 14 and 15, leave out ""unless his interest is disclosed in any report in which he participates'', insert ""being an interest that could conflict with the proper performance of his functions in relation to this Act''.

Page 8, clause 16, sub-clause (3), line 12, leave out "", with the approval of the Minister,''.

Page 8, clause 16, sub-clause (5), lines 17 to 21, leave out the sub-clause, insert the following sub-clauses:

""(5) In the performance of its functions, the Authority shall have regard not only to the need for the company or companies concerned to achieve a level of profitability that is sufficient to enable the company or companies to maintain an adequate level of investment and employment but also to the desire of the Government of the Commonwealth, in pursuing the general objectives of national economic and social policy, to implement an equitable anti-inflation policy and, in particular, the desire of the Government of the Commonwealth to subject prices to public scrutiny so as to ensure--

(a) that companies are in a position of public accountability which parallels that of unions' requirements to justify their members' wage levels before the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission; and

(b) that unreasonably high profits are not being made at the expense of the consumers and that unnecessarily high costs, either as the result of inefficiency or other unjustified reasons, are not being passed into prices.

""(6) In sub-section (5)--

"unnecessarily high costs' includes such items as costs arising from--

(a) excessive transfer prices between related companies;

(b) excessive royalty payments and the like to overseas parent companies; (c) exceptional wages and salary increases;

(d) unnecessarily high interest payments and rents;

(e) unnecessary advertising and packaging expenses;

(f) inefficient operations; and

(g) the refusal to make proper allowances for productivity improvements; and "unreasonably high profits' includes levels of profitability, resulting from the abuse of a strong market position, that are more than sufficient to enable the company or companies to maintain an adequate level of investment and employment.''.

Page 14, clause 20, sub-clause (1), line 19, leave out ""$10,000'', insert ""$100,000''.

And it being eleven p.m.

Adjournment Negatived: The Temporary Chairman of Committees (Senator Colston), under Sessional Order, put the Question--That he do leave the Chair and report to the Senate.

Which Question was negatived.

Debate ensued.

Question--That the amendments be agreed to--put and negatived.

Bill agreed to.

Bill to be reported without amendment.

The Deputy-President (Senator Maunsell) resumed the Chair; and the Temporary Chairman of Committees (Senator Colston) reported accordingly.

On the motion of the Minister for Veterans' Affairs (Senator Messner) the Report from the Committee was adopted, and the Bill read a third time.