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Thursday, 31 August 1972
Page: 1108

Mr CHIPP (Hotham) (Minister for Customs and Excise) - Mr Speaker, it has been my practice as a Minister to refrain from speaking on the adjournment debate but on this occasion I am moved to refer to the charges made by the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) last evening on the administration of the indigenous oil. policy - charges which should not be allowed to go unchallenged because they are on record and, if they are unchallenged, they might be believed by default. However, in replying to the charges I am inhibited in replying in detail to the accusations made by the honourable member because of the rather delicate stage that has been reached in the pertinent negotiations between the companies. The honourable member alleged that all major oil companies and refiners in Australia including Ampol and H. C. Sleigh, are acting in collusion with this Government to squeeze the 2 small Melbourne-based independent marketers out of existence on the grounds that the Government parties receive thousands of dollars for election purposes from the international oil cartel. He went on to attack me personally and the only interpretation which could be drawn was that I am personally guilty of conniving in an exploitation by the major refiners of these 2 small independent companies.

The name of the honourable member's game is politics, and the way he has played it since he was elected to this House has been to sprinkle all of his speeches - perhaps 'litter' would be a better word - with personal venom against individuals on this side of the House. It is a practice which 1 personally abhor. But as his own Leader said on television last night, politicians must be prepared to have such allegations thrust at them. However, this honourable member went further. He included in his attack, by inference - indeed almost explicitly - the dedicated officers of the Department of Customs and Excise and brought their integrity into question. The honourable member said he was speaking quite bluntly. Let me be equally blunt with him. His speech consisted of a collection of scurrilous, unwarranted and unjustified allegations devoid of truth. He said: '1 wish I had time to give the facts.' Mr Speaker, he did have time, but he chose not to give the facts. Instead, he launched into one of the most irrational attacks I have heard in this House. As I said before, it is inopportune for me to debate the charges in detail tonight because 1 am not prepared to prejudice the outcome of current negotiations being conducted between the refiners and the independents, which have reached a delicate stage. However, there are some points which the honourable member would be well advised to study in order that his next contribution to an adjournment debate will be more factual and more honest than his last.

The honourable member alleges that as a result of the Government's actions the price of petrol in our community is 2c to 3c a gallon more than it need be. The facts are that the retail price of petrol is set by a Labor Government in South Australia, his home State, through the operations of the Prices Commissioner of South Australia. The honourable member seems to applaud price cutting wars and the importation of petrol in job lots from overseas. This attitude has a certain superficial appeal. This Government is certainly not against petro) being sold at the lowest possible price. The honourable member was rightly concerned for the little bloke, as he called him; the small independent marketers. So are we. However, has he given any thought to those other little blokes - the hard working proprietors of petrol stations whose livelihood can be devastated by irrational price cutting wars. The Government is most concerned for the thousands of people employed in this country in the refining and distribution of petroleum products. There are 4,000 workers employed in refining and 25,000 employed in marketing and distribution.

Dr Gun - This is completely irrelevant.

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