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Thursday, 22 May 1980
Page: 3055

Mr HURFORD (ADELAIDE, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) -The Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs knows that for years small businessmen operating petrol outlets have been calling for legislation to protect their interests from the predatory practices of major oil companies. When will the Government at last introduce legislation to protect franchises for the petrol reselling industry and legislation relating to the other parts of the so-called Fife package? Can the Minister indicate whether the promises made by the Prime Minister at the last election, and the commitment made by the Minister's predecessor to make the legislation retrospective, will be kept?

Mr GARLAND -I have had drawn to my attention remarks which the honourable member has made on radio programs and on other occasions and which, with respect, have not quite accurately illustrated the so-called commitments to which he has just referred. What I have said in this House on more than one occasion, and I repeat it today, is that the Government regards the position of the petrol dealers- the honourable member knows the definition of that term- very seriously. Some months ago we asked the Trade Practices Commission to carry out an inquiry so that the Government could have in front of it a number of facts. There has been a great deal of conflicting information in this area. I am advised that that report will be ready in about a week. The Government will examine that report, to see what information is contained in it, before it makes a decision. We have already exposed a draft Bill regarding the franchise area. It was one of the three points mentioned by my predecessor.

That exposed Bill, of course, has prompted a great number of representations, some of a technical kind and a number dealing with principles. The honourable member referred to the other elements. Other options are available to the Government, such as looking at the provisions of the Trade Practices Act. All those matters are before the Government.

Mr Humphreys - You have been looking at it for a long time.

Mr GARLAND - That is true. The reason is that it is a very complicated situation and that different policies are pursued by oil companies and by dealers in different regions of Australia. We want to get the legislation right, so that it will have the effect which I think most members of this House want to see. The Government will be looking at the results of the Commission's report, I hope within a fortnight of receiving it, which will be in about three weeks time. I hope that it will make a decision based upon those elements and upon the statements which the Prime Minister and my predecessor really made, not those which many people are saying they made. Therefore, I expect that the Government will come to a conclusion about the matter quite soon.

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