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Monday, 31 March 1980
Page: 1183

Senator WALSH (WESTERN AUSTRALIA) - I ask the Minister for National Development and Energy whether he denies that the Treasurer, at his 6 March Press conference, in respect of the post-January Saudi oil price increase of $2 a barrel, said:

I do not think that it has ever been suggested that the $2 increase had been put to one side.

The Treasurer later said:

I do not think there is any point served in my translating increases which have yet to be passed on into rises in the price of petrol particularly against the background that there could be other rises that have to be taken into account on the 1 st July.

Does the Minister deny that report of the Treasurer's words at the conference? If he does, can he explain to us what the Treasurer did mean by those words, and will he table the Treasurer's letter of 20 March?

Senator CARRICK - Only the Treasurer can confirm or deny whether he said certain things on a certain date. The fact is that last week I said that I had drawn the Treasurer's attention to the reports in the paper because they appeared to conflict with what the Government's policy is and with what both the Prime Minister and I have said it is. It is a policy which said in June last year that there would be flexible timing in passing on the price rises. Only in recent days the Prime Minister, in a reply to a question, said:

The honourable gentleman should well know that in an energy policy statement last June, in the middle of last year, the Government indicated that there needed to be some flexibility in the announcement of price increases as a result of OPEC decisions. No government would want to be tied absolutely to the precise time-table of the OPEC countries.

The fact of the matter is that there was an attempt to suggest that there was a difference of viewpoint. The Prime Minister has said precisely what I have been saying. That is the policy of the Government; there is a flexible time-table. The Treasurer has indicated to me that the report, which I think was a Western Australian newspaper report, that I drew his attention to was, in his view, incorrect. That is how I have reported it.

Senator WALSH - I ask a supplementary question. As Senator Carrick is now more reluctant to deny the reports on behalf of the Treasurer than he was last Thursday, will he ask the Treasurer whether he said the words which I quoted? Will he also ask the Treasurer what those words mean if they do not mean that the price of Australian crude oil will rise by at least $2 a barrel on 1 July? I repeat: Will he table the Treasurer's letter?

Senator CARRICK -I will put that question to the Treasurer and ask him whether he wants to respond. As to the request concerning the letter, it is not my intention to table correspondence that passes between us; but in case there is any intention to test my veracity on this, may I add that I will ask the Treasurer whether he wrote to me and said what I say he said.

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