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Thursday, 17 April 1980
Page: 1553

Senator Douglas McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I draw the attention of the Minister for National Development and Energy to a question which I placed on the Notice Paper on 2 1 February and which he answered yesterday. He pointed out in his answer that in 1972 the consumption of motor spirit per head of population was 845 litres, and that it increased to 1,010 litres in 1977, 1,025 litres in 1978 and 1,033 litres in 1979. Notwithstanding the constantly increasing price of motor spirit, has the Minister noted from the answer supplied by his Department that there has been a constantly increasing consumption of motor spirit per head? Do the facts set out in the Minister's answer, as supplied by his Department, tend to refute the Government's theory that the dearer the price of motor spirit the lower its consumption is likely to be and, therefore, the greater the conservation will be?

Senator CARRICK - I am aware of the figures referred to by Senator McClelland. In fact, they prove the reverse of what he said. The rate of increase each year is dropping and has dropped significantly between 1978 and 1979. One would have expected an increase of something like 3.9 per cent in the consumption of gasolene in 1979. The increase was below 2 per cent. So there has been a considerable fall-off in that regard. If Senator McClelland were to look at figures for the purchase of motor vehicles he would know that the community itself has turned very strongly to the purchase of more fuel efficient and smaller vehicles. Those two pieces of evidence clearly indicate that the Government's policy is working.

I think it is fair to say that every country that is a member of the International Energy Agency believes that the petrol pricing policy which we are now carrying out will bring about significant conservation of energy in the course of the years ahead. In fact, it is doing so. It is not only doing that with petrol but also it is a fact that the price of oil is leading to the use of alternative fuels. Something like two million barrels of oil were saved last year in Sydney alone by conversion to other fuels. We see daily that increased exploration is being announced. This year there will be very substantial exploration and development. Finally, announcements in regard to synthetics can be made, as the venturers into synthetics say, only because of import parity pricing. Without it there would be no Rundle.

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