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Thursday, 15 May 1980
Page: 2354

Senator McLAREN (South Australia) - My name is not on the speakers' list. But having listened to Senator Mason, I cannot let this debate conclude without pointing out the double standards of the Australian Democrats. Senator Mason accused the Government of being dishonest and, in the same breath, he said that he is going to support this measure. If he were genuine in his accusations about the Government's dishonesty, he would oppose this legislation and support the amendment moved by Senator Walsh. I asked Senator Mason a few moments ago whether he was going to speak on the Bill and he said no. Then he hopped up and spoke on it. That is the reason why I speak. We have seen too many instances of this type of thing in the Parliament. We saw what the Australian Democratic Labor Party did. It would criticise the Government but, when the crunch came, it would always vote with the Government on vital issues. It is quite obvious that that is what the Democrats will do whilst they remain in this Parliament. They will go out into the hustings and criticise the Government. They will do the same here. But, when the crunch comes, they will support it on every major issue. We have witnessed that tonight in Senator Mason's own words.

Senator Mason - We decide what we will support.

Senator McLAREN - He said that he decides what is important. There is nothing more important in the minds of the people of Australia today than the exorbitant price that they have to pay at the petrol pump.

Senator Cavanagh - Senator Masonsaid that the Government has done everything wrong, so they will support it.

Senator McLAREN - That is right. Those are his very words. I am sure that people in the electorate will be very interested to read what Senator Mason has said. I think his leader, when he comes back from China, might be shocked to read his words. Senator Mason criticised the Government, said that it is dishonest, and then blithely said that his party will support it on this measure.

I support Senator Walsh. My remarks will not take very long because Senator Walsh has put a very strong case for the Opposition. Honourable senators have not seen one member of the Government speak in support of the Bill because they know how unpopular this measure is in the electorate. It is only a few days ago that the

Senate passed the Local Government (Personal Income Tax Sharing) Amendment Bill, and the Government made great play about honouring an election promise, made nearly three years ago, that it would give 2 per cent of personal income tax to local government. How is it raising that revenue? It is taking it off every person who buys a litre of petrol. It is using every petrol pump in the country as a tax office. It is ripping the money off taxpayers and it is handing them back a miserable two per cent. What many people in local government do not realise is that they are not even getting the share that they were promised three years ago. Because of the increase in unemployment, the personal income tax collection rate is decreasing. If the Government honours its other promises, which it has not done yet, to lower income tax, the return will be further reduced. All the time that rate is getting lower and lower, and the Government fools local government into thinking that it is getting an increase in its take. Meanwhile the Government is raking off more and more from every petrol user in the country.

The increase in the cost of petrol does not only affect big business. It is having an adverse effect on people in country towns, such as those who have to drive their children to catch the school bus. They are the ones who are feeling the effects. People who play in or follow country football teams are finding now that they cannot let their children play in football teams because the price of petrol is too high. All of these factors will rebound on the Government. The sooner the people get the opportunity, through the ballot box, to make a decision on what this Government has done, the better off we will all be. If time permitted, I could have said a lot more, but I think Senator Walsh has said enough, in his manner which is always capable, even though he is derided by people opposite. When honourable senators are scoring a point in this place they will always find people opposite say that they do not know what they are talking about and that they are handling the truths carelessly, as we heard Senator Watson saying to Senator Walsh.

If anybody is handling the truth on petrol pricing very carelessly in the Parliament, it has been the Minister for National Development and Energy, Senator Carrick. That point was forcibly brought home to the Government tonight by the Opposition spokesman, Senator Walsh. If Senator Carrick had any intestinal fortitude, he would have been here tonight to answer the accusations made by Senator Walsh; but of course he was absent. The only time we saw him in the chamber tonight was when a quorum was called, when there was hardly a Government senator in here. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Wriedt) had to call a quorum to get Government senators in here to support this very Bill. They are so shamefaced about the legislation that they did not want to be in the chamber tonight when it was going through. I hope that, as soon as the Opposition gets an opportunity at the ballot box, the judgment will be passed. I recall well the noises that these people who sit opposite created when the Opposition was in government and it took away a miserable 4c a gallon on petrol in freight subsidies. The present Government senators said that we were crippling country people. But, as Senator Walsh asked: What has the Government done to petrol prices since it has been in office? lt has more than doubled them. If it had the courage now to honour the promises and statements it has made, we ought to be going to world parity prices to bring about conservation and carry that promise out, and petrol would be much dearer now. As Senator Walsh has forewarned the electorate, if the Government is returned to office on I January we are going to see another massive increase in petrol prices which will cripple people, particularly those who live in the country areas.

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