Tuesday, 27 May 2008
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Prime Minister. I refer the Prime Minister to petrol prices today in Western Sydney, where residents are paying over $1.53 a litre for petrol. Why did the Prime Minister say after only six months that he has done all he can for our community? Why is the Prime Minister ignoring his own energy minister, who said Fuelwatch is anticompetitive, will hurt small business and will leave Australians with higher petrol prices?
I thank the honourable member for her question. On the question of policy debate within the government, as I said yesterday, there are always going to be conflicting views. I would have thought that a healthy policy debate in the cabinet—
the member for Mayo comes in on cue—would have been had in their cabinet prior to their decision to invade Iraq. I think actually having an exchange of views and having a debate where you have a complete embrace of different points of view is the way to go. We are actually pretty relaxed about having a debate which has different points of view. We do not seek to suppress different points of view. We encourage debate; we actually like debate. We are not in the business of suppressing debate as those opposite did on the question of—
and on the question of climate change and on the question of all those matters which went through the cabinet of the dearly departed Howard government—all those matters where there was not a free and frank debate and where there was one predetermined outcome and one predetermined outcome alone. And off they went to war without thinking about it. Off they went for a decade of inertia on climate change without thinking about it. Off they went in multiple directions without thinking about it.
To return to the honourable members question about Sydney, again I would draw her attention to the findings in the document I am holding. This document was commissioned by the member for Higgins back in June last year when he was Treasurer of the Commonwealth. Presumably those opposite, including the honourable member, were becoming concerned about petrol prices back then so they decided at five minutes to midnight that they had better do something about it. So they commissioned Graham Samuel and the ACCC to investigate the price of petrol in Australia and what could be done about it. Then they produced some analysis—and I draw this to the attention in particular of the honourable member who has asked the question—which goes to the difference between the price in Perth and in all the other metropolitan centres on the east coast, and that would include Sydney as well. As a consequence, they reached a conclusion that there be a two per cent differential over time. That is their analysis and that is why we proceeded on that basis.
Furthermore, when this was presented as a way ahead—that is, a way in which to intelligently respond to the whole challenge of how we price petrol in the future—what did the member for Higgins say at the time? He said:
... the ACCC is an independent market regulator which has more expertise in the area of access and pricing than any other federal government instrumentality or agency and that is why it is very important that it is engaged in all of these pricing issues.
That is what is important here: evidence based policy.