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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1996 Week 7 Hansard (20 June) . . Page.. 1989 ..

Mr Humphries: What is the answer to the question I asked?

MS FOLLETT: The answer is that I would get back into government, Mr Humphries. Thank you. Petrol prices came down when we were in government. They went straight back up when the pressure was on. I would ask: Is the Minister relaxed and comfortable, as he appears to be, with the situation where every Canberra motorist, whether private or business, is actually paying - and this is a very conservative figure - $260 per car, per year, more for petrol than their counterparts in other cities?

MR HUMPHRIES: No; of course I am not comfortable with that fact. But I say to you again: Do not just shout across the chamber. Do something about it. You tell us what you can do that has not already been attempted. Mr Speaker, this Government has a number of planks of its policy already in place, which I believe are going to have a long-term benefit for motorists and the price that they pay at the bowser. We have banned the practice of multisite franchising, pending the outcome of an ACCC inquiry which is presently going on and pointing out, I might say, a number of practices which are quite damaging to the competitors of the marketplace. That is a very appropriate step, and we are one of the few jurisdictions to have taken that step to protect motorists while that inquiry is going on. I might say that there was considerable Labor opposition at the early stages of that legislation coming down. We are also putting in place a policy to lower the premiums paid for those who enter the marketplace in the ACT.

Members will recall that the working party on petrol prices that the Opposition itself produced some years ago indicated that the reason we were paying more at the bowser was that it was costing so much more, because of rationing, to get into those sites in the first place. When you pay five million bucks for two service stations in Tuggeranong, as you did a few years ago, it is inevitable that you are going to need a lot of money going through the bowser to recover the cost of that investment. Bringing that down is another important plank. At the behest of people like Mr Berry, Mr Hird and others, I have also met with small petrol station owners or operators in this town and with the major oil companies. I have made it perfectly clear to the latter that I will not be releasing existing service station sites for redevelopment as housing or anything else, unless it is absolutely clear that they cannot be sustained as petrol stations. That is a step which no previous government has bothered to take, and we are going to be taking that step to make sure that the maximum level of competition is available.

Mr Speaker, I make no apologies for or bones about those steps. They are difficult steps to take. They are interventionist steps for a Liberal government, particularly, to be taking; but we defend that because we are going to work hard at reducing those long-term elements which are keeping up petrol prices in the ACT.

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