Fuel Prices

They are divided over Kyoto. There are a few over there who still believe that climate change is a fantasy. They are divided over Work Choices. Many could not even bear to go into the chamber to vote on Work Choices. They are still divided over the apology. I seem to remember that there were a couple of MPs who could not even turn up for the apology. They are divided on pensioners as well.

The issue that has been canvassed in this chamber today is about division-division over petrol prices, and that includes the division about petrol prices within your own party. The shadow Treasurer has one opinion in private in email and another position in public. That is the point I am making today. Interestingly, I understand in the joint party room-or maybe it was just the party room-today that there was more division going on. I read in Crikey that half-a-dozen MPs met to demand that the leadership group stay focused on government rather than internal divisions. They were complaining that MPs were failing to keep leadership speculation to themselves.

Mr Deputy Speaker, I was making that point and I thank you for that wise ruling. It is no wonder that they cannot even make up their minds in the party room because they cannot even make up their own individual minds. The member for Mayo cannot even decide if he wants to stay or he wants to go. One day the member for Wentworth-(Quorum formed) I thank those opposite for giving me a crowd to support me. Just to remind honourable members of what I was saying, it is no wonder they cannot make up their minds over there because they cannot make up their own individual minds.

The member for Mayo cannot even decide if he wants to be a member of this place.
That is all right. You just stay there and listen; you will enjoy this. The member for Wentworth flips and flops. He cannot decide whether inflation is a fairytale or a problem. He tells us the sky will fall in if there are extreme spending cuts in the budget, and then on budget night accuses the government of a big-spending budget. Flip-flopping Turnbull turns around again. But he is not the only member opposite who cannot make up his mind, who keeps changing his mind. Remember this bloke: ‘I have never voted Liberal in my life’? I think he is the same bloke who said, ‘I have voted Liberal in every election since 1987, even though in 1988 I rejoined the Labor Party.’

The point I am making is that, love him or loath him, at least with John Howard you knew what he stood for.

He had conviction. You knew what he stood for. We did not like it and the people of Australia did not like it, but at least you knew what he stood for. Now we have got a Leader of the Opposition who attacks us for having summits and then holds his own summit. He says Work Choices is dead, but then a couple of weeks ago he said John Howard got it right. This is a zombie policy that is coming back to life again. Remember that they had a lot of trouble apologising to people who had been stolen from their families, but they had no problem apologising to the banks by saying, ‘I am sorry that you have to repossess people’s homes.’ That is what happened over the last few weeks. Of all the people to feel sorry for, it should not be the banks. I feel sorry for the 300 families in my electorate who lost their homes last year, not the banks. That is what this Leader of the Opposition said.

We certainly know where John Howard stood on petrol. He is the former Treasurer who introduced the excise tax in 1978 and he defended it for the next 30 years. But who knows where the Liberal Party really stands on this anymore? Do you have a position on the luxury car tax? I do not know. Do you have a position on means-testing the baby bonus? I do not think so. How long will your petrol policy last? No answer. Maybe you can answer this question for me: are you going to vote against?

No answer. They are still smudging. They voted against it today. Are they going to vote against it when it becomes legislation? You would think they should vote for it, because it is Western Australian Liberal Party reform-they are the ones who introduced it. Barry O’Farrell thinks it is a great idea. He said Fuelwatch would ‘ease some of those wild fluctuations in weekly pricing’. Catherine Cusack, the Liberal Party spokesperson for fair trading in the New South Wales upper house, supports it. Good on you, Catherine. You are on the right track. We heard also from Choice magazine. Before the coalition attacked Alan Evans from the NRMA, we heard from him. We know that Alan Evans supports Fuelwatch. He thinks it is a good idea. He thinks it will help people that are out there battling with petrol prices. What about the RAC WA? I think they support it as well. They support it because it will increase competition.

The ACCC conducted an inquiry-we did not ask them to do it; the former government asked them to do it. I think the member for Higgins, the former Treasurer, commissioned the work. What did it say? It found that current conditions were conducive to anticompetitive conduct. That means that petrol companies were passing information between each other but people buying petrol were none the wiser. They did not have the information they need; they had to rely on pot luck.

I did a little bit of research on fuel today in Sydney. The Leader of the Opposition extolled the virtues of buying petrol on a Tuesday-how important it is, the cheapest day of the week-and said that there were going to be people lining up. I think he described in quite some detail people lining up to get petrol today. I asked myself: how much is petrol today in Sydney? It depends on where you go. The cheapest price is $1.47 and the dearest is $1.62. That is the point. There is a big differential: almost 13c difference in the price depending on which petrol station you turn up at in Sydney today.

Effectively, you have got to rely on pot luck. People are not given the information they need to make the decisions they need to make. After mucking around in the chamber today and trying to delay the vote until after the TVs go to air, the question is: what are you really going to do on Fuelwatch? Are you going to frustrate the legislation? Are you going to pass it in the Senate? I can see members opposite suddenly going very quiet, not wanting to give me an answer one way or another. I just want a yes or a no.

You will get your chance to speak if you like. Give me a yes or a no. Are you going to vote in favour of the Fuelwatch legislation? Will you pass it through the Senate? They do not want to give us an answer, because they have not decided yet. This goes back to the original comments that I made at the start of my speech today. They are a party divided. They do not know what they stand for anymore. What happened to the party of John Howard-‘Love me or loathe me; at least you know where I stand’? What happened to that? It is a bit like the Hydra from Greek mythology: if you cut off the head, two heads rise up; if you cut off the leader, two more leaders rise up; if you cut off the policy, a multitude of other policies rise up. At least with John Howard you knew where you stood. There was not this flip-flopping on climate change, petrol and industrial relations. The only thing they stand for anymore is vote-buying. I never thought I would say this in this chamber, but with John Howard-love him or loathe him-at least you knew where he stood.’