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Wednesday, 28 March 2001
Page: 25940

Mr SLIPPER (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance and Administration) (9:55 AM) —There has recently been much speculation, debate and comment in the media in relation to fuel prices. Honourable members opposite have opposed the government's fuel tax cuts, and have now shamelessly claimed that recent increases in the price of fuel are the fault of the federal government. However, we are all well aware that international oil prices are the prime culprit.

Labor's record on petrol tells more than its empty promises do. When Labor came to office in 1983 petrol excise was 6.155c per litre. When it left office excise was 34.183c per litre, which is an increase of over 28c per litre. Recently, the government has listened to the concerns of Australian motorists about high petrol prices, and has acted by putting in place a four-point petrol price plan, which includes the scrapping of Labor's half yearly indexation of petrol excise. Unlike the Labor Party, this government has given motorists a deserved break from higher petrol prices.

An issue of concern to many small businesses in the electorate of Fisher, particularly those on the Sunshine Coast of Queensland, is the way in which the on-road Diesel and Alternative Fuel Grants Scheme has been designed and, in particular, the classification of the Sunshine Coast within this scheme as a metropolitan area. This classification means that any vehicle that weighs between 4.5 and 20 tonnes which is shipping goods or passengers, other than for the purposes of a primary production business, travelling from the Sunshine Coast to Brisbane, is not eligible for a grant under the scheme.

I draw your attention to the inequities within this scheme. While the Sunshine Coast is classified as a metropolitan area—part of the Sunshine Coast-Brisbane-Gold Coast metropolitan area—there are areas between Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast which, unlike the Sunshine Coast, are actually part of the metropolitan area but which are deemed not to be classified as such for the purposes of this scheme—so the metropolitan area is like a dalmatian dog. As such, vehicles travelling to Brisbane from outer metropolitan areas, such as Caboolture, are eligible for a grant, while transport vehicles from the Sunshine Coast, which travel through the so-called non-metropolitan localities on their way to Brisbane, are not eligible for the grant. This represents an unfair impost on the Sunshine Coast and I believe that this matter ought to be reconsidered.

It should be recognised that this occurred because of Democrat amendments to the new tax system legislation. It is absolutely ridiculous that there are areas between the Sunshine Coast and Brisbane which are not deemed to be metropolitan but are deemed to be country, and where businesses which are actually closer to the capital city than those on the Sunshine Coast receive a substantial reduction in the price of diesel. I will approach the Sunshine Coast Democrats to see whether they are prepared to support a change in the boundaries, because it is important that local small business not be disadvantaged. The Democrat amendments have caused this and it is important that this situation be rectified as soon as possible.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Nehl)—In accordance with standing order 275A, the time for members' statements has concluded.