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Tuesday, 21 May 1985
Page: 2285


Senator CHANEY(10.32) —I do not want to prolong the debate. The Opposition supported negativing the amendment because the Bill has been before us on a number of occasions and I think that we should dispose of it. I respond very briefly to a comment by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Button). He has suggested that the attitude he has adopted is in the defence of some sort of economic rationality. I think that the form of the rebate with which the Government has lumbered people is something that could certainly not be described as rational. For a start, the rebate is less than the full rebate which one would expect if one was to exempt people from excise, and the degree of variation from the amount of the rebate will change every six months because the Government has indexed the two things, the excise itself and the rebate, from different bases. Therefore there will be a sort of perpetual change and an ever-widening gap between the amount of the excise and the amount of the rebate.

The Government might be able to say that it simply cannot afford the amendment, that it has to tax Australia's primary producers this extra 2c plus a litre on fuel because it needs the money to match its Budget. That is the only rational argument which is open to the Government. It cannot defend the excise rebate in its present form as being designed with anything in mind other than to maintain additional revenue from these hard-pressed areas. We believe that it is up to the Government to sort out its total revenue requirements and to extract those from the Australian taxpayers. There is no other source. But we think it is utterly irrational to have a fuel excise which is dealt with in the way in which this one is dealt with-with a rebate that is only partial and a gap between the amount of the rebate and the amount of the excise which is infinitely variable and which will change every time there is an indexation increase. We think that that is a most peculiar arrangement. It is irrational and it bears heavily on beleaguered industries. We do not believe that it is justified.