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Thursday, 20 March 1997
Page: 2002

Senator WATSON(3.15 p.m.) —Have the ALP no sensitivities? Have they such short memories that they cannot recall those very dramatic Senate diesel fuel rebate inquiries at which the industry was absolutely aghast? They were up in arms against the proposals that your party was putting forward. You were putting forward some absolutely outrageous proposals which really cut the mining industry to its core. They came from every part of Australia to condemn your government and its attack on the diesel fuel rebate.

What you and your government proposed, Senator Cook, of which you seem to have such a short memory, were unbelievably complex rules over eligibility in relation to roads and the areas over which those roads went. What the coalition has sought to do is to provide some finetuning, some refining, in relation to the diesel fuel rebate. Quite wrongly, you earlier directed your question to Senator Kemp. This is a customs issue. For people who have been handling these issues for so long, I was surprised—as no doubt were so many of my colleagues—to see a question on the refinement of the rules in relation to the diesel fuel rebate not directed to Senator Parer. You are really stretching a long bow.

I am surprised that a person of your eminence, Senator Cook, who used to represent the former Treasurer and Minister for Finance in this place, is trying to bend the banana so much. What we have been looking at here is a refinement in relation to the rebate—amending the rules. The big difference between your government's approach and our government's approach is that of consultation. The coalition had the industry on side participating; you had the industry off side protesting—protesting in such a way that the Senate committee had problems.

Senator Cook, I draw your attention to the fact that you have not been looking at your mail this morning. You have not been reading the papers. You have not been looking at your fax machine. If you had, what probably would have come across your desk would be a press release from the Mining Council. To summarise that press release, the Mining Council indicated that they generally supported the amendments now before the parliament. Where is all this alleged protest? Why is there so much noise from you when we have an industry which generally supports the proposals; an industry which was vehemently against what you put forward?

I find it really difficult for us to generally accept your howls of protest and your condemnation of a very good minister: Senator Kemp. All he did was say that the matter should have been referred or directed to Senator Parer, a man renowned in this place as the minister for good news. He has done outstanding work for the mining industry. He is regarded as one of the best ministers for the mining industry that this country has seen. I agree wholeheartedly with that.

I turn to the protestations of your colleague from the Northern Territory Senator Collins. It is true that, if you are claiming a rebate, it has always been the case that you have to keep records. I think in this case you have to keep them for about five years. Substantiation is naturally required. Your government demanded it. If you have taxation records, you are required to keep them for approximately similar time. (Time expired)

Question resolved in the affirmative.