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Thursday, 29 May 1997
Page: 3973


Senator MARGETTS(12.32 p.m.) —With cement it seems clear that it has been the government's intention to keep quarries and cement works out of the rebate scheme. This was absolutely clarified in 1995, and the current government addressed some issues of limestone quarrying for land care last year. Do you remember those reassurances? Now we see a further push to apply rebates to limestone quarrying. The argument is that cement production involves an extraction of a mineral from limestone but, regardless of rhetoric, nearly any mining may involve some measure of extraction.

Bluestone production may involve washing and screening, which, incidentally, eliminates earth. Coal production involves almost no extraction of any mineral. In fact, there is no real principle in this legislation, just a set of included and excluded minerals—but I have said that before.

We might be interested in a proposition that only extraction of ores which must be subsequently refined is considered as mining because it would eliminate coal or see it reclassified as quarrying. In such a case we might consider the claims of cement companies. As it is, the scheme may as well remain as it is. Cement and limestone extraction is basically excluded from the scheme.

I understand the frustration of some other senators who see the illogic in the scheme and ask why coal mining should get a subsidy and cement and manufacture not. By the same logic, why not subsidise manufacturing industry? We export minerals; we export manufactured goods. I am certain we would export more manufactured goods if we gave manufacturing industries a billion dollars in fuel subsidies like we do to mining—and it would undoubtedly improve employment and the balance of trade figures.

I agree the mining rebate scheme is illogical but see no reason to subsidise yet another mining venture at taxpayers' expense. As my amendments indicated, I would like to have phased out the entire scheme. I will also indicate now that, for the same reason, the Greens (WA) will oppose ALP amendments 5 to 7 since we see no reason to extend the rebate to include processing of minerals that are only dressed, not beneficiated. As I said, the Greens (WA) will oppose the amendment. I believe Senator Brown will speak for himself and, as he represents Tasmania, he may have a different viewpoint, but viva democracy!