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Thursday, 29 May 1997
Page: 3974

Senator PARER (Minister for Resources and Energy)(12.40 p.m.) —I am somewhat amazed by the support for this. At a Senate legislation committee hearing, the cement industry sought an amendment to allow rebate for use in the manufacture of cement. Limestone was excluded from the definition of minerals with effect from 1 July 1995 under the previous government. Customs have maintained that if a mineral is extracted from limestone then rebate is available, as the activity has been undertaken as mining for minerals. That is the point Senator Murphy and I were having a slight difference of opinion on.

The cement industry maintains that the limestone it extracts undergoes a process where the mineral calcite is obtained. Customs dispute that calcite is obtained from limestone in the manufacture of cement. The cement industry has taken the matter to the AAT, but hearing of the case has been deferred at the industry's request until other major cases, including those involving other types of rocks, are resolved.

The amendment requested by the cement industry is reflected in the opposition's amendment. I would like to point out that the amendment will not resolve the issue that is currently before the AAT. The test to be applied is whether the limestone is mined for minerals. The information available to Customs indicates no mineral is extracted in the production of cement. That was the little technical discussion that Senator Cook and I were having.

I would just like to make a quick remark, and I do not want to inflame you and get you up to give a big speech with regard to Senator Brown's comment about logic. He is supporting it because of a local issue. He is extending the use of diesel fuel rebate. After all the complaints he makes, he launches into a critical comment about a group in Queensland, Central Queensland Cement, and then says, `I'm going to support this.' It is interesting.

Senator Brown —If you'd like me to, I'll change my vote.

Senator PARER —I would. Yesterday—and I do not know whether you realise what you and Senator Margetts did—you actually supported an opposition amendment which opened a loophole in the Dampier Salt case which could well mean that one of the groups that you dislike intensely, such as the coal industry, may well now, and I do not know whether this is for sure, be able to apply because of the precedent set for diesel fuel rebate on the transportation of coal to the ports at Newcastle and Port Kembla.