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Tuesday, 16 September 2003
Page: 15234


Senator BROWN (12:53 PM) —I move Greens amendments (1) and (2) on sheet 3099:

(1) Schedule 1, page 27 (after line 2), before item 156, insert:

155A Schedule 3 (Chapter 87—Vehicles other than railway or tramway rolling stock, and parts and accessories thereof, after Additional Note 5)

Add:

(5A) For the purposes of 8704, motor vehicles used for the transport of goods including off-road vehicles may attract concessional rates of duty under Schedule 4 when used wholly or principally in agriculture, mining, construction of public infrastructure or for other specified purposes.

155B Schedule 3 (subheading 8704.10.00)

Repeal the rate of duty and the concessional rate in column 3, substitute:

From the date of commencement of the Customs Tariff Amendment (ACIS) Act 2003

15%

FI: 10%DC: 10%CAN: 7.5%

From 1 January 2005

10%FI:5%DC:5%CA:2.5%

From 1 January 2010

5%CA: free

155C Schedule 3 (subheading 8704.21.10)

Repeal the rate of duty and the concessional rate in column 3, substitute:

From the date of commencement of the Customs Tariff Amendment (ACIS) Act 2003

15%

FI: 10%DC: 10%CAN: 7.5%

From 1 January 2005

10%FI:5%DC:5%CA:2.5%

From 1 January 2010

5%CA: free

155D Schedule 3 (subheading 8704.21.90)

Repeal the rate of duty and the concessional rates in column 3, substitute:

From the date of commencement of the Customs Tariff Amendment (ACIS) Act 2003

15%

FI: 10%DC: 10%CAN: 7.5%

From 1 January 2005

10%FI:5%DC:5%CA:2.5%

From 1 January 2010

5%CA: free

155E Schedule 3 (subheading 8704.22.00)

Repeal the rate of duty and the concessional rate in column 3, substitute:

From the date of commencement of the Customs Tariff Amendment (ACIS) Act 2003

15%

FI: 10%DC: 10%CAN: 7.5%

From 1 January 2005

10%FI:5%DC:5%CA:2.5%

From 1 January 2010

5%CA: free

155F Schedule 3 (subheading 8704.23.00)

Repeal the rate of duty and the concessional rate in column 3, substitute:

From the date of commencement of the Customs Tariff Amendment (ACIS) Act 2003

15%

FI: 10%DC: 10%CAN: 7.5%

From 1 January 2005

10%FI:5%DC:5%CA:2.5%

From 1 January 2010

5%CA: free

155G Schedule 3 (subheading 8704.31.10)

Repeal the rate of duty and the concessional rate in column 3, substitute:

From the date of commencement of the Customs Tariff Amendment (ACIS) Act 2003

15%

FI: 10%DC: 10%CAN: 7.5%

From 1 January 2005

10%FI:5%DC:5%CA:2.5%

From 1 January 2010

5%CA: free

155H Schedule 3 (subheading 8704.31.90)

Repeal the rate of duty and the concessional rates in column 3, substitute:

From the date of commencement of the Customs Tariff Amendment (ACIS) Act 2003

15%

FI: 10%DC: 10%CAN: 7.5%

From 1 January 2005

10%FI:5%DC:5%CA:2.5%

From 1 January 2010

5%CA: free

155I Schedule 3 (subheading 8704.32.00)

Repeal the rate of duty and the concessional rate in column 3, substitute:

From the date of commencement of the Customs Tariff Amendment (ACIS) Act 2003

15%

FI: 10%DC: 10%CAN: 7.5%

From 1 January 2005

10%FI:5%DC:5%CA:2.5%

From 1 January 2010

5%CA: free

156J Schedule 3 (subheading 8704.90.10)

Repeal the rate of duty and the concessional rate in column 3, substitute:

From the date of commencement of the Customs Tariff Amendment (ACIS) Act 2003

15%

FI: 10%DC: 10%CAN: 7.5%

From 1 January 2005

10%FI:5%DC:5%CA:2.5%

From 1 January 2010

5%CA: free

156K Schedule 3 (subheading 8704.90.90)

Repeal the rate of duty and the concessional rates in column 3, substitute:

From the date of commencement of the Customs Tariff Amendment (ACIS) Act 2003

15%

FI: 10%DC: 10%CAN: 7.5%

From 1 January 2005

10%FI:5%DC:5%CA:2.5%

From 1 January 2010

5%CA: free

(2) Schedule 1, page 29 (after line 7), at the end of the Schedule, add:

165 Schedule 4 (after item 59)

Insert:

59A

Motor vehicles for the transport of goods classified under 8704 in Schedule 3 at Chapter87Vehiclesotherthanrailway ortramwayrollingstock, andpartsand accessoriesthereof, asprescribedbylaw:entered for home consumption on or after the commencement of the Customs Tariff Amendment (ACIS) Act 2003; andfor use in any of the following industries:mining;resource processing;agriculture;construction of public infrastructure; orgas, electricity and water supply.

The rate of duty that would have applied had not the Customs Tariff (ACIS) Amendment Act 2003 not amended the duty for the goods in Schedule 3 in the following items:8704.10.008704.21.108704.21.908704.22.008704.23.008704.31.108704.31.908704.32.008704.90.108704.90.90

These amendments increase the tariff on off-road four-wheel drives coming into the country—sports utility vehicles, as they are called in the United States—to 15 per cent, the same as other passenger cars coming into Australia. Most of these vehicles come into the country, although some are being produced here now. The problem is that they are the new and exciting edge of motor vehicle transport but they have much more of an impact on the environment than the cars that Senator Allison has just been talking about. Environmentally, they are shockers: they are gas guzzlers and quite dangerous as far as pedestrians and small cars, if they are in a smash, are concerned—although the figures have yet to come in on the relative impact on road safety of the big bumper-bar-led four-wheel drives that we are seeing so much in the cities now. It is worth noting that of the people who buy them only 10 per cent do get to go off road. The intention as an off-road vehicle has been lost in the glamour of the advertising of these lucrative sales items for the big car companies.

It is interesting to see exactly what is driving the switch to the off-road vehicles. I notice that Arnold Schwarzenegger has five and Mike Tyson has four. I am indebted to Gary Young, writing in the Age on Monday, 19 May for his reference to Harper's Magazine in the United States. The article in the Age states:

... as pick-up trucks and off-road vehicles shed some of their redneck image and started to become popular with suburban professionals, the car industry saw its chance. “Detroit marketers began to identify a new class of driver ... a pleasure-seeking, self-oriented man or woman who liked to drive fast, cared deeply about a car's appearance, had an above-average fear of road dangers (including crime), and wasn't exactly eager to advertise his or her married status.” At the root of it was sex.

It is interesting that this has led to quite a controversy in the United States, with people lined up on both sides. These vehicles have been branded the `axles of evil' and they are ticketed in their millions and attracting bumper stickers from the owners in retaliation to environmental bumper stickers in the United States, saying, for example, `As a matter of fact, I do own the road,' and `I'm changing the environment. Ask me how.' Evangelist Jerry Falwell was much upset by the evangelical environment network, which launched a campaign asking, `What would Jesus drive?' That brought a tirade back to them, some pointing out that he had 12 disciples, so it would be a Humvee—it would be a big one! Evangelist Jerry Falwell, who believes that global warming does not exist because `God would not let that happen', is in favour of these vehicles.

Without divine guidance on the matter here today, though, we have got to use our commonsense. Commonsense says that these vehicles are, quite contrary to what Senator Minchin was saying, gas guzzlers and polluters. The bigger of these vehicles use 20 litres per 100 kilometres compared to the average car using half that. Senator Allison was pointing out that her environmentally efficient car uses half that again—down to five litres per 100 kilometres, a quarter of what the big gas guzzlers use. Yet the government is saying, `We will import these at a 10 per cent reduction. Actually, it is a two-thirds reduction in the tariff: instead of 15 per cent, we will allow it at five per cent.' In the old days that was so that there would not be a tariff on farmers and people out in the bush who use these off the road genuinely as part of their business. My amendments cover them and allow them to keep that advantage.

But now 90 per cent of people do not even go off road in these vehicles. Whether it is Nissan, Toyota or Mitsubishi, they are being pushed on the television. As an environmentalist, I might say that some of the ads they have are absolutely appalling—ripping up, in particular, the arid and the alpine wild country of Australia as an example of what not to do if you really care for this country. Some of the advertising agencies show mud spattered all over these vehicles after they have been through pristine rivers and creeks and across snowfields and out onto the edges of sandstone valleys. That is an absolutely appalling indictment of the advertisers and the car makers, who should hang their heads in shame at wishing to rip up the Australian wilderness, and wildlife underneath, in this fashion.

Let's have some fairness here. If people are going to buy these gas guzzlers they will pollute the environment almost in equal inefficiency—that is, the more gas you burn, the more you pollute the environment, the worse it is for global warming and the worse it is in terms of the air breathed in by citizens in big cities. I might add that there is not much escape if you go to diesel because that brings out the cancer-causing particles. One estimate I saw some years ago was that, for example, 300 people a year in Melbourne were getting cancer from the exhaust of diesel vehicles. It is 10,000 people a year in the UK. Let them not get a tax break. Let the taxpayers not be funding the four-wheel drive vehicles. If people want to pay for them, then certainly let them pay for them, but let the incentive go to the more environmentally sound passenger cars that we are more used to and that most people buy, and not to the big polluters.

It is, as I said, an enormous debate that is occurring around the world but, as Senator Allison said, in this country there is apparently a complete absence of recognition by the government that it is actually giving a tax break to an environmental nasty. If you are going to give a tax break in the year 2003, you give it to those vehicles which have the environmental edge. I ask: does the minister believe in global warming? Does he think it is happening? I ask: does the minister think it is smart to be giving city folk a tax break on vehicles like this as against much more environmentally sound vehicles? If you were looking at a $50,000 vehicle, there is a $5,000 tax break over and above what you would get if you were buying a conventional sedan. Finally, I would like to know what the minister thinks about the 25 per cent tax barrier that the United States has got, as far as Australian produced vehicles of this ilk are concerned? Does he not think that Australia should at least catch up by going in the same direction?