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Tuesday, 16 September 2003
Page: 15242

Senator RIDGEWAY (1:20 PM) —I will not take up a lot of time. I just want to express the view of the Democrats to the amendments put forward by Senator Brown. People may recall that last night during the second reading debate I made it clear that the Democrats support the continuation of the ACIS scheme and the accompanying bill. We want to make clear through our amendment that we are seeking to look at ways of having the industry invest in environmentally sound research and development, and we are seeking some support, particularly from the government, to ensure that those investments continue to occur by leadership from government. I am at a loss to understand some of the logic of what it is that Senator Brown's amendments are trying to achieve, certainly from the perspective of looking at environmental outcomes. It becomes a little bit difficult when you put forward amendments that not only talk about increasing tax but look at the question of making concessions for farmers. What does that achieve at the end of the day?

It seems the only thing that is being achieved is that perhaps we are applying a tariff to sex, as Senator Brown originally spoke about, but from the notes that were provided by Senator Brown to the crossbench senators and the opposition it was made very clear that it was very complex to be putting forward these types of amendments and that they would be put forward in a rough, global amendment that could lead to uncertainty. Then, of course, there was the uncertainty in relation to specified industries such as agriculture and mining. We understand that, given the size and nature of the Australian industry, much of what may be sought will happen abroad as opposed to here. Quite frankly, at the end of the day, if we are talking about trying to deal with four-wheel drives themselves and their production, it is really a question of comparing their full impact with at least the larger family sedans that are also being produced in terms of their fuel efficiency and their effect upon the environment.

This issue was not brought forward by industry or environmental groups during the Productivity Commission inquiry. Under the circumstances, the Democrats thought that it was appropriate that the bill be sent off to a committee for inquiry, and it was dealt with appropriately. The industry made it clear that they supported the passage of the bills. There was no call from industry to adjust the tariffs on four-wheel drive vehicles, and we accept their reasons for not doing so. One would have thought that, if there were an increase in tariffs, it would have been lucrative for them and it would have protected Australian industry. But they did not seem to express that concern. In the submissions that were received, no views were put forward by environmental groups about this issue. Having said that, the issue of same treatment of tariffs on vehicles has been Democrat policy for many years.

I agree with the broader proposition that Senator Brown has put forward. For that reason alone we will support the Greens amendments, but I do want to raise the issue of the way they were brought forward. I believe they were ill thought out. There has not been enough comparative research done on fuel efficiency and harm to the environment with respect to other types of vehicles that are produced domestically. There is also the issue of constitutionality, which was raised by the chair. We accept that, and it does raise some perplexing problems.