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Wednesday, 27 May 1987
Page: 3422


Mr IAN CAMERON(4.08) —It is my pleasure to speak to the Customs and Excise Legislation Amendment Bill and the Customs Tariff (Commonwealth Authorities) Amendment Bill. These Bills and the proposed amendments relate to Commonwealth authorities being required to pay customs duty. Of course, this Hawke Labor Government is imposing just another tax upon Australians generally throughout the community with its revised arrangements governing the payment of the excise rebate on diesel fuel used by those people eligible for the rebate. The legislation also involves the imposition of a charge of $200 for the processing of an application for a refund of customs duty. So people claiming a refund of customs duty will be charged $200 for the privilege. Obviously, they will have to do a whole lot more paper work under the revised scheme for the diesel fuel rebate.

The changes involve users providing more information when claiming the diesel fuel rebate. I wonder what more is needed. I thought the system already in place was very good. It was a simple system. All we had to do was to be registered and sign and return the document with the next invoice to receive the fuel rebate. The amount was paid into the bank account nominated. I have always thought that that system was a big improvement on the previous scheme and that it was operating very well, although obviously the Government has found more anomalies in the system.

The minimum quantity in relation to which a claim can be made has been increased to 2,000 litres. The Government must be congratulated for extending the time limit. At present, the claim must be made within 12 months, and that time limit is to be extended. However, a person cannot make a claim until he has used 2,000 litres. I imagine that that would take some years for farmers, forestry workers, fishermen or other people who are entitled to make a claim. In other words, people will have paid the full price for diesel, including the 19.5c excise duty on that product, but they might have to wait for two or three years before they have used sufficient fuel so that they can make a claim and obtain the rebate which, under the law of the land, is due to them.

Of course, the rebate was provided to help Australians compete on world markets in agriculture, farming and the fishing industry. That was sorely needed. It helped those export industries advance and it helped the balance of payments, which is in such a disastrous position under the present Government. I believe that the level of 2,000 litres is far too high. Obviously, fewer claims will be made. There will be supposed saving through the department of $6m, and most of that has to do with the administrative arrangements. I would have thought that that was the most overstretched estimate I have ever seen from any department. Honourable members cannot tell me that the department is spending that much money doing this job; it could not possibly spend $6m doing the paper work. The Government tried to tell us in the May statement that $6m will be saved, but I believe that that is farcical.

It is also interesting to note that of the 156,000 people who in previous years claimed the diesel fuel rebate only 125,000 were primary producers. The fact that people have to make a claim to obtain these rebates is Treasury's way of ensuring that people do not get their just desserts. In fact, 250,000 primary producers are registered with the Australian Taxation Office, yet only 50 per cent of those people even bother to make a claim and obtain the rebate. I believe that that highlights the sorts of what I call shady taxation deals upon which this Government embarks whereby people are forced to fill out even more forms-and even more detailed forms-to be eligible for the rebate. That is wrong in the system that we have imposed. If this system is to be available to producers, it should be automatically available to all producers. Under this present Government only half the people who are eligible make a claim.

The cost of the estimated rebate for primary producers for 1986-87 is $285m. This is a cost to revenue but, on the other hand, one could argue that the present taxing regime of this Government is fantastically high in regard to fuel taxation. The Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) has just gone to Government House to call for an election on 11 July this year. He will rush off to the polls. I do not know what he is frightened of. But he will get a hell of a fright when the Australian Labor Party candidate for Maranoa is selected; there is still not a candidate there. But he will be thrashed on 11 July. The Prime Minister is jumping into his car and going off to Government House to call another election, for God's sake, but he told us only three weeks ago: `I will go my full time. I am a responsible Prime Minister'. What a lot of hogwash and poppycock. The Prime Minister has gone to Government House to declare an election on 11 July. I would like to tell the Government that it is running scared in not going its full time until the bicentenary year. And, of course, elections are a great cost to this nation.


Madam DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mrs Darling) —Order! I point out to the honourable member for Maranoa that we are debating the Customs and Excise Legislation Amendment Bill, and I ask the honourable member to curtail that discussion.


Mr IAN CAMERON —The estimated rebate for the mining industry is $205m, and for other areas, including hospitals, it is $10m. The total is roughly $500m. Most of the increase is due to the massive increase in excises which are now indexed to inflation. The Government has indexed the excises that we are paying. Under the Labor Government, the leader of which has gone out to call another election, for God's sake, on 11 July, taxes have increased from 10c a litre at the beginning of 1986 to more than 20c a litre at the beginning of this year-a 100 per cent increase. This is the highest taxing, highest spending Government that this nation has ever seen. It is sending us bankrupt by introducing these Bills, these new taxing measures.

The rearrangement of these excises is a part of the May statement. We have seen a massive $3.5 billion increase in taxation. But the Prime Minister has the gall to tell us that he is balancing his books and running the country in some sort of sensible manner. What a lot of nonsense! I wish that he would get back from Government House and come into this House to hear what I have to say about this Bill. I challenge the Prime Minister and any of the candidates that he likes to put up in my electorate on 11 July. He will get one hell of a fright on election day, because this Labor Government will be defeated.

I would also like to point out to the House that the fuel policy of the National Party of Australia is an excellent document, which we have spent many months running through. Our intention, when elected back into government on Saturday, 11 July, is to cut the wellhead tax. Initially, this Government took $1.2 billion at the wellhead. Our intention is to slowly reduce that. At long last we have the oil industry on-side, supporting us in this endeavour. I have always believed that the tax paid-up to 80c in the dollar-is too high and that, if we are to get out and find more crude oil in places like Maranoa, the Cooper Basin, Roma and other areas where oil is established, we must get off the backs of the oil companies and stop taxing them. The wellhead tax must be totally withdrawn.

The revenue from the oil industry, including the crude oil excise on diesel in 1986-87, will total $1.2 billion; the LPG excise will total $103m; petroleum royalties will amount to $60m; and the petroleum products excise will be $5.6 billion. Most of that amount comes from petrol, on which the excise is now 20c a litre. That adds up to $7.02 billion. Company tax from the producers of the product amounts to $900m and company tax on refiners and marketers totals $200m. We are looking at a total tax take of $8.12 billion or 11 per cent of total taxes in this country.

For many years I have argued that it is discriminatory taxation, that this industry is paying far too much of its share of production into taxation. We will be elected into government on 11 July, once the Prime Minister gets back from Government House and announces the election to the nation. We all have our mouths open waiting for this great event. The Prime Minister will be here at 5 o'clock to tell us what will happen.

It is a pity that the proceedings are not being broadcast, because I would like to tell the electors of Maranoa what I think of the Hawke Government's fuel policies. The National Party will abolish automatic fuel excise indexation. We are also going to extend the rebate excise to all fuel used on farms, not just petrol, as this Bill indicates. Petrol represents 40 per cent of all fuel used on farms. It is important that producers in this country get a fair go and are able to compete. We will also remove the sales tax on lubricants and oils used on farms. As an extension of the taxes applied by the great Hawke taxing Government, we are now seeing sales tax applied to oils and lubricants. We will review the inequitable petroleum products freight subsidy scheme, something which this Government has withdrawn.

We shall exempt the fishing industry from the 2c per litre Australian bicentennial roads development levy. The Minister for Sport, Recreation and Tourism (Mr John Brown) is at the table. He represents the Hawke socialist Government. We have the absurd situation in which his Government applies a levy of 2c a litre to the fishing industry. For God's sake! These poor fishermen are out at sea all their lives and yet the Government is charging them 2c a litre to use the high seas. They are not on the road; they are in their boats at sea, yet this Government is charging them. After 11 July, when we are returned to government, we will abolish these things. We will withdraw the crude oil excise to ease prices and we will reduce government revenue from oil production, et cetera. I believe this is a very imaginative and progressive policy. I look forward to being part of the new government after 11 July. I am sure that all my colleagues are looking forward to walking the few yards across the House to sit on the other side.