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Tuesday, 2 June 1998
Page: 4474

Mr ANDREW (9:25 PM) —I too am very pleased to have the opportunity to participate in this debate on the Customs Tariff Amendment Bill (No. 1) 1998 and to follow the remarks made by the member for Cunningham, the shadow minister for small business, Customs and the Olympics (Mr Martin). The shadow minister has a particular affinity with the operation of the Customs Service. I once served on a committee which he chaired in which a review of the Customs Service was undertaken. I freely concede that he chaired that committee in a very professional way. I think it was a very useful and constructive review with a very bipartisan outcome.

He has challenged us tonight to celebrate the Sydney 2000 Olympics, and it is some thing that every member of this House is happy to do. He has endeavoured, in his usual disarming manner, to be as bipartisan as possible. He has been quite accommodating about what has been done by his New South Wales colleagues, particularly Premier Carr, in the run-up to the Olympics and about what he saw as Premier Carr's particularly concise and effective costing of the Olympic program. I thought his remarks would have been even more acceptable had he taken it one step further and conceded that we also owe a great debt of gratitude to the Minister for Finance and Administration (Mr Fahey) for the very existence of the Olympics here in Australia. I would like to make that comment in a bipartisan sense.

Mr Martin —I concede that. John was at the forefront of that.

Mr ANDREW —Which the member for Cunningham graciously concedes. As the member for Cunningham has said, the bill offers under concessional item 64 a concession for all of those who will be our guests in Australia, who will come to the Olympics principally as athletes but also as people who are in one way or another involved in the import of commercial or non-commercial goods. To allow them to participate in the Olympics, this bill offers a concession on the import of those goods. It is a bill that clearly the government endorses because the government has introduced it. It is a bill which the member for Cunningham has welcomed and which he has indicated he intends to give speedy passage.

Both the Minister for Employment, Education, Training and Youth Affairs (Dr Kemp), at the table, and the shadow minister enjoy a certain sort of affinity with both the Olympics and sporting activity that a quick glance at their physique will reinforce. As the member for Wakefield, I have to say that I do not enjoy quite the same familiarity with sports or sporting activities.

I rise tonight to focus not on schedule 4 of the bill, which has been the focus of the shadow minister's remarks, but on schedules 2 and 3. Schedules 2 and 3 involve a change in the way in which commercial aviation is administered in Australia. Schedules 2 and 3 allow approximately $700,000, which is currently being collected by way of an excise on avgas, to be returned to the users of avgas. The focus of schedules 2 and 3 is fundamentally to bring some equity into the funding of the general aviation services in Australia and the contribution that general aviation makes to the way in which Airservices Australia is administered.

Airservices Australia basically polices the way in which our airports run and the way in which our general aviation air traffic is controlled. In the past, that has been funded through an excise levied on avgas users so that all piston engine aircraft using avgas, as opposed to avtur, which is used in most commercial aircraft, had the excise collected at a rate of 15.6c on all the aviation fuel that they used.

As you will appreciate, Madam Deputy Speaker, this was a cost being particularly borne by those who use piston engine aircraft, but frequently those same people did not use the services of Airservices Australia. If, for example—and I say this as a South Australian; the shadow minister at the table, the member for Bonython (Mr Martyn Evans), will recognise this—you are using Parafield or West Beach airport in South Australia, you have the advantage of a control tower and of some sort of administration on the way in which you approach and depart from those airports. But if you are landing anywhere else in my electorate—in fact, I would think probably anywhere else in South Australia—you do not have a control tower and you are entirely dependent on messages that are relayed (the minister would know better than I) probably from Melbourne. So this was a case of people who frequently use aircraft and have no need for the detailed air traffic control that goes with aircraft usage paying for a facility they were not accessing.

Imagine, if you will, for a moment what this does if you are the operator of agricultural aircraft solely used for the purpose of picking up fertiliser or chemicals in a paddock, carting it a maximum, I would have thought, of 10 kilometres, depositing it on the crop that needs it and returning to load again. You would go backwards and forwards all day, never needing the services of Airservices Australia other than to record with them first thing in the day that that is what you would be doing, that you would never be exceeding an altitude of, say, 500 feet anyway and so never would actually be in the way of any other aircraft, but being obliged, through the use of this particular charge, to pay for a service you did not use.

I am indebted to the member for Parkes (Mr Cobb), who has been much more detailed in his coverage of this legislation than anyone else in the House, save the Minister for Customs and Consumer Affairs (Mr Truss) at the table. The member for Parkes indicates to me that if you are operating a crop sprayer in his electorate spraying cotton crops—I have had some association with crop sprayers, but only 30 years ago when they were the old Pawnee aircraft and of a much smaller design than the ones that are used today—you could well be operating four Air Tractor units, the modern crop sprayer, piloted by professionals who clearly use GPS navigation techniques to ensure that they have not duplicated any of their runs and who are meticulous about where the fertiliser or chemicals are being dropped, which will consume 200,000 litres of avgas in a season. The legislation we are currently dealing with would save that one crop spraying operator $31,200 in a season's activities. That is the employment of one more person, and it is $31,200 that has been leaving rural Australia for no just cause, paying for a facility that was not being used. It is $31,200 that is now being retained by that operator or retained in that local district.

This is a case of the government doing what rural and regional Australia would expect it to do: ensuring that those who use Airservices Australia's facilities and who are advantaged through safe aviation because of the provision of those services are the people who pay. They pay now because the use of any one of these airports with controlled air space and control towers carries with it a fee, and that fee goes to the funding of Airservices Australia.

The legislation currently before the House gives us the opportunity, frankly, to ensure that regional and rural Australia is not carry ing the cost for a service it is not using and that in fact the cost is being more equitably collected from those who are using the service, whether in flying schools, in small commercial activities or, as in the illustration I have given, as crop dusting operators. I am pleased to be associated with the legislation, and commend the minister on what he has done to bring it into the House in this form.