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Thursday, 10 December 1998
Page: 1843

Mr TIM FISCHER (12:25 PM) —I appreciate being able to speak briefly on this legislation. As agreed, because of the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in six minutes time I have to make a presentation elsewhere in this building.

This is the second leg of the tax reform package which delivers the transport fuel tax cut worth $3½ billion to Australians—wherever they live in Australia—to the Australian economy, to exporters and to consumers in rural and regional Australia. It is the breakthrough which I have worked for over many years and which I thought we could get close to in the lead-up to the 1993 elections.

It is a privilege to stand here as a member of the coalition federal government with a mandate to deliver a new tax system: a goods and services tax; the abolition of wholesale sales tax; and the abolition of a huge amount of diesel fuel excise tax right across this country.

I point out to the House that the diesel fuel excise—the transport fuel tax—reductions provided for in this legislation will apply not only in respect of road, important as that is, but also in respect of rail operations. The diesel fuel is consumed by the Australian railway systems, which are variously government and private enterprise railways, across the big system of Queensland, a narrow-gauge system, and the systems of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia, as well as a private enterprise rail, including iron ore and coal haulage, where it has not been electrified.

This measure will be a huge boost for rail transport as we enter the beyond 2000 period and it is one which has been long overdue. Governments on both sides of this parliament have hit hard against rail over the years. They have applied to rail a diesel fuel excise tax regime which was very unfair. I am proud of the fact that, as part of the tax reform package, there is now to be a huge reduction in fuel excise applying to rail. Equally, there is going to be a big reduction in fuel excise applying to road. That will give consumers across country Australia and exporters right across Australia a chance to have a far more effective approach and a lower cost transport system to apply upon the implementation of this tax reform package on 1 July.

The first leg of the fuel equation was delivered under subdivision 123-A and division 123, which deals with diesel fuel credits, in a new tax system bill. The second leg comes with A New Tax System (Goods and Services Tax Imposition—Excise) Bill. I note that the opposition has previously moved some amendments in relation to the excise bill. I reiterate that the government stands absolutely behind this part of the package which gives the country areas of Australia a fair go, at long last, in relation to transport fuel taxes.

I note that the Democrats have already signalled out for particular opposition the tax system changes in respect of diesel fuel. They have not done their homework on this. The more efficient you can make rail in this country, the more contribution you can make to the greenhouse equation. The more efficient you can make road in this country, again the better it is for the greenhouse equation.

I recognise that over the years the Democrats and others have pursued a particular agenda with regard to pollution, environmental considerations and the like. The bonus of our tax reform package, and one of the absolutely core parts of that package, is the transport fuel tax reform, because that will help us along the pathway of a more efficient transport system and give people living beyond Mildura and Mount Isa, at long last, a fair go with both the cost of supermarket goods on the shelves and the costs of exports from those regions to the ports, the airports and to the world.

I strongly commend the new tax system package of legislation going through the House of Representatives this day and I particularly commend the transport fuel tax reform. I am proud of it, the Treasurer is proud of it and the government is proud of it. It is long overdue.