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Thursday, 1 June 2000
Page: 16797


Mr SLIPPER (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance and Administration) (9:35 AM) —I move:

That the bill be now read a second time.

The Diesel and Alternative Fuels Grants Scheme Amendment Bill 2000 introduces amendments to the Diesel and Alternative Fuels Grants Scheme Act 1999 to extend entitlements in respect of certain uses of vehicles and to correct a number of administrative matters to ensure the scheme better reflects the government's policy intent.

Firstly, amendments are necessary to give effect to the government's decision to extend the fuel grant to primary producers located within the metropolitan areas and to people who carry goods on behalf of primary producers. As the legislation currently stands, vehicles between 4.5 tonnes and 20 tonnes gross vehicle mass operating solely within the metropolitan areas are ineligible for the grant thus excluding, in some cases, rural businesses located within the metropolitan areas. This amendment will extend the eligibility for the grant to primary producers regardless of location.

Secondly, it is proposed to extend the fuel grant to buses operating solely within metropolitan areas and using alternative fuels. Journeys undertaken by buses between 4.5 tonnes and 20 tonnes gross vehicle mass solely within the metropolitan areas are currently ineligible for the grant. The amendment will extend the eligibility to buses using alternative fuels regardless of location.

Thirdly, it is proposed to extend the fuel grant to emergency vehicles between 4.5 tonnes and 20 tonnes gross vehicle mass using diesel and alternative fuels. This amendment would remove an anomaly whereby these vehicles would otherwise be excluded as they are considered to be special purpose vehicles not designed to carry goods or passengers. The amendment will primarily assist firefighting services and will apply regardless of whether they operate in metropolitan areas or non-metropolitan areas.

The government wishes to acknowledge in the parliament the strong interest in this issue shown by a number of honourable members and senators—in particular, the honourable members for Macquarie, McEwen, Robertson and La Trobe, and Senator the Hon. Kay Patterson.

At the same time, amendments are also proposed to:

amend the registration requirements to ensure that claimants do not forfeit entitlements due to technicalities surrounding registration of vehicles for the scheme;

clarify that journeys between metropolitan areas and non-metropolitan areas are eligible in both directions;

amend the entitlement provisions to ensure that clients who seek to correct a mistake or omission from a previous claim do not lose their entitlements for both the original and the amended claim;

replace the provisions dealing with the recovery of scheme debts with the standardised collection and recovery provisions that apply to other acts administered by the Commissioner of Taxation; and

provide for the payment of interest to claimants on the underpaid amount of fuel grants which are paid, or applied against debts, as a result of an objection against a fuel grant assessment.

Full details of the measures in the bill are contained in the explanatory memorandum. I commend the bill to the House and present the explanatory memorandum.

Debate (on motion by Mr Melham) adjourned.