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Wednesday, 29 May 2002
Page: 2592

Mr ADAMS (12:28 PM) —I hope I get on better now than I did on the last occasion when I rose to say something in the House. The Diesel Fuel Rebate Scheme Amendment Bill 2002 has been introduced to try to sort out another problem in the rebates of diesel fuel. Two acts have to be amended to cope with these changes and the purpose of the amendment is to insert section 164 into the Customs Act extending the Diesel Fuel Rebate Scheme to retail and hospitality businesses in remote areas which generate electricity for their own use when there is no ready access to commercial supply of electricity. Of course, that in itself could be a positive thing.

To be eligible for the rebate, the fuel must be used at premises where the retail or hospitality business is carried on and the fuel does not need to be used on the premises, but the use of the fuel must nevertheless be geographically approximate to the premises. The location of the plant using the fuel must be in sufficient proximity to the premises as to enable it to be identified with the premises. Those standards are laid down.

There is no requirement that the enterprise that generates the electricity has to be the sole user of the electricity. However, the rebate is only payable for the diesel fuel used to generate that proportion of electricity that the enterprise itself actually uses. This amendment bill does not extend to business with ready access to a commercial supply of electricity that generate their own power or who operate an emergency backup generator. A business would be regarded as having ready access if a commercial supply of electricity was present or convenient to the business and immediately available for connection.

The electricity has to be used in the course of carrying on an enterprise whose principal purpose is the retail sale of goods or services or the provision of hospitality. The rebate is not payable to an enterprise for the generation of electricity for supply to retail and hospitality businesses. The example that I was given in the bill's explanatory memorandum was:

ABC Corporationoperates a diesel generator to generate electricity in a small remote township in South Australia. ABC Corporation supplies electricity to the residents and businesses in the township, including various retail and hospitality businesses, on a commercial basis.

ABC Corporation is able to determine by apportionment the amount of diesel used to generate the electricity it provides to the retail and hospitality businesses. ABC Corporation, however, is not eligible for a rebate for the diesel fuel used to generate the electricity it provides to the various retail and hospitality businesses as the electricity is not used by ABC Corporation in the course of carrying on a retail and hospitality enterprise—

though, I should imagine that occasionally they would have hospitality in the ABC Corporation businesses—

The various retail and hospitality businesses are not eligible for a rebate as they have not purchased the fuel and used it to generate the electricity in the course of carrying out their various enterprises.

So there was a real anomaly there. Another section of the amendment bill allows for a rebate for the generation of electricity by an enterprise for retail or hospitality purposes to be payable at the same rate as if the diesel fuel had been used in primary production. It also inserts a definition of `retail sale'. This definition excludes enterprises whose principal purpose is the generation of electricity from falling within the meaning of the enterprise that has as its principal purpose the retail sale of goods and services.

Another part of the amendment bill extends the restriction on the power of an authorised officer to examine premises. An authorised officer can examine the residential areas of premises only if the rebate application relates to fuel purchased for use at those premises and the occupant of the premises consents. The amendment of this act will apply only to diesel fuel that is purchased on or after 1 July 2002.

We have to amend the Excise Act before that comes in. The amendment is to insert a paragraph into the Excise Act to extend the Diesel Fuel Rebate Scheme to retail and hospitality businesses that generate electricity for their own use where there is no ready access to a commercial supply of electricity, using words similar to those used to amend the Customs Act. What a messy way to deal with this problem and sort out some anomalies. What happens when another group wishes to have some consideration under the Diesel Fuel Rebate Scheme? Do we just extend it again and have more amendments to sort out their problems? The government certainly made some promises during the election to try and deflect attention away from the rising petrol prices that were occurring at the time, and this is one of the results of those promises.

Before the election I was contacted by a member of my constituency who had bought a small shop at Ansons Bay, a very remote area of my electorate. He was paying enormous amounts at that stage, particularly when the price was really high, to provide power for the shop and to provide for the needs of many shack owners in the district, and there seemed to be nothing available to help him. This will certainly assist him, and I am sure it will help several small businesses that play an important role in isolated areas. They also provide many services, and it would not be easy with some of the costs that they are presently paying.

I understand that the actual beginning of this promise started, as the member for Wills said in the previous speech, with the Aston by-election, which was when this actually came up and was made an issue. It would be really good to know what has actually happened to the fuel taxation inquiry. I thought that this inquiry would suggest ways to provide energy grants or credits in order to cover some of the anomalies of equity—this was promised to us—and that the Diesel and Alternative Fuels Grants Scheme and the Diesel Fuel Rebate Scheme would then be phased out and new ideas and new ways of doing things would come forward which would be in the interests of the environment and in the interests of conserving the fuels and using better fuels than we use now. But where has the new scheme gone? What is going to happen? It has not been said. The government has rejected the inquiry's report and, despite all of the work that was being done to start a more developed scheme, we have this mishmash of bandaid measures to try and keep the country off the back of the government.

The same thing happened when we went through the absurd fluffing about with the taxation laws amendment bill in 1999. There were all sorts of moves made to try to discriminate against the forest industry and to try to cut a sleazy deal with the Democrats over the GST, and of course they were caught out. The timber industry in my electorate had been held to ransom because of this shabby deal between this government and the Democrats, and Wilson Tuckey, the then minister, ran around like somebody with his head cut off, trying to find a solution to this issue. I think we finally passed an amendment bill to sort that out. Even back then when I described a number of flaws in this rebate scheme and the need for it, and, when we saw there was to be an inquiry, we thought that maybe we were going to head down a track where some real issues got sorted out, but of course that has been killed by this government.

The definitions are fuzzy. I can see that we are going to have similar problems with this amended bill to those we have always had. It really is a mess. This side of the House is going to support the second reading, but we have no other options. We were waiting to see the outcome of the inquiry and the development of energy credit schemes to see if there were other ways of doing things. The opposition's amendment deals with some of those issues and also points out that the government has failed to give priority to the accelerated uptake of renewable electricity generation or to give the support that it should have done in that area.

I know the trucking industry was waiting to look at that inquiry into the Energy Grants Credit Scheme and was going to develop its future along those lines. That has all been put back. This comes, of course, from a government that claims to be a green government and, as was pointed out by the member for Wills, the unspent proportion of the environmental budget from last year and the unspent money being brought forward and announced again only goes to show that this government is not fair dinkum in those areas. I support the opposition's amendment to this bill.