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Wednesday, 25 June 2003
Page: 17454

Mr SLIPPER (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance and Administration) (11:43 AM) —In summary I will be quite brief. I have allowed the member for Batman to speak at some length without taking a point of order on what he said.

Mr Martin Ferguson —Mr Deputy Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The standing orders provide for me to make my interventions and the standing orders prevail. It is about time the member for Fisher understood that he has not allowed me anything; the standing orders of the parliament and the people of Australia have allowed me to actually stand up and be counted today.

Mr SLIPPER —Mr Deputy Speaker, on the point of order: what I was saying was that I have allowed the member for Batman to proceed with his numerous contributions without taking a point of order when I considered that he deviated from the particular provisions of the Energy Grants (Credits) Scheme Bill 2003. Certainly under our standing orders he is entitled to make as many five-minute contributions as he wishes, but they are supposed to be relevant to the bill. He deviated quite considerably but I thought that, in the interests of expediency, it would be wise to allow him to exhaust what he wanted to say. Then I could sum up the bill and make sure that this legislation is carried for the very many benefits contained in it.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Wilkie)—Parliamentary Secretary, let me rule on the point of order. I do not believe that there is a valid point of order, as was explained. I think that is adequately summed up.

Mr SLIPPER —Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. I just want to make a couple of comments in relation to shipping. The House will be pleased to know that I will not take anywhere near as long as the member for Batman. The government has committed to maintaining entitlements under existing schemes, and the removal of the shipping subsidy would increase overall costs of the scheme as freight transfers to road. Shipping is—and we are a maritime nation; we are an island continent—the most efficient form of transport and it is environmentally effective. It is somewhat regrettable that, during the period that the member for Batman was the ACTU president and during the period of the Hawke and Keating governments, we have not developed the coastal trade as much as we could have. There is a whole range of reasons for that, including unrealistic conditions. The sad thing is that we have not had a viable coastal shipping industry for a long time. The ALP must take prime criticism for that; they must accept responsibility for it.

The attempt by the opposition to deny credit to foreign ships was an inappropriate way to try to deal with their industrial agenda. I know that the member for Batman quite passionately believes in his industrial agenda, as a former ACTU president—as are a number of other members of the Australian Labor Party in this place—but there is a time and place to pursue industrial issues, and I suspect that it is not in debate on the Energy Grants (Credits) Scheme Bill 2003. If the ALP had been successful in denying credits to foreign ships, this would have also had the impact of undermining the coastal shipping industry, leading to transfer to road. Of course, if you transfer to road you have a whole range of other problems: the cost of creating roads, safety issues, the environment and the quality of life of people living along those roads. Had the ALP been successful in denying credits to foreign ships, there would have been increased freight costs in communities in some parts of the country, such as Western Australia and Tasmania and maybe other parts of the country.

I thank the opposition for their support of this legislation. It is regrettable that the mem-ber for Batman has been able to articulate such a long monologue over a considerable period, but he has had his opportunity. We have not taken a point of order. I ask the parliament for support of this legislation and for the amendments which I have moved to be agreed to.