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Wednesday, 16 June 2010
Page: 5518


Ms SAFFIN (1:13 PM) —I rise to speak in support of the Excise Tariff Amendment (Aviation Fuel) Bill 2010 and the related bill. I want to respond to what the honourable member for Wide Bay, the Leader of the Nationals, has just said in the debate. One of his comments was that the government had a casual approach to the issue of safety. I reject that. Nobody in the government has a casual approach to the issue of safety. In fact, safety is the basis of these cognate bills. One could say the previous government had a bit of a casual approach to policymaking in general. I was constantly surprised at how little policy work I saw. We are talking about the machinery of government—resourcing authorities like CASA so that the machinery is there so that they can do their job.

Listening to the honourable member for Wide Bay’s contribution, it was as though all was perfect, all was well, all was working, and that is a ridiculous notion—it clearly was not. There are things that have to be done to ensure that a premium is put on our safety. The honourable member for Wide Bay also outlined how a number of people were unhappy, because we are talking about excise, which is a tax. You can always find people who are unhappy when you talk about taxes—that is not hard to do. I think it would behove the honourable member to spend less time on trawling around finding people who are unhappy and more time on working on policy options and working with communities. But the former seems to be an inbuilt trait of the National Party as to how they operate in the community and also they say one thing in here and another out in the electorate, adding to the confusion. Another comment that the honourable member made goes to the issue of mathematics. I stand to be corrected, but I was sitting here listening and I heard him say that 97 additional staff safety specialists would be hired with this additional excise- and customs-equivalent duty. Then he said that would only cost— (Quorum formed)


Mr Price —Mr Deputy Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The member for Forrest, who drew attention to the order of the House, left the House, which is contrary to the standing orders once you have called a quorum. I ask that you take appropriate action against that member with the conclusion of the quorum.


The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr AJ Schultz)—I take note of the Chief Government’s Whip’s point of order. I will remind the Deputy Opposition Whip, the member for Forrest, that when a quorum is called the person calling the quorum must remain in the chamber.


Ms SAFFIN —I was talking about the maths. The honourable member for Wide Bay had talked about 97 staff. He was saying that it would only be a cost of about $600,000 and, I thought, that clearly means that those staff would be severely underpaid—if you do 97 into $600,000 it would not be a liveable wage. The honourable member for Wide Bay needs to revisit his mathematics given that contribution.

The Excise Tariff Amendment (Aviation Fuel) Bill 2010 and the Customs Tariff Amendment (Aviation Fuel) Bill 2010 are always dealt with together. We have a cognate debate because customs tariff bills are companion to excise tariff bills. Constituents sometimes ask about that and say, ‘What is the difference between customs and excise?’ I will put it on the record so that they would be able to read what the difference is. Excise tariff bills are about domestic tax. The general definition in the explanatory memorandum of these two bills is defined as:

Excise is a tax on certain goods produced in Australia including alcohol (other than wine), tobacco and fuel.

It goes on to explain customs duty and the context of the goods that attract excise and are imported. It says:

Imported goods comparable to those subject to excise, known as ‘excise-equivalent goods’, attract customs duty that includes a component at the same rate as the excise rate so that imports and locally-produced goods are taxed in an equivalent fashion. This component is commonly referred to as ‘excise-equivalent customs duty.’

That explains it for those constituents who ask what the difference is. The objectives of these bills are, firstly, to employ an additional 97 safety specialists, being safety analysts, airworthiness inspectors and other staff. I know that for anybody who uses the airlines—and for anybody who does not use them but cares about airline safety—that is a good thing. We do need those extra people to make sure that safety standards can be improved with the complexity of regulations that they also have to oversee. It means airlines can expand the ongoing training of their staff. That is important, because you do not train staff once and say, ‘Well, they are trained, they’ve got that. They understand it. They know all about it.’ It is an ongoing role. That requires money and investment and what better investment do we have than in human resources—to make sure that the safety of all is paramount.

It also will be able to make permanent the random alcohol and drug testing as well as a number of other programs which until now have been funded on a temporary and ad hoc basis. I listened to the honourable member for Wide Bay talk as though it has all been perfect and well. But these things have not been done. The National Party, who always carried the transport role, could have done this but did not do it. It is making permanent this ad hoc arrangement, and it should not be an ad hoc arrangement when it goes to the heart of safety.

Last week I read a letter to the editor of The Northern Star, one of my local newspapers. It was written by a local person I know who flies. It was about an officer at the Lismore airport testing people for drugs and alcohol. She did say it was a bit inconvenient, but I thought that at least they are out in the regions as well, not just in the capital cities. So there was some reassurance with that.

Another object of the bills is to make sure that the Office of Airspace Regulation continues to have the resources to properly regulate and administer Australia’s airspace, an area covering almost 11 per cent of the earth’s surface. That is a big area to cover. This additional $89.9 million will be able to cover that.

A couple of things lead to this. The honourable member for Wide Bay also talked about consultation. There was long consultation. First of all there was an issues paper and then the green paper and the white paper. The industry has been consulted and actively engaged in this. The aviation policy contained in the white paper was an Australian first. Again I remind the Leader of the Nationals that he had nearly 12 years to do this and did not choose to do it. He then comes in here and talks as though somebody is doing something that is amiss. I absolutely refute that accusation—it is not; it is making it safer.

These amendments are to apply from 1 July 2010. The financial modelling shows that $89.9 million will be raised over the four years. This will go to the Civil Aviation Safety Authority, CASA, to make us safer. I commend the bills to the House.