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Tuesday, 16 October 1984
Page: 1782


Senator BUTTON (Minister for Industry and Commerce)(8.28) —Of course that view is appropriate because the Liberals are in opposition; it was never appropriate during the seven years in which the Liberals were in government, although Senator MacGibbon described it earlier, I think, as the most iniquitous tax that he had ever heard of.


Senator MacGibbon —I used to speak against it in the Budget debates, and I am proud of the fact that it dropped from $6 to $4.50 and to $3.50.


Senator BUTTON —Yes, and the honourable senators had about as much effect then as he has had tonight. The Government is not of the view that the tax should be removed immediately, otherwise it would not be in the legislation. For that reason, the Australian Democrats' amendment is more acceptable. I reiterate, with approval, the words of Mr John Howard, who said in two Budget speeches. ' Now is not the time to phase out the export levy on coal'. That is clearly the Government's view, otherwise the legislation would not be before the Senate. For that reason I think that the Democrats' amendment, which requires an investigation of this matter-the spirit of that is consistent with the view that the tax is undesirable-is more acceptable to the Government. I should say to Senator Evans that there is a production tax on coal at the moment. I believe sometimes it is called a pit-head tax. It is collected at the point of production and goes to finance miners' long service leave entitlement. The fact that the tax is there does not preclude the terminology of the Democrats' amendment.