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Wednesday, 3 December 1986
Page: 3314


Senator VIGOR(9.57) —The Australian Democrats will be seeking to disallow clause 13 of the Customs and Excise Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1986. This clause enables the Government to vary excise rates on export of crude oil from our Bass Strait oil fields, merely by gazetting such changes by regulation. The Government has signalled its intention to lower these excise rates to encourage greater levels of oil exports while world oil prices remain depressed. Despite the endeavours of Senator Grimes to convince us that this is not an important measure, we are still selling, even if it is only six months of Bass Strait oil, a reasonable amount of oil at a lowered rate. If we simply held on to it for a little longer, we could get a higher price, and that makes quite a bit of sense.

The Australian Democrats consider that this move by the Government reflects its commercial incompetence in the management of Australia's financial affairs. I believe that any trader worth his salt works on the principle of buying when the market is low and selling when the market is high. Our oil is a scarce resource. Oil is a commodity which, more than any other, should be conserved while export prices remain uneconomical, and it should be reserved for the time when oil will undoubtedly be scarce, and no one here denies that.

The Minister for Community Services (Senator Grimes), in his reply to the second reading debate, said that I had claimed that there was likely to be no more oil discovered in Australia. That is not the case. I recognise that we have a large number of areas in which oil could be found, but that is not a reason for rushing helter-skelter into using it and trying to export it. The Australian Democrats deplore this measure of economic and resource mismanagement and we deplore the further attempts to sell off cheaply the birthrights of all present and future Australians. (Quorum formed)