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Thursday, 27 June 2002
Page: 2990

Senator COOK (2:19 AM) —I want to make a few remarks about the Diesel Fuel Rebate Scheme Amendment Bill 2002. I was all dressed up and ready to deliver a 20-minute speech, but I will bring it down to about five minutes, given that it is now 2.20 a.m. and the pressure is on to complete our deliberations.

This bill does extend the diesel fuel rebate to include diesel used for power generation at remote roadhouses and hospitality and tourist businesses which have to generate their own electricity because they are not on the grid. The diesel is much more expensive there than elsewhere where it is used for power generation. It corrects an anomaly created by the GST which left mines and farms eligible to claim the rebate, but not small businesses on the remote highways of Australia, who do a great job for the travelling public. Those roadhouses are places the travelling public relies on in case of being stranded due to floods or cyclones. They form an essential part of the infrastructure for the travelling public and the business owners ought to be encouraged to go to these very remote locations unhampered by an additional, unfair impost.

This was an issue encountered during the Labor Party's fuel inquiry last year, which I chaired. I recall one publican from a remote location who said that his diesel bill was bigger than his brewery bill. In other words, it cost more to chill the beer than it cost to buy it. I would particularly like to acknowledge the assistance of a couple of people at the inquiry: Mrs Helen Tees from Widgiemooltha, an hour's drive south of Kalgoorlie on the Goldfields-Esperance Highway, and Mr Bob Bongiorno from Balladonia, 930 kilometres from Perth, out on the Nullarbor, who made the seven-hour return trip to put his case on diesel fuel to us in Kalgoorlie. I would also like to acknowledge the Hon. Julian Grill, former WA state member for Eyre, and his successor, John Bowler MLA, who also fought hard for their remote constituents on this issue and who must share the credit too.

In the case of Bob Bongiorno, who drove for seven hours to speak to us, he said it was because of the shameful incompetence that he and Helen Tees received from their federal member in the House of Representatives, Barry Haase. Mr Haase's sole interest seemed to be, at every opportunity, to use it as a political football and to somehow blame Labor for the government's flawed fuel taxing regime. Indeed, when this bill was debated in the other place, he did not even speak on it.

I am very pleased that Labor has forced the correction, because I believe it was pressure from us that forced the correction of this injustice for those living in remote localities in Australia. There was pressure particularly from Kalgoorlie. That provides us with some encouragement to make sure these small businesses are safeguarded in the future.