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Customs dispute causing great hardship



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MEDIA RELEASE SENATOR AUSTIN LEWIS

SHADOW MINISTER FOR INDUSTRY, TECHNOLOGY AND COMMERCE

THE SENATE

CUSTOMS DISPUTE CAUSING GREAT HARDSHIP

Senator Austin Lewis, Shadow Minister for Industry, Technology and Commerce, today expressed concern that the Minister for Industry, Technology and Commerce, Senator Button, was unaware of the details of a dispute which has seen officers of the Australian Customs Service

refusing to pay legitimate claims for rebate of diesel fuel excise pending resolution of an internal customs service industrial dispute.

"The bans have been in place for over three weeks and have held up the reimbursement of over $40 million to about 10,000 claimants around Australia and the amount is growing daily".

"This delay in reimbursing legitimate claims is causing great financial hardship to small primary producers, many of whom are already experiencing severe financial difficulties", Senator Lewis said.

"I asked the Minister whether he would intervene to ensure speedy resolution of the dispute which has led to the bans . and whether the Government would pay interest on the outstanding amounts to recompense producers for the

financial hardship caused by the bans *

"My impression was that the Minister had very little knowledge of the dispute. He said that payment of interest by his Government was most unlikely. What Senator Button conveniently ignores is that citizens and businesses must pay interest when amounts they owe the Government are

overdue.

"When he obtained a brief, Senator Button suggested that the dispute would be resolved following a Conciliation and Arbitration hearing tomorrow. Clearly, the Minister is not aware that the dispute has already had one hearing before

the Commission and that earlier hearing failed to resolve the dispute".

"In the meantime, 10,000 claims remain unpaid".

For further information: John Robertson (062) 72 7088

15 March 1988