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Deputy Prime Minister discusses the diesel fuel rebate.

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PETER CAVE: Deputy Prime Minister, Tim Fischer, is calling for calm over the detail of the diesel fuel compromise. Mr Fischer says the government has promised to sit down and consult further with the transport industry and the Democrats before any amendments are finalised. He’s confident there will be enough time to come up with a workable solution. Mr Fischer is speaking to Sally Sara in our Canberra studio.


SALLY SARA: Mr Fischer, let’s get down to some of the specifics of this diesel compromise. If we use an example, if you and I both operate 10 tonne trucks - mine’s based here in Canberra, yours is based in Queanbeyan - if we’re on the same runs, will we get the same rebate?


TIM FISCHER: There’ll be a cut-through explanatory memorandum; it will be finalised. It’s covered off in the John Howard/Meg Lees document and it will provide all that detail. The difference is under Labor 43 cents a litre on all trucking operations, so that’s who the TWU should object to, and under us, in many categories be it Queanbeyan or Canberra, 20 cents a litre, and on rail zero cents a litre diesel fuel excise, as rail at long last gets the big boost it deserves.


SALLY SARA: So you can’t answer that kind of an example yet?


TIM FISCHER: I choose not to answer until we have the full explanatory memorandum, which is the sensible way to go, and of course all of that detail will be on the basis of less record keeping, simplified record keeping, to work through the additional detail, which I admit has arisen because of the outcome and whereby we are going to get good progress on tax reform but not all that the coalition government set out to deliver.


SALLY SARA: You said yesterday that you will be out every hour and every day selling the detail of this plan. How can you do that?


TIM FISCHER: When the legislation is drafted it will be done, and the simple parts I’ll start selling right now. For Queensland, Queensland Rail gets a benefit of $35 million; Western Australian Rail gets a benefit of $15 million; and the family tax cuts which Labor can only speculate about with their funding fudging, we in fact will be delivering $12 billion of family tax cuts from the John Howard/Meg Lees brokered deal, with help from Peter Costello, Robert Hill, John Anderson and others.


SALLY SARA: Would it be such a bad thing if transport operators were given an incentive, or it was in their interest that they were to move to country areas?


TIM FISCHER: Decentralisation has been off the agenda a little bit of late. This is a huge booster to decentralisation, lowering those rail freight rates, making it more competitive. The road transport industry in fact has come out today backing both the road deal and the rail deal, because it stacks up for export Australia, it stacks up for decentralisation and the detail will be contained in a magnificent explanatory memorandum which Peter Costello will sign off on in the next week or two.


SALLY SARA: Mr Fischer, what do you think about the theatrics on both sides of the House over the GST?


TIM FISCHER: I’ve been in opposition too long a few years back. We’ve all done that splash of colour game on the floor of the House - I apologise for my bit years ago. It sure is no substitute for substance, and the substance of our package is now within sight. The long overdue cutting of transport costs across country Australia is going to set this economy up, especially export Australia, for a long while in the future. Yes, Simon Crean can wave around his salad packs, but he cannot offer the substance the coalition, and indeed the Democrats, to their credit, are now doing.


SALLY SARA: But the theatrics is not just lying with Simon Crean, is it? Were you laughing at the Treasurer’s jokes about cakes and the definitions of the Democrats’ outline for the GST?


TIM FISCHER: There’s a splash of colour around but there’s also going to be an explanatory memorandum. There’s going to be the amendments. There is no such thing as a level playing field. The advantage coming from the new tax system, amongst others, is a tilt of that playing field in favour of hard-pressed exporters doing it tough at this time. Yes, we are negotiating better market access to China and elsewhere, more to come. But you do need to tilt that playing field in favour of your exporters. One of the bonus factors of the new tax system, it’s $4.5 billion tilt in favour of our exporters.


SALLY SARA: Mr Fischer, thanks for joining us this morning.


TIM FISCHER: Take care, Sally.


PETER CAVE: The Deputy Prime Minister speaking to Sally Sara in Canberra.