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Thursday, 25 November 1999
Page: 12700

Mr CREAN —My question is directed to the Minister for Transport and Regional Services. I refer to the coalition's election promises to cut petrol excise by an amount that ensures the GST does not push up any petrol prices. Deputy Prime Minister, is this still coalition policy? With the cost of petrol running at over 80c per litre at many city and country stations, by how much do you need to cut the levy to keep your promise?

Mr ANDERSON (Deputy Prime Minister) —I thank the honourable member for his question. I notice that one other member of his frontbench has been declaring that the 7c is something set in concrete, which it never was. It was always only an indicative figure. We have made it plain that when the new fuel tax arrangements come into place we will reduce the cost of excise on fuel by an amount equivalent to the GST. For private motoring then, the GST is imposed and the private motorist pays the same price for petrol that they would otherwise have paid. For business use, of course, the GST is rebatable at a rate of 10 per cent. That is over and above the other reductions to fuel prices.

Opposition members interjecting

Mr ANDERSON —I make the point that it is a broadcasting day. The ALP has been out there fearmongering on our approach to fuel taxation. This is the crowd that oversaw an increase in the price of fuel excise in Australia from 7c a litre to 34c. They are the people who in government in 1993, when they told the Australian people that they could introduce l-a-w law tax cuts without imposing a GST and without raising new taxes, proposed to raise the price of petrol by 10c a litre for leaded and 5c for unleaded, with commensurate rises in the price of diesel. Let that be remembered. That was their approach to fuel policy. They are the people who believe in high taxation on fuel and high taxation on the costs of transport. We are the side that has significantly reduced the cost of fuel, to the great benefit of rural and regional Australia.

I conclude by saying that we know what their policies are. Their policies are to retain the wholesale sales tax and to keep pushing it up like they did in 1993. Their policies are to retain fuel excise and to keep increasing it because the tax system, as they know, is actually fundamentally broken. I think the message out of all of this is that, given that the new spokesman for rural Australia over there has not yet repudiated the member for Dickson's claims that our reductions in fuel costs are just a $7.8 billion boost to pollution, I think it is time the Leader of the Opposition showed a bit of leadership here and actually showed his hand. Does he—and the Labor Party—or does he not support our reductions in the cost of transport in this country?