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Wednesday, 11 August 2004
Page: 2128


Mr CIOBO (6:33 PM) —I am pleased to rise to speak on the Customs Tariff Amendment (Oil, Gas and Other Measures) Bill 2004. This is a relatively straightforward bill and I am pleased that the Australian Labor Party is supporting the government in terms of the amendments that are made to this bill. Before I get into the substance of my remarks, I would like to touch on some comments that were made by the member for Hunter. I am intrigued that the member for Hunter would claim that the Australian Labor Party is concerning itself with the prices that ordinary Australians pay at the petrol pump, and I am concerned that the Australian Labor Party claims that, by following Labor Party policies, Australians would be more inclined to be less reliant on overseas fuel imports and more reliant on Australia's natural resources.

Perhaps the member for Hunter should go and pay a visit to the member for Fremantle, the National President of the Australian Labor Party. As memory serves me, it was only a matter of a few months ago that the Australian Labor Party's National President, the member for Fremantle, was suggesting that it would be a good thing if Australian consumers paid $2.50 a litre for petrol. That is the Labor Party's policy as espoused by their national president; that is what she would like to see Australian consumers paying at the pump. It is a case once again of: do not be concerned with what the Australian Labor Party says it is concerned with; focus on what the Australian Labor Party is doing. The Australian Labor Party is about trying to introduce a policy that would see Australian people paying $2.50 a litre at the pump for their petrol. That is something that concerns me greatly.

I would like to turn briefly to remarks that the member for Hunter made about this government's tactics with respect to the Greater Sunrise oilfield in the Timor Gap. As a member of the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties, it seems to me that the member for Hunter should concern himself with reading the report of the committee on the inquiry that we undertook with regard to the Greater Sunrise oilfield. The member for Hunter would see that there was no bullying involved. Despite the rhetoric that we have heard from those on the left of the political spectrum and despite the rhetoric we hear from the Australian Labor Party, the Australian government did the right thing by the people of East Timor both in terms of protection for them when the Australian Army was in East Timor and subsequently in negotiations over Greater Sunrise. They are getting a lion's share of revenue from that project and in every respect the Australian government has done the right thing by those involved in the Greater Sunrise oilfield—and by those involved with East Timor. Proof positive of this is not only the report that came from the treaties committee but also the fact that those companies that would be involved are very pleased with the way that the Australian government has gone about undertaking negotiations and also with the certainty that the Australian government brings to the table in this particular development. I make those remarks in passing, because the member for Hunter has made certain claims which, quite frankly, I cannot reject any more strongly than I have.

I turn now to the issues contained within the bill. As was espoused by the member for Hunter, the bill deals with three key issues. The first issue is the creation of a new item 22 and schedule 4 of the tariff. The second issue is an amendment to additional note 3(a) in chapter 22 in schedule 3 of the tariff and the insertion of a 22 per cent upper limit on the alcohol content of grape wine. The third issue is correction of the country code abbreviations for Poland and Wake Island as specified in schedule 1 of the customs tariff.

The first change replaces existing item 22, which is concerned with goods used in oil and gas exploration. This change is necessary due to a number of changes in detection and exploration technology as well as in the preproduction development of wells on those deposits in the oil and gas industries. These changes extend the reach of the item, and the new by-law reduces the cost of particular goods for importation by allowing duty-free entry, provided suitable Australian made goods are not available. In that regard, there is suitable incentive to ensure that Australian made goods are used, but, when they are not available, there is no disincentive that would affect the ability of companies to use those goods with regard to oil and gas exploration and predevelopment of wells.

This particular change addresses a number of industry concerns by reducing the cost of imports as well as maximising the recovery of Australia's petroleum resources, which promotes this government's objective of encouraging a good environment for investment and enhanced productivity. The reality is that the desire for there to be a stronger and more sustainable long-term investment in Australia's natural resources, particularly with regard to oil and gas, is not a monopoly held by the Australian Labor Party; rather, the Howard government is demonstrating a concrete way of achieving this realisation.

The second issue inserts a 22 per cent upper limit on the alcohol content of grape wine, as is defined by the note. This effectively ensures there is a level playing field whereby imported grape wine with more than 22 per cent by volume of ethyl alcohol will have the same excise duty payable on comparable locally produced grape wine.

Finally, the bill corrects the country code abbreviations for Poland and Wake Island, specified in schedule 1 to the customs tariff, to ensure the codes are consistent with those used by the International Organisation for Standardisation. This will not have an effect on the duty applicable to goods imported from Poland or Wake Island or on the margins of tariff preference those countries are subject to. I commend the bill to the House. I am pleased that the Australian Labor Party is supporting the bill. I certainly hope that it travels easily in the other chamber.