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Wednesday, 30 May 2012
Page: 6450

Mr BILLSON ( Dunkley ) ( 19:03 ):  I have two clusters of questions, the first one picking up from MILD research that more than half of small businesses still have very little idea about the way the carbon tax will impact upon them. I have one particular area of concern. Can the minister confirm that, under the carbon tax as administered by his portfolio, the cost of certain synthetic refrigerant gases will cost up to $75,000 per tonne? That is causing enormous concern for refrigerant trucking operators, small retailers, convenience store operators, butchers, cool store operators, supermarkets—everybody right across the board. Anywhere where refrigeration is a part of daily operating costs, there will be an astronomical increase in the cost of those gases. Relating to carbon tax cost impacts, can the minister confirm that the off-road diesel rebate for council heavy vehicles was to have been 38.1c per litre after 1 July 2012, prior to the creation of the carbon tax package? Can the minister confirm that the figure will now be reduced by 6.1c or 6.2c per litre to 31.9c as a consequence of the shadow carbon-pricing policies that are being implemented?

Those are two particular questions around costs. The first one relates to refrigerants; the second one relates to the off-road diesel rebate for council vehicles.

Mr Burke: Why are you directing these to me?

Mr BILLSON: Because you are the nearest, neatest correct entry, Minister, to ask that question of. The second cluster of questions relates to the heritage area within SEWPaC. I am an extremely patient person, and thankfully so are the good folk of the Mornington and District Historical Society. Former Acting Prime Minister James Fenton is buried in the Mornington Cemetery. Being a former acting prime minister, he was given a really splendid state funeral, but he has no surviving relatives and his grave looks like a wombat hole or as if something of that kind has decided it liked the gravesite. In partnership with the Mornington and District Historical Society I have pursued the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet—the protocol and ceremonial officers and those that organise present-day state funerals—for over a year now. They have all said that they do not have anything to do with earlier state funerals and the fact that this eminent person's final resting place is now in a great state of deterioration. I was then guided to liaise with your department, which I did. I was guided towards the Commemorating Eminent Australians program, and I learned that it expressly excluded grave restoration—even if they are state funeral graves. I sought to bring about a change to the program eligibility criteria, which I managed to achieve. Then, about a year ago, I was told an opening in that program was imminent.

The good folk of the Mornington and District Historical Society realised a couple of months ago that Mornington's 150th anniversary commemoration celebrations were on. Part of bringing to life the Mornington community's history is the very informative walks the society conducts through the cemetery. They were most optimistic and, given the extraordinary lead time that was available, we had hoped to have Mr Fenton's grave restored. But, as of today, I do not even think the program has been opened for applications of this kind. Given that he was a unique character who served both Labor and the conservative parties, helped to create the Australian Broadcasting Commission and was quite distinguished in his day as Acting Prime Minister, I urge you, sir, to get that program that has been such a long time coming to activate itself. He has certainly perished, and we are concerned that the program has perished as well.

In a similar light, you also offer a Your Community Heritage Program. A grant application was made by the same historical society in partnership with the chamber of commerce to put up some signage, plaques and street walk information. Again, the ambition was to have that up for the 150th commemoration. That has now passed but they are still keen to do the work and I was hopeful of getting some advice. Senator Farrell has been most helpful, but we have not concluded this matter for some time now.