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Thursday, 23 September 1999
Page: 10422

Mr ADAMS (4:39 PM) —In speaking on the Taxation Laws Amendment Bill (No. 9) 1999 , I welcome the decision to amend what was a very discriminatory situation with the diesel fuel rebate scheme. The forest industry and timber processing industries would have been required to pay approximately 8c per litre more for off-road use of fuel than other agricultural industries and mining. This was a nonsense. It came about when all the wheeling and dealing went on with the Democrats when the GST was being negotiated. It was an absurd situation. There was such an outcry by the industry that the government has had to renege on its sleazy deal with the Democrats. Yet the Minister for Forestry and Conservation had the hide to say that the deal was not there. `No, no,' he said, `this was an inadvertent move that occurred during the passage of the documents.' Strange, isn't it, that every other report of its omission was put down to the deal with the Democrats and the passage of the GST?

When this government released details in May this year the wording seemed quite clear. With the motion that went through the Senate in June, the bill specifically limited the amount of rebate to 35/43 for diesel fuel used in forestry. Now the government says it was a mistake. The minister said that the full rebate will be payable for fuel purchased for eligible forestry activities from 1 July 2000, which will align the diesel fuel rebate for forestry use with the rebate for agriculture. Once again, the poor timber industry has been taking the rap for the failure of this government to understand or to be involved in deals—somebody just being off to lunch. The timber industry was being used and held to ransom through a shabby deal.

There still seems to be a case as to whether this bill has gone far enough. It apparently restores only partially the parity between forestry and other primary industries. There is no case for the timber industry to face discrimination, particularly as it is the only sustainable resource industry that is able to put environmental benefits back into the community in the form of new forests that can deliver carbon credits. `How?' you might ask. Well, trucks and other machinery are not just used to take out timber; they are also used to prepare the ground and the roads and to develop seed beds for plantations or regrowth areas for new timber—you cannot say that about mining and other off-road users in other areas.

There are a number of flaws in the whole diesel fuel rebate legislation because the definitions are so fuzzy. I have had some difficult situations in my own electorate in trying to get people their rebates. I have spent quite a bit of time trying to interpret for my constituents what the definitions are. It really comes down to: when is a road a public road and when is it a private road? This can be a dilemma, I can assure you, in Tasmania.

Many of the roads that are used frequently by the public to pursue forestry, tourism, picnics, forest walks and the like—uses which are encouraged by both industry and local councils in these areas—are private roads that have been planned, built and maintained by private companies or by Forestry Tasmania. They have been opened to the public on the basis that it is good public relations to be transparent and open, to put on show forestry activities and to invite the public to see what is being done. Because of this, small contractors that get contracts from major companies or from Forestry Tasmania to build roads have real difficulties in claiming the fuel rebate. That needs to be dealt with in a fair and positive way.

This government keep tripping over their shoddy workmanship. They have tried to be too clever by making deals here, there and everywhere without really understanding what the legislation meant. I thought I heard it said that the minister went to Europe—he probably chose the wrong time to go. He got lost because these negotiations were going on and people got stuck into the timber industry. Now he has had to come into the House and eat humble pie and present this bill. I support the opposition's amendment.