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Tuesday, 16 October 1984
Page: 1772

Senator PETER RAE(5.47) —When debate was interrupted earlier today I had spoken in relation to the Customs Tariff Amendment Bill (No. 3) 1984 and a very wide variety of matters that are referred to in that Bill. I had also referred to the Excise Tariff Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1984 and the effects which that will have, particularly in relation to raising the cost of fuel for all oil users, especially wheat farmers and the various industries which will be hit by the extra costs. I had started to refer to the Customs Tariff (Coal Export Duty) Amendment Bill 1984, which proposes to exempt from payment of the coal export duty blended coal from open cut mines and underground mines.

The Bill proposes that where there has been a blending of the low cost open cut high quality coking coal from certain mines with the higher cost, higher employment coal produced from underground mines there will be an exemption, but for the exemption to operate there must be an average of at least 15 per cent of underground coal in the coal which is exported. It is some sort of balancing to assist the underground coal miners, to retain some employment and to give some relief in relation to the coal export duty. (Extension of time granted) The Government's decision to exempt the coal in this way from the $3.50 a tonne export duty was announced in May of this year. This Bill is now implementing what has already been announced and what will amount to a loss of revenue of some $10m a year.

I go back, without wanting to introduce politics unduly on a disputatious basis , to two matters. One is that the former Government had promised that the duty would be removed. The second is that the present coalition Opposition's resources and energy policy states:

. . . the coal export levy is an anomalous impost on a part of the industry which we would abolish in our first year of office.

I emphasise that. The Opposition's policy is that the whole of this coal export levy, which is anomalous and should be removed, would be removed in the first year of office after the next election. The export levy raised about $66m in the year 1983-84 and its removal would involve the loss of that income, which would have to be picked up elsewhere. I accept that. But I note that the justification for this levy has long since passed. It is a reflection of yesteryear so far as the coal industry is concerned. To the motion that the Customs Tariff (Coal Export Duty) Amendment Bill 1984 be read a second time, I move the following amendment:

At end of motion, add ', but, in relation to the Customs Tariff (Coal Export Duty) Amendment Bill 1984, the Senate is of the opinion that, while the Government's decision to remove the duty on blended coal is to be welcomed, the severe economic circumstances affecting the coal industry and the discriminatory nature of the remaining levy warrant an immediate and total removal of this duty , as proposed by the policy of the Liberal/National Coalition'.

Senator Button —Has that been distributed?

Senator PETER RAE —I hope it has. It ought to have been.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Coleman) —No, it has not at this stage, apparently.

Senator PETER RAE —I do not know where the copies are. Sometimes in the processes of this place things which are supposed to happen do not happen. I am sorry, I do not know where it has got to. I had copies of it and it was my understanding that it had been circulated quite some time ago. I apologise to those who have not received it. There are other matters to which I would like to refer but, noting that I have gone over my time, I thank the Senate for the extension. The debate has covered three associated Bills and it is sometimes hard to deal with three matters within 30 minutes. I have gone a little over time, so I will save the other matters that I wish to raise for the Committee stage. I thank the Senate.