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Tuesday, 16 October 1984
Page: 1786

Senator BUTTON (Minister for Industry and Commerce)(8.59) —in reply- Senator Rae said on several occasions that the time has come. It reminds me of what the walrus said. Of course it has been the walrus in terms of Liberal Party consistency on these matters. I make just one or two points. The Government granted Senator Peter Rae an extension of time in the course of the second reading debate. Therefore, it is somewhat extraordinary for a shadow Minister to speak on the third reading and to use that stage to unveil, for the first time, Liberal-Country Party policy on the Customs Service. Surely one might have expected to hear something on that score before this stage was reached. This is an extraordinary vehicle in which to make such an announcement. I am surprised that in the circumstances he took advantage of the third reading to embark on that course. I want to correct an erroneous and indeed untruthful statement made by Senator MacGibbon that the effect of this legislation is to impose a new tax on the coal industry. That is not the case at all.

Senator MacGibbon —With respect, I said that it recommended the imposition.

Senator BUTTON —Senator MacGibbon should read the Hansard report of the speech tomorrow and he will then see what he did say. The record on these matters speaks for itself and the matter was the subject of the second reading debate. The difficulties faced by the coal industry will not be solved by brandishing symbolic gestures. Indeed, Senator MacGibbon in his second reading speech, which was a little more thoughtful, did not suggest such a course. The Opposition's problem is that in the late 1970s and early 1980s it presided over an economy with rising inflation, rising unemployment and rising interest rates that all occurred at the same time. The Government is now in a vastly different situation in relation to these industries. We are confronted by falling indicators in respect of all the factors I have mentioned. I know it is a painful fact for the Opposition to have to acknowledge, but it is true. In those circumstances the previous Government refused to help the coal industry, in spite of many promises which had been made over the years. In 1981 Mr Howard, the then Treasurer, said: 'Now is not the time to phase out the coal industry levy'. I remind honourable senators of those facts.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bills read a third time.