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Tuesday, 21 May 1985
Page: 2260

Senator PUPLICK(6.28) —Senator Colston's intervention has given me time to look up in Hansard the reply I was given on the matter of inward duty free shopping. I asked a series of questions about this. I asked, in part:

. . . am I correct in assuming it will be in place by 1 July?

The Hansard record continues:

Senator RYAN —It sounds as if that is the case.

Senator PUPLICK —Will that require legislation?

Mr Harvey-If it is introduced it will require some legislation.

A simple point has arisen. Mr Harvey has told the Estimates Committee that if something is introduced, 'it will require some legislation'. Those are his exact words. Senator Ryan has now said that there is some discussion as to whether in fact it will require legislation' or be done some other way. Either it requires legislation, in which case we can be told it requires legislation-and after dinner I will indicate that the Department of Sport, Recreation and Tourism, by virtue of its chairmanship of the interdepartmental committee on this matter, has the information in its possession and it cannot be brushed off to the Department of Industry, Technology and Commerce-or the Estimates Committee was told by an officer of the Department of Sport, Recreation and Tourism that legislation would be required, and that will turn out not to be the truth. If the latter is the case, that is a serious matter.

Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.

(Quorum formed)

Senator PUPLICK —Now that the Opposition has been forced to call a quorum and now that in the Government's attempt to appropriate an extra $400m plus of public revenue a Minister of the Government has deigned to come into the Senate to answer questions dealing with Government departments, we can proceed to look at some of the relevant matters. I am sure that the contempt for both the Parliament and the taxpayer which this Government evidences is clearly illustrated by the fact that a quorum had to be called in order to have a single Minister present. I was dealing with an attempt by the Minister for Education to indicate to the Senate that certain changes in the operation of the inward duty free system in Australia might be brought about by processes other than the introduction of legislation. I shall refer the Senate to three undertakings given.

Before the suspension of sitting for dinner, I indicated that at the Estimates Committee D hearing, Mr Harvey, First Assistant Secretary of the Tourism and Expositions Division of the Department of Sport, Recreation and Tourism, was questioned as to whether inward duty free shopping could be introduced in Australia without the passage of legislation. I asked the officers and the Minister present whether to introduce inward duty free shopping would require legislation. Senator Ryan responded. I quote the Hansard:

It sounds as if that is the case.

I then asked:

Will that require legislation?

Mr Harvey, from the Department, said:

If it is introduced it will require some legislation.

On 4 February 1985 inquiries were made of the Minister for Aviation, Mr Peter Morris. He was asked:

Will the introduction of inward duty free shopping require legislation?

Mr Peter Morris wrote a fairly lengthy letter to Mr Spies, the President of the Australian Duty Free Operators Association Ltd. The letter concluded with the following words:

Implementation of inwards duty free shopping at airports, restricted to liquor, tobacco and perfume products will follow the passage through the Parliament of amendments to the customs and sales tax law.

That statement seems fairly clear. On 5 September 1984 a Press release was issued headed: 'John Brown MP, Minister for Sport, Recreation and Tourism'. Typed in underneath were the words: 'And Minister for Aviation'. The two Ministers, Mr Brown and Mr Beazley, put out a statement in which they said:

Inwards duty free shopping facilities will become available progressively at all Commonwealth-owned international passenger terminals, following the passage of the necessary legislation through Parliament.

Minister Brown, Minister Beazley and Minister Morris have given undertakings in writing that the introduction of inward duty free operations in Australia will require and be subject to the passage of legislation through Parliament. Mr Harvey appeared before the Senate Estimates Committee and told the Committee that legislation was required to introduce such operations.

I appreciate that the Minister for Education is not the Minister responsible. This is not an area she has any direct responsibility for or involvement in, but on the advice of her officers she said to the Parliament this evening that inward duty free shopping would be in place by 1 July. She was unable to state whether her Government would honour the written commitments of three of its Ministers to implement this proposal through the passage of legislation through the Parliament.

Senator Peter Baume —There is no time left in this session.

Senator PUPLICK —As Senator Baume rightly said, there does not appear to be any time left in this session. There does not appear to be any relevant legislation in the House of Representatives. I have looked at the amendments to the Customs Act and to the Sales Tax Acts now before the Parliament. They do not relate to those matters to which Mr Peter Morris was referring in his letter of 4 February. The Minister for Education indicated that inward duty free shopping would be introduced by 1 July, despite written assurances from Ministers of her Government that it would be brought about by legislation which could be scrutinised by the Parliament to see whether such legislation would confer rights on operators who already have monopoly concessions at Australian international airports-some of those operators are not Australian-to the prejudice of other operators of duty free stores and to the prejudice of Australians working in the industry.

Despite the fact that this matter is before the Industries Assistance Commission at the moment-the Minister for Industry, Technology and Commerce, Senator Button, requested the IAC to investigate the question of passenger concessions and their impact and significance for inward duty free shopping-Senator Ryan, on the advice of her advisers, rose in this chamber this evening and said that inward duty free shopping would be in place by 1 July. She said: 'But the assurances given by three Ministers of my Government that it will be done by legislation is to be regarded as being not necessarily an assurance to be honoured'. If this proposal were put forward in legislation, we could debate the legislation. We could look at it and we could decide whether it is fair, equitable and proper. If it becomes law by regulation, all I can say is that on 20 August 1985, if that is the date on which we reassemble for the Budget session, I will move a motion to disallow whatever regulations have been introduced in this regard. All I am saying to the Minister is--

Senator Ryan —At length.

Senator PUPLICK —Yes, at length. If to keep her Government honest I am required to speak at length and ad nauseam, I shall speak at length and ad nauseam. If there is to be any degree of integrity left in her Government and if there is to be any degree of honesty left in the statement of her fellow Ministers, I shall speak at length and ad nauseam until such time as the Parliament is treated with a little respect, and until such time-contrary to what happened tonight when the Government was asking for $400m worth of public money-as one Minister of the Government has enough respect for the parliamentary institution to be present at such a time without a quorum having to be called by the Opposition. Senator Ryan may think that the matter is simply to be brushed aside once the various factions have agreed upon the policy to be put forward. That may suit fine in the House of Representatives, but it does not suit--

Senator Giles —At least we can agree among ourselves.

Senator PUPLICK —Is that right? This evening Senator Zakharov did not even know what report she had signed. She tried to tell me earlier that the report to which she was a signatory did not refer to the Commonwealth Schools Commission, when in fact it did. Government senators tell me that they can agree; everybody knows that to get an agreed position the Australian Labor Party has to convene separate meetings of the Centre Left, the Left, the left right out, the right and God knows what other faction.

Nevertheless, I require an answer from Senator Ryan as to whether the written assurances given by the Minister for Aviation, Mr Peter Morris, the former Minister for Aviation, now Minister for Defence, Mr Beazley, and the Minister for Sport, Recreation and Tourism, Mr John Brown, that this matter would not be proceeded with other than by legislation are now to be regarded as inoperative. Does her Government now plan to disregard and lay to one side these assurances from three senior Ministers and to proceed by taking action which in fact contradicts the specific and unequivocal assurances that they gave?