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Tuesday, 21 May 1985
Page: 2284

Senator BUTTON (Minister for Industry, Technology and Commerce)(10.28) —The effect of this amendment would be to deny the Government some $67m worth of revenue at a time when the National Farmers Federation, amongst other organisations, is calling for restraint. The problems of the wheat growers of Western Australia or the sugar growers of Queensland are not susceptible to the easy solutions suggested in Senator Chaney's speech that if we fix up the diesel fuel rebate, we have gone some way towards solving their problems.

Senator Chaney —They could think it was very helpful.

Senator BUTTON —I understand that. I say with the greatest respect that in a Party which has a small section with claims to economic rationality, the arguments that have been put tonight were not very indicative of that view in the Liberal Party being any more than skin deep. There are all sorts of distortions in respect of the use of various fuels by various industries.

Consideration interrupted.

The CHAIRMAN —Order! It being 10.30 p.m., under the sessional order, I put the question:

That the Chairman do now leave the chair and report to the Senate.

Question resolved in the negative.

Consideration resumed.

Senator BUTTON —As I was saying, there are all sorts of distortions in respect of the use of various fuels by various industries. Many of these were built into the system by the Government in which Senator Chaney was a Minister. For example the distortion relating to the use of eligibility for the rebate on diesel fuel was built into the system in 1982 by the Fraser Government. To suggest this adjustment of the rebate on the basis of the sort of arguments that we have heard tonight is, with the greatest respect, not very plausible. The whole thing is riddled with distortions and for that reason the Government intends to refer the question of excise on all petroleum products to the Industries Assistance Commission within the next month or two so that the IAC can report on this and give some indication of the distortions that apply to petroleum fuel subsidies and rebates.

I do not want to go on about this issue but I really think the amendment is ill considered. I recommend its rejection by the Committee because it smacks of the sort of irresponsibility that I would not have expected from the Leader of the Opposition in this place, although I understand that he was perhaps psyched up to this amendment by somebody else.