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Friday, 28 June 1996
Page: 2545

Senator PARER (Minister for Resources and Energy)(11.08 a.m.) —In response to the questions raised by Senator Spindler: the agreement we reached in respect of consumption goods—

Senator Schacht —Consumer.

Senator PARER —Consumption goods. Let me point out very briefly—and I do not want to get into a big debate on this—that one of the reasons we went down that track is the system the previous government had foreshadowed in lifting the tariff to five per cent under the tariff concession orders in respect of consumption goods was impossible to put into operation. I am not going to revisit everything I said the other day—I think you were not here, Senator Schacht—

Senator Schacht —No, I wasn't.

Senator PARER —Simply from a practical point of view, at the time of importation it was impossible to say whether a mobile phone, for instance, was a consumption good or a business expense. What we agreed to as an amendment the other day was definitional. It was removed from arbitrary definition so it related back to the United Nations thing that the ABS followed. In regard to Senator Spindler's request, this whole proposal was part of meeting our commitments. That is the reason we went down that track. The amendments came forward to meet our commitments to pay for the promises made at the last election.

But the estimated savings before the tariff concession system was amended were $338 million in 1996-97. With the amendment that was passed here the other day, and approved by the House of Representatives, that saving has come down to $310 million. In respect of the policy by-laws, the estimated savings for 1996-97 were $18 million. If the amendments proposed by Senator Cook go through, those savings will reduce to $13 million.