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Thursday, 20 May 1965

Senator MCKENNA (Tasmania) (Leader of the Opposition) (12:10 PM) . - May I address a few questions to the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Anderson)? Senator Kennelly directed attention to the fact that the Bill provides that the administrative expenses incurred by the distributors are to be reimbursed to them through the States. My first question is this: Do these expenses include the costs incurred by the oil companies in negotiating for the establishment of this scheme or do they commence only when the scheme itself is in operation? If the answer to the first question is in the affirmative, can the Minister give us any idea what amount is likely to be involved?

My next question is: What is the nature of the administrative expenses? Would they be confined merely to the provision perhaps of additional office accommodation and of additional staff? Can the Minister give us any idea of the nature of the expenses that would be incurred in implementing the scheme? I imagine that the main work thrown upon the oil companies once the scheme is in operation will be to keep very strict accounting of their sales and to prepare accounts for submission to the States claiming the subsidy due to them. On the surface, it does not appear to be an item that should concern the oil companies very greatly if that is the only expenditure they may claim under the provisions of the Bill.

In the matter of checking, what will the oil companies do? Will they be obliged to state the full wholesale rate on their invoices and then to show separately the deduction by way of subsidy to the people to whom they distribute? lt seems to me that this would make the checking of their accounts decidedly easy.

There was no reference in the Minister's second reading speech to the provisions of clause 5 (5.) (b) under which payments are to be made by the States to registered distributors of eligible petroleum products. When I refer to page 17 of the manuscript giving details of the scheme at paragraph E5, I note a distinction between the terms of the Bill and the terms set out in the details of the scheme in relation to expenses incurred by the oil companies. In paragraph E5 it states-

A registered oil company shall ... be entitled to be paid by the State amounts calculated to compensate the oil company for administrative expenses reasonably incurred in connexion wilh the scheme.

Will the Minister indicate whether there is any difference between the terms used in the two documents or whether the two terms arc used to express one idea? The details of the scheme as presented to us in the associated document show that the amount to be paid to an oil company for administrative expenses shall be a percentage of an amount that the oil company is entitled to be paid by way of subsidy. The wording of the clause proceeds in those terms and the following clause sets out what the percentage shall be. However, the percentage is left blank in two places. Although a percentage is mentioned and is intended to be specified, we can gather no impression from the clause what the percentage will be. 1 should like the Minister to give us some practical idea of the basis upon which a percentage of subsidy is to produce an amount that will be a fair reimbursement of expenses incurred by the distributors in operating the scheme. 1 regret that I have had to ask so many questions at once. If they are not clear, I can take them up with the Minister later.

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