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Wednesday, 17 June 2009
Page: 3614

Senator XENOPHON (6:26 PM) —I indicate my support for the second reading of the Tax Laws Amendment (2009 Measures No. 2) Bill 2009, and I note in general terms that tax offsets are allowed for urban stormwater and desalination, which I think is an unambiguously good thing. I note that the stormwater offsets start at $4 million, which was one of the outcomes of the stimulus package, and it is a good thing to encourage those sorts of projects. I want to focus on one particular aspect of this bill, the Greenhouse Challenge Plus and fuel tax credits, so that I can put my concerns and questions on the record so they can be responded to in the committee stage.

My first question is in relation to Minister Bowen’s second reading speech on 19 March, specifically the comments made by the minister in relation to the amendments detailed in schedule 7 noting that the Greenhouse Challenge Plus program will cease after 30 June 2009. With these amendments, businesses will still be able to claim fuel tax credits that previously relied on participation in the Greenhouse Challenge Plus program. These arrangements, as I understand them, allowed large fuel users to claim fuel tax credits in excess of $3 million in the financial year as an incentive to reduce carbon emissions.

My questions to the minister in relation to this are as follows. What environmental criteria will large fuel users no longer be required to meet after 30 June, while still being eligible for fuel tax credits? Further, as I understand it, Minister Bowen has indicated that the government believes that the CPRS will better achieve the carbon emissions reductions required for fuel tax credits, given that it is unlikely that the current version of the CPRS will pass the Senate by the end of next week, or is it true that large fuel users will still be able to claim fuel tax credits for little to no environmental benefit? Does the minister agree that in the absence of Greenhouse Challenge Plus the standards for large fuel users to claim fuel tax credits are not onerous and are too easily met? Those are my questions and concerns in relation to this particular aspect of the bill. I think I told the minister that I would be speaking for no more than three to four minutes and I think I have done it in under three.