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Wednesday, 27 November 1985
Page: 2380

Senator DURACK(5.04) —It is to be welcomed that the Department of Resources and Energy has continued the policy of making available an annual report to the Parliament. We hope that this will become in due course an obligation on all departments and a regular source of information for the Parliament. I notice that this report was submitted to the Minister for Resources and Energy (Senator Gareth Evans) by the head of the Department on 31 October this year, which was six weeks or more after the Estimates of the Department were considered in the Senate. I hope that in future there will be greater effort by departments to make such reports available, even if only in draft form, for Senate Estimates Committees. It is very valuable, and better consideration is given to them in that context than we can give here in five minutes that is available to senators for speaking on reports.

In the brief time available to me, I should like to comment on one or two matters, the first being the Government's resource rent tax and resource rent royalty proposals. As to the resource rent royalty, there is legislation in the Parliament which we shall be debating next week, and I do not propose to say very much about that. But the Government's agreed resource rent tax proposals are of very great significance to the industry and to Australia, and they are of great concern to the Opposition. One of the matters of greatest concern is that we still do not know the details of the legislation. In this report we have the statement that resource rent tax became effective from 1 July 1984. Nearly 18 months later we still have not got the legislation.

Senator Button is absolutely staggered; well he might be. I suggest that he make some inquiries as a senior Minister of the Government. Here is a tax which became effective from 1 July 1984. No legislation is yet in sight. I understand that there are very great difficulties with it. Perhaps we could hear something about that from the Government.

The resource rent royalty legislation takes effect from, I think, 25 June 1985-or at least, it applied to the Barrow Island production of Wapet from 1 July 1985. That legislation is very complicated. There were 41 amendments suddenly put on the table in the House of Representatives when it was debated the other night. So these are fairly worrying indications about the Government's ability to administer these highly technical and important matters of the taxation of this industry.

On the section of the report dealing with cash bidding for exploration permits, I am bound to say that the comment on that proposal is very misleading, and I think that quite a wrong impression is given about the issues involved in that. It is also interesting to note that the report records that at the end of June this year, the Government was considering alternatives to cash bidding, particularly modifications to the existing work program bidding system. There was a lot of talk floating around through the industry about signature bonuses, retention premiums, and so on-all of which apparently turned out to be smokescreens by the Government to divert industry from its efforts to reintroduce cash bidding, which, of course, it did in a very sudden fashion a week or two ago after it had managed to split the Australian Democrats on the issue, as a result of which the Democrats changed their tune, as we all know. Unfortunately, as time does not permit me to make other comments on this report, I shall have to leave it at that.