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Thursday, 5 December 1985
Page: 3090

Senator DURACK(10.26) —What has happened now was also typified by the fact that we were to have the report of the Royal Commission into British Nuclear Tests in Australia between 1952 and 1963 presented at 3 o'clock this afternoon, and suddenly about half an hour before we started this morning we were told that Senator Evans would present it at 10 o'clock. So I will not end the day pandering to Senator Evans's whims, which his own Whip does not even know about. We have had too much from the Minister for Resources and Energy (Senator Gareth Evans) for too long. Apart from that, the Customs Tariff (Stand-by Duty) Bill has nothing whatever to do with this particular proposal.

The Petroleum Revenue Bill and the Excise Tariff Amendment Bill are a somewhat extraordinary exercise by this Government and again are a very good example of how it simply cannot get its act together. The Government has a particular pet theory of taxing the oil industry in this country, in addition to its other new and increased taxes which it has been imposing upon it. We have heard a great deal about Ricardo's theories of economic rent and whatever, about which Senator Walsh has been telling us for so long and has failed dismally to explain to us. One example of this interesting theory of Senator Walsh, which I think he got from some Australian National University economist who has had some further preference from the Government as a result of his assistance and advice to it, has been to propose the introduction of a new taxing regime for the mining industry, known as resource rent tax, which is to replace existing royalty arrangements and other special imposts on the mining industry, but in fact is an additional burden or an excess profits tax because the ordinary company tax regime will still apply. We have heard a great deal about this particular theory from the Government.

Senator Walsh-the predecessor of Senator Evans, who is the Minister for Resources and Energy now responsible for this legislation-announced that there would be a resource rent tax along fairly general lines, which it had been negotiating with industry to apply from 1 July 1984. We have heard a good deal about taxation reform from this Government. We have heard that a lot of its other tax reform proposals were to take effect from 19 September. We have not seen the relevant legislation and will not see it until next year. What nobody seems to understand completely is that this resource rent tax legislation, which is to take effect from 1 July 1984, on 5 December 1985-today-still has not been introduced in any shape or form into this Parliament.

The Government has recently passed a new regime for granting off-shore exploration permits, known as cash bonus bidding. We have had elaborate advertisements by the Department of Resources and Energy calling for bids on this new cash bonus bidding proposal for prospective off-shore areas of Australia. Probably, if the advertisements had been placed by private promoters, the companies concerned would have been in breach of prospectus arrangements because of the puffing that is included in them.

Debate interrupted.