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Tuesday, 31 August 1993
Page: 644


Senator PANIZZA (3.21 p.m.) —I want to address the very same answer that Senator Ferguson moved to take note of, to which Senator Schacht responded. I will not go deeply into the eligibility issue. However, even Senator Schacht will admit that when this diesel fuel rebate came in in 1957 exemption certificates applied for diesel used off-road. Unfortunately, he has to accept that this rebate of $1 billion to the mining and rural industries, et cetera, is no help to industry; it is simply a rebate for fuel that is used off-road.

  I tend to agree with Senator Schacht that it might not seem right that a highly paid public servant, in Canberra especially, gets a refund on diesel fuel that he uses on heating, but unfortunately we have to accept that it is used off-road. Unless that criterion is changed, I am afraid that the rebate has to be given to him.

  Senator Schacht gave us figures about the cost of administration behind the introduction of the one per cent administration fee. Of course, we could go back to the old system—I know that the Fraser Government changed it—of bringing in the levy and taking it out again. There might have been a few dodgers, but a lot of claims come in that are eligible to go out. They do not go out because a lot of farmers and other operators forget to claim.

  When Senator Schacht gives us this information on how he arrived at the one per cent administration fee, I want him to tell us whether the government or the Treasury has allowed for the interest that accumulates on the global figure that is kept in Treasury for roughly two months. From my experience, the turnaround time for rebate claims is, on average, two months. That is what I believe, and I might be wrong. Working on the basis that that amount is held by Treasury for two months and using the present interest rate of about six per cent per annum, interest of one per cent would accrue for that time. Is Treasury allowing for that one per cent increase per two months—or six per cent per year—for which that global figure belonging to the eligible users is held in Treasury? If it is not making allowance for that, it is really costing the user two per cent. I would like Senator Schacht to answer that question in time.