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Tuesday, 7 September 1993
Page: 1131

Senator CALVERT (11.31 p.m.) —Following on from my colleague Senator Watson, I would like to draw the Senate's attention at this late hour to the Road Transport Federation conference that was held in Hobart on 27 and 28 August at the Sheraton Hotel. That Australian Road Transport Federation meeting is an annual event and I was lucky enough to visit that same conference in Surfers Paradise last year.

  Before the election, of course, a lot of promises were being made. I was pleased to be there and our leader, Dr Hewson, was there. He had the pleasurable task of telling the delegates what a reduction in fuel excise would mean, not just to them as owner-drivers and operators but also to Australia.

  Having been to this particular conference and having talked to the delegates there, I can tell you, Mr Acting Deputy President, that they know very well the effect the government's raising of fuel excise will have, not just on their industry but on everybody else in Australia. The difference to the people of Australia between what we were going to do and what the government in fact is doing is something like 26c a litre on leaded fuel. I was most interested to hear Neil O'Keefe MP who was representing the minister, Bob Collins. He tried to defend the indefensible.

  There is no doubt that the measures announced in the budget regarding fuel taxes are regressive and will have a huge effect on my state of Tasmania. I noted that at the same conference my Tasmanian colleague Senator Harradine was the guest speaker. He drew attention to the fact that families and low income earners in regional Australia are the losers from this budget. He also went on to say that the disregard for the consequences of the budget's fuel excise measures in Australia as a whole and for regional Australia in particular shows how insulated policy makers are from ordinary Australians.

  Senator Harradine also pointed out—this is what I am on about tonight—that Tasmanians will be more adversely affected than most Australians because everything we get has to be freighted into our state and then it has to be moved around the state, in some instances by rail but mostly by road. Tasmanians use something like 265 million litres of diesel fuel a year and the immediate grab from the proposed budget will be $7.7 million in this financial year. That will rise to something like $13.2 million once the increases flow through.

  It will not stop there because the state tax is based on the retail price, which includes the federal tax. The state tax of 6.2c per litre will also increase. Tasmanians who still use oil to heat their homes will notice that the heating oil tax increase is nearly 80 per cent, from 5.5c a litre to 8.5c a litre. This adjusted figure that the government is imposing on all Australians will mean that ordinary Australians will have to pay at least an extra $2 to $3 for an average trolley of consumables.

  As we all know—you would know particularly, Mr Acting Deputy President, representing the National Party which represents a lot of people out in the bush—everything that moves around this country and that we use has a freight component. What better way to increase the cost of goods than to increase freight cost by increasing the fuel cost?

  Not only was Senator Harradine showing concern about this matter; our state Premier, Mr Ray Groom, was also. He made the point that our island state was a small market and an economy reliant on exports. At the end of the day, our ultimate success depends very much on the effectiveness and efficiency of this nation's transport system. He said that Tasmanians will be looking to the Senate to protect their interests.

  There is no doubt that Senator Harradine has nailed his colours to the flag and made his points well known. Like my colleague Senator Watson, I call upon Senator Bell to do the same thing. Senator Bell, since being elected, has repeatedly urged Tasmanians to reject party politics in favour of a free thinking, democratic viewpoint. I believe that this is a very good time for him to show the electors of Tasmania just how well his free thinking, democrat viewpoint in fact works. Senator Bell knows that by joining the coalition and the Independents he can ensure that the most regressive budget in this country's history can be overturned. He knows that Tasmanians will be paying more for everything from cleaning aids to ice cream. The fact is that the increase in petrol taxes hits Tasmania more than any other state. I would call upon Senator Bell to reconsider his position on this matter and vote with the coalition to get rid of this impost that is going to affect not just Tasmania but all of Australia.