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Monday, 24 June 1996
Page: 2062


Senator MARGETTS(6.03 p.m.) —I appreciate the opportunity to speak to the Development Allowance Authority Amendment Bill 1996 at this stage. There are issues in relation to the Development Allowance Authority grant which are of concern to the Greens (WA). They include the type of privately funded infrastructure that we are asking taxpayers to support. One in particular is dealt with on page 7 of the Development Allowance Authority annual report. It states:

Goal 1: increase private investment in publicly accessible infrastructure by means of the Develop Australia Bonds tax incentive.

The concern here is that we have known for some time that the previous government promised to provide tax incentives for private investment in public infrastructure, and that included electricity generation. In Western Australia the Greens were concerned that it seemed to be very carefully designed to include investment in the Collie power station. For various reasons, we thought this was sending a very wrong signal in relation to what it was that we were going to encourage—that is, to subsidise. It might be useful to find out whether or not the applications include coal fired power stations because it would be a great concern if that is what we are doing—not only not moving towards any real greenhouse goals in Australia but actually providing a public subsidy for privately funded coal fired power stations.

There are, however, some useful projects, including the certificates for a light rail system, but I join with the Australian Democrats in raising concern about this kind of public funding going to tollways. I believe that that is the wrong use of funding. I indicate at this stage that the Greens are prepared to support the amendments proposed by Senate Kernot for the Democrats in relation to the inappropriate nature of that use of public funding.

There have been some things that are okay. There has been funding for privately owned co-generation power stations, although I must say in Western Australia the argument has been put in relation to power stations that co-generation is an addition to anything governments are doing; therefore it means that people have an excuse to sell more power. If state and federal governments are working to assist in these plans, they should be looking into demand management strategies which look at how we use those sectors.

Governments have a role to play. They should not be cutting off one policy area from another. I do think we ought to have some goals about what is going on here. There are some relatively good things. It was announced today that the Treasurer, Mr Costello, has reinstated tax breaks for urban road projects, reversing a decision by the Keating government. Basically, tollways will be promoted; private funding for roads will be promoted. People will be charged a toll for something they have already paid for in lots of ways. I do not think it is acceptable. As I said, I will support the Democrats amendments.

We supposedly have some greenhouse commitments in Australia. I would like the parliamentary secretary to indicate whether the private infrastructure bonds, as announced by the previous government, will be made available for privately funded infrastructure such as the Collie power station. Or is that off the agenda?