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Tuesday, 23 September 2008
Page: 29

Senator ABETZ (9:08 PM) —It is interesting that Senator Xenophon was willing to tell the Senate about the support of the South Australian Farmers Federation for the Family First amendment.

Senator Xenophon —A very good organisation.

Senator ABETZ —And he tells me it is a good organisation; I am willing to believe him. I am willing to take you on face value, you see, Senator Xenophon. But it is interesting that in his contribution he was unable to tell us about the support of the South Australian car industry—just that very important point. In voting down, as Senator Fielding and Senator Xenophon did, the opposition amendment, they knocked out from exemption every single Australian made car that would have potentially benefited. As a result we now have 25 overseas made vehicles benefiting.

Of course, this is very interesting in the context of the tourism sector. If somebody were minded to buy a Holden Statesman, for example, to take tourism wine tours in the Adelaide Hills in Senator Xenophon’s case, as they do using sedans, or, in Senator Fielding’s state, up the Yarra Valley, possibly not using a Holden Statesman but, let’s say, a Ford Fairmont made in Victoria, that tourism operator would not get any benefit. But, if they were to buy a Mercedes for the job, they would get a huge benefit as a result of the government amendment that they voted for. The workers in South Australia and Victoria—the two states that have by far the vast majority of car manufacturing plants in this country and workers associated with the car industry—must be scratching their heads tonight wondering why Independent senators would vote for amendments that do the Australian car industry in the eye and help support imported models.

They will also be scratching their heads as to why the union that allegedly represents these workers, the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union, makes donations to the Australian Greens, who were the architects of exempting 25 imported vehicles from not only the eight per cent increase but also the current 25 per cent tax. So, for them, it is a 33 per cent turnaround. That is what Senators Fielding and Xenophon voted for.

For Senator Fielding, I ask specifically—and I would be interested in an answer—whether or not he has done a deal or, if he does not like that language, whether an understanding has been reached between him and the government as to what might be contained in the regulations that are clearly referred to in relation to the tourism sector. You see, before the deal was done with the government, Senator Fielding was out in the media saying that four-wheel drives ‘and vans’ would be exempted. There is no mention of vans in the legislation now. Are they going to be taken into account in the regulations? Are they going to be drip-fed in and you are just going to trust the government on face value that they are going to exempt vans one day? I would like to know what the arrangement is.

I would also like to know whether you asked the government, or whether the government gave you an indication, as to what the actual cost to the revenue would be in relation to this amendment, because clearly it is going to have an impact and an impost. We already know with the government amendment—or the Greens amendment; they wax and wane as to who actually moved it—that there is going to be about $40 million taken out from the $500-plus million. We now know that the retrospectivity is out. There must be a revenue impact there and, of course, there must be a revenue impact in relation to Senator Fielding’s amendment. I would just be interested to know how many tens of millions of dollars the government has been willing to concede of its own volition to try to cobble this legislation together. I would also ask Senator Fielding to acknowledge that all the other categories we have referred to—like the kangaroo shooter, the plumber, the electrician and the vet—will in fact get no benefit out of these amendments.

Finally, it was a very valid point that Senator Fielding made in his first second-reading speech:

There is also a question of whether the extra tax should be applied to the most fuel-efficient cars, but the same argument could be used for safer cars.

That is a very valid point, and indeed it came up during the Senate inquiry from time to time. I would just like to know whether he at any stage pursued with the government the issue of safer cars being exempted as well.