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Notice given 30 October 2002

829  Senator Sherry: To ask the Minister for Revenue and Assistant Treasurer—

(1) Can the Minister confirm that electricity is classified as a good or service for the purposes of the goods and services tax.

(2) Can the Minister also confirm that, for the purposes of determining liability for damage to a consumer’s electrical goods due to load shedding by an electricity supplier’s power, there is a dispute over whether the supply of electricity is a good or service (see Electricity Supply Association of Australia Ltd v ACCC [2001] FCA 1296, 12 September 2001) and that this dispute has hitherto allowed suppliers to avoid liability for damage.

(3) Can the Minister explain how these two positions are consistent; if not, what steps is the Government taking to address this apparent inconsistency.

830  Senator Harris: To ask the Minister representing the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry—

(1) Is the Minister aware that: (a) now that the Riverina and North Victoria are in the grip of one of the worst droughts in memory, the inflow to the Hume and Dartmouth dams is extremely low; (b) irrigation water allocations are unavailable to struggling farmers; (c) this desperate situation has led to a reported slaughter of more than 60 000 prime dairy cows from the Goulburn Valley, known as the food bowl of Australia; and (d) there will be a 90 per cent drop in rice sowing this year and very little fodder will be conserved.

(2) Given that there remains a huge amount of water in the Snowy Mountains storage system, at a time of such crisis why cannot the Government intervene to find a way of releasing some of this water to farmers at an affordable price.

(3) Given that the release of this water would have a flow-on effect throughout the region and could prevent many business and farm bankruptcies, what action will the minister be taking.