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Thursday, 21 November 1974
Page: 2702

Senator Withers asked the Minister for Customs and Excise, upon notice:

(   1 ) Can the Australian Government, through its customs and excise powers, prevent international airlines from uplifting excess quantities of fuel in Australia if it wishes to do so.

(2)   If provision does not already exist, could such a provision be enforced by the passage of an appropriate regulation.

Senator Murphy - The answer to the honourable senator's question is as follows:

(   1 ) Provisions exist within the Customs Act which require the approval of Customs before stores including fuel may be uplifted by an aircraft departing for overseas. Moreover Regulation 9 of the Customs (Prohibited Exports) Regulations prohibits the exportation of minerals, including petroleum products, unless the approval has been obtained from a person suitably authorised by the Minister for Minerals and Energy.

(2)   See answer to ( 1 ).

Committee of Inquiry into effects of Inflation on Taxation Payments (Question No. 361)

Senator Sheil asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice:

Did the Prime Minister undertake to commission an inquiry into the effect of inflation on personal and company income taxes; if so, will the Government shelve its proposals to introduce unearned income and capital gains taxes until the inquiry's report is received.

Senator Murphy - The Prime Minister has provided the following information for answer to the honourable senator's question:

Yes; no.

Brisbane Flood Mitigation

Senator Murphy - On 24 October 1974 Senator Martin asked me, as Minister representing thePrime Minister, a question without notice concerning financial assistance for flood mitigation works in Brisbane. The Prime Minister has now supplied the following information for answer to the honourable senator's question:

On 23 March 1973, at a civic reception in Brisbane, 1 stated:

Brisbane has a special problem with the flooding caused by cyclonic rains on the Breakfast, Enoggera, Oxley and Norman Creeks and Kedron Brook and urban development in the flood plains of these waterways. This has been a matter of concern for the Brisbane City Council and the State Government.

Sir GordonChalk, while Acting Premier, wrote to me in December and asked, among other matters, about assistance for the City Council for a flood mitigation scheme. He said the proposed scheme was under expert investigation and that when plans were completed it was intended to ask for Commonwealth financial assistance. I understand that the report arising from this investigation was completed in the last week or so.

The Australian Government has not previously taken part in schemes of precisely this kind. We shall consider the implications of it carefully. Previous flood mitigation schemes have related to rural rather than urban areas. For the future it may be more economical for problems such as this to be avoided rather than cured- in other words, if urban administrations were to give greater attention to the zoning of land in relation to its liability to flooding.

Nevertheless, we shall look into the question of financial assistance. To do so, however, the Australian Government will need all relevant information, including the physical and economic facts, before a decision can be taken.

My Government is therefore prepared to lend its expertise and resources to assist in a study of this matter. We shall be willing to participate at the official level in a joint working party with officials of the State and Brisbane City Council to examine the problem as a whole- the engineering, urban planning, environment as well as financial implications and taking into account the report already completed- with a view to obtaining the information which will be necessary for the Australian Government to come to a decision'.

On 16 November 1973 the Premier of Queensland requested the Australian Government to participate in the whole flood mitigation scheme for Brisbane on the basis that the Australian Government should contribute 40 per cent of the cost, the Queensland Government 40 per cent and the Brisbane City Council 20 percent. On 9 September 1974 he suggested that the Australian Government should meet the whole cost of the flood mitigation component of the proposed Wivenhoe Dam.

The Premier's requests for assistance have been the subject of close consideration by officials of this Government but they have been prevented from making any recommendations by the lack of information on the works for which assistance is or will be sought. Such information as the type of works, their timing, costs and likely benefits are essential to any financial decision by the Australian Government. In view of the Australian Government 's own very great concern that there should be no recurrence of the disastrous flooding which has affected Brisbane in the past two summers we have made repeated requests at official level to the Queensland Government to furnish firm works proposals on which we could base decisions. On 4 July 1 974 the Department of Urban and Regional Development put to Queensland officials a timetable which envisaged firm proposals being put to the Australian Government in October. A number of proposals have been received in the past few weeks but they constitute firm proposals in respect of Enoggera/Breakfast Creek only.

I share the concern which I feel sure is felt by many members and senators at this long delay before mitigation works can be undertaken and the risk of flooding lessened. I am anxious that the Australian Government's desire for urgent action is evidenced in a positive manner. As long ago as 23 March 1973 I emphasised that the provision of detailed information was essential to our decision. That information has still not been provided by the Queensland Government. As soon as explicit proposals are submitted by the Queensland Government the Australian Government will be in a position to take prompt decisions on a case by case basis.

Devaluation of Australian Dollar

Senator Wriedt -On 26 September 1974 Senator Maunsell asked me, as the Minister representing the Minister for Overseas Trade, the following question without notice:

I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Overseas Trade. How significant is devaluation in terms of the conditions laid down by the trade unions for wage restraint agreement? Are the unions sceptical despite yesterday's statement by the Minister for Overseas Trade that devaluation would meet the unions' demands and further protection for industry would not be necessary?

The Minister for Overseas Trade has provided the following information in answer to the honourable senator's question: l stand by my statement of 25 September referred to by the honourable senator.

In that statement I said that the devaluation of the Australian dollar will have the effect of protecting industries that are under pressure from imports.

The devaluation therefore clearly meets a matter of major concern to the trade union movement in the current economic circumstances.

In some specific cases other action to relieve the pressure of imports might be necessary. The Government has already taken, and will continue to take, such action where it is warranted.

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