Thursday, 16 August 2007
Product Stewardship (Oil) Amendment Bill 2007
The Product Stewardship (Oil) Amendment Bill 2007, as we know, amends the Product Stewardship (Oil) Act 2000, which underpins the government’s Product Stewardship for Oil program. I will just make three or four basic points which others have not covered and try to draw out where we might learn from the experience. The first point I want to make is that the state and territory governments, as we know, have primary responsibility for environmental protection and waste management. This is one of those not uncommon arrangements between the Commonwealth and state and territory governments where oversight is very much with the state and territory governments—particularly in South Australia—and so there is always the risk of some of the intent being lost in the actual practical outcome.
This bill endeavours to pick up some of those concerns that have been out there for some time. I think the issue of the advisory council is quite an important one. The bill expands its membership so that there is expertise in remote areas, on Indigenous issues and in research and development. It also requires a little more fiduciary care of those people who sit on the advisory council. The act is quite specific about ministerial intervention with regard to conflict of interest. I trust that that may assist with some of the concerns that I have heard on this particular issue.
Another area is the changes that the alignment of excise has created. In 2006, the excise arrangement changed and I accept the government’s argument that it was well intentioned—that is, from July 2006, when there was a significant variation. But it did change the way that excise was charged and then reimbursed by the government. The not uncommon complaint from industry is that there is a lag time in payment to government and return of the rebate. An interesting point that was made to me concerned the changes of usage within industry of this particular product. I am sure that the people involved with this legislation would have been made aware of that. But there have been significant changes in usage within my state that took a significant market out of existence which changed the way this product is utilised. I therefore welcome the working group that was agreed to on 2 June 2007 and comprises the Commonwealth, South Australian and Western Australian governments or community to investigate used oil issues. That is quite important because the eastern part of the country has a very large market and the viability of that market, particularly when you look at the overseas influence as well, is more sustainable because of its size, and it becomes more viable accordingly.
I will conclude by looking at the product stewardship benefit rates in 2005-06. For refined base oil the benefit was worth—as I understand it from the chart I have here—something like 50c a litre. A range of categories here endeavour to support this product stewardship arrangement. In my electorate there was concern about the collection process. With the financial rearrangement, particularly of the Fuel Tax Act 2006, certain companies—and I am quick to add that they are reputable companies—were having to charge different prices because of these changes. That created a significant reaction. I trust that that is understood by the government and that is why I have mentioned this working group, which I think is important. As the previous speaker, the member for Canning, acknowledged, this is an important environmental issue. The statistics are quite remarkable. I think something like 500 million litres of oil is used in this country per annum—it is certainly a figure of that order. The potential for damage to the environment is obvious. It is important that we get it right. I thank the government for its efforts, but I have my reservations whenever we work with our state friends about whether we will get the outcomes we desire. I wish the working group success in the way that they deal with this over the months ahead.