Wednesday, 25 June 2014
Customs Tariff Amendment (Fuel Indexation) Bill 2014, Excise Tariff Amendment (Fuel Indexation) Bill 2014, Fuel Indexation (Road Funding) Bill 2014, Fuel Indexation (Road Funding) Special Account Bill 2014; Second Reading
I thank those members who have contributed to this debate. These bills modify the Excise Tariff Act 1921, the Customs Tariff Act 1995, the Excise Act 1901, the Fuel Tax Act 2006 and the Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997 to reintroduce the biennial indexation of excise and excise equivalent customs duty on all non-aviation fuels. Indexation to the consumer price index will begin on 1 August 2014 and will occur in February and August every year thereafter. The re-indexation of fuel excise and excise equivalent customs duty will raise $2.2 billion over the forward estimates. This will provide a predictable and growing source of revenue for the government's road infrastructure projects. Indeed, this revenue source allowed the government to commit to the biggest increase in road expenditure in Australian history in the recent budget.
This legislation also establishes the fuel indexation road funding special account. This account will ensure that net revenue raised through the re-indexation is spent on road infrastructure. The balance of this account will be reported in Budget Paper No. 4. The cost of petrol and diesel is expected to increase by approximately 0.9c per litre for consumers by July 2015 as a result of re-indexation. Businesses using fuel in off-road operations or operating and on-road vehicle with a gross vehicle mass in excess of 4.5 tonnes will not face an increase in their business costs from indexation. These businesses are able to receive fuel tax credits to offset the fuel excise paid. Consequential amendments will also be made to the Excise Tariff Act 1921 and the Customs Tariff Act 1995.
While indexation will continue at three decimal places for each indexation period, the applicable duty rate will be rounded from three decimal places in the cent to one decimal place. This rounding will simplify the duty rate to reduce the burden on businesses. On the current rate for petrol this would have the effect of reducing the rate from 38.143c per litre to 38.1c per litre.
We have reached the point in this debate where the Labor Party have put forward their opposition to it and have even put forward an amendment that in some rather poor way attempts to maintain that this policy is not consistent with what the coalition took to the last election. We have the Greens, in an amazing about-turn, an almost gymnastic effort of a backflip, now saying they will not support re-indexation of excise on fossil fuels—surely something that I think most people would reasonably have thought. But what is extraordinary from the contributions of Labor members opposite is the Labor Party's contention that because we in the coalition government are seriously attempting to deal with the state of the nation's finances, attempting to stop stealing from the next generation of young Australians to pay for today's spending and undertaking to make responsible decisions that deal with the fiscal challenges this nation faces, that is in some way inconsistent with the mandate received from the Australian people at the last election.
Let's be clear about what exactly it is that is inconsistent. It is inconsistent for the Australian Labor Party to come in on debates like this and rail about equity. It is inconsistent for the Australian Labor Party to come into debates like this one and rail about the impact on families. The reason it is inconsistent is that Labor's efforts, not only in relation to this budget initiative but in respect of the nearly $40 billion of additional spending that Labor want to reintroduce into the budget, combined with the fact that Labor stand opposed to revenue increases like this one, underscore that Labor are not serious when it comes to inequity. Labor are not serious when it comes to Australian families because, if they were—if Labor were genuine about the impact on families and genuinely motivated and concerned about what it meant for Australian children—they would not condemn them to tens of billions of dollars of additional debt in order to try to win a few votes.
The Australian Labor Party have form; Australians know that. They will say anything on any given day if they think that there is a vote in it. They will not make the serious decisions that are in the national interest to address the challenges that we have. The Labor Party will not undertake the heavy lifting that is required to meet the challenges this nation faces. When the coalition are genuinely concerned about making sure that Australian children do not have to spend the next 20 or 30 years paying off Labor's debt, we respond by making unpopular decisions like this one—not because we think there are votes in it but because it is in the national interest. The Labor Party used to know that. The Labor Party was once a party of principle.