Bills Digest 83 1995-96 Customs and Excise Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 1) 1996


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WARNING:
This Digest is prepared for debate. It reflects the legislation as introduced and does not canvass subsequent amendments.

This Digest was available from 21 May 1996

CONTENTS

Passage History

Date introduced: 6 May 1996
House: Senate
Portfolio: Small Business and Consumer Affairs
Commencement: This Act will be deemed to commence on 1 July 1995.

Purpose

The Bill will correct a number of anomalies in the Customs and Excise Legislation Amendment Act 1995 (CELA Act) and continue the diesel fuel rebate for the mining of limestone used to combat soil acidity.

Background

CELA contained a number of amendments to restrict the availability of the diesel fuel rebate. The diesel fuel rebate was introduced in 1982 to replace a scheme that was in place since 1959. The 1959 scheme exempted off road users from paying duty on diesel fuel and was replaced by the current scheme due to abuse of the exemption scheme. The current scheme originally aimed to repay diesel fuel duty in respect of all off-road usage of diesel fuel, although eligibility criteria has been tightened to prevent abuse of the scheme.

In 1994-95, 213 000 claims were paid on behalf of approximately 110 000 claimants at a cost of $1.25 billion.(1)

It was announced in the 1995-96 Budget that the eligibility criterion for the rebate would be further tightened, with both the agricultural and mining industries being affected. The measures were implemented by CELA. While there were concerns about the reduction of the eligibility for the rebate proposed in that Bill, most concern related to various measures that would have retrospective activity. Many of the retrospective measures were removed prior to the Bill passing Parliament and receiving the Royal Assent.

Other concerns related to the removal of limestone mining from the categories of activity eligible for the rebate, additional costs for the off-shore oil exploration and the effect on mainstream mining operations. Together with the changes to the retrospective action of various parts of the CELA Bill, further amendments were made to redress some of these concerns.

As a result, the CELA Bill was substantially amended in the Senate (the Explanatory Memorandum to the Bill states that there were 80 amendments successfully moved in the Senate). Due to the number of amendments and the short time in which they were made, a number of errors were contained in the CELA Act, particularly in regard to the operation of the proposed retrospective action of the Bill and the definitions of the industries to be effected. The problems were addressed in the Customs and Excise Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1995 (CELA2), which lapsed on the dissolution of Parliament for the 1996 General Election.

The provisions of this Bill are substantially the same as in CELA2.

CELA2 was referred to the Senate Economic Legislation Committee, which delivered its report in October 1995. The Report states:

During the course of the debate concerning [CELA] a number of successful amendment were moved. However, in the process of translating the will of Parliament into a final Royal Assent Bill, a number of transcription errors occurred. In addition, several substantive problems with the commencement and savings provisions of the CELA Act have been identified which are contrary to the expressed intention of the Senate.(2)

The Minority Report by members of the then Opposition expressed concern and proposed amendments regarding the withdrawal of the diesel fuel rebate relating to:

  • limestone mining as it would increase the cost of lime used to combat soil acidity; and
  • increased costs to the off-shore oil exploration industry.

The Minority Report also expressed concern about potential inflexibility of the new rules, particularly in relation to mining industries.(3)

The Bill restores the rebate for the mining of limestone to combat soil acidity.

The diesel fuel rebate scheme was examined by the Australian National Audit Office in it's Report No. 20 of 1995-96. Amongst its Key Findings the Report states:

  • The objectives of the scheme remain unclear. This impedes any assessment of how effective the annual expenditure of $1.25 billion is in achieving the Government's policy aims;

For some years after the last audit [1991], the criteria for eligibility under the scheme remained complex and ill defined. This had the effect of broadening the scheme (particularly through high numbers of Administrative Appeals Tribunal and Court decisions), increasing the likelihood of incorrect payments being made under the scheme. However, legislative amendments aimed at addressing major concerns took effect on 1 July 1995 [ie. CELA].(4)

Main Provisions

The main provisions of the Bill, which are contained in Schedule 1, address the law to be applied to appeals against decisions refusing the diesel fuel rebate. As CELA currently stands, applications before courts and tribunals are to be determined according to the legislation as amended by CELA.

Item 5 of the Schedule 1 provides that, where an application for the rebate has been made before CELA took effect (1 July 1995), or an appeal has been made regarding the payment of the rebate before that date, the law to be used in relation to such matters is that which applied before CELA was enacted.

The other major amendment contained in the Bill will continue the diesel fuel rebate for mining operations for 'agricultural use limestone' The Schedule to the Bill amends a number of provisions of the CELA Act to continue eligibility for the rebate to mining operations for limestone used in deacidification of soil used for agricultural activities .

Endnotes

(1) Australian National Audit Office, Report No. 20 1995-96, p. 3.

(2) Senate Economic and Legislation Committee, Report on CELA2, October 1995, p. 1.

(3) Ibid., pp. 24, 25.

(4) Australian National Audit Office, Report No. 20 1995-96, p. xiv.

Contact Officer and Copyright Details

Chris Field Ph. 06 277 2439
20 May 1996
Bills Digest Service
Parliamentary Research Service

This Digest does not have any official legal status. Other sources should be consulted to determine whether the Bill has been enacted and, if so, whether the subsequent Act reflects further amendments.

PRS staff are available to discuss the paper's contents with Senators and Members and their staff but not with members of the public.

ISSN 1323-9032
Commonwealth of Australia 1996

Except to the extent of the uses permitted under the Copyright Act 1968, no part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without the prior written consent of the Parliamentary Library, other than by Members of the Australian Parliament in the course of their official duties.

Published by the Department of the Parliamentary Library, 1996.

This page was prepared by the Parliamentary Library, Commonwealth of Australia
Last updated: 21 May 1996



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