Bills Digest no. 17 2013–14
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WARNING: This Digest was prepared for debate. It reflects the legislation as introduced and does not canvass subsequent amendments. This Digest does not have any official legal status. Other sources should be consulted to determine the subsequent official status of the Bill.
2 December 2013
This Bills Digest is one of five Bills Digests that relate to the package of Bills introduced to repeal the carbon price mechanism. This Digest considers the following five Bills:
The Bills Digest at a glance
Purpose of the Bills
Structure of the Bills
Structure of the broader legislative package
Policy position of non-government parties/independents
Position of major interest groups
Statement of Compatibility with Human Rights
Key issues and provisions
Date introduced: 13 November 2013
House: House of Representatives
Portfolio: Environment; Immigration and Border Protection; Treasury
Commencement: At the same time as Part 1 of Schedule 1 to the Clean Energy Legislation (Carbon Tax) Repeal Act 2013 commences, 1 July 2014.
Links: For links to the five Bills that are considered in this Digest please click on the relevant links above, or go to http://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Bills_Legislation
When Bills have been passed and have received Royal Assent, they become Acts, which can be found at the ComLaw website at http://www.comlaw.gov.au/.
The Bills Digest at a glance
Purpose of the Bills
- The five Bills covered by this Bills Digest repeal equivalent carbon price arrangements that apply to aviation fuel and synthetic greenhouse gases (SGGs). Transitional pricing arrangements for SGGs prior to the proposed repeal of the carbon price mechanism (CPM) from 1 July 2014 are also introduced. The Bills are:
- Customs Tariff Amendment (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2013
- Excise Tariff Amendment (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2013
- Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas (Import Levy) Amendment (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2013
- Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas (Import Levy) (Transitional Provisions) Bill 2013 and
- Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas (Manufacture Levy) Amendment (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2013.
- These Bills form part of a package of measures to repeal the carbon price mechanism (CPM). The package comprises 11 separate Bills.
- The CPM is a cap-and-trade emissions trading scheme that began with a three-year fixed price. This fixed price phase led to the scheme being referred to as a ‘carbon tax’. This phase is presently set to end in June 2015 when the scheme transitions to a full emissions trading scheme, with links to other carbon markets.
- The equivalent carbon price arrangements that apply to aviation fuels and SGGs extend the CPM beyond those businesses liable to purchase and surrender emissions permits under facility-based emissions thresholds. Instead of surrendering emissions permits, an additional component is added to existing duties or levies that reflect the emissions created through the combustion of the fuel or use of the SGG and the applicable carbon price.
The purpose of the Bills is to remove the application of a carbon equivalent price to aviation fuels and synthetic greenhouse gases (SGGs) and to introduce transitional pricing arrangements for SGGs prior to the proposed repeal of the carbon price mechanism (CPM) from 1 July 2014.
The five Bills covered by this Bills Digest repeal equivalent carbon arrangements under the carbon pricing mechanism (CPM):
- the Customs Tariff Amendment (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2013 amends the Customs Tariff Act 1995 to remove the equivalent carbon price component from the duty paid on aviation fuels
- the Excise Tariff Amendment (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2013 amends the Excise Tariff Act 1921 to remove the equivalent carbon price component from the duty paid on aviation fuels
- the Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas (Import Levy) Amendment (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2013 and the Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas (Manufacture Levy) Amendment (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2013 amend the Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas (Import Levy) Act 1995 and Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas (Manufacture Levy) Act 1995 respectively to remove the application of an equivalent carbon price on imported or domestically produced synthetic greenhouse gases (SGGs) and
- the Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas (Import Levy) (Transitional Provisions) Bill 2013 establishes a mechanism for the exemption from the equivalent carbon price for the import of bulk SGGs between 1 April and 30 June 2014 if certain conditions are met.
In addition to these Bills, the Clean Energy Legislation (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2013) (the ‘Main Repeal Bill’) includes provisions that repeal the application of an equivalent carbon price to liquid and gaseous fuels used for certain purposes, through an increase in the applicable fuel tax credit (FTC) for the user of the fuel.
The broader carbon tax repeal package comprises 11 Bills. The purpose of these Bills is to repeal the arrangements implemented by the former Government to establish the CPM.
The CPM is a framework that internalises into the cost of production of certain goods and services, the cost on the economy of greenhouse gas emissions resulting from that production. For this framework, architecture for an emissions trading scheme was established. This comprised a period during which carbon prices would be fixed (2012–13 to 2014–15), and period during which the carbon price would fluctuate with market forces (from 1 July 2015). To support the framework several new government agencies were established. Income tax and transfer payments were also changed. This was to compensate households for the expected higher costs of living.
The 11 separate Bills cover five main areas associated with the repeal (Table 1).
Table 1 Broader carbon tax repeal package
- Clean Energy Legislation (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2013 (the ‘Main Repeal Bill’)
- Repeals the Clean Energy Act 2011, the main piece of legislation that established the carbon price mechanism. Also facilitates the collection of liabilities relating to the 2013–14 financial year; introduces new powers for the ACCC and removes assistance to the steel industry by repealing the Steel Transformation Plan Act 2011.
- True-up Shortfall Levy (General) (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2013
- True-up Shortfall Levy (Excise) (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2013
- Apply consequential amendments required by the main Bill to recover the value of over-allocated free emissions permits that provide assistance to energy intensive trade-exposed activities under the CPM.
- Customs Tariff Amendment (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2013
- Excise Tariff Amendment (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2013
- Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas (Import Levy) Amendment (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2013
- Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas (Manufacture Levy) Amendment (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2013
- Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas (Import Levy) (Transitional Provisions) Bill 2013
- Repeal provisions that apply an equivalent carbon price to aviation fuel and synthetic greenhouse gases.
- Apply transitional arrangements for the import of bulk synthetic greenhouse gases between 1 April and 30 June 2014.
- Clean Energy (Income Tax Rates and Other Amendments) Bill 2013
- Repeals personal income tax cuts set to commence on 1 July 2015, and repeals the associated amendments to the low-income tax offset.
- Climate Change Authority (Abolition) Bill 2013
- Abolishes the Climate Change Authority and the Land Sector Carbon & Biodiversity Board.
- Clean Energy Finance Corporation (Abolition) Bill 2013
- Abolishes the Clean Energy Finance Corporation.
The Carbon Price Mechanism (CPM) arrangements implemented on 1 July 2012 applied a carbon price in two different ways. One was the direct application of a requirement for large emitters of greenhouse gases to purchase and surrender carbon emissions permits each year equivalent to their emissions. Primarily for administrative efficiency, the CPM also indirectly applied the carbon price to synthetic greenhouse gases, as well as liquid and gaseous fuels used in certain activities.
This indirect approach in applying the carbon price—generally referred to as ‘equivalent carbon price’ arrangements—utilised existing taxation and import arrangements to apply the carbon price to each unit of fuel or SGG used in specified activities. Equivalent carbon price arrangements expanded coverage of the CPM from around 60 per cent of emissions (covered by the direct price on carbon) to between 64–67 per cent of emissions. At the inception of the CPM package, equivalent carbon price arrangements were expected to contribute around 12 per cent of revenue raised by the CPM.
The mechanism by which the equivalent carbon price applies is different across the three main areas it covers: SGGs, liquid and gaseous fuels used in certain activities, and aviation fuel. Entities subject to the equivalent carbon price arrangements for certain liquid and gaseous fuels and aviation fuels are able, from 1 July 2013, to not pay the carbon equivalent price but directly manage carbon liabilities under ‘opt in’ arrangements and surrender the required emissions permits.
The impact of the equivalent carbon price on a per unit basis can be calculated by multiplying the emissions associated with the use of a fuel or gas by the relevant carbon price for the respective year. For the fixed price period of the CPM (2012–13, 2013–14 and 2014–15) this is relatively straightforward as the prices are known. From the 2015–16 financial year however, the equivalent carbon price (referred to as the ‘per–tonne carbon price equivalent’) is based on average auction prices and the price of international emissions units.
Synthetic greenhouse gases are used in Australia for a variety of purposes, such as:
- most commonly, refrigerant gases in air conditioning and refrigeration equipment (domestic, automotive and others)
- use in some fire extinguishing systems
- use as foam-blowing agents in the manufacture of polyurethane foams and in applications requiring thermal insulation, such as refrigerators
- use in some aerosol products and
- an insulating gas in the electricity supply industry.
The synthetic greenhouse gases are hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs) and sulfur hexafluoride (SF6). These gases have a much greater global warming potential per tonne than carbon dioxide (ranging from 1000 to 23 000 times more potent over a 100–year timeframe).
Administrative arrangements under the Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas Management Act 1989 provide for the licensing of manufacturers and importers of SGGs and the Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas (Import Levy) Act 1995 and Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas (Manufacture Levy) Act 1995 provide for the payment of a levy based on the weight of gas imported. The application of a carbon price equivalent piggy-backed on these arrangements and required importers to continue to pay the existing levy on a quarterly basis (60 days after the end of each calendar quarter) and an additional levy based on the global warming potential (GWP) of each gas and the relevant carbon price for the calendar year.
The GWP of some SGGs in combination with the carbon price imposed a significant additional cost per unit on some SGGs (Table 2).
Table 2 Impact of equivalent carbon price on the levy paid for selected synthetic greenhouse gases, 2013–14
|Synthetic greenhouse gas
||Example of use
||Equivalent carbon price levy per kilogram
||Total levy payable (including per kilogram levy)
||Insulating gas in the electricity industry
||Fire extinguishing agent
Source: Parliamentary Library estimates based on the Department of the Environment’s ‘Import levy and equivalent carbon price calculator’, version 1.1, 24 August 2012, accessed 26 November 2013.
While the impact of equivalent carbon price on SGGs is significant, a tightening of the supply of some SGGs also contributed to the increase in the price of some SGGs over recent years.
Air conditioning services provider AG Coombs considered that most of the price increase for selected refrigerant gases in July 2012 was due to general price increases rather than the imposition of equivalent carbon pricing (Table 3). For example, of the $209.85 per kg increase in the price of refrigerant R404A in early July 2012, around 36 per cent of the increase was attributed to the carbon equivalent price, with the remainder ‘influenced by global refrigerant supply issues’.
Table 3 Impact of carbon price equivalent and other price increases on the price of selected refrigerant gases, July 2012
||Global warming potential
||Carbon levy/kg (2012–13)
||Gas list price June 2012 before CPM
||Gas list price 1 July 2012 after CPM
||Gas list price 9 July 2012 (including supply cost increase)
Source: AG Coombs, Refrigerant price increases and the carbon levy on refrigerants, Advisory note, July 2012, accessed 24 October 2013, using data from Electroair Electrical Contractors, ‘News: refrigerant cost rise by 400%’, Electroair Electrical Contractors website, 27 June 2012, accessed 28 November 2013.
In undertaking its role in investigating claims about price increases linked to the carbon price, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) found that the business Equipserve—a refrigeration and electrical installation and maintenance business—had misled consumers in attributing the increase from $98 to $395 per kg of refrigerant R404A as wholly attributable to the introduction of the carbon price.
As aviation fuels do not receive fuel tax credits, domestic aviation fuel excise was increased by an amount equivalent to the carbon price on the fuel emissions from the implementation of the CPM on 1 July 2012. International aviation fuel use is not subject to Australian fuel tax and therefore was not subject to an effective carbon price.
Prior to the implementation of the equivalent carbon price arrangements, aviation fuel was subject to a levy that was hypothecated to fund the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA).
The impact of the equivalent carbon price arrangements on aviation fuel during the fixed price period of the CPM was to increase prices to users by around 5–6 cents per litre (Table 4).
Table 4 Carbon equivalent price impact on aviation fuels, 2013–14 and 2014–15 (cents per litre)
Rate of duty
Equivalent carbon price component
Rate of duty
Proposed equivalent carbon price component
Source: Explanatory Memorandum, Clean Energy Legislation (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2013, p. 69, accessed 28 November 2013.
The major Australian airlines attempted to pass on the additional costs to customers through the implementation of an additional charge based on the distance flown, between $1.50 and $7.25 depending on the carrier and route flown. However, the impact of applying the equivalent carbon price on aviation fuels to ticket prices is not clearly apparent in the price of domestic airfares (Figure 1).
Instead, the major airlines have not been able to fully pass on the cost of the equivalent carbon price to passengers. The cost of the equivalent carbon price for Qantas and Jetstar was reported to be $106 million. Virgin Australia noted that ‘[t]he Group was also impacted by the carbon tax during the 2013 financial year; with a $47.9 million cost which we were unable to recover due to strong competition in the market’.
The equivalent carbon price also impacted on regional airlines. Regional carrier Regional Express, which paid $2.4 million under equivalent carbon price arrangements in 2012–13, considered that the carbon price ‘together with a host of policies hostile to regional aviation’ resulted in a ‘plunge’ in sales from 1 July 2012. The application of a carbon equivalent price to aviation fuel was also cited in May 2012 by Brindabella airlines as one of several factors that influenced the decision to cancel its flights between Canberra and Albury and Brisbane and Armidale. The airline has not returned to these routes since.
Figure 1 Nominal change in domestic airfares, June 2007 to October 2013
Source: Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics, ‘Domestic air fare indexes’, Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development website, accessed 28 October 2013.
The 11 Bills, including the five that are the subject of this Digest, have been referred to the Senate Standing Committee on Environment and Communications for inquiry and report by 2 December 2013. Details of the inquiry are at: http://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Senate/Environment_and_Communications.
The reasons given for referral were:
The Carbon Tax has significantly impacted Australian households and businesses. The Committee will review the Bills and report to the Senate on: costs to households and businesses from Labor's Carbon Tax; and the impact of the Carbon Tax on business costs including mining, manufacturing and small business.
To ensure proper scrutiny of these Bills and their impact on Australia's efforts to tackle climate change and carbon pollution. 
At the time of writing, the Senate Standing Committee for the Scrutiny of Bills has not reported on these Bills.
At the time of writing, the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights has not reported on these Bills.
The policy positions of the non-government parties and independent Senators and Members of the House of Representatives are set out in the Parliamentary Library’s Bills Digest on the Clean Energy Legislation (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2013.
The policy positions of major interest groups are set out in the Parliamentary Library’s Bills Digest on the Clean Energy Legislation (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2013.
Industry groups representing users of SGGs support the repeal of the CPM. However, when the draft Bills were released for comment in October 2013, these groups raised some transitional issues, asking for the industry to be given time to adjust to the removal of the CPM. Refrigerants Australia noted that:
The issue with removing the carbon price is particularly acute for HFC refrigerants given the enormous impact it has had. There is no other industry where the carbon price has acted to multiply the price by several times (for other industries the impacts are typically 10% or less in terms of overall prices).
The final package for the repeal of the CPM included a separate Bill implementing some transitional measures. This is discussed further below.
The Replacement Explanatory Memorandum for the Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas (Import Levy) (Transitional Provision) Bill 2013 notes that the cost of the transitional arrangements for the import of bulk synthetic greenhouse gases between 1 April and 30 June 2014 is $10 million over the forward estimates.
There are no separate estimates of the financial impact of repealing the equivalent carbon price measures on SGGs and aviation fuel. Instead, the financial impact of repealing equivalent carbon pricing from aviation fuels and SGGs is incorporated into the estimates for the broader carbon tax repeal package. The Explanatory Memorandum for the broader repeal package notes that the net financial impact of the measures proposed by the Bills is a cost to the budget of $6.1 billion over the forward estimates. In cash terms, the net financial impact is a cost to the budget of $7.4 billion over the forward estimates.
As required under Part 3 of the Human Rights (Parliamentary Scrutiny) Act 2011 (Cth), the Government has assessed the Bill’s compatibility with the human rights and freedoms recognised or declared in the international instruments listed in section 3 of that Act. The Government considers that the Bill is compatible.
In the Excise Tariff Act 1921, the equivalent carbon price (expressed as the ‘carbon component rate’ in this Act) for aviation fuels for the fixed price period of the CPM (that is, prior to 1 July 2015) is expressed in terms of a specific amount per litre of fuel. From 1 July 2015, the calculation of the equivalent carbon price relies on provisions in the Clean Energy Act 2011 that includes reference to domestic auction prices and prices of eligible international units. In addition to the ‘carbon component rate’ the excise paid includes the CASA hypothecated levy component of 3.556 cents per litre.
Item 3 of Schedule 1 to the Excise Tariff Amendment (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2013 repeals the substantive elements (sections 6FA, 6FB and 6FC) that specify the carbon component rate for 2013–14, 2014–15 and provide the mechanism for the calculation of the rate from 1 July 2015 onwards.
Items 6 and 7 replace the aviation fuel excise rates for gasoline and kerosene that incorporate the carbon component rate and the hypothecated CASA levy with the CASA levy rate of 3.556 cents per litre for both types of aviation fuel.
The Customs Tariff Act 1995 refers to the provisions in the Excise Tariff Act 1921 that establish the ‘carbon component rate’ in that Act. Item 1 of Schedule 1 of the Customs Tariff Amendment (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2013 repeals these arrangements from the Customs Tariff Act 1995.
Items 2 to 19 of Schedule 1 remove references to the specified duty rate for gasoline for use as fuel in aircraft that includes the equivalent carbon price component and replaces it with the hypothecated CASA duty rate (3.556 cents per litre).
Items 20 to 37 of Schedule 1 remove references to the specified duty rate for kerosene for use as fuel in aircraft that includes the equivalent carbon price component and replaces it with the hypothecated CASA duty rate (3.556 cents per litre).
The Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas (Import Levy) Act 1995 and Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas (Manufacture Levy) Act 1995 include arrangements for the calculation of a levy that includes the carbon equivalent price based on the carbon price applying in the CPM and the global warming potential of each SGG. The levy calculation also includes a component based on the volume of the SGG imported or manufactured.
Item 9 of Schedule 1 to the Import Levy Bill repeals the substantive elements that currently include an equivalent carbon price on imported SGGs in the levy paid by importers. The existing provisions relating to the payment of a volume-based levy are retained.
Item 14 of Schedule 1 to the Import Levy Bill provides for the amendments to apply from the quarter beginning on 1 July 2014 and each later quarter.
Item 9 of Schedule 1 to the Manufacture Levy Bill repeals the substantive elements that currently include an equivalent carbon price on domestically manufactured SGGs in the levy paid by manufacturers. The existing provisions relating to the payment of a volume‑based levy are retained.
Item 13 of Schedule 1 to the Manufacture Levy Bill provides for the amendments to apply from the quarter beginning on 1 July 2014 and each later quarter.
Refrigerants Australia noted the potential of a ‘buyers strike’ in the refrigerant market with the repeal of the CPM from 1 July 2014:
There is strong anecdotal evidence that consumers of refrigerants – building owners, hospitals, food handling businesses for example – are focused on the cost reduction that they believe will occur with a shift to a floating price on 1 July 2014. There are two issues with this belief that have the potential to significantly disrupt industry. Firstly, facility owners will likely delay purchase of equipment and refrigerant to after 1 July 2014 in the belief that this will save money. This strike in purchasing could be tremendously disruptive to the literally tens of thousands of (typically small business) contractors who earn perhaps 50% or more of their business from installation of new equipment.
Additionally, as the prices probably will not fall immediately on 1 July as the gas in the supply chain that has already had the carbon price paid will need to work through the system, further delaying in purchase of new equipment is likely. It is certainly plausible that there will be a buyers’ strike lasting 6 to 9 months severely impacting on the industry.
… These potentialities are not insignificant. There have been several assessments over recent years detailing that contractors are under significant financial risk currently. A buyers’ strike over winter (a typically slow time anyway) could well put hundreds or more small companies out of business. Additionally, refrigerants are used in a range of essential services including food handling, health and telecommunications. Any degradation to refrigerant supply or the refrigerant industry’s capacity to support these essential uses needs to be addressed. The potential impacts of a refrigerant buyers’ strike are too important not to take steps to avert this possible outcome.
Refrigerants Australia suggested that one approach could be a phased reduction in the equivalent carbon price from 1 July 2014 to ‘provide both a rationale for the tempo of price reduction and certainty for industry’.
The Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas (Import Levy) (Transitional Provisions) Bill 2013 provides for transitional arrangements in the lead up to the repeal of the CPM on 1 July 2014. The Bill exempts an importer of an SGG from the equivalent carbon price component of the levy during the quarter beginning
1 April 2014 if:
- the SGG is entered for warehousing and
- the SGG is not entered for home consumption.
The Explanatory Memorandum notes that the transitional arrangements are designed to address the ‘small risk’ of potential shortages of SGGs in the lead up to the repeal of the equivalent carbon price on 1 July 2014 due to:
- reduced SGG imports in anticipation of the lower SGG levy from the 1 July 2014 repeal date
- domestic businesses reducing the levels of SGG inventories in order to delay purchases of SGGs until after the repeal of the CPM.
Arrangements relating to the refund of overpayments and reporting of the quantities and kind of SGGs covered by the exemption are also part of the transitional arrangements.
Members, Senators and Parliamentary staff can obtain further information from the Parliamentary Library on (02) 6277 2500.
. The Library will produce five separate Bills Digests covering these 11 Bills. These will cover (1) the Main Repeal Bill and the Bills relating to the true-up levy short fall, (2) the repeal of the equivalent carbon price arrangements on aviation fuels and synthetic greenhouse gases (this Bills Digest), (3) the abolition of the CCA and the Land Sector Carbon & Biodiversity Board, (4) the abolition of the CEFC and (5) the repeal of the personal income tax cuts scheduled to commence from 1 July 2015. Each of these Bills Digests will be available from the Library’s Bills Digests alphabetical index 2013–14, accessed 28 November 2013.
. Section 196A of the Clean Energy Act 2011 outlines the calculation of equivalent carbon pricing from 1 July 2015.
. The equivalent carbon price was imposed by increasing an existing levy on aviation fuels on imported fuel (Customs Tariff Act 1995) and domestically produced fuel (Excise Tariff Act 1921). Customs Tariff Act 1995 and Excise Tariff Act 1921, accessed 28 November 2013.
. Selection of Bills Committee, Report No. 9 of 2013, The Senate, Canberra, 14 November 2013, pp. 8 and 9, accessed 15 November 2013.
. Refrigerants Australia, op. cit.
. The Statement of Compatibility with Human Rights is at pages 13–18 of the Explanatory Memorandum, op. cit.
. Excise Tariff Act 1921, sections 6FA and 6FB.
. Clean Energy Act 2011, section 196A.
. Customs Tariff Act 1995, section 19A.
. Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas (Import Levy) Act 1995, section 3A and Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas (Manufacture Levy) Act 1995, section 3A.
. Proposed section 5. The terms ‘warehousing’ and ‘home consumption’ are defined as those within the meaning of the Customs Act 1901. The conditions require that the SGG be held in a licensed warehouse, which may include a customer’s warehouse.
. Proposed sections 6 and 7.
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