CANBERRA—A key Rudd government budget revenue measure -- to end a tax exemption on condensate -- has been approved by parliament's upper house.
The Australian Greens, Family First and independent Senator Nick Xenophon all voted with the government to impose excise on condensate, an oil by-product of gas production, ending a 31-year exemption.
The government stands to gain $2.5 billion over the next four years when the exemption ends.
The government made minor technical amendments to its legislation in the Senate, meaning the bills will now return to the lower house for re-approval, before a final vote in the upper house.
Critics of the plan claim it will hurt resource giant Woodside Petroleum's viability and force up prices for electricity and gas in Western Australia.
WA Liberal Senator David Johnston today said the government was crucifying Woodside and other North-West Shelf Project venturers.
"This is an absolute smash and grab raid and I want to style it right now as the drive-by shooting of the century," he told the Senate during debate on the bills.
"This is one the greatest assaults on the living standards of Western Australians, I think, in the history of the federation."
But WA Greens Senator Rachel Siewert labelled Senator Johnston's argument laughable, saying the tax exemption was little more than "corporate welfare".
"When are they going to wake up and smell the roses and realise that the community won't support that level of subsidy anymore?" Senator Siewert said.
WA Labor Senator Mark Bishop said the North-West shelf companies were immensely profitable and it was time to fix a historical tax anomaly.
"It should be brought into line with the rest of the country," he said.
"It's time to even the playing field.
"Industry will adapt and change and continue to grow."
Senator Xenophon said the industry had been given the exemption when it was still in its infancy.
"The industry has grown up and it is time to pay up," he said.
How the Senate lines up on key budget measures:
* Increase in the luxury car tax:
Passed with cross bench amendments despite coalition opposition
* End of condensate tax exemption:
Passed with cross bench support despite coalition opposition
* Increase in the threshold for the Medicare levy surcharge:
Coalition: Voted against the measure in the Senate
Steve Fielding: Voted against the measure in the Senate
Greens: Voted for the measure in the Senate
Nick Xenophon: Voted for the measure in the Senate
* Increase on the excise on alcopops:
Coalition: Opposes the policy
Steve Fielding: Opposes the policy but willing to negotiate on cultural changes to address binge-drinking
Greens: Seeking funding for anti-binge drinking programs but can be convinced
Nick Xenophon: Open to the negotiation but has concerns about insufficient funds to address binge-drinking
Coalition: Opposes the bill
Steve Fielding: Open to a limited trial of the scheme
Greens: Can be convinced
Nick Xenophon: Opposes the bill