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Tuesday, 25 June 2002
Page: 4299

Mr KATTER (3:13 PM) —My question without notice is to the Minister for Industry, Tourism and Resources. Is the minister aware of media reports that the US Senate voted 88 to 11 in favour of the energy bill, and unanimously on the ethanol amendment to that bill? Is the minister aware that the bill imposes a mandated five billion gallons ethanol content in US gasoline, enabling them to phase out the environmentally damaging MTBE over four years? Would the minister accept representations from various industry groups in an endeavour to advance this embryonic industry which, on the US model of a 10 per cent blend, would create some 20,000 jobs in secondary and primary industry throughout Australia's grain and sugar belts?

Mr IAN MACFARLANE (Minister for Industry, Tourism and Resources) —The ethanol industry in Australia is very much in its fledgling stages but has great potential for many farmers, including those in the seat of Wakefield, the seat of Groom, and other seats held by the many members of the coalition in regional Australia. This government is committed to further development of the ethanol industry, and the Commonwealth will undertake a $5 million two-year study on the market barriers to greater use of biofuels for transport. The study will develop a strategy to increase biofuels production by some 350 million litres per annum by 2010.

Mr Gavan O'Connor —Why don't you answer the question?

Mr IAN MACFARLANE —I thought I was, Mr Speaker.

The SPEAKER —The minister will not respond to interjections.

Mr IAN MACFARLANE —The reality is that this government is pursuing a strategy and part of that strategy will be vehicle testing and technical assessment of the E20 ethanol blend. The ethanol industry in Australia has the potential to provide Australia with alternative sources of fuel. I am always happy to speak with representatives of that industry; in fact, I have on a number of occasions already, both with representatives from within my own electorate of Groom and also with representatives from right across Australia. It is an industry which has some potential which we are keen to explore.