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Wednesday, 13 August 2003
Page: 18398

Mr CREAN (2:29 PM) —My question is to the Prime Minister. I refer the Prime Minister to his meeting with Mr Honan on 1 August 2002 and ask him: although the specific shipment of ethanol from Brazil had not been finalised at the time, on the basis of Manildra's meetings and discussions with the wholly owned Australian company Neumanns and Trafigura in July, did Mr Honan inform you that a shipment from Brazil was likely?

Mr HOWARD (Prime Minister) —The shipment of Trafigura was not discussed. There was a general discussion about many aspects of ethanol policy. The position of domestic ethanol producers would have been part of the discussions. I think there are matters relating to a takeover that is unrelated to this particular issue, and they were discussed. Certainly there were various competitors in the market, but at that time I had absolutely no knowledge of a pending shipment from Brazil of ethanol. What is more, I have been informed that at the time that the government first became aware that there was going to be a shipment from Brazil it was, in the knowledge of the officials to whom I have spoken, the first occasion that imports of ethanol had ever come into the calculations so far as Australia was concerned. And that is the significance of the policy that I quoted to you in answer to the first question.

You see, we did go to the last election with a policy to boost the amount of ethanol and other biofuels. In our policy, Biofuels for Cleaner Transport, there is the following paragraph:

The Coalition will set an objective that fuel ethanol and biodiesel produced in Australia—

not produced in Brazil, not produced in China, not produced in America, but produced in Australia—

from renewable sources will contribute at least 350 million litres to the total fuel supply by 2010.

That was the driving policy reason for the action taken by the government. That is the reason. That is the reason we took the decision. But the Leader of the Opposition, as I said in answer to the first question, can ask as many questions as he likes. The pending shipment from Brazil was not discussed, because I did not know about it, and to the best of my understanding—but you would have to ask Mr Honan—neither did Mr Honan.

Mr Crean —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order which goes to relevance. My question was quite specific: whether Mr Honan informed the Prime Minister of a likely shipment.

The SPEAKER —The Leader of the Opposition will resume his seat. I have listened very closely to the Prime Minister's response, and the Prime Minister was being relevant by any measure.