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Tuesday, 16 September 2003
Page: 15233

Senator ALLISON (12:49 PM) —I do not want to delay this debate but I do need to respond to Senator Minchin. It is not the case that you can buy in this country a hybrid vehicle—petrol-electric vehicle—which has been manufactured here. The Toyota Prius comes from Japan. We do not have vehicles made in this country that are easily purchasable by consumers. A consumer may wish to have a very fuel efficient car. I am not just talking here about engine technology—of course engine technology right around the world has improved energy efficiency; there is no question about that. But the advances are marginal. They are not huge leaps forward, like a 50 per cent or more saving on a car that is otherwise not of that technology. We are talking here about massive leaps in efficiency.

As I said earlier, I had a quick look at web sites last night and had a look at differences in different countries. The US has the Energy Policy Act 1999 that requires federal, state and fuel provider fleets to acquire alternative fuelled vehicles. The result of that is that when you look at the General Motors web site you can see that there are dozens of cars on the market just for natural gas, for instance. I counted 12 vehicles that roll off the production line that run on natural gas. They are both more fuel efficient and cleaner than other vehicles. If you look at ethanol, General Motors Holden makes six vehicles that run on ethanol. That is a mix of 85 per cent ethanol. We do not do that in this country and it is not because consumers have collectively said to themselves, `We do not want to buy fuel efficient vehicles.' It is because we do not have government leadership that encourages the manufacture of them here. It is pure and simple. You cannot blame consumers and say, `Consumers want to buy big cars, big gas guzzlers—they are not interested in fuel efficiency,' if you do not ask them and if you do not give them choices. This government is supposed to be about choices. We hear a lot about choice and how important that is for consumers, but consumers are not being given the choice. I drive my Prius gladly; I love this car and feel proud that it is saving fossil fuels and that it is good for the environment—but it is a very expensive car. It is $40,000 before on-road costs.

Ordinary people do not have that choice—that is equivalent to an expensive, medium-size car by any measure—whereas if we were manufacturing them here, if Holden had its ECOmmodore on the production line, it would be within the reach of ordinary Australians. So I do not think Senator Minchin can say that it is consumers who are driving the move to stay with big cars and they still are. Plenty of people are buying small cars—that is true—and cars are, generally speaking, getting more fuel efficient, but they are also using more energy with electronic windows and various airconditioning and other comforts and features in cars. Those all use up energy. So it is not quite as clear-cut as he is suggesting. So we really need to look at the incentives that are offered in other countries in order to provide that leadership to shift people to vehicles which are in everybody's interest for them to drive.

Bill agreed to.


Bill—by leave—taken as a whole.