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Thursday, 14 August 2003
Page: 18587

Mr PEARCE (2:35 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations. Would the minister inform the House what successive governments have done to boost employment by supporting the ethanol industry? Would the minister also advise the House of further developments affecting the industry and the jobs it provides?

Mr ABBOTT (Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service) —I thank the member for his question. I can inform the House that in the days when it was a responsible political party federal Labor certainly did support the ethanol industry, including ethanol blended fuels. For instance, I have a press release from the then minister for resources dated 31 August 1995, boasting that $4.32 million had been given to ethanol producers, including the Manildra Group. Giving money to ethanol producers was so successful, and ethanol blends were so successful, that the then Labor minister boasted:

The success of the scheme is indicated by the fact that throughout New South Wales there are over 50 petrol stations selling a fuel-ethanol blend.

That is what Labor thought in 1995. There is more: in a speech about alternative energy when he was the minister for primary industry, no less a person than the Leader of the Opposition said:

I recently came across a good example from the Manildra Group. In response to environmental pressures, they commissioned a $23 million ethanol plant to use this waste for the production of alcohol for the domestic chemical market. The Manildra Group are currently using a 15 per cent ethanol blend in their diesel engine fleet.

The Leader of the Opposition continued:

This example demonstrates what can be achieved by finding the right technological solutions to a problem.

So, when he was the relevant minister, he thought a 15 per cent ethanol blend was the right technological solution to a problem.

Successful Labor leaders, such as Premier Carr and Premier Beattie, still support the ethanol industry. But not federal Labor. Federal Labor will not even accept donations from ethanol producers because, it says, they are dirty money. In 1996 Manildra gave the ALP $25,000, in 1999 Manildra gave the ALP $15,000, in 2001 Manildra gave the ALP $11,000, and in 2002 Manildra gave the ALP $55,000. If Manildra donated in 1996, 1999, 2001 and 2002 how can a donation in 2003 possibly be `out of the blue' as the member for Werriwa says? If the latest $50,000 donation is somehow dirty money which should be returned, when will the Labor Party return the $106,000 it got from the Manildra Group over the previous six years? If Labor now has a policy of returning dirty money, when is it going to give back the $9,880 it got from Mr Dante Tan? If the Labor Party does not accept donations in return for influence, when will it stop taking $5 million a year from the trade union movement?

It is quite clear what the Labor Party's anti-ethanol campaign shows: it shows that the Leader of the Opposition will smear any friend, betray any principle and sacrifice any job to score a political point. What it reveals is that the Australian Labor Party is about politics first, jobs second and principles last. I table documents detailing the Labor Party's relationship with the Manildra Group.