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Tuesday, 14 June 2011
Page: 5910


Mr KATTER (Kennedy) (19:31): In rising to speak to the Taxation of Alternative Fuels Legislation Amendment Bill 2011 tonight I sympathise very strongly with the arguments put by the opposition. This is one of those things where if you are piggy-in-the-middle you have some difficulty deciding which side of the fence you should be on, unlike the members of political parties in this place who mostly resemble ventriloquist dummies because they have not voted against their party machine on either side of the parliament to my knowledge as long as I have been in here. So you say, 'Did you agree to every single thing that was passed in here? Oh, of course you did. So you agreed with every single decision that your party made in here. Oh, of course you did.' We now have a party that I belong to and our first resolution—and I have told people this—is that if in a year there are not 20 separate votes then we have failed in what we are trying to achieve. Sometimes while representing the interests of my electorate I find myself in great sympathy with the one of the senators from South Australia, Senator Xenophon, on almost every issue. But there are times when we disagree and we vote separately and differently. That is healthy and that is a democracy.

There is only Australia now left as one that has a two-party system. You may well ask, Madam Deputy Speaker, 'What about America?' Well, America does not vote along party lines. I followed the vote very closely on the ethanol bill in the United States: the oil-producing states voted almost to a man against the ethanol bill and all the rest of the senators throughout the United States, regardless of their party affiliations, voted differently. Peter Reith, who is running for the presidency of the Liberal Party, makes the point that we should have primaries. He is dead right, of course. The reason that under the American system they are answerable to the people is that you have to go before a primary. It is not just your little coterie of party faithful that you have to keep happy; you have to keep every single registered labour voter in your electorate so. They have got to vote for you in a primary. You are answerable to the people in your electorate and that is why the American system results in people voting along constituency lines and not along party lines. I still think the two-party system is unhealthy. In all the other countries in the world, taking France, Germany, even England now and even New Zealand now, all have multiparty systems. The only country without a multiparty system is ours—and, please, God, that will change soon.

Let me return to the bill specifically and say that once again Australia is out of step. Every other country subsidises and protects their industries. The OECD figures are 41 per cent support levels for agriculture in the OECD countries and four per cent in Australia. We get preached to continuously by both sides of this parliament about level playing fields. Well, you delivered to the agriculturalists in this country the most unlevel playing field that anyone could ever hope to play football on. One section is 40 metres up in the air and other one is down four metres lower, and then you expect us to compete! In addition to that it does not take into account the factor of ethanol. In the United States cattlemen can access very highly nutritious grain called dried distillers grain, which is a by-product of the ethanol industry. I do not have the figures here as to how much they produce in the United States but I know that they exported nine million tonnes last year. So five million people on Earth were fed by some dried distillers grain that happened to be left over. I do not know how many millions, if not tens of millions, of people were fed in the United States.

In this august body called the Parliament of Australia on both sides of this House we have had great spokesmen for the oil companies and we have had great spokesmen for Woolworths and Coles, who are in bed together now as they own the bowsers throughout Australia. We cannot get ethanol into bowsers because we are not oil producers; we are ethanol producers. So we cannot get into those bowsers. Dick Honan, a very great Australian in every single sense of the word, created an industry out of absolutely nothing. Every single gyprock panel in every single home in Australia is produced partly with product out of this plant. He was brought to the very point of crashing by the actions of both sides of this parliament. Thank goodness we have five crossbenchers. The Australian people put five crossbenchers in here, and those people were able to lever a situation in which we are now withdrawing from the destruction of the Australian ethanol industry. We had 75 megalitres of production in Australia. The people on my right smashed it down to 24, and now they have the hide to come in here and tell us they are in favour of ethanol. I hope they are. If the leopard has changed its spots I will be the first to be on public record and congratulate them. I thank very sincerely their leader, Tony Abbott, for giving a tick to our 20 points. Our second point was on ethanol.

Madam Deputy Speaker, let me quote the former Premier of New South Wales, Mr Iemma. He said, 'We are introducing ethanol because I am not going to stand by and watch people die in Sydney who do not have to die.' In America ethanol was introduced not to help their farmers and not to secure their oil supply line; it was introduced as an air quality control act because when the findings of health studies in California became public it became an absolutely unassailable fact of life that vehicle emissions were killing more people than motor vehicle accidents in California. That is an actual quote from the head of the AMA in Australia. The head of the air quality control council of Australia, Dr Tom Beer, from CSIRO, said exactly the same thing. How come neither side of this parliament has done it yet?

Maybe in the forthcoming weeks the opposition will do it with the support of the crossbenchers. If they do, the people of Australia now, and in future generations, will thank them (a) for saving lives and (b) for bringing down the price of petrol. As I have said in this House a hundred times: do not argue about how much it is going to cost; just get on an aeroplane and go to Brazil and fill your motor car up. I had never been out of Australia before and I will never go again, but I went over to do an ethanol tour. I really went over just to bring back a photograph of me filling my motor car up in Sao Paulo for 74c a litre. I then went to Minnesota, or vice versa, and filled my car up for 84c a litre. I came back to Australia and filled my motor car up for $1.39 a litre. Firstly, we save lives; secondly, we bring down the price of petrol; and, thirdly, we feed the world.

Let me just come back to that for one moment, Madam Deputy Speaker. When you extract starch from grain you are left with what is called dried distillers grain. Distillers grain has the same calorific grain as ordinary grain but is three times more nutritious. The Americans are killing us in the cattle industry because they have accessed this supercheap, supernutritious grain. The Brazilians are killing us in the sugar industry because they make so much money out of the ethanol side of their cane industry that they can subsidise the sugar side of the industry. Their mills produce half ethanol and half sugar. They can subsidise from the petrol side or the ethanol side. Ethanol rescues three of our agricultural industries destroyed by this parliament with their ridiculous high Australian dollar and with their ridiculous level playing field, which is the most unlevel playing field in human history.

The fourth issue is the supply of oil. It is fascinating for me that the minister for resources came into this place continuously giving speeches about how we are running out of petrol. I suspect that a few people from the gas industry have been in to see him, because suddenly we have seen a big change of heart. He has switched from saying that the great problem in Australia is that we have got a deficiency of oil to saying that we really do not, because we have got gas. Go and put a gun to the head of every motorist in Australia. Gas has been half the price of petrol and people still will not convert to gas. We can say all we like that there is a benefit in gas—and there is; I do not deny it—but we cannot force the Australian motorist to take gas if he refuses to. We can with ethanol; that is as simple as winking. We said, 'Take the lead out of petrol' and they took the lead out of petrol because people were dying from lead. Now we are saying, 'Put ethanol in because people are dying on account of the carcinogens that are in, and come out of, the petrol tank.' We are quite entitled to say, 'Now you're going to put some ethanol in because we don't like Australians dying so that you can get rich, Mr Oil Company. We don't like that.' And, I might add, the oil companies had a choice when the lead was taken out. They could raise the octane number by putting in ethanol or they could raise it by putting in MTBE. There is one hell of a difference between MTBE and ethanol. MTBE is carcinogenic. To quote Larry Johnson, the founder of the ethanol industry in America, 'Pour petrol into the river and fish die. Pour ethanol into the river and fish smile.' It is pure alcohol. Listerine, the mouthwash, is ethanol.

When I was 17 years of age—and it worries me greatly, with the live cattle issue at the present moment—I was handed a rifle and had to give three telephone numbers to my commanding officer. I was on 24-hour call-up to go and fight a war to secure our supply line of oil. Some nasty, cynical people said it was a war more to look after the interests of Royal Dutch Shell. I think we really do have to fight wars to protect our oil supply line. Since that time, we have fought a war almost every single year to secure our oil pipelines and our source of oil. I think to some degree that is one thing for which you do have to fight wars. I make this point in passing: if we are prepared to fight wars to secure our oil pipelines then maybe other people might get very upset when their food supply is cut off. Maybe that is true. I do not want to see my grandchildren have to shoulder a rifle like I had to as a kid and go off to fight a war. Thank goodness it blew over before I got up there. I was very, very lucky—luckier than my father and my uncles, who fought in the Second World War. One of my uncles died in Changi prison.

I have had great difficulty in deciding which way to vote on the first part of the bill before us tonight, but sometimes compromises have to be reached. Whilst people say that I am a very uncompromising person, I am not like that all the time. There are times when compromises have to be made, and this is probably one of those situations. We have not killed the ethanol industry but we need to fan it into life. Every single European country has biofuels legislation. America has biofuels legislation. Canada has biofuels legislation. Brazil has biofuels legislation. There is no country on earth that grows grain or sugarcane that does not have biofuels legislation—even Europe, which cannot grow them, has biofuels legislation. (Time expired)

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Ms AE Burke ): I would like to thank the member for Kennedy for at least referring to the bill once. I do appreciate that. The question is that this bill be now read a second time. I call the member for Dunkley.