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Monday, 20 June 2011
Page: 3314

Senator NASH (New South WalesDeputy Leader of The Nationals in the Senate) (19:38): The incorporated speech read as follows—

Mr President, the government has introduced four bills to the senate regarding changes to the taxation arrangements of LPG, LNG and CNG. They also clarify how biofuels — ethanol, biodiesel and methanol are treated regarding the tax arrangements.

While I don't support the changes to apply a tax to LPG, CNG and LNG, I am very supportive of the legislation as it relates to ethanol and biodiesel.

Mr President, I have been a strong supporter of biofuels, in particular ethanol, for over a decade. Indeed, in a preselection speech I gave in 2001, I said:

"One issue that I believe we should seriously look at is the use of ethanol as an alternative fuel. The creation of an ethanol industry would be an enormous boost for regional Australia, and would create thousands of jobs in those areas. It has environmental benefits, and has the potential to underpin commodity prices."

In my maiden speech in this place in 2005 I said:

"As a champion of the bush I will always seek to find ways to improve the viability of our rural communities. One such way is the development of a sustainable domestic biofuels industry. For many years I have been, and I will continue to be, a passionate advocate for a domestic ethanol industry. There is no doubt that the development of an ethanol industry would create jobs and opportunities in our regions. I will do all I can to support industries that will deliver real benefits to rural and regional Australia. An ethanol industry would provide significant environmental and health benefits and would reduce our reliance on fossil fuel. It would give grain and sugar farmers another market, and it would develop business opportunities in our regions.

The government currently has in place a policy target of 350 million litres of biofuel production by 2010. The effect of vehicle emissions, particularly in our cities, cannot be ignored. Given that the introduction of ethanol into our fuel mix would lower vehicle emission pollutants, it stands to reason that it Is simply commonsense that, for the improved health of Australians, we as legislators support the development of an ethanol industry in this nation. Indeed, the AMA recently put forward their view to the Prime Minister's Biofuels Taskforce that they strongly support the use of ethanol in our fuel mix as part of the solution to improving the health outcomes of Australians.

Many countries around the world pursue the use of ethanol—indeed, they not only use it but actively embrace it. In the United States alone, last year 13 billion litres of ethanol was used. The list of countries using ethanol is ever growing, including the US, Brazil, Thailand, the Philippines, India, China, Japan, Colombia and the EU. Governments in all of those nations have recognised the importance of this industry. Australia is lagging behind, and it is not good enough."

The government's measure to extend the domestic production subsidy for 10 years is a very welcome one. The industry needs the extension of the subsidy to ensure a sustainable industry in the future.

It was hoped that the industry would be delivering a much greater volume into the market by this time. Indeed, in 2001 the Coalition had a policy objective of 350 million litres of ethanol and biodiesel contributing to the total fuel supply by 2010.

However, we are nowhere near that level as yet. That is in large part due to the fact that In the early 2000's a huge scare campaign was run against the use of ethanol, by the Labor Party. How ironic that they have finally seen the light! That scare campaign put the industry back years, and I have to congratulate the ethanol industry for having the strength to continue on a path that they could see would have significant benefits for the nation, in the face of such adversity.

Many people recognised the benefits of a domestic ethanol industry in the early days, including the Hon Ian Armstrong AM OBE, who was a strong advocate of the industry. Indeed, his input was significant, and I remember him con­vening a Bio-technology Conference in Coota­mundra as early as July 2003 on alternative fuels.

The extension of the domestic production subsidy on ethanol is welcome, and in spite of the fact the government appears to have done a total backflip with regard to this industry over the last 10 years, this is a measure that will provide certainty and a sustainable future for the biofuels industry.

However, the introduction of excise on LPG, LNG and CNG shows a complete lack of foresight by this Government, and a complete lack of understanding of the impact this will have on people and families already struggling with the rising cost of living.

LPG is going to have a new tax, rising to 12.5% over the next 5 years.

It's a decision taken by this government that simply doesn't make sense.

This fuels is environmentally friendly, and why on earth would the government make it more expensive, and less attractive, for people to use? The fact that there are incentives that have been put in place to increase the use of LPG as a transport fuel - indeed, as at April 2011 283,512 grants had been paid - the fact that this Labor government would then place a tax on LPG to make it more expensive to use is simply beyond comprehension.

This again shows Labor's complete inability to recognise the very real difficulties that people are facing with the rising cost of living. This Labor government, through these measures, is going to make that worse.

They have also hit public transport, a sector we should be encouraging to grow, not punishing. 90 million taxi customers will be paying more, fuel prices will increase for the taxi industry. There are 900 buses running on CNG - how can this measure not lead to an increase in the price of bus tickets.

These measures are a tax grab. This Labor government is a government that is addicted to taxing.

Mr President, while I certainly do not agree with the changes that have been made to LPG, CNG and LNG, I wholeheartedly approve of the 10 year extension to the current taxation arrangements for the biofuels industry, and look forward to seeing a strong and sustainable biofuels industry in the future.