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Legislation to curb shady ethanol decisions.

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Robert McClelland MP Federal Member for Barton Shadow Attorney-General Shadow Minister for Justice and Community Security

21 August 2003

Legislation to curb shady ethanol decisions

Attorney-General Daryl Williams has unwittingly introduced legislation into Parliament that would curb the ability of the Howard Government to make the kinds of shady ethanol decisions Australians witnessed last September.

The Legislative Instruments Bill 2003, being debated in Parliament today, requires the government to be satisfied that genuine consultation has occurred before making regulations that would have a “direct … effect on business” or would “restrict competition”. Under the Bill, “persons likely to be affected” by the proposed regulations would be given “an adequate opportunity to comment on its proposed content”. The Government would have to table an explanatory statement describing its consultations.

On 12 September 2002, the Howard Government announced without warning an increase in the taxation of ethanol to take effect five days later. On 16 September, the Howard Government tabled regulations1 implementing this announcement, which took effect at 12.00am on 18 September.

On any view, the Howard Government’s package of changes had a direct effect on business and restricted competition. It directly damaged Australian businesses seeking to import ethanol and directly benefited Dick Honan’s Manildra group which has a near monopoly on domestic ethanol production.

Despite this, Australians now know that the Howard Government consulted no one but Dick Honan before it rushed through the new regulations to beat the arrival of Neumann’s and Trafigura’s shipment of ethanol from Brazil.

The Legislative Instruments Bill 2003 is needed to raise the appalling standards of policy-making displayed by the Howard Government in the Manildra scandal.

I urge the Attorney-General to commit himself to helping the Prime Minister and all Howard Government Ministers comply with their own legislation.

For further information:

Robert McClelland 0408 118 995 Jonathan Kirkwood 0425 231 690

1 The Excise Tariff Proposal No. 4 (2002) and the Customs Tariff Proposal No. 3 (2002).