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Wednesday, 26 June 2013
Page: 7152

Mr WILKIE (Denison) (15:41): It is my pleasure to second the motion of the member for Kennedy and I will speak ever so briefly, if you do not mind. These matters should be debated in this place and it is unfortunate that the member for Kennedy has got so little traction in this parliament with the issue of the mandatory inclusion of ethanol in fuel for road transport. It escapes me why, in Australia, this issue has been so hard and why we have not made more progress by now. It is self-evident that, if we had mandatory ethanol content in fuel for road vehicles, it would help our farmers. It would give them an opportunity to produce other crops and process what would be otherwise be waste and possibly burnt. It would help our farmers including in my home state of Tasmania. Also, it would certainly reduce the cost of fuel for consumers.

Mr Katter: Yes! Yes, absolutely!

Mr WILKIE: In countries where there is a substantial ethanol content they, as a general rule, have much lower fuel costs. It simply costs a lot less to produce the stuff. With the right government settings it would be a tangible way for this, or a future, government to try to keep a lid on the escalating cost of living for consumers.

It is also an obvious step towards more sustainable transport in the future. We have only so much oil on the planet and eventually it will run out or, at least for many people, become unaffordable. Yes, we can have electric vehicle; yes, we can do all sorts of things but in the mix, in my opinion, should be a move towards a more sustainable fuel and that, of course, is ethanol.

It would help clean up the environment, and the member for Kennedy has spoken about some of the health advantages. When you burn ethanol you have less particulates and other pollutants. You will get better health outcomes in a place where there is a heavy reliance on ethanol fuel.

I do want to sound a warning, however. In some countries where ethanol is used in fuel widely, this has resulted in the use of prime agricultural land, which in my opinion should be used for the production of food. I hope the member for Kennedy does not mind me saying this. We do not want to use up our prime agricultural land to produce fuel for cars; we want to produce quality food for people both in our own country and overseas, including people who would otherwise be starving. I disagree, in the strongest possible terms, with the practice in some countries overseas where virgin forest, including jungle, is cleared to grow grains or other plants to produce ethanol fuel. So I sound a warning. This should not be at the expense of our prime agricultural land. It should not be at the expense of our virgin forest and jungle. In Australia we can do it carefully. It would be insane for us to be importing ethanol from countries where they have poor practices when we could produce the fuel in Australia with high-quality practices so we know that our workers are being looked and after getting a decent wage, that our farmers are earning a decent income and that we are doing it in a way that is environmentally responsible.

So I am delighted to back up the member for Kennedy on this one. I think we should suspend standing orders. There is an urgent need to do that. That is why we should do it in this parliament. We have only got one day and a bit left to go. There are a few other distractions on at the moment. This is important. This is the business of running a country and making for a better country. So I support the member for Kennedy's motion and I hope the parliament will do likewise.