Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Wednesday, 25 September 2002
Page: 4853

Senator MACKAY (2:26 PM) —My question is to Senator Coonan, the Assistant Treasurer and Minister for Revenue. I refer to Minister Coonan's claim on Monday:

... there is absolutely no benefit to any particular individual and that includes Manildra.

Isn't it a fact that Manildra will derive more than $15 million in production subsidy over a 12-month period if it produces the 40 million litres of ethanol that it produced in 2000-01?

Senator COONAN (Minister for Revenue and Assistant Treasurer) —Thank you to Senator Mackay for the question. As I said earlier this week, have said every day and will say again now, the whole notion of Manildra being somehow disproportionately advantaged over any other domestic producer of ethanol is barking up the wrong tree. Indeed, any estimates that might be made by Senator Mackay or others are probably also erroneous. Certainly I could not agree to any estimate that Senator Mackay might give. However, I think it is worth reminding the Senate that the changes that related to the administrative and other arrangements in relation to ethanol were the subject of a taskforce. They were the subject of a proper process. The decision was one that was carefully taken and considered. It arose out of deliberations that involved the sugar industry and considered the use of feedstock, which would assist the insurance industry. Input was taken from a lot of sources and the government did form a taskforce. The matter went to cabinet, it was deliberated on a number of occasions and the decision about ethanol was part of this.

The subsidy is not administered by my portfolio. The subsidy is administered by the department of industry, and I cannot make any comment in relation to that subsidy other than the fact that there are clearly a lot of other cross-portfolio interests involved. But the clear issue coming out of this is that the decision was taken by the government and a proper process was followed in reaching this decision, which is well supported in industry. The consultation took into account all the different interests and it was widely applauded, of course, by those in the sugar industry, who desperately need some assistance for issues way beyond the control of this government. But the improved legislative and administrative arrangements that relate to excise are issues which only partly involve my portfolio.

The questions from those opposite that continue to suggest that there is some improper process because of Manildra are simply fanciful. They are wearing very thin, because if it could be demonstrated by those opposite—and it cannot—that somehow or other there was some special preference given to Manildra or that Mr Honan did not approach the opposition for support for the proposals that he was advocating, there might be some substance in it. But we know that Mr Honan did approach Mr Crean; he had an interview with Mr Crean. In the circumstances, Mr Honan thought, for some reason best known to himself, that there might be some advantage in speaking to Mr Crean. Who knows why he thought that, but in the circumstances there has been nothing other than an even-handed approach to this whole policy announcement.

Senator MACKAY —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Which ethanol producers other than Manildra will get moneys under the production subsidy and how much will they get?

Senator COONAN (Minister for Revenue and Assistant Treasurer) —I thank Senator Mackay for the supplementary question. Obviously, I am sure even Senator Mackay can appreciate that it is very difficult to make any estimate about what anyone might be entitled to until we know what they produce.