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Tuesday, 30 November 2004
Page: 46

Senator FORSHAW (3:25 PM) —Senator Boswell referred to his past and took us on a bit of a trip down memory lane. I can recall back in earlier days when I was a young bloke watching a TV program called TheThree Stooges with Moe, Larry and Curly. We just saw them over there from The Nationals, sitting in the corner—the three stooges; an absolute joke. They are such a joke they are not taken seriously at all by anybody in this parliament. They sit here day after day in the Senate with nothing really to say. Today they have come in and Senator Boswell has sort of attempted to defend his colleague in the other place, Minister Anderson, but he has done a rather pathetic job of it. There is not one member of the Liberal Party government here to listen to the Leader of The Nationals in the Senate except the Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Hill, who has to be here.

Senator George Campbell —He's on duty.

Senator FORSHAW —He's on duty. And the Liberal Party Whip. I am sure there are people listening to this debate. If you could see the looks on their faces. They have their heads buried in their papers. They were taking absolutely no notice at all of their country colleagues, The Nationals, because they are irrelevant. I listened to Senator Boswell's speech last night about what he saw as the future of the ethanol industry—a speech that is relevant to what was being discussed here in question time today. Senator Boswell had to get up in the Senate and make a speech in the address-in-reply debate outlining his policy views on the future of ethanol and biodiesel fuel in this country. He had to do that here in the Senate because obviously he cannot get those ideas anywhere through the coalition party room—nobody is listening. What an extraordinary way to try to put The Nationals policy down for discussion within the coalition.

I want to come back to the specific question that was asked by Senator O'Brien of Minister Campbell today regarding the funding for the proposed ethanol plant at Gunnedah. What is at issue here is accountability and probity. What is at issue here is the public's right to know and to feel confident that public money that is being given by way of grants is being allocated through a proper process of accountability. Clearly, when you look at the funding for this ethanol plant, and if you look at a range of other projects, a lot is left to be desired. For instance, yesterday the minister advised the Senate that the successful funding that was provided to Primary Energy Pty Ltd for the grains to ethanol proposal had been applied for and assessed through what was known as the Namoi Valley Structural Adjustment Package. The problem with that answer yesterday is that that very adjustment package had been suspended on 2 February this year. But the funding was approved in August, only a couple of months ago. If you go to the web site, it says that the approval was from the Regional Partnerships program. So the minister cannot actually give us the true facts of how this project was funded. The reason he cannot is that the ground rules and the guidelines have been ignored and have been changed on the way through.

That of course is what has happened with many projects. I recall that, when I was chairman of the Senate Finance and Public Administration References Committee, we investigated funding for a project down in the Eurobodalla Shire under the dairy RAP program. They brought back the project four or five times to try to find a way to fund it, because it never met the guidelines. In the end, Warren Truss, the minister at the time, found a way. Of course, it was demonstrated at the inquiry that the way it was done was completely inappropriate, and that is what has happened here. In the other place Mr Windsor has raised the same concerns in respect of the equine centre. There should be an inquiry into these matters. (Time expired)

Question agreed to.