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Monday, 11 August 2003
Page: 12973

Senator McGAURAN (3:05 PM) —In response to Senator Faulkner's motion to take note of answers, the dust has settled on the Labor leadership, six weeks of the winter break have gone by, the Labor Party have returned to parliament for the new session and they have learnt nothing. They have not reassessed or attempted to learn the lessons of their disruptive leadership or their slump in the polls. They have learnt nothing in the six weeks break at all. They have walked straight back into parliament and, in the very first question time, they have returned to their old modus operandi, led no less than by their A1 head kicker, Senator Faulkner. It is slur, it is slander or it is personal attacks on the Prime Minister or any of his associates—no matter how far and distant; it could be anyone who has ever met the Prime Minister. It is slur and slander with absolutely no policy. There is no policy at all.

What we are dealing with here is a policy of support for an industry that the government is injecting hundreds of millions of dollars into. Yet all we get is an attack from the Labor Party upon this somewhat Keynesian policy, which I would have thought would have appealed to some of those on the other side of the chamber. It is government support of an industry, and all we get is the slur and slander led by Senator Faulkner. In question time it was led by the shadow minister, Senator O'Brien, who is, obviously, poorly attempting to rehabilitate his career, which had a near-death experience over the winter break.

The government has always been up-front about its ethanol policy. It has nothing to hide at all. There is no trick to our policy. It is an out-and-out injection of government funds into an industry so as to produce a clean, green fuel for the future and support the sugar farmers. I should add, Senator O'Brien, that the sugar industry called for this policy, and we delivered it. It is a policy for the long run. In the long run CSR will enter the ethanol market and be in competition with the Manildra Group. In the long run those who will benefit most will be not just the farmers down at the farm gate but the consumers. The consumers will benefit from an alternative fuel that competes against the oil industries—that will, in fact, affect petrol prices. It should make petrol cheaper.

But not only has Labor come into this chamber and thrown slurs and slanders— weak attempts to accuse the Prime Minister of misleading the parliament—but also it has learnt nothing. It has not learnt that it is not working. What the public want from the opposition is policy—hard policy. You have had the whole winter break to think about that and you have had a leadership challenge to reassess all that, but you have just come straight back in and done the same thing all over again. You will be condemned to opposition for many years to come and you will be a poor opposition for it. The government's policy is one that we are quite proud of. As I say, it is one for the future. It is one that we have been open about. Moreover, it supports the sugar industry, the sugar farmers and the consumer, and it introduces a clean, green fuel.

Senator Ludwig —Not for ethanol; it's plant based!

Senator McGAURAN —It can be both sugar based and wheat based.

Senator Ludwig —Which are you giving the subsidy to?

Senator McGAURAN —The subsidy is to the industry as a whole. As the interjector obviously would want to know—

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Ignore the injector, Senator McGauran. You will address your comments through the chair. Senator Ludwig, refrain from injecting on Senator McGauran's speech.

Senator McGAURAN —If the interjector is not interested, I am sure that the chamber is interested, in the short time I have, in what is this government policy—this injection of funds to introduce new players into the market. It is, in fact, a subsidy. We will provide 16c per litre to new or expanded projects—a minimum of five million litres of biofuel with a maximum grant of $10 million. This is in addition to the existing production subsidy. (Time expired.)