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Monday, 11 August 2003
Page: 12975

Senator COLBECK (3:15 PM) —Again we have a demonstration of the double standards Labor apply to their policy and to their treatment of regional Australia. Continually, they say one thing and do another. They set up Country Labor in a cynical attempt to woo the country vote— something that is obviously quite transparent to regional Australia—and they complain about government not supporting regional business and regional Australia.

I had the opportunity last week to attend a rally in regional Australia, where the Labor Party were lining up to rail against the government and its non-support of regional Australia and the industries that exist there. They were railing against a Productivity Commission report on the textile, clothing and footwear industry. The members were all eager to get onto the platform to complain about the Commonwealth government and about the fact that the Productivity Commission report was going to promote a reduction in tariff levels for this industry and to say that the Commonwealth government should not support the Productivity Commission report. They were standing in line and eager to get up there to make their point. They failed to recognise that this Commonwealth government is the only one that has provided a freeze in support of the textile, clothing and footwear industry.

A similar situation exists with the biofuel industry in Australia. The Commonwealth government is prepared to provide support and assistance where it sees a problem, and the opposition is prepared to rail against that and is not prepared to provide that support. The Commonwealth government has an objective to see a productive and competitive biofuel industry exist in this country. It saw a problem, it saw a threat in the form of highly subsidised biofuels out of Brazil and it acted. It made the decision to support a sustainable industry with a sustainable fuel that will provide long-term benefits and assistance to the economy, to Australian industry, to rural Australia and to the environment and to provide assistance to regional Australia and rural Australia. That is quite the contrary to what Senator O'Brien just said.

The government's decision provides farmers with an alternative market for their product and the general public with an opportunity to purchase a clean, green, domestically produced and, most importantly, renewable alternative to our finite reserves of crude oil. It provides further benefits to the environment through improved air quality and lower greenhouse gas emissions and is a safe replacement for toxic octane enhancers in gasoline, such as benzine, toluene and xylene.

This government have consistently made a feature of looking after regional Australia and make no apology in this instance for providing a source of support for regional industry, regional businesses and farmers that require that support. As Senator McGauran said, this industry both supports the sugar industry and provides an alternative market for the wheat industry. We make absolutely no apology for that. We have been quite open, quite frank and quite honest about the outcomes and the reasons for supporting this industry. Like when we froze tariffs for the textile, clothing and footwear industry back in 2000—when every single tariff reduction had taken place under the regime of a Labor government—we make no apology for supporting this industry in this circumstance. This issue clearly demonstrates the policy vacuum the Labor Party exist in. It clearly demonstrates the double standards of Labor in their assessment and their approach to regional Australia. (Time expired)