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Wednesday, 18 September 1996
Page: 3566


Senator MARGETTS(11.17 a.m.) —I realise that my ability to speak on my question will be limited but I want to make some comments in relation to today's motion to take note of Senator Parer's answer on ethanol. The issues are many and various but it is significant that the government talks about why it is not possible to support a particular industry when it has not tabled a document recently produced by the Department of the Environment, Sport and Territories.

That document indicates that, even without mining, there is $5.7 billion annually of subsidy by state and federal government—money that could be spent in many productive ways. That $5.7 billion could go to fiscal assistance for resource extraction industries in Australia—and that is without the environmental subsidies of $8.5 billion per year.

If what we are hearing is correct—Senator Parer probably knows that a number of people from his department were at Monday's seminar conducted by Brian Fleay—we will have to look for alternatives to petroleum. We are reaching the halfway point of the world's petroleum resources, so the price for petroleum will vary immensely.

If Australia does not position itself for renewable, non-fossil fuel sources of energy, especially those that can be used for car and truck engines, we will be behind the eight ball. It makes no sense at all. I can see no forward thinking by the government in this regard. It is about time ministerial responsibilities were taken seriously and that ministers acted not just on behalf of fossil fuel producers and big corporations outside Australia.

Question resolved in the affirmative.