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Thursday, 22 June 2006
Page: 187

Senator JOYCE (8:41 PM) —This whole issue started with the biodiesel industry when we were lobbied by small farming groups coming into the office and saying: ‘We’ve got a major concern that this industry is going to go over. We have an investment in it personally and our towns have an investment in it as well. Socially, obviously, the community has an investment in it.’ Right from the start it was obscurum per obscurius. The Senate inquiry had to come down with a finding that there were things that needed to change in this bill because it just did not have the information. The Treasury’s submission to it was light, to say the least, and the position that you would have to come up with after that Senate inquiry is: ‘We need to look at this a bit closer. We need to deal with this with a bit more critical intent.’

Even tonight the mystery tour goes on. We have now found that, if people want to call it a loophole, it is going to exist at the end, it existed before it and it will exist after. Nothing has changed. There are only two things that are going to change with this—that is, who is producing the biodiesel and where they are producing it. They are the only two things that are going to change. Who is going to be producing it is large-scale producers. Where they are going to be producing it is right next door to the major refining plant. I do not know what their corporate nature or otherwise will be, but that is what will happen. The only result that I can gather out of that is that the developing bio-renewable diesel industry that has actually gained legs, is growing in regional towns and is broadening the economic base of those towns will collapse. That is what we know will happen.

Being a person who is from a regional area, being the senator in this chamber who is the furthest from the coast, being from an area that is involved with grain and being from an area where we have just finished putting in a wheat crop right now, and knowing our diesel requirements, this was a great industry. Finally, there was something that could actually pick those small towns up, and without a huge amount of capital investment it could have a strong connection into that whole community environment. There was a bit of a sense of hope with it. It was just a little glimmer of something that actually might work. They knew that in the long term it had to become viable, like everything else, but they just were not prepared for the lights to be turned off halfway through the show. That is what has happened. Halfway through the show—click—it is all over. The only justification people can give is: ‘We never intended that baby to grow; we never intended to have that child, and therefore we are going to shut it off now.’ That is just unfair.

Senator Allison —Have an abortion.

Senator JOYCE —Yes. What has to happen at the very least is to have some consideration of the farming communities who have made a financial investment in this industry. They need to be given some sort of position in this whole debate and be given some sort of sense of, ‘We know we could have changed that with a regulatory instrument a couple of years ago and saved you the trouble of developing that industry, and that would have avoided the whole problem. We had the power as the government to change that with a regulatory instrument years ago. We chose not to. You got halfway up on your feet, you went to your bank manager, you borrowed a heap of money, you mortgaged your place, you committed yourself to this process and you spent a couple of years of your life doing it, but we know that it was a bit of our mistake’—that is, the government, and I am part of the government—‘We made a bit of a blue on this one. What we’ve got to do is fix it up, so we’re going to go hand-in-hand with this piece of legislation that we’re about to vote on.’

We should say, ‘We know we’ve made a blue, but what we’re going to do is have some sort of program that’s going to get you from here to over there, to a couple of years down the track, to deal with this issue.’ It would be something that you could take to your bank manager and then say: ‘Stop ringing me up. I’ve got a solution here. I’ve got something that can fix it.’ But we do not have that. We have to think about those people when we are dealing with this legislation. You have to have a bit of a think about it. If you do not, it might be green curry and a can of beer after you leave here and everything is fine, but it will not be fine for those people.