I hold up a map of the world. The only countries that are shaded in grey are Russia and the Middle Eastern countries. All the rest of the world is on ethanol: China; India; half of Indonesia; all of Europe—all cars in Europe have to be E20; they have to take 20 per cent ethanol—Turkey; all of the South American countries with the exception of Venezuela; and all of the North American countries. The only country on earth outside the oil producing countries is Australia. Why do we have this anomaly? Why are we the only country on earth that doesn’t oxygenate its petrol?
Lead was removed from petrol because lead kills people. Unoxygenated petrol, we now know absolutely, kills people. There is a graph here, which I’m quite happy to present to the House, which shows that when you double the small-particle emissions from petrol in the atmosphere then the number of people dying of lung and heart diseases doubles.
As a result of work that was done in the United States, every country on earth has moved to oxygenate petrol, except Australia. Mr Iemma, when he introduced it into the New South Wales parliament said, ‘I can’t go another day with the death of people on my conscience, who simply don’t have to die.’ It doesn’t seem to have worried successive governments in this place. I have to be really nasty—I think ‘nasty’ is really the right word here—when asked by my honourable Independent colleague from Tasmania, Mr Wilkie, why we haven’t introduced it.
Mr John Anderson was the first minister who made the decision to reject ethanol. He represents a red-hot area for ethanol: it’s a big grain-growing area. He was later appointed a director of Santos; he stepped down this year. He made the decision against ethanol and then he was appointed a director of an oil, gas and minerals company. Mark Vaile was the second minister who rejected ethanol. He later became a director of Santos, another oil, gas and minerals company. The next one was Martin Ferguson. The next one was Martin Ferguson. For those in this place who think that I’m making a partisan point, the first two were in the National Party and Martin Ferguson is in the Labor Party. He is on WesTrac, he is the chair of an advisory board at Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Associations and he is a non-executive director of British Gas, the biggest gas-producing company in the world. The last one was Ian Macfarlane. He is the non-executive director of Woodside and head of the Queensland Resources Council, which is oil, gas and minerals. This is an exercise in impropriety. It’s extraordinary and it’s very, very sad, for the reason that people, about 600 or 700 people, die in Sydney each year as a result of this country not going into ethanol.
I just want to move on and say that Treasury says that they have taxed ethanol. We’re the only country on earth that taxes ethanol. Most countries subsidise ethanol, but we tax it! When those trucks roll out of the Dalby plant, or out of the Sarina plant or out of the Manildra plant, the ethanol coming out of those plants carries a 40 per cent tax burden. The petrol coming in from overseas carries a four or six per cent tax burden. I don’t have time today to go into the reasons why, but the tax department believes that ethanol should be taxed twice but that foreign oil should only be taxed at the bowser.
Ninety-three per cent of Australia’s motor vehicle fuel is now imported. In total, we only have two weeks’ storage capacity. So, if a couple of dozen tankers are blown up then in Australia we will walk, quite literally. There is no conveyance by which we can move from point A to B. All of our conveyances, except for the odd tramway here and there, are run on petrol. For those who don’t know much about their history, they will recall that the European war was about Hitler trying to get to the oilfields. Stalingrad, being a great battle, was the gateway to the oilfields in Russia. And, of course, he was fighting across the Libyan desert. What was he doing in the Libyan desert? He was trying to get to the oilfields.
I think that most people in this place know that the Japanese went to war because America cut off their oil supply. But, of course, successive governments in Australia—ALP and LNP in this place—are quite happy that we rest upon the mercies of the Middle East for our oil supply. Twenty-five billion dollars a per year now goes out of Australia to the oil-producing countries, principally in the Middle East—$25 billion a year. On the Brazilian experience, half of that would be going into rural and regional Australia—into the electorates that I and the member for Indi and the other members on the crossbench here represent, with the exception of the member for Melbourne.
The Brazilian experience is that they’ve moved to and average of around 50 per cent, but all it had was a 20 per cent mandate. You start with a 10 per cent or a six per cent mandate, as they did in America, because the price is attractive and the price drives the ethanol. And so we have America on maybe 12 per cent today and we have Brazil on about 60 per cent, because they’ve been doing it for 30 years. We hear debates in this place and maybe a tenth of them are about CO2. Well, here lies the answer! People like myself have to say that the ALP and the LNP indulge in some towering hypocrisy here. They could introduce ethanol tomorrow, but of course they’d upset their rich donors from the oil companies and the gas companies if they did. And the proof of the cake is where each of these ministers is now receiving income—from the oil companies and the gas companies.
Let me be quite technical about this. If you grow sugar cane to produce ethanol—and most of it would probably be coming from grain in Australia from electorates like the member for Indi’s, I know the figures here—you would produce about 1,000 litres of ethanol from every hectare of cane. That would put about three tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere. Each hectare of sugar cane pulls 73 tonnes a year out of the atmosphere. So three tonnes are going up into the atmosphere and 73 tonnes are being pulled down every year. Whilst it is not as simple as the rather crude analysis that I’m using here, still, you’ve got the idea that ethanol is burnt the same as petrol, with the same amount of CO2 in the atmosphere, but the difference is that, in the member for Indi’s electorate, growing grain pulls it back down again. So it’s simply going up and down. With fossil fuels, it goes up and it stays up.
In the greenies’ bible—it’s not a bad book, even I have to admit that—An Inconvenient Truth : The Crisis of Global Warming by Al Gore, what does he name as the first solution to the CO2 problems to the world? What is the first solution? Ethanol. But we haven’t heard one single word from either the ALP or the LNP about ethanol and not even from their backbenchers. They’ve been remarkably silent, and yet we stand on the crossbenches, once again, united, asking what all of the world is doing at the present moment. Those of us on the crossbench the four of us represent regional and rural electorates. There are jobs for our people in the struggling agriculture of Australia and there is a benefit for the grains industry. The lot feeders are almost all foreign-owned, I might add. They are squealing blue bloody murder, because it puts the price of grain up 16 per cent. Where would the Victorian wheat farmers be if they were getting an extra 16 per cent?