Monday, 8 February 2016
Renewable Fuel Bill 2016; Second Reading
That this bill be now read a second time.
I think the opening statement should lie with Mr Iemma, the then Premier of New South Wales. He said, 'I cannot go another day with people's deaths on my conscience, people that simply don't have to die.' As you walk out of this chamber you will see a magnificent portrait of Charlie McDonald, the first member for Kennedy. Charlie McDonald was, I think, the second or third Speaker of this parliament. He left this chamber dying of pneumoconiosis, which is superfine dust particles getting into your lungs—because we did not damp down in mining in those days. We did not care how many people died—one in 30 died that went down the mines. Of the 2,000 men that worked for more than two years digging the sewerage ditches in Sydney, all 2,000 died of pneumoconiosis. This parliament did nothing about it—nothing whatsoever. If you doubt, Andrew Fisher's—the third Prime Minister of Australia—dad died of dust on the lungs, and he left parliament dying of dust on the lungs. The first Labor head of state in the world, Anderson Dawson, left the Queensland parliament dying of dust on the lungs. We also went into the cane fields, and one in 30 died from Weil's disease, but nobody cared.
In those days we had a wonderful political movement called the Labor movement. It brought to us a national recognition, a nationalism; it also brought to us fairness so that we did not have to die in the cane fields and we did not have to die down the mines. That is what it achieved for us. Those people that did those wonderful things for us would turn in their graves if they saw the ALP government in Queensland tenaciously fighting so that we should continue to die from lung disease. The rest of the world is different. This is the thing that fascinates me the most about this place. I watched the American debates, and I was so embarrassed because their intellectual tone was so incredibly higher than what we hear here in Australia. It is almost like kindergarten here compared with those debates in the United States. And I am ashamed to say that on behalf of my country. Paul Barry's famous comment was that modern politicians are characterised by the vacuous lucidity of the modern television politician. With a scintilla of intellectual reflection, this rubbish would be perishing in the immolation of its own overwhelming ignorance.
Why is the rest of the world different? Here is a map. Except of course for the oil-producing nations, all of the world is coloured in. Every single country on earth has biofuels or ethanol legislation because they do not want to see their people dying of lung disease. That map was all grey before the findings were released from the 16-year studies in California. And there it is: the most distinguished medical journal in the world. There are the figures, there are the graphs. If you double the amount of small particles then you double the number of deaths from lung disease and pulmonary diseases for the heart and lungs. You double it. It seems to me that nobody cares—except Mr Iemma.
The good news is that in Queensland we have had a breakthrough. We thank the LNP for supporting the KP initiative. We have been driving this again and again, for years and years, and at long last there is a majority in that party—a very narrow majority; but God bless them anyway. One of them is the member for Dawson—God bless him. Something is going to be done about it. I held up to the chief medical officer for Queensland this picture of two lungs. I said, 'Is that actually accurate?' and he said, 'Absolutely.' If you live in Sydney all your life, then you probably will have a lung that looks like this one in the picture I am holding up. If you live in Parkes or Forbes, or Roma or Dalby, then, pretty typically, your lung will look like this other one in the other picture I am holding up. So the people in this place are quite happy for those people. I might add that the Gold Coast in Queensland is one of the worst areas in Australia for this problem.
Let me move on. The lot-feeding industry in Queensland is raging with horror at the thought of ethanol being introduced. Why is the lot-feeding industry raging in horror? I will tell you. It is because it raises the price of grain. There are about 10 lot feeders in Australia—they do about 90 per cent of the lot feeding—almost all of them foreign owned corporations. So should we be looking after the 15,000 grain growers in Australia or the nine foreign corporations that are doing the lot feeding in Australia? Who should we be looking after?
As the member for Dawson would be well aware, we have been closing a sugar mill every two years. Our industry is slowly grinding out of existence. The great juggernaut of the Queensland economy for its entire history has been sugar. The politics of that state have been written around sugar, but we are grinding it out of existence. Why? Very simply, we are doing so because Brazil, in the late eighties and early nineties, moved to ethanol. That meant that 70 per cent of their sugarcane was going into an ethanol stream that paid $420 a tonne. All of our sugarcane was going into the sugar stream—which only paid $340 a tonne. Clearly the Brazilians cross-subsidise. Our sugar industry in Australian does not, because our dumb government has a muzzle on our sugar industry representatives. The American sugar industry took Brazil to the world court and the Brazilians said, 'We have no oil and every country is entitled to have its own indigenous source of oil.' The world court threw the case out. They did not even hear the case, because of course Brazil is entitled to that. We now have a situation in Australia where we have no oil. But are we doing anything about it? No way are we doing anything about it. No, we believe in free markets!
The honourable member for Moncrieff comes from Mareeba. Mareeba is on the top of the Mitchell River. It is bigger and has more water in it than the Murray-Darling. The Murray-Darling produces 60 per cent of Australia's agriculture—almost all from irrigation. We can do that in the member for Moncrieff's area. We can do that on the Mitchell River. How many farms are there on the Mitchell River? Even though most of it is in my electorate, I do not know of a single farm on the Mitchell River. I am sure there are some, but I do not know any. How long will the rest of the world put up with the simple greediness or peculiarity of the Australian people—that they will sit on these vast resources and do nothing with them?
The United States moved very aggressively in the area of fuel security. They were sick of the situation in the Middle East, so they have moved to capping of their underground supplies, they have moved to shale oil and they have moved to ethanol in a big way. They are far and away the biggest producer of ethanol in the world now. In Europe, you would not be able to buy a new car that is not E20. They must be able to take 20 per cent biofuels. That is the situation in Europe. Japan, China and India are all on five per cent targets over the next seven or eight years. The Americans have moved to ethanol for electricity as well.
There are two fascinating aspects of this. First people said, 'Your car will break down.' You have to hand it to the car industry, getting the Australian people to believe that your car would break down. I always say to people: 'You go to the movies. Every single movie is made in Hollywood, Los Angeles. You can see 100,000 cars on the beltway. Where are all the broken-down ones?' They are on 11 per cent on average in California. Where are all the broken-down cars in California, Brazil, Europe, India, China and Japan?