July 17th 2004

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY: Indonesian elections ... and Australia

CANBERRA OBSERVED: Latham affair lifts election temperature

AGRICULTURE: Rural unrest spreads

QUARANTINE BREACH: Exotic disease outbreak threatens Qld citrus industry

INDUSTRY: Singapore recovers on back of manufacturing

FAMILY: Child care - in whose interests?

ARTS & MEDIA: 'The next program contains...'

FILM: AFA calls for ban on 'arthouse smut'

MIDDLE EAST: Can Iraq's interim government end the insurgency?

NUCLEAR WEAPONS: Terrorism marks the end of deterrence

UNITED STATES: Curtains on Camelot

STRAWS IN THE WIND: Skimming administrative fat / What about Uganda? / 17 years of war

Premier Beattie's ethanol 'mania' (letter)

Sugar Package (letter)

Mondragon (letter)

Journalists and Iraq (letter)

BOOKS: George Santayana, by Noël O'Sullivan

BOOKS: Tilting the Playing Field, by Jessica Gavora

OPINION: Time to act on North Korean tyranny

Books promotion page

Premier Beattie's ethanol 'mania' (letter)

by De-Anne Kelly BE MP

News Weekly, July 17, 2004

Pat Byrne's article, "Labor makes push for ethanol/sugar vote" (News Weekly, June 19), fails to put Peter Beattie under any intellectual scrutiny over his apparent new-found love for ethanol, and seems to have swallowed the premier's populism hook, line and sinker.

It surely cannot have escaped Mr Byrne's attention that Mr Beattie's "ethanol mania" just happens to coincide with the forthcoming Federal election, and the challenge of lifting Federal Labor's standing in Queensland.

Equally Mr Byrne faithfully reports Mr Beattie as saying that he intends "to campaign to dispel what he describes as black propaganda by some oil companies that have claimed that ethanol damages engines".

It is a bit rich of Mr Beattie to comprehensively ignore that the "ethanol damages engines" campaign was started in Sydney by the Australian Labor Party, with the support of some sections of the media.

He also "warns that he has the legislative power to force service stations to sell the new ethanol-blended fuel". The Nationals, of course, already knew this, which prompted then Queensland leader Mike Horan to move a private member's bill to mandate E10 in Queensland.

Peter Beattie and his government refused to even allow debate, let alone support it.

Mr Beattie does have that legislative power to compel service stations to offer motorists a choice, and rather than just talk about it, he should exercise it.

Now we come to what appears to have become the new ethanol holy grail and mantra - Brazil and the potential to jointly export ethanol to an emerging market in Japan.

Superficially it appears to contain some logic. We use Brazilian expertise to build distilleries and we become a supplementary exporter to Japan - so far so good.

One could reasonably assume that Australian-produced ethanol would have to compete with the Brazilian product on price, and given that we would be using precisely the same technology as Brazil that would be the case - right?

Wrong! Once you start exporting, the relative values of currency comes into play - as both Mr Beattie and Mr Byrne would, or should, know.

Given that the Brazilian currency is worth around US36 cents, as opposed to the A$ being worth around US70 cents, it becomes self-apparent that we would be at an enormous export disadvantage. It may be to Brazil's advantage to play this game with Mr Beattie, but I question its advantage to Australia.

Mr Byrne is right to argue that the increase in the price of oil represents an opportunity to further the cause of ethanol, and equally to point out the health benefits of doing so.

Equally, he should argue the case from a basis of fact and practicability, rather than simply accepting Mr Beattie's froth and bubble as gospel, and which offers little more than false hope.

De-Anne Kelly BE MP,
Federal Member for Dawson, Qld

Editorial comment:

The best chance struggling cane farmers have of getting ethanol mandated in fuel, so as to diversify the sugar cane industry and reduce its reliance on sugar, will be in the run up the Federal election.

One doesn't have to be an Einstein to figure out that which ever side of Federal politics delivers mandated ethanol could win the sugar seats and the next election.

If Queensland Labor Premier Beattie's arrangements to bring Brazilian ethanol technology to Queensland is to prepare the ground for Federal Labor to move on ethanol in the coming election, let it not be said that the Coalition had not been warned in the pages of News Weekly.

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