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Federal Minister for the Environment and Heritage
The Hon Dr David Kemp, MP
Wednesday 18 December 2002
The NRMA is threatening legal action against the Government unless it takes action - mandates 10 percent ethanol limits in petrol. What is your response to that?
Well I noticed that the Australian Automobile Association welcomed the Federal Government's decision. It realises that the key issue is for consumers to get proper information about the labelling of fuel so that they know what the content is of the fuel that they are buying.
NSW has the authority to label petrol, to inform consumers about the ethanol content.
They're one of the few though, aren't they? I mean several industry bodies and representatives around Australia are all saying there needs to be some limit set. When is that going to happen?
Well other states have regulated petrol. The Federal Government is considering national standards. It took on that responsibility last year. We are currently engaged in scientific testing in order to provide a sound basis for that.
But until the Federal Government determines a national standard. It is up to the states to regulate petrol. NSW has got the capacity to do that. Other states are effectively regulating petrol and the ethanol content of petrol. In South Australia there is a state regulation that prohibits additives. So ethanol is effectively banned in South Australia as an additive to petrol.
Queensland has effectively regulated petrol to a 10 percent ethanol limit and the Queensland Government has arranged for voluntary labelling of petrol in that state and that is taking place now. So why can't NSW do what the other states are doing? Other states have the capacity to introduce labelling. NSW, of course, has that capacity. Ethanol at 20 percent blends have been on sale in NSW for the last eight years. Firstly the NSW Government believed that was perfectly appropriate as they believe that there is no need to set any ethanol limit in petrol. Do they believe that there is no need to inform consumers? Of course there is a need to inform consumers. Other states are doing it, why can't NSW do it?
How seriously though do you take this threat of legal action from the NRMA?
Well, that's not my advice. The Australian Automobile Association (inaudible) Well, that's up to the NRMA and they can do what they like. I believe they should direct their attention to the level of government where action can be taken legally.
The Federal Government has no power to require petrol companies to label the ethanol content of their petrol. For Carr to do this - invest in the NSW Fair Trade legislation (inaudible). It is exactly about labelling, because that's what consumers are entitled to have. They are entitled to know the ethanol content of their petrol and I am delighted that the Australian Automobile Association has clearly recognised that is the key issue and made welcome the Federal Cabinet decision.
The NRMA should direct its attention to the level of government which has got the capacity to act in this situation. The NSW Government has had the capacity to regulate the sale of petrol for the last 100 years. It has the capacity to require petrol retailers to inform consumers of proper labelling and it should exercise that power. If it doesn't do so, well it has to explain to the NSW motoring public why it is refusing to do what the other states have done.
Queensland's done it, if John Aquilina is in any doubt he should get in touch with Peter Beattie. He should ask Peter Beattie how he's managed to regulate the sale of petrol and make sure consumers are informed in Queensland. He should contact Mike Wran in South Australia and ask why and how South Australia's been able to regulate the sale of petrol.
(inaudible) quote from the CEO of the NRMA, Bob Carter, he says they won't release the technical report they are siting on - that's the Government - but they admit themselves the evidence is conflicting so why is the benefit of the doubt not being given to the motorists.
Well that's completely wrong, the Federal Government has released the technical report. The report that the Government has received, that Cabinet considered yesterday - that is the basis for Cabinet's decision - is on the public record, I released it last week. That information is fully available to the public.
But there is more information that you are sitting on, isn't there?
There is no more information that we are sitting on. As soon as we get any further information we'll be making that available as well. The NRMA should direct its requests to the level of government that has the capacity to take the appropriate action. The appropriate action is to make sure that consumers are properly informed about the ethanol content of the petrol that they are buying.
The Federal Government has no power under its legislation to require that labelling. The NSW Government does, other state governments have that power under their legislation - they've done that. The Queensland Government has taken action to effectively set a 10 percent cap on ethanol. It has taken action to ensure that Queensland motorists are informed about the ethanol content of their petrol. The South Australian Government has taken appropriate action (inaudible). The NSW Government has that power. It could act to protect consumers and make sure that they have the appropriate information so that they can buy fuel that is appropriate for the purpose.