Arlie Felton-Taylorr

The ethanol debate has heated up in Queensland again after Katter’s Australia Party put an increased mandate back on the agenda.

The party said it will pull support for the Palaszczuk Government if it does not agree to a list of 25 key demands.

Mount Isa MP, Rob Katter, said the minority government has 90 days to act on some of its initiatives to help rural Queensland, or lose its support in parliament.

“We’ve got a number of big tickets issues that are in play at the moment and a timely resolution of those allows us to retain confidence in the government,” he said.

“But if there’s a failure to do that, to give a response and take up some of those issues, then we’ve got to consider our options as we’re obligated to do.”

Mr Katter said the current bipartisan support for a 2 per cent mandate is not enough.

“The current proposal for an ethanol mandate is a nice gesture but far from driving any industry development.”

The MP has called for a 10 per cent ethanol mandate in fuel.

It is an argument that Queensland feedlot owner Kevin Roberts thought had all but ended.

“I’d just about folded up my brief case and said that the debate was over, dead and dusted,” he said.

“But of course with the close election that has been, both parties are falling over themselves to woo the Katter Party.”

Mr Roberts is a joint manger of one of Australia’s largest privately owned feedlots, Sandalwood, north east of Dalby on the Darling Downs.

Also a former chairman of the Australian Lot Feeders Association, Mr Roberts said he is a long time opponent of a mandate at any level.

“We don’t really care less about whether they make ethanol from sorghum, sugar, or what they do but what we do care about is the imbalance that comes about,” he said.

“They already have a rebate subsidy that equates to about $165 per tonne of sorghum.

“In tough years when sorghum prices are on an edge, then obviously they’ve got an advantage and they can drive the price to wherever it needs to go for them to secure a supply.”

Mr Roberts said despite the fact there had not been a mandate he was sure of his arguments.

“It’s not a matter of what the price does, the Chinese have been driving the sorghum price for the last few years.

“It hasn’t been the ethanol production, it hasn’t been the ethanol rebate that the ethanol plant in Dalby gets that’s driving the price.

“But once you introduce a mandate then you’ve got an entirely different set of circumstances.

“They will have to get their supplies of sorghum and they’re guaranteed a market, now we’re not guaranteed a market for our beef, nobody in our industry has got a guarantee.

“We don’t have a mandate that every man, woman, and child should eat a kilo of grain fed beef a week.”

Meanwhile the grains sector is very keen for a mandate to be put in place saying it’ll help the fledgling ethanol industry establish itself.

AgForce Grains president, Wayne Newton, said it is the best option.

“The introduction of a mandate is the only way to give the ethanol industry a reasonable chance at commercial success, given the huge control and power that the petroleum industry has over the bowser where every drop of fuel has to be sold in the end.”

Mr Newton conceded that some may question the need to help the ethanol industry over other sectors but said it is unrealistic to expect it to establish without government help.

“We have to continually remember that the petroleum industry get huge breaks and also have full control of the bowsers across the country and every drop of ethanol has to be sold to someone else to put in their fuel bowser,” he said.

“The feedlotting industry itself has actually come off the back of a long period of grain subsidies in the United States and that has always helped keep grain prices down until quite recently and that has certainly helped the economics of getting feedlots off the ground.”

Mr Newton said he thinks the feedlot sector’s argument about a shortage of grain may not be the case in the coming years with good prices promoting planting.

“Very rapidly growers around the world are changing their level of production, so we see this very year, right now growing in the US another 20 per cent of the area of sorghum to what they normally produce,” he said.

“This is a lot of sorghum, the US produces many times more tonnes of sorghum than what Australia does and very rapidly we could see this pent up Chinese demand totally filled and we could see prices come back to much more traditional and historic level.”

Mr Newton said his group fully supported developing different markets for their grain.

“We must do everything we can always to try and develop new markets and particularly new diversified markets for our grain.”

Extracted in full from: abc.net.au