NSW FAIR Trading bureaucrats went to extreme lengths to whitewash statements and ministerial briefs to protect the reputation of the manufacturer of E10 petrol, one of the largest political donors in the country.
Draft ministerial briefings, letters and emails obtained by The Daily Telegraph paint a picture of bureaucrats — who have a duty to protect consumers — reluctant to act on concerns about the green credentials of E10 fuel made by the Manildra company.
Instead they were concerned for the “reputation” of Manildra, the monopoly ethanol producer in NSW and a major donor to the Coalition and Labor. E10, an ethanol-mixed fuel, is required to make up 60 per cent of all petrol sales under state environment laws.
This newspaper yesterday revealed Manildra does not have to comply with any greenhouse gas emissions standards despite claiming E10 fuel has massive environmental benefits.
It can now be revealed that Labor and the Australasian Convenience and Petroleum Marketers Association complained to regulators that Manildra may not have been complying with the law by using non-recycled material.
But Fair Trading, according to emails, decided against referring the complaints to the international certifier on ethanol fuels, the Roundtable on Sustainable Biomaterials, arguing the move “gives the letter a status and recognition it does not warrant”.
Other emails between senior officers at Fair Trading’s Consumer Protection Unit request responses to Labor and ACAPMA head Mark McKenzie remove any mention of the word “investigate” in the wording.
“Do you think something different, like allegations will be reviewed, will look into allegations, will seek to clarify…..anything other than investigate? Next thing it will be in the press that (Fair Trading) is ‘investigating’ Manildra,” operations manager Sue Honeybrook wrote.
“If we advise Mr McKenzie that we are investigating Manildra he may release this information to media outlets which may damage Manildra’s reputation,” Michael Cooper, the director of consumer protection, responded later that day.
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Draft briefings prepared for Minister for Finance, Services and Property Victor Dominello show Fair Trading officials were to tell him they had referred the complaint to the RSB and would take it into account “as part of the remaking of the regulation”, but these lines were subsequently deleted.
A Fair Trading spokeswoman said the complaints had been followed up.
“As part of this assessment, Fair Trading contacted (auditor Mick) Berry, who stated that he had confidence that the information supplied to him by Manildra was accurate,” she said.
But emails published yesterday showed that Fair Trading staff, including Mr Cooper, knew that the auditors “do not do anything to confirm or deny the information given to them by the company concerned”.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission estimates motorists’ dislike of E10 costs Sydney drivers $85 million extra every year because they switch to premium fuels to avoid using it.
Extracted from: The Herald Sun