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Media Release
Senator the Hon Robert Hill
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Minister for the Environment and Heritage

8 May 2001


Federal Environment Minister Robert Hill today announced national fuel quality standards for petrol and diesel to take effect from January next year.

Australia will, for the first time, have mandatory quality standards for petrol and diesel.

Combined with new vehicle technologies, the cleaner fuels will lead to cleaner air in Australia's major cities.

"The cleaner fuels will help reduce the rising number of serious respiratory illnesses and asthma cases, particularly in children," Senator Hill said.

"At the same time, emissions of benzene from petrol vehicles will also be halved. This is significant given the carcinogenic nature of benzene, which can result in blood disorders, leukaemia and problems with the central nervous system adversely affecting the development of children.

"Introducing cleaner fuels and reducing the impacts of vehicle emissions on human health is expected to save taxpayers $3 billion over the next 20 years.

The standards developed under the Fuel Quality Standards Act 2000 will be incrementally introduced from 1 January 2002.

"This approach recognises that most Australian refineries would need to make radical adjustments to their operations to meet current international fuel quality standards."

Senator Hill has deferred a decision on petrol standards for Methyl Tertiary-Butyl Ether (MTBE) and olefins while the Government undertakes a further assessment of the availability of olefin/MTBE-free petrol in the region, to ensure environmental standards would be met, at the same time as ensuring importers continued to have fair access to Australian markets.

"The Government is committed to addressing the issue of the wide-scale use of MTBE, because of the risk to Australia's ground and surface water resources, particularly in regional areas.

"I have also determined that further assessment is necessary before setting an ethanol limit for petrol. Studies are currently being undertaken by independent experts and a decision is expected within 12 months.

8 May 2001
: Belinda Huppatz (Senator Hill's office) 08 82377920 or 0419258364

Commonwealth of Australia