House debates

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Bills

Clean Energy Legislation (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2013, Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas (Import Levy) Amendment (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2013, Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas (Import Levy) (Transitional Provisions) Bill 2013, Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas (Manufacture Levy) Amendment (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2013, True-up Shortfall Levy (General) (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2013, True-up Shortfall Levy (Excise) (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2013, Climate Change Authority (Abolition) Bill 2013, Customs Tariff Amendment (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2013, Excise Tariff Amendment (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2013, Clean Energy (Income Tax Rates and Other Amendments) Bill 2013, Clean Energy Finance Corporation (Abolition) Bill 2013; Consideration in Detail

3:24 pm

Photo of Sarah HendersonSarah Henderson (Corangamite, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I will continue my contribution. Let us consider the cost of the carbon tax on the people of Corangamite. In Geelong, perhaps the most carbon intensive city in the country, the carbon tax is causing damage. We are a home of many trade exposed companies—Ford, Boral, Shell and Alcoa—and a region extremely dependent on agriculture and manufacturing. In our region thousands of jobs have been lost or are under threat. The carbon tax is a cost of doing business and it is hampering our region's capacity to thrive and to prosper. Consider what it is doing to our farmers, food processors and timber mills. The carbon tax is costing every dairy farmer on average $7,500 a year.

On 10 September 2013 the member for Corio told Sky News: 'We do need to acknowledge the fact that Tony Abbott won the election and we lost.' Today members opposite must acknowledge that fact. Australian voters elected our government with a mandate to axe the carbon tax, to reduce costs for businesses and households, to boost jobs and to restore Australia's international competitiveness. I am proud to be a member of a government which is committed to abolishing the carbon tax.

3:25 pm

Photo of Alannah MactiernanAlannah Mactiernan (Perth, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I believe that the Prime Minister will go down as the Neville Chamberlain of the climate change crisis. You may remember, Mr Deputy Speaker, that as World War II was brewing Neville Chamberlain went over and saw the Fuehrer and came back and said, 'I've got all this sorted—no problem.' He told the people to go home and to get a nice, quiet sleep. Well, I believe that is exactly what the Prime Minister is telling us to do, that we have got nothing to worry about, that we do not have to make any changes to the way we do things, we should just go home and have a nice quiet sleep.

We have had many of those on the other side tell us about problems from the financial impost that has occurred to people in their electorates. It is true that any change in the economy does cause some pain, some adjustment. That is the way of the world. But it can be managed, and it has been demonstrated that it can be managed. We have had members opposite saying it does not work. We have seen a 6.1 per cent reduction in our emissions from electricity generation but at the same time our economy continued to grow. We have had this really naive expression that we are running against the tide by putting in place a carbon price. This is the bit that I find really extraordinary. Just as we are seeking to remove any pricing on carbon, what do we see around the world? We see that next week Beijing and Shanghai will both sign up and commence the operation of a carbon emission scheme. They will be joining Shenzheng and Guangzhou, which have already got an emissions trading scheme. That actually encompasses more than 50 million people—more than twice the population of Australia. But we keep saying that no-one else is doing this. It is really interesting to see what has been actually happening in China. They chose seven cities to start off with to have an emissions trading scheme. There was concern among some of those seven cities that by the scheme being confined to them industry in those areas would be tempted to relocate to unaffected provinces. However, the very opposite appears to be occurring. According to reports, some Chinese regions that have not been included in the ETS trial are now putting their hands up and saying that they want to join in too.

I think there are profoundly strong economic arguments, putting aside all the environmental arguments that we have heard. This is a matter of fitting our economy up. The sorts of adjustments we had to make in the 1980s when we were floating the dollar, when we were removing the tariff barriers, do require adjustment and there is a measure of pain. But ultimately that is what we have to do to get our economy in shape. We see countries now around the world and areas around the world embracing ETSs. Very interestingly, the American states of Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont talk about introducing about their emissions-trading scheme early, with the emphasis on learning and moving towards a more mature scheme, just as they did in the EU. They call it the 'learning by doing' phase. All these countries around the world are moving to an ETS—moving slowly, with a modest price on carbon, which is what we want. We want to align ourselves with the EU and the schemes that are coming on in all those Canadian provinces and US states. We need to do that. We need to work out how you do it. We need to be part of this global development that is happening. It is happening. As I say, next week it is Beijing and Shanghai.

What we are seeing here is not only the most appalling act of appeasement, an appalling betrayal of the Australian people which will end in disaster, but it is also an act of economic vandalism. It is taking us backwards. We need to accept that there is going to be a more carbon-constrained reality and make the adjustments that are necessary to do it now. (Time expired)

3:31 pm

Photo of Wyatt RoyWyatt Roy (Longman, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The repeal of Labor's carbon tax demonstrates a new government on the front foot, a government which was elected with a clear and absolute mandate to liquidate the carbon tax. The Australian people have spoken, and this government is determined to give swift or, should the need arise, resolute effect to their voice. For, while the Labor Party seems set on playing some obstructionist political game or is otherwise bizarrely committed to hurting Australian families and businesses through higher electricity and gas prices, the coalition government will see this through. We will not stop until this toxic tax is disposed of. The reasons are simple, painfully simple.

With the carbon tax, the Australian people have been in equal parts mugged and taken for mugs. Julia Gillard declared there would be no carbon tax under a government she led. Later, her predecessor-cum-successor, Kevin Rudd, would proclaim that he had 'terminated' the carbon tax—another false utterance from the former Labor Prime Minister. Now we have the Leader of the Opposition on the one hand saying that he indeed intends to 'terminate' the carbon tax, yet at the same time he proposes to oppose the government's repeal of legislation that would satisfy this very objective. Work that one out.

Australians are tired of trying to work out or work through this unfathomable labyrinth of lies from those opposite. They are weary of the hubris and spin, while the reality of the carbon tax comes home to them every day. These families, pensioners, retirees and small businesses have all seen their electricity and gas bills surge. That the carbon tax has been a chief contributing factor is beyond question. Right from October 2012, with the release of the first quarterly consumer price index figures following its inception, we have felt it. Those numbers revealed an immediate 15.3 per cent rise in electricity prices, while the cost of household gas and miscellaneous fuel jumped by 14.2 per cent. The hike in these quarterly bills was the largest we have ever seen.

My electorate of Longman lies about 45 minutes north of Brisbane, where the big employers are retail, small business, tourism and light industry. In the 12 months prior to this year's federal election, business after business showed me the face of genuine fear, and, in every instance, the carbon tax was central to their anguish. One shop owner in Burpengary told me of surrendering $1,300 a month in higher input costs associated with the carbon tax. Another key local manufacturer forecast a $30,000 rise in electricity charges directly attributable to the carbon tax. And a Caboolture based refrigerated fruit and vegetable carrier had been belted by a substantial increase in refrigerant gas costs due directly to the carbon tax. If the 44th Australian Parliament does not stop Labor's carbon tax from running to schedule and being applied to heavy vehicle diesel fuel from 1 July next year, this great local enterprise will be beaten up once again.

What ultimately emerges is a flow-on of the costs of the carbon tax for transport and storage to the groceries, and every family will be paying more at the check-out. Unsurprisingly, these conditions have fanned a crisis of confidence, which, in turn, has knocked the health of the economy even more. During the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd government, Longman's unemployment rate more than doubled, from 3.06 per cent to 7.86 per cent. The youth unemployment rate skyrocketed from 4.3 per cent to 11.4 per cent. New taxes and increasing taxes do not create more jobs. This is a tax that hurts jobs and pushes up the cost of living. There is a better way, a smarter way, a more successful way, and the coalition government is prepared to lead the way.

3:36 pm

Photo of Justine ElliotJustine Elliot (Richmond, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

We on this side of the House accept the fact that climate change is real and we accept the science on this, which is in stark contrast to those opposite. We accept the scientific facts that are clearly telling us that human activity is causing climate change and will continue to grossly affect our economy and our way of life. We accept that and we accept the need to be taking action. And, because we accepted that and knew that we needed to act, in government we did act. I will remind the previous speaker, the member for Longman, of the comprehensive assistance packages that we had in place. So we made sure that we acted, but we also had an assistance package there for many people. Indeed, many people in my electorate received comprehensive amounts of assistance in relation to the policies that we brought in.

The truth is that a price on carbon pollution can work and has been working. Yet now this government is removing effective action on reducing carbon emissions. That is exactly what they are doing. It is irresponsible and it really is representative of this government's environmental vandalism and lack of understanding of the need to act effectively to combat dangerous climate change.

This bill, the Clean Energy Legislation (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2013, that is being put forward by the Prime Minister and the Liberal-National Party really dismantles our nation's scientific and very rational approach to tackling climate change. We on this side of the House know that it is vitally important to be taking that action for future generations, and not just for our environment but for our economy. The two are linked and indeed they support one another.

This is a view expressed by many people in my electorate of Richmond. I am very fortunate to have many very committed local individuals and groups who, for a long time, have strongly advocated for government to take action on climate change. That is why, when in government, we did act. And those same constituents in my electorate are bitterly disappointed about the actions now of the Abbott government and have expressed that to me on many occasions.

We see, nationwide and internationally, every day, more and more, the impacts of climate change. We see the massively varied weather patterns, oceans rising and increases in natural disasters. In many ways, this bill sums up this new government's attitude to the science of climate change. They are indeed a party of climate change deniers. Even in the face of the overwhelming scientific evidence emerging that mankind is directly contributing to the increasing pace of global warming, what do they do? They just do not believe it; they ignore it and refuse to take effective action. As we know from the Prime Minister's own words, he thinks it is 'absolute crap'. That is his summation of it. So this bill is not just about their actions in trying to stop carbon pricing; it is really representative of their obsession surrounding climate change denial.

What is also really distressing about this bill is that it is not just repealing the pricing of carbon. It is also going to be dismantling the Climate Change Authority, a really important body set up to give independent and scientific advice on renewable energy and on caps and targets on carbon pollution to the government.

The bill is also abolishing the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, a really important body that was set up to help get new commercial renewable projects started, to provide fantastic financing and incentives in all those important areas. Indeed, this bill will severely damage the clean energy industry—an industry that Australia takes great pride in and excels in. But all we hear from those opposite is about their so-called direct action; I think it is more 'direct inaction', with their bizarre policies of magic trees and magic soils which just will not work.

Let us compare ourselves to the rest of the world. Throughout the world we see that many countries are taking action on climate change through emissions trading schemes. More than 30 other countries have carbon pricing schemes. In fact, as we have heard from other speakers today, China has an emissions trading scheme set up in many of its provinces, Germany has an ETS, the United Kingdom has an ETS and France has an ETS. Even many states in the USA are now legislating to introduce an ETS. So many other countries in the world are acting, and it really is quite embarrassing to see Australian now going backwards on what really was effective action to tackle climate change. Now that we are moving backwards it is quite embarrassing for us on the world stage.

On this side of the House, our position is to support the policy we took to the federal election: we wanted to terminate the carbon tax and introduce an emissions trading scheme. Of course, those amendments were refused earlier in the day, but we are absolutely committed to making sure we have an emissions trading scheme. We know that moving towards that and having that market based system is the most effective way to be tackling climate change. That is the action that we should be taking.

In the closing moments, I will talk about some of the long-term economic benefits for places in my area, the North Coast of New South Wales, and for places just above that in South-East Queensland. We will rely in our future on tourism, and we need to take action to make sure we protect the very pristine environment that we have there. So I do find it absolutely remarkable that members of this House are not working with us to make sure we protect the environment for the future.

3:41 pm

Photo of Peter HendyPeter Hendy (Eden-Monaro, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise in support of the Clean Energy Legislation (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2013. During the whole of the campaign in the year leading up to the election on 7 September, the abolition of the carbon tax was one of the key campaign issues in Eden-Monaro. I told the electorate that if I were elected the first principal speech I would make after the election, after my maiden speech, would be on the abolition of the carbon tax, and that is why I am rising to speak today. So this was an issue that was central to the policy debate in Eden-Monaro over the last three years but especially in the last five weeks of the election campaign. Everyone on this side who has spoken has informed or re-informed the House that, in the 2010 election—indeed, it was on 16 August 2010, just five days before the election—former Prime Minister Gillard said, 'There will be no carbon tax under a government I lead.' And the member for Lilley, who at that stage was the Treasurer of Australia, said on 15 August: 'No, it is not possible that we are bringing in a carbon tax. That is a hysterically inaccurate claim being made by the coalition.' The fact is that the election was a referendum on the carbon tax. The coalition won with a mandate to abolish it, and that is what we are doing here today and I hope it will pass the Senate once it has passed the House of Representatives.

As you will know, Mr Deputy Speaker Scott, I am an economist by profession. In fact, I am proud to say that I am a Commonwealth Treasury trained economist. I am also a former chief executive of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and, as such, I know about economics from a business point of view as well. And I know that the carbon tax does not work as an economic concept. I know that there are a lot of economists around Australia and in other parts of the world who say, 'The carbon tax is the best economic alternative to deal with emissions reduction, to deal with the climate change issue.' But, frankly, they are not right, because they do not take account properly of the international marketplace. And the fact is that a carbon tax, an emissions trading scheme, will not work unless there is a comprehensive treaty arrangement across the world of the major emitters such that they all implement a carbon tax at the same time, basically at the same carbon price. It will not work. And the reason is because the market—the business community across the world—will game the system.

We are basically the only country in the world with a comprehensive carbon tax; we all know that. We know that the scheme in Europe is only a partial emissions trading scheme across the carbon production sectors of the economy of Europe. We know that what is being done in the US is an infinitesimally small part of the emissions-producing part of the sector in the United States. We know that in China—people have been talking about China today—it is only an infinitesimally small part of the Chinese economy that is producing emissions. If you do not have a comprehensive international agreement, a carbon tax in Australia does not work.

That is why we have proposed that it be abolished, that is why we have a direct action plan that will, in a market based system—what we call a 'reverse auction' system—actually fund those programs that will work to reduce emissions. That is why we are setting up an emissions reduction fund. That is the way to go about dealing with the climate change issue, because that will be a system that will work—to fund directly emissions reduction initiatives—as opposed to a carbon tax, which will only damage the Australian economy and not help it. I support the bill.

3:46 pm

Photo of Tony ZappiaTony Zappia (Makin, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Manufacturing) Share this | | Hansard source

The previous speaker said that he was an economist. Let me quote from Professor Ross Garnaut, vice-chancellor, fellow and professorial research fellow in economics at the University of Melbourne, and author of Dog Days: Australia after the boom.

He says, specifically on this question, in an article in today's paper:

It would lead to larger sacrifices of productivity than would be necessary with broadly based carbon pricing. It would lead either to much higher costs later in the decade or to Australia breaching its commitments to the international community and damaging its own interest in the global mitigation effort.

I think that Professor Garnaut is indeed an authority on this very subject, and makes the point very well, that if we do not proceed with action right now it will cost us much more dearly in the years to come.

This is a matter that is truly a debate about climate change being dressed up as a debate about tax for no other reason than political expediency and for the member for Warringah to become Prime Minister of Australia. By dressing it up as a debate about tax, what we are doing is diminishing the true issue and diminishing the reports of thousands of scientists around the world who have been telling us for decades that climate change is real, that climate change is resulting partially from the emissions of greenhouse gases around the world and that human activity is in fact contributing to those emissions.

The government has had to trivialise that debate in order to get back to turning it into a debate about carbon tax. The problem with that is that what we are doing as a nation is effectively walking away from our responsibility not only to the Australian people but from our responsibility to people right across the world. So much so, that this has been a matter that has been the subject of international discussions and debate for years and years. Right now, there is a conference taking part in Warsaw in Poland, and this government could not even see fit to send a minister of government to those discussions—such is the gravity of this issue.

Mr Deputy Speaker, if you accept the science—and this side of the House does—then this truly is the most serious issue facing Australia and the rest of the world. If you do not accept the science, then clearly it is not. It has been part of the government's strategy to undermine the science by running with many of the commentators who are prepared to diminish the work of scientists who have worked in this field for years. Even the most recent report of the IPCC confirms the findings of previous reports. The work of scientists that has been peer reviewed time and time again is supported every time there is another report.

Labor's position on this is very clear: we said from the outset that we are prepared to abolish the price on carbon that we had set. But we are prepared to do it only if the government is prepared to take appropriate and responsible steps in place of abolishing that, because if you do not, what you are doing is simply offloading the burden onto future generations. I want to talk about that burden just for a moment, because one of the primary arguments of members opposite is to talk about the cost to society as a result of the price on carbon that the former Gillard government put on.

What about the cost to society of doing nothing? The cost to society that arose after the 11 or 12 years of serious drought in the Murray-Darling Basin, that ran into billions of dollars? The cost to society every time there is a cyclone, a flood or a bushfire in this country? What is the cost to society of allowing this issue to go unchecked, when we know full well that it is going to have dramatic and drastic effects on our health costs in this country? What about all of those costs? If you factored those into account, then the reality is that with the cost to society it is much better to tackle the problem than to walk away from it.

We know that the government's response to this now is a policy of direct action—a policy that cannot be measured, a policy that nobody supports, a policy that will not achieve the targets and a policy that in reality comes at a greater cost than the price on carbon placed by the Gillard government was to families around Australia—a cost of $1,200 and more to each and every family in this country. (Time expired)

3:51 pm

Photo of George ChristensenGeorge Christensen (Dawson, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

After the hot air that we have heard on this it is time for some clarity, time for some common sense and time for some understanding of exactly what this debate is. There has been a lot of confusion that was born in the creation of the carbon tax, because the Labor Party played the hokey-pokey game on this. Before the 2010 election the carbon tax was out, then after the 2010 election the carbon tax was in, and then before the 7 September election the carbon tax was out again, but now they are here telling us it is in. So you can understand why there has been a lot of confusion about this debate.

In essence, what we are debating it is a very simple premise, and that is that this carbon tax is going to help save the planet by raising costs. It will not surprise you to know that I dispute that premise on many levels, but I think it is vitally important that we realise from the start that it is confusing two very different debates. The first involves science and the second involves economics. First, there is the debate on science, which I believe has created an extraordinarily unscientific reaction around the globe. Science is always about ongoing inquiry and understanding, whereas the global warming debate has been characterised as one between good and evil—and we have heard that here today from the members opposite. That fits in perfectly with their hokey-pokey, kindergarten approach to politics, but for the grown-ups in the room it is certainly not objective. And from where I stand the greatest crime in this debate has been the demonisation of anyone who has the temerity to question any aspect of the theory of man-made climate change.

Just as those who subscribe to the anthropogenic climate change theories cannot be 100 per cent sure of their belief, I also cannot state categorically that I know there is no link between emissions and the climate. I do have doubts, and those doubts stem from the well-publicised antics of some of the climate scientists out there that were exposed in 'climategate', where they expressed private concerns over the negligible increase in global temperatures—in fact, there has been no increase statistically in global temperatures over the last 15 or 16 years—but then set about altering their statistics to try and prove the opposite.

The Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change, which is not influenced by the need to secure government funds, has published a report called Climate change reconsidered. That report showed that the science is nowhere near to being settled. They were reputable scientists—

Photo of Tony ZappiaTony Zappia (Makin, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Manufacturing) Share this | | Hansard source

It wasn't peer reviewed.

Photo of George ChristensenGeorge Christensen (Dawson, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Just like the IPCC report is not peer reviewed—it is not, mate. The reports that come out are not peer reviewed. This is a document by real climate scientists who say that there is doubt about the science and the so-called science that we hear that is out there. But I want to get onto the economics because this is an area where the facts really are indisputable, and we do not need peer reviews to know that. The member who spoke before mentioned raised Professor Garnaut. Well, Professor Garnaut had an interesting quote from his report when he dreamed this whole mess up for the Labor Party. What he said was:

Regional communities and industries are likely to be more vulnerable to these impacts than urban centres, due to their reliance on agriculture and other natural resource-based industries.

He is right because in my electorate there is mining, agriculture and tourism, and this tax is suffocating all three industries.

In mining the picture is very bleak. We have had 9,000 jobs cut across Queensland and New South Wales, many of them in the Bowen Basin, over the last 18 months. There is an undeniable link between the carbon tax and those job losses. Rio Tinto called it an unfair tax on Australian exporters. It is equally devastating for farmers in my electorate. Cane growers have come out against it, saying it adds significantly to the costs to the bottom line of cane farming businesses. The Queensland horticulture based body Grocom also predicted that a carbon emissions trading scheme—which these guys want this carbon tax to evolve into—could raise farm costs by about 1.15 per cent by 2020. Any addition to the bottom line of farms is not a good thing and it risks farmers going to the wall. Tourism is equally at risk. A new study by AEC Group research, commissioned by Tourism Accommodation Australia, estimates that the carbon tax will add $115 million in costs to hotels and motels. So three industries in my electorate are going to be hit, and hit hard.

Labor's carbon tax is just wrong. It is probably wrong on the science. It is definitely wrong on the economics. I urge every member of the House to distinguish between the two. Enough of the hot air. Let's get rid of this dreadful carbon tax.

3:56 pm

Photo of Andrew LeighAndrew Leigh (Fraser, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Treasurer) Share this | | Hansard source

It is my pleasure to follow the member for Dawson in this debate—somebody who I think exposes the real truth at the heart of the coalition's opposition to an emissions trading scheme. That opposition is not because they accept the science and dispute the economics. It is fundamentally because those opposite do not accept the science of climate change. The member for Dawson has been very clear about that. He thinks that 97 per cent of the world's scientists are wrong and he, instead, has the truth. I argued with the member for Canning on Twitter but eventually, about 20 tweets in, I just had to let him go because—

Photo of George ChristensenGeorge Christensen (Dawson, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Mr Deputy Speaker, I seek to intervene.

Photo of Bruce ScottBruce Scott (Maranoa, Deputy-Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

Is the member for Fraser willing to give way?

Photo of Andrew LeighAndrew Leigh (Fraser, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Treasurer) Share this | | Hansard source

No. I stopped the Twitter battle with the member for Canning at a certain point when I finally got bored, but he was taking on the Bureau of Meteorology. They are now, of course, responsible for the Bureau of Meteorology, but the member for Canning disputes the bureau's finding that Australia has just experienced the hottest summer on record, the hottest winter on record and is on track to experience the hottest year on record.

The time for political games is gone. If this House does not take serious action on climate change we are kicking it off to future generations, and those generations will pay a higher cost than we will today. Future generations will look very dimly upon this government that took away an effective, efficient way of reducing Australia's emissions and replaced it with an expensive, ineffective hodgepodge of measures. Ross Garnaut was asked about this on Lateline the other night. He said of direct action that it would be considerably more expensive and that getting rid of the carbon price has a significant negative impact on the budget. The impact on the budget of getting rid of the mining tax and the carbon price is, between them, $17 billion, which must be paid by higher taxes on workers. That is what those opposite believe. They believe the tax burden on polluters and mining billionaires should be lower and the tax burden on workers should be higher.

I was listening before to the member for Eden-Monaro with his economic views and I have to say I was thinking at the time of that great Chris Caton quote when a range of eminent Australian economists were asked their view on carbon pricing and 86 per cent strongly supported carbon pricing over direct action. As Chris Caton said, anyone who believes direct action is economically more sensible 'should hand his degree back'.

When the Leader of the Opposition was confronted with similar evidence—a survey of the Australian Conference of Economists showing a vast majority of economists in favour of carbon pricing—he said that maybe that was a comment on the 'quality of our economists' rather than on the quality of our policy, to which Joshua Gans responded that maybe it just said something about the quality of the Leader of the Opposition.

Mr Hunt interjecting

We have the honourable member interjecting here, who wrote his very thesis on a tax to make the polluter pay but has been willing to throw good economics out the window to score political point! This is no small issue for this parliament. The cost of dealing with climate change will only rise. As the developed country with the highest level of per capita emissions, that cost will fall on future generations. This government is doing deep, deep damage to the country by getting rid of an emissions trading scheme and replacing it with a scheme which we know to be far more expensive.

We have had those opposite making claims that they have Nobel laureates supporting them. The member for Flinders named a series of Nobel laureates who supported direct action, but of course when contacted, those Nobel laureates had no support for the member for Flinders. Why? Because Nobel laureates like other economists recognise that a pricing system is the best way of dealing with climate change. There are plenty of economists who support climate change, but no credible economists that support direct action. It is more expensive, less effective and a punishment to future generations who will pay the price of this government's short-sighted decisions.

4:01 pm

Photo of Keith PittKeith Pitt (Hinkler, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

As a former farmer and small business owner, I understand the many difficulties facing the sugar industry and the Hinkler business community more broadly. In a recent submission to government on the repeal of the carbon tax, Queensland cane growers advised that Labor's tax had increased the cost of production by $20 million since it was introduced, hurting the industry's international competitiveness.

Sugar cane is Queensland's largest agricultural crop by volume and value. With 80 per cent of Australia's sugar exported overseas, it is also Australia's seventh largest agricultural export. Australia's sugar exports were worth $1.4 billion last financial year, making us the third largest supplier in the world. The industry also employs 50,000 people, directly and indirectly.

Irrigators have been hardest hit by the carbon tax. Cane growers indicate that repealing the carbon tax will save them up to 10 per cent on their energy bills and save thousands of jobs. It will also bring significant supply chain benefits. The tax inflated the price of goods like fertiliser and chemicals. Industry research shows growers are paying up to 33 cents extra per tonne this financial year to produce the same crop they did in 2010-11, before the introduction of the tax. As cane growers are not able to pass the cost on to their international consumers, the increased cost of production is being paid for directly from the bottom line, in some cases leading to a reduction of wages and the loss of jobs. Cane growers have always opposed the carbon tax, and for good reason. Repealing Labor's carbon tax will go some way to helping restore profitability to the industry and provide workers with greater job security.

Despite the significant impact of the carbon tax and the relatively high trade exposure of the industry, sugar cane growers did not receive any assistance under the Clean Energy Futures package. The Queensland Cane Growers Organisation argues that they are the only sugar cane growers in the world to operate without some form of subsidy, trade barrier or market control. The only way Australia's cane farmers remain competitive by global standards is through constantly improving productivity and by containing the cost of production relative to cane producers in Thailand, Brazil and India.

Agribusiness contributes greatly to the economic viability of regional communities like Hinkler and that is why this government is committed to repealing the carbon tax. Like cane growers, Hinkler's horticulturalists are price-takers and not price-setters, which means they are unable to pass the cost of the carbon tax on to their markets. Peter Hockings, Executive Officer at BFVG, recently told me his members were deeply concerned about their future under Labor's carbon tax. The tax has been the final nail in the coffin for many.

Many growers are eager to find ways to reduce their carbon footprint, but argue a tax is not the way to go about it. They, like this government, favour direct action, improving productivity and finding efficiencies. They are paying more for fertiliser, more to transport their products to market, and more to dispose of their organic waste material. As well as the increased cost of electricity for irrigators, our growers are paying more for their cold storage.

Our farmers are not the only ones paying more for refrigerant gases. Businesses like the Woodgate Beach General Store, which services a small community, have taken a big hit. Owners, Barry and Rose, are looking to retire and know their prospects for selling the business will be better without a carbon tax. Businesses and community groups already running on tight budgets are feeling the pinch. The carbon tax has impacted on the cost of gas in the bowls club. It affects the electricity costs for the ice-makers who supply our commercial and recreational fishermen. It has increased costs for the local library and community hall.

But the strong opposition to Labor's tax does not stop there. Allow me to read just one of the many letters my office received in relation to the carbon tax, which said:

l am contacting you to express my concern of the impending rise in the cost of living and loss of industry when the carbon tax is introduced.

As a senior Australian I am finding that my dollar does not perform in the supermarket, petrol bowser or when paying rates.

I am fearful that the increased costs levelled at councils, through the introduction of the carbon tax, will mean I will have trouble finding the funds to meet the financial demands of life.

Being a baby boomer, I bought an investment property in Maryborough, as our superannuation would only support us for about six months in retirement.

There is no work for people my age in Hervey Bay and unfortunately, because we now have an investment property asset, we are not entitled to any Centrelink benefit and miss out on government assistant packages.

To gain employment we left the Bay in 2011 to pursue seasonal work. We cannot afford this tax and I ask that you take steps to prevent its introduction.

I am pleased to say, Madam Speaker, that the removal of the carbon tax in 2014-15 will save households around $550 a year. At the election, the people voted overwhelmingly for change. It was a referendum on the carbon tax and a referendum on Labor's $9 billion a year hit to the Australian economy.

Photo of Mrs Bronwyn BishopMrs Bronwyn Bishop (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

I call the honourable member for Port Adelaide, but just for 20 seconds.

4:06 pm

Photo of Mark ButlerMark Butler (Port Adelaide, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Water) Share this | | Hansard source

In 20 seconds, what can I say, Madam Speaker? This is a very sad day for the lower House of the parliament. There was a great opportunity here for us to find a middle ground.

Photo of Mrs Bronwyn BishopMrs Bronwyn Bishop (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

Order! It being seven minutes past four, the time allotted for consideration in detail has passed. The question before the House is that the bills be agreed to.

Question agreed to.

Bills agreed to.