Thursday, 21 November 2013
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
I think it is important, at the beginning of the very short, curtailed consideration in detail that we have, to frame exactly what is at issue in this House, or what was at issue in a very formal sense had my amendments been ruled in order, and that is: that there are points of agreement between the government and the opposition and there are points of difference.
The point of agreement, as much as the minister might seek to resist this point, is around the termination of the carbon tax. This was a position that the then Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, enunciated, as clearly as possibly could be the case, before the last election—that the termination of the carbon tax would happen next year. As it happens, now we have a measure of clarity about the government's position—I say only 'a measure of clarity'.
We would actually terminate the carbon tax on the same day, 30 June next year. The difference between the government and the opposition in this debate is not the termination of the carbon tax but what replaces it, and that is the debate that would have been had had my amendments been ruled in order, because very clearly before the election we indicated that Australia should move as quickly as possible, on 1 July next year, to an emissions trading scheme—not to the raft of policies that the minister would seek to introduce to an emissions trading scheme.
The minister and others of the government have sought to equate a carbon tax with an emissions trading scheme and, in doing so, you are either trying deliberately to mislead the community or you simply do not understand the fundamental economics of the two models. They are profoundly different. The carbon tax operates without a legal limit on carbon pollution and instead uses a price mechanism to seek to control the behaviour that is being targeted—in this case, the emission of carbon pollution. An emissions trading scheme is quite different. The discipline is not provided by price; the discipline is provided by a legislative cap on carbon pollution which then lets business work out the cheapest and most effective way to operate within that cap. Importantly, it lets business work that out rather than the minister or his office or his bureaucrats here in Canberra picking winners, like the one he was trumpeting in the newspaper this week in the Latrobe Valley as the project that deserves billions and billions of taxpayers' dollars.
We know so little about this replacement policy, which is why I—and, in different words, the member for Melbourne—moved amendments to get much greater clarity from the government about quite what it is their policy entails, because no-one has a clue. If you talk to environmental stakeholders or business, no-one understands what is involved in the Liberal Party policy because the truth is that it was a policy which, as the member for Wentworth described, was devised as an environmental fig leaf—
Mr Frydenberg interjecting—
before the member for Kooyong was here. It was devised as an environmental fig leaf to cover the fact that the member for Wentworth had just been defenestrated by the member for Warringah on the condition that the Nick Minchin forces insisted upon—that he move over from being a supporter of an ETS, which he was through to 2009 after campaigning on it in 2007, to being a climate sceptic, someone who would junk the previous consensus started by his mentor, John Howard, and continued by Brendan Nelson and Malcolm Turnbull. I feel great sympathy—
No. I feel some sympathy for the minister because I think that—and I think generally stakeholders think so too—he is a person who takes climate change very seriously. He has dedicated a good part of his career to environmental issues but now has this stinking, dead albatross hanging around his neck called Direct Action. It is like getting Senator Cameron out to sell Work Choices. We know the minister does not believe this is going to have any effect on carbon pollution. We know that he is desperately trying to deal with the fact that survey after survey and economist after economist says it will not reduce carbon pollution. Alan Kohler said this morning that Treasury has estimated that the government's policy will cost $10 billion per year.
Show us the incoming government brief and we will know whether it is false. All we have to go on is suggestion because that is the only thing that comes out of this government.
I am glad the shadow minister opposite, the member for Port Adelaide, has raised the subject of sunshine because when the last parliament started we all heard that we were going to let the sunshine into this place. There was going to be a clean breath of fresh air in this place. With the minority government, the Independents suggested we were going to sing Kumbaya and let the sunshine in.
Indeed, we did, but it was not for very long because the member for Melbourne, along with his Greens mates, wanted to have a carbon tax, the carbon tax that the then Prime Minister—that is three prime ministers ago—said prior to the 2010 election would never be enacted under a government she led. 'There will be no carbon tax under the government I lead,' were her infamous words. Yet, despite the fact that we were going to let the sunshine in, despite the fact that we were supposedly going to be gentler, sing Kumbaya, get on with things and respect the people's wishes, not many months later, at the behest of the Greens, we had the carbon tax imposed upon us that the former Prime Minister, the then member for Lalor, said would never happen.
The Abbott-Truss government was elected on 7 September with a mandate to scrap the carbon tax and reduce costs for businesses and households, something that those people on that side would not understand—that businesses are under great pressure. I could name any number of businesses—in fact, I could name all of them—in the Riverina who do not want this toxic tax, who do not want the increasing power prices brought about by this toxic tax, who just want to get on with the job of doing what they do very well. That is producing and providing services for good, hardworking, taxpaying Australians. Families did not need the carbon tax imposed upon their family budgets. That is again something that people on that side would not understand—living within your means, keeping to budget.
We promised that the carbon tax would go, that it would be the first item of legislative business for this the 44th Parliament. Indeed, it is. But all we hear from the other side is their endless negativity. They just want to stop it. They just want to stop the will of the people.
Mr Conroy interjecting—
Here they go! We are hearing from a new member of parliament the fact that they are just government change deniers, as the Minister for Agriculture quite correctly pointed out the other day in question time.
Labor knows that the carbon tax hurts families and businesses. The quarterly CPI figures released on 24 October 2012, the first since the carbon tax was introduced, saw a 15.3 per cent increase in electricity, with household gases and miscellaneous fuels seeing a 14.2 per cent rise. This was the largest quarterly increase ever—two thirds of which, on average, came from the carbon tax. Labor knows that families and businesses will be better off once the carbon tax is repealed. They know that. They know in their heart of hearts that that is correct. The removal of the carbon tax in 2014-15 will leave average costs of living across all households around $550 lower than they would have been otherwise, according to Treasury modelling. That is a substantial amount of money for people doing it tough. That is a substantial amount of money for people battling with the rising costs of grocery items and fuel. It is because we have had six long years of hard Labor, who have done nothing to help the economy, nothing to help families and nothing to help businesses.
It is time that Labor got with the program, accepted the result of the 7 September election and actually did something right for a change. It is time that they agreed with the government and said, 'Okay, we accept September 7. You guys won; we lost. You need to get on with the will of the people. You need to get on with what the people wanted.'—that is, to get rid of the carbon tax.
It is estimated that retail electricity should be around nine per cent lower and retail gas prices around seven per cent lower than they would otherwise be. Business compliance costs are expected to fall by around $87.6 million per annum as a consequence of repealing the carbon tax. We have to get on with the job of repaying the debt and the deficit that we have been saddled with unfairly, that the people of Australia have been saddled with by that mob. (Time expired)
Today is the day of audacity in this place, typified by the last contribution, that of the member for Riverina. He talked earlier about negativity yet had precisely nothing to say about climate change, nothing to say about the legislation that is before us.
Unlike the member for Riverina and the other members opposite, I believe that taking action on climate change is the most urgent priority for Australia. Unlike members opposite, I believe that putting a price on carbon must be at the core of taking effective action. I believe the science of climate change and I believe the economists on how we should respond to meeting this great challenge. There is a consensus in both of those communities that flies in the face of the actions of this government. I refer in particular to September's Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. We have heard the numbers plenty of times, but I think it is worth repeating them: 97 per cent of climate scientists concur that climate change is driven by man-made greenhouse gas emissions and 86 per cent of economists, normally the friends of members opposite, support an ETS as the cheapest and most efficient way to reduce carbon pollution.
Owing to the procedural games that are being played, we do not have the opportunity to go to the heart of the amendments of the member for Port Adelaide.
Mr Christensen interjecting—
You will have your turn! We do not have the opportunity to talk about effective action in the form of the ETS. We have before us legislation that I will be opposing because it does not meet the challenge. Labor went to the last three elections promising to put a price on carbon. I was elected to this place on that basis and I will act accordingly.
Putting a price on carbon is of course the most efficient way to allocate capital to cleaner ways of producing and using energy. We need to put a cap on carbon pollution; we need to continue to support renewables; and we need to retain the Climate Change Authority so that the Australian people can continue to have the benefit of that which this government fears the most: independent advice.
We need to replace a backwards policy—this Liberal Party policy—that will not work, with one that will, an emissions trading scheme; replacing the carbon tax with a market based mechanism that caps pollution and lets businesses determine the most effective and cost-effective way to operate under that cap. As we know from the procedural debate earlier, Treasury modelling tells us that an early ETS would also reduce significantly the cost of living as well as reducing the cost of carbon.
Our choice is stark. We have a choice to stand up for our children and their children or to blink in the face of this great moral challenge and reduce our future to a meaningless, misleading three word slogan. As the member for Fremantle put it so well this morning when she had the opportunity to participate fully in this debate: polluter pays or paying polluters. That is the choice before us.
Considerations of equity today and most importantly considerations of equity tomorrow, of looking to our children and their children, require us to act, to do our fair share as others throughout the world are doing. To turn our backs on science, economics and indeed on the rest of the world is not an option. To mortgage our future on the farce that is direct action is simply not an option. I am confident that Labor stands on the right side of history in this debate.
On these bills before the House there must be no ifs, no buts. The world's largest carbon tax must go. This is the solemn commitment of the Abbott government. It is an insidious, jobs-destroying tax. Even the member for Griffith, when he was Prime Minister conceded that the carbon tax was driving up the cost of living and hurting families. Members opposite are persisting with a tax that they know is hurting families, they know is hurting business, they know is driving up the cost of living and they know the people of Australia do not want.
Labor's attempts to introduce amendments to introduce an emissions trading scheme are simply an exercise in rebadging. It is a tax—lock, stock and barrel. The people of Corangamite, the people of Geelong, will not be fooled by Labor's rhetoric. They understand that, whether you are a worker from Alcoa or Ford, a small business operator from Belmont or a dairy farmer in Birregurra or Colac, this is a tax which makes no sense. This is a tax on jobs and on electricity. This is a tax on Geelong and a tax on the people of Corangamite.
The people of my electorate will not forget that great big deception in 2010 from former Prime Minister Gillard: 'There will be no carbon tax under the government I lead.' Today in this place, including what we have just heard from the member for Scullin, we hear a continuing deception about our government's commitment to climate change. We are committed to tackling climate change. We are committed to reducing CO2 emissions but we are not going to damage this nation irreparably in the process.
The futility of a carbon tax, by whatever name Labor wishes to call it, was summed up perfectly by Labor's former climate change minister Senator Wong. On 6 February 2008, she said:
… the introduction of a carbon price ahead of effective international action can lead to perverse incentives for such industries to relocate or source production offshore.
There is no point imposing domestically a carbon price which results in emissions and production transferring internationally for no environmental gain.