Senate debates

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Questions without Notice: Take Note of Answers

Carbon Pricing

3:20 pm

Photo of Mathias CormannMathias Cormann (WA, Liberal Party, Shadow Assistant Treasurer) Share this | Hansard source

Every single day of every week of every month, all we do under this Labor government is talk tax. Every day of every week of every month they come up with another tax on the Australian people; another tax that will make it harder for people across Australia, that will push up the cost of living and that will put our economy under pressure. Of course, this morning the Secretary of the Treasury confirmed what the Prime Minister suggested was a baseless attack and were baseless figures being circulated by the opposition about a carbon tax. The Treasury Secretary let the cat of the bag this morning. The carbon price will have to be at least $26 a tonne if the government is to go ahead with its five per cent emissions reduction target by 2020. At least $26 per tonne; probably higher. Here we have it. This is a tax on all Australians, ultimately, which is another thing he said. Senator Cameron was trying to protect the government. He said, ‘This is really just a tax on polluters.’ This is what the Treasury secretary said: ‘It will work its way through the economy.’ That is code for saying every single Australian will end up paying the price for yet another Labor Party tax.

Do not give us the story that somehow this is going to do anything about reducing global greenhouse gas emissions. You do not have a clue whether it will do anything of the sort, because you do not have a clue what other countries in other parts of the world will do. You have not done any new modelling. The government made this decision about imposing a carbon tax without doing any fresh modelling. The most recent modelling from Treasury in relation to the carbon tax is that which was published in 2008. That was a time when this Labor government assumed that the United States would have an emission trading scheme in place by 2010. Does the United States have an emissions trading scheme in place? No, of course it does not. Does Russia have an emissions trading scheme in place? No, it does not. This government thought all these countries were going to have emissions trading schemes in place by 2010, but we have known since Copenhagen that there is no suggestion that there will be an appropriate and comprehensive global agreement to price carbon any time soon—possibly never.

I was drawn to an article today which was published by AAP where Mr Partridge, Australia’s largest brick and tile maker, said the federal government’s carbon price proposals will add about 10 per cent to the cost of housing across Australia—10 per cent. When he said it would add about 10 per cent to the cost of housing, he was working on the basis of a carbon price of $20. We know that it is going to be more than $20. We know it is going to be at least $26, because that is what the Treasury secretary, Dr Parkinson, told us this morning. So of course people across Australia will pay for it. Of course there are going to be fewer jobs as a result of the carbon tax. Of course this is going to put pressure on the economy, and what for? For nothing.

The previous speaker, Senator Polley, talked about compensation. I say: what compensation? I asked Dr Parkinson this morning whether he had prepared any tax cuts, whether he had prepared any proposals to increase the pension. There is nothing. There is nothing on the table. And you know what? They are ‘working on some options’, he says. But are any of these options going to be in the budget? No, they are not. There has been no modelling so far. There is not going to be any information in the budget, either about how much revenue it is going to raise or how much it is going to cost to provide compensation. We know from Professor Garnaut that it is going to raise about $12 billion, but there is not going to be any information about compensation for people across Australia to deal with cost-of-living pressures. But we do know that the government can do one thing, and that is advertise. They can advertise a tax on which they have not done their homework, on which there is not going to be any information in the budget and which is going to cost every Australian more for no net benefit in reducing global greenhouse gas emissions. What is the sense of that?

Before I finish, let me just pick up on some comments made by Senator Wong in her earlier answer in relation to the mining tax. Trust me, Minister. Our position is very clear. This mining tax remains a bad tax. Your accepting all of the recommendations of the Argus committee, which was not a genuine consultation process, does not improve a bad tax. It came out of a dodgy process which was highly inappropriate. The government negotiated in secret with the three biggest taxpayers, excluding all of their competitors, excluding state and territory governments. It is not the way to produce a tax in Australia. (Time expired)


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