Thursday, 16 August 2012
Matters of Public Importance
The real question is not whether the Prime Minister breached her word, breached her pledge, breached that which she took to the Australian people not just five days before but the day before the last election, but why she felt she had to make the pledge of no carbon tax under a government she leads in the first place. Today is the second anniversary of the Prime Minister's infamous pledge that there would be no carbon tax under a government she leads. But why did she feel she had to make that pledge? It is very simple: the reason is that she knew if she were honest with the Australian people they would not have given the Labor Party the votes they needed to form a government.
As it was, it was a borderline decision. If this election past had been framed in terms of the carbon tax, as was the debate, as was the context of coalition statements, advertisements and literature making it absolutely clear that a carbon tax was coming, they would have lost. So the Prime Minister deliberately, explicitly, intentionally stated that there would be no carbon tax. It was a direct clear statement made not just once five days before the election but also the day before the election with the statement 'I rule out a carbon tax'. These were two clear statements but there were two more from the Treasurer, the Deputy Prime Minister of Australia, who famously said that the idea of a carbon tax was 'hysterical' under Labor. Unfortunately, the Australian people are not laughing. But then there were 13 more statements that there would be no carbon price of any form, at any time until such a moment that there was a community consensus—as demonstrated famously through the citizens' assembly. That was what they took to the election.
Today we heard a defence that Labor did not really win the election; they had to negotiate. We heard the member for New England make it clear there was negotiation—except for the fact that the Greens had run up the white flag at 8 pm on election night when the incoming member for Melbourne said that he was going to vote for the ALP. There was no debate. There was no negotiation. There was no question. They had the vote in the bag from 8 pm on election night. So the idea that somehow there had to be, in order to win the Greens support, a surrender of a fundamental pledge of the central issue of the last fortnight of the campaign is simply historic rewriting on a grand scale. It is back to year zero because that is all we see from this government time and time again: a denial of history, a denial of the past because they are, frankly, ashamed of the past. What we see now is, again, two years later, they do not believe that they made the promise. They do not acknowledge that they had the vote in the bag. What occurred after the election was simply the fulfilment of what was always the Prime Minister's intention: to take one thing to the election and to do another thing afterwards. The negotiation with the Greens, which had already been concluded at 8 pm on election night, was merely a front. The Prime Minister expressly, deliberately, consciously pledged one thing before the election and did another thing afterwards. The Australian people will never forget and they certainly will not forgive come election time in some short period from now.
Beyond the deception is the consequence. The consequence can be described in two words: higher prices. If you really want to make it specific: higher prices for electricity. Let us go through the reality of what this carbon tax means. Let us start with the government's notion that there will be a 10 per cent price rise. Well, guess what? There has been a rise. Their 10 per cent price rise, on which they were congratulating themselves, was meant to occur over five years. It happened in one day. They seem to forget that next year the carbon tax goes up and the year after it goes from $24 to $25. Then, on their own modelling, it heads north to $37 by 2020 and thence to $350 by 2050. So the carbon tax is an electricity price escalator each year, every year, forever. That is its design. That is its intention. Indeed, to paraphrase the Prime Minister, that is the whole point of the carbon tax—to increase electricity prices.
What exactly are those price rises? We see in Queensland, where the Premier froze many of the state electricity price impacts, it is between 80 and 100 per cent of electricity price rises. In Queensland, we have price rises up to 13 per cent of which the carbon tax is 11 per cent. In Victoria, 11 per cent out of 15 per cent price rises are attributed to the carbon tax. In Western Australia, it is nine out of 12 per cent. In the Northern Territory, it is a similar figure. In the ACT, in some cases, up to 80 per cent of the price rise in electricity for this coming year is precisely because of the carbon tax. Then we see that in New South Wales the regulator approved of the fact that Integral Energy's price would include an 85 per cent lift because of the carbon tax. In Western Sydney the average component of carbon tax in electricity price rises is 80 per cent.
So when you look at your electricity bill and see the price rises this year, no matter where you are in Australia, blame the Prime Minister. The government says we have had price rises in the past. Absolutely—that is the point and that is the problem. These electricity price rises have not brought about some dramatic change in Australian consumption. What we have seen are massive price rises and then you add an escalator for each year on top of that based on a broken promise. And it congratulates itself? Honestly, somewhere between hubris and chutzpah, this government is going to have to take a look at itself in the mirror.
It is not just electricity. It is also refrigeration. The Prime Minister tried to say that there was already a refrigerant charge and there was. Let me give you some examples. It has increased slightly. HFC-134a has gone from 17c a kilogram to $30.07 a kilogram—a 175-fold increase. That means it is over $30,000 a tonne now under their budgeting. But it is a whole lot worse. PFC-5114 has gone from 17c a kilogram to $170 a kilogram or $170,000 per tonne, a more than 1,000-fold increase in the government levy. By the way, these are not our figures. These are from the government's own synthetic greenhouse gas website calculator. Probably the best-known of the gases, R404a, has gone from 17c a kilogram to $75 a kilogram with government levies, which is a 441-fold increase.
That, by the way, is a $75,000 charge per tonne of gas. These price rises flow through to butchers, they flow through to cold-store owners and they flow through to trucking operators who carry goods through refrigerated trucking. Anybody involved in refrigeration in Australia is going to have to pay the price of the Prime Minister's betrayal.