House debates

Monday, 14 July 2014


Clean Energy Legislation (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2014, True-up Shortfall Levy (General) (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2014, True-up Shortfall Levy (Excise) (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2014, Customs Tariff Amendment (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2014, Excise Tariff Amendment (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2014, Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas (Import Levy) Amendment (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2014, Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas (Manufacture Levy) Amendment (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2014, Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas (Import Levy) (Transitional Provisions) Bill 2014; Second Reading

3:15 pm

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

Madam Speaker, I rise to continue my remarks in this debate on the Clean Energy Legislation (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2014 and related bills. Before the debate was interrupted by the 90-second statements, I was drawing attention to the claims made by the Prime Minister over the last three or four years—in his magical mystery tour around Australia in his high-vis jacket—explaining to Australians that to price carbon—to put a cap on carbon pollution—would act as a wrecking ball through the Australian economy. He got sick of that metaphor and moved to talking about 'a cobra strike' to the Australian economy. At other times, it was to be 'a python squeeze' on the Australian economy; or that cities that we have known and loved for decades would literally disappear off the Australian map—Whyalla, a city in the iron triangle in South Australia and dear to my heart, would disappear, according to the Prime Minister; Gladstone was at mortal threat of disappearing from the map of Australia as well, in spite of having a pretty healthy economy last time I visited the town. This was a series of hysterical, mendacious claims made by the now Prime Minister while he was opposition leader, seeking to undermine a response to climate change. Falsehoods and overreach characterised this prime minister's hysterical, mendacious campaign. After last week's goings-on in the Senate, we are now seeing the falsehoods, the overreach and the chaos of last week all coming together in the debate in the House today.

There has been some focus by the opposition on the cost-of-living claims made by the Prime Minister over the last three years, because he was utterly definitive about that. He was utterly definitive about what the impact of a price on carbon would be on Australian households. We tried to test him on this today, but we tried in vain because the Prime Minister refused to repeat the guarantees that he gave over the last three years about just what businesses would have to pass on; and about what price reductions to which Australian households. We asked him about his earlier claim that the carbon tax would result in a $10 increase per week to the grocery bill of average Australian households—not a figure that we can find in any report, in any piece of advice, or in any claim made by an expert or a commentator. We asked the Prime Minister to repeat that claim, and to repeat his guarantee that the passage of these repeal bills would result in grocery bills going down by $10 per week for Australian households. And he can't—of course he can't, because Woolies has confirmed that those prices did not go up in the first place! Woolworths has confirmed that, and other retailers have confirmed it as well. It was a falsehood. It was overreach. And that is why the Prime Minister would not repeat the response.

The height of the farce was the Minister for Agriculture, who should know better, trying to scare Australian households—particularly the carnivores among them—that a leg of lamb would cost $100 under the carbon tax. Well, as the member for Charlton pointed out, today a leg of lamb, 2.2 kilograms, costs around $26. We asked the Prime Minister—and maybe the Minister for Agriculture had overreached, and it had not quite reached $100 dollars; but what would be the reduction by the end of this week, if these repeal bills go through? And again, the Prime Minister chose to duck the question—because he knows it was all a farce. It was all a falsehood. It was all overreach. It was all designed to stoke this political campaign to scare Australian households about a proper climate change response. He said that the carbon tax would result in a $6,000 increase in the price of a new house. When asked to guarantee that the price of a new house would come down by $6,000, in line with the promises he made before the election—that in repealing the carbon tax, what had gone up would automatically come down—of course he ducked the question, because to do otherwise would be to mislead this parliament. First, because the price of a new house did not go up by that amount and second, because it will not come down. He was asked to repeat his guarantee that farm costs would come down by $12,000 a year—and of course, he did not repeat that guarantee because—again—to do so would be to mislead this parliament. It was a falsehood then, it is a falsehood now, and he is not able to guarantee it.

As I said in the earlier part of this debate, before the 90-second statements, it would be nice—given that the member for Sturt is seeking to curtail this debate—if the parliament actually had before it the amendment that the government and the Palmer United Party have cobbled together to deal with these issues. But none of us have been given the courtesy of even seeing the amendment, so that we can make a decision about whether it deals with the concerns that have been raised with us by Australian households—given the promises the Prime Minister made—and are being raised with us by Australian businesses. By contrast, I have already circulated the amendments that I intend to move to this bill. They are the same amendments we exposed as a draft piece of legislation before the election; the same amendments I moved in this place in December; and the same amendments I moved in this place a few weeks ago to reflect—to a T—the Labor Party's election policy: that we support the termination of the carbon tax, but only on the condition that it is replaced by a meaningful climate change policy: an emissions trading scheme.

The member for Sturt might agree that Direct Action is a meaningful climate change response, but, along with the Prime Minister and the Minister for the Environment, you are about the only three people in Australia who share that view. For 4½ years that policy has been in the marketplace, and in that time not one single expert or commentator has come out and said that Direct Action is a serious climate change policy. Not one has said that it will achieve its stated objectives. Not one has said that it is anything close to worth the billions and billions of taxpayer dollars that this government intends to dole out—on behalf of people in the gallery, people listening around Australia—to people who pollute for a living to change the way they operate and to make changes that they were probably intending to make anyway.

The problem, at the end of the day, is that this Prime Minister and this government are stuck in the past. They concocted the Direct Action policy at a particular time in history, when this Prime Minister took the temptation dangled before him by Senator Minchin to take the leadership of the party provided that he turn his back on the election commitments he made as a candidate in the seat of Warringah at the 2007 election to support an emissions trading scheme put forward by John Howard. That was an ETS that had a wider scope than the ETS that I am proposing today in our amendments. The member for Warringah turned his back on that commitment, broke the promise he made to the people of Warringah, took the temptation dangled before him by Senator Minchin to become leader of this party. At least the Treasurer had the moral fortitude to resist that temptation, to stick by his principles and say that he would not take the leadership. He knew that a market-based mechanism is the best policy response to climate change. No-one has got up and denied that speculation. Not one person has done that.

The rest of the world has moved on. The Prime Minister might be stuck in 2009, in the aftermath of the Copenhagen conference, but the rest of the world has moved on. The United States has moved on. China has moved on. South Korea is moving to put in place an emissions trading scheme in only a matter of months. China started its seventh emissions trading scheme only a few weeks ago. The older schemes in that country are trading at a higher price than those on which the Labor emissions trading scheme would trade, according to Treasury advice. These bills shall only be accepted if Labor's emissions trading scheme amendment is also accepted by this House.


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