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
I am pleased to rise in support of the carbon tax repeal legislation, because the repeal of the carbon tax is a core commitment that we made to the people of my electorate of Robertson in the lead-up to the last election. Day after day, month after month and for more than a year prior to September 2013 I spoke with tens of thousands of people in my electorate who told me emphatically that they did not want a carbon tax. We had signatures from thousands of people who were prepared to put their name to a petition to see this toxic tax axed. I met with people in their homes in Green Point, Point Frederick, East Gosford, Kariong and Point Clare; in cafes at Erina, Woy Woy, Gosford and Terrigal; on street corners at Umina, Avoca Beach and Kincumber; and in people's local businesses right across the coast. The overwhelming response from people on the Central Coast was that they did not want a carbon tax—a carbon tax that before the 2010 election we were told would not be implemented. But after the election, all of a sudden, it was. The people on the Central Coast told me that the overwhelming reason for their determination to see the carbon tax scrapped was the impact on their cost of living, especially their electricity and gas bills, and the impact on jobs. The cost of living and the need for more local jobs in my electorate are two important concerns and today I am proud to stand in this chamber and say to the people of my electorate that through these bills the coalition government will lower your bills.
I will never forget the stories of some of the householders I spoke with following the implementation of this toxic tax. A nurse I spoke with at Woy Woy was concerned about the wellbeing of her 80-something-year-old mother, who was refusing to turn on the heater at night in the middle of winter because she could not afford the electricity bills. There was the retired gentleman I doorknocked in Umina who spoke of his concern that, should the cost of electricity continue to rise, he would be forced to consider selling his home just to pay his bills. Pensioners are crying out for the carbon tax to be scrapped, and I am pleased to note that age pensioners will significantly benefit from the carbon tax being scrapped—they will keep the Clean Energy Supplement and, furthermore, the pension will continue to increase twice a year as it always has.
I will always remember the story of a local business on the peninsula who told me they were forced to choose between paying the carbon tax on their electricity bill or letting go one of their part-time or casual workers. Such is the impact of this tax. That is why we are committed to abolishing the carbon tax and why we will not stop until that is done—this government takes its election commitments seriously. Our commitments reflect what the Australian people voted for—what people on the Central Coast voted for—and our absolute awareness of this $550 a year hit on households. It is not just a hit on households; it is also a massive hit on local businesses. Central Coast New South Wales Business Chamber Regional Manager Daniel Farmer told me that the carbon tax simply is not fair. He said that small business is the backbone of the Central Coast's economy, and it is not fair for them to have to pay increased costs for services such as electricity, distribution and resources. I have heard Daniel describe the carbon tax several times as a slap in the face and yet another surcharge that small businesses are forced to pay. The President of the Peninsula Chamber of Commerce, Matthew Wales, told me that his chamber has always endorsed abolishing the carbon tax because it has a direct impact on electricity prices which in turn affect small businesses and their competitiveness in the market place. This is particularly important on the peninsula, where a majority of businesses are small and medium enterprises.
The owner of Starship Cruises, based in Gosford, Alan Draper said his maintenance costs are soaring because the cost of producing parts and even the cost of servicing has gone up, thanks to the impact of higher electricity costs for businesses and manufacturing industry since the implementation of the carbon tax. Another local business owner, Beau Woodley, who owns Central Coast Plastering Service, has described the increase in cost to buy the materials he needs as 'dramatic'. Mr Woodley already has significant running costs, and the carbon tax has become a burden. In his words, he will rest easier at night once the carbon tax has gone. The owner of a business in West Gosford, Packaging Plus, Greg Howell, told me that electricity bills have significantly increased since the introduction of the carbon tax. It is now more expensive to run his business and he too wants this toxic tax gone. The impact of the carbon tax is also being felt by local real estate agents. Kerrie Ryan, the owner of Ray White at Killcare is apprehensive about future annual increases in the carbon tax and how this will affect bills—that is, unless we scrap the tax. This is why I am so pleased to support the carbon tax repeal legislation now before the House.
Labor's carbon tax has already caused $15.4 billion worth of damage to the Australian economy in its first two years of operation. And, as Kerrie Ryan from Ray White Killcare feared, from this month the carbon tax is expected to rise by more than five per cent from $24.15 to $25.40 per tonne. This hike will put even more pressure on families and businesses. The carbon tax means higher electricity prices, more jobs at risk and damage to Australia's international competitiveness. What is worse is that members on the opposite side know this. Even though they know this, the former Member for Robertson—now a Labor senator in the other place—has voted to keep the carbon tax, despite all the evidence to the contrary that the people of the Central Coast want it scrapped. Labor has another chance to support for repeal of the carbon tax and vote in favour of lower electricity prices for Australian families. Today I call on Labor to stop standing in the way of much needed relief for families on the Central Coast.
Treasury modelling has shown that the removal of the carbon tax in 2014-15 will reduce average costs for households by around $550 a year. It is estimated that retail electricity should be around nine per cent lower and retail gas prices around seven per cent lower. On this basis, a household's average electricity bills will be around $200 lower than they otherwise would be and average gas bills will be around $70 lower. The termination of the carbon tax will reduce the consumer price index by around 0.7 percentage points. And business compliance costs are expected to fall by around $87.6 million per annum as a consequence of repealing the carbon tax.
The question people have been asking me over the past few months, and particularly over the last couple of weeks, when I am out and about buying a coffee in Gosford, or speaking with small businesses in Umina, or greeting commuters at Woy Woy station, or having a cup of tea or coffee with local residents at one of the regular community morning teas that we hold across my electorate—in Copacobana, Tascott, Terrigal or Ettalong—is always the same: 'Why won't Labor get out of the way?' The carbon tax just does not do what Labor and the Greens claimed it would do. In its first year, the carbon tax raised $7.6 billion but emissions were almost unchanged. Looking ahead, domestic emissions are projected not to fall, as those on the other side of the House claim as the reason they are clinging to this toxic tax, but in actual fact to rise to rise under the carbon tax—from 560 million tonnes in 2010 to 621 million tonnes in 2020.
This is a tax that impacts on the lowest income earners in our society, but it does not do the job it was supposed to do. The coalition government has a plan and is firmly committed to reducing Australia's emissions. We are determined to meet our target of being at five per cent below 2000 levels by 2020. To achieve this, our Direct Action program will see us plant more trees, capture more carbon in soils and clean up power stations. We are proposing to invest some $2.5 billion in practical measures to help the environment and not to harm our economy in the process.
I have been out on the ground in places like Copacabana, Macmasters Beach and Erina Creek, working with local community groups to help clean up our environment. Some of these areas may benefit under the coalition's Green Army program. The Green Army will be Australia's largest-ever team supporting environmental action across the country, building to 15,000 young Australians by 2018. I do not support the carbon tax because it has done nothing to help our environment, but it has done a lot to hurt our economy. It has resulted in a tax that reaches deep into the pockets of families on the Central Coast and takes out $550 a year. It is a direct hit on local businesses and it is a hit on local jobs and local job opportunities on the Central Coast.
When the carbon tax is scrapped, the price for groceries, for household items and for services should also fall because the price of power is embedded in every price in our economy. When the price of power comes down, the ACCC will be ready to ensure that these price cuts are passed on. I support the carbon tax repeal legislation because people in my electorate of Robertson are demanding that we scrap the carbon tax. These amendments, and I understand they have been circulated, will ensure there is no doubt as to what they cover—gas, electricity and synthetic greenhouse gas bulk importers. In addition to the $1.1 million penalty in the original bills, some complementary amendments will be included. As the Minister for the Environment outlined in the House earlier in this debate, the amendments are designed to ensure large suppliers of regulated goods, electricity, natural gas and synthetic greenhouse gases must pass on all cost savings. They will impose a penalty on electricity and natural gas suppliers equal to 250 per cent of any cost savings they do not pass on. They require electricity and natural gas retailers and bulk importers of synthetic greenhouse gases to inform the ACCC and customers about how they are passing on cost savings. Businesses should be able to explain to customers how changes in their costs are flowing through to changes in their prices. The government is aware that major electricity and gas retailers are already committed to providing this information to households and businesses on bills, inserts and websites.
In conclusion, I restate that this government is determined to repeal the carbon tax. Every day the carbon tax stays in place costs Australians $11 million on their power bills. We are voting to scrap the carbon tax because that is the best way to take pressure off families, particularly families on the Central Coast, as well as help the economy. I commend these bills to the House.