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; Consideration in Detail
I will make some remarks about the government's amendments, which we have only been able to look at in the last hour or two. As I think was mentioned earlier in the debate, there has obviously been a deal of discussion about this over the past three or four days, since the debacle in the Senate last week. We are now a little bit clearer on quite how wide the scope of the guarantee of any price reductions that would flow from these repeal bills passing would be for Australian households—it is quite clear that it is a pretty narrow scope—and also on what the range of businesses would be who would be involved in the quite significant compliance obligations that are included in this deal that the government has now done with the Palmer United Party.
What is clear looking at these amendments is that the legal obligations apply to a very limited number of businesses in the electricity, the gas and the SGG industries. That is fine, so far as it goes, and the opposition can indicate that we will be supporting these amendments. But let us be crystal clear about this: these amendments do not in any way come close to matching up to the claims made and the commitments given by the now Prime Minister when he was the Leader of the Opposition about what the impact of a carbon price mechanism would be, or was, in the grocery sector, in the airline sector, in the housing construction sector, in the farm sector and many others beside. They do not come close to matching those claims and they certainly do not do anything to deliver the commitment that the Prime Minister made in all of those sectors that what apparently went up—not that we accept that they did go up—would come down and that here would be enforcement mechanisms put in place to ensure that those prices came down.
We had a discussion about this in question time. Deputy Speaker Vasta, you would remember that the Prime Minister, when he was Leader of the Opposition, claimed that the carbon price mechanism would result in grocery bills going up by $10 per week—a claim not echoed or reflected in any other advice or modelling able to be found, but a claim made very clearly by that then Leader of the Opposition, along with a guarantee that these repeal bills would deliver a commensurate reduction in grocery bills. There is nothing in the amendments that in any way obliges Woolworths, Coles or any other retailer to deliver any price reduction whatsoever. There is nothing in the amendments that obliges an airline to deliver any price reduction, that obliges the housing industry to deliver the $6,000 reduction in new house prices that the Prime Minister again committed to in question time today. So we will support the amendments, but it must be clearly stated that the amendments do not reflect the hyperbole, the overreach, the hysterical claims and commitments made by this Prime Minister when he was the Leader of the Opposition.
Given that this is the third time these bills have come through this House, I have had many an occasion to talk about Labor's ETS amendment. Every time we have occasion to debate this, the case for an emissions trading scheme becomes stronger because increasingly around the world this is being recognised as the best policy response to the challenge of climate change that exists. The combination of rigour around carbon pollution in the form of a legal cap that is calibrated to our international commitments around reducing carbon pollution along with a market mechanism—not a series of decisions made in the minister's office or the Prime Minister's office, but a true market mechanism where business works out the cheapest and most effective way to operate within this cap—is not only the mechanism that has been put in place for some years now in our oldest trading partners, like the United Kingdom, France, Germany and many parts of North America, such as California, many states in the north-east of the United States and Canadian provinces. We are also seeing it in our own region, most importantly in China, our largest trading partner. South Korea, our third-largest export partner, will be commencing a very significant national emissions trading scheme in only a matter of five or six months.
This is the policy we took to the election. It is the right policy for Australia. It is pretty clear that it will not be carried by the parliament today, but the Labor Party is very clear: this is the type of response Australia will eventually come to—maybe not under this Prime Minister but under a more far-sighted one than we have today.