House debates

Tuesday, 11 October 2011


Carbon Pricing

2:51 pm

Photo of Tony AbbottTony Abbott (Warringah, Liberal Party, Leader of the Opposition) Share this | | Hansard source

I move:

That so much of the standing and sessional orders be suspended as would prevent the Member for Warringah moving immediately:

That this House calls on the Prime Minister to explain to the Australian people the following:

(1) why this is the right time to introduce the world’s largest carbon tax despite growing economic uncertainty; and

(2) why it is right for the Prime Minister to break her solemn pledge that “there will be no carbon tax under a government I lead” by bringing in this tax without the consent of the people.

Standing orders must be suspended because that is the only way to make the Prime Minister face up to the folly and the deception of her carbon tax. The only way we can make this Prime Minister front the Australian people and the Australian parliament is by suspending standing orders, and, still, this Prime Minister scurries out of this chamber. That is disgraceful behaviour by this Prime Minister—a Prime Minister who refuses to answer questions in this parliament and now refuses to face up to a suspension motion in this parliament. No previous Prime Minister would behave in such a graceless and unparliamentary way.

Let me say this: there is never a good time to introduce a bad tax but this is the worst possible time. Confidence in our own country is at a rock-bottom record low. Unemployment is edging up. The euro is under great pressure and countries in Europe face the risk of sovereign debt default. There is the threat of a worldwide recession. And what is the response from this government? To clobber the Australian economy with a carbon tax. The forgotten families of Australia are doing it tougher and tougher. Cost-of-living pressures have almost never been worse. Power prices are up 51 per cent since December 2007; water is up 46 per cent since December 2007; gas is up 30 per cent; health costs are up 20 per cent; education costs are up 24 per cent; rent is up 21 per cent; fruit and veggies are up 35 per cent since December 2007; and the average mortgage holder is paying $500 a month more now than 18 months ago. And what is the response from the government? They want to make a bad situation worse by clobbering the Australian people with the world's biggest carbon tax.

It just goes up and up and up. That is why we need standing orders suspended: to make the Prime Minister face up to what she is doing to the Australian people. It is $23 a tonne next year, $29 a tonne in 2020 and $131 a tonne, on the government's own figures, in 2050. If you look at the government's own figures, the gross national income per head of Australians will be $5,000 a year less under a carbon tax than it would be without a carbon tax. That is $5,000 in lost income for every Australian—$5,000 out of every Australian's pocket because of this government and the act of economic self-harm which is constituted by its carbon tax.

We hear the Prime Minister talk about compensation. Even on the government's own figures some three million Australian households will be worse off under this carbon tax. We all know what the government would be like: the compensation would be temporary, but the tax would be permanent. We know that the government are absolutely addicted to spending and taxing and borrowing. In 2050, our gross domestic product will be $100 billion a year less with a carbon tax than it would be without a carbon tax. Between now and 2050, our economy will be $1 trillion worse off—that is $1 trillion in wealth that our economy will not have between now and 2050 because of the Labor government and their carbon tax. Every single Australian will lose $40,000 between now and 2050 because of this government's carbon tax. It is as if every single one of us were asked to work for a whole year for nothing. That is the wealth destruction inherent in the government's carbon tax. And for what? They say they are reducing emissions by five per cent by 2020. Wrong. That is not what their carbon tax is doing. Their carbon tax is raising emissions by eight per cent, from 578 million tonnes now to 621 million tonnes, and that is on their own figures. They only reduced emissions by 160 million tonnes by shovelling $3½ billion dollars abroad by buying more than 100 million tonnes of carbon credits from the foreign carbon traders.

That minister sitting on the front bench, the Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, should have the honesty to own up. He should have the honesty to own up to the fact that we are not reducing our emissions by 80 per cent by 2050. On his own figures we are reducing our emissions by six per cent, from 578 million tonnes to 445 million tonnes. We only achieve the reduction in emissions by shovelling $57 billion, or 1½ per cent of Australia's GDP, to the foreign carbon traders. That is the greatest transfer of wealth overseas in this country's history.

This is a bad tax based on a lie. Does anyone in this House remember the Prime Minister standing up in this chamber just a few years ago and proudly boasting, 'The Labor Party is the party of truth-telling'? Do they remember our Prime Minister saying that? Does anyone remember the Prime Minister saying in the campaign of last year, 'What I say in this campaign is what I will do'? Well, she said it. I will tell you what else she said. She said, 'There will be no carbon tax under the government I lead.' That is what she said. That is the phrase that will haunt this Prime Minister and this government to its political death. That is the phrase that the Prime Minister just cannot face. Like Dracula and the clove of garlic, that is the phrase that this Prime Minister simply cannot face up to.

It was very interesting: I was reading the Sydney Morning Herald this morning and came across one man of honour. This is why standing orders should be suspended: so that the one man of honour opposite can listen to his Prime Minister demonstrate that she is not a person of honour. He said:

I will not be breaking faith with the people of Moreton. I did it in 2010 and I've been constantly reminded by my voters that I did that.

The member for Moreton went on:

People need to grow a bit of backbone and give the Australian people a chance to embrace and understand our policies.

The Australian people well understood the policies that this Prime Minister took to the election: 'There will be no carbon tax under any government I lead.' I tell you who should grow a bit of backbone—it is this Prime Minister. She should grow a bit of backbone and stand up to Bob Brown and the Greens, who are running this government's agenda. I say to members opposite and in particular to the member for Moreton: why is he prepared to keep faith with the Australian people in a way that benefits the Prime Minister and saves her job and not keep faith with the electorate in a way that benefits them and saves their jobs by voting against this toxic carbon tax that will be so bad for the people of Moreton? I say to members opposite: you have got about 18 hours left to stand up for your electorates, to stand up for the coalmines and the coalminers of this country, to stand up for the steel mills and the steelworkers of this country, and to stand up for the manufacturing workers of this country and say no to this toxic tax. And if you think it makes sense, have the guts to have an election. If it really makes sense, have an election and have it now. (Time expired)

Photo of Harry JenkinsHarry Jenkins (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

Is the motion seconded?

3:01 pm

Photo of Ms Julie BishopMs Julie Bishop (Curtin, Liberal Party, Deputy Leader of the Opposition) Share this | | Hansard source

I second the motion. It is vital that standing orders are suspended to give the Prime Minister the opportunity to come back into this House to explain to the Australian people why she believes her job security is more important than the job security of millions of workers across Australia. This suspension is necessary because the Prime Minister twists and turns every day and every question time and refuses to provide the Australian people with the answers to their concerns about this carbon tax. This suspension is necessary because the Prime Minister arrogantly dismisses concerns about the job security of others because she is so selfishly focused on her own job security.

Who could blame the Minister for Foreign Affairs for wanting to get his old job back? After all, it was this Prime Minister who convinced him to drop his carbon price scheme, and then she used it against him to take his job from him, and revenge is a powerful motivator. Yes, revenge is a very powerful motivator. But this Prime Minister is running from accountability. She is refusing to acknowledge the concerns about the impact of the carbon tax and the dishonest way in which it is being foisted upon the Australian people.

Last week I visited a furniture manufacturer in Cowra in the electorate of Hume with the member for Hume. The story that I was told is being repeated in thousands and thousands of businesses across Australia. That is why this suspension is necessary. This business was established 30 years ago. Its success is based on the efforts and energy and commitment of a local family, taking a risk, building a business and creating jobs and opportunities for local people. It is currently employing 130 people and using Australian plantation timber to make furniture. The owner spoke so passionately about his commitment to quality and innovation and efficiency and how that has allowed him to compete successfully against imports from China. He told me about his constant drive for greater efficiency and waste reduction, and his investment in capital which has enabled him to reduce the carbon footprint in his business by more than 30 per cent in the last couple of years.

This business has calculated what the future cost of electricity will be under this carbon tax. He has done the sums with his accountant and this proud small business manufacturer believes that the increases in costs because of this carbon tax will destroy his business, possibly within a couple of years of its introduction. He is not so concerned about his own welfare because he will just retire, but he is concerned about the welfare of the 130 employees who, he said, will struggle to find alternative work. He is particularly angry that competitors in China will not be impacted by an economy-wide carbon tax. His business will receive no compensation under this government's carbon tax legislation and this government gives him no recognition at all of his efforts to voluntarily reduce emissions from his business.

It is vital that standing orders are suspended to give the Prime Minister time to explain to this small business and the thousands and thousands like it across the country why manufacturers in this country should pay a carbon tax when competitors overseas will not. This Prime Minister should explain to the 130 employees of this Cowra business and their families why their jobs are threatened in order to save the Prime Minister's job. It is vital that standing orders are suspended so the Prime Minister can explain why a carbon tax is being imposed at a time when economic storm clouds continue to gather in Europe, there is great uncertainty about the global economy and talk about a recession, and consumer and business confidence remain fragile in this country. The Prime Minister must explain why she intends to further damage confidence by her insistence on a carbon tax. The latest Roy Morgan poll of consumer confidence shows that it continues to fall; it is significantly lower than it was 12 months ago.

This suspension is not only vital to give the Prime Minister an opportunity to explain why she broke her promise to the Australian people, it is an opportunity for every member of the Labor Party to consider their position. The member for Moreton said he will quit if the Prime Minister is successfully challenged for the leadership. He said:

This is not about loyalty to Julia Gillard or Kevin Rudd, it's about loyalty to the people of Moreton … This is about keeping faith with the people who put me in office.

I say to the member for Moreton and I say to the members opposite: to keep faith with their electorates they must honour the election promise the Prime Minister took to the last election when she uttered those infamous words, 'There will be no carbon tax under any government I lead.' If the Labor members want to keep faith with the Australian people, they must hold her to that promise—no carbon tax. (Time expired)

3:06 pm

Photo of Anthony AlbaneseAnthony Albanese (Grayndler, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the House) Share this | | Hansard source

If you want to know why this suspension is being moved you do not have to look at the clean energy bills; you do not have to look at what legislation is before the parliament; you have to look at the TV guide, because the TV guide shows that on ABC TV today at 3 pm Playschool is beginning.

3:07 pm

Photo of Christopher PyneChristopher Pyne (Sturt, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Education, Apprenticeships and Training) Share this | | Hansard source

Given that the Prime Minister has failed to front this very important suspension motion, I move:

That the member be no longer heard.

Question put.

The House divided. [15:11]

(The Speaker—Mr Harry Jenkins)

Question negatived.

3:16 pm

Photo of Anthony AlbaneseAnthony Albanese (Grayndler, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the House) Share this | | Hansard source

It is extraordinary that those opposite move a motion of suspension to allow a debate and then gag the debate. It says everything about their negativity and what they are about—on a day that we have clean energy legislation—because we could get on with the business of the House that might allow the member for Wentworth to speak. We have had 120 speakers, but he has not spoken because he agrees with us. (Time expired)

Question put:

That the motion (Mr Abbott's) be agreed to.

The House divided. [15.21]

(The Speaker—Mr Harry Jenkins)

Question negatived.

Photo of Julia GillardJulia Gillard (Lalor, Australian Labor Party, Prime Minister) Share this | | Hansard source

Mr Speaker, in the absence of any questions on the nation's interest from the opposition, I ask that further questions be placed on the Notice Paper.