House debates

Monday, 18 November 2013


Clean Energy Legislation (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2013, Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas (Import Levy) Amendment (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2013, Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas (Import Levy) (Transitional Provisions) Bill 2013, Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas (Manufacture Levy) Amendment (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2013, True-up Shortfall Levy (General) (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2013, True-up Shortfall Levy (Excise) (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2013, Climate Change Authority (Abolition) Bill 2013, Customs Tariff Amendment (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2013, Excise Tariff Amendment (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2013, Clean Energy (Income Tax Rates and Other Amendments) Bill 2013, Clean Energy Finance Corporation (Abolition) Bill 2013; Second Reading

4:58 pm

Photo of Andrew LeighAndrew Leigh (Fraser, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Treasurer) Share this | | Hansard source

May I at the outset acknowledge a great first speech by the member for Bendigo and recognise the presence of her mother, Jenny Chesters, in the gallery: a terrific inequality scholar with whom I have had the privilege to work.

My earlier speech on this topic was interrupted at the point when I had quoted the words of the then Leader of the Opposition in support of an emissions trading scheme, followed by jeers from the other side of the House. How things have changed since 2009! It was not just the then Leader of the Opposition who was then in favour of an emissions-trading scheme. That is just starting with A.

The member for Dunkley, Bruce Billson, said in this place on 29 October 2009:

It was actually the coalition that instigated work on the emissions trading scheme … in a report that I helped author back in 1998 which talks about regulatory arrangements for trading in greenhouse gas emissions in 1998 … The coalition's commitment to an ETS is demonstrable.

The member for Curtin, Julie Bishop, said:

The Liberal Party has a policy of both protecting the planet and protecting Australia. We support, in principle, an Emissions Trading Scheme.

That was in her electorate newsletter in September 2008.

The member for Mayo, Jamie Briggs, said in this place:

I believe an emissions trading scheme is one of the policy levers that can be used to change the energy mix in Australia.

The member for Moncrieff, Steven Ciobo, said:

We want to work constructively because we recognise that in the future around the world in most developed economies if not all there will be an ETS of some sort.

That is on Sky on 21 July 2009.

The member for Bradfield, Paul Fletcher, said:

When it comes to economic issues, my instinct is for open markets, free competition.

He said that in this place on 9 February 2010. On ABC News on 1 December 2009 he said:

I am supportive of the position that the parliamentary party has taken on the ETS and that remains my position.

The member for Brisbane, Teresa Gambaro, said on 20 September 2007:

We are also developing a world-class national emissions trading system to further drive investment in low emission technologies.

The member for Cowper, Luke Hartsuyker, said:

As members would be aware, the coalition has a strong record in relation to an ETS. Indeed, the National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting Act, which was put in place last year—

that being 2007—

provided the platform for the introduction of an ETS.

That was said in this place on 27 August 2008.

The member for North Sydney, Joe Hockey, told Q&A on 19 February 2009:

Our very strong view is, we were the initiators of an emissions trading scheme, and we believe in a market-based approach.

One can only imagine whether perhaps that view would had prevailed in the opposition party room if only Twitter had spoken to the member for North Sydney with a stronger voice.

The member for Flinders, Greg Hunt, claimed very strongly an emissions trading scheme for the coalition, saying:

Perhaps the most important domestic policy was the decision of the Howard government that Australia will implement a national carbon trading system. … We hope that the new government will take up this proposal.

That was the member for Flinders on 28 April 2008. Of course, the member for Flinders had a long record of arguing this case. His own University of Melbourne law thesis, 'A tax to make the polluter pay', argued:

The market is the preferable regime as it better ensures that the polluter bears full responsibility for the costs of his or her conduct.

The member for Flinders has also referred to his lifelong commitment. He said his lifelong commitment was 'to use economic instruments to do that'.

The member for Swan, Steve Irons, said:

I understand the need for action to cut the world's carbon pollution … That is why the coalition supports, in principle, an ETS as part of a three pillars approach to climate change.

That is in this place on 4 September 2009.

The member for Bowman, Andrew Laming, said in this place on 29 October 2010:

I will be working as hard as I can to have it—

the CPRS Bill No. 2—

passed. I will be working with colleagues of mine in both chambers to see that it is passed.

The member for Farrer, Susan Ley, said in this place on 29 October 2009:

We went to the last election with an ETS policy—many have forgotten that fact.

I have not, Mr Deputy Speaker.

The coalition had a well-designed policy in 2007.

I agree with that.

The member for Groom, Ian Macfarlane, said on ABC on 29 September 2009:

We did take that policy to the last election and it was clearly enunciated as an emissions trading scheme that would be introduced perhaps in 2011 but most likely 2012.

The member for Cook, Scott Morrison, speaking in this place on 3 June 2009—back in the days when he spoke on days other than Friday—said:

There are a suite of tools we need to embrace to reduce emissions. I believe an emissions trading scheme, in one form or another, is one of those tools. Placing a price on carbon, as the Leader of the Opposition has said, is inevitable.

The member for Higgins, Kelly O'Dwyer, was quoted in the Stonnington Leader on 1 December 2009:

Ms O'Dwyer said she supported an emissions trading scheme and would 'support the party's policy' and that 'Malcolm Turnbull as leader has got my full support'.

The member for Sturt, Christopher Pyne, told Sky Sunday Agenda on 27 June 2009:

Let's not forget it was the opposition that first proposed an emissions trading scheme when we were in government. The idea that somehow the Liberal Party is opposed to an emissions trading scheme is quite frankly ludicrous.

I do not know how anyone could have gotten that idea. I do agree, though, with the member for Sturt that it is a ludicrous notion to oppose an emissions trading scheme.

The member for Canning, Don Randall, said in his electorate newsletter in September 2007:

In moving towards the world's most comprehensive domestic emissions trading scheme by 2012 … the Howard Government is committed to setting sensible long-term targets that will not impact on Australia's economy, jobs and families.

The CPI would agree with him, Mr Deputy Speaker.

The member for Goldstein, Andrew Robb, said:

We are very supportive of a price on carbon. We introduced the scheme to do that. … We are serious about good policy in this area. We are serious about a price on carbon.

This was ABC News on 27 July 2009.

The member for Fadden, Stuart Robert, said on Doors on 26 May 2009:

We went to the last election with an Emissions Trading Scheme.

The member for Casey, Tony Smith, said:

… I take my cue from the science and that is to give the planet the benefit of the doubt, and that's why we've always said that an emissions trading scheme is useful …

That is an interview with Helen McCabe on 16 November 2009.

The member for Boothby, Andrew Southcott, said on Doors on 19 October 2009:

I think that an emissions trading scheme is an important contribution.

The member for Murray, Sharman Stone, said in a media release on 20 June 2007:

Sharman Stone welcomed initiatives announced by the Prime Minister including … a 'cap and trade' emissions trading scheme that would help Australia substantially lower domestic greenhouse gas emissions at the lowest cost.

And how right that is, Mr Deputy Speaker.

The member for Aston, Alan Tudge, writing an op ed in the Australian on 13 February 2007, said:

Government's role should be to create the market environment that will lead to the outcomes sought either through putting a price on CO2 or placing a cap on how much CO2 will be emitted and then allowing companies to trade CO2 entitlements … The decisions should be left to the market.

No recitation of past coalition statements on ETSs would be complete without the member for Wentworth, Malcolm Turnbull, who says succinctly:

You won’t find an economist anywhere that will tell you anything other than that the most efficient and effective way to cut emissions is by putting a price on carbon.

That is from Q&A on 5 July 2010. Experts agree with the member for Wentworth. A survey of 35 leading economists conducted by Matt Wade and Gareth Hutchens of the Fairfax papers and published on 28 October 2013 found that 86 per cent favoured carbon pricing. Justin Wolfers, a professor at the University of Michigan, said that direct action would involve more economic disruption but would have a lesser environmental pay-off. BT Financial's Chris Caton said any economist who did not opt for an emissions trading scheme 'should hand his degree back'.

The respected former Treasury secretary Ken Henry has described the government's direct action con as 'bizarre'. A report by RepuTex on the government's direct action scheme has forecast that its costs could be triple the cost of an emissions trading scheme. The OECD's recent report found that carbon taxes and emissions trading schemes are the cheapest way of reducing carbon pollution. Indeed, things have gotten so bad between the minister and his department that the environment department has refused a freedom of information request, according to reports in yesterday's papers, for the incoming government brief on the grounds that it would have 'a substantial adverse effect on the department's working relationship with the incoming minister'. That is what happens when departments deliver frank and fearless advice.

What troubles me most about the coalition's position on this issue is that it is so at odds with the experts. Scientists are telling us that the world is warming and that humans are causing it. We have seen that very impact here, in Canberra. A report by Clem Davis and Janette Lindesay titled Weather and climate of the ACT 2007-11 and decadal trends points to an increase in extreme weather events, an overall decline in annual rainfall since the early 1990s, below average rainfall in the ACT for seven of the last 10 years and increased temperatures at Canberra Airport.

Putting a price on carbon pollution is favoured by all serious economists, me included, because it taps the ingenuity of businesses. I am surprised when those opposite in their speeches speak about their pride in free enterprise. I too am impressed by the ingenuity and innovation that we see in businesses around Australia. It is that very innovation which is tapped by a carbon pricing mechanism. It is such a dour view of Australian business ingenuity to think that Australian businesses are not able to find low carbon ways of producing their outputs, that they are unable to look at the—

Photo of Russell BroadbentRussell Broadbent (McMillan, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Member for Fraser, I recognise the member for Kooyong.

Photo of Josh FrydenbergJosh Frydenberg (Kooyong, Liberal Party, Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister) Share this | | Hansard source

Thank you, Mr Acting Deputy Speaker.

Photo of Russell BroadbentRussell Broadbent (McMillan, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Is the honourable member seeking to ask a question or make a response?

Photo of Josh FrydenbergJosh Frydenberg (Kooyong, Liberal Party, Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister) Share this | | Hansard source

I seek to make an intervention under 66A of the standing orders.

Photo of Russell BroadbentRussell Broadbent (McMillan, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Does the member accept the intervention?

Photo of Andrew LeighAndrew Leigh (Fraser, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Treasurer) Share this | | Hansard source

Not with a minute to go on my time, Mr Deputy Speaker.

Photo of Josh FrydenbergJosh Frydenberg (Kooyong, Liberal Party, Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister) Share this | | Hansard source

You are running away from answering the question.

Photo of Andrew LeighAndrew Leigh (Fraser, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Treasurer) Share this | | Hansard source

I would be delighted to debate you on these issues at some point, Josh, but the key point here is that the Liberal Party is running away from markets. We now see in China city-based emissions trading schemes being extended across cities, covering millions of people. China will probably have its nationwide emissions trading system up and running by 2020, joining over 30 countries worldwide that are using emissions trading schemes as the best way of reducing carbon pollution. But while a nominally communist Chinese government is running towards a market approach, the nominally free market Liberal-National parties are running towards command and control—a system so interventionist that it would make Lenin blush.

The number of bureaucrats that will be required to administer direct action is far higher than the pricing scheme and the confidence in business expressed by such a scheme far lower than the scheme the nation has in place. (Time expired)

5:12 pm

Photo of Alex HawkeAlex Hawke (Mitchell, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to speak on the on the Clean Energy Legislation (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2013. If only the member for Fraser were talking about the carbon tax, we might have a reasonable, rational debate, because on 1 October 2013 he asserted that the carbon tax is the only type of market mechanism that can meet Australia's emissions reduction targets. That was his assertion in the Canberra Times. Of course, we know he is a true believer of the carbon tax. He has taken a poll of his electorate, of all of the bureaucrats that work in the climate change department, and they all say that we should have a carbon tax.

I have one thing to say to the member for Fraser, and that is that he ought to get out of Canberra more. He ought to go down to the streets of our major cities, to where the businesses and households are, and ask them how their electricity bills are going. He should say, 'What's happening?' He should find out what is happening outside of Canberra. Member for Fraser, you will find a place over the lake; if you keep going a few hundred kilometres, you will hit a place called Sydney, and that is where most of the economic ingenuity in this country comes from. That is where all of the small and medium businesses and households are that have to work hard to pay your carbon tax.

We know for a fact that no country in the world currently imposes an economy-wide carbon tax on greenhouse emissions—none. There are none that have a carbon price set, as it is today, at $25. This is the highest price in the world. With a trade exposed economy and a scheme that compensates large businesses, we saw the former government in a rush to compensate large businesses; but they did nothing for small businesses, nothing for medium businesses and nothing for those households in Sydney, New South Wales, who have had a 57 per cent increase in their power bills since 2010. I will say that again for the benefit of the member for Fraser: outside of Canberra, in a major city in our country, there has been a 57 per cent power increase in electricity bills for households since 2010. A segment of that increase is directly related to the carbon tax, which is designed to increase the price of electricity in order to punish producers, big businesses and what the former government referred to as 'polluters'. It is hypocritical for the member for Fraser to stand here and say, 'We respect the ingenuity of business in Australia today.' In opposition, they become great advocates of our business, but when they were in government they referred to them as the biggest, dirtiest polluters that had to be targeted with the world's most expensive carbon tax. That is what they did when they were in government. Of course, our medium and small businesses could fend for themselves. There was no compensation package for medium and small businesses. They had to suffer under the burden of increased electricity prices, refrigerant gases and all of the ongoing, flowing impacts of the carbon tax with no thought of their continued operation. The member for Fraser should be very keenly aware that his position of 100 per cent, die-in-a-ditch carbon tax—that he would not repeal the carbon tax under any circumstances—which comes into effect in July 2014. That is when the carbon tax is extended to the transport sector in Australia. If the member for Fraser thinks that, when we extend the carbon tax to the truck transport sector, the cost of every good and service in this country will not go up, he really does need to get out of Canberra more.

The government has the intention of repealing the carbon tax. It has been our clear position for the last three years since the former government brought it in without a mandate. They never had a mandate; they never sought a mandate; they never asked the Australian people whether they would approve of a carbon tax; and they put one in without their consent. Ever since that day, the electorate has been crystal clear about their dislike for that tactic—not seeking a mandate, not asking the Australian people first for something such as an economy wide carbon tax. So, we arrive three years later and we have just had another election, where the Australian people have voted emphatically for the removal of the carbon tax. Why have they voted for the removal of the carbon tax? Because they have accepted the proposition put forward by the former opposition and others that the former government had this completely wrong. This was not the way to reduce emissions by putting in the world's most expensive carbon tax, punishing our economy, risking our economic prosperity, punishing households and small to medium is businesses without any real environmental impact or regard for what would the emissions reduction be. They have clearly voted in such a clear way that it is really hypocritical for the Labor Party to say: 'We do not respect your mandate; you do not have a mandate to do what you have clearly been articulating for the last three years.'

The removal of the carbon tax, we know, will reduce and lower the cost of living on average across all households by $550, according to Treasury modelling—that is, households will be $550 better off. There are better ways of helping the environment. It was good to see the member for Fraser list all of the environmental credentials of the coalition. He was very methodical, speaking about our position. There are many and better ways of speaking to a better environment and of dealing with the problems of pollution and carbon emissions than taxing the economy. It is an odd view that the Australian taxation system is going to save the planet. It is an odd view that the Greens attack the Prime Minister every time there is a typhoon. It is an odd view that the Greens get up and say there is another bushfire and it is an example of why we should not repeal the carbon tax. If we already have a carbon tax and bushfires are more frequent, then I do not see any benefit from that tax and I do not think removing it will have any impact upon those individual fires or storms. Why then do the Greens and their bedfellows, the Labor Party, continue this line of argument? It is because they are guilty, in my view, of a fundamental mistake in Australian politics and in world politics today: this debate is not about the science; it is not about scientifically-based action or scientific responses. It has been confounded by politics. We understand what the Labor Party's agenda is—a left-wing ideological agenda to wrap up the instruments of our economy. They used some of the science which may be true—some of the things which are happening—to say that we need an economy-wide carbon tax, where you have to get permits to produce. It ignores the fact that small and medium businesses do not produce goods and services for fun; they do not pump out pollution for laughs. They do it because of demand for consumer goods and services.

To decontextualise big business by saying they are the big the polluters that need to be punished or by saying that individuals or households have no responsibility or that this is not a whole-of-society problem that needs a whole-of-society response is a political angle that the Labor Party and the Greens developed. They are bedfellows. That is why we had projects like the $10 billion Clean Energy Finance Corporation, a major white elephant of government, to fund projects that could not get financing out in the private sector—things that would never get a go, things like the collapse of HIH. HIH was insuring movies, movies that would never make a buck—D-grade movies that no-one would ever insure. All of that risk was taken on by HIH. This was the concept of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation: that it would take on all of the risks in renewables and projects that nobody else would fund and could not get finance anywhere else. What a great idea!

That is why we are moving to repeal this dog's breakfast of a piece of legislation that the Labor Party put in. It sought to save one section of our society, the most productive part—all of our industry and all of our businesses. Somehow they were evil polluters, and no one else has any responsibility for our environment. The truth is that this is a whole-of-society challenge. We accept that carbon emissions have to be reduced, and the member for Fraser eloquently listed all our comments in relation to that. It does require a whole-of-society response. This will not be solved by the Australian taxation system alone, particularly for one segment. We have seen from around the world a change in attitudes. We have seen that voting populations around the world have cottoned onto this climate alarmism that has come from politics, and not from science. It has not come out of the scientific community, but we have seen regularly and with increasing frequency, politicians from the Labor Party seize on parts of the science and then try to develop their own scientific understanding for political gain, rather than in a measured and competent way address the problems that are being raised by science. We have terms like 'denialists' used in this debate by members opposite. The Leader of the Opposition referred to 'unilateral disarmament': if we repeal the carbon tax it would be the same thing as unilateral disarmament. That was the phrase he used. I would defy him to knock on a door in my electorate and say, 'If we get rid of the carbon tax, we are unilaterally disarming against climate change in Australia.'

Photo of Josh FrydenbergJosh Frydenberg (Kooyong, Liberal Party, Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister) Share this | | Hansard source

It is a cold war mentality.

Photo of Alex HawkeAlex Hawke (Mitchell, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The parliamentary secretary to the Prime Minister is absolutely right: it is a cold war mentality in the Labor Party. If the Leader of the Opposition were game enough to walk into a household or small business in Western Sydney, they would articulate very clearly to the Leader of the Opposition that there are better and other ways of dealing with climate change that do not involve them paying higher power bills. This is considering the low number of emissions that Australia produces, in a global context, and the fact that we have seen even Japan revise down its targets this week. Japan acknowledges that with its nuclear switch-off it is now going to be responsible for three per cent increased emissions by 2020—they will not be dropping emissions, they will be increasing them.

The member for Kingsford Smith opposite, at the table, is saying 'Oh, well, nuclear power—we can't use the technological solutions available to the world today to reduce emissions. We have to cut ourselves off from the technological solutions, but we also have to somehow reduce emissions while increasing the size of our economy.' It does not stack up. But we have seen Japan acknowledge that. We have seen Canada say that they are changing their approach on this, in favour of more direct action on the environment.

That is what the government is saying. We have better ways of spending money, in a more direct fashion, and the Minister for the Environment will be putting together a full white-paper process on developing the best ways to reduce emissions. It will do this by directly targeting the worst of our polluters in Australia today and helping them do something about it, not by saying that everybody has to pay an increased rate of tax and then go around handing the money back out and not requiring any environmental fix, not requiring any change in those businesses that will produce any environmental benefit.

We sit here today, listening to member opposite, as I think the minister in question time eloquently said, in government-change denial. They are in denial of the fact that the coalition—the government—has a mandate to repeal the carbon tax. It is one of the clearest mandates that I can remember in following politics for 25 years. It is clear. It is unequivocal. It is directly from the voters from Australia. It is directly from all segments of Australia.

If you see a poll put up on the Sydney Morning Herald website, you sometimes see some pretty skewed results in favour of the left-of-centre of politics, but when it asked about climate change, 54 per cent of people said that ,yes, we have a mandate to remove the carbon tax. If you are getting 54 per cent polled on the Sydney Morning Herald website telling us we have a mandate to repeal the carbon tax, I think members opposite should look very closely at this, because the Australian voters have been clear and unequivocal. They have said: 'Yes, we want to get rid of this tax. We do not want to be paying the highest carbon tax in the world without any environmental benefit, and we do want to make sure that when the government designs schemes it does not add burdens to the prosperity of our society.'

Why is that important? It is because, if our economy grows at a slower rate, if our society is held back by the world's biggest tax in a trade exposed world, we will not have the level of prosperity we could attain. Without the level of prosperity we might attain, we will not have technological and other advancements that will enable better environmental outcomes. This is where the Labor Party fundamentally fails. A strong economy, a prosperous society, is the best way to obtain better environmental outcomes. The only way to produce a stronger economy and a more prosperous society is to let government let our businesses—our large businesses, our small businesses, our medium businesses, our families, households and individuals—develop the goods, services and products that we need, and to do so unrestricted from tax and regulatory burdens.

It is no accident that the further advanced a society gets, the better the environmental outcome. We need to go forward. That is where the member for Fraser, the Leader of the Opposition and the Labor Party are failing here in this debate today. They are looking backwards. They are looking at the past. They are saying: 'Well, why can't we have an ETS?' or 'Why couldn't we do that?', 'Why didn't we do that?' then 'Oh, this person said that three years ago'—or five years ago or eight years ago. Going forward, the Australian people have very clearly said to give us the strength to build a strong economy—and we will deliver better environmental outcomes.

We have seen attitudes in our community change. We have seen people listening to the science. We have seen people listening to the concerns of the scientific community saying that we need to do better as a society in the environment. Do not use your political ideology to highjack this debate, to turn it into something it is not, and above all, in a democratic society, respect the mandate of the Australian people—the clearest mandate that the Australian people have given any political party in the last 30 years. (Time expired)

5:27 pm

Photo of Matt ThistlethwaiteMatt Thistlethwaite (Kingsford Smith, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs) Share this | | Hansard source

Zoe Reynolds is an amateur photographer from Clovelly, in my electorate of Kingsford Smith. For years, Zoe has been capturing the many ocean pools around Sydney's east. Her images tell the story of the wonderful beauty of our coastline, but they are also studies in the changing nature of our oceans.

Through her work, Zoe has noticed that the incidence of inundation of our coastal rock pools is increasing. It used to be the case that a huge surf or a king tide was required to breach the concrete constraint and make those pools unswimmable. But that is changing. That is not the case any more. Now, it appears, a regular high tide or an average sized wave is enough to create a washing machine in the many pools along our coastline and make them unswimmable. Put simply, Zoe believes that the sea level is rising—and her photos prove it.

For some years now, climate scientists have been predicting that our sea levels will rise and they are certain that this is due to human induced global warming. The most recent scientific data, an update, again reinforces this forecast. The fifth report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, released this year, concluded: 'Warming of the climate system is unequivocal and sea level has risen.' That is the view of the experts. That is the view of the people who make it their life's ambition to study the changing nature of our climate. If we now know beyond doubt that Mother Nature is warning us to change our behaviour, we need to seriously consider the consequences of no action or, importantly, the wrong action to combat climate change, and ensure that we as a nation get it right.

That is why the Labor Party is taking the principle position that it is taking on this important issue. If we misjudge our policy approach in tackling climate change, we will all pay. But alarmingly—and most disturbingly—it will affect our children, more than any other. They will bear the unbridled economic and social brunt of a mistake on climate-change policy.

Australia is a nature of weather extremes, of droughts and flooding rains, as it has been famously put. Failure to tackle climate change and global warming will see a greater incidence of extreme weather events that we will all pay for. The rebuilding of infrastructure and private property is covered by all of us through our insurance premiums and through government expenditure when we experience extreme weather events. It appears, unfortunately, that extreme weather events in the north of Australia in the summer are becoming an annual event. Most insurance providers now understand the threat of climate change, have outlined the potential costs of the looming threat and have been vocal in supporting action on climate change policy. In many respects, we have already begun to pay for climate change through our premiums. The effects of floods in North Queensland flow through to all of us through our insurance premiums. Many local governments, particularly those on the coast, have accepted the advice of scientists and tailored their development control plans to account for a receding shoreline or a bulging river. Our farmers are beginning to notice the changes in life cycle patterns of certain pests and insects, with correlated effects on crops.

We all know we need to take some action to reduce carbon emissions. What we have not been able to agree on at this point is what form that action should take. The coalition intend to repeal the carbon tax. That is not disputed. It is supported by the Labor Party. The real question becomes—and what they must tell the Australian public is—what system do they intend to replace it with? I have mentioned already that we need to take action. What is the system that the new government intend to put in place to replace the carbon tax? The policy that the coalition took to the election was called direct action, a system of subsidies to companies, paid for by all of us through our taxes, because there is no cost-free way—despite what those opposite might say about the illusion of direct action—to reduce emissions in our economy. It is paid for by all of us through our taxes, through subsidies to install clean technology and, hopefully, reduce emissions. That is the important word here: 'hopefully'. There are no guarantees under the direct action system. Because there is no cap on emissions, there is no guarantee that Australia as a nation will meet our international commitments. There is no guarantee that Australia as a nation will be able to reduce the effects of climate change and not pass on that unbridled economic cost to the next generation of Australians.

If we are to have a real impact on carbon emissions, then all big polluting companies, not just a few, must have an incentive to reduce their carbon emissions. We must all change our behaviour. That is the only way we are going to get an effect on emissions. It is not fair for some to get the benefit of government support to reduce emissions and others not to. Subsidies or so-called direct action will only change the behaviour of those who receive the incentive. Only those who get the subsidy will have the incentive to reduce their behaviour. Those who do not receive the incentive will go on polluting. Those who do not receive the subsidy will go on polluting in the same manner as they have in the past. In fact, they gain a competitive advantage over those who have been provided with the incentive to reduce their emissions, because there is no disruption to their normal production methods. They do not have to go through the disruption of installing renewable energy technology or cleaner technology to reduce their emissions. So the bizarre irony of direct action is that those who receive the subsidy, who receive the payment, get the incentive to reduce their emissions, but those who do not, who continue to go on polluting, have no impact on their business. In fact, they gain an advantage. That is the great misunderstanding, the great irony, of this policy and why it will not work.

Although we all pay the cost of such a scheme through our taxes, only those who receive the subsidy will benefit. This is an unfair and inefficient system. More importantly, it will not work. It will ensure that our children have to clean up the mess that we leave them. The costs of dealing with climate change will become much more drastic, much larger, the longer we wait. This is something that is agreed upon internationally by all respected economists: the longer we wait to tackle climate change, the greater the cost will be. If we fail to take the right action, then we simply pass that cost on to our children. I have two children, and as a decision maker in this place I cannot for the life of me see how we as responsible adults can take such a decision.

An economy-wide cap-and-trade system for reducing carbon emissions will guarantee that we are able to reduce emissions in the cheapest and most efficient manner possible. That is because as a nation we can set a realistic cap. We can put a cap on carbon emissions and we can allow businesses to do what they do best, and to make their own decisions about how they reduce their pollution over time. That is the way market based economies work. We do not force companies to make decisions, as they do under command economies; we provide the right policy mechanisms and the levers for companies to make their own decisions, to reduce their emissions over time in the manner that they find the cheapest and most effective without harming their production of goods for market. This is a cheaper, more efficient and more effective option and it fits well with our market based economy. More importantly, it also represents our generation taking responsibility for the challenge we face rather than passing the cost and responsibility on to our children.

The Prime Minister's feelings on climate change were made clear a long time ago. 'Absolute crap' is the way that he described the science around the greatest moral challenge of this generation. Since that time, the rhetoric has softened somewhat. The advice was given that the Prime Minister should tone down his language if he wanted to win an election. But the coalition's attitude, under their leader, has retained the same level of disdain, and that is evident in the policy that they are putting forward to this parliament today. Their direct action policy is proof of this.

Since 1992 there have been no less than 37 parliamentary inquiries into the question of how we reduce emissions in our economy and the most efficient and effective way. Thirty-seven parliamentary inquiries and each and every one of them, including the Shergold review, which was commissioned by former Prime Minister John Howard, has recommended that a market based mechanism similar to an emissions trading scheme or a price on carbon is the most efficient and effective way to reduce emissions in our economy. What are we to do as a parliament? Ignore the advice of 37 separate parliamentary inquiries which have been advising this government and governments of the past that the cheapest and most effective way to reduce emissions is through a market based mechanism? That is exactly what this government is doing—ignoring the advice of the experts, ignoring the advice of 37 parliamentary inquiries, for cheap, cynical political means to win an election.

Instead, they have chosen to take an axe to some of our most important institutions charged with the task of leading the nation to cleaner future. They will cut funding to the Australian Renewable Energy Agency by $435 million and defer a further $370 million in investment. The Australian Conservation Foundation's campaigner Tony Moore said in the Sydney Morning Herald that the cuts:

… will starve research and development of clean energy in Australia, moving us back to the back of the global race for clean tech.

Investment in renewable energy will be diverted away from the Australian economy. It will go to other nations that are interested in seriously reducing and tackling climate change. So too will the jobs. The jobs in the new economy will move away from Australia, because the investment will not be there in clean energy anymore. This is in addition to the axing of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, the body entrusted with assisting business to commercialise clean energy projects in our economy. It paints a vivid picture of the coalition government's indifference to the task of tackling climate change.

Labor, on the other hand, much like the vast majority of economists, believes that an emissions trading scheme is the most cost-effective way deal with carbon pollution. That is because you can put a cap on emissions. We can guarantee as a nation that over time the policy will be effective—that we can reduce emissions in our economy. It is a market based mechanism, which means that we allow businesses to make their own decisions about how they reduce their emissions over time without harming their business. More importantly, it represents this generation of Australians taking responsibility for making decisions and implementing an effective policy to tackle climate change.

One of the great ironies of the direct action policy that has been put forward by the Liberal government is the fact that it is a subsidy scheme. Here we have the bastions of the market based economy, the Liberal Party, advocating a subsidy based scheme to reduce emissions in our economy. I find it highly ironic—

Photo of Josh FrydenbergJosh Frydenberg (Kooyong, Liberal Party, Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister) Share this | | Hansard source

We have a market system!

Photo of Matt ThistlethwaiteMatt Thistlethwaite (Kingsford Smith, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs) Share this | | Hansard source

I have no doubt touched a nerve here with the Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister. It is highly ironic that we are talking about getting rid of subsidies for the car industry, because many on that side see those subsidies as inefficient, as propping up industries that are no longer effective in our economy. So they are talking about getting rid of subsidies for the car industry but in the same breath they come into this place and then talk about providing subsidies to companies to reduce their carbon emissions within our economy. It is an unbelievable and bizarre irony in the policy approach of the government to this important issue. Anyone with any economic credibility knows that a market based mechanism is the only way that we are going to be able to reduce emissions in our economy.

I find the mandate argument even more amusing. In 2007 Kevin Rudd had a mandate to introduce an emissions trading scheme. At no stage did the Prime Minister accept that mandate. In fact, he went about destroying two Liberal Party leaders until he got his way and ensured that the Liberal Party never had and never supported an emissions trading scheme. He undid Brendan Nelson when he was the Leader of the Liberal Party and then he set about destroying Malcolm Turnbull when he was the Leader of the Liberal Party and never accepted the mandate that was given to Kevin Rudd on this important issue. The only thing that is certain under direct action is that jobs will fall and we will not meet our emissions targets.

5:42 pm

Photo of Andrew LamingAndrew Laming (Bowman, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The great tragedy of the carbon tax debate will be that schoolchildren a generation from now will learn not about the respective strategies of those on either side to these chambers; what they will learn about is the ham-fisted mishandling of the Labor Party from 2007 to 2013 of the carbon abatement reduction issue. What we have seen is constant flux and change from a party that is confused between the moral challenge of this generation and the practical reality of Australian families who are struggling with the ever-increasing cost of living.

We are almost alone globally as a nation that has effectively put huge amounts of political capital into this carbon tax debate. It is a debate with such ferocious intensity that visitors to these shores are somewhat surprised as to how we got here. It is worth looking back to 2007 and the aspiring Prime Minister, Mr Kevin Rudd, who attempted to make the carbon tax and emissions reduction an issue upon which he would set himself apart while at the same time attempting to be as similar to John Howard as he possibly could on virtually every other issue.

In 2007, of course, there was hope of some international agreement. It is disappointing that the member for Canberra devoted half of his speech to reading out quotes from coalition MPs from 2007, because politically it was a very different time. Indeed, there was then hope of some form of international agreement. There was hope that we could go Copenhagen and strike an agreement. There were MPs from both sides of this chamber who were willing to give that very prospect a chance.

What we have is a Labor Party that failed to come to grips with that reality, and when it fell apart at Copenhagen and we had then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd with the shiny apple of his own ETS in the front row of international agreements completely ignored by the major economies of the world, he came back, walked back over his moral minefield and backed out of the space completely. With that lack of confidence that was transmitted to the Australian people, he was soon replace as leader. Probably for that reason more than any other. Enter the then Prime Minister Julia Gillard , making whatever promise it took to win the 2010 election

By this time the low levels of scepticism, which in my electorate were around 13 to 16 per cent, had grown to nearly 40 per cent, primarily because such an important policy issue became a political football, exploited by the other side of this chamber.

We are in a more paralysed, more confused and more polarised position than any other country on the planet because of the handling of this former government. When Wayne Swan said it was a hysterical allegation, when the previous Prime Minister Julia Gillard said that there would be no carbon tax under a government that she led, Australians gave them one more chance, only to see it betrayed within weeks.

Let me make it fully clear. There was no need to embark on a carbon tax in order to gain a Greens agreement to govern. This was a Prime Minister that should have said: 'I need your support to govern, but I made a commitment to the Australian people and it is something that I cannot break.' What she said was quite simple: 'There will be no carbon tax under the government I lead.' It should have been watertight but it was not. It was at that moment that she wrote the political epitaph for her administration. She never recovered. I am giving this political context to say: haven't times changed.

In my very marginal seat, where there was 16 per cent scepticism towards a carbon tax and emission trading, it soon tripled. We now have a situation where even reasoned debate from members of this chamber will probably fail to convince nearly half of our population that this vitally important issue is something that our great economy can move forward on.

Let's not forget that both sides of this chamber agreed to five per cent reductions on 2000 levels. That is an impressive cut—and it may not be enough—but we have still been hectored by the Labor Party for not reducing emissions satisfactorily. Yet their own figures show that under their carbon tax Australia' emissions would increase from 560 gigatonnes to 637 gigatonnes. That is not a reduction; that is an increase. Constantly—and from the perfectly coiffured member for Kingsford Smith—we have had an elaborate argument about the lack of market mechanism in Direct Action.

Let's just step back and look at international efforts around the world. Last time I checked, the UN clean energy abatement process involved abatement procurement. That must be a market mechanism. So is Norway's attempt to purchase abatement, and Japan's. In fact, anything that is not direct action, which is purposefully and specifically purchasing abatement, is by definition indirect action.

The whole problem is that, in this purist and economic approach to involving everyone in carbon abatement, we are affecting and molesting, we are ripping into, a system where people who cannot do anything to reduce their emissions pay anyway. If you are a senior living in my electorate, huddled around the heater in winter, made to pay more for your energy, wrapping a blanket around you because you cannot afford to turn on a heater, you do not want a bureaucrat telling you: '550 bucks should be enough'. You would rather they did not take the money in the first place. That is why half of Australia does not want this bloody tax. It is quite simple. And if you involve people who can make no difference to emissions reduction in this intentionally labyrinthine process, then you will get this kickback.

Let me go back a step. If you want to abate some emissions and you intentionally tender that process, surely that is a market mechanism. If I put $1 on the table and ask all comers to deliver a service or a good for me for that price, surely that is a market mechanism; if there is a price at a service station for fuel and people can drive in and pay for fuel, it is a market mechanism; $3.8 billion of all of Labor's approaches towards emissions reduction was direct action. Every time you gave money to a brown coal burning power station to clean it up, as this Labor Party did, it was direct action. Everything the globe has ever done to reduce emissions that did not involve an economy-wide tax was by definition direct action. Norway can do it; Japan can do it; UN can do it; but any direct action that is here in Australia is somehow an anathema. Seriously. We have an emissions target. You can purchase abatement directly or you can have an economy-wide tax.

To my second point and emphasised strongly by the member for Canberra: yes, most economists prefer an economy-wide scheme. That is because they are economists. If economists had their way, we would have a market-based mechanism for everything: for returning plastic containers, aluminium cans, ring pull—the lot. You could have an economy-wide scheme for all of them, but there are too many unforeseen costs; the returns are not sufficient; there is too much dead weight, so we do not do it. That is economics 102.

Of course not every economic idea becomes reality, because there are practical implications—that is, most people, through their ordinary work and going about their ordinary endeavours, have very little latitude and very little ability to change their basic emissions. We cannot rebuild our houses. After you have insulated the ceilings, there is not much you can do. So why do we make everyone pay more and then write them a cheque and assume that is going to cover everyone regardless? Fuel stress, the distance you live from a CBD or where you work, the number of people who live in your household, the materials with which you have built your dwelling, all change those figures and make it horribly imprecise.

Times have changed. This is a Labor Party that has traduced this debate. The politics of it has been appallingly handled and this has made it very hard for moderate members in this place to forge a way ahead. It has become polarised. It has become difficult, and now we have an opposition—that specialised in collecting money, specialised in collecting revenue even before it was received and specialised in spending it before they saw it—lecturing us about a direct and targeted approach to reducing emissions.

There is a role for technology. There is a role for our major agricultural and commodity economies with whom we both trade and compete to come to an agreement at some time in the future. In 2008, it looked like it could happen and Australia went there with good faith. There is no prospect of that anymore. There is no prospect in the US, despite their three dollar a tonne tax on their nine eastern seaboard states. There is nothing in Canada. I do not see anything happening in Russia. I do not see Japan doing anything. I do not see China doing anything until 2020. Call me in 2019, because I think my phone will be fairly quiet.

Two elections from now, let us have a look at what China is doing and then maybe we can instigate international dialogue about a global approach and an approach with our trading partners. It is not just about big economies; it is about economies that have the same endowments as ours. I do not want to see effort shift with major mining enterprises moving to places where there is not a carbon tax. The previous government had no answer to that double-blow of a carbon and a mining tax. This side of politics will not stand by and watch high-paying jobs go to Zambia, no way. We will go to international mining conferences and see auditoria packed with new starts in the African continent, new starts in South America and new starts in Siberia. And the room where they talk about starting an enterprise in Australia that gives jobs to my friends and my friends' children will simply not occur. That is the legacy that will be studied a generation from now.

There is a chance still for the globe if we get together; there is no doubt. There is still a chance for major economies to take the lead but there was no point embarking on a $30-plus carbon tax in the absence of having other shoulders to the wheel, in the absence of having other economies move with us in a realistic way. I know on your hands you can count a dozen or so countries that have embarked on a carbon tax. But they are Swiss cheese carbon taxes: carbon taxes with all the exemptions where it might in any way affect the country's most beloved sectors. I respect those countries for doing it but paying $1 through to $11 per tonne is something very different to what was being foisted on us by a government that paid so heavily for such political short-sightedness.

It was a government that for six years, as I said, spent the money before it had collected it. Nibbling away and eroding confidence in it was the simple fact that the money, hard earned by you and me, was collected by a government—potentially $16 billion before there was any emission reduction at all—which then frittered it away on everything from insulated ceilings to green loan schemes—where young Australians invested $3,000 of their own money to become a green loan assessor and do their part to reduce emissions in this great nation. And what happened? It was ripped away from under them with no compensation. Close friends of mine trusted a government to not possibly destroy an ambition or a dream to help in this great green crusade that many of us had bought into. No, they lost everything. From an environment minister who chopped the numbers, who cancelled the program by SMS and who left them with no recompense and no refund for money they spent on training and registration. Thousands of dollars went up in smoke. Similarly, the pink batts scheme. These are examples of where this money was going to be spent.

The Clean Energy Fund was similarly simply propping up what were potentially non-viable loans in the private banking sector. And people lost confidence. What they are looking for is a government that does what it says: says one thing before an election and delivers it afterwards. This coalition government is utterly committed to that. Do not for one moment think that emission abatement cannot be equivalent to what was proposed over on that side of the House.

I have a very simple message to the people in my electorate of Bowman, an outer metropolitan bay-side economy deeply concerned about the ecology, deeply concerned about the environment and very proud of the environmental protection we have achieved so far. When you travelled from the islands to Brisbane under the Labor Party you paid a carbon tax on all your transport every day backwards and forwards. That is right: every day. What do you do about that under the Labor government scheme? Do you swim, sail, peddle boat? Seriously, there is no way to reduce those emissions other than get on that boat and pay more for the removal of the diesel rebate under the Labor government's carbon tax.

We go to the dumps every weekend and hope that we cannot have the carbon tax on our major landfill, and we do. How can we possibly make major reductions in the waste that we leave in our bins and have collected or drop off on weekends? It is extremely hard to do. Simply, an economy-wide tax on everything we did hurt too many people at a time when the economy was too precariously balanced, at a time when international confidence to move forward is limited. We must move with direct action. We must be focused. We must gain those reductions, and we can do it without the punishment of an economy-wide carbon tax.

Photo of Russell BroadbentRussell Broadbent (McMillan, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I ask the member for Bowman to retract a word that he used when he referred to the tax in the body of his speech.

Photo of Andrew LamingAndrew Laming (Bowman, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I retract the word.

5:57 pm

Photo of Pat ConroyPat Conroy (Charlton, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Mr Deputy Speaker, I congratulate you on your election last week to that august role. Before I get into the substance of my speech, I want to correct a couple of myths—myths being a generous term—that the member for Bowman just espoused. First, never have I seen such a great lack of knowledge of what is happening internationally, which I will address in my speech later. The member for Bowman—

Photo of Josh FrydenbergJosh Frydenberg (Kooyong, Liberal Party, Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister) Share this | | Hansard source

He's a doctor.

Photo of Pat ConroyPat Conroy (Charlton, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

So does that make him an expert on international action, does it? Secondly, the member for Bowman commented on the deep scepticism in the community that was growing over the last few years. That grew because of the demonisation of scientists that occurred by the current Prime Minister, his front bench and his friends in conservative talk back radioland. They stand willingly under sign that say 'ditch the witch' and talk about UN conspiracies around climate change science. They deride climate change. They give people an excuse not to take action and that is why this debate is where it is now.

This piece of legislation represents the final nail in the coffin of the economic illiteracy of the coalition. The party of Deakin, the party of economic liberalism is now suspicious of markets. As the member for Kingsford Smith talked about before, they are now seeking to replace what is the most effective and efficient way of combatting climate change with a slush fund akin to government commander control. Mr Lenin would be proud of it, as the member for Kingsford Smith said, but I can imagine many Soviet era economists being very happy with this. The case is that it is now the member for New England that is writing the economic policy for the coalition government. We well and truly have a case of the National tail wagging the Liberal dog.

The fact is that in 2007 both major parties took to the election policies for an emission trading schemes. It was only when the current Prime Minister knocked off the member for Wentworth and betrayed the trust of the Australian people that we saw this consensus on fighting climate change through a market mechanism break.

I was elected as were all of my Labor colleagues on a platform of moving from a fixed-price emissions trading scheme to a flexible-price emissions trading scheme in 2014 and I will proudly vote that way.

We have been hearing a lot in the last two weeks about 'mandate this', 'mandate that'. I thought it would be illustrative to quote what the current Prime Minister said in 2007 when giving advice to then opposition leader Brendan Nelson. He said:

Nelson is right to resist the intellectual bullying inherent in talk of ‘mandates’.

…   …   …

The elected opposition is no less entitled than the elected government to exercise judgement and to try to keep its election commitments.

It is ridiculous for the Prime Minister, a man who is a self-confessed weathervane on the topic, who once called for a carbon tax to claim a mandate on this issue.

This bill demonstrates yet again that the coalition does not accept the science of climate change is settled. The latest report from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reinforced the fact that the science is settled. No other country in the world questions the science. No other government in the world questions the science and no other Prime Minister calls the science 'crap'.

The fact is that internationally action is occurring. Over one billion people now live in countries or provinces where some form of carbon pricing, whether it is a carbon tax or an emissions trading scheme, exists. They are in countries in Europe and states in the United States—for example, California, the ninth largest economy in the world in its own right, has introduced an emissions trading scheme around the $20 mark. There are 200 million people living in Chinese provinces where they are developing emissions trading schemes right now and they have a goal of a nationwide emissions trading scheme later this decade.

By 2016, over three billion people will be living in countries where there are emissions trading schemes or carbon taxes. To say that we are leading the world or that we are going by ourselves is a complete furphy which demonstrates a complete misunderstanding of this debate.

Those who think that we can sit by and do nothing while our trading partners take action are kidding themselves and are exposing us to massive trade retaliation. Besides our trading relationships, it is vital that we take action so that we can harness the advantages that accrue to people in the low-carbon industrial revolution. Every previous industrial revolution has demonstrated that the countries that move first are the ones that will benefit the most. That was demonstrated by Britain in the first industrial revolution that concentrated on steam and textiles. It was proved by Germany and the United States dominating the second half of the 19th century with the rise of steel and railways. It was demonstrated by Japan and the United States in the electronic revolution post-World War II. It is the countries that solve the problem and develop the technologies that fight climate change that will be the ones in the best position to compete in the 21st century.

There has been a lot of discussion about international competitiveness, helping our industries. I can tell you: turning us into a rust belt economy while the rest of the world decarbonises will be a great disadvantage to our economy.

The fact is that we have a responsibility to play our part and the clean energy bills a fixed-price emissions trading scheme moving to a flexible-price emissions trading scheme is the most efficient way of doing it. It is a market mechanism recommended by people such as Professor Shergold, Ross Garnaut and Lord Nicholas Stern in the United Kingdom. Every serious economic commentator has said an emissions trading scheme is the way to go.

Despite the disgraceful exaggeration of those opposite, the implementation of the carbon price was smooth. The inflationary impact was modest—in fact the modelling probably overestimated the inflationary impact of the scheme. Nine out of 10 households were compensated. We had landmark economic reforms associated with a package, including the tripling of the tax-free threshold.

A leg of lamb does not cost $100 as the member for New England prophesised it would; in fact the price of lamb has fallen by 10 per cent in the last year. Whyalla has not been wiped out—it is still there—and 140,000 jobs have been created in the economy since the carbon price began. The stock market has grown by 32 per cent, and our emissions are flat if not falling.

We have seen a 6.1 per cent fall in emissions from electricity generation over the last year. This represents 12 million tonnes less carbon pollution being emitted into the atmosphere than the equivalent time last year. This is the equivalent of taking 3½ million cars off the road, so a price on carbon works. Getting to a flexible-price emissions trading scheme is the way to go.

If the member for Flinders bothered to read his own department's reports rather than Wikipedia, he would know that this fall in emissions was driven by fuel switching to cleaner energy sources and falling demand. Despite his claims to the contrary, electricity is an elastic good and demand has been responding to the price signals as economists have prophesised.

As the ETS has a harder cap on emissions, it guarantees that Australia's net emissions fall, and this was the important point the member for Port Adelaide was making in his response. No amount of misrepresentation or Treasury modelling by those opposite negates the fact that a cap-and-trade emissions trading scheme means that Australia's net emissions in 2020 will be at least 130 million tonnes less than they would otherwise be.

That is why credible internationally linked emissions trading schemes are so important, particularly for emissions-intensive economies such as ours. They allow pollution to be cut at the lowest cost wherever it can be achieved. There is after all only one atmosphere, and a reduction in pollution anywhere in the world has the same environmental benefit.

The coalition's policy of prohibiting the trade of carbon permits with other countries is economic xenophobia. It is sending a signal that it is somehow dubious to trade with foreigners. It is typical dog-whistle politics and is in fact a white carbon policy.

I would now like to turn to the regulation impact statement that accompanied these bills. The RIS importantly admitted that not all prices will fall to their former level if this bill is passed. The RIS is very explicit on this point, and this has been confirmed by industry only as recently as last week.

The RIS also contained a very interesting table worth reading, which is table 8.1. This table outlines the expected changes to industry output in a scenario of a carbon price against one with repeal. This table in this official government document that accompanied these bills made it very clear that repealing the carbon price would cause agricultural and manufacturing output to be lower than output would be if there was a carbon price, which is a shocking revelation.

I wish to turn to the solution that the government is offering when they try and repeal these bills: direct action. This scheme is a joke; it is friendless. A recent survey of economists found near unanimity that a market based solution is the best policy option to reduce carbon price. Thirty-three out of thirty-five economists surveyed rejected the government's direct action policy. Of the two economists who favoured this farce of a policy, one did so because he favoured no action by Australia and the second did so because he rejected the established scientific fact that climate change is overwhelmingly human induced.

No policy to tackle climate change is cost free. That is the truth. You can either charge polluters or charge the taxpayer. Despite the protestations of those opposite, direct action is not market based. Direct purchase of abatement from the private sector does not change incentives to abate or emit throughout the economy. If you are not a successful bidder in their scheme, you have zero incentives to change your behaviour. I ask the coalition: how can you have a market without an explicit price? How is a government subsidy a market? If they were honest—and to his credit the member for Wentworth has been in the past—they would answer 'you can't' and 'it isn't'.

It is worth quoting member for Wentworth's exact words: 'Tony Abbott is putting a price on carbon, it's just that the taxpayer is paying for it. Now the view that I've argued for, which is you know, and you have to be, you know, fair and say it's the view that most economists support, is that you're better off having the market determining the price of carbon and therefore you put a price on carbon either through an emissions trading scheme or through a tax ... Tony Abbott is ... saying there will be a price, but the price will be paid for out of taxpayers' resources via direct subsidies, as opposed to being paid by the emitting industries and then passed on through the market, and that is, you know, that's really a debate about the benefits of market forces versus direct action, as Tony describes it, by government. Now my preference, because I am a liberal and a free enterprise person, is always for the market.'

For once, the member for Wentworth is right, and I am proud that the Labor Party are agreeing with him on this point. Direct action will not produce investment certainty and it will not produce sufficient abatement to meet Australia's abatement targets without creating enormous budgetary costs. Using the most optimistic assumption that it would be as efficient as a domestic only emissions trading scheme, Treasury found that to reach the minus five per cent target direct action would cost the government at least $48 billion to 2020. This is not the Labor Party saying it; this is the independent Treasury saying that it will cost at least $48 billion. This equates to a tax increase of $1,200 per household. You have two choices in this debate: either polluters pay or taxpayers pay. Direct action is a recipe for a $1,200 increase in a household's tax.

Other independent experts such as the Grattan Institute have estimated that it will cost up to $100 billion to reach the 2020 target using schemes such as direct action. This type of direct action scheme has been tried in the past and failed. The Howard government tried the Greenhouse Gas Abatement Program, which was wildly unsuccessful and direct action will be too. Direct action is a ridiculous scheme. It will require tree planting on the combined land mass of Victoria and Tasmania to reach the five per cent target. They have pinned all their hopes on soil carbon. In fact, their joke of a policy document says that soil carbon will provide 85 megatonnes of the abatement. This, unfortunately, cannot happen because the process of soil carbon is unproven both scientifically and economically. Farmers who have looked into this matter reckon they are kidding if they think they can get away with paying only $8 to $10 for soil carbon.

This bill is really a debate about the future of Australia. I want a future where we are playing our part in international action to tackle climate change, where my daughter and her generation can grow up in an economy that has decarbonised and where our industries have taken advantage of the new technologies that will support changing our economy and combating climate change.

My electorate has the largest power station in the country and it has six coal mines. These companies are already taking action to reduce their emissions, in response to the price signals sent by the carbon price at the moment and because they recognise that they need to take action if they are going to compete internationally. Interestingly, when I talk to all these people not a single one favours direct action. They all support an internationally linked emissions trading scheme, which is exactly Labor's policy.

Labor have had a policy to combat climate change using an emissions trading scheme in our platform since the late eighties—long before the growth of fringe environmental parties—and I am very proud of that fact. I am very proud that Labor will keep fighting and we will not support this bill unless there is a guarantee that the scheme will be replaced by an internationally linked emissions trading scheme, which is the cheapest and most efficient way of combating climate change.

6:12 pm

Photo of Andrew NikolicAndrew Nikolic (Bass, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I am pleased to make my first contribution to debate on the Clean Energy Legislation (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2013, a bill that the Prime Minister promised would be this government's first order of business, and he has delivered on that promise. Every bill that is passed by this House and by the Senate and signed into law has an effect on people. Some legislation has more effect than others, like Labor's carbon tax. On this side of the House, we understand that. We understand that the ready answer to problems facing our wonderful nation is not simply to draft up new laws or impose more rules and regulations, or to have another press conference. It is about reducing the tangle of red and green tape, providing incentives for individuals to invest and innovate—in effect, to strip away the obstacles and create the conditions for long-term sustainable jobs.

Supporting jobs and endeavour is surely something that not one person in this House would oppose. Yet the carbon tax did so much to undermine that goal. Given the position taken by those opposite on this legislation, it is little wonder that Australians have become jaded about the conduct of their representatives. The people of Bass elected me and the people of Australia elected this government with a clear mandate to scrap the carbon tax. Yet those opposite still act as if they are in the 43rd Parliament, clinging to a toxic tax that their leader promised she would never implement, clinging still to paragraph 6.1(a) of the Labor-Greens deal that the Australian people so comprehensively rejected and which did nothing to enhance the reputation of politics.

I do not ascribe to all members opposite the views of the Greens, but it is fact that on 1 September 2010 the former Prime Minister signed her name to a coalition agreement with the Leader of the Greens in order to secure power. I respectfully say to this House that when the history is written from a longer perspective that decision by Julia Gillard will be seen as one of the monumental political misjudgements in our nation's political story.

Labor's national interest assessment on climate policy has been way off the mark since 2008. They have no excuses for the flawed legislation we seek to repeal or for their failure to properly articulate what domestic benefits accrue by leading a global response, particularly when the biggest global polluters are not following our example.

Labor's approach gave disproportionate policy authority to the Greens party, which as many members opposite know is founded on a fanciful ideology that is antibusiness and antidevelopment, and therefore anti-jobs. I genuinely hope that the views of members opposite who understand this will prevail in the councils of their party. Those opposite said repeatedly that the lived experience of the carbon tax would reinforce its moderate impact. Well, let's consider the lived experience. Quarterly CPI figures released on 24 October 2012—the first since the carbon tax was introduced—saw a 15.3 per cent rise in electricity, with household gas and miscellaneous fuels rising by 14.2 per cent. This is the largest quarterly increase ever, two-thirds of which on average came from the carbon tax.

Labor knows that the lived experience of the carbon tax imposed economic pain on families and businesses. Far from wearing out their shoe leather to promote it, most of those opposite went into hiding. That is why many of them have argued since that Labor should not oppose the bill that we are now debating. We know that because some of them were brave enough to put that view publicly, both during the campaign and after the 7 September election.

It was the first test for Leader of the Opposition and his leadership group as to how to approach this vital policy decision in the caucus, and it is a matter of deep disappointment that the Labor leadership group failed that first test. Even fierce political opponents of the coalition acknowledge that the campaign successfully conducted by Prime Minister Tony Abbott was centred—I say it again, 'centred'—on repeal of Labor's carbon tax legislation. He presented the compelling reality that the carbon tax is a $9 billion hit on our economy and that removing it will reduce cost-of-living pressure for families and help thousands of businesses that are doing it tough.

In response to our competing visions at the last election, Labor experienced their lowest primary vote in 100 years. In my seat of Bass there was an almost 11 per cent swing to the Liberal Party, and the Greens party vote was cut in half. Do those opposite really think that the people's verdict can be seen as anything other than a strong endorsement for repealing this toxic tax? Apparently some do.

In the early days of the 44th parliament the message from Labor is a confused one. They created high debt, bad taxes, and a boat problem, yet complained that after only weeks in government we need to hurry up and fix the high debt, the bad taxes and the boat problem, all the while acting in this parliament to stop us fixing the high debt, the bad taxes and the boat problem—little wonder the Australian people are confused and disappointed.

And what a contrast we see from the Leader of the Opposition to his predecessor Kim Beazley. Faced with a similar example of how to respond to the coalition's clear mandate on the GST after the 1998 election, Mr Beazley said that he would listen to the clearly expressed view of the voting public. The Leader of the Opposition has, if I may use a sporting metaphor, squibbed it. He has bowed to those in his party who welcomed the alliance with the Greens and who have retreated from the once proud notion of the Labor Party as a pro-jobs party.

And that is also the case in our—with the member for Braddon here—home state of Tasmania, which has experienced a Labor-Green alliance even longer than the national version led by Julia Gillard. In a fragile economic environment like Tasmania, the Labor-Green effect has seen us fall behind in almost every objective economic measure.

Australians expect their parliamentarians to have some appreciation of the national economy, of the role of business and labour, of management and employees and of the various economic levers available to regulators and that naturally occur in the market. They do not want their national government to undertake policies which are isolated from the economy and diminish our place among competitive international trading nations. And yet, astoundingly, it was this damaging, anti-jobs and isolated policy position that the Gillard government took, hand-in-glove with its Green party supporters. Their decision to put a tax on carbon was a breathtakingly foolish move, totally divorced from the environmental policies being pursued by our major trading partners and neighbours.

Compounding this lack of any economic sense were two other decisions the former government took which totally undermined their credibility in bringing in this new tax. The first was the former Prime Minister's explicit denial to the Australian people that she would introduce a carbon tax, and then suggesting to the Australian people that it was not a tax at all.

The second major policy flaw, and this is the one which many otherwise thoughtful environmentalists overlook, is that the ALP's carbon tax did nothing—absolutely nothing—to affect climate change and reduce carbon emissions in Australia. In fact, domestic emissions in Australia under the carbon tax go up from around 560 million tonnes in 2010 to 637 million tonnes in 2020.

The bill before the House today not only repeals a tax that did nothing to help our environment but which concurrently damages Australia's international competitiveness. And, importantly, the House must remember that the bill we are debating, while doing nothing for the environment, did impose a significant unsolicited burden on Australian families and businesses. As the Prime Minister said when giving the second reading speech, this bill will have a direct and positive impact on the cost of living, the price of electricity and the price of gas. And when this bill is coupled together with the suite of other Direct Action policy initiatives that were a fundamental part of the coalition's election platform, the result will be twofold: our competitiveness will be rebalanced and positive action will commence to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

As a representative in this chamber from Tasmania, one of the 'three amigos', with the member for Lyons and the member for Braddon, can I say it is particularly galling to us that people from our state have to pay inflated power prices because of a carbon tax when the previous Labor government took no account—I repeat: no account whatsoever—of the fact that the vast bulk of power produced in Tasmania is, and has been for around a century, both renewable and environmentally friendly. That was, of course, one of the direct failures of Labor's carbon tax policy. It was a blanket approach to a problem which did not take account of the different methods of power production in Australia. It was a blanket approach that, as I have said, was totally isolated from the policies being pursued by our trading partners.

It is as if the former Australian government had gone to some retreat run by business-ignorant Greens politicians, with a giant whiteboard, and decided: 'Let's adopt a policy that takes no account of what happened at the Copenhagen summit. Let's adopt a policy that puts a big weight around the neck of Australia's competitiveness and business growth for at least the next generation. And, at the same time, let's adopt this policy knowing it will not reduce greenhouse gas emissions at all.' So captured was the Gillard government with this anti-jobs policy, borne out of the reports of certain economists with no environmental credentials, seduced by the political courtship she freely entered into with the Greens, that she ignored the perils of Australia alone imposing an economy-wide carbon tax.

What Australia needs is an adult government that undertakes evidence based policy making and, importantly, makes decisions in the context of today's global economic market. After all, if Australia's economy is seriously wounded, there will be a direct effect on our sustainability and biodiversity, precisely because the resources we need to carry out positive environmental policies will be diminished and businesses simply will not find it in their commercial interest to fill that space.

We have seen much commentary about Labor's game of policy snakes and ladders on the carbon tax. It would be wryly amusing if it was not such a serious topic. Just weeks before the 7 September election, former Prime Minister Rudd said in Townsville, on 16 July 2013:

The government has decided to terminate the carbon tax, to help cost of living pressures for families and to reduce costs for small business.

After the election the member for Grayndler said he'd put a zero price on the carbon tax. The member for Wakefield said on 11 September that Labor should 'let bills like this one through'. The member for Port Adelaide, who is sitting at the table here, said on ABC's AM that 'Labor supports terminating the carbon tax'. We know that the member for Corio, who had just completed his stint as minister for trade and who one would accept had an inkling of the fundamental economic impact of Australia going it alone with the carbon tax, said that the question of mandate must be taken seriously. Well, three cheers for these members, for their honesty and practical acceptance of the message that the Australian people so resoundingly delivered on 7 September. Three muted cheers, however, because they were clearly unable to carry the argument with their colleagues in caucus. It is unfortunate that the frankness of these members of the opposition, and perhaps others, did not carry the day when this important matter was discussed in the Labor caucus room. There is no shame in actually taking heed of the electorate's message, but there will be significant political pain to the Australian Labor Party if it continues to have, in the words of its former parliamentary leader, a policy tin ear on this subject.

Members on this side of the House take their election commitments seriously. We will follow through with what we promised. We welcome the fact that removal of the carbon tax in 2014-15 will reduce the consumer price index by around 0.7 percentage points from what it would otherwise be, according to Treasury modelling. We welcome the expected fall in big business compliance costs. Those who understand the time value of money will appreciate the long-term benefits of that outcome. The coalition have a plan for a cleaner environment, but we will do it without a pointless carbon tax which will see emissions go up, not down. We believe the five per cent target can be achieved by positive direct action and providing incentives, rather than by hurting Australian families and our economy with a damaging carbon tax.

I strongly urge those opposite to reconsider their approach to this bill. I commend the Prime Minister for following through with his promise to make it the first item of government business and I particularly commend the Minister for the Environment and member for Flinders for his outstanding stewardship of this important policy area. As we have seen, the road from Kyoto to Copenhagen to Durban to Rio is littered with big promises but no binding international action. We will act, but in a way that is economically responsible and is consistent with our promise to the Australian people. I commend the bill and I urge its support in this House.

6:27 pm

Photo of Kelvin ThomsonKelvin Thomson (Wills, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

There is a massive disconnect between the weather we are experiencing—drought in Queensland, bushfires in New South Wales, wild winds in Victoria, to say nothing of the typhoons in the Philippines, India and Japan—and the steps being taken by the Liberal government to bring action on climate change to a halt: disbanding the Climate Commission, defunding the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, not sending a minister to attend the climate change negotiations in Poland and, in the bills now before the House, endeavouring to put an end to a price on carbon. At the very time when the signals from our climate are that we need to take more action to combat extreme weather, not less, it is extremely and deeply irresponsible of the Liberal government to abandon measures which are reducing carbon emissions.

I have noticed that people who draw attention to the increasing frequency and severity of extreme weather events—floods, droughts, bushfires and storms—are subject to accusations of seeking to profit from the tragedy and misery of others. This is pathetic nonsense. When an accident happens on a country road and the local MP demands that the road be improved, I do not assume that they are trying to profit from the tragedy and misery of others. I assume that they want to make the road safer and to make the world safer. We do not assume that people who demand investigations into plane crashes or recalls of cars or trucks following crashes are seeking to profit from the tragedy and misery of others. If a chairlift or a Ferris wheel causes an accident we do not assume that people who demand action are seeking to profit from the accident. We assume that they want to prevent repeats and to make the world safer.

The climate change minister, when in opposition, pursued the issue of deaths associated with the installation of roofing insulation with great vigour. Indeed, he is still doing it—the government intends to have an inquiry into the administration of the scheme. I do not assume that he is doing this for political advantage or seeking to profit from a tragedy. So it is with extreme weather events. Members opposite cannot have it both ways, on the one hand demanding inquiries into the roofing insulation deaths and on the other hand accusing people who make the link between extreme weather events and our carbon emissions of doing so for political advantage or seeking to profit from a tragedy. It is just not right to leave to our children and grandchildren a legacy of bushfires, droughts, floods and storms, and people who point out the increasing frequency and severity of these events and the reasons for them are doing us all a service.

People who have been critical of the UN and Australian scientists who blew the whistle on extreme weather events usually have little scientific credibility and a vested interest to protect. I saw that the Institute of Public Affairs claimed that linking the New South Wales bushfires was a 'pretty wild assertion'. The Institute of Public Affairs has no science to back this up. Reputable climate scientists have been explaining for years how increasing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere creates the conditions for more frequent and extreme bushfires and their incessant attempts to run interference on action to stop climate change makes pretty clear that they are acting as a mouthpiece for corporations with a vested interest in dragging the chain on this issue. If this is not so, why is it that the Institute of Public Affairs constantly refuses to disclose its funding sources? It is time they came clean about their funding sources.

And as for John Howard declaring himself to be 'agnostic' about the climate science, this is quite amazing. You can be agnostic about religious matters, but you do not have the luxury of being agnostic about science. What will we get next: Liberals who are agnostic about whether smoking causes lung cancer or about whether the earth is round? Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but they are not entitled to their own facts. If you had the opportunity to go to 100 doctors for a check-up and 98 of them said you were at risk of diabetes and should take certain precautions and two of them you were fine and you had nothing to worry about, would you listen to the two? And yet this is the approach of former Prime Minister Howard and way too many Liberal MPs.

That climate change will load the dice in favour of more intense disasters is well established. The following information has been supplied to me by climate change author and activist David Spratt.

Photo of Bert Van ManenBert Van Manen (Forde, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Mr Acting Deputy Speaker, under standing order 66A, is the member prepared to take a comment?

Photo of Ross VastaRoss Vasta (Bonner, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Is the member for Wills prepared to take a comment? No, he is not.

Photo of Kelvin ThomsonKelvin Thomson (Wills, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Five researchers in 2007 estimated that climate change would result in a two-to-fourfold increase in extreme fire days. Between 1973 and 2010, Melbourne and Adelaide recorded a 49 per cent increase in their cumulative annual Forest Fire Danger Index, and in February 2009 Victoria's Black Saturday bushfires killed 173 people, destroyed over 2,000 homes and cost $4 billion-plus in damage, and on that day the fire index was an unprecedented 190 on a zero-to-100 scale.

The government claims its motivation for this legislation is to bring down electricity and other prices for ordinary households. They have repeatedly claimed that households would be better off to the tune of $550 a year without a price on carbon. But less than a fortnight ago the head of the Australian Industry Group, Innes Willox, let the cat out of the bag. He said many businesses were not able to pass on the cost of the carbon tax in the first place. He said many price changes, if the carbon price is abolished, are likely to be limited. What he is saying is that consumers will not get lower prices if the carbon price is repealed.

I was elected on a platform of support for the carbon price and of action to combat extreme weather. I will be voting against the repeal of the carbon price. That is what my constituents would expect me to do, not to vote differently from the position I have expressed many times in the past 10 years. I listen to government members talking about mandate. That might cut some grass had they voted in favour of the emissions trading scheme the Labor government brought forward in the 42nd Parliament when we had expressly gone to the election on a platform of introducing a carbon price. Did the Liberal and National Parties respect that mandate? No, they did not. They made disparaging comments about the whole notion of mandate. I will behave as I have told my constituents I will behave—voting for a price on carbon. Why on earth should we shred our international credibility on extreme weather and leave our children a heritage of bushfires, droughts, floods and cyclones for the sake of what the Liberal government says is $11 per week for a household and which the Australian Industry Group admits you will never see?

It is correct that electricity prices have been rising, and rising much faster than the CPI throughout the last decade. But this predates the carbon price. In 2010 I gave a speech to the House about rising electricity prices when I pointed out that prices in the larger capital cities were rising at roughly twice the rate of the CPI and had roughly doubled in a decade. I said the government should look into pegging electricity prices to the increase in the CPI and thereby give some relief to pensioners and retirees and others who struggle to pay their electricity bill. And I make the same suggestion to this government as I made to my own—do it. Peg electricity price rises. If members opposite are as genuine as they claim to be in their concern about the impact of rising electricity prices, then peg them. Call in the states, call in the power companies, and peg them to the CPI. I dare you.

The reasons why electricity prices in the capital cities were rising so rapidly with no carbon price in sight were threefold. First, there is the impact of rapid population growth. The Queensland academic Jane O'Sullivan has done some very important research in the infrastructure burden in rapidly-growing communities. She has found that the cost of meeting the infrastructure requirements of a population growing by one per cent per annum is fifty per cent higher than for a stable population, and if the population is growing by two per cent per annum it is 100 per cent, that is, double. Of course if your population increases by one per cent, that tends to bring in one per cent extra taxes or rates, not 50 per cent, so the cost of the extra infrastructure shows up in higher electricity, gas and water bills and council rates.

Secondly, there is privatisation of the electricity authorities. The National Combined Energy Unions, including the ETU, ASU and the AMWU, wrote to MPs in October pointing out that Victoria and South Australia, where all electricity assets have been privatised, have had the highest electricity consumer prices for the past 11 years.

This feeds into the third driver of rising electricity prices, the gold-plating of the poles and wires—increased expenditure on infrastructure—because electricity customers in practice have to pay for it and do not have a realistic choice to reject it; electricity is essential in a modern society. The upgrade of the Brunswick Terminal Station in my electorate is a classic example of this. Its cost has skyrocketed, but consumers have no effective recourse and no way of telling electricity companies they do not want a gold plated system and wish to explore alternatives.

It is fair to say, and indeed has long been my view, that a price on carbon is an important, but not sufficient, condition for reducing Australia's carbon emissions and that complementary measures are important also. Under the Labor government, two very important complementary measures were the 20 per cent renewable energy target and the $10 billion Clean Energy Finance Corporation.

But there are a number of other initiatives which could reduce greenhouse emissions, and if the Liberal government was serious about reducing greenhouse emissions it would seriously consider them. In the United States, President Barack Obama has been preparing regulations limiting carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants using the Environmental Protection Agency. In the US, electricity power plants are the largest single source of carbon pollution, responsible for nearly forty per cent of greenhouse gas emissions.

The Australian Conservation Foundation has set out steps to ensure carbon pollution falls with the urgency required, to demonstrate international leadership for strong global action, to increase renewable energy at the scale and urgency needed and to remove incentives for fossil fuel use and reinvest the savings for more productive use. It recommends that Australia commit to set science based caps on greenhouse pollution in 2014, based on advice from the independent Climate Change Authority, and commit to doing our equitable share for an effective global agreement to reduce the impacts of climate change. The ACF says we should complement the carbon price with a suite of policies that drive reductions in domestic emissions intensity by accelerating renewable energy deployment, increasing energy efficiency and ensuring declining pollution from fossil fuel use while the carbon price matures.

The ACF also says we should reform wasteful government incentives to produce and use fossil fuels, and reinvest the savings into a cleaner economy. It says international pledges made to the Copenhagen Accord, while significant, would still result in warming of 3½ degrees Celsius even if fully implemented. For Australia, warming of two to three degrees Celsius would result in 97 per cent of the Great Barrier Reef bleached every year; a 40 per cent reduction in livestock carrying capacity of native pasture systems; a five to 10 per cent increase in tropical cyclone wind speeds; and a 10 per cent increase in bushfire danger in many parts of the country. The ACF says a global agreement to limit warming to as close to 1½ degrees Celsius as soon as possible, and 350 parts per million of carbon dioxide equivalent, is in Australia's national interest. Beyond this point, the impacts of climate change for Australia and the region become severe and irreversible. To this end, Australia must speed the ratification of the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol.

I also note an article of November 2010 titled 'The economics of population policy for carbon emissions reduction in developing countries' by David Wheeler and Dan Hammer from the Center for Global Development. They draw the conclusions that family planning and female education are complementary activities that, jointly or separately, are highly cost-competitive with a broad range of carbon emissions abatement options that are current candidates for mitigation resources in global climate negotiations. Family planning and female education are both critical factors in sustainable development and they obviously merit expanded support, even without appeal to global climate considerations.

The carbon price has been doing exactly what it was supposed to do—cutting carbon emissions. Contrary to the scare campaign of members opposite, it has not adversely affected our low inflation, low unemployment economy. I particularly congratulate former minister Greg Combet on its success. The only reason those opposite have campaigned against this is they are totally and utterly beholden to large corporations who have a vested interest in increasing, rather than reducing, carbon emissions.

The carbon price stands in stark contrast to the coalition position known as direct action. No serious economist believes it is efficient and no serious climate scientist believes that it will be effective.

6:42 pm

Photo of Bert Van ManenBert Van Manen (Forde, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Just before I get into the substance of my contribution, I would like to touch on a couple of comments that the member for Wills has made in his opening remarks linking severe weather events to climate change. With respect to the member for Wills, I suggest he reads the latest IPCC report where, even in their conclusions, they have backed well away from this link. Also, I think it is instructive for the member for Wills to note global temperatures have not increased for the past 17 years, yet carbon dioxide has continued to increase in our atmosphere. Thirdly, it is interesting to note carbon dioxide is not listed as a pollutant either in the US or even here in Australia—I have just checked the Department of the Environment website. There is a discussion about carbon particulate as a pollution, maybe, but it is not about carbon dioxide because it is not even listed as a pollutant by our own government. I also checked the US EPA website and neither is it a pollutant according to the US Environmental Protection Agency.

As the member for Wills said, there are facts and opinions. I think he spent most of his time talking about opinions and not facts. Maybe he should get a few of those correct and go check some of the latest information out there.

I rise today to speak on behalf of the men and women in Forde who voted against the former Labor government's carbon tax. I speak on behalf of the business owners, the mums, the dads, the seniors and the pensioners who have entrusted me, along with my coalition colleagues, to remove this insidious tax—which this year alone will have a $9 billion impact—from our economy. The election was a referendum on the carbon tax and the Australian people have spoken. We have even seen Australia's four major business groups—the Business Council, the Minerals Council, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Australian Industry Group—say that they do not want this tax.

Unlike those opposite, we on this side of the House are listening to our constituents and are seeking to deliver on our pledge to remove the carbon tax. The Prime Minister in his speech on these bills said, 'This is our bill to reduce the bills of the people of Australia.' We are focused on removing the burden of the increased cost of doing business and serving our community by scrapping the world's biggest carbon tax. When I say the 'world's biggest' I am referring to the fact that there is no comparable economy wide tax anywhere in the world. It has been interesting since we introduced these bills to see the various notes of congratulations we have received from around the world. For instance, the Canadian parliamentary secretary on 12 November issued the following statement on behalf of the government of Canada:

Canada applauds the decision by Prime Minister Abbott to introduce legislation to repeal Australia's carbon tax. The Australian Prime Minister's decision will be noticed around the world and sends an important message.

Our government knows that carbon taxes raise the price of everything, including gas, groceries, and electricity. Prime Minister Abbott has said that, in Australia, the repeal of the carbon tax will reduce the average household's cost of living by … $550 a year …

Since that announcement we have seen the Japanese reduce their target for emissions by some 25 per cent. They now have a target of some three per cent over 1990 levels—their previous level was around five per cent.

In The Australian on 14 November, Alan Moran observed:

Other countries are not following Australia's lead in imposing a cripplingly high carbon tax, they are not even taxing emissions at the EU's $6 a tonne. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's recent grudging acknowledgment that its forecasts of soaring global temperatures have failed to materialise during the past 17 years can only reinforce governments' resistance to penalise their economies.

By the way, the IPCC should not be calling the shots over our economy in the first place, given that they are an unelected and unaudited committee.

The people in Forde know that the carbon tax is responsible for adding additional strains to their household budgets. As we draw close to the end of this year, families will find themselves under even more financial strain as budgets are stretched to accommodate the festive season. I am sure that we in this House with families all know that Christmas time can be a stressful and expensive time of year. This is further evidenced by the number of community organisations I have been speaking to recently that are struggling to meet the needs of ordinary people in our community. Organisations such as Lighthouse Care and CentroCARE are handing out record numbers of food parcels to those in our community who are struggling to make ends meet. Wouldn't it be a great Christmas gift to households not only in Forde but around the country and to these wonderful charities for the work that they do—and they receive no compensation for the increased cost of electricity to them—to provide some future hope that on 1 July 2014 the carbon tax will be removed once and for all?

Sixteen of the top 20 carbon tax bills have been sent to electricity companies. These electricity companies have had to pay over $3.5 billion in carbon taxes, which ultimately directly comes from the pockets of their customers. It is our charities, families, businesses, hospitals, schools, aged-care facilities, local councils and sporting community organisations that have footed the bill to date. In Queensland, out of the $3½ billion, some $800 million worth of bills have been passed on to Queenslanders.

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. No matter what the Labor Party and their carbon tax allies do to the name or the structure of this tax, it is still a bad tax based on a lie. The only way we can achieve a different result with real environmental benefits is through its removal and extinction.

Repealing the carbon tax will take away a huge burden from our community. Treasury modelling shows that household electricity bills will be cut by some $200 in 2014-15. Imagine the savings to our community organisations, charities and businesses that will benefit from the removal of the carbon tax and the funds consequently they will be able to put back into our communities. As I touched on earlier, households can expect to be better off, on average, by around $550 a year without the carbon tax. Businesses will also benefit from a reduction in the cost of electricity, which can be passed on to their customers. We will ensure that this happens.

This will also address the issue of competitiveness, particularly with businesses that have an export focus. We have quite clearly said that we will task the ACCC and provide it with further powers to take action against any business that engages in price exploitation in relation to the carbon tax repeal. For example, there will be penalties of up to $1.1 million for corporations and $220,000 for individuals.

On the positive side for business, their compliance costs are expected to fall by around $87 million per annum as a consequence of repealing the carbon tax and removing some 1,000-plus pages of legislation. But as we have heard in this House from the contributions today and earlier in this debate, the Labor Party refuse to give up on their unpopular tax—even after it is clear that it is not achieving what it set out to achieve in the first place. For example, the previous government's own modelling, which was submitted to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, shows that our emissions increase under the carbon tax will be around 560 million tonnes in 2010 to 637 million tonnes in 2020. This tax was never going to work, and Labor knew it was not going to be embraced by the Australian people.

In the 2010 election campaign, then Prime Minister Julia Gillard promised there would be no carbon tax. In the 2013 campaign, then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said he would terminate the carbon tax. And afterwards Anthony Albanese said he would put a zero price on the carbon tax. They just do not know what position to take. Now we have the current Leader of the Opposition, Bill Shorten, attempting to deceive the Australian people into believing he wants to terminate the carbon tax. And yet right here, right now, Labor are clasping at straws to try to keep it alive; all they want to do is replace it with an ETS, which their own policy papers show is going to be increased by 2020 to some $38 a tonne anyway. They seem to neglect to mention that particular fact.

All of this makes me wonder who actually wanted to have this carbon tax in the first place. The member for Lilley, on Meet the Press on 15 August 2010, said that we, as in the coalition, were making hysterically inaccurate claims about them bringing in a carbon tax. The next day we heard the now famous line 'there will be no carbon tax under a government I lead'. As I have just touched on, the member for Griffith said he wanted to terminate it; the member for Port Adelaide, who is at the table, said it was too high. Well here is a solution for those opposite: help us get rid of this unpopular, deficient tax; let us work together on strengthening our economy and protecting our environment with practical environmental measures.

One of the interesting aspects of the carbon tax is there is not a single dollar of carbon tax revenue that actually goes towards practical, on-the-ground environmental projects. The other issue with the carbon tax is it creates the impression that a tax can solve all of our environmental problems. Many of our environmental problems, such as littering and poor quality waterways et cetera, should involve better planning decisions, people taking personal responsibility not to litter and throw waste out of their windows; however, there is no discussion about how we actually improve our local environments. The carbon tax has nothing to do with that; it is just a great big money-go-round.

As has been mentioned plenty of times in this place, we all support the five per cent emissions reduction target, and our Emissions Reduction Fund will continue to work towards achieving that five per cent reduction in domestic emissions by 2020 without an electricity tax. The government will focus on measures that directly address the 440 million tonne abatement challenge to reduce emissions through measures such as reforestation, cleaning up power stations, cleaning up waste landfill and waste coalmine gas. We recognise that over the years the climate has changed and that it will continue to change, but we need to be individually responsible for our own part in looking after the environment, not just relying on governments to implement new taxes that do not even provide practical on-the-ground solutions.

In Forde we will invest in Green Army projects for the rehabilitation of the Pimpama River catchment, and the project partners at Twin Rivers Centre, the north-east Albert Landcare group and the Holcim Beenleigh quarry are all collaborating on a number of projects in this area, which have all been a great success to date—that is, for the projects already completed. These are practical projects, like eradication of weeds, the retention and protection of riverbanks and improved water quality. This is just one example of the practical on-the-ground measures that can help our environment without a tax.

The purpose of these bills is to deliver on the coalition government's commitment to abolish Labor's carbon tax and reduce the costs for businesses and households. These bills will abolish the Climate Change Authority and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, and we will deliver on our promises to the Australian people. (Time expired)

6:57 pm

Photo of Shayne NeumannShayne Neumann (Blair, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Indigenous Affairs) Share this | | Hansard source

I speak against the coalition's Clean Energy Legislation (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2013 and cognate legislation and speak in favour of Labor's position. If the member for Forde is so concerned about the electricity prices of Queensland, he should go to his mates in the LNP state government. They promised before the last state election that they would freeze electricity prices, but we have since seen them go up and up and up. Yet I have not seen a press release or heard a word from the member for Forde in relation to his colleagues and comrades in Queensland on that particular issue.

I found a statement some time ago in relation to an ETS and the environment, and it reads like this:

To reduce domestic emissions at least economic cost, we will establish a world-class domestic emissions trading scheme in Australia (planned to commence in 2011). We are also committed to capturing the opportunities from being among the first movers on carbon trading in the Asia-Pacific region.

I wonder where that came from. Mr Deputy Speaker Vasta, you would know this, and there are plenty of those opposite who would know this as this came from the coalition party's policy. This was the Liberal Party of Australia's 'Strong, Prosperous and Secure' policy released in October 2007. The coalition believed that with an emissions trading scheme they would have a strong and prosperous and secure Australia. That was the policy they took to the 2007 election. I have debated LNP coalition opponents on numerous occasions across the last four federal election campaigns, including candidates from other seats. Every single time I have debated them I have found, when you really get down to it, they do not believe in the science. Every single time that has been the case.

The coalition once believed in a market based mechanism, but today they no longer believe in the market. They are not the party of the market when it comes to emissions trading, climate change and taking action in this regard. They believe in a command economy, picking winners, penalising companies and providing subsidies for polluters. 'Hurt the community and help the polluters.' That is the policy the coalition is bringing to this chamber today, but that was not the position of the coalition in 2007. John Hewson and John Howard did not believe in a policy of direct action, and, in fact, the member for Wentworth once said that the direct action policy was a 'fig leaf'.

The coalition's policy does not make sense, because an emissions-trading scheme is the most economically efficient and environmentally effective way to deal with the challenge of human induced climate change. That is what the scientists will tell us. On this side of the chamber, we tend to believe NASA, the Bureau of Meteorology and the IPCC, not Andrew Bolt, Lord Monckton and Alan Jones. We tend to believe the experts. As the member for Wills was saying on this issue, it is not a matter of belief; it is a matter of fact. I have listened to the speeches of those opposite—and I have had to put up with a member for Forde's speech on numerous occasions; I reckon the computer just printed that out; he pressed a couple of buttons and it spewed out just like last time, in the last parliament. When you listen to those opposite talk about this sort of stuff, you can hear that in their heart of hearts they do not believe in it. They have a sort of agnosticism, if not an atheism, about this. They do not believe in the science. But Australia is responsible. We have a responsibility because we are one of the largest emitters per capita in the world: 1.5 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions comes from this country, one of the wealthiest countries in the world. We have an obligation, accordingly, to act. Those opposite do not believe that.

We on this side believe we are standing on the right side of history. We believe an emissions-trading scheme is the right way to go. A thousand scientists, along with NASA, CSIRO, the Bureau of Meteorology, all believe that human induced climate change is adversely impacting our planet. Our position is clear. For four elections now, I have campaigned on this issue, believing that we need to take action on climate change. Do not give us this nonsense about mandate. We have heard about it again and again. Where were they on this issue in the last parliament? They stood up and voted against us on this issue again and again, and they have the hide to come into this place and talk to us about mandates. Our position is clear. We accept the science. We believe in a cap on carbon emissions in this country. We believe we need to take action. We believe that future generations require us to take action. With our policy, we were taking action and it was making an impact. We had a clean energy future Household Assistance Package, and 98 per cent of people earning up to $150,000 per year received assistance. Almost six million households in this country received tax breaks or increases in their payment—14,634 families in my electorate, in Ipswich and Somerset, received higher payments.

The member for Forde said we were not giving assistance. I want to talk about a couple of examples in my electorate, just to localise it, for the edification of the member for Forde. We notified the Ipswich City Council of a $1.2 million energy efficiency grant to implement city-wide LED street lighting. It was to start off with 14 per cent of lighting, saving $200,000 a year for the ratepayers of Ipswich. It was environmentally effective and we were covering suburbs like Leichhardt, One Mile, Wulkuraka, Sadliers Crossing, Coalfalls, Woodend, North Ipswich, Brassall et cetera. It was a great example of an innovative project. Now the coalition has said to us—when we were going to save $200,000 a year for the ratepayers of Ipswich, projected to save about $1.8 million eventually—and to the Ipswich City Council: 'The program is under review.' So much for actually taking action on climate change. When a local council in Queensland is taking action on climate change, the coalition puts that program under review. Let us not kid ourselves. The whole architecture—the Clean Energy Technology Food and Foundries Investment Program, the Community Energy Efficiency Program, the assistance to business, the assistance households—is in peril from the legislation before the House. It is a terrible decision by the coalition government.

The member for Forde also had the temerity to say that we were not assisting businesses. On the first day of the campaign, the then Leader of the Opposition, now Prime Minister, came to my electorate, to the biggest meat meat-processing plant in the country, JBS. They kill 13½ thousand beasts there a week. I used to work there as a cleaner many, many years ago. We provided $1.1 million a year in savings to that company—through $4.4 million in assistance to that company, matched by the company—while cutting their carbon price liability by $790,000 a year. They warmly welcomed it, but did the then Leader of the Opposition tell the public or the company that he came into this place and voted against the funding to assist that employer in my electorate, which employs 2,000 people? That funding that we provided secured the future of the biggest meat-processing in the country. But the coalition opposed it. It was part of our clean energy package. That is what we provided. The member for Forde said we did not provide assistance.

Also in my electorate we provided funding under the $1 billion Clean Technology Investment Program—$498,750, firstly, and then another $932,625—for the Greenmountain Food Processing plant in Coominya, which employs 230 workers. And they say they support business and workers and jobs! Well, they will get rid of that type of funding, which was saving $114,000 a year, in energy efficiency gains through what that company was doing with those two grants, reducing costs initially by 34 per cent and then by another 44 per cent with the second grant. They were enthusiastic about that, but the coalition opposed that grant as well.

What they have said is that they will tax the taxpayers of this country. They were not fair dinkum about emissions trading schemes in the past, I believe, because John Howard confessed recently that he was pushed into it—he had to say something because the public was pushing him into it.

Their direct action policy has been described by former Treasury Secretary Ken Henry as 'bizarre'. He made those comments last month in a speech delivered at the Australian National University. He labelled the coalition's direct action plan strategy a 'con' and said it was 'bizarre' policy that actually pays the polluters. We need a better example than this.

But if they were fair dinkum about their direct action policies, I would like to see the legislation for that introduced at the same time. Where is it? Are we going to have a climate change action gap in this country? If this legislation passes, when are we going to have the direct action policy, which we know that many of those opposite do not believe in?

The member for Forde talked about facts and talked about the impact of the carbon price on the economy. But we do not take seriously on this side of the chamber those opposite when they talk about this issue, because Gladstone is still there, Whyalla has not been wiped off the map, and last time I bought lamb roast at Woolworths in Brassall shopping centre it did not cost me $100. Those opposite made ridiculous claims in relation to carbon pricing. So let's talk about some facts. Since we brought it in we have seen a 7.4 per cent drop in emissions in the national electricity market. That is almost 12 billion tonnes less pollution from the electricity sector. We have seen renewable energy generation rise by almost 30 per cent. We have seen nearly 200,000 jobs created. We have seen businesses and companies find ways to reduce their carbon footprint and to save energy costs, like the companies I mentioned before. When we first introduced a price on carbon the projected increase in the CPI was 0.7 per cent, less than one-third of the impact of the GST on the CPI, but I did not hear those members opposite at any stage talk about that.

We stated when we went into the last election that we wanted to reduce people's household costs and it was our intention to terminate the carbon price and moved quickly to an emissions trading scheme which places a legal limit on carbon pollution and lets business work out the cheapest and most effective way to operate. In effect, it was pretty similar to the policy the Liberals announced in 2007 before the election. But the coalition's policy now, direct action, sets no limit on carbon pollution and it costs businesses and households more. I agree with Ken Henry. 'Bizarre' is the right word for this reckless and pointless plan.

Be under no illusions, they are getting rid of a whole architecture here. The Australian Renewable Energy Agency, the Climate Change Commission, the Climate Change Authority, the Clean Energy Finance Corporation—it all goes. It is step backwards and not a step forward.

On 30 October this year the Climate Change Authority published its comprehensive draft analysis of the caps and targets they believed Australia needed in order to take meaningful action on climate change. It is not going to happen under the coalition. According to the Climate Institute, more than 80 countries representing 80 per cent of global emissions are now committed to reducing carbon pollution. All major economies, including the US and China, are implementing policies to reduce emissions, drive clean energy investment and improve energy efficiency. Several developing nations, China, Brazil, South Africa, Mexico and India amongst them, are following suit. Our No. 1 trading partner, China, has introduced a carbon price to an emissions trading scheme arrangement and at the time China indicated its wish to link its scheme to us. So did the Prime Minister of New Zealand—a conservative and a National—when he came to this place and spoke in this House.

Ultimately, we were looking to link our emissions trading scheme with the European Union's 500 million to establish a common carbon price and a common carbon market with our major trading partners. The coalition's legislation is a national embarrassment to our country and our region—an international embarrassment as well. They cannot even take the steps to go to conferences that deal with this issue. Many of those opposite will not accept the science. This is a very retrograde step by the coalition. Our children and their children will suffer. Our country will suffer. It is not the most environmentally effective way to deal with the challenge of climate change. It is not good for productivity, it is not good for the economy and it is not good for future generations in this country.

7:06 pm

Photo of Craig KellyCraig Kelly (Hughes, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to speak on the Clean Energy Legislation (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2013 and related bills. Firstly, today should be a great day for our democracy. Today is the day that we restore trust in government to the Australian people. We know that the Prime Minister, when he was opposition leader, made it very clear that if the coalition were successful and he was elected Prime Minister that the very first order of business would be to come into this chamber and to table legislation to repeal the carbon tax. That is the promise that the coalition took to the Australian people. We are here today delivering on that promise.

What concerns me the most about the debate on the carbon tax is that I think our country has never seen so many half-truths, so many misleading statements, and so many outright lies than it has over this carbon tax issue. We can all remember before the 2010 federal election, with the poll only a few days away, the then Prime Minister looked down the barrel of a camera and pledged hand on heart to the Australian people that there would be no carbon tax under a government that she led. It wasn't only the then Prime Minister; it was also the Treasurer. just days out from the 2010 federal election, the then Treasurer said: 'Certainly, what we reject is this hysterical allegation that somehow we are moving towards a carbon tax from the Liberals in their advertising. We certainly reject that.'

We all know the history; we all know the betrayal. We all know how the carbon tax was introduced as legislation and passed by this parliament and how the public have been burdened and businesses have been burdened with that for the last few years. Let's look at some of what the previous Labor government said during their term of government when the coalition announced that they would repeal this bill. The Prime Minister, Ms Gillard, claimed the coalition was not like Labor. She said, referring to the then opposition leader: 'It is all too difficult. It is all too hard. He cannot do it now.' Well, we are doing it. We are repealing the carbon tax. Then there was Labor's climate change minister. He declared that Tony Abbott 'cannot and will not repeal the carbon tax'. We can and we will and we are.

Then we move on to the most recent election. This is where I am very confused about the position that the opposition now are taking. I have some flyers from the last election. I have an election flyer here for the member for Moreton. It says: 'Kevin Rudd and Labor have removed the carbon tax.' This is before the election. There is also a shopper docket on the flyer that has a few things listed on it:

School expenses: reduced

Gala apples: $5.12

Eggs: $4.02

Carbon tax: abolished.

At the last election, only a few months ago, the Labor Party were handing out literature to the public, not claiming that they were going to repeal the carbon tax, but claiming they had actually removed it. Yet we have them coming into this parliament today, telling us they are not going to vote for the repeal of this legislation. And it is not only the member for Moreton. I have here another Labor flyer from the last election. This time authorised by Senator Louise Pratt. It says: 'Kevin Rudd and Labor removed the carbon tax.' This is not after the election—this is during the election campaign—that the current opposition claimed that they had removed the carbon tax.

There is even one here, printed in my electorate on Milperra Road in Revesby. Again it claims that the Rudd Labor government has removed the carbon tax, saving the average family $380. Again, there is this row, a nice little photograph, of a shopper docket which says: 'Carbon tax: abolished.' Yet here we have them coming into this parliament today opposing the very legislation that repeals it.

You become lost for words. What this Labor opposition wants to do is impose years of cost-of-living misery on the struggling Australian consumer, the struggling Australian family. Not only that; they want this carbon tax to increase and they want it to spread and grow larger. They actually wanted to extend this carbon tax to our transport sector on diesel fuel. This Labor opposition wants to punish every one of those hardworking truck drivers out there in our cities and our country towns doing interstate haulage, so that every time they go and fill up at a bowser, they will be paying the carbon tax, which will increase year after year after year.

What the Labor Party does not understand is that this tax acts as a reverse tariff; it puts Australian businesses at a competitive disadvantage. We want to see higher wages in this country. But the only way we can pay people higher wages, the only way people can earn higher wages, is if we are internationally competitive. And that is where the great flaw in this tax lies, because it punishes an Australian business that produces a good in Australia. When the very same article, the very same item, is made overseas, the carbon tax is avoided. So is it any wonder that the unemployment queues in this country became 200,000 people longer over the previous term of the Labor government?

The misleading statements just go on and on and on. Perhaps the most misleading claim we hear is that this carbon tax is somehow taking action on climate change. We need to learn from the mistakes of the past six years of the Labor government. We need in this place to be honest with the Australian public. We cannot mislead them as happened here for the last six years. We need to be honest with the public and we need to admit that even if the carbon tax was kept in place and it reduced our emissions—by, let's say 10 per cent, which is way above the numbers that this government has promised, and let's assume, let's look at, say, the IPCC's estimates of warming that say 3.3 degrees over the next century—by how much would this carbon tax reduce the temperature? That is the ultimate question. For a carbon tax to be effective, how much will it reduce the temperature? Those calculations are done.

If we were to have a carbon tax that reduced Australia's emissions by 10 per cent between now and 2050 we would reduce global temperatures by 0.0015—that is, 15 ten-thousandths of one degree. So members of the opposition cannot come into this parliament and claim they are taking strong action when the fact is that, even if it were effective and even if the IPCC's estimations of warming were on the upper limit, we would get a reduction of 0.015 of one degree by 2050.

The other thing that is very misleading in this debate is the claim that other countries are taking action and that Australia is not out on its own. Greg Sheridan thankfully detailed this in a recent article in the Australian. He went through some facts. There are 195 members of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Only 34 of those countries have anything even resembling an emissions trading scheme. Twenty-seven of those are in the EU scheme. We hear much about how China has reduced its emissions. The facts are that in China there are just seven designated pilot projects and only one, just one single project, has begun operation in Shenzhen. Guess what? All the permits are given away for free. It has absolutely no effect on China's carbon dioxide emissions. The Chinese are simply laughing at us. We know that unless China has a mass rollout of nuclear power stations throughout that nation the Chinese emissions of carbon dioxide are going to continue to grow and grow over years to come.

Let us have a look at some other countries. Japan has effectively abandoned all plans for an ETS. Japan has no economy-wide carbon tax or ETS. Japan has recently announced it will increase its targets for CO2 emissions, not decrease them. It is the same across in South Korea. Yes, South Korea has a plan but it is issuing all permits for free in the first period. Let's talk about the USA. The USA has no carbon tax. It has no ETS and is unlikely to ever have one. We hear about California—where 90 per cent of the permits for electricity generation are given away for free. As for Canada, we know Canada has no ETS. Canada has no carbon tax. In fact, the Canadian government only last week issued a press release from the parliamentary secretary to the Prime Minister, Paul Calandra. He said:

Canada applauds the decision by Prime Minister Abbott to introduce legislation to repeal Australia's carbon tax. The Australian Prime Minister's decision will be noticed around the world and sends an important message.

… … …

Our government knows that carbon taxes raise the price of everything, including gas, groceries and electricity.

… … …

Our government has reduced greenhouse gas emissions while protecting and creating Canadian jobs—greenhouse emissions are down since 2006, and we've created 1 million net new jobs since the recession—and we have done this without penalising Canadian families with a carbon tax.

I could go on. It is the same in India; it is the same in Indonesia: no carbon tax, no ETS. Then we move to comparisons with the European scheme. We know that the price is currently around $7. In its first five years, the European scheme intended to raise 500 million a year whereas our carbon tax aims to raise nine billion a year. So all of Europe, the entire continent of Europe combined imposes a cost of just one-eighteenth of the cost we here in Australia are imposing on ourselves. That is the massive absurdity of this tax.

In the remaining time, I would like to look at the opposition's proposals to have an ETS scheme. What this actually does is sell out our national sovereignty. If we are to link the price of our carbon tax to the EU scheme, we will be allowing European beauracrats to set the price of the tax paid by Australian citizens, so the electors in my electorate of Hughes will not have the rate of the carbon tax that they pay decided by myself or by other members of the Australian parliament. We will be subcontracting those decisions out to unelected beauracrats in Brussels. We should support this carbon tax repeal. It must be repealed urgently.

7:27 pm

Photo of Bob KatterBob Katter (Kennedy, Independent) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to speak on the Clean Energy Legislation (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2013 and associated bills. I find this place quite extraordinary really. The election was won on the basis of the debt that the ALP had rolled up of $350 billion, and quite rightly so. The new government within eight weeks had raised that $350 billion to $500 billion. You run an election saying you are going to fix this debt up and then eight weeks later you increase the debt dramatically. The public are extraordinarily gullible to agree that this is a good thing to happen—that you say one thing before an election and then do something else after it. That was what happened with the carbon emissions: we had a Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, who, in my opinion, was never ever in favour of a carbon tax. To become Prime Minister she had to enter into a coalition and the price of the coalition was imposing a carbon tax—as the member for Hughes has so ably expressed to the House—upon the Australian people. I can remember walking into this place and the interviewers said, 'You are completely out of step with your anti free-market policies.' I said when I walk inside that door I am most certainly a minority of one. On some issues I might have the member for Hughes and be a minority of two. That will put the mockers on you.

Out there in the public arena, 70 to 85 per cent in every single poll that has ever been done says that we should be protecting jobs. Similarly here, we have the Liberal Party coming into this place and acting like champions opposing the carbon tax. I hate to remind the government that the carbon tax was introduced into this place as a trading emissions scheme. I failed to be able to draw a distinction between a trading emissions scheme and a carbon tax. Please: I am a simple Cloncurry boy at the end of the day.

John Howard moved it with Malcolm Turnbull beside him. John Howard left as leader and he was replaced I think by—I am trying desperately to think and he was a good member of parliament too but he was very, very strong on carbon. So the second leader of the Liberal party over these years was a very strong proponent of a carbon tax and then Malcolm Turnbull became leader and of course he was the architect of the emissions trading scheme.

I am a very cynical person and you ask: who benefits from a trading emissions scheme? Who is going to be richer and who is going to be poorer?' Clearly, the people that are trading the emissions are going to be a hell of a lot richer. The fact of the matter is that Goldman Sachs are one of the principal people that will be benefiting from the emissions trading scheme.

It is still imposing a cost upon carbon emissions. Australia depends for almost its entire income—there is gold and there is aluminium. Aluminium is being crucified by the highest electricity charges in the world. I cannot see how the aluminium industry can survive in Australia. The reason aluminium came here was supercheap hydropower in Tasmania and supercheap power in Queensland where I had the very great honour of being the Minister for Mines and Energy. I deserve no credit for it. My great mentor Ron Camm took the overburdened coal from Utah under the Utah agreement, so we fuelled half of Queensland's power needs with free coal—reserved resource policy, which Western Australia has, which New South Wales most certainly hasn't and Queensland most certainly hasn't. Not a single gigajoule of the gas in the Northern Territory or Queensland has been reserved for the people of Queensland or the Northern Territory.

We strained every nerve, muscle and sinew to ensure that we had the cheapest electricity charges in the world. When the socialists defeated the government and the government fell at the start of 1990, we had the cheapest electricity charges in the world. Australia has now amongst the highest electricity charges in the world, and how a country whose entire economy depends upon coal could be so stupid as to propose an emission tradings scheme which imposes a huge burden upon the carbon which is the coal industry—have a look at the figures: 199 tonnes, the annual emissions from the electricity industry. The nearest to that is 94 million tonnes from stationary engines and 90 million tonnes from the transport industry. When we are talking carbon emissions, we are actually talking about the electricity industry and the coal industry. You mercilessly hammer the one industry that the country's economy depends upon: coal.

The Liberals have made a very big deal of their direct action. I have not even caught a hint of what direct action is, but the Liberals in New South Wales have taken direct action: they have already reduced the ethanol content from 10 per cent. Mr Iemma, when he introduced ethanol, said 'I cannot go another week with having the deaths of people in Sydney upon my conscience that simply do not have to die.'

The head of the AMA said more people die from motor vehicle emissions than motor vehicle accidents—not me, the leading medical person in the country. The head of the air quality control council said exactly the same when he was addressing the national air quality control annual conference. Petrol contains over 120 chemicals, but 23 of those chemicals are carcinogenic and the aromatics are highly carcinogenic.

When you say, as the leader of the National Party said in this place at the time, we cannot interfere with what goes into motorcars, people must have free choice. We were the people to take lead out and then we would not order the motor companies to keep the aromatics out. We had a policy that was favourable to the oil companies but a policy that was going to cost lives in this country. Either the government at the time was incredibly stupid and successive Labor governments are incredibly stupid or callous if they can stand by the estimates for deaths in Sydney is 1400.

Why did the world go to ethanol? Every single country on earth now except the oil-producing countries obviously—and I refer to the Macquarie Bank's investment potential in agriculture; there is the map—is coloured in except Australia and Africa. Every single country is on ethanol except Australia and Africa. We are in good company.

Canada, the United States, Mexico, Colombia, Brazil, Peru, Argentina, Chile—the whole of North and South America is coloured in. Europe—every single European Union country is signed up to 15 per cent. Britain was the last to sign and she signed at the start of this year. In Asia, China will have 15 per cent of all motor fuels on it by 2020. Also, there is India, Vietnam, Philippines and even Indonesia, which has a lot of oil, and Japan. The only country on earth without it is us.

For those who consider Mr Al Gore their patron saint—and there are many on both sides of the parliament who have quoted Al Gore on many occasions in this place—in his book An inconvenient truth on page 172, but I might have that wrong, he says that the first solution to the carbon problem is ethanol. I think there are some 23 reports in the congressional library in Washington DC on this and almost all of them invariably state there will be a 28 per cent reduction if you move to grain ethanol and a 72 per cent reduction if you move to sugarcane ethanol.

Take the No. 2 item on the list, transport. The Brazilian experience is 90 million tonnes. More than half of the petrol in Brazil comes from ethanol. There is a reduction of 72 per cent. So you are looking at a 40 per cent reduction in that figure.

I have the list here and it shows a reduction of six per cent with electricity. But if I was running this country there would be a whopping 40 per cent reduction in the transport item. That would dramatically pull down the amount of CO2. I am not losing sleep like the people in the government, the Liberals. On numerous occasions they have stood up and talked about the carbon emissions problem and global warming. Many of them are very strong supporters of that point of view and their government believes in trading and emissions schemes. I do not. I believe you should introduce ethanol like every other country on earth has done and you will directly reduce the amount of CO2 going into the atmosphere.

I believe in the new and revolutionary methods of processing sugarcane. I pay very great tribute to NQBE. They are in China at the present moment. Whilst we will die in this country from motor vehicle emissions, the Chinese government is acting with great aggression to reduce the emissions in that country. What touched all this off was a very long study that was done in California in the United States. It found that tens of thousands of people each year die from motor vehicle emissions. It is not so much the carcinogens in the petrol but the small particles that come out of the emissions. You do not get a very good burn with petrol because it has no oxygen. Ethanol contains 30 per cent oxygen so you get a much better burn, so you do not get the amount of small particles.

In fact, 60 Minutes recently did a show on Sao Paulo, which is the cleanest city in the world. Sao Paulo has a larger population than Australia. Their population was 23 million when I was over there briefly on an ethanol tour—the only time I have been out of Australia. Their population is bigger than Australia's by one million. All those people are jammed into one city and it is the cleanest city on earth because 55 per cent of their petrol is ethanol.

I take my hat off to the oil companies. They are good. We are so gullible and so much in the hands of the oil companies that we believe the rubbish that they tell us. They told us our motor cars would break down if we used ethanol. We have all watched the movies made in Hollywood where they show the belt highway used by millions of cars every day. Do you see the belt highway held up with broken down cars? The latest figures show the production is now 50.3 billion litres a year over there. It would seem to me that they are on 20 per cent now. I have not noticed any cars breaking down there. Are all the cars breaking down in Brazil? Could that proposition be seriously put up in the parliament of Australia and actually believed by a lot of the people in here? There are a lot of people who believe what they want to believe and if the oil companies are leaning on them, I know what they are going to believe.

I have a picture here of a very handsome person in a big white hat filling up his car in Sao Paulo. The price was 123 reais, which is 74c a litre when that photograph was taken in 2007. I lost my photograph showing me filling up in Minnesota at 84c a litre. When I came back to this country I filled up at 139c a litre in Sydney. I can tell you that we are paying a hell of a lot more than that where I come from. We do not have commuter transportation systems in the big cities in North Queensland. The answers are there and it is about time the government twigged to them. (Time expired)

7:43 pm

Photo of Luke SimpkinsLuke Simpkins (Cowan, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I do welcome the chance to speak on the Clean Energy Legislation (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2013 because I have always been against the carbon tax and I have always been against an emissions trading system, especially where the world does not operate an ETS and there is nothing that would not see Australia disadvantaged. What I am absolutely certain about is that there will never be a consensus on an ETS and there will never be a worldwide or comprehensive agreement on an ETS. If it could not be done with trade talks, it will not be done with a taxation and wealth redistribution scheme.

As the Prime Minister has said, the Labor-Greens carbon tax is socialism masquerading as environmentalism and its time is over. We have always said we were against the carbon tax. We are against it because of the way it was imposed upon the Australian people and we are against it because it is not in the interests of any Australian out there beyond this building. It was not and is not helping the lives of the people in Girrawheen, Woodvale, Ballajura, Warwick or any one of the 25 suburbs of Cowan. It does not help the people or businesses of Australia and it works against the retention of jobs in this country, at least the private enterprise jobs anyway.

We have always been against it and always said we would repeal it as a matter of urgency. That is a point not lost on my constituents, and I have fielded many questions about that in the last four years. A fairly persistent question was 'How would it be done?', and while people wanted it gone, there was a concern that it could even be done. But what we know is that if it was put in it can be taken out, and the legislation we are considering will do exactly that.

The Clean Energy Act 2011 and five associated charges acts will be repealed. The ACCC, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, will be used to enforce the changes. Prices will be monitored and enforcement will take place to ensure that prices will fall because there will be no carbon-specific price exploitation. The bottom line is that when prices went up due to the Labor Party's carbon tax, prices will come off in the same way, and the ACCC will be there to enforce those changes.

The industry assistance schemes put in place to return some of the money taken from certain industries in programs such as the Jobs and Competitive Program, the Energy Security Fund and the Steel Transformation Plan will be abolished from 1 July 2014. I also look forward to the abolition of the Climate Change Authority and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, delivered through the repeals of the Climate Change Authority Act 2011 and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation Act 2012. I also welcome the reduction of future appropriations for the Australian Renewable Energy Agency delivered through amendments to the Australian Renewable Energy Agency Act 2011.

Of course when we take this tax off, the compensation comes off as well. The former government was so interested in popular politics that they put this carbon tax in place to change behaviour and then compensated so that behaviour did not need to change. Therefore the income tax cuts put in place to compensate for the carbon tax will not be needed from 1 July 2015.

The carbon tax currently stands at $24.15 and will rise to $25.40 from 1 July 2014. If Labor stands in the way of lower prices then every Australian will continue to be hit by the effects of the Labor-Green carbon tax, and they will be hit again from 1 July 2014 with that tax lifting. I would also like to note that at the introduction of their carbon tax legislation, Labor spent millions of dollars of taxpayer funds to advertise how fantastic it was going to be and then just over 100 days later proposed major structural changes on top of the eight changes already undergone to this, their fantastic tax. It is no wonder that the Australian people felt so strongly about voting in the Liberal Party and the coalition, who had stated that they are 100 per cent committed to repealing the carbon tax.

There can be no doubt that the repeal of Labor's carbon tax was at the very centre of our policy platform. It was clear what we stood for and in that context the coalition won 90 seats out of 150 seats. That is what we call the will of the people being clearly stated. As the Prime Minister said before the election, the first bill introduced would be the repeal of the carbon tax—and it was. What a contrast to those on the other side; we say we will do something before the election and then do exactly that after the election. The contrast being with Labor at the 2010 election, where the then Prime Minister said, 'There will be no carbon tax under a government I lead'.

Of course, a similar thing did occur, again by Labor at the latest election. Senator Pratt of the Labor Party sent out a flyer into my electorate of Cowan with the headline of 'Carbon tax: abolished. Kevin Rudd and Labor have removed the carbon tax.' This, of course, was not true, but clearly an indication that in electoral trouble, Labor wanted to distance itself from its own policy.

Unlike the Labor Party, which went to the 2010 election promising that there will be no carbon tax only to introduce one after the election, we are committed to delivering on the commitments that we took to the last election. Leaving aside political history in this country, the bottom line is that we said we would get rid of the carbon tax and we will. We are the only political side that can be trusted. It is clearly the will of the people that we do so and, despite the viewpoint of the fringe extreme Left, the Greens and elements of the Labor Party, the clear majority of Australians have spoken. Despite others trying to be noisy, they are merely a minority viewpoint.

The reason that there is a majority view on this issue is also somewhat obvious. We know that there has not been any real warming of the planet since 1998, and up until a few years ago the drought in the Eastern States provided such convenient images of dry, parched and cracked earth, sheep or cattle on fields without grass and the Murray River looking particularly low. It certainly made for good imagery, but then the floods and the end of the drought reduced the credibility of the extremism. Australians began to see once again what was happening as cyclical, and the main issues of concern came back to areas such as cost of living, national security and other more immediate concerns. I do not think that it is that complex to see why public opinion shifted in this area.

The trouble with the stock standard tactics of the Left is that speaking in dramatic, extreme and shocking terminologies is nothing more than of short-term political benefit. Yes, concern is raised and people are motivated, but as time goes on the apocalypse does not actually arrive and the signs of the end of days do not seem to be particularly ominous. This is despite the Greens still pushing their wagon. To try to keep up the alarmism they keep trying to attribute bushfires or even typhoons to climate change. The point is that the climate change card has been overplayed and the Australian people are increasingly sceptical. The result is now that other issues have become more important and the carbon tax is now more a cost of living issue, particularly when the previous government's own modelling showed that our emissions will rise in 2010 from 560 million tonnes to 637 million tonnes in 2020.

I often wonder whether those on the other side—Labor and the Greens—think the Australian people are stupid. The fact is that the people in this country can see through such policies. They do not see the apocalyptic prophesies coming true but they do see their cost of living rising for no benefit. They are smarter than Labor and the Greens think they are and this has resulted in those on the other side wondering why the majority of Australians have swung against them. I can just imagine those responsible for the Labor and Greens election reviews scratching their heads, wondering what happened and why everything went so badly. Well, to help with the analysis: the Australian people are smarter than they were given credit for, and do not fall for the cheap politics that Labor has tried to play.

The Labor-Green opposition to our repeal of the carbon tax today is in defiance of the will of the people, and the defiance of that will is pretty arrogant. It is saying to the majority of the Australian people, 'You don't know what is good for you, and only the Labor Party and the Greens do'. That is wrong, and if Labor and the Greens block the will of the people here, the extra power and utility bills, and the extra prices that flow down correspondingly to the prices of goods and services for every Australian, will be entirely the fault of those who sit opposite, and the people will know it.

It would be wrong of me not to talk a little about the vested interests that stand behind and in support of the previous government. Of course, every university department or NGO with 'climate change' in their name knows that an increasingly dubious Australia or world is a risk to their jobs and their funding. At the UN climate talks in Warsaw, in defence of their position and funding sources, NGOs tried to embarrass the government by awarding Australia 'fossil of the day' awards. Sensing a threat to the bucket of money, they rushed to the defence of their self-interest. Apparently you were given these awards if you disagreed with these non-elected environmental group NGOs. If you do not want to give them money or redistribute wealth then they call you names. But, as I said, fringe left-wing groups are increasingly being seen as self-interested parties. Even some business groups that were in Warsaw are looking to make money from carbon prices and trading and therefore are also concerned that the Australian government and the people have decided that we are not going to help them make that money and we are not going to fritter away the taxpayers' money.

I am proud to be a member of this Abbott-led coalition government, particularly so when we send just a handful of diplomats to Warsaw, in such fine contrast to the delegation of over 100 for former Prime Minister Rudd's attendance at the utterly ineffective Copenhagen conference—the conference at which he, as Miranda Devine put it:

… staked the nation's entire prestige, and indeed alleged future survival, on the outcome of the global climate talks that he, singlehandedly, was going to guide, thanks to his Mandarin-speaking rapport with the Chinese.

Lo and behold, he was treated as an irrelevant joke in Copenhagen, and the talks were the flop every sensible person had predicted.

In what those on the other side would be better placed to judge, he 'flew into a narcissistic rage' and used terms and phrases that cannot be repeated.

As I have said many times before, I am no adherent to the theory of anthropogenic climate change. But, regardless of my viewpoint, what has changed in the political environment is that the people have moved on. The drought, the parched earth, the Murray-Darling river system problems, together with Al Gore's fictional movie An Inconvenient Truth, served to scare and alarm people. But the apocalyptic scenarios by Gore, Flannery and others, whose livelihood began to depend on the promulgation of fear, began to evaporate when there was so much water in Warragamba Dam that flooding became an issue. That is the problem, as I have already stated: when you talk up the situation in grand and terrifying terms, the whole campaign begins to fall apart when the people see the exact opposite of what you predict. I think a fair few people probably still have concerns about global warming, but when they see empirical evidence contrary to the predictions of those with vested interests they too begin to question whether the Labor Party's plans to hurt the Australian economy with a money-churning carbon tax are actually worth it.

I also note that the outgoing Future Fund chairman, David Murray, who last year described Labor's carbon tax as 'the worst piece of economic reform I have ever seen in my life', last week added to his comment by saying that 'the climate problem is overstated' and suggesting there had been a 'breakdown in integrity in the science'. It is interesting that there are other business leaders who are now brave enough to come out of the woodwork to voice similar opinions when they were not there years ago. As was rightly stated in a recent article in The Daily Telegraph:

Already climate alarmists are seizing on this year's early bushfires to rev up another panic in the public mind, and will use a hot summer, or any unusual weather, to prosecute their case for a renewed jihad on cheap coal-fired electricity, which is, of course, the source of Australia's competitive advantage.

They are not troubled by the appalling illogic of their position, in which, even if Australia retreated to the Stone Age and reduced carbon dioxide emissions to zero, there would be precisely zero effect on bushfire behaviour or summer temperatures or sea levels.

The carbon tax is an economy-wide tax that is hurting Australian people and businesses. If the opposition continue to try and stop the repeal of the carbon tax they will personally be responsible for higher electricity prices for families, pensioners and businesses and for fewer jobs and a slower growing economy. This is the reality if they try to stop us from implementing our mandate to scrap the carbon tax.

The coalition are totally committed to our promise to scrap the carbon tax as swiftly as possible because scrapping the carbon tax is very important for Australia's future. Scrapping the carbon tax will help families and pensioners across Australia. It will help workers and businesses. It will help businesses across Australia because it will reduce the cost of doing business and it will help make the position of workers more secure. It will make jobs more secure because, of course, it will help businesses across the country to prosper. As the Minister for Finance has previously said, look no further than the former government's own economic modelling. The modelling released by the former government showed that, as a result of their carbon tax, our economy was going to grow by $1 trillion less, in 2012 dollars, between 2012 and 2050—a whopping $1 trillion of economic growth was taken out of our economy as a result of Labor's carbon tax.

It must not be underestimated that repealing the carbon tax also delivers on a clear and emphatic commitment that we took to the last election. Unlike the Labor Party, we stick to the commitments that we take to an election after that election. By delivering on this election commitment we are enacting the will of Australians all over the country. As I often say when I visit students at schools within my electorate of Cowan, both sides of parliament believe in making the country the best is can be; where we differ is on what is the best way to achieve this. To this effect, both sides agreed on the target of a five per cent emissions reduction by 2020 but were divided over the means to achieve it. However, let us keep in mind that at the election Australians, when faced with a choice, made that choice. It is clear that they had faith in our policy to repeal the carbon tax and faith in the vision we had for environmental action. The fact that the Greens and Labor are now stunned by that choice is a problem for our political opponents, not for us, but if they reject the will of the people that will remain a problem for them way into the future.

7:58 pm

Photo of Jenny MacklinJenny Macklin (Jagajaga, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Families and Payments) Share this | | Hansard source

I would just say to the member for Cowan that he seems to have forgotten that when John Howard was the Prime Minister back in 2007 he actually took a policy to introduce an emissions trading scheme for this country. Plainly, he has completely forgotten—

Photo of Luke SimpkinsLuke Simpkins (Cowan, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

There were a lot of conditions on that!

Photo of Rob MitchellRob Mitchell (McEwen, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Member for Cowan, you enjoyed silence. It would be nice if you gave the same respect to others.

Photo of Jenny MacklinJenny Macklin (Jagajaga, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Families and Payments) Share this | | Hansard source

Plainly, he has no regard for his own coalition parties' previous policies. They have flip-flopped all over the place and now we have the legislation that is before us. This matter has been the subject of debate in this parliament for many decades. Across that time we have seen the coalition parties take many different points of view on this issue. Throughout the debate, though, Labor's position has been consistent. Most importantly, we accept the overwhelming consensus of the scientists. The science tells us—whether it is from NASA, the CSIRO, or the Bureau of Meteorology, they all agree—that human induced climate change is real. The member for Cowan has certainly just indicated that he does not think it is real even though of course there are many members of the government that disagree with him.

Climate change is caused by carbon pollution. Its effects are harmful to the environment. The extreme weather events that are occurring around the globe, not just in Australia, with increased frequency and intensity are occurring because of climate change. Global temperatures are rising. Global sea levels are rising. On this side of the parliament we accept this evidence. If you accept the evidence, then of course the responsible thing to do as a government is to act. This is the view of the Labor Party.

What is then the most efficient way to reduce our emissions? This really is what this debate should be about. What is the most efficient way to make sure that Australia contributes to the overall reduction of emissions in our country? This really is why the government's position is so irresponsible. The policy choice that we have before us is between the opposition's view that there should be a market based emissions trading scheme that puts a price on carbon and the government's so-called 'Direct Action' model. The choice is very clear. Labor's view is that we should have a market based mechanism that puts a price on carbon. All the evidence shows that this is the most efficient way of dealing with climate change, the cheapest and the fairest way of cutting pollution. It is the view of leading climate change economists like Nicholas Stern and Ross Garnaut, both internationally renowned for their knowledge and understanding of the most effective way to reduce carbon emissions.

The alternative that the coalition has is their so-called Direct Action model. What we know about that is that it will be costly and simply cannot guarantee we meet the emissions targets that the government itself has set. Even the coalition is no longer confident that they will meet the targets that they have set to reduce carbon pollution with their Direct Action approach. Make no mistake, the coalition's Direct Action policy will hurt families because of course it is families as taxpayers who will be paying the cost of Direct Action.

A market based approach achieves a reduction of emissions at lowest cost. We have already seen an 8.6 per cent reduction in emissions in the National Electricity Market during the first six months of the carbon price. The creation of 150,000 jobs, continued growth in our economy and low inflation, and a 25 per cent increase in renewable energy. These are the facts.

By contrast, Direct Action has an Emissions Reduction Fund that actually uses taxpayers' money to pay polluters to make emissions reductions. The former Secretary of the Treasury, Ken Henry, recently described Direct Action as 'bizarre'. It was bizarre from Ken Henry's view because it involves the government paying big polluters in a scheme that will cost more and reduce productivity. That is not Labor saying that, it is the former Treasury secretary. It is almost impossible to find a reputable economist that backs Direct Action over an emissions trading scheme. Direct Action will be costly. It will use taxpayer funds to pay big polluters and we know that it will harm Australia's chances to create job opportunities especially in the renewables sector.

I also want to emphasise that this approach the government is taking without a market based price on carbon pollution means that Australia will be left behind. Other countries around the world will attract investment in clean energy technologies that create jobs and generate economic growth. Around the world right now more money is being invested in new renewable power capacity than in new fossil fuel capacity. Other countries are taking action. In June of this year China launched its first carbon emissions trading scheme in Shenzhen, a business hub with a population of around 10 million people. China is going down the path of carbon emissions trading with a further six emissions trading schemes to be established throughout China ahead of a national scheme in 2015. South Korea passed legislation last year to establish an emissions trading scheme. California launched its own emission trading system in January, and of course the European Union has had an emissions trading scheme for some time.

This legislation will do immeasurable harm to Australia's international reputation in the fight to combat climate change. The new Prime Minister has wanted to avoid taking action on climate change for some time. He seems to want to deprive Australian workers of the job opportunities offered by a clean energy future. Unlike the coalition, Labor wants to make sure that we both care for the environment and reduce our emissions at the same time as seeing innovation and new jobs across industry. We have demonstrated our commitment to helping families and seniors with cost-of-living pressures, and of course our Clean Energy Package did exactly that. Our Clean Energy Package was designed to make sure that big polluters and not Australian families and pensioners pay for the harmful pollution they emit into our atmosphere. It has directed and continues to direct revenue raised from pricing carbon to Australian families and pensioners through increases in their payments.

We also made sure that support was provided to industry so they are best placed to innovate and take advantage of the opportunities presented by a clean energy future. This is all so that our children and grandchildren can inherit a cleaner and more prosperous Australia. All of this is now at risk under the coalition. As I have mentioned, under the prime minister's direct action policy it will be families and pensioners that will be subsidising big polluters.

I am glad that we did shame this government into maintaining Labor's household assistance for Australian families and those self-funded retirees and pensioners that need extra support. Without the pressure that came from Labor in the last parliament, those opposite would have shamelessly cut assistance to families and pensioners. The government has now unfortunately abandoned the previously bipartisan policy of lifting Australia's target for cutting carbon emissions if global action on climate change were to be strengthened. Since 2009 until now, there has been bipartisan support for increasing Australia's emission reduction target to 25 per cent below 2000 levels by 2020 if there was a genuine global effort to reduce emissions. But not any more—that, like many of the other commitments from those opposite, has just gone out the window.

By contrast to those opposite, Labor intends to do what we can to reduce carbon emissions—to make sure we have the most effective carbon pollution reduction scheme. We refuse to consign future generations of Australians to a world that is beyond repair. Ultimately it will be future generations that will look back on us today and cast judgement on this government—a government that refuses to take the most effective action on climate change through an emissions trading scheme, and all for base political motives. That is why we are having this debate today—because this coalition is putting their political interest ahead of our country's future.

8:09 pm

Photo of Jane PrenticeJane Prentice (Ryan, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The carbon tax is the one issue that defines the Labor Party. It is the one issue that encapsulates the integrity of the Labor Party. You might think that this question was removed from political debate with the departure of former Prime Minister Gillard. Not so. Even today, I invite the people to judge the Labor Party by one simple test: will they keep their word on the carbon tax or not? What could be more simple than that? Will they act in accordance with the clear and overwhelming view of the Australian people as expressed at the last election? They are in denial. They refuse to honour their word. They refuse to accept what the people of Australia have said.

When the then Prime Minister of Australia said, four days before the 2010 election, that there would be no carbon tax under a government she led, Australians understandably took that promise at face value. As history has recorded, the prime minister broke that promise and, indeed, the trust of the Australian people. The carbon tax came into effect on 1 July 2012 and was supposed to impose a tax of $23 per tonne of carbon dioxide emissions on the so-called 500 biggest polluters. The Clean Energy Regulator, however, was constantly updating and revising its hit list of local councils and companies, resulting in chaos and confusion. At one stage it was supposed to be 500 and then 250; the list was eventually revised to 315, of which 77 operate solely in Queensland.

In late July 2012, almost a month after the carbon tax came into effect, the Clean Energy Regulator decided that an additional 24 organisations, primarily electricity providers, would be added to the list of so-called big polluters. On 7 August 2012, the list was revised again. Little wonder that confusion reigned when it came to Labor's carbon tax. This was an economy-wide tax which hit every level of industry from multinational corporations to small businesses and families. This was an electricity tax, a gas tax and a food tax. It was not, however, a tax to reduce emissions. It was all financial pain for no environmental gain.

The tourism industry was among the hardest hit by this toxic tax. In my home state of Queensland, tourism is a crucial industry generating jobs and income for many residents and businesses located outside the south-east corner. Labor's carbon tax hit at a time when the industry was only just starting to recover from some of the Sunshine State's worst natural disasters—the devastating floods of 2011 and Cyclone Yasi up north. When the carbon tax was first announced, the Tourism and Transport Forum produced a damning report that highlighted the loss of 6,400 jobs industry-wide. The TTF also stated the impact of the carbon tax would cost the tourism industry 10 per cent of industry profits and that the net beneficiary of that carbon tax would be outbound tourism. It was not good news for an industry already in trouble. Virgin Australia, in February this year, confirmed it had paid $24.4 million in carbon tax in the first half of the financial year. That was just in the first six months of the carbon tax, up to December 2012. During the 2013 financial year, the company paid $47.9 million in carbon tax, a cost which they were unable to recover due to strong competition in the market. The company was also forced to impose a surcharge on ticket prices following the introduction of the carbon tax. That meant an extra $1.50 for flights of less than 900 kilometres, rising to $3 for flights between 901 kilometres and 2,000 kilometres and $6 for sectors longer than 2,000 kilometres. It was everyday Australians who were footing the bill for the carbon tax, not the so-called big polluters.

The Brisbane City Council was also branded by the Labor Gillard government as one of the top polluters in the country. It was estimated that the carbon tax would cost the council about $65 million over a four-year period from when the carbon tax was introduced in 2012. Brisbane Lord Mayor, Graham Quirk, lobbied tirelessly against the government's ridiculous decision to penalise Brisbane's ratepayers, but those pleas fell on deaf ears. The Lord Mayor confirmed the total carbon tax bill for the council for 2012-13 was $15.8 million which included up to $11 million for the 0.7 per cent rise in inflation, $3.5 million in carbon permits for landfill, and $1.3 million for carbon tax administration. Given these costs, the 2012-13 council budget showed that average residential rates would rise by 4.5 per cent The federal government's carbon tax made up 1.9 per cent of the subsequent overall increase in rates. Councillor Quirk estimated the $1.05 a week average rise could have been just 60c a week without the carbon tax, so approximately 40 per cent less.

Brisbane City Council is Australia's largest council, with over one million residents. As a result Brisbane has greater responsibilities than other councils, including the operation of landfill sites and public transport. Brisbane ratepayers have already spent millions of dollars achieving real green initiatives. Between 1990 and 2010 Brisbane City Council more than halved its annual carbon emissions from 500,000 tonnes to 220,000 tonnes on the way to achieving its target for the council to become carbon neutral by 2026.

The LNP council is currently purchasing 100 per cent green power for its buildings and offsetting all carbon emissions from its public transport and vehicle fleets. In addition, it has planted two million trees and acquired more than 500 hectares of at-risk bushland from development. Yet, despite these great green initiatives to reduce the council's carbon footprint, Brisbane City Council still did not meet the Gillard government's flawed carbon tax criteria because it had landfill sites and capturing the methane was not taken into account.

The impact of the carbon tax did not stop there. It hit many small businesses across the country, including in my electorate of Ryan. Luke Sherman, the owner of Cave Coffee in Keperra, asked me during the election campaign to imagine a cheese sandwich—no ham, no tomato and no spreads; just a humble cheese sandwich. How much do you think that would cost at your local cafe? Around $4? Luke's food costs went up around 25 per cent with the introduction of the carbon tax.

By the time a cheese sandwich lands in Luke's refrigerators ready for his customers he has essentially received it fourth-hand and paid for it. The cheese has made its way from the factory and the bread from the bakery to the wholesaler. At this stage the transportation of the goods has incurred carbon tax and now the wholesaler will be paying extra in his electricity costs as a result of the carbon tax. Once Luke has received the goods from the wholesaler he has to pay any extra costs that have been passed on as well as paying extra on his own electricity bills. So in the end Luke has to make a decision: does he pass the extra costs on to his customers, does he stop stocking certain types of food or does he, like many other owners, take a pay cut and wear the extra costs himself?

Luke used to own two coffee shops: one in Keperra and the other in Fortitude Valley. He had to close his Fortitude Valley shop because it was no longer viable. But on a more positive note, he says that consumer confidence has been returning since the change of government. He said that people are much happier with a stable government and he is looking forward to the economy improving under the coalition.

Back in August 2012 I promised every constituent in my electorate of Ryan that there would be no carbon tax under a coalition government. I am proud to say that we will keep that promise. The coalition was elected with a mandate to scrap the carbon tax and reduce costs for businesses and households, boost jobs and manufacturing and restore Australia's international competitiveness. This government is committed to abolishing the carbon tax and will work to ensure that the repeal bills are passed as soon as possible.

Australian households and businesses will be better off without a carbon tax. Households in Ryan will be about $550 better off in 2014-15 than they would have been with the carbon tax in place. This is about taking the pressure off electricity and gas bills.

To ensure that companies will pass the benefits on to consumers, the government will give the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission the powers and resources to take necessary action against businesses that engage in price exploitation. The ACCC will be given new powers to take action against businesses that attempt to exploit other businesses and consumers by keeping prices unreasonably high or making false or misleading claims. Penalties of up to $1.1 million for corporations and $220,000 for individuals will apply.

The carbon tax will be abolished but the government will keep the household assistance package to help families with the cost of living. Julia Gillard promised that there would be no carbon tax. Kevin Rudd said that he would terminate the carbon tax. Anthony Albanese said that he would put a zero price on the carbon tax. The Labor Party is going to vote to keep the carbon tax but does not even have the courage to say so. Only the coalition government is taking action to abolish the carbon tax lock, stock and barrel.

No new carbon tax liabilities will accrue from 1 July 2014. This includes both the carbon tax and the equivalent carbon tax on fuels used in shipping, rail and air transport and on synthetic greenhouse gases. Ending the carbon tax at the end of the financial year will make the transition as simple as possible. Industry assistance programs will continue for the remainder of the year to help businesses meet current liabilities but will be abolished when the carbon tax ends. The Climate Change Authority will be abolished, as its functions will be delivered through the new merged environment department.

On this side of the chamber we believe that good governments engage in proper consultation. That is why public consultation was invited until 4 November. That enabled the legislation to be considered before its introduction into the parliament. The repeal of the Clean Energy Act and associated regulations is modelled to reduce cost-of-living pressures on households and cost pressures on businesses.

By reducing the cost of electricity and gas we will help to make households better off, workers more secure and our economy stronger. As well as ensuring that households in Ryan will be, on average, $550 better off in the 2014 financial year it is estimated that retail electricity should be around nine per cent lower and retail gas prices around seven per cent lower than they would otherwise be. This will mean that household average electricity bills will be around $200 lower in 2014-15 than they otherwise would have been with a carbon tax and household average gas bills will be around $70 lower than they otherwise would have been with a carbon tax.

By repealing the carbon tax, businesses will see a reduction in the cost of inputs. The main driver of input cost increases has been the impact of the carbon tax on energy prices. Business compliance costs are also expected to fall by around $87.6 million per annum as a consequence of repealing the carbon tax. As Rod Sims from the ACCC said earlier this month, 'What went up will clearly come down when you take away the carbon tax'.

The carbon tax did not do the job the previous government said it would. Domestic emissions under the carbon tax continue to rise. Labor's own modelling, which it submitted to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, shows that our emissions increased under the carbon tax from around 560 million tonnes in 2010 to 637 million tonnes in 2020. Australia's emissions were 557 million tonnes in the year to March 2013—exactly the same level as the previous year according to the latest emissions data.

The centrepiece of our Direct Action plan will be the Emissions Reduction Fund, a fund which provides a powerful and direct additional incentive for businesses to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. This fund will use positive incentives to reduce Australia's emissions. The government's Emissions Reduction Fund will achieve a five per cent reduction in domestic emissions by 2020 without an electricity tax. Preliminary figures from the Department of the Environment indicate that our abatement challenge is now around 440 million tonnes to 2020 rather than the 750 million tonnes assumed in the last official projections in 2012. We will focus on measures that directly address the 440 million tonne abatement challenge to reduce emissions through measures like reafforestation, cleaning up power stations, cleaning up waste land fill and waste coal mine gas. The government will purchase domestic emissions at the lowest possible cost to meet its targets. Labor would rather burden families and businesses with an economy-wide carbon tax that fails to reduce emissions and sends industry offshore.

As the Prime Minister correctly stated when introducing these repeal bills: the Australian people have already voted on this bill; now the parliament will get its chance. This election was a referendum on the carbon tax, and now we intend to show the people of Ryan that we listened.

8:24 pm

Photo of Anthony AlbaneseAnthony Albanese (Grayndler, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Infrastructure and Transport) Share this | | Hansard source

Everyone in this chamber, indeed everyone in this entire country, knows that they have a personal interest in the health of our environment. This is not just about the environment—of course good environmental policy is good economic policy—it is also about sustainability. We must ensure that we have a sustainable economy that acknowledges that we do live in a carbon constrained future; we must prepare ourselves for that future. We should always strive to be ahead of the curve, to be alert to global environmental issues and at all times to give the environment the benefit of the doubt.

This is also good economic policy. It is called fundamental risk management. And that is where climate change, and all issues which this parliament will consider over this year and years to come, needs to be considered. Indeed Australia being the driest continent on the planet means that we have an extra responsibility. We know what the risks of inaction are and, if we are doing our job as legislators, we should heed expert advice from the scientists and act upon it. Indeed, on the issue of climate change, I do not think there is any doubt about the need for action; there is no doubt that human activity is contributing to changes in the environment. I do not want to reprosecute that case for action today; I will leave it to the scientists who have put through the various forums—through the CSIRO in Australia or through the scientists involved in the IPCC—the facts on the table.

We must act, and we know through economic analysis and reports such as the Stern report in the United Kingdom, or indeed the work that Peter Shergold did here in Australia, that the earlier we act the cheaper the cost of action is. The alternative that has been put forward by the previous speaker, the member for Ryan, and those on the coalition benches, the so-called Direct Action plan—planting trees and storing carbon in the soil—is inadequate to address the problem. It is a bandaid on a bullet wound.

I am all for planting more trees and for soil sequestration and any other type of mitigating action that can be taken to reduce carbon emissions, but based upon what the scientists are telling us, it simply will not be enough. That is why I support a market based solution. That used to be a consensus in this parliament. John Howard campaigned in 2007 in favour of an ETS as a result of the work that was done in the Shergold report. Labor also campaigned in the 2007 election for an ETS. We did so because we understand that it is the power of the market that can drive change in our economy.

The alternative plan, the command style economy plan of the so-called Direct Action plan, simply will not be enough. Earlier this year senate officials told a Senate estimates committee hearing that the coalition's carbon farming initiative would reduce carbon emissions by fewer than four million tonnes—that is if it is all put in place. The coalition claimed that it would reduce emissions by 20 times this amount. Based on CSIRO research, the coalition would have to utilise two-thirds of the Australian land mass to achieve the emissions reduction targets they say they support.

So let us have none of this nonsense that we have heard opposite about their wanting to get rid of the price on carbon. Indeed, under the legislation that is before this House, the price on carbon will continue up until 1 July next year. If they were fair dinkum at all, they would move so that, once this legislation is carried, then the carbon price would go. But they are not fair dinkum. It is all about politics, as it always has been with those opposite.

The Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, which we attempted to implement after our election in 2007, consistent with the mandate that was given not just to the Labor government but to the coalition opposition, was designed as a market based solution. Indeed, Malcolm Turnbull remains a supporter of that position, because he knows that the so-called Direct Action Plan is a farce, and he has said so very clearly.

It is not just the coalition, though, who bear some responsibility for walking away from action needed for this and future generations. If the five Australian Greens senators had got up off their butts and walked across the chamber to vote for action on climate change with the Labor senators and the two Liberal senators who had courage in December 2009, we would have had a price on carbon implemented through legislation then, and today it would have been accepted as a consensus in this parliament.

In the last term, we were able to pass legislation for an emissions-trading scheme with a fixed price until 1 July 2015. Earlier this year, when Kevin Rudd returned as the Prime Minister and I was Deputy Prime Minister, we committed to the abolition of the carbon tax and a move to emissions trading from 1 July 2014, embracing the power of the market in order to drive that change through the economy. That is the position that Labor took to the election and it is the position that we hold today, and yet those opposite are not only sceptics when it comes to climate change; they are also market sceptics. That is absolutely extraordinary. From time to time, the Liberal Party likes to talk about the power of the market, but on this critical issue with such serious implications for our economy, for employment and for our environment, the Liberal Party, instead of using a market based mechanism to drive that economy, prefers to subsidise the big polluters. It is a 'pay polluters' scheme that they want.

And where does that money—the billions of dollars that is going to be used to subsidise the big polluters—come from? It comes from taxpayers. So what they want to do is slug ordinary Australian working families in order to subsidise the big polluters. That is their plan—rather than embracing the need for a price signal, one that is understood by the business community and one that would put in place a driver of that change through the economy. Those opposite pretend that they have a mandate for this and that somehow we should just agree with their position. I say this to them. We were elected in 2007 with support for an emissions-trading scheme, which they were also elected upon, and yet they walked away from that commitment.

Yesterday, thousands of Australians marched and demonstrated their desire for action on climate change. Fair Australians who have looked at the science and considered the issues know that our responsibility to this and future generations requires more than just mitigation. They know that taking action to prevent dangerous climate change is far preferable to spending money to alleviate the result of climate change. Common sense tells you that that is the case.

This is a fundamental issue between a political party that understands our responsibility to the future, our responsibility to look ahead, our responsibility to prepare for the change that is required, and those opposite, who say, 'There is a cost to carbon pollution, but we'll pass that on to future generations.' It is reminiscent of those in earlier times in our great nation who built industrial warehouses and factories alongside rivers. Why did they do that, in our capitals and regional cities? They did that because if the pollution from, for example, the sugar mill on the Cooks River, in my electorate, expunged its waste into the river then it was someone else's problem. They passed on the cost to what is now this generation for the pollution in the Cooks River, the rivers going into Sydney Harbour and other rivers right around our great nation. We see the impact of their saying, 'We will not worry about waste and externalities'—to put it in economic terms—'we will just pass that on to future generations.'

That is exactly what the coalition would have us do when it comes to carbon pollution. There is a cost to carbon pollution and we need to accept responsibility, not out of any bleeding heart position but because we know that the cost of acting will be far, far cheaper if we act now.

During the 43rd Parliament the Leader of the Opposition at the time, the now Prime Minister, sought power with a political strategy of just being negative. He just said, 'We will oppose everything.' In the hung parliament Mr Abbott was so desperate to create the appearance of chaos he refused to back anything put forward by our side of politics. The problem with that is that you now have an incoming government that does not have a plan for the future. It is just what they are against. In all of their measures—repealing the price on carbon, repealing the Mineral Resource Rent Tax, stopping various infrastructure projects going forward—there is nothing positive. It struck me when the Governor-General gave her speech to the opening of parliament last week that this is a government based upon what it is against, not what it is for.

Government requires actual solutions. It requires something more than just being negative. According to the scientists across the nation, we know that when it comes to climate change we need a positive solution—a solution that understands we must be part of international action, yes, but we also have responsibility as the highest per capita emitter in the world to take action ourselves. That is why I support Labor's position of moving from the fixed price on carbon to a flexible price mechanism through an emissions trading scheme.

8:39 pm

Photo of Darren ChesterDarren Chester (Gippsland, National Party, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Defence) Share this | | Hansard source

It is with great pleasure that I join the debate this evening. The reason I say that is because the people of the Latrobe Valley and Gippsland have waited a long time for this moment. Right from 2010 when the former Prime Minister betrayed the people of Gippsland by announcing after the election that she would in fact introduce a carbon tax—after promising in the days leading up to the election that there would be 'no carbon tax under a government I lead'—the people of Gippsland and the Latrobe Valley have lived under a cloud of uncertainty as they have lived the real-life experience of the carbon tax and the uncertainties provided not just in the Latrobe Valley power stations and major manufacturing industries but also through the small business sector and into households and farming communities. The people of the Gippsland and the Latrobe Valley have waited a long time for this opportunity to hear tonight's debate and they welcome in no uncertain terms the Prime Minister's commitment and capacity to deliver on his promise to repeal the carbon tax as the first order of business of a new coalition government.

There is a clear contrast between this coalition government and the former Labor government in that we went to the election with a clear promise to the Australian people that we would, as a first order of business on the first sitting day of parliament, take measures to repeal the carbon tax. Contrast that with the former Prime Minister, who told the Australian people that there would be no carbon tax under a government she led and then promptly ditched that promise in the most extraordinary betrayal of trust the Australian people have seen in a very long time as part of the deal with the Australian Greens. That decision by the former Prime Minister to go into a formal agreement with the Australian Greens and to betray the Australian people by introducing a carbon tax was pivotal in the former Prime Minister's failure to connect with the Australian people over the ensuing months of her prime ministership.

So it is with great pleasure that I stand here tonight on behalf of the people of Gippsland and welcome this decision by the Abbott and Truss government to repeal the carbon tax. While the previous speaker, the member for Grayndler and former minister for infrastructure, would like to pretend that there is no mandate for the coalition government in this regard, there is a clear mandate. Leading up to this election the Prime Minister, then Leader of the Opposition, all the shadow ministers and candidates right throughout the Liberal and National parties across Australia made it very clear that this was a referendum on the carbon tax. Quite clearly the Australian people handed a majority of seats to the Liberal and National coalition and we are in the position we are in today where the legislation is before the House.

The reasons for my support for this legislation to repeal the carbon tax relate specifically to jobs and the future of the Latrobe Valley. Throughout the period of 2010 to 2013 we have seen enormous uncertainty affecting investment decisions made by the brown coal power station generators in the Latrobe Valley. That uncertainty has lead to reduced investment in maintenance and that has had a flow-on effect right through the heavy construction sector and the contract workers in the Latrobe Valley region.

During this period the people of the Latrobe Valley were given enormous assurances from former cabinet ministers. They were told that there would be a regional structural adjustment package to assist my community as it dealt with the impacts of the uncertainty and the additional costs imposed as a result of the carbon tax. The government actually came down to the Latrobe Valley, met with community leaders and promised in the order of tens of millions of dollars would be available under the structural adjustment package. I think it was a $270 million package across Australia, but I could be corrected on that. But once the government abandoned its Contract for Closure scheme, it also abandoned the regional structural adjustment package.

What we have seen over this period of the last three years is a region disadvantaged by betrayal of trust in the form of the former Prime Minister; then misled on the policy direction that was supposedly going to assist that community to adjust to these new policy directions; and then finally left with virtually nothing, until, in the very dying days of the former government, we had the new regional infrastructure minister visit the region and make some more promises of the Latrobe Valley about how they would be assisted, if only they re-elected the Labor government. Thankfully, that is not the case. Thankfully the Labor Party was not re-elected and we have this opportunity today in this place to begin the process of repealing the carbon tax and providing more certainty to large manufacturers and large employers in my electorate, including the power stations.

I cannot quite figure out what it is about this issue that the Labor Party do not get. What don't they understand about the decision made by the Australian people on 7 September? The Australian people made their position on this issue abundantly clear. The previous speaker, the member for Grayndler, spoke about rallies on the weekend, with supposedly thousands of people supporting the opposition's position. There were rallies week after week after week between 2010 and 2013 opposing the carbon tax and demonstrating against that betrayal of trust I spoke about earlier. I cannot quite figure out why the Labor Party will not listen to the Australian people on this issue. If they took the time to go out and meet with regional business owners in my electorate they would understand very quickly just how hated the carbon tax is in regional Australia. It is not just the major manufacturers I talked about before; in the small business sector and in the agricultural sector I am constantly approached by business owners raising their concerns about how the carbon tax has added to the input costs of their businesses—the cost of doing business in the transport sector and a whole range of small businesses, particularly the dairy sector. The average dairy farmer is faced with an extra $5,000 a year in energy bills as a direct result of the carbon tax. These are businesses that we were assured, in the aftermath of 2010, would not pay the carbon tax. They may not have been liable for the carbon tax directly, but they had the indirect costs associated with higher energy prices and fuel costs.

At a time when the Australian dollar was strong and Australian exporters were finding it difficult to compete on world markets, what genius in the former government came up with the idea to add to the imposts on Australian business owners? It was not the Labor Party who came up with it—it was the Greens. We all do an analysis of our party's result after elections and try to figure out what went right and what went wrong. I suggest to those in the Labor Party that they need look no further than the Australian Greens to find out where their problems started. They need look no further than the Australian Greens to find out why the Australian people are abandoning the Labor Party in droves. The Greens are the greatest threat to jobs in regional communities throughout Australia. They are a threat to jobs in our traditional industries, such as the timber industry. They are opposed to commercial fishing and they are opposed to jobs in the agricultural sector. They keep passing on an enormous burden to the agricultural sector. They led the charge against the live export industry, which led to enormous job losses through Northern Australia and that had a flow-on effect throughout the entire beef industry in Australia. As the Labor Party does its analysis of where things went wrong, they should look no further than their formal agreement with the Australian Greens and the carbon tax and the betrayal of trust that that led to.

The broken promise by the former Prime Minister led to an enormous lack of confidence in Labor in regional communities. Small business owners in particular were saying to me that they simply did not trust the government and the direction it was taking . Some of those listening tonight will have played team sports. When your team lacks confidence it is almost impossible to get it back. It is the same in the business sector. Once the business sector starts losing its confidence, it takes a lot of things to go right for business to regain the confidence to invest, whether it be in new infrastructure or in hiring more people. Following the betrayal of trust by the former Prime Minister in 2010 business simply lost confidence that the government was heading in the right direction. They simply did not believe that the government knew what it was doing. We had a Prime Minister who promised one thing before the election but did something completely the opposite after the election, and that led to a severe lack of confidence in the business sector right throughout regional Australia and indeed through our cities.

Today we hear members opposite saying they are not prepared to listen to the will of the Australian people—the will clearly communicated through the ballot box at the federal election. It strikes me as extraordinary that any party which intends ever to govern again in Australia would fail to learn the lesson from their electoral experience and think it could continue to support a carbon tax when the Australian people have so clearly called for its repeal. The key issue for those listening at home tonight is the extraordinary additional costs of living which have been passed onto their households as a direct result of the previous government's carbon tax. According to Treasury modelling, upon repeal the cost of living across all Australian households will be on average $550 lower than it otherwise would have been if the carbon tax remained in place. Extending that figure into the broader community, the modelling indicates that the carbon tax has been a $9 billion a year hit on the economy.

When I talk to people in the broader Gippsland region, they say to me that they are keen to have a government that listens to them—not a government that continually lectures them and tells them what they are doing wrong; not a government led around by the Australian Greens, who tell people what jobs they can and cannot have. The people of Gippsland and the Latrobe Valley tell me they have had a gutful of being told by city-based Greens what jobs they can and cannot have. They are saying to me that they want a government that tells them what it wants to do before the election and then does it after the election. That is the fundamental trust that the Australian people want to have in their government. When the Australian people voted at the last federal election they were very clear in their own minds about what they would get in an Abbott-Truss government. It was clear to them that they were voting for the abolition of the carbon tax, and that is what is eventuating. The Australian people expect us to repeal the carbon tax. There is a level of expectation in the community that has been factored into the lives of ordinary householders and into the decisions of both small and large businesses. They knew in advance that if the coalition government won government we would take action immediately to repeal the carbon tax. So it is a proud day for me, as a member of the coalition and as a member of the Nationals, to be able to stand here today and support the measures being taken by the coalition government.

One of the key issues members opposite try to use as a political weapon against the coalition is the environmental measures associated with the carbon tax. The bottom line is the carbon tax did not do anything for the environment in Australia. The carbon tax did not result in reduced emissions from Australian sources. It never has and probably never will whereas the coalition's plan for direct action is targeted precisely at improving the environment for the Australian community.

Dr Leigh interjecting

It is interesting the member opposite, who seeks to interject, has been in the parliament for all of 30 seconds and is already keen to have an argument. Perhaps he would like to go back to his constituency and explain why his party is ignoring the will of the Australian people, the overwhelming majority of Australian people who voted to repeal the carbon tax, and explain also why his former leader promised one thing before the election and promptly betrayed the Australian people only days later as a part of a dodgy deal with the Australian Greens. Perhaps he would like to go back to his constituency and explain all that or get on board with the Nationals and with the Liberal Party and support the repeal of the carbon tax; it is his choice. The great thing about the Australian democracy is we have a choice. The Australian people made that choice and, in making that choice, were very clear.

I will finish where I started and refute the member for Grayndler's suggestion that there is no mandate for this. The member for Warringah, the current Prime Minister, and all National and Liberal shadow ministers at the time—now cabinet ministers—campaigned precisely for this moment. We campaigned and said this was a referendum on the carbon tax. We campaigned and told the Australian people that we were prepared to repeal the carbon tax as the first order of business if we were elected. That is what we have done; that is why we are here tonight. I encourage those opposite to listen to the will of the Australian people and support the coalition in its efforts to repeal the carbon tax. Let us get on with delivering for the Australian people what we promised.

8:54 pm

Photo of Julie OwensJulie Owens (Parramatta, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Small Business) Share this | | Hansard source

I would take the minister far more seriously when he talks about mandate if he had used that language when the then Leader of the Opposition, Tony Abbott, voted against putting a price on carbon when the Labor government of the day had clearly won an election on exactly that policy. We are in a Westminster system here where the parliament is elected and the parliamentarians vote. Nobody is suggesting that the Palmer United Party drops all of its policies and picks up all of the policies of the Liberal Party because they won government. Nobody is suggesting that Bob Katter put all of his strongly held views aside and go with the government on every single point because they won. That is not how the system works; it is not how the system has ever worked in this country and it is certainly not how the system worked when in 2007 the Labor Party went to the people with a policy of introducing a price on carbon, as did John Howard, won the election convincingly and yet when Tony Abbott became Leader of the Opposition he decided to vote against the will of the people. And there was no screaming of the word 'mandate' at that time from his mouth in the way that there is now.

The most frightening thing about this debate I have been listening to for the last few hours—unfortunately it will not go long enough—is that so far I have not heard a member of the government talk about their own policy. What I am hearing from them is almost a denial that they won the election. They are not talking about themselves at all, even though they as government have the responsibility to act in the interests of future generations and take action on climate change.

I believe that climate change is real. I believe we are already starting to see the effects of it through extreme weather events. I believe the science and that we will see greater and greater extreme variations in climate and greater disasters as the years unfold. And I believe that this generation, those of us who over the last century have ripped stuff out of the ground and burnt it and benefitted economically from that action and became wealthy on the back of that action, are obligated to act in the interests of generations that will follow us and ensure that they have a world that is as easy to live in as the world that we inhabit at the moment. I can only assume that any government that puts up a sham of a policy such as direct action—a policy with no detail that no credible economist or scientist believes will work, which gets called a figleaf at various times—either does not believe in climate change at all or does not understand or accept that a government governs not just for this generation but for the generation that follows and the generation after that.

This is a government, we have seen in the last few weeks, that does not consider the future. We can see other examples of it: the intention to abolish the MRRT, which preserves some of the wealth of this generation for the next one. We have seen them put together a cabinet that does not look to the future at all. It has no science minister, no innovation. We have seen them now take incredibly weak action on perhaps one of the most significant policy challenges that the world faces. It is incredibly disappointing that in a debate as important as this not only did they seek to gag it but they failed to speak at all on their own policy. We are still waiting for the details of this sham policy. It is clear it does not exist. It is clear there has been very little work on it since 2010 when the most recent paper was released. And it is incredibly disappointing to stand in this House opposite a government that clearly does not accept its responsibility to govern for future generations as well as this one.

We know from the international energy agency it is estimated that for each year effective action is delayed, it will cost an additional 500 billion in the world to cut global emissions. That is for each year we fail to act. In the last 15 years we had the Howard government that failed to act significantly for far too long—failed to sign the Kyoto Protocol, failed to take significant action, became a convert towards the end of the Howard years and put together their own emissions trading policy but essentially failed to act over 12 incredibly important years. Those years will be seen as lost years by future generations. It will be an even greater tragedy if this time around the Liberal Party cannot live up to the responsibility of government once again.