House debates

Monday, 14 July 2014


Carbon Pricing

11:17 am

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

I move:

That this House:

(1) understands that the carbon tax has caused a reduction in confidence and competiveness for small business;

(2) notes that:

(a) the carbon tax has seen gas and electricity prices rise by around 10 per cent;

(b) the former Government did not provide compensation for small businesses hit by the carbon tax;

(c) many small businesses are run at a very slim profit margin and are unable to pass these costs on to the consumers, forcing them to absorb the burden of the carbon tax themselves;

(d) with the cost of doing business increasing due to the carbon tax, small businesses lose confidence, invest less money in their business, and are forced to employ fewer staff; and

(e) under the former Government, too many small business jobs were lost; and

(3) commends the Government's action to repeal the carbon tax to provide certainty to small business and restore the sector's competitiveness, viability and capacity to employ. Six years of the previous government's reign of chaos has resulted in the highest level of debt and the fastest rate of increasing debt in our nation's modern history. Under Labor, Australian small businesses have been doing it tough. Labor legislated more than 20,000 pieces of new regulations, placing an unnecessary burden on the cost of doing business. However, as if this were not enough, Labor also introduced the world's biggest carbon tax, sending the cost of doing business in Australia skyrocketing.

After promising in 2010 not to introduce a carbon tax, the then Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, blatantly backflipped on her promise to the Australian people and introduced a carbon tax, after being manipulated by her coalition with the Greens. After originally supporting the carbon tax, Kevin Rudd later changed his mind and decided not to support it, before then opting for an emissions trading scheme. Now we have Bill Shorten, who is just as inconsistent, who sways in the wind, when it comes to caucus allegiances and policy positions on the carbon tax, saying one thing to electors in Western Australia and another to those on the east coast.

Small businesses are doing it tough. The coalition government recognise this, which is why we have pledged to cut red and green tape and to repeal the carbon tax. We have delivered on our promise to establish a one-stop-shop for green tape. We have already repealed more than $700 million of red tape in our first repeal day, and we have introduced carbon tax repeal legislation three times to parliament, only to have it rejected by the Labor-Green alliance in the Senate.

I note that the carbon tax legislation is now before the new Senate, and the coalition hopes for a sensible result in support of the bill. Unfortunately, the responsible decision by the new Senate, while necessary, comes slightly too late. As a result of the Greens and Labor blocking the carbon tax repeal legislation, two weeks ago marked the second anniversary of Labor's destructive carbon tax, which means even higher power bills for families, more jobs at risk and more damage to Australia's international competitiveness. On 1 July the carbon tax increased by five per cent, from $24.15 to $25.40 per tonne. The world's biggest economy-wide carbon tax just got bigger.

In its first two years of operation, the carbon tax has been a $15.4 billion hit on the Australian economy. Seventy-five thousand Australian businesses are directly hit by the carbon tax, and this flows through to impact on every Australian's cost of living. One small business in my electorate of Ryan had this story. Luke Sherman, owner of Cave Coffee in Keperra, asked me during the election campaign to imagine a cheese sandwich—a humble cheese sandwich, with no ham, no tomato, no spreads; just a plain cheese sandwich. How much do you think that would cost at your local cafe? Around $4? For Luke, his food costs went up by 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 pay 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 cost 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 is returning since the change of government. He says that people are much happier with a stable government, and he is looking forward to the economy improving under the coalition. I remain hopeful that the new Senate will do the right thing by all Australians and repeal this unfair hit on Australian families and businesses; they need to repeal the carbon tax.

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

Is there a seconder for the motion?

Photo of Warren EntschWarren Entsch (Leichhardt, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I second the motion.

11:22 am

Photo of Bernie RipollBernie Ripoll (Oxley, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister Assisting the Leader for Small Business) Share this | | Hansard source

It is always a pleasure to speak about small business and what we as a parliament can do to support it. This motion put forward by the member for Ryan is without base and without fact. Indeed, it is not backed up by any facts. What is not in doubt is that the Abbott government's budget is having an immediate impact on the Australian economy and, likewise, on small business. The results of the Westpac index of consumer confidence surveys taken after the Abbott government's budget showed that consumer confidence fell sharply by 6.8 per cent in May—a direct result of the Abbott government's budget. It fell more sharply in that one period after the budget than during the whole time of the GFC or at any other period in many years. If the Abbott government is the best friend of small business, I would hate to see the enemy. Almost 60 per cent of respondents in the Westpac survey said the budget would make it tougher on family finances in the next 12 months. That is one of the worst outcomes possible for small business and for families.

The ANZ Roy Morgan Consumer Confidence survey showed that, after the delivery of the Abbott government's budget, consumer confidence had fallen 14 per cent since April, its fastest drop since the global financial crisis. Weekend reports from property analysts say that these sharp falls are being felt in the economy, with house prices in Australia's capital cities falling for the first time in 12 months. That is another hit under the Abbott government. The RP Data index suggests there is a strong correlation between consumer confidence levels and housing market activity. Further, Australian retail turnover in May 2014 fell 0.5 per cent from the previous month, seasonally adjusted, following a fall of 0.1 per cent in April 2014. It should also be noted that the decrease was unexpected by analysts and follows more bungling and mismanagement by the Abbott government. The largest contributor to the fall was clothing, footwear and personal accessory retailing, which fell by 2.3 per cent. Department stores fell by 2.6 per cent, household goods fell—it goes on and on. That says one thing: the Abbott government makes promises then delivers a budget that hurts the economy, small business and families. Everybody takes a hit.

There is no doubt that consumer confidence is falling, as was stated in the motion, but it is falling because of the Abbott government. It has fallen more during the Abbott government's short reign in power than in the previous six or seven years combined. Unbelievable damage has been done by the Abbott government.

We hear all this talk about the carbon tax. This is the government that won a huge mandate but does not know what to do. It cannot get anything through. It does not know whether it is coming or going. It does not know whether it is Arthur or Martha. We will see whether it can figure out whether, because of something it puts forward, prices will go down, because right now everything continues to go up. Prices are going up, not down. We are not seeing electricity prices go down. We will be keeping the government to account, as will families and small business. When the carbon tax goes—if it goes and under what form it goes; we will see how good the government is in getting this right—we will see how much, what percentage and how many dollars, consumers will save or whether there will be a negligible impact on consumers, nothing they would notice in their wallet or the family budget.

Before the election Tony Abbott claimed a heap of things. I have not got time in all of today to tell you how many things he claimed, none of which he has kept his promises on, would be different under a government he led. Business is not feeling any benefit; that is certainly true. Even former Liberal leader Dr John Hewson was critical of the Abbott government. It just has got it wrong.

Experts have long claimed that only by having a target for renewable energy will consumers ever see cheaper power prices. Under Liberal governments at a state level power prices have gone up. Under the Abbott government, at the Commonwealth level, electricity prices are still going up—not by 10 per cent but a lot, lot more. Rather than certainty being brought back for small business, for family budgets and for the economy, we are seeing more shambolic processes from this government that cannot organise itself in the House and cannot organise itself in the Senate. Those opposite cannot negotiate to save their lives. They cannot help small business; they made promises to small businesses that they cannot keep. They said that the world would be a better place after September 2013 election, but the exact opposite has happened. Instead of small business feeling good and instead of families feeling good about themselves and the economy and so spending more, they are spending less. They have felt less confident after the election of the Abbott government. After nearly 12 months—we are getting there—they feel even worse than they have ever felt.

11:27 am

Photo of Dennis JensenDennis Jensen (Tangney, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I support this motion because government should not tax based on a theory, or delusion. The debate on anthropogenic global warming is not over and it is not settled. Government needs to make policy based on reality. The reality is that year-on-year average productivity growth has flatlined. On international comparative metrics issued by the OECD and the World Bank, Australia is going backwards. This is not sustainable.

This government is committed to cutting unnecessary red tape, and unleashing the true potential of the Australian economy and workforce. Labor's toxic carbon tax is the low-hanging fruit. It is a shackle on business that needs to go today. It needs to go because it is inconsistent with Australian values and aspirations. It is inconsistent with the economic reality on the ground—real wage growth is negative. It is time to grow the pie again. The only way to grow the pie is to reduce taxes, increase incentive and make businesses more competitive. How ironic then that it is Electricity Bill and Labor who are blocking the scrapping of the carbon tax.

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

I remind the member for Tangney to refer to members by their proper title.

Photo of Dennis JensenDennis Jensen (Tangney, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Labor is supposed to look after the working man, not hurt as it did with this tax. This tax is an attack on jobs. It is an attack on the international competitiveness of our exports.

The high dollar is not a problem, and the dollar's current value is fair value. Fair value is determined by the market, relative to what is on offer elsewhere in other economies. It is fair because every market and country is subject to the eye of the market. Labor is trying to use the bogeyman of the market and the high dollar to mask the true effects of the job-killing carbon tax. Businesses that engage in concrete and cement exports, like Alchemy Manufacturing in my electorate, are particularly hard hit by this toxic tax. The tax, at $24 per tonne, is out of kilter with what the rest of the world pays.

I support the motion because every day that the Leader of the Opposition and his Labor loons block the will of the Australian people, they are costing Australian families. Labor are costing all Australians an extra $11 million every day in electricity bills—every day they hang on to this toxic carbon tax. The amount that our cousins across the ditch pay in carbon taxes is $4 per tonne, and in the European Union it is $8 per tonne. And the trend in Europe and particularly in Germany, the most significant player in the European market structure, is a move to reduce the financially onerous supports for uneconomic green technologies. Australia does not operate in splendid isolation, and our trade and economic policy need to be cognisant of the global reality—not just the Labor pipedream reality.

For every household in my electorate the carbon tax is hitting them $550 every year. The carbon tax pushes up the price of a pint. This insidious tax is costing pubs $3,300 extra, on average, in additional cooling costs. This is the nub of the problem with this toxic tax—that is, it is cascading, unfair and regressive. It is so incongruous that Labor, the party that claims to be for the poor and the working class, would so vociferously defend a tax that disproportionately negatively impacts those same poor and working-class people. The carbon tax touches every product and every service, in every sector of our economy, and it takes no account of ability to pay. It is time to scrap this toxic tax.

11:32 am

Photo of Alannah MactiernanAlannah Mactiernan (Perth, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to speak on this motion. We hear the most extraordinary amount of nonsense from those on the other side. Let us just talk about what has actually happened to the economy since the introduction of a carbon price. I refer to a very excellent article that appeared today in The Western Australiannot exactly a left-wing rag!—where it is claimed:

The economy has grown 5 per cent since the advent of the carbon tax. Employment has grown by 240,000 to a record 11.6 million. Total gross operating profits of all companies have climbed almost 11 per cent. … House prices, wealth and superannuation holdings—approaching $1.8 trillion—have all increased.

So let us get very clear that—whilst we acknowledge that there has been an impact on small business—overall, the economy has thrived, notwithstanding the introduction of this carbon price.

I want to go to the fundamental problem that I see—that is, this great schizophrenia that we see coming from the government. We have government members coming in, day after day, talking about the confected budget crisis—which does not exist—and saying that they have to address this. Mr Abbott talks about the 'ultimate unfairness' of saddling our children and grandchildren with the burden; the Minister for Small Business says that we must embrace the opportunity so that we can be proud of what we leave to our kids; and they talk about intergenerational theft. But the great intergenerational theft is going to be what we are doing by our inaction on climate change. I know that there are many people on the other side of this place who are people of goodwill. I just do not understand how you can come in here, day after day, and pretend that we do not have a problem and that the legacy that you are leaving your children and your grandchildren is not going to be profoundly compromised by your complete and utter refusal to accept the science.

We have heard from the member for Tangney; we know he's a bit eccentric on these things. He is a full-on climate-change denier. But there are many people on that side who must be concerned about the reports that we hear from the CSIRO. Let me just summarise some of the risks that came out in the most recent IPCC report this year: is this the world that you want to leave your children and your grandchildren? The report talks about:

Risk of death, injury, ill-health, or disrupted livelihoods in low-lying coastal zones—

where most Australian populations are—

…due to storm surges, coastal flooding, and sea-level rise.

Risk of severe ill-health and disrupted livelihoods for large urban populations due to inland flooding…

Systemic risks due to extreme weather events leading to breakdown of infrastructure networks and critical services such as electricity, water supply, and health and emergency services.

The IPCC mentions the 'risk of mortality and morbidity during periods of extreme heat, particularly for vulnerable urban populations and those working outdoors in urban or rural areas.' It goes on. These risks are very profound—and yet we are saying that, somehow or other, we are looking after small business and looking after our community by just closing our eyes to this and pretending that it does not exist.

Even at a more immediate level—and even if all we are interested in is cost—let us look at some of the costs that are occurring for our community and for small business from our inability to deal with climate change. It is well-established now that the massive decline in rainfall and in streamflow caused by the changing distribution of rain has occurred in Western Australia. That has led to massive increased costs: it has led to the necessity to have desalination, and desalination has led to a minimum ten-per-cent increase in water costs. Insurance costs are predicted to rise by as much as 90 per cent. There is a cost to local governments of having to mitigate against climate change—building seawalls and strengthening dams. All of these are costs that are going to impact very greatly on small business. Let us get our numbers right on this. And let us get our morality right. (Time expired)

11:37 am

Photo of John AlexanderJohn Alexander (Bennelong, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to speak in support of this motion and to commend the member for Ryan for her initiative on this important policy matter.

There is no single issue that has more clearly represented the policy divide between this government and those opposite than the carbon tax. While occupying the Treasury benches, the Labor Party oscillated from the position that 'There will be no carbon tax under the government I lead' to advocacy for a carbon tax, then to a election commitment that they will not continue to support the carbon tax, and then to their current position to block this government's clearly earned mandate. In contrast, the coalition has been steadfast in its position. We do not support the carbon tax. We do not believe that the carbon tax assists the global environment, and we certainly oppose the huge cost impost the carbon tax places on small businesses and consumers throughout our nation. Over the past three years, some critics have chastised our party for never straying from our core policy messages. Across the country, a vote for the coalition became synonymous with a vote to stop the boats, to get our economy back on track and to scrap the carbon tax. The boats have stopped and the most recent budget has taken the tough decisions that those opposite lacked the guts—the intestinal fortitude—to make in order to fix the economy. At last year's election, the Australian people gave the coalition a clear mandate to get rid of this carbon tax; yet, those opposite continue to ignore the will of the people.

The member for Ryan's motion refers specifically to the impact that the carbon tax has on the backbone of our nation's economy: small business. It is an indisputable fact that the abolition of the carbon tax will put spending power back into consumers' pockets and will also take cost pressures off those businesses and help with both their viability and their capacity to compete, and it will build confidence and optimism on the way through.

In my home state, a survey by the NSW Business Chamber highlighted the decline in business confidence under the previous government due to the carbon tax and excessive red tape. They found that:

Businesses indicated that the most significant cost pressure that they face is increases in electricity prices as a result of the introduction of the Carbon tax…

The very active and effective Minister for Small Business has repeatedly stated that:

…the carbon tax is clearly having a negative effect on small businesses at a time when they are dealing with low consumer confidence…Every hairdresser, restaurant, newsagency, pie shop, dry cleaner and toy shop in the country is feeling the pain of increasing red-tape and higher electricity and gas prices due to the carbon tax.

Under Minister Billson's leadership, support for small business is at the centre of the coalition's policy direction to build a strong and a prosperous economy.

In my electorate of Bennelong, we are fortunate to boast over 20 local shopping villages, with whom I work hard to support through my Bennelong Village Businesses Campaign. Through this work I repeatedly hear tales of struggles to make ends meet, with the carbon tax as public enemy No.1. Previously, in this place, I spoke of Lyn Bridle, the director of the Epping Floral Centre, who expressed her concerns at the extra impost on her refrigeration bill, though her customers are unwilling to pay more for their flowers. Even love has a cost limit. Often, I visit Peter Roan Seafood at Top Ryde City. Once, I even took the Prime Minister there to show off their shop and the seafood products they provide to the local community—in which I proudly work and live. They have a $40,000 annual electricity bill due to their refrigeration needs and the need to compete against their shopfront neighbour—one of big two supermarket chains. I have often spoken with Peter Roan about the all-encompassing nature of this tax. From the fishermen to the truck driver, to the wholesaler, to the retailer, and to the cleaner, the carbon tax hits and hurts every step of the way.

The case against the carbon tax should not be a controversial one. This tax facilitates zero benefit to the environment; yet, it delivers a world of financial pain to everyday Australians and to every Australian. On behalf of the hundreds of small business owners across the Bennelong electorate, I say to those opposite, 'Get out of the way and let this government exercise the mandate we were given to axe this tax.'

11:42 am

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

It is a pleasure to speak on this debate, because no other issue singly contrasts the approach of this side to that side. On this side, we accept the science of climate change, in contrast to the deniers on the other side. On this side of the chamber, we respect the ability of the market to provide efficient solutions, unlike the government dictators on the other side of the chamber. On this side of the chamber, we are part of an international community united in taking action on climate change; those on the other side seem interested in only becoming international pariahs on this particular issue.

The truth is that climate change is occurring and is man-made; yet, on the other side, the coalition is made up of two groups: climate change deniers and climate change populists who would rather have a short-term electoral advantage than confront this issue. The truth is that the world is taking action. By 2016, over 3 billion people will live in economies, nations and provinces where there is an emissions trading scheme in place. The truth is that, if we do not take action, we will face economic action against us. The WTO has already flagged the possibility of tariffs being levied against countries that do not take action on climate change. We are the highest emitter of greenhouse gases per capita in the developed world. In absolute emissions, we are well in the top 15. If you think that we can go to international conferences on trade or other economic issues and stand there without taking effective action on climate change, we are kidding ourselves. We have a responsibility to act. It is an economic responsibility, because if we do not take action, we will face retaliatory tariffs in the near future. The truth is that the best way of taking action is a market mechanism. A market mechanism will deliver the results we need in placing a hard cap on pollution.

The truth—and it is a truth that those on the other side do not accept because they do not like facts—is that, since the carbon price began, well over 150,000 jobs have been added to the economy, economic growth has been relatively strong, we have seen a modest cost-of-living impact and, at the same time, it has been working to reduce carbon pollution. We have seen a 10 per cent cut in emissions from the National Electricity Market, a 17-million-tonne reduction in carbon pollution from electricity generators. That is the equivalent of taking almost five million cars off the road—a massive impact. On the government's own figures, released by the Department of the Environment earlier this year, emissions in our economy are 40 million tonnes less now than they would otherwise have been because of the operation of the carbon price. It is working.

The carbon tax was accompanied by a very progressive series of compensation measures through changes to the income tax thresholds which meant that over a million people were freed up from putting in a tax return ever again. Despite the motion's wording, small businesses were compensated. As part of this package, we funded a $6,500 instant asset write-off vehicle for small businesses. Many small businesses in my electorate were looking forward to accessing that to make much-needed investments.

The truth is that the best way we can move forward on the environment is by shifting to an internationally linked emissions trading scheme, which is what the amendments that Labor will put forward in the substantive debate when it comes up will address. The truth is that that is the best way forward, not the horribly inefficient command-and-control Direct Action policy those on the other side spout, with the subsidies-for-polluters scheme that they have yet to find one single economist to support, a scheme of Soviet command and control that would do Lenin, Trotsky and Stalin very proud.

The truth is that this is an issue of intergenerational equity. The truth is that this is about leaving the environment and the economy in a better place than we found them. Those on this side are very proud to stand up for this generation and future generations, to stand up for the environment and to stand up for the economy. Those who stick their heads in the sand and think that we can do nothing on this issue or have some token fig leaf of a policy are kidding themselves. We owe it to future generations of this country to take concrete action, to begin the transformation to decarbonise our economy not just for the environment's sake and not just so we can have a Great Barrier Reef and an effective Murray-Darling River system but so we can have an economy that can compete in the 21st century. The economies that will succeed in the next century will be those that decouple carbon pollution from their economic growth and invent and commercialise low-carbon technologies. Those on the other side stand for none of that. (Time expired)

11:47 am

Photo of David ColemanDavid Coleman (Banks, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I am very pleased to speak on this motion from the member for Ryan. It is a very well-timed motion because it gives those opposite an opportunity to support the repeal of the carbon tax. The carbon tax is an appalling tax which has had a very significant negative impact on the economy. This week Labor can go from being the human shields protecting the carbon tax to the enablers of its removal. That is what they should do. They talked about being the terminators of the carbon tax. But they are not terminators; they are human shields directly standing in the way of the very important benefit which will come to Australian households through the elimination of this tax. It is important that Labor supports the repeal of the carbon tax because, if you care about the environment and you care about taking steps to eliminate emissions, surely you must do so in a way which minimises the impact on the economy as opposed to smashing the economy, which is what the carbon tax does.

This is a massive tax. There is the big macro number of $15 billion, the impact on 75,000 businesses and many other statistics. There is a very practical impact. Certainly I know in my electorate from talking to residents and small businesses that this tax is having a very negative impact. In fact, I was at a drycleaners in my electorate some time ago and the proprietor told me that he no longer operates his machines after two o'clock in the afternoon because of the impact of the carbon tax on his electricity bills. That is a small business in Mortdale that is servicing people in my electorate, employing people and playing a very important role in our community. It has seen such an impact from the imposition of the carbon tax that it has had to curtail its activities. That does not make sense. It is not something that a sensible government should encourage. As I have said before, if we accept that we want to do something about emissions—and the government certainly do—the question is: how do we do it without having a massive negative impact on the economy? Why would anyone, except for left wing ideological reasons, choose to hurt businesses in the economy that employ thousands of Australians? There is no reason to do that. It is entirely the wrong way to go.

We know that the carbon tax puts Australia completely out of step with the world as a whole. The comments that the previous member made about carbon tax type schemes around the world were flat out incorrect. The fact is that there are very few taxes that compare even remotely to the carbon tax. It is the biggest in the world. People trot out China and say that it has introduced a carbon tax, but 99 per cent of permits in those three provinces in China that have an emissions scheme are given out for free. So why would Australia, in a very competitive business environment, unilaterally disarm? We would not go into trade negotiations and say, 'You know what? We will remove all of our tariffs; you can do whatever you want.' We would not do that. But what we have done in this space is say, 'We will impose a big hit on Australian business even though other competitive nations have not done the same thing.' That can only be detrimental to our nation. The New Zealand scheme only covers 50 per cent of emissions and is only A$4.60 per tonne.

The carbon tax costs Australian families $550 every single year. That is very negative for the economy. We were very clear before the election about the urgent need to get rid of the carbon tax. There is time for Labor to stop being the human shield, to stop perpetuating the existence of this tax and to get on board and support its repeal.

11:52 am

Photo of Laurie FergusonLaurie Ferguson (Werriwa, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I cannot agree with the previous speaker that the timing of this motion is good for the government. Quite frankly, it is as bad as the other motion moved by the member for Ryan this week, in which she commended the Red Cross as a great Australian association at the same time that this government is taking $5 million off the Red Cross. So both the motions are not exactly good timing this week. I say that because the manifestly false campaign that the Prime Minister waged in opposition around the dire consequences of the carbon tax is being exposed daily.

In today's Sydney morning Herald Peter Martin said that there are unlikely to be reductions anything like the $550 claimed by Prime Minister Tony Abbott on the weekend. Peter Martin said that electricity and gas accounted for only $250, making a one-off saving of just $250 per household more likely.

We have heard the exaggerations and the wild claims of those opposite about the impact of the carbon tax on every sector of the Australian economy. But now, when they are in government, when they have to take responsibility, we are daily seeing them excuse various sectors of the economy where there are not going to be reductions. John Connor from the Climate Institute did not even go along with Peter Martin's view in the Herald. He said he thinks it is an overestimate that there will be $250 in savings to the Australian people.

We can go through so many accounts of this falsehood. On 3 March, when Qantas wanted some assistance from the Australian people because of their plight, their spokesperson initially said, 'Qantas's current issues are not related to carbon pricing.' Yet the next day a person called Tony Abbott said:

The best thing we can do if we want Qantas to call Australia home now and forever is to remove the shackles that are holding Qantas back … by this very day repealing the carbon tax.

A day later, under government pressure, Qantas suddenly found that the carbon tax was part of their problem. Initially they said it was nothing to do with their problem. What do we see this week? Qantas is saying that, because of the carbon tax's lack of impact, there will essentially be no reductions.

We saw those opposite going around this country making exaggerated claims about refrigerator gases. A person called Tony Abbott said that these costs were going up by almost five times under the carbon tax and that every supermarket, every refrigerator manufacturer and processor was going to be hit that way. He went to Frozpak, located close to this building, and spoke about $60,000 a year in costs. He said it was living proof that small family businesses are going to pay the carbon tax. The impact of the carbon tax was supposedly affecting prices at supermarkets. What do we see in the real world today? Woolworths have said that they did not have any increases whatsoever, so there are not going to be any reductions. Coles have said that they will investigate whether there were any cost increases. Clearly there seems to be some doubt.

What else are those opposite doing? They are negotiating with Senator Day from South Australia. He has made a demand and they are going along with it. They have been telling people about the huge cost of the carbon tax and yet they are now prepared to negotiate with Senator Day that there be no penalties imposed on small businesses in this country if they fail to pass on savings, due to the alleged increases resulting from the carbon tax.

So the great cost to the Australian people is all unwinding. Whilst I am talking about electricity and energy, one of the few areas where there might be some credence to the carbon tax allegations, I will refer to an interesting article recently written by Matthew Warren of the Energy Supply Association of Australia. I think he might know a little bit more about this than the Prime Minister. He said:

The electricity market is incredibly complicated and there is thousands of electricity contracts with carbon in them and millions of dollars of them being traded.

Unwinding that process after days and weeks and months into the financial year gets extremely complicated.

This was a lead-up to saying that he thinks the reductions consequent upon abolition of the carbon tax in the electricity and gas sectors are going to be far smaller than have been estimated.

One member opposite has been running around Las Vegas this week, between poker machines and beers, decrying climate change. I am prepared to listen far more to people like Hillary Clinton, who recently said: 'I am deeply worried about the latest U.N. report. The impact will principally fall on food production and distribution. So although I’m still optimistic, I think if we look out 10-15 years, we’ll need to mitigate against or avoid the ongoing consequences of climate change.' Climate change is real. The government should act. (Time expired)