House debates

Monday, 14 July 2014


Clean Energy Legislation (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2014, True-up Shortfall Levy (General) (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2014, True-up Shortfall Levy (Excise) (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2014, Customs Tariff Amendment (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2014, Excise Tariff Amendment (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2014, Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas (Import Levy) Amendment (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2014, Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas (Manufacture Levy) Amendment (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2014, Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas (Import Levy) (Transitional Provisions) Bill 2014; Second Reading

12:38 pm

Photo of Greg HuntGreg Hunt (Flinders, Liberal Party, Minister for the Environment) Share this | | Hansard source

I move:

That these bills be now read a second time.

Today the government introduces:

                  The Australian people have already debated the carbon tax and they decided ten months ago on 7 September 2013 that they did not want:

                          The Australian people did not want to support a measure that did not do the job, was not working and did not have a mandate. In short, the Australian people voted in the most express, clear and absolute way to ensure that they did not have and would not have a carbon tax, and they would have a government that will take real measures to reduce emissions, without a carbon tax.

                          The carbon tax increased the costs of everything it touched.

                          It punishes households, business, schools, hospitals, nursing homes, charities, churches, council swimming pools and community centres.

                          It hits each and every group and individual who use energy—and that was always its goal: to make electricity and gas more expensive. The purpose, the intention, the construct of a carbon tax is to increase the cost of living, most specifically the price of electricity and gas, for Australian families.

                          And that is why the Australian people voted to get rid of it.

                          The bills honour the coalition's commitment to the Australian people to scrap this tax.

                          It is now up to this parliament to show that it has listened to the Australian people.

                          We categorically accept the science of climate change. We categorically accept the need for action. But we categorically do not accept a system that fails to work, that does not achieve significant reductions and that comes at a significant cost. We are committed to a better way that actually reduces emissions and cleans up power stations, cleans up land fill and cleans up waste coal mine gas and reduces emissions by improving energy efficiency.

                          The bills today ensure that all elements of the carbon tax are abolished.

                          The main bill removes the carbon tax, and implements new powers for the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to ensure that cost savings are passed on to the Australian public, in full.

                          The other bills remove the imposition of the carbon tax on liquid fuels and synthetic greenhouse gases.

                          The bills also provide for the transitional arrangements to ensure a smooth transition out of the carbon tax in all its forms, and give the Clean Energy Regulator, the Australian Taxation Office, the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service and the Department of the Environment the powers they need to do this.

                          A cornerstone of the government's plan for a stronger economy built on lower taxes, less regulation and stronger businesses, whilst reducing emissions, is the repeal of the carbon tax.

                          The first impact of the repeal of the carbon tax will be on households whose overall costs will fall, according to Treasury modelling, by approximately $550 a year on average, compared with what it otherwise would have been.

                          Electricity bills will be around $200 lower this financial year without the carbon tax.

                          Gas bills will be around $70 lower this financial year without the carbon tax.

                          These are real savings that will help family budgets.

                          Only last week, we heard from a number of new Senators on the impact of the carbon tax on pensioners, on the cost of heating homes, on farmers' incomes and small business costs. I would note that Senator Joe Bullock was expressly elected on a campaign to terminate the carbon tax.

                          The people who voted for those senators expect them to act.

                          It is disappointing that families and small businesses are still paying $11 million a day in higher electricity prices due to the carbon tax.

                          Once the carbon tax is repealed, there will be savings to the family budgets with lower electricity and gas prices.

                          And these savings are already being confirmed.

                          In Queensland, the Queensland Competition Authority has said that typical household electricity bills are expected to fall by 8.5 per cent. In New South Wales, the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal has said that gas prices will be up to 9.2 per cent lower without the carbon tax. In Tasmania, the Office of the Tasmanian Economic Regulator has said that electricity prices will be 7.8 per cent lower with the removal of the carbon tax. In the ACT, the Independent Competition and Regulatory Commission has said that electricity prices will fall by 11.6 per cent without the carbon tax. Prices for groceries, for household items and for services will also fall because the price of power is embedded in every price in our economy where those prices have been added according to the rules which are set out in these bills.

                          The carbon tax will go, but the carbon tax compensation will stay so that every Australian should be better off. I repeat this message to the House and to the people of Australia: while the carbon tax will go, the carbon tax compensation will stay so that every Australian should be better off. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has a wide-ranging arsenal of compliance powers to ensure businesses do not mislead their customers about the impacts of the carbon tax repeal. It has received $10 million in additional funding to take necessary enforcement action and also to inform businesses about their obligations and customers about their rights. Under the original version of the repeal bills, penalties of up to $1.1 million for corporations and $220,000 for individuals will apply where there are breaches. These penalties are retained. The ACCC has already issued over 560 requests for information from companies across the economy, including from the electricity, gas, refrigerants and aviation sectors.

                          As agreed with the Palmer United Party, I foreshadow and will move amendments during the consideration-in-detail stage of the bills to supplement the commission's ability to ensure that consumers benefit from the repeal of the carbon tax. The changes included in the bills are to ensure that suppliers of regulated goods—electricity, natural gas and bulk supplies of synthetic greenhouse gases—must pass on all cost savings. They impose a penalty on electricity and natural gas suppliers equal to 250 per cent of any cost savings they do not pass on. They require electricity and natural gas retailers and bulk importers of synthetic greenhouse gases to inform the ACCC and customers about how they are passing on the cost savings amounts of the savings.

                          The changes to the main repeal bill balance new compliance obligations with the need to ensure that household and business customers benefit. Already strong protections are being further strengthened. Businesses should be able to explain to customers how changes in their costs are flowing through to changes in their prices. For the purpose of the Acts Interpretation Act 1901, I confirm that the definition of 'electricity retailer' is limited to electricity retailers and electricity producers selling electricity into a wholesale electricity market or to a retailer. By agreement, this is not intended to override any pre-existing contracts.

                          The cost of synthetic greenhouse gases was significantly impacted by the carbon tax. Bulk importers of synthetic greenhouse gas defined under s13A(2)(c) of the Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas Management Act 1989 are covered by the new requirements. To minimise the cost of compliance, small imports of synthetic greenhouse gases such as imports of synthetic greenhouse gas contained in equipment such as fridges, cars and air-conditioners are not covered. The new provisions are confined to those sectors. I make that statement for the purpose of the Acts Interpretation Act. The bill already provides flexibility for the ACCC to expand the range of sectors covered should any significant concerns arise.

                          The government is confident that all businesses will do the right thing and pass on all the savings relating to carbon tax repeal. The government is aware that major electricity and gas retailers are already committed to providing this information to households and businesses on bills, inserts and through websites in any event. The carbon tax has been a $15 billion hit on the economy over two years. It is a $15 billion hit on jobs, a $15 billion burden on investment and a $15 billion slug to families, pensioners and small business owners, which they do not need because it simply does not do the job. These bills get rid of a tax which does not work, which is not doing the job and which is not achieving its outcome.

                          In moving these bills, I want to thank from the Department of the Environment, Simon Writer, who has worked tirelessly over recent weeks and months, the Acting Secretary, Mr Steven Kennedy, and able officers Joe Pryor, Kim Begbie and Josie Cleland. From the Office of Parliamentary Counsel, I wish to thank Mr Keith Byles and his team, and from the Department of the Treasury, Mr Hamish McDonald and his team, the Minister for Small Business and his outstanding staff and the outstanding staff of the Australian Government Solicitor. I also particularly wish to thank the extraordinary and patient Alex Caroly from my own office.

                          Ultimately, repealing the carbon tax will reduce the cost of living, make jobs more secure and improve the competitive position of our country. It will be replaced with a system which actually reduces emissions. Let us be absolutely clear: the Australian people have already voted on this carbon tax repeal bill. They are now waiting for members and senators to honour their commitments to abolish the tax and get the budget back into surplus. As the Prime Minister has said previously to the House: these bills are the government's bill to reduce the Australian people's bills—and so the government and I commend these bills to the parliament.

                          12:51 pm

                          Photo of Bill ShortenBill Shorten (Maribyrnong, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Opposition) Share this | | Hansard source

                          I rise to speak on the Clean Energy Legislation (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2014 and related bills. In late 2009, this nation was on the verge of making a decision about which we could have been collectively proud. We could have made this parliament a place of inspiration, with a national response to climate change, supported by both government and opposition. It was a policy of both government and opposition that built upon the previous government's decision—a government not of our party—but consistent with the best practice in the world Indeed, this week is the seventh anniversary of Prime Minister Howard announcing his support for an emissions trading scheme.

                          Those debates in 2009 took our nation to a higher level. The myths, fears and uncertainties would be set aside, not just for the national interest but for all generations for all future time. But since that time the hope that we could develop a national commitment has been frittered away. For his part, our current Prime Minister wrested away the leadership of the Liberal party from the person who believed most in the evidence and the need for a response. For our part, we walked away from calling an election which the nation was entitled to have. We did the second best thing. We worked to achieve a national response, but we settled for second best, transforming the international pricing of carbon into a carbon tax. But we were right to have international pricing. We were right to support an emissions trading scheme. We were right to have climate change as a political priority of the previous government. We were right to establish the Climate Change Authority, the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency. We were right to back the renewable energy target. We were right to listen to the scientific world. We had a responsibility to work within the political realities to achieve the best national outcomes for the best international response. For this, Labor does not apologise. From this Labor does not resile. We are not sceptics. We believe the science. We understand that what is necessary is an effective international solution. In that international solution we aim for best practice, to be among the leaders, working with the progressive, continuously testing the facts. In that international solution we want practical outcomes, the best solutions, not just some vague promises. We would prefer to be part of a national consensus, but where we cannot we shall advocate our position. We want to nurture the debate. Last week's staggering display of this government's special blend of blustering arrogance and incompetence made one thing abundantly clear: only one party in Australia has a serious, substantial and credible climate change policy. That party is the Australian Labor Party.

                          There is no doubt that our earth is warming and our seas rising or that human kind is the cause. The United States Department of Energy has calculated that the burning of fossil fuels has caused some 1.3 trillion tonnes of CO2 to be released into the atmosphere and researchers from the Woods Hole centre have calculated that a further 0.7 trillion tonnes have been released as a consequence of deforestation and changes in land use. That is two trillion tonnes of heat-trapping greenhouse gas released into our atmosphere at a rate many times faster than the previous 800,000 years. Each of the last three decades has been warmer on average than any other in modern times and 13 of the 14 hottest years on record have occurred in the 21st century. Sea levels have risen by about 20 centimetres on average over the past century and the rate of increase has been much greater in recent decades. There is no evidence to refute any of this or any genuine scientific counterargument in the climate change debate. This is not 'absolute crap', Prime Minister; this is the inescapable truth.

                          If we do not act the consequences will be severe. It is predicted that we will endure more droughts, more bushfires, more floods, more storms and more extremes. Indeed, we are already seeing more extreme weather events influenced by the warming experienced so far. The damage to our coasts, our farmland, our forests and our animal life will be irretrievable and irreversible. In 2014 the question before this parliament, the question for our nation, the question for humanity is not whether we need to act on climate change; it is, as President Obama has said, 'whether we will have the courage to act before it's too late.' We must decide today whether Australia will step up and play our part, fulfilling our responsibility, doing our fair share, which means setting appropriate emissions targets and building the policy infrastructure to help us meet them. That is what Labor did.

                          Any serious policy solution to climate change must, sooner rather than later, include an emissions trading system. That is where the world is heading. Next year in Paris world leaders will gather to develop the next set of emissions goals, for 2030. Australia can choose: we can attend the conference proud that we are making our contribution to the global effort or we can slink in, embarrassed by our lethargy. We can go as a nation with an integrated, effective ETS or as a nation with no climate policy. The governments of the world, both progressive and conservative, are making their choice clear. Today, as I speak, 39 national and 29 subnational jurisdictions, accounting for almost a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions, have implemented or are on track to implement carbon pricing instruments, including emissions trading schemes. Already the world's emissions trading schemes are valued at more than $30 billion. China's seven pilot emissions trading schemes alone cover quarter of a billion people. It is the second-largest carbon market in the world, second only to the European Union's. South Korea will introduce its ETS on 1 January 2015. Mexico put a price on carbon in 2013. The European union has had an ETS four years, and many European countries have applied their own carbon pricing on top of the European system, including France in 2013. In the United States, Oregon and Washington they are exploring carbon-pricing options, and California, itself the world's eighth-largest economy, already has an ETS in place, as does New York and eight other states in the USA's Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.

                          This growing international trend means that every year, more people are trading more emissions in more markets for more money—and we can today vote for our economy to be part of this. We can vote for a flexible and viable ETS, compared to heavy regulation and intervention. We can vote for an ETS that does not just favour renewable energy; it favours all low-emissions energy. Labor's ETS provides an added commercial incentive for better carbon capture and storage, for natural gas and for clean coal, delivering more benefits for Australian industries. And Labor's ETS is ready to link to the world's biggest emissions trading market, the European Union. Mr Deputy Speaker, our world is moving forward on climate change. If Australia goes backwards, we will be going alone. Nations on every continent are taking new action and creating new economic opportunities for their people. World leaders recognise what former Republican, US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, recently called 'the profound economic risks of doing nothing'. Paulson, a powerful conservative, has said that waiting for more information before acting is not conservative; it is taking a very radical risk.

                          This Prime Minister of ours is no leader. He is incapable of identifying the risks and costs of inaction. He is sleepwalking his way into a major climate policy disaster—a disaster for the Australian economy, and for our environment; a disaster that guarantees that for ever, Tony Abbott will be remembered as an environmental vandal. While the Prime Minister dithers over his dodgy deals with the crossbench, Labor policies continue to deliver economic and environmental benefits. Since we put a price on pollution two years ago, emissions in the energy sector—the main sector covered by the carbon tax—have dropped by 10.4 per cent. Since the Renewable Energy Target was introduced, $18 billion has flowed into Australia's renewable energy sector. Under Labor, wind power generation tripled. The number of jobs in the renewable energy sector tripled. And the number of Australian households with rooftop solar panels has increased, from under 7½ thousand to almost 1.2 million. Abolishing the RET will put Australia out of step with the rest of the world and it will cut us off from the next wave of international investment in clean energy. Already—after nine months of this government talking down the RET, and lying about its impact—Australia has slipped from fourth to eighth on Ernst and Young's renewable energy country attractiveness index. Australia is one of 144 countries in the world with a set of renewable targets, and Labor believes that we should be leading the world as a supplier of clean energy.

                          If we are strategic—if we are smart—Australia can power our future prosperity with solar, wind, geothermal and tidal energy. This is not just about taking advantage of our country's natural gifts; the sunlight that bathes our continent or the waves that break upon our coastline. It means Australian researchers, Australian scientists and Australian investors leading innovation and creating economic growth by developing new energy technology and boosting energy efficiency. This is precisely what the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency are helping to achieve. The CEFC is a productive and profitable enterprise, generating genuine value for taxpayer money. By leveraging private sector investment and low-emissions technology, the CEFC steps up to help Australian start-ups capitalise and commercialise ideas. Last year, every dollar the CEFC invested generated $2.90 of private sector investment—yet this government is so blinded by its ideology that it seeks to abolish this organisation. The government wants to get rid of ARENA too. Right now, ARENA leads the way in supporting Australian environmental innovation and investing in Australian genius. ARENA provides funding for institutions like the University of New South Wales School of Photovoltaic and Renewable Energy Engineering, which has for the past three decades set multiple world records for silicon solar cell efficiency. Alumni and researchers from this Australian institution manage some of the world's largest solar energy companies. ARENA grants are also supporting Australian researchers investigating new and more efficient energy sources—tidal energy in Portland; algae as a biofuel in Townsville, Parkville and Whyalla; solar thermal energy storage in Newcastle; and geothermal energy in the Cooper Basin. The Climate Change Authority has been doing its important job well, providing authoritative, transparent information and policy advice—as does the Productivity Commission, and as does the Reserve Bank. There is only one reason the Prime Minister wants to abolish the Climate Change Authority—because it tells the truth.

                          Labor's climate change policy was shaped by scientific and economic experts. We enhanced the Renewable Energy Target. We created the Climate Change Authority, the CEFC and ARENA because we are determined to fight climate change on every inch of ground, with every weapon in Australia's intellectual, economic and policy arsenal. Labor has built for Australia the architecture for reducing our emissions in the most efficient and most economically responsible way possible. Each of our policy elements works in partnership with the others to deliver the best outcome—a market-based mechanism for tackling pollution: an ETS that guarantees the lowest costs for Australian businesses and for Australian families. An ETS delivers business certainty. It positions Australia to maximise economic benefits from the growing global trend of pricing pollution. And it puts Australia on the crest of a wave of unprecedented new market opportunities in clean energy and green technology, giving Australia innovation, and giving Australian ideas the chance to thrive. The parliament can vote for Labor's emission trading scheme today. The intricate, carefully calibrated design work has been done. The international compatibility is assured. Labor's ETS is legislated. It is ready to go.

                          But this Liberal Party, this once great party of the free market and free enterprise, wants no part of this market solution. They want to tear down everything that has been built. They want to replace it with an amateur, ill-conceived, centralist, Soviet style voucher system that will give the nation's biggest polluters great wads of taxpayer money to keep polluting. The logic is baffling. The hypocrisy is staggering. This Liberal Party—the party that, through the GP tax, wants to put a price signal in place to stop Australian pensioners and low- and middle-income earners from seeing their doctor—rejects the need for a price signal on pollution that will determine the health of our planet. They believe in a market to punish the sick and the vulnerable, but they will not support one that helps the Earth. They turn their backs on the free market and the settled science in favour of Tea Party economics and crackpot pseudoscience.

                          Make no mistake, this destructive policy will cost Australia dearly in the future. It will cost our country more and will achieve less. Direct Action is a policy designed solely for the Prime Minister's personal core constituency: the flat earth society! It is a policy concocted purely to appease the ragtag militia of the internet trolls, the cranky radio shock jocks and the extreme columnists. The ideologues and demagogues have held the climate change debate hostage for too long. Direct action is, as the minister for communications said in a more honest time, nothing but a policy fig leaf. It proves yet again that this is a most ignorant government, driven by nothing but its book-burning instincts and its tattered ideology.

                          Above all, the Prime Minister's climate policy vacuum is a grievous failure of leadership that shows that our Prime Minister lacks faith in the Australian people. He does not understand Australians nor does he respect them. On climate change, as with this budget, we see the harmful division between this government's mean and narrow view and our generous and decent Australian society. Australians are bigger, better and braver than this awkward, divisive, backward-looking government. They deserve better than this Prime Minister's lectures and lies. They deserve a government that represents their moderate, informed views on climate change; not one that delivers pre-Enlightenment, science-sledging nonsense. Australians are smart enough to grasp the inevitability of change. They are up for the hard decisions. They can participate in mature debates about the future of our environment and the future of our economy. Unlike this Prime Minister, Australians can look beyond self-interest and see the national and global interest.

                          Today, the parliament has a choice: we can enter the history books as the generation that ignored the perils of climate change; we can be marked down as the generation that surrendered to the selfish, shouting clamour of vested interests; or we can guarantee that Australia does its fair share to deal with this global problem. This parliament can vote for an emissions trading scheme that puts Australia in step with the rest of the world. Today, I give Australians this promise: Labor will always fight for serious, credible climate change policy. We will never surrender to this Prime Minister's bullying denialism and his government's extremism.

                          Sadly, we have run out of time to deal with climate change. The decisions made by us, the elected representatives of the people, over these final six years of this critical decade for climate action will have an irrevocable impact on the quality of life for future generations. We all have choices in history, and some are more than important than others. Today, we can embrace the extreme risk of doing nothing, and when, in the future, it is proved wrong, the costs will not be measured by a rye laugh of those opposite, an embarrassed smile or a belated and sincere expression of regret. No apology will suffice. It will be forever remembered as your greatest voting folly. There is no mistake greater. There is no blunder more serious. It is inexplicable. It is unjustifiable, not because we were responsible but because we did not accept our responsibility in this parliament.

                          If we embrace the risk of doing something, then we shall take our place in the progressive world supported by a society that saw this issue as political but above politics. This parliament has choices. Each of us here knows that the political process can be exciting and exhilarating. We all know that it can be cruel and exacting. On this side of the House, we know that on the other side of the House and in the other house in this place there are people of character and commitment no less convinced than we are of the severity of the problem. But, for Labor, we will reach for the higher ground, always and constantly. In the blink of an eye of Earth's history, we have seen climate change that is staggering and frightening. In the blink of an eye that responds, let there be no tears for humanity.

                          1:13 pm

                          Photo of Karen McNamaraKaren McNamara (Dobell, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

                          I welcome the reintroduction of the carbon tax repeal legislation and so do the Australian people, who have waited far too long to see the end of this jobs-destroying toxic tax.

                          On 7 September 2013, the Australian people overwhelmingly elected a new government that was committed to stopping the boats, repairing Labor's debt and deficit disaster, building the infrastructure for the 21st century and, above all else, repealing Labor's carbon tax. The Australian people have good reason to be angry with the actions of the members opposite. Ever since the then prime minister, Julia Gillard, spoke these words before the 2010 federal election, 'There will be no carbon tax under the government I lead,' Labor has deceived the Australian people. Again, before the 2013 federal election, the Australian people were told by those opposite that the carbon tax had been terminated. Australians were told that:

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

                          Those were not the words of the now Prime Minister Tony Abbott; they were the words of former Labor Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. He went on to say that terminating the carbon tax was 'the fiscally responsible thing to do'.

                          Following the election, the truth was abundantly clear. Labor never had any intention of terminating the carbon tax. The will of the Australian people has been blatantly ignored by members opposite. Every member of this parliament, excluding the Greens, was elected on the basis that the carbon tax would be repealed. Why is it that Labor have repeatedly joined forces with the Greens in both the House and the Senate to deny the Australian public what they overwhelmingly voted for?

                          Labor's commitment to repealing the carbon tax was as genuine as their commitment to delivering a budget surplus. Labor have now had 10 months to be true to their word and terminate the carbon tax, but they have repeatedly failed to be true to their word since losing government. Not only have they failed to keep their word; they have also failed to honour the wishes of the Australian people. Members opposite are, without a shadow of a doubt, government change deniers. As a result of Labor's actions, the carbon tax is still standing.

                          Only two weeks ago, the world's largest carbon tax got even bigger, rising from $24.15 to $25.40 per tonne. As a result of Labor's actions, every time ordinary Australians turn on the light, the heater or the toaster, they are paying more. As a result of Labor's actions, electricity prices across Australia are continuing to unnecessarily rise. Every day the carbon tax stays in place it is costing Australians $11 million. Since last Thursday's vote in the Senate, Labor's actions have cost Australians $44 million. We are voting to scrap the carbon tax because it is the best way to take financial pressure off families as well as help the economy. It will save families, on average, $550 a year.

                          This toxic tax is hurting the households and businesses of Dobell. This is a fact, I know, because the people of Dobell are telling me daily of the impact the carbon tax has had on their power bills, adding to the cost of living. Repealing Labor's carbon tax will give relief to local businesses, which will mean more money to invest in local jobs and higher wages. The carbon tax is also impacting on local governments across Australia. As a result, residents are faced with higher rates and more costly utilities, such as water and waste removal.

                          Last Friday I toured Wyong Shire Council's Buttonderry Waste Management Facility. The Central Coast is rapidly growing and, on an annual basis, approximately 250,000 tonnes of waste is received at this facility. There is no alternative for Wyong Shire Council but to operate the waste facility. The ratepayers of Wyong Shire Council are already paying higher fees to use this facility—an increase of $22 in the last year alone. As a result of Labor's carbon tax, in the last financial year Wyong Shire Council had a carbon tax bill of $5 million. If Labor and the Greens have their way, this bill will continue to increase to over $10 million in the coming years. This is money that could be better spent on new roads, improving existing roads and being invested in much-needed infrastructure and local government services.

                          As a result of the actions of those opposite, small businesses in Dobell continue to be burdened by the carbon tax. A local smash repairer at Wyong has been paying an additional $400 per month for gas. He cannot pass this increase on to the end consumer because he is restricted to pricing regulated by insurers. A publican at North Wyong has seen his electricity and gas bills increase by $20,000 per year. The owner wants to employ more people but he simply cannot afford to. This is the harsh reality imposed on local small businesses—including butchers, greengrocers, bakers, smash repairers and restaurateurs—across Australia. Seventy-five thousand Australian businesses are affected by the carbon tax. These are the businesses that employ local people and are the backbone and driving force of many local economies, Dobell included.

                          The Central Coast is expected to grow by an additional 100,000 people by 2031. This will require more than 45,000 new jobs. This will be achieved by supporting local small businesses and by driving stronger economic growth and increased productivity, not by imposing unnecessary taxes. With Labor's job-destroying carbon tax, the difficulty of this task is painfully obvious. Thanks to Labor's carbon tax, there have been more small business closures in Dobell than anywhere else in New South Wales. I want to see Dobell known for the highest number of new business start-ups, not for the highest number of business closures. The damage caused by Labor's carbon tax is as clear as day. No matter what the Labor Party say, their actions demonstrate that they are totally committed to a carbon tax—be it Julia Gillard's $64 billion tax that cost Australian jobs or Kevin Rudd's $58 billion tax that cost Australian jobs.

                          On the former government's own figures, the carbon tax is set to increase sixfold between now and 2019. The carbon tax explains a lot about Labor's legacy to Australia—200,000 more people unemployed when they left office as compared to when they took office. We cannot afford to continue as we were. The time has now come for this parliament to put this toxic, job-destroying tax behind us. The time has now come to honour the will of the Australian people and to build a strong and prosperous economy for a safe and secure Australia.

                          The carbon tax is an environmental and economic failure. In its first full year of operation, the carbon tax saw an emissions reduction of 0.1 per cent, despite its $7.6 billion price tag. Over two years, the carbon tax has cost Australians $15.4 billion. In addition, domestic emissions under the carbon tax are projected to rise through to 2020. The Australian Treasury indicates that removing the carbon tax now will leave average costs of living across all Australian households around $550 lower than they will otherwise be in 2014-15.

                          It is also estimated that retail electricity should be around nine per cent lower and retail gas prices around seven per cent lower than they would otherwise have been. Mr Rod Simms, Chair of the ACCC, has stated:

                          What went up will clearly come down when you take away the carbon tax.

                          The Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal in New South Wales stated gas prices in New South Wales would be up to 9.2 per cent lower without the carbon tax. This means for the 37,000-plus families in Dobell that their average household electricity bills alone will be around $200 lower than they otherwise would have been in 2014-15 under Labor's carbon tax.

                          There is a better way. This government are committed to reducing Australia's emissions by five per cent by 2020 based on 2000 levels. We will achieve this through our Emissions Reduction Fund. It will reduce our emissions by five per cent without the damaging cost to businesses and households as a result of the carbon tax. Its sole focus is to find opportunities to drive emissions reductions.

                          The government's Green Army Program will see local communities directly benefit from practical, on-the-ground environmental projects. In Dobell we are proud of our natural environment, from our magnificent beaches and coastline to Tuggerah Lakes and our valleys. Our environment contributes to our quality of living. The government are committed to protecting and enhancing our natural environment. In addition to our Green Army projects we will deliver $3.3 million worth of real improvements to Tuggerah Lakes.

                          The people of Dobell know a tax when they see one. They know when people are serious about improving the environment and when people are masquerading a great big new tax in the name of environmentalism. The people of Dobell, along with the people of Australia, voted to scrap this tax. This government was elected with a clear mandate to get rid of the carbon tax. With the carbon tax repealed, families, seniors, small businesses and local councils will benefit through lower costs in almost everything throughout our economy.

                          Members now have one last opportunity to be on the right side of history and to scrap this jobs-destroying tax. Labor can keep their word and stand up for households and businesses, as they promised to prior to the last election, and we as a parliament can come together and fulfil the desire of the Australian people. The time has come to remove the carbon tax. I commend these bills to the House.

                          1:23 pm

                          Photo of Mark ButlerMark Butler (Port Adelaide, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Water) Share this | | Hansard source

                          I appreciate the opportunity to speak again on the Clean Energy Legislation (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2014 and related bills, the third time that these bills have been presented by the government to this House. We got an opportunity during the suspension of sittings to talk about why we are debating this package of bills yet again. The chaos, the dysfunction and the shambles that was the Senate process last week was a window into the dysfunction of this government, into the complete inability and incapacity this Prime Minister has to conduct his government in a calm, methodical way, undertaking serious negotiations with crossbenchers, whether in this place or in the other place.

                          Leaving that aside, what these bills will do yet again by the end of the week, if the government has its way, is present Australia with the position of having no meaningful policy on climate change whatsoever. The Prime Minister, the minister and backbenchers talk about these bills terminating the carbon tax, and they do that. The Labor Party went to the election in September last year saying that it also supported the termination of the carbon tax. That is not the issue between both sides of this chamber. The issue is what replaces it, if anything.

                          Our objection to these bills rests on the fact that this government intends to replace it with nothing. Not only is the carbon tax to be terminated; if these bills pass both houses, we will see no cap on carbon pollution—no discipline, no rigour whatsoever on the amount of carbon pollution produced in Australia. We will see no market mechanism whatsoever to deal with climate change. As the Leader of the Opposition said, those opposite argue that a market mechanism is the right way to stop people who are sick from going to the doctor, bringing down Medicare costs; but they will not introduce a market mechanism on climate change. We will see no legislated short-term target for carbon pollution reduction. The five per cent reduction target for 2020 will go. It will presumably, maybe, remain a slip of paper in the desk drawer of the Minister for the Environment or the Prime Minister, but there will be no legal mechanism to implement Australia's international obligations. There will certainly be no longer term target, as in the current legislation—the 2050 target that Australia signed on to, apparently with the support of the then opposition, the now government, to reduce carbon pollution by 2050. Again, there will be no such commitment by Australia anymore.

                          As has been said on many, many occasions, the government seem hell-bent on destroying every single independent strong voice, whether it is on climate change or any other area of policy. They will abolish the Climate Change Authority, following the abolition of the Climate Commission. The government cannot stand the idea that there would be strong independent voices advising the parliament and, much more importantly, advising the Australian community on difficult, complex, highly contested areas of public policy—in this case, climate change.

                          In the very short time that remains before we move to 90-second statements, I want to talk about the Labor Party's amendments. The amendments that I intend to move during consideration in detail have been circulated. I cannot say the same thing about the government's amendments, which it has cooked up in a deal with the Palmer United Party, to indicate to business quite which sectors will be covered by the price pass-through arrangements that will be put in place for the ACCC to police. We do not know what the form of the amendments is that will enable Australian households to know which price reductions the Prime Minister talked about up hill and down dale across the country for the last three years he is willing to stand by in this parliament. The member for Sturt has come in and curtailed debate. He has curtailed and guillotined the debate that this House can have on a critically important amendment we have not even seen yet. We do not know which businesses will be covered. We do not know what price reductions the Prime Minister is willing to stand by.

                          In contrast with that, the Labor Party has been steadfast in this area since before the election campaign. The amendments that I will move today, which have been circulated, are exactly the same amendments that we circulated as an exposure draft while we were still in government. They are exactly the same amendments that I moved in December, that I moved only a few weeks ago when the government was trying on a second occasion to get these bills through the parliament. They are amendments that would move to put in place, as quickly as possible, an emissions trading scheme—the type of scheme, as the Leader of the Opposition only a short time ago said, we see in our oldest trading partners: France, the United Kingdom, Germany, many parts of North America including California and a number of the north-eastern states, and also provinces of Canada

                          But perhaps more importantly, increasingly we see it in our own region. In China, the seventh emissions trading scheme started only a couple of weeks ago. In a few months time South Korea, our third-largest export partner, will start an emissions trading scheme, on 1 January 2015.

                          Our amendments are clear. Our position has been constant. Our position has been transparent. This government's position in this area remains utterly chaotic.

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

                          Order! The debate is interrupted in accordance with standing order 43. The debate may be resumed at a later hour.