Monday, 14 July 2014
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister for the Environment. I refer the minister to the Queensland Competition Authority's report into regulated electricity prices that states: 'Power prices will be around 8.5 per cent lower from 1 July if the carbon tax is abolished.' How will removing the carbon tax ease cost-of-living pressures for Queensland businesses and families?
I want to thank the member for Bonner, who went to the last election with a very simple proposition: to fight to remove the carbon tax to reduce electricity prices for his constituents. But it is also a pleasure, may I say, to finally receive another question on the environment from our side. I believe that is 30 questions so far on the environment from our side of the House and none—nothing on dugongs and turtles, nothing on Reef Trust, nothing on Green Army, nothing on the Murray-Darling Basin agreement.
But let me deal precisely with the issue of reducing electricity costs by removing a tax which does not work, because, like the Prime Minister, we have been doing our research. Today, I came across a very interesting newsletter. The newsletter is dated 'Winter 2013, Issue No. 2' and is 'Community News, Mark Butler MP, Federal Member for Port Adelaide'. And do you know what it says? Not just once but twice, it has a headline 'Carbon tax terminated'. It is not in future tense, not intention, but past tense: done, finished, complete. He asked me to read out. I would very happily read out the quote. Here is what the member for Port Adelaide says, quoting the then Prime Minister:
The government has decided to terminate the carbon tax to help cost-of-living pressures for families and to reduce costs for small business.
In other words, all of this talk about what a great and wondrous measure it is is belied by the fact that in winter last year—
Ms Kate Ellis interjecting —
the member for Port Adelaide and his then government were telling Australians not that they would terminate the carbon tax but that it had been terminated. What happens this week when we terminate the carbon tax?
Mr Burke interjecting—
In Queensland the Competition Authority has made it absolutely clear that there will be an 8.5 per cent decrease in the average bill on a regulated basis—in other words, this has to happen; it is a Queensland regulation. And that means $1.5 billion of lower costs for Queensland businesses. It means lower cost of living for Queensland families. But throughout this time the ALP have stood in the way of doing what they said. I would say to the Leader of the Opposition: it is time to honour what you said at the last election. It is time to honour what you demanded last Friday when you said the government should be allowed to carry through their promises. It is time to get out of the way.
Government members interjecting—
On 30 May 2011 the Prime Minister said the carbon tax would mean: 'At least a $12,000 a year increase in the price of running a farm.' Will the Prime Minister stand by his guarantee that farmers will now save $12,000 a year?
Madam Speaker, you would think that this would be a man who would be too embarrassed to ask a question after the last answer. This is the tax that he had already abolished. This is the tax that members opposite claim to have abolished, but, far from abolishing the carbon tax, members opposite are consistently voting to keep it even though they know that it is adding massively to the costs of businesses and significantly and substantially to the costs of every household in Australia. This is the problem: the Labor Party just does not get it.
I absolutely guarantee that the farmers of Australia will be massively better off without this tax. Some of them will benefit by much more than $12,000. What hypocrisy we see from members opposite. They are now supporting a tax cut that they abandoned in government, they are opposing savings that they supported in government and they are supporting the tax that they thought they had abolished in government. Really and truly, no-one can take this Labor Party seriously. They do not believe anything, they do not stand for anything, they have no confidence or competence in saying or doing anything—
Mr Champion interjecting—
Once upon a time there were Labor leaders who did stand for things, who did believe in things and who did do good things for our country. This particular Labor Party were wreckers in government and now they are wreckers in opposition.
My question is to the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development. I refer to the Energy Supply Association's statement that the carbon tax is costing Australians $11 million in additional power costs every day. How will removing the carbon tax ease cost of living pressures for Australian businesses and families?
I thank the honourable member for his question—he knows that every day this carbon tax is in place it is adding to the costs of Australian families, Australian industry, Australian business, Australian farmers and the people of his electorate. The cost of the carbon tax is now $25.40 per tonne. Yes, while parliament was away for a week the tax went up. If it stays in place, as Labor now wishes, it will go up every year—it will continue to go up. This is the tax that Labor knew before the last election was hurting business, was hurting families. They knew it was hurting, that it was costing jobs. That is why they terminated it, they said. They terminated this tax that was hurting Australians and hurting Australian families. We also made a commitment in opposition that on election to government we would get rid of this tax. The difference between one side and the other is that we are getting on with the job of getting rid of the tax. Labor has changed its mind again, and now wants to keep this tax. They want to keep a tax that keeps costing Australian jobs, that makes Australian industry uncompetitive and that adds $550 to the costs of every Australian household.
This is a tax that was evil before the election—Labor knew it then; it is even bigger now, so it is even more evil—but all of a sudden Labor has decided that the carbon tax should stay. Labor continues to vote against the reform—the reform they promised to deliver before the election; reform of a tax they know is hurting Australia. Every day they delay is costing Australian householders $11 million. It keeps on going up. Of course the impact of the carbon tax has been much greater than that cost. The impact to the economy is estimated at around $15.4 billion in the first year in lost jobs, in lost opportunities. Labor got it right with their Townsville termination announcement—the tax has to go. It is hurting Australians, and it is now time that Labor honoured its commitment in Townsville to the people of Australia. They should get rid of this tax and let our country start working properly again.
My question is to the Prime Minister. Before the election the now Minister for Agriculture claimed a leg of lamb would cost $100 because of the carbon price. I note that Coles Online today is selling a 2.2 kilogram leg of lamb for $26.40. Prime Minister, how much less will this leg of lamb cost by the end of this week?
Opposition members interjecting—
I invite the member who asked the question to vote this week to terminate the carbon tax, because certainly that should mean that the price of a leg of lamb will come down. If members opposite keep voting to keep the carbon tax and, if the carbon tax stays under members opposite, the carbon tax would just go up and up and up and eventually—who knows?—may be there would have been a $100 leg of lamb. I am inviting members opposite to do the right thing by the lamb consumers and producers of Australia and vote to terminate the carbon tax.
My question is to the Minister for Small Business. Will the minister explain how families and businesses will benefit from the repeal of the carbon tax and what role the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission will have in ensuring the savings are passed on to consumers?
I thank the member for Moore—what a distinguished member he is. I have some good news. If this parliament can support the Abbott government's Economic Action Strategy, we will abolish the carbon tax. But we need to get the parliament behind us. I say to the member for Moore that for the households and businesses in Edgewater, Kinross, Joondalup we are working for their interest because the abolition of the carbon tax will support all of those communities and, in fact, communities right across the country. It has been a key element of our Economic Action Strategy and is part of our plan to build a strong and prosperous economy for a safe and secure future.
It is evident that the Leader of the Opposition and Labor have no plans—
Mr Perrett interjecting—
They were incompetent in government and they are irresponsible in opposition. As the member for Moreton leaves, I can remind those members opposite how Labor went around claiming they had terminated the carbon tax, but, by their actions in opposition, that Townsville termination has become an escalation. Labor's decision to impede this government's efforts to repeal the carbon tax has actually seen the tax go up; and that has meant $550 on average of additional expense for Australian households. In New South Wales gas is up to 9.2 per cent higher than it needs to be because of the carbon tax. In Queensland the cost for a typical household electricity bill would fall by 8.5 per cent. In Tasmania, we have seen a 7.8 per cent real fall; in the ACT—in this capital—would have a fall of 11.6 per cent in electricity prices if we could abolish the carbon tax.
As the Prime Minister has made clear and as our consumer protector has made clear, there is a lot of noise—this is what Rod Simms had to say—going around with lots of complicated questions, but at its heart, when the carbon tax came in, it increased prices. When you take it away, the effect will be reversed. What we have done is finance the ACCC not only with an extra $89 million of emergency funding over the forward estimates but an additional $10 million to make sure that the savings from the carbon tax repeal are passed on. There are price-monitoring powers, and we have already seen the first carbon-monitoring report published on 1 May under the government's direction. The government's plan makes it absolutely clear: it will prohibit any company, including supermarkets, from making false or misleading representations about the impact of the carbon tax on the prices they charge. We put strong safeguards in place.
As my friend and colleague, the Minister for the Environment, has mentioned, in discussions with the Senate, those strong safeguards will be strengthened even further. It is now up to all of us to do—not only for the member for Moore's community, but for households and businesses right across Australia—is repeal this carbon tax. Let's axe the tax, not terminate it, as you claimed, because you are escalating it by standing in the way of this important measure.
My question is to the Prime Minister. Despite everything the Prime Minister has said for the last three years, the Prime Minister has today has failed to guarantee that grocery prices will fall. What is worse, his unfair budget will see Australian families $6,000 a year worse off. Why is the Prime Minister determined to make life harder and more expensive for Australian families?
I am delighted to get a series of questions from the opposition on the carbon tax, because when it comes to the carbon tax we are against it and after the election we are doing what we said we would do before the election. They are for it and they are acting completely contrary to what they said they would do before the election. Let's be absolutely crystal clear: if you get rid of the carbon tax, you remove a nine per cent impost on power prices, a $9 billion a year hand break on our economy and a $550-a-year hit on the average household. We want to save the average household money; that is why we want to terminate the carbon tax. We will not just claim that we will terminate the carbon tax, we will. We will not rest until this toxic tax is gone. Even if it does go this week as it should, members opposite will want to bring it back.
They will want it back because they are so convinced that this carbon tax is good for you, Madam Speaker. It is very, very clear that we are against the carbon tax and we want lower prices—
Ms Butler interjecting—
The member interjecting loves the carbon tax, and just wait until she has got rid of the Leader of the Opposition, she will be telling us every day how good the carbon tax. If they win the next election, the carbon tax will be back with all its toxicity, all its ugliness and all its damage to the Australian jobs and the Australian cost of living.