House debates

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Matters of Public Importance


3:12 pm

Photo of Mrs Bronwyn BishopMrs Bronwyn Bishop (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

I have received a letter from the honourable member for McMahon proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:

The Prime Minister’s unfair Budget taking money from Australians and handing it to multinational corporations and big polluters.

I call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places.

More than the number of members required by the standing orders having risen in their places—

Photo of Chris BowenChris Bowen (McMahon, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Treasurer) Share this | | Hansard source

This week the twisted priorities of the Abbott government have been placed in stark relief, there for all to see. Arguably, more than any other week of this government's life, the twisted priorities of the Prime Minister and the Treasurer, in particular, are there for all Australians to see. On Tuesday we had fuel tax day. The government decided, 'If we can't beat 'em, ambush 'em.' They said, 'If we can't beat 'em, blackmail 'em.' That is what they said about the fuel tax. The government had a very clever plan. They said they were celebrating it. 'We have a very clever plan: if we can't get the legislation through the parliament, we'll do it without the parliament's approval.' So arrogant and so desperate is this government that they have engineered a situation whereby, if the parliament does not submit to their will, they will be required under legislation to refund the tax paid not to Australia's motorists, but to Australia's oil companies.

The Minister for Finance, to give him credit, has been honest about this. The Prime Minister has been asked on several occasions about this and refused to answer and fess up that this is their plan. The Minister for Finance, I acknowledge, has indicated that this is the case. But then he says, 'Well, that's a matter for Bill Shorten and Christine Milne.' Well, no it is not; it is a matter for the finance minister and it is a matter for the Treasurer because they have engineered this policy. The Treasurer was nowhere to be seen on Tuesday. He did not have the guts to turn up to make an announcement about the government's plans here. He might remind people of his views about fuel tax. He might remind people about his views about poor people in Australia. 'We wouldn't want that,' said the Prime Minister's office—I gather. 'We wouldn't want the Treasurer reminding people what he really thinks; we'll just get the finance minister to do it.' But the finance minister had a very clever way of announcing this. He said, 'No, no, no, this isn't new policy, this isn't a tax increase; these are revised implementation arrangements.' I am surprised he did not call the increase in fuel tax a 'reverse reduction' that they have engineered!

But we had a continuity of this Orwellian policymaking yesterday, with the direct action policy. It would be better known as the direct subsidy policy, but of course under this Orwellian arrangement we have 'direct action'. Direct action is now the climate change policy of this nation. But what they have done is create a great big money-go-round, with winners and losers. If you are a motorist on this money-go-round, you lose $2.2 billion. If you are a polluter, you win $2.5 billion. That is the money-go-round that this Prime Minister and this Treasurer have created. They decide who gets government support and the circumstances in which they get government support! That is the plan that they have cooked up. This Treasurer has not shrunk the state; he has shifted the state. He says he is ending the age of entitlement, but what he is doing is actually deciding who is entitled.

We have got a Treasurer who says, 'If you're a millionaire having a baby, you're a winner; you get $50,000'—no worries from this Treasurer. But, if you are a pensioner looking for fair indexation of your pension, it is 'No Way' Joe. You are a loser if you are a pensioner. If you are a company wanting a subsidy on your pollution, 'No problem,' the Treasurer says, 'Big tick. Cheque coming your way—$2.5 billion.' If you are a potential university student who wants to better yourself and study at university, without a crippling debt for the rest of your life, then it is 'No Way' Joe. You get a bad deal from the Treasurer. You get a big cross.

If you are a multinational company embarking on profit shifting and tax evasion, if you are a multinational company shifting profit around the world so that you do not pay your fair share of tax in Australia, well, you have got a friend in the Treasurer, because he has got $1.1 billion coming your way. On the money-go-round, you are a winner. He has got a deal for you does this Treasurer! But, if you are a single parent whose child is over six, then you are a loser with the Treasurer. He is 'No Way' Joe again—because the Treasurer is in touch; he knows that children get so much cheaper when they are older than six! Their school uniforms magically become cheaper! What they need for their schooling is cheaper all of a sudden because they are over six! The Treasurer knows that and he says, 'No; you're a loser on the money-go-round of the Abbott-Hockey government.'

If you have got more than $2 million in your superannuation account and you want a continuation of what is unfair tax treatment, then the Treasurer is your man, because you are a winner on the money-go-round of the Abbott-Hockey government, because this government has continued the tax arrangements which the previous government put measures—modest measures—in place to stop. When this government came to office, it said: 'No. That's unfair. If you've got $2 million in your superannuation account, you deserve the support of the government.' The age of entitlement is over for everybody, but not if you have got more than $2 million in your superannuation account! But, if you are a young person who is unemployed, you are a loser, because you are not going to get Newstart. The Treasurer has decided. It is 'No Way' Joe again. He is not going to pay your Newstart. He says: 'No, no, no. You should become a millionaire and have a baby—that should be your plan—and then the government will step in and look after you.' That is the age of entitlement under this government.

We know that the government are addicted to moving money around, and they are doing it again this week, taking money off motorists and giving it to polluters. If their policy had at least some public policy justification, then we would have at least some respect for it.

Ms Henderson interjecting

Why don't you just have a coffee and calm down? Just have a coffee.

If it had some policy justification, then we might have some respect for it.

But let us look at what the Liberal Party feel about their own policy and some home truths given to the coalition by none other than the now Minister for Communications, when he was not Minister for Communications; when he was a backbencher and he could tell home truths. He wrote a cracker of an article. I can see you are pensive, Madam Speaker. I am not going to repeat it, because some of the language is unparliamentary. I would not do that. I have too much respect for the House to do that. I will not repeat the unparliamentary aspects of the article, but there are some that I can repeat. Talking about home truths, he says:

… as we are being blunt, the fact is that—

He refers to the now Prime Minister as 'Tony'—

Tony and the people who put him in his job do not want to do anything about climate change. They do not believe in human caused global warming. As Tony observed on one occasion "climate change is crap"—

That is on the borderline of parliamentary, Madam Speaker, but I am going to let that one through—

or if you consider his mentor, Senator Minchin, the world is not warming, its cooling and the climate change issue is part of a vast left wing conspiracy to deindustrialise the world.

These are the people in charge, and this is what the Minister for Communications really thinks about them and their policy. This is the Minister for Communications speaking home truths.

This is what we know about the government's policy. There are plenty of economists who say it will fall way short of meeting Australia's emissions targets, and they are right. And I suspect the Minister for the Environment knows it. I suspect the Minister for the Environment agrees with them. We know what the Minister for the Environment thinks. He thinks the polluters should pay. That is what he told us many, many years ago. Now he says the polluters should be subsidised, because that is what is happening on the money-go-round. If you are a polluter and you are emitting carbon into the atmosphere, you get a great big cheque—$2.5 billion coming your way. Courtesy of the Prime Minister, the environment minister and the Treasurer, $2.5 billion is coming the way of Australia's polluters. And what do they say, the economists who have looked at this policy in great detail? They say that it will deliver 20 to 30 per cent of the required emissions reductions and that it would take $4 billion to $5 billion a year in extra expenditure from the government to achieve the ambitious target of reducing our emissions. I accept the government is not going to do that, because the government says it is not. What I accept, as a result, is that Australia will not meet our emissions target.

Opposition members: Shame!

That is a shame, as honourable members behind me say, because Australia should be meeting the target which both sides of the House agree on. This government pays lip service to the target, as they pay lip-service to fairness and as they pay lip-service to proper public policy development. What they engage in is prejudice and a money-go-round in which average working Australians are the losers.

3:22 pm

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

If you want to hear about a money-go-round, let me just run through the $30 billion which, when they were in government, the Labor Party gave as part and parcel of their carbon tax to industry and firms in Australia.

Under us you get no carbon tax but you get tax cuts. Families get a benefit of $550 and they also get the savings of lower taxes. That is the reality. But we have just heard 10 minutes of ad hominem from the former Treasurer of Australia. You remember? Four consecutive surpluses?

Government members: Yes!

Maybe not! So let's just run through this because I think it is very important. They make all this noise about the fact that, allegedly, there are payments to those who produce emissions under the coalition's program. Well, if they reduce emissions—if they are farmers, if they are small businesses or if they are local operators—they will receive a benefit. But they gave $30 billion, no strings attached, to businesses and heavy industry around the country as part of the carbon tax money-go-round.

Let me start with the Jobs and Competitiveness Program. It had no strings attached: $9.2 billion! And these are the people they demonise: firms making steel, paper, glass, aluminium, zinc and cement. These are the very firms they demonise but they gave them the windfall of their lives.

Most interestingly here, there was a question asked—and I really want the House to listen to this, and I would love the member for McMahon to have the courage to face across the chamber—about the member for Fairfax. Yesterday, the member for Fairfax was asked whether or not he would receive any benefit under the emissions reduction fund. His answer was, 'I don't think there are any prospects that I am personally aware of, of that happening in relation to my companies.' However, I thought to myself when that question was asked: did he happened to receive any windfall benefit under the carbon tax? Surely, the member for Fairfax's company would not have received a windfall benefit under the carbon tax?

The advice that I have just received from my office in relation to the figures provided by the Clean Energy Regulator is that last financial year alone Queensland Nickel received $11.6 million. Queensland Nicholas received $11.6 million of free permits under Labor's carbon tax! It was $11 million for the nickel component and $600,000 for the ammonia. They received free permits of $11.6 million—

Photo of Chris BowenChris Bowen (McMahon, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Treasurer) Share this | | Hansard source

It was user pays. They paid the carbon tax.

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

Go on—say that again?

Photo of Chris BowenChris Bowen (McMahon, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Treasurer) Share this | | Hansard source

They paid the carbon tax—

Photo of Sarah HendersonSarah Henderson (Corangamite, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

They gave them the money!

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

And then you receive—hang on! We have the money go round! They have the money-go-round! And they talk about big polluters—these were the people who gave the big polluters, on their definition, $9.2 billion.

But it gets a whole lot better than that because, as the member for Corangamite has been rightly pointing out, they gave $5½ billion—no strings attached—to Victoria's brown coal generators. It would be one thing to say that we are supporting energy in Victoria. But the whole carbon tax was designed to punish, to demonise, to deride and to destroy, and yet they gave $5½ billion to Victoria's brown coal generators. Before the carbon tax even started, there was almost $250 million to Hazelwood. There was $250 million in cash—in cash!—to Yallourn, almost. And there was almost $250 million to Loy Yang, in cash. And then it goes on each year after that, until the $5½ billion is exhausted. So one sector in one state, which is the very sector that they demonise, is given $5½ billion.

It is passing strange that one does not hear these words spoken in this House by that side. They were the grand givers of corporate largesse. They are the world champions when it comes to corporate largesse in relation to anything that has happened with regard to carbon taxes. It was a money-go-round on a grand scale. So we did get rid of that carbon tax. We said we would get rid of it. We campaigned to get rid of it. And we did get rid of it. They said they would get rid of it. They campaigned to get rid of it. And then they voted to keep it.

There was a certain press conference at which the member for McMahon was present, and that was in Townsville. He was part of the famous Townsville trio! And who was it who said at that press conference, flanked by the member for McMahon and the member for Port Adelaide:

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

It was former Prime Minister Rudd. There they were, the three of them together, standing up there and saying they were going to terminate the carbon tax.

Well, we did terminate the carbon tax, but we did not do it with their help. They voted against it, not just once, not just twice and not even three or four or five times, but six times: three times in the House and three times in the Senate. Just remember this:

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

They knew it was hurting families. They knew it was hurting small businesses. They declared before the 2010 election that it was not going to happen and they declared before the 2013 election that they would terminate it.

Photo of Ken O'DowdKen O'Dowd (Flynn, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

They terminated Kevin instead!

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

Well, after the 2010 election they did a dirty deal to vote for it. And then they wrapped up $30 billion to try to compensate the industries that they were demonising. Then after the 2013 election they forgot. They forgot something: that they said they would terminate it. Along the way, as the member for Flynn said, they did terminate a couple of leaders but they never terminated the carbon tax, and when we voted and we pledged and we worked to repeal the carbon tax they stood in its way. They stood in the way of Australians receiving lower electricity and gas prices.

And do you know what? They said, 'Even if we did terminate it, these prices would never flow through in lower costs for families and businesses'.

Photo of Melissa PriceMelissa Price (Durack, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

They were wrong!

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

They were wrong! In the September quarter, in the first quarter after the carbon tax was repealed we have had the largest decrease in recorded history in Australia with regard to electricity prices. The biggest drop in electricity prices in Australian history. I am delighted to give you some examples. The member for McMahon happens to be from New South Wales. Residential electricity prices under EnergyAustralia are 8.9 per cent lower; residential electricity prices in New South Wales under Simply Energy are 10 per cent lower; small business prices under Simply Energy are nine per cent lower; and Origin Energy has said that, in relation to commercial and industrial customers, it is 15 per cent lower. Those are the exact figures which have been given to the ACCC and for which companies are liable under law. That is what is actually happening in the real world. They pledged they would never have a carbon tax and then they delivered one which hit Australian families for six. They also delivered a massive money-go-round of funds of $9.2 billion to steel, paper, glass, aluminium, zinc and cement firms, and to Queensland Nickel. They also delivered $5.5 billion to the largest energy firms in the country, the very firms which they demonised—brown-coal generators in Victoria. By comparison, we said we would repeal the carbon tax; by comparison, we said that we would reduce electricity costs; by comparison, we did what we said and we said what we would do and that is what we should be doing.

Now I want to say something about who is going to benefit under the Carbon Farming Initiative: the Bendigo Landfill Gas Project; the Ballarat Landfill Gas Project, in Wedderburn, Greenfleet and the Loddon Shire Council are hosting environmental projects. And if you go around the country: the Jack Scully landfill project; we have Cessnock and the Cessnock City Council; in Dungog and Port Stephens there are benefits in terms of offset programs; Biomass Solutions in Coffs Harbour; and in the Bourke Shire Council we have environmental improvements. It is the little sector that will benefit from us; it was the big end of town that always benefitted from a hideous carbon tax. (Time expired)

3:32 pm

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

I spent this morning speaking with tax experts from universities and accounting firms in conjunction with the Leader of the Opposition, the shadow Treasurer, the member for Newcastle and other members of the Labor team. We have been talking about the issue of multinational profit shifting. It is a complicated issue which fundamentally comes down to fairness. The question we have, whenever we are considering how to balance the budget in this House, is whether we focus our reforms on those who can afford it or on those who cannot. The problem with this government is that every time they are faced with a choice between slugging someone who can afford it and somebody who cannot, they choose the most vulnerable.

When it comes to superannuation, this government wants to give to people with more than $2 million in their superannuation accounts and has, for the first time in six years, increased the nonconcessional superannuation cap from $150,000 to $180,000. Who is putting more than $150,000 a year into super? Well, probably someone who is a millionaire. So if you have $2 million in your super account, then you have benefited. If you have more than $1 million in earnings, then you have benefited. If you are a millionaire, then this government will put in place not the fair parental leave scheme that we have but an unfair parental leave scheme that will pay you five times as much as a minimum-wage worker. Yet, at the same time, this government is slugging those at the bottom. This government is raising superannuation taxes on the millions of Australians who are earning less than $37,000 a year, two-thirds of whom are women.

The government is taking one dollar in 10 away from the poorest single parents. Do not take my word on that; that is an estimate from NATSEM, Prime Minister's number one modelling firm. According to the Prime Minister's number one modelling firm, the poorest single parents in Australia will lose one-tenth of their income. How would the Prime Minister feel if he were in those shoes? We know how he would feel because we know how he reacted, when he went into opposition, at being forced to live on a backbencher's salary. He thinks it is all right for those earning $60,000 a year to have $6,000 taken out of their pockets while they try to raise a child.

We on this side of the House have a different set of values. We are looking at the issue of multinational profit shifting because we are concerned that multinational firms pay their fair share. Multinational profit shifting is a straightforward problem. It is the fact that firms naturally want to move their revenues to low-cost jurisdictions and their costs to high-cost jurisdictions. Increasingly, as firms are integrating their supply chains and as we have greater vertical integration, the challenge of identifying a market price for items within those supply chains becomes greater and greater. It is a complex area of policy, but the yardstick as to when you are doing something is very simple. If it adds to the budget bottom line, you are serious about multinational profit shifting; if it takes away, you are not serious. Since coming to office, this government has taken $1.1 billion out of the government coffers and given it back to multinationals. It has given it back to some of the best performing firms in the world through measures such as going soft on debt shifting and going soft on offshore banking units.

The government is going to the G20 and saying it is serious about multinational profit shifting. That is music to our ears but, as the old Watergate line goes, 'Follow the money'. Unless they are adding to the budget bottom line, they are not fundamentally serious about multinational profit shifting. We on this side of the House believe that multinationals should pay their fair share and we believe that transparency matters. The Treasurer in the past has been on the record saying that he supports transparency. On 20 September 2014 the Treasurer told The Financial Review:

Supporting greater tax transparency and information exchange is our best weapon to crack down on tax avoidance and evasion right now.

Well, if the Treasurer really believes that, he has a chance to put his words into action. When parliament resumes my private member's bill to bring forward tax transparency will be debated in this parliament. The Treasurer has an opportunity to support that—to bring forward the tax transparency from 2013-14 to 2012-13, to make clear that when the then Assistant Treasurer told The Financial Review in January that he might not proceed with this that he was making it up and that the government believes in tax transparency. (Time expired)

Photo of Bruce ScottBruce Scott (Maranoa, Deputy-Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

I call the honourable member for Bennelong. No, sorry about that—the member for Fisher.

3:37 pm

Photo of Mal BroughMal Brough (Fisher, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

We have gone back to where we started from, Deputy Speaker. Sorry for confusing you. You are about as confused as the previous speaker was, it seems. We have just had a discussion on all things other than what the MPI was. I think it was actually more an address designed for his own backbench colleagues to show that he has some credentials in the area of economics, which clearly those who sit on the front bench who purport to be the shadow Treasurer and the shadow finance minister clearly do not at this stage. So we thank the shadow Assistant Treasurer for his insights. He was roundly applauded by the Prime Minister today for the common sense that he has previously articulated in the terms that he has written regarding higher education fees.

But perhaps I should turn my attention, as the members on this side have, to the question of the day: the matter of public importance which was so important that the second speaker on the opposition side did not address it, not one word! Yesterday was a monumental day because it was yet another part of the puzzle which was the election commitments being delivered on by the coalition. In doing so I want to bring this back to what actually happens on the ground.

During the campaign, like many people on this side, we engaged with the members of our business community that were hurting very badly as a direct result of government policy in the form of a carbon tax—very real life experiences, where people's jobs were in jeopardy, where their mortgages were in jeopardy, where their businesses were in jeopardy. Some of those were trawler operators in my electorate who had to put up with costs not in the tens of dollars or hundreds but in the thousands of dollars for single operations. They would lose their gas out of their refrigerators and find that instead of having to pay a few hundred dollars or $1,000 to have them replaced, they were paying multiples of thousands—tens of thousands of dollars in some cases. As were the IGA operators, as were the butchers. I just want to remind the House of a couple of things that people said at one of those forums that I held. Here is one from Steve Carmichael from Upper Cut Meats up in Palmview. He said:

Most small businesses are struggling to keep afloat due to the high utility costs and the impacts of the carbon tax.

This has always been denied by those opposite. He said he felt as though politicians were not listening. I assured him that Tony Abbott, the Prime Minister today, was listening, and that we would deliver on that commitment—and we have done so. Now we see the biggest reductions in electricity costs since the measures were taken. But he wanted more. He wanted to have a chance to do something to reduce his own carbon footprint and to be rewarded for it. Direct Action will actually deliver that.

Let us just have a quick reflection upon what the Labor Party promised and what the Labor Party did—the actions that resulted in so much money going out of one taxpayer's hand into another and what we got for it was absolutely zero. We heard in question time today from the Minister for the Environment of $250 million cash grants, cash in hand, handed out to specific businesses who had to do absolutely zero for it—zero for the environment, zero measurable. That is so typical of those opposite. Can I bring you back to Pink Batts; can I bring you back to school halls and all of the other debacles which got us into the position that we are in.

Let us put that into absolute contrast—and I would ask the members of the opposition to address this when they get to their feet. You see, if you want to participate in Direct Action, you do not get a dollar until you actually reduce your carbon footprint. Let me say that again—it will be music to the ears of taxpayers and it will not be any surprise to those who have some economic sense: you do not actually get paid until you deliver. There is a notion that the opposition do not get.

So, what occurs? Take the Sunshine Coast regional council, who wants to build a solar farm—admirable. What they are aiming to do is to replace their own electricity needs with solar power. In doing so, if they can prove the case, they can put the money in then they can actually be reimbursed on delivery. There is a difference: get an outcome, get paid. When you start throwing money around like confetti you end up costing every Australian taxpayer more than $20,000 in debt. It is why we are having to borrow so much money today, not because our economy is wonderful, not because we are growing the economic pie, but because those opposite stuffed up. Call it as it is. They got it wrong, they are still in denial. I saw this in 1996 when we came into government and I am seeing it again. It is time for a rational debate, a debate where you participate instead of trying to live the lie that was the last six years.

Just now the shadow Assistant Treasurer talked about trying to get the tax take from multinationals. You did not do it in year one, two, three, five or six and it is highly unlikely that you would if given another chance. (Time expired)

3:43 pm

Photo of Clare O'NeilClare O'Neil (Hotham, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Hasn't it been one of those weeks in politics where we have really seen the true colours of the government on display? On Monday the PM flagged an increase to the GST, a tax that will see every single Australian have their tax bill rise. On Tuesday we saw the announcement about the fuel tax hike, where the government has desperately gone around the parliamentary processes in order to increase taxes for every Australian that drives. On Wednesday we had the Prime Minister announce that every Australian taxpayer, again, will be slugged—this time to create a $2.5 billion slush fund that will go to the biggest polluters in the country. Those on the other side may not have a lot of principles, but they are consistent on this one fact, and that is that families around this country have things taken from them and big corporates and multinationals—and now big polluters—are the ones who get the big benefits. The decisions that we have seen this week are just a handful of literally hundreds that we have seen in the last year since these guys have been in government.

I want to go back to the months before the budget, because the budget I think we all agree is really when this government came out and showed us where its priorities were. We had endured months of this ridiculous and fact-less rhetoric about a budget emergency—a budget emergency that no-one other than those on the other side would actually suggest existed, probably because we left Australia with a AAA credit rating from all three credit agencies and one of the lowest levels of debt in the entire OECD. But, if we go back to the budget, again, we have had months of this baseless rhetoric, and under that budget emergency guise the Prime Minister justified what we think is the cruellest budget in a generation. So what did we see? What was the impact on families? We know that, due to changes to the family tax benefit, to things like the payments relating to child care and to the schoolkids bonus, families on low incomes will lose about one in 10 dollars from their family budgets—an enormous amount for those people who really do need to watch every dollar just to stay afloat. All of us have them in our electorates.

We know a family on about a $65,000 income will lose $6,000 of their budget. For a single-parent family it is roughly the same: one in 10 dollars gone. But, when we take the wealthiest Australians—those who probably least need the support of government—lo and behold we find that those in comparison are being asked to pay very little. In some instances it is a few hundred dollars or perhaps $1,000, which you will probably acknowledge in a much larger household budget is not going to make as much difference.

So that was families, but what about older Australians? Surely they would be supported by this coalition? But no; we saw changes to pensions where the indexation has been changed, leaving less money in the pockets of older Australians than they otherwise would have. But it is not just pensioners; any older Australian, like part pensioners and superannuants, has their seniors supplement taken away. So pretty much all older Australians are also under attack.

We have had higher education changes that we have been talking about in this last couple of days—changes that will see Australia revert to a nation of two generations ago, when families had to make that cruel decision about which of their young children they would send off to university.

Of course we had tax increases associated with that budget; and, as consistent with the themes, those taxes are going to hit people who are worst off the hardest. The GP tax will see the sickest Australians—those with chronic conditions, older Australians, big families—pay the most under that tax. We see the same thing with the fuel tax. We know that all drivers will have to pay that fuel tax, but regional and rural Australians are those who will have to pay the most.

That is the family in the ordinary Australian side; but, when we look at the other side—the corporate and big business side—what do we see? Tax breaks for big miners. We see multinational loopholes that have been left wide open. We see, again, big polluters getting paid $2½ billion by the taxpayer. I really want people to understand exactly what is going on here. Labor tackled climate change by trying to get big polluters to pay; and, using the money that we raised from those polluters, we compensated ordinary Australians for the increasing cost. What these guys are doing is creating a slush fund that takes money raised from taxpayers and gives it to big polluters. It is actually astounding.

Apart from being so profoundly unfair—and I think that Australians will quickly see that this is the case—what we know is that direct action will not even work. Economists like Ken Henry, Ross Garnaut and Peter Shergold have all agreed that this will probably get us 20 to 30 per cent of the way there. So I ask the government: what is the cost going to be to Australian households and how much are you willing to burden them with the cost that will go straight to these big polluters? (Time expired)

3:48 pm

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

I take this opportunity to applaud the government for delivering on two key election promises. We have scrapped the world's largest carbon tax, which has delivered the largest reduction in household electricity prices on record. We are implementing our Direct Action policy—a policy that we took to the election and which achieves emission reductions without slugging families and businesses with higher energy prices.

I also applaud the efforts of the Minister for the Environment. Despite every effort to try to block the mandate we were given by the Australian people at the last election, the minister has negotiated an agreement with the Senate crossbench to secure legislative passage of the $2.55 billion for the Emissions Reduction Fund. This agreement ensures that 170 local farming, waste and revegetation projects are not put at risk. These projects deliver around 10 million tonnes of emission reductions. This agreement also ensures that many more new projects, including energy efficiency in buildings, soil carbon and fuel-efficient vehicle fleets will also be able to benefit.

Whilst on this topic I would like to promote the great work of a company headquartered in my electorate of Bennelong. Hyundai Australia is in the process of trialling its first hydrogen powered vehicles. They have already gained approval to build the first hydro filling station that is solar powered, uses no carbon fuels and emits nothing. As a gesture of good faith the government has agreed to amend the Carbon Farming Initiative Amendment Act 2014 to provide greater oversight powers to the Emissions Reduction Assurance Committee, improve access to savanna burning projects. We have also withdrawn the Climate Change Authority (Abolition) Bill 2014 and funded the authority to undertake a review examining emissions trading arrangements in five of Australia's key trading partners and targets.

This does not mean that the Commonwealth government supports the carbon tax or an ETS. This is simply a review. It is not binding on the government. It is not our policy. The government's policy has not changed. We will not bring back Labor's carbon tax. The government has agreed to the review but not agreed to accept or adopt the findings. The coalition's approach to direct action includes the Emissions Reduction Fund, which is a major environmental program which has benefits for air quality, land management and agricultural productivity; and a program to reduce emissions.

The 2014-15 budget provided for $2.55 billion for the fund. This is available from the commencement of the Emissions Reduction Fund, to be committed in contracts by the Clean Energy Regulator for emissions reductions. As set out in the Emissions Reduction Fund white paper, further funding will be considered in future budget rounds.

Since February 2010 the Emissions Reduction Fund has been the centrepiece of the coalition's climate change policy. The coalition took this policy to both the 2010 and the 2013 elections. The design of the emissions reduction has been guided by three key design principles: lowest-cost emission reductions, genuine emission reductions and streamlined, efficient, low-cost administration. The Emissions Reduction Fund has three elements: crediting and purchasing, which are provided by the bill, and a safeguard mechanism which will be subject to further consultation before finalisation. The safeguard mechanism will ensure that emission reductions are not underdone by emission increases elsewhere.

The Emissions Reduction Fund will not create new government architecture. Instead, it will leverage and streamline existing structures and processes that are understood and supported by industry, namely: the Carbon Farming Initiative, to credit emission reductions; the National Energy and Greenhouse Reporting Scheme, as a basis for data measurement; and the Clean Energy Regulator, to administer the scheme.

The types of projects that could be supported by the Emissions Reduction Fund include: cleaning up Australia's waste sector; emissions reductions from the transport sector; the capture of coalmine gas; using alternative waste treatment facilities to stop the waste getting into landfills; capturing methane from waste water facilities at abattoirs and chemical processing facilities; improving industrial energy efficiency; energy efficiency improvements in the commercial building sector; and improvements in the efficiency of household electricity consumption leading to a reduction in household energy costs. (Time expired)

3:53 pm

Photo of Ms Anna BurkeMs Anna Burke (Chisholm, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I am very pleased to be speaking on this MPI today, because I cannot even begin to count the number of times I have said, 'I don't want to be part of the first generation in history that leaves our planet and environment in a worse state for our children than when we found it.' But sadly, this government is determined to make sure that I am part of the first generation to leave our next generation worse off.

The Prime Minister and his so-called Minister for the Environment—they got rid of the science minister, they probably should have just done away with the Minister for the Environment too, because it is an absolute oxymoron—have sold out our future in a grubby deal that will fill the coffers of large multinational corporations and our biggest polluters, and will do nothing—absolutely nothing—to reduce carbon emissions. Direct Action is a stupid and reckless policy that will not make a significant impact towards addressing climate change, whilst simultaneously wasting billions of dollars in taxpayers money. Just planting some more trees is not going to save the environment from the actions of climate change. The Hawke and Keating governments succeeded in planting more than seven million trees between 1989 and 1996, but climate change is still happening. It is still real, and it is still getting worse. I know many on the other side do not want to believe that—I have listened to some interesting comments from some members opposite over this—but it is true. The science is in. One particular member lambasted the Bureau of Meteorology for not going back in data. For goodness sake! If you want to win a Nobel Peace Prize or a Nobel Prize for science, demonstrate climate change is not happening. That is my test to you out there: demonstrate it is not happening. You will get the prize straight away.

If the Palmer United Party truly thinks that they can somehow say, with a straight face, that they have saved an emissions trading scheme, then any credibility they may have had—which I think is stretching it—I am afraid, is completely gone.

What we have is a government that has done a grubby deal with the Palmer United Party to waste taxpayers money by giving it directly to big polluters—multinational corporations—paying them to try to do something they should be doing anyway, that they should be doing as part of ethical business standards as their corporate duty. And then they are wasting more money by asking the Climate Change Authority to conduct a scientific review of an effective emission reduction program, which the Abbott government will completely ignore. A great waste of money.

It is of no consolation whatsoever that this will not be the first or even the last time that this government will choose to ignore scientific advice. Malcolm Turnbull accurately described this as, 'A recipe for fiscal recklessness on a grand scale.' And, perhaps even more importantly, it is showing the Prime Minister up as the hypocrite he truly is. Last year the Prime Minister said 'picking winners' is bad for the economy, and he has consistently lambasted industry assistance as 'corporate welfare'. But Direct Action is all about picking winners and corporate welfare. While we watch our car industry go under because we cannot have corporate welfare, we can have it in Direct Action. It is hypocrisy writ large. The winners are the huge multinational corporations who will now receive taxpayers money to undertake pollution reduction measures that are already part and parcel of their corporate responsibility. The taxpayer and the environment are left behind as the biggest losers out of this awful deal as the government rolls out a massive corporate welfare package to big polluters. Former Treasury secretary Ken Henry has confirmed the Prime Minister's dirty deal would almost double the amount he has budgeted for. Ross Garnaut said that the minimum budget impact of Direct Action would be $4 billion to $5 billion per year. And again, the Minister for the Environment wants the Direct Action corporate welfare package to last for the next three decades.

The winners have been chosen, but who are the losers? We are all the losers. We all come last in the Prime Minister's pick for Team Australia. It is the mums and dads and families who are going to be paying, and the next generation into the future, because no action will be taken. We will not be reducing our emissions as we had been doing under the ETS. Every credible scientist and economist out there says that an ETS represents the most cost-effective option to reduce global warming. It is a plain fact that a corporate welfare system cannot achieve the kinds of emission reductions that are required to tackle climate change. Direct Action, as said ClimateWorks Australia, a reputable organisation, sets a price on carbon and continuation of previous government policy would not contribute anything to the reductions we need. (Time expired)

3:58 pm

Photo of Melissa PriceMelissa Price (Durack, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

When reading the opposition's MPI today, one expression springs to mind: the pot calling the kettle black—especially when we have heard the detail from the Minister for the Environment about how Labor paid more than $30 billion to some of Australia's big polluters. In contrast, the coalition made a comprehensive range of commitments to Australians at the last election, and we are delivering. We said we would get rid of the carbon tax, and we have kept our promise. Together with those opposite, we all want to protect, preserve and sustain the environment for Australians now and for future Australians. At least we have that in common. Those opposite introduced a carbon tax, and if their intention was to reduce CO2 emissions, then it has been an abysmal failure. The carbon tax achieved less than a one per cent decrease in emissions. But it did achieve some things. It pushed up the cost of living for Australian families and made it even harder to do business in Australia. Whilst those opposite's intentions were perhaps admirable, their execution was abominable. Why is that? First, we know it was an unpopular tax; second, it was championed by a very unpopular Prime Minister; and third, the plan did not work and the modelling was flawed.

Here are some tips now for Labor. First, learn to listen; second, check the credentials of your leader; and, third, most importantly, do your homework before announcing someone else's light-bulb idea. Yet again, we on this side are fixing the problem. Like everything we have inherited, otherwise known as Labor's appalling legacy, we are fixing it.

The Australian people wanted to get rid of the carbon tax. We got rid of it and we have delivered on our promise. If the other side get a chance, we all know they will bring back the carbon tax. The Australian people wanted lower electricity prices, which soared under Labor. We lowered them—again we delivered. We promised the Australian people an emissions reduction fund, which would lead to real actions, direct actions, to reduce emissions—again we delivered, but we are doing it in a way that is not pulling the rug out from under Australian businesses and families.

With the help of those who can work collaboratively, we shall protect existing projects and we will proceed sensitively. We will continue our record of progress and delivering on promises, and working with the crossbenchers for mutual gain and to build a stronger Australia. We on this side have our eye on the ball, on the ultimate outcome. That is what it is all about. Those opposite are stuck in the swamp and need to lift their heads above the waterline. The carbon tax is gone and direct action will help Australia to achieve the bipartisan, five per cent cut to 2011 emissions by 2020.

Our government have worked hard and have agreed to make amendments to the Carbon Farming Initiative Act 2014 to provide greater oversight to the Emissions Reduction Assurance Committee. We have agreed to withdraw the Climate Change Authority (Abolition) Bill. We will fund the authority to review emissions trading schemes of five of Australia's key trading partners. But let's remember: that is just a review; it is not a commitment at this point.

Our side have demonstrated we can work with anyone—big business, small business, anyone—as long as we keep the big picture in sight, and that is exactly what we are doing. It is a shame the Labor Party have dealt themselves out of participating in these important negotiations. But we are not distracted. We will not waiver. Those opposite can rant and rave but it falls on deaf ears. We have delivered on our promises. We know the importance of working collaboratively. We have demonstrated that. We have a proven track record. We keep our eye on the ball and on the main game, and we will not be distracted.

It is worth repeating: we all want to protect, preserve and sustain the environment. We have now got rid of Labor's carbon tax, However, we have the emissions target to achieve, not overnight but we are working towards this carefully, sensitively and in collaboration with others, and guarded by a policy which is costed and capped.

4:03 pm

Photo of Ed HusicEd Husic (Chifley, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary to the Shadow Treasurer) Share this | | Hansard source

In years to come when all those on that side have moved on, shuffled off and left MP life, when they are asked by members of the community what they did to address one of the critical issues that affected the nation—climate change—what will their answer be? On one hand, they had their fingers crossed and, on the other hand, they had a gift of cash for big polluters and just hoped that emissions would be reduced. That is all they can say they did. 'We went from a system where we made polluters pay to a system where we paid polluters, where we handed cash over to them and just hoped that they might be interested in being in a system to reduce emissions.'

That is a false hope and we know it is a false hope because the figures now show it is clear they will not meet the emissions target reduction.

Photo of Sharon ClaydonSharon Claydon (Newcastle, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Not within cooee.

Photo of Ed HusicEd Husic (Chifley, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary to the Shadow Treasurer) Share this | | Hansard source

That is right, as the member for Newcastle rightly interjects: they will not come within cooee of that emissions target reduction. What they will do is blow a hole in the budget, because billions will go and be transferred to polluters. They will build a drain into the budget through this.

The way they have set up the system tells you everything about this government. What side does this government fall on? Does it fall on the side of average Australians or does it fall on the side of big business? It is never on the side of average Australians. It is always on the side of gifting big polluters or big companies. They had a chance, for instance, when they came into office to deal with profit shifting by multinationals. What did they do? They turned their back on it and they turned their back on $1 billion of revenue. They had a chance, for instance, to deal with wealthy superannuants and change their taxation treatment. They turned their back on it and what did they do? They went to the low-income superannuants. They took way from low-income superannuants the only modest support given to them. They pinched that money off low-income people but made sure the big end of town was protected. Now they are paying the big polluters and subsidising them.

They do not care about any sort of meaningful action. What about subsidies? We heard, for instance, that this government was not into subsidies. So if you are working on a manufacturing line and building a car, you were guilted out of your job by this government. The Treasurer on that side of the House at the dispatch box dared Holden to leave the country, saying that the government was no longer going to support them but that they would support people who pollute; they will give them billions. The 50,000 whose livelihoods depended on a viable auto industry in this country lost their jobs, but the big polluters will get the money. They will be supported in that endeavour. It is truly heinous that that is allowed to continue.

Again, every time it comes to making a decision in the interest of ordinary Australia, those on that side of the House are not there. They bring in a budget that attacks family tax payments. They bring in a budget that attacks people who have to go to a doctor by making them pay a $7 co-payment to see the doctor. They bring in a budget that will take money away from schools.

In the electorate I represent, $270 million will be lost over 10 years under their budget. The people I represent are the worst affected in Western Sydney—with $270 million taken out with this budget. Billions have been taken out from hospitals. I cannot even get a scanner to detect cancers in people in my local hospital. The money has been taken away. The money that supports those hospitals is gone. When people look for the money that they need in their local community for the things that they really hope will make their lives easier, it ain't there. But, if someone is going to be pumping out pollution and affecting the way in which our climate operates, there will be money there for that. This is the tragedy that is occurring. Average Australians will lose and the big interests win. The decisions of those opposite are basically causing all that. (Time expired)

4:08 pm

Photo of Ken O'DowdKen O'Dowd (Flynn, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I am pleased to speak on this MPI this afternoon and dispel the mistruths peddled by those opposite—and, believe me, I cannot go through the whole lot this afternoon, because time will not permit me. This government is delivering on two key election promises. The first one was to scrap the carbon tax. In scrapping the carbon tax we have reduced the household electricity prices. Queensland, which is my state—

Honourable Member:

An honourable member interjecting

Photo of Ken O'DowdKen O'Dowd (Flynn, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Pink batts is another story—another sad, sad story. It cost us in the billions. In Queensland, electricity prices have come down since the abolition of the carbon tax. Ergon Energy are down 9.4 per cent; PowerDirect are down 9.2 per cent; Simply Energy are down nine per cent; Energy Australia are down 8.3 per cent; Origin Energy are down eight per cent; EnergyAustralia are down 9.3 per cent; ERM Power are down 9.1 per cent; and AGL Energy are down 8.7 per cent. Need I go on? Gas prices have also come down. Origin Energy are down by four per cent; AGL Energy are down by 3.2 per cent; and AGL Energy and Origin in small business are down 6.4 per cent and 4.5 per cent respectively.

We are implementing our direct action policy. Those on the other side do not believe in the direct action policy. Well, I can tell you that the people of Australia know what the direct action policy is, and that is why they voted for us at the last election.

Opposition members interjecting

They know and you do not know. That is why you are sitting on that side and we are on this side. Just keep that in mind.

Opposition members interjecting

If you want to keep acting the way you are and sticking with your policies—if you ever announce your policies, but they seem to be the same as they were last term—you will be on that side for a damn long time. There is no risk about that. I would like to be as certain about backing the Melbourne Cup winner next Tuesday!

In my electorate I have a very big company called Boyne Smelters, which is run by Rio Tinto. With the carbon tax, they were paying $15 million a year. For the RET they were paying $25 million a year. Since the GST they have been producing aluminium below cost because the market has fallen away, but these two charges alone—the $15 million plus the $25 million—has not helped their survival at all. I dare any of you on that side to go to the Boyne Smelters site and tell them how your carbon tax and your RET have helped the workers of Boyne Smelters. There are a thousand jobs there and they are all earning pretty good money. Those jobs would have been under a major threat had we not come into power and abolished the carbon tax.

Opposition members interjecting

Come up to Boyne Smelters and tell the workers of Boyne Smelters about your policy.

Photo of Michelle RowlandMichelle Rowland (Greenway, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Communications) Share this | | Hansard source

You need to calm down.

Photo of Ken O'DowdKen O'Dowd (Flynn, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I need to calm down? I do not need to calm down. I am fighting for the workers in my area—which you on that side should be doing. You say that the Boyne Smelters is a big polluter.

Photo of Bruce ScottBruce Scott (Maranoa, Deputy-Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

Member for Flynn, it is not me saying that.

Photo of Ken O'DowdKen O'Dowd (Flynn, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I am telling you that for the last two years—

Photo of Bruce ScottBruce Scott (Maranoa, Deputy-Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

Member for Flynn, order! Member for Flynn, you might direct your comments not to me but through me. The use of the word 'you' is directing them at me.

Photo of Ken O'DowdKen O'Dowd (Flynn, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

If you get them to shut-up, Mr Deputy Speaker, I will be able to get on with my speech.

Ms Rowland interjecting

There she goes—she is like a parrot; like a cockatiel! Boyne Smelters have spent $500 million on a carbon bake, which has reduced their emissions enormously, and they intend to spend further money under our direct action policy. That will happen under our policy—not your policy.

Opposition members interjecting

Photo of Bruce ScottBruce Scott (Maranoa, Deputy-Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

Order! The member for Flynn has the call.

Photo of Ken O'DowdKen O'Dowd (Flynn, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

What I am saying is that you on that side robbed $40 million from that company.

Opposition members interjecting

Photo of Michelle RowlandMichelle Rowland (Greenway, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Communications) Share this | | Hansard source

You are using taxpayers' money to subsidise polluters.

Photo of Ken O'DowdKen O'Dowd (Flynn, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

You are a joke!

Photo of Bruce ScottBruce Scott (Maranoa, Deputy-Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

Order! The time allotted for this discussion has expired. I remind all members of this chamber that the use of the word 'you' is a direct reflection on the chair—and I might remind the member for Flynn that I am not joke. But he might give me the winner of the Melbourne Cup if he has a clue about who might win that next week—just a bit of levity as we end this sitting fortnight.