Senate debates

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Questions without Notice: Take Note of Answers

Carbon Pricing, Live Cattle Trade

3:10 pm

Photo of Anne McEwenAnne McEwen (SA, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

I too would like to contribute to this debate today, this motion to take note of answers in question time, and put to rest some of the outrageous claims made in particular by Senator Birmingham and Senator Edwards. It is disappointing to see those two South Australian senators continue on the scare campaign which has been perfected by their leader, Mr Abbott. I see they have joined the parade around the country where Mr Abbott talks down the economy, where he talks down the jobs that are being created in Australia by this government and where he frightens people into believing that pretty soon we are going to have Armageddon. Last time I looked, Whyalla was still there and doing pretty well.

The opposition neglect to tell the people of Australia the whole story of the policy of tackling climate change. They certainly forget to tell the people of Australia that they too actually believe in reducing harmful carbon emissions and that they have a policy to do that and to achieve exactly the same targets in reducing carbon emissions that the federal government has. They went to the last election with that policy as well. It is just that they have a different way of going about it. Their way of going about it is to slug every household in Australia with a bill of $1,300 for their ridiculous and inefficient direct action plan. It is very disappointing that Senator Birmingham, who used to be a moderate in this place, has turned to the dark side when it comes to tackling climate change. He has to spout the position of his leader, which we know he probably does not really believe.

The opposition is also pretty good at neglecting to tell Australians that in fact we are in good shape here, compared to other countries. Senator Wong said in one of her answers today that under this government 800,000 new jobs have been created in Australia under this government. There are record investments in the pipeline in Australia, particularly in mining and especially in our home state of South Australia. We have low unemployment and we are on track to return the budget to a surplus. These are things that we should be proud of; we should not be talking them down.

The opposition also do not tell Australians the real story of why electricity prices are increasing. We know that average electricity bills went up by 50 per cent in the last four years—before the carbon price. The most important driver of power prices going up is investment in network infrastructure. And now every consumer, for every $100 you pay on your power bill, $51 of that is to go towards the cost of infrastructure. And, yes, that is because state governments have neglected to build infrastructure. And we could probably go back through the history of South Australia and pinpoint the time when the Liberals privatised electricity as when infrastructure was not built because of the privatised system. And now our state governments are having to play catch up in that space.

Treasury modelling shows that under a carbon price there will of course be a moderate increase to the cost of living for average households and small businesses. We have never hidden that fact. We have put in compensatory mechanisms to deal with that fact, including an average increase in household payments of $10.10 per week, which is to outstrip the $3.30 average increase in a household bill. We also put in place lots of mechanisms to assist small businesses to deal with the increased cost from the price on carbon, and that includes the $6½ thousand instant asset write-off, which I can tell you is very popular in small businesses that I talk to around the place. I remind Australia's small businesses that they can make a claim for that asset write-off for every asset purchase that they make.

We also know that power cuts are quite a small component of the average small business costs. But in this whole debate we should not forget the reason for the carbon price is so that the big polluters—less than 500 or so companies in—pay for polluting. Yes, they will pass on some of those costs and the government has acknowledged that and put in place numerous mechanisms to offset the small costs that are passed on down the line. It would be nice if the federal opposition told the truth instead of continuing the scaremongering campaign that they have waged ad nauseam. Australians are beginning to understand that they are dealing with people who fail to tell the truth. (Time expired)


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