Wednesday, 20 June 2012
Questions without Notice: Take Note of Answers
That the Senate take note of the answers given by the Minister for Finance and Deregulation (Senator Wong) to questions without notice asked by Opposition senators today relating to the carbon tax.
I put to Senator Wong a very direct and straightforward question. It was about the definition of green jobs and whether the government could say exactly what a green job is. It is clear from her garbled, tangled, mangled and disingenuous response that she does not have a clue about what a green job is. Indeed, she invited me to contact the President of the United States, Barack Obama, to see what his definition of a green job is. And yet I had given it to her. I had provided it and I asked a very straightforward question. I asked, 'Will your definition of green jobs include such things as college professors teaching classes on environmental studies, oil industry lobbyists engaged in advocacy related to environmental issues or the humble clerk at the bicycle repair shop who is apparently assisting in renewable transport?'
The broader public knows that it is the most misleading and deceptive definition of a green job anywhere. It is not the myths peddled by people like Tim Flannery and the spruikers paid by this government, including Senator Wong herself. The simple fact is that Senator Wong would not rule out that jobs such as those would be categorised as green jobs. That shows me and says to the Australian people that this government is all about sophistry. It is all about putting anything out there into the public domain in the hope that some people will believe anything they are told.
This government is increasingly discredited amongst the public because they know that what it says cannot be believed. It starts at the top with Ms Gillard, but it continues right down. We had almost three years of Senator Wong, when she was peddling the climate change alarmist propaganda, repeatedly telling us all sorts of bunkum and nonsense, regurgitating the lines that she had been force-fed by Mr Rudd and his crew. They were all discredited, all found to be alarmist and all found to be deceptive and disingenuous, and yet she still has the hide to stand up there and peddle them today and say that we are the catastrophists. The government has been peddling catastrophic climate change to scare and alarm the people into a radical change of our economy. Senator Wong hid behind Treasury estimates and figures about jobs and growth going forward. She hid behind them as if it were some sort of plea to authority that would sway the Australian people that what she was telling us was true.
Let me spell out a couple of inconvenient truths for Senator Wong and those who have bought into her propaganda. The Treasury modelling in the budget of 2011-12 said that 500,000 new jobs would be created. We were told that Treasury was right and that Treasury would guide us into the future and that we could bank on its blessings and endorsements until 2050 or thereabouts. It will come as no surprise that Treasury was not quite accurate in that figure of 500,000 jobs.
Indeed, Senator Abetz, I will, because you have asked. In the most recent budget, the 2012-13 budget, which Senator Wong herself apparently put together—no-one can believe for a moment that Wayne Swan could cobble together a budget—Senator Wong applied all the skills and credibility which she developed and built up in selling the carbon tax and the emissions trading scheme. For this next 12 months Treasury has apparently revised its estimates of the green jobs because the carbon tax is actually coming in. Sadly, it has revised it downwards to 300,000 new jobs. That is probably 300,000 bicycle repairmen, oil industry lobbyists and professors of ecology or whatever they want to call it in some of the universities out there. It is 300,000 invisible jobs. They are jobs that are not going to exist. Go to a wind farm and see how many industrious, busy workers there are strolling around. The people you will see are the protesters who do not want it and who realise it is giving them expensive electricity and that it has been put forward and sold by a government that is as fake and disingenuous as any we have seen in this country.
The great tragedy is that it is going to be 12 or 18 months before the damage that is done by this government can begin to be redressed. It will take 10 years to undo this mindless, spendthrift government's impact on the Australian economy.
It is a bit rich to have the Liberal Party lecturing us today on housing affordability because, quite simply, they do not take this issue seriously. They had no housing minister for their whole 12 years in government.
Senator Pratt, I point out that the first motion was to do with housing in response to questions of Senator Evans. This is now in response to questions asked of Senator Wong in relation to the matters just addressed by Senator Bernardi.
Housing affordability and green jobs do go together. One of the important sets of green jobs that goes hand in hand with housing affordability has been helped by the funding that has gone to green communities so that people can lower their household carbon footprint.
Opposition senators interjecting—
That is just one of many, many different types of green jobs that exist in our community. Green jobs in this country are very much part of our future because we know that without a carbon price we will be leaving ourselves behind the technological change that is happening in the most advanced economies in the world. You need only to look at countries like Germany to know how far they have come in green jobs because they have put a price on carbon. In this country we know that jobs will be left far behind without pricing carbon. Why do we know that? We know that it will become more expensive to transition in the future if we fail to do so now. That is why in pricing carbon we are setting up the economy for the future. We are creating the jobs of the future, because we know that we will lose jobs in the future if we do not make this transition. The clean energy future plan is one of the most significant innovation funds that this nation has ever seen. It is all about jobs for the future—jobs in my home state of Western Australia, jobs in wind farms, jobs in industries like Alcoa. When we talk about green jobs, we mean the kinds of changes that big industry needs to make to adjust to the price of carbon. These jobs exist everywhere. They exist in accounting. They exist not only in carbon accounting but also in accounting that looks at how you change your emissions profile throughout a plant. They exist in engineering. They exist in making everything we do smarter and better. Indeed, they exist in plumbing. They exist in electrical and other trades.
We know that if we do not take these steps to move forward on carbon, if we do not price carbon in this nation, we will destroy jobs in this country. When we talk about green jobs, we are talking about jobs that are embedded in every part of the economy. We are indeed talking about environmental educators and we are also talking about plumbers and electricians. We are talking about everyone who is about helping this nation manage its environmental footprint. There are jobs in agriculture. There are jobs in working out how we sequester carbon into our soils right around this country. I have heard those opposite talk about this many times. They are actually quite interested in it.
It is really quite a cheeky question to ask: 'Where are these jobs?' And it can only come from someone like Senator Bernardi, who does not believe in climate change at all. He is completely cynical about it. Why would he think that such jobs need to exist in this country? He would have no idea why they would need to exist, because to him they are made-up and irrelevant jobs. But I can tell you that these jobs are very, very real. These are the kinds of jobs that we must create. Frankly, we need to get the whole of the planet working on creating these jobs. These are the jobs of the future that will help us reduce the globe's greenhouse emissions. These are the kinds of jobs that will help us save our future and our planet. Be it on Senator Bernardi's head if he thinks that these are just made-up jobs and not real, if he does not know what they are and if he asks such a simple and, in my opinion, stupid question. Green jobs are at the very heart of our nation's future and our nation's economy.
I rise to take note of answers by Senator Wong, particularly in light of that contribution by Senator Pratt. Baghdad Bob is back. Who could forget the Iraqi information minister standing outside the gates of Baghdad saying: 'The Americans will never be here. We are invincible.' And in the background two M1 Abrams tanks were rolling through while the destruction of that regime was occurring in sight of the reporters who were interviewing him. Day after day, Baghdad Bob was up there, just like the Greens and this government are, talking about all the things that their modelling and ideology are going to do.
As to setting up the economy for the future, well, most people do not like the thought of being set up. I have got to tell you, Mr Deputy President, as I look at the future, this government is indeed setting up our economy. Unfortunately, it is setting up our economy to fail. There are a couple of facts that the Labor Party might want to think about—and people in their electorates might want to think about this as well when they hear these promises being rattled out by the ALP's Baghdad Bobs day after day—concerning green jobs. Senator Pratt talks about Europe. If you look at the study done by King Juan Carlos University in Spain, 2½ real jobs were demolished for every green job created, and many of those green jobs were only temporary in nature during the establishment phase of programs; there were far fewer ongoing ones. The 2½ jobs that were scrapped represent families who no longer have work. When it comes to the issue of housing and housing affordability, what kind of setting up is the Labor Party doing for families and for housing in this country?
The modelling that the government relies on has already proved to be wrong—just like Baghdad Bob's assumptions were proved to be wrong and merely rhetoric. The government said that the cost of groceries would increase for each family by only about $40. But the Australian Food and Grocery Council has done the modelling and said that it is more like $120—three times the cost. Let us look at petrol. The Prime Minister has come out and stated that there will be no impact on petrol. Yet people dealing in the industry have issued reports highlighting that, because of all the input costs, such as the increasing cost of electricity, there will be price pressures—over $9 million to the four main refineries—and they are going to flow down to consumers.
There will be cost pressures coming through in every area of life. The government keeps on talking about its modelling. What does its modelling actually say about this tax? The government's modelling says that, whilst the tax starts at $23 a tonne, into the future, by 2050—which is its target area—it will be $350 a tonne. If companies here are already saying that, on top of the high dollar and on top of low demand, this structural impediment to their competitiveness on a global scale will start to drive industry offshore, imagine what $350 per tonne will do, given that other countries are not moving to implement these economy-wide programs. The more industries that are driven offshore, the fewer jobs there will be in our economy. If people are concerned about jobs, housing and budgets, spare a thought for our children. What jobs will they have in the future? This government's own modelling says that this tax is going to rise to $350 per tonne in the future. Talk about setting up our economy for the future! Setting it up for a fail is what they are doing. And for what purpose? Again, Senator Pratt talked about Europe. I draw the Senate's attention to the report issued by UBS, the second-largest bank in Switzerland and one of the most highly regarded institutions in the world, looking at the European trading scheme that this Prime Minister loves to quote as an example of what we should be following and why we should be going down this path—the 'right' thing to do—for this carbon tax that would never occur under her government! UBS has said that this tax has been a complete failure, has done almost nothing to help the environment and has wasted, on the back of all kinds of rorts, some €210 billion. This government should be ashamed.
Question agreed to.