Wednesday, 6 February 2013
Questions without Notice
My question is to Senator Ludwig, the Minister representing the Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency. I remind the minister that on 11 October last year I raised with you in question time the effect of the government's carbon tax on the viability of Tamworth business Grain Products Australia. In that question I referred you to the carbon tax component of $27,000, $29,000 and $28,000 in the company's electricity bills for the first three month. After being challenged by you to table those accounts, I did. I have not had a response as to that from the government as yet. Is the minister aware that on 19 December last year Grain Products Australia went into voluntary administration and in its press release—which I am also happy to table—it cited the carbon tax as a factor in its demise?
I thank Senator Williams for his question. The government has been up-front about the carbon price and electricity prices, unlike those opposite. Treasury modelling found that the carbon price would increase household electricity prices by 10 per cent—$3.30 per week on average. The electricity regulator determinations have in fact confirmed this. In some cases the carbon impact has been less than Treasury's estimates. The impact is also confirmed as the CPI figures continue to be reported by the ABS. To meet the impact, the government provided $10.10 per week, on average, to households. But the main driver—which the opposition do not acknowledge—of electricity prices in recent years has been the cost of electricity networks, most of which are owned by state governments. It is important to establish these facts, Senator Williams, because those opposite are engaged in a cowardly campaign of frightening pensioners and frightening businesses about this issue. They have misled people about the assistance for small business. They have misled people about the strength of our economy. It has been a farce when you look at some of the outrageous statements the opposition have made, particularly those from their leader, who talked about wrecking balls, cobra strikes, python squeezes, dogs of taxes and octopus embraces as he slid down that hill. It is time that the opposition leader displayed some integrity in this place and put this discredited scare campaign out of its misery. (Time expired)
Mr President, I have a supplementary question. I also refer the minister to Parry Logistics, a transport company also based in Tamworth, which was contracted to carry for Grain Products Australia. The flow-on effect of Grain Products Australia's financial problems was that Parry Logistics laid off eight employees on Christmas Eve—what a Christmas present! Does the minister believe that the carbon tax is still good for working families when it is really putting them out of work?
I thank Senator Williams. Unlike Senator Williams or those opposite perhaps, I do care about workers who have lost their jobs. It is an area where—having worked in that field—trying to then tie it shamelessly to this issue is, I think, beyond the pale. Treasury modelling shows that the carbon price will increase household electricity prices by 10 per cent, and rulings by state electricity regulators are confirming this impact. If you look at the analysis last year, big switch projects on large business users demonstrated an average rise of about 11 per cent due to the carbon price. What has been happening which those opposite do not really want to talk about is that large businesses and many network companies have been increasing demand charges by as much as 75 per cent, which is resulting in overall bill increases of up to 53 per cent. (Time expired)
A further supplementary question, Mr President. I refer the minister to a statement from Grain Products Australia which said, 'The federal government has not agreed to provide any relief for the carbon tax in spite of public statements that expect industries would be compensated.' If the carbon tax is so good for the economy, jobs and investment, why did your government throw eight Tamworth people out of work and put the future of 68 others at extreme risk by denying Grain Products Australia any assistance as a trade exposed industry?
Senator Williams interjecting—
Thank you, Mr President. I find that extraordinarily disappointing, and if he wants to tie jobs to this issue maybe he should have a look at his own state and what they are doing with jobs. And they are sacking people in my own state, where 14,000 public servants lost their jobs. If you want to talk about what Liberals do, have a look at what New South Wales and Queensland are doing in putting wrecking balls through jobs in those areas, rather than trying to tie this together to a carbon price. The opposition know full well that in states it is important to understand what has been happening. In most cases, business electricity cost increases are expected to be passed on. They have been passed on by the networks within those state governments themselves that have been increasing the electricity price. Of course, you do not care about that. You do not care about what the state governments are doing in passing on electricity price increases. (Time expired)