Senate debates

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Governor-General's Speech


1:13 pm

Photo of Louise PrattLouise Pratt (WA, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for the Environment, Climate Change and Water) Share this | | Hansard source

Today, at the start of the 44th Parliament of Australia, I would like to begin by welcoming and congratulating the new senators who have just been sworn into this place. I would particularly like to acknowledge the first Indigenous woman elected to the federal parliament, Senator Nova Peris. I am very much looking forward to working with Senator Peris, and I would like to acknowledge not only Senator Peris's connection to the Northern Territory but also her family and cultural connections to the Gija and Yawuru people in the Kimberley. I look forward to working with my Labor Party colleagues not only to hold the Abbott government to account but also to build support for Labor's alternative vision for the country. It is a big task but we will prevail.

I note that the Prime Minister, Mr Abbott, when he was in Western Australia during the federal election campaign, made a claim that he wanted to use the Barnett government as a template to run his own government. I can tell you that the Barnett government template operates under a veil of secrecy and deceit. That is exactly what we have also started to see from the Abbott government. It is hiding behind a veil of secrecy in its asylum-seeker policies. They have promised no cuts to health or education, and yet these agencies are lined up as part of the Commission of Audit; and yesterday's budget emergency has disappeared and here we have a lift in the debt ceiling with no comprehensive rationale and no mini-budget to outline why we are in this situation.

The Barnett government has indeed had its worst six months since being re-elected in March this year, and it has broken scores of promises. So on both fronts in my home state we have born-to-rule conservatives who will say and do anything to get elected. They said one thing before the election and quite another after. Mr Barnett did not come clean with the electorate about his real intentions before the election, and I think the coalition's true arrogance has come to the surface on both fronts. We have in the coalition in this nation born-to-rule conservatives who want to tear down fairness in our workplaces. They want to tear down action on climate change, they want to tear down equity in education, they want to tear down fairness in our taxation and superannuation systems and they want to make no contribution to quality of life in our cities, towns and remote communities. They want to tear down quality services, like the National Broadband Network and our postal services.

You could not get a clearer example of this than Colin Barnett claiming in parliament that 'Gonski is dead'. Colin Barnett did not tell the people of Western Australia before the state election that he intended to cut three per cent of the budget from every school around the state—that is, every school around the state has had a three per cent budget cut. He did not tell those schools that he was going to fund his government by imposing a levy on those schools—on each and every school around the state—of $600 for every teacher and $400 for other staff within the school. He did not want to tell the people of WA that he was going to impose a tax of $4,000 per child on educating the children of guest workers in the state.

Nor did Mr Barnett announce, which he just has, plans to lift TAFE fees by up to 500 per cent for some of the most in-demand but poorly-paid workers in the state. Aged-care TAFE qualifications will now cost up to 368 per cent more than they did before. Disability is up 576 per cent, health service assistance is up 265 per cent and nursing by 383 per cent. These are some of the most hard-to-staff positions around the state. At a time when these occupations are under such great demand, it is simply unreasonable and irrational—it is not in the interests of filling these positions to have fee increases of this scale.

The Barnett government has shown its true nature with its cuts to education and its true colours with cuts to public services. These are cuts that have hit my home state's most disadvantaged schools and its most disadvantaged students. We know already that these cuts have meant cuts to programs such as literacy, numeracy, English as a second language, children with learning difficulties, art, counselling and truancy services.

And in the same week that Colin Barnett announced all of this, what did Minister Pyne do? This happened in the same week that Minister Christopher Pyne confirmed that the coalition plans to rip up the six-year Gonski agreements in the five jurisdictions across our nation that had already signed on. So, gone is any incentive for Colin Barnett to lift his game and do the right thing by Western Australian students. That incentive has gone. Any accountability Colin Barnett had within the national coalition to lift his game and do the right thing has been destroyed.

The coalition is no better on many other questions, and I will start with the National Broadband Network. Cuts to the National Broadband Network in my home state of WA are to nearly 100,000 households—I think there were some 94,000 households in Perth and regional Western Australia that were due to be connected that will no longer be connected in the near future. These are places like Geraldton and Kojonup in our regions, Bateman in Perth; Katanning in the regions, Calista and many, many communities right around the state that were looking forward to, were planning around and were relying on the rollout of this infrastructure. I think it is a complete travesty and shows a great deal of lack of vision from the coalition.

The coalition has expressed concern about the need for productivity growth in this nation. Where does productivity growth in our nation come from? It comes in large part from quality infrastructure, and we know that the National Broadband Network, built properly, will have an enormous impact on the productivity of our nation. Similarly, the coalition is no better on dealing with the major issues confronting Perth communities. On the very same day that Alannah MacTiernan was preselected as Labor's candidate for the federal seat of Perth, Mr Tony Abbott was in WA saying we cannot expect a cent from him for WA's public transport system. The irony of this is significant—because Alannah MacTiernan was a fantastic planning and transport minister who oversaw the building of the railway line from Perth to Mandurah as well as of the freeway down to Bunbury. These are significant milestones that have made the lives of Western Australians, particularly those in Perth and Mandurah, much easier. Tony Abbott said that the Commonwealth has been in the business of funding 'national infrastructure':

'That means roads of national significance, it means freight rail but it doesn't mean urban rail, commuter rail …'

This is a terrible state of affairs for Western Australia.

I am proud of the fact that, in contrast, federal Labor delivered a substantial commitment to passenger rail. We delivered $236 million towards the sinking of the railway line in our city. Labor understand that our congestion problems in Western Australia are very real. It is why we put in $500 million for either the MAX light rail or the airport rail proposed by the Barnett government. For its costing of these projects, the Barnett government relied on the federal government to fund 80 per cent of the airport rail and 50 per cent of the MAX rail, despite the fact that Tony Abbott said he will not pay a cent towards them. So, on the one hand, you had a coalition state government budgeting for important public infrastructure and making election promises just in March this year off the back of a federal government commitment that only Labor was prepared to make, and Colin Barnett knew it. On the other hand, Mark McGowan's Metronet policy was fully costed and fully funded.

The people of Western Australia, in particular the people of Perth, are being done a great disservice by coalition governments right around the country. For both road users and public transport users we need efficient systems to keep our roads ticking over smoothly. Sadly, Tony Abbott has proclaimed that public transport is not in his knitting. But the people of Australia can be assured that public transport is in Labor's knitting, and we are as committed as ever; just as we are as committed as ever to capping pollution and acting on climate change; just as we are committed to a strong economy, a fair economy and fairness for workers; just as we are committed to foreign aid that creates a better life and opportunities for the world's poorest and most vulnerable people.

I acknowledge we had to make some tough decisions in government that impacted on the federal aid budget, but not once did we ever sway from the principles that our aid budget should continue to grow, and it did continue to grow, and that Australia had a responsibility to reach 0.5 per cent of our gross national income in foreign aid. This is in Australia's interests and it is the right thing for our country to do. We know that Australian aid has made an enormous difference right around the world. Western Australians have a strong mandate for Australian aid. You can see that in the hundreds of Western Australian schools, church and community groups and corporate supporters that all raise funds for overseas aid as well as in the hundreds of Western Australian local and returned overseas volunteers. This is something that Australians get; it is something that Australians think and feel is important. They feel it is morally important, because it is. Data from just 23 of the Australian Council for International Development members show that more than 14,000 people in the electorate of Hasluck, 23,000 in Fremantle, 23,000 in Perth and 20,000 in Durack are individual supporters of foreign aid projects globally.

In Minister Julie Bishop's electorate of Curtin, there are 32,000 individual overseas aid supporters. What a fantastic number of people. I know that her own constituency would object to the cutting of the foreign aid budget. It is appalling. There is a huge community mandate for foreign aid. Australians are generous and they want their government to give meaningfully. I do not think it is any wonder that, in the dying days of the last election campaign, the coalition just slipped in this massive cut to the foreign aid budget. I know that Julie Bishop made no mention of it at community forums held in her own electorate on the topic of foreign aid during the election campaign. This is the minister responsible and she made no mention that this was actually going to be policy. The forums were all about increasing support for our foreign aid program. Julie Bishop had, in fact, been busily reassuring Australia's aid community that the coalition's intentions were good. It is now up to Labor, hand in hand with the Australian community, to keep making the case for the importance of Australia's foreign aid efforts. Labor know that as the country of the fair go we should not be dragging our heels on this important moral issue, on this important principle of reducing world poverty. Labor's principle of a fair go does not stop at our border. We know that our concept of a fair go is part of a broader concept of human rights and human dignity.

Similarly, Labor knows we must hold true on the issue of climate change. We have before us a massive issue that needs to be dealt with now, and for future generations: we want our children to live in a world where people are properly cared for and to have an environment that is in at least as good a state as that which we currently enjoy.

The issue of climate change—which, as we all know, is scientifically proven—is a great moral dilemma that is now before our parliament. We have been burning fossil fuels and allowing large and small businesses and transport to pollute our atmosphere unfettered. We do not have the framework, without the legislation that is already in place in this nation, to help our economy lower its emissions in a responsible way. Instead, we have a coalition government that simply wants to repeal the tools that we need to manage our emissions.

I feel that we have a government and a Prime Minister that are effectively climate change sceptics. The repeal of the carbon tax and the desire to replace it with a second-rate system, the Direct Action Plan, is immoral and irresponsible. We know that carbon trading systems are the most cost-effective way to reduce emissions and should be at the centre of government efforts to tackle climate change. This is recognised by the OECD study Effective Carbon Prices,which found that policies such as feed-in tariffs, industry regulation and subsidies are much less economically preferable than carbon pricing. We know that this Direct Action Plan, of which very little detail has been released, essentially will seek to reward polluters by providing them with taxpayer funds to get them to attempt to reduce their pollution, without even a mandated cap. It is an extraordinarily inefficient way to seek to reduce our emissions. But I think there are many in the coalition who understand that this is the wrong path to go down. We heard Senator Cormann make reference to an ETS in his first speech to this place. I think that the Direct Action Plan will simply mean fewer services and increases in taxes for all Australians. It is a hidden carbon tax—just like the hidden taxes that Colin Barnett has foisted on the Western Australian public with his increases to utility charges and hikes in government fees across the board.

In closing, I want to say: Labor in opposition has a role to play not only in holding the Abbott government to account but also, I feel, most importantly, in campaigning on and continuing to build community support and momentum for the values we hold dear, and for an alternative vision for this nation, including foreign aid, climate change, education equity, secure retirement incomes, workplace fairness—all of these things. And we know we will have to fight for it. A progressive agenda does not create itself: it takes an engaged Labor movement and an engaged Labor community embedded in our towns and suburbs, our remote communities, our social media, our cities, our workplaces and our community centres. And I am here to tell you today, in this debate on the address-in-reply, that that is exactly what we will do.

1:33 pm

Photo of Richard Di NataleRichard Di Natale (Victoria, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

I listened to the Governor-General give the Prime Minister's speech, and there were many things in the speech I could comment on but the thing I was struck by most was the lip-service given to what has been described as 'the great moral challenge of this generation'. That, of course, is the challenge of climate change. How is it that—despite the evidence of catastrophic global warming growing stronger day by day, and despite the pleas of the scientific community around the world begging for action on climate change—we have a government that is now on track to repeal some of the most ambitious and important climate change legislation anywhere in the world? What is going on here? How is it that seemingly rational people can behave so irrationally?

I started thinking a bit about this and I started thinking about the mechanism known as denial. As a medical practitioner I was really struck by how often people used denial as a way of coping with very uncomfortable truths. It is like the drinker who is on their way to liver failure but denies they have a drinking problem. It is like the pokies addict who has lost their home and their relationships but denies they have a problem on the punt.

There is one case in particular that stands out to me. There was a middle-aged woman who I treated for palliative care because she had end-stage breast cancer. This lady had developed a lump. The lump grew and grew; it ulcerated; it became infected; it started to smell—she still did not see a doctor. It was only when the smell got so bad that her husband said, 'You've got to go and check this thing out,' that she did so. She had hidden it from her husband, her partner, and from her family. How is it that somebody in a situation like that can wait until their husband can no longer tolerate the smell from a fungating breast cancer that they finally see a doctor? Well, it is because of denial.

Denial is a very, very powerful defence mechanism. It is a primitive defence mechanism. It is one of those things that is characteristic of adolescent development. And it is functional: it helps us to avoid an uncomfortable truth—a crushing reality. It is very, very functional. It exists with good reason.

So what we have here is a government that refuses to accept the science of climate change because at the very heart of this government is denial. It is why we have a government that gets itself into contortions over its direct action policy. On the one hand you have Tony Abbott calling carbon dioxide 'a colourless, odourless gas'. On the other hand, you have him coming up with a policy that stinks, a policy that is friendless—there is not an economist worth their salt willing to back it up.

You see, we have a lot of members—not all of them, but many members—of this government that are climate change deniers, and a few in the opposition. You have to ask yourself why. What is it about climate change that represents such an uncomfortable reality to those people? I think that it is an issue that comes up hard against their conservative world view and in fact requires a fundamental reassessment of that conservative world view. It is a world view that says man has dominion over the earth and says that there is only one model for progress, for growth, for consumption, only one model that works. It is a model that says that environmentalism is the new communism—that environmentalism threatens human freedoms in the same way communism did.

It is interesting. Yesterday Tony Abbott alluded to climate change, a carbon tax and socialism in the same sentence. It reminded me of my first encounter with the new Speaker of the House, Bronwyn Bishop. We were at a function. There were a few senators and members at the function. Bronwyn Bishop, the new Speaker of the House, came along to introduce herself. I had never met Bronwyn before. It was my one and only encounter with the new Speaker. I introduced myself as the Greens senator for Victoria, and Mrs Bishop's response was: 'Oh, the Greens! You're worse than the communists.' What an interesting little window into the world of the conservatives that was. What an interesting little window we had into the world view of the economists.

Most of this is absolute nonsense—the irony of having the party of the market propose a policy to hand out cash to the polluters while denying a market mechanism! My economics teaching made it very, very clear that, if you want to maximise freedom, you put a price on externalities, you internalise them and you give individuals the opportunity to make choices. But not this government: 'We'll write out the big cheques to the polluters.'

You could ask about the freedoms that the people of Kiribati are currently experiencing while their homes sink under rising sea levels. Tell me about their freedoms—or the freedoms of the people in the Philippines now who have lost their homes and their families. What about their freedoms? Of course, we will be told that linking extreme weather events to climate change is opportunism. It is easy sport, picking on the Greens. I have not heard anybody pick on the representatives of the Philippines, currently at the climate change talks in Warsaw, who made exactly the same point. Where were the editorials from News Limited? Where was Simon Birmingham's criticism of the Philippines delegation? Of course there was not one, because they are gutless.

Photo of Sean EdwardsSean Edwards (SA, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Order! Senator Di Natale, you must refer to members of this chamber by their title.

Photo of Richard Di NataleRichard Di Natale (Victoria, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

Just like the woman with breast cancer who refused to get treatment until it was too late, it is far too difficult for the coalition to reassess their view of the world in the face of what is a looming catastrophe.

Of course, it is not just about climate change denial. That would be far too simplistic. It is this heady cocktail of denial and political opportunism. It is how we end up with conviction politician John Howard, who says: 'You know what? That ETS I put to the election in 2007? Well, I didn't really believe in it. Actually, it was more about the drought, and people were a bit worried about that, and then there was that movie from Al Gore. That was a bit of a problem. And we had Kevin Rudd, and everyone jumped on that bandwagon. I had no choice.' It was political opportunism writ large.

Let us remember that the new Prime Minister is only Prime Minister because he saw a political opportunity within his own party to make a case for winding back action on climate change—because Prime Minister Abbott is the weathervane on climate change. He managed to scrape over the line by a vote. The climate change deniers in his party won out, and the political opportunism of the Prime Minister gave him the leadership of the Liberal Party.

Of course, that would be letting the former government off the hook too easily. There was the refusal to take the ETS to an election, followed by the election of a new prime minister who initially ruled out a carbon tax, proposed the citizens assembly, reintroduced the carbon tax and then, at the last election, withdrew the carbon tax. So we had the situation of political opportunism meeting political cowardice, and that is how we have ended up in this position.

The experience of the tobacco lobby and the association between smoking and lung cancer is instructive in this instance. It took 50 years before we were able to establish it definitively and get government action on smoking and lung cancer. How did it happen? It happened because a hugely powerful vested interest, a few crackpot scientists and some politicians thought this was all part of some conspiracy by the public health lobby: 'Those pesky doctors; they want to curtail our freedoms. That's why we can't let anyone believe that smoking causes lung cancer. It's all part of a global conspiracy to curtail freedom.' How ridiculous. How utterly ridiculous. Look into the eyes of somebody who is dying from lung cancer who was told for years that their smoking had nothing to do with it and talk to their children about their freedom to have a life without a parent.

That is what we are faced with in climate change. We have John Howard, whose gut instinct was that this was overblown; this was all part of some crazy conspiracy: 'My gut tells me that—you know what?—we're going a bit too far with this climate change nonsense.' I would love to practise medicine like that: 'Yes, that lump under your arm looks a bit nasty, but my gut tells me there's nothing wrong with it. Go home, take a Bex and have a lie down.'

The world of science does not operate like that. The physical world does not operate like that. Your narrow view of the conservative dogma to which you have subscribed all your life does not work like that. We are now in a situation where we have this farcical policy, direct action, a policy which is not backed up by an economist worth their salt. We have record storms occurring right around the world and we have record stupidity in this parliament with the government proposing to undo some of the most ambitious and most important climate change legislation anywhere in the world.

How is it that only in Australia is talking about climate change and extreme weather a political statement? It is not in the Philippines. The Philippines delegation to the UN talks in Warsaw are urging us to take action. In their words, 'If you deny climate change, get out of your ivory tower and come to the Philippines to see what havoc and destruction have been wrought on our people'—their words, not mine. We will not see Andrew Bolt's editorial on that today. It is much easier sport to attack the Greens—much easier and gutless. That side of politics has a vision which says that small government is the aspiration. That is not a vision; that is no vision at all. We want better government.

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (Victoria, Liberal Party, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Education) Share this | | Hansard source

Not from you maybe!

Photo of Richard Di NataleRichard Di Natale (Victoria, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

We want a government which says, 'We're dealing with the reality of climate change. Let's pull together and let's do something about it.' We are all in this together, Senator Ryan—I see my colleague nodding his head. The atmosphere and the oceans are everybody's problems. If we do not take collective action, not the Greens, not an individual like Tim Flannery, but the vast body of science right around the world—you know that thing called science, that tool we have for gaining knowledge and wisdom?—is telling us we have to act. The great tragedy is that it is not going to take much—only a small proportion of our GDP and a much smaller impact than the imposition of the GST. How is it that our politics have become so ossified that even this tiny little adjustment means we cannot take action? It is because the deniers are in charge. The climate deniers are in charge and are in an unholy alliance with the big end of town.

The community are confused at the moment; I understand that. We are at a very low ebb. We have seen the abolition of the Climate Commission. The Clean Energy Finance Corporation has been told to stop investing. The Climate Change Authority is being ignored. A body of expertise in the government is not able to act. We have the spectre of Greg Hunt, so committed to climate change, saying, 'I'm going to do my thesis on a price on carbon,' and then crawling back into his cave and saying, 'I don't think we'll send a minister off to the climate change talks in Poland.'

Regardless of whether this parliament acts, the earth is going to do its own campaigning with more droughts, more floods and more tropical storms, with more deaths and more disease. You cannot just sit in your ivory tower, in the words of the Philippine delegates to the UN climate change talks, and do nothing about it, because the earth will make its own statement very clearly. We need to act and we need to act quickly. We need the government to show courage and leadership and some direction on this issue. We do not need the government, with its buddies in the big end of town, to live in this state of denial and not be prepared to say, 'This is something we need to confront. Maybe we've got some things wrong. Maybe we need to redefine some of our notions of progress. Maybe we need to uncouple the idea of growth from fossil fuel development and exploitation.' If we were to do that, maybe we would create new jobs and have new industries. Maybe we would have a situation where people in parts of Victoria like Portland and Waubra can get jobs in high-tech, value-added industries—engineers, manufacturers and so on. There may be opportunities here which we can exploit. But no. The politics of fear won this election but soon the Australian community will truly fear what the future may bring in an environment where climate change is with us, where extreme weather gets worse and where our children's children will not enjoy the same quality of life we enjoy. When we get to that moment and the Australian community begin to acknowledge that what they have been sold for the past three years is a campaign of fear and ignorance, then we will begin to take the steps needed to truly address action on climate change.

1:51 pm

Photo of Ron BoswellRon Boswell (Queensland, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

It is interesting that I am following Senator Di Natale with a completely and utterly different message. Senator Di Natale was an excellent doctor but that is where he should stop. There has been a lot of talk in this chamber and in the other chamber about carbon tax and about everything Australia will gain by scrapping it. We will be better off by $8 billion a year. Households will save an average of $550 a year in 2014-15, but there is more we can do and there is more we should be doing.

There is another green impost that has put up electricity prices for businesses and households almost as much as the carbon tax. Like the carbon tax, it is doing nothing to lower carbon emissions and has served only to lower electricity use by unprecedented levels. Like the carbon tax, it has no end in sight in the immediate future. Of course, I am talking about the renewable energy tax. I will pick up the fact that Tony Abbott, the Prime Minister, said that he will send that to a review. He said that this week, so it does give us a lot of hope. The RET is on track to cost $5 billion by 2020. Around one-fifth of the average household electricity bill will come from it. It has already put up power prices for industry to such an extent that manufacturers are shutting down and moving overseas.

Voters have spoken loud and clear on the carbon tax. They never wanted a carbon tax. In this election they threw their support behind the parties that promised to scrap the carbon tax. I am sure that, if the full repercussions of our forced investment in renewables were put out there, public opposition to the RET would be just as loud and just as strong. As with other countries that have invested in renewables, Australia is now suffering from one of the highest power prices in the world. Industry has had to shoulder much of the renewable burden. Electricity costs for industry in Australia are now over double that of many countries. Our manufacturers are being hit for six. Take one Queensland based manufacturer that pays $108,000 every month on his electricity bill. Of that, $15,000 comes from the carbon tax and $8,000 comes from renewables. That is $180,000 a year from the carbon tax and $96,000 from the RET. That is 13.8 per cent of their power bill that is tied to the carbon tax and 7.4 per cent that is tied to the RET. This reflects the typical green impost placed on companies around Australia. I have seen some businesses where the carbon tax makes up 18 per cent of their power bill and the RET makes up 13 per cent. So while repealing the carbon tax would cut 13 to 18 per cent of a business's electricity cost, getting rid of the renewable target would bring that up to 20 to 31 per cent. That is a huge difference.

With the diaspora of businesses from our shores to countries with less harsh or no green impost, every bit of relief we can bring to our industrial sector counts. Look at how tough our manufacturers are doing it. We have seen over 140,000 jobs disappear since the start of 2008. That is almost one in every seven jobs in manufacturing that has been lost. Our food and beverage, grocery and fresh produce sectors lost 170 employers and 1,000 workers in 2012 and 2013. That is 170 factories shutting down. The last months have seen a string of closures and moves offshore in the manufacturing and food processing sectors. McCain said it would close its processing plant in Penola, South Australia, leaving 59 employees without work before Christmas. The Greens would rejoice in that. Simplot announced that it was downsizing its Bathurst plant's operation, costing 110 jobs. It made the point that operating costs for its competitors in New Zealand are substantially lower. The Greens want to put them up. Golden Circle, the icon of Queensland, said it would be closing its Mill Park plant in Melbourne, which was no longer viable, and moving production to Queensland. That is 123 jobs lost in Victoria. Downer EDI announced that it would be closing its rail manufacturing plant in Bathurst at the end of the year, putting 100 employees out of work, but the Greens do not worry about that. They do not worry about the people having to foot their bills on the dole. They can eat lettuce! Electrolux, which runs the largest refrigerated manufacturing operation in Australia, said it would shut down its factory in Orange in 2016, costing 500 jobs. It said during the announcement that it was more cost effective to manufacture in Asia and Eastern Europe. They are not putting any carbon price or any renewable energy target on. Give them a star! The mining equipment maker Caterpillar announced it was shifting 200 jobs from its plant in Burnie, Tasmania, to Rayong in Thailand. That should send a shudder down the spine of every Taswegian in the Senate and in the other place. Two hundred jobs is the equivalent, probably, of 20,000 jobs in Sydney, but the Greens do not worry about that; they would rejoice in it.

Let us take a look at the other manufacturing casualties. There are Cresta, Cussons, Aerogard, Harley Davidson, Bosch, BlueScope, Boral, Amcor, Penrice Soda, Norske, Skydome—that is one for you, Senator Whish-Wilson—Caltex, Shell, Goodman Fielder and Queensland Aluminium. Between these companies alone, more than 4,500 jobs have gone. What a great victory for renewable energy and the carbon tax. It is a killing field out there. Let us look at SPC Ardmona, which is barely holding on in the face of cheap imports from countries that have no carbon tax and little or no renewable impost. If SPC does not find its feet that will be another 2,050 jobs gone, plus all the farmers who are going to hang off that. It is a killing field out there for manufacturers. I am not placing the blame for the Australian manufacturers' woes on the carbon tax and the renewables, but they certainly have played their part in tipping businesses over the edge.

Look at the well-documented struggles of our car manufacturers. Ford has committed to closing down its factories by 2016. Holden is headed the same way. Their plants are losing millions a year. It is estimated that the carbon tax and the RET alone put around $600 on the manufacturing costs of a car. Holden's plant is set to lose $18 million a year. That is $270 per vehicle, even after the massive subsidies they receive. Would it not be better not to further subsidise Holden to that amount but to get rid of the policies that are costing $600 per car? Getting rid of the carbon tax will do a lot to lower the cost of electricity for industry, particularly for those hardest hit—the aluminium smelters, the manufacturers and the food processors that are shutting down and shifting overseas because they just cannot cope with our input costs. Scrapping the renewable energy target would do a lot more to ease the pain. We can no longer stick our heads in the sand. The fact is that the annual renewable energy target will only go up as we move closer to 2020. The number of large-scale renewable certificates that companies will be obliged to surrender will increase and the dent the RET will leave in their power bills will grow bigger and bigger.

Photo of John HoggJohn Hogg (President) Share this | | Hansard source

Order! It being 2 pm, the debate is interrupted and we will proceed to questions without notice. Senator Boswell, you are in continuation when the debate resumes.