Senate debates

Monday, 2 December 2013


Clean Energy Legislation (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2013; Second Reading

8:37 pm

Photo of Mitch FifieldMitch Fifield (Victoria, Liberal Party, Assistant Minister for Social Services) Share this | | Hansard source

I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The speech read as follows—

The Australian people have already voted upon this bill.

Now, the parliament gets its chance.

The 2013 election was a referendum on the carbon tax.

The people have spoken.

Now, it is up to the parliament to show that it has listened.

The Australian people have pronounced their judgement against the carbon tax: they want it gone.

This bill delivers on the coalition's commitment to the Australian people.

It is also a cornerstone of the government's plan for a stronger economy built on lower taxes, less regulation and stronger businesses.

The carbon tax is bad for the economy and it is bad for Australia: it costs jobs, hurts families and does nothing for the environment.

The new government has already scrapped the fringe benefits tax hit on the car industry and the attack on nurses' and teachers' self-education expenses by not proceeding with Labor's announced but not enacted new taxes.

The government has already established a once-in-a-generation commission of audit and commenced a root-and-branch review of competition policy.

Still, repealing the carbon tax is the first economic reform of this parliament—and it will be followed by bills to repeal the mining tax, to restore the Australian Building and Construction Commission, and deal with Labor's debt legacy.

The first impact of this bill will be on households whose overall costs will fall $550 a year on average.

Household electricity bills will be $200 lower next financial year without the carbon tax.

Household gas bills will be $70 lower next financial year without the carbon tax.

Prices for groceries, household items and services will also fall because the price of power is embedded in every price in our economy.

This is our bill to reduce your bills.

When the price of power comes down, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission will be ready to ensure these price reductions are passed on to households and businesses.

But families and pensioners will keep the tax cuts and benefit increases already provided.

The carbon tax will go but the carbon tax compensation will stay so that every Australian should be better off.

Repealing the carbon tax will reduce costs for all Australian businesses, every single one of them.

The previous government argued that only big business paid the carbon tax.

That is just not true. Every small business paid the carbon tax through higher electricity and gas bills and higher costs for supplies.

The carbon tax also acts as a reverse tariff.

Not only does the carbon tax make it more difficult for Australian businesses to compete abroad, it makes it more difficult for domestic businesses to compete at home—because there is no carbon tax on imports.

As the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries said in its submission to the government, 'Australian manufacturers have been at a commercial disadvantage as a result of the carbon price when compared to imported motor vehicles.'

As canegrowers said, 'The carbon tax has hurt the industry's international competitiveness.'

Australian employers do not just pay the costs of the carbon tax—they also pay the costs of complying with it.

Repealing the carbon tax also removes over 1,000 pages of primary and subordinate legislation.

Repealing the carbon tax cuts the size of the climate change bureaucracy.

So repealing the carbon tax will reduce the cost of living, make jobs more secure and improve the competitive position of our country—why would anyone be against that, especially when it is what the Australian people have just voted for?

Repealing the carbon tax is what the employers of Australia want now.

The Business Council of Australia 'supports the wind-up of the current carbon pricing mechanism given it places excessive costs on business and households because (our) carbon charge… is now one of the highest in the world'.

The Australian Food and Grocery Council 'welcomes the removal of the Carbon Tax as a step towards reducing the cost burden on food and grocery manufacturers, which is impeding the industry's competitiveness and viability'.

Master Builders Australia says that the carbon tax has made worse Australia's already low levels of housing affordability.

The Minerals Council of Australia says that the carbon tax is "a deadweight on the economy" with a $1.6 billion a year burden on the minerals sector alone.

The judgement of Australia's jobs providers is in—and it is the same as the Australian people: the carbon tax is hurting jobs and growth.

It is not just our nation's businesses—big and small—that have carried the burden of the carbon tax—it has also increased the costs of community organisations and not-for-profit groups as well as state and local governments.

The carbon tax has rippled through the economy—hitting schools, hospitals, nursing homes, charities, churches, council swimming pools and community centres.

It has hit each and every group and individual that uses power—and that was always its goal, to make electricity more expensive.

The intention of the previous government was to put power prices up because that was their way of reducing carbon emissions.

The intention of the new government is to put power prices down by axing this toxic tax and using other means to reduce emissions.

By reducing the cost of electricity and gas, we will help to make households better off, workers more secure and our economy stronger.

No one should be in any doubt—the government is repealing the carbon tax in full.

We are not playing word games or playing tactical political games—we are doing what we were elected to do.

Others have said they would terminate the carbon tax but they were only renaming it.

We are not renaming it.

We are not floating it.

We are not keeping the machinery in place so we can dust it off in the future.

We are abolishing the carbon tax in full.

We have said what we mean and we will do what we say—the carbon tax goes.

This bill is one of a package of 11 bills that repeal the legislation that established the carbon tax, including the Clean Energy Act 2011 and associated charges acts and that also set up the bureaucratic programs and structures to administer and support it.

The bill is supported by four technical bills—to be introduced by the Minister for the Environment later today—that abolish the equivalent carbon tax applied through the fuel tax and excise system and the synthetic greenhouse gas levies.

Together, these bills will ensure that no business will incur a carbon tax liability after 1 July 2014.

They ensure that no equivalent carbon tax will apply from 1 July 2014 on fuels used in shipping, rail and air transport or on synthetic greenhouse gases.

Repealing the carbon tax at the end of the financial year provides certainty for business and simplifies the transition.

It means this government will not be proceeding with the previous government's legislated carbon tax increase that would have taken effect from 1 July 2014.

Our bill abolishes the tax in full.

Labor's carbon tax changes for the on-road fuel costs of heavy vehicles that were going to commence on 1 July 2014 will not happen.

That saves consumers the previous government's planned increase in the price of everything that had to be trucked around the country.

Unfortunately, the new government cannot undo the past, we can only make the future better—and that is what we will do.

Carbon tax liabilities incurred up to 30 June 2014 should be met in full.

This means liable entities will need to complete current carbon tax compliance activities in accordance with current legislated timeframes and processes.

These repeal bills preserve relevant provisions of the Clean Energy Act and other acts so that all outstanding liabilities can be collected.

The Minister for the Environment and the Treasurer will soon introduce bills to abolish bureaucratic agencies set up with the carbon tax, including the multi-million dollar Climate Change Authority and the multi-billion dollar Clean Energy Finance Corporation.

The Treasurer will also soon introduce a bill that implements Labor's previously announced decision to scrap further assistance to households in 2015-16 intended as further compensation for the damage done by the carbon tax.

Under this government, the carbon tax will not apply from 1 July so there will be no need for further compensation packages.

The government believes that the best assistance we can give industry is less tax.

We will end the merry-go-round of carbon tax industry assistance that takes from one pocket and puts less back in the other.

Because there will be no carbon tax, the Jobs and Competitiveness Program, Energy Security Fund and the Steel Transformation Plan will all be terminated from 1 July 2014.

These assistance measures will only remain to assist with final 2013-14 carbon tax liabilities.

The buy-back facility for free carbon units issued under the Jobs and Competitiveness Program and the Energy Security Fund will continue to operate for 2013-14 compliance.

There will also be a final reconciliation for free carbon units issued under the Jobs and Competitiveness Program to ensure that there is no under- or over-allocation of assistance for 2013-14.

The government will ensure the benefits of repealing the carbon tax are passed on to consumers.

The ACCC will have further powers to take action against any business that engages in price exploitation in relation to carbon tax repeal.

Businesses are already subject to the existing law to prevent false, misleading or deceptive conduct.

Penalties of up to $1.1 million for corporations and $220,000 for individuals will apply.

The ACCC will also monitor prices in key sectors in the lead-up to, and following, the repealing of the carbon tax.

The government is repealing the carbon tax because there is a less complicated and less costly way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions—that will actually reduce emissions and won't damage the economy.

The government will scrap the carbon tax and then proceed with its direct action plan.

The centrepiece of the direct action plan will be the Emissions Reduction Fund—a market-based mechanism for reducing carbon dioxide emissions.

The fund provides a powerful and direct additional incentive for businesses to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

The fund will use positive incentives to reduce Australia's greenhouse gas emissions.

Direct action means more trees, better soils and smarter technology—this is the right way to get emissions down.

The carbon tax is a $9 billion hit on the economy this year alone.

It is a $9 billion burden on jobs, on investment and on Australia that we just do not need.

This bill gets rid of it.

This bill is the government's bill to reduce the people's bills.

This bill is good for the economy, it is good for jobs, it is good for families wanting to get ahead.

Debate adjourned.

I move:

That the resumption of the debate be an order of the day for a later hour.

8:38 pm

Photo of Penny WongPenny Wong (SA, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) Share this | | Hansard source

In relation to the motion moved by Senator Fifield, I seek leave to move an amendment.

Leave granted.

I move:

At the end of the motion that the resumption of debate be made an order of debate for a later hour add:

'and the orders of the day for the resumption of the second reading debate on the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (Abolition) Bill 2013, and subsequently the Climate Change Authority (Abolition) Bill 2013, have precedence over this bill and the other related bills until determined.'

I will speak briefly because I am aware that we have had a lengthy debate on this issue and there are other matters senators wish to debate. This motion ensures that the procedure I flagged when I moved the initial procedural motion will be adhered to and that the Senate can proceed to debate on the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (Abolition) Bill 2013 and the Climate Change Authority (Abolition) Bill 2013 for the reasons that opposition and crossbench senators have outlined.

8:39 pm

Photo of Mitch FifieldMitch Fifield (Victoria, Liberal Party, Assistant Minister for Social Services) Share this | | Hansard source

At one level I can understand why the opposition want to do everything they can to delay for as long as possible the debate on the Clean Energy Legislation (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2013. Their actions in the last term of government were excruciatingly embarrassing. We know that they deceived the Australian people at the election before last. They solemnly put their hands on their hearts and said there would be no carbon tax under a government led by their leader at that time. They fibbed, so I can understand why they want to delay debate of this bill, even if it is for just a day or two. We will oppose the amendment.

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

The question is that the amendment moved by Senator Wong be agreed to.

The question now is that the motion as amended be agreed to.

Question agreed to.