Wednesday, 5 March 2014
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister for Finance and Minister representing the Minister for the Environment, Senator Cormann. I refer the minister to an article by Paul Howes in yesterday's Australian Financial Review in which Mr Howes warns of the escalating cost of energy in Australia and states:
… cheap energy has traditionally been a core national economic advantage. But it is an advantage we are throwing away.
Can the minister advise how delaying the repeal of the carbon tax is further pushing up power prices and hurting our economy?
I thank Senator Boswell for that question. Let me just say right at the outset: Paul Howes is right. We agree with him on this. If only Paul Howes was the leader of the Labor Party, perhaps we might get some sensible economic policy from the opposition, because now of course we have an opposition that is back to the worst protectionist, interventionist days of past eras.
Cheap energy has traditionally been a core economic advantage for Australia. It is an advantage that, egged on by the Greens, the Labor Party recklessly and irresponsibly threw away. Labor's carbon tax is pushing up the cost of electricity, it is pushing up the cost of gas, it is pushing up the cost of doing business in Australia, it is making us less competitive internationally, it is hurting the economy, it is making it harder for businesses to compete and, of course, it is putting jobs at risk—it is costing jobs. All of this without doing anything to help reduce global greenhouse gas emissions. Of course, what is happening is that Labor's carbon tax is making it harder for Australian businesses to compete with businesses overseas who are taking market share away from us as a result of Labor's carbon tax and are, arguably, shifting emissions, economic activity and jobs overseas. Emissions in those jurisdictions overseas will arguably be higher than they would have been if that activity had happened in Australia. In an absolutely reckless way, Labor imposed an additional burden on our economy at the worst possible time. At a time when we were already facing challenges in a difficult global economic environment, Labor continued to impose more burdens on our economy, putting jobs at risk.
Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I thank the minister for that. I refer the minister to Paul Howes' comments in 2011 that the Australian Workers Union's support of a carbon tax would go if it cost a single Australian job. That is his quote. Should unions not support the repeal of the carbon tax? What impact will a delay in the repeal of the carbon tax have on the blue-collar workers that Mr Howes represents?
Senator Boswell, through the President, it is putting jobs at risk; it is putting manufacturing jobs at risk. I remember well the comments that Mr Howes made. I took a bit of interest at the time, through a Senate inquiry into Labor's carbon tax, about the impact of Labor's carbon tax on the economy and jobs. I remember when Paul Howes said that if one job was lost as a result of the carbon tax he would oppose it. If Paul Howes was fair dinkum then, if he was genuinely interested in the best interests of his members, he would have come out by now and he would have called on Labor to get out of the way and support our legislation to scrap this job-destroying carbon tax. It is not too late. We still have a day and a half to go. This filibuster here in the Senate, this disgraceful Labor Party filibuster on the carbon tax, has gone on for long enough. Bill Shorten clearly has not got what it takes to make judgements in the national interest. It is time that Paul Howes stood up for his members. (Time expired)
Mr President, I have a further supplementary question. I refer the minister to the thousands of manufacturing jobs lost lately as a consequence of Labor's six years of economic mismanagement—most recently from McCain, Simplot, Golden Circle, Downer EDI, Electrolux, Caterpillar, WesTrack, Kellogg's, SPC Ardmona and Ford. How will removing the carbon tax help prevent further job losses—
According to Australian Treasury modelling there are right now 75,000 business which are directly paying the carbon tax. These are 75,000 businesses who will find it harder to compete, as a direct result of the reckless decisions made by the previous government. Every single household, every single small business, every single farm, every hospital and every manufacturing enterprise pays higher electricity prices and higher gas prices as a result of Labor's carbon tax. Treasury modelling shows that if we scrap the carbon tax electricity prices will be lower by nine per cent, retail gas prices by around seven per cent, at a time we have a $25.40 carbon tax. Labor went to the last election saying they had already removed the carbon tax, and now they are voting with the Greens to keep it. Labor is being reckless and irresponsible. Labor is putting Australian jobs at risk and it is time they got out of the way. (Time expired)