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Tuesday, 1 November 2011
Page: 7841


Senator RONALDSON (Victoria) (21:28): What a great pleasure it is to follow a fantastic speech such as that. It is very, very good.

Senator Conroy interjecting

Senator RONALDSON: Minister, with you in charge of the NBN, I am not surprised that you are a bit critical of policy debates. If you keep on doing what you are doing with the NBN, we will not need a carbon tax after you are finished with us, my friend. After you have broken the country with your NBN, we will have a talk about policy. Nothing coming from you in relation to this legislation is going to convince anyone that it is anything other than an abject failure. Thank you for the interjection. I appreciate it. I am happy for you to contribute again during the debate.

In relation to the clean energy bills, I would like to say the following. We need to put this debate in the context of our contribu­tion to global emissions. It is 1.3 per cent. Even though we are going it alone, effectively, in a global sense, we are—

Senator Polley: We're a long way behind.

Senator RONALDSON: I will take that interjection as well. That is blatantly and patently wrong. What are the Americans doing, Senator Polley? What are the Canadians doing, Senator Polley? What are the Chinese doing, Senator Polley? What are the Indians doing, Senator Polley? The bottom line is that you and your better half, the Greens—your partners in economic and political crime—are going to destroy this country. You know and I know that it will have a negligible effect on emissions. But what you and the Greens want to do is to turn this country and this economy upside down on the back of a so-called moral obligation. I can tell you that, if I need a moral obligation lecture from anyone, it will not be from the Australian Greens. I would be more inclined to take one from the Labor Party; I certainly will not be taking one from the Australian Greens.

I thought the most interesting comment of the week was the comment from the Canadian foreign minister, John Baird, who told the Australian on 31 October:

The people of Canada spoke unequivocally about that at the last election …

I think there's only one member of parliament who advocates it, and that's the lone Greens member.

What a marvellous chamber it would be if that were the case in this country—to have one lone Greens member. I think it is also interesting to look at what President Obama has done in the States. He is not proceeding with it. These massive countries are not doing to their economies what we are doing to ours, so there will be very little prevention of climate damage.

There was also an interesting comment from Tim Flannery, who said in an interview with Andrew Bolt on MTR:

If we cut emissions today, global temperatures are not likely to drop for about a thousand years.

That was on 25 March this year. I will read it again:

If we cut emissions today, global temperatures are not likely to drop for about a thousand years.

This is from Tim Flannery himself. But leave that to one side because, as Senator Cormann said, our emissions will actually continue to increase. So let's put to bed this debate about cutting emissions.

Let's get down to the nuts and bolts of this issue, and that is the extraordinary damage it will do to our economy. It will provide a $9 billion slush fund for the Gillard government in its first year alone. Let's have a look at the impact on my own home state of Victoria. It is quite horrifying. Independent modelling commissioned by the Baillieu government, conducted by Deloitte Access Economics, shows the true impact of the Gillard government's carbon tax on Victoria. For starters, there will be 35,000 fewer jobs than there would be without the carbon tax. Investment will be down almost $6.3 billion, or 6.6 per cent. Per capita income will be more than $1,050 lower and the Victorian state budget is predicted to be almost $660 million worse off. I want to turn to the fine regional seats of Ballarat, Bendigo and Geelong—one of which I live in, as honourable senators know, and that is Ballarat. By 2015, according to this independent modelling, 663 fewer jobs will have been created in the City of Ballarat than would have been if the carbon tax was not introduced. The local economy will suffer, with business output being reduced by $75 million. In Bendigo the figures are 705 fewer jobs and business output being reduced by $79 million. There will be 1,296 fewer jobs created in the City of Greater Geelong than there would have been if a carbon tax were not introduced and the damage to that economy will be $152 million. These are regional centres and there will be $75 million, $79 million and $152 million of economic damage—and for what, I ask.

In Geelong manufacturing is worth $13.8 billion. It accounts for half of all revenue generated in the Geelong region. This is what the acting mayor said when this toxic tax was announced:

Geelong does have a large percentage of trade exposed and emissions intensive industries—whilst we accept the need for Australia to contribute to a global reduction of carbon emissions it's vital that the Geelong region is not unfairly disadvantaged.

…   …   …

Local industries must be supported so they can remain competitive and that local jobs are not put in jeopardy.

If products that are currently manufactured in Geelong are forced off-shore the effect will be self defeating in terms of global carbon emissions.

Mr Acting Deputy President, if you were one of the local members in Geelong and this package of bills was put into the lower house and you knew what would potentially happen to your region, would you not think it appropriate to stand up and at least explain yourself? The member for Corangamite did not have the intestinal fortitude to stand up in the chamber and explain himself. Why was that? Because he knows, as I know and his constituents know, that he was elected on the back of a lie. There are some other members in marginal seats. The members for Bendigo and Ballarat are now in marginals as a result of this toxic tax. At least they had the guts to stand up in the other place and explain their actions. The member for Corangamite did not have the intestinal fortitude to do so, and for that he stands utterly condemned. I just wonder whether it might be related to the following economic damage that this toxic tax will do in his electorate. Around Colac in his electorate there is a very big and intens­ive dairy farming industry. Dairy farmers, according to independent modelling, will pay between $5,000 and $7,000 a year more for electricity and other costs. According to the National Farmers Federation, the average cost to farmers will rise by $1,500 a year and this will erode net farm income by 2.4 per cent. Research from the Australian Farm Institute shows that the costs of an average sheep farm will go up by $1,000 per year on average, while for the average cotton farm the costs will go up $10,500 per year on average. According to AUSVEG, the national peak body for vegetable and potato growers, the carbon tax will increase the cost of running irrigation systems and this will again increase the costs of fresh vegetables and potatoes. According to the Australian Coal Association, 4,700 mining jobs will be lost. In my home state the coal-dependent Latrobe Valley will be hit particularly hard. The Minerals Council of Australia has made it quite clear that mines that are marginal will close down.

The other thing about Mr Cheeseman's electorate is that it is rapidly growing with very substantial housing development. This toxic tax will add $5,000 to the cost of building a new home, according to the Master Builders Association. For a $350,000 home, this is effectively a 1.5 per cent interest rate impost. We have had the government boasting about a 25-basis-point reduction today, but their own policy will make sure that those young families in Darren Cheeseman's electorate are poten­tially going to pay a tax impost that is effectively a 1.5 per cent increase in interest rates.

We have all heard about the cost of electricity prices, but what people living in metropolitan Melbourne, Sydney and Canberra do not realise is that the impost of electricity prices in regional areas is substantially more, upwards of 30 per cent more. I would not expect the Greens to understand that. I would not expect the Greens, who spend the great majority of their time swanning around metropolitan areas, to understand it. Go out into those regional centres. See what the cost-of-living imposts are for those living outside metropolitan areas and then come back in here and debate whether this is or is not a good tax. Schools will pay nearly $200 million more in electricity prices over four years. This is a very, very bad tax.

I am pleased that the Minister for Finance and Deregulation is here tonight. I want to ask the minister about some of the comments that she has made previously. I will just give some quotes, Minister. This is an interview you did with Marius Benson on ABC NewsRadio on 16 April 2010. I will sit down immediately if you stand up and say that you have been misquoted. As soon as you move, I will sit down. I suspect that I will not be sitting down. I quote:

A carbon tax is a less efficient way in the Australian government's view of dealing with this issue.

In a speech to CEDA at the State of the Nation conference on 23 June 2010 you said:

Unfortunately, a carbon tax is not the silver bullet some people would think.

Misquoted, Minister? I do not think so. The doozy of the lot is this from Sky News on 30 April 2009:

You know you cannot have any environmental certainty with a carbon tax.

If that is the quote then what are we doing here? It is not a silver bullet, as you have said. The people who think it is a silver bullet are indeed your own party, Minister, and your group of acolytes who sit down the other end of this place.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT ( Senator Fawcett ): Order! Address your remarks through the chair, Senator Ronaldson.

Senator RONALDSON: My apologies, Mr Acting Deputy President. Through you, to the minister, the group that the minister is now in coalition with thinks it is a silver bullet. The group that the minister is now in cahoots with in this coalition government thinks that this tax is going to be good for this country. This Labor-Greens alliance, run by Senator Bob Brown not by Ms Gillard, is going to bring this country to its knees.

Senator Wong: Mr Acting Deputy President, a point of order: I am very happy if Senator Ronaldson wants to give me leave to read out the full quote that he just gave to the chamber, which he selectively quoted from. I am also happy to respond in the committee stage. But I do not want him, as is his wont, to make a whole range of inaccurate assertions based on me giving him the courtesy of holding the floor in the second reading debate.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: There is no point of order.

Senator RONALDSON: There certainly is not any point of order because, as I said, these quotes are all in context: 'Unfortunately, a carbon tax is not the silver bullet some people would think'!

Senator Wong: Read the rest of it. Go on. I dare you. You won't do it.

Senator RONALDSON: The words speak for themselves.

Senator Wong: You won't do it!

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Order! Standing order 197 says that senators have the right to be heard in silence.

Senator RONALDSON: I think the minister protests too much. These quotes come back to haunt people. There is another series of quotes—

Senator Wong: You just mislead all the time, Rono. That is why they're coming to get you. That is why you're not going to be on the front bench.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Order! Senator Wong, I bring to your attention the fact that you are consistently and wilfully disobeying standing order 197.

Senator Wong: Mr Acting Deputy President, I rise on a point of order. I trust that you will be as quick when Senator Brandis and others on that side persistently interject on government senators.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Senator Ronaldson.

Senator RONALDSON: I find this touchiness quite fascinating. It is, of course, driven by the polls, which show the minister and every other Labor senator behind the minister what the impact of this toxic tax is. Everyone who is No. 3 on the ticket over there is extraordinarily nervous about what the polling is saying because there is a fair chance they will not be back here. They have got into bed with the Australian Greens and they have been conned into a policy that at least half of those on the other side will tell you in private is a bad policy and a rotten policy, and they simply do not want it. If the minister is concerned about quotes, she might like to listen to this one again. This quote is going to determine the demise of this very bad government—probably the worst government. When people are talking about this government as being worse than the Whitlam government you know it is a diabolical failure.

Senator Wong interjecting

Senator RONALDSON: Every time the minister interjects in a second reading debate like this she diminishes any intellectual rigour that she might attempt to bring to the debate, and she demeans herself. I am a bit surprised, but I understand the enormous pressure that the minister is under.

The statement to the Ten Network on 16 August 2010 was:

There will be no carbon tax under the government I lead.

I am wondering, now the minister is here—she has been very happy to interject for the past 10 minutes—through you, Mr Acting Deputy President: Minister, are they indeed words used by your leader? Yes, they are.

Senator Wong: Mr Acting Deputy President, I rise on a point of order. I am happy to respond, and perhaps the senator might remind the chamber that he said:

I do accept the need for an emissions trading scheme …

Senator Ronaldson, you said that in this place.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: That is no point of order.

Senator RONALDSON: What I said in this place is that anyone who is stupid enough to get ahead of the rest of the world and destroy this economy deserves to be politically removed themselves. Indeed, I have some other quotes here. This one is from Wayne Swan, the Treasurer, in relation to the carbon tax just before the 2010 election:

We have made our position very clear. We have ruled it out.

And again:

… what we rejected is this hysterical allegation that somehow we are moving towards a carbon tax from the Liberals in their advertising. We certainly reject that.

That is from the Treasurer just prior to the election. Every one of those on the other side was elected on the back of a lie. The member for Corangamite was elected on the back of a lie, but he did not even have the intestinal fortitude to get in and explain himself. At least those on the other side have stood up to try to justify the unjustifiable with this absolutely toxic tax.

There are two ways of addressing this issue. One is the direct action plan outlined by the Leader of the Opposition. The Greens and the Labor Party can argue at the margins about its effectiveness, but we believe it is going to work and we believe that it is affordable. What is not in dispute, and has not been in dispute since this legislation was introduced, is that all this toxic tax will do is cost our kids jobs. It will cost jobs now and it will cost jobs in the future, and it will do so on the back of absolutely no identifiable environmental outcome. That is the most galling part of this; there is no identifiable environmental outcome for this. The only outcome is the loss of jobs. The only outcome is that every single Labor senator was elected on the back of a lie, every single Labor member of parliament in the other place was elected on the back of a lie, and the Australian community, when given the opportunity, will make absolutely sure that they are— (Time expired)