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Monday, 8 February 2010
Page: 602


Mr BILLSON (2:10 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Small Business, Independent Contractors and the Service Economy, Minister Assisting the Finance Minister on Deregulation and Minister for Competition Policy and Consumer Affairs. I refer the minister to the New South Wales Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal report, which found that electricity prices will rise by 60 per cent in New South Wales, with one-third of this massive price hike due to the government’s emissions trading scheme. How will this help a small business proprietor such as Jason of Bell’s Foxy’s Dry Cleaners, who I and the opposition leader visited this morning, who already pays $15,000 a year in electricity costs for his business? He is facing a $3,000 or more increase because of the government’s great big new tax on everything—a tax, a system, that provides no compensation for small business.


Dr EMERSON (Minister for Small Business, Independent Contractors and the Service Economy, Minister Assisting the Finance Minister on Deregulation and Minister for Competition Policy and Consumer Affairs) —I do thank the latest shadow minister for small business for his question. He certainly did not wait for the duration of the siege of Leningrad to ask that question. So he is really not ahead of the game but not as far behind the game as the former shadow minister.

Opposition members interjecting—


The SPEAKER —Order! The minister has the call.


Dr EMERSON —Treasury estimates of increases in electricity prices associated with the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme are seven per cent in the first year and 12 per cent in the second year. The government will in fact assist Australian small businesses to adapt to a carbon constrained economy, and all revenue—every bit of revenue—from the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme will be used to help households and businesses to adjust to invest in clean energy options. The Treasury modelling is based on a passing through of the carbon price, and that is why the government is providing compensation to households.


Mrs Bronwyn Bishop —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order going to relevance, and the standing order relevant to that. The minister is not being relevant in answering the question and dealing with this particular case that has been put to him, and is, indeed, misleading the parliament by trying to imply that he will receive compensation when he will not.


The SPEAKER —The member will resume her seat. She cannot add debate to a point of order. The minister is responding to the question.


Dr EMERSON —And I was going directly to the issue of support for small business under the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme. Already, $200 million has been allocated through the $1.97 billion Climate Change Action Fund—get that: the $1.97 billion Climate Change Action Fund—to help businesses, including small businesses, to invest in energy efficient equipment such as hot-water systems, insulation, lighting and heating. And, as part of the Clean Business Australia initiative, the government is providing $56 million for small- and medium-sized manufacturers, such as dry-cleaning operators, to improve the energy efficiency of their production processes. And they would do that by investing in more energy efficient equipment.


Mr Billson —Mr Speaker—

Opposition members interjecting—


The SPEAKER —Order! The member for Dunkley has not got the call because a number of people behind him are denying him. I call the member for Dunkley.


Mr Billson —Mr Speaker, on a point of order: the question was not about grants the government gives away; it was about the electricity cost hikes and the lack of compensation.


The SPEAKER —Order! The point of order was on relevance. The minister is responding to the question.


Dr EMERSON —That is how we will support small businesses in this country. If we are addressing the issue of risks to small business, there is no greater risk to small business in this country than the Leader of the Opposition and the shadow finance minister. The reason I say that is that the shadow finance minister, on Lateline just the other day when he was asked where he was going to get the revenue to fund his $10 billion climate change con job, referred to the Henry tax review—and what did he say? He said, ‘That is the whole mechanism of where we get the money from.’ Here is the shadow finance minister saying there will be at least a $10 billion increase in taxes or new taxes. He did not say, ‘Here is the budget; we are looking at the budget.’ He said, ‘We are looking at the Henry tax review,’ indicating in direct contradiction to the opposition leader that they would be getting the money out of the tax system, increasing taxes on small business in this country by up to $10 billion.


Mr Anthony Smith —Mr Speaker, a point of order on relevance: if the minister cannot answer the question put to him about the case study—


The SPEAKER —No. The member for Casey will resume his seat. In response to the two previous points of order I indicated that the minister was responding to the question. To this point of order I would suggest to the minister that he needs to relate his material to the question.


Dr EMERSON —I am indeed, Mr Speaker. I am advised that, in relation to the issue of the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme and businesses that might be affected by higher energy bills, the shadow minister said that, if electricity prices increased because of penalties incurred under Mr Abbott’s plan, consumers could sign on with another retailer. There you go. So he is admitting that electricity prices would go up under the plan by this risky opposition leader saying they can just go to another electricity provider. The fact of the matter is that the shadow finance minister, in revealing there would be increased taxes to fund their climate change con job, has let the cat out of the bag—and what a dirty, smelly creature it is; what a dirty, smelly cat it is. The opposition leader is taking working families and small businesses to the cleaners with his climate change con job.