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Thursday, 24 March 2011
Page: 3220

Mr TRUSS (Leader of the Nationals) (3:30 PM) —Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker, for giving me the honour of proposing this MPI on our 21st anniversary. I compliment my colleagues, the seven survivors from the class of 1990 on this anniversary. When I think back over those 21 years, I wonder whether there has ever been a time just like this when we have had a prime minister who went to the people, faithfully promising no carbon tax while she was Prime Minister—not once, but several times—and then having her turn around just a short time later and recanting on that commitment.

I can recall over the years the l-a-w tax cuts from Paul Keating that never happened, but this is in fact probably worse. Yes, it is in the taxation field, and we know from experience that when Labor talks about taxes and tax cuts, it is simply not the truth, and when they talk about new taxes, they are likely to happen, and even when they do not talk about new taxes, you are going to get them. And here is another example of a major new tax which Labor promised faithfully they would not implement—they would not do it. Now today it is the most important thing on their agenda.

The Prime Minister said more before the election than that there would be no carbon tax under the government that she led. She also said prior to that, on 25 June, that she would not pursue a carbon tax before there was community consensus on the issue. She said:

First, we will need to establish a community consensus for action.

…            …            …

I came to that decision because I fundamentally believe that if you are going to restructure our economy so that we can deal with a carbon price and deal with all the transformations in our economy that requires, then you need community consensus to do so.

Who could say that there is community consensus in favour of the carbon tax today? Where is the community consensus? We have not had the committee that was going to be chosen from the phone book from every electorate to help decide the policy. There was no consultation with the community. The Labor Party went to the last election saying, ‘No carbon tax.’ The Liberal Party went to the last election saying, ‘No carbon tax.’ The Nationals went to the last election saying, ‘No carbon tax.’ There was no community discussion. There is no consensus that there is reason to have this monumental change of heart. It is just because the Prime Minister seemingly has had to do a dirty deal with the Greens—another dirty deal with the Greens.

It is also interesting to note that after she had done a deal with Senator Brown, after she had signed the agreement with the Greens, the Prime Minister said in question time on 20 October:

Yes, I do commit to keeping the promises made at the last election.

After the election, after the deal, in this House in front of everyone here and filled benches behind her—and they are not filled now; the members have all left—she promised then that she would commit to keeping the promises made at the last election. The frequent liar points start to click up—a promise made, a promise broken.

So where is the community consensus? It is simply not there. Was the community consensus evident in the rally outside yesterday with more than 3,000 people present? None of those people were supporting Labor’s carbon tax. Those people are now being described as extremists and radicals, not representatives of the true people, radicals and extremists like the member for Robertson and the three busloads who came from her electorate, making the point absolutely clear. People are being vilified because they exercised their democratic right to have their say. They are not people like the trade union movement supported by the Labor Party, who smashed down the doors of Parliament House and were defended by members opposite. They did not resort to violence. They were not there with the former trade union boss who was around agitating this kind of a response, this level of debate. These people were putting their case and putting it strongly because they believed in it. They knew they did not have to smash down the doors like the trade union movement to make their point. They did it fairly and decently.

This government is about to do something truly remarkable. They are going to introduce a tax on Australians that is supposed to change the temperature of the globe. What a remarkable tax! Australians on their own are going to be able to cool the planet because we are going to pay another Labor tax, a tax on carbon in Australia that is supposed to cool the planet and make it rain again. Some people are even saying it will stop earthquakes and tsunamis. This is a remarkable tax! I have never seen a tax like it. It is so powerful that it can do all these things.

I have never heard of any suggestion that it was a tax that created the last Ice Age. It was not the tax that created the rain in the Biblical Flood. I do not think that it was a tax that dried up the Sahara Desert. But now we are going to have a tax that will fill the Murray and make it rain again and restore all goodness to the earth. I do not think that it was coalmining or motor vehicles or air conditioners that created the Sahara Desert either, but now we have found the cure, a magic cure—a carbon tax on Australians. We alone, with our tiny insignificant part of the world’s population, can fix these problems with a new tax.

I have heard lots of novel excuses from the Labor Party for having new taxes, but today’s new reason as to why we must have this tax really takes the cake. The Prime Minister said today that we have to have this new tax because it will make us more prosperous—a tax that is going to make us more prosperous! With $12 billion worth of tax we are all going to be richer; we are going to be better off. What a remarkable tax this is—it is so extraordinary. I cannot help but ask: where is the science that proves that this wonderful new tax will deliver all of these great things? We are told to believe the scientists. Produce for me a scientist that says that a carbon tax on Australians can cure the world’s climate problems; that a tax on Australians will lower the sea level or reduce world temperatures. It is simply a nonsense. It is a tax like all other taxes: it raises more money so that the government can spend it.

And have we been told how they are going to spend it? We have been given all sorts of answers. At one stage two ministers were saying that 100 per cent of this tax was going to be paid in compensation. Later it was said that only 50 per cent was going to be paid in compensation and the other bit was going to go on new green programs. That seems to me carte blanche. I do not know that I could really trust the Labor Party with another $6 billion to spend on green programs—new green programs like pink batts, a Green Loans debacle or a cash for clunkers scheme. What about the solar panel fiasco? We could spend more money on that. The government is still pursuing this line even though it was shown in today’s press that the $14 billion that has so far been spent on green programs in this country has not reduced CO2 levels one bit. Most of the projects that have been funded have actually increased CO2 emissions. The reality is that this tax will be exactly the same.

So who is going to pay this tax? The other great myth of the government is that the people who are going to pay this tax are in fact evil polluters—people who cannot be relied up; people who do not matter in our economy. Just who are these evil polluters? They are the manufacturers who make our steel and the products that we use. They are the food processors who make the food that we eat. They are the electricity generators who generate the electricity to power our houses and the things that we do. They are the people who create the jobs that make our economy strong. These are the evil people who Labor says will pay the tax.

But if you want to look at the reality: the ASX has said that the top 200 companies will pay $3.3 billion under Labor’s proposed carbon tax. That leaves $9 billion to be paid by small business and by households—by ordinary Australians. They are going to have to pay $9 billion of the tax as Labor proposes it. So it is not the remote, ugly, big polluters that are going to have to pay; it is ordinary men and women; families—

Mr Billson —Good people.

Mr TRUSS —good people; people who want to drive their car to see their sick mother; and people who want to go to the shops to buy some food and groceries. And the people have to be punished for this sort of activity—‘they have to be taxed; their behaviour has to be changed; they are evil; they are polluting’. Their behaviour has to be changed by a gigantic tax.

But the government is now being told by everyone that this tax will not really work. The economists were out in force today to explain that this tax will not achieve its objectives. The March edition of Quadrant’s economic survey says:

ICAP’s senior economist Adam Carr said a carbon tax would have natural negative effects for both inflation and economic activity in Australia.

He said:

A carbon tax is inflationary, there’s no way around that.

He also said:

There is also no way around the fact that it will cut growth. I mean, where are the large scale viable energy alternatives in the short to medium term? So, really, all putting a tax on carbon will do is lift inflation; it will lift the price or the cost of economic activity. This in turn will cut growth and reduce our standard of living.

This is the kind of ‘wonder’ tax that the government wants to impose upon the Australian people. Economists say it will not work. If you give all of the money back to people by way of compensation, they will not try to change their behaviour, so it will make no difference whatsoever to CO2 emissions. Indeed, it will probably make them worse, because one of the things that this tax will do—as we heard today in question time and as we have heard in the media over recent times—is make doing business in this country more costly.

It will give companies every possible reason to locate their manufacturing industry and create jobs in other places. Toyota Australia said that the carbon tax will ‘leave them in a corner with nowhere to go’. The Australian Food and Grocery Council wondered whether the government even wants food and grocery manufacturing in Australia. The Australian Housing Industry said: ‘It will add $6,200 to the cost of an average home.’ OneSteel observed that a carbon tax ‘will significantly disadvantage Australian manufacturers’. BlueScope described the carbon tax as ‘the steel breaker’.

How can the government reasonably claim that this is a good and sensible thing to do? But let me give you another quote: ‘The carbon tax will not be good for tourism.’ That was not from some evil polluter or some big industry or some big employer; that was said by the federal minister for tourism, Mr Ferguson. When he met the Indian minister for tourism and culture, Ambika Soni, in India on 6 November 2008, he said a ‘carbon tax on aviation is not good for tourism’. So even the government knows that this is a job-destroying tax.

This is a tax that will hurt Australian people. This is a tax that will drive Australian jobs overseas to factories where the CO2 emissions will be much greater than in an environmentally sensitive country like Australia. When you close down a cement factory in Australia and open up one in China to supply cement to Australians you increase CO2 emissions. If you close down an Australian aluminium refinery, you may cut emissions in Australia but you increase the emissions in other countries where the emissions are much greater.

I visited the smelter in Kurri Kurri last week with Mr Baldwin, one of the members nearby, and we were impressed by the very real concerns of the trade union representatives we met and the management of the firm about the future of their jobs. They know that their owners will not invest again in Australia if we have this tax that other countries do not have. They know the next investment decisions will be to go to countries like Qatar, China or Indonesia, because they do not have such a tax. The uncertainty created by the government’s floating of this stupid carbon tax idea, this cure-all—the carbon tax that is going to save the world—has already damaged confidence in Australian industry and forced people to make decisions to invest in other parts of the world.

This is a tax that will not help the environment. This is a tax that will not make Australia prosperous. This is a tax that will not do things for Australian families. This is a tax that will destroy Australian jobs. This is a tax that will hurt Australians, and it should be rejected by all Australians. (Time expired)