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Thursday, 18 August 2011
Page: 8611


Mr TRUSS (Wide BayLeader of The Nationals) (15:30): When the Prime Minister announced Labor's big carbon tax, she said she was going to wear out the shoe leather crossing the country to explain it to the Australian people. Well, it only took a few days and she has given it away. She did not have to dig too deep into Imelda Marcos's collection of shoes; I suspect the only pair she wore is still good to go to the ball. She is running away. She could not explain the carbon tax to the ordinary Australian people, and she has been unable to explain it to the Australian people in the parliament today. She could not explain how an $83 compensation payment would keep the Central Queensland helicopter service in the air when their extra bills were $20,000. She could not explain yesterday why someone with a factory had to pay a half a million dollars to buy permits for just one tonne of extra CO2 emissions. She could not explain why she has a tax that is going to raise $30 billion over three years and yet end up with a $7 billion deficit arising from it, including $2.9 billion this year before the tax has even started. This is the calibre of this tax. This is the calibre of this government and the way in which it has endeavoured to sell this policy.

Labor's proposed carbon tax is a veritable birthday cake full of anomalies and contradictions. It is a carbon tax that looks like the camel designed by the committee that it is. There is a piece in it for everybody but it in fact delivers nothing for the Australian people. Labor says that the tax is designed to increase the cost of the things that we do so we will do them less and therefore we will save carbon dioxide emissions. Yet it then turns around and says, 'We'll pay compensation to people so that they won't be hurt by the changes.' So why, therefore, should they change their behaviour? The basic philosophy of this tax is flawed. It cannot possibly work to reduce CO2 emissions, because it seeks to compensate for the penalties that might be incurred by ordinary householders. But it certainly does not compensate Australians who are going to lose their jobs.

Indeed, the document the government sent out to everybody explaining the carbon price—because the Prime Minister had not been able to do it one-to-one, she spent taxpayers' money to send out this document—makes it absolutely clear that jobs will be lost. It makes it absolutely clear that there will be damage to the Australian people. Indeed, in this 20-page document, only three pages are actually spent explaining the carbon tax. The whole of the rest of the document talks about compensation and what people are going to be paid. At the end of the line, it says 'On average, basically people will be 20c a week better off'—20c a week better off. A government that cannot get its billions right is suggesting that people should trust them when they say that they will be 20c a week better off.

Of course, the modelling was done on the wrong numbers. The modelling was done on $20 a tonne when the tax starts at $23 and goes up to $29, and then to $130 by 2050. The Australian people have been defrauded by this document because it simply does not tell the truth. Indeed, I am not sure that the government have all that much confidence in it either, because on page 3, right at the beginning and under the table of contents, it says:

The Commonwealth of Australia does not necessarily endorse the content of this publication.

So they have spent $4 million sending it out to the Australian people, but the government do not necessarily endorse the contents. How much confidence do they have in the scheme that they and their committee have designed?

This is a tax that is full of anomalies, and we are hearing about them day by day. A more efficient road network helps to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from trucks and motor vehicles, but the carbon tax will increase road construction costs by at least five per cent. That is going to add millions of dollars to the cost of completing the Pacific Highway and hundreds of millions of dollars to undertake the infrastructure projects that could actually achieve reductions in CO2 emissions That means many of these projects simply will not be built at all. Council rates will have to rise because the cost of building their roads, disposing of their garbage and doing all the sorts of things that councils are expected to do in their local communities will go up.

If Queensland sugar is shipped from Mackay to Melbourne, it will incur a carbon tax. But, if the sugar is imported from Thailand or Brazil, it will not, even though the carbon footprint for the Thai or Brazilian sugar and its transport costs will be very much higher. What kind of an incentive is that for Australian industry?

If you fly to Tasmania, Cairns or the Sunshine Coast for your holiday, you will pay a carbon tax. But if you go to Vanuatu, the USA or Fiji you will not. What kind of message does that send to Australia's struggling tourism industry? An airline in Asia will not pay the carbon tax, but an airline in Australia will. Is it any wonder that Qantas is looking to expand into Asia? No Asian country is proposing a carbon tax like this, but their operations in Australia will be taxed. Indeed, airline operators, particularly in regional communities, are very concerned about their capacity to continue those services. Rex have already identified eight routes that they believe they will not be able to continue once this tax is in place. The knock-on effect of the carbon tax will penalise everybody who wants to holiday in Australia. There will be higher taxes on top of a higher dollar. Now is most certainly not the time to impose this extra burden on tourism in Australia.

Let us turn to another area: motor vehicles. If you buy an imported car under Labor's tax you will not be paying the carbon tax, either on its manufacture or for the transport to Australia. But if you buy an Australian made Holden, Falcon or even a hybrid Toyota you will pay the tax. The car manufacturers have said the cost of building a car in Australia will go up on average by $400, a further disadvantage and a further difficulty in trying to keep the Australian car industry strong and viable.

The government says that it wants to reduce carbon emissions from motor vehicles. Indeed, in this booklet they say that the carbon tax will have the benefit of removing the equivalent of 45 million motor vehicles from the roads. Australia does not have 45 million motor vehicles; we only have 16 million. Where are the rest coming from? What roads are we taking them off? The government claim in the booklet that they sent to the Australian people that they are going to take 45 million vehicles off the roads—not Australian roads, because we only have 16 million vehicles. That is typical of the nonsense that this government is going on with. As we heard in question time today, if you take a bus, train or ferry to work you will pay a carbon tax on the fuel, but if you drive your own car to work you will not—except, of course, if it is an electric car. Then you will pay the tax. What is the sense in that? Are we really trying to reduce emissions or are we not? The New South Wales government has estimated that it will add $150 to the cost of public transport fares in that state.

If you buy New Zealand butter, canned Thai pineapples or Brazilian juice concentrate you will not pay a carbon tax, but if you buy a product of Australia you will. How much do we care about our own industry? The Australian Food and Grocery Council tells us to expect grocery bills to go up on average by five per cent.

One of the government's other great anomalies—a nonsense in their carbon tax, and very much the centrepiece—is their determination to close down Australia's coal fired power stations. Coal fired power stations have given this country a strategic advantage. Our low-cost electricity has enabled us to attract industry from around the world. But the government say 90 per cent of these stations have to close by 2050. The Greens will not let us use gas either, so somehow or another we have to find some other way to produce our electricity. Yet the government insist that coal exports are going to double between now and 2050. Those coal exports will go to other countries so that they can build more coal fired power stations. For some reason or other Australian coal fired power stations, some of the most efficient in the world, have to close because they are environmentally evil, but it is quite okay for China and India to build hundreds more coal fired power stations and use our very own coal. We are exporting our strategic advantage, hurting Australia and doing absolutely nothing for the environment. This policy makes absolutely no sense.

During the break, I visited the Sunstate Cement facility at the Port of Brisbane. Australia's cement production is a world leader in low greenhouse gas emissions. When you factor in transport, it delivers the lowest possible CO2 emissions for cement used in this country. It is a clean industry, but it is going to cop—as a result of this tax—direct emissions costs, higher electricity costs, higher fuel costs for shipping, higher fuel costs for heavy vehicle use. Its inputs are going to be more expensive. The lime industry faces a crisis. The Thais are already setting up facilities to export lime to Australia because high energy costs are involved in cement manufacture. None of our competitors will face these costs. Cement manufacture in Australia will eventually close, and we will then have to import our cement from countries like China where the emissions are at least 25 per cent higher than they are in this country. We will be destroying Australian jobs, but nothing will be delivered for the environment. Indeed, emissions will actually go up—there will be higher emissions—as a result of Labor's tax. None of this makes any sense whatsoever.

Tomorrow the state premiers are coming to Canberra to talk about the carbon tax. The New South Wales Premier, the Victorian Premier and the Western Australian Premier have made it absolutely clear that they are coming here to tell the Prime Minister that they do not want a carbon tax. They know it is going to cost jobs in their states and it is going to increase living costs for the people who live in their states. They know that state services are going to cost a lot more: $100 million extra to run the hospitals, $57 extra in electricity costs for every student in their schools, a five per cent increase in road building costs, $150 extra for transport costs. They know the carbon tax is bad for this country.

It will be very interesting to hear what the Labor premiers say when they come to Canberra tomorrow. The Tasmanian Labor Premier, Lara Giddings, said on 7 March:

You'd have your head in the sand to say there aren't going to be cost-of-living increases … That's not fair.'

Now is the chance for the Tasmanian Premier to stand up for Tasmanians. She knows this tax is unfair. She must say it tomorrow and join the premiers of New South Wales, Victoria and Western Australia in opposing this tax. The Northern Territory Labor government passed a resolution through the parliament on 4 May calling on:

… the Australian government to exempt the Northern Territory from the proposed carbon emissions taxes for at least 50 years …

When the Northern Territory Chief Minister comes to Canberra he must tell the Prime Minister that this tax is no good for Territorians. They want to be exempt for 50 years.

What is the Queensland Premier going to say? She made it clear on 22 May that she was going to look at the detail and make a decision about what is best for Queensland. What is best for Queensland? This tax hurts Queenslanders, pro rata, more than any other state. They will lose $250 billion worth of income. It is Queensland where the coalmines will be most affected. It is Queensland that has a large part of the manufacturing and minerals processing sector. Queensland will be badly hurt as a result of this tax. The Queensland Treasurer is demanding $1.7 billion worth of compensation for their power stations alone. This is the opportunity for the Queensland Premier to stand up for Queensland—not just to mouth the Labor rhetoric and run the Prime Minister's empty lines, not to get into her unworn-out shoes but to actually do something constructive for Queensland.

But there is another premier that I would like to quote—a former premier. The former New South Wales Labor Premier Morris Iemma, when he commented on this carbon tax, said:

... it won't change the world, but it could change the government.

Let's hope it changes the government, and changes it quickly, to save our country from this insidious tax which will cost jobs and do nothing for the environment.