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Tuesday, 20 March 2012
Page: 3520

Mr VAN MANEN (Forde) (16:25): I thank the member for Capricornia for her contribution to the matter of public importance this afternoon, but it just goes to the heart of the problem with this Labor government, and that is the fact that everything this Labor government does is entirely focused on the big end of town, the big corporate businesses in this country. Every single benefit from the minerals resource rent tax will accrue to the big corporations—and the member for Capricornia has just spent 10 minutes talking about it. It is the small to medium-sized businesses in our country communities and in our electorates that will suffer from the minerals resource rent tax.

Ms Roxon: Madam Deputy Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I am just asking for your assistance. I believe there is a standing order which does not allow irony.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Ms AE Burke ): The minister can resume her seat.

Mr Tudge: Mad am Deputy Speaker, I rise on a point of order.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The member can resume his seat to give the member for Forde the opportunity to speak on the MPI.

Mr Tudge: Madam Deputy Speaker, I have a point of order.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: I know the member for Aston wants to have a point of order, but he is going to eat into his own member's time, and I am not going to allow it.

Mr VAN MANEN: I thank the Attorney-General for her contribution, but we have had 4½ years of irony from this government, so today should not be any different.

The carbon tax is based on the false premise that in Australia, a country with 1½ per cent of global emissions, a tax on carbon dioxide—and let us bear in mind that this is a tax not on carbon but on carbon dioxide—is going to make one iota of difference to the global climate. That is the whole premise for the carbon tax in the first place. Now the question is: what damage is it going to do to our economy not only today or tomorrow but also for future generations?

Small business in this country, which I mentioned in my introduction, is going to pay 100 per cent of the costs of the carbon tax because big business will pass on its costs to small and medium-sized businesses. They are the ones that are going to suffer the higher energy costs, higher costs of raw materials and input items and higher costs of transport, and they are the ones that do not have the pricing capacity in our economy to handle those increased costs. What is the flow-on cost? The flow-on cost is that employees are potentially going to lose their jobs. That has a flow-on cost to our local communities because those people then do not have the capacity to spend in their local shops, cafes and newsagents. So it flows all the way down the line.

This is the problem with everything that the government bring to this House. It does not understand the unintended consequences of the legislation it passes. If it did, heaven forbid, it would still introduce ridiculous legislation like the carbon tax. Despite the government's best efforts to assure people all over this nation that the compensation will ease the pain of the new tax, Australian people well understand that the compensation will not cover the costs of the new tax due to the cascading effect of the tax. As the member for Ryan just pointed out, rightly, the tax will impact on every single area of our lives. The carbon tax is built on the deception that corrective taxation will deliver some sort of economic or societal nirvana, but this is a complete fallacy because there is no way that any modelling can take into account all of the external variations that could possibly exist in an economy. It is just not possible. The other thing about the compensation being offered is that only 50 per cent of the revenue being raised is going back to the community in compensation. So in reality people will be worse off as a result, despite government protests to the contrary. The hardworking people in our mineral- and resource-processing communities will often not be eligible for a lot of this compensation because of the incomes they currently receive. So, again, the wealth is being taken and redistributed elsewhere, preventing access to capital to grow and build those communities locally. We already hear many stories of people on high incomes in those communities who are struggling to make ends meet because of high rents and the high cost of living. This carbon tax will only punish some of the hardest-working people in Queensland, and mine workers and their families even more.

A recent report by Deloitte Access Economics for the Queensland government showed that the carbon tax will slash economic growth by 2.76 per cent by 2020 and by 4.11 per cent by 2050. In the same report, Deloitte predicts the loss of 21,000 jobs, while Queensland Treasury modelling predicts the slightly lesser amount of 12,000 jobs lost. The carbon tax will slash jobs in Queensland mining and mineral-processing communities because of the impact on small and medium-sized businesses. But fear not: whilst these jobs are being slashed they will be plentiful in the federal government. So if you are unemployed as a result of the carbon tax come down to Canberra and jump on board one of the new bureaucracies. There are plenty of jobs on offer. For example, the Clean Energy Regulator has engaged some 207 staff to date, with 350 expected to be on board by the 1 July carbon tax start date.

It is worth noting the paper recently put out by the European Central Bank entitled 'Economic productivity and government size'. The paper warns of the negative impact of the size of government on potential economic growth, so while the government continues to increase its size the rest of our country pays for it. It has always been thus because, at the end of the day, governments produce nothing. It is the hardworking people and small businesses in our community that produce the wealth for this nation and it is the government that takes a share of that wealth and redistributes it to its favourite sectors around the economy.

The carbon tax comes as an unwanted gift and will create enormous problems in all sectors. The Energy Supply Association of Australia recently confirmed that the carbon tax is not about the environment but about filling the government's coffers. The ESAA chief, Matthew Warren, wrote in his pre-budget submission:

The industry is deeply concerned that the design features of the carbon tax pricing mechanism are being influenced by budget revenue considerations.

Mr Warren makes the point that this should not be the case. In today's Australian Tim Wilson points out that the problem with the carbon tax is not just that it is set at $23 per tonne and that that is internationally high but that it is also broadly applied. That is not happening in other countries. The government needs to disclose more information on the carbon tax and on the big companies that will supposedly be affected by it.

Another fact that is overlooked is that the hardworking men and women in our small country towns, in our small businesses and throughout the nation are looking to create wealth and prosperity for this nation's future, yet all these increases in the cost of living are making that far more difficult. Even worse is the fact that we as a nation are net importers of capital and once this carbon tax comes into place we will be sending some $3 billion a year of our hard-earned wealth offshore to buy foreign carbon tax credits to meet the carbon tax reduction targets.

Somebody has to stand up for the future generations of people living in mining and mineral-processing towns before they get turned into ghost towns. Someone has to stand up for the people working in small and medium-sized businesses around this country. Small and medium-sized businesses, like many households, are struggling with the higher costs of doing business. At the end of the day we will finish up with a carbon tax, bigger government and no practical on-the-ground environmental solutions. It will be up to a coalition government to restore hope for the future, reward for effort and the opportunity to create a positive inheritance for future generations.