Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Wednesday, 14 September 2011
Page: 10014

Mr IAN MACFARLANE (Groom) (10:16): I rise today to speak on the Clean Energy Bill 2011 and related legislation, the Gillard government's latest euphemism for its economy-destroying carbon tax. There is no more significant an issue confronting this parliament at the moment, but not for the reasons the government attempts to fob off on an electorate that is increasingly incredulous that its government is going out of its way to put economic restraints and growth shackles in place that will cost Australians jobs.

This is a tax which will destroy Australia's competitive advantage. It will place layer upon layer of costs and red tape on some of our most important and productive industries, from those in the resources sector to those in the manufacturing sector, which are already doing it tough. This tax will drive up the cost of electricity to every home and business in Australia. Every home and business in Australia will pay more because of this tax. It is a tax that will create uncertainty for electricity generators because it will cause substantial devaluation of their assets. It is a tax based on a lie.

I listened carefully to the previous speaker as he waxed lyrical about what people want from a carbon tax. He just forgot to mention that this government did not have the guts to actually say to the electorate in the lead-up to the last election, 'Oh yes, by the way, we will introduce a carbon tax because that is what you want.' In fact, they went out of their way to deny that they would introduce a carbon tax. Particularly the Prime Minister and the Treasurer explicitly ruled out a carbon tax, to the point where the Prime Minister of Australia said, in her own words, 'There will be no carbon tax under the government I lead.' Fast forward to a year later and here we are debating the most job-destroying piece of legislation I have seen in my 13 years in politics and in probably my 56 years of life.

I have never seen a government so desperate to stay in power, so desperate to hang on to the blue carpet and the letter that they are prepared to destroy Australia just to sit on that side of the chamber because that is what the Greens in the other chamber tell them to do. This is a disgrace which every Australian will pay for in jobs, income and standard of living. Are we so blind in Australia that we cannot see that for everywhere else in the world being competitive, being able to export your goods at a competitive price and being able to maintain your standard of living are the key issues? Virtually every other nation in the world would love to be in Australia's position and this government is doing everything it can to put Australia in their position, to drag us backwards, to cost us jobs, to introduce a scheme that is going to have a devastating effect on Australia's future.

This policy has been built from the rubble of one of the most fundamental breaches of trust with the Australian people after the Prime Minister went back on her key words, 'There will be no carbon tax under the government I lead.' How can she stand at the dispatch box and say this is good for Australia? If she were so sure of that, why did she not have the guts to say it before the people voted so that people at least had a chance to give her their view?

Australians will pay with higher electricity bills because the Labor government either does not care about the living cost pressures or is in so deep with its Green alliance that it has no option but to ignore the cost of living pressures that this tax will put on Australians. I do not buy that each and every member on the other side of this House can rest easily with this approach. I know the Labor Party, I know how tribal they are, but most of all what I know about this government is that they are desperate to stay on that side of the House and not face the people. So I say there are members on that side who need to muster up their courage when this comes to a vote and vote as their constituents want them to vote—against this tax.

I know what my constituents want. I meet with my constituents regularly, in formal meetings or with a quick chat on the street when I am off to get a cup of coffee, and I read their hundreds, if not thousands, of emails. I cannot believe that those on the other side can so brazenly turn their backs on their constituents, without even the smallest of whimpers or a twinge of unease. I cannot accept that members from regional areas in the Labor Party in particular are prepared to sell out their constituents so greatly, when we all know that it is regional Australia that will bear the brunt of this tax.

Since the $23 a tonne carbon tax was announced and the details finally put on the table, after months of policy vacuum, there has been substantial debate about how the carbon tax will affect households and families. But an equally pressing issue is how it will impact on Australia's energy supply and energy security. The answer does not inspire any confidence at all. No matter what the Prime Minister or the Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency say to coal companies, the objective of the Gillard government's carbon tax and carbon abatement policy is to reduce Australia's reliance on coal and cut jobs in Australia's coal industry.

This has implications in particular for Queensland workers and Queensland coal communities, which will suffer a significant downturn if the steaming coal industry is scaled back. Of course, that will have a knock-on effect to the cost and reliability of the electricity supply in Australia because, quite simply, electricity will become more expensive. The coalition believes there is a better way to reduce Australia's greenhouse gas emissions, without crippling Australia's economy, costing us jobs and lowering our standard of living. One of the key components of the Gillard government's carbon tax is the $5.5 billion compensation package for electricity generators. Yet nearly all that money will go to Victoria and South Australia, and the generators in New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia will get no compensation at all.

The O'Farrell government in New South Wales have stated that the cost to that state alone will be in the vicinity of $5 billion, and the reality is that that loss in Queensland—although the Queensland Labor Premier, Anna Bligh, has not come out with a complete figure—would have to be close to that same figure, $5 billion. Even the figure she has given, $1.7 billion, is still a substantial amount of money. No matter how the Queensland government tries to downplay it, there is clear evidence from two reports released last month that Queensland will be hit hardest by this carbon tax.

It has been interesting to watch Premier Anna Bligh try to take two bob each way. She is a good enough politician to know what this is going to do to Queensland. She knows, as she travels around Queensland, what people are saying, but she is trying to support a Prime Minister who is in desperate trouble and desperately trying to appease her alliance partners, the Greens. Anna Bligh knows that in an economy so dependent on energy and resource industries, like Queensland, the Treasury modelling says that the state's gross product will be 3.5 per cent lower because of this tax by 2049-50. Another report, from Deloitte, shows that, based on a carbon tax of $33 a tonne, economic growth will fall by 4.11 per cent by 2050. That is the impact on the economic growth, but of course the central feature of the carbon tax is that it will increase cost of living pressures and the cost of operating expenses for homes and business by forcing up the price of energy used in those homes and businesses.

The chief objective of a carbon price is to make activities that generate a lot of greenhouse gas emissions more expensive. The theory is that that will encourage a switch to alternative activities that generate fewer greenhouse gas emissions. But that switch is already happening. Households and businesses in Australia are doing everything they can to lower their energy footprint. Also, this tax is not big enough to actually cause a change in fuel use by electricity generators. As the Minister for Resources and Energy, who is sitting opposite me, knows, the price is something like $60 a tonne. Is that really the agenda of this government—to get in a small tax and then treble it? We have much to worry about as we look at what is going to happen under this government's proposed tax.

The fact remains that, whatever happens, there is going to be a change in Australia's electricity base, and in Australia's coal fired electricity base the change will be the greatest. By the government's own modelling, by 2050 coal fired electricity will contribute just 10 per cent of Australia's energy mix—down from 80 per cent. We know what that means. We know it means less coal being mined and it means fewer jobs. But, most of all, it means higher cost electricity. This is all pain and no gain. When the Greens, the Labor Party's alliance partners, demonise large industry and call them 'big polluters', they are actually talking about industries that quite literally power our economy, put electricity in our homes and employ tens of thousands of people.

I hear those opposite wax lyrical about clean, green jobs. Well, show me where they are, prove to me the sustainability of those jobs, and show me an example of an economy that has done that. How about we look at Spain—four to six jobs lost for every green energy job created. Is that what this bill is going to do to us? Is that the damage this carbon tax is going to wreak on Australia? I think so. This mirage, this petticoat, of green jobs that they keep trying to the hide behind, is not real. The jobs of building solar panels and wind turbines are going to go to those countries already dominating in that field, and, as we all know, Australia is not one of them—in fact, China is. While I mention China, we need to be mindful, of course, that China's emissions are going to rise by 496 per cent on their 1990 levels by 2020. The world changed at Copenhagen. To use the words of the previous Prime Minister, there was a fork in the road. The rest of the world went the way of common sense, maintaining their economies, keeping the cost of living down and keeping their industries competitive and Australia has gone this way—and this way ends up in oblivion. That fork in the road is what changed my view on whether or not we should have a carbon trading scheme now. I certainly never supported a carbon tax, but if we want to look at where we are now and where we are heading, while the rest of the world fights to keep their economies afloat we are blindly sailing off to the left by ourselves. There is no-one else in sight—no other country with a carbon trading scheme anything like the magnitude of this, no other country putting at risk its industries, no other country inflicting costs on households. Here we are, led by the Gillard-Brown government, sailing into oblivion as Australian industry is destroyed by this tax.

The coalition does have an alternative. As well as that alternative, there are numerous ways—smart ways—by which we could lower emissions, if we were really serious about lowering emissions by 150 million tonnes a year. Just get out of the way of the LNG industry and do everything we can to promote it so that it lifts its exports to 60 million tonnes. The offset in coal being burnt in Japan, China and Korea would more than amount to a global saving of 150 million tonnes. Let's employ new technology like what I saw yesterday, where municipal waste is no longer dumped in landfill but used to generate electricity and thus save the emissions of methane gas.

This has long been a spend-and-tax government. This tax is going to add to the tax list that they have compiled but in the process, unfortunately, will destroy Australia's future.