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Tuesday, 5 July 2011
Page: 4062

Senator WILLIAMS (New South WalesNationals Whip in the Senate) (17:36): I rise to speak on the matter proposed for discussion by the coalition to the Senate today concerning the cost of living. Remember, prior to the 2007 election, that Mr Rudd said, 'I will put downward pressure on grocery costs,' just like he said, 'I will put downward pressure on fuel prices.' So we had Fuelwatch—about $13 million was wasted on that—and GroceryWatch. And, of course, the big cost to everyone is the interest rates that they have to pay on their home loans. There have been seven interest rate rises. Why? Because the government is stimulating the economy to the outrageous extent of borrowing money and spending it. We know about the waste of the programs: the pink batts program, Building the Education Revolution and Green Loans—what a farce the green loans were. So what is the biggest concern of the average Australian family, out there, working, today? The cost on their home loan. Seven interest rate rises—the next thing you know, we will be heading back to the days of the Keating administration, when Mr Keating was federal Treasurer and we were paying 25.25 per cent interest. Those were scary days. But the cost of living is going to go up because now we have a price on carbon being introduced. That is despite the promise which all of Australia has heard, time and time again: 'There will be no carbon tax under the government I lead.' That was the famous statement made by the Prime Minister. It was, of course, supported by the Deputy Prime Minister and federal Treasurer, Mr Swan. He said words to the effect, 'These are hysterical claims by the coalition,' during the election campaign, 'that somehow if we win government we will bring in a carbon tax.'

Well, the opposition at the time, the coalition, was correct—because now, this Sunday, we will get the details. We cannot get them this week while parliament is sitting! No, do not be scrutinised by the parliament! Wait until the long winter break when we all leave Canberra, and bring it out on Sunday! It must be all summarised; we are getting all the nice things about it, like no increase in the price of petrol. What about the diesel for the truckies? As I said earlier on in my speech today in this very chamber, in many, many country towns we do not have rail; everything comes in by road. If the price of diesel goes up for the truckies, the price of freight goes up for everything going into the towns: groceries, food, clothes, hardware—you name it; all of them will go up in price. That is another addition to the cost of living. And for what?

I must make this point: Senator Carol Brown, in speaking earlier on, said our policy, the direct action policy, is going to cost so much money. That is simply wrong. To get farmers to increase the carbon in our soil will cost virtually nothing because they are saving on the cost of fertiliser—$1,200 a tonne for DAP at the moment. That is where the saving is. More carbon, less fertiliser—that is the incentive for farmers to increase their carbon.

Senator Carol Brown interjecting

Senator WILLIAMS: I will run you through it, if you like, Senator Brown. Simply balance the magnesium and calcium in your soil, increase your microbe population and let nature do its job. And, for every one per cent by which you increase soil carbon, that is 50 tonnes of CO2into the soil. Do that over the 450 million hectares of Australia's agricultural land by three per cent and you 100 per cent neutralise—not five per cent; 100 per cent neutralise—Australia 's emissions for more than 100 years. But, no; we want to go down the road of this $10 billion or in $11 billion tax—or whatever the figure is going to be; they will not tell us, Mr Acting Deputy President Ludlam. We will find out on Sunday when we are out of this place.

Compare that to Europe with its emissions trading scheme. Thirty countries in total are in the emissions trading scheme in Europe. Those 30 countries between them produce 14 per cent of the world's greenhouse gases—10 times more than Australia, which produces 1.4 per cent. Those 30 countries combined in Europe produce 14 per cent. And what is the total cost of their emissions trading scheme? Five hundred million dollars a year over 5½ years. Compare that to Australia: $10 billion a year? If we get a $20 tax it is going to be $10 billion plus.

So we are going to tax 20 times more in Australia for 1.4 per cent of emissions, compared to those 30 countries in Europe that produce 14 per cent of emissions. Is that fair? Of course it is not fair. Then we will see it: if these businesses do not get financial relief, we will see them pack up and move overseas—the cement industry, the brick industry, the aluminium industry, the steel industry. We all know the cost of production in Australia and we know what will happen: they will be moved overseas.

And make no mistake about it: the carbon tax will add to the cost of living, as Professor Ross Garnaut, the climate change expert, said. The climate change expert—I do not know what he read; I mean, he is not a scientist himself, but he is such an expert on the climate! He is an economist, but he is a scientific expert! He is such an expert, he ran the idea past us that we should do away with our ruminants. Well, the government is already trying to do away with the cattle industry. We have seen the actions of the last two weeks that have now driven the price of cattle down 30c a kilo live-weight in every market in Australia; $120 to $150 a head. And tomorrow they start shooting cattle in Western Australia, which is an absolute disgrace. It brings back memories for me of the early nineties when I had to shoot 1,000 sheep, and it is not good fun, I can tell you. But that is now what is happening and this is what we are up against. So the idea was: do away with the cattle, and run—kangaroos! Yes, that is Professor Garnaut's idea. I can just imagine it out there: forget your kelpies and your border collie sheepdogs—bring the greyhounds out to muster the kangaroos! What you do with them then, when you get them in a corner—I know what we used to do with them when we got them in a corner, but I won't repeat that here! Then we will process that, because the kangaroos are not ruminants. That is simply outrageous.

So to get back to the argument on the cost of living: let us take Qantas. What will Qantas do? They are not a small business, so they will not get exemption on fuel, going by what has been leaked to the media. Qantas will pass on the cost of the carbon tax to its passengers, the airline's CEO, Alan Joyce, says. Mr Joyce says that a carbon price of between $20 a tonne and $30 a tonne would cost the company an estimated $100 million a year and passengers about $6 on domestic flights. We cannot digest the full cost, he says. That is the point. You are going to tax the so-called polluters. Of course they are going to hand that on.

The Australian Trucking Association—what do they say? Two point six per cent of Australia's greenhouse gas emissions come from heavy vehicles. Every $10 carbon tax will add 2.7c a litre to the price of diesel. So, for each $25 of carbon tax, the price of diesel will increase by 6.75c per litre. Of course, the Greens will want to get more as far as dollars in the tax go. The beef industry is already suffering from the absolute mess this government has made of it and the total knee-jerk reaction of dropping the guillotine down on the whole export industry. The Cattle Council says that beef producers can expect to pay an extra $7,000 a year if fuel use in agriculture is hit with a carbon tax. The Cattle Council says that under a carbon tax price of $35 a tonne—and, remember, the Greens will be happy to see it at $100 a tonne—the average Australian beef producer would lose 11.7 per cent of their net farm income five years after the introduction of a carbon tax. This is just another slug for the beef industry, which employs over 120,000 people a year and contributes $7 billion annually to the economy.

What is going to happen to the brick industry and the cement industry? Brickworks Limited is a major manufacturer and employer in the building industry, operating 31 manufacturing sites nationally and employing around 1,500 people. They have already voluntarily reduced their CO2 emissions by 30 per cent, but they believe they will be facing a combined income carbon tax of initially 45 per cent, climbing to 60 per cent. Several of their sites will become unsustainable and result in the loss of many jobs.

Whether or not we get this tax, which will add to the cost of living in Australia as Professor Garnaut has said, will come down to the votes of two Independents. The families will pay. It will come down to the Independent member for Lyne and the Independent member for New England. I suggest that Mr Oakeshott and Mr Windsor actually survey their electorates. We just had the results this week of Mr Windsor's survey of his electorate on same-sex marriage and various other issues. It was on everything but the carbon tax: taxes, euthanasia—you name it. But not the carbon tax. He claims he is the people's representative. Well, come Sunday, when the details are released, I look forward to surveying the seats of New England and Lyne and seeing what the people think.

Then, I will forward those results on to Mr Windsor, and we will actually see if he is the people's representative. He attacked us back in 2003, saying that there is nothing wrong with going along with what the people think; we are there to represent the people. Well, Mr Windsor, we will see, because I know from the literally hundreds of people I have spoken to, and the emails and the correspondence, that the people of New England are furious with this whole idea. They are absolutely furious, because they know it will do nothing for the economy as far as creating jobs, it will cost them a fortune and it will do absolutely nothing for the environment. We look forward to those surveys.