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Thursday, 1 March 2012
Page: 1461


Senator IAN MACDONALD (Queensland) (18:37): I rise to speak on the motion that the Senate take note of the Senate Select Committee on Scrutiny of New Taxes interim report, which is very appropriately titled The carbon tax: economic pain for no environmental gain. In speaking to this, I might say, excellent report, I again emphasise the title of that report, which really, as far as the carbon tax goes, says it all. We recognise in Australia that the tax will bring no economic benefit and certainly no environmental benefit but will cause considerable pain to all Australians. At the last election, nearly every politician standing for election had that same view: no environmental gain but a lot of economic pain if you bring it in. That is why 90 per cent of the candidates standing at the last election promised that there would be no carbon tax. Indeed, it was a commitment made by Mr Tony Abbott, the leader of the Liberal-National Party. He committed that there would be no carbon tax, but so also did Ms Gillard, the leader of the Labor Party, who, with hand on heart, told Australians, 'There will be no carbon tax under the government I lead.' Here we are, a year or so after that solemn promise was made, and we find that there has passed through this parliament, at the initiation of Ms Gillard, just that carbon tax which she promised not to introduce under her government. It makes me and the people of my state of Queensland wonder: can you trust anything that a Labor Party politician tells you?

This report that we are discussing today sets out clearly the difficulties that all Australians, but particularly Australians living in a state like Queensland, will suffer. It is the sort of tax that I would have hoped that my government in Queensland would have been strongly opposed to. As this report mentions, there is an enormous upswelling of opposition to a carbon tax right throughout Australia. Indeed, in my state of Queensland Mr Campbell Newman, the leader of the Liberal National Party in that state, has promised to do what he can to ensure that this tax burden is not imposed on Queenslanders should he be successful in the Queensland election on 24 March. What Mr Campbell Newman—if I may give him his better known title, 'Can Do' Campbell Newman—is saying to the people of Queensland is, 'I am going to stand up for your rights. I know you don't want a carbon tax. I know that you think it will impact upon mining and manufacturing in my state of Queensland. I know, Queenslanders, that you understand what the carbon tax is going to do to the tourism industry in Queensland'. For anyone like Senator McLucas or me who lives a long way from the capital city, any goods we get come on big transports, and the extra cost of fuel and electricity is just going to add and add and add to the costs of living of all Queenslanders, but particularly those living outside the capital city.

Senator McLucas: Including those in Bowen? Is Bowen north of Townsville or south of Townsville?

Senator IAN MACDONALD: I do not quite understand the interjection, Senator McLucas, but—

Senator McLucas: 'Can Do' doesn't know. He doesn't know where Bowen is.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Senator McLucas says I do not know where Bowen is. I happen to live 100 kilometres north of Bowen, and in my lifetime I have been to Bowen many, many times. But I know Mr Newman has been in Bowen with Mrs Rosemary Menkens, the Liberal National Party member for Burdekin in the state parliament, whose electorate includes Bowen. He has been there a number of times, and he sees the opportunity for the people of Bowen and for the people of the Bowen Basin coalfield in expansion of our mining activities in a sustainable way.

But what does Ms Gillard want to do? It is pointed out very clearly in this select committee report that we are discussing tonight that these taxes will severely impact on the jobs, livelihoods and futures of many Queenslanders in the coalmining industry—and, in fact, in all the industries that spawn off the mining industry in Queensland. So I am delighted that there is a leader in Queensland like 'Can Do' Campbell Newman who is committed to doing what he can to stop Queenslanders being burdened with this insidious tax, which will just add to our costs of living. I would have hoped that our Premier, Ms Bligh—well, our Premier at the moment—might have done something to help Queenslanders. I would have hoped that she might have understood the importance of the mining industry, the transport industry and the tourism industry to our state of Queensland. But, alas, no: Ms Bligh did not seem to care when it came to people's jobs and the livelihood of all of those small businesses who rely on the mining industry and the mining support industries.

This report that we are discussing clearly shows the economic pain that we will suffer in Queensland, and it is a good report. I recommend it to anyone who has an interest. We Queenslanders are fairly responsible people. If we thought that this new tax that is going to cost all of us more was going to make one iota of difference to the environment of the world or the changing climate of the world then perhaps we would not be so violently opposed to it. But we know that, even on the federal government's own figures, it is not going to make one iota of difference. Australia emits less than 1.4 per cent of carbon emissions in the world. If we do as Ms Gillard seems to want to do—although her own figures show that she will not cut emissions by five per cent by 2020—what will five per cent of 1.4 per cent do when China, India, the United States and Russia are effectively doing nothing about reducing emissions? That is why the title of the report that we are discussing is so good. It encompasses in one line what it is all about: all economic pain; no environmental gain.

I would have expected that my Premier would have done something about it. But, no, perhaps it was because she was at the time the Federal President of the Labor Party. I do not know what the reason was, but certainly, if she had an ear to what her constituents in Queensland were saying, she would have fought tooth and nail against this insidious tax. I hope Queenslanders will understand on 24 March that, whilst the Queensland government cannot set aside this tax—because it is a Commonwealth tax—the Queensland government could certainly join other state governments in doing what they can to minimise and militate against it and perhaps by some means that they might have at their disposal make sure that this tax does not come to impose an economic burden on my state, on the businesses and industry in my state and, most importantly, on the people who live in our state.

We are burdened with taxes. When Ms Bligh came to power after promising that she would not in any way amend the 8c a litre subsidy all Queenslanders were getting on the petrol, the minute she got into power last time—a bit like Ms Gillard—her word meant nothing and the subsidy was taken off and the cost of petrol for Queenslanders went up by 8c. I hope on 24 March Queenslanders will say to Ms Bligh 'enough is enough'.

Question agreed to.