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Wednesday, 21 March 2012
Page: 2443

Carbon Pricing

Senator JOYCE (QueenslandLeader of The Nationals in the Senate) (14:13): My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, Senator Wong. I refer the minister to the report released by the Energy Users Association of Australia, which shows that Australians are paying some of the highest electricity prices in the world. Is the minister aware that a recent Galaxy poll showed that rising energy prices ranked as the No. 1 cost-of-living concern for Queenslanders? I remind the minister that Queensland also currently has the highest unemployment rate in mainland Australia. Why is the Labor government, in its various guises, adding to Queensland's concern over the cost of living and job security by introducing the world's biggest carbon tax, which, according to the Queensland government modelling—your own Labor Party modelling—will increase electricity prices by at least 10 per cent and cost 41,000 Queensland jobs?

Senator WONG (South AustraliaMinister for Finance and Deregulation) (14:14): The government are acutely aware of cost-of-living pressures on Australian families in Queensland and across Australia, which is why we have designed a carbon policy which is economically effective and which ensures that we deliver tax cuts, increases in family tax benefits and increases in pensions to enable Australian consumers to be provided with assistance. If the senator does care so much about families, he should explain why his leader's blood-oath pledge to roll back the carbon price would need to be accompanied by an increase in taxation for working people and a reduction in pensions. Those opposite cannot afford the sort of tax reform and tax relief we are providing. If the senator cares so much about Queensland, he should explain to all Queenslanders who will benefit from increased superannuation and those low-income Australians and low-income Queenslanders who will benefit from the tax breaks for low-income earners in superannuation why he is opposed to those benefits. He should explain to Queensland's small businesses why he is opposed to tax cuts for small business.

The senator can come in here and seek to run an aspect of the Queensland state election campaign in the Senate chamber. But the real issue is why Senator Joyce believes that small business should pay more tax, why he believes Australians earning under $80,000 should pay more tax and why he believes Australian pensioners should get less. All of those measures are measures a Labor government is implementing that he and his leader are pledging to pull back.

Senator JOYCE (QueenslandLeader of The Nationals in the Senate) (14:16): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I refer the minister to the fact that Queenslanders have had an average $700 added to their household power bills despite Labor's promise that nobody would be worse off under the Bligh government's electricity privatisation. Given that the carbon tax will increase the power bills of Queenslanders by an additional 10 per cent, can the minister explain how a big increase in electricity prices in Queensland, which is not matched anywhere else in the world, will provide any specific environmental benefit to Queenslanders apart from making them stone motherless broke?

Senator WONG (South AustraliaMinister for Finance and Deregulation) (14:17): If the senator wants to discuss privatisation, he can have a chat to his neighbour Senator Bernardi and Senator Bernardi can talk to him about the privatisation of electricity in South Australia under a Liberal state government. Since that time we have seen significant increases in electricity prices not connected with the carbon price. If the senator is concerned about the impost on Australian families, could he please explain why he supports a policy which will require additional tax of $1,300 a year being paid by Australian households? There will be $1,300 a year more tax from households across this country, including Queensland, to pay for Senator Joyce's policy, which is a policy that everybody knows will not work, will be expensive and needs taxpayer funding to be delivered. Why has Senator Joyce signed up to Mr Hunt's crazy policy, which requires more tax being paid by the people who sent Senator Joyce here?

Senator JOYCE (QueenslandLeader of The Nationals in the Senate) (14:18): Mr President, it is interesting that I am being asked questions, rather than getting answers.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Joyce, come to the question.

Senator JOYCE: I ask a further supplementary question. I refer the minister to the government's carbon tax modelling, which shows that high electricity prices will cut economic growth in Queensland disproportionately compared to other states. Given Queensland's reliance on coal fired power stations and heavy industry, particularly in the Mackay, Rockhampton and Gladstone areas, does the minister dispute that the carbon tax will hit Queensland the hardest?

Senator WONG (South AustraliaMinister for Finance and Deregulation) (14:18): The federal Treasury modelling showed we could grow the Australian economy and we could increase incomes and jobs. I am advised that the modelling projects the economy of Queensland to grow by 42 per cent to 2020 alone and by 212 per cent by 2050, with employment also increasing by around 460,000 jobs by 2020—with a carbon price. The modelling shows that Queensland maintains strong growth under a carbon price, with mining, construction and services growing by many multiples out to 2050.

The facts get in the way of the fear campaign yet again. The thing that Senator Joyce can never explain and no-one on that side can ever explain is why they are going to whack households with more tax and somehow $1,300 more tax will be good for the economy. Why is it that the senator continues to oppose sensible tax cuts for small business?