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
Monday, 7 November 2011
Page: 8294

Senator CORMANN (Western Australia) (12:27): The minister is clearly not prepared to explain the policy rationale, and so I might leave that there. But let me just make this observation. Macquarie Genera­tion is at the top of the government's carbon tax hit list, not because it is more polluting than anybody else, not because it has a higher emissions intensity than anybody else but because of the volume of electricity that it generates. It is generating electricity in a way that is more environmentally efficient than a number of other electricity generators. It is generating that electricity in a less emissions-intensive way, and yet this government is going to hit this company with a $540 million tax in year one, going up year after year after year, for its efforts.

If you want to do well under this government, you have to make sure that you are more polluting, not less. If you want get the handouts from this government under the merry-go-round of the carbon tax, you have to be a more emissions-intensive electricity generator. If you are an electricity generator that has lower emissions intensity, you will be punished. The reason you will be punished is that you are so successful in providing a large volume of electricity, even though you are providing that large volume of electricity at a lower emissions intensity than other providers in the market. That is just ridiculous. When we asked the minister to give us an explanation as to why that is the case and why the government thinks that is a good way to go about things, all she said was, 'Well, that is our advice.' Okay. But why? The minister's answer is: 'That is our advice; we're not going to give you an explanation as to why we think that we should hit Macquarie Generation with a $540 million tax without transitional assistance whatsoever. You're just the Australian parliament; you're just the Senate. Who cares about giving any explanation to the Senate as to why that is a good idea? Who cares about the impact that's going to have on consumers in New South Wales?'

Here we have Senator Thistlethwaite sitting in the chamber saying that this is a great idea. And this government is about to whack—

Senator Thistlethwaite: It is.

Senator CORMANN: At least you are consistent, Senator Thistlethwaite. Many of your colleagues on the Labor side are not. Many of them understand that this is completely ridiculous.

Senator Thistlethwaite: At least I have not changed my view on an emissions trading scheme.

Senator CORMANN: You have not. Here we go: a $540 million tax with zero transitional assistance. And why? Because their emissions intensity is too low. So, because their emissions intensity is too low, they will not be getting any transitional assistance. And, despite their emissions intensity being too low, they are still top of the list. They are still top of the carbon tax chart. They are still the number one 'polluter'—that is how the Prime Minister talks about them. The Prime Minister talks about 500 polluters. The number one polluter—in the language of the Prime Minister—is Macquarie Generation. They are the top of the charts. They are going to be number one on Labor's carbon tax hit list, paying $540 million of tax with zero transitional assistance. Now we are told that the reason they are getting zero transitional assistance is that they are too environ­mentally efficient. If they were less environmentally efficient—if their carbon intensity were higher—we are told that the Gillard Labor government would be providing them with assistance. Instead, they are going to face the full brunt. And electricity consumers in New South Wales will face the full brunt of this, Senator Thistlethwaite, either as consumers or as taxpayers in the state of New South Wales.

When we ask the government to provide an explanation as to why that is sensible policy, they cannot tell us that. All the minister glibly says is, 'I refer to my previous answer.' And the previous answer was a nonanswer; the previous answer was a description of what is in the legislation, not an explanation as to why. Then we had the glib comment that that is the expert advice. Minister, you should be prepared to tell us in your own words—in the government's own words—as to why you think it appropriate for zero transitional assistance to go to a power generator that is responsible for 40 per cent of the energy supply of New South Wales and that is going to be hit with a $540 million tax. I am not holding my breath. I suspect that you have not got an answer to that.

Quite frankly, Minister, this is just another example that demonstrates the absolutely ludicrous nature of this carbon tax, which will push up the cost of everything, make Australia less competitive internationally, make more polluting businesses in other parts of the world more competitive and help more polluting businesses in places like China take market share away from busi­nesses in Australia. That in turn will shift emissions from Australia to other parts of the world, which will cost jobs in Australia and result in lower real wages. Prices will go up. That will result in Australia having a smaller economy than we otherwise would have had. And all of that without doing anything to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions. We are imposing all of this cost and sacrifice on all Australians, including electricity consu­mers in New South Wales, for no purpose whatsoever. And you are not even prepared to provide a proper explanation in the chamber of the rationale for it.