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Thursday, 29 October 2009
Page: 11522

Mrs HULL (1:20 PM) —It would be interesting to do a tally of Hansard to see how many times abuse has been hurled across the chamber at the Nationals for their policy beliefs and their principles. It sometimes confounds me, but I think it is because the Nationals and their views may be resonating in the heads of opposition members. Maybe they feel a prick of guilt that they are not espousing the same views or maybe it is that they are not game to espouse similar views. It never ceases to amaze me how Labor members come into this chamber to make derogatory remarks about the Nationals. It has been no different in this debate. I could certainly be accused today of trading a few insulting words of my own.

Make no mistake about it, our regional social fabric as we know it today will be forever changed by the intentions of this bill, the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Bill 2009 [No. 2], and related bills. This legislation will allow the CPRS contained in the bill to white-ant our economy. In fact, the bill before us bears a great resemblance to a nest of white ants. It will eat through the centre of susceptible structures and leave nothing but a thin veneer of what was once a functional, thriving and prosperous economy, with the spoils being enjoyed by the bankers, the traders and the world polluters who will enjoy our wealth transfer. In fact, when you think about white ants, you are drawn to thinking about the structure of a white ants’ nest which, oddly, resembles the structure of the Labor government in the debate on this bill: you have a king and queen and a host of wingless and blind worker ants who inflict enormous damage in a highly secretive manner. This is clearly what is happening here. This bill is highly secretive. It may as well have been written in cryptic code, because the effect has been very similar. One almost needs a decoder to understand the make-up of this bill, and it is obvious from listening to the many speakers in this House that even Labor members were not told how to crack the code so that they could understand it either.

This bill is designed to be complicated so that it enables this Labor government to commit a fraud on every Australian. Labor members of parliament are blindly following their leader in this wilful destruction. Perhaps I need to correct a little of that statement: I think some Labor members are following, but they are not blinded to the effect of this bill and of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s ETS, including his CPRS. We know who they are because, behind the closed doors and in whispers, they tell us of their concerns. But they obviously cannot raise their concerns within the Labor caucus for fear of being disendorsed and becoming another victim of this CPRS.

I say this bill attacks all Australians, and I make no apology for asserting that in this House. I was part of the process of implementing the GST. In the lead-up to the 1998 election it was well known by communities and voters that a GST would be imposed. I was running for election in that year and had to withstand the onslaught of angst about the introduction of a GST. And between my election in 1998 and 2000 it was extraordinary that I had to be in every shopping centre with a full shopping list of every single item on the shelves. That was what was being demanded of us as government members by Labor Party members. Members of Labor branches throughout our electorates demanded that we were able to tell every price of every single item that was on a grocery shelf, what tax it had on it at that time and what it would be after the introduction of the GST. There were copious amounts of information out there. There were so many fact sheets we could provide to the consumers to explain that tax to them. That was demanded, yet we have seen none of that associated with this bill.

This bill is none other than a secretive and deceptive new tax, and that is the truth. It must be recognised that this bill is a tax. The Nationals have been laughed at for saying that. There has been some sniggering occasionally here today, but I note that the Nationals have continually been laughed at and ridiculed in the House and in the public arena by Labor members and senators for raising this point. If you listened to those Labor members during their speeches you would think the Nationals are the only people living who have this view. Well, I decided that in my speech today I would quote from a few people who have a similar view to us. They actually are in the media. They are finally coming forward, so it is not only the Nationals who have this view. I will quote from an article in the Weekend Australian of 17 and 18 October 2009, just one week ago, by Terry McCrann. I want to quote this article because he talks about the tax that I have raised here. Terry McCrann says:

IMAGINE if John Howard and Peter Costello had proposed a GST with an indeterminate variable rate, with the “variation” left hostage to the manipulation of clever investment bankers and other main-chancers, and you might begin to understand “Kevin Rudd’s GST”—his Emissions Trading Scheme, or ETS.

“His GST?” If we get the ETS, it is going to add to the price of everything—not just power and not just carbon-based power in particular. On that point, it’s worth noting that it is specifically designed to increase the price of all power—quite deliberately, to make wind and solar power “competitive”. That’s to say we pay more for them, but they become “cheaper” than coal-based power.

Indeed, the ETS is intended to be, and will be, even more punitively pervasive than the GST. Because once we get past the early, politically driven, subsidies to hide its real impact and real cost, there will be no carve-outs, as is the case with the GST and fresh food and medical services. They will all become more expensive.

The pervasiveness and very significant impact on your everyday costs makes Rudd’s ETS the elephant in every living room. What will turn it into a dangerous, unpredictable rogue is the way it becomes hostage to market manipulation.

To return to the—real—GST, imagine if Howard and Costello had said we are going to have this tax on (almost) everything. Right, at what rate, would properly be the immediate response?

Sorry, we can’t tell you that—the rate will be left to the market. But we can guarantee it will be 10 per cent for the first year—after that you’re on your own. Sorry, what we meant to say, was that after that the market will determine it in its usual at the fair and efficient way.

The author goes on to say:

Yet that is exactly what’s proposed with Rudd’s ETS. That it comes with a “variable rate”. Worse, not simply “variable” by politicians—who, sure, I don’t trust but are at least accountable and punishable. But “variable” and by “the market”. And not just the market in some broad, not too threatening, way, but clever speculators and manipulators.

In fact, he goes on to say:

Don’t believe me? I quote from the last budget papers: “The government will commence the scheme on 1 July 2011, with a fixed carbon price of $10 during 2011-12, and the carbon price determined by the market from 1 July, 2012.”

Now, in the first year, the budget estimates that the ETS—officially called, as Rudd’s “Big Lie”, the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme—will raise $1.9 billion cash at that $10. Again, as everything to do with this is a cacophony of liars, small as well as big, the ETS/CPRS is not a price on carbon but on carbon dioxide.

He goes on:

Year two is where it gets interesting. The budget estimates that when “the market” takes over, the ETS take will leap to $11.5bn on a cash basis and just shy of $13bn on an accrual basis.

In that 2012-13 year—the last “outest” year of budget estimates—the GST itself is estimated to raise just under $50bn on a cash basis and just under $52bn on an accrual basis.

Any accounting way you carve the numbers, the ETS is equivalent to a 25 per cent increase in the GST … In the first fully operational year …

I could go on further but I make my point: this is a tax. What will we be seeing? Will we be seeing a difference in world emissions? No, we will not. There will be huge differences for Australians because they will be taxed heavily so that countries such as India, China and others can emit more and Australians’ hard-earned wealth can be distributed across the world.

There will be laughter from across the chamber, I am sure, at these words. But, believe me, we are entering dangerous waters. Who will be the banker? I believe that we will have the world’s biggest cartel. It will be more powerful than anything we have seen before. I was so pleased to see another journalist doing some research on this issue of who will be the banker. Janet Albrechtsen has done what other journalists were too lazy to do, or maybe they were too intimidated. On 28 October 2009, in an article in the Australian entitled ‘Beware the UN’s Copenhagen Plot’, the journalist demonstrated enormous bravery in raising the lack of detail on the Copenhagen meeting, and her work on the draft treaty is absolutely commendable. She has covered the intentions to control the once-free markets—namely, the financial and trading markets. The journalist explains more comprehensively what I call ‘the cartel’ within her article. She starts by saying:

SHAME on us all: on us in the media and on our politicians. Despite thousands of news reports, interviews, analyses, critiques and commentaries from journalists, what has the inquiring, intellectually sceptical media told us about the potential details of a Copenhagen treaty? And despite countless speeches, addresses, interviews, doorstops, moralising sermons from government ministers, pleas from Canberra for an outcome at Copenhagen, opposition criticism of government policy, what have our elected representatives told us about the potential details of a Copenhagen treaty?

I think Senator Barnaby Joyce and the Nationals have been trying to raise this issue loudly and clearly for a long time. After her research into the draft treaty she really started to question it and says:

Clause after complicated clause sets out the requirement that developed countries such as Australia pay their “adaptation debt” to developing countries. Clause 33 on page 39 says that by 2020 the scale of financial flows to support adaptation in developing countries must be at least $US67 billion ($73bn), or in the range of $US70bn to $US140bn a year.

How developed countries will pay is far from clear. The draft text sets out various alternatives, including Option 7 on page 135, which provides for “a (global) levy of 2 per cent on international financial market (monetary) transactions to Annex I Parties”. This means industrialised countries such as Australia, if we sign.

The journalist goes on to say:

Ask yourself this: why has our government failed to explain the possible text of a treaty it wants Australia to sign? There has been no address from any Rudd minister to explain the draft treaty. No 3000-word essay from the thoughtful PM. No speech in parliament. No interview. No press release. Nothing.

Presumably the hard-working Climate Change Minister Penny Wong has read the 181-page draft text. Presumably our central control and command PM has been briefed about the draft text. In Germany a few months ago, Kevin Rudd complained about the lack of “detailed programmatic specificity” going into the Copenhagen talks. Yet the draft text provides much detailed specificity about obligations on developed nations to transfer millions of dollars to developing countries under formulas to be set down by an unelected body. So why the silence? Are they hiding the details of this deal from us because most of the polls now suggest that action on climate change is becoming politically unpalatable?

And what explains the media’s failure to report and analyse the only source document that offers any idea of what may happen in Copenhagen? Ignorance? Laziness? Stubborn adherence to the orthodox government line that a deal in Copenhagen is critical? An obsession with the politics of climate change rather than policy?

Labor members may choose to remain blind. They may speak of embracing science. I ask: what version of science should be embraced? There was a London Times article in the Australian dated 27 October 2009, which I will not have time to read. It dictated an extreme position that has evolved from the so-called science that Labor members are adhering to. The article quotes Lord Stern and says, ‘People will need to turn vegetarian if the world is to conquer climate change, according to a leading authority on global warming.’ It talks about methane from cows and pigs and the fact that we all have to become vegetarians. The article goes on to say of Lord Stern:

He predicted that people’s attitudes would evolve until meat eating became unacceptable.

…            …            …

He said that he was deeply concerned that popular opinion had so far failed to grasp the scale of the changes needed to address climate change, or of the importance of the UN meeting in Copenhagen from December 7 to December 18.

“I am not sure that people fully understand what we are talking about or the kind of changes that will necessary,’ he added.

I can tell you that people do not fully understand.

The Nationals have agreed to negotiations on this bill, for if this bill is to go through the Senate to be implemented then it most certainly should be given the chance to be improved. However, I stand behind the Nationals’ view and emphatically behind the Nationals’ position. You cannot make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. This legislation should be thrown out. It is failed and flawed, to use the words of the Prime Minister in an explanation of something that had gone wrong in his life in the past. I have tried to engage in this debate in a realist way and have even produced my own booklet, Carbon Conversation, and distributed it to everybody in my electorate with what I felt were balanced facts on what science tells us on the issues of carbon and so-called climate change. Even though I have held these forums, put this booklet out and tried to have a sensible, balanced view on this, I have been absolutely glued to the fact that this legislation should never be passed. It is not in the best interests of Australian agriculture and Australian regions, and certainly not in the interests of any Australian person.