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Tuesday, 9 February 2010
Page: 887


Mrs BRONWYN BISHOP (7:28 PM) —I must say that I was rather disappointed when I listened to the member for Lyne, who I usually find a reasonable and sensible chap. Tonight I found his inability to distinguish between the two policies really quite astounding. Might I say to the member for Lyne: it does not sound any more true just because you yell. I think points can be made perfectly sensibly by simply arguing them in a moderate tone.

I point out to the House that there certainly has been a change in the climate. The climate has changed dramatically, away from support for Mr Rudd and his ilk. There is now a genuine debate taking place between two opposing points of view and two opposing plans to deal with what the member for Lyne calls ‘the science’. I always understood that the word ‘science’ meant knowledge, and that is knowledge in its current state, and there are myriad examples where the prevailing science of the time has had to change its mind because further knowledge has come before us. I guess we can say that, with the revelations of the way in which information has been manipulated by certain scientists of a particular persuasion and with other scientists who have a differing point of view now being heard as well, there is a genuine debate.

The thing that is important about the opposition’s plan is very simply that it offers direct action that will be of benefit to the nation in any event. Those people who like to argue, ‘Well, perhaps it is all correct; therefore, we must do something’ make a fair point, and that is precisely what the opposition’s direct action plan does. It makes improvements for Australia without crippling the nation. It does so without imposing a great new tax on everything, which the ETS or the CPRS—call it what you will; the Rudd plan to tax the Australian people—imposes.

If we go to some of the quotes that the Labor Party like to use to authenticate their position, we see that one of their favourites concerns former Prime Minister Howard, and they keep quoting the Shergold report. I think it is very important that I put on the record what Mr Howard had to say on 10 December 2006 when he appointed his Prime Ministerial Task Group on Emissions Trading. He said:

Australia is blessed with abundant coal, gas and uranium reserves and significant renewable assets. In assessing Australia’s further contribution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions these advantages must be preserved.

While there is no single solution to the global climate change challenge we need to maintain the prosperity our abundant fossil fuels have given us while at the same time exploring options for global climate change solutions and accelerating the development and deployment of low emissions and clean coal technologies.

The No. 1 point in the terms of reference he established was:

… that Australia enjoys major competitive advantages through the possession of large reserves of fossil fuels and uranium. In assessing Australia’s further contribution to reducing greenhouse emissions these advantages must be preserved.

In other words he was expressing that there was a need for government always to consider the welfare of the nation as a whole. That means preserving jobs for people, seeing that there is a continuing growth in GDP, seeing that there is a continuing growth in wages for people and seeing that there is an increasing standard of living. That is what the opposition is offering with its direct action plan. On the other hand, the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Bill 2010 and cognate legislation, which we are debating now for the third time, is legislation that penalises and punishes the Australian people and that relies on that punishment and pain to attempt to persuade them to have a lesser standard of living.

I have even seen a government handout that contains the phrase ‘Things that you can do at home that will help in this process’. They say, ‘Don’t use the drier; hang out the washing.’ I have got a vision in my head of Mr Rudd at the clothesline pegging out the sheets and the various pieces of washing whilst he is thinking of, shall we say, 50 per cent of the rest of the male population doing likewise—I think not. What about those people who live in very hot parts of our wonderful country? They are being told, ‘Use less air conditioning.’ Those living in very cold parts of the country are told, ‘Use less heating.’ In other words, lower your standard of living.

The opposition’s plan does none of that. It does not rely on pain; it relies on incentive. It says that we want to give the businesses that produce the standard of living that we enjoy right now the ability to do business as usual. That means that power stations will continue to generate power for the lights that are on in this building and for the street lights that are on in the cities that enable people to walk through those streets without being mugged in the dark. It is part of our safety provisions. The fact that we have air conditioning, heating and all those sorts of things are part and parcel of our way of life and, dare I say it, so is the drier.

When we look at what the ETS does we have had some interesting admissions in this place from various ministers. I particularly like the one from Mr Combet this morning when he was on Radio National. He was asked about the now well-known drycleaner, who is facing a $3,000 a year increase in his electricity bill, up from $15,000, and who will get no compensation. When Mr Combet was asked, ‘How is he to cope?’ he answered this way:

Costs faced by such a business will be passed on through the prices and the dry cleaning business and consumers will meet that cost.

In other words, the cost of the drycleaning will be increased by the amount that the drycleaner himself has to pay for the electricity, and that cascades all the way through the system. It means that the consumer pays more, it means that the consumer in his or her business then has to up their prices so that they earn more to pay more for the things that they are consuming, and the cost of living and the cost to them of this new tax becomes an increasing burden.

Mr Combet made another interesting point today when he told us about Bloomberg’s, a part of the finance industry. The finance industry is the one industry that is desperate to have an ETS because, for them, trading in carbon derivatives replaces the old CDOs that brought us the great financial crisis. I was interested to hear Mr Combet say just before question time that a press analysis of coalition policy had been issued by Bloomberg New Energy Finance. Part of the reasoning in that analysis, which he said was a stunning assessment of the cost of our policy, is that the CPRS will be more cost effective because it is a market based mechanism.

But then, if you bother to go and look at some of the arguments—which you can pick up on the web—that are put forth in the United States, you can find a very good description of why these finance trading firms are so anxious to have such a scheme. For instance, Matt Taibbi, writing in Rolling Stone magazine in a very lengthy piece—dare I say longer than the essay of the Prime Minister’s when he said that capitalism was such a disgraceful and discredited system; and this is of far more depth than that piece of work—explains that this is how the new carbon credit market would work. He says:

… if the bill—

in the United States—

passes—

and of course we now know that Mr Obama has walked away from it and that it will not happen, but this is what the Australian government wants to foist on us—

there will be limits for coal plants, utilities, natural-gas distributors and numerous other industries on the amount of carbon emissions (a.k.a. greenhouse gases) they can produce per year. If the companies go over their allotment, they will be able to buy “allocations” or credits from other companies that have managed to produce fewer emissions. President Obama conservatively estimates that about $646 billion worth of carbon credits will be auctioned in the first seven years; one of his top economic aides speculates that the real number might be twice or even three times that amount.

He then goes on to say:

The feature of this plan that has special appeal to speculators is that the “cap”—

and you will remember that the boast of the Prime Minister is that the CPRS has a cap, and he is very proud of that—

on carbon will be continually lowered by the government, which means that carbon credits will become more and more scarce with each passing year. Which means that this is a brand new commodities market where the main commodity to be traded is guaranteed to rise in price over time. The volume of this new market will be upwards of a trillion dollars annually; for comparison’s sake, the annual combined revenues of all electricity suppliers in the U.S.—

that is, the people who are actually generating it for people to use—

total $320 billion.

In other words, the trade in paper will far exceed the value of what is currently in the United States produced for people’s consumption. He certainly says that Goldman Sachs, and other like firms, desperately want that scheme. It is also well to the point to note that Nobel prizewinner Al Gore, who is intimately involved in the planning of cap and trade, which Prime Minister Rudd wants, started up a company called Generation Investment Management with three former bigwigs from Goldman Sachs Asset Management called David Blood, Mark Ferguson and Peter Harris. What is their business? Investing in carbon offsets—the new derivative market.

Now I will go back. This is indeed a tax, and it is a cascading tax. It is a tax which will eat into every aspect of your life whether it is the dry-cleaning bill, the grocery bill or the petroleum bill. Then the Prime Minister makes his second point in saying that you can avoid his cap because, if you go over your cap under this scheme, you can give some money to the likes of Mr Mugabe and buy a few trees and you are off the hook. So the cap is meaningless, except to escalate the price.

Under our scheme it is business as usual and, if you do not go above what is your emission rate right now, there is no payment for you to make. You can continue to generate power and energy—the essence of our life—in order that we can continue to have our standard of living. But if a business wishes to lower its emissions, and it finds it can through technology, innovation or whatever mechanism, it can be rewarded for that lowering of emissions. And it will be a real lowering of emissions, not a pretend one where you can buy your way out with Mr Mugabe or his ilk.

Our policy has a plentiful scheme to benefit farmers who, under the ETS tax scheme, are simply penalised. They are due to come in under the scheme in a couple of years time where they would be penalised for the emissions that their sheep and cows make. I did read in the paper this morning, however, that domestic camels would be counted but not feral camels. I found that an interesting sideline to the peculiar nature of the ETS that is being put forward by this legislation.

Mr Rudd then says that 92 per cent of people will be compensated for this additional rise in their expenditure. Yet we have had people come to this dispatch box again and again and ask questions of ministers and of the Prime Minister about what is the precise loss to an individual in a particular category in their defined cameos. No answer has been forthcoming. But the bottom line is this: a new tax is forever. The new tax will go on for year after year. The compensation is temporary, and it is inadequate as well as being temporary, and the Australian people are coming to see just what a con trick the Labor Party has tried to pull on them.

Mr Rudd and his ministers have been lazy; they have relied on the fact that there was some way that the opposition could be brought under their plans and be here to support the Labor Party. What the Labor Party is proposing with a new tax and a diminution of the Australian living standards is the anathema of what the Liberal Party stands for. The Liberal and the National Party are parties of lower tax. The Liberal Party is a party of enabling individuals to keep more of their own money because they will always spend it more wisely than the government who wishes to soak up as much money as they can from the Australian people and then pretend to spend it for their benefit. That is precisely what this ETS—tax on everything—is all about. It is designed to collect $120 billion in tax. The government will then try and use it for a redistribution of wealth—as they see it—to try and sure up their vote in certain areas of Australia. There can be nothing more despicable than such a plan. And for it to be done in the name of virtue, with a rather sanctimonious Prime Minister who seems to enjoy using words that are, shall we say, of a slightly off-colour nature—and seems to rejoice in repeating them—I find quite off, and I am sure the Australian people do as well.

The Australian households will be spared the ETS, because we will vote against it in the Senate. But, it is important that we go on and win the next election to ensure that it does not come back. That is the task we will be pursuing from now to election day, whenever it might be. I remind this House of the whole purpose of the direct action plan of the coalition’s, which we are taking to the people and which will allow Australians to take advantage of our national and natural advantages, such as our soil and our sun. It is a careful policy; it is costed and it is capped. The cap is real, because you cannot buy your way out of it. If you do emit above your ‘business as usual’ cap then there will be a penalty. Business accepts that. Contrary to the words of Mr Combet, when he said today that business was running away from us, they are not. The truth of the matter is that even a member of one of his main critics through this debate—the Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists—actually admitted on radio the other day that, in fact, our scheme would meet the five per cent reduction target. It does not matter what he went on to say after that; he said that our scheme would do precisely that.

My position is quite clear, just like the coalition policy: I will be voting against this bill. I have expressed this continually, and I will go on expressing it because this ETS—big tax on everything—is bad for Australia. It is bad for the Australian people. It is our responsibility to put forward an alternative plan, which we have done. We have to let the Australian people know what the Labor Party really has in store for them so that when they come to vote they will truly know that they have been led down the proverbial garden path and into the blackwoods and darkness by Mr Rudd and his ilk.