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Wednesday, 10 February 2010
Page: 973


Mr JOHNSON (12:55 PM) —I am pleased to speak on the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Bill 2010 and related bills yet again in the parliament. As the member for Ryan, I have had the great privilege of being a member of this wonderful chamber of democracy, representing the people of Brisbane’s western suburbs, since 2001, and I continue to treasure that honour and that trust. Today in the parliament I again want to express my thoughts and my views and touch a little bit on my philosophy which has brought me to the conclusion that the government legislation is not the right thing for the community I represent, and is not in the best interests of our country.

At the outset, I want to take the opportunity of congratulating and commending the new leader of the federal opposition. I want to compliment Tony Abbott for the courage that he showed last November that saw him become a candidate for the leadership of the federal Liberal Party. I am sure that everyone would agree with me that holding the office of leader of a national political party is indeed a distinct privilege—and I pay tribute to him. Equally, in good grace, I want to pay tribute to his predecessors, Dr Nelson and Mr Turnbull, for their efforts in trying to deliver government for the opposition. Of course, they had great challenges in their own way. Dr Nelson would have been deeply disappointed at his replacement by Mr Turnbull and it is only in the nature of humanity and emotions that Mr Turnbull would have been equally distraught by his loss to Mr Abbott. But I think it is important for all of us to extend goodwill and grace in such circumstances. These things are never easy, but they are also not personal. They are the life of politics, in a sense. For my part, and on behalf of those people I represent who do have high regard for both Dr Nelson and Mr Turnbull, I think it is important that I put on the record my own thoughts in that respect.

Last December, following the change of leadership, I received an email from one of my constituents—Stewart from Brookfield—who said:

I have never before been motivated to contact my local member in 30 years of voting. I note that you have not supported Malcolm Turnbull and Ian MacFarlane in their recommendations on the ETS. Despite the spin that you have placed on your website, you are clearly a climate sceptic. For the sake of our children, you have lost my vote.

I want to first of all thank Stewart very kindly. Obviously I am not going to mention his last name, because I have not had the opportunity of calling him and asking for his consent.

As I said in my maiden speech in 2002, I am a representative and a member of the parliament not just for those who voted for me and not just for those of a coalition political inclination or those who are of a conservative political bent; I am a representative and a member of parliament for all people—for those who voted Labor; for those who voted Democrat; for those who voted Greens; and for those who voted for Independents. I am a representative of everyone. Therefore, I say to Stewart: thank you for expressing your view to me. I also want to respond to Stewart, because that is my duty as his local member of parliament.

There are three points in relation to this. The reason that I do not support the government’s ETS legislation is that it is a great big tax. It is a great big, fat, juicy tax. It is going to be a tax on business; it is going to be a tax on families; it is going to be a tax on every sector of our economy. The second reason is that it is a great big lie. It will not deliver the cuts to emissions that will make an ultimate impact on reducing global emissions that will, supposedly—according to the Prime Minister—save our world and save our civilisation. Emissions will still exist; they will just exist in other places, in other economies. What happens under the government’s ETS is that they are traded—and I will speak more on those two points later.

The third point is that the consequence of this ETS, in my humble judgment, is that it will cost jobs. It will involve the export of Australian jobs to developing economies in Asia in particular, to places like China and India, and that really cannot be in our national interest. Hundreds of thousands of jobs are going to be lost because they are either directly or indirectly connected to energy—to electricity, to power. Our modern way of life means that energy—power supply and electricity—is at the heart of our lifestyle. Energy is at the heart of the very way we conduct our business.

The fourth point is that with the ETS there would be a total transformation of the economic architecture of our country. More to the point this would happen in a very short space of time, literally a handful of years. Surely, with the great impact of a change to the economic architecture, one needs to be prudent, one needs to be careful and one needs to be cautious.

They are the four points that I want to elaborate on in this presentation. In relation to the first point about a great big, fat tax I want to thank a Sydney resident, Dr Michael Cejnar, who contacted me during the leadership ballot and encouraged me to support Mr Abbott. He reminded me of the consequences of adopting this awful policy of the Rudd Labor government. He reminded me to communicate that with my constituents, to sell the message and to elaborate on exactly how it is a carbon tax. I want to thank him because he has very kindly sent me a whole bunch of shirts to hand out to constituents in the Ryan electorate and I intend to do that. The shirts bear the logo, ‘No carbon tax’ and they bear the internet address, www.nocarbontax.com.au. I want to thank him for doing that. I have one here that is XL size and I want to thank him for that.


The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. AR Bevis)—The member for Ryan has displayed his item; he will now put it away.


Mr JOHNSON —Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. I want to elaborate on this great big new tax idea because I am not quite sure that, given the complexity of this legislation and these bills, people really understand the massive impact it is going to have on their businesses, on their lifestyles, on the way that they carry out their daily lives, on their workplaces and in just doing their normal regular activities. Because taxes will touch on every consumer good whose production requires electrical power. I take the example of a hair dryer. I want to elaborate on this because I have here a regular hair dryer—


The DEPUTY SPEAKER —The member for Ryan is going to test the patience of the chair if he wants to pull a whole range—


Mr JOHNSON —I think it is important. We are talking about a significant piece of legislation.


The DEPUTY SPEAKER —No. Let us be clear about this. The standing orders do not encourage the use of props.


Mr JOHNSON —Mr Deputy Speaker, I do—


The DEPUTY SPEAKER —The member for Ryan will resume his seat. The standing orders do not encourage the use of props. There has been a practice of allowing it where it is deemed to be particularly relevant and within constraints. The display of a standard hair dryer does not seem to me to meet those requirements. I advise the member for Ryan not to test the limits of those provisions of the standing orders nor my patience. I call on the member for Ryan.


Mr JOHNSON —Mr Deputy Speaker, with all due respect I recall a former leader of the Australian Labor Party, who was also the shadow Treasurer, holding up a little pyjama bear to express a point in relation to the GST. With all due respect, I think it could not be more relevant to show that, when a mum is using a hair dryer, there will be power costs involved. With all due respect, Mr Deputy Speaker, it is entirely relevant and I am flabbergasted that you will not allow me to do that.


The DEPUTY SPEAKER —The member for Ryan can remain flabbergasted and can now continue his speech.


Mr JOHNSON —Thank you. With all due respect, I would like to continue that line of thought. I also have here a regular bottle of orange juice. Of course, it has to be put in the fridge, so therefore there are going to be costs of electricity, there are going to be costs in making this cold—


Mr Price —Mr Deputy Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I thought you had been most generous to the honourable member for Ryan. You have made a ruling which he is now flouting. The member for Ryan of course is a senior whip.


The DEPUTY SPEAKER —On that point of order and just to be clear, the Practice is quite clear about the use of props and I am more than well aware of the use of props over a number of years by both sides of the chamber not only in debates but also in question time. I enabled the member for Ryan to display the shirt that had a particular relevance to the debate and to the point he was making. I have made it clear that I do not intend to entertain the use of a whole range of props that he is now proposing to display. If the member for Ryan continues to do that, he will leave me with no choice but to take action and that is not in his interests. I call the member for Ryan.


Mr JOHNSON —If I may seek clarification, I was not intending to put forward a dozen items to make my point. My point was only to raise three or four to suggest the different range of sectors of the economy and the different groups of Australians that would be affected and I am not sure why that is a problem. With all due respect, Mr Deputy Speaker Bevis, and I know you are a fellow Queensland MP, to all those Australians listening this is, in my view, a slap in the face to the people of Ryan, to all those constituents that I have the great privilege of representing. I cannot even come in here as their local member and try to make my point by holding up a little bottle of orange juice to say this is going to be put in the fridge, it is going to use power to be made cold—


Mr Price —Mr Deputy Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Clearly, the member for Ryan is disputing your ruling. You have given a ruling. He then wishes to argue after you have made the ruling. I believe his conduct is highly disorderly and disrespectful.


Mr Ciobo —On the point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker, the member for Ryan—and I am mindful of your comments—has indicated to the chair that he has three or four items that he wanted to display to talk about the impact of the ETS on ordinary household items. I would not have thought that was excessive, but ultimately I defer to your judgment, of course.


The DEPUTY SPEAKER —I think the difficulty with the point the member for Moncrieff raises is that, whilst the number may have some relevance, it is not the determining feature itself. The nature of the matters being now brought as display items do not, in my opinion, add to the debate, nor are they necessary for the member for Ryan to make his point. I have sufficient confidence in the skill of the member for Ryan that he is able to speak to the issues without the need for the sorts of props he is now using.

I repeat, for the benefit of the member for Ryan, that I did enable him to use the first prop, which was, if you like, not a standard thing which might be deemed to be necessary to assist him in making his point. I do not think that apples and orange juice meet the same criteria, and he will not use those props. I call the member for Ryan.


Mr JOHNSON —If I may continue; I do recollect in the previous parliament a colleague of ours who brought apples into the chamber and put them on everybody’s desk to make the point about the significance of apples in his home state of Tasmania. Apples are what Australians eat every day; they are good for our nutrition, and the tax on apples is going to be something that I am sure will affect a lot of people all over Australia.


Mr Clare —Mr Deputy Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I have lost count of the times—I think it is now four times—that the member for Ryan has ignored your ruling to desist from using props. I ask that he be sat down.


The DEPUTY SPEAKER —I am reluctant to do that, and I am endeavouring to enable the member for Ryan to make whatever points he wishes to make in his speech, within the confines of the standing orders and the Practice. On the last, I think, three occasions on which I have made rulings on this matter the member for Ryan has rather returned to the question of whether the ruling is accurate. I advise the member for Ryan to resume his speech on the subject matter or to use the forms of the House if he wishes. I call the member for Ryan.


Mr JOHNSON —I just make this observation that, whilst not a senior member of the House of Representatives, I am in my third term and, with due respect to the parliamentary secretary, who has been here for only two years, the observations I make are relevant to previous members in this parliament who have made statements and carried themselves in a certain way to which I was a witness.

In relation to this bill, which I am speaking on again, I know that the people of Ryan and all Australians will be interested to know that when the bill was rejected in the Senate last year it was rejected by a vote of 41 to 33. That was not close. Our constitutional structure is that the Australian parliament is made up of two houses: the House of Representatives and the Senate. Of course the Senate is just as significant as the House of Representatives, so, as a margin of 41 to 33 is so significant, the audacity of the government in bringing this bill back can only say one or two things. It can say that it is hubris and arrogance. To quote a former Prime Minister, it is something that—but perhaps I should not go there. I just want to make the point again that 41 to 33 was a major vote of no confidence by the Senate on this bill. I think, therefore, that this arrogance that the Rudd Labor government is starting to embrace must cease immediately.

I am disappointed that my time is fast running out but I think I have made my point in relation to orange juice and apples and the simple hair dryers that are probably in the drawers of every household in the country, and how these items will be affected by an ETS tax. The point I want to make is that the government has not been able to tell Mr and Mrs Smith who live in Keperra, or Mr and Mrs Jones who live in Enoggera, or Mr and Mrs Brown who live in Ferny Grove exactly how much extra tax they will pay in year 1, year 2, year 3, year 4, year 5, year 6, year 7, year 8, year 9 or year 10 after the introduction of this bill. They do not know what the tax is going to be. It is going to be significant, but they are not being told the implications for their household budgets. That is why it is important.

Respecting the invitation of the Deputy Speaker, I will not pull out of my little goodies bag other items that I have—I only had a couple of others. In addition to my hair dryer, my apple and my bottle of orange juice, I had a simple roll of toilet paper. Every business and household in Australia and many restaurants and cafes have bathroom facilities, and of course they all have toilet paper in them—or I hope they do—because that is part of their requirements. I do not know what the cost of a toilet roll is going to be in seven or eight years time as a consequence of this ETS tax, but I know that there will be an increase. Why? Because in the production of paper there is going to be energy and electricity involved. Do all those people listening out there in this great land of ours really think that the compensation that is offered now by this government either will not be reduced or taken away or will actually improve their household budget at the end of the day? I am sure that Australians are smart enough to realise that, from buying toilet paper rolls to buying an apple or an orange juice, or from using their hair dryer to putting on the TV, all those items will go up in cost.

In relation to this ETS, we heard recently that President Obama, who is going to grace us with his presence in a few weeks time, is now backflipping fast on the idea of a US emissions trading scheme. So we alone of major nations will have an ETS if the bill is successful. Of course, I count on my colleagues in the Senate to ensure that it does not succeed. I refer to an article by Christian Kerr in the Weekend Australian of 6 February 2010:

Australia is looking increasingly isolated in the global community as Kevin Rudd presses on with his government’s emissions trading scheme.

US President Barack Obama admitted just two days ago he might have to abandon his proposal for emissions trading in favour of direct action in order to steer his carbon-cutting plans through the US Senate.

None of the world’s top five polluters—the US, China, Russia, India and Japan—has an ETS.

So what do we do? Good on us! We go out and say: ‘We’ve got to have an emissions trading scheme. Don’t worry about the US; they’re not important. Don’t worry about China. Don’t worry about India. They’re the great polluters. But we’ll save the world. We’ll save civilisation’—as the Prime Minister says. My time is fast running out, so I want to end on a quote from the Prime Minister when he was opposition leader. He made this point:

… 20 million people facing one of the great challenges of our civilisation and certainly of this country’s settled history.

That is what he said. (Time expired)