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Thursday, 11 October 2012
Page: 12117

Dr SOUTHCOTT (Boothby) (16:08): We need to think back to 2007 and remember why Labor was elected then. They were elected in part because they understood how important the issue of the cost of living was to families and to seniors. Everyone would have seen on the TV news the photo opportunities of Kevin Rudd sitting around a table with families to discuss the household bills. There was lots of nodding and lots of empathy. He did it in so many seats. Labor were going to do things: Fuelwatch, which was a failure, and GroceryWatch, which was a failure. Now we have come to a situation where the Labor Party are in complete denial over one of the main concerns—that is, the cost of living—of families and people on fixed incomes, especially seniors. I am talking not just about electricity. We have seen dramatic rises in all utility rates—of water, of electricity and of gas. They keep on going up.

A lot of the government's arguments say, 'It's not all due to the carbon tax,' but there is no doubt that the carbon tax makes the pressure on the cost of living much, much worse. The latest argument from the government is, 'The price rise for electricity is in the order of 10 per cent; the policy is working as planned.' But what that ignores is the enormous pressure that Australian families and Australian seniors are feeling. They are struggling with all the cost-of-living increases under this government. What the government do not get is that, by adding a carbon tax, they have just made the situation much, much worse.

We often hear this phrase, but it is worth hearing it again. Not more than six days before the last election, the Prime Minister of this country clearly misled the Australian people when she stated, 'There will be no carbon tax under a government I lead.' Not one Labor candidate distributed any material about or said that they would be voting for a carbon tax, yet every single one of them did so. We know from Australian political history that any party which goes to an election promising one thing and then doing another will pay a very high price when they next have to face the Australian people. I think about 1993, when Paul Keating said that he was campaigning against a GST and then, in his first budget after the election, he dramatically increased the sales tax on a whole raft of goods. It was, in effect, a GST by stealth. Following that, the Labor members who voted for the increase in sales taxes in 1993 faced the black-and-red ads on TV about how they voted to increase the sales tax on wine, on cars—on everything.

The attitude of the Labor Party seems to be denial: 'What are you complaining about? It's working as we expected.' I think about 1993; I also think about how, in 2001, when the Liberal party were in government, there was a big campaign by the motoring organisations over concerns about the high cost of petrol with the introduction of the GST. We listened to what the community was saying and made some changes because we recognised the pain in the community about the high price of petrol. But we had not taken a policy of making such changes—that is, removing excise and adding the GST—to the electorate, so the situation then was not equivalent to the situation we find now, where a government which was elected promising to do something about the cost of living for families and seniors has done the very opposite.

In my own electorate of Boothby, 18.7 per cent of people are over 65. As I go around the electorate I have a lot to do with people on the age pension, with people who are part pensioners and part self-funded retirees and with people who are self-funded retirees. One of the unfortunate things about the carbon tax is that people on fixed incomes will be hit the hardest. As the cost of living rises under the carbon tax, those people who are on fixed incomes—pensioners and self-funded retirees—will have less money to spend on leisure, less to spend on recreation, less to spend on their grandchildren and less to spend on the essentials of life. There are something like half a million self-funded retirees in Australia. There are 1.2 million age pensioners and there are 880,000 part age pensioners in Australia. They are really the forgotten people in this debate. The Labor Party gave no thought to the impact on seniors of introducing their carbon tax. I regularly see self-funded retirees and pensioners at shopping centres and at my listening posts and, through my surveys, I hear from those who tell me what this tax means to them as they struggle to make ends meet because they see their grocery bills and electricity bills going up and up. Senior Australians have worked hard all their lives. They should not be expected to absorb the cost of the carbon tax on their own when they have already given so much back to our community.

Another one of the lies is that a carbon tax will not work unless it hurts, that that is the way to change behaviour, which the government are so keen to do. So, again, their argument about compensation ignores the fact that you do not need to compensate people if you do not have a carbon tax. That is the simple thing: the compensation is only necessary because of the carbon tax in the first place.

I also want to go to issues in my electorate of Boothby in South Australia. The Belair Hotel, when they received their first power bill under the carbon tax, saw that their off-peak power rate had increased by 45 per cent due to a carbon adjustment charged by AGL. When the Lakes Resort Hotel in the electorate of Hindmarsh got their first post carbon tax electricity bill it cost them an extra $3½ thousand a month—

Mr Tehan: How much?

Dr SOUTHCOTT: $3½ thousand a month, due to the carbon adjustment alone. If you are running a hotel there is not much you can do to reduce your electricity. The City of Onkaparinga is a local government area in the electorates of Kingston, Boothby and Mayo. The Mayor of the City of Onkaparinga, Lorraine Rosenberg, has been quoted as stating that the carbon tax will cost ratepayers an extra $800,000 a year. Street lighting makes up 70 per cent of the council's electricity bill. They cannot reduce their usage—they have to keep the lights on at night. They have no choice but to pay more.

Paul Kerin, CEO of South Australia's Independent Essential Services Commission, when asked if repealing the tax would cut electricity prices, responded, 'Yes, and we'd look to make adjustment at that time.' So there you have it, from the CEO of South Australia's Independent Essential Services Commission. If you want to see electricity prices come down, support the coalition and their plan to reduce the carbon tax.

The one thing you have to say about the Labor Party is that they do have extraordinary discipline. We saw it at the start of this week, where they blindly voted to support a situation that was obvious to everyone was unsustainable, and they are now blindly following this same approach, ignoring their voters, ignoring their constituents. (Time expired)