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Wednesday, 10 October 2012
Page: 11895


Mr ABBOTT (WarringahLeader of the Opposition) (19:06): There is really not much which is worth responding to in the contribution that we have just heard from the parliamentary secretary. But if the carbon tax were such a good idea, why wasn't the government prepared to be honest about it before the last election? Why wasn't the government prepared to say, with its hand on its heart, five days before the last election: 'There will be a carbon tax under the government I lead.' The fact that none of this was done, the fact that the Prime Minister was desperate to hide pre election what she has done post election gives the lie to the protestations that we have just seen from the member for Eden-Monaro.

The legislation before the House tonight, the Clean Energy Amendment (International Emissions Trading and Other Measures) Bill 2012 and cognate bills, is yet another breach of promise from a government that is chronically incapable of keeping its commitments.

We know, notoriously, that the Prime Minister said five days before the last election: 'There will be no carbon tax under the government I lead.' And she notoriously gave us a carbon tax in order to stay in the Lodge after that election. But that was only the beginning of a whole series of deceptions that this government has foisted on the Australian public. Most notably, for the purposes of this legislation, was the insistence that a floor price was absolutely necessary to produce an effective carbon tax emissions-reduction scheme.

Let us be absolutely crystal clear: this government was adamant that we could not have an effective carbon pricing scheme without a floor price. The government was, if anything, far more adamant about this post election than it was pre election—'There would be no carbon tax under the government I lead.' Time and time and time again ministers and prime ministers have stood up in this parliament and elsewhere to insist upon the absolute necessity of a floor price if this scheme is to work.

From its own material released on 10 July last year, the government said: 'The floor is designed to reduce the risk of sharp downward movements in the price, which could undermine long-term investment in clean energies.' The Prime Minister said in this parliament on 13 September last year: 'The bill', that is to say the government's carbon pricing legislation 'also provides for a price cap at a price floor. This will limit market volatility and reduce risk for businesses'. Parliamentary secretary Mr Dreyfus said in November last year: 'For those investing in abatement technologies whose value is sensitive to the level of the carbon price, a price floor helps reduce down-side risk.'

On 9 November last year, the Prime Minister said: 'Well, we have set a floor so that there can be stability in pricing, because people are making very long-term investments.' The Minister for Finance and Deregulation, Senator Wong, in February this year, said: 'Our policy does include a price floor, which acts as a safety valve for investors in low-emission technology by establishing a minimum price for the first few years.' In May this year Christine Milne, the leader of the Greens—who are, in some ways, the coarchitects of the carbon tax—said: 'Establishing a floor price is critical to certainty.'

Later in May this year, the leader of the Greens said, 'Getting rid of it' that is to say, getting rid of the floor price, 'would not only be a blow to business certainty but also would potentially blow a hole in the budget'. In July this year, the leader of the Greens said: 'If you allow the volatility that has occurred in Europe, you get chaos in the system.'

We have the Prime Minister, we have the coarchitect of this scheme, the leader of the Greens, we have Senator Wong, the original climate change minister in this government and we have the relevant parliamentary secretary all repeatedly on the record as saying that the carbon tax, to be effective, needed to have a floor price. But what do we have now? We have legislation to scrap that. What was absolutely essential to the operation of this scheme is now utterly dispensable. That is so typical of this government. No commitment that this government ever makes outlasts its political necessity or political convenience. Every commitment that this government makes is changeable at the political convenience or necessity of this Prime Minister.

This legislation before the parliament makes a bad tax worse. What this legislation does is link our economy to Europe —of all places! You would not put the Australian dollar into the eurozone but what this government wants to do is to put our carbon pricing scheme into the European system. Why have a carbon tax that is effectively set by eurocrats? Why have our environmental policy effectively determined in Europe? I have nothing against Europe. I love the culture of Europe. I love the European peoples. I love the contribution that Europe has made to western civilization, but they are hardly economic or environmental models for anyone—except, it seems, for the current government and the current Prime Minister.

Why have they linked our carbon scheme to the European scheme? It is pretty easy: with the carbon tax here at $23 a tonne and the carbon tax in Europe under $10 a tonne they are trying to hold out to the Australian people the mirage of a much lower carbon tax in the years to come. That is what this is all about. It is yet another attempt by this government to say to the Australian people that the carbon tax will not really hurt. Madam Speaker, you know—I know; we all know in this place—that if the carbon tax does not hurt it does not work. It has to hurt. It has to make your power more expensive in order to reduce usage.

There is so much that is wrong with this legislation. If the price ever did really drop to current European levels, obviously the revenue would be utterly inadequate to meet the commitments that the government is funding out of the carbon tax. The other point that is highlighted by this legislation is that this is a government that keeps changing its scheme. Hardly a week goes by without it changing. The scheme is barely two months old and yet already we have had eight major changes to this scheme. The one thing they never change is the modelling, which they say provides certainty on everything. This is a bad tax. It hurts households and it damages businesses but, above all else, it does not help the environment.

Let me repeat this for the benefit of the House: in 2020, on the government's own modelling figures, our carbon emissions will not go down thanks to a carbon tax of $37 a tonne in that year; they will actually go up by eight per cent. They will go up by eight per cent from 578 million tonnes now to 621 million tonnes in 2020. We will only achieve the legendary five per cent reduction if we purchase almost 100 million tonnes of carbon credits from abroad. That is $3½ billion dollars in that year that Australian consumers will have to find extra in order to meet the targets.

By 2050, when our domestic emissions will be microscopically reduced from their current level, despite a carbon tax the government's own modelling shows will be an astronomical $350 a tonne, we will only achieve the 80 per cent reduction in emissions by purchasing 400 million tonnes of carbon credits from abroad at a cost of $58 billion. In 2050, under this government's scheme, we will spend more purchasing carbon credits from abroad than we spend on defence. We will spend 1½ per cent of our GDP purchasing carbon credits from abroad.

It just gets worse. On the government's own figures, Australia's gross national income per person will be $5,000 less with a carbon tax in 2050 than without one. Our gross domestic product, on the government's own figures, will be a cumulative $1 trillion less by 2050 with a carbon tax than without one. So it impoverishes us as a nation. It is economic vandalism in the name of environmentalism. But, still, we have minister after minister, with the Prime Minister leading the charge, standing up in this parliament day in and day out saying, 'The carbon tax has not hurt anyone. No-one has noticed a thing.'

With any government that thinks you can whack up taxes and not hurt anyone, you know what they are going to do. It means more taxes are coming, whether it be the GST that suddenly gets fiddled with, the super profits tax that the ACTU is now urging upon the government, increases to superannuation taxes or the mining tax jacked up and extended. If this government wins the next election, the one thing that the Australian people can absolutely count on is more taxes. Every time the Prime Minister denies that between now and the next election, what will people hear in their heads this Prime Minister saying? 'There will be no carbon tax under the government I lead.' This is a Prime Minister utterly lacking in credibility when it comes to the most solemn commitments given to the Australian people.

The coalition's position is absolutely crystal clear: this is a bad tax. This is a bad tax based on a fundamental deception and it must go. On day one of an election campaign I will write to the Public Service requesting that during the caretaker period no further payments and no further decisions be made associated with the carbon tax and bodies set up in association with the carbon tax. On day one of a new government, as its first act, the Public Service will be instructed to prepare the carbon tax repeal legislation. On day one of a new parliament, as almost the first act, the carbon tax repeal legislation will be introduced. This carbon tax will be gone. This is why it is so important that there be a change of government—to restore political honesty and integrity to this country. Alas, notwithstanding all the sound and fury of yesterday, a Speaker might be gone but we still have a government in denial about the harm it is doing to Australian households, Australian families and Australian businesses. I say that this carbon tax must go and, when I say there will be no carbon tax under a government I lead, I am telling the truth. It is a matter of integrity.

I move:

That all words after "That" be omitted with a view to substituting the following words:

"the House declines to give this bill a second reading and calls on the Government to immediately abolish all liability and scrap the carbon tax."

The SPEAKER: Is the amendment seconded?