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Wednesday, 10 October 2012
Page: 11921

WYATT ROY (Longman) (21:00): I rise tonight to speak in opposition to the Clean Energy Amendment (International Emissions Trading and Other Measures) Bill 2012 and related bills. It is an honour to follow the member for Forrest and her eloquent contribution to this House tonight.

In just three short months we have seen this Labor government move from one policy failure to the next cruel carbon tax failure. This is a tax that was desperately thrown together in a political arrangement with the Greens. It is a tax that, at its heart, is designed to change behaviour by hurting Australians in the hip pocket and, in the process, making small business uncompetitive. The carbon tax is indicative of the failure of the administration that taints this federal Labor government. After a dismal record in administering programs—be it the $900 cheques, pink batts, school halls or set-top boxes—the carbon tax is off to a very poor start. In just three short months we have seen eight major structural changes to the way this tax will work.

First we saw a government bailout of companies using taxpayer funds. Then we saw Labor cut the share of Clean Technology Investment Program grants funding available for small businesses—while simultaneously increasing the funding available for big business. Then, just weeks later, we saw the entire program halted. Along the way we have watched the list of big polluters ebb and flow at the whim of the government, with more businesses added and taken off, and then added again. And we know that currently the list of big polluters is sitting around a total of 315 businesses. Later we witnessed Labor change the regulations around the carbon tax, which had what we can imagine must be the unexpected result of actually increasing real emissions from pipelines and landfill by one million tonnes.

Again we saw another change, with Labor abandoning the Contract for Closure program. Additionally, we have seen this Labor government boast that their floor price for the carbon price was absolutely essential. And now this is one of the raft of changes we are debating tonight. We are in the process of seeing the government completely scrap their 'essential' floor price—a floor price that the Prime Minister called 'wise', and government ministers repeatedly defended labelling a floor price as a 'safety valve' and a 'tool to provide participants with greater certainty'. Tonight we are also seeing those opposite try to jump on the EU bandwagon, attempting to hitch the carbon tax to the European emissions trading scheme—putting Australian businesses at a distinct disadvantage to overseas businesses.

As the Leader of the Opposition pointed out tonight in this chamber, while we all love our European cousins—their culture, their history and their contribution to Western society—we do not necessarily want to be hitching ourselves to their economic policies. It is something akin to putting the Australian dollar into the eurozone currency. These many changes have been mooted since the carbon tax was brought in on 1 July this year. With so much unclear about the carbon tax, there is only one thing that is clear. It is clear that this Labor government has lost control of its own policy and there is no direction from this Labor government. The carbon tax has taken on a life of its own, and this Labor government cannot seem to predict where it is taking them.

The raft of structural changes in these seven bills make it abundantly clear that this is a Labor government once again making decisions on the run. This is a government that has continually failed to recognise implications of the carbon tax and is attempting to apply band-aid solutions to the injury that the carbon tax is causing Australian businesses and families. In the government's regulation impact statement, it is revealed that 'for some small businesses the potential change in treatment of international units may create additional administrative costs.' Small businesses are already being hit hard by the carbon tax—with absolutely no assistance from this federal Labor government—and now those opposite are trying to make changes to put even more pressure on small business. Small business is the engine room of our economy, the great creator of wealth and the great employer in our nation. It would seem to me that it is a reality that this Labor government is determined to deny and that it is set on making it more difficult for small businesses to get ahead.

In light of all we know about the failure of this Labor government, when it comes to the carbon tax, the government still arrogantly refuses to change the modelling for the carbon tax. Despite making a raft of changes to the way the carbon tax operates, this Labor government is standing by its modelling. This government is relying on flawed modelling to sell its failed tax to the Australian people. Based on this government's track record, it is highly unlikely that the outcome of this tax will look anything like the spin the Labor party is trying to sell to the Australian people.

One of the serious structural changes in these bills is the idea of linking the carbon tax with the European scheme. I have serious concerns about these intentions. Clearly this is a desperate political move by government to introduce this legislation before having a formal agreement with the European Union. Such a move would effectively link Australia's economy with the highly risky and unstable European economy at a time when Europe's economic judgement is under intense scrutiny. Additionally, the European scheme is well known to be have been rorted. This Labor government wants to marry our own carbon tax with this failing system. This move could have huge implications for our economy and there is no guarantee that the carbon tax, and therefore the Australian economy, will not be taken advantage of by fraudsters. After only three months of this carbon tax, the real implications are becoming clear.

In my electorate, I have been speaking with many local businesses who are expressing very sincere concerns about the future of their business due to the impact of the carbon tax. They are starting to find out the hard way exactly what it means for them. Two weeks ago I visited Allied Timber Products, a manufacturing business in my electorate, with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. I spoke with Richard, the Managing Director of Allied Timber Products, extensively about his business and the concerns he had about the carbon tax. In electricity alone, Richard is facing a $40,000 carbon tax charge this year. This does not include haulage costs or any of the other numerous costs that Richard is facing from a carbon tax charge.

Richard looks at this carbon tax cost in terms of the ability of his business to grow. He told me that the carbon tax he is paying is directly negating his ability to employ one more person in his business. For a region such as mine, which is already experiencing a significant unemployment rate, Richard's news is nothing short of disappointing. I do not want to see government get in the way of Richard's ability to run his business, and I do not want to see government hinder Richard's ability to grow his business. It is clear from what Richard said that the carbon tax is doing just that. The carbon tax is already costing jobs in my region. I have said it many times in this place before: new and increased taxes do not create jobs and do not create wealth. And as much as the modern Labor Party might like to deny it, you cannot tax a nation into greater prosperity.

During my visit to Allied Timber Products, I sat down with Richard to look at his electricity bills from both before and after the carbon tax. What surprised me was that, although Allied Timber Products have done the right thing and taken efficiency measures and reduced their electricity consumption, they are still paying a massive carbon tax bill. Let me just make this point very clear: this local business is using less electricity but paying a higher electricity bill because of the carbon tax. And due to current market pressures facing the timber industry, this carbon tax cannot be passed on. Allied Timber Products is forced to try to absorb this cost, making this family owned business less viable.

Earlier this week, another local business relayed its concerns to me about the carbon tax. Local car dealership owner, John Page, shared with me information about the carbon tax and the effect that it is having on his car dealership. The cost is quite sizeable. On John's electricity bill, he is paying increases of up to 30 per cent on electricity charges due to the carbon tax. John describes the carbon tax as 'a hit on small businesses that have absolutely no right of redress'. John is absolutely right. Unlike some of the big polluters, small businesses cannot pass on their carbon tax costs and they do not get compensated for it.

Recently, I spoke with another business owner who was in the process of closing her fish and chip shop and convenience store. Sadly, she had become yet another victim of this federal Labor government's carbon tax. After receiving a couple of post-July electricity bills and seeing just how much the carbon tax had increased her costs, she told me that she had been forced to make the difficult decision to close her business. Her business was no longer viable. With electricity as her greatest overhead, she had to watch as her profits had been completely absorbed. It is a sad day when the carbon tax is the final straw for local small businesses.

Yet another of my local small businesses, FoodWorks Burpengary, approached me with examples of the carbon tax that they were paying and a direct and itemised carbon tax charge of $1,300 for just one month alone. When I directly raised this with the Prime Minister during question time in this place, the Prime Minister's response was simply to deny that small businesses pay the carbon tax. I had to go back and somehow try to explain to Craig from this local business that, although he could see in black and white an itemised carbon tax bill, the Prime Minister was telling him that he was not paying the carbon tax.

I would challenge every Labor member in this place to walk into the small businesses in their electorate and explain to their constituents this alternative reality which the Labor Party finds itself in, whereby a business has an electricity bill with an itemised carbon tax component and yet somehow the Labor Party thinks that they actually do not pay the carbon tax. For a carbon tax that, according to the Labor Party, was not supposed to have a real impact on the costs for individuals, I have been receiving an overwhelming amount of feedback from local residents that it is having an impact. Residents are only now starting to realise just how much carbon tax they are paying for Labor's new tax.

Just in the last fortnight I have heard from residents of a retirement living park in my electorate. The Island Breeze Home Owners Committee contacted me to share their concerns about rising electricity costs. Neville from the committee shared that residents from Island Breeze Resort have already noticed a jump in costs due to the carbon tax and that they are very concerned to have been informed that their electricity charges will continue to rise because of the carbon tax. Neville and other independent retirees of my electorate, who are already facing an uphill battle with low interest rates and the high cost of living, are extremely concerned about their future. They are finding themselves in a difficult circumstance where they are considering how they will manage to pay their bills and live within their limited budgets. At the recent Longman seniors forum that I held, the very first question put to me was about the carbon tax. People are concerned because the only certainty with the carbon tax is that they are going to be paying more for their electricity and their groceries.

Even this week, we have seen that Telstra is considering increasing its customer fee to cover its own carbon tax costs. The wide-spread ramifications of the carbon tax are only beginning to be known. People are only just beginning to feel the pain that this tax is going to bring. New taxes are not going to help small businesses; they are not going help them get ahead. The carbon tax is not going to help; it is going to hurt. As Sir Robert Menzies, in his wisdom, identified: real tax reductions are the best of all incentives to increase effort, earning and production. They are the best incentive to encourage a reduction in emissions. A carbon tax will not have any environmental impact whatsoever.

The more I hear stories from people and businesses in my community, the more determined I am to ensure that my electorate is free of this carbon tax. I remain absolutely committed to abolishing the carbon tax. Abolishing the carbon tax will be the first order of business of a coalition government. On the first day of parliament under a coalition government we will introduce legislation to get rid of the carbon tax. The people of Australia deserve better than the lies and the uncertainty that they are getting from this Labor government. The people of Australia deserve hope, reward and opportunity, which is why I cannot support these bills.

As the Leader of the Opposition said in this place tonight, he can be believed when he says there will be no carbon tax under a government he leads.