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Wednesday, 10 October 2012
Page: 11925

Mr SIMPKINS (Cowan) (21:15): I take this opportunity tonight to make a contribution to the debate on the Clean Energy Amendment (International Emissions Trading and Other Measures) Bill 2012 and related bills. Climate change and Labor's carbon tax are both matters that I have spoken about in this parliament numerous times, so it will come as no surprise that I am going to use this opportunity to reinforce the point that the government has lost control of its carbon tax, a carbon tax that will result in economic pain on families, individuals and business, all without any environmental benefit. The Australian people are very clear about what happened before the 2010 election: there was a cast-iron guarantee that there would be no carbon tax under a government she led. That has really set the scene for where we are now and for the Prime Minister's credibility.

Every Australian has the right to be concerned by the Labor-Green carbon tax that was introduced by the government. I can tell you that this is certainly the case in my electorate of Cowan. When I am travelling through the electorate and talk to people, whether it be in shopping centres, at front doors or in businesses, about their top issues and concerns, the most commonly raised issues are the carbon tax and stopping the boats. They are two examples of how the government has lost its way and has failed.

To give an example on the carbon tax, I recently visited a local business, New West Foods. New West Foods, in Malaga, processes fresh seafood and distributes fresh, frozen and ambient foods throughout the Perth area. It is a great company—a family company—that has been established through the hard work of the family and a core group of employees. As you would imagine, New West Foods runs a number of large freezers which utilise gas. In 2010 New West Foods had to get one of their freezers re-gassed with R404A gas. The cost of the gas was $55 a kilogram—they showed me one of their bills. Last month New West Food had to get another freezer of a similar size re-gassed. On this occasion the cost was $200 a kilogram for exactly the same R404A gas. When the company questioned the 360 per cent increase in the cost of gas, they were told it had only recently occurred and was almost entirely an effect of increased prices due to the carbon tax. The owner of this business asked me, 'What is the Prime Minister going to do to assist us with the increased costs due to her carbon tax?' I repeat this question and ask the Prime Minister: what assistance are you going to provide businesses in my electorate and can you explain why you are making it harder for businesses in Cowan with your tax?

As I mentioned earlier, the carbon tax is an economy-wide tax that is hurting Australian people and businesses. It is a $9 billion a year tax, which every Australian will pay through their electricity and gas bills, that will have no positive effect on the environment. On the contrary, even with Labor's 'solve everything' carbon tax, Australia's emissions will increase from 578 million tonnes in 2010 to 621 million tonnes by 2020.

This tax was introduced just over 100 days ago. At that time the government spent millions of dollars of taxpayer funds to advertise how fantastic the carbon tax was going to be. Just over 100 days later, they are proposing a major structural change, on top of the eight changes already undergone, to their fantastic carbon tax. I would like to take this opportunity to discuss these eight changes, a number of which will make the tax even more useless and residents and businesses hurt even more: for example, the decrease in the share of funding for small businesses so as to further increase funding for big businesses via the Clean Technology Investment grants that assist those directly hit by the carbon tax. Labor simply does not understand small business and is constantly making life more burdensome for small-business owners.

The coalition was deeply disturbed by a national survey published in News Limited papers on 20 August 2012, which reported that two-thirds of small businesses feel they are not able to pass on the world's largest carbon tax. Small business is Australia's biggest private sector employer and is carrying the cost of the carbon tax. The carbon tax will make margins for small business even lower, particularly if the Prime Minister's plan to decrease the share of funding for small businesses via the Clean Technology Investment grants occurs. It seems the government is out to hurt small and medium businesses in particular.

Another of the amendments in this bill scraps the floor price, which was to have been $15 from 2015 and which the government said was needed for business confidence. Furthermore, they have halted support for industry via the Clean Technology Investment grants as the government attempts to save money, leaving businesses exposed. It has also allowed the Clean Energy Regulator to add more businesses to the big-polluters list, taking it to a total now of 315, while on the eve of the carbon tax being introduced they also bailed out major companies, with funding to companies including Alcoa and Energy Brix

One of the changes in this legislation that truly disturb me is linking Australia's carbon trading scheme to Europe. There are a number of issues associated with this. Firstly, the European system does not allow a two-way trade on carbon credits, which puts Australian businesses at a disadvantage and results in Australia's carbon tax being set by the EU price. Secondly, the European system works out to around $1 per person per year, compared to Australia's system, which is equivalent to $400 per person per year, and this figure will continue to rise. The third point is probably the most obvious: the European economy is not known for being overly strong at present, and I cannot understand why the government would want to link their scheme to an increasingly challenged set of economies in Europe. As has been said earlier, a common-sense action might be to link our carbon trading scheme with that of one of our global competitors like China or India. But the government cannot do this, because none of these countries have a scheme like Australia's. Even the US have closed down their ETS plans due to a lack of interest in that country.

I would also like to take this opportunity to touch on the science behind the claims of climate change. I am not afraid to say, and I have said in this place before, that I am no adherent to the theory of anthropogenic global warming. Another non-adherent to the theory, Dianne Bourke, recently sent me two energy and environment issue articles by James Taylor from Forbes which bring new findings which are extremely important to the debate. I think it is important to read the science and make myself better informed rather than just accept what the government always says.

The first article discussed a new study in the peer-reviewed science journal Remote Sensing, which examines data captured by NASA satellites between 2000 and 2011. This new data shows that the Earth's atmosphere is allowing far more heat to be released into space than the UN computer models have predicted. It is indicated in this study that far less future global warming will occur than the UN computer models have predicted, and it also supports prior studies concluding that increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide trap far less heat than has been claimed. In his article, Mr Taylor makes a good judgement by saying:

… the central premise of alarmist global warming theory is that carbon dioxide emissions should be directly and indirectly trapping a certain amount of heat in the earth's atmosphere and preventing it from escaping into space. Real-world measurements, however, show far less heat is being trapped in the earth's atmosphere than the alarmist computer models predict, and far more heat is escaping into space than the alarmist computer models predict.

When objective NASA satellite data, reported in a peer-reviewed scientific journal, show a "huge discrepancy" between … climate models and real-world facts, climate scientists, the media and our elected officials would be wise to take notice.

I endorse these comments and think that members on the other side should look closely at all sides of research rather than trying to sell a highly flawed carbon tax scheme. It is worth commenting that this Labor government runs out its political playbook lines all the time on this issue and on all issues. They denigrate the opposition leader and our side for what they allege are extreme comments about the effects of their carbon tax, yet on every occasion they ask themselves a question at question time the prefix 'dangerous' is added before mentioning climate change.

So this is a pathetic government defined by its political lines and it finds criticism of itself unparliamentary, as was evidenced today in question time. The alarmist rhetoric in this debate belongs to this government, the falsity of whose apocalyptic predictions will be realised all too soon—although I think the majority of this nation no longer believes this government with their dire predictions or in fact anything they say. It was bad enough that the Prime Minister misled the Australian public just days before the last election by stating, 'There will be no carbon tax under a government I lead,' but now the Prime Minister is continuing to hurt Australia families and businesses despite frequently being told of the negative impact that her and the Greens' carbon tax is having in this country.

However, going back to Mr Taylor's reporting of science, I would like to mention another article he published regarding Antarctic ice, which looks at an article recently mentioned on National Public Radio. In the article a meteorologist, Anthony Watts, explains that new data shows ice mass is accumulating on the Antarctic continent as well as in the ocean surrounding the Antarctic. This clearly contradicts claims by global warming alarmists that the expanding Antarctic sea ice is coming at the expense of a decline in Antarctic continental ice. I find the manner in which a large majority of mainstream media like to publish articles on ice loss in West Antarctica and the Antarctic Peninsula astounding. They must forget to mention that ice is accumulating over the area of East Antarctica and that the continent as a whole is gaining snow and ice mass. The article also covers a new NASA and university study which found evidence that Antarctica once supported vegetation similar to that of present-day Iceland. The article concluded with a quote that I would like to share:

The southward movements of rain bands associated with a warmer climate in the high-latitude southern hemisphere made the margins of Antarctica less like a polar desert, and more like present-day Iceland

A very important aspect which should be considered in the global warming debate when those on the government side claim that what is happening now in the world is unprecedented is that over history the world and its climate have changed and will continue to change. There are cold days and there are hot days. There are rainy days and there are dry days. I find it both concerning and amusing when people complain about unseasonal weather or discuss the lack of rain or the latest downpour and then end the conversation with the phrase, 'But it's okay; the carbon tax will fix it,' followed by laughter. It is a reality that the Australian public have seen through this government and know that the carbon tax is no more than another broken promise and an example of a further ineffective Labor policy that was made, and is now trying to be changed, on the run.

In conclusion, these amendment bills to make major structural change comes about inside three months of the operation of the carbon tax and, as we have heard from previous speakers, will remove the legislated floor price from the carbon tax and link the Australian carbon tax with the European ETS, not to mention the proposed amendments that will seek to increase the carbon unit auction limit from 15 million to 40 million for 2015-16. They will also alter the arrangements applying an equivalent carbon price for liquid fuels and synthetic greenhouse gases, as well as making amendments about the measurement of potential greenhouse gas emissions and natural gas liabilities. What I and the Australian public see in this move is a government that has lost its way and has implemented a carbon tax which is in such disarray that since being implemented it has had eight major changes made to it. These amendment bills are further evidence that the government has lost control of its carbon tax and is making policy and policy changes ad hoc. The carbon tax is imposing a burden on all Australians, and there is no environmental benefit for it. Under a coalition-led government the carbon tax will be repealed and the Australian public will see direct action on the environment.

There is no doubt that I oppose these clean energy amendment bills. The only leader that can be believed with regard to this carbon tax is Tony Abbott, who has said that there will be no carbon tax under a government he leads. When Tony Abbott says it, it is the case. It will happen. I look forward to the next change of government, whereby the carbon tax will be removed and the Australian people and Australian businesses—those people that employ and help drive this country forward—will no longer live under the yoke of this carbon tax.