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Tuesday, 14 June 2011
Page: 5882


Mr BUCHHOLZ (Wright) (17:25): The four bills contained in this package are the Taxation of Alternative Fuels Legislation Amendment Bill 2011, the Excise Tariff Amendment (Taxation of Alternative Fuels) Bill 2011, the Customs Tariff Amendment (Taxation of Alternative Fuels) Bill 2011 and the Energy Grants (Cleaner Fuels) Scheme Amendment Bill 2011. I just sat and listened to the previous speaker, the member for Dobell, who commented that he was involved in the committee inquiry into the bills. He took aim at the member for Higgins and asked how we could not support this legislation. I want to defend the member for Higgins and rebut the previous speaker. Recently in Sydney the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Economics received evidence from LPG Australia, and other groups whose businesses are going to be affected by this increase in tariff, this increase in tax. We received evidence from NRMA, who represent millions and millions of motorists; from Dalby Bio-Refinery and the United Petroleum group; from BOC, the wholesalers of gas; from the Australian Taxi Industry Association; and from a number of others. It saddens me that the previous speaker, the chair of the economics committee, could not even be bothered to show up to listen to that evidence. These are businesses and peak bodies that are going to feel the real effect of the increase in this tax.

These bills are about bringing into the fuel taxation regime certain alternative fuels used for transport purposes and making them subject to excise duty or excise-equivalent customs duty. The fuels affected are liquefied petroleum gas, the LPG which we stick in the car; liquefied natural gas, LNG; and compressed natural gas, CNG. Those gases currently have a tax-free threshold. This legislation would increase the taxes on them to a rate in line with an excise, which I will get to later on in my speech. It wants to put up the taxes and then discount them 50 per cent to reflect the potential benefits of these alternative fuels. Mr Deputy Speaker, I need to counsel you that, when you hear that there is going to be a reduction of 50 per cent, that is just a play on words. The reality is that this is a money grab.

I want to comment on some of the realities of where this legislation arose from. The previous speaker was correct: it derived from our policy. It was our intent to bring this legislation forward. But it was intended to be brought forward in an environment of economic prosperity and stability. You must remember that when we left government we left the Treasury coffers with no less than $44 billion in them. It is when you have that prosperity and that economic superiority that you can make decisions like that for the future. There was a period of an eight-year lead-in. What needed to happen during that lead-in was for an energy policy framework that matched the future usage of alternative fuels to be mapped out so that this piece of legislation could fold over the top of it. But in the last four years we have seen nothing of a framework being put in place from the Labor government, and without a framework this legislation is nothing. Who is going to benefit from this legislation? We had six Treasury officials attend our committee hearing. I asked them what impact this would have at the bowser on those people who had gone out and done the conversion to LPG—and they just looked at each other. With all the resources available to the Australian Treasury, you would have thought that when they came before the Standing Committee on Economics they would have calculated the impact of this legislation on mum and dad motorists. They had calculated a lot of other things but when I asked the question, 'What impact would it have on the bowser price, all things being equal?' it had to be taken on notice. As quick as a flash I did some sums and calculated that we were going to see around a 20 per cent increase at the bowser for LPG. That is a 20 per cent increase for mums and dads.

The previous speaker dared to label the opposition as 'hypocritical'. A 20 per cent increase at the bowser is a direct impost on mums and dads, yet the government claims to represent them, the working families. The people who can afford it the least are the ones who are going to be hit, notwithstanding the 70,000 taxis that shuttle those people who may not be fortunate enough to have their own form of transport or the impost that this legislation is going to have on public transport services, our bus networks, particularly in Queensland, that run on CNG. This government has skewed this legislation towards a money grab. And the money grab in this legislation comes, from memory, in at around $518 million, yet the government stands up in here and says that we are hypocrites. This legislation is nothing short of a money grab.

This legislation can also be juxtaposed with the carbon tax, because it has potentially negative implications and impacts on the environment. What it speaks to is that, as the price of cleaner, greener energies becomes more expensive, they become taxed out of existence. With the 50 per cent tax excise that these guys are looking to put on, I can assure you that the tax will not stay at 50 per cent in their forward estimates. It will continue to go up until this product is taxed out of the marketplace. When you start looking at the basic premise of the argument of why we should have a carbon tax and trading permits, the procedure creates a disadvantage for mums, dads and pensioners who use energy. Under this system we are expected to believe that it is the messiah, that it will bring home the bacon for the government. I can assure you, Mr Deputy Speaker, it will do none of that. It is a completely juxtaposed position. It will actually force people who have made the conversion to LPG to turn to fossil fuels in order to keep their heads above water.

We also heard the argument earlier about jobs. I can cite two gas conversion companies on the eastern seaboard of this country that have shut their businesses because they can no longer remain viable. I would challenge anyone from the Labor government to explain to me and to those people who have lost their jobs in this industry where these green jobs that you are promising are. Where are these green jobs to which you are telling me that I can direct the people who have left the gas conversion industry? Where are these green jobs? I do not want you to round the number up to 50 or anything; just give me one. Give me one green job that I can show to these people who have lost their jobs because of poor legislation so that I can send them to that job. And I would be glad to go and say g'day to those guys. You say that we scaremonger. The fear that has been driven by this carbon debate is based on the premise that you have not put a price on carbon. You are fostering—and enjoying—scaring the Australian public by not putting a price on carbon and having us suppose what that price will be. I have done some quick calculations. You say that you are going to rebate pensioners with 500 bucks, but the carbon price should be around $4.50. I tell you, if it comes in at any higher than that, if you guys have your way, you will be nothing short of a laughing-stock.

No-one in the carbon debate has been able to tell us how much tax is going to be required to change the temperature of the planet. This is all about the environment. The whole premise of the carbon tax is about changing the temperature of the planet but no-one has been able to identify that price in their speech. You go after the opposition on the fact that we always oppose everything. I will tell you what we opposed: we opposed the installation program because it was simply bad policy. We opposed it because it was bad. We opposed the BER overspends because they were shocking. When you put up bad policy, expect a clip around the ear. We opposed Fuelwatch, which was an absolute waste of money. We opposed your GroceryWatch, which was also just a waste of money. We oppose the way that you are managing Australia's borders and security and the asylum seekers. So do not sit there and say that we say no, no, no, no all the time and that we are going to say no to this. We say no because it is bad policy. If you want us to stop saying no, start changing the quality of the policy that you are putting up. You have not had a decent thought of your own in 60 years. All of this is just regurgitated waffle from other countries. I will take you quickly now to some of the comments that we had from industry leaders with reference to a comment from BOC gas. The bills in their current form will disadvantage a cleaner and greener LNG as an emerging transport fuel when compared with diesel and other alternative fuels. That in itself shows the harm that we are looking down the barrel at. There are going to be the job losses that I spoke of earlier on. These bills in their entirety will do very little to speak to the actual intent. Our intent when we put them together with the absence of that framework was to encompass other alternatives like electric cars and hybrid cars and other alternative fuels which are not encompassed in this bill. This is nothing short of a money grab. Only a coalition government in power will bring control back to the Australian Treasury, back to the Australian coffers, by curtailing the government's horrible wasteful spending.

It will bring control back to an ever-increasing, escalating taxation regime and we, as a coalition, believe in smaller government. We believe in less taxes and we believe in the right for businesses and for pensioners and mums and dads to be able to go about their day-to-day business in an environment that does not have debt up to the back teeth. With that I, I am frustrated.