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Monday, 19 September 2011
Page: 10470

Mr COULTON (ParkesThe Nationals Chief Whip) (13:32): While it is tempting to spend my time rebutting the member for Melbourne's speech, I will try to resist. But I will say that in this House I have never heard so much emotional claptrap so removed from reality. The member for Melbourne thanked the people of Melbourne for putting him here for this momentous occasion. I was in Melbourne last week and it seems to me that there are a lot of houses and a lot of buildings in the middle of Melbourne made out of concrete. They have glass windows. They have trams running on steel tracks using electricity to drive them around. While the good folk of Melbourne might have a desire to improve the environment, they do not appear to be doing too much of it themselves.

The member for Melbourne's scare campaign of referring to catastrophic climate change is nothing short of ridiculous. The member for Melbourne is still using the images of the Murray-Darling Basin after suffering 10 years of drought to demonstrate his argument. If the member for Melbourne would like to get out of the capital city and go to look at the Murray-Darling Basin, he will find out that it actually has rained, we are not in drought and the system has not run dry, as he would lead us to believe. The interesting thing is that the good folk of Melbourne, supported by the Greens during that drought, started a pipeline to pipe water from the Murray-Darling Basin for the good people of Melbourne to flush down their toilets. This is gross hypocrisy.

Professor Garnaut, who did the original report on climate change and an emissions trading scheme for the Rudd government, said that regional Australia would have an economic downturn of 20 per cent and the cities would have one of eight per cent. When the member for Melbourne comes in here with a scheme where the people of his electorate undertake the same amount of hardship as the people of my electorate, we might start talking. This is nonsense.

We talk about 100 per cent renewable energy in Australia. How do you make a solar farm or a wind turbine without a steel mill? How do you make a wind turbine without an iron ore mine and a coalmine to make the steel to make the turbine? Do the good climate fairies come in at midnight and put these turbines up to generate the electricity? This is an absolute nonsense.

This is, indeed, a historic occasion, but I suggest that we do not want to get too far ahead of ourselves. This is the third time I have spoken on this subject in this place. On the previous two occasions that I spoke, the members of the government and the more recent Greens member had breathless anticipation of worldwide change, but it did not quite happen—so we have not got there yet. Do not count your chickens until they hatch. As I said in my very first speech on the subject, in 2008, this is going to have a devastating effect on the Australian economy.

This bill has been couched as compensation and it has been couched as tax reform. Pardon me—I thought the idea of this legislation was for it to have some sort of environmental effect. We are talking about global environmental effect; Australia does not live in a bubble. As a result of this tax and of the belief by some that it will come about, we are starting to see changes of behaviour, but not the sorts of changes of behaviour that the breathless member for Melbourne spoke about. We are starting to see Australian industry move offshore. For instance, about 100 tonnes of concrete are needed to secure each of the wind turbines which are supposedly going to generate all our power. But guess where that concrete is going to come from. It is not going to come from the plant in central New South Wales at Kandos, because, due to the uncertainty over the economy and due to the price of carbon, it has closed—cement is a triple emitter.

Mr Lyons: We haven't got a carbon price yet, and it has closed already.

Mr COULTON: Yes, it has closed; but I do not suppose the good folk of Bass are going to go without cement. No—the good folk of Bass are going to get their cement on a ship that will come from Indonesia or China or Japan where they do not have a carbon trading scheme and where, incidentally, they put out about 20 per cent or 30 per cent—

Mr Stephen Jones interjecting

Mr COULTON: You will get your chance. Cement factories in Indonesia or China put out about 20 per cent or 30 per cent more carbon per tonne of cement than the factory in Australia did. So not only will more carbon be produced in a Third World country but the jobs will also be in the Third World country, and we will have ships traversing the globe to bring cement into Australia. It will be the same with the steel. Where does the good member for Melbourne think the steel is going to come from when they need new tracks for their trams in Melbourne? It is going to come from overseas. Where are the jobs that are going to create these things going to be? They are going to be overseas.

Being a member of parliament is not a popularity contest. People say that the coalition is running a popularity contest. In 2008, When I first spoke on the carbon price, 85 per cent of Australians were saying that they wanted an emissions trading scheme—that they wanted to put a price on carbon—but now it is down to about 20 per cent. I would like to think that this change was because of the great work that the coalition has done, but it is not; the reason for the change is that the Australian people have realised that they have been sold a dud and that they are going to be asked to change their lifestyle for no environmental gain. There was an article in the paper today about how the price of Weet-Bix is going to go up one cent per biscuit or something like that and that milk is going to go up by so much, and so on. But that is not the argument. A cement worker at Kandos does not care about the price of Weet-Bix; he has to worry about affording the Weet-Bix in the first place because he has lost his job. What about the steelworkers? We have the member for whatever that suburb is in Wollongong where the steelworkers in Wollongong are losing their jobs. What about the people in Western Sydney who work in the factories which do repair works on the steel mills—who is going to protect their jobs?

For the members of the government and the Greens and the Independents this debate is like a year 5 social studies class where they come in, breathlessly excited, to show the teacher how they are going to save the world with absolutely no practical understanding of the consequences. The reason I am opposed to this legislation is that regional Australia will have an economic downturn of 20 per cent—we are users of energy. Do you think the tractor that grows the wheat to make the bread eaten by those good folk in Melbourne who are so warm and fuzzy about this bill is going to be run on a solar panel? Do you think the irrigation pump that pumps the water which grows the cotton used to make their shirts is going to be run on a solar panel? This is gross ignorance and hypocrisy. This House has turned its back on this tax twice before. It is not too late to save Australia from this tax yet again.

Behind me here sit the Independents—the member for New England and the member for Lyne. The member for New England has been making some very disparaging comments of late about redneck politics. He has been taking the high moral ground: he wants to give the Australian environment the benefit of the doubt. But you don't give something the benefit of the doubt if you know that it is going to have no environmental effect. Why would the member for New England and the member for Lyne support legislation that was clearly going to be detrimental to the economies of their electorates—which are exporters—and their country?

A farmer in my electorate who wants to produce a tonne of grain and process it into bread or stockfeed or something like that will pay a tax; a farmer somewhere else in the world will not. If I want to dig up a tonne of coal at Mudgee in my electorate and mix it with a tonne of iron ore from the electorate of my good colleague up the back here and make something here in Australia, there will be a tax; if I want to put those things on a boat and send them to China to get them to make it and send it back to us, there will be no tax. But how are we going to pay for it when it comes back? Agriculture and mining were the two industries—and, in my electorate, they are now equally productive—that saved this country from global recession. It was not the stupid stimulus package that put up those dodgy walls and burnt houses down with insulation that saved the country; it was mining and agriculture. But those industries are going to be hit. My electorate is going to be hit. The pensioners in my electorate may get some compensation, but it will not be enough. Already we are finding that they are, through fear of the future, shivering in winter because they are not game to turn their heaters on.

Opposing this legislation is about doing the right thing. It is about looking after the future of our children and grandchildren. We have heard the member for Melbourne talking about looking after the future of our children, but you can only look after the environment when you have a couple of bob in your pocket to spend on making the necessary improvements. If you are a farmer who is cash strapped, you cannot afford to make the improvements in technology which you need to be more efficient. If you are a business and you are being taxed, the ability to improve your business to make it more environmentally sustainable is taken away from you. You do not help the Australian people to change and improve the way they live by taxing them.

This legislation is going to have no environmental effect. We have heard from others in this debate that we have to catch up with the rest of the world. Between 2005 and 2011, the EU's emissions trading scheme raised $2.6 billion to $2.9 billion. That operates in over 30 countries, including 27 members of the EU plus Iceland, Lichtenstein and Norway. The Australian carbon tax, which we are speaking about now and will vote on—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Hon. Peter Slipper ): Order! It being 1.45 pm, the debate is interrupted in accordance with standing order 43. The debate may be resumed at a later hour and the honourable member for Parkes will then have the opportunity to continue his remarks.