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Monday, 19 September 2011
Page: 10551


Mr NEVILLE (HinklerThe Nationals Deputy Whip) (19:15): I quote: 'There will be no carbon tax under a government I lead.' Not in recent history has such a blatant political lie been told, designed purely—

Mr Clare: Madam Deputy Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The member has used unparliamentary language and I would ask him to withdraw.

Mr NEVILLE: I said a ' political lie ' , Madam Deputy Speaker.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Ms Vamvakinou ): The member will withdraw the word ' lie ' to assist the chair.

Mr NEVILLE: To assist the chair: in recent history there has never been such a political misleading of the Australian public on a scale purely designed to secure government and to hold on to power. This was not some clever play on words which voters could misinterpret or an aspirational vision statement which painted a picture of something in the future for the electorate. No, it was a clear, bold, concise deceit which, at that critical closing stage campaign, left nobody—note: nobody—in any doubt. Here was a potential Prime Minister guaranteeing Australians that she would never introduce a carbon tax. With a starting point of deception, it is little wonder that there is scant respect for the carbon abatement debate anywhere in Australia. In fact, the government has been the master of its own undoing in that respect.

Here we are today, forced into debating legislation which has only just been introduced into the House and has not been scrutinised by any of the usual methods of this parliament. On the whim of a minority party and a handful of Independents, the parliament has been hijacked by radical ideals to the detriment of the Australian economy and Australian families. I cannot say this more clearly: any government which puts its own political interests above those of the very people it has a duty to care for is not worthy of office. A carbon tax in this country will not reduce global emission levels one iota. It will hurt our own industries at a time when they can least withstand it. It will spawn a whole new bureaucracy—the sole purpose of which will be to take money from the households and businesses, funnel it through government departments of endless public servants and dribble it back in the form of government handouts to try to compensate for the inevitable increased costs everyone will have to pay. The whole idea of a carbon tax or a carbon abatement scheme is to discourage people from wasting power and wasting energy. But if you compensate to a level where that does not become an issue, what have you achieved? It is almost an admission on one hand and falling into an abyss on the other.

Last week, Queensland's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for August was at 6.2 per cent—up from 5.7 per cent in July. Indeed, unemployment in Queensland is at a 10-year high, with 15,000 people joining the dole queues in August, pushing unemployment to 155,000 Queenslanders. To drive those statistics home, last month only 1,800 new jobs were created in Queensland, but 14,900 were lost. Such a significant rise in unemployment in Queensland at this time of the year cannot be ignored. While increases in unemployment are expected over the Christmas period, it is a sign of the financial distress out there in Queensland's business community when there is a half per cent rise in the middle of the year.

Locally the same story is being told right now. People of Wide Bay-Burnett are doing it tough. Unemployment is at the highest level for years, sitting at 12.3 per cent. We have not seen it that high for the past seven years—since July 2004. Wide Bay-Burnett's total youth unemployment rate is 26.2 per cent, and our full-time youth unemployment rate is sitting at 38.9 per cent. Jobs are a precious commodity in my electorate, and anything which puts job security and job creation at risk is simply not welcome.

I must also mention the plight of pensioners and other older Australians who live on fixed incomes. I have almost 22,500 age pensioners living in my electorate, and they will pay a high price under the Labor-Green carbon tax through higher costs for electricity, gas, food, water, transport and health. The tax will directly impact on a wide variety of goods that pensioners and other older Australians purchase on a regular basis; and, as those prices go up and up, it is inconceivable that any offsets the government might offer will be able to keep up, and this is just the start. The Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs accidentally admitted as much in a recent letter to the editor which appeared in one of my local newspapers. She confidently asserted that pensioners would receive more in compensation payments than they would pay out through higher household bills—but her maths were well and truly out of whack. She reported that the average increase in household bills would be $9.90 a week, including food, gas and electricity. In her own words, 'We are providing Australian pensioners with increased payments that are more than the expected average price rise.' And then she announces $10.10—20c more. Newsflash, Minister: $9.90 is $515 a year; $10.10 is $25. Work it out for yourself. One minor glitch in your scenario and pensioners and fixed income earners are down the drain. Even a primary school student can work that out for themselves. The soaring cost of electricity in Queensland will not just hit pensioners but every single household and enterprises of the state. Despite Premier Bligh's promise that 'nobody would be worse off' under the Labor government's electricity charges, Queensland families have suffered a 63 per cent increase in the last five years, or $628 per year on top of an average $1,000 bill. And these costs are only going to go up.

On July 12, CS Energy CEO David Brown told a Queensland parliament finance estimates hearing that the carbon tax will be the single biggest cost item for electricity generators going forward. These companies are going to have to recoup these costs, and the state has passed legislation which allows them to do so. It is estimated that the carbon tax will add a further $190 a year to those bills, and those costs are only going to go up.

Late last month in August, the Fraser Coast Chronicle reported that thousands of Fraser Coast builders have found themselves out of work or have left the industry in the past two years. In fact, construction on the Fraser Coast has halved since 2009. The construction sector employed 12,175 people in Wide Bay in February 2009, while the latest figures reveal a slump down to 6,486 jobs. In other words, the figure has nearly halved. One of the industry professionals interviewed for the article, Connell Constructions owner, John Connell, has been forced to pay off three staff and says the state of the industry is the worst he's seen in 40 years. To quote Mr Connell:

The (industry) won't improve until we get a different government.

The Gillard government had the opportunity to help us with the school buildings being built, but barely any of them went to local contractors. Had they been given to local guys, our contractors would be busy right now.

The main problem in my opinion is people haven't got confidence in the government so they haven't been spending.

Likewise, Bundaberg builder, Brad Warren of Warren Family Homes, told the Bundaberg NewsMail on July 26 that the carbon tax would send the economy 'spiralling downwards'. In his own words, regarding the carbon tax, Mr Warren said:

The building industry is struggling at the moment—we need it like a hole in the head.

Never have truer words been spoken. He is well aware that the carbon tax is set to add another $5,000 to the cost of building an average new home and he knows what the consequence will be for his business.

High-growth centres like Bundaberg and Hervey Bay rely heavily on the local building industry for their economic stability, but our local housing sector is dominated by small subcontractors who will not get any compensation under the carbon tax. These people, who are effectively being punished for being self-employed, are the big losers in the Gillard wealth distribution ideals. Why? Because they do not get what the pensioners and others on fixed incomes will get.

According to the Bureau of Statistics, the value of private dwelling construction in the Bundaberg Regional Council area has been in freefall since 2007, going from $131.6 million in the 2006 calendar year to just $66.2 million for 2010. It is the same scenario on the Fraser Coast where the value of private dwelling construction dropped from $307.6 million in 2006 to $149.6 million for 2010. The last thing our local building industry needs is another deterrent in the form of a new tax, which will invariably flow through to the costs of existing homes as well.

Homeowners throughout Hinkler are already facing higher electricity costs, gas bills and water rates as well as an anticipated 10 per cent extra for electricity and nine per cent for gas, if the carbon tax is passed. With a national housing shortage of 202,400 dwellings and low levels of housing affordability, locals need a hike in the cost of construction and development like, as I said before, a hole in the head. Investors in new housing will also pass on the higher repayments to their tenants in the form of higher rents. The carbon tax will also cost jobs in the Australian building product manufacturing sector—places which manufacture kitchen cabinets, bench tops, windows and the like—because they will not be able to match the price of imported items from countries which do not have a carbon tax.

A Deloitte Access Economics report commissioned by the Queensland government and tabled in the state parliament on August 23 outlined just how bad the carbon tax will be for Queensland. In fact, it stated the carbon tax will hit Queensland the hardest, costing an estimated 21,000 in forecasted jobs and slashing state growth by 2.76 per cent to 2020. It estimated that the tax will cut the state's growth by 0.57 per cent more than the rest of the country over the decade because of Queensland's dependence on the high-emitting resources sector, including mining and minerals processing, is well understood. By 2050, Queensland growth will be 4.11 per cent lower under a carbon tax. These are frightening figures, but they go down to the simplest things affecting the average householder. Most people's garbage bills will rise $200. In fact, state governments around Australia say it will cost around $100 million more to run hospitals, while public transport fares could go up an average of $150 per person per year. In regional Queensland, councils are already suffering under Labor's ideology of forced council amalgamations, which saw the removal of a 40 per cent subsidy for water and sewerage infrastructure projects. Imagine what it will be like when councils have to pay for the effects of a new tax on top of that.

All in all, this is a very ugly picture. I do not like it. I am generally an optimistic sort of person, but this is not an optimistic scenario. As I said before, if the whole idea of a carbon tax is to alter behaviour, if it is to put a value on energy and see it is used wisely, the mere fact that the government has had to compensate people to such a high level gives a lie to its own agenda—I hope I can use the word 'lie' in that context.

I do not support the legislation and I doubt very much if my electorate would.