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Monday, 19 September 2011
Page: 10554

Mrs D'ATH (Petrie) (19:30): I rise to speak in support of these clean energy bills, and I do so as a proud member of the Gillard Labor government, a government which had the foresight to say, 'Enough is enough,' when it comes to talking about addressing climate change and is willing to stand up and finally take action on this important matter. The Prime Minister said in this House just a week ago that this parliament has been debating climate change for decades. The parliamentary debate of this issue predates the building itself. The Prime Minister said:

My predecessor as member for Lalor, Barry Jones, once said this about climate change, 'If we are only prepared to plan five years, 10 years, 15 years or 20 years down the track all the dangers that are feared can be avoided.'

Those words were spoken 24 years ago this week.

For my part, I went to the election in 2007 and promised my electorate action on climate change. In 2010, I went back to the people in the electorate of Petrie and once again affirmed my commitment to take action on climate change and to see an emissions trading scheme introduced to this country. That is what this government is doing for this country.

I have had a number of people in my electorate approach me and talk to me about their views on this issue. Can I say how pleasing it is, but not surprising, that so many of those people who are so supportive of taking action on climate change are our seniors. I cannot count the number of seniors—pensioners and retirees, a lot of them men—who have come up to me and said, 'Yvette, we have to do this. We have to deal with climate change.' A gentleman came up to me in a shopping centre and said, 'Our children will curse us if we do not do this.' I have had retirees who have said, 'We need to stop thinking of our hip pocket and start thinking about our grandchildren's future.' It is our retirees who understand this the most, because they understand that the decisions we make today affect future generations and that we cannot look into the eyes of our children and grandchildren and tell them: 'It was all just too hard; we just could not do it.'

There are a lot of school students out there who are very frustrated by the delay in dealing with climate change because they feel that they are doing a lot. They are doing a lot in their schools and in their homes to try to save energy and make the world a better place. But they feel like not enough is being done in the business community. They say to me, 'Why should we make such an effort at home when we see high-rises in the city with all their lights on?' It is a fair point. It is about time that business steps up and takes on its responsibility. That is what will occur under this set of bills. The largest polluters in this country will pay for the pollution that they put into our atmosphere. By them paying, not only will we start addressing climate change and carbon emissions but we will be able to use the money paid by those big polluters to give back to the community to start tackling some of the important issues that need to be tackled to address climate change, like reinvesting in clean energy and renewables and supporting households and businesses to make this very important transition.

We have heard a number of claims from people in this chamber. We just heard from the member for Hinkler. Despite the claims made by the member for Hinkler, the facts are that more than 36,600 pensioners in Hinkler will receive $338 extra per year if they are single and up to $510 per year for couples combined in their pension payments. On average, the expected increase in costs due to a carbon price for single pensioners will be $204 per year. With the increase in their pension payments they will be $134 better off. The assistance to pensioners will be automatic and will start before the carbon price begins through an advance payment of $250 for singles and $190 for each member of a couple. This will be paid in May and June 2012. From March 2013, assistance will be delivered through extra fortnightly payments. The member for Hinkler said, 'But, if other prices are going up, the assistance that the government gives is pointless. It will all be gone.' Let's be clear: this assistance is about assisting households in relation to the impact that the introduction of a carbon price will have. It is not assistance for all general increases in costs of living; it is about assisting people to meet the carbon price. There will be other cost-of-living increases related to a whole lot of other issues, and there will be businesses out there who try to claim that the price increases that are passing on are due to the carbon price. That is why this government is giving strong powers to the ACCC—to make sure that those businesses who price gouge and mislead their customers about why they are increasing their prices are prosecuted.

Treasury modelling has shown that the average increase in prices as a consequence of the carbon price will be around 0.7 per cent. The assistance that nine out of 10 households get will be equal to or better than that. Our pensioners will get the equivalent of a 1.7 per cent increase in payments to assist them in any costs arising from the introduction of a carbon price. These are the facts. The facts also are that, when we look at what a 0.7 per cent increase means to the average household, we can give people a comparison that they can understand. They only need to think back to 2000, when the GST came in, and to what the impact was on the them then, because at that time there was a close to 2.5 per cent increase in the CPI, whereas what is being proposed and modelled with the introduction of the carbon price is only a 0.7 per cent increase in the CPI.

We have heard from members on the other side, including the member for Barker, and a number of them have made claims that are just misleading. I am sure that they are out in the community trying to scaremonger and convince people that the carbon price is going to hurt them and that they should not support it. But the fact is that the carbon price will be paid by around 500 of Australia's biggest polluters, not the truck drivers, as those on the other side would have the community believe. Truck drivers currently receive discounted fuel through the fuel tax credit by which they pay around 15c a litre less than ordinary motorists. The government is proposing to reduce this discount by 6.9c a litre from 1 July 2014. Fluctuations in the global oil price have a far greater impact than that. In just the last four years, the price of diesel has fluctuated by around 62c a litre—it has cost between $1.18 and $1.80 a litre at the bowser. Trucks that use LPG, CNG and LNG as well as ethanol, biodiesel and renewable diesel will not be affected at all, and the impact of a reduction in the fuel tax credit can be offset by moving to more fuel-efficient vehicles. We need to begin the long process of weaning ourselves off oil, a finite resource which in coming decades is likely to become increasingly expensive as the world's reserves run dry.

Despite what they say on the other side, the Australian Trucking Association in a press release of 10 July 2011 stated:

The ATA has welcomed the Government's decision to exempt the trucking industry from carbon tax until 1 July 2014.

It continued by saying that this will:

give small trucking businesses a breathing space to increase their fuel efficiency and renegotiate contracts with their customers.

So, despite the claims of those on the other side, the reality is that the industry is willing to work with the government; they understand the importance of these reforms.

The member for Barker is trying to start a scare campaign about the agricultural sector; in fact, the agricultural sector has nothing to fear from the carbon price. The facts are clear: the agricultural sector is permanently excluded from the carbon price scheme. Farmers will not pay the carbon price, they will not have to account to their emissions and every litre of fuel used on a farm will receive the same tax credits that the government pays now. Farmers will now also have the opportunity to earn new income through the Carbon Farming Initiative, which recently passed through parliament and which the member for Barker and the coalition voted against. The government knows that farmers already do a lot for the local environment, and through the CFI we have ensured that farmers can now be rewarded for this good work. Taking steps to reduce emissions from livestock and fertiliser use or increase carbon in soils and vegetation will allow farmers and landholders to generate credits which can be sold to businesses as carbon offsets.

So, despite the views of those on the other side, the fact is that businesses and homeowners want action on climate change and are willing to step up and be part of that action. They acknowledge that there may be a cost, but they also acknowledge that the government is providing assistance. The Treasurer has released current modelling that once again breaks down what the increases in prices will be. For products such as milk and cheese and other dairy products we are looking at a 0.4 per cent increase; for cakes and cereals we are looking at a 0.4 per cent increase; for fruit and vegetables we are looking at a 0.4 per cent increase; and for meat and seafood we are looking at a 0.4 per cent increase. The fact is that all of the price increases that have been modelled will be 0.5 per cent or less other than the increase in prices for electricity, gas and utilities, which, it is estimated will be around 7.9 per cent, which equates to about $3.30 a week in electricity bills and $1.50 per week in average gas bills. These, not those that we are hearing the other side talk about so often, are the real price increases.

What does the other side really offer? They offer a model that does not achieve the bipartisan targets. In order to reach the target, they will need to plant enough trees to cover five Tasmanias, the entire land area of Germany or an area the size of Victoria and Tasmania combined. They have no support from any credible scientists or economists; in fact the Leader of the Opposition has on a number of occasions attacked leading economists and scientists for supporting the government's policy. Their modelling does not add up; in fact, the independent Grattan Institute has estimated that there is a $100 billion black hole—that is, a third of the entire federal government budget—in the Liberal Party's costings. Treasury estimates that, without international permits, which we know the opposition are opposed to, the Liberal Party's model would cost $30 billion in today's dollars in 2020. Taxpayers will have to pay an extra $1,300 per household. This is what the opposition says. Maybe the opposition should start listening to people like David Cameron, the British Prime Minister, who is actually delighted to hear about the ambitious package of climate change policy measures announced by the Gillard Labor government and who, on 31 July, wrote to the Prime Minister of Australia outlining his delight at our announcements. I certainly support the bills before the House. The country is looking for action on climate change. My electorate is looking for action on climate change. I am pleased to support the bills. While we are making history, the opposition will be remembered for their opposition to addressing climate change.