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Tuesday, 20 September 2011
Page: 10727


Mr BALDWIN (Paterson) (09:05): I rise today to speak on the 19 pieces of carbon tax legislation before the House. It is a disgrace that members are allotted less than 50 seconds per piece of legislation in which to debate the substantial arguments in relation to carbon tax. Let me state clearly and unequivocally that the issue here is not about whether or not to take actions to reduce Australia's CO2 emissions by five per cent of the 2000 level—that is, to 530 million tonnes of CO2. We all agree that we should give the planet the benefit of any doubt. As both the government and the coalition have the same targeted outcome, there is no dispute. The issue here is solely the method of delivering the achievement of that target.

The Gillard-Brown Labor-Green government's way is to introduce a new carbon tax—a tax based on directly charging $23 per tonne of emissions on the country's top 500 polluters. I also point out that the tax was to be based on the top 1,000 polluters only a month or so ago but, with the stroke of a pen, it is now just 500 major polluters. Taxing these 500 companies, which will include the electrical generators of this nation, will start an avalanche of inflation, a massive price hike and a cumulative tax that puts a price on everyone and everything, without an ounce of education or leadership on how individuals can make a difference. By way of comparison and direct contrast, the coalition's way of achieving a five per cent reduction in emissions is through a well-developed, fully funded direct action plan and an investment sourced from consolidated revenue without increasing taxes but funded through savings in the budget and, most importantly, invested in Australia for Australia.

This government's tax propLabor's way is to outsource its direct action overseas by spending $3.7 billion per annum in carbon credits instead of investing in Australia.osal will not even reduce the emissions created in Australia. I discovered from page 18 of the government's 'carbon Sunday' document, Strong growth, low pollution—modelling a carbon price, that our current emissions are 578 million tonnes. Our obligation is to reduce our nation's emissions by five per cent on 2000 figures by 2020—that is, to get Australia's emissions down to 530 million tonnes. The document is misleading. By the government's own figures, it does not say that we are reducing Australia's emissions by five per cent. The government's own figures say that in fact we are increasing our own domestic emissions from 578 million tonnes to 621 million tonnes, an increase from the 2000 figure of 91 million tonnes. So, at the 2020 figure of $29 a tonne for the carbon tax, our emissions will actually go up from 578 million tonnes now to 621 million tonnes in 2020. At $131 a tonne for the carbon tax in 2050, we do not get an 80 per cent reduction in emissions; we actually get only a six per cent reduction in Australians' emissions. Australia's CO2 emissions in 2050, on the government's own figures, will have gone from 578 million tonnes now to 545 million tonnes.

In 2050 this Labor government will be spending $57 billion per annum offshore. That is right: offshore, buying 400 million tonnes of foreign carbon credits. In fact, it will have spent an estimated $650 billion by 2050 buying offshore carbon credits from foreign carbon traders. This government is just engaging in a massive transfer of wealth from this country to carbon traders overseas, and I have to ask: where is the sense of duty to the environment and the government's fiduciary responsibility to the taxpayers of Australia, to Australian industries and to Australian jobs?

This government is so desperate to avoid any scrutiny of the fact that its carbon tax plan will send billions of Australian taxpayers' dollars—money from hardworking Australian families—straight to foreign carbon traders. Australia will be sending $57 billion a year overseas by 2050 according to its own Treasury modelling. And all of this will be at the expense of investment in Australia, at the expense of Australian industry and at the expense of Australian jobs.

This was highlighted in an article by Gemma Jones in the Daily Telegraph yesterday headlined '950,000 workers in danger, Carbon tax hit on business'. It states:

The Australian Trade and Industry Alliance claimed manufacturers would be worse off than their European counterparts under an emissions trading scheme.

… 950,000 workers were employed by companies which would be exposed to the tax without compensation or government assistance.

… 14.6 million European manufacturing workers were protected through free carbon permits—

… the new data highlights the risk to manufacturing jobs posed by the carbon tax at a time when firms are already under severe strain as a result of the strength of the Australian dollar.

Direct action works, as it has in the past. Australia, under the Howard government, through its direct actions met its Kyoto target to limit greenhouse gas emissions in the 2008-2012 period to 108 per cent of the 1990 emissions. And this nation did it without having to ratify the agreement. It did it through direct action, not by abrogating our responsibility by spending Australian taxpayer dollars offshore buying carbon credits from foreign carbon traders.

It is abundantly clear to any reasonable person that actions and leadership, not rhetoric and taxing, are what have worked to date and what will work in the future. Education and empowering people to make a difference worked with the Clean Up Australia campaign—and I congratulate Ian Kiernan for the outstanding effort in driving that campaign. It is a campaign which has delivered real and measurable outcomes without a tax.

There should be no false illusions as to the likely impact of a carbon tax on our Australian economy. It is time for the rubber to hit the road. For the last four years Labor has talked of taking action on climate change, 'the greatest moral challenge this nation faces', as one former Prime Minister said, but it has done very little. As usual, the Labor way is to talk the talk without walking the walk. That is reinforced when it comes to the record of leading Australians to doing their bit individually and by the fact that this government will be abrogating its responsibility by buying its CO2 reductions overseas.

We should not be in this precarious situation. After all, it was this Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, the one who, hand on heart, promised the Australian people just days before the election on 16 August:

There will be no carbon tax under a government I lead.

And the same Prime Minister promised on 8 July, again just weeks before the election, on the issue of offshore processing:

I would rule out anywhere that is not a signatory to the Refugee Convention.

Labor's credibility is in tatters. Promises of no carbon tax, promises of people assemblies, promises of deep and lasting consensus, promises of no refugees to countries that are not signatories to the UN convention and, sadly, the list goes on. The hallmark of this Gillard government is of one broken promise after another—and poor economic management.

I could forgive the Prime Minister if this was a matter of pure conviction, but it was this Prime Minister who told the Labor cabinet that Abbott's direct action plan would work. And it was this Prime Minister who was the author of that secret memo to the Rudd cabinet wherein she declared that the direct action plan would in fact work, that a direct action plan was capable of bringing down emissions by five per cent, and that a direct action plan was capable of doing it without a carbon tax.

What is in play here is a Prime Minister so desperate to stay at the Lodge that she has sold out on her promises. She has sold out her conviction, sold out the Australian people, who resoundingly, according to any and every poll, rejected this proposal of a carbon tax. So I have to ask the Prime Minister: what is it you actually believe in? Is this carbon tax just some Australian Fabian Society agenda, with its high taxing of Australians and shifting our dollars offshore? Is this a chapter from the book of socialism that you are a member of? I have to ask this because your membership of the Communist Party of Australia linked organisation, the Socialist Forum, that has now merged with the Fabian Society—

Mr Clare: Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The point of order here is relevance. In an earlier part of this debate yesterday, the member opposite was arguing that members on this side of the House were not being relevant to this debate. Surely this member now is no longer relevant to the debate here about the climate change legislation.

The SPEAKER: The member for Paterson will relate his material to the question before the chamber, which is that these bills be now read a second time.

Mr BALDWIN: Mr Speaker, this is directly relevant, because this is a chapter from the book of socialism of which the Prime Minister was a member. Prime Minister, I ask you about this not only because you were a member but you were on the management committee of the Socialist Forum for many years. So let us be clear about it: the Socialist Forum's agenda was, and I quote:

To sever Australia's alliance with the US, remove the spy base at Pine Gap—

The SPEAKER: The member for Paterson will resume his seat, and the minister can resume his seat, because I think I can predict the point of order. The member for Paterson is roaming wide when he starts to talk about the US alliance in the context of this bill. He must try much harder to relate his material to the question before the chair.

Mr BALDWIN: The Socialist Forum agenda was:

To sever Australia's alliance with the US, remove the spy base at Pine Gap, introduce death duties and redistribute wealth from the rich to the poor.

That is what this carbon tax does. Is this what the Prime Minister is upholding? No wonder she is comfortable at being at the mercy of the Greens. Just as we, the coalition, have offered the Prime Minister a way forward with the Nauru solution—a country that is a signatory to the UN convention—that would give her the offshore processing—

The SPEAKER: The member for Paterson must confine his remarks.

Mr BALDWIN: she so desperately wants, the coalition now will give the Prime Minister a way forward to achieve the emissions reduction target through a direct action plan, a plan which will, by her own admission, reduce the emissions of carbon to the achievable target.

If this Prime Minister pursues a carbon tax, she is not only jeopardising the Australian economy but also Australian jobs. A Deloitte Access Economics report predicted job losses of 21,000 in Queensland, while separate Queensland Treasury modelling predicted 12,000 jobs would go. The Victorian government commissioned a Deloitte report, which found that there would be at least 23,000 fewer jobs created across Victoria by 2015. New South Wales Treasury modelling predicted 31,000 jobs would be lost in New South Wales by 2030 under this tax and 18,500 jobs would be gone from my region of the Hunter Valley alone.

Australian jobs in the steel industry, aluminium industry, energy industry, mining industry, manufacturing industry, tourism and hospitality industry and the agricultural industry are all under threat from this government's socialist agenda. As Englishman John Heywood said in 1546, 'There are none so blind as those who refuse to see and none so deaf as those who refuse to listen.'

That sums up this unholy Labor-Greens alliance: they refuse to see, they refuse to listen to the Australian people, and any polling they conduct or look at will confirm that they are on the wrong path with this tax. That is why I question their agenda. In fact last week, after five days of random phone canvassing across the whole electorate of Paterson, my office found that only 11.5 per cent were in favour of a carbon tax while 73.5 per cent were against it, 8.75 per cent were unsure, and 6.25 per cent refused to comment. I am sure that any polling or focus group sessions that Labor does would be indicating the same response.

Labor and the Greens claim that young people in particular want a carbon tax. Well, last Thursday in discussions with a group of fine young Australians at the National Student Leadership Forum I canvassed their opinions. And, yes, all agreed that action was needed on climate change, and most thought that a carbon tax would fix the problem—that was until they found out that the coalition's direct action plan achieved the same five per cent reduction target. But the real game-changer was when they found out that this government was not taking any remedial action in Australia but buying their environmental future by purchasing carbon credits offshore. Young Australians, all Australians, want action in Australia for Australia.

It is said that Australia's tourist industry is largely driven by about three Australian icons: the reef, the rock and the Opera House. Labor is keen to state at every opportunity that only a carbon tax will save the Great Barrier Reef. Nothing is further from the truth. Only direct action—reducing run-offs, changing from chemical fertilisers to organics, utilising carbon sequestration here in Australia—will help reduce the impact, if any, on our reef.

I have a reasonable understanding of our Great Barrier Reef as I have an association with the reef that goes back over four decades, as a tourism operator, diver, fisherman and ship's captain. I have worked to save it when the crown of thorns invasion threatened the reef, I have toured the very length of it, fished it, dived it. I have lived it—and I love it. Taking environmental action offshore will provide little or no positive impact on our reef. What will the impact on our reef and our tourism industry be with this carbon tax? The Tourism and Transport Forum report, Carbon tax and tourism and travel—Trade and global warming exposed estimates that the introduction of a carbon tax will lead to job losses of around 6,400 in the tourism industry and, worse still, most of those jobs will be in regional or rural Australia. In addition, the negative economic impact will be around $600 to $800 million. The tourism industry employs around half a million Australians—it is second only to the manufacturing industry—and if restaurant and hospitality services are added, it is around one million people. Yet there is not one single cent in the industry adjustment package for this industry under a carbon tax. At the same time this Prime Minister gave $100 million to the steel industry. This is a bad tax by a bad government that will deliver a bad result for Australia; therefore, I oppose it. (Time expired)