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Tuesday, 20 September 2011
Page: 10731


Mr MITCHELL (McEwen) (09:20): It is with great pleasure and honour that I speak on the Gillard government's Clean Energy Bill 2011 and related bills, particularly following the member for 'Henny Penny', the member for Paterson, who spent the first few minutes complaining that there was not enough time to speak on these bills and then talked about how the sky is going to fall in, without any real evidence at all. He talks about the Great Barrier Reef. What was your plan for the Great Barrier Reef? Your plan was to cover it in shadecloth. That is the answer, that is how you address climate change—cover it in shadecloth. What an absolute joke you lot are!

Speaking on this legislation is probably one of the proudest moments I have had in this place since I was elected to represent the people of McEwen. I am proud to be part of a government that is taking action on climate change and its dangerous effects on our community, not only in the present but for the future. As the member for Paterson pointed out, for the last four years Labor has talked about taking action on climate change, and we are doing it. The only thing in the way is the Luddites on the opposite side of the House who do not want to do anything. Even the shadow minister, Greg Hunt, when asked about how many trees you had to plant, said, 'Oh, 100 square kilometres.' That was all—100 square kilometres—and he found out he was wrong. He could not even get his maths right on how many trees you need to plant. Now we find out that we have got to cover the entire country in trees and we still will not have it done. The 19th century plan that those sitting opposite want to put forward is absolutely ridiculous.

I am proud to be part of a Labor government because, as history shows, it is Labor governments that deliver reforms that benefit each and every Australian, and the passage of this legislation will be no different in setting up the structures and foundations that we rely on. There is no denying the fact that climate change is real. It is something that we in this country have been debating for years and now we are finally getting on with the job because we have a Prime Minister who understands that just because something is tough does not mean you fold in and do not do it—particularly if it is the right thing to do by the country. That is what leaders are elected to do—it is about leadership, not opposition. As much as those opposite may fail to understand, there are things far more important than their sound bites, slogans and fraudulent scare campaigns. A fact that they might find even more astounding is that there are even more important things than the future of the Leader of the Opposition; take the country's future, for example.

Mr Baldwin: Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I would ask you to ask the member to withdraw the term 'fraudulent'. The minister sitting opposite me raised this exact point last night with the occupant of the chair and that member was asked to withdraw the term 'fraudulent'.

The SPEAKER: The member for Paterson will resume his seat. The member for McEwen has the call.

Mr MITCHELL: I am not going to spend too much time talking about climate change and its effects on our country. All I will say is that climate change is real, which is why we have a plan to tackle it. Although the Leader of the Opposition himself, in one of his 'united states of Tony' moments, believes climate change is crap, he still has a plan to reduce emissions, albeit a plan that will hurt Australian families and damage the Australian economy just to help the big polluters—but we will get onto that a bit later.

Australia produces around 500 million tonnes of carbon pollution each year, making us one of the top polluters in the world—even more per person than the United States of America. Currently Australia's biggest polluters create and release pollution into our atmosphere for free, despite the fact that it is damaging our environment. A carbon price changes that. The top 500 polluters in Australia will have to pay a price for every tonne of carbon pollution they create and release into the atmosphere. This, in turn, will create incentives to reduce pollution in the cheapest possible way, by encouraging big polluters to invest in cleaner ways to do business. It will help build the clean energy future our country deserves and our kids are entitled to.

Labor will cut pollution by making the big polluters pay and every cent raised will go to Australian households, Australian jobs and securing a clean energy future for our country, our kids and our grandkids. That is a fact. Pricing carbon will provide new economic opportunities for Australian workers, with opportunities to open up in existing industries as they invest in new technologies to generate less pollution. Jobs will also be created in new industries such as renewable energy, carbon farming and sustainable design. These new industries will strengthen our economy as well as improve our international competitiveness.

With tax cuts and the raising of the tax free threshold we will boost incentives for people to get to work. We will see about 500,000 new jobs created in the next two years and 1.6 million Australian jobs created by 2020. This builds on our record—Labor's record—of creating 750,000 jobs since we came to office, as opposed to those opposite, who would have ripped the guts out of the Australian workforce and left 250,000 Australians out of work during the GFC. What they do is a disgrace.

Labor's plan to make the big polluters pay for the pollution they create and dump into our atmosphere will ensure that Australians are supported. Nine out of 10 households will receive financial benefit through tax cuts and/or payment increases. By making the big polluters pay for their pollution, we are able to provide Australian families with tax cuts. This builds on our tax cuts across the board for three years in a row since we have been in government. The average Australian wage earner is already paying $1,000 less income tax than they were three years ago.

Under the Gillard Labor government's plan, pensioners will receive an extra $338 per year if they are single and $510 per year for couples combined. Families will receive household assistance through their family assistance payments: up to $110 per eligible child for families receiving family tax benefit A and up to $69 per year in assistance for families receiving family tax benefit B. Eligible self-funded retirees will receive an extra $338 per year in assistance for singles and $510 per year for couples combined. Eligible single parents will receive $289 per year. Students will get an extra $177 per year. On top of all this, all Australians earning up to $80,000 get a tax cut. For most people it will be around $300. The tax free threshold will also triple, so nobody will have to pay tax on the first $20,000 that they earn. That means that half a million people go from having to pay tax to paying no tax, and a total of one million people will no longer have to submit a tax return.

The world is acting to tackle climate change and we refuse to allow Australia to be locked into a polluted economy and environment, in turn deterring investment, competitiveness and business in Australia. We have seen this already, directly, through the actions of the Victorian Liberal government, who have wiped out the wind industry and wiped out renewable energy. We are watching jobs and manufacturing leave Victoria purely because of the Luddite attitude of those opposite. The Liberal Party quite simply just do not understand the environment, economics or manufacturing. They fake 'We are the workers friend' but the first thing that they do when it comes to workers is say: 'The economy is a little bit shaky. What is the best thing to do? Cut worker's wages, cut worker's conditions and cut families' safety.' That is the first thing that they do; it is their answer to everything: cut, cut, slash, slash. That is all they can do.

Mr Baldwin: Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. As you reminded me, Mr Speaker, I ask you to bring the member back to direct relevance to the legislation before the House.

The SPEAKER: The member for Paterson will resume his seat. The member for McEwen knows his obligation to relate his material to the question. The member for McEwen has the call.

Mr MITCHELL: Thank you, Mr Speaker. We cannot afford to be left behind, and under the Gillard Labor government we will not be. I have said this before and I will say it again. This is not to say Labor is jumping into some time machine and going full throttle into the future. We are trying to keep up with the times, reflecting the views of those we represent and keeping an eye on the future. Labor is the party for today and for the future. It is setting goals because innovation, development and investment will follow. We will see things years from now which we cannot even begin to imagine today. It will be because of Labor that the unimaginable becomes possible and, because of the untapped talent and resources Australia boasts, these possibilities are endless. Al Gore has said:

… the people who still say that global warming isn't real are actually in the same boat with the flat earth society. They get together and party on Saturday nights with the folks that believe the moon landing was in a movie lot in Arizona.

That is what we have opposite in this place. In the 21st century we have an opposition so outdated and prehistoric it is just like the dinosaurs. The Liberal Party will always be around as a reminder of what the past looks like. They are well-conserved, just like dinosaurs in the Melbourne museum—something you go and look at as a reminder of days past. All 22 million people in this country will be affected in some way by the effects of climate change. However, 88 people are trying to get in the way of taking action—all for one person, all for the goal of getting the Leader of the Opposition into the Lodge. They are a self-interested party with no priorities. The Leader of the Opposition's campaign against carbon pricing is as legitimate, credible and believable as a 20c Rolex—it might tick for a while but pretty quickly it stops working and you see it for the cheap, desperate phony it is.

Let us quickly look at the Liberal Party's plan—their 34-page document of deceit, as it was well called. Let us call it what it is: a big tax grab. The Leader of the Opposition will try and cut pollution by making Australians pay. Australian households will have $1,300 ripped off them per year and that money taken from Australian families will go directly to big polluters. The Liberal Party want to give the hard-earned money of Australian working families to the big polluters. We Australians should not have to surrender both our clean air future and our own hard-earned money to pay the big polluters for their dirty habit. It is a ridiculous plan that they put forward, and they know that it will not achieve anything.

We all know the Leader of the Opposition is good at scaring people. He is like a little child at Halloween, except the mask seems to be permanently fixed. I would like to read out one of the many emails that I have received from locals supporting a price on carbon. It reads:

I am writing to show our support for the Labor government to implement a carbon price and other measures for addressing climate change and transforming our economy away from reliance on fossil fuels. Please do not allow a fear campaign to weaken your resolve—stay firm and lets take Australia into a more sustainable future. I am sick of hearing from people who still think they are living in the 1980s—it's time to embrace the 21st century and build new industries. This is a key initiative I want from the Labor government that I voted for.

This is what it is all about. It is risk management for our future and our children's future. What is the worst case scenario? That we invest in a cleaner future, we lower pollution or at best we mitigate the problems that climate change will bring to our future. I ask this question to those opposite: how could anyone look in their child's eyes and say, 'I'm not prepared to do all I can do to give you a cleaner, pollution-free future.'? It is wrong and it is not what we should be doing here. I support putting a price on pollution because I support our country's future.