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Tuesday, 20 September 2011
Page: 10870


Mr MATHESON (Macarthur) (18:49): I rise today to speak about the devastation this Labor-Greens carbon tax and its suite of 18 supporting bills will bring to my electorate of Macarthur. In Macarthur there is a diverse mix of highly populated residential areas, small business and industrial estates which are home to some of Australia's leading manufacturers, as well as large tracts of productive agricultural land and mining. My constituents have different needs, world views, jobs, interests and political persuasions, but what they do have in common is the very clear community consensus that the carbon tax must be scrapped.

The government has no mandate to introduce this carbon tax legislation. My community vividly remembers the statement the Prime Minister made days before the election: 'There will be no carbon tax under the government I lead.' The Prime Minister has failed to honour her promise to the Australian people. On the other hand, my colleagues and I in the coalition have a track record of delivering on our promises, delivering good government, delivering good economic management and delivering results on environmental management. The coalition has a real plan for protecting our environment, now and into the future. We are committed to addressing climate change and will reduce Australia's emissions by five per cent by 2020.

In Macarthur there are 9,760 businesses. Of these, over 95 per cent are small businesses. These businesses are the backbone of our community, supporting local employment and investing back into the community through our numerous local charities, events and causes. Whether it is manufacturing or mining, from education through to dining, the carbon tax will hurt businesses in Macarthur and across New South Wales. It will cost local jobs.

The New South Wales government have very clearly stated that families and businesses in New South Wales will be worse off than in any other state in the country. The New South Wales Treasury modelling predicts that 31,000 jobs will be lost in New South Wales by 2030 as a result of the carbon tax. This will include 18,500 jobs in the Hunter Valley alone. The New South Wales government predicts that state finances will be $1 billion worse off between now and 2014, with a reduction in gross state product of close to one per cent per year by 2020, and that electricity prices in New South Wales will rise by $498 in the next financial year. The carbon price will impose a $40 billion cost on the generation sector, most of which will be passed on to consumers. Despite the $40 billion it will cost, the carbon price will produce relatively little change in emissions from the generation sector.

For Australian families, the carbon tax means a $9-billion-a-year new tax and a 10 per cent hike in electricity bills in the first year alone. In New South Wales, families are facing an even bleaker outlook, with electricity prices to rise by 15 to 20 per cent. There will be a nine per cent hike in gas bills in the first year alone; higher marginal tax rates for low and middle income earners; and a $4.3 billion hit on the budget bottom line. There is no doubt the carbon tax will put more pressure on the cost of living. Families in Macarthur are already struggling. This Labor-Greens carbon tax will make a bad situation worse, with a $515 hit on the cost of living. That is just for starters. Since 2007 families in Macarthur have had to deal with power prices that have increased by an average of 51 per cent, gas prices that have increased by an average of 30 per cent, and water and sewerage rates that have increased by an average of 46 per cent.

I would like to touch on the impact the carbon tax will have on local government. In my electorate, Campbelltown City Council has budgeted $4.5 million for electricity for the 2011-12 financial year. The implementation of a carbon tax, where it is common knowledge there will be an increase of up to 20 per cent in electricity charges, will result in an increase of $900,000, which will ultimately be passed directly on to the ratepayers of Campbelltown. The Campbelltown local government area has a population of 160,000 people and is situated on the south-west fringe of the Sydney metropolitan area. It is well known that families of this local government area are middle- to low-income families who can ill afford this type of increase in their household budget. That is not even considering the impact the carbon tax will have on landfill charges, which nobody in local government can quantify at this point in time. This will eventually lead to an increase in garbage collection charges, which will also be passed directly onto ratepayers.

The cost of living under a Labor government just keeps going up and up. People in Macarthur know that any tax cut will not keep pace with the carbon price that is set to soar to over $131 a tonne. What will that do to the cost of living for families and pensioners in Macarthur? The carbon tax will hit families in Macarthur with a vengeance. As Macarthur sits on the outskirts of Sydney, getting to and from the city for work will send household petrol bills soaring. Businesses who import or export will face sky-high transport costs which will be passed on to consumers. Costs for building new houses are expected to rise by at least $10,000 for an entry-level home in Macarthur. This is the worst possible time for a government to introduce a carbon tax into the Australian economy.

Our manufacturing sector is already under immense pressure. A carbon tax will increase costs that overseas competitors do not have to pay while destroying Australia's one real competitive advantage in manufacturing—relatively cheap electricity. The government's carbon tax will give overseas companies a competitive edge over our own manufacturing industry. We have already seen the damage that this tax has done in the steel manufacturing industry. Jobs will go offshore to factories that emit more carbon than Australian manufacturers—a net loss for Australian jobs, the environment and economy.

In Macarthur there are a large number of employers who will not be able to survive a post-carbon tax economy. One of Macarthur's largest manufacturing companies has told me that they will be facing massive cuts to their competitiveness if the carbon tax is introduced. I have been contacted by many small businesses in my electorate who have real concerns about the rising cost of electricity and the impact it will have on their businesses. For most small businesses in Macarthur the increased tax deductions will not make up for the rising cost of electricity. From hairdressers, construction and building companies, local farmers to exporters—and even a local pet crematorium—local businesses can see the writing on the wall. The carbon tax is bad for business. It will be bad for local jobs and it will be bad for local families. An example here is 'Simon the Pieman', one of Macarthur's most loved pie shop owners, is expected to have to raise his prices to cover his increased electricity and delivery costs. Simon the Pieman is expected to have to charge $10 for a tradie's morning tea break of a pie and a chocolate milk. A carbon tax is going to devastate his business and he will not receive any compensation at all. There are examples of this same scenario all over my electorate.

Macarthur is one of the region's largest employers in mining. In Macarthur's mining industry there will be 5,500 people directly or indirectly affected by the government's carbon tax. In New South Wales, 31,000 mining jobs will be lost across the state. These jobs represent families with mouths to feed and bills to pay. I will not sit idly by and watch this government destroy the great Macarthur region and indeed our great nation.

I know my colleagues in the coalition share this feeling and will oppose a carbon tax, which is nothing more than economic vandalism. The government likes to say that families will be compensated for the impact of its carbon tax, but a tax cut to compensate for a tax increase is not a tax cut; it is a con. The tax cut will not be a rebate on people's bills. It is nothing more than empty cash thrown at Australians in a desperate bid to suffocate short-term debate and keep interest groups at bay. No other country is planning an economy-wide carbon price. The Productivity Commission has clearly stated that not one other country on earth is bringing in an economy-wide carbon tax or emissions trading scheme.

In the United States, for example, all moves towards a national cap-and-trade scheme have been totally abandoned. Let us look at what small-scale schemes have done for the international community—the results speak for themselves. A United Kingdom study released in March this year found that for every job created in the renewable energy sector 3.7 existing jobs were lost. A 2009 Spanish study found that for every green job created by subsidies and price supports for renewable power more than two jobs in other industries are lost.

The Treasurer has been making grandiose claims that China is acting to reduce its carbon emissions, but China's emissions are forecast to rise by 500 per cent over the next nine years. How fair dinkum is China in relation to reducing emissions? A recent article by John Lee in the Australiannotes that wind power now accounts for one per cent of China's energy needs, while solar constitutes one-thousandth of one per cent of the country's energy use. They are more worried about maintaining economic growth at all costs and there is little incentive to connect renewable energy assets to the power grid when fossil fuels are much cheaper. Chinese figures estimate that by 2030 renewable energy, including hydropower, will only meet two per cent to three per cent of the country's energy needs. Lee goes on to say that China views renewable products and technologies as an export opportunity to subsidise clean energy sectors in foreign countries. They can produce a wind turbine at a third of the price of one made in Germany or Spain. Far from exercising environmental leadership, Beijing has simply identified yet another export opportunity to Western consumers.

In Europe, while they have an ETS, it does not cover the whole economy and it provides many industries with free emissions permits. The European ETS only raises around $500 million a year. In comparison, Labor's carbon tax will raise a whopping $9 billion a year with no actual emission reductions.

This brings me to my next point, one which I believe is the worst aspect of this carbon tax legislation. This tax is all pain for absolutely no environmental gain. The government's own modelling shows that emissions will not decrease in Australia. In fact, emissions are set to rise from 2012 to 2020 from 578 million tonnes to 621 million tonnes. Instead of delivering real emission reductions, this government is proposing to spend $3.5 billion of hard-earned taxpayers' money to purchase overseas carbon credits. Using the government 's own modelling, by 2050 this figure will be $57 billion—1.5 per cent of Australia's GDP sent overseas to 'purchase' carbon credits. This will deliver nothing but numbers on a piece of paper. It is just a major wealth transfer from the Australian economy and will call into question the capacity of the government to continue to compensate households and trade-exposed industries. There will be no gain for the Australian environment. The sheer incompetency and arrogance of this government is astonishing. This legislation is nothing more than a get-rich-quick scheme for overseas carbon traders—yet another poorly thought-out scheme, and one that the Australian Crime Commission has already highlighted as involving $5 billion in fraud to date. Internationally, the carbon-trading train has left the station. The United States withdrew from the Kyoto protocol in 2001 and has indicated it will not commit to any replacement treaty. Russia, Japan and Canada have all recently stated that they will not continue with the protocol after it expires. It has also been reported that 90 per cent of trades in the European Union's emissions trading system were fraudulent, resulting in a loss to European taxpayers of more than $6.6 billion.

In her carbon Sunday documents, the Prime Minister's own figures show that more than three million Australian households will be actually worse off. I want to emphasise that these households are not just 'rich' people. Thousands of families across Macarthur will be worse off under this government's carbon tax. Here are just a few examples. A teacher married to a shop assistant will be worse off under the government's package, even on the government's own figures. A policeman married to a part-time nurse will be worse off, under the government's own figures, thanks to the carbon tax. A single-income family with a child, on the government's own modelling, starts to be worse off from below average weekly earnings. That is what the government is doing to the forgotten families of Macarthur. That is why I cannot, as a representative of the community of Macarthur, support this bill. This will be the greatest moral challenge of our time. It is a grievous breach of trust—one that Australians will never forget.

The coalition has a real plan for Australia's environmental future: a plan that involves direct action. We must protect our environment and ensure that it is there for future generations to enjoy. We will address climate change with real, practical and measurable action. Our direct action plan will reduce emissions by five per cent by 2020. Rather than throwing billions of hard-earned taxpayers' dollars at foreign countries to buy their carbon credits, we would rather see that money go towards improving Australia's environment and lowering Australia's real emissions. The coalition will achieve our target through positive direct action for the environment and through providing incentives, rather than through hurting Australian families and the economy with a devastating carbon tax.

Our plan is fully costed, capped and funded. Our plan will ensure that a coalition government would live within its means. Our environmental direct action plan will not cost Australians their jobs. It will not come at the expense of reduced standards of living. Instead of penalties and taxes, our direct action climate policy will provide incentives for Australian businesses to reduce their carbon emissions. We will focus our attention on meaningful and effective direct action to improve Australia's environment. Our plan will give all Australians the opportunity to play a vital part in improving our environment through real, direct action.

In Macarthur, the direct action plan will see thousands of trees planted and local businesses given the support and incentives to go green. The direct action plan will mean that local jobs in Macarthur will be protected and employment opportunities will remain for our future generations.

A carbon tax will create a world of pain for families in Macarthur, and I cannot with a good conscience support such heinous and draconian measures that will not improve our environment one little bit. I would urge all members of the House to think of their electorates—consider their pensioners, their families, their future generations—and oppose this bill.

Standing here tonight, I look around. We have been told that the government has pulled a number of speakers. If I were a sitting member of parliament I would have liked to get in and represent my electorate and put my case in relation to a carbon tax. It seems a shame that there are a number of members who are not speaking tonight because they have been pulled by the Prime Minister and so are not stating their case. I think that is an absolute disgrace. This bill is being rushed through the parliament at 100 miles an hour. It just goes to show that there are a number of members in the government who actually do not believe in the carbon tax and that is why they are not here to speak on it tonight.