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Tuesday, 26 June 2012
Page: 8006

Mr DREYFUS (IsaacsCabinet Secretary, Parliamentary Secretary for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency and Parliamentary Secretary for Industry and Innovation) (15:54): I am very pleased to rise today to speak on this matter, because as everyone in this House knows, whether they admit it or not, for many months there has been a shameful scare campaign on the carbon price led by the Leader of the Opposition. We have a Leader of the Opposition who has been running around the country making false and misleading statements about the impact of the carbon price. We have a Leader of the Opposition, and many of his colleagues in the opposition as well, talking down the economy. We heard a bit more of that from the member for Cowper, undercutting business certainty, making false claims, making dishonest claims. We have heard that Whyalla is going to be a ghost town. We have heard the coal industry is going to die. We have heard that price rises will be unimaginable. These are claims that are hollow, they are false, they do a grave disservice to our nation, and they are not befitting of the leader of a major political party.

Just now the member for Cowper mentioned Wollongong. I was in Wollongong on Friday, as it happens, addressing a business forum and addressing a forum of councils. I have addressed business forums right around the country and what I have found repeatedly is that when we lay out the facts—when we actually dispel the fog of misinformation that has been created by this opposition who have no interest in telling the truth about the carbon price, have no interest in explaining what the actual modest price impacts are going to be—and the facts are put before businesspeople in this country, usually there is an acceptance and an understanding. Indeed, from many businesspeople in this country who understand that the future of this country lies in our developing a low-carbon economy there is support for the carbon price.

This Leader of the Opposition has been caught out writing to small businesses, again trying to conscript small businesses to his scare campaign. The Leader of the Opposition has been caught out writing to small businesses around the country trying to scare them about the impact of the carbon price, trying to give them the green light to jack up prices. He has written to butchers, he has written to bakers and next, no doubt, he will be writing to candlestick makers. That is because no part of this economy is safe from this opposition. Even the 1,900 jobs that regrettably will be lost from the Fairfax media organisation have been attributed by this opposition—specifically by Senator Brandis in the other place—to, wait for it, the carbon price. The loss of 1,900 jobs that, it has been said, are going from the Fairfax media organisation has been attributed to the carbon price as well, and that is the kind of nonsense that the opposition has been going on with for many months, and no doubt they will continue to go on with it for months to come.

It is not the first time that the Leader of the Opposition has tried to enlist butchers in his scare campaign. His conscription of a butcher last year was when he visited a butcher's shop in Sydney. Then the butcher told the Sydney Morning Herald—and I will use this as an example of the misinformation that we have had—that his electricity bill was around $22,000 per year and the revenue of his business was around $2.1 million per year. Some pretty simple arithmetic tells you that that means that electricity represents around one per cent of the turnover of that particular butcher's business, and the electricity cost increase from the carbon price would represent around 0.1 per cent of turnover. This is the nub of this claim: to pass on that cost increase—the primary cost increase that is the increase in electricity cost of 10per cent, because every other cost from the carbon price is far, far lower, so I am just dealing with the major cost increase of 10 per cent—the butcher would have to increase the price of an $11 packet of mince by approximately 1c . That is right: he would have to increase the price of an $11 packet of mincemeat by approximately 1c. But of course that does not stop this Leader of the Opposition running around trying to scare pensioners, scare small businesses, scare anyone in the community that he can get hold of. That is why it is to be expected, given his conduct over the last several months, that the Leader of the Opposition is encouraging small businesses to increase their prices and put signs in their windows, authorised by the member for Dunkley, blaming the carbon price. The Leader of the Opposition should know full well that if businesses make false claims they run the risk of breaching the competition law and could expose themselves to a $1.1 million fine. The member for Dunkley should be very careful holding up his misleading piece of paper.

The opposition leader does not care; the member for Dunkley does not care. They do not care about small business. They do not care about potentially exposing butchers, potentially exposing bakers, potentially exposing even candlestick makers or any other small business that they can conscript to their campaign. They do not care about potentially exposing them to large fines if they act as suggested in the Leader of the Opposition's letter. All the Leader of the Opposition wants to do and the member for Dunkley wants to do is use small business as a political pawn, to co-opt small businesses into playing a role in the misinformation campaign that the opposition is determined to conduct.

The fact is that small business will not even pay the carbon price. A range of large polluters is going to be paying the carbon price and the list of those polluters was finalised on 15 June. There may yet be some other businesses that, by the development of their business, become liable to pay the carbon price but the list as it stands is around 294 entities, firms and councils. For small business, which will not be paying the carbon price, the government has put in place a large range of measures to support small businesses and to help them grow and prosper.

There may be some increases to electricity prices. We have never hidden that but they will be modest. I say 'may' because it depends on the use that is made by businesses of electricity, the choices that they make.

Mr Billson interjecting

Mr DREYFUS: We are talking about small business. The member for Dunkley seems to have forgotten that. If businesses invest in energy efficiency and reduce their energy costs then they could be better off overall with lower energy bills because they choose to invest in energy efficiency. Businesses around the country are increasingly understanding that an investment in energy efficiency will save money in the long term—again, not something the member for Dunkley wishes to understand.

Of course there is concern about electricity costs in the community. That concern arises from the fact that we have had very steep rises in electricity costs over the last few years. But we have, regrettably, a Leader of the Opposition and colleagues with him in the opposition, including the member for Dunkley, who wish to hysterically attribute all manner of ills to the carbon price, a carbon price that has not even started yet.

I want to put the electricity price impact of the carbon price in context. There will be inserts in bills in most states that will explain this to consumers and might, in fact, dispel some of the nonsense we have had from the opposition. According to Treasury analysis, of every $100 that is to be spent on household electricity bills in the next financial year 2012-13, $51 will pay for the poles, wires and transmission towers; $20 will pay for the wholesale cost of generating electricity; $20 will go to retail costs, consumer service and programs for energy efficiency and renewables; and $9 will go to the carbon price. That is why it is so important to put in context what these price rises mean and that is why it is so important that the debate in this place should be based on actual facts.

We have had from the Leader of the Opposition and those with him nothing but misinformation about the impact on small business, nothing but misinformation about the impact on the economy generally. In five days we will have a carbon price in this country and we will be well on the way to a measured, carefully crafted transition to a low-carbon economy. It is a policy that will help the Australian economy adapt to change and to grow while leaving a cleaner and more prosperous future for our children and for their children. It is a policy that we on this side of the House are very proud of. It will be looked back on as a watershed in Australian economic history when we set this country on the path to the low-carbon economy that our people deserve. It is a plan which is central to Australia's economic competitiveness. In decades to come, low-pollution technologies will be crucial. (Time expired)