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Tuesday, 26 June 2012
Page: 8009

Mr EWEN JONES (Herbert) (16:05): I rise to speak on this most important matter of public importance. I find it incredibly ironic that Labor's Minister for Small Business is also the Minister for Homelessness. That says it all for me as to where their heads are at when it comes to this. The best thing is that when you lose the lot, when they force you out with this carbon tax, when they force you out that with all the regulations, you only have to keep the one phone number. You will only have to ring the one minister. He will still look after you all the way through.

The minister stood there and said to us it is only going to affect small business in a negligible way. Look out the window, mate. He says we are in good economic condition. Can you look out the window and see that small business is hurting. Can you walk through the shopping centres and see the shops that are closed. Can you walk through the industrial estates and see the sheds that are shut, the fences that are locked, the 'for lease' signs up in those places. You will see that there are sections of our economy, sections of my community, sections of this country which are doing it very tough.

The minister stood there and said that the cash rate is incredibly low. He said it is lower than in the Howard years. Who is paying the cash rate? I looked up my mortgage this morning. My mortgage rate is nowhere near the cash rate. I spoke to five small businesses in relation to their overdrafts and their loans. Not one of them was paying the cash rate, not one. The interest rates on all their loans were lower in the Howard years for their business loans than they are now. The banks are not even lending to small businesses at the moment. It is high risk lending.

I have a good friend who made his pile when Pardon won the cup. He started his business soon after I came to Townsville. He was a boilermaker by trade but he started a transport business. He has since retired. He said to me the other day: 'You know, the way this government is at the moment, I couldn't do what I did again. There's no way in the world that I could start a business, make it run—especially in transport with trucks and cranes. I couldn't make it run. I couldn't get a small business up today, because nobody would lend me the money to start off with. It's too dear. It's too hard. There's too many forms all the way through.'

The parliamentary secretary stood there and said the Leader of the Opposition goes to butcher shops. I was at my butcher's on Friday. He has been told by his power supplier of a 22 per cent power rise. It used to be $80 to fix a refrigerator that was broken and needed to be re-gassed. It is now up to nearly $300 because of the carbon tax on refrigeration. The parliamentary secretary stands there and says it is not going to hurt—that it is not going to hurt because it does not matter; it is a negligible effect because you will not pay it. What is the point of the carbon tax if it is not to drive up electricity prices, if it is not to make other forms of energy more competitive? It has to hurt; otherwise, why would you change? Otherwise, why is this government throwing money at people all over the place? The parliamentary secretary stood there and said that small business will not even pay it. He did it with a straight face, which I thought was admirable!

He said the big polluters pay it. Of course the big polluters are charged, but they pass it on. All business charges it on to the end user. Remember those people you are throwing the money out the window at? They are the ones who will pay it. They are the ones who will go into the ice-creamery at Hervey Bay and ask for a half scoop of ice-cream. A half scoop of ice-cream at Hervey Bay! Who has ever heard of it?

Every business in my electorate pays rates and has the rubbish collected in Townsville. My council, the Townsville City Council, have been named as one of those councils that will be exposed to the carbon tax. I am writing to the council to ask them to write to both state and federal governments about their liability. The state government forced the twin cities of Townsville and Thuringowa to amalgamate. I want to find out whether, if they were still separate councils, they would be liable for the carbon tax. If so, what compensation can they expect from both levels of government; if not, why not? The Townsville City Council have used Treasury's modelling alone, which says there will be $3.5 million to $5 million a year on the dump alone, and that is before the council turn on a light, start a car, start a truck, fill a hole in a road, start a bus, turn on a streetlight, mow a lawn or turn a sprinkler on along the Strand. It is before any of that, and that is all subject to electricity and all going to cost. Every bit of it will attract the carbon tax and every bit of it will have to be paid for. The Townsville City Council are receiving no compensation, so what will the council have to do? They will have to either withdraw services or increase rates, but the council with their new mayor, Jenny Hill, have said that they want a freeze on residential rates. Does that promise extend to the commercial rates paid by small business in Townsville? I think not.

Council charges are just one area where small businesses will cop it in this toxic carbon tax. Everywhere the small business men turn they will be faced with the increased charges and costs due to the carbon tax. Michael Burge owns a grocery store in Townsville. He is quoted in the Townsville Bulletin as saying:

'It's concerning from a business perspective because we know this decision will carry added costs for us that we will have to pass on to the consumer.'

'It's not just a blanket tax on store owners, it will be felt through all levels of business.'

'All our suppliers have a power bill and will be forced to pass on any input costs associated with the carbon tax on to us as well.'

Christina Hughes was quoted as saying:

'The Government pretends they're going to change the environment with this tax. It's not going to do anything but throw out the future of young families.'

I want to tell you a story of Michael, a young man who started his own business in Townsville as a refrigeration mechanic just 12 months ago. The cost of the carbon tax on HC gases raises re-gassing costs from $80 to $250. He has been building a business for the last 12 months, but he knows those customers he has held will be shocked. They will have to check on prices. There will be people out there who will do stuff for nothing. He says that, due to the raised costs, he will invariably be faced with delays in payment and a rise in bad debts, and these affect his cash flow. He has just bought his first house and his wife is pregnant with their first baby. What does he do? What does he say? He said to me, 'I'll see if I can hold on till we can get rid of this lot.' All he is hoping for is that he can get rid of this government.

Mark Bogiatsis is a third-generation drycleaner in Townsville. G N Dry Cleaners have spent over $5 million in becoming more efficient with water, electricity and chemicals. He has specifically invested $900,000 on lowering his emissions and reducing his carbon footprint. But, hey—he gets $6½ thousand back! He knows that he is expecting a $24,000 rise in power alone this year. His accountants, PricewaterhouseCoopers, still cannot tell him what his exposure to the carbon tax is, and it is only five days away. He does not know. Apart from power he does not know the cost of chemicals, the cost of transport, the cost of uniforms, the cost of all this stuff that goes into his small business. PricewaterhouseCoopers, one of the biggest accountancy firms in the world, cannot tell him what his exposure to this carbon tax is.

He employs hard workers, often immigrants and first-generation Australians. He knows he will have to cover costs, but he also knows that others in the industry will undercut him to stay in business. There have already been cases. 'If you start a downward spiral, it will be hard to stop it,' he says. 'My father said they have survived fire, famine, flood and Labor governments; but, mate, this is such a bad tax and will not do anything for anyone.'

I want to tell you about a steel fabricator in Townsville. They have been told that their suppliers of steel and gas will raise costs by at least 10 per cent. They spend $80,000 on electricity and are expecting a rise of at least 20 per cent, or $16,000. They have an annual turnover in excess of $20 million. They are expecting an overall hit to their bottom line of $2 million at 10 per cent—and that, my friends, is ridiculous.

There is a painter down the road with 160 tonnes of Vietnamese steel in his yard meant to build Queensland cyclone shelters. He missed a job on price. He said to me: 'If we miss it on price now, how much more competitive are we going to be when the carbon tax comes in? How much more competitive can we possibly be?' I said to him: 'Don't come to me with problems; come to me with solutions. If you could do anything to your business, what would you do to it?' He said, 'You want to know for real?' I said yes. He said: 'I'd change my name to Holden. That way—if I changed my name to Holden, Ford, Toyota, OneSteel, BlueScope or Alcoa—I would get compensation, but I am a small business in Townsville and I get nothing.'

The AWU and the marginal seats of Labor get all the compensation. You have Wayne Hanson of the AWU, not Tony Abbott, the Leader of the Opposition, who said that Whyalla would be wiped off the map. And hey presto—hundreds of millions of dollars for the steel industry went straight in there. Fantastic! Paul Howes said 'Not one job will be lost because of the carbon tax.' Hey presto—$300 million went straight to the Illawarra. It was money for Alcoa in a Labor marginal seat. How much for small business in Townsville? Absolutely nothing.

To have a government sit there and tell us we are tilting at windmills and everything is just ridiculous. This government know what they are doing here. This is not about saving the planet; this is about saving their own political hide—and they should be condemned for it.