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Tuesday, 26 June 2012
Page: 8100

WYATT ROY (Longman) (22:00): It is just five days before the world's biggest carbon tax hits our shores and the engine room of Australia's economy, small business, takes a massive hit. For many small businesses this great big new tax is going to be the final nail in the coffin. Over the past few months I have been speaking to local businesses about how they expect the carbon tax will impact on them, and the news is not encouraging. My greatest concern is that for a region that is already battling high unemployment the carbon tax will prove to be another devastating blow. I am concerned for those businesses that are already doing it tough after an already difficult period. I am concerned that these businesses will be forced to quietly close up shop, because of insurmountable operating cost hikes because of Labor's carbon tax.

One local cabinet maker named Tim recently spoke to me about his concerns for the future of his business. This is what Tim said:

This so called carbon tax will most probably cripple my business. I do not understand how a government can spend copious amounts of money when us everyday people struggle to make ends meet, now this will be even harder. This may be the time to go back to working for wages. For every dollar I earn I only receive about 6 cents and I am not even eligible to receive any government grants.

This is by no means a rousing endorsement of the carbon tax. The uncertainty felt by Tim is echoed by many other local business owners. Local builder Kerry is another example of the uncertainty experienced by small businesses. Without knowing the full cost increases that the carbon tax will bring, builders are unsure on how they can quote and commit to jobs. Kerry worries that his business will be burdened with having no recourse to recovering legitimate cost escalation because of the carbon tax. This is a very legitimate fear, and one that this Labor government will ultimately be held accountable for.

Yet another local business owner, Tony Redsell, has also shared with me the difficulties that the carbon tax is creating for his business, Redsell Air. Redsell Air installs, manages and repairs commercial and residential air-conditioning systems. But with the carbon tax breathing down his business' neck, business is set to get much, much more difficult. Tony and Sue have been advised by their refrigerant gas supplier that prices are set to soar with the introduction of the carbon tax. One of the primary costs for Redsell Air is refrigerant R410A and it is rising by a massive 300 per cent. That is a 300 per cent cost increase that this business cannot avoid. Now Redsell Air is left with a decision on whether to pass the cost on to the consumer or try to absorb it. But already consumers are providing feedback that they simply will not be able to afford to re-gas their air-conditioning systems. For Redsell Air, the carbon tax is already cutting into their customer base. No consumers means no business. And under the carbon tax there is no compensation for small businesses that have been thrust into this situation. An even greater problem for Redsell Air is its liability for the thousands of homes and business units that it has offered warranties for. Redsell Air could not have predicted that this Labor government, led by a Prime Minister who so adamantly promised that there 'would be no carbon tax under a government I lead', would turn around and legislate a carbon tax that would cause costs to increase by 300 per cent. How will this business be compensated for this? Unfortunately, there is no help for Redsell Air or any other business that finds itself in this untenable position.

The sad thing is that even those businesses that have taken steps toward positive environmental action are being punished. One local taxi company shared with me about how they have been voluntarily taking steps to reduce their carbon footprint by commissioning power-efficiency devices to save electricity, allowing them to purchase 100 per cent green power. But this carbon tax does not discriminate and the cost of green power is also set to rise under the carbon tax. Business owner Greg Collins pointed out that it is counter-intuitive for green power to be hit with cost increases. I could not agree more with him. This carbon tax is nothing more than socialism masquerading as environmentalism. This carbon tax is going to hurt small businesses and I urge those members opposite to get out into their electorates and talk to small businesses and learn what it is that this tax will do to them. I challenge members opposite to go out onto the street and find one small business that says, 'If you tax me greater I will thrive, prosper and employ more people'. Ultimately, you cannot tax a nation into prosperity, and I hope members opposite learn that lesson. (Time expired)