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Thursday, 1 March 2012
Page: 2542

Mrs MIRABELLA (Indi) (16:08): We need to start at the very beginning. Why do we have a carbon tax? Did the Prime Minister say before the election: 'We need this carbon tax so we can be competitive. We need this carbon tax so new industries can develop'? No. As we, infamously, are now all too often reminded by people in the street, the Prime Minister said, 'There will be no carbon tax under the government I lead.' So all the reasons that the member for Isaacs has given—this feigned moral high ground—are an absolute farce. It is just another excuse to hide—he mentioned a fig leaf, so I will perhaps borrow—behind the fig leaf of responsible government.

This Prime Minister has pursued a carbon tax not because our competitors are going down this path, because they are not, and we have just recently heard that Japan has categorically ruled it out, and not because our industries are demanding it. The only reason that this Prime Minister has pursued a carbon tax is that the Prime Minister, in her poor, pathetic judgment, thought that that is the price she had to give to the Greens in order to retain power. It is as simple as that. I ask members on the other side: for goodness sake, how could you keep the Prime Minister in her job when her judgment was so lacking? As if the Greens would ever have supported the coalition to form government! All the Prime Minister had to do was throw the Greens a few carrots and say, 'Either you support me or you will end up with the coalition, the mainstream political party, that you hate.' That is all she had to do. She did not have to sell Australian families, Australian power generators, Australian manufacturers and Australian industry down the drain. That poor political judgment is her crime. That poor political judgment will be the nail in her political coffin.

The member for Isaacs talked about the solar hot water rebate. His words yesterday, as they were reported in the media, were astounding. He said that it was actually good economic practice, good budget practice, not to tell anyone you were going to gut a program. So here are Australian retailers and Australian manufacturers saying, 'We believe you, Prime Minister, when you say you want to provide incentives for Australians to move to renewable energy, to alternative energies, so we will invest. We will mortgage our home. We will take out leases on vehicles and on warehouses. We will do all of that because we believe you,' and they did. So now there are small businesses across this country—and we have read about some of them in the media—who are saying: 'What a disgrace. The government has betrayed us. They have removed a scheme that we invested in and now we are going to have to sell up our home because we relied on the word of this government.' And that is an absolute disgrace.

For this government to totally mismanage the economy, to pour billions down the drain with a whole litany of programs and then try to scramble and find a few savings to fulfil the myth that they are going to deliver a surplus, begs the question: if they cannot manage a program like the solar hot water rebate, how on earth can they adequately manage an economy-wide carbon tax? How on earth can we believe them when they make predictions that electricity prices will only go up by 10 per cent, when we have had contrary evidence in the last couple of days with power firms facing a $4 billion carbon slug and predictions that electricity prices will blow out of the water? You cannot trust them. They cannot manage a program like pink batts. There are still warehouses full to the ceiling with pink batts, and the solar hot water rebate program is just pink batts mark II. These people could not organise a party in a tent let alone manage an economy-wide carbon tax.

Even some of the most respectable people on that side know that the carbon tax is a dud. It is no coincidence that we had several members in heavy manufacturing seats—like the member for Corangamite, the member for La Trobe, as well as the current manufacturing minister, Kim Carr—voted for the member for Griffith in the leadership ballot this week. Labor's position on the carbon tax further unravels with the member for Griffith calling for a review after six months, and Martin Ferguson saying in February, 'There is a lot of concern in industry about the price we have locked in and whether we have locked in a price that is to our disadvantage as a nation.' At least he is speaking some truth. At least the Australian people can say that there is at least one person in the Labor Party who is stating the bleeding obvious. Talking about the bleeding obvious, how can a political party that is engaged in an absolute blood feud with the faceless men who are still the puppeteers and holding back the Prime Minister from anointing the foreign minister of her choice—a party that cannot govern itself and cannot administer the solar hot water rebate program—be trusted to administer an economy-wide carbon tax?

The real myth with the carbon tax is that it will grow new jobs, that it will be great for our economy. Well, it is not going to be, because we are going it alone. With this carbon tax we are putting lead in the saddle bags of industries that are already doing it tough. There are challenges: a high dollar, high commodity prices—so why on earth, at this time, would you impose this additional tax?

We have heard from a multitude of industry leaders that the carbon tax will not make a difference to worldwide emissions. Why is that? It is because our industries are relatively efficient. Industries like cement, aluminium and steel have adopted world's best practice and have reduced their emissions. When they have to compete with imported products that do not have a carbon tax imposed upon them, investment is going to go offshore and jobs are going to go offshore. And that investment and those jobs will go to countries that will create more emissions making the things we used to make.

So, hey presto: here we have a carbon tax that has the very real potential of actually increasing worldwide emissions, and the government is still refusing to publicly acknowledge this. How many brownie points would the Prime Minister get by saying: 'You know what? I shouldn't have listened to the Greens. I should have listened to Australian workers. I should have listened to Australian businesses that have done the right thing and become more energy efficient. I should have listened to common sense and actually governed in the national interest.'

The reason they cannot admit they are wrong is that the Prime Minister used to work for the former Premier of Victoria, and his rule was, 'Never admit you're wrong'—never admit you are wrong; just plough through and get through it. That is why this Prime Minister is losing so much respect.

We have heard not just from the heavy industries. We have heard also from food and grocery manufacturing. Kate Carnell said:

For Julia Gillard to say that food companies who aren’t in the top 1000 emitters won’t be affected by carbon tax is simply wrong.

Manufacturers will be impacted right across the supply chain from higher costs in transport, power, refrigeration and food and grocery manufacturing.

That is the reality for so many industries across the board. This government talks about compensation, but you do not compensate people unless you injure them. As Graham Kraehe said, any compensation will be like a bandaid over a bullet wound. These people cannot add up basic figures on the back of an envelope. Does anyone really believe that their compensation to the industries it goes to will actually be adequate? Absolutely not. (Time expired)