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Thursday, 21 June 2012
Page: 7534

Mr ROBB (Goldstein) (16:50): Retail is already struggling. We have had a year where a crisis of confidence, an anxiety, about the lack of direction and certainty has been building within households all over the country. Australia's seven million households have been saving, on average, 12 per cent of their discretionary income. This is extraordinary and has gone on for over 12 months. It translates into something close to $90 billion. That is money which would normally have been spent in shops and on other activities. Instead, it has been paying off mortgages, paying off plastic and being deposited in banks. That has meant that $90 billion has not been spent.

No wonder retailers are on their knees in so many places. They are already struggling because of the economic circumstances that have been created by this government over the last three or four years. In the Victorian regional centre of Shepparton, 140 shops have closed. That is 140 former business owners, and families, who no longer have a living. It is a disgrace. It is an example of what I think we have all witnessed in our own electorates—shopping centres which have an inordinate number of empty shops. Traders in my electorate are suffering the same anxiety and loss of trade and are extremely anxious about the carbon tax. Nick, who runs the cafe opposite my electorate office, told me how his business is already down 30 per cent year on year because of the collapse of confidence among typical consumers in my electorate. People who used to buy two coffees a day are down to one. If you put that across all his customer base he has a serious loss of trade. Electricity is one of the biggest inputs into what he does—his coffee machines, fridges, ovens, lighting, heating and air-conditioning. Then there will be cost rises, with the new carbon tax, on the things that he buys in—the milk, which goes through various processes before it reaches his store, and the bread he buys from the baker, whose power bills are also going to dramatically rise. You name it.

Here is Nick's dilemma: if he passes on the increased costs to his customers, his business might be down not 30 per cent but 50 per cent. It is his significant venture. He has put a lot of his life's earnings into this business. He works long hours, as nearly everyone does in hospitality, and yet he is being punished and penalised again, despite his business and millions of other businesses being under enormous financial pressure. They are now going to be subject to a carbon tax and told to get used to it: 'This is a transitional change we have to have.'

No-one else in the world is doing it. No other country, no other part of the world, has this change forced down its throats. Yet Australia is doing it at an enormous cost—not only the financial cost but also in the impact on morale, on people's incentives, people's will, to chase some blue sky and try to make a better life for themselves and their families. And there is not one cent of compensation for any one of those 2.4 million small businesses. That is a story that is reflected right across this country. It is a total disregard for those millions of people and families who worked so hard and so long to try to make a go of a small business venture. There is not one cent of compensation. Every one of them is affected by it and some of them in a most grievous way.

Let us look at the disadvantaged for a second. We have seniors who are forced to go to shopping centres, community centres, libraries and the like now because they cannot afford heaters and air-conditioners. Those numbers will only increase with the carbon tax and a massive increase in their cost of living. This is a bad tax which must be got rid of. (Time expired)