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Thursday, 21 June 2012
Page: 7581

Mr WYATT (Hasluck) (12:41): I rise to talk about the semantics of a carbon price or a carbon tax. I speak on the issue of carbon prices touted by government ministers and members to justify their argument on what is really a carbon tax. The Australian public within my electorate is not fooled by the current terminology. They see it as a tax. If we consider the Oxford dictionary definition of the two terms 'price' and 'tax', for 'price' as a noun it says:

The amount of money expected, required or given in payment for something: land could be sold for a high price;house prices have fallen [mass noun]: large cars are dropping in price.

It is also a term to use in the odds in betting. It also has archaic value:

worth: the parable of the pearl of great price.

It is also:

an unwelcome experience or action undergone or done as a condition of achieving an objective: the price of their success was an entire day spent in discussion.

But, if we look at the verb, it says:

decide the amount required as payment for (something offered for sale): the watches are priced at £55.

Or it is a price label or it is a price determined for sale. Yet in the carbon tax debate or the carbon pricing debate, I hear not the opportunity of what you sell carbon for in that traditional sense of the definition but certainly as an economy-wide imposition of a 'price' as a way of increasing government revenue. Whereas the word 'tax' as a noun conveys the following:

a compulsory contribution to state—

or government—

revenue, levied by the government on workers' income and business profits, or added to the cost of some goods, services, and transactions: higher taxes will dampen consumer spending, a tax on fuel [mass noun]: they will have to pay tax on interest earned by savings [as modifier]: a tax bill [as modifier]: tax cuts.

When we talk about pricing in terms of carbon this definition fits more comfortably in the context of the legislation that is being presented to the parliament, more as a tax as opposed to a pricing. In the singular:

a strain or heavy demand: a heavy tax on the reader's attention.

And it has many other meanings in terms of its application. But the carbon tax will commence on 1 July and will be charged at $23 a tonne of carbon emitted. It will go up each year and, by 2020, Australians will have to pay $37 a tonne, and by 2050 we will be expected to pay $350 a tonne. It is not within the scope of price—that is, somebody selling that carbon or selling that imposition. It is really a whole-of-government approach to an economic process and to the economy that has an impact on all transactions at various points within our economy, within our social life and within our daily living. I talk to businesses within my own electorate, including local government, and all of them anticipate that this 'price' will be taxed and they will have to find funding to pay for the imposition of the carbon pricing, which will then in turn flow to their consumers. It will also make heavy demands in terms of the way in which business transactions are done. The Oxford dictionary also provides the following definition:


Middle English (also in the sense 'estimate or determine the amount of a penalty or damages', surviving in tax (sense 4 of the verb)): from Old French taxer, from Latin taxare 'to censure, charge, compute', perhaps from Greek tassein 'fix'.

So the carbon price is fixed. It is universal across the economy. It is part of a way of life that we all have to accept. So the government are not really charging a price; they are raising a tax. Members when they talk of a 'price' should honestly talk about it being a tax.

It is interesting when you are sitting in question time and you listen and you interact. You hear the term 'pricing' but we never hear the term 'tax' come out of the mouths of our colleagues on the other side of the House. But if we take the definitions, in a sense, we have to admit that semantics of a word are problematic and what we need to look at is the fact that it is a tax and it will impact on every Australian to increase the cost of living.